Within a genre that’s known for its expansive world-building and creative approaches to culture, religion and society, few series match the ambition of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, beginning with The Eye of the World. The book takes the reader to an enormous world full of magic, monsters, wars, politics, history and danger. While the setup is banal (unassuming farmboy is the chosen one of prophecy), Jordan’s epic tale succeeds on how it subverts expectations: the hero is prophesied to kill everyone around him; magic is an exceptionally political pursuit; and the deep history of every culture described in the book is put to good use. The series (which was completed by Brandon Sanderson following Jordan’s death after the 11th book was published) is best appreciated for its breathtaking attempt to create a complicated world built upon a long, rich history. Readers have called out The Wheel of Time over a number of issues: its female characters are poorly written, Jordan’s fictional cultures often contain appropriative elements and the story drags for certain stretches. With those caveats, over the span of 14 books and more than 10,000 pages, The Wheel of Time stands out as a high point of the fantasy genre, and it all begins with The Eye of the World. —Peter Allen Clark

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