The Eye of the World.
If you are a fan of fantasy fiction, this book represents, in my opinion, the epitome of the genre. Well written, artfully crafted, chock full of compelling characters, and possessed of well balanced story arcs. I was absolutely impressed from start to finish. In the prequel story, New Spring, we were introduced to the sorceress Moiraine as she became a member of the Aes Sedai order. Separately we were introduced to Lan Mandragoran, the anointed ruler of a kingdom that was overrun by the minions of evil. Slowly the paths of Moiraine and Lan became entwined until they ultimately became bound one to the other.
In The Eye of the World, Moiraine has now come fully into her powers. She and Lan are in search of a child of prophesy who is the key to defeating the Dark One. Once imprisoned in a gaol thought to be inescapable, the Dark One is slowly weakening its hold on him and he is slowly extending his reach. The child, however, has access to the power to defeat the Dark One, although he is fully ignorant of his destiny. In fact, he can only fulfill the prophesy with proper training under the tutelage of the Aes Sedai. The Dark One has sent his forces to destroy the boy before he can be brought up by the powers of light. Moiraine and Lan arrive in the small rural community of Two Rivers as its inhabitants prepare to celebrate the festival of Bel Tine. On the eve of the great celebration, the town is overrun by a wave of troll-like creatures controlled by the Dark One. Ultimately, Moiraine helps three special young men to escape the onslaught and sets out to bring them to the far-away city of Tar Valon, where they can be trained to use their gifts. Along the way they must battle the consistent offensives and ever more powerful pull of the Dark One.
Three boys who had never set foot outside of their small, isolated region of the world, and who had figured their future was as apprentices to their fathers, are suddenly forced to face the fact that there is something special about them and that the Dark One wants only to possess their souls. They are forced to face challenges and to travel to places that only days earlier were the stuff of a gleeman's fancy. A great tale that has fully enwrapped me. I cannot wait to move to the second book in the series, The Great Hunt.