The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan

The youthful population of a small farming village must wander out and defeat a great evil with the help of an ambiguously aligned sorceress.

The Eye of the World is the first in Jordan’s never-ending Wheel of Time series. Despite being the first in a long series, Jordan does a great job of writing a complete novel that is more than simply the set-up for the next books. He follows epic fantasy standards while still creating a unique journey (although the magic system is overwhelmingly vague and poorly explained). He takes on a large collection of main characters, yet you get to know–and like/care about the futures of–all of them. I don’t feel the need to rush out and immediately buy the next, but this made for a good vacation book, and I may read further in the series at some later point.