For the others, the ones who have not been able to escape the massive advertising related to Peter Jackson's movies, you know who Tolkien is. You may not have read his books which is a pity, but for once the movie adaptation was good (I am talking about Lord of the Rings, not the Hobbit which is totally different) so I can't really blame you.
The problem with Tolkien is he did not write so much which let all his fans scouring for the next good author who will be able to write an as good saga. Robert Jordan is a sure successor. I read the 690 pages of the Eye of the World, the first book of the Wheel of Time saga. I don't know if I will read the next 13 books, it might be too much of a stretch but it is the only saga that compares really well with Lord of the Rings. You find the same rich universe, the same frightening evil enemy and the same collection of friendly characters who surround the hero. What I liked in the Eye of the World is also the suspense. Contrary to the Lord of the Rings where you know more or less what the problem is from the beginning, The Eye of the World does not hand you the keys upfront. You will begin to understand what is going on only if you progress in the reading. The heroes are less appealing that the hobbits, especially some who are downright painful, but it won't diminish your pleasure. If you like long and convoluted fantasy saga, fights between Good and Evil, adventure and action, then The Eye of the World perfectly fits the bill.
Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books