In October 2018, Amazon bought the television rights to The Wheel of Time. For fantasy book fans around this world, this was huge. It IS huge. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is one of the most loved fantasy series, spanning a total of fourteen novels. With production of the television show starting to ramp up, it’s time to explore, re-read, and speculate on one of the most complex, entertaining high fantasy series of all time.
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.”
So begins the epic Wheel of Time series. The series itself is a legend, originally planned to be a six book series that developed into much more. James Oliver Rigney Jr., or Robert Jordan as most know him, started writing the novels in 1984, and the first was published in 1990. Unfortunately, Mr. Jordan passed away in 2007 without completing the final book. He did however leave extensive notes on how the series should wrap up. Author Brian Sanderson took the helm, and notes, and completed the end of The Wheel of Time. Mr. Jordan left so many detailed notes and information for the end of his epic series that the final book actually had to be split into three novels. Now the series is set to come to the small screen (think Game of Thrones style), with show runner Rafe Judkins guiding the story. Telling the story of The Wheel of Time will not be an easy feat, but fans are very excited for it!
First, a little background on the author. Mr. Rigney (ie Mr. Jordan) was born in South Carolina in 1948. He was a decorated US Army helicopter pilot; he served two tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as a Bronze Star. After the Army, Mr. Rigney attended The Citadel, gaining a degree in physics then progressed to a US Navy nuclear engineer. Quite an amazing life!
The Wheel of Time series is extremely complex, with many characters (2, 782 distinct named characters actually), places, and interweaving plot lines. The imaginary world created by Jordan focuses on a magic system which only women can access and use, while men have difficulty controlling or using the magic. The overall encompassing plot focuses on preventing the end of the world through finding the Dragon Reborn, the one male that can harness the power needed to stop Armageddon. The cast of characters is immense, but the main storyline follows three boys from a small town called the Two Rivers in the country of Andor, and their guide, an Aes Sedai named Moiraine. The world of the series is complex, and spans a continent and other hidden worlds. Many of the books in the series feature a map of the world. As the series progresses the map becomes more and more detailed. At the start of the series, Mr. Jordan did not want to include a map. But at the urging of his publisher, Tom Doherty (then head of Tor books), he started drawing his world. The first map was simple, black and white.
As the series grew, Mr. Jordan brought in artists to create much more detailed maps. Once this began, he then started diving into specifics of his world – where each location was, how large it was, how many miles apart certain areas were. Artist Elsa Mitchell provided several new maps for the books, including some for the Wheel of Time roleplaying game. When reading the books, check out each map at the beginning to see what details are added.
Mr. Jordan wrote many Conan the Barbarian novels during the 1980s, and after much success with these he decided to create his own epic fantasy series. He created the outline and idea for the series, then proposed the idea to Tom Doherty. Doherty approved of the series, and Jordan got to work. The series interweaves magic and time — the concept is a ‘wheel’ weaves a Pattern that affects every living being. The Wheel turns using the True Source, which is the source of the magic that both women and men use. Throughout the series the magic and time interact, and the Dark One meddles, creating differences in the Pattern that may unravel all of time. Hence, Moraine tries to find the one that can stop the Patter from ending.
In preparation for upcoming TV series, here is a brief guide to the books, and follow further articles for a read along!
The Wheel of Time has many, many characters. Jordan is masterful in developing characters and merging plot lines. The series starts with a focus on three main characters, boys that catch the eye of Moiraine Damodred, an Aes Sedai (female magic wielder). One of the boys could be the Dragon Reborn, the one person capable of stopping Tarmon Gai’don, or the end of the world. The boys are Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara, and Matrim Cauthon. Overall the series follows the three boys as they journey through Andor, become men, lead armies, find love, and try to protect their home, friends, and family.
If the three boys are some of the main characters, there are three main women characters too. The first is the Aes Sedai Moiraine (previously mentioned). Moiraine is basically a legend within the story, someone so powerful and well-known that almost all of the characters know her in some form. Moiraine is accompanied by her warder, Lan Mandragoran. Lan at first seems like her guardian, her protector. While he could be considered as a small part, he is much more than he seems. While Moiraine is in Emond’s Field, she encounters two women, who unbeknownst to themselves, are very powerful. Nynaeve al’Meara is one of the female protagonists who the story follows. She is the young Wisdom (healer) in Emond’s Field when Moiraine and Lan arrive. Nynaeve becomes an internal part of the series, she helps guide the younger men and women within the story. The second woman from Emond’s Field that follows Moiraine on her travels is Egwene al’Vere. Egwene was close with Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Nynaeve when they were younger. She had been very close with Rand, and it was assumed they would eventually get married. However, the wheel of time turns and future changes, and Egwene goes on to greater purposes.
Another major character, or faction, within the series are the Aes Sedai. Aes Sedai were servants that aided mankind. They were women that could use magic (“channeling”) to help others, through healing, philosophy, knowledge, and science. Aes Sedai were tasked with finding men that could channel and stopping them (as they would harm themselves and others), and in finding the Dragon Reborn, the one man able to face the Dark One and prevent the worlds’ end. The Aes Sedai are complex, with an entire system of organization, or ajahs, in which women could learn and train. In all there are seven different ajahs, each with their own focus and rules. The Aes Sedai live and work in Tar Valon, a famed city built ages ago. Even though there are different ajahs, all work together in their final task.
Good vs. Evil
Throughout the series the three companions learn new abilities and grow into the main plot arteries that drive the whole story. The Wheel of Time is an epic of good versus evil. As the characters travel the country of Andor, they are constantly chased by evil, whether from various men and women trying to stop the Dragon Reborn, from evil Spirits, or from the Black Ajah. The perils the companions face break the threesome apart, and throughout the series they affect each others’ paths. Also through the series the evil beings sometimes become good, and vice versa. The Wheel of Time is not easily a black and white story, but essentially it follows the good/evil story.
Throughout the series the main characters come up against the Forsaken. The Forsaken were magic users (channelers) who served the Dark One. They are powerful beings bent on stopping the Dragon Reborn and his companions. Often the Forsaken unleash evil creatures to do their bidding. Trollocs, Fades, and other Shadowspawn create havoc, kill friends and family, and hound the Emond’s Field travelers constantly.
Does The Wheel of Time sound appealing? Already read it? Big fan? Great! Now is the time to read (or re-read) the books, and here at RetroZap you can find chapter summaries and discussions. Stay tuned for more Wheel of Time news, updates, and reviews!
The Wheel of Time series consists of the following books (in publication order):
The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light.
A prequel novel, New Spring, is also recommended.
Courtney Martin is a graduate of Indiana University and works in publishing. She’s an avid Star Wars fan and wrote the recipe blog Courtney Cooks Star Wars on suvudu.com. When not enveloped a science fiction or fantasy novel, she is watching television with her husband and son, doing crossword puzzles, or playing with her Shih Tzu, Burt.