The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan aka James Oliver Rigney Jr. and finished by Brandon Sanderson is a 14 book series with one prequel. Book one the Eye of the World was published in 1990. In my opinion it is a remarkable epic that helps connect classical fantasy with more modern fantasy. Even with its flaws it’s my favorite series of all time.
Though the point of this is not to convince you to undertake the reading of this series, but to prepare you for Amazon’s adaptation of it into a television series. The show is created by Rafe Judkins starring THE Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred. We will get more into Moiraine in a bit. This will be non-spoilery. If you are interested in videos maybe checkout Unraveling the Pattern chock full of information and non-spoiler content.
- The first rule of Wheel of Time for new fans is Google is not your friend!!! The Wheel of Time is an epic series spanning since 1990. There are websites and articles all over the internet. Social media is full of groups and people who talk about it endlessly, including my own Twitter account! If you wish to go into the show fresh, stay away from looking too far into it. Every major event, death, and character development is heavily spoiled everywhere on the internet. This is not a series where you want spoilers ahead of time; there’s just too many great threads and moments. I am sure the TV series will change things, but don’t count on them changing the big events.
- This series is not Medieval fantasy. It’s not a European based Fantasy setting. This series blends in cultures, religions, races, and beliefs from all over our known world. Do not go into this expecting white armored Knights and baby making Ladies in distress. Women known as Aes Sedai are big players in guiding the world as well as women circles. In this time men magic users are feared and blamed for devastation in the past. Women have a much stronger role than in our history. This world is such a blend of what our world has been throughout history the best I can say is that Robert Jordan himself described it as late 17th century. Though some argue it can be considered post-apocalyptic and even science fiction. I would say it’s a bit more complicated, but A good way to help expectations going into this is Robert Jordan’s take on his own work.
- Time is not linear in this universe. Time is what the series describes as a wheel or cyclical. Everything is happening in the past and the future for someone. Certain events start and end ages which have already happened, but yet will come again. This can include “souls” of people, you can be reborn again. Many heroes through the ages are actually the same people it’s just that they nor anyone else knows it when they are alive.
- The Wheel of Time is adult high fantasy. It is not YA. There will be death, violence, nudity, and mental illness. It’s not grimdark as Game of Thrones, but it’s darker than Lord of the Rings. The story dynamics are complex, much beyond that of Harry Potter or Shadow and Bone respectfully. I would say it is in the same vein as The Witcher in terms of what to expect for mature themes. That’s not a great comparison, but in terms of TV viewing I think it is the closest. As Fantasy starts blooming more into the mainstream hopefully we get more apt comparisons in the future.
- Moiraine is the main front and center character in the TV series at least according to the promo, but in the books that is not the case. She is more like the guide to the main PoVs in the book. However, in my opinion this is perfect. Not only is she my favorite character, but for people who never read the books she will be the perfect character to help build this world so no one gets lost on what is happening. Starting off with a farmboy in a small village is great for books, but if you want to engage TV audiences you need a worldly person to guide viewers and the small village characters into the wider world. The lore, magic, politics, and factions are quite large and complex. Moiraine is the best to start the series with.
- The magic system is based on the True Source or the One Power thought to come from the Creator. Women channel Saidar and men Saidin. Unfortunately for men their magic has been tainted by the Dark One. Men who learn they can channel will essentially be feared and hunted because eventually using the magic will cause them to go insane. This is why women who use magic are so prominent and powerful. They can use their power freely without negative side effects. Of course, in any human run world there will be people, especially men, who create beliefs that make Aes Sedai out to be evil and in need of being cleansed as well. Robert Jordan is great at understanding the intricacies of human psychology of groups in my opinion.
- The characters have been aged up in the series. I actually agree with this because that way it won’t be confused as being Young Adult fantasy and the darker themes may be harder for people to stomach with teens than with adults on TV. It’s not sexually violent as Game of Thrones, but many bad things will happen to our young protagonists. It is smart in not confusing expectations nor making it seem like things are done for shock value such as in Game of Thrones TV series with Sansa Stark being raped. Things will be more nuanced in struggles and setbacks. It’s not just about shocking fans in that anything can happen, there’s a structure to Robert Jordan’s writing; a more intricate version of classical fantasy themes.
- This brings up my final notice. The Wheel of Time is not a shock factor series. It is not about causing constant anxiety about what bad thing will happen next. It is not about sex and violence. It is about the characters overcoming obstacles and preparing themselves for a final confrontation with a powerful entity and its armies. There are dark themes, but everything serves a purpose. There is tons of foreshadowing and threads are woven way ahead of time for big payoffs later. There is a place for grimdark, but the Wheel of Time is not one of those places. There is a place for YA fantasy, but the Wheel of Time is not that either. Your expectations will be subverted in a different way than other fantasy series on TV. It’s not about inducing anxiety in viewers, but wowing them. Pay attention to details. If Rafe foreshadows like Jordan than you will be pleasantly surprised.
This ends what I really wanted to say about the upcoming series or if you are late to the party, what I expected from the series. I am sure I will write about the show in the future so if interested keep an eye out for that. This series is amazing, beautiful, and brilliant. Sure there are things that could have been done better in hindsight, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Let the TV series explore and update some themes to really stay ahead of its time. I’m sure I missed some things, but here is what came to mind the most and what popped up from people on twitter. Prepare or go watch this on Amazon Prime! This is my request from you. Report back to me here or on Twitter with your thoughts; otherwise you may be a Darkfriend!