Wed. Jan 19th, 2022

the wheel of time

Elaine Chung

Lord of the Rings is not the only set of fantasy novels to get the big budget screenplay thanks to Jeff Bezos. Wheel of Time has just arrived on Amazon Prime Video, anything but ensuring that Robert Jordan’s best-selling series is capturing legions of new readers. But be warned, the barrier to entry is steep. Despite the series’ global popularity, with over 90 million copies sold, the saga is not for the faint of heart, it has fifteen dense books, 2782 named characters and thousands of pages. (And you thought Dune was intricate!) The unknown would be forgiven for wondering how best to climb the mountain.

That’s where we come in. We have played our way through Wheel of Time to bring you this roadmap to the extensive series of guidance on how to best navigate the novels and what to expect from each excursion. Season 1 of Amazon’s series is only expected to cover the first part, The Eye of the World, so we recommend starting there and then plowing the subsequent books through in their publishing order. The series changed hands for the last three volumes due to Jordan’s death in 2007, but with a treasure trove of notes from the author’s personal archive, fantasy favorite Brian Sanderson managed to bring the titanic story home, exactly as Jordan intended.

Draws on global mythologies about the cyclical nature of the time, as well as familiar themes of fate and free will, Wheel of Time towers up in the literary canon as a definitive work that both undermined and expanded what is possible for epic fantasy. If you fall in love with the books, do not stop exploring – there is a whole world of video games, role-playing games and even soundtracks to get lost in.

Let’s dive down.

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The Eye of the World

The journey begins with The Eye of the World. In a peaceful village called Emond’s Field, a mysterious traveler named Moiraine Damodred arrives, looking for Dragon Reborn: a person destined to face The Dark One, a malevolent force determined to bring chaos and destruction to these sleepy lands. As the village is attacked by trolls (animal soldiers), Moiraine fights the attackers along with a group of locals: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Thom. To save their village from further attacks, the group flees, only to be separated on the perilous journey. As Rand decimates the trolloc army in a climactic battle and pulls on one power, Moiraine begins to suspect that Rand may be the reborn dragon.


The Great Hunt

For centuries, legends have merged around the Horn of Valere, a powerful artifact that, when blown, summons dead heroes to fight on behalf of the Light. When the horn is stolen, Rand sets out to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Dark One, but first he must step into his destiny as Dragon Reborn and master the magical abilities he never dreamed of exploiting.


The Dragon Reborn

Rand has been declared the Dragon Reborn, while the war-torn people of the world shout for his help. But before he can come to their rescue, he must complete another test: retrieve the mythical crystal sword Callendor, which can only be used by the Champion of Light, from a fearsome fortress known as the Tear Stone. Traveling with Moiraine and other allies, the hunt will test Rand’s abilities and illuminate the truth of his fate.


The Shadow Rising

Callendor by hand, Rand travels to Aiel Waste, a desert region occupied by a mysterious race of legendary warriors. Rand hopes to be anointed as their prophesied leader, but the journey will demand much of him, forcing him to relive the history of ancestors, discover Aiel’s secret past, and master the way to channel the One Power.


The fire of heaven

Fearing that some Aiel will relinquish their leadership and ally with their enemies, Rand gathers his Aiel supporters in defense of Cairhien, a city threatened by dark forces. With the armies of darkness repulsed, Rand establishes control of the city and plans to avenge the deposed queen. Rand’s fight with his killer leads him into the world of dreams, where he seeks to knock out an evil leader once and for all.


Chaos Lord

As the threat from The Darkness grows, Rand begins to train a new legion of men who can channel the One Power. Meanwhile, Cairhien receives an unexpected guest seeking to control Rand, sparking political intrigue. When Rand is kidnapped and tortured by an agent of dark forces, his followers seize weapons in the climatic battle at Dumai’s wells, which ends with rebels being forced to swear allegiance to Dragon Reborn.


A crown of swords

Rand’s friends are searching for the Bowl of the Winds, an important magical artifact with the power to reverse the endless heat waves implemented by the Dark. Meanwhile, female canalists (known as Aes Sedai) gather from different countries, and Rand tries to quell a revolt among nobles in Cairhien.


The road of the daggers

With the wind bowl placed, Aes Sedai succeeds in their attempt to reverse the climate manipulations of the dark. Elsewhere, Rand works to repel invading forces and is hit by an attack from a treacherous enemy.


The heart of winter

While Rand is on the run, his friends take steps to gain power and step into their destiny. Mat kidnaps the woman he has predicted to marry, while Perrin pursues the warrior who kidnapped his wife. Winter’s Heart culminates with a major game-changer when Rand purifies said (the male dimension of the One Power) for the influence of the Dark.


The Twilight junction

While Perrin does not stop at anything to save his kidnapped wife, even torturing prisoners to find out where she is, Mat is courting his future bride, the Daughter of the Nine Moons, whom he discovers can channel the One Power. Elsewhere, Rand secretly becomes the father of twins. Stories meet when a ceasefire requires Dragon Reborn to meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons.


New spring

Some The wheel of time fans claim you can skip New spring, a prequel that takes place twenty years before the events of The Eye of the World. We include it here to preserve the integrity of the series’ release order, but just know that this episode will send you bouncing back in time. The story focuses on Moiraine Damodred, who traces how she became Aes Sedai, and tells how she witnessed a prophecy about the dragon’s rebirth.


The knife of dreams

Jordan went out with a bang in The knife of dreams, the last part he managed to write before his death. In this volume, the world changes: unusual troll attacks, the appearance of the walking dead, and ripples in the fabric of time indicate that the final battle is approaching. Rand and the Daughter of the Nine Moons negotiate a ceasefire, but things get off track as Lews Therin (Rand’s alter-ego) takes control of saidin. The ensuing conflict costs Rand his left hand; we also learn that the mental disorder that allows him to communicate with his former self is likely to kill him.


The Gathering Storm

Jordan intended for A memory of light, the last part of the series, follows The knife of dreams. But after Jordan’s death, it became clear that A memory of light was too big to publish at once; thus, it was divided into three volumes, which Sanderson constructed from Jordan’s extensive notes. Sanderson takes the steering wheel with him The Gathering Storm, and starts the climaxic battle between the forces of light and shadow. According to the prophecy, Dragon Reborn must fight in the last battle for the forces of light to have a shot at victory, but before the battle, Rand must first gather the forces of the world – and grasp his reason.


Midnight Towers

In the last days before the last battle, the world unravels. Mat and Perrin must adapt their followers to take up arms in the last stand of humanity. In this way, too, they must embrace their destinies and channel the powerful and mysterious forces within themselves for the good of the world. Meanwhile, Rand’s power and madness grow, all the while an army of Trollocs tumble across the land.


A memory of light

The armies of the world gather for the cosmic confrontation between light and shadow. It all comes down to a fateful duel between Rand and the Dark, where Rand must utilize all dimensions of the One Power to captivate and defeat the Dark. After the dust settles, Rand is believed to be dead, but his inner circle knows that he survived in the body of an evil accomplice and galloped away in secret, even though he can no longer channel the One Power. It sounds like spin-off feed, right? Maybe when you manage to book fifteen, it will be you who takes the baton from Jordan and Sanderson.

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