Amazon Prime took on a massive challenge when it announced it was bringing Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, to its small-screen service. The Wheel series details dozens of characters with their own story arcs down to their distinctive mannerisms and creates nations and cultures that seem to be alive. Wheel is often held up alongside Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and Martin’s Game of Thrones worlds, and in terms of content and tone, it lives right between the two. If you like fantasy and haven’t read at least some of Jordan, you haven’t read some of the best fantasy ever written.
Which isn’t to say it’s perfect. Jordan probably could have cut enough description to lose a whole book or two and his world would have held up just fine. Readers would not have complained.
Jordan’s series began with The Eye of the World released in 1990. That one book took Jordan six years to write, and it’s spectacular as a kickoff novel that builds a convincing world with living characters. It feels like a complete story itself, but merely sets the stage for the saga to come. Wheel doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. It spans 14 novels (18 total books) across decades and several years past Jordan’s death in 2007. The final book, A Memory of Light, debuted in 2013, written by Brandon Sanderson from notes Jordan had compiled over the years.
The novels cover about 14,000 pages in total, following the lives of three boys around whom the world, or the “Wheel of Time,” revolves. One of them is a powerful and extremely dangerous entity known as the Dragon Reborn. His fate is tied to the fate of the world. The other two, and several other key characters including queens, warriors, storytellers, and members of several distinctive cultures with their own histories, have vital roles to play, but also have their own interests and motivations that often come into conflict as the tale moves forward. Jordan’s epic has everything a fantasy reader could want.
I began reading them in the 1990s when I lost a bet. The first book I had to read, The Eye of the World, turned out to be enthralling so I read all of the rest of them, all 14 (or 18 if you read the interstitial novellas), all 14,000+ pages, for the next couple of decades.
After a long wait, Amazon’s first trailer for The Wheel of Time is out. Here it is.
Readers of the series will instantly recognize several of the core characters in the trailer including Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, and Moiraine Damodred. Rosamund Pike plays the latter. Readers will also recognize Dragonmount, the White Tower in Tar Valon, the Aes Sedai with their color-coded ethics, and the Myrdraal. Especially the Myrddraal, those eyeless demons who infest the series with menace. We’ve waited decades to see them, and that visual delivers in the trailer. They look exactly as they should: horrible nightmare fuel.
Oh yeah. That right there is a Myrddraal.
Others visuals don’t deliver as well. The Aes Sedai wield magic in the form of weaves, which are based on elementals: air, fire, water, and earth, if memory serves. Each element has a distinctive color, and those who are sensitive to the power can see the colors as a magical weave is being formed. The trailer appears to omit that. The power channeling that’s visible is just one color, white. Hopefully, the series includes this bit of detail as it’s often important to understanding how a particular weave works and may tell something about the weaver and what they intend to do versus what they claim they are up to.
Overall, since I read the books and based on this one trailer, I am going to watch Amazon’s Wheel of Time. Readers have waited decades to see Jordan’s world brought to life, so there’s no reason not to check it out. I’m hopeful about most of what I see. I’ll confess to some trepidation. Some of the characters including Pike’s Moiraine do not match the books’ descriptions. Others do though, with Barney Harris as Matrim Cauthon looking spot-on — along with his very useful ruby-handled dagger. The evil city Shadar Logoth looks good. The trailer hides the appearance of the evil Trollocs, the Templar-esque Children of the Light, and several other factions, probably to leave something for future trailers and the series itself, which debuts in November.
Amazon is said to be so excited by what it’s seeing from the first season of Wheel of Time that it has already ordered a second season. It’s going to take several seasons to get from the boys in Emmonds Field through the magical storytelling, the intrigues, the love interests, the kidnappings, epic battles, and wars, to the climactic ending.
Now, we need to see something from Amazon’s Fallout series…