How I Got Caught in The Wheel of Time

A look at Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, its impact on me and the upcoming TV series adaptation on Amazon Prime.

Over a decade ago, my mind got run over by a “wheel.” Not just any wheel, I am referring to The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was not expecting it. At the time, there were 11 books published in the series and one prequel novel. The final novel was in the works. Only, the untimely death of the author threw everything into question. Fortunately, Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and editor, ensured his legacy would see its end by bringing in Brandon Sanderson to finish the series (and in turn, dividing the last book into 3 for a total of 14 main series books).

The series would have a major impact on me, setting me on my own path of wanting to be a writer to doing it. It has inspired me. The worldbuilding within the series guides me in my own efforts. Following is how I got into the series to begin with, and my thoughts on the upcoming TV adaptation. There might be some minor spoilers, so tread with caution. Still, there shouldn’t be any of too much significance.

MY HISTORY

In 2003, I rejoined the Navy and was eventually stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). While stationed on the ship, I spent many days/weeks/months at sea. It was during this time that I took up reading a lot. Before that time, I had only read a handful of fictional books of my own choosing (other than the ones forced on my by schools). I got my entertainment from movies and video games. Despite that, I had built up a collection of books and I took some with me. That is when I got into reading R. A. Salvatore.

His books drew me in. I read all the released Drizzt books, The Cleric Quintet, the first three books of the Demon Wars saga, and many of his other series. I guess, in part, it was his name that drew me… Salvatore. But I stayed for the memorable characters and wild adventures. Now, I had heard of The Wheel of Time at this point, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was enjoying my time in the Forgotten Realms.

It was during the summer of 2007, after I left my service in the Navy, that I decided to see what that series was about. I sat down and started reading The Eye of the World. About halfway through the book, I set it down. It was while Rand and Mat were on the road to Caemlyn. I was getting wary of the journey and it seemed like nothing was going right. (I would later find out that if I had just stuck it out a few more pages, that feeling would have begun to change.) So, I put the book down and went back to Drizzt and company.

The following year, I started a job in Washington, D.C. At the time, I lived in Baltimore, Maryland (north of the city, in fact) and, at first, I rode the train for my commute. While dealing with a nearly 2-hour commute twice a day, I needed an escape. That is when I found audiobooks. I decided that maybe I’ll give The Wheel of Time another try and downloaded the audio of The Eye of the World. From the moment I heard Michael Kramer’s voice, I knew I was caught.

Over the next few months, I ran through every book available. Then as soon as the last three books were available, I got them and listened as well.  When I was at work imaging workstations, I was listening. When I started driving to work because I had to be there earlier than the trains ran, I connected my iPod to my car and listened while driving (that certainly helped to save my sanity during those years). Michael Kramer and Kate Reading filled my head. Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, Min, Loial, and all the rest became my friends. I was hooked!

There are a lot of factors that drew me into the series. From characters to the worldbuilding, there is a lot to admire about The Wheel of Time. Those factors all gripped me, along with the many themes found throughout the books. The greatest of those themes, for me, is the theme of balance.

Balance is very important to me. I consider it one of my core philosophies, the primary tenet of my spirituality. Many times, I had professed about how the world is made up of opposites and one element cannot exist without its opposite. If there is no heat, there can be no cold, no evil, there can be no good, et cetera. To read a book series that echoes my very tenets back to me was unreal.

THE UPCOMING TV ADAPTATION

After finally getting into the series, I soon began digging for whatever information I could find about the series. I located fan sites such as Dragonmount and Encyclopedia WOT that delved into the series, with the latter giving recaps of each chapter of each book and breakdowns on characters, settings, etc. I also came across Leigh Butler at tor.com with her reread blogs.

During that time, a little TV show began airing that peaked some folks interest in the mainstream. Something called “Game of Thrones.”  If you haven’t heard of it, it was a TV show based on a series of fantasy novels that had some moderate success in bringing in viewers. The thought of this got me excited for the possibility of a Wheel of Time production.

I began looking up information for a potential movie or TV series adaptation for The Wheel of Time. Other than a bunch of speculation, there were not many hints of any production. Mostly just legal issues that were hindering progress. I did come across a short fan-made film entitled Flight from Shadow. Then came the dreaded Winter’s Dragon premiere that rocked the fandom and fueled more legal issues. Finally came an announcement, 5 years ago, from Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet, that all matters had been resolved and they were moving forward on plans to create a series.

The next few years saw a slew of details eke out of the nether and engulfing the fandom (while the rest of the world lay unknown about what was going on). We learned that Sony Pictures had picked up the series and that Amazon was working on the production. We learned the showrunner was Rafe Judkins, who soon enlisted the help of Sarah Nakamura, a Wheel of Time guru, to act as “book liaison.” This was all great news. We started learning about writers and directors and cinematographers, many who were top-notched and respected, being involved. Then came the casting news.

I have to admit, I was not familiar with Rosemund Pike when she was first announced to be portraying Moiraine in the TV show. But I soon learned who she was and began to grow excited. Then they announced Daniel Henney as Lan who I was mildly familiar from episodes of Criminal Minds that I happened to catch. Then came the ultimate blow… the flurry of announcements of the Emond’s Field Five. The central characters around which the series follows. And I knew nothing about them. My mind went blank as I stared at the screen through those announcements. These are the people that I came to know and love?

So, I thought, and I thought. I looked up info about the actors. I watched videos from WOT analysts like Nae’blis, Rebecca (from Reading the Pattern), and Daniel Greene. Slowly (then quickly), I began to like these actors. I liked the fact that they were relative unknowns to begin with. A show like this is a great way to introduce great new talent to the masses. While sitting with my daughter, flipping channels, I came across the pilot episode of Power Rangers Ninja Steel which has the actress portraying Nynaeve, Zoe Robins. Interesting… Then I took my daughter to the Dora the Explorer movie which included Madeleine Madden in the cast. I was beginning to feel out the actors who were cast as the EF5 and I liked what I saw.

So, it was settled! I was full on the “hype train” and looking forward to a see the show in action. #TwitterofTime became a thing (an amazing group of people including named character accounts and regular fans alike who have fun with all things Wheel of Time, including polls provided by @RogueAelfinn *WoTPolls*). In a way, #TwitterOfTime has become a bit of a family within the fandom where we discuss the books, the shows, and even personal events that affect us. It is fandom at its best!

Amazon released a table read which cranked up the engine. New cast members were announced ranging from major characters to minor. Production started in Prague back in September of 2019. Of course, nobody saw the log on the rail that would bring the train to a screeching halt.

By this time, I had been riding the hype of the potential series for a while now. I was looking forward to it as a way to introduce my friends and family to the series. My fiancée and I watched Game of Thrones together and I have been looking forward to getting her into The Wheel of Time. She doesn’t like audiobooks so it is hard to get her into it that way. And it looked like everything was running along swimmingly. That is, until that dirty, no good virus-that-shall-not-be-named showed up and wreaked havoc across the globe.

The delays left a drought of information. On the one hand, the delays did not stop production altogether as Rafe Judkins ensured that post-production for the episodes already shot were well underway. They were able to resume filming the remaining episodes and it appears that the marketing is gearing up to extend beyond the fanbase. That is a good thing. Over the past few months, Amazon Prime has been releasing short clip teasers revealing items and now characters from the show. The most recent is Daniel Henney as Lan (looking badass).

Still, some worries have crept in. Increasing talks of changes to the story have filled the internet. While changes are expected, the sting that was Game of Thrones season 8 are all too recent. The fears that changes done here in season one will drastically impact later storylines from the books. Worries about what scenes from the book will survive the adaptation (I may do my own “Must Have” list soon). At least we know that the show is in the hands of fans in Rafe Judkins and Sarah Nakamura. For my own humanity and entertainment, I picture Sarah chasing Rafe around the set, copy of the book in hand with notes and markers hanging out, in a Benny Hill like fashion over proposed changes.

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In the end, I leave my trust to the cast and crew of the show. Knowing that Harriet and Brandon are involved in the show gives me hope that it will fulfill the desire to watch the show play out on a screen and to introduce our friends and family to the series. Whether the show will succeed or fail, well, we’ll have to see how the wind takes us. Until then, “let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.”