The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab Is a life worth living if it is spent alone? As we are faced with the growing truth that we are mortal I am sure at one time or another we have all fantasized about what we could do with time without end. I have often pondered what I would be willing to give up for even an extra fifty years of life on earth. In her most recent novel V.E. Schwab gives us the opportunity to dance through time as we follow young Addie LaRue. She exchanged her soul for a life without end, but it didn’t come without a price. As Friedrich Neitzsche once said, “The devil is in the detail”. This is a lesson that Addie would have been wise to take to heart. Stifled and caged by her gender and rural surroundings of Villon-sur-Sarthe, France in 1714, Adeline dreamed of a life without obligation. A life full of wonder, new experiences, and the freedom of choice. It is this desire that leads her to be cursed by her own hand. She makes a deal with the devil to live until she is done with it. “You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore,” she promises, and that’s all it takes to erase the life she had once known. I love when something I read doesn’t spark a memory or a comparison to another book. That speaks to my soul as something wholly original that needs to be read. To be honest I have not read many fantasy novels that take place in our own world. I prefer to be transported to another world, but I knew within the first few chapters that this book was something different. The best way I can describe it is a dance through time, seen through the eyes of Addie. As she navigates our modern world as something like a spectator, we are given a passport to her past. All of her 300 long years of life adding up to the final decision we see her make. There are no large action sequences or epic battles, except perhaps the entanglement between Addie and the Devil for her soul. Even still the book moves. I was carried through the pages by the desire to see if her road would come to an end. Was this to be a story about the entirety of her life? Or just a snapshot of her struggle? As I read the last words, I found myself aching to know more, but not so much so that I was dissatisfied. I believe that to be the hallmark of a tale well told. I was and am still impressed by how beautifully this story was written. V.E. (Victoria) Schwab has gained a new fan. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab is available from Dragonmount's store as a DRM-free ebook. You can also purchase it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local independent bookseller.
The Child of Chaos by Glen Dahlgren In mother nature there is balance. For every dark night there is the light of day; for every devastating fire there is new life. In a world that is created by order, there will be a need for chaos to create harmony. In the young adult fantasy fiction world, there is a tendency by authors to follow a familiar path. As my fellow lovers of the fantasy and science fiction genre know, many authors can easily fall victim to this trap (Not that it means we love them any less!). Glen Dahlgren’s debut novel The Child of Chaos takes a new approach to the genre that was refreshing. Many in our fandom will know him as the lead designer of the Wheel of Time video game—which was released in 1999—but I suspect you will come to love him as a fantasy author as well. The story is told mostly in alternating points of view between the hero and the villain. Our hero, young Galen, and his former friend Horace grow up quite quickly as their lives careen off of their predestined paths. Dahlgren creates a polytheistic religious system in which people feel called by “The Longing” to serve their God. Those not tied to the temples are faithless and expected to pay their tithe to the Order. The different Gods come together to create harmony and order, but what happens when Chaos is thrown into the mix? Galen is a young man with a powerful imagination who does not fit into the black and white world in which the faithless live. In the end it is his differences that make him exactly what the world needs. At times the novel surges forward in leaps and bounds and you are never able to truly anticipate what lays ahead on the next page. The characters, religion and unique magic system are incredibly well developed. I personally would have liked even more world building, though as a disciple of Jordan I tend to live by the motto “more is more,” which is not for everyone. As I have stated before, I love reviewing debut novels as it is exciting to see where burgeoning authors’ careers will go. The Child of Chaos is a very nice addition to the fantasy genre and one that I recommend to both new fantasy readers and to those of us who forever dwell in this literary realm. The Child of Chaos by Glen Dahlgren is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local independent bookseller.
Amazon's official WoTonPrime social media accounts revealed today a brief video showcasing Thom Merrilin's guitar. The video showed how the instrument went through its design phase to becoming an actual prop seen in the show. Thom-guitar-Dec23_2020.mp4 About Thom's instruments In the Wheel of Time books, Thom Merrilin (played by Alexandre Willaume in the TV show) is a skilled gleeman with a far-more-interesting-than-he-would-like past. He demonstrates his skill with both a harp and a flute. But interestingly, WoT TV showrunner Rafe Judkins and his team made the decision to give Thom a guitar instead. Here's what he wrote in a Q&A addressing the topic: Amazon has already released preview videos of the Winespreing Inn, Tam's heron-marked sword, and a basic audio trailer. What do you think of the Thom's guitar? Join the conversation below or view our reaction on The Wheel of Time Community Show on YouTube. Learn more about Amazon's Wheel of Time TV show.
It’s fall and winter! Kitty shows us how to make Tam’s Wheel of Time stew. Mmmm. Click here to download the recipe (PDF) Tams_Stew.pdf
This past #WoTWednesday’s episode of The Dusty Wheel, Innkeeper Matt Hatch hosted our very own Jason Denzel. Matt, who started the Wheel of Time fansite Theoryland, and Jason have been integral to the Wheel of Time community for the past 22 years. Their chat on The Dusty Wheel covered all those years of friendship and ups and downs within the community. The nostalgia is very intense here. They also go into all the known details about the Amazon Prime Wheel of Time television show. Jason does stress that we should be thinking of the show as another turning of the Wheel. This isn’t the same as the book series, there will be differences. I think this mentality is the best way to approach the whole situation. There will be changes we need to accept, and in this turning of the Wheel, the characters made different choices. This nearly 90-minute talk was riveting the whole way through. They covered so many topics, from writing advice, to meeting Brandon Sanderson, to filming the Towers of Midnight book trailer. If you’ve never heard some of these stories, I recommend tuning in! You can watch the full episode below. You can check out other episodes of The Dusty Wheel on their YouTube channel.
Lezbi Nerdy is a Wheel of Time content creator who recently realized that she has been reading and re-reading the Wheel of Time for more than half of her life, which freaked her out a little bit. When not obsessing over Wheel of Time and other nerdy pursuits, she works at a language therapy center in South Korea and enjoys long, socially distanced walks while wearing a mask and listening to podcasts. You can check out her youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lezbinerdy and if you are so inclined, you can support her on patreon. http://www.patreon.com/lezbinerdy The Wheel of Time changed the way I read. So much so that I have in the past claimed that it is the first fantasy series I ever read, which in retrospect is just not true. I have also said that The Eye of the World was the first “real adult book” I ever read, which… also, in retrospect, has turned out to not be true. But it definitely feels true, and when trying to figure out why, I think I have landed on an answer. The Wheel of Time changed how I read books. It turned me into an active reader in a way that just makes it feel like a turning point in my reading life. This may simply be a by-product of the fact that I am an old-school fan, I was reading before the series was finished, and am among those who had to wait years between books, and wait over a decade to have the story finished. So, in the time I was waiting, I thought about these books, and about where the story was going, I made guesses and had theories. This is something I had never done prior to these books because I hadn’t needed to. The stories I had read before were just… there. I didn’t have to guess because if I just kept going, I’d find the answer. But I think it was more than just the wait for more books that caused this change in me. The story, the world that Robert Jordan crafted just lends itself to theorizing. The world is so wide in scope, that even with the story finished, there are still questions left. And there is such depth to the world building that even if there are no canonical answers, it feels like there are. And so, when reading and re-reading this series before it was complete, my head was full of theories. And there is one theory that, while it didn’t bear out in the end, I think it is worth examining. The world of Wheel of Time is a world that has fractured along gender lines. It is a world in which gender essentialism is… well, it’s true. We have a magic system that divides things along very binary gender lines. All male channelers must use saidin, and all female channelers must use saidar. And those two sources of power are inherently different. It is gender essentialism written into the foundational magic system that turns the eponymous Wheel of Time. Characters in the books often muse at the nature of members of the opposite sex. Men are spoken of by women in absolutes, and vice versa. Women undertake actions and understand ideas that men don’t seem to know much about (for example, that a Two Rivers good wife would change the curtains in a house depending on the season), and men do things that women can’t seem to understand or dismiss as illogical. It happens to such a degree that it can become frustrating to readers, even annoying, to hear these characters lump all members of the opposite gender into one group, to paint them all with broad brush strokes as all being the same. But as I read, and re-read, I came to the conclusion that this was intentional, it had to be. It had to be a symptom of something that was wrong and broken in their fictional world. And it was a symptom that made sense to me. If the foundational magic system of the world seemingly tells people that men and women are fundamentally different, and in fact, unknowable to each other, then why wouldn’t people just accept this as fact and not examine it further? As Moiraine says in The Great Hunt, “A bird cannot teach a fish to fly, nor a fish teach a bird to swim.” But of course, the fact that these differences between genders lean into very common and frustrating gender stereotypes was… well, as a woman, it was frustrating. In order to use the male half of the source, men have to approach it directly, from the front, dominate it through force. In order to use the female half of the source, women have to surrender to it, submit, and control subtly from within, or underneath the power. We see this play out in the way men and women use and gain power in the world of The Wheel of Time. Men, for the most part; battle, conquer, or negotiate directly by saying what they want clearly. The women, on the other hand, the women in power in the books are mostly seen as manipulators, they pull the strings behind the scenes. There are, of course, exceptions to these ‘rules’, but in general, this is how things work in this world. And because of our cultural biases, these two methods are not viewed equally. Battling, conquering, being direct… most readers see these as noble characteristics, brave even. Manipulating, pulling strings… most readers will see these as sneaky, underhanded methods. Even if both of these methods are used to achieve the same goals, they are not view equally. These factors color how characters and organizations are viewed. But again, this divide, this break between genders is literally baked into the foundation of this world. Men must be dominant, because if they aren’t and they are a channeler, they literally won’t be able to channel. And women must be surrendering, because if they are not able to surrender, then they literally won’t be able to channel. If they do not conform, then they must learn to conform in order to fully grow into who they are meant to be. Gender essentialism is enforced by how things work. But gender essentialism is wrong. Gender essentialism says that there are universal, immutable, intrinsic qualities to being male or female, and anyone with any sense knows that this is not true. I can tell you that in my over 20 years of teaching experience, there isn’t a single quality, hobby, or personality type that I could say universally applies to all the boys I’ve taught or all the girls. There are numerous exceptions to every gender rule I can think of. Even in that same conversation I previously mentioned in The Great Hunt, Verin comments on the faulty logic of the fish metaphor. “There are birds that dive and swim. And in the Sea of Storms are fish that fly…” These universal generalities about “all women” and “all men” only serve to divide us and to make anyone who doesn’t fit feel like an outsider. To read more about gender essentialism, you can read this piece on Gender Essentialism Theory by Dr. E. Boskey. And as I said, as I was re-reading these books, I began to think that this was the point Robert Jordan was trying to make, or it was one of them. That the characters were wrong about the nature of masculinity and femininity because they were fundamentally wrong about the nature of saidar and saidin. And the reason I began to think this was because of Nynaeve. If you know my YouTube channel, then you probably know that Nynaeve is my girl. She is my favourite character, hands down, and so she is the person I have thought the most about, and so yeah… on my re-reads it started to dawn on me that it didn’t make any sense that Nynaeve, for the first part of the series, can only channel when angry. It goes against everything we know about the nature of saidar and female channeling. Women are only supposed to be able to channel when calm, but that is out the window with Nynaeve, because she has to be livid to be able to ‘embrace the source’. And secondly, women are supposed to only be able to channel through surrendering to the vastness of the One Power – literally are only able to use power by surrendering to power. Now, maybe this is me, but anger is not a surrendering emotion in my book. And from what we read and know of Nynaeve, it isn’t one for her too. When she is angry, she bowls over people, she takes charge, she is blunt and direct, violent even. She is displaying very characteristically masculine traits. Theodrin even comments that she doesn’t understand how Nynaeve can channel in the first place because it goes against everything she knows about how the female half of the source works. And I honestly thought that this was the point. That Nynaeve was going to prove that everything that everyone has assumed about saidar – and saidin as well – was wrong. That Nynaeve was going to show that women don’t have to surrender, women don’t have to conform to these old and tired stereotypes about how women are manipulative and submissive. And through this we would also learn that men don’t have to conform to male stereotypes either, they don’t have to be violent, to conquer and dominate. That while maybe these old ways are easiest for most, they are not essential. That the male half and female halves of the Source aren’t as unknowable to each other as originally thought, and through that that the world would come to understand that men and women aren’t as foreign to each other as well. I thought it was going to be a part of the healing that this world was going to go through because of our main characters. I held out hope for this theory until the final book, even after she surrendered to the source at the bottom of that river. But it didn’t happen. I suppose, with the world continuing as it does, that this could be something that happened in the post-book era, but I think I have to accept that this wasn’t a part of Robert Jordan’s original plan. And, if I’m honest, it is one of the very few things in The Wheel of Time that I’m disappointed with. I’ve said before that I always assume good intent with Robert Jordan, and even in this area this still stands. I think that it was his intent to show the value in both ‘sides’ of the coin, to show that men and women must work together, that equality and cooperation are goals worth striving for. But gender essentialism is an inherently limiting philosophy. And when there are strict lines drawn between two sides, it practically invites people to make judgements about which is better. But with the show coming out, I think that there is a new opportunity to address this issue in the world of Wheel of Time in a way that doesn’t lock men and women into outdated stereotypes that were never universally true in the first place. Obviously, I am attached to my personal theory about how this could be addressed; but regardless of how it is done, I think it would be in keeping with Robert Jordan’s vision of healing the divide between genders to not stick to the fundamentally flawed principle of gender essentialism. But these, of course, are only my thoughts. What are yours? How do you feel about the role gender essentialism plays in The Wheel of Time?
Our December special guest will be Wheel of Time author and bestseller Brandon Sanderson! This LIVE EVENT will be held on Thursday, December 10, 2020 at 6:30 PM U.S. Eastern Time. Attendees will be able to chat directly with Brandon and ask questions! About Brandon Brandon Sanderson is the bestselling author of twenty-six novels and dozens of novellas and short stories. He is a two-time HUGO award winner, including a win in 2013 for Best Novella (The Emperor's Soul). In 2007 he was chosen to complete the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga. Also, anybody reading this knows who he is. 😉 About the Event This will be a LIVE virtual event, held over Zoom. All of our patreon supporters are the Heron-Marked ($10) level and higher are invited. Click here to register. If you are a not yet a Patreon supporter, or if you are a supporter at a lower tier, you are welcome to sign-up or "upgrade" to the Heron-Marked level for a single month to gain access to this event. Servant of All ($25) and Chosen ($50) level patrons will get additional "early" time before the rest of the attendees will be allowed into the Zoom. The event will begin with a moderated discussion with our guest, followed by an open Q&A where you can freely ask questions and chat. This event will be recorded, but it will be different than our previous live chats. We're still working out the details but there's a chance this event will be available afterwards on Brandon's YouTube channel. If you attend and participate, you'll be seen via his channel. (If you would prefer not to be seen or heard in this more-public venue, you can provide questions to me in advance and I'll make sure they're asked on your behalf). The Zoom link will be emailed to all eligible patrons 24 hours before the event. Become a Dragonmount patron, support this website, get exclusive info about the franchise, and attend our monthly chat events.
Amazon's official WoTonPrime social media accounts revealed today a brief video showcasing Tam al'Thor's iconic heron-marked sword. The video showed how the sword went through its design phase to becoming an actual prop seen in the show. This is the first official glimpse of a notable prop seen in the show. The sword seen here is almost certainly the heron-marked sword that's prominently featured in the books. About Tam's sword (spoilers for books 1-2) In the Wheel of Time books, Tam al'Thor, Rand's adoptive father, received a heron-marked sword during his time as a soldier. Tam al'Thor is played by Game of Thrones alumni actor Michael McElhatton. (View all of the announced cast here.) The heron marking on the blade indicates that he reached the rank of a blade master. At the beginning of the book series, which takes place approximately 20 years after he earned the sword, Tam has long retired the blade to his attic. He gives it to Rand on Winternight because he fears ominous danger lurking near their remote home. Rand keeps the sword for the duration of his adventures in the first two novels. The sword is ultimately destroyed during his battle with Ba'alzamon over the city of Falme. The sword seen in this video is likely to feature a prominent role in season 1 of Amazon's Wheel of Time TV show.
The following is a message from Wilson Grooms, Robert Jordan's cousin ("Brother/Cousin"). For those unfamiliar with Wilson, he plays an essential role in the family, most especially back in 2007 when he provided regular updates to fans regarding Robert Jordan's illness. Wilson Grooms: This tale began almost a year ago, thinking I might have a sinus issue. Wrong! It took a while, but in February of 2020 it was determined that I have a cancer on the extreme rear of my tongue. The cause, HPV, Human Papilloma Virus. You see Television ads urging you to get your kids inoculated against this. Do it please. There was no such vaccine back in the day. The cancer was a squamous cell. Doctors called it a “garden variety” and were all confident that with radiation and chemo they could render me cancer free. For the next seven weeks our daughter Marisa picked me up at 8 am Monday through Friday for radiation. Chemotherapy was once a week for the same seven weeks. The doctors were honest that the treatments are intense. The last two weeks of treatments and the first two weeks of “healing” I spent curled up in a ball. We had to wait months to repeat the tests that would let us know whether the bad actor had be eradicated. Waiting isn’t my strong suit. In late August a PET scan indicated “something” was still there. Doctors were divided as to what it was. It could be residual cancer. Most thought it to be inflammation as part of the healing process. But I wasn’t feeling better. In fact I had been suffering intense headaches which began in late June. The site was visually scoped (also not fun) frequently to monitor any changes. Nothing. So in November we repeated the biopsy. It’s still there. Worse, it has compromised my tongue and larynx. And it has mutated. It is now a very rare and aggressive Sarcomatoid spindle cell tumor. The only option offered was a drastic surgery to remove all the tongue and voice box. Before making that life altering decision a full Tumor Board of specialists reviewed my case. Because of the type of cancer it has become, the drastic surgery proposed by my Surgical Oncologist is no longer a viable option. Surgery would make day to day life difficult, would not reduce the pain I am dealing with and would not extend life. Studies show that with a sarcomatoid cancer and this surgery, patients do not live beyond 12 months. And a painful 12 months at that. The treatment deemed to give me the best chance is chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. I will have my first infusion on the 30th of November. The regime is two weeks on, one week off for as long as the treatments are working. I am not certain as of now how often I will be taking the immunotherapy drug. This specific treatment for this type of cancer has been only used for about four years. There are patients who were in the study when it began and are still doing well. Thus it has not been determined what an average life expectancy may be. If my cancer does not respond, I am looking at six months to perhaps a year. Please pray that I see positive results. Even if results are positive, this cancer will never be eradicated by the treatments. The best I can hope for is that it goes into remission and that the treatments keep it there. But if God wants to work a miracle, I’m okay with that too. I know it’s selfish, but that’s what I pray for. I ask for your prayers for my family that they have the strength to help me in this fight. This is being posted by my daughter/cousin Melanie Murray. I have asked her to be my point of contact. I ask you please, do not contact any other family members. Melanie will post any updates as needed. But remember, no news is wonderful news. Every day is a blessing. Make sure that those who are important in your life know it. Tell them. And set goals. One of mine is that I plan to see all of you at JordanCon in April. In lieu of that, I hope God will excuse Jim, aka RJ, of his storytelling duties so that we can go fishing. Onward. Wilson Brother/Cousin 4th of 3 Photo, from left to right: Elaine, Jonathan, Janet, Wilson, Major Miles Grooms,Marisa.
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. It’s been two years since Amazon ordered The Wheel of Time to series, ending a long wait for fans who'd been wanting to see their favourite series picked up for the screen. That wait began on 15 January 1990 when the very first readers to finish The Eye of the World put the book down and said, “This would make a good movie, wouldn’t it?” Such a long wait for such a hugely popular property to be adapted is unusual. The first Harry Potter film hit screens barely four and a half years after the first novel was published, and The Lord of the Rings got a BBC radio adaptation just two years after the book came out (and “only” twenty-three years for the first animated film version). Game of Thrones was optioned by HBO only ten years after the first book was published, although actually getting it on screen turned out to be an arduous task taking another five years after that point. Fans may be forgiven for asking why it took so long - thirty-one years by the time it airs - for someone to adapt what was, for most of its lifespan, the biggest-selling epic fantasy series since Tolkien. The answer is that there’s actually been several attempts to bring the books to the screen before, some of them getting quite far and having quite a lot of money spent on them before the plug was pulled. Here’s the lowdown on a few of those attempts: NBC The American network NBC optioned The Wheel of Time for adaptation in 1999. Several network executives were fans of the books and – more to the point – of their massive runaway sales success which had already seen it score a New York Times #1 bestseller position (the first of six) and over 40 million sales by that point. The executives were enthusiastic and – for the time – highly ambitious, envisaging adapting each novel or perhaps several novels as mini-series in their own right, adapting the entire saga across several years. The initial plan was for a six-hour adaptation of The Eye of the World. Their model was the 1998 mini-series Merlin starring Sam Neill (no relation to the 2008-12 BBC TV series), which adapted the Arthurian legend across three hour-long episodes costing more than $10 million each. The mini-series had concept art from legendary Tolkien artist Alan Lee (who would decamp to New Zealand the following year to help Peter Jackson shoot The Lord of the Rings) and a surprising degree of historical fidelity to the likely post-Roman, pre-Saxon setting of the stories. The casting director even tipped his hat to other Arthurian adaptations, by reusing castmembers from John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur. The mini-series also had an exemplary cast, including Miranda Richardson, Isabella Rossellini, Helena Bonham Carter, Rutger Hauer, James Earl Jones and Sir John Gielgud. NBC even tapped some of the writers of Merlin to possibly work on Wheel of Time. Here's an audio clip of Robert Jordan talking about this adaptation effort, saying, “If what I get is what they did in Merlin, I’ll be perfectly satisfied.” In a similar vein to the Merlin project was Dune, a mini-series which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (about to return to NBC’s ownership at the time) to great success in 2000. Alas, the Wheel of Time project at NBC was not to be. It foundered for several reasons (one imagines the sheer cost, the huge scale of the project and the fact that the books were not complete were all contributory factors), but the main one was that the executives backing it moved on from NBC by the end of 2000 and interest at the network dried up. They allowed the rights to revert to Robert Jordan. Anime Around the same time, a Japanese animation company – the identity of which has never been disclosed – contacted Robert Jordan to discuss the rights. Although Jordan had always envisaged a live-action adaptation, he was certainly not opposed to the idea and entered into discussions. Japanese animation studios are not unused to long-running adaptations and the use of animation would allow them to overcome the budgetary problems with effects and prosthetics that were daunting those interested in a live-action project. Japanese animation studios are also well-used to the problem of adapting incomplete works. Bones Inc. produced a 51-episode adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003-04, but the manga was not yet complete, so they made up their own ending. Five years later, after the manga was finished, Bones made a completely new adaptation from scratch called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which adapted the entire manga very faithfully. Unfortunately, the Japanese animation studio involved did not propose anything so ambitious. In fact, their proposal was that they would adapt only the first three books – The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn – and then adapt the ending of the third book into an ending for the entire story (so presumably the battle at the Stone of Tear would become the Last Battle, with Rand’s defeat of Ba’alzamon becoming the final defeat of the Dark One). They also seemed to be envisaging a single feature film to tell this story rather than a full TV series. Robert Jordan was rather bemused by this notion and turned the project down. Red Eagle & Warner Brothers In 2003 Robert Jordan sold an option for the books to Forsaken Films, who wanted to get the books on screen at either HBO or the Sci-Fi Channel. This was moving to capitalise on Sci-Fi’s success with the Children of Dune and Battlestar Galactica mini-series that aired that year (the latter leading to a long-running regular series). However, after a risible response to Sci-Fi’s (absolutely awful) Earthsea mini-series the following year, Sci-Fi’s interest in adapting original SF or fantasy novels dried up. Forsaken Films was founded by Wheel of Time fan and budding film producer and director Eben McGarr specifically to adapt the Wheel of Time property. They partnered with DZYNZ Inc., a visual effects company who were working on Team America: World Police, to produce possible ideas for a mini-series project (presumably not using puppets!). DZYNZ’s owner, John Naulin (an industry veteran who’d worked on the Star Wars franchise, as well as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) brought on board Larry Mondragon and Rick Selvage to advise on the project. After some months developing the property there was a re-organisation, with Naulin, Mondragon and Selvage founding Manetheren LLC to develop the film and then a parent company, Red Eagle Entertainment, to oversee a wider rights-handling project. In March 2004, Red Eagle struck a larger deal with Jordan that superseded the deal with Forsaken (who promptly left the picture altogether). This was for rights-handling rights, including comic books and video games, for The Eye of the World alone. The price paid was $35,000 which, given the popularity of the series, was an incredible deal. This deal was extended several times until early 2008, by which time Red Eagle had paid an additional $130,000 to secure an option on the entire series. Then in May 2008 Red Eagle exercised the option, purchasing the film rights to the entire series for $465,000 on a deal that required them to have a project released by 11 February 2015. Almost immediately Red Eagle ran into problems by pairing with redoubtable comic book company Dabel Brothers in producing first a limited series based on New Spring and then a longer comic series based on The Eye of the World. Both projects were beset by unexpected delays, controversies and unrealistic timescales (Dabel Brothers had form for this on several earlier projects, it has to be said). The comic book furore was so notable that Robert Jordan took time out of his medical treatment to make his displeasure with the situation clear. Unfortunately, just a month later, Robert Jordan passed away. As early as 2004 Warner Brothers showed an interest in a film project based on the books, possibly to bolster their fantasy film portfolio which also included the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. However, after some speculative development work was done, Warners passed on the project. It was around this time that they began spinning up the work that later led to the Hobbit movie trilogy, and may have chosen not pursue that and not muddy the waters with a superficially similar fantasy project. This Wheel of Time project was dead by 2006. Universal Studios Red Eagle continued to develop the property and in August 2008 it was announced that Universal Studios had bought an option with a plan to develop the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, as a high-budget feature film. Film producer Jeff Kirschenbaum was put in charge of the project and spent time developing it with writer Chris Morgan (the Fast and the Furious franchise, as well as 47 Ronin, Wanted and the long-gestating Legend of Conan movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger), but they were sidetracked when the Fast and the Furious movies started blowing up in a big way and refocused on those. Other writers came on board, but no-one could get a script in place that they liked. (Disclosure: Dragonmount founder Jason Denzel also contributed to the project at the time). Kirschenbaum left Universal and Universal’s interest in the project dried up. Red Eagle noted the pivoting of the industry towards television and re-pitched the project as a TV series, which ironically brought the property back to the attention of NBC and the Sci-Fi Channel – now called SyFy – as they were owned by Universal. After a brief perusal of the idea, the two networks passed. Normally you’d expect the biggest post-Tolkien, non-Rowling fantasy series in the world to attract more interest (especially since the prices involved seemed to be pretty low), but this process was coinciding with the biggest economic downturn the world had seen in seventy years and the project fell foul of Universal’s sudden reticence to commit to anything other than proven franchises. Although there were flickers of renewed interest at the studio after Game of Thrones (which began airing in 2011) hit the big time, Universal’s film option had finally expired by February 2014. In the meantime, Red Eagle continued to develop the video game project. In February 2010 they announced they were partnering with Obsidian Entertainment, the developers of Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Knights of the Old Republic II to partner with them in making a roleplaying game based on The Wheel of Time. The game never materialised. Rather oddly, Red Eagle signed a distribution deal with publisher Electronic Arts, but did not want to sign over creative control of the game to them, as is standard in the industry. This meant that EA would not fund the video game, only distribute it. Red Eagle would have to find the budget for the game themselves. But with the budget for a video game of this nature being comfortably in the tens of millions of dollars (Skyrim, which was in development at this time, cost over $80 million to produce, not including marketing) and Red Eagle not having access to anything remotely approaching that figure, it was unclear where the money was going to come from, if not a publishing deal. In April 2014, Obsidian confirmed that the deal had fallen through because of a lack of funding and they’d moved on to other projects. In the meantime, in 2012, Red Eagle set up a Kickstarter with Jet Set Games for a Wheel of Time mobile game called Banner of the Rising Sun. They asked for $450,000 to develop two games in the setting, and then failed to publicise the project. The Kickstarter was abandoned with under $3,000 raised. They would probably have had better luck with a Kickstarter for the proper CRPG, but had decided to focus on a mobile game as a smaller project to start with. Sony & Amazon After such a series of high-profile failures, it’s unsurprising that Wheel of Time fans had lost faith in Red Eagle to achieve anything with their option. However, in early 2014, (almost the second the Universal deal expired) Red Eagle entered into discussions with Radar Pictures and Sony Television about a TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time, following the huge success of Game of Thrones at HBO. These early talks would eventually lead to Sony and Amazon Television joining forces to take on the project, resulting in the project currently shooting in the Czech Republic, with Red Eagle as consulting producers (but not with any decision-making power). Even that was a strange saga, with Red Eagle self-funding their own pilot called The Winter Dragon starring Billy Zane to hold onto the rights a bit longer so they could claim a share of the Sony deal. Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan’s widow, took exception to this and expressed her displeasure publicly. A lawsuit followed, and Red Eagle counter-sued for slander, a move which obviously proved unpopular in the fandom. The two parties eventually settled out-of-court. The saga of the previous not-to-be adaptations of The Wheel of Time is fascinating in its own right, and it’ll be interesting to see what the end result of this twenty-year journey is when Amazon finally brings the books to the screen next year. As usual, let us know what you think and stay up to date with the latest news right here at Dragonmount. Also, check out this video from our Wheel of Time Community Show team where they discuss the points I've made in this article.
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston The world we are living in is rife with crisis and bubbling with change. This novel landed in my lap at the perfect time. As I read, I drew many parallels to our unpredictable lives in 2020. The standalone novel, Master of Poisons written by Andrea Hairston is a richly diverse epic fantasy saga. The story is filled with familiar fantasy accoutrement that is woven together with African influences. The book raised many poignant questions for me that are resonant with our lives today. What are you willing to give up in order to change the future? How do you stand up to corruption? How long can our planet withstand our blatant disregard for the warnings it's presenting to us? The African-inspired world Hairston created stands on the precipice of destruction. A poisoned desert is destroying their physical world and the world found in dreams and hearts, the Smokeland. The leaders who are supposed to be looking out for their people’s best interests only seem to care about their own gain. Djola, The Master of Poisons and the right hand of the Emperor is willing to give up everything to save their world. The rest of the council is unwilling to see past their own self-interests and limiting beliefs. Djola sets off alone in search of the cure for the poisoned desert but discovers so much more. In another part of the world there is a young garden Sprite Awa, who is trying to find where she belongs after being abandoned by everyone she ever loved. Her journey with the griots expands her knowledge of the world and its stories, but it also shows her the measure of her own inner strength. The epic journey of these characters was enough to pull me through to the end of the novel. Yet, at times I found myself referring back to the glossary, and rereading passages to gain further understanding. The world building was an immensely impressive feat that at times borders on overly complex. There were moments of brilliant prose that kept me aching for more. The chapters written from the view of the animals were always captivating, and the songs and spells woven into the text were beautiful. Master of Poisons is a novel that is worth a second read to fully gain an understanding of the layers of subtext. The magic system used is unique and unlike anything I have ever read. It gives me hope for the continued creativity of the fantasy genre. I truly appreciated the subtle way in which Hairston integrated issues of today without feeling as if I was being taught a lesson. Her ability to construct such a detailed world was inspiring to me as both a reader and a writer. I am looking forward to exploring her other works. Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston is available from Dragonmount's store as a DRM-free ebook. You can also purchase it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local independent bookseller.
Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount's book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he's not managing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found cataloged at his website. For the son to rise, the father must fall. From mythology to Marvel Comics, from Shakespeare to Star Wars, and in almost every Disney story, the parental figure must die before the heir can fulfill their role. The trope is so familiar that participants of Amazon Prime’s book club for new readers of The Eye of the World were sure that Tamlin al’Thor was a goner after Winternight, when Rand was torn between leaving with Moiraine for Tar Valon and staying to take care of his father. Narratively speaking, good parents are obstacles to children facing real danger. They prevent the story from getting started. Clearly, Tam should have gone the way of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, following convention. Happily, Robert Jordan had a different story in mind. Tam al’Thor is no obstacle to his son. While the plot contrived to keep Tam and Rand separated until a pivotal encounter in The Gathering Storm, Tam had more interesting things to do than opening the farm gate for Rand by succumbing to his wounds. I started reading The Wheel of Time in college, as a young man preparing to set out into the world to make something of himself. I read about Rand and Mat playing for their supper, surviving by their wits, and getting out of scrapes with a sense of romance. Everything was potential. What could be. The open road, man. When I finished reading The Wheel of Time, I was a dad. I started looking at Tam with the sense of association I once had for his son. Strong. Solid. Stable. A man whose job was to raise a hero, but had some heroics of his own left to do. Tam was the kind of dad I wanted to be. I’d become a supporting character in a story that belonged to my daughter, but my own story wasn’t yet done. The two facts were not at odds. Tam al’Thor embodied that truth. Tam's “N-shaped” story arc has two volumes. The first, told through flashback and exposition, took him from the Two Rivers seeking adventure, and then back again with a wife and child. The second unfolded in the 14 books of the main series, taking him out of retirement and back into military life, as a warrior and leader of men. But still--most importantly--as a father. Tam left the Two Rivers as a youth, and joined the army in Illian. He fought in the Whitecloak War, two wars against Tear, and the Aiel War, learning a blademaster’s skill under a mentor named Kimtin. He received a Power-wrought, heron-marked sword from King Mattin Steppaneos himself, and rose to the distinguished rank of Second Captain of the Illianer Companions. But the Aiel War was a turning point for Tam in his career. Tam understood that the political machinations of King Laman of Cairhien caused the Aiel to invade, and the bloodshed was prolonged by the nations slow in their arrogance to unite. In the war’s final battle, Tam sought escape from the heat of battle and stink of death on the slopes of Dragonmount, where the Wheel would have him find the newborn baby Rand. Tam was at the pinnacle of his career, but disillusionment, weariness, and fatherhood led him to quit the Companions and take his wife and child to the obscurity and pastoral life of the Two Rivers. Back home, Tam became a man of secrets and silence. None but his wife knew the story of their son, nor did he talk much of his career. His heron-marked sword remained locked in a chest under the bed until a Winternight 19 years later, when the Trollocs attacked Emond’s Field. Teaching Rand the “flame and the void” exercise, rescuing him from the Trollocs, and giving him his sword would have been enough of an ending for most epic fantasy dads. But The Wheel of Time is vast, and can accommodate the rise of many characters, including a comeback for a veteren sword master who retired to raise his son. When Tam recovered from his injuries at Winternight, he and Abell Cauthon journeyed to Tar Valon to find their sons, where they were stonewalled by the Aes Sedai. They returned to the Two Rivers to find that the Whitecloaks used the Trollocs as an excuse to occupy their land and abuse their people. Tam coordinated the underground resistance until Perrin Aybarra returned. Then, something remarkable happened. He ceded leadership to the younger man. (This does indeed seem a fantasy to Americans looking to choose new blood for leadership.) Tam not only stepped aside, but he remained a part of Perrin’s active resistance, training village men to be soldiers and lending experienced advice. Call it ta’veren, or call it character, but there was no power struggle, no internal conflict. Tam, a military man, knew when to lead and when to follow. Under Lord Perrin, Tam became the First Captain of the Two Rivers army, leading them to defeat the Shaido Aiel at the battle of Malden. Tam folded in and trained refugees, amassing a mighty Two Rivers army that fought in the Last Battle. Tam enters the Fourth Age the military leader of a large and powerful nation. In DC Comics, Superman has the power of a demigod, but was raised by good parents with humble, Midwestern values. Superman’s moral upbringing makes him the incorruptible hero he is. Since leaving the Two Rivers, Rand al’Thor shouldered the weight of the world’s hope, as the Dark One sought to tear down that hope with tragedy and pain. Tam al’Thor’s most critical contribution came as Rand was nearly consumed by a darkness born of the need to be hard, at the expense of his humanity. Tam reminded Rand of who he was, and though he nearly died at his son’s hand in that confrontation, he triggered a crisis that reached down through the suspicion and hurt, allowing the good son underneath to climb out. When Rand returned from Dragonmount, he was healed, whole, and an avatar of the Light. He was the man who, remembering who he once was, could win the battle of wills against the Dark One. On his return, when Rand introduced Min to Tam, it was not just the loving rite between a father and his adult son. It was a healing of the wound that had opened back in the Westwood, so long before, when Rand believed that he didn’t have a real father. He had one in every way that mattered. Tam did more than just set the hero on his journey. He kept him true.