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.
We're elated to announce that our November special guest will be Wheel of Time editor Harriet McDougal! This LIVE EVENT will be held on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at 1 PM U.S. Eastern Time. Attendees will be able to chat directly with Harriet and ask questions. Learn more and sign up here. About Harriet Harriet McDougal is Robert Jordan's wife as well as the editor for the entire Wheel of Time book series. In addition to playing a key rollin the development of the series, she also guided Brandon Sanderson when he completed the final three novels in the series. She is the co-author (along with Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk) of The Wheel of Time Companion. In addition to her work on WoT, she is a notable editor in the field of SF/F having edited notable titles such as Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. About the Event This will be a LIVE virtual event, held over Zoom. All Patreon supporters at the Heron-Marked ($10) level and higher are invited. 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. More information about signing up is available on our Patreon page. 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 is expected to be a small, intimate event, but if the number of attendees grows, we will moderate accordingly. But no matter what happens, everyone will have a chance to ask questions and be involved. We hope you'll join us for this exciting event! If you can't make it this time, that's OK. This event will be recorded and made available to Heron-Marked patrons and above. Learn more and sign up here.
Exciting news dropped this past Wednesday: The official @WoTonPrime social media account released the first audio trailer from the Amazon Prime Wheel of Time television show. You can watch/listen to the clip below: audio_trailer_Oct_2020.mp4 There’s already a plethora of speculation about what scene and characters this can be. Madeleine Madden (who plays Egwene al’Vere) confirmed on Instagram that the voices do belong to Egwene and Perrin. But when does the scene take place? The battle noises in the back suggest Winternight (or during Bel Tine as showrunner Rafe Judkins suggested last month). We also know in the novels that Egwene and Perrin spend a large chunk of the book together, so it could be their flight from Shadar Logoth or in the Whitecloak campe. Either way, we'll have to "WAFO" (Watch And Find Out)! For more information on the Wheel of Time show, visit our TV page or follow the links below. Additionally, check out our reaction to the video on this episode of The Wheel of Time Community Show:
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. On 1 February 2013, Netflix changed the conversation about how TV shows are released when they dropped all thirteen episodes of political drama House of Cards on the same day. Since then, every Netflix original scripted show has done exactly the same thing. Rival streamer Amazon Prime adopted the same strategy, whilst Hulu adopted a mixed strategy, releasing some shows on the same time and others weekly. It was a bold and innovative move, and for more than three years was wildly successful. Of Netflix’s first ten original dramas, six were massive hits, driving huge boosts in subscriptions and almost dominating the cultural conversation: House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Narcos, Jessica Jones and Stranger Things. Netflix seemed to be onto a winning strategy. However, some rivals were not convinced. The two biggest shows of the 2010s were HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead, launched with regular, weekly release patterns and were rewarded with dozens of new articles and hundreds of thousands or even millions of Tweets every single week a new episode was released. It’s arguable if Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding would have had the same nuclear impact it did on TV discussion if it had dropped as part of a one-day release of the entire third season. When Hulu released The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017, conscious they had a show that spoke to the cultural moment and also was awards-fodder, they opted for a weekly release schedule (after dropping the first three episodes at once), reversing the decision to release some of their prior shows all at once. Likewise, they were rewarded with eight weeks’ worth of constant coverage. CBS All Access launched its service almost at the same time, again favouring weekly release schedules for their first two dramas, The Good Fight and, a few months later, Star Trek: Discovery. The Boys is the first Amazon Prime original to switch to a weekly release schedule, with strong results. During this time period Netflix began to flounder. The rate of production of critically-acclaimed, conversation-starting shows dropped off sharply. Their constant drive of content and the need to produce a whole season of television for almost every Friday of the year saw them releasing shows with next to no marketing and then cancelling them: the high-budget second season of Sense8 was a notable casualty when its launch buzz and marketing was instead swamped by adverts for the already-concluded first season of 13 Reasons Why (which Netflix believed was a stronger show to generate new subscriptions). Netflix also appeared to reach its English-language subscription ceiling much earlier than expected, leaving it deeply in debt and unclear where future new customers were going to come from. Both Apple TV+ and Disney+, perhaps seeing Netflix’s struggles, both launched with weekly release schedules for their shows and profited from them, with the Star Wars show The Mandalorian particularly benefitting from weekly discussion over the adventures of Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter hero and his animatronic, Yoda-like friend. Which brings us to Amazon Prime, and The Wheel of Time. Amazon have been looking to differentiate their TV offerings from Netflix for some years. Although they had some hit shows – The Man in the High Castle was a modest success, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel a somewhat bigger one – they were still batting way behind Netflix, which was frustrating given how widely available Amazon Prime Television was (free for all Amazon Prime subscribers, a fact that surprisingly large numbers of them were unaware of). In 2016 they switched to a weekly release schedule for their hit car programme The Grand Tour, which was successful, and in 2018 extended the idea to drama with The Romanoffs. The latter bombed, but Amazon eventually decided this was more down to the quality of the show than problems with a weekly release schedule. They next decided to roll the dice with a show that already had a successful first season: The Boys. Showrunner Eric Kripke had already been lobbying for a weekly release schedule for the second season and Amazon agreed to give the format a go. The result has been hugely successful. Each week for six weeks (the first three episodes were released on the same day), the show attracted a large amount of online engagement. Weekly reviews, articles and recaps, and regular interviews with the showrunners and cast helped drive the show to the top of internet TV discussions. Over the course of the run Amazon saw a marked increase in subscriptions as people tuned in to catch up on the previous episodes and watch the new ones. The Expanse is switching to a weekly release schedule on Amazon Prime with its forthcoming fifth season. The success of the format saw Amazon make the decision to repeat the experiment for space opera show The Expanse. The Expanse had already aired three seasons released weekly on SyFy, but disappointing viewing figures saw the show cancelled. Amazon bought out the show and transferred it to Amazon Prime for a fourth season in 2019, released on the same day. It did well, but Amazon saw a chance to improve its standings by switching to a weekly release schedule for the fifth season. This was helped by the fact that the fifth season will be the most explosive of the nine they are hoping to make: the fifth book in the series features a Game of Thrones-style, “Red Wedding” level shocking event, and if the TV show delivers on it, it could propel the show to a new level of success and achievement. We will find out if Amazon’s gambit pays off between December and February, when they air the ten episodes of the fifth season. With Amazon switching to a weekly release schedule for two of its biggest shows, it makes it much more likely that The Wheel of Time will follow suit when it launches on Amazon in 2021 (as well as the Second Age-set Lord of the Rings prequel later in the year, or in 2022). The move will be divisive – people have gotten used to sitting down on a Friday and dedicating a day or a weekend to watching a whole season of a show – but I think will be more successful. One of the reasons Netflix’s model seems to be increasingly flawed is because a binge-release is an all-or-nothing proposition. The show has to be a hit out of the gate because, if it isn’t, then three weeks later everyone’s forgotten about it and something else has come along to replace it in the conversation. A weekly release schedule gives five to eight weeks’ worth of coverage and discussion and raises the profile of a show to higher levels, and generates more viewers of the earlier episodes in the season. It gives the show more of a fighting chance to be successful and get a renewal for more seasons. From a more cynical point of view, it is also more profitable: people wanting to stay up to date on a new, zeitgeist-defining show have to subscribe for two or more months rather than a single weekend, but if they prefer the binge experience, they can wait until the whole season is available. That does of course mean dodging spoilers for several weeks in a row, but ultimately it does give them more choice about how to consume a new series. Of course, Amazon may change its mind and decide to release Wheel of Time in one go, but it feels less likely. Anything which helps Wheel of Time get more viewers and more critical discussion can only be a good thing if the show is to survive the long term, but what are your thoughts? What strategy do you think is the best approach? Let us know in the comments and as usual keep at eye on the Dragonmount TV News page for breaking stories.
Ebony shares some little known facts about the original U.S. book covers in the latest episode of the Wheel of Time Community Show. For more information on the Wheel of Time books, visit our books section. Tor.com tribute to Darrell K Sweet Michael Whelan’s website
As is the trend this year, most conventions are going online. For those of us who don’t have the resources to travel to all these amazing cons, this set up isn’t so bad. Spoilercon—a convention celebrating the podcasts The Wheel of Time Spoilers, Mistborn Spoilers, and Broken Earth Spoilers—is hosting an online even next weekend, October 2nd and 3rd. Registration for this event is free, though pre-registration is required. You can sign up here. Some notable guests for Spoilercon include our own Jason Denzel—Dragonmount’s founder and webmaster—and Thom DeSimone—host of The Wheel of Time Community Show. Maria Simons from Team Jordan will also be making an appearance. And a reoccurring event from last year, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading—who perform the audio books for The Wheel of Time and many other sci-fi/fantasy titles—will be doing a reading. This convention offers a lot across the fandom board! You can check out the complete schedule here. EDITED: In case you missed this event, you can see all the recorded panels, including the reading by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading here!
We're delighted to announce that our October special guest will be WOTonPrime Research Consultant Sarah Nakamura! This LIVE EVENT will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 1 PM U.S. Eastern Time. Attendees will be able to chat directly with Sarah and ask questions! Learn more and sign up here. About Sarah Sarah Nakamura is the Research Consultant for Amazon Prime's Wheel of Time TV Show. She has an active presence on-set during filming, in the writer's room, and in most other aspects of production. As a lifelong fan of the WoT books, Sarah is proving to be an indispensable representative of our fandom working on the show. About the Event This will be a LIVE virtual event, held over Zoom. All Patreon supporters at the Heron-Marked ($10) level and higher are invited. If you are a not yet a Patreon supporter, or if you are a supporter at a lower tier, you are welcome to "upgrade" to the Heron-Marked level for a single month to gain access to this event. More information about signing up is available on our Patreon page. 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 is expected to be a somewhat smaller event, but if the number of attendees grows, we will moderate it but give everyone a chance to ask questions and be involved. The Zoom link will be emailed to all eligible patrons 24 hours before the event. We hope you'll join us for this exciting event! If you can't make it this time, that's OK. This event will be recorded and made available to Heron-Marked patrons and above. Learn more and Sign Up!
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. Today marks a full year since production of The Wheel of Time began in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Had things proceeded according to plan, shooting would have wrapped in May and the production would have been deep in post-production, ready for an early 2021 debut. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas and instead we’ve had to endure a pandemic which has had far-reaching consequences around the globe. The Wheel of Time had to go on shooting hiatus in March with six of the eight episodes in the can and for a while it looked like completing the season would have to be held off indefinitely. Fortunately, shooting on the final two episodes was able to resume last week and the hope is that the series will be able to debut in 2021, hopefully not too far behind the original airing schedule. For this anniversary post, I thought it would be fun to do a brief catch-up of the news covering production as it unfolded. Back in April 2019, we had firm news that casting was underway. Two months later we had confirmation of our first castmember: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, The World’s End) as Moiraine Damodred. Pike also signed on as a producer, part of a long-term interesting in working behind the scenes in film as well; she also recently signed on as a producer on Netflix’s Three-Body Problem, working alongside former Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The floodgates opened in August 2019 when the main Two Rivers cast was announced: Madeleine Madden as Egwene al’Vere, Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara, Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon, Zoë Robbins as Nynaeve al’Meara and Josha Stradowski as Rand al’Thor. We also got Brandon Sanderson to weigh in on the casting choices, and he had some wise words on audience expectations of a faithful adaptation versus the practicalities of delivering that with the practical and financial limitations of television production. We then got news of Daniel Henney being cast as al’Lan Mandragoran, and an early preview of the cast in action due to a video of the first table read for the series. More casting news followed: Tam al’Thor; Logain, Loial, Thom Merrilin and Padan Fain; Alanna Mosvani, Maksim and Ihvon; Liandrin, Aram, Leane and Ila; Abell Cauthon, Natti Cauthon, Marin al’Vere, Bran al’Vere, Daise Congar and Cenn Buie; Eamon Valda and Geofram Bornhald; Master and Mistress Grinwell and Dana; Basel Gill; Raen; and Min Farshaw and Siuan Sanche. Meanwhile, in other posts we discussed things to expect from the show, characters who might have expanded roles, the writers working on Season 2 scripts, the directors, the budget, the locations, and that pesky question of how many books will be adapted in the first season. We also had to address fan concerns over characters being cut, initially fears that Thom Merrilin was going to be axed (he wasn’t) and that Min wouldn’t make it into the first season (she has, although the jury is still out on Elaida, Elayne and the rest of the Trakands). We even had a chat about the show at the virtual JodanCon back in April, which was gatecrashed by showrunner Rafe Judkins who kindly answered some of our questions about the project (and got some nice exclusives, like Seasons 1 and 2 being eight episodes long apiece). It’s been a wild ride and it’s not quite over yet. Shooting on the final two episodes of the season is expected to continue well into October, if not November as well, and there’s still some castmembers we expect to see in the first season who should be announced (including Lord Agelmar, hopefully, and maybe a couple of those pesky Forsaken). As usual, Dragonmount will continue bringing you news on the series as it comes in.
This #WoTWednesday had some major announcements. First, the @WoTonPrime book club concluded its read of The Eye of the World. This introduced so many new readers to this wonderful series we know and love. Our fandom is growing! The book club doesn’t currently have plans to start The Great Hunt, but we hope they will continue with this as the Amazon Prime show gets closer to completion. To celebrate reaching the end of The Eye of the World, @WoTonPrime rewarded us with this snippet of a video, starting on the excerpt from The Eye of the World where it introduces the Winespring Inn, then we get our first real look at the epicenter of Emond’s Field. Rafe Judkins also joined the celebration on Twitter and agreed to answer the first three questions about the Winspring Inn. “To celebrate @WOTonPrime‘s first glimpse of the Winespring, I’ll answer the first three questions I get about it on here. Go :)” The first question focused on the smell: Q: “Does it smell like honey cakes and fresh bread?” A: “It mostly smells like ginger tea, which anyone who’s spent time on the WoT set would tell you ha. But there were honeycakes that the wasps and hornets couldn’t get enough of. So we had to spray them with a wasp repellent, but they didn’t tell me and I ate one.” Hopefully eating wasp repellent isn’t harmful to humans…. The second question makes all of us long to be on the set. Q: “What were your thoughts walking through it the first time” A: “Absolutely one of the most emotional moments on the show for me so far. Just standing in the center of Emond’s Field felt totally surreal, looking up at the red roof of the Inn, the trouble they’d gone to give each house and villager a profession and a life there. It was amazing” I cannot want to see more of Emond’s Field! These answers from Rafe makes it much more real and closer than ever to being a finished product. The last one may spark some interesting speculation. Q: “Do we see the bel tine celebration?” A: “This one might be a spoiler, especially for Winternight enthusiasts, but yes.” Wow! We all know that Bel Tine was ruined by the Trolloc attack. If the attack doesn’t happen on Winternight, when will it happen? During the Bel Tine celebration? If so, do we get to see Tam’s fever dream? Will we not be aware Rand is adopted right from the start? Will we still see Narg—the most intelligent Trolloc—trying to reason with Rand about going to the Myrddraal? So many things to think about just on one sentence! It was a great #WoTWednesday. Let us know when you think the Trolloc attack will come in the comments below!
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. So close. The series finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones could have “broken the wheel” of Houses warring for the Iron Throne with the introduction of representative democracy. But alas, the time had not yet come in Westeros for Samwell Tarley’s radical idea. It seemed like a nod to the audience, who had long speculated what kind of government could arise when the “Game” was over and everybody (knowing George R. R. Martin) had lost. The scene seemed to say, “we hear you, but this isn’t the kind of story that has room to explore how a society moves away from monarchy toward a government of the people.” Great shifts in political philosophy can’t be accomplished convincingly in the denouement. (Or even in the epilogue.) Readers in these politically energized times are less satisfied with stories where the world’s problems are solved by the Chosen One claiming the throne, or defeating the Dark Lord in single combat. Readers want stories that acknowledge the complexity of the world they contend with every day. Destroying Emperor Palpatine does nothing to address the authoritarian impulses that caused the Republic to fall, twice. Destroying Voldemort didn’t free the House Elves or end pureblood racism. If there must be a Chosen One, readers demand he do more than kill his opposite number. The Chosen One must leave an enduring legacy. In The Wheel of Time, Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, makes a decent job of it when it comes to legacies. He could probably credit the lesson of two other “Chosen Ones” in history whose legacies were failures. Lews Therin Telamon, Rand’s own prior incarnation, perpetrated the Wheel’s Original Sin of disunity by attacking the Dark One at Shayol Ghul without the support of the female Aes Sedai. The result was the male Aes Sedai going mad, Lew Therin earning the epithet “Kinslayer,” and the Breaking of the World. The second failed Chosen One was Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the “Hawkwing.” During the High King’s lifetime, he succeeded in uniting the entire continent under his rule, which, for the common folk, was a peaceful and just rule. But after his death, his empire fell apart. Elyas Machera’s story, told among the rubble of Hawkwing’s ruined statue, invokes imagery of the poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley The wisdom Rand al’Thor learns from his ta’veren predecessors (and through hard-learned lessons throughout the story) are that he cannot succeed on his own, and that facing his prophesied fate is not enough. He must lay the foundation for what will come after he is gone. This turning of the Wheel, he has to do better. Let’s look at some of Rand’s biggest political contributions to the Fourth Age. The Black Tower The Black Tower was the first step along the road of righting Lews Therin’s Original Sin. Men like him, men who could channel, had no place in the world following the Time of Madness. Even as Rand amassed his Asha’man as a weapon to use in the Last Battle, he wanted the Black Tower to outlast him, to become every bit the institution as the White Tower. Whether it was by design or a result of being spread too thin, Rand took no part in the Black Tower’s fall into darkness under Mazrim Taim, and subsequent redemption under Logain. By the Asha’man authoring their own fate, they established an identity apart from Rand, and beyond their role in Tarmon Gai’don. Given Egwene’s prophetic vision of the fang and flame, at last unified in the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, it looks promising that the Black Tower will finally redeem Lews Therin’s sin. Dragon University Unlike the Black Tower, Rand’s schools were an effort of pure legacy. They would yield no advantage in the Last Battle; their fruits were for the Age after the Dark One was settled. Rand got to watch, in small but satisfying interstitial scenes, the inventors and scholars learning how to harness the power of steam and electricity. As readers, we know where this could lead, just as we know this is a thread that will go on to change the world beyond the Dragon Reborn’s story. The Fourth Age seems full of potential and possibility. Though Rand’s distance from the Black Tower could have been negligence (and bad delegation), Rand’s decision to play patron but not manager of the schools seem to come from a deliberate choice to let the experts do their work. Rand built not for his own glory, but for a better world after him. The Sea Folk Bargain The Wheel of Time is globalist in its ethos. Characters and nations discover strength in uniting disparate cultures and people. If the Dark One gains strength from chaos and entropy, the Light finds purchase in order and new, stronger ways of people coming together. The Sea Folk are but one of the isolationist cultures that Rand brings into the mainstream with the Bargain. It’s not an accident that, here too, Rand delegates negotiating the terms to the professionals, from the Gray Ajah Aes Sedai to skilled politicians like Queen Elayne Trakand. Rand is the catalyst for the world coming together, but he is intentionally not the glue that holds it together. All the participants are invested in working together. The Dragon’s Peace Rand’s meeting with the leaders of the nations on the Field of Merrilor was, like the schools, an act of pure legacy. He could have simply met his fate at Shayol Ghul and let the survivors of Tarmon Gai’don do with the Fourth Age what they would. But Rand al’Thor took a page from Peter Parker’s book, and decided that his great power entailed great responsibility to the world that survived him. And he was not above extorting the nations for a hundred years of peace. This was not a compact that could be sold by Tyrion Lannister delivering a stirring speech in the Dragonpit of King’s Landing, or even handed down, fully formed, by the Dragon Reborn. The rulers correctly pointed out that unless the Seanchan were brought into the accord, it was worthless. Aviendha demanded that the Aiel be included, having seen a bleak future if the Aiel had no defined place in the new world order. And Perrin, with his knowledge of tools and blacksmith puzzles, suggested that the Aiel be the enforcers of the Dragon’s Peace. Egwene resisted, and Moiraine mediated. Faile saw political maneuvering in how the parties reached their agreement, but it may be that Rand’s guileless insistence on a unity that would outlast him won the day on its own strength. With a touch of ta’veren, perhaps. As Herid Fel said, “Belief and order give strength.” Compromise with the Seanchan Even the Chosen One must compromise, and bringing the Seanchan into the Dragon’s Peace proved to be the bitterest compromise of all. Within the lands they currently controlled, the Seanchan could continue their practice of enslaving women who channeled. Just as the Last Battle wouldn’t automatically rid the world of evils unconnected to the Dark One, cruelty, prejudice, and oppression were not banished from human hearts by the Dark One’s defeat. Chattel slavery was something the Fourth Age civilization would still have to wrestle. Empress Fortuona herself, as a damane trainer, could be held by the a’dam. How would that truth weigh against centuries of Seanchan tradition, over time? Could Mat’s influence sway her heart? Will the Windfinders refuse to engage in commerce in Seanchan lands, putting economic pressure on the Empire? How would the united Black and White Towers deal with the Seanchan? The Wheel turns, and there are stories yet to be told, even if we’ll never read them. Rand al’Thor re-wove the universe to preserve human free will. With it comes the struggle to overcome the evil humanity has wrought, and to strive for new heights of nobility. Because that’s what free will means.
This past weekend, Dragon Con celebrated all the things we love in fandom. The convention went online rather than in person, and that gave many people who can’t make the trek to Atlanta, Georgia the opportunity to see what this fantastic con has to offer. There were quite a few Wheel of Time themed panels throughout the event—not surprising with all the recent updates with the Amazon Prime television show. Jason Denzel, Jennifer Liang, and Thom DeSimone had a speculation hour in the “DragonCon High Fantasy Track Presents Wheel of Time TV Show Speculation.” The topics ranged from how many of the novels will be included in the first season, to how well established the Wheel of Time fandom is to judge the show’s worth, to the maturity rating the show will receive. You can check out all the speculations here! Did you know The Eye of the World celebrated its 30th anniversary? (You should, because we talked about it here, and here, and here…) And, what every Wheel of Time anniversary celebration needs is an appearance by Brandon Sanderson! And for an added bonus, Dr. Michael Livingston joined in too! The panel “DragonCon High Fantasy Presents Wheel of Time 30th Anniversary” delved into what makes this series timeless and so beloved by fans. You can join in all the festivities, even after the fact, by watching the video below. It’s been a sad year for convention goers, but I’m so happy that every effort is being made to keep some of these events going. We’re making the most of a bad situation, and this little taste of home, friends, and family can go a long way to making us feel not so isolated right now.
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. As production resumes on Season 1 of The Wheel of Time, a familiar question has reared its head again: how much material from the books will the first season cover? This is a key question because The Wheel of Time is, by some measures, the longest work of epic fantasy ever published. The series itself spans fourteen large volumes, a prequel and two companion works. The series is almost 12,000 pages long in paperback, containing more than 4.4 million words (approximately ten times the length of The Lord of the Rings) and taking twenty-three years to publish. Adapting it to a television series which might be lucky to last seven or eight seasons is going to require very extensive changes, far moreso than even the changes required to adapt George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire into its TV equivalent, Game of Thrones; although I suspect Rafe Judkins and his team will at least be very happy that they have a complete story to work from. This question became more challenging once it became clear that Season 1 of The Wheel of Time will only consist of eight episodes, which will almost certainly be the standard one-hour length of most Amazon television series. For contrast, Game of Thrones had ten episodes to adapt the first novel in that series, a novel which is only marginally shorter than The Wheel of Time’s first volume, The Eye of the World. It could be argued that The Eye of the World has a somewhat more relaxed pace and certainly a much smaller cast than A Game of Thrones, with a more linear story which keeps the characters together in the same location for much of its length, so there is scope to depict it more quickly, but even so there are limits on what I think will be possible in terms of compression. We also know the names of the first six of the eight episodes in the season: Leavetaking, Shadow’s Waiting, A Place of Safety, The Dragon Reborn, Blood Calls Blood and The Flame of Tar Valon. On the basis of the titles alone (and the perceived overall need to fit in two books per season), some have suggested that the show will try to fit The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt into the first season. On this basis, Leavetaking will span most or all of the events of Winternight, our heroes meeting Moiraine, the Trolloc attack and the subsequent flight from the Two Rivers; Shadow’s Waiting will focus on the side-trip to the ruined city of Shadar Logoth; A Place of Safety could refer to Caemlyn and Egwene and Perrin’s adventures with the Tinkers; The Dragon Reborn would feature the events in Fal Dara and the Blight; Blood Calls Blood would feature the events in Fal Dara leading to the theft of the Horn of Valere and The Flame of Tar Valon would introduce the Amyrlin Seat. These all seem like fairly logical extrapolations. In addition, we know several characters have been cast who do not appear until Book 2, most notably Siuan, Leane, Alanna and her Warders, and Liandrin. However, there are several problems with this interpretation. The first is the casting has been announced roughly in keeping with the table reads for the series. Maria Doyle Kennedy and her fellow actors playing Tinkers were not unveiled until the Episode 5/6 table read, suggesting that the Tinkers will not appear until these episodes. The second is that much of the casting for the show was leaked before it was officially announced, and we have had no indications at all of casting for key Book 2 roles such as Ingtar, Hurin, Suroth, Egeanin, Verin or King Galldrian (although we should also note we have still not had several key Book 1 cast announced yet, most notably Elayne, Galad, Gawyn, Morgase, Elaida, Bayle Domon and Lord Agelmar). We also have a reasonable list of filming locations so far and none of the places involved would seem to reflect key Season 2 locations, such as Falme or Cairhien (indeed, the shooting locations for this week seem more reminiscent of the Blight, or Tarwin's Gap). In addition, Johann Myers who plays Padan Fain has only been booked to appear in one episode of Season 1, with the potential to return for future seasons. I would submit that doing the start of The Great Hunt, let alone all of it, without Padan Fain is untenable. Finally, we know that the Eye of the World material will be supplemented by a new storyline focusing on Logain, his capture and his taking to Tar Valon for trial and gentling, with actor Alvaro Morte booked for multiple episodes of the first season. A rushed Eye of the World, which is only covered in four hours, doesn’t seem like it leaves much room for a major new multi-episode arc focusing on a different set of characters. We also know we are getting flashback scenes to Siuan’s childhood (as an actress has been cast to play Siuan as a young girl) and potentially to the events of New Spring (an Aes Sedai who only appears in New Spring and dies during its events has been cast); fitting in a large amount of new material when they are trying to cram two long, epic books into just eight hours would be very difficult. Revisiting the episode titles with this knowledge, they can be given different explanations: The Dragon Reborn could focus on the battle against Logain and his capture, whilst in The Flame of Tar Valon he arrives in Tar Valon and is tried and gentled. During this storyline we would meet the Book 2 characters who show up early: Alanna, Siuan, Leane and Liandrin. This would also be a likely explanation for why Eamon Valda has been cast in Season 1. Although oft-mentioned in the first six books, he doesn’t actually appear in-person until Lord of Chaos. However, we do know that he was part of the detachment of the Children of the Light who helped defeat Logain (studiously avoiding all Aes Sedai contact in the process), followed them to Tar Valon via Caemlyn and generally made a nuisance of themselves outside the city. Blood Calls Blood is a trickier one, especially if it’s the same episode the Tinkers first appear in. It may be that the TV show has repurposed the saying from the Prophecies of the Shadow to be more related to the wolfbrother abilities. On the other hand, it might be that the dark prophecies will be quoted and appear earlier on than they do in the books, perhaps in one of the dream sequences that litter the first volume. The curious issue of pacing is still a valid one. We know from Brandon Sanderson’s set visit that Episode 2 opens with the events in Taren Ferry. Perhaps the action cuts quickly from fleeing Taren Ferry to Shadar Logoth (potentially bypassing Baerlon altogether, with Min’s late casting announcement suggesting she appears somewhere else, perhaps Basel Gill’s inn) based on the episode titles, but that then leaves a fairly yawning chasm between fleeing Shadar Logoth (presumably at the end of Episode 2) to Perrin and Egwene meeting the Tinkers (apparently in Episode 5). One solution I’ve seen theorised is that Episode 2 actually does feature more material related to the flight from the Two Rivers and Shadar Logoth is presented as “a place of safety” they can flee to; the Shadar Logoth events take place in Episode 3 instead and then Episode 4 cuts away mostly to Logain’s story, picking our heroes back up in Episode 5. A third solution also does raise itself. We’ve been focused very much on Season 1, but we also need to consider the bigger picture of the entire series. It’s extremely unlikely the series will go for much longer than seven or eight seasons in total due to the mounting cost of cast salary renegotiations (the expense of which eventually made even global mega-hits like Game of Thrones and Friends unsustainable at a certain point), so packing in the entire saga as it appears in the books is simply impossible, as that would take more like fourteen seasons. If eight-episode seasons are going to be the norm (as they are for many Amazon projects), Rafe Judkins and his team potentially have less episodes than Game of Thrones did to tell a story more than twice the length in the books. This requires a dramatically different kind of adaptation, one that simply cannot afford to be “faithful” to the text in the same way as Game of Thrones’ early seasons or Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Trying to do that would likely result in the series being left incomplete. Instead, the approach may be to take the entire book series as one whole and then dramatically cut, compress, combine and streamline events into a shorter, more focused narrative, whilst trying to remain true to Robert Jordan’s themes and the general big picture. Taken from this perspective, trying to map which books will appear in which season may be futile, with the showrunners instead conflating storylines, characters and locations in a more dramatic manner than fans are perhaps expecting. On this basis the first season may draw on elements, scenes and characters from several books whilst still trying to achieve the narrative objective of introducing the characters and world and setting up the storyline. With shooting due to resume in the next couple of weeks, hopefully we’ll get some shots and information from the Episode 7/8 table read which will confirm those episode titles, which should gives us some more information to work with. As usual, let us know your thoughts and keep an eye on the Dragonmount TV page for more Wheel of Time news.