Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount’s book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he’s not directing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found catalogued at his website. As the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rampage across the news headlines, there is a trend in fiction circles gaining traction with those who seek respite in imaginary worlds. “Cozy fantasy” is a sort of comfort food genre where conflict is minimal, the stakes are low, and endings (if not beginnings and middles) are, well, cozy. Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes is about an Orc barbarian who retires to open a coffee shop. Wyngraf, a new, online fantasy magazine is devoted to cozy fantasy and explains the genre’s parameters and inspiration on their site. An upcoming fantasy magazine, Tales & Feathers, plans on publishing “slice of life” fantasy to “luxuriate in the vignette and celebrate quiet beauty.” Fans of the fantasy genre know that the quiet moments have long been a secret pleasure in even the most high-stakes, battle-to-save-the-world stories. The journey is long, hard, and dangerous, but there are places of safety and comfort--however temporary--along the way. It’s usually when our heroes have time to reflect and gather themselves that they find the courage and stamina to press on. Other Dragonmount articles discuss treatments of home and how prologues and epilogues help address the smaller, beloved plot beats. (I have a cozy, quiet story published in Wyngraf #1 called “Epilogue” that explores the themes in those two Dragonmount articles.) “Cozy” often works in a story as an antidote for hardship. It is the contrasting texture that keeps an otherwise grim tale from numbing the reader. We, like the characters, require rest and solace, a chance to give our adrenal glands a break. We need a reminder of the good in the world worth fighting for. Samwise Gamgee said it best in the movie adaptation of The Two Towers. It remains to be seen if a purely cozy fantasy can stand on its own without a contrasting aesthetic to “earn” it--in the story itself or in the reader’s real life. But in a rich, textured story, the quiet parts are often the ones that stay with us and reveal the most about our favorite characters. The Wheel of Time has many quiet, cozy moments that remain among my favorite scenes. It’s interesting to examine them to figure out why they’re so effective, so I’m going to put one such scene under the lens for each of our major protagonists. Rand al’Thor One of my favorite sequences in The Eye of the World, if not the entire Wheel of Time, is where Rand and Mat are on the road to Caemlyn, surviving on their wits, modest skills, and sheer luck. A Myrddraal is in pursuit. It has seemingly killed their protector and mentor, Thom. Darkfriends are everywhere. A stop along the way is the Grinwell farm, which the Amazon Prime adaptation rendered as a horror sequence, but the book rendered rather cozy. In exchange for a day’s labor, the farm became a place of safety and comfort, but only temporarily. Rand and Mat, through hard work and new skills they’ve learned from Thom, manage to earn a hot meal and a bed, but Mistress Grinwell is firm that they get an early start the next day. The stakes--food, shelter, and safety--are basic. The threats--an amorous farmer’s daughter and her protective mother--are gentle. Still, there are moments of healing, mourning, joy, romantic tension, and resignation to the danger yet to be faced. It gives us a look at Rand’s proper upbringing, and a sense of how he’s growing as an independent man under his own steam. I’ll give Rand two scenes, on account of Lews Therin. Near the end of the series, this scene is a different kind of quiet: a fascinating encounter with his Ages-old enemy. No threats, temptation, or bullying from the Betrayer of Hope this time around. All that remains is the Last Battle. Moridin/Ishamael/Elan Morin Tedronai is tired, and has nothing left but despair and nihilism. The hope that Ishamael betrayed first was his own. There is no reconciliation or sympathy here: Rand and Moridin remain enemies bent on each other’s destruction. But it’s still a moment of understanding more than open conflict. The scene quietly reveals what the Dragon and the Nae’blis represent: hope vs. despair. Perrin Aybara Quiet moments are where Perrin shines, and he has many beautiful ones. His return home in The Shadow Rising, and his marriage to Faile, are what made Perrin my favorite character of the series. But the moment I chose is earlier, in The Dragon Reborn, when he takes some time to work in a smithy, and Faile sees him for who he truly is. The scene (edited for length, as are all of them) is full of blacksmithy details, from the perspective of a young man who wanted this life. It reveals so much about his character through point of view and action. One of my favorite ways for characters to be revealed is to show them operating inside their expertise, even (or especially) when that expertise is tangential to their destiny. The world and the Wheel have chosen a different path for Perrin, but here we see Perrin take a rest by immersing himself in the work he loves, and being the man he is. Best of all, Faile sees Perrin for what he is, at his core--the hidden stakes of this scene. Not only did Perrin acquire a hammer to counterbalance his axe, but he gained a person who understood what he was, apart from what he must be. This is the scene that cemented Perrin’s character in my mind, and made him my favorite. Mat Cauthon Trouble and conflict always seems to follow Mat, even when he’s out trying to enjoy himself. Mat is often the comic relief as he drinks and gambles with his friends, especially Birgitte, but the most “Mat” moment for me was when he and his men indulged in a night of dancing. The only stakes here are Mat’s pride in front of his men with a woman who can talk circles around him. In this kind of “battle,” Mat manages it so everyone wins. It’s a fun scene that takes care of a lot of exposition about Mat’s memories from other men’s lives and the results of his encounters with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. But it’s also about Mat flirting and having fun, being thrown off balance by a savvy barmaid, and evening the scales by dancing with her well. It sets up Mat, the military genius, the master of shifting tactics, in a light, joyful scene. This is another scene of a character operating inside their expertise: Mat intuitively uses all his knowledge and luck to change the dynamic to his advantage. It manifests later in his courtship of the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and in every battle he leads. Egwene al’Vere Before she became burdened with duty and politics, Egwene had some wonderful scenes with her friends in the White Tower, supporting each other, conspiring together, and having each other’s backs. But I always return to Egwene from The Eye of the World, having her first taste of independence away from home by the Tinkers’ fires. There are parallels with Rand’s time on the road--indeed, Rand and Egwene are on parallel journeys--but Egwene embraces the world, and learns anything and everything she can from the cultures she encounters. Egwene was the one member of the Emond’s Field Five eager to go out into the world. At this point, she is all but betrothed to Perrin’s best friend Rand, and they don’t even know if Rand is alive. Perrin sees what Rand saw, interpreting her eagerness for the wider world as a rejection of the smaller one they cling to, and it hurts. But Egwene won’t be constrained by sentiment. Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey may require the hero to be initially reluctant, but Egwene’s Heroine’s Journey has her answering the call to adventure without a backward glance. Nynaeve al’Maera While Nynaeve mustering the Borderlanders in preparation for Lan’s journey to Tarwin’s Gap was quietly epic, the scene that made me understand (and love) Nynaeve was in The Dragon Reborn, where she matched her knowledge of “the craft” with an herb woman to win her trust. This scene is another example of characters operating within their expertise, and it’s especially poignant with Nynaeve, because her pride in her expertise as a Wisdom blocks her from starting as a beginner in the Aes Sedai arts. It’s harder because she gets a lot of mileage out of what she already knows. She can gain Mother Guenna’s trust, she can speak in coded language in a country where women are persecuted for being connected with the Power, and she’s confident enough in her knowledge to admit ignorance on certain details (which confirms her expertise). The stakes are not only gaining an ally and place to stay in Tear, but Nynaeve’s own self image and confidence. Ironically, the more she wins as Nynaeve the Wisdom, the farther she gets from Nynaeve Aes Sedai, and the realization that she has much to learn to reach her potential. What are your favorite quiet moments in epic fantasy?
The annual Robert Jordan Memorial Scholarship is open at TarValon.Net. Each year, TarValon.Net offers $500 scholarships to those pursuing higher education. Here are this year’s details: You can apply by following this link. Let us know how you’d be a Servant of All to your community in the comments below!
JodanCon Day 3 is the saddest! It’s time to say goodbye to friends and family. It’s time to leave the hotel that offered us sanctuary for the past few days. It’s time to put our costumes in the closet until next year (or the next local con). Sunday feels bitter-sweet. Looking back over the weekend, we had the time of our lives, but all good things must come to an end. Here are some highlights from today. Matt Hatch recorded a live Dusty Wheel episode in the lobby. This amazing event—with lots of fan participation—is worth a watch. You can see all of Matt’s JordanCon videos here. The Wheel of Time Track had a panel on ranking our favorite scenes in the Amazon Prime Video television show. Our own Kathy Campbell, as well as Maria Simons, gave their expert opinions. The Charity Auction and Art Show Auction wrapped up. Winners collected their items, or suffered the bitter taste of defeat. I was so so happy to win a beautiful mixed medium artwork called “The Colors of My Sisters,” crafted by Lori of Morrow Makings. I was looking forward to teaching a cross-stitching class and it did not disappoint! We had a great turn out and got to pass along our Wheel of Time 8-bid designs. We’ll have to do it again next year. Finally, JordanCon is a charity. Any money raised is donated. This year’s recipient was the Mayo Clinic, to aid in the research of amyloidosis, the disease that took Robert Jordan from us. This year, $19,800 was raised! $13,500 was from the charity auction! The signed script page was auctioned for $1,055. We did amazing! I love how the fandom cares so deeply about giving back. If you attended the con, please make sure to leave feedback by following this link. Now the con is over and it’s back to our daily lives. Hopefully we’ll be getting season 2 of the television show to tide us over until next year. Until then, keep up to date with Wheel of Time news and announcements by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
JodanCon Day 2 is the best! It’s the only full day (unless you count CouchCon after the closing ceremonies) and that means it’s packed from morning to evening. The annual costume contest falls on Saturday, so the cosplayers were out in droves. Wheel of Time cosplays are expected. https://twitter.com/AielMelindhra Brandon Sanderson and cosmere are expected. And at JordanCon, other fandom tie-ins are also expected. https://www.facebook.com/42bananas?__tn__=-UC*F Nothing is off limits for this fandom! Keep that in mind for next year. If you're hesitating over a costume idea, don't. And speaking of the costume contest, here are the highlights. Judges' Choice: Judge Leslie: Jessica Jones as Pregnant Elayne Judge Redfield Designs (Kathryn Paterwic): Ruth Carnejo as Egwene at the Last Battle Judge Deana: Ris Harp as Blackbeard (from Our Flag Means Death) Found Object: tWoTCast and Taffy Bennington as The Best Hedge Rand and Mat Slept Under Workmanship Award: April Davis as a Nym Winners: Novice: Liz Willoughby as Bright and Fun Tinker Journeyman: Chris Orndorff as Steampunk Ursula Master: Seth Lockhart, Kate Helmly, Stephen Helmly, and Steph Greear as Heralds (from Rhythm of War) Best in Show: Marcos Romero, Sita Romero, Theo Romero, and Brandee Anderson as Logain Ablar, Liandrin Sedai, and Red Aes Sedai https://twitter.com/LeisaSedai Justin Gerard—one half of this year's Artist Guest of Honor—had a live drawing panel. The end result was an amazing Trolloc. Dragonmount's own Rand al'Thor made an appearance. Check out TikTok for all the videos. Another Rand variant also put on a display. Paul Bielaczyc reenacted the (in)famous cover of Lord of Chaos. I spent my time today talking about detectives in urban fantasy and attempting to crochet a Doomslug—well, technically a friend of Doomslug. One amazing thing about this convention is there is something for everyone. Tomorrow, I am teaching a Wheel of Time cross-stitching class in the Makers Track. I can’t wait to show pictures from that! Sunday’s coming on fast, but there’s still plenty of JordanCon left to indulge in. Follow along to see me and other Dragonmount staff on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Which costume contest participant was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
JordanCon 2022 kicked off today in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite a smaller, in-person gathering last summer, this feels like returning home after a long hiatus for many of us. Reuniting with friends and family I haven’t seen since 2019 was an amazing experience. So many familiar faces are here. And, so many new ones. Although this may be JordanCon’s biggest attendance so far, the quality of people is still on par for what we expect from this intimate convention. Today, I spoke to three random JordanCon first-timers and all of them were welcomed with open arms. It’s good to know that a large audience won’t break the spirit we strive for: a feeling of family. And while all JordanCon members feel like family, it’s also a great place to hang with literal family. Our own Kitty Rallo and her sister Aleena. My sister, Maggie, and I posing with our “not today, Shai’tan” shirts. Speaking of Kitty, keep an eye out for a Q&A with Maria Simons, from Team Jordan. It was a busy day for panels today. After opening ceremonies with Toastmaster Rhed, I was grateful to be on the “There are books?? (The Wheel of Time for Beginners)” panel. We got to talk to new readers and new JordanCon members and share non-spoiler aspects of the series we love. After that, I was a guest on the highly anticipated “A New Turning of the Wheel: Why Changes are Necessary in an Adaptation” panel. Since JordanCon goers are the best, all discussion aspects and questions were civil. Naturally I was busy and missed the huge cast announcement! If you missed it, check out the Ayoola Smart as Aviendha article or our own Ebony and daughter Aviendha discussing this breaking news! Tomorrow is a full day, so I’m looking forward to another adventure. Follow along to see me and other Dragonmount staff on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Have you attending JordanCon before? Plan on coming next year? Are you here now? Let us know in the comments below!
Rafe Judkins, the showrunner for Amazon Prime Video's Wheel of Time TV adaptation announced today during a pre-recorded video for JordanCon attendees that Ayoola Smart will play the role of Aviendha beginning in season 2. Here's our announcement video, given by our video host Ebony and her daughter Aviendha: Ayoola ("eye-oo-la") Smart is an Irish actress with extensive theater and TV credits for her young age. She's had notable roles in Killing Eve, Smother, and the BBC's adaptation of Les Misérables. You can view a showreel of some of Ayoola's work here. View the season 2 officially announced cast so far. What do you think of this casting announcement? Let us know in the comments or on our forums.
JordanCon is hosting an event where cast members from Amazon Prime Video’s Wheel of Time television show will answer fan questions. Here are the details from JordanCon’s Facebook page: Time is running out! Make sure to submit your questions as fast as possible.
The Wheel of Time video game, originally published in 1999 by GT Interactive and developed by Legend Entertainment, is now available for purchase on GOG. GOG ("Good Ol' Games") is a website that publishes both classic and modern computer games. Older games like The Wheel of Time are made available to be played on modern computer systems. In this case, The Wheel of Time is available for Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11. Our blogger Adam Whitehead did a full retrospective review on The Wheel of Time game in 2019 for its 20-year anniversary. In addition, The Wheel of Time video game producer, Glen Dahlgren, who is also a fantasy novelist published a 20th-anniversary retrospective, an in-depth account of the making of the game, and the game's original design document.
Aleksandra (Ola) Hill is a Polish-Canadian writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of khōréō, a magazine of speculative fiction by immigrant and diaspora writers. She won the grand prize in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards and is currently pursuing an MFA in writing at The New School. You can find her on Twitter at @_aleksandrahill. # TL,DR: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake is a fast-paced, high-tension magical mystery perfect for those who dream of having the knowledge of the world at their fingertips. The first in a series, it sets up a large, twisted world that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Especially recommended for fans of dark academia (such as The Secret History, Ace of Spades, or The Magicians) and authors like V. E. Schwab and Leigh Bardugo. # I came into The Atlas Six knowing too much about it, though I'd only read the publisher's blurb. Thus, my first recommendation to you is: if you haven't read The Atlas Six yet, put this review away and go read it now. Not the Goodreads summary; not the jacket copy; not this review. Just read the book. Still here? Need a little more? All right: in a version of our world where magic exists in the open, once a decade, six of the world's most talented magicians are selected for the chance to become members of the Alexandrian Society. Entrance to the Society will allow a magician to access knowledge beyond their wildest dreams—but they must make it through a year of study, first. Now, if you haven't read it yet, I beg you: go away. # The remainder of this review won't include spoilers, but will touch on aspects of the novel that may be better savoured while reading, so please tread carefully. The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake follows six of the world's most powerful, unique magicians: Libby Rhodes and Nico Ferrer de Varona, bitter rivals who can manipulate physical matter; Parisa Kamali, a telepath and seductress; Reina Mori, an historian with a difficult relationship with plants; Tristan Caine, an ambitious businessman with a penchant for seeing through illusions; and Callum Nova, a calculating trust fund baby who always gets what he wants. Each is recruited by a mysterious figure named Atlas, the Caretaker of the Alexandrian Society, which these six now have the chance to join. There's a catch, though: only five will become full members, and each candidate will have that year to prove they should be selected. The novel is an excellent blend of suspense, action, and drama. It uses the mystery of a secret society to its fullest potential; while the six initiates are able to access the library of the Alexandrian Society, for example, they are not able to access all of the books—their requests can be denied, and frequently are. That both the characters and reader have the sense of seeing just a sliver of the whole is incredibly enticing and also serves the book well as a set-up to a series. The magic system is also exquisite, in that it is unknowable without being unbelievable. Each magician—the most powerful of whom are called medeians—has a specialty, which can range across fields from physical (manipulating fire) to mental (telepathy) and, presumably, anything in between. The vast landscape of the possible with magic means that the author can throw any number of twists at the reader effortlessly; Blake's talent lies in the fact that none of them feel like deus ex machina. None of the characters understand the true extent of magic's power or abilities, and so, even as they use their various skills and knowledge to help and hinder each other, they are constantly surprised by what they can do. The constant delight in learning what else is possible kept me reading, mostly in one sitting, so if you're going to pick up this book, I recommend clearing your calendar. Throughout, the author also challenge's the tropes of the genre in which she is writing. I find it easy to get swept away in stories like this one: it's too easy to imagine myself as a powerful magician selected for a secret society where I'll have the world's knowledge at my fingertips. So easy, in fact, that I don't think to question too much of what the Society does, and the answers that it provides on its history—that it was founded to preserve the knowledge of the Library at Alexandria before it was burned—is enough. Yet the author managed to pull me up short without ruining my immersion: early on, the reader learns of the existence of societies "not unlike" the Alexandrian (p. 107), some of which believe "that knowledge should not be carefully stored, but freely distributed" and "greatly misunderstood" the work that the Alexandrian Society does. Later, the initiates make a discovery but do not share it with a greater world based on Atlas' oft-repeated warning: "most forms of knowledge [are] better reserved until it [is] certain that such revelations [won't] be abused" (p. 118). My spidey senses were tingling: these are colonialist talking points so frequently repeated by the British Museum and its ilk. While we don't wrestle with this too much in The Atlas Six, I hope (and trust) that we'll get to it thoroughly later on. As quickly as I devoured the first half of the book, I found my interest waning later on—not because the book loses steam or control of its plot, but because the world grows vaster in a way that I had suspected it might, but hoped it wouldn’t. To be clear, that isn’t to say that the evolution is bad; it’s just that the risk posed by an opportunity of such vastness means that there will be a squillion plot possibilities, not a single one of which will make all the readers happy, but only one of which the author can choose and still write a cohesive story. I think I’m probably the one reader who was hoping for the story to go in a different way—and I'm still planning to keep reading the series and look forward to The Atlas Paradox's release in October 2022. There’s just too many questions that I want answered to not keep going. In summary, The Atlas Six is a fantastic, fast-paced read for fans of dark academia, libraries, and twisty-turny plots. I recommend it wholeheartedly and look forward to continuing the series. The Atlas Six is available in the Dragonmount eBook store. Find it here!
Jason Denzel joined a “WOT You Feeling?” panel on mental health focusing on the effects of loss and grief within The Wheel of Time series. The “WOT You Feeling,” made up of members Ryan, Miki, and Christine, delves into sensitive issues on mental health and how they relate to the world Robert Jordan created. You can follow them on Twitter, or see all their YouTube videos here. Identifying grief within the series is pretty easy. Jason points out that Robert Jordan considered the world dangerous and not an ideal place to live. Many of the characters experience grief throughout the series—Tam never loving another after the death of his wife, Kari, or even Lanfear holding on to the grief of a breakup over a thousand years ago. In fact, the Forsaken seem to be knee-deep in unprocessed trauma. On the other hand, Rand’s “Veins of Gold” moment shows a great moment of expressing and releasing those emotions. Jason also reflects on his own writing experiences and how mourning, or not mourning, plays a role in a character's story arc. You can watch the whole video below. This show was a fascinating look at the mental health issues our beloved characters face. Like what you see here? You can support “WOT You Feeling” and The Way of the Leaf on Patreon here!
Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount’s book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he’s not directing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found catalogued at his website. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction C.C. Finlay noted that the stories submitted to his magazine had shifted away from the common themes of finding or returning home. He reasoned that writers were getting cabin fever, and the idea of “home” had lost its romance during the extended lockdown. (Finlay also noted that loneliness had become more of a thematic motivation in the stories he received, and more stories were culminating in a kiss.) It’s an interesting shift for fantasy fiction. For those of us whose introduction to epic fantasy was J.R.R. Tolkien, “home” has a powerful resonance in the genre. “There and back again” is almost a structural expectation for a story. In Tolkien’s world (and in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey), “home” is the beginning and end of the adventure. Preserving home forms the ultimate, most personal stakes, and the return illustrates how much the protagonists have grown. “The Scouring of the Shire” is perhaps the truest of the many endings of The Return of the King. It shows that, for the Hobbits, the War of the Ring was basically preparation for the battle for the once and future pastoral paradise of the Shire. When I read and reread The Wheel of Time, I often think of the New York Times blurb about the series. I like that quotation for the comparison, but I think it misses the mark. The Wheel of Time isn’t an extension of The Lord of the Rings, even a spiritual one, but it is certainly in conversation with it. Robert Jordan’s Emond’s Field was a pastoral paradise just like Tolkien’s Shire, but Jordan used it to say very different things about “home.” Where British Tolkien, writing in an era of waning empire, saw the War of the Ring (and the Scouring of the Shire) as a restoration of old glory and monarchical status quo, American Jordan, writing at the cusp of a new millennium, saw the end of the Third Age as a time of technological progress, cultural intermixing, and unpredictable change, for good and ill. In The Wheel of Time, you can never go home. Even in his pre-Wheel swords and sorcery novel, Warrior of the Altaii, Robert Jordan was interested in themes of a rapidly changing world, where people needed to adapt or go extinct. There is no going back to past glory, there is only going forward into something new. In The Eye of the World, Emond’s Field is portrayed as cozy and idyllic, and the young protagonists (except Egwene) leave it with reluctance. But where The Lord of the Rings was a story about going off to war to protect one’s home, The Wheel of Time is a bildungsroman, forging maturity and power from youth and innocence. “Home” is the nest that the fledglings must leave. Most make a place for themselves in the larger world. Of the Emond’s Field Five, only Perrin returns. His chapters, reminiscent of “The Scouring of the Shire,” are not about restoring home to its old status quo, it’s about transforming it into something suited to the times. After evicting the Whitecloaks and eradicating the Trollocs, Perrin musters the Two Rivers and leads them to war. The beard Perrin grows is the not-so-subtle symbol of him becoming a man. Egwene does briefly return home in the World of Dreams, looking for a place of safety, and even in that reflection of Emond’s Field she sees that it is changing. The Two Rivers is on its way to transforming from a forgotten district of Andor to a nation of its own, with banners, an army, a manor house, and a lord. For all the moral starkness in Robert Jordan’s cosmology, change is not a fork in the road, with one path leading into darkness, and the other into light. Change is chaos, everything moving at once, with three unintended consequences for every intended one. But as a world view, it means that there will always be new opportunities for growth and wonder. As a story, it means the tale is never over. There is always another adventure beyond the final page, something more to discover. On this, Jordan and Tolkien agree: the road goes ever on.
Dragonmount founder Jason Denzel recently got a hands-on look at the official, limited edition Wheel of Time watch from Tockr. Here's the full video: We'll be working closely with Tockr going forward, and perhaps giving you a chance to interact directly with the designers so that you can share your constructive feedback with them. After you view the video, let us know in the comments or on the forums what you think of the watch!