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The Wheel of Time

The original cover of the first book in the series

See list of books in series
Author Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Cover artist Darrell K. Sweet
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Tor Books (USA) andOrbit Books (UK)
Published January 15, 1990
Media type print (hardback & paperbac

The Wheel of Time (abbreviated by fans to WoT) is a series of epic fantasy novels written by American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, it now consists of twelve published novels, with two more still to be released. There is also a prequel novel and a companion book available. Rigney began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984 and it was published in January 1990.

The author died in 2007 whilst working on what was planned to be the final volume in the series, although he had prepared extensive notes so another author could complete the book according to his wishes. Fellow fantasy author and long-term Wheel of Time fan Brandon Sanderson was brought in to complete the final book, but during the writing process it was decided that book would be far too large to be published in one volume, and would instead be published as three volumes as large as, or larger than, any previous book in the series. The first volume was published in 2009 under the title The Gathering Storm. The final two books are called Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light and are planned to be published in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The series draws on elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism and the concepts of balance, duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The Wheel of Time is notable for its length, its detailed imaginary world, its well-developed magic system and a large cast of characters. The eighth through twelfth books each reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. As of August 12, 2008 the series has sold over 44 million copies worldwide and has spawned a computer game, roleplaying game and a soundtrack album. The television and film rights to the series have been optioned several times, most recently by Universal Studios.


Premise

At the dawn of time, a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which, as it turns, spins all lives. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it rotates under the One Power, which flows from the True Source. Essentially composed of male and female halves (saidin and saidar) in opposition and in unison, this power turns the Wheel. Those humans who can use this power are known as channelers; the principal organization of such channelers in the books is called the Aes Sedai or 'Servants of All' in the Old Tongue.

The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, Shai'tan, at the moment of creation, sealing him away from the Wheel. However, in a time called the Age of Legends, an Aes Sedai experiment inadvertently breached the Dark One's prison, allowing his influence to seep back into the world. He rallied the powerful, the corrupt and the ambitious to his cause and these servants began an effort to free the Dark One fully from his prison, so he might remake time and reality in his own image. In response to this threat, the Wheel spun out the Dragon, a channeler of immense power, to be a champion for the Light. In the Age of Legends Lews Therin Telamon was named the Dragon, who eventually rose to command the Aes Sedai and their allies in the struggle against the Dark One's forces. After a grueling ten-year war, which began a century after the Dark One's prison was breached, Telamon led his forces to victory in a daring assault on the site of the earthly link to the Dark One's prison, and was able to seal it off. However, at this moment of victory the Dark One tainted saidin, driving male channelers of the One Power insane. The male channelers devastated the world with the One Power, unleashing earthquakes and tidal waves that reshaped the planet, referred to in subsequent ages as "The Breaking of the World." Their leader, Lews Therin, killed his friends, his family, and everyone in any way related to him and finally himself in his insanity thus gaining the epithet Kinslayer. Eventually, the last male Aes Sedai was killed or cut off from the One Power, leaving the human race all but destroyed and only women able to wield the One Power safely. The Aes Sedai reconstituted and guided humanity out of this dark time. Mankind now lived under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One would break free from his prison and the Dragon would be reborn to face him once more, raining destruction upon the world in the process of saving it from the Dark One.

Over the next three and a half thousand years, the human race returns to a level of technology and culture roughly comparable to that of the 18th century (although without military use of gunpowder and without formalized science, the development of both playing a part in the story), with the difference that women enjoy full equality with men in most societies, and are superior in some. This is put down to the power and influence of the female-only Aes Sedai spilling over into everyday life. Several major wars have ravaged the main continent since the defeat of the Dark One, such as the Trolloc Wars, when the surviving servants of the Dark One tried to destroy civilization once more but were defeated by an alliance of nations led by the Aes Sedai; and the War of the Hundred Years, a devastating civil war that followed the fall of a continent-spanning empire ruled by the High King, Artur Hawkwing. These wars have prevented the human race from regaining the power and high technology of the Age of Legends, and also left humanity divided. Even the prestige of the Aes Sedai has fallen, with their shrinking numbers and the emergence of organizations such as the Children of the Light, a militant order who hold that all who dabble with the One Power are servants of the Shadow. The nations of the modern era are able to unite against the warrior-clans of the Aiel, who cross into the western kingdoms on a mission of vengeance after they suffered a grievous insult, but are too divided to work effectively together in other areas.

Plot summary

The prequel novel, New Spring, takes place during the Aiel War and chronicles the end of the conflict and the discovery by the Aes Sedai that one of the Prophecies of the Dragon has been fulfilled, that the Dragon has been Reborn. Aes Sedai agents (including a young Moiraine Damodred) are dispatched to try to find the newborn child before servants of the Shadow can do the same.

The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers, a near-forgotten backwater district of the country of Andor. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine, and her Warder Lan, arrive in the village of Emond's Field with news that servants of the Dark One are searching for one particular young man living in the area. Moiraine is unable to determine which of three youths (Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon or Perrin Aybara) is the Dragon Reborn, so she takes all three of them out of the Two Rivers, along with their friend Egwene al'Vere. Nynaeve al'Meara, the unusually young village Wisdom (a healer or wise-woman figure), later meets up with them at the town of Baerlon. The men are mystified why Moiraine has allowed Egwene and Nynaeve to travel with them, but it is later revealed that both of them can channel the One Power and learn to be Aes Sedai. A mysterious old gleeman named Thom Merrilin also travels with the group, claiming he wants to travel in safety when leaving the Two Rivers. The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to escape to the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon.

From then on, the story expands and the original characters are frequently split into different groups and pursue different missions or agendas aimed at furthering the cause of the Dragon Reborn (revealed to be Rand al'Thor), sometimes thousands of miles apart. The original group of characters from the Two Rivers make new allies, gain experience and become figures of some influence and authority. As they struggle to unite the western kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to give up their authority and by factions such as the Children of the Light, who do not believe in the prophecies, and the Seanchan, the descendants of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire across the western ocean (Hawkwing had once united the mainland continent under his rule, and sent his son across the ocean to unite those lands as well) who have returned, believing it is their destiny to conquer the world. The Aes Sedai also become divided between those who believe the Dragon Reborn should be strictly controlled, and those who believe he must freely lead them into battle as he did in the earlier war. As the story expands, new characters representing different factions are introduced: although this expansion of the narrative allows the sheer scale of the growing struggle to be effectively depicted, it has been criticized for slowing the pace of the novels and sometimes reducing the appearances of the original cast to extended cameos. By the eleventh novel, it has become clear that the Last Battle, caused when the Dark One is able to exert its influence directly on the world once more, is imminent.

Books in the series

# Title Pgs. Chs. Words 1st Edition Notes
0. New Spring 332 26 121,815 January 2004 Prequel set 20 years before the events of the first novel.
1. The Eye of the World 832 53 305,902 15 January 1990
2. The Great Hunt 736 50 267,078 15 November 1990
3. The Dragon Reborn 704 56 251,392 15 October 1991
4. The Shadow Rising 1008 58 393,823 15 September 1992 No Prologue
5. The Fires of Heaven 992 56 354,109 15 October 1993
6. Lord of Chaos 1024 55 389,264 15 October 1994 First with an Epilogue, Locus Award nominee, 1995
7. A Crown of Swords 896 41 295,028 15 May 1996
8. The Path of Daggers 704 31 226,687 20 October 1998
9. Winter's Heart 800 35 238,789 7 November 2000
10. Crossroads of Twilight 864 30 271,632 7 January 2003 Also has an Epilogue
11. Knife of Dreams 832 37 315,163 11 October 2005 Also has an Epilogue
12. The Gathering Storm 784 50 303,630 27 October 2009 Completed by Brandon Sanderson, David Gemmel Legend Award Nominee
13. Towers of Midnight ~320,000 words 2 November 2010 To be completed by Brandon Sanderson
14. A Memory of Light (est. 250,000+ words) Due late 2011 To be completed by Brandon Sanderson
Current Totals: 10,508 578 3,734,312

All page totals given are for the most widely-available mass-market paperback editions.

There is also a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, published by Tor Books in November 1997, which contains much hitherto unrevealed background information about the series, including the first maps of the entire world and the Seanchan home continent. The book was co-written with Teresa Patterson. Jordan ruled the book broadly canonical, but stated that the book was written from the perspective of a historian within The Wheel of Time universe, and was prone to errors of bias and guesswork.

There is also a prequel novella, New Spring in the Legends anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. Jordan expanded this into the standalone novel New Spring that was published in January 2004. Prior to his death, Jordan planned another two prequel novels and up to three "outrigger" novels taking place during or after the main series. He had notes prepared for these, and it has not been ruled out that Brandon Sanderson or other authors could expand them into full novels, although the final decision will be taken by Jordan's widow and publishers.

In 2002 the first book, The Eye of the World, was repackaged as two volumes with new illustrations for younger readers: From the Two Rivers, including an extra chapter (Ravens) before the existing prologue, and To the Blight with an expanded glossary. In 2004 the same was done with The Great Hunt, with the two parts being The Hunt Begins and New Threads in the Pattern.

Jordan also wrote a short story, The Strike at Shayol Ghul, which pre-dates the main series by several thousand years. It was made available on the Internet and was later published in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

Prologue ebooks

  • Snow: The Prologue to Winter's Heart (September 2000)
  • Glimmers: The Prologue to Crossroads of Twilight (17 July 2002)
  • Embers Falling on Dry Grass: The Prologue to Knife of Dreams (22 July 2005).
  • What the Storm Means: The Prologue to The Gathering Storm (17 September 2009).
    • Chapter 1 of The Gathering Storm, Tears from Steel, was released on Friday September 4, 2009 on Tor.com for free.
    • Chapter 2 of The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain, was released in Audio form on Thursday September 24, 2009 on Tor.com for free.

Development

Writing and conception

In the early 1980s Robert Jordan wrote several Conan the Barbarian novels for Tor Books, including a novelization of the movie Conan the Destroyer. These proved successful and in 1984 he proposed an idea for an epic fantasy series of three books to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books.Doherty approved the idea; however, knowing that Jordan had a tendency to go long, put Jordan on contract for six books just in case. Jordan began writing the novel that became The Eye of the World.

The novel proved extremely difficult to write and characters and storylines changed considerably during the writing process. The series was originally centered on an older man who discovered relatively late in life that he was the 'chosen one' who had to save the world. However, Jordan deliberately decided to move closer to the tone and style of JRR Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and made the characters younger and less experienced. Once this decision had been made, writing proceeded much more easily and Jordan completed the second volume, The Great Hunt, at roughly the same time the first book was published.

Tom Doherty enjoyed The Eye of the World so much that he declared it would be the biggest fantasy series since Tolkien, and took the unprecedented steps of sending free review copies to every bookstore in the United States to generate interest. The combined hardcover and trade paperback run of the novel sold out of its initial 40,000-strong print run. Sales then doubled with the publication of the second novel just eight months later generating more interest in the first book.

Jordan wrote full-time at breakneck speed for the next several years until he completed the seventh volume, A Crown of Swords, at which point he slowed down, delivering a book every two years. Fans objected when he took some time off to expand a short story into a prequel novel called New Spring, so he decided to shelve his plans for additional prequels in favor of finishing off the last two volumes in the series. He rejected criticisms of the later volumes of the series slowing down in pace in order to concentrate on minor secondary characters at the expense of the main characters from the opening volumes, but acknowledged that his structure for the tenth volume, Crossroads of Twilight (where he showed a major scene from the prior book, Winter's Heart, from the perspective of the main characters that were not involved in the scene), had not worked out as he had planned.[citation needed] Knife of Dreams, the eleventh volume, had a much more positive reception from critics and fans alike and Jordan announced the twelfth volume, which he had previously announced would have the working title A Memory of Light, would conclude the series.

Author's death and final book(s)

See also: A Memory of Light, The Gathering Storm (novel), and Towers of MidnightJordan had stated that the main sequence would conclude with the twelfth book, A Memory of Light. According to Forbes, Jordan had intended for it to be the final book "even if it reaches 2,000 pages."

Jordan was diagnosed with the fatal heart disease cardiac amyloidosis in December 2005, and while he intended to finish at least A Memory of Light even if the "worse comes to worst,"he made preparations in case he was not able to complete the book: "I'm getting out notes, so if the worst actually happens, someone could finish A Memory of Light and have it end the way I want it to end."

With Jordan's death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On December 7 of that year the publisher Tor Books announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was to finish A Memory of Light. Sanderson, a long time fan of the series, was chosen by Jordan's widow Harriet McDougal partly because she liked Sanderson's novels and partly because of a eulogy he had written for Jordan.

On 30 March 2009 Tor Books announced that the A Memory of Light would be split into three volumes, the first of which, The Gathering Storm, was released on October 27, 2009. The second book of the trilogy is titled Towers of Midnight and is expected to be published on November 2, 2010. The title of this book was chosen by Brandon Sanderson. The final book of the series uses the title of what Jordan thought would be the final book of the series, A Memory of Light. The book is tentatively scheduled to be published in late 2011.

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