Book one of The Wheel of Time®, Robert Jordan’s internationally bestselling fantasy series, now in a special hardcover edition to celebrate the series’ 30th anniversary!
Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts—five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.
There are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time. But this is my beginning.
I was intimidated to pick up Wheel of Time. For one, it’s a series that everyone has an opinion about, and that opinion is never “Oh, yeah, I like that pretty good.” No, this is a series that seems to inspire intense devotion or abject ridicule. The other thing is it is very long and even the most ardent of fans seem to agree that there is an uneven quality to the later books.
But I found myself with a 4-hour round trip commute in the summer of 2022 and decided to try it out. Why not? It’s a fantasy series, I’m a fantasy writer. There was also a TV show I could probably convince my wife to watch.
So now it is 2024 and I recently finished book 3, The Dragon Reborn, and started watching the show. I had bounced off both in 2022. But there are no endings. So I figured I would give you all my thoughts on the first 3 books and the show and save you some time if it’s not for you. And if it is for you? Go get it. You deserve it.
The Wheel of Time through the first 3 books is a fairly standard epic fantasy. The series involves a chosen one, magic, insurmountable evil, and the power of friendship. I’ve seen a lot of people say that the first book, The Eye of the World, is a bit like Lord of the Rings. I find that to be an oversimplification, but the comparison is apt.
One thing that impressed me about Robert Jordan from the beginning is the level of detail he can squeeze into his prose and worldbuilding. I devoured the first book, and though the characters were a bit flat (some of that improves in later books), it was still a joy to read. The world of Wheel of Time feels like it could be real. Politics, religion, towns—all seem like they could exist. For me, that’s a big selling point.
Though, and this is probably the reason that I bounced off The Dragon Reborn, it gets to be a lot. Everyone seems to know something about trade or other such trivia, and sometimes we are outright told by the narrative.
Similarly, there is a lot of braid pulling, arms folded under breasts, and boys bemoaning their friend is better with girls (while the other boy thinks the opposite).
At one point, the eye rolls this forced me into got to be too much for me to overcome and I DNFed, but then the strangest thing happened. I came back. Wheel of Time is full of lore and different plot threads, and I found myself missing the density of it.
And when I came back after my break, I found those eye rolls were replaced with my knowing smile. The characters were comforting because I could rely on them. Sometimes they were frustrating and simple, but they were knowable. It was like visiting friends you thought you had outgrown and realized you missed the charm of their idiosyncrasies.
Though the plot wasn’t particularly strong in Book 2 or 3, it feels like it is heading somewhere, and I will give it a few more books before the wheel turns again and I inevitably give it up and start something else daunting (Malazan?), only to return.
So, that probably wasn’t too controversial, so let’s talk about the show. I like it. My wife likes it. It’s not perfect, but it fills the void other fantasy TV left in our lives when Netflix red-weddinged the whole genre. In some ways, I even prefer it to the books.
Now, before you all run out and slam me online let me say this about it: I get why people don’t. It isn’t exactly the most faithful adaptation and this is a series that inspires fierce loyalty. I somehow got into lurking on the Wheel of Time subreddit and realized that this is the only series some people read.
What I think it does well: it gives great visuals and more conflict to the early stages of the adventure (particularly what I’ve seen of the Seanchan so far). It does skip over a few parts I wished it had kept in, and some events it handles differently, but it’s fun. And my wife, who never considered reading the books before, might pick them up.
I would recommend it to people who are less fervent about Wheel of Time or want to see what the whole thing is about. However, if you read the books as a kid and reread them every time you finished—you will probably hate it.
It’s hard to adapt things, especially things that are so sprawling as the Wheel of Time. After all, how do you film a story with no beginning or end?