The Wheel of Time (abbreviated by fans to WoT) is a series of epic fantasy novels written by the late American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, it now consists of eleven published novels, with one more planned. There is also a prequel novel and a companion book available. The author began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984 and it was published in February 1990. The author passed away while working on the final volume, which will now be completed by fellow author Brandon Sanderson for publication in late 2009. The series draws on elements of European and Asian mythology, most notably the recursive nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism and the concepts of balance, duality and a respect for nature found in Daoism. The series was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
The series is notable for its length, its detailed imaginary world, its well-developed magic system and a large Wheel of Time characters. The eighth through eleventh books each reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. As of 12 August 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.
The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, Shai'tan, the Dark One, 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 the Dragon was a man named Lews Therin Telamon, 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, Telamon led his forces to victory in a daring assault on the site of the earthly link to the Dark One's prison, the volcano of Shayol Ghul, and was able to seal it off. However, at the moment of victory the Dark One was able to taint saidin, driving male channelers of the One Power insane. Lews Therin killed his friends and family and then himself. The other male channelers devastated the world with the One Power, unleashing earthquakes and tidal waves that reshaped the world. Eventually, the last male channeler 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 fight him once more, and although he would succeed he would devastate the world a second time in the process.
Over the next three and a half thousand years, the human race returns to a level of technology roughly comparable to that of the Middle Ages, 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 military 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 suffer a grievous insult, but are too divided to work effectively together in other areas.
The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers district of the kingdom of Andor, a near-forgotten backwater. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine Damodred, 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 men it is: Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon or Perrin Aybara, so takes all three of them out of the Two Rivers, along with their friends Egwene al'Vere and Nynaeve al'Meara, whom Moiraine has determined can channel the One Power and learn to be Aes Sedai. 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, sometimes thousands of miles apart. Broadly speaking, 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 people of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire across the western ocean 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 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 or main 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. According to both Robert Jordan and the author finishing the final volume, Brandon Sanderson, the Last Battle will be depicted in the twelfth and final novel in the series, A Memory of Light.
|0.||New Spring||332||26||121,815||January 2004|
|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|
|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||793||37||315,163||11 October 2005||Also has an Epilogue|
|12.||A Memory of Light||(working title)||due Fall 2009||To be completed by Brandon Sanderson|
All page totals given are for the most widely available 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.
There is a short story available on the web, " The Strike at Shayol Ghul", which predates the main series by several thousand years. That story is also found in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (ISBN 0-312-86219-9).
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, had not worked out as he had planned. 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.
With Jordan's death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On 7 December of that year, the publisher, Tor Books, announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson would finish A Memory of Light, using notes, written chapters, and audio recordings of the story provided by Robert Jordan before his passing.
Sanderson has said on his website he has begun writing the final book in the series. He also stated that he wants to finish the series in the final book as planned, but later acknowledged that the book may be up to half again his originally-planned length, and publishing in one volume may not be practical.