I realize that fans of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy tale of The Wheel of Time read that headline and probably got really annoyed. This is completely understandable as before George R.R. Martin’s now famous series was adapted by HBO, no one except hardcore fantasy book nerds (I’m raising my hand, by the way) had even heard of the series. Whereas Wheel of Time is constantly listed right next to, and sometimes above, the gold standard of epic fantasy in Lord of the Rings. Therefore, a title like that is talking exclusively about the upcoming Amazon original series adapting the Robert Jordan epic and, more to the point, what can fill the void left to fans of the hit HBO series which is reaching it’s conclusion this May.
To begin, let me state my position on this; I have been a huge reader of all thing science-fiction and fantasy since I first stumbled onto J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit at 8 years old. Over the next thirty years, I could never get enough of high fantasy novels. The Shannara trilogy (back when it was still a trilogy) was my first non-Tolkien fantasy after I had devoured Lord of the Rings. Then I moved on to The Chronicles of Narnia, Discworld, Watership Down, The Dark Tower, The Sword of Truth, and countless more through my preteen years up to high school graduation.
It was at this point where a good friend had begun to recommend Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time to me. I had went to the bookstore with him so he could pick up the most recent release (Winter’s Heart) and on the way there he was explaining the idea behind the series and I was interested, even after he told me I was nine books behind. That evening, he loaned me his copy of Eye of the World; the first book in Jordan’s series. Long story short, I got bored and put it down. My exact words to him were that it felt like “Great Value Fellowship of the Ring.” You’ll never guess what book I picked up after that one. Yep. A Game of Thrones by some dude named George R.R. Martin.
Over the years, I flirted with starting back on Wheel of Time again, but when Robert Jordan passed away without finishing the series, that made me hesitant and instead I moved on to things like The First Law trilogy, Harry Potter, Inheritance Cycle, Stormlight Archive, and Mistborn. The same friend, all these years later, still told me to “quit reading these lesser series and read Wheel of Time, dang it.” I swore an oath to him that if the series over got made into a movie or television show, that I would read them. This is why the news that Amazon had greenlit the first season of the show that I began to clear my reading schedule for a behemoth of a journey.
As I write this, I am about halfway through Eye of the World with zero intentions of stopping this time. The rumor has been that the Amazon series is aiming to adapt two books per season and I plan to stay ahead of that. I don’t think I have it in me to read 14 books, all of which are massive, back-to-back-to-back. But I will stay ahead of the series, as I’m the type who enjoys reading a story before seeing it because then how would I complain about all of the changes that are being made if not?
For decades, the argument in the fantasy reader community has been what is the greatest written fantasy series of all time; Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Amazon now has the series rights for both of them right at a time when Game of Thrones is going off the air. I know fans of certain series like to try and discredit A Song of Ice and Fire because of Martin’s seeming reluctance to finish the series. But the fact of the matter is that the HBO series has brought in a generation of fans who would always look down on fantasy as a lesser genre. Casual audiences that never would have even looked at a Wheel of Time series before Game of Thrones was a pop culture phenomenon might do so now.
The biggest question here is can this series be done in a way that’s both accessible to new audiences and pleasing to longtime fans? As someone who has been reading the stories being told in Game of Thrones since the year 2000, I’d like to believe so. There are many changes to the source material, but the spine of the story was always intact; even before they passed the author. The sheer amount of characters and lore I’m encountering in the first Wheel of Time book makes me believe they’re going to have to change some things. Be it eliminating/combining characters, or dropping a few side quests along the way, changes will be needed. Then there’s the whole part about Amazon not having near the clout HBO or Netflix has with viewing audiences. However, everyone tries to act like Game of Thrones was a juggernaut when it first released, but it didn’t become huge in the mainstream until about season 3. So word of mouth can go a long way in this case and just talking to my local bookstore guy, he claims that sales of the books and audiobooks have increased since the announcement of the upcoming series.
We have a lot of shows that started as books, but which UPCOMING book adaptation series are you most excited for? #WorldBookDay
— Amazon Prime Video (@PrimeVideo) March 7, 2019
I’m the target demographic here, so I’m going to watch no matter what. The question is if it can grab those with a Game of Thrones sized hole in their hearts by the time the series debuts and bring in the casuals. The marketing for this show is going to have to be otherworldly and Bezos is going to have to open the checkbook for this to be the next Game of Thrones. I have to believe that Amazon knows what they have on their hands here and they like to take chances. Perhaps when I go back and read this after completing the series I’ll be like I was when Game of Thrones came out and I was begging everyone I knew to watch it because I feared it would be too expensive to keep going without huge ratings.
By the time casting and pre-production gets underway (showrunner Rafe Judkins has tweeted images of episode scripts and titles), it should start to drum up curiosity among those who might not even know such a thing is happening. I would imagine they’ll try to get a big name actor or two such a Thrones did with Sean Bean to give it instant credibility. Therefore, by the time we get the first teaser trailer, an instilled fanbase will already be in place. I’ll write more as soon a we have more details and I’m further along in the series. We talked about it at great length in the newest episode of Geek Media Corps.
The Wheel of Time has no official production start date, but the target is September of 2019 with filming to being in Prague.