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A TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire was never a sure thing. While Martin stated in an interview that thanks to his television experience he could envision the lighting and blocking in his head when he was writing a scene, adapting a fantasy franchise to film or television can be risky, and while he’d received some expressions of interest from producers, nobody seemed quite sure of what they wanted to do with it. That is until novelists/screenwriters David Benioff and DB Weiss approached Martin and correctly answered a challenging trivia question from the book. Even then, there were still no guarantees that it would ever see a screen.


game of thrones by george rr martin / the hilt of a sword against a blue fieldHBO, the network that eventually aired the adaptation wasn’t sure if a fantasy series would fit with their typical fair of prestige drama, and although the books had a following, they weren’t sure if anybody would watch it. The Peter Jackson film adaptations of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings  proved that it could work as films, but would the same principle work on television?


Fast forward 10 years later, to 2011. By then HBO had signed on, and the pilot had been shot and re-shot, and something else occurred that led HBO to believe that they had made the right choice - the passion of Martin’s online fandom. Fans of the series loved to talk about every little detail of the books in online forums, and the network was smart enough to market the show directly to those fans in their space.


One year later, Vulture Magazine declared the series fan base one of the most devoted fan bases of all time, and by 2013, the books and the show could boast 5.5 million registered fans on social media from all around the world. The show ran for 8 seasons, and while there have been other adaptations of popular fantasy series, such as Outlander and The Witcher, no other epic fantasy series has been able to match the success or popularity that GoT experienced. Even HBO has faulted in trying to repeat their success, having announced multiple Game of Thrones spin-offs only to most of them fall apart before production. 


Amazon Prime is hoping to catch lightning in their streaming bottle again, not once but twice. In 2017, they bought the rights to the remainder to the Tolkien estate, and commissioned what was then called a Lord of the Rings TV series. It is now know that the series will be set in the Second Age of Middle Earth, before the One Ring was forged, before wizards roamed the wilds, and when Hobbits were just starting to peak out of their hills. Peter Jackson is not involved. Written by J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, whose credits include Star Trek Beyond, Godzilla vs King Kong, and Jungle Cruise, Amazon will be bringing the New Zealand-shot, billion dollar series to the platform in September of 2022. 


eye of the world by robert jordan / a cloaked figure stands between two pillars, before a sunrise, with a large stone clock floating above themMiddle Earth though is well known to audiences. Less well known to the general population is Amazon Prime's next venture: a highly anticipated forthcoming adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. If you aren’t familiar with it, Wheel of Time is a high fantasy series that spans 14 books, plus a prequel and a couple of companion novels. The first book was published in January 1990, and the final three books were completed by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. Luckily, the author had enough time to prepare detailed notes about how he wanted it finished, and there ended up being enough material for 3 more books instead of one.


Unlike Game of Thrones which draws inspiration from European history and politics, Wheel of Time was inspired more by European and Asian mythology - a "wheel of time" as a concept is present in Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The books have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular fantasy series of all time. Since each paperback averages 800+ pages and is far too complex to explain in any detail, I’ll try giving you the Coles Notes version of the series.


The core premise is that the story has happened over and over again. The wheel of time turns, ages pass, memories become legend, and legend becomes myth, and eventually the myth is forgotten when a new age dawns. An easter egg in both the books and TV show of Game of Thrones referenced an Archmaester who believed that history is a wheel, Martin's friendly tribute to his friend and fellow writer. Martin also included in his genealogies a "Trebor Jordayne, Lord of Tor", referencing both the author and his publisher, Tor Books. 


Like so much fantasy, the series is incredibly lore-dense. Much like Game of Thrones, the world is not officially named in the books, but fans like to call it Randland after the hero of the series, Rand al'Thor. There are though 14 nations in this world, so it’s good to have a map handy to keep track. In total, the books actually contain 100,000 characters, and fans recommend using the glossary at the back to keep track of who everybody is.


wheel of time companion by robert jordan and harriet mcdougal / three interlinked circled, two of gold and one of stone, against a black field

Because of the repetition inherent to the series, there are a lot of prophecies in this series, the most important of which are the "Prophecies of the Dragon".  The Dragon Reborn will be the champion of the Light in the battle against the Dark One - isn't that always the way? - and Rand al’Thor is prophesied to be that guy. Much like the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and most "Chosen One" narratives, Rand has grown up as a shepherd in a village and has very little knowledge about his destiny.


The first season of the TV show will reportedly air 8 episodes, but whether the entire season focuses on one book or a few books hasn’t been confirmed. As we all know, adapting fantasy, especially one that’s as intricate and complex as this one is a challenge, and it would be unreasonable to expect that it will be word-for-word faithful to the source material.


Regardless of which plot elements and characters make it into the TV show, one thing that is guaranteed is that Wheel of Time will be visually stunning, full of action, magic, and contains strong male and female characters. Whether or not it will reach the levels of popularity that Game of Thrones did remains to be seen, but judging by the advance buzz, it certainly has a chance. It premieres on November 22nd, 2021.


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Happy Reading!

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