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Here’s What You Need to Know to Face ‘The Wheel of Time’ Book Series

Get ready for one of the biggest modern fantasy sagas.

Rosamund Pike in the Wheel of time

Amazon Prime’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time series premiered last Autumn to much success—after all, what’s there not to like about intricate worldbuilding, powerful covens of sorceresses, road trips to avoid monsters, and an impending doom threatening the very existence of the world? It’s what the best escapism is made of.

So, if you’ve fallen absolutely in love with Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine Damodred and want to delve deeper into the world which she inhabits—or maybe that’s just my prime motivation, who knows—then this is the guide for you. And you definitely need a guide, because The Wheel of Time, one of the most famous and long-lived modern fantasy sagas, includes a whopping total of fifteen books published over the course of twenty-three years.

Rosamund Pike in 'The Wheel of Time'
Spare hand in marriage Ma’am? (Prime Video)

The Wheel of Time started officially in January 1990, when Robert Jordan published the first volume in what was then planned out to be a six-volume saga—The Eye of the World. Jordan went on to publish the other books in the series at a record speed, so much so that all the other titles are were released only one or two years apart from one another. And these aren’t small books we’re talking about, since not a single one of them falls under the 200,000 words threshold.

The Great Hunt came out in November of 1990; then The Dragon Reborn in October 1991; The Shadow Rising in September 1992; The Fires of Heaven in October 1993; Lord of Chaos in October 1994; A Crown of Swords in May 1996; The path of Daggers in October 1998; Winter’s Heart in November 2000; Crossroads of Twilight in January 2003; New Spring in 2004; Knife of Dreams in October 2005.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time. (image: Amazon)
You’ll definitely have to keep track of a large cast of characters as you read through the whole saga. (Prime Video)

And in 2005, when he was working on what he thought was going to be the twelfth and final volume of the saga, A Memory of Light, Jordan was sadly diagnosed with terminal heart disease; he passed away in 2007. However, he had left extensive and detailed notes on how he wanted his saga to end—so his widow, Harriet McDougal, entrusted them to long-time fan and fellow fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who was by then just coming off the success of his Mistborn trilogy.

After reviewing Jordan’s notes, Sanderson came to the decision that it would have been better to split them among three books, rather than just one, even though Jordan wanted the final installment to be a single book, no matter how many pages it would end up having. And that’s why the final tomes of The Wheel of Time saga, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and finally, A Memory of Light were published between 2009 and 2013.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time.
If Prime’s adaptation continues through the whole saga it has every chance to become almost as long as Grey’s Anatomy. (Prime Video)

After that, there have been no more sequels or prequels to the saga—even though there have been a number of companion guides and short stories—since Sanderson explained that Jordan’s notes only extended to the end of A Memory of Light and were very scarce when it came to continuing the story or expanding on the events before it.

As you might expect from a story that spans so many books and so many years, the overarching plot of The Wheel of Time is complex—touching themes like the never-ending conflict between Light and Dark, balance, duality, and picking from several of the world’s biggest religious systems. Its rich cast of characters move through a detailed and sprawling world, with an even more detailed magic system. It’s definitely a fascinating read and one that deserves the investment of time and attention in remembering who everyone is as you make your way through all fifteen books.

Moiraine sits in the woods in Amazon's Wheel of Time.
I’m here for Moiraine and Moiraine only. (Prime Video)

But the main gist of the plot is this—a prophecy looms over the world, saying that the Dark One, defeated and imprisoned many centuries before in a bloody battle, will return one day to lay devastation to everything. Only the reborn Dragon, the hero who first fought him, will be able to stop him. However, to do so, he will have to use the One Power (which is known to drive male users to insanity and can only be channeled safely by women, who are taught to do so in the influential Aes Sedai organization).

If the hero is reborn then he will undoubtedly defeat the Dark One, but he will also proceed to wreak unspeakable chaos and havoc on the world after he has done so—because of the One Power passing through him. The saga follows the events that lead up to the Last Battle between the escaped Dark One and the Dragon Reborn, as the cast of characters expands and moves, forming new alliances and fighting new enemies.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time.
Is it really a high fantasy series if allegiances don’t change and some backstabbing happens? (Prime Video)

It’s long—but getting into the world of The Wheel of Time is not particularly difficult. And the order in which you should read the books is pretty straightforward. Yes, New Spring, the second to last book to be published by Jordan, is actually set twenty years before the start of the main plot of The Eye of the World and delves deeper into what put the story in motion, as well as the backstory of some characters, but it’s also best read when one already has a pretty strong grip on the world and the lore.  

So, here are the books in their release order, which is the recommended order in which to read them:

  1. The Eye of the World
  2. The Great Hunt
  3. The Dragon Reborn
  4. The Shadow Rising
  5. The Fires of Heaven
  6. Lord of Chaos
  7. A Crown of Swords
  8. The Path of Daggers
  9. Winter’s Heart
  10. Crossroads of Twilight
  11. New Spring
  12. Knife of Dreams
  13. The Gathering Storm
  14. Towers of Midnight
  15. A Memory of Light

And here’s the in-universe chronological order instead:

  1. New Spring
  2. The Eye of the World
  3. The Great Hunt
  4. The Dragon Reborn
  5. The Shadow Rising
  6. The Fires of Heaven
  7. Lord of Chaos
  8. A Crown of Swords
  9. The path of Daggers
  10. Winter’s Heart
  11. Crossroads of Twilight
  12. Knife of Dreams
  13. The Gathering Storm
  14. Towers of Midnight
  15. A Memory of Light

(via: ScreenRant; image: Prime Video)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely still reading. She loves dragons, complex magic systems, stories about the intrinsic goodness of humanity, queer representation, women who could crush her and Mr Darcy type men. Her blood runs purple.