As I’ve explained before, I read all of The Wheel of Time books but they always annoyed me. I wanted to read a commercially available multi-book epic fantasy genre (i.e. one where you could reliably find the next volume in a book shop) and it was what was available. I can’t recall when I started reading it but it was by the point that there were several books available (being smart, I thought I’d start a series that might be close to being finished and was punished for my presumption).
I think it is fair to say that the books are a meandering mess but not so terrible that they didn’t end up with a huge readership. I can’t think of a set of books that hit that spot where I was annoyed by them and yet still kept reading them. Like I said, availability was a big part of it particularly in a period in my life where I was shifting between countries.
A TV adaptation of the books is an interesting idea. In many ways, the books already felt like a TV show that kept spinning its wheels on the overall plot because the show had to keep going but the premise (an inevitable final conflict with the forces of evil) would end the show. Good books can make for bad dramatic adaptations but conversely, mediocre books can be elevated by a visual medium. I found a lot of Robert Jordan’s written world and characters to be a bit flat — particularly in later books with the huge cast split across a continent that all felt very much the same. A dramatisation could fill out the flaws.
So far, the adaptation is doing that. A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world.
It’s not without flaws. Along with the baggage it brings from the books (from cliched fantasy Romany-like people to gender essentialism), the first episode introduces a pointless fridging of a character that the plot doesn’t really know what to do with. It’s a very diverse cast but there are some potentially dubious choices in villains early on.
Some great magic scenes though and the Aes Sedai as maybe-TERFy Jedi is actually an interesting choice given the dubious nature of the group in the books as a whole.
Anyway, so far, good fun with dark doings, big scenery and a big mystery as to which of the five young characters from the village is the Dragon Reborn. I wonder which one it is! OK, we know already but they are playing that angle well currently even if the actual choice is the obvious one.