Get familiar with the world of The Wheel of Time

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Credit: Tor Books

Robert Jordan’s massive Wheel of Time series has a lot going for it — the characters, the scale, the prose…but its best aspect may be its sprawling fantasy world, which is detailed even for the epic fantasy genre. In preparation for Amazon’s upcoming TV adaptation, let’s get familiar with it.

“I’ve known the last scene of the last ‘Wheel’ book since before I started writing the first book, and that’s unchanged. I thought ‘The Wheel of Time’ was going to be five or six books. I didn’t think they’d be this long. I was doing this like a historical novel, but I had more things to explain, things not readily apparent. In a normal historical novel, you can simply let some things go by because the reader of historical fiction knows these, or has the concept of them. But this is not the medieval period, not a fantasy with knights in shining armor. If you want to imagine what the period is, imagine it as the late 17th century without gunpowder. I had to do more explaining about cultural details, and that meant things got bigger than I had intended.”

– Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time takes place in an old world. A lot happened before any of our lead characters were born, but much of the oldest history is forgotten or remembered only dimly. Civilizations and technologies have risen and fallen over and over again but time always pushes forwards on a wheel, turning and turning. The main story begins in a primitive age, relatively speaking, not nearly as advanced as the previous one. As Jordan described it above, “the 17th century without gunpowder.”

In fantasy, readers are used to exploring a world that resembles medieval Europe. Think of knights in armor riding to a stone castle with big round arches above a wooden drawbridge and you’ll get the idea — both The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, two of the biggest fantasy stories of our time, have variations on this setting. On the other hand, 17th century architecture is more advanced and decorative.

Amazon is filming the first season of its TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia. Each country has plenty of places that might stand in for locations from The Wheel of Time, both rural and urban, but beyond a few set photos, we don’t have many specifics about where exactly the first season was filmed. We can take some educated guesses, though, and take a tour of Jordan’s richly imagined world while we’re at it.

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