Rosamund Pike talks narrating The Wheel of Time audiobook series


Rosamund Pike plays the Aes Sedai sorceress Moiraine on Amazon Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time show. Season 2 of the series comes out this September, but if you’re itching to return to the fantasy world created by author Robert Jordan before then, there’s always the completed 15-book series to dive into.

In addition to playing Moiraine on the TV show, Pike has also been lending her vocal talents to a new run of Wheel of Time audiobooks from Macmillan Audio. So far Pike has narrated the first three books: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn.

Rosamund Pike discusses narrating The Dragon Reborn audiobook

This isn’t the first time Pike has done audiobooks; she previously recorded narration for William Boyd’s novel Restless, as well Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Like The Wheel of Time, she’d starred in a screen adaptation of Pride & Prejudice for before recording the audiobook.

Pike’s director on The Wheel of Time books is her mother, Caroline Friend, a former opera singer who introduced Pike to audiobooks early in life. As a team, they are uniquely well-suited to the job.

“When I was a child, we would often travel quite long distances in cars, and we’d listen to books on tape,” Pike told Entertainment Weekly. “We would always discuss the readers and whether they were successful, because some we really didn’t respond to, but others were absolutely wonderful.”

While Pike was obviously familiar with The Wheel of Time thanks to her turn as Moiraine, audiobooks present a very different sort of challenge because of the range of voices and expressions needed to portray all the different characters. “You can be on the point of breaking with emotion as you play some very difficult scene, but then the narration in between the dialogue has to be sharp and clear,” Pike explained. “That’s one of the difficulties: Characters can break, but the narration must stay, and you’ve got to be all those people. As an actor, you’re taught that if you’ve got a soliloquy or something, you have to know how to vary the pace and the rhythm, the dynamic range of a passage. But some chapters require a more lyrical quality, while some are about adrenaline. It actually took us both into Robert Jordan’s mind in a different way.”

“When Rosamund does voices, she just becomes the character,” Friend added. “That’s what you hear. You hear Lan talking to Moiraine, and you hear wee bits of narration ‘he said, she said’ in between. I don’t know how you do it. When I look into the studio, particularly in the dramatic bits, sometimes she gets big. But you obviously have to be on the microphone.”

The Wheel of Time has an immense cast of characters. The demands of different characters dictated how Pike physically approached recording them. “I usually go between sitting and standing, because there are some characters I can’t do sitting down — like, funnily enough, Siuan Sanche, the Amyrlin Seat, because of where the voice comes from. And of course Loial.”

You can hear Pike busting out her Loial voice above. For a minute there, I was transported to the Ways! “You have to feel it,” the actor explained. “So if a character is an anxious man, you’ve got to feel that you are this anxious little person who’s looking up at everybody and feeling a bit inferior, but also wants to be very obsequious. You have to let them all into you, and feel who they are.”

Recording The Wheel of Time audiobooks helped Rosamund Pike appreciate the novels

Beyond the physical challenges of recording the books, the deep dive into the series has helped both Pike and Friend see them in a different light. The Wheel of Time famously starts off in a way that will remind many people of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but it isn’t long before Jordan’s series veers off into uncharted territory.

“When I read it for the first time, my first thought was oh, this is straightforward, it’s just like Tolkien,” Friend said. “And then you quickly realize it isn’t at all. It becomes much wider, much bigger, and then it becomes something else altogether.”

“I always understood that Robert Jordan had almost written the first book as a therapeutic exercise to sort of come to terms with his experiences in Vietnam,” Pike added. “Over the course of the series, I think you can feel him working through the contradictions that he experienced: The struggle for balance, understanding and appreciating that the world functions because both things coexist — good and evil — and are sort of binary ways of thinking. Both are necessary for understanding and decoding the world.”

The Wheel of Time season 2 is due out on September 1. The first three audiobooks narrated by Rosamund Pike — The Eye of the WorldThe Great Hunt, and The Dragon Reborn — are available now wherever audiobooks are sold.

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