Imagine you’ve lived in the same house for the past 20 years. You know where the creaky floorboard is and how to pull that door just right so it closes properly. You know every room intimately, and you have treasured memories in each from different stages of your life. Now imagine one day in this house of yours, you find a door to a basement you didn’t know existed. And in opening that door you find not only the foundations and blueprints of your house, but the story of the builder and how they dedicated their life to it. In that basement is the story of every beam and nail that holds up the house you’ve spent your life in. That’s what it’s like reading Origins of the Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies That Inspired Robert Jordan.
I will fully admit I did not expect to fall in love with this book as hard as I did. As somebody who has been reading The Wheel of Time for over 20 years I thought I pretty much knew everything. That this would be some fun supplementary information and flavor, much like 2015’s The Wheel of Time Companion and the hilariously bad The World of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, aka the Big White Book. Folks, I legit cried reading this book. I was blown away by how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know. So if you’re on the fence about whether this would be a good resource for you, I can highly recommend it.
The book is split into a few sections: a biography of Robert Jordan, an examination of Tolkien and Jordan, a section on how Jordan worked and wrote, and a very detailed encyclopedia of all the real-world references in The Wheel of Time. While I did find the Tolkien sections a bit dry, everything else was completely fascinating and–dare I say–heartwarming. There is a lot of love in these pages, both from the author Michael Livingston and in the life and writing of Robert Jordan. The story of his final days and how he spent his last few weeks with the people he loved trying to get as much information about the books down on paper for a potential future author to finish the series had me in tears. There’s so much detail that I don’t even want to talk about here because it feels like spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin that journey for readers.
Answers to long standing mysteries and questions abound in this book, from things like “was Taim Demandred?” to one of the biggest: “Who is Nakomi?” Some will never be answered, as the only person who might have known them was Jordan himself. There is a section dealing with the binary themes of The Wheel of Time and in particular the now-outdated notion of the gender binary. One of the things I found the most fascinating was how Team Jordan and Brandon Sanderson figured out how they were going to finish the books. Notably, it described how they approached passages written by Jordan, how Sanderson would write and what of Jordan’s he would or wouldn’t change, and how they interpreted Jordan’s notes.
And if that isn’t enough sausage-making to learn about, the back half of the book breaks down the historical, literary and mythological connections of almost every character and location in the series. The level of detail Jordan went into when crafting names and stories using real life elements is impressive, something I thought I generally knew but really, I’d only seen the tip of that iceberg until Origins of the Wheel of Time.
If you enjoyed The Wheel of Time and are looking for something to deepen that knowledge and enjoyment I can’t recommend this book enough. It will warm your heart and broaden your understanding of this incredible world that lived on after its creator.
Origins of the Wheel of Time comes out on November 8, 2022. It’s an excellent addition to a bookshelf for yourself or a holiday present for a Wheel of Time fan.