There’s a total of 15 books in the series, plus two companion books and a few short stories.
To my great disappointment, when I first came across Wheel of Time, there were actually no dragons in this series. (Still aren’t.) What can I say, I have a thing for dragons, ok? I saw Dragon Reborn, and I obviously assumed we were talking about a real ass dragon. But I fell in love with the series anyway.
The first book, Eye of the World, was released in 1990, and Robert Jordan had written 11 books by the time he died from Cardiac Amyloidosis in 2007. The editor, Jordan’s wife, Harriet McDougal, got Brandon Sanderson to come in and finish the series. He wrote the three last books and two (if memory serves me right) short prequel stories.
When Robert Jordan had published 10 Wheel of Time books, he wrote the prequel New Spring. At first, it was a novella published in the fantasy anthology Legends. Later, Robert Jordan rewrote it ever so slightly and added a few more chapters before releasing it as a prequel. He planned to write two more prequels, but unfortunately, he never had the chance to do that.
Now, New Spring tells us Lan and Moiraine’s back stories, and gives us a view of the events that lead to the two of them being in Emond’s Field on Winternight. (If you’re new to the Wheel of Time series, that is where the first book begins.) The events in New Spring take place 20 years before the Eye of the World.
There are different opinions regarding when this book should be read. Chronologically, it’s Book 0, but it was released as Book 11. I prefer to read chronologically, so that’s why I’m starting here. I think it gives you a good insight into the world and politics of the Aes Sedai, and it gives you a deeper understanding of how the “mentor characters” came to be the way they are. If you have the energy to read, I warmly recommend that you tag along in my Let’s Read. The book is available in hard and paper back, ebook and audiobook format. See links below.
Please, Note: This book is from 2004, but if you haven’t read it yet, this is your spoiler warning. There may be information from here on that you would consider spoilers.
I won’t give it all away, but I’ll tell you enough so you can understand the premise of the book and the events that brought two of the central characters to Chapter 1 of Book 1 20 years later.
Okay, let’s jump right into it…
A New Beginning
As New Spring begins, the Aiel War has been raging for two years. The people of the (unnamed) world our story takes place in, are fighting the Aiel. They are a stone desert people, and they are deadly warriors that invaded Cairihen out of the blue.
The people of the Wetlands (countries with unlimited access to water) didn’t take the Aiel seriously when they first attacked, but they soon realised their mistake and formed a Great Coalition to be able to fight back.
In Chapter 1, we meet Lan Mandragoran who is one of the central characters in the whole series. Here he’s a commanding officer for the Wetlanders, and through his point of view, we get a glimpse of what the war was like. Bloody and bloody miserable.
Meanwhile, Moiraine Damodred is in the White Tower in Tar Valon, a city on an island at the foot of Dragonmount. The Dragon’s resting place. The White Tower is the home of the female mages, the Aes Sedai, who are the most powerful people in this world. And probably the most feared ones too, besides The Dark One and the Aiel.
The Aes Sedai leader, the Amyrlin Seat Tamra Ospenva, and her right hand woman, Keeper of the Chronicles Gitara Moroso, are burning the midnight oil. It’s winter and freezing cold in the tower, and they can hear the war still raging outside through the open window slits.
Moraine and her best friend, Siuan Sanche, two young mages in training who have been raised from Novices to Accepted (one step below fullty fledged Aes Sedai) are on assistance duty. Their job is to run errands for their superiors, serve the tea and help out with whatever they need them to do.
Gitara, who’s 300 years old (!), is one of the few Aes Sedai left who has the foretelling. The ability to see things that will come to pass. As Moiraine serves her a cup of tea, Gitara gets off her chair and proclaims:
“He is born again! I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slopes of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!”
Gitara has foretold the rebirth of the Dragon, and as soon as she’s finished the last sentence she dies. And the only three witnesses to this foretelling are the Amyrlin Seat and the two Accepted. Tamra swears them to secrecy, and sends them to their rooms with the order to lie if anyone asks them what happened. The secret is safe with them, because they wouldn’t dare cross the Amyrlin.
NB! This is the final notice – from here on there will definitely be some spoilers. If you’re planning to read this book, and you’re one of those people who don’t like to know anything in advance, this is where you need to get off this ride. You have been warned…
The whole world (in the books) knows that the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, died 3000 years ago. He was a male Aes Sedai who caused the Breaking of the World. To this day, people are scared of him and the prophecy that says he will be reborn. And potentially end the world for good. The wandering bards and gleemen tell and sing stories about him, keeping the legend alive.
Lewis Therin was not a bad guy, though. He managed to rally the Aes Sedai and imprison Shai’tan, the Dark One, and his followers in Shayol Ghul. It’s a magic prison, sealed with seven unbreakable seals. But the Dark One retaliated by tainting the source of Saidin, the male source of magic.
Since then, all men who channel magic will inevitably go insane. And they are extremely dangerous when they do. Lews Therin was the Lord of the Light and the leader of the Aes Sedai. The best of the best of his time. But when insanity claimed him, he slaughtered his entire family and everyone he’d ever loved, earning him the nickname Kinslayer. In his grief and despair, realising what he’d done, he killed himself and channelled enough stone to create a mountain to bury himself under. The Dragonmount.
The remaining male Aes Sedai broke the world in their madness. Their female colleagues, who channel Saidar, a different source of magic, had to make a tough decision in order to save the world. They made it illegal to be a male channeler. The red Ajah is tasked with the responsibility to hunt down and gentle every single male channeler they can find.
The gentling cuts off their access to Saidin, and it tends to cut off their willingness to live too. Most men who have been gentled die within a couple of years after the process. There are, however, signs that suggest this systematical eradication of male mages may be the reason why Aes Sedai are losing their powers.
Their numbers are dwindling, and they rarely come across girls who are very strong in the power anymore. They don’t have much of a choice, though. No one has found a way to cure a male channeler of the madness, or to remove the taint from Saidin.
And we have the prophecies. The Dragon shall be reborn and he will cause Tarmon Gai’don. The apocalypse. There are many prophecies and most of them have been classified, but people keep retelling the stories. Legend has it that he will cause great suffering, but at the very last battle, he’ll defeat the Dark One and spill his own blood to bring the Light back into the world.
As is often the case with oral traditions, however, the story has been warped over the thousands of years it’s been told. People in general, now believe that the Dragon will come back and let the Dark One loose. Together they will then stop the Wheel of Time and create a shadow world.
As a result, people are dead scared of male channelers, and no one wants to face the risk of a friend or beloved family member going crazy, or worse, turn out to be the Dragon Reborn.
A Needle in a Haystack
After Gitara’s foretelling, the Amyrlin sends all the Accepted of the Tower out to register every single child that’s been born within sight of Dragonmount. They have to search every city, village and soldier’s camp around Tar Valon and Dragonmount.
The official reason is that the Amyrlin wants to mark the end of the war by giving each child born during the last 10 days of the war 100 gold coins. No one, other than the three who witnessed the foretelling, knows the real reason they are doing this. To find the Dragon Reborn. The proverbial needle in the haystack.
At the same time, Moiraine learns that her uncle, the King of Cairihen, and both of his brothers have fallen in the war. For Moiraine, who’s already lost her father, this means she is now next in line for the throne. A position the White Tower very much wants to see her assume.
The Amyrlin believes that Moiraine must be grief-stricken from the news of her uncles’ demise, and decides to “spare her” from having to ride out and search for the baby Dragon. Instead, she gets to stay behind and work as a scribe, making neat and clean copies of all the names the Accepted collect in their search. Together with Siuan, who’s there “to support her in her grief,” she makes a copy of each list of newborns in a little notebook.
The truth is, Moiraine hated her uncles and she hates the idea of having to become a Queen even more. She wants to find this Dragon, and be the one to teach him what he needs to know, to be able to defeat the Dark One in the final battle.
Moiraine and Siuan know that if the Dragon is, indeed, reborn, the battle is coming in their lifetime. And they have to make sure the red Ajah doesn’t catch and gentle him before he can save the world. But they also know that finding and protecting him would count as high treason. They’d be signing their own death warrants if the Aes Sedai found out. A risk they are willing to take, as the alternative doesn’t bear thinking of.
The questions remain though: How do you find this child? How do you keep him hidden until the final battle? How do you save him from insanity and teach him how to defeat the Dark One?
Well, they have to begin by making sure they have the list of every newborn, and they have to spy on the Amyrlin to find out what she’s up to.
Does this sound interesting to you? Then you may be happy too hear that there’s a second part to this post. There I’ll tell you a little bit more about Moiraine, Siuan and Lan and the decisions they make that will affect their futures and lead us to the Eye of the World.
Until then, keep reading, writing and telling your stories.
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Disclaimer: As We Write (AWW) is an independent, non-profit blog owned by Evalena Styf. AWW is not affiliated with Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, The Wheel of Time, Tor Books, Orbit Books, Sony Pictures Television, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video or any other production or broadcast entities associated with The Wheel of Time or any other titles mentioned.
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