'The Wheel of Time' Author on Amazon Adaptation: 'This Is Not a Series You Film in the Woods'

Author Brandon Sanderson talks to PEOPLE about the adaptation of the mega-hit fantasy series The Wheel of Time

Wheel of Time
Rosamund Pike in The Wheel of Time. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Author Brandon Sanderson says he's been waiting for The Wheel of Time book series to be adapted for a "long time."

Now, Sanderson's hope has finally been realized with Friday's premiere of the Amazon Prime Video eponymous TV series, created by Rafe Judkins and starring Rosamund Pike. The first three episodes are available now.

Fans of the epic fantasy have also been (im)patiently waiting since the first book, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, was published in 1990. The series begins with Moiraine Damodred (played by Pike in the show) and Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) taking a group of five young people on a quest after their village is attacked, in a world threatened by the Dark One. Moiraine believes one of them is the Dragon Reborn, the person destined to save the world — but also break it.

After Jordan's death at age 58 in 2007, Sanderson was asked to finish the 14-volume series, which he did in 2013. (Sanderson says being asked to complete the series was both exciting and "terrifying." "At the time, this was the biggest fantasy series of our time," he says. "I knew there were millions of fans out there and I was asked to become essentially their stepdad.")

The first book alone is more than 700 pages long. By the end of the series, there are a few dozen main characters. But the shear size of the saga hasn't scared off fans, and Sanderson describes it as "halfway between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones" because it's "half political intrigue, half quest fantasy." So far, more than 90 million books in the series have sold.

"Epic fantasy, when it's really working, the big emotion that you're trying for is what I call a sense of wonder," says Sanderson, 45, of the appeal of The Wheel of Time book series.

The Eye of the World: Book One of The Wheel of Time
Tor Books

"The big catch-22 of fantasy is people go to the fantasy section for the world building. But they don't stay for the world building. World building can only do so much," continues Sanderson, who began reading the series when he was 15 and reread each book before the newest edition in the series was released. "Thirty something years ago, when I picked up The Eye of the World myself ... it had the sense of adventure conveyed on the cover. But the reason I read 11 of those books and eventually agreed to finish the series was because I fell in love with the characters."

Sanderson is a producer on the show and says he's spent most of his time reading the script and discussing it with Judkins. He thinks the script is "fantastic" and really likes the cast and crew — including Pike. "She's great," he says. "She is both terrifying and inspiring at the same time. Which is exactly what Moiraine should be."

The Wheel of Time adaptation has gotten a fair amount of attention due to its massive budget. For the first season, Amazon reportedly spent $10 million per episode, while the first episodes of Game of Thrones cost an eyebrow-raising $6 million at the time, according to GQ. Sanderson believes it's worth it.

"We knew if Wheel of Time was going to be done right, it would need this kind of budget," he says. "This is not a series you can just go film in the woods. The setting of the Wheel of Time, it is a world that basically suffered the apocalypse 1,000 years ago and barely survived. Society collapsed and [was] rebuilt over 1,000 years."

Sanderson explains that time isn't linear in the book series, and is instead fashioned like a "wheel." "People are given second and third and fourth chances," he says. "You can be reborn and you can try again."

Case in point: the Dragon. One thousand years ago, the Dragon, then known as Lews Therin Telamon, saved the world, but at great cost.

"The book opens 1,000 years later. This soul is going to get another chance, this person that is the Dragon, to do it again, but maybe do it right this time," Sanderson says. "And you don't know who it is. You don't know how it's going to play out. But you know that they kind of failed once and this is their second chance. One of the big questions of the series is: Who is the Dragon? Who is the Dragon Reborn? And what is their story going to be?"

Wheel of Time
Daniel Henney as Lan Mandragoran and Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred in The Wheel of Time. Amazon Prime Video

When Lews Therin Telamon was alive, both men and women could use magic, known as the One Power. Ten centuries later, women are the only ones who can wield it without going insane.

"There's this power dynamic where a lot of the rulers and a lot of the people in power — because of the magic — are women," says Sanderson. "This creates a very interesting, different world from our own. It is treated very delicately, at least in the books, for the time. It was an extremely progressive series."

Moiraine is one of these women who can "channel" the One Power. She's part of a powerful order called the Aes Sedai, which is searching for the Dragon, the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, in order to save the world from the Dark One.

Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson. Will Ireland/SFX Magazine/Future via Getty

In the beginning of the book series, readers "aren't sure why Moiraine is there hunting the Dragon Reborn," says Sanderson.

"Moiraine walking that line between noble threat, but still threat, and mentor figure, is just one of the huge selling points of the series," he says. "She is probably the singular most interesting character in the entire series because it's not cut and dry. She keeps her motivations close to her heart — and they are complicated. She is the driving force behind everything happening in this series. And that's the question: Is Moiraine here to help us or hurt us?"

The young people who follow her from their village of Emond's Field — Rand al'Thor, Egwene al'Vere, Perrin Aybara, Nynaeve al'Meara and Matrim Cauthon — each will have their own battles to face throughout their long journey.

Wheel of Time
The cast of the Wheel of Time. Amazon Prime Videos

"One of them hates the outside world and does not want anything to do with it. She is only there to try to get her friends all back safe, home, where they belong," says Sanderson. "Others are finding this a wild adventure, everything they dreamed. Others are terrified. Others don't know what to think."

"And that dynamic kind of represents the way that all of us feel growing up, right?" he continues. "It's an adventure, it's excitement, but home is safe. And yet, we know we can never quite go home again."

The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Related Articles