Midway Checkpoint: The Wheel of Time Show’s Jam-Packed Ambitions

Back in September, I allowed myself to get a little pre-hyped for Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time series, and I promised that I would check back in after the first couple episodes. The Wheel of Time show currently has six episodes released, and I have watched the first five, so I am definitely overdue for this post.

Spoiler warning: I will be discussing events in the TV show only, through episode 5–which maybe means this isn’t really spoiler-y. Anyway, anything that has happened in the first five episodes is fair game for this post. Although I am a current book reader I will not bring up any events from the books that have not yet been depicted on the show.

Honestly, I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to spoil at this point in the series, which is maybe part of the problem I have with it so far. These first five episodes feel so packed with plot-building, and world-building, and characters, and movement that I have to imagine it’s difficult for casual viewers to keep track of everything and everyone that’s happened so far.

In five short episodes we’ve seen seven primary characters–Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, Lan–come together, split apart, and (almost) reunite in Tar Valon, while also meeting half a dozen other characters who appear to have some part to play this season. Stepin, Liandrin, Alanna, Logain, Eamon Valda, and Aram all seemed poised to round out a pretty full cast of characters and factions with whom that party-of-seven would have to contend. Stepin has already off’ed himself, and Aram seems to have exited the story for now, but this is still a list of characters I would…

a) never have expected to meet or be asked to care about in the first place,

b) never have expected to meet this quickly,

and c) don’t think quite fit together in an 8-episode season that is now more than halfway over with no clear central conflict having yet emerged.

The one through-line of all of this is that no one knows who the Dragon Reborn is yet, which, fine, that’s a mystery for people who haven’t read the books. But it doesn’t feel like a conflict to me.

I think my point here is that this show, so far, feels like an oversized plot that does not take the necessary steps to make me care about these people. I care, at the moment, because I’m reading the books, but that’s not enough when viewing this show in isolation.

Onto more positive notes…

Okay, I don’t want to be all cynical about this show, because I am enjoying it for what it is. The acting is great overall, the landscapes and set pieces are stellar, and the story has a compelling pace.

Listening to a podcast interview of showrunner Rafe Judkins has me confident that the man behind the curtain knows what he’s doing in trying to adapt a massive story to the small screen, where we do not have the luxury of 400 pages to tell the first part.

The first three episodes, which were dropped all at once on Prime, are heavy on lore and trying to get the viewer to even understand what the hell the Dragon Reborn is supposed to be. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Prime decided to present the first three episodes all at once. I think episode one on its own would have been too jarring for most people; it moves at a break-neck pace, introducing a host of characters and tons of lore, has a thrilling climax, and then ends with barely a moment to breathe.

Episode 4, in which Nynaeve discovers her ability to touch the One Power in stunning fashion, is when I decided I liked this show. I can see past the overloaded plot if we get moments as powerful as that a couple times per season.

Three more to go

Looking ahead, it’s hard to believe that this season is only going to be eight episodes. I really have no idea what sort of “ending” this first season could possibly have, unless they decide that season one is just a prologue.

All in all, I’m enjoying watching this show, but I have lingering concerns that the showrunners have tried to pack too much into so short a season for it to have much meaning. I hope to be proven wrong.

Steve D

Book Review: THE FORT, continues Goldsworthy’s run of compelling Roman military fiction

The Fort, City of Victory Book One is the first in what I assume is a new series of Roman military fiction novels by Adrian Goldsworthy, author of The Vindolanda Saga. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed that trilogy last year, so I jumped at the chance to read Goldsworthy’s newest work, only released in June.

I further hoped that this series would continue the saga of Flavius Ferox, the Roman Centurion and Prince of the Silures of Britannia whose dual-lives are always in conflict as he serves Rome.

The Fort once again follows Ferox, who has just arrived to a new posting in Dacia, a Roman province long troubled by local tribes and in which the Emperor Trajan had only recently established a more permanent foothold.

This continuation of the saga of Flavius Ferox is well written and narrated. The plot beats will feel very familiar to readers of Vindolanda, but I did not find the story as compelling as Goldsworthy’s earlier series. Ferox arrives in his new post in command of a detachment of Brigantes, all sworn to their new Queen Claudia Anica (herself sworn to Rome and now Ferox’s wife), and expecting a battle against the Dacians. The battle comes, of course, and becomes a siege of the fort whose name I can neither spell nor find online. (It’s possible this was fabricated for Goldsworthy’s story, like the titular fortification of Vindolanda of the previous series.)

Aside from mainstays like Vindex, Claudia Anica, and Sulpichia Lepidina, there is a largely new cast of characters. I found the politicking of Roman bureaucrats a bit dull in this story and even difficult to follow. It seemed like several characters were introduced and then discarded before the end of the story, except for Hadrian, tribune sent to Dacia, nephew of Trajan, and (for anyone who knows a bit of Roman history) the future emperor. Without giving away the ending to The Fort, Hadrian’s relationship with Ferox is likely drive much of the personal and political conflict in upcoming stories, and that is something to look forward to.

Other than that, I found myself leaning pretty heavily on Ferox’s interactions with his three close friends to stay attached to this story. I think the best scenes were those between Ferox and Claudia Anica, who lightened the tone of the story while carrying great narrative weight as a character.

The scenes which followed Brassus, a leader among the Dacians, were interesting but only scratched the surface of that people. I don’t feel I really know anything about the Dacians except that they obsess over “ascending” and “purity”, supposedly sacred concepts that are tossed around with no real explanation.

Overall, I enjoyed the story but pretty much knew what to expect from Goldsworthy’s writing and narrative.

The narration in the audiobook version (on Audible) was good, although the pronunciations have all changed. The narrator used softer s sounds in place of the Roman c, which I’m not here to quibble about. It’s just an interesting choice after the strictly Latin pronunciations in the Vindolanda stories.

Steve D

“The Grand Mythos” Chapter 4 has Arrived

Chapter four of my short fantasy series, “The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan” is now available on Wattpad.

“Gó’Dan’s Form and Aeth’Ún’s Formlessness” is a short but sweet story about one of the Vaia choosing to help another out of love.

Genre: fantasy, high fantasy, mythic fantasy

Chapter Blurb: Now that the First Four Vai’ad understand a little more about each other’s power, they must work together to survive. This short chapter describes how one Vaia’s choice to help another created a key feature of the world of Úr’Dan.

Series Blurb:

Every world has its folktales, but even folktales carry a part of the truth. Follow the first beings in the universe as they try to bring order and life to their home. Witness the creation of the vibrant world of Úr’Dan, and the fantastic creatures who live there. Based on the unique fantasy universe of the novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.

Go to Wattpad to read it for free: https://www.wattpad.com/story/163684352-the-grand-mythos-of-%C3%BAr%27dan-volume-one

Steve D

“The Grand Mythos” Chapter 3 is Up!

Chapter three of my short fantasy series, “The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan” is now available on Wattpad.

Entitled “Hairek’s Hunger”, this chapter really starts to get into some of the early conflict between the First Four Vai’ad, as you’ll see in the chapter blurb below.

And if the concept of cosmic beings playing at god-games is a little too far-fetched for you, don’t worry. You’ll get to meet a more… earthly character in upcoming chapters.

Genre: fantasy, high fantasy, mythic fantasy

Chapter Blurb: The First Four Vai’ad are carving out their places in the Void, but are their purposes aligned? As Aeth’Ún, Gó’Dan, Hairek, and Órúma each search for meaning among the blackness of the Void, they may find that their unity is easily fractured.

Series Blurb:

Every world has its folktales, but even folktales carry a part of the truth. Follow the first beings in the universe as they try to bring order and life to their home. Witness the creation of the vibrant world of Úr’Dan, and the fantastic creatures who live there. Based on the unique fantasy universe of the novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.

Go to Wattpad to read it for free: https://www.wattpad.com/story/163684352-the-grand-mythos-of-%C3%BAr%27dan-volume-one

Steve D

Friday Write-Day: Revisions Are Coming

This was another one of those weeks where it felt pretty busy/hectic, but I don’t really remember specifically what happened.

[Thinking…]

We had a lot of visitors and things going on around the house. That’s why it felt busy. I didn’t have much time for writing due to this, but progress is not always measured in word count

Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: Revisions Are Coming”

Creativity Sessions: Cliffhangers as a Narrative Device

I enjoy cliffhangers in novels. As someone in the marketing profession, I also understand why they are often used at the ends of novels. I’ll be just finishing up the story when the author throws a curveball, making me go Oh shit, how can you leave me hanging like that?! And then Book 2 comes out and I buy it immediately, because obviously I have to see what happens. It’s good business.

But as a narrative device? I’m becoming more and more skeptical of the end-of-book cliffhanger. Continue reading “Creativity Sessions: Cliffhangers as a Narrative Device”