The Wheel of Time
|Author||Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson|
|Cover artist||Darrell K. Sweet (Michael Whelan for A Memory of Light)|
|Publisher||Tor Books (US) and
Orbit Books (UK)
|Published||January 15, 1990 – January 8, 2013|
The Wheel of Time is a series of epic fantasy novels written by American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, The Wheel of Time now spans fourteen volumes, in addition to a prequel novel and a companion book. Jordan began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984; it was published in January 1990.
The author died in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the twelfth and final volume in the series, although he had prepared extensive notes so another author could complete the book according to his wishes. Fellow fantasy author and long-time Wheel of Time fan Brandon Sanderson was brought in to complete the final book, but during the writing process it was decided that the book would be far too large to be published in one volume and would instead be published as three volumes: The Gathering Storm (2009), Towers of Midnight (2010), and A Memory of Light (2013).
The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity's "Creator" (Light) and Shai'tan, "The Dark One" (Shaytan is an Arabic word which in religious contexts is used as a name for the Devil). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869).
The Wheel of Time is notable for its length, its detailed imaginary world, its well-developed magic system, and its large cast of characters. The eighth through fourteenth books each reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. As of August 14, 2008 the series sold over 44 million copies worldwide and spawned an eponymous video game, roleplaying game, and soundtrack album. The television and film rights to the series have been optioned several times, most recently by Universal Studios.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Special powers
- 4 Books in the series
- 5 Development
- 6 Adaptations
- 7 Culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In the series' mythology, a deity known as the Creator made the universe and the Wheel of Time, which governs experience. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an 'age' or phase of history, and rotates under the influence of the One Power, which flows from the True Source composed of male and female halves (saidin and saidar). Humans who can use this power are called 'channelers'; the principal organization thereof in the books are the Aes Sedai or 'Servants of All'.
The Creator having imprisoned its antithesis, Shai'tan (often called 'the Dark One'), an Aes Sedai experiment mistakenly allowed Shai'tan's influence into the world. Thereafter he is the stories' principal antagonist, promising power and immortality to those who abet his total freedom (known as 'Darkfriends'). A century after the initial breach of the Dark One's prison, open warfare occurs between the forces of the Dark One and those of the Light, until the chieftain 'Lews Therin Telamon', alias the Dragon, leads a force of channelers and soldiers to reseal the prison; whereupon the Dark One inflicts a malediction driving male channelers of the One Power insane. Thus affected, the male channelers create earthquakes and tsunami altering numerous landscapes, and therefore called "The Breaking of the World". Lews Therin himself kills his friends and family, and is known afterwards as 'Kinslayer'. Given a moment of sanity by Ishamael, chief among the Dark One's servants, Lews Therin commits suicide. Thereafter the female Aes Sedai re-organize society, and nullify male access to the Power. Two subsequent events are important to the novels' principal story: the Trolloc Wars, in which servants of the Dark One foment a continuous war for several hundred years; and the War of the Hundred Years, a devastating civil war succeeding the fall of a continent-spanning empire ruled by the 'High King', Artur Hawkwing. When the novels begin, most people live in a technology and culture roughly comparable to that of Europe's 1450 to 1600 (with the difference that women are socially equal to men in most societies, and superior in some), in fear of a prophecy that the Dark One will break from his prison and the Dragon will be reborn to face him.
The prequel novel New Spring takes place during the Aiel War and depicts the discovery by the Aes Sedai that the Dragon has been Reborn.
The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers, a near-forgotten district of the country of Andor. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine, and her Warder Lan, arrive in the village of Emond's Field, secretly aware that servants of the Dark One are searching for a young man living in the area. Moiraine is unable to determine which of three youths (Rand al'Thor, Matrim Cauthon, or Perrin Aybara) is the Dragon Reborn, and leads all three of them from the Two Rivers, along with their friend Egwene al'Vere. Nynaeve al'Meara, the village wise-woman, later joins them. Gleeman Thom Merrilin also travels with the group. The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to reach the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon. Thereafter the protagonists are frequently split into different groups and pursue different missions toward the cause of the Dragon Reborn, sometimes thousands of miles apart. As they struggle to unite the various kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to lose their autonomy; by the zealots styling themselves 'the Children of the Light', who do not believe in the prophecies; and by the Seanchan, the descendants of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire. The Aes Sedai also become divided on how to deal with the Dragon Reborn.
As the story expands, new characters representing different factions are introduced.
Deriving its name from that of Armageddon (Har-Magedon) in Christian eschatology, Tarmon Gai'don is the apocalyptic battle wherein the Dragon Reborn opposes Shai'tan, while their followers fight elsewhere. Events and portents that foreshadow the Last Battle take place in Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm. The Last Battle takes place in A Memory of Light.
Some men and women in the story have the natural ability to access a form of magic called the One Power; through a process called channeling. The One Power consists of male and female halves called saidin (accessible by men) and saidar (accessible by women). The One Power is further divided into the 'Five Powers': Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit. In addition to granting access to the One Power, the ability to channel greatly extends longevity and masks the effects of aging. Channeling itself is described as a euphoric, drug-like experience of life involving the enhancement of all senses, making ordinary life seem dull and grey. A contrary power, dubbed the True Power, is associated with Shai'tan.
Channelers can direct the Power toward a desired purpose by creating one or more "flows" of the One Power and constructing "weaves" of these flows. An individual flow can only consist of one of the Five Powers, but a weave can combine any number of flows from any of the five. Flows can be of varying sizes, with larger flows involving greater strength. Channelers, especially novices, are very careful to control the amount of the One Power they draw into their flows. Drawing too much can be fatal, or can "burn out" the channeler, severing their ability to access the One Power forever. Channelers can sense the power in others, and feel when a channeler has "embraced" saidar or saidin. It is also possible to sense the strength of a fellow channeler - defined as the potential amount of the One Power the channeler can draw and successfully weave without burning out.
Flows and weaves are visible to fellow channelers but limited by the viewer's access to either saidin or saidar. This visibility allows channelers to learn how to construct specific weaves and access abilities merely by watching another channeler create the weave. While male and female channelers have access to many of the same abilities and end effects, the weaves and manner of their construction are often very different. The act of channeling saidin is apparently very different from saidar, whereas women describe surrendering themselves to the One Power and allowing it to flow through them, men insist that similar behavior would be suicidal. They describe channeling as a struggle for control that would result in their own destruction if they ever faltered.
In general, males have greater strength in the power than women, but multiple female channelers can combine their strength by forming 'circles', with one channeler controlling and directing the weaves. Circles consisting of only females are limited to thirteen members, while inclusion of male channelers allows the circle to grow to up to seventy-two members. Circles must always hold at least one more female than male, with a minimum of 1 man for every 12 women. As men tend to be much stronger in the power than women, the strongest circles consist of a near equal balance between the genders.
Artifacts can be constructed with the use of the One Power. Collectively known as angreal, they are divided into three types: angreal, sa'angreal and ter'angreal. Ter'angreal are distinguished by their use towards a specific effect or purpose, while angreal and sa'angreal (both names deriving from 'San Greal';–– itself often translated 'Holy Grail') simply magnify a user's inherent ability. Whereas angreal and sa'angreal can only be used by those with the ability to channel, some ter'angreal can be used by non-channelers - although many require channeling to activate. Often, sa'angreal are limited to users of either saidin or saidar. Cuendillar, the strongest substance in existence, is created through use of the One Power and is generally regarded as indestructible - even through use of the Power. Many, but not all, angreal are constructed of cuendillar. Similarly, not all items made of cuendillar are angreal. Some angreal and sa'angreal, such as Callandor are known to be capable of amplifying the True Power as well.
In the Age of Legends (approximately three thousand years before the first book takes place), both male and female channelers were collectively known as Aes Sedai and used the One Power together to great effect. At some point, the male half of the One Power (saidin) was corrupted by Shai'tan (aka the Dark Lord, the Dark One). Through continued exposure to this taint, male channelers go insane and ultimately die. The Breaking of the World, marking the end of the Age of Legends (a time of great upheaval and strife including physical disruption of the geography of the world) was instigated by male channelers driven mad by Shai'tan's curse. Since that time, strength in the Power has generally lessened, and knowledge of weaves and abilities - including the ability to create angreal and cuendillar - have been lost.
At the time of the first book, fear of another Breaking of the World and the dangers posed by saidin's corruption are so great that - while increasingly rare - male channelers are now a source of nightmares and terror to most people. The original symbol of the Aes Sedai - a circle separated into black and white halves by a sinuous line symbolizing both halves of the One Power - has been replaced by the Flame of Tar Valon, consisting only of the white half of the original symbol. The male half of the symbol, known as the dragon's fang, is used as a symbol of evil and a curse - often carved onto the doors of those accused of conspiring with the Dark Lord (known as Darkfriends). The term Aes Sedai – used as a name, title and honorific – refers almost exclusively to female channelers, most often specifically referring to members of an exclusive society headquartered in the White Tower in Tar Valon. Divided into several factions identified by color, known as Ajahs, the Aes Sedai present a unified face to the world but often experience great internal conflict. They refer to each other as "sisters" but maintain a rigid hierarchy of authority determined by custom and strength in the One Power.
The modern Aes Sedai operate as self-appointed guardians of the One Power and are often viewed as above local and national politics. They view themselves as the rightful owners of all angreal and arbiters of anything to do with the One Power. They operate as advisers to kings and queens and are shown deference by most. Some nations, however, have banned channeling and view Aes Sedai as suspect, if not outright evil. Aes Sedai search the world for the inherent ability to channel and bring any they find to the Tower. Untrained channelers can be a danger to themselves and others, often resulting in accidental deaths. Channelers of a certain age that have survived without Tower training are often derisively referred to as wilders by Aes Sedai. Wilders often experience blocks; and inability to access the One Power except through specific rituals or in specific situations. In many instances these wilders have no idea they are channeling or accessing the One Power at all. With training and time, blocks can often be overcome and the wilder can channel at will. Foreign lands outside the Aes Sedai's pervue often handle channeling and channelers quite differently from Aes Sedai custom and tend to distrust their assumed authority. Aes Sedai consider them wilders as well, and not entirely without reason. Most foreign channeling traditions have more specific and more limited understanding of the One Power than do Aes Sedai. Additionally, most of these traditions trace their origins back to offshoots of the original Aes Sedai split off after the Breaking of the World. The Aes Sedai, however, can trace their history well back within the Age of Legends.
One Ajah, the Red, is devoted to hunting down any and all male channelers and stripping them of their abilities (known as gentling). Removing a female's ability to access the One Power is known as stilling. The greatest form of White Tower punishment, Aes Sedai avoid even looking at the stilled as the mere idea of being separated from the One Power (the source of their elite status, as well as the experience of channeling) is so distasteful. Those who have been stilled, gentled or "burned out" experience deep depression and most often eventually die, wasting away in apathy.
Thirteen evil channelers committed themselves to Shai'tan during the Age of Legends. They were sealed in eternal prisons along with the Dark Lord. Although they have been alive for 3000 years they are not immortal. Their prolongued life is because the prison is outside time and they did not age for 3000 years. Now known as the Forsaken, they are extremely strong in the One Power and retain knowledge lost to the Age of Legends. Subsequently, they are formidable creatures, viewing most modern Aes Sedai as laughably weak. In competition with each for the Dark One's favor, the Forsaken distrust and fight each other as much as anyone else. The Forsaken refer to themselves as the Chosen. Though there may have been more in the Age of Legends, these are the only known Forsaken in this Age: Ishamael/Moridin, Lanfear/Cyndane, Moghedien, Graendal, Mesaana, Aginor/Osan'gar, Asmodean, Balthamel/Aran'gar, Be'lal, Rahvin, Sammael, Semirhage, Demandred, M'Hael (recent).
Not all powers in the Wheel of Time are related to the One Power or the ability to channel. Some are possessed with the ability to interpret dreams or use them to predict the future (known as Dreaming). Others can predict the future through waking visions or inspired knowledge (Foretelling). Some perceive auras with symbolic value, while others can communicate with animals in a telepathic manner.
A parallel world known as Tel'aran'rhiod or the World of Dreams is accessible via channeling (a forbidden and dangerous practice known as being there "in the flesh") while others can visit the world in their sleep (known as Dreamwalking). A reflection of the waking world, Tel'aran'rhiod can be used to access knowledge about the state of the world, but can also be manipulated by the will of those present. Time, matter and space have little meaning within Tel'aran'rhiod, allowing visitors to "dream" themselves to any location and take on any form, but actions occurring within the World of Dreams can have effect on their real world counterparts - including the injury or death of Dreamwalkers. Another dream ability involves accessing a dimension between dreams, allowing one to access individuals' private dreams. While similar to the rules governing Tel'aran'rhiod, visitors are much weaker and can become bound within the control of the person whose dream they inhabit. Unlike the World of Dreams, however, the effects of the dream are confined to the dream itself and end upon the dreamer's waking.
Books in the series
|#||Title||Paperback Pages||Hardback Pages||Chapters||Words||Audio||1st Publication||Notes|
|0.||New Spring||334||334||26||122,150||12h 31m||6 January 2004||Prequel set 20 years before the events of the first novel.|
|1.||The Eye of the World||782||702||53||305,902||29h 32m||15 January 1990|
|2.||The Great Hunt||681||599||50||267,078||26h 08m||15 November 1990|
|3.||The Dragon Reborn||675||545||56||251,392||24h 31m||15 October 1991|
|4.||The Shadow Rising||981||891||58||393,823||40h 31m||15 September 1992|
|5.||The Fires of Heaven||963||684||56||354,109||36h 34m||15 October 1993|
|6.||Lord of Chaos||987||699||55||389,823||41h 37m||15 October 1994||Locus Award nominee, 1995.|
|7.||A Crown of Swords||856||635||41||295,028||30h 31m||15 May 1996|
|8.||The Path of Daggers||672||591||31||226,687||23h 31m||20 October 1998|
|9.||Winter's Heart||766||533||35||238,789||24h 18m||7 November 2000||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook in September 2000.|
|10.||Crossroads of Twilight||822||681||30||271,632||26h 03m||7 January 2003||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook on July 17, 2002.|
|11.||Knife of Dreams||837||761||37||315,163||32h 24m||11 October 2005||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook on July 22, 2005.
Final novel completed by Robert Jordan.
|12.||The Gathering Storm||766||766||50||297,502||33h 02m||27 October 2009||Completed by Brandon Sanderson.|
|13.||Towers of Midnight||864||843||57||327,052||38h 17m||2 November 2010||Completed by Brandon Sanderson.|
|14.||A Memory of Light||912||909||49||353,906||41h 55m||8 January 2013||Completed by Brandon Sanderson, epilogue by Robert Jordan.|
|Totals:||11,916||10,173||684||4,410,036||461h 25m (19 days, 5 hrs, 25min)||22 years, 11 months, 24 days (January 1990 - 2013)|
There is also a prequel novella, New Spring in the Legends anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. Jordan expanded this into the standalone novel New Spring that was published in January 2004. Prior to his death, Jordan planned another two prequel novels and up to three "outrigger" novels taking place during or after the main series. He had only minimal notes prepared for these, and after the release of A Memory of Light it was ruled out that Brandon Sanderson or any other author will expand them into full novels.
In 2002 the first book, The Eye of the World, was repackaged as two volumes with new illustrations for younger readers: From the Two Rivers, including an extra chapter (Ravens) before the existing prologue, and To the Blight with an expanded glossary. In 2004 the same was done with The Great Hunt, with the two parts being The Hunt Begins and New Threads in the Pattern.
On several occasions, chapters from various books in the series were released several months in advance of publication. These were released in eBook format as promotional tools for the then-upcoming release.
To date, the prologue eBook releases have included:
- Snow: The Prologue to Winter's Heart (September 2000)
- Glimmers: The Prologue to Crossroads of Twilight (July 17, 2002)
- Embers Falling on Dry Grass: The Prologue to Knife of Dreams (July 22, 2005).
- What the Storm Means: The Prologue to The Gathering Storm (September 17, 2009).
- Distinctions: The Prologue to Towers of Midnight (Tuesday September 21, 2010).
- Chapter 1 of Towers of Midnight, Apples First, was released on Friday October 1, 2010 on Tor.com for free.
- Chapter 2 of Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership was released in Audio form on Tuesday October 19, 2010 on Tor for free.
- Chapter 8 of Towers of Midnight, The Seven-Striped Lass (on September 16, 2010, Chapter 8, The Seven-Striped Lass, was revealed as part of The Great Hunt scavenger hunt setup by Brandon on his website beginning August 30, 2010 in relation to his new book The Way of Kings.)
- By Grace And Banners Fallen: The Prologue to A Memory Of Light (Wednesday September 19, 2012).
Tor Books published a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, in November 1997, which contains much hitherto unrevealed background information about the series including the first maps of the entire world and the Seanchan home continent. Jordan co-authord the book with Teresa Patterson. Jordan ruled the book broadly canonical but stated that it was written from the perspective of an historian within The Wheel of Time universe and was prone to errors of bias and guesswork.
Jordan also wrote a short story, “The Strike at Shayol Ghul”, which predates the main series by several thousand years. It was made available on the Internet and was later published in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.
Deleted portions for a specific character from Memory of Light were published as a short story, under the title “River of Souls” in Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy (Spring 2013).
Writing and conception
In the early 1980s Robert Jordan wrote several Conan the Barbarian novels for Tor Books, including a novelization of the movie Conan the Destroyer. These proved successful and in 1984 he proposed an idea for an epic fantasy series of three books to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books. Doherty approved the idea; however, knowing that Jordan had a tendency to go long, put Jordan on contract for six books just in case. Jordan began writing the novel that became The Eye of the World.
The novel proved extremely difficult to write and characters and storylines changed considerably during the writing process . The series was originally centered on an older man who discovered relatively late in life that he was the 'chosen one' who had to save the world . However, Jordan deliberately decided to move closer to the tone and style of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and made the characters younger and less experienced. Once this decision had been made, writing proceeded much more easily and Jordan completed the second volume, The Great Hunt, at roughly the same time the first book was published.
Tom Doherty enjoyed The Eye of the World so much that he declared it would be the biggest fantasy series since Tolkien , and took the unprecedented steps of sending free review copies to every bookstore in the United States to generate interest . The combined hardcover and trade paperback run of the novel sold out of its initial 40,000-strong print run. Sales then doubled with the publication of the second novel just eight months later generating more interest in the first book.
Jordan wrote full-time at breakneck speed for the next several years until he completed the seventh volume, A Crown of Swords, at which point he slowed down, delivering a book every two years. Fans objected when he took some time off to expand a short story into a prequel novel called New Spring, so he decided to shelve his plans for additional prequels in favor of finishing off the last two volumes in the series. He rejected criticisms of the later volumes of the series slowing down in pace in order to concentrate on minor secondary characters at the expense of the main characters from the opening volumes, but acknowledged that his structure for the tenth volume, Crossroads of Twilight (where he showed a major scene from the prior book, Winter's Heart, from the perspective of the main characters that were not involved in the scene), had not worked out as he had planned. Knife of Dreams, the eleventh volume, had a much more positive reception from critics and fans alike and Jordan announced the twelfth volume, which he had previously announced would have the working title A Memory of Light, would conclude the series.
Author's death and final books
Jordan had stated that the main sequence would conclude with the twelfth book, A Memory of Light. According to Forbes, Jordan had intended for it to be the final book "even if it reaches 2,000 pages."
Jordan was diagnosed with the terminal heart disease primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy in December 2005, and while he intended to finish at least A Memory of Light even if the "worse comes to worst," he made preparations in case he was not able to complete the book: "I'm getting out notes, so if the worst actually happens, someone could finish A Memory of Light and have it end the way I want it to end."
With Jordan's death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On December 7 of that year the publisher Tor Books announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was to finish A Memory of Light. Sanderson, a long time fan of the series, was chosen by Jordan's widow Harriet McDougal partly because she liked Sanderson's novels and partly because of a eulogy he had written for Jordan.
On 30 March 2009 Tor Books announced that A Memory of Light would be split into three volumes, with Brandon Sanderson citing timing and continuity reasons. The first volume, The Gathering Storm, was released on October 27, 2009. The second, Towers of Midnight, was published on November 2, 2010. The final book of the series uses Jordan's original title, A Memory of Light. The book was published on January 8, 2013.
Dabel Brothers are adapting the series as comics, beginning with the prequel New Spring. The first issue was published, by Red Eagle Entertainment, in July 2005. The series was suspended after 5 of a planned 8 issues, with Red Eagle citing delays and changes to the creative team on the DB Pro end. That series resumed in 2009, and they also began publishing their adaptation of the first book of the series proper, The Eye of the World. On 17 March 2009 they showcased ten pages of art from the prelude to the series "The Wheel of Time: Eye of the World #0 - Dragonmount" on their website.
Various game adaptations have been created.
A Wheel of Time computer game was released in 1999. Over the course of the game, a lone Aes Sedai must track down a robber following an assault on the White Tower, and prevent the Dark One from being released prematurely. She eventually learns of and executes a long-forgotten ritual at Shayol Ghul to ensure the Dark Lord remains sealed within the prison. While Robert Jordan was consulted in the creation of the game, he did not write the storyline himself and the game is not considered canon.
The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game was released in 2001 from Wizards of the Coast using the d20 rules developed for the third edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. The game had a single adventure module published in 2002, Prophecies of the Dragon. Shortly after the release of the adventure book Wizards of the Coast announced they would not be releasing any further products for the game. Robert Jordan cited some problems with the roleplaying game, such as storyline details in the adventure module which contradicted the books.
In early 2009 EA Games announced that they have bought the rights for a game from Red Eagle Entertainment, who had started programming it a few months earlier. It is planned to be published through the EA Partners-Program. Several titles seem to be in the works, and one is said to be an MMORPG. No other information is available about the other titles at this time. Screenwriter Chris Morgan was recently hired by Red Eagle to work on this license.
On February 12, 2010 it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment, developers of Neverwinter Nights 2, would be working with Red Eagle Games on the new Wheel of Time video game under the EA Partners-Program. This game will be released on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. There is no information at this time as to whether or not it will be one or a series of games.
Swedish heavy metal band Katana has a song entitled "The Wisdom of Emond´s Field" on their 2012 album Storms of War.
In the tradition of the literature-inspired symphonic poem, American composer Seth Stewart produced a full-scale orchestral work entitled "Age of Legends", inspired by the eponymous era of myth and magic described throughout The Wheel of Time series. The orchestral piece was premiered and recorded in 2011 at historic Beall Concert Hall.
Television and film
In a 2000 chat on CNN.com, Robert Jordan mentioned that NBC had purchased an option to do a miniseries of The Eye of the World. But he expressed doubts that the series would be made stating "key people involved in getting that contract together have left NBC."
On 12 August 2008, Variety reported that Universal Pictures had optioned the rights to produce feature film adaptations of The Wheel of Time books. They plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first film.
Many fans of The Wheel of Time attend Dragon Con, which had an exclusive Wheel of Time content track from 2001 through 2012. The Wheel of Time now has its own annual convention, JordanCon, which has been held annually in Atlanta, GA since 2009.
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- "Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time" "Welcome to Dragon*Con!", accessed December 18, 2010
- "Wheel of Time Fan Track" "DragonCon.org"
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