The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time
The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is a reference book for the bestselling The Wheel of Time epic fantasy series of novels by Robert Jordan. It is published in the United States by Tor Books and in the United Kingdom by Orbit Books. The bulk of the text was written by Teresa Patterson based on notes and information provided by Robert Jordan, with Jordan also serving as overall editor on the project.
Whilst the information in the guide is broadly canonical, the book is deliberately written with vague, biased or even downright false (or guessed) information in places, as Patterson felt this would reflect a key theme of the series (the mutability of knowledge across time and distance).
The book has been printed in several formats. The original release on 6 November 1997 was a large-format hardback with a predominantly white cover. This led to the book being dubbed 'The Big White Book' by fans. Some additional fans, citing poor quality of the internal illustrations, have dubbed the volume "The Big Book With Bad Art". This edition of the book runs to 304 pages. The book was reprinted in a slightly different edition of the same size a year later. This edition has a different cover (a map of the Westlands) and the gallery has been expanded to include the cover of the eighth novel, The Path of Daggers, which was released at the same time. A large-format paperback edition followed in November 1999. On 6 June 2002 Orbit re-released the book as a 461-page mass-market paperback, stripped of all illustrations apart from the maps. This is the 'current' UK edition.
The book is an attempt to fill in the enormous backstory of the Wheel of Time novels and also serves as 'guidebook' to the world presented in the books. The original large-editions of the book were presented with full-colour art by Todd Cameron Hamilton and includes maps by Ellisa Mitchell, John M. Ford and Thomas Canty. The covers of the novels, painted by Darrell K. Sweet, were also included. The mass-market paperback editions only includes the Mitchell, Ford and Canty maps however. The original artwork by Hamilton was fiercely criticised on release.
The book consists of six sections, outlined as follows:
- The Wheel and the Power: a description and explanation of the Wheel of Time, the True Source and the One Power, the relationships between the three and how they are tapped and used.
- The Age of Legends: a historical overview of the Age of Legends, the War of the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. Includes biographies and character studies of the thirteen Forsaken and information on the Friends of the Dark and Shadowspawn.
- The World Since the Breaking: a historical overview of events since the Breaking, including the founding of the White Tower and the rise of the Ten Nations, the Trolloc Wars, the rise of Artur Hawkwing in the War of the Second Dragon, the colonisation of Seanchan, the War of the Hundred Years, the start of the New Era, the Whitecloak War and the Aiel War.
- Narrative Paintings: the cover artwork for the first seven (expanded to eight in later editions) novels in the series. This section is missing from mass-market paperback editions of the book.
- The World of the Wheel: a gazetteer to the world of the novels, including information on Shara, Seanchan, the Aiel Waste, the Land of the Madmen and the Ogier. A map of the whole world is shown, along with a more detailed map of Shara and the Aiel Waste, and another of the Seanchan home continent. Information on history, customs and the Seanchan exotic animals is also included.
- Within the Land: focuses on the fourteen nations and the major city-states that make up the main continent shown in the books, featuring information on holidays, prophecies, military forces, governments, trade and the influence of the Aes Sedai.