How Amazon’s ‘Wheel of Time’ is different from the books

A 100% faithful adaptation of The Wheel of Time was never going to be possible. Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series spans 14 books — 15 if you count the prequel — totaling over 4 million words. That’s simply too much material to fit into a TV show. Understandably, Amazon Prime Video’s version of The Wheel of Time cuts a great deal from its source material. 

This first season mostly draws from the first book in the series, The Eye of the World. However, showrunner Rafe Judkins confirmed that this first season will also be covering elements of the second and third books, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn

Despite a significant number of changes, the story of The Wheel of Time remains the same at its core. Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the powerful all-female Aes Sedai order, embarks on a massive journey with five young men and women, any of whom could be the powerful Dragon Reborn prophesied to either save the world or destroy it. There’s a bit more to it than that. So, be sure to check out our handy-dandy Wheel of Time guide to get your full bearings.

Here are the biggest changes The Wheel of Time has made from the books so far. The following contains massive spoilers for the books and the show, so consider yourselves warned.

The Dragon Reborn

Episode 1, “Leavetaking,” opens with a bit of voice-over that immediately changes something about the central figure of the Dragon Reborn. Moiraine reveals that the Dragon — originally a man named Lews Therin Telamon — has been reincarnated, but no one knows whether he has been reborn as a man or a woman. In the books, there is no uncertainty: the Dragon is (rightly) assumed to be a man. 

I doubt The Wheel of Time will change the identity of the Dragon, as that would have massive repercussions down the line. All this deviation from the book does is broaden the mystery of who the Dragon could be by adding women like Egwene (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) into the mix — something that I’m not at all mad about.

Different Perspectives

A lovely scene we didn’t get in the books.
Credit: Jan Thijs

Most of The Eye of the World is told from the perspective of sheepherder Rand (Josha Stradowski), making it pretty obvious that he’s the Main Character (aka the Dragon). To keep us guessing, The Wheel of Time positions Moiraine as our lead, at least for the first few episodes. This choice allows us to understand the stakes of her quest a bit better.

By not solely focusing on Rand, we also get to learn more about other characters’ lives in the Two Rivers. We see Egwene’s induction into the Women’s Circle, an addition that Rand would not have been able to narrate. We also get glimpses of Mat’s (Barney Harris) troubled home life and Perrin’s (Marcus Rutherford) relationship with his wife. Speaking of…

Perrin is married?

Yes, but not for long! Perrin’s wife Laila (Helena Westerman) is a new character, who quickly becomes a new corpse in one of the show’s most unnecessary page-to-screen changes. When we first meet Laila, it’s clear that her marriage to Perrin is strained. However, before we can learn any more information or even get a smidge of resolution, Perrin accidentally kills her when the Trollocs attack. Her death is a classic example of “fridging,” when a character — most of the time a woman — exists solely to die or suffer in order to further the emotional arc of a more central character. It’s a cheap tactic that could easily have been avoided. Perrin could have had a strong emotional response to literally anything else, like, I don’t know, his home being burned? Or Nynaeve being kidnapped?

Nynaeve being what now?

Don’t worry, Nynaeve is fine. She was just carried off by a Trolloc, leading everyone to believe she’s dead. In the books, she survives the attack without being kidnapped, but she doesn’t leave the Two Rivers with the rest of the group. She chases after them later, believing them to be in danger from Moiraine and reuniting with them in Baerlon. That’s a little harder for her to do in the show because…

Bye bye, Baerlon

The first of many stops on our group’s journey to Tar Valon, Baerlon has been completely removed from The Wheel of Time. Since so much of The Eye of the World is just the group walking from place to place, it makes sense that some of those places got cut. However, we’re missing some key encounters as a result, like the aforementioned Nynaeve reunion. Plus, the role of the shady Padan Fain (Johann Myers) seems to have cut down to just one appearance (so far). We also lose out on meeting Min, whose uncanny ability to read people’s auras gives big hints about who the Dragon is. We’re sure to see Min at some point, though, given that Kae Alexander has been cast in the role.

Mordeth and Mashadar

Mat picks up a ruby-hilted dagger in Shadar Logoth

Put that dagger down Mat!
Credit: Jan Thijs

The Shadar Logoth sequence in episode 2, “Shadow’s Waiting,” plays out a bit differently in the show than it does in the books, but the main beats remain the same. We learn the history of the abandoned city. Mat steals a ruby-hilted dagger, and the shadowy entity known as Mashadar separates the group as they escape. In The Eye of the World, we get the added step of Mat, Rand, and Perrin meeting a mysterious man named Mordeth, who tries to get them to move some treasure for him. He later attacks them, only backing off when he realizes Mat has taken the dagger.

Thom Merrilin

We meet mysterious gleeman Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume) in The Wheel of Time‘s third episode, “A Place of Safety.” Jordan introduces Thom much earlier on in The Eye of the World. He arrives in the Two Rivers as entertainment for the Bel Tine festival and accompanies the group when they leave after the attack. He also advises Rand, Mat, and Perrin to hide their mysterious dreams from Moiraine. When the group splits up in Shadar Logoth, he escapes with Rand and Mat. So, introducing him now still means we could see how this trio interacts with each other. It also means that we had one less character to worry about remembering in the early episodes. Now that we’re more familiar with our seven leads, we can devote some time to getting to know the supporting cast.

A new Darkfriend

Episode 3, “A Place of Safety,” sees Rand and Mat threatened by a Darkfriend, a human who has been influenced by the Dark One. This Darkfriend is Dana (Izuka Hoyle) — not to be confused with Dena, Thom’s lover from the books. She’s a completely new character. But the run-in has roots in The Eye of the World, where Mat and Rand encounter Darkfriends like merchant Howal Gode on their journey.

Meeting the Tuatha’an

Wolves follow Perrin and Egwene after Shadar Logoth, chasing them all the way until they come across the nomadic Tuatha’an people. While this meeting occurs in The Eye of the World, it comes after Perrin and Egwene spend time with a character named Elyas. Elyas is a wolfbrother who teaches Perrin about his own connection with wolves. The Wheel of Time is clearly foreshadowing Perrin’s own wolfbrother storyline. But since casting for Elyas has not been confirmed yet, it looks like he will not be a part of it.

Liandrin and Logain

Liandrin and the Red Ajah

The Red Ajah is here, and they’re out for blood.
Credit: Jan Thijs

In The Wheel of Time‘s third episode, Moiraine, Nynaeve, and Lan (Daniel Henney) cross paths with Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood), an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, and Logain (Álvaro Morte), an imprisoned man claiming to be the Dragon Reborn.

Liandrin isn’t introduced until The Wheel of Time‘s second book, The Great Hunt, meaning this whole scene is new material. However, parts of it are based on events that happen in The Eye of the World. The Aes Sedai do imprison Logain and bring him to the city of Caemlyn, but we never see the actual imprisonment or journey to Caemlyn ourselves. One of the many advantages of adapting The Wheel of Time is that we get to experience battles and scenes that happen off the page — like Logain’s experience with the Aes Sedai — for the first time.

The war in Ghealdan

The Wheel of Time‘s fourth episode, “The Dragon Reborn,” opens with a flashback of Logain attacking — and then joining forces with — the King of Ghealdan (Miguel Alvarez). In The Eye of the World, the war in Ghealdan is something we only hear about in passing, and Ghealdan’s king Johanin actually strips Logain of his nobility instead of joining up with him. This change from page to screen ends up being particularly effective. We see Logain’s channeling of the One Power in action and can understand how some may find his cause appealing.

Some new Aes Sedai

Aside from Liandrin, Moiraine reunites with two other prominent Aes Sedai: Kerene (Clare Perkins) and Alanna (Priyanka Bose). Both are members of the Green Ajah, also known as the Battle Ajah. Neither shows up in The Eye of the World. Kerene is a character in the Wheel of Time prequel New Spring; she dies while searching for the Dragon Reborn. Alanna also features in New Spring, as well as The Great Hunt and the rest of The Wheel of Time.

Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve spend much of The Eye of the World searching for their lost companions, but the shift in the storyline to incorporate Logain and other Aes Sedai is a smart move. It allows us to learn more about the different kinds of Aes Sedai as well as the conflicts between the Ajahs. The change is different enough from the source material that book readers will be pleasantly surprised. Yet it uses familiar characters, so these new scenes don’t feel completely removed from Jordan’s world.

Where’s Whitebridge?

Just like with the group’s quick stay in Baerlon, Rand, Mat, and Thom’s time in Whitebridge (and their prior journey with sailors on the Spray) is cut from The Wheel of Time. Although we miss out on seeing the town’s very cool namesake White Bridge, the loss of this stage in the journey doesn’t change much story-wise. That’s because The Wheel of Time still includes one of the most important Whitebridge events. The only thing that changes is the context.

A Fade walks into a barn…

In The Eye of the World, a Fade hunts Mat, Rand, and Thom down in Whitebridge. Thom battles it and urges the boys to leave him behind and run. On the road from Whitebridge to Caemlyn, they stay at a variety of inns and farms, one of them belonging to the Grinwell family, who kindly offer them lodging. The show takes these events and twists them in a different direction. Instead of the Fade appearing at Whitebridge, it appears at the Grinwells’ farm and massacres the family. The rest of the encounter plays out how it does in the book, with Thom fighting the Fade and telling the boys to run. 

Whereas the addition of Laila’s death felt unnecessary, the Grinwells’ newly tragic fate is key to the story. Here, the brutality of the Fade’s attack is horrific, emphasizing the danger Rand and Mat are in and the extent of the Dark One’s evil. The massacre also forces Mat to doubt himself. Did he kill the Grinwells with his mysterious dagger? Is he the Dragon Reborn, doomed to go mad and destroy the world?

The Aes Sedai vs. Logain

Logain in a cage.

The False Dragon is ANGRY.
Credit: Jan Thijs

Much of Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve’s storyline has been altered from the books. Still, the Aes Sedai’s battle against Logain’s army deserves a special mention. This fight is a new addition to The Wheel of Time, but it helps flesh out the Aes Sedai’s powers and their relationship with their Warders. It also results in Logain being gentled. In the books, that doesn’t happen until he reaches Tar Valon.

Another big change is Nynaeve healing all the wounded Aes Sedai and Warders, including a nearly-dead Lan. Nynaeve is a highly powerful Channeler, but her power doesn’t manifest itself this strongly or this early on in the books. Her massive blast of magic in the show not only works as a misdirect about the identity of the Dragon Reborn but also is just a great new moment to showcase how strong she is — and to hint at her emotional connection to Lan.

We’ll update this post as more episodes of The Wheel of Time stream on Amazon Prime Video and potentially deviate from Jordan’s books even more. 

The Wheel of Time is now streaming on Amazon Prime with new episodes every week.

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