SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME, BOOKS TWO THROUGH FOUR, AHEAD!
Did you know that JordanCon is a thing? Founded in 2009 to honor the life and legacy of fantasy author Robert Jordan, the convention has been held in the state of Georgia every year since (except for 2020, but as many appear to have forgotten, there was a global pandemic that year). Fans of The Wheel Of Time, the fourteen-volume fantasy series started by Jordan in 1990 and posthumously completed by Brandon Sanderson in 2013, flock to the convention in the hundreds to discuss the series with other fans and to attend lectures and panels by Jordan scholars on subjects ranging from the themes of his work to the Wheel Of Time adaptation which recently premiered on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.
Notable guests and speakers at JordanCon have included Jordan’s successor Brandon Sanderson, widow and editor Harriet McDougal, illustrator Michael Whelan, and a number of Jordan’s peers and proteges, including Patrick Rothfuss and Saladin Ahmed. But this year, excitement was through the roof, as the cast and crew of Amazon Prime’s The Wheel Of Time hosted a hotly-anticipated Q&A panel to talk about the high points of season one – and the direction of the series going forward.
The biggest announcement, which trended on Twitter for a while and received attention from mainstream media outlets, was the casting of Killing Eve‘s Ayoola Smart as Aviendha of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel. You can immediately tell which professional journalists covering this story didn’t read the books or do any research into the books by skimming through their eerily similar descriptions of Aviendha. If they refer to her by a certain title she doesn’t actually acquire until book twelve, you can bet your bottom dollar they just copied-and-pasted the very first Google search result for Aviendha into their articles without worrying about how much of her character development they were unintentionally spoiling for new readers.
When we first meet her in The Dragon Reborn, three books into the series, Aviendha is merely one of many Aiel warriors sent over the Spine of the World to find Rand al’Thor and inform him that he is the Car’a’carn, a prophesied “chief of chiefs” who is supposed to unite the scattered clans of the Aiel and lead them into a new age (what Rand himself wants is as irrelevant to the Aiel as it was to the Aes Sedai). Aviendha follows Rand to the city of Tear, where she and the Aiel joins forces with Rand’s army to help him defeat Be’lal, one of the thirteen Forsaken, and recover the legendary sword Callandor from the Stone of Tear so that Rand can complete a totally unrelated prophecy.
As inspiring as Jordan’s description of this battle is, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a live-action adaptation just yet. The second season of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time is expected to condense the events of The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn into roughly eight hour-long episodes, which means that at least one of those seven-hundred page novels is inevitably going to be prioritized while the other is only mined for its important character introductions and necessary story beats. And showrunner Rafe Judkins has done what I think any writer would do in that situation, prioritizing The Great Hunt over The Dragon Reborn. It has a clean and cohesive narrative, excellent character development, and an aerial battle over the city of Falme.
Judkins excitedly confirmed at the JordanCon presentation that The Wheel Of Time will be heading to Falme in season two, so we can probably rule out the possibility of the characters visiting Tear in the same season – unless by some miracle there’s enough time, space, and money left over to justify building sets for a second massive fictional city, populating it with extras and designing new costumes for all of them, choreographing a second elaborate city-wide battle, etc. Keep in mind that season one could only afford three main locations, leading to the characters and cameras bypassing the cities of Baerlon and Caemlyn entirely. Expect similar situations going forward.
That’s not to say that a lot can’t still be done on a $80M+ budget, and honestly the bigger problem is Amazon’s refusal to order the ten or twelve episode seasons we deserve from a show of this sprawling scope, but I’m getting off-topic now. To sum up everything that we’ve learned; we’re going to Falme in season two, not to Tear, but Aviendha has also been cast, which probably just means that she and the other Aiel will be involved in the battle of Falme rather than the siege of the Stone of Tear (curiously, that also means the Aiel scouts in the show will have traveled over two-thousand miles further west than the Aiel scouts in the books).
Without spoiling too much of book four, The Shadow Rising, I’ll just say that Aviendha plays a major role in the story going forward, and that despite her humble beginnings she quickly becomes a power player on the same level as Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara, with abilities beyond just her physical strength and prowess in combat that come to light gradually. I’m very excited to see her character come to life onscreen, and I trust Ayoola Smart to do a fabulous job.
What do you think of the casting? Was Aviendha one of your favorite characters in the books, and if so, how do you hope to see her adapted for Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!