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Origins of The Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston – A Review & Guide!

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If you’ve ever wondered about Rand al’Thor’s origins and where the name Aes Sedai came from or wanted to know more about the man behind the epic, you need Origins of The Wheel of Time. This detailed companion book explores the secrets of Robert Jordan’s world, revealing the real-world and mythological legends that inspired the novels and providing a moving biography of the author himself.

Let me guide you through the contents of this latest release, share my thoughts on Michael Livingston’s work, and lead you to retailers stocking this vital addition to your collection. Your knowledge of this realm is about to expand enormously!

Michael Livingston, Origins of The Wheel of Time
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Origins of The Wheel of Time Review

Still relatively warm from the printing press, Origins of The Wheel of Time exudes a sense of respect for Robert Jordan’s world and carries the genuine warmth of a labor of love. This makes it an essential read for enthusiasts of The Wheel of Time, offering a captivating look at Robert Jordan’s real-world inspirations and a touching biography of the man himself.

Origins of The Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan hardcover. Author: Michael Livingston.
Barnes & Noble

Michael Livingston’s access to Robert Jordan’s unpublished notes and Harriet McDougal’s support is apparent throughout. The attention to detail and thoughtful structuring elevate this from a simple glossary into an insightful and engaging analysis.

The true gem here is the first-ever published biography of Robert Jordan, taking us through his childhood, military service, literary triumph, and heartbreaking illness. It’s thoughtfully written, and the new photographs add a nostalgic touch.

The book’s second half is a fascinating glossary exploring the mythological and historical origins of characters, places, and plot points. Yes, even the mystery of Nakomi is revealed! While Min Farshaw’s absence from the glossary is disappointing, the volume still offers countless insights in a way few other sources can.

Some of the glossary entries are predictable (such as Trollocs drawing from “trolls” and “orcs”), but they’re presented within a reference chapter that both informs and surprises. The presentation can sometimes feel a little dry, but the wealth of knowledge is undeniable.

Though Livingston insists it’s not just a reference guide (we have the Companion for that!), you’ll undoubtedly find yourself returning to it frequently. For diehard fans, Origins of The Wheel of Time is an absolute must-have, expanding the world and offering fresh revelations.

Just be warned: spoilers for the entire series abound, so finish those novels first! This unique book is a welcome addition and a vital companion for any devoted fan.

Star Rating Review

For those who like a scoring system, here’s how I’ve rated Origins of the Wheel of Time:

Origins of The Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston

7.4 out of 10

Michael Livingston’s short but masterfully composed book triumphs because of its evident affection for Robert Jordan and the hugely popular series he created.

Initial Reaction
7.5 out of 10
The book holds plenty of alluring secrets, and there will be places you'll want to explore immediately. Nakomi, anyone?
7 out of 10
An essential guide to Robert Jordan's worldbuilding inspirations.
6.5 out of 10
This is a handy reference for exploring The Wheel of Time’s literary importance and influences more deeply.
8.5 out of 10
Michael Livingston has ordered his insights into an accessible glossary.

The Light

Includes a biography of Robert Jordan.

Written by a fan, for fans.

Concise and well-researched.

The Shadow

Some glossary entries are self-explanatory.

I expected a thicker book (with Min included!)

Limited imagery.

Top 5 Reasons You Need This Book

If you love The Wheel of Time, prepare to tunnel deeper than ever before! Origins of The Wheel of Time offers more than just mythology. It changes how you see the series. Here are the top 5 reasons you need this book:

A Foreword by Harriet McDougal

Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, provides a moving foreword to the book. She shares insights into her relationship with Michael Livingston, his valued role within the team during the Last Battle, and the firsthand knowledge she offered as both Robert Jordan’s wife and editor.

Harriet McDougal, Origins of The Wheel of Time

A Brand New The Wheel of Time World Map

Fantasy map enthusiasts, rejoice! Ellisa Mitchell’s new map offers a timely update, incorporating Robert Jordan’s unpublished notes and course-correcting prior versions. Expect changes to “The Mad Lands” (previously “Land of the Madmen”) and a broadened Seanchan continent. For more insights, check out Michael Livingston’s reflections on redrawing this iconic world.

An Alternate Scene from The Eye of the World

Michael Livingston reveals an alternate scene from the early drafts, offering a glimpse at a character ultimately cut from the final version. Intrigued? This deleted character actually appears on the book’s cover! Discover their identity within the pages of Origins of The Wheel of Time.

The Eye of the World cover art by Darrell K. Sweet. Moiraine on a white mare and Lan on his black stallion lead the Emond's Field youths on a journey at night.
The Eye of the World cover art by Darrell K. Sweet

8 Pages of Full Color Photos

Get a glimpse into Robert Jordan’s world with poignant photographs, including his final resting place, his collection of blades, his manuscripts, and even the real-life tree that inspired the legendary Avendesora!

The Nakomi Reveal

If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious Nakomi, prepare to have your questions answered… somewhat. Michael Livingston reveals her true identity, settling a long-standing fan debate (and proving some theorists right!) while keeping some of Nakomi’s mystique an ongoing enigma.

For those less familiar, Nakomi is a mysterious Aiel woman who encounters Aviendha in the Aiel Waste. Bair, a Wise One, reveals the name’s ancient origins but knows no one currently bearing it. She also appears to Rand, adding to the intrigue.

About Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston is a professor of medieval literature at The Citadel and serves as the Secretary-General of the United States Commission on Military History. His deep knowledge of history and mythology, along with his access to Robert Jordan’s notes and support from Harriet McDougal, make him uniquely suited to write about the world of The Wheel of Time.

Fun Fact: Michael Livingston was honored to write Origins of The Wheel of Time at Robert Jordan’s own desk and even received a few items from Jordan’s private collection as gifts from Harriet!

Michael Livingston has penned two trilogies. The Shards of Heaven is a historical fantasy set after Julius Caesar’s assassination. The Seaborn Cycle is a series of audiobooks and is a more typical fantasy with pirates, magick, and a reluctant hero named Bela—no prizes for guessing the origins of that name! He is also a writer of popular nonfiction books. You can find more details by visiting his website at

Robert Jordan’s Notes

Michael Livingston’s extensive access to Robert Jordan’s unpublished notes was instrumental in creating Origins of The Wheel of Time. These notes, now housed in The College of Charleston Special Collections, provide an unprecedented view into Robert Jordan’s creative process. Not only are there materials relating to The Wheel of Time, but notes on his early works and even the Conan novels offer insights for fans of his entire writing career.

While the entire collection may be overwhelming, Michael Livingston expertly distills these notes within Origins of the Wheel of Time, focusing on the author’s development of the world, characters, and overarching themes of the beloved series.

Michael Livingston’s “Letter to Readers”

Origins of The Wheel of Time opens with a heartfelt “Letter to Readers” penned by Michael Livingston. It reflects on his journey as a Wheel of Time fan, his deep respect for Robert Jordan’s creation, and his profound experience crafting this companion guide.

You can listen to Michael Livingston’s reading of this letter below:

Note: The full letter is included in the print version of the book. The audiobook consists of this recording and offers more added treats, with narrations by Rosamund Pike, Harriet McDougal, Kate Reading, and Michael Kramer.

Where to Buy Origins of The Wheel of Time

Whether you crave the feel of a book in hand, the convenience of an e-reader, or the immersive experience of an audiobook, there’s a way to enjoy Origins of The Wheel of Time. Here’s where to find your copy in the format you desire:


Origins of the Wheel of Time is available in a stunning hardcover edition with cover art by Larry Rostant and Matthew C. Nielsen. Immerse yourself in the world of The Wheel of Time with this beautifully crafted collector’s item.

Origins of The Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan hardcover. Author: Michael Livingston
Barnes & Noble

Order your copy now through your retailer of choice:

ISBN-10s: 1250860520 (US print) or 103500416X (main market print)

ISBN-13s: 978-1250860521 or 978-1035004164


Origins of The Wheel of Time is also available in paperback for those who prefer a lighter, more travel-friendly edition. Enjoy the same fascinating content with the convenience and affordability of this format.

Origins of The Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan paperback. Author: Michael Livingston.
Barnes & Noble

Get your copy at the outlet you prefer:

ISBN-10s: 1250860539 (US print) or 1035004186 (main market print).

ISBN-13s: 978-1250860538 or 978-1035004188.

E-Book / Kindle Edition

Enjoy the secrets of Origins of The Wheel of Time on your favorite e-reader! Here’s where to find the digital versions, both sporting the serpentine creature from the Dragon Banner, with a sea-green map as a sumptuous backdrop:

Origins of The Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan e-book. Author: Michael Livingston.
Barnes & Noble (NOOK)

Use the links below to buy a copy at Amazon in the following countries:

Barnes & Noble e-books can be read on compatible NOOK devices and free NOOK Apps. The Amazon Kindle editions can be downloaded and read on Kindle devices or the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. The Kindle Cloud Reader app allows you to read content online.


Immerse yourself in Origins of The Wheel of Time with this stellar audiobook featuring narrations by Kate Reading, Michael Kramer, Michael Livingston, Harriet McDougal, and Rosamund Pike.

  • Kate Reading and Michael Kramer, beloved narrators of the main series, offer familiar voices.
  • Michael Livingston, author of the book, provides a personal touch.
  • Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan’s widow, adds a nostalgic flourish.
  • Rosamund Pike, the star of the TV adaptation, lends her talent.

Listen for Free With Audible

The ideal way to enjoy audiobooks like Origins of The Wheel of Time is with an Audible subscription. Try Audible for the first time and get this audiobook for free!

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Origins of The Wheel of Time expands our understanding of a beloved world. Did it change how you see certain characters or events in the main series? Share your thoughts below!

Until next time, may the Light shine on you, my friends!


Books forming an arched doorway. Image link for the "The Wheel of Time Companion Review: The Big Book of Spoilers" post.

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