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The Wheel of Time Companion Review: The Big Book of Spoilers

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The Wheel of Time Companion, or the Big Book of Spoilers as Harriet McDougal dubs it, is a behemoth of encyclopedic wisdom. It brings together the people, places, and history of Robert Jordan’s fantasy world and presents them in an alphabetic glossary of epic proportions.

The question is, do you really need it?

Is this just a conglomeration of what we already know or can find elsewhere? Does it add value to the vast collection of books we already own? Is it as anally retentive as someone who uses the word “conglomeration” in a sentence? Does it answer any mysteries, and will buying it make you a super fan?

I’ll answer these questions in my review, which you’ll find ahead of my star rating, further insights, and your shopping options.

My brief summary is that the Companion is your next purchase if you love the books, follow YouTube channels about them or the show, and want to feed yourself morsels of Wheel of Time joy occasionally. The book dives deep into Robert Jordan’s expansive world, and I’ll explain why it’s worth your investment.

Books forming an arched doorway with text reading "Companion Book Reviewed: The Wheel of Time Companion by Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons."

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This post is aimed at those who have completed The Wheel of Time series and can’t get the books out of their head. It contains spoilers for the series, so be forewarned.

The Wheel of Time Companion Review

The Wheel of Time Companion is a definitive encyclopedia for the series. It boasts 815 pages and an entry for each named character. There’s a dictionary to help you perfect your Old Tongue, plus maps, histories, and lore to pore over. It enhances your experience of the world, aids series rereads, and enables you to cheat in quizzes, too.

The book hints at One Power channelers’ relative strength and has some revelations that never made it into the series. The Companion is a must-have for devoted fans of The Wheel of Time world, and I’ll explain why in this review.

Robert Jordan’s Flair

The Wheel of Time is very in-depth, making it impossible to remember everything and everyone. This companion book gets you more acquainted with the world’s people by sharing delightful nuggets of characterization alongside an entrant’s role in the story. You’ll wear an affectionate smile as you read through the entries and sometimes laugh out loud.

Photograph of author Robert Jordan
“Robert Jordan”
by Jeanne Collins

Parts of the text are pulled directly from Robert Jordan’s notes, and sensing the author’s imprint on this book is a joyful experience. Robert Jordan’s flair, humor, and care for his characters are not in doubt. It’s in the quirks of Nynaeve al’Meara, Thom Merrilin, Bayle Domon, and Loial in the books (amongst dozens of other characters, I must hastily add).

Yet here, as the lens is focused on one character at a time, we can appreciate their personalities more. Fagar Neald, remember, was “a fop and a dandy, his pitiful mustache waxed to a semblance of points,” and Moiraine’s grandmother was “not a nice woman… many years later, her name was still used to frighten children.”

Thanks to the writer’s copious notes, we get background information that never made it into the series. It adds idiosyncracies to minor characters that compel us to go back to their scenes again. It allows us to live and breathe the world in granular detail in a way that storybooks can’t accommodate.

The unique selling point of The Wheel of Time Companion is that it is full of personalities. By dropping Robert Jordan’s scent on the product, the book is a unique character in its own right, too.

Illustrations

Some people buy encyclopedias for the pictures, and children’s annotations are abundant with them, but that isn’t a feature I can gush over greatly for The Wheel of Time Companion.

What we get is brilliant – Ellisa Mitchell’s delightful maps, Ariel Burgess’ character portraits (nicely inserted in the size of playing cards), and the full-page art afforded to the work of Paul Bielaczyc, Joe O’Hara, and Edsel Arnold (Pink Ribbons is a fun piece under Tylin Mitsobar’s entry).

However, anyone expecting a book packed with visual stimuli will feel short-changed. The days of the maps being unique are long past, and Ariel Burgess’ work is already canon for anyone who browses the internet.

I take nothing away from the inclusions, though – Burgess brings the main cast to life with portraits of Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan. We get to compare the attractiveness of Rand’s love interests – Elayne, Min, and Aviendha (Avi ticks it for me). We’re also treated to artistic impressions of Cadsuane and Verin, which nods to their significance in the books.

All in all, the illustrations are lovely inclusions. It would be best to accept them as a bonus rather than a reason to buy the book. You’ll be left wanting more otherwise.

How To Read the Companion

The most often asked question about The Wheel of Time Companion is where do you start?

There’s a temptation to use it like a dictionary and only dip in and out when needed. However, doing so means missing out on hidden gems and never getting a whole book experience.

I suggest waiting until the illustrations and maps come up as a pleasant surprise rather than consuming them all hungrily as soon as the book arrives. I do, however, understand that not everyone has those levels of restraint, and the Last Battle maps are there to be studied and enjoyed, especially if you’ve just finished the series.

The Companion has longevity because it refreshes your memory about places and points of interest – most notably the Old Tongue repository, a list of sword forms (under “sword moves” for some reason), song names, and all the Aiel trivia you might wish for.

There is more fun in stumbling on these things than hunting them down, so I recommend reading it front to back first. You’ll still be inclined to jump about the pages as the book sparks your interest out of turn, though, so keep a bookmark handy.

Make a point of starting at “A” though (after the introduction) and get the job done before using the Companion as a reference book. I concede that the latter is its primary purpose, but one it fulfills with bells and whistles on top. It would be best if you enjoyed it all.

Lasting Impressions

Owning The Wheel of Time Companion doesn’t make you a super fan, but devouring every scrap of information it offers proves your point. It is a wholesome, witty, and intelligent book that understands its readers and gives them what they want (and stuff they didn’t know they needed).

Nothing is earth-moving in the Companion beyond its brief account of the Breaking, but there is plenty of intrigue and insight. Of course, you will forget more than you remember, but the alphabetical structure makes it easy to find what you lost again. It is fun to read, helpful, and informative.

The book isn’t without mistakes – some of the power rankings seem off, for example – and what you read isn’t necessarily canon. In most cases, you’ll already know more than you actually learn and can quickly fill any gaps by searching online. Almost all the information shared in the Companion can be found at A Wheel of Time Wiki or other fan sites.

However, the charm of the Companion is that it was born from the notes of Robert Jordan and the books as they were ultimately published. These nuances and delights can’t be found online and will give The Wheel of Time Companion a shelf life for many years.

This is a comprehensive guide to the world of Robert Jordan and achieves its objectives. Criticisms are easy to find, but the quality of the work done in compiling this depository is undeniably excellent and incredibly thorough. It must be in your possession if you’ve completed The Wheel of Time and intend to reread the series.

Once bought, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to have a Wheel of Time conversation without it!

Star Rating

The scores on the board are solid, and that’s to be expected from a book that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a reference book.

However, the Companion succeeds beyond this expectation. It is a candid and thought-provoking piece, so more flare could have gone into its presentation. As an unimaginative example, just segmenting places, people, and artifacts might have helped.

Here’s how I rate The Wheel of Time Companion nonetheless:

The Wheel of Time Companion by Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons

8.8 out of 10

The Big Book of Spoilers is a must-have for all Dedicated fans of Robert Jordan’s expansive world and his epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. It defines the word “awesome” (not literally) and pretty much everything else, too!

Initial Reaction
8.5 out of 10
Recommendation
8.5 out of 10
Re-Readability
10 out of 10
Structure
8 out of 10

The Light

More maps, Lini's sayings, and sword forms!

Unedited entries from Robert Jordan's notes.

A definitive guidebook for The Wheel of Time.

The Shadow

The depth of information can be overwhelming.

Most of the factual content can be found by searching online.

There are occasional disparities with the source material.

About the Authors

The three collaborators for The Wheel of Time Companion are enormously significant to Robert Jordan’s life and works.

Though they were his editor and staff, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons are as synonymous with The Wheel of Time as the author. They were his wife and beloved friends who accomplished much to bring us the Companion. Their names ring in my ears, as an Ogier would say.

Harriet McDougal

Robert Jordan is survived by his wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, née Popham. She carved out an editorial career after working as an archivist in South Carolina and became Tom Doherty’s top editor by the 1970s. She later formed her imprint, Popham Press, where she edited and distributed Robert Jordan’s first published novel, The Fallon Blood.

The couple met in a bookstore, and Robert Jordan was devoted to his wife. He dedicates many of The Wheel of Time books to her with heartfelt use of the words “always” and “forever.” He once said that all of his female characters held at least one trait possessed by his wife. His warmth for her was palpable.

Without Harriet McDougal, there may not have been the Robert Jordan we remember so fervently. Nor would we have The Wheel of Time as we know it today, as she hand-picked Brandon Sanderson to finish the series.

Harriet McDougal protects Robert Jordan’s legacy to this day. She is a consulting producer for the TV series, has attended fan conventions, and speaks with enthusiasm about the books. Always with a smile and a passion in her eyes. Always.

Alan Romanczuk

Alan Romanczuk joined Team Jordan in 2001 as a research assistant. He was also responsible for keeping each character’s timeline in order (it is The Wheel of Time, after all). Suffice it to say, Alan did a fantastic job and earned himself the moniker “the Time Lord.”

Robert Jordan also leaned on Alan Romanczuk’s knowledge of military history and consulted with him for the many battle scenes we enjoy in the books.

Maria Simons

Maria Simons worked as Robert Jordan’s editorial assistant for over a decade. She also worked with Brandon Sanderson after he took over writing The Wheel of Time following Robert Jordan’s death in 2007. She is credited with helping to maintain continuity and consistency throughout the series.

It is often celebrated that Maria Simons knows more about The Wheel of Time than anyone ever has. Robert Jordan would often say at book signings that fans should RAFO (read and find out), but would joke it could also be AMFO (as in “ask Maria and find out”).

Spoilers

Harriet McDougal dubs The Wheel of Time Companion as the Big Book of Spoilers in her ensemble introduction to the book. Of course, she means that the contents inevitably spoil the entire plot of the series. Only read this book if you have finished all 14 novels and, preferably, the prequel.

By way of honoring this tome and its unabashed ruination, here are a couple of Companion spoilers that may cause a smile or widen your eyes.

Bela Spoiler

The fantastic Ta’veran Tees, once an officially licensed seller of The Wheel of Time® t-shirts and apparel, closed for business in 2019.

I have, however, found an old video of theirs showing Harriet McDougal, alongside Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk, reading Bela’s entry in the Companion. It has spoilers for the entire series, so be forewarned, but it also demonstrates how the creators of this book haven’t taken themselves too seriously.

As Harriet McDougal says, this is canon…

Who is Nakomi? Spoiler

Out of respect for Michael Livingston, I didn’t spoil the Nakomi reveal when I reviewed his recent publication, Origins of The Wheel of Time. I will do so now because the parallels make for a fascinating cross-reference.

Remember, The Wheel of Time Companion was published after the series was finished. It was expected we would never know the identity of Nakomi, but one of the last big secrets has now been shared.

In the Big Book of Spoilers, Nakomi is described like this:

“A mysterious Aiel woman whom Aviendha met in the Waste. Bair told Aviendha that she knew no one named Nakomi but that it was an ancient name.”

Now, Origins of The Wheel of Time tells us that Nakomi was included in the books by Brandon Sanderson based on an instruction Robert Jordan had left. It was noted that a mysterious woman would appear to Rand as he left Shayol Ghul and say, “Yes, that’s good, that’s what you need to do.”

Brandon Sanderson called her Nakomi and decided that she was of the Jenn Aiel. She is an entity that counters the Dark One’s Shaidar Haran. Not the Creator, but a vessel or avatar of sorts. I suspect she exists in balance to Shaidar Haran, about whom the Companion says:

“Shaidar Haran did not have nearly as much power as the Dark One, but the Dark One was able to project a shadowy form of himself into it.”

One can surmise that Nakomi is touched by the Creator in some way, and Brandon Sanderson implies as much. What he doesn’t say, but I will, is that this means the Creator must be an Aiel.

Ha, I won’t bore you with the linguistic algebra that proves my point, but do you see how The Wheel of Time Companion is such a fascinating resource? There’s much more to enjoy in the book, too.

Features of The Wheel of Time Companion

The Wheel of Time Companion boasts a catalog of the bestselling series’s people, places, and history. It rises to the challenge with features not limited to these incredible inclusions:

Maps

You’ll be poring over the six maps of the Last Battle, showing the position of forces as events unfold. A map of the Fields of Merrilor plainly indicates the significance of the Mora and Erinin rivers.

Other intrigues are found in the maps of Cairhien (the River Alguenya looks formidable), Far Madding, and Malden. However, the book was eagerly anticipated for having the first published map of the Two Rivers. Many eyes will go to that page first and recall the White River and the whereabouts of Watch Hill and Deven Ride, which felt so familiar many books ago.

Aes Sedai Power Rankings

Robert Jordan kept notes on the magic abilities of his One Power users. They are revealed in The Wheel of Time Companion for the first time.

If you need help understanding the notation, there’s a valuable guide on Saidar and power rankings at a similar source of worldly things, the A Wheel of Time Wiki.

In a nutshell, Robert Jordan initially assessed the Aes Sedai on a 21-point scale but modified this twice. The first was a 60-level scale to represent seniority before the return of the Forsaken and the discovery of Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne’s potential (amongst others). This would have Moiraine, Siuan, and Elaida ranking at No. 1, with the likes of Romanda and Lelaine.

Another 12-point system was appended to accommodate the power girls, the Chosen, a returning Cadsuane, and other magical madams. Lanfear and Alivia are top dogs, of course.

The Old Tongue

You can learn a new language with The Wheel of Time Companion, which contains a dictionary of all the known words in the Old Tongue. This stretches to an impressive 26 pages, including letter forms and phrases.

If you fancy making sentences, please share them in the comments (I will be moderating, so keep it clean).

Every Named Character in The Wheel of Time

Yes, all 2,782 named characters have an entry in the Companion. From Rand al’Thor to Doilan, every moving piece has its place in history and lore. Find your favorites and enjoy their entries:

Lamelle… She was one of the three worst at mothering Rand; she made him soup but was a terrible cook, so it tasted bad.”

This book has lots of fun stuff, as you’ve seen with Bela (in the video I shared above), and it’s not just the characters. We have entries for dogfennel, dogwort, dogweed (considered a cure for moping), and many more delights.

Buy The Wheel of Time Companion at Amazon

The links will take you to your nearest Amazon store. Still, I’ve included direct links for visitors in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Poland, and Australia.

Hardcover

The Wheel of Time Companion was first published by Tor Books on 3 November 2015.

Follow the links below to buy the hardcover edition at Amazon in these countries:

The ISBN-10 for the hardcover edition is 0765314614. The ISBN-13 is 978-0765314611.

Paperback

The Orbit hardcover edition is out of print now, but you can grab their paperback version. I’ve linked to the Tor Books edition for the United States and Canada and to the Orbit softcover for everyone else.

The ISBN-10 for the paperback edition of The Wheel of Time Companion is 0765314622 (Tor Books) or 0356506142 (Orbit). The ISBN-13s are 978-0765314628 (Tor Books) or 978-0356506142 (Orbit).

Kindle Edition

Keep this book in its electronic format, too. You can expedite your browsing with the “Search” function on your reader. I’ve linked to the Tor Books edition for the United States and Canada and to the Orbit version for everyone else.

The file size for The Wheel of Time Companion Kindle edition is 9,704 kilobytes for the Orbit version and 17,605 kilobytes for the same from Tor Books.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts on my review of The Wheel of Time Companion and the book itself. I always respond to contributions.

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

Russell

Books on bookshelves. Image link for the "Origins of The Wheel of Time Review & Guide" post.
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