Although it was originally planned as a six-book series, Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series grew to fourteen expansive novels published from 1990 through 2013, extending years after Jordan’s death. Partly inspired by Tolstoy’s War and Peace, each book is a lengthy tome that also includes elements of European and Asian mythology.
Robert Jordan (pen name for James Oliver Rigney, Jr.) began writing the first novel, The Eye of the World, in 1984, and it was published on January 15th, 1990. The hardcover and paperback quickly sold through the initial 40,000 print run. The Eye of the World was later published as two separate books to target the young adult market: From the Two Rivers and To the Blight, in 2002.
Jordan wrote the first eleven books in the series: The Eye of the World (1990), The Great Hunt (1990), The Dragon Reborn (1991), The Shadow Rising (1992), The Fires of Heaven (1993), Lord of Chaos (1994), A Crown of Swords (1996), The Path of Daggers (1998), Winter’s Heart (2000), Crossroads of Twilight (2003) and Knife of Dreams (2005).
In 2006 the author was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, and he died on September 16th, 2007, at the age of 58.
After his death, author Brandon Sanderson, famous for his Mistborn science fiction series, was contacted by Harriet McDougal, wife and editor of Robert Jordan, to complete the series. Jordan had left extensive notes for what he imagined to be the last volume, but they were so complete that instead of just one book, Sanderson wrote three: The Gathering Storm (2009), Towers of Midnight (2010), and A Memory of Light (2013).
There is also a prequel novel, New Spring, which takes place 20 years before the events of the first novel, and two companion books: The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (1997), co-authored with Teresa Patterson, and The Wheel of Time Companion: The People, Places, and History of the Bestselling Series (2015) by Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons.
After its completion, the series was nominated for a Hugo award, and in 2021 a TV series was released on Amazon Prime Video.
The artwork for all the novels, save the last one, was done by Darrel K. Sweet, who was famous for providing cover art for science fiction and fantasy novels. Sweet died in 2011, just before the publication of A Memory of Light (2012), and Michael Whelan illustrated the cover for that book.
Collecting the Wheel of Time Series:
The Eye of the World (1990)
Although the first printing of The Eye of the World that went to market was a paperback, the hardcover is the most sought-after by collectors. The first printing of hardcovers was meant mainly for libraries and limited to around 1500 copies, and so very few remain in collectible condition. The copyright page for the paperback and the hardcover first editions include both the ISBNs for the paperback and the hardcover. Later printings removed the duplicated ISBNS.
True first editions of The Eye of the World will have “First edition, February 1990” on the copyright page, along with a full number line including number 1. The jacket price is $24.95 (later printings were $27.95).
The publisher later rebound paperbacks into hardbacks for reprints. Those rebound paperbacks are a popular variation for collectors as well. 5000 ARC (Advanced Review Copies) of The Eye of the World were printed – these have a different cover than the first printing.
The Great Hunt (1990)
Also rare and very difficult to find, the first hardcover edition of The Great Hunt was published by TOR Books on November 15, 1990, and has a full number line to 1. The first edition of the paperback was published at the same time.
The Dragon Reborn (1991)
The third book in the TWOT series, The Dragon Reborn was first published by Tor Books on September 15, 1991. The copyright page of the first edition contains a full number line, and the dust jacket should have a $22.95 price stamp.
The Shadow Rising (1992)
The Shadow Rising (abbreviated as tSR by fans) is the fourth book in Robert Jordan’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time. It was published by Tor Books and released on September 15, 1992. “First Trade Edition: November 1992” is stated on the copyright page along with a full number line. At 393,823 words, The Shadow Rising is the longest book of The Wheel of Time although it has fewer pages than Lord of Chaos.
The Fires of Heaven (1993)
Released on October 15th, 1993 by Tor Books in the US and Orbit in the Uk, The Fires of Heaven is the 5th book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.
Lord of Chaos is the sixth book in TWOT series. Published on October 15, 1994, it has the most pages of any of the books at 1007 pages long.
A Crown of Swords (1996)
A Crown of Swords is the 7th book written by Robert Jordan for The Wheel of Time series. Released on May 15th, 1996, the first editions published by Tor Books in the US and Orbit in the UK contain a full number line on the copyright page.
The Path of Daggers (1998)
The shortest book in The Wheel of Time series (at 687 pages), The Path of Daggers was the first book to hit the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Published on October 20th, 1998 by Tor Books in the US and Orbit in the UK, it is the 8th book in the series, and first editions are noted by a full number line on the copyright page.
Winter’s Heart (2000)
Winter’s Heart, the 9th book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, was published on November 1st, 2000. Like the other books, a first edition hardback has a full number line on the copyright page.
Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
The first edition of Crossroads of Twilight, the 10th book in The Wheel of Time series, was published January 7th, 2003, by Tor Books in the US and Orbit in the UK. It was the third of the books in the series to reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Many of the events in the novel take place simultaneously with events from the previous book, Winter’s Heart.
New Spring: The Wheel of Time, In the Beginning, a prequel to The Wheel of Time series, was published by Tor Fantasy in 2004. New Spring was originally published as a novella in the speculative fiction anthology Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy published in 1999. Jordan later expanded it into a stand-alone book. Numbers on the copyright page of first editions run 0-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The paperback edition, published June 13, 2005, gave readers the first glimpse of the upcoming 11th book of the series, Knife of Dreams, as it included an excerpt of the prologue.
Knife of Dreams (2005)
Knife of Dreams is the 11th book in The Wheel of Time series, and the last written book completed by Robert Jordan before his death. Knife of Dreams was published by Tor Books in the U.S. and Orbit in the UK and released on October 11, 2005.
The Gathering Storm (2009)
The 12th book of The Wheel of Time series, The Gathering Storm is the first book of the series authored by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. The first edition hardcovers include a facsimile/mimeograph of Robert Jordan’s signature, which causes some confusion since it was published in 2009, two years after his death in 2007.
Towers of Midnight (2010)
Released on November 2, 2010, Towers of Midnight is the 13th novel in The Wheel of Time series and written by Brandon Sanderson from Robert Jordan’s notes. First editions include a full number line on the copyright page and a facsimile signature of Jordan’s on the title page.
A Memory of Light (2013)
Book 14, and the final book of The Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light was finally released on January 8, 2013, after multiple delays. Jordan intended the title to be for the last novel, but it was eventually split into 3 separate books by author Brandon Sanderson because of the extensive material left by Jordan after his death. Instead of using the same title with separate subtitles for the three books, it was decided the last three would have distinct titles, saving A Memory of Light for the final installment.
Encyclopedia WoT: https://encyclopaedia-wot.org/
Collecting Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time by Rich Rennicks for the ABAA: https://www.abaa.org/Blog/post/collecting-robert-jordan-wheel-of-time
South Carolina Encyclopedia: https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/rigney-james-oliver-jr/
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.