Mar 2 2010 3:00pm

Lord of Chaos ebook cover by Greg Manchess

Lord of Chaos, volume six of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, will be available in ebook form March 16. In celebration of Jordan’s work, we have commissioned fourteen artists to interpret one of the Wheel of Time books in their own style. (Previous editions can be seen here. The first five ebooks can be purchased here.) For Lord of Chaos we present a signature battle of the series, Dumai’s Wells, as portrayed by Greg Manchess, in this singular “sliding” cover. 

Before we get to our regularly scheduled behind-the-scenes process post, enjoy this time lapse video of the painting from beginning to end. (And note how, about half-way through, Greg learns to dodge the camera shutter firing every 15 seconds.)


Greg ManchessNow, back to the beginning.


When the repackage project was a mere gleam in our eyes, I had a dream of being able to map out the entire series before we started commissioning the paintings. It was a good dream. And then I woke up and suddenly we were off and running with the first covers due fairly quickly. I’m sure there will be issues I wish we could readdress when all is said and done, but, in return it’s become a much more collaborative process than I could have imagined—and that has made the project twice as fun. Not only have I been getting input from the editor and usual in-house peoples but I have also gotten to know and get advice from Jason Denzel of Dragonmount, Leigh Butler of our own re-read project, and the Wheel of Time fan community.

All of which is the long way of saying: by the time we got to the third book I called Jason Denzel in a panic and said something to the effect of, “Dude, I need a scene with some action. Where should I look?” He gave me a long list of scenes from a number of the books but made it clear that, above all else, Dumai’s Wells had to be seen. Jason wrote,

Time after time it has been referred to by a variety of fans as one of the most exciting and intense chapters in the series. In the grand story arc of the series, it’s the central event that has perhaps the most significant impact for everything which follows after. With the artistic success of the previous ebook covers from Tor, I really wanted to see somebody bring forth and capture the chaotic destruction of Dumai’s Wells.

As I read the chapter I realized we had a sequence with thousands of warriors. There aren’t many artists I can turn to when I need a scene with more than two or three figures, but Greg Manchess’ work on Conan and various National Geographic assignments proved that he could handle the epic scale of the battle while keeping the movement loose and believable.

As we talked about the project ,we instantly regretted that our series template only gave us square frame to work with. While there was no getting around that for the official cover, Greg couldn’t resist diving in and tripling the proportions to include more of the action, ultimately creating a 21“x 72” painting. Greg says,

I told Irene that I was offering to do a grander, wider scene so that the viewer could explore the battle. It would stretch far enough to break the borders of the square, but to compensate, I composed it so that we could pick a ‘sweet spot’ to place on the cover. I let that spot dictate the broader POV.

As I stretched the scene, stage left, I found myself able to include more of what was happening in the story. I wanted to give a sense of distance to the landscape, while bringing figures forward enough that they’re almost on top of you. But the closer the figure, the more they block. And explosions take up a lot of real estate in a painting.

I had to pick the moment carefully. Depict a moment too far in advance of the mayhem and it weakens the excitement. Too far after the initial firestorm and I’d be depicting heaps of charred meat. I chose the moment just before the detonations went rending through the ranks completely. The wave is just starting to sweep over the Aiel, but as timing isn’t quite so precise, I depicted the flames cresting quickly from right to left, allowing the viewer “time” to see what was about to come. Utter flaming chaos.

We knew we wanted to focus on the Asha’man and the Aiel. In fact, at first we didn’t see any of our core characters. I did, however, request to see some wolves (because, hey, wolves) and once we saw wolves it made sense to add Perrin, and if we’re going to show Perrin we should show Loial as well.... I’m glad we added these characters. Although they are “second reads” in the painting, they add mini-dramas within the battle and reinforce the idea that such fights, no matter how large in scale, are fought by individuals. Greg found inspiration along those lines:

Although I was unfamiliar with the scenes and characters, I enjoyed doing the research necessary to get up to speed. My appreciation grew for Jordan’s work when I came across this quote from The Shadow Rising, explaining the Aiel tradition of veiling themselves before they kill: “Hide your face from me, stranger. I had a son, once, with a face like that. I do not wish to see it on a killer.”

While it’s fun to get caught up in the fantasy of a big battle, Jordan does not let us lose site of the bitter consequences of warfare. This allowed me to gain another perspective on the Aiel’s history, and that affects how the characters look.

Greg Manchess


Greg sketched out the initial idea pretty quickly and then spent lots of time fine tuning the exact positioning of the various elements.

Greg Manchess' Lord of Chaos ebook cover sketch

Greg Manchess' Lord of Chaos ebook cover sketchGreg Manchess: “Battle scenes are difficult to inject with the right energy. Figures can be too staged, and that slows the movement down. If everything is perfectly shown, the energy is stalled, and the picture becomes ho-hum. I like the motion to seem quick & chaotic, maniacal. I gain this aspect by overlapping figures and hiding some of the good parts, letting the viewer fill in with their own imagination. This affords an interactive affect with the onlooker, and engages their mind.

Lord of Chaos, referenceTo find these chaotic poses, I do a lot of studio modeling in front of my camera, looking for the right random motion of a sleeve, or the odd angle on an arm or weapon. Leg motion is critical. Many artists suffer from the ‘one-foot-run:’ when shooting their reference, the model was perfectly balanced on one foot to mimic ‘running.’ Deadly to composition.

So I spend lots of shutter time tripping, running, dropping, falling, stabbing, slashing, growling, and yelling at my lens. Once I find the moments I’m happiest with, I re-draw those poses to fit the schematic. Sometimes I trace all of the figure and re-draw; other times I trace just a bit and then spend more time perfecting the sketch without the reference.”

The final painting and cover:

The Lord of Chaos ebook cover by Greg Manchess

Greg Manchess, Lord of Chaos ebook cover

The icing on the cake? Harriet McDougal’s “Wowiee!” response.

Some details:

Greg Manchess's Lord of Chaos ebook cover

Greg Manchess Lord of Chaos ebook cover detail

Greg Manchess's Lord of Chaos ebook cover detail

To keep up with all of our Wheel of Time posts, including information on the ebook releases, check out our Wheel of Time Index.

Special thanks to Megan Messinger for video editing. You can watch the extended edition, featuring some real-time painting, here.

For the full-sized cover image, check out Dragonmount’s Lord of Chaos feature.

See more of Greg Manchess’ work on his website and Tor.com gallery.

1. Catsongs
WOW! Go Manchess!
Alexander Foff
2. Abbumaru
Wow, I've really started to look forward to these posts each month and the sliding cover at the very top truly blew my socks off! I got goosebumps all the way, which doesn't happen to often from a 'mere' picture. Awesome job!
4. Hopper
Wow^3. Amazing job capturing one of the most climactic scenes in the series. Can I have on for my room?
Kurt Lorey
5. Shimrod
Overall, awesome.

And, thanks to the people who put together the work in progress video as that allowed me to see details that I had missed while viewing the overall work.

The single quibble is that the Aiel hold their spears with one hand, but in this I can easily overlook it considering the grand scope of the tableau.

Great Choice, Irene! Nice recovery. ;)
Marcus W
6. toryx
Awesome. Probably the best one thus far. These covers just keep getting better.

Personally, I love that the cover didn't focus on one of the main characters. Having Perrin and Loial as secondary to the image made it so that I didn't have to focus on them or anything in particular that doesn't fit my perception of them from reading the books.

And any cover with wolves is going to get appreciation from me.
Dominick Saponaro
8. SwashbuckleDom
Awesome as always Irene. Great job Greg! Probably my favorite of the e-books. Then again Im a sucker for your multi figure chaotic action scenes. Realy like the sliding cover format too. Maybe a small hint of things to come from Tor as e-books become more mainstream?
9. Ashenkhar
Not on Kindle = no sale.
10. Ashenkhar
Oops! Didn't realize it said March 16th in the article. I just saw the link to the sony store.
Tricia Irish
12. Tektonica
Fantastic! How long did it take him to create that? Just curious. He really captures the chaos and the reality of the Aiel and Ashaman, Loial and Perrin.

Has the copyright law disagreement been resolved yet?
Luke M
13. lmelior
I'm still waiting for the goosebumps to subside. WANT!

My pleading to have dead-tree copies with the new covers continues.
Grant Newton
14. GrantNewton
What a great behind the scenes on a brilliant cover! The music in that vid is pretty epic too.
April Vrugtman
15. dwndrgn
Definitely like this one (other than the fact that Perrin's hair seems to be going the wrong way, but that is probably my viewing issue)! And yes, I'm with Irene. I mean, wolves! C'mon!
16. Pete12
"Asha'man, Kill!"

Kate Nepveu
17. katenepveu
This is certainly my favorite process post, and possibly my favorite of the new covers too. Fabulous work.
Ashley W
18. a_neonta
I am kind of burned out on reading Robert Jordan (sacrilege, I know) but this cover reminds me of why I used to like the series. Fantastic.
Abdel Masdoua
19. TheDarkOne
Just one word to describe this: awesome!!!
Sam Mickel
20. Samadai
This is hands down the best book cover I have ever seen. Sign this guy up for all your Tor books.
Samuel Walker
21. lambada
Ok, a couple of things

#1: I REALLLLLY need to go and re-read Dumai's Wells now.

#2: The fact that the ancient symbol is hinted at in a fireball is ******* AWESOME!
22. AielAdam
Just, WOW!

The standard of the artwork for these covers is simply incredible. I think the collaboration of all involved is definitely paying off!

It's a tough call, but this one has to be my favourite (thus far!).
Alice Arneson
23. Wetlandernw
I got goosebumps all over again, watching the wolves being painted in and hearing in my mind "They have caged Shadowkiller!"

Excellent cover.
Irene Gallo
24. Irene
And now, we have posted an extended version of the video with some real-time painting.

Artists’ Extended Version

(Thanks, Megan!)
Cassie Ammerman
25. leanoir
I love these posts every month. They're beautiful covers, all of them.
Bobby Stubbs
26. Valan
These covers just keep getting more and more awesome. This one is friggin sick. Keep up the good work Tor! I too, will need these in hardback editions.
Rikka Cordin
28. Rikka
Probably the best so far. So epic and dramatic.
29. t00t
is it me or one of the black trench coat guy's left hand is wrong? Anyways. I love your epic paintings Greg!
Ron Garrison
30. Man-0-Manetheran
I can see this laying on a coffee table with the cover in motion - like one of the Myst books.
Adam Bodestyne
31. thanners
Wow. Awesome. I have nothing else to say.
32. alreadymadwithdumaiswells
The black coats are missing their swords.
Otherwise... Awesome!
Megan Messinger
33. thumbelinablues
Tektonica @ 12, It took him about four days...but they seemed to go by in minutes.... :-P

lambada @ 21, OMG I AM SO DUMB. I spent AGES staring at this footage and I never saw that. Further confirmation that Greg and Irene are made of win.
34. Greg Manchess
I am absolutely thrilled by everyone's comments! To have worked so hard on this painting and to get such response is just flat out delightful.

You see, even though I was unfamiliar with the stories and had to be hand held along the way, I'm a fan, too. I don't like my favorite stories 'messed with' too much either. I was a little nervous about getting it right for lovers of all things WoT. So I treated the piece as if I was working on something for National Geographic, where I have researchers teaching me on any number of subjects.

Many thanks to Jason Denzel & Leigh Butler for guiding me along the way! And thanks to Irene for letting me 'get away with' this format...and have so much fun.

And certainly, thank you Megan for making hours of painting look like a walk in the park. Your video is excellent.

Lastly, thank you fans for being so supportive and allowing a novice among your ranks.
Alice Arneson
35. Wetlandernw
Hey, novices are delightedly welcomed around here! :) Thanks for all your work. The fact that you care about our perceptions and love of the series shows in the research and the outcome, and we appreciate it.
Kurt Lorey
36. Shimrod
Here, here, wetlandernw! Succinct (for once, lol) and exactly true.
Steven Pattingale
37. Pattingale
Awesome cover. Very very awesome. Really. Wow! Stunning. Pulse pounding.
Roger Powell
40. forkroot
Greg Manchess: You rock! Utterly outstanding cover.
Marcel xxx
41. lowlandr
@ Greg.. good job.

I especially like the 'wide screen' shot of the battlefield and the bodylanguage/-posture of the Asha'man
S Diller
42. CuenDiller
I loved how the audio in the time lapse video corresponded to what he was painting. It was as if I were whatching the battle of Dumais Wells unfold right infront of me. Awsome job, thank you so much!
Leigh Butler
43. leighdb
As I said to Irene when she showed me this:


That about sums it up, there.

Lovely work, Greg. I am tickled pink I could help out.
44. ArachneS
This is amazing!!
I don't usually like action scenes on the covers of books because the illustrator never seems to get it right, and also the scene usually looks contrived and stalled. Like a bunch of actors or something. But this cover just blows me away! This absolutely captures the moment that the ashamen turn up at dumai's wells. Its like picture poetry!
45. Duncan Long
Beautiful work -- and the behind-the-scenes look at how the painting progressed was fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing this.

--Duncan Long
Freelance illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Solomon Press, Ballistic Publishing, Asimov's, etc., See my book cover illustrations at: http://DuncanLong.com/art.html
47. Prince of The Ravens
Wow!!! That is the best cover I have seen so far. Some of the covers have been inspiring but that is the first cover where the cover is painted exactly how I pictured the scene. The only quibble I have about the authenticity is that the Aiel only held their spears with one hand. But, other than that, it was really good. The wolves inclusion makes it hands-down the most awesome cover ever!!! Kudos to Tor for setting up cover reprints and thanks to Harriet for allowing eBook printing for those of us whop are dedicated Kindle fans. Way to go!!!
Micheal Jessop
48. moggle
Probably the best one so far. Great work.
Kim B
49. Amaranthine
This is the best cover yet- I got cold shivers when I saw it. Great job!
Michael Johnson
50. twosheddz
Oh... My... GOD!

Having read the series four times in the last five years, I could relate to the illustrators' descriptions of what was going on in the other covers. I also felt that if a non WOT fan was checking them out at their e-bookstore, they wouldn't have a clue as to the epic awesomeness of the series. This is the first one that captures that. If I saw this, not knowing anything about the book, I would be saying, "Holy crap, I gotta buy this!"

I'll be adding all the e-books to my Kindle for my next re-read. I'm hoping the remaining covers can match this one. After hearing excerpts from the audiobook, I may go for the quad-fecta and add them to my hardcover, softcover and Kindle collections.

Thank you Greg for such a great illustration and to those who gave him the insight to make it. Tai'shar!
51. Freelancer
My attempt to comment on this thread was repeatedly thwarted yesterday. Torie, what have I done?


Greg, thank you! It's hard to believe that you hadn't read this story for yourself several times, given the virtually flawless rendition of this scene as it exists in my own imagination for that moment following the command, "...rolling ring of Earth and Fire!"

Whatever drove you to expand the image beyond what would fit for the cover piece, it is appreciated more than you can know. The inclusion of Perrin, Loial, and the wolves, is fantastic.

The time-lapse captures give an idea, to those of us with no talent in visual arts, the amount of effort and plain hard work involved in such a project, and it is mind-boggling.

Remarkably well done!

Oh, and embedding the Aes Sedai emblem in the flare of flame is a master stroke.
Sol Diaz de Leon
52. Elennor
The painting is AMAZING!! And I loved the video of how it was made
55. Hiedi N.R
Uh....pass. I am not impressed with this one. At all.
Kate Nepveu
56. katenepveu
If anyone is still reading this and is at Boskone this weekend, the original is in the Art Show and looks damn cool.

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