The Fires of Heaven, volume five of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, will be available in ebook form February 16th. In celebration of Jordan’s work we have commissioned fourteen artists, each interpreting one of the Wheel of Time books in their own style. (Previous editions can be seen here. The first four ebooks can be purchased here.)
By this time in the series I thought we should start to see some of the many strong women in The Wheel of Time. After collecting notes from various people, and an extended lunch with Tor.com’s resident life-long WoT-fan Megan Messinger, it became apparent that Moiraine’s final action in The Fires of Heaven was a moment well worth commemorating.
It didn’t take long to decide who the artist should be: over the past seven years, Dan Dos Santos has risen to be one of the most admired voices in the field. His talent for painting preternaturally beautiful women and his mastery of an intensely chromatic palette made him an easy choice for depicting Moiraine.
The trick, it turned out, was showing a lead character in an atypical moment: a fight scene. Dan’s answer was to go beyond the actual fight and into Moiraine’s thoughts prior to the sequence, where she envisions putting several key elements into play that aid other characters on their journey.
To the new-comer, it’s a striking image of a woman amongst something chaotic and magical; to the fans, it commemorates a character at a deeply consequential moment while foreshadowing events in further books.
The first sketch:
This would have made for a great action cover but, as Jason Denzel pointed out to me, it didn’t portray Moiraine in a manner true to her character. Obstinately I still showed it to Harriet McDougal, the editor and the first and last word on anything in Wheel of Time. She quickly sent a polite, but firm, “Uh, absolutely not.”
Round two consisted of the next three sketches:
This was a moving image that also had the advantage of illuminating a scene that is talked about in the books but not directly seen “on screen”: Moiraine healing the wounded at the Second Battle of Cairhien.
These two sketches were combined and altered to create the final image. I especially liked the top one—the slightly titled point of view and flaring cape create a sense of chaos while Moiraine stands confident.
I love seeing all the “shoe string and sealing wax” that goes into artists’ reference shots. Like: is that a Tupperware top she’s holding? And you gotta love stairs as wind-scaffolding.
The painting in progress:
This was nearly done but it needed just a few tweaks:
A: The earrings were too bright and distracted from her face. The fix: darken them a tad.
B: The edge of the paper lined up with the highlight in the cape…in effect, your mind wants to connect the two, flattening the distance between the two. The fix: move the highlight on the cape.
C: All the scattered paper was on one plane. A more chaotic random placement would add believability to the image and increase its sense of drama. The fix: reposition some of the papers.
D: The cape aligned with her finger, flattening the visual depth of the image. The fix: tone down the highlight and move up the edge of the cape…
…creating the final:
To keep up with all of our Wheel of Time posts, including information on the ebook releases, check out our Wheel of Time Index.
See more of Dan Dos Santos’ work on his website and Tor.com gallery.
For a larger view of The Fires of Heaven, see Dragonmount’s feature.
Irene Gallo is the art director for Tor, Forge, and Starscape books and Tor.com.