Towers of Midnight, volume thirteen in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, will be available in ebook form on January 31st. 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.)
This was a lesson in, “when you have smart people advising you, listen to them!”
When it came time to work on The Towers of Midnight cover, Jason Denzel and Leigh Butler immediately described this sequence of Perrin forging a war hammer, driven by the power of saidin.
As Jason said, “I knew when I read the scene what had to go on the ebook cover…. It was an iconic moment for Perrin, and a chance to showcase everything that makes him the character we love.” Leigh was in complete agreement, “It was wonderful, not only for the inherent coolness of the act itself, but for what it symbolized, which was Perrin, at long goddamn last, finally accepting who and what he was…. it was one of the coolest things to ever happen in the series.”
Clearly it struck an emotional chord in fans of the series and I knew it would be a great visual…but so close to the end of the series, I was hoping to showcase Rand. And there are awesome Rand battle scenes in this book! But no matter how many people I asked, including all of the WoT community on Tor.com, everyone kept mentioning this scene. Clearly Jason and Leigh knew what they were talking about. As always.
So, Perrin it would be.
Raymond Swanland was on the top of my wish-list from the begining of this project but with so few books left, I couldn’t help but to look around carefully. Still, I never realy wavered from my first impression. I knew that Raymond could handle the dramatic lighting in play and be able to invoke tremendous power in the figure work. Even assuming the best, I was still blown away by the depth of emotion he captured in Perrin. Those eyes, lost in a trance, unminding of the natural world but absolutely focused on the chaos and activity around him…. You don’t have to know the story beforehand to get shivers looking at it.
See the initial sketches and read Raymond’s reaction to the project below:
Raymond Swanland: When I first heard about the Wheel of Time series from my friends in high school I was already wrapped-up mid-flow in Frank Herbert’s epic methodical sci-fi Dune saga, followed directly by the Stephen King’s archetypal surrealist Dark Tower series. By the time I was ready for my next serialized epic, I was a bit daunted by the seven or eight books that lay between me and my friends’ feverish excitement for the next installment. Time passed and it slipped onto my literary “to do” list, but never quite hit the top. Yet I swore I would take on the challenge one day.
Boom! More than a decade, and twice as many books in the series later, I have the opportunity to create the ebook cover for the 13th WOT novel, Towers of Midnight. With the 40th chapter, titled “A Making,” pre-selected as the scene to visually exemplify the book, I had my starting place. The moment had finally come for me to read my first pages of the Wheel of Time.
opens in a new windowOnce I read through the chapter about the symbolic act of Perrin Aybara forging a war hammer, representing his choice to put away his emotional baggage and embrace leadership, it was clear that I had a lot of catching up to do. Though time was tight, I knew the scene deserved the maximum research I could cover. I listened through Towers of Midnight on audio while working on other projects and traveling. I plowed through the plethora of information available about the first dozen books to get a sense for the arc of the story, and in particular, Perrin’s journey. Finally I came to a place where I felt that I understood Perrin enough to depict a moment of important resolution for him. It was time for the imagery to take over.
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All the way though his story, Perrin has a very stoic and reserved personality that rarely allows blatant emotion to come through. Most of his personal conflict takes place internally. Therefore, it was my approach from early on that his moment of self-realization would not so much be written on his face as represented in the symbols andatmospheric forces around him. His connection with the primal natural world through his wolf nature and his time spent in a spiritual dreamscape gave me the perfect setting for his cover image—somewhere between the tangible and the archetypal. The forging of the hammer takes place in the physical world of his peoples’ camp, but I wanted to depict him separated from the others in a sort of mist of consciousness that isolates him as he contemplates his intent.
opens in a new windowAlthough I explored imagery of Perrin in the middle of his process of working his blacksmith ways, forging the raw metal, it was always quite clear that the ideal moment to depict was the instant he finished the hammer and realized what he had made. The form of the weapon is clear and so is his sense of purpose.
With the final composition chosen, of Perrin’s golden eyes gazing down at his glowing creation, my concentration turned to bringing the symbolic elements into focus. A wolf-emblazoned banner ripples behind him, more as a memory of Hopper counseling him than a representation of his own spirit. Sparks and flames rise up from the forge to almost envelop him as a wash of emotion drives him to create. Even fur lining his jerkin gives him a hint of animal wildness. Ultimately, his own wolf spirit, the spirit of the Wolf King, manifests in the heat and smoke from his creation like a phoenix from ashes as he makes his decision to be a leader. Perrin is ready to rock ‘n’ roll!
Although it’s a little disorienting, or even a little sacrilegious, to jump into a story as epic and expansive as the Wheel of Time so close to the end and work my way back, it’s been an immersive experience of the highest order. A crash course rather than a slow build. Regardless, it’s a personal resolution that’s long overdue. It’s given me a taste of what I’ve been missing out on all these years. I think it’s a good time for me to go back to the beginning.
A quick progression of the painting:
To keep up with all of our Wheel of Time posts, including information on the ebook releases, check out our Wheel of Time Index.
To see this cover larger, please visit the Dragonmount feature.
To see more of Raymond Swanland’s illustrations please visit his website and Tor.com gallery.