Lady Trent book covers and an ocean cake.
The Tropics of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent written by Marie Brennan
Join me in discussing Lady Trent and her extended study of dragons. As we draw closer to JordanCon time is starting to run short. There is still time to read a few more books before the convention. Each is around 12 hours of audio listening. By now I hope people have checked out Marie Brennan’s website to learn more about her. There is also a good collection of articles about and by Brennan on Tor.com, including her take on RPG campaigns.
JordanCon family, life hit. I fully intended to have two different articles about these books. Then I fell and injured my hand with less than 3 weeks to the con. Typing is slow going; however, I still want to provide everyone with more about our author guest of honor’s work. Toward that end, this article will cover a summary of book two and three from the Trent Memoirs. It will also showcase a fanart cake I made in appreciation of the sea serpents in book three. Thankfully the cake was made a week before life went sideways.
Discussing the books this way will include spoilers, but as in my first article, major book spoilers will be below warning lines.
In The Tropics of Serpents, the now widowed Isabella Camherst embarks on an expedition to the continent of Eriga to study savannah dragons and many other species. On this trip, Isabella takes the steps that will lead her truly down the road as Scirland’s premier dragon naturalist. The elder Lady Trent also warns readers in the preface that scandals and gossip abound for this portion of her life.
Joining her on the adventure this time is Mr. Thomas Wilker, assistant to the Earl of Hillford, and Miss Natalie Oscott, the earl’s granddaughter. Lord Hillford is around for moral and financial support, but his health does not enable him to travel. Along the way, the group meets Erigans such as: Faj Rawango, Galinke, Okweme, Akinimanbi, and Yeyuama. The Erigan’s are from different backgrounds. They do not share a religion, a culture, or skin tones with the Scirling characters, nor with each other quite often. Readers will see the implied and, at times, overt racism of this world.
Eriga is a tropical land that invokes images of African savannahs and rainforests with a vastly different power structure than found during Earth’s Victorian history. It is also filled with iron ore deposits in a world hungry for iron. The cultures represented by the various Erigan characters appear to be a blending of African cultures. I appreciate this blending, so that nothing feels like a parody. Instead it feels like Brennan is trying to show the cultures as real and fully developed, though the reader is not immersed in the nuances.
The main focus of the narrative is about the study of dragons—from the savannah snakes of Bayembe, to the Moulish swamp-wyrms inside the Green Hell—and what Isabella is willing to endure in pursuit of these studies. Even when others want her to stop.
Map of Eriga by Rhys Davies. Swamp-wyrm by Todd Lockwood.
Spoilers: The Tropics of Serpents
The real strength of The Tropic of Serpents is in the character development. In book one, Thomas Wilker is introduced as Lord Hillford’s assistant. A minor criticism I had was he never became a 3D character in my mind. Brennan completely changes that in this installment. She wrote about this transformation inside her mind on a blog post several years ago. In this book Wilker and Isabella develop a strong working relationship, and more importantly a true friendship. A friendship that is beautifully free of any sexual tension between the two characters, though outsiders kept trying to see some and cause troublesome rumors to boot. I greatly appreciated how a ceremony to banish witchcraft allowed for frank conversations between all the main characters.
Natalie Oscott transforms from a one scene character into Isabella’s true companion. She is an engineer at heart and her designs help drive the action. Oscott, like Isabella, wants a life different from the expectations of a Scirling noble woman. Unlike Isabella, her father is not supportive of these goals. Thankfully, her grandfather and friends do support her actions.
Brennan digs into the realities of being a “lady adventurer” more in this book. From dealing with unwanted advances to dealing with menses in different cultures. Not offending local norms plays a major role in how the subjects are handled. Being a young widow and mother does not free Isabella from marriage expectations, despite what she might wish. For those hoping to see different sexual preferences expressed, the topic is touched upon lightly and more favorably than typical Victorian era novels.
The conclusion of the novel takes a hard turn away from the study of dragons after Isabella performs a near miraculous feat with the help of Oscott’s engineering skills. She earns the right to learn more about the swamp-wyrms, just in time to defeat an army with them. Readers are teased with more Draconean ruins and rumors of treason. It’s almost unfair how fast paced book 2 is in the last few chapters. Yet it leaves Isabella and Wilker with strong lessons learned about the dangers of making promises rashly. These lessons serve them well in the next installment of the series.
End of Book 2 Spoilers.
The Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent written by Marie Brennan
The Broken Sea by Rhys Davies.
If you decide to pick up physical copies of these books, I highly recommend the hardback versions. Not only is each book printed with beautiful interior artwork; each book is printed in a different color scheme too. Book three, to match Todd Lockwood’s impressive cover illustration, is printed in blue. Most appropriate for a story that takes place largely at sea and on islands.
Readers join Lady Trent six years after her Eriga trip as she, her son Jake, and Tom Wilker embark on a voyage around the world in search of sea-snakes and more dragons. She and Tom are gathering information to question the nature of dragon classification. If successful, both might achieve the recognition from the Philosophers’ Colloquium they crave, despite the barriers of gender and class that have blocked their paths.
The Voyage is my favorite installment of the first three books. It might be due to the Keonga islands, inspired by the Polynesians islands and people. It could be the introduction of the archaeologist character named Suhail from Akhia. It could also be the sheer scope of the adventure told. It’s a literal voyage around the world, which takes them on a two year adventure visiting many parts of the world barely mentioned until this point.
Beyond the study of dragons, readers learn more about the ancient Draconian civilization that has popped up in the other books. Now more links are being drawn between them and the study of modern dragons and sea serpents.
Isabella and Thom continue their research as they deal with hostile governments, cultural taboos, tropical diseases, storms, and being shipwrecked.
Dragon Turtle by Todd Lockwood
Spoilers: The Voyage of the Basilisk
One of the best additions to the stories is Jake Camherst, Isabella’s now 9 year-old son. He and his governess Abigail Carew join the expedition as a learning opportunity and as a counter to all those that criticized Isabella for leaving him behind when she went to Eriga. Sadly, Abigail remains a rather flat character, but Jake grows in many ways during the story. He also pushes his mother into some adventures she would have turned down without his prodding.
The other stand out addition to the story is Suhail, an archaeologist of Draconean ruins met by accident twice during the journey. His desire to learn more about the Draconeans makes Isabella more interested in them as well. Brennan has said her natural inclinations are better reflected by Suhail, rather than Isabella. He is a character with drive and interest. He also has an ability with languages that enables better communication between the Scirlings and an assortment of other peoples. Like Jake, Suhail also prods Isabella into taking actions. Actions that lead her into the middle of another battle.
The Keongan people are primarily represented by Heali’i. Who is a Ke’anaka’i and identifies Isabella as one too. These ‘Dragon Spirited’ people are recognized and respected in the culture as different. Yet not being of a related culture or transgender myself, I would hesitate to call it a positive representation. I respect Brennan for including a transgender character in a culture that creates a place for them. She could have not included the subject, but instead it becomes a plot point. This enabled more frank conversions as thought provoking as the witchcraft ceremony of book two. The Keongan people respect the Ke’anaka’i. Isabella respects them by fully acting as one. Indeed, being one opens up several opportunities otherwise forbidden to women.
The pacing is a bit uneven and will seem slow if you only want action and fighting dragons. This segment is more about the people and animal breeds met along the way. It includes more self-reflections than in past books. Yet despite these minor issues, this installment inspired me the most.
End of Book 3 Spoilers.
More adventures await for Isabella Camherst. Indeed, as of book three, she is still not Lady Trent. That story happens later in the series. Yet I hope these discussions have inspired you to pick up the series and enjoy the full story yourself.
Words of the Series:
Interlocutor – a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation.
Much like Brandon Sanderson used “maladroitly” quite often in his Mistborn: Era 1 series, Lady Trent uses interlocutor several times per book. It stood out after the third time I heard the word, and I was finally compelled to look up the meaning.
Let us all gather in July to be interlocutors together. Until then, enjoy some tea and cake while reading more from Marie Brennan.
Ocean Wave Cake:
The sea serpents and Todd Lockwood’s stunning cover artwork fired my creativity after reading the series. Thanks to this inspiration, I decided to make fan art. My medium of expression has become cake and fondant in the last few years. At the bottom of the waves is an early style diving bell. I’m rather proud of the engineering that went into creating a twelve-inch tall leaping sea serpent over tropical waves.
Isabella may enjoy a number of coconuts while in the Broken Sea; however, it is not a flavor I enjoy. So the cake is a lemon sponge with pineapple filling, which creates a sunny look and a light citrus flavor. The ocean waves are made with Swiss meringue buttercream in 4 colors. The sea-serpent and diving bell are fondant over rice-cereal treat. Isabella is made of all fondant.
Bright lemon and pineapple flavors. Next images will contain spoilers.
Sea-serpent cake with book cover. Figure is 12″ tall. Overall cake is 23″ x 8″
Reverse side of the sea-serpent. I tried to make is square-ish, like Lockwood’s cover.
Isabella riding a sea-serpent. Whiskers made of fishing line.
Article and cake by Deana Whitney
Join her in the Workshop Track at JordanCon.
The Writers Track has opened submissions for our annual Friday Night Workshop and the JordanCon’s Got Slush panel. Details for each below!
Friday Night Workshop (Virtual)
Because we are still social distancing, we are taking this year’s Friday Night workshop 100% online. We will use Zoom and make use of Breakout Rooms to give each critique group the ability to do their thing. We are not restricting who can attend the workshop, but we do have limited space (presently at 20 attendees but might expand). We are doing sign-ups first come, first serve. And be sure your work is ready to go when you submit, because resubmitting/revisions sends you to the back of the line. The form will be open until July 1 or it fills up. 1000 word max on submitted pieces, please.
- Go here to submit your work. READ ALL THE RULES CAREFULLY! (ahem)
- On July 11, you will be sent a zoom link for the workshop as well as PDFs of the submitted work for your group. Advanced reading is not required, but always encouraged.
- At 8:15 pm EST on July 16, the zoom will open. A Writers Track facilitator will be the host and will assign groups to their designated breakrooms. Please sign on promptly.
- Each attendee will get “the spotlight” for roughly 30 minutes, where they will read their work aloud as everyone follows along, and then receive professional and peer critique.
- Once all the attendees (up to four max in a group) have gone, the workshop is over and you can sign off. YAY!
JordanCon’s Got Slush! (In person)
Saturday July 17th, at 11:30 am (subject to change, check the final schedule!), we will have the return of a special panel where you can have the opening pages of your novel read anonymously, then get immediate feedback from publishing professionals on their impression of your opening. Please only one submission per attendee, and only the first 600 words. Submissions will be read by a moderator while the panelists follow along on their own printed copies. Please do not include your name on the submission document, but do include the title. Please also include the genre and the length of the full work. Submissions should be in .pdf, .docx, or .rtf format.
Again, this doesn’t have to be a finished work, so if it isn’t, estimate what the full word count would be if it were to be finished.
Deadline to submit is July 1. All selections for the panel will be randomly selected from the submissions. Please have submissions double-spaced and in an easy-to-read font with ample margins for potential jotted down notes.
SURPRISE CONTENT DROP, Y’ALL!!
It’s me, your
only favorite World of the Wheel Track Manager: James Starke. What, you’ve never heard of me? Well, allow me to give you an ACTUAL VERIFIED PICTURE:
When we were told that there was going to be content dropping this weekend, I knew that I wanted to talk about the upcoming television show, because I’m so. freaking. excited. and I know that y’all are, too! However, I didn’t want to give you just a written summary of everything that’s already been announced, because that’s already been done. No, I want to touch on the major developments and express myself in the only way that I know how:
ALL RIGHTY, KIDS. Buckle up, ’cause this is going to be a wild ride. I’m going to be doing this somewhat chronologically, starting with…
LOOK. I have come to love Rafe Judkins, but at the time, I had no idea who he was. In the announcement article, I found that he’d written for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (good show) and Chuck (very good show), but I also found out that he was a contestant on Survivor: Guatemala in 2005, lasting 38 days and placing 3rd, which is super-impressive. Also, it gives me a reason to post this GIF.
Rafe on Survivor: Guatemala. (I’m sorry if you’re reading this and it brings up painful memories.)
July/August 2018: First Episode Titles & Snippets from the Script
When Rafe posted these to his Twitter using the short-lived #WheelofTimeMonday hashtag, it had been FIFTEEN MONTHS of knowing that the show existed without much actual news. The entire fandom was like, “Okay, it’s going to happen. Maybe. They announced a showrunner, which is good. But… Is it actually happening?” And then BOOM: EPISODE TITLES AND SNIPPETS FROM THE ACTUAL SCRIPT.
The first episode is going to be titled “Leavetaking,” and the second “Shadow’s Waiting.” Reader, this was a magical time in the fandom. My friends and I immediately started a group chat that had hundreds of messages in the first few weeks. We speculated so much on what these titles meant. Did that mean that they were leaving Emond’s Field in the very first episode, or was it going to be Moiraine leaving The White Tower on her quest to find a baby Rand al’Thor? If the second episode is “Shadow’s Waiting,” that immediately makes me think of Shadar Logoth, but how are they going to do that in episode two?? What about Baerlon? Min? SO MUCH SPECULATION, Y’ALL. (Seriously, people latched onto the idea that if they were going from Emond’s Field to Shayol Ghul, and they were going to remove Min from the show entirely, despite the fact that she’s, you know, a main character. Ye of little faith!)
And then he released a screenshot of the script, showing our beloved Tam al’Thor walking in the Westwood?! *swoon* That made it so real, y’all. I was getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the workings of this television show, and it was amazing. The following week, Rafe followed this up with casting direction in the script, describing the cast as “a beautiful mix of white, brown, black, and everything in between.”
Okay, I’m starting to love Rafe a
little bit lot.
September 2018: Q&A with Rafe Judkins
Rafe after the Q&A.
I don’t know what Rafe was thinking when he decided to do this, but I can nearly guarantee you that he didn’t expect to answer over 190 questions in two and a half hours. I put together an article with some of the key takeaways at TarValon.Net (which you can read here), but more than anything else that was revealed that day, I learned that Rafe Judkins had a love and passion for this show that I could never have imagined. Honestly, this was the day that I knew that The Wheel of Time television series was in good hands. (Also, in response to my question to him, he said there would be “pillow friends out the wazoo”, and that makes me so happy.)
Please call me.
October 2018: Announcement that Amazon is Producing the Show
The entire fandom on October 2, 2018.
Since it was announced that The Wheel of Time TV Show was actually happening, people were wondering how it was going to be distributed. HBO was just finishing up Game of Thrones, so we didn’t think they were too likely. Showtime and Stars were both in the running, as they were well-known premium television networks that probably wanted to get into the epic fantasy game. Netflix was also a huge contender, because they were buying titles left and right. Hulu was in the game, too, but most people thought that if it were going to go to a streaming platform, it would be Netflix.
The announcement that Amazon would be producing the series came as a shock, because nearly everyone had ruled them out for one very legitimate reason: they had just spent $250,000,000 for just the rights to produce a series set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. (They’ve since spent an additional one billion dollars to produce the first two seasons, making it the most expensive thing on television ever.) Most people were really, really happy that a company as big as Amazon picked up the series, because that meant that a major studio with a whole bunch of money was going to be involved, and that’s something to be excited about!
The article also mentions that Moiraine is going to be the main character of the show, at least for the first season. It describes the show as “set in a sprawling, epic world where magic exists, but only women can use it. The story follows Moiraine, a member of the shadowy and influential all-female organization called the ‘Aes Sedai’ as she embarks on a dangerous, world-spanning journey with five young men and women. Moiraine believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, whom prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it. The series draws on numerous elements of European and Asian culture and philosophy, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism.”
This upset some people, because obviously the story is about Rand, right? (And Mat and Perrin and Egwene and Nynaeve, but… Rand’s the main character.) So… how could the story follow Moiraine? But honestly, this makes so much sense. From the very first chapter of The Eye of the World, you know that Rand is the main character. If the show makes Moiraine the lead, then that’s going to make it more of a mystery as to who the actual Dragon Reborn is. Yes, it’ll be revealed early on in the show, but having Moiraine as the lead allows for so much more worldbuilding than if you just focus on Rand. I’m very much looking forward to it.
Moiraine being told she’s the main character.
February/March 2019: More Episode Titles
Wait, the episodes are titled what?
Rafe revealed that the third episode was titled “A Place of Safety,” and episode four was titled “The Dragon Reborn.” Reader, this threw the entire fandom for a loop. I cannot emphasize enough how confused everyone was. Prior to this, we knew two episode titles: “Leavetaking” (they’re leaving Emond’s Field, got it) and “Shadow’s Waiting” (Shayol Ghul, maybe a little earlier than anticipated, but that still tracks for episode two).
Me, trying to figure out what the episode titles mean.
But… “A Place of Safety” makes me think of Caemlyn when they’re all reunited, which is two-thirds of the way through The Eye of the World. At this point, it becomes very, very clear that the series is not going to do one book per season. Everyone knows that there are going to be changes when something is adapted from page to screen, but this was confirmation of it. It makes total sense, but it wasn’t something that the fandom had really considered at that point. This was driven home with the announcement of the title of the fourth episode: “The Dragon Reborn”, which more than likely refers to either the events at the end of The Eye of the World or Siuan and Moiraine confronting Rand about his destiny in The Great Hunt.
Personally, I think that the second is more likely, which would mean that the show would be skipping the events at the end of The Eye of the World. If you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense – there’s a lot that would need to be covered to even get to The Eye of the World (the place), and the only thing you get out of it is a battle with two of the Forsaken and (SPOILERS) the revelation that Rand is The Dragon Reborn. You could easily cut the Forsaken out and let them debut later on in the series, causing a lot more tension, because the stakes would be higher. Also, Rand being told he’s The Dragon Reborn by Siuan and Moiraine is an absolutely amazing moment in the series that loses none of its impact just because we already know it as readers.
Sorry, y’all. I’m getting excited about the show all over again remembering these moments. SO EXCITED.
June 2019: Rosamund Pike as Moiraine
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ROSAMUND PIKE????? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????
This is the one that got me, y’all. I thought that I was already all in, but I was actually still lingering on the edge, a little trepidatious about what was down the rabbit-hole, but this… LOOK AT THE PICTURE THEY USED TO ANNOUNCE HER CASTING. I have two words for you: POWER. POSE.
Moiraine is my favorite character (with Nynaeve as a very close second), so starting with this was absolutely phenomenal. Some people did not know who Rosamund Pike was, but I had seen her in Gone Girl and knew that she had the intensity required to play Moiraine. I also knew her from Doom, where she played a geneticist on Mars, and Wrath of the Titans, where she played Queen Andromeda. Neither of those movies takes themselves very seriously, and Rosamund absolutely shines in both of them. I was so excited by this casting. It could not be put into words.
Rosamund, reading this, basking in the adoration.
August 2019: The Emond’s Field Five Casting
Amazon deciding which casting to release next.
With the casting of Rosamund Pike as Moiraine, Amazon had taken over the series’s social media presence. Everyone was wondering what they would announce next, and they did an excellent job of teasing people in the days leading up to the announcement. People guessed that it would be another casting announcement, but no one guessed that it would be all. five. Emond’s. Fielders. What made it even more amazing was how Rafe gave each of the announcements personalized messages, and they’re just all so incredibly sweet.
- Josha Stradowski as Rand al’Thor: “[The Casting Director] searched the entire world, watched thousands of tapes, I myself watched hundreds of hours of video and spent days and days in the room with people. And we found him. Rand Al’Thor.”
- Marcus Rudda as Perrin Aybara: “This man walked into the room, read a scene that made every single person watching cry, and walked out. We all looked at each other and said “He is Perrin.” Glad you’re all getting to meet him now too :)”
- Zoë Robins as Nynaeve al’Meara: “We had the pick of the world on these cast members. Sent about two dozen Nynaeve tapes to the writers’ room to see who everyone liked and every. single. person. had one response — “Zoe”. I am already stanning her if that’s how you use that word. #twitterafficianado
- Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon: “Barney simply is Mat. There is nothing more to say here. You will fall over dead when you see him.”
- Madeleine Madden as Egwene Al’Vere: “I’m glad you all finally get to meet Egwene. She is the character in the books I often identify with most and Maddy makes her even more than the woman I admired reading for all those years. These five are the most incredible talents and I am honored to be able to work with them.”
Rafe and the cast really are adorable. (If you want to see more photos of the cast hanging out and being adorable, check out Madeleine Madden’s Instagram!)
October 2019: Table Read of Episode 1
The amount of talent at that table was astounding.
After the casting announcement of Moiraine, Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve, Mat, and Egwene, no one really knew what to expect. The Wheel of Time has 2,782 named characters, and even though there’s no way that even 5% of those will make their way into the television show, casting announcements could have lasted a long time.
No one was expecting a table read. The casting had just been announced, and we weren’t sure how far into development they were. It was a shock to see all of them in the same room together doing a table read from the first episode. It was the first time that we heard some of them in character, and there was just so much joy at the table. It was really, really amazing to see. The video ended with a simple message: “THE WHEEL OF TIME. NOW IN PRODUCTION.”
January/February 2020: Rand on a Mountain & The Winespring Inn
Josha Stradowski on the mountains of Slovenia.
The Eye of the World was published on January 15, 1990. It’s literally older than I am. (No, I will not apologize for being young and beautiful, thank you very much.) To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Eye of the World, Rafe shared the first photo of the set. The picture was taken in-between shots on a mountain in Slovenia, with Josha Stradowski (Rand) getting his hair touched up while wearing a coat (because they’re high up in the mountains of central Europe, where it is COLD AF). There’s also a mountain guide there to make sure that, you know, no one falls and plummets to their deaths.
Then, on February 19, Rafe shared a picture from the first day on set in September 2019. It’s a sprawling overhead shot showing Emond’s Field, and it looks so cool. Foggy as San Francisco in the summer, but cool!
San Francisco Emond’s Field
November 2019 to August 2020: More Casting Announcements
The entire fandom asking Amazon for more casting news.
While all of the above is going on, Amazon is also releasing even more casting announcements (because apparently they love us?? Aw, shucks!!). Listed (roughly) in the order they were announced:
- Daniel Henney as al’Lan Mandragoran
- Michael McElhatton as Tam al’Thor
- Alvaro Morte as Logain Ablar
- Hammed Animashaun as Loial
- Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin
- Johann Myers as Padan Fain
- Priyanka Bose as Alanna Mosvani
- Emmanuel Imani as Ihvon
- Taylor Napier as Maksim
- If you’re not sure who Maksim is, that’s okay – that name doesn’t appear in the books. Alanna did have a warder named Owein, though, so we’re assuming that’s who this is. (And, to be honest, Maksim is a much cooler name than Owein.)
- Jennifer Cheon Garcia as Leane Sharif
- Lolita Chakrabarti as Marin Al’Vere
- Michael Tuahine as Bran Al’Vere
- David Sterne as Cenn Buie
- Christopher Sciueref as Abell Cauthon
- Juliet Howland as Natti Cauthon
- Mandi Symonds as Daise Conger
- Abdul Salis as Eamon Valda
- Stuart Graham as Geofram Bornhald
- Pasha Bocarie as Master Grinwell
- Jennifer Preston as Mistress Grinwell
- Izuka Hoyle as Dana
- If you’re not sure who Dana is… well, join the club. My best guess is that she’s Else Grinwell, since she was announced with the other two Grinwells. (Again, Dana is a much cooler name than Else, so I’ll take it.)
- Darren Clarke as Basel Gill
- Maria Doyle Kennedy as Ila
- Yes, that Maria Doyle Kennedy. In my opinion, they have to be expanding the role of Ila if they have Maria Doyle Kennedy in that role.
- Narinder Samra as Raen
- Daryl McCormack as Aram
- Sophie Okonedo as Siuan Sanche
- Kae Alexander as Min Farshaw
- As I mentioned earlier, the entire fandom was in an absolute TIZZY about Min being cut from the series because she hadn’t been announced earlier. There were comments on almost every other announcement just repeating “Min Min Min Min Min Min Min Min Min” over and over and over. Y’all gotta chill.
- Clare Perkins as Kerene Nagashi
- Peter Franzén as Stepin
- Stepin is also not a character that appears in the books, but he was announced as Karene’s Warder.
- Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin Guirale
Me, exhausted after typing all that out.
All of these announcements are absolutely amazing, and I cannot wait to see what other talent is involved in this show!!
September 2020 – Today: Endless Teasing
Amazon logging into Twitter every week.
There are a lot of things in life that I love: my cats, my fiancé, reading Sam/Frodo fanfiction, watching The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions on 4K, and reading basically any Wonder Woman comic. All of those things bring me an incredible amount of joy, and I know that they’re there for me when I need them. (Well, except for my cats – sometimes they don’t want to be near me AND THAT’S OKAY EVEN THOUGH IT HURTS MY FEELINGS.)
My cat reading this.
Things I do not like include: being asked to work on the weekends, figuring out how to use a shower that isn’t mine, large birds, and being teased. I hate being teased. If a friend comes up to me and says, “Guess what?” and then actually makes me guess? Friendship over. We’re done. If you know that my preferred name is “James” and you call me “Jim” or “Jimmy”? You’re dead to me.
Don’t call me Jimmy. *stern face*
Yet, somehow, Amazon has figured out a way to tease me that I love: releasing clips of a TV series that I am super-duper excited about! Don’t get me wrong, I wish there were more, but HOO BOY could I talk about these clips for hours if someone would let me. (Oh, wait, someone is!)
Let’s go through them one-by-one (click on the headers for links to the announcements):
Marin al’Vere at the front desk of The Winespring Inn.
This is the first video we’ve seen of the set, and it was MASTERFULLY done. It’s an 11-second clip that starts on a copy of The Eye of the World describing The Winespring Inn. The book is slowly lowered, and… there it is. The Winespring Inn, red roof and all. As I’m writing this, I’ve watched it at least ten times, and the birds’ sounds in the background of the video are just really, really relaxing.
Perrin jumping into the river.
GOOSEBUMPS, Y’ALL. In this 16-second clip, you hear the screaming, the sounds of battle, and then a voice saying, “You ready?” (NO I AM NOT, VOICE). Another voice responds, “No” (WHAT DID I TELL YOU?), and the response is, “Me either.” (THANK YOU FOR LISTENING) followed by the sounds of splashing. The consensus is that this is Egwene and Perrin jumping into the River Arinelle after Shadar Logoth, and hearing those voices is AMAZING.
Don’t sue us for making a gif of this clip, Amazon, but it’s JUST SO COOL.
This one is different from the previous clips, and it sets the tone for the next few. In this, we get to see the description of the sword in the books, pencil sketches, a 3D design, construction, and then a picture of it actually on set, with the sounds of battle in the background (probably Winternight). This kind of behind-the-scenes stuff is what I live for with television and movies. I love seeing concept art, sketches, and just the amount of work that goes into what you actually see on screen, because it’s a lot.
Thom in a battle.
Okay, this one definitely deviates from the books, but pretty much everyone agrees that it’s a solid change that makes sense when you’re adapting to television. Thom’s flute is obviously a key part to the story, but it’s not as easy to get an actor to fake playing a flute while also speaking in chant – it’s much easier to fake playing a guitar, and it leaves your mouth visible. This clip shows a line of direction from the script stating that Thom has a guitar, pencil sketches, 3D designs, construction, and then then a picture of it on set, with Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin saying in a voiceover, “Donation for a Gleeman?” CHILLS.
January 15, 2021 – Concept Art
Me, looking at the concept art… It’s so beautiful.
Okay, like I said earlier, I really, really love concept art. I own so many art books from movies that I just like to open and look at to relax. I also really, really love Rafe Judkins. So… this video just combines two of my favorite things. The video opens with Rafe talking about the themes of The Eye of the World while showing five different pieces of concept art: two men at a bridge, a village festival, a tinker encampment, riders on horseback crossing a stream, and a lone rider in a shadowy city. Some of these are pretty straightforward as to what they’re depicting, but others have us guessing. Regardless, they’re all absolutely stunning, and I really hope that the show comes out with an art book featuring concept art!
February 17, 2021 – The Ruby-hilted Dagger
Mat, playing with his dagger, wondering why Rand is looking at him oddly.
Okay, so, DON’T HATE ME, but I’m just not a fan of Mat in the early books. His entire emo journey with the dagger and hating all of his friends really soured how I viewed his character. In the later books, he becomes a really awesome character, but early on? Ugh. I had to force myself to read them.
Regardless, the ruby-hilted dagger is a prevalent artifact in the series from beginning to end, and a lot of people really love Mat, so this was a fantastic reveal from Amazon. In the video, you see a line from the script describing the dagger, and then the video moves to a dark hallway and a man’s hand opening a gold box, removing a dagger. A voice (probably Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon) says: “Alright, let’s make a deal.” Like I said, I don’t particularly care for Mat in the early books, but hearing him say that is just so in-character, and it makes me so, so excited to watch this scene.
Me, seeing the clip.
Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred by Corey Lansdell
Honestly, it’s been a month since this clip was released and I’m still recovering. I’ve mentioned it before, but Moiraine is my absolute favorite character. I was so excited when Rosamund Pike was announced as Moiraine. An amazing artist, Corey Lansdell, created concept art with Rosamund as Moiraine in the weeks after the announcement and it is STUNNING.
It’s only a five-second clip (because, again, Amazon loves to tease us), but in it you hear a woman’s voice say, “Do not underestimate the women in this tower.” Then, Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred appears with her eyes closed. She opens them, and a blinding light covers the screen. In typing this section, I’ve watched it at least 50 times, and it never. gets. old.
If you’re confused as to when Moiraine would say “Do not underestimate the women in this tower” during the show, you’re definitely not alone. However, Rafe confirmed in a Q&A immediately following the teaser release that Rosamund Pike recorded this audio specifically for the teaser and the exact audio won’t be in the show. Honestly? That’s even more cool. I love that Rosamund Pike is so on board with the show and her character that she came back to record something specifically for a 5-second clip. And honestly, if this is what channeling is going to look like in the show, I am so down.
April 2021 – Wait, That’s It?
Please, Amazon, may I have some more??
Well, it looks like that’s it. Four thousand words, 34 GIFs, and a whole bunch of excitement and speculation. I guess that’s going to have to tide me over until JordanCon!!
See you in July!!
One of my favorite parts of JordanCon is strolling through the dealers hall and art show. You can feel the creativity in the air, and there are so many talented and inspiring creators to meet.
For 20+ years Charles Urbach’s colored pencil work has appeared on book covers, RPGs, board games, and collectible card games, including: Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and A Game of Thrones. He is a 2018 Chesley Award winner and instructor at events around the world.
In addition to being a prolific artist, world-builder, and storyteller, Charles is one of the most down-to-earth, approachable, and encouraging professionals I’ve ever encountered. I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview him about his career and to share this blog with my #jordanconfam.
For more beautiful art, be sure to check out Charles’ Etsy shop and follow him on Facebook….
Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CharlesUrbachArt
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/CharlesUrbachArt
Without further ado, here’s the interview…
What’s the best part of being an award winning Sci-fi and Fantasy artist?
Experience, and the freedom that comes with it. 30 years of working professionally as an artist teaches you how to face and overcome a lot of challenges. In that time, if you’re learning and growing, working humbly, diligently, and mindfully, you build the confidence and wisdom to make choices and set your own goals and boundaries. Like any career pursued with passion and skill, the hardships, choices, victories, losses, and sacrifices you face inform the person you become.
What originally inspired you to become an artist?
I encountered fantasy and science fiction on television and in books in the 1970s, at a very young age. My family enjoyed genre entertainment and was successful in the music industry. This fostered an appreciation for imaginative storytelling and understanding of a life in creative expression. I was encouraged to learn and create. Even before I could read the Lord of the Rings, the covers of the books drew me into an imaginary world. I barely understood what it was about, but I made up my own stories based on those covers. I would do that with all the visual worlds I saw in books, film, and TV – even after I could read and understand them better. I loved extrapolating beyond the confines of the stories presented. In the early 80’s I encountered the famous “red box” edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and Larry Elmore’s cover art for that was particularly inspirational. Seeing his work, and that of other illustrators in publishing and gaming, gave my interest in world-building a direction. Their work showed me there was a career in drawing the things I loved. Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything but write and draw.
What of your original inspiration and motivation for becoming an artist have you held onto throughout your career?
The sense of wonder, unlimited potential, and world-building without boundaries. As a creative professional, more than any other career, the opportunities to learn, explore, and express ideas are endless.
Most rewarding moment of your art career so far?
Seeing the successes of artists I’ve mentored. Teaching other artists and helping them succeed based on hard work, critical thinking, perseverance, humility, and ethical behavior has been a part of my work from the beginning. I’ve been in the field long enough now to see them achieve success and pass those values onto other artists.
What’s your favorite thing to draw?
It’s not specific subject matter, but any project where I’m allowed creative freedom. I love exploring all kinds of genres, worlds, and ideas. The joy comes from the freedom to find what I connect with in a project and explore it.
The pandemic has presented many dilemmas and setbacks for artists this year, especially those who use events like conventions to network and sell their work. What have you done to stay resilient and pivot during this challenging time?
There were two principles I followed through 2020.
From my first job in art as a graphic designer, I’ve emphasized diversity in my education, skill set, and work ethic. I’ve always tried to adapt my work and methods to the circumstances at hand. Challenge is the norm in an art career and learning to face and adapt to adversity is critical for success. It’s trendy now for artists to specialize and follow what influencers and self-appointed teachers tell them – and there can be short-term advantages to that – but my approach has always been to build a slower but more enduring model by diversifying. My personality is inclined toward that, but more importantly, I’ve seen the benefits from it. All along, I’ve worked hard to build as many diverse relationships and skills as possible – many outside what people would consider the community and culture of art. Covid presented unparalleled difficulties, but I was able to source the prior relationships and skill sets I’d developed, as well as reach out to the fans and supporters who have always been the base of what I do. That diverse support structure was enough to get by and prepare for what would come after.
The second principle I embraced was a commitment to readiness for the post-Covid world. Even with limited resources, I put as much effort as I could into building relationships, finding new ways to market my work, and making new art ready for the opportunities that would inevitably return. I tried to look past the immediate difficulties and focus tangibly on the future. It wasn’t always easy to do that, but even a small effort kept the gears moving forward.
One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” 2020 was very dark indeed, but I tried to live and work with a spark of light in my heart and mind.
If you could give aspiring artists one piece of advice, what would it be?
Think for yourself: Think critically, independently, and creatively about every facet of your artistic journey. Creativity doesn’t end at the edge of your sketch pad. Ask challenging questions of yourself and others and measure the answers against common sense and what you know to be true. Look for patterns and power structures in the individuals and institutions you encounter and always search for the “why” behind what you find. Apply the same culture and standards of critique to the people and institutions who would impose critique on you. Embrace new ideas and learning, but don’t believe and internalize the negative reinforcement you encounter. Learn from and understand those challenges for what they are and what they say about the world of art, but don’t let that or any group define you.
Favorite Pokémon? Why?
Baby Yoda. What do you mean he’s not a Pokemon? He’s got macarons and Jedi powers – kinda the best Pokemon ever. Grogu-mon I choose you!
Charles Urbach, colored pencil artist
Find Charles online here: