OK, I’ll state up front that I am a huge fan of both series & Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy is high up there in terms of favorite movies of all time. Having said that, I want to try to be as unbiased as possible in this comparison.
First, a little bit about each series. The Wheel of Time is a series of 14 epic fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan. It’s set in a world where there is an ongoing struggle between good and evil, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of the Dark One – the embodiment of evil. The Lord of the Rings is also an epic fantasy series, written by JRR Tolkien. It’s set in Middle-earth, a fictional world created by Tolkien, and follows a group of Hobbits (& others) as they attempt to destroy the One Ring – which would give its owner control over all other rings and therefore rule over Middle-earth.
Now, on to the comparison. The Wheel of Time is a far more complex series than The Lord of the Rings. There are more characters, more plotlines, and more subplots. This can be both good and bad – it’s good because there’s always something going on and you never get bored, but it can be bad because it’s easy to get lost in all the different threads. The Lord of the Rings is much more straightforward – there are still multiple plotlines, but they’re all interconnected and easy to follow.
The world-building in The Wheel of Time is also much more detailed. Jordan spent a lot of time creating his world, and it shows. Every culture has its own history, customs, and beliefs, and they’re all fleshed out in great detail. The Lord of the Rings world is also well-developed, but not to the same extent.
I’ve reviewed some of the books already in previous posts –
- A New Spring (book 0 – prequel)
- Eye of the World (book 1)
- The Gathering Storm (book 12)
- The Towers of Midnight (book 13)
but still need to finish my writeups of the remainder of the books. I’m aiming to do another read-through this year so you can expect to see those posts coming soon.
Similarly, when it comes to the Lord of the Rings, I’ve also been a bit lax, however, I do have a review of The Hobbit movie, which I found pretty entertaining, if a bit long.
One thing you’ll find different is that The Wheel of Time has a lot more action than The Lord of the Rings. There are huge battles with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, magical duels, and daring rescues. If you’re looking for action paired with political drama and world-building, this is the series for you. The Lord of the Rings has its fair share of action scenes too, but they’re not as frequent and are more isolated in scope.
Now, with all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at the two recent television (Amazon Prime) adaptations and see which one has more to offer.
We’ll start with The Wheel of Time. This show has a lot going for it. The production values are excellent, with massive sets and impressive CGI. The acting, however, is just OK, although there are some really stand-out performances from the likes of Rosamund Pike and Jared Harris. It stays primarily faithful to the source material, although there are some changes here and there (mostly to do with pacing), but nothing that significantly alters the story. I’d be the first to admit that some of Jordan’s books are a bit of a slog, but if you can get through them, the payoff is definitely worth it. I could see this being a 8-10 season show, easily as they compress some of the extraneous elements and tighten things up for television.
One point I do have to make, though … on my first watching of the show, I didn’t like it. It was too different from the picture that I’d built in my head. While some of the key events and characters were perfect, others were just so different that I couldn’t really wrap my head around them. That being said, I watched it again with my daughter (by the way, you should check out her site – Maya’s Bookshelves if you’re interested in more recent YA fantasy and fiction reviews), and this time, things were different. Seeing it with an “outsider” to the WOT universe and watching them gain an understanding of the One Power, the characters I’d loved for years, and the overall intricacy of the universe made it all new again for me.
On the other hand, there’s The Lord of the Rings. This is a prequel to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and tells the story of how the rings were initially created thousands of years before the characters we know and love even existed. There is no source material for much of the work here, as it is all original. However, the story is told in a very different style than what we see in the movies. There are several key characters that we’ve heard of before, but now as younger versions, you can see where their ”legends” began – Galadriel and Elrond to name two.
While we’re only 1/2 way through the season, the acting and production values have been top-notch (better than WOT in my opinion), and the story is very engaging. It’s a much more traditional television show, with a focus on character development and relationships. As the story is brand new, there is no real knowledge before each episode drops of what’s coming next and how the story will progress and move forward. There are new characters that we don’t really know much about, and others that could end up being people we’re familiar with, but we simply don’t know for sure.
So, which is better? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want non-stop action and adventure, with little time devoted to anything else, then Wheel of Time is probably the better choice. If you’re looking for something that feels more like a traditional television show, with complex characters and storylines, then Lord of the Rings is the way to go. Personally, I’m enjoying both for different reasons, and I can’t wait to see how they both end.
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