The Wheel of Time recently got its long-awaited adaptation when the new Amazon series of the same name premiered, starring Rosamund Pike. The series is an adaptation of the popular high fantasy novels by Robert Jordan. Due to it being the same genre, one cannot avoid the inevitable comparisons to Game of Thrones. So, which one is better?
So far, The Wheel of Time series does a great job of transferring the same vibes and traditional high fantasy elements that made the novels so popular. However, even with some twists in the story, it hasn’t presented the same wow factor as the unprecedented Game of Thrones series.
Honestly, the biggest problem with The Wheel of Time series so far is the inevitable comparison to Game of Thrones. It should be viewed completely unbiased, as the plot is way more traditional in the high fantasy genre. Game of Thrones has more darkness, violence, betrayal, and shock, while The Wheel of Time is slower and more straightforward.
Let’s compare the books and the TV shows to see which one is better, depending on what you’re looking for as a reader/viewer.
The Wheel of Time Books
The Wheel of Time is a long series of high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, an American author that initiated the series in 1990, six years before A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin was published (the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series).
After Jordan died in 2007, another popular author, Brandon Sanderson, finished the last three novels. It was supposed to be one book, but Jordan had left so many notes and guidelines for the story that it couldn’t possibly fit only one book, so the Sanderson run expanded into three books.
The books are quite long, even for the high fantasy genre, ranging from 760 – 990 pages, or 226 000 – 394 000 words. The only exception to that range is a prequel novel called a New Spring, published in 2004. It counts around 330 pages or 122 000 words.
The first book, The Eye of the World, introduces us to the universe that Jordan had created, which is extremely detailed and well-fabricated. It uses numerous elements from various cultures worldwide, especially European and Asian mythology.
That includes the concept of the “circle of life,” or the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism. It talks about the concepts of balance between good and evil, right and wrong, and even gender, and deep respect for nature, a focal point of teachings in numerous cultures, especially Taoism.
The most notable aspects of the Wheel of Time series are extensive details about the unnamed world where the action takes place, including how it works, how some characters can use magic, etc. Also, there’s a huge number of characters involved – over 2600 of them throughout the 14+1 book series (the one extra being the prequel novel).
The world in question is both a distant past and a distant future of Earth – time is cyclical and repeats itself, while humans, and lives in general, are the threads that create the fabric of reality, known as the Wheel of Time.
The Creator was the one to forge the universe and the Wheel. As the Wheel spins, so does the Pattern of the Ages. There are seven spokes on the Wheel representing seven different ages, and they rotate under the One Power, which is divided into two halves – male and female, or saidin and saidar.
The ones who can channel the One Power can use magic. They are called the channelers, or the Aes Sedai. They use their powers to fight evil – in this case, it’s the Dark One, known as Shai’tan, who is imprisoned, but as his prison creaks open, his evil influence gets back out into the world.
That’s when the Wheel spun out the Dragon – a channeler so powerful he could defeat the Dark One. The Dragon and his armies eventually won, but at a cost – the Dark One tainted the male half of the One Power, saidin so that every male who uses the One Power goes insane. Even the Dragon went insane, killing all his friends and family before killing himself.
Now, a new time is here where the Dark One is reemerging, so the Aes Sedai look for the reincarnated Dragon who will, according to the prophecy, fight the Dark One again and be humanity’s only chance at saving the world.
That’s just scratching the surface of the first book, but you get the gist – it’s a classic high fantasy fight of good and evil, filled with traditional elements of the genre and impeccable world-building.
The novels are extremely popular among the fans of the genre, amassing over 90 million sold copies worldwide.
Game of Thrones Books
Game of Thrones books aren’t actually Game of Thrones books. The series is called A Song of Ice and Fire, and the first book in the series is called A Game of Thrones – where the TV show got its name from. It was published in 1996 and immediately caught the fans of the genre in a frenzy.
The book series is still unfinished, but it will consist of seven books, ranging from 700 to over 1000 pages, or 292 000 to over 414 000 words after it’s done. That’s massive source material for TV show writers, just like The Wheel of Time.
The plot is in a fictional world, in the lands of Westeros. There are Seven Kingdoms in the realm, but only one can sit on the Iron Throne and rule them all. For the most part, it was the Targaryens, an almost supernatural family that bred and owned dragons – which is why they ruled in the first place.
However, ripples in the family and lust for power caused them to fight, during which all the dragons perished. Later, Daenerys Targaryen hatches three new dragon eggs, becoming the Mother of Dragons, trying to reclaim the Throne as its rightful heir. However, those in power won’t give the Throne away so easily.
Meanwhile, up in the far North, there’s a huge wall separating Westeros from the wild, where an army of the undead is regrouping and planning a march on the Kingdoms, bringing forth never-ending winter and darkness.
I won’t go further into detail, but overall, the books have all the elements of the high fantasy genre, but one can’t say they are a traditional piece. They are filled with motifs and events inconsistent with the genre, like shocking deaths of lead characters, betrayal, adultery, darkness, and a lot of sexually explicit content.
The Wheel of Time Vs. Game of Thrones Books Comparison
When you compare the books, you can see that some plot points are quite similar – good needs to fight evil to save the world, but as the evil lurks and grows stronger, their mutual conflicts make the fight much harder. There are elements of magic and trying to find “the one” who will eventually save the world.
The premises are different, though. It’s much clearer who the good and bad side is in The Wheel of Time, while in the Game of Thrones books, that distinguishing isn’t quite simple because everybody has their inner demons, so to speak. While The Wheel of Time highlights that traditional battle against evil, Game of Thrones emphasizes human greed and lust for power.
The worlds are also quite different. You don’t really have all-out mages in Game of Thrones, except for the evil Night King, while the Aes Sedar in The Wheel of Time, who can wield incredible magic powers, are one of the main protagonists.
Also, the nature of the world and time in Game of Thrones books is linear, whereas Wheel of Time highlights the cyclical nature of time and space, meaning that history repeats itself depending on what time period spun from the Wheel.
Overall, I’d say that both series have their pros and cons, so it depends on what you’re searching for as a reader. If you want a more traditional high fantasy storyline with heroes of the good side using magic to fight evil, you’re in for a treat.
It’s a slow-burner with much less drama, sex, betrayal, and horrifying violence, but still very interesting and fun to read. Also, the world-setting is so incredibly well-written you’ll feel like you’re there.
On the other hand, Game of Thrones books provide a more “tense” reading experience. You can feel the presence of high fantasy elements on each page. Still, Martin incorporates a plethora of previously not popular elements that made the books unique.
It’s unfair to compare The Wheel of Time with Game of Thrones books because George R.R. Martin created something unique – but it’s not for everyone. Sometimes, the violence and gore hit levels that some readers may find disturbing, so if you wish for a traditional good-fights-evil high fantasy saga, look elsewhere.
The Wheel of Time TV Series
The Wheel of Time TV series just began, and we haven’t even had one full season of the show to enjoy. So far, I love the slow-burn vibe we got so far, and the world-setting is quite detailed, just like in the books.
Still, it might be a bit too slow because the season only has 8 or 9 episodes, and we’re halfway through, but I don’t see the season closing out even the first book’s events. Still, Amazon gave them a pretty big budget to work with, so we’ll see what it will amass to in the end.
Some fans dislike the obvious changes to the source material – for instance, adding some romantic relationships that weren’t a part of the books. However, you need to understand that TV shows and books are completely different mediums, so some changes need to be made to keep the intrigue and appeal to wider audiences, not just high-fantasy-loving people.
There are a few things I enjoy, though. Rosamund Pike is killing it, and so far, her acting is really carrying the show. I also love the powerful female characters in the story, and even though the writers made some changes, they really try to stick to Jordan’s source material as much as possible.
Game of Thrones TV Series
Game of Thrones quickly became one of the most iconic TV shows ever. The frenzy caught the entire world, not just high fantasy fans. By the end of the show, the viewership for each episode reached as much as 44 million viewers.
The perfect blend of high fantasy with love and intrigue made the show so incredible. However, what eventually sold it was the shock factor. So many phenomenal lead characters got killed in the most harrowing way imaginable, and in situations where, just as you think everything has settled, something catastrophic as the Red Wedding happens.
The showrunners did a wonderful job following the source material, which is probably why the ending was so anticlimactic. They ran out of the story because George R.R. Martin didn’t finish the books in time for the show’s finale.
While Martin did cooperate with the writers throughout the show, it was obvious that the writing in the last season or two isn’t what the fans were used to seeing. Instead of untangling the story in the right way, they dedicated too much attention to visual effects, which eventually became a big mess and disappointment for fans.
So, how disappointing was it? Well, the series overall has a 9.2 rating on IMDb. The last episode is at 4.0. Had the story ended better, we’d probably be talking about the best TV show of all time, unanimously. Now, that notion is a bit tainted, but it still doesn’t take away from years of spectacular events transpiring throughout eight seasons.
The Wheel of Time Vs. Game of Thrones TV Shows Comparison
It’s hard to compare the shows because we haven’t seen enough of The Wheel of Time to make a clear statement. The story just started to unravel, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens to be able to compare the storytelling and narrative of the shows in any way. We might not be able to compare the storylines just yet, but there are other things we can focus on.
First of all, I love the world setting in both shows. The Wheel of Time does a great job of slowly introducing the viewers to the fantastic world Robert Jordan created and explaining how it works step-by-step. Game of Thrones didn’t have to explain much, but still, they presented the history of Westeros and how things work perfectly.
Interestingly, the budgets for the shows are also quite similar. Game of Thrones opened with a budget worth around $6 million an episode, but later seasons reached around $15 million per episode.
On the other hand, The Wheel of Time has a huge budget of $10 million an episode, the second-largest Amazon project ever behind only the new Lord of the Rings series worth almost half a billion dollars for season one. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he “wants his own Game of Thrones,” and it seems he didn’t have a problem with paying for it.
I’ve noticed a similarity between the two shows is powerful female characters. However, Game of Thrones still has many females sexualized and used as objects for the strong men in the show. The Wheel of Time empowers women characters more tastefully, so I’d give it a plus in that regard – at least so far.
The Wheel of Time Vs. Game of Thrones: Which One Is Better?
So, if you’re looking for new fantasy shows or books to dive into, which one is the better choice: The Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones? I would say they both have their advantages, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a pure, slow-burning, traditional high fantasy, The Wheel of Time is the right choice. The story is incredible, and every character serves a great purpose. Plus, the world-building is extremely detailed, which allows the reader/viewer to immerse themselves in it and enjoy it as if they were a part of the world.
On the other hand, if you’re searching for something a bit more layered, then I recommend Game of Thrones. While it has all the elements of the high fantasy genre, there’s so much more to it. It’s shocking, riveting, and overall a bit deeper, which makes it more appealing to viewers or readers outside the high fantasy community.
Whichever you choose, I’d suggest one thing: don’t try to compare the two and judge The Wheel of Time based on Game of Thrones. If you’re expecting the same thing, you’ll end up disappointed.
Instead, try to watch the show and read the books without any expectations or prejudice, and I assure you that you’ll enjoy it a lot more. Nobody can repeat what Game of Thrones brought us, and we likely never will get anything quite like it.
However, that doesn’t mean The Wheel of Time won’t satisfy your keen taste for high fantasy. On the contrary, if high fantasy is what you’re looking for, then it’s a perfect choice.