The final volume in the popular Wheel of Time series by late author Robert Jordan now has a cover, and the artist responsible for this long-awaited novel is Michael Whelan.  Much as Brandon Sanderson stepped in to take over the reigns after Jordan passed away, Whelan’s contribution comes in the wake of original artist Darrell K. Sweet’s death.

Whelan’s work is probably familiar to fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  He has also illustrated the covers for many of Melanie Rawn’s earlier works, as well as novels by Anne McCaffrey, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, and many others.  I believe he was the perfect artist for the final Wheel of Time book, entitled Memory of Light.

According to Tor:

In keeping with the series’ covers, the scene gathers elements from a key scene in the book. Here, Rand stands with Callandor on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, heading down into its depths to confront the Dark One even as the sun itself vanishes from the world. Two Aes Sedai follow the Dragon Reborn into the mouth of darkness, two women who have been with Rand since the very beginning.

In the Tor article, Whelan details his process in creating what is sure to be an iconic image, from getting the right reference photos for the cave to finding just the right coat for Rand to wear.  And it’s certainly a Whelan piece.  Having been a fan of his for years, I can usually identify his work simply by looking at it.  There’s just something about the way he depicts people and his use of lighting.  There is strength in Rand’s stance.  And Whelan often includes many symbols and images important to the novel in his book covers.  He really pays attention to the source material.

I think it’s a stunning cover, but then, I’m a fan of the artist.  I think Whelan is absolutely brilliant, and it pained me when he moved away from doing book covers and focused more on gallery pieces.  One of my favorite Whelan works is entitled Yours Truly: Yoda, and it’s a wonderful image of my beloved diminutive Jedi Master.  He appears to be pondering as he prepares to write something on a scroll, quill in hand.  I suppose the instruments may seem archaic for the Star Wars universe, but he was stranded on a swamp planet, after all.  Maybe it’s all he had.

Memory of Light is scheduled for release January 8, 2013.


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