Patterns of the Wheel: Not the right format for this art style and subject

Patterns of the Wheel by Robert Jordan and Amy RomanczukPatterns of the Wheel: Coloring Art Based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan & Amy Romanczuk

Patterns of the Wheel is a posthumous collaboration between late author Robert Jordan, of THE WHEEL OF TIME fame, and officially licensed Wheel of Time™ artist Amy Romanczuk, who has merged phrases or dialogue from many of Jordan’s novels with pysanky, a style of Ukrainian folk art most often seen on brightly-colored Easter eggs. While marketed as an adult coloring book, the black-and-white images and quoted selections from Jordan’s novels are certainly suitable for all ages, though the designs lack the level of finesse I would expect from an officially-sanctioned product associated with a beloved epic fantasy series on the level of THE WHEEL OF TIME, and the connections between Jordan’s prose and Romanczuk’s art is sometimes tenuous.

10-25-2016-patterns-of-the-wheel-2Patterns of the Wheel begins with a glowing Foreword from Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and the editor of most of the WHEEL OF TIME series, followed by Ellissa Mitchell’s painstakingly detailed original map included in the novels, and then a glossary of pysanky symbols and their significance. The coloring book itself is structured so that the left-hand page features a brief quote from one of Jordan’s novels and the right-hand page contains Romanczuk’s design: sometimes a repeating mandala or boxed patterns, sometimes an item, and sometimes abstract intersecting lines. The majority of the quoted material comes from The Eye of the World and The Dragon Reborn, but most (though not all) of the other books in the series are featured at least once.

Each page is perforated near the center binding so that it can be torn out, but the identifying information is on the facing page rather than the back of the image, so I wouldn’t recommend removing too many images unless you’re sure that you can easily identify them without the quote. As with most other coloring books, the best media choices are colored pencils, gel pens, or crayons; markers will bleed through the paper, and watercolors will soak the paper far too much to be satisfying.

10-25-2016-patterns-of-the-wheel-1To my mind, the most successful images created by Romanczuk were the two poster-like pages, reading “Sleep, Drink Kaf, Conquer the World, Repeat” and “Courage to Strengthen, Fire to Blind, Music to Dazzle, Iron to Bind” in various fonts and surrounded by small, but striking, icons. They were well-made, balancing sizes and styles of letters in each line against the next, and I could easily picture them hanging on a fan’s corkboard or inside a school locker. If the whole book had been a series of mock-inspirational WHEEL OF TIME posters, Patterns of the Wheel would have been far more enjoyable.

The issue I had, and the subsequent low rating, is a result of the rough, nearly unfinished appearance of most of the artwork throughout Patterns of the Wheel. Objects which were clearly intended to repeat in a mandala were sometimes left unfinished; other designs are so crammed with lines that it’s difficult to determine what the overall picture is supposed to be or where colors should go; others still are nearly blank pages with a bare minimum of lines. There’s an inconsistency to the art from one page to the next, as well: sometimes it’s skillful and impressive, and sometimes it has the appearance of a half-finished sketch, with stray lines and incomplete shapes. It’s frustrating because I could see the potential in a presented concept, but I wanted to enjoy a finished product rather than the work-in-progress.

The idea behind Patterns of the Wheel — blending a beloved fantasy series with a stylized folk art — is a solid one, but an adult coloring book just wasn’t the right outlet for it. Romanczuk’s psyanky art is absolutely beautiful, and if she had put together a coffee table book with full-color photos of WHEEL OF TIME-inspired pysanky offset by quotes from the novels, I’d have written a far different review. As it stands, however, I wasn’t terribly impressed with this coloring book, and I won’t be recommending it.

Note: Images copyrighted by Amy Romanczuk

Published on October 25, 2016. Let the Dragon be drawn again on the winds of time. Patterns of the Wheel is an adult coloring book suitable for all ages featuring original art drawn from The Wheel of Time ®. Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters. Over the course of fifteen books and millions of words, the world that Jordan created grew in depth and complexity. Now for the very first time, fans of this astounding saga can color in the hues and vibrant shades of Robert Jordan’s most beloved fantasy world. Adorn the symbols of the Ajah and the patterns on Gleeman’s Cloak. Experience the peaks of Dragonmount, the depths of the Aryth Ocean, and other parts of the realm. Fill in evocative mandalas, depictions of Old Tongue, and an array of the Wheel of Time’s most well-known symbols and magical items. Designed by officially-licensed Wheel of Time artist Amy Romanczuk, Patterns of the Wheel features 40 drawings inspired by pysanky, a traditional Ukrainian folkart, to provide hours of delight for The Wheel of Time’s legions of fans.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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  1. That’s not terribly impressive art there, is it? This series deserves better.

  2. I agree with you and I would rather see her just illustrate the quotations. As it is, a bit of a disappointment.

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