Ashara Koh’inor: I began reading the series right after Elyss was born in 1998. A dear friend of mine passed it along as a small escape from the exhausting (but rewarding) real world of new motherhood and the daunting task of being a stay at home mom. My experience with fantasy was limited, as I had only ever read The Lord of the Rings, which I did not love, and Tigana, which I did. Over the years to come The Wheel of Time series was no longer an escape, but a constant companion. Due to the incredible breadth of the works, anytime life found me with the chips down or in disarray, The Wheel of Time happened to be there as well. Children being born, new jobs, a divorce, a new career, no matter what was going on I was sharing in the journey of others while simultaneously navigating my own.
Ashara: I planned to pass on The Wheel of Time to Elyss by the time she proved herself a voracious reader at age 6. Her fifteenth birthday was, for me, a rite of passage not because of a driver’s permit, but because I could finally place The Eye of the World in her hands.
Elyss Koh’inor: I had seen The Wheel of Time on bookshelves at home for about as long as I could remember. This in itself wasn’t unusual, our house has always held more bookcases than people. From a young age, I was drawn towards the fantastic. If people asked why I preferred books about dragons, fairies, and wizards, my first thought was, “Why not?”. My parents encouraged me to read, never daunted by the length of a book or a series. After my fifteenth birthday, I started reading my mom’s tattered copy of The Eye of the World. Soon enough I couldn’t put it down. The characters that had become my mother’s dearest friends became mine as well.
Elyss: The Wheel of Time was the first fantasy series written for an adult audience I had read. Like many readers who came to the series after it was fully published, I had the opportunity to read the installments back-to-back. Over the next year and a half, I devoured each volume. Not only was it an opportunity to see an expansive world beyond the scope of any other fantasy series I had read before, but it was a chance to share an experience with my mom. The Wheel of Time became a cornerstone of our daily conversations, and we grew even closer through its pages.
Elyss: My sixteenth birthday present came in two parts. The first was an Aes Sedai ring, the second, the ability to go to JordanCon in 2015. It was my first convention, and the first time my mom would be surrounded by other people who knew the series she loved as well as she did. But I had a problem. I hadn’t finished the series.
Elyss: The period of time between my birthday and the convention became a balance of frantic reading and wanting to savor the story. I dislike spoilers and wanted to attend panels and conversations at JordanCon without worrying that my experience of the books would be marred somehow. The day before the conference, I was about a third of the way through A Memory of Light. So on the eight-hour drive to Atlanta, I read. By the time we were entering the city, I closed the last book of The Wheel of Time, and opened a new chapter in my love of the series. A love bolstered not only by sharing it with my mom, but with the rest of a soon-to-be chosen family. After being surrounded with others who knew our books so well, we couldn’t wait an entire year to re-enter the community. So we took the flyer for TarValon.Net.
Ashara: I am not sure if anyone else has agonized over the choice of a name as we did while anxiously awaiting joining TarValon.Net. I still have the original note on my phone dated 5.24.15 where we compiled various first and last names. We are both dreamers and intrigued by travel and the exotic which explains a lot. For myself, I chose to adapt the word ashera from Near Eastern Mythology meaning “she who walks in the sea”. Typical Pisces. Together, we chose the last name Koh’inor, adapted from the Persian word kohinoor meaning “mountain of light”.
Elyss: Koh’inor also sounded vaguely like “Kholinar” to me. I had picked up The Way of Kings following my completion of The Wheel of Time, and was quickly becoming immersed in Sanderson’s Cosmere. Jordan’s books had opened up a whole new world of fantasy and science fiction. The name “Elyss” came through my love of the character Alyss in The Ranger’s Apprentice series, as well as Moiraine’s alias “Alys.”
Ashara: Despite what it may look like, we never intended to end up in the same Ajah. In fact, I was determined to choose a different one so Elyss would feel she did not have me looking over her shoulder all the time. In the end, however, we realized that more than mother and daughter, we are close friends. As it became obvious that we both favored Gray, we laughed over finding ourselves in the same place, rather than it being any cause for concern. Elyss, in my opinion, is a true book Gray while I am… well, not. Finding my TV.net home was made more special still by realizing she would be there as well.
Elyss: I remember my mom asking where I planned to aspire, and asking if I would prefer that we stay in separate Ajahs. I knew that if I thought I would feel awkward with my mother in the same Ajah, she would choose another group without a second thought. But we had both found a home within Gray, and if anything that drew us closer together. It made sense that alongside our family ties, we would be in each others’ chosen family too.
Elyss: As much as my mom says she is not a book Gray, there are some key elements we both share with the Ajah as presented in the novels, as well as how it has evolved on TarValon.Net. We both have a strong sense of fairness and justice, a desire to see things balanced. We balance each other too; passion and zeal meeting rhetoric and persuasion. Being together in the Gray Ajah has continued our journey together through The Wheel of Time, a journey that began when she put The Eye of the World in my hands on my fifteenth birthday.
It was not the beginning, but it was a beginning.