The recent release of a preview of a few pages from The Eye of the World graphic novel and of the The Gathering Storm cover were most interesting.
The page from the Prologue of The Eye of the World shows Lews Therin standing in the ruins of his palace with his family dead around him. Dominic said that he pictured Lews Therin's palace as a Venetian palazzo and that got me thinking. Venice is renowned for Carnivale and pageants, which are a step away from masques.
The illustration looks like a scene out of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death, in which Prince Prospero tries to avoid a virulent, very rapid-acting plague (the Red Death) by confining himself and other wealthy nobles to his abbey. He holds a masquerade ball and in the midst of the fun a shrouded figure turns up. When Prospero demands to know his identity, the prince drops dead. The figure is revealed as the personification of the Red Death and all the guests die. It seems to fit the illustration. Ishamael, that enthusiastic user of the True Power, is the personification of the Dark One’s taint. Lews Therin, poisoned by the taint, killed everyone he loved and then himself. Different order of events, but the same result.
Masques originated in Italy and were a popular court entertainment of the sixteenth and early 17th centuries. One unusual masque that fits here is Cupid and Death, in which Death and Cupid accidentally get each other’s arrows and the result is chaos (!). The lovers Cupid shoots are killed, while the elderly people Death shoots become amorous. There are guest appearances by the personifications of Nature, Folly, Madness, and Despair. The latter three seem appropriate to the Eye of the World Prologue. Things are sorted out in the end by the god Mercury. It’s all about the world gone mad and the overturning of the natural order. The same thing that the Dark One and Ishamael are aiming at in WOT.
The Gathering Storm cover was an unfortunate unprofessional leak for TOR and was a mockup only. Rand is a composite figure and looks like he is on his last legs literally. I think the building he and Aviendha (in a coloured, rather than white blouse, but that’s a pretty tame disregard of the books for Sweet) are standing in front of is an attempted Polynesian longhouse with dragons carved on the roof peaks. Polynesia suggests sea-faring folk. I suspect they are visiting the Sea Folk islands, and Rand has just seen for himself the self-inflicted devastation of the Amayar. No wonder Rand looks like he’s just been kicked in the nuts.