The Stormlight Archive

Journey Before Destination: Words of Radiance Spoiler Review

It’s here! At long last, after much hand-rubbing and finger-steepling, it’s here! Words of Radiance has arrived, my friends. And so we can talk! We can sing! We can dance! SPOILERS ABOUND! Okay, enough with the shouting and exclamation marks (and this is not France). Assuming you’ve got your copy, and that you have read it as fast as you possibly could, we’re ready to dig in. But I have to say it, as has been said on spoiler reviews so many times before:

Please, please don’t read this until you’ve finished the book.

Personally, I usually don’t care if people want to spoil a book for themselves, but in this case the way things are revealed is just as delicious as what is revealed, and you really need to get there the right way. This review will massively, totally, completely spoil the book otherwise. Journey before destination. Read it first; we’re not going anywhere. But when you’re done…

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

This was a really hard book to “review.” There’s so much in it, and so much to talk about, it was hard to know where to start. To put a handle on it, let’s take a look at what we expected to see, and what we finally saw.

Kaladin and Bridge 4

Kaladin
We all went into this expecting Kaladin to become a full Windrunner, fight Szeth (and win, of course), and make himself invaluable to Dalinar in returning the Knights Radiant. And… we got what we expected, just maybe not quite the way we expected it.

He’s not a full Windrunner yet, but he’s made a lot of progress. Dude can fly—I say that counts for something. He learned his third Ideal, although he sure went at it the hard way. For some unknown reason, I didn’t expect him to do the bad-attitude thing in this book, and let’s just say it’s a good thing I rarely work at a desk. Either it or my head would be in a world of trouble. He’s only 20 years old, so maybe he gets a pass on some of his arrogance, but he could sure benefit from a little more big-picture thinking. Early on in the training exercises, he learned that under certain circumstances, his Stormlight skills deserted him.

“What happened?” Kaladin asked. “The Stormlight drained from me. I felt it go.”

“Who were you protecting?” Syl asked.

“I . . . I was practicing how to fight, like when I practiced with Skar and Rock down in the chasms.”

“Is that really what you were doing?” Syl asked.

That, my son, is called a warning, if you’re paying attention. (Or, for the reader, foreshadowing…) His whole purpose as a Windrunner is to protect, but it seems to take a while for him to figure this out. Not only are the means as important as the end, the motivation is critical to success. Back in The Way of Kings, his father gave him a great picture of this; with one tiny slip of the knife, he could have rid Hearthstone of Roshone, but the means were simply unacceptable. Kaladin wasn’t listening properly:

“Somebody has to start. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right. If nobody starts, then others cannot follow…

“The lighteyes don’t care about life,” Lirin said. “So I must…”

But his father was wrong. It was a stunning, frightening revelation. This wasn’t idle fancy or daydreaming about the glory of battle. This was real.

At that moment, Kaladin knew he could kill, if he needed to. Some people—like a festering finger or a leg shattered beyond repair—just needed to be removed.

And so he continues to think that he has the wisdom and insight to know who needs to be removed, and in that arrogance he destroys his bond with Sylphrena. I suppose we should give him a certain amount of credit for continuing to live and fight as best he can even without her, but it was just so stupid. To think he had the right to decide that the kingdom would be better off without the king… well, it reminds me all too much of the “Side Carry” chapter.

On the bright side, it set up one of the most amazingly glorious scenes in the book. I get goosebumps just thinking about it! First, the realization that “The king was Dalinar’s Tien.” Oh, the tears… Yes, Kaladin. The fact that Elhokar has made some really stupid decisions doesn’t mean you can murder him, or stand by and let someone else do so. He matters, even if you don’t like him. He matters to someone. And so Kaladin returns, at great physical cost, to find and protect the king, even when it’s hopeless; he’s beaten down, critically wounded, ready to die, and he gets up one last time to do what has to be done. No more standing by to let people be killed for the greater good. And then, he finally gets it:

“If I protect . . .” he coughed. “If I protect . . . only the people I like, it means that I don’t care about doing what is right.” If he did that, he only cared about what was convenient for himself.

That wasn’t protecting. That was selfishness.

And then a line that moves me to tears, after so many rereads:

He is mine! a feminine voice said. I claim him.

I’ve read this entire book twice, and sections of it about ten times, and I still choke up. Too weak to stand, he stands anyway. Too weak to hold his knife, it falls from his hand.

“I will protect even those I hate,” Kaladin whispered through bloody lips. “So long as it is right.”

And then, reaching out his trembling hand with his last iota of strength, Sylphrena herself becomes his Shardblade, returning his powers, and he explodes with Stormlight. Oh, the glory! At last, he can fly to the rescue, because he can let go of his anger and his grudges and be about the work of protecting people. It doesn’t end there, of course. But we’ll talk about the rest of it in a few minutes.

Bridge Four
I think we all expected Bridge Four to stay together as a unit; I’m not sure we quite expected the role they would play in bringing the rest of the bridge crews up to speed. We didn’t see a lot of this after the first couple of parts, but enough to know that those thousand men are in training and may become a significant asset. For now, I’m just going to look more closely at a few key players.

Moash
A magnet for wrong decisions if ever there was one, this man had so much potential and he continually channeled it in the wrong directions. He finally got his Shards, which was permitted indirectly by the king himself, and he still couldn’t let go of his misdirected desire for revenge. I think I’m glad Kaladin didn’t kill him, but now he’s connected to Taravangian—and I don’t trust that one, either. There was always a bitter edge to Moash, and now that we know where it came from we can understand… but that doesn’t mean he’s right.

Teft
Well, we had hoped to find out what his backstory was, and the deal with the Envisagers. I guess we found out. This makes me very sad, and also a little bewildered. How long had those people been trying unsuccessfully to trigger Surgebinding? How many had died in vain? I guess the second answer depends on the first, but it doesn’t seem like so many should die before they realize that not a single one has manifested any signs of power, and maybe they’re wasting lives that could have been better spent in more productive pursuits—or at least less destructive methods. The punishment for their “crime” was a bit weird, though. “These people keep killing themselves! This cannot be allowed! Off with their heads!” Say what? Once again I’m grateful for my lack of a handy desk.

Shen
I don’t recall seeing much by way of expectations regarding Shen, but he sure took a step up in this book. For one thing, we get his actual name: Rlain. For another, he proves that he’s smarter than they thought, when he points out that his singular treatment as the only member of Bridge Four without a spear means that he really is still a slave. This leads to a couple of very cool moments, including his getting that spear and his return to the Alethi.

Perhaps we should have realized early on that Shen was more than he seemed. In the very early Eshonai chapters, we were told that dullform was very similar in appearance to the sprenless slaveform, a.k.a. parshmen, and that they used it now to spy on the humans. Maybe some of you clever folks figured that out right away; I don’t recall thinking about it at that point, but when Rlain disappeared, it became obvious enough even for me. The affirmation of Kaladin’s (and Dalinar’s) decision to treat him with respect was gorgeous, when he returned to the Alethi with news of the Parshendi changes. Poor Rlain. He went in good faith to spy on the humans, but when he returned to report back to his people, they had abandoned their four-and-a-half-millennia avoidance, and had returned to the old gods.

I didn’t have many specific expectations of Shen coming into Words of Radiance, but I sure have some for Book Three!

Lopen
Ah, the Lopen. Throughout the book, he continued to bring humor, optimism, and encouragement to Kaladin and Bridge Four, and we’ve all loved him for that since he first walked in. He’s been trustworthy and resourceful, and his endless supply of cousins is hilarious. (“There’s a cousin for that.” Heh.) I’ll admit to being a bit suspicious of them at first, because they kept showing up for no apparent reason, but the scene in Little Herdaz explained so much about the Herdazian attitude toward family that I was completely reassured. What an incredibly clever place to hide the king! I adore the Lopen. And I want to be his mother.

Whatever we might have expected of Lopen in this book, he expected to glow—and he did! One of my favorite lines from the entire book:

“Oh, storms yes! Everybody, give the Lopen your spheres! I have glowing that needs to be done.”

 

The Kholin clan

Although they aren’t quite the main characters (I give that to Kaladin and Shallan, at least for now), this family stands at the center. Dalinar’s visions, Jasnah’s scholarship and Surgebinding, and of course Elhokar as the Alethi king, ensure that they’re central to the plot. I’m still not sure what to expect from them at any given moment, though.

Jasnah
First off, I have to note the cleverness of the prologue scheme, wherein we saw that night six years ago, the night of Gavilar’s assassination. Through Jasnah’s eyes, we see many of the same people and events, with some very informative additions. The fact that Jasnah is a repeat customer of more than a dozen assassins is a bit mind-boggling. (Good grief! Who does she have them assassinating? How is anyone in Alethkar still alive, with her around?) Even more interesting is her introduction to Shadesmar, which is both creepy and astonishing.

At the end of the previous book, with Jasnah and Shallan heading for the Shattered Plains, I think we all expected Jasnah to lead the scholarship that would find Urithiru and figure out what the Parshendi deal was. I, for one, did not expect her to die in Part One! Once she was dead, I wasn’t quite sure whether to expect her to return or not. She came back, all right—but what a return! Was she in Shadesmar the whole time? Was she off-world altogether? She was able to make alterations to her clothing, wherever she was—and now I expect to learn some very interesting things from her in the next book!

Adolin
At the end of The Way of Kings, Adolin seemed like a nice boy, but not a lot else. What expectations did we have for him? There was always the possibility he’d become a Knight Radiant, though it wasn’t all that sure. In fact, I don’t recall seeing much discussion of what readers expected of Adolin, other than the general hope that he’d stand strong with his father and be useful. With the early release chapters we discovered that he would be betrothed to Shallan, which sent the shipping mechanisms into high gear. (Oh, that was fun to watch. Mwahaha.)

What we didn’t expect, I think, was Adolin-the-elegant-duelist performing an absolutely brutal beatdown on another Shardbearer in his first bout. We (or at least I) didn’t expect to see him behaving so badly to Kaladin—that sneering “bridgeboy” thing made me want to beat him severely about the head and shoulders. On the other hand, who expected him to do such a complete about-face halfway through? That scene set aside the last things I didn’t like about Adolin, because when he decides he’s wrong, there’s no grudging admission stuff—he flat out joins forces with Kaladin, and accords him respect and friendship. Aww.

And expectations aside, that overmatched “duel” of one to four was amazing amazing amazing.

Last but not least, I don’t think anyone predicted that he would finish the book by getting into a fistfight with Sadeas, and end up shoving a knife into his eye. (Ewww. Brandon. Did you have to?) I’m pretty sure we all cheered to know Sadeas was dead, but I’m really not sure what this says about where Adolin is headed. Was it murder? Was it a fair fight? Discuss. (I certainly hope that Sadeas is all the way dead, though. If he comes back to life as foul as ever, I’m going to climb into the book and kill him myself.)

While we’re on the subject of our fair-haired boy… I’m going to insert my loony theory section. I have a theory about Adolin: that he will be a Knight Radiant of the order associated with Kalak (Ironstance!), and that this order is most likely the Willshapers; further, that he will somehow be able to revivify the spren that was his Blade. That last may be wishful thinking, but he has consistently refused to name the Blade because it obviously has a name of its own, and he talks to it before he goes into a duel. I’ve got no proof, but I sure like the idea.

Renarin
Renarin is a Radiant! Renarin is a Truthwatcher! Happy dance! Happy dance! This, I did not expect. Hoped, maybe, a little, but certainly didn’t expect. Fascinating revelations with this boy. The thing that blew my mind (which you likely don’t catch the first time through—at least, I didn’t) was that the very first time he touched that Blade, minutes after Adolin won it in the Chapter 14 duel, he grimaced. Didja notice that? Eventually we find out why: He already had a developing spren connection and he was hearing that horrible screaming from the dead spren. And he did his perceived duty anyway. He bonded the Blade, he tried to practice with it, he tried to use it in battle, he used it to help Shallan figure out the Oathgate, and all with that screaming in his head every storming time! With nothing more than a grimace when he summoned it, and a sigh of relief when he dismissed it, I say the man has incredible mental strength. He deserves to be a Radiant, unless that turns out to be an ancient Chinese curse, like “interesting times”….

Elhokar
Here’s another character for whom we had little to no expectation, except the hint that perhaps he could see Cryptics and might therefore become a Lightweaver. That would explain the cracked gems in his Shardplate very neatly, too. Well… no. We aren’t any closer to knowing whether or not he’ll become a Radiant, or why those gems fractured. What we found, instead, was a deeply insecure man who didn’t get nearly enough training for the job he’s been saddled with. A man who wanted to do the right thing, who wanted to be a good leader and a good king—and simply doesn’t know how. His scene with Kaladin was poignant, revealing a man who’d never been taught self-discipline, who had to learn the hard way who not to follow, but smart enough to know a genuine leader when he saw one. Also? A king learning humility at the hands of a Herdazian matriarch… Heh.

Dalinar

“ ‘As I fear not a child with a weapon he cannot lift, I will never fear the mind of a man who does not think.’ ”

Dalinar met and exceeded expectation. Not only did he become Highprince of War, he found ways to turn disparagement to his advantage. He continued to receive visions, to piece things together, and to act boldly on what he learned. He found ways to be both statesman and warrior, though not without a certain amount of frustration and setbacks. His continuing relationship with Navani is fun to watch, because not only do they love each other, they respect each other and draw on one another’s strengths.

And he bonded the Stormfather as his spren.

Yeah, look at that again. Dalinar is spren-bonded to the Stormfather himself. And so he has become a Bondsmith, an Order with very few members, but with great power and, presumably, insight. I wonder if this means that the Stormfather will no longer block the honorspren from returning and bonding more Windrunners.

Incidentally, I’d like to hear some theories here: What is that Blade Dalinar bonded when he was “ill” for a week, and then unbonded when he became a Bondsmith? I originally thought it was Taln’s Honorblade, which seemed a bit weird, but… okay. However, it’s described thus: “Wider than most, it was almost cleaverlike in appearance.” That really doesn’t sound much like Taln’s in The Way of Kings epilogue, which was “long, narrow, and straight, shaped like an enormous spike.” But clearly it’s not a known Blade, so… where did it come from? And it screams when Dalinar summons it after forming his bond with the Stormfather (!!!), so it can’t be an Honorblade, because they aren’t dead-spren-Blades. (Szeth’s/Jezrien’s doesn’t scream when Kaladin holds it.) So what is it? Where did it come from? I want to know.

 

Shallan

Well, we knew this was Shallan’s book, and so we had plenty of expectations. First, that she’d make it to the Shattered Plains with Jasnah, that she’d end up in some kind of romantic entanglement, that she’d develop her Lightweaver skills, that she’d use her Shardblade… and of course that we’d find out where she got that Blade in the first place. As I said before, “I can almost guarantee that no one will look at her the same way, whether you loved her, hated her, or anywhere between. I won’t promise that you’ll love her. I won’t promise that you’ll even like her. But I promise you won’t see her the same way you did before.”

Main plot
She made it to the Shattered Plains, all right, but not with Jasnah. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing to realize just how much Jasnah taught her in those first few chapters, and how much those lessons enabled Shallan to survive and make her way not only to the Shattered Plains, but through the political minefield of the warcamps and across the Plains to the center. There was a general expectation that she would figure out how to get to Urithiru (albeit we expected Jasnah to be more involved in that…), and she did, but in just about the least expected way possible.

She certainly ended up with a romantic entanglement, and it was really quite delightful to find the “too-obvious!” match-up turning out to be so much fun. And, really, so good for both of them. Her straightforward curiosity and complete failure to flirt properly are so exactly what Adolin needs. I have to confess that as soon as it became clear that they were both smitten, my first thought was, “Which one is going to die?” So far, happily, neither one, although there are no guarantees for Book Three. Adolin has become quite the loose cannon on deck, so… I don’t know. I hope things work out for them, but I’m not sure I expect it! I think they’re a great pair, and if she’s a bit quicker with words than he is, it’s not a problem. It’s not like he’s stupid, he has just oriented his intelligence toward warcraft rather than wordplay so far.

One thing most of us weren’t expecting was the revelation of Shallan’s ability to simply not remember the things she dared not think about. There were a few small hints in The Way of Kings, perhaps, but only recognizable in hindsight. At first I wondered about her lack of grieving for Jasnah, but then I put it down to a need for survival. As the hints built up, though… it’s one of the least of many, many things this poor child learned to simply not think about, to the point of being unable to acknowledge their existence. Not that she blocked Jasnah’s death that thoroughly, but she nearly blocked all the grief.

That Shardblade we expected to see certainly turned up again—in multiple forms. How soon did y’all twig to the fact that it was Pattern all along? That she really didn’t need ten heartbeats, and that she’s been bonded to this Cryptic since she was about ten years old? That yes, indeed, that Blade was her very own, original, living spren? That was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. In fact, I’ve decided to forgive Tyn for existing, because she gave Shallan the necessary reason to summon her Blade again.

Lightweaver. I hope you looked at the Ars Arcanum and saw the list of Surges there. It explains a lot. In this case, it explains why Lightweaving includes both visual and auditory effects. What really stunned me was the realization that Shallan must have spoken at least the first Ideal about seven years ago. Kaladin had to speak his third Ideal before he got his Blade, but there’s no guarantee that it works the same way for every Order. Or within an Order, for that matter; it might be mostly based on the need of the moment, as long as you’ve spoken the first Ideal. The development and exploration of Shallan’s newfound abilities was cool stuff, though. It will be fascinating to see what else a Lightweaver can do.

Flashback Sequence
The second major thing about Shallan, of course, is the development of her backstory. And here’s where I know I’m going to make some people angry. I do not, and cannot, and will not hate Brightlord Davar. I feel sorry for him. Deeply, excruciatingly sorry for him. (Yes, I feel equally sorry for his children; I’ll get there in a minute.)

When I look at his story, though, it hurts deep down in my heart. Here’s a man who had a relatively happy life—pretty wife, four sons, one beloved little daughter, and a comfortable home. I’m sure he had his moments of frustration (what father doesn’t?), but they were happy together.

Shallan could remember a time when she’d rarely, if ever, seen him angry. Those days were long, long dead.

(Chapter 45)

What happened? His daughter, the precious little girl he adored, started doing… strange things. Things she shouldn’t be able to do. Things like the Knights Radiant, the betrayers of mankind. She wove illusions that could move and speak. Her drawings became reality. As a parent, that would be amazing and a little scary. But then his wife—her mother—apparently connected with one of the (how many?) societies of people who wanted to destroy any incipient Surgebinder as quickly as possible. I suspect that the arguments with his wife began then, though I don’t have hard evidence for that. In any case, he argued with his wife and her friend, defending his little girl. And they tried to kill her.

He tried to defend her, to stop them. He fought with the other man, and managed to hurt him, but in the end he was pinned on the floor, watching his wife—her mother—approaching their eleven-year-old daughter with a knife. To kill her. His little girl defended herself, with her own Shardblade that no one had ever seen before, and his wife died instead of his daughter. His tenderness toward Shallan, at the end of that first flashback, was heart-rending. How his heart must have been aching, and in the midst of it his first action was to comfort and soothe and shelter his little girl.

And he never told anyone who really killed his wife.

He loved his girl, and he never told anyone—but can you imagine living with the lies he allowed to be believed? It destroyed him. There was no proof, so he was never prosecuted, but everyone, including his sons, believed that he had murdered his wife. For that matter, they believed that his wife had taken a lover, which… is perhaps a minor point, but it also was a lie. And so he descended into anger and madness.

At the same time, that precious little girl can pull out a Shardblade to defend herself. How terrifying is that for a parent? For six years, this man lived with accusations of murder, hiding the identity of the real killer for her own safety. At the same time, he also lived with the knowledge that however angry he got, he dared not give her cause to fear harm at his hands, or he could end up with a Shardblade through his spine, too.

This picture, of a man who both adored and feared his little girl, who sheltered her at great cost and who crumbled under the pressure of that cost… this picture tears me apart. I ache for this man.

As for his children, I ache for them too. The sons, allowed to think their father murdered their mother, and in front of their beloved little sister, could do nothing but hate him. As their father fell into depression and anger, he took it out on them, twisting them further. As always, when imperfect people interact negatively in such close confines, all the worst traits are brought out in each one until the entire family is broken.

And Shallan… poor Shallan. It wasn’t her fault, but she couldn’t help believing that it was, because her abilities were at the core of it all. I’m no psychologist, but I’m told that this kind of voluntary amnesia is a well-documented means of dealing with stresses too great to be borne. The shock of having her parents fighting over her abilities, of her mother trying to kill her because of those abilities, and of her own frightened reaction resulting in her mother’s death, all combined with her heretofore calm and sheltered life, would certainly qualify as “stresses too great to be borne,” in my opinion. Add to that her father’s fits of anger, her brothers’ various forms of escape, and finally the night of first her stepmother’s and then her father’s murders, and it may be no wonder her mind simply refused to acknowledge any of it.

On a personal note, having read all this, I have had a great deal of difficulty being patient with people who repeatedly comment on what an awful person Shallan is and what losers her brothers are. It’s so easy to simply look at the surface presentation and judge them as a waste of breath; when you see what has happened to them, what put them where they are… maybe the judgmental attitudes are a little misguided, eh? Then again, that’s true in real life. So there’s that.

In terms of literary appreciation, Sanderson did a superb job of gradually revealing a grim and terrifying youth, as well as Shallan’s means of coping with it. The increasing awareness of her ability to simply block out anything she didn’t want to hear or remember, and the way that ability reconciled the hints of her past with her present (apparent) superficiality, was brilliantly done. And I’m a little shocked that he made me feel sorry for her father in spite of things like this:

Father stood outside. Shallan could make out a crumpled form beyond him, lying on the floor of the hallway. Minara, the serving maid. Her body didn’t lie right, one arm bent at the wrong angle.
Father entered Shallan’s room and shut the door behind him. “You know I would never hurt you, Shallan,” he said softly.
She nodded, tears leaking from her eyes.

“I would not want to have to punish anyone else because of you, Shallan,” Father said.

(Chapter 48)

That makes me angry, because it’s such a terrible way to manipulate a child—but at the same time, it reveals the depth of his fear of her, and that brings me back around to pity mixed with the anger. It’s a broken, dysfunctional family, and I feel deeply, painfully sorry for all of them.

Sigh. Moving on.

 

Everyone Else

Szeth
We certainly had expectations for this one—primarily, that he would attempt to kill Dalinar, that Kaladin would fight him, and that Szeth would lose somehow. (Because he couldn’t possibly be allowed to kill Kaladin!) Show of hands, folks: who actually expected Szeth to show up and have that big confrontation with Kaladin less than halfway through the book? Once again, things happened earlier than anticipated, and not at all as expected. Kaladin was so clearly not ready yet, and frankly the only reason he survived is that Szeth was completely blown away by the fact that Kaladin could use Stormlight and heal his Blade-severed hand.

At last the tormented man learns the truth, and hides from it in comforting lies from Taravangian. Too bad for him that Kaladin has also learned the truth, and has a Shardblade that is also a spear, a hammer, a shield, a halberd… Is there anyone here who didn’t make at least a little bit of noise when Syl said, Oh. That’s right. You probably want me to be a spear, don’t you? Szeth finally had to face the truth—that he was, in fact, not Truthless, and all the murder had been based on a lie instead. And he just let Kaladin kill him.

Turns out he’s only mostly dead. This Darkness guy is creepy, and perhaps even creepier with the proof that he is indeed Nalan, the Herald associated with Justice, who has been going around digging up whatever “crimes” he can find in the past of any incipient Surgebinder, and executing them on the pretext of “justice.” Speaking of expectations… what do you expect of Szeth now that he has Nightblood to mess with his head? That’s just painful to contemplate. Will he actually be bonded to a spren and be a real Skybreaker? Book Three just can’t come soon enough…

Gaz
We expected to see Gaz again, and perhaps learn what was behind his disappearance. To some extent, we did; he owed more money than he could possibly repay, and so he deserted. We still don’t know how he ran up such a debt, or whether it will still come back to haunt him. For now, he’s Shallan’s, which was a development no one foresaw. He’s actually a rather likeable guy now, and I was pretty impressed with him finding Shallan a copy of Words of Radiance. What think you: is his change of heart a result of loyalty to the one who freed him from his impossible debt, or to Shallan’s Lightweaving on him? Or both? There remains some mystery to this one.

Taravangian
I can’t wait to hear what y’all think of Taravangian now. Even the early revelation of his “gift” from the Nightwatcher didn’t prepare me for the fullness of what was revealed in his Interlude. I’m assuming (for the moment) that his Diagram has to do with Cultivation and her ability to see into the future, but I find it hard to believe anyone following that closely to something they themselves came up with when they were off-the-scale brilliant. He has made a god out of what he was on that one day, and… I don’t trust it.

Zahel
Well, I sure hope y’all read Warbreaker recently. Now we know why Brandon wouldn’t post his initial version of The Way of Kings, even though he’s never been reluctant to share his unpolished work and let us see the process. He didn’t want to spoil that surprise. (For anyone like me who didn’t catch this, I’ll let others tell you in the comments, just in case you want to go back and try to figure it out for yourself.)

 

Plot Elements

Finding Urithiru
Plenty of theories have been floated about the location and access to Urithiru; some placed it on the Shattered Plains, some in Shinovar, some in or near the Purelake, some even on another planet in the Roshar system. As of the end of The Way of Kings, I’m not sure I saw any speculation connecting the Oathgates with Urithiru. It was exciting to see the way it really works, and then to realize that we’ve seen other Oathgates and just didn’t recognize them. We still don’t know exactly where Urithiru is, or whether it contains the kind of information Jasnah was hoping for, but at least it’s found. As a side exercise, it’s very interesting to go back to the previous book and look at all the limited information on Urithiru; it all makes perfect sense when you know what it really is. Now we can expect to learn more in the next book or two.

The Parshendi
Also now known as the Listeners, we learn about the Parshendi just in time to develop sympathy for them and then watch them all turn into Voidbringers. Or something related to Voidbringers, anyway. In looking back through the epigraphs in The Way of Kings, the hints really are all there, so the reader who expected to find the Parshendi/Voidbringer connection was rewarded. Maybe not quite the way you’d have expected, though… The reader who expected the Parshendi to be the good guys and the Alethi the bad guys wasn’t that far off, either—not during The Way of Kings. Had the Alethi sought peace earlier, they might have found allies rather than enemies.

Instead, we find them pushed to the edge of survival, and therefore the edge of desperation. While the sprenless slaveform Parshmen are still out there, it’s not really the same thing as the voluntary choices made by the Listeners. At great personal cost, they have searched to find forms that would help their people survive while still refusing admittance to “the old gods”—Odium, and the apparently god-like spren associated with him. (Combining information from Eshonai and Taravangian, am I the only one who thinks the Unmade are Odium-spren, something on the order of the Stormfather and the Nightwatcher? I’ll bet I’m not…)

It was especially sad to see the whole thing through Eshonai’s eyes, as we learned about Narak and the various forms, as we met her mother and sister, as we began to understand the Rhythms. To see her preparing to meet Dalinar and ask for peace, knowing that he was hoping for the same thing—and then to have it all snatched away by her decision to take Venli’s place and bond the stormspren. Her own mind, screaming deep down inside, as her consciousness is overcome by Odium. Her avoidance of Peace, even when she was willing to attune the old Rhythms, because that’s where the screaming was the strongest… that just hurt.

It also makes one wonder: was warform actually of Honor rather than of Odium? Is the screaming of her mind similar to the screaming of the dead spren in the Shardblades? Is there still a “good” spren bonded to her, but overwhelmed by the stormspren? It seems that there ought to be a connection. On a loosely related note, I wonder if we’ll ever find out what happened to the Listeners who chose not to accept the stormspren bonding. Did they escape only to be killed by the Highstorm/Everstorm confluence? Or did they really escape? And did anyone else think it an interesting happenstance that they escaped from the Oathgate plateau, just like the Alethi armies would later?

The Everstorm
There was a lot of speculation over whether or not we’d see the Everstorm in this book. For that matter, there was a fair amount of speculation over what the Everstorm actually would be. The reality was mind-numbing. What we haven’t seen is the full effect, as it rounds the world and hits the continent backwards. The destruction to come is frightening to contemplate all by itself. What will happen next time the Everstorm collides with a Highstorm?

My final questions, to which I may never know the answers, are these: Would the Everstorm have come anyway? Was Odium returning inevitably, or did the actions of the Listeners bring about his return? Or, perhaps, were those actions inevitable?

Discuss! Enjoy! See you in the comments! [Note: please be aware that the spoilers in the comments are not limited to Words of Radiance, and include discussion of other Sanderson works. Wherever possible, we would appreciate it if you could white out any major spoilers for other books or series as a courtesy to other readers, but we cannot guarantee that every commenter will do so, so please tread carefully if you are trying to avoid information about Sanderson’s other novels/series.]


Alice Arneson is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys reading, writing, and throwing snowballs. She owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Brandon Sanderson and Peter Ahlstrom (and probably a greater one to their wives). The most amazing thing she’s ever heard was the Tudor Choir and Seattle Baroque Orchestra performance of Messiah.

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