One of the most intriguing aspects of Brandon Sanderson’s writing is his Cosmere, the term for his fictional universe in which many of his adult titles are set. And in the Cosmere are the Shards, vast beings of incalculable power, each with a decisive vision and intent. Supposedly the sixteen different pieces of a murdered deity, the Shards hold great power at great cost. In the original Mistborn trilogy, we get to meet and learn about two of them: Ruin and Preservation, and if there’s anything you need to know about them, it’s in their names. Opposing yet equal forces, these two Shards battled for dominance for millennia until finally, at the end of the trilogy, their mantle passes on to a man who can wield both of these powers simultaneously. In accepting these Shards, that man became the only thing Ruin and Preservation could become: Harmony.
But what do we know about Harmony? What can he do? What can he not? And most importantly, just what does he know, truly? There’s not much to go on, but there are some very interesting moments in Shadows of Self where we come to learn a little more about Harmony, and how he operates.
Warning: Spoilers for Shadows of Self and the first Mistborn trilogy.
There’s a lot to love in Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self: action! intrigue! Cosmere! Magic! Kandra? Kandra! Self-doubt! Learning your whole life is a lie! Exciting stuff. But! One of my absolutely favorite moments is when Wax opens himself up to Harmony’s influence, and has a conversation with the man-turned-deity. While discussing the nature of life on the planet, the topic inevitably turns to Harmony, and how he changed the planet after the original trilogy—moving he planet away from the sun, fixing the nightmare ecological system, etc.
But Harmony expresses frustration with Wax and his society, stating that he made it too easy for them. According to Harmony, they should have the radio by now; they should be close to the airplane; in short, they should be progressing as a society more quickly. But they’re not, and Harmony blames himself. Godly doubt is one thing. But having knowledge of technology you’ve never seen before? That’s where I pause.
So how does Harmony know these things? I have a few theories.
Combination of Shards: Shards seeing the future isn’t exactly new. In The Way of Kings, the ghost of the Shard Honor makes mention of his compatriot, Cultivation, having better clairvoyance than even him. So it’s not exactly a power that Shards lack. Just depends on the Shard. So when it comes to Harmony, is he simply looking ahead and extrapolating ideas from future timelines? Or could he be looking into Scadrial’s past, to see technology that may have existed before the events of the first Mistborn trilogy? I don’t think Ruin or Preservation would be able to puncture the time stream on their own, but maybe some melding of the the Shards has gifted Harmony this ability.
Memory Minds: We don’t know how advanced the societies of the past were on Scadrial, or if information of past societies and religions was included in Sazed’s metalminds. Once he becomes Harmony, it’s plausible that he could gain new insights from his metalminds with his now-divine brain. Or of course, the answer could be much more simple…
Someone Else Already Has Them: Look, we don’t know squat about the rest of the planet beyond Elendel. And the easiest explanation for how Harmony knows of these technologies is that someone, somewhere on Scadrial, already has them and is using them. How could the people of the Southern Continent survive after the Catacendre? Is there someone in Elendel who is keeping this technology secret? Don’t know. But! It would be the easiest answer, and if Harmony is indeed in charge of the whole planet, it would be simple to pick out the knowledge.
And this is just knowledge on a purely planetary basis. What does Harmony know of the larger Cosmere? Of Allomancy, Feruchemy, Hemalurgy? Does he know any of the other magic systems? Does he have any knowledge of the other Shards, the different Realms, and that one really, really, really angry ball of Shardic hatred hanging out in the Rosharan System, who happens to really not like Harmony at all?
All food for thought, but it only makes me more curious as to what Harmony knows, and how he knows it. It may be three hundred years since Sazed took up the mantle, but he’s still very much new to the position in the grand scheme of things. Here’s hoping we get to learn with Harmony as he goes along.
Martin Cahill tried eating metal once but it just made him sick. When he’s not slinging words at Tor.com, he’s contributing to Book Riot and Strange Horizons. You can find him on Twitter @McflyCahill90. Tweet him about delicious east coast IPAs, ideas on who Rey’s parents are, and your worries about the DC Movie Universe.