May 31 2013 10:00am

What Have We Learned about Words of Radiance from The Rithmatist Tour?

Words of Radiance speculation and hints

Brandon Sanderson’s tour for The Rithmatist tour is well underway, and reports are coming in that he’s been reading from Words of Radiance, his upcoming sequel to The Way of Kings. I got my hands on a transcript of the reading and pulled out a couple of hot bits of speculation fuel, and confirmation of one of my favorite mini-theories, all below the cut. SPOILERS for the end of The Way of Kings.

Sanderson has read from a brief section of Words of Radiance, written from the perspective of Taravangian, king of Kharbranth and death doctor extraordinaire. The revelation that Taravangian’s massive philanthropic system of library-funded public hospitals were secretly a way of farming dying people to collect mystic secrets was the biggest surprise of The Way of Kings, and he’s now the proud owner of Szeth-son-son-Vallano, and may plan to use him to kill Dalinar. Needless to say, any new information about Taravangian has been hotly anticipated. So what have we learned?

1) Taravangian as a viewpoint character: This section is almost certainly from an interlude, one of the in-between chapters in which Sanderson expands the scope of his story to otherwise unvisited sections of the world. If that’s not the case, however, and Taravangian is a full-fledged viewpoint character, Words of Radiance will vastly expand what we know about the secrets of Roshar.

2) Taravangian’s intellect: The king of Kharbranth was an extremely enigmatic character in The Way of Kings. Publically he appeared to be a kindly, philanthropic, but ultimately dim man. Soft, a little silly, and essentially harmless. The reveal at the end of the book flipped the tables on this, turning him into a masterful plotter, his schemes reaching far into the future and spanning across nations. Is this the same doddering man who Jasnah so handily bested in philosophical debates? Perhaps not! In this reading Taravangian’s handler administers a kind of intellect test, to determine whether Taravangian will spend the day as a king or a prisoner. It seems like Taravangian’s intelligence varies wildly from day to day, which has been a popular fan theory for some time, spurred by this hint in the endnote:

We leave it to His Majesty’s mind, on a strong day, to puzzle out the meaning of why the storms might be important, and what the poem may mean by indicating that there is silence both above and below said storms.

So, how could this have happened?

3) The Nightwatcher: The mysterious being who exchanges magical boons for crippling curses, the one who took away Dalinar’s memory of his dead wife, may have made a deal with Taravangian. Gifting him incredible intellect in exchange for days of crippling incompetence has a delicious symmetry to it that bespeaks this mysterious being. If so, and if Taravangian’s chapters reveal more about this, we have another inroad into who or what the Nightwatcher actually is.

4) The Stormwardens and “The Diagram”: The test is administered by the Stormwardens, men who use arcane methods to predict upcoming storms. They deem him fit to serve, but not to alter “the Diagram.” First, what do the Stormwardens have to do with this? Are they part of some more sinister plot? That would be a delicious new complication. Second, what’s the Diagram? Does it have something to do with the Everstorm?

That’s all I have for now! Let’s all get to speculating.

Carl Engle-Laird is a production assistant at, and their resident Stormlight correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter.

Matt Stoumbaugh
3. LazerWulf
I was at his signing in Houston, and he pretty much confirmed that a) this is an interlude, meaning he's not going to be a viewpoint character, and b) his varying intellect is indeed a dual gift/curse from the Nightwatcher's "Old Magic".

He said that the interludes were a way of expanding the world of Roshar, but also a limiting factor, since he only gets 3 in between each section (and in WoK, one of those 3 was used on Szeth).
Bob Seiter
4. kbob_o
Where is this transcript you speak of?
Kimani Rogers
5. KiManiak
LazerWulf@3 - Can you clarify what you mean by Brandon confirming information about Taravangian? Did Brandon confirm that Taravangian won't be a POV or just that this was an interlude?

I ask, because according to an interview on Theoryland's website, Brandon identified Taravangian as a main, point of view character for the future.
"MARC APLIN: Okay, the next question we have—I think this one you might have answered before—but have we met all the main point-of-view characters yet? Or, if not, what percentage are we talking?
BRANDON SANDERSON: You have met almost all of them. Let me do a count... Let's see. The main characters in the book are—in the series—Kaladin, and Dalinar, Adolin, Jasnah, Shallan, and Navani, whom you all met in this book and most of them had viewpoints. Szeth, Taravangian, and Taln. And one of the other Heralds; I'm not going to tell you who that is. But I think you've have, I'm sure, met that person; I know he's in there. And so, I think you've met them all, basically. Taln is the person who shows up in the epilogue."
I am fascinated and often amused by Brandon's answers in signings and events, because he's very clever and answer's questions in a way in which you may think you hear one thing when he really doesn't say much.

Can you let us know what you mean by "pretty much confirmed...?"
Matt Stoumbaugh
6. LazerWulf
@5: Okay, that might have been a misinterpretation on my part, that just because he was an interlude viewpoint, he wouldn't be a main story viewpoint eventually.

But, still, that doesn't mean he will or won't be a viewpoint character in THIS story, aside from this one interlude.
Dale Norman
7. dokipen
But who is the other Herald we've already met??? WHO?!?!?!?!!!!!!one!!!?!?!?!
9. thevalcrist
Unrelated to Taravangian, but something I have been thinking about.
I was re-reading Way of Kings and came up with a theory. Shallan and Jasnah were having a debate abut the Voidbringers. They were talking about Urithiru and Shallan had said there could be a ruin of a ancient city in the wild, in Natanatan and Jasnah tells her no Urithiru is not in Natanatan. At one point Dalinar is reading about
Urithiru in the sky and how it was accessed via Oathgates which I think may have had something to do with the Honor spren like Syl. There is talk about how the original Alethkar capital is where the shattered plains are currently. The Voidbringers kicked man out of the Tranquline Halls in heaven. What if Urithiru, as it is mentioned in one of Dalinar's visions as being in the sky, is heaven and is where the Tranquline Halls were located? What if the shattered plains were caused by Urithiru falling from the sky? The shattered plains are where the Parshendi (Void Bringers according to Jasnah) are living. Also all light eyes with the exception of Dalinar and his family, seem to be consumed with greed and conquest according to their religion. Brandon seemed to insinuate Syl was attracted to Kaladin because he had honor. What if Man Kind losing honor or breaking their oaths, or even the Heralds breaking their oaths, caused Urithiru to fall out of the sky?
Alice Arneson
10. Wetlandernw
@7 - There are a couple of possibilities already, and we may come across another as we reread. As mentioned @8, we met a couple of Heralds in the Prelude: Kalak and Jezrien. There's also some speculation that the man at the door of the Beggar's Feast in the Prologue might be a Herald, though we can't say which one.

(At a recent signing, someone asked if the man at the Beggar's Feast was anyone important, and Brandon gave them a big smile and a RAFO! Which I took to imply that yes, he probably is important, but no way was Brandon going to tell us who he was - and, of course, that we'll find out eventually.)

We also met Shallash, I believe, in the Baxil interlude, but Brandon said "he" when he was talking about viewpoint characters, so it's probably not her. He's also said that there were quite a few of the Heralds scattered throughout the book. I'm looking for people who don't appear to have childhood backstories...
11. Superben
So I wonder whether taravangian alters in personality as well as intelligence. Is he just as conniving on his slow days, but not intelligent enough to follow through? Or is he a philanthropist looking to take care of his people during his slow days, and a more cruel person on his intelilligent days?

@9 I love the idea of urithiru crashing into the earth and creating the shattered plains. I had always figured that urithiru was in the cognitive realm (the place shallan visits when she turns the vase into blood)
12. Superben
Now that I think on it... I had always viewed the spren as the cognitive forms of objects that have been showing up in the physical realm, maybe as a result of a god (Honor?) getting splintered. Maybe everything related to the splintered god, including the spren and Urithiru, moved into the physical realm when he was splintered.

Completely baseless and farfetched? Yup. But isn't that what this forum is for?
13. Trae
I was at the signing for The Rhithmatist in San Jose, CA, at which the same passages from both The Rhithmatist and Words of Radiance were read by the author.

As to ...

4) The Stormwardens and “The Diagram”: The test is
administered by the Stormwardens, men who use arcane methods to predict
upcoming storms. They deem him fit to serve, but not to alter “the
Diagram.” First, what do the Stormwardens have to do with this? Are they
part of some more sinister plot? That would be a delicious new
complication. Second, what’s the Diagram? Does it have something to do
with the Everstorm?

In this alone amongst the topics presented am I interested. (This is not to say that I discount the others; it's just that I agree with/already know of the others.)

So, we know somewhat of the Stormwardens and the Everstorm. But what do we know of the Diagram? Where before has this been mentioned (if it even has)? (If it has, in fact, I cannot recall where.)
Rob Campbell
14. rccampbe
@13 I don't think the Diagram has been mentioned before. But...what do we know of Stormwardens? They predict highstorms, meddling with predicting the future, which is frowned upon. What is Taravangian doing? Manipulating everybody with some devious long term planning and scheming. So....what is the Diagram? It's gotta be their faction's plan/prediction for the future of Roshar. How much is somehow foreseen/prophesied and how much is planned is the question.
Kyle Much
15. kmucha31
I think the final POV character/Herald is Wit. I have reasons for thinking this but would rather have others think about it on their own. A practice Wit would enjoy.
16. Bc_boy
@15 i also think that the herald is Wit/Hoid because he tells kaladin he came to his land to seek out an old friend and this could mean Taln because they abandoned him after the desolation
17. atheistcanuck
Wit is not a Herald, Wit is Hoid, a character that appears repeatedly in Brandon's adult fiction. if you didn't know, all Brandon's adult fiction (except the Wheel Of Time of course) take place in the same universe. Hoid has some connection with the overall story of Brandon's universe, not just with the Stormlight Archive.
18. PhilE
@17. Wit/Hoid is not excluded from being a herald just because he "has some connection with the overall story of Brandon's universe." We don't know who the heralds actually are, or how they became heralds. Heralds are part of the universe, aren't they? Then it's possible that Wit could be a herald and have a connection with the larger universe.
Alice Arneson
19. Wetlandernw
Seriously? No, Hoid is not a Herald.

When asked directly on a Goodreads Q&A, "Is Hoid a Herald, or a Shardholder, or something else entirely?" Sanderson replied, "Hoid is something else entirely."

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