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.