Aug 15 2013 12:00pm
The Way of Kings Reread: Epigraphs to Part Two

Brandon Sanderson The Way of Kings Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Last week we finished chapter 28, and with it completed our reread of Part Two: The Illuminating Storms. Next week we’ll move on to the Interludes before starting Part Three the following week, but for now there’s one aspect of this Part that we’ve been putting off covering until now.

So, to wrap up The Illuminating Storms, I’m going to analyze the mysterious letter that the chapter epigraphs present in fragments. This series of epigraphs is extremely heavy in cosmere information, and in unpacking it I’m going to refer to knowledge that some may consider spoilers for Sanderson’s other novels, so proceed carefully. I’ve collected the entire letter for all of you, so let’s get going.

Old friend, I hope this missive finds you well. Though, as you are now essentially immortal, I would guess that wellness on your part is something of a given. / I realize that you are probably still angry. That is pleasant to know. Much as your perpetual health, I have come to rely upon your dissatisfaction with me. It is one of the cosmere’s great constants, I should think.

Let me first assure you that the element is quite safe. I have found a good home for it. I protect its safety like I protect my own skin, you might say. / You do not agree with my quest. I understand that, so much as it is possible to understand someone with whom I disagree so completely.

Might I be quite frank? Before, you asked why I was so concerned. It is for the following reason: / Ati was once a kind and generous man, and you saw what became of him. Rayse, on the other hand, was among the most loathsome, crafty, and dangerous individuals I had ever met. / He holds the most frightening and terrible of all of the Shards. Ponder on that for a time, you old reptile, and tell me if your insistence on nonintervention holds firm. Because I assure you, Rayse will not be similarly inhibited. / One need only look at the aftermath of his brief visit to Sel to see proof of what I say.

In case you have turned a blind eye to that disaster, know that Aona and Skai are both dead, and that which they held has been Splintered. Presumably to prevent anyone from rising up to challenge Rayse.

You have accused me of arrogance in my quest. You have accused me of perpetuating my grudge against Rayse and Bavadin. Both accusations are true. / Neither point makes the things I have written to you here untrue.

I am being chased. Your friends of the Seventeenth Shard, I suspect. I believe they’re still lost, following a false trail I left for them. They’ll be happier that way. I doubt they have any inkling of what to do with me should they actually catch me. / If anything I have said makes a glimmer of sense to you, I trust that you’ll call them off. Or maybe you could astound me and ask them to do something productive for once. / For I have never been dedicated to a more important purpose, and the very pillars of the sky will shake with the results of our war here. I ask again. Support me. Do not stand aside and let disaster consume more lives. I’ve never begged you for something before, old friend. I do so now.

I’ve combined the epigraphs into paragraphs in the way that made the most sense to me, but it’s possible that you guys will disagree. To facilitate disagreement, I’ve marked where each epigraph ends with a slash, excepting those epigraphs that naturally end paragraphs.

The first issue that comes to mind is uncovering who wrote this letter, and to whom was it sent. The text presents strong evidence that Hoid is the author of this letter. The Seventeenth Shard, as represented by the strange people at the Purelake, are hunting him, after all, and he is probably the most cosmere-literate person Sanderson has revealed to us yet. The identity of the letter’s recipient is much more mysterious. It’s very possible that Hoid is writing to someone we haven’t met or even heard about yet. To round up what we do know: his correspondent knows about the cosmere, and recognizes the names of those who took up Shards. The recipient of the letter is immortal (at least according to Hoid), and has close ties to the Seventeenth Shard, an organization of people who travel between Shardworlds. He or she may even be able to order the Seventeenth Shard around.

It’s possible—and perhaps even likely—that this person holds a Shard. All of the people Hoid mentions do: Ati is Ruin from the Mistborn series, and Aona and Skai are Devotion and Dominion from Elantris. If this person holds a Shard, then I doubt he or she is Honor. We find out later in the book that Tanavast, who holds Honor, was killed by Rayse when that Shard was splintered. The letter could be from a long time ago, but since I believe the “false trail” Hoid left for the Seventeenth Shard hunters led them to the Purelake, I suspect the letter was sent recently. He may have sent the letter to the past, but I’m putting that possibility aside for now, because it’s a bit crazy. It’s more likely that he’d be writing to Cultivation, the other Shard owner on Roshar, since she is probably alive—but I don’t think she’d needs to be warned about Rayse, having seen what he did to Honor. Nor does this feel like a letter to her.

That was all a long-winded way of saying that I’m stumped. The intended recipient of this letter could be basically anybody, and I’m not satisfied with any of my potential candidates listed above. Do you have anyone else in mind? I’ll be looking forward to hearing in the comments.

To understate a bit, Rayse seems like bad news. He has what must surely be the highest god-level-being kill count in the universe. Rayse has three confirmed kills at this point, which is a lot when you’re talking about a species with only 16 individuals. He also seems to have the most terrible Shard of all, and on this point I see no reason to second-guess Hoid. Odium is a Shard of hatred, and seems to bring with it bloodlust, constant warfare, and a proliferation of the worst and most harmful ways in which societies and kingdoms interact. Combine this with someone who already seems to be huge jerk, and it’s not hard to see why the normally passive and observational Hoid would feel like he has to give things a nudge.

I think it’s no secret that Odium is going to be a major antagonist in the Stormlight Archive. I would declare him THE main antagonist right now, without any hesitation, if I weren’t so used to Brandon Sanderson complicating his own plots. After all, I never expected the Lord Ruler to be anything less than the Big Boss of the Mistborn series, and look where that got me. But here it seems like Sanderson is setting Odium up to be much more than a local threat. Rayse has had a cosmere-spanning impact, and has killed multiple shards. He may be a cosmere-wide threat.

While putting the letter together, I realized for the first time how often Brandon Sanderson managed to make these epigraphs acutely relevant to the chapters they precede. My favorite example of this is the epigraph to Chapter 15: The Decoy: “You do not agree with my quest. I understand that, so much as it is possible to understand someone with whom I disagree so completely.” Chapter 15 is when Sadeas and Dalinar’s shared backstory is revealed, when we come to understand how these bitter rivals work together, and what drove them apart in the first place.  Dalinar and Sadeas share a common goal, unlike Hoid and his correspondent, but they are divided by a complete difference in nature. This attempt at understanding, and almost respect, even in the face of total disagreement is present in both the epigraph and the chapter.

Usually it’s subtler than that, but more often than not I would read the epigraph and think to myself, heh, this resonates well with the chapter it introduces. I like little tricks like that. You don’t have to notice them to have them work, either. The epigraphs prime the reader to experience the story in a different way.

That’s it for Part Two! Check back next week for the interludes.

Carl Engle-Laird is an editorial assistant and Stormlight Archive correspondent for You can follow him on Twitter here.

1. Iarvin
The first possible recipient to come to mind is Sazed/Harmony.

First the pros:
He knows what happens to Ati, or at least the end of what happened.

He holds the shard Harmony which is composed of what used to be the shards Ruin and Preservation - so if all the 16 shards were originally in the weight class, he is now more powerful than anyone with only one shard. This puts him in the heavy weight category who can contend with Odium.

There are Scradrialians in the 17th Shard, which could be 'His Friends'.

The biggest con to me though is the constant reference to the recipient as 'Old Friend', and the knowledge of who Aona and Skai were. The hundreds of years since Mistborn (not sure on the timeline of all the events) could account for that, but it makes more sense for the recipient to be one of the original shard-holders who knew all the originals before they were shard-holders

'Old Friend'
Carl Engle-Laird
2. CarlEngle-Laird
The Way of Kings takes place about 200 or 300 years after the Mistborn trilogy, if I remember right, which is why I think this probably isn't the answer. I did spend a while considering it, though!
3. Soonerfan1222
So could the "element" be the lorasium bead he holds? That could give weight to Sazed being the recipient.
Nick Sardella
4. Mithrandir42
I agree that the Letter appears to be from Hoid, but I don't like to assume that it is. All evidence we have suggests that he did, and while I agree, we should keep in mind that there is a LOT about the cosmere we don't know. It could be a huge red herring.

I can't believe that the writer is addressing the Letter to a Shard. True, there is no direct confirmation that this is a true, physical letter, though the word "missive" would suggest that it is, but why would one literally write something to a Shard? Plus, the reference to "your friends of the Seventeenth Shard" makes it seem like it is written to a human/human-like person, as the organization does not (to our knowledge) include any Shards. I think it is pointless to theorize in who it may be at this point. Chances are we have not seen him/her yet. I would wait until The Liar of Partinel/Dragonsteel to release before trying to discover who it is.

The writer and the recipient are clearly both Yolenians who were alive before the Shattering of Adonalsium, as indicated by references to the names of people who took up Shards.

I personally do believe that Odium is the Big Bad of Stormlight. We know the Final Desolation is coming, when the forces of Odium will once again face mankind. Everything seems to indicate that the Desolation will be the focal point of the series much as Tarmon Gai'don was for The Wheel of Time. Odium is also definitely a threat to the overall cosmere. He is heavily concerned with the cosmere and the other Shards' doings. We know he wants to kill other Shards and has sights on Scadrial (Brandon has stated that Odium was afraid of someone taking up both Preservation and Ruin and merging them into a sort of meta-Shard.)

I really want to know more about "the element". Whatever it is, it must be important, crucial even.

Overall, I get a sense of "Oh, crap!" from the Letter. Whatever the writer is talking about, it is not good for either this series or the cosmere as a whole. (Though, reading it excites me, as it is the most direct mention of the cosmere in any of the books, aside from the Alloy of Law Ars Arcanum.) It means that things on Roshar and in the cosmere are coming together, moving toward something grand.
Alice Arneson
5. Wetlandernw
The recipient: I agree with your eliminations; the only person we’ve met yet that makes sense to me would be the holder of Harmony; I don’t think it’s in the “highly probable” category, though. I currently like the idea that it’s someone we haven’t met yet. There are a fair few Shards out there whose names we don’t even know, much less where they are or what power they may have. It could well be one of them. “Immortal” certainly implies a Shard, though it’s not 100% proof.

Rayse: Bad news, indeed. Combined with Odium, even worse news. Not much I can add to that! I have to agree with this, though… “I think it’s no secret that Odium is going to be a major antagonist in the Stormlight Archive. I would declare him THE main antagonist right now, without any hesitation, if I weren’t so used to Brandon Sanderson complicating his own plots.” Since this is Sanderson, I can’t hold too hard to such an “obvious” theory – but since this is Sanderson, I can’t rule it out either.

I was also impressed with the way the epigraphs matched both the chapters and the context of the letter, even though a particular bit might mean completely different things depending on which context you consider. Tricky bit of writing, there.

Other bits from the letter: What exactly is “the element” he references? I’ve seen suggestions (at least) that it is a bit of atium lerasium from Scadrial. I’ve also seen a suggestion (I think) that it’s a Dawnshard (whatever that is), or a piece of one. (Side question: Are the Dawnshards actually Honor and Cultivation? Clearly no one in present-day Roshar knows, but I have to wonder.) And the writer (who I will assume is Hoid until other evidence conflicts) says that he protects its safety like his own skin… so I assume it’s not the black sphere Gavilar gave to Szeth. I’ll look forward to seeing what others have to suggest re: the element and how it is protected.

Oh, and enter “Bavadin” – another Shard, but we don’t know the identity of the Shard he holds. Someday… And I enjoyed the point that while the writer admits his arrogance and his grudge, neither negates the validity of his concern re: Rayse/Odium.

Last note (for now): I just notice that he refers to “our war here” – identifying himself more strongly with Roshar than he ever has another world. And I’m pretty sure he’s not referring to the current “War of Reckoning” that the Alethi are wasting time with. Hoid has been waiting for the last Herald to show up, and now that he has done so… well, we’ll have to wait and see what WoR will tell us.

I wonder if Hoid has identified all the Heralds in their current guise.

Also: Overuse of parentheses FTW! ::eyeroll::

Edited to correct "atium" to "lerasium" in the element discussion. Oops.
Drew McCaffrey
6. PallonianFire
"The element" is indeed the bead of Lerasium that Hoid took from the Well, as confirmed by Brandon on the Rithmatist tour. As far as the identity of the recipient goes, I think it is mostly likely someone from Yolen whom we have yet to meet, probably one of the original Shardholders.

The other interesting thing to note is that while Odium is pretty clearly the major antagonist in Stormlight and is certainly a threat on the level of the Cosmere, we still have another entity or force somewhere out there: the thing that shattered Adonalsium in the first place. Like Carl said, Brandon likes to layer his threats, just as he layers his plots and series.
Nadine L.
7. travyl
If it's true, that Hoid doesn't hold a Shard himself, I believe, that it's likely that Hoid writes to a "being", similar like him. As far as I know, we still don't know how Hoid fits into the Cosmere (if it's true that he is immortal, worldhopping, but ostensibly not holding a Shard).
So there might be more like him, but since this one has a "insistence on nonintervention" we never saw him in any book so far.

I do wonder though: why would someone, who wants to not interfere be entagled with an organisation (17shard), unless his policy is to stopp others like him (and Hoid) from interfering with the Shardholders and their world.
Nick Sardella
8. Mithrandir42
@PallonianFire: Can you provide a quote on the element being Hoid's lerasium? I don't doubt you I just want to see it.
Gary Singer
9. AhoyMatey
I also believe the writer is Hoid. "protect its safety like I protect my own skin" makes me wonder if he's ingested it or absorbed whatever it is into himself. Or he's wearing it somewhere.
Drew McCaffrey
10. PallonianFire
@Mithrandir: From a post on

Edit for disclaimer: When I asked the question, I also thought the
element and the lerasium were different. I asked it as a "Hoid clearly
has a habit for taking important items. He has the bead of lerasium and
the element. What other items does he have that we should know about?"
Brandon's response was that the bead and the element are the same. And
that he has many items he should not have. Unfortunately, my phone's
battery power was super-low so I couldn't record this response. But if
any of you doubt me, ask Mi'ch or Josh. Or Peter. They were all there."

Dixon Davis
11. KadesSwordElanor
Oh my God!!! What have I gotten myself into!!! I thought I had something to contribute but I am so freaking lost right now. I will figure it out though. This Cosmere thing seems really neat and kind-of comic book-esque to me. BS is so awesome.

Wasn’t Hoid a beggar in Elantris? (He is like the Silver Surfer it seems.)

Guidance please. I am assuming I should just enjoy WOK for now and try to read BS’s other works before I go digging into the Cosmere.
William Carter
12. wcarter

Hoid has had bit parts in every Cosmere book Sanderson has written, Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker...Way of Kings is the first time he plays any sort of prominent role (and it is the same person in every book).

Warning There be spoilers for Mistborn in the whited out parts:
What scares me the most about this letter is just how high a level of respect pre-Ruin Ati had. He was considered a kind and generious man. By the time of Hero of Ages, he is a consumate liar and 100 percent focused on the total destruction of Scadrial.
For all that his quest seemed more Galactus "this is what I do" sort of thing rather than "I freaking hate you all DIE!
And then we have Rayse. He was apparently already a rotten sort of dude then he gained Phenominal Cosmic Powers designed specifically for loathing everything and everyone with the white hot passion of a thousand burning suns.


Oh and he's apparently already killed several other god tier beings who were presumably at or near his own power.

More Spoilers:

We've only seen one other person do this: Preservation/Vin. And doing it killed her at the same time (and was in fact quite painful). So the question now becomes How did Rayse/Odium kill other shards without also dying? And if he is more powerful, how much more?

I know Odium is supposed to be "the most dangerous" of the Shards, but that is not the same as "the most "powerful." So is he more powerful than the others? And if not who is powerful enough to kill him?

Last bit of spoilers:

Sazed became Harmony by taking on the powers of both Preservation and Ruin. So he has two shards to Rayse's presumed one--according to Hoid he shattered the ones he killed. Brandon said during JordanCon in April he did that to avoid changing his nature. Apparnetly he likes being an angry jackass.
So the final question I have is does holding more Shards actually make you more powerful or just further define the nature of your power (and therefore eventually of your personality)? Because if it doesn't pump up the muscles, I worry for Harmony...

Regardless of what we eventually find out about all those things, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find the Odium thing becoming a at least a behind the scenes problem in several future shardworld books.
Drew McCaffrey
13. PallonianFire

I think Vin died taking out Ati because of the nature of Ruin and Preservation. They were uniquely balanced against each other, and therefore were a complete cancellation.

Odium, I believe, is actually not so much "hate" as he is the nature of breaking things, separating bonds, etc. Which is why he was so against Honor—and probably why he can so easily Splinter other Shards, thus making him the "most dangerous" of the Shards.
Alice Arneson
14. Wetlandernw
KadesSwordElanor @11 - ::very big grin:: Crazy, isn't it?? For the first post you're ready to dive into, it's all a big Cosmere discussion! Bad timing, in a way, because this particular thread really won't address the WoK storylines in any significant way. I would suggest that for now, you just enjoy WoK; beyond that, it depends on how you feel about spoilers. I don't think there will be another post in this reread that will focus so heavily on the Cosmere, so you should be okay after this week. If you don't mind spoilers, dive right into the coppermind dot net slash wiki and learn all you can; if you'd rather not have all his other stories (mildly to totally) spoiled, read his other works first.

Re: Hoid – During a Goodreads Q&A, someone asked directly, “Is Hoid a Herald, or a Shardholder, or something else entirely?” Brandon’s reply was that Hoid is something else entirely. So he is not a Herald, as someone insisted elsewhere, nor does he hold a Shard.

Whether he is unique in his non-Shard longevity, we don’t really know. Assuming that he is indeed the author of this letter, if he is unique, the recipient almost has to be a Shard. If he is not unique, then the recipient could be someone who, like him, is a time-hopper as well as a world-hopper. We know that there are members of the 17th Shard who can apparently do both, considering the identities of the Purelake-interlude searchers; we also know that those particular individuals do not originate as far back in time as Hoid. The one thing that seems clear about the recipient is that he, too, pre-existed the shattering of Adonalsium, since he apparently knew the pre-Shard characters of the sixteen.

Re: the element – we know that Hoid holds a bead of lerasium, but we don’t know for sure (that I can find) that this is the element he references here. After all, he also holds a Breath from Nalthis and the Moon Scepter from Sel, so the fact that he holds lerasium from Scadrial isn’t entirely unique. If he is indeed referring to the lerasium, then a logical recipient would be Harmony; if it’s not, there’s no reason to make the connection. It could, however, just as readily be someone else from pre-Shattering times (Shard or not) who disapproves of Hoid's collection but considers the lerasium the item that could cause the most problems if used wrongly.

EDIT to add - If the question was asked directly, and the answer clear that lerasium = element (for this discussion), then we know. It would be nice to get that into the wiki and into the theoryland database. (I know that last is not an official Cosmere database, but so far I haven't seen another place else that presents anything like such a complete and readily-searchable collection of quotes regarding Sanderson's work. Maybe some computer guru from 17th Shard could work with Terez to combine the Sanderson-original-work portions of the theoryland database with the stuff they already have, or something.)
15. Kurtharsis
I like Harmony, but I have a wild idea that the Recipient might be Ironeyes.

I think Harmony's a good candidate for the following reasons: Overall, the Letter is very Scadrial-centric. It implies that the Recipient was familiar with Ati (and not Leras) but doesn't assert that the Recipient ever knew either personally. Non-intervention is very much in keeping with Harmony's character. The Recipient is clearly not based on Sel. Harmony does literally have a friend in the Seventeenth Shard, which would be Demoux. We also know from the epigraphs in Hero of Ages that Harmony had been investigating Adonalsium. On that note, the Mistborn series may be as important to the Cosmere as the Stormlight Archive. Factoring in the Wax/Wayne books, Mistborn will actually have more entries than Stormlight.

Thinking a little more broadly, WoK takes place around the same time as Alloy of Law (slightly before, if my memory serves). Let's assume that the letter was successful and that the Recipient was compelled to action. There's a lot going on in the background of Alloy of Law that would support this idea. Harmony relcutantly intercedes on Wax's behalf, implying a recent relaxation of his policy of nonintervention. Ironeyes reveals himself to Marasi and appears to be working in concert with Harmony. Kandra have infiltrated the police (and per the Ars Arcanum, they mostly serve Harmony). Hoid shows up too, and it would seem to me that if Harmony wanted to stop him, that would have been an ideal opportunity.

Crazy alternate theory: Ironeyes is the Recipient. He's (newly?) active on Scadrial, but he disagrees with the way Harmony does things. He has a better familiarity with Ati than Harmony, and Hoid (in the AoL Ars Arcanum) has taken an interest in Hemalurgy, which would make Ironeyes a useful ally.
Andrew Berenson
16. AndrewHB
TWoK is the only book in the Cosmosphere that I have read. Please forgive me if some of the questions I will ask are obvious to those who have read all of the books in the cosmosphere.

1) Is Odium and Rayse one and the same person/entity/being? If not who is Rayse?
2) Carl noted: "We find out later in the book that Tanavast, who holds Honor, was killed by Rayse when that Shard was splintered." Where in TWoK was this mentioned. Please elaborate.
3) If the letter was sent (and it is no guarantee) that it was sent (only that it was written), and it was sent to somebody not on Roshar, how would the author have sent it to a different world? (Likewise, if the letter was sent, we do not know if it was received by the intended recipient.

I also have two ideas regarding this letter. I am not trumpeting either. Rather, I am merely throwing them out to see if it could even be a remote possibility.
a) Could the "element" referred to in the letter be hidden in the flute that Hoid later gives to Kaladin?
b) Is it possible that the author wrote the letter to him/her/itself? In other words, the author and the intended recipient are one and the same.

Thanks for reading my musings.
(aka the musespren)
Nick Sardella
17. Mithrandir42

Thank you for that! I missed it somehow. So that confirms that Hoid wrote the Letter. Since the element is his bead of lerasium, it must be he. Unless it was stolen from Hoid by the writer (unlikely as it is). Doesn't change anything really; it was pretty obvious.

This brings up a whole other set of questions. That other people know Hoid has lerasium and that there is a sort of code name for it indicates its taking was more than simply personal interest. Why are Hoid and the Seventeenth Shard so interested in lerasium? Why is it so crucial? Oh boy...
18. Daedalus
I'm not sure if this has been discussed yet. But is it possible the black sphear Gavilar gave to Seth is the condensed power of one of the Roshar shards (Odium or Honour seem most likely)? The same way that Atium and Lerasium are the condensed power of Ruin and Preservation.
Nick Sardella
19. Mithrandir42

1. Rayse is Odium. I don't know how muhc cosmere you know, but Odium is the name of the Shard which Rayse holds. The name is commonly referred to as a Shard's "intent". When someone takes up a Shard, they become that Shard (though theorizers commonly refer to the person as a "Shardholder" but that is not a canonical term).

2. When Odium killed Honor, what we mean is that he killed Tanavast (the "Shardholder") and Splintered Honor (the Shard, the force of nature), meaning it was broken into pieces. I'm not sure whether Tanavast was killed was directly said in the book, but that is how the terminology works.

3. As far as I know, we have no knowledge of how Hoid could have sent the Letter. We don't even really know how he Worldhops, completely. It has something to do with Shadesmar, the Cognitive Realm, so I doubt he could send a letter the same way. (But I could be very wrong.)

I hope that helps! Try looking at if you want more information.

On your other ideas:

a) I doubt Hoid would have put the element into the flute. It is an extremely important artifact from Scadrial, the world of Sanderson's Mistborn series. Kaladin would have no idea what to do with it (it involves ingestion, which I doubt he would come up with), and even if he knew how to use it, I don't believe he could access its power.

b) I don't really know why Hoid would write a letter to himself, partivularly given what he says in it.
Matt Stoumbaugh
20. LazerWulf

1) Close. Odium is the shard and Rayse is the Shardholder, but it's not uncommon to refer to the shardholder by the name of his shard, e.g. Ati/Ruin


3) Presumably the same way Hoid himself travels between shardworlds (which has been implied as being through Shadesmar, though don't quote me on that)

a) I would say that this is possible, though not probable, considering that Hoid is protecting it "like his own skin". Also, this assumes that Hoid is the writer, which, though a popular theory (and one by which I personally subscribe), is not confirmed.
b) If so, then, considering that the writer assumes the recipient hates him, and vehemiently disagrees with him, this would indicate one hell of a split personality.
Eric McCabe
21. Zizoz
AndrewHB @16:

1) Is Odium and Rayse one and the same person/entity/being? If not who is Rayse?

Yes, they are the same. Rayse was the name of the person who became the Shard Odium.

2) Carl noted: "We find out later in the book that Tanavast, who holds Honor, was killed by Rayse when that Shard was splintered." Where in TWoK was this mentioned. Please elaborate.

We learn in Chapter 75 that Odium killed the Almighty. I'm not sure, but I don't think the rest was directly in the book. "Tanavast" occurs in Chapter 46, "Child of Tanavast", when the voice in Kaladin's highstorm dream says, "Child of Tanavast. Child of Honor. Child of one long since departed." I suppose this is where the idea that Tanavast, Honor, and the Almighty are the same comes from; I believe it's been confirmed by Sanderson. (At least in this case; he said that "the Almighty" can refer to several different things.)

3) If the letter was sent (and it is no guarantee) that it was sent (only that it was written), and it was sent to somebody not on Roshar, how would the author have sent it to a different world? (Likewise, if the letter was sent, we do not know if it was received by the intended recipient.

I'd guess Hoid hopped worlds himself to send it.

As for my own guess at the letter's recipient, recently while reading it the phrase "you old reptile" jumped out at me. We know that one of Brandon's unpublished books is Dragonsteel; it is not unreasonable, then, to think that book might involve dragons. If so, I think the recipient is a dragon, explaining the "reptile" comment.
Nick Sardella
22. Mithrandir42

Oh my goodness that makes perfect sense! I had never made the dragon/reptile connection before! I totally agree!
Lee VanDyke
23. Cloric
The only thing I have to say about this is that I apparently need to go back and reread a great deal of Brandon's work. I read Warbreaker, Elantris, and the original Mistborn trilogy prior to the release of The Gathering Storm, and of course, TWoK, but when Cosmere discussions come up, I get completely lost. I'm rather surprised at myself that I didn't start digging into the inter-relations of his book before this. I've always loved when authors write multiple stories in a shared universe setting, and going through Stephen King's work to find the mryiad ways that they were each connected to The Dark Tower series was something I had great fun doing. Off to to make a wishlist for my Kindle app, now.
Dixon Davis
24. KadesSwordElanor
I ass-u-me Shardholder does not equal Shardbearer, but would think there is some connection, no?(Spoilers don't tend to bother me because you usually already know the ending - good wins - it is the getting there that is so much fun.)

Cloric @ 23
Cool isn’t it. SK introduced me to the idea of the literary multiverse. BS seems to be taking it to another level. IMHO, doing this is not easy or gimmicky, as some literary critics would claim. It is a type of genius I cannot even fathom. What do literary critics know anyway?:)
Nick Sardella
25. Mithrandir42

Shardbearer and Shardholder are totally different things. Shardholder is not a canonical term, just one used by fans to distinguish between the Shard itself (meaning the piece of Adonalsium, the power of creation) and the consciousness that controls that power. When a person becomes a Shard, the two are technically one and the same. So no, there isn't a direct connection between the two.
Jessica Trevino
26. Ciella
@21. Zizoz - I like the reptile/Dragon connection, good catch!

I agree with people who've talked about the "my own skin line", there's definitely and inside joke going on there. Either a reference to how Hoid is hiding the bead (a piercing a la Vin?) or maybe another reference that only Hoid and the recipient really get.

Personally, I always felt that the letter was going to an un-met character. The "old friend" references and the "wasn't Ati a good guy back when" parts make me think that they knew each other before the shards existed.
Alice Arneson
27. Wetlandernw
Re: the term "Shardholder" - Brandon specifically and intentionally does not use that term, precisely because of the probable confusion between "holder" and "bearer". He refers to both the object and the person who holds the object as the Shard. I think fans haven't quite let go of the distinction between the person and the object, because we don't quite comprehend just how much they become one and the same.

A Shardbearer is, at present, simply someone who owns Shardplate, Shardblade, or both. Exactly what relationship those items have with the actual Shards remains to be seen. (At least, I sure hope we see it!)

Let me add my applause to the dragon/reptile connection. Nicely spotted - I hope it turns out to be true!!
Rich Bennett
28. Neuralnet
wow great post and discussion. Thanks for putting the letter together. I am not even going to try and guess who it is to since at this point we are still too early in the series. Plus even though I have read all of Sanderson's works, the nuances of the cosmere still sort of baffle me. I really hope it will be fleshed out more (maybe even resolved) in this series.
Drew McCaffrey
29. PallonianFire

This is certainly a more Cosmere-involved series, but Sanderson has plans for much more after Stormlight. The Dragonsteel series was apparently going to be his project before Stormlight, but he decided against it because it was TOO Cosmere-involved. Dragonsteel is the series during which we will be seeing Hoid's origins on the world Yolen. Similarly, Sanderson has also said that the later Mistborn trilogies will be more Cosmere-centric.
Matt Spencer
30. Iarvin
I wonder if we'll see Hoid in “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” - or at least some effect from him. Its the first Cosmere story that I'm aware of that is on a splinter world rather than a shard world, so Hoid might be much less interested.

Another possiblility is that Hoid is writing the to being that shattered
Adonalasium in the first place, who may not be entirely evil. Said being could also be a dragon. . .
Alice Arneson
31. Wetlandernw
Iarvin @30 - It's possible Hoid is in Shadows for Silence, but not as a major player. (I have a note to myself to ask Brandon about who I think might be Hoid...) So far there is debate - some say he's not there at all, but that's disputed.

The idea of Hoid writing to the being that shattered Adonalsium is... intriguing. I wouldn't put it past him!
Adam S.
32. MDNY
Whew, fascinating discussion. I've always been torn on who wrote the letter. Of everyone we've met in the cosmere, Hoid was the only character I was aware of appearing in multiple worlds (until the other world hoppers appear in the Purelake interlude). I sometimes think he might be writing the passages, but I'm not convinced. Hoid remains an enigma, even if he is more developed in this book than in the others. I definitely think the recipient is someone we haven't met yet, but I could be wrong, there's so much about world-hopping and the cosmere at large that we don't yet know enough of. I'm guessing this particular mystery will be fleshed out over the 10 books of the series (perhaps not completely even then, as it seems to involve multiple worlds).
33. Proteus
It's been confirmed in an interview that the recipient of the letter is on Yolen, and hasn't been seen in a published work.

Since the book 'dragonsteel' is set on Yolen, I am guessing it is a dragon.
David Foster
34. ZenBossanova
In a 'published' work.
That makes me wonder exactly who is in that unpublished DragonSteel manuscript Sanderson wrote.

But calling someone a dragon, may not literally mean they are an actual reptile. Not necessarily anyway. Brandon has yet to have dragons in a published work, so I wonder what his unique spin on that will be.
Cheryl Sanders
35. RestlessSpirit
From the letter: "You have accused me of perpetuating my grudge against Rayse and Bavadin." Who is Bavadin? I blinked during that part apparently.

And this: " ... the very pillars of the sky will shake with the results of our war here." Who is "our" specifically? Does he consider himself to be a part of Rosharan society or part of some greater cosmeric confederation come to Roshar to help in the upcoming Desolations? Is it possible Hoid represents a splinter faction of The Seventeenth Shard?
James Sneddon
36. Starlon99
I definitely need to get caught up on the rest of sanderson's work because this review made little sense to me. (google-> sanderson related wikis helped but still). But hey, more books to add to my "get to" pile is hardly a bad thing.
37. big_fish_daddy
Found this on Sanderson's website. spencerpanger Tue Jan 04 @BrandonSandrson Cosmere question. Does Frost make any incognito appearences in any other books other than Dragonsteel? If so Book/chapter?
BrandonSandrson Tue Jan 04 @spencerpanger He does not appear on screen in any published books, though he is referenced. He has a non-Interference policy.
This 'non-interference policy' sounds like the recipient to me.
Adam S.
38. MDNY
@36 I would start with Mistborn (The Final Empire)- that was my first Sanderson book, and it got me hooked. Do that series first, then you can move on to his other works (I admit to bias- Mistborn and its original trilogy is still my favorite BWS work to date). That series will get you acquainted with one of the "world hoppers" seen in the purelake.
39. Freelancer
The probability of the writer being other than Hoid is vanishingly small. The letter's author is a world-hopper, who has direct knowledge of events on Scadrial, Sel, and Roshar. He is dodging apprehension from representatives of the Seventeenth Shard, who are hunting him on Roshar, and who have been sent on a false trail. The Purelake interlude has three off-worlders looking for Hoid and having no luck.

Starlon99 @36

I would suggest reading Brandon's works in published order. Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker . . . Knowing that there is a "larger" story outside of each of those will, perhaps, permit you to notice Cosmere-significant references which are otherwise quite invisible.
Jessica Trevino
40. Ciella
So my husband is going to be seeing Sanderson at Gencon tomorrow and I told him to ask if the letter recipient is a dragon. Of course he'll probably just RAFO it :P
Alice Arneson
41. Wetlandernw
Ciella @40 - Make sure you tell your husband to identify himself with the tordotcom rereaders. :)
Matt Spencer
42. Iarvin
The reference to “the element” is interesting. Given that it is lerasium, it seems strange that anybody would be interested in it more than the other shardic artifacts that Hoid is collecting, except someone that is specifically interested in Preservation. Why would any of the other shard holders besides the holder of what was Preservation be specifically interested in Lerasium? Could someone besides Odium be going after the holder of Preservation, or somehow want a hold over Preservation?

Speaking of all the stuff that Hoid collects – I wonder if once he gets artifacts from all 16 shards if he could combine them to come up with a fairly unique and balanced shard. Sort of a mini-Adonalasium. Here’s a question someone could ask Brandon – if someone collects enough fragments, can they combine them into a new shard? Can splintered shards be recombined into a similar shard to what they were originally even?
David Foster
43. ZenBossanova
Is the element lerasium, or is lerasium a component/ingredient/part of the element?

It seems like Hoid is trying to get all 16 powers of the Shards back together, perhaps by collecting elements of all 16 shards/powers. I suspect he is trying to reunite the shards back into Adonalsium. Or at least find a way to reunite the powers again.
44. rd_4d2
I was reading up on some Cosmere stuff at the Stormlight Archive wiki and found this. I'm not completely convinced that this is refering to the recpient of the letter but it's possible. "Hoid seemed rather unimpressed with the arrival of Talenel'Elin, even refering to him as 'old friend." Hoid was waiting in Kholinar so is it possible he got an answer to his letter?
Eric McCabe
45. Zizoz
Wit actually calls Talenel "my confused, unfortunate friend", not "old friend". Take that as you will.
Jessica Trevino
46. Ciella

I just a got a call from my husband. I told him to ask "If the recepient of Hoid's Letter in Way of Kings is a Dragon?". I really expected Sanderson to RAFO it, but instead he confirmed it!! Apparently he said that no one has ever asked him that before and that it was right on the money and from an unpublished book (Dragonsteel, I'm sure). Assuming the hubby asked correctly, that confirms both that the recipient is a Dragon and Hoid is the writer. Great catch!!!
Carl Engle-Laird
47. CarlEngle-Laird
Wait, we actually did it? We cracked the code? I am supremely proud of this reread right now!
48. Alsadius
I'm kind of sad that I didn't write that down. I first thought of the dragon idea a couple weeks ago. Glad to know I can catch hints like that once in a while.
Alice Arneson
49. Wetlandernw
Ciella @46 - SCORE!! Well done! Nice phrasing.... :)
Nick Sardella
50. Mithrandir42
17th Shard is going to be supremely angry, you realize...

Did your husband record it by any chance?
Jessica Trevino
51. Ciella
@50. Mithrandir42 Unfortunately not. We're both big fans, but I'm way more nerdy about this stuff.
Jeremy Guebert
52. jeremyguebert
As an added bonus: based on the wording of the question, we have an indirect, word-of-Brandon confirmation that the letter-writer is Hoid. Not that that was ever seriously in doubt, but if it was referred to as "Hoid's letter", and Brandon didn't give any sort of correction, that seems like a strong indication that the letter is, in fact, Hoid's.
53. Freelancer
I can tell you with certainty that, if you phrase part of a question to include an item that Brandon either won't confirm or isn't accurate, he'll say so. If the phrasing asked "Is the recipient of Hoid's letter...", and he let that stand without comment, it's pretty solid.
David Foster
55. ZenBossanova
High-fives all around. Excellent work, guys.

Very curious, a dragon. We have not seen any transformation magic in the Cosmere yet. Elantris is the closest to that. Does that mean the addressee was always a dragon, and simply happens to be a dragon he is conversing with? or is this a person who has been transformed somehow, into a dragon?

On a slightly different note, I came across a brief summary of the plot of DragonSteel and it sounds very similar in many respects to WoK.
David Foster
56. ZenBossanova
High-fives all around. Excellent work, guys.

Very curious, a dragon. We have not seen any transformation magic in the Cosmere yet. Elantris is the closest to that. Does that mean the addressee was always a dragon, and simply happens to be a dragon he is conversing with? or is this a person who has been transformed somehow, into a dragon?

On a slightly different note, I came across a brief summary of the plot of DragonSteel and it sounds very similar in many respects to WoK.
-- it doesn't look like Tor wants me posting links in here, so I will just say that the review was interesting, and pointed out a lot of things that looked like Kaladin, Bridge 4, Szeth, and even possibly Hoid.
Nick Sardella
57. Mithrandir42

I don't really know where you're coming from on the supposition that the dragon was not always a dragon. Has there been suggestion of this in the past? I presume that Hoid is writing to a dragon just means dragons are sentient on Yolen.

About Dragonsteel being similar to WoK, Brandon took the Shattered Plains and several or the characters and plot elements surrounding it out of Dragonsteel in his rewrite of WoK, when in need of a setting for the war. The Plains will be removed when Dragonsteel is eventually published.
David Foster
58. ZenBossanova
I was mainly thinking of the different possibilities, since I have never seen a dragon in the Cosmere before, so I was wondering what this means exactly. There are a lot of different dragons out there in Fantasy.

Perhaps I am overthinking it, and there are just sentient dragons on Yolen, or they become sentient when they take up a shard.
Alice Arneson
59. Wetlandernw
Picking it apart a bit... "Though, as you are now essentially immortal, I would guess that wellness on your part is something of a given. " Okay, we know (WOOT!) that this is written to a dragon. There are many stories and mythologies in which dragons are immortal, though that is definitely not a given here. There is a certain implication that the individual to whom Hoid is writing was not always immortal, though: the phrase "as you are now essentially immortal" makes that pretty strong. That leaves us with two major possibilities: 1) This person was always a dragon, but has since acheived immortality. 2) This person, who used to be human (or something), has become a dragon and thereby acheived immortality.

Clearly, we just don't know enough to be sure which one of those it is - or if it's something else entirely. The possibilities are fascinating, though. And the bummer is that we probably won't learn the whole story for a long time yet; BWS generally refers to any of the Yolen stories as "very far off" because he's not ready to give us that part of the story yet.
Jeremy Guebert
60. jeremyguebert
Wetlander@59 - I agree, the word now in there strongly implies that the individual in question wasn't always immortal.

Very interesting to consider how someone could become a dragon, or how a dragon could become immortal, especially as there are many different variations on what exactly a dragon is throughout the numerous fantasy universes out there.

I guess we'll have to wait and see on that front.
David Foster
61. ZenBossanova
I remember reading over that review of DragonSteel, but I don't remember any mention of actual dragons, just the elusive material, Dragonsteel. Does anyone have any light on this?
Jeremy Guebert
62. jeremyguebert
I don't have a reference, but I do know that Brandon has officially confirmed that there are dragons in Dragonstell. I can't tell you much more than that, though.
James Briggs
63. traveler
WOW, I am blown away. I am with others in that it was different talking about this as a cosmere.I have read all of BWS books many times and listened to them a few times also, but the informaition im learning is amazing. Great catch on the dragon and Hoid!!
I also missed that this was a letter from Hoid , now I see why we had to wait. Thanks for this one Carl!
Nick Sardella
64. Mithrandir42
The immortality could easily be magic system based. Think of atium compounding on Scadrial. The Lord Ruler was essentially immortal too, same with Marsh. Look at those in the Seventeenth Shard too. Demoux and Galladon are likely heightened somehow above normal life. Further, while I don't believe this is the case, nothing says a Shardholder must be human... This dragon could just as easily be a Shard as anyone else Hoid I would write to.
Alice Arneson
65. Wetlandernw
Reference data, if anyone cares...

July 2009:
FEIFNER: Do you think you will ever include dragons in your books?BRANDON SANDERSON: Dragonsteel, a series I’ll do someday, has Dragons in it. Hint: This world/series is very important to Hoid.

November 2011:
SPENCERPANGER: Is the recipient of the letter in Way of Kings also in Dragonsteel?
BRANDON ON SANDERSON: Yes. (Good question.)
SPENCERPANGER: If so would it be the person that Topaz gets mad at?
BRANDON SANDERSON: RAFO on the second one. I've already given you too much!

Amusingly enough, on the coppermind wiki page titled "Dragon" there is the following statement: "It has been theorized that, since the Letter's recipient is from Yolen, and from the Letter referring to the recipient as "you old reptile," that the letter's recipient is a dragon." Apparently it's been theorized by someone, but no one has ever actually asked before. What a hoot!
David Foster
66. ZenBossanova
On second thought, exactly what does it mean to say a shard was splintered?

And do we have the shards waiting around for someone to take up?
67. Freelancer
Shards, slivers, splinters, oh my!

Three words which are nominally synonymous to everyday speech, but clearly have critically distinct definitions in the Cosmere.

I've been sticking to lurking of late, for a variety of reasons. Foremost is that my preference is to not theorize about aspects of a story which are wholly unknown to the reader. When enough information is available to deduce likely scenarios, I'm there. Otherwise, broadly cast prognostications are not my favorite method of meeting a story. Surely enough, one of a large number of such predictions will turn out to be at least partially valid, and then it's almost as bad as a spoiler. I prefer the surprises of the text.

On this, I do not refer to the discovery that Hoid's letter is addressed to a dragon, that's excellent sleuthing of given material. But some of the other topics range well outside of any information currently available.

Once Words of Radiance has been out for a short time, the Thrill will be upon me, and new deductions will spring forth like blades of grass after a Highstorm.
Matt Stoumbaugh
68. LazerWulf
Sliver: A Sliver is a human intelligence who has held the bulk of the power of a Shard and has since released it. There is a certain threshold of power where one would be considered a Sliver of Adonalsium. Every person on Scadrial has a bit of the power of Preservation, but they are not technically Slivers. Though there is some grey area in what it means to be a Sliver, individuals who have directly held the power of a Shard are usually termed Slivers. Being a Sliver has an influence on a person after the fact. There is a residue left behind in a person, which has many effects, one of which is that a person who is capable of noticing Investiture would be able to look at someone and tell that they are a Sliver.

Splinter:A Splinter is a specific type of fragment of a Shard's power. Though Brandon has not stated the complete definition of what a Splinter is, in a way they are qualitative opposites of Slivers. Whereas Slivers are people who have been influenced by Shardic power, a Splinter is a thing that has never been human. One distinguishing factor of a Splinter is that they often have an intent, separate from their Shards'. Examples of Splinters are the divine Breath that Returned hold, which are Splinters of Endowment, and the Aons inside of Seons are Splinters of Devotion. Lerasium and atium--despite being condensed essences of their Shards--are not Splinters. It is known that Splinters appear in The Way of Kings as well, but not in Mistborn. It is not clear how Splinters are formed, though it appears a Shard must actively create one. Endowment seems to be able to form them at will for Returned. Odium traveled to Sel and Splintered Devotion and Dominion. Since Odium killed Tanavast, the holder of Honor, Honor was Splintered as well.

the TLDR; a sliver is a person who held one of the shards of Adonalsium, but released it. (Like Leras and Ati when we meet them? I'm unclear on that...) A splinter is a fragment of power from the shard itself, like the Breath on Nathis (Warbreaker), and the Aons (glyphs) within the Seons (light ball thingies) on Sel (Elantris). However, for some reason, Atium and Lerasium are not splinters.
David Foster
69. ZenBossanova
Does this mean one person can or can not take all the power held by Devotion, or Honor? I wonder if that fact it means it is splintered, means that one person can not take it all. Is unsplintering possible?

I am just throwing questions out. I really doubt we have good answers to these, but I have wondered if one of our heros will end up with Honor's power.
70. Pgibby8
@34 You might not see this, in which case it's just me putting it out there, but I have actually read the unpublished Dragonsteel manuscript. Now, in TWoK, Hoid mentions that he was once named for a rock, a pretty one that lost all worth for his wearing it, and a character in Dragonsteel is named "Topaz" and always wears a topaz ring.
Now, there is one character named Frost who Topaz seems to be good friends with, but we honestly don't know really anything about him. He's an old man, but has admitted to not being human.
Now, of course, this version of Dragonsteel is hardly canon (the shattered plains, bridge four, gaz, and even side carry show up in it, so we can know that a lot's going to change), but since it seems Hoid=Topaz, and based on similar diction in their conversations to the letters, he might be sending it to Frost.
71. Morevna
@70 How did you get to read Dragonsteel?
David Foster
72. ZenBossanova
It is available in the BYU library because it was Brandon's thesis for his degree in writing. But at least part of Way of Kings was ripped from it, specifically the Shattered Plains. So it will be very different from it is now.
Not that I have read it myself.

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