Aug 22 2013 12:00pm

The Way of Kings Reread: Interludes I-4, I-5, and I-6

Brandon Sanderson The Way of Kings Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on I can’t believe we’re already this far down the Stormlight hole with the second set of Interludes. You all were getting a little tired of being stuck on the Plains for the entirety of the last sections, weren’t you? I know I was! No matter how much I like Kaladin and Dalinar’s points of view, Roshar is a big and strange world that I love getting a chance to explore, which the interludes provide us. These are some very special chapters in which we learn some answers to basic questions like what is up with the Shin? Of course those answers don’t clear everything up, and just lead to more and more questions—and I think I have at least a few dozen questions after reading the Axies chapter. What a lovable weirdo.

The first interlude gives us a very brief look into life in Shinovar. In the second, we meet a cataloguer of spren—who is perhaps the most unique characters in The Way of Kings. Lastly, we catch up with Szeth, whose worst dream comes true.

Interlude 4: Rysn
Point of View: Rysn

What Happens: Rysn, a young Thaylen merchant at the beginning of her apprenticeship to merchant Vstim, arrives in Shinovar for the first time. She sees grass and dirt for the first time in her life, and notes how strange it is that no spren are visible here. Vstim is familiar with the area immediately surrounding the border in Shinovar, and is steeped decently in the customs of the Shin.

As the caravan settles, Vstim orders Rysn to setup a fabrial to act as a warning device should anyone approach the caravan. As a Shin farmer and his guards approach, the fabrial does its job and pulses brightly from a gem. Rysn questions the usefulness of the fabrial as they knew the Shin would be coming, but Vstim tells her it will more than pay for itself to warn of bandits when they are camped for the night.

As the Shin group approaches, Rysn notices a man in front wearing a bright multicolored robe, which surprises her as the Shin she’s seen before always wore dark clothing. The colorful Shin is also accompanied by four others who, while not as brightly dressed as their leader, also wore bright colors. Surrounding them are a few dozen guards in brown outfits. Vstim tells Rysn that the leader is actually a farmer—that being the highest level of Shin society—and the men in brown would be considered warriors, which is the lowest position their culture. Warriors could also be traded with a stone to someone else. In Shin culture, a farmer is referred to as “he who adds,” and farms are considered holy places where outsiders aren’t allowed to visit.

Vstim walks out to greet the Shin leader, Thresh-son-Esan, and they exchange pleasantries. Vstim says he has brought Thresh branches, shells, and other detritus that has been Soulcast into metal and none of it was mined out of rock, as requested. Thresh signals for his men to bring out a crate containing chickens. He wonders why Vstim is interested in them instead of horses, which is what most merchants come to Shinovar for, and Vstim explains that chickens are much easier to care for. Thresh expresses that the chickens he trades Vstim aren’t worth nearly as much as the metal, yet Vstim insists the opposite, as Soulcasters use their skills on the shells and branches during training. After a bit of this back and forth the two come to an agreement and make a trade.

Vstim asks if any of the soldiers are for sale, but Thresh says none can be sold besides the one he sold to Vstim nearly seven years past; only a Truthless could be traded away, and Thresh hoped they would never have another.

After the Shin depart, Vstim asks Rysn what she learned. She replies “that Shin are odd.” Vstim counters that they are not odd, but different and goes on to say:

“Odd people are those who act erratically. Thresh and his kind, they are anything but erratic. They may be a little too stable. The world is changing outside, but the Shin seem determined to remain the same.”

He again asked her what she learned, and she says the Shin style of negotiation seems to be to discount the value of your trade goods. It seemed a strange tactic to her, but it was the way to get the best deal for them. Vstim added that you should never cheat or lie to a Shin and they’ll give you a more than fair deal in the end.

As they were leaving, Vstim has Rysn collect some of the abundant grass and soil around them—he wants her to care for it so that she can learn to stop thinking of it as odd, which will make her a better merchant.

Quote of the Chapter:

It was as if the entire land were slow of wit. Like a man who was born without all his brains, one who didn’t know when to protect himself, but instead just stared at the wall drooling.

A very interesting and deliberate use of the word “wit.” This passage to me means the land doesn’t have the spirit since it is devoid of Spren, but it could just be referring to how it doesn’t have the type of vegetation that Rysn is use to seeing as Shinovar would be consider lush compared to most of rocky Roshar. It really is just a matter of perspective as Vstim points out.

Commentary: The Misted Mountains is a lovely nod to J.R.R. Tolkien by Sanderson, and I bet there are other references that went over my head. Sanderson is the type of author who is trying to forge new roads in Epic Fantasy while still paying homage to the spirit of the genre.

Unlike the other viewpoints introduced in the interludes, Rysn is the most forgettable to me. Szeth is very much a mystery, Ishikk is just plain fun, Axies as we’ll see is a wild and strange guy, and Shallan’s brother just deepens the mysteries of the Davar clan plus he’s got that whole weird psychosis going on. But Rysn is just an observer, and the only thing that makes it notable is what she witnesses—even if much of it is still a bit baffling. She does see her self as a progressive person, but that doesn’t draw her apart as well as the other interlude characters. I know she’ll be appearing in Words of Radiance, so she may liven up yet, but for now she is just a watcher.

But this is a Shin chapter, so let’s get back to that. The Shin definitely want metal to forge with, but they don’t want metal that has been mined, which goes along with the whole “we don’t touch stone” Stone Shamanism facet. So do they not know how to Soulcast? Is that verboten in Shin society? In a way, wouldn’t being able to make something out of nothing be the epitome of “he who adds”? Also, I’m keen to know what they’re forging. Probably just farm tools, but maybe they have a darker purpose. Shardblades somehow? Doesn’t seem likely, but since there aren’t definitive answers, my mind wanders to what could be. Plus outsiders are not allowed near fields or farming villages since they are such holy places for “he who adds” to toil away, so they could definitely be hiding something.

One theory: could Shinovar be protected from the Highstorms through some deal with Odium, such as supplying solders when needed or equipment such as Shards? That could play into why Szeth is released into the world to bring chaos. It could also explain why Shinovar is grassy and lush, whereas the rest of Roshar is a rocky landscape.

From Thresh’s reaction about the Truthless, we can gather a few things. It had to be Szeth—by the timeline and language used there aren’t many Truthless in existence. Szeth could very well be the only one alive. This makes Szeth very unique not only in the world of Roshar, but also in the society that created him. He’s an outcast. He is lost in the world and the only thing he holds to are his oaths and beliefs.


Interlude 5: Axies the Collector
Kasitor in Iri
Point of View: Axies the Collector

What Happens: Axies the Collector awakens early in the morning in an alleyway, naked and unbalanced due to a night of excessive drinking. After checking himself to see if he has any injuries, he finds he has been slumbering in rotting vegetables and other refuse. As he wills his headache away, a voice from behind asks for payment for letting him stay in the alley for the night. The voice belongs to a disturbed beggar who considers the alley his territory. Axies learns he is still in Kasitor, after being robbed of everything he had, beaten, and left for dead.

Axies the Collector seems to end up in situations like this quite often in his pursuit of cataloging all spren in the world in person. After getting a sack from the beggar to cover his nakedness, he ventures out of the alleyway and immediately draws stares. Axies is an Aimian with the characteristic blue nails and crystal blue eyes, along with many tattoos as well as a shadow that casts towards the light instead of away—all of which make him off-putting to those who notice his differences. Like all Aimians, he can also write on his skin—which is a useful skill for Axies, considering he would have lost his notebook along with his other possessions.

Last night’s drinking was meant to draw a specific rare type of spren, which he calls alespren, that have only been heard of in Iri. According to his tattooed notes, he successfully saw alespren the previous night, though he may have to go through with the experiment again to prove that it wasn’t simply a hallucination caused by the alcohol.

Axies found himself with a group of Iriali near the docks, which is right where he wanted to be. At seven forty-six in the morning, a giant sea-blue spren appears to rise out of the ocean as a column of water around 100 feet high, which Axies describes as one of the largest spren he has ever seen. The spren appears to grow arms. The locals call the spren Cusicesh, “the Protector,” which some worshipp as a god. This is the only known spren of its type ever recorded, and it appears like clockwork everyday for 10 minutes. After rising, the spren looks towards the Origin of Storms and continually shifts its face to resemble those of many different humans of both sexes. Axies notes that he cannot tell if any of the faces repeat because they changed so swiftly. As Cusicesh submerges itself again, Axies experiences a draining of his energy—said to be a common occurrence around the giant spren.

Suddenly the bag Axies wears is ripped from him by a young street kid, who runs off with it laughing. Axies stands in the crowd completely naked as four guards approach to arrest him, affording him of the proper jailed environment to continue his long search for captivityspren.

Quote of the Chapter:

“I’m still trying to decide how you fit into things. Are you a Voidbringer or a Herald?”

“Voidbringer, I’m afraid,” Axies said. “I mean, I did destroy a temple.”

Sanderson’s writing is known to be opaque at times. A sly comment like this could be a red herring about Axies’ allegiances and possible future. His shadow also being backwards points in that direction as well though that could be more related to the curse he speaks of. I almost wonder if he is the Hoid of Roshar. He’s clearly a wanderer, too—a gatherer of knowledge,  and someone who always ends up in trouble but somehow lives through it.

Commentary: How about that giant spren? While Axies seems likely to be important later in the series, the giant spren that may also be integral. Could it be some sort of embodiment of one of the Gods of Roshar? A defensive spell wrought by the Heralds? Tanavast’s partner perhaps? The face changing is curious, and shows the spren is connected to other beings in some fashion. If only someone described the faces, we might be able to connect them better to people we meet.

There is also the power drain people feel around it. It is leeching off of them, but to what end? The spren is known as the Protector and is definitely considered ancient, so it may be responsible for keeping Highstorms away to a degree. Most of the other locales described come with a something specific about how the area weathers Highstorms—buildings made of rock, the high cliff surrounding Kharbranth, the mountains around Shinovar, etc. With Kasitor, precious little time is given to describing how the city survives, though it is clearly next to water and therefore open to Highstorms (albeit weaker storms, as Kasitor is farther from the Origin).

One thing I gleaned from these chapters is that spren are only found in the rocky parts of Roshar. Could this be because the rock provides some sort of connection to Tanavast which helps them conduct energy through the emotions of humans (since spren are clearly attracted to emotions)? The idea strikes because of Cusicesh's clear power drain effect. It could be channeling that power to the Origin, which could quite possibly be the shattered Tanavast trying to reform itself somehow.

Now back to Axies, who I didn’t think of much the first time through besides as comic relief, but he grows on me the more time I spend with him. His cheery, playful disposition in the face of adversity seems designed to play off of Szeth’s fated dourness. There are apparently two races of Aimian, with Axies being part of the Siah Aimian. (We’ll discuss the other much later when they are brought up.) Either Aimian type is quite rare, apparently, as his people had gone through some sort of purge and nowadays people have heard of them mostly through stories or legends. Those legends aren’t given to us, so it is only through the reaction of people who see Axies that suggests the Aimians are people you don’t want to really hang out with.

The Aimians have some superpowers, such as the power to banish a headache, keep your sense of smell inhibited, and of course the ability to write on skin almost like a chameleon shapeshifter. So nearly complete control over his body functions. But can he change shape?

Axies’ abilities also relate to a theory that has been coming up in the comments. Namely, that Parshmen/Parshendi can somehow transform into Chasmfiends. Axies can clearly change things about his body, though until this point it seems limited to changing the color of his skin—but that doesn’t mean his abilities couldn’t do a lot more, since they seem to do plenty internally. So the Aimians could possibly be one of the races of the Voidbringers, or perhaps are in their service somehow.

And to what end is he cataloging all of the spren types? Is it merely scientific research, or is it a more purposeful mission he was set upon by someone? Maybe by King Taravangian, who seems very interested in knowledge of all types.

Axies is a few centuries old, but just how old could he be? It certainly seems like he’s been alive since this “purging.” There is also the whole reverse shadow thing. Bad luck seems to find Axies wherever he goes which he is very cognizant of calling it the Curse of Kind, but it isn’t clear if that curse is merely on his head or that of all Aimians. The Curse of Kind could be why his shadow is reversed as well his longevity. Maybe a connection to the Nightwatcher is here somewhere. Say Axies wanted to live long enough to see all the spren in the world, but the downside is bad luck follows him wherever he goes. Even with all the silly happenstances that befall him, you can’t say he doesn’t look on the bright side.

A trip to the Shattered Plains seems inevitable to Axies as he alludes to some Spren that can only be found during war.


Interlude 6: A Work of Art
: Bavland in the town of Bornwater
Point of View: Szeth

What Happens: Szeth is in Bornwater where his latest master, Makkek, had move to from Staplind in order to increase the size of his criminal activities. For the last few months, Makkek has been using Szeth to make the local criminals fall under his rule either by intimidation (including assassinations) to show what happens to those who oppose him. Szeth even had to kill the men who were with Makkek the night he found Szeth’s Oathstone in order to keep his power over Szeth quiet.

Szeth is ordered to take out a new competitor named Gavashaw, who has the local lord’s favor in competing with Makkek underworld empire. Szeth stalked his way across town to the mansion Gavashaw lives in. Breathing in Stormlight and using his Surgebinding skills, he easily scales the building, entering through the domed roof by using his Shardblade to cut an entry hole. Szeth hates using his Shardblade for this work, but does so when needed so as not to cause greater loss of life. He worries Makkek would find out about the blade and try to take it from him, as Szeth knows he cannot turn it over nor kill himself to pass it on—after Szeth's death, Stone Shamans from Shinovar will come to recover the blade no matter who holds it.

Upon entering Gavashaw’s chamber he sees what looks to be the man’s head on the table. Suddenly, a male voice speaks the name Szeth-son-Neturo. The voice seems to know a lot about Szeth, and believes Szeth’s skills are being “squandered.” Szeth is upset at the use of his father’s name, as he feels he has sullied it by association with his own.

Szeth turns to leave and return to Makkek when the stranger throws another head—Makkek’s. The stranger says his head was taken moments after Szeth left by servants of Szeth’s new master. The stranger then reveals a sheet of paper that lists Szeth's targets for assassination, including the manner in which they were to be killed. Listed are 24 names, including many Alethi highprinces, the king of Jah Keved, and many other powerful names—killing the people listed would upset the balance of the world. This is Szeth’s worst nightmare, that he will be used as a tool of destruction by someone who knows exactly how dangerous and effective he is.

Quote of the Chapter:

And yet they thought nothing of walking on stone or using Stormlight for everyday illumination. They ignored the spirits of things that lived around them, and they ate whatever they wanted on any day they wanted.

Strange. So strange. And yet this was his life. Recently, Szeth had begun to question some of the prohibitions he had once followed so strictly. How could these Easterners not walk on stone? There was no soil in their lands. How could they get about without treading on stone?

Dangerous thoughts. His way of life was all that remained to him. If he questioned Stone Shamanism, would he then question his nature as Truthless? Dangerous, dangerous. Though his murders and sins would damn him, at least his soul would be given to the stones upon his death. He would continue to exist. Punished, in agony, but not exiled to nothingness.

Szeth is, above all things, a man of faith. He is not only prepared to do terrible things to keep to his faith, but readily admits he has done abhorrent things because that is his lot in life. But doubts begin creeping in to Szeth's mind— doubts which could never arise if he stayed in the Valley of Truth where soil and grass rein supreme instead of rock. This seems to be foreshadowing some kind of break with the faith in Szeth. Perhaps it will grow deeper once he is confronted by Kaladin. Again, this section leads to more questions, as we know so little about the details of Stone Shamanism, but the fact that Shin bodies are left on rocks leads me to assume their beliefs center around their spirits becoming the spren of the world. Szeth does refer to them as spirits, after all.

Commentary: How many names can I guy have? Szeth-son-son-Vallano, the Assassin in White, and now Szeth-son-Neturo. Let’s not forget Truthless, which seems to also be “he who takes away,” to go along with Thresh’s “he who adds.”

We see how tightly Seth grips his beliefs and oaths, but his time in exile forces him to begin questioning them. Could he have a breaking point? Or could it be something much simpler—with someone asking the right question at the right time—for him to reveal all? It would certainly be interesting to see Szeth and Wit run across one another for a chat.

Szeth is a prime example of religion gone wrong, where those overzealous in their belief cause great harm in the name of their religion. The Shin are as much at fault for unleashing Szeth into Roshar as the Parshendi were for ordering him to kill Gavilar. Szeth is doing what he considers penance for something that caused him to be Truthless in order to still have a chance at his soul being given to stones upon his death because being punished for eternity is better than “exiled to nothingness.” Is Szeth a weird sacrifice from the Shin to keep the Voidbringers at bay? Dangerous, dangerous questions.

For most of The Way of Kings, Szeth has been letting his skills slumber, but the perfect killing machine is about to be unleashed. Szeth’s new master sets him upon upsetting the balance of Roshar life by killing many upper echelon members of its leading kingdoms. Szeth’s greatest fears have been made a reality, but at least in terms of the story he’ll be actually doing something—even if he is literally crying all the while. Why was Szeth given these powers? A dangerous question I’d like an answer to.


Next week Carl returns along with the long absent Shallan.

Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on an anthology project and is hoping to find a good publishing home for it soon.

Sean Dowell
1. qbe_64
I quite like Rysn chapter. There's excerpts available of her interlude in the second that I really enjoyed.

Between Axies and the scientists in the "spren discovery" interludes, I prefer the content of scientist's chapter, but Axies is a cool dude. I believe he also makes an appearance in Rysn interlude in the next book. (I suppose that might be a spoiler, um sorry?)

and Szeth. He is one BAMF. The power of stone shamans must be immense, if they can ultimately sense Szeth's death and be able to reclaim his "monstrosity of a shard blade" from anyone who has taken it? We probably won't get to dive fully into Shin until Szeth's book which is extremely unfortunate.
Sean Dowell
2. qbe_64
On a note unrelated to the interludes.

Any MTV Teen Wolf fans out there? (It's alarmingly good, considering it's source material).

Anyways, a family of werewolf hunters "The Argents" have a matriarchal power structure. Since the mom died, the teenage daughter has taken over the family decision making process.
While their former code was the Hunter's Code:
"We hunt those who hunt us"

In the season finale, Alison (the daughter), has just changed it to:
"We protect those who cannot protect themselves".

Looks like Kaladin might have some Windrunning company. Werewolves on the Shattered Plains? I smell a crossover!
Dixon Davis
3. KadesSwordElanor
I wonder if there was any significance to Rysn’s mental note that the gym in Vstim’s fabrial was “not as bright as one might expect for a sizeable gym.”?

It is interesting that there seems to be a hint of Shin thinking in Dalinar’s most recent musings.

Funniest line so far. “He’d done that once, and reading the mess required two mirrors and a very confused bathing attendant.”
Birgit F
4. birgit
The big spren is probably imitating the faces of the crowd that has come to watch it. Maybe the power drain has something to do with that.
Andrew Berenson
5. AndrewHB
Interesting that Vstim had "owned" Szeth at some point. I wonder what the circumstances surrounding such ownership. What did Szeth do for Vstim? Also, what were the circumstances that led Vstim to "sell" Szeth: when did Vstim sell?; to whom did he sell Szeth; what did Vstim receive in exchange; why did Vstim sell. Inquiring minds want to know.

What I found most interesting about the Szeth interlude was the tidbit about the Stone Shamans. When Szeth dies, they will track down his Shardblade, irrespective of who holds it. I wonder what skills and abilities the Stome Shamans have for Szeth to make that claim. Do all Stone Shamans have surge binding skills like Szeth? It also would seem that the Stone Shamans are the true owners of the Shin Shardblades. Perhaps, when Szeth became a Truthless, he was given a Shardblade by the Stone Shamans.

I think it is quite likely that my questions regarding the Stone Shamans will be answered in subsequent books.

Thanks for reading my musings,
(aka the musespren)
Dixon Davis
6. KadesSwordElanor
AndrewHB @ 5

It may not be an absolute that Stone Shamans will track down the new master of the Shardblade. It does seem to be clear that Szeth believes this, but remember it also seems he is beginning to question some of his deeply held beliefs (a la How could these Easterners not step on rocks). Just a thought (Have not finished, so maybe this is known as a fact by end of book).
7. DaemonDan
In regards to the Rysn interlude, I think that the Shin are more likely to be connected to Cultivation than Odium. They have soil and grass and farming is super important to them. Sounds more like a Cultivator than a Destroyer. Also if you check out the maps you see that Shinover is protected from highstorms my a mountain range, so I doubt there is some other mystical force at work.

And as far as Axies being the "Hoid of Roshar", isn't it fairly obvious/accepted that Wit is Hoid on Roshar?
Robert Dickinson
9. ChocolateRob
One reason for the Shin not soulcasting would probably be because there are no Highstorms to provide Stormlight for the Shin to soulcast with.
I also think that the Stone Shamans may have a bit of trouble tracking down and collecting Szeth's Shardblade if they are not allowed to walk on stone, the only reason Szeth can is because he is Truthless.
I'm pretty sure there are no Alethi Highprinces on Szeth's list as they are all on the Shattered Plains and he has completed the list by his final interlude.

Szeth as a character (in the next two interludes really) reminds me strongly of VaraTreledees from Warbreaker. They both deny responsibility for their actions by following orders, they know they are doing terrible things but they have been doing them for so long that acknowledging it at such a late stage would utterly break them, so they hold onto the thin justification that they started with. (Argh I'm wording it badly, you'll just have to read my mind to get it.)
Brian Carlson
10. images8dream
I find Szeth's thinking strange. He believes that it is better to be tortured for an eternity than to cease to be. If he really means "for eternity" and not "a really long time, but then I am redeemed", then that it is masochistic. In the Wheel of Time, Ishamael/Moridin allies himself with the Dark One for the oppossite reason, he wants to cease being reborn and finally rest. Same with Shadow in Gaiman's American Gods. This isn't a critique of Szeth, but simply pointing out that he does not think like most fantasy characters. In fact, this interestingly parallels the reason for the Heralds abandoning Roshar. The Heralds were condemned to an endless cycle of war and punishment, so they got out. Here we see Szeth preferring to embrace that endless cycle of punishment.
David Foster
11. ZenBossanova
I agree that the Shin are more closely related to Cultivation and that we know precious little about Cultivation. But the line about Shin farms being sacred and not open to outsiders, has me wondering if we have some Cultivation magic going on there, that the Shin want to keep secret.

For that matter, as long as they are keeping secrets, I wonder if the fabled city of Urithiru is located in Shin territory.

And regarding Rysn (who I really do like) I don't think it is necessarily that home is greener than Shinovar, but that the Shin home is just so odd to her.
Adam S.
12. MDNY
The interludes serve as some of the primary worldbuilding parts of the book. For most of the time, we are stuck either in the library at Kharbranth, or on the shattered plains. These are our chance to see the rest of Roshar, and they are always fun and interesting.
Rysn seems the most boring interlude on the surface, but this at least helps us understand a little about Shinovar, and just how different it is from the rest of the world (their world, it seems quite similar to ours). And her place as a merchant, travelling all over the land, may allow her to observe many interesting things relevant to the story in future interludes with her.
Axies the Collecter was one of the most fun sections in the entire book for me. Full of humor and intriguing implications about spren and all of Roshar.
Szeth is now being fully unleashed by someone who has some idea what he is capable of. Uh-oh.
Jessica Trevino
13. Ciella
This may sound mean, but I'm really looking forward to Szeth loosing his faith. I'm pretty sure that everything that Szeth does, he does because of his faith and not because he's mystically compelled to (though that's still a possibility). Loosing his faith means facing that every person he's killed, he is responsible for killing. It's wasn't an order that did it or that he was Truthless and had to do it. It's all him. And frankly, I think that's going to make for some fantastic reading.
David Foster
14. ZenBossanova
When I saw Sanderson at the Phoenix Comicon, I asked him if Szeth was magically compelled to do this, and he said no. Szeth is doing this of his own free will, and I expect, his mistaken beliefs that he is clinging to, because he has nothing else to cling to.
Flint Timmins
15. Giovanotto
Another interesting set of interludes. I would like to see Axies get in on the main action so he can show up more. I think he's hilarious. I think his work with spren is purely academic. The man has the time and the resources, and he seems genuinely excited by his work.

We also got some good information on Szeth and the Shin. Oathstones are not unique to Szeth but given to all warriors. It makes me think that it is not magic but instead the Shin sense of honor that upholds the ties to the oathstone.
16. McKay B
Am I the only one who was left with a hunch that the nutty beggar who builds city-models out of trash has some deeper significance?
Adam S.
17. MDNY
The beggar could be more than he appears, or not. Maybe he's just crazy, maybe he's even a herald. Sanderson has said that multiple heralds appeared in Way of Kings, I think his exact words were "more than you might expect". I've read lots of speculation about who might be a hidden herald on 17th shard, including some seemingly random characters in the interludes.
Jennifer B
18. JennB
I was under the impression that the purge was some sort of genocide and Axies is the last (or at least one of the last) of his kind. I don't see how he could be a voidbringer if he is the only one left.
Sean Taylor
19. Izzos
Today's summary brought out two thoughts that I've had that I want to bounce off the group. I'm starting to think that Jasnah is wrong about the Parshmen...or at least that we shouldn't take this quite at face value. This is Sanderson after all, not Tolkein. I'm wondering if the Voidbringers aren't in fact the Thunderclasts. Further, I'm susupicious that the Shin worship the Thunderclasts, or that they at least figure prominantly into their theology.

There are some problems with this, but here are some observations that seem consistant with this theory.

1)In the second prologue, Szeth mentions that Shardblades were given to man specifically to fight the Voidbringers.
"Here in Alethcar, men often spoke of the legends of mankind's hard-won victory over the voidbringers. But when weapons created to fight against nightmares were turned against common soldiers, the lives of men became cheap things indeed."
From this, I gather that Shardblades were designed to fight a foe with a body of stone or steel or something hard and inanimate. Also, I think we are to conclude that Shardblades were never meant to be used against bodies of flesh and bone.

2) We get to see the aftermaths of two Desolations, one in the Prologue and the other in Dalinar's vision with Nohadon. In both of those we know that the Thunderclasts took part because we can see their corpses. We know that they were not on the same side as the Heralds. Interestingly, Parshmen or Parshendi are only indirectly mentioned in connection with these events. The only evidence we have that they were around is that Kalak notes the presence of purple blood. We don't know what side they fought on. In Dalinar's vision, he makes no note of them. If they had been a major part of that battle, I assume we would have seen a field littered with their bodies. Since Dalinar is in the middle of war campaign against the Parshendi, I would have thought that he would have taken note of this had they been around in abundance.

3) We know that the Shin revere stone. They do not walk on it, build from it, or even mine ore from it. This might make sense if they believed that stone were the body of their deity.

3) Also in the second prologue, Szeth says that
"Stormlight could be held for only a short time...a few minutes at most. It leaked away; the human body too porous a container. He had heard that the Voidbringers could hold it in perfectly. But then, did they even exist? His punishment declared that they didn't. His honor demanded that they did."
Another indication that the bodies of the Voidbringers were not anything like those of humans. This is also were I think we get hints that the Voidbringers might be an important part of Stone Shamanism. It seems that as part of his punishment, part of being Truthless, Szeth is required to forsake all the traditions and outward beliefs of the Shin religion. I think that being Truthless is akin to being excommunicated. He is required to formally renounce the religion....hence his punishment declaraing that the Voidbringers do not exist. But we also know that Szeth is clinging desperately to his core beliefs as a way to maintain his sanity, dignity, and honor. The quote Michael used from I6 sums that up perfectly. His honor, his core beliefs, declare that he still accepts or wants to accept all the tenants of Stone Shaminism, which might include a belief in, or possibly worship of, the Voidbringers with bodies of stone.

4) Another interesting tidbit from the second prologue:
"They held saphires infused with Stormlight. Profane. How could the men of these lands use something so sacred for mere illumination? Worse, the Alethi scholars were said to be close to creating new Shardblades. Szeth hoped that was just wishful boasting."
If the shin worship Voidbringers, with bodies of stone, who could perfectly hold infused stormlight, then the stormlight would be considered holy as well. Hence his feeling that using infused gems for illumination and hair accessories was profane. Also, in the prologue he refers to stormlight as holy on more than one occasion. If this is true, then it would not be too much of a stretch for the priest class in Stone Shamanism to be adept at Surgebinding (or Voidbinding?). Sanderson has indicated that Szeth is not a radiant, yet he can Surgebind. I'm suspicious that Szeth was part of this priest class, which is why he can Surgebind. This would also make his fall from grace all the more tragic for him. Also, I think that his feelings about the Alethi making Shardblades runs deeper than his fears of Alethi World Domination. A weapon that could in theory dispose of your diety would indeed be worse than profane. I am inclined to think that Shardblades, or at least the kind that Szeth has, are religious objects, used for some sacred purpose (I don't know what). As part of Szeth's punishment, he is forced to use this holy relic for evil. We also know that if Szeth is ever killed, the Stone Shamans will come recover his blade. Makes sense if it is holy. Also makes sense for these Shamans to be adept at Surgebinding and Shardblades themselves if they are confident that they can recover the blade from whomever managed to kill Szeth.

5) Not proof, but Michael's musings on Shinovar being some kind of haven for Odium kind of fits in with this. As well the comment about Szeth being some kind of sacrifice to the Voidbringers.

I'm not sure exactly where this leads though. The Shin seem relatively docile in their ethic and ostensibly loathe violence. We really don't know very much about them though, so that could be misleading. Also, just because they may be docile, doesn't mean that they necessarily worship a benevolent diety. Many dieties are actually quite terrifying, and they demand horrific things from their people. I'm also not quite sure where this leaves Jasnah's research. I'm trying to remember what specific evidence she had that the Voidbringers were the Parshmen. Shalan was convinced. The Death Whispers or whatever they are called strongly connect people with black and red skin with the Desolations. As I'm considering this though, I wonder if that isn't misleading too. Are we sure we know what side they are on? Afterall, so far we have seen that the Parshendi are the most honorable in their wartime conduct, even in their traditions of assassination. At any rate, I'm thinking that there is far more to this story than the given explanation. Afterall this is Sanderson, and 'there is always a hidden door.'
Sean Taylor
20. Izzos
ChocolateRob @9 I had the same thought re the Alethi Highprinces.

Also, did anyone else immediately think of Kandra when they read about Axies?
Jennifer B
21. JennB
That was very well thought out. I really like it because on my first read I assumed that the thunderclasts and voidbringers were the same thing from the beginning. I only began to question that assumption when I realized that most of the people here did not see a connection between them.

I have never been able to get behind the idea that the Parshendi or the chasm fiends have anything to do with voidbringers.

Your idea really puts Stone Shamanism into a new perspective. I can't wait to find out if you are right.
Sean Taylor
22. Izzos
Thanks! I was afraid I was really walking out onto a cliff.

Another thing to consider is that it is unlikely that all humans are going to be united against the Voidbringers. I know Sanderson likes to play with the genre, but this aspect of human nature seems too fundamental for even him to break with. I'm not saying that the Shin will necessarily be on the wrong side of this, but I have to expect that someone will. In fact, I wonder if that isn't part of what Honor meant when he asks Dalinar to "unite them." Perhaps the first part of the Desolation is when humans turn on themselves.
Alice Arneson
23. Wetlandernw
Rysn: My favorite thing about this interlude was Rysn’s annoyance with this “imbecile grass” that was too stupid to pull itself decently away. That would probably have been my quote of the chapter, just because it was so funny! On the other hand, we learn far more about the Shin than about Rysn, and pick up a few good tidbits about Vstim – including the fact that he is not actually typical of the Thaylenah. We also get some good world-building bits, like another kind of fabrial and geographical oddities.

FWIW, I have a new theory about the Highstorms. (Not that it’s necessarily new, but it’s new for me.) We know that the power of a Shard can do some interesting things when it’s become dis-bodied, though we don’t really know the mechanism or limitations. Might the Highstorms be regenerations of Honor’s power, as the mists are formed of Preservation’s power – or as the Well periodically regenerated that same power? I can’t articulate this very well, because I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the way the Shard powers work, but I fully intend to have as much conversation about it with Brandon as he’ll allow, come October. That makes much more sense to me than the idea that the Highstorms are connected to Odium.

Axies: I just want his ability to banish headaches with “a few heartbeats of mental focus.” Oy.

I found the Aimian interesting; my immediate supposition regarding the general suspicion with which Axies is regarded was the age-old distrust of Other. And the Aimian are most definitely Other.

Szeth: “There was no place for him in the Valley of Truth.” – Hence, “Truthless”? One who has no place in Truth?
Birgit F
24. birgit
The Shin live in a place that is sheltered from Highstorms, which probably means that there isn't much Stormlight available, but at least some of them seem to have preserved knowledge of using Stormlight in ways that have been forgotten elsewhere. Maybe the scarcity is the reason using Stormlight for illumination came to be considered as profane. The little that is available in Shinovar is too valuable to waste it for something like that.
Jennifer B
25. JennB
Wetlandernw @ 23
What is happening in October?
David Foster
26. ZenBossanova
Wetlander (23) - I agree with you, that the Storms play a similar role to the Mists in Mistborn. And like as the mists were 'trying' to help, while it was perceived as trouble, the storms are trying to help us, while people just try to stay out of the weather. People no longer ride the storms, as Honor told Kaladin.

Birgit (24) - yes, there is a link between Shinovar being shielded from storms, and not having storm light or spren. I think the Shin have taken the Spren they might have, and locked them down.
Alice Arneson
27. Wetlandernw
JennB @25 - Brandon's book Steelheart comes out in late September, and he'll be in Seattle for the tour. I intend to go and hang out until the last ice cube melts (as usual), which sometimes allows for interesting discussion.
Jennifer B
28. JennB
@ 27
Aaah, the Steelheart tour. Man, does he ever get to be home? I keep thinking that I should make my way to one of his signings, but I never can justify the drive. Are any of his events kid friendly? I have a 3 year old and a 5 year old and I usually take them everywhere . (Yeah I have no life outside my family, but I'm fine with that.)
Adam S.
29. MDNY
Interesting discussion. I've long thought that the highstorms were similar to the mists. They are both huge, world-covering weather phenomena, and both are somehow linked with the powers (shards) of their worlds. Every deity we've encountered seems to have multiple parts of their body/power; specifically in Mistborn Preservation had the mists, and the mist spirit, plus the human body that appeared when the mist spirit faded; Ruin had his black mist body trapped in the well of ascension, plus the other part of him that was always free, plus the atium, plus the human body that appeared next to Vin in the end. It would make sense for every shard to have multiple aspects like this, and if Honor is dead, at least part of his power remains, maybe in the highstorms and/or stormlight. Whether Odium has corrupted that remains to be seen. Based on the vision Dalinar saw of everything crumbling away, and being told that Odium wants to do that, I find it hard to believe he is in Shinovar. Shinovar seems the complete opposite from Odium; if anything, I would guess that Cultivation might be in Shinovar, but that's just a guess. We also don't know how the Nightwatcher fits in, but since she's female she might be related to cultivation somehow. It's still early, we won't know what's going on for at least another 5 books. Damn.
Nadine L.
30. travyl
Besides the "imbecile" grass, I also liked the "inverted" haggling between Vstim and the Shin. Really refreshing that the honest trader might get the better deal out of them, than the sly, scamming one.

** I miss the interpretations about the chapter-herald-icons from our co-commenters. I'm usually no good in deciphering those hints, although I now know Peter has chosen the specific icons for a reason.
David Foster
31. ZenBossanova
I thought the Nightwatcher who grants wishs, might be Cultivation, but I asked Brandon at Comicon, and he said, no. But I got the sense that there is something significant going on there, with who the Nightwatcher is .
Alice Arneson
32. Wetlandernw
JennB @28 – He’s been gone a LOT this year; I think that’s part of the reason for the delay on WoR – it’s got to be hard to concentrate when you’re traveling so much! It’s part of the job and has to be done, but… not productive in terms of writing new stuff.

As far as his events, I’ve seen kids at every one of his signings I’ve been to – everywhere from infants to indistinguishable-from-teen-fans. Literally, every age. As long as you’re comfortable taking them into a crowd (and it sounds like you are), no one else will mind. They often run a bit late, but depending on your normal routine that may or may not be a problem. And Brandon will like them – his own are not far from those ages. Do you live anywhere near one of his tour stops? I think they put up the Steelheart tour schedule here recently.

travyl @30 – Oops! The usual commenter-on-icons hasn’t been around lately, and I keep forgetting! Here you go:

I-4, Rysn: Herald Battar, associated with the attributes of Wise/Careful; whether that’s reflective of Vstim, Rysn, or the Shin is debatable. The icon is one I refer to as “Essences” for no particular reason; Peter could give us a better name for it. It’s the one that shows up on all the interludes except the ones concerning Szeth.

I-5, Axies: Herald Palah, associated with the attributes of Learned/Giving; I’m guessing that is reflective of his mission to study spren. Palah is also frequently associated with Jasnah, particularly when she is either studying or teaching Shallan. The icon, as noted above, is the generic Interludes icon.

I-6, Szeth: Herald Nalan, associated with the attributes of Just/Confident; I can only guess that this may be connected to Szeth’s new master, since the same Herald is associated with both the next Szeth interlude and the chapter where he meets that new master. I can’t really make a strong connection for Nalan in terms of… anything consistent. The icon, of course, is Szeth.

Zen @31 - Yeah, I thought that might be too easy.
David Foster
33. ZenBossanova
The Nightwatcher is an interesting conundrum. We know about the Shards, Hoid, and all that. But where does this person fit in? Evidently she has power on the level of any shard does, but why is it being squandered this way? It kind of reminds me of Tom Bombadil - something magically potent from ancient days that doesn't really fit in the modern world and yet is still there.

It isn't possible that the Nightwatcher is a Herald, is it?
34. Reiko
The thing with Axies using his tattoo power to keep notes on his skin so he would have them even after losing all his possessions immediately reminded me of the way the Nameless One in Planescape: Torment tattooed notes on his back about his situation so he'd be able to understand what was going on each time he woke up after a death.
Alice Arneson
35. Wetlandernw
Zen @33 - This is Brandon. Anything is possible. :)

The thought of Nightwatcher as a Herald occured to me, too, but we just don't have enough information. I rather think not, since we don't have any indication that the Heralds actually "do magic" of this extent. Also, she is identified as being of the "Old Magic" - whatever that is. It might be something which (one of?) the two original Shards created, or it might be something inherent to Roshar that predates even the Shards. Or... something else. I don't know.

Brandon has been rather close-mouthed about her, and not many people appear to have asked questions about her either. That may, however, be just a matter of the difficulty in formulating an intelligent question that he might remotely be willing to answer. Maybe we can work out a good question to ask for his next tour.
Jennifer B
36. JennB
Wetlandernw @32
I'm about 3.5 hours from Powell's and another 2.5 to get up to the U District. It's doable, but it would take some traveling.
Alice Arneson
37. Wetlandernw
Hmm. Yes, it would. And even though there are other signings in the Portland area this trip, I don't think they would be enough closer to be significant compared to 3.5 hours... I'll admit, I probably wouldn't travel that far, especially with kids, if I didn't have another good reason to go to that city at that time. (Which doesn't mean I wouldn't make a good effort to create another good reason, but... that can't always be done.)
38. Alsadius
I'm going to guess that Vallano is Szeth's grandfather, hence the odd son-son construction.
Adam S.
39. MDNY
Alsadius that's how I read it too, it seems pretty apparent that son-son = grandson. Szeth doesn't like people associating him with his father, because of his crimes, but I never understood why he doesn't mind being associated with his grandfather too. From other points in the book, we know that the Shin are always named for their parents (men are son-father, women are daughter-mother, as we see when Shallan buys a book from a female Shin philosopher with a daughter- name, I don't have my book on me so I can't check what it was, I just remember it was a -daughter name). To avoid having his father's name used, Szeth seems to prefer son-son-Vallano.
Raphael Schweber-Koren
40. raphaelsk
@13: Szeth losing his faith "means facing that every person he's killed, he is responsible for killing. It's wasn't an order that did it or that he was Truthless and had to do it. It's all him."

Interesting - this brings to mind the story of Derethil and the Wandersail that Hoid tells Kaladin later on, in particular, when the inhabitants of the island learn their king has been dead for a long time, and they decide that they bear responsibility for those they killed in something like pre-emptive appeasement of their king's wrath. I wonder if the story has relevance to Szeth ...

... or the Shin generally: as the post put it, "The Shin are as much at fault for unleashing Szeth into Roshar as the Parshendi were for ordering him to kill Gavilar."

(edited for typo)
andrew smith
41. sillyslovene
Got back into town yesterday, then had some time to look at the interludes here again. Here are some thoughts:

From Rysn's interlude:
I’ve speculated elsewhere, and others have seen/mentioned the connections too, that the Shin are (mainly? in some ways?) descended from the remnants of the Order of the Stonewards (referenced elsewhere, the KRs connected to Tanat, Rock/Stone, bone, topaz, and seen in Dalinar’s vision, which --> stone shamanism).
This is further supported by this section, where Vstim gives the culturally customary greeting for the Shin:
“Vstim met up with the Shin, then bowed in a distinctive way, hands toward the ground. “Tan balo ken tala,” he said.”
Tan – connected to Tanat? Tala – connected to Talus? (the essence?). There are not a lot of instances in this book where another language is spelled out (probably not enough for a Department of Imaginary Linguistics like over on the Rothfuss re-read :) ), which probably means that this could be a direct hint at something...

I like a lot of the thoughts above on Axies. Not much to add there, meaning that while there is a lot that is probably going to clearly be something of importance later, we don't know enough about it now to speculate fruitfully.

From Szeth's:
Telling the future is specifically noted as potentially “offending the Heralds.”
Could this have something to do with the Heralds original ‘lie’ that they had won? That they had finally beaten all of the desolations? Anyone claiming that another was coming was to be ostracized as predicting the future?

Interestingly, all three interludes have some discussion or mention of differences in worldview based on location:
Szeth says:
“Easterners saw the world by the light of the highstorms.” 554
(A great double/triple meaning in the context of Roshar)

And Rysn muses:
How strange, she thought. Perhaps living in this place has affected their minds.” 537
Which together is certainly just reinforcing the normally accepted ideas that differences in culture, upbringing, language, etc will create changes in worldview. Of course this is true.
However, adding in the fact that Axies notes that there are spren that only appear in Iri (546) and that there are no spren in Shinovar, there could be something to the idea that literally on Roshar there are differences in areas that change the way people think, act, believe, etc.
Combined with ideas like “air-sick lowlander” (is there a real difference besides just altitude?) the Thrill (only in Alethi?) and other characteristics of the different races around Roshar, could this be something beyond the simple location, language and upbringing affecting how people think?

Adding in that one of the Gods of this world is a shard named Cultivation, makes me wonder if that is what is going on here: She is/was cultivating different strains/races of "humans" in different areas, with different capabilities, characteristics and strengths/weaknesses, with the Shin perhaps as a control group. (Unite them = bring together all these different groups?) What with all of the flowering technology and research going on (Axies, the ardents in a future interlude, Navani and fabrial tech, half-shards, etc), thematically it could work well to have one of the Gods being a "researcher" as well :)

It would be interesting to look at see if all the Interludes have something that could fit into this categorization of different areas of the world and the way that people view each other throughout the world. Something to keep eyes out for...
42. jwilms
I think that when Szeth, attacts Dalinar, Kaladin will save Dalinar, and take Szeth (underwing) to find out more about his own abilities, and who sent him. I like to think that in time as a captive of Kaladins and Dalinars, Szeth may let us more about the Shin, and perhaps even feel that helping Kaladin and Dalinar could lead to a redemption of his soul.

I feel that any one believing in the old vorin religion will be stronger in soulcasting , or surgbinding. ie. Jasnah does not see the symbol people but Shallon does. King Elhokar sees people with symbols, he has strengths that Sanderson has not shared yet, but in finding his abilities I believe he will become the King the Alenthi need.
Kaladin sees his honer spren, but Szeth does not.

I think the Shin seeing stormlight as holy is quite possible, but I do not think they have any thing to do with the Voidbringers. I believ e the voidbringers are the product of evil that is in mankind, Odium perhaps has been delaying , or withholding them, building the biggest army of them and other evil yet.
Alice Arneson
43. Wetlandernw
Re: me @32, and the Herald Nalan - I was looking at old comments and I see that at one point I suggested that he shows up in chapters that involve the idea of "kill to protect" - specifically, Kaladin's ongoing argument with his father over whether or not such a thing is possible. Perhaps it has to do with the idea of "justified killing". I'm not sure how that might fit with Szeth's interlude, except that his new master certainly seems to believe that sending Szeth to do all these assassinations is somehow justified in order to prepare the world for the Last Desolation.
Nadine L.
44. travyl
Wetlander re you @32 & 43.
Well thanks for your prompt fulfillment of my wish. As I said, I'm not the one to contribute in this area, but I'm glad for the theories.
Adam S.
45. MDNY
Szeth seems almost defined by killing, and it seems like he kills so others don't have to. We don't know how he became truthless, nor what exactly that means, but it seems that it is his burden to kill so that others don't have to (among other things), so his association with Nalaan may have to do with that in some way.
James Briggs
46. traveler
Question; i think that the Shin have stormlight and spren, I know that Seth feels that using stormlight is profane when used simply for illumination and adornment. I cant find a reference one way or the other when i read WOKthat showes spren in shinovar but it also doesnt say that they arnt there. So are their spren or not?
Alice Arneson
47. Wetlandernw
traveler @46 - It seems pretty clear that the Shin have Stormlight; if nothing else, for them to consider it holy, they have to know what it is. (Clearly they know what stone is, and they consider it holy too, but there's not much of it around. Or rather, what stone they have tends to be covered with deep soil.) Given that Shinovar is protected from the highstorms to the extent that they are not dangerous, it could be supposed that infusing gems is at least a slower process than it is elsewhere, so fully-infused gems would be harder to come by. Therefore, they are more precious, and their use more restricted, which (apparently) has led to Stormlight being considered holy.

About the spren, all we know is that a) Rysn doesn't see any spren in Shinovar; and b) Szeth is rather appalled that people elsewhere seem to ignore the spren as they go about their business. Consider this bit from I-6, where Szeth is thinking about the Vorin superstition regarding predicting the future:
"And yet they thought nothing of walking on stone or using Stormlight for everyday illumination. They ignored the spirits of things that lived around them, and they ate whatever they wanted on any day they wanted."
I'm assuming (and could be wrong) that what Szeth thinks of as "the spirits of things that live around them" are what we know as spren. He has clearly grown up with some restrictions that the rest of the planet ignores, including some food directives we haven't heard about yet. But in most cases (stone, Stormlight and spren) the reverence seems almost to be based on scarcity rather than complete absence.

This is strictly personal interpretation, because we don't have enough information to be sure, but I would assume that there are spren in Shinovar, but not so many - and not so readily seen. If it's true that spren are mostly seen when they are drawn to a change of state, perhaps the earth-like gradual & persistent growth fails to draw lifespren, etc. I wonder what would happen if someone started a fire - would flamespren show up, or not? Eh. We just don't know yet.
48. Jasuni
@35 I know there was magic before the shattering of Adonalsium. I also don't know what happened to that magic, but if it is still around, it would be "Old Magic".

@42 Does Szeth even have a spren? I don't think that the magical abilities are always the result of a spren. At the very least, honorspren aren't the only type of spren that can enable. Nohadon (in Dalinar's vision in chapter 60) states that "not all spren are as discerning as honorspren."
Matt Spencer
49. Iarvin
@46 Someone would need to look it up - but I believe that there is Word of Brandon that there are spren in Shinovar, they're just rare.
David Foster
50. ZenBossanova
I am pretty sure that Szeth does NOT have spren. And there are significant differences between how long he can hold Stormlight, verses Kaladin.

This reminds me of a segment Brandon read from WoR.
Dalinar sees a vision where he is with a army, hunting a spren, trying to trap it. This surprises Dalinar because he has no idea how to that, or even that it is possible.

I suspect that any spren the Shin have, or find, that they do this too. They find a way to utilize them. Roaming free, they would be wasted. Notice, we never get a look at a Shin farm. They were considered holy and offlimits for outsiders.
Sean Taylor
51. Izzos
@47. Given the lack of hard facts about anything related to Shinovar your hypothesis seems as valid as any. Having said that, it doesn't feel right to me that stone, stormlight or spren would be regarded as sacred merely because they are scarce. In fact, I think we are hasty to assume that stone is rare in Shinovar just because it is lush. Shinovar seems to resemble our own landscape, and my experience in my garden demonstrates that stones and rocks are quite common.

IMHO, I still think that stone (or certain kinds of stone?) bear some magical properties that the Stone Shamans are able to tap into. Tien seemed to be able to find stones that were special. We have speculated that his special stones were infused with stormlight, and that seems as good an explanation as any, but I suspect that is more to it. Also, I'm still suspicious that beings/creatures made from or tied to stone figure prominantly into the Shin theology (as I've speculated on above). How/if the Thunderclasts fit into that and on what side remains to be seen.

@50. I agree, I don't think Szeth has a spren. I think his powers derive from something/someone else. (Haven't read any of the spoilers yet). Another wild question, are we sure that Highstorms are the only source of Stormlight? Could the Shin have access to Stormlight from another source? I guess I'm thinking along the lines of Mistborn (as others have) where the mists were from Preservation, which allowed one to burn atium, the body of Ruin. And it was never a rule that good people only used Preservation's power and bad people used Ruin's power. The 'good' and 'evil' magics seem to mesh together and it becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Perhaps this is the case for Kaladin vs Szeth.

(Edited for typos.)
Carl Engle-Laird
52. CarlEngle-Laird
Hey guys, Carl here. Due to some scheduling issues, the Powers That Be have requested that the August 29 reread post be pushed back. We'll be skipping this week, but will return on September 5th. Sorry for the inconvenience. I look forward to seeing you all then!
Adam S.
53. MDNY
Stormfather! Thanks for the heads up, Carl.
Jared Wood
54. Shardlet
@9 You speak the truth about the highprinces. We would certainly have heard if six Alethi Highprinces had been assassinated. Particularly so, if at the hand of the Assassin in White. This clearly must refer to highprinces of Jah Keved or some other kingdom which uses a highprince ruling structure. Jah Keved is the only one other than Alethkar that we know of so far.
Sean Taylor
56. Izzos
Interesting Szeth tidbit:
I was listening to the Introduction again and noticed this line:
"Szeth blinked, lashing himself to that distant point down the hallway."
Reminded me of Shallan when she fixes an image in her memory.
57. Commentor In White
I just had a few interesting thoughts that, frankly, even I don't believe fully, but I'll put them out here anyway. Apologies in advance: long post.

Szeth's best hope, he believes, is to be given to the stones so that he may suffer for eternity. I have assumed so far that this is part of the Stone Shamanism belief, and Szeth's role as Truthless. I find it interesting that between desolations, the Heralds suffered at the hands of fire and hooks digging into their flesh, etc. Is Stone Shamanism institutionally remembering the sacrifices of the Heralds? After all, we've encountered two religions so far, Vorinism and Stone Shamanism, and they both seem to have plenty of secrets. However, this trick has been used by Sanderson on us before. In the Mistborn trilogy, we find that the Kandra religion has been hiding the Terris religion all along. I don't know if that makes my Stone Shamanism gimmick more or less likely, but there you go.

I also had the fleeting thought that Szeth may be a Herald. He's a perfect killing machine, knows Surgebinding, and believes that he may spend eternity in pain (like a Herald of old). He spoke of Surgebinding, saying it is a power that was meant to be wielded in daylight. On the surface, he's talking about how brightly lit he becomes whilst surgebinding, but could he have been speaking of surgebinding more metaphorically? Perhaps he was once proud of his abilities, and now ashamed of them. That would fit with him being a herald. Also, how old is Szeth? Does he ever actually say? I seem to remember him saying that he looked younger than his years, which would be a colossal understatement if my theory were true. All that being said, I don't see why he'd so rigorously adhere to his Oathstone if he were old enough to be a herald, so there's that. In Warbreaker, we find out that a few characters are Returned, and I feel like that style of bait and switch would be very similar to Szeth turning out to be a Herald. Once again, I don't know if that makes this one more or less likely to be true, but there you go. Full disclosure.

Someone postulated (I believe on the Stormblessed boards) that the Shin people are what's left of the Knights Radiant. Is it possible that this is true, they gave up surgebinding, and made it forbidden? If so, that would make it possible that it is this surgebinding of Szeth's that made him truthless? I admit, I have no evidence to support that supposition, and am speculating wildly.

One serious question, though: Without the highstorms rolling through Shinovar, how did Szeth learn to surgebind? Doesn't he need Stormlight to do it?

Now that I'm done, I see that I still make no sense. Oh well, you guys are experts at teasing details out of obfuscating text. :-)

Commentor in White
Alice Arneson
58. Wetlandernw
SpeakerSzeth @57 - Nice wall of text. :) Allow me to build another:

You're mostly speculating on stuff we really don't know yet, so in most cases anything is possible. Re: Szeth in particular, though, his first Interlude tells us that he is "in his thirty-fifth year - and his seventh year since being named Truthless" - so I don't think he can be a Herald. (At least, as I understand it, the Heralds are more or less immortal, so they're still wandering around as themselves rather than being reborn.)

On the rest, well... we have only our own opinions and interpretations of the text to go on. I personally think it's more likely that the Alethi are descended from the Knights Radiant, but that is mostly based on the historical role of Alethkar. I certainly couldn't prove that a large group didn't settle together in Shinovar.

About the Stormlight and highstorms... again, we don't know for sure, but my personal expectation is that even in Shinovar, there is still some infusion of Stormlight from the highstorms, however reduced it might be. It's a question to either ask Brandon, or wait and find out in future books.

Oh, yeah. One other thing about Szeth. Again, this is only my interpretation, but wrt his thoughts about the afterlife, he's thinking about the punishment for his deeds. If he were to break his Oath and disobey his master, he would be completely dishonored, his body would not be "given to the stones" (whatever that looks like) and there would be no afterlife for him at all. If he holds to his Oath, obeys, and commits all these terrible crimes, his afterlife will be one of eternal suffering, but at least he will not be further dishonored and his body will be given to the stones properly. I assume this means that the Shin believe that in the afterlife, you are rewarded or punished according to your deeds; when you die, your body is given to the stones and your soul enters the afterlife to receive its just reward. (A possible corollary is that if your body is not given to the stones, there is no afterlife. The Shamans could determine whether or not to give your body to the stones, based on the depth of your dishonor, thus determining whether you get an afterlife or not. Hmm.)

In other words, I think Szeth is simply acknowledging that he bears the eternal weight of all the killing (killing being the worst of the sins, according to his beliefs) he's done, despite the fact that he was doing it to maintain the last of his honor. He's telling himself that it's better to endure eternal suffering for the killing, rather than having no afterlife at all for abandoning his honor.

All that said, though, his thoughts of "eternal suffering" are deeply reminiscent (intentionally, I'm sure) of the Heralds' experience, which I'd never considered before. So... now I'm going to meander down the afterlife concepts, and see where I end up:

Vorinism has a concept of "Damnation" - the place where evil men go, and whence evil comes, as opposed to the Tranquiline Halls, where good men are supposed to go and fight to regain paradise. I assume (fwiw) that part of the Oathpact was that the Heralds were given immortality to lead the fight on behalf of Roshar, with their amazing blades and abilities, but as the price, they had to endure Damnation between Desolations. Presumably, if they could ever actually win on Roshar, their reward would be paradise, but we're never told that much.

I further assume that Stone Shamanism retains the concepts of the Tranquiline Halls and Damnation, with the added notion that the worst punishment is no afterlife at all. I'm not sure how this makes sense, though, unless they have a so-far-unmentioned concept of reincarnation. (Seems to me, anyway, that if my choices are eternal joy, eternal suffering or oblivion, and the "eternal joy" wasn't a choice any longer, I'd opt for oblivion rather than eternal suffering. But then, maybe I'm just a wimp - and I certainly don't have Stone Shamanism as my cultural basis.)

Here's a wild notion, proceeding from yours... Maybe if a Truthless maintains his honor, he is sent to Damnation to join the Heralds, and will return with them if there ever is another Desolation. "Did the Voidbringers even exist? His punishment declared that they didn't. His honor demanded that they did."

Okay, now I'm just getting twisted around my own head. :) I'll leave it at that and let someone else speculate, while we wait to learn more when WoR comes out...
Tom Knapik
59. tknapik
A wild theory that just occured to me. With the last two wall of texts speaking about Szeth being given to the stones, what if he literally means becoming stone, i.e. a Thunderclast? This kind of feeds off the idea that the Stone Shamans are in league with/create the Thunderclasts. My thoughts are leading me to the idea that humans can be transformed into Thunderclasts.

Again, a wild theory, but it popped into my head with such force I thought I should mention it.
Jeremy Guebert
60. jeremyguebert
Hmmm, lots of interesting stuff going on here about Szeth. I don't have a whole lot to add to that discussion, unfortunately - there's just too much we don't know, and might not get to know until Szeth's book.

@ Rysn/Vstim - It's a useful plot device to have itinerant merchants as two of your interlude characters - they have a built-in excuse to go roving throughout the country, so we can see a bunch of new places without needing to be introduced to a similar number of new characters. The only Problem with these Traveling Salespeople is: What's the most efficient way for them to trade with every major city in Roshar exactly once and end up back in Thaylenah?
Sean Taylor
61. Izzos
@59 Crazy theory, but I love it! Thunderclasts = Rosharian Koloss :)
Alice Arneson
62. Wetlandernw
Oops. Wrong thread.
David Foster
63. ZenBossanova
The bit about the Radiants suffering between Desolations is unexplained. But I assumed that they were taking the fight direct to Odium.

Speaking of which... we know Honor is in the East and Cultivation is in the West. But Roshar has 3 shards. Where is Odium located? The Origin of Storms? I don't think so, but I really don't believe that. It must be on Roshar, since that is where the Parshendi came from. So I don't expect it is going to be in Shadesmar or traveled via any fancy wormholes or portals. Is there a Far Eastern continent where Odium is located?

Grainne McGuire
64. helen79
@63 Location of Odium
I came across info on 17th shard forums re location of Odium, apparently from Brandon.

I won't post the link as I expect it would mean my post got captured and it might be considered spoiler info but go to the forums, Events, Signings and Stalkings and look at the Q&A at Spokane Barnes and Noble .

I don't know what verification process this stuff goes through, and the username does raise the odd alarm bell but interesting if true.
David Foster
65. ZenBossanova
Very interesting stuff, #64 Helen. I wonder if that is the actual location of the Tranquilline Halls.

Also, it lends weight to something I wondered, that the moons and planets might be responsible for the storms of unusual strength, and perhaps the Desolations as well.
Laura Taylor
66. Lauranimal
I posted this on chapter 15... though the conversation had already moved on and it seems more appropriate to this thread. Still trying to catch up with this re-read! A thought has been bouncing around in my head. This is some pretty wild speculation:

We will keep seeing Syl become more solid, more conscious and sentient. More physically present. Where is the limit of this? Just how manifest can she become?

With that in mind, I've been batting around this kind of crazy thought that, what if the Shin... are Spren. The spirit of a thing or person, manifest and become that thing or person.

It seems that many Spren come from stone, and Szeth speaks of being returned to the stone when he dies. And instead of being bonded to a Spren... he is bonded to a stone. And according to the Dalinar reading from WoR, ::: Spren can inhabit and become the spirit that brings stone to life. ::: It seems there are many kinds of Spren. If the KR were bonded to mature Spren (as in, the way that Syl is maturing.) what happened to all of their spren? Did they devolve like Syl? Did some of the KR abandon their shards in Shinovar and their spren were able to evolve differently there?

I think this would explain how Szeth would have Surge-binding abilities without actually BEing a KR.

And there are no spren (few spren?) in Shinovar because they ARE Spren (?) Could this have something to do with why they don't allow anyone to see their cultivation practices? Honor Spren being evolved by cultivation and using their unique 'gifts' and energies to grow things a very different way?

And, as for the stone/surface of Roshar it's self... Kabsal demonstrates the use of cymatics in shaping the patterns of the various city formations; The underlying stone patterns. Someone mentioned Brandon's use of physics and string theory with regard to matter being able to exist in 2 forms. Oscillating wave, or static. Once you measure a thing at it's most base form (which is energy... the thing that builds the scaffolding of matter ...the string in string theory) your expectation,or your measurement of it or conviction about it, then defines it.

So I'm wondering ... are spren a type of energy scaffolding? a basic building element or group of elements with evolving consciousness? The more conscious they become... the more defined they become, the more solid they become in terms of real matter. The more conviction about the attributes that they define themselves by... the more solid and physically defined they become. Without those Truths that define them, they can be changed into something else. Maybe corrupted?

And if Spren are the spiritual remnants... strings... pieces of the existing shards... which are the source of various magics, then bonding with spren is what would make those magics available for an individual to use. I can't help myself. Szeth doesn't have a spren... because he IS a spren. And maybe his crime was in claiming that his people are or were the original voidbringers... or the energy that was the scaffolding for them. (I know... this sounds really convoluted, but it makes sense in my head!) In claiming that they are or were something other than what they have defined themselves to be, he threatens his whole culture with being vulnerable to changing into a different definition. That shit can't be allowed to spread.

I know... crazy...
67. gabrielthebright
"One theory: could Shinovar be protected from the Highstorms through some deal with Odium, such as supplying solders when needed or equipment such as Shards?"

I just assumed that Shinovar avoided the highstorms by being a continent away from the origin.
Jared Hubbell
68. ez057868
Thought on Axies' ocean spren, it records faces and people feel like a bit of their soul has been taken. This is how Shallan describes what she does in her drawings. Perhaps this kind of spren is what a Lightweaver forms the Nahel bond with, not the "truthspren" who dwell in the cognitive realm, who perhaps simply act as gate keepers to that realm.
Christopher Your
69. Cayour
This seemed like an appropriate place to weigh praise on Sanderson's world building. I-6, A Work of Art, contains one the many, many examples of Sanderson's mastery in world building:
Nearby, a group of men in brown cloaks sat chatting and rubbing their thumbs and forefingers together. Wisps of smoke rose between their fingers, accompanied by a faint crackling sound. Rubbing firemoss was said to make a man’s mind more receptive to thoughts and ideas. The one time Szeth had tried it, it had given him a headache and two blistered fingers. But once you grew the calluses, it could apparently be euphoric.
Firemoss is totally irrelevant to the story at large. It's a passing reference. Yet, I fell in love with the idea! Infusing his world with inconsequential but fantastic minor elements does more than just add flavor. In this, Sanderson brings us into his world(s). Few enough authors take the time to create this level of detail. Just one more reason that I'm a fan.

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