The Stormlight Archive

Reflections Revealed: More on Words of Radiance

Have you had enough of Words of Radiance yet? No? Didn’t think so. Isn’t it amazing? And so well worth the wait! We’ve been having a blast already in the discussions, and there’s plenty more discussion to be done. Which is good, because we’ve got to find something to do while we’re waiting for the third book

A long, long time ago (well, a couple of weeks, which seems like a long time!) I promised to give you the key to the Reflections of Radiance post. The time has come to reveal the answers, meaning there will be plenty of spoilers ahead!

With no further ado, in the same order of the original post, here is that key—chapter and page references included.

1. Okay, I sure hope someone can decode this, because I’ve tried, and tried, and tried, and I’m clueless. (How’s that for a way to start the list? Cryptographers, prepare! Or possibly, beware.)

The epigraph to Chapter 84, page 1008. This is driving me crazy, because I can’t make heads or tails of it. Someone please, please take pity on me and decrypt it.

915121061534 [Broken up in order to fit on the screen -Ed.]

I tried everything I could think of and haven’t cracked it yet. But I’m pretty sure it’s crackable from the text… I’m also pretty sure Brandon intended to make us work hard for this one.


2. Oh, Teft. You make me so sad. So very, very sad.

Chapter 71, page 841, when Teft reveals what happened to his family and the cult of the Envisagers. (I’ll bet you figured that out, didn’t you?) As a kid, that must have been terrible. These people were killing themselves in their attempt to gain Surgebinding powers, which they didn’t understand at all, so they had no idea they were going about it all wrong. Out of concern for them, this poor child went to the citylord to get them stopped—and so they were tried and executed for killing themselves. Teft has lived with that his entire life: feeling like he had caused their deaths by trying to stop their deaths. I was… very sad.


3. Oh, my. Bravo. That was a fantastic scene. It was perfect, and disturbing, and saddening, and encouraging all at once.

The last section of Chapter 80 (page 966), in which Elhokar comes to see Kaladin.

“How do people know what to do? Why don’t I know what to do? I was born to this office, given the throne by the Almighty himself! Why would he give me the title, but not the capacity? It defies reason. And yet, everyone seems to know things that I do not. My father could rule even the likes of Sadeas—men loved Gavilar, feared him, and served him all at once. I can’t even get a darkeyes to obey a command to come visit the palace! Why doesn’t this work? What do I have to do?”

Kaladin stepped back, shocked at the frankness. “Why are you asking me this, Your Majesty?”

“Because you know the secret,” the king said, still pacing. “I’ve seen how your men regard you; I’ve heard how people speak of you. You’re a hero, bridgeman.” He stopped, then walked up to Kaladin, taking him by the arms. “Can you teach me?”

I loved this. It was so unexpected, so shocking, coming from Elhokar of all people. This in particular, and this whole conversation, make me realize just how little we actually know Elhokar. We have mostly seen him from Dalinar’s eyes, or Adolin’s. Here, for some reason, he opens his soul to Kaladin, and we start to see that he wants to be a good king, he just really, really doesn’t know how. It’s not an imperious “I have the right!” thing—he truly wants to be a good king, a wise leader, the right man, and he knows he’s failing badly. Now I begin to want those same things for him for his own sake, rather than just to stop him from being such an annoying twerp. (And then Kaladin takes his turn at being an annoying twerp. Twerp.)


4. I found it quite painful to read this—his mind flickering between the little flashes of memory, the battle going on around him… and then “Move. Grieve later. Move!”—to the reader, almost as much as to the character—you can’t stop here! And I loved his obedience to his own command. (I was disagreeing with other beta readers here, who felt that we didn’t know enough for this to hurt as much as it should. Obviously I felt I did…)

Chapter 81, page 979—Sureblood:

Adolin screamed something raw, a sound that echoed in his helm. He ignored the shouts of soldiers, the sound of rain, the sudden and unnatural crack behind him. He ran to the body on the ground. Sureblood.

“No, no, no,” Adolin said, skidding to his knees beside the horse. The animal bore a strange, branching burn all down the side of his white coat. Wide, jagged. Sureblood’s dark eyes, open to the rain, did not blink.

Adolin raised his hands, suddenly hesitant to touch the animal.

A youth on an unfamiliar field.

Sureblood wasn’t moving.

More nervous that day than during the duel that won his Blade.

Shouts. Another crack in the air, sharp, immediate.

They pick their rider, son. We fixate on Shards, but any man—courageous or coward—can bond a Blade. Not so here, on this ground. Only the worthy win here…


Grieve later.


Maybe I’m just a sucker for courageous-animal deaths, but this was painful to me. The whole “Ryshadium pick their humans, not the other way around” idea, the knowledge that this wonderful animal had chosen Adolin… to see him dead was agonizing. I think I’d have felt that way even just from what we knew about him in The Way of Kings, though I think maybe Brandon inserted a few more glimpses of their relationship earlier in the book, after the beta discussions.


5. Wow. He was right after all. I still don’t like him, but now I pity him. So many questions answered in two short sentences.

This was for Szeth in Chapter 33 (page 379), when he fought Kaladin and realized that he was a Surgebinder:

They told me I was wrong! …. They named me Truthless!

While there are still things we don’t know about this, it seemed utterly clear from this brief conversation that Szeth had claimed that the Voidbringers and/or the Knights Radiant were returning, and for that his people named him Truthless and set him on this path of obeying whatever horrible orders his master might choose to give him. (Later evidence indicates it was the Voidbringers.) He did all those murders because he was “wrong”—but he was right, and it was all wrong. I pity him because, as miserable as he was following his orders, he now has evidence that he shouldn’t have obeyed the orders at all, and he’s doubly guilty of everything he did. Or something like that.


6. I’m beginning to think that this is the essence of Lightweaving. Amazing concept.

Chapter 36, page 424: “It wasn’t a lie. It was a different truth.” This is when Shallan figures out that the picture she drew of Bluth had changed him, and really makes the connection that she can draw herself differently, and be that different person. In this case, confident and unafraid as she enters the warcamps and prepares to meet Dalinar for the first time. A different truth.


7. Gah. I finally had to quit copying every sentence that gave me a thrill—there are just so many. Oh, so many lovely things happening. (Dalinar) laying down his burden was superb. (Roion) charging was brilliant. (Roion) dying (sad face)—he died well, but how terrifying that death would have been! (Dalinar’s) return was breathtaking. (Kaladin) crashing… (I’m running out of superlatives!) Ah. It was hard to remember to breathe during this chapter.

This is when Szeth shows up on the plateaus in the middle of the battle in Chapter 85 (pages 1017-26). (I used “return” for Dalinar, because everything else I tried gave away too much.) Add to the list:

  • Aladar winning his plateau
  • Renarin writing on the wall. (It was RENARIN!! All that time, I was right to question the easy assumption that it was Dalinar. Hah! IMO, this is confirmed in a later chapter.)
  • His father… his father moved beautifully.”
  • “…the sky and the winds are mine. I claim them…” and Kaladin’s glowing eyes make Szeth’s look dull by comparison.
  • Instead, it was Roion.” I know, I already listed this, but it blew my mind. What a powerful moment that was. And how completely unexpected.


8. Oh, like that’s not going to come back and bite you or anything. This whole conversation was a crazy blend of hilarity and trepidation, thinking about the probable consequences.

This, of course, is Chapter 28 (pages 342-4) with Shallan pretending to be a Horneater princess in her first meeting with Kaladin. And demanding that he give her his boots. Heh.


9. I really need a glyph for ambivalence. I loved so much about this chapter. That’s what was getting boring? LOL! And that reconciliation is made of win. On top of that, he (Adolin) believes (Kaladin), which is very insightful of him. But… I don’t trust (Moash) as far as I can throw a chasmfiend, not with power like that. And just who do you think you are, dude, to decide what’s “best” for the whole storming kingdom? I have a bad feeling about this…

Chapter 66, pages 777-84. I literally laughed out loud when I realized that in Adolin and Shallan’s earlier spanreed conversation (they were texting!?), he was referring to sitting there in prison as “boring.” The discovery that he chose to be imprisoned as long as Kaladin was… oh, I loved that. (Just go read page 779 again. It’s… yeah. All that.) Yet another layer to this man, and I’m really starting to love him—especially when he believed Kaladin about Amaram, and let Kaladin do what he wanted about the Shards he helped to win. But then Kaladin goes and gives Shards—SHARDS!!—to Moash, who is longing to murder the king, and follows that up by agreeing with the plan to do so.

“The room grew strangely still.”

In retrospect, this is a bitter foreshadowing.


10. Dalinar, no! No, no, NO! Oh, wait… … … What? Really? BAHAHAhahahahahah! Oh, yeah! (And there was fist-pumping.)

This was that priceless sequence in Chapter 76, p. 930-1:

Dalinar nodded to himself, as if this were all expected. “I believe an apology is due.”

Kaladin struggled to remain upright, his leg feeling weak. So this would be his final punishment. Apologizing to Amaram in public. A humiliation above all others.

“I—” Kaladin began.

“Not you, son,” Dalinar said softly.

And then Dalinar proceeds to reveal Amaram’s theft and deceit, and compares it to Kaladin’s earlier accusations. He strips Amaram of the Knight Radiant leadership, and a key phrase is uttered by Amaram: “Sometimes, good men must die so that greater goals may be accomplished.” No matter that Amaram thought he was serving the greater good, and (perhaps) honestly regretted the “need” to kill Kaladin’s remaining men, the end does not necessarily (and certainly not according to the Ideals of the Knights Radiant!) justify the means. Sadly, Kaladin still has to learn this; happily, he will—and partly by hearing an echo of these same words applied to the upcoming assassination attempt.


11. I have no words. I’m sitting here shuddering. I’m going to keep reading now… (That was quite literally true. I sat here in this very chair and silently shuddered for about five minutes, posted that comment, and started reading again.)

Chapter 32, pages 368-76, the first time the Assassin in White shows up. I think it was a combination of the fight itself, the way Adolin was taken completely out of commission, Kaladin was injured with a Blade-severed hand, Dalinar was injured and on his knees and he caught the Shardblade—and then Kaladin tackled Szeth and they both fell out the hole in the wall. Wow. Adrenaline rush.


12. I rather like these folks. They’re funny and intelligent.

Sebarial and Palona in Chapter 40 (page 461) when Sebarial first shows up at his home with Shallan in tow. They’re just… funny. And intelligent, though Sebarial usually tries to hide that from other people. I liked them. I’m glad they survived—and they were being funny right up to the last minute!


13. Well, that was a chilling combination of comedy and terror. From the immersive perspective, I’m surprised and sad that it didn’t work. From a more detached perspective, it’s better this way; things don’t come readily and the consequences are severe.

This was in reference to Shallan’s attempt to Soulcast the stick to become fire, pages 142-5 of Chapter 11.

“Sticks need Stormlight. For… things…”

In one sense it was really funny watching her try to figure out how to convince the stick that it would rather be fire. In another sense it was terrifying to watch her getting weaker and weaker in Shadesmar, knowing that she needed that fire, and that if she couldn’t convince the stupid, self-satisfied stick to burn, she was going to be in even worse shape very soon. I thought this scene was extremely well done.


14. YESSSSSSS!!!!!! (Sorry for shouting… No I’m not.) (That was, word for word, what I put in the google-doc. There was also fist-pumping and arm-waving, which I didn’t attempt to document.)

Chapter 33, page 378:

…Kaladin felt the Light working, the tempest within straining and pushing. He gritted his teeth and heaved somehow.

The color returned to his hand, and feeling—cold pain—suddenly flooded his arm, hand, fingers. Light began to stream from his hand.

That was totally unexpected (by Szeth as much as by me, apparently!) and so storming brilliant after the shudder-inducing end of the previous chapter, that I nearly came straight up out of my chair, laptop and all. There was lots of arm-waving going on. He healed a Blade-severed hand!!!


15. Well, he seems to have unexpected depths… (Chapter 20)
And so much for unexpected depths. But I’m glad he died a soldier. That actually made me tear up: “You were a fine way to (restart my collection, Bluth).” (I never, ever would have expected to cry for him.)

Bluth. Of all people, I cried for Bluth. (Chapter 21, page 280)


16. Heh. No wonder they call her a heretic. Outrageous!

The whole quotation from Jasnah’s book in general, and this sentence in particular, as quoted at the beginning of Chapter 65, page 772:

I say that there is no role for women—there is, instead, a role for each woman, and she must make it for herself. For some, it will be the role of scholar, for others it will be the role of wife. For others, it will be both. For yet others, it will be neither.


17. Oh, YES! This has been questioned so, so much. Well, it appears that our questioning was both valid and invalid—valid because it was a good question, and invalid because we simply didn’t know as much as we thought we did. Now we again get it drilled into us how very little we actually know. (Chew on that one for a while. :) Neener neener.)

This was in response to the revelation that, as we have suspected off and on—and even Dalinar mused on in The Way of Kings—there should be, and was, far more to the Radiants and Surgebinding than just the Knights who fought. Chapter 3, page 69:

“…The archetype of Radiants on the battlefield is an exaggeration. From what I’ve read—though records are, unfortunately, untrustworthy—for every Radiant dedicated to battle, there were another three who spent their time on diplomacy, scholarship, or other ways to aid society.”

I thought it was rather cool.


18. Part of me wants to shriek that this is NOT the same man we’ve seen before … but at the same time, I love it. He has actual, multiple layers (as he should, being who he is) but this particular layer completely took me by surprise. I never expected that he would—or even could—make a decision like this. Stunning.

You should have guessed this one by now, especially if you read the pre-released chapters. In Chapter 14, page 224, as Adolin faces Salinor in his first duel of the book, he thinks:

It wasn’t time for a show.

It was time for a beating.

Of course, this side of Adolin comes back around in Chapter 89 with the death of Sadeas, and it leaves us—or me, anyway, wondering what’s going to happen with him. I like him. A lot. But… this is shaky ground.

Also, I see from the comments that I’m not the only one to connect Ironstance with the Herald Kalak, and wonder if Adolin may become a Knight Radiant of the order associated with him. (At this point, we don’t know for sure what order that is, but my money is on Willshapers.)


19. Well, isn’t that a fascinating way to look at speech… No wonder they’re called “Cryptics”—the way they think is completely non-intuitive for a human.

No reason you should have picked this out of several other potential candidates, really, but this was from Chapter 36, page 420:

“Well, keep your ears open, Pattern. I suspect this day is going to only get more interesting.” She walked back toward the tent.

“But, I don’t have ears,” he said. “Ah yes. A metaphor? Such delicious lies. I will remember that idiom.”

Apparently, to a Cryptic anything that is not literally true is a lie of one sort or another. Which… maybe it is, from one angle, but can you imagine how limited speech would be if we couldn’t use figures of speech to communicate? I guess the Cryptics (or at least Pattern, as he currently exists in the physical realm) don’t have a concept of figurative language, so a metaphor becomes “a delicious lie.”


20. “I hate reading books on computer. This is where I should have the satisfaction of chucking several pounds of book across the room. Stupid stupid stupid! Is he ever going to learn to think before he acts?” (This was borrowed from Bob, another beta reader, but it was just too well said. And he spoke for most of us, judging from the comments. I certainly felt the same way!)

Chapter 57, page 764. I think part of the reason this elicited such a strong reaction was the huge excitement and adrenaline rush of that incredible “duel”—Adolin nearly beaten, Renarin coming out (even without his Plate) in the hopes of distracting someone, Kaladin going to aid of both of them—it was SO AMAZING!! And then he pulls this stunt where he tries to ride the wave and ends up with himself and the rest of the good guys thoroughly in the drink. Because he didn’t think through the possible results.

When I got to this section in the beta-read, the Way of Kings reread had just hit the “Side Carry” chapter, and one of the comments there was “I’ve never seen a plan succeed so spectacularly, while at the same time go horribly, horribly wrong.” My first reaction was “Yeah, just wait.” My second was “Kaladin really has a penchant for this, doesn’t he? Kills the Shardbearer and designates one of his men to take it: his men are killed and he’s branded a slave. Side carry saves the bridge crew: ruins the assault. Joins Adolin & Renarin to fight four Shardbearers, wins the match: ruins the whole point of the exercise.” He’s always right—but he’s wrong at the same time. So I end up with really mixed feelings about him. I want a glyph for “Ambivalent.”


21. This brought tears to my eyes. Oh, that was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. (I feel like I should give you more to go on, here, but I can’t think of much to say. It was such a character-defining moment.)

Chapter 71, page 849:

He saw it in her eyes. The anguish, the frustration. The terrible nothing that clawed inside and sought to smother her. She knew. It was there, inside. She had been broken.

Then she smiled. Oh, storms. She smiled anyway.

It was the single most beautiful thing he’d seen in his entire life.

I… don’t really need to say any more, do I?


22. Well, there’s one theory proven right. (I honestly don’t remember if I thought it was valid or not, but I remember thinking that some people were too thoroughly convinced on insufficient evidence.)

Helaran was indeed the Veden Shardbearer killed by Kaladin, as proven by Chapter 52, page 609. Y’all can gloat now and get it over with.


23. I’m sure I must have breathed during the first part of this chapter, but once Shallan started drawing… I can’t guarantee it. I was certainly holding my breath when Jasnah walked in!

As someone recognized in one of the discussion threads, this was when Shallan caught the Memory of (what we later know as) Pattern for the first time, bringing him to “life” in Chapter 3, pages 66-8. I realized I had been holding my breath when Jasnah said, “We have matters to discuss.”


24. Very big grin, small happy dance. I loved this. First the callback to… whenever it was that Shallan asked (Adolin) the same thing, and then the segue to (Adolin) using it elsewhere at the same time. (Also? Nice to have a moment of pure fun tossed into the tenseness—it doesn’t actually break the tension, but it does let the reader grab a gasp of air.)

“Prince Renarin, would you kindly slay this rock for me?”

In Chapter 83, Page 1000, when Shallan finally spots what she realizes must be the portal she’s seeking, she is acting on what she proved earlier (Ch. 68, P. 812) when she asked Adolin to “slay this moss”—that what looks like a lump of rock is actually something covered in thousands of years’ worth of layered and weathered crem. Then in the next sentence we see that Adolin, having also remembered the earlier event, had cut his way into what used to be a building, and is proceeding to make his way through that building to cut back out right behind/beside the singing Parshendi who are summoning the Everstorm. Sweet.


25. “So… (Zahel) is (Vasher). And, ‘Of course, there wasn’t one. Hadn’t been one in years.’ Oh, (Nightblood), what happened to you?” (This is unabashedly borrowed from Eric, another beta reader; I didn’t make this connection at all, and didn’t even believe it at the time. My big question was, “What Heralds are going to be on the chapter icons here?”
Peter, of course, merely said, “That is an excellent question!” Him and his Aes Sedai answers.)

Have y’all sorted this one out yet? Some of you have, anyway, and anyone who’s been following the spoiler thread has picked it up by now. Interlude 6. And now we know where Nightblood has been, too. This was the reason Brandon hasn’t allowed anyone to read “Way of Kings Prime” (the earlier version that he set aside to complete the Wheel of Time)—Vasher was always in the Stormlight Archive, and he didn’t want to spoil the surprise. I still wonder, though whether Zahel/Vasher is also Ishar.


26. No. Just… no. I will not accept this. (I’m not going to give you any more. I’m betting most of you will recognize it when you read it.)

“Syl…What have I done to her?”

YOU HAVE KILLED HER. The voice shook everything. It was as if …as if the shaking of the plateau and his own body made the sounds for the voice.

“No,” Kaladin whispered. “No!”

IT HAPPENED AS IT ONCE DID, the Stormfather said, angry. A human emotion. Kaladin recognized it. MEN CANNOT BE TRUSTED, CHILD OF TANAVAST. YOU HAVE TAKEN HER FROM ME. MY BELOVED ONE.

The face seemed to withdraw, fading.

“Please!” Kaladin screamed. “How can I fix it? What can I do?”


(Chapter 74, page 878) I was stunned that Jasnah was killed, but I could actually accept that—or the possibility that it was faked somehow and she’d be back. Either way, I knew it would be good. Syl hit me way harder. Way, way harder. I just couldn’t accept that she was dead. I think there are several reasons for that reaction: one, that she’s a spren and there’s so much we don’t know about spren yet; two, that I like her so much, and she’s such an innocent in so many ways; three, that (I assume) Kaladin can’t be a Radiant without her. What can the rest of the Archive be without Kaladin developing into a Radiant? The whole idea left me flailing around like Shallan in Shadesmar—nothing solid to hold to.


27. This may be the single most hilarious line in all of fantasy. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was reading way past my bedtime last night. … … No, it’s still hilarious this morning, after rereading the conversation. Seriously, though, one of the things I adore about this scene was that it’s a moment of crazy, incongruous humor in the midst of some fairly intense stuff, and yet it still fits perfectly into what’s going on, so in a way it’s not incongruous at all.

“So yes, I, Adolin Kholin—cousin to the king, heir to the Kholin princedom—have shat myself in my Shardplate. Three times, all on purpose.” He downed the rest of his wine. “You are a very strange woman.”

I laughed myself sick over this entire conversation in Chapter 49. Shallan was trying so hard to be a proper Vorin lady, and flirt “the right way” as Adolin would expect, and all of a sudden her innate curiosity overcame her and she asked what she really wanted to know. Adolin’s reaction was priceless.

He grinned. “This is not exactly going the way it’s supposed to, is it?”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“No,” Adolin said, then his grin widened. “Actually, it’s kind of refreshing. Do you know how many times I’ve told that story about saving the plateau run?”

“I’m sure you were quite brave.”


“Though probably not as brave as the poor men who have to clean your armor.”

Adolin bellowed out a laugh. For the first time it seemed like something genuine—an emotion from him that wasn’t scripted or expected.

I think it was this whole conversation that convinced me they were perfect for each other, in all the right ways.


28. ::stunned silence:: (Seriously. It took me several days to find anything coherent to say about this scene.) Please tell me it’s not true. I don’t know what I dare hope for; it won’t surprise me if it’s true, but I still want it not to be. I’m trying not to hope anything in particular, but this is tough.

Chapter 7, Jasnah’s death. ‘Nuff said.


29. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. OH, YES.
There’s so much vindication here!!! I’m not sure whether that’s applicable to choices, worth, theories, or what—but it’s STUNNING!
(And there was dancing, and fist-pumping, and crying, and then I had to keep reading because it wasn’t over yet.)

He is mine! a feminine voice said. I claim him.

The whole scene in Chapter 84, especially pages 1014-5, where Kaladin chooses to spend his last breaths defending the king, and the argument between Syl & Stormfather, and her return, and… all of it. And then this:

“Stretch forth thy hand!”

He reached out a trembling hand. Moash hesitated.

Wind blew in the opening in the wall, and Syl’s ribbon of light became mist, a form she often took. Silver mist, which grew larger, coalesced before Kaladin, extending into his hand.

Glowing, brilliant, a Shardblade emerged from the mist, vivid blue light shining from swirling patterns along its length.

Kaladin gasped a deep breath as if coming fully awake for the first time. The entire hallway went black as the Stormlight in every lamp down the length of the hall winked out.

For a moment, they stood in darkness.

Then Kaladin exploded with Light.

And there was dancing, and fist-pumping, and crying, and then I had to keep reading because it wasn’t over yet. That Kaladin finally realized that he couldn’t pick and choose who he wanted to protect, that Syl herself became his Blade, that I had actually guessed she would do so… and of course the brilliant writing in this section that pulled you in and whirled you along. All of it combined to bring me to my feet because I just couldn’t hold it in any more. Fortunately there wasn’t anyone else in the house, because I was dancing around like a madwoman, cheering and waving my arms and generally acting like a complete nutcase. And then I sat down and kept reading, because he had to go help Dalinar right now!


30. This whole chapter made me giggle. “You monster.” Lying in wait for grass. And hey—COSPLAY! That would be fun, practical and comfortable. Also “…flapping in the wind, like the Stormfather’s own ears.” ROFL!

You’d better have figured this one out by now. Kaladin meets the horsies in Chapter 25: “Monsters.” Oh, so much fun. The horses stalking the grass, or lying in wait for it, was such a hilarious mental image, I just kept snickering. The cosplay moment was, of course, the clothing worn by the stablemaster (and others, it later turned out):

She wore a traditional Vorin gown, though it wasn’t silk, but something coarser, and was slit up the front and back ankles to thigh. Underneath, she wore a feminine pair of trousers. (page 316)

What more could you ask in a great costume to wear for a signing?


31. Even the second and third time through, this moves me to tears. Maybe especially the second and third time, knowing what the results will be. Oh, you fool. You fool. You fool.

Needless to say, this is Kaladin… Chapter 68, page 801:

Bad choices. Naughty. So, this was because of his promise to Moash that he’d help assassinate the king. Kaladin sighed, continuing forward.

Syl couldn’t see why his decision was the right one. She was a spren. She had a stupid, simplistic morality. She didn’t understand what it was like to be a person. To be human was often to be forced to choose between distasteful options.

Realistic? Maybe, but his inability to recognize the changes in Syl, and to comprehend the relationship between his choices and her changes, was agonizing. And his condescending dismissal of her concerns as being “stupid, simplistic morality” made me want to kick him. Hard.


32. Oh, my. Ohmyohmyohmyohmy. (I know that’s not much to go on, but… All I can do is suggest a visual of extremely wide eyes. This was not a dancing or fist-pumping moment—it was wide eyes and a slack jaw, as something I’d never even imagined… happened. I was all but incoherent.)

Chapter 72, page 862:

“Obligingly, it shrank in her hand to the size of a much shorter sword, really a big knife.”

From my notes at the time:

Her Shardblade just changed its size and shape to suit her need. How did that happen?? I’m guessing (and taking it as confirmation of my own much-earlier theory) that this is her own, original-with-her Radiant Shardblade, as opposed to the kind with the gemstones used to bond them. It kind of fits with Ashir’s researches, where spren change size and shape at will until they’re measured, and then they’re stuck. Does the gemstone in a “normal” Blade lock the spren into keeping the sword a single size and shape, or something? Because up until now, Blades have been completely recognizable, and no one questions that. There was that one statement, a couple chapters ago, that they changed shape to accept the gemstones, but that’s it.

Why can Kaladin handle this Blade? Is it because he’s lost his connection to Syl, or because the Blade is different?

(In context here, the answer to that question, which we learn much later, is absolutely breathtaking. Sweet. He can handle it because it’s a living spren who is willing to let him use it. It’s Pattern, but we won’t know that for quite a few chapters yet.)


33. And… there’s the painting. Sah-weet. (There was much delighted squealing and arm-waving going on when I read this scene. You’ll love it. Promise.)

Okay, that comment might have been a little misleading, because the cover painting (to which I referred) is actually a combination of two scenes. Chapter 85, after Szeth has taken out multiple Shardbearers in various ways, as well as a lot of other soldiers (hence the pile of bodies), and has Lashed Dalinar into the sky:

And then, like a falling star, a blazing fireball of light and motion shot down in front of Dalinar. It crashed into the ground, sending out a ring of Stormlight like white smoke. At the center, a figure in blue crouched with one hand on the stones, the other clutching a glowing Shardblade.

Full of awesome! Arm-waving, fist-pumping and all—but yes, he’s holding a Blade. Which left room for that wonderful moment in Chapter 86:

“I should have practiced more with the sword,” he muttered.

Oh. That’s right. You probably want me to be a spear, don’t you?

The weapon fuzzed to mist, then elongated and grew into the shape of a silvery spear, with glowing, swirling glyphs along the sharpened sides of the spearhead.

Oh, I should have seen this coming, the way Shallan’s Blade changed size in the earlier chapter, but it was totally unexpected. And beautiful. The whole rest of this scene, with Syl changing from blade to spear, to shield, to halberd, to hammer, to knife, anticipating what Kaladin would need, and Kaladin finally simply using his powers instead of thinking about them, was an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The only reason the squealing wasn’t actual shouting is that I was reading way past midnight, and it would have been unkind to wake my husband so rudely…


34. This chapter title was perfect. It gave me shivers. And it’s oddly far more effective here than it would be on the earlier chapter, which is… pretty amazing in itself.

Chapter 34, “Blossoms and Cake”—I found this incredibly powerful. For those who didn’t catch it, it’s a callback to Shallan’s earlier insistence in Chapter 30 that her life hadn’t been so easy, despite Tyn’s condescending assumptions:

“I think you’ll find,” Shallan said, “that my life hasn’t been one of non-stop blossoms and cake.”

“I’m sure you think that,” Tyn said. “Everyone does. Shallan, I like you, I really do. I think you’ve got heaps of potential. But what you’re training for… it will require you to do very difficult things. Things that wrench the soul, rip it apart. You’re going to be in situations that you’ve never been in before.”

“You barely know me,” Shallan said. “How can you be so certain I’ve never done things like this?”

“Because you aren’t broken,” Tyn said, expression distant.

“Perhaps I’m faking.”

“Kid,” Tyn said, “you draw pictures of criminals to turn them into heroes. You dance around in flower patches with a sketchpad, and you blush at the mere hint of something racy. However bad you think you’ve had it, brace yourself. It’s going to get worse. And I honestly don’t know that you’ll be able to handle it.”

That cynical deprecation (to which many readers were also subject in The Way of Kings), blocked any ability to recognize the disconnect between Shallan’s “blossoms and cake” appearance and her “difficult things” reality, and Tyn’s assessment, “Because you aren’t broken,” is deeply ironic. The application of this conversation to the chapter in which she finally summons her Blade in self-defense was, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant.

…[Tyn] advanced, raising her blade. “I’m sorry that you have to learn the lesson this way. Sometimes, we must do things we don’t like, kid. Difficult things.”

Shallan growled, thrusting her hands forward. Mist twisted and writhed in her hands as a brilliantly silver Blade formed there, spearing Tyn through the chest. The woman barely had time to gasp in surprise as her eyes burned in her skull.

Tyn’s corpse slid back off the weapon, collapsing in a heap.

“Difficult things,” Shallan growled. “Yes. I believe I told you. I’ve learned that lesson already. Thank you.” She crawled to her feet, wobbling.


Alice Arneson grew up in Montana, but has now officially lived more than half her life in Washington State. The most devastated scene she’s ever observed was Mount St. Helens a few years after it erupted.


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