The recently revealed cover to Oathbringer, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, promises page-shattering action, but for fans of the series a larger question looms: Just where in the world of Roshar does this scene take place?
(Spoilers ahead for The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.)
Here’s what artist Michael Whelan was asked to paint for Oathbringer:
We’re centered on a scene where Jasnah confronts the invaders. A giant has smashed a breach in the city wall, and Jasnah is called upon to restore it.
Due to the unique nature of the world of Roshar, city walls often signify life or death for their residents. Heavily reinforced walls are the only consistent defense against “highstorms”, maniacally large hurricanes that are strong enough to scour the landscape down to the rock. On the eastern portion of the Roshar supercontinent, a city without a wall soon ceases to be a city at all.
By the end of Words of Radiance, the previous volume in The Stormlight Archive, an “Everstorm” has been unleashed to sweep over the entirety of Roshar. It is possible that the same malevolence behind the Everstorm has also sent forth a giant–or giants–to break down city walls in order to ensure complete destruction of everything in the Everstorm’s path.
So which city on Roshar could Jasnah be frantically defending?
Throughout the current books in The Stormlight Archive the Alethi are locked in a war of attrition with the Parshendi. By the end of Words of Radiance, the Parshendi have managed an end-run around the Alethi forces by summoning the Everstorm. Busting down the walls of the Alethkar capital of Kholinar would be a devastating follow-up, forcing the Alethi to retreat to their capital and crippling the morale of those forces and the Alethkar citizenry, sealing the Parshendi’s victory.
Vedenar is the capital of the neighboring country of Jah Keved and striking it down would be an ominous precursor to a full-scale assault on Kholinar. Since an attack on Kholinar seems like a high profile event (and thus unlikely to be on the cover in exact detail for fear of spoilers) Oathbringer‘s cover could be depicting an attack on a “lesser” capital. Just a taste of the madness to come.
Jasnah and her cohort Shallan spent the majority of The Way of Kings in this coastal city, eventually discovering that it’s the current center of power for the Big Bad behind all of this. Jasnah and Wit may find a key weakness residing within Kharbranth that could prompt the malevolence behind the events in The Stormlight Archive to wipe the city off the map in order to preserve its advantage. Jasnah may, in essence, be attempting to preserve Kharbranth from itself.
This ancient nationless city is where most of the series’ characters find themselves by the end of Words of Radiance and it may be hiding access to a power that can match the malevolence behind the Everstorm.
One possible issue with this… Urithiru isn’t known to have highstorm-defraying walls!
5.) Rall Elorim
The most northwestern city on the Rosharan supercontinent doesn’t have walls built to withstand a highstorm, since highstorms never penetrate to the western portion of the Rosharan supercontinent. But it still has walls, and it’s home to Lift, who has been popping up on the edges of The Stormlight Archive in preparation for her full entry into the main series.
By the end of Words of Radiance Jasnah has been positioned as essentially the “Nick Fury” of the series: the gatherer of heroes. It’s possible that Jasnah travels to Rall Elorim to collect Lift and finds the city under assault.
Another possibility: The Everstorm is odd in that it will travel from west to east, hitting lands that have never seen a highstorm, including Rall Elorim. Being an engineer, Jasnah may spend the beginning of Oathbringer rebuilding or reinforcing the walls of these western cities in preparation for the Everstorm, stumbling across Lift and giants along the way. That’s a lot to do, of course, but Jasnah is one of the few characters who would be capable of such derring-do.
Maps of Roshar by Isaac Stewart