We’re summarizing Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series so far, for those who don’t have the time to re-read a couple of thousand-page books and a novella before the release of the third book, Oathbringer, on November 14th (tomorrow!). It should go without saying that this article contains thorough spoilers for the series to date so if you haven’t yet read the books, nope out of here pronto. After all, a good story is more about the Journey than the Destination.
Prelude: The Journey Begins…
Unable to cope with repeating cycles of apocalypse, death, pain, and rebirth every few decades, nine of Roshar’s greatest heroes broke their oaths and abandoned the tenth to unimaginable torture. Only one man’s will stood between humanity and another invasion by their ancient enemies, the Voidbringers. But then years, decades, and centuries passed without another Desolation. Over the next 4,500 years, humans found other things to fight, for other reasons.
Prologue: …Before Death
The prologue of each of the first two books of The Stormlight Archive has shown a different viewpoint of the same momentous event: the assassination of King Gavilar Kholin of Alethkar. It seems likely that at least the next three volumes (which will comprise the first half of the planned ten-book series) will follow suit.
The Way of Kings prologue belongs to Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar. The Assassin in White, as he comes to be known by all of Roshar, was “hired” by the Parshendi to murder Gavilar at the celebration of a peace treaty between the Alethi and Parshendi. And so he did, making it very obvious he was using the ancient art of Surgebinding to accomplish his attack.
At Gavilar’s dying request, Szeth did two things. First, he took from Gavilar a crystalline sphere that glowed with a black light. “They must not get it,” Gavilar told him. They seemed to indicate the Parshendi, but there’s quite a bit of debate on this subject. Secondly, Szeth wrote a message on the ground, in the king’s own blood: “Brother, you must find the most important words a man can say.”
In Words of Radiance, we saw Jasnah’s point of view on the night of the assassination. She left the merrymaking to meet with an assassin she’d retained to spy on and possibly eliminate her own sister-in-law; Jasnah was utterly ruthless when it came to protecting her family.
She had evidently already attracted her spren, as she had the ability to inhale Stormlight and partially enter Shadesmar, though she was obviously unpracticed. We also saw a Herald lurking about the palace and learned that Gavilar was hoping to marry Jasnah to Meridas Amaram. Yeah, eww.
One wonders whose point of view we’ll experience next, and what new revelations that fresh perspective will bring.
Book 1: The Way of Kings
Each book in The Stormlight Archive features a set of flashbacks that illuminate the backstory of a major character. The flashbacks in The Way of Kings belong to Kaladin, son of Hesina and Lirin. Kaladin grew up in Hearthstone, a small village that was part of Highprince Sadeas’ Princedom in northwestern Alethkar. Lirin was a surgeon, and young Kal his apprentice, a role he eventually accepted and even embraced, despite entertaining thoughts of joining Brightlord Amaram’s army.
Kal was often taken by melancholy, but his younger brother Tien could bring him out of his depressions. Only a couple of months before Kal was of age to travel to Kharbranth to study as a surgeon, Amaram visited Hearthstone to recruit for the army. When Tien was conscripted—offered up by the citylord, who held a grudge against Lirin for failing to save his own son—Kal pulled a Katniss and “volunteered as tribute” in order to protect his little brother.
He aimed to return Tien safely to their parents, but Tien, in keeping with the plot of The Hunger Games, pulled a Primrose as well and died in battle.
Rather than returning to Hearthstone without his brother, Kaladin stayed in the army, earning the name “Stormblessed” for his battle prowess. He paid other squad leaders for new recruits to join his own squad, to protect them from the same fate suffered by his brother.
This a running theme with Kaladin: he is driven to protect… and that makes him the perfect choice for an honorspren.
Six years after the assassination of their King, the Alethi are still seeking vengeance. Or treasure. Or glory in battle. Or perhaps they’re seeking all three (with emphasis on the treasure and glory). Led by Gavilar’s son, King Elhokar, they have established a permanent encampment at the Shattered Plains. There, they perform plateau assaults which result in deadly clashes with the Parshendi who were, of course, responsible for the death of Gavilar Kholin.
However, the armies languish. The primary aim of their plateau runs is to beat the Parshendi to the gemhearts, which they cut from the chrysalis of a chasmfiend. Greed and complacency have dulled the edge of the sword that was once a united Alethi army, and the Vengeance Pact falters. Highprinces squabble amongst themselves, both over the spoils of war and for the king’s favor, ignorant of the human toll their plateau assaults incur, especially among their bridgemen.
While Kaladin makes several ill-fated attempts to improve life among the men of Sadeas’ Bridge Four crew—all the while forging them into an incredibly effective team—Dalinar tries to use his influence with his nephew the king to secure the appointment of Highprince of War, in order to direct the Alethi assault toward eliminating the Parshendi threat once and for all.
But Highprince Sadeas has other plans. Dalinar and his army are abandoned by their supposed allies and then rescued by Kaladin and the men of Bridge Four. This incredible rescue results in Dalinar trading his priceless Shardblade “Oathbringer” for the freedom of not only Bridge Four, but of every single one of the bridgemen belonging to Sadeas.
This move does not help banish Dalinar Kholin’s reputation for… shall we say, being bonkers. Except in the eyes of a darkeyed slave who is suddenly struggling to reconcile his hatred of all lighteyes with this honorable man who paid such a high cost to grant him and a thousand other men their freedom.
Then Dalinar has a vision, and meets Honor himself, who, problematically, explains that he’s dead… and a man claiming to be the Herald Talenel appears, incoherent and babbling. It’s not exactly that the cards are stacked against our Heroes, but more that they’re playing poker against a literal avalanche.
Book 2: Words of Radiance
The flashbacks in Words of Radiance belong to Shallan of House Davar in Jah Keved. She was the youngest child and only daughter of Brightlord Lin Davar, and sister to Helaran, Balat, Jushu, and Wikim.
After the death of her mother and a man Shallan didn’t know when she was 11, she became withdrawn, not speaking for months.
Her brothers suspected their father of murdering their mother, although it was Shallan who had done the deed. She blocked her memory of the event and the fact that she had summoned a Shardblade to defend herself when they attempted to kill her. (Note that her refusal to remember and accept this part of her past has some deep and lasting psychological consequences.) Her father kept her secret, but became progressively more mentally and physically abusive to Shallan’s brothers and the household staff.
She met Hoid after overhearing him deliver a message to her father from Helaran, and he recognized that she was developing Surgebinding abilities. Lin Davar named Balat his heir after informing his children of Helaran’s death. When he learned of Balat’s plot to flee their estate and take their step-mother with them, he killed his wife in a rage and would have killed Balat, as well. To protect her brothers, Shallan poisoned her father’s wine and then strangled him.
Here, let’s damage that psyche a bit more, shall we?
A damaged soulcaster was discovered in her father’s possession; it had been used to create mineral deposits on their land. To prevent her family from losing everything, Shallan decided to appeal to Jasnah Kholin in hopes of becoming her ward and stealing her working soulcaster.
Of course, such plots are all fated to work without a hitch….
The politics on the Shattered Plains promise to heat up as Dalinar, the new Highprince of War, attempts to rein in his fellow Highprinces using a new (to him) strategy involving politics and subterfuge. After all, countdowns have begun appearing during his continuing visions. Counting down to the Final Desolation.
His son, expert Blade-and-Plate duelist Adolin, challenges and defeats a number of men from problematic Houses in succession, taking their Shards as forfeit and sowing dissension among the ranks of Sadeas’ alliance. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to ensure that Adolin is able to ask a boon of the king, to duel Sadeas himself. It would have worked, too, if it weren’t for those meddling Shardbearers Adolin is duped into dueling. Four of them. At once.
Fortunately, with Kal’s Windrunner skills and Renarin’s… well, never mind Renarin… Adolin’s team wins the day. At which point, our conflicted Kaladin screws everything up and gets thrown in jail.
One full set of the Blade and Plate Adolin wins get gifted to Kaladin, who turns them down because Nahel-bonded spren throw major shade on that stuff. So conflicted Kal, in turn, gifts them to Moash, a man he knows is conspiring to kill the king. Kal is, at this point, pretty bad at being a King’s Guard captain… and his dishonorable actions edge his bond with Syl to the breaking point.
Things are fraught for Shallan as well, as she keeps running into folks who try to kill her. And Jasnah gets stabbed and disappears, assumed dead. And, after finally arriving at the Shattered Plains, conning Kaladin out of his boots, and meeting her betrothed Adolin, she Lightweaves herself into discovering an awful lot about the Ghostbloods.
As the countdown nears zero, Dalinar, guided by Shallan, leads an expedition to the center of the Shattered Plains to crush the Parshendi. They find the center as the Parshendi, having bonded with evil spren, summon the Everstorm and start lightning-bolting everyone. Fortunately, Shallan locates a long-lost Oathgate and starts studying her ginger butt off to figure out how to use the thing to save everyone’s bacon.
While Dalinar’s army is away, Moash attacks Elhokar, and Kaladin finally realizes he’s been an idiot, reaffirms his bond with Syl, and speaks his third Ideal. Then, not content with fighting off the Assassin in White, winning a battle while outnumbered by Shardbearers, and saving the king, he soars off into the storm to do more Hero Stuff.
Kal arrives just in time to save Dalinar from falling into the sky, and also defeats Szeth once again in a mid-air battle through the collision between a highstorm and the Everstorm.
And Our Heroes all cram the Oathgate platform and warp away, appearing in front of the fabled lost city of the Knights Radiant, Urithiru.
Major Character Arcs
Kaladin travels quite the adventurous path through The Way of Kings. From a successful soldier who defeats a full Shardbearer—with naught but a spear, mind—while serving in Amaram’s army… to a slave betrayed by that commander, annoyed by the honorspren who accompanied him. From a bridgeman who contemplated hurling himself into a chasm… to a Bridge Leader bent on keeping his crew alive.
Life before death.
From a Bridge Leader who survived the full blast of a high storm and cemented his former moniker of ‘Stormblessed’ into the minds of his crew… to a fledgling Radiant who spoke the first Ideal without quite understanding what he was doing, and therefore bonded his spren, Sylphrena.
Strength before weakness.
Despite his continued issues with lighteyes, Kaladin is horrified to see Sadeas abandoning Dalinar’s army at the Battle of the Tower, and decides to do something about it. He speaks his second Ideal, vowing to “protect those who could not protect themselves”, and fights Parshendi like he’s the storm itself while the crew of slaves he trained to fight secures the army’s escape.
In doing so, Kaladin saves Dalinar’s life and gains his trust, which leads to Dalinar trading his Shardblade to Sadeas for the freedom of his bridge crews. Those crews are then placed under Kaladin’s command, and he’s given the rank of Captain in Dalinar’s army.
From a soldier… to a darkeyed Captain. From a broken slave… to a slightly-less-broken Knight Radiant.
Journey before destination.
In Words of Radiance, Kaladin tries to settle into his role as Captain of Dalinar’s honor guard. Despite the fact that he trusts Dalinar, he won’t divulge the fact that he’s a Surgebinder for fear it will be taken from him. He outfits his men as proper soldiers and begins training the former slaves.
He takes his role as bodyguard seriously and faults himself when it appears that someone has entered Dalinar’s room during a highstorm to scrawl glyphs on the wall; glyphs which declare the approach of something terrible. After an apparent assassination attempt on Elhokar, Kaladin and the former bridgemen begin guarding the king, as well.
In the midst of his duties, Kaladin begins working with trusted members of his crew to test his Surgebinding abilities, which primarily shows him how little he actually knows. When the Assassin in White attacks, targeting Dalinar, Kaladin’s arm is injured by the assassin’s Shardblade, but Kaladin is able to heal it with Stormlight.
After joining a duel in which Adolin and Renarin were being badly beaten, Kaladin foolishly challenges Amaram—who much to his horror, had arrived on the Shattered Plains to a warm welcome by Dalinar—and got tossed in the clink. When he’s finally freed, he learns that Adolin had imprisoned himself in protest. Adolin gifts him with a full set of shards which he in turn gifts to Moash.
His darkest moments come after becoming embroiled in Moash’s plan to assassinate Elhokar, which causes Syl to leave him; while trapped in the chasms with Shallan, the Stormfather chastises him for killing Syl. However, when he attempts to protect Elhokar, injured and without Surgebinding, Kaladin speaks his Third Ideal—“I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right”—and Syl, gloriously, returns to him. He’s able to summon her as a living Shardblade (and a Shardspear!) and drive Moash and another assassin away.
He essentially flies (or falls, if you want to get technical) to the Shattered Plains in search of Dalinar, and narrowly rescues the highprince from a horrific death. He battles Szeth, the Assassin in White, in the skies, and takes the Windrunner Honorblade from him as Szeth is swept away in the storms.
The Way of Kings sees Shallan seeking out renowned scholar Jasnah Kholin, elder sister to the king of Alethkar, to secure a place as her ward while actually plotting to steal her Soulcaster. Her mission to save her fatherless family back in Jah Keved falters as she becomes enamored of scholarship—and of Kabsal, a flirtatious ardent who often gifts her with jam and bread.
Her resolve strengthens after Jasnah handily dispatches some thugs as a lesson to her ward (death by Soulcasting is cool yet scary), and Shallan swaps her father’s broken Soulcaster with Jasnah’s and makes ready her departure. The best laid plans of lighteyes and spren oft go awry, however, and Shallan accidentally visits Shadesmar and Soulcasts a goblet into blood. Whoopsie!
To hide what she’d done and explain all the blood, Shallan cuts herself. The injury has the appearance of a suicide attempt and she is hospitalized. Jasnah’s guilt-ridden at driving her ward to self-harm, Shallan’s relieved to have an excuse to go home, and Kabsal poisons Shallan and himself, because something-something-desperation-to-kill-Jasnah.
The Almighty save us from people who think they can outsmart Jasnah Kholin. (all the tsking) Her own death impending, Shallan reveals the stolen Soulcaster in hopes that Jasnah will use it to save her life.
Spoiler alert: she does.
Kabsal dead of the poison but her own life saved, Shallan reveals to Jasnah that she knows Jasnah is able to Soulcast without a fabrial and that—surprise!—she can do the same. She convinces Jasnah to keep her as a ward and, while she isn’t quite back in Jasnah’s good graces, she also isn’t on a ship back to Jah Keved, empty-handed. Beggars and choosers and such.
Jasnah reveals to Shallan the nature of the Voidbringers and that a secret society called the Ghostbloods had been using Shallan in their attempt to assassinate Jasnah over her research. Shallan realizes that her father had also been associated with the Ghostbloods and agrees to journey with Jasnah to the Shattered Plains.
Whilst on said journey in Words of Radiance, Shallan learns to manipulate people and discovers her pattern-like spren, which she names… well, Pattern. Such an imaginative girl, our Shallan….
She’s pleased when Jasnah suggests a causal betrothal between Shallan and her own cousin, Adolin Kholin—Alethkar’s most eligible bachelor—in order to help her family. Unfortunately, the Ghostbloods practice the classic ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ philosophy and assassins attack in the night. Shallan sees Jasnah stabbed through the heart and flees before Soulcasting the ship into water to escape.
Left only with her spren Pattern and a trunk of Jasnah’s books and spheres, Shallan finds a slaver that Kaladin would recognize, and convinces him to take her to the Shattered Plains. On the way, they join with a merchant caravan and Shallan uses her fledgling Lightweaving talents to convince a band of deserters—one of whom would be very familiar to the members of Bridge Four—to help them stave off bandits.
A woman named Tyn is part of the saved caravan, and she furthers Shallan’s education on the manipulation of people. When it becomes apparent that Tyn belongs to the Ghostbloods and she realizes that she’d been traveling with Jasnah Kholin’s ward, she tries to kill Shallan, who dispatches her quite handily. Shallan then decides to infiltrate the Ghostblood ranks to seek revenge for Jasnah’s murder.
Once at the Shattered Plains, Shallan sets to gathering intel for the Ghostbloods as she very successfully woos the son of the Blackthorn. She is such a busy girl that she has need of a second her. Or something. And Veil is born. Also, cool Lightwoven disguises are cool.
She learns of Meridas Amaram’s interest in the location of Urithiru and uses knowledge she gains from spying on him as Veil, her Lightweave-disguised alias, to further her own research. After falling into the chasms with Kaladin, disclosing the fact that she possesses a Shardblade, and surviving a highstorm, she joins Dalinar’s expedition onto the Shattered Plains, determined to find the Oathgate and transport them to Urithiru.
And at long last, Shallan lets her Radiant flag fly.
Dalinar is already ridiculed for astutely following the Alethi Codes of War and for his obsession with the in-world book, The Way of Kings. Add his high storm visions and his focus on the instructions he receives to “Unite them,” and after a time, he begins to question his own sanity.
The arrival on the Shattered Plains of Navani, Gavilar’s widow, unsettles him at first, but when she attends to him during his visions and recognizes that he’s speaking the Dawnchant, a lost language believed to have been used by the Heralds. Dalinar realizes that the visions aren’t evidence that he’s going mad. Relieved, he ceases all thoughts of abdicating and naming Adolin as Highprince.
We learn that Dalinar has no memory of his dead wife, mother to Adolin and Renarin. He can recall nothing of her, and when her name is spoken by others, he only hears a whispering shushing sound, Shshsh.
Dalinar is completely without Shards in Words of Radiance, since trading Oathbringer for the freedom of a thousand slaves, and then gifting his plate to Renarin. After the betrayal of his old friend and ally, and once a countdown begins to appear on the walls during highstorms, Dalinar feels that he needs to either negotiate a peace with the Parshendi or expedite an Alethi victory.
He receives a great deal of push-back from the other Highprinces and, as Sadeas continues to defy Dalinar’s authority as Highprince of War, his influence wanes. He instructs Adolin to begin dueling Shardbearers in order to win their Shards, but there aren’t many takers.
After the Assassin in White appears to kill Dalinar, he truly begins to feel urgency. When his old friend Meridas Amaram arrives at the Shattered Plains, Dalinar announces that he is re-founding the Knights Radiant and names Amaram as their leader.
He expresses doubt when Kaladin confides his knowledge of Amaram’s past, though he comes around eventually; he trusts Kaladin implicitly after the duel in which his sons were outnumbered and neither Amaram nor Elhokar would help them.
He suspects Kaladin of being a Radiant, but Kaladin denies it until the Battle of Narak, when he arrives to save Dalinar from Szeth, literally plucking him from the sky. Once Shallan admits her Radiant status, saves the remnants of the Alethi armies that fought the new Parshendi forms, and takes them to Urithiru, Dalinar speaks the First Ideal and bonds the Stormfather.
Go big or go home, that’s our Blackthorn.
Adolin Kholin, elder son of the Blackthorn and cousin to the King of Alethkar, is quite the playboy in The Way of Kings. We can scarcely keep up with his current love interest(s) as the book progresses, but that’s the least of who Adolin appears to be.
He worries for his father’s sanity as the highstorm visions progressed, but then changes his mind and places his trust in Dalinar. In the beginning, he doesn’t care for his father’s adherence to the Codes of War, though he later realizes their value. He seems shallow at first glance but he continues to show depth that tends to surprise those around him, as well as readers.
He never trusted Sadeas and isn’t terribly surprised when the Highprince abandons the Kholin army at the Battle of the Tower. He holds a slight grudge against Kaladin for daring to command him to retreat during that battle, though he was in no shape to continue fighting. And well, the bridgeboy did save his life.
Adolin’s playboy days are over once his causal betrothed arrives on the Shattered Plains in Words of Radiance. He’s actually relieved that someone else has made the choice for him and he finds Shallan quite agreeable (as in, he thinks she’s kinda hot), despite their decidedly odd conversations. He grows to care about her, and is genuinely distraught when he thinks her lost in the chasms.
After Kaladin saves him and Renarin during ‘The Duel’, Adolin demands to be imprisoned while Kaladin is locked up. Once they’re both released, he gifts Kaladin with a full set of Shards won in the duel, but is stunned when Kaladin wants to give them to a member of his crew.
To protect his father when meeting with the Parshendi to discuss a possible peace, Adolin poses as Dalinar to meet with Eshonai, but is discouraged when she does not desire peace. He fights her during the battle of Narak and knocks her off a plateau; Skar and Drehy of Bridge Four keep him from falling into the chasm along with her. He’d best remember to give them that raise.
Once they’re safe in Urithiru, Adolin encounters Sadeas alone in an out-of-the way corridor; Sadeas baits him verbally, secure in the notion that any son of Dalinar will act with the same “foolish” nobility as his father. Adolin, though, snaps and drives a dagger through his head. When Oathbringer appears, he drops the Shardblade out a nearby window to hide it.
Renarin goes to Zahel in Words of Radiance to train with his Shards, but he’s still awkward and unskilled. He decides to seek out the Island of Misfit Toys… erm, Bridge Four, and asks to join their ranks so that he can learn to be a soldier. Once Kaladin allows him into the crew, he’s enthusiastic about doing any grunt work assigned to him.
He’s completely unable to fight during the duel with Adolin, and feels guilty about his failure. On the expedition to the center of the Shattered Plains, he grows frustrated when his father instructs him to accompany Shallan in search of the Oathgate, insisting that he can fight.
After Dalinar bonds the Stormfather, Renarin outs himself as a Radiant to his father, Shallan, and Kaladin, and named himself a Truthwatcher. When Kaladin asks what he can do, Renarin responds, “I can see.”
For someone who doesn’t want to kill people, Szeth-son-son-Vallano certainly kills a whole lot of people by the time we begin Words of Radiance. For his heretical claim that the powers of Surgebinding were returning to Roshar, the Stone Shamans of Shinovar declared him “Truthless”. And gave him one of the Herald’s Honorblades—a priceless relic that gives access to Surgebinding—before releasing him into the wild, slave to anyone who holds his Oathstone.
Surprise, surprise, the Magical Emo Assassin (Szeth) ends up being used by the Secretly Evil King (Taravangian of Kharbranth) to kill, like, all of the leaders of kingdoms across Roshar, in an attempt to destabilize society.
Then he finds out he’s been right all along when he battles Kaladin in the skies above the clashing of the high storm and the Everstorm… and it’s impossible to deny that he is facing a Surgebinder—a Surgebinder who defeats him.
Nalan, Herald of Justice, finds Szeth mostly dead and sticks his soul right back into his body. To replace the priceless relic that Kaladin had taken, Szeth is given the sentient, Awakened sword Nightblood (“Would you like to destroy some evil today?”), and begins his apprenticeship under Nalan as a Skybreaker.
Szeth stands upon a precipice, from which he could fall in any of a number of directions. Which way will he tip? Based on his appearance in Edgedancer, hanging around with Nalan and his apprentice Skybreakers but also curious about Lift, it’s still too close to call.
The sole Parshendi Shardbearer is Eshonai, general of their army. Through her POVs in Words of Radiance, we learn of the different forms taken by the Listeners, as they refer to themselves, including dullform, which is the form the Parshendi use to disguise themselves as Parshmen, who are Listeners with no song. Eshonai’s sister Venli is busy searching for more powerful forms that the Listeners can assume to give them an advantage in the war.
Eshonai has been attempting to find a way to speak with the Blackthorn, Dalinar Kholin, to discuss a peaceful end to their conflict, if such a thing is possible. She wants to end the fighting before her people are annihilated, and she has respect for Dalinar.
Venli discovers Stormform and despite her initial resistance to the idea of the form, Eshonai insists on submitting herself to the transformation before any other Listeners do so. She successfully takes on the new form but not only does her appearance change, her demeanor is greatly different than it had been previously. When she does finally meet with a Shardbearer she thinks is Dalinar, but is really Adolin in his father’s old armor, she boasts of defeating the Alethi rather than discussing her former desire for peace.
She fights Adolin during the Battle of Narak and is last seen falling into a chasm.
As if Voidbringers and Knights Radiant, Surgebinding and assassins weren’t enough, our heroes have Roshar’s secret societies to deal with.
We don’t really know the motivations of the Ghostbloods, but we do know a bit about them. They count among their members some probable worldhoppers. They attempted to kill Jasnah. Twice. They attempted to kill Amaram. Shallan’s eldest brother Helaran seems to have been mixed up with them, as was her father, as is she—though she is only using them to obtain information. (wink-wink-nudge-nudge)
Oh, and they seem to be fond of poisoned darts.
Sons of Honor
Meridas Amaram is a member of this particular society, whose goal appears to be the return of power to the Vorin church. At the end of Words of Radiance, Amaram takes advantage of the confusion surrounding the majority of the Alethi armies beating feet to Narak and the Oathgate. Thinking of how proud Gavilar would be at the return of the Voidbringers, he springs Taln—who had been brought to the Shattered Plains, along with a Shardblade that appears not to be the one he carried upon his arrival in Kholinar—out of prison.
Unfortunately, Taln saves Amaram from one of those aforementioned poisoned darts.
We know the most about this society. Our friendly, nutty King Taravangian of Karbranth used one day of perfect *snort* genius to write The Diagram. On the walls, the floors, the bed, etc. This document appears to foretell the future, and Taravangian worries that all he knows and loves will perish in the coming Desolation.
The followers of this document—known amongst themselves as ‘the Diagram’ (they’re as imaginative as Shallan!)—have been working toward preserving something of humanity. They’re just going about it in a really bizarre and bloodthirsty way. Taravangian’s assassin (waves at Szeth) has been causing upheaval across the continent and making it nigh impossible for order to be established in the face of the Final Desolation’s oncoming destruction.
King Gavilar was associated with The Diagram before his death, and his meddling with the Parshendi seems to have been what got him killed.
Bottom line: dudes are bad news.
Now, we could go on and on about the mysterious uber-worldhopper Hoid, but for the nonce, we’ll briefly discuss (hysterical laughing from the sidelines) his antics in The Way of Kings, where he’s introduced as the King’s Wit.
We first meet Wit as Dalinar is heading to one of the King’s Feasts that Elhokar frequently holds. Wit comes and goes sporadically and his sudden return to the Shattered Plains doesn’t go without comment. He has a wonderfully sharp tongue and delivers clever yet cutting insults to Brightlords and Brightladies alike. He seems to like Dalinar and his sons and indeed, tends to be frank when speaking with them.
He pops in on Kaladin as he’s contemplating throwing himself into a chasm and tells him a story (understatement). Wit’s stories are always enjoyable, at least. He also reveals that Sigzil of Bridge Four was his apprentice and he gifts Kaladin with a flute, which Kal promptly loses, because people who regularly fall through the sky are terrible at hanging onto pieces of flair.
As suddenly as he arrives on the Shattered Plains, he disappears, only to show up in Kholinar, capital of Alethkar. There, he witnesses—rather, he waits for—the arrival of a Shardblade-bearing darkeyed man who proclaims himself to be Talenel’Elin, Herald of the Almighty. The would-be Herald then collapses after lamenting his failure to prevent the coming of the Desolation.
Not only do we see Wit in one of Shallan’s flashbacks in Words of Radiance, he pops in for a minute at the Shattered Plains, as well. He first shows up, very briefly, as a carriage driver, and Shallan recognizes him. He then visits Kaladin in prison and tells another story… that of Fleet, who raced a highstorm. Rather, he has Kaladin tell him the story. Very interesting.
Finally, Wit shows up at the very time, and in the very place, where Jasnah Kholin finally exits Shadesmar, alive and well. And irritated to see him. Of course.
The Journey Continues…
As we look forward to Oathbringer, one of our biggest concerns is what kind of havoc the Everstorm will wreak on Roshar. Their infrastructure is not built to withstand a storm blowing the wrong way.
Further, how will the storm transform the Parshmen? How much danger will they present to Roshar, once they have changed?
The other burning question—well, one of them—is what Shallan and the tattered remnants of the armies that accompanied Dalinar to Narak will find at the legendary tower of Urithiru, former seat of the Knights Radiant?
Knowledge? Power? Answers?
And, now that Kaladin has brooded over his tragic youth, his unfair time as a slave, and his troubled tenure as a king’s guard, what will he find to brood about next?
As I’m sure you all know, we must Read And Find Out.
This article was originally published in August 2017.
Paige spends her ~41 minutes of leisure time a day writing for flash fiction competitions and working on several trunk novels. She’s equally fanatical about reading fantasy and watching Yankees baseball. She lives in Truth or Consequences, NM, which is a real, weird place.
Ross is a software developer by day and a genre fiction writer, reader, and Sanderson beta contributor by night. Also, he once Shardbladed a man in Rall Elorim, just to watch his eyes burn. He lives in Roswell, GA with his wife and two sons.