Before we get to the much-anticipated goodness that is Rhythm of War, the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, here’s a handy overview of the series to date—a chance to check in on the status of all the major players, courtesy of Sanderson beta reader Paige Vest! This should go without saying, but this article is something of a highlight reel and contains spoilers for the first three books of The Stormlight Archive, as well as the novellas Edgedancer and Dawnshard. If you haven’t yet read the books, beware spoilers below!
Planned as a ten-book series, The Stormlight Archive will unfold over two five-book story arcs. Each of the first five books will begin in the same way… by showing different points of view of the assassination of the Alethi king, Gavilar Kholin, and/or the events surrounding that fateful night.
The prologue to the first installment of The Stormlight Archive belongs to Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar. The Assassin in White, as he comes to be known, was hired by the Parshendi to murder Gavilar Kholin, the Alethi king, during the celebration of a treaty between them. At Gavilar’s dying request, Szeth writes a message for the king’s brother on the ground, and in the king’s own blood: “Brother, you must find the most important words a man can say.”
Szeth’s Oathstone, which binds him to one who possesses it, was passed from person to person after he assassinated Gavilar. Eventually, it passed to a new master who again set Szeth to murdering kings, thus sowing discord across Roshar. He does as he is bid, beholden to the holder of his Oathstone. Never questioning, always suffering—because, you see, Szeth hears the cries of those he has killed whenever he closes his eyes…
We see Jasnah’s point of view on the night of her father’s assassination. She left the celebration to meet with an assassin she’d retained to spy on and possibly eliminate her own sister-in-law. We learn many things during this prologue, including the fact that Jasnah is attracting spren, can use stormlight and enter Shadesmar, and is ruthless when it comes to protecting her family.
We also see a Herald lurking about the palace and learn that Gavilar was hoping to marry Jasnah to Meridas Amaram. Yeah, eww. Unfortunately, while Jasnah is conspiring with one Shardblade-wielding assassin, another Shardblade-wielding assassin is hunting down her father and well, we all know how that ends.
Once again, we open with the night of Gavilar’s assassination, this time from Eshonai’s POV. She’s exploring the palace at Kholinar, admiring the art and, well, pretty much everything. She actually sees Gavilar himself, who tells her he wants to bring back her people’s gods. He then gives her a dark sphere and bids her take his message about their old gods to the Parshendi leaders, the Council of Five. She passes along his message and the Five send Szeth on his now-well-known mission.
The flashbacks in The Way of Kings belong to Kaladin, son of Hesina and Lirin, and older brother to Tien. Kaladin grew up in Hearthstone, a small village that was part of Highprince Sadeas’ Princedom in northwestern Alethkar. Lirin is a surgeon and young Kal is his apprentice, a role he eventually accepts and even embraces, despite entertaining the thought of joining Brightlord Amaram’s army.
Kaladin is often consumed by melancholy, but his younger brother Tien is always able to bring him out of his depressions. Kaladin is only a couple of months away from being of age to travel to Karbranth in order to study as a surgeon when Brightlord Amaram visits Hearthstone to recruit for the army. When Tien is conscripted—a move by the City Lord who holds a grudge against Lirin for failing to save his own son—Kaladin volunteers to go, as well.
He aims to protect Tien and return him safely to their parents, a task at which he fails when Tien’s messenger team is sent out in front as a delaying tactic in battle. Rather than returning to Hearthstone without his brother, Kaladin stays in the army, earning the name “Stormblessed” for his battle prowess. He also pays other squad leaders for new recruits to join his own squad, to protect them from the same fate suffered by his brother.
It’s a running theme with Kaladin, he is driven to protect…and that makes him the perfect choice for an honorspren.
The flashbacks in Words of Radiance belong to Shallan Davar, of House Davar in Jah Keved. She is the youngest child and only daughter of Brightlord Lin Davar, and sister to Helaran, Balat, Wikim, and Jushu. After the death of her mother and a man Shallan did not know when she was 11, she became withdrawn, not speaking for months.
Her brothers suspected their father of murdering their mother, though it was Shallan who had done the deed. She repressed 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 shock, dissociation, and inability to remember and accept this part of her past has some deep 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 Shallan 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, damaging her tormented psyche even further.
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.
We all know how that turned out, as well.
The flashbacks in Oathbringer belong to Highprince Dalinar Kholin. We see Dalinar as a young man, helping his brother Gavilar conquer Alethkar. He was a brutal warrior, often taken by the Thrill and generally being not a very nice guy. He even thinks about killing his own brother at one point, as he contemplates Gavilar having Navani when he wanted her for himself.
We see Dalinar earn his Plate during battle, and shortly thereafter earns his Blade when he kills Tanalan, the highlord of Rathalas, also known as the Rift. We’re led to believe that Dalinar not only killed Tanalan, but his young heir (and namesake), as well. It’s later in the book—after we see Dalinar marry Evi who, with her brother, is seeking asylum from their homeland of Rira, and after Adolin and Renarin are born—that we learn that Dalinar did not, in fact, kill young Tanalan. The new lord of Rathalas will not fall in line behind Gavilar, who sends Dalinar to deal with the problem he left to fester.
While camped outside of Rathalas, an attempt is made on Dalinar’s life. The attempt very nearly succeeds, and Dalinar believes that Tanalan arranged it. He makes it back to camp and plans to invade the Rift. Evi is with him and tries to get Dalinar to find a way to make peace. Things go…badly. Not knowing that Evi has herself gone to Rathalas to sue for peace, Dalinar attacks with fire. He wins Rathalas but kills his wife in the process.
Cue years of Dalinar being more of a drunk than he already was. He eventually pays a visit to the Nightwatcher, seeking forgiveness, but instead deals with Cultivation herself, who decides to do a bit of pruning of the Blackthorn…
The Way of Kings begins with Kaladin as a soldier who defeats a full Shardbearer and is then betrayed by Amaram, his commander. He’s sold into slavery and taken to the Shattered Plains, where he had desperately wanted to go as a soldier. Being on a bridge crew wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind, however. He finds purpose in keeping his bridge crew alive and teaching them how to fight with spears. Barely surviving a highstorm cements his status as “Stormblessed” and Teft confirms that he’s a Radiant when he heals himself with Stormlight. Shortly thereafter he speaks the First Ideal of the Knights Radiant, “Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination,” and bonds his spren, Sylphrena (Syl).
Kaladin speaks the Second Ideal of the Windrunners, “I will protect those who cannot protect themselves,” and saves Dalinar’s life in battle at the Tower. In return, Dalinar trades his Blade, Oathbringer, to Sadeas in exchange for all of the men in his bridge crews.
Words of Radiance sees Kaladin as Captain of Dalinar’s honor guard, though he keeps his Radiant status a secret. After what seems to have been an assassination attempt on Elhokar, Kaladin and the former bridgemen begin guarding the king, as well. He begins to test his Surgebinding abilities and when the Assassin in White attacks, Kaladin realizes how little he knows.
His darkest moments come after becoming embroiled in Moash’s plan to assassinate Elhokar, which causes Syl to leave him. However, an injured Kaladin speaks his Third Ideal, “I shall protect even those I hate, so long as it is right,” as he tries to protect Elhokar with naught but a spear against two Shardbearers. [glares at f*** Moash] With the king safely hidden, Kaladin then goes to the Shattered Plains where he again saves Dalinar’s life and battles Szeth, the Assassin in White, in the skies. He takes the Windrunner Honorblade as Szeth is swept away in the storms.
Oathbringer opens with Kaladin’s much-anticipated homecoming, during which he confronts Roshone and finds out that he has a baby brother. He reveals himself as a Radiant and departs to pursue Hearthstone’s Parshmen, who were changed by the Everstorm, and gather intel. When he finds them, he lets himself be captured and travels with them as they head toward Kholinar. During his captivity, Kaladin finds himself sympathizing with the transformed Parshmen. He realizes that they can’t protect themselves and so fall under his Ideals. Once the group encounters Fused (and Kaladin somehow holds back the winds of a highstorm), he heads back to Urithiru.
Kaladin agrees to take Elhokar to Kholinar in order to reclaim the city, with which they’ve lost all contact, and they embark with a small party which includes Skar, Drehy, and Shallan, with her small retinue. Once they get into the city, Kaladin falls in with the Wall Guard that protects against attacks by Fused. He meets Highmarshal Azure, a “foreigner” who has a Shardblade and shows him how they’ve kept their soulcasters from being discovered by the Fused. (*psst* Aluminum panels provided to them by Hoid as Wit. */psst*!)
When the Fused and their army begin to invade the city, Kaladin leads an attack on the palace in order to secure the Oathgate and bring in the Alethi army from Urithiru. There, they find Elhokar’s queen, Aesudan, bonded to the Unmade called Yelig-nar; though she is beyond saving, Elhokar rescues his son from her. Before they can reach the Oathgate, Elhokar is killed by Moash [glare] as Kaladin stands frozen, watching the clashing armies (which include the transformed Parshmen/listeners he traveled with) and wanting to protect all of them. His hesitance, of course, means that he protects none of them. Adolin manages to get him out of the palace and to the Oathgate which (corrupted by Sja-Anat) transports them, with Shallan and Azure, to Shadesmar.
As the party tries to find a way back to the physical realm, Kaladin is overtaken by depression for failing Elhokar. Fortunately, he finds a new purpose when he has a vision that Dalinar will be doomed unless help arrives. His vision shows a city and when he attempted to sketch it, Shallan recognized it as Thaylen City. As they catch a ride on a Reacher ship headed to the spren city of Celebrant, there is discord in the party as to where to go from there.
Their decision is seemingly made for them when, upon encountering Fused in Celebrant, Syl reveals herself to the captain of an honorspren ship. Notum allows the party to board, but locks Syl up and heads toward the honorspren stronghold of Unyielding Fidelity. Kaladin is eventually able to convince Notum to drop them near Thaylen City so that he can save Dalinar, but they encounter Fused at the Oathgate. As they engage the Fused, Kaladin is unable to speak his Fourth Ideal.
…It turns out that he doesn’t necessarily have to, though, as they’re able to cross from Shadesmar into the physical realm when Dalinar unites the realms and creates a Perpendicularity. Kaladin tries to protect Dalinar from the Fused when Amaram shows up with Plate and two Shardblades, having ingested a gemstone containing Yelig-nar. Amaram begins sprouting crystals as he fights Kaladin, and is eventually taken out with a Shardbow drawn by Rock.
In the aftermath of the battle, Kaladin sees Shallan and Adolin together, and that’s all I have to say about that situation. Probably. Kaladin is given a location on a map and flies off to unexpectedly retrieve the rest of Elhokar’s incursion party—Skar, Drehy, and Shallan’s retinue. Included in the group is a child: Elhokar’s son.
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 to benefit her family).
Shallan accidentally Soulcasts a goblet into blood and cuts herself to cover up what she’d done, and Jasnah feels guilt, thinking she has pushed Shallan too hard. The game is up relatively quickly, however, when Kabsal, a Ghostblood plant who’s trying to kill Jasnah, poisons Shallan. Shallan reveals the stolen Soulcaster and Jasnah saves her…but not with the Soulcaster.
Shallan tells Jasnah she knows that Jasnah can soulcast without a Soulcaster, and that she can do the same. Jasnah rather reluctantly takes Shallan back as her ward and they head to the Shattered Plains to tell everyone who the Voidbringers are.
Whilst on said journey in Words of Radiance, Shallan learns to manipulate people and discovers her pattern-like spren. Jasnah brings up the topic of a betrothal with her cousin Adolin Kholin and Shallan is thrilled. However, the Ghostbloods, having failed with Kabsal, send assassins after Jasnah, who is stabbed in the heart. Shallan panics and soulcasts the ship into water to escape.
Washed ashore with only her spren and some of Jasnah’s belongings, Shallan takes up with a caravan and meets Tyn, who is actually a Ghostblood. Once Shallan’s identity is revealed, Shallan defends herself and dispatches Tyn quite handily.
Once at the Shattered Plains, Shallan falls in with the Ghostbloods and creates her Veil persona in order to investigate Meridas Amaram and his interest in Urithiru, and uses knowledge she gains from spying on him as Veil. When she falls into the chasms with Kaladin, she reveals that she has a Shardblade, but not that she’s a Radiant.
When Dalinar goes on an expedition to the Shattered Plains, Shallan goes with him to search for Urithiru.
In Oathbringer, Shallan helps Adolin investigate some murders. During said investigation, she sees a strange spren which eventually leads her to a hidden stairwell. With Adolin, Renarin, and some Bridge Four members in tow, Shallan discovers Re-Shephir, an Unmade. She confronts Re-Shephir, also known as the Midnight Mother, and the Unmade flees—once she’s gone, a column of gemstones is revealed.
Shallan creates another persona (we know) when Adolin wants to teach her the sword; she doesn’t feel that she is capable of holding Pattern as a sword so she creates Brightness Radiant. Radiant looks like her but is a bit like what Shallan thinks Jasnah would be.
When Jasnah returns from the dead, Shallan feels out of place. On the one hand, she was Jasnah’s ward but on the other hand, she’d been doing just fine on her own, thank you very much. To distance herself from Jasnah, she volunteers to accompany Elhokar to Kholinar in order to liberate the city. She uses Veil heavily in Kholinar and learns that there’s not one, but two Unmade in the city. Ashertmarn is the Heart of the Revel and has taken up residence at the Kholinar Oathgate. But Sja-Anat, the Taker of Secrets is also in town, corrupting spren right and left.
Shallan takes an arrow to the head (freaky, right?) at one point, and a sword through the heart at another. She succeeds in scaring off her second Unmade, while Adolin, Elhokar, and Kaladin, along with Azure’s wall guard, attack the palace. Though she is unable to open the Oathgate to Urithiru, she communes with Sja-Anat and is able to transfer the remnants of their incursion party (plus Azure) to Shadesmar. One of Sja-Anat’s spren contacts her there to tell her that Fused are in Shadesmar.
She creates some great Lightweavings as they attempt to get through the Fused at the Thaylen City Oathgate, though they’re pretty well screwed until Dalinar unites the realms and creates a Perpendicularity. Once the battle begins, she creates a veritable army with Lightweaving and helps hold off the enemy while Dalinar attempts to contain Nergaoul, better known as the Thrill.
Even as Veil has an eye for Kaladin after the battle, Radiant and Shallan shut her down and Shallan lets Adolin know that he’s the one she wants. Lots of smoochy stuff here.
Back at Urithiru, Shallan’s brothers show up…surprise! And Shallan and Adolin get married offscreen. Boo!
In The Way of Kings, poor Dalinar has been having visions during highstorms. Once Navani shows up at the Shattered Plains, she sits in on his visions and tells him that he’s speaking the Dawnchant, believed to have been used by the Heralds.
During the course of the book, we learn that Dalinar doesn’t remember anything about his dead wife. When someone speaks of her, he only hears Shshsh.
After Kaladin and Bridge Four save Dalinar, Adolin, and the tattered remnants of the Alethi army from the Tower, Dalinar confronts Sadeas. And then trades Oathbringer for the freedom of all of Sadeas’s slaves.
In Words of Radiance, Dalinar sees glyphs written on his walls during highstorms. The numbers are counting down to something and Dalinar feels that he needs to unite the Alethi and make peace with the Parshendi before their time runs out.
In a rather silly attempt to gain control, Dalinar names his old friend Meridas Amaram as the head of the newly-founded Knights Radiant. Even though he has no, you know, Knights Radiant.
Kaladin confides his knowledge of Amaram to Dalinar, who is skeptical until Amaram refuses to assist Adolin and Renarin in the Duel, at which time Amaram falls from Dalinar’s good graces.
Kaladin saves Dalinar from the Assassin in White and Dalinar thinks he’s a Radiant. Kaladin denies it, but then Kaladin zooms into the storm to save him again and the game is up.
Once the Oathgate is open and they make it to Urithiru, Dalinar bonds the Stormfather.
Oathbringer brings us to the Blackthorn’s most difficult campaign to date: getting the Alethi to recognize his relationship with Navani. Tired of waiting, he has the Stormfather wed them. Then Dalinar faces his second most difficult campaign to date: attempting to unite the kingdoms of Roshar. He’s tried uniting many things and none of them have worked yet, but after Taravangian (king of Karbranth and newly minted king of Jah Kaved) comes on board, he’s followed by a few others, namely Queen Fen of Thaylena. Note that it took a few highstorm visions for Fen and Yanagawn (Gawx!) to come on board, but Dalinar got it done. Sort of. Throughout the book, Dalinar’s flashbacks reveal memories of his wife, Evi. This is difficult for us to see and for Dalinar to remember, because yeah…the whole burning Rathalas thing. And she was such a dear, such a good mom and an amazing wife to the prickly Blackthorn.
When gathered at Thaylen City with his alliance of monarchs, news arrives that humans were the actual Voidbringers and the shaky alliance falls apart with the Parshendi army on the way. Dalinar meets them with an army comprised primarily of Sadeas’s forces, who are then taken with the Thrill and turn to attack the City.
Odium shows up and tells Dalinar that he’s been grooming him to become his champion and to surrender his pain. Dalinar gloriously refuses and then unites the physical realm with the spiritual and cognitive realms to form a Perpendicularity. When the Shadesmar party pops out of the Perpendicularity, he directs them to different tasks. He sends Lift after the King’s Drop, a large and perfect gemstone, which he uses to capture Nergaoul.
He asks Navani to teach him how to read and write, and as the book closes, we see Dalinar beginning to write his memoir.
Adolin Kholin appears to be a player in The Way of Kings. He goes through women like Dalinar used to go through wine barrels. But as the book progresses, we see that there’s more to the Kholin prince than we thought. He worries for his father’s sanity and then refuses to let Dalinar abdicate. He begins to more closely follow the Codes of War to support his father.
He develops a deep hatred for Sadeas when the Highprince abandons the Alethi army at the Tower. This will not go unforgotten.
In Words of Radiance, Adolin begins courting Shallan, despite Jasnah being lost at sea. He grows quite fond of her and becomes distraught when she was thought lost in the chasms.
He basically imprisons himself when Kaladin is tossed in the clink for daring to challenge Amaram, and once the pair are freed, he gifts Kaladin with one of the sets of Plate—and a Blade!—that was won in the Duel. He is then horrified when Kaladin gives it away.
Once they’re safe in Urithiru after the coming of the Everstorm, Adolin is baited into a fight with Sadeas and ends up killing him. He drops Oathbringer out a window.
Unfortunately for him, once Sadeas’s body is found in Oathbringer and a second murder occurs, Dalinar tasks Adolin with the investigation into the murders. He’s able to ignore that for the rest of the book when he accompanies Elhokar, Shallan, and Kaladin to Kholinar. During the battle at the palace, he sees his cousin killed but is able to pull Kaladin out of the fray.
Once in Shadesmar, he meets his sword’s spren for the first time and, after the initial freak-out, becomes rather fond of her. When he and the others are attempting to reach the Oathgate at Thaylen City, the spren of Adolin’s sword physically attacks a Fused.
He’s injured, but once they make it back to the physical realm through the Perpendicularity that Dalinar creates, Renarin is able to heal him.
He feels largely useless with no Plate, but he heads to the Oathgate, which is going to be attacked by a storming thunderclast, to assist his brother. As he’s fighting, his sword reveals her name to him—Mayalaran—and appears for him before the usual ten heartbeats when he calls to her.
After the battle, when he finds Shallan, he annoys her by telling her he’s going to let Kaladin have her. He finally realizes that she wants him—cue aforementioned smoochy stuff.
Back at Urithiru, Dalinar tries to give the Alethi crown to Adolin but then Adolin confesses to the murder of Sadeas so he dodged that bullet (umm, Shardblade).
In Words of Radiance, Renarin goes to Zahel to train with his Shards, but he’s still awkward and unskilled. He falls in with Bridge Four to learn how to be a soldier.
He’s completely unable to fight during the Duel with Adolin, yet 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 names himself a Truthwatcher.
In Oathbringer, Renarin discovers drawers in the library beneath Urithiru. The drawers contain gemstones with messages from the Radiants of old. He begins to sit in on Jasnah and Navani’s meetings and is pleased when Dalinar joins him.
Before the Battle of Thaylen Field, we see Renarin kneeling as he watches visions of the future and he’s found by Jasnah, whose spren Ivory tells her that Renarin’s spren is of Odium. Jasnah stays her hand and doesn’t kill him because, come on…it’s Renarin! Though he had seen her kill him in a vision, he realizes that his visions aren’t absolute.
He stands with Dalinar before the Sadeas army and once the thunderclast tears itself from the ground, he heads back into the city to reclaim and protect the Oathgate, which is being guarded by Fused.
We meet Navani in The Way of Kings and watch her flirt with Dalinar as she helps him with her highstorm visions. She also confronts Sadeas when he returns from the Tower without Dalinar and he tells her that Dalinar is dead. She paints an enormous glyph on the ground to burn for Dalinar, and then who should come around the corner? She’s present when Dalinar trades Oathbringer for Sadeas’s bridge crews.
In Words of Radiance, Navani mourns the loss of her daughter. She eventually works with Shallan to find Urithiru and utilizes fabrials to great effect during the Battle of Narak.
Oathbringer sees Navani giving her oaths to Dalinar in front of the Stormfather, and finally they’re wed. She then helps him with his attempt to unite the kingdoms of Roshar, tempering his Blackthorn-iness with her grace. She creates a timepiece that can be worn on the wrist and makes a vambrace for both her and Dalinar that contains the timepiece and a painrial, a device to reduce pain in the wearer.
Navani gets her daughter back, thank Honor, but then loses her son when he goes to Kholinar. She knew he was gone when he didn’t show up through the Perpendicularity with Adolin, but it’s still a big oof moment. She is on the wall at Thaylen City for the Battle of Thaylen Field.
We lumped Jasnah in with Shallan in the last recap, because we hardly saw her in Words of Radiance and pretty much only saw her through Shallan’s eyes, up until she disappeared.
Of course, then Wit finds her when she emerges from Shadesmar and delivers her safe and sound to Urithiru. We get our first Jasnah POV in Oathbringer, and meet her inkspren, Ivory. She accompanies Dalinar on some of his visions in order to research the past firsthand, and participates in meetings with the monarchs.
At the Battle of Thaylen Field, Jasnah uses Soulcasting to devastating effect for the enemy. At one point, Adolin sees lines fading around Jasnah, hinting that she’s attained Shardplate. After Adolin refuses to take the Alethi crown, Jasnah shows up and is crowned Queen of Alethkar.
Elhokar, son of Gavilar, also did not get a spot in our last recap, but I feel that he deserves one here. We meet him in The Way of Kings, an unfit young king who can’t fill his father’s shoes.
Elhokar becomes paranoid and swears someone is trying to assassinate him. He sees things in mirrors and has Dalinar investigate a broken strap on his saddle. He eventually admits that he cut the strap, though there really is a planned assassination attempt. Wounded, and guarded by Kaladin who is injured and without Stormlight, Elhokar survives an attempt on his life by Moash and another man in Shardplate when Kaladin’s spren returns to him and he speaks the Third Ideal.
Elhokar, in Oathbringer, wants to learn how to be like Kaladin. He calls Kaladin “the hero” and asks Kaladin to take him to Kholinar so that he could open the Oathgate and free the city. Though his wife Aesudan is lost—bonded to an Unmade—Elhokar rescues his young son, Gavinor, only to be killed by Moash, who is fighting on the side of the Parshendi. Elhokar was speaking the first Ideal as he died.
Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, as noted above, is sent to kill Gavilar in The Way of Kings at the behest of the Parshendi, who held his Oathstone (note that whoever holds it becomes Szeth’s master). He eventually finds himself in the employ of The Diagram, and is set loose upon Roshar to murder a bunch of monarchs. He is ultimately led to Taravangian, who reveals that he holds Szeth’s Oathstone. He’s sent to the Shattered Plains to kill Dalinar.
Szeth arrives at the Shattered Plains in Words of Radiance, where he battles Kaladin, who reveals himself as a Radiant. Szeth confronts Taravangian with this news and is told that it wasn’t a Radiant, but one holding an Honorblade, as Szeth himself had in his possession.
Then Szeth, the poor dear, finds out during his second visit to the Shattered Plains that Kaladin is, in fact, a Windrunner and that the Oaths are being spoken again. Kaladin defeats him and takes his honorblade. Near death, Szeth is found by Nalan, Herald of Justice, who gets Szeth’s soul mostly back into him. Nale gives Nightblood to Szeth, and Szeth begins his apprenticeship as a Skybreaker.
Before Oathbringer, we see Szeth in Nale’s company in Edgedancer. Lift knows Nale as Darkness and Szeth has a couple of encounters with her. Nightblood finds her worthy.
Oathbringer shows us that Szeth is quite the adept student. He swears the Second Ideal while on a mission with one of the Skybreakers, Ki. When he passes the test he and the others are given, he’s taken on as Ki’s squire. We also get to see Szeth play a game of paintball, which was pretty fun, actually.
Nale tells Szeth the truth about humanity and declares his support for the singers, known as the Parshendi. Szeth decides to follow a different master, however, and swears his next Ideal to Dalinar when he joins the Battle of Thaylen Field.
His superhero landing was so epic, it put Kaladin’s Words of Radiance landing to shame. I mean, come on…splitting a thunderclast in two with Nightblood? Boom. That was awesome. His presence is somehow totally cool with everyone and he joins Lift on her task of recovering the King’s Drop for Dalinar.
In Words of Radiance, we learn of the different forms taken by the listeners, which is how the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains refer to themselves. Eshonai is a Shardbearer (who used to be an explorer) and she sometimes takes the field against the Alethi. She had planned to speak with Dalinar about finding a peace but then she takes a captured storm spren into a highstorm and assumes stormform. She’s not quite herself after that.
When the Five are hesitant about transforming all of their people, Eshonai overrides them and decides that all of Narak will transform to stormform. Her transformed soldiers gather about a thousand people who are unwilling to take on stormform, and Eshonai’s mother is among them. Eshonai sets Thude, one of her soldiers who had not yet transformed, to guard those unwilling to transform. While Eshonai is having the willing people of the city rounded up, she learns that the unwilling listeners have fled into the chasms, led by Thude and his soldiers.
She fights Adolin during the Battle of Narak and is last seen falling into a chasm.
Venli is Eshonai’s sister, a scholar searching for more forms for her people to take, looking for an edge over the Alethi. When she discovers stormform in Words of Radiance, Venli seems frustrated that Eshonai wants to test the form before she lets the rest of the listeners transform. Venli eventually transforms to stormform, along with most of the listeners. They summon the everstorm at the Battle of Narak.
In Oathbringer, we learn that Venli had been working with the spren Ulim long before tricking Eshonai into taking on stormform. Most of the listeners perished in the Battle of Narak and Venli is sent into the chasms by Ulim to find Eshonai—only when they do find her, she is dead, drowned in the storm. Ulim orders Venli and her once-mate Demid to remove Eshonai’s Shardplate and they leave. Before she goes, however, Venli sees a spren emerge from beneath Eshonai’s body.
Ulim chooses Venli and some others of the remaining listeners and they’re ready to take on extra-special powers during the coming of the Everstorm. Instead of gaining powers, though, they are killed and their bodies possessed by souls of the Fused. Venli resists and so Odium claims her and gives her envoyform, so that she might tell Odium’s version of her people’s story to the transformed singers across Roshar.
The spren she had seen by Eshona’s body followed her and Venli hides it from the Fused so they don’t destroy it. She travels with Fused, telling the false story to singers from town to town; her form grants her the understanding of languages, so that she can communicate with listeners from different lands.
She is fully under Odium’s thumb and he tortures her with painful visions. Then she is drawn into one of Dalinar’s visions and he asks her to consider a truce. She refuses, and Odium tries to break into the vision. As she falls into darkness, Dalinar jumps after her and sends her out of the vision. She travels with the Fused and the singers to Thaylen City, but as the battle rages, she returns to her ship. As she bonds with Timbre, the spren she’s been harboring (who essentially captures and traps the spren in Venli’s gemheart), she speaks the First Ideal of the Knights Radiant.
We first see Lift in an interlude in Words of Radiance, when she’s breaking into the Bronze Palace at Azir with a band of thieves. She sees someone in the streets and realizes that she “didn’t lose him after all.” It turns out that Lift has been evading Nale, Herald of Justice, though she doesn’t know this and just calls him Darkness. There’s a confrontation with him during which he uses a larkin to drain her Stormlight. One of Nale’s minions slits Gawx’s throat, but Lift speaks the Second Ideal of the Edgedancers, “I will remember those who have been forgotten,” and uses Regrowth to heal him. He’s named the new Azish Prime and pardons her.
In Edgedancer, Lift goes to Yeddaw to eat pancakes and search for other Radiants. Or, umm, other awesome people. She looks for food at an orphanage and then runs into Darkness again. She follows him and hears him talking to Szeth. She encounters Szeth later and sees him begin to draw his sword, which we know is Nightblood.
She has a couple of encounters with a Dysian Aimian who she just thinks is weird, and she realizes that the woman from the orphanage, the Stump, is the Radiant. When Darkness goes to the orphanage to kill the Stump, Lift distracts him. She speaks her Third Ideal, “I will listen to those who have been ignored,” and shows Darkness the truth of the return of the Voidbringers. He realizes that he’s failed at preventing the Desolation. He asks Lift if he’s getting worse and, truly sorry for his despair, she hugs him before he leaves. She fills the Stump in on the fact that she’s a Radiant and as a bonus, heals refugees on her way out of the City.
Lift shows up in a couple of Dalinar’s visions in Oathbringer, much to Dalinar’s surprise and the Stormfather’s annoyance. We see her when he visits the viziers in Azir, and she steals his lunch. We totally knew she was going to do that. She also knows that Dalinar was touched by Cultivation, and we realize that she was also touched by Cultivation, rather than the Nightwatcher.
We meet Rysn during an Interlude in The Way of Kings when she visits Shinovar to trade along with her babsk, Vstim, and a caravan. The grass freaks her out because it doesn’t move. As she listens to the trading, we learn that the Shin had sold Szeth to Vstim seven years ago. She is instructed to cut some grass and plant it in a pot with plenty of soil; Vstim says she is to care for it until she no longer finds it strange.
In Words of Radiance, Rysn goes with Vstim and her pot of grass to the Reshi Isles. She realizes that the islands are enormous greatshells with cities built on their backs. Vstim is ill, so he sends Rysn to negotiate with the king and traders. He tells her to be bold. She sees people jumping into the water from great heights and it nauseates her. Talik meets her on an outcropping on the head of the great beast and wants to call off the trade because Vstim didn’t come. When Talik and the king try to send her away, Rysn tells them she needs “to speak to someone with more authority.” Trying to be bold, she climbs down a rope—used for giving the greatshell god Relu-na offerings—to ask the god for guidance. The rope snaps and she falls to the water far below. Both of her legs shatter, though she can no longer feel them. For her boldness, however, the island gifted her with a larkin, a creature thought to be extinct.
Oathbringer finds Rysn in Thaylen City, keeping Queen Fen’s ledgers in the Thaylen Gemstone Reserve, and her larkin, Chiri-Chiri, is sleeping in Rysn’s pot of Shin grass. She’s visited by her babsk and he gifts her with a ship: the Wandersail. Though she can no longer walk, he feels that she can still go on trading expeditions.
He’s also there to do an audit and he accompanies Rysn into the vaults. Things go wrong immediately as one of the guards kills the other and locks Vstim into a smaller vault, out of which the guard had stolen a large, perfect ruby, shining with Stormlight. As the thief drops the ruby in order to fight off attackers, Ryan attempts to crawl to the main vault doors dragging the large gemstone with her. She retrieves a crossbow from a fallen guard and watches the thief approach. Then Chiri-Chiri flies around the thief, draining dark violet light from the man. His disguise fades and Rysn faces a Voidbringer. With a little ingenuity, Ryan cocks the crossbow and fires, killing the Voidbringer.
Of course the ruby, known as the King’s Drop, is eventually stolen again and Dalinar sends Lift to retrieve it.
[Note: as mentioned at the beginning of the article, major spoilers from Dawnshard are included. Like right here. If you haven’t yet read it, skip ahead to Shalash’s arc below.]
*Last chance to avoid spoilers!
In the novella Dawnshard, Rysn visits Navani in Urithiru and accepts a job traveling to Aimia to gain access to an island hidden by a massive storm. She has another motive besides scoping out the island: Chiri-Chiri, much grown, is sick and Talik, her friend from the Reshi Isles, tells her that she must take the larkin to Aimia.
On the Wandersail, Rysn is accompanied by Lopen, his cousin Huio, Navani’s ardent Rushu, and Rock’s daughter Cord. Bad things keep happening on the ship and the crew insists that they turn around. Rysn uses all her skill as a trader to convince them to continue. She then discovers that her porter was the one causing the problems and she has him taken to shore on Aimia.
Once at Aimia, they make it through the storm and arrive at the mythical island of Akinah. Rysn sends most of her crew ashore with the Radiants where Lopen and Rushu locate the Oathgate they were sent to find. Meanwhile, the ship is boarded by thousands of cremlings which form into the shape of a man. The man is her banished porter Nikli and he’s essentially there to kill everyone. Cord grabs Rysn and jumps from the boat where she’s guided to an underwater cavern by luckspren. In the cavern, they find Soulcasters, Shardplate, and riches, but Rysn is drawn to a mural on the wall. She hears a voice in her mind and then something from the mural is transferred to her.
Rysn is then able to negotiate with Nikli to save the lives of her crew by keeping the secret of the Dawnshard, which now resides in Rysn.
[End Dawnshard spoilers.]
Shalash is the Herald of Beauty, patron of Lightweavers. Commonly known as Ash, she was in the palace at Kholinar in The Way of Kings on the night Gavilar was assassinated. She generally travels around destroying or defacing any artwork that depicts her.
In Oathbringer, Ash is in Vedenar, masquerading as a washgirl, Pom. She’s working as an assistant for someone named Mem, who in turn works for Mraize. Ash is there in order to gain entrance to Mraize’s quarters. Once she does, she destroys a painting of herself and is “discovered” by Mraize. He keeps her from leaving by telling her that he knows where Talenelat is.
We next see her in the Sadeas warcamp outside Thaylen City. Things are about to go down between Dalinar and Odium and Ash goes to rescue Taln. He’s lucid when she finds him, and is amazed that they were able to hold off a desolation so long by the other nine Heralds abandoning the Oathpact. Ash wants him to hate her, but he’s grateful.
After the battle, she’s trying to leave the city with Taln when they both collapse: they felt Jezrien die. Then Ash sees Jasnah approaching with sketches of both Ash and Taln. Ash recognizes the art as Midius’s (Hoid’s) drawing style before she loses consciousness.
Moash is on Kaladin’s bridge crew in The Way of Kings, and becomes Kaladin’s friend. He trains with the spear when Bridge Four is on chasm duty. In Words of Radiance, Kaladin gifts Moash the Shards that Adolin gives him after the Duel.
Moash confides in Kaladin his hatred for Elhokar and tells him of how the king had his grandparents imprisoned, where they both died. He wants revenge and convinces Kaladin that Elhokar must die. When Kaladin loses Syl for straying from his Oaths, Moash confronts him and moves to kill him (hence the beginning of the f*** Moash trend), but then Syl returns to Kaladin when he speaks the Third Ideal of the Windrunners, “I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right,” and defends Elhokar. Moash flees with his cohort.
In Oathbringer, we find Moash a slave of the transformed Parshendi and the Fused. He befriends a group of slaves and learns that it’s Sah and his party that Kaladin accompanied at the beginning of the book. Moash thinks about how good he has it with the Parshendi in comparison to the bridge crew. He eventually gains the notice of the Fused, and Leshwi in particular, who he had killed when he was captured. She was reborn and gives him leave in the war camp.
When the Parshendi attack Kholinar, Moash is with the group that attacks the palace and he kills Elhokar, just as the king was speaking the First Ideal of the Knights Radiant. He then gives Kaladin the Bridge Four salute.
At the end of the book, he stabs the mad Herald Jezrien with a knife set with a gemstone. In doing so, he becomes a tool of the Fused and seems perfectly content with the situation.
We first meet the king of Karbranth in The Way of Kings. He seems to be a sweet, bumbling old man, and he’s very helpful to Jasnah, granting her access to the Palanaeum, a massive library. The kingdom is renowned for its medical prowess, and surgeons from around Roshar go to Karbranth to train.
We eventually learn that Taravangian holds Szeth’s Oathstone and has sent the assassin all over Roshar, killing kings. He gives Szeth a new mission: to kill Dalinar.
In Words of Radiance, Taravangian’s thoughts tell us that he has visited the Nightwatcher and asked for the capacity to save humanity. He had one brilliant day during which he wrote the Diagram, the document that the secret society is built around. Unfortunately, his curse is that he spends a good portion of his time normal, or even stupid.
After sparking a civil war in Jah Kaved, Taravangian essentially steals the crown.
When Dalinar is requesting that the monarchs of Roshar join him to fight the Voidbringers, Taravangian is the first to sign up. He befriends Dalinar and fools the Blackthorn into thinking that he is a good man. However, Taravangian is working against the alliance and eventually has them all made aware that the Voidbringers were actually the humans, who came to Roshar and eventually conquered and imprisoned its inhabitants. The monarchs abandon the alliance and leave Dalinar to face the Parshendi army alone.
After the Battle of Thaylen Field, Taravangian reveals that he had the monarchs of Roshar killed. And, oh yes—then he makes a pact with Odium. Yeah.
We don’t really know the motivations of the Ghostbloods, but we do know a bit about them, such as how they were searching for Urithiru and looking for information on the Voidbringers and the Desolations. They count among their members some probable worldhoppers. They attempted to kill Jasnah. Twice. Shallan’s father was also mixed up with them, 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. To accomplish this, they want to bring about a Desolation so the Heralds will return. 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.
Taravangian worries that all he knows and loves will perish in the coming Desolation and so, as mentioned above, visits the Nightwatcher to ask for the capacity to save humanity. He has one single day of genius and writes a document he calls The Diagram. He and his followers, themselves known as The Diagram, follow the document, murdering anyone they think necessary along the way as they work toward saving humanity.
At least, some of humanity.
In The Way of Kings, Hoid is introduced to us as the King’s Wit. He bides his time on the Shattered Plains, insulting people and telling stories. But as suddenly as he arrives on the Shattered Plains, he disappears, only to show up in Kholinar, capital of Alethkar. There, he waits for the arrival of a Shardblade-bearing darkeyed man who proclaims himself to be Talenel’Elin, Herald of the Almighty. The man 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. But for the epilogue, he 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.
In Oathbringer’s epilogue, Hoid pretends to be a beggar and makes his way to the occupied palace at Kholinar. He enters a work area on the pretense of being a madman and rescues a Cryptic spren, presumably Elhokar’s. Then he begins to speak the First Ideal.
The Journey Continues…
As we look forward to Rhythm of War, many of our biggest questions revolve around what’s been happening in the year that’s passed since the end of Oathbringer: Are there hundreds of Radiants Surgebinding their way across Roshar to fight the singers? Tens of Radiants? More than just Kaladin, Shallan, and Renarin? Did any of those speak an Ideal offscreen?
Will Shallan be more herself? Will Kaladin have any success battling his depression? Will he speak his Fourth Ideal? Will Jasnah kick ass as a queen? Will Dalinar retain the ability to open a Perpendicularity? Is Navani going to kickstart Urithiru already? Will we see more singers with surgebinding abilities? And will the alliance of monarchs have made any headway at all in the war against the singers?
Some of you may have seen some of these questions answered in the preview chapters, but as for the rest of you, you’ll have to Read and Find Out. We’re almost there!
Paige resides in New Mexico, of course, and writes in an attempt to stay sane. No, really. Imagine if she didn’t write. Yeesh. She’s a champ at the in-person social distancing; no really, back away. Links to her Patreon and her available works are provided in her profile.