Alethi gender roles seem odd at first. Okay, so men are warriors...and shopkeepers? And diplomats? While women are artists and scholars? How do those go together? However, it makes perfect sense: The men are in charge of dealing with other people, while the women are in charge of the more internal roles. Or for the cynical, they get all the light, indoor work with no heavy lifting.
The Vengeance Pact, a war where the most powerful nation in the world reacts to a horrific act of violence by launching an invasion of a relatively distant land, fighting a numerically inferior foe in a harsh, difficult landscape. The foe uses innovative, insurgent tactics. The war causes deep stress on the homeland, extends for a great length of time, gets many people killed (often for no good reason) and those prosecuting the war lose their focus on what they're really out there to fight. Might not be intentional, but there are some striking parallels there....
It is interesting to note the lack of sexism in Vorin-based societies, despite the gender role restrictions. In fact, Vorinism places some very strict roles on gender, and while possible to circumvent by being an ardent, it still divides the sexes into tasks that are oddly awkward at times. However, Look at the roles that women fill: clerks, scientists, scribes, engineers, researchers, etc. Many of these roles, especially scribing and clerical work, are absolutely essential for any society to function. By requiring that specific roles essential for society to operate are locked to women, Vorinism ensures that women not only remain highly educated but also very powerful, effectively curbing the traditionally masculine society that would develop historically. This results in a society where sexism is virtually nonexistent. This exact notion of women's "power" is explicitly deconstructed, however, in Jasnah's writings.
What is a woman's place in this modern world? I rebel against this question, though so many of my peers ask it. The inherent bias in the inquiry seems invisible to so many of them. They consider themselves progressive because they are willing to challenge many of the assumptions of the past. They ignore the greater assumption — that a "place" for women must be defined and set forth to begin with. Half of the population must somehow be reduced to the role arrived at by a single conversation. No matter how broad that role is, it will be — by nature — a reduction from the infinite variety that is womanhood. ... A woman's strength should not be in her role, whatever she chooses it to be, but in the power to choose that role.
Interestingly, tying in with what Jasnah has written, is that Shallan actually becomes more powerful the more she challenges her traditional role as a mere scholar. While she still applies her knowledge and research to her goals to stop the Last Desolation, she only truly achieves when she starts breaking out of the role itself - first by saving her brother while killing her father, then by taking up Pattern directly, approaching the Ghostbloods, and then completely casting aside any attempt to hide her Surgebinding and Shardblade.
The Alethi and the Parshendi actually have similar gender roles in one important respect: They are expected to pair off and act as a single unit. For the Alethi, the husband acts as the face of the pair while the wife does the book-keeping, but the Parshendi warpairs, matepairs, and scholarpairs aren't actually all that different.
In the first book, Axies the Collector mentions that though he's been imprisoned many times, he's never seen captivityspren. In the second when Kaladin is imprisoned he starts seeing a new kind of spren, like thin taut wires. Those are likely captivityspren, and the reason Axies doesn't see them is because while he's imprisoned, he's hoping to see captivityspren, but they're only drawn to people who genuinely feel trapped.
The Way of Kings
It is mentioned several times that predicting the future is left to the Almighty. The final vision Dalinar sees shows him a possible future . . . and guess who that voice is that he's been hearing? And as it turns out, even the Almighty can't do it very well. Apparently the bearer of a shard called Cultivation is better. What is Cultivation all about? Planting and nurturing things that will come to fruition...in the future.
Arrows have a habit of conveniently missing Kaladin just barely during bridge runs, hitting the wood near his hands and head instead. Keep in mind that he usually carries his money on his person during these runs, and that the spheres always seem to go dun a lot faster than they ought to. Now, how did Reverse Lashing work again?.
At one point, the King's Wit talks to Dalinar and mentions how gibberish words are often the sounds of other words. Doesn't seem too important. then we find out that the "gibberish" that Dalinar speaks during his visions are actual words, only in an ancient dead language
Wit/Hoid's story to Kaladin, at first glance, almost seems like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, until one looks back over the setting itself. The tale shows what happens when people allow unconfirmed belief to rule their actions, and how people can do the most horrible of things because of belief in some greater power that excuses their actions. Three of the four main characters fall victim to this in their own way: Kaladin's inability to get over his own guilt and self-loathing, which convinces him that things are hopeless. Dalinar's belief in what the visions are showing him, which ultimately leads him into the trap during the battle on the Tower, as well as making the mistake of assuming The Way of Kings was applicable to all of life, and not the creation of a man who had been forced to unify the nations by force so he could implement his ideals. And most importantly, Szeth's strict adherence to Stone Shamanism and carrying out his assassinations at the order of whoever commands him, when all he would need to do to stop everything from happening would be to simply refuse to follow the orders of whoever holds his oathstone.
In the epilogue Wit mentions that the system of Lighteyed rule, despite seeming so bizzare, was created for perfectly logical reasons. Actual eye color is clearly as poor and indicator of intelligence and leadership quailities on Roshar as on Earth, but what probably happened, was that people remembered the Radiants having eyes that glowed, and are still deferential to bright eyes without remembering the reasons. Even more so, it's revealed that if you pick up a Shardblade, your eyes instantly change color to light. It's quite probable that all lighteyes are the descendants of Radiants and Shardbearers.
There are ten point of view characters in the main story of The Way of Kings. (Kaladin, Dalinar, Adolin, Shallan, Szeth, Gaz, Navani, Cenn, Wit/Hoid, and Teft.) There are six others in the interlude, so add those and it becomes sixteen. And there's one more in the prelude, so seventeen. Brandon put in stealth references to the Arc Number of this series, the Arc Number of the entire Cosmere, and the Seventeenth Shard. Nice job.
The Parshendi targetting the expendable and eaisly replaced bridgemen over other more worthwhile soldiers is a puzzle to the Alethi. But when you consider the Parshendi are shapechangers who move between different forms for specialized roles, it makes sense that they would consider targeting bridgemen worthwhile. The Parshendi don't really believe in cannon fodder, since any Parshendi can become any role. While they would likely grasp, intellectually, that humans don't shapechange, there would still be an innate belief that killing a human - any human - would remove a potential enemy soldier from the field, even if that combatant was a lowly bridgeman.
There's a scene halfway through the book where Shallan is trying to figure out how to make Jasnah's Soulcaster work. One of the books she reads suggests humming is a key to making it work. Shortly after trying (and failing) this, Shallan is studying the patterns the Soulcast stone in the ceiling of her room when she first hears the spren talking to her. Its rather subtle, but Pattern is, well, made up of patterns, and he also likes to hum quite a bit. Its not really a coincidence that the first time he speaks to Shallan, it is after she tries humming to Soulcast, and starts studying patterns in her surroundings.
Words of Radiance
Shallan notes that with enough Stormlight, she could survive a spear to the chest without too much difficulty. That's how Jasnah survived the ambush. She was stabbed through the chest, Shallan Soulcast the ship to water, and Jasnah escaped to Shadesmar to heal.
In the previous book, the Almighty told Dalinar "Odium has killed me." In this book, Syl dislikes Kaladin's raw hatred for Amaram and people like him, which eventually breaks the bond and kills her. Odium is a synonym for hatred. Not just hatred, but specifically hatred toward someone due to their actions. The root of Kaladin's hatred toward lighteyes is that lighteyes have consistently betrayed him and killed those he cared for. It's not just that Syl's afraid of Kaladin breaking his oaths and what might happen to her because of that, it's that while Kaladin's around lighteyes he's closer to attracting Odium's spren instead of honorspren.
It is mentioned that Bondsmith Radiants are incredibly rare and powerful, with three members being a normal number for them. Given that Dalinar becomes one by bonding the Stormfather himself, this makes a lot more sense.
All along, Renarin seems to be trying to overcome physical disabilities through sheer force of will. Everyone applauds him for making the effort, but it doesn't actually matter, except for what it says about his character. The only remotely useful thing he does at any point is use his Shardblade to cut through stone. then you get to the end and find out he's a Radiant. This means that handling the Shardblade is exactly as hard for him as it is for Kaladin. But he was still doing it anyway with just mild winces. Now that is a Handicapped Badass.
Eshonai is determined to speak with Dalinar specifically. This makes sense given that the Parshendi have spies among the parshmen in the camps, but makes even more sense when you consider that one of those spies was assigned to Bridge Four. Rlain had a singularly good opportunity to find out just how fundamentally decent Dalinar was, and his reports were probably partially responsible for Eshonai's high opinion of him.
A VERY subtle hint that Shard blades are spren very early on. Navani told Dalinar that early shardbearers learned to do the hammerspace storage thing by slapping a gem on their shardblades. In Adolin's duel however, when his opponent unbinds from his shardblade, Adolin takes of the binding ruby and crushes it in his hands. There is no mention of a spren escaping, as there was when Eshonai broke HER gem when she changed form. As the narration mentioned doing that was unneccessary to actually taking someone's Shardblade, that means the gem was perfectly fine and he could have used it as it was, and the spren hadn't 'run out'. So... where was the spren that should have been paired with the gem to make it a functioning piece of magitech? IN THE BLADE. Real subtle Brandon...
If Jasnah's research proves correct that the Parshmen are docile Parshendi, and we know the Parshendi - and, by extension, the Parshmen - have a Borg-style mind connection, all of Roshar is very fucked due to how used people have gotten to having Parshmen servants around to do whatever chores and look after children. In the second book, Jasnah points out that they won't even have to violently rebel (although she assumes that's the plan). All they have to do is walk off the job, and every country's economy would be completely devastated. When the big reveal is made, Shallan notes that there are two Parshmen standing literally within meters of them. That is just how commonplace the Parshmen are.
Words Of Radiance
Shinovar has always been protected from the highstorms, so its people and wildlife never evolved to survive them. But in just a few days, the Everstorm is coming, and unlike highstorms, it comes from the west. The mountains will be no protection against it. Shinovar is going to be devastated. There's a smaller (but still pretty darn big) mountain range covering the entire western coast of Shinovar. The Everstorm won't hit them full force (but even a minor hit could do serious damage to a land with no fortifications).
How long has Nalan been hunting down and murdering Radiants for whatever crimes he could find them guilty of? How many would-be Radiants who would be needed to fight the Voidbringers has he killed so far? How badly has his pursuit of Surgebinders crippled Roshar's ability to ultimately fight back?
Taravangian's Diagram. We know from Honor's messages that Shards can have minor powers in common, like predicting the future. What if Odium shares Ruin's ability to alter written records? Is the Diagram really suffering from Spanners In The Works, or does it just look that way because they aren't reading it correctly?
The smarter Taravangian becomes, the more fundamentally flawed the plans he creates are, such as it being a good idea if all the less intelligent people killed themselves. The Diagram was created when he was at his most intelligent - right from the beginning, his faction is gambling everything on a critically flawed course of action. Even if his exceptional level of intelligence allowed him to overcome this, he also becomes increasingly less compassionate as he grows smarter. The Diagram was created by him while he was incredibly brilliant, and monstrous.