Headscratchers / The Stormlight Archive

New entries on the bottom. Spoilers, naturally.

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     Elhokar's Suspicions 
  • It wasn't until I re-read the book (although maybe that means I'm just slow at picking up on these things) that I realized Dalinar had the perfect way to remove any suspicion that he tried to get Elhokar killed during the chasmfiend hunt, namely that, during said chasmfiend hunt, Dalinar saved Elhokar's life! If Dalinar had wanted Elhokar dead, he could have just let the chasmfiend kill him; instead he leapt in front of the creature's giant claw and actually caught it between his arms, saving the king's life. Why neither Dalinar, Adolin, Elhokar, or Sadeas ever brought up this point is a mystery to me.
    • Elhokar's paranoid enough that he wouldn't take that as proof, and Dalinar, Adolin, and Sadeas all know him well enough to know that. Remember what Dalinar had to put him through at the end of the novel to convince him?
    • I believe the reason was that they thought it was a gambit by Dalinar to get Elhokar to trust him, though I can't remember if this was explicitly stated in the text or something that I thought up on my own.
    • Also keep in mind that it's not so much an issue of proving Dalinar wasn't involved. It's an issue of Sadeas using an accusation of Dalinar's supposed guilt as justification to go to move against him with the grinning approval of the other Highprinces.

    Shallan's money trouble (contains major spoilers) 

  • Shallan secretly posseses a shardblade that she apparently took from her father after she killed him. Shardblades are worth "Fortunes. Cities, palaces, kingdoms." If her family is in such terrible enough debt that she is desperate enough to try conning and stealing from the sister of the most powerful King in Roshar then why does she not just secretly sell the blade. It can't be harder to arrange than what she tries to do instead.
    • There's implications that there's something much worse going on in the background surrounding Shallan's family, even beyond the Ghostblood connection, and that trying to sell the Shardblade would simply result in things getting worse. Blades aren't things you just sell in Roshar, and merely possessing one will bring down tremendous and terrible attention on the family. Attempting to sell the Blade would likely end in the whole family being killed and the Blade taken. Trying to sell it is like trying to sell nuclear weaponry in the modern world.
    • Is trying to sell nuclear weaponry that much more dangerous than trying to steal nuclear weaponry, the soulcaster is probably just as dangerous and valuable as a shardblade. Both prospects are just as risky but in opposite directions, the soulcaster is already in the posession of a dangerous powerful person but once taken will be kept hidden, the shardblade is already hidden but for it to save them would require it to be brought to the attention of potentially powerful dangerous people.
    • Stealing the soulcaster is obviously the less risky proposition, as it would not draw attention if done properly. The shardblade would draw attention regardless.
    • Also, they have a soulcaster that she plans to replace the stolen one with. The idea, was that Jashna would think her soulcaster had broken, fix it or find another stone to replace the broken one, and there would be no harm no foul.Or, failing that, that Shallan would be gone by the next time Jashna tried to use it anyway. From my understanding, the reason they can not fix their own family's soulcaster is because none of them have the knowledge to fix it, and are afraid to look to outside help because it would make them appear weak and vulnerable (and also because, I believe, their family has not et others know that the reason they have been as profitable as they have been was because they had a soulcaster).
    • They were never supposed to have a soulcaster in the first place, so yes, they couldn't get outside help getting it repaired. The people who apparently gave it to their father are also the ones who they suspect will kill them if they find out it's broken.
    • Because Shalan's Shardblade isn't a normal Shardblade. It's actually a living one with an active spren, instead of the Blades formed from the bodies of dead spren, so it can't be actually sold without Shallan breaking her link to Pattern (that and it actually vanishes instantly when someone other than Shallan tries to take it). In addition, not only does every Blade have a carefully-tracked lineage, but it can actually be considered treason for a Shardbearer to sell their Shards to someone outside of their country or princedom. So while Shardblades might be worth a kingdom to buy and sell, actually selling one is going to be extremely tricky, and definitely beyond the means of the Davar clan, none of whom are actually going to be all that savvy at selling something that valuable.
    • On top of that, Shallan was at that stage only able to function by repressing her memories of her mother's death, including the fact that she had the Blade in the first place.
    • And as a third point, none of the rest of her family knows she's got it.
    • She didn't take it from her father. She had it when her mother was still alive, and it's implied and confirmed in the second book that Shallan actually killed her mother with it.

     Szeth's Surgebinding 
  • Where is his spren?
    • Considering that we still know very little about how surgebinding in general works and its relation to the Honorspren, the answer is "Who knows?" He obviously doesn't have one near him, but for all we know he flat-out doesn't have one. Or he does have one, but it's still in the Shen lands, and somehow providing him with power despite the distance. That is definitely a question that could come up when he and Kaladin inevitably meet.
    • I believe there is a Word of God that Szeth's powers work on a different principle from regular Surgebinding.
    • The above comment is confirmed by Words of Radiance. Szeth has Surgebinding powers because he wields an Honorblade. He doesn't have a spren.
    • Although he presumably will in the next book, after being recruited into the Skybreaker order.
    • Assuming that the organization he got inducted into are actually Radiants and not just a group Nalan named after his old order of course. Though in any event, he still got Nightblood...
    • He certainly meets the 'broken soul' prerequisite by this point. But as to what Spren he will wind up binding, he seems as good a candidate for one of Odium's spren since he's got good reason at this point to be consumed with hatred.

    Taln's Blade 

  • Honorblades work differently than Shardblades, because they were created directly by the Almighty, rather than what happened with the Radiant's Blades. The question is, why does Taln's Blade scream when Dalinar touches it after becoming a Radiant? It's not a dead spren.
    • That wasn't Taln's blade. If it had been, Dalinar would have gained full-fledged Surgebinding powers just from using it, like Szeth got from his Honorblade. Which means somebody (and by "somebody" I mean "almost certainly Hoid") swapped the Honorblade for a standard Shardblade before Dalinar got his hands on it.
    • Also, Dalinar's Blade screams at him after he bonds with the Stormfather, which is further evidence it is just a regular Shardblade.
    • Update from Word of Brandon: It was not Hoid.
    • Further update: There aren't enough clues in the book to figure out who it actually was.

     The last Honorblade 
  • When Szeth is talking with Taravangian, he mentions that the Shin have "the other seven" Honorblades. Adding Taln's and Szeth's own, that leaves nine accounted for. Where's the last one?
    • Perhaps one of the other Heralds collected theirs. Possibly Nin (we know he has a Blade of some type), but we don't know the precise circumstances of the Shin's custodianship, so he might have considered that illegal. Also note that the fact that Szeth knows about it despite being out of contact for who knows how long implies that it was a while ago. Maybe one of them was stolen way back after the Last Desolation, before the Shin got their hands on them?
    • Nin's Blade is actually from Nalthis, another world in the Cosmere.
    • Nin has two Blades—the one he gave to Szeth at the end (Nightblood) and the Shardblade he killed the shoemaker with, and tried to use on Lift before he was stopped.
    • It is very possible that Nin has his own Honorblade. During Lift's interlude he is shown drawing Stormlight but he has no spren, or at least no spren that Wyndle reacted to.

    Lost Radiants disappeared 

  • Where the hell did the Lost Radiants go after they abandoned their shards?
    • Either they just slipped anonymously into the general population, or they were hunted down and killed. Some of the epigraphs from Words of Radiance (the in-universe book, which is referenced several times in the Stormlight Archive book of the same name) imply that kingdoms were able to exact revenge on them for their betrayal. Specifically:
      "This act of great villainy went beyond the impudence which had hitherto been ascribed to the orders; as the fighting was particularly intense at the time, many attributed this act to a sense of inherent betrayal; and after they withdrew, about two thousand made assault upon them, destroying much of the membership; but this was only nine of the ten, as one said they would not abandon their arms and flee, but instead entertained great subterfuge at the expense of the other nine."

    Heralds while dead 
  • Where do (did?) the Heralds go between Desolations? We know it's a place bad enough to utterly break their spirits, but... what is it?
    • Short version: Hell. Long version: Braize, one of the three Shardworlds in the Greater Roshar system (the others being Roshar and Ashyn). It's Odium's world, and probably doesn't have any actual people on it, though it might have Voidspren so that he doesn't have to personally torture the Heralds all the time. It seems that whatever the Oathpact was, it involved making concessions to Odium in the process, including getting tortured until they're resurrected.
    • The implication seems to be that Odium can torture them on Braize for as long as they can take it, and in exchange he can move to try to destroy Roshar as soon as they are reborn. The longer they hold out, the longer civilization has to rebuild between the Desolations. This both makes it more likely for civilization to survive the cycle and gives millions of innocents the ability to live their lives. Not only that, but Hoid's correspondence indicates that this cycle of eternal recurrence was engineered to trap Odium on Roshar and prevent him from attacking shardbearers through the cosmere as a whole. So the millenia of torture they endured preserved uncounted billions through the worlds from Odium's influence. Pretty damn impressive. ESPECIALLY since the last, who the others finally abandoned, held out far longer than all the other times combined at the cost of his mind.
    • There is some conflicting information, though. Taln's last line in WoK ("I have failed") implies that yes, if he had held out for longer, the Desolation would in turn have been pushed back farther. But in the second book, Taln is worried that he's late this time, while Nale thinks that killing off surgebinders will stave off the Desolation, implying that it's caused by something besides just how long they can hold out. Of course, they're both their own flavors of crazy at this point, so it's hard to get a straight answer.
    • The Diagram implies that it's the first one, that it's based on how long the Heralds can hold out, and furthermore states that anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot:
      Book of the 2nd Ceiling Rotation: Pattern 1: Obviously they are fools The Desolation needs no usher It can and will sit where it wishes and the signs are obvious that the spren anticipate it doing so soon The Ancient of Stones must finally begin to crack It is a wonder that upon his will rested the prosperity and peace of a world for over four millennia

     Nightblood on Roshar 
  • So, Szeth has Nightblood now. I'm curious how useful it will be, though, on a world where Breath isn't something you can buy. Unless Nightblood can eat Stormlight? In which case, we have to imagine fighting Nightblood in the middle of a highstorm, which gives it basically unlimited mana...
    • Now that I think about it, Vasher requires a breath every week like Returned, doesn't he? Does he get the same sustenance from Stormlight? He must, I think, so it makes sense that Nightblood would work with Stormlight as well.
    • Yes. Word Of Brandon confirms that both Vasher and Nightblood can feed off of Stormlight in place of Breath, which is presumably part of why they came to Roshar in the first place.

     Powers on Other Worlds 
  • For that matter, do other powers like Awakening or Allomancy actually work on Roshar? Could someone native to Roshar give an Awakener their Breath?
    • People on Roshar do not have Breath. Breath is from Endowment and only native to the world she made, Nalthis. People who come from Nalthis would still be able to use the breath they gathered from Nalthis in Roshar, but wouldn't be able to get more of it. (Using your magic on other worlds than your own possible by Word of Brandon, as long as the world has the requisite 'materials' or you can bring them with you from your homeworld.)
    • Yes, but Breath and Stormlight are the same thing, just in slightly different forms. You'll note that the two magic systems are opposite in most ways: Biochroma is from a world where magic is very difficult to get and thus involves lots of recycling of power, while Surgebinding is from a world where magic is very easy to get and burns through it like tissue paper. A Surgebinder would last about five seconds on Nalthis, but a Returned doesn't have to worry about his immortality at all on Roshar.
    • So Breath and Stormlight are different forms of investment, just like metal is invested on Scadrial?
    • Yes. We don't know too much about how the magic systems work on other worlds, but Breath and Stormlight are both the same thing. If powers do work the exact same way on other planets (and if anybody can make them work, it will be a Returned, since they're basically small pieces of the Shard Endowment that is in charge of their magic system), it's even possible that Zahel has full access to all his Biochromatic powers, and will pull out a Tenth Heightening at a dramatic moment.
    • Notice that Zahel knew immediately when Kaladin entered the room, that's a Biochromatic power.
    • Sadly, Zahel pulling a Tenth Heightening out of his ass is a violation of Sanderson's First Law, especially if he uses it to solve a problem that Kaladin and co. might have. But yes, he can use Stormlight in place of Breath. It's all Investiture anyway, what matters is how it acts.
    • WRT "powers like Awakening or Allomancy actually working on Roshar," in one of Shallan's flashbacks we (presumably) see Hoid using Soothing on her father.
    • Word of God is that Stormlight doesn't grant Returned Breath powers. Though, presumably, he still has the power of his single divine Breath, since he could sense Kaladin through the wall.

     Binding four Surges? 
  • So what happens if a Radiant tries to wield the Honorblade of a different Order? Does he just get the "sword" functions? Can he use the powers of both his own order and his sword's order? And what would happen if Kaladin used Jezrien's blade? Would he get more powerful Windrunning? Would it just function as a sword for him? What?
    • Word of God is that dual-wielding Shardblades is possible, so grabbing an Honorblade might be a shortcut. However, Honorblades are weaker and flawed compared to true Shardblades, so it might be that a spren overrides one. Using Honorblades of different orders might work, but using one of your own almost certainly wouldn't. Kaladin didn't mention any extra surge of strength and power. Maybe you have to bind it first, but that's implied to be unnecessary with Honorblades.

    Nightblood's tempting 

  • Can anyone explain why Nightblood didn't immediately cause Szeth to kill others and himself? If it works anything like it did in Warbreaker, this seems like the obvious first thing that would happen.
    • Two possibilities: Szeth counts as "sinless" due to being Truthless (which seems to be doubtful, as a large point of his story is that he's responsible for everything he does), or we just misunderstand the rules a little. Maybe being given the sword freely makes you immune to the effect? Or using it as a spren does so.
    • Nightblood, who doesn't understand good and evil, probably sees Szeth as repentant and honorable. After all, he feels horrible for everything he's done and followed his code of honor to the bitter end. The fact that he's completely insane by now is an unfortunate detail.
    • Nightblood's tempting doesn't have anything to do with his concept of evil, though. He openly wonders why he can't affect some people, Vasher tells him it's because they're sinless, and he has no idea what that means. On the other hand, it could be as simple as him choosing not to tempt Szeth. He never tempted Vasher, after all, or even Vivenna at the end.
    • Word of God is that the tempting is based on what the Breaths used to create Nightblood guessed "evil" meant. "What they decided was evil was someone who would try to take the sword and use it for evil purposes, selling it, manipulating and extorting others, that sort of thing." This is subconscious, for lack of a better word, so Nightblood can't articulate this, but by this definition Szeth pretty clearly counts as "sinless." Szeth has no desire to do evil, no matter what evil he has already done. Thus, Nightblood's tempting has no effect on him.

     Shallan's past 
  • Does Shallan break the rules of the Knights Radiant? In Words of Radiance, Syl says all of the Knights were broken, making it seem like that was a prerequisite to being chosen by a spren. Indeed, Kal, Dalinar, and even Szeth are broken men before they bond with a spren. Shallan, though seems to have her breaking after becoming a Knight (killing her mother, which happened because she saw Shallan becoming a Knight Radiant and wanted to stop it). Am I missing something?
    • Not everyone apparently needs to be broken for each order. Lift is basically the opposite of broken, after all. And I don't think it's possible to break The Lopen.
    • Growing up in a household that violent and oppressive will certainly break a person. Hell it broke ALL of them! Yes it got worse after Shallan's mother died, but you get the clear impression it was bad even before that. Oh, and if you think that a person who actively rebels against maturity or a person who has a basket of coping mechanisms for being ridiculed aren't broken, I don't think you understand how many different ways people can break. That's besides the fact that Lift's soul has been warped by powerful magic (breaking her connection to the physical in a very real way) and The Lopen is physically broken (that is to say, missing an arm).
    • Lift implies that there's something very dark in her past, she's just covering it up by acting like a goofball. Sort of like what Shallan is doing, just in a different direction.
      "You don't even care, do you?"
      "No," he said. "I don't."
      "You should," she said, exhausted. "You should... should try it, I mean. I wanted to be like you, once. Didn't work out. Wasn't... even like being alive..."
    • OP here. I'd agree that Lift was broken, and Lopen I don't think is broken but also not a Knight (he has no spren that we've seen). However, if Shallan WAS broken before she killed her mother (which I think was her breaking point, personally) why doesn't Sanderson show it? He showed us Kaladin's in Wo K (either his brother dying or his original squad getting slaughtered) and presumably will show us the others, as well (in their own books). I thought it was implied that Shallan's breaking point was the memory she represses so hard it's almost a blank spot to her, but it would've been AFTER she got Pattern. I'm not implying I don't think she's broken, but I am wondering if she didn't break late, so to speak.
    • We saw like five seconds of Shallan before her mother's death. There's not enough to say that she wasn't broken. Also keep in mind that people can be born with a cracked soul—that's why madmen could hear Ruin in Mistborn. Kaladin's clinical depression might have been enough for him to be marked as a proto-surgebinder since birth, and then the death of Tien forced the cracks wider and let Syl in. He was shockingly good with a quarterstaff, after all.
    • There's not enough to say she was, and absence of evidence is weak evidence of absence. I could buy the idea that Shallan's and Kaladin's souls are precracked (though I'd also point out the only major character we spent any time with in Mistborn like that was Zane, who was ten pounds of crazy in a five pound bag, which is not how I'd describe either of these characters), but it just bugs me that it's not explicit for Shallan like I felt it was for Kal in his viewpoint book.
    • True. But this whole thing started because someone wondered how she could be broken enough to receive her powers so early. There are only two ways that we know of: Either you're born broken or you're made broken. It's one or the other. Remember, the only time we saw Shallan's life before her mother's death was the explicitly idealized version Hoid forced her to imagine. Since she doesn't seem to have any mental problems other than the ones that can be directly traced back to the issues caused by her mother's death, that implies that yes, her childhood was bad enough to break her even then. The other option to consider is that children just break easier in general, but we haven't really seen any evidence of that. We haven't seen any evidence against, either, but absence of evidence...

    Following the Diagram 

  • King Taravangian and his aides place him under the following restrictions: "When he was dull, he could not change policy. Interestingly, he had decided that when he was too brilliant, he was also not allowed to change policy." Now, the Diagram was created on the day he was most brilliant, clearly not allowed to be policy. Still, the Diagram dictates the entire policy his followers adhere to in dealing with the whole world. It has led him to order the assassination of a majority of the world's rulers, place entire kingdoms and hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in jeopardy, slowly kill people just to hear the horrible dystopian futures/visions they see...Is there anything wrong with this picture? Isn't that the entire reason he limited his effect on policy? If he isn't allowed to do something so small as requiring intelligence testing for future parents, why is he allowed to enact the highly convoluted plan of the Diagram, which, at this point, seems to be making things a lot worse rather than better? Yes, let's plunge the world into anarchy right as the Desolations start, because the Voidbringers won't be enough trouble...Why is anybody following the Diagram? Isn't it not allowed to change policy, under his self(and aide)-imposed rules?
    • The rules were put in place after the Diagram got started, and even then only after he came up with a couple stupid/smart ideas and kept trying to act on them. We haven't seen the full text of the Diagram, but everyone who knows about it has. Apparently, it's very persuasive. There's that one Alternate Character Interpretation on the YMMV page that wonders if Taravangian might genuinely be smart enough on his best days to convince people of bizarre but logical things. So maybe the Diagram is just such a supremely perfect document that anyone who reads it believes it. There's a reason the people following it are likened to a religion.
      Furthermore, remember that Taravangian was a king long before he wrote the Diagram. He already had most of the power and influence he needed. There's a very short list of people who know about the Diagram and Taravangian's goals. Most of them are just paid normally.

    Where do baby Parshmen come from? 

  • OK, so Parshmen are "formless" Parshendi, same species but mystically lobotomised. Parshendi have to enter mateform to have children, they are only fertile when in mateform. Parshmen meanwhile cannot assume forms, so where do new ones come from?
    • Word of God is that the other forms are fertile, just much less so. So it just takes more trying. It also helps explain why Parshmen are so valuable; they're impossible to breed in numbers to meet demand.

  • If Shardblades are made from Spren, what is Shardplate made of? And for that matter, what are the keyholes for the oathgates made of, if it's the same stuff as a Shardblade - did Spren have to sacrifice themselves to make those?
    • Short version: We don't know. We'll probably find out in a later book. One theory is that they are made of each Order's "lesser" spren, the non-sentient ones, like windspren for Windrunners and creationspren for Lightweavers. All we know for sure is that Shardplate is not made of dead spren, since it doesn't scream when a Radiant touches it. On a more practical note, Shardblades and Shardplate are both made of condensed Investiture; solid magic, basically. There are plenty of ways to condense Investiture without sacrificing a spren. For example, Feruchemical metalminds from Scadrial are not solid Investiture, but they are heavily Invested with power and would be much more difficult for a Shardblade to cut through than normal.

Alternative Title(s): The Way Of Kings, Words Of Radiance