Literature / Edgedancer

WARNING: Late Arrival Spoilers abound for previous books in The Stormlight Archive.

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"I will remember those who have been forgotten."

Following the events of Words of Radiance, the young Edgedancer Lift has been pampered and respected as a close personal friend of the new emperor. Her every need has been provided for, her eccentricities put up with, and she has even been offered lessons in anything she might care to learn.

So, of course, she runs away.

Lift runs to Yeddaw, a strange city in Tashikk that was cut out of the stone using rented Azish Shardblades. This city is the last known location of the mad Herald of Justice "Darkness", whom Lift has unfinished business with. To Wyndle's great consternation, Lift is seeking him despite the danger to her life.

When she finds him, she eats his breakfast. Unfortunately, he's not in Yeddaw for the pancakes.

Edgedancer is a The Stormlight Archive novella first published in the Arcanum Unbounded collection. It takes place after Words of Radiance, but before Oathbringer.


This book provides examples of:

  • A Boy and His X: Szeth clutches Nightblood to his chest like a teddy bear. He speaks to the sword aloud, and has real conversations with it. Less crazy than it sounds given that it's Nightblood.
  • The Ageless: Lift thought this was what she got from the Nightwatcher. It wasn't.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Nale kills all the thieves he finds because he used to give out a milder punishment, cutting off hands, which only increased the recidivism rate. After all, a one-handed person has harder time finding legal work, incentivizing a return to crime.
  • Arc Words: "Listen".
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Lift cries out her Third Oath, realizing what she has to do to bring Nale down, he asks her "What?" Her answer sends him spinning into a BSOD.
    Lift: You were trying to prevent the Desolation! Look behind you! Deny what you are seeing!
  • Authority in Name Only: Technically, Tashikk is part of the Azir Empire. In practice, the locals only obey the Prime within reason. They're not going to bother following his orders in the middle of an emergency.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: When Stump refuses to believe that Lift is a Radiant, Lift summons her Shardblade as a fork and resumes eating her pancakes. She quickly finds that an Absurdly Sharp Blade isn't the best eating utensil.
  • Bad Liar: Wyndle doesn't want to be used as a Shardblade, but he's not allowed to tell Lift about how new Shardblades are made. She is therefore left confused as to why he keeps complaining that she's going to end up hitting people with him.
  • Batman Gambit: Lift manages a small one against Nale, thanks to his Black and White Insanity making him rather predictable. Knowing that he's in town, she stages a very public event that's implausible enough to attract Nale's attention, making sure to show off a tell-tale sign of Radianthood to one specific person. She then hides near her bait's house and wait for Nale to come and interrogate them; and just like this, she found him and can now follow him.
  • Battle in the Rain: The climax of the novella takes place on a rooftop in the middle of the Everstorm.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Nale has managed to convince himself that the Desolation is not coming despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Subverted when it turns out that he had his doubts, and asked Ishar to tell him whether or not the Desolation was coming. Unfortunately, Ishar said it's not.
  • Beneath Notice: Discussed as part of Lift growing into her third oath, when she notices that people don't pay attention to street urchins, poor people and the like.
  • Black and White Insanity: Nale's world is divided between the non-crime-committing - and therefore permitted to live - and the crime-committing, who must die.
  • Bookends: The novella starts with Lift running away from Azimir, and ends with her running back at Gawx's insistence.
  • Boring, but Practical: Lift first summons her Shardblade as a metal rod. Not a sharp rod, not a heavy rod, just... a rod. Worthless for hurting people, but perfectly fine for blocking Nale's Shardblade.
  • Broken Tears: Darkness's Villainous B.S.O.D. is punctuated by him breaking into tears.
  • Call-Back:
    • The cobbler Wyndle was planning to bond before being forced on Lift is pretty clearly Ym, the shoemaker from one of Words of Radiance interludes.
    • In one of earlier books, Hoid mentions having once spent a year in the stomach of a greatshell; Lift was apparently there to witness it.
  • The Cameo: The obligatory Cosmere Hoid cameo this time is Lift reminiscing of the white-haired man she liked who, unfortunately, jumped into the maw of a greatshell, to the great shock of the crowd.
  • Cassandra Truth: During a meeting between Nale and his acolytes, Szeth keeps on trying to tell the others that the Desolation is already here and coming, but Darkness keeps on dismissing what they both saw, and the other acolytes are too obedient to believe the Shin.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Double-subverted with old man who asks Lift what body part she is. At first, Nale's acolytes assume he's a Lightweaver. Turns out he's not - because he's actually a Sleepless, and he gives Lift some useful information on the real Surgebinder.
    • Stump, the jerkass woman who runs the orphanage, turns out to be the focus of Nale's visit to Yaddew - she's a burgeoning Truthwatcher.
    • The guard captain Lift shows off before at first is later visited by Nale when he's looking for Surgebinders.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The old man Lift meets by the orphanage. He's trying to form an ultimate philosophy by asking people what body parts they identify themselves as. Subverted when it turns out that he's actually a Sleepless, composed of dozens of hundreds of tiny crustaceans that form various parts of his body.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Lift initially claims to be a friend of the Prime Aqasix, the local bureaucrats are understandably skeptical, and try to throw her out. When confirmation comes and they are ordered to obey her, she immediately makes them start calling her "Your Pancakefulness."
  • Cooldown Hug: Lift gives Nale of all people one to calm him down after his Freak-Out, managing to bring him back to some semblance of sanity.
  • Creepy Good: Arclo calls itself "a friend of Radiants" and is of some assist to Lift, but it's easily the creepiest thing in the book. At least Nale is humanoid.
  • Cry into Chest: Following his Villainous B.S.O.D. and Lift's Cooldown Hug, Nale/Darkness breaks down and cries into her chest.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Nale's Freak-Out is preceded by a strike of a red lightning, and the following thunder.
  • Everyone Has Standards: A street urchin steals fruit from a merchant and is caught by Nale. She fights back, and he kills her for assaulting an officer of the law. Everyone on the street, including the merchant, is horrified. Lift makes a point by stealing more of his fruit and eating it right in front of him; the merchant doesn't say a word.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Lift fails to notice the Indicium - the only building in Yeddaw to stick above the ground level - until it's pointed out to her.
    Lift: Huh. Was it always there?
    Wyndle: Yes, actually.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: Szeth refers to Nightblood as sword-nima, with "nima" being a Shin honorific of some kind.
  • Fantastic Rank System: It seems like the Skybreakers of old used to have some sort of rank system, based on the number of oaths - one that Nale kept. First oath is initiate, second is novice, third is Shardbearer, fifth is full Radiant. The fourth is unknown for now, as is whether more Orders utilized the rank system.
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
    • Yeddaw is famous for ten different types of pancakes. Lift makes it her mission to sample all of them. When she eats the first nine and goes looking for the tenth, she is horrified to learn that it doesn't actually exist; metaphorically, it is left out for their god. She threatens to call Nale back under the assumption that he'd slaughter them all for such a heinous transgression.
  • Freak-Out: Nale hops from insanity to sanity when he sees the red-eyed Parshmen, an undeniable proof of a new Desolation, and realizes that he's been hindering mankind more than he has aided it.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: At first, Nale has actually hazily remembered what the red-eyed Parshmen and the red storm mean, but he went to Ishar with his doubts, and Ishar assured him that no, everything is still fine and dandy. Whether Ishar is villainous or merely insane, he's very obviously a huge problem.
  • Heel–Face Return: Defied; in the afterword to the novella, Sanderson explicitly says that part of the reason behind writing Edgedancer is to show why Nale changed between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer.
  • Heel Realization: Upon seeing the red-eyed Parshmen, Nale realizes that the Desolation has already come and he's been trying to destroy what might be humanity's last hope of survival. He doesn't take it well.
    Nale: I am getting worse, am I not?
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: A retroactive variety; Lift gets to see a glimpse of Nale as a sane person, and the difference between this and his current state is rather dramatic.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Wyndle bemoans being assigned to Lift, noting that he was supposed to bond with a cobbler and spend a quiet existence making shoes.
  • Insane No More: Underplayed with Nale - Lift does manage to bring him back to a semblance of sanity, enough for a Heel Realization and a sober conversation, but he admits that his mind is still slipping and his ultimate fate is left uncertain as he leaves in a hurry.
  • Insane Troll Logic: See Nale's explanations above, under All Crimes Are Equal. It's... it makes perfect sense, in its own way, provided one shares Nale's black-and-white worldview.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Nale ascribes all signs of a new Desolation coming to either being the last remnants of the previous Desolation or a total coincidence, and no amount of proof will convince him otherwise - at least until he sees the storm turning the Parshmen violent himself.
  • It Amused Me: Szeth tells Lift that he doesn't attack her because his talking sword decided that Lift is funny and therefore can't be killed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The orphan matron known as Stump is angry and unpleasant, often assuming children are faking infirmity to get food. But she does give food to the children and takes care of them as much as possible. At least some of her surliness is an act, as it keeps too many street urchins from coming and overwhelming her ability to help. She is also a burgeoning Truthwatcher, so it's probably all an act. She was even unconsciously healing the sick children, which is why she was so convinced so many were faking. Every time an injured child stayed with her, they got better within a few days.
  • Knowledge Broker: Nigh-everyone in Yeddaw will sell you information - in Tashikk, it's considered a currency as valid as the spheres.
  • Loophole Abuse: Nale's personal brand of insanity doesn't permit him to kill anyone who's not a criminal, but doesn't stop him from changing the laws - so he makes the prince of Yeddaw pass a law that renders all Surgebinding illegal.note 
  • Lovable Coward: Wyndle is on the verge of a nervous breakdown for most of the novel, and often argues that they should just leave, but in the end, he manages to muster enough courage to aid Lift.
  • Mask of Sanity: Nale could be mistaken for a sane person, with perhaps a small obsession with keeping and presenting documentation, until a crime is comitted in his vicinity. Then, he turns into an emotionless monster.
  • Merciful Minion: When Lift is tailing Nale's acolytes, she realizes that Szeth is coming up from behind her and hides. He manages to locate her nevertheless, but rather than rat her out to his companions, he deliberately ignores her, as he's come to doubt Nale's sanity.
  • Morph Weapon: Living Shardblades, of course. Wyndle confirms that they can take any form, as long as it is metal (it has to do with the way Investiture condenses). Lift summons him as a rod to block Nale's Blade, and later as a fork to eat pancakes.
  • Mugging the Monster: Two apprentice Skybreakers ambush a suspected Lightweaver. They find a Dysian Aimian instead. He kills them so easily he notes he can't even claim self-defense, as they were never any danger to him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Nale, when he realizes he's been the bad guy the whole time:
    Nale: Storms. Jezrien... Ishar... It is true. I've failed. (...) I failed weeks ago. I knew it then. Oh God! Oh God the Almighty!
  • Nervous Wreck: From the moment Wyndle realizes that Lift is tracking down Darkness, he's stressed out beyond reason.
  • Noodle Incident: Wyndle uses the one time he was growing a garden for keenspren as a benchmark for how weird a conversation is. What is a keenspren? We have no idea as of yet.
  • Not a Morning Person: When Wyndle wakes Lift up, it takes her a moment to open her eyes, and then a while (and Wyndle's help) to figure out why she's there and what's happenning.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lift, seemingly, though a lot of it is self-directed.
  • Oh, Crap!: Wyndle practically panics when he realizes that the man they're up against is a Herald.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Played with. Near the end, Lift has to get down to the orphanage. Since the streets of Yeddaw all slope gently down from the center, she should be able to just slick herself and slide all the way. But she can't get her balance right and keeps falling on her face. She ends up just running. Possbily a Shout-Out to Gravity Rush, and how similarly potentially useful and frustrating to use a similar in-game power is.
  • Rank Up: Lift says another Edgedancer oath in this novella, going one rank up.
  • Reluctant Psycho:
    • Szeth is very well aware that his sanity is slipping away from him, and doesn't much like the fact.
    • Nale, by the end of the novella. He even sadly tells Lift that he's getting worse.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The novella provides one for the first two books with the revelation as to what the Sleepless are. How many cremlings have been mentioned in the story just to add local colour, and how many are Dysian spies?
    • One has been confirmed; the cremling Hoid takes notice of in the epilogue of Words of Radiance.
  • Running Gag:
    • Carrying over from Words of Radiance, Lift still calls Wyndle a Voidbringer, and he's still insulted by the notion.
    • Wyndle keeps on asking Lift to get killed in some painless manner if she has to, and keeps on pondering various sorts of deaths, trying to figure out which would be the best. He would just much rather Lift didn't get stabbed.
  • Sanity Slippage: Nale has seen the same telltale signs of a new Desolation Szeth did, but he's actively trying to convince himself that they don't actually mean what they mean, and his sanity is suffering as a result.
  • Sanity Strengthening: Nale becomes much more stable and sane following his Freak-Out.
  • Simple Staff: With Lift knowing next to nothing about swords, her first Shardblade is actually just a metal rod.
  • The Stakeout: Lift and Wyndle observe the house of the woman she's revealed her abilities to, counting on Nale arriving to investigate. He's nice enough to oblige her.
  • Stealth Expert: Lift proves her mettle; she manages to break into Nale's house and leave with no-one wiser (well, until he finds the eaten breakfast), and later tails his acolytes in an empty building, through a straight-as-an-arrow corridor, without them realizing she's following them.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Nale seems to feel like it. As he points out to his acolytes, he's managed to find out more about the person they're hunting during a morning walk through the city than they did for a week.
  • Tears of Remorse: Nale breaks into tears following his Heel Realization.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Szeth is far calmer and pleasant than when he's last been seen, even offering Lift some heartfelt advice. Either the insanity made him more amiable, or, given that for the first two books, his actions have been dictated by an oathstone compelling him to kill, this might be our first look at what Szeth is actually like.
    • Darkness/Nale does what might best be called a Heel-Neutral Turn by the end of the novella, thanks to Lift.
  • Understatement: When Nale's Shardblade slams into him, Wyndle's only reaction is an ow.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left!: Nale leaves the story by flying away into the storm.
  • Villainous B.S.O.D.: Nale, upon his Heel Realization, is reduced to tears and repeating loop of My God, What Have I Done?, and would probably stay that way for a long, long time, have Lift not given him a Cooldown Hug.
  • Weirdness Censor: People in Yeddaw completely fail to notice when Lift has a tree grow two floors up in almost an instant. As she snarks, they'd cuff an urchin for showing up on the street, but ignore a miracle happening right next to them.
  • We Wait: What Lift tells Wyndle as they begin The Stakeout. She gets tired of it pretty quickly, though, and goes to sleep, leaving Wyndle on guard.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, whatever happened to those stormform-turned Parshmen? They're there for one character's Heel Realization, but the following chapter doesn't even mention them.
  • The Worm That Walks: The 'old man' is a Sleepless, composed of hundred, if not thousands of cremlings which fulfill specific functions (like storing memories or seeing). Like most examples, dismemberment isn't a problem, but the reassembly takes a few minutes, meaning if it gets into a fight, putting itself back together has to happen afterwards.

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