Literature / The Cosmere

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"There's always another secret."
Kelsier

Warning: This page assumes that you are familiar with the Cosmere, and will contain no spoiler tags.

The universe occupied by many of the works of Brandon Sanderson. Due to his desire to create an epic length series without requiring readers to buy a ridiculous amount of books, he hid connections to his other works within each book, creating a "hidden epic".

Long ago, a mysterious being called Adonalsium existed on a world known as Yolen. Sixteen Yolish people attacked Adonalsium, and it shattered into sixteen Shards, each bearing immense power. By taking up these Shards, those sixteen people were able to create new worlds, sometimes working in tandem, populating them with people and powering different types of magic. However, over time they came to be molded to the Intents of the Shards. Now, a mysterious man from Yolen called Hoid travels between the Shardworlds, while the people of those worlds rise to become heroes, sometimes coming into contact with the Shards.

There are currently fourteen Cosmere books: ten full length books and four novellas, along with various short stories. These detail the adventures of the people on the Shardworlds created by the people who took up the Shards of Adonalsium.

    Cosmere works 

Tropes featured across the entire Cosmere are:

  • All There in the Manual: Many facts of the Cosmere - even names of most planets - are only available through interviews with Brandon Sanderson. Thankfully, he's very open as long as they don't spoil future books too much.
  • Ambiguously Brown: The easiest way to spot a Worldhopper is when the local characters can't figure out what ethnicity they're supposed to be.
  • Another Dimension: The Spiritual Realm and the Cognitive Realm, as opposed to the normally-written Physical Realm.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Shards, as they are all facets of Adonalsium and thus represent parts of him. Examples would be Honor, Odium, Ruin, Endowment or Harmony.
  • Arc Number:
    • 10 for Warbreaker and The Stormlight Archive.
      • There are also 10 Shardworlds (planets with Shards), so the number 10 may have a more universal significance.
    • 16 for Mistborn, and for the Cosmere as a whole, as that's the number of metals in Metallic Arts, as well as number of Shards.
    • 3 as well, due to it being the number of realms.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Adonalsium".
    • "There's always another secret".
  • The Cameo: The worldhoppers in general cameo in works set on other world than they come from, like Khriss and Nazh (Taldain and Threnody, respectively, but seen everywhere), Felt and Demoux (both from Scadrial, both later seen on Roshar), Vasher (Nalthis, also on Roshar), Galladon (Sel, also on Roshar) or Hoid (Yolen, seen everywhere).
  • Crisis Crossover: The Stormlight Archive is shaping up to be this, with direct references to the Cosmere and various Shardholders and Shardworlds, a direct danger to the entirety of the Cosmere, and a collection of planar champions from various other Cosmeric series coming to Roshar after Hoid. Word of God even refers to it as "the big epic".
  • Deity of Human Origin: All true gods of the Cosmere are people who took up one-sixteenth of Adonalsium's power.
  • Dimensional Traveler: Various characters, by way of the Cognitive Realm. Hoid is the most prominent, with the group of Seventeenth Shard members in The Way of Kings being close behind.
  • Eldritch Location: The Spiritual Realm is timeless and holds souls of everything that exists - not to mention that it's the same for every Shardworld, which means that it's somehow visible in the same place from every point of the Cosmere.
  • Everything Talks: In Cognitive Realm, as everything that exists has a reflection there and some limited sapience, although it's arguable whether all really is alive or if it's just how Soulcasters "read" souls of objects.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The Shards, and their Shardholders to a smaller degree.
  • Functional Magic: Each Shardworld has at least one type of magic, each of which follow their own defined rules and the overarching rules of Investiture.
  • God: Several stories have made reference to "The God Beyond" and there's even a shrine dedicated to it in Shadows For Silence In The Forests Of Hell. Brandon Sanderson has said that this refers to belief in a higher power that has nothing to do with Adonalsium.
  • God Is Dead: Happens whenever a Shard's holder dies (Devotion, Dominion, Preservation, Ruin, and Honor are the ones we know this happened to), and most likely happened to Adonalsium.
  • God Is Evil: Odium, Ruin, Dominion, and presumably a couple more Shards.
  • Greater Scope Villain: As of The Stormlight Archive, it looks like Odium is shaping up to be this, having caused major problems in Sel prior to Elantris and being feared as a very dangerous figure for the whole of the Cosmere.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Cognitive Realm, which serves as Cosmere's Hyperspace, is very dangerous for most people, thanks in no small part to the fact that it's insanely alien compared to Physical Realm. While it's somewhat benign on Scadrial, on Roshar it's a sea of spheres, which makes everyone entering it risk drowing, and Word of God implies that on Sel, where the death of two Shards unleashed wild storm of Dor, it's even worse.
  • Kudzu Plot: Every time some question about underpinnings of Cosmere is answered, it seems to raise even more question, to the point that Kelsier's statement about secrets is most fitting thing to top this page with.
  • Made of Magic: Everything, apparently, as Word of God indicates that everything in Physical Realm is made of Investiture in solid form.
  • Mana: Investiture, the energy that powers all forms of magic across the Cosmere. It comes from Spiritual Realm and is actually finite, though most forms of magic don't use it upnote 
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Due to Brandon Sanderson and his love for this trope, most worlds have their own rule-based magic systems in accordance with an overall theory known as "Investiture", along with a secondary theory known as "Realmatic Theory" to explain the Cosmere itself. Basically: everything that is is powered by Investiture. On major Shardworld - that is, world with Shards on them - Investiture can manifest in people via Focus, which is the primary "carrier" of Investiture - for example, metal for Scadrial, Form for Sel. To be able to use it, you have to be Initiated - on Scadrial it's via snapping, on Roshar it's via oaths, and on Nalthis it's enough to be born. The detail vary depending on world. On minor Shardworlds - that is, Shardless ones - it's natural life (worms on First of the Sun, bacteria on Ashyn) that carry Investiture and have Investiture-related effects.
  • Magic by Any Other Name:
    • Almost nowhere is magic called "magic" - on Sel it's called AonDor, on Nalthis it's Awakening, on Scadrial it's Metallic Arts, on Roshar it's Surgebinding, Voidbinding and Soulcasting. Even interdimensional scientist Khriss uses "Investiture" to talk about different magics.
    • Averted with Roshar's Old Magic, which is called just that, likely to reflect the fact that it's the most mysterious one of them all.
  • Magitek: Present on some Shardworlds.
    • On Sel, Elantrians filled their city with various AonDor-operated appliances, like lights and teleporters to move around Elantris.
    • On Roshar, Stormlight-powered fabrials are used to make food, materials and more esoteric mechanisms, like emotion sensors, heaters and dehumidifiers.
    • On Scadrial, the Southerners base their entire tech on Metallic Arts - medallions keep them warm, let them use airships - not to mention they let their airships fly, by de-weighting them - and work as universal translators, while cubes are weapons and power plants for airships.
  • Meta Origin: The Shattering of Adolansium, which created the Shards and led to settlement of Shardworlds, leading to creation of magic systems and the Big Bad, Odium.
  • Mundane Utility: Pops up all over the place. Metalborn use their powers to ease everyday life, Forgery is used to make cheap objects look expensive and Soulcasting lets you build from wood and then turn it into stone.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragonsteel, taking place on Yolen, will include them. They are apparently capable of shapeshifting and intelligent, as Sanderson calls them one of "three sentient species" of Yolen.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: After death, a person manifests in the Cognitive Realm for a while before popping out into the Spiritual Realm. Those with a lot of Investiture (magic energy) linger far longer as Cognitive Shadows, souls stuck within Cognitive Realm due to their Investiture anchoring them in the Physical one.
  • Our Souls Are Different: They're Spiritual constructs containing connections, memories and more.
  • Pieces of God: The Shards of Adonalsium. On a further level of pieces, Splinters of those Shards if Splintered by another.
  • Power Glows: Investiture in larger quantities, and purer form, glows.
    • People using Bands of Mourning start to leak glowing steam due to all the power involved.
    • Shardpools - physical manifestations of Shard's "body" - are vaguely glow-ey.
    • Both Stormlight and Breath glow white, although it's more pronounced with Stormlight.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Split up somewhat, but of the two clearly villainous Shards so far, Ruin's power manifests as wave of black, and Odium's calling card are red eyes.
  • Science Fantasy: Varying by the book, but definitely present overall. Worlds that develop long enough tend towards Sufficiently Analyzed Magic and Magitec combined with a high level of technology, and Sixth Of The Dusk actually revolves around the interactions between the native humans of a minor shardworld and genuine Space Explorers. Word of God is that the Mistborn series will end in a primarily sci-fi setting.
  • Shout-Out: Yolen is undoubtedly named after Jane Yolen. "Adonalsium" might be a tweak on "Adonai," one of God's names in The Bible.
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: The Cognitive Realm, also known as Shadesmar, which connects the different Shardworlds and is how individuals move between them. Its application for FTL travel comes from the fact that as in interstellar space, there is nothing - and therefore nothing to have a Cognitive aspect and fill up the Cognitive Realm - space is greatly compressed, to the point that moving from one end of the planet to another can take longer than moving from one planet to another.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Each book in the Cosmere (except the first edition of Elantris) has an appendix "Ars Arcanum" that makes a summary of the magic system of that world as it is known by that point in the series. According to Word of God, these appendices are in-universe documents, which means someone is compiling them. The actual analysis varies within the stories themselves, from scientific theories such as those revolving around BioChroma to entire libraries devoted to the study of the magic system like the one in the city of Elantris, to simple listings of general capabilities like those of Surgebinders.
  • The Verse: Complete with overall theories of magical systems and the organization of the cosmos.
  • Top God: The mysterious God Beyond, speculated to be Cognitive Shadow of Adonalsium. All that's known about it is that it's known all over the Cosmere and resides in the Spiritual Realm.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: A lot of current knowledge of the Cosmere comes from fans picking things up, analysing them, overanalysing them and asking all the right questions.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Way of Kings for the overall Cosmere arc. The connections between the Shardworlds are acknowledged, Hoid gets a larger role, a group of characters from other books appear on a hunt for Hoid, we get introduced to Shadesmar, the Cognitive Realm, and we find out that there is a guy going around and killing Shards.
    • Secret History not only introduces casual readers to Realmatic Theory levels of Cosmere, it also throws us a venerable bucketload of additional information, name-drops four different worlds and hints at connections between them, introduces Khriss and Nazh properly, reveals more about Hoid and gives more tantalizing hints of what's to come.
    • Bands of Mourning has two Shards almost interacting, starting to bring Mistborn series' scope from purely planetery to Cosmeric.
  • World of Snark: Nearly to the point of it being entirely within reason that invested snark could exist. Hoid, who literally took a job as a professional Deadpan Snarker, is a standout example.

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