Literature: The Stormlight Archive
"The sun approaches the horizon. The Everstorm comes. The True Desolation. The Night of Sorrows."The Stormlight Archive
is an Epic Fantasy
series of ten planned novels, written by Brandon Sanderson
. It is part of The Cosmere
, along with Mistborn
, and Warbreaker
. The series is set on the world of Roshar, which experiences Bizarre Seasons
and Hostile Weather
— the seasons change every few weeks, and appear in random order, while the hurricane-like "highstorms" hit every few days. The only exception to this is the annual "Weeping"; four weeks of constant, dreary rain (sometimes with a highstorm in the middle, sometimes without) that marks the beginning of a new year. These odd pressures have shaped Roshar's indigenous wildlife and human civilizations both.
In the distant past, mankind repeatedly warred with the demonic
Voidbringers. Championed by the mighty Knights Radiant
, armed and armoured with Shardblades
, humanity managed to hold their own and prevail against all odds... only to be apparently betrayed
by the Knights Radiant, who cast aside their armaments and vanished. The amazing weapons and armor remained behind, to be claimed by whoever can manage to acquire them.
Centuries later, the nation of Alethkar
, having just signed a peace treaty with the Parshendi people, are abruptly betrayed
when the Parshendi send an assassin
to kill their king. In retaliation, the Alethi declare war and invade the Shattered Plains to begin a long and arduous military campaign
The story follows several viewpoint characters: Kaladin
, a Broken Ace
with Chronic Hero Syndrome
who trained as a surgeon
but joined the army
instead; Dalinar Kholin
, a Highprince
and war general
trying to follow the old codes of chivalry
; Shallan Davar, a noblewoman
who is trying to save her destitute house
; and Szeth, a man whose honor requires him to be an Extreme Doormat
for others, who we first meet as he is sent to murder the Alethi king.
Novels in the series:
- Stones Unhallowed (Working title of the third book)
- Books four through ten, which have yet to be announced.
This series as a whole provides examples of:
- Absurd Cutting Power: Shardblades cut through any nonliving matter like it is made of paper. They pass straight through living flesh as well, severing the soul of whatever part they touch. The only things they can't cut through are other Shardblades, Shardplate, or "half-shard" fabrials. This is because Shardblades are actually spren, or the corpses of spren, bonded to Radiants. Dalinar theorizes that the real reason for the Blades was to fight Voidbringer monsters like thunderclasts, which were too big and durable for conventional weapons to harm.
- Abusive Precursors: The Knights Radiant, or at least everybody thinks so.
- After the End: The culture of all the characters believes this is the kind of world they live in. To some degree they're right, but the first book is one long hint that things will get worse.
- Alien Blood: Parshendi have orange blood that smells like mold.
- Alien Sky: Roshar has three moons. The first, Salas, is small and casts a violet light; the second, Nomon, is large and has blue-white light; and the third, Mishim, is small and has green light.
- Anime Hair: Mixing Alethi blood, Horneater blood, and/or Iriali blood can result in the child getting a mix of black, red and/or blond hair respectively. As in each strand would be a different color. A child of all three races could conceivably look like Yugi Moto.
- Apocalypse How: The Desolations were repeated Planetary/Societal Collapse, and borderline Planetary/Species Extinction. The normal casualty figures are around 90% of the human race, and it's apparently a toss-up as to whether humanity has struggled back up to bronze, let alone iron, by the time the next Desolation comes by. The current Desolation has been delayed far longer than most, giving humanity time to get much further up the tech tree than the normal.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Stormlight.
- Arc Number: Ten, a very important number in Vorinism, apparently the world's predominant religion. Also four and sixteen, though less so than in Sanderson's other works.
- Arc Words:
- "Find the most important words a man can say," as well as a few other quotes from The Way of Kings.
- "The sun approaches the horizon. The Everstorm comes. The True Desolation. The Night of Sorrows."
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Kaladin believe this due to his experience with the lighteyes.
- Armor and Magic Don't Mix: Szeth can't wear Shardplate because it would prevent him from using his Lashings, which both utilize Stormlight. The Knights Radiant evidently knew how to get around this.
- Armor Is Useless: Depends. Regular armor is presented as greatly increasing survivability against mundane weapons, but is completely useless against Shardbearers (who either wield magic swords that can cut anything, or hundred pound warhammers). Shardplate provides massive amounts of protection from mundane weapons, and can even offer ablative protection against the weapons Shardbearers use.
- Artifact of Attraction: Shardblades and Shardplates technically don't qualify, since the attraction isn't supernatural, but they're so incredibly valuable the difference is academic.
- Artifact of Doom: Shardblades, possibly. Syl mentions that she doesn't like Shardblades, and that Dalinar is a better man for giving one up. According to the Word of God, Syl, an honorspren, is specifically attracted to Kaladin because of his noble and honorable behavior, among which is turning down one of the blades.
- Shardblades, at least, are explained in the second book: they are the physical form of spren bonded to the old Knights Radiant, and after the Knights broke their oaths they died, leaving the corpses behind.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Shardbearers, who are given great authority regardless of their birth.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: If a Shardbearer wins an extra set of Shards, he can gift them to anyone he wants— usually an equally noble family member, who will thereby become a badass.
- Badass: Many. Any Shardbearer is guaranteed to be awesome by the nature of the armaments. Kaladin and Szeth stand out in particular, and Kaladin isn't even a Shardbearer. Dalinar, on the other hand, is acknowledged as badass even for a Shardbearer — at least, when he's not holding back.
- Badass Creed: The Ideals of the Knights Radiant. The First Ideal is "Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.". The Second Ideal is different for each Order, but we know that of the Windrunners is "I will protect those who cannot protect themselves".
- Words Of Radiance previews reveal that the Second Ideal of the Edgedancers is "I will remember those who have been forgotten."
- Also from Words of Radiance the Second Ideal of the Bondsmiths "I will unite instead of divide, I will bring men together", and the Third Ideal of the Windrunners: "I will protect even those I hate, so long as it's right."
- This Q&A reveals the Second Ideal of the Skybreakers to be "I will put the law before all else".
- Battle Couple: Suggested to be the way Parshendi fight. Possibly also an appearance in one of Dalinar's visions; we see two Radiants working in tandem — one male, one female.
- Berserk Button: The Parshendi/Parshmen have a race-wide Berserk Button when it comes to others touching/moving their dead. Kaladin figures out a way to exploit this.
- BFS: Most Shardblades. Dalinar's and Adolin's are mentioned as being six feet long, and this is fairly common among Shardblades. It turns out that there's a reason for the blades to be so big: they were intended to fight large battles against great numbers of foes, as well as massive beasts made of stone that were hard to kill with conventional weapons. The Blades themselves can actually change shape, but when the Knights Radiant broke their oaths they largely abandoned the Blades in their massive configurations, killing their spren and locking them in that shape.
- Big Bad: One hasn't actually shown up yet, though given that it's only the first two books of ten, this may not be surprising. It is, however, heavily hinted to be Odium.
- Bizarre Alien Biology:
- Roshar is apparently a land without soil (the constant highstorms blow away any earth), has random seasonal changes every few weeks, has a gravity level of .7, and is scoured by hurricane-force storms on a near-weekly basis. Adaptations include grass that retreats into holes in the rock when threatened. Very few, if any, animals other than the humanoid races seem to even be mammals, with beasts of burden and domesticated pets being mostly crustacean, reptilian or insectile. The low gravity also allows for the massive crustacean greatshells to exist without being crushed under their own weight.
- The Parshendi race has shades of this. We know their bones are red, their skin is marbled red-and-black, their blood is orange and smells moldy, and they grow their armor as part of their bodies. It turns out that they're actually shapeshifters, and originally were capable of assuming hundreds of different forms, though many of those forms were as Voidbringers.
- Also inverted when it comes to the country of Shin. Highstorms don't reach there, so the ecology of the region is a lot more similar to Earth, even to the point of having strawberries and chickens. Visitors to this land from the rest of Roshar find it extremely strange.
- Blood Knight: The Alethi, once a Proud Warrior Race, have degenerated to this.
- Broken Angel: Syl losing her mind near the beginning of Words Of Radiance.
- Broken Bird: According to the back of Words of Radiance, only a broken soul can have Surgebindings inserted into it.
- By-the-Book Cop: Skybreakers, according to what we've seen of them.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The Alethi refer to all birds as "chickens", which probably stems from the fact that birds don't exist natively in their region. Axehounds are halfway-case, as pointed out by Hoid, who notes that hounds don't actually exist in this world.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Weirdly, wines come in not just "red" and "white" but an entire chromatic range, each known for its particular strength and piquance. This is probably another case of Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit", as it's unlikely Roshar has grapes as we'd know them.
- Color-Coded Stones: Played with somewhat, where there are ten gemstones used in Soulcasting; each gemstone can transmute a certain element, and the association is based mainly on the commonality of colour between them. In order, with colours and elements listed, the gemstones are: Sapphire, blue, any clear gas. Smokestone, black, any opaque gas. Ruby, red, fire. Diamond, white, crystal. Emerald, green, plant matter. Garnet, rusty red, blood. Zircon, yellow, oil. Amethyst, purple, metal. Topaz, brown, stone. Heliodor, golden, flesh. Word of God is that originally their magic was going to be based on mineral composition, until he realized that most gems are identical from that perspective, so color is easier.
- The Commandments: The Ideals of the Knights Radiant. The Second through Fifth Ideals differ from Order to Order between the ten, but the First remains the same. Breaking them results in the spren involved in giving Surgebinding to the Radiant dying, causing a Depower and killing the Morph Weapon Shardblade made, rendering it incapable of morph.
- Continuity Nod: There are a number of small references throughout the book to Sanderson's larger multiverse, i.e. the start of Chapter 18 mentions a man named Ati who, in the Mistborn books, was Ruin. Also, the character Hoid, along with two of the three foreigners in the Ishikk interlude, Grump and Thinker being Galladon from Elantris and Demoux from Mistborn, respectively.
- In Words Of Radiance it is heavily implied that Zahel is Vasher. Also Nightblood, who is given to Szeth.
- Cool Horse: Ryshadium horses; bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter than virtually any other breed. They choose their own riders and are apparently very picky; Dalinar estimates that no more than a dozen men have been chosen, out of the hundreds of thousands in the warcamps. Dalinar compares the difference between a Ryshadium and a regular horse to the difference between Shardplate and regular armor.
- Cool Sword: Pick a Shardblade, any Shardblade.
- Cryptic Background Reference:
- Many, though in particular the anonymous letter excerpts given at the start of certain chapters contain many references to mysterious people, places, and events.
- The Old Magic and the precise nature of spren in particular. They're mentioned often, accepted as part of the world... but never truly explained.
- Doorstopper: The original title of the second book was going to be The Book of Endless (or Infinite) Pages, until Brandon's editor pointed out that the title might be a bit on the nose for a 1001-page book. As it happens, this second book—which was eventually named Words Of Radiance—apparently clocks in at 1088. Any longer, it would have been unpublishable.
- Duel to the Death: One method of becoming a Shardbearer.
- Dysfunction Junction: Justified. If you want to be a Surgebinder, being broken is a prerequisite.
- Easy Logistics: Soulcasters can virtually eliminate an army's need for supplies, as they create food, wood, buildings, and other such things out of thin air. Considering that much of Roshar lacks the topsoil necessary for growing large quantities of food, this makes them every bit as strategically important as Shardblades, and the king's tax on the use of his Soulcasters is Elokhar's main income source.
- Elemental Embodiment:
- Spren. There are traditional elemental spren like flamespren and windspren, but there are also spren for certain activities (creationspren for creating art, musicspren for performances), emotions (fearspren, gloryspren), biological processes/conditions (rotspren appear on infected wounds, lifespren appear near healthy plant life, hungerspren appear around someone starving, etc), and other things (starspren, which look like shooting stars but can change direction; deathspren, a mythological spren that are only visible to people who are very close to dying).
- It is strongly suggested that there is a Voidbringer minion connected to each of the Ten Essences, though so far we have only seen thunderclasts (massive, vaguely dog-shaped beasts of animate stone, connected to stone) and Midnight Essence (animate smoke inside a weasel-like skin with sharp teeth and claws, connected to smoke).
- Eye Color Change: It is believed by many characters that if a person with dark eyes wins a Shardblade their eyes will become light. Szeth's eyes are normally dark green but become pale blue when he is actively using his Blade; he notes this is unique to his particular blade, so it's not entirely clear what the actual situation is.
- In Words Of Radiance, we see Kaladin's eyes turn sky-blue when he speaks the Third Oath of the Windrunners. Moash's eyes turn light tan when he bonds a regular Shardblade. Also, we discover that Parshendi eyes turn glowing red when they become Voidbringers.
- Eternal Recurrence: Roshar is trapped in one, with cycles of great Desolations destroying civilization every few millenia only to be barely saved by the returning Heralds. In Words of Radiance this is revealed to be an elaborate trap keeping Odium bound on Roshar, and the Heralds return for the Desolations because of something called the Oathpact.
- Eye of Newt: Soulcasting, even Radiant Soulcasting, requires a gem tied to the Essence you wish to produce. So if you want to turn a man into glass, you need a diamond. If you wanted to turn him into blood or water, you'd need a ruby. And so forth.
- Fantastic Caste System: The Parshendi can shift between a variety of different forms, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Warform is the one we usually see them in, making them big and strong and causing them to grow an armored carapace. Workform is similar to warform, but without the armor and with a mental block against conflict. Mateform is used for reproduction, while nimbleform is generally dexterous and quick. Finally, we have dullform, a baseline form with no distinguishing properties, and slaveform, the mindless state that most parshmen exist in. There's also Stormform, one of their Voidbringer forms, which turns them into hate-filled killing machines that can generate lightning and in large groups can summon an Everstorm.
- Fantastic Honorifics: "Brightness" is used to refer to lighteyes in much the same way as "lord" or "lady" would be used for nobility. "Brightlord" is also used, but seems to be reserved for those of much higher rank than the speaker. High ranked darkeyes are sometimes called "Citizen".
- Fantastic Light Source: Spheres, which double as money (see Fictional Currency, below). When infused with Stormlight, they glow; the brightness and color of the light depends on the size and type of gemstone, respectively. Diamond spheres make the best light sources, as they're pure white; a mark is almost as bright as a candle, and a broam is several times that — and (unlike candles, lamps, or torches) they don't flicker, don't give off smoke, and last for a week or so before needing to be re-infused. Clear goblets are filled with spheres and used as lamps; "wasting" spheres on light is something of a status symbol.
- Fantastic Racism: Between the Alethi and the Parshendi/Parshmen, as well as between lighteyes and darkeyes in Vorin nations. Nations in the west of Roshar don't seem to divide class by eye colour, though.
- Fantasy Counterpart Appliance: Spanreeds are a convenient way to communicate in writing, not unlike texting or a very fast telegram. Spheres, because of their Stormlight, are used in affluent areas as lightbulbs.
- Fictional Currency: "Spheres", which are glass beads with gemstones embedded in them. The spheres themselves are always the same size, but the gems inside them come in three different sizes; chips, marks, and broams. Nine different gemstones are used; their relative value is based on their usefulness in Soulcasting (see Magic A Is Magic A, below). To make things even more complicated, sometimes different names are used for the gems. Details
- Flawed Prototype: The Honorblades, the original Shardblades the Almighty gave to his Heralds. They give anyone who uses them surgebinding powers of the appropriate Order, but they consume stormlight at a prodigious rate, and lack a spren, so they don't have the behavior checks of the Knights Radiant.
- Fling a Light into the Future: God does this, and that's the source of Dalinar's/Kaladin's visions
- Gambit Pileup: There are a lot of different factions, some more mysterious than others, and all seem to have their own agendas.
- Giant Enemy Crab: The chasmfiends.
- God of Evil: Odium.
- Gold Fever: Ultimately what caused the strategic breakdown of the Alethi war effort. As soon as they realized how many Chasm Fiend Gem Hearts were present, acquiring those for themselves became more important than cooperating with the other princes to win a decisive strategic victory against the Parshendhi.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Swords, be they Shardblades ore regular ones, are considered the weapons of choice of the "heroic" light eyed nobility. Common soldiers use axes and spears, and there is a cultural taboo against them owning swords. Averted as Kaladin prefers the spear.
- High Fantasy: Sanderson has described the series as his "love letter" to the genre.
- Hive Mind: It seems that the Parshendi have something like this. They have an uncanny ability to sing in time and in tune with each other... even when out of earshot.
- Hollywood Tactics: In-Universe, Justified example. The Alethi are on the whole VERY good at war, and individual high princes' armies are quite disciplined and use effective battlefield tactics, but they're still very much feudal and have only been unified into one kingdom for roughly a decade. Because of this, despite the fact that the ostensible purpose of the war is to punish the Parshendi for murdering the king, the Highprinces are mainly concerned with hunting the beasts that provide them with gemhearts and the wealth they represent, and only fight against the Parshendi when it's necessary to reach the plateau where the beast is spotted or withdraw back to their camps after claiming the gemheart. Dalinar has noticed this and is trying to turn the campaign into an actual war.
- Hostile Weather: The highstorms. They strike every few days, blowing from east to west, and are so powerful that being out unprotected in one is a death sentence. They've also scoured all dirt and soil from the eastern half of the continent (leading to some bizarre plants and animals), and bring the mystical Stormlight that powers everything.
- It's Raining Men: According to Dalinar's visions, the Radiants could arrive for battle this way.
- Jackass Genie: The Nightwatcher, who will grant seemingly any wish, for a price. In fact, most people who go to the Nightwatcher end up regretting it. Only two people we've encountered don't regert this. One we have only heard of was one man who made his wish to feed his family through a harsh winter. His curse was that he saw the world upside-down for the rest of his life. It was weird, but he got used to it. The other was Lift, who seems somewhat immune to regret. For Dalinar, the Nightwatcher erased all his memories of his wife. He can't remember anything about her except that she existed, and whenever someone speaks her name, all he can hear is static. As of The Way of Kings, it's unclear whether this is his curse or his wish.
- The Jester: Wit. It can be hard to tell when he is genuinely offering criticism as opposed to just insulting people as his job or for personal amusement.
- Karmic Trickster: Wit's job. He enjoys it considerably, and it is fairly obvious that the nobility deserve his treatment almost to a man.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Eshu of the ten fools, who speaks of things he does not understand in front of those who do.
- Language Equals Thought: Averted. In Alethkar, the lighteyes are the nobility, and the darkeyed version of Alethi doesn't appear to treat them as separate concepts. Rock runs up against this when trying to talk about how nobility works in other countries, but no character shows any particular trouble recognizing the idea of lighteyes not being on top.
- Lightning Bruiser: Shardplate not only bestows inhuman strength, but it amplifies the speed of movements to a degree one would normally only expect from a very agile man unburdened by armor.
- Like Cannot Cut Like: Shardblades can parry each other.
- Literal Genie: Subverted. One character thinks that the Nightwatcher works this way, and plans to word his request to her carefully enough that it doesn't backfire. His friend informs him that this isn't how the Old Magic works, though; the Nightwatcher will grant you your wish just like you wanted it, but she will also place a curse on you which she feels is equal to the wish's value. Sometimes the curse makes the wish ironic, but it's often completely unrelated.
- Lost Technology:
- Shards. Scholars have been trying to replicate them for as long as anyone can remember, but only recently has any progress been made in the form of "half-shards"; shields that can block a shardblade, but don't grant any of the other benefits of Shardplate.
- Navani notes that the half-shards aren't actually progress towards Plate, since as far as anyone can tell they use a different mechanism.
- The revelation in Words Of Radiance that Shardblades are actually transformed spren explains why the artifabrians have had so much trouble with them.
- Magic A Is Magic A:
- There are at least two different (though related) systems: fabrials and Surgebinding. Fabrials are a form of Magitek: by trapping a spren in a gemstone and providing it with Light, you can force the spren to do whatever you designed the fabrial to do, from emitting warmth to telekinetically synchronizing two objects to turning rocks into (bland) food. Surgebinding is granted by the Nahel bond, a link between a human and a spren whereby the spren gains sentience in the Physical Realm and the human gains Surgebinding powers. All Surgebinders can inhale Stormlight to gain enhanced strength and speed and a moderate Healing Factor, but each order can also use the Light to accomplish specific magical effects. So far we know some or all of the powers for five orders:
- Windrunners gain Gravity Master powers, allowing them to redefine "down" at their discretion. So a Windrunner can decide that gravity now pulls them forwards or up or sideways, and they will fall in that direction. Or they can make an enemy fall straight up into the sky. Windrunners can also increase an object's gravitional pull, allowing them to pull arrows out of the air and into a shield or bridge or whatever. Finally, Windrunners can also fuse together two objects with a temporary but virtually unbreakable bond.
- Lightweavers gain Soulcasting, the ability to transform one substance into another (such as turning a bandit's body from flesh to glass or turning rocks into food or a goblet into blood). They also can conjure incredibly detailed illusions, complete with sounds and motions.
- Elsecallers share the Lightweaver's access to Soulcasting, but also can translate between Realms and teleport from one point to another.
- Edgedancers can control friction, letting them climb walls like a gecko or slide over floors as if they were greased. They also possess the Healing Hands magic known as Regrowth.
- Truthwatchers have demonstrated the power to discern the future, albeit cryptically.
- There is also another form of magic that we haven't seen much of: Voidbinding, the magic of Odium. Very little is mentioned of it (presumably because it was used by the Voidbringers) but it has ten "levels" which appear to be counterparts to the Ten Essences of Surgebinding.
- The Magic Comes Back: A major theme of the series as a whole. With another Desolation coming around, magic has started to reappear as the spren seek out potential new Radiants and bond to them. Its also hinted that the magic has been coming back for a while now, as Shallan started manifesting powers as a child and another, an old healer, has been manifesting for decades. In fact, the magic would have been coming back sooner except that Nalan, one of the Heralds, has been actively hunting down and executing anyone manifesting Surgebinding powers if he can catch them breaking laws that make it legal for him to kill them.
- The fact that the magic is coming back is actually considered a very bad thing by some people. The main reason is that the Recreance actually killed a huge number of spren bonded to Radiants, and was considered such a terrible act that the spren abandoned humans. That the spren are bonding with humans again now is because they sense another Desolation approaching and are acting as much out of self-preservation as anything else, because the alternative is extinction of both.
- Magic Knight: The Knights Radiant in the backstory. Szeth and ultimately Kaladin during the main novel.
- Magitek: Fabrials, which are essentially steampunk-type devices which run on Stormlight, and are used for a variety of purposes, including Soulcasting. Though Jasnah and Shallan don't need them to Soulcast. Shardplate and Shardblades represent a much more ancient and advanced form of Magitek, though the secrets of creating them have been lost (not that people don't try).
- Matter Replicator: Fabrials used for Soulcasting are capable of transforming things like rock and sand into any number of useful things, be they finished goods or food. They are absolutely critical in maintaining a large army in an area as remote as the Shattered Plains.
- Mana: Stormlight functions like this when used to directly power magical abilities.
- Man Child: One of the Ten Fools, Cabin, is mentioned to have behaved like a child even though he was an adult.
- Meaningful Name:
- "Kaladin" is one letter away from "paladin."
- Alethi culture usually gives meaningful names to Lighteyes. Their names are usually close to palindromes, but not quite there, like Sadeas or Renarin. In Words of Radiance, it is revealed that the nearly-but-not-quite fitting a pattern is meant to reflect their place in the social order - closest to God - and actual symmetrical names are seen as presumptuous arrogance.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Odd subversion. The Alethi and related cultures at first seem to be this, with their knights and castles and lords and so forth, while other cultures like the Shin seem like Wutai. But then there's an interlude where we actually visit the Shin lands, and in fact they are much more 'normal' feeling to the reader because they have fertile soil and plants that are familiar to us (such as strawberries and non-motile grass) but treated as exotic and alien by the Alethi.
- To play with this even more, according to Word of God the Shin are the only race on Roshar that don't have "Eastern" almondine eyes. It's noted to give the Shin a "childlike" appearance.
- Medieval Stasis: The Desolations are a direct cause of this. They are so destructive that civilization is often broken by the time they end, to the point that the Heralds won't even be sure if the next civilizations can forge bronze when they show up to fight the next one. However, the Heralds' abandoning of the Oathpact at the start of the first book and the Parshendi's abandoning of their gods appears to have delayed the Desolations long enough for a rather advanced set of societies to develop.
- Mismatched Eyes: The child of a darkeyes and a lighteyes will have one eye of each color. This makes them something of an outcast.
- Multicolored Hair: Mixed-race Alethi (Adolin, for example) almost always have this.
- Mundane Utility: Used straight and discussed.
- Infused spheres used for light. See Fantastic Light Source and Fictional Currency.
- Dalinar wonders why no one ever uses Shardplate for anything but combat. And then proves his point by using his Plate to dig a latrine pit out of solid rock.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Odium
- Nature Spirit: Some spren seem to fill this role, though many others instead seem to either be attracted to or created by intense human emotion.
- No Pronunciation Guide: Brandon Sanderson pronounces the J in "Jasnah" as a Y, as if it were a Scandanavian name. There is nothing in the book that indicates this should be the case.
- No Sell: The Lashings (and presumably all other forms of Surgebinding) can't be directly used on Shardplate or its wearer.
- Oh My Gods!: "Stormfather!" and "Living Heralds above!" are both commonly used as exclamations. Also, "Damnation" is used in place of "Hell", and if you don't like someone you tell them to "Storm off."
- One Degree of Separation: The chief guard of the caravan rescued by Shallan is also the one who orchestrated Jasnah's assassination. The shardbearer killed by Kaladin in his Dark and Troubled Past happens to be Shallan's missing older brother. Everyone knows Wit, but he doesn't count because he's doing it on purpose.
- One-Man Army: The Shardbearers — even stated outright several times. Also the Surgebinders, even without the Blade, as Kaladin proved.
- The Order: The Knights Radiant, founded by the Heralds. The Knights Radiant were actually divided up into ten individual orders (even called such in-universe), though all of them seemed to be Shardbearers. Word of God says that each order had two types of magic like Soulcasting or Surgebinding (see Magic A Is Magic A, above) and each of those was shared by two orders (the diagram on the inside front cover of The Way of Kings illustrates this).
- Our Demons Are Different: Voidbringers. Shrouded in Myth. They're the Parshendi/Parshmen. Sort of.
- Our Nudity Is Different: The cultures based on the Vorin religion consider a woman with her left hand (the 'safehand') bare to be provocative. Commoner women wear a glove to cover it while noblewomen wear dresses with left sleeves that cover the entire arm and hand and button shut. At one point we see a prostitute, who wears a short-sleeved dress, and Kaladin cannot take his eyes off her safehand.
- Our Orcs Are Different: The Parshendi, of the Proud Warrior Race variant unless/until they become Voidbringers.
- The Paladin:
- Kaladin. Helping the helpless is a strong personality trait of his from the start, both on the battlefield and with medicine.
- In Words of Radiance, it is eventually revealed that Surgebinding powers depend on adherence to a code, at least for some of the orders. In Kaladin's case, this means that his powers fade when he stops being protective.
- People of Hair Color: Certain nationalities have hair colors strongly associated with them — black for the Alethi, red for the Vedens, and gold (not blonde, but actual, shimmering gold) for the Iriali. You can even tell people of mixed nationality, because they usually have multicolored hair in streaks.
- Perpetual Storm: There is talk of "the Everstorm" that is yet to come, which seems to be a metaphor for the Final Battle (see also A Storm Is Coming). However, given that the world is periodically wracked by powerful storms which may or may not be sent by the Big Bad, there might be a literal storm in the offing.
- At the end of book two, the Voidbringers apparently create the Everstorm. It is a cyclical storm like the highstorms, except for two things. First, it carries with it spren that will transform Parshmen into Voidbringers. Second, it moves around the world in the opposite direction from highstorms, so buildings sheltered and reinforced to be protected from regular highstorms may be devastated by the everstorm. Needless to say, this is very bad.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Shardbearers and Surgebinders. Jasnah has the potential when the mood takes her, as well.
- Photographic Memory: Bizarrely literal example with Shallan. She can, by blinking, take a Memory of a scene, which allows her to later reproduce that scene with photographic accuracy, including showing the otherwise invisible Cryptics. In addition, when she sketches a Memory, the Memory is gone, leaving her with only a regular memory of the scene. Words Of Radiance implies that most if not all Lightweavers possessed this ability.
- Playing with Fire: Implied to form a large part of the Releaser's abilities. The Prelude mentions them leaving the very ground smoldering and smoking, and they are tied to the Essence of Fire.
- Powered Armor: Shardplate is a Magitek version, a type of Lost Technology powered by Stormlight.
- Power Glows: Stormlight is the magical "fuel" of this world. As the name suggests, it emits light, as does anything infused with it.
- Practical Currency: Gems inside glass spheres, infused with Stormlight, are primarily money but can be used as light sources or as power sources for surgebinding.
- Proud Merchant Race:
- The Shin are the complete inversion of the Alethi. They consider warriors, "those who take," as the least of their society, and treat them as slaves. Farmers and the like, or "those who add," are given the highest position, since they are contributing to the world. Although never stated outright, one would assume they likewise hold their women in very high esteem.
- Also the Thaylen culture appears to be heavily mercantile, most of the Thaylens we see are merchants, and Kaladin's father mentions that every Thaylen he ever met tried to cheat him.
- Proud Scholar Race: Thanks to the strict gender roles of the Alethi (and the Vorin religion in general), Alethi women are like this, while their male counterparts are closer to a Proud Warrior Race.
- Proud Warrior Race:
- The Parshendi. While perfectly willing to target bridgemen to disrupt incoming attacks, once battle is joined they focus on targeting the strongest and most capable of enemy combatants, avoiding the wounded, invalid, or noncombatant if possible. Unless they're disturbing Parshendi bodies...
- The Alethi deconstruct it; most brightlords are more interested in looking the part than living it. In addition, many Alethi have the "Thrill," a form of bloodlust that grips them in battle, and they've become so glory-hungry that they consider even thinking about peace cowardice.
- The Alethi used to be a straight example of this trope: Back in the days of the Silver Kingdoms, Alethela (as it was then known) was specifically designated as the nation of warriors, the ones whose job it was to protect the other nine Kingdoms against the Voidbringers.
- Real Men Hate Sugar: Enforced as part of Alethi culture; men eat salty, spicy food and women eat sweet food.
- Reconstruction: Arguably, of epic fantasy. The success of A Song of Ice and Fire influenced a lot of genre works since its publishing, to the point of dark, gritty stories and deconstructions with anti-heroes and villain protagonists becoming a trend. Here, however, most of the main characters are a lighter shade of gray at the very least, and try to fight for a good cause - even villains aren't steeped in depravity and have noble goals. The world is still a dark place, and many of the heroes are broken inside, but find a will to go on and better their own lives and the lives of those around them. Indeed, the message of the whole story could be interpreted as "The ends do not justify the means".
- Self-Healing Phlebotinum: Shardplate armor can be fixed, even if a piece of it is shattered, by installing gemstones infused with Stormlight. The gemstones usually crack in the process. And like a starfish, if you have only one piece, you can eventually regrow the whole Plate, unless someone else has a larger piece and is doing the same thing. Unopposed, it is possible to regrow a complete set of plate from a single mote of the dust it was pulverized into.
- The Siege: The entire Vengeance Pact is one prolonged example. Because the Alethi can't move their entire force out onto the Shattered Plains without getting surrounded by the much more mobile Parshendi, they instead cut off escape to the west and proceeded to engage in a seven-year-long war of attrition to reduce the Parshendi numbers, with much of the fighting occurring over the gemhearts left by slain chasmfiends (used to power Soulcasting). While an effective strategy, the siege causes massive strain on Alethkar itself, costs a tremendous number of lives, and eventually pushes the Parshendi to develop stormform bodies, which triggers their Demonic Possession, starts up a new Everstorm, and begins the next Desolation.
- Soul-Cutting Blade: Shardblades. Which is why they burn out the eyes of their victims.
- Stay in the Kitchen: The Alethi and related cultures (i.e. most of the people we meet) have this for both sexes—only men are permitted to be warriors, but only women are permitted to be scholars (unless they join the ardents), and it is taboo for a man to be literate; men are only expected to know the simpler ideogrammatic glyph system rather than the alphabet. In terms of a person's Calling, it seems to boil down to men being physical and women being creative and/or scholarly. Although it gets into even weirder territory with safehands and the fact that they're not even supposed to eat the same food.
- A Storm Is Coming: See the page quote. "The Everstorm comes" is a major arc phrase in the first two books.
- Soldier vs. Warrior: The Parshendi and Alethi are a strange contrast. While the Parshendi fight in loose order, engaging in individual combat during battles, their Hive Mind makes them fight in a regimented manner on the large scale with similar goals. The Alethi meanwhile fight in tight ranks of regimented spear-men, but all of the high princes are divided and seeking personal glory on the large scale.
- Strategy Versus Tactics: The Alethi have a much firmer grasp of battlefield tactics and formations than the Parshendi, but the Parshendi have a better strategic focus during the war (namely, their survival). A major problem Dalinar has is uniting the Alethi into a unified army that can work towards a strategic objective.
- Summon to Hand: Shardblades work this way; they vanish into thin air when released, and appear in the owner's waiting hand ten heartbeats after they decide to summon it. (Someone whose pulse is racing can call their Shardblade faster than someone who is calm and collected.)
- It is revealed in "Words Of Radiance" that the Radiant can summon their Shardblades instantly.
- Technicolor Eyes: The Alethi (and most of the rest of the continent) are split into "darkeyes" and "lighteyes," based (obviously) on eye color. The lighteyes are the rulers, and their eyes are things like gold and violet and white in addition to more mundane colors like blue and green (although dark green is a darkeyes color).
- Tron Lines:
- The Knights Radiant have them in one of Dalinar's flashbacks, right down to the colors — either blue or gold for the two Orders we've seen. Implied that the other orders will branch out into whites, greens, and reds, though what color the Skybreakers (whose gem is black) will be is anyone's guess.
- In Words Of Radiance, we see them on true Shardblades, specifically blue for Sylphrena and red for Pattern.
- Victory By Endurance: About the only reason the Alethi are winning the war against the Parshendi is because the harvesting of gem hearts allow the uncoordinated High Princes to keep their massive armies in the field in perpetuity.
- Weather of War: Enough Parshendi stormforms can summon the Everstorm, essentially an amped-up highstorm that blows the other way round.
- We Need a Distraction: It is implied in Words of Radiance that all of Roshar is one giant distraction to keep Odium from killing anymore of the Shards like he did with Honor, Dominion and Devotion.
- World of Badass: Unless you live in Shinovar, you have to contend with Highstorms, Shardbearers, brigands, hostile terrain, and huge monstrous fauna. Generally, you either die, get sold into slavery, or man up and rise to the occasion. Sometimes you get to do all three.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: At the start of the series Szeth notes that even with the regenerative powers granted by Stormlight a limb rendered unusable by a Shardblade won't recover. Although in the second book Kaladin's arm is killed by Szeth's blade, and it does recover. This is because Szeth's sword is actually an Honorblade, which gives Szeth weaker surgebinding than Kaladin has.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: The ordinary way to obtain Shards. Whoever strikes the killing blow on a wielder gets to take the Shards for himself. This is more social convention than anything to do with the Shards - Kaladin refused to take up one he earned in combat, in his backstory, and someone else took it instead.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo:
- Mostly shows up with the people of Shin versus those from most other countries. For example, the Shin people value humility above all else (to the point that their trade negotiations consist of merchants downplaying the value of their goods rather than exaggerating them) and consider walking on or otherwise touching or damaging stone to be disrespectful. After travelling throughout the other lands, Shin viewpoint character Szeth reflects that it's rather hard to hold foreigners to these rules considering their lands don't have soil covering the bare rock.
- The Horneaters have a caste system based on the order in which children are born, which defines their vocation. When Rock explains this to the other bridgemen (mostly from Alethi-related cultures), the oddest part to them is that the Horneaters do not consider being a warrior to be the highest and most respected vocation. Rock also stuns the others by saying that Horneaters consider long-ranged weapons better and more honorable (whereas among Alethi, there's a reason the officers get swords and the grunts get spears).
- Crosses over with Deliberate Values Dissonance, but this is also true of the general culture we see with the Alethi and related peoples compared to the readers. For example, how literacy is restricted to women.