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Literature: Words Of Radiance

WARNING: Late Arrival Spoilers abound for The Way Of Kings.

Shallan: It's not a lie, if everyone understands and knows what it means.
Pattern: Mm. Those are some of the best lies.
Words of Radiance is the second book in Brandon Sanderson's Epic Fantasy series The Stormlight Archive, taking place on the world of Roshar, characterized by its Hostile Weather and Giant Enemy Crabs. Just as The Way Of Kings focused on Kaladin, Words of Radiance centers around Shallan Davar, former Impoverished Patrician and current scholar of Roshar's ancient history, which is becoming more relevant to the realm with each passing day.

At the end of The Way Of Kings, Shallan and Jasnah concluded the Parshmen used as manual labor across Roshar are the Voidbringers, ancient monsters who routinely attack civilization until driven back by the Knights Radiant, who betrayed humanity and vanished thousands of years ago. They set out to the Shattered Plains to meet with Jasnah's family, who lead the continuing war against the Parshmen's violent cousins, the Parshendi. However, a twist of fate leaves Shallan alone with nothing but her notes and her new, poorly understood Surgebinding powers, weeks away from her destination.

Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of War, has abandoned his position on the front lines of battle for an even more dangerous one in politics. Confronted with cryptic visions predicting a coming Desolation, Dalinar attempts to unite the Alethi Highprinces to combine their strength and decisively crush the Parshendi. Unfortunately, he is seen either as a fool or insane by most of his peers, and announcing his intention to refound the Knights Radiant has only made his job more difficult.

After rescuing Dalinar's forces when they were betrayed by Highprince Sadeas, Kaladin and his bridgemen are employed as the personal bodyguards of the royal family, putting them in an awkward political position and heaping more responsibility on Kaladin than he deems himself fit to bear. Even though he has sworn to protect their king, Kaladin continues to grapple with his hatred of lighteyes, made worse when some of his personal demons resurface on the Shattered Plains.

Meanwhile, Szeth-son-son-Vallano, the Assassin in White, the Shardbearer who killed Gavilar Kholin and plunged Alethkar into war with the Parshendi, has been given new orders by Taravingian: Assassinate Highprince Dalinar.


This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: As a Shallan-centric book, we get more detail on her father. To be specific: Shallan’s mother attempted to kill her due to her Surgebinder powers; Shallan killed her mother with her Shardblade on instinct, after which her father willingly took the blame... which led to him becoming a rage-filled, abusive, broken man who eventually had to be killed by Shallan (by strangling with a necklace that had been his gift to her) in order to stop him from beating one of her brothers to death.
  • Apologizes a Lot: Shallan, as befitting her meek nature.
    Jasnah: You still blush too easily when confronted.
    Shallan: I’m sorry.
    Jasnah: And apologize too easily as well.
    Shallan: I’m... uh, indignant?
  • Alien Geometries: Pattern's form is described this way. One fan, commenting on the teaser chapter in which Pattern is described, said he sounds like "a fractal Chalkling."
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Eshonai (and by implication the rest of her people) when she changes to stormform. Every time she attunes to the Rhythm of Peace, the Voidbringer she has become can hear her true self screaming. She solves this problem simply by not singing to Peace, but her true self slowly becomes stronger over the course of the book, and she starts hearing the screaming at all times.
    • Shardblades, apparently. When Kaladin touches one, it gains a voice, if only for a moment, and accuses its wielder of killing it. All Shardblades are spren, killed by the broken oaths.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Downplayed Trope. Kaladin spends all of the first book and about 90% of this one absolutely loathing all lighteyes. Then he swears the Third Oath and becomes one himself.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Jasnah begins the process of arranging one between Adolin and Shallan. She's initially worried that Shallan will be upset she was not consulted about this, but Shallan is actually surprisingly amenable. She always expected to have her husband chosen by her father, and the one time she chose a suitor, he turned out to be an assassin. The fact that Adolin is a prince certainly doesn't hurt.
    • For his own part, Adolin finds the idea of having someone else pick a wife for him kind of relaxing, given that his own efforts have led to him offending every single eligible woman in camp.
    • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Sanderson seems to like this trope a lot.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Shardblades represent the broken oaths of the old Knights Radiant, as well as centuries of blood and murder as people scrambled to win and steal them. When Kaladin touches one, he hears it screaming, though only he and the wielder can hear it. They're actually spren, killed by the broken oaths, given some semblance of life by bonding to a living being. Being touched by a Radiant who still holds his oath gives them life and memory of their pain for a moment.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Carried over from the end of the first book. Dalinar got fed up with Elhokar's pussy-footing around, kicked his ass, and told him to appoint Dalinar as Highprince of War—that is, the highest-ranking Highprince on military matters.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • After Kaladin kills her by breaking his oaths, Sylphrena is restored when he swears the Third Oath.
    • Also, Jasnah appears to be killed early on, but the epilogue reveals that she escaped into Shadesmar using her Elsecaller powers.
    • Also Szeth, who is killed (with a Shardblade) by Kaladin, and then revived by one of the fallen Heralds... and then given the sword Nightblood from Sanderson’s Warbreaker book.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Kaladin and Adolin while fighting four Shardbearers in the arena.
  • Badass Army: Bridge Four (and the rest of the bridgemen) are now guards in Dalinar's employ, under Kaladin's command. They also insist on being referred to as Bridge Four, rather than by the name of Dalinar's previous (now deceased) honor guard.
  • Badass Boast: Kaladin gets a pretty epic one near the end. "The wind is mine. The sky is mine. They have been mine since childhood. You are the trespasser here. Not me."
  • Badass Family: The Kholins. As of the end of this book, the family includes three Radiants (four if you count Shallan, who isn't part of the family yet but may be soon), the King of Alethkar, one of its Highprinces, and the world's most skilled Shardbearer.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Dalinar manages to do this with a Shardblade. Played with, to an extent, as sword master Zahel specifically tells Kaladin it a last-ditch move that more often than not gets the person attempting it killed. Even then, it's only possible because people tend not to swing an Absurdly Sharp Blade as hard as they would a normal sword. Kaladin does it anyway after he runs out of Stormlight during the duel.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Discussed. Jasnah tells Shallan that authority comes more from bearing than anything else; the crew of the ship they are traveling on would treat her the same if she was merely a random beggar off the streets who acted like the sister of a king. Shallan takes her advice and earns grudging respect from the captain.
  • Blunt Yes: Kaladin's answer when Elhokar asks if he's a bad king. Wit gives the same when Dalinar asks if he's a tyrant, though he contextualizes that being a tyrant under the present circumstances is necessary.
  • Body Horror: Using a Soulcaster fabrial does weird things to a body, slowly transmuting flesh to stone. No wonder the Soulcasters prefer to do their work at night. This might have also had something to do with Shallan's father's rising insanity.
  • Bond Creatures/Familiar: More information is given regarding spren.
    • Sylphrena for Kaladin, as in the first book.
    • Shallan gains a spren early in the second book, a shifting mass of sentient lines she names Pattern.
    • We also see Jasnah's spren, a little fellow named Ivory.
    • Renarin mentions his by name in an off-hand comment, but we never see it. Even Dalinar gets in on the act and gets one: The Stormfather himself.
  • Broken Ace:
    • At the beginning of the book, Kaladin is clearly still psychologically damaged from his ordeals. Most notable in his refusal to reveal his new status as a Surgebinder, for fear that Dalinar or one of the other lighteyes will steal it from him. He even admits that he has no clue how such a thing could be done, but is still too afraid to risk it. Becomes far more literal when he "breaks" Syl by accident, though he gets much better after she's revived.
    • For most of the book, Shallan is also one, having suffered the loss of her mentor in addition to her repressed memories of killing her mother in self-defense. Like Kaladin, she gets better.
  • Broken Masquerade: By the end of the book, not only are Dalinar's visions common knowledge to the Alethi, but Shallan, Jasnah, and Kaladin are revealed to be Radiants.
  • Brought Down to Badass: After Kaladin kills Syl, he still manages to take down a chasm fiend with some help.
  • Came Back Wrong: Shardblades, or at least the dead ones. The reason why they are screaming is that they are stuck at the moment when they were "killed" to keep themselves solid. They have to be revived every time they are summoned, which is why they need ten heartbeats.
  • The Chessmaster: The book has several, but the king of the trope is Taravingian, who’s manipulating (and slaughtering) entire kingdoms based upon a plan he made when his curse/wish rendered him superhumanly intelligent.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Normally, Adolin is a bit of a showman in a duel, preferring the broad, majestic strikes of Windstance. When he's ordered to disarm the other Shardbearers by dueling them, however, he utilizes the powerful Ironstance to brutal effect, and abandoning his Blade for straight punches and kicks when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Companion Cube: Adolin's Shardblade. He talks to it. He's half justified in doing so.
  • Convulsive Seizures: Discussed by Kaladin and Renarin. Renarin says he has epilepsy, but instead of falling to the ground as some people imagine, he tends to start twitching and become weak along one side of his body.
  • Cool Sword:
    • Syl and Pattern in Shard form, though Syl also becomes a Cool Spear and Cool Shield.
    • At the end of the book, Szeth gets Nightblood.
  • Corrupt Church: The Vorin church in Alethkar, as seen in one of the interlude chapters. It may very well be going through a violent reformation by the end of the book.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Much like how Way Of Kings focused on Kaladin primarily, this book focuses primarily on Shallan. Also the Parshendi Shardbearer Dalinar fought at the end of book 1 gets a interlude viewpoint.
  • Dissimile: Shallan's attempts to describe Pattern often fall flat.
    She turned back to Pattern, who had shifted into his hovering form. He looked something like the pattern of splintered light thrown on the wall by a crystal chandelier—except he was made of something black instead of light, and he was three-dimensional. So... Maybe not much like that at all.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shallan, especially when she gets around Kaladin. Also Kaladin when he’s around lighteyes. And Wit/Hoid practically always.
  • Determinator: Kaladin, to levels above his performance in The Way of Kings. Specifically, he manages to stay standing against a man in Shardplate while deprived of his Surgebinder powers and suffering from massive internal injuries. The reason? It’s the right thing to do.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The first we hear of Parshendi spies among the Parshmen slaves is in Navani's journal (which was written after the book), where she notes they really should have expected it.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: When Pattern does this, Shallan tells him that nothing is less funny than trying to explain humor.
  • Door Stopper: The book clocks in at 1088 pages. Good thing, too—apparently the publisher physically cannot print a book bigger than that.
  • Driven to Madness: Szeth, the Assassin in White, by the end. The realization that his servitude—and the resulting slaughters he created—were completely avoidable sends him screaming over the edge.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The last Shallan flashback puts the rest of them in a completely new perspective.
    • In a more minor example, the revelation that Shen / Rlain was not an ordinary parshman but a Parshendi spy in dullform may lead the reader to reassess some of their assumptions about parshmen, given that he was the main example we have seen in detail up to now.
  • Entertainingly Wrong:
    • Tyn is perfectly reasonable in believing that Shallan is just using the identity of a conveniently housebound, never-seen noblewoman as her cover and still needs a dose of reality as to doing what needs to be done. Unfortunately for her, she's wrong on the first count.
    • The book's pretty much full of this. Characters are constantly making assumptions about each other, their abilities, their religions, and more, that seem reasonable but are based on incomplete or incorrect information. Among the most amusing incidents comes when Shallan and Kaladin are falling into the chasms together. They both use their abilities to protect them, but being unaware of the extent of their abilities or each other's abilities, they both assume they're responsible for their survival.
  • Equippable Ally/Living Weapon: When a Radiant reaches a certain level of bond strength (swearing the Third Oath for Kaladin, unknown for Shallan or Jasnah), their spren can transform into Shards. In fact, all "modern" Shards are the bodies of the dead spren bonded by the Old Radiants.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Played with in that we have Fantastic Classism: For as much as Shallan says she doesn't care about dark vs light eyes, she's terribly classist to Kaladin in their first insult-filled argument, saying something along the lines of "At least I know who my parents are" - the implication there being that, since Kaladin is dark-eyed, he obviously doesn't have a loving family. Kind of ironic given her own familial situation.
    • Kaladin also spends most of the book having a very classist (though somewhat understandable) attitude towards all lighteyes.
  • Fictional Document: Words of Radiance is an in-universe philosophical book about the Orders of the Knights Radiant, their legacy and the ethics of reign and governance.
  • Fiery Redhead: Shallan, especially when she’s in full Snark-to-Snark Combat with Kaladin.
  • Foreshadowing: Uncountable examples.
    • Shallan:
      • Shallan needs ten heartbeats to summon her Shardblade—before wondering if that's true. Because as a true, living Blade, Pattern can transform whenever he likes.
      • When Kaladin is using Shallan's Blade to fight the chasmfiend, she has to stay close to her illusions, even though she previously figured out how to make them move farther away from her. Because to do that, she infuses Pattern with Stormlight—and Kaladin is busy using Pattern.
      • When Shallan is trying to hack a hole in the rock, she has trouble because her Blade is too long, and it immediately shrinks into a more knife-sized shape. Again, it's a living spren, so he followed her mental commands.
      • The fact that Shallan's brain stops working whenever someone brings up her mother's death obscures quite a few details, but there are still hints. Pattern specifically mentions that they've been together for years, ever since Shallan was a child, and that's why she's learning Lightweaving so quickly. She's actually one of the first surgebinders of the generation, and came into her full power in her teens. Her mother tried to kill her for it, fearing the return of the Voidbringers, and Shallan summoned Pattern as a Blade and killed her.
    • Renarin:
      • He stops wearing his glasses because he's trying to look like a soldier. Actually, the Stormlight healed his eyes.
      • The timing of his epileptic fits is important. It's whenever he summons his Shardblade—because he can hear it screaming, as a true Radiant.
      • The warning on the walls is noted to be something that only one of Dalinar's family members could have done. Dalinar assumes he did it himself, but it was actually Renarin.
    • Jasnah:
      • Her experience in the prologue, with her involuntary travel to Shadesmar (and subsequent near death) hints at the nature of her Elsecaller abilities, and the fact that during the attack on the Wind's Pleasure, she's skilled enough to teleport there while under attack to escape.
      • During the ambush, Shallan sees Jasnah's corpse thrown to the deck, but when she comes out a few minutes later, it's gone. She assumes the raiders did something with it, but the truth is Jasnah escaped to Shadesmar once no one was looking.
      • Taravangian's Diagram predicts that there's a high chance of Jasnah faking her death. Though her doing so wasn't as simple as the Diagram implied, it was essentially what happened.
    • Dalinar:
      • First and most obviously, the fact that the visions only come in highstorms hints that the Stormfather is the one sending them.
      • It's hard to tell, but in Taln's interlude, he's one of the ones who witnesses the Herald brought to camp. He says he has a plan for the Blade, and gives the loyal soldier who brought the Herald instructions. Later, said loyal soldier is apparently bribed by Amaram—actually, he's following Dalinar's orders to pretend to be corrupt.
      • He spends a week sick, with no one but Navani to watch over him. He was binding the Shardblade collected from Taln as part of a ploy to catch Amaram in a lie.
      • He no longer feels the Thrill. The Thrill is caused by what Taravingian calls "an ancient, evil spren," and surgebinders are immune to it.
      • After binding Taln's Blade, he finds something wrong with it. He assumes he just isn't used to it, while readers assumed it was because it was an Honorblade. It's neither; someone swapped out the Honorblade with a normal one before it arrived in the warcamps, and Dalinar's nascent bond with the Stormfather is causing him disquiet when he holds a dead spren, just like every other surgebinder.
  • Genius Breeding Act: At one point, Taravingian decreed that his subjects could only have children after passing an intelligence test, and that the least intelligent should commit suicide for the good of society. That would be when his handlers decided to stop allowing him freedom to alter policy on his brilliant days.
    Taravingian: So brilliant on one hand. So stupid on another.
  • God Is Dead: Following the Wham Line that ended the last book, the extremely devout Dalinar is struggling to retain his religion following the reveal that his god is dead. He decides that while the entity his religion is based on might be dead, clearly a truly omnipotent deity wouldn't be able to die, so he must not have been God. Navani also tries to use this to convince Dalinar to ignore some of the bans on their relationship.
    Navani: You're confident they won't let us marry, Dalinar. So what else are we to do? Is it the morality of the thing? You yourself said that the Almighty was dead.
    Dalinar: Something is either right or it's wrong. The Almighty doesn't come into it.
    Navani: [deadpan] God doesn't come into whether his commands are right or wrong.
    Dalinar: Er. Yes.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Kaladin’s transformation into a full Knight Radiant is this to Taravingian’s agent in the Shattered Plains. He was supposed to isolate Kaladin from Dalinar, not foreseeing that said separation would give Kaladin his chance at redemption.
    • The transformation of the Parshendi into stormform might count as this, from the point of view of their leader, Eshonai. Too bad that the first character to receive the form’s Mind Rape is her... (although it's implied that her sister and the scholar Parshendi actually took on the stormform before her, in secret).
  • Healing Factor: The fact that Kaladin is constantly holding tiny amounts of Stormlight gives him a low-level one (which can be enhanced by consciously using more). This makes tattooing him difficult, since if he takes in any Stormlight before it heals naturally, the ink gets pushed out.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kaladin attempts one, to prevent Elkohar from dying at Moash’s hands.
  • Heroic Vow: Lots.
    • The Second Ideal Of The Edgedancers: I will remember those who have been forgotten.
    • The Third Ideal Of The Windrunners: I will protect those I hate, so long as it is just.
    • The Second Ideal of The Bondsmiths: I will unite instead of divide, I will bring men together.
  • Hero of Another Story: Several. Hoid is a hero to the Cosmere as a whole (if not the Big Good), but his goals on Roshar only rarely intersect with everyone else. The interludes introduce a number of new characters who are running around on their own adventures, a few of whom are in the process of becoming Surgebinders. And of course, at the end of the book Jasnah comes back, having escaped the ambush on the Wind's Pleasure by teleporting into Shadesmar.
  • Hidden Villain: Taravingian is one for the main characters. In a classic case of Dramatic Irony, the reader knows, but no one else does.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: According to Sylphrena, humans and other humanoid species are the weird ones, since when they die, something else becomes of them and makes it impossible for them to be what they once were.
    Syl: Break a rock, and it's still there. Break a spren, and it's still there. Sort of. Break a person, and something leaves. Something changes. What's left is just meat. You're weird.
  • I Call It Vera: Adolin is an inversion, as he refuses to name his Shardblade, because it was already named before by the Radiant who once wielded it. Until he learns what that Radiant named the Blade, he will leave it unnamed.
  • I Have No Son: Shallan's father has four sons, until he decides that he only has three because the oldest did something unforgivable.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "Beloved" is pushing it at this point, but once Kaladin develops feelings for Shallan he concludes that she would be much happier with Adolin than with him.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Each of the Honorblades serve as this, and are more clearly stated. The one ascribed to each of the Heralds gives the powers of their Order of the Knights Radiant. For example, Jezereh's Honorblade, held by Szeth, gives the powers of a Windrunner.
  • Instant Runes: Kaladin speaking the Third Ideal of the Windrunners creates the sigil of the Order in Stormlight after his transformation. He gets this again when he pulls a Three-Point Landing on the Assassin in White.
  • Klingon Promotion: The Ghostbloods discourage this.
    Mraize: Know that what you have done is not forbidden, but it is hardly encouraged. We cannot run an organization properly if subordinates consider hunting their superiors to be a primary method of advancement.
  • Laughing Mad: More like Grinning Mad. Dalinar calls Szeth’s combination of horrified, haunted eyes and gleeful grin to be the most evil thing he’s ever seen.
  • Literal-Minded: Jasnah says that Cryptics should be called "Liespren" but they don't like the term. Pattern, Shallan's Cryptic, considers anything spoken that's not literal truth (exaggeration, euphemisms and figures of speech, humor, sarcasm, etc) to be "a lie," and is fascinated by how many different kinds of lies humans have come up with.
  • Little Miss Badass: Shallan in her youngest flashback. Cute adorable little girl, can't be more than ten, and a Shardbearer.
    • Lift can also be considered one.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Adolin is perfectly willing to be imprisoned for weeks alongside Kaladin to show how he considers him a brother in arms. But hes not going to be a barbarian about it.
  • Madness Mantra: When a Herald of the Almighty ends up caught in one of these, you really know you're screwed. It would probably help if his dialect wasn't out of date.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: We get more details on the magic systems in this book. However, Syl claims that the Laws of Physics are like this, and less structured than Kaladin believes. She describes them less as laws and more as "agreements between friends."
    "We have to be consistent," she said, leaning in conspiratorially. "Or we’ll break your brains."
  • Master of Illusion: Seems to be one facet of Shallan's Lightweaver powers.
  • Morph Weapon: Sylphrena (and apparently any other living Shardblade) can become whatever weapon her Radiant likes. Thus she often becomes a spear, since Kaladin trained with spear instead of sword. Throughout the battle with Szeth, she transforms into a shield, knife, full Shardblade, hammer, and axe-headed halberd as well. Mixes with Voluntary Shapeshifting, as she anticipates what Kaladin wants and shifts into that without him "ordering" her to.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Kaladin is completely horrified when he thinks he killed Sylphrena. So much that it causes a Heroic BSOD.
    • Kaladin again when he realizes that Elhokar is to Dalinar what Tien was to him. He immediately rushes off to save Elhokar.
    • Shallan's catatonia in her flashbacks is due not just to her mother's murder but the fact that she herself did it.
  • Named Weapon:
    • Adolin refuses to name his Shardblade, believing that it already has a name given to it by its Radiant, and he shouldn't give it a new one. Considering that the Blades are dead spren, he's more right than he realizes.
    • Sylphrena, Pattern, and Ivory, when they become Shards.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: As mentioned above, Kaladin is paralyzingly afraid that if he lets any lighteyes know about his new Surgebinding powers, they will somehow take them away.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Before the Parshendi assassinated her father, Jasnah was paying assassins to spy on people, including her own family. While said assassins were mildly annoyed they weren't killing anyone, the fact that she showed them more respect than most nobles (and paid well) meant that they were actually surprisingly fond of her.
    Jasnah: Assassination is a dirty business. So is taking out a chamber pot. I can respect the people who do the job without caring for the job itself.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Shallan asks Adolin what happens when he has to go to the bathroom while wearing Shardplate and finds out that he has crapped in it three times.
    Adolin: So yes, I, Adolin Kholin—cousin to the king, heir to the Kholin princedom—have shat myself in my Shardplate. Three times, all on purpose.
  • No One Could Survive That: Lampshaded late in the book, when a side character worries about Shallan walking too close to an unguarded ledge. Shallan reminds him that, due to being a Radiant, she would likely survive without a scratch.
  • No Sell: Shardplate proves to be immune to Voidbringer lightning attacks. It was designed to fight these things, after all.
  • Not Hyperbole: As shown in the book, Adolin actually has offended literally every single eligible female on the Shattered Plains.
  • Not Quite Flight: Kaladin's use of his Gravity Master powers starts out this way, but as he practices, he eventually becomes capable of true flight and then some.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: This seems to be the nation of Azir's "hat", with everything there running on having the correct paperwork and them electing their ruler based on who can write the best essay. When most of the other nations are having insurrections and riots, the very concept of that being possible in Azir is dismissed by Dalinar because it would be "too much paperwork." Considering that this DID eventually result in a peaceful transition of power (as opposed to a Kingdom destroying civil war), it's questionable how "obstructive" this bureaucracy is.
  • Offing the Offspring: The reason Shallan is a Self-Made Orphan — she killed her father when he tried to kill her brother, and her mother when she tried to kill Shallan.
  • Oh Crap:
    • The main characters, every time the Assassin in White shows up.
    • Also, Szeth himself, when Kaladin shows up as a full-blown Knight Radiant.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Taravangian believes he has this, since he's following the Diagram, a plan for saving the world he wrote back when he had superhuman intelligence.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Downplayed. Dalinar tells Elhokar to imprison Kaladin instead of having him executed, unless he wants Dalinar as an enemy.
  • Psycho for Hire: Szeth, the Assassin in White, is one. Though he didn't start as a psycho...
  • Power-Up Food: Lift can turn food into Awesomeness. Nobody's really sure how she does it, except that she got the ability through the Old Magic.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Alethi army beats the Parshendi (now truly Voidbringers) and the Knights Radiant return, all of them main characters so far. The Alethi army wasn't fast enough in the battle to stop the Parshendi's stormsong, though. They summoned the Everstorm, which will turn all Parshendi and Parshmen around the world into Voidbringers. In addition, the Everstorm is blowing in the opposite direction from regular highstorms, so it will devastate hundreds if not thousands of buildings around the world.
  • Quit Your Whining: Shallan tells Renarin to "deal with [his] issues" when he's angsting over not being able to help Adolin and Dalinar fight the Parshendi.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The Parshendi learn how to summon lightning from their hands. It proceeds to act exactly like normal lightning, making it basically impossible to aim.
    • Sadeas remarks to Adolin that he fully intends to poison Dalinar's final victory and undermine the newly refounded Knights Radiant. He and Adolin are alone with no one nearby to witness his admission. So no one is around to witness Adolin stab Sadeas through the eye and dispose of his Shardblade.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: This is considered the most obvious sign of the Parshendi turning into full-on Voidbringers.
  • Red Herring:
    • During Dalinar's visions, numbers start appearing on the wall, a countdown toward a day when something terrible happens. Dalinar assumes he did it himself, and doesn't worry about it too much (the cause of it, that is—he worries plenty about the warning itself). It was actually Renarin, too scared to admit openly that he had bonded with a spren and was receiving visions of the future.
    • Shallan's Shardblade. It's implied that she got it from her father after she killed him, or perhaps somehow got a hold of it beforehand and killed him with it. Neither is true; the Blade is Pattern, her spren, and is one of the only living Blades left. She killed her mother with him when she was a child, but strangled her father with her necklace after poisoning him.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Realizing that he needs to be a Radiant in order to lead them, and must bond a spren to do so, Dalinar swears the oaths to the one spren he can can contact at short notice: the freaking Stormfather.
  • Reverse Mole: Shallan uses her illusion powers to infiltrate the Ghostbloods.
  • Room Full of Crazy: King Taravingian's "The Diagram" is said to be like this, with him having written on every available surface in the room, including as much of the ceiling as he could reach. He even invented a language in the process, making it even more difficult if not for him writing a key on his bedpost.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • In-Universe, the red eyes of the Voidbringers are seen as a very bad sign.
    • Out-of universe, Kaladin's ascension to a full Knight Radiant is coupled with frost behind him forming into the shape of wings briefly.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Dozens, if not hundreds, but the most immediate would be the fact that, at the end of the book, Kaladin is preparing to leave for home, planning to fly there to warn them of the Everstorm and the Parshmen turning into Voidbringers.
    • And since we know that the next book will feature Szeth prominently, his mission to bring "justice" to Shinovar - with Nightblood, of all things, in tow — promises to provide a major plot thread for Skybreaker.
  • Ship Tease: Despite the Adolin/Shallan ship gaining the most steam, the particular section of the book where they trudge through the chasms is one big one for Kaladin/Shallan. They work out more than a few issues while there, bare their respective backstories to one another, all with tons of Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Shock and Awe: Parshendi in stormform can summon lightning.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The second time Kaladin meets Shallan. And he actually manages to hold his own against her!
  • The Stinger: The last chapter is narrated by Hoid, the King's Wit, as he waits for someone on a random plain. Then Jasnah teleports in.
  • Talking Weapon: All living Shards, such as Syl and Pattern.
  • Tattooed Crook: Zigzagged. Slaves have a brand on their foreheads. When the bridgemen are freed, the scars are tattooed over with glyphs declaring them free men.
  • Tron Lines: Living Shards are described as having faint glowing lines on them, the color of which seems to correspond to the spren type (Syl is blue, and Pattern is blood-red). This is all but stated to be why the Shards of the Knights Radiant in one of Dalinar's visions lost their glow upon being abandoned by their holders: they abandoned their Words, killing the spren.
  • Unexpected Character: While having humans travel from Shardworld to Shardworld is a known event, having a Type-4 Awakened Entity like Nightblood do so is quite another thing.
  • The Verse: Just as The Way Of Kings did, this book contains a number of references to The Cosmere, the combined universe containing most of Sanderson's other works. Warbreaker in particular gets several.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Parshendi can assume any of several different forms by binding an appropriate spren to themselves.
  • We ARE Struggling Together:
    • Not only are the Highprinces still fighting each other, but you've got half a dozen conspiracies trying to fight the coming Desolation in their own way. Amaram's group thinks that by bringing back the Voidbringers, the Heralds will come as well, and fix everything wrong with the world. The group serving the Diagram are following a plan Taravingian wrote in his most brilliant moment, detailing how to put him slowly in control of the whole world, manipulating spren and people alike. The Ghostbloods have their own goal that closely parallels Jasnah's research (because she was one of them, for a time), but are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way. Eshonai, the Parshendi Shardbearer, ordered the death of the Alethi king to keep the gods of her people from returning and turning them into Voidbringers, and are now fighting a losing war against the Alethi; too bad her sister is some sort of Voidbringer mole, and causes exactly what Eshonai was trying to prevent. And then of course we have Dalinar, trying to honorably unite everyone under one banner to fight the coming storm. It's implied that some or all of these conspiracies (specifically the Ghostbloods and the Diagram, and possibly Amaram's group) are actually all splinter factions of the same group, since both Amaram and Taravangian take their cues from Gavilar, and the Ghostbloods Shallan speak to make a passing reference to the latter and seem to know exactly what he is up to.
    • The Knights Radiant weren't as unified as they were assumed to be. Hints have already shown up in the new generation; Syl, as an honorspren, strongly dislikes any sort of lie or falsehood, while that's exactly what gives Cryptics like Pattern sustenance. The fact that Nale, founder of the Skybreakers, is Walking the Earth killing every surgebinder he can find is further evidence.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Taravangian, in his interlude, is genuinely horrified by the destruction he’s wrought across multiple kingdoms. He’s also absolutely convinced of the necessity of it towards saving the world.
    • Amaram, likewise, thinks that he is helping to save the world and that he had to become a Shardbearer to that end. Both men, it must be said, have rather haughty ideas of their own importance in the grand scheme of things, bordering or crossing over into arrogant messianiac delusions.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 7: Jasnah is seemingly killed, and the Wind's Pleasure attacked and subsequently Soulcast into water.
    • The author's customary "Sanderson Avalanche" begins with chapter 84 and doesn't let up until the end of the book:
      • The true nature of Shardblades revealed.
      • The nature of the Everstorm.
      • The nature of the Stormfather.
      • The climactic duel between Kaladin and Szeth.
      • Shallan's discovery of the way to Urithiru.
      • The meeting between Nin and Szeth, who is Back from the Dead and ends up given a new weapon: Nightblood, somehow transported from Nalthis to Roshar.
      • The revelation of what Amaram's really been up to.
      • The death of Highprince Sadeas.
      • Dalinar's ascension to Radiant-hood, with the Stormfather himself as his spren.
      • The revelation that Renarin is a Radiant, too. And Lopen and some of the other men of Bridge Four are probably gaining some powers through their connection with Kaladin and becoming his squires. Whether they are becoming or will become full radiants is still uncertain.
      • The conversation between Wit and Jasnah at the end.
  • Wham Line:
    • Like in the first book, Syl gets one:
      Syl: Oh, that's right. You probably want me to be a spear, don't you?
    • Another one in chapter 88 reveals just what Szeth's new weapon is.
      Nightblood: Hello. Would you like to destroy some evil today?
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Stormform, and the other Parshendi "forms of power", open their wearers up to possession by Odium.
  • Worst Aid: Referenced by Kaladin in his narration.
    Dalinar: (metaphorically) When you've got an arrow stuck in you, it's sometimes best to just yank it out in one pull.
    Kaladin: (thinking) Actually, when you had an arrow in you, the best thing to do was leave it there until you could find a proper surgeon. Often it would plug the blood flow and keep you alive.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal:
    • Inverted when Kaladin discovers that his Radiant Healing Factor also allows him to heal damage inflicted by an Honourblade.
    • For some reason, Kaladin's Slave Brand will not heal. Stormlight can heal a limb crippled from a Shardblade, broken bones, flawed eyes, missing limbs... but it won't heal his scars. Given his own personal baggage, however, this might be psychosomatic.
  • Victor Gains Loser's Powers: Deliberately Invoked when Dalinar needs a way to defang the unruly highprinces. He plans to relax his ban on Adolin's duels. When Adolin starts challenging the other highprinces to duels for Shards, they'll get the message.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Despite the protagonists doing everything in their power to stop it, the Parshendi succeed at summoning the Everstorm.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: As in the previous book, with Alethi gender roles in particular. Shallan is extremely shocked when Tyn talks about other countries where she'd have to uncover her safehand to fit in, and at first glance assumes the masked Iyatil is a man rather than a woman, despite her figure being visible, purely because both her hands are uncovered.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Sadeas. His death at Adolin's hands wasn't caused by him picking up the Idiot Ball, so much as it was him genuinely believing that everyone else in Alethkar was still playing the same political game he was, even after the discovery of Urithiru and return of the Voidbringers.

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