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Kaladin (AKA Kaladin Stormblessed)

Kaladin: Authority doesn't come from a rank.
Syl: Where does it come from?
Kaladin: From the men who give it to you. That's the only way to get it.

Kaladin started as the son of an upper-middle class citizen. His father was a surgeon, which is very high up for a darkeyes. After a complicated series of events at home result in his brother being sent to join the military, Kaladin joins to protect him. Tragedy resulted from this, and ultimately ended with Kaladin's entire unit being wiped out and he himself being enslaved. After he became a slave, he winded up in the ownership of Highprince Sadeas, as a "bridgeman" forced to carry bridges to allow the Highprince's army to traverse the Shattered Plains, a duty that is fraught with death and dishonor. It is here, at his lowest point, that Kaladin discovers what he is truly capable of...

Has flashback chapters in Book 1, The Way of Kings.

  • The Ace: From the point of view of most others around him.
  • Angry Black Man: While discrimination in the Alethi culture is generally along the lines of eye color rather than skin shade, Kaladin fits the spirit of this trope in a number of ways. He's a member of a discriminated group, harboring massive justified hatred towards all members of the oppressing group, and makes more trouble for himself by making this hatred clear to anyone and everyone he meets.
    Dalinar: You've got a massive chip on your shoulder, son. Not that it's not understandable.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Delivers one to Dalinar - if Amaram is so honorable, then why didn't he jump in to save Renarin and Adolin?
  • Author Avatar: Probably not to any great extent, but he shares at least one important bit of background with his author—both of them had parents who wanted them to go into medicine, but they ended up doing something else.
  • Badass Normal: In the flashbacks we see him kill a Shardbearer with nothing but natural skill and a little luck.
  • Badass Creed:
    • "I shall protect those who cannot protect themselves." And when he says it, the Stormlight explodes from his body and bowls over all the nearby Parshendi.
    • In the second book, "I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right". Allows Sylphrena to assume Shard form, and sucks in every drop of Light in the halls, instantly healing his lethal internal injuries.
  • Badass Longcoat: As the Captain of Dalinar's guard.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Begins to develop a touch of this with Shallan in book 2, but seems to have decided that it's not going anywhere once he realizes there's attraction there, and leaves her to Adolin.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • When he and Bridge Four save Dalinar's army.
    • Again when he personally saves Dalinar from Szeth. Twice. Once at the beginning of the second book, and once at the end.
  • Blade on a Stick: his Weapon of Choice is the spear, both because it is a natural weapon for him, and because Alethi culture restricts the sword to lighteyes. He even becomes the first Shardbearer in the series whose Shardblade becomes a spear since he's so familiar with the weapon. Not that she can't become a sword, dagger, and shield as well.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Everything from his new uniform to the color of his eyes after speaking the 3rd oath. Blue is the color of the Windrunners.
  • Bond Creatures: His Nahel bond with Syl grants her sentience and him access to Surgebinding.
  • Broken Ace: From his own point of view, and those who know him well. According to the back cover of Words of Radiance, this is a necessary precondition for Surgebinding.
  • Broken Pedestal: As a youth, Kaladin viewed most lighteyes as being heroic and noble, and that the more scheming and honorless ones were the rejects and outcasts and not real lighteyes. Roshone's and later Amaram's treatment of him, as well as his experiences as a slave, convinced Kaladin of the opposite, engendering a bitter hatred for much of their kind that takes a very long time for Kaladin to escape from.
  • The Captain: The men of Bridge Four start referring to him as this eventually. Later on, Dalinar establishes him as the captain of the new royal bodyguard.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: He always tries to save people; he usually fails, in the beginning.
    • This is very strongly implied to be something he'll need to overcome before he can swear the Fourth Ideal of the Windrunners and earn his Shardplate - that he'll need to accept that there are people that he just can't save, no matter how hard he tries.
  • Combat Medic: Trained as a surgeon, but truly talented as a soldier. Still, when the situation warrants it he tends to flip over to speaking like a surgeon.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Likely literally. Kaladin goes through so much crap over the first book. For a while, he even thinks himself cursed.
    • In the third book, he admits that he believes there is a God because the only way he could have gone through so much crap was if someone was actively messing with him.
  • The Dead Have Names: He never forgets the people who've died under his watch.
  • Determinator: After deciding to reform Bridge 4, he refuses to give up. This behavior grows steadily over the first two books, including even to the point of protecting those he hates if it's the right things to do.
  • Driven to Suicide: Very nearly early on. Syl convinces him not to.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: He develops Windrunning abilities due to his symbiotic link with Syl.
  • Failure Knight: He fails to protect his little brother, which drives him to try to protect anyone else he ever deems to be his responsibility (his spear squad, Bridge Four). His reaction is generally not pretty.
  • Fatal Flaw: His tendency to lash out at anyone he perceives to have wronged him (up to and including any lighteyes that isn't Dalinar) in the first two books causes him a lot of trouble. It's part of the reason he ends up as a bridgeman, it nearly gets both Syl and Elhokar killed, and it also places a heavy burden on his relationships with both Shallan and Adolin.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: If Syl acts as his Good Angel then the aspect of himself which he calls 'the Wretch' (representing his clinical depression and the associated apathy) fulfills the role of Bad Angel.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Having fought in a war with incompetent leaders, it should come as no surprise that he's got a few scars on him (as noted by a lighteyes considering buying him). He gains more in slavery, including a few brands on his forehead. When he joins Bridge 4, he gets even more.
  • Gravity Master:
    • Unconsciously. He's constantly and unknowingly drawing arrows away from him and his bridge team, and pulling them into the bridge. Later on, he pulls dozens of arrows directly into his shield, though the raw force behind that many arrows hitting it throws him through the air. In the second book, he advances his powers, letting him fly and run on walls, including helping others fly.
  • Guardian Angel: Metaphorically, he grows into this over the course of the first two books. This culminates when, on the verge of death from both his broken leg and his internal injuries from a Shardplate gauntlet to the chest, he says the third of the five sets of the Immortal Words of the Windrunners, the frost behind him forming briefly into the shape of wings as he pledges to protect Elhokar, regardless of whether he likes him or not.
  • Handicapped Badass: Mentally rather than physically. Kaladin has what we would recognize as severe clinical depression and what seems to be Seasonal Affective Disorder even before he starts dealing with his Survivor's Guilt. He manages to survive due to sheer willpower, but it still almost leads him to suicide.
  • Heroic BSoD: Several, especially early on.
    • When he finally can't take being a part of Bridge 4 anymore, he wanders off to the Honor Chasm to jump off. Syl snaps him out of it.
    • After surviving the Highstorm and being confronted with the knowledge that bridgemen are Cannon Fodder, he also enters into another one. His men snap him out of it.
    • Falls dangerously close to another one in Radiance with Syl unresponsive, his powers seemingly gone, his oath in shambles, unsure what to do about Moash and the king, and his body wounded to the point where his men and Dalinar have to leave him behind when they ride into danger while he faces months of recovery. Notably, this is the only one he fights off more or less alone, resolving that no matter what, he'll pick himself up and keep soldiering on, even if he has to do it without Radiant abilities and with a near-crippling wound.
    • Comes again during the fall of Kholinar in Oathbringer, when he's overwhelmed by the realization that he doesn't hate or want to hurt any of the sides forced to slaughter each other in the siege, and thus has absolutely no idea how to protect anyone. Also notable in that this one isn't caused by multiple factors slowly wearing him down, but by the sheer momentary horror he witnessed.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Every time he speaks a new oath, most notably at the end of Words of Radiance.
  • Hero Worship:
    • How his men come to view him, never doubting for a single second that he won't find his way out of any problem. Skar, in particular, seems to believe that Kaladin could somehow protect them from the entire Alethi army.
    • His hero worship for Dalinar grows throughout Words of Radiance, as Dalinar is essentially an embodiment of all the virtues he prizes most—but, being Kaladin, he can't help but believe that Dalinar will fail him as all other lighteyes has, and spends much of the book looking for any reason to mistrust him. He doesn't find one, of course.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Defining character trait, particularly when he refuses to take the Shardblade and Plate from the Shardbearer that nearly killed Amaram.
    • In a weird way, this is revealed to be the source of his and Syl's powers: She's an Honorspren, so the oaths he gives literally empower him. If his oaths contradict, like they do for much of the second book, Syl actually begins losing sentience and their bond weakens.
  • Hurting Hero: After all the crap he's been through, its no surprise.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Tien. However, he feels this way about pretty much everyone who dies near him, Tien was just the first.
  • Improbable Age: Trained surgeon, squadleader, and the first dark eyed captain in history... at only twenty years old.
  • In-Series Nickname: He went by "Kal" when he was younger, but eventually grew out of it. Moash starts calling him by that name in the second book. Adolin begins using it in the third book as well. He's also commonly known as "Stormblessed", although he's not always a huge fan of it.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Knowing that the Parshendi view the bodies of their dead as sacred and untouchable, he deliberately crafts armor from Parshendi carapace and makes a shield covered in Parshendi bones to draw their arrow fire. It works spectacularly.
  • I Should Have Been Better: Feels this way about his failure to protect... well, anyone. The deaths of Tien, his spear squad, his fellow slaves, and his fellow bridgemen weigh heavily on him. Part of his Character Development is learning to live with this and accept The Chains of Commanding without taking personal responsibility for every death.
  • It's All My Fault: He blames himself entirely for Tien's death, since he had promised his parents he would protect them. This is especially notable because it's one of the few things he doesn't blame Amaram for. Amaram promised to keep Tien in a non-combat role for a few years, but tossed him into a spearsquad after just a few months. But Kaladin ignores that, even after he realizes how corrupt Amaram really is, because he's too busy blaming himself.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: He's utterly convinced that the lighteyes are all corrupt and selfish bastards. Dalinar finally breaks him of this when he gives up his Shardblade for all of Sadeas' bridgemen. The fact that he becomes a lighteyes at the end of Words of Radiance doesn't hurt either.
  • Large and in Charge: Amongst the Bridgmen, only the 7 ft tall Rock has inches on him.
  • Meaningful Name: "Kaladin" is one letter away from "paladin". See below for more about that. In addition, in Alethi "kalad" means "eternal" and "in" - "to be born unto". So the combination means "born unto eternity".
  • Named After Somebody Famous: His name is a derivative of Kalak, one of the Heralds.
  • Never My Fault: Well, not never, but at his worst moments he starts blaming the lighteyes for absolutely everything wrong in his life. This is most clear when he is in the chasms with Shallan, which is the lowest point is his character development. He tells Shallan that all lighteyes are equally to blame for exploiting darkeyes, but refuses to accept responsibility for being an angry cynic, only saying "I am what the lighteyes made me." Thankfully, it doesn't take him too long to start improving again.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Sanderson mentions that in-universe his name is pronounced "Kal-uh-deen," but everyone (including Sanderson himself) ends up calling him "Kal-uh-din" instead. By the second book, Sanderson has apparently given up; Rock uses the "Kaluhdeen" pronunciation, which Kaladin notes is wrong.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: He's the scowling and brooding roguish man compared to Adolin's affable and friendly nature, though Kaladin is a good man below the surface. Notably, Shallan's own noble Radiant persona is attracted to Adolin while her thief persona Veil is into Kaladin.
  • Not Quite Flight: Kaladins powers allow him to literally 'fall with style'. When Windrunners fly into the sky they're actually falling up.
  • Not So Different: Finds himself identifying with the freed Parshmen in spite of himself.
  • The Paladin: 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 his powers are a direct result of this, and fade when he stops being protective.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Anyone outside of Bridge 4 rarely sees him without his signature scowl.
  • Personality Powers: As a Windrunner, Kaladin has the ability to affect gravity (changing which direction things fall and letting items attract flying arrows) and to stick things together with Stormlight. As Bridge Leader of Bridge 4 (and then as Captain of Dalinar's guard and a member of the Knights Radiant he draws in the other members of the Bridge Crews, binding them together into a unified whole and changing the course of their lives.
  • Power Glows: Once he realizes the extent of his powers, he has to consciously reign in his Surgebinding because of the glow it emits.
  • Praetorian Guard: At the end of The Way Of Kings, Dalinar places him in command of a new royal bodyguard to protect Elhokar, and Bridger Four and many of the other bridgemen form the new guard, trained by Kaladin.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Discussed with Syl. His oaths as a Windrunner require him to be honorable and good, but who determines what actually is honorable and good, especially when both sides have valid points? He can only conclude his powers work on whatever he and Syl feel fits the oaths rather than any sense of cosmic morality.
  • Protectorate: His bridge crew.
    Gaz: What are they to you? Why do you even care?
    Kaladin: They're my men.
  • Red Baron: "Stormblessed". It starts in Amaram's army, then the bridgemen start using it, then Dalinar's army. It's somewhat unclear how it makes the jump from Amaram's army, since no one around would know of the nickname and Kaladin himself isn't a fan of it.
  • Spanner in the Works: One of several for the plot laid out by the Diagram.
  • Survivor Guilt: One of his defining traits, especially with regards to his brother Tien.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Repeatedly, over the book, until he finally starts fully manifesting his Surgebinding.
    • And again in Words of Radiance when he speaks the Third Ideal and Syl manifests as his Shardblade/Shardspear/Shardshield, showing how crazy powerful a fully functioning Shardblade actually is.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Lampshaded constantly throughout the book. Eventually partially justified - Syl is an Honorspren and has been giving Kaladin unconscious Surgebinding powers. Kaladin continually strives to do the right thing, getting himself into dangerous and disastrous circumstances. Syl's bond has given him the strength to survive them, when others haven't.
  • You Can Barely Stand: At the climax of Words of Radiance, he has a broken leg, multiple internal injuries, and gets most of his ribs broken when a Shardbearer punches him in the gut. But he still stands between Elhokar and Moash.


Shallan Davar

"What am I? I'm terrified."

A young woman undertaking a desperate plan to save her family from destitution. She takes up a wardship with Jasnah Kholin to steal her Soulcaster, but finds this difficult as she begins to enjoy learning.

Has flashback chapters in Book 2, Words of Radiance.

  • Admiring the Abomination: As any dedicated scholar would do. Even when getting chased by a Chasmfiend, she makes sure she can draw up an annotated sketch of its anatomy later.
  • The Alcoholic: After learning she could cure herself of alcohol with stormlight, her Veil persona developed a taste for beer, wine, and even Horneater vodka. Shallan actually complains about Veil's new habit after how much stormlight she had to use to cure the hangover.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Of a sort. After their time in the chasms, she admits to herself that Kaladin's confidence and dangerous intensity are very attractive.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Shows clear attraction to Kaladin, Adolin, and Jasnah. Possibly not so ambiguous.
  • The Apprentice: To Jasnah after being accepted as her ward.
  • Astral Projection: Can send her mind into Shadesmar, the Rosharan region of the Cognitive Realm.
  • Badass Longcoat: When she starts posing as Veil to infiltrate the Ghostbloods, she goes through Tyn's things for an appropriately cool outfit.
  • Believing Their Own Lies:
    • A rare positive variant. The key to being a Lightweaver seems to be the ability to speak a lie and by speaking it, make it true. For example, tell a band of deserters that they are soldiers again, and they will become soldiers, and fight and die as heroes.
    • On a darker note, for years she convinced herself that she didn't know how her mother died. Others believed her father had killed her, and she would always correct them but blank on what happened. In truth, Shallan herself killed her in self-defense.
    • Shallan gets so used to doing this as a coping mechanism that she has to stop and ask Pattern what memories she has that are real and which ones are fake.
  • Becoming the Mask: Her two most used personas, Veil and Radiant seem to be taking on minds of their own midway through Oathbringer. Particularly Veil being enamored with Kaladin and Radiant being the only one of the three who can use Pattern as a shardblade.
  • Beneath the Mask: Shallan basically hides herself behind multiple personalities and masks in order to cope with her various traumas. The true person, underneath it all, is best summed up:
    An image formed in front of her, born of Stormlight, created by instinct. She hadn't needed to draw this image first, for she knew it too well.
    The image was of herself. Shallan, as she should be. Curled in a huddle on the bed, unable to weep for she had long since run out of tears. This girl... not a woman, a girl... flinched whenever spoken to. She expected everyone to shout at her. She could not laugh, for laughter had been squeezed from her by a childhood of darkness and pain.
    That was the real Shallan. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name. The person she had become instead was a lie, one she had fabricated in the name of survival.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: For a fairly nervous, kind and polite young women she has a surprisingly impressive body count.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: It says something when Shallan, who is overly nonconfrontational and nervous to a fault outside of her home, is the most well-adjusted member of the Davar clan.
  • Broken Bird: In her flashbacks, though by the time of the series she's put herself back together... more or less. This is apparently what allowed her to become a Lightweaver.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Can come off as this when the scholarly side of her takes over, such as interrupting Adolin's boasts about his battles on the Shattered Plains to wonder how he poops in Shardplate.
  • Cool Sword: She is a Shardbearer. A true Shardbearer, wielding a living, bonded spren, compared to the dead ones everyone else is using.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: She realizes in Oathbringer that she's been focusing on her Lightweaving exclusively after her last Soulcasting attempt failed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Seems to have a compulsion to make witty remarks at almost any opportunity, though with less emphasis on the deadpan. Discussed when Jasnah gently chides her for saying "the first passably clever thing that enters your mind" and encourages her to be more thoughtful in her snark.
    Merchant: Brightness... I believe you stray into sarcasm.
    Shallan: Funny. I thought I'd run straight into it, screaming at the top of my lungs.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Apparently even Odium believes that she's an Elsecaller and not a Lightweaver, if Sja-Anat is to be believed.
  • Dissonant Serenity: One sign that her Brightness Radiant persona has started to manifest is that the normally timid, kind, and empathetic Shallan shifts to a cold, calm, and brutally logical mindset. Chronologically, she first shows this when she calmly poisons and then garrotes her father to protect her family and as punishment for killing her stepmother. This side of her gradually begins to manifest more and more until Shallan creates it as a full, separate personality to handle combat situations.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Takes time away from her studies to sketch young men working without their shirts on. Later on, Shallan is talking with Adolin and thinking on something important, and then he smiles, and... what was she thinking about, again?
  • Fiery Redhead: Ironically mixed with non-confrontational behavior.
  • For Science!: She uses a variant to justify her stranger requests.
    Yalb: This is madness, Brightness!
    Shallan: No, this is scholarship!
  • Genki Girl: She portrays this image in public. It's not quite an act's an incomplete image of her.
  • Guile Hero: She slowly evolves into this over the course of Words of Radiance, learning how to fake various accents and lie more effectively, as well as general social lessons. She still blushes when confronted, though.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Her lovely auburn hair is commented upon by multiple people as one of her best physical attributes. She and Adolin are betrothed, and it appears that there might be some latent Belligerent Sexual Tension with Kaladin, as well.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Jasnah learns that Shallan stole her Soulcaster. She manages to snap out of it by part 5 of The Way of Kings.
  • Hidden Depths: So many hidden depths.
    • Early on in Way of Kings, Shallan has a flashback to her holding "a long silvery sword in her hand, sharp enough to cut stones as if they were water," and a later scene has her counting to ten heartbeats, and thus in process of summoning a shardblade. Given her culture's sharply defined gender roles, it's practically unheard of for a woman to have one, much less someone with the image she tries to present in public. It's later shown that the ten heartbeats aren't necessary to summon the blade, as she's bonded with a spren.
    • Due to her flighty and friendly nature, a lot of people (especially Kaladin) assume she lived an easy and pampered life. Ha.
      Shallan: You don't realize it, but you just said something very very funny.
      Kaladin: Then why aren't you laughing?
      Shallan: It's not that kind of funny.
    • Normally, she's cheerfully shy and demure, but when a true life or death situation comes up, she turns into a stone cold killer. She killed her mother as a child with the Shardblade said mother was trying to take from her, strangled her father with the necklace he bought her, and stabbed Tyn (her conwoman mentor) through the heart after a short fight. This eventually manifests as the "Brightness Radiant" personality she relies on in times of battle and danger.
      Tyn: Sometimes, we must do things we don't like, kid. Difficult things.
      [Shallan summons her Shardblade and kills Tyn]
      Shallan: Difficult things. Yes. I believe I told you. I've learned that lesson already. Thank you.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: She is quite petite, and constantly annoyed at having to jog to keep up with "storming Alethi and their long legs". With Adolin, the problem is exacerbated when he rides his giant Rhyshadium.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Her father racked up a ton of debts and even more ill-will before he died.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Her father sheltered her a great deal, she didn't get out much until the events of the story.
  • Loss of Identity: A serious issue that crops up over the course of Oathbringer, due to her ever-expanding Split Personality. Shallan begins losing herself between Shallan the reclusive scholar, Veil the street-smart spy, and Brightness Radiant, the calm and composed warrior.
  • Love at First Sight: Falls head over heels in love with Adolin pretty much as soon as she lays eyes on him.
  • Love Triangle: One nearly forms around her between Adolin and Kaladin, though Kaladin consciously attempts to defy the attraction, once he recognizes it. And then her split personalities start having their own opinions on the matter. Veil, especially, declares Adolin boring, and Radiant muses that a Knight would probably be a better match. Shallan ultimately chooses Adolin because he sees Shallan, even when she's cycling through her personalities and doesn't know who she is. Kaladin, despite Syl's urging, accepts this and moves on.
    • Interestingly, while Shallan herself decides that she loves Adolin, the Veil personality finds Kaladin far more attractive, viewing Adolin as being "just a friend." Meanwhile, the Radiant personality prefers Adolin purely for practical reasons.
  • Magic Feather: She has to draw pictures of something before she can make an illusion of it. Pattern notes that this shouldn't be necessary, implying she'll grow out of it as she develops. She does start practicing this in Oathbringer.
  • Master of Illusion: She can use Lightweaving to create illusions. She frequently does this to disguise herself.
  • Manipulative Bastard: A heroic one, like all Lightweavers.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Shalash happens to be the patron of the Lightweaver Order.
    • Her name sounds similar to szalona, which is Polish for insane. Considering her multiple personalities, it's rather fitting.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Her name is a derivative of Shalash, one of the Heralds.
  • The Napoleon: Not huge, but Shallan is slightly envious of her already head taller fiancee riding beside her on a Massive Ryshadium War horse, exacerbating their height difference.
  • Nature Lover: She loves sketching pictures of plants and animals, and seems to be one of the first people to notice the principle of symbiosis (or at least, nobody she ever read had mentioned it).
  • Non-Action Guy: Shallan does not do confrontation, of any kind, despite possessing a Shardblade, and killing her father. She instead leaves violence to either her Veil or Brightness Radiant personas, depending on which one's particular skillset, interests, and attitude are appropriate to the situation at hand.
  • One Head Taller: Conspicuously shorter than her fiancee Adolin, though justified in that Alethi are quite tall on average. Kaladin is tall even by Alethi standards, so it goes straight into Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
  • Pals with Jesus: Of a sort. Hugging Hoid in Words of Radiance led to him befriending, joking with, and even helping her with her Split Personality problems.
  • Parental Favoritism: She was the only child in the family that her father never abused and rarely got angry with. Whether this was because of actual favoritism or because he knew she had a Shardblade and was scared of her, we'll never know, since he's dead by her hand.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: With Adolin. It was originally orchestrated by Jasnah for purely practical reasons but turns out to be an ideal union for the two of them, and has the added bonus of politically connecting one of the most skilled new Radiants to the Kholin House.
  • Personality Powers: As a Lightweaver, she has the ability to cast illusions and to Soulcast, transforming one thing into another. A large part of her arc is lying about things (such as her wish to become Jasnah's ward or describing the deserter band as heroes) and then making them true. Shallan later admits that much of her own persona is actually a fabrication created in an attempt to survive her childhood traumas.
  • Photographic Memory: She can remember any scene perfectly with a bit of effort and a blink, and then forget it later, after sketching it. This is initially presented as an acquired skill, but her ability to sketch invisible creatures unconsciously suggests it is more supernatural in nature. The revelation that she is a fledgling Surgebinder strongly suggests that these Memories are somehow related one of her Surges, whether Soulcasting or (more likely) Illumination.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Both Veil and Radiant are reflections of this in Shallan. Veil is impulsive, passionate, and quick to act, enjoying drinks and brawling and thievery. Meanwhile, Radiant is much calmer, colder, and analytical, as well as utterly ruthless. Shallan herself sits in the middle of these two extremes.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: In-universe example. Shallan has a tendency to be forced to reveal her safe hand which in Vorin society is equivalent to going topless, but in real life it's just her left hand.
  • Rousing Speech: She gives a speech to a group of deserters that inspires them and reminds them of the men they could have been. This causes them to fight for her.
  • Self-Made Orphan: As a child, killed her mother in self-defense when her mother tried to kill her after her Radiant abilities started to manifest. This drove her father mad, and she eventually had to kill him as well to protect her brothers.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: With Adolin. Even she realizes it, and she's rather embarrassed.
  • Stepford Smiler: A variation, in that she is consciously and deliberately repressing her memories of killing her mother and father in order to function. Implied to be a non-magical use of her talents as a Lightweaver. That said, both Hoid and Pattern is of the opinion that her optimistic nature is not a mask of her broken self but a genuine part of who she is, if but one facet of it.
  • Split Personality:
    • She created the street-wise, ladette personality Veil in Words, and then the calm and composed Brightness Radiant in Oathbringer. They start to gain more definition (especially Veil) as the book wears on, to the point that Veil begins talking about Shallan behind her back, and Shallan herself shrinks from the controlling personality to just another illusion. She creates a few more personalities over the course of the book, but tosses them aside for altering her mind to a disturbing degree.
    • In the final battle of Oathbringer, Veil and Radiant appear to help Shallan create an army with Lightweaving. We see everything from Shallan's point of view... even after it becomes clear that Shallan is just an illusion, and Radiant has the body at the moment.
  • Third-Person Person: In her various personas, she refers to "Shallan" as a different person.
  • Uneven Hybrid: Her red hair is apparently a sign of Horneater ancestry, which makes her a tiny part Listener. She also tends to hum when she's drawing and can apparently interpret Pattern's humming.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Shallan can't wield Pattern as a weapon on her own; even the idea of using Pattern as a sword causes her to start having an emotional breakdown, since in his Blade form he was what killed her mother. The only way she can turn him into a Blade is to adopt a persona who isn't afraid of using him that way, or to summon him as a tool rather than a weapon.


Highprince Dalinar Kholin, "The Blackthorn"

"We follow the Codes not because they bring gain, but because we loathe the people we would otherwise become."

One of ten Alethi highprinces, fighting a war with the nominal aid of the other highprinces to avenge the assassination of his brother, the former king. Once renowned for his raw martial prowess, he is now plagued with doubts about his people's culture and the war they are fighting, and also by strange visions that seem to be of the distant mostly-forgotten past and which contain hints of a dark future that may be in store.

Has flashback chapters in book 3, Oathbringer.

  • The Alcoholic: After burning his own wife Evi to death, he turned to the bottle to cope with hearing her dying screams all the time. He stopped only after his brother was murdered while he was too drunk to help. In Oathbringer, he briefly restarts drinking when he fully recovers his memories, but eventually forces himself to stop.
  • The Antichrist: Dalinar is Odium's chosen nine-shadowed champion, the one who will lead the Voidbringers to victory over the Knights Radiant and humanity. Thanks to Cultivation though, Dalinar had become mentally strong enough by the time Odium came knocking on his door to fully accept the truth about himself and resist giving in, thus becoming the Anti-Antichrist instead.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: As the Blackthorn, this was his reason for helping Gavilar take over Alethkar: the best way to determine who should be the king over all of them was to find out who the best warriors were and who could conquer who.
  • The Atoner: When he was the Blackthorn, Dalinar was truly terrifying. He's making efforts to move beyond this, though, especially after Gavilar's death. Oathbringer involves him fully coming to terms with everything he did as the Blackthorn, especially the burning of Rathalas and the accidental killing of his wife. When he finally accepts all of the pain and the crimes he's committed and vows to move past them to become a better man, he attains the Third Ideal of the Bondsmiths and is able to create Honor's Perpendicularity.
  • Badass Normal: Losing his shards doesnt slow him down much, considering he's still able to fight evenly with Szeth during the climax of Words of Radiance.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: A rare positive example. Young Dalinar was a hotheaded, obsessively violent brutish drunk who mercilessly crushed Alethkar to put his brother in power, believed war was a game that couldn't be civilized, and hated the very idea of politics. Dalinar now is The Fettered who strictly follows the Codes, engages in politics and avoids war where he can, and highly values duty and honor.
  • Becoming the Mask: He did this on purpose, with the Codes. The Blackthorn was little better than a bloody cudgel in Gavilar's hand; with Gavilar's death, Dalinar realized he needed to be something else. He followed the Codes for long enough that it became as natural as breathing. Kaladin gets close to this truth when he wonders if his gesture at the end of The Way of Kings is just him pretending to be honorable. He decides that if you're willing to give up a Shardblade to "pretend" to be honorable, you're not really pretending any more.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • After Gavilar died, he took control of himself, refusing duels, rarely responding to insults, and all in all looking more towards peace than war—all things that the Alethi see as weakness. But he's still the Blackthorn, and there are some lines that should not be crossed with him. Threatening and insulting his family is the big one.
    • When Sadeas calls Renarin useless, Dalinar calmly says that clearly he misheard Sadeas, since if Sadeas really had called Renarin useless, Dalinar would have no choice but to kill Sadeas and shatter the entire kingdom. Sadeas quickly backs down.
    • When Elhokar demands Kaladin be executed following Kaladin's challenge of Amaram, Dalinar says, quite calmly, that if Elhokar tries to make good on that threat, he will make Dalinar his enemy. Dalinar has spent the last six years doing everything in his power to preserve Elhokar's power base and unify Alethkar, but he is willing to throw it all away if it's the only way to protect Kaladin.
  • Blood Knight: In his younger days, he lived for the Thrill of battle and spends most of his downtime either partying or looking for sparring matches to fill the void — to the extent that he accidentally maimed several of his own men in a "friendly fight".
  • Brought Down to Badass: He's cast aside a Shardblade twice. Hasn't stopped him from kicking ass. Zig-zagged when he gains Surgebinding abilities of his own.
  • Broken Ace: Like all Surgebinders. His breaking initially seems to have originated in his drunken failure to save his brother from Szeth. In truth, the breaking came much earlier when he accidentally killed his wife and intentionally slaughtered the population of the Rift in a haze of rage and wrath as the Blackthorn.
  • The Cassandra: Dalinar is right about most of the problems of Roshar, from the conventional - how the obsession with war is harming their nation, and how the lack of discipline is causing them to act less like a state and more like a unruly mob, and the need for unity - to the more supernatural, such as the return of the Radiants, the approach of the Everstorm, and Roshar's very fate hanging in the balance. Unfortunately, he's dogged by rumors of degrading mental health, speculation that he's gone soft, and his In-Universe reputation as a Retired Monster.
  • Cool Sword:
    • His shardblade Oathbringer is a BFS with a wave pattern and a hooked tip, and is famed for having been the personal weapon of Alethkar's founder. He gives it up to Sadeas in exchange for Bridge Four, which really messes with Sadeas' mind.
    • He later takes the cleaver-like shardblade brought by Talenel, but unbinds it as well to bond with the Stormfather, who tells him he refuses to become a blade for him.
  • Curse: Bears one as the traditional price for receiving a blessing from the Nightwatcher. Oathbringer reveals the Nightwatcher neither blessed nor cursed him. Instead Cultivation herself "pruned" Dalinar's memories and soul, an effect that mimicked the Nightwatcher's usual pattern.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Every one of the shards on Roshar has worked their designs on him: Honor's spren sends him visions and forms a nahel bond with him, Odium grooms him his entire life to be his monstrous champion, and Cultivation seals away his memories so he can grow beyond the Blackthorn.
  • The Dreaded:
    • As the Blackthorn, Dalinar was feared. Navani says that the reason she chose Gavilar over him wasn't because Gavilar was going to be king, but rather because Dalinar frightened her.
    • Bites him coming and going as he starts to play politics. His bloody reputation serves him among the Alethi, but negotiating with the highprinces instead of beating them into submission is taken as a sign of weakness. Other nations still recall the bloodthirsty warlord, and see his honest overtures of alliance as a trick.
    • One of Dalinar's problems is that while he recognizes that he is feared as the Blackthorn among his own people and the greater world, his Laser-Guided Amnesia means that he doesn't know the precise reason why he is so feared. He burned down an entire city, killing the entire population, for an ambush that the city's highlord had sprung on him, and in the process unknowingly killed his wife. Once he starts to remember, he really understands why everyone outside of Alethkar initially thought his overtures of peace were a deception.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Inverted: being blackout drunk during Gavilar's assassination is what made him turn to the codes. It's later revealed that guilt over burning the city of Rathalas and his wife really did lead him to drown his sorrows in booze, and the party was just an excuse to do it without comment.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: As a Bondsmith.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As the Blackthorn, he was ruthless and brutal, killing hundreds of men singlehandedly. But even he refuses to actually harm children, even when those children are the heirs to princedoms. This comes back to bite him hard when one of them grows up and starts rebelling, setting off a chain of events that lead to Dalinar burning Evi alive.
  • Father to His Men: Dalinar cares greatly for the safety of his soldiers, and refuses to ask them of anything he'd not be willing to do himself.
  • The Fettered: Adheres to his chosen code of conduct despite ridicule from his rivals and complaints from his son, and he goes so far as to give up his Shardblade to keep his promise to Kaladin and Bridge 4 to free them.
  • Four-Star Badass: An extremely competent general who is also an extremely good warrior. However, he is progressively losing the Alethi Thrill, to the point where he doesn't fight as much as he used to, at least not as willingly.
  • Front Line General: Leads from the very front of his army in Shardplate to minimize his army's losses. Takes a more behind the lines position after giving his Shardplate to Renarin.
  • Honor Before Reason: In the first book, motivated by guilt over his brother's death. Even the king who literally wrote the book on honor (or a vision of him) tells him to be more realistic. Later gets over it and learns to balance honor and practicality.
  • Hypocrite: Dalinar is constantly worried he'll be viewed as one, due to his attempts to both follow his own codes of honor and also take control and lead the world to safety. Later on, as he recovers his memories and learns of the horrible things he did in his youth, he slides further into this fear. Ultimately, however, he starts to make peace with this, realizing that it is often a sign of growth.
    Sometimes, a hypocrite is nothing more than a man who is in the process of changing.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Due to seeking the Old Magic, he has no memory of his wife other then the fact she existed, and can't even hear her name properly when it's spoken. It has not yet been revealed whether this was the wish or the price. Forgetting Evi was the price for not hearing her dying screams all the time. Unlike others who dealt with the Nightwatcher, his amnesia is temporary because it wasn't granted by the Nightwatcher but rather her mother Cultivation, who took his memories away until the time came when he was strong enough to deal with his sins.
  • Laughably Evil: In Oathbringer, as the Blackthorn, Dalinar's boorishness and nonchalant attitude towards slaughter and war (especially compared to present Dalinar) are worth a laugh or two. It's probably for the best, otherwise it'd be much harder to read his chapters.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Pretty much everyone admits that Dalinar is the real king of Alethkar by the point of Words of Radiance. He's not necessarily happy with this, though. in Oathbringer, he steps away from that role, instead taking up rule of Urithiru itself and putting aside rule of Alethkar.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Years later, he still hasn't forgiven himself for being passed out drunk while his brother fought an assassin. It's not until the Assassin in White comes for him that he finally forgives himself; he realizes at that time that even if he'd been there to defend Gavilar, Szeth would have killed him without breaking a sweat.
    • His real greatest failure was accidentally burning his own wife Evi along with an enemy's family. Their dying screams haunted him so much he turned into a raging alcoholic to deal with it. Gavilar dying to an assassination while Dalinar was busy getting drunk was merely the last straw that led to Dalinar cleaning up his act and becoming the man who he is today.
  • Named Weapons: His Shardblade is called Oathbringer.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: He did have good reasoning for trusting Sadeas, but...
  • One-Man Army: Even before he had won his Shardblade and Plate, Dalinar was terrifyingly skilled in battle. Afterwards he was close to unstoppable. Sadeas even remarked that they needed to find him a set of Plate and Blade solely so he'd stop showing up those who already owned them.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • After Gavilar's death, he had to act as a father to Elhokar. Part of the problem with Elhokar's reign is that Dalinar coddles him a bit too much, treating him like a child.
    • After the climax of The Way of Kings, he starts treating Kaladin as a son, specifically like Adolin. It's just easy to miss because he treats Adolin like a soldier. It comes to a head when Elhokar is mad at Kaladin for derailing the plan to deal with Sadeas. Elhokar wants him executed, but Dalinar flat-out says that if he tries, he'll make Dalinar an enemy.
  • Personality Powers: As a Bondsmith, he has the ability to magically adhere two items together, much as Kaladin does. He has been working since the first book of the series to unify the highlords of Alethkar (and then the new Knights Radiant).
  • Rated M for Manly: Seen as this in-universe. He even exploits it while his son learns to read - after all, nobody's going to dare accuse him of not being this.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The most reasonable of the Highprinces. In fact, the others are so unreasonable that they think he's a coward for suggesting such ridiculous things as "peace," or "diplomacy," or "the war is a massive drain that is destabilizing the country."
  • Red Baron: "The Blackthorn", named after one of the most poisonous plants in Roshar for how deadly a warrior he is.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When he decides to bond a spren and become a Radiant, he doesn't go for any typical small fry— he bonds the freaking Stormfather himself, one of only three spren in the world suitable for a Radiant of the Order of Bondsmiths.
  • Retired Monster: Due to his actions as The Blackthorn, Dalinar is seen as this by the rest of Roshar. This - combined with much of the world's willingness to see Alethkar this way - is one of his main obstacles to creating meaningful diplomacy with the rest of the world.
  • Second Love: Finds one in and is one to Navani Kholin. He resists this for a time, since in Alethi culture it's highly improper for him to date his brother's widow, but after he is betrayed by Sadeas and nearly killed, he changes his mind.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Dalinar is an interesting study of the concept. In his youth he was very cynical, but Gavilar's death prompted him to become an idealistic proponent of the Codes of War and the concepts in The Way of Kings. However, by the end of the first book, he's come to realize that this won't work to unite the highprinces, because the Alethi highprinces are selfish and refuse to act for the greater good. Dalinar decides to cut a middle ground, forcing the highprinces to work together through blunt force; in his own words, he is treating them "like children" because they do not know any better.
  • Warrior Prince: As is the norm in Alethi society; a Highprince who isn't a warrior wouldn't garner much respect among his peers. In Oathbringer, he has trouble with gaining allies through diplomacy because of this.
  • Was It All a Lie?: He doesn't take Sadeas' betrayal well.
  • We Used to Be Friends: He and Sadeas used to get along in the past. Not so much now. And Sadeas' betrayal in The Way of Kings destroys what was left of their friendship.
  • The Wise Prince: Invoked after Gavilar's death, when he begins to follow the moral precepts of The Way of Kings in Gavilar's memory. He makes a point of becoming an honourable Highprince, a wise advisor to Gavilar's son, and a worthy leader to his people.



"Where are you, Blackthorn? Why have you not come to face me again?"

A Parshendi Shardbearer who seems to know Dalinar Kholin, and battles him during the second tower raid, and can also speak Alethi. She is revealed in Words of Radiance to be a general of the Parshendi, and due to the respect the other Parshendi have for her, she is essentially their leader. She seeks to save her people by any means possible, even if it requires assuming a dangerous new form.

Will have flashbacks in Book 4.

  • And I Must Scream: After she gains Stormform, becoming a voidbringer, she is frequently disturbed by her true self screaming in her head.
  • Anti-Villain: As with most of the Parshendi, Eshonai's main goal is the defense of her people while trapped between two near-equally bad options: either fight the Alethi in a slow battle of attrition, or allow Gavilar to complete whatever his plans were that would bring back the Parshendi's gods and start up another Desolation.
  • Bold Explorer: She wants nothing less than to travel the world by herself, finding new peoples and places. In fact, this wanderlust is what led to the Alethi and the Parshendi meeting in the first place.
  • BFS/Cool Sword: The Shardblade she wields is noted to be big even for a Shardblade.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Appears briefly to fight Dalinar in The Way of Kings. Words of Radiance reveals that she's essentially the leader of the Parshendi, and she plays a very important role in the book.
  • Disney Villain Death: Adolin headbutts her into a chasm. She's wearing Shardplate at the time, so she probably survived the actual fall, but a Highstorm and an Everstorm crashed into each other right above her head, so her survival remains ambiguous. In Oathbringer, she turns out to be dead, having drowned in the dual storm's floodwaters.
  • Fighting from the Inside: After changing to stormform, she gathers all those who refuse to change together, thinking that it will make them easier to execute once the rest of her people are Voidbringers. But she puts some of her closest friends in charge of guarding them, who then lead them down into the chasms, implying that her true self was manipulating her Voidbringer mind into giving them a chance to escape.
  • Four-Star Badass: A general with a Shardblade. The last Shardbearer among the Parshendi, actually.
  • Just You And Me And My Guards: Rather conspicuously only engages other Shardbearers after they've been weakened by regular Parshendi warriors. Understandable since the Alethi have a considerable advantage in number of Shards they have.
  • Large and in Charge: The highest ranked Parshendi military leader left alive, and towers over her soldiers at seven feet tall. Looks even bigger since her Shardplate bulges out due to her War Form carapace underneath.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: She notes that she prefers to act contrary to the instincts the forms force on her. Workers are non-aggressive to a fault; when in workform she sought out confrontation. Mates are playful and useless; she forced herself to remain productive. She even orders her soldiers to attempt to paint while in warform, despite the fact that they are both physically and mentally unsuited for it. This neatly foreshadow the Fighting from the Inside above.
  • Shock and Awe: Gains lightning powers by assuming stormform.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: She accidentally caused most of the plot of the series by stumbling upon the Alethi while she was out exploring. Admittedly the Everstorm and the Desolation likely would have happened eventually anyway, but she feels understandably guilty about the exact events leading up to it.
  • Worthy Opponent: Thinks of Dalinar this way.


Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar (Szeth-son-Neturo)

"What am I? I am... sorry."

The Assassin In White sent to kill the former Alethi king, gets several viewpoint sections of his own throughout The Way Of Kings. His title of "Truthless" is only vaguely explained, though it is later implied that he was given his Shardblade by his people. Despite his talents, Szeth hates hurting people, and hates himself even more for his talents at doing the same.

Will have flashbacks in Book 5.

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: He's one of the last, and probably the most unlikely, of Dalinar's Radiants in Oathbringer. That being said, Sixth Ranger might apply better, as there are still 2 more books before a time skip and 7 more books in total.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Hates killing, and cries as he does. In the prologue, he actually does apologize before attacking a guard who questions who he is (see the quote above), and one of the only times we actually see him lose his temper and kill in anger is when he realizes that one of the targets he has been ordered to assassinate forced Szeth to kill a lot of innocent bystanders, by holding a feast in order to set up a trap for the Assassin in White.
  • Appropriated Appellation: "The Assassin in White" after his assassination of Gavilar.
  • Back from the Dead: He is saved by Nale after being stabbed by a Shardblade and swept out to sea, mere moments before he would have been permanently killed, thus fulfilling his culturaly mandated service as a Truthless. This is probably a Bad Thing. We learn later that his soul wasn't reconnected to his body properly, and people like Lift who can perceive other worlds in greater detail can actually see it trailing along just behind his movements like a ghostly afterimage.
  • Bald of Awesome: Szeth, like most Shin, has a shaved head, although it's mentioned that it doesn't grow out normally even if he wanted to. He is also on a short list for the most dangerous individuals on Roshar.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In Oathbringer, in triumphant contrast to his role in the preceding book.
  • Broken Ace: Completely destroyed by finding out that he was never really Truthless, and could have stopped the murders at any time. This is probably part of why Nalan considers him eligible to become a Skybreaker.
  • Cassandra Truth: He tried to warn the Shin of the coming Voidbringers. He was right, but they didn't believe him and branded him Truthless. He convinces himself that they were right, only to discover that he was right all along after encountering Kaladin. Coming to terms with this was hard on him.
  • Cessation of Existence: According to his religion, he still incurs the guilt for every evil act he's ordered to commit while a Truthless, and after his death his soul will suffer the punishment. But if he doesn't follow those orders, then his soul will simply be annihilated on death.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Szeth's father Neturo is very conspicuously still alive (it's why he refers to himself using his dead grandfather's name instead), and back in Shinovar.
  • Climax Boss: In Words of Radiance. Szeth crashes the book's climactic battle, fights and defeats several main characters in quick succession, before being taken out in a pitched battle with Kaladin and Syl.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Even in how he uses his magical powers, he doesn't fight fair. Special mention goes to the time when he killed a Shardbearer by destroying a balcony beneath him, or when he killed a man by sending him flying up into the air only to fall back down to the ground.
  • The Comically Serious: His lack of understanding regarding what Nightblood is talking about combined with how completely seriously he takes what it and Lift say provides a sizable amount of humor in Oathbringer
  • Cool Sword: A master with his Shardblade, and refuses to part with it. It's actually an Honorblade, and the direct source of his Surgebinding. Later, he gains access to a sword that is strongly implied to be Nightblood from Warbreaker. Having bonded a highspren in Oathbringer and named himself a Skybreaker, the possibility of Szeth dual-wielding Nightblood and a Shardblade is very real.
  • The Dreaded: Szeth himself usually doesn't get this treatment, but as The Assassin in White, he is feared everywhere. The Alethi treat him this way after Gavilar's death to the point that he becomes a sort of boogeyman. Elsewhere in the world, the Assassin in White becomes feared after Szeth's rampage on Taravangian's orders. This is inevitable after killing the king of Jah Keved and his two Shardbearer bodyguards bringing the second strongest kingdom on Roshar into chaos and destruction in a single night. The government of Azir even shuts down because they assume whatever replacement they elect is doomed to be killed by him.
  • Easily Forgiven: Despite his past crimes, Szeth is accepted by the other Knights because they desperately need all the help they can get.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Szeth is immune to the Thrill. He may be a mass murderer with an ocean of blood on his hands, but he's never enjoyed killing.
  • Expy:
    • Of anime ninja. Most evident in the chapter where he's the assassin of a crime lord wannabe, and wears the classic black outfit, combined with his big, anime-esque Shin eyes.
  • Extreme Doormat: He will do anything for the person who holds his Oathstone orders, except commit suicide or give up his Shardblade. This is actually cultural. Shin "warriors" are treated like slaves, with Shin culture greatly favoring farmers and craftsmen and elevating them to the rulership positions of society, and soldiers being slaves that are conditioned to view themselves as having little value and to obey whoever possesses them.
  • Face Death with Dignity: After realizing that he isn't Truthless and truly accepting responsibility for all the death he has inflicted, he lets Kaladin kill him. Too bad for him that Nalan has other plans for him.
  • Feel No Pain: Between all the physical and psychological horror he's gone through, not to mention his Stormlight Healing Factor, his reaction to pain is pretty much "yeah, whatever."
  • The Fettered: Bound to follow the orders of whomever holds his Oathstone. He has only two limits: he will not kill himself, and he will not give up his Shardblade. But anything else his master commands - anything - he will immediately carry out, no matter how much he hates it, even if it will sow war and chaos and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Even if he's standing next to a horrible monster who is deliberately killing people in front of him, Szeth will not act against them.
  • Foil: To Kaladin especially. Both value honor and despise the actual act of killing, and are both slaves after a fashion. In the debate of To Be Lawful or Good, Kaladin falls under "Good", while Szeth ascribed to a version of "Lawful". Whereas Kaladin takes responsibility for everything, Szeth takes it for nothing. The powers they exhibit are also similar. However, Szeth is an assassin, not a soldier, and is not actually a surgebinder until joining the Skybreakers, who are rivals to the Windrunners, which Kaladin is one of.
  • Gravity Master: The thing that makes him so deadly, since nobody else understands his abilities or how to counter them. Outdoors a simple touch is enough to guarantee a kill on someone, because he can catapult them into the sky. And when inside, he can walk on walls and ceilings as well as glue someone to any surface, or even crush them by "dropping" heavy objects on them in any direction he pleases.
  • Healing Factor: His Surgebinding allows him to heal from wounds. It's not as strong as a true Radiant's, however, so he can't heal from Shardblade wounds. The fact that Kaladin can is the first big crack in his worldview. Taravingian tries to brush it off by claiming that Kaladin must have stolen one of the Honorblades that grants Regrowth (which would be either the Edgedancer or Truthwatcher Blades), but in the final battle even that explanation breaks down, and Szeth's brain breaks with it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He spends Oathbringer training with the Skybreakers. When he finds out that Nale has decided to side with the singers, Szeth ultimately decides to follow Dalinar instead.
  • Hitman with a Heart: He hates killing, but that is the task that he is best at, and he has countless masters willing to use his powers.
  • Honor Before Reason: Because he's a Truthless, he has to do whatever his masters tell him, and can't take his own life. At several points in The Way of Kings he has a strong desire to act, but can't because he is Truthless.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: While he is only ever seen using Gravitation and rarely Adhesion, in Oathbringer he mentions that he has trained in all ten Surges, so he is able to outmaneuver a Fused using Abrasion who assumes that he is confused by her powers.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Part of his culture's naming conventions, but for the first two books he uses he uses X grandson of Z instead of son of Y so that his father is not shamed by association for having a Truthless son.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: As Truthless, he is not allowed to take his own life. Once he learns he isn't Truthless, he lets Kaladin finish him.
  • Just Following Orders: A weird case. On the one hand, he is culturally bound to follow any order his master gives him, with the sole exceptions of killing himself or giving up his Shardblade. On the other, he is still morally responsible for everything he has done, even by his culture's own standards. He actually explicitly states at one point that "I am not absolved. It is a common mistake stone-walkers make. Each life I take weighs me down, eating away at my soul... It is my punishment. To kill, to have no choice, but to bear the sins nonetheless." Kaladin specifically calls him out as a coward for using this excuse to justify everything he has done. After finding out that he wasn't Truthless, that the claims of the return of Radiants and Voidbringers that got him declared Truthless were correct, he goes slightly off the deep end, because that would mean he could have refused every one of those evil orders. He still doesn't see that he could have refused them either way, however.
  • Last Request: He grants both of Gavilar's as he believes that such things are sacred.
  • Loophole Abuse: He's adept at spotting loopholes in how he can act, and especially so at spotting the loopholes in the various trials that the Skybreakers set up to test their recruits. Later on, when Nalan tells him he has to swear to follow a set of laws as part of the Third Ideal of the Skybreakers, Szeth realizes that he can theoretically swear to follow any set of laws, including those of a specific person, so he chooses Dalinar.
  • Magic Knight: More like a magic ninja really.
  • Man in White: What he's known for, anyway.
  • McNinja: Though a Professional Killer and Magic Knight, his typical methods are more of this type.
  • Never My Fault: While he is normally too good at accepting fault (it's part of the reason he remained Truthless instead of just ignoring his masters), his dwindling sanity means he starts blaming his victims for being too weak to stop him. Blaming the king of Jah Keved for setting an ambush during a feast makes sense. Blaming a random unarmed bystander for not killing him does not.
  • One-Man Army: He carries a Shardblade and can use the surges of Gravitation and Adhesion. Nothing can stop him. Shardbearers, dozens of soldiers, and even Knight Radiants can barely stand against him. To date, there has only been one person who could effectively stop him.
  • Only Sane Man: Among the Skybreakers in Edgedancer, which is honestly quite off-putting. He's the only one who notices that their boss is obviously insane and blatantly ignoring the evidence in front of his own eyes. Every time he brings it up, the other Skybreakers get mad at him for being disrespectful, though Nale himself doesn't mind.
  • Out of Focus: He gets much less attention in Words of Radiance, but is planned as the focus character of book five.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Even most Shardbearers don't stand much of a chance. Shardplate will protect someone from the direct effects of Szeth's powers, and a Shardblade will let them fight against him without it being complete suicide, but the best that most people who tangle with him have managed to accomplish is making him work harder for the kill.
  • Pet the Dog: He interacts civilly with a terrified Lift during Edgedancer, despite knowing she's one of his new boss' targets.
  • Professional Killer: His entire role as a warrior from Shinovar, along with his Surgebinging abilities and Shardblade.
  • Red Baron: He gained infamy as "the Assassin in White" for murdering the Alethi king while wearing an all-white uniform. He is later sent on a royal killing spree, made to wear the white again so that the whole world would know the Assassin in White's hand in regicide.
  • Sanity Slippage: He gets progressively less stable over the course of the first two books, especially once he realizes that Kaladin is a Radiant, since it means that the "lies" he told that made him Truthless were actually true all along.
  • Sanity Strengthening: By Edgedancer, he's gotten a lot better about his insanity, or at least been able to hide it better, and even realizes that Nale is losing his mind. Culminating in him becoming a Defector from Decadence in Oathbringer and becoming a Skybreaker who does not follow Nale at all.
  • Subverted Catch Phrase: One of his common thoughts, when ordered to do something horrible, is a simple "he would do as his masters demanded." Near the end of Oathbringer, when he swears his Ideal to follow Dalinar, he thinks the same thing—but of a much less horrific task.
    Szeth of the Skybreakers envied Kaladin, the one they called Stormblessed, in the honor of protecting Dalinar Kholin. But of course, he would not complain. He had chosen his oath.
    And he would do as his master demanded.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Szeth's personal test of character in Oathbringer. By the strictest rule of law, the Voidbringers—ancient spirits of the dead, harvesting their own people's souls to inhabit new bodies—claim original ownership of Roshar, through birth and now conquest, and are championed by Odium. Nale considers taking their side to be the lawful thing to do, the Skybreakers' duty. But as Nightblood points out, serving a blatant evil just because it has the letter of the law on its side is no different than the bloody years Szeth spent bound to his Oathstone. In the end, Szeth decides that he wants to do good, but believes his soul is too twisted to judge good from evil on his own—and so swears himself to Dalinar.
  • Undying Loyalty: Szeth is a master of this. He perfectly follows the orders of whoever holds his Oathstone (with only two exceptions), and when becoming a Skybreaker, he has to swear to follow an external set of laws. Nothing says this cannot be the law of an individual, so Szeth chooses to swear ultimate loyalty to Dalinar.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: When using Nightblood, he has no idea how it works, so he routinely draws the sword rather than use a Sheath Strike like Vasher. This means every time he draws it, he sucks up a lot of Stormlight and has a high likelihood of dying. It's only in a battle with one of the Fused that he even realizes that the sheath is a viable weapon at all, when it successfully blocks a blow from Nightblood.
  • Weak, but Skilled: While using the Windrunner Honorblade, he required much more Stormlight than even the weakest Radiant, but he had trained his entire life in the Surges.


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