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Literature / Oathbringer

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My glory and my shame.

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

"What is the most important step a man can take?"
Dalinar Kholin

Oathbringer is the third 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 previous books focused on Kaladin and Shallan, Oathbringer centers around Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of War for Alethkar, as well as leader of the reborn Knights Radiant and a member of the Order of Bondsmiths.

At the end of Words of Radiance, the Parshendi became Voidbringers and summoned the Everstorm, an evil highstorm that blows the wrong way. Kaladin and Shallan revealed their Surgebinding abilities and opened the way to Urithiru, fabled city of the Radiants. Once there, Dalinar bound the Stormfather himself as his spren, and Renarin revealed himself to be a Truthwatcher. Realizing that the parshmen in his home village would soon become Voidbringers, Kaladin flew off to warn his family, while everyone else remained behind to explore the city.

Despite traveling hundreds of miles in half a day, Kaladin runs out of Stormlight before he reaches home, and has to walk the rest of the way, resulting in the Everstorm arriving before him. Just as he is giving up hope of anyone having survived, some soldiers in the manor spot him and pull him inside.

Meanwhile, Jasnah (having survived the attack on the Wind's Pleasure by teleporting to Shadesmar) has returned to the Physical Realm to find Hoid, the King's Wit, waiting for her. He cheerily tells her that Shallan did her job for her, before they begin the long walk back to civilization together.

And Szeth-son-Neturo, formerly the Assassin in White, has been inducted into the Skybreaker Order by Nalan'Elin, Herald of Justice himself. Nale tells him that he should never have been made Truthless, but praises him for holding to his ideals regardless. Now, it is time to return to punish the Shin for their crimes. To that end, the Herald has a new sword for him, a black Shardblade with a metal sheath.

"Hello. Would you like to destroy some evil today?"

This book provides examples of:

  • 24-Hour Armor: After a few embarrassing early mistakes with his Shardplate, a young Dalinar resolves to wear it day and night, even while sleeping, until he feels more comfortable with it on than off.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In his younger days, Dalinar casually walked out into a highstorm in search of a proper knife to cut his steak with, returned empty-handed, killed an assassin, and promptly sat down to use the man's knife for his dinner after washing the blood off. He was unaware that Gavilar was trying without success to convince Highprince Toh that the Kholins could protect him, and concisely proved the king's point in doing so.
    Dalinar: What's wrong with him?
    Gavilan: I suspect where he's from people don't casually walk outside in the middle of a highstorm.
  • Affably Evil: Rine has a reputation for being one of the most brutal and fearsome Voidbringers, but he is civil towards a much-humbled Venli and sane enough to calmly explain their actions in a palatable way.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Dalinar is devastated when Sadeas is found dead, as not only were they old friends, but Sadeas would have been an invaluable ally in the coming war. Note that none of his allies agree with him, and they all feel that he would have just continued undermining Dalinar at every opportunity. In fact, Sadeas boasted about doing just that, which is why Adolin killed him.
    Palona: Well! I guess that's one problem solved!
    [everyone stares]
    Palona: What? Don't tell me you weren't all thinking it.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Played with.
    • Subverted with the transformed parshmen. Everyone assumed that each and every one of them would become possessed by a Voidspren when exposed to the Everstorm, but instead most of them were simply healed of their broken Connection and Identity and given a random form. Many wouldn't even be fighting humanity if not for the Fused.
    • On the other hand, the Fused are entirely unredeemable and desire nothing but killing every living human on Roshar no matter the cost—and they aren't particularly concerned about helping the parshmen, either. The fact that they are the souls of ancient parshmen, given the power to possess their descendants by Odium, a god of hate, growing more insane every time they are resurrected, is certainly part of it.
    • The Unmade are an entirely different kettle of fish altogether due to their borderline Eldritch Abomination nature. Re-Shephir just wants to understand humanity, but, thanks to Odium's influence, tries to do so by being a Copycat Killer. Sja-anat claims to want to help the Radiants, and her corrupted spren don't seem inherently malicious, especially the one that bonded to Renarin by mistake. Nergaoul may be responsible for the Thrill, but he doesn't hate, and simply loves fighting, and wants to share that love with everyone else. Yelig-Nar is the only Unmade we encounter in this book who is both intelligent and unambiguously on Odium's side.
  • All for Nothing:
    • The circumstances in which Shallan is forced to realise she's in. Acting the part of a Folk Hero by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor sounds good in theory, but if you do it openly, whatever you give to the poor will quickly be stolen from them in turn by the local criminals.
    • The entire War of Reckoning and the massive loss of life involved is retroactively revealed to be this in the prologue. The reason that the Parshendi assassinated King Gavilar and sparked the war in the first place was to prevent him from causing the return of their ancient gods, bet they themselves eventually caused the return by adopting Stormform out of desperation to survive when the Alethi threatened to wipe them out in retaliation for killing Gavilar. At most, the war managed to delay the True Desolation by a few years.
  • An Aesop:
    • Anyone can change, as long as they keep trying. The change isn't always for the better.
    • Your decisions and the consequences following it are yours to bear even if someone else was influencing you to do so, and you should accept them no matter what instead of blaming others or hiding from your guilt.
    • You can always try to be a better person, no matter your past.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Oathbringer is one of the oldest Shardblades in Alethkar, once belonging to the Sunmaker himself. At some point or another, it fell out of Kholin hands, but Dalinar won it from Highprince Tanalan during the unification.
  • And This Is for...: Two seconds after Kaladin sees Roshone again, he punches him in the face.
    Kaladin: That was for my friend Moash.
  • Appeal to Force: One of the ardents' arguments for Vorinism is that the Heralds had supernatural powers that they used to lead humanity. Dalinar promptly demonstrates his supernatural powers and points out that things are a little more complicated than the ardents always assumed.
    • It is commonly believed that in Alethi conflicts, the winner and therefore the stronger side has the divine mandate of the Almighty. When Dalinar seems to reject Vorinism, Kadash warns him that in doing so he will lose the moral ground in conquering Alethkar by force.
  • Appeal to Tradition: One of the causes for friction between Dalinar and the ardents is that he wants answers about the nature of the world and religion, while the ardents are insistent that religion is right because it is right and because it has been done this way for centuries. Dalinar tells a story about how he was taught to tie his takama (a shirt for sword duels) three times instead of two, and how his master refused to allow him to do it any other way, because that's how his master taught him. Dalinar found his master's master, and he said the same thing. Dalinar found that man's master, who was very short, and he just said that he tied it three times to keep himself from tripping over the end.
    Dalinar: I love tradition. I've fought for tradition. I make my men follow the codes. I uphold Vorin virtues. But merely being tradition does not make something worthy, Kadash. We can't just assume that because something is old it is right.
  • Appropriated Appelation: The designation 'Voidbringers' originally applied to humanity, who came to Roshar as space-refugees and eventually tried to conquer the world from the singers.
  • Arc Number: Nine. There are nine Heralds that betrayed the Oathpact, leaving behind their blades, nine Unmade, represented in Odium's champion having nine shadows, the Everstorm occurs every nine days... And nine is one short of ten, which is believed to be a perfect number.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Amaram (see I Did What I Had to Do below) is close to snapping for good, insisting that he has no blame because he acted how it was right in those circumstances. Kaladin then asks why, if that's true, he's so vehemently trying to justify himself. Specifically, if he’s trying to achieve personal peace and claiming to feel no guilt, "why do you still hurt?" This ends up cementing Amaram's Villainous Breakdown.
  • Ascended Extra: Venli was a minor villain in Words of Radiance, but becomes a major and more complex character in Oathbringer.
  • Assassin Outclassin': In the flashbacks, Dalinar does this constantly. He personally runs down a sniper sent to kill him, and later brutally kills a disguised server out for his brother... and then uses the assassin's knife to eat his dinner.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Kaladin manages to order around Roshone's soldiers before he even summons his Shardblade by dint of being the only real soldier around. Then when they finally start complaining, he does summon his Shardblade, which legally makes him the most important person in the village.
  • Avengers Assemble: In the Battle of Thaylen Field, Honor's Perpendicularity has faded and the heroes gather to Dalinar at the breach in the city wall for orders. Eight out of the ten Knights Radiant orders are represented - the most in one place since the Recreance: Dalinar for the Bondsmiths, Kaladin for the Windrunners, Szeth for the Skybreakers, Lift for the Edgedancers, Renarin for the Truthwatchers, Shallan and Shalash, patron Herald for the Lightweavers, Jasnah for the Elsecallers, and Taln, patron Herald for the Stonewards.
  • Awful Truth: The apparent cause behind the Recreance and the Radiants' abandoning of their oaths: Humans were refugees from another world who traveled to Roshar, and the powers of the Radiants and their Surgebinding had destroyed the previous one they lived on. Once they learned of their origins and the terrible risks they presented, the Radiants abandoned their oaths and powers to protect Roshar from being destroyed in turn.
  • Badass and Child Duo: With his Radiants still trapped in Shadesmar, Dalinar begins the climactic battle with only Lift at his side. Fortunately, Lift being Lift, her presence is a boon instead of a drawback.
    • Subverted with Elhokar, who nearly becomes a Radiant with his child son in his arms, only to be Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The opening epigraphs strongly imply that the in-universe Oathbringer was written by Jasnah. It was actually written by Dalinar, after he asked Navani to teach him to read.
    • Eshonai was set up to be the first Parshendi Radiant, but it ends up being her sister Venli, bonding to a lightspren called Timbre, since Eshonai died in the first Everstorm.
    • Dalinar was ready to fight Odium's champion, only for it to turn out that Odium had chosen him as his champion.
  • Bait the Dog: Moash comes to terms with his awful predicament and blames nobody but himself but suffering in it. He's conscripted into the Voidbringer army against his will, but considers joining a holdout resistance force... until meeting its leader, a petty, selfish, and callous lighteyed noble who is such a stunning reflection of all Moash hates in Alethi society that he completely loses faith in his own people and joins the Voidbringers in earnest. The next time he shows up, he personally murders King Elhokar and helps conquer Kholinar for his new masters.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Of a sort. When Kaladin returns to his hometown, he immediately takes charge from the soldiers there by way of dressing their horrible discipline down. This is despite them being ordered against him.
  • Benevolent Boss: Odium seems to be this to his highest servants, the Voidbringer "gods", speaking with them less like a deity or general and more like an old personal friend. He is rather more stern and unforgiving towards Venli, who observes that her master expends the lives of his more replaceable servants very liberally.
  • Big Bad: Odium takes a far more direct role in the conflict this time, interacting with Dalinar, his servants, and personally overseeing the final battle in an avatar.
  • Big Bad Friend: Taravangian becomes Dalinar's closest and most frequent ally among the monarchs he approaches for alliance, despite having plotted his death and presently working to usurp him. Also, Odium attempts to present himself as this, but no matter the form Odium takes, Dalinar is never less than aware of the creature he's dealing with.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Dalinar begins the final battle alone. Then Lift shows up to help him. Then Szeth shows up to help them both. Inverted with the rest of his Radiants, who are trapped in Shadesmar despite their best efforts to reach Dalinar, and only arrive after Dalinar rescues them.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses:
    • Syl is surprised to discover that she can sense when a highstorm is coming, even when it's still days off. When Kaladin was in the warcamps, she didn't need to exercise this ability since there were always lists of when the next few storms would be.
    • Shallan and Renarin can both feel Re-Shephir somewhere deep in the tower, long before they actually find her. Due to her connection to Lightweaving and the fact that Dalinar couldn't sense her, it's possible that their power over the Surge of Illumination granted them this ability.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: According to Syl, some of the older spren have four potential gender identities.
  • Blood Knight: When Dalinar was younger, he was a bloodthirsty engine of death even when the Thrill wasn't upon him. He cuts down enemy soldiers without even knowing why, then orders his soldiers to take the civilians as hostages so he can draw out the enemy soldiers and get a better fight.
  • Body Horror: Amaram after bonding with the Unmade Yelig-Nar, with burning red eyes, amethyst crystals sprouting all over his body and a gemheart taking the place of his internal organs in his chest. May also count as Power-Upgrading Deformation.
    • Also, a woman in one of the interludes who is slowly turning into smoke due to use of a Soulcaster fabrial. She has a hole in her cheek through which the inside of her mouth is visible.
  • Book Burning: What some of the Unmade did. Luckily, the Radiants planned for their books failing to hold up to time and put their messages in the titular Archive, carved crystals that vibrate the message when infused with Stormlight.
  • Boring, but Practical: For a given definition of "boring." Given the choice between a Shardblade and Shardplate, most men choose the Blade. Dalinar prefers the Plate, as it provides benefits besides just killing power.
  • Brick Joke: From the previous book. When Shallan and Adolin get married, Kaladin and Bridge Four send her a pair of boots as their wedding gift, a Call-Back to their very first meeting.
  • The Brute: As seen in the flashbacks, this is basically the role Dalinar filled for Gavilar when they were young. In the present, Dalinar's reputation as the Blackthorn makes it difficult to convince the other nations to cooperate with Alethkar.
  • Came Back Wrong:
    • The Fused are the spirits of ancient parshmen transformed into spren by Odium, growing more insane each time they take over the body of another parshman, killing them in the process, with many so focused on revenge on humanity that they're willing to destroy Roshar to get it. Some of them don't even seem aware of what's going on anymore, and some souls are so twisted Venli can barely recognize them as singers anymore.
    • As a side effect of having his soul caught and prevented from ascending in death, Szeth is now constantly followed by a ghostly afterimage. He can also more acutely hear the voices of the dead, and being around Stormlight quells these voices.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The captain's cord that Rysn gets from Vstim as a symbol that she now owns a ship comes in very handy soon, when she needs to fight a Fused. And in general, the whole interlude is full of these (the unexpected and unwanted presence of a larkin in the vault, the position of Rysn's usual chair next to the stairs, the crossbows in guards' hands).
  • Combat by Champion:
    • The idea of defeating Odium's champion is brought up again. The Stormfather explains that the reason Odium would agree to such a binding duel is because fighting directly could actually harm him, while using a champion and losing costs him only time. Time is nothing to a Shard, but it's everything to mortals. Dalinar is a little embarrassed to realize that he was assuming he'd be the one to duel the champion, when it would be more logical to let a younger Radiant such as Kaladin do it.
    • Odium agrees with Dalinar's assumption. Just not with him fighting for the side Dalinar thought he would. Thankfully Dalinar disagrees with this idea vehemently.
  • Cool Airship: Though they don't have a prototype yet, Navani's engineers are working on a ship that is designed to work with a Windrunner's Lashings instead of the Windrunner needing to individually Lash every person they want to fly with them.
  • Copycat Killer: A lighteyed man is found dead, murdered in the exact same way as Sadeas. Everyone of course assumes it was the same killer, except for Adolin, who is very disturbed to find that someone has copied him. Shallan soon finds that someone has been copying other murders as well, also using impossibly specific details. It turns out to be Re-Shephir, one of the Unmade, whose intense curiosity about humans and Creative Sterility meant that she couldn't understand humans nor make any creations of humans without imitating them.
  • Cosmic Plaything:
    • Kaladin just cannot catch a break. He flies literally across the entirety of Alethkar in half a day, only to run out of Stormlight somewhere in Aladar's princedom, some ninety miles from home. It takes him three days to walk a distance that he could have flown in a heartbeat, and he arrives after Hearthstone has already been devastated by the Everstorm and the Parshendi-turned-Voidbringers. He even manages to attract some gloomspren, which are rare.
    • He even lampshades his status as this later, saying that at first, he thought that God didn't exist, then he thought that the only way that he could suffer all that he did is if God was actively screwing with him.
  • Cradling Your Kill: A variant in the climax: After imprisoning Nergaoul in the King's Drop, Dalinar cradles the gemstone and cries.
  • Cuddlebug: Evi, Dalinar's wife, was much more touchy-feely than he (not to mention Alethi society in general) was comfortable with. She insisted on near-constant hugs, which his men snickered at. Adolin and Renarin both learned this from her and are far more affectionate in public than your typical Alethi.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Once the freed parshmen have joined together in strength, they immediately capture every human they come across. Kaladin isn't able to convince them to avoid revenge entirely, but he begs them to at least be better masters than the lighteyes were to them. It turns out that this only really applies to the Alethi Parshmen; the Thaylen parshmen simply steal all their ships and sail away, while the Azish parshmen are completely peaceful and just sue the government for backpay. Moash plays this role as well, for a time.
  • Damaged Soul: Apparently the parshmen had their very souls damaged by whatever reduced them to slaveform, and the Everstorm merely undid the damage to their Connection and Identity.
    • Szeth's soul wasn't properly reattached to his body when Nale saved him, so those attuned to Stormlight can see it.
  • Dark Secret: The secret that broke the old Knights Radiant is brought up again. The Stormfather knows it, but refuses to share it. The truth is that humans were the first Voidbringers. They arrived on Roshar as refugees after their homeworld (confirmed by the author to be Ashyn, the first planet in the Rosharan system) was destroyed and rendered uninhabitable by Surgebinding to coexist beside the parshmen, but they grew greedy and tried to take everything for themselves. At first, whenever the Knights discovered this, Honor was able to calm them down and convince them to keep fighting. But by the time of the Recreance, he was dying and half-mad, so talking to him only made things worse.
  • Darkest Hour: The climactic final battle starts with:
    • Shallan, Adolin and Kaladin are stuck in Shadesmar, fighting a number of Fused to try to get back to the Physical Realm. Adolin gets wounded in the gut and Kaladin runs out of Stormlight while failing to say the Fourth Ideal.
    • Odium used Nergaoul to turn the entire Alethi army at Thaylen City onto the city, with the Thrill turned up to eleven. Amaram has joined up with Odium.
    • Jasnah is convinced Renarin betrayed them to Odium and is about to kill him. Renarin knows this as he saw a foretelling on this.
    • Someone steals the Windrunner Honorblade, killing and wounding Bridge Four people in the process. And then Odium's forces from Kholinar attack Urithiru through the Oathgate.
    • Nale and the Skybreakers decide that the 'Law' supports the Voidbringers and make a group-wide Face–Heel Turn.
    • Odium is giving a Breaking Speech to Dalinar, convincing him to become his Champion.
    • And Lift is out of food.
  • Death Glare: When Kaladin reaches Hearthstone, Roshone's lighteyed captain tries to hustle him around like a slave. Kaladin gives him a look that sends the man back a step, and then walks off to find his parents.
    Syl: Wow. That is quite the glare you gave.
    Kaladin: Old sergeant's trick.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In his youth, Dalinar employed a variation of this. Particularly worthy opponents who impressed him on the battlefield would be pressed into service as one of his elites.
    • Leshwi also develops a bond with Moash despite — or perhaps because of — him having killed her in a previous body.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: A bit of an inversion from a nominally heroic character. While deceiving Dalinar during a parley, the outmatched Thanalan the Younger manages to achieve enormously generous terms of surrender. Dalinar agrees to let him join the Alethi alliance as a highlord, possibly even a highprince, and to not only save face and be seen as a cunning hero for having only pretended to rebel in order to ferret out traitors, but also to end his rebellion bloodlessly, saving his people and city. Unfortunately, Thanalan throws this all away just for a chance to kill the man who slew his father in battle, and the consequences for all involved are tragic. He had a perfectly good lifeline and could have enjoyed a high place in the world, but just couldn't help screwing himself over for revenge.
    • Although it all revolved around him revealing the traitor Highprince who helped him and sustained the rebellion, something that it looks like was a deception in the first place. He was unlikely to keep that good deal after that.
  • Disney Death: Played with. Eshonai fell into a chasm at the end of Words of Radiance, but was wearing Shardplate (which we know is able to cancel some amount of fall damage) and was in stormform (whose exact specifications are unknown). Dalinar sees a vision of the Voidbringer champion, and they are clad in Shardplate painted black, just like Eshonai's. After the end of Part One, one of the interludes details her sister and a strange new spren searching for her. They discover that she survived the fall, used her Shardblade to anchor herself to the wall while the storms met, and drowned as the storms' rain filled the chasm she fell into.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Dalinar, attempting to be a better man at the urging of his wife Evi, offers peace when forced to march against the city of Rathalas to put down a rebellion. The highprince goes along with it long enough to lure Dalinar into a trap to kill him off along with his best soldiers. Dalinar survives and responds by burning the entire city to the ground, with military and civilians including his wife trapped inside. His inability to take it back once it starts leads to the drunken slob we saw at Gavilar's party in the prologues, trying to drown out the screaming he still hears.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • Shallan tends to lose track of what she's doing whenever Kaladin is looking especially dashing. Veil practically leers at him at one point.
    • Shallan finds Adolin's body pressed against her during a strategy meeting to be very distracting:
      Stupid Adolin and his stupid arms. Stupid strong yet gentle arms pressing against her, right beneath her breasts...
    • A few characters note that they think that Shallan looks really good in her white Veil outfit, which compliments her auburn hair. Adolin thinks that it's fetching.
      Adolin: Storms, there was something about a woman in trousers and a coat.
  • Divine Date: According to a legend, that's why Natan people have bluish skin - their great queen from the ancient times once spent a night with moon god Nomon.
  • The Dragon: Odium has a champion he's been preparing for a very long time, a vaguely familiar, nine-shadowed figure that Dalinar sees in a vision. Exactly who this is remains a mystery, until The Reveal that it's Dalinar himself.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: The prologue shows that Gavilar received the same visions as Dalinar, which were at least partly behind his desire to unite the kingdom. He somehow failed to understand that the point was to unite the people in order to survive the Desolation—instead, he decided to start the Desolation to unite them. What's worse, he didn't seem to think there was anything particularly strange about this, and happily told his plan to Eshonai.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Dalinar following the massacre in the Rift and the death of his wife Evi. And then later, when memories of this come back to him.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Adolin stresses about what his father might think about his murder of Sadeas, but to his surprise Dalinar takes it relatively well, being more annoyed than anything, but it's clear he has no intention of punishing Adolin for the deed.
    • Szeth is also accepted as one of Dalinar's Radiants — his personal bodyguard, even — with basically no resistance despite being perhaps the most famous and prolific assassin in the world. Mostly because the Radiants REALLY needed help at the time and were in no position to demand an explanation or turn down his help.
    • Taln, to Ash's surprise, not only forgives the other Heralds for leaving him in Damnation for four and a half thousand years, but is excited to find out how long he was abandoned since it prevented the Desolations from coming and gave humanity a chance to thrive.
  • Easy Logistics: Discussed by Gavilar. Conventional siege tactics are ineffective against large Alethi cities, since starving out the enemy is unlikely to happen if they have access to Soulcasters.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Unmade, enormously powerful Voidspren created by Odium to cause chaos wherever they could. They create country-wide effects merely by being awake, have strange and impossible powers, and only barely understand humanity at all. If it's possible to kill them, no one has ever done it before, but they have been sealed away before.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Zigzagged. The Fused, who are at the top of the pyramid, often have contempt for regular parshmen and treat them as lessers — or worse, potential vessels to be hijacked by other Fused. The rank-and-file Voidbringers treat most humans with more or less the same courtesy they were treated themselves: put to work doing manual labour, but keep well fed enough to keep going. That said, exceptions exist. Leshwi, a prominent Fused who was bested by Moash, develops a fondness for him and eventually has him sworn in as a Parshendi-aligned Shardbearer. Odium himself has always been willing to accept alliances and personal allegiances regardless of race or geography, but one of his goals is still to wipe out humanity.
  • Even the Loving Hero Has Hated Ones: Dalinar Kholin has been undergoing some serious Character Development as of late, and even tried to cooperate with his archnemesis Torol Sadeas up until his unexpected murder, despite the wrongs Sadeas had inflicted on him. He absolutely despises Meridas Amaram once he discovers everything Amaram had done to Kaladin Stormblessed, one of Dalinar's most trusted men. This, however, does not stop him from treating him just like any other subordinate.
  • Exact Words:
    • When the Alethi finally get a hold of Azir, the Azir claim that their Oathgate doesn't work, and even send an affidavit to prove it. Navani is amused to note that the affidavit basically just says that the Oathgate isn't turned on, not that it's broken.
    • Taravangian's plan hinges on one of these: he will make a bargain with Odium in which Odium agrees to spare the people Taravangian rules, then Taravangian will become ruler of the entire world. Everyone will be ruled over by Taravangian, and thus spared by the terms of the agreement. Unfortunately for nearly everyone on Roshar, Odium sees right through the trick, being smart enough to only approach him on a day where he's less intelligent and read the Diagram first, and agrees only to spare Kharbranth, anyone born in Kharbranth, and their spouses.
    • Szeth exploits the loopholes in the rules during his Skybreaker training. The rules of the second test clearly state that points will be deducted based on the amount of times a squire's clothing had been hit by colored powder. Szeth was the ONLY one to realize that the rules never said anything about the powder needing to REMAIN on their clothes. He wins after washing his clothes and rules lawyering his way out of the objections of the other squires.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The copycat murderer spren replicates the murder of Sadeas, resulting in another case of Eye Scream.
    • The spren of dead Shardblades are missing their eyes, one character comparing it to someone scratching the eyes off of a painting.
  • False Memories: Shallan is briefly worried that on the night she killed her father, she killed her brothers too and then used Lightweaving to fake all their following interactions to herself. She didn't, but the fact that she seriously considers the possibility does not speak well of her mental state.
  • Famous Ancestor: The Kholins are descended from the Sunmaker, the last man to unite Alethkar. They don't use this fact to justify their conquest, however. Gavilar seems to intentionally avoid comparisons since the Sunmaker eventually overreached and fell trying to expand his empire. Unfortunately, this lack of legitimacy came back to bite them by the War of Reckoning, since none of the Highprinces saw the need to follow someone who hadn't personally beaten them into line.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • All the humans have difficulty treating the parshmen as people even when they're not being violent, because they've spent so long treating the parshmen as just things.
    • This seems to have bled into the honorspren more than a little; Syl has difficulty giving Kaladin good answers on the morality of dealing with the parshmen.
    • The Fused see the normal parshmen as nothing but servants or slaves, just like how human lighteyes look down on the darkeyes. Forms of power are considered better, but not that much better. If a Fused dies, they will take the body of a living parshman during the next Everstorm, killing the parshman in the process.
    • Among spren, no one seems to like cryptics. Syl is genuinely surprised to find that Pattern is actually a Nice Guy in his own eccentric way.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Odium likes to appear as a kind old man, but his actions make his malevolence apparent.
  • Fictional Document: Yet again, the title refers to an in-universe book, this one apparently written by Jasnah Kholin after her visit to Shadesmar in Words. It was actually written by Dalinar after the events of this book.
  • Fingore: Odium is tormenting Dalinar with visions of Dalinar's accidental murder of his wife. To distract himself from the pain, Dalinar takes to ripping out his own fingernails. It doesn't help.
  • Fish out of Water: Hits Shallan hard in Kholinar, as she's forced to admit that while she can convincingly act the part of a jaded street rat in her Veil persona, it doesn't change the fact that she's spent most of her life living in a mansion and still has a number of blind spots concerning how the real world works. Appearances count for more than most people realise, but they don't control everything.
  • Foreshadowing: As with any Sanderson work, so much that literally the last 15% of the book is all of them coming home to roost.
    • The story Shallan told Pattern about the girl who lived in a village surrounded by a wall. This turns to be based on how the ancient human settlers of Roshar were orginally confined to the area that would become Shinovar. Later, Wit continues the story from where Shallan leaves off. When the girl left, she discovered Stormlight, causing the start of Highstorms and essentially beginning the war against the Voidbringers.
    • Early in the flashback, Sadeas mentions how he doubts even a rockslide could kill Dalinar. He turns out to be very right.
    • The Dawnchant. Chanting is done in rhythm, foreshadowing that it was originally part of the language of the parshmen.
    • Meta-wise and in-universe, the explicit mention there's only one Perpendicularity in Roshar despite there being 2 Shards, and that it belongs to Cultivation. Honor's Perpendicularity is part of the climax, and has many implicaitons both in and out of universe.
    • Zahel's literally colorful metaphors and the sword kata he taught Adolin and Kaladin. It not only immediately singles out a new character as not only a worldhopper, but also hints heavily that Vivenna isn't dead as has been hinted.
    • Dalinar's memories, interspersed with present-day chapters. A flashback chapter ends with Dalinar making a tentative plan for peace with Rathalas and leading a force of Elites to investigate the supposed traitorous caravan. The name of the next chapter? Rockfall - the lighteyes manor house that Veil and her team robs in the present day.
    • Humanity's lack of resemblance to native Rosharan life, as the Stormfather lampshades. Wit hinted at it even earlier in the series, when he pointed out that humans have an animal called an axehound, even though they don't know what a hound is.
    • The fact that Odium can manifest an appearance to Dalinar. By way of Mistborn, we know that Shards cannot be perceived by people who don't have a Connection to them. The fact that Dalinar can shows he has such a Connection to Odium, making him compatible to Odium's power, and vulnerable to possession by Odiumspren the way Sadeas' army is.
    • Played with in the depiction of Odium's champion and its nine shadows. Dalinar WAS chosen by Odium to be his champion, but that doesn't mean Odium got him. When he went to battle with Odium, it was with nine companions; seven Knights Radiant whose powers are still shadows of what they could be, and two Heralds who are mere shadows of their former selves.
    • The conversation between Adolin and Azure, when she says that sometimes the best way to fulfil a duty is to let someone else do it. Adolin at first finds this unthinkable, but later on he decides to let Jasnah take the throne of Kholinar, because he knows she will be much better at it.
    • As everyone prepares for the climactic battle, Dalinar goes out to survey the fortifications of Thaylen City. Meridas Amaram has been personally been preparing them, and when Dalinar speaks to him about them, Amaram remarks that he admires Dalinar for their plan to know the enemy's defenses. Dalinar reprimands Amaram for this, believing Amaram to be one of the people who believe Dalinar is trying to conquer the world for Alethkar. It's actually because Amaram is now on Odium's payroll and has been informed that Dalinar is to become Odium's champion, so he believes Dalinar is organizing the defense specifically to take advantage of intentional weaknesses when Odium's army attacks.
    • When discussing Amaram, Adolin says that he used to see him as a model soldier who didn't care for petty politics, and Shallan wonders why soldiers who don't care what they're fighting for would be a good thing. It turns out that Dalinar was just like that in his youth, and was worse than Shallan could imagine before becoming The Atoner.
  • Friendly Enemy: Odium to Dalinar. For a God of Evil and the Big Bad, he is polite, civil, and even supportive as he spurs Dalinar on towards the fate he has in store for him.
    Odium: Be strong, Dalinar. I have faith in you, even when you don't have it in yourself. Though it will hurt for a time, there is an end. Peace is in your future. Push through the agony. Then you will be victorious, my son.
  • Fusion Dance: The Fused are the spirits of ancient dead parshmen turned into spren after death by Odium, fusing with living parshmen during the Everstorms. Subverted as the original parshmen personality does not survive this, making this another trope altogether.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Discussed. Jasnah points out that without the Oathpact to force the Fused back to Braize, the only way to stop them is to kill off every living singer to deprive them of their hosts.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Shallan is making the illusory army, she uses everyone she's ever drawn, explicitly including "the maids in her father's house.". These are, presumably, the maids we'd previously been told that she had convinced to pose nude for her, so she could sketch anatomic studies.
  • The Grand Hunt: Syl mentions she had an aunt who used to hunt gloomspren. Kaladin assumes she means they made a game of trying to spot them, but she explains it was more like hunting greatshells.
  • God-Emperor: Tezim is the "god-priest" of the Tukari people, and has been waging a war to reclaim the holy city of Sesemalex Dar for years. When Dalinar contacts him, he sends back a message proclaiming himself "Herald of Heralds" and demanding they give up Urithiru, which he claims belongs solely to him. Given it turns out he is a Herald, he actually has a point. He's still crazy though.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Aesudan was a spectacularly awful queen even before Odium got his claws in her. She ends up bonded to Yelig-nar and reveling in her new power while her city is under siege and her people are dying.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Szeth. Venli also seems to be going in this direction.
  • Heel Realisation: Venli has one when she finds her sister's corpse. For all their differences, she mourns Eshonai's death and realises too late just how much she valued her sister's counsel. After seeing the truth of her very flawed gods and accepting that she's chiefly to blame for their return, she goes on to become a far more conflicted character.
  • The Heretic: The ardents really, really aren't happy with Dalinar's visions. They can live with the ones about the Knights Radiant in their glory days, but then there's the part about the Almighty being dead. Dalinar tries to point out that if the Almighty is dead then obviously he was never really God and there must be something beyond him, but that really doesn't help. And then Dalinar marries Navani in a ceremony officiated by the Stormfather, which is either kinda silly or horrific blasphemy. They eventually outright excommunicate him.
  • Heroic Vow: In the flashbacks, Dalinar nearly murders his brother for his throne and his wife while in the grips of the Thrill. While Gavilar didn't notice what almost happened, Dalinar is so deeply ashamed that he swears to never covet the throne for himself.
  • Hero Worship: Kaladin is happily surprised when he lands in a town and is greeted with cheers instead of shock and suspicion. Many of the villages he visited had spanreeds, so they sent word ahead. Furthermore, Elhokar insists on referring to Kaladin as "the hero," and requests that the two of them liberate Kholinar together.
    Elhokar: He needs to go with me, so if I screw up and fail, someone will be there to save the city anyway.
  • His Name Is...: One of the parables from The Way of Kings involved a dying man telling people that three men had worked together to kill him, but dying before he could say which of the four suspects was innocent. Taravangian says that it probably didn't happen, since it's too neat and precise for real life.
  • History Repeats: Szeth used Jezerezeh's Honorblade to perform his killings until losing the sword at the end of Words of Radiance; the blade's next wielder, Moash, has also become an assassin killing on behalf of morally questionable masters.
  • Hope Spot: Elhokar finally begins making a turn for the better. He learns from his mistakes, takes good counsel to heart, personally leads the attempt to retake Kholinar, proves his personal courage and skill in battle while besieging his own palace, rescues his son from the clutches of his insane queen, and is perhaps a single word short of swearing the Radiants' oath—before Moash brutally murders him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The combat by champion becomes this for both sides. First, after agreeing to that condition, Odium reveals his chosen champion to be Dalinar himself, and uses the Thrill to turn the Alethi army assembled to defend Thaylen into the attacking force. Then Dalinar turns the tables by resisting Odium's influence. After that, Odium flees not only because he's afraid but also because, since he has accepted a combat by champion, Dalinar could force him into that should they ever meet again.
  • Hostile Weather: The Everstorm is a new one, the Voidbringer storm to counter Honor's highstorm. Not only does it blow from west to east (devastating towns and cities designed for the opposite direction), it doesn't carry Stormlight for Radiants to use. Dalinar notes that it seems to be more intelligent than the highstorms; while it's a bit weaker, it seems to focus its destruction on undefended small towns, and alters its properties for maximum damage. On the plus side, it's more regular than a highstorm, appearing every nine days. It appears in Thaylen City only five days into its cycle near the climax to deliberately coincide with a Voidbringer attack on the city. Its previous passes through seemed to be more deliberately damaging to the city than all other areas. Talenel's temple, in particular, seems to have been targeted rather violently in retaliation for how long he delayed the Desolation.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The original Voidbringers were the humans, who are not native to Roshar and came as refugees from another world and then later tried to conquer it. Lampshaded when the Stormfather asks if Dalinar actually thought humans could have naturally evolved on Roshar, given how obviously different they are from most of the wildlife.
  • Hypocrite: One of the main themes of the book is Dalinar's struggle with being a hypocrite. On one hand, he is a genuinely kind, honorable and trustworthy leader for the Knights Radiant. On the other, he was a remorseless murderer tyrant who stomped out rebellions without even blinking and ended up killing his own wife by accident. Dalinar is trying to become a good person, but is being haunted by the deeds of his past. This inner conflict almost causes him to Face–Heel Turn into being Odium's general, but he relents at the last moment. Dalinar comes to the conclusion that while he is a hypocrite, he has to be one if he wants to be a better person. There is no undoing what he's done, but that doesn't give him the excuse to continue doing wrong either. This revelation allows Dalinar to open up Honor's Perpendicularity and begin the final battle of the book.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Shallan has convinced Dalinar to tell people that she is an Elsecaller instead of a Lightweaver so that they won't know about her illusions.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Amaram is still insisting that everything he has ever done was for the greater good, despite the fact that he has been proven wrong on nearly everything. Yes, he was right that the Desolation was returning, but none of the horrible things he did helped them fight it in the slightest.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Still Dalinar's most effective approach to diplomacy. It ends up backfiring. Because of his use of this trope, his allies, while in with the alliance, still think he means to conquer rather than unite in defense.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At the end of the novel, Adolin admits that he just can't compete with Kaladin and tells Shallan she should go be with him. However, Shallan is having none of it. She delivers possibly the most aggressive and sarcastic You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech in history, outlining exactly why she wants to be with Adolin and no one else, and they get married soon after.
  • Immortals Fear Death: This is why Odium agrees to the contest of champions thing at all, as the Stormfather explains when Dalinar questions it. To fight directly might coax out forces that can hurt him, and as previous experiences can apparently attest, those kinds of scars don't fade. Thus, if provoked the right way, he will assign a champion to fight in his stead, since that way he only loses time, which he has plenty of.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Averted with the Fused, who are exactly the people you would expect to play it straight due to their connection with Odium. The insane Fused are kinda weird and useless, spending most of their time staring at nothing and giggling. Even their human slaves aren't scared of them. They are still useful in battle, however.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Nale explains to Szeth that human judgment is flawed, including his own, and therefore he has to submit to following the law instead. Who writes those laws, Nale? And you're the only person alive who's sworn the Fifth Ideal of the Skybreakers, which puts you above the law! Yes, Nale's (and all the other Heralds') insanity has been lampshaded multiple times.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Dalinar finally explains to Navani the fact that he can't remember his wife at all.
    • When Shallan mentions to Adolin her theory about Amaram killing her brother, he explains that Kaladin saved Amaram by killing a Shardbearer, meaning he's actually the one who did it.
  • I Reject Your Reality: The ardents are hostile to Dalinar's visions due to them claiming that the Almighty is dead. Dalinar provides a theological loophole—if Honor is dead, clearly he was never "Almighty" and there must be some more powerful entity beyond him which is what everyone is actually worshiping—but the ardents consider that even worse.
  • Iron Lady: Laral has turned into this while Kaladin was gone. The soldiers are willing to ignore Kaladin punching Roshone, but won't give him horses and maps without Laral's permission.
  • Just Between You and Me: Near the end, Taravangian privately admits to Dalinar that he was the Assassin in White's master and used him to become king of Jah Keved. This is a Justified Trope, as he's aware that Szeth has now joined Dalinar and thus knows it's only a matter of time before the assassin tells his own version of events.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: After two books' worth of boneheaded decisions and causing nothing but trouble for everyone, Elhokar finally gets his act together, and almost becomes a Radiant even... just in time for Moash to avenge his grandparents' death at his hands.
  • Kick the Dog: Moash kicks Elhokar's three-year-old son aside after killing his father.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Elhokar, while swearing the First Ideal.
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • Implied to be Kaladin's final feelings for Shallan, because she reminds him of Tien. Also Sylphrena, in an Annoying Younger Sibling sort of way.
    • Adolin ends up in a similar relationship with Veil, considering her a drinking buddy. And yes, he knows she's Shallan's Split Personality. Dating a Lightweaver is weird.
  • Living Weapon: The living Shardblades, of course, but Kaladin realizes that since everything has a spren, technically all of his previous weapons have been alive. And roughly half were female, which disturbs him a bit.
  • Loophole Abuse: How Szeth wins a Skybreaker trial in which squires throw sacks of colored powder at each other, the winner having the fewest hits on them. He performs virtuosically until the very end when he runs out of Stormlight and is promptly covered with powder by more mobile squires who gang up on him. Instead of flying his way back to the judges like everyone else, he swims in order to wash the powder off - and thus have no hits on him - and wins, despite having gotten hit the most.
  • Lost Technology: Subverted. The heroes had hoped to discover the ancient technology of the Radiants in Urithiru, but they eventually realise that with a few exceptions like the Oathgates, there isn't any. With access to Surgebinding, the Radiants didn't actually need much in the way of fancy fabrials, and modern-day technology is actually in many ways more advanced than what came before.
  • Love Triangle: Played with between Shallan, Adolin and Kaladin. Shallan is Adolin's betrothed and she and Kaladin recognize that they're attracted to each other. However:
    • Shallan knows the difference between love and attraction, and she's in love with Adolin. However, her powers require her to Become The Mask, and it just so happens that Veil, one of her main personas, wants to jump Kaladin's bones. Shallan is not amused by this since it causes complications as both Adolin and Kaladin pick up on it.
    • Adolin wants Shallan to be happy and believes that she's secretly in love with Kaladin because no one is telling him what's really going on.
    • Kaladin consistently respects the fact Shallan and Adolin are a couple and moves on with his life despite Syl's repeated attempts to play matchmaker.
    • The subject itself is hilarious lampshaded by an 'Alethi Epic' romance novel during an interlude that seems to be deliberately making fun of the situation, complete with discussed Ship-to-Ship Combat between two of its readers.invoked
  • Magically-Binding Contract: Apparently, even Shards have rules that they cannot break, the Stormfather describing it as Adonalsium's power permeating and controlling them. Thus, if Odium makes an oath, he is unable to break it any more than he could act against his Intent.
  • Manly Gay: Drehy and the rest of Bridge Four are very affronted when Kaladin implies that him courting another man is in any way comparable with Renarin's interest in feminine pursuits like scholarship. If anything, they reason, prefering men even as romantic partners means that you're even less into girly stuff than the average guy.
  • Meaningful Name: From what we learn of how Alethi names work in Dalinar's backstory, Kaladin's name is comprised of a base word, "kalad", and a suffix, "-in". The exerpt on the Calligraphers' Guild reveals that "kalad" is the name of the Alethi glyph for "eternal" or "eternity", also used in "Kalazeras", Alethi for "Everstorm". It is also revealed in Dalinar's backstory that the suffix "-in" means "born unto". Kaladin became a full Radiant in the previous book during the very first Everstorm.
  • Meaningful Rename: Moash is renamed Vyre by the Voidbringers after taking up an Honorblade in their service.
  • Merchant Prince: Sebarial has always been more interested in profit than war, and at the beginning of the book Dalinar officially names him Highprince of Commerce.
  • Mind Rape: The parshmen didn't just lose their knowledge and get stuck in slaveform like Eshonai and the Parshendi thought. Humanity somehow managed to strip some of their very souls away, with the Everstorm undoing the damage to their Identity and Connection. The freed parshmen compare it to having a fog that's surrounded them their whole lives suddenly stripped away.
  • Missing Time: Shallan begins finding disturbing sketches of hers that she doesn't remember drawing, including Kaladin's face.
  • Moment Killer: When Shallan is alone with Adolin, she recruits Pattern to be their chaperone and keep anything "inappropriate" from happening. While he's initially confused and Shallan thinks that he'd be a terrible chaperone, he figures it out soon enough.
    Pattern: Oh! You were talking about mating! I'm to make sure you don't accidentally mate, as mating is forbidden by human society until you have first performed appropriate rituals! Yes, yes. Mmmm. Dictates of custom require following certain patterns before you copulate. I've been studying this!
    Shallan: Oh, Stormfather.
    Pattern: Very well, you two. No mating. NO MATING.
    • Later, when they start kissing, he pops into existence and bellows "no mating!" again, effectively killing the mood.
  • Mundane Utility: The Stormfather eventually mentions that he can give the highstorm visions to anyone during a highstorm, or anyone who is near Dalinar due to their bond. Dalinar then realizes that he can use this ability to talk "in person" with the other rulers of the world, giving him a much better chance to convince them of his good intentions than struggling to communicate through spanreed. He's essentially using an Apocalyptic Log left by God as a Skype call.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Dalinar's entire character arc after remembering the events of the Rift. In having the city of Rathalas burned and its people exterminated, Dalinar also kills his own wife, Evi, who unbeknownst to him was kept in a city dungeon after escaping and pleading with Tanalan to surrender. Her death, and the death of the innocent people of the city (especially the children), haunts him literally to the point of madness.
    • Venli struggles with this after realising the Awful Truth of what her actions have led to, but staves it off—for a while—with sheer denial.
  • Mythology Gag: At one point, Shallan needs to undo one of her illusionary disguises without revealing that it was an illusion. She does this by borrowing an towel and rubbing the face, pretending that the illusion was just makeup. Raoden used a similar trick in Elantris.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: House Sadeas is named after the Sunmaker, Sadees. All ten of the Alethi princedoms were founded by the Sunmaker's sons, so Sadeas is a distant descendant.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Played for Drama. Kaladin fails to swear the Fourth Ideal while in Shadesmar, and he realizes that he won't be able to save Dalinar. Then Dalinar swears his own Ideal, giving him the power to create a Perpendicularity and bring Kaladin and the others home.
    Syl: Maybe you don't have to save anyone, Kaladin. Maybe it's time for someone to save you.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Technically, a Radiant could get drunk if they wanted to - but burning some Stormlight would make them instantly sober. Shallan uses this ability when slumming in Urithiru disguised as Veil.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Odium decides to send the Fused (and then later, a thunderclast) to steal the King's Drop (a perfect ruby) from the Thaylen Gemstone Reserve. This alerts Dalinar Kholin to the fact that the ruby must be important, so he sends Lift to get it back. Also, without gemstones strewn all around after the Reserve has been destroyed, Radiants would not have so much Stormlight to use, especially Kaladin, while fighting the Fused and Amaram on the field outside Thaylen.
    • He also gives Dalinar the encouragement he needs to fight off being chosen as Odium's own champion.
    Odium: Be strong, Dalinar. I have faith in you, even when you don't have it in yourself. Though it will hurt for a time, there is an end. Peace is in your future. Push through the agony. Then you will be victorious, my son.
  • Noble Savage: Venli lampshades at one point, when admiring some Alethi art, that her people didn't make any impressive art because of a lack of the appropriate forms and the necessary resources, not because they were less culturally deep.
  • "No More Holding Back" Speech: Dalinar delivers one to Odium when he rejects the latter's offer to become his champion and then chooses to accept his pain and take responsibility for his actions.
    Dalinar: You cannot have my pain. You. Cannot. Have. My. Pain. I killed those children. I burned the people of Rathalas. [...] YOU CANNOT HAVE MY PAIN! I did kill the people of Rathalas. You might have been there, but I made the choice. I decided! I killed her. It hurt so much, but I did it. I accept that. You cannot have her. You cannot take her from me again. If I pretend... If I pretend I didn't do those things, it means I can't have grown to become someone else. [...] Journey before destination. It cannot be a journey if it doesn't have a beginning.
  • No Periods, Period: Played with; Shallan briefly lets Adolin think she's on her period because she doesn't want to tell him about her night drinking in the markets. He figures it out, though, and they have a brief discussion on how men assume any strange behavior is the result of periods, and women let them. Adolin once again demonstrates he's smarter than he looks when he says he once noticed that one of his girlfriends was having "woman troubles" four times a month. Shallan also notes that her Stormlight Healing Factor doesn't help with cramps.
    Shallan: Yeah. Mother Cultivation can be hateful. I'm an all-powerful, Shardblade-wielding pseudo-immortal, but nature still sends a friendly reminder every now and then to tell me I should be getting around to having children.
    Pattern: No mating.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Variant. As Dalinar's brother's widow, Navani is supposed to be treated as his sister. It's not against the law for them to wed, but it is very strongly against tradition, and the ardents refused to officiate the wedding.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • The parshmen act like the humans of the country they're in after having their Identity and Connection restored, likely because of the way Connection and Identity work in the Cosmere. Many times, the quickest way to get a parshman that's being abusive to stop is to say that they're acting just like humans.
    • Kaladin, despite thinking that the parshmen are becoming Voidbringers, can't help but start to empathize with them after seeing and interacting with them, since he is also a former slave (though he has to admit that they had it worse than he did).
  • Not the Intended Use: The Stormfather's visions were intended to serve as a warning by Honor for the recipient, to pass on lessons and bits of the past to worthy subjects. They weren't intended to serve as historical records, but Honor had infused them with so many valuable details from the past and enough interactivity to tease out some lost secrets of history that Dalinar and later Navani and Jasnah use them to learn a great deal about the ancient and mythological past. Nor were they supposed to be used as a mechanism for video calls. Eventually the Stormfather just allows Dalinar to use the visions as direct mechanisms to contact other people, and in Rhythm of War the vision is used to let Kaladin talk with Tien in the Spiritual Realm to get closure for his death.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: When Kaladin is "captured" by the parshmen, Syl takes to acting like a normal windspren again. Kaladin is terrified that he broke the bond again without noticing, but she explains that at least some of the parshmen and definitely their Voidspren can see her, so she's pretending to just be a windspren.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Whatever the remainder of the team sent to Kholinar did to escape a conquered city overrunning with Fused and singers, while rescuing Gavinor from Aesudan's clutches in the process. Whatever happened, it involved Drehy and Skar both swearing the Second Ideal of the Windrunners.
    • The last we see of the Honorspren and Azure has them preparing to fight the Fused, with Azure preparing something involving a lot of Awakening, if her instructing the spren to prepare a lot of specifically cut scraps of cloth are any indication.
    • Given later revelations in Rhythm of War. it is heavily implied that during the Battle of Thaylen Field Jasnah swore the Fourth Ideal of the Elsecallers.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: An illustrated version. Urithiru makes Shallan uneasy, and whenever she tries to draw a Memory of it, it always comes out with warped perspective and strange darkness. It turns out to be caused by Re-Shephir's influence on the tower.
  • Once a Season: Subverted. Kaladin is set up to speak another Ideal to get a Next Tier Power-Up for the climax of the novel, same as in the previous two. However, while the Fourth Ideal is at the tip of his tongue, he just can't bring himself to say it yet. Possibly double-subverted since Dalinar does succeed in swearing the Third Ideal and in doing so turns the tide of the final battle.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Syl is understandably still a little miffed about Kaladin killing her in Words of Radiance, and insists he apologize every time the subject comes up. Which she does often.
  • One-Man Army: In his youth, Dalinar was the most dangerous man on any battlefield even before he got his Shards. Sadeas and Gavilar quickly became accustomed to turning around and finding that Dalinar had accomplished half their objectives by himself.
    Sadeas: We need to get you some Shards, my friend.
    Dalinar: To protect me?
    Sadeas: Protect you? Storms, Dalinar, at this point I'm not certain a rockslide could kill you. No, it just makes the rest of us look bad when you accomplish what you do while practically unarmed!
  • Out of Continues: Even if the Heralds could be convinced and/or forced back to Damnation as per the Oathpact, which is barely holding on, the Fused don't return there when slain anymore, but go to the Everstorm. In addition to his storm, Odium also seems to have found a way to permanently kill the Heralds, making it seem like he's deliberately trying to render the Oathpact unsustainable.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: While this trope tends to be played straight in Sanderson novels, here it's averted with Dalinar and Evi. They both try to make the best of it, and there is some fondness between them, but they're two very different people and their relationship remains strained from start to finish.
  • Private Profit Prison: One of the Skybreaker tests has the new recruits investigating a small private prison where the prisoners escaped and killed the guard on the way out. Note that this is considered "bleeding heart progressive" by the world's standards; they're still mostly at the stage where all criminals are executed or enslaved as a matter of course. The recruits are told to hunt down the prisoners and bring them back dead or alive; the test proctors already have received writs of execution for all of them. Szeth realizes that the reason the prisoners were able to escape was because the prison was of shoddy construction with only one guard—the warden had been spending the absolute minimum amount of money and pocketing the rest. Szeth asks if he's allowed to execute the warden. The proctors tell him his writ of execution was the first one they received.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Fabrials work by capturing a spren in a gemstone. A lot of spren are mindless animals, but some widely-used fabrials require the capture of a sentient spren. Taravangian uses this fact as part of his subtle Breaking Speech to Dalinar, to further undermine Dalinar's faith in the righteousness of his cause. It actually ends up contributing to a Nice Job Fixing It, Villain moment, since it inspires Dalinar to use a flawless ruby that the Fused took great pains to keep away from him in order to bind Nergaoul during the climax.
  • Purple Prose: In Universe. The deliciously cheesy romance novel that Ellista reads in one of the interludes.
  • Red Baron: The first flashback we get of Dalinar shows him roaring into a battle through a field set on fire. He walks back out with two black arrows stuck in him, having recruited the archer that put them there, taken out the prince that was behind the army, and is more concerned with finding something to drink than getting his wounds seen to. He doesn't even have Shards yet. He is called Blackthorn with some fear and awe from that point forward.
  • Refuge in Audacity: None of the ardents will consent to marrying Dalinar to Navani, so he decides to get a higher authority to do it: The Stormfather. In Dalinar's own words, he's the closest thing to a god they have left. (For context, this is roughly analogous to a devout Catholic suddenly insisting that Jesus is dead, and when consequently no priest will marry him, he summons St. Peter to do it instead.)
  • Resurrective Immortality: The Fused can revive themselves through the bodies of parshmen, willing or no.
  • The Reveal: A lot, as usual.
    • Dalinar did not get a boon from the Nightwatcher. He got one from Cultivation.
    • Speaking of Dalinar's boon, Cultivation shows him that if he hadn't gone to the Nightwatcher, he would have eventually killed Elhokar and conquered the continent.
    • The term 'Voidbringer' originally applied to humans, who came to Roshar as refugees and eventually tried to conquer it.
    • Odium was the original god of the humans who came to Roshar.
    • The enslaved mindlessness of the parshmen was an unintended side effect of the binding of the Unmade Ba-Ado-Mishram by the Radiants.
    • Tezim, the insande god-priest who rules Tukar, is one of the Heralds.
  • Sanity Has Advantages:
    • Dalinar contacts both the Tukari and Emuli, knowing that they'll only be able to ally with one since they're at war. The Emuli are amenable to an alliance while the Tukari are not, which Navani is fine with since the Tukari are crazy.
    • Many of the Fused are insane after their repeated resurrections. The sane ones are automatically in charge, since despite his talk of passion, Odium needs people who can actually follow orders.
    • An army in thrall to the Thrill is tireless and fearless, but also so battle-crazed they'll fight an endlessly respawning army of illusions without caring it's pointless.
  • Sanity Slippage: Shallan spends most of the novel undergoing some, gradually losing her ability to tell the difference between herself and her assumed identities.
  • The Shadow Knows: Odium's champion will apparently have nine separate shadows.
  • Shipper on Deck: Syl thinks Kaladin will be happier in a relationship, so she encourages him to be with any woman who so much as smiles at him. On a more long-term basis, however, she thinks he'd be happy with Shallan. Part of it is because she really doesn't like Adolin, since he carries a dead Blade.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Queen Fen of Thaylenah is very foul-mouthed when she's being friendly. It's to the point that when she starts being polite, Navani realizes that something is wrong.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • The parshmen, after they've regained their minds, are rightfully angry about how mankind has treated them, and Kaladin, a former slave himself, has more than a little sympathy for them. Perhaps because of this, the humans enslaved by the singers are treated surprisingly well. They are given shelter and clothing, freedom to roam when they're not working, and can choose what type of work they want to do—they can even choose not to work at all, though they don't get food in that case. They are also careful not to work their slaves to exhaustion and excuse slaves who are simply too weak to do the job (though they keep an eye out for slaves just pretending to be too weak to do the job) and keep them well-equipped as necessary. It's a stark contrast to the way humans treat their slaves. There's an argument to be made that technically the humans aren't slaves at all, just ordinary laborers.
    • Averted with just about every other character though. Most humans, and virtually all lighteyes, see nothing inherently wrong with slavery, although many do disapprove of masters mistreating their slaves, and the Vorin religion proscribes penalties for mistreating slaves. At least a few of the main characters technically own slaves themselves, although it's fairly easy for the reader not to notice this. The fact that Vorin priests are also slaves owned by their highprinces goes a long way to explain why this is considered socially acceptable.
  • Sole Survivor: Syl is revealed to have been bonded to a Recreance-era Radiant, and managed to survive because her Radiant died before the others cast aside their oaths.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Syl's response when Kaladin apologizes for using her to "smash into things."
    Syl: Firstly, I don't smash into things. I am an elegant and graceful weapon, stupid.
  • Sparing the Aces: In the flashbacks, an enemy assassin snipes at Dalinar from nearly four hundred yards away—an impossible distance for a bow. Once Dalinar runs the man down and captures him, he immediately recruits him, not even bothering to wait for him to surrender first.
  • Split Personality: Shallan creates a new one in order to be the type of woman who can learn swordplay from Adolin. She calls her "Brightness Radiant," and she's formal, in control, and unashamed. Shallan modeled her after Jasnah—which is why she accidentally gave her a larger bust. And then she begins to consider "Shallan" just another alternate personality, proving once again that her brain is not working right. In the final battle, we see things from Shallan's perspective... except Shallan is just an illusion at the moment, and Radiant is the real one.
  • Spotting the Thread: Shallan's Lightweaving Illusions are visually perfect, but only have a little mass and no substance. When two Fused encounter a crowd of them that the heroes are trying to hide among in Shadesmar, one proposes stabbing all of the illusions to find the real people hiding among them. His companion uses a knife to draw some blood and flick it at the illusions. The blood sticks to Adolin, who was hiding among them, and he's immediately made out.
  • The Spymaster: Dalinar names Aladar Highprince of Information. His first task is to discover who killed Sadeas. Dalinar is of course completely unaware that it was his own son.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Due to his Alethi values, Kaladin feels a bit weird about using Syl as a weapon. He mostly gets over it once she points out that roughly half of his previous weapons have been female.
    • The Alethi culture as a whole is getting its gender norms about women not being allowed to fight overturned in an awful hurry. As multiple characters point out, it doesn't matter if the Alethi care about such things — the spren don't, and refusing to take advantage of 50% of your Radiants is madness. Plus, Jasnah and Shallan are already out there setting the precedents, so it's too late in any case.
  • Straw Character: Subverted; despite Taravangian being a half-insane genocidal murderer, he has a conversation with Dalinar on the nature of justice where he defends his position and makes several good points. Specifically, Dalinar tells him of a parable from The Way of Kings where a dying man tells people that three people worked together to kill him, but there are four suspects. Taravangian says he would have had all four executed (once it becomes clear that they can't determine which ones are actually guilty), because the important thing is to stop the murders, and one dead innocent is a small price to pay. Dalinar doesn't agree, but he has to admit that Taravangian's logic is sound.
  • Super-Empowering:
    • Radiants can have "squires" who share in their powers without having a spren themselves. They retain these powers at a very long range (30-50 miles), but not an infinite one; Lopen was able to use Stormlight in the previous book while he was in the warcamps and Kaladin on the Shattered Plains, but Bridge Four loses their powers when they are in Urithiru and Kaladin flies to Hearthstone. Vathah becomes Shallan's first squire.
    • The Unmade Ba-Ado-Mishram gave the parshmen their forms and powers, and her binding, apparently more violent than expected, was what turned them into slaves.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Moash lampshades that the Fused don't need to be guarded because even if one of them is killed, they can revive themselves in the next Everstorm.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted in one of the book's worst Tear Jerkers. Elhokar gets within a single word of speaking the First Ideal...only for Moash to stab him in the back before he can finish.
  • The Tease: Navani, sort of. She wants her flirting with Dalinar to advance, but he is firmly against it, so she turns into this.
    Navani: Your stubborn refusal to get seduced is making me question my feminine wiles.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: This is the prevailing mood in the room when Jasnah becomes queen.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After almost a decade of his life getting progressively worse, of failing to protect everyone he cares about, and then returning home to see his town destroyed by the Everstorm, Kaladin finds his parents alive, and with a new little brother to boot. And then when Roshone tries to treat him like a slave, Kaladin decks him in the face.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: Lighteyes only drink wine, so when Shallan goes to a darkeyed bar, she ends up downing four shots of some very hard liquor without considering the consequences. Thankfully, when she uses some Stormlight she's instantly sober again.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • Kaladin has trouble arguing with some of the points that the Parshmen make after their souls are healed.
    • Amaram is an odd case, because he manages to make several perfectly accurate and true points, especially about Dalinar's past and morality, while also totally going against his own arguments. In a rather glaring hypocrisy, he accuses Dalinar of hiding behind a facade of "I Did What I Had to Do", which is somewhat true but to a much lesser extent than it's true for Amaram himself.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Dalinar manifests Honor's Perpendicularity, Odium freaks and quickly flees.
    • After failing to accomplish anything as the new Sadeas and switching sides to go with Odium, Amaram is just barely holding it all together. Then Kaladin points out his hypocrisy, and he loses it for good.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When Kaladin first finds the transformed parshmen who escaped from various towns across Alethkar, they're trying to play cards using half-remembered rules. This is what leads Kaladin to realize that the situation is more complicated than he had been expecting.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • Dalinar is relieved beyond words when King Taravangian agrees to ally with him, completely unaware that he's the one who sent Szeth killing around the world. Taravangian also managed to get a Radiant on his side, which makes him look even better - however, she is a Dustbringer and their spren are mostly interested in smashing things (and still mad at the old Radiants).
    • Amaram is promoted to Highprince of the Sadeas Princedom in part due to the fact that he has the respect of the soldiers. The little detail about him being a thief and a murderer is swept under the rug, despite Dalinar's annoyance. Amaram insists that they can put him on trial after the Desolation.
  • We Have Reserves: According to the Stormfather, this was why the Fused were so unstoppable, even before they gained Surgebinding abilities. While the singers lost the same number of bodies either way (since the fusion process essentially kills the host singer), the ability to trade common "civilian" singers for their most skilled and experienced warriors gave them a huge advantage.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Gavilar apparently thought that causing the Desolation was the only way to bring back the Radiants... missing the point entirely, but still.
  • We Used to Be Friends: While we already knew in theory that their relationship used to be much better, Dalinar's flashbacks show him, Sadeas, Navani and Ialai interacting very cordially and with a lot of good-natured banter, in contrast to the barely restrained contempt they treat each other with in the present day. Navani also wistfully recalls how she and Ialai used to work together for Gavilar's cause.
  • Wham Line: As usual, there are a lot of huge reveals and key moments. But Dalinar creating/opening a Perpendicularity still stands out.
    He slammed both hands together. And combined three realms into one.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Driven by grief and sorrow, and constantly haunted by his past, Dalinar travelled to seek the Nightwatcher. But when he was alone with her, the boon he asked was not the one he'd intended; indeed, he couldn't even recall what that had been. What he truly wanted in that key moment was Forgiveness.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: On finding Sadeas' body, there's a large confrontation between Sadeas' men and Bridge 4 that draws a large crowd, and no one can really figure out who did it. The list of potential suspects is thousands long.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Continuing her husband's mistakes from the last book, Ialai Sadeas is still acting like she is in an entirely different genre. She keeps trying to politically manipulate the situation to her advantage, but she is either pushed aside as unimportant, easily countered, or simply ignored. In the end, after Amaram and the Sadeas army turn on everyone, she flees Urithiru in disgrace.
  • You Are Not Alone: Villainous version. Odium pulls this on Dalinar, hoping to make him give up his pain and accept his role as The Dragon. Fortunately, Dalinar is having none of it.
  • You Didn't Ask: The cultivationspren working at the docks does this both against the heroes and for them. First he fails to tell them that the Fused have taken over the city, and then he fails to tell their enemies that they were looking for a ship.
    Cultivationspren: Why does everyone assume I'll just tell them things? Oh, I need questions, not assumptions!
  • You Killed My Father: Tanalan the Younger says this verbatim to Dalinar, albeit more in incredulity than anger, as Dalinar was trying to end the conflict without violence.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Inverted, Venli thinks Eshonai should have survived instead of her. At first, she attempts to brush it off and stays in denial about just how colossal a mistake she made in bringing her people's gods back, but it hits her eventually.