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Literature / Rhythm of War

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

Raboniel: This is how we end the war, Navani. With information. Shared.
Navani: And this ends the war how?
Raboniel: By showing everyone that our lives will all be improved by working together.

Rhythm of War is the fourth 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 individual characters, Rhythm of War centers around Venli, Envoy of the Fused, as well as a secret spy and member of the Order of Willshapers.

At the end of Oathbringer, the Knights Radiant were forced to largely abandon Alethkar, even though they had saved Thaylenah. Meanwhile, Odium made a deal with King Taravangian, who will act as a spy in Urithiru.

The world is in dire straits. Alethkar has fallen, conquered by the Voidbringers. Herdaz has now followed, and refugees pour across the border. There is word of a plague in the west, and the new singers are flexing their muscles, trampling all over the humans who once ruled them. But even they are not free, as the Fused still rule over all with an iron fist.

But Venli, last of the listeners, the traitor who destroyed her people and brought about the Final Desolation, has sworn the Oaths. For the first time in history, a parsh is a Knight Radiant—and she still sits in the enemy camp, teaching the new singers things the Fused would rather they not know.

This book provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Adolin cites this as a reason why his deadeye Shardblade Mayalaran appears to be slowly recovering.
    "You don't know what you're saying." Ua'pam said.
    "And that might just be why Maya and I are able to do things you think impossible."
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Even the other Fused pick up Kaladin's jibe about renaming Lezian to "Defeated One" after frightening him into fleeing.
  • An Aesop: This book touches on the idea of proper mental health treatment. To his dismay, Kaladin discovers that mental health patients are locked and isolated in dark rooms and nothing else. While he acknowledges he can't help everyone, he starts by forming a support group of men suffering from "battle shock" (what we would likely refer to as PTSD) in order to show that there are better ways to help people with mental illnesses.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The entire series treats Shardblades this way, but Venli's flashbacks reveal that the Listeners treated steel weapons with such reverence, since they were about as rare on the Shattered Plains as Shardblades were for the rest of Roshar.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: The Sibling says that if Raboniel fully corrupts them with Voidlight, they'll become one of the Unmade. Navani is able to purify them before the process can be completed.
  • Anti-Magic:
    • The Fused use a Voidlight device to turn off all Radiant powers in a small radius, including Shardblades. Likewise, Urithiru apparently has a similar effect on Voidlight powers, which is why it's been such an impregnable fortress throughout the Desolations. More powerful entities (fourth-Ideal Radiants and the Unmade) are strong enough to push through the interference.
    • During experimentation with the various lights, Navani discovers a literal example of this trope, as she finds a way to cancel out the vibrations of a given Light through sound, and is able to generate anti-Light by mixing this process with light trapped in a vacuum. Like antimatter, this anti-Light cancels out existing Investiture, and is capable of actually killing otherwise immortal beings like Fused and spren.
    • Ishar is able to completely negate Radiants with his Bondsmith powers by altering their Connection so that their Nahel bond is linked to Roshar itself. Their Stormlight tries to fill the entire world, and as a result it completely dissipates into the ground, rendering their powers inert and leaving them helpless.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Justified as several of the Radiant Orders are limited by the number of spren willing to form bonds. Kaladin has dozens of Windrunner squires ready to step forward, but he remains capped at about fifty Windrunners because there are only that many honorspren willing to risk bonding humans. Similarly, they haven't been able to recruit any new Elsecallers because Ivory was the only inkspren willing to defy his kind's prohibition on bonding. And only the Nightwatcher and the Sibling can create more Bondsmiths. Convincing more spren to be willing to bond with humans is why Adolin and Shallan lead an envoy to the honorspren.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Dalinar orders Kaladin to step down because of his trauma, Kaladin is incensed, and says Dalinar is supposed to be different from other lighteyes. Dalinar quietly asks "Why am I different?" Kaladin immediately deflates as he realizes the answer: Dalinar cares about his men, and he is not doing this to be cruel.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Jasnah is going to free all the slaves in Alethkar now that the war has given her the opportunity. Dalinar is a bit shocked and asks if this includes the Ardents. She simply asks whether Ardents are slaves. She then goes on to explain that while their status was originally to avoid the rise of a Corrupt Church, they have managed to work their way into politics anyway. She'd rather have them where she can see them.
  • As Long as There Is One Man: Kaladin becomes the symbol of this during the occupation of Urithiru. In fact, this is a major bone of contention between him and his father: Lirin is concerned (correctly) that untrained civilians will try to rebel against Regals and not only be slaughtered but call down harsh reprisals.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • From a design perspective, the Fourth Bridge (and thus any current model of airship) is extremely inefficient when it comes to the manpower, fabriels, and coordination involved to transport troops from point A to point B. Just getting that one ship in the air requires two separate lattices of conjoined fabrials in two separate locations, hundreds of gemstones which need to be perpetually reinfused, teams of chulls to provide horizontal motion, hundreds of people working winches to raise and lower the ship, and careful co-ordination using half a dozen different spanreed sets. It works, but the sheer manpower and logistics involved make it impractical to field on any substantial scale. It takes nearly as many people to operate it as it can transport. Hoever, simply by getting a functioning prototypical design working, Navani and her crew are given plenty of praise, because now her design can be refined, improved upon, and made more efficient by others.
    • The flying glove fabrial is so fiddly that a small mistake could see your hand crushed, your arm mangled, your arm ripped off, your life not being alive any more... Kaladin spends some time practicing, but even he makes some mistakes and only his long experience as a Windrunner and Good Thing You Can Heal powers keep it from permanently crippling him.
  • Badass Boast: When Kaladin confronts the Pursuer for the final time:
    Kaladin: I've heard what people say about you. Your life isn't the blood in your veins, but the legend you live. Each death kills that legend a little more. Each time I defeat you, it will rip you apart. Until you're no longer known as the Pursuer. You'll be known as the Defeated. The creature who, no matter how hard he tries, can't ever beat ME.
  • Badass Normal: Adolin. He was always a good fighter, but he has always had Blade and Plate. In this book he is forced to fight twenty men without the benefit of either, alone except for a barely functional Maya. He still wins.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Discussed by Hoid when he is lecturing a group of spren about the challenges of storytelling, comparing the trope favourably to dirty tricks used in a fistfight.
    Hoid: You use the same dirty tricks for storytelling, as you do for fighting in an alley. Get someone looking the wrong direction so you can clock them across the face. Get them to anticipate a punch and brace themselves, so you can reposition. Always hit them where they arenít prepared.
  • Batman Gambit: Navani, having finally discovered the secret to creating anti-Voidlight near the end of Part Four, tells Raboniel she needs a walk to clear her head after days of work with almost no sleep. As predicted, Raboniel immediately tries to mix it with Voidlight, creating a catastrophic explosion. Unfortunately, it didn't kill her as Navani had hoped.
  • Bedlam House: People with mental disorders are cared for by a specialized devotary of ardents. It's far from the worst example, as the ardents are not evil and are genuinely trying to care for the patients. Unfortunately, the only method they have of treating patients is essentially to lock them in a dark room by themselves. Those with suicidal tendencies do not even get a blanket, as they might try to hang themselves. When Kaladin challenges an ardent on the total lack of therapy, he justifiably points out that the devotary is severely underfunded and understaffed, and they are the only ones even trying to help while the rest of society is more than happy to just dump people off on them without a second thought.
  • Beneath the Mask: Gavilar was cruel and dangerous with Navani when they were alone, and talked about how everyone around him, including his adoring children and nephews, were irrelevant to his glorious legacy. Navani tries to convince herself that she just brings out the worst in him (like how he brings out her weakness), but it's not clear if she's correct. He was also not satisfied with conquering Alethkar, as he made boasts about ascending to godhood, and possessed a sphere of anti-Light which he considered critically important to his plans.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A woman Shallan identifies by her voice is named "Ulina", which in Finnish means screech or whine.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Three—Shallan and her two other personalities—have distinct hair colors: Radiant is blonde, Veil is brunette, and Shallan is the redhead. Invoked, as Shallan does this deliberately so others can easily tell who she is.
  • Body Horror: When Dalinar inspects Ishar's camp, he finds strange dead bodies in the tents. Some of them look human while others seem to be strange fleshy masses. It turns out on closer inspection that these are spren who have somehow been moved from the Cognitive Realm to the Physical Realm. Some spren are close enough to human to be able to survive in the Physical Realm for a short while, but others have bodies so incompatible with Physical life that they collapse and die instantly.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Lirin thinks that since Radiants can heal with magic, surgeons like himself are obsolete. Kaladin points out that Radiant healing is limited by Stormlight, can only heal relatively recent injures, and there are only a bit over fifty Radiants capable of healing (mostly Edgedancers plus three Truthwatchers). Plus most of the Radiants' time is taken up in the war effort, so only the worst injures are treated by them. Even without the war going on, conventional medicine will still be needed both for injuries Radiants don't have time to treat as well as old wounds and chronic illnesses.
    • Discussed regarding the Fourth Bridge, Roshar's first flying ship. Though it's basically a barge with very impractical operating requirements, it opens up new possibilities for mass aerial transport.
      Navani: Five knots. Not particularly fast, compared to your best ships.
      Kmakl: Pardon, Brightness. But this is essentially a giant barge—and for that five knots is impressive, even ignoring the fact that it is flying. This ship is faster than an army marching at double time—yet it brings your troops in fresh and provides its own mobile high ground for archery support.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Sons of Honor have been reduced to this. Shallan infiltrates their ranks with ease, laughing at their robes and how easily she duped them into buying a fake illusion dispeller. The prologue implies they were great when Gavilar was alive and before Amaram ruined them, and the fact that Restares is a Herald speaks volumes.
  • Brought Down to Badass: The Fused use a fabrial to negate Kaladin's powers. All this really does is make him pause for a moment before he kills them normally. The Fused he kills in the encounter even insists that the device must not have worked. Later, this same effect is applied to all of Urithiru, knocking out most Radiants except Kaladin and Lift.
    The Fused laughed and spoke in Alethi. "Radiants! You rely too much on your powers. Without them, what are you? A peasant child with no real training in the art of warfare or—"
    Kaladin slammed himself against the soldier to his right.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The expedition into Shadesmar. Adolin has no Blade or Plate, and once the Stormlight runs out, the Radiants lose all their powers.
    Shallan: You need to be careful. We don't have any Stormlight left to heal ourselves.
    Adolin: So... basically it's how it's been for most of my life?
  • Brown Note:
    • Odium's inverse tone causes excruciating agony to the Fused, as it repels the Voidlight that replaces their souls.
    • The chant of the Nine as they channel Odium's will also has this effect on Venli's translation powers, giving her an instinctive understanding that translating it would drive her mad.
  • The Bus Came Back: It turns out Thude and other listener dissenters did not die at the end of Words of Radiance, and Venli meets them again.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Veil spots one of Adolin's old girlfriends, Dakhnah, and wonders if they should set Kaladin up with her. There are two big reasons why.
    Veil: Those aren't real, are they? She pads, right?
    Adolin: [shakes head]
    Veil: Seriously? Stormfather. To get mine that big I'd have to eat six chulls. How do they feel?
    Adolin: You're making assumptions.
    Veil: Come on.
    Adolin: This is not a topic for gentlemen to discuss.
  • Call-Forward: Since Harmony's opposing Intents prevent him from acting much, he's begun looking for a person to act as his agent. Mistborn readers already know he'll find it in Wax.
  • The Cameo:
    • The small communication box that Mraize gives Shallan turns out to contain a seon.
    • The honorspren have been trading with the Ire, and have a jug containing Investiture, similar to what Ire was using on Scadrial.
    • Several side characters are implied to be Terrismen.
    • The Leader of the Ghostbloods, Thaidakar, is heavily implied to be Kelsier. Hoid calls Thaidakar "Lord of Scars", in likely reference to the numerous scars running down his arms, and notes he may have to beat him up "again" as he had in Mistborn: Secret History. The Lost Metal would eventually outright confirm this.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Everyone wonders why Raboniel is going to such lengths to keep the unconscious Radiants alive in captured Urithiru...
    Raboniel: Today is a momentous day. Today is the day we discovered a way to destroy Radiant spren. I will let you know the results of the test.
  • Captured Super-Entity: While we've known that modern fabrials were powered by spren imprisoned in gemstones for a couple of books now, it becomes a major plot point in this book due to the Sibling objecting to the practice. It's still unclear (in-world and out) whether the trapped spren are actually discomfited by their imprisonment or if the Sibling is simply overreacting. Notably, other truespren consulted on the matter seem to find the practice acceptable, and the spren making up both Shardplate and Soulcasters are described as being content with their state.
  • Character Witness: Notum has a Big Damn Heroes moment to repay Adolin providing him with the same.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A sphere filled with strange black light that Gavilar tells Szeth to hide in the prologue to Words of Radiance appears again, having been retrieved by Szeth, and Navani begins to study it. With unexpected results.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Jasnah has become something akin to this for Hoid, now that he serves as the queen's wit. It also helps that they're romantically involved now, though as Jasnah is confirmed as asexual, it's more of an intellectual romance than anything.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: This is how you "kill" a spren. Without Nightblood or anti-Light you can't actually destroy a spren, but stabbing or cutting them in Shadesmar will cause them pain. So "killing" a spren basically involves stabbing it again and again until it goes catatonic from the pain, becoming something similar to a deadeye.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Stargyle's wife falling ill just when he is getting ready to leave with the Shadesmar expedition, causing him to send Beryl in his place. Shallan initially assumes this means Beryl is Mraize's spy in the Unseen Court (having previously noted that if she didn't pick the spy for the Shadesmar trip, something would happen to get the spy added to the party), but with Beryl later revealed to be loyal it would appear to just be a coincidence.
  • Cool Airship: Navani has finally made working airships... except "airship" is a bit generous. It's basically a large floating platform with some stuff bolted on the top. It's still impressive as the planet's first form of powered flight. It uses the sympathetic movement of spanreeds, which makes its movement extremely complex and costly, requiring hundreds of men and teams of Chulls to maneuver. The first one is named Fourth Bridge.
  • Courtroom Antics: Hypocritically enough, the honorspren Sekeir drags Mayalaran into Adolin's trial as a witness, claims to speak on her behalf, and exploits her distress to grandstand about the evils of humanity. This utterly backfires on him when she has a Moment of Lucidity and calls him out.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Five Windrunners, each one a One-Man Army in their own right, go up against Ishar. They don't even manage to slow him down.
  • Curse Cut Short: Highprince Ruthar is halfway into calling Jasnah a "godless whore" when he realizes everyone in the room is staring at him and shuts his mouth.
  • Damsel in Distress: Navani is captured by the Fused after they conquer Urithiru.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Navani ultimately frees herself with fabrial Booby Traps, though it helps that she and Raboniel have enough of a common cause for Raboniel to hold Moash back.
  • Devil's Advocate: Blended, the Inkspren who helps Adolin prepare himself for his trial in a city where every single Honorspren has come to loathe humanity, the Stormfather, Sylphrena, and the Knights Radiant. She even testifies against him, bluntly telling him that while she hates humans for what happened during the Recreance, she wanted the trial to be fair. She is also the one who suggested calling Maya as the final witness, which proved to be exactly what was needed to clear humanity's name in a large number of Honorspren's minds. She's actually not at all upset by the result of the trial.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard in Urithiru. Kaladin mounts a one-man resistance against the occupying singers, without the aid of most of his Radiant powers, and only with the aid of Navani providing resources and intelligence and the Sibling providing places to hide and a means of communication with Navani. There's even sneaking through air vents.
  • Died Happily Ever After: The final chapter reveals that Eshonai became Radiant moments before her death. This allowed the Stormfather to let her ride the highstorm, fulfilling her dream of seeing all of Roshar before she passes.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Shallan is not impressed when Mraize tells her his true motive: Power. She's slightly more interested when she finds out that he means literal power (finding a way to export Stormlight from Roshar when it's normally bound to the system) but still.
  • Domestic Abuse: Gavilar was never physically abusive to Navani, but he was emotionally abusive every time they were alone together. At one point he deliberately invited a famous artifabrian, a man who Navani would love to speak to, to a party—only to make sure that she'd be too busy to have a chance.
  • Dramatic Irony: By the end of the story, none of the characters know that Taravangian has ascended and become Odium. As a result, only the readers understand how much danger Dalinar and the others are currently in. Fortunately Odium has already agreed to a contest of champions, limiting what he can do until the terms of the agreement are fulfilled one way or another.
  • Droste Image: A sealed room is found in Urithuru containing a 15-foot tall scale model of the half-mile tall tower itself. Navani inspects the model of the room it is located in to find a scale model of the scale model less than an inch tall.
  • Earth Is Young: Discussed. Vasher shows Kaladin a fossil, and explains what fossils are. His homeworld of Nalthis, and probably Roshar, are far too young for fossils to have formed. The planets were created from whole cloth by Adonalsium, unlike most of the rest of the universe.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Rlain, a spy-turned-bridgeman-turned-soldier, and Navani, an incredible scholar who fought in the Battle of Narak, both bond spren by the end of Part Five.
  • Enemy Mine: Herdaz, like most countries, suffered greatly from Alethi wars and the Blackthorn in particular. In the face of the Fused, they adapt.
    The Mink: Alethi bloodlust has cost me many loved ones over the years, but I'd be a fool not to admit the value in pointing it—like the proverbial sword's blade—at someone else.
  • Energy Economy: Mraize implies that the wider Cosmere trades mostly in Investiture, which is why Stormlight (which literally falls from the sky) is so valuable. Or rather, it would be, if it could be transported and traded easily. Which, of course, is his goal.
  • Entendre Failure: Adolin recalls that when he was fourteen years old, a girl he liked kept talking about how interested she was in his "sword." So he bought her a sword, since she apparently liked them so much. And presented it to her along with an enthusiastic lecture about the precise design and uses of this particular style of blade. It wasn't until he was a bit older and wiser that he realised why she hadn't seemed more pleased.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Raboniel claims to Venli that the Surge of Adhesion doesn't actually exist, since no Fused brand can bind it.
  • Ethical Slut: Veil implies she's rather loose, and in particular is more openly bisexual than Shallan. Of course, since she's Sharing a Body with Shallan, who is married to Adolin, she's not actually sleeping around. Shallan made her promise not to.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Navani has one of these silently when she realizes, mid-conversation with Raboniel, that Gavilar had been keeping an anti-Light sphere handy to kill a god.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: On discovering that anti-Voidlight annihilates Voidlight, Raboniel's first act is to very carefully kill her mindlessly damaged daughter forever.
    Raboniel: No more rebirth. No more Returns. Free at last, my baby. Free.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Though the third day of Adolin's trial was stacked with his strongest opponents, even many of them seemed bothered by the prosecutor deliberately upsetting Maya just to further dramatize his point.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • The Fused Leshwi is of similar rank and equivalent power set to Kaladin. The two have a relationship somewhere between rivalry and nemeses, eager to face one another and having what appears to be mutual respect in a Worthy Opponent way. They also both make certain concessions toward each other that are repaid (Kaladin spares a Fused, so Leshwi spares a Radiant in return, both are inches away from killing each other early in the book and bleeding out, but both withdraw their blades and allow each other to heal), and both wish not to put innocent lives in danger. They almost fall into Friendly Enemy territory. In fact, by the end of the book Leshwi ends up fighting on Kaladin's side...against other Fused.
    • Raboniel, Lady of Wishes, to Navani Kholin, as emphasized, across the Occupation of Urithiru. While they're both geniuses and noblewomen who want the best for their people, Navani is a Science Hero who focuses primarily on tools over weapons, Raboniel is a Mad Scientist who has the opposite focus.
  • Exposition: Adolin has trouble keeping track of which sinister secret organisation was responsible for which mysterious events. This lets Shallan explain it for the benefit of the reader, who may have similar problems.
  • Famed in Story: Played with. All of the ancient Fused are immortals who have harried humanity for millennia, spoken of in songs and legends with countless titles. They are therefore rather annoyed that, due to the four thousand year gap between Desolations this time, no one remembers those old stories.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • The Sibling considers being corrupted this trope. They won't become a deadeye if fully tainted with Voidlight, they'll become an Unmade and a slave of Odium.
    • The Fused who side with the Radiants in the end are still bound by Odium's power. Unless something happens to save them, he'll condemn them to eternal torture in Damnation next time they die.
  • Feeling Their Age:
    • Throughout the earlier books, Taravangian has been keeping up very well, considering his age. In Rhythm of War he starts deteriorating—he suffers from dizziness spells whenever he stands up, his joints are painful, and he has to climb onto a chair.
    • Both the Fused and the Heralds are feeling a supernatural version of this due to their extreme age. Cognitive Shadows generally don't stay around as long as they have, and as a result they gradually go insane, with only the strongest minds being able to remain stable.
  • Fictional Colour: Warlight, the fusion of Stormlight and Voidlight, appears as an "impossible" vibrant black-blue, possibly Stygian blue.
  • Flying Brick: Windrunners are always close to it, but become this trope upon achieving the Fourth Ideal, providing them with super strength and making them Nigh-Invulnerable, courtesy of their living Shardplate.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early on in the Shadesmar storyline, the party encounters what appears to be a fresh deadeye, a Cryptic killed only a few years ago. Turns out that this was Shallan's original Cryptic, whom she killed after it assisted her in killing her mother.
    • Veil is the one who insists that Shallan face her past and recover her memories. Veil isn't just a disguise, and she's older than the drawing of Tyn. She's the keeper of those bad memories, and she's only holding on to them for Shallan to face them later.
    • In the epigraphs of Part 2, Harmony notices that Wit seems more afraid of Rayse than Odium, and that this could cause problems, since the Shard is WAY more dangerous than its Vessel. He also says that they should most fear "a combination of the Vessel's craftiness and the Shard's Intent." Sure enough, Taravangian kills Rayse and Odium becomes even more dangerous than before.
    • One of Vstim's lessons to Rysn in previous books is that no matter how worthless something appears to be, someone somewhere wants it. This turns out to be one of the Ghostbloods' motives: Stormlight is a renewable source of Investiture, and they want to be the first to put it on the market.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • In the last stage of Adolin's trial, Maya is called as a witness to drive home to the audience the truth of the Recreance and what it did to the deadeye spren. It does. The prosecutor's self-righteous and cruel posturing not only alienates the audience, it drives Maya to finally speak and proclaim the truth: The Recreance wasn't a betrayal. All the spren knew they might die and volunteered anyway.
    • Cultivation had planned for a long time for Taravangian to replace Rayse as Odium's Vessel, with the expectation that he would be a more responsible wielder of the Shard's power. While Taravangian does kill and replace Rayse as planned, it quickly becomes apparent through both Taravangian's thoughts and his interaction with Wit that he is just as dangerous, with him explicitly thinking about "saving" the rest of the Cosmere.
  • HeelĖFace Turn: Venli completes the turn she started in Oathbringer, and is joined in turning by many singers who are sick of having replaced human oppression for Fused oppression. Also, Leshwi joins the fight against Odium after hearing that spren have started to bond singers once more.
  • Hero Killer:
    • The Pursuer considers himself one, as he has a history of tracking down and killing whoever kills him, including many Radiants.
    • Vyre has the highest personal body count of named characters in the series, as well as being aware of the only way to really kill Kaladin: making him kill himself.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The spren weren't betrayed by the Knights Radiant at the Recreance. They volunteered to break their bonds. They were unsure of the specific consequences, but knew they would be dire.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • The Heavenly Ones, the Fused who mirror the Windrunners, will accept one-on-one duels without any guile or underhanded tactics. Kaladin is more than happy to have the Windrunners follow suit, as inferior numbers and the fact that they can't really kill the Fused anyways means that the honorable duels are much better than the alternative for the Radiants. Observing these traditions actually results in many cases of Villain Respect and Friendly Enemy relationships, because if Bridge Four spare a Fused after defeating them in battle, the Fused return the favor later.
    • The Sons of Honor think that all Knights Radiant are like this, which makes it ridiculously easy for Shallan to infiltrate them. They screen their recruits by making them swear to obey them and disavow Dalinar, not knowing that being a Radiant doesn't prevent lying, and Lightweavers in particular are an order built on lying.
    • Honorspren in general behave this way, as you'd expect, but there is a stand out example. The trial has become political, and an exile is offered a pardon if he will testify against Adolin. All truths, from a certain point of view, but he changes his mind at the last minute when Adolin tells him he understands and that all he needs is the truth. Instead he starts a riot by using the podium to proclaim that Honor is not dead as long as he lives on in the hearts of men.
  • Humanity on Trial: The fundamental conflict in Adolin's thread of the plot. The honorspren have largely turned on humanity for the actions in the Recreance, although there are a group of renegades who have re-bonded, and some in the fold who aren't totally sure about the current stance. Adolin volunteers to be tried to make them reconsider, and though he specifies that he will only be tried for his own actions it rapidly escalates to this.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • When Moash confronts Navani at the end she cuts off his Connection to Odium, making him feel all the pain and self-loathing that Odium has been sparing him from, and sends him fleeing Urithiru in a panic, eventually crashing headfirst into a mountainside like a bird smacking into a window. He has enough Stormlight left at that point to survive but not to heal his broken spine, so he ends up lying in the snow for a good long while before the Fused find him. And then it turns out that Navani's attack has left him blinded in a way that Stormlight can't fix.
    • The Pursuer, after spending the entire novel being an arrogant, self-obsessed, petty bully, gets soundly trounced by Kaladin - who at the time can't even use his Surges - in front of a crowd of singers and humans, and ends up fleeing in terror, effectively destroying his status as a fearsome Implacable Man. When he comes back to try and kill an emotionally destroyed Kaladin, Kaladin snaps from catatonia into berserker fury and brutally kills the Pursuer's body. Then he reincarnates in front of a superior who first taunts him for his failure and then uses him to try out a new weapon, one that finally kills him Deader than Dead.
  • I Got Bigger: In the year between Oathbringer and Rhythm of War, Lift has undergone a growth spurt and instead of a child is now a gangly teenager. Which is a source of a great discomfort to her.
  • I Lied: Raboniel promises Navani to end her occupation of Urithiru if Navani can help her prove the existence of anti-Voidlight. Navani does, and Raboniel just tells her to stop being so trusting. Downplayed in that Navani never really expected her to keep her word.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Navani suddenly downs her glass of wine once she is alone due to the combined revelations that Gavilar had been plotting deicide and Raboniel had been lying about being willing to leave Urithiru once they finished their experiments.
  • Immortal Breaker: Nightblood, which is able to destroy anything, even Fused. Or a Shard's Vessel. Additionally, by the end Navani and Raboniel have discovered the secrets of Antilight. This gives a method to kill both Fused and true spren, leaving both sides of the war ultimately mortal.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Justified by Shardblades. Adolin notes that, while Radiants will use more practical sizes and shapes for their Shards in actual battle, if they are trying to make an impression they often summon their blades at an impractical size and shape. The reason most of the dead Blades are so large and fancy was that the Radiants summoned their Blades in ceremonial forms in preparation for forswearing their Oaths.
  • Improperly Paranoid: Venli informs Rlain that they have to be careful of lurking cremlings because, due to not being able to turn invisible, voidspren will use them as a hiding spot. Only, it's actually a mistspren that chose to allow Sja-Anat to corrupt it; and was seeking out Rlain as a potential bond partner.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: Navani curses the modern artifabrians and ancient Radiants for keeping secrets when they could instead spread the knowledge to help people. The artifabrians are using trade secrets for profit, but the ancient Radiants had more noble motives... which still meant all their secrets were lost when they died.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Following yet another bitter argument with Gavilar, Navani even burns a prayer, wishing for his death—and he is killed several hours later. Navani feels a pang of guilt and then starts rationalizing that it could not have been the Almighty for once listening to her prayer.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Moash lies, telling Navani that her son begged for his life like a coward. Elhokar hadn't even noticed Moash, who snuck up and stabbed him from behind. Not to mention killing Teft. Even Moash regrets that one after his ability to feel emotion is briefly restored. Also, during his fight with Teft, he casually murders an unconscious Radiant because Teft keeps trying to maintain his distance from Moash's Blade.
    • Sekeir calls Maya as his last witness, leaving her on the stage screaming in fear and anger, to rub in the point about the impact of the Recreance and humanity's betrayal. This despite Adolin essentially conceding the point, and the trial, simply trying to end it for her sake. When this is turned around against the prosecutor it is truly cathartic.
  • Kill the God: Taravangian kills Rayse by tricking him into dragging him into Odium's domain, then stabbing Rayse with Nightblood. Notably this only kills the Vessel; the power itself remains, and Taravangian becomes the new Odium.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Anti-Voidlight can be used to permanently kill Fused, beyond all possibility of reincarnation. Conversely, anti-Stormlight can be used to utterly annihilate true spren, not even leaving a deadeye.
    • In addition, there is another way to kill true spren, via physically transporting them out of the Cognitive Realm into the Physical. Some, like Honorspren, have bodies close enough to Physical creatures to survive for a while, but others like Cryptics will die instantly because their bodies just cannot function in the Physical Realm.
    • Kelek explains how Jezrien was killed in the last book. The knife was supposed to imprison him in the gem, the same way spren can be trapped, but it killed him instead because he's a Cognitive Shadow kept anchored to the world of the living with a bond, and trapping him in the gem severed said bond. Without the bond, he faded into the Beyond.
    • Teft, Raboniel, the Pursuer, and Rayse are all permanently killed in Part Five. The first is killed with Jezrien's Honorblade after killing his spren with a raysium dagger, the second two are killed using anti-Voidlight, and the last with Nightblood.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In the epilogue, Wit encounters Odium and notices that Odium is acting differently, hinting that Taravangian has taken over. Odium alters his memory to remove this revelation.
  • Last of His Kind: Venli and Rlain start the novel on opposite sides, and both believe themselves to be the last of the listeners/Parshendi after the Everstorm converted the rest into Fused. They're wrong. The thousand-ish dissenters Thude led away late in Words of Radiance survived their journey across the Shattered Plains.
  • Legally Dead: Jasnah deals with a troublesome prince by goading him into a duel, stabbing him through the neck, having him magically healed right as he's about to die, and declaring that his "death" has caused all his titles and estates to pass to his heirs, leaving him powerless and penniless. Under the circumstances, nobody disputes the points of law.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: A rare heroic version. Jasnah is using the current Desolation to force through social reforms to address Alethkar's various issues that would never fly under ordinary circumstances. Examples are abolishing slavery and relaxing the Vorin caste system, and doing away with honor duels. She even mentions becoming the last queen of Alethkar, or at the very least implementing some sort of constitutional monarchy rather than the absolute one currently in place.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Over the intervening year between Oathbringer and this book, the battles between the Windrunner Radiants and the shanay-im Fused have become increasingly ritualized and duel-like: They fight one-on-one duels with any extras on either side hanging back and waiting their turn, and wounded on both sides will often be allowed to disengage. When challenged on this by Dalinar, Kaladin points out that the shanay-im generally outnumber the Windrunners and can replace their losses far more easily by sacrificing their civilians, so playing along with these rules helps the Windrunners more than the Fused.
  • Literal Genie: We finally find out exactly what Lift asked the Nightwatcher for: to always remain herself. She thought she was asking to never age, meaning "myself exactly as I am now", but as Wyndle points out, she got exactly what she asked for — it's hard to think of anyone else who is quite as strongly themself all the time as Lift. While complicated by the fact that Lift's deal was with Cultivation rather than the Nightwatcher, and Cultivation always has her own reasons for doing things, Wyndle still thinks that she core issue is that Lift made a lot of unspoken assumptions with that wording, and they weren't picked up on.
  • Literal Metaphor: Early on in the story, multiple characters are asked to speculate on the Ghostbloods' ultimate goal for meddling with Roshar, and cannot come up with anything better than "power". According to Mraize, the Ghostbloods are in part interested in power in the literal sense: they're trying to find a way to transport Stormlight out of Greater Roshar so they can sell it on other Shardworlds where loose Investiture is much harder to find.
  • Living Battery:
    • Dalinar can open a Perpendicularity at will, infusing gems and Radiants nearby with a massive amount of Stormlight. It gives his Radiants a huge advantage, as renewed Stormlight mid-fight allows them to outlast enemy Radiants, or the Fused, who go through Voidlight far slower.
    • The Sibling and its Bondsmith are the only sources for the Towerlight that powers the bulk of Urithiru's fabrials.
  • Master of One Magic: The Fused are this, in contrast to Knights Radiant. While Radiants each have access to two Surges (along with a unique power that's the result of both), the Fused command a single Surge. However, they're able to call on their Surge's lesser abilities without draining Voidlight. For example, a Windrunner must constantly expend Stormlight to stay airborne, while Heavenly Ones can float at low speed indefinitely.
  • Meaningful Name: Turns out that Veil is more than just Shallan's stealth-and-infiltration persona Ė she's the keeper of Shallan's worst memories, the veil drawn over her past.
  • Mental Health Recovery Arc:
    • This book finally sets Kaladin on the path to recovering from his trauma, both through retiring from active combat and helping others with mental health issues. This culminates in his slave brands finally healing as he speaks his fourth ideal.
    • Shallan's is less pronounced than Kaladin's, but she manages to discharge Veil, by no longer running from some of her worst memories.
  • Mercy Kill: Raboniel wants the opposite-Voidlight for many reasons, one of them to put her daughter out of her misery. Navani later inflicts this on her at Raboniel's own request.
  • Mind Rape: Odium, with Moash's (Vyre's) help, wants to do this to Kaladin. Odium can't do it by himself, not having a willing connection with him, but can piggyback on Moash's connection with Kaladin to assault him with nightmares of all his battleshock coming true all at once. The goal? Odium wants to drive Kaladin to the point where he'll join Odium willingly as his champion. Moash wants a Mercy Kill through Driven to Suicide.
  • Moment of Lucidity:
    • After the insane herald Ishar flees from Nighblood, he telepathically contacts Dalinar to explain how he can be temporarily restored to sanity and ask Dalinar to meet him later, before his voice "warps" back into his God-Emperor persona.
    • Sekeir's Courtroom Antics infuriate Mayalaran enough to snap her out of her deadeye catatonia and reveal the truth of the Recreance. After the moment passes, she's still more lucid and communicative than she was before.
    • A blast of Towerlight temporarily cuts through Odium's influence on Moash and restores his emotions. This has the effect of an Emotion Bomb of pain.
  • Motive Decay:
    • Venli soon realizes that even among the sane Fused, many have gotten to the point that all they care about is fighting and winning because that's all they have done for so long. Zahel's discussion with Kaladin indicates that the Fused, much like other immortal entities like Returned, are essentially Invested concepts in the "shape" of the person they once were, and as time passes they become less and less the person they are mimicking and more like a spren, obsessed with the Intent they exist for.
    • Veil calls Shallan out on this. Shallan originally didn't want to join the Ghostbloods, but goes along with Mraize's orders for information. By the last act of the book, Veil points out that Shallan is trying to join because she thinks she can't be forgiven, and only the Ghostbloods will have her. Doing so helps prevent Formless from becoming a true personality.
      Veil: Youíre running again. You think you donít deserve Adolin, or your place as a Radiant. Youíre terrified that if your friends knew what you truly were, theyíd turn away from you. Leave you. So youíre going to leave them first. Thatís why you kept spending time with the Ghostbloods. Thatís why youíre here. You see this as an out from your life. You figure if you become the despicable person the darkness whispers that you have been, then it will all be decided. No going back. Decisionís made.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Happens several times.
    • Dalinar learns how to ride the Highstorm with the Stormfather just in time to assist Kaladin.
    • Wit has mastered his Lightweaver powers offscreen, demonstrated when he uses them to illustrate a story for Kaladin. Downplayed in that he already knew a form of Lightweaving and we saw him bond a Cryptic.
    • Adolin rehabilitates Maya to the point that she's able to speak precisely when she needs to.
    • Kaladin speaks the Fourth Ideal in time to save someone dear to him—within a margin of seconds.
    • Navani is unable to turn back Raboniel's corruption of Urithiru until she bonds the Sibling, becoming the second Bondsmith.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: In almost any war Lirin would have many strong points supporting his absolute pacifism. Alethkar's endless wars have devastated civilians for generations simply to enrich callous nobles, and he has had to patch together many people who have returned from war changed, crippled, and shell-shocked. And Alethkar, being a strict theocratic monarchy with a strong caste system, doesn't even provide any rights to a common person that are really worth dying for. The occupying singers are even, on average, somewhere between the same as or slightly better than the Alethi Nobility. Not to mention that they're arguably in the right, as humans stole Roshar from them even after the ancient listeners tried to help them. Of course this isn't a normal war, and surrender isn't an option. Even if the singers and humans could find peace, Odium has no interest in such an arrangement, and Odium explicitly tells Taravangian that after he takes control of Roshar he plans to use both humans and listeners as soldiers in his plans to conquer the rest of the Cosmere.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Multiple cases by Navani in the Tower arc:
      • She talks the Sibling into revealing the location of one of the nodes that Raboniel could use to corrupt it so that it can be defended... which also reveals the location to Raboniel (who had hidden voidspren spying on her).
      • She discovers how to invert Voidlight into "anti-Voidlight" in an attempt to make a weapon against the Fused... only to realize too late that Raboniel can use the same technique to make anti-Stormlight weapons that can kill Radiant spren.
    • Kelek implies that Melishi's imprisonment of Ba-Ado-Mishram was this to an even greater degree than we already knew. Quite aside from the way it lobotomized the singers, Kelek indicates it in some way damaged Connection all across Roshar, and he seems to indicate that this sealing is responsible for spren going deadeyed when their Oaths are broken.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Sekeir forces Mayalaran to be brought into Adolin's trial to be used against him. But Mayalaran not only genuinely cares for Adolin, but has regained enough of her faculties to speak on his behalf, revealing that the Radiant spren agreed to the Recreance.
    • The Pursuer decides to disregard Moash's orders and attack Kaladin once again which results in Kaladin snapping out of his numbness, his own permanent death, and ultimately humans and singers uniting to protect the Radiants.
  • Non-Human Non-Binary: The Sibling uses they/them pronouns, and is described as having a voice that was not male or female.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • A major theme of the book is that the humans and the singers are very similar people, and that the Fused are no better than the human nobility that they replaced. One of Venli's main motivations is to get herself and some of her fellow singers out from under both the Fused and humanity's control, since as far as she is concerned both are equally bad.
    • Correspondingly, the Fused and Radiant spren are far closer to mirror images than they'd prefer to admit. The conflict of the Desolations is eternal precisely because neither the Fused nor the spren ever die, merely finding a new mortal of the corresponding type to pair with and return to the fight.
    • Similarly, there is attention drawn to how despite having different priorities, spren are no better than humanity either, in their own ways. Look no further than Adolin's conversation with Notum, who tells him that once the Stormfather made his bond to Dalinar, they abandoned his authority altogether rather than try to change their ways accordingly, choosing to see him as irrational instead of considering their worldview.
      Adolin: As soon as someone they respect tells them something reasonable, they cast him aside? Spren are supposed to be better than men.
      Notum: I wish that were so.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Adolin & co. are confused why the unfriendly human party that has been tailing them for days through Shadesmar suddenly turns and stops following them. It takes Adolin about 30 seconds to realize they were tailing Notum.
    • When Ruthar realizes his drunken rant about the state of Alethkar (an atheist queen speaking to generals, a former highking who indulges in feminine things like reading and writing) is audible to everybody present, he shuts his mouth instantly, but far too late as the room had gone silent.
    • Hoid figuring out why his conversation with Odium didn't go exactly to script - because Odium isn't Rayse any longer. Unfortunately, Taravangian makes sure he doesn't remember realizing this, and gets a do-over on their chat.
  • Only Mostly Dead:
    • Death for spren is always weird, so Navani isn't sure exactly how "dead" the Sibling in Urithiru is. The few spren who know about it say it is "slumbering," but she notes they treat that with an air of finality. The answer turns out to be rather simpler: They were Faking the Dead.
    • The Deadeyed spren, the ones who make up Shardblades, were already considered this - alive and mobile but not living. Adolin - and his blade, Mayalaran - proves that they can recover at least some of their faculties. By the end of the story, Shallan is nurturing Testament on the road to recovery as well.
    • Spren can also be "killed" by stabbing or cutting them enough times that they break from the pain and go catatonic. However, while these spren don't recover on their own, unlike deadeyes they can be restored with care and Stormlight.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Happens in the audiobook. Kate Reading reads most of her parts in an American accent, but occasionally lets the native British accent as heard in Codex Alera slip through. It's most obvious during the Eshonai flashback in chapter 62.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: There are now enough Fused and Knights Radiant that fundamental differences between their combat styles have emerged. Each Knight Radiant is a Red Mage with two Surges, a Shard weapon and fast healing in addition to their order's powers. The Fused lack Shard weapons and possess only a single Surge, but have thousands of years of experience using it to the point that they can use some of the Surge's abilities without expending Voidlight. Additionally, Death Is a Slap on the Wrist for the Fused, so they tend to be far more aggressive than Knights Radiant. After all, a dead Knight Radiant stays dead (though their spren can bond with another worthy individual, like a Radiant squire), but a dead Fused will steal a new body when the Everstorm rolls through in a few days.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Navani has a spark of this in the prologue when the realization that Gavilar is dead truly sinks in—their last talk was a fight and she made a prayer for him to die immediately afterwards.
  • Physical Hell: Braize is described by someone who has been there. Apparently even in Shadesmar it is a really bad place to go, and out if it it's unclear how it can sustain life or an atmosphere.
    Raboniel: Even if you could get through the barrier storm, the place is barren, devoid of life. Merely a dark sky, endless windswept crags, and a broken landscape. And a lot of souls. A lot of not particularly sane souls.
  • Planet of Steves: All Cryptics are named Pattern and have no problems figuring out who is talking to whom. Their real names are mathematical equations and thus can't be used easily by humans, and they are apparently capable of clarifying which Pattern they are addressing by intonations. The Lightweavers have to talk them into adopting other names so their Radiants can tell them apart. Wit's Cryptic is called Design, and Shallan posthumously names her first Cryptic Testament.
  • Poor Communication Kills: As revealed in this book, the Lost Radiants' spren were in on the Recreance, and freely allowed their bonds to be broken. However neither humans nor spren (even the inkspren where not all spren were bonded) explained what was happening, and as a result both humans and spren have believed the Radiants to be traitors for generations.
  • The Power of Friendship: The bond between Adolin and Maya is so strong that Deadeye spren are called to Lasting Integrity to act as silent witness to it during his trial, and Maya even revives enough to speak in his defense!
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Played for Laughs by Zahel when Kaladin notes how cryptically Wit usually provides his advice.
      Zahel: That's because Wit is an asshole.
    • Played in a much more dramatic way by Navani after bonding the Sibling to a very threatening Moash:
      Navani: Journey before destination, you bastard.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: At the end of Adolin's trial.
    Maya, screaming at Sekeir: YOU! CANNOT! HAVE! MY! SACRIFICE!
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Rock, one of the members of the original Bridge Four, leaves for Horneater Peaks with his wife. Drehy and Skar accompany them as an escort, so are also absent for most of the book.
    • Everyone on the Shadesmar trip except for Adolin, Maya, Shallan, and Pattern aren't allowed to enter the city, so they aren't present for the trial or climax.
  • Rabble Rouser: A heroic example, with Notum, who is supposed to testify against Adolin, finding himself unable to go through with it. Instead he begins loudly proclaiming that Honor is not dead so long as he lives in the hearts of men and winds up starting a riot.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: We have been told before the King's Wit is a weapon. Jasnah knows how to wield him. As part of a larger political game she provokes Ruthar into calling her a godless whore in public, then has Wit absolutely tear into him in order to provoke a duel. Judging from the tone during and after the speech, Hoid, more often irreverent at worst, truly hates the things he mentions about Ruthar and actually does consider him to be garbage. Worth reproducing in its entirety.
    Wit/Hoid: I see you're envious of those more skilled in the masculine arts than you, Ruthar. I agree, you could use lessons on how to be a manóbut those in this room would teach lessons far too advanced. Let me call in a eunuch to instruct you, and once you've reached his level, we'll talk further.
    Jasnah: Harsher.
    Wit/Hoid: You speak of honor, Ruthar, though youíve never known it. Youíll never find it though. You see, I hid your honor in a place you could never find it: in the arms of someone who truly loves you.
    Jasnah: Wit. Harsher.
    Wit/Hoid: I've been speaking to your children, Ruthar. No, this part isn't a joke. Relis, Ivanar. Yes, I know them. I know a lot of things. Would you like to explain to the queen where Ivanarís broken arm last month truly came from? Tell me, do you beat your children because you're a sadist, or because you're a coward and they are the only ones who won't dare fight back? Or... oh, silly Wit. It's both, isn't it?
  • Red Herring: It's implied that Shallan's fourth personality, "Formless," is the secret spy of the Ghostbloods who assassinated Ialai and is responsible for Shallan's continuing confused memories throughout the book. The truth is that Formless has no power (yet); Radiant was the one who killed Ialai, and Veil was always the one hiding the memories even as she encouraged Shallan to confront them.
  • Red Mage: Venli is a Knight Radiant who wears a Form of Power, giving her access to both Honor's Knight Radiant power set and Odium's Regal power set.
  • The Reveal: As with every Stormlight book, many secrets of Roshar and the Cosmere are revealed.
    • The Sibling is still alive, and in fact is Urithiru, or at least the original structure and most of the components. They are also the child of both Honor and Cultivation together, and are powered on a combination of their respective Investitures.
    • Stormlight, Lifelight - the equivalent attuned to Cultivation - and Voidlight - aspected to Odium - can all be manipulated by sound. It is also possible to fuse these by finding resonance between them - Urithiru is powered by Towerlight, a combination of Storm- and Lifelight, and Navani and the Lady of Wishes are able to combine Storm- and Voidlight into a fusion called Warlight.
    • Lift is empowered by Lifelight, not Stormlight, which is one of the reasons why she seems to play by a different set of rules than other Radiants.
    • Anti-Light can also be created by finding the tone that cancels out the respective tone of the light. Interestingly, to humans, the tones are the same, though listeners can detect the diffrence. The combination of a light and its opposite can be explosive - and also can kill a spren or other cognitive splinter attuned to that light.
    • Metal and color, key to other systems of Investiture, affect Stormlight as well, and in parallel ways - for example, iron can be used in fabrials to create attracters, where in allomancy it can be burned to pull on metal, and it's theorized that another metal - likely steel - can be used for repelling fabrials, where in allomancy steel is burned to push away metals. Color also affects Stormlight in certain ways, and is one of the reasons why Stormlight stored in gemstones with different colors but the same underlying molecular composition have different effects with Soulcasters.
    • Soulcasters are spren locked into a metallic shape, much like Shardblades or Shardplate. Unlike Shardblades, they seem to be at peace with their state and are unresponsive in Shadesmar, as they agreed to this situation in the first place.
    • The reason the singers lost their minds and became unresponsive slaves is because after the last Desolation, on learning that Taln couldn't be broken, the Unmade Ba-Ado-Mishram decided to do a little Desolation all by itself, handing out Forms left and right. But because it's just a big spren, it can be trapped, and, when it was, it took the minds of the singers with it. Only the Everstorm, empowered by Odium, could reverse that.
    • Restares, the reclusive leader of the Sons of Honor, is actually the Herald Kalak.
    • Thaidakar, the still unseen leader of the Ghostbloods, is from another world and is suffering from a similar problem as the Heralds. Also, given comments from both Mraize and Hoid, he is strongly hinted to be Kelsier.
    • Pattern is the second Cryptic Shallan bonded. She killed the first as a child when she forsook her oaths.
    • The Recreance occurred because the Radiant spren agreed to it and accepted the consequences.
    • Cultivation gave Taravangian his boon and his curse so he would be able to replace Rayse as Odium's Vessel.
    • Veil didn't just originate as a disguise for Shallan. She's the keeper of her worst memories.
  • Revenge Before Reason: "The Pursuer" is a Fused who will hunt and kill anyone, human or singer, who kills him with absolute, single-minded focus. This has apparently caused major problems in the past, but the Nine continue to accommodate his quirks because 1) they couldn't stop him anyway and 2) besides that he's really, really good at killing people.
  • Rewatch Bonus: On a second read, Radiant grabbing Ialai sticks out like a sore thumb. Not to mention Veil's skepticism of Radiant's perceived inability to do anything wrong, which is expressed several times, as well as Radiant's shame at Shallan saying that unlike Veil, she would never do anything against their three-woman compact unilaterally.
  • Rousseau Was Right: This is actually a motto among a political faction of Hhnorspren. "Honor is not dead so long as he lives in the hearts of men."
  • Rule of Symbolism: Moash/Vyre is blinded by his hatred and his commitment to Odium. And by the end of the book he's literally blind.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When infiltrating the Sons of Honor, Shallan constantly asks why they're so sure they can trust her.
  • Schizo Tech: Urithiru employs spearmen, beasts of burden, flying machines, and even vacuum tubes.
  • Scientifically Understandable Sorcery: Navani ends up proving that Stormlight/Voidlight/Lifelight are quantifiable via The Scientific Method.
  • Shaming the Mob: Adolin does this when he has enough of the blatant Kangaroo Court at his trial before the honorspren. It works a bit (quieting them down) but Mayalaran's testimony does far better.
    Adolin: I could answer, but you don't care, do you? You obviously planned together how to attack me today. This is an ambush. You donít care about honor, and you donít care what I have to say. You simply want to throw things at me. All right. Go ahead! But know this! You say that spren donít lie, that spren are not changeable like men? Next time you try to pretend that is true, remember this day! Remember how you lied when you said Iíd have a fair trial. Remember how you treated the man who came to you in good faith! [...] I thought Iíd find rational people inside these gates. Honorable spren. But you know what? Iím happy I didnít. Because now I know you for what you are. Youíre people, like any of us. Some of you are scared. It makes you afraid to commit. It makes you consider things you would once have thought irrational. I understand that. I am glad to find you are like humans, because I know what it means. It means you questionóthat youíre afraid, youíre uncertain. Believe me, I feel these things too. But you canít sit here and pretend that all humans are the same, that all humans deserve to be thrown away, when you yourselves are as flawed as we are. This trial proves it. Your hearts prove it.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Kaladin has become this over the course of the last year, and Dalinar is forced to relieve him of duty. He uses his retirement to try to help other soldiers suffering from the same thing... until he's inevitably forced back into action.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: A tangent that goes on to spawn a scientific discovery, no less. When Raboniel tells Navani that Voidlight and Stormlight are unmixing opposites, just like oil and water, Navani points out that her analogy is flawed. First, water can't mix with say, sand, and yet they're not considered opposites, and second, oil and water can and do mix with an emulsifier, giving her a demonstration, and commenting that there are also plenty of naturally occurring mixtures of fat and water, such as milk. This piques Raboniel's curiosity, and the two work together to discover an "emulsifier" for Voidlight and Stormlight. In the process, they discover Warlight, the fusion of Stormlight and Voidlight, which is created through a combination of human and singer music known as the Rhythm of War.
  • Skewed Priorities: During the Urithiru invasion, Navani is trying to quickly charge a fabrial that might shield the Sibling long enough to find some way of driving back the Fused. A couple of Thaylen artifabrians are present, but refuse to share their guild's method for rapidly transferring Stormlight between gemstones because it gives an edge in fabrial manufacture. Lampshaded by Navani:
    Navani: You'd actually let Urithiru fall rather than share what you know? If we lose the Oathgates permanently, that's it for the war. That's it for your homeland.
    Navani: Fine. I hope that when you die - knowing your homeland is doomed, your families enslaved, your queen executed - you feel satisfied knowing that at least you maintained a small market advantage.
  • The Sky Is an Ocean: Discussed; Navani wonders if they should use nautical terms on their airships, instead of literal ones like "right front."
  • Smug Snake: In contrast to Worthy Opponent Lewshwi and Tragic Villain Raboniel, the Pursuer really is just a big, dumb brute whose claim to fame (which he is obnoxiously proud of) is that he always hunts down and kills anyone who forces him to reincarnate, which essentially amounts to being a really sore loser. Despite being immortal, he also fights in a way that puts him at as little risk as possible and relies on repeated sneak attacks, in contrast to the Heavenly Ones' Mook Chivalry. Even other Fused seem to think he's an annoying asshole.
  • Spanner in the Works: Renarin to Odium. His future sight interferes with Odium's own, much the same way as two Atium users cancel each other out, allowing Taravangian just enough leeway to plot against Odium without being noticed.
  • Spell My Name with a "The":
    • The Sibling, along with the previously introduced Bondsmith spren, the Stormfather and the Nightwatcher.
    • The Pursuer, to a lesser extent. He has a real name, but is only ever referred to as "the Pursuer" after Part One.
  • Split Personality: Shallan's personalities have stabilized to three, able to switch between them as necessary. It's still not very healthy, but it's better than she was in Oathbringer.
  • Split-Personality Merge: Veil lets herself be reintegrated into Shallan once her role of protecting her from her worst memories is over.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Several people question why Moash/Vyre is trying so hard to drive Kaladin to despair instead of just stabbing him with his Honorblade. Vyre, though, is completely convinced that killing Kaladin in battle is literally impossible and that he can only die by his own hand. It seems irrational, just a manifestation of guilt and lingering admiration... but then, we've also seen Kaladin fight and rally against impossible odds time and again.
  • Stress Vomit: Navani vomits off-page when she realizes she led Raboniel to the third of the gemstones keeping the shield around the Sibling in check and seemingly killed Kaladin in the process.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The ending of Wit's story the "Dog and the Dragon." Despite all the great things the dog achieved and all the love he receives, he still ends the story despairing over his failure to become a dragon. Of course, he just said that to help Kaladin see the parallels to his own personal inability to internalize his successes. The story's real ending is that the dog realizes that his life is happy enough already and lives Happily Ever After.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: Lirin sticks to his pacifism even in the face of literal demons. He is basing this on his experience with all previous wars, in which nothing changes except that the common people suffer and die for the glory of their leaders. And he fails to appreciate that this war, with one side backed by the Shard of Hate, is fundamentally different. That said, he is just a surgeon. Barring a few exceptions, it's not really clear what people expect him to be doing differently.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Jasnah is not very good at swordfighting. Being a woman who lived in a society where only men were supposed to fight, she never got the years of training and experience lighteyed men get. Fortunately in battle her Blade, Plate and Radiant powers more than make up for it, and she's able to win her duel against Ruthar anyway by attacking him while he's distracted complaining about having to duel a woman.
    • Raboniel notes the difficulties of space travel, even in the magic-suffused cosmere. Evidently, the only reliable method of inter-world travel is through the Cognitive Realm. For those who tried to use magic alone, well...
      Raboniel: You canít travel to Braize in the Physical Realm. That would take... well, I have no idea how long. Plus thereís no air in the space between planets. We sent Heavenly Ones to try it once. No air, and worse, the strange pressures required them to carry a large supply of Voidlight for healing. Even so prepared, they died within hours.
  • Take a Third Option: The stated goal of Venli's group. Leshwi even uses this trope by name.
    Venli: We are not a rebellion. We are a group of objectors who do not like the choices we've been offered. Fused oppression or human tyranny? The god of hatred or the supposedly honorable god who abandoned us to slavery? We accept neither... We will remain neutral in the conflicts between humans and Fused. Our only goal is to find a place where we can thrive on our own. Our society. Our government. Our rules.
  • Tautological Templar: Adolin is warned that the honorspren have become this. They are all about being honourable... but since Honor is no longer around to supply an authorative definition of the term, they have started to define "honourable" as "acting like an honorspren."
  • There Are No Therapists:
    • Discussed Trope. Due to prejudice, progression in care for mental health ground to a halt long ago, with any explanations for unhelpful or even detrimental treatments being excused as referencing other authorities that themselves are based on little but guesses. Kaladin realizes this after seeing the conditions of one Bedlam House, and takes it upon himself to be the therapist himself for various methodologies, something that prompts his father to realize how poorly they have handled "sanity" in the past.
    • This trope can also apply to the deadeye spren as well. The spren treat their deadeyes as catatonia patients at best, just locking them up somewhere or letting them wander. Nobody bothered to try and help them until Adolin actually engages with one and starts to slowly bring her back to some degree of lucidity.
  • There Is Another: Venli and Rlain are each surprised to discover that they aren't the last living listener. They eventually find out that the dissenters who departed Narak shortly before the Everstorm hit survived their flight.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: The Fused take the protocol around their honorifics and titles very seriously. When Navani calls Raboniel by name, Raboniel warns her that there will be consequences if she continues. Later, it's a major gesture of Villain Respect when Raboniel allows Navani to go on a First-Name Basis.
  • This Means War!: Once Shallan finally breaks with the Ghostbloods for good, Mraize says that this is a declaration of war. She is unimpressed, and tells him she looks forward to the hunt.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Subverted with Dabbid. At first it looks like he suddenly recovers the ability to speak after contacting the Sibling. It later turns out from his perspective chapter that he was always able to talk, but suffered from an unspecified disability from birth and his speech was slurred. After recovering from his battle shock and joining the tight-knit group of Bridge Four, he didn't want to be seen as "different" like he had everywhere else in life, and so kept silent so no one would know he was mentally handicapped due to his speech patterns.
  • Time Skip: A year has passed since the end of Oathbringer.
  • Title Drop: Rhythm of War is the title of the research journal (on the relationship between different forms of Investiture and the singer rhythms) co-authored by Navani and Raboniel. The Rhythm of War is also a singer rhythm made by harmonizing the Pure Tones of Honour and Odium.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Lirin, Kaladin's father, due to their disagreements about pacifism coming to a head. Lirin, embittered by seeing the pointless wars of Alethkar devastate civilians for the glory of uncaring leaders, simply can't accept a son who is a soldier. After Kaladin kills a singer in Lirin's infirmary he even says that what Kaladin has been telling him for years in his depression is true: his son died years ago. Later on, the two eventually reconcile, with Lirin admitting that he's projecting some of his own issues (feeling like his insistence on resisting Roshone is what caused Tien being drafted and killed, and that resisting in general only causes more death) onto Kaladin.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Elhokar's son, Gav, is just five years old, but everyone notices that he is solemn and serious beyond his years. And he wants to learn to fight, because, as he tells Navani, he wants to find the man who killed his father and kill him. Navani and Dalinar are justifiably worried about him.
  • The Unfettered: Deconstructed in Vyre/Moash. Odium takes away Moash's emotions, making him into Vyre, a deadly calm monster. But when Vyre's connection to Odium is disrupted, all his anger and guilt come flooding back, to the point that he's almost paralyzed. Then he breaks his neck running away and is literally paralyzed until some Fused rescue him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Shallan, as always. Even in her PoV chapters we can't trust anything about her memories or in-character knowledge.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Aesudan dismisses a genius artifabrian as a bore who keeps talking about gems, constantly makes minor breaches of propriety, and is completely ignorant of what her family members want. It's no wonder that Jasnah was considering assassinating her to keep her from embarrassing the family further.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Someone sneaks a spanreed to Navani and warns her that she needs to stop trapping spren in gemstones or something bad will happen.
  • Villain Decay: Done deliberately with The Pursuer. He comes closer to killing Kaladin than anyone else in their first fight, but with each subsequent encounter, Kaladin gets more and more competent at fending him off. In their last fight, Kaladin is able to best him and send him fleeing in front of countless witnesses, destroying his legend and earning him the moniker "Defeated One".
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When Szeth chips Ishar's Honorblade with Nightblood, hinting at its incredible Investiture-destroying power, Ishar immediately flees into Shadesmar with his men.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Highprince Ruthar breaks down into a drunken rant at Jasnah daring to speak with generals about war.
    • Sekeir stops his proud posturing and cruel behavior the instant Mayalaran speaks, something considered completely impossible, and proves everything he was trying to say about humanity's culpability was completely wrong. He is left grasping at straws and claiming that it was somehow Adolin's fault despite the truth being blatantly obvious until she screams at him to not take away her sacrifice.
      Sekeir: What is this? What have you done to her? The sight of you had caused her to rave in madness and—
  • War Refugees: The war in Herdaz against the singers and Fused has been dragging for a year and as a result, many civilian flee to Alethkar—which has been fully conquered by the singers and is therefore much safer.
  • We Have Reserves: As discussed in the previous book, this is one of the great issues fighting the Fused. Odium has a great many common singers he can sacrifice to reincarnate dead Fused, allowing them to replace their losses far more easily than the Radiants. Kaladin gives this as his reason for encouraging the Windrunners to play along with the Heavenly Ones' proclivity for one-on-one duels and otherwise honorable combat: there are more Heavenly Ones than Windrunners and they can much more easily replace their losses, so a style that leads to fewer deaths on both sides helps the Windrunners more than the Fused.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The book as a whole. A great deal of information about Shards, the interconnections in the Cosmere, Investure on Roshar, the Recreance, the Heralds and more are all paced into the book.
    • The ending has a lot, as always. But, most dramatically, Taravangian kills Rayse and assumes the Shard of Odium.
  • Wham Line:
    • The revelation of who killed Ialai Sadeas, which stops the one who hears in their tracks.
      Radiant: I... I killed Ialai.
    • One that manages to be a double Wham, both by virtue of the line itself and by who said it:
      Mayalaran: WE. CHOSE!
    • Not quite on the same level, but it's been mentioned that a large part of the reason the singers turned to Odium was because the spren abandoned them when the humans came. Leshwi's reaction when she discovers Venli is a Radiant throws that all into doubt.
      Leshwi: Sorry? Venli, they've come back to us! They've forgiven us.
    • Wham for the audience much more than for the characters: Wit, through Shallan, refers to Thaidakar, the mysterious leader of the Ghostbloods, as the Lord of Scars, and says that he should mind his own world and stop interfering on Roshar or he'll have to beat him up again. There's only one person in The Cosmere that we know of who matches that description: Kelsier.
    • The chapter epigraphs for part 5 are a collection of the "musings of El, on the first of the final ten days". Little context is given for this until chapters 115 and 116, where he says "I look forward to ruling the humans. Nearly as much as I look forward to serving you, newest Odium." This line places the musings as happening right now, after Rayse was replaced as Odium's bearer. And it means that the "final ten days" are the days leading to Dalinar's contest of champions with Odium
  • Wham Shot: In the battle against Ishar, Szeth attacks him with Nightblood. Ishar parries with his Honorblade...and Nightblood leaves a chip in the Blade. Shardblades are indestructible, Honorblades even moreso... and Nightblood damaged it anyway. Ishar runs away.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Upon learning of Venli's true role in the True Desolation's rise, Rlain calls her a monster and a traitor, and notes that the only reason she is around is because they need her help.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Fused. Odium gave the Fused Surgebinding powers and a form of immortality. This made them terrifying foes during the Desolations, but four thousand years on Braize has left most of them completely bonkers. Some, called "the lost ones" by Singers, simply stare into space when not following explicit instructions.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Windrunners and Heavenly Ones seem to have this opinion of each other. In the opening of the book, the Heavenly Ones pointedly decline to crush the Windrunners with numbers or to finish off a mortally wounded Windrunner.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: A newly-bonded Navani wields Towerlight against Moash, blinding him and overwhelming him with his repressed pain and guilt. His Healing Factor proves unable to restore his eyes. At the same time, Kaladin finally lets go of his Survivor Guilt, enabling him to heal his old Slave Brand.
  • Wretched Hive: The warcamps have gotten bad since basically everyone reputable moved to Urithiru, and then Ialai Sadeas moved back and started using the corruption as cover to actively plot treason. It says a lot that putting Sebarial in charge is likely a huge improvement, as while he intends to keep it a Wretched Hive, it will at least be a somewhat safer and better managed one.
  • Written by the Winners: Navani threatened this before Gavilar died. Gavilar cares about his legacy, and she's the one who will write it. He dismisses her as irrelevant—his glory will outshine any attempt for her to sully it.
  • Wrong Context Magic:
    • Zahel challenges Kaladin to prove his sword skill by just trying to land a sword blow on him without using Surgebinding, in the middle of a laundry yard. Then he spends the whole fight using sheets and cloth in strange ways to confound Kal's swordsmanship. Kaladin can tell that Zahel isn't Surgebinding, but he strongly suspects there's something weird going on that he doesn't know about. Readers familiar with the wider Cosmere should immediately realize that he's using Awakening.
    • The small communication box that Mraize gives Shallan turns out to be a seon.
    • Lift's bizarre differences from other Radiants are finally explained: She is a Radiant, but one created specifically by Cultivation, and she draws her power not from Stormlight but Lifelight.
    • Investiture is capable of being measured by the color of Taldain sand.
  • Yin-Yang Bomb:
    • Mixing Voidlight and anti-Voidlight, or Stormlight and anti-Stormlight, creates an explosion not unlike antimatter meeting matter.
    • Warlight, the unlikely fusion of Stormlight and Voidlight, discovered by Navani and Raboniel harmonizing two of the Pure Tones of Roshar together in the titular Rhythm of War.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Adolin, and later Veil, to Shallan, when Shallan is standing outside of Restares' home with the Herald-killing dagger, ready to assassinate him. Shallan has convinced herself that she is unworthy of everyone's love and affection and that she's the weakest of her three personas, convincing herself that a fourth persona, Formless, is even stronger and that Shallan is gone. Veil breaks through, helping Shallan to come to terms with herself and accept that she is far stronger than she thinks she is.
  • You Didn't Ask: Apparently, Szeth went for most of a year without mentioning the strange sphere Gavilar gave him to hide, until Navani happened to explicitly ask him whether he'd found anything on Gavilar's body.
  • You Monster!: Rlain says this of Venli when she tells him how the rise of the Regals and Fused is her fault. All things considered, she agrees.
  • You Will Know What to Do: Played with. Mraize says this to Shallan when, after sending her to track down a certain person, she discovers that he is actually the Herald Kelek. Shallan contacts Mraize, to berate him for the lack of direction and say that she has no clue what to do. He responds that she in fact knew exactly what to do: contact him for further instructions. It's one more way in which he is manipulating Shallan into accepting his authority.
  • Younger Than They Look: Venli and Eshonai's flashback chapters reveal that singers mature much faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age ten. Venli has been an adult since the prologue, putting her in her late teens during this book.