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Literature / The Way of Kings (2010)

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You may be looking for the 2021 fantasy novel The Way of Kings, by Louise Searl.
You must find the most important words a man can say.
"Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination."
The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant

The Way of Kings is the first book of The Stormlight Archive, the Epic Fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson. The Way of Kings introduces the world of Roshar, with its Bizarre Seasons and Hostile Weather, as well as the cast of characters, including Kaladin, a doctor-turned-Child Soldier-turned-slave; Dalinar, a Warrior Prince who adheres to the old codes of honor; Shallan, a young noblewoman from a house on the brink of ruin; and Szeth, a Human Weapon who accepts any indignity or abuse.

The story revolves around the Kingdom of Alethkar, a group of ten princedoms recently united as a single nation under Gavilar Kholin, who managed to force the other nine highprinces under his rule, becoming the first King of Alethkar in centuries. Some years later, Gavilar encounters a mysterious people while on a hunting expedition — a free and independent group of parshmen, the docile and listless Slave Mooks used by Alethi. Dubbing these people the Parshendi (parshmen who can think), Gavilar quickly signs a peace treaty with them... and is just as quickly betrayed, when the Parshendi have Szeth assassinate Gavilar on the very night the treaty was signed. Outraged, the Alethi — led by Gavilar's son (and the new King of Alethkar) Elhokar — immediately declare war on the Parshendi. Pursuing them to the Shattered Plains, a group of tightly-clustered plateaus separated by a labyrinth of deep, narrow chasms, the Alethi settle down to outlast the Parshendi in a war of attrition.

The main story picks up after several years of virtual stalemate on the Shattered Plains. Dalinar (Gavilar's younger brother and Elhokar's uncle) is one of the ten highprinces overseeing the war effort. Kaladin is brought into the camp of highprince Sadeas and forced to work as a bridgeman — the physically punishing and suicidally dangerous job of carrying the bridges used to span gaps between plateaus, even in the face of Parshendi archers. Shallan, away from the Shattered Plains, seeks to become a student of the princess Jasnah (Elhokar's sister and Dalinar's niece), a renowned scholar and infamous heretic against Alethkar's primary religion of Vorinism; however, her ulterior motive is to steal Jasnah's Soulcaster (the only such artifact known to be outside the control of the Vorin clergy) and use it to save her impoverished noble house. Meanwhile, Szeth travels across Roshar on the orders of several changing masters, whose orders he is honorbound to obey regardless of how personally loathsome he finds them.

The Way of Kings has Kaladin as its focus character; while the book shifts between all four plots, Kaladin's is clearly the primary story, with less focus on Dalinar, Shallan, and Szeth (respectively, from most to least).

This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Shallan's father had a horrific temper. Fortunately, he had a soft spot for her, so she only saw it a few times, and he never hurt her. Unfortunately, her brothers were not so lucky. They're pretty screwed up because of it.
  • Action Girl:
    • Parshendi females, if Dalinar's hypothesis of their battle pairs actually being Battle Couples is right.
    • Jasnah might also be one, depending on how far her abilities go — she can certainly handle herself fine if she has to.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Dalinar's visions. An Apocalyptic Log from God.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Kaladin's opinion of lighteyes. He's often, though not always, proven right.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: At this point, Kaladin just exudes so much authority and has done so much awesome shit that he, a slave in the worst possible job a slave can have, takes over an army.
  • Backstory: Kaladin gets the most of it, but other major characters have elements of their pasts revealed that make their motivations and characters clearer. Word of God says that each of the ten books in the series will focus on the backstory of a single character the way the first focused on Kaladin's.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jasnah.
  • Badass Crew: Bridge Four, eventually.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Kaladin pulls this near the end when rescuing Dalinar's army. As basically the only person with any military knowledge who isn't hanging on by a thread, he starts ordering around soldiers, up to and including Prince Adolin. It should be noted that he does this despite the fact that Kaladin was not a part of their army at all, and was also a slave with zero right to give orders to anyone.
  • Being Good Sucks: See Chronic Hero Syndrome, below for Kaladin. Dalinar also gets a lot of mockery from his fellow lighteyes for actually taking the war and his honor seriously and following (and making his men follow) the Alethi Codes of War.
  • Big "NO!": Kaladin, whenever someone important to him dies. Most notably Tien.
  • Chekhov's Gun: All over the place, but especially noticeable in the Distant Prologue, with the Heralds and the Last Desolation. The names of the Heralds themselves are important, and the lost Herald is the most obvious, but even the color of the blood on the ground becomes important later on. Sanderson even sets up guns that won't be fired until books much later in the series. This might as well be Chekhov's Gun: The Book: Also Kaladin Suffers, Like, a Lot.
    • The Death Rattles recorded before each chapter in the opening and closing sections of the book are enigmatic statements given by people moments before they die. What they even are won't be explained for a few books, but each holds some hidden significance.
  • The Chessmaster: King Taravangian. Also Sadeas.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Kaladin. He's almost a Deconstruction as the fact that he can't save everyone (and on a few occasions fails to save anyone) drives him to the point of despair several times.
  • Cliffhanger: The book ends with the Herald that was abandoned at the beginning of the book walking into the capitol of Alethkar and collapsing, possibly dead.
  • Combat Medic: Kaladin.
  • Cryptic Conversation: A strange example. When people die slowly, in such a way that they can still speak at the end, they sometimes spout off a cryptic lines referencing a wide range of things, some being seemingly prophetic, some referencing past events. Taravangian is collecting these, and at least one is a line from the Lost Herald. Later books (plus Word of God) seem to indicate these are a result of one of the Unmade.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Kaladin becomes increasingly reluctant to try to help others, because it always ends badly for them. The death of his little brother Tien is the start of this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shallan, who seems to have the sort of mind which automatically deconstructs every sentence she hears and prepares a witty retort, and the King's Wit, a character whose job it is to provide the royal court with snarky running commentary. Jasnah can also descend into this when her sense of humor shows through her usually stoic countenance.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first few pages are told from the perspective of Cenn, who is quickly killed off to make way for the real main character of the novel, Kaladin Stormblessed.
  • Determinator: Kaladin, when he's not heart-rendingly depressed.
  • Doorstopper: Quoth Sanderson's friend and Schlock Mercenary creator Howard Tayler: "This 1000-page tome is the best argument you'll have all year to get an e-reader, because you HAVE to have this book, but you might not be muscular enough to carry it around."
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Invoked by Sadeas, who brings along a chair when telling the other characters some bad news. He then looks contemptuous when Renarin sits down.
  • Driven to Madness: Szeth, by the end of the book. The Shinovari are an absurdly peaceful people, considering any resort to violence to be an extreme personal failure. Nevertheless, he has been turned into the most fearsome and unstoppable assassin Roshar has ever seen, wreaking destruction across the kingdoms, and it has broken him.
  • Driven to Suicide: The "Honor Chasm" exists to allow bridgemen this one last luxury. Averted with Kaladin (because Syl stops him), and subverted elsewhere with Shallan, who had to fake an attempted suicide. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.
  • Due to the Dead: Subverted big time. Kaladin exploits the Parshendi's race-wide Berserk Button by armoring himself in their dead, and attracts the attention of the entire army.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: When Shallan turns Kabsal down, she agrees to do a sketch of him; she's upset to have broken his heart because she likes him as a friend, and is able to use this as an excuse for freaking the fuck out and running away when she once again draws symbol-heads in the background of her drawing. They follow her through the palace to her room, and lead to her Soulcasting for the first time, which forces her to fake an injury in a panic to explain all the blood, which looks like a suicide attempt... she had a hell of a night.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Kaladin, sort of. For the first half of the book he doesn't do anything supernatural as far as we can tell, and the nature of his abilities makes it hard to tell if he's doing anything magical at all, but he gradually does more and more obviously supernatural things. It's hard to tell exactly when he starts developing powers, but he certainly didn't have them to begin with. The prologue shows the point of view character seeing something strange about his spinning spear, possibly Syl first being attracted to Kal and, much later in the book, a "random windspren" causes a pouch of spheres to get stuck to his belt minutes before the action recounted in the prologue.
    • Knowing that his abilities are powered by Stormlight, spheres going dun unexpectedly is a telltale sign of Kaladin's powers manifesting.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Played with; Kaladin believes, teaches, and was taught that caring about something or someone gives you a reason to fight harder, while most soldiers tend to favor stoicism over emotions.
  • Epigraph: These appear at the beginning of each chapter. For the first and last sections, they are quotes from dying people that are collected in Taravangian's hospital. The second section is correspondence from who appears to be Wit/Hoid to an "immortal" - possibly another Shardholder. The third section lists quotes that Jasnah has collected in her research regarding the Voidbringers.
  • Exact Words: For the record, this works.
    Wit: What of you, Prince Renarin? Your father wishes me to leave you alone. If you can speak and yet say nothing ridiculous, I will leave you alone for the rest of the week.
    Renarin: Nothing ridiculous.
  • Expy:
    • Dalinar is a general leading his people in a hopeless war, finding himself disgusted by his people's blind lust for vengeance, struggling to raise his son, also a military leader, in righteousness under those conditions, greatly interested in history, and receiving visions from God. The parallels to Mormon, author of The Book of Mormon, are striking. Not surprising considering Sanderson is an active member of the LDS faith; similar themes are common in his books.
    • Szeth is more than a dead ringer for an Assassin. Especially at the start of the book when he wears white clothes and makes a deliberately public and spectacular assassination. Between his speed, mobility, unusual abilities, hidden weaponry, and tendency to both feel for his victims and speak with them after dealing the fatal blow, Szeth's introduction could pretty much be ripped straight from an assassination mission in Assassin's Creed, although the precise mechanisms (i.e. Shardblade instead of a Hidden Blade and Surgebinding instead of genetic Assassin abilities) are different.
  • Extreme Doormat: Szeth-son-son-Vallano. If his master commands anything, he will do it without question, with two exceptions: he will not kill himself, and he will not give up his Shardblade.
  • Eye Awaken: Kaladin promises to do this after his execution, mainly in the hope that his bravado will leave a legacy. Then he really does it.
  • Faceā€“Heel Turn: The Radiants, for some reason. We even get to see it at one point. They didn't turn on humanity so much as abandon them to their fate under extreme duress.
  • Fairy Companion: Syl, to Kaladin.
  • A Father to His Men: Dalinar, and Kaladin. Adolin is showing signs of it as well.
  • Fantastic Racism: Darkeyes are rated lower than lighteyes, from birth, a source of much of Kaladin's trouble. Parshmen are rated sub-human, and the discovery of Parshendi (literally "parshmen who think") surprises many.
  • Field of Blades: This happens for about fifteen seconds when the Knights Radiant abandon their Shards in one of Dalinar's visions, up until the watching soldiers realize the Shards are free to take. It then quickly turns into a slaughter over who gets to keep them.
  • Fictional Document: The eponymous The Way of Kings is a book derided as borderline blasphemy by modern Alethi, due in part to such silly ideals as making peace with your enemies. Jasnah also peruses plenty of these in her pursuit of information on the true nature of the Voidbringers.
  • Foreshadowing: Being the first book in a long epic series, this one is rife with it.
    • When Kaladin is with Bridge Four and preparing to deploy his bridge for the first time, one of the bridgemen swears by Talenelat, calling him "the bearer of all agonies," which foreshadows the revelation of his importance later on in Oathbringer.
    • Shallan has a flashback of her possessing a "long, silvery sword" described as being able to cut through stone, and later on is counting her heartbeats, foreshadowing her Shardblade.
    • When Jasnah is first shown using her Soulcaster, after transforming the rock into smoke there's a brief moment where she seems confused as to where she is. This is because in order for an Elsecaller to Soulcast, they need to go into Shadesmar.
    • Dalinar using his Shardplate to dig a latrine trench in a matter of minutes and then reflecting on how Shardplate makes such things so easy is foreshadowing for his ability to repair and rebuild things on a large scale as a Bondsmith.
    • Parshendi blood is described as having a similar smell to that of chasmfiends. The Parsh, like the chasmfiends, are natives to Roshar, while it is humans who are not native to the planet.
    • When Dalinar is seeing the flashback to the Recreance, when the Radiants abandoned their Plate and Blades, he is struck by a sudden sense of pain, tragedy, and betrayal, and feels like he can hear distant, pained screaming. As would be revealed in Words of Radiance and Oathbringer, this is the betrayal and death cries of all the spren being abandoned and left for dead when the Radiants abandoned their oaths.
    • When Shallan unconsciously sketches the Cryptics, she sees two instead of one. The shows that both Pattern and Testament are following her many books before we learn of Testament's true existence.
  • Four Is Death: Before Kaladin turns things around, Bridge Four has the highest mortality rate.
  • Friendly Enemy: Dalinar and Sadeas were actual friends before Gavilar was assassinated. Now, while they still have respect for one another's abilities and are cordial in person, Sadeas wants to outmaneauver Dalinar however he can, and while Dalinar wants to still like and trust Sadeas, deep down part of him knows Sadeas probably doesn't deserve it. He doesn't.
  • Gallows Humor: When Syl comes to talk Kaladin down from jumping to his death, she brings him a blackbane leaf because he had taken an interest in the plant before. It happens to be a deadly poison that he'd been considering as a suicide method. The irony of the gesture almost makes him laugh, but he appreciates the intention.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kaladin, a skilled surgeon who has enough martial skill to kick all kinds of ass.
  • Glory Hound: All of the Alethi Highprinces, except for Dalinar.
  • God Is Dead: In multiple ways. First, the Shard "Honor" (and called God by the Alethi) is splintered, which is as close to dead as the Shards can be. Second, its holder and conscious mind, Tanavast, is dead, presumably killed by Odium.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Kaladin's "bridge shield" idea works incredibly well. So well, in fact, that the Parshendi ignore them in favor of easier targets, and the other bridges try to copy the idea but make a mess of it. The end results are not pretty. Though later on, the bridge shield maneuver saves the entire team when some Parshendi flank Bridge Four while trying to rescue Dalinar's army.
  • The Good King: The ancient author of the book-within-a-book The Way Of Kings, Nohadon. Not only was he a key figure in helping humankind on Roshar survive its near-extinction, but later in life during peaceful times he disguised himself as a commoner and travelled alone from one end of the continent to the other on foot with little-to-no belongings, and documented his experiences as well as the lessons he learned in this book, which ages later was an integral part in Dalinar's reformation into a Good "King" himself, before the story begins. Or, at least into arguably the only decent ruler (or man) out of his peers.
  • Good Old Ways: The Codes. Ultimately subverted as Dalinar realises that the Codes didn't just fall from the sky, but developed naturally in a world that was peaceful and civilised enough to support them. Since the world of today is not that peaceful and civilised, strict adherence to the Codes is not currently possible without becoming a Doomed Moral Victor.
  • The Grand Hunt:
    • Dalinar organizes a greatshell hunt to entertain his nephew, the king, and provide a chance for the king to prove his courage despite his fears of assassins. The beast—which is about fifty feet tall and at least as long—eats the bait early and manages to climb onto the plateau before anyone is ready. It's theorized that it was an intentional assassination attempt, but no one is sure how such a thing would be arranged.
    • The plateau battles are not quite hunts, as they involve two enemy armies clashing, but as they're both fighting over the gemhearts the pupating chasmfiends hide in their shells, the idea is similar. The nobles definitely treat it like a game, to the annoyance of their soldiers, who are fighting and dying for nothing but the glory of winning money for their lords.
    • Roshone, the citylord of Kaladin's town, takes his son out on a whitespine hunt, which ends up crippling Roshone and killing his son. Kaladin's father mentions that he and the old citylord used to mock the type of men who would go out on hunts, but he still patches Roshone up as best as he can.
  • Gravity Master: Szeth. By the end of the book, Kaladin has begun to develop abilities in this vein too.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: The Lost Herald.
  • Henpecked Husband: Matal, a minor lighteyes. He usually lets his wife do all the talking for him, but when she's not around he's actually pretty reasonable.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Subverted. Shallan expects Jasnah to be like this, but she's actually a much more sympathetic (and interesting) character. Jansah's atheism is a personal philosophical stance; she'll enthusiastically defend it in an argument, but she doesn't try to force it on others.
    • There's also the issue of being a Flat-Earth Atheist. She's only right because it turns out God is dead.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Discussed and ziggzagged.
    • The terrain around the Shattered Plains makes it very difficult for the massive Alethi armies to actually pin down the Parshendi for a decisive victory, forcing the Alethi highprinces to establish a "siege" by occupying the western end of the plains (which is the only way out of the region) and whittling down the Parshendi through attrition while fighting over the extremely valuable gemhearts that can be recovered from pupating chasmfiends. However, as time passes, the Alethi tendency to make everything into a competition has led to the highprinces being less concerned with winning the war and more concerned with outdoing each other by winning the most gemhearts. This results in the highprinces essentially fighting in an uncoordinated fashion to inflate their own egos and status, and the way the war is being dragged out puts strain on the whole country.
    • At first, Kaladin doesn't understand why the bridgmen aren't given shields or armor to protect them while deploying their bridges, thinking that this is resulting in unnecessary losses. He later learns that this is actually cruelly pragmatic from Sadeas' perspective, as the poorly-armored bridgemen draw arrow fire from the Parshendi away from far more valuable regular troops, and if one bridge starts to falter the Parshendi concentrate all of their arrows on that single target, letting the others get through, so even if several bridges fall, enough will get through to let his army cross.
  • Holy Hitman: Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar.
  • Honor Before Reason: Dalinar's rivals accuse him of this; also what binds Szeth to what's essentially slavery.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The things that appear in Shallan's drawings, which look like human figures but wearing stiff cloaks made of metal and whose heads are shaped like strange symbols. Jasnah apparently is more familiar with them (they are somehow connected to Soulcasting) and Elhokar is seeing them in mirrors as well... These are eventually revealed to be the Shadesmar form of Cryptics, the spren that Lightweavers bond to become Radiants. Pattern, Shallan's spren, is one.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: A very odd invocation of this trope, as it essentially states that humans are bastards for not committing genocide when they should have. "We don't throw away something we can use."
  • I Am a Monster: King Taravangian agrees he is when Szeth calls him out on it.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: A rare hero-on-hero example. At the end of the book, Dalinar says this to King Elhokar almost word-for-word after delivering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to prove his loyalty. By showing that he could kill him if he wanted, but leaving him alive, he shows that he doesn't want him dead at all.
    Elhokar: So you're not going to kill me?
    Dalinar: Storms, no! I love you like a son, boy.
  • Important Haircut: Important shave, actually. When Bridge Four pools their money to buy Rock a razor to thank him for the cooking he does for them, he not only uses it for himself, but also acts as an impromptu barber for the rest of the crew. This marks an important turning point, where the bridge crew have started to feel like people again.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: After Dalinar sought the Old Magic, he can no longer remember his late wife. Even to the point where he can't quite make out her name when other people say it. Whether this was the curse, the blessing, or some combination of the two isn't explained until the third book.
  • Last Request: Before he dies, Gavilar gives his assassin a dark-glowing sphere of unknown origin and nature, to keep away from "them", and a cryptic message for his brother. Szeth obliges in taking the sphere and leaving the message because he believes the last wishes of the dying are sacred. The cryptic message causes even more confusion when it is found, however, because Szeth leaves it as though Gavilar himself wrote it, yet in Alethi culture only women write and read. Also, it makes no sense.
  • Meaningful Echo: Each of Szeth's chapters begin the same way: "Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, <the rest of the sentence>."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Kaladin originally didn't like his name because it sounded too close to a lighteyes name (which are frequently one syllable off from being a palindrome), but he gets over it. This mirrors his later hatred of lighteyes (including his refusal to become a Shardbearer, because doing so would make him a lighteyes), but eventual reconsidering. The end of The Way of Kings also sets him up as Dalinar's Number Two — the next best thing to a lighteyes, without actually being one.
    • Given that Word of God says the Almighty is named Honor, Honor Chasm could have an entirely different meaning.
  • Metafictional Title: The namesake book is something between a holy book, philosophy, and a chivalric code.
  • Misery Builds Character: For Kaladin.
  • The Mole: Kabsal, who used a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story to get close to their target.
  • More Insulting than Intended: Kaladin puts on armour from dead enemy Parshendi to Draw Aggro in the next battle, knowing that it's a taboo to them. He underestimates the gravity of the taboo: every enemy archer focuses on him, and his one parshman squadmate is so appalled by him that it takes a long time to mend their relationship.
  • Necessarily Evil: Taravangian considers himself to be this.
    Szeth: You are a monster.
    Taravangian: Yes, but I am the monster who will save this world.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Syl.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • King Taravangian. According to Word of God, this is not a true example. Taravangian's intelligence actually changes randomly from day to day. This is a curse from the Nightwatcher. So in the scene with Jasnah and Shallan, he's not obfuscating anything, he's actually an idiot that day.
    • Also Wit, though in his case it's more that he appears to refuse to take anything seriously than that he's stupid. Since he knows far more about the coming apocalypse than anybody else and is actually a dimension-hopping Big Good in disguise, he simply knows that the political games and pointless fighting is far less important than what is coming.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Dalinar eventually realizes to his horror that the Almighty isn't actually responding to him in his visions—he's simply giving a "pre-recorded" speech to whoever is receiving the visions. The Almighty is dead.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: The Ryshadium, a breed of horses that pick their riders. Dalinar and Adolin each have a Ryshadium mount, larger and smarter than other horses. Their antagonist, Sadeas, is frustrated that he is unable to have a horse as fine, despite his great wealth.
  • Only One Name: We don't learn Sadeas' first name until The Words of Radiance.
  • Peace Conference: The prologue to The Way of Kings is on the day of one. It doesn't end well.
  • Phrase Catcher: Everyone ends up calling Kaladin "Stormblessed" sooner or later, although he never says it himself.
  • Power Misidentification: Deliberately. Jasnah's "soulcaster" turns out to be a decoy which she uses to hide her own ability to soulcast without the object.
  • Properly Paranoid: Elhokar, as revealed near the end of The Way of Kings.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The bridgemen, especially Bridge Four.
  • Robbing the Dead: Chasm duty requires the bridgemen to do this. It's their most hated duty because it's both disgusting and dangerous.
  • Reverse Arm-Fold: Kaladin adopts parade rest during bridge runs to show his discipline. Eventually the rest of his crew join him.
  • Safety in Indifference: Kaladin tries this to fight his Chronic Hero Syndrome, because everyone he tries to help ends up dead.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Shallan. The exact circumstances are revealed in Words of Radiance.
  • Serial Romeo: Adolin, Dalinar's son, has a new girlfriend every week, on average.
  • Shaming the Mob: Kaladin's father pulls this off, in one of his backstory chapters.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Pretty much the entirety of the Heraldic Epochs, especially with regards to the Voidbringers and the Knights Radiant.
  • Slave Brand: Alethi slaves are marked with a brand on the forehead. Slaves who make a nuisance of themselves (for example, by repeated escape attempts) are given an additional brand.
  • The Social Darwinist: While it's never outright stated, Alethi culture as a whole seems to take this trope as a basic assumption, with a ranking system even for civilians. There's hints that the nation was set up to be the front-line military for defense during Desolations, but military discipline has been forgotten in favor of the quest for personal glory. Letting weaker people die to gain advantage seems to be a national sport, and Sadeas has taken this to its logical conclusion. Dalinar seems to be the only major leader to remember and cherish older concepts of honor and quality, but he's having trouble applying them to anyone but himself.
  • Spirit Advisor: Syl.
  • Spooky Photographs: Not really photographs, but Shallan's drawings of the symbol heads certainly fit the trope.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Kaladin and Szeth both face this question, and go to Honor Before Reason lengths to uphold their choice. Kaladin chooses good, which initially gets his squad killed and himself branded a slave, while Szeth chooses lawful, performing horrible acts under orders simply because he swore to follow whoever holds his Oathstone.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After weeks of training with his Bridgemen, Kaladin successfully turns one of Sadeas' bridges into a shield to protect him and his team while on a plateau run. Not only do they not suffer any casualties, but Kaladin manages to get to the plateau ridge first, giving Saedas an easy head start to fight the Parshendi. Unfortunately, almost every other bridge team sees what Kaladin is doing and tries to mimic it to protect themselves, which ends poorly. The bridgemen outside of Kaladin's team lack the coordination, discipline, training and companionship that Bridge Four fostered over the course of months, which means their haphazard methods of mimicking his team's movements fail and turn the run into a complete slaughter.
  • Symbolic Weapon Discarding: Dalinar has already worked to move past his Blood Knight past and become a more honourable leader, but a defining moment comes when he trades away his Shardblade, a priceless and extremely powerful artifact, to free the slaves who helped save him and his soldiers.
    • Which also mirrors his vision of the Knights Radiant discarding their blades at Feverstone Keep.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Kaladin. Also Bridge Four (because of Kaladin).
  • The Tower: Used metaphorically in two different ways: First, the Tower is one of the glyphs (along with the Crown) that makes up Dalinar's House symbol. In this sense it probably represents power. Second, it's the name given to a large plateau in the Shattered Plains, so named because it's tilted and rises up on one side. The name here represents calamity, as no Alethi assault on the Tower has ever succeeded. This is definitely true as of the end of the book.
    • The Tower and Crown also get referenced in one of the Death Rattles, where someone laments that someone "won't take up the Tower and the Crown". See also: Chekhov's Gun.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sadeas backstabbing Dalinar and leaving him and his troops to die is treated as one of the most vile acts in the book. Even Kaladin and the bridgemen, well versed in the cruel depths lighteyes could sink to, were horrified and disgusted by the act to the point that they went and saved them.
  • Trickster Archetype: The King's Wit.
  • Truce Trickery: The book opens with King Gavilar of Alethkar being murdered by the Parshendi during a feast to celebrate his kingdom signing a peace treaty with the Parshendi.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Kaladin. Taken up to eleven as he survives being strung up in a HIGHSTORM.
  • The Unpronounceable: Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor. Most would prefer "Rock" too. Oddly enough, his name actually translates to "Rock". Specifically, a very special rock his father discovered on the day he was born. And it's a poem. Poems-as-names are typical for his culture, the Horneaters.
  • Uriah Gambit: Though he's hardly one of Sadeas' underlings, Dalinar finds himself and his men falling victim to this at the hands of Sadeas at the Battle of the Tower. Sadeas and his men establish a foothold for Dalinar's men to come in. Dalinar and his men charge in, using Sadeas's bridges. As soon as they are all on the other side, Sadeas and his men retreat, leaving Dalinar and his men alone to fight and die against insurmountable odds against a large Parshendi force. Only the timely intervention of Bridge Four saves them.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Alethi war of vengeance borders on this at times. A somewhat Justified Trope, as the nation was only recently reunited under one king, and that's who they are trying to avenge.
  • We Have Reserves: The reason why Sadeas uses completely unarmored bridgemen, because he has an unending supply and they distract enemy archers.
    • Also an Averted Trope. One of the reasons Sadeas wants the enemy archers distracted is that he doesn't have an unlimited supply of trained and equipped soldiers.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Taravangian. Sadeas also presents himself as this, though it's very possible this is just how he justifies his personal ambition.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gaz basically disappears two-thirds of the way through the book. To be fair, the characters comment on this, likely making this a Chekhov's Gun. Indeed, he resurfaces as a deserter in Words of Radiance.
  • What the Hell Are You?:
  • What You Are in the Dark: Near the end, when Kaladin and Bridge Four decide to go back to rescue Dalinar's army after Sadeas' betrayal. Bridge Four was trailing far behind the rest of Sadeas' forces. They could have made a run for it and gotten away clean; everyone would assume they'd been killed by Parshendi scouts. They go back anyway.
    Kaladin This would be death I'd lead my friends to ... Death, and what is right.
  • Wham Episode: Part Five of The Way of Kings is as Wham as it gets. When one part of the book is responsible for about half the spoilers on this page, it should tell you something.
  • Wham Line:
    • Syl telling Kaladin "I am honorspren". It explains a major question — the nature of her relationship to Kaladin — and provides a whole new perspective on things in three words.
    Syl: Do windspren follow the wind or do they create it?
    • And then this, together with Dalinar's realisation a few lines earlier that the words he has been hearing were a recording, and not an interactive conversation as he had assumed.
      Almighty: I am... I was... God. The one you call the Almighty, the creator of mankind. And now I am dead. Odium has killed me. I am sorry.
    • Jasnah and Shallan realise that the Voidbringers are the parshmen.
      Jasnah: We didn't destroy the Voidbringers. We enslaved them.
    • All the more dramatic because it has not yet been explored, but Shallan (when required to give up a secret truth) revealing—to the reader at least—that she killed her father.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Gavilar attempts one to survive his assassination at the start of the novel. He dresses up in his Shardplate, posing as a bodyguard sent to hold the assassin off, while Sadeas flees disguised in royal robes. If the assassin dodges the "bodyguard" to chase after the false king, he'll leave Gavilar behind unharmed. If the assassin instead stays to fight, then Gavilar can face him armed and armoured and have a good chance of defeating him. Sadly, Szeth is beyond what anyone can reasonably plan for.
  • You Just Told Me: Kaladin gives Teft an order in military jargon, to which Teft responds appropriately for a sergeant, revealing some of his hidden backstory.