The Stormlight Archive

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The Stormlight Archive is an Epic Fantasy series of ten planned novels, written by Brandon Sanderson. The series is set on the world of Roshar, which experiences Bizarre Seasons and Hostile Weather -- the seasons change every few weeks, and appear in random order, while the hurricane-like "highstorms" hit every few days. The only exception to this is the annual "Weeping"; four weeks of constant, dreary rain (but no highstorms) that marks the beginning of a new year. These odd pressures have shaped Roshar's indigenous wildlife and human civilizations both.

In the distant past, mankind once warred with the demonic Voidbringers. Championed by the mighty Knights Radiant, armed and armoured with Shardblades and Shardplate, humanity managed to hold their own and prevail against all odds... only to be apparently betrayed by the Knights Radiant, who cast aside their armaments and vanished. The amazing weapons and armor remained behind, to be claimed by whoever can manage to acquire them.

Centuries later, the nation of Alethkar, having just signed a peace treaty with the Parshendi people, are abruptly betrayed when the Parshendi send an assassin wearing white to kill their king. In retaliation, the Alethi declare war and invade the Shattered Plains to begin a long and arduous military campaign.

The story follows several viewpoint characters: Kaladin, a Broken Ace with Chronic Hero Syndrome who trained as a surgeon but joined the army instead; Dalinar Kholin, a Highprince and war general trying to follow the old codes of chivalry; Shallan Davar, a noblewoman who is trying to save her destitute house; and Szeth, a man whose honor requires him to be an Extreme Doormat for others, who we first meet as he is sent to murder the Alethi king.

Novels in the series:

  • The Way of Kings (released 2010)
  • Words Of Radiance (released March 2014)
  • Stones Unhallowed (working title of third book)
  • Books 4 through 10, as yet unnamed.
Tropes used in The Stormlight Archive include:

  • 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.
  • Abusive Precursors: The Knights Radiant, or at least everybody thinks so.
  • 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.
  • Affably Evil: Taravingian. Also Kabsal probably qualifies.
  • After the End: The culture of all the characters believes this is the kind of world they live in. To some degree they're right, but the first book is one long hint that things will get worse.
  • Alien Blood: Parshendi have orange blood that smells like mold.
  • Alien Sky: Roshar has three moons. The first, Salas, is small and casts a violet light; the second, Nomon, is large and has blue-white light; and the third, Mishim, is small and has green light.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Dalinar's visions. An Apocalyptic Log from God.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Stormlight.
  • Arc Number: Ten, a very important number in Vorinism, apparently the world's predominant religion. Also four, though less than in Sanderson's other works.
  • Arc Words: "Find the most important words a man can say," as well as a few other quotes from The Way of Kings.
    • "The sun approaches the horizon. The Everstorm comes. The True Desolation. The Night of Sorrows."
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Kaladin's opinion of lighteyes. He's often, though not always, proven right.
  • Artifact of Attraction: Shardblades and Shardplates technically don't qualify, since the attraction isn't supernatural, but they're so incredibly valuable the difference is academic.
  • Artifact of Doom: Shardblades, possibly. Syl mentions that she doesn't like Shardblades, and that Dalinar is a better man for giving one up.
    • According to the Word of God, Syl, an honorspren, is specifically attracted to Kaladin because he refuses to take a Shardblade offered to him.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Shardbearers, who are given great authority regardless of their birth.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: If a Shardbearer wins an extra set of Shards, he can gift them to anyone he wants-- usually an equally noble family member, who will thereby become a badass.
  • 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: Many. Any Shardbearer is guaranteed to be awesome by the nature of the armaments. Kaladin and Szeth stand out in particular, and Kaladin isn't even a Shardbearer. Dalinar, on the other hand acknowledged as badass even for a Shardbearer -- at least, when he's not holding back.
  • Badass Abnormal: Szeth has special powers that make him a horrifically effective assassin.
    • Also 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. (He is, but it's hard to tell exactly when he started.)
  • Badass Bookworm: Jasnah.
  • Badass Creed: The Ideals of the Knights Radiant. The First Ideal is "Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.". The Second Ideal is different for each Order, but the one we know is "I will protect those who cannot protect themselves".
  • Badass Crew: Bridge Four.
  • Badass Grandpa: Dalinar might not quite have grandchildren yet, but he's over fifty, has sons who are in their twenties, and is basically a one-man army if he's got his Plate and Blade.
  • Battle Couple: Suggested to be the way Parshendi fight. Possibly also an appearance in one of Dalinar's visions; we see two Radiants working in tandem -- one male, one female.
  • Being Good Sucks: See Chronic Hero Syndrome, below. Also Dalinar gets a lot of mockery and scorn from his fellow lighteyes for his honor and his dedication to the Codes.
  • Berserk Button: The Parshendi/Parshmen have a race-wide Berserk Button when it comes to others touching/moving their dead. Kaladin figures out a way to exploit this.
  • BFS: Most Shardblades -- Dalinar's and Adolin's are mentioned as being six feet long.
  • Big Bad: One hasn't actually shown up yet, though given that it's only the first book of ten, this may not be surprising. It is, however, heavily hinted to be Odium.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Roshar is apparently a land without soil, has random seasonal changes every few weeks, and is scoured by hurricane-force storms on a near-weekly basis. Adaptations include grass that retreats into holes in the rock when threatened.
    • The Parshendi race has shades of this. We know their bones are red, and they grow their armor as part of their bodies.
    • Also inverted when it comes to the country of Shin. Highstorms don't reach there, so the ecology of the region is a lot more similar to Earth, even to the point of having strawberries and chickens. Visitors to this land from the rest of Roshar find it extremely strange.
  • Blood Knight: The Alethi, once a Proud Warrior Race, have degenerated to this.
  • 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.
  • The Chessmaster: King Taravangian. Also Sadeas.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Kaladin. He's almost a Deconstruction as the fact that he can't save everyone drives him to the point of despair several times.
  • Cliff Hanger: 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. According the prelude, the heralds swords would disappear if they died, so he's most likely alive.
  • Combat Medic: Kaladin.
  • The Commandments: The Ideals of the Knights Radiant.
  • Cool Horse: Ryshadium horses; bigger, stronger, and smarter than virtually any other breed. They choose their own riders and are apparently very picky; Dalinar estimates that no more than a dozen men have been chosen, out of the hundreds of thousands in the warcamps.
  • Cool Sword: Pick a Shardblade, any Shardblade.
  • Continuity Nod: There are a number of small references throughout the book to Sanderson's larger multiverse, i.e. the start of Chapter 18 mentions a man named Ati who, in the Mistborn books, was the god Ruin.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Many, though in particular the anonymous letter excerpts given at the start of certain chapters contain many references to mysterious people, places, and events.
    • The Old Magic and the precise nature of spren in particular. They're mentioned often, accepted as part of the world... but never truly explained.
  • 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 line that no one understands. Taravingian is collecting these, and at least one is a line from the Lost Herald. Another is directly prophetic of an event that happens at the end of The Way Of Kings.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Two characters in particular stand out: 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 snarky running commentary on anything and everything.
  • Dead Little Brother: Kaladin's brother, Tien. Kaladin became an expert spearman because he felt he'd failed Tien.
  • 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."
  • 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. See Berserk Button, above.
  • Duel to the Death: One method of becoming a Shardbearer.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Spren. There are traditional elemental spren like flamespren and windspren, but there are also spren for certain activities (creationspren for creating art, musicspren for performances), emotions (fearspren, gloryspren), biological processes/conditions (rotspren appear on infected wounds, lifespren appear near health plant life, hungerspren appear around someone starving, etc), and other things (starspren, which look like shooting stars but can change direction; deathspren, a mythological spren that are only visible to people who are very close to dying).
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Shallan and Jasnah.
  • 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.
  • Face Heel Turn: The Radiants, for some reason. We even get to see it at one point. They didn't turn on humanity so much abandon them to their fate.
  • Fairy Companion: Syl, to Kaladin.
  • A Father to His Men: Dalinar, and Kaladin. Adolin is showing signs of it as well.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: "Brightness" is used to refer to lighteyes in much the same way as "lord" or "lady" would be used for nobility. "Brightlord" is also used, but seems to be reserved for those of much higher rank than the speaker.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Spheres, which double as money (see Fictional Currency, below). When infused with Stormlight, they glow; the brightness and color of the light depends on the size and type of gemstone, respectively. Diamond spheres make the best light sources, as they're pure white; a mark is almost as bright as a candle, and a broam is several times that -- and (unlike candles, lamps, or torches) they don't flicker, don't give off smoke, and last for a week or so before needing to be re-infused. Clear goblets are filled with spheres and used as lamps; "wasting" spheres on light is something of a status symbol.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between lighteyes and darkeyes, and between Alethi and Parshendi/Parshmen.
  • 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.
  • Fictional Currency: "Spheres", which are glass beads with gemstones embedded in them. The spheres themselves are always the same size, but the gems inside them come in three different sizes; chips, marks, and broams. Nine different gemstones are used; their relative value is based on their usefulness in Soulcasting (see Magic A Is Magic A, below). To make things even more complicated, sometimes different names are used for the gems. [1]
  • Fictional Document: The eponymousThe 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.
  • Four Is Death: Before Kaladin turns things around, Bridge Four has the highest mortality rate.
  • Four-Star Badass: Dalinar all the way.
  • 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.
  • Gambit Pileup: There are a lot of different factions, some more mysterious than others, and all seem to have their own agendas.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kaladin, a skilled surgeon in addition to having enough martial skill to kick all kinds of ass.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The chasmfiends.
  • Glory Hound: All of the Alethi Highprinces, except for Dalinar.
  • God Is Dead: On multiple levels.
  • God of Evil: 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.
  • 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.
  • Hair of Gold: The Irali people have literally gold-coloured (not blond) hair as a racial trait.
  • 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.
  • Hive Mind: It seems that the Parshendi have something like this. They have an uncanny ability to sing in time and in tune with each other... even when out of earshot.
  • 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 on others.
  • 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.
  • Hostile Weather: The highstorms. They strike every few days, blowing from east to west, and are so powerful that being out unprotected in one is literally a death sentence. They've also scoured all dirt and soil from the eastern half of the continent (leading to some bizarre plants and animals), and bring the mystical Stormlight that powers everything.
  • I Am a Monster: King Taravangian
  • 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.
  • Jackass Genie: The Nightwatcher, who will grant seemingly any wish, for a price. In fact, most people who go to the Nightwatcher end up regretting it. The only person (we've heard of) who didn't was one man who made his wish to feed his family through a harsh winter. His curse was that he literally saw the world upside-down for the rest of his life. It was weird, but he got used to it. For Dalinar, the Nightwatcher erased all his memories of his wife. He can't remember anything about her except that she existed, and whenever someone speaks her name, all he can hear is static. As of The Way of Kings, it's unclear whether this is his curse or his wish.
  • Language Equals Thought: Averted. In Alethkar, the lighteyes are the nobility, and the darkeyed version of Alethi doesn't appear to treat them as separate concepts. Rock runs up against this when trying to talk about how nobility works in other countries, but no character shows any particular trouble recognizing the idea of lighteyes not being on top.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Dalinar was cursed so that 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.
  • Like Cannot Cut Like: Shardblades can parry each other.
  • Literal Genie: Subverted. One character thinks that the Nightwatcher works this way, and plans to word his request to her carefully enough that it doesn't backfire. His friend informs him that this isn't how the Old Magic works, though; the Nightwatcher will grant you your wish just like you wanted it, but she will also place a curse on you which she feels is equal to the wish's value. Sometimes the curse makes the wish ironic, but it's often completely unrelated.
  • Lost Technology: Shards. Scholars have been trying to replicate them for as long as anyone can remember, but only recently has any progress been made in the form of "half-shards"; shields that can block a shardblade, but don't grant any of the other benefits of Shardplate.
  • The Mole: Kabsal
  • Magic A Is Magic A: There are at least two different (though related) systems. Soulcasting can turn any material into a specific material, depending on the type of gemstone used as a focus (eg diamond is used for crystal, quartz, and glass, while emerald is used for food), and is widely used by the ardents, clergy of the Vorin religion. Surgebinding, completely unknown to most of the characters in the novel, makes its users stronger and faster, as well as giving them a minor Healing Factor; Windrunners, hinted to be one of several types of Surgebinder, can also use the "three lashings", a form of Gravity Master powers that change the direction of "down" for a specific object (the basic lashing), binds objects together (the full lashing), or pull things toward an object (the reverse lashing). Both systems are powered by Stormlight, which must be captured in gemstones left exposed to highstorms in order to be used later.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Word of God is that this will be a major theme of the series as a whole. Elements of it already be seen in Way of Kings.
  • Magic Knight: The Knights Radiant in the backstory. Szeth and ultimately Kaladin during the main novel.
  • Magitek: Fabrials, which are essentially steampunk-type devices which run on Stormlight. Shardplate and Shardblades represent a much more ancient and advanced form of Magitek, though the secrets of creating them have been lost (not that people don't try).
  • Mana: Stormlight functions like this when used to directly power magical abilities.
  • 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.
    • Also, given that Word of God says the Almighty is named Honor, Honor Chasm could have an entirely different meaning.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Odd subversion. The Alethi and related cultures at first seem to be this, with their knights and castles and lords and so forth, while other cultures like the Shin seem like Wutai. But then there's an interlude where we actually visit the Shin lands, and in fact they are much more 'normal' feeling to the reader because they have fertile soil and plants that are familiar to us (such as strawberries and non-motile grass) but treated as exotic and alien by the Alethi.
  • Metafictional Title: The namesake book is something between a holy book, philosophy, and a chivalric code.
  • Misery Builds Character: For Kaladin.
  • Multicolored Hair: Mixed-race Alethi (Adolin, for example) almost always have this.
  • Mundane Utility: Used straight and Discussed.
    • Infused spheres used for light. See Fantastic Light Source and Fictional Currency.
    • Dalinar wonders why no one ever uses Shardplate for anything but combat. And then proves his point by using his Plate to dig a latrine pit out of solid rock.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Odium
  • Nature Spirit: Some spren seem to fill this role, though many others instead seem to either be attracted to or created by intense human emotion.
  • 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. Also Wit, though in his case it's more that he appears to refuse to take anything seriously than that he's stupid.
    • Actually, according to Word of God, the first of those is not a true example. Taravangian's intelligence actually changes randomly from day to day. This is probably a curse or boon from the Nightwatcher. So in the scene with Jasnah and Shallan, he's not obfuscating anything, he's actually an idiot that day.
  • One-Man Army: The Shardbearers -- even stated outright several times. Also the Surgebinders, even without the Blade, as Kaladin proved.
  • The Order: The Knights Radiant, founded by the Heralds. The Knights Radiant were actually divided up into ten individual orders (even called such in-universe), though all of them seemed to be Shardbearers. Word of God says that each order had two types of magic like Soulcasting or Surgebinding (see Magic A Is Magic A, above) and each of those was shared by two orders (the diagram on the inside front cover of The Way of Kings illustrates this).
  • Our Demons Are Different: Voidbringers. Shrouded in Myth. They're the Parshendi/Parshmen. Maybe.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: The cultures based on the Vorin religion consider a woman with her left hand (the 'safehand') bare to be provocative. Commoner women wear a glove to cover it while noblewomen wear dresses with left sleeves that cover the entire arm and hand and button shut. At one point we see a prostitute, who wears a short-sleeved dress, and Kaladin cannot take his eyes off her safehand.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Parshendi, of the Proud Warrior Race variant unless/until they become Voidbringers
  • Peace Conference: At the start. It didn't end well.
  • People of Hair Color: Certain nationalities have hair colors strongly associated with them -- black for the Alethi, red for the Vedens, and gold (not blonde, but actual, shimmering gold) for the Iriali. You can even tell people of mixed nationality, because they usually have multicolored hair in streaks.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Shardbearers and Surgebinders. Jasnah has the potential when the mood takes her, as well.
  • Phrase Catcher: Everyone ends up calling Kaladin "Stormblessed" sooner or later, although he never says it himself.
  • Powered Armor: Shardplate is a Magitek version, a type of Lost Technology powered by Stormlight.
  • Power Glows: Stormlight is the magical "fuel" of this world. As the name suggests, it emits light, as does anything infused with it.
  • Properly Paranoid: Near the end of The Way of Kings, it's revealed that Elhokar himself was responsible for the sliced saddlestrap, faking an murder attempt so that his subordinates would stop writing off his fear of assassination... But he wasn't responsible for the sabotage of his Shardplate, which was only discovered during the investigation.
  • Proud Merchant Race: The Shin are basically the complete inversion of the Alethi. They consider warriors, "those who take," as the least of their society, and treat them as slaves. Farmers and the like, or "those who add," are given the highest position, since they are contributing to the world. Although never stated outright, one would assume they likewise hold their women in very high esteem.
    • Also the Thaylen culture appears to be heavily mercantile, most of the Thaylens we see are merchants, and Kaladin's father mentions that every Thaylen he ever met tried to cheat him.
  • Proud Scholar Race: Thanks to the strict gender roles of the Alethi (and the Vorin religion in general), Alethi women are like this, while their male counterparts are closer to a Proud Warrior Race.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Possibly the Parshendi. The Alethi deconstruct it; most brightlords are more interested in looking the part than living it. In addition, many Alethi have the "Thrill," a form of bloodlust that grips them in battle, and they've become so glory-hungry that they consider even thinking about peace cowardice.
  • Purple Eyes: Jasnah and her mother both have them. In this world, though, it's not an uncommon color for a lighteyes.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Shallan. The exact circumstances have yet to be revealed.
  • Serial Romeo: Adolin, Dalinar's son, has a new girlfriend every week, on average.
  • 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.
  • Soul Cutting Blade: Shardblades. Which is why they burn out the eyes of their victims.
  • Spirit Advisor: Syl.
  • Spooky Photographs: Not really photographs, but Shallan's drawings of the symbol heads certainly fits the trope.
  • Stable Time Loop: Maybe. Can Dalinar alter the past in his visions, or are they just a sort of interactive memory?
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Alethi and related cultures (i.e. most of the people we meet) have this for both sexes--only men are permitted to be warriors, but only women are permitted to be scholars, and it is taboo for a man to be literate; men are only expected to know the simpler ideogrammatic glyph system rather than the alphabet.
  • Summon to Hand: Shardblades work this way; they literally vanish into thin air when released, and appear in the owner's waiting hand ten heartbeats after they decide to summon it.
  • Technicolor Eyes: The Alethi (and most of the rest of the continent) are split into "darkeyes" and "lighteyes," based (obviously) on eye color. The lighteyes are the rulers, and their eyes are things like gold and violet and white in addition to more mundane colors like blue and green (although dark green is a darkeyes color). This can be inferred to be because Shardbearers become lighteyes, a trait which is passed to their children even if the children aren't Shardbearers.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Kaladin. Also Bridge Four (because of Kaladin).
  • Trickster Archetype: The King's Wit.
  • The Unpronounceable: Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor. Most would prefer "Rock" too. Oddly enough, his name actually translates to "Rock". Several different kinds of rock, specifically all the different kinds of rock his father discovered before he was born. And it's a poem. Poems-as-names is typical for his culture.
  • We ARE Struggling Together!: The Alethi war of vengeance borders on this at times.
  • We Have Reserves: The reason why Sadeas uses completely unarmored bridgemen, because he has an unending supply and they distract enemy archers.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Taravingian. 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.
  • Wham! Episode: Part Five of The Way of Kings is as Wham as it gets. When this part of the book is responsible for about half the spoilers on this page should tell you something.
  • Wham! Line: Syl telling Kaladin "I am honorspren". It explains two major questions -- why she's different from other windspren and the nature of her relationship to Kaladin -- and provides a whole new perspective on things in three words.
    • And then this:

"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."

      • 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.
    • Jasnah and Shallan realise that the Voidbringers are the parshmen.
    • 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.
  • You Are in Command Now: Kaladin pulls one of these near the end when rescuing Dalinar's army. As basically the only one still capable of rational thought at the time, he starts ordering around soldiers who completely outrank him. Up to and including Adolin.
  • 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
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The ordinary way to obtain Shards. Whoever strikes the killing blow on a wielder gets to take the Shards for himself.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Mostly shows up with the people of Shin versus those from most other countries. For example, the Shin people value honesty above all else (to the point that their trade negotiations consist of merchants downplaying the value of their goods rather than exaggerating them) and consider walking on or otherwise touching or damaging stone to be disrespectful. After travelling throughout the other lands, Shin viewpoint character Szeth reflects that it's rather hard to hold foreigners to these rules considering their lands don't have soil covering the bare rock.
    • The Horneaters have a caste system based on the order in which children are born, which defines their vocation. When Rock explains this to the other bridgemen (mostly from Alethi-related cultures), the oddest part to them is that the Horneaters do not consider being a warrior to be the highest and most respected vocation.
    • Crosses over with Deliberate Values Dissonance, but this is also true of the general culture we see with the Alethi and related peoples compared to the readers--for example, how literacy is restricted to women.
  1. Spheres are roughly the size of a person's thumbnail, usually with one side slightly flattened so you can set them down without them rolling away. Chips are the smallest denominations, with just a tiny shard of gemstone; marks are larger, worth five chips; broams are the largest. Different gems used include diamond (the lowest), garnet, sapphire, ruby, and emerald. We're never given exact conversion rates, but it seems to work in multiples of five. Their alternate names are descriptive; diamonds are "clear", garnets are "blood", sapphires are "sky", and rubies are "fire" -- eg, a clearchip is a diamond chip, a firemark is a ruby mark, etc.