Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: WINTERKEEP by Kristin Cashore


Rating: 4/5 stars

I love the Graceling books, and I was so excited to hear that a fourth book was being published. This was truly my most anticipated book of 2021 and I only just heard about it two months prior to its release.

Bitterblue is one of my very favorite books, so I’m glad that Winterkeep partially continues Queen Bitterblue’s story while also introducing us to new characters and new lands. This book takes place five years after the events in Bitterblue and follows the POVs of not only Bitterblue but also her advisor Giddon, and Lovisa, a girl from Winterkeep and daughter of two powerful political figures, among some other characters.

The coolest of these characters is a treasure-hoarding sea creature! Winterkeep starts out from her perspective as she’s living life underwater and watching the divers up above, and I loved it. It was a very engaging way to start the book, in my opinion.

In this book, Bitterblue has sent envoys to the new land of Winterkeep across the ocean, and they ended up dead under what Bitterblue believes is suspicious and malicious circumstances, so she and Giddon and Hava travel to Winterkeep themselves to investigate. But upon arrival, Bitterblue gets kidnapped, leaving Giddon and Hava to solve the mystery on their own for most of the book. The story also largely follows Lovisa as political tensions rise and she gets wrapped up in some mysteries of her own. 

I love how Bitterblue and Giddon both have fake conversations with the other in their minds while they are separated to help them remain level-headed and get through the trials they’re facing. It’s so wholesome to see how much trust and faith they put in each other. I loved their relationship so much. 

It’s really neat to see the new land of Torla, the continent where Winterkeep is located, and see how they’ve been developing independently from the Royal Continent during the first three Graceling books. They have airships and trains and different technology and language and animals. One of my favorite features of this series is how each book covers a different protagonist in a different country, so the further you read in the series, the bigger the map gets! Plus it’s also cool to see cameos from other characters in each subsequent book. I was hoping here we’d maybe see Katsa and Po again in this story, but we didn’t. The only previous characters who make an appearance in Winterkeep are Bitterblue, Giddon, and Hava. 

What I love about Kristin Cashore’s books is how well she writes political intrigue. Bitterblue has some of the best political intrigue I’ve ever read in any book ever, and Winterkeep is also up there on the list, but not as good as Bitterblue. I could see threads early on in this book that had me giddy with excitement because I could sense all the lies and betrayal and political machinations that were to come. It especially helped that there were so many POVs in this book because one character would mention something that another character previously mentioned, and I was just like, “Oh! I see how that connects!” and then I couldn’t wait to see it play out.

While there was a lot I liked about this book, there were also some problems I had, which is what kept me from giving it the five-star rating I had so hoped to give it. 

There’s a general air of mystery surrounding Lovisa’s brothers (Viri, Vikti, and Erita) that I never understood. They’re kept in the attic and constantly punished and would get in more trouble if Lovisa was seen helping them in any way, and I wish that all was explained. Like I don’t know if something with her brothers was a subplot that got cut out or if the story surrounding them was always intended to be as confusing as it was, but I just could not understand what was going on with them and why they were constantly being punished for seemingly nothing. I sort of feel like this was supposed to be a portrayal of neglect and abusive parenting, but it wasn’t clear if this was actually the case. 

And my biggest complaint: Whyyy was there so much unnecessary sex in this book?? Literally, this book is filled with sex. Lovisa is obsessed with it, and not only that but sixteen-year-olds are talking about sex like they’re experts. . . . That is the only thing I didn’t like about Winterkeep, that Lovisa uses her body in this way to manipulate others to get what she wants. Why does it feel like every young adult book has sex nowadays? It doesn’t need to be there! Not all teens are sexually active, you know! Teens should be learning about the importance of building morals instead of using seduction to get what they want. It’s really frustrating to me, and I’m sad to see this series succumb to that. Why can’t people just court and kiss and have that be enough? Meet in the middle of the night to see each other, sure, but why does it always have to lead to sex in the books? There’s a time and a place for sexy time in stories, and this story did not need it. I’d really like to know what was going through Cashore’s head while she was writing this book because I cannot understand why she would write so many scenes about children thinking about sex and also having sex so frequently. Cashore is so good at writing political scheming that I’m sure she could have devised another way for Lovisa to get what she wanted without her deciding to sleep with half the city. I cannot count how many times sex is brought up in this book, not just when it occurs but because characters talk about it all the time. It felt completely unnecessary to the plot, and the book would not have suffered at all without it. 

That was my main issue with this book, but that’s not all. The last few chapters of the story felt a bit rushed, and there seemed to be some loose ends that weren’t tied up all the way. Some of the most important details that we were waiting during the entire book for them to come to light were left as an afterthought, not even discussed but simply implied that such-and-such would happen. Literally the last two pages of the book I was so stressed because I was like, “How is she going to wrap up this and this and this in only two pages??” And of course she didn’t, which was really frustrating to me that I had read the entire book just for what I was waiting for to be relegated to an unwritten epilogue, so to speak. This book honestly didn’t feel like the end, like there’s more to come about Lovisa’s future and also about the future of the nations of Winterkeep and Monsea with the newfound technology and alliances presented at the end of the book. All of the other Graceling books felt wrapped up at the end like a complete story, but Winterkeep felt left open for more to come. 

I would love to see more stories in this world in the future, like maybe what Lovisa is doing with politics in fifteen years, Bitterblue’s future as a queen who now knows about her bounty of natural resources in her land, maybe a story about Bitterblue’s future heir growing up and discovering even more lands in this realm. Anything would be cool. I will read anything in the Graceling Realm because I love these stories and lands and characters so much. 

Overall, I’m very conflicted about my rating for this book. I loved the character work and the setting and all the political machinations, but I disliked the unanswered questions, the confusing details about Lovisa’s brothers, and the prevalent and unnecessary sex in this book. Winterkeep was still a solid installment in the Graceling Realm series though, full of so much political intrigue and many secrets and lies. I enjoyed it, but I still love Bitterblue more because of the characters and the ciphers present in that book. This series has become one of my favorite young adult series, and I will read anything Kristin Cashore writes in the future, whether another Graceling book or not, although I do hope we get more books in this world eventually. It feels like the kind of world that can be infinitely expanded, as each book is a self-contained story that follows a different character and covers a different location. Winterkeep could be the last, or there could be four more books, who knows?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: AMONG THE BRAVE by Margaret Peterson Haddix

 Rating: 3.5/5 stars

In this book, we follow Trey. I like that this series ventures between different characters’ perspectives. Luke is the ultimate main character, but it’s nice to see some of Luke’s friends getting their own books as well.

Trey and Mark, Luke’s brother, are on a mission to save Luke, who we’re not really sure where he is at the start of the book.

Trey is terrified of the outdoors (it’s unclear if this is because he’s agoraphobic or because he literally did not go outside for twelve years and it’s all new territory for him), so he really has to overcome his fears to save his friend. 

There is non-stop action and suspense in this book, every scene ending at surprising points that I did not expect.

This is probably my least favorite of the books so far, just because it felt the most unrealistic. There are definitely more antics and conveniences in this installment than in the first four. A lot of times, things were just a bit too easy for Trey, too many times in a row. There were still some pretty intense moments, but I think because this is a middle-grade title instead of an adult title, the author was able to take some shortcuts that wouldn’t have worked for an older audience.

For example, there was one instance when a thirteen-year-old suddenly knows how to drive not only a car but a stick shift on his first try with exactly zero instructions or help. I highly doubt that. Unrealistic moments like that were purely to move the plot forward and pulled me out of the story, so I didn’t like seeing that happen, but I do think it would work for the target age range here. 

It wasn’t just those moments though; I was also less interested in the plot of this book than I was during the other books. Ultimately this book was about Trey learning to be brave. He took lots of risks to save his friends, and he learned a lot about himself along the way. Self-discovery is great for middle-grade readers, so it’s nice that Trey had such a dynamic character arc here. 

Among the Brave was the darkest and most intense book of the series so far, and also the longest. It also had the most lasting implications for the rest of the series. I really enjoyed the ending and can’t wait to read the last two books. 

Review: THE WINTER OF THE WITCH by Katherine Arden


Rating: 1.5/5 stars

Much like my experience with the first two books, The Winter of the Witch left me disappointed and underwhelmed. I am very much in the minority here, and I’m mad about it; I really wanted to like this series! 

This book was honestly a struggle for me to get through. It started mid-action, yet I found myself so detached from both the characters and the plot that I just didn’t care what was going on. I probably should have just DNFed this series after The Bear and the Nightingale, but I pushed myself to continue to the end as I had heard that the first book is the slowest and the story gets more exciting in the later installments.

I don’t really agree with that as there was never a moment when this series was working for me. 

Although the plot does have more of a structure in this book, the slow, melodic folklore writing style remains the same, and I think that was my main problem. Regardless of a story’s characters or world-building or plot, if I don’t jive with the author’s writing style then I likely won’t enjoy the book.

I honestly think the first book can be read as a standalone novel as the ending wraps up nice enough with only the hint that Vasya’s story continues on. But I wasn’t compelled then to continue, and I probably shouldn’t have. I need to get better about knowing when to quit a book or a series when I know I won’t like it, but I wanted to finish the whole series because I already owned the entire trilogy in the beautiful UK editions and also because some of my friends from work were doing a read-along together. And, of course, I am the only person who gave the books less than five stars. . . . 

I feel guilty giving this book only 1.5 stars because I don’t think it was a bad book, I just think it wasn’t for me. But I rate books based on enjoyment and I didn’t enjoy my time reading this. I was mostly just so detached from the characters and the story at this point in the series that I don’t think there was any hope for me actually enjoying this book, unfortunately. 

I also hate to read about sexual assault in any manner, and each book in this series has a small scene that involves sexual assault, which undoubtedly soured my view on the books. 

Overall, know your own reading tastes, and if a slow-burn Russian folklore historical fantasy sounds like something you’d enjoy, then give this series a shot. I’d likely still read other books from Katherine Arden in the future, but it really depends on what they are about before I can say for certain. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: AMONG THE BARONS by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Rating: 4.25/5 stars

This book was probably the most unexpected of the series so far. We were introduced to a lot more characters and there were kind of two parts to the storyline. The first half is about Luke being at school and getting to meet Smits, and the second half is about Luke actually being among the barons, like the title says. 

Among the Barons takes us back to Luke’s point-of-view, like in the first two books. At this point, Luke has taken on the identity of Lee Grant, and we get to see him come more into that persona. It was especially interesting when we got to meet Lee’s family, who all know his secret, when we previously didn’t think they’d ever make an appearance in this series. 

I really enjoyed the character of Smithfield Grant, AKA Smits, and I thought he had a great character arc, even across this short of a book. As Lee’s brother, he knows that Lee is really dead, but he suspects foul play was involved. Can Luke really trust Smits? This book has a lot of secrets and mistrust and false alliances, moreso than in the previous installments, which I loved to read about. 

As a reader of primarily adult books at this point in my life and used to the subtlety of clues presented in those books, some of the foreshadowing here seemed a bit heavy-handed to me, but I think it would be great for someone actually in the 8-12 age range who’s still getting used to solving the mystery along with the book. And I will admit that there were still some reveals that caught me off-guard, so kudos to Haddix for that. 

I can’t decide yet which book in this series is my favorite so far as they are all pretty much equally awesome, but it might be this one if I was forced to choose. Each book in the Shadow Children series is so gripping and fast-paced and entertaining. It’s clear to me the direction the series is taking and what the overall ending will be, but I’m still looking forward to reading the next three books and seeing how it all plays out. 

Review: AMONG THE BETRAYED by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Rating: 4/5 stars

Unlike the first two books that follow Luke's story, Among the Betrayed follows Nina, who was a minor character in Among the Impostors

I’ve noticed that the titles of the books kind of foreshadow something about that book. In Among the Hidden, Luke was hidden and was with another girl who was also to remain hidden. In Among the Impostors, Luke was with others who were impostors (third children with fake IDs) like him. And now in Among the Betrayed, Nina is with others who are betrayed. It’s a theme, and it has me speculating about the direction the series will take based on later book titles. 

Nina is given the opportunity to spy for the population police in this story. Forced into it is more like it because she can either spy, or die. It was interesting following her instead of Luke, knowing Luke is still out there somewhere doing his own thing. 

I’m glad Nina’s storyline intersected with Luke’s storyline in the end. (This isn’t really a spoiler because it was obvious and implied this was going to happen in the beginning.)

I can’t wait to read more of this series!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Review: AMONG THE IMPOSTORS by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Rating: 4/5 stars

Something’s wrong with me when a book written for 8-12 year-olds is more appealing to me as a 25-year-old woman than some of the adult books I’ve read.

I loved Margaret Peterson Haddix when I was younger, and while I read and enjoyed Among the Hidden back then, I never managed to read any more books in the series until now, over a decade later.

I didn’t really enjoy the beginning of Among the Impostors. It starts out with Luke at a new school and he’s constantly being bullied and so much stuff doesn’t make sense, like why are there zero friendly kids, and why are none of the teachers even remotely nice or helpful, and how can they let Luke continue to be bullied and just ignore it. That part read very young and felt rather immature and unrealistic to me. But as I continued reading the story, things started to make more sense, and I started to understand why the school is the way it is and why teachers and students act the way they do. You really have to get through the beginning and get to some of the reveals before you can appreciate and understand why the beginning is the way it is. 

There’s an underlying mystery that starts to surface as well, and Luke gets more comfortable in his new life, and it didn’t feel so unrealistic anymore. And I gotta say, the mystery had me genuinely curious and guessing what would happen, which I appreciated. 

Among the Impostors was highly engaging and I flew through it. Like I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it, which I rarely do because I’m never that invested in what I read, apparently. If it wasn’t for the drag at the beginning, this book would be getting five stars. I’m very excited to continue on with the series now and see how Luke’s story progresses. 

Review: AMONG THE HIDDEN by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Margaret Peterson Haddix was one of my favorite authors when I was little, and I read almost all of her books. I remember thinking this one was about average, liking it more than some but also less than some other of her books. For some reason though, I never continued the series beyond Among the Hidden.

Now, thirteen-ish years later, maybe longer, I don’t really know, I finally decided to reread this book. And it was so much fun! I ended up liking it better now than I originally did.

Luke is the third child in a society where having more than two children is illegal and forbidden. He must stay hidden, for no one outside his parents and two older brothers can know that he exists. But then he meets another third child next door. . . . 

Luke was an enjoyable character and the plot was engaging throughout the novel. I actually forgot most of the details of the book, including the ending, so it felt like I was reading a brand new book.

I’m so glad I reread Among the Hidden, and now I’m ready to finally continue on and finish the Shadow Children Sequence. And maybe I’ll reread some more of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s books while I’m at it because her books never fail to entertain me. 

Review: THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden


Rating: 3/5 stars

After being disappointed with The Bear and the Nightingale, I wasn’t sure how much I would like its sequel, The Girl in the Tower.

The first book had a lot of set up and character introductions, so I had hoped the second book would be more plot-focused now that we know the setting. The beginning, for me, was still pretty slow. It wasn’t until part two that it started to pick up, and then I did start to enjoy the story more.

I liked seeing Vasya masquerade as a boy, especially during a time when that was seen as scandalous and unaccepted. She has turned into a BA heroine that we all love to see in fantasy stories.

I loved Vasya’s relationship with her horse, Solovey, and I enjoyed her being able to communicate with him. 

One thing that intrigued me was the phoenix on the cover of books two and three, and we finally get to see what that means toward the end of this book. I love phoenixes. It was a very interesting character that obviously will be more present in the final volume. 

Even though I liked this book slightly better than the first, I still didn’t love it. I think my problem is that the slow and melodic storytelling present in folktales and replicated here just isn’t my style. I like to see more detail than what we get here, and I prefer a more engaging and quick-paced storyline. Like I mentioned in my review of The Bear and the Nightingale, this series reads a lot like Uprooted and Spinning Silver to me, both the same atmospheric fairytale-type story. And I didn’t like either of those books. I think it’s just something about this style of writing that doesn’t work for me. Instead of now wanting to read more Russian folktale-inspired literature, I specifically do not want to read such, if they’re going to read like Katherine Arden’s books do.

I still do plan to finish out the trilogy and start The Winter of the Witch pretty soon, and I hope that one will be more to my liking, but I suspect it will be more of the same and only a mediocre read for me, unfortunately. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Review: THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden

Rating: 2.75/5 stars

I really wanted to love this book. I have many friends who love it, it has glowing reviews, and the editions I own have some of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen. I truly hoped this would become my new favorite series. But sadly, I am disappointed. 

First of all, this story is very slow. Excruciatingly slow. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t love action scenes and actually enjoys slow books. But it just wasn’t working for me. It’s a character-based story. While I tend to prefer plot-based stories more, I still love good character work. But that’s the problem here, I couldn’t relate to ANY of the characters. I really struggled to connect to anyone; everyone felt really flat to me. Plus I struggled to differentiate some of the characters because the way Russian names work, everyone had like two or three or four names and nicknames, and I couldn’t keep them straight.

I don’t really know what this book was about, either. It mostly follows Vasilisa, or Vasya, from the time when her mother conceived her until she was around sixteen, and she’s kind of the black sheep of the family, always running into the forest and causing trouble and having an opinion, which was really looked down upon during this time. The first half of the book is just day-to-day life and there wasn’t really a solid storyline. At one point she sees a one-eyed man in the forest, and at another point, Father Konstantin comes to their village to preach repentance. He’s very unlikeable and was constantly butting heads with Vasya. There wasn’t really much more that happened during the first half though.

The words “bear” or “nightingale” didn’t even show up until nearly 50% of the way into the book, but we don’t find out what they mean or who they are until 80% of the way through the story. Just verrrry slow-moving. 

Another thing that really bothered me was that the points of view of this story were all over the place. It would follow Vasya’s POV and then there would be two random paragraphs from Alyosha’s perspective, and then back to Vasya, and then all of the sudden it would switch to third-person omniscient POV and we would know what a bunch of people were thinking and doing all at the same time, and then it would switch back to first-person but in Konstantin’s viewpoint. It was so messy, and I can’t believe this wasn’t caught or fixed by an editor because this really felt like sloppy novice writing. Which this was Katherine Arden’s debut novel, and I’m sorry to say that I can tell, both from the writing and from the lack of structure.

This book felt a lot to me like Uprooted by Naomi Novik. That’s another example of a fairytale story where there’s an evil in the woods and the female protagonist confronts it only to find out that the evil is actually a misunderstood man who is only trying to protect her, who undoubtedly becomes the love interest and whisks the girl away. I had a similar experience with Uprooted where it sounded amazing and I wanted to love it but was only left feeling let down. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or if I just don’t like these type of fairytale stories.

Another thing that bothered me about this story was that Christianity was viewed in an entirely negative light, almost to the point of being malicious. Father Konstantin is easily the most unlikeable character in the whole book, and he keeps trying to force Vasya to do what he wants and force his will on her, when in all reality he is not God and therefore has no authority over her, but I didn’t like how he acted like he did. It also made me rather uncomfortable when a demon was impersonating the voice of God while speaking to Konstantin, and it’s not clear at first if it’s actually the voice of God or not, but the demon told him to do some not nice things to Vasya, and that whole scene rubbed me the wrong way that Konstantin would mistake doing evil as the Lord’s will when obviously that would never be the case. He was actually a very wicked priest, but I don’t think he even realized it. 

And then the ending was very anticlimactic to me. I didn’t feel invested in the stakes at all, and I didn’t feel sad when I know I should have. It was honestly a struggle at times for me to push through the ending. Ultimately I was left feeling like this was a forgettable story that could have been so much better but did not deliver what I hoped for. 

I’ve heard The Bear and the Nightingale is the slowest of the three books, so I will continue reading this series in hopes that it improves. I’ve also heard that the ending of The Winter of the Witch is one of the most satisfying series finales ever, which has me very intrigued to know why, so I know I want to finish the series, even if I don’t currently love it. 

I’m really sad about my experience with this book. It was ultimately just too slow and aimless for my preference, but I know it gets praised for its beautiful storytelling and atmospheric setting (which I disagree with on both accounts), so if it sounds like sometime you would enjoy I still encourage you to check it out. I will be starting The Girl in the Tower very soon and I have high hopes that there will be more of a central focus to that one and I will like it more, so we shall see. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Review + Summary: WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: 5/5 stars

10 stars. 100 stars. This is the best book I’ll read in 2021. I’m calling it right now and it’s only January.
“Do not let your assumptions about a culture block your ability to perceive the individual, or you will fail.”
This book. This book. I cannot express how much I love this book and this series and whole universe of the cosmere that Brandon Sanderson has created. There is so so so much depth and lore here that I’m positive I missed so many details. It’s probably impossible to pick up everything on the first read. It is truly amazing how detailed and intricate Words of Radiance is.

There is soooo much witty banter and underlying humor in the dialogue in this book. I was literally laughing out loud what felt like nearly every chapter. Especially during conversations involving Shallan—she is so clever and I love her personality so much. She’s definitely my favorite character.

I love the use of fabrials to mimic modern technology in this series. How do you have modern technological advances in a medieval setting? Magic, of course! It’s very cool to see, and I love seeing the characters’ reactions to things we take for granted, like Shallan having warm running water for a bath or the stormlight-infused spheres providing light in a darkened room.

I do not understand how this book was so good. Brandon Sanderson is so talented, and Words of Radiance was perfectly crafted. It has so many reveals at all the right moments; it has in-depth world-building and explanations of the magic systems; it has dynamic character arcs and hilarious dialogue; it paints the most vivid picture in your mind to the point that you’re sure Roshar is real, it has to be, because there are so many layers to this narrative that it seems almost impossible it’s a fabricated story and not a true history of a real planet out there somewhere. I’m in so much awe. And I keep hearing that Oathbringer is even better! I literally do not understand how that is even possible when this book is already perfection.

And that ending! During the last eighty pages I was completely losing my crap, simultaneously hyperventilating and jumping up and down. Ugh. So good. 

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, do yourself a favor and read the Stormlight Archive because there is nothing out there that even comes close to its quality and depth and amazingness. It is hands-down the best fantasy series being published today. 

While reading this book, I took extensive notes, including what happens to the main characters throughout the entire book, the importance of each interlude POV, substantial plot points, reveals, details, information on all the secret organizations, etc. I wanted to be able to remember all the details and have something to look back on later for reference since I obviously won’t be able to binge this whole series since it’s not all published yet. There are obviously SO MANY SPOILERS AHEAD, but feel free to read on if you want a chaotic summary of the events in Words of Radiance before continuing on in the series. 

Main Characters

Aesudan: Elhokar’s wife. Jasnah is suspicious of her, and during the prologue, she has her personal assassin, Liss, follow Aesudan and watch her.

Kaladin: 21. All the Bridge Four members got tattoos to cover their slave tattoos on their foreheads, but the ink wouldn’t take to Kaladin. He’s a Windrunner. He’s the new captain of Dalinar’s guard. He told Dalinar of his encounter with Amaram and that his Shardblade was actually Kaladin’s.
After a highstorm, Szeth comes to kill Dalinar. Kaladin and Syl sense something is wrong and he takes the Kholins out but run into Szeth, whom he starts fighting. Szeth was surprised to see Kaladin use Stormlight and asked “are they all back?” and then fled. Syl said that no spren guides Szeth but later changed that to no honorspren guides him.
During an expedition on the plains, an assassination attempt was made on Dalinar and it resulted in a bridge collapsing and Shallan and Kaladin (among others) falling into the chasms. Everyone died except Shallan and Kaladin. They fought a chasmfiend, Kal can’t find Syl anymore, the withstood a highstorm before they escaped. He found out Shallan has a Shardblade.
Kaladin remained behind, injured, while Dalinar took his armies to the Shattered Plains, and he learned that Moash and Graves were going to kill the king during this time. Kaladin decided to save the king instead of helping them kill him, and he went to the king and killed the guards, then Moash and Graves came and were about to kill both Kal and Elhokar, but Kal heard Syl’s voice telling him to speak the words, and he said “I will protect those who need protecting” and Syl turned into a Shardblade for Kaladin. Moash ran away and Graves laughed and told Kal it was too late, that they had him away from Dalinar, and Graves revealed that he was part of the Diagram. Kaladin asked Syl where she had gone because he thought she was dead, and she said, “I was only as dead as your oaths.”
Kaladin flew out to the Shattered Plains just in time to see Szeth trying to kill Dalinar, and he starts fighting Szeth instead, and the both Lash themselves up above the clouds and fight until Szeth realizes the Radiants are back and he’s not a Truthless after all, and then he unbonds his blade. Kaladin grabs it and learns it is an Honorblade. Szeth gets taken by the Stormfather according to Syl, and then Kaladin goes through the Oathgate to Urithiru.

Dalinar: He’s still having visions and Navani records them, the latest one telling him to refound the Knights Radiant. One day he went into his barracks and glyphs were painted on his wall that said “sixty-two days. Death follows,” meaning the Everstorm; he doesn’t know who wrote it on the wall. He sent out a proclamation to all the highprinces that they must start obeying the Oaths. During each highstorm, more glyphs appear, counting down to the Everstorm.
Dalinar takes his army out to the Plains, along with Aladar’s and Roion’s and Sebarial’s armies, to fight the Parshendi. The Parshendi begin singing a song of destruction, and Rlain (aka Shen, who came to Dalinar to surrender and is now in stormform) told him to not let them finish that song, even if it meant killing them all. So Dalinar attacked, on the last day before the countdown ended. The Parshendi summon a storm—the Everstorm—from the west (the wrong direction) and a highstorm also starts blowing from the east when there are supposed to be no storms because it’s the Weeping, but it was summoned by the Stormfather. They are on a collision path that will create the largest and most destructive storm ever. Szeth comes to attack Dalinar and he’s prepared to die, but the Kaladin shows up and distracts him. Dalinar gets all the troops onto the circular plateau and they all get transported to Urithiru when Shallan opens the Oathgates.
He climbs to the top of the tower in Urithiru and calls to the Stormfather, who reveals himself to be the Almighty’s spren, but the Almighty (Honor) was killed by Odium. Dalinar says that if he will lead the Knights Radiant, he will need to be one, so the Stormfather bonds with him and calls him a Bondsmith, and makes him unbond his Shardblade. Dalinar heard the screams now when he summoned it and unbonded it, and he will be a Radiant with no Shards. He also tells Dalinar that the Everstorm will circle the planet like a highstorm and come back periodically and it will change all the parshmen to Voidbringers.

Adolin & Renarin: Adolin is 24, Renarin is 20. Adolin is training in his shardplate. He doesn’t like Kaladin. Renarin was gifted a Shardblade from Adolin and is training with Zahel, an ardent. Renarin asks to join Bridge Four and Kaladin agrees.
Adolin has been dueling people to win Shards. At one point he challenges Relis to fight “with anyone he chooses,” thinking he’d bring one Shardbearer but he brought three, so Adolin fought three Shardbearers and Renarin came to help him and Kaladin came to help him and they won! Adolin’s boon was to ask the King for Right to Challenge Sadeas but then Kaladin asked for a book to challenge Amaram, which got him arrested. Sadeas sent message that they’d duel in one year’s time.
Adolin helped Dalinar fight the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains, and he fought Eshonai himself before he pushed her off the edge into a chasm. Before everyone went through the Oathgates, Renarin was going crazy in the corner and scratching zeros on the walls and saying they were all going to die.
Adolin killed Sadeas after he came to Urithiru and said that he was going to tell everyone that Dalinar did this all for show, that the Voidbringers and the Radiants aren’t actually back; Adolin got so angry he stabbed him through the eye and threw Sadeas’s Shardblade out the window after he died.
Renarin tells Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan that he is a Truthwatcher, meaning he sees, and he has bond with a spren named Glys.

Elhokar: 27. King. An assassination attempt was made on the king’s life by way of the chains holding his balcony up being cut, but Kaladin and Dalinar deduced that it was cut by a Shardblade, so it was an inside job. We later learn it was the Patriots who attempted this. Elhokar knows he’s a bad king but he wants to be good and he asks Kaladin to teach him.
Another assassination attempt was made by the Patriots, specifically Graves and Moash, and the king was injured but Kaladin rescued him and put him at Lopen’s home because no one would think to look there.

Shallan: 18. She discovers Pattern, a spren, who she bonds with. Jasnah tells her that her drawings of the symbol-headed people were a type of spren, namely liespren, or Cryptics. They rule one of the greater cities in the Cognitive Realm. Her Pattern is a Cryptic. She is a Lightweaver as well as a Soulcaster. She and Jasnah are on a mission to the Shattered Plains.
After Jasnah’s death and being shipwrecked, she joins Tvlakv’s caravan to take her north to the Shattered Plains. They encounter bandits attacking another caravan and deserter soldiers on their trail, so she improvs to get the deserters to save the other caravan in exchange for a new life in the Shattered Plains, and they oblige. Shallan joins the new caravan north and takes Tvlakv’s slaves before he heads back south. She learned that inhaling Stormlight can heal her.
Shallan joins with Tyn, who claims to be a con artist. She thinks Shallan is trying to con everybody so she takes her under her wing to teach her the ways. Shallan discovers that Tyn is an assassin who hired the men to kill Jasnah, and she’s working for the Ghostbloods, who her dad was working with. When Tyn found out Shallan was Jasnah’s ward, Tyn tried to kill her, but Shallan summoned a SHARDBLADE and stabbed her! Later, Shallan poses as Tyn while using the spanreed to write to her correspondent and sets up a meeting with the Ghostbloods. She learns that the leader is Mraize and he wants information on Amaram’s secrets. Shallan learns to Lightweave herself into a disguise looking like someone she did a drawing of, who she names Veil. After doing some work for them regarding recording the words that Talenalat’Elin has been repeating in the infirmary, Shallan is officially granted membership in the Ghostbloods.
Shallan has taken up residence in Brightlord Sabariel’s manor.
In her past, her father killed her mother and her mother’s lover. Her brother Helaran is a Shardbearer, who was killed by Amaram Kaladin, and his Blade was then acquired by Amaram.
When Shallan and Kaladin fell into the chasms, she discovered that the Shattered Plains are symmetrical through her drawings. She revealed to Kaladin that she killed her father and that she has a Shardblade. They defeated a chasmfiend together and withstood a highstorm in an alcove that Shallan dug out of the wall with her Shardblade above the waterline.
Shallan accompanies Dalinar during his assault on the Plains, and she draws a map of the entire Shattered Plains and learns that they are symmetrical. She finds a perfectly round plateau at the center and deduces it’s where the Oathgate was, so she has Renarin slice open the rock and they go inside the rock, into what used to be a building, and they find an ancient keyhole on the wall that fits a Shardblade. She discovers the entire structure is a fabrial, so she fills all ten lamps on the walls with Stormlight and puts her own Shardblade in the slot and it transports everyone on the entire plateau to Urithiru; the whole plateau was the gate. And she learns that all Shardblades are wrong except hers, because Pattern IS her Blade, whereas others’ Shardblades are from dead spren. Shallan is the only one (and Kaladin?) who can get them to and from Urithiru, the ancient city.
In Urithiru, Shallan finds a note with her the Ghostbloods symbol and her real name, and then she sees Mraize. He still wants her to be part of the Ghostbloods because he suspects she can Soulcast and be of use to them, and he says he has her brothers, but he gives her time to think and walks away. In her room, Shallan relives the memory of when her mother died, and she realized that her mother tried to kill her because she was “one of them,” so Shallan killed her mother in self-defense with her Shardblade, Pattern, and her father took the blame for it to protect her.

Jasnah: Elsecaller. She has a bond with a spren named Ivory. Was fatally stabbed during a pirate attack on the ship.
Turns out Jasnah’s alive. She transported herself to Shadesmar to be healed by Stormlight and now is back. She finds Wit out in the Shattered Plains and is ready to stop the Everstorm, find Urithiru, and refound the Knights Radiant, but Wit tells her it’s all already done, the Desolation has come. Jasnah realizes it’s different than in the past so her ancient records might be wrong or not relevant anymore.

Moash: A member of Bridge Four. Attempted to kill Elhokar, but was working for the Patriots when he did it. The Patriots want Dalinar to be king of Alethkar instead. Graves is their leader and a Shardbearer, and Danlan, one of Adolin’s ex-girlfriends, works for them. Moash took Kaladin to meet them one night and Kaladin was appalled and told him to not meet with them anymore. Adolin gave a set of his new Shards to Kaladin, who then gave them to Moash, and he agreed with Moash’s plan to kill Elhokar. Moash was about to kill Elhokar and Kaladin at the same time but ran away when Kaladin materialized a Shardblade and stood up for the king. Moash and Graves escaped, masked as darkeyes, and Graves still believes he and the patriots will save the world using the Diagram. Moash doesn’t know what to do so he just follows along for now.

Lopen: A member of Bridge Four. The one-armed Herdazian. There was a small part at the end when Lopen successfully tried to inhale Stormlight and a small part of his arm grew back.

Amaram: A longtime friend of Dalinar’s, he arrived at Dalinar’s camp and Dalinar made him the head of the Radiants reborn. He secretly has stashes of maps and writings. Kaladin told Dalinar that Amaram killed his whole team and took his Shardblade, and Dalinar investigated and eventually confronted Amaram in front of Kaladin. Amaram confessed that it was true, and he threw down his cape, stripped of his title, and left the camps.
At the end, Amaram wrote to Restares that they, the Sons of Honor, have been successful because of the discovery of Urithiru, that they will return the Heralds, that the world will have to get worse and more people will have to die before the Heralds will come back, but it will be worth it. Then Amaram goes to get Talenelat’Elin, who stopped as assassination attempt by the Ghostbloods by grabbing darts midair before they hit Amaram.

Interlude POVs

Eshonai: Parshendi Shardbearer. She calls her people listeners instead of Parshendi. Their race has many forms which they exist in, such as warform, mateform, dullform, workform, nimbleform, the newly discovered stormform, and slaveform, which is what the Parshmen are. They can only change forms during a highstorm. She will change to stormform during the next highstorm in hopes of using it against the Alethi, but her secret plan is to speak with Dalinar before then so she won’t have to use stormform. Their people speak in Rhythms, like the Rhythm of Peace, of Irritation, of Resolve, etc. The Parshendi really did kill Gavilar to save their own people, but they didn’t expect the Alethi to be so relentless at fighting back for so many years, and now Eshonai hopes to stop the fighting because too many Parshendi are dying.
Eshonai’s meeting with “Dalinar” (Adolin) didn’t go as planned and she transformed into stormform during the highstorm and is now able to be protected out in the storms. She has red eyes and red angerspren around her now. She got almost all the Parshendi to change into stormform with her and they plan on taking down the Alethi. Eshonai learned from Venli that the storms should be going the other direction (west). They are planning to create a highstorm while the Alethi are on the Shattered Plains.

Ym: An older man who is a shoemaker in Iri. He believes we are all One, the same being living different lives and experiences. He secretly healed a boy’s foot by using Stormlight. A Makabaki Shardbearer then killed him for an accidental murder he committed forty years ago.

Rysn: A girl at a trade with her babsk, Vstim, who is sick, so she must do the trade herself on the moving islands of Reshi. (She briefly meets Axies the Collector, who her babsk called “dangerous.”) They refuse to trade with her so she jumps off the greatshell as a sign of boldness and shatters both her legs but lives, and a creature they call a “larkin” comes to her. Vstim says he’s never seen a live one and they’re super rare. It has eyes of solid silver. Is it a spren??

TalnHe is the last Herald, Talenelat’Elin. He’s still dazed from his appearance. He’s with Dalinar and Elhokar now on the Shattered Plains, who think he’s crazy. By him being where he was before, the Desplation was prevented, but now that he’s here, the Desolation is coming, which he keeps telling Dalinar. He tells them that the ten Heralds each had a purpose in preparing people for the Desolation.

Zahel: (Vasher.) He’s an ardent and swordmaster. Kaladin came to him after the storm and asked him to teach him how to fight with a Shardblade, and Zahel told him to come back in the daytime because he has a nice persona in the daytime and an angry persona at night. He always uses metaphors and similes that don’t make sense in the Alethi language. He calls Wit Dust.

Lift: A Reshi girl around 13-years-old. Trying to rob the Bronze Palace in Azir with her crew. She has a spren named Wyndle who gives her powers, which she calls her awesomeness. She can Slick herself, causing her to glide across surfaces, and she can heal; she is an Edgedancer. She can metabolize food directly into Stormlight. She refers to a man named Darkness who has a crescent scar on his cheek and a black uniform who is a surgebinder and a Shardbearer. He almost captures her but then Lift is pardoned by Gawx, the new Prime, who was basically resurrected by Lift and is part of her thriving crew.

Szeth: He is having an internal crisis about all the killing he’s done and wondering if it was necessary or not. Currently his Oathstone is held by Taravangian, who has ordered him to kill Dalinar. He was originally deemed Truthless because he told his leaders of Shinovar that the Voidbringers were back and the Knights Radiant were going to return, and they said he was lying, so he got called Truthless. When Szeth meets Kaladin, he realizes the Knights Radiant are in fact returning, which means he wasn’t a liar. So he’s not actually Truthless. Which means his Oathstone is useless and he’s not actually bound by it. He unbonds his Blade, which was actually an Honorblade, and Kaladin takes it. Szeth gets taken by the Stormfather and he dies, but Nin, a man with a crescent-shaped scar on his cheek, resurrects him and renames him Szeth-son-Neturo. Nin is Nalan, Nale, Herald of Justice, and he recruits Szeth to study under him as a Skybreaker. Nin gives Szeth a new Shardblade that has black smoke coming off it (this is Nightblood!), and Szeth reveals that the rest of the Shardblades are under care of the Shin people. 

Lhan: He’s an ardent in Queen Aesudan’s retinue, who all live very lavish lives. He’s showing around Pai, a girl who’s from the Devotary of Denial and who requested to become one of the Queen’s ardents. Pai is very reserved and tells Lhan that the way the ardents live is wrong and they should be giving the food to the poor. During the night, she paints glyphs on the floor of each of the ten foolish attributes and writes paragraphs explaining how the Queen exemplifies these attributes. She was executed the next morning and riots then started that evening.

Taravangian: King of Kharbranth. His intelligence changes from day to day. During one day of extreme genius, he developed the Diagram.
Szeth comes back from his mission to kill Dalinar to tell Taravangian of Dalinar’s Surgebinder and he tells Szeth to kill Dalinar anyway and stay away from the Surgebinder (Kaladin, but he doesn’t know his name). Taravangian told Szeth that because Kaladin didn’t summon a Shardblade but he used Stormlight then he must have an Honorblade.
Taravangian’s father killed himself (basically) and now Taravangian is king of Jah Keved also. Apparently, Taravangian used to be close to Gavilar, who had confided in him visions of a united Alethkar, and Taravangian thinks he’s doing the right thing and is on the path to unity.


Shadesmar: mythological kingdom of the spren in the Cognitive Realm.

Surgebinders: people who are bound to a spren. Also, the power of creation. Soulcasting is a type of Surgebinding, but there are overlaps. Jasnah and Shallan are both Soulcasters, but their secondary abilities differ. There are ten abilities and ten orders, each order having two abilities.
All Surgebinders can become Shardbearers, depending on if they speak the oaths of their order of the Radiants.
Shardblades are dead spren that get resurrected every time a Shardbearer summons their blade, but the bearers don’t have a bond with their Blades, which is why they disappear. Shallan has a bond with Pattern, who BECOMES her blade, same with Syl and Kaladin.

Spren: fragments of the Cognitive Realm, of power. A source of power before it was alive, power given thought by the perceptions of men. Spren respond to either emotions or forces of nature (honor or cultivation?). But there is also Odium, and another type of spren (hatredspren?) that are pieces of it. The Voidbringers have their own spren, which is likely from Odium.

Shards: Shards present on Roshar include Honor (who is dead), Cultivation, and Odium. The human who held Honor was Tanavast, and he was considered the Almighty, but Odium killed him.

The Weeping: A period at the end of the year when there are four weeks of constant rain but no storms. The opposite of this is the Midpeace, a period of no storms in the middle of the year. People mark their ages by the Weepings. The glyphs counting down on Dalinar’s wall point toward the Weeping. Lightday is a day in the middle of the Weeping when there is no rain. There is a thousand-day cycle, which is two years long, and one year is an off-year, meaning the Weeping will be calm. No spheres can be reinfused during this time because there are no highstorms, so the people call it the darkest part of the year.

Nightwatcher: A spren that you go to asking for a boon and if it approves, it gives you a boon and a curse.

Honorblades: Shardblades that belonged to the Heralds. Honor gave them to men, who gained powers from bonding with them. Spren imitated this as they are bits of Honor’s power, which is why Shardblades are dead spren, and Kaladin’s and Shallan’s Shardblades are live spren. Anyone who wields a Shardblade will gain the power of the Herald whose Blade that was. The rest of the Honorblades are with the Shin people.

Secret Societies

Ghostbloods: Mraize, Iyatil, Kabsal, Shallan as Veil, Shallan’s father.
A secret organization that seeks power and isn’t afraid to murder.

Patriots: Graves, Danlan, Moash. 
They want Dalinar to be king of Alethkar instead of Elhokar. Tried multiple times to assassinate Elhokar. Somehow connected to the Diagram. 

Diagram: Taravangian, his assistants Mrall and Adrotagia.
They use the Diagram, written by Taravangian, to try to change the world. Sent Szeth to kill Dalinar.

Sons of Honor: Amaram, Restares. 
They want to restore the Vorin church. They believe that bringing the Voidbringers back will bring the Heralds back as well. 

Envisagers: Teft’s parents. All members are dead now. 
A secret group that awaited the return of the Knights Radiant.