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.

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