Welcome back! If you missed the previous Stormlight Archive recap article you can find it here. Last time, we covered the world and history of Roshar. In this article we'll look at the three main characters of the Stormlight Archive so far, Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan. We'll also spend some time on the upcoming flashback characters, Eshonai and Venli. This article will have spoilers for the Stormlight Archive, but there will NOT be spoilers for other Cosmere books. Let's do it!
We caught glimpses of Dalinar's dark and bloodthirsty past as he worked with his brother, Gavilar, and friend, Sadeas, to unite the princedoms of Alethkar. Afflicted by the Unmade called Nergaoul (the Thrill) for most of his life, Dalinar's victories only left him thirsty for more. It wasn't until the accidental murder of his own wife, Evi, that Dalinar began to change. Her death left him an alcoholic and a shell of his former self, and after his failure to protect Gavilar from assassination, Dalinar became determined to turn his life around. He visited the powerful, mysterious, and ancient spren called the Nightwatcher where he asked to forget about the painful death of his wife. Cultivation herself made an appearance, and took all memories of Evi from Dalinar--giving him an opportunity at a fresh start. Dalinar seized that opportunity firmly as he joined the war effort against the Parshendi.
After a few years of war, Dalinar's resolve began to shift in a new direction. Strange visions granted to Dalinar by the Stormfather ultimately revealed to him that their God, Almighty (i.e., Honor) was dead at the hand of Odium. Despite the treacherous betrayal at the hands of his old friend Sadeas, Dalinar began efforts to unite the Alethi highprinces against the coming True Desolation. After facing the Parshendi in the center of the Shattered Plains and surviving the first Everstorm, Dalinar established a new base of operations in the lost, mythical city of Urithiru. His mission of uniting the highprinces grew quickly to include uniting all the nations of Roshar AND re-establishing the forgotten orders of the Knights Radiant. Dalinar became the first new Bondsmith, bonded to the Stormfather--the spren of the highstorm itself--and got to work. Through Oathbringer, Dalinar successfully established a shaky coalition of Roshar's monarchs to stand against Odium's forces. However his own home, Alethkar, became occupied by enemy forces and his nephew, the former king of Alethkar, was killed. Dalinar also learned of Taravangian's dealings with Szeth, proving again that even allies cannot be trusted. Though things may look bleak, Dalinar was able to confront his dark past at the Battle of Thaylen Field and move past it--thwarting Odium's plan to make Dalinar his own champion. Seizing fragments of Honor's power, Dalinar halted Odium's advance and earned the humans a much-needed victory--or at least a reprieve.
Dalinar's dark past is being shared in his memoir. How will this shape his relationships, particularly with Adolin, who Dalinar now knows is responsible for the death of Sadeas? The coalition has been tested and Dalinar's leadership questioned. How will his political position evolve after Jasnah becomes queen of Alethkar and Adolin becomes head of House Kholin? The Knights Radiant have had a year to grow in number since Oathbringer. What will Dalinar's leadership role be among the Radiants and what does his future as a Bondsmith look like, especially following his dramatic power-up at the Battle of Thaylen Field?
Kaladin grew up in the newly reunited Alethkar as an apprentice surgeon to his father, Lirin. He spent much of his young life torn between his father's expectations and his desire to become a soldier. Hearthstone's brightlord died when Kaladin was young, leaving his family to suffer under the bitter, angry Brightlord Roshone. After witnessing his father's strength and defiance, Kaladin decided to become a surgeon after all... until Roshone had Kal's younger brother, Tien, drafted into the army. Kaladin joined to protect his brother, but failed within months and was too ashamed to return home. Upon winning a set of Shards on the battlefield years later, Brightlord Amaram stole Kaladin's spoils for himself and consigned Kaladin to slavery. One year later, Kaladin found himself running with Sadeas's bridge crews on the Shattered Plains. His spren, Sylphrena encouraged Kaladin to fight on, and he did. Kaladin united the bridgemen under his command, trained them to fight, and ultimately saved Dalinar after his betrayal at the hands of Sadeas.
After joining Dalinar's forces, Kaladin's loyalty was tested as Amaram arrived on the Shattered Plains, reminding Kaladin that no lighteyes can be trusted, while his new friend Moash revealed King Elhokar and Roshone's roles in the deaths of Moash's grandparents. Dalinar's honor won Kaladin over in the end, as Kaladin grew into his new Surgebinding powers and used them to save Elhokar and Dalinar both from assassination. After the Everstorm was summoned, Kaladin returned to his hometown of Hearthstone to check on his family. Finding them safe, he surveilled and helped a group of Everstorm-healed singers before returning to Urithiru. After a few weeks of training his new Windrunner squires, Kaladin travelled with a team led by King Elhokar, to Kholinar to open the Oathgate and retake the city. In Kholinar, Kaladin joined Highmarshal Azure's wall guard. As the team attempted to open the Oathgate to Kholinar, the singer army attacked and seized the city--leaving Elhokar dead at Moash's hand and Kaladin's team trapped in Shadesmar. After Kaladin experienced a vision suggesting that Dalinar would soon be in danger, the team journeyed through Shadesmar to Thaylen City, where Kaladin failed to speak his Fourth Ideal with the team in mortal danger. Saved by Dalinar, the team was returned to the Physical Realm, where Kaladin fought and helped defeat Amaram, who had been consumed by the Unmade Yelig-nar.
Years of war, slavery, and bridge-running have left Kaladin covered in scars and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Kaladin froze at the death of Elhokar, with his oaths to protect leaving Kaladin conflicted, and he failed to speak the Fourth Ideal when he was needed. He desires above all else to protect the ones he loves, even to the detriment of himself. How will Kaladin find a way to make peace with his past so that he can begin recovering and advance as a Windrunner?
We don't know how or when Shallan's bond with her spren began, but at a mere eleven years old she was forced to kill her own mother with a Shardblade in self-defense. Her father, Lin Davar, tried to protect his daughter by allowing rumors of the murder to lay the blame on himself. The pressure of these rumors, along with financial decline, fueled violence and abusive tendencies in her father, and Shallan was left acting as the glue holding her elder brothers together as they suffered. The family's fortunes improved after Lin began dealing with the Ghostbloods, who gave him access to a Soulcaster, but his treatment of the family did not ease up--particularly after the eldest brother, Helaran, was killed in battle. Shallan was ultimately forced to poison and strangle her father. During that confrontation, Lin's secret Soulcaster was damaged. After failed attempts to repair the Soulcaster, Shallan journeyed to Kharbranth where she became Jasnah Kholin's ward in hopes of stealing the princess's own Soulcaster. Shallan was greatly enriched as Jasnah's pupil, but ultimately committed the theft and made plans to return home. A strange encounter with Cryptics and an accidental poisoning exposed Shallan's machinations to Jasnah, but the wardship was allowed to continue after Shallan was revealed to be a budding Knight Radiant.
With Jasnah's research suggesting the parshmen slaves were Voidbringers, the pair traveled by ship to the Shattered Plains in search of Urithiru and proof of an impending Desolation, but an attack by the Ghostbloods left Shallan shipwrecked and Jasnah presumed dead. Shallan made her way to the Shattered Plains alone, collecting several mercenaries and servants along the way. Once there, Shallan balanced her time between exploring her Lightweaver powers, infiltrating the Ghostbloods, and wooing Adolin Kholin. After exploring the chasms and piecing together her discoveries for the Ghostbloods, Shallan determined the location of Narak at the center of the Shattered Plains, and the Oathgate hidden there. As the Alethi forces clashed with the listeners and the Everstorm was summoned, Shallan spoke her next "truth" and accessed the Oathgate. To cope with her broken past, Shallan began to develop multiple personalities; first Veil, a Ghostblood spy, and then Radiant, an exemplary Knight Radiant. Shallan also struggled readjusting to her role as Jasnah's ward, having grown used to her freedom and the renown earned by discovering Urithiru and confronting the Unmade Re-Shephir that was found in the tower city. To escape Jasnah's scrutiny, Shallan travelled with Elhokar's team to Kholinar, where her skills proved useful as the group attempted to infiltrate the palace, but after several failures and with her identity in a tailspin, Shallan only crumbled further. With some help from Wit and some time processing her struggles in Shadesmar, Shallan's personas appeared to stabilize following the Battle of Thaylen City.
Shallan's early childhood is still a mystery. With her brothers' arrival in Urithiru, will she be able to confront or escape her past? Her distant past isn't the only thing full of secrets. Will Shallan confess her involvement with the Ghostbloods to Adolin and Jasnah or dig herself in deeper? After sorting through a bag of mixed romantic feelings, Shallan chose to marry Adolin at the end of Oathbringer. How will this new relationship affect Shallan's recovery and development?
ESHONAI & VENLI
Every Stormlight Archive book contains the flashback sequence for a certain character. In Rhythm of War, Brandon has confirmed that this sequence will be shared by Eshonai and Venli. These sisters are listeners (called Parshendi by the humans)--an independent nation of singers who rejected their gods, the Fused, toward the end of the Desolations, and thus were unaffected during the events which left most singers as near-mindless "parshmen". Small in number, their tribes went unnoticed in the eastern wilderness for thousands of years, until they were discovered by Dalinar during a hunting expedition. Gavilar took an unexplained interest in the listeners, and ultimately invited them to Kholinar to sign a treaty between their peoples.
On the night Gavilar was assassinated, the night of the treaty, he showed Eshonai a strange, dark sphere and spoke of the return of the listener gods. This would bring his doom, as Eshonai reported what happened to her leaders, who decided that very evening that Gavilar must be killed. Eshonai longed for peace with the humans despite her position as a Shardbearer and general of the listener army on the Shattered Plains, but was willing to pay any cost to prevent the return of the listener gods. This changed when her sister Venli's research uncovered a new spren that would grant a form of power called stormform. Eshonai volunteered to test the new form, which tragically altered her mind. After nearly destroying the listener people entirely and summoning the Everstorm, Eshonai fell to her death in the chasms. Before her transition to stormform, Eshonai attracted Timbre--a rebellious lightspren in who, against all precedence, sought to form a bond with a singer rather than a human. After Eshonai's death, Timbre began to quietly follow her sister, Venli.
Venli, far less altruistic than her sister, expected the return of the singer gods to bring personal fame and renown, but instead all she found was frustration and bitterness. Her people were rejected as traitors and Venli's own efforts were largely disregarded. After her loved ones were left dead at the hands of humans or Fused, Venli was claimed by Odium to be his ambassador to the newly awakened singers on Roshar. Unwilling to accept the mistreatment of her people at the hands of the humans but also disillusioned by their abuse under the rule of Odium, Venli was left with few allies beyond Timbre, whom she began to bond with following the Battle of Thaylen Field.
We can't wait to find out more of their history! What will their past tell us about the singers, and the listeners in particular? What revelations will their flashbacks bring? Looking to the future, there is reason to believe that a group of listeners, including Venli's mother, may still be alive. Will Venli discover their fate? Stuck between the humans and Odium, what paths will Venli choose next? Or will she reconnect with Rlain, the only known survivor of her people, member of Bridge Four and ally of the humans in Urithiru?
That will be all for this time. In the next article, coming next Wednesday, we will continue exploring some other notable characters! If you found this helpful, make sure to tag your friends or share it around. If you feel like something important was left out, or if you have a question, let us know in the comments. If you haven't visited our forums and Discord server, consider this your welcome! We'd love to hear your voice in the conversation. Until next time, Life before Death!