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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Way of Kings epigraph:

"Three of sixteen ruled, but now the Broken One reigns (Odium)"

Words of Radiance back cover:

"The Bondsmith (Dalinar), born in blood and death, striving to rebuild what was destroyed."

Am I onto something?

Brandon Sanderson



Actually, I have a question for /u/mistborn about that bit. The epigraphs were dictated, and honor's shattered pieces are in the highstorm. Is it "the broken one reigns", or "the broken one rains"?

Brandon Sanderson

It is reigns. (Though that is a cool possible interpretation.)

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#2 Copy


I was wondering if we can take the Death Rattles as written? So night is night, not knight. Reigns is reigns and not rains or reins, etc? Since they're written down by someone who is listening to someone else speaking, there could be confusion there. Then again, they're speaking Alethi, or the local tongue, and being translated to English, so their homonyms would be different. Also, are they always about the future, or can they be about the past?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this is a tricky one. I was tempted to go into it during the reigns/rains one--but since there is a follow up, let me see if I can explain it.

You note the mechanism I've said before that I rely upon, that of the idea that the books are done "in translation" from their original tongues. This is to give us another layer of plausibility in the linguistics--but it does introduce a kind of wildcard here in the interpreter. (Who is me.)

I am not against using word usages similar to homonyms as plot points, so long as the characters themselves are capable of making the misunderstanding. (The ending of the Mistborn trilogy involves some of these types of word and definition related issues.)

So you're not wrong to asking questions like this. I use them very sparingly, but I do use them. In that specific case, however, I was not intending there to be confusion.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty

Sazed Transcribes the Text from the Plate

This isn't the full text of the plate, of course. We'll get to more of it later. I knew I had to work the text into the actual narrative, rather than relying on the epigraphs, since people tend to skip those. (If you do, however, be warned that you will be missing some of the great clues in this book.)

My hope is that by reading these things together, you will see the writings from the epigraphs in a slightly different way. Collected like this, they turn into a narrative.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Two

This Book's Epigraphs

The epigraphs from this book are quite a bit different from the ones in the previous two volumes. These are a much more scientific, and—unlike the first two sets—are not from the past, but from the future. (Though, like the other two, they're from a written record that eventually does appear in the novel.)

This is intentional. In the other two books, the epigraphs were intended to fill out the mythology of the world. By having them come from the past, I was able to add a weight of history to the story that would otherwise have been missing, as the characters weren't focusing much on those kinds of things. In this book, however, I felt that digging up yet another ancient record would be repetitious. I wanted to do something new, something that would add to the tone of this novel.

And, since the book is about the end of the world, I figured that someone looking back on events and writing about them would give just the right mixture of mystery (Who is it?) tension (Does the world actually end? How can it, if someone survives to write?) and information. These epigraphs, then, are meant to answer questions and fill out the setting of the world in a different way from the other two.

I do worry that they're too scientific for the feel of the book. I like my books to feel like fantasy, but I really walk the line with how technical my explanations of the magic can feel. Overall, in my books I generally shoot for more of a Renaissance or early industrial revolution feel than a classical medieval feel.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Sazed's Speech Patterns

Sazed thinks here, I am, unfortunately, in charge. Look back at the very first epigraph of the book. Notice a similarity? All of the epigraphs in this novel use Sazed's distinct language style. They sound so much like how he talks that I thought, at first, that it would be blatantly obvious from the first few chapters. Fortunately for me, most people don't pay that much conscious attention to how characters speak.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight - Part Four

So, my favorite secret in the novel is the fact that the Lord Ruler is actually Rashek. I'm still not sure if this revelation will mean as much to readers as I want it to–it depends on them reading, and caring, about the story that happened in the past. However, when it all comes together, I think it really pays off.

So, the concept that started me on this book was "What if the Dark Lord won?" I thought about that, then figured it would be more scary if the hero had become the Dark Lord–only something worse. Kind of a "What if Frodo kept the ring?" idea. Well, I eventually decided to twist that into a "What if Sam killed Frodo and took the ring, then became a Dark Lord?" Like Kelsier says, there's always another secret.

The story, of course, grew into much more from there. The interaction between Rashek and Alendi (the unnamed hero from the logbook) was interesting enough to me that I decided to give it its own story, told through the chapter bumps. I see this book as actually having three prime viewpoint characters: Vin, Kelsier, and Alendi.

My favorite kinds of revelations are after this nature–things that the reader has been familiar with, yet not quite understanding, the entire book. Things you could have figured out much earlier, if you'd really been paying attention to the right clues.

These clues, then, led to the source of the Lord Ruler's immortality. It has been foreshadowed that age is one of the things that Feruchemists can store up, and we've established that the Lord Ruler can change his age. So, I don't think it was too great a stretch to make Vin understand that his Feruchemical storages were somehow behind his immortality. You'll get more explanation of this in the epilogue.

YouTube Livestream 26 ()
#7 Copy


Did the uses of epigraphs in the Robotech novels influence your own usage of epigraphs?

Brandon Sanderson

I can't say; I wouldn't even have been able to remember that they did have them. I know I liked them. If I were gonna point toward one, I'd point toward Dune. Because, though I read all the Robotech books as a kid and really liked them, Dune I read during a more formative time in my writing, after I decided I wanted to be a writer and was really looking at the structure of stories, and things like that. So that's probably the one I would point to. And the epigraphs in Dune are ephemera, they're very similar. (Though they all tend to be from the same piece, I believe; I think they're all from the journal.) But it could have had an unconscious influence. There are a lot of great books that use epigraphs. But I would not have been able to tell you if they had.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#8 Copy


Considering epigraphs, do you know what is going to be in them, do you have like a big list of quotes and letters that are going there or is it more a thing of the moment? Do you link quotes with particular chapters or are they in no particular order?

Brandon Sanderson

I know what they will be for each book, generally. As I write chapters, I'll sometimes make notes to myself about what should go in this epigraph. On other chapters, though, I just slice up one that seems good and put it on.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 5 ()
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Cheyenne Sedai

The epigraph that mentions Discord in The Final Empire is the same chapter where Sazed is introduced. Was that intentional and meant as a way of foreshadowing?

Brandon Sanderson

I want to say yes, but the truth is, I did what I always do, which is I wrote the epigraphs in one long thing after I finished the book, and then I spaced them out. Now, it's been almost twenty years. Maybe I'm like, "Oh, I should make sure of this and that for things that are happening here." But the honest truth is that I can't say that I did that on purpose. That would have been really a clever thing to do! But serendipity.

Again, I write the epigraphs, almost always, as a big section, and then I slice them up and I try to make sure they look good at the start. They're written, oftentimes, as a big paragraph that I'm then slicing up and then revising to make sure it works in its own little thing. And sometimes I'm taking pieces of one and moving it forward.

So the answer to that is, pretend I'm that smart, but I don't think I actually was.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Epilogue - Part One

This last epigraph is actually out of order. Most of them were chronological as Vin read from the logbook. This one, however, doesn't actually come after the one before it. I just put it here because it felt like it belonged at the end.

I did, actually, write most of these epigraphs (or bumps–or whatever you want to call the things at the beginnings of chapters) in one lump, then cut them apart, as I think I've mentioned. I did the same thing for book two, actually, where there's a different kind of puzzle going on in the narratives.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

Avoiding Hints about the Epigraph Author

The epigraph to this chapter, where the epigraph author discusses that he/she is going to refer to each group as "we" is very important, though most readers skip over it. What she/he is saying here is that you aren't going to be able to guess who he/she is simply by looking at which parts of this book she/he discusses. And that's all I'm going to say, because typing he/she all the time is getting very annoying/frustrating.

Boskone 54 ()
#12 Copy


We know that Hoid is really old. Is there anyone else around that same age who is not a Shardholder?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. He communicates with one of these people by a letter in one of them.



Brandon Sanderson

Not very many, let’s say that.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen - Part One

The epigrams in this section of the book should look familiar. Not because you've read them before, but because–assuming you have any familiarity with fantasy–you've read this kind of story before. The young peasant hero who rises up to fight the dark evil. I suspect that the jacket flap, if you've read it, gives away much of this storyline. This is one of the foundational concepts for the book, however. I've read too many stories about young peasant boys who save the world. I wanted to tell one about a world where the prophesied here came, then failed!

This concept, of course, evolved. The original idea was for the Dark Lord to defeat the peasant boy. Instead, however, I found the concept of the peasant boy becoming the dark lord more interesting.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Originally, I started this chapter by going right into the logbook excerpt. Then, I realized that I had logbook excerpts before and after the chapter heading–which made things confusing. So, I added in the quick sentence about what Kelsier was doing.

This is our first chance to see the text of the logbook collected in a longer form. I don't repeat all of the chapter epigraphs in-text–just some of the more essential ones. Partially, this is to make certain everyone who's been skipping the epigraphs has some of that information, and partially it's so that those of you who HAVE been reading the epigraphs can see some greater context for their order and flow.

OdysseyCon 2016 ()
#15 Copy

Questioner #1 (in Mistborn cosplay)

I was wondering if we were ever going to see dragons in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Dragonsteel, which is one of the first books that I wrote in the Cosmere has dragons. It's also just one of the weaker books, so I can't publish it as is, but yea. Being a big fan of dragons, I did write them into the Cosmere. They are the one kind of generic- kind of the standard fantasy race in there.

Questioner #2

Are they ever going to infiltrate the other worlds kind of?

Brandon Sanderson

Well Hoid writes a letter to one, he calls him you old reptile. And that's in Words of Radiance. So that's a letter to one of the dragons. So they are referenced.

Questioner #3

I thought that was a general insult.

Brandon Sanderson

Nope, he's actually writing to Frost, an old reptile.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

An item of note is in this chapter bump. I mention "Terris" for the first time here, which I was glad that I was able to do. Remember that name, because you'll soon get a lot more about that country.

I do worry that the bumps will make the book feel a little too much like a standard fantasy. Mention of prophesies and the like has become such a cliché in fantasy that I avoid them whenever I can. The story in Mistborn doesn't really deal much with that aspect of the history, but the story that is happening in the bumps has quite a bit to do with it.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One - Part One

The "bumps" or "trailers" or whatever you want to call them–those things at the beginnings of the chapters–are a very interesting part of the book for me. If you're reading the novel for the first time as you go through these Annotations, I'd recommend paying good attention to what happens in the bumps. This isn't like Dune, or even Ender's Game, where the bumps give interesting–but tangential–information. These little paragraphs are vital if you want to figure out the climax of the story before it happens.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#19 Copy


In a couple of your books you put some epigraphs in the front of the chapters to serve as hints or easter eggs. Most seem as excerpts of a already written book. So here's my question, do you write all the epigraphs at one time and distribute across your chapters or do you just write it when you reach the chapter and the edit it all to make it fit?

Brandon Sanderson

I generally write them all at once, though once in a while I put a note on a chapter when writing it to indicate what should go there.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I sincerely hope that you've figured out that the logbook Sazed is translating is the source of the epigraph/bumps at the beginnings of the chapters. I found this a very interesting way to use the epigraphs–almost every one of my alpha readers spent a lot of time trying to guess who wrote them, and where they came from. That kind of anticipation makes for strong storytelling, and so I'm very pleased with the way the bumps start to come together and make more sense once the book gets found.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

This is probably my favorite section from the logbook. It really comes together here, weaving in elements from the various epigraphs, making a story out of what the reader has previously only seen in pieces.

I hope this story-within-a-story is interesting to you. It really does have a purpose in the novel, as you'll eventually see. At the very least, I should hope that the concept intrigues you. The past story is, after all, the standard fantasy novel story–the young peasant hero who follows the prophesies to rise up and defeat the dark lord. Except, as you can guess, something went wrong.

Though I try to avoid writing the standard fantasy story, it intrigues me. That's why I wanted to have these epigraphs make reference to the concept. They let me play with what has come before me, without actually forcing my readers to spend all their time reading "my" interpretation of the same old story. (It seems that every fantasy author has their own spin on this story–yet none of them realize that as a reader, I don't really want to read a new spin on an old story. I want to read a new story.)

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

One thought—you might want to go through the book after each section ending and read ONLY the italicized epigrams at the beginnings of chapters. They tell a story in and of themselves. I will, for those of you who are epigram-challenged, dump some of the more important sections into the narrative later. However, there are some subtle things you'll miss if you don't read through all of the introductions.

The concept of these epigrams—telling a story within a story—was another of the big things that made me want to write the book. There really is a third viewpoint happening in this book—a first person viewpoint that comes in each chapter, if only very briefly. Who is writing them? Where do they come from? You'll find out soon. (Like, in just a couple of chapters.)