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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 Copy

NotOJebus

If I held Szeth's Oathstone, smashed it up into a fine powder then snorted it, would Szeth still follow my direction?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, probably, but be warned that you're not dealing with someone terrible stable. You could push Szeth over the edge with things like this, and then you could end up in a very bad situation.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#2 Copy

Ray745

During the final fight between Szeth and Kaladin, Szeth seems far too surprised when Kaladin follows him out past the stormwall.

Kaladin exploded out of the stormwall, surrounded by windspren that spiraled away in a pattern of light. He shouted, driving his spear toward Szeth, who parried hastily, his eyes wide. "Impossible!"

And before that you make a point of mentioning all the windspren streaming around Kaladin as he's flying. A popular theory about Shardplate is that it's made up out of "cousin" spren. Obviously that is a RAFO question, but I wanted to ask if Szeth was surprised for any reason other than Kaladin just following him out of the storm? My theory is Szeth saw the beginnings of a vague suit of Shardplate forming around Kaladin. I know you won't answer that directly, but I was hoping to see your face when I asked it haha. Do you have any comment on that theory?

Brandon Sanderson

Szeth was surprised for more reasons than just Kaladin following him out. He is realizing that the Radiants are returning, and that his exile was unearned.

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
#8 Copy

R.E. (paraphrased)

Does Vasher have a different way of getting access to Stormlight than everyone else? Given that he has no spren, no honorblade and he isn't a squire?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. He can use Stormlight to stay alive, but it doesn't let him Surgebind.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Could Szeth get access to this method?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

R.E. (paraphrased)

And use it to fuel Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes he could.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Can you tell me what that method is?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*smiles*

DragonCon 2019 ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

Could the Assassin in White assassinate Prof from the Reckoners?

Brandon Sanderson

Could he? Yeah, he could. Depends on what- which place in the books you would put him. But I would lay odds on Szeth in that one, in almost every situation. *laughter* Now, the thing is, it depends also on how familiar he is with Prof's powers, how much he's acting like an assassin, right? Which is what he's generally going to try to do, but... you know, Gavilar got a lot of warning. So, if Prof got a lot of warning... the more warning Prof has, the worse it looks for Szeth. But the further in the series Szeth goes - if you pick him from a different book--the more likely it is he's going to win.

'Cause he gets a hold of something very important. *laughter*

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lashings

I'll be referencing the original draft of The Way of Kings (AKA Way of Kings Prime), written in 2002, as I feel it will probably be fun for readers to see how the book evolved over time. Every other book of mine you've read was conceived and executed over a relatively short period. The Way of Kings is different—it had a lot of evolving to do before hitting the state it's in now.

One of those evolutions was the magic. Mistborn had one of my best magic systems to date. In Way of Kings Prime (written before Mistborn) we only had two types of magic: Shardblades and Soulcasting. Shardblades were great, but not really magic. Soulcasting didn't work so well. [Assistant Peter's note: There was also something called Windrunning, but it was completely different from the version we know now.]

Mistborn really upped the ante in terms of magic in my books, and I wanted The Way of Kings to have a more dynamic, interesting magic system. That is one factor in why I waited so long to release it.

I finally worked out Lashings while on tour for The Well of Ascension. (That was the tour I went on following the call from Harriet, asking if I was interested in finishing The Wheel of Time.) What I liked about the Lashings system was the visual power and the means of manipulating gravity and pressure in interesting visual and creative ways. I had already built into the sensibilities of the world the idea that there were ten fundamental forces I had based on the idea of fundamental forces in our world's physics. It all fit together nicely.

Anyway, Szeth (named Jek in the first version of the book) was a more ordinary assassin in the original. He didn't have powers beyond being a really, really good killer.

Skyward release party ()
#13 Copy

JoyBlu

Szeth Son-Son. When did his name change from Son to Son-Son.

Brandon Sanderson

When he was made Truthless.

JoyBlu

Do we know the time of when he was made Truthless? How long has he been Truthless since the [Prologue]?

Brandon Sanderson

I know, but I'm not confident enough, because I rely on Karen so much to fact check my numbers.

JoyBlu

Is it like a couple of years or a lot of years. Recent?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say recent, but that's also subjective and relative.

JoyBlu

Because if he's lived a thousand years, then a hundred years could...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but he hasn't lived a thousand years.

JoyBlu

So, he's lived about thirty years...

Brandon Sanderson

Mmhmm.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#16 Copy

Alyssum

Will we be seeing Szeth training the Radiants in the future?

Brandon Sanderson

So... Szeth will be sharing some tips, but I don't know that you'll see him training. He starts the next book in jail, so... yeah...

OdysseyCon 2016 ()
#21 Copy

Blightsong

Is anything magical going on with the screams Szeth hears?

Brandon Sanderson

Uhhh, Szeth's screams. Uhhm, I'm trying to decide how to answer this. It is not, see here's the thing. What we would call magical may not be considered magical in the Cosmere, but it depends on your definition of magic. Would Szeth if he were on our planet and have done those things would he hear those screams, probably not, but would someone else in the Cosmere who had gone through what he had gone through hear those screams, yes.

Blightsong

So it has to do with the spiritual realm?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea, mhmm, yea.

Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

What’s your most terrifying character, and why is it Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

Ha. Nightblood is pretty terrifying… You know, an object created to destroy evil but doesn’t know what it is?

Questioner

When you brought it back...I had <to like shut the book> a little bit and like, scary.

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted you to think that Nightblood in the hands of Szeth should be one of the most terrifying things that you have ever contemplated.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

Szeth a lot of the time throughout Words of Radiance is referring to the fact that he's hearing his victims screaming in his head. Is that actually just his conscience screaming at him or has he possibly already bonded to a spren in some way, that is displeased with his actions?

Brandon Sanderson

That is not his spren, good question... It is not the spren—it is not a spren that is for one of the orders.

Questioner

Okay, but it is related to—

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't say that. I just said it is not a spren—it is not a Blade. It is not one of those.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

So at the end of Words of Radiance Szeth gets Nightblood. But Nightblood on Nalthis will suck your Breath until you die.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

So how can Szeth-- like presumably it takes whatever Roshar's form of Investiture is.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

So how-- but wouldn't it kill Szeth?

Brandon Sanderson

So that's-- First off let's make-- let's mention this: no spoiler questions. That spoils the end of Words of Radiance.

Questioner

Oh, I'm sorry.

Brandon Sanderson

You're okay, but let's avoid spoiler questions. That one will specifically be answered in the next book. So you don't have to worry about that as much. That is a read and find out. That one-- but it's a read and find out that's very obviously the answer is coming.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#29 Copy

The__Good__Doctor

Hi Brandon! I wanted to talk about the revised ending of Words of Radiance.

So, it looks like Kaladin won't be actually delivering the killing blow to Szeth any more. I think that Kaladin was entirely justified in doing this, since it was a fight to the death, and Kaladin was protecting not only Dalinar but his entire squad below. Kaladin even seems surprised when he lands the blow, expecting Szeth to block it like he had been doing the entire fight. The killing was not done in vengeance or with malice, unlike what Adolin does later. Having the storm kill Szeth seems like an anti-climatic way to end the scene, since it takes away Szeth's decision to die by the sword, and means we no longer have an example of why the spren Shardblades don't immediately kill people.

Brandon Sanderson

I woud be fine having him do it, though I think killing a foe who has given up was against this thematic plot. But what pushed me over the edge to change was the sense that I was pulling too many fast ones on the reader with people coming back to life. I wanted it clear to readers that Szeth was not dead, so this scene wasn't a fake out, which would weaken Jasnah's arrival later.

Dancingedge

Um, Mr. Sanderson, I don't mean to be disrespectful as you probably have the scene better in your head than I do but how is a man without Stormlight falling from a very large hight, while in the middle of two Highstorms coliding and throwing entire platoos in the air expected to survive? Maybe I don't have the right persective on this given that I saw both Jasnah (the body disapearing is just as much a give away as it never being shown in my book) and Syl (Pattern outright said Sprens can be revived) coming but unless you severly change the fight scene I don't see how being stabbed actually matters for Szeth survival chances.

Brandon Sanderson

The idea is that the reader didn't see him die, so there's a psychological trigger--one that says "Ah, I didn't see a body. He's probably not dead."

Yes, Szeth totally died from that fall--just as the young man that Lift revived had died from what he suffered. We know that Stormlight can fix the body and bring back the dead, so long as very little time has passed.

The import of the tweak to me is allowing some question in the reader's mind, so that the return is not a betrayal.

The__Good__Doctor

That is a lot more understandable. Having too many reveals at the end could be problematic. I agree that Jasnah coming back felt like pulling a fast one right at the end. However, I think the suprise of Szeth coming back was really well done, especially with the reveal of Nin (Nale, Nalan? This dude is so old he has three names!) at the very end with his special sword friend. I feel like that was the real zinger that should have closed the book.

I was a little underwhelmed with Jasnah coming back, not because I dislike her, but because I thought she was well and truly dead. She died so early in the book that I was completely accepting of her death by the end, and her coming back in a 'gotcha' moment felt a little hollow. Perhaps this could have happened about a hundred pages into the next book? I don't know the entire story like you do, of course, but as a reader it felt like Szeth and his rebirth should have been the final closing image.

Brandon Sanderson

This all came about, if you're curious, during the detailed plotting of the second book. Originally, the outline did not call for Jasnah to leave, but I was having real trouble getting Shallan into a place--emotionally and experience-wise--where she could do the things she needed to do while Jasnah was around. I determined that Jasnah needed to pull a Gandalf, and let her ward alone for a while, and I'm glad I did it--the book is much, much stronger for it. However, the side effects of the last-minute change in the plot required Jasnah's reappearance, which sent a few waves through the book. (Szeth's death and survival being the main one.)

Skyward release party ()
#30 Copy

JoyBlu

Szeth, when he writes when Gavilar dies, what language was that written in?

Brandon Sanderson

That was written in Alethi.

JoyBlu

Where did Szeth learn Alethi?

Brandon Sanderson

He has been living among them for a long time, and Alethi was also part of his training.

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

Who would win: Dalinar with his Shards, or Szeth in Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Young Dalinar with his Shards, Dalinar in his prime versus Szeth? I think, long run, Szeth wins. The reason for this being, Stormlight is just an unfair advantage. You take away the Honorblade from Szeth and Dalinar does win. Szeth is good. But Szeth doesn't have experience with Plate nearly as much. He has been trained almost exclusively on Honorblades and Surges. His fighting styles are all built around them. He is an expert at using Surges, but if he doesn't have those, he's got nothing. Dalinar is good at a lot of different fighting styles, has been in war a ton, and even if he didn't have Plate and you put the two of them without powers against each other, Dalinar's probably going to win. But if Szeth has an Honorblade... being able to heal and being able to fly, these are two almost insurmountable advantages in a one-on-one combat.

DragonCon 2019 ()
#33 Copy

jmcgit

Compared to Oathbringer, how much Szeth are we going to see in the book?

Brandon Sanderson

This one, probably less Szeth than Oathbringer. Mostly, because we're going to get his big plot in the next book. There's some cool Szeth stuff in this still, but we're looking more like first book Szeth rather than third book Szeth, where I give him his own micro plot in book 3.

jmcgit

I was kind of imagining, he's like the first character expected to die in the first five books.

Brandon Sanderson

He starts in jail, in book four. Because Dalinar told him to go there.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 1 ()
#34 Copy

Ramba Ral

How would a person with a Cognitive Shadow, like Szeth or the Heralds, look to someone in the Cognitive Realm? Would they appear to be just another soul? Or different?

Brandon Sanderson

So the question is, are there differences about a Cognitive Shadow in the Cognitive Realm. The answer is yes, but the way they became a Cognitive Shadow is going to influence how they look. And there are other little things playing into that. You could generally tell this if you knew what you were looking for. So the answer to that is a yes, but a qualified yes.

Orem signing ()
#36 Copy

Questioner

How do you pronounce Szeth's name?

Brandon Sanderson

Zeth. 

Questioner

Just the Z?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. There's a little bit of s...

Questioner

And Sazed?

Brandon Sanderson

So, he says something more close to Saze-d. But Kelsier says Say-zed. And people just kind of go with what Kelsier does. I say Say-zed also.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#37 Copy

Questioner

I read online, something about one of your original drafts, [I think it was about] Gavilar, and it was where he was blind?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that was actually Taravangian, in the oldest version. One of the very first things I wrote was that, though Taravangian had a different name then, and was very different. Szeth has stayed the same through all the revisions. Kaladin has changed wildly, and almost everybody has changed dramatically, except Szeth is the same person. Him and Dalinar are the same.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#39 Copy

Questioner

Szeth-son-son-Vallano, is that name common, in Shin, or is that something that...

Brandon Sanderson

Usually it's, if you only have one son, usually it's... Yeah, the son-son was because he was not considered worthy enough to be worthy of his father. 

Questioner

So is he related to Vallano?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it's the grandson.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#40 Copy

Questioner 1

In The Stormlight Archive, do we ever find out how the Assassin in White, how he gets the sword?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that should be next book.

Questioner 2

And does it intertwine any more with Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh... that you're gonna have to wait a little while for. You're talking about Nightblood. I thought you were talking about the Honorblade. Next book will explain how he got the Honorblade. How he ends up with Nightblood, really how Nightblood got onto the planet, is gonna take a little while. I will work it in. But it's gonna take a while.

Questioner 2

Does that sword have a character arc, because it feels--

Brandon Sanderson

The sword is important and relevant to multiple series.

Questioner 2

It's getting better.

Brandon Sanderson

He has learned some things in the intervening years. He learns real slowly.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#42 Copy

Questioner

Was there ever a time when you had intended to kill off a character, but changed your mind because you liked them too much?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm... I'm trying to think of whether or not this happened. I do believe that Adolin died in the original draft of The Way of Kings, which I wrote in 2002. he had a much smaller role in that book, and it played out very differently. When I did the newer version, which I rewrote from scratch, Adolin evolved much differently.

For those who don't know, he wasn't intended to have as large a role in the plot--but I ran into a problem during writing. Dalinar was feeling inconsistent as a character. I wanted to present him as strong and confident, but at the same time had him troubled by worries that he was insane from visions he was seeing.

This worked in outline form, but when I actually wrote, it seemed like he spent WAY too much time standing around worrying that he was crazy. So I expanded Adolin's character, providing a contrast. Dalinar, confident (to an extent) he was seeing something real--and his son, who worried his father was going insane.

Through this development, and giving Adolin more time on the page, he became a much more rounded character.

Another instance of this was Spook from the Mistborn series, who grew to have a much larger role than I'd originally intended.

There's another in this category--but it could include spoilers for an upcoming book. I'll talk about it eventually.

Brandon Sanderson

ETA: Szeth originally died permanently in the end of Words of Radiance. I also changed my mind to let Amaram live in the scene with the poison dart. Adolin killed off Sadeas instead.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
#43 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Will we see more of Szeth’s backstory, including how he became a Truthless?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That, you will have to wait for his flashback sequences in a future book. Each character gets a set of flashback sequences. I'm not going to promise that the characters live to the book where their flashback sequences are. You might have a character die and then get their flashbacks the next book to get more information on them. This will be Shallan's flashback, then the next book will be Szeth's flashback, then Eshonai, then Dalinar.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#46 Copy

cinderwild2323

What were you dissatisfied with in WoR?

Brandon Sanderson

It's twofold. Spoilers follow, obviously.

In the original draft, none of the alpha readers felt that I had 'sold' Jasnah dying to them, and were all like, "Ha. Nice try. No body. She's alive.' So I kicked the assassination scene up a notch, until betas were like, "Stormfather! Jasnah just died!"

That was a mistake, I now believe. (Though this didn't get changed, and won't get changed.) Sometimes, I over-emphasize to myself the importance of surprises and twists. The book is fine if readers suspect Jasnah is still alive--actually, I think it's stronger, because it is more satisfying to be right in that situation, and doesn't detract from Szeth's miraculous survival at the end.

I knew this soon after I'd released the book, but decided it was just too extensive a change to try tweaking.

The other one I did tweak. In the battle at the end between Kaladin and Szeth, I'd toyed with letting the storm take Szeth--him essentially committing suicide--as opposed to him spreading his hands and letting Kaladin kill him. I felt that after the oath Kaladin had just sworn, stabbing a docile opponent unwilling to fight back just didn't jive. This I tweaked, changing the paperback from the hardcover, which has produced mixed results.

Most people agree the change is better, but they also say they'd rather not have the hardcover and paperback have different accounts in it, and would rather I just stick to what we put in the hardcover. It was interesting to try, to see what the response would be like, but it seems that the better option all around is to just wait until I'm certain I don't want to revert any of the revisions or tweak anything new.

Boskone 54 ()
#49 Copy

Questioner

First, I have a message from my older brother

Brandon Sanderson

Okay

Questioner

He says, "just tell him that Szeth is the man, and he expects a bloody revenge story, where he whoops off all the heads of all the Shin guys who still have honorblades

Brandon Sanderson

Tell him that Szeth is anticipating that too.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#50 Copy

Questioner

He's asking if a larkin is capable of pushing Stormlight into someone as well as drawing it out.

Brandon Sanderson

Ahhh, that's an excellent question. They actually feed on Investiture. Like some other people and things that you've seen. *laughter*

Questioner

So is that a yes or no?

Brandon Sanderson

That is more of a no than a yes. *laughter*

Questioner

So that's highly unlikely that that's how Szeth was resurrected.

Brandon Sanderson

That is correct... You did see how Szeth came back foreshadowed earlier in the books. So if you watch for it, the means by which that happens is in there.

Questioner

How early? *laughter*

Footnote: Szeth is resurrected by of a fabrial manipulating Progression, which can be seen in one of Dalinar's visions in The Way of Kings.