Words of Radiance

Inciting Event: There are a handful of “Inciting Events” happening throughout the second half of the First Act to the various POV characters, but the primary Inciting Event—the one that affects the main plot and all the characters—is the apparent death threat that appears on Highprince Dalinar’s wall during one of his highstorm visions. As it develops, Dalinar himself wrote the note while unconscious. It is not a death threat, but a countdown to the apocalyptic Everstorm—and the Climax. This event is placed quite a bit earlier than the optimal 12% mark (it takes place at the 7% mark), but in a book this large, the timing has a little more room to play with.

In other POVs, we’ve also got the apparent murder of Princess Jasnah—which causes her apprentice Shallan to escape on her own. In main character Kaladin’s narrative, we see his arch-enemy Amaram arriving in the warcamps as Dalinar’s friend and guest.

First Plot Point: An clumsy assassination attempt upon King Elhokar takes place off-screen. This is by far the weakest of the plot points in this book (as it was in the first book The Way of Kings). This initiates bodyguard Kaladin’s primary struggle, which manifests later in his decision to allow Elhokar to be killed. But it doesn’t create a dramatic exit from Normal World to adventure world, which means…

First Pinch Point: …you could make a good argument for the true First Plot Point being the later scene in which the infamous Assassin in White (who killed Elhokar’s father in years past) comes to kill Dalinar. This is a huge setpiece battle, a much more dramatic scene than the previous assassination attempt, and a major turning point for Kaladin who battles the assassin using his own similar powers.

However, even if you make the argument for this being the First Plot Point, it’s still problematic because the timing is way off (this scene takes place the 35% mark, instead of the 25% mark). In a book of this tremendous length, making readers wait this long for something momentous to happen is way too long.

We do have a really nice follow-up to this scene which decidedly acts as a pinch point, in which the antagonist Eshonai’s POV shows her morphing into the horrific and possibly blasphemous stormform—which will make her a nearly indestructible opponent and usher in the Everstorm.

Midpoint: And now, finally, the story settles in and really gets down to business. Right on schedule, the Midpoint arrives when the Parshendi refuse Dalinar’s treaty and instead promise renewed fighting. This shifts the story around, away from the reactivity (you might even say passivity) of the first half and into a very active second half.

Second Pinch Point: Dalinar’s son Adolin finds himself in a duel to the death with four other Shardbearers. Kaladin risks himself to help Adolin win the duel. After winning, Adolin then gets to the heart of the plan and, in response to the king’s offer of a boon, challenges Dalinar’s political rival Sadeas to a one-on-one duel. Blinded by his own hatred, Kaladin also takes advantage of the opportunity to challenge his personal enemy Amaram—which angers the king, who has him arrested. As a result of Kaladin’s rashness, Adolin loses the opportunity to duel Sadeas.

This is a great scene. Up to this point, I was pretty frustrated with the book’s length and general lack of happening. But this is where Sanderson does what he does best and kicks it into high gear. This is a great example of characters paying the price for their decisions—both good and bad—and feeling the pinch as a result.

Third Plot Point: While out on a hunting expedition, another assassination attempt is enacted against Dalinar when someone attempts to pull a bridge out from under him. He survives, but Kaladin and Adolin’s betrothed Shallan fall into the chasms and are presumed dead. They must work together to escape the chasmfiend monsters and the highstorm. Even more importantly, Kaladin “kills” his spren (the source of his powers) due to his decision to help assassinate the ineffectual king. He survives the fall, but then loses his powers—and is badly wounded before he and Shallan can escape.

Climax: The battle with the Parshendi begins. I was curious how the timing would work out in a book this large—if the Climax would still span the last 10% of the book. It does. This is a tremendously epic battle, on several fronts, that skillfully narrows its focus down and then down again to allow its characters to face their most personal important opponents. In a book this large, the Climax needs to be equally large to maintain its necessary gravitas and importance.

Climactic Moment: Kaladin—his powers restored after he changed his mind and saved the king—battles and kills the Assassin in White. Meanwhile, Shallan rediscovers the ancient Oathgate and rescues Dalinar’s surviving army from the Everstorm.

Resolution: Lots of loose ends to tie off here and lots of teasers to plant for the next book, but the most important happening is the founding the new Knights Radiant, of which Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar are all a part.

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