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Shalash and Taln during the Desolations
Fan art by shuravf[1]

Desolations are cataclysmic events in the history of Roshar (i.e., cyclical wars) when the forces of Odium - including the mysterious Voidbringers - supposedly attack Roshar in order to exile humankind to Damnation.[1]


Vorinism teaches that there were a hundred Desolations before the Voidbringers were driven back and defeated. However, in the Prelude to The Way of Kings, it is revealed that the Heralds had lost their resolve to fight, lied to humanity and the Knights Radiant, and broken the Oathpact to free themselves. As a result, they abandoned one of their ten (i.e., Taln).[2]

Having done scholarly work on Vorin theory, Kalami relates to Dalinar that the Desolations were destruction made manifest. That each one was so profoundly devastating that humankind was left broken; populations ruined, society crippled, scholars dead. Further, she states that humankind was forced to spend generations rebuilding after each one. She elaborates by saying that songs tell of how the losses compounded upon one another, causing humankind to to slide farther each time, until the Heralds left a people with swords and fabrials and returned to find them wielding sticks and stone axes.[3]

In truth, Desolations are an eternal war between humanity and the vengeful souls of the Dawnsingers; ancient singers who were slaughtered by humans when they first came to Roshar. These souls were empowered by Odium to reincarnate by possessing and empowering bodies of parshmen, thereby creating what are called the Fused.[4] When these Fused would descend to Roshar (i.e., Return), humans called these Desolations.[5]

The ten Heralds empowered by Honor spent centuries containing these souls in what is called Damnation, where they were tortured by them until one broke and they all returned to Roshar to begin the war all over again.[6]


"In the aftermath of each one, mankind was broken. Great cities in ashes, industry smashed. Each time, knowledge and growth were reduced to an almost prehistoric state - it took centuries of rebuilding to restore civilization to what it had been before."

Jasnah to Shallan[7]

Known Desolations[]

Further information: Chronology
  • The first Desolation was the invasion of mankind on Roshar. The Dawnsingers (or singers) spoke of this time in their Dawnchants, naming humans as the Voidbringers because they had brought Odium with them.[8]
  • The Desolation that presumably occurred sometime after the Eighth Epoch, three thirty-seven; revealed in Dalinar's visions.[9]
  • The Desolation known as Aharietiam in Vorin teachings and believed to be the Last Desolation. It took place 4500 years before the events within The Way of Kings.[10]
  • The True Desolation that was announced by the returning Herald, Talenel, at the end of The Way of Kings.[6]

Jasnah's Notes[]

The following notes are from the epigraphs in chapters 29 to 51, written by Jasnah Kholin.

The ones of ash and fire, who killed like a swarm, relentless before the Heralds.

–Noted in Masly, page 337. Corroborated by Coldwin and Hasavah.[11]

They were suddenly dangerous. Like a calm day that became a tempest.

–This fragment is the origin of the Thaylen proverb that was eventually reworked into a more complex derivation. I believe it may reference the Voidbringers. See Ixsix's Emperor, fourth chapter.[12]

They lived high atop a place no man could reach, but all could visit. The tower city itself, crafted by the hands of no man.

–Though The Song of the Last Summer is a fanciful tale of romance from the third century after the Recreance, it is likely a valid reference in this case. See page 27 of Varala's translation, and note the undertext.[13]

They changed, even as we fought them. Like shadows they were, that can transform as the flame dances. Never underestimate them because of what you first see.

–Purports to be a scrap collected from Talatin, a Radiant of the order of Stonewards. The source – Guvlow's Incarnate – is generally held as reliable, though this is from a copied fragment of The Poem of the Seventh Morning, which has been lost.[14]

I walked from Abamabar to Urithiru.

–This quote from the Eighth Parable of The Way of Kings seems to contradict Varala and Sinbian, who both claim the city was inaccessible by foot. Perhaps there was a way constructed, or perhaps Nohadon was being metaphorical.[15]

Though many wished Urithiru to be built in Alethela, it was obvious that it could not be. And so it was that we asked for it to be placed westward, in the place nearest to Honor.

–Perhaps the oldest surviving original source mentioning the city, requoted in The Vavibrar, line 1804. What I wouldn’t give for a way to translate the Dawnchant.[16]

Taking the Dawnshard, known to bind any creature voidish or mortal, he crawled up the steps crafted for Heralds, ten strides tall apiece, toward the ground temple above.

–From The Poem of Ista. I have found no modern explanation of what these 'Dawnshards' are. They seem to be ignored by scholars, though talk of them was obviously prevalent among those recording the early mythologies.[17]

Born from the darkness, they bear its taint still, marked upon their bodies much as the fire marks their souls.

–I consider Gashash-son-Navammis a trustworthy source, though I’m not certain about this translation. Find the original quote in the fourteenth book of Seld and retranslate it myself, perhaps?[18]

Within a heartbeat, Alezarv was there, crossing a distance that would have taken more than four months to travel by foot.

–Another folktale, this one recorded in Among the Darkeyed, by Calinam. Page 102. Stories of instantaneous travel and the Oathgates pervade these tales.[19]

Death upon the lips. Sounds upon the air. Char upon the skin.

–From The Last Desolations by Ambrian, line 335.[20]

Like a highstorm, regular in their coming, yet always unexpected.

–The word Desolation is used twice in reference to their appearances. See pages 57, 59, and 64 of Tales by Hearthlight.[21]

They lived out in the wilds, always awaiting the Desolation – or sometimes, a foolish child who took no heed of the night’s darkness.

–A child’s tale, yes, but this quote from Shadows Remembered seems to hint at the truth I seek. See page 82, the fourth tale.[22]

Yelig-nar, called Blightwind, was one that could speak like a man, though often his voice was accompanied by the wails of those he consumed.

–The Unmade were obviously fabrications of folklore. Curiously, most were not considered individuals, but instead personifications of kinds of destruction. This quote is from Traxil, line 33, considered a primary source, though I doubt its authenticity.[23]

Though I was due for dinner in Veden City that night, I insisted upon visiting Kholinar to speak with Tivbet. The tariffs through Urithiru were growing quite unreasonable. By then, the so-called Radiants had already begun to show their true nature.

–Following the firing of the original Palanaeum, only one page of Terxim’s autobiography remained, and this is the only line of any use to me.[24]

They take away the light, wherever they lurk. Skin that is burned.

–Cormshen, page 104.[25]

Radiant / of birthplace / the announcer comes / to come announce / the birthplace of Radiants.

–Though I am not overly fond of the ketek poetic form as a means of conveying information, this one by Allahn is often quoted in reference to Urithiru. I believe some mistook the home of the Radiants for their birthplace.[26]

Flame and char. Skin so terrible. Eyes like pits of blackness.

–A quote from the Iviad probably needs no reference notation, but this comes from line 482, should I need to locate it quickly.[27]

Dalinar's Thoughts[]

In awakening the Desolation, the enemy had rekindled a millennia-old conflict of ancient creatures with inscrutable motivations and unknown powers. Heralds were supposed to appear and lead the charge against the Voidbringers. The Knights Radiant should have already been in place, prepared and trained, ready to face the enemy. They were supposed to be able to trust in the guidance of the Almighty. Instead, Dalinar had only a handful of new Radiants, and there was no sign of help from the Heralds. And, the Almighty - God himself - was dead. Somehow, Dalinar was supposed to save the world anyway.[28]


According to Brandon, the number 99 in the stories was made up, and there were actually far fewer Desolations.[29]