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TWoK Cover

Cover art for The Way of Kings
Painting by Michael Whelan

A Shardblade is a powerful weapon capable of slicing rock and severing souls.[1][2] A Blade can also be used to cut spheres. People who possess a Shardblade are called Shardbearers; they are each soul-bound to their Blades until death, or until each Blade is willingly relinquished.[citation needed]

Shardblades were devised as imitations of the Honorblades,[3] which were created by Honor for the Heralds to imbue them with Surgebinding skills. The spren on Roshar saw what Honor had done and eventually came up with a way to grant those same Surgebinding powers to people with cracked Spiritwebs by forming a bond with them. At some point in the development of the bond, the spren itself became the Shardblade when needed. When those Shardbearers betrayed their Oaths,[4] the spren died and became the Blades used on Roshar today. Further, as Brandon has said, many Shardblades have names that extend well beyond their original owner.[5]

So, since the original pattern was the Honorblades, Shardblades were built to feel like the Honorblades.[6] However, Honorblades are not spren. Just how Honor created them is not known.

Shardblades are generally associated with Shardplate; a suit of armor that completes the set.

History[]

According to legend, the Shardblades were first carried by the Knights Radiant uncounted ages ago. Gifts of their God, granted to allow them to fight horrors of rock and flame, dozens of feet tall, foes whose eyes burned with hatred. The Voidbringers. When your foe had skin as hard as stone itself, steel was useless. Something supernal was required.[1]

After the Recreance, any spren who was in Blade form when the Radiants abandoned their Oaths was frozen into that form. Later, the addition of gemstones allowed the frozen Blades to be bonded after a fashion, so that they could be summoned and dismissed.

Four millennia later, they are regarded as priceless relics. Wars are fought for, and won by them.

Within his visions, Dalinar was shown roughly 300 Shardblades that were abandoned by members of two Radiant orders. Dalinar estimated, at the time of the War of Reckoning, that there were less than 100 Shardblades in all of the world. Alethkar and Jah Keved own some twenty Shardblades each; the rest are spread amongst the weaker nations, including five Shardblades held by the Thaylen royal guards. Selay, and other kingdoms such as Herdaz, have only a single Shardblade apiece. Kharbranth[7] and the Unkalaki people[8] are not known to have any Shardblades.

So far, no amount of fabrial science has even approached the possibility of re-creating Shardblades.[9] However, recent rumors have claimed that Alethi scholars are close to creating new Shardblades.[1]

Characteristics[]

No two Shardblades are the same,[10] but all Shardblades cut easily through most inanimate matter, so long as the Blade is kept in motion.* They do not cut living flesh; instead the metal fuzzes as it passes through, killing without leaving a mark or spilling blood. Shardblades can sever the spirit of an individual, the soul.[11] (The only indication of death in this instance is that the victim's eyes burn out. Any part of the body that is cut dies instantly. If the Blade touches a man's spine, he dies, eyes burning. If it cuts through the core of a limb it effectively kills that limb, rendering it permanently limp, numb, and useless. A limb severed by a Shardblade needs to be reattached to the soul before it will function again.)[12] However, Surgebinders can heal limbs severed by Shardblades by using Stormlight. If a vital organ is struck, it will render that organ useless as well.[1] Once dead, flesh can be cut just like any other object. Also, parts of a living body that are made of non-living tissue such as hair, fingernails, and the shells of beasts are cut normally. A modern interpretation is that Shardblades can only sever nerves.

Shardblades are enormous, yet remarkably light. They were designed to fight foes more formidable than the average man. The large weapons take a great deal of skill to swing properly.[13] There is rarely recoil; landing a blow is said to feel similar to passing the Blade through air. The trick is to control momentum and keep the Blade moving.[14]

Shardblades vary in size, most of them being locked in as a result of the Recreance. However, most concept art puts them in the 5'-7' range.[15]

A Shardblade can only be blocked by another Shardblade, by Shardplate, or by half-shard shields, though the latter are less effective. Nightblood also may have the capability of blocking a Shardblade.[16]

According to Brandon, a Shardblade can be basically whatever one wants, like a regular sword or otherwise.[17]

Also according to Brandon, Shardblades are defined as Awakened by the magic systems in the cosmere.[18]

Some Blades really don't like it when their wielder stabs something. Wyndle reacts to this sort of thing.[19]

A Shardblade, dead or alive, is already too strongly Invested to become a hemalurgic spike. It couldn't hold anymore charge.[20]

A Shardblade would not kill a Kandra outright, but it would do significant damage.[21]

One knows a Shardblade when one sees it.[22]

A Shardblade can kill a Vessel, and cuts through the Cognitive and then Physical Realms.[citation needed]

Additionally according to Brandon, a Blade won't retain ornaments when dismissed, including coloration. However, they could be made to change colors when alive, and even their texture. Many Blades in the world have multiple tones, and the grip tends to be of a different texture. They're uniform metal, but don't always feel/look like it.[23]

Again, according to Brandon, a Blade isn't going to appear inside of something solid, yet will appear (shoving aside) in liquid. It can be hit or miss on people, but generally doesn't work ... and Shardplate would stop it from materializing.[24]

Bonding[]

Adolin supposes that just as Ryshadium choose their own riders,[9][25] Shardblades were once spren who chose their own bearers.[25]

Summoning[]

A Shardblade is summoned by the Intent of the Shardbearer, willing it into existence, typically dropping into his/her hand extended to the side. The process of summoning takes exactly ten heartbeats. When it materializes, the Blade is typically seen covered in water beads along its length, as if condensed from mist.[1]. However ...

So the more urgent you felt, the sooner you were armed.[26]

So, the summoner's heartrate definitely has something to do with the summoning of his/her Shardblade.

If a Shardbearer lets go of his/her Blade, the weapon reverts to mist, vanishing (unless it had been willed to stay), which was a protection to keep a Blade from being taken by one's enemies; the Blade vanished unless one willed it to stay when releasing it.[2]

Shardbearers are soul-bound to their Blades until death, or until their Blades are willingly relinquished. The process for realignment first requires the new Bearer to simply pick up the Blade. Second, upon acquiring the Blade, it takes five days before the Shardbearer fully bonds to it (and is, otherwise, able to dismiss it). When the Shardbearer dies, the Blade rematerializes next to him/her, allowing anyone else to pick up the Blade and become its new owner.[citation needed]

Wielding[]

Wielding a Shardblade with one hand is a challenge, even when one doesn't have to worry about hitting one's own men.[22]

Opposition[]

"There are legends of metal that can block a Shardblade. A metal that falls from the sky. Silver, but somehow lighter."[27] That metal has been identified as aluminum.[28]

Something that's animated as a construct, like an Awakened straw man, is likely going to block a Shardblade to some extent, just as powerful Investiture would. A Lifeless is probably just gonna act like it was a living being.[29][30]

Unbonding[]

Unbonding a Shardblade is supposed to be a difficult process, requiring concentration and touching its gemstone. Yet that of Dalinar after he bonded with the Stormfather was severed from him in an instant. He could feel it.[31]

Types[]

Blades

Shardblade Concepts
Fan art by quargon[1]


Different types exist, but moreso along order lines rather than cultural ones. (That said, a person's culture could certainly influence their armor.)[32]

Though each Shardblade is unique, there are in general three types of Shardblades.

The first is the type that is wielded by some Shardbearers in The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer, they take ten heartbeats to summon, have a gemstone in the pommel, and can cut through stone easily.  When held by someone bonded to a living spren, screams fill their wielders' heads. Syl mentioned that these types of Shardblades are dead spren and that this is why people who are bonded to living spren hear screams when coming into contact with these Blades.[33]

The second type are those wielded by Knights Radiant; they can be summoned when the spren are ready (instead of taking ten heartbeats as those of dead-spren Shardblades do) and can take any form (i.e., Syl could be transformed into a spear, dagger, halberd, and/or shield during Kaladin's mid-air duel with Szeth).[34] They have the same properties as other Shardblades, but unlike other blades, they glow certain colors from glyphs and symbols on the Blade, and their bearers hear no screams from them. When Knights Radiant wield their blades, they can subconsciously communicate with their spren. (This is also shown during Kaladin's mid-air duel with Szeth in which he, without talking, instructs Syl to morph into different weapons).[34]

  • Wyndle informs Lift that there is a connection between a spren's power, when condensed, and metal.[35]

The last type, with regard to Szeth's (now previous) Blade and Taln's (now previous) Blade, are actually Honorblades. Szeth was never bonded with a spren. Taln was one of the Heralds who wielded an Honorblade, yet lost it in his present madness. (In Words of Radiance, once Dalinar had become a Radiant, he heard the Blade he held screaming, indicating that it was a dead-spren Shardblade.)[31] Honorblades are believed to grant some power over the paired Surges for each Herald (i.e., Jezrien's Blade grants Adhesion and Gravity; Nale's Blade grants Gravity and Division, etc.). These Blades were made by the Almighty himself and give the power of the Radiants to whoever wields them.[33]

Known Shardblades/Shardbearers[]

Shardbearer Name of Shardblade Description Current Status
Dalinar Kholin Oathbringer "Six feet long from tip to hilt. Long and slightly curved. A handspan wide. Wavelike serrations near the hilt. Curved at the tip like a fisherman's hook."[2] Given to Sadeas, then used by Amaram[36], then returned to Dalinar[37]
Sadeas Oathbringer Formerly Dalinar's Blade.[38][31] Given to Ialai Sadeas
Elhokar Kholin Sunraiser "Long and thin with a large crossguard. Etched up the sides with the ten fundamental glyphs."[2] Narrow, glittering as he called commands.[22] Captured by parshendi[39]
Gavilar Kholin Firestorm "Six feet long with a design along the blade like burning flames. Silvery metal that gleamed and almost seemed to glow."[1] Unknown
Kaladin Sylphrena Kaladin's Shardblade is his bonded spren, Sylphrena. She can take any form that Kaladin needs her to assume. In his fight with Szeth, she takes the shape of a sword, shield, spear, halberd, dagger, and warhammer. Anything he wants or needs her to be, she will be.[34] With Holder
Shallan Davar Pattern Like Kaladin's, Shallan's Shardblade is the bonded spren, Pattern. He does not require any time to come straight to her hand.[34] With Holder
Szeth Unknown "Long and thin. Edged on both sides. Smaller than most others."[1][40] With Kaladin at Urithiru
Adolin Kholin Mayalaran[36] "Blue, one-edged blade. Sharp side is sinuous, rippling like an eel curving up into a point. Opposite side has delicate ridges, with the appearance of crystal formations. Six feet long."[2][13][41][40] With Holder
Amaram Unknown "As tall as a man, curved or sinuous, unsharpened side ridged with flowing waves of flame, etchings along the length, gemstone at pommel."[42][43][44] Unknown
Eshonai Unknown "Wicked and barbed like flames."[38] "Shaped like frozen flames."[45] Taken by Voidbringers
King Hanavanar of Jah Keved[46] Unknown Unknown
Shardbearer guard #1
from Jah Keved[47]
Unknown Unknown
Shardbearer guard #2
from Jah Keved[47]
Unknown Unknown
Moash Unknown Taken by Voidbringers
Jasnah Ivory " ... a long, thin sword."[48] With Holder
Malata Spark With Holder
Renarin** Glys " ... long glowing ... . Thin, with almost no crossguard, it had waving folds to the metal, like it had been forged."[25] With Holder
Kalanor Unknown " ... long and thin with a large crossguard and glyphs down its length."[49] Unknown

Quotes[]

"Ten heartbeats, Return to me, you creation of Damnation."

–Szeth[46]

"There is something wrong with your Blade, and with all Blades." She hesitated for just a second. "All but mine. Pattern!"

Shallan to Adolin[34]

"So they're all spren," he said. "Shardblades."

Syl grew solemn.

"Dead spren," Kaladin added.

"Dead," Syl agreed. "Then they live again a little when someone summons them, syncing a heartbeat to their essence."[33]

"We're spren," Syl said. "We're forces. You can't kill us completely."[33]

Notes[]

*According to Brandon, any object that is sufficiently thick but also sufficiently pliable that it's going to press down on a Blade while it's cutting is going to create drag on the Blade.[50]

**Renarin tells his brother that he has to give back the Shardblade that Adolin won for him. When Adolin asks him why, Renarin tells him that it hurts to hold. That it always has. Further, he tells his brother that they - none of them - can use the dead Blades. That it's not right.[25]

Adolin tells Renarin that by right of bestowal, the Blade is his, and he should pick the successor. Renarin then tells his brother that he's given it to the ardents already, for safekeeping.[25]

***Shardblades are made of Investiture; aluminum blocks Investiture.

Shardblades aren't able to cut aluminum via magic, but could cut it physically, if the aluminum was thin enough.[51][52]

Speculation[]

Reviving a "dead" Shardblade might be so difficult because the layout in which it takes to form itself to someone's Spiritweb is preserved. In order to bring it back to life (at least, the life and sentience of Syl or Pattern), it needs an EXACT copy of the original owner's Spiritweb. Anyone else's Spiritweb layout is going to be different. With Syl this wasn't a problem, as Kaladin's soul was ready to accept her back in. But for a Blade like Sunraiser or Oathbringer, whose owners have likely been dead for millennia ... finding someone with a Spiritweb that would be able to figuratively "fit" them would be beyond difficult.

Also, it has been theorized that Shardblades are stored in the Spiritual Realm when not in use.

Q&A with Brandon[]

Q. If a Shardblade was used on an Awakened object, would it physically harm the object, destroy the Breath, or a combination of the two?

A. You will someday know.[53]

Q. Is there any ramifications to the holder of a Shardblade for using a blade in a manner that it wasn't intended?

A. Depends on the type of Shardblade. (You have seen three different kinds in The Way of Kings.) For most, no. For some, most certainly.[54]

Q. Is it possible then to reawaken a Shardblade if that Blade is wielded by someone who speaks the Oaths of a Knight Radiant?

A. Yes, but it would be extremely difficult. The spren in a Shardblade are not trapped in a state of mid-transformation like the Elantrians. They are stuck in an agony cycle after having a significant portion of their consciousnesses ripped out of them. The Nahel bond is what allows spren to think on [the] material plane and that has been torn away. It would be like having a data jack installed and then having someone come up to your head and rip it out of your head.

Q. You know the sparring guards, for the Shardblade training, the guards they put on the Shardblades. Are they made of aluminum?***

A. So, they are not. Peter will not let me make them made out of aluminum. He's my continuity editor, he keeps me honest. I tried to get them to be aluminum, but there are reasons why they can't be. So we had to make them their own weird little thing, unfortunately. But you could make a sheath out of aluminum for a Shardblade that would work.

He keeps me honest, so it's good, but I did try to fit them in that way.[55]

Q. Since you have basically established that spren are at least to some extent alive, how is it possible for a Shardblade to not cut right through a living weapon, like Syl for example.

A. What you are seeing is: when they are pulling through into the Physical Realm they are creating something that is not 100% physical, not 100% metal, it's like an amalgamation of the two. And that is doing something very special that then prevents other things from cutting through it. It's specifically the way that it's happening. You could make this happen with other things too.

Another big part of it is the amount of Investiture. If something is highly Invested it's going to stop a Shardblade too, because the Investiture is gonna kinda bounce off of each other. It's theoretical, for instance, you could make a Hemalurgic spike that would stop a Shardblade ...

So, Invest something highly and it will stop a Shardblade almost always. But, you can cut souls; they are highly Invested also. So you need something in the Physical Realm that is pulling power through from the other Realms.[56]

Q. So Shardblades. When they cut off the victims, the eyes burn up. And deadeyes have their eyes scratched out in Shadesmar. Is there any relation between them?

A. There is indeed a connection there.[57]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 The Way of Kings, 13. Ten Heartbeats
  3. JordanCon 2014, Roswell, GA, 4/11/14
  4. The Way of Kings, 52. A Highway to the Sun
  5. Brandon Sanderson AMA 2015, 17th Shard, 3/12/15
  6. JordanCon 6, Roswell, GA, 4/16/14
  7. The Way of Kings, 29. Errorgance
  8. The Way of Kings, 23. Many Uses
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Way of Kings, 12. Unity
  10. Words of Radiance, 52. Into The Sky
  11. Oathbringer release party, Provo, UT, 11/13/17
  12. Severed limbs ...
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Way of Kings, 58. The Journey
  14. The Way of Kings, 56. That Storming Book
  15. General Reddit 2018, 1/1/18
  16. JordanCon 2016, Atlanta, GA, 4/23/16
  17. Oathbringer release party, Provo, UT, 11/13/17
  18. Oathbringer release party, Provo, UT, 11/13/17
  19. Book signing, San Francisco, CA, 11/15/17
  20. Starsight Release Party, Orem, UT, 11/26/19
  21. Book signing, American Fork, UT, 12/12/19
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Oathbringer, 83. Crimson To Break
  23. General Reddit 2020, 1/1/20
  24. General Reddit 2020, 1/1/20
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Oathbringer, 10. Distractions
  26. The Way of Kings, 26. Stillness
  27. Oathbringer, 100. An Old Friend
  28. Book signing, Naperville, IL, 11/21/17
  29. Lifeless
  30. San Diego Comic-Con@Home 2020, 7/23/20
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Words of Radiance, 89. The Four
  32. Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A, 8/13/14
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Words of Radiance, 87. The Riddens
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 Words of Radiance, 86. Patterns Of Light
  35. Edgedancer, 2.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Oathbringer, 120. The Spear That Would Not Break
  37. Oathbringer, 122. A Debt Repaid
  38. 38.0 38.1 The Way of Kings, 69. Justice
  39. Rhythm of War, 61. Oil And Water
  40. 40.0 40.1 The Way of Kings, 46. Child of Tanavast
  41. The Way of Kings, 68. Eshonai
  42. The Way of Kings, 1. Stormblessed
  43. The Way of Kings, 47. Stormblessings
  44. The Way of Kings, 51. Sas Nahn
  45. Oathbringer, Inter3.
  46. 46.0 46.1 The Way of Kings, Inter9.
  47. 47.0 47.1 The Way of Kings, 9. Damnation
  48. Words of Radiance, Epilogue - Art And Expectation
  49. Oathbringer, 26. Blackthorn Unleashed
  50. General Reddit 2022, 1/1/22
  51. General Twitter, 1/1/17
  52. Rhythm of War, 17. A Proposal
  53. Shardblade vs. Awakened object
  54. Cosmere Q&A, 17th Shard, Sept. 2012
  55. Book signing, Edinburgh, Scotland, 12/2/17
  56. Book signing, Bonn, Germany, 5/15/19
  57. Book signing, Tel Aviv, Israel, 10/18/19
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