Drawing by Isaac Stewart
The Shattered Plains are located in the Frostlands on the borders of the Unclaimed Hills, Alethkar and New Natanan. The Plains are formerly part of the Silver Kingdom of Natanatan. The Plains consist of huge numbers of plateaus of various sizes, surrounded on all sides by a labyrinth of chasms.
The Plains were aptly named, extending further than the eye can see. They appear as a broken, uneven, and rent mosaic of variously sized plateaus covered with outcropping and shelves of rock, yet separated by a labyrinth of sheer chasms and crevasses ranging twenty to thirty feet in width. Some chasms are so deep that they disappear into darkness. It is unknown what caused the landscape to form this way.
The top of the Plains are barren and rocky, offering no shelter from highstorms and practically devoid of all but the toughest plant life. By contrast, the chasms below teem with life. Water collects in the low places and creates misty, swampy territory. Tiny cremlings chitter and vinebuds wave their faintly luminescent tendrils in the moist air.
Only the western portion of the Plains have been explored by the Alethi. The plateaus on the far eastern and southern edges of the Plains consist of smaller plateaus that are separated by chasms ranging from fifty to sixty feet deep. The plateaus of this region are so heavily weathered that many are little more than spires, preventing even the Parshendi from navigating the distances between them. Further eastward, the Plains become much more varied in size and the chasms deepen to up to a hundred feet or more and crevasses up to twenty to thirty feet wide. Still, there is a symmetry to the Shattered Plains. From high above, they resemble a work of art.
The smaller the chasm between plateaus, the more easily it can be bridged. Many permanent bridges joining the plateaus nearest the warcamps have been constructed and maintained by the Alethi.
The Shattered Plains are heavily contested in two differing ways. The first is between the Parshendi and the Alethi, who fight due to the Vengeance Pact after the Parshendi took responsibility for the assassination of the former king of Alethkar, Gavilar Kholin. The second is between the armies of the individual highprinces, who contest over the gemhearts from Chasmfiend chrysalises, as well as for the opportunity to possibly gain Shardplate and Shardblades from Parshendi Shardbearers.
It is on the Shattered Plains where the majority of The Way of Kings takes place, with central characters such as Kaladin, Dalinar and Adolin all taking part in the Alethkar's campaign for vengeance against the Parshendi.
The Plains were discovered by Shallan to have a pattern. She mapped the pattern and gave it to Dalinar who used that knowledge to organize an army that would attack the Parshendi directly. Given the authorship of the map at right, Nazh either seems to have acquired a copy of Shallan’s map or is tagging along with the expedition, making like a cartographer. (He was disguised as an ardent near the beginning of the novel, chased out by Rock for trying to get a good look at the Bridge Four tattoos. Perhaps he's still hanging around, though there are limits to his attention to detail.)
Everything within specific locales on the Plains is arranged so that as many doorways as possible point away from the Origin of Storms, streets designed so that they run east to west and provide a way for winds to blow.