As Sanderson continues to build his sweeping Cosmere, there has always been a lingering question: where does The Stormlight Archive fit into the puzzle? As Sanderson’s largest and most expansive piece of writing, the series has previously avoided clear ties to the bigger picture, instead choosing to dole out small nods and vignettes teasing the greater universe. Dawnshard shoulders the burden of unblurring the big picture, beckoning readers into the interconnected worlds of Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy universe. A short novella might not seem like a necessary step in a Cosmere readthrough, but Dawnshard’s relation to the core Stormlight books locks in an epic, sweeping feel. It’s a must-stop along your Cosmere journey.
Dawnshard follows two points of view: Rysn and The Lopen (he calls himself The lopen, though other just say “Lopen”). Rysn appears in previous Stormlight books with her babsk, Vstim, as she trains to become a master trader. She is a major staple from the strange and mysterious interludes between the larger sections of the core Stormlight books. In the novella, Rysn has lost use of her legs and uses a wheelchair and an assistant for mobility. Chiri-Chiri is Rysn’s larkin, a stormlight-guzzling companion that keeps her company. When word comes of a ghost ship returning from a mysterious, storm-addled island, Rysn offers her ship (gifted to her by Vstim) to run an expedition to explore the isle. She meets with Navani Kholin, who provides Rysn two Knights Radiant and a Horneater cook to accompany her. One of those Knights Radiant is the ever-wisecracking Lopen, who is given a secret goal to accomplish alongside Rysn’s aims. The crew sets out for the island, and a thrilling Stormlight adventure begins.
Like Edgedancer before it, Dawnshard bridges the gap between two meatier Stormlight Archive installments to dazzling effect. While Edgedancer proved a worthy interstitial between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer, Dawnshard strikes a balance. It tells a story firmly nestled between two novels (Oathbringer and Rhythm of War), but it also works on its own as a compact and worthwhile story.
Part of Dawnshard’s success stems from Rysn, a captivating character. Rysn struggles to balance the world she was trained for—of making trades and seeking out what others need in exchange for what she has—with a world that’s passively andsometimes actively hostile to her existence. Rysn’s internal conflict, trying to overcome people’s perceptions about her because of her disability, adds a depth to the novella’s plot. Instead of a straightforward exploratory exhibition, the story morphs into a personal growth arc, and it’s delightful to follow. Rysn adds depth to a story that would’ve been great otherwise, elevating the narrative. Rysn has to earn her keep and overcome others’ misconceptions about her, constantly reminding people that she doesn’t need to be treated like a fragile, broken thing. All the while, she must keep the external goal in mind: discover the hidden island.
Meanwhile, Sanderson treats us to Lopen chapters, and Lopen is just plain funny. The formerly one-armed Herdazian cracks jokes in every paragraph, and he brings a distinct joy to the others around him. He and his “cousin” Huio are excellent selections to send on such a journey with Rysn. They’re accepting of others, jovial, and willing to learn from others. Moreover, it’s just refreshing to see Lopen get some time in the spotlight.
Summary: it’s all great. Dawnshard is fun and intriguing from start to finish. But the real reward comes at the end, when the novella’s plot wraps up and a piece of the larger Cosmere finally clicks into place on Roshar. At this moment, I finally felt my thousands of pages and hundreds of hours pay off. Sanderson is uniting Cosmere worlds more by the minute, and it’s a unique adrenaline rush to see the web take shape.
If I write any more about Dawnshard, I fear I’ll reach a point of diminishing returns. It’s great, and it deserves your attention if you’re invested in the Cosmere. It was one of my favorite Cosmere stories thus far, and it has me giddy at the prospect of reading Rhythm of War.
Rating: Dawnshard – 10/10