The Cosmere is the greater universe in which The Stormlight Archive and many of Brandon Sanderson's other adult fiction books take place. That is, the books take place on different worlds, and each of these worlds is set in the same small galaxy referred to as the Cosmere. All of the books share a single creation myth (though not all cultures are aware of it), a single cosmology and are connected by an overarching story.
While he was selling his initial works to publishers, Brandon was encouraged to write books set in different worlds as opposed to a huge epic fantasy series. That way, if a publisher didn't like one book, said publisher could pitch a different one, which one can't do with a huge fantasy series. But as a way of still having a huge fantasy series, Brandon made all of these independent stories a "hidden epic." That is, he seeded continuing characters and elements into all of these different worlds, now dubbed the "Cosmere".
The first book Brandon sold, Elantris, was embedded with these elements and he kept putting them in subsequent novels. So far there is one character who appears in all of the full-length Cosmere novels that he has created. Sometimes this character uses the name Hoid, and sometimes he can only be recognized by appearance. He is a linchpin to the overarching story within the Cosmere.
Adonalsium's (Ah-doe-nahl-see-um)'s exact nature has not been revealed. At this point it is understood to be the Cosmere's power of creation that permeated everything. Due to unrevealed events, Adonalsium has been shattered into pieces, known as Shards of Adonalsium, or 'Shards' for short, which are pieces of the power of creation itself.
Shards of AdonalsiumEdit
Shards are named after a specific action or ideal, called an intent. A mind must control a Shard. When a person holds a Shard, they are imbued with its power, but they also become the Shard and have an overriding desire to follow that Shard's Intent.
When a Shard comes to a planet, it imbeds into the magic of that world altering it to match its Intent. On many if not all worlds, the method of binding with a magic is directly related to the Shard or Shards on that world as is its use.
All things exist in three Realms: the Physical, the Cognitive, and the Spiritual.
- The Physical Realm is the most readily understood as it is merely the manifestation of the world as experienced by the characters, with properties similar to our own.
- The Cognitive Realm, also known as Shadesmar on Roshar, can be used as means of Worldhopping and travel. Worlds are much closer to each other in the Cognitive Realm than in the Physical. When there, a Worldhopper is within walking distance to other worlds (though it may take weeks/months to travel between worlds). Both Shallan and Jasnah have traveled to the Cognitive Realm. It is the place of ideas and has much in common with Platonic Ideals.
- The Spiritual Realm is that of the "soul." Little is know about this Realm. It is believed that this is the location of the afterlife for Cosmere residents. Shardholders may not have full access to the Spiritual Realm.
In the Spiritual Realm, every person has a latticework of lines that makes up their spiritweb. The particular "shape" of this spiritweb is affected by two different things: a) the sDNA of the indivual (that determines the layout of their spiritweb), and b) outside trauma that can "break" the spiritweb itself (i.e., Kaladin's witnessing Tien's death).
When a spiritweb is "cracked" by a traumatic event, it leaves gaps into which something else can fit. On Roshar, this is achieved through a Nahel bond; a spren attaching themself to someone's spiritweb and repairing the connection that was severed.
It is important to note that an individual's spiritweb was never severed completely away from the whole. In the same way ripping a fishing net doesn't destroy the threads, the pieces are still there ... just separated. Adding more thread (in this case, a Spiritual bond with a spren) leaves one with a bigger web than one had before. That, coupled with the fact that this material is a portion of the power of Adonalsium itself, is what grants someone the ability to Surgebind.
There is a way to completely rip away a portion of someone's spiritweb; it's called Hemalurgy.
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.
The Cosmere has the same structure as our universe, with galaxies, solar systems, and the like. Within the Cosmere, there are an untold number of inhabited worlds and ten Shardworlds, each of which has a soul, where there is Shardic presence and which take part in the overarching story. Nine Shards and their respective locations are known. These include the following.
|Ashyn||Unknown, (Odium)||The Silence Divine||Unknown|
|First of the Sun||Unknown||Sixth of the Dusk||Aviar|
|Roshar||Cultivation, Honor, (Odium)||The Stormlight Archive||Old Magic, Soulcasting, Surgebinding, Voidbinding|
|Scadrial||Preservation, Ruin||Mistborn Trilogy, Mistborn Adventures||Hemalurgy, Allomancy, Feruchemy|
|Sel||Devotion, Dominion||Elantris, The Emperor's Soul||AonDor, Forgery, Bloodsealing, Dakhor|
|Threnody||No Shard||Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell||Shades|
Dragonsteel, Liar of Partinel
Within the map of Shadesmar in The Way of Kings or Words of Radiance are the "Expanses" of Vapors (Scadrial), Vibrance (Nalthis) and Broken Sky (Sel). This map displays the direction of these other worlds.
Each world has its own magic system(s). On worlds where one or more Shard is present, the magic is bent to the Intent(s) of each Shard.
Each human has an innate amount of Investiture built into them. The ways in which this Investiture may be used for magic vary from world to world and most worlds have multiple forms of related magic.
Some magics are passive, allowing anyone who has a certain amount of Investiture to use that magic.
Nalthis: Breath on Nalthis has both passive and active uses which can be accessed by anyone who has sufficient Investiture (Breath).
Some forms of magic require a certain trigger for the magic to be accessed. In these cases, the magic must find "cracks" or pathways in the person's spiritweb or soul to "fill in" or follow.
Nalthis: Returned are returned from death with a broken Cognitive aspect, losing all of their prior memories. There are indications that this is a choice presented by Endowment upon death. This rewrites the Returned's Cognitive connections and allows them to change their various physical aspects.
Roshar: Both Honor and Odium grant magic based on specific pathways in the spiritweb as defined by the ideals of their Order. The Old Magic requires rewriting of the person's spiritweb to allow for the required changes.
Scadrial: Allomancy requires the practitioner to "snap" which is usually a near-death experience.
Sel: AonDor and Dakhor are location based and require a transformation of the subject which rewrites the person's spiritweb.
Some other methods of accessing magic seem to exist for which it seems to be purely world-based with no need for spiritweb/sDNA match but only skill and access to materials.
Scadrial: Hemalurgy utilizes Invested metal to rip sections out of a person's spiritweb or Cognitive aspect and patch them into another person's spiritweb or Cognitive aspect. No magical ability need already exist or be extant in the practitioner.
Sel: Forgery and Bloodsealing use objects with innate Investiture, Soulstone and human blood respectively. Only skill seems to be needed.
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It has been explained that all things exist between three Realms: Physical, Cognitive and Spiritual in the Cosmere. A reader has surmised that different things "exist more" in a certain Realm than another, though all things have some presence in the three. Humans appear to "exist more" in the Physical Realm. Spren appear to "exist more" in the Cognitive Realm (i.e., Shadesmar in The Stormlight Archive). Investiture appears to have various forms in the Physical Realm (e.g., Allomantic metals, mist, Stormlight).
However, the time between each of the original 99 Desolations was made up; there were much fewer of them. Brandon has stated that the Cosmere runs along a 10,000 year gap and that Roshar falls right into the middle of the timeline. He has said "That should give you a perspective of the timeline and events of the Desolations."
- Does Investiture have a consistent form (regardless of magic system and its physical form) in one of the other Realms?
- Vasher has shown that he can substitue his need for Breath with another Investiture (presumably Stormlight). To what extent is Investiture interchangeable between magic systems?
- Is Investiture finite? Hemalurgy and a Returned's need to consume breath seem to show that it can be destroyed. If it is finite, is the Cosmere's magic source doomed to the law of entropy?
Brandon's responses to the above questions were as follows:
- It's consistent in the Spiritual Realm. Location isn't particularly important there.
- Very interchangeable, but not always simple to apply. (Sel's magics are regional, and so they are going to be tough. Scadrial's magics are the easiest.)
- Investiture can not be created or destroyed. It follows it's own version of the laws of thermodynamics.
Q&A with BrandonEdit
Q. Can any two Shards be joined together, like Preservation and Ruin, or does it depend on their Intents?
A. Any can be joined, theoretically, but boy, some of the pairings would have an odd resulting pressure on the one holding them. And similar intents make for an easier time melding.
Q. Since we generally don't see inhabitants of your worlds refer to their planets by name, where do the names come from?
A. From Worldhoppers, Shards, and those who know about the Cosmere.