I chose to use Shallan as my other main character in Part One, rather than Dalinar, because I felt her sequence better offset Kaladin’s. He was going to some very dark places, and her sequence is a little lighter.
She is the only ‘new’ main character in this book. Kaladin (under a different name) was in Way of Kings Prime, and Dalinar was there virtually unchanged from how he is now. The character in Shallan’s place, however, never panned out. That left me with work to do in order to replace Jasnah’s ward.
Shallan grew out of my desire to have an artist character to do the sketches in the book. Those were things I’d wanted to do forever, but hadn’t had the means to accomplish when writing the first version of the book. I now had the contacts and resources to do these drawings, like from the sketchbook of a natural historian such as Darwin.
One of the things that interests me about scientists in earlier eras is how broad their knowledge base was. You really could just be a “scientist” and that would mean that you had studied everything. Now, we need to specialize more, and our foundations seem to be less and less generalized. A physicist may not pay attention to sociology at all.
Classical scholars were different. You were expected to know languages, natural science, physical science, and theology all as if they were really one study. Shallan is my stab at writing someone like this.
The City of Bells is a true city-state. They have no real authority beyond the city itself, and they trade for everything they need. There aren’t Kharbranthian farmers, for example. If commerce were to fail, the city would flat-out collapse.
They do have their own language, as hinted at in this chapter, but it’s very similar to Alethi and Veden. I consider the three languages to really be dialects of Alethi, and learning one is more about learning new pronunciations as it is about learning new words. (Though there are some differences in vocabulary.) I would put them even slightly closer than Spanish and Portuguese in our world.
The city origins are a little less proud than they’d tell you. Kharbranth was a pirate town, a harbor for the less savory during the early days of navigation on Roshar. As the decades passed, however, it grew into a true city. To this day, however, its leaders acknowledge that they’re not a world power—and might never be. They use games of politics, trade, and information to play Jah Keved, Alethkar, and Thaylenah against one another.