Szeth uses magic
In Mistborn, by intention, I saved any big action sequences with the magic until the characters and setting had been established. This was intentional.
I did the opposite in The Way of Kings.
There are a couple of reasons for this. I spoke on the learning curve of this book; I felt it was best to just be straightforward with what I was doing. This book would be steep, and you’d see it in the first few scenes. Better to be straightforward with what you are.
At the same time, I felt that readers would put up with more from me. Fantasy readers can handle a steep learning curve, and tend to celebrate books that have a lot of meaty worldbuilding. I feel from my own experience as a reader, however, that I am wary of giving much effort to a book by a new author. Learning a new world takes work, and if an author is going to demand that kind of work from me, I want big payoff.
My hope is that I’ve earned my right to put out a book with this involved a setting. I’ve proven that I can tell a good story, and that it’s worth the effort to get into one of my books and worlds. The Way of Kings is the most challenging book I’ve written; the payoff will be equal to that challenge. (I hope.)
I’ll be referencing the original draft of The Way of Kings (AKA Way of Kings Prime), written in 2002, as I feel it will probably be fun for readers to see how the book evolved over time. Every other book of mine you’ve read was conceived and executed over a relatively short period. The Way of Kings is different—it had a lot of evolving to do before hitting the state it’s in now.
One of those evolutions was the magic. Mistborn had one of my best magic systems to date. In Way of Kings Prime (written before Mistborn) we only had two types of magic: Shardblades and Soulcasting. Shardblades were great, but not really magic. Soulcasting didn’t work so well. [Assistant Peter’s note: There was also something called Windrunning, but it was completely different from the version we know now.]
Mistborn really upped the ante in terms of magic in my books, and I wanted The Way of Kings to have a more dynamic, interesting magic system. That is one factor in why I waited so long to release it.
I finally worked out Lashings while on tour for The Well of Ascension. (That was the tour I went on following the call from Harriet, asking if I was interested in finishing The Wheel of Time.) What I liked about the Lashings system was the visual power and the means of manipulating gravity and pressure in interesting visual and creative ways. I had already built into the sensibilities of the world the idea that there were ten fundamental forces I had based on the idea of fundamental forces in our world’s physics. It all fit together nicely.
Anyway, Szeth (named Jek in the first version of the book) was a more ordinary assassin in the original. He didn’t have powers beyond being a really, really good killer.
Obviously, there are a lot of things embedded in this scene for later books. I’ve noted frequently that with Mistborn, I got the luxury of writing the whole series before releasing it. I don’t have that chance with Stormlight. I had to make sure all of my foreshadowing was placed and ready for later use.
I worry that so much of it is obvious, yet also confusingly so. The sphere that Gavilar give Szeth is barely mentioned in the book, for example.
No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.