Brandon Sanderson’s Dawnshard is a novella in the Stormlight Archive series that follows the story of a Thaylen merchant, Rysn, who features in the author’s previous novels such as The Way of the Kings and Words of Radiance. The story also follows Lopen, a previously one-armed character. The book explores themes of language proficiency, disability, and superstition.
Language proficiency is used to delve into perceived intelligence and prejudice in Dawnshard. For example, Rysn finds herself dismissing another character’s intellectual capabilities as the character, Chord, speaks in broken Altheni. Rysn wrongly determines Chord to be a character with crude and superstitious motivations. But when they finally speak together in Vedan, a language they have in common, Rysn realizes Chord is a clever, political individual. Sanderson illustrates the consequences of linguistic prejudices, which is a form of implicit bias based on the way people speak. Different dialects, especially in English, can tell others where you are from, who you are, and your role in society. Regional accents and slang words can determine how someone reacts to or treats another person. Sanderson, therefore, implores his readers to think about the consequences of prejudices, and how they do not determine a person’s intelligence or worth.
Another interesting theme Dawnshard discusses is disability, and how people with disabilities navigate their environments. Rysn uses a wheelchair after an accident that left her paralyzed in Words of Radiance, leaving her in a society that sees her as less than, or smothered by well-meaning people. Despite her limitations, she fights to earn her position as a traveling merchant. She uses her strength and resilience to navigate the story’s conflicts, without the use of magic to “fix” her disability.
Dawnshard is described as a gift to fans, bridging the gap between Sanderson’s latest volumes and adding yet more story and depth to his fantasy worlds. This quick, action-packed novel will certainly satisfy any fantasy-lover’s palette.