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At the end of Words of Radiance, when Szeth dies and gets revived, Nale, Herald of Justice, gives him "a replacement Shardblade" which is actually Nightblood, Vasher's sword in Warbreaker. If Szeth really is being induced into the Order of the Skybreakers, then it seems that he would bond with a spren, and be able to summon the spren as a Shardblade. Since we don't know very much about the Skybreakers, it's possible that they can't summon Blades in this way (though Nale can), or something like that. Or, maybe, Szeth is a member of the Order but not a Surgebinder because he doesn't have a Nahel bond (unless we see him using Stormlight in Edgedancer; I can't remember). This could be the reason Nale gave Nightblood to him, but being able to Surgebind is a large part of being one of the Knights Radiant.

It seems likely that nobody will know the answer to this question, because it probably hasn't been explained and won't be until the next book or two, but my question is: Why doesn't Szeth get a spren to bond with and the ability to summon a Shardblade?

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  1. The main reason is likely that he simply did not qualify. Becoming a Knight Radiant through the traditional methods is an involved task. It requires a serious commitment to the principles of one’s order. This is why, for example, the initiate Skybreakers that Nin recruited were still, well, initiates:

    “Your excuses do not befit those who would join our order,” Darkness was saying. “If you would earn the trust of your spren, and take the step from initiate to Shardbearer, you must dedicate yourselves. You must prove your worth. Earlier today I followed a lead that each of you missed, and have discovered a second offender in the city.”

    Edgedancer (Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection)

    By contrast, Szeth’s previous powers were not the result of a Nahel bond with a spren, but of using an Honorblade. It’s unclear whether he had the temperament or dedication to bond to whatever spren the Skybreakers bond to; perhaps unlikely, given that he seems to be a bit unstable. Szeth doesn’t seem to be in much of a state to apply himself to the principles of the Skybreakers. No dedication, no honor. No honor, no spren. And after all, he wasn’t chosen by a spren in the first place, so we don’t even know whether he could have, even under better circumstances.

  2. Nightblood is, in many senses, better than a regular Shardblade. As such, being able to summon a Shardblade would mainly have the marginal benefit of not having to carry around a sword, whereas Nightblood does all kinds of dangerous things.

    QUESTION:

    How much more powerful is Nightblood than a a regular Shardblade?

    BRANDON SANDERSON: I haven’t actually quantified that in my own mind so can’t give an accurate comparison at this point. I will say that when he is fully consuming Investiture he can do some really freaky things.

    Given that Nightblood can feed off of stormlight, its powers during a storm, say, might be pretty impressive.

  3. Nightblood basically is a spren.

    Nightblood is kind of his own strange thing. He’s an attempt to use one magic to replicate something in another. He’s closest to a spren, but kind of like a…robot spren, for lack of better words to use.

    It may grant powers similar to Surges, including the ability to use Stormlight. Brandon isn’t saying:

    Q: So, if I understand this correctly, Nightblood will act like an Honorblade and allow Szeth to breath in Stormlight? Will his surges be completely different than anything Roshar has seen before, or will his surges be those of the Skybreakers since Nightblood’s purpose is pretty similar to theirs?

    A: Regarding how Nightblood works on Roshar: you’ll have to wait and see.

    Nightblade can feed on Stormlight, though, so it seems quite possible:

    FLETCHERSHAIR: Now that Nightblood is on Roshar, can it feed off of Stormlight the same way it can off of Breaths?

    BRANDON SANDERSON (PARAPHRASED): He was going to RAFO this, but then he said that because we had already figured it out pretty much he would answer. And the answer is yes. Nightblood will feed on pretty much anything.

    It is indeed entirely possible that using Nightblood would interfere with the ability to also bond to a spren, much as we never see anyone bonded to two spren.

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