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I started reading Sanderson with The Way of Kings and worked my way up to Rhythm of War. The first three books in The Stormlight Archive, with few exceptions, pretty much explain with growing clarity how the universe works. The last book is where I felt like there were more questions that answers regarding those mechanisms, specifically regarding beings like Odium and Wit.

Do the other Cosmere series explain these entities more? If so how much (entire back story or just a cameo)?

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    Not an expert, but I've definitely seen somewhere that Sanderson said the links between the books are "hidden" so I doubt they are explained anywhere explicitly. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:14
  • @DanielRoseman its possible it stays subtle, just with Shard bearers (Odium, Honor, Cultivation, etc.) quickly becoming much more active characters in Stormlight, I get the general feeling Sanderson is tying the universe together like King did with The Dark Tower series.
    – Liam Kelly
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:37
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    While that's no problem to start with Way of Kings without any other books read, it's good to at least read Warbreaker soon. In a way Stormlight is a sequel of that book. Mistborn can be enlightening about how Shards work and other works add some pieces of knowledge. Some things were explained only outside of books, directly by author.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 20:19

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All the books in the Cosmere are written such that they can be read standalone, and missing the links to other series would not severely impact the main story of the current series. However, there are some characters who appear in multiple series, usually under different aliases than their original introduction. The general term for them is "world hoppers", since each series is usually on a different planetary system and they'd have to figure out a way of interplanetary travel to appear there.

Like you guessed in your comment, we do have a general roadmap that the finale will involve all these different factions interacting more as their societies reach a space-faring stage. Shards and Shard Bearers will also play a bigger role as we learn more about them and their origins, the Shattering.

Entities like Odium or other shards usually have their backstories limited to their own series, since they are spread apart onto different planets intentionally. Sometimes the chapter epigraphs (the text at the start) from other series might have obscure hints, but I wouldn't really count that as something a normal reader could pick up on their first read.

Wit in particular is a mysterious character who appears in nearly every novel, but we know little about (not mentioning more to avoid spoiling). He will mostly be fleshed out as we get closer to the finale.

Apart from such important entities who we know will end up factoring into the finale for sure, there are normal characters who end up making cameos. Some are side characters even in their introductory stories, while others have been the focus of novels and received a lot of backstory.

To give some of the less spoilery examples relating to cameos in Stormlight Archive,

Zahel and Azure are Vasher and Vivenna from the planet Nalthis, and they get a lot of screen time in the novel Warbreaker.

There is a character named Felt, who hails from the planet Scadrial and is introduced to us in Mistborn. But he didn't have a very big focus there and even his appearance in Stormlight is very minimal, so we don't know a lot about how or why he's world hopping.

Of course, there are more examples than these, some with far larger impact to fans and bigger implications to the overall Cosmere story. But it would be better for one to check those out themselves using resources like the Coppermind wiki or Arcanum, which hosts WoB(s) (Words of Brandon, i.e. things he has answered at events or on stream). Be wary of getting spoiled if you haven't read all the books though.

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  • Great answer for a few reasons: 1) confirmed the growing 'space-faring age' vibe 2) Seems like Warbreaker has a lot of Shard-ers/World-hoppers and a good place to start without committing to Mistborn (which i will eventually).
    – Liam Kelly
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 16:14
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Re the shards in particular, I'd say we learn a fair bit from the Mistborn series

In some ways, I feel like the stormlight series itself is the one that explains more about shards than any of the other books, but I have a feeling it might not be the best place to start learning about them. The information in the first Mistborn trilogy is very self-contained, relates to just a few shards, and doesn't rely on anything else, which makes it a good place to start building a foundation (when I first read those books, I didn't even realise there was a wider Cosmere). By comparison, the Stormlight books make it clearer that there is a wider universe with many different shards, and that series is more likely to make references to things that came up in other books

So yes, I think some of the things you're reading in Stormlight will make more sense after you've read the other books. For instance, some of the letters that Wit sends and receives will feel a lot more meaningful, once you recognize who he's talking with. It doesn't really make any difference to the plot, but it's nice to have that sense that you know what Brandon was getting at

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