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Map of Shadesmar, the Cognitive Realm

Shadesmar is a Rosharian[1] word for the Cognitive Realm.[2] It is a plane of existence which connects all Shardworlds,[2] and can be manipulated for quick travel.[3]

While "Shadesmar" is a Roshar-specific word[4], Sanderson translates other world's names for the place to "Shadesmar" as well.[5]

Currently the only known travelers to Shadesmar are Hoid, Shallan Davar, Khriss, Nazh and Jasnah Kholin (and Kelsier after he dies), it will become more prevalent in future books.[6] It is possible that members of the Seventeenth Shard travel using Shadesmar.

The ardents in Roshar are aware of Shadesmar, and have texts describing someone traveling there.[7]

Access to Shadesmar varies by shardworld[8], and it is a dangerous place near Sel[9][10][11] for reasons indirectly related to the splintering of its Shards.[12][13] When Odium splintered the shards there, he left their power in his wake, which is now mindless. The spren keep similar powers in check on Roshar, and Kelsier did so on Scadrial before Vin acquired Preservation.[14]


... a place with a black sky and a strange, small white sun that hung on the horizon ... Flames hovered nearby ... Like the tips of candles floating in the air and moving with the wind ... An endless dark sea, except it wasn't wet. It was made of the small beads, an entire ocean of tiny glass spheres
Shallan Davar[15]

Geographically it appears to be a reflection of Roshar, with its inland seas corresponding exactly to the shape of the land of Roshar. When asked if this is the general rule, Sanderson said "there are places in Shadesmar that are different, and some are the same."[16]

Areas where there is a lot of thinking (cognitive function) are expanded while areas without any thought are diminished. This allows a person to enter the cognitive realm and walk from the Shadesmar representation of one planet to that of another planet in a matter of days. The empty space between the planets in the physical realm creates barely any "space" in the cognitive realm due to the lack of thinking creatures in it.[17]

She stepped up beside the bead statue, noting for the first time the strange clouds overhead. They seemed to form a narrow ribbon of highway, straight and long, pointing toward the horizon.
Jasnah Kholin's first visit to Shadesmar[18]


The map of Shadesmar found in The Way of Kings includes several regions perpendicular to Roshar, as well as the names of other Expanses. If you walk far enough in the direction of one of those expanses(often days), you can arrive on other worlds.[19] The areas labeled are as follows:


Shadesmar can be visited by those with an inherent Soulcasting ability. On Roshar, entrance is granted by beings that Jasnah calls a type of spren. They appear in The Way of Kings to Shallan Davar and Elhokar Kholin, and one of these beings, called Cryptics is described by Shallan as

a figure with a sharp, angular symbol hovering above its collar instead of a head
Shallan Davar[15]

To be granted entrance to Shadesmar, the person wishing to go there must speak a truth about themselves to the Cryptic. Whilst Shallan is in Shadesmar, a voice speaks to her and causes her to Soulcast. It is theorised that this voice belongs to the Cognitive aspect of the goblet she is Soulcasting.

Stormlight is needed[22],(or alternative source of investiture) in order to control objects in Shadesmar, as well as for soulcasting. Traveling there without sufficient stormlight is considered to be perilous.


  1. Shadesmar is just a rough translation of "Cognitive Realm" in the language of whoever first found out about it
    17th Shard forums - 05 October 2013
  2. a b Shadesmar is the Cognitive Realm
    Theoryland - Jul, 2009 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "qa-428-10" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Hoid in Well of Ascension
    Theoryland - Jul 2009
  4. Is there a difference between Shadesmar and the Cognitive Realm?
    Theoryland - Mar 4th, 2014
  5. Is Shadesmar a Roshar specific term?
    Theoryland - Mar 13th, 2014
  6. Stormlight Archives hints
    Theoryland - Sep 16th, 2010
  7. The Way of Kings interlude I-8
  8. Do the other worlds have different ways of accessing Shadesmar?
    Theoryland - Dec 25th, 2010
  9. Written on Puck's copy of Elantris
    Theoryland - Mar 19th, 2011
  10. Getting to Sel is really tough
    Theoryland - Sep, 2012
  11. Getting to and through Shadesmar is very difficult on Sel
    Theoryland - Sep, 2012
  12. Is this a consequence of Odium Splintering Aona and Skai?
    Theoryland - Oct 30th, 2012
  13. Has to do with the name of that expanse
    Theoryland - Dec 8th, 2012
  14. Why is it dangerous to travel in Sel?
    Theoryland - 2013
  15. a b The Way of Kings chapter 45
  16. ground/water inversion
    Theoryland - Mar 13th, 2014
  17. Whenever a planet has enough thinking life on drops into Shadesmar
    Theoryland - Dec 6th, 2014
  18. Words of Radiance prologue
  19. a b ... but you can go to Shadesmar, walk in the directions where it says "The Realm of the Vapors" and it runs into Scadrial
    17th Shard forums - 2014-12-10
  20. a world you know
    Theoryland - 2011-11-08
  21. The name of the expanse that is covered
    Theoryland - May 17th, 2013
  22. The Way of Kings chapter 70
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