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Map of Shadesmar, the Cognitive Realm

Shadesmar is a Rosharan word for the Cognitive Realm[1]. Brandon Sanderson sometimes uses this term in non-Rosharan contexts when referring to that Realm.[2]


... 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[3]

Geographically, Roshar in the Cognitive Realm appears like an inversion of the continent in the Physical Realm, with its inland seas corresponding exactly to the shape of the land of Roshar. The "seas" are made of tiny dark glass beads that represent objects that exist in the Physical Realm. When asked if this is the general rule, Sanderson said "there are places in Shadesmar that are different, and some are the same."[4]

Living things manifest on Roshar's Cognitive Realm as flames. A flame vanishes when the person represented by it dies.

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[5]

The sky on Roshar's Shadesmar is black, with strange cloud formations and a small, cold sun. The land, which corresponds to bodies of water on the Physical Realm, appear to be made of obsidian. Trees made of crystal grow on this land.[6]

The Shadesmar Map[edit]

The map of Shadesmar found in The Way of Kings labels several areas in the Cognitive Realm, including regions called "Expanses" that are outside of Roshar. If you walk far enough (likely for days) in the direction of one of those Expanses, you can arrive on another world.[7] The areas labeled are as follows:


Main article: Spren

Spren are Splinters that reside mainly on the Cognitive Realm of Roshar. Each spren represents an idea or concept, and are described as ideas that gained life.

There is great variety among spren, both in appearance and in cognitive levels. Some spren are intelligent enough to build their own civilizations and live on cities in Shadesmar, while others are more like animals.[10] Most of these spren appear and behave differently when they transition to the Physical Realm.

Access and Use[edit]

The ardents in Roshar are aware of Shadesmar[11], and have used fabrials that allow them to Soulcast objects through it. There are also people whose bond with certain types of spren grants them access to Shadesmar. One type of such a spren, called a Cryptic, is described by Shallan as

a figure with a sharp, angular symbol hovering above its collar instead of a head
Shallan Davar[3]

For a member of the Order of Lightweavers to be granted entrance to Shadesmar, the person must have spoken enough truths about themselves to their bonded Cryptic. In Shallan's case, the Cryptic she calls Pattern no longer required truths for her to enter Shadesmar[6] after she confessed her darkest secret.[12] Pattern helps Shallan Soulcast by acting as a translator between her and the objects represented by the glass beads.

Another type of spren that give access to Shadesmar are Inkspren. These do not seem to require truths from the Elsecallers that they are bonded to. Aside from Soulcasting, Elsecallers can also use the glass beads on Shadesmar to form various structures that can be used there. For example, Jasnah can create a raft out of Shadesmar beads that she could stand safely on.[12]

Stormlight (or an alternative source of Investiture) is needed[12] 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 the Cognitive Realm
    Theoryland - Jul, 2009
  2. Is Shadesmar a Roshar specific term?
    Theoryland - Mar 13th, 2014
  3. a b The Way of Kings chapter 45
  4. ground/water inversion
    Theoryland - Mar 13th, 2014
  5. Words of Radiance prologue
  6. a b Words of Radiance chapter 7
  7. 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
  8. a world you know
    Theoryland - 2011-11-08
  9. The name of the expanse that is covered
    Theoryland - May 17th, 2013
  10. Words of Radiance chapter 1
  11. The Way of Kings interlude I-8
  12. a b c The Way of Kings chapter 70
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