Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I’ve done a character study, and since I’m currently through my fifth read through of Oathbringer, I’ve been thinking about Adolin.

I’ve had the chance to speak with the author, Brandon Sanderson, who is my favorite in the business right now, and people were talking about Kal and Shallan. I couldn’t help but say, “The only thing wrong with Adolin is that he isn’t Kal.”

Fanboy moment: Mr. Sanderson felt that was a good point.

You see, if Stormlight doesn’t have Kaladin, I affirm that Adolin would be the main character. In fact, Adolin would be a fine main character in pretty much any other fantasy story that doesn’t have Kaladin in it. And yet, poor Adolin is stuck behind this generation’s greatest hero. Kaladin is the greatest main character since Rand al’Thor, and Adolin can’t help but get lost in that shadow. (I’ll probably do a character study on Kaladin later, but I’m still a bit perturbed by his character given what happens in Oathbringer.)

Even in writing a blog praising Adolin, I can’t help but acknowledge why he isn’t the main character, but he is possibly one of the greatest secondary characters ever (I’d put him behind Perrin myself, but Adolin is up there).

So why not take a look at Adolin and try to understand why he’s so compelling.

The simple answer is his sympathy aspect. Adolin is loyal. He’s the picture of a good son and a model of a great big brother. He’s charming. He’s earnest. The most fascinating part of all that is how he sees himself: Not good enough.

Like his father, Adolin is his harshest critic. He’s an acclaimed duelist. He’s the planet’s most eligible bachelor, but he sees in himself flaws that don’t even exist. The flaws that do exist in him are mountains that rest on his shoulders. This leads him to do something beautiful: He tries. He tries so hard to be the sort of man he thinks everyone thinks he should be, and he’s unable to see he’s already so much more. This is what makes Adolin stand out.

When I was first reading Oathbringer, I was afraid Adolin would turn against the team. A part of me still is. How long can a man be just short of good enough before that yearning to be recognized becomes bitter? It would make for a great fall-from-grace arc, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen. I still think it might, and that has me rooting for Adolin all the more.

This is why some of the events of The Rhythm of War made me so happy, which brings me to the other point I wanted to make about this character.

Adolin does all the “hero arc” things others do in a completely original way, and when you compare his arc to Kal’s you can see the parallel. To be honest, Adolin does it all the hard way.

The trade off is Adolin’s suffering (the tool most authors use to build sympathy) isn’t as obvious as someone like Kal. This is probably one reason why I don’t hear people talk about him. Honestly, I hear more people talk about Renarin.

This image by Exmakina was taken from The Coppermind for review purposes. Please don’t sue me.

I think the fact that Adolin doesn’t suffer physically or by the loss of others is the the key, and that makes me sad. Adolin is sort of a caricature for an average person in today’s world, and we do the same thing to him that real people do to others.

We look at him and think, “Well it’s not like he’s been imprisoned or hurt, betrayed or forced to experience loss. What’s he got to complain about?”

Think about it. He’s wealthy, charming, and handsome. He must be fine right?

Except he’s not. He’s fighting every bit to be seen as his own man, a man a father and brother can be proud of, a man a woman can love, as Kaladin fights to protect those around him, but because he’s never been poor or enslaved, people just don’t appreciate him, and that’s tragic. It’s a depressing view of how people treat each other.

Yet he fights on, not so much with his awesome swordsmanship or his spren, who he’s helping to find herself. Instead, he fights on by being a kind, loyal man who does all he can.

That, dear readers, is a character worth putting on t-shirts. That, dear readers, is a main character trapped in a more-compelling main character’s arc.

So the next time you’re reading a Stormlight book, take a moment to give Adolin a bit of love.

Thanks for reading,


Why Clara Oswald Fell Apart as a Character

Why Clara Oswald Fell Apart as a Character

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. When Clara was first introduced, and when her arc with Matt Smith ended I considered her one of the better characters.

Image taken from Pinterest for character study purposes.

However, from the moment Capaldi’s arc started, I’m of the opinion that the writers weren’t ready to let Smith go so Capaldi could shine, and no character suffered more for that than Clara.

During Capaldi’s entire arc, Clara’s character degraded to such a degree that I’m of the opinion there are some who think of her as one of the worst companions of the modern era. But why?


Here are my reasons:

  1. Continuity Conflict: We established that Clara’s arc at the end of Smith’s tenure was wonderful. The problem is, when Smith left and Capaldi came in Clara was resentful of the “older” Capaldi. She had an entire episode where she “came to grips” with the Doctor being a different person.  The problem is, if anyone were able to roll with the regeneration mojo, it would be the companion who has helped every doctor to have been or to come. In fact, she should have recognized that doctor.
    1. Very_Ancient_Eleven
      Image taken from the TARDIS Data Core website.

      Some might argue, “But her memory reset!”  Really, then explain the scene when Clara speaks with the aged Smith in “Time of the Doctor.” She told him, “You’ll just pop up with a new face.” This is when the show went on to account for the cannon’s established number of regenerations (12).  She knew that Smith would go, and another new face would appear.

    2. Only she didn’t. She acted with shock and even asked if there was a way to change him back. This rather bigoted point of view from a character who should know the Doctor better than most just felt half-hearted. Especially in the “argument” she posed on why she wasn’t bigoted (but then continued to doubt the Doctor.
  2. gallery_uktv-doctor-who-s08-e04-2A Love Story with No Love: The show went on to push the love story between her and Danny Pink. The problem, they never developed that love story. Compare the love story between Rory and Amy, a story that was so compelling, Amy’s choice to stay go be with Rory (while the reason I hate her (she was the only character the Doctor begged to stay with him)) made sense because they established several times through  multiple season just how much they mean to one another.  Meanwhile, Pink went on one awful date and had one speech (in which she lied to this man she was supposed to love so much she betrayed the doctor). So when that episode happened, her heartbreak over Pink’s death just didn’t mean anything. For crying out loud, she professed her love over the phone. (eye roll)
    1. This love story didn’t have any development or growth, so her reaction to his death just felt like an excuse.
  3. A Fall From Grace with No Consequence: I think this is the most tragic reason this character just fell apart. The following season, we saw Clara begin to get pretty dark. (The justification did feel off from the beginning since we’re still just finding it hard to believe she cared so much for a man she willfully lied to.) Anyway, justification aside, this arc was fascinating…
    1. face-the-raven-16x9
      Image taken from The Ultimate Guide to the Fashion of Doctor Who website.

      … until she never had to face the consequences for her fall.  This season was one of the most frustrating for me because we’d see an episode that was just fantastic (Face the Raven or Heaven Sent) are undercut by episodes that render the tragic cost of those episodes moot. Clara makes a huge mistake and heroically accepts her fate (until the Doctor brings her back). I even disliked the return of the Doctor’s memories.

    2. When character makes poor decision after poor decision but doesn’t face consequences, it annoys the audience. They start to doubt the story will unfold with any real suspension of disbelief.  Comic books kill characters and bring them back all the time; however, those characters are at least dead for more than two episodes.

All of these reasons have nothing to do with Jenna Coleman or her acting ability to act (which I feel is outstanding). The problem is, in my opinion, with the writing. The plotting for Clara’s arc lacked respect for her previously established cannon and enough foreshadowing to make her plot twists convincing.

I think this is all unfortunate as she was such a great companion through Smith’s tenure.  Whatever happens with this new Doctor, I’m glad this new Doctor is getting a new companion. This will let us judge the pair together and individually.

What do you think? Do you still like Clara? Do you have more reasons her arc didn’t work? (Please don’t just bash characters or actors. I always seek to analyze based on definable characteristics not just raw emotion.)

Thanks for reading,


Why Black Panther Should Be the Next Leader of the Avengers

Why Black Panther Should Be the Next Leader of the Avengers

Greetings all,

I just wanted to share a tangent with you. I hope you’ll forgive me.  I watched Black Panther on opening night. This isn’t a review.  If you want to know what I thought, well, I liked it. I thought it was a pretty solid Marvel movie. I was entertained.  The epiphany, however, is in watching the character develop.

He’s a natural leader. He’s charismatic. He’s compassionate. He’s disciplined. He’s merciful.

How in the world do you not make this guy the next leader of the Avengers?

What I don’t want to turn this into is a debate about race or culture. Look, it’s great that this character brings ethic and cultural diversity. Those are good things.  But it’s what we do in our life that makes us. Our skin and our culture are factors, but they don’t define us. So you won’t hear me talking about how it’s time we had a black this or a woman that. Frankly, I don’t care who you are, what you look like or where you’re from.  All I care about is the simple yes or no answer to the question, “Can you do the job?”

T’Challa checks every box that matters.

Image taken from Collider. Honestly no real leg to stand on here. I’m just praying the Mouse doesn’t take offense.

Natural leader: During one scene, he’s faced with his advisors. One, a close friend, wants one course of action. What he does is listen to all of his advisors. Bozeman does a fantastic job of making me believe he’s listening and considering the options. He evaluates all the information and makes a decision. This is what leaders must do. Trust their team, but make the call. (CHECK)

Charismatic: Dude, seriously, if Boseman were to run for president on this movie alone, I’d vote for him. He’s so compelling. He’s emotional without being weak. He’s entertaining without being foolish. His ability to make others feel for him is unquestioned. I can’t quantitate this data. You’ll either watch the movie and agree with me, or you won’t.  For me, this is a CHECK.

Compassionate: When faced with the key plot, he doesn’t respond to a threat. This is actually critical information. Most leaders will only asses hazards and identify means to mitigate those hazards.  Those leaders are effective, but they’re rarely great. You see, T’Challa understand that choices like that were what caused his current conflict. He sought understanding. He wanted to find alternative solutions. He wanted to unite rather than just defend. Listen, if he only had this arc, I’d still think he should take over the Avengers. Uncompromising men are exemplary. But understanding leaders change the future.

Image taken from IndieWire.

Disciplined: He enforces standards without regard to his personal feelings. He upholds the intent of the law without being subject to the letter of it. He proves his subject to his laws when he puts himself in a position of danger. He holds others accountable even when he regrets the need to do so. He does so while being as merciful as he can be at every opportunity. His mercy isn’t a hindrance, it’s an aspect of his leadership.

It’s my opinion that we focus too much on skin color or gender. Now, I’ll confess it’s very easy for a white, middle-aged, man to say that. However, I believe we’ll never push pass these boundaries we’re fighting if the only way we identify one another is with these crude adjectives. I’m not calling for T’Challa to take over because he’s black. I’m saying he should be in charge because he’s the best qualified. We should let go of the other reasons. They ultimately don’t matter.

The business and time spent means Captain America’s time is limited. I’m not saying he should be ousted. But he’s a prime example on how uncompromising men can cause more problems than they fix. That’s not why he’ll eventually be killed off. He’ll eventually be killed off because Chris Evans can’t play Captain America forever. We all know Robert Downey is close to the end of his amazing run as Iron Man. The fact is someone will have to step up to lead in Phase 4 and beyond, and Black Panther made it very clear to me who that leader should be.

Thanks for reading,


Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Greetings all,

This image was taken from for review and study purpose in accordance with fair use doctrine.

I’ve missed doing character studies, and since I’m reading Way of Kings in preparation for the release of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, I thought I’d study one of those characters. Since I’m waiting for Oathbringer, I thought Dalinar deserved center stage.


NOTE: I’m doing this study only on Dalinar in his role in WoK. Please read at your own risk. While I won’t intentionally reveal every plot item I can remember at the moment, I may discuss some things that might take some of the fun out of it for you.

Dalinar is a sympathetic character. He does a lot of things to make people like him. He’s honorable, which is interesting for his arc, and he’s also a loving father and man of pride. Sanderson does a great job showing Dalinar’s efforts. None are more obvious than his interaction with his oldest son Adolin and his dead brother’s widow, Navani. When these characters are together, we see how Dalinar struggles with his conflict. We see how much he wants to be a man of honor and how much strain it puts on his old life.

This is what I want to hone in on for this character study. A character’s interaction with other characters can be 1) a point of conflict and 2) a way to display a character’s personality.

A point of conflict: I think this is the most fascinating aspect of Dalinar’s story in WoK. Dalinar’s desire to follow the code and unite the princedoms is a big shift from the drunken, unconscious man we meet in the beginning of the book. With Adolin we see the conflict Dalinar has to face on his own: Is he crazy, or are his visions really from the Almighty. We also see a strained relationship between a father and the son who idolizes the man his father used to be. Adolin loves his father, but he’s afraid Dalinar is losing (or has lost) his mind. He wants his father to be the mythic warrior, but his father seems to be pulling further away from that old part of his life, and Adolin grows concerned. Even when Adolin finally gets his opinion heard, he then regrets how his father reacts to that information, thus showing us more how much Adolin idolizes Dalinar.

Display a character’s personality: With Navani, we see a different aspect of his struggle. Navani is aggressive in her pursuit of Dalinar, and Dalinar wants her, but at one point in the book he explains that he can’t expect more of his men if he succumbs to his own (arguably inappropriate) desires.

Fan art by ex-m.

Throw in the visions and the mystery of their origin, and Dalinar shows himself to be an incredibly sympathetic character, who proactively works to resolve his conflicts. Navani is an exception to this. Through most of WoK, Dalinar avoids that conflict. This displays his weakness and how much he wants to give in. He’ll fight dozens of armed opponents. He’ll face his former friend in a unforgiving political arena. He’ll even face his oldest son, and that son’s sadness seeing a respected man possibly going insane. But, if Navani so much as walks in a room, he’s looking for the nearest escort or exit he can find. This shows us it’s harder for him to deny his affection for her than it is to even discuss his sanity or trust an old friend.

Dalinar has what K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs calls a neutral change arc. Dalinar doesn’t fall into despair (though he’s tempted) and he doesn’t learn a perception altering truth. (For those who’ve read the book, yes, he learned an important secret, but it didn’t change his personality). Dalinar is a pillar. His dedication to the code and honor change those around him (his son and even Kaladin). Neutral arcs are frowned upon these days (in my own egotistical opinion), but I think that’s because they’re so very rarely done correctly.  You see, Dalinar doesn’t change, but his (as Weiland would put it) “belief in his truth” makes him an example for others to follow.

This arc is effective not just because of an interesting opponent (Sadeas), but also (and in my opinion more so) because of Adolin and Navani, who provide the most stress and challenge to his known truth (his faith in the code and adherence to honor). This arc is made sympathetic because they care about Dalinar. If everyone was against Dalinar (as Sadeas is), he’d look like nothing more than some jerk being high and mighty. Sadeas points this out near the 70-percent mark of the book. However, Sanderson gives us two compelling characters who love Dalinar and want to believe in him. Their doubts are what show his strength, and as their faith in him grows, so does the reader’s.

If you haven’t read Way of Kings or Words of Radiance (the first two books of the Starlight Archive), you’re really missing out on some great reading. I like taking a step back and analyzing a character, but I’m reading this book for the third time because it’s just that good.

Thanks for reading,