Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread, here on Tor.com. This week’s chapters are all about enduring pains for two of our main characters. Kaladin is fighting for his life after the Highstorm incident, and master thief Shallan is dealing with some troubles of her own, as she is still reeling from what she witnessed during Jasnah’s not so little “lesson.” Even though Shallan is disconcerted she still has the wherewithal to concoct a plan against her brothers’ wishes to hopefully get away with her long sought and now stolen treasure.
It’s hard out there for a Surgebinder.
Chapter 38: Envisager
Kharbranth: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin and Teft
What Happens: A fevered Kaladin is in the barracks of Bridge Four where the men are trying to heal him as best they can. He occasionally opens his eyes, but he hasn’t truly awakened since he was cut down after the Highstorm. Kaladin’s consciousness races from thought to thought as he fought to survive. He keeps returning to a statement from Lamaril: “Bridgemen weren’t supposed to survive.” He believes he has seen deathspren, which few survive seeing. Kaladin sees a tiny figure of light in the shape of a female warrior that fights fighting off the deathspren with a sword made of light. The figure puts up a valiant fight, but Kaladin realizes more deathspren are coming than she can possibly fight off alone.
Teft comes to check on Kaladin who notes that all the bridgemen Kaladin had been doctoring before the Highstorm were doing well. Bridge Four kept Kaladin in the back of the barrack to keep him away from curious onlookers and would-be assassins who may be trying to get in Sadeas’s good graces by disposing of Kaladin.
Teft asks Skar for an update on Kaladin’s condition. Skar reports that Kaladin seems to be getting worse. Teft tells Skar to take a break, saying that he will look after Kaladin for a while. Teft’s thoughts wander to a group known as the Envisagers, who have been waiting for someone like Kaladin. Teft then places three infused spheres in Kaladin’s hand and waits for a reaction, but nothing happens. When Teft reaches out to retrieve the spheres, Kaladin takes in a deep breath and Teft sees that the spheres are no longer glowing. Brief and faint “wisps of Light” rise from Kaladin’s body, and he even opens his eyes, which leak light and appear to be “faintly colored amber.” Some of the light seems to heal a few of the cuts on Kaladin’s body. As the light fades, Kaladin closes his eyes; he appears to be a little better overall than before, but is still at death’s doorstep.
Teft decides to bring Kaladin more infused spheres to help heal him, but he knows he must be careful not to arouse suspicion around the camp. Teft seems to have a good idea of what Kaladin is, but is wary of sharing the news—he is unsure if even Kaladin knew what he was capable of. Teft again thinks of the Envisagers, who are now all apparently dead.
Quote of the Chapter:
The Envisagers were gone. Dead, because of what he had done. If there were others, he had no idea how to locate them.
Oh, Teft just what did you do? Though he doesn’t go into it much, the feeling that I’m left with is that Teft told someone—probably an Ardent—about his family’s beliefs and they were cleansed. Teft had already given up, but Kaladin gave him hope. Teft will try to right the wrongs he’s done because he shares the same feelings as Kaladin about those he’s failed. From this chapter on, Teft will be instrumental to Kaladin. Teft knows things few others could or would share with Kaladin.
So that was totally a badass Syl with her blazing sword of light in what seems to be the spiritual realm. For such a brief chapter a lot is revealed here. Kaladin is stuck in a fever dream and is losing the battle, but Syl is showing a new, or should we say a very old, side of herself. As Kaladin comes into his abilities, what will that mean for our lovely Sylphrena?
Standing before the deathspren was a tiny figure of light. Not translucent, as she had always appeared before, but of pure white light. That soft, feminine face had a nobler, more angular cast to it now, like a warrior from a forgotten time. Not childlike at all. She stood guard on his chest, holding a sword made of light.
Could her warrior aspect manifest in a more physical way and just what could that sword of light do against a Voidbringer? Now the deathspren are interesting little buggers. Could deathspren be connected to the death visions so often quote in the epigraphs? They are almost described as I imagine a mini-voidbringers would be being black and many legged.
Teft has got a dark side to him. His past is as murky and his continual references to not being trustworthy don’t match with his current actions. He sees himself as a denier, a realist, but Kaladin’s abilities make Teft face what he considers an imposible fairy tale. If anything, he is ashamed of what he did both to the Envisagers and for whatever caused him to become a bridgeman.
Chapter 39: Burned Into Her
Point of View: Shallan
What Happens: In her spartan room in the Conclave, Shallan is sketching almost franticly, drawing the scene from three nights ago when Jasnah murdered four men with her Soulcaster. Even though Shallan didn’t have the wherewithal to take a vivid memory of the scene as she normally would, she feels compelling to chronicle the death of these men.
Since that night, Shallan has been studying philosophy. Despite Shallan’s severe misgivings about the righteousness of Jasnah’s decision to rid the world of those men, nearly all the schools of philosophy agree with Jasnah’s position. It essentially boils down to intent, and Jasnah’s “intent had been to stop men from harming others.”
As Shallan starts on another sketch, her mind returned to her theft of Jasnah’s Soulcaster, which seemed to weigh on her as much as what Jasnah did with it. Questioning her own deeds versus Jasnah’s, Shallan finds more fault in herself for acting based on anger rather than acting to rescue her own family, as she had originally intended. Suddenly Shallan refocuses on what she had been drawing absentmindedly—a scene of a man lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood set in a lavish dining room. She feels a sudden urge to flee and leaves the room, only to be immediately stopped by a master-servant who informs Shallan that one of her spanreeds is blinking—one of her brothers is trying to reach her.
Shallan activates the spanreed in her room and speaks with her brother, Nan Balat. Shallan tells him she finally has Jasnah’s Soulcaster in her possession. Nan Balat is overjoyed at the news and asks if she is already on her way home. Shallan insists it wouldn’t be prudent for her to leave Jasnah so abuptly, whereas if she stays, she will not be suspected when the theft is discovered. Nan Balat worries that Jasnah may search Shallan’s room, but Shallan replies that it would be better to be discovered here than to be chased down by Jasnah, whose wrath would likely increase with the effort. Nan Balat admits her logic is sound. Shallan hopes that in a few weeks, Jasnah will discover her Soulcaster is broken and think it was her own actions that caused it.
Shallan soon has a knock at the door—a maid for the daily cleaning, but not one she is familiar with. Worried, she rushes to her chest and places the stolen Soulcaster in her safepouch instead of leaving it in her room for Jasnah to discover. As Shallan leaves, the maid passes on a basket of bread and jam sent by Kabsal. She briefly considers going in search of Kabsal, but feels that it would be wrong given her decision to leave in the next few weeks. Instead, she goes to the palace gardens and idles away time by sketching some of the flora and fauna there. She is particular interested in the shalebark and the creatures crawling and seemingly cleaning it.
Shallan attempts to use the Soulcaster for the first time, pressing the gems and thinking different commands such as “become smoke,” “become crystal,” and finally “fire” to no avail. Supposedly, her family’s servant Luesh knew how to use the device, but he had recently died. She considers trying to get information about using a Soulcaster out of Brother Kabsal, but thinks better of it, lest it end up in the hands of the ardents, which is something Jasnah would never want.
Quote of the Chapter:
Shallan froze, realizing for the first time what she’d been drawing. Not another scene from the alleyway, but a lavish room with a thick, ornamented rug and swords on the walls. A long dining table, set with a half-eaten meal.
And a dead man in fine clothing, lying face-first on the floor, blood pooling around him.
Shallan remembering the death of her father? Although the deeper we get down the rabbit hole that is the Stormlight Archive, I think Shallan being responsible for the death of her father is a fake out. She may have been involved in it somehow, but a piece just doesn’t fit—if she killed her father, she wouldn’t have gotten her Shardblade until after his death, since they disappear when they leave their owner’s grasp. I still favor the theory that she caused her father death, but this nagging thought won’t let up.
Commentary: “Burned Into Her” is one of the most evocative chapter titles in The Way of Kings. Shallan is troubled by the men Jasnah so nonchalantly killed, and the memory is burned into her mind so badly she is trying to escape it by drawing. This is a technique that would normally work for her, but Shallan is dealing with an even deeper demon. The mysterious sketch that she throws away definitely has to be related to the death of her father, though I do question whether the person lying in a pool of blood was her father.
But all these moral quandaries beg the question, what other horrific actions will Shallan take in the future? Can we see her doing something on a larger scale than Jasnah just did? Such as making a horde of Parshendi disappear into a giant cloud of smoke. Jasnah seems ready for that and I’m sure her wrath will be felt once she is out on the Shattered Plains. but this line also brings another thought to mind. Jasnah’s abilities seem to be that of one of the various Knights Radiant orders, but that would also intimate that she has a spren of some kind connected to her since she appears so powerful though I’ve yet to ferret out a firm nod to this connection. Jasnah is so much a mystery herself.
All this philosophical debate has me wondering what Jasnah’s reaction would be to Taravangian’s secret actions with the town’s sick. Even wit his reasons still shrouded I doubt Jasnah could live with what Taravangian has wrought in Kharbranth. But does her thirst for knowledge for further than we’ve seen so far?
Speaking of searching for knowledge Shallan again gives us a nice look into the world of Roshar at a smaller level. It was an interesting observation by Shallan about the miniature cremlings and shalebark having an intertwined relationship with the bark providing food and a place to live with the cremlings kept the shalebark clean. It brings to mind the people of Roshar playing the cremling role of trying to keep the world clear of Voidbringers and their ilk.
One last thing before we depart. The epigraph for this chapter discusses quick transportation around Roshar. This is reminiscent of the Knights Radiants who Dalinar met in one of his flashbacks that appeared from the sky. But what’s an Oathgate? Like a small Stargate perhaps. Instantaneous travel sounds like something out of Dragonball Z. What’s next, Super Saiyan Kaladin? Now that’s something I’d like to see.
Until next time may the Stormlight be with you.
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on an anthology project and is hoping to find a good publishing home for it soon.