Welcome back to the Tor.com reread of The Way of Kings, your weekly helping of all the Stormlight Archive conversation you can handle. Last week we saw how honest Kaladin’s father could be even when it would benefit him not to be, which is a bit of theme for all of The Way of Kings—that whole honor thing that Sanderson is rightly obsessed with.
This week we’re up to chapter 42 and 43. First up, Shallan hears a mysterious voice and ends up sharing some jam with Kabsal—it isn’t the jam she enjoys so much as the company. Meanwhile Kaladin’s mettle is tested yet again as he meets the new Brightlord in charge of the bridge crews. He also learns some very IMPORTANT words.
Chapter 42: Beggars and Barmaids
Setting: Kharbranth, the Conclave
Point of View: Shallan
What Happens: After two weeks of study and contemplation, Shallan finally approaches Jasnah with her research and thoughts regarding Jasnah’s earlier actions. Shallan concludes that although the philosophies suggest what Jasnah did was both legal and “right,” it was neither moral nor ethical.
Shallan is distracted by the Soulcaster Jasnah wears and fears being found out, but apparently Jasnah has either not yet discovered the switch or is covering it up for some reason. Even though Jasnah doesn’t agree with Shallan’s final summation, she feels Shallan has done her diligence in her studies, and can now move on to other subjects—though they will re-approach philosophy at some future point in her education. Jasnah dismisses Shallan for the rest of the day, giving her the first free time she’s had in two weeks.
Shallan quickly returns to her room to again try to use her stolen Soulcaster—she’s recently found a book with a passage that may be a clue to activating it. The book suggests that humming could make a Soulcaster more effective, so Shallan tries different pitches and tones, but none seem to activate her Soulcaster.
Shallan then hears a faint whisper that seems to come from within the room. Startled she shouts “Who is there,” but finds only a maid—who insists she had not spoken—outside the door. Shallan tries to relax, but notices that the maid had come from Jasnah’s room, where no maids are allowed to go. The maid apologizes, but Shallan can’t resist the opportunity to explore Jasnah’s room unencumbered and so orders the maid to go to report to Jasnah immediately. Shallan then heads straight for Jasnah’s notebooks, looking for any information on the Soulcater. The first notebook containes information on the fabled city of Urithiru, and the second looks to be reference quotes on the Voidbringers. The third and final notebook covers Natanatan, the Unclaimed Hills, and the Shattered Plains which were mainly discovered “by hunters, explorers, or tradesmen searching for a river passage to New Natanan.”
The notebook covering the Voidbringers is much larger than the other two, which surprises Shallan. She is perplexed that Jasnah, a staunch skeptic, could be so interested in the Voidbringers. How could she believe in them if she couldn’t believe in the Almighty?
A knock at the door causes Shallan to hurriedly replace the books. She answers the door to find Kabsal, who invites Shallan to share some jam since he heard she had some free time. Despite the desire to explore Jasnah’s chambers, Shallan readily accepts the invitation.
The witty duo heads to the Conclave gardens to share what Kabsal calls “Truthberry jam”—Azish lore said those who ate of the jam would “speak only the truth until the next sunset.” They share a playful discussion on her scholarly aptitude, given her natural desire to be outside rather than stuck in a dusty library. The conversation quickly turns to a more mischievous discussion about how “sweet, colorful, and delicious” Shallan herself is. This seems to please Shallan even through all her blushing. She’s starting to have feelings for Kabsal, and it seems he reciprocates in full—though Shallan knows she’ll have to let him down sooner than later. The conversation then briefly steers to her isolated upbringing and her stern father.
Shallan tells Kabsal he is much too forward for an ardent, but he replies “A man can leave the ardentia, Shallan,” which gives her a start. Shallan, without thinking, quickly blurts out “Jasnah thinks you’re getting close to me because you want her Soulcaster.” Kabsal replies that Shallan is both right and wrong; the ardentia would love to have Jasnah’s Soulcaster in their possession and he thought to ask for it eventually, but the ardentia also fear that Jasnah’s brother King Elhokar may very well go to war over a stolen Soulcaster.
Shallan turns the discussion to how Soulcasters work, and though Kabsal had never used one, he says they’re quite easy to operate. The process just involves pressing the hand that is wearing the Soulcaster against something and then tapping a gemstone in the Soulcaster. Shallan insists that isn’t how Jasnah’s worked, but he can only add that those adept at using a Soulcaster learned to control them better.
Before parting Kabsal again reassures Shallan he won’t involve her in stealing Jasnah’s fabrial, and that he was ordered to look after both her soul and Jasnah’s. He also admits his mouth wanders too freely when he is around her and that some in the ardentia believe he is growing too close to her. As they stand, Shallan notices the king walking in the gardens with another ardent. Kabsal ducks down so as not to be seen and admits that he was supposed to be working at the moment.
Shallan returns to her room where she finds a letter from Captain Tozbek saying he is on his way to pick her up in Kharbranth within a week. This would put Shallan at three weeks since she stole Jasnah’s Soulcaster, and about the time she told her brother she would depart if undiscovered.
Shallan walks to Jasnah’s room and explains that she’d rather study in lieu of relaxing. The next week will be the last time she has to learn from Jasnah, and she wants to make the most of it.
Quote of the Chapter:
“What are you?”
In the comments I’d love to hear from everyone regarding glossing over this line when you first read. I know I did on my first reading, but really this is a momentous occasion for Shallan though little does she realize it. Shallan just attracted the attention of what seems to be her very own spren though an argument could be made that it is Cultivation, but I don’t think Shallan is at that level just yet. Judging from what she was doing at the moment (sketching her ceiling) it could certainly be a creationspren that we’ve heard about before, which just may be Shallan’s version of an honorspren that will lead her to her Radiant order eventually. Now the question that comes up is will this spren like what Shallan has been up to? Given Syl distaste of dishonesty it seems unlikely.
Commentary: Oh, how little Shallan understands that things won’t necessarily go to her own plan. And who knew a sweet jam loosens lips and ardents from their moral centers? So Kabsal stalk much? I know it is just him trying to get in with Shallan in order to get at Jasnah, but he is playing the creeper card pretty heavy. I almost feel sorry for Kabsal in this moment knowing what is to come, but only a little and only very briefly. Kabsal gives us our closest eye into the world of the ardentia, but that lens is colored so much it is difficult to see through.
This is the chapter that also explains that many of the recent epigraphs are from Jasnah’s notes. Shallan’s recent reading also breeds a new interesting lead about Soulcastng:
However, she’d found a book the day before that had offered what seemed like a useful tip. It claimed that humming, of all things, could make a Soulcasting more effective.
Again musicality is mention in relation to magic working on Roshar. This seems likely an angle that will get explored more in-depth in much later books. It seems possible that with Shallan trying to work the Soulcaster with humming might have attracted the attention of a spren and it stuck around for the sketching show.
Jasnah always leaves me guessing. She comes off so cold and calculated. To Shallan the recent philosophy challenge was supposed to help her make sense of what Jasnah did. To Jasnah it comes off as more of instructive lessen to fill-in a gap in Shallan’s education. But should death really be that instructional? Jasnah mentioning she “sometimes wonder[s] if I should accomplish more with my Soulcaster.”
A few new things are briefly glossed over that left my mind all a flutter: nightspren, raspings, and stormwhispers. So nightspren are attracted to particularly dark nights? It is the mention of raspings and stormwhispers that really grab me though. They sound like they are related to the Voidbringers some how. Possibly these are another of the ten deaths such as the Midnight Essence we saw in Dalinar’s flashback.
Chapter 43: The Wretch
Setting: The Shattered Plains, Sadeas’s Warcamp
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Kaladin wakes from an uneasy sleep, his mind turning about Sadeas’ statement that Bridgemen are nothing more than bait. Anything he could do would not change this fact. Kaladin leaves the barrack and is met by his Bridgemen, who now sport clean faces or well kempt beards thanks to Rock’s gift.
As Kaladin begins to speak, a lighteyes and his retinue approach—Lamari’s replacement. The new officer’s name is Matal, though it is his wife, Brightness Hashal, who introduces him to the crew as their new captain.
Hashal also says that her husband will be running the bridge crews differently than Lamaril. Kaladin immediately questions how Matal ended “up in this latrine pit of a job?” and is set upon by a guard for insubordination. Kaladin blocks the first blow, but realizes this could escalate quickly into a larger fight. Instead, he takes the next blow to the head and goes down.
Hashal continues, saying that Matal had requested to be placed in charge of the bridgemen given how important they are to Sadeas plateau assaults. She also adds that from now on instead of rotating duties for the bridge crews around camp, each crew will be given a specific assignment. She then calls Gaz and tells him that Matal orders Bridge Four be given permanent chasm duty. Bridge Four is clearly disturbed by this and asks Kaladin what they will do. He simply replies, “We get to work.”
Soon after, Kaladin finds himself looking down a chasm and contemplates jumping in—a place he has been before. He resigns himself to climbing down the chasm the old fashioned way—with a rope ladder along with the rest of Bridge Four. As he climbs down, Syl questions why he isn’t happier to have survived the storm. Kaladin brings up his desire to fight the soldier earlier, and Syl mentions that she remembers helping men kill others in the past; though she has problems with it, she feels it was right.
Once in the chasm, Teft asks Kaladin what they were going to do now. Frustrated, Kaladin says: “I don’t know what to do! If we try to protect ourselves, Sadeas will have us punished! We’re bait, and we’re going to die. There’s nothing I can do about it! It’s hopeless.”
All the men are clearly shocked at what they heard. Teft tries to talk to Kaladin about not giving up hope, and that even if they die at least they tried. He ends saying, “journey before destination,” which leads to a discussion about the Lost Radiants; Sigzil points out Teft’s quote was part of their motto and then recites a few more lines. Sigzil explains that he learned it from some groups in Yulay who vocally waited for the return of the Radiants.
Syl repeats Teft’s phrase, encouraging Kaladin to listen to Teft and not give up. At the same time Skar and Teft argue about the Radiants. Both Skar and Moash bring up Kaladin’s belief that there was no hope for them. Kaladin thinks about all the defeats he has survived when those around him have died.
Kaladin wanders away and starts shifting bodies and collecting weapons and armor, telling Syl again that he can’t save them. Kaladin thinks more on the Radiants’ motto as well as memories of his brother Tien, eventually turning around to face his men. He tells them he had one more plan, though “it will most likely end with us all dead at the hands of our own army.” He proposes training with the weapons they find in the chasm, and that they’d attempt an escape. All the men accept the plan, excepting Rock—he it is beneath him, but he will continue to cook their meals. Some looked scared about doing this, but all went along willingly.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”
Life before death. Such simple yet inspiring words. Notice how Teft attempted to slyly slip the words in? Though everyone quickly pounced on him for even bringing them up except for Sigzil. These words will lead Kaladin a path that will literally change the world.
Commentary: Kaladin, what are we going to do with you?
Kaladin just went full emo on us again. At least he can’t play The Cure on repeat and there is no dark eyeliner on Roshar. He certainly lived up to the chapter title acting the part of the wretch. His men believe in him so much they are willing to die for him—even if they have to be grumpy about it. Instead of seeing their devotion as respect he keeps taking it on as his burden. Hero complex, much?
I feel Syl is really the one who really made Kaladin come around this time. Sure Teft and Rock are getting there, but Syl has become his anchor to life. Syl brough something interesting up. She remembers helping kill others before. She’s almost at the point of acknowledging her honorspren-ness.
Teft does protest a bit much when it comes to the Knights Radiant. He clearly brought up their words to encourage Kaladin along that path, but he is so secretive. Sigzil meanwhile comes alive and along with Teft brings the legends of the Radiants to the fore for Kaladin—a much needed lesson. I could definitely see Kaladin seeking out those knowledgeable about the Radiants in his future. A road trip with Sigzil to Yulay just might be in order to fill-in more gaps in his Radiant knowledgebase. Maybe with research hounds Shallan or Jasnah by his side…
It is a chapter like this that makes me long for Shallan to come back. Even when bad things happen to or around her there is always a lightness that is not found in most of Kaladin’s point of view. But things will get better for him. He’ll have a militarily trained crew again at his side. And then everything with be coming up Kaladin, right? Right!?!
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Reviewwhere he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering onTwitter 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.