Welcome back to the Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. This week brings camaraderie to all the readers out there who dream that they are storms. What, you’re saying that’s not very many of you? Well, Kaladin’s just going to keep being him no matter what you say, as he joins Dalinar in the Crazy Highstorm Visions Club.
Witness the return of Skyface, our first birds-eye view of Roshar, a thrilling display of martial force against hapless mooks, and the intersection of three of our leading men: Kaladin, Adolin, and Szeth.
Chapter 46: Child of Tanavast
Setting: The Sky, The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Kaladin dreams that he is a storm, racing from the eastern sea across the surface of Roshar. He sees the continent from above, stretching out in front of him. He sees the Shattered Plains, much larger than he’d expected, then rushes west, passing cities he recognizes, like Kholinar, and others he’s never even heard of before. He sees unknown peoples, including a group with visible blue veins all across their bodies. He even sees a figure more familiar to the readers:
“A man stood over two corpses. His pale head shaved, his clothing white, the murderer held a long, thin sword in one hand. He looked up from his victims and almost seemed to see Kaladin. He had large Shin eyes.”
Everywhere Kaladin looks, he sees battle, warfare. He begins to believe that all the world has been swallowed up by war, and it saddens him. Conflicts thin out as he travels from east to west, but it is almost never absent.
The storm that Kaladin has been riding reaches the western ocean, and suddenly Kaladin hears a booming voice. It addresses him as a “child of Tanavast” and a “child of Honor.” It tells him that something called the Oathpact has been shattered. Kaladin doesn’t understand anything the voice is telling him. When he says as much, the face he saw in the highstorm that nearly killed him appears again, “as wide as the sky, its eyes full of stars.” It warns him that something called Odium is coming. Kaladin asks why there’s so much war in Roshar, and the face shatters “into droplets of water,” with one final warning: “ODIUM REIGNS.”
Kaladin awakens suddenly, surrounded by hostile figures holding him down. His instincts kick in and he absolutely wrecks his captors. After beating the snot out of them with his sweet martial arts moves, he reaches for the spear and knife he should always have at hand, and realizes they’re gone. Finally, the men who he thought had been attacking him get through his adrenaline: he’d been wailing on his bridgemen the whole time. When the highstorm started, he lost control of his body, and began acting strange. His men had been trying to restrain him for his own safety.
Now returned to his senses, Kaladin walks out into the light rain at the end of the storm and begins cleaning himself. Seeing his men lining up to be shaved by Rock, he decides to finally join them. Once shaven, his naturally fine bone structure is revealed, and Sigzil comments on how noble he looks. Kaladin lashes out against the concept of lighteyes, leading to a discussion of the various ways the nations of Roshar select their leading classes. Sigzil argues that, in the end, no method seems better than any other. All end with the powerful finding ways to abuse the weak. Along the way, he mentions the people with visible veins Kaladin saw in his vision.
Moash, who had claimed that he would change the world by pulling the lighteyes down, restates his faith that Kaladin was going to free them by teaching them how to fight. Kaladin reminds him that he never promised it would work. He rebuts Moash’s certainty that he, or any other darkeyes, would ever be allowed to keep a Shardblade, even if they managed to win one.
Rock, who had been listening to the conversation, approaches and calls Sigzil a Worldsinger, one who travels between kingdoms and tells them of the ways of distant lands. Sigzil freezes, then stalks away, ending the conversation.
Kaladin looks over his squad, which has been sorely pressed in recent weeks. They’re down to 28 healthy men, barely enough to carry the bridge. Luckily, today is the day the slave caravan arrives. Kaladin and Teft go to meet Gaz and get their new bridgemen. Unfortunately, it seems that Hashal’s new strategy for destroying Bridge Four involves starving them of new recruits. Gaz only has one man to assign to Bridge Four, and it’s a parshman.
Kaladin protests, saying that it’s madness to bring a parshman into battle against the parshendi, but his protestations fall on deaf ears. Kaladin brings the parshman back, and sees hostility grow in his men. That makes him pity and want to protect his new bridgeman, despite the voice inside him that rages against this new liability. He ends up naming the parshman Shen, and forcing his men to accept their new squadmate. He gives Teft instructions to drill the others, then takes a walk to think over his escape plan.
Kaladin’s wandering walk takes him through most of Sadeas’ warcamp, but brings him no closer to a real solution. He knows he can teach them how to fight, but he doesn’t know how to get them out of the camps with weapons, and he can’t help thinking that he’s leading another group of men into a disaster. He wonders to Syl if the Almighty hates him. Syl tries to talk him out of believing he’s cursed, saying that his survival might indicate the Almighty preserving him, which catches Kaladin’s attention. He presses her, asking her if she believes in the Almighty, or knows if he really exists, but she isn’t certain. This bothers her; it seems like something she ought to know. Kaladin tosses around ideas about religion a little longer, then asks Syl if she’s ever hear of Odium. She hisses and retreats under the eaves of a nearby building.
Before Kaladin can lure her back out, a commotion breaks out near him. A lighteyes officer in red pushes a half-naked woman into the street in front of him. From the sleeves of her dress, cut to reveal both hands, Kaladin can tell that the woman is a courtesan. The man kicks her in the belly, and Kaladin begins pushing towards her to defend her, but before he can make it several blue-coated soldiers intervene. Clearly, these are men from another army, led by a high-ranking officer. The men are soon surrounded by red-coated soldiers, and the two officers confront each other. The bluecoat tries to resolve the situation amicably, extending his hand in peace, but the redcoat spits on his outstretched hand. In response, the bluecoat summons a Shardblade. This scares off the scumbag in red.
With the threat diffused, the man offers the courtesan his aid. She offers to repay his kindness, ahem, but he politely declines, invoking his father’s “thing about the old ways.” He notices Kaladin, tosses him a sphere, and asks him to deliver a message to Brightlord Reral Makoram, letting him know that “Adolin Kholin won’t make today’s meeting.”
When he leaves, Kaladin looks at the money, and Syl praises him for going to help. He says it was foolish, but she’s still pleased with him. When he pockets the sphere and shows no intention of delivering Adolin’s message, though, she’s somewhat less pleased. She’s frightened by the darkness in Kaladin when he thinks about the lighteyes.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Except,” Kaladin said, “if there is no Almighty, there might be something else. I don’t know. A lot of the soldiers I knew were superstitious. They’d talk about things like the Old Magic and the Nightwatcher, things that could bring a man bad luck. I scoffed at them. But how long can I continue to ignore that possibility? What if all these failures can be traced to something like that?”
This is pretty lazy thinking. I can’t think of a reason why the absence of the Almighty would lend credence to the veracity of other superstitions. It happens to be the case that, so far as I can tell, all the things Kaladin just mentioned are real, but there’s no reason why they would be mutually exclusive, except perhaps that the Vorin church claims that one is real and the others fake. It’s also a strange time for Kaladin to be questioning his faith. He did just kind of see the face of God.
Woo, there’s a lot going on in this chapter. We get our first aerial view of Roshar, which tells us a lot. First, the Shattered Plains were shattered by something specific. They possess a beautiful symmetry, which lends credence to the theory that they may be the site of the lost city of Urithiru. Second, we see more cities and plants adapted to the storms, like the trees that fall down into the ground when they sense a stormwall rolling in. We see how much war there is in Roshar, and it really is a lot. And, finally, we see the return of Skyface.
Do you think Skyface hears Kaladin when he speaks? It almost seems, at the end, that he’s responding to Kaladin, but that could be a coincidence. Who is Tanavast? Is Tanavast the same as Honor? What exactly was the Oathpact, anyway? Now Kaladin has to deal with these questions, too. He also has to deal with dire portents about Odium, “the most dangerous of the sixteen.” Syl may not remember the Almighty, but she seems to instinctually remember Odium. Whatever Odium is, he’s probably responsible for the unseemly amount of war that plagues Roshar. Skyface also says that men don’t ride the storms anymore. Is this something Windrunners used to do all the time? I bet it’s connected to Dalinar’s visions.
It was a good idea to pair a display of Kaladin’s martial prowess with this chapter, which shows him grappling with the plan of how to train his men into soldiers and lead them to safety. He’s tremendously capable in battle, especially when operating on instinct, but his threat-recognition could use some work. It’s also nice to see him dealing with his problems more constructively. Long walks and conversations with his invisible friend are much healthier than staring matches with a chasm.
The mission statement of the Worldsingers is potent: remind the nations of Roshar that there are other kingdoms, places where people do things differently, in order to keep them from losing perspective. I wonder if Sigzil’s master, who we later discover to be Hoid, was instrumental to the founding of the Worldsingers. It seems like his kind of operation.
Who’s delighted to see Adolin cross paths with Kaladin? I find him much more appealing in this scene than in his previous chapters, partially because he’s being viewed from a distance. He’s bold, proactive, and even honorable in this scene, standing up for the dignity of a sex worker and turning his overbearing obsession with dueling to a constructive purpose. He still calls Kaladin “bridgeboy,” which, first of all, rude, but his effortless humor and dignity partially make up for it.
Kaladin also gets a glimpse of Szeth. I wonder if Szeth sensed his presence in some way. When those two meet, it’s going to be explosive.
The way parshmen interface with society is so strange, and Kaladin seems to realize it. Asking them to go to war against the parshendi requires Kaladin to face the question of how the parshmen differ from their martial cousins, and what it means for them to be enslaving these questionably-sentient humanoids. Syl, once again, serves as Kaladin’s conscience when dealing with Shen. I wonder if he would have made the right choice without her.
Last, let me say that I’m glad Kaladin finally shaved. The man could NOT carry off a beard. Embarrassing, buddy. We’re all embarrassed for you.