The Way of Kings Reread on Tor.com

The Way of Kings Reread: Chapter 57

Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. It’s been a crazy storm of previews, glimpses, and speculation here on the site recently, but I’d like to remind you all that we have a spoiler thread for Words of Radiance discussion, as well as a dedicated Glimpses of Radiance thread. If you want to discuss the previews, please go there, as it’s entirely possible that people following the reread want to go into Words of Radiance unspoiled. I also highly encourage you to check out our own WetlanderNW’s article on being a Words of Radiance beta-reader.

This week I’m covering Chapter 57: Wandersail, and it is a doozy. Kaladin goes ninja, offends his sprenfriend, and meets the most infuriating plotbunny on the entire Shattered Plains, as well as briefly considering a career as a professional musician.

Chapter 57: Wandersail

Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Maps screams as he dies, speaking of the world shattering: “The rocks trembled with their steps and the stones reached toward the heavens. We die! We die!”

Kaladin, who had been trying to save his man, reels back. He thinks his men are being taken, one by one, and the meaning and significance of their lives begins to unravel in his mind. Around him, the survivors of Bridge Four discuss the death-sayings, with the wounded Teft saying that they seem to have been occurring more often lately. Kaladin tries to fight his guilt, remembering his father telling him that he had to learn when to care. But he can’t choose, he always cares.

Syl tells him to be strong for the other bridgemen, so he forces himself to stand up in parade rest and watch the battle. As he does so, Lopen approaches him with the bag of spheres they’d stuck to the bridge. Lopen retrieved it, then dropped the entire coil of rope down into the chasm, to avoid Hashal or Gaz seeing what they’re doing. Not that Kaladin has seen Gaz on this bridge run.

 Lopen falls back, and Kaladin focuses on the battle. At least his soldier training lets him see the Parshendi as an enemy to be destroyed, rather than suffering people he needed to help. He begins to pay attention to how the Parshendi treat their dead, wondering if the Alethi have even noticed how furiously their enemies attack when they march over their dead. With Sadeas and Dalinar fighting together, the day is eventually won, and Bridge Four returns to camp, having lost some good men and picked up more injured strays.

It’s obvious by now that the soldiers are angry at and ashamed by the discipline Bridge Four demonstrates as it stands in parade rest, waiting for them to cross. Kaladin reminisces how he used to dream about being a soldier on the Shattered Plains, and theorizes that the men here hate their discipline because it reminds them of what they ought to have themselves. Once again, Dalinar Kholin is brought up as a counter-example, but Kaladin doesn’t believe in exceptions to lighteyed corruption anymore.

Back in camp, while treating Teft’s injuries, the older bridgeman pesters Kaladin about whether he’s experienced anything strange lately. Then, without warning, Teft throws a punch. Kaladin reacts by instinct, taking in a deep breath and catching the blow in his hand. Strength blossoms within him, and he begins to glow.

Gollancz UK Cover Way of KingsTeft tells him that he’s been consuming Stormlight, and Kaladin notices that he stuck a pack to the side of the barrel, where it is still hanging. Something has been happening to him, and he doesn’t know what. Seeing Syl, he bellows and runs after her, demanding to know what she’s done to him. She says that she doesn’t remember everything she once knew about this, but they are changing each other. He makes her admit that she isn’t really a windspren, but, again, she doesn’t know what she is.

Syl tells him that he’s becoming something from legends, a Windrunner. He latches on to the idea of the Radiants, and wonders aloud if this is why he’s cursed. In the process, he deeply offends Syl. He hides from public view until the glow fades.

That night, Kaladin walks out of the warcamp towards the Plains. This is the first time he’s been truly alone since he became a slave, and he finds himself in a contemplative mood. He can’t deny to himself that he’s been healing at an impossible rate. He should never have been able to survive that highstorm, but he’d been noticing drained spheres long before that.

He also knows that the cracks within him are widening. He can’t bear the pressure of being Bridge Four’s savior. He keeps making promises to himself, and they’re wearing him down.

His moody thoughts are broken up by a distant melody. He tracks down the music, and finds a small camp with a burning fire, where a lighteyed man in black is playing the flute. His music is enticing and alien. Kaladin stops, realizing that he doesn’t want to encounter a brightlord, and turns to go, but the flautist stops playing and engages him in conversation.

He spars with Kaladin verbally, confirming our suspicions; this is Wit. Along the way he manages to suggest that he knows Kaladin is consuming Stormlight, but also to defuse that suggestion. He introduces himself as someone whose job it is to be witty, and says that he’s had many names: “I began life as a thought, a concept, words on a page. That was another thing I stole. Myself. Another time, I was named for a rock.” He tells Kaladin that he may call him Hoid, which is not his name, but “the name of someone I should have loved. Once again, this is a thing I stole.”

Kaladin tries to excuse himself, but before he can go, Hoid gives him the Trailman’s flute he’d been playing, a flute for a storyteller to play while telling a story. Kaladin asks how this is possible, and Hoid shows him. He plays the flute, which echoes amazingly off the chasm walls around them, and speaks into the echoes while not playing, giving Kaladin the story of Derethil and the Wandersail.

Derethil was a great king, an explorer, who built a ship to explore the westward sea. No one had ever explored that far, due to the peril of facing highstorms on the open ocean, but he commissioned a vessel he was sure could manage it. As Hoid plays and speaks, Kaladin begins to see or imagine the smoke twisting into images to accompany the story. Derethil sought the origin of the voidbringers, and rode the stormwinds west, nearly crashing on a distant island. There they were taken in by the Uvara, a people who always seemed to agree, but punished any breach in failure of behavior among their people with death. Whenever they carried out one of these grisly executions, they would say that their emperor “will not suffer failure.”

Kaladin sees a tower rising in the smoke, just before Hoid explains that the emperor lived in a great tower. Derethil and his men ventured into it, but came out carrying a desiccated corpse. The emperor of the Uvara had been dead for years. The Uvara collapsed into terrible chaos, and Derethil fled, with their local guide and caretaker fleeing with them. When asked the reason for the terrible riots, the guide Nafti replied, “Do you not see, Traveling One? If the emperor is dead, and has been all these years, then the murders we committed are not his responsibility. They are our own.”

Kaladin is moved by the story, and he and Hoid discuss what wit is, how this story could have made it back to Roshar, and how Hoid produced such amazing effects. The storyteller claims that the fire was ordinary fire, and the smoke mundane smoke. He says that Kaladin made the shapes he saw, and asks him what the story meant. Kaladin says that it’s about taking responsibility. Hoid asks him what it is he doesn’t want to take responsibility for.

Hoid gives Kaladin the flute, telling him to learn to play it, and asks him to take good care of “that blasted apprentice of” his. He says to tell him that he’s been graduated, and is now a full Worldsinger, and Kaladin realizes he’s talking about Sigzil. With that, he runs off to the warcamps, then turning south to run along the camps’ border.

Syl announces her presence, saying that she doesn’t like Hoid. She says that she’s behind what’s happening to Kaladin, that without her nothing would be changing in him. She’s willing to stop, but if she does she’ll go back to being a simple windspren. She tells Kaladin that he doesn’t survive because he’s cursed, but because their bond makes him stronger.

Kaladin realizes that he’s been making protecting the bridgemen all about him. He was doing it because he couldn’t stand not to, not because they deserved to be protected. He runs back to camp, and asks Teft how he knows what he knows. Teft reveals that he grew up in a cult dedicated to the Radiants. Kaladin takes up his responsibility, and tells him that they’re going to find out what the Radiants could do.

Quote of the Chapter:

“And you think I’m a curse?” she asked him.

“I… Well, you said you’re part of it, and…”

She strode forward, pointing at him, a tiny irate woman hanging in the air. “So you think I’ve caused all of this? Your failures? The deaths?”

Kaladin didn’t respond. He realized almost immediately that silence might be the worst response. Syl—surprisingly human in her emotions—spun in the air with a wounded look and zipped away, forming a ribbon of light.

Kaladin, you are the least smooth. Do not tell the tiny woman who’s bonded to you by magic and who depends on you for her ability to form memories, the one who’s been making sure you survive all the stupid shit you get yourself into, that she’s a curse. This is not a rule I should have to be laying down for you!

Commentary:

TOO MUCH STUFF GOING ON IN THIS CHAPTER, GUYS!

The death-sayings! According to Teft they’ve been coming more recently lately, which just can NOT be good. What Maps said is pretty clearly from a time and place he could never have experienced, so it’s hard to dispute their prophetic nature. Seeing one so close to an epigraph also makes it hard to ignore their connection.

The camp psychology! We see both the soldiers and the other bridges react to Bridge Four’s new discipline, and it’s not pretty. The soldiers are ashamed, while the bridgemen see another group of people who are better than them. It’s amazing how Kaladin imposed an order and discipline that he’d been yearning after since he became a soldier. His men even have their own salute now.

Teft is not really one for subterfuge, is he? I wonder if, in his mind, he’s trying to punch secrets out of Kaladin, or punch revelations into him. Either way, he tells us more about the crazy cult he grew up in, and his fist-based strategies are bearing fruit. Because of them, we’ve finally reached the point at which Kaladin can no longer deny that something is up. The point at which you start glowing and sticking objects to walls is the point at which you can no longer deny that you are friggin’ magical. He’s glowing, sticking things to things, the whole works. We also learn that Syl isn’t a windspren at all. She binds things, but thanks to our convenient little point of comparison, we also know she isn’t a bindspren. And she provides more fuel for the fire of our discussion of whether spren cause things or are attracted to things.

Kaladin’s deep analysis of his own weaknesses and motivations is excellently portrayed. He never really lets up on himself, finding something to criticize even in his drive to save people. And if he’s right about his motivations, then this isn’t just self-flagellation. It’s really useful to realize that you’ve only been helping people because it makes you feel better about yourself. Now that Kaladin knows what’s up with him, he can move forward more easily.

The Way of Kings, and the Stormlight Archive in general, contains more information about Hoid than all of Sanderson’s other books combined. As I’ve mentioned a few times, that jerk shows up everywhere, but only here is he a real character. He is excellent at drawing out people’s deep motivations and spurring them to action. We learn that Hoid isn’t his own name, but the name of someone he should have loved. Who could that be? What rock could he have been named after? I am sure that once we learn the answer to that question it will change anything. And why is he actually here on Roshar? He said he was looking for an old acquaintance, but now he spends most of his time hiding from him. Is this the Thirteenth Shard team that we’ve seen hunting him, or is he talking about Rayse, the bearer of the Shard of Odium?

His story is amazing, and worth going into for all its implications about the world, but what is most impressive is how perfectly it pushes Kaladin into a better place to handle his burdens. While I always assume that Hoid’s stories are based on prior events or legends, it almost doesn’t matter, because their purpose is usually to give the protagonists a kick in the pants and set them on the right path. I hope Kaladin does try to learn to play the flute, although somehow I doubt he’ll make the time for it.

That’s it for this week! I’ll see those of you who are following in the Glimpses of Radiance spoiler thread. For those brave souls, I can only say I’m sorry not sorry glad you’ve agreed to participate in this grand experiment we’ve concocted.


Carl Engle-Laird is the editorial assistant at Tor.com, where he acquires and edits original fiction. He is also the resident Stormlight Archive correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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