I know as well as you that Words of Radiance comes out on Tuesday, and I can’t wait either. But today, dear friends, is Thursday. That means it’s time for the Way of Kings reread!
Today I’ll cover Chapter 59: An Honor. Kaladin forgets how to breathe, Hashal turns in her Evil Application, Gaz disappears to parts unknown, and Lopen successfully keeps watch. Lopen is the best, guys.
Chapter 59: An Honor
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: The Shattered Plains
What Happens: While Bridge Four works on combat formations, Kaladin tries to take in Stormlight, with no success. His methods of getting angry and staring at the spheres while holding his breath prove less than fruitful. Teft offers some unhelpful advice, but insists that what Kaladin did before was real. There’s no way him sticking a bag to the side of a barrel was “a trick of the light.” Nor is it possible that it was a fluke; Teft has observed many other instances of Stormlight-powered impossibilities.
Still, Kaladin has “spent a week staring at spheres” with no perceivable progress, and is starting to get fed up with the exercise. He doesn’t hold much faith in the contradictory stories of the Radiants’ powers, and grumbles that if he’s a Radiant, he’s a Radiant who’s sick of sitting in this room. Teft says he isn’t a Radiant, not yet. First he has to find the Immortal Words.
“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.” Teft explains the First Ideal of the Knights Radiant, and says that beyond that, each Order had three specific additional Ideals. Kaladin listens to the lecture, but doesn’t believe that anyone would follow those vows. They were just people, pretending to special offices of virtue in order to justify their rule.
Their further discussion is cut short when Lopen signals that someone is coming. Kaladin leaves the barracks and sees Hashal approaching. Since Gaz disappeared a week ago, she and her husband have taken over his duties entirely. Hashal gives Kaladin a backhanded compliment, then informs him that because his band is so efficient, she’s assigning them to bridge duty every day from now on, without releasing them from their daily chasm duties.
Kaladin is chilled. With this schedule, his men will be killed twice as quickly, and they’re so low in numbers that one or two men being wounded might bring the entire bridge down. Moash speculates that Hashal hasn’t been killing them fast enough for Sadeas’s taste. Kaladin is a problematic symbol that Sadeas needs to dispose of without taking overt action. The men ask what Kaladin is going to do, and he says that they’ll go to the chasms. He’s doing something about this today.
Kaladin has Teft take over the formation drills and heads deeper into the chasms. Syl leads him to a dead Parshendi. On the way, he thinks about the Vorin emphasis on soldiers. He wonders if he is regaining his faith, and whether he’s dooming those bridgemen left behind to die in his stead. He remembers what his father said: “He did what he felt was right because someone had to start. Someone had to take the first step.” He closes his eyes, and inhales Stormlight. Energized and proud, he runs and jumps straight onto a wall, collapsing in a heap at the bottom.
Syl takes him to a Parshendi, and he begins to cut the carapace off the corpse. The armor is held on by ligaments, actually fused to the Parshendi’s body. Lopen arrives with an armored leather vest and cap, as well as a shield and some straps. Last he pulls out deep red Parshendi bones. Kaladin ties the Parshendi armor onto the leather garments, then attaches the bones to the shield. Having completed his bizarre task, the next step was for Kaladin to get the heavy bag of armor up to the bridge. An arrow with a rope tied to it might let them haul the bag up to the bridge, but it risked discovery by the eagle-eyed scouts.
Kaladin realizes the solution, and begins Lashing rocks to the chasm wall. He uses these as handholds to climb up the side of the bridge. Once there, he ties the bag to the bridge, and at Syl’s insistence drops the forty feet to the ground. Her argument: he owes her after last week’s insult. Luckily for him, Syl’s instinct is pretty trustworthy, and he totally survives by twisting in the air and landing in a crouch, dispersing the rest of his Stormlight into the ground below him, which cracks. Lopen and the reading public are both duly impressed. Kaladin tells him that on the next assault he should get the armor and hide it. He has a plan.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Life before death,” Teft said, wagging a finger at Kaladin. “The Radiant seeks to defend life, always. He never kills unnecessarily, and never risks his own life for frivolous reasons. Living is harder than dying.”
“Strength before weakness. All men are weak at some time in their lives. The Radiant protects those who are weak, and uses his strength for others. Strength does not make one capable of rule; it makes one capable of service.”
Teft picked up the spheres, putting them in his pouch. He held the last one for a second, then tucked it away too. “Journey before destination. There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.”
Teft unpacks the First Ideal of the Knights Radiant. While I’m not sure his interpretation can be definitively labeled as the canonical interpretation as endorsed by the Knights Radiant, it’s enough to be getting on with.
Bye, Gaz! You were fun while you lasted! No, but actually, you were a miserable jerk.
In this chapter, Kaladin demonstrates the difficulty of learning magic. With our knowledge of how the whole thing works, it’s kind of painful to read him staring at spheres, holding his breath. The thing you have to do is literally breathing, bro. Sadly, he doesn’t know what we know. And it’s not like learning how to do something that’s usually automatic is easy. Try not to think about the process of breathing. It’s not the sort of thing you want to overthink.
He doesn’t do THAT much better when he remembers to breathe, either. Dropkicking a wall isn’t my idea of measured educational progress. But his jury-rigged handhold system is really very clever. Once Kaladin grasps a concept, we can rely on him to figure out clever applications immediately.
Hashal is making a strong run for Biggest Jerk in the World. Check out this evil nastiness: “Your team is just too good. It must be used. You’ll start full-time bridge duty tomorrow. Consider it an… honor.” SHE EVEN PAUSED FOR EVIL EMPHASIS! Who does that? It never becomes clear how direct a puppet Hashal is. My money is on her being a standard evil middle-manager. She wants to have a successful enough evil project, such as the utter destruction of a bunch of helpless bridgemen, in order to secure her promotion in the evil hierarchy.
Whatever her reasons, Hashal has pushed Bridge Four as far as she can, and Kaladin’s reaction is impressive. He snaps quickly past depression, because he had a backup plan. The escape plan was daring enough, but whatever he has cooking down in the chasms, it’s more than daring; it’s desperate. Hopefully it’s not some kind of terrible Parshendi stew. That would be a little too grim for my tastes.
This is the last reread before the release of Words of Radiance! In order to give you guys plenty of time to read, digest, and discuss that long-awaited volume, we’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from the reread. There will still be plenty of regular content to tide you over, though. Enjoy reading the book!