Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. Since we last saw each other, I appeared on Tor.com’s own Rocket Talk podcast! Thanks again to Justin Landon for having me on, it was great to be able to discuss the Stormlight Archive on air.
This week, the battle for the Tower rages ever on! I’m doing two chapters, and by the end of them Kaladin will have explosively leveled up. Get some videogame soundtracks ready! It’s time for Chapters 66 and 67.
Chapter 66: Codes
Points of View: Kaladin / Dalinar
Setting: The Tower
What Happens: Kaladin inspects Skar’s wound mid-battle, reminding him not to put any weight on it until it’s healed, while Teft tries to resist being treated as an invalid. The battle for the Tower rages behind them, but Kaladin is almost too exhausted by his overuse of Stormlight to pay attention to it. When he turns to examine the fighting, though, he’s shocked to see Sadeas retreating. He orders the men into bridge positions, discussing with Moash why the Highprince could be leaving a battle that was going well. He wonders if Sadeas might have been badly injured or even killed, but then sees Sadeas crossing the chasm, his armor’s paint unscratched. Kaladin sees the second Parshendi army surrounding Dalinar and realizes that Sadeas has betrayed his ally. He rushes to Sadeas, wanting to confirm that the traitor is unwounded, and hears his last words to Dalinar: “I told you, old friend… I said that honor of yours would get you killed someday.”
On the plateau, Dalinar and Adolin fight a desperate battle. Their armor is cracked in countless places, leaking Stormlight and growing heavier, slowly but surely. Adolin bellows that he warned his father not to trust Sadeas, that they walked right into it, and Dalinar knows he’s right. He wonders how he could have been wrong about Sadeas the entire time. When the Parshendi swarm and Dalinar sees his guard begin to buckle, he orders them to pull back.
He and Adolin take a much needed breather. Dalinar tells Adolin that he should come out and say that he’d led them to destruction. Adolin surprises him by saying that no, it’s not Dalinar’s fault. Adolin wouldn’t have asked him to stop trying to make Alethkar better, to become like Sadeas. He wishes they hadn’t let Sadeas trick them, but he doesn’t blame Dalinar for Sadeas’s betrayal. Dalinar realizes that, at last, his son has accepted the Codes.
With that knowledge, Dalinar’s guilt evaporates, and he finds himself at peace. He thanks his son, and tries to rally his men. He delivers a rousing speech, emphasizing that they follow the Codes because of who they are, and that by doing so they have become better people, even if they are about to die. That in dying well they will have lived gloriously. The men don’t cheer, but they regain resolve, and Dalinar charges back into battle, thinking only how sorry he is to have left Renarin to rule house Kholin alone.
Quote of the Chapter:
“It is time for us to fight,” he said, voice growing louder. “And we do so not because we seek the glory of men, but because the other options are worse. We follow the codes not because they bring gain, but because we loathe the people we would otherwise become. We stand here on this battlefield alone because of who we are.”
“Death is the end of all men!” Dalinar bellowed. “What is the measure of him once he is gone? The wealth he accumulated and left for his heirs to squabble over? The glory he obtained, only to be passed on to those who slew him? The lofty positions he held through happenstance?
“No. We fight here because we understand. The end is the same. It is the path that separates men. When we taste that end, we will do so with our heads held high, eyes to the sun.”
He held out a hand, summoning Oathbringer. “I am not ashamed of what I have become,” he shouted, and found it to be true. It felt so strange to be free of guilt. “Other men may debase themselves to destroy me. Let them have their glory. For I will retain mine!”
I’m sorry, I’ll just be over here in a corner wrapped up in a cloak of feelings.
He’s so stalwart it gives me goosebumps.
That being said, Dalinar, don’t tell your soldiers to stare at the sun. Bad plan.
This chapter is holding its breath, waiting for the next, and I won’t keep you waiting long. I think it’s a great capsule reminder, though, of who our heroes actually are, and what they care about when presented with an incomprehensible event. Kaladin is driven to verify the depth of Sadeas’s betrayal. Dalinar is pushed to question his ethics, which have led him and his men to the edge of destruction. But by questioning, Dalinar reaffirms what he believes in. He knows that he was doing what he did for the right reason, no matter what result it got.
Ugh, the feels are back. LET’S JUST GO TO THE FIGHTING.
Chapter 67: Words
Points of View: Kaladin / Li’l Kaladin / Dalinar
Setting: The Tower / The Past
What Happens: Bridge Four trails behind Sadeas’s retreating army, held back by the wounded. The rest of the army is crossing ahead of them, and Kaladin watches, sickened by Sadeas’s betrayal. He wonders if there’s no hope for men, imagining the world as a pustule. They reach the chasm, where the men Kaladin had sent ahead wait for him. Seeing the crossing, Kaladin tells his men not to set the bridge, but to carry it across on one of the others once the soldiers have finished crossing, knowing that they’d only slow the retreat down otherwise. Matal allows it.
The bridgemen watch Dalinar’s army fighting hopelessly on the plateau. While they wait, Kaladin hatches a plan, and when it’s time for them to cross he asks to be left behind. They’ll catch up on their own, and if they continue as they are they’ll only slow down Sadeas’s entire army. Matal, hoping that the Parshendi will catch and slaughter them, again allows this.
Kaladin tells his men that they’re free. They just need to gather some armor and take their bridge to the edge. Everyone will assume them killed by Parshendi, and they won’t even be chased. He, however, will have to go back to save the wounded. Bridge Four, understandably, is unwilling to leave without their fearless leader, but he orders them to start gathering salvage.
As they do so, he turns to see Syl in a form she’s never used before. She’s taken the shape and size of a regular-sized woman, and is watching the battle on the Tower in horror. Kaladin watches as well, and is twisted inside. His men surround him, asking if there’s anything they can do, and Kaladin says there is. They would have to run an assault, set the bridge, and survive long enough for the Kholin army to cross and escape. It would be suicide, and it would sacrifice their chance at freedom. Kaladin wants not to do this. He wants to leave the lighteyes to his fate. But he knows that thousands of darkeyed soldiers will die with him. Then Syl speaks, saying that she now knows what she is. She’s an honorspren.
The sound of battle and death surround Kaladin, and he remembers all the times he’s stepped up, and been smacked back down. He remembers his father, telling him that someone has to start. He remembers the First Ideal. He realizes they have to go back. With Bridge Four’s agreement, he leads a charge to save the Kholin army.
Dalinar is beginning to succumb to fatigue, his armor getting heavier, when he sees Bridge Four assaulting the Tower. He calls Adolin to see, and his son asks whether it’s some kind of trap. Dalinar thinks it’s a chance, and when there’s no other hope available, a slim chance is worth fighting for. He rallies his men to press towards the chasm.
Kaladin approaches the Tower, the Parshendi massed against them. Despite knowing that they’re running towards a disaster, at least he knows this time that it’s his own choice. Kaladin is once more out in front of the bridge, trying to draw fire, but this time the Parshendi are adapting. A group of Parshendi leap the chasm and prepare to fire on the undefended bridge from the side. Instinctively, Kaladin cries out for Bridge Four to “side carry right,” and the bridge falls into place, blocking the wave of arrows. This leaves them exposed to another volley from the main force, and Kaladin cries out. He infuses a massive amount of Stormlight into his shield, and every arrow is drawn to it, knocking him into his men, but saving them. The Parshendi who see this flee.
Kaladin is in shock, and the men who aren’t carrying the bridge take him away to recover. He asks Syl if there’s anything she can do to make him stronger, but she says no, and he’s left alone to think about all the people he tried and failed to save. He’s brought back to the worst day of his life.
He’s back in Amaram’s army, his third battle, looking desperately for Tien. Despite Amaram’s promise, Tien was transferred from message-carrying to active combat quickly. The battle is going terribly, and Kaladin needs to find his brother. Eventually he locates the man whose squad absorbed the young messengers, and sees his little brother on the front line. As he watches, Tien’s squad breaks, and Kaladin is stabbed in the leg. He twists wildly to defend himself, and without thinking kills his attacker.
When he pulls himself to his feet, he can see Tien, and cries out to him. Tien turns, sees him, and smiles as the rest of his squad pulls back. He and two other untrained boys are left exposed. The enemy soldiers advance, and Tien is slain.
Kaladin stumbles blindly forward, and hears the thunderous hooves of Amaram’s cavalry charge, sweeping through the enemy lines. Senseless to this, Kaladin finds his brother’s body. Tien’s squadleader stands nearby, watching Amaram, and when Kaladin accuses him of letting his brother die he only says that you have to turn liabilities into advantages to survive. Kaladin holds his brother’s body and weeps for the rest of the battle.
Blinking, Kaladin returns to the present, where it seems he’s just in time to watch more people he loves die. Syl asks him if he knows the words, and Kaladin is overwhelmed by his desire to protect Bridge Four. Defiance against their deaths surges in him, and he sees a spear nearby. Seizing it, he runs towards the bridge and leaps off it towards the waiting Parshendi. Seeing the gemstones woven through their beards, he inhales, swelling with Stormlight, and a voice speaks directly, urgently, into his mind, asking for the Words.
“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he whispered.
The Second Ideal of the Knights Radiant.
There’s a clap of thunder, and Kaladin explodes with energy and light. A wave of white smoke bursts from him, knocking back the Parshendi, and Bridge Four watches in wonder as their leader charges, radiant, like a living storm.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Are windspren attracted to the wind,” she asked softly, “or do they make it?”
“I don’t know,” Kaladin said. “Does it matter?”
“Perhaps not. You see, I’ve remembered what kind of spren I am.”
“Is this the time for it, Syl?”
“I bind things, Kaladin,” she said, turning and meeting his eyes. “I am honorspren. Spirit of oaths. Of promises. And of nobility.”
Wow, Kaladin, not only did you say that our long-running debate about whether spren cause or are drawn to things is irrelevant, you are a terrible boyfriend to Syl. This is why I don’t ship you two. (ShallaSyl 5eva)
I have spent many commentaries complaining about Kaladin in one way or another, and all of that was BEFORE I infamously accused him of being a war criminal. I’ve done more than my fair share of whining about how whiny he is, and moping about how he won’t stop moping. But this chapter makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that Kaladin isn’t just down in the dumps. He has serious PTSD. His experiences on the battlefield and as a slave have broken him inside, and it’s easy for him to be pulled back into unhealthy cycles of thought.
At any given time, Kaladin is only barely holding it together. That’s uncomfortable, and as readers I think it’s easy to want Sanderson to provide us with a magical fix to the problem. Sanderson’s proposed fix, the ideals of the Knights Radiant and their gigantic flashy level-ups is surprisingly satisfying to this purpose. To move forward and make greater accomplishments, Kaladin has to accept a new and positive truth into his life. Side note: I wish that my character growth could be accompanied by a Diablo 3 style explosion of light and sound that defeats my enemies.
Actually, you know what? That sounds incredibly inconvenient. I TAKE IT BACK, MONKEY’S PAW!
It’s excellent that Sanderson forces Kaladin and Bridge Four make a real choice between saving Dalinar and having near-certain freedom. We all want them to save Dalinar, and it seems like a pretty obvious solution, but clarifying the risks allows for a moment of real conflict.
The flashback in this chapter is excellent. Sanderson made clear rules for how he was going to reveal Kaladin’s backstory. Separate chapters, clearly labeled, moving smoothly forward in time. Then, here, with the missing piece, he breaks all of those rules. This scene happened BEFORE the last one we saw. It’s in the middle of the chapter, separated only by a section break, and intrudes directly on Kaladin’s mind. It’s not safe the way the other chapters were, it’s not here for our elucidation. It’s something happening to Kaladin’s mind that he’s incapable of resisting.
Really this is just another way that Sanderson makes his characters helpless in preparation for their empowerment. At the end of this chapter will be more powerful than he’s been in his entire life, but before that he loses control of his body and his mind, he loses his ability to protect his men, he loses his chance at freedom. Meanwhile, Dalinar is completely dependent on Kaladin. He can choose to try to accept his help, which is at least a step up from deciding how to die.
Anyway, this got dark. Come back next week for heroic rescues! Until then, maybe look at fluffy things. I’m not here to tell you how to live your lives.
Carl Engle-Laird acquires and edits original fiction for Tor.com, as well as bringing you news and speculation about the Stormlight Archive. You can follow him on Twitter, here. Ten Stormpoints for whoever tweets the Hannibal reference at him first.