Welcome back to the final chapter of The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. It’s been a long and stormy road to this moment, but we’re not quite done yet. This week I cover the Epilogue, in which one guy tells a bunch of riddles and another guy knocks on a door, most thrillingly. Also contained within are an opportunity to pose questions to Brandon Sanderson and an announcement of what’s coming next for the reread community. Don’t miss out!
Epilogue: Of Most Worth
Point of View: Wit
What Happens: Wit sits on a box just inside the gates of Kholinar, strumming on his instrument and generally confusing three guards. His behavior is totally at odds with what they expect of an appropriate lighteyed gentleman. He tells them that something has changed, and that he’s waiting for a storm.
While he waits, he engages them in a conversation by asking what men value in others. One guard suggests that music is what men value most, and Wit begins to play his enthir, calling that statement a beautiful lie. Another soldier asks Wit what the most valuable talent is, and Wit says that isn’t the question. He says that what men value most of all is novelty. Intellect, aesthetic achievement, and innovation are all valuable, but men only value the thinker who comes to an idea or achievement first.
The gate shakes, and Wit declares that “the storm has come.” Again the gate shakes, as if being hammered on by something gigantic. Chaos breaks out, and the thump comes again. Then a Shardblade appears between the doors, slicing through the bar that holds them fast, and the gate opens.
A gigantic man with dark skin and dark eyes, dressed in ragged cloth, stands outside. He holds “a massive Shardblade, point down, sticking about a finger’s width into the stone, his hand on the hilt. The Blade reflected torchlight; it was long, narrow, and straight, shaped like an enormous spike.” Wit welcomes him.
The man trudges into Kholinar, ignoring the cries of the guards, his dark eyes dazed. He orders them to sound the alarm, then introduces himself. “I… I am Talenel’Elin, Stonesinew, Herald of the Almighty. The Desolation has come. Oh, God… it has come. And I have failed.” Then he collapses to the ground.
Wit looks down at him, and says again that what we value, most of all, is timeliness, and he’s afraid Talenel’Elin may be too late.
Quote of the Chapter:
“You think I’m a cynic,” Wit said. “You think I’m going to tell you that men claim to value these ideals, but secretly prefer base talents. The ability to gather coin or to charm women. Well, I am a cynic, but in this case, I actually think those scholars were honest. Their answers speak for the souls of men. In our hearts, we want to believe in—and would choose—great accomplishment and virtue. That’s why our lies, particularly to ourselves, are so beautiful.”
Reading Words of Radiance makes this proclamation take on a new level of meaning. Well done, Brandon Sanderson, seeding such a key concept of your next book in your epilogue.
It was not an ending. There are neither—What? Wrong series? Right.
Sometimes I wonder if Wit/Hoid has a day planner full of key moments to hang out at and kibitz. He loves to be where the action is, and has some kind of unerring sense of dramatic timing. Hoid is Sanderson’s eternal observer, his authorial insert who makes narrative out of history, only occasionally changing what he sees. Usually that change is practically quantum, changing by observing rather than through action. Wherever he appears, Hoid is a storyteller, who brings out deeper modes of thought in his interlocutors. But he has a deeper agenda on Roshar. His conversations are so frequent and widespread that he’s positively meddlesome.
The narrative of The Way of Kings, and perhaps of the Stormlight Archive overall, is neatly wrapped up here. Taln has come back, as the Heralds always must. He plans to teach them, to make them ready for the Desolation. But he’s far, far too late. In Words of Radiance we’ll see in greater detail what each of the Heralds were supposed to do, which makes it clear how monstrously late Taln is. But it’s not just him. Every revelation or resolution our heroes come to were needed yesterday, if not years ago. They realize the world needs saving well after it’s past the tipping point. They realize the need to rebuild the Radiants, a process that deserves decades, partway into the Desolation. And it only gets worse in the next book.
Wit’s off-handed observation that the arbitrary Alethi structure of rule based on eye color happens to have a good reason at its core shocked me, especially in a chapter that packs in so much class-based confusion. The guards react to Wit through the filter of their perception of his eye color, despite the fact that he is in no way Alethi and in no way descended from whatever their basis of rule is. Then Taln shows up, a Herald of the Almighty in the flesh, and be bears all the marks of base foreignness. His skin and eyes are dark. But he also wields a Shardblade! If Shardblades lighten your eyes, his should be light, and he should be noble. Taln is a living refutation of their system.
Well, here we are, gentle readers. We’ve come to the end of our reread of The Way of Kings. I’d like to thank Michael Pye for all the work he’s done, on behalf of Tor.com. He will be moving on to other projects from here, and we wish him all the best. The Stormlight Archive Reread will continue with Words of Radiance, starting in early June. I am thrilled to announce that I will be joined in that continuing effort by long-time commenter and general Stormlight genius Alice Arneson, aka Wetlandernw. Watch this space for our triumphant return, complete with a new and exciting reread format.
And with that, I open the floodgates to your questions for Brandon Sanderson! Post them in the comments between now and Tuesday, and we’ll send the best along to Brandon for him to answer at his earliest convenience. We’re going to try not to send him anything likely to get R.A.F.O.’d, so please keep that in mind. I look forward to all your questions.
We are no longer accepting new questions. Thank you all for participating!