Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Please come along with me as we follow Dalinar on a magical journey through the lands of yesteryear.
In Chapter 4: Taker of Secrets, Dalinar enacts Navani’s scholarly plan to decode the Almighty’s voicemails, he dreams about chasing a face through a lake (Lakeface?), Navani asks again about when they’re finally going to move in together, and Dalinar sees the writing on the wall. I’m not sorry about that pun. No one makes me feel my own remorse.
Chapter 4: Taker of Secrets
Point of View: Dalinar
Setting: The Purelake-that-Was, Dalinar’s Chambers
Symbology: Kholin Glyphpair, Ishar
IN WHICH Dalinar receives a vision of running through water; he dictates his experiences; a squad hunts spren on the Purelake; a Radiant is seen in glowing armor; Lakeface is introduced, and Sja-anat invoked; a Thunderclast rises; hammers are in order; the Almighty expresses befuddlement regarding Radiants; Dalinar vows to refound the lost orders; Dalinar wakes, and he and Navani take notes; theology and morality are brought into the question of whether Navani can move in yet; spoiled children must still be brought to task; an ominous message appears on the wall; Kaladin accepts blame which was not given; an ardent possesses many interests; and we are all reminded that the Everstorm comes.
Quote of the Week:
“The Knights Radiant,” the Almighty said, standing up beside Dalinar, watching the knight attack the nightmare beast. “They were a solution, a way to offset the destruction of the Desolations. Ten orders of knights, founded with the purpose of helping men fight, then rebuild.”
Dalinar repeated it, word for word, focused on catching every one and not on thinking about what they meant.
The Almighty turned to him. “I was surprised when these orders arrived. I did not teach my Heralds this. It was the spren—wishing to imitate what I had given men—who made it possible. You will need to refound them. This is your task. Unite them. Create a fortress that can weather the storm. Vex Odium, convince him that he can lose, and appoint a champion. He will take that chance instead of risking defeat again, as he has suffered so often. This is the best advice I can give you.”
Thank you, God, for that clearly-worded action plan. Dalinar, I hope you were taking notes during this week’s meeting, because you have a lot on your plate going forward. We’re going to need a perfect mix of goal-focused and detail-oriented out of you, if you want to rebuild ten lost orders of infamous heretics and perform acts of engineering beyond anything your world has ever seen, all while compelling suboptimal action out of the greatest force for evil in the world, the spirit of hatred personified. Please report in on your progress quarterly.
Chapter 4 is short, but it’s tightly packed with interesting things. What struck me particularly on this readthrough was how Dalinar reconstructs his faith, given the knowledge that the Almighty is dead. While he approaches the whole situation with standard-issue Dalinaric stoicism, he’s actually scrambling. He decides that, because the Almighty is dead, and because He failed to foresee the coming of the Knights Radiant, the Almighty could not have been God. God, as Dalinar constructs Him, must be omniscient and omnipotent. This realignment of faith is rapidly approaching heresy, though. Dalinar believes the Almighty is dead, because the Almighty said so and that guy would know, but he still believes in God, so he is now constructing a new divinity to take the place of his fallen center of worship. Not necessarily a safe move!
Those especially well-versed in Realmatic Theory will know that Dalinar happens to mostly be right. The Almighty was never God. Adonalsium was. BAD NEWS, THOUGH, DALINAR, THAT GOD IS ALSO DEAD.
What’s even more interesting is that, in the midst of that process, Dalinar is rapidly moving towards a morality that is not grounded in divinity. “Something is either right or it’s wrong,” he insists. “The Almighty doesn’t come into it.” Is that your final answer? Because I think you’re going to need to show your work if you want to convince anyone that a secular and purely non-relativistic morality exists. Call me skeptical.
Kaladin is pretty good about calling blame down on his own head. Not the wisest workplace habit, but you can forgive the guy, since he’s only had an actual workplace supervisor for a week.
Oh, also, I guess there’s an Everstorm coming. Maybe we should talk about that.
“Sixty-two days, the glyphs read. Death follows.”
That’s just… it’s not very many days. Let’s move up your report schedule to once a fortnight, Dalinar, because you only have sixty-two days to get the world’s shit together.
This week we see Lakeface, the lake with a face! Okay, no, this converted riverspren is probably not actually a character on the level of Skyface. There’s a ton of spren-related information in this chapter. First, there’s some terrible thing called Sja-anat that can make spren act strange. Is this one of the Unmade? One of the names of Odium? We just don’t know, but the effects of its touch include erratic behavior and an affinity for Thunderclasts.
Speaking of Thunderclasts, I’m not sure whether to cover them in Sprenspotting or All Creatures Shelled and Feathered. They seem to be giant rock monsters animated by spren for the purposes of shonen combat. Humans get power armor, evil spren get mecha; this seems like a fair fight. I’m 100% onboard with Dalinar’s speculation that Shardblade’s were created to fight Thunderclasts. They’re so good at cutting rocks.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered:
The Purelake is where the fish are! I like these fish, because they are magic.
Dalinar gets a chance to study a Radiant in full Plate during this vision, and notes the glowing red light coming from her joints. I wish he’d described the markings on the armor more clearly, but even without that, I think we know what order this Radiant belonged to: “She raised her Shardblade and charged, stepping through the water with uncanny ease, as if it had no purchase on her. Perhaps it was the strength of Shardplate.” Not Shardplate, Dalinar; you just met your first Edgedancer. Like Lift, this Radiant can ignore friction, letting the water pass right over her without being slowed.
Meanwhile, we see further evidence that Radiants shared some degree of their power with the soldiers who fought alongside them. Our Edgedancer friend isn’t the only one who starts glowing when the Thunderclast rises. I think Rock will look quite fetching all lit-up like a Christmas tree.
Ishar is the Herald of Luck, and is associated with Pious and Guiding. Dalinar is definitely being guided in this chapter. It would be hilarious to me if Ishar was invoked in the chapter heading to indicate that the old dude approved of Dalinar’s slapdash theology. Speaking of, I just had a thought. Would anyone be interested in a more extended discussion of Vorin theodicy?
That’s it for this chapter. Next week, Dalinar’s plan to treat a bunch of warlords like spoiled children goes into full effect! I’ll take “things that will definitely go well” for $500, Alex.
Carl Engle-Laird is an editorial assistant at Tor.com, where he acquires and edits fiction both for the Tor.com Originals program and for Tor.com: The Imprint. You can follow him on Twitter here. If you ask nicely he might even tell you how to find his Brooklyn Nine-Nine podcast.