Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan took further steps to protect her family members from her father’s insanity, despite the probable cost to herself. This week, Kaladin is released from prison, is rewarded for his part in the duel, and displays singularly bad judgement. In my opinion.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.
Click on through to join the discussion!
Chapter 66: Stormblessings
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Kholin warcamp prison
Symbology: Spears, Talenel, Nalan
IN WHICH Kaladin continues to spiral down in depression until he is suddenly released from prison; on his way out, he discovers that Adolin has insisted on sharing the incarceration; the two seem to reach a mutual understanding; Kaladin is rewarded for his part in the duel by being given a full set of Shards; he in turn gives them to Moash; Adolin reluctantly agrees to this disposal; Kaladin and Adolin, accompanied by Bridge Four, leave the prison to the sound of cheers from the soldiers and other bridgemen; as they prepare to return to the barracks for the celebration, Kaladin returns to help Moash with his Plate; Kaladin asserts his judgement that Alethkar will be better off if Elhokar is assassinated, and Moash is delighted with the whole thing.
Quote of the Week
Kaladin jogged up to the man. “Why?”
“Didn’t seem right, you in here,” Adolin said, eyes forward.
“I ruined your chance to duel Sadeas.”
“I’d be crippled or dead without you,” Adolin said. “So I wouldn’t have had the chance to fight Sadeas anyway.” The prince stopped in the hallway, and looked at Kaladin. “Besides. You saved Renarin.”
“It’s my job,” Kaladin said.
“Then we need to pay you more, bridgeboy,” Adolin said. “Because I don’t know if I’ve ever met another man who would jump, unarmored, into a fight among six Shardbearers.”
Kaladin frowned. “Wait. Are you wearing cologne? In prison?”
“Well, there was no need to be barbaric, just because I was incarcerated.”
“Storms, you’re spoiled,” Kaladin said, smiling.
“I’m refined, you insolent farmer,” Adolin said. Then he grinned. “Besides, I’ll have you know that I had to use cold water for my baths while here.”
“I know.” Adolin hesitated, then held out a hand.
I don’t know if that’s the most significant conversation in this chapter—there are a lot of those—but it’s still my favorite. This, right here, is the moment when these two men acknowledge their respect for one another. They’ll still give each other a hard time, but now the sting is gone out of it. This is a wonderful, warm moment in a sea of hard, cold events and decisions.
I needed that.
This chapter is an exercise in whiplash. It picks up with Kaladin continuing his depression death spiral, starting to believe all sorts of things that are totally not true. Then… Click. The door opens, he’s free, and all the depression starts to fall away. (Honestly, I have to wonder if there isn’t something else going on here, but I don’t quite know what to suggest. It just seems a little… much—that a few steps, a window, and a breath of fresh air could make quite that difference. Then again, I’ve never been in prison, and I rather like being alone, so… maybe my reaction isn’t worth much.) Anyway…
The next scene is really like that breath of fresh air, in the context of what has felt like so many pages of gloom. I’m pretty sure I laughed like a hyena over finding out Adolin had imprisoned himself, and Kaladin’s reaction to it. It was such a delightful scene, with Adolin totally owning the high ground over everyone. I could have included several pages in the QOTW—the whole thing, from when the jailer first says “Your Highness” to when Moash picks up the Blade. I’ll toss in a couple of the more significant sections, just because they really need to be pointed out for discussion:
… “I’m sorry,” he said. “For ruining the plan.”
“Bah, you didn’t ruin it,” Adolin said. “Elhokar did that. You think he couldn’t have simply ignored your request and proceeded, letting me expand on my challenge to Sadeas? He threw a tantrum instead of taking control of the crowd and pushing forward. Storming man.”
According to Adolin, Elhokar bears the primary responsibility for screwing it up. I think I’d agree, but it does my heart good to see Kaladin acknowledge that he was wrong.
“The things you said about Amaram,” Adolin said. “Were they true?”
Adolin nodded. “I’ve always wondered what that man was hiding.” He continued walking.
“Wait,” Kaladin said, jogging to catch up, “you believe me?”
“My father,” Adolin said, “is the best man I know, perhaps the best man alive. Even he loses his temper, makes bad judgment calls, and has a troubled past. Amaram never seems to do anything wrong. If you listen to the stories about him, it’s like everyone expects him to glow in the dark and piss nectar. That stinks, to me, of someone who works too hard to maintain his reputation.”
Well, someone taught the boy to think, because that’s downright insightful—one of the many evidences I have for thinking that Adolin is so much more than the dumb-jock type he likes to pretend to be. He’s way smarter than he admits. The thing that hurts most is that this should have done SO much to restore Kaladin’s faith that something could and would be done, but he doesn’t even think about it.
On that subject, then:
“Your father says I shouldn’t have tried to duel him.”
“Yeah,” Adolin said, reaching the door at the end of the hallway. “Dueling is formalized in a way I suspect you just don’t get. A darkeyes can’t challenge a man like Amaram, and you certainly shouldn’t have done it like you did. It embarrassed the king, like spitting on a gift he’d given you.”
I don’t know how you go about learning that what you don’t know can kill you, when you don’t even know how much there is you don’t know, but Kaladin is finally having to realize that he just doesn’t know everything. For all his big ideas, there really are things about the rest of the world that can’t be understood from the perspective of his own life experience. What he did was incredibly presumptuous, but it never even occurred to him that he didn’t know all the rules.
There’s so much more I’d like to talk about here: Kaladin’s gut-wrenched reaction to the Shards, the echo of his earlier attempt when he assigns them to Moash, the distinctly different reaction of Adolin from the way Amaram had responded, Kaladin’s reasoning to persuade Adolin that it would be a good thing. And more: Teft’s confidence that things would be fine, his leadership in Kaladin’s absence, the curiosity about Amaram and Kaladin’s past.
A couple things I will mention, though. When they finally leave the building and go outside:
Adolin moved to join his father, but Dalinar watched Kaladin. What did that look mean? So pensive.
If only they had talked right here. Dalinar has given Amaram four days to find that Blade they hid, retrieve it, and then come talk to him about it… and clearly he’s heard nothing from Amaram about that subject at all. From what we learn later, at this point Dalinar has good reason to suspect that Kaladin might be telling the truth, rather than Amaram, but he’s still waiting for Amaram to make a move.
And so. I don’t know if it would have mattered at this point anyway. Kaladin had already made up his mind that Elhokar was a bad king and ought to be got out of the kingdom’s way. IIRC, last time we talked about this subject, I was thinking that Kaladin showed pretty poor judgement, trusting the Shards to a man he knew was part of an attempt to murder the king, but in rereading I realized that he knew exactly what he was doing: he was giving the perfect weapon to a man in the perfect position to commit the murder, and setting him up with the perfect alibi. What Kaladin did here could, I think, justifiably be called treason.
It’s too bad that this particular decision didn’t get thrown away with the rest of the captivity-induced lies he was telling himself.
This was Kaladin’s fifteenth day in prison; there are fourteen days left on the countdown. Ba-DUM.
There are two notable spren incidents in this chapter. One is the appearance of a veritable cloud of gloryspren around Moash when he picks up his new Blade:
The tall bridgeman walked to the side of the room, reaching out a hand to rest his fingers on the Shardblade. He ran those fingers all the way down to the hilt, then seized it, lifting the Blade in awe. Like most, it was enormous, but Moash held it easily in one hand. The heliodor set into the pommel flashed with a burst of light.
Moash looked to the others of Bridge Four, a sea of wide eyes and speechless mouths. Gloryspren rose around him, a spinning mass of at least two dozen spheres of light.
I know there has been a lot of debate about the terminology of these little guys, but I still like the term gloryspren. It makes use of a less-familiar sense of “glory” but one that really works for me. Besides, it sounds better than “wowspren.” I suppose in a way, “exaltationspren” would be slightly easier to comprehend, but it just doesn’t have the right ring to it.
Anyway. The other incident is more the absence of a spren:
… “I had a lot of time to think, in there,” Kaladin said.
“I can imagine.”
“The time led me to a few decisions,” Kaladin said as the section of Plate locked into place. “One is that your friends are right.”
Moash turned to him sharply. “So…”
“So tell them I agree with their plan,” Kaladin said. “I’ll do what they want me to in order to help them… accomplish their task.”
The room grew strangely still.
I don’t know exactly what happened there, but something did, and I think it was the Nahel bond being stretched nearly to the breaking point.
This is as good a place as any to point out a detail about the Shardblades. At this point, no one in-story really knows for sure whether or not a darkeyed man will become lighteyed if he bonds a Blade, but one thing happens immediately: he becomes fourth dahn. While it doesn’t sound like much on the surface—fourth dahn, out of ten—as Adolin points out, it ranks you above roughly ninety percent of Alethkar… and I suspect the number is actually higher. If only the king, queen, and the heir apparent are in the first dahn, and the second is made up of the highprinces and (presumably) their wives and heirs, that makes a total of at most 33 people in the top two ranks. The third dahn would be made up of the rest of the highprinces’ children, along with their spouses and children, plus an assortment of other landholders. On a guess, maybe a few hundred people? (I wonder how far you can carry the order-of-magnitude progression before it becomes outrageous…) Anyway that leaves Moash ranked equal to or higher than all but a few hundred people in Alethkar. I find this disturbing—but only because it’s Moash. In general, I suppose it makes in-world sense.
Oh, and just for reference, the Blade itself:
… a shimmering silvery Blade. Edged on both sides, a pattern of twisting vines ran up its center.
Do you suppose it’s another Edgedancer Blade?
You Have to Break a Lot of Rockbuds
Rock’s stew sounds… frightening, frankly! (It reminds me of the old Dixie’s BBQ here in Bellevue. The proprietor had a pot of “barbecue sauce” he referred to as The Man and it was literally too hot to eat, which meant that it was a local tradition to take out-of-town business guests there to “meet the Man.” Rumor has it that he never emptied the pot, just kept it simmering, and added more chilies when it started to get low.) This stuff of Rock’s has been simmering for three weeks now; it could be deadly.
Talenel, the Soldier, the Herald of War; Nalan, the Judge, the Herald of Justice. I’m honestly not sure why Talenel is used here, other than perhaps the new solidarity of two soldiers or the making of a new Shardbearer. Nalan, on the other hand, I’m reasonably sure is here to “honor” Kaladin’s judgement that the king should be killed for the good of Alethkar and maybe the world.
Stop it. They’re like brothers now, or maybe cousins. Friends and comrades-in-arms—or they would be if Kaladin weren’t secretly conspiring to assassinate Adolin’s real cousin.
“Enough of this!” Rock said as the armorers began to work, his voice filling the room like captive thunder.
I love this. “Filling the room like captive thunder.” Love this. It’s so perfect for my mental image of Rock.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we rejoin Dalinar and Navani as they face rumors and lies in the high court. Have a good week, and I’ll see you in the comments!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, and is now eagerly counting down to the release of The Bands of Mourning. Not long now… and there will be a spoiler discussion thread ready and waiting. Be sure to join in on all the shouting and screaming. There will be shouting and screaming.