Thu
May 9 2013 11:00am

The Way of Kings Reread: Chapters 9 and 10

The Way of Kings Reread Brandon Sanderson Stormlight ArchiveWelcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. Previous articles can be found in the reread index, and opinion pieces and other news can be found in the Stormlight Archive index. This week we’re reading chapters 9 and 10, both of them Kaladin chapters. Our favorite bridgeman continues his deep slide into depression, and gets to a place so low even his resident spren-companion gets fed up and leaves. We learn some tantalizing tidbits about the relationship between Kaladin and Syl, see the horrible attrition rate of Bridge Four, and experience our first flashback to Kaladin’s youth. See just how cute li’l Kal can be below the cut.

Chapter 9: Damnation

Setting: Sadeas’ Warcamp, The Shattered Plains

Point of View: Kaladin

What Happens

Kaladin thinks about why he was assigned to Bridge Four: to make sure that he will die expediently. Bridge Four has the highest casualty rate of any bridge, even in an army where a third to a half of bridgemen die on any given run. As he waits listlessly in the light rain, too apathetic to take shelter in his barrack, Syl hovers above his shoulder. He’s not sure how long he’s been a bridgeman now, but it might have been two or three weeks. Or perhaps an eternity. In that time all but one of his fellows from his first run have died, as have many of their unfortunate replacements.

Kaladin hasn’t bothered learning other bridgemen’s names, hasn’t bothered figuring out why the Alethi armies fight on the plateaus (“Something about those large chrysalises…But what did that have to do with the vengeance pact?”), but he has wondered why the bridge runs have to be so terrible. In the past he asked to let a few bridgemen run in front with shields, but had been denied, on threat of death. As far as he can tell the lighteyes think this whole arrangement is just some game.

Syl tries to engage him, clearly worried that he hasn’t spoken in days. Eventually she gets a thought out of him:

“My father used to say that there are two kinds of people in the world,” Kaladin whispered, voice raspy. “He said there are those who take lives. And there are those who save lives.”

[…]

“I used to think he was wrong. I thought there was a third group. People who killed in order to save.” He shook his head. “I was a fool. There is a third group, a big one, but it isn’t what I thought.”

[…]

“The people who exist to be saved or to be killed…The victims. That’s all I am.”

Understandably disheartened by this, Syl continues to try to cheer Kaladin up while he works in a lumberyard. She thinks back to when he was “vibrant,” when his soldiers, fellow slaves, enemies, and even lighteyes looked up to him. She says she used to watch him fight, which strikes Kaladin as odd, since as far as he can recall she didn’t appear until he’d already been made a slave. He doesn’t say anything, though.

He thinks about the ways bridgemen can be punished. If you’re a lazy worker you’ll be whipped. If you lag behind on runs you’ll be executed, the only capital crime a bridgeman can commit. “The message was clear. Charging with your bridge might get you killed, but refusing to do so would get you killed.”

A soldier named Laresh approaches Gaz with a batch of replacement slaves, including an especially pathetic group for Bridge Four. One of them is a young teenage boy, “short, spindly, with a round face.” He immediately catches Kaladin’s attention, and he whisperes “Tien?” to himself.

But no, he failed Tien, and Cenn, and everyone else he’d tried to protect, so this couldn’t be Tien.

Syl says she’s going to leave, which finally gets Kaladin to care about something. She will try to come back, but she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to. She thinks that if she leaves Kaladin she might lose herself. Despite all that, she can’t watch Kaladin like this anymore.

The kid who reminds Kaladin of Tien dies in the next bridge run, which was a very bad run that drops four bridges. Kaladin survives, and finds the boy’s body in a small hollow. Death surrounds him.

That night in the barracks Kaladin finds himself crying.

Quote of the Chapter:

Kaladin charged the chasm, not even flinching as men were slaughtered around him. It wasn’t bravery that drove him; it wasn’t even a wish that those arrows would take him and end it all. He ran. That was what he did. Like a boulder rolled down a hill, or like rain fell from the sky. They didn’t have a choice. Neither did he. He wasn’t a man; he was a thing, and things just did what they did.

Oof, that’s rough. This echoes Kaladin’s first run, in which the mechanizing ritual of the bridge runs began. It’s hard to tell if the grinding down of the spirit and resulting total dehumanization of the bridgemen is a desirable outcome of the bridge runs. It’s clearly not undesirable enough for Sadeas to give a flying, ahem, care, but I just don’t know whether I can believe that Sadeas is that moustache-twirlingly evil. Perhaps we should instead see this as the inevitable consequence of removing all human empathy in order to chase maximum efficiency.

Interestingly, this sequence also echoes a later passage, the one in which Kaladin first demonstrates his prowess with a spear in chapter 27:

You were not shocked when a child knew how to breathe. You were not shocked when a skyeel took flight for the first time. You should not be shocked when you hand Kaladin Stormblessed a spear and he knows how to use it.

The similarity is that in both cases what Kaladin is doing is physically inevitable. Rocks roll downhill, he runs across plateaus, skyeels take flight, he swings a spear. The difference is in necessity versus capacity. The former is dehumanizing, the latter empowering. But I think that the fact that these moments are set in such similar terms is interesting. Perhaps we should be less comfortable with how easy, how natural Kaladin is with a spear. Perhaps wielding a spear is not so different from running a bridge.

Commentary:

Brandon Sanderson has probably devoted more energy to Kaladin’s personal development than to any of his other protagonists to date. He experiences more growth, more maturation of who he is, more redefinition of his ideals, and therefore becomes a much fuller and rounder individual. I think that’s why I feel more for him than for most other Sanderson characters, although I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s my favorite character in The Way of Kings. This comes at a price, and we’re living it: in order to build Kaladin up, Sanderson has to break him down. This isn’t as low as he’s going to go, I’m afraid. I sometimes wish that Kaladin’s downward arc could have been somewhat foreshortened, as it does drag a bit, and in a particularly painful and depressing way. That being said, I don’t know where I’d suggest Sanderson cut, exactly, and I do appreciate the tradeoffs.

That doesn’t mean that watching Kaladin be the most apathetic is fun. But hey, it is what it is. (It’s not fun.)

Kaladin’s number one trigger is small, vulnerable, round-faced boys. They all remind him of Tien, his number one failure to protect the weak. I can understand why this is, and I accept it as a motivating factor. It reminds me a bit of a similar mental self-torture, however, from another epic series that Sanderson has been involved with. Kaladin, I’m not always going to compare you to Rand al’Thor, but I am going to right now. And let me tell you, beating yourself up over those you couldn’t keep from dying is never going to pay off. You have to learn, grow, and accept, or you’ll never be as great as you could be.

Such easy advice to give from a world in which I don’t have to watch all my friends get killed in front of me.

Kaladin acknowledges, at least, that he can’t keep going like this. He knows he’s “dead inside,” and he doesn’t want to stay that way, but at this point I don’t think his solution is to buck up and learn to live, somehow.

What is fun is trying to figure out what’s going on with Syl. She drops a lot of bombs this chapter, and they’re arguably more surprising and intriguing than the massive revelation that she has a name. A spren with a name is something Kaladin would never expect, but one that we as readers can pretty easily accept, since we don’t know much about spren to begin with. The idea that she used to be something fundamentally different, occupying a less-complex mental state, is much weirder and more interesting to me. And the idea that if she gets further away from Kaladin she’ll lose what she’s gained is huge. Kaladin and Syl have a bond, as we’ll come to see, one that gives things to each of them.

I think that it’s arguable that the bond between Kaladin and Syl doesn’t make Kaladin more honorable than he would normally have been, although I don’t believe that myself. What I think isn’t arguable is that the bond between them gives both access to realms of experience they wouldn’t normally get to experience. This is to some extent true of any two characters (or people) that are sufficiently close and from sufficiently different origins, but is literalized here. Syl makes Kaladin more magical, more potent, while Kaladin makes Syl more human, more thoughtful. It’s a lovely process to watch.

I wonder if we’ll ever have a viewpoint from Syl’s perspective. Maybe a few books down the line, but probably not any time soon.

I also wonder how it came to be that Bridge Four was designated Worst Bridge Ever. It’s sound policy, as evil policies go. You need to make sure that even your most downtrodden slaves have someone to look down on, or it’ll be harder to keep them downtrodden. But I wonder if it was an executive order or developed organically as the result of endemically terrible leadership. I wonder if I can find a way to blame Gaz.

Lastly, the epigraph. “A wall of black and white and red” suggests the Heralds facing off against an onslaught of Parshendi to me, but I’m still really hesitant to believe that our first explanation of the Voidbringers should be the definitive answer. My tinfoil hat remains firmly lodged upon my head.

 

Chapter 10: Stories of Surgeons

Setting: Hearthstone, nine years ago

Point of View: Kaladin

What Happens

Young Kal enters his father’s surgery room, tardier than he’d like to be. His father, Lirin, is preparing a young woman for surgery. He instructs Kal to close the door. Kal inspects the young woman’s injured hand, which has been shoddily bandaged but is clearly very badly mangled. It doesn’t look life-threatening, however. Kal assesses his father’s workplace, which is clean and orderly, brightly lit by a goblet of diamond broams.

Lirin tells his son to wash his hands with soap and water, calling it the “Wisdom of the Heralds,” and that “deathspren and rotspren hate water.” Kal demonstrates his terrible comprehension of theology, mistaking Heralds for Radiants and Demons equally.

Kal continues to think about his odd father, who believes in deathspren but not Voidbringers, who the villagers think spends too much time with books and the sick, who is treated with discomfort and, perhaps, resentment. He also notes that he’s gotten used to the sight of torn flesh, and no longer grows sick in its presence. This will be useful, he thinks, when he goes to war.

Sani has three broken fingers, one worse than all the rest. Kal asks his father if it will have to go, and is rewarded by a nod and a hint of a smile. Kal cleans the wound and Lirin quickly amputates, together repairing the hand as best they could. Even though the girl’s parents are liable to be disappointed by their daughter’s disfigurement, Kal expects that they will make a donation and that his family won’t starve.

Lirin tells Kal that he has to work on his nerves. “It is good to care,” he says, “But caring—like anything else—can be a problem if it interferes with your ability to perform surgery.”

Kal thinks this is a little rich, coming from a man who is so selfless that he never charges a doctor’s fee.

The surgery over, Lirin asks Kal why he was late. It comes out that Kal had been with Jam, and older boy, learning how to use a quarterstaff. This sparks an argument. Kal believes that there’s nothing better than being a soldier, while his father looks down on this desire, saying that saving lives is always better than taking lives, and rebutting all Kal’s arguments about how badly soldiers are needed to defend against Thaylenah, an island kingdom that shares no borders with Alethkar and is primarily composed of merchants and traders.

To diffuse the argument, Lirin quizzes Kal on medical matters: the properties of winterwort and how to diagnose fiddlepox. Kal answers quickly and correctly, and Lirin fondly praises his son’s mind. He tells him that he’d like to send Kal to Kharbranth when he turns sixteen to train to be a surgeon.

“You have a gift from the Heralds themselves,” Lirin said, resting a hand on Kal’s shoulder. “You could be ten times the surgeon I am. Don’t dream the small dreams of other men. Our grandfathers bought and worked us to the second nahn so that we could have full citizenship and the right of travel. Don’t waste that on killing.”

Kal hesitated, but soon found himself nodding.

Quote of the Chapter:

“Who put these ideas in your head? Why would you want to learn to hit other boys with a stick?”

“For honor, Father,” Kal said. “Who tells stories about surgeons, for the Heralds’s sake!”

“The children of the men and women whose lives we save,” Lirin said evenly, meeting Kal’s gaze. “That’s who tells stories of surgeons.”

Kal blushed and shrank back, then finally returned to his scrubbing.

“There are two kinds of people in this world, son,” his father said sternly. “Those who save lives. And those who take lives.”

“And what of those who protect and defend? The ones who save lives by taking lives?”

His father snorted. “That’s like trying to stop a storm by blowing harder. Ridiculous. You can’t protect by killing.”

Whew, perhaps that’s more quote than you asked for, but it’s a fascinating back and forth that bears close examination. First, there’s the issue of honor. I personally find most honor-driven societies ridiculous. Honor tends to be a value that is most prominent in cultures driven by war, and goes hand in hand with dueling, extreme aggression, and all manner of ways to be a jerk. But honor is obviously a huge deal in The Way of Kings, and a quality that deserves respect in the way Kaladin and Dalinar adhere to it. Perhaps what I react against is the way honor tends to be interpreted as societies approach the extremes.

The idea that you can’t kill in order to protect is… well… very modern. And one that perhaps some of us want to believe, but which is generally provably untrue in epic fantasy. Your protagonist is going to swing a sword, he or she is going to try to protect people, and that is going to require killing, right? The fact is that, if you kill someone who’s going to kill other people, it’s arguably true that you’ve protected those people. Your hands will still be stained, though.

Finally, the point about telling stories. This is a pretty beautiful contrast between the stories society says are worth telling and the moments that can actually deeply define a person’s life. Perhaps it’s not true that you talk about surgeons around a campfire years after the fact, but the result of a successful surgery will enhance a life immeasurably.

Commentary:

“Stories of Surgeons” is the first flashback chapter, the beginning of what is arguably the primary organizing principle of the book, and, indeed, the series at large. Brandon Sanderson plans to weave flashbacks into each of his novels, a different character each book, which I think is a very interesting way to structure a series. Words of Radiance will be Shallan’s book, and I’m really looking forward to that. I wonder how people liked this for Kaladin.

To start with, this chapter is primarily important in my mind as the chapter in which we learn about surgery, medicine, disease and rotspren in Roshar. I’ve already written a couple of thousand words on that subject for Tor.com, which I suggest you check out here. I can wait.

Okay, for those who don’t actually like clicking links, the tl;dr. Rotspren: you can see them! That means you can see germs! That means you get the germ theory of disease. Whoa!

This is really advanced, but on Roshar the knowledge is ancient. So fascinating. I wonder if the Heralds literally gave this information to humanity, or whether they figured it out for themselves and let the origins of that knowledge pass into religious myth and folk knowledge, like folk remedies or, in some cases, religious dietary laws.

It’s so interesting that Kal dislikes his full name as “sounding like a lighteyes name” even before he comes to hate lighteyes. At this age it’s indisputable that Kal idolizes lighteyes heroes. He wants to see “a real lighteyes, not stuffy old Wistiow. A soldier, like everyone talked about, like the stories were about.” I guess this comes down to the very familiar desire not to be distinguished from one’s peers as a teenager. It’s no good to stand out based on your name, to be perceived as holding yourself above your peers, and to be shunned as a result. Still, it’s neat to notice that Kaladin accepts his full name as his opinion of lighteyes begins to slip, not when he idolizes them.

In many ways we can see how hyper-sensitive Kal is to how others see him. I don’t think this is a trait that ever goes away, and is perhaps necessary to be a good leader, although being sensitive to what others think and letting that move you to action are two very different things.

Lirin is an interesting character. I have to love him for the love and respect he shows Kaladin, and for the values and instincts he instills in him, but he’s certainly not flawless. He wants to turn his son into an improved version of himself, a surgeon, but better, in a better city, with a better standard of education. He wants him to go to where he visited as a courier, not to deliver messages, but to actually gain in knowledge. And these are totally commendable parental ambitions, don’t get me wrong here, but they’re also a little stifling. That’s setting aside the question of theft, of course.

In general I think that Lirin is a man at odds with the time he lives in. He doesn’t respect soldiers in a time of war, in a society that holds them up as the supreme masculine ideal. This is perilously close to religious iconoclasm: Vorinism teaches that being a soldier is the very highest Calling, so saying that it’s worthless is tantamount to heresy. This, combined with his lack of belief in the Voidbringers, may bespeak a secret agnosticism. He strives for education for himself and his son, bucking gender norms to a certain degree. And he’s a social climber in a society of very limited social mobility. On top of that he rejects greed for himself, relying on donations to survive (mostly, aside from the theft,) and just generally goes around trying to shame people into being better by, well, being better than them.

He’s a very impressing man, and we see this by how deeply he impressed himself on Kaladin, who still automatically recites cures and diagnoses in his head, and who can’t help but want to treat every injury. My last word on Lirin, and on this chapter, is that Kaladin’s father is an incredibly strong man, but his strength is of a sort that Alethi society is not entirely ready to recognize. This made him strange, and has made Kaladin stranger, but I think that he, and we, are the better off for it.

Deviating from the normal schedule somewhat, next week I’ll be covering Chapter 11 and wrapping up Part One: Above Silence. Michael will return for the week after that, when he’ll read the first three Interludes. See you all then!


Carl Engle-Laird is the production assistant for Tor.com. You can find him on Twitter.

104 comments
Deana Whitney
1. Braid_Tug
Your talk about honor brings this LM Bujold quote to mind:
Miles:In my experience, the trouble with oaths of the form "death before dishonor" is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into just two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn. It is a survivor's problem, this one.

I saw flashing red lights of “Trouble” when reading the flashback. Any society that puts the soldiers (and therefore Generals) that high up on the religious totem pole is on a set path of chronic war / crusades. As we learned over the book.

How can a society get tired of war, and celebrate the non-solider, if their religion teaches them it the is highest calling?

Yes, part of that was probably a leftover of before the Kights Radiants betrayed man. And it’s a reminder to be ready for when the Voidbringers come back. But it also makes it hard to move on and away from war.

It makes a cast society within a cast society, with some mobility, but not great amounts.
m_i_r
2. m_i_r
RE: spren:
Syl asks Kaladin several times whether spren are attracted to something or whether they cause it, implying that spren are merely attracted. Hence rotspren don't cause infection, they are only attracted to its occurence. Therefore, Syl doesn't make Kaladin honorable. She's attracted to him (not in a romantic way, in a spren way) because he's so honorable. She also gives him all the cool shiny powers we see later on, but Kaladin's honor is his own doing.
Karen Morrell
3. karenm83
I loved the Kaladin flashbacks and really enjoy Syl. She is for sure one of my favorite characters. I hope we get to see some POVs from her down the road.
Mahesh Banavar
4. maheshkb
"The idea that you can’t kill in order to protect is… well… very modern."

I have to disagree. Ashoka (the Great) was an emperor around 300BC. He started as a tyrant, warmonger, and conqueror. After a praticularly bloody battle, he decided that war was the wrong way, and converted to Buddhism.

He decided that peace was the best way to do anything, and that war and killing did not solve any problem. He wanted to unite the world by peace. He was arguably the first person in power to devote the resources of a large empire to the ideals of peace.

The BBC did a documentary series, with Ashoka featured in a part of it. Link here. Don't know how long the link will last up there. :)

Ashoka is only an example; the first one that popped into my mind. There have been several others such as Bahubali, and of course, the Buddha himself.
William Carter
5. wcarter
The more Sly and Kaladin interact, the more their bond seems obviously symbiotic.
*Kaladin is honorable to an extent by default. That attracts Syl (who at the time was little more than her windspren cousins)
*Sly starts to develop sapience by continuing to be in his presense feeding off his honor
*Sly then starts to subtly encourage more honorable behavior in Kaladin through her questions and actions even when he's tempted to take the easy way out
*Kaladin's powers start to manifest
*Sly gives Kaladin the last piece of the puzzle he needs to strengthen his powers by telling him to recite the most important words of his order.

And here is where I slightly disagree with you m_i_r @2.
While I also don't think Sly causes Kaladin's honor or power, she almost certainly enhances it.
There are a few times Kaladin wants to take the easy way out or give in and she ends up pointing him towards the path of honor whether with an innocent question about a posionous leaf, or by encouraging him to try helping people again as opposed to committing suicide. Whether Sly is doing this instinctively or just coincidentally is anyone's guess.

On an unrelated note, I have an extreme distaste for false dichotomies. Whenever I hear the phrase "There are two types of people in the world..." I immediately stop listening because everything that follows is horsesqueeze.

You can't even truly divide people into dichotomies as simple as male and female or dead and alive physically or mentally because there will always be people who don't perfectly fit the molds presented.

Still, Sanderson having Lirin use the phrase was justified because it eventually shows that both Lirin and Kaladin's worldviews weren't complete.
m_i_r
6. Confutus
I think you're right on target about the dehumanizing effect of the bridge runs. It's not deliberate, moustache twirling evil. It's a natural consequence of Sadeas' decision to consider the bridge crews expendable. It implies a degree of moral callousness that seems extreme when it's presented in fiction, but is unfortunately all too common in today's world.
Carl Engle-Laird
7. CarlEngle-Laird
@1 Vorinism definitely seems like a strongly conservative (in terms of opposing change) factor in Alethi society, and the question of honor and glorifying the warrior-dominated caste system is a strong example of this. It's interesting how successful they seem to be in holding opinions in place considering that the Church's power was broken after the Hierocracy.

@2 Kaladin is honorable without Syl, and she's attracted to him because he's honorable, but I don't think that precludes her making him more honorable. She does, several times, cause him to take a more honorable path, as I'll point out next week in my coverage of Chapter 11.

It's probably important to stress that there seem to be multiple definitions of "honor" in this book. Some of them good, some of them...questionable.

@4 Good examples. Modern...isn't exactly the word I meant, and I'm still having trouble expressing exactly what I mean. It seems like the kind of belief that is difficult to hold, and more so in a world that has constant warfare, where a lack of killing will mean enemy soldiers killing your family. It's a position a king can take, but a hard one for a peasant or a low-class srugeon to maintain. I'll keep working on it.

@5 I mostly agree with you about Syl. I like Lirin's terribly thought out dichotomy because seeing characters we respect think things that seem believable but which are actually provably silly opens up our minds to question the world more broadly. It's nice to see wise characters be allowed to be wrong.
Jennifer B
8. JennB
I just don't think the Parshendi are the Voidbringers. They have too much Honor. Both Kaladin and Dalinar note this. Their association with singing makes me think that they may have something to to with Dawnsingers.

I also wonder whether Szeth has a Spren. While he is very driven by his honor, it seems that his actions are at odds with what Syl is encouraging in Kaladin.

Lirin would do well as a Tinker.
m_i_r
9. WonderChimp
@5 I think we're going to see the words spoken as the ideals for the Knights Radiant combined with the idea that spren change due to definition in the interludes. Kaladin is defining himself, but in some way the pair of himself and Syl.

My current working theory of the magic of the Knights Radiant is Physical: Human, Spiritual: Spren, Cognitive: Ideals/Words/Definition.
Rj Susara
10. dmonray
Re: Lirin
"...and just generally goes around trying to shame people into being better by, well, being better than them."

Sounds like Dalinar too.
Jennifer B
11. JennB
It is interesting how Kaladin puts down the only Lighteyes leader he knows as old and incompetant in favor of an imaginary ideal. I think that Wistiow is probably one of the better Lighteyes he will meet. As he develops his hatred of Lighteyes, he never looks back on this kind Citylord and realizes that not all Lighteyes horrible.

Of course if Wistiow had not been kind and honorable, Kaladin would never have looked up to the Lighteyes in the first place.
Alice Arneson
12. Wetlandernw
Thoughts triggered by the blog:
One of the things Sanderson does (like Kaladin runs, maybe?) is try to bring the reader into a parallel of the character’s situation. In AMoL, the Last Battle was excruciatingly long and painful – because that’s what it was. It was long, and brutal, and it hurt to read, because he wanted us as close as possible to the same mental space as the characters. He does the same thing with Kaladin here: the downward trend is discouraging and feels like forever to read – just as Kaladin is discouraged and feels like it lasts forever. It’s not supposed to be fun – if you can really enjoy the experience, there’s something wrong (!) in it. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the skilled writing, the storytelling, the character development, etc.; but you can’t enjoy what’s happening to him, either internally (the depression) or externally (the brutality of a bridgeman’s life).

Also, Carl: fascinating thoughts on Syl, and what we non-Rosharians find so intriguing about her. I don’t have anything to add at this point, but enjoyed your comments on their relationship.

And… the epigraph. Clearly (?) the Heralds, and equally clearly (?) the Parshendi. What’s left completely unclear is which way the Heralds are facing. Are they facing the Parshendi as the enemy? Or are they defending the Parshendi from an oncoming enemy? It could be read either way: “standing before a wall” doesn’t tell us a bloody thing about which way the blades are pointed. (I’m sitting here laughing at myself, because I’m thinking in circles here. On a first read, nothing is obvious at all. On a reread, the Heralds and the Parshendi are very obvious. And… this is Sanderson, so now I’m doubting anything that seems obvious! Which is counterproductive, in a way – even Sanderson gives us relatively straight-forward information once in a while.)

On the flashback: Lirin as an iconoclast is fairly accurate. He sees things differently from the culture around him, which is a) a rather refreshing taste and b) an excellent literary device to give us a lot of information without and infodump. Nothing like arguing about religion and meaning-of-life to tell the reader what’s what! (Or, what is generally believed to be what.) I can’t prove this, of course, but I suspect that Kaladin may have misunderstood his father’s other statement about the Voidbringers. It’s at least possible that Lirin believes the Voidbringers exist – after all, he clarified for Kal that the Heralds led humanity against the Voidbringers in the ancient days, and that the Heralds founded the orders of the Knights Radiant, and that the KR betrayed humans through human (character, not physical) weakness rather than being demons. Kal later talks about the Voidbringers as the ones to blame when things go missing in the night or crops fail; I can readily believe that Lirin doesn’t credit that notion for a skinny minute. My theory, anyway, and it may not matter in the least, is that Lirin is actually far more orthodox (in terms of believing the original truth) than even the ardents, much less the culture around him. He doesn’t, IMO, show traces of agnosticism so much as a clear mind distinguishing between superstitious myth and truth. Unfortunately, that begs the question of where he learned such truth when so few in that world seem to be remotely aware of it. It also begs the question of whether he really believes that mankind won, or if he’s got any sense of the possibility of a coming Desolation.

Some of the comments also reminded me of another thing I noted in these two chapters, which is touched on much later in the book. In the ancient times, under the Knights Radiant (before they went sideways) Alethkar was the designated nation in which the arts of war were studied, allowing the other nine kingdoms to live in peace. Alethkar had a very specific purpose in the world: to somehow maintain battle-readiness while not actually at war, so that humanity was prepared to fight when the Desolations came. One assumes that a certain amount of competition was part of that battle-readiness; how else do you maintain a fighting edge without anyone to fight?

The thousands-of-years-later effect of this might include: A) The Alethi tendency for internal competition to become more important than the actual war. We see this a lot later in the book, but Kaladin mentions it even here: the Vengeance Pact is the ostensible reason for being here, but the competition for gemhearts is much more important to most of the highprinces than actually defeating or punishing the Parshendi for the assassination of Gavilar. B) The difference between the Thrill of contest and the Thrill of battle. It makes a certain amount of sense that there would have been a lesser Thrill associated with mere maintenance of the arts of war, and a greater Thrill associated with the actual battle against the Voidbringers. This is partially based on my belief that the Thrill is associated with Honor rather than Odium, for what that’s worth. C) The Vorin idealization of the soldier. In Alethkar, the whole purpose of living was to defend humanity. Other nations could afford to elevate different vocations, but not the Alethi.

When the Desolations stopped coming, what happened? We don’t know for sure, yet, but apparently war developed at least internal to Alethkar and possibly between nations. It seems quite likely that their beliefs were – perhaps forcibly – spread to other kingdoms, and that in the subsequent rearrangement of the political boundaries, Vorinism spread to most of the other kingdoms to some degree. There are still areas where soldiers are not honored above all, but anywhere that Vorinism is the dominant religion, its followers will by default honor the warlike.

And... more later. Gotta take care of some business. (Sorry if there are proofing errors - I wanted to post this before I leave, and I MUST leave!!)
Ross Newberry
13. rossnewberry
wcarter@5: There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who can deal with false dichotomies and those who can't.

And now I want to include my other two favorites.
There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary numbers, and those who don't.

There are 2 kinds of people in this world. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data...
m_i_r
14. Zen
I have to say, I do think the Parshendi are Voidbringers, but I am sure we will see more complications in that view as we go along. Just because they did come from Odium, or fled from him, does not mean that they can't learn Honor. If I am not mistaken, one of the first 5 books will be based on Eshonai, the Parshendi Shardbearer. An entire book suggest a character arc to me. We might even see Void-binding used for Honorable purposes, which should tweek Odium to no end.
William Carter
15. wcarter
@9 Wonderchimp
Interesting theory, it seems plausible.

@13Rossnewberry
Touche.
m_i_r
16. TBGH
There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who can count, and those who can't.
m_i_r
17. b3nny
Re: the Radiants, and the Day of Recreants, I think they realized they had fallen away from their calling and abandoned the Alethi to their corrupt version of the truth.

My thinking is that:
1. True purpose of the Radiants is to practice the art of war so that the rest of the world could be devoted to peace.
2. The day of Recreants happened after the last Desolation.
3. Given Dalinar's visions, they were at war when they left.
4. Therefore they must have been fighting against some fellow humans.

I think its probable that they realized that they had abused their shards in a corrupt war NOT against the true enemy( voidbringers), and so abandoned the sullied shards to regular mankind who revels in war. The fantasy version of "screw you, I'm going home" except they left the football
Alice Arneson
18. Wetlandernw
Confutus @6 – I think you’re right. It’s not Mwah-ha-ha-I’m-so-evil, it’s human arrogance and callousness that makes the bridge crews what they are. Sadeas places no value on human life as such; merely on his life and prestige. Anything that can guard the former and enhance the latter is “good” in his view; therefore, a good fighting force that can get in place quickly is good. Getting them in place and keeping them alive to get there is good. Getting bridges set without endangering his forces is good. All of which leads to… run the bridges there as fast as you can and let the Parshendi shoot at the easy targets; buy more slaves when you get back to replace the ones who die. Sadeas is more evil-as-a-result-of-choices than evil-as-a-deliberate-choice.

Also: you didn’t comment on the Heralds! Chapter 9 is Nalan (Just/Confident) which I attribute to the “two kinds of people” reference; Chapter 10 is Vev (or Vedeledev – Loving/Healing) which I attribute to the exercise of medical expertise, in this case by Lirin.

JennB @8 – Brandon actually answered one of your thoughts at a recent signing: Szeth is NOT bound to a Spren. As for the Parshendi… I’m withholding judgment on them. I don’t think we have nearly enough information yet.

dmonray @10 – Interesting comparison between Lirin and Dalinar. I suspect they would get along well.
Alice Arneson
19. Wetlandernw
In other news, I just had the craziest ideaflash... (Sorry, this is a little OT from the actual chapter, but not entirely. It's about spren, anyway, and Syl is the only one we know yet who has personality and definite sentience.) I was reading through interview comments about spren, and came across one where Brandon talked about spren becoming sentient, and how their sentience/lack thereof was tied to certain choices that were made, possibly by the spren themselves. So, the idea:

Did the Knights Radiant give up their Shards because their spren left them? Or did the spren leave them because they gave up their Shards? Are the two events related?

My... suggestion (far from a theory, yet!) is that perhaps their behavior in the centuries following the departure of the Heralds had strayed too far from the ideals of the Orders, and the spren decided they didn't want to stay. (Perhaps this is a little like the way Syl occasionally feels that she has to leave Kaladin temporarily - except that with the KR, it was permanent.)

It's also possible (just off the top of my head) that the departure of the spren affected the abilities of the KR; compared to "normal" people they were still pretty impressive with their Plate and Blades, but compared to what they had been, it was a major step down. This could be one reason for their perceived betrayal, i.e. the abandoning of their Shards. Since that time, those who use the Shards gain certain strengths and abilities while using them, but not like the KR could.

Lots of other possibilities out there, of course, and while this is interesting to talk about, we have insufficient evidence as yet. But... I thought I'd share my wild notion anyway, and see if it triggered anything.
m_i_r
20. michael1784238432386
@5.)wcarter It's Syl, as in Sylphrena, not Sly. Sorry, it just bothered me.

I enjoyed the flashback showing how young and impressionable Kal is, and to see hiw progression as a character. I'd never quite thought of Syl becoming more complex and human-like as she spends more time with Kaladin. It makes me curious to see what she's going to be towards the end of the series.
Phil Anthrop
21. Isomere
@8, 14: Interesting theories about the Parshendi abound. Personally, I think they relate to a Scadrial Correlation, so if you haven't read the Mistborn trilogy, you may want to skip this post.

The Koloss were given extra abilities through hemalurgy that fundamentally altered them. This seems to create a vulnerability in their Soul that can be exploited. We know Ruin could violate their will and control them, and so could powerful Allomancers.

The parshendi have special powers (Extra hops, intracranial wifi, and a phenominally trained plastic surgeon). Did receiving these powers also leave a mark on the Soul? If the Parshendi are vulnerable to mind-control it would explain a lot if stuff in the book: Why they act so Honorably on the Shattered Plains, but were willing to betray Gavilar for seemingly no reason. Why they turned, "Suddenly dangerous. Like a calm day that became a tempest. Ch 30" I also suspect that at some point the Alethi discovered a Fabrial that can control the Parshendi, jamming up their wifi and turning them and their decendants into docile slaves. They now become the perfect sleepers, just waiting for Odium to wake them up and ravage the world.
Flint Timmins
22. Giovanotto
I really enjoy the flashback chapters where we get a glimpes into Kaladin's home life. Lirin became one of my favorite characters by the end. I found the Village politics to be just as engaging as the national politics playing out on the Shattered Plains.

Also, I can't but help of think of Tien from the Dragonball franchise everytime that name gets mentioned. Solar Flare anyone?
m_i_r
23. m_i_r
@5 and @7:
Fair enough, Syl does verbally encourage Kaladin towards a more honorable path. But I think all encouragement on her part is verbal only; she does not enhance his honor in any other way. She doesn't magically cause honor. This isn't any different than one of the other bridgemen verbally trying to nudge Kaladin towards a more honorable option. If Kaladin weren't honorable or was a total jerk, then I don't think Syl's words would have had any effect. If she'd attached herself to someone like Gaz, she wouldn't have been able to instill in him a greater sense of honor or made him nicer.
In many ways, Syl is like one of those cartoon angels that float on a person's shoulder. She's Kaladin's conscience, and she nudges him when he gets depressed and starts going off in the wrong direction. But she's just voicing what's already there.
Roger Powell
24. forkroot
wcarter@5
Whenever I hear the phrase "There are two types of people in the world..." I immediately stop listening because everything that follows is horsesqueeze.
Which, of course, merely highlights the fact that there are two types of people in the world: Those who read or listen on when confronted with a phrase that begins "There are two types of people in the world ..." and those who don't.

{:: winks ::}
Jennifer B
25. JennB
Wetlandernw @18
Well that explains why we never witness him thinking about or talking to a Spren. He's definitely not my favorite character to read, but I am still looking forward to learning his backstory.
Alice Arneson
26. Wetlandernw
JennB @25 - Oh, so am I!! He's such an enigma, and I want to know so much about him. What makes him "Truthless"? How does he access the Windrunner skill set without being a Windrunner? Why is his Blade so different than the rest we've seen? And on and on... Questions about Szeth himself, questions about Shinovar, questions about Stone Shamanism... I'm convinced that the "lack of spren" and the "not being a Windrunner" are connected, but I sure don't know what the relationship is. I wonder how much more we'll see of him in WoR.
m_i_r
27. Timpenin
I'm with Isomere @21.

My current theory about Voidbringers is that the Parshmen are blank slates and therefore vulnerable to Odium. The Parshendi have their different forms and maybe being in a specific form protects them and has allowed them to create culture, etc. But in their blank state, they may have some sort of backdoor that can force them into Voidbringer form. I'm not ruling out that "full" Parshendi have this problem too, but it doesn't seem quite as plausible given how capable they seem.
T C
28. Freelancer
Well, three hours ago, in between meetings and business conflagrations of varying degree, I began to compose a post which would have looked very like to that @12. And the WoT re-readers go "Yeah, what's new?" So I'll leave those topics alone and focus on one closer to my own heart.


Carl, regarding the connection between how strongly a society views honor, and how warlike they are, you have inadvertently swapped cause and effect.

Before I go any further with the thought, it seems wise to distinguish between two very different applications of the term. Praise, awards, respect, etc. are all honors which one or more people confer upon another. While they are most often intended as recognitions of honorable behavior, the two must not be conflated.

Where events and circumstances put a society on a war-footing, certain aspects of life become pared down to essentials, and among them are the ideals of honorable behavior. Those who choose to defend a land, a nation, a people are volunteering to leap into the maelstrom, to charge into chaos. How they comport themselves while representing others has intrinsic importance to the aftermath of the larger engagement, regardless the outcome.

To think that a society which places more focus on honor, is therefore more likely to engage in warfare, is mistaken, and puts the cart before the horse.


Regarding the disagreement between Kaladin and Lirin, both are holding to narrow, biased views, and both are wrong. Kaladin, at this point in his life, and based on his limited awareness of the culture, and of the world, believes that warfare is the most important and honorable thing he could do with his life (I submit that he is overlaying the former of the two definitions provided above). Lirin, on the other hand, believes that no taking of a life ever serves society, and can never be other than dishonorable.

There are not two groups, nor even three, but four. Of course, in any organic society, simplifying people into groups is not really truth. But, for descriptive purposes, and using the age-old analogy, there are sheep, and there are wolves. The sheep are the innocents, the common populace. In Kaladin's most recent revelation, these are his third group, those whose lives are saved or lost based on the actions of the two groups his father listed. The wolves are the aggressors, who want to take from the sheep their possessions or their lives. The third group, with whom Lirin identifies, are the shepherds; those who tend and protect the sheep, and who care for those harmed by the wolves. Then there is the fourth group, with whom Kaladin identifies, and who Lirin lumps with the wolves: The wolfhounds; those who protect the sheep by actively opposing the wolves, fighting and killing them to do so.

As a child and young man, Kaladin naturally sees the armsmen of his own princedom as the defenders and protectors of the innocent, the wolfhounds, while those of the encroaching army are the wolves. He continues to hold fast to this concept even when he is faced with the lack of discipline and honor displayed by much of Amaram's forces, presuming that all of the "quality" military men have gone to the Shattered Plains to fight for Alethkar's honor, and believing that the manner in which his squad fights and behave will speed their selection to fight for the Highprince. It is Amaram himself who finally disabuses him of this, with the most despicable and honorless act he has ever witnessed. Sadeas continues this downward revelation of the shortcomings of men under authority, through his inhuman use of bridgemen. Kaladin has come to determine that those of standing, from the Highprinces down to the junior officers, rather than possessing the greatest honor, have no honor at all.

Neither extreme is valid, nor ever has been.
Alice Arneson
29. Wetlandernw
Freelancer @28 - ::gigglesnort::

Also: I like that analogy! It makes a lot of sense. Obviously, as you say, not everyone slots neatly into a little box all the time, and at different times a person will move from one "box" to another. However, in terms of the difference of opinion between Kaladin and Lirin, it clarifies a lot.
m_i_r
30. SmokeyandBooger
@23 I agree with you that Syl does not enhance Kaladin's honor. I think she played more of a sounding board role for Kaladin when he was trying to work things out, as opposed to actually enhancing his honor. That is something that his life experiences and influences did. And I totally picture some of thier conversations like the Looney Toons cartoon angels floating on the shoulder of the character. I was actually going to type that out before I read it in your post (great minds thinking alike?).

@28 that was a great analogy.

And I am offically going on record as saying Kaladin is the man. I love his character and can't wait to read more about him

I really hope we find out more about Syl's past and get a chance to see things from her POV
m_i_r
31. Shardlet
Whether the Parshendi are the Voidbringers or not, I am unsure. I think it is important to rember that we still know very little about the Voidbringers, their nature, and the roll they play in the desolations. Vorinism holds them to be the prime antagonists. But I think we can hold hat to be erroneous since we are aware of the Night Essences (pressumably the opposite counterparts to the Heralds).

Since the 10 (Heralds, presumably) are standing before a wall of white, black and red, it is my contention that the Parshendi are antagistic (at least at that point) to the Heralds. Reason being, I would assume the Heralds would have forces other than just the Parshendi at their disposal (such as the Radiants and other humanish foot soldiers). Contrastingly, I can readily enviisage the opposition forces being primarily formed of a single race of foot soldiers making up the bulk of the forces interspersed with other more significant baddies.

Even if we assume the Parshendi race fought allied with the Heralds as a single race army joining with other single race armies, I would nit expect all ten Heralds to be at the forefront of such a single army when several others would also be present.
Alice Arneson
32. Wetlandernw
Re: Syl - We really don't know enough yet to say what effect, if any, Sylphrena has on Kaladin's character. We do know enough, I think, to say that it is her connection to him that allows him to use Stormlight: to bind things - rocks to barrels or cliffs, incoming arrows to his shield or the bridge around his hands - and whatever you call the ability to drop forty feet and land safely on your feet. She clearly has an effect on him, and I believe it's safe to say that he could not manifest the Windrunner skills (manipulation of gravity and pressure) without her.
m_i_r
33. AndrewB
I cannot remember. Are Lirin and Kaladin's mother (cannot think of her name) still alive during the present time?

Wetlandernw @19. I thought that Syl left Kaladin to get him one of those leaves that Kaladin had earlier found.

Thanks for reading my musings.
AndrewB
(Aka the musespren)
Sent from my smartphone. Please excuse any typos.
William Carter
34. wcarter
@20. michael1784238432386
GAH! That was a stupid typo and I know better, I had too much on my mind this afternoon to pay attention the way I should have.

@23 m_i_ir
Oh I agree Syl isn't magically compelling Kaladin to do the right thing, but I do think that nudging him towards it is instinctive for her and part of her nature as an Honor Spren. But looked at another way, it wouldn't be special or honorable to do the right thing if you didn't do it of your own free will now would it?

@24 Forkroot
Ah but that's just it isn't it? I don't listen to that phrase when someone says it in real life, but I'll allow it in some books when spoken by fictional characters (if I trust the author not to believe it him or herself). So that means there are at least three groups, so sayeth a sheepdog.

@30 Wetlander
I don't think Syl did grant Kaladin his powers. Help make them stronger certainly, but I don't see any evidence that they would not exist at all without her.
Granted Sanderson said Szeth isn't a Knight Radian (and that he had no spren), but he also said Szeth had the same Windrunner power set as Kaladin. I think we need a lot more evidence to prove spren causlality, but for now I'm leaning the opposite way as you.
I guess we'll see which one is right in a later book.

@33 AndrewB
I don't think there has been a direct answer to that question from Sanderson. his brother is dead, but Kaladin hasn't been gone from home all that long, and his parents were healthy and not involved in any of the fighting last time Kaladin saw them.
At the very least, we don't have an evidence that they're dead as of the end of Wok.
Alice Arneson
35. Wetlandernw
AndrewB @33 – Kaladin’s mother’s name is Hesina. And, according to the Goodreads interview with Sanderson in December 2010, Kaladin's parents are most definitely still alive.

As for Syl, this time she went to find him a Blackbane leaf, because she thought it would make him happy. There’s a time, much later, where she leaves because she can’t stand the killing, even though she knows it’s the thing he has to do. That’s the one I had more in mind; even this time, though, it’s his state of mind that makes her leave. Not that it necessarily drives her away (like the killing or what I suggested about the KR), but that is why she left.

wcarter @34 – Well, that’s the way I’m leaning now. I suppose it’s possible that his ability to bond things drew her, but I think her presence is required to enable his actions. As you say, for now we’ll agree to disagree, and see if the reread or WoR gives any further evidence.
Jennifer B
36. JennB
I was wondering if somehow Szeth's powers were stolen from an Honor Spren ( kind of like Hemurology ). It will be interesting to see how Syl reacts to Szeth when she meets him in the next book.
Jeremy Guebert
37. jeremyguebert
@the post: I am intrigued by the comparison between Kaladin and Rand. Interesting to see how the two characters blame themselves for deaths that are mostly beyond their control. Also interesting to compare the different ways they break the cycle: Rand by "allowing" them to fight and die for what they believe in and be a part of his fight, Kaladin by choosing to fight for and celebrate those who are still alive, instead of dwelling on the lost.

I really enjoy Kaladin's story arc - the idea of doing what is right simply because it is right really resonates with me.

@10: I like the comparison between Lirin and Dalinar. Of course, Dalinar is in a position to actually enforce his ideas of honourable behaviour on his soldiers, which makes the effect of his acting honourably much more far-reaching than Lirin's.

@13: Well played. Much laughter ensued.

@several: Perhaps I'm simply more credulous than others, but I'm inclined to believe Jasnah and Shallan's conclusion that the Parshmen actually are the Voidbringers. If that's true, it's a terrifying thought - if they were to all suddenly turn violent all at the same time, the results would be devastating.
Alice Arneson
38. Wetlandernw
jeremy@37 - I have to admit, the thing that makes me most strongly consider that Jasnah might be right is the terrifying thought of the way their collective subconscious (or whatever you want to call it) works. If, as you say, the parshmen were to all suddenly turn violent at the same time... Desolation? It would be so widespread, and would happen simultaneously in so many places, the humans wouldn't stand a chance except where the armies were already gathered.
Robert Dickinson
39. ChocolateRob
There ARE two types of people in the world -
People who are me and people who are not.
But obviously only the former are real people.

A phrase for any situation? discuss.
m_i_r
40. PHubbard
@19 Wetlandernw

The idea of spren abandoning their KR due to dishonorable actions reminds me of this epigraph:

"Ten orders. We were loved once. Why have you forsaken us, Almighty? Shard of my soul, where have you gone?"

I've wondered whether this poignant description 'Shard of my soul' refers to the spren who has disappeared, leaving the KR without a bond.
Steven Pattingale
41. Pattingale
Thought provoking commentary both in the re-read proper and here in the comments! Keep up the good work folks. :)
Deana Whitney
42. Braid_Tug
Question about the Orders:
Where are you getting the names of all the orders? Have they been covered in-book? (read it once, now re-reading with this)
Or is it like the names of the Herald’s in the chapter icons, go to the outside links?

Re: Kaladin’s parents.
Yep, alive and (I’m betting) will make an appearance at some point. Whether this will be good thing or not I’m not sure. Yes, Kaladin needs to let go of the guilt he carries for not be able to protect his bother. But if they reappear because some force is trying to mess with Kaladin’s mind, by hurting his parents, it could go very badly.
Sean Dowell
43. qbe_64
Giovannatto @22 - his name might be Tien, but he's a little bitch like Chiaotzu. Could you imagine a DBZ rewatch? 85% of the episode summaries would be, "a flurry of attacks, then they stand around talking about it for the next 20 minutes." I got the dvd's and watched them at 2x speed in Japanese with closed captioning on, and just slowed it down when they actually started fighting. Way better.
Sean Dowell
44. qbe_64
@18 Wetlander
It's not that Sadeas doesn't value human life he just doesn't value human life equally. His whole premise of running bridge crews is that not only is it fast, but it saves lives of his soldiers. Unfortunately, he values human life is strict terms of dollars and cents (Broams and chits?) A soldier requires a higher initial investment in training, food and armour, whereas bridgemen literally cost him two broams each (I think that's the number given later in the book). He'd rather have to continually replace the cheaper resource as he still comes out ahead financially in the long run.

Sadeas is like a StarCraft player who tries to rush you with Zerglings at the beginning of the game so you don't notice the legion of hydralisk he sent to the other side of your camp.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
Wet @19 What a splendid (or spren-did) bit of thinking. KR moved away from honor, sprens abandoned them and then they finally realized they were too far off path and abandoned shardplate en masse. I like it.
Rob Munnelly
46. RobMRobM
Sadeas is the antithesis of the Codes. Protect those who can't help themselves? Nope. Don't order someone to do something that you aren't willing to do yourself? Nope. Only kill when you have to? Nope. Path is more important than outcome? Nope. Sadeas is the personification of how Alethi life has been corrupted since bygone days.
m_i_r
47. PHubbard
A bit OT, but sparked by qbe_64 mentioning the cost of a bridgeman (yes, 2 emerald broams is what Dalinar offerrs, I believe kaladin is earlier bought for 1.25). I was wondering if anyone has worked out a general exchange rate for the money system?

So far in the reread, I've come across:
-5 chips = 1 mark
-broam > mark (ex. rate?)
-1 firemark (ruby mark) =~ 1 weeks wages for a sailor
-emerald most valuable due to its use in soulcasting food

I guess the value of the different gems would vary depending on what sort of soulcasting is in demand, but is there any indication of how they compare to each other?

One of the things I love about this book is the worldbuilding, and the money is a great example of that - rather than relying on the same old trope (gold pieces) or making up something completely random that just looks cool, the money in WoK fits perfectly into the world and makes loads of sense - if stormlight is what you need to create resources, that'll be what you trade in.
Alice Arneson
51. Wetlandernw
ChocolateRob @39 – Well, there’s no arguing with that… :) I rather like it! wcarter? Let’s hear your reaction!

PHubbard @40 – That just gave me a shiver. “Shard of my soul” as the spren? Wow! I hope it’s true, because it’s beautiful imagery. (Seriously? I have goosebumps over that one.)

Braid_Tug @42 – Re: the Orders. Windrunners and Stonewards are actually mentioned (mostly in passing) in this book. Lightweavers is from extra-textual comments, such as Brandon’s article on tordotcom revealing the title for Words of Radiance; Skybreakers is from an interview. I’m not sure if anyone has confirmed whether Dustbringers are an Order of the Knights Radiant or not; they’re mentioned a couple of places, but without enough context to be sure.

Incidentally, I share your concern about the reappearance of Kaladin’s parents…

qbe_64 @44 – Well, we’re not actually saying anything all that different. Sadeas values the lives of his soldiers in terms of keeping him alive and getting the most out of his investment. He doesn’t really care about their lives, per se. He doesn’t value human life in and of itself – not the way Dalinar or Lirin or Kaladin do.

RobMRobM @45 – Thank you! It rather hit me like a bolt of lightning when I was reading… don’t know if it will turn out to be exactly true, but I’d almost bet it’s along that line.
Also @46 – Good summary of Sadeas. Whatever the Codes say, he’s doing exactly the opposite. In fact, from the Coppermind wiki:
Readiness: The officer will be prepared at all times for battle. Never drunken on wine, never without his weapon.
Inspiration: The officer will wear his uniform when in public, to look ready for war and to give strength to his troops.
Restraint: The officer will refrain from needless duels, arguments or squabbles with other officers in camp, to prevent injury to men who may be needed to command.
Leadership: The officer will require no action of his soldiers that he would not be willing to perform himself.
Honor: The officer will not abandon allies on the field, nor will he seek to profit from the loss of his allies.
He really has done exactly the opposite on every count, hasn’t he? Nice call!

PHubbard @46 – There’s a short but useful article in the coppermind wiki about spheres. It’s really fascinating to look at. What kind of a mind comes up with this stuff??? :)
m_i_r
52. Ciella
I have a question for those with more experience with military tactics than me. I have a hard time visualizing the fights on the plateaus (partially because I keep picturing them as smaller than they obviously are). But I would imagine it would be more similar to a siege than an assault. Wouldn't the Parshendi be able to , or at least try, to disable the bridges during or after the bridgemen push it onto their plateau? By pushing it off the plateau or burning it or just crowding the end so that the assault of the bridge would be next to useless, they could easily keep the Alethi from crossing. I know there's a lot about the Parshendi, their fighting styles and their goals that we don't know about, but the whole bridge assault tactic seems weird to me.
Jennifer B
53. JennB
Very true. A little bit of fire would take care of those bridges right away. The Parshendi could easily strand the Alethi on the plateau. I think it comes down to their motivation and their honor. Their goal does not seem to be killing as many Alethi as possible. It goes back to the game. Get the gemheart and get away with as little killing as possible.

Dalinar seems to be the only one with any motivation to win the war.
Rob Munnelly
55. RobMRobM
As I look again, I jumbled the Codes and the Ideals of the KR. Pretty clear that Sadeas acts the opposite of both.

From the Coopermind Wiki

First Ideal
“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.” — The First Ideal of the Immortal Words
As explained by Teft:

Life before death 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. The Radiant’s duty is to live. 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. 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.

Second Ideal "I will protect those who cannot protect themselves."
William Carter
54. wcarter
@ChocolateRob 39 and Wetlander 51
There's an argument about solipsism somewhere in there...

@52 Ciella
Good question, but it may be a simple matter of logistics. Sadeas loses bridges occasionally and he doesn't seem to mind replacing them. It could just be that there are too many bridges and the Parshendi are spread too thin to make it worth the effort to committ forces to the destorying bridges while ignoring the chasmfiend's gym heart.
If you crowd a bridge, a shardbearer will just wipe out dozens of your forces to clear the way.
Pushing the bridge into the chasm wouldn't work since the bridges themselves are larger than the gaps (the alethi on the other side could just physically hold their end to keep it from falling in).
Setting fire to it could work, but something that massive would take a long time to burn even if is made out of wood.
Flint Timmins
56. Giovanotto
Ciella @52- I also tend to scale down the battles when I read, in part because we are always so focused on Kaladin and Bridge 4. Part of the Alethi strategy is to send calvary as soon as the bridges are in place to break the Parshendi, followed by foot to secure the bridge, with archers supporting all the while. The bridgemen often have to scramble out of the way of the calvary so as not to be trampled.

I wonder how many bridgemen have been lost over the course of the war. It doesn't seem like it would be sustainable with such high casualty rates, but here we are 6 years in with no shortage of labor.
Carl Engle-Laird
57. CarlEngle-Laird
@56 I believe that someone later comments on Sadeas' "new bridges," so he may not have been using them for more than a year or so. There seems to be a thriving slave economy in any case, though.
m_i_r
58. TBGH
Also remember not every attack gets that 1/3 attrition rate. Only those where the Parshendi arrive first and set up their archers as the bridges approach.

Clearly Kaladin doesn't have enough information to calculate the overall attrition rates and he is on the bridge that (to start) has the highest casualty rate in the army.
Robert Dickinson
59. ChocolateRob
For anyone too lazy to check the coppermind entry on sphere denominations here's the short version -
1 broam = 4 marks and 1 mark = 5 chips, so 1 broam = 20 chips.
diamonds are cheapest and emeralds the most expensive, emeralds are 50 times more valuable than diamonds so 1 emerald broam is worth 1000 diamond chips. the intervening gem values have not been fully revealed so far (and I can't be bothered with the few that have right now)

As we all know the values are set by how useful the gems are for soulcasting but with new abilities coming to the fore with the re-emergence of the Knights Radiant could the whole economy end up getting turned on it's head. So far as we can tell it does not matter to Kaladin what kind of sphere he gets stormlight from so would surely he would trade in an emerald broam for 50 diamond ones and gain 50 times as much stormlight. Is there a direct correlation in the size of a sphere and the amount of light it holds or is it a bit more arbitrary?
Is it also possible that for a windrunner the light from diamonds is more useful than the light from any other gems. Diamonds cast a more pure light, would this fuel him better?
Alice Arneson
60. Wetlandernw
ChocolateRob @59 - Very interesting line of thought! I would assume that the larger the gem, the more Stormlight it holds; i.e. a broam would hold more than a mark, which would hold more than a chip - but how much more, we don't know. It might be related to the currency value... or it might not.

Even more interesting is the question of whether the specific gemstone matters to the Knight Radiant. As you say, Kaladin seems to be able to draw from any infused gem indiscriminately; would one benefit him more than another, and he doesn't know it yet? If anything, I would guess that sapphire would do him the most good, since IIRC, sapphire is the stone associated with the Windrunners. I guess that's another thing we can hope to find out as we go, eh?
T C
61. Freelancer
RobM^2 @55

The Second Ideal quoted was specific to the Order of the Windrunners. There are five Ideals for each Order of the Knights, with the first shared. I do not find any suggestion that there either are or are not any others which might overlap two orders, similar to the Surges.
Peter Ahlstrom
62. PeterAhlstrom
qbe_64@43: DBZ Abridged by Team Four Star is the way to go if you want to watch DBZ quickly. Brandon agrees.
m_i_r
63. danr62
RE: Sphere values and the presence of spren leading to advanced medicine.

I'm pretty sure I read some articles by Brandon where he discusses "Brandon Sanderson's 3 Laws of Magic", one of which is basically: "How would the presence of this magic system affect the world?"

Brandon really seems to pay special attention to this in WoK. Spheres are valuable because they have magical properties that can be put to use. People can see rotspren, so medicine is more advanced than what you might expect for the level of technology. Highstorms ravage the land, so all species have some built in mechanisms for defending against the storms, and cities are built to stand up to the storms. You can create food and other supplies with soulcasters, which drastically affects military logistics and the ability to maintain sustained campaigns.
William Carter
64. wcarter
@PeterAhlstrom 62

So...now that we all know you're here lurking, why don't you settle a debate for us hmm?
Who's right on 'does Syl cause Kaladin's powers?' debate me or Wetlander?
T C
66. Freelancer
Sadeas' entire method regarding the bridgemen is based on saving lives. Lives of soldiers. He has learned that the Parshendi will happily concentrate bowfire on those most likely to die from such attacks, hoping to reduce the number of bridges which are set at the chasm. It's a "good" concept from both perspectives. Sadeas opinion is that he can always get more bridgemen, who are already slaves and therefore considered of no value. The Parshendi viewpoint is that the fewer bridges which can be used to assault them, the easier their position is to defend. So they will always fire upon unarmored, unswerving men carrying the means by which the Highprince brings the battle to them. Their leaping ability precludes the need for bridges, so those hunks of wood represent an equalizer which they want to mitigate.


Wetlandernw @60

I've had the same thought, given the aura colors of the Radiants. But if a certain gemstone was better attuned to delivering stormlight for certain Surges, I would think that Szeth might have hinted at such a thing. He knows his Lashing abilities so well, I couldn't imagine that he would fail to be aware that sapphires always infused him better, or longer, or something. So, inconclusive at this point, not disproven, but I'm not leaning in that direction.


wcarter @64

Hah. Good luck with that. Peter's RAFO-fu is strong. But, if you read carefully, you'll see that Syl tells Kaladin something to the effect that she can make it go away, meaning his ability to harness stormlight. But she tells him only out of honesty; she doesn't want him to lose his powers, nor does she relish the impact to herself.

I'm reminded of Dalinar's vision where he ends up fighting alongside the Radiants, and they recruit him. They say that they can train him, but regarding the acquisition of Surge powers, that can't be trained, so is it the bonding of a spren? That Szeth is not bonded to a spren would suggest not, but there just might be more than one way to soulcast, also...


ETA: Now I see that Peter beat me to the punch.
Alice Arneson
67. Wetlandernw
Thanks to Freelancer, I finally found the bit I was looking for. Chapter 57, near the end, after Wit has told his story and left, Syl and Kaladin are talking:
“I’m behind what is happening to you,” she said, voice soft. “I’m doing it.”
Kaladin frowned, stepping forward.
“It’s both of us,” she said. “But without me, nothing would be changing in you. I’m…taking something from you. And giving something in return. It’s the way it used to work, though I can’t remember how or when. I just know that it was.”
“I –”
“Hush,” she said. “I’m talking.”
“Sorry.”
“I’m willing to stop it, if you want,” she said. “But I would go back to being as I was before. That scares me. Floating on the wind, never remembering anything for longer than a few minutes. It’s because of this tie between us that I can think again, that I can remember what and who I am. If we end it, I lose that.”
Obviously there is some way to gain these powers without a spren bond, since we know Szeth has them and is not bonded to a spren. But it seems pretty clear that Kaladin gets his powers through the bond with Syl.

ETA: Or at least, she thinks he does... :)
Jeremy Guebert
68. jeremyguebert
With ten known orders of KR and ten known gems, it makes sense to me that each order would benefit more strongly from one particular gem.

Granted, as Freelancer mentioned, Szeth didn't mention it, which seems like something he would know if it were true.

Spheres as currency is a very intriguing idea as a whole - each gem's value is determined partially by what can be Soulcast using it, but there are several other uses for Stormlight waiting to be rediscovered, which could easily play havoc with the economy. I believe someone (Dalinar?) actually mentions this in the book at some point.
Charles S
69. Cheese_Ninja
If anyone else is wonder about the timeline so far, there's been an indeterminate amount of time since Kaladin was assigned to Bridge 4. It seems to have been at least a few weeks, since "Of the twenty-five men who had survived his first bridge deployment, twenty-three were now dead." That other guy dies this chapter too.

We're told later on in the book that new bridge members are added on Chach (3rd day of the week). Also, even though it seems like a few days pass during this chapter, you learn in chapter 11 that it was all one day.

All of Kaladin's chapters from 9 to 27 take place in a one (5-day) week span.
William Carter
70. wcarter
@PeterAhlstrom 65

Eh, worth a shot...

@ Wetlander

At any rate your quotes make it look like you were right about Syl being the instigator of his powers, but at least she also makes it look like my general spren symbiosis theory is otherwise pretty well on the nose.

I'm willing to concede the victory to you for now...*grumbles*
Alice Arneson
71. Wetlandernw
wcarter@70 - Well, even with that, it's still not what I'd call "crystal clear" in terms of how spren work with humans. And as I noted... how reliable a narrator is Sylphrena? She thinks that's how it works, that's what she remembers - but she doesn't know how or when. I'll stick with the theory for the time being, because it makes sense to me, but I'm prepared for more evidence to come along and change things.

I'm seriously looking forward to the next book... Website says the first draft is at 83%.
James Briggs
72. traveler
I agree with 5@wcarter
on page 849 and 850 dalinar is talking with Nohadon at the end of one desolation about the bond with spren. It is called the Nahel bond and it is common with diferent kinds of spren.( nohadon said alas not all spren are as discerning as honor spren, because Alakavich was a surgebinder and his spren gave him no more wisdom than a regular man. he was woried that human nature would abuse mankind just because they thought they became gods power on the planet ,so all men should bow down.
Kaladin and Syl had a bond because of the way Kaladin lived and he didnt reach his true potential until he said the 2nd KR ideal PAGE924-926
once this was said kaladin exploded with power and light shot out of him pushing the parshendi back. Whit stormlignt streamed from him like a blazing fire. it was more than stormlight,it enhanced,strenghtened,invigorated it prefected. this was a master of the spear enhanced to astonishing levels.
this didnot happen until kaladin and syl were Nahel bonded
Does any one know what the first ideal was?
James Briggs
73. traveler
Are the ideals of the KRthe words that Dalinar is looking for?
Phil Anthrop
74. Isomere
@73 your's is the best theory I have heard so far. Gavilar is asking his brother to become a Knight Radiant, and the most important words a man can say make him more Attuned to the Almighty and better able to use stormlight.
andrew smith
75. sillyslovene
briggs2@72-
the first ideal is:
“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”
Alice Arneson
76. Wetlandernw
briggs2 @72 - As far as I can tell, Brandon has not confirmed that the Nahel bond and the spren bond (e.g. Kaladin/Syl) are the same thing.

briggs2 @73 - I have wondered that as well, and while there's insufficient evidence, it's my quietly- and loosely-held theory that the Ideals are what Gavilar meant, whether he knew it or not.
Jeremy Guebert
77. jeremyguebert
@72: For what it's worth, I don't think that Kaladin has actually reached his true/full potential yet. Each order of KR has 5 ideals associated with it (the first of which is shared among all 10 orders). As of now, he has spoken 2/5, and while I don't recall anything momentous happening when he spoke the first one, there was a noticable increase in his abilities when he spoke the second. My assumption/theory would be that he will similarly increase in power with each further ideal he speaks.
Nadine L.
78. travyl
Unfortunately I'm not at all sure about my WoK knowledge. But wasn't it stated that diamonds would hold stormlight better then othter gems? Or was it that they were the cheapest, but gave the purest white light? I can't find the quote I seem to remeber.
Carl Engle-Laird
79. CarlEngle-Laird
@78 I believe that what you're thinking of is that diamonds give the purest white light, and are therefore best for illumination. They also are associated with light.
Jennifer B
80. JennB
We had better hope that Kaladin has some major advantages from his bond with Syl because that will be they will be the only advantages he has when the Assassin in White comes for his new employer.
Jennifer B
81. JennB
@71
Amazon has a release date of November 12, 2013! I am always amazed at how quickly Brandon can crank a book out.
Alice Arneson
83. Wetlandernw
JennB @81 - I keep wondering if that's still a good date. He said at one point that he needed to have a first draft by April to make the November release, but... it may still be possible, depending on how much the publisher can adjust things. I guess we'll have to wait for the official announcement from Tor to be sure. Even so - like you, I'm amazed at how fast he can write!
James Briggs
84. traveler
SIllyslovene@75
thanks i knew it was some where but had not found it. I also believe tha kaladine has not reached his full abilaties. cant wait to read the next book to read the fight with the assasin in white.
T C
85. Freelancer
I think there's still a good chance for the November release date. Put your money on Moshe, and Peter, even if Brandon gets further behind on the draft.


Since my first reading, I have nurtured a suspicion that the words which Gavilar wants Dalinar to find, are an honest expression of his love for Navani. I don't summarily dismiss the notion of it being the First Ideal, but in a Sanderson story it feels a bit on the nose. Adding together his visions (which he now is confident are not a sign of derangement, but orchestrated from an external source), and his study of The Way of Kings, he has already read the words of the First Ideal, and should have had the revelation if indeed they were what Gavilar meant.

In the Coppermind Wiki, the following statement is made regarding the Immortal Words:
The Immortal Words were a set of oaths sworn by the Knights Radiant in order to gain their Surgebinding abilities.
I don't believe this to be true. Kaladin had not spoken any of the words prior to beginning his ability to infuse Stormlight. There is nothing written which suggests that Szeth has spoken any of the ideals. And he is unable to honestly claim that he protects those who cannot protect themselves. Obviously, Kaladin's ability was strongly enhanced by him speaking the words. It could be said that "taking the oath" triggered an upgrade, not that it triggered the ability.
Alice Arneson
86. Wetlandernw
Freelancer @85 - Well, I'd have to disagree about Gavilar's intent re: the "most important words." That's his wife you're talking about, after all. However, I'll agree that the Immortal Words are a bit "on the nose" for Sanderson, so it might be something else.

About the Immortal Words... Teft (& Kaladin) agree with you:
Teft grunted. "You're not a Radiant, lad."
"Weren't we just talking about - "
"Oh, you can infuse," Teft said. "You can drink in the Stormlight and command it. But being a Radiant was more than that. It was their way of life, the things they did. The Immortal Words."
The first time Kaladin even heard the words of the First Ideal was after he'd begun unconsciously using the Stormlight; this conversation takes place somewhat later, as he and Teft are trying to figure out how to do it consciously. He does, in a few minutes, figure it out with the help of Syl, Lopen and Teft - but he certainly wasn't thinking about the Immortal Words at the time.
T C
87. Freelancer
Oh, I know that Navani is Gavilar's wife at that moment, but he knows he's dying, and I imagine that Navani and Dalinar aren't the only ones who knew that she "settled" for the older brother. Dalinar avoided Navani like the plague because he couldn't ignore his feelings, but insisted on deferring to his brother. Navani tried to break through this behavior of Dalinar's, but eventually succumbed to the frustration. I'm suggesting that Gavilar was aware of all of this, and willingly accepted the advantage given. Now, Dalinar's wife is long gone, so in his death throes, he asks Szeth to help his brother find twoo wuv once more.

Call me a romantic.
James Briggs
89. traveler
I think that the comments are great but I am going to go woth this for a little longer. the most important words a man can say will have to be somthing like the oaths. it might not be the oaths but it will be something similar. so that they can unlock the power of the radiantsand protect those that cant protect them selfs. I GUESS WE WILL SEE SOMETIME
Alice Arneson
90. Wetlandernw
briggs2 @89 - "I GUESS WE WILL SEE SOMETIME"

I certainly hope so. If Brandon gets through this whole series and we never find out what "the most important words a man can say" are, I'm going to be seriously miffed! :)
James Briggs
92. traveler
The way that Brandon writes allways leaves you guessing . as much as I hate waiting ,IM still excited for more . So cant wait:)
Jeremy Guebert
93. jeremyguebert
RBrandon commented on the release date for Stormlight 2 in his most recent newsletter (Tuesday afternoon). Relevant quotes:

"The book is progressing well. But it's also going slowly. Big epics just take so much TIME." ... "At this point, we still have a "soft" release date of November, as listed on Amazon." ... "It could come out anywhere between November 2013 and May 2014."

Along with everyone else, I'd prefer the earlier date, but I'd also prefer a better book later than one that was rushed. Just thought you all might appreciate an update on that front.
Nadine L.
94. travyl
At JCon Brandon explained, that he really wants to bring out the book this year, because 3 years without a following book in the series wouldn't be good (us avid (re-)readers would wait, but the regular/casual readers might not pick it up anymore...)
But yes, I agree, I prefer a not-rushed book.
Maiane Bakroeva
95. Isilel
So, were pre/non KR Surgebinders all bound to spren too, despite not adhering to the Ideals? I kind of thought not, though I confess that I have completely forgotten about the Nahel bond. Weren't there evil, tyrannical Surgebinders? I seem to vaguely remember some mentions of such...

Also, I fail to see how the disposable bridgemen economy can work. I mean, in order to have tons of cheap slaves you need a constantly growing empire, which enslaves defeated opponent nations, such as the Roman one at it's height. But Alethi don't have that. And given rising demand due to quick turn-over and long way to the battlefield, I'd expect the prices to soar. Gem-hearts or no, it should become unsustainable pretty soon, IMHO.

Another thing that always bothered me re: integration of magic in this world, is that they are coming close to recreating Soulcasters, but still use such primitive military technology, apart from shards, etc. which are ancient relics. Given Vorin ideals, wouldn't military R&D be an absolute priority?

Oh, and I can't help but think that Soulcasters could be used more usefully than to feed all the spear-carriers, too.
William Carter
96. wcarter
@95 Isilel

Technology on Roshar is something that will come up in Words of Radience. The chapter Brandon read at Jcon has some...interesting revelations on its development or lack thereof and why.
m_i_r
97. briggs2
Is the chapter that Brandon read posted anywhere?
m_i_r
98. Shardlet
@ 97

If you mean the Parshendi POV chapter, yeah, it is an audio file in two parts (posted separately :( ) on 17thshard.com. You'll have to search for them, but they are there. Search 'Stormlight 2', 'parshendi' and 'chapter' to start out.

@95

The trick with any significant tech advance is that you need not only the capability, but the paradigm shift to make the change. I can see Roshar (particularly Alethkar) being stuck in sword and shield mode since the most powerful weapons known to them are heirlooms which they have no way of recreating. So they have tunnel vision on shardblades and shardplate (half-shards shields are like baby plate, right?). Given this intense focus on shardblades and plate, the paradigm shift would be unlikely and likely ignored to obscurity.
T C
99. Freelancer
There's a little more to it than simply an entrenched paradigm about the shards themselves. This is a nation which was devoted to holding the knowledge of warfighting in preparation for the desolations. War is virtually in the Alethi DNA, as the Heralds designed things.

Any technology approach which might result in the clear superiority of one people over another would natrually result in . . . peace. The Alethi aren't going to pursue such a course, leaving their ruling class with nothing to do. The status quo is much preferable to them.
Birgit
100. birgit
Soulcasting is mainly in the hands of the Ardents who treat is as a religious secret, not something warriors use.
Maiane Bakroeva
101. Isilel
Freelancer @99:

But don't other nations fight too? Even against the Alethi, sometimes? Why didn't they come up with something?

It just seems so strange that they come close to recreating Soulcasters and have half-shards - did we see them, BTW? What's the difference to the full shards? But at the same time have nothing better than masses of leather-clad spear-carriers and some bows for the bulk of their armies.

Also, isn't Ardentia pretty much under the thumb of secular rulers? Seems strange that military potential of Soulcasters isn't even considered - except by Jasnah for personal combat, seemingly.
Alice Arneson
102. Wetlandernw
Isilel @101 - Some of the other kingdoms do fight, but they're mostly deeply Vorinist as well, so the religious effects are still there. And while the ardents are "owned" by the kings and nobles, they still have a great deal of influence over their "owners" as well as the general populace. In any case, it seems that even world-wide, the Alethi still keep their traditional position as the primary possessors of the arts of war. Tradition is an amazing thing... And, as Freelancer said, war is in the DNA of the Alethi in a way that it isn't, quite, in anyone else.

But what kind of thing should they be inventing? While the engineers are coming up with some cool new fabrials, one of their limitations seems to be proximity. Most of them require physical touch, as near as we can see; the one time we see any kind of "magical weapon use" other than Shards, it turns out to be Jasnah doing whatever-she-does unaided. (Except, possibly, by a spren; her fabrial, at least, was a fake.) Are you suggesting that they should be moving toward gunpowder, or just that they should be working on fabrials that can throw things?

IIRC, Brandon set this up to be a world where much of the magic was more or less lost, and they are recovering past knowledge. Also, for what it's worth, he pointed out the great disconnect in the prelude:
Men in primitive wraps, carrying spears topped by bronze heads. Juxtaposed between them were others in gleaming plate armor. One group walked past, four men in their ragged tanned skins or shoddy leather joining a powerful figure in beautiful silver plate, amazingly intricate. Such a contrast.
It's come a long way from there, of course, but when the Radiants walked away, much of the technology was lost - in terms of understanding, if not physical presence. No one else understood how to make anything work fully.


I have the impression that something else happened in between "then" and "now" (other than the Heirocracy), but I can't find it right at the moment. It seems, though, that the engineers are finally starting to make breakthroughs in fabrial technology, but they haven't got so far as weapons other than the half-shards.

Forgive the rambling; my head is only about half-functional today. But I think one of the things holding them back from military R&D is their lack of motivation. Sure, with the Vengeance Pact and most of the Alethi armies off fighting on the Shattered Plains, there are some incursions from Jah Keved and (rumored, at least) a few other places. But up until five years ago, as I understand it, the Alethi were the undisputed military world power. Up to that time, most of the warmongering went on between the Alethi highprinces, not between nations (much).

Now they have the War of Reckoning, which one might think would spur them on to greater R&D, except that it's degenerated into a game. It's not really a war anymore; it's a contest to see which highprince can get the most gemhearts. The Parshendi are really no more than one of the obstacles to be overcome, like the chasms except active. They aren't really "the enemy" now, so no one has any real interest in winning the war. The extent of innovation is in things like the different kinds of bridges, which give one highprince an advantage over another, and the invention of the grandbow, which makes use of the enhanced strength of Shardplate when you don't have a Blade.

Also: We see the half-shards in action once, in Interlude 9, when Szeth goes after King Hanavanar of Jah Keved.
Kimani Rogers
103. KiManiak
I was curious how 4500 or so years had passed since the prelude and mankind had only progressed from bronze-tipped weapons to steel weapons; from skin and leather to cloth and fabric. History and archaeology aren’t my strength, but a quick check on Wikipedia (always taken with a grain of salt) showed that the beginning of the Bronze Age to the end of the Iron Age to the Medieval period spanned about 4000 years or so; so it’s not impossible that weapon advancement in Roshar had only progressed to steel versions of sword, spear and bow/arrow.

There is the wild card of Shardplate and Shardblade as models of advanced weapons to aspire towards, though. It could be argued that seeing invincible armor and irresistible blades could/should have driven weapon development faster over the millennia. But that could also be an argument for why weapon development has stagnated, once man has reached the most advanced natural ways of making those types of weapons. (That fact, along with Soulcasting, may be why gunpowder or other types of explosives may not have been developed). There is mention of R&D working towards developing Shardblades, and there is the creation of half-shards as improvement in shield-type technology, but that appears to be the only direction that weapon advancement is heading towards, as far as we have been shown so far (I think; no other examples come to mind right now).

Here’s a thought, though. What if part of the mission of the Knights Radiant was to slow or retard the development of weapons and all warfare related technology? What if the Knights Radiant alone were meant to be the elite troops (and focus of the enemies forces) that fought beside (or at the direction of) the Heralds, while mankind was only meant to provide support? What if the Heralds (or the Almighty) had specifically created a system that was meant to keep mankind from developing better ways to fight one another; a system where warfare was only meant to be directed towards the Desolations and the foes associated with them?

And when the Heralds proclaimed the Desolations defeated and the Oathpact over, or when the Knights Radiant finally disbanded on the Day of Recreance (maybe fueled by the fact that mankind continued to war amongst itself, no matter what they did to stop it), maybe that’s when weapon development and advancement took off again. And even with that, there is still the model of the nigh-irresistible Shardblade and the nigh-immovable Shardplate for all weapon development to aspire towards; to drive innovation.

Just more fun speculation; we still have nowhere near the proper amount of information to do more than guess and theorize...



Now, having said all that, I do agree that some other weapons could have been developed specifically to counter post-Day-Of-Recreance Shardbearers. I could see an argument made for ballistae and broad-headed crossbows as range weapons to use against Shardbearers (or anyone else, for that matter). The former could be used for defense of strongholds; the latter would be more of an offensive weapon to be used in the field. Basically, the development of any weapon designed to wear down and crack armor from a distance. Or strike someone wielding a 6 foot long blade from a distance.

And (even though these weapons would be relatively useless against Shardbearers due to accuracy and speed) there should be some type of catapults used in warfare, whether they were onagers, trebuchet or the like (thank you Wikipedia!). And other types of weapons oriented towards doing damage from a distance. Melee fighting alone can be neutralized rather easily in the world of Shardbearers.

There is always the possibility that these weapons exist in Roshar and we just haven’t seen them yet due to the type of warfare we’ve been exposed to (with the exception of the crossbow, which could and should be used in the Shattered Plains). But, I think questioning the sophistication and advancement of weapons in present day Roshar, given its history and other circumstances, is definitely a valid course of action...
Maiane Bakroeva
104. Isilel
Wetlandernw@102:
Men in primitive wraps, carrying spears topped by bronze heads. Juxtaposed between them were others in gleaming plate armor.
Here is where I have to admit that when I read WoK, I didn't know that all Sanderson's novels belong to the same cosmology.

I thought that WoK was a science fantasy about a regressed human colony on an alien world, that Shinovar was the part that they had managed to terraform before the disaster that threw them back to bronze age struck, that shards and soulcasters were repurposed remains of space-age technology - space-suits, replicators, mining tools, etc. that the "Almighty" provided as a last-ditch effort to help the failed colony after the contact was re-established.

I thought that the "Almighty" was the last remaining original member of the expedition or maybe of a follow-up expedition sent to check up on the colony and that he was on an actual starbase/space-station, etc. and that Odium was either an alien intelligence indigenious to Roshar or a space-age human traitor who managed to harness occasionally disastrous natural processes of Roshar for his own purposes. Etc.

Obviously, there was also magic, which I thought was intrinsic to Roshar and allowed regressed humanity to survive/was adapted to keep the old techology going, etc.
I also didn't think that Radiants actually had sufficent knowledge to make shards - just to operate them more efficiently and in conjuction with magic (surge-binding).

This is a long-winded explanation as to why the contrast in the quote you provided didn't bother me, but very slow progress since did, particularly since they are coming close to replicating shards and soulcasters, but didn't manage to invent better weapons than swords, bows and spears (and I am not speaking about the firearms here) or better armor than leather.
I mean, spear is a good, cheap, all-purpose weapon, but there was a reason why it was abandoned and why iRL spearmen carried side-arms for when their spears broke or were otherwise unusable, which WoK ones don't seem to.

Now that it looks like shards et al. were actually invented on Roshar, the whole bronze/leather versus shards set-up makes much less sense to me and extremely slow progress since seems even more egregious.

P.S. Completely forgot about the scene with half-shards in Jah Keved - they were some kind of shields, right? Was it ever explained why they weren't used on the Shattered Plains?

P.S.S. If Alethi are so suprior militarily, why didn't they conquer everybody else? Lack of unity alone can't explain it, since there would have been sufficient opportunities for the princedoms that border on non-Alethi territories to gobble up their neighbours.

KiManiak @103:
That fact, along with Soulcasting, may be why gunpowder or other types of explosives may not have been developed
I was agreeing with you on this, but then it occured to me that recreating a Soulcaster that turns one thing into another is much more complicated than inventing something that works on similar principles, but just changes stuff (particularly living one) enough to destroy/kill it. They must have quite a lot of failed fabrial experiments that could be turned into weapons straight away.

Re: weapons against Shardbearers, aren't spears and swords, like, the most inefficient ones possible? I mean, they aren't great against steel plate either...

I agree with your thoughts about possible low-tech weapons that would have made sense in the setting.
Alice Arneson
105. Wetlandernw
Isilel @104 – Wow. WoK as science fantasy… That’s an amazing concept – and now that you spell it out, I can totally see it. MASSIVE paradigm shift, looking at it that way. How crazy cool! I can’t quite shift, because I knew too much of the background before I read it, but that would be a very cool story.

You’re right, the half-shards are only (so far) used in shields, where they can block a Shardblade. Right now, they’re limited to Jah Keved (who is guarding it’s secrets jealously), and since the Vedens aren’t involved in the Shattered Plains business, we don’t see them there. It’s possible that the Alethi will either recreate or steal the technology soon, though, so we may see them in the war eventually.

FWIW, the spearmen do carry knives for use when they’re in close quarters, if a spear breaks, or for throwing. Between the lowly spearmen and the lofty Shardbearers, there are also plenty of armored officers and soldiers with swords and shields (and knives, presumably), as well as archers, who may or may not have other weapons. We saw longbows, short recurve bows, and grandbows; these last, along with the Halfshard Shields, seem to be the only real effort to create new Stormlight-powered weaponry. Most (all?) of the fabrials we’ve seen require direct contact for use; if that is generally true, there may be a reason they aren’t looking very hard at weapon fabrials. Or they just haven’t done the mental shift to consider a fabrial that throws things. Even the grandbow only uses Stormlight to keep the frame from warping with the massive pull; it’s the bow itself that launches the shaft, rather than the gem.

There’s still a lot of the history we don’t know, and there are some huge questions going begging. The Alethi don’t seem to have been terribly aggressive toward the neighboring kingdoms, but we don’t know why. We know there’s a balance of sorts in the distribution of Shardblades throughout Roshar: the Alethi have about 20, Jah Keved about the same, and there are another forty or so scattered throughout the other kingdoms. And now the Parshendi also seem to have some, though we don’t know how many. Is that the reason for the lack of aggression? Seems odd, because it appears that the Alethi have been fighting among themselves but not going after anyone else.

To add to the confusion, in the Prologue Szeth thinks about the rumors that the Alethi scholars were close to creating new Shardblades - whether that’s been conflated with the Jah Keved developments, or parallel to them, we don’t know. In any case, Szeth hopes that it’s just wishful boasting, because if it happened, the world would be changed, “Likely in a way that ended with people in all countries – from distant Thaylenah to towering Jah Keved – speaking Alethi to their children.” In the fine tradition of unreliable narrators, we don’t know how true that is, but it certainly implies that the balance of Blades is at least partially responsible for Alethkar not conquering the rest of the world.

As with my earlier comments, it’s all sheer speculation; we just don’t know why weapons technology hasn’t made more advances, and we don’t know much about international politics. I’m taking what little we know and extrapolating from that, in ways that may not always turn out to be correct. At some point, I think I’ll have to go through and document what we actually know about history and the various nations…
Ryan Henrie
106. Coldmist
@77 on page 842:
Lopen shrugged and began searching about. Kaladin joined him, fishing them out of puddles and pulling them from crevasses. There was no shortage of stones in the chasms. In a short time, he had a large pile of rocks in a sack.

He took the pouch of spheres in his hand and tried to think the same way he had earlier, when he’d drawn in the Stormlight. This is our last chance.

“Life before death,” he whispered. “Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant. He breathed in deeply, and a thick jolt of power shot up his arm. His muscles burned with energy, with the desire to move. The tempest spread within, pushing at his skin, causing his blood to pump in a powerful rhythm. He opened his eyes. Glowing smoke rose around him. He was able to contain much of the Light, holding it in by holding his breath.

It’s like a storm inside me. It felt as if it would rip him apart.
Maybe not as big as saying the 2nd one, but still, it was a memorable event, with some good stuff going on.
Alice Arneson
107. Wetlandernw
Coldmist @106 - Good find! You're right - that's pretty memorable, and probably nearly as potent to him where he was as the second would be in its place. Can't wait to see what happens when he says the third one. Do you suppose it might happen when he has to defend Dalinar from Szeth?
m_i_r
108. Geordielass
I'm incredibly late to the party on this one (just finished WoR and decided to do a more leisurely reread of both books now). As far as the slow tech-development issue goes, I have to say I didn't find it incongruous at all. There is very little "normal" technology as we would see it. If you don't have gems you use an oil lamp, for instance, so we are still in bronze/iron-age technology there. I think (though I may be wrong) that they don't have the printing press yet, either which has to be one of the mostimportant inventions for promoting learning and therefore advancement in technology and every other sort of learning - and if it can't be done as a fabriole, they probably never will. Similarly on, say, inventing gas lighting, it's not going to happen because you can just use sphere lanterns if you are rich, and who cares about the poor having to use oil?

Fabrioles are their only real technology and, as far as they are concerned, when it comes to weapons they aren't going to look further than shardblades/plate until they can reproduce them (if you've read WoR you'll know that this is totally impossible in the way they think but as far as they are concerned shard is just a really advanced fabriole). What I mean is that if your technology IS fabrioles, even when it comes to warfare, you aren't going to try to even look for gunpowder/cannons, even if you are thinking that way, you are going to try to find a fabriole that can throw big rocks/iron balls at the enemy. But that isn't how they think at all. A man in shardplate with a shardblade is basically an army all on his own (well maybe only a battalion) so if you could give everyone in your army a similar advantage you would win every battle in about 3 seconds flat (until the other side also learns to reproduce shard).

In some areas where there aren't the ultimate fabrioles to try to reproduce, such as medicine there are far more innovative uses of the tech. Think about the fabriole that removes pain - what would someone like Lirin think of being able to use what is basically a semi-permanent local anaesthetic for surgery that had no potential for wearing off, that could be left on until much of the pain of healing is over etc. (given why we feel pain at all that might not be as useful as it sounds in later stages of healing, but it's still amazing).

It's just that when it comes to war they are fixated on reproducing shards, especially as they are not just weapons but also status symbols and automatic promotion to high rank (we learn in WoR that plate and blade automatically promote you to 4th Dahn as well as REALLY "bleaching" your eyes - which if it were possible to produce shardplate/blades would have some fascinating implications).

Sorry, went round in long involved circles there, but I guess what I was trying to say is that you can't judge their technological development by ours, it's too different and, because of that, the culture surrounding it is also too different.

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