Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com! This week we get to see Dalinar showcase exactly why he is called the Blackthorn and is still a force still to be reckoned despite his visions. In many ways this is Dalinar at his best, as his visions and reactions to them are seen as a great weakness to the people. Kaladin 2.0 (or would it be 3.0?) makes plans and tries to cajole the men of Bridge Four info action. Kaladin is a man of many hats—Bridgeman, Surgeon, Soldier, Slave—and he is just getting started.
Chapter 13: Ten Heartbeats
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Points of View: Dalinar and Adolin
While still in the setup stage of king Elhokar’s hunt on the Shattered Plains for an especially large chasmfiend, the creature emerges from crevices between the plateaus much sooner than planned. It arrives on the viewing plateau—the very platform which all of the guests are on—instead of the hunting plateau across the way.
Instead of the well-planned traditional hunt lasting for hours, those with Shardblades (Elhokar, Dalinar, and Adolin) rush it in hopes of a quick kill so that the others in the retinue may escape. Dalinar would have preferred to just distract the beast, but it is clear Elhokar must have his kill, so Dalinar and the dutiful Adolin support him. The beast has already destroyed the bridge that was being used to travel between platforms, sending many victims into the chasm.
Dalinar and Adolin try to slow it down from atop their Ryshadium horses by cutting its legs, while Elhokar attempts to distract it with a more direct approach, thus endangering himself. Sadeas uses a grandbow to hamper the chasmfiend from afar; he has no Shardblade of his own, but his Shardplate gives him the strength to wield the grandbow—sometimes called a Shardbow—well.
Elhokar ends up falling off his horse due to a broken saddle strap, also causing a crack in his Shardplate that is now leaking Stormlight. He finds himself about to be crushed beneath one of the chasmfiend’s large claws when one of Sadeas’ arrows slams into the creature, allowing Elhokar to escape.
Elhokar turns back to the chasmfiend shouting, “Are you a god!” and charges it on foot, slamming into the beast with his Shardblade. After knocking Elhokar and his blade aside, the fiend slams its tail into Dalinar, separating him from his horse. Dalinar sees that his horse is only slightly injured, but orders it out of the fray. At this point half of the creature’s 14 legs are now dead from Shardblade strikes. Dalinar, caught unaware, again gets bowled over by the chasmfiend’s tail. Renarin gallops up to Dalinar’s aid, but is shooed away as Renarin has neither Shardplate or blade to defend himself from the creature. Dalinar sees that the king and a dismounted Adolin are still attacking the chasmfiend and rushes to their aid. While trying to deflect the claws, Adolin is hit from behind and tossed aside. After Adolin lands, Dalinar sees he is still alive and so goes on to aid Elhokar, who was just knocked down right in front of the beast.
Dalinar races to his nephew's aid and catches one of the beasts claws above his head, holding it at bay with his enhanced strength from his Shardplate. All onlookers are stunned by this action for a moment. Adolin gets back in the game and attacks another leg; the beast’s remaining legs are unable to hold up its own weight and begin to break. The chasmfiend crashes down, leaving it prone to Elhokar’s Shardblade. Elhokar cuts deeply into the beast and tears out its gemheart with his gauntleted hands.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Are you a god!” Elhokar bellowed.
Dalinar groaned, looking over his shoulder. The king had not fled. He strode toward the beast, hand to the side.
“I defy you, creature!” Elhokar screamed.
Elhokar seems to have a lot to prove not to just his people, but also to himself. He is in a very precarious position in being the leader of a new a empire that is still very new in the scheme of politics. His father brought the Alethi princedoms together for the first time in many generations, and it was still a work in progress when Gavilar was killed, leaving Elhokar the reins of a bucking horse of a nation—and one he probably wasn’t ready to temper.
He clearly blames the Parshendi and by extension their “gods” (the chasmfiends), but Elhokar (like Dalinar) also seems to at least partly blame himself for the death of his father. To my eyes he also seems to have a death wish when it comes to battle despite being so cautious at night. Could it simply be the “Thrill” that Alethi warriors refer to so much when in the heat of battle or is it something more telling? Has the death of his father broken him inside in more ways? Only time will tell.
This was one of the most exhilarating early chapters, which showcased exactly how formidable Shardbearers are as well as how dangerous life out on the Shattered Plains can be.
The greatest question this chapter left me concerns the Parshendi belief that that the chasmfiends are gods. By extension, that could mean the fiends are the Voidbringers themselves. In a way the fiends seem evolved specifically for battle against those with Shardblades even outside of the natural armor, or it could be the reverse and the Shardblades and Shardplate were developed to combat the chasmfiends. Either way, this was a hard-fought battle that could have easily turned to the chasmfiends advantage. As the Desolation approaches, will it change the chasmfiends more and perhaps make them more sentient and therefore more dangerous? Or could the Parshendi actually be worshipping the gemhearts instead? Could that be where the essence of a Voidbringer is housed, much like how spren are imprisoned in some of the fabrials we later see?
The chasmfiends are very strange creatures indeed. They have the gemhearts which grow larger within them. They have 14 legs and 4 clawed arms as well as what is described as four voices which overlap. It isn’t clear if they actually have more than one mouth, which would make it all the stranger. Their voices seem to work in concert with one another in some fashion, which leads me to believe their voices will become more important later on. Could they possibly sing, like some of the other creatures we’ve seen in this world? And what sort of effect would they have? Could they simply call Parshendi to them?
Also, I didn’t catch this on previous reads, but the eyes of a chasmfiend are green when it is alive, but turn black when killed. This is reminiscent of how the shards change a person's eye color, so it seems Stormlight or a similar energy is at play within the beasts as their gemhearts are always described as green, which we’ve been told is also the most efficient gem to house Stormlight. The heart also seems to be responsible for the larger and dangerous growth of chasmfiends. What else could the heart imbue into them? These beasts were probably a form of Chull that has simply been adulterated and changed by Odium.
One thing that also stood out to me was when Dalinar had to rescue Elhokar because he was all that was left of Gavilar besides the kingdom, but what about Jasnah? Is she simply being marginalized for being a woman? In the end Jasnah will probably have a larger effect on the story and happenings than Elhokar who will most likely just go along for the ride. It is the women of the world who may not be leading physically, but who are changing the society through their intellect.
Chapter 14: Payday
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
Kaladin begins his mission to change Bridge Four into an elite group in hopes of having all its members survive bridge runs. Kaladin wakes the crew, but after threatening the whole group without getting a response, he punches Moash and carry him outside where the rest very reluctantly follow. Once outside he tells them that they will no longer sleep in but begin training everyday so that they can improve their strength and stamina when carrying a bridge so that they “never lose another man.” The bridgemen question whether he has the authority to make them do anything. Gaz very unhelpfully tells them that, except on an actual bridge run, the bridgeleader has no authority to make them do anything.
Warily, Gaz leaves expecting Kaladin to follow him. Kaladin then asks Syl to follow Gaz to tell him where he ends up. Syl comes back soon and reports Gaz is hiding not far away. Kaladin circles around Gaz’s position to surprise him. Gaz expects an attack, but is surprised when Kaladin merely asks for his pay. At first Gaz rebuffs him saying everyone gets paid later, but Kaladin tells him he knows he already has the squad’s money. Reluctantly, Gaz gives him three spheres. Kaladin reminds Gaz that he is due four. After getting all he is due Kaladin gives the fourth to Gaz as his pay to stay out of Kaladin’s way with the bridge crew. He reminds Gaz that Kaladin is giving it to him and Gaz is not just keeping it. As Gaz and Kaladin separate Gaz tells Kaladin “You aren’t going to change anything,” and that “You can’t have authority without rank!” When Kaladin and Syl are along he tells her that Gaz is wrong and that authority comes “From the men who give it to you.”
Kaladin then asks Syl watch over him at night incase Gaz decides to take retribution on him. Syl agrees. Both agree it is unlikely to happen. Kaladin then comes to the realization that he needs motivation of some kind over the bridgemen. He heads to the lumberyard and borrows a plank with a handhold on it meant for a new bridge that’s to be constructed. He proceeds to stand in view of bridge four’s barracks and run through a routine of exercises using the plank. After awhile a crowd has gathered to watch him including many from his bridge crew. He stopped when the noon bells were rung after having worked out for hours even though he felt completely drained many times. Afterwards he left to get some water and returned for the plank and found Rock the Horneater who told them he and others had a bet going that Kaladin had used a lightweight plank, which Rock found not to be true. Kaladin then announced the bridge crew’s camp duty for the evening and told them they were on bridge duty that afternoon as well should they be called to action.
Kaladin returned the plank to the carpenters and proceeded to jog away and fall down in an alley out of sight of everyone so they wouldn’t see how weary he was. Syl finds him and tells him she’s glad he didn’t break his word to Gaz about giving him the sphere, but also that she is shocked that she knows what a lie is as well as many other things a spren wouldn’t typically know such as knowing what death means. She goes on to say she knows now that she’s different from other spren and Kaladin agrees that she hasn’t really ever acted like a normal spren since soon after she met him.
Quote of the Chapter:
“I don’t even know what I am either. A bridgeman? A surgeon? A soldier? A slave? Those are just labels. Inside, I’m me. A very different me than I was a year ago, but I can’t worry about that, so I just keep moving and hope my feet take me where I need to go.”
“You aren’t angry at me for bring you that leaf?”
“Syl, if you hadn’t interrupted me, I’d have stepped of into the chasm. That leaf was what I needed. It was the right thing, somehow.”
“I’m glad you’re not angry. Though I do think you’re to blame for what’s happening to me. Before I met you I never had to think about death or lying.”
“That’s how I am,” he said dryly, “Bringing death and lies wherever I go. Me and the Nightwatcher.”
Yes, I’m still fascinated by the Nightwatcher and although this passage doesn’t let on anything new, its importance has to do with how Syl sees Kaladin. In her mind he is a bringer of change, the catalyst that has caused her memories to return. Kaladin, meanwhile, sees Syl as his savior. What is ultimately important, however, is that they both need each other.
This is one of those chapters in which you think something good will actually happen to Kaladin, but Sanderson pulls back just enough to make Kal’s journey tougher. If only he had someone else to support him other than Syl. Sure he eventually gets that in his bridge crew, but man, does it take time.
During Kaladin's intense workout session, we see him for the first time pulling Stormlight in himself in some fashion even though he has no clue he’s done it. Even unknowingly his body is guiding him to the power. So my question is it just because of his connection to Syl or was he born with this as some sort of innate ability? There does seem to be a sort of family lineage in terms of people having access to Stormlight powers. Nearly all of the Kholin family are showing abilities, again whether they realize it or not. Jasnah has her Soulcasting, Elhokar seems to be able to see the symbol head spren, which will likely lead him to being a Radiant of one stripe or another. Then there is Dalinar with his obvious connections to many things and is well on his way to becoming a Radiant as well, especially given he is acknowledge as being one of the most capable users of Shardplate. Like Kaladin will giving up a Shardblade be Dalinar’s road to an Honorblade? Adolin also seems to be on the path of the Radiants.
Another possible connection is mentioned in regard to the Herald Kalak. Bridgeman Rock is a personal favorite minor character of mine. He is a Horneater, but it is said that his tribe’s true name is Unkalaki. So we again have “kalak” used in another word, suggesting that the tribe venerated Kalak at some time. Though given the name Rock, I wonder if he is fated for Talenel’s branch of the Radiants, especially since the essence is related to rock and stone; Rock also displays the attributes of dependability and resourcefulness, which are closely related to Talenel’s essence.
Syl is getting a bit more serious. She is gaining memories, or rather regaining them. She has her grounding point on Roshar with Kaladin that focuses her attention enabling her to more develop as a character. Memory is very important to Syl and as she develops she’ll be able to connect a lot of dots for not only Kaladin, but for us readers. It will be interesting once she comes into her fully knowledge what she’ll be able to share about not only the nature of spren, but of the Radiants history and that of ancient Roshar.
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on an anthology project and is hoping to find a good publishing home for it soon.