Welcome back to the Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. This week we cover chapters 23 and 24, which are rather quiet for the most part. Kaladin and his new coterie skulk around the Sadeas’ warcamp and reveal much about themselves. Well, at least Rock does. In the second chapter Dalinar plays diplomat with the launching of his daring and unpopular plan of the highprinces joining together for plateau runs. At the end Adolin finally speaks his mind to his father all too clearly for Dalinar’s liking.
Let’s go milk reeds with some crazy airsick lowlanders.
Chapter 23: Many Uses
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Having convinced Gaz to change duties for Bridge Four, Kaladin and his group are collecting stones for Soulcasters outside Sadeas’ warcamp. Kaladin, Teft, and Rock are also on the hunt for knobweed reeds, gathering the weed covertly while picking up rocks so as not to rouse suspicions from the guards. After gathering enough into bundles, Kaladin slyly ties them underneath the cart. Syl helps Rock locate knobweed. Rock can inexplicably see her even when she doesn’t want to be seen by others; he claims he can see Syl because “it was something he’d been born with.” Teft is left on his own to find knobweed and is surprised that Rock has found so much more than him.
Kaladin is sorry that some of the bridgemen—like Dunny and Earless Jaks—are upset with him about the stone detail, but it was the only way he could gather knobweed to help the wounded men.
After Rock drops off a large rock and some of the precious reeds Syl directed him to more. She explains to Kaladin that she likes Rock because “He is respectful. Unlike others.” When Kaladin suggests she follow Rock around instead, she claims that he is too respectful, noting that Rock wasn’t even upset when she played a prank on him. This then led into a discussion about the importance of honesty; when Kaladin brought up to Syl playing a joke on Rock was akin to lying Syl saw the two things as very different.
Kaladin laments again that most of the men in the bridge team are still indifferent to their situation. Syl claims they are selfish, but Kaladin thinks they feel hopeless as slaves, going on to say:
“I’ve shown them that we can survive, but that doesn’t mean anything. If those lives aren’t worth living, then they aren’t ever going to care. It’s like I’m offering them piles of spheres, but not giving them anything to spend their wealth on.”
Syl wonders what more he could do about the situation. Kaladin is still unsure, but thinks collecting more reeds could change things somehow.
Later that night Kaladin, Teft, and Rock collect the bundles at the wagonyard as well as bottles fto collect the knobweed sap. Even though there is no official curfew for the slaves, they try to steer away from any soldiers walking around the camp. They head towards the Honor Chasm and begin work squeezing the sap from the reeds while telling stories about themselves.
Teft questions why Kaladin does what he does as bridgeleader. Kaladin simply tells him “They’re my men.”
Rock reveals he was part of an important family from the Horneaters and that their leader—known as an nuatoma—challenged Sadeas for his Shardplate, as none of the Horneaters have Shardplate or Blades. After Rock’s lord was defeated, he and the others from his group became Sadeas’ slaves. Some of them were made soldiers while he became a cook. On Rock’s first night preparing Sadeas’ dinner he applied chull dung to all of the food; after that Rock was sent to be a bridgeman. Kaladin tells him had Rock’s master won, Sadeas wouldn’t have given up his Shardplate. Teft disagrees, as it is “tradition” to give your Shards up if lost in a duel. Kaladin when on:
“Tradition is the blind witness they use to condemn us, Teft,” Kaladin said...“It’s the pretty box they use to wrap up their lies. It makes us serve them.”
Rock then asks Kaladin his story, who explains “I killed a man.” He further states he didn’t become a bridgeman because he is a murderer, but rather because “it turns out that lighteyes don’t react very well when you turn down their gifts.”
Quote of the Chapter:
“Lowlanders. You have too much air here. Makes your minds sick.”
“Too much air?” Kaladin asked.
“Yes,” Rock said.
“How can you have too much air? It’s all around.”
“This thing, it is difficult to explain.” Rock’s Alethi was good, but he sometimes forget to add in common words. Other times, he remembered them, speaking his sentences precisely. The faster he spoke, the more words he forgot to put in.
“You have too much air,” Rock said. “Come to the Peaks. You will see.”
Airsick lowlander. I just love that term. And do I ever want to go to those peaks!
Last week Carl thought Vorin culture was weird which it is, but they don’t have anything on the Horneaters—or Unkalaki as they call themselves. Horneaters get their name from eating the shells of chulls and other shelled creatures of Roshar. They claim eating it makes them strong and given Rock’s size yet somewhat dainty position there does seem to be something to this, though it could be more superstition than anything. But what if eating the shell of a creature that had been out in a highstorm did absorb stormlight or some other essence? There seems to be something like that going on with the chasmfiends at least, but they have the gemhearts while no other creature on Roshar is acknowledged to have this advantage. Another thought is something I brought up earlier regarding the waters brought with a highstorm and how humans let the water sit to settle the crem, but the other creatures don’t seem to hesitate to imbibe the water when they have a chance which help with their growth.
Like the Shin, the Horneaters have seemed quite content for the last few generations to keep to themselves as a group, but only recently they have ventured down in a quest for shards for their people. It’s like they know something is going to happen... Could they have more knowledge about the coming Desolation?
Rock displays a deep connection of some kind with Syl and possibly other spren and again the true name of the Horneaters, Unkalaki, has Kalak right in the middle. Stewards of Kalak in some fashion, perhaps? Another commonality the Horneaters have with the Shin is the downplay on the importance of warriors as it is the fourth son that is destined for war. This also seems at opposition with what Rock says about disputes between different peaks in the Horneater mountains where a set of shards would make one of them king though they seem to prefer to settle their battles with liquor rather than blood, which is a very un-Alethi way of doing things.
It was interesting to see such a detailed breakdown of the Shardblades and Shardplates among the groups of Roshar from Rock.
“My people have no Shardblades,” Rock said in his low, rumbling voice.
“That’s not unusual,” Kaladin said. “Other than Alethkar and Jah Keved, few kingdoms have many Blades.” It was a matter of some pride among the armies.
“This thing is not true,” Rock said. “Thaylenah has five Blades and three full suits of Plate, all held by the royal guards. The Selay have their share of both suits and Blades. Other kingdoms, such as Herdaz, have a single Blade and set of Plate—this is passed down through the royal line. But the Unkalaki, we have not a single Shard.”
And Kaladin is clearly holding out on Rock and Teft, but seems on the edge of being able to unburden himself to them. Teft is another story completely that we don’t get to delve into for a while yet.
Chapter 24: The Gallery of Maps
Setting: The Gallery of Maps, The Shattered Plains
Points of View: Dalinar and Adolin
What Happens: Dalinar has requested a meeting with Highprince Roion at the Gallery of Maps. They meet, though Roion doesn’t see the point of it. As they walk they pass the Prime Map, showing the areas of the Shattered Plains that the Alethi have explored and which plateaus are controlled by which highprince. Nearby is also a sheet showing how many gemhearts each of the highprinces has won—Highprince Roion is in last place. Dalinar is drawn to the Prime Map, staring at the plateau called the Tower. The Alethi armies had been rebuffed 27 times there by the Parshendi, as it is close to the Parshendi center of power.
Dalinar brings up that a change in tactics is needed on the Shattered Plains. Roion is wary, suspecting Dalinar only approached him because he is seen as weakest amongst the highprinces and controls the smallest princedom in Alethkar. Roion also thinks their current plan of slowly laying siege to the Parshendi is still a good one. Roion then says “There are some who say the Blackthorn has lost his sting.” However, Dalinar wants to forge a new path in hopes of snuffing out the Parshendi quicker. Roion brings up rumors going around about Dalinar, which he rebuffs saying he wants to go for “an aggressive course from now on.”
Dalinar proposes to him the joining of both their armies on plateau runs against the Parshendi telling him they would split any gemhearts won. Roion seems more concerned with the dispensation of any Shardplates or Shardblades won if they were to combine forces than he is the gemhearts. Dalinar tells him the man who won it would get to keep the Shards. However, Dalinar senses things aren’t going his way and eventually relents telling Roion that he would give the first set of Shards won to Roion, but he would keep the second. This way he could keep his promise to his son Renarin. Roion says he’ll consider, but still seems reluctant and doesn’t seem to want to chance losing any more position than he already has. Roion left Dalinar who was then looking for an order to the plateaus and also the answer pondering what Gavilar figured out months before he died. He is then joined by Adolin.
Dalinar tells Adolin the meeting with Roion didn’t go as well as he hoped and that it seemed doubtful whether Roion would join them on a plateau assaults. Dalinar admits it may have been a mistake to approach the weakest highprince first as Roion seemed “too afraid that I’m trying to maneuver him into a position where I can seize his lands.”
Even though this move didn’t seem to work with Roion he tells Adolin he’ll still press on with his plan and approach other highprinces with the idea. Dalinar asks Adolin who they should approach next, but he is unsure.
Adolin brings a more pressing matter up to Dalinar. Sadeas wants permission as Highprince of Information to come into the Kholin warcamp to interview the grooms who were involved with taking care of Elhokar’s horse during the chasmfiend hunt recently. Adolin fears Sadeas is going to use his new position to move against the Kholin family. Dalinar still insists that they should trust Sadeas and that they would look guilty if they didn’t let Sadeas in. But letting Sadeas investigate may also play into Dalinar’s hand of getting the other highprinces use a Highprince of Information will lead to him being given the title Highprince of War.
Adolin says Dalinar is only following this path because of the vision and that Dalinar shouldn’t trust them. Dalinar tries to end the conversation, but Adolin persists telling him they are being mocked all over the warcamps and that their “reputation diminishes by the day, and you refuse to do anything substantial about it!” Adolin believes Dalinar’s mind is going because of age, but that it is also influenced by the death of Gavilar and his obsessions with the Codes, the visions, and the book The Way of Kings.
Dalinar defends himself by saying he wondered many of the same things, but “I must trust myself. The visions are trying to show me something important. I cannot prove it or explain how I know. But it’s true.”
Adolin expresses how he thinks his father is wrong and that more earthly answers are likely. Dalinar then orders his son away.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Roion, we cannot continue to treat this war as a game.”
“All wars are games. The greatest kind, with the pieces lost real lives, the prizes captured making for real wealth! This is the life for which men exist. To fight, to kill, to win.” He was quoting the Sunmaker, the last Alethi king to unite the highprinces. Gavilar had once revered his name.
“Perhaps,” Dalinar said. “Yet what is the point? We fight to get Shardblades, then use those Shardblades to fight to get more Shardblades. It’s a circle, round and round we go, chasing our tails so we can be better at chasing our tails.”
“We fight to prepare ourselves to reclaim heaven and take back what is ours.”
“Men can train without going to war, and men can fight without it being meaningless. It wasn’t always this way. There were times when our wars meant something.”
The old ways of the Alethi versus what the other princes think of as Dalinar’s new ways, which are really just the very, very old ways of the Alethi. Now that’s cyclical thinking. This also shows how far the Alethi have fallen. They were meant to be the group of warriors to protect humanity, but now most of their time is spent squabbling amongst themselves.
The conversation between Dalinar and Roion shows how stagnant this society has become. Everyone outside of Dalinar is for the status quo. Even though all Alethi consider physical combat the most important thing to themselves along with winning. None are willing to put themselves out there in a way that others have before. This is not an “all for one” group of people. They all want to earn their distinctions separately so much that they aren’t willing to see the larger picture and in one essence the larger danger of the Desolation that is looming over them.
Dalinar is truly a falling star to not only his son Adolin, but most of the Alethi. This is a group that doesn’t seem able to respect others based off their past performance, but all upon what they are doing in the here and now. However, Dalinar is developing too many chinks in his armor at once. Besides his change of heart about the way they fight the Parshendi the visions aren’t just affecting him emotionally. The Alethi see Dalinar’s fits as one of the biggest weaknesses any of them can develop and reason enough for him to no longer be found competent.
It took Adolin much of his courage to confront his father in this fashion, but Dalinar has blinded himself so much. He underestimates the danger he is putting not only himself, but his sons and subjects in. Dalinar wants his people to be good, but they have been corrupted for too long and to expect everyone around him to act with honor just because he does so is the epitome of naivety. Now if Adolin could just find a nice girl to settle down with.
Stay tuned next week for a new episode in young Kal’s life, as he meets the new citylord of Hearthstone.
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.