Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com, your weekly fix of Roshar revelry. This week we reach the end of Part 2: The Illuminating Storms, which means we’re more than a third of the way through and approaching the halfway point quickly. Major events are happening in the lives of Kaladin and Dalinar. The first chapter takes us to the Kaladin’s breakthrough moment with the men of bridge four, which further solidifies many of them to his lead. With “Decision” Dalinar lets off some steam Shardbearer style while wrestling with one of the most important decisions of his life as a highprince of Alethkar.
Chapter 27: Chasm Duty
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Rock and Teft have taken to training with Kaladin the past two mornings after their first night spent squeezing knobweed reeds together. The trio continue to work their knobweed supplies each night, but Gaz seems suspicious of their actions.
Bridge Four is called to a bridge run early, but Sadeas’ forces arrive too late and are turned back against the entrenched Parshendi. After returning, Kaladin goes back to the same apothecary he had procured bandages from days ago with the hopes of selling some of the knobweed sap.
The apothecary tells Kaladin that what he’s collected isn’t worth very much as it is from wild knobweed, but he’ll give Kaladin some clearmarks for it. However, Kaladin knows first-hand how well it worked on the wounds of Hobber and the other injured bridgemen. Syl also confirms Kaladin’s suspicions that the apothecary is lying to him.
Kaladin realizes that all the apothecaries at the Shattered Plains are acting in collusion, collecting the antiseptic sap and selling it to the highprinces at inflated costs. The apothecary at first denies it, but relents and offers Kaladin one skymark for the bottle—as much money as he earns in a month as a bridgeman. Kaladin threatens to expose the apothecaries, as he believes it is wrong to charge so much for something that could be saving lives. The apothecary counters that the highprinces can well afford the costs, given what they win in gemhearts out on the plains.
Kaladin decides to take the skymark along with some bandages and offers to get more for the same deal in the future. The apothecary hesitates, but Kaladin convinces him it is safer to let him supply the sap, as it keeps a clean line of origin to a bridgeman should anyone discover what the apothecaries have been doing.
Contentedly, Kaladin leaves with his pocket one sapphire mark heavier. As he walks back to the barracks he considers running again like he had in the past. Syl doesn’t think “anyone would blame” him should he do just that. Kaladin decides he has to stay because he couldn’t abandon Rock, Teft, and the other men of Bridge Four given what he already started. They needed him and he has to do it for Tien’s memory.
As soon as Kaladin arrives back to the barracks Gaz informs him Bridge Four will be going on chasm duty—collecting weapons and other valuables amongst the corpses of those who fall to their deaths in battles against the Parshendi—even though it isn’t their turn in the rotation. Kaladin refuses to take the blame and asks Gaz how much he was paid, thinking the other crews are responsible. Gaz replies:
“Everyone knows you broke the rules in bringing back those men. If the others do what you did, we’d have each barrack filled with the dying before the leeward side of a month was over!”
After surrendering their spheres, the crew travels down the ladder into the chasm, where they could face chasmfiends or the possibility of being stuck during a Highstorm—either of which could mean death. The men will also be thoroughly searched on the way out for any spheres or other valuables they find. Kaladin, Rock, and Teft try to make the work pass quickly by chating and getting some of the others involved, but only Dunny takes the bait.
The crew finds a group of Alethi bodies which they have to search thoroughly for any valuables, including weapons, armor, and boots. After grabbing a spear, Moash goads Kaladin:
“Look at him... Ho, bridgeleader! You think that you’re grand? That you are better than us? You think pretending that we’re your own personal troop of soldiers will change anything?”
Instinctively, Kaladin drops into an intricate kata exercise sequence with the spear. Once Kaladin comes out of his kata trance he realizes all of the men are staring at him. Teft exclaims:
“I’ve seen katas before. But never one like that. The way you moved... The speed, the grace… And there was some sort of spren zipping around you, between your sweeps, glowing with a pale light. It was beautiful.”
Kaladin assumes this light is Syl, and that now many besides Rock haveseen her. Rock encourages Kaladin to challenge a Shardbearer, but Kaladin explains that he doesn’t want to be a brightlord, having tried that once already.
The crew continues to look for equipment; they run across many bodies, including a few Parshendi. Kaladin has never seen one before and wonders how they grew a tough armor out of their bodies, giving them a chitinous aspect. He is also astonished at the work in their weaponry, especially one particular dagger that has an etching of a Herald on it.
As their chore ends, Rock tells Kaladin he would have all of the men within a few weeks after what he has already done. Kaladin is disheartened because so many of them could be dead in the weeks to come, but he has a plan involving Rock’s special skills to move that timeline up.
After chasm duty, Kaladin and Rock buy supplies for dinner using the skymark. Rock cooks the whole crew a meal, encouraging even the more reticent members—such as Moash—to accept Kaladin’s leadership. The next morning nearly all of the men join him in his daily workout.
Quote of the Chapter:
He was alone in a chasm deep beneath the earth, holding the spear of a fallen man, fingers gripping the wet wood, a faint dripping coming from somewhere distant.
Strength surged through him as he spun the spear up into an advanced kata. His body moved of its own accord, going through the forms he’d trained in so frequently. The spear danced in his fingers, comfortable, an extension of himself. He spun with it, swinging it around and around, across his neck, over his arm, in and out of jabs and swings. Though it had been months since he’d even held a weapon, his muscles knew what to do. It was as if the spear itself knew what to do.
Tension melted away, frustration melted away, and his body sighed in contentment even as he worked it furiously. This was familiar. This was welcome. This was what it had been created to do.
Kaladin spun through the last motions of the kata, chasm forgotten, bridgemen forgotten, fatigue forgotten. For a moment, it was just him. Him and the wind. He fought with her, and she laughed.
Much has been said of the Alethi’s “Thrill,” but what if most of the Alethi feel only an adulterated version of the Thrill, while Kaladin’s trance is what it once was for warriors of honor when the Radiants were strong. Dalinar shows similar aspects of this knowing just what to do when in the thick of it, but other than Adolin very briefly discussing it with Dalinar we don’t have further aspects to dig into to see if it really is that different. Especially with the added feature of Syl being thrown into the mix—maybe she is what puts Kaladin over the edge. As mentioned in the last post, Dalinar seemed to have a Windspren near him during battles. This is likely Syl since she drops hints about him in a couple places and often likes to wander without telling Kaladin where she’s been.
There are a few big moments here. The most important is that Kaladin finally has won the men of Bridge Four. It is definitely an uplifting moment for once, which was especially needed since we’re near the half way point. This doesn’t mean the road is easier; in fact, in many ways it will be harder for Kaladin and his men because the closer they get, the harder it is when one of them dies. I still can’t believe Kaladin considered running away with his sap-spheres, but it stands to reason anyone in his position would be looking for an out. He is the lowest of the low, which is a position he’s been in for many, many months now. It shows both his strengths and his weaknesses that he has an opportunity to get out, but his honor and conscience won’t let him. His men need him. Tien is again brought up as inspiration for Kaladin, which is likely something he’ll always hold onto.
The other important moment was Kaladin’s kata down in the chasm. He proved to the men that he is a more than capable warrior and leads them to believe someone of his ability could save them. He gave them hope. And he then stuffed that hope full of Horneater stew.
The last line of the chapter is perhaps one of my favorites in all of The Way of Kings: “Now he had to keep them alive long enough for that to mean something.”
Oh, Kaladin, don’t stop believing. Kaladin would totally be a Journey fan.
Chapter 28: Decision
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Points of View: Adolin / Dalinar
What Happens: Adolin is inspecting a new type bridge to be used along with his father Dalinar, who had approved its construction recently at the behest of Teleb. The hope is that a man-driven bridge would help the Kholin forces in plateau assaults, in addition to the more reliable yet slower chull-pulled bridges currently in use. However, the new design fails as it is too weak to hold the chull-bridges. Adolin suggests redesigning the bridge rather than scrapping the idea entirely. Dalinar agrees, but seems distant and asks Adolin why there are no Shard-like devices for workmen to help them do their work. He reasons the strength enhancements of a Shardplate could easily help many laborers do their work much more efficiently. Adolin brushes it off and they go on inspections around their camp. Dalinar asks if Adolin feels the Thrill, which seems to be a taboo subject with him. They continue to walk amongst the barracks of the compound where his men and their families have now resided for six years. It seems to trouble Dalinar that so many families are now living at the Shattered Plains, and that the Alethi presence would probably be here from now on; even if the war with the Parshendi were to end tomorrow, many would still stay to harvest the gemhearts.
Adolin and Dalinar watch some of the companies as they trained, and reflect the unusual style in which the Parshendi fight—working independently in warpairs, but with more systematic order than they first appeared. The Parshendi style took a while for the Alethi to get used to, but they have adapted their own style and train well to combat them.
Adolin and Dalinar arrive at the Fifth Battalion with Havrom and the rest of the companylords in line. Dalinar pushes Adolin out to conduct the inspection and then praises him for doing well, saying that the men “know you care for their needs, and they respect you.” After the inspection Havrom brings the Kholins to a tent where all the men that Sadeas interviewed the other day are waiting. Sadeas’ questions were very similar to those Adolin had already asked concerning the King’s saddle and who has access to it.
Adolin wonders what is distracting Dalinar so much when a runner from Highprince Thanadal arrives to inform Dalinar the highprince would not be able to make their engagement. Dalinar presses the runner who reveals that the Thanadal does not wish to go on joint plateau runs with Dalinar.
After the runner leaves Dalinar tells Adolin he has now been rebuffed by all of the highprinces except for Sadeas, who he has not yet approached and admits that he’s failed to get the highprinces to work together. Dalinar then dismisses Adolin.
Dalinar requests his warhammer be brought to him. Once it arrives he jumps into the pit, breaking apart the rock walls to widen them. He summons his Shardblade a few times to slice apart some of larger sections, but always returns to his brutal strikes with the hammer. Dalinar again thinks about how useful the Shardplate would be to a common worker, and the men around him stare in bewilderment as he works. As Dalinar begins to tire, Navani, who had been watching him, asks if he’s going to apologize for missing their appointment. Navani then tells him his spanreed assigned to Jasnah is flashing, which means she is trying to contact him. Dalinar gets out of the pit, realizing for the first time he had planned to make a decision about stepping down when he was done, but he didn’t get to finish. Dalinar and Navani go to his complex to receive the messages, as both are anxious to hear from Jasnah. On the way Navani mentions that she finds Dalinar very interesting and their discussion dovetails into why Navani chose Gavilar over Dalinar when both were courting her:
“I didn’t pick him because he would become king, Dalinar. Though that’s what everyone says. I chose him because you frightened me. That intensity of yours... it scared your brother too, you know.”
Upon arriving, they are joined by Adolin who tells Dalinar he offered a clerk position to Danlan Morakotha—it seems Adolin is now courting her, even though she only arrived at the plains the previous day. Danlan then works Jasnah’s pen-like spanreed into position with fresh paper and ink at the ready.
Jasnah begins the message with an update on her current whereabouts: Kharbranth. Dalinar tells her she is missed and would be a great help if she returned to the Plains. Jasnah writes that she is finding very interesting hints about her work. She then asks Dalinar to again relay his first meeting with the Parshendi. He tells her it was in an unmapped forest south of the Shattered Plains and he first found them “Camped, free and organized. And they carried weapons. Not crude ones, either. Swords, spearks with carved hafts...” Yet they didn’t show any Shardblades at the time and he hadn’t seen a Parshendi carry one until after Gavilar’s assassination.
They then discuss the fact that the Parshendi picked up the Alethi language in a matter of days. The first thing the Parshendi asked about were to see the Alethi maps. Jasnah then asks if they ever mentioned the Voidbringers, which they had not. A drawing then started to come through which seems to depict a chasmfiend in great detail. Jasnah mentions it was drawn by her new ward. She goes on to say that the image is a depiction of a Voidbringer in an ancient book—which surprises Dalinar—though she isn’t sure that means they are actually the Voidbringers.
As Jasnah gets ready to break the connection, Dalinar again entreats her to come to the Shattered Plains. She tells him she will, but won’t commit to a date though she is eager to see a chasmfiend in person. Dalinar tells her he’ll have a dead one for her when she comes to the Plains. After Jasnah breaks the connection, all of the scribes and onlookers leave except for Navani. Dalinar realizes he has made his decision about stepping down: he will abdicate so that Adolin can take over. He tells Navani this and she believes it to be a mistake. He then orders her out, as he doesn’t want to discuss the issue further with her.
Quote of the Chapter:
“I’m not implying that the Voidbringers were the same thing as chasmfiends. I believe that the ancient artist didn’t know what a Voidbringer looked like, and so she drew the most horrific thing she knew of.”
I’d say she was implying pretty hard that the Voidbringers were the chasmfiends and this is the chapter that has led most of us to believe that. However, I still think it is a deflection of some kind by Sanderson. Would he be this transparent about the Voidbringers this early on? I’m of the school that believes there are necessarily one type of Voidbringers, but there still has to be a hierarcy to them somehow. The question then is who is giving the marching orders?
The construction and testing of human carried bridge by Dalinar’s men makes me very curious about how Kaladin and his men will be treated in Words of Radiance. Let’s face it, Kaladin’s burgeoning skills—while useful to the men of Bridge Four—are wasted. Also, let’s not forget the cover for Words of Radiance was just released and that certainly shows Kaladin getting ready to be useful other than as a beast of burden out on the Shattered Plains. But this is a Dalinar chapter so let’s focus on him for a bit.
Passing on the mantle of the Kholin family to Adolin is perhaps one of the hardest things Dalinar has had to face. His honor and the visions infesting his mind are fighting each other. He realizes his actions and acceptance of the visions are causing the name of his family to erode and weakening them, which is the last thing he desires. There is too much goodness in Dalinar. This is evidenced in nearly everything he does from bringing the families of his soldiers to the Plains to refusing to use chasm bridges as Sadeas does, but the Alethi highprinces see much weakness in him and even one hole casts him down in their eyes. Only the holes are getting bigger as he succumbs to the visions and what they tell him. Yet the visions and his honor are what will bring him to greatness. Whether that be as a Radiant or merely the instrument that helps them reemerge is still a question. Dalinar is, if not, an agent of change at least an inspiration of change.
Adolin seems ready for the task in strictly military terms, but he isn’t ready to be the patriarch, especially when he father is very much alive and still a capable person. Adolin isn’t calling for his father to step down, but for him to step up and silence the detractors like he knows Dalinar is capable of. He wants his father to be the same hero he idolized in his youth, but Dalinar has changed and there is no going back to who he was.
Navani is a complication Dalinar is not yet ready to deal with which just compounds his frustrations. Navani really doesn’t hold her cards close to her chest. From the beginning it is clear she has designs on Dalinar yet her own daughter wants Dalinar to be wary of her which I just find odd.
Dalinar worries about the economy if so many gemhearts are continued to be brought in is quite insightful. Especially, since few Alethi seem concerned at all. It is like a gold rush. Yet there might be only so many chasmfiends. Could they be farmed to death essentially making his worries void? Dalinar also brings up an interesting point about Shards.
“Shardplate gives awesome strength, but we rarely use it for anything other than war and slaughter. Why did the Radiants fashion only weapons? Why didn’t they make productive tools for use by ordinary men?”
“I don’t know,” Adolin said. “Perhaps because war was the most important thing around.”
“Perhaps,” Dalinar said, voice growing softer. “And perhaps that’s a final condemnation of them and their ideals. For all of their lofty claims, they never gave their Plate or its secrets to the common people.”
Maybe the common people couldn’t be trusted with it? That seems the more likely answer, especially in light of the information we get in the visions where the armor acted differently in the past. Current Shardplate seems tainted somehow and according to Syl the Shardblades are disgusting to her. But in a way it does seem like there was more to the Shards in the past.
The Alethi are descendants of the defenders of Roshar which the Heralds helped established and as we’ve seen with one of Dalinar’s flashbacks. The Radiants’ main function was defense against the Voidbringers and their ilk. So what if there were other branches created by the Radiants shardmakers for more ordinary purposes? As with the flashback we’ve seen the healing that the Radiants were capable, which seems to be a form of a fabrial. And the Soulcasters in general do the work that on our planet would be done by common workers such as constructing buildings. Instead they use Stromlight to cast buildings. Soulcasters are used to create food from rock and turning the very land into smoke so it does seem a matter of perspective for Dalinar or lack of one as he is use to this as an everyday thing.
Lastly, how cool are spanreeds? They’re basically a semi-magical form of a telegraph. I want one!
Tune in next week for Carl’s summation of the mysterious epigraph letter!
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Reviewwhere 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.