Sep 26 2013 12:00pm

The Way of Kings Reread: Chapter 33

Brandon Sanderson Way of Kings Reread Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on This week’s post is brought to you by jam. Do you like jam? Do you have a favorite jam? Do you know what that preference says about you? Are you ready to accept the message of jam into your life?

Yeah, Kabsal is back, and he’s just got a whole bunch of crazy to unload on us, so buckle down and get ready for Chapter 33.

Chapter 33: Cymatics
Point of View: Shallan

What Happens: Shallan walks through the Palanaeum, admiring its size and beauty, and the amazing quantity of emerald broams that light it. She is accompanied by her parshman servant, who lights the way for her and carries a basket of her books. Shallan longs for a precious hour of free time, granted to her by Jasnah to pursue her own studies. She has seen how lacking the books in the Palanaeum are; few are written by authors with proficiency in words, illustrations, and science. She wants to fill this absence with her own work.

Shallan reminds herself again that she isn’t in Kharbranth to become a great scholar. Focusing on the plan to steal Jasnah’s soulcaster is growing more difficult for Shallan, but she’s become Jasnah’s bathing attendant.

Shallan repairs to a stone chamber full of books, dismissing her parshman attendant, then dives into the stacks. She looks through her sketches of Jasnah Soulcasting and compares the image of Jasnah’s Soulcaster with the mended but useless Soulcaster she brought from home—she thinks about how Soulcasters work and how she doesn’t know how to use one herself.

She’s interrupted by a light shining through nearby bookcases, originating from a lantern carried by an old female ardent. The old woman passes without noticing Shallan, but the younger woman is panicked nevertheless, and returns to the task Jasnah set her to.

Jasnah sent her to retrieve and read “Dialogues, a famous historical work on political theory.” But this room also contains the text Jasnah was reading when Taravangian visited them, Shadows Remembered. Shallan’s curiosity overcomes her diligence and she pulls the book from the shelf, paging through it, only to discover that it’s nothing more than a collection of tales for children. The first one she reads discusses Voidbringers. This is confusing to say the least; Jasnah is a serious Veristitalian scholar, who “constructed the truth of what happened in the past.” Why was she reading children’s horror stories?

Shallan returns to the alcove to find that, where she expected Jasnah to be waiting, there was instead Kabsal. The young ardent is reading an art book, and only notices Shallan when she greets him. He has brought bread and jam, Shallan’s favorite foods, and the two share jam and banter about a jam-based personality test he recently came across. Yeah, really. Kabsal’s status as an ardent means he can eat sweet, feminine food, and that Shallan feels safe spending time with him practically unchaperoned. It doesn’t, however, mean that she respects his jam-inspired opinions about her personality.

Shallan has been growing fond of Kabsal, “thinking of him in ways that would better have been avoided.” He’s far from her typical conception of an ardent, young, vital, and handsome. As they keep talking, she lightly complains about the tedium of her studies, but when he seems concerned she emphasizes that Jasnah is in fact a very kind and inspiring mistress.

This doesn’t reassure Kabsal all that much. He is concerned for her soul; other wards who apprenticed under Jasnah have been led astray by her heretical ways. He questions her choice of Devotary, suggesting that she might switch to his own, before launching into the “proof” of the Almighty that he’d originally hoped to show Jasnah. His proof is based on the shapes of the major cities of Roshar—Kholinar, Vedenar, Akinah, and Thaylen City. Their underlying patterns are perfectly symmetrical, which makes them holy to Vorinism. Shallan questions this as proof; the wind and the water can produce symmetry, and it’s totally possible that the designers of these cities sought out symmetrical places to build and then designed their cities to be holy on their own.

Kabsal is prepared with a response. He pours sand onto a sheet of metal and then draws a bow across it, producing a pure pitch and vibrating the sand into patterns. He plays four notes, creating four patterns that perfectly match the plans for the cities. He calls this process “cymatics. The study of the patterns that sounds make when interacting with a physical medium.” The legends tell that both language and the alphabet were given to Roshar by the Dawnsingers, a holy gift, and that both are symmetrical.

He finishes his lesson just in time; Jasnah has arrived. She asks him if he can produce a pattern for Urithiru as well, and when Kabsal protests that Urithiru is a fable, she says that “one would think that your type would be used to believing in fables.” Kabsal flees.

Shallan turns on Jasnah, pointing out how rude that was, but Jasnah isn’t concerned. She is convinced that Kabsal already has a fixed opinion of her, and in any case isn’t interested in being civil towards the ardent who’s trying to turn Shallan against her. She asks Shallan if he’s asked her to steal her Soulcaster yet.

Shallan is shocked, thinking she’s been found out, but recalls herself in time. She says he didn’t ask her to do that, but Jasnah is sure he will in time.

Quote of the Chapter:

There were ardents and servants to fetch volumes, of course, but Jasnah thought it important for Shallan to practice doing it herself. Apparently the Kharbranthian filing system was now standard for many of Roshar’s libraries and archives.

I basically just want to take this opportunity to point out that, hey, academia has advanced far enough on Roshar that they’re implementing a standardized categorization system for books. That’s pretty damn advanced, especially in contrast to the apprenticeship system that still seems to be the dominant form of training new scholars.


The epigraphs remain interesting and ominous:

“They changed, even as we fought them. Like shadows they were, that can transform as the flame dances. Never underestimate them because of what you first see.”

Brandon Sanderson has read a passage from Words of Radiance that illuminates this particular epigraph and makes it particularly interesting. This could be describing the strange and terrible smoky monsters that Dalinar battled in one of his visions, but I think the reading gives us ample reason to suspect otherwise.

Isn’t it awesome that the city of Kharbranth has vested almost its entire treasury in the Palanaeum? Taravangian uses his city as a vertically-integrated charitable (cough cough) endeavor, with the library as his primary way of funding his operations, and as part of that he has literally placed all his spheres in that basket. Not for this city a currency kept uselessly in huge vaults! We will use our spheres to light the path to knowledge. It brings a tear to your eye.

Shallan is settling in to the drudgery of research and scholarship. Sorry kid, not every day can be sketching skyeels and finding new and exciting plants to describe. In fact, it doesn’t seem like any day can be that. Despite the tedium of her work, she’s growing to love the idea of herself as a scholar more and more, which speaks well of her future in the field. If she had a future, that is.

One of the sad casualties of this series’ epic pacing, I’m sure, will be the fact that even after Shallan’s familial commitments are tied up she won’t be able to become an established scholar in her own right. Saving the world makes it so hard to maintain an active publication schedule. Plus, if there is a global revolution or world-shaking invasion or something like that, the academic apparatus will probably be disrupted. Maybe she’ll get her happy ending, though, with plenty of time to travel the world and draw and describe and science every available plant and animal. Oh, pretty dreams.

Kabsal’s idea of proof is… well, the information being provided is at least fascinating. Let’s accept that these rock formations are indeed identical to the patterns created when sound is passed through a medium. Can we take this to mean that, at some point, a single, pure, and also extremely powerful note smashed into the rocks where Kholinar came to be built? Can we imagine a different reason for this pattern to exist? Maybe this means there were some people who could reshape stone through sound, in the ancient past. I’m totally fine with calling such ancient magic-users “Dawnsingers!” Possibly this power was even granted by the Almighty.

The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson The Stormlight Archive Reread Chapter 33

That being said, the vigor and zeal with which Kabsal presents this evidence is not compelling in the least. He has found evidence to corroborate his biases, and expects it to convince skeptics who are used to rigorous application of evidence and proof. Kabsal seems to be an expert in magical thinking. He also believes in jam. He believes in jam so much. Palates of Personality is just… it’s not good. It’s not a good title, and it’s not good thinking. Kabsal is clearly susceptible to the Forer effect. I don’t blame Jasnah at all for chasing him off.

(P.S. I was tempted to make a tinfoil hat joke, then I remembered that, in Alloy of Law, it’s established that tinfoil actually does block emotional allmoancy. SANDERSON!!!)

There are two interesting things about Shadows Remembered that I want to point out. First, at one point Sanderson wanted to use in-universe book names for more of his Stormlight Archive books. I’m surprised Shadows Remembered wasn’t in contention to be the title of Words of Radiance. Second, apparently this book contains children’s tales for darkeyed kids, specifically. That’s fascinating, because as I may have pointed out before, Vorin practice is much more rigidly formalized at the upper echelons of society. Folk knowledge and superstitions proliferate among the lower classes. Shallan can be seen instinctively disregarding Shadows Remembered because it contains lower-class knowledge, but I bet that if you were looking for information about the distant past that had been preserved through legend and myth, darkeyes culture would be a better place to search than lighteyes culture.

That’s it for this week. A storm is brewing on the horizon, though. Check back next week to see it strike.

Carl Engle-Laird is the editorial assistant and resident Stormlight Archive correspondent for You can follow him on Twitter here.

1. Jasuni
The world ending would make publication a bit difficult, but not scholarship (the people of Roshar are still going to have jobs that require education, after the wars are over). Her family problems, on the other hand, might not be so considerate.

liked the tinfoil hat comment
Peter Ahlstrom
2. PeterAhlstrom
I'm surprised you didn't link to any videos like this one:
3. Jasuni
Although Shallan will be valuable to society at the end of series due to her ability to soulcast (assuming she survives that long).
Adam S.
Hey, be fair, only aluminum foil hats work on mental allomancy, not tinfoil, and aluminum is really expensive (on Scadrial).
I just wanted to point out that Melvil Dewey developed the first modern cataloguing system for libraries at my alma mater (go Lord Jeffs!), so I appreciate your thoughts on that. It was created in 1876, so the world was orders of magnitude more advanced than Roshar in terms of technology, social structure, knowledge, education, etc...
I hate jam, so does that make me a heretic?
Carl Engle-Laird
5. CarlEngle-Laird
@4 It's true. Hard to remember when basically all earthly tinfoil is made of aluminum, though.
100% of known heretics report hating jam. However, 50% of all known devout, non-ardent Vorins also report hating jam. So, you aren't NECESSARILY a heretic.
Alice Arneson
6. Wetlandernw
"Saving the world makes it so hard to maintain an active publication schedule."

Aside from the reflexive ::gigglesnort::, a great deal of Jasnah's current scholarship is specifically geared toward saving the world. Wouldn't we expect the same from Shallan? In fact, as Jasnah's ward, if they succeed in uncovering significant information that will help save the world, I'd think Shallan's reputation as a scholar might rocket up pretty fast.

MDNY @4 - "I hate jam, so does that make me a heretic?" Absolutely! :P

ETA: Carl @5 - But there's just something unholy about hating jam!!
Birgit F
9. birgit
Men aren't supposed to like sweet food. Is a man who likes jam a heretic while a woman who dislikes it is a heretic? And what about male ardents?
Carl Engle-Laird
10. CarlEngle-Laird
@9 Ardents can eat whatever they want, apparently!
William Carter
11. wcarter
The more I think about the food segregation, the more I'm convinced it's something the nobility would follow far more than the Dark Eyes.
Simply put, how could they possibly afford to? Cooking separate dishes every meal? It's just not feasible.
My guess it's more garnish and seasonings that are segregated with bland or salty foods being non-gendered.

But where does that leave the Ginger Peach Chicken I love to cook? (the ginger is spicy, but the peaches are sweet) Could no one outside the ardentia enjoy my signatjure dish..? Also--and let's face it, this is the most important question--where do things like bacon fit inassuming pigs exist on Roshar? Because well bacon...

::Sigh::Vorinism--it's a messed up culture.
Adam S.
12. MDNY
mmmmm bacon....
@9 There's that interlude with the 2 ardents, one male (who cooks), and he eats sweet foods all the time, but that's okay because he's an ardent.
Matt Stoumbaugh
13. LazerWulf
@11: ::Sigh::Vorinism--it's a messed up culture.
And the understatement of the year thread award goes to wcarter!
Andrew Berenson
14. AndrewHB
You would think that somebody would have invented a fabrial for searching for records and books. Something akin to the search function in Excel.

I think that a study of personalities according to the Jam that somebody eats would make a great PhD thesis. Who knows, Kabsal could be Roshar's version of Masters and Johnson in the 1950's.

MDNY @4: I hope that while at your alma mater, you frequented Antonio's. Great pizza.

Thanks for reading my musings,
(aka the musespren)
Andrew Berenson
15. AndrewHB
Imagine if Homer Simpson traveled to Roshar. D'oh!

Thanks for reading my musings,
(aka the musespren)
16. Ilmoran
Re: Bacon -
They probably have some kind of chull bacon or something like that :-p
And Shinovar with it's normal ecosystem will have pigs and real bacon :D
Adam S.
17. MDNY
@14 AndrewHB: Of course I ate at Antonios! Far more than is healthy, as is only proper in college. I also did too much Bueno y Sano burritos when I wanted a change.
Homer Simpson on there's an interesting situation. I don't think Homer would adhere to the Vorin dietary restrictions by gender.
Sean Tabor
18. wingracer
All this talk of food and all I can think about is the great Meatwad saying "inject me with some cheese."

And I like grape jam. Very much so. With bacon.
James Briggs
19. traveler
2@peter That was an interesaing link, I was not aware that sound did that. I'm going home to get my book and see if any of the designs co inside
MMM ginger chicken.if food like that makes me a heretic then so be it. Also godfathers super Hawian pizza MMM also
David Foster
21. ZenBossanova
I would not take the jam part seriously. I think Kabsal was having fun with that.

Alphabetization is actually a relatively recent innovation, as odd as that is to realize. I have no idea how they organized the Library at Alexandria or libraries in the Middle Ages.

Aluminum, until we found an economical way of separating it from ore, was worth far more than gold. Napoleon had an aluminum helmet, for show. The cap of the Washington Monument was made out of aluminum to show off. Just FYI.
Nadine L.
22. travyl
I agree that Kabsal doesn't necessarily believe in his jam thesis, but that he emphasizes it, in order to regularly bring it - since he knows that Jasnah detests the jam, thereby providing him an easy means to "hide" his antidot in plain sight. - It didn't work out that way, but I understand why he thought it a good plan.

Edit to add: Thanks Peter @2, to add the link, it is fascinating.
Matt Spencer
23. Iarvin
She’s interrupted by a light shining through nearby bookcases, originating from a lantern carried by an old female ardent. The old woman passes without noticing Shallan, . . .
So - is this old female ardent a herald? For some reason she's always jumped out at me as quite possibly one of the heralds that Brandon sprinkled throughout.
Scott Silver
24. hihosilver28
Thanks, Peter! That was really cool! I love it when there are concepts that I take to be purely invented and fantastical (as in fantasy), and discover that they actually exist. :-)
David Foster
25. ZenBossanova
The actual patterns depend crucially on the shape of the vibrating membrane, and the frequency used.
But I have no idea how to work backwards to figure out either from the patterns demonstrated.
26. SCM of 2814
@11: ::Sigh::Vorinism--it's a messed up culture.

Which I think goes to show how REAL Sanderson managed to make it. Truthfully, even mainstream religions and cultures have elements that make outsides- and some insiders-- go "Oh, that's messed up". I won't bring up examles, but surely you can think of a few on your own. A fictional religion that doesn't have a few things messed up about it would be too unrealistic, I think. Nothing is perfect. When it is in fiction, either it has a dark, dirty secret or you're in a lotus-eater machine.

On the jam question... WHAT d they use to make jam on the non-Shinovar parts of Roshar? So far, I don't think we've seen fruits, just grain polyps (which I think is an AWESOME idea, as far as world-building goes. Go fully realized ecosystem!).
William Carter
27. wcarter
@26 SCM of 2814

Oh I agree completely. Religions and cultures in general are strange and Sanderson does a good job coming up with some interesting ones of his own.

As for what they make fruits out of, Shinovar has fruit that we would recognize. Presumable the rest of Roshar has some sort of fruits, though they may come in hard shells ala coconuts or something.
28. Confutus
I wasn't sure I remembered what the herald Icons for this chapter were.
I guessed Palah and Ishi, and then checked. That was right.
Palah for the emphasis on scholarship, even though Jasnah doesn't appear directly, and Ishi for Kabsal's presence as an ardent.
With the usual disclaimers that I could be overlooking something.
Matt Spencer
29. Iarvin
It would make some sense for the old female Ardent to be Palah! Probably more sense than any of the other heralds at least.
Alice Arneson
30. Wetlandernw
Iarvin @29 - Hey, I like that! Not that we have any indication that the Heralds show age, but why not? :)

Re: bacon - Well, as someone pointed out to me recently, there are most definitely pigs on Roshar. Hearthstone even had a pigherder, and they used hogs for chasmfiend-bait. Surley someone must have figured out bacon. Because, well, bacon.
William Carter
32. wcarter
@ 29 Iarvin and 30 Wetlander

Palah huh? I'm pretty sure I totally missed that possiblity.

On an unrelated side note, finding out that there are walking uncooked bacons about, I guess I have to change my opinion about the state of affairs on Roshar: it isn't a total crapshack world.
David Goldfarb
33. David_Goldfarb
At Worldcon this year I got the chance to ask Brandon Sanderson my question about whether Scadrial as of The Alloy of Law has the Hall-Héroult Process. He replied that there's too much of it around for them not to. This to my mind implies that aluminum could be as cheap there as it is here, but that it's being kept artificially scarce.
John Massey
34. subwoofer
Does bacon marmalade count? You have to try some, it is filled with awesome. And bacon. Mind you bacon = awesome.

Every time I read about the soulcaster and the broken one and Shallan, I reminded of Jon-Tom figuring stuff out. It does have a very rewarding pay off.

David Foster
35. ZenBossanova
#33 Keep in mind, that the original processes for aluminum were very expensive too. Scandrial is in the midst of an industrial revolution. It may simply be a matter of time before they work it out.

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