Thu
Oct 17 2013 12:00pm
The Way of Kings Reread: Chapters 38 and 39

Brandon Sanderson The Way of Kings Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread, here on Tor.com. This week’s chapters are all about enduring pains for two of our main characters. Kaladin is fighting for his life after the Highstorm incident, and master thief Shallan is dealing with some troubles of her own, as she is still reeling from what she witnessed during Jasnah’s not so little “lesson.” Even though Shallan is disconcerted she still has the wherewithal to concoct a plan against her brothers’ wishes to hopefully get away with her long sought and now stolen treasure.

It’s hard out there for a Surgebinder.

Chapter 38: Envisager
Kharbranth:
The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin and Teft

What Happens: A fevered Kaladin is in the barracks of Bridge Four where the men are trying to heal him as best they can. He occasionally opens his eyes, but he hasn’t truly awakened since he was cut down after the Highstorm. Kaladin’s consciousness races from thought to thought as he fought to survive. He keeps returning to a statement from Lamaril: “Bridgemen weren’t supposed to survive.” He believes he has seen deathspren, which few survive seeing. Kaladin sees a tiny figure of light in the shape of a female warrior that fights fighting off the deathspren with a sword made of light. The figure puts up a valiant fight, but Kaladin realizes more deathspren are coming than she can possibly fight off alone.

Teft comes to check on Kaladin who notes that all the bridgemen Kaladin had been doctoring before the Highstorm were doing well. Bridge Four kept Kaladin in the back of the barrack to keep him away from curious onlookers and would-be assassins who may be trying to get in Sadeas’s good graces by disposing of Kaladin.

Teft asks Skar for an update on Kaladin’s condition. Skar reports that Kaladin seems to be getting worse. Teft tells Skar to take a break, saying that he will look after Kaladin for a while. Teft’s thoughts wander to a group known as the Envisagers, who have been waiting for someone like Kaladin. Teft then places three infused spheres in Kaladin’s hand and waits for a reaction, but nothing happens. When Teft reaches out to retrieve the spheres, Kaladin takes in a deep breath and Teft sees that the spheres are no longer glowing. Brief and faint “wisps of Light” rise from Kaladin’s body, and he even opens his eyes, which leak light and appear to be “faintly colored amber.” Some of the light seems to heal a few of the cuts on Kaladin’s body. As the light fades, Kaladin closes his eyes; he appears to be a little better overall than before, but is still at death’s doorstep.

Teft decides to bring Kaladin more infused spheres to help heal him, but he knows he must be careful not to arouse suspicion around the camp. Teft seems to have a good idea of what Kaladin is, but is wary of sharing the news—he is unsure if even Kaladin knew what he was capable of. Teft again thinks of the Envisagers, who are now all apparently dead.

Quote of the Chapter:

The Envisagers were gone. Dead, because of what he had done. If there were others, he had no idea how to locate them.

Oh, Teft just what did you do? Though he doesn’t go into it much, the feeling that I’m left with is that Teft told someone—probably an Ardent—about his family’s beliefs and they were cleansed. Teft had already given up, but Kaladin gave him hope. Teft will try to right the wrongs he’s done because he shares the same feelings as Kaladin about those he’s failed. From this chapter on, Teft will be instrumental to Kaladin. Teft knows things few others could or would share with Kaladin.

Commentary:

So that was totally a badass Syl with her blazing sword of light in what seems to be the spiritual realm. For such a brief chapter a lot is revealed here. Kaladin is stuck in a fever dream and is losing the battle, but Syl is showing a new, or should we say a very old, side of herself. As Kaladin comes into his abilities, what will that mean for our lovely Sylphrena?

Standing before the deathspren was a tiny figure of light. Not translucent, as she had always appeared before, but of pure white light. That soft, feminine face had a nobler, more angular cast to it now, like a warrior from a forgotten time. Not childlike at all. She stood guard on his chest, holding a sword made of light.

Could her warrior aspect manifest in a more physical way and just what could that sword of light do against a Voidbringer? Now the deathspren are interesting little buggers. Could deathspren be connected to the death visions so often quote in the epigraphs? They are almost described as I imagine a mini-voidbringers would be being black and many legged.

Teft has got a dark side to him. His past is as murky and his continual references to not being trustworthy don’t match with his current actions. He sees himself as a denier, a realist, but Kaladin’s abilities make Teft face what he considers an imposible fairy tale. If anything, he is ashamed of what he did both to the Envisagers and for whatever caused him to become a bridgeman.

 

Chapter 39: Burned Into Her
Setting:
Kharbranth
Point of View: Shallan

What Happens: In her spartan room in the Conclave, Shallan is sketching almost franticly, drawing the scene from three nights ago when Jasnah murdered four men with her Soulcaster. Even though Shallan didn’t have the wherewithal to take a vivid memory of the scene as she normally would, she feels compelling to chronicle the death of these men.

Since that night, Shallan has been studying philosophy. Despite Shallan’s severe misgivings about the righteousness of Jasnah’s decision to rid the world of those men, nearly all the schools of philosophy agree with Jasnah’s position. It essentially boils down to intent, and Jasnah’s “intent had been to stop men from harming others.”

As Shallan starts on another sketch, her mind returned to her theft of Jasnah’s Soulcaster, which seemed to weigh on her as much as what Jasnah did with it. Questioning her own deeds versus Jasnah’s, Shallan finds more fault in herself for acting based on anger rather than acting to rescue her own family, as she had originally intended. Suddenly Shallan refocuses on what she had been drawing absentmindedly—a scene of a man lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood set in a lavish dining room. She feels a sudden urge to flee and leaves the room, only to be immediately stopped by a master-servant who informs Shallan that one of her spanreeds is blinking—one of her brothers is trying to reach her.

Shallan activates the spanreed in her room and speaks with her brother, Nan Balat. Shallan tells him she finally has Jasnah’s Soulcaster in her possession. Nan Balat is overjoyed at the news and asks if she is already on her way home. Shallan insists it wouldn’t be prudent for her to leave Jasnah so abuptly, whereas if she stays, she will not be suspected when the theft is discovered. Nan Balat worries that Jasnah may search Shallan’s room, but Shallan replies that it would be better to be discovered here than to be chased down by Jasnah, whose wrath would likely increase with the effort. Nan Balat admits her logic is sound. Shallan hopes that in a few weeks, Jasnah will discover her Soulcaster is broken and think it was her own actions that caused it.

Shallan soon has a knock at the door—a maid for the daily cleaning, but not one she is familiar with. Worried, she rushes to her chest and places the stolen Soulcaster in her safepouch instead of leaving it in her room for Jasnah to discover. As Shallan leaves, the maid passes on a basket of bread and jam sent by Kabsal. She briefly considers going in search of Kabsal, but feels that it would be wrong given her decision to leave in the next few weeks. Instead, she goes to the palace gardens and idles away time by sketching some of the flora and fauna there. She is particular interested in the shalebark and the creatures crawling and seemingly cleaning it.

Shallan attempts to use the Soulcaster for the first time, pressing the gems and thinking different commands such as “become smoke,” “become crystal,” and finally “fire” to no avail. Supposedly, her family’s servant Luesh knew how to use the device, but he had recently died. She considers trying to get information about using a Soulcaster out of Brother Kabsal, but thinks better of it, lest it end up in the hands of the ardents, which is something Jasnah would never want.

Quote of the Chapter:

Shallan froze, realizing for the first time what she’d been drawing. Not another scene from the alleyway, but a lavish room with a thick, ornamented rug and swords on the walls. A long dining table, set with a half-eaten meal.

And a dead man in fine clothing, lying face-first on the floor, blood pooling around him.

Shallan remembering the death of her father? Although the deeper we get down the rabbit hole that is the Stormlight Archive, I think Shallan being responsible for the death of her father is a fake out. She may have been involved in it somehow, but a piece just doesn’t fit—if she killed her father, she wouldn’t have gotten her Shardblade until after his death, since they disappear when they leave their owner’s grasp. I still favor the theory that she caused her father death, but this nagging thought won’t let up.

Commentary: “Burned Into Her” is one of the most evocative chapter titles in The Way of Kings. Shallan is troubled by the men Jasnah so nonchalantly killed, and the memory is burned into her mind so badly she is trying to escape it by drawing. This is a technique that would normally work for her, but Shallan is dealing with an even deeper demon. The mysterious sketch that she throws away definitely has to be related to the death of her father, though I do question whether the person lying in a pool of blood was her father.

But all these moral quandaries beg the question, what other horrific actions will Shallan take in the future? Can we see her doing something on a larger scale than Jasnah just did? Such as making a horde of Parshendi disappear into a giant cloud of smoke. Jasnah seems ready for that and I’m sure her wrath will be felt once she is out on the Shattered Plains. but this line also brings another thought to mind. Jasnah’s abilities seem to be that of one of the various Knights Radiant orders, but that would also intimate that she has a spren of some kind connected to her since she appears so powerful though I’ve yet to ferret out a firm nod to this connection. Jasnah is so much a mystery herself.

All this philosophical debate has me wondering what Jasnah’s reaction would be to Taravangian’s secret actions with the town’s sick. Even wit his reasons still shrouded I doubt Jasnah could live with what Taravangian has wrought in Kharbranth. But does her thirst for knowledge for further than we’ve seen so far?

Speaking of searching for knowledge Shallan again gives us a nice look into the world of Roshar at a smaller level. It was an interesting observation by Shallan about the miniature cremlings and shalebark having an intertwined relationship with the bark providing food and a place to live with the cremlings kept the shalebark clean. It brings to mind the people of Roshar playing the cremling role of trying to keep the world clear of Voidbringers and their ilk.

One last thing before we depart. The epigraph for this chapter discusses quick transportation around Roshar. This is reminiscent of the Knights Radiants who Dalinar met in one of his flashbacks that appeared from the sky. But what’s an Oathgate? Like a small Stargate perhaps. Instantaneous travel sounds like something out of Dragonball Z. What’s next, Super Saiyan Kaladin? Now that’s something I’d like to see.

 

Until next time may the Stormlight be with you.

 


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.

25 comments
Jared Wood
1. Shardlet
Ah, Teft. I hope you spill the beans some more about the Envisagers in WoR. And the snooping maid is definitely going to have been acting under orders. The question is, whose? Kabsal and the Ghostbloods, some other ardent(s), Taravangian's cohort?
Michael Pye
2. Michael_Pye
I think it is safe to say that little gets by Taravangian and his minions, especially in his seat of power.
David Foster
3. ZenBossanova
One thing that struck me as interesting, is that Syl defended Kaladin with a radiant sword. (yes, he said 'radiant')

Are shardblades connected to spren? Or ARE shardblades, spren? That would make the Heralds abandoning their blades much more than just leaving behind a peice of hardware.
Karen Fox
4. thepupxpert
Thanks for another great Reread!

re: Teft - I got the impression that it wasn't Teft personally who had brought about the downfall of the Envisagers but his family, or his race.

re: Shallan's vision - I thought the dead man facedown was the King, that somehow she had picked up that scene. Nothing to back it up, just a feeling.
Alice Arneson
5. Wetlandernw
Slightly off topic: I posted some stuff from the Seattle signing on last week's post, so as to not sidetrack this discussion. Some of it is potentially spoilery, so I whited that out; other stuff is Brandon's answer to questions about things we've discussed here.

Shardlet - ::waves:: Nice to have met you! I'm sure glad you were recording all night, because I wasn't.
Adam S.
6. MDNY
More intrigue... The Kaladin chapter is all about Teft, clearly. What were the Envisagers, how did they die, and what was Teft's role?
I always assumed Shallan got her shardblade from her father somehow- i.e. he had a blade no one knew of. I have no idea where it came from, I doubt the ghostbloods gave it to him or someone would have come looking for it even before the soulcaster...I wonder if it's a secret family heirloom, as I think it's been mentioned in the book that some shardblades' presence is not public (like wtih the king of Jah Keved, I believe). Clearly he didn't die from a shardblade, or there wouldn't have been blood.
@4 If you mean King Gavilar, he didn't die in a room, he died on the ground next to the broken balcony, and Shallan was nowhere near there.
Robert Dickinson
7. ChocolateRob
@7 The ghostbloods may have known he had a Shardblade but are keeping quiet about it. If they somehow know that their soulcaster is broken then they may be waiting for Shallan to steal a replacement. Luesh could have told them the plan and they are waiting until the right time to get a new soulcaster then murder the rest of the family and regain the Shardblade. They may think that demanding the blade back may be tiping their hand too far, especially if Shallan's brothers don't know about it. Perhaps Luesh objected to this so they quietly killed him off.
Sean Dowell
8. qbe_64
@4, 6 - On my first read, I also thought that she was catching a glipse of Szeth's current wake of destruction (as Kaladin also does). It having to do with her Father's death has equal (none) evidence. When I re-read the chapters I'll see if it jives with anything in Szeth's interludes.

Super Saiyan vs. Kaladin? Hmm, I'm pretty sure Kaladin would rank between Chaotzu and Yamcha in fighting ability at the moment. We can revisit when he's a full radiant.
Michael Pye
9. Michael_Pye
@8. qbe_64 Good thought about it being a glimpse of something else other than related to Shallan's past. It could also have to do with the weird shadowy figures that showed up in another one of Shallan's sketches (of Taravangian) and that too was done while she wasn't focusing on the drawing.
Andrew Berenson
10. AndrewHB
What little we learn of the Envisagers in TWoK reminds me of the Watchers organization in the Highlander series.

Thanks for reading my musings,
AndrewB
(aka the musespren)
Nadine L.
11. travyl
My quote for chapter 38:
… there were a lot of deathspren. More and more each time he was lucid enough to look. -
Severe delusions caused by trauma to the head.
Kaladin does believe in spren, he has Syl as his companion and yet, when he sees deathspren (and I think he also believes in their reality) he associates it with delusions in his assessment of his wounds.
I really like this, though I can't explain why exactely.

Re Shallan's drawing:
Based on her immediate thoughts before she realizes what she'd drawn
- "She carried a concealed weapon that she hadn’t used. She felt foolish for not even thinking of getting it out that night." and on the thoughts afterwards "justify—what she had done back in Jah Keved" - I think the scene does show some of what happend.
Shallan seems so distressed about what she's drawn, that I think it must be a scene she personally witnessed and remebers, but I admit there isn't any real evidence.
Jasuni
12. Jasuni
Personally, I thought that Shallan had drawn something in the future. Has less evidence than the other possibilities mentioned.
Jasuni
13. Confutus
The Herald icons for Chapter 38 are Vev-Jes.
Vev, I would guess for Kaladni's healing. The best connection I can see with Jes is for the stormlight itself.

The icons for chapter are Shash-Nan.
Shash usually goes with Shallan's creative endeavors. I'm not quite sure about Nan, but Shallan is stil pondering questions of justice.
David Foster
14. ZenBossanova
I assumed, upon rereading, that it might have something to do with a reading Sanderson did from WoR, entitled Red Carpet, Once White. Or is this Shallan remembering her father's death?

In any case, my bet is that this is a past event that Shallan is remembering.... and one she participated in.
Cheryl Sanders
16. RestlessSpirit
“Teft watched Kaladin for a long while, trying to gather his thoughts, his emotions. “Why now?” he whispered. “Why here? After so many have watched and waited, you come here?” (Emphasis mine, of course.)
It sounds as if the Envisagers were watching specifically for one man. I also infer from this statement that the Envisagers were more than just a family but more a religious group (cult?) and that their numbers were quite large ("If there were others, he had no idea how to locate them.")
“Almighty, cast from heaven to dwell in our hearts…It is true.” He bowed his head to the rock floor, squeezing his eyes shut, tears leaking from their corners.Why now? he thought again. Why here?And, in the name of all heaven, why me?”
Poor Teft, imagining this scene just breaks my heart. He's as conflicted internally as Kaladin. I wonder how long the Envisagers had been around before Teft brought about their ruin? Kelek must have been responsible and/or inspired its beginnings. My only evidence for this is Teft's continuous use of Kelek's name when he swears.

@travyl: I had noted that Kaladin dismissed the deathspren as hallucinations and found it odd. It almost seems as if the analytical review of his injuries is coming from someone/somewhere else. I suppose his PTSD is so severe he's become disassociative on top of his many other injuries.
Jasuni
17. Blue Print
I'm not sure that it is her father's death that Shallan drew, but my guess is that she is directly responsible for his death and that it is from that event that she got her shardblade.

Her refusal to call it may be rooted in the following points:
1. It would PROVE that she had killed her father.
2. It would make her a target to anyone who wanted one.
3. The Ghostbloods would want it back.

Her justification for killing her own father is the more intersting point to me. Was it murder, self-defense, or to protect someone else? My guess is it was to PROTECT someone else. And (bingo!) we have a Knight Radient!
Adam S.
18. MDNY
@17 I was thinking of that. It has been mentioned that Shallan's father was notorious for his temper, and her brothers often suffered, but she was usually spared the worst of her father's anger. I think either he pushed her too far or she killed him protecting someone else (a brother maybe?)
Cheryl Sanders
19. RestlessSpirit
@MDNY: I've often thought she killed him, perhaps accidentally, protecting a brother. Shallan seems more horrified at the thought of having been responsible for the death than mournful of his passing. She and her brothers are just scrambling to cover their arses and otherwise seem okay that he's not around.
Jasuni
20. WonderChimp
@18 and 19: While this is darker than Sanderson usually gets in his books, the setup of angry vengeful abusive father who regularly physically abuses his sons, but doesn't touch his daughter lends me to believe he was abusing her in other ways.

I don't have my book handy, but the language she uses when she talks about needing to hide her shame specifically point to this. If she was worried about killing the guy, she would be hiding a crime or a deed or and action, not shame. Her internal monologue sounds a lot like a victim who feels responsible for what happened to them. Someone who hasn't become a survivor yet.

One full on off the wall with no back up extension of this is that her shardblade cuts flesh. Somewhere Brandon stated that there are 3 kinds of shardblades and we've seen two. We haven't seen Shallan's yet. Probably complete garbage as a theory, but I'm going to hold it until I think of a better one.
Jasuni
21. wind spren
Tefts thoughts after giving Kaladin the speres and watching them work, made me think that Kaladin was to become more than a radiant, maybe the next "Jezrien" ,or a new "Stormfather" the one that gathers ,trains , ect. radiant knights.

Shallons family life seem to whisper of an abuseive father, my first thoughts, but i think there is something more here than we can guess at. Her brother nan balat seemed to have quite odd choice of things to do when bored, harming animals.
The dead man in her drawing, i wonder if she came across a murder in her house, or during her travels? That though seems too simplistic, and there was blood so she could not have used a shardblade. Is she large enough to handle a shardblade? Perhaps there is someother kind of knights radiant weapon that we have not been told of yet.
Hummmmm just musings
Cheryl Sanders
22. RestlessSpirit
@20: Oh dear, I never once looked at it that way but it does happen that way IRL. Poor Shallan, perhaps that's why she recognizes the pain in Jasnah so easily the night of her "philosophy demonstration".
Anneke van Staden
23. QueenofDreams
@20 that's a good thought. To take it further - her reminiscences of her father's attitudes towards her showed that he viewed her as a prized possession, too precious to be looked at or touched by others. This is decidedly odd, and IMO it adds credence to your theory. Poor Shallan. For those wondering about why she killed her father, there is a moment in the book where she refers to Balat lying on the floor bleeding and a silvery sword in her hand. I believe this is what led to her killing her father (and I DO believe that she killed him)
Jasuni
24. Jasuni
Found an interesting tidbit a in chapter 33 about soulcasters.
"(The soulcaster) should be able to create any of the Ten Essences, from Zephyr to Talus."

I looked at the Ars Arcanum, and Zephyr is on the first essence, and Talus is the ninth essence, which makes me think that the tenth essence (Sinew) was intentionally excluded. However, the chart still has the soulcasting properties for #10. Makes me wonder whether there are restrictions on how soulcasting fabrials can use Heliodors.
Glen V
25. Ways
*Waves* to all the WoT re-readers and everyone else participating herein.

I don't plan on being active in this re-read until I finish my first read of WoK (just finished Chapt. 39), maybe within a couple of weeks. There are just too many little spoilers, even if only browsing Michael's recap and commentary. For instance: I suppose I should have guessed that Shallan's secret weapon is a shardblade, but I hadn't. So it goes, no biggie.

Nevertheless, I wanted to have a look at the re-read and comments this week to peruse a suspected huge debate about Shallan's philosophical struggles. And to my great surprise, there isn't any. Hmmm.

Well, I'll be back. TTFN.
Terrie Rada
26. NightowlKnitter
Hokaaaay! Getting ready for a Shallan rant. Hopefully it won't cause too much of a kerfuffle since I'm way behind most of the other re-readers. Anyway, here goes:
I don't know why anyone would want this girl to become a KR! I find that a very scary prospect, indeed! This is a girl who seems to have little problem justifying and/or ignoring her own immoral actions, yet at the drop of a hat she gets right up on her high-horse about others' questionable actions. Really, why does she feel that loyalty to her nasty older brothers trumps all other qualities of human decency?! Nan Balat, the one she supposedly "saved" is an odius (pardon that word in this novel, but the only one that seems to fit him) little man, who gets off on maiming and destroying anything smaller than he is. And yet, he's so cowed that when someone does the same to him, he sits back allows his 'Baby Princess' sister to come in, take the blame, and slay the dragon, so to speak. And then he keeps relying on her to fix everything! There is no honor in protecting a person like that, family or no. He has not grown in any way from this major life event. He is still doing the same things, and if/when she got back under his power, he'd immediately try bullying her, too. And yet, for all her inner discussions, she continues on this same pathway.
Oh, Eylita, run as far and as fast as you can from this entire sick family! No matter how bad things would be for you if you broke the engagement, I forsee them being much worse if you marry into this lot.

Now it seems that the the KR were a bit tarnished, and if we want the new generation to outshine the old, this is one girl that we don't need in their ranks! Lying, stealing, murder, plotting--who needs more of the likes of her?!

I'm not condoning Jasnah's actions, but, it seems a little rich for Shallan to be that freaked out about what she did.
::end rant::

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