Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. Things are moving fast and furious as we are less than a month away from the publication of Words of Radiance (check out the new Glimpses of Radiance feature), but before we reach that destination we need to finish the journey that is The Way of Kings.
This week we tackle just one chapter, though it is quite an important one. Two sides that are warring against each other within Dalinar. On one side is the Alethi Thrill that has been bred into him, which he no longer revels in. On the other is the influence his conscience and the codes have had upon him. Neither side seems to have the upper hand at the moment, but that will change as Dalinar steps into a new role. Only he has to get past Sadeas to do it. And after he saved Sadeas’s storming life!
Chapter 56: That Storming Book
Point of View: Dalinar
Setting: The Shattered Plains
What Happens: Dalinar finds himself in the thick of battle upon the Shattered Plains atop his horse, Gallant. This is one of his earliest joint plateau attacks with Sadeas’s forces. Both armies seem to complement each other well with Sadeas’s men leading the way and Dalinar’s better trained forces sweeping in behind.
The Thrill is upon Dalinar. He cuts through the Parshendi forces with ease as they fall from beneath his Shardblade’s edge, burning out their eyes as it passes through them.
As Dalinar fights he focuses on the fact that the Parshendi fight in pairs; usually one is bearded while the other is not. Alethi scholars theorize it is a master/apprentice relationship, but after looking at an unbearded Parshendi up-close Dalinar theorizes they fight in male and female—possibly husband and wife—teams, though with the Parshendi’s build and odd carapace shielding it is difficult to tell.
After dispatching many Parshendi, Dalinar sees that the battle near him has ebbed. He dismounts Gallant and sends the horse back behind the lines. Looking again at the pairs of Parshendi, Dalinar decides to have a couple of the Parshendi bodies taken back and examined by his scholars.
Dalinar heads to a more active section of the battlefield. Adolin is in the distance commanding another area while Sadeas’s forces are focused on the chrysalis. Though they could end the battle now by cutting open the chrysalis both Dalinar and Sadeas had decided beforehand to protect, thus it luring more Parshendi into the battle. Their long term plan is to kill as many Parshendi with these sorties as they can in hopes of ending the war sooner.
Even though Dalinar knows he should hate the Parshendi he still respects them for their will to attack a Shardbearer so easily. Most regular soldiers would flee at the sight of a Shardbearer, but the Parshendi go right for them. Dalinar finds himself in the midst of many Parshendi, all of whom he quickly kills. A sudden bout of nausea takes him as he fights against the Thrill. But that doesn’t stop him from slicing through more Parshendi.
In the past Dalinar savored the Thrill, reveling in it during previous campaigns. Once he nearly attacked his brother Gavilar when he was lost deep in it. It was a time not long after Navani had chosen Gavilar over him.
Dalinar notices a second Parshendi army approaching, which had never happened in the past. It appears they are learning from Dalinar and Sadeas’s attacks. He sends runners to inform everyone about the second force. Dalinar runs and climbs up a rock formation for a better look—the army is headed for Sadeas’s side. Dalinar calls for his horse and tells a runner to inform Adolin that he is now in charge of the assault. Dalinar wades through the middle of the Parshendi with his Shardblade twisting around him, clearing him a path forward towards where he had seen Sadeas’s banner fall. Dalinar becomes the Blackthorn in that moment, unleashing himself as he hadn’t in years. “He was a maelstrom of death and steel.”
Dalinar finds Sadeas encircled and being beaten by the Parshendi as he leaks Stormlight from his armor. Dalinar sees the hammer Sadeas must have dropped and picks it up, dispatching many Parshendi. He summons his blade again and finishes those near him. Sadeas’s armor is in bad shape, broken and cracked in many places with the chestplate all but gone, but he lives. More Parshendi come at them, seeing two Shardbearers in their grasp. Dalinar kills them all with the Thrill surging again. Dalinar is in danger of being overrun when Adolin bursts through the ranks from behind, decimating the forces there. Adolin’s men are right behind him. They surround Dalinar and Sadeas and take out the remaining Parshendi.
Adolin expresses his displeasure at his father’s run across the battlefield without any of his soldiers. The plate on Dalinar’s back is a ruin and will require a lot of time and infused gemstones to repair the damage.
Sadeas is removed from his plate by his soldiers and seems to be mostly okay though dazed. He learns they won the battle and the gemheart is being cut now. Sadeas congratulates Dalinar and Adolin. Dalinar makes it clear he was following the Codes to do so. Dalinar departs to check on Gallant. He sees the line of death he caused across the field and seems horrified at what he has done.
Quote of the Chapter:
“You do not abandon your allies on the battlefield. Not unless there’s no recourse. It is one of the Codes.”
Sadeas shook his head. “That honor of yours is going to get you killed, Dalinar.” He seemed bemused.
How right Dalinar is yet how right Sadeas hopes to be. What Sadeas later does is unconscionable after what Dalinar risked to save his life. Someday soon being a Lighteyes may just be a curse on this world. Maybe it already is.
That storming book indeed.
We finally get to see the Blackthorn in all his glory and horror. The Thrill is strong within Dalinar, but something deep inside him fights against it. He no longer wants to lose himself in the Thrill, which is a very un-Alethi thing. It gets so bad be becomes nauseous of what he has done to the Parshendi.
This echoes two things for me. Firstly, the fight and destruction Szeth caused in Jah Keved. Both regret their actions even if they are things that must be done. Szeth’s reasons aren't as virtuous as Dalinar’s, of course. The even greater connection is how similar Dalinar sees things as Kaladin did the first time he saw what a Shardbearer could do in a battle. The massive loss of life in such a short span caused by just one man with a sword that cuts through people’s very souls is a lot to take in if you care about the lives of people. Shardbearers in modern Alethi society seem to think nothing of their actions. They are merely using the tools as they think them designed to work.
Our glimpses into the time of the Knights Radiant and the Codes paints an entirely different picture. A picture that says the Shards weren’t meant to fight men, but a greater evil. The Codes are brought back front and center by Dalinar’s actions. And for the moment Sadeas seems generally interested in them and how they’ve changed Dalinar. This has to be one of Sanderson’s biggest fake-outs revealed in The Way of Kings. Sadeas doesn’t want to change. Sadeas wants to understand how he can utilized whatever weaknesses his adversaries have and in Sadeas’s eyes Dalinar and his codes are a very big weakness. Dalinar still remembers thought that “it is not the destination that matters, but how one arrives there.” And that is another thing that he has in common with Kaladin. Even though both are going through arduous experiences with Kaladin getting the low stick they both find a way to keep moving forward. To do the best they can in that moment whatever it may be.
And maybe, just maybe Dalinar has a piece of Kaladin with him at this moment.
“He felt a breeze through the back of his breastplate. Cooling, terrible, frightening. The cracks were widening. If the breastplate burst . . .”
Could that be our lovely Sylphrena buzzing around Dalinar? It certainly seems likely as she does display an interest in Dalinar, which we’ll see more of in later chapters. But could an honorspren be connected to more than one Radiant? I’ve always thought that a bit inappropriate as the connect Kaladin and Syl doesn’t seem like something that should really be shared. Dalinar needs his own and hopefully he’ll get it in Words of Radiance.
One last word on the epigraph. It seems to be written from Tanavast in the aftermath of his own destruction yet I struggle to see how after he is shattered/broken he would be able to communicate. Still it shows just the kind of destruction Odium is capable of. Let’s get those Radiants back to beat him and restore honor and the Shard of Honor.
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.