Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. We’re back after a short break so that all of you could dip into Words of Radiance, which hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list during its first week of release! This is, I believe, Brandon’s first appearance at #1 for a non-Wheel of Time novel in the Adult category. Steelheart also hit #1 for the Young Adult category last year so he’s definitely on a roll. It is safe to say that there are plenty of Sanderson and Stormlight fans out there.
Currently, I still have not officially started Words of Radiance, but I’m going to crack before long. My plan of waiting until the reread is done just seems too far away and the closer we get to the end the more I NEED to know what happens next. So with that in mind I’m tackling two short chapters this week that both center on Dalinar. “That Which We Cannot Have” is an infuriating chapter where so much is teased but little is given in concrete answers, while in “Right For Wrong” Dalinar finally gets something to smile about: a girlfriend. Also, academia may be Dalinar’s savior. Isn’t that nice.
Chapter 60: That Which We Cannot Have
Point of View: Dalinar
Setting: The Shattered Plains
What Happens: Dalinar and Adolin are conferring about abdication with Renarin and Navani looking on. Adolin flatly refuses to let Dalinar leave his position, which Dalinar agrees to. Dalinar isn’t ready to “leave this fight now.” Dalinar’s only caveat is that if he displays marks of being too unstable, Adolin has the right to depose him.
Adolin voices his distrust of Sadeas, but again Dalinar tries to mitigate his fears though even Navani says she has never cared for Sadeas, even when he was young friends with Gavilar. Elhokar’s fears of assassination are brought up and Navani wonders if Sadeas could be behind it yet Dalinar says it is impossible as Sadeas prefers to be close to the power, but far enough away that he couldn’t take the blame for anything large that goes awry. Still Dalinar sees enough to be concerned about that he orders only guards they can trust be close to Elhokar.
Renarin turns the conversation to the curious looking fabrial Navani has—it turns out to be a pain relieving fabrial. She demonstrates on Adolin, who agrees it works well although it doesn’t heal injuries but just diminishes the pain. Navani alludes to even greater devices in the works though she won’t comment further, but Navani thinks the ancients had even better fabrial technology. Dalinar disagrees, as during all his visions he has yet to see anything like the fabrials they have nowadays and things were very primitive though he says he has not yet seen a Dawncity. Shardblades certainly existed, but he felt they seem out of place in the past.
Suddenly Dalinar finds himself in the past again. He is with a regal man and whomever’s body Dalinar has taken, he and this man were clearly in the middle of an important conversation. On the man’s head are gold threads woven in the shape of the symbol of the Knights Radiant.
The regal man is talking about the Desolations and how they “are never ready” for them even though they have gone through so many. He also mentions a Surgebinder named Alakavish that has clearly done something wrong. The man refers to Dalinar as Karm and alludes to the fact that Karm has Surgebinders of his own.
Dalinar asks what they should do with the Surgebinders. The regal man hopes that they can be better. Use the responsibility they’ve been given with the Nahel bond to make everyone better. Dalinar looks out over the balcony and notices for the first time the horror on the ground. Corpses fill the streets along with strange looking rocks that might once have been live creatures. Dalinar also realizes that this city is ancient Kholinar and he stands where the palace would one day stand.
This was the result of a Desolation. A fresh one. The regal man says it was eleven years of war and that 9 out of 10 people he ruled over were now deceased. Cities are in ruin and whole kingdoms have been destroyed. Alakavish had caused the war before the Desolation weakening their society.
Dalinar thinks he is in a time before the Knights Radiant were known by that name. He also realizes the regal man could be none other than Nohadon. To test the man Dalinar quotes from The Way of Kings, which the man finishes for him confirming they are his words.
Nohadon says he is giving up the throne as there are other who can lead, but Dalinar implores him not to as there are surely other leaders yet none as good as he has been. This is clearly a much younger Nohadon than the one who eventually wrote The Way of Kings. Nohadon asks what he is to do if he keeps the throne. He wants to know how to protect his people so that something like this never happens again.
Dalinar suggests he write a book to “give people hope, to explain your philosophy on leadership and how lives should be lived!”
Nohadon doesn’t take to the idea well. There is too much to do. Every family has lost someone, many of their best people are dead, and food is in short supply. All Nohadon’s wordsmen are dead at the hands of something called Yelignar. Dalinar offers to write for him, but Nohadon brought up that Karm only had one arm though through Dalinar’s eyes he still sees and feels two.
Nohadon says they have to rebuild, but that he hopes he can bring all the kings together instead of see them squabbling and fighting one another. It is a time for action a time for the sword by Nohadon’s estimation. Dalinar is taken aback that the man he looked up to in a fashion was rallying behind a sword rather than other means given all that was in The Way of Kings. Though he says he wishes for peace over power. Nohadon then walks away leaving Dalinar alone.
Dalinar starts speaking expecting to hear the voice he had encountered on these visions in the past. He asks what Nohadon decides to do, but no one answers. Dalinar then returns to the Shattered Plains back where he started. He complains he didn’t learn anything, but Navani asks what he said before the vision ended. Navani says it sounded like a phrase from a very old book in a language no one currently understood and that with the notes she had taken and knowing what Dalinar had truly meant to say could lead to deciphering this language now. Dalinar always assumed the sounds he made while in the middle of a vision was just gibberish, but it seems he was speaking whatever language the ancient spoke at the time. Navani says the words he spoke were part of a very old chant that some claim was written in Dawnchant by the Heralds. They still have the songs, but the meaning to them is lost. Dalinar may have been speaking Dawnchant!
Quote of the Chapter:
“They say that each time it is the same,” the man said. “We are never ready for the Desolations. We should be getting better at resisting, but each time we step closer to destruction instead.”
Gosh, that was said thousands of years before current events on Roshar and things are going exactly the same way again. Now that is some recursion for you. The Alethi are clearly not ready for a Desolation. They are not united and are still a bickering bunch of “Thrill” filled-warriors. Plus they are being weakened just like Nohadon’s people were before the start of a Desolation. All too eerily familiar, but things have to change somehow. Is Kaladin the catalyst that is needed to break the cycle? For that we will have to wait and see.
Also, it is interesting to see the moment Dalinar decides he can’t give up his position followed by Nohadon considering leaving his own. This time Dalinar had to convince someone to keep authority.
Commentary: Fabrial tech is getting better and better. Though it is interesting to see that Dalinar seems confident the ancients didn’t have fabrials or at least any like they have nowadays. Even greater change is coming in terms of technology infused fabrials. Navani is holding out on everyone.
The Nahel bond gets mentioned, which we know precious little about other than that seems to be the relationship that is developing between Syl and Kaladin. Interesting choice of words saying “not all spren are as discerning as honorspren,” which to me sounds like more than one type of spren can bond with a person besides honorspen. The likely answer seems to be that each sect of Knights Radiant has a different type of spren that is attracted them.
This Surgebinder Alakavish seems like a pivotal character in Roshar’s past. It is almost like he could be one of the people that lead at least one group of the Knights Radiant astray causing people to mistrust all Knights Radiant in the future.
The cyclical nature of the story again comes to the fore with Nohadon asks when the Heralds return again if everyone will have forgotten them again. Well, one thing is clear that Roshar hasn’t forgotten the Heralds this time around, but clearly the Alethi are being weakened in a similar way as they were during Nohadon’s time before a Desolation.
But all these visions beg the question is Dalinar merely seeing the past in some fashion or is he actually affecting the past somehow? Dalinar’s suggestion to Nohadon about writing a book could be the seed which will fruit The Way of Kings later in Nohadon’s life.
Those aren’t stones. They’re creatures. Massive creatures, easily five or six times the size of a person, their skin dull and grey like granite. They had long limbs and skeletal bodies, the forelegs—or were they arms?—set into wide shoulders. The faces were lean, narrow. Arrowlike.
Are we reading a description of the Parshendi/Parshmen transformed to their Desolation state of being? When I first read this section I just thought they were the thunderclasts from the Prelude, but the finer description makes it sound like they were closer to men shape than something actually hewn from rocks.
Lastly, what the heck is a Yelignar? This is the second time Yelignar has been mention. Back in an epigraph from chapter 45 it mentions Yelignar was also called Blightwind and seems to be part of something called The Unmade. Yelignar apparently eats people too. Nasty sounding creature that has to be one of Odium’s foot soldiers. Perhaps even the opposite of the Heralds. Or one of the Ten Deaths we’ve discussed before. I can only imagine the giant concordance the Stormlight Archive will someday necessitate.
Chapter 61: Right for Wrong
Point of View: Dalinar
Setting: The Shattered Plains
What Happens: Hours after the vision has ended, Dalinar is still discussing its contents with Navani while Renarin watches on for decorum’s sake. Navani is most concerned with why Dalinar believes the man in the vision was Nohadon. Dalinar basically feels it was him due to his personal presence, “an aura of command about him.”
The conversation turns to the Desolations and that Dalinar believes he witnessed the aftermath of one. He also claims to have seen dead Voidbringers. He thinks this should be proof enough, especially if historical sources on the Desolations could corroborate them. Navani though feels the linguistics would actually be what swayed people and be proof enough that Dalinar’s visions are true. Others will believe him if he goes public with the knowledge he has gained through them.
Dalinar is taken aback that Navani plans to tell others of his visions. Navani believes it is important to tell people since so many already know of his “episodes” causing bad feelings directed at Dalinar. He makes people uncomfortable and many believe his mind is diseased. Dalinar doesn’t want to be made into a mystic and prophecy is not looked well upon by Alethi since the Hierocracy. Renarin thought if they were messages from the Almighty people would accept them yet Dalinar said they spoke to ardents who said the visions likely did not come from the Almighty so others might not accept them as readily as Navani.
Navani asks about Dalinar seeking the Old Magic, but he brushes that aside saying he knows what his boon and curse are and they are not related to the visions at all. Inwardly, Dalinar regrets the day he sought the Old Magic and lost all memories of his wife.
Dalinar says that the Almighty isn’t necessarily behind the visions. All he knows is that someone or something wants him to know about the Desolations and the Knights Radiant.
Renarin asks Navani about the Desolations, what were they really. She says no true accounts exist and everything has passed into folklore, but she tells the story of Parasaphi and Nadris. Parasaphi searched out the seedstones, which repopulated her people lost during a Desolation. She climbed the mountains of Dara to find stones that the Heralds had supposedly touched. She found the seeds and brought them to Nadris who was dying. Together they used the seeds to bring about ten children who restarted Parasaphi’s nation that would be called Marnah, which was the forerunner civilization of what is now called Makabaki. The story also tells of the Desolation at the beginning citing it as the reason all Parasaphi’s people died.
Dalinar wonders when the Knights Radiant were founded, but Navani doesn’t know. Dalinar doesn’t believe that the Knights Radiant were bad, at least not always. In his visions they acted in a generally good manner. Dalinar has a lot to think about and asks to be left alone. Renarin steps out, but Navani lingers. She tells him the visions are a blessing and he should be happy to know he is not mad after all. Dalinar doesn’t seem calmed by this all and is all the more worried.
She asks if it was true that he trusted her. He seems confused at first, but he had said as much earlier when he asked for her opinion as he didn’t know which of his clerks to trust in recording his visions. She is holding his arm and closes the door.
Dalinar at first protests being alone with her, but she says it has been six years since her husband, his brother died and though she misses him. She isn’t needed or really wanted anywhere else, which is why she came to him and the Shattered Plains. She starts to cry and Dalinar kisses her. He knows it is a mistake, but he can’t stop himself. He breaks off the kiss and starts to speak but she stops him.
Navani says she is concerned about the world and that the king of Jah Keved was assassinated by a Shin Shardbearer in white. And the fact that many who died spouted odd things right before they died. Highstorms are also getting stronger according to the stormwardens. She also says she needs him and has for a long time.
Dalinar is worried what will happen to them if they develop a deeper relationship, but she feels it won’t matter as they already talk about him now and ignore her. Dalinar asks for time to think, but Navani is firm that they should be together, especially since he started this with a kiss. She then leaves him alone with his thoughts.
Quote of the Chapter:
Would that day never stop haunting him? Was not losing all memory of his wife enough?
The wording is still a bit ambiguous as to whether Dalinar’s Old Magic curse was losing the memories of his deceased wife or if that was the boon he sought, but it suggests to me that it was the curse since he considers it a great personal loss. So what the heck is his boon? Seems likely it also has to do with family or at least “honor’ in the eyes of Dalinar.
Commentary: Go Dalinar! Finally going after something he wants consequences be damned. But really what would the consequences be for Dalinar and Navani? Certainly some rumor mongering by the ”proper" Alethi who would look askance upon the couple. Yet Dalinar is already out of favor with most of Alethi high society and from what Navani shares she is ignored by most. So why not have a good time and be with the one you love?
Dalinar meets his idol of sorts. The man who wrote the book that lead Dalinar on the path his life has taken. Only he wasn’t yet the man Dalinar had envisioned, but a younger version who had just witnessed and partook in a Desolation losing countless people he commanded and cared about. Maybe showing Dalinar this part of Nohadon’s life was supposed to show him that the road to being honorable is often being faced with terrible experiences and rising above them.
Renarin asked for readings on the Old Magic so it seems he has an interest in the subject. Perhaps he will seek to be healed by the Nightwatcher at some point. One thing seems clear: we’ll have an encounter with the Nightwatcher during the course of The Stormlight Archive. Also, it is interesting that Renarin is the one to ask his father about his boon and curse. It is made clear early on that Renarin suffers from blood weakness which basically means he cannot be physical for too long. Renarin could be the very reason Dalinar went in search of the Old Magic in the first place to be a warrior, but through the Nightwatcher’s own twisted ways it was never specified he’d be very good or last long in a fight.
Navani comes a bit out of her shell this chapter and for someone who is supposedly ignored by most she seems awfully well informed about the state of the world including how the death quotes are coming more often. Overall, it was quite nice to have a somewhat uplifting chapter for Dalinar. Though one of the worst experiences of his life is coming very, very soon....
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.