Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week we met a thunderclast in one of Dalinar’s visions and received the first scribbled countdown to the Everstorm, setting up some serious concerns in House Kholin. This week we return to Kaladin to see what form the next steps will take.
Housekeeping notes: This reread, over all, will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere books that become relevant. If you haven’t read TWoK and WoR, this discussion will spoil them for you. However, someone expressed concern last week that, without having read the rest of the Sanderson library, they might not get what’s going on in the Stormlight Archive. To address that for anyone else wondering, let me say that the Archive stands on its own as a story; you need not have read anything else he’s ever written to get it. There are several tidbits scattered through it that you won’t catch if you haven’t read other books; then again, there’s a good chance you won’t catch them even if you have read the others. They are not critical to the plot, and when we point them out, they won’t spoil anything in the other books. As last week demonstrated, though, there are occasions when the discussion goes off on a tangent, in which case, well… we’ll ask that plot spoilers be flagged as such, and go from there, eh?
Chapter 5: Ideals
Point of View: Kaladin, Sadeas
Setting: Kholin & Sadeas warcamps, the Pinnacle
Symbology: Spears, Chanarach
IN WHICH a Proclamation is made, and Rock is amused by the idea of highprinces rioting; bridgemen will eat like kings—but only for the purpose of training new cooks, of course; Kaladin agrees to let Sigzil study and measure his powers; Sylphrena is confused by Kaladin's refusal to be happy when things get better, which he explains as increased responsibilities but really he's just a die-hard pessimist; Sadeas has a POV revealing that he's a sociopath; Kaladin calls Moash down for getting mouthy, and stands in on his first strategy conference with the PTB; Adolin's scabbard is unlocked; and Politics are Planned.
Quote of the Week:
Dalinar put his hands on the thick stone windowsill. He stared out, as if at something he could see and the rest of them could not. “I’ll have us be what we were before, son. A kingdom that can stand through storms, a kingdom that is a light and not a darkness. I will have a truly unified Alethkar, with highprinces who are loyal and just. I’ll have more than that.” He tapped the windowsill. “I’m going to refound the Knights Radiant.”
I considered multiple passages for QOTW, but landed on this one because it sets out so clearly the difference between what they are and what they need to become. Back in TWoK, one of the Knights in a vision told Dalinar that Alethkar was the kingdom dedicated to maintaining the knowledge of warfare for the purpose of enabling humanity to defend itself during the Desolations. It has become a kingdom that exalts warfare above all else—for no purpose at all. We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.
Commentary: Welp. This chapter is packed with stuff to talk about, which means y’all might want to go back and skim (or reread!) the chapter itself during the next day or so. There’s just no way I’ll be able to cover everything. I hardly know where to start. Please bring up your own favorite quotations and notations!
Sigh. Let’s just get Sadeas out of the way, shall we? The guy is a sociopath; the only time he feels alive is when he’s in battle fighting for domination. Being in his head gives me the creeps. (Who’s got the brain bleach? Please refill the supply in the Storm Cellar—we may need it.) We also learn that his wife is a match for him; she has an extensive spies-and-assassins network and loves to use them. I wonder whether she just enjoys being competent, or if she’s as twisted as her husband. She doesn’t give any opinion about his goals, or his reasons for them; she only seems interested in using her skills to forward whatever he wants to do. This also creeps me out a little, though I’m not sure I could explain why. I’m curious about how Ialai’s network compares to Jasnah’s; they both seem to be successfully hidden from everyone else.
As requested, Moash. This chapter is loaded with hints—at least in hindsight. He gets mouthy when anyone questions Kaladin; apparently that’s only acceptable from Bridge Four and maybe Dalinar. He seems nearly as angry with Kaladin for cutting him off as he is with the guard for questioning. On the other hand, he admits his fault after Kaladin explains it… but I don’t think he sees anything wrong with his attitude, just his expression of it. He’s going to smooth over the surface of his behavior, but the hatred and arrogance will still be there underneath the good-soldier act. Kaladin’s thought, that Moash was as close to a real friend as he’d known since being branded, makes my heart hurt. You can be betrayed by people you don’t like (e.g. Sadeas), but it’s easier for those you like and trust. And it hurts worse. The bit with the balcony is Foreshadowing, eh?
Re: last week’s discussion of Renarin… This chapter had bits in it that made me suspect that Dalinar knew it was Renarin and was merely covering for him.
Conversation at Bridge Four had been subdued, following the strange break-in at Dalinar's quarters yesterday. Kaladin felt a fool. Dalinar, however, seemed to be ignoring the break-in entirely. He knew far more than he was telling Kaladin.
This bit would fit perfectly with Dalinar taking the blame to protect his son, but later we’ll see in his own thoughts (Ch. 8) that he believes he did it himself. It was a nice theory while it lasted. Incidentally, I do believe it was Renarin; there’s the way he scribbles on the wall when they’re finding the Oathgate, which turned the light on for me, and then when he reveals his Order in the final chapter I think it’s confirmed. YMMV. As for Renarin’s failure to explain, though, consider the epigraph:
The sign on the wall proposed a greater danger, even, than its deadline. To foresee the future is of the Voidbringers.
I think this is the answer to last week’s discussion of why Renarin didn’t just ‘fess up: I don’t know what the punishment for Voidbringing might be, but it would be ostracization at the very least. In any case, my current analysis of the situation is that Renarin saw the future clearly enough that he felt it absolutely necessary to let Dalinar know, but was too frightened of the implications of his ability to let anyone know that he was the source.
So: strategy conference. I love Kaladin’s inclusion on several levels. One, as Dalinar says, he needs to know what’s going on if he’s going to do his job. Two, as a device it’s great because it gives us an outsider’s perspective on the Kholin family dynamics. Three, it gives us the information without being in Dalinar’s head, which keeps up the suspense in certain areas. Cool beans.
Had to laugh at Kaladin playing straight-man for Dalinar. It was cool in a great-soldiers-think-alike sense, but it was also cool in justifying Dalinar’s inclusion of Kaladin, in escalating the conflict between Kaladin and Adolin, and in setting Kaladin up as someone Elhokar innately trusts. It also has the rather sad-making effect of setting Moash up to be someone Elhokar and Dalinar trust. :(
Speaking of Elhokar, can you spell mixed messages? Wow. Kaladin (and presumably Moash) mostly see the whiny, incompetent pretend king, but there are flashes of real insight. His appreciation of Kaladin’s take-nothing-for-granted approach, as well as his realization that assassins are likely to target them by way of their families, say something about his inherent abilities. They’re just so awfully well-masked by his whininess and indecision, especially when contrasted with Dalinar’s competence.
Which… is another theme herein: Dalinar doesn’t want to be king, and he wants Elhokar to be a good king, but he’s the kind of person who sees what needs to be done and just does it. He doesn’t intentionally usurp the king’s power… but he does, without realizing how it looks to everyone else. This Will Bite Back.
The most obvious effect of the strategy conference is the beginning of the Adolin-will-duel-everyone-and-his-cousin arc. I’m rather looking forward to this. Kaladin’s reaction made me gigglesnort: “So he’s spoiled and cocky.” Yeah, well, Kaladin, sometimes someone else actually excels at something—and sometimes, they know it. Is it being cocky when it’s true? Heh.
Finally, my last QOTW candidate was this:
Life before death, Kaladin thought, playing with a sphere he’d pulled from his pocket, strength before weakness, journey before destination. Those Words made up the First Ideal in its entirety. He had only an inkling of what it meant, but his ignorance hadn’t stopped him from figuring out the Second Ideal of the Windrunners, the oath to protect those who could not protect themselves.
Syl wouldn’t tell him the other three. She said he would know them when he needed to. Or he wouldn’t, and would not progress.
By my reading, this implies that full understanding of the First Ideal is not necessary to start the process; I would suggest that acceptance of the words, and that one needs to grow into the understanding, is more relevant. It still leaves me wondering, though, whether the other four Windrunner ideals are actually progressive in themselves, or if they are incident-activated in random order.
Sprenspotting: Syl is troubled by the writing on the wall; it is not from Honor, and she believes it dangerous. On a reread, it seems probable that this is a matter of those “spren politics” Jasnah mentioned. Syl, as an honorspren, is wary of anything not-of-Honor. It still seems odd, though. Does she simply not know that it’s from Cultivation rather than Odium? Or does she (unlike us) know that it could be either one?
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: The paperweight on the women’s writing desk is described as containing a strange kind of crab-thing with wings. Is this our first glimpse of a larkin? Elsewhere they are described as looking like a cremling, but I don’t have a good feel for whether Kaladin would think “crab” where another thinks “cremling.” Thoughts?
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?: Isaac Stewart’s artwork at the beginning of the chapter, depicting the Bridge Four tattoos and Kaladin’s brands (seen above), is attributed to “Nazh.” We know nothing about Nazh except that his artwork also shows up in Mistborn as well; he appears to go around the Cosmere collecting graphics on behalf of an unknown “friend.” Just for the fun of it, I like to believe that he’s working for Khriss, but there’s absolutely nothing to back that up. It’s a tangent on Brandon’s comment, when asked if Hoid is the most knowledgeable person about what’s going on in the Cosmere, that “Khriss is the most aware by a long shot. Nazh knows a lot as well. Hoid might know more than Nazh but he is pretty in the know as well so it's close.” (Khrissalla is a woman from the planet Taldain; she’s introduced in the as-yet-unpublished story White Sand, when she didn’t know nearly as much.)
Heraldic Symbolism: Chanarach is associated with the role of Guard, which I assume is here to represent Kaladin taking up his role as bodyguard for Dalinar (and, as it turns out, the entire Kholin family). She also represents the attributes of Brave/Obedient, which I’ve often associated with Adolin’s appearance. In this case, though, I think it’s the former.
Okay, I surrender. Once again, let me encourage you to enter your own favorite quotes and passages from the chapter—you need not be limited to the things I talked about. In fact, please don’t limit yourself to these. There’s so much more!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and a Sanderson beta-reader. She has been a fantasy lover since the age of eight, when her third-grade teacher loaned her his copy of The Hobbit. (Thanks, Mr. Hamilton!) She’s also a full-time wife and mom with degrees in engineering, literature, and chemistry. Nice combination, eh?