Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. We are now less than two months away from Words of Radiance! Carl has already had a chance to dip into it, but I may try to hold myself back until we finish the reread. Let’s see if I have that will power! And in case you missed it, the Prologue and first two chapters of Words of Radiance have been posted online here at Tor.com. And that first sentence of the Prologue is a doozy.
Just before Christmas Carl covered the last two chapters of Part 3, and that last chapter is still a killer to me every time I read it. Everything Kaladin ever felt about the lighteyes became true, and one of the few men Kaladin looked up to betrayed him utterly. I sure hope he pays for it in the future. This week we’ve reached the third and final set of Interludes and though they are very short chapters, two of them reveal much including tidbits on “The Old Magic” and something odd about the nature of spren. Szeth also gives us a very big glimpse of his true power.
Note from on high: Yesterday Tor.com published an excerpt of Words of Radiance, covering the prologue and the first two chapters, which can be found here. We ask that those who choose to read these chapters confine their discussion of the events within to the excerpts’ comment threads, so as not to spoil those who choose not to read excerpts, but still wish to enjoy speculation in the reread. Thank you!
Setting: Emul, in the palace of Ashno of Sages
Point of View: Baxil
What Happens: Baxil and his fellow Emuli cousin Av break into Ashno’s palace along with their mysterious mistress so that she can deface and destroy works of art. The mistress confuses her employees as they don’t know what race she came from of her reasons for destroying the art (instead of stealing, which she forbids them from doing). The mistress is beautiful, with large eyes like a Shin and darker skin like a Makabaki, but the tall build of an Alethi. She also has light violet eyes and her presence scares them so they tread lightly around her.
The mistress asks for her tools as they enter the Hallowed Hall where Ashno keeps his images of the Kadasix. She begins slashing paintings and small works of art starting with a painting of Epan, Lady of Dreams.
Beyond sneaking into palaces, Baxil and Av’s job seems to consist mostly of carrying around the mistress’s tools and acting as lookouts, which leaves them plenty of time to talk with each other. Baxil mentions he is thinking of “seeking the Old Magic” by visiting the Nightwatcher. Av warns him off from doing so as his close family has chased the Old Magic in the past, and no good has come of it. With each boon the Nightwatcher grants, you are also cursed. Av’s father, for example, had to live the rest of his life seeing the world upside down.
Baxil wants to ask the Nightwatcher for courage, believing that if he wasn’t such a coward, the mistress might look upon him as “more than just hired muscle.” The mistress soon returns for her mallet (to destroy a large statue), and she idly mentions trying to procure a Shardblade in order to make quick work of such things in the future, though it “might make it too easy.”
Baxil worries over the hammering of the statue, as the noise may draw attention. Av points out that is probably why she left it for last. As she finishes, Baxil asks Av why she did this. Av suggests if Baxil isn’t fond of his limbs, he’s free to ask the mistress himself. Inwardly, Baxil decides that he will search out the Old Magic.
Quote of the Chapter:
“I could phrase my request perfectly,” Baxil said.
“Doesn’t work that way,” Av said. “It’s not a game, no matter how the stories try to put it. The Nightwatcher doesn’t trick you or twist your words. You ask a boon. She gives what she feels you deserve, then gives you a curse to go along with it. Sometimes related, sometimes not.”
“And you’re an expert?” Baxil asked.
And so we just learned the way the Nightwatcher most likely acts when someone is seeking a boon. Now we just have to wait for future Baxil episodes to see it happen as he goes in search of the Nightwatcher for his courage. I’m sure he’ll end up fine. It would be funny if getting the courage he seeks turns him into a Radiant or something similar of a darker nature. You just know everything is not going to come up roses for our Baxil.
Commentary: One thing this chapter also showed is again how time has altered the history of the world. The Prime Kadasix is Jezrien and Kadasix just seems to be the Emuli term for the Heralds. The problem with this chapter is it is far too short given everything going on and mentioned. Firstly, we finally get what seems to be a fairly honest overview of what the Nightwatcher and “The Old Magic” can do. Until now it has all been little asides. And that “Old Magic” certainly sounds like it could do nearly anything, but it comes with a downside. Those downsides can include anything from having your vision upside down or numb hands. Now those seem like very physical and just a little bit wry of the Nightwatcher to impose on someone. It makes me think the Nightwatcher has some twisted sense of humor.
Now this begs the question of what is going on with Dalinar since he has admitted seeking the Old Magic. Up until now I’ve assumed that Dalinar’s curse in the
Schwartz—I mean Old Magic—has been the memory loss with his wife and as of the moment that’s still the likeliest answer. But what is his boon? Still a big question I hope is answered in Words of Radiance.
The other big reveal was the mistress, who to me is both a Herald and the same person behind the missing statue from the Prologue. My first guess is she is the Herald known as Battar, but I have nothing concrete to confirm that. Just a feeling at the moment, and the fact that Battar’s associated attributes are Wise and Careful, and the mistress certainly seems careful. Though she may be Shalash, as the missing statue from the Prologue was of Shalash and the painting the mistress first destroys depicts Epan, Lady of Dreams. Of all the attributes given to the female Heralds, the closest to dreams is creativity which is also associated with Shalash. Further, the Herald icon found at the start of this chapter is the same as in Shallan’s first chapter, and Shallan’s abilities seem most related to Shalash thus far. The mistress being a Herald is supported by her description as a mix of Shin eyes with the build of Alethi, and especially by virtue of the fact that she has violet eyes that are almost white. Well, now that I wrote all that out I think I just convinced myself she is Shalash.
Now why does she want to destroy depictions of the Heralds, which are most likely of herself? That I have no clue on, but it could have something to do with going against her own nature. She is supposed to be involved with creativity and art such as a painting or statue is definitely a creation and now she wants to not be associated with that past. Could this mean the other Heralds are also working against their original inclinations?
Setting: A tiny Reshi island
Point of View: Geranid
What Happens: Ashir and Geranid are on a small and secluded Reshi island, both working on experiments in the name of their Callings as ardents. Ashir’s field of study is food: he works on caramelizing a Shin fruit along with some curry. He comments that he is growing tired of his Calling and may change his research. Ashir questions the use of knowing about food in the Spiritual Realm, as he doesn’t believe you’ll need to eat while there. He also wonders if you needed to eat in the Shadesmar (also known as he Cognitive Realm) and decides he needs to check for accounts of people having claimed to have eaten while visiting.
Meanwhile, Geranid is wholly captivated by her study of a flamespren even through their chit chat. She reveals that her work with spren is progressing well; despite her figures being erratic, she says she can predict when they would and wouldn’t be erratic. She’s recently found that if you write down the measurements of specific spren, it would freeze that way. It seems the act of observance along with recording makes it stick; if you erase the measurements, the spren returns to its habit of changing shape and size.
Ashir is surprised, but quickly thinks of a new experiment to check. He staysin one room with the calipers to measure the spren while Geranid waits in the next room, out of view of the spren. He calls out three different measurements while she records just one; the spren again freezes according to the measurements Geranid records. She returns to observe the flamespren and notes that it looks a little like a little person now though it still moved above the fire. She erases the measurement and the flamespren immediately changes shape at random. Geranid then tries writing random figures which might be the measurement of the spren to see if it would again stay one size, but to no avail. She then thinks out further experiments to try, such as measuring a flamespren’s luminosity to see if that, too, would stabilize. Ashir congratulates her on the find, saying:
“I don’t know what it means yet, but it might very well change everything we understand about spren. And maybe even about fabrials.”
He then goes back to work to make Geranid something sweet to eat.
Quote of the Chapter:
“The spren change when I measure them, Ashir,” she said. “Before I measure, they dance and vary in size, luminosity, and shape. But when I make a notation, they immediately freeze in their current state. Then they remain that way permanently, so far as I can tell.”
So if writing down what a spren looks like as accurately as possible makes them adhere to that size what other power could the people of Roshar have over the spren that they don’t realize? More Geranid chapters please.
Commentary: Geranid and Ashir give us a view of the ardents we haven’t yet seen and they also bring to light the fact that the ardentia knows a lot even though they are rarely forthcoming. Right off the bat they are talking about Shadesmar and other than Jasnah and Shallan no one else in all of The Way of Kings mentions that word, at least that I can find reference to. So the ardents are not only the spiritual keepers, but also the scientists and researchers of Roshar and they are clearly doing their best to amass even more knowledge through experimentation.
While Ashir is busy playing with what sounds like onions from Shinovar Geranid is onto something that is sure to change the way the spren are viewed. The act of observance does in a sense push your will onto something—make it more real. The spren could possibly interpret that act to further degrees, but to what end? It is still unclear what the spren are and their capabilities besides what little we’ve seen from Syl and she makes it clear she is special. What connection do the races of Roshar share with these spren. What could they manifest as through their will via the spren?
It is interesting to see the relationship that Ashir and Geranid have and it is something I wouldn’t have expected of ardents. Ashir and Geranid definitely act like a team, which shows a little duality between the sexes at work on Roshar that seems to be missing from so much of modern society. And they seem to be quite a capable team show us exactly what can be accomplished by working together. They complement one another and push each other’s research on. We need to see more of this on Roshar and we need to see more of Geranid. And wouldn’t it be neat to read a conversation between Geranid and Axies?
Interlude-9: Death Wears White
Setting: Jah Keved
Point of View: Szeth
What Happens: Szeth breaks into the Palace of king Hanavanar of Jah Keved in order to assassinate him. Unlike most of Szeth’s other jobs, this one was to be public, noisy, and he was to kill anyone in—or even near—his path. As when he killed king Gavilar, he was also ordered to wear all white so that those who see him will connect the acts. He acts as Truthless and follows the orders to the letter.
Szeth takes no pleasure in the job; with each slice of his Shardblade he hates himself a little more. Szeth is upset that there is a feast, as he had hoped it would be a more simple evening with fewer casualties. Szeth slashes anyone he comes across, and uses his Lashings indiscriminately and more publicly than ever before, lashing tables, people, and himself in different directions. Szeth finally goes directly for the king, who sits behind a high table. As Szeth approaches, he senses something is wrong and Lashes himself to the ceiling. Suddenly, two men in Shardplate emerge from under the table wielding Shardblades. He evades their blows, but notices a group of soldiers approaching with the new half-shard shield fabrials that could supposedly stop a Shardblade. The king summons his own Shardblade; the rumors of him having one are evidently true.
The king shouts, “You think I didn’t know you were coming?” and Szeth now feels validated that he can blame the king for all the deaths tonight as he knowingly planned the feast in an attempt to ensnare Szeth.
Szeth breathes in more Stormlight than ever before and drops his Shardblade, which evaporates. Szeth’s opponents are stunned that someone would drop their blade during combat. He runs towards them and Lashes dozens of men to the ceiling, while sending some towards the still oncoming Shardblades. Szeth also takes the time to infuse some knives towards the King, who only narrowly saves himself with a half-shard shield.
Szeth then uses a small powered Lashing to make himself much lighter, yet still powerfully quick. He runs into the melee, killing and Lashing men at will. The Shardblade warriors converge on Szeth, but they cannot land a blow nor gain any advantage on him. The King is close behind them instead of trying to flee for his life as Szeth expects. Szeth blocks their blows and suddenly lashes himself to a wall as bodies begin falling from the ceiling, causing havoc. Szeth Lashes a large stone and aims it at one of the Shardbearers, who doesn’t get up again.
Szeth is running low on Stormlight now, but starts to call his Shardblade back as he heads towards the remaining Shardbearer. He Lashes the table they are both standing on; the Shardbearer is flung off the table as Szeth rides it upwards, jumping off before hitting the ceiling. He leaps towards the now dazed Shardbearer and hid own Shardblade finally materializes again. Szeth’s blade slamds into the Shardbearer, killing him.
The King is stunned, but his guards move around him and make to escape. Szeth Lashes himself towards the King, slicing and killing a dozen of the guards as he draws in more Stormlight from spheres. Szeth makes his way through the remaining guards and knocks the king’s half-shard shield twice, destroying it. The king asks Szeth “What are you?” and Szeth simply answers “Death” as he thrusts his blade through the king’s face.
Quote of the Chapter:
You are a work of art, Szeth-son-Neturo. A god.
Szeth finally shows us just how deadly he is and it isn’t even his Shardblade that does the most damage. His binding abilities are scary good. How will Kaladin overcome him when they finally have a confrontation? Kaladin is still very nascent with his Surgebinding while Szeth is surely at the top of his form.
Commentary: Can you imagine being killed by a guy with tears streaking down his face? Szeth cherishes life, but is possibly the ultimate instrument of death we’ve yet seen in The Way of Kings. This chapter was all about showing off Szeth’s skills. He displayed the use of the martial art know as kammar as well as sword play and Surgebinding unlike anyone has seen in thousands of years. Szeth is a honed weapon in body and mind. Szeth only chooses to release his full wrath once he is absolved from the deaths of all those at the feast. The King is guilty of knowingly putting people in harms way in Szeth’s eyes.
Szeth says something interesting about his Shardblade:
Ten heartbeats, Szeth thought. Return to me, you creation of Damnation.
Creation of Damnation is what grabs me. The mysterious nature of the Shardblades has always made me curious. What is Szeth’s blade is exactly? It certainly doesn’t seem like a normal Shardblade and I feel it is doubtful that it is an Honorblade. I think it is a different type entirely and something related to the Voidbringers, Ten Deaths, or whoever is behind it all. Let’s call it an Odiumblade.
Next week Carl will be back to crack open Part Four and the return of Dalinar’s POV. Exciting times are ahead as we delve deeper into the last third of the story.
And remember, if you’re read the preview chapters of Words of Radiance (found here), please keep any spoilers to yourself!
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.