Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. With the interludes out of the way, it’s time to tackle Part Four: Storm’s Illumination.
This week I’m covering Chapter 52: A Highway to the Sun, which reintroduces us to Dalinar, Adolin, and their various problems. Will they come to a conclusion about whether to trust Sadeas? Will Dalinar abdicate? A highstorm is coming, and with it another vision, so let’s get right to the chapter.
Chapter 52: A Highway to the Sun
Settings: The Shattered Plains, Feverstone Keep
Point of View: Adolin, Dalinar
What Happens: Dalinar and his sons are gathered in his sitting room before a highstorm. Adolin has been trying to convince Dalinar to chance his mind about abdicating. He didn’t want to convince his father he was unfit for duty, and isn’t ready to be a highprince. But Dalinar seems resolute in his decision. He says he plans to return to Alethkar, to defend it from incursions and aid the queen, but Adolin is worried that might lead to an escalation of conflicts with Jah Keved. Dalinar cuts the discussion short, asking his sons to tie his arms to his chair. The highstorm is upon them.
Dalinar finds himself on the battlements of a fortress, looking out over a broad, bare plain. Even though he knows what’s happening, the vision feels so real that he has trouble believing it could be a delusion. Whether his visions are real or not, he is committed to living them, rather than ignoring them. The possibility that they are true and useful is too essential to risk setting aside.
The men around him are dressed in poorly-constructed armor, and are lazing about without discipline. Dalinar chides them to be more alert, but they respond dismissively. Apparently whoever Dalinar is standing in for has no reputation of diligence or authority. He knows, however, that these visions always place him in moments of great conflict, and so he spots the distant shadow on the plain far before anyone else.
The shadow grows closer, resolving into a collection of marching figures. Horses ride out from what Dalinar discovers is called Feverstone Keep to meet them, while the men on the battlements speculate that the rear defense force must be returning. Nothing could have gotten through with the Radiants fighting on the front lines. The scouts return with reports that the approaching troops are bearing flags of friendship, but Dalinar insists they remain alert for a trap. He goes down into the keep to get a better sense of the situation.
He comes upon an officer with dark brown eyes receiving reports that the approaching soldiers are Radiants, of the Orders of the Stonewards and Windrunners. As Dalinar approaches an arrow slit to watch them, the Radiants break into a run. Dalinar estimates that there are more than two hundred Shardbearers charging the fort. He’s only aware of less than a hundred Blades in the modern world, so this onslaught is staggering, even before more Radiants begin to fall from the sky. The three hundred Shardbearers begin to summon their blades.
Dalinar suddenly realizes what he’s watching, and rushes outside to meet the Radiants. One knight in blue steps forward, slams his Blade into the stone ground, then discards his armor like so much rubbish. Knight after knight follows his lead, until the plain is littered with priceless weaponry. The Blades and Plate glow beautifully, but even as Dalinar rushes to demand answers from the Radiants that light has begun to fade. Dalinar feels “a sense of immense tragedy, of pain and betrayal” and can almost hear “screaming.”
Dalinar begs for an explanation, but none of the Radiants respond. Desperate, he grabs one by the wrist, but he pulls away and keeps walking. Dalinar falls to his knees, bellowing: “This is it, isn’t it? The Day of Recreance, the day you betrayed mankind. But why?” Then, the man whose wrist he grabbed turns back to him, and speaks in the voice that has permeated his visions.
It calls these knights the first, and also the last, and tells Dalinar that these events will be infamous, and be called by many names. Seeming to respond to Dalinar’s questions, it warns him of “the Night of Sorrows,” “the True Desolation” and “the Everstorm,” and urges him to “read the book” and “unite them.” Then it turns to rejoin the other Radiants.
Dalinar looks back at the soldiers, who are now fighting over the fallen Plate and Blades. Soon the squabbling turns to outright violence. The glow from the weapons is gone.
Dalinar awakes to find himself in his chair. Apparently he speaks “unearthly, strange” and “skewed” nonsense while in the throes of the visions, and thrashes in his chair. He insists again that the time has come for him to abdicate, but Adolin pushes back harder. He says that as long as Dalinar accepts that his visions are false, they can contain the episodes, but Dalinar instead accepts only that he is unreliable, not that he has fabricated such complicated and informative visions.
The three discuss what could be causing the visions. If not the Almighty, could some other magic be upon him? The Old Magic, which Dalinar shocks Adolin by admitting he has sought? Something else entirely? They don’t know, and it’s dangerous for Dalinar to be left in command with something like that hanging over him. They reach a standstill, angry with each other. Then Renarin suggests trying to prove the visions true or false.
This idea quickly gains traction. The visions are intricately detailed. Surely if they are pulled from the historical record, they are either confirmable or disprovable. Jasnah is a Veristitalian, and finding truth in the historical record is the specialty of that school of scholarship. In the meantime, they agree to have Navani record the details of his vision. Dalinar doesn’t trust her not to try to manipulate him, but he does trust her to keep a dangerous secret.
Renarin leaves to fetch Navani, and Dalinar and Adolin return to the thorny subject of Sadeas. The investigation is almost complete, and Adolin isn’t content to trust his father’s mysterious visions when it comes to the treacherous highprince. Dalinar relents and gives his son leave to prepare for the worst.
Cut to Dalinar finish his dictation of his vision. Navani has recorded the entire thing, acting both “businesslike and careful,” and is now considering what she has written. Dalinar can’t resist noticing how beautiful she is. At Adolin’s urging, she admits that she’s never heard of the places or events in the vision, but defers judgment to her daughter. She deflects Adolin with talk of Danlan, his most recent girlfriend. Having deduced Danlan’s favorite fruit and ordered a basket of it, she sends Adolin away to get on with his courting, leaving her alone with Dalinar.
Dalinar immediately tenses up, trying to get soldiers in to serve as a chaperone. She puts the moves on, hard. She dismantles his arguments against a courtship, but he dismisses her nevertheless. She presses again:
“Can’t you just relax,” she asked him, “Just for a little while?”
“I cannot be everyone else!”
Dalinar tells Navani that if he were to abandon his principles now, he wouldn’t just stoop to the level of the other highprinces. He’d be something worse: a hypocrite. He asks her once more to leave, and without speaking she does so. A part of Dalinar wishes she had stayed. Exhausted, he prays to the Almighty, asking to know what he’s supposed to do.
Quote of the Chapter:
What was happening? What was that dreadful feeling, that screaming he swore he could almost hear?
WHAT INDEED? This moment is incredibly significant. The Recreance, the Radiants’ betrayal, is more than just a physical or political event. Something emotional, something with psychic resonance, is happening to Dalinar here.
Commentary: Wow, I had forgotten all about the abdication plotline. I had forgotten that Adolin, shining child that he is, had succeeded at ripping down his father so far that Dalinar decided he was too crazy to rule. At least he has the decency to feel bad about it now. I give Adolin a hard time, usually affectionately, but in clashes like this it’s very difficult for me not to resent him. But when you take away the benefit of hindsight, the quality of genre-savviness, and all those other advantages that let we, the readers, know with certainty that Dalinar isn’t crazy, Adolin starts to seem slightly more reasonable. Dueling is still a stupid way to spend your life, though.
This vision is a doozy. The Recreance is a huge question mark in our understanding of Roshar. We know that the Knights Radiant abandoned their vows and turned their back on humanity. We’ve now seen that they left behind their weapons and armor. This chapter answers some questions, but raises far more. We know that the Radiants left an active battlefront, but we don’t know what they were fighting. We know that they left their weapons behind to humanity, but apparently this group of Knights alone left way way way more sets of Shards behind than are accounted for. Plus, where did the other eight orders go to turn in their resignations? The Windrunners and Stonewards are accounted for, but that leaves room for a lot of other knights. Why did their Shards all glow? What made that stop? Where did they go once it was all over?
Plus there’s the big one: what made the Knights Radiant defect en masse? There must have been some cataclysmic event that triggered the simultaneous defection of the Radiants, and it is completely gone from the historical record as we know it. I can’t wait to discover what that was.
Renarin’s suggestion that they try to verify Dalinar’s visions is so aggressively reasonable it makes me want to cry. Should I be surprised that Dalinar and Adolin never thought of it on their own? They’re both kind of meatheaded, so the scholarly solution was unlikely to suggest itself naturally.
I have mixed feelings about Navani in this chapter. She handles Adolin very deftly, and she seems to be accurately reading Dalinar’s attraction for her, but I wish she’d listen when Dalinar asked for her to back off. Even though I ship them! When push came to shove, she backed away from making Dalinar do something that would compromise his belief in himself, but… Well, it’s just an uncomfortable scene. I wish she would push him a little less hard, and have trouble waiting for the point at which she becomes awesome instead of problematic.
In general, this chapter gets Part Four off to a slow start. It’s all backstory build-up, bringing out the same questions that Adolin and Dalinar have been batting back-and-forth for the entire book. We’ll see if the action picks up next week!