Welcome back to the Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. This week I’ll cover Chapters 72 and 73. They’re short, but they have their share of shocking reveals and weighty thoughts. Shallan admits to even more crimes against Jasnahnity, Dalinar signs Kaladin’s battle-adoption papers, and Syl completely fails to answer the tough moral questions. Turns out they don’t have Intro to Ethics at Spren State University.
I also announce an exciting reread endgame! We’ve only got two regular posts left after this, but we’ve decided to go out with a bang.
Chapter 72: Veristitalian
Point of View: Shallan
What Happens: Before she gets started with her
summer reading list serious scholarly assignment, Shallan asks if Jasnah soulcast her blood. Big yes from the scholar. She remade it again and again to fight the poison. This was easy enough because blood is one of the Essences, despite Jasnah’s lack of skill with organics. Shallan has more questions, curious about fabrials, spren, and more, and Jasnah has some answers. She brings it back to the Knights Radiant, and tells Shallan that she’ll explain more as she trains her, but first they need to talk about Voidbringers.
Shallan asks if Jasnah thinks they’re going to return, admitting that she read her mentor’s notes while trying to figure out Soulcasting. Jasnah admits as much, only moderately disgruntled, and Shallan wonders why Jasnah believes folk tales about Voidbringers, but doesn’t believe in the Almighty.
“It strikes me that religion—in its essence—seeks to take natural events and ascribe supernatural causes to them. I, however, seek to take supernatural events and find the natural meanings behind them. Perhaps that is the final dividing line between science and religion. Opposite sides of a card.”
So, Jasnah thinks the Voidbringers had a “real-world correlate,” and she’s assembled some notes to help Shallan reach the same conclusion. Shallan reads the page, then looks up in shock. The evidence points to an unavoidable conclusion: the Voidbringers were the Parshmen, and they were never destroyed. They were enslaved.
Quote of the Chapter:
Flame and Char. Skin so terrible. Eyes like pits of blackness. Music when they kill.
“We defeated them…” Jasnah said.
Shallan felt a chill.
“…but the legends lie about one thing,” Jasnah continued. “They claim we chased the Voidbringers off the face of Roshar or destroyed them. But that’s not how humans work. We don’t throw away something we can use.”
This last line gives me the shivers. The existence and treatment of the Parshmen is a cataclysmic problem, and much of Words of Radiance shows the characters who know about the threat struggling to figure out how to handle it.
I previously put forward some theories as to how Soulcasting works, and I think I managed to miss the information in this chapter. The fact that the Essences are easier to create and alter than other things confounds my speculation. How embarrassing! The ease with which Jasnah handles all of Shallan’s questions, though, reveals how freaking much more she knows about the world than we do. I don’t know if we can be allowed into present-Jasnah’s head any time soon. Too many secrets would be unraveled.
For example; how the heck do Soulcasting fabrials work? Do they take you to the Shadesmar? Why don’t I know this?
One thing I love about Jasnah’s scholarship: “We fought so often that men began to speak of the creatures in metaphor. A hundred battles—ten tenfolds…” Jasnah realizes that this nice, neat, symbolically charged number is too messy to be real, but still looks for underlying causes. She uses her skepticism as a scalpel, instead of a blindfold.
Chapter 73: Trust
Setting: The Shattered Plains, Dalinar’s Warcamp
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Kaladin considers his emancipation, and asks Sylphrena whether he should trust the man. Syl says he’s a good man, despite having carried a Shardblade. She can’t say why, but Blades feel wrong to her, and his getting rid of one has made him a better man. Kaladin wonders about his own morals. He attacked the Parshendi Shardbearer from behind, which bothers him. Even though he knows a warrior should only worry about survival, he knows he follows a number of personal tenets that detract from that goal.
Syl found the killing in the battle hurtful, and Kaladin asks her how he can hold to the Radiants’ ideals. He had to kill to save Dalinar, but the rules say he “shouldn’t do terrible things to accomplish great ones.” Syl doesn’t have any answers for him.
Dalinar approaches, and they hash out the terms of his employment. He and the men of Bridge Four will become Dalinar and Elhokar’s bodyguards, to protect them from all the angry lighteyes they’re about to incite. Kaladin will train the rest of the bridgemen who agree to stay as soldiers, who will only be assigned to patrolling and keeping the peace, not plateau runs, since Kaladin finds himself regretting all the dead Parshendi. Kaladin himself will be promoted to captain, and will be entirely outside the normal chain of command, reporting only to Dalinar.
Once all this is settled, Dalinar gives Kaladin the cloak he wore into battle.
“Every man who wears my colors,” Dalinar said, “is of my family, in a way. The cloak is a simple gift, but it is one of the few things I can offer that has any meaning. Accept it with my gratitude, Kaladin Stormblessed.”
Aww, battle dad!
Kaladin heads back to Bridge Four’s new barrack, but finds it empty. Smelling smoke, he tracks down his men, sat around a campfire. They’re listening to Teft’s stories while Rock cooks them a stew. When Kaladin asks why they aren’t inside resting, they say it didn’t feel right to go to bed before taking part in their traditions.
Bridge Four piles questions on Kaladin, and despite his fears, they seem totally enamored of his new and magical powers. Sigzil immediately demands a scientific method, while Lopen focuses on the capacity to use these new powers to impress women. Many want to learn from him how to inhale Stormlight, and they demand a demonstration.
Kaladin looks around his men, all twenty seven of those who’ve survived, and feels some relax inside of him. He has saved his friends.
Quote of the Chapter:
“It kept you alive, gancho,” Lopen said. “The only thing I’d be alarmed about is how irresistible the women would find it. ‘Lopen,’ they’d say, ‘you only have one arm, but I see that you can glow. I think that you should kiss me now.’”
NEVER CHANGE EVER.
This week’s commentary discusses a major theme in Words of Radiance.
Chapter 73 lays out what will be much of the emotional plot of Words of Radiance. Kaladin struggles to trust Dalinar throughout that book, and while it’s a deeply frustrating process to watch, it comes from legitimate sources. He’s been shown again and again how lighteyes use nobility as a veil to disguise corruption and systemic abuse. He’s been burned by trusting the rumors that this lighteyes is the good, honorable, trustworthy one. We know, absolutely, that he can trust Dalinar. We’ve been in Dalinar’s head and seen the utter, crippling lack of deceit. But Kaladin doesn’t know him any better than he knew Amaram.
Let’s examine Kaladin’s experiences of Amaram and Dalinar. In both cases, Kaladin risked his life and the lives of his men to save a brightlord from an enemy Shardbearer. Both men offered him a new life. I believe, really, that Amaram would have let Kaladin have the Plate and Blade if he’d been able to play along with Amaram’s program. Given that, both men also seemed ready to give up something priceless to win his loyalty, although Amaram wasn’t willing to let the Plate and Blade actually pass out of his control.
Kaladin asks an important question: “Would any man trade a Shardblade just to keep up appearances? And if they would, at what point did the appearance become reality?” Dalinar giving away his Shardblade is a commitment. It can’t be taken back. But Kaladin’s concerns about keeping up appearances are extremely relevant to a proper understanding of Dalinar. The purpose of Dalinar’s devotion to the Codes is to keep up appearances of honor and discipline for so long that they become reality. He is not naturally this strictly honorable; we know that before Gavilar died he was a riotous drunk, and had built his reputation on conquest and bloodlust. But following the codes for years has changed him and his sons. Honor and glory may be performative for the Kholin men, but they’re taking place in an instructive performance.
Dalinar gives Kaladin his cloak, welcoming him into the extended family that is his military structure, and that act is both symbolic and real to Dalinar. It’s a battle-adoption. That doesn’t make it real to Kaladin, and it’s no coincidence that he goes straight from that conversation to his bridge squad, the men that are as close to him as family. Kaladin and Dalinar have the same relation to the soldiers under them, a similarity that will eventually unite them, but in this moment that similarity is a barrier. Thankfully, Kaladin is given additional proof that he doesn’t have to worry about keeping secrets from his men. They’ve seen what he can do with Stormlight, and they don’t hate or fear him for it.
So, yeah, it’s a pretty good chapter.
We’ve almost reached the end of the Way of Kings reread, loyal Stormlight fans. There are two weeks left of regular updates: Michael will cover chapters 74 and 75 next week, and I’ll cover the Epilogue the week after. After that, we’ve got something special in store. Brandon Sanderson has agreed to answer ten questions about The Way of Kings for us!
Start thinking about your questions now, but hold onto them. Post them in the Epilogue post, two weeks from now, and we’ll select the best ones to send to Brandon. Please note that Brandon fully intends to play the R.A.F.O. card, so we’ll be trying to avoid questions like that while making our selections. We’ll post his answers in three weeks.
Carl Engle-Laird is the editorial assistant for Tor.com, where he acquires and edits original fiction and has been known to correspond about the Stormlight Archive. You can follow him on Twitter here.