Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com! The end is nigh! With this post we’ll be covering Chapters 74 and 75 leaving just the Epilogue to go. It has been a long journey for not only the characters of Roshar, but for all of us involved in this reread from myself and Carl down to the commenters and those of you that just like to lurk. We love you lurkers, too! But luckily this is only the beginning of a very long and sure to be well-loved series as Sanderson continues to up the ante and reveal more of the marvel of Roshar.
But before things end, I get to talk about Shallan’s realization of the implications of Jasnah’s research, and her new insights to the clandestine group known as the Ghostbloods. And Dalinar revists his first vision; he only just now understands what sort of message has been motivating him and leading him forward.
Now let’s meet a dead God…
Chapter 74: Ghostblood
Point of View: Shallan
What Happens: Shallan is engrossed with her latest reading assignment from Jasnah regarding her notes about the Voidbringers. After reading everything over, Shallan comes to the same conclusion as Jasnah that the parshmen must be the Voidbringers, and tells Jasnah so. Jasnah says this is related to her father’s assassination. For once Jasnah is forthright with her emotions, telling Shallan she is “terrified” about what this all means.
For a moment Shallan mentions that the parshmen are “tamed,” thinking this isn’t a big problem, but realizes how “pervasive” parshmen are in the everyday lives of Roshar. The Parshendi were peaceful upon first meeting Gavilar and the other Alethi even leading to a treaty, but they turned suddenly. What’s to say something similar or even more severe couldn’t happen with the normal parshmen? This has happened before during the Heraldic Epochs where there was relative peace in the land only for something to come over the parshmen quickly and make them go “mad with anger and rage,” ushering in the Desolations. Jasnah also feels the Parshendi’s strange singing abilities to commune with one another also play into this.
“Their minds are connected, like spanreeds.” If all the parshmen in the world become active without notice, then civilization on Roshar will be decimated yet again. Shallan says they have to do something. Jasnah insists they are doing that by gathering enough facts to take to the leaders of the world. Jasnah also fears other creatures of legend that fought beside the parshmen in the past. But Jasnah is done in Kharbranth. She gives Shallan a choice of going with her or heading back to Jah Keved.
Though she doesn’t want to abandon her brothers, Shallan knows this is a much more important mission. She decides to help her brothers another way and go with Jasnah. They are to leave the following day on a ship Jasnah has already chartered, traveling to the Shattered Plains to investigate the Parshendi living there.
Time is imperative lest another group try to use this information for their own gain, and Shallan is clearly worried. Jasnah mentions the group that tried to assassinate her recently called the Ghostbloods. Their symbol—three diamonds overlaying one another—was found on Kasbal’s body as a tattoo. This is the same symbol Shallan’s brother Nan Balat found on Luesh and the men looking for her father’s broken Soulcaster. Shallan tells Jasnah that her father may have been a member of this group.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Yet one group turned suddenly from peaceful friends to slaughtering warriors. Something set them off. Just as it did hundreds of years ago, during the days known as the Heraldic Epochs. There would be a period of peace, followed by an invasion of parshmen who—for reasons nobody understood—had suddenly gone mad with anger and rage. This was what was behind mankind’s fight to keep from being ‘banished to Damnation.’ This was what nearly ended our civilization. This was the terrible, repeated cataclysm that was so frightening men began to speak of them as Desolations.
“We’ve nurtured the parshmen. We’ve integrated them into every part of our society. We depend on them, never realizing that we’ve harnessed a highstorm waiting to explode. The accounts from the Shattered Plains speak of these Parshendi’s ability to communicate among themselves, allowing them to sing their songs in unison when far apart. Their minds are connected, like spanreeds. Do you realize what that means?”
Shallan nodded. What would happen if every parshman on Roshar suddenly turned against his masters? Seeking freedom, or worse—vengeance? “We’d be devastated. Civilization as we know it could collapse. We have to do something!”
Yes, Shallan you have to do something!
This passage succinctly boils down the very real dangers of the present from evidence of the past. Jasnah’s fears are close at hand and the Parshendi could be the key. That Jasnah is one smart cookie. Now she and Shallan just have to convince other people.
Once Jasnah decides something she is all in. She has brought Shallan into her inner circle, which now consists of just the two of them. But Jasnah had very valid reasons for keeping her knowledge to herself. Outside of trying to keep the information from groups like the Ghostbloods, she is already skating the edge. She is known as a heretic, but to go further and suggest grand social change such as getting rid of Parshmen would throw her even further away from power without some undeniable proof. Proof she is still searching for. I loved the wonderful observation by Jasnah aligning spanreeds to the Parshendi’s chanting/singing. It is so spot on.
This chapter never felt like a big revelation, as by this point even first-time readers will have decided if they are in the parshmen = Voidbringers camp or not. Jasnah and Shallan are now convinced that the parshmen are or will become the Voidbringers. Those of use who have made it to Words of Radiance certainly know a lot more about the parshmen, but the Voidbringers themselves are more than just one group. Jasnah even mentions that there are “tales of creatures fighting” with parshmen, such as a greatshell and “other oddities.” Voidbringers has just become a catchall term in their age for the creatures responsible for the Desolations, so the Voidbringers will consists of many facets just as the Knights Radiants did.
So Shallan admits her father was probably a Ghostblood. The noose draws ever tighter. Now Jasnah and Shallan are going to the Shattered Plains. Interesting things are bound to happen…
Chapter 75: In the Top Room
Point of View: Dalinar
Setting: The Shattered Plains, Kholin Compound
What Happens: Dalinar is with Navani. She is still upset by the way Dalinar handled things with her son Elhokar, but she is clearly happy to have him back after the events on the Tower plateau. A Highstorm comes sending Dalinar into another vision. Though this isn’t like most of the others, he does find it familiar. He is in the place where he went during his very first vision. He stands on a large flat white plain and there are smoke shapes coming up out of the ground some in the vague figure shapes.
Dalinar again hears the voice he has become so familiar with telling him:
“You must unite them.”
“Why did you lie to me?” Dalinar demanded of the open darkness. “I did what you said, and I was betrayed!”
“Unite them. The sun approaches the horizon. The Everstorm comes. The True Desolation. The Night of Sorrows.”
“I need answers!” Dalinar said. “I don’t trust you any longer. If you want me to listen to you, you’ll need to—”
Suddenly Dalinar finds himself somewhere else again. He finds himself in a stone field alone, which is uncommon for his visions. He is also wearing his normal Kholin blue uniform; in this vision, Dalinar is himself rather than inhabiting another person’s body.
He wants a better vantage point so he hikes for what seems like hours to a ridge. Once there he looks down and sees the ruins of a city—his home city and capital of Alethkar Kholinar. This isn’t the Kholinar of the past, but instead seems to be a vision of the future.
A voice comes to Dalinar from the side saying “I cannot fight him any longer.” He sees a dark-skinned man with white hair next to him wearing golden clothing. Dalinar asks questions, but the man continues talking as if ignoring what Dalinar has to say. The man keeps pointing towards what looks like a Highstorm, but made of darkness.
After the man says: “You’re probably wondering if this is a vision of the future,” Dalinar recognizes what this man is saying as the exact same words that had been spoken to him during his first vision many months ago. This man and the voice behind him cannot hear Dalinar’s questions and never could. Whenever he tried to speak to this person in other visions, they weren’t answering his questions, but rather speaking as if his lines were scripted. This includes when he assumed the voice told him to trust Sadeas.
The man goes on saying this is a possible future, a very real fear of what could happen if “He” wins. This would be “The True Desolation.” Now the oncoming Highstorm looks like a wall of dust. The man tries to explain these visions are supposed to help someone—in this case Dalinar—to see what is coming and to hopefully prepare. Though it seems this message was meant for anyone who could find it.
He continues saying most of what Dalinar has seen are true events as they were witnessed, but some such as them are “born out of my fears.” Then the ground shakes as everything around him turns to dust as something hits all around them. The very earth is gone except for a small plateau he and the man stand on, and Dalinar realizes these visions are like a journal that you see instead of read. The voice goes on to say this isn’t about the specific viewer of the message, but about everyone, and were left as a hope that someone will be able to fight this darkness. Someone has to unite the people and protect them. Dalinar knows this voice can’t hear him when he says that he will do so.
The man repeats the oaths of the Knights Radiant and tells Dalinar:
“The Knights Radiant must stand again.”
Dalinar says he will try. The man says they never won the battle against darkness, and the stories saying so are false. They lost and are still losing, but there is still some hope. A champion can be chosen to fight one-on-one against the evil. He alludes that “Dawnshards” could help the champion greatly.
Dalinar asks: “Who are you?” The man answers that he was God, also called the Almighty and creator of mankind. But he is dead now, killed by Odium.
Quote(s) of the Chapter:
I couldn’t pick just one so you have two powerful quotes.
“I am… I was… God. The one you call the Almighty, the creator of mankind.” The figure closed his eyes. “And now I am dead. Odium has killed me. I am sorry.”
Sanderson certainly knows how to drop a mic and walk away. Up until now there have been references to God being dead, but this makes it pretty clear the being known as God/Tanavast/Almighty/Honor is dead. But clearly is still carrying his message to Dalinar, so just how dead is he? The question to what delivered the message is at least answered in Words of Radiance…
The bigger question is can God be brought back to life somehow? “Shattered” seems to be the term most associated with God, so perhaps someone will be able to reform him in some fashion. Cultivation may be the key to that—or at least her knowledge.
“You can’t hear me, can you?” Dalinar asked, feeling a horror as he finally began to understand. “You never could.”
This is such a crushing blow to Dalinar. Since the visions began, he was under the assumption he was interacting with someone, but now he knows everything he’s seen and heard is merely the remnant thoughts of a dead God. However, impressive that feat is on its own, Dalinar is more than abashed for interpreting things the wrong way—especially trusting Sadeas. Dalinar has been grasping for meaning. When he first had this vision he how no clue what was going on, and so lost any nuance to God’s purpose.
Still who wouldn’t like a recorded video from their God? Even if they turn out to be dead…
Good lord that was a powerful chapter. Answering so much yet causing just as many questions to be asked. So God is dead, but not forgotten and he left a nifty video will.
“I cannot see the future completely. Cultivation, she is better at it than I. It’s as if the future is a shattering window. The further you look, the more pieces that window breaks into. The near future can be anticipated, but the distant future… I can only guess.”
Cultivation gets mentioned straight out for the first time and it sounds like she’s got some skills. But why has she not intervened in the world? There are some that believe Cultivation is also the Nightwatcher, which for now I can get behind. The Nightwatcher can clearly change people and the passing of her partner Honor could have driven Cultivation over the edge and into virtual seclusion hating to be around people who failed to save Honor thus becoming the Nightwatcher. People started to seek out this odd woman years later for the Old Magic because there were still some believers out there and the more that visited brought even more afterwards. Or maybe Cultivation saw herself as the balance between Honor and Odium and her games as the Nightwatcher are just an extension of that game.
The big news is that Dalinar learns that God is dead and also the being responsible for killing him is Odium. Up until this point Odium had only been mentioned in Kaladin’s chapters around his Highstorm incident by the face in the sky. “Odium reigns,” and Syl’s reaction of horror when Kaladin asked her if she knew that name. Now Dalinar and Kaladin both know it, but neither is forthcoming about their knowledge.
With the last chapter from Kaladin, Dalinar, and Shallan we’ve seen their positions change. All for the better even if what led them there was a very tough path. Kaladin has to learn to let go to become what he is meant to be. Shallan will need to take her honesty to a different level. Dalinar will have to learn to be the man that unites the people of Roshar in whatever fashion he can find.
Honor has tasked Dalinar to unite the people of Roshar along with protecting and leading them, but also more importantly to fight Odium and all that he represents. Now if only Dalinar could find those Dawnshards…
The end has come. Next week Carl will cover the Epilogue, thus ending The Way of Kings portion of The Stormlight Archive reread. We’ll be giving all of you a chance to ask questions of Brandon Sanderson. He won’t answer them all, and remember if Brandon thinks it will be too spoilery he’ll probably R.A.F.O. So make them count!