Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! We’re so glad you could join us as, having greeted our grumpy and non-healing friend Kaladin last week, we now return to Shallan on her journey toward the Shattered Plains.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere books that become relevant. (But I don’t think there are any today.) Previous entries in the reread can be found here.
Chapter 3: Pattern
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Aboard the Wind’s Pleasure, in Longbrow’s Straits
Symbology: Shadesmar Icon, Shalash
IN WHICH we read a snatch of Jasnah’s first book; a Pattern is captured on paper, and a Cryptic enters the physical realm; Jasnah’s spren is glimpsed in a less terrifying form; Jasnah begins to explain the relationship between spren, Surgebinding, and the Radiant Orders; her atheism clouds her understanding of the truth; and Shallan is given a new focus of scholarship, as the first person in centuries to interact with a Cryptic.
Quote of the Week:
“I suspect, personally, that these groupings of spren—emotion spren versus nature spren—are where the ideas of mankind’s primeval ‘gods’ came from. Honor, who became Vorinism’s Almighty, was created by men who wanted a representation of ideal human emotions as they saw in emotion spren. Cultivation, the god worshipped in the West, is a female deity that is an embodiment of nature and nature spren. The various Voidspren, with their unseen lord—whose name changes depending on which culture we’re speaking of—evoke an enemy or antagonist. The Stormfather, of course, is a strange offshoot of this, his theoretical nature changing depending on which era of Vorinism is doing the talking…”
We of the Cosmere-savvy readership can chuckle over Jasnah’s lack of understanding. If she knew what we know, or even what Hoid knows, she’d understand that Honor and Cultivation are real entities, and were once real people who held Shards of Adonalsium. To be fair, she later acknowledges the “slight possibility” that the Stormfather and the Almighty might be powerful spren like the Nightwatcher. As a self-proclaimed atheist, however, Jasnah considers anything that can’t be explained by science to be superstition or fabrication. She holds an underlying presumption that she understands the natural world, and that anything “supernatural”—anything that isn’t part of her definition of the natural world—is therefore not real. The problem is that her definitions of science, reality and nature are too small. Funny; I know some people like that, too.
Stormwatch: No storms today, but for what it’s worth, this is two days after Chapter 1; during the intervening day, they made port in Amydlatn to prepare for the last leg of the voyage.
Commentary: Right off the bat in this chapter, we see something that may have influenced Jasnah’s atheistic tendencies: the historical tampering done by the Vorin church in their attempts to control “truth” for the sake of their own power. It would put one off the Vorin religion to figure that out, wouldn’t it? It bugs me that the question was never answered: why was Jasnah so reluctant to give Shallan this book? I don’t see false modesty as part of her make-up. Did she think that in retrospect it was bad scholarship? That’s the only reason I can think of for her to be hesitant, but if that’s the case, it doesn’t seem likely that she’d carry it around with her. Whatever. It’s interesting, though, that her book may give us a hint at how the Recreance became a “betrayal of mankind” rather than mankind’s betrayal of the spren.
Once again, we get a lot more explanation of things than expected; by now, I can’t remember how much we’d known from the previous book, how much from Word of Brandon, and how much was new. In any case, we have the explanation of Surges and the way in which access overlaps to make each Surge available to two Orders and give each Order access to two Surges. Shallan now learns what we already knew (I think)—that she and Jasnah share the Surge of Soulcasting, but that their Orders are adjacent rather than the same.
I found Shallan’s discussion of spren, and what they were before they were “alive,” to be a fascinating subject, and I’m going to leave our discussion of it for the comments. Please dig into it and share your thoughts! (It starts near the bottom of page 70 in your hardcover.)
Also… this chapter is spren-heavy, so most of the commentary seems to go there today.
Sprenspotting: Taking the lesser spren first, we meet our old friends the creationspren, only this time we meet them by the hundreds. Is this because Shallan is drawing so frantically, or so well, or… is it because of the subject of her drawing? And here’s a curiosity: if the theory is correct that a Windrunner’s Plate comes somehow from the windspren to whom the honorspren seem related, would a Lightweaver’s Plate come from creationspren?
We also catch another glimpse of Ivory, which is the most ironic name for a spren who looks like a “small figure made of inky blackness—shaped like a man in a smart, fashionable suit with a long coat” who then melts away into shadow. I’m sure the naming was done on purpose; I still wonder what the purpose is! Also, I’m extremely irritated that Jasnah drops such tantalizing hints and then stops because, “He does not like me to speak of him. It makes him anxious.” Grrr. If she had said just a few more sentences, we might have learned more of the Recreance!
Back to the subject of Shallan’s drawing: PATTERN, captured at last! Clever girl, using her peripheral vision to mark exactly where he is, and then looking straight at him and capturing a Memory of him. There’s a looming question, here: is her Memory-taking ability something all her own, or is it something she gets from the bond with Pattern? Because… well, I want to know if she used his own gifts against him, or what? If she did, she got some payback right off, because he chased her around the room, scared half out of her wits.
And then she realizes that he’s sort of clueless here and bumps into things as he begins to explore the Physical Realm again. The juxtaposition between Jasnah’s description of the Cryptics as “the lighteyes of the Cognitive Realm” and Pattern wandering around like a dizzy toddler exploring a new house was hilarious. Or disconcerting, if you’re Shallan and have just been told to sideline all your other studies and concentrate on this odd little critter.
Did anyone else notice just how similar her drawing of Pattern is, with its symmetries spiraling out from the center point, to her mapping of the Shattered Plains? I hadn’t noticed it until just now.
Also, Nightwatcher is mentioned again as a powerful spren. I wonder if she’ll bond someone someday. I waffle between the theory that all Bondsmiths are linked to the Stormfather, and the theory that some of them may link to Nightwatcher. I’ll bet she could form a bond if she wanted.
Ars Arcanum: Another section that almost made QOTW was this:
“I’m not one of the Radiants,” Shallan said.
“Of course you aren’t,” Jasnah said, “and neither am I. The orders of knights were a construct, just as all society is a construct, used by men to define and explain. Not every man who wields a spear is a soldier, and not every woman who makes bread is a baker. And yet weapons, or baking, become the hallmarks of certain professions.”
“So you’re saying that what we can do…”
“Was once the definition of what initiated one into the Knights Radiant,” Jasnah said.
Sadly, this doesn’t give more than a slight hint at the origin of Surgebinding and how much was done prior to the founding of the Knights Radiant. It sounds again like it was pre-existent, but there’s no indication of whether any of the same limitations were present. Prior to the Radiants, was a Surgebinder able to access more than one Surge? Or more than two? Is the circle of overlapping tens an artificial construct, or a natural one? Or is there a difference, when you’re talking about living ideas?
Heraldic Symbolism: Again with the Shadesmar icon, which is appropriate not only as Shallan’s icon but also as she draws Pattern from the Cognitive to the Physical Realm. (Double meanings FTW!) Shalash is also appropriate as the Herald associated with Shallan’s Order-to-be, and as Shallan spends so much time in drawing.
Well, that’s all I’ve got today, my friends. Everyone grab your beverage of choice, and let’s settle down in the Storm Cellar to talk it over!
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 & mom with degrees in engineering, literature, and chemistry. Nice combination, eh?