Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week Kaladin returned to the chasms to initiate new bridgemen and find out something about his own powers. While he was exploring himself, I was experiencing London during this year’s Worldcon. That was a fantastic experience, and contained a lot of triumph for Tor.com, but it means that I only got back to the states yesterday and haven’t had a lot of time for the reread. Luckily, this week’s chapter is extremely short.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere books that become relevant. Be ye aware. This post only spoils the later parts of this book, but who knows what might appear in the comments section?
Chapter 10: Red Carpet Once White
Point of View: Li’l Shallan
Setting: The Davar Estate, Jah Keved, Six Years Ago
Symbology: Pattern, Vedel
IN WHICH the world ends; Shallan is to blame; a father wipes his blood-stained cheek and promises protection; Shallan’s eyes freeze open; a monster hears a familiar lullaby; a man bleeds, a mother does not; a strongbox glows brightly; and a door is closed on a room full of corpses.
Quote of the Week:
Now go to sleep in chasms deep, with darkness all around you…
Though rock and dread may be your bed, so sleep my baby dear.
Now comes the storm, but you’ll be warm, the wind will rock your basket…
The crystals fine will grow sublime, so sleep my baby dear.
And with a song, it won’t be long, you’ll sleep my baby dear.
This week I’ve selected Shallan’s lullaby for the quotation. The lullaby seems to be somewhat inspired by “rock-a-bye baby,” although that could just be the only nursery rhyme I know that uses wind to rock cradles. I assume such a motif is much more common on windy Roshar. Fan Alex Crandall put these lyrics to music, producing an extremely minor-keyed and chilling rendition. I can’t say eleven-year-old me would have taken much solace from this particular version, but sometimes stuff intended for kids is spooky.
Commentary: Welcome to the backstory! I hope you like trauma, sadness, abuse and murder, because that’s what we’re in for. The first backstory chapter establishes that all of Shallan’s chapters will be aftermath. Despite being eleven, Shallan is already a murderer, has already seen her mother try to kill her, has already bonded a spren and forced herself to forget about everything. She’s already editing her memories.
How different were Kaladin’s chapters, in which we got to see him be a child with some hope of fitting in and making a good life for himself. Perhaps this is why I scoff at Kaladin’s attempts to act tough around Shallan. She went through as much shit at the age of eleven as Kaladin handled for most of his life.
The chapter also starts by characterizing Shallan’s father as a loving, nurturing human being. Things go downhill just as fast for him, but it’s interesting that he’s positioned so favorably at the beginning. I suppose we can’t feel the family’s fall as acutely if we can’t see where they’re falling from. Their depths are felt more poignantly because we know that, in kinder circumstances, that family could have been happy.
We can tell that Shallan is suffering from shock. She’s trembling uncontrollably, and she can’t seem to blink. Most horribly of all, Shallan feels alienated from her own body. She first assumes that the room is shaking, and “[feels] her skin squirming.” This is practically an out-of-body experience for her.
I’m sorry Shallan. You didn’t ask to be a protagonist.
Sprenspotting: We sort of see Pattern here, shining around the cracks of the strongbox, although I didn’t fully realize that’s what was in there at the time. Shallan perceives the strongbox as glowing for the entire time that Pattern is locked in there, for reasons I don’t fully understand. She perceives Pattern as a monster throughout this time, and is sure that everyone can see her guilt, so it’s possible that she’s mentally creating the light for herself.
Ars Arcanum: It should be clear from the description that Shallan’s mother, who barely bleeds and who now has horrible eyes, has been killed by a Shardblade. Her eyes have been burned out. I knew from The Way of Kings that Shallan had a Shardblade, and it’s not possible to tell from this chapter that the Blade and Pattern are one and the same, but the backstory chapters will draw us ever closer to that realization.
Heraldic Symbolism: It is gross that Vedel presides over this chapter. Her divine attributes are Loving and Healing, and Brightlord Davar is doing his best to provide both, but you couldn’t exactly claim that it’s working. Ugh, I feel bad inside. I feel real bad now. Also gracing the chapter is our symbol for Shallan: Pattern inscribed in a double circle. We’ve never seen this symbol before, which suggests that the Shadesmar icon belongs more to Jasnah. I really like the construction of this symbol.
That’s all I have to say about this chapter, since it’s only two pages long. In exchange for your forbearance, I will be reading and answering questions that you post in the comments. Ask me about Loncon, the Stormlight Archive, or anything else you might be curious about!