Welcome back to the Words of Radiance reread on Tor.com! Last week Alice covered Chapter 11, in which a stick maintained ontological certainty in its stickness and Shallan nevertheless didn’t die of freezing.
This week I’ll tackle Chapter 12, which contains more science, less freezing, and an essentially equal amount of terrible surprises for our heroes.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance (a.k.a. TWoK and WoR, respectively), and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.
Chapter 12: Hero
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: The Chasms, Dalinar’s Warcamp
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien
IN WHICH Kaladin, Sigzil, Rock, and Lopen perform scientific experiments to measure magic; science proves insufficient due to lack of clocks; things and people are stuck to other things and people; sparring breaks out, in which Kaladin easily triumphs over his men; one-armed Herdazian jokes intensify; Kaladin discusses the Knights Radiant with Teft; Sylphrena and Teft urge Kaladin to reveal his power; a “hero” arrives, and is welcomed as an old friend by Dalinar Kholin; the “hero” is Amaram.
Quote of the Week:
“So,” Rock said as they waited, “Stormblessed leader, you said there was something else you could do, did you not?”
“Fly!” Lopen said from down the passage.
“I can’t fly,” Kaladin said dryly.
“Walk on walls!”
“I tried that,” Kaladin said. “I nearly broke my head from the fall.”
“Ah, gancho,” Lopen said. “No flying or walking on walls? I need to impress the women. I do not think sticking rocks to walls will be enough.”
“I think anyone would find that impressive,” Sigzil said. “It defies the laws of nature.”
“You do not know many Herdazian women, do you?” Lopen asked, sighing “Really, I think we should try again on the flying. It would be the best.”
Lopen is a man with simple tastes. He wants to fly, and if he can’t fly, he wants to walk on walls.
This chapter has all of my favorite bridgemen. Sigzil, Lopen, and Rock are so much more interesting than their compatriots, because they give us the most varied understanding of the world beyond Alethkar. Rock and Lopen also have the best senses of humor, and they’re clearly starting to rub off on Sigzil.
And Moash is nowhere to be seen. Go away, Moash!
Commentary: We have reached the last chapter of Part One, and with it comes a helluva twist. No one thought that Amaram was going to stay gone forever, obviously. Anyone who brands and enslaves an epic fantasy protagonist is going to be coming back for seconds. It’s more surprising, however, that he’s best friends with Dalinar, our favorite upper-class gentleman of means. Amaram is one of Sadeas’s vassals, which makes sense because he is an evil man working for another evil man, but it turns out that his honorable exterior long ago convinced Dalinar.
Amaram’s arrival sets up the rest of Kaladin’s internal conflict throughout the book. He almost trusts Dalinar, but the fact that the highprince is close to Amaram makes it impossible to really open up to him. Amaram is a living reminder of Kaladin’s destruction, and an ongoing proof that lighteyes can’t be trusted. So Kaladin will hide his powers from Dalinar, and believe that Dalinar doesn’t share his goals, and generally bitterly argue himself out of doing anything positive for hundreds of pages. Dang it, I made myself sad.
But before all that happens, we do get to see some cool time science experiments. I already kind of mentioned this, but I appreciate Sigzil too much to contain it to one section. As he was trained, he is doing his darnedest to apply the scientific method to this magic nonsense. He’s recording results, trying to get multiple estimations of time to approximate actual timekeeping in the lack of proper instruments, and trying to minimize the importance of uncontrollable variables. While it seems pretty hopeless, since many of the variables are TOTALLY uncontrollable (cut of gemstone comes to mind), this process will eventually lead to a reliable system of measurement, even if only thousands of years from now.
Of course, that’s presuming that all life on Roshar isn’t extinguished by Odium. I use that as a premise for all my long-term hypotheticals.
Sprenspotting: Rock, with his special alaii’iku ability to spot spren, points out that when Kaladin Lashes rocks to walls that they’re being held there by little spren. I’m going to guess that these are bindspren or gravityspren, convinced to act on things in exchange for Stormlight.
Ars Arcanum: Kaladin is getting creative with his Lashings. He doesn’t know it yet, but everything he does in this chapter is a Full Lashing, binding multiple objects together with the Surge of Adhesion. He mentions his other trick, giving a shield gravitational pull so that he doesn’t get killed by an infinite number of arrows, but can’t perform it in the absence of shields and arrows. This shows that, while he knows one application, he doesn’t understand the underlying capability. That other trick uses the Surge of Gravitation, showing that Kaladin has access to both his Surges, but like Shallan, he understands one of them better than the other. I’m looking forward to discovering what powers he will uncover beyond the three kinds of Lashings.
It’s also cool that Kaladin has to force himself to think beyond the passive value of Stormlight. He instinctively feels that the extra speed, strength, and healing provided by holding Stormlight are far more useful than these fancy tricks, but he also knows that it’s just because he hasn’t practiced the fancy tricks enough. Good spirit.
Heraldic Symbolism: Amaram is such a leader, and so protective, that you just can’t help but feel that he deserves his reintroduction chapter to be graced by the image of Jezrien.
Excuse me while I projectile vomit.
This is the end of Part One! Next week we will either launch into the Interludes or do a thorough examination of the epigraphs, depending on how the winds inspire us.