Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week Carl finished off the first set of Interludes and the contents of Navani’s journal, with many questions which remain yet unanswered. This week, we return to Shallan as she resumes her interrupted journey to the Shattered Plains, in rather less congenial company than before; Tvlakv isn’t much of a substitute for Tozbek, and so far Bluth is a measly successor to Yalb.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, 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. Click on through to join the discussion.
Chapter 13: The Day’s Masterpiece
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: The Frostlands
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash
IN WHICH wagons roll; stupidity is explored; a slave wagon is converted to a lady’s carriage; feet are cleaned; hints of spren purposes are revealed; memories are avoided; grief is accepted; human motivations are considered and found wanting.
Quote of the Week:
“You came to me because of the Voidbringers,” Shallan said, moving closer to the trunk, bloodied rag forgotten in her hand.
“Yes. Patterns… we… us… Worry. One was sent. Me.”
“Why to me?”
“Because of lies.”
She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
He buzzed in dissatisfaction. “You. Your family.”
“You watched me with my family? That long ago?”
Again those memories. This time, not a garden seat, but a sterile white room. Her father’s lullaby. Blood on the floor.
She turned away and began cleaning her feet again.
“I know… little of humans,” Pattern said. “They break. Their minds break. You did not break. Only cracked.”
She continued her washing.
“It is the lies that save you,” Pattern said. “The lies that drew me.”
I can’t help feeling that there’s something hidden in this conversation. (Other than, “Shallan? Cracked? Nah… can’t be.”) The Cryptics, as a group, sent one representative to the Physical realm because of the imminent return of the Voidbringers. He chose Shallan because of lies—but what lies? Something to do with her family, that long ago? Before the time we’ve seen in the flashbacks, even before the time hinted at when Lady Davar discovered that Shallan was “one of them”? It has to have been at least seven years ago—about the time that Dalinar and Gavilar found the Parshendi, about the time that the death-rattles began, about the time Szeth was named Truthless, about the time Kaladin tried and failed to save a child’s life, about the time Adolin inherited his Shardplate. What was going on in Shallan’s family that drew Pattern to this young daughter of a relatively obscure family in rural Jah Keved? Seven years ago was momentous, for some reason.
Commentary: Before diving into the chapter, we should note that this begins Part Two, “Winds’ Approach,” which apparently will focus on Shallan, Kaladin, Adolin, and Sadeas. I’d hazard a guess that the title refers to the way the plot and character development are building through this section; the storm is coming, but it’s not here yet. Obviously that’s true of the Everstorm, but it’s also true of Shallan’s character growth, as well as Kaladin’s.
This is a hard chapter to discuss. Not a lot happens, and yet there are so many little things. It’s a transition; it’s the first stirrings of the approach of the wind. The next phase of the journey begins. I’m guessing—but only guessing—that the title refers to the drawing Shallan finds in the trunk.
The epigraph (which I’m sure we’ll talk about in greater extent along with the next set of Interludes) is veeeerrry interesting in light of last week’s discussion. Warform is “claimed by the gods?” Huh. Please, discuss what this means…
The chat between Shallan and Bluth nicely sets up their future relationship—what there is of it, anyway. I got rather a kick out of this initial conversation, so much that I almost made it the QOTW. “Stop insulting my stick!” indeed. That she only thought it instead of saying it shows a certain amount of growth on her part, as well as good fortune; her restraint might be the only reason she survived the events to come. Her flippant commentary on how “stupidity is a function of one’s surroundings” may have been slightly incomprehensible to Bluth, but it was also intriguing enough to draw him into actual conversation for a few sentences.
A couple of times in this chapter, we get more blatant examples of how Shallan shuts out the intrusion of unpleasant memories. This will, IIRC, develop throughout the book as she deliberately shuts her mind off whenever something triggers a memory she’s chosen to block. There are also hints right here that Pattern is not going to let her get away with it forever. (Frankly, as much as I value the literary device, there were times in this book when I wanted Pattern to turn solid and stab this girl with a few of his sharp lines when she blocked her memories…)
Speaking of Pattern—he has come a long way in a relatively short time; it’s only a short time ago that he was bumbling about like a renegade roomba, bumping into everything and spinning uselessly about in the middle of the room. Now, perhaps due to the shocks of the past few days, he seems to be regaining both his memories and his sense of purpose. He also gains serious insight into character—spren, nature, and human:
“I will not stop vibrating. The wind will not stop blowing. You will not stop drawing.”
The chapter finally leaves us with the question still hanging: why would anyone choose to murder the one person who has the single best chance of figuring out how and why the Voidbringers are returning? Shallan’s answer may be true—to control knowledge and profit from the coming apocalypse—but I think there’s still more to it. I’m not sure any of the other possibilities are better, though; while greed is a pretty lame reason to destroy the mind behind all the research, so is over-confidence (Taravangian), religious fanaticism (Sons of Honor), and general destruction of all Surgebinders (or whatever Nalan’s motive is). Don’t any of these people know anything about working together?
Stormwatch: This is the same day as the last time we saw Shallan—the day she woke up in Tvlakv’s camp.
Sprenspotting: Painspren appear several times—well, duh, considering the state of Shallan’s feet. But at least there aren’t any rotspren. The really significant note in this chapter is Pattern’s rather chilling statement at the end:
“Spren… spren of him. They come.”
Clearly, spren of Odium. Could it be that the spren of Odium were becoming more plentiful already seven years ago? I… have some thoughts, but they’re a bit hard to formalize, and they depend on a lot of speculation and assumption about spren, Unmade, the Oathpact, Taln, and Venli. Maybe the comments can shake it out.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: Shallan observes and considers the flora—and lack thereof—of the Frostlands. I’m reminded that not all of Roshar is as inhospitable as the Shattered Plains, even though their barrenness is my strongest impression of the planet. The way Shallan thinks of the limited vegetation in the Frostlands, which yet appears to be much more prolific than the Plains, implies that the bits of the world she’s seen are far more lush and verdant than what she sees here.
I mention this primarily because someone recently made mention of “failed terraforming” (or something to that effect) with regard to the advent of humans on Roshar. While the Plains certainly don’t seem a pleasant place to live or grow food, the rest of the planet seems to be quite hospitable—and there are indications that the Plains were not always as barren as they are now, having been Shattered in some cataclysmic event. Whatever happened when humans showed up, it seems to me rather a leap to assume that they a) attempted to terraform the planet and b) failed. Either or both are possible—but neither is proven by a long shot, unless someone has a better WoB than I’ve found on the subject.
Heraldic Symbolism: The character icon is Pattern, of course, since we’re totally in Shallan’s head here. Shalash presides over the chapter, with her idealized penchant for creativity, honesty, Lightweavers, and blood. (Not sure blood has anything to do with it, though there certainly is plenty to be seen here.) Perhaps she reflects Shallan’s drawing skills, or perhaps she represents the destruction of all Shallan’s past drawings—all the collected Memories of her life up to this point.
Shipping Wars: Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy? No ships here, sir. Ain’t nobody here but us chickens, and we ain’t here neither.
A-roving, a-roving, since roving’s been my ru-i-in, I’ll go no more a-roving with you…at least until I see you in the comments below. Fair winds, and following seas, y’all! And… I’ll quit with all the sailor-y bits. Not sure where they come in. Or from.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and 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?