Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com. Last week Alice began Book Two and Shallan tried to make herself comfortable in the company of slavers. This week we see Adolin in the dueling arena, and I’m forced to eat my words regarding his chosen life path. Everyone likes seeing me eat my words, right?
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 14: Ironstance
Point of View: Adolin
Setting: The Shattered Plains, Dueling Arena
Symbology: Duelist, Kalak
IN WHICH Adolin discourses with his unnamed Shardblade about when he won it, and the battle ahead; the duel is prepared for, mentally and physically; Adolin joins his brother and aunt in the staging room; Renarin runs Adolin through his victory checklist, confirming that chicken was consumed, a chain was pocketed, and a sword was spoken to; Adolin remains stalwartly illiterate in the face of glyphs; no one worries overmuch about the delay of Jasnah’s boat, although Adolin is eager to meet his causal betrothed; Adolin bemoans the existence of guards, Kaladin in particular; Adolin enters the arena, which is full of onlookers but empty of Sadeas; his opponent, Salinor, prepares for a traditional and artistic duel; Adolin beats him senseless in a show of undignified brutality; despite the highjudge’s shock, no one can prove he broke any rules; Adolin ignores accusations of cheating and takes Salinor’s Shardblade; Adolin gives Renarin the Blade, although he doesn’t really seem to want or like it; Navani compliments Adolin’s strategy, and promises to find him more duels.
Quote of the Week:
“Victory?” Adolin guessed.
Navani lowered it, raising an eyebrow at him.
“What?” Adolin said as his armorers entered, carrying the pieces of his Shardplate.
“It says ‘safety and glory,’” Navani said. “It wouldn’t kill you to learn some glyphs, Adolin.”
He shrugged. “Never seemed that important.”
Oh Adolin, you big illiterate lug. You don’t even know enough to tell the difference between one word and two. How did this never seem important to you, like, at all? I just… I just don’t get the idea of an intentionally illiterate person. I just don’t get it.
Commentary: It’s time to D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-DUUUUUEL! No, I’m not sorry, you can’t make me be sorry. Adolin is finally back in his natural environment, and I have to admit that I’m impressed. Those of you who read through the Way of Kings reread might remember how deeply unenthused I was by Adolin’s Calling. I found the idea of a young man committing his course of personal growth to hitting other dudes with sticks and thereby proving he was the best stick-dude-hitter deeply childish. The Adolin we see here proves that his chosen profession is deeper than I was giving him credit for. Adolin the duelist is passionate, powerful, but most surprisingly of all, calculating and tactical. He knows that Salinor is no threat to him, and he knows that he isn’t dueling for himself, so he takes a path designed to make the biggest possible impact and further his father’s goals. Even though he actually embarrassed Salinor because he was full of rage, there was probably a part of him driving forward the scheme.
Adolin is a totally different person from me. As I intimated in the Quote of the Week, it’s hard for me to grok someone who has no interest whatsoever in reading-based knowledge, even in the cultural context where reading is a thing that Men Don’t Do. Dalinar reads glyphs, as does Kaladin, and they’re established as useful tactical tools. Adolin is, to put it plainly, a jock. But he’s a smart jock. He reads opponents and situations effortlessly. I’m impressed by how Sanderson made me reverse my position.
Even though I still find his pre-duel preparations deeply silly in the abstract, they manage to make a kind of sense. He’s gotta eat chicken, which, who eats chicken for breakfast? But a duelist needs protein, and Adolin makes sure to get it. He carries his mother’s chain, and while that has no obvious tactical advantage, no one could blame him for the sentiment. Except Navani, who sometimes goes beep boop at other people’s emotional displays. Most importantly, he talks to his sword, and while this is the strangest it’s also strangely appropriate. Adolin seems to have an ill-formed sense of the big secret about Shardblades. He never named his sword, because he feels like the Radiant who first owned it must have given it a more appropriate name. He treats it not like a possession, but a partner. It’s really sad, and kind of sick, and I have to wonder how he’ll relate to his sword in the third novel.
I’m into Renarin’s brotherly support. Adolin and Renarin care about each other so much, and they’re a wonderful team. Too bad Adolin is forcing painful Shardblades on his poor ickle Radiant brother.
It sucks seeing Navani being confident of her daughter’s return. I know dramatic irony happens to all of us, but it’s times like these that make me glad I’m not a character in a novel. Novelists are jerks. Straight up jerks.
Sprenspotting: After getting the Shards beaten out of him, Salinor is surrounded by fearspren. I don’t blame him for a second.
Ars Mechanica: While we don’t learn very much technically new in this chapter, we do get a solid regrounding in the mechanics of Plate and Blade. We also see how a Shardbearer can break the bond on a Shardblade, by touching the ruby on the hilt that binds them together.
Heraldic Symbolism: Almost every Adolin chapter in The Way of Kings was also a Dalinar chapter, but now that Adolin the Duelist is a fully-fledged and mostly-independent viewpoint character, he’s earned himself a chapter symbol of his very own. It’s a little strange that the duelist depicted in this symbol isn’t in Windstance, Adolin’s preferred form, but I imagine it would be harder to fit in the little circle.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the first time we’ve seen Kalak in a chapter arch. He’s definitely not shown up in any other chapter of Words of Radiance. Kalak’s attributes are Resolute and Builder, which only kind of fit the mood of this chapter. But, then again, Kalak didn’t particularly embody those virtues when we saw him in the Prelude.
“Adolin didn’t press the issue. Navani knew Jasnah better than anyone else. But . . . he was certainly concerned for Jasnah, and felt a sudden worry that he might not get to meet the girl, Shallan, when expected. Of course, the causal betrothal wasn’t likely to work out—but a piece of him wished that it would. Letting someone else choose for him had a strange appeal, considering how loudly Danlan had cursed at him when he’d broken off that particular relationship.”
Cuuuuuuuuuute. Adolin has just about given up on the idea of finding a girl for himself, and is nervously hoping that Shallan will be a good match, even though he has no reason to suspect that. At this point, we don’t have any real reason to anticipate that they’ll mesh well, either. Shallan the bookworm seems an odd fit for Adolin the proud glyph-ignorer. BUT THEY ARE GOOD TOGETHER AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME OTHERWISE.
I will go down with this ship, I swear to the Almighty.
That’s it for this week, stormfolks! It’s a real pleasure to get back into the main section of the book. Join us next week, as Alice follows Shallan on her long journey towards
her foreverboy the Shattered Plains. Also, to apologize for the chapter arch being late, here’s the illustration of the duelist stances!