Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan continued to have neither shoes nor a boyfriend. This week, Kaladin continues to have neither self-esteem nor the respect of the priestly class. Have-nots, am I 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. In particular, this week will contain material that may spoil sections of Warbreaker for those who haven’t read it yet. Go read Warbreaker! It’s relevant! 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 16: Swordmaster
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Lighteyes’ Sparring Grounds
Symbology: Spears, Ishar
IN WHICH Kaladin, Moash, and Drehy discuss their disappointment in the Lighteyes’ sparring grounds; an ardent tries and fails to put Kaladin in his place; Kaladin points out that a place full of weapons and Shardblades is, in fact, a dangerous location; the King’s Blades are discussed, and Kaladin commits a gaff; Amaram’s sins are discussed; Kaladin worries about the writing during the highstorms; Syl tries to cheer up Kaladin, is met with sullen resistance; she very reasonably suggests that Kaladin talk to Dalinar about Amaram, and is shot down immediately; Adolin and Renarin arrive; Kaladin respects the chain of command, which does not include Adolin; No love is lost between the two; Sylphrena makes many cryptic noises about Shardblades; Kaladin spots Zahel and moves to engage; Zahel admits that he is likely to be chosen as Renarin’s swordmaster; Syl insists that she is godly.
Quote of the Week:
“You all seem odd to me,” Syl said lightly. “Everyone but Rock, who is a complete gentleman.”
“He thinks you’re a god. You shouldn’t encourage him.”
“Why not? I am a god.”
He turned his head, looking at her flatly as she sat on his shoulder. “Syl…”
“What? I am!” She grinned and held up her fingers, as if pinching something very small. “A little piece of one. Very, very little. You have permission to bow to me now.”
I’ve always been tickled by this exchange, which is why I included it in our Glimpses of Radiance campaign. It seems silly, but is in fact very significant for those continuing the hard work of deciphering spren mechanics. Syl’s not lying when she claims to be a little piece of a god, which gives more evidence to support the idea that spren are splinters of a broken Shard. Maybe that’s why she has A+ levels of justifiable self-esteem. Learn from her example, Kaladin!
Commentary: I will never stop being displeased by plots that rely on characters not talking to each other. Syl forces Kaladin to admit, in no uncertain terms, that he does trust Dalinar and believe that he’s a good man. He doesn’t suspect Dalinar of being another Amaram, of talking a big game but being capable of massive betrayals. And yet he still drops bitterbombs of this variety: “It’s not a big deal. Dalinar Kholin is friends with one of the worst murderers I’ve ever met. So? Dalinar is lighteyed. He’s probably friends with a lot of murderers.” While it’s true that Dalinar isn’t going to just drop Amaram on the first piece of rumor Kaladin brings him, Dalinar is a tactician and he isn’t prone to throwing away important facts about his enemies or allies just because they’re inconvenient. People in this book could have made so many better decisions. I really just wanna take Kaladin and shake him.
I like the conversation at the beginning of this chapter about Drehy and Moash’s expectations of the sparring grounds. There are some things that even great wealth have some difficulty dressing up. But, as Kaladin points out, the sparring grounds still gain value for the lighteyes by maintaining exclusivity. Even if they’re functionally similar to the darkeyes’ sparring grounds, they aren’t tainted by association. Also they have, like, baths and cultivated rockbud decorations and a host of ardent sparring partners. So there’s that.
I know that ardent is looking for any reason to pick a fight with Kaladin (after all, what’s the point of a restricted-access clergy directly patronized by the nobility if not to maintain class divisions), but her methods of attack were weak as damnation. She attacks his right to be there by his rank, which is clearly labeled on his shoulder, and when that fails she tries to insist that he’s not necessary. There are Shardblades. The literal most dangerous thing. I think she’s blindfolded by the idea that lighteyes are constrained by some kind of honor code that would prevent them from assassinating another lighteyes during sparring. But if so, why? Assassination seems like it’s on page one of the lighteyes handbook that I assume they give out on the first day of lighteyes summer camp.
Someone help me, I sound like Kaladin this week.
One thing I am very fond of in this chapter is the depiction of the former members of the Cobalt Guard. These guys respect Kaladin and Bridge Four so absolutely that they want to make them their primary allegiance, but Kaladin is wise enough to make them keep their old Cobalt Guard patches. It’s refreshing to see a few elite soldiers who are actually acting like they believe in meritocracy, in a chapter that is so much about negative class relations.
Sprenspotting: Sylphrena has been keeping an eye out for weird spren like weird lightning for a while now, but apparently they’re hard to spot. Ominous! Angerspren also make a brief appearance this week, because anger follows Kaladin around.
Ars Arcanum: Syl’s ongoing hatred of Shardblades continues to drive us closer to our inevitable realization of What They Really Are. She says that she doesn’t like anyone who carries Shards, and that the Blades are abominations now. However, when the Radiants had them they weren’t abominations. I wonder whether Plate is equally abominable to Syl, and if so, why. It’s going to be hard to find out, sadly, because Syl is bound to fall silent whenever this topic goes too far. Yeah, I’m still mad about information flow, what of it?
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?: HI ZAHEL! WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL! Zahel is a fairly prominent secondary character in Words of Radiance, but a far more significant character from Sanderson’s earlier novel Warbreaker, which is set on the shardworld Nalthis. His name in that book is Vasher, a.k.a. Kalad, a.k.a. Peacegiver the Blessed, a.k.a. Talaxin, a.k.a. Warbreaker the Peaceful. He kind of hogs titles, but you can’t really blame him considering that he’s one of the Five Scholars and one of the most powerful and clever magic users of that planet. It’s not super clear how he got to Roshar yet, or what his plan is, but his persistent use of literally colorful language and occasional reminiscences about voices in his head (coughcoughNIGHTBLOODcough) make his identity easy enough to guess.
Heraldic Symbolism: Ishar provides over this chapter, tsking at all the ardents who are failing to be either pious or guiding. You really could’ve taken a more active hand in their religious upbringing, Ishar. If I were you I would be totally disappointed.
Shipping Wars: I know that some of you must hateship KalAdolin. If so, this is a chapter for you. Don’t you just want to smush their angry faces together until they kiss?
That’s it for this week! Alice will return next week as Shallan continues her slave caravan pleasure cruise up the Frostlands.