Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Alice saw Shallan trying to avoid merciless bandits probably. This week, Kaladin finally spars, and gets roundly schooled by superior swordsmen.
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 18: Bruises
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Lighteyes’ Sparring Grounds
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien
IN WHICH Lopen reports to Kaladin on the promising state of the new recruits; Kaladin turns his nose up at food wrapped in bread, like he doesn’t eat grain made out of rocks; patrol routes and highstorm preparations are refined; Zahel trains Renarin by teaching him to jump off of high things; Kaladin assumes he’s above all this, earning a verbal smackdown from Zahel; a prince jumps off a high thing, then does it again head-first; Kaladin refuses training from a weapons master, gets trained anyway; despite his best efforts, Kaladin keeps getting punched and kicked; Zahel simulates an assassination, Adolin picks a fight with Kaladin, Kaladin gets thrown across the sparring grounds; Stormlight deserts Kaladin at a critical moment, and Adolin gets firmly chewed out.
Quote of the Week:
He cut off as scraping from atop the building announced Renarin Kholin charging and throwing himself off into the air, boots grinding against the stone coping of the roof. He sailed a good ten or twelve feet out over the courtyard—practiced Shardbearers could do far better—before floundering and crashing down into the sand.
Before getting into the heart of the chapter, I just wanted to point out that Brandon Sanderson snuck a Wile E. Coyote-style running-on-air bit into his serious business epic fantasy novel. Floundering is an integral step to actually falling, gentle readers, for if one does not flounder one cannot fall. Mneep mneep.
Commentary: Chapter 18 begins with Lopen reporting that the “new guys are coming along,” giving an update on the status of their training, and how they’re adapting to the most important first step of wearing clothes that make them proud and talking like people who believe they have value. That’s no accident; it underscores how much of a jerk Kaladin is to Renarin later in the chapter. Renarin is wearing armor that he doesn’t feel like he deserves, trying to learn how to move in it, trying to be the proper lighteyes that no one thought he could become. Like the men Kaladin took under his wing, he’s weak and beaten down, and he thinks he’s worthless because of the circumstances of his birth. At this point in the text, I don’t believe we’re supposed to realize how cruel and unfair Kaladin is being, because I think we’re still supposed to buy in to the fullest extent of his justified prejudice against lighteyes, but the signs are there to see how much he’s blinding himself if you care to look.
Kaladin probably thinks Renarin is a spoiled lighteyes with a Plate and Blade who’s only tolerated because of favoritism. And, you know, he’s kind of right. Dalinar wants to protect Alethkar, all of it, but he wants to protect his family and loved ones first. If this is a sin, though, it’s one Kaladin is just as guilty of. Kaladin’s whole paradigm requires finding a few people to shelter, to hang onto with all his might, and he selects those people for their weakness.
I guess what I’m saying is that Renarin is his type. It makes perfect sense that he ends up in Bridge Four.
Adolin serves Kaladin plenty of disrespect, but you know how people who mistreat Renarin look to Adolin. At this point the older Kholin boy has a mountain of reasons to look at Kaladin askance. He suspects him of some kind of hidden powers, resents his position outside the command structure, and now sees that he considers baby brother a waste of Shards. It is ON. I’m glad Zahel dressed him down, but I’m not sorry Adolin threw Kaladin across the training grounds. The little jerk had it coming.
The last thing I’ll say is that we can see Kaladin stretched thin in his plans for the patrol routes. He can’t patrol too far from the camps because he’s worried that he’ll be too distant from Dalinar, unable to protect him. Nearby patrols are going to do approximately nothing. Kaladin can’t project power outside the camp, so he can’t tame the slave trade or the bandits. Kaladin can’t find the Highstorm Numbers Bandit, so he can’t be confident in his task of protecting Dalinar. What CAN Kaladin do? Not appreciate chouta, that’s for damnation sure.
Ars Arcanum: We are first given cause to suspect that Kaladin might lose his powers in this chapter when his held Stormlight flees him. Syl tries to point him in the right direction, asking who he was trying to protect, but Kaladin can’t answer to her satisfaction. That’s not good enough, Sonny Jim. If you want to Radiant you have to do it right.
Ars Mechanica: The sparring grounds rely on ancient metal artifacts that, when placed along the edge of a Shardblade, dull them. This is useful, as it is hard to keep sparring after all your arms and legs become useless. I’m not certain this shouldn’t be in the Ars Arcanum instead, since it’s as likely to be magic as technological, but I guess that’s kind of a given in these sections.
It Takes a Lot to Make Tallew: NEW MODULE TIME, GENTLE FRIENDS! Name subject to change if or when I come up with something better that isn’t just a reference to “Too Many Cooks.” In the meantime, let’s talk chouta:
“It looked like a thick piece of flatbread wrapped around something goopy…chunks of undefinable meat slathered in some dark liquid, all wrapped in overly thick bread.”
Okay, I’m a vegetarian, so I wouldn’t personally eat chouta, but it’s the kind of food that I would be all over in vegetarian form. Chouta sounds like some kind of soupy shawarma wrap, or something, and that is a mouthwatering idea. I guess that Alethi culture is pre-sandwich, though, because Kaladin turns his nose up like a petulant child demanding a less interesting meal. No, Kaladin can’t catch a break from me this week. He’ll catch a break when he earns one.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?: Zahel is still older than he seems and still uses strange and unknown idioms. “Repeating myself makes me eat the wrong flower” sure doesn’t sound like a Rosharan saying. I’m not even convinced that Roshar has flowers.
Heraldic Symbolism: Jezrien judges you, Kaladin, and finds you wanting.
Shipping Wars: So yeah, Renarin is totally Kaladin’s type, and the passionate rivalry hatred between Kaladin and Adolin burns hot and bright. I haven’t checked, but these three would be perfect fodder for a hurt/comfort fic. Don’t judge me.
Next week, Alice will delve into Shallan’s distant past, a dark and gloomy place, a place without Kaladin or chouta or even maybe chowder.