Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last
week year, after multiple plots reappeared but didn’t progress much, Carl left us hanging with word of an assassin at the palace. This week, we discover what the attempt involved and what the… er… fallout was. And there is headdesking.
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 23: Assassin
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Elhokar’s Palace
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien
IN WHICH Kaladin races to the palace, where the king is not dead; Elhokar praises Kaladin, to the detriment of every possible relationship in the room; twisted ironwork hangs from the balcony, having demonstrated Elhokar’s upper body strength and command of language decidedly below his station; Kaladin enjoys the heights, to the detriment of Moash’s composure; Kaladin and Dalinar agree that the sabotage was done with a Shardblade, involved someone on the inside, and that their knowledge of those facts need not be made known; Kaladin and Dalinar further agree that this was the work of cowards, amateurs, or someone to whom secrecy matters more than success, and that a real assassination attempt from Sadeas or the Assassin in White would be to the serious detriment of multiple lives; Elhokar rants and whines to the further detriment of Kaladin’s opinion of him, and wishes someone would look for the skeery things in the mirror.
Quote of the Week:
“I eventually want the king being guarded only by men from the bridge crews—men you trust, men who have no part in warcamp politics. Choose carefully. I don’t want to replace potential traitors with former thieves who can be easily bought.”
Kaladin. Listen up. Kaladin, are you listening to this? Kaladin, are you hearing these words? CHOOSE. CAREFULLY. A Shardbearer with a grudge who can be made a tool in someone else’s schemes does not make a noticeably better replacement than a thief who can be bought.
What could possibly go wrong?
Commentary: “The king was fine.” For some reason, that always makes me chuckle. Great way to start a chapter. “Nobody was dead. Nobody was dead.” (Heh. It reminds me irresistibly: “He’s dead, Dave. Everybody is dead. Everybody—is—dead—Dave.” …uh…sorry… Anyone need the brain bleach?) Kaladin is genuinely surprised to realize that his protectiveness has somehow extended itself to a bunch of lighteyes. He really thinks it should be reserved for those he leads, but now it seems to also include anyone for whom he has some form of responsibility. This makes me snicker.
The theme of trust runs strong in this chapter. The king needs to trust his uncle and his bodyguards. Dalinar needs to trust Kaladin. Kaladin needs to trust Dalinar. All of them need to trust one another, and the bridgemen. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely happening, even when it should.
I can actually cut Elhokar some slack here, at least more than Kaladin does; the railing of his balcony just gave way under him, and he nearly plummeted “a good hundred feet” to his death on the rocks. The fact that he managed to grab and hold on to the railing until someone could pull him in speaks well of his reflexes and his strength, and if he cursed like a caravan worker and is now snarling at everyone in earshot, it’s understandable. Annoying, but understandable. And… we get another hint at something the others consider paranoia, but really isn’t: He wants to know why no one is trying to do anything about the creatures he sees over his shoulder in the mirror. (I keep trying to figure out a way to ask Brandon about this without just getting a RAFO; I haven’t found one yet. Are they Cryptics? IIRC, Brandon said that we would recognize them if we saw them, which makes me think they are Cryptics, but he won’t actually say so. At least, not that I’ve heard.) In any case, I must admit that it would totally be enough to give a body the collywobbles; combined with the near-fall, I can’t fault him for a bit of ranting!
Kaladin, on the other hand, doesn’t trust Dalinar as much as he reasonably ought, IMO—and he trusts Moash too much. Admittedly, it would have been helpful if Dalinar had assured Kaladin of something more than “I’ll talk to Amaram about it” in the last chapter, because who even believes that Amaram would admit the truth? At the same time, Kaladin could have the smarts to look at what Dalinar has already done for him (and all the bridgemen) and give him the benefit of the doubt about the diligence of his inquiries. Sadly, his mistrust of lighteyes runs deep and strong, and he can’t let go of it and trust Dalinar to do what must be done. Worse, he can’t let go and trust Dalinar with all the information he holds—information, and ability, that would truly help Dalinar in ways neither of them can fully realize yet.
The painful bit is that Dalinar needs to be able to trust Kaladin, and he does—but he really shouldn’t. As long as Kaladin refuses to trust Dalinar, he himself is somewhat untrustworthy in his particular position. I get exasperated with Kaladin later for placing such trust in Moash, with his known grudge against the king. I should probably be more exasperated with Dalinar than I am, because he places enormous trust in Kaladin despite knowing about the Amaram incident and the resultant deep-seated anger. Maybe it’s because I’m
an old fart a mature adult like Dalinar and relate to him better than the hot-headed youth, or maybe it’s because I’m outside the story and know more than either of them. Whatever the reason, I get much more frustrated with Kaladin for his misplaced trust and mistrust than I do with Dalinar.
Last time I was writing, I searched long to find a suitable quotation for the cut text. This time, I had a tough time choosing from an eminently quotable chapter. Mostly, I suspect, this is due to the fact that Dalinar and Kaladin have a conversation heavily laden with foreshadowing and insight; there were about a dozen lines that I wanted to pull out and use to beat Kaladin severely about the head and shoulders. Lines like these:
“The storm is yet to come.”
Your job isn’t to judge. Your job is to protect these people. Somehow.
“A man needs to be able to trust his own guards.”
“I don’t know whom I can trust these days. Can I trust you, Kaladin Stormblessed?”
“We’ve been expecting assassins.”
Yes, Kaladin. ALL of those. Can Dalinar trust you? No. No, he can’t—but he will anyway.
In other news… somebody made a distinctly inept attempt to assassinate the king. They tried to make it look like an accident, but I have a hard time figuring out why anyone would believe that a Soulcast railing could be assumed to have merely come apart at a joint, or that iron cleanly cut by a Shardblade could possibly look like it just broke. So either they’re idiots, as Kaladin assumed, or they have some reason to not care if it looks suspicious, as long as they aren’t caught. (Would anyone be stupid enough to think that they were making it look like the Assassin in White was doing a sneak attack? It’s not exactly his MO, right?) If nothing else, I guess it would at least divert attention to known Shardbearers who might be involved in a sabotage, so there’s that. It gives an unknown Shardbearer a bit of advantage, or something. Maybe?
Also, we need this bit of foreshadowing, because it’s cool foreshadowing, y’all!
I wonder if I could survive that fall. . . . He’d dropped half that once before, filled with Stormlight, and had landed without trouble. He stepped back for Moash’s sake, though even before gaining his special abilities, heights had fascinated him. It felt liberating to be up so high. Just you and the air itself.
I meant to ask Brandon about this last night—is Kaladin’s enjoyment of the heights partially (or altogether) an artifact of his bond, or did he have it before Syl found him? (See note at bottom for related Q&A.) In any case, the foreshadowing is, in retrospect, almost blinding.
Sprenspotting: Would you believe there’s not a single mention of spren in this chapter, except for two brief glimpses of Syl at a distance? Has that ever happened before?
Heraldic Symbolism: Jezrien is all over this chapter. Protection and leadership. I don’t really need to say more.
Authorspotting: Okay, that’s not really a recurring unit or anything, but I did have the fun of attending the release party for Firefight at Seattle’s University Bookstore last night. I did the easiest cosplay ever: master-servant. All you need is a white shirt, black skirt (or pants), and a glove (if you’re female) and voilà! Master-servant. It was fun. Spent an hour squinched tightly with friends into a slightly-too-small-for-the-crowd space, and another three hours serving—taking pictures for people, helping Brandon keep track of book numbers as he was signing, whatever. Naturally, I got a bagful of books signed, and had the chance to ask a handful of questions. I’ll give a proper report as soon as I can at least transcribe the questions I asked and answered, but there are a couple of things I thought I’d toss in right here. Paraphrased, because I really don’t have the wherewithal to do transcription tonight:
- The first one was actually in context of a slightly larger question, but he specifically said that a Radiant’s bond gives them more than just the Surges. I used Shallan as an example, and he confirmed that her Memories are indeed an artifact of the bond, not something that is natural to her, and not something that is a result of the Surges at all. Pattern was not drawn by that ability, but was the cause of it. I’m really frustrated that I didn’t remember to ask about Kaladin’s head for heights; while making notes on this chapter, I’d specifically thought about the possible connection with earlier discussions of Shallan’s Memories.
- The other one is something that completely floored me. You know how we’ve all been expecting the next book to be called Stones Unhallowed and be Szeth’s flashback book, because we knew that’s what it would be? Well… ’tain’t necessarily so. Brandon stated last night that he’s planning to outline the remaining three flashback sequences for the first five-book arc, and see which one really fits best with the events of the book. That, among other things, will determine the title of the book—far more than whether/when Patrick Rothfuss releases his third book. BAM!
Are y’all totally wigged now? Watch the comments for a list of my personal Q&A, and when we get the whole thing transcribed (probably on 17th Shard), I’ll make sure it gets a link here.
Whew! Next week, Carl will take us back to the caravan with Shallan, Gaz, and Tyn, and we’ll see what’s shaking out there since the night of the battle with the bandits. (That sure seems like a long time ago, but I think in the book it was just last night.) Meanwhile, join us in the comments for more fun and games.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and has the privilege of being a Sanderson beta- and gamma-reader. She enjoys playing master-servant at book signings, creating themed crossword puzzles (mostly for signings), and hanging out with fantasy fans. It’s a good life. And Brandon has promised that if he gains Epic powers, he’ll kill his beta-, gamma-, and proof-readers last, so there’s that, too. Such a relief.