Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Carl spoke of cons and curry; this week, we turn to Kaladin’s Comedy Corral for your entertainment.
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 25: Monsters
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Dalinar’s Warcamp
Symbology: Spears, Chach, Jezrien
IN WHICH… HORSES!
What? It’s horses! Lots and lots of horses! And a Ryshadium for good measure!
IN WHICH… horses stalk grass, dawdle, terrify the bridgemen (except Moash), smell horsey, have equal-opportunity grooms, trick the grass into being eaten, are way too smart for Kaladin’s comfort, meander boringly, and pitch Kaladin on his backside. Also, IN WHICH the stablemaster turns out to be a woman who drops hints about male/female roles in Vorinism, delivers boring lectures, and throws rocks at Adolin; Syl teases Kaladin, who displays no sense of humor whatsoever; Kaladin connects a few dots about the assassination attempt, and tries very hard to ignore some other dots; Adolin taunts Kaladin about riding children’s training mounts; Kaladin decides he needs to ride something more suitable for war but really just more suitable for falling off; Dalinar gives orders for bridgemen to practice riding and use the horses for patrols; Adolin makes small overtures toward Kaladin; and Amaram’s presence does more damage to Kaladin’s frame of mind than a dozen horses could do to his body.
Quote of the Week:
“This is going to be like back at the lighteyed practice grounds, isn’t it?” Kaladin asked. “I’m going to end up on my back , staring at the sky, feeling like a fool.”
“Probably,” Syl said lightly. “So why are you doing this? Because of Adolin?”
“Nah,” Kaladin said. “The princeling can storm away.”
“Because I’m scared of these things.”
Syl looked at him , seeming baffled, but it made perfect sense to Kaladin. Ahead , Dreamstorm —huffing out huge breaths from her run— looked at him. She met his eyes.
“Storms!” Adolin’s voice called from behind. “Bridgeboy, don’t actually do it! Are you mad?”
Well, probably. The ability to magically heal oneself, as well as the ability to magically stick oneself to the saddle could be mitigating factors… Then again, “That only meant that instead of being tossed from horseback like a limp cloth, he got whipped back and forth like a limp cloth.” Nope. Certifiably nuts, he is. But that’s the Kaladin we know and love, right?
(In passing, I have to wonder why I find Adolin’s use of “Bridgeboy” so much more offensive than Kaladin’s “princeling” epithet. They’re both being more than a little condescending, after all.)
Commentary: Well, here’s a turn-up. A Kaladin chapter that’s actually mostly comedy. If y’all haven’t read this chapter recently, you totally should. Everyone needs a few laughs on a Thursday, amiright? (I actually felt bad getting this chapter—Carl does comedy so much better than I do.)
I remember looking at the chapter title “Monsters” on the gamma and being a little baffled as to what this would turn out to be; I didn’t remember monsters. Then I started reading, and remembered how Kaladin felt about the horses, and started laughing uncontrollably. Horse = monster is just not a standard fantasy equation, folks. Horses are a staple of fantasy, almost as much as swords are—but here, they’re set up to be so different from every other animal that the men are actually creeped out by them. They’re just not normal.
Did anyone besides me find the whole thing with the groom worthy of a big cheesy grin? “Let’s just say that anyone who wants can be a groom, all right?” The Great Book of Acceptable Male and Female Activities missed a few—such as the care and feeding of horses. (Now I wonder if Brandon is going to name one of the SA books Arts and Majesty. That’d be a hoot.) Aside from the obvious class-difference issue, there’s also a double-edged gender difference to this interchange. Jenet seems to waver between defensive and condescending, for some reason. She sounds like the standard gender restrictions are galling to her, but at the same time she forgets that a darkeyed men not only can’t read, he’s even less likely than a lighteyed man to have someone who can read to him. He doesn’t even know the source of the gender distinctions, much less the details. (I wanted to slap Kaladin for putting words in her mouth, though: “But I’m just an ignorant darkeyes?” Dude. Check the attitude, already.)
Okay, plot progression. There is some. Yes. Kaladin realizes the mistake he’s been making in trying to figure out who could have cut the railing, when it finally registers that a highstorm would have made a sabotaged railing really really obvious, so it has to have been done after the storm was over. (Took you long enough, dude!) Then he gets whacked with the information that Moash was out on the balcony during much of that critical time. I had to look it up to be sure, but at this point Kaladin is justified in dismissing any particular suspicion of Moash; up to this point, he’s observed that Moash hates lighteyes, and especially Sadeas, but there’s nothing unusual in that. Kaladin will have to figure that out later on, when he hears Moash’s backstory.
There’s just a smidge of set-up going on here, as Dalinar confirms that the bridgemen will start patrolling the lands to the west of the warcamps, and they’ll do so using horses part of the time. (Much to Jenet’s dismay.) This won’t become a big thing, but it will give Kaladin a chance to meet a certain Horneater princess.
Oh, and Kaladin finally realizes what a fool he was to turn down Zahel’s offer of training. The Kaladin we all know and love…
Actually, I guess this chapter really is about the Kaladin we know and love—doing crazy stunts just because they need to be done, whether for his own sake or someone else’s, taking the consequences, and then laughing about it when it’s all done. The Kaladin we know and want to smack is the one who shows up again at the end of the chapter, when the sight of Amaram sends him right back down into his pit of anger and bitterness.
Sprenspotting: Not too many spren show up here; just Syl as a small horse made of light, galloping past Kaladin in the air, and a bunch of painspren.
(Hey, someone who’s going to a signing—ask Brandon what painspren look like in the Cognitive realm. To humans in the Physical realm, they just look like little orange hands grabbing this way and that. I’ll bet they aren’t that comical in Shadesmar.)
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: Bridgemen and horses make for an odd combination. Between Moash wanting to “just slap it over the head with a reed, like you do a chull?” to Natam being seriously bothered because his horse was warm rather than cool like a chull, and Kaladin in the middle worrying about the possibility that his horse might suddenly decide to take off running and he’d be unable to do anything about it… yeah, horses are definitely foreign territory for these guys.
Not that we needed it, but there are more indicators that Ryshadium are really not just horses. We still don’t know enough about them, but they’re definitely something special.
But my favorite part of this chapter will always be the horses stalking the grass, and the one fooling it into coming out of its holes to be eaten. I guess if you have smartgrass, you have to have the smarthorse to match, eh?
Ars Arcanum: Kaladin’s trick of gluing himself to the saddle with Stormlight cracked me up—but not as much as Dreamstorm finally calming down, then tossing him off as soon as the Stormlight wore off.
However, did anyone beside me find it curious that the Stormlight Kaladin was holding completely healed his head, but ran out before it finished healing his arm? Had I actually thought about it, I’d have assumed it would heal everything partway, rather than completely healing the more critical injury before starting on the lesser. Huh. I wonder if this will be Significant somewhere along the line.
Heraldic Symbolism: Chach and Jezrien generally symbolize courage & obedience, leadership & protection. Additionally, Chach’s role is that of Guard, while Jezrien’s is King. Normally, I associate Chach with Adolin if he shows up at all, but in this case I think it’s more likely Kaladin who is the brave and obedient one, as well as the guard on duty. It’s a toss-up whether Jezrien represents Dalinar or Kaladin.
Shipping Wars: I have a new ship for your sailing pleasure: Kaladin and Jenet!! Not that we get to see her again in this book, but I like her—and Kaladin does too, despite the fact that she’s rather rude to him. The fact that she throws rocks at Adolin when he tries to flirt with her probably doesn’t hurt any, on either count. (Also, her outfit would make a much more comfortable cosplay than many I’ve seen.)
“I was with the guys who ran out there and found him flapping in the wind, like the Stormfather’s own ears.”
Natam, referring to the assassination attempt on Elhokar a few days ago. I… I think I’ll just let that stand on its own merits.
Well, there wasn’t a lot to talk about, but I talked about it anyway. Next week, Carl will take us with Adolin into battle and beyond. For now, join us in the comments and let’s talk about it some more!
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.