Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Alice had a large quantity of family feels. This week I have a lot of tumblr feels. Boots! Ships! Beautiful conwomen! Men on horseback! Torn bodices! Wait, no, not that. I also go on a small rant involving the International Phonetic Alphabet. Caveat lector.
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 28: Boots
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Taln
IN WHICH Shallan talks with a mouth full of rocks, when she should have a mouth full of pebbles; Tyn explains the importance of unimportance and the unimportance of importance; Shallan doesn’t get it, predictably enough; Eye color, class, and nationality are proven to be disguisable; Stuff is immaterial for a thief; Tyn muses on jobs gone by; Four riders approach on horseback, but on Roshar that isn’t ominous or metaphorical or anything; Tyn and Shallan head out to handle them; At the last minute, Shallan becomes Horneater royalty; Kaladin and Shallan lock eyes across the hills and have nothing but contempt for each other; Boots.
Quote of the Week:
“Nah, it’s more like they have pebbles in their mouths. But they talk really slow, with overemphasized sounds. Like this. ‘Oi looked over the paintings that ya gave me, and they’re roit nice. Roit nice indeed. Ain’t never had a cloth for my backside that was so pleasant.’”
This uh… this isn’t… Okay, let’s all remember that no Bavlanders were harmed in the making of this chapter, to begin with. My main problem this is that the accent implementation is pretty lazy. Consider “Roit nice.” Right (rīt) and nice (nīs) contain exactly the same vowel sound in… well, just about every dialect of English I can think of. Prove me wrong here if you can, I’m eager to learn more about global pronunciations, but variation in that vowel, in the middle of the word, in two words that both begin with voiced consonants seems unlikely at best. (I only took one semester of linguistics, so please feel free to tell me how full of crap I am.)
Commentary: Gentle friends, can I just jump straight to shipping? No? Curse you all with your insistence on facts and thoughts and tumblr-unworthy feels!
Grumble mumble con artist lessons hrumble chumble boots.
One of the many things I like about Tyn is how she personifies the mutability of class and position in a way that Vorinism falls over itself trying to deny. A lighteyes can be mistaken for a darkeyes with just a few eyedrops. A servant may be armed, but as long as they sound like a no one and move like a no one and dress like a no one their master will never know. A woman can be as dangerous as any man, but the expectation of helplessness will let her move silently and lethally through the world. It’s really too bad she’s on the wrong side of history, because I’d have liked to see her exploit the changes that are about to hit Rosharan society.
Unless I’m very wrong, the events of Words of Radiance will result in cataclysmic, sweeping change throughout the Vorin kingdoms, and we’ll start to see that happen in the next novel. Women with magic swords, darkeyed soldiers leading armies, the slave class rising up as murderous waves of death, storms coming from the wrong direction, all bets are off. And who better to take advantage of that chaos than a con woman like Tyn?
As annoying as I found the Bavlander accent training, Shallan conning Kaladin out of his boots is undeniably hilarious. She wanted boots for so long, and she and Tyn so successfully turned all of Kaladin’s defenses into perceived insults, that you have to feel sorry for both of them. Shallan will pay for her deception in full, but at least she’ll do so with less-battered feet. Also:
“I will tell all who are to listen! When arriving, I will say, ‘Kholin is stealer of boots and taker of women’s virtue!’”
Kal sputtered. “Virtue!”
“Yes,” Shallan said; then she glanced over to Tyn. “Virtue? No, wrong word. Virtue . . . No . . . Vesture. Vesture! Taker of woman’s vesture! That is word I wanted.”
Shallan, that is such a bad pun, why did you think it was a good idea for your subtle con games.
Sprenspotting: “Storms! She was good. She actually managed to produce angerspren with the remark.” WHOA. WHOA. This totally blows up everything I previously thought about the effect of spren on society! During The Way of Kings I speculated that the existence of spren who could detect anger, fear, and joy would make for a far more honest and far more aggressive society, but all that is off the table if skilled enough liars can conjure up simulated emotions that are realistic enough to fool spren. Think of the implications for theater! The star actors are the ones who can consistently conjure appropriate spren! That’s… that makes for terrible theater!
Heraldic Symbolism: So, if Shalash represents Shallan and Taln represents Kaladin, as he sometimes has, they both appear in this chapter because the soldier and the conwoman have finally met.
Shipwatch: Y’all can’t stop me now!
“Tyn laughed, tossing her head back, jet-black hair falling free around her shoulders.”
“Tyn smiled. She was so relaxed, so . . . free. Not at all what Shallan had expected after their first encounter.”
Shallan is experiencing so many things she never expected, you say?
Tyn eyed her […] “You know, kid, you get kind of mouthy when you let your mask down.”
“I like it. I prefer people who can laugh at life.”
Hmmmmmm. You can try to deny this if you really want to, but I’m telling you the femslash writes itself.
Meanwhile, she and Kaladin have exactly the same equine terrors: “Shallan found horses intimidating. The large brutish things weren’t docile like chulls. Horses were always stomping about, snorting.” Sound familiar? I admit, I don’t see KalaShallalamadingdong as a successful long-term ship, but they do have a great set up for romcom misunderstandings.
That’s it for this week! For more on what I’ve been working on all week, go check out Tor.com’s inaugural novella list. It’s good times for all.