Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Carl danced with beautiful conwomen and the intricacies of the phonetic alphabet (I think he liked the first bit better). This week, we get inside the unwholesome mind of that leading slimebucket, Sadeas. Good times up in here, y’all.
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 29: Rule of Blood
Point of View: Sadeas
Setting: The Shattered Plains, the Dueling Arena
Symbology: Double Eye of the Almighty, Talenel, Shalash
IN WHICH Sadeas enjoys the Thrill, but it fades too soon; Amaram retrieves the gemheart like a good little toady, and fails to convince Sadeas that there might be more important things than his personal squabbles; Sadeas envies Hatham his Ryshadium and wonders how he could get one; his thoughts reveal his fears and weaknesses; Adolin duels Eranniv, while Sadeas and Ialai prove their mutual suitability; Ialai reveals the details of the failed assassination attempt, and Sadeas ponders the possible means and necessity of Elhokar’s eventual untimely death; they speculate on who commissioned the attempt, and Ialai discourages Sadeas from using his position as Highprince of Information to find out; Sadeas finally recognizes Adolin’s mastery of dueling, and decides to change his position on discouraging other Shardbearers from challenging Adolin; he acknowledges, if only to himself, that he’d have tried to kill Dalinar even without the issue of the Codes as an excuse.
Quote of the Week:
“You mistake me,” Sadeas said. “You assume I still care about deniability.” The last Parshendi died with enraged screams; Sadeas felt proud of that. Others said Parshendi warriors on the field never surrendered, but he’d seen them try it once, long ago, in the first year of the war. They’d laid down their weapons. He’d slaughtered them all personally, with Shardhammer and Plate, beneath the eyes of their retreating companions watching from a nearby plateau.
Never again had any Parshendi denied him or his men their right to finish a battle the proper way.
Filthy brute. Ephemeromorph. I hope you DIE. SOON.
Oh, you will? Good. Thanks. Best move you ever made.
I have to wonder, though I’ll never know the answer: would I have felt as strongly about his refusal to accept a Parshendi surrender before we actually got to know them through the Eshonai interludes? I don’t recall feeling sympathetic to the Parshendi in TWoK; they were just “the enemy” who were enemies to mankind since forever-ish, so, no worries. Well, at least until Dalinar completely lost the Thrill upon realizing that the Parshendi at the other end of his sword was just a kid. That may have started the shift. In any case, getting to know them, and learning what they had given up to avoid being used by their gods again, vastly increased my sympathy toward them. They’re still “the enemy” in a sense, but they’re no longer just there for target practice; they’re people now. Perception is a funny thing.
Commentary: Ooo-kay. Would somebody go search the Storm Cellar for the brain bleach? I’m going to need it by the time we’re done here. Being in Sadeas’s head makes me feel slimy.
We start this chapter with a plateau run which Sadeas essentially stole from Hatham and Roion by means of his faster slave-destroying bridges. His main motivation is apparently to be seen thumbing his nose at Dalinar—and Elhokar—by whatever means comes to hand. His plan seems to involve tearing Alethkar apart completely, so that he can put it back together the way he wants it. In the only positive thing I can say about Amaram, he actually attempts to warn Sadeas that there are bigger things afoot; Sadeas, of course, is too egocentric to believe it.
Egocentric, but not stupid. He gets a few things right, such as this shot at Amaram:
“Don’t give me that noble talk. It works fine for others, but I know you for the ruthless bastard you really are.”
It’s just like looking in a mirror, innit?
Sadeas’s conversation with Ialai is revolting and fascinating at the same time. They’re both clever, in a reptilian fashion, as we get an inside look at their machinations. Their chat confirms for us that they are indeed behind the difficulty Adolin’s had in getting duels, as well as dropping some clues as to what they’ll do next to undermine Dalinar. Ialai’s spy network has learned by now that the “disturbance” two weeks ago was an assassination attempt—though almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so they tell me. Not that Sadeas would have cared if they’d succeeded; the only emotion it stirs in him seems to be a faint regret that he’s going to have to kill Elhokar himself, “out of respect for old Gavilar.” However, for all the efficacy of her spies, they’ve come up empty-handed on figuring out who was behind it. Perhaps that’s not the spies’ fault; they’re looking for political motivations from within Alethkar, not mysterious, global, secret organizations with delusions of infallibility.
But Sadeas is not stupid. (He might be less hateful if he were.)
Adolin Kholin was cleverer than Sadeas had given him credit for.
Better at dueling as well. It took skill to win a bout—but it took true mastery to win while making it look the whole time that you were behind.
On the premise that praise from your enemy is at least sincere praise, I suppose this has some value. It will also lead to some further winnings for Adolin, but that’s a whole ’nother story, so I’ll leave it for now. I’ll admit, though, it was… interesting to see this duel through Sadeas’s hostile eyes. Then he goes and spoils whatever shred of goodwill he might have garnered by deciding he can use Adolin’s skill and passion against Dalinar: Can I get him right up to the cliff’s edge, Sadeas thought, then shove him off? Keep your grubby mitts off Adolin, you rat.
So, yeah, this chapter starred my three least favorite characters of the whole series so far. Carl, how did I get so lucky?
Stormwatch: This is eight days after we saw Adolin out on the battlefield, when Jakamav—despite his slimy fake friendship—gave Adolin a helpful suggestion for getting someone else to duel him. Apparently it worked, as Adolin is in the arena with Eranniv in this chapter.
Sprenspotting: The only spren in the chapter are those found in the epigraph, which I find a bit sad-making. Eshonai was so hoping to attract creationspren to develop artform, but Venli sought and found something far, far different.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: The only non-human creature of note (besides Sadeas) is Hatham’s Ryshadium, which Sadeas envies and wishes he could have. HA HA HA Sadeas—no Ryshadium would ever choose you in a million years. I thumb my nose in your general direction. Foul bully. It’s typical, though, that even though he must know about how the Ryshadium choose their riders, he still thinks about how he could get one. He’d probably try to steal one if he had half a chance.
Heraldic Symbolism: I don’t want any Herald associated with Sadeas, but I suppose there’s got to be something. Shalash I tagged as being here to reflect Adolin’s artistry in making himself look less skilled than he really is. Perhaps Taln is here in his role as Soldier, since the chapter opens with battle? That’s all I’ve got, anyway. Or maybe Peter and Brandon are randomly associating Heralds with Adolin just to confuse me.
Okay, probably not.
Shipping Wars: Sadeas and Ialai were totally made for each other, like two weasels. Typical, that the first thing about her that intrigued him was the “tiny bit of blasphemy” inherent in her parents giving her a perfectly symmetrical name, implying perfect holiness. Of course, it’s the blasphemy that drew him, not the holiness. I’m also a highly amused that Sadeas hates his own body and the fact that it has the temerity to actually age and be unattractive now. He firmly believes that most everyone used to lust for him—or his power, which he seems to think are the same thing—and that the loss of his youthfulness is why people look at him differently now. Ugh.
He was dying, step by step. Like every man, true, but he felt that death looming. Decades away, hopefully, but it cast a long, long shadow. The only path to immortality was through conquest.
Got news for you, dude.
I’ve developed a pattern over the last few years: when a character is being unfairly abused, I tend to come to their defense and try to demonstrate how their actions, however unjustifiable in abstract, are at least reasonable from their point of view as a realistically-envisioned human being. Your challenge this week, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with some accusation against Sadeas that is so outrageous I’m forced to come to his defense. Dare ya. Double-dog-dare ya.
Next week, Carl gets to have heart-to-hearts with the conwomen again, as we return to Shallan’s caravan—and her sketchbook. Meanwhile, join us in the comments!
So, did anyone find that brain bleach?
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She enjoys literature, music, science, and math; mostly, she spends her time reading, doing laundry, driving one child to and from school, and homeschooling the other. In no particular order of precedence, of course.