Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Alice waded through one of the filthiest sewers of one of the wickedest minds of Roshar. This week, I get to read about pretty eels! Our distribution of labor continues to be, like, INSANE fair.
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 30: Nature Blushing
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: A Sheltered Lait in the Frostlands
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Palah
IN WHICH Shallan spots color in the Frostlands; Sketches are made of nature and of Gaz; Memories are taken; Shallan ponders the many people she could be; Shallan discovers a talent for sketching speculation; Tyn gives her a fright, makes her blush, causes Carl to mutter to himself in the corner about how right he is; Shallan is accused of being naïve and unbroken, which is really only half true; Shallan successfully lies to the liar, once again; Tyn helps Shallan plan her “betrothal con”; Adolin is revealed to be a terrible flirt, causing no small amount of concern in his bride-to-be; Shallan determines to figure out a way to deal with Tyn, but not before one more sketch.
Quote of the Week:
Tyn grinned, reaching Shallan’s stone. “Always fast with a quip. I like that. I need to introduce you to some friends of mine once we reach the Shattered Plains. They’ll spoil you right quick.”
“That doesn’t sound very pleasant.”
“Nonsense,” Tyn said, hopping up onto a dry part of the next rock over. “You’d still be yourself. Your jokes would merely be dirtier.”
“Lovely,” Shallan said, blushing.
SEE? SEE? I’m TELLING you!
Commentary: Let’s talk about sketches, because the stuff going down in Shallan’s sketchbook is freaky-deeky. In this chapter we see a progression of the uses of Shallan’s artistic talent. First, she sketches the wildlife around her, in as accurate a rendering as she can. These sketches are intended to be instructive, academically useful, scientifically categorized, and so she attempts to apply no interpretive lens to them. She, of course, fails. There is no representation of life through words or image that isn’t filtered through a heavy lens, and in this case her perception is colored by her longing for her father’s estates, where the gardens were beautiful and safe. Here she has to worry about potential whitespines, and she’ll have to leave the safety of the lait for the Frostlands. That being said, this is her most “realistic” set of drawings.
Next she draws Gaz, as she’s been drawing all the deserters by request. This she intentionally embellishes:
She tidied up his uniform, smoothing out his paunch, taking liberties with his chin. Most of the difference, however, had to do with his expression. Looking up, into the distance. With the right expression, that eye patch became noble, that scarred face became wise, that uniform became a mark of pride. She filled it with some light details reminiscent of that night beside the fires, when the people of the caravan had thanked Gaz and the others for their rescue.
This better-than-life portraiture is deeply entangled with Shallan’s capacity for Lightweaving. As Pattern indicates, and she confirms, the drawing is both a lie and a truth. It’s Gaz as someone sees him, as he wants to be seen, but not as he would appear in an unaltered photograph. The thing about this sketch, and about combat-Lightweaving, is that the lie makes itself more true by being told. Gaz is more like the picture now than he was before. His paunch is probably less pronounced, even, considering that confidence leads to better posture. Later in the book we’ll see Shallan sketching idealized versions of herself for the purposes of Lightweaving, and they become central to her assumption of other personalities.
Last are the sketches Shallan makes without thinking about them. These confuse the Damnation out of me. Take a look:
She paused, noticing what she’d drawn: a rocky shore near the ocean, with distinctive cliffs rising behind. The perspective was distant; on the rocky shore, several shadowy figures helped one another out of the water. She swore one of them was Yalb.
She turned the page and drew what came to her. A sketch of a woman kneeling over a body, raising a hammer and chisel, as if to slam it down into the person’s face. The one beneath her was stiff, wooden… maybe even stone?
Okay, what the dang. I have no idea if Yalb survived the crash, but certain events later in the book make it more than an outside possibility. The other thing, though? How the cuss words is Shallan drawing Shalash on her statue-smashing spree? She’s not one of the
classes Orders of Knights Radiant that gets to see the future, is she? Has she ever seen Shalash? Maybe she’s recalling something she saw subconsciously, but which is blocked from her conscious mind, like with the Liespren, but that doesn’t explain her potential vision of Yalb.
What’s crazy is that these are the most speculative, but they might be literally prophetic/clairvoyant. I can’t deal with this, comment section, take over.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: There’s a gorgeous description of the lait in this chapter, full of all kinds of mobile plants and feral puppylobsters, but my words will be far less descriptive than Shallan’s sketches. Feast your eyebrains.
Ars Arcanum: SHALLAN ARE YOU A MAGIC DRAWMASTER FROM SPACE???
Heraldic Symbolism: Palah, who represents Learned and Giving, approves of Shallan’s scholarship and her generosity with her talents in re: Gaz. Shalash is probably here because, dude, Shalash is here, on the page, getting herself drawn somehow. Do you think she’ll come and rip up Shallan’s sketchbook?
Shipping Wars: Because my true heart ship of Shallatyn is about to strike the shoals of stabbing, let’s talk about the other shipteases in this chapter.
“Which one is it, by the way? The older one or the younger one?”
“Adolin,” Shallan said.
“Hmmm… Not sure if that’s better or worse than Renarin. Adolin Kholin is a flirt by reputation, so I can see why his father wants him married off. It will be tough to keep his attention, though.”
“Really?” Shallan asked, feeling a spike of real concern.
This section is both cute, because Shallan fretting about her potentially flighty oath-husband is adorable, and hilarious, because Shallan/Renarin was THE SHIP people obsessed about between books one and two. Even I figured that Shallan was more likely to get with Renarin than Adolin or Kaladin, because come on, books girl + glasses boy = forever times. Sanderson is laughing to split his sides at the people who pulled for that, basically sticking a RAFO card in the middle of his own book.
I love that Shallan takes all of Tyn’s advice on how to keep Adolin’s interests. It’s almost like they’re still together even after their, ahem, falling out.
Give a boy his dreams.
That’s all for this week! Next week Alice gets Kaladin AND Shallan! Bounteous harvest!