Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Carl look at the pretty eels and flowers, and the progressive aspects of Shallan’s artistic skills. This week, we get to hang with both Kaladin and Shallan as the next highstorm approaches, and I get to snarl fruitlessly at Tyn. Again.
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 31: The Stillness Before
Point of View: Kaladin, Shallan
Setting: Bridge Four’s Barracks; the Caravan
Symbology: Pattern, Vedel, Ishar
IN WHICH an epigraph is ominous; a patrol is cheered, resentment is overcome, stew is eaten: Teft has succeeded! A strange ardent is shooed away; Kaladin unknowingly senses the highstorm’s approach; Shallan learns sleight-of-hand tricks, and is wryly commended not to use colorful metaphors whose meanings are unknown to her; firemoss makes
an appearance smoke; Tyn outlines her plans for corrupting Shallan, and again assumes that the resulting blushes are proof of an easy, sheltered life; the warcamps are sighted; Tyn grants a few trickles of information about events in the wider world; and the caravan camps for one last night, awaiting the highstorm.
Quote of the Week:
“Back when we were bridgemen.” Pitt raised a hand to his head. “Storms, that seems like a different life. I couldn’t think rightly during those times. It’s all hazy. But I remember being glad when your crew was sent out instead of mine . I remember hoping you’d fail, since you dared to walk with your chin up… I—”
“It’s all right, Pitt,” Kaladin said. “It wasn’t your fault. You can blame Sadeas.”
“I suppose.” Pitt got a distant look on his face. “He broke us right good, didn’t he, sir?”
“Turns out, though, men can be reforged. I wouldn’t have thought that.” Pitt looked over his shoulder. “I’m going to have to go do this for the other lads of Bridge Seventeen, aren’t I?”
“With Teft’s help, yes, but that’s the hope,” Kaladin said. “Do you think you can do it?”
“I’ll just have to pretend to be you, sir,” Pitt said. He smiled, then moved on, taking a bowl of stew and joining the others.
I love this interchange. Is that, maybe, a hint that Pitt has been, ah, broken, in such a way that he might have cracks where a spren could fit? That would be cool. And unexpected. (I’m still hoping for Sebarial, though.)
Commentary: This chapter has so many little things in it. Nothing really big happens—just lots of small stuff. Loose ends, light references, small set-ups… so this commentary will probably be the same. It is, after all, the bit where we’re teetering at the top of this particular plunge; Part 2 is nearly complete, and the next few chapters will be the avalanche. This chapter sets the first few stones rolling.
Let’s start with Teft. Long, long ago—back in Chapter 2—Teft was tasked with finding forty men, the best he could find, who could be trained as leaders for the twenty squads of former bridgemen. No one was optimistic about it, but it had to be done, so he did it. Here we are, six Rosharan weeks later—thirty days—and he’s done it. Because he’s just that good. Also, Teft seems to have disappeared on this particular evening; we’ll find out where he went in a couple of months. Heh.
Completely unrelated to anything else, a couple of celestial phenomena are noted: Taln’s scar, which is apparently a swath of red stars, and Reya’s Tear. Taln we know; it seems reasonable that a cluster of red stars would be named for the Herald who was most prone to death-or-glory battles. Reya, on the other hand, is a complete unknown. According to the good folk over at the 17th Shard, WoP is that Reya was an important female; WoB is that she was not Cultivation’s holder. But she shed a very famous tear, so the brightest star in the night sky is named for it. One wonders, of course, if this is simply one of the other planets in the system, and if there is some connection between Reya and that planet… but we don’t know yet. Worldbuilding FTW.
And Kaladin can sense something, mostly a feeling of the air being “too something,” which he finally attributes to the approaching highstorm. Question: Does he ever get that sense again before a highstorm, or is there something special about this one? (Which, well, there is, sorta.)
Meanwhile, Shallan is busy learning to be a con woman, of a sort: she’s trying to swap spheres without making any noise. I don’t recall that she ever uses this skill later on, though. Tyn, of course, is working on various ways to use, abuse, and corrupt Our Girl, which I no longer find so amusing as I once did.
So here’s what really rankles me about Tyn, and a zillion real-life people just like her: she assumes that anyone with actual standards must be hopelessly naïve, foolish, inexperienced, and sheltered. As such, from her angle, they are suitable targets for mockery and for either dismissal or corruption, and that it’s entirely her right to go ahead with that corruption if she happens to feel like it. As if she’s somehow doing them a favor by smearing them with her own level of filth. Gah. (Yes, I’ve had personal experience. Don’t ask. There are several very good reasons I don’t use certain words—only one of which is that it’s much more challenging to find words that express what I mean instead of relying on vulgarity for emphasis.) Anyway, Tyn says things like, “Dear, I’m going to do my very best to corrupt you,” and I want to beat her severely. Shallan already carries enough guilt for what she’s actually done; she doesn’t need a bunch of petty muck hung around her neck, dragging her down and compromising all the values she has left.
Well, Tyn will find out her error soon enough, I guess, though the realization will be… short-lived. Also: she’s a firemoss addict.
I’m trying to decide whether she was being clever or just petty with the whole “I know something about your country you don’t know” business. Perhaps both; if you can’t tell by now, I’ve decided that I thoroughly dislike Tyn this time through the book! In any case, she doles out a lot of dribs and drabs that, for all their surface consequence, turn out to be part of a much, much deeper game than she realizes. The chaos in Jah Keved isn’t just random assassination and petty bickering; it’s all been orchestrated for reasons of Cosmere-level significance—even though the one orchestrating it doesn’t understand the real level of importance.
There’s a highstorm coming tonight, and Events will follow.
Stormwatch: There’s a highstorm coming tonight… Check in with Carl next week to see if there’s another countdown scribble. Or, you know, chitchat about any other interesting things that might happen.
Sprenspotting: The only mention of spren is this one:
Some of the stars moved—starspren, nothing to be surprised by…
Somewhere or other, I saw some speculation that the “starspren” were actually satellites, but I’m not buying it. Elsewhere, they’ve been described as forming patterns between the earth and the clouds (which in that scene were blocking the stars), so I think they’re just spren. Starspren, that move around in the night sky. Maybe, like stars, they move around all the time but you can only see them at night, or maybe they only come out to play at night; in any case, I like the concept of starspren. It would be cool if they’re the counterpart to highspren as (we’ve theorized) windspren are to honorspren and creationspren to Cryptics. So say I, anyway.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?:
He did catch Rock shooing away a lanky man in an ardent’s robe.
“What was that?” Kaladin asked, catching the Horneater as he passed.
“That one,” Rock said. “Keeps loitering here with sketchbook. Wants to draw bridgemen. Ha! Because we are famous, you see.”
Kaladin frowned. Strange actions for an ardent—but, then, all ardents were strange, to an extent.
Well, I just discovered (because I had to do my research before saying it’s unconfirmed) that this has indeed been confirmed to be Nazh! So this is how he got the drawings he sent to Khriss; the next question is… why did she want them? What importance is there to the tattoos of a bunch of former slaves-cum-bridgemen-cum-soldiers?
Heraldic Symbolism: So here we have Vedel and Ishar. Hmmm. Vedel is usually associated with Healing in some way, or with clarity of vision. On a guess, I’ll peg her for the healing that’s been happening with the bridgemen. Ishar… I have no idea. Pious/guiding, Priest, sinew, Bondsmiths. Help me out here, people. I’m clueless. Maybe the-ardent-who-might-be-Nazh? That’s all I’ve got.
Just Sayin’: “Drynets.” I haven’t worked on it, because it’s not my thing, but I suspect this is one of those in-world expressions that authors put in just to drive us crazy. We all know it’s supposed to have some kind of terribly vulgar meaning—driving those who are so inclined to decide what they think that meaning is. Sanderson has a fascination with the various kinds of foul language people can use, and he actually works on coming up with profanities and obscenities that fit the culture. Which is pretty funny, considering he himself doesn’t tend to use the ones common to our culture.
(If you are unaware of the difference between profanity, obscenity and vulgarity, you should fix that. Just so you know what you’re doing when you do it, and all. They really are three distinct things.)
Well, enough of that. Join us in the comments below, then join us again next week, when Carl will see us through this highstorm to… something we’ve been expecting. Cue the ominous music.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She enjoys literature, music, science, and math; she spends her time reading, writing, doing laundry, driving children to and from school, and homeschooling. Also, she must get those Hugo nominations sorted this week! Have you done yours yet? Words of Radiance came out in 2014. Just sayin’.