Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Carl endured the storm by waxing poetic, or reading poetry, or both. Beowulf FTW! This week, we’ll watch the aftermath of the storm with Kaladin and the Kholins.
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 33: Burdens
Point of View:Kaladin, Adolin
Setting: the Pinnacle
Symbology: Spears, Nalan, Jezrien
IN WHICH Kaladin falls with the rain and survives a fall of at least a hundred feet; is awed by Szeth’s control of the powers they both have; is horrified at the loss of his hand, and the consequent loss of everything he’s ever learned to be. Szeth is surprised at Kaladin’s survival; as he considers it, Kaladin heals his own hand; Szeth is shocked and horror-stricken at the implication, and flees the scene; Kaladin returns, exhausted, to the Pinnacle; the Kholins are all alive, and uninjured except for Dalinar’s and Adolin’s wounds from the fight; Kaladin can’t bring himself to tell Dalinar why he’s alive in front of Elhokar and Adolin; Adolin is troubled by Kaladin’s behavior and lack of wounds; a new Stormwatch glyph is discovered; Beld is dead; Syl is sure Kaladin can do what Szeth does, with practice; she is also sure there is something different about Szeth’s Blade, but she doesn’t know what; Hobber is discovered alive, but with both legs soul-severed by Szeth’s Blade.
Quote of the Week:
The assassin scrambled backward, eyes as wide as if Kaladin had turned into a chasmfiend. “They told me I was a liar!” the assassin screamed. “They told me I was wrong! Szeth-son-son-Vallano… Truthless. They named me Truthless!”
There are many wonderful things I could quote from this chapter, but this one still hits me the hardest. This is the moment we discover why Szeth is the Assassin: he had, apparently, claimed that the Radiants were returning — though we don’t know the details of his original claim – was told he was a liar, and was named Truthless for his heresy. I think this is the first time I truly pitied Szeth. He’s spent the past seven years living a nightmare punishment for his “false” claim. Now he finds out that his claim was true, and those who named him Truthless were false, and all the havoc he’s wreaked was completely unjustified. His whole foundation has just been shattered.
I’m also in awe of how few words it took to answer almost all my burning questions about Truthless. Two short sentences here, and two short sentences from TWoK (“. . . His punishment declared that they didn’t. His honor demanded that they did.”) and presto – we have Answers.
Commentary: Welp. This was a scene I hadn’t expected to find so early in the book – we’re not even at the end of Part 2, and Kaladin has barely made baby steps in learning his powers! I guess it was enough, in a way, because the fact that he had any powers at all totally freaked Szeth out and sent him off to find out what in Damnation was going on.
But here we are, watching Kaladin and Szeth already, nowhere near halfway through the book – and Szeth only kills one person before he wigs out and flies away. One too many, but still – only one, and that not the one he was sent for. He was supposed to be brutal, and though they mounted a somewhat better defense than he’d expected, I have no doubt that he’d have gone back up and finished the job, had Kaladin not completely blown his mind by demonstrating an unmistakable Surgebinding.
Harking back to some of the discussion of the last couple weeks, and the changes made to the ending of the book, I have to address something here that may be significant.
A moment of surprise. A moment to live. Perhaps… Kaladin felt the Light working , the tempest within straining and pushing. He gritted his teeth and heaved somehow. The color returned to his hand, and feeling— cold pain— suddenly flooded his arm, hand, fingers. Light began to stream from his hand.
“No…” the assassin said. “No!”
In last week’s comments, I pointed out the parallel of each man having his arm sliced through with the other’s Blade in these two fights. Now I want to point out the difference, and Brandon’s statement that “dead Shardblades cannot heal the soul, while living ones can.” From the Prologue to TWoK:
Szeth danced out of range as the Shardbearer swung in anger, trying to cut at Szeth’s knees. The tempest within Szeth gave him many advantages – including the ability to quickly recover from small wounds. But it would not restore limbs killed by a Shardblade.
Kaladin was able to heal a soul-severed arm, and Szeth did not know that could be done at all – or rather, he knew (presumably from the experience of others, not his own) that it could not be done. Not with an Honorblade, anyway. I’m no longer quite sure that this was a reason for the changes, but as a parallel, it’s pretty cool.
On reflection, I wonder if there is another implication. Here’s the whole paragraph from Brandon’s blog:
The question this raises is about Szeth being stabbed by a Shardblade, then being resuscitated. I’m sad to lose this sequence, as it’s an important plot point for the series that dead Shardblades cannot heal the soul, while living ones can. I’m going to have to work this into a later book, though I think it’s something we can sacrifice here for the stronger scene of character for Kaladin and Szeth.
Might there be another parallel between the death and resuscitation of Jasnah and Szeth? Jasnah was stabbed through the heart, and should have been dead, but her living Blade was able to heal her; Szeth (in the original) was cut through the spinal column with a Blade, and was… just… dead. He was only not-dead by the intervention of a Herald with a Regrowth fabrial. Is the difference between how they died, or how they were saved?
Or, you know, I’m totally off base with all of this… *sigh*
Back to the chapter at hand. I was SO SO SO frustrated by this:
I am a Surgebinder, Kaladin thought as Dalinar looked over at him. I used Stormlight. He wanted to say the words, but they wouldn’t come out. Not in front of Elhokar and Adolin.
Storms. I’m a coward.
Yes, Kaladin. Yes, you are. Right here, in this moment, you totally are. By all the food in the Tranquiline Halls, this is the time to tell them. They’ve just seen you do something completely impossible; tell them the truth now, and they’d believe you. They’d be grateful, and awestruck, and delighted, and you would never have to hide it again. Right here, in this small group of (reasonably) trustworthy leaders, you coul make things so much simpler for everyone. But no – you’re afraid they could and would somehow take it from you, so you just pretend it was sheer dumb luck. Chicken.
Adolin, of course, gets even more suspicious (yes, Kaladin, this will create more problems between the two of you), because he was sure he saw Kaladin’s arm cut by the assassin’s blade. Pile that on top of the irritation at Kaladin’s failure to be appropriately subordinate in his behavior, and the incredibly weird fact that he stood firmly with the Kholins against a Shardbearing assassin, and you get a very frustrated and confused Adolin. And he’s now extra wary of Kaladin, even as he tries not to be as paranoid as the king.
Also: as the only Shardbearer of the three facing the assassin, Adolin got stuck to the ceiling, while Dalinar did that awesome Lastclap and Kaladin tackled the assassin out through the hole in the wall. How embarrassing is that? I’m not sure whether to laugh or sympathize.
Hobber. I haz a sad.
“Thirty-eight days,” Renarin read. “The end of all nations.”
Twenty-four days have passed since the first countdown writing was discovered. Considering the apparent lack of progress, that’s got to be a bit disturbing for Dalinar and company. I’m taking it as a given that with Renarin’s already-formed bond (his Shardblade screams at him from the get-go) and his eventual revelation as a Truthwatcher, Renarin is actually the one who has done the glyph-writing. Anyone else have thoughts on that?
Sprenspotting: Syl discovers that she knows several new things in this chapter – that Kaladin can heal himself from a Shardblade-severed arm; that he is not ready for more Words, but that with practice he could do all the things Szeth does; and that there’s something wrong with the amount of Light Szeth consumes when he uses his Blade. She approves of Beld’s willingness to die protecting, and of all the bridgemen’s choice to protect. She also seriously disapproves of Kaladin’s failure to acknowledge that it was her warning he heeded, and that he is a developing Surgebinder. (So do I.)
Most significantly, she confirms that Szeth is using Windrunner powers, but that he has no honorspren. We knew that already (I think she said it in the last chapter?) but she is absolutely positive, here. So… a spren spotted by its unspottedness, I guess.
(Incidentally, I saw a fascinating theory proposed by one of the beta readers at this stage. It’s since been proven wrong, of course, but at the time it fit. The idea was that Szeth had actually been a Windrunner, and then broke his oath, killing his spren, just as the Stormfather said, and that breaking was what made him Truthless. We didn’t know where Blades came from at the time, but it’s even better since the next step would be “and that’s where he got his Blade.” Which… would be a truly horrible punishment, to have to carry the Blade you yourself had killed, and do with it whatever was demanded by your owner, no matter how contrary to its nature. It’s not what happened, of course, but it’s a really cool theory.)
Heraldic Symbolism: Nalan and Jezrien, eh? Jezrien is pretty obvious – with all that chatter about protecting, plus both Kaladin and Szeth using the Windrunner skillset, and Kaladin healing himself with Stormlight, Jezrien pretty much had to be here. I’d have expected Vedel rather than Nalan, I think, given the healing, but Nalan it is. For Szeth and his future connection? For the false judgement of “Truthless” against him? I think I’ll go with that last one.
Just Sayin’: “By the Almighty’s tenth name.” I like this one. I’m guessing that the tenth name is the holiest, right? And the way Dalinar says it, I’m thinking it’s not the tiniest bit of profanity involved. Just… for what that’s worth.
Next week, Carl will check out the storm’s aftermath in the caravan with Shallan and Tyn, and catch up on all the latest gossip from the more civilized lands back west. Stay tuned!
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. She’s also going to be serving on staff at Sasquan/Worldcon this summer, and would dearly love to see you there.