Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Alice dived deep into the mechanics of not being dead anymore. This week, we’ll watch my ship sink in a storm made of Shardblades and people being jerks.
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 34: Blossoms and Cake
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Tyn’s tent in the Shattered Plains
Symbology: Pattern, Shash, Nalan
IN WHICH Tyn and Shallan learn that Highprince Valam is dead, throwing Jah Keved into chaos; Tyn spins plans for their future together as a team of thieves; Shallan contemplates what this means for her family; bounties for Vathah and his men emerge; Tyn insists on collecting, Shallan on keeping her word; Tyn launches into another one of her speeches on how the world works, bringing up unpleasant memories for Shallan; in the midst of this, the spanreed reports that Tyn’s mission was a success, Jasnah Kholin is dead, but her red-haired ward was named Shallan; things fall apart; Tyn tries to kill Shallan, but is thwarted by Lightweaving; Shallan’s Shardblade claims another victim; the former bandits show up, see Shallan’s Shardblade; hero worship intensifies; while her followers search the tent, the spanreed sends Shallan another message; Shallan accepts an invitation to meet the Ghostbloods; Part Two ends.
Quote of the Week:
I can’t escape, a primal part of her thought. Panic surged within Shallan, bringing with it memories of days spent completely impotent. Her father’s increasingly destructive violence. A family falling apart.
Can’t run, can’t run, can’t run . . .
I’m speaking from inexperience, but it seems to me that Sanderson is trying to put into the words the feeling of being triggered or of having a PTSD moment. Shallan was primed for such an episode when Tyn dropped her wine on the rug, reminding her of the blood staining the carpet when she became a murderer. To back this reading up, consider that Shallan spends the rest of the chapter in an altered state of mind, speaking viciously to Tyn’s corpse and observing her own directions to the deserters as if from outside her body. Intense.
Commentary: Okay, so Tyn isn’t really as great as I might have made her out to be in weeks past, maybe, possibly. Turns out she’s maybe a hitwoman who kinda sorta got rid of tons of people who Shallan cared for deeply, which is what we in the shipping community call “a snag.” Sorry, y’all!
Frankly, she was getting on my nerves anyway. I know how mad Alice got about Tyn’s “Don’t worry, I’ll corrupt you” shtick (which, yes, has long struck me as puerile and useless, a way for moderately-worldly but infinitely immature people to snicker at those with different standards of dignity). What gets me about Tyn is how she insists on Shallan’s weakness and unworldliness. Shallan has been through worse than Tyn could possibly imagine, and her coping strategy is to bubble over with innocence and to try to make everyone laugh. She wants to be loved because she’s known hatred, wants people smiling because she’s seen the consequence of anger. It’s not Tyn’s place to intrude on that.
The text punishes Tyn directly. Triggering a woman with a Shardblade just isn’t smart, and by trying to put Shallan away Tyn ended up enhancing her legend with the men she’d wanted to sell out. Oh, also I guess her spine-soul gets burned out of her life-body. That’s a pretty good punishment too. Plus, like Mega Man, Shallan wastes no time in stealing her fallen foe’s power and making it her own. Tyn’s corpse isn’t even cool by the time Sallan’s taking over her network of contacts and con game style. What a champ.
Sprenspotting: Pattern is a champ this week. He distracts Tyn by mimicking Jasnah and alerts the deserters that Shallan’s in danger, saving her life. We’re also reminded that, unlike many (most?) spren, Pattern can never be fully invisible. Funny that a liespren can’t fully hide, isn’t it?
Calm, Shallan told herself. Be calm!
But for her, it didn’t have to be ten, did it?
I’m not sure, but I think this is our first hint that Shallan’s Shardblade functions totally differently from other Shardblades. She doesn’t need to wait if she doesn’t want to, and she knows it. Like many other pieces of information, Shallan is hiding this from herself. The way the Blade shows up also seems different:
Shallan growled, thrusting her hands forward. Mist twisted and writhed in her hands as a brilliantly silver Blade formed there, spearing Tyn through the chest.
Shardblades have always been described as dropping into the hands of their Shardbearers, passively. I’m pretty sure that they’d be using this iaijutsu all the time if they had the option. Shallan’s also twists together out of mists, whereas other blades appear fully-formed.
She had spheres in her sleeve. As Tyn approached, Shallan breathed in sharply. Stormlight became a raging tempest inside of her and she raised her hand, thrusting out a pulse of Light. She couldn’t form it into anything—she still didn’t know how—but it seemed for a moment to show a rippling image of Shallan, standing proudly like a woman of the court.
Shallan has a long way to go before she’s a capable Lightweaver, but it’s good to see her development. At the moment her main mode seems to be self-insert fanfiction, though.
I’ll cut you, shut up. Go away. Read some other column.
Oh Okay Then, Heraldic Symbolism: Shash is obvious, again. She’s creative and honest, representing the conflict within Shallan over how to wed these two powers. She’s also the patron Herald of Lightweavers, and Shallan is doing her best to become one of those. Nalan I don’t know so much about. He’s been associated with assassins in a number of ways? Maybe he just likes to show up when people are being dickholes. MAYBE THAT.
That’s it for this week, this chapter, and this part! Next week, Alice will handle wrap-up for Part Two, and we may finally talk about those pesky poems.