Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we saw science in action (and bade a sad and fond farewell to Carl’s rereading days). This week, Shallan begins a new stage of her journey, reaching the warcamps and taking the first steps toward establishing herself there.
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 36: A New Woman
Point of View: Shallan
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Chach
IN WHICH Shallan is a new woman; Pattern proves an adept lockpick; the caravan owner bids a dour farewell to Shallan and her men, which Shallan returns with relief; Shallan, feeling moderately skanky, ironically enters the warcamps on the backs of Voidbringers (well, proto-Voidbringers); a mental list of her tasks is daunting; she discovers that in spite of everything, she still respects Tyn’s opinions; something is wrong in the warcamps: there are too many patrols out; Shallan is determined not to be set aside or ignored anymore; sketches prove useful in this regard; she enters the Pinnacle accompanied by Vathah and Gaz; at the top she meets—oops—the captain of Dalinar’s guards, who does notbelieve that she is really Adolin’s causal-betrothed; Gaz is apprehended by the bridgeman-guards; Shallan and Kaladin both lose their tempers and behave childishly; she is finally allowed into the conference chamber. DUN!
Quote of the Week:
“Take me to the king, then,” Shallan said.
Vathah raised an eyebrow at her. The king of Alethkar was arguably the most powerful man in the world. “You aren’t going to kill him, are you?” Vathah asked softly, leaning down.
“I figure it’s one reason a woman would have . . . you know.” He didn’t meet her eyes. “Get close, summon the thing, have it through a man’s chest before anyone knows what happened.”
Stormfather. Give a woman a Shardblade, get her close […] Had anyone ever tried that? They must have, though thinking about it made her sick.
I’m a bit nonplussed by Shallan’s reaction to this. Of course, part of that might be her own experience; she has twice killed with her Shardblade, both times in self-defense and most reluctantly, so the thought of setting out with that Blade to assassinate someone would naturally be repugnant to her. Perhaps it also reflects her sheltered Vorin traditions, where killing people is men’s work. But Vathah is as Vorin as Shallan, and it certainly occurred to him. Then again, he’s more experienced and less law-abiding than she is, at this stage of life.
Also: Liss, anyone? I keep wondering if we’ll ever see her again. Or if we have, and didn’t know it.
Commentary: Well, this Shallan is certainly a new woman in some ways. She’s always had a certain practicality, but I think it’s hardened a bit here. She needs to present herself to Dalinar (and Navani, and Adolin) in a way that will enable her to proceed with her research, and that’s not going to happen wearing rags and tatters… so she appropriates the belongings of the woman she killed last night. Well, I guess Tyn no longer needs her dresses or her makeup, right? Whew. (Of course, with the Lightweaving and more practice, she probably could have gone naked and still appeared to be whatever she wanted, but I’m betting it was easier this way!)
Vathah is proving his worth this morning. (I’ve concluded that I agree with those who said that he really had a complete change of heart when Shallan killed Tyn, and that we no longer need worry about him being trouble for her.) He steps up and takes charge of general stuff-that-needs-doing, and comes to her with the stuff she’s in a better position to deal with—like the burned bones of Tyn and her crew. (Ew?) His insights as a soldier, along with an apparently cast-iron stomach, prepare her to some extent for what they find in the camps.
Which is… not exactly chaos, but not exactly confidence and orderliness, either. Two assassins were dealt with in the immediate aftermath of last night’s storms; Tyn is dead, but Szeth is still out there somewhere, and the camps are nervous. Too many soldiers around, too many patrols… and Shallan gets to meet Dalinar (and Navani, and Adolin) in the middle of a meeting with too many Highprinces.
First, of course, she’s got to get to Dalinar, which means getting past the Captain of his guard. Yep, we knew that was going to come back to bite, didn’t we now? Honestly, while I can understand that Shallan feels a certain need to get the upper hand here, and she really did need those boots, I get more than a little irritated with her in this scene. Really, girl. You wouldn’t have to go into great detail, but a brief word of apology, a brief explanation of her need, and a brief promise to replace them would go a long way here.
In any case, I can’t help thinking that Kaladin got the better of this argument, no matter what either of them thought at the time. (He certainly got the best one-liner.) But Shallan knew she had the credentials to get in; she could have been at least a little bit gracious about it.
Stormwatch: This is still the morning after the night of the highstorm when Eshonai took stormform and the Assassin tried to kill Dalinar and Kaladin frightened Szeth off with his Surgebindingness and Shallan killed Tyn and scared the living daylights out of her men by having a Shardblade. Umm… folks, a whole lot of stuff happened in one night, there. Just in case you hadn’t noticed. Chapters 31, 32, 33, 34 and Interludes 5 and 8 all happened on the same day/night, and now we’ll have Interlude 6 plus Chapters 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42 and 43 all on the same day. This day. This very busy day.
Sprenspotting: Pattern, oh Pattern… you aren’t being very forthcoming with advice here. Then again, you did well with opening the lock on that trunk, so I’ll forgive you. Also, while your communication skills need some work, your assistance with that sketching and its result (which we’ll see next week) is pretty awesome. Okay, on balance, you’re all right.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: Bye, Macob’s chulls. That is all.
Ars Arcanum: We won’t really see the effect of Shallan’s Lightweaving in this chapter, but we do see the work of it. Allow me a couple of quotations, because Brandon’s words are way better than mine:
… the crinkled sketch of Bluth as she’d imagined him. A hero instead of a slaver.
“Mmmmm . . .” Pattern said from the seat beside her.
“This picture is a lie,” Shallan said.
“And yet it isn’t. This is what he became, at the end. To a small degree.”
“So what is the lie, and what is the truth?”
Pattern hummed softly to himself, like a contented axehound before the hearth.
And then, as she works feverishly, drawing quickly in a jolting palanquin, she defines what she needs to be today.
It depicted Shallan as a confident young woman standing before Dalinar Kholin, as she imagined him. She’d put him in Shardplate as he, and those around him, studied Shallan with penetrating consternation. She stood strong, hand raised toward them as she spoke with confidence and power. No trembling here. No fear of confrontation.
This is what I would have been, Shallan thought, if I had not been raised in a household of fear. So this is what I will be today.
It wasn’t a lie. It was a different truth.
I think I have to go along with her on this. It’s not exactly the girl she’s been shaped into by her peculiar experiences, but it’s all there within her personality, and the Lightweaving draws out that potential.
Heraldic Symbolism: Shalash is pretty obvious, being Shallan’s patron Herald and all, and with the references to Illusion. Chach, on my best guess, is here in her role as Guard, for Kaladin playing Captain of the Guard as hard as ever he can. (And trying to guard Dalinar from opportunists like this fake Horneater princess…) You’ll also note (in a minute, anyway) that the epigraph for this chapter focuses on Chach’s Order of Radiants, the
“Words of Radiance” Radiants: I’m going to do something different for Part 3. Because the epigraphs for this Part are very distinct from one another, and only rarely tied directly together, it would be difficult to talk about them as a group. (As I discovered with the Listener songs, much to my chagrin. Buh.) So I’m going to deal with each one briefly as we go. Except that this week I’m going to look at two of them, because it didn’t occur to me until this week, so this will address the Chapters 35 and 36 epigraphs.
Chapter 35, the opening snippet for our glimpses into the in-world book titled “Words of Radiance,” codified a couple of things for us. One, the Nahel bond is indeed the thing that makes Radiants… Radiants. As in, it’s not (as I had once suspected) just any kind of spren bond granting Surgebinding powers, but forms the basis of the specific structure laid out for the Orders. Two, as we all take for granted now, each Order accesses two and only two Surges, overlapping one another so that each Surge can be used by two and only two Orders. The following graphic representation may or may not be useful, but IIRC it has been confirmed by WoB to be accurate.
Chapter 36 gives us a juicy little morsel about the Dustbringers: that they would beat you severely about the head and shoulders if you used that epithet instead of their preferred identification as Releasers. (In the Prelude, Kalak thought of them as “Dustbringers” and you’ll notice that his Willshapers are directly opposite them on the map. Do you suppose that there’s frequently conflict between Heralds, Orders, and spren when they’re opposites?) Another thing we learn here is that the common people found them terrible, and maybe as bad as Voidbringers. Their Surges are Division and Abrasion, which do seem like they’d have serious destructive potential, and they can make stone burn (or at least smolder) according to the Prelude.
Shipping Wars: So all you peoples on the Kaladin-Shallan ship can have fun with this scene. I shall merely point out that the trope of “they hate each other at first, and then they fall madly in love later” has been vastly overplayed in most forms of literature, and I trust Brandon will not play it. So there.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we catch up with the same meeting from Adolin’s angle, and see the real ship launched. Shallan-Adolin FTW!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Now that JordanCon is over, she would like to remind one and all that Team Sanderson intends to be present in force at Sasquan (WorldCon) this summer. Y’all should come, and look for Wetlander at the registration tables, because she’d love to meet you in person.