Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan finally reached the warcamps, and we last saw her entering the conference chamber to meet Dalinar and Navani. This week, we take a little side-step to a time concurrent with those last few pages, looking through Adolin’s eyes within that chamber.
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 37: A Matter of Perspective
Point of View: Adolin
Setting: the Pinnacle’s conference chamber
Symbology: the Duelist, Nalan, Palah
IN WHICH a meeting accomplishes about what most work meetings do—which is to say, not much; Adolin has reluctantly agreed to stop wearing his Plate everywhere; worldwide news is rife with assassinations; Adolin fails to remember how he had offended yet another woman he’d once courted (and I snicker); he also fails to maneuver the current champion into a duel, and has to settle for his cousin; he is goaded almost beyond bearing by Relis and then Sadeas, but is prevented from doing something stupid by Amaram (of all people!); Amaram appears to be the perfect general, and presents his refusal to take Dalinar’s side as a step toward unity, and their differences as a matter of perspective; a gorgeous redhead is spotted, and Adolin is completely smitten.
Quote of the Week:
“I’ll have your throat in my hands, Sadeas,” Adolin hissed. “I’ll squeeze and squeeze, then I’ll sink my dagger into your gut and twist. A quick death is too good for you.
“Tsk,” Sadeas said, smiling. “Careful. It’s a full room. What if someone heard you threatening a highprince?”
The Alethi way. You could abandon an ally on the battlefield, and everyone could know it—but an offense in person, well, that just wouldn’t do. Society would frown on that. Nalan’s hand! His father was right about them all.
Adolin turned in a quick motion, reversing out of Sadeas’s grip. His next moves were by instinct, his fingers balling, stepping in preparation to plant a fist in that smiling, self-satisfied face.
Foreshadowing much? That’s not quite how it played out later, but pretty close. One hand instead of two, the eye instead of the gut, maybe just a touch too quick to the ending… But in both cases, Adolin bears injuries from a run-in with Szeth, and Sadeas (who was both times conveniently distant from said run-in) is being deliberately offensive regarding Dalinar, purposely trying to either provoke or disillusion Adolin. It’s foreshadowing so overt that no one actually recognized it as indicative until the end of the book. Sometimes the best way to be subtle is to be obvious, eh?
It’s interesting to note, though, that neither of them think of Adolin’s threat in terms of it being illegal—just that it’s not the done thing to get your own personal hands bloody. “Society would frown on that.”
Commentary: This chapter is mostly made up of Adolin’s fear and frustration. He’s understandably edgy about his complete inability to actually do anything about an assassin who can bend the laws of nature. To compound that, he’s just spent two hours listening to a bunch of highprinces and their wives yammering futilely about “doing something!” As if they could do anything, even if they managed to agree on a plan.
He has finally removed his Plate (must have been getting pretty ripe in there!) and now wears a normal uniform. Even so, the conference room and nearby strategic locations contain nearly every Alethi Shardbearer in the warcamps. These people are justifiably jumpy, so they do essentially the same thing Adolin was doing, even though the Rosharan News Network makes it clear that no one has been able to stand against The Assassin, no matter how many Shards they had at hand.
It’s rather a relief, then, to see Adolin turning his mind to something he can do: he can proceed with the plan they had in place to acquire all the Alethi Shards. Unfortunately, even the wager of five shards against two isn’t enough to tempt Relis, the current dueling champion, into a bout. Whether it’s really because “it’s all about playing the game right” or merely because he knows there’s a good chance he’d lose, you decide; either way, Relis isn’t biting. (Yet.) Elit, on the other hand, can’t resist the bait—at least in part because Adolin’s ploy with the Eranniv duel did convince some folks to underestimate him.
And… this is where this chapter makes me grind my teeth. This is where it spirals down into the sneering and goading and baiting, and I loathe that kind of thing. The more so, I suppose, because I like Adolin, and (as we were just discussing on last week’s thread) while he’s quite intelligent, he’s better at a quick comeback with a Blade than with his tongue. He’s shown his cleverness in coming up with plans and schemes to assist his father, and he’s acknowledged as a good military leader as well as a cunning duelist. But when someone gets under his skin, he just doesn’t have the snarky comeback, and (since I can relate!) it makes me mad when that’s used against him.
The Sadeas shows up. Torol Weasel Ratfink Cremling Sadeas. At the best of times, he makes me irritable. At times like this, he makes me want to climb right into the book and beat him with something large and heavy. (Adolin’s fist would do nicely.) Ironically, it’s that other misbegotten wretch Amaram who steps in and keeps Adolin from doing something he’d regret. Which… is pretty much the only thing he does here that is in any way positive. He blithers on about how he can bridge the gap between Sadeas and Dalinar by the ways in which each agrees with him, mostly proving that he’s a complete eel.
“Sadeas and I agree that the means we choose to reach an honorable goal are allowed to be distasteful. Your father and I agree on what that goal should be—a better Alethkar, a place without all of this squabbling. It is a matter of perspective…”
Yeah, but don’t talk about what purpose that “united Alethkar” should serve in the grand scheme, because guess what? The fact that you share an intermediate goal doesn’t exactly make you a trustworthy ally. Dude. I see right through you, you sleaze.
And then we can ignore Amaram, because Gorgeous Red Hair enters the room, and Adolin is Distracted from all the politics surrounding him. Yay! Big sparkly Yay! I have to note another touch of foreshadowing: Adolin’s first reaction is to see, and like, the ways Shallan is different from all the other women he knows: coloring, figure, movement, all are different, and he finds that most intriguing. This will continue and expand throughout their times together, because no matter how hard she tries, the minute Shallan relaxes, she forgets to conform. I love it.
All it takes is for Amaram to recognize that the red hair probably indicates Veden heritage; Adolin puts two and two together and shoves his way—politely—to her side. Oh, the ship, the lovely ship.
Stormwatch: Yup, it’s still that same day. Same minutes as the previous chapter, even; just a matter of perspective.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: I’m seriously tempted to mention Relis, Sadeas, and Amaram in this unit. Oh, look, I just did! Cremlings.
Ars Arcanum: There’s really nothing to talk about here, except to note the probability that Adolin is seeing a Lightwoven version of Shallan here. One with clean hair, lots of poise & confidence, that stuff. Aside from the appearance of having bathed recently, though, I suspect he’s seeing the real Shallan, physically. She mostly changed her self-perception.
Ars Mechanica: Just one question: what kind of spren is used for a fabrial clock? Inquiring minds want to know.
Heraldic Symbolism: Nalan: Judge; Just/Confident; Vapor; Exhalation. Not quite sure why any of those are relevant here, other than Adolin’s reaction to the slimy, snide, rude, and totally inappropriate comments about his father. That punch was totally called for, so say I. Palah: Scholar; Learned/Giving; Lucentia; Eyes. Something to do with Truthwatchers? Yeesh. I got nuthin’ here, folks.
Words of Radiants: This week’s epigraph concerns the Stonewards and their relationship to Taln. Apparently, the Radiants in general were either assumed or observed to have characteristics which matched their patron Heralds. I find it a little sad to read that “they thought it a point of virtue to exemplify resolve, strength, and dependability.” Sad, partly because the writer’s tone makes it sound like he/she finds it less of a virtue than the Stonewards did, and partly because despite the implied sneer, it was Taln’s “resolve, strength, and dependability” that has singlehandedly held off the next desolation for 4500 years. Four and a half millennia of resolve, strength, and dependability is not to be scoffed at, I think. On the other hand, I admit that it can be annoying to be around people who are proud of being too stubborn to admit they’re wrong. The thing is, we see “stubborn” as annoying but “tenacious” as admirable—and they’re exactly the same characteristic. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Shipping Wars: Shallan-Adolin, Shalladolin, Adollan, whatever you want to call the ship—It. Has. Launched.
Just Sayin’: “Nalan’s hand!” and “Ash’s eyes!” I don’t see, in either case, that the subject at hand is particularly relevant to the Herald mentioned, so I assume they’re just general exclamations. There’s probably one for each Herald, or something. Although I’m amused by the timing of “Ash’s eyes!” in referring to Adolin’s reaction to a proto-Radiant of Shalash’s Order. Fun little twist.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we get back into Shallan’s perspective for the remainder of the meeting.
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.