Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we wandered the conference chamber with Adolin, ending with Shallan’s entrance. This week, we pick up in the middle of the same sentence from Shallan’s perspective, and watch Shallan and Dalinar drop their respective bombshells.
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 38: The Silent Storm
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Elhokar’s conference chamber at the Shattered Plains
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Battar
IN WHICH Shallan relays her grievous news as she tells Dalinar and Navani the whole story, with the alteration of having set the ship on fire instead of Soulcasting it to water; she makes the case for pardoning her men, and Dalinar agrees; they turn to Adolin, and Shallan forgets all the overt advantages of the match in contemplation of his grin; Shallan is frank with Dalinar regarding her status, and Dalinar agrees to maintain the causal, for now; Shallan uses Jasnah’s notes to sort out the various people in attendance; clearly, the political alignments have shifted, and the major factions become clear; Shallan concentrates on understanding the subtext of the meeting, until she becomes the subject of it; she recalls her Lightweaving and deflects the attempts to bid on her presence by claiming an offer from Sebarial; he “confirms” it by pretending a family relationship; Dalinar declares his intention to make peace with the Parshendi, either by parley or by a final defeat; Sadeas tries to needle Dalinar, but it only works on Adolin; Dalinar reveals the message just received from the Parshendi, but points out the similarity to events six years ago; Shallan finishes her duties of telling Elhokar about Jasnah and obtaining the writ of pardon for her men, then prepares to depart with Sebarial to his warcamp.
Quote of the Week:
“Um…” Was she? Oh, right. She took the wine. “Yes?”
“Adolin Kholin,” he said. “I am sorry to hear of your hardships. We will need to speak to the king of his sister. I can spare you that task, if I might go in your place.”
“Thank you,” Shallan said. “But I would prefer to see him myself.”
“Of course,” Adolin said. “As for our… involvement. It did make a lot more sense when you were Jasnah’s ward, didn’t it?”
“Though, now that you’re here, perhaps we should go for a walk and just see how things feel.”
“I like to walk,” Shallan said. Stupid! Quick, say something witty. “Um. Your hair is nice.”
A part of her—the part trained by Tyn—groaned.
“My hair?” Adolin said, touching it.
“Yes,” Shallan said, trying to get her sluggish brain working again. “Blond hair isn’t often seen in Jah Keved.”
“Some people see it as a mark of my bloodline being impure.”
“Funny. They say the same about me because of my hair.” She smiled at him. That seemed the right move, since he smiled back. Her verbal recovery hadn’t been the deftest of her career, but she couldn’t be doing too poorly, so long as he was smiling.
Oh, you two. Stop it. You’re so cute. ::eyeroll::
Commentary: This chapter has way too much stuff in it. Where to start? I like the way this chapter begins with the exact same words (as spoken) that ended the previous chapter. I also like the way Shallan discovers that, even though she had grieved for Jasnah over the previous several weeks, she finds it painful all over again as she is required to burden someone else with her knowledge. It strikes me that this is the first time she has told anyone of her experience, barring a brief mention to Tvlakv & Co. that she had been shipwrecked. Now she has to tell it to the people most likely to be pained by it, and in public. Ouch.
Navani doesn’t take it well. When Shallan says she set the ship on fire, Navani blames her for Jasnah’s death, because it’s simply unthinkable that Jasnah could actually have been murdered. Poor Navani; it’s going to take her a while to reconcile herself to this one. I can’t help wondering how she’ll react when Jasnah shows up, alive and kicking. Probably with a welcoming slap for having put her through this torment.
It’s fascinating to see everyone we’ve come to know here on the Plains through Shallan’s eyes, as she connects Jasnah’s notes and her own expectations with the physical realities of the people in this room. Navani is an older, motherly version of Jasnah. Dalinar is intimidating; he also looks like the only one in the room who knows anything about combat, he is bruised, and his face is “a tad unfortunate.” Heh. The other highprinces are, apparently, readily identifiable from Jasnah’s descriptions, but her information on alliances is acutely outdated.
As it turns out, there are three factions in the room: the Kholin group, the Sadeas-Aladar-Ruthar group, and “the peacemakers” (Hatham, Roion, Vamah, Thanadal, and Bethab) who are maintaining some kind of neutrality between the other two. And here is the reason for the chapter title, as Shallan observes Dalinar and Sadeas having a quiet stare-down:
The two watched each other, Dalinar with a neutral expression, Sadeas with a faint smile. It seemed innocent enough until you saw their eyes. Locked on to one another, rarely blinking.
There was a storm in this room. A silent one.
So the meeting, though ostensibly about the Assassin, is mostly a political exercise, with the Kholin and Sadeas factions each trying to sway the neutral highprinces to their side. It becomes clear that much of the friction comes, not from Elhokar’s rules themselves, but from whether or not the highprinces are willing to accept his authority to set rules.
Then there’s Sebarial. He’s the Snark Faction all by himself, and I like him. I can see why he’d be annoying to the other highprinces, but I like him anyway. Or maybe because… In any case, he and Shallan are a perfect fit for the situation; her brand of repartee matches his sense of humor. “It could be worse. I could be boring as well as expensive.” Heh.
It was startling to realize that all of the Alethi assume Szeth is still working for the Parshendi. They have no reason to think otherwise, of course, but we’ve known better for so long it was a shock. That assumption makes the timing look less like a coincidence and more like a sinister plot when Dalinar reveals that, the same day as the assassination attempt, he received a message from the Parshendi asking to discuss the possibility of peace. It’s sad to realize just how true Roion’s words are, though the basis is inaccurate:
“Maybe they’re desperate,” Roion said, hunkering down in his chair. “One faction among them sues for peace while the other does whatever it can to destroy us.”
So Dalinar reveals his plan to obtain peace with the Parshendi: whether by treaty or by conquest, he’s going to finish this war. Oddly, he also reveals in so many words that Adolin is out to win everyone else’s Shards via dueling. I wonder why?
Stormwatch: Yup. Same day.
Sprenspotting: Pattern is hiding on Shallan’s dress, looking like part of the fabric, and Adolin draws angerspren when Sadeas tries to taunt Dalinar about the Tower betrayal. That’s it. Everyone else must be keeping their emotions under control.
Ars Arcanum: Lightweaving alert! Notice how Shallan, while presumably displaying a certain amount of outward Illusion, also consciously uses the image she’d drawn earlier as a focus for her speech and actions when she becomes the center of attention.
Heraldic Symbolism: Once again, there are multiple reasons for Shalash to grace this chapter. Just to name a few, we see Shallan, Lightweaving, artistry, and lies. Pick your favorite. Battar is a little trickier, but I’d hazard a guess that she is here because of Jasnah—and because ironically, while Shallan is explaining to Navani how Jasnah is inarguably dead, the Herald of Elsecallers may be a subtle clue that Jasnah is instead merely… elsewhere.
Words of Radiants: This week’s epigraph concerns the Windrunners, sort of. Actually, I have no idea what to say about it, so I’m just going to quote it, and we’ll hash it out in the comments.
Now, as the Windrunners were thus engaged, arose the event which has hitherto been referenced: namely, that discovery of some wicked thing of eminence, though whether it be some rogueries among the Radiants’ adherents or of some external origin, Avena would not suggest.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 38, page 6
“…Avena would not suggest.” Grrr. I want to know, Avena! It’s worth noting that this comes from the same page in the (in-world) book as a later epigraph, so maybe we’ll touch on it again then. In any case, this is clearly referring to “the event” that triggered the Recreance.
Shipping Wars: See QOTW. It’s a good thing they don’t continue in this vein, or I’m not sure I’d like this ship at all. So… yay? I would, however, like to point out something I’d never noted before:
Dalinar nodded slowly. “We will maintain the causal for now,” he said. “The reason I agreed to it in the first place still stands—I want Adolin to be seen as unavailable to those who would manipulate him for political gain. If you can somehow persuade me, Brightness Navani, and of course the lad himself, we can progress the causal to a full betrothal.
So it rather looks like a whole lot of people have a whole lot of different reasons for this causal. It makes me feel sorry for Adolin: he’s the hapless rope in a many-sided tug-of-war for power and influence, and most of the time he’s only faintly aware of it.
Just Sayin’: Two interesting tidbits, today.
Weren’t they enemies? She’d read that they often squabbled over lands. Well, that was obviously a broken stone, for they seemed united as they regarded Dalinar.
From context, it seems that “a broken stone” refers to something presumed to be true but which turns out to be dead wrong. I wonder what the Shin think of that saying.
Going along with last week’s mild curses, we have Sebarial asking, “Dalinar, what in Damnation’s eleventh name are you on about?” Now I want to know: why does the Almighty have ten names, but Damnation has eleven? Speculate!
There. I left out way too much, because this is a lot of chapter. Use the comments, please, because it’s all good stuff. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we return to the Davar estate for another flashback involving grim feasts and alarming confrontations.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She would like to take this opportunity to remind you all to do your reading for the Hugo voting (if you’re a WorldCon member), and encourage you all to become WorldCon members (and do the reading) if you aren’t. Team Sanderson intends to be present in force, and if you come too, please look for Wetlander at Registration. She’d love to meet you in person.