Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan found her new home in the warcamps. This week, Bridge Seventeen and Kaladin begin in-depth chasm training.
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 41: Scars
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: the chasms
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien, Vedeledev
IN WHICH Kaladin finds the chasms homey; Bridge Seventeen begins chasm training; Syl challenges Kaladin to reconsider his purpose; he keeps his boots dry; Sigzil, Rock, and Lopen ask questions; Kaladin falls flat on his back; Syl is charmingly impertinent and gives Sigzil the fantods; the men discuss the cut-railing event; Kaladin performs a Basic Lashing!!!; he figures out his “purpose,” then falls off the wall—but only gets a soft clap from Rock because it didn’t include falling on his face; they return to discussing the railing, and Kaladin begins to see the truth; Renarin seeks to join Bridge Four; Kaladin knows a little too much about epilepsy for “field medicine” purposes; Moash drops a few more hints that all is not well with him; the lieutenants go out for the evening; Kaladin is far too dismissive of Sylphrena.
Quote of the Week:
Lopen and Rock whooped below in excitement. Kaladin stared outward at the blue sky. “I have to know,” he whispered.
“You ask me why I protect Dalinar. I have to know if he really is what he seems, Syl. I have to know if one of them lives up to his reputation. That will tell me—”
“Tell you?” she asked, becoming the image of a full-size young woman standing on the wall before him. She was nearly as tall as he was, her dress fading to mist. “Tell you what?”
“If honor is dead,” Kaladin whispered.
“He is,” Syl said. “But he lives on in men. And in me.”
And Kaladin goes on to promise that if Dalinar really is who he seems to be, he will get his Knights Radiant; Kaladin will reveal what he can do and trust him not to somehow take it away. Oh, Kaladin, Kaladin. It is not Dalinar who will fail you.
Commentary: This chapter covers a lot of ground—including some vertical runs—and I know I can’t do justice to it all. But I’ll give it the old college try, eh?
Kaladin’s bridgeman training project enters phase two: having trained the sergeants, it’s now time to start training the units. Into the chasms with them! Heave, HO! But it works. I can’t prove it, but IMO it works because it somehow makes them see themselves as A Unit rather than a bunch of individual grunts. Right up front, Kaladin’s thoughts tell us that while some of them were purchased as slaves specifically for the bridge crews, plenty of them had been soldiers who broke some rule or other and got sentenced to bridge duty for it. Training, then, is not so much a matter of learning basic skills, but retraining the mind to be a responsible member of a cohesive unit. I do love the way they return to camp and find one of Rock’s assistants cooking a group stew.
Of course, the real news of the chapter is that Kaladin finally, consciously, deliberately performs a Basic Lashing (and only falls three times in the process). Did you notice that he sees Shadesmar here? He doesn’t enter it, only just gets a faint look at it, but that momentary connection with the Cognitive gives him the last little zip needed to make it work. He runs up the side of the chasm. Hey, good work if you can get it!
Sadly, he spoils his own moment with his suspicion, his mistrust, and his unconscionably arrogant and dismissive attitude toward Syl. Makes me want to reach in and smack him around a little bit.
Renarin: Please be gracious when arguing whether Renarin’s desire to join Bridge Four, and Kaladin’s decision to let him, is a good thing. Personally, I think it’s great on multiple levels. What interests me more, though, is this piece:
“I will obey your commands,” Renarin said. “Treat me like a new recruit. When I’m here, I’m not a prince’s son, I’m not a lighteyes. I’m just another soldier. Please. I want to be part of it. When Adolin was young, my father made him serve in a spearman squad for two months.”
“He did?” Kaladin asked, genuinely surprised.
“Father said every officer should serve in the shoes of his men,” Renarin said. “I have Shards now. I’m going to be in war, but I’ve never felt what it’s like to really be a soldier. I think this is the closest I’ll be able to get. Please.”
Kaladin folded his arms, looking the youth over. Renarin looked anxious. Very anxious. He’d formed his hands to fists, though Kaladin could see no sign of the box Renarin often fiddled with when nervous. He’d begun breathing deeply, but had set his jaw, and kept his eyes forward.
Coming to see Kaladin, to ask this of him, terrified the young man for some reason. He’d done it anyway. Could one ask anything more of a recruit?
There’s a lot of juiciness right here, but the last part fascinates me. Why was Renarin so terrified of asking Kaladin if he could join Bridge Four? And what was the impetus that drove him to do so despite his fear? It’s these little glimpses of a sensitive soul and an amazing self-control that truly built my respect for Renarin in this book. I want so badly to know more.
For the first time in forever, Kaladin sets aside his anti-lighteyes fervor and considers this young man as an actual human being. Moash… well, Moash makes me wonder why I react so much more negatively to his prejudices than to Kaladin’s. I suppose a lot of it is simply that I’ve been in Kaladin’s head a lot, and as much as I get angry at him for his attitudes, at least I understand them. The other part is, I’ll admit, my own personal experience with this attitude: “He doesn’t act right, Kal. The way he talks, the way he looks at people. He’s strange.”
Of course, I have to admit that my attitude toward Moash is thoroughly affected by knowledge of later events, so I suppose I’m not being entirely fair to him. Too bad, I guess…
Stormwatch: I’m just going to dub this the Energizer day, okay?
Sprenspotting: Sylphrena executes all manner of activity in this chapter. My personal favorites are when she pokes Kaladin in the neck to get his attention, when she takes the form of a full size woman to confront Kaladin, and when she allows Sigzil to see her—and then makes her face look exactly like his. That’s my favorite. Heh. She also dances with a flamespren for some reason. Regarding other spren, though, there’s this:
He passed piles of bones and wood, overgrown with moss. On one pile, rotspren and lifespren spun about one another, little motes of red and green glowing around the vines that sprouted incongruously from the mass of death.
Now I really, really wonder what this would look like in the Cognitive realm. Really wonder.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered: Kurls, crabs, tortoises, chasmfiends. Kurls apparently assign the job of protecting the eggs to the male of the species, and look like a cross between a crab and a tortoise—incidentally implying they have crabs and tortoises on Roshar. Just to prove it, Rock picks up a crab for a snack.
As for the chasmfiend… well, we don’t see it in this chapter, but there is unequivocal evidence that it has been through here very recently. ::shudder:: I assume this is the same chasmfiend that Kaladin and Shallan will encounter later?
You Have to Break a Lot of Rockbuds: I renamed this category, just because. I don’t always notice food on the way by why I’m reading, but on Roshar, it seems like everything edible comes in a shell. Except chicken and bacon. Rock, of course, doesn’t bother removing the shell before he starts munching. Yum…
Heraldic Symbolism: This week’s Heralds are obvious, I think: Jezrien reflects the Windrunning Kaladin finally achieves, along with the leading and protecting functions he maintains. Vedel, as she did in TWoK, almost always graces any chapter which references Kaladin’s early training with his father—in this case, the discussion of Renarin’s epilepsy.
Words of Radiants:
This act of great villainy went beyond the impudence which had hitherto been ascribed to the orders; as the fighting was particularly intense at this time, many attributed this act to a sense of inherent betrayal; and after they withdrew, about two thousand made assault upon them, destroying much of the membership; but this was only nine of the ten, as one said they would not abandon their arms and flee, but instead entertained great subterfuge at the expense of the other nine.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 38, page 20
Buh. Here we are, doing the great villainy of Chapter 38 some more. Who was fighting whom? When? Was this scenario related to the scene Dalinar saw at Feverstone Keep? This thing is just going to keep nagging at me until it gets cleared up: What caused the Recreance, and what was the sequence of events?
This quotation also opens up that can of worms labeled “The Order That Didn’t.” Didn’t what? Not sure, exactly, but didn’t something. Speculation abounds that one Order has been maintained continuously for the last umpty-thousand years, albeit in secret. Speculation has also identified several different Orders as that One Order, all with justifications that seem logical to the proponents of the theory. Me, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.
Just Sayin’: Okay, I’m totally sayin’ somethin’—just not about that subject. Lots of little idioms in this chapter: “Heralds send…;” “like a father kurl watches over his eggs;” “what storm brought them a….” They’re fairly straightforward and relatable, in general. I got a chuckle out of the guys going out to “visit a few taverns, play some rings, get something to drink”—sounds like “rings” might be the Rosharan equivalent of darts. My totally favorite one, of course, was the Lopen:
“Gon, I haven’t been to Herdaz since I was a baby. There are as many Herdazians in Alethkar and Jah Keved these days as there are in our homeland. Flick my sparks, I’m practically an Alethi! Only not so tall and not so grouchy.”
Not sure what the relationship is, but in a few chapters there will be a Herdazian using a sparkflicker. What is it with Herdazians and flicking sparks?
Also, spark is one of those words—it ceases to sound like a real word when you use it too many times in a row. Just sayin’.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Shallan begins her infiltration projects. File under “things that will definitely go well.”
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She would like to take this opportunity to remind all WorldCon members to do your reading and voting for the Hugo awards; for the rest of you, she’d like to encourage you all to become WorldCon members and then do the reading and voting. 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.