Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan held her own with the Ghostbloods, after a fashion and with plenty of Lightweaving. This week, we return to Kaladin, as he and some of his men begin Shardblade training. It’s the next day!
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 44: One Form of Justice
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Dalinar’s warcamp, lighteyes training ground
Symbology: Spears, Chach, Nalan
IN WHICH Kaladin feels out of place; Zahel uses colorful metaphors and stones; Renarin eats lunch; Shardblade training begins for Bridge Four; Adolin gives his implicit approval; Shallan shows up on the training ground; Kaladin and Adolin get into a verbal sparring match, resulting in a draw; Shallan offhandedly bests them both and wanders off to sketch; Adolin has his arrogance handed to him on a platter, and seems to enjoy it; Kaladin is baffled. Moash reveals his bitter backstory; he reluctantly agrees to back off his involvement with the assassins if Kaladin will agree to meet with them once; Kaladin attempts to return to practice, but mostly stews about unfathomable questions of life, society and theology; he learns what a lastclap is and why not to practice it.
Quote of the Week
“What is she doing here?” Kaladin asked.
“Come to watch me while I spar, presumably,” Adolin said. “I usually have to kick them out.”
“You know. Girls who want to gawk at me while I fight. I wouldn’t mind, but if we allowed it, they’d clog the entire grounds every time I came. Nobody would be able to get any sparring done.”
Kaladin raised an eyebrow at him.
Adolin reached Shallan, who—humming to herself—passed him right by without looking. Adolin raised a hand, mouth opened to speak, as he turned and watched her walk farther across the courtyard. Her eyes were on Nall, head ardent of the practice grounds. Shallan bowed to her in reverence.
Adolin scowled, turning to jog after Shallan, passing Kaladin, who smirked at him.
“Come to watch you, I see,” Kaladin said. “Completely fascinated by you, obviously.”
“Shut up,” Adolin growled.
::gigglesnort:: I know, it’s not the most profound or significant part of the chapter, but it’s my favorite. I laugh out loud every time I read this. Including, of course, the bit I left out, where Adolin catches himself explaining to Kaladin why he let himself get betrothed to someone he’d never met. The development of Adolin’s character throughout this book is delightful, as he becomes more dimensional to the reader.
Lots of interesting little tidbits in this chapter, so of course I won’t be able to cover them all. Still, we’ll give it a go, as will Kaladin & company.
One: a demonstration of just how much difference being an ardent makes in Vorin gender expectations. Zahel turns Kaladin and his men over to another ardent, Ivis, to go through sword forms and sparring moves—and Ivis is a woman. She keeps her hand gloved, but beyond that she simply wears the standard ardent’s flowing clothing and shaved head, and she’s apparently quite well versed in sword-fighting, up to and including Shardblade-fighting. Kaladin thinks it’s odd to see a woman holding a sword, but no one else seems to notice or care—she’s an ardent, and this is her task, so it’s all cool.
Once he gets over thinking about a woman with a sword, Kaladin finally manages to learn something. He may not like swords, but he does realize that practicing with them and learning the stances will still help when he has to fight someone who is using a sword, no matter what weapon he himself is carrying. Seems obvious, but maybe it isn’t… or Kaladin needs to practice getting over himself so he can learn other things, too!
And then Shallan shows up. Heh.
Weirdly enough, Kaladin (at this point) can see Ivis as a female ardent, but Shallan is just a lighteyes. Period. Well, I guess he can practice getting over that, too, eventually. He really has a blind spot with Shallan, though; it doesn’t even occur to him, until Teft points it out, that Shallan is perfectly positioned to be a most effective assassin. (Little do they know just how perfectly!)
Another tidbit: Moash’s grandparents were of the second nahn, which is coincidentally the same as Lirin and Kaladin. I’m not sure if this means that Moash himself was also second nahn, though, since he wasn’t actually apprenticed to them, and I think Kaladin only had the “second nahn” ranking because he was the surgeon’s apprentice. Tien was third nahn; I’m guessing Moash was also third, as (IIRC) that’s a stable rank.
Well, the rest of the good stuff fits conveniently into the other units, so let’s jump on into those.
It’s the next day, finally! A whole new day!
Ah, the much-debated gloryspren, which fades into existence near Moash’s head when he first picks up the Shardblade. In this case, it seems drawn to his feelings of elation at actually doing something he had dreamed of, and never imagined he’d ever, ever be allowed to do. Given the occasions on which we’ve seen them, I’m now convinced the term “gloryspren” is a good choice. You just have to take into account the multiple definitions of “glory.”
Sylphrena. I’m not quite sure what I need to say about her, except that once again, she and Kaladin are talking at cross-purposes and not making much progress. She doesn’t ask Kaladin not to pick up the Blade, but she does thank him for not doing so. She agrees (I think!) with the men who are giving Kaladin a hard time about taking himself and his job too seriously, but then she’s distracted at the wrong time. I get chills over this:
Kaladin sighed, turning to grab his sword, and came face-to-face with Syl hovering behind him. Her tiny eyes had gone wide, hands as fists to her sides.
“What did you just do?” she demanded. “I only heard the last part.”
“Moash was involved,” Kaladin whispered. “I need to follow this through, Syl. If someone is trying to kill the king, it’s my job to investigate them.”
“Oh.” She frowned. “I felt something. Something else.” She shook her head. “Kaladin, this is dangerous. We should go to Dalinar.”
The emphasis there is mine, because that’s curious. What did she feel? Kaladin agreeing to meet with Moash’s associates? His impulse to tell Dalinar about Moash? His feeling of defeat when he had to decide which course was right, and decided that Bridge-hood loyalty was more important than telling his superior officer the truth?
The worst part comes next, when he gets wound around the axle on the conflicts between social expectations and pseudo-theological contradictions, cycling around to the central conflict of his own life—whether it’s possible to kill in order to protect, or whether it’s possible to protect without killing, and what is the Right thing to do. The more he thrashes around in this mess, the more miserable he makes both himself and Syl. He excels at creating false dichotomies, and also at refusing to listen to Syl when she says things he doesn’t want to hear.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Well, hello there, Zahel of the colorful metaphors and colorful stones, reflecting that world where everything is about color. (I still can’t quite believe I didn’t catch this on my first read; in hindsight it’s totally obvious. I was expecting to find Heralds hiding in plain sight, so I just wrote off all his quirks as features of ancient history… not features of another history altogether. I still want him to turn out to be Ishar, though. Please?)
Something I’d like to research in Warbreaker is his attitude regarding social/class issues. Here, he’s mostly disgusted that Vorin society has built-in restrictions on who can learn sword-fighting based on their birth. Unlike Vorin tradition, Zahel considers a sword, however valuable, to be just a tool. Did he always feel that way? Clearly I need a reread… but we’ll finish Words of Radiance first, eh?
Chach, as the Guard, makes perfect sense for this chapter’s general content, which focuses on the preparation of Kaladin and his men to best guard Dalinar and his family. Nalan, as the Judge, makes sense for the conversations between Moash and Kaladin and between Kaladin and Syl, and reflects the chapter title as well. What’s most interesting to me is the conflict between the two; Moash’s attitude toward Elhokar is set as a blatant parallel to Kaladin’s attitude toward Amaram, and Kaladin claims that killing Amaram would be “one form of justice.” By that reasoning, though, Moash killing Elhokar would also be “one form of justice”—but in direct opposition to their duty to protect and guard him. Moash brushes it off, claiming that their job is only to keep Dalinar alive, but Kaladin knows perfectly well that their job is to protect Dalinar, and Elhokar, and Adolin, and Renarin, and Navani… and so the Heralds clash.
Words of Radiants
But as for the Bondsmiths, they had members only three, which number was not uncommon for them; nor did they seek to increase this by great bounds, for during the times of Madasa, only one of their order was in continual accompaniment of Urithiru and its thrones. Their spren was understood to be specific, and to persuade them to grow to the magnitude of the other orders was seen as seditious.
–From Words of Radiance, chapter 16, page 14
This one sparks as many questions as it solves. Typical. We now know that there were traditionally very few Bondsmiths, and that apparently at least one Bondsmith was generally in Urithiru during the old days. It leaves us wondering, though, whether all the Bondsmiths were bonded to the Stormfather, or whether each individual was bonded to a different superspren. I subscribe to the theory that all of them were bonded to the Stormfather—in part because of the singular form: “Their spren was understood to be specific…” Your mileage may vary.
Also, who—or what—was Madasa? I personally think it would be cool if that was their name for the time of relative peace between Desolations, though I see the Coppermind gurus assume Madasa to be a person. We have no further information—which is okay, I guess, because it probably doesn’t matter any more than a straw in a stormwind.
Adolin and Shallan FTW! I love the way she throws him for a loop—doing what he expects, but then, well, not what he expects—and he loves it. I’ve always enjoyed the way she simply can’t behave like a proper Vorin lady, and that very difference is what repeatedly takes him off guard and makes him see her as a real, and very interesting, person.
There are a bunch of goodies in this chapter. “Like a chull in a dining hall.” That’s… descriptive!
“Their eyes followed that Blade as they’d follow a gorgeous woman taking off her glove.” Aside from an obviously darkeyes mentality, because lighteyes would be appalled at her wearing a glove in the first place, this is cute.
We have a couple of those Herald-curses: “Kelek’s breath” and “Nalan’s hand”—and I still don’t know if there’s supposed to be any significance about the Herald and the breath/hand/eye/ whatever.
And of course, there’s “You’ve got red on your ears”—which isn’t actually a Rosharan saying; it’s apparently Nalthean. Much like our “chip on your shoulder,” this indicates a person with something to prove, spoiling for a fight, angry at everything and everyone. I’d never noticed before, but even though Zahel was speaking specifically to Kaladin, Moash is the one who says, “Can you blame us?”
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we go back in time three years, to a relatively good day at the fair.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. With Sasquan 2015 only eight weeks away, it’s not too late to become a member—or even join the staff! There are rumors of especially good Con Suite and Staff Den provisioning; possibly even bacon chocolate chip cookies. Look for Wetlander at Registration—she’d really like to meet you there.