Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Kaladin and some of his men began Shardblade training, and Kaladin used profoundly dodgy rationale to justify his decisions. This week, we go back in time to a festival in Jah Keved, attended by the Davar family.
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 45: Middlefest
Point of View: Li’l Shallan
Setting: Jah Keved
Symbology: Inverse Pattern, Vedeledev, Joker
IN WHICH Shallan observes a chicken, and is overwhelmed by a fair with five hundred people in the same place; as she accompanies her father, she reflects on her life as it is these days; Lord Davar is patronized by someone of his own rank, which is naturally infuriating; Shallan slips away at an implicit dismissal, and sets off on the business of helping her family in the ways she can: she smuggles a note from Eylita to Balat to set up a tryst, thus extricating him from the axehound fights with which he has an unhealthy fascination; when she returns to her father, she finds him speaking with a stranger, who reacts oddly to her presence; the “messenger” slips something into his own drink; Lord Davar declares that Helaran is officially disinherited, and changes the remaining brothers’ titles; he asks Shallan to speak to Wikim, who is refusing to leave the carriage; she does so, presenting him with a distraction in the form of math problems; as she leaves in despair, she comes across the stranger again; he tosses a lot of cryptic questions and comments around, but then turns her to look at Wikim, who is actually smiling as he works on the maths she left him; the stranger tells a story, and gently guides Shallan into some inadvertent Lightweaving.
Quote of the Week
“I assumed he’d sent you here. I mean, that coming to us was your primary purpose.”
“Turns out that it was. Tell me, young one. Do spren speak to you?”
The lights going out, life drained from them.
Twisted symbols the eye should not see.
Her mother’s soul in a box.
“I . . .” she said. “No. Why would a spren speak to me?”
“No voices?” the man said, leaning forward. “Do spheres go dark when you are near?”
“I’m sorry,” Shallan said, “but I should be getting back to my father. He will be missing me.”
“Your father is slowly destroying your family,” the messenger said. “Your brother was right on that count. He was wrong about everything else.”
Oh, the memories, Shallan. Let them come! But of course, she doesn’t, and can’t. She’s not ready to fully remember these things. But it does tell us clearly that before her mother died, Shallan was definitely using Stormlight and seeing the Cryptics.
Once again, we get a glimpse of the abject brokenness of the Davar family, and I don’t know who I feel most sorry for. Lin, who is so subject to fits of anger, though Shallan can “remember a time when she’d rarely, if ever, seen him angry.” Balat, who “hadn’t acquired this fascination with death until Mother had left them.” Wikim, who has given in to the despair and is actively preparing for his own suicide. Jushu, who in his twin’s estimation, “will destroy himself. It’s only a matter of time.” Malise, who “spends one night in two weeping.” Shallan, who is trying so hard to fix them, to bring them back from the brink of their various self-destructive activities, recognizing that they’re all trying, but they’re all unraveling anyway.
All in all, I identify with Shallan the most, because I know that feeling of wanting to fix things, wanting to help people who really don’t want to be helped, unable to just shrug it off and let them do their own thing because that thing is clearly leading them down to despair and destruction.
That said, I think it’s still Lin I feel the most sorry for. The first time (we know about) that he tried to protect his beloved daughter, he was forcibly prevented and had to watch as she protected herself against all odds, and in so doing condemned herself. But she was only condemned if anyone knew, and so he protected her a different way: not with his body or his knife, but with his silence and at the cost of his reputation, his family, and his sanity. What moment was it that opened him to Odium’s influence?
For all the misery of the family, though, in this chapter there are glimpses of hope. Balat leaves the axehound fights for the sake of a walk with Eylita, Lin has the self-awareness to ask Shallan to speak to Wikim on his behalf rather than risking what he might do in his current mental state, and Wikim develops an interest in Shallan’s gift of math problems despite himself. And Shallan… Shallan actually does a Lightweaving – probably her first in two and a half years.
For the reader, though not necessarily for Shallan, the most encouraging part is her conversation with Hoid. Typically cryptic, but gentle and encouraging. And hopeful.
“Two blind men waited at the end of an era, contemplating beauty.”
Three and a half years ago, when Shallan was about 14.1 years old. This is two and a half years after the first flashback to “Red Carpet, Once White.”
The first mention of a spren is a windspren who darts through a merchant’s enclosure, making objects stick together. Is this a common trait of windspren, or does it mean there’s a “young” honorspren hanging around?
We learn here, not a reason, but a common behavior of spren: when people are in a crowd, even though emotions are high, spren are rare. Why would that be? I have a vague recollection that there’s a WoB on this somewhere, but I don’t remember it. Anyone?
Finally, there’s Hoid’s question to Shallan (see QOTW): do spren speak to you? But she won’t quite remember. *sigh*
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
Chickens! If you haven’t already, you really need to reread the first page or so of this chapter. It’s funny to see a parakeet (or something similar to one, anyway) described from the perspective of someone who’s never seen a bird before, up close and personal. This one has even been taught to speak a little, which makes Shallan call it a Voidbringer – an animal that speaks. (I wonder if there’s some mythology in which those two are inextricably linked.)
We have an assortment of local flora: jella trees, breechtrees (which apparently produce cotton) and shum, whatever that is. Also fauna: along with the axehounds in the fights, there’s a mink slinking around in the shadows. But… now I wonder. Shallan is surprised to see the mink, expecting all those in the area to have been trapped by now. And it’s not long after this that she finds Hoid up in the tree. Was he Lightweaving himself into an illusion of a mink? Tricky business, that.
Ars Arcanum: It’s fascinating to watch Hoid gently but persistently maneuver Shallan into Lightweaving, once he realizes what she is. Too polite (or too innocent) to just walk away from him, she has to get annoyed with his stories and questions before she unintentionally reaches beyond her mental blocks to create the Illusion for herself of her ideal Beauty.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Oh, hello, Wit. Carrying a metals vial around everywhere now, are we? I wonder… if I’m right that he was disguised as the mink, was that a Yolen-style Lightweaving, or a Rosharan Lightweaving, or some kind of Allomantic power I don’t remember? Because I can’t think of anything he does in this chapter that indicates Allomancy, other than drinking the metals.
Vedeledev and the Joker are both obvious, though there may be deeper meanings I’ve missed. (Could it be?!) Shallan is trying her hardest to heal her family by any means available, and Hoid is all over it. The chapter title is unambiguous, to say the least.
A couple of goodies this week, aside from the chickens. The parakeet (or parrot) calls itself “Jek son of none” which was, IIRC, the original name of Szeth. There’s a new term here for the time just opposite the Weeping: it’s called “the midpeace” and is apparently another time when there are no highstorms. My favorite, though was Shallan’s thought on freedom: as valuable as an emerald broam, and as rare as a larkin. Larkin FTW!!
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Kaladin goes out with the guys and attends a Meeting. Grr.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. With Sasquan 2015 only seven 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.