Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan pored over maps and practiced her Lightweaving on the way to meet with her dazzling betrothed. This week, we jump back in time to see the effects of her Middlefest interventions… and the lack thereof.
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 48: No More Weakness
Point of View: Li’l Shallan
Setting: the Davar estate
Symbology: Inverse Pattern, Vedeledev, Chach
IN WHICH Shallan, Balat, and Wikim act like a normal family and get into a pun-off; a carriage arrives; shouting ensues; Jushu is given away in payment for his own gambling debts—House Davar’s debts are too great to allow anything else; Shallan buys him back with two knives and love; more shouting follows; Father has found an ominous outlet for his anger.
Quote of the Week
“You are the type of man who profits from the gambling of others. You know that it usually leads to loss. I give you items of real value. Take them. Please?”
The man considered. He held out his hands for the daggers, and his man passed them over. He unsheathed one of the daggers and inspected it. “Name for me one reason I should show this man pity. In my house, he was an arrogant glutton, acting without thought for the difficulty he would cause you, his family.”
“Our mother was murdered,” Shallan said. “That night, as I cried, Jushu held me.” It was all she had.
This makes me cry all over again—for the little Shallan who didn’t understand why her mother tried to kill her, why she had to defend herself against the one who should protect her, and for the family who has now been torn apart by the death and the deception it brought. Much as I want to kick Jushu up one side and down the other, I also feel pity for him; he found his “escape” in a way just as self-destructive as his twin’s original plan, but he never escaped from his escape.
Once again, the whole Davar scene makes my heart hurt.
This chapter starts out so cheerfully: Shallan’s efforts at Middlefest are paying off. Balat has pretty much stopped killing cremlings for fun, as his relationship with Eylita has developed further—directly resulting, I think, from the walk Shallan set up for them. He’s trying hard to man up and be a leader, even as their father descends further into his own private gloom, ambition, and madness. Wikim, too, has changed dramatically. He is thoroughly enjoying his maths, with the approval and support of the Davar ardents—support that for once even went so far as to rebuke Lord Davar for his anger, claiming that the Almighty approved of Wikim’s interests. He has come so far, in fact, that he is no longer suicidal, and by way of proof, he gives Shallan his pouch of blackbane. (DUN!)
In fact, Balat is much better mentally, and Wikim is much healthier physically and mentally, and they’re sitting in the gardens together, laughing and teasing one another. Their conversation is a hoot, especially when Wikim starts tossing metaphors to Shallan to see what she can make of them. Just like, you know, a real family… although Shallan is still trying too hard to distract them when any negative interactions come up.
And then we find that, apparently, Shallan was unable to do anything for Jushu like she had done for Balat and Wikim. Whether she never had the chance, or was unable to come up with anything that worked, we don’t know—but Jushu has still been out playing Prodigal Son to the hilt, gambling away somewhat more than his share of the family’s (non-existent) fortune. Now (if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors) the time has come to pay the piper, and he has nothing with which to pay. A quick look at the books makes it clear that whether he wants to or not, Lin Davar has no money to redeem his son’s debts.
This is a bad, bad, bad place to be, and all the optimism of the first pages is blown out like a candle in a highstorm. ::sigh::
We don’t really know whether Shallan had made a similar attempt to help her father, but she does think that he’d been doing better. Whatever caused that—mostly likely simple lack of provocation—it’s over now. There’s a chilling incident when she goes to him to ask that he reconsider his denial of Jushu. For the first time in probably ever, he yells at her; when she (foolishly?) points out the apparent folly of his approach to “fixing” their problems, things get scary:
He looked at her, face shadowed but eyes reflecting light, like twin embers in the dark of his skull. In that moment, Shallan felt a terrifying hatred from her father. He strode over, grabbing her by the arms. Her satchel dropped to the floor.
“I’ve done this for you,” he growled, holding her arms in a tight, painful grip. “And you will obey. I’ve gone wrong, somewhere, in letting you learn to question me.”
She whimpered at the pain.
“There will be changes in this house,” Father said. “No more weakness. I’ve found a way…”
He looked down at her and seemed to see the tears in her eyes for the first time.
“Father…” she whispered.
He looked upward. Toward his rooms. She knew he was looking toward Mother’s soul. He dropped her then, causing her to tumble to the floor, red hair covering her face.
This is, quite possibly, the closest either one ever comes to acknowledging the truth. It also strengthens my belief that his love for her has, over time and perhaps with Odium’s influence, been turned to equal parts fear of what she could do if she felt sufficiently threatened by him. That bit with the “terrifying hatred” makes me reasonably confident that Odium is involved here.
She defies him, however obliquely, long enough to redeem Jushu from his creditors. The results of her defiance, though… The serving maid is bloodied and has a broken arm (at least), and her father makes it eminently clear that this is what will happen as the alternative to hurting Shallan. Disobey, and someone else will pay the price.
This takes place three years ago, four months after Middlefest.
Angerspren, shamespren, fearspren. The Davar home is not a happy place these days, and the spren reflect it. Also, no Pattern… unless… well, we’ll go to Ars Arcanum for that.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
I just have to point out a couple of small items. One, of course, is Sakisa the axehound, who totally acts like any dog. The other amused me:
Vines shook and withdrew before her, though as her pace sped up, she stepped on more and more of them, feeling them writhe beneath her feet and try to yank back. Cultivated vines had poor instincts.
So about that missing spren… Is it possible that Shallan was inadvertently Lightweaving with Balat and Wikim? She hasn’t consciously connected with Pattern for a long time, but she did something at Middlefest, during her conversation with Hoid. Could she also have done something with her brothers as well?
I honestly don’t think she did; I think she simply gave them a focus other than their pain, their fear, and themselves. But it’s an interesting thought.
The Heralds for this chapter are Vedeledev and Chach. I’m thinking that Vedeledev is the Healer, reflecting the impact Shallan’s efforts have had on Balat and Wikim. I suppose the number four could be significant, being as Jushu is the fourth son, but it seems less likely. Chach could, perhaps represent the Dustbringers, but I think it’s more likely she’s here as Guard and/or for bravery. I’m guessing probably not obedience, unless you consider Shallan being obedient to Hoid’s encouragement to
Keep cutting at those thorns, strong one… Make a path for the light…
Well. That’s enough of that. Come commiserate with me in the comments, and next week we can cheer up when Shallan and Adolin have a real date. We’ll need the fun of that chapter, after the grief of this one!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. With Sasquan 2015 a mere three weeks away, it’s not too late to become a member. Look for Wetlander at Registration—she’d really like to meet you. Also, don’t forget that Hugo voting ends this Friday at midnight Pacific Daylight Time. Finish it up—there’s some good reading to be done!