Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, the Shallan-Adolin ship went sailing on the high seas, with curiosity and… unaccustomed frankness, shall we say? This week, Adolin is repeatedly disturbed by people and events which are beyond his power to affect; it’s a rough evening for our boy.
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 50: Uncut Gems
Point of View: Adolin
Setting: the Storm Cellar, the Kholin complex
Symbology: the Duelist, Palah
IN WHICH Adolin waits out the highstorm in the men’s bunker of this Storm Cellar; he speaks briefly to Elit about their upcoming duel and is snarled at for his pains; Sadeas strolls over to taunt him, and it very nearly works; Adolin’s response earns the approval of his bridgeman guard; he wanders through the markets, idly considering the earlier events of the day and the future event of tomorrow’s meeting with the Parshendi; as he returns to the Kholin domicile, he finds the bridgemen-guards in a bit of a turmoil over a new set of glyphs scratched into the sitting-room floor; Dalinar assumes responsibility for them, presumably part of his vision-trance, and Navani seems to agree; the end date of the countdown is duly noted.
Quote of the Week
Sadeas smiled again. “Do you think me an evil man, Adolin?”
“That’s too simple a term,” Adolin snapped. “You’re not just evil, you’re a selfish, crem-crusted eel who is trying to strangle this kingdom with his bulbous, bastard hand.”
“Eloquent,” Sadeas said. “You realize I created this kingdom.”
“You only helped my father and uncle.”
“Men who are both gone,” Sadeas said. “The Blackthorn is as dead as old Gavilar. Instead, two idiots rule this kingdom, and each one is—in a way—a shadow of a man I loved.”
A selfish, crem-crusted eel. Nice one, Adolin. Very accurate as well as eloquent. Sadeas, how I love to hate you. Vile wretch.
Oh, hey, look! It’s an Adolin chapter! Hope you didn’t wear out the subject last week… (Seriously – that was amazing! I was gone on a mini-vacation with family and friends for three days, and I had major reading to do to catch up with y’all!)
This week we’re in Adolin’s head in the aftermath of his date with Shallan, and I have to revisit that subject very quickly. He’s very pleased that “this thing with Shallan” seems to be working, because she’s marvelous, exotic, witty, and not smothered in Alethi propriety. (Would that infer what we’d call “Victorian propriety” or “Alethi social expectations of behavior?” I suspect the latter. We can discuss the implications in the comments.) Also, he thinks that she’s smarter than he is but doesn’t make him feel stupid – and it’s implied that it’s rather an Alethi thing for the women to make sure the men know how much “smarter” they are.
I find myself deeply irritated by Vorin tradition. Adolin is not at all sure the betrothal will continue to work, since his relationships always work at first and fall apart later. Add to that the “she didn’t make him feel stupid” comment, and it makes me want to smack Alethi society at large. Any man who is reasonably intelligent but has a very limited education because “it’s not manly” would have to be very frustrated by all the well-educated women who confuse “uneducated” with “unintelligent” and correspondingly treat men like idiots. Even if it’s a subconscious irritation, it’s got to be there. (As a student of literature, I’m delighted with the relatively subtle inversion of expectations. As an observer of pop culture, it reminds me far too much of the typical sitcom and advertising trope where men are assumed to be stupid and incompetent, and only manage to survive by virtue of possessing an intelligent wife/girlfriend. GRRR.)
So here sits Adolin. For once in his life, he’s had a conversation with a woman who assumes that he’s intelligent enough to understand what she’s talking about. Even when she was being witty at his expense, she invited him in to the fun rather than making him the butt of it for others. IMO he was complimented by both of those, and it’s probably the first time in his life that’s happened. No wonder his relationships never last beyond a week or two.
Okay, back to the chapter. It opens with Adolin tossing a mild taunt or two at Elit about the seven-day wait for their upcoming duel; this is followed almost immediately by Sadeas throwing a couple of veiled taunts at Adolin about his overt flouting of the king’s—and Dalinar’s—authority. For a minute I wondered why Sadeas’s taunting bothered me so much more than Adolin’s, and if I was just being biased, but I don’t think that’s it. Not all of it, anyway. Elit has a legitimate means of getting back at Adolin: they’re dueling in two more days, and it was Elit’s choice to set the uncommonly long delay in the timing. Sadeas, on the other hand, is goading Adolin deliberately, knowing perfectly well there’s nothing Adolin can do about it without both undermining Dalinar and getting himself in horrible trouble.
Speaking of which… foreshadowing again.
A small part of him wished for Sadeas to provoke him, push away his inhibitions, drive him to do something stupid. Killing the man right here, right now, would likely earn Adolin an execution—or at least an exile. It might be worth either punishment.
Sadeas does his unholy best to provoke: pointing out the uncut gemstones on his ring and his coat, gained by doing an unauthorized plateau run in open contempt of Dalinar’s orders; making smart remarks about his “former property” who are now patrolling the markets; renouncing Elhokar’s appointment of him as Highprince of Information – and clearly indicating that no one else will accept any similar appointments from Elhokar; sneering at both Dalinar and Elhokar; hinting that neither of them will survive when Sadeas makes his move; and outright telling Adolin that “you’ll understand and agree with me eventually.”
Adolin managed to keep himself under control. He refrained from doing any physical violence that could get him in trouble, but at the same time he made it eminently clear that he was opposed to Sadeas in every way. I’m still wondering which of those gained him Skar’s nod of respect.
I just have to toss in a couple of other odd notes. One is Adolin’s realization that there is a parshman among the bridgemen, wearing a guardsman uniform and holding a spear. It’s funny in context (since we know why “Shen” is there) and heartbreaking in another (since we know why Rlain is there). When he points it out to Dalinar, he’s all, “Yeah, it’s cool. I was curious what would happen.”
The other thing is one that was mentioned last week in the discussion: Adolin’s Blade. I have to just quote the whole passage:
Adolin summoned his Blade, then dismissed it, then summoned it again. A nervous habit. The white fog appeared—manifesting as little vines sprouting in the air—before snapping into the form of a Shardblade, which suddenly weighed down his hand.
Brandon has confirmed that the “little vines” are because the Blade was originally an Edgedancer’s spren. While this is the only time I can find that someone’s Blade-summoning is described in this much detail, I’m not yet convinced that the process itself is significantly different than anyone else’s. It’s generally described as mist coalescing into the silvery Blade.
True Stormwatch event in this chapter:
“Thirty-two days. Seek the center.”
“Seek the center.” I like the way the two drivers for the upcoming expedition dovetail. Dalinar, the soldier & highprince with the authority, is getting magically-delivered instructions to seek the center of the Shattered Plains. Shallan, the well-on-her-way magic user with the ability to find and operate the target, is getting instructions from research and old stories to search out the ancient city of Stormseat that used to be in the center of Natanatan. Sneaky.
Note, also, that Navani has counted out the countdown, and the end date is in the middle of the Weeping, rather than being the date of a highstorm as Dalinar hoped. It is also two days before the end of the year, and there just doesn’t seem to be any significance to the date at all. I guess she’ll just have to wait and see…
We don’t know it yet, of course, but we’re seeing extremely accurate Truthwatching from Renarin and Glys right here.
Does anyone still seriously believe that Dalinar did this without realizing it? I know Dalinar takes the blame here, though of course he doesn’t remember doing it. This is totally inconsistent with his previous experience in the visions, where he could remember everything that happened. As he says himself, this is an awkward way for him to get the information; if it’s coming to him from the Stormfather, why could it not be included in the visions? Why would it be sent to his subconscious for him to scratch it into the ground, or the wall? The most logical answer, despite his assumption, is that it’s not coming to him – and certainly not from the same source as the visions. Honor even told him, in so many words, that he wasn’t much good at seeing the future. Cultivation, on the other hand, is… and Truthwatchers are directly in the center of the Cultivation side of the circle.
But of course they don’t know about that stuff yet, so Renarin’s activity goes unnoticed, and Dalinar assumes the responsibility for it.
Palah is the Herald of the Truthwatchers. That is all.
Okay, it’s not quite all. Because Palah: Scholar, Learned/Giving, Truthwatchers, Emerald, Pulp, Wood/Plants/Moss, Hair is on this chapter arch twice. Once might be for Sadeas and his stinking uncut emerald gems, but the other has to be for Renarin the Truthwatcher. So say I.
Words of Radiants
And now, if there was an uncut gem among the Radiants, it was the Willshapers; for though enterprising, they were erratic, and Invia wrote of them, “capricious, frustrating, unreliable,” as taking it for granted that others would agree; this may have been an intolerant view, as often Invia expressed, for this order was said to be most varied, inconsistent in temperament save for a general love of adventure, novelty, or oddity.
–From Words of Radiance, chapter 7, page 1
Willshapers. We really don’t know much about them, do we? Their Surges are Transportation (motion, Realmatic transition) and Cohesion (strong axial interconnection); we know guess a fair bit about the first one, but I’ve heard very little explanation of the second. In any case, they appear to be the adventurers – but they also are associated with the Builder (Kalak). I do suspect the epithets of “erratic, capricious, frustrating, and unreliable” are artifacts of people who really, really don’t understand what drives them as an Order.
(Just in case anyone cares, I’ve officially given up my expectation that Adolin would be a Willshaper, and now hope that he’ll become a real Edgedancer so he can awaken his Blade.)
Wow, last week’s wars were really something! Carry on, carry on.
“Shalashian temperament” as an excuse to renounce your post as Highprince of Information, eh? What’s that supposed to mean?
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Adolin ventures forth disguised as Dalinar to meet with Eshonai. This should be rich…
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. WorldCon 2015 is next week, and she is very much looking forward to meeting some of you there. Go find her at Registration, any morning between 8:30 and 12:30.