Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Adolin took Dalinar’s place to meet Eshonai and discuss her proposal, only to find it withdrawn and defiance in its place. This week, Shallan and Kaladin each improve their Radiant skills as they take steps toward their intermediate goals.
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 52: Into the Sky
Point of View: Kaladin, Shallan
Setting: The Warcamps, the Shattered Plains
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien, Shalash
IN WHICH Kaladin wanders the edge between the chasms and the warcamps, musing, then steps into the chasm; Shallan, disguised first as a messenger boy and then as a maid, infiltrates Amaram’s manor; Kaladin attempts to alternate between running on the floor and running on the wall, but realizes he needs to work on the basics first; Shallan finesses a couple of close encounters and makes it to Amaram’s secret room, which turns out to contain maps; Kaladin discovers that his body fears falling even when his mind knows it’s safe; Shallan can’t take time to make sense out of the maps and glyph-writing, so she takes Memories of everything, then begins to draw frantically; Kaladin continues cautiously until he accidentally avoids a puddle with a reflexive Lashing, and sees how to change his perceptions; Shallan exits the house disguised first as Amaram, then as the messenger boy, and in giving Amaram the message which was her first alibi, she discovers that the Blade he bears is the one which had belonged to her brother Helaran; Kaladin improves dramatically and finally throws himself at the sky, surrounded by windspren; Shallan confirms that the man from whom Amaram obtained his Shards was indeed her brother, who is now certainly dead; as Kaladin returns to earth, he is dissuaded by Syl from going after Amaram right away, but on arriving in his room, he finds Shen waiting to say goodbye.
Quote of the Week
“It’s like when I first picked up a spear,” Kaladin whispered. “I was just a child. Were you with me back then? All that time ago?”
“No,” Syl said, “and yes.”
“It can’t be both.”
“It can. I knew I needed to find you. And the winds knew you. They led me to you.”
“So everything I’ve done,” Kaladin said. “My skill with the spear, the way I fight. That’s not me. It’s you.”
“It’s cheating. Unearned.”
“Nonsense,” Syl said. “You practice every day.”
“I have an advantage.”
“The advantage of talent,” Syl said. “When the master musician first picks up an instrument and finds music in it that nobody else can, is that cheating? Is that art unearned, just because she is naturally more skilled? Or is it genius?”
“I’ll take it,” Kaladin said. “Whatever it is that gives me that edge. I’ll use it. I’ll need it to beat him.”
Kaladin nodded, light wind ruffling his jacket as he fell through the night. “Syl…” How to broach this? “I can’t fight him without a Shardblade.”
She looked the other way, squeezing her arms together, hugging herself. Such human gestures.
“I’ve avoided the training with the Blades that Zahel offers,” Kaladin continued. “It’s hard to justify. I need to learn how to use one of those weapons.”
“They’re evil,” she said in a small voice.
“Because they’re symbols of the knights’ broken oaths,” Kaladin said. “But where did they come from in the first place? How were they forged?”
Syl didn’t answer.
“Can a new one be forged? One that doesn’t bear the stain of broken promises?”
She didn’t reply.
I know, I know. That’s way too long for QOTW. But it’s all so important! Not that it answers any questions for us, at this stage. Syl was with him back then, but she also kinda wasn’t. His skill with the spear is somehow a joint effect—which explains some things that happen later, perhaps. And she knows how a new Blade can be forged… she just can’t tell. ::sigh::
This was a crazy chapter, as it alternates between short clips of Kaladin and Shallan on their different missions. Each is honing their Radiant skills, making use of them, working toward a specific goal. The juxtaposition was fascinating to follow, though.
Kaladin is just beginning to seriously practice his Windrunning, and this night is one of intentional training to confront Szeth when he returns. Shallan has obviously been practicing her Lightweaving, and can now prepare multiple disguises ahead of time, switching between them as needed; her goal, for tonight, is to infiltrate Amaram’s manor on behalf of the Ghostbloods—a mission that was assigned clear back in Chapter 43, which seems like years ago!
Kaladin works and works on the basics, until he finally does something different by instinct—and suddenly, it all comes clear, and the Lashings become natural. I find it highly amusing that the breakthrough comes when he instinctively avoids falling in a puddle again. There’s a glorious sense of thrill and triumph, as he finally, finally, really becomes a Windrunner. There’s a feeling that everything is going to come right, now, and that he and Syl are going to get this figured out. There’s such a joy in his new skill… and then it descends into anger and self-justification as he returns to earth, with his bitterness toward Amaram and shielding Moash. It turns foreboding, too, as Shen prepares to depart, gives Kaladin his real name of Rlain, and is clearly apprehensive about where he’s going. His statement, “The winds are not what I fear,” gives me the shudders.
Shallan, meanwhile, has her own series of successes, through much greater danger; her sequence of disguise and misdirection achieves the immediate goal of obtaining access to Amaram’s secret room, which is a triumph in itself, but she has to work very quickly to get everything in Memory, and then pull off another masquerade to cover her tracks and keep anyone from getting suspicious. There’s a feeling of elation, as she manipulates the cook into not mentioning her presence to Amaram and exits the manor. There’s a feeling of relief as she slips back into the messenger disguise and is in the right place for Amaram to find her. There’s a nice little resolution as she delivers her message about “her mistress” wanting to document Amaram’s Shards… and then it descends into horror and grief as she discovers that his Blade is the one once held by her beloved brother Helaran. Amaram’s blithe description of the “assassin” and his own “counterattack” which killed the young man is all too sickeningly vivid, and all her accomplishments of the night are buried in the sorrow of knowing that her brother is truly dead.
Parallel stories, indeed, and tied together at the end by Amaram’s role in each of their sufferings.
This is the same day as the previous chapter, in which Adolin had the ill-fated meeting with Eshonai. Thirty-one days remain in the countdown.
The windspren! The windspren! I can’t wait to find out if the theory about windspren coming together to form Plate is correct… In any case, the behavior of the windspren here certainly foreshadows their behavior in the climax.
…Syl zipped along to his right.
And to his left? No, those were other windspren. He’d accumulated dozens of them, flying around him as ribbons of light. He could pick out Syl. He didn’t know how; she didn’t look different, but he could tell. Like you could pick a family member out of a crowd just by their walk.
Syl and her cousins twisted around him in a spiral of light, free and loose, but with a hint of coordination.
A hundred windspren broke around him, like the crash of a wave, spraying outward from Kaladin in a fan of light.
He grinned. Then he looked upward, toward the sky.
What is this “hint of coordination,” hmmm? Will they, or won’t they? I think they will.
We already talked about this to some extent, but I want to look at a few more details. One thing that bugged me on my first reading only just became clear tonight—while washing dishes, of course. Shallan couldn’t take the time to actually study the maps and the glyphs, so she took Memories of them. Once finished with that, she slaps a piece of paper on the desk and starts drawing frantically—but she’d just thought that she’d do all the drawing when she was safely back in her rooms. Why was she drawing?
…Well, duh. She hadn’t planned to disguise herself as Amaram, so she needed to draw him in order to make sure the cook didn’t bring up any of this again, especially to Telesh. Not sure why it took me so long to figure that out!
Other than that, I enjoyed seeing the skills she’s been practicing: multiple disguises which she can switch off, combined with a few physical props that simply make it easier; working with Pattern to provide different voices when necessary; and of course Pattern’s ability to unlock things. Good stuff, and extremely useful!
About Kaladin’s practice, I can certainly see Kaladin doing things exactly the way he did, including “hopping onto and off the wall a couple hundred times.” If it were me, though, I’d practice it in my own room, leaning against a wall and just shifting the direction of “down” over and over. Standing on the floor, then lying on the wall, then standing on the floor… all without moving. But then, I’m lazy and my method wouldn’t be nearly as cinematic. And it wouldn’t provide the opportunity to fall out of a puddle. Heh.
For once I feel safe in saying that these are totally obvious. Kaladin and Shallan are each actively practicing their Radiant skills, and so the Heralds associated with their Orders naturally watch over the chapter: Jezrien, for the Windrunner, and Shalash, for the Lightweaver. “Into the Sky” hardly needs clarification.
Words of Radiants
Now, as the Truthwatchers were esoteric in nature, their order being formed entirely of those who never spoke or wrote of what they did, in this lies frustration for those who would see their exceeding secrecy from the outside; they were not naturally inclined to explanation; and in the case of Corberon’s disagreements, their silence was not a sign of an exceeding abundance of disdain, but rather an exceeding abundance of tact.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 11, page 6
This is the only mention of the Truthwatchers in the entire book until we reach Chapter 89, where Renarin reveals himself as a Truthwatcher. (And yes, I still think his claim is valid.) When we first read this epigraph, then, we had no idea of what Truthwatchers might do, and this gave us no further clue. Basically, they didn’t tell anyone what they did? Helpful. I have to wonder, though: what good is it to see the future if you never tell anyone else what you see? Or did they, as an Order, pool their information, decide what needed to be done about it, and tell the other Orders whatever they felt was necessary?
In any case, Renarin seems set to change that secrecy, at least among the small circle of known Radiants.
Totally irrelevant to the origin of this unit, but it strikes me as the perfect placement. As much time as I spent with Team Sanderson last weekend, we spent oddly little time talking about the books. One question I did ask Brandon, though, was whether Ym was an Edgedancer. We both acknowledged that with the healing thing, he had to be either an Edgedancer or a Truthwatcher, of course. He pointed out that Ym’s spren doesn’t look at all like Wyndle, which I countered by saying that I thought the Ym’s spren manifested the way Wyndle would if you couldn’t see the Cognitive Realm. He just smiled… and said something like, “I’m going to RAFO that. You’re very wise, and I put the description in for a reason, but I’m going to RAFO for now.”
Which means… nothing, really. “You’re very wise” can very well mean, “That was good logic, and would make sense if that’s what I was doing, but I wasn’t.” It can also mean, “You figured it out, but I don’t want to confirm it just yet.” Or… something else. Anyway, it’s still a RAFO. I guess we’ll just have to watch for manifestations of Glys; maybe we can see what he looks like by comparison. I find that I’m hoping it doesn’t mean we’ll see Ym again, because the only way I see that happening is if Nalan is going around only-mostly-killing Radiants and then bringing them back to life… and that just doesn’t sound like a good thing at all.
Well. That was a long chapter, and I didn’t even get to the discussion of Amaram and the stormwarden glyph-writing, which is important in light of the past few weeks’ discussion. So we’ll hit that in the comments, which ought to keep us busy until next week, when Adolin returns to the dueling arena for more fun and games.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She’s also still recovering from Sasquan. Oy. What a week!