Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Kaladin and Shallan both progressed in their Surgebinding skill development, moving forward toward their respective goals, but for each of them, progress was tainted by Amaram’s greed for Shards. This week, Adolin returns to the dueling arena once again, to provide another memorable show for the spectators.
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 53: Perfection
Point of View: Adolin
Setting: the Shattered Plains Dueling Arena
Symbology: Duelist, Battar
IN WHICH Adolin duels Elit using a new technique, very precise and calculated; Elit’s Plate completely seizes up for lack of Stormlight to repair it, Adolin is pronounced the victor, and the crowd is annoyed—all of which pleases Adolin tremendously; Shallan comes to congratulate him, and Navani promptly leaves; Shallan and Adolin begin to make dinner plans, but are interrupted by the arrival of Relis in a foul temper; Adolin had expected this and finally goads Relis into a duel by offering all his family’s Shards against those of Relis and whoever he brings with him; it promises to be spectacular.
Quote of the Week
“Fight me!” Elit shouted from within his helm.
“I have.” Adolin replied quietly. “And I’ve won.”
Elit lurched forward. Adolin backed up. To the boos of the crowd, he waited until Elit locked up completely— his Plate out of Stormlight. The dozens of small cracks Adolin had put in the man’s armor had finally added up.
Then, Adolin strolled forward, placed a hand against Elit’s chest, and shoved him over. He crashed to the ground.
Adolin looked up at Brightlady Istow, highjudge.
“Judgment,” the highjudge said with a sigh, “again goes to Adolin Kholin. The victor. Elit Ruthar forfeits his Plate.”
Heh. Poor Istow. She keeps having to judge in Adolin’s favor, even when she doesn’t want to. (I don’t feel the least bit sorry for her, frankly.)
Yet another fighting style from Adolin. The first duel was a beat-down, then second one he carefully kept very close, and in this one he deliberately wore down Elit’s Plate until it seized up. It’s hard to comprehend how anyone can keep insisting that he’s lost his edge.
Then again, I guess we know that he’s doing it all on purpose, but all they see is that he’s being inconsistent—except for that nasty habit of winning everything.
One thing I found very interesting, particularly in light of recent discussions, was Adolin’s self-control in this duel. Despite the emotional backdrop, he is absolutely controlled—and controlling—as he executes exactly the duel he had planned.
Ideal form. Each step in place. The Thrill rose within him, but he shoved it down. He was disgusted by the highprinces and their squabbling, but today he would not show them that fury. Instead, he’d show them perfection.
(Incidentally, that’s obviously the source of the chapter title.)
Adolin is frustrated, angry, disgusted, and generally cranky about both the Parshendi and the highprinces who oppose Dalinar, but instead of being controlled or driven by his emotions, he is calm, careful, serene, precise, quiet. (Yes, I got those all out of the text.) He planned exactly how he wanted it to go, and it went exactly as he planned. Because he’s just that good. And all that in spite of the fact that Elit was clearly trying to wound or kill him. Isn’t that sort of against the principles of dueling, by the way?
Elit growled audibly from within his helm, then came in with another thrust. Right at Adolin’s faceplate.
Trying to kill me, are you? Adolin thought, taking one hand from his Blade and raising it just under Elit’s oncoming Blade, letting it slide between his thumb and forefinger.
Elit’s Blade ground along Adolin’s hand as he lifted upward and to the right. It was a move that you could never perform without Plate— you’d end with your hand sliced in half if you tried that on a regular sword, worse if you tried it on a Shardblade.
With Plate, he easily guided the thrust up past his head, then swept in with his other hand, slamming his Blade against Elit’s side.
Sweet. Reminds me a little of Dalinar’s lastclap; these guys are amazing. It must run in the family.
Adolin’s gambit pays off, since Relis comes storming in with his gaggle of lighteyes, all threats and bristles, and finally allows himself to be goaded into a duel. I’m definitely bothered by the fact that Brightlady Istow comes with him; even though she’s busy assuring Relis that Adolin didn’t break any rules, the fact that she’s in his company seems wrong to me. I suppose it’s partly combined with her attitude toward his first win, and knowledge of how she’ll behave in the upcoming one, but storm it, judges are supposed to be impartial!
I’ll always wonder – did Relis catch on right away about the loophole left when Adolin didn’t specify a number? I’m pretty sure Istow noticed it; did the others realize it as well, or did she give them the idea?
This is the day after Kaladin’s and Shallan’s respective level-ups in Surgebinding; there are thirty days left in The Countdown.
Cue the ominous musics.
Battar presides alone over this chapter. Patron Herald of the Elsecallers, she represents the attributes of Wise/Careful, which I assume is the reason she’s here. She is represented positively by Adolin’s careful, precise, perfect execution of the duel… and negatively by his failure to think carefully through the wording he used in his challenge to Relis:
“If you’re afraid,” Adolin said, looking back to Relis, “you don’t have to duel me alone.”
Relis stopped in place. He looked back. “Are you saying you’ll take me on with anyone else at the same time?”
“I am,” Adolin said. “I’ll fight you and whomever you bring, together.”
“You are a fool,” Relis breathed.
Relis stormed out. The others trailed after. The highjudge lingered, regarding Adolin. “You realize what you have done.”
“I know the dueling conventions quite well. Yes. I’m aware.”
She sighed, but nodded, walking out.
Oh, Adolin, that one little slip is going to hurt badly. On the other hand, some good things come of it, so we’ll forgive you.
Words of Radiants
As to the other orders that were inferior in this visiting of the far realm of spren, the Elsecallers were prodigiously benevolent, allowing others as auxiliary to their visits and interactions; though they did never relinquish their place as prime liaisons with the great ones of the spren; and the Lightweavers and Willshapers both also had an affinity to the same, though neither were the true masters of that realm.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 6, page 2
I’ve always taken this as evidence that both Transportation and Transformation give a reasonable affinity to Shadesmar, so that a Willshaper would be able to access it roughly as well as Shallan does; the combination of the two Surges, unique to the Elsecallers, grants true mastery. (Well… after a certain amount of practice, anyway. Heh.) It’s interesting to note that historically, the Elsecallers were known to graciously transport others—Knights Radiant only, or others as well?—to Shadesmar with them. Why?
I must point out how cute these two are:
Shallan Davar burst in, wearing a violet dress, red hair flaring as she crossed the room. “That was incredible!”
“Shallan!” She wasn’t the person he’d been expecting— but he wasn’t unhappy to see her. “I checked your seat before the fight and you weren’t there.”
“I forgot to burn a prayer,” she said, “so I stopped to do so. I caught most of the fight, though.” She hesitated right before him, seeming awkward for a moment. Adolin shared that awkwardness. They had only been officially courting for little more than a week, but with the causal in place … what was their relationship?
Aww. They’re just so perfect. Perfectly awkward, in this case, which is totally endearing. (Except I have trouble with a redhead in a violet dress. That doesn’t quite work for me. But maybe that’s just me. Redheads in the crowd? Does violet work for you?)
Hey, y’all didn’t talk about the glyph-script Amaram was using last week. I started to, but then my electricity went out for three days due to a freak windstorm, and I had no internet. *sigh* Maybe I’ll throw it out there this week, if we need more discussion in the comments.
You. Have. Been. Warned.
So get into some discussion this week, and then join us again next week when Shallan tries her hand at gaining the confidence of the Ghostbloods. This should be rich.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Look for her involvement in the upcoming releases of Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning… Well, really, forget her involvement. Just watch for those books and get them the minute they come out, because Brandon Sanderson is awesome and tells brilliant stories. That is all.