Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Adolin gave another memorable dueling performance, setting up something he hopes will be spectacular. This week, Shallan is forcibly reminded that when the stakes are high, there is often a high price to pay—and sometimes the innocent pay it.
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 54: Veil’s Lesson
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: the Unclaimed Hills
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Ishar
IN WHICH Shallan walks through the rain in the Unclaimed Hills to meet with several members of the Ghostbloods; Mraize is surprised that “Tyn and Shallan” were able to enter Amaram’s house and is impressed by the pictures she provides; Shallan has carefully chosen which bits of information are actually revealed by the pictures, but inadvertently reveals that she can draw very accurately from memory; Mraize realizes that Shallan killed Tyn and is working on her own, and commends her for it; as she is dismissed, she realizes that in his parting words, Mraize has given the others tacit permission to try to kill her; in a slight panic, she creates an Illusion of a boulder and hides in it, while sending Pattern to use her voice to tell the carriage driver to return to the warcamp; hoofbeats follow and then return; Mraize speaks to an unidentified companion of various other persons interested in these matters; when her Illusion dissipates, she begins the long walk back to the warcamp while practicing accents with Pattern; their practice is disrupted by the discovery of her carriage burned, her coachman and his parshmen murdered; she continues her walk more somberly, pondering how she could have handled this so no one died.
Quote of the Week
“We will need to find how much he knows.” Mraize’s voice. “You will bring these pages to Master Thaidakar. We are close, but so—it appears—are Restares’s cronies.”
The response came in a rasping voice. Shallan couldn’t make it out.
“No, I’m not worried about that one. The old fool sows chaos, but does not reach for the power offered by opportunity. He hides in his insignificant city, listening to its songs, thinking he plays in world events. He has no idea. His is not the position of the hunter. This creature in Tukar, however, is different. I’m not convinced he is human. If he is, he’s certainly not of the local species.…”
Thaidakar, Restares, Taravangian… So far, Mraize seems to know more about all these subversive groups than anyone else, but Gavilar apparently knew something about a couple of them, at least. (Too bad he didn’t pass that information on.) And what about “this creature in Tukar,” while we’re at it? I’m guessing—only guessing—that he’s referring to “that god-priest of theirs, Tezim.” What creates the legend of a god-priest on Roshar? An Unmade? Someone holding an Honorblade? A Surgebinder/Proto-Radiant? A rogue Herald?
The juxtaposition of this chapter with the previous hits me almost as hard as the interweaving of the Lightweaving/Windrunning chapter did a couple of weeks ago. Last week’s title of “Perfection” was both literal and ironic, as Adolin was perfectly in control of the duel, but (as we know to our dread) not so perfectly in control of his wording when he challenged Relis. This week, Shallan’s planning and presentation was nearly flawless, but the whole thing almost unraveled by a few thoughtless words.
I must also note that this week’s title, “Veil’s Lesson,” brings back memories of another Lesson, one in which people also woke up dead. This time, though, instead of criminals springing the trap Jasnah set for them and paying the ultimate price, the innocent driver and porters were killed by the trap Shallan accidentally dropped them into.
I had all sorts of snarky comments in my head about Shallan learning that she was out of her league; that when you play games with the Ghostbloods, the stakes are high; that if you’re not careful, the innocent pay the price on your behalf. Then it hit me: she learned those lessons a long time ago. This is indeed a grim reminder, and this time she has some knowledge of what the stakes are, but she’s been caught in this kind of game since she was a little girl… and the innocent always seem to pay the price. From Li’l Shallan nearly murdered for the beliefs of her mother and her “friends,” to the destruction of her own innocence in self-defense, to the burden of protection which drove her father into madness, to the servants maimed as an outlet for his anger at her… and all of it tangled up with Ghostbloods, Skybreakers, and possibly other subversive organizations or fanatic cults. No, high stakes and lives on the line are not a new experience for her. The difference is that this time, she’s deliberately taking an active role, and is therefore more directly to blame when the innocent are murdered. And she knows it.
Still, she did acquit herself well for the most part. I was impressed that she replaced all the writing with appropriate but uninformative wiggly lines, and that she only gave him a small chunk of actual text which might serve to get him talking. I was more impressed that she had her story worked out so that the reasons for the missing information was perfectly plausible. If only she hadn’t admitted that she could draw so well from memory; it was a slight, understandable, but deadly error.
Well, she was bound to make some mistakes. At least this one wasn’t life threatening. Probably.
Foreshadowing, much? Ouch.
This is the same day as Chapter 53, and the reason Shallan had to refuse Adolin’s dinner invitation. Thirty days remain.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
The general wild beauty of the surroundings form an idyllic backdrop to what turns out to be a vicious, deep, and twisty narrative. Shallan has so much fun, initially, enjoying a walk in the rain and observing the thirst-emboldened grass and the proliferating vines. She gives herself a little biology review as she strolls along, and compares the vegetation to what she’d be likely to find at home in Jah Keved. And then… the politicking starts, and we don’t get to enjoy the vines any more.
Pictures! Pretty pictures!
I love the way she describes (according to “Brightness Axeface”) and sketches a lady’s pace, including the angles of the feet—and then proceeds to draw Veil walking in a very different manner. As she would, of course. Interestingly, Shallan has a thought that I suspect may come into play again later:
It occurred to her that this person she became when she put on the hat and dark hair was not an imitation of someone else, not a different person. It was just a version of Shallan herself.
For some reason, I can’t help thinking along with her that this could be dangerous.
Aside from Shallan’s always-amazing artwork, and the clever use of the boulder she had put into the picture she drew for Mraize, there is another lovely little exchange I must point out:
“What I need to do,” Shallan said, “is train you to speak along with my images.”
“You should have them speak themselves,” Pattern said.
“Can I do that?”
“Because… well, I use Light for the illusion, and so they create an imitation of light. Makes sense. I don’t use sound to make them, though.”
“This is a Surge,” Pattern said. “Sound is a part of it. Mmm… Cousins of one another. Very similar. It can be done.”
“You’re very helpful.”
“I am glad…” He trailed off. “Lie?”
Okay, I’ll admit it: I included the last five lines for the sheer fun of it. The earlier part, though, is the first clear indication we’ve had (unless you read the Ars Arcanum first) that Illumination uses more than just light to do its thing; control of this Surge confers the ability to manipulate other waveforms, too. So if she can figure out how to do it, she should be able to include sound in her Illusions. I’ll have to watch for this; right now, I can’t recall whether she succeeds in this book.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
We’ve been given to understand that Mraize is Thaylen, but IIRC he’s also been confirmed as a world-hopper. This really makes me wonder about his involvement in Rosharan affairs. Has he returned because things started heating up? Did he trigger the heating? Or is he only tangentially interested in Roshar as it affects the Cosmere in general?
Speaking of world-hoppers, I have to confirm something that we discussed before: Iyatil, whoever she may be, is definitely not Khriss. I still don’t have any good guesses on who she is, but this much I know: Khriss is tall.
The Heralds this week are Shalash and Ishar. Shalash is fairly obvious, with her connection to Shallan’s Lightweaving. What about Ishar? I can’t help thinking he’s there for Mraize, but whether as the Vorin ideals of pious/guiding, the opposite, or the “associated madness” I can’t even begin to guess. There is so much about Mraize and the Ghostbloods that we just don’t know… *sigh*
Words of Radiants
There came also sixteen of the order of Windrunners, and with them a considerable number of squires, and finding in that place the Skybreakers dividing the innocent from the guilty, there ensued a great debate.
–From Words of Radiance, chapter 28, page 3
Well. There seems to be some divisiveness among the Knights Radiant. Part of me really wants to know what the occasion was and what their various reasonings were, but I suspect this epigraph is mostly here to give us (a) hints of a conflict between orders; (b) Windrunners with squires; and (c) a peek into what the Skybreakers were all about. All three of those may well play critical roles in upcoming books.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Adolin and Shallan—with a reluctant Kaladin in tow—visit a menagerie for a change of pace. See you in the comments!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Betas and gammas this year have been popping out all over; look for some spectacular books from Sanderson-wards in the near future! If you haven’t already acquired Elantris for your very own, it’s worth making sure you get the 10th Anniversary edition, too. It’s definitely new and improved.