Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, the spectacular duel Adolin anticipated turned into an unexpectedly menacing spectacle. This week, the spectators cheer the results of activities they can neither see nor hear, and get not one, but two unexpected endings. (Grrrr.)
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 57: To Kill the Wind
Point of View: Shallan, Kaladin
Setting: the Dueling Arena
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien
IN WHICH a full disadvantaged duel is fought; a full disadvantaged duel is won; a full disadvantaged duel is wasted.
What, you want details? This time you really should read the chapter; trying to recap it is futile.
Oh, okay, I’ll give it a shot:
Kaladin comes to Adolin’s aid, and there are lots of nifty moves and cool Surgebinding, and Pattern comes out to play, and what with Adolin’s awesome fighting and Kaladin’s awesome Windrunning and a super-cool Lastclap, they win. Then Kaladin throws it all away.
Is that better?
Quote of the Week
He sped up, then lunged between two of the Shardbearers, ramming his spear into Relis’s cracked vambrace. The man let out a shout of pain and Kaladin pulled his spear back, twisting between the attackers and getting close to Adolin. The young man in blue armor glanced at him, then quickly turned to put his back toward Kaladin.
Kaladin put his own back toward Adolin, preventing either of them from being attacked from behind.
“What are you doing here, bridgeboy?” Adolin hissed from within his helmet.
“Playing one of the ten fools.”
Adolin grunted. “Welcome to the party.”
“I won’t be able to get through their armor,” Kaladin said. “You’ll need to crack it for me.” Nearby, Relis shook his arm, cursing. The tip of Kaladin’s spear had blood on it. Not much, unfortunately.
“Just keep one of them distracted from me,” Adolin said. “I can handle two.”
“I— All right.” It was probably the best plan.
“Keep an eye on my brother, if you can,” Adolin said. “If things go sour for these three, they might decide to use him as leverage against us.”
“Done,” Kaladin said, then pulled away and jumped to the side…
Yes, I know. Even with the Rule of Awesome in play, Suspension of Disbelief stretches mighty thin here. The idea that Relis, Elit, and Jakamav would be so surprised by Kaladin’s entrance that they’d just stop swinging for 15-20 seconds, allowing Adolin and Kaladin to have this little tete-a-tete (dos-a-dos?), is patently absurd. I love it anyway.
The thing is, for all their suspicions, dislikes, and grudging-respects of the past, for all Kaladin’s questions about trust on the way in, Adolin responds with instantaneous trust and cooperation. It gets me every time I read it, and I just toss my disbelief to the wind and enjoy it.
What a crazy chapter. Nothing like rising to the heights and plunging to the depths all in one fell swoop, is there?
I have to laugh at Kaladin’s plan: assuming that he’ll be the one to take down their opponents, if Adolin can just crack their Plate open for him. Ummm… really? If he could do that on command, he’d already have won. The biggest thing in favor of Kaladin’s approach—at least if you’re trying not to cripple anyone during a war—is that if a weapon is going to get through their Plate, at least Kaladin’s would only cause normal damage. That’s a good thing…?
I would now proceed to laugh at Adolin’s arrogance in thinking that, even with all the damage to his own Plate, he can still handle two of the best duelists in Alethkar on his own… except that he actually can.
The prince fought desperately against his two opponents, swinging his Blade back and forth between the men on either side of him. And storms he was good. Kaladin had never seen this level of skill from Adolin on the practice grounds— nothing there had ever challenged him this much. Adolin moved between sweeps of his Blade, deflecting the Shardblade of the one in green, then warding away the one with the hammer.
He frequently came within inches of striking his opponents. Two-on-one against Adolin actually seemed an even match.
I find myself in the odd position of not caring in the slightest whether it’s realistic for a duelist to be so good he can actually hold off two opponents. I just love that it’s Adolin, the one who wanted nothing more than to be a duelist but refrained from dueling because of the Codes, the one who has trained and trained on the practice grounds and on the battlefield, the one who has no Surgebinding or Stormlight assists, the one who looks like a spoiled rich kid when he’s actually a highly disciplined soldier—it’s Adolin, assisted only by his own skill and stamina, who really can hold his own against two opponents.
If this had gone the way he planned, as a 2-on-1 duel, he’d have mopped the floor with them; it was only the fourth opponent who actually damaged his Plate in the previous chapter. Even now, having taken multiple hits so that his Plate is leaking Stormlight from nearly every piece, he manages to damage one opponent badly enough that Kaladin can “finish him off” (destroying his breastplate) with just a spear, batter another into yielding, and get a wrestling grip on the third just before his Plate locks up. (Snicker. Jakamav, this moment of ignominy couldn’t possibly happen to a more deserving guy jerk.)
Yup, our boys are amazing. Adolin is a stunning duelist, and Kaladin is a Stormlight-enhanced maniac. I suppose in a way you can’t blame Relis, the sneaking coward, for running off to “fight” Renarin. I can’t help thinking that dismissing his Blade was probably the best move Renarin could possibly have made here; even Relis hesitates to strike an unarmored and now unarmed man. That hesitation is just long enough to allow Kaladin to slide into place and do a Lastclap—and send both himself and Relis reeling from the screams of the trapped spren. (The foreshadowing… it hurts us, it does. Ow.)
And so we win! We win!
And once again, Kaladin blows it. Just like how many (?!) other times, he fails to think through the possible side effects, and causes terrible grief to his own side by his impulsive actions. All they went through in the last few minutes, all of Renarin’s imprudent bravery, all of Adolin’s beating, all of that Stormlight burned, and Kaladin can only see his opportunity to get his vengeance on his enemy, and he destroys their entire plan.
From the tension, to the awesome, to the victory… to the pits.
Pattern and Sylphrena are the only spren we spot in this chapter, and their roles, while minute, are really fun. Right at the beginning, Shallan sends Pattern to see if he can somehow interfere with Abrobadar as he fights/toys with Renarin, while Syl assures Kaladin that this time will be very different from last time he came to the rescue of a lighteyes fighting a Shardbearer. The next time we see either of them,
On the other side of the arena, the fourth man—the one who had been “fighting” Renarin—was waving his sword at the ground for some reason. He looked up and saw how poorly things were going for his allies, then left Renarin and dashed across the arena floor.
“Wait,” Syl said. “What is that?” She zipped away toward Renarin…
This makes me giggle helplessly every time I read it. Abrobadar standing there waving his sword at a bumpy shape on the ground is enough in itself, but Syl going “Hey, wait a minute!” and zipping off to investigate a Cryptic… Maybe it’s just because in the middle of all this tension I need some comic relief, but it makes me laugh.
The other breathtaking moment with Syl comes a little later, when Kaladin finds himself unexpectedly fighting two full Shardbearers, trying to buy Adolin a little more time:
The wind began to blow around him. Syl returned to him, zipping through the air as a ribbon of light.
Wind. Motion. Kaladin fought two Shardbearers at once, knocking their Blades aside with the helm. He couldn’t attack—didn’t dare try to attack. He could only survive, and in this, the winds seemed to urge him.
Instinct . . . then something deeper . . . guided his steps. He danced between those Blades, cool air wrapping around him. And for a moment, he felt—impossibly—that he could have dodged just as well if his eyes had been closed.
The Shardbearers cursed, trying again and again. Kaladin heard the judge say something, but was too absorbed in the fight to pay attention. The crowd was growing louder. He leaped one attack, then stepped just to the side of another.
You could not kill the wind. You could not stop it. It was beyond the touch of men. It was infinite. . . .
Aaahhhhh! Fuel for the fires of windspren-make-Shardplate theories, though of course there’s not quite enough evidence to call it proof. It makes me wonder, though, whether the living version of Shardplate is any more… well, solid than a living Shardblade. In Dalinar’s “midnight essence” vision, the KR’s armor seemed extraordinarily mutable; is it possible that the real, living thing only ever looks like armor, but in reality is a constantly shifting, flexing, moving flow of thought?
(Also, did I just use “reality” in that question?)
Windrunning FTW! For the first part of the fight, Kaladin seems to just hold the Stormlight rather than using it for Lashings or anything, but it seems to augment his natural skill (as I think we’ve noted before). Better balance, quicker responses, that sort of thing.
Falling on Relis’s back with a multiple lashing, though… that was outstanding. It did severe damage to his Plate, and put him out of the fight for ten heartbeats plus the time it took him to recover from the fall. All of which served its purpose: keep someone occupied so Adolin has a fighting chance.
Jezrien, patron Herald of the Windrunners, is fairly obvious here. Need we say more?
Words of Radiants
Malchin was stymied, for though he was inferior to none in the arts of war, he was not suitable for the Lightweavers; he wished for his oaths to be elementary and straightforward, and yet their spren were liberal, as to our comprehension, in definitions pertaining to this matter; the process included speaking truths as an approach to a threshold of self-awareness that Malchin could never attain.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 12, page 12
This is an odd duck. Some people read this as Malchin having bonded to a Cryptic, but being unable to progress as a Lightweaver because of his inability to speak the further truths he would need in order to become as self-aware as the Cryptics demand. Others read it as someone who thought he could choose which Order he wanted to belong to, and being miffed by finding that the spren of that Order won’t take him because of his lack of self-awareness.
Thoughts? IMO, he doesn’t sound like much of a KR candidate anyway, but that’s probably just me being snooty tonight.
“What are you doing here, bridgeboy?”
“Playing one of the ten fools.”
Yes, indeedy. But it’s a good thing, all in all.
There are more things to discuss: Shallan’s self-flagellation for failing to see The Loophole; lots more about the actual fighting (what was your favorite moment?); Renarin; Brightlady Istow’s reluctance to call anything… Lots, lots more. Please join in! It’s been great to see all the new folk stepping in!
That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we have to deal with the aftermath of Kaladin’s interference.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She’s also very tired…