Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we enjoyed story-time with Kaladin and Wit – at least, we enjoyed it apart from Kaladin’s anger at the rest of the world for his current situation; that part, we had to debate. This week, Shallan sets out to do Scholarship, and ends up doing Lightweaving, while Pattern develops his sense of humor.
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 60: Veil Walks
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Shallan’s room in Sebarial’s manor
Symbology: Pattern, Palah, Chach
IN WHICH Shallan compares maps, searching for hints of Urithiru; small foreshadowings are dropped; Pattern attempts to comprehend human complexities like sleep and humor; he suggests that she once knew how to make her Illusions produce sound, and she goes blank; Shallan returns to her maps, presenting an argument for interpreting Stormseat to be in the middle of the Shattered Plains; she is convinced that the way to Urithiru is via Oathgate, and that there should be one in the ruins of Stormseat; Pattern again urges her to remember the skills she once knew, and she blanks again; he doesn’t let up this time, and she creates an Illusion of the broken, wretched girl she believes she would be if she let herself remember; she turns away again from the possibility of remembering, and draws Veil again, then turns her into an Illusion; when she walks away, the Illusion goes fuzzy; with instinct, experimentation, and leaps of intuition, she feeds Stormlight into Pattern and attaches the Illusion to him… and now it can move.
Quote of the Week
“Shallan,” Pattern said, moving closer to her. “I know that you have forgotten much of what once was. Those lies attracted me. But you cannot continue like this; you must admit the truth about me. About what I can do, and what we have done. Mmm … More, you must know yourself. And remember.”
She sat cross-legged on the too-nice bed. Memories tried to claw their way out of the boxes inside her head. Those memories all pointed one way, toward carpet bloodied. And carpet … not.
“You wish to help,” Pattern said. “You wish to prepare for the Everstorm, the spren of the unnatural one. You must become something. I did not come to you merely to teach you tricks of light.”
“You came to learn,” Shallan said, staring at her map. “That’s what you said.”
“I came to learn. We became to do something greater.”
“Would you have me unable to laugh?” she demanded, suddenly holding back tears. “Would you have me crippled? That is what those memories would do to me. I can be what I am because I cut them off.”
An image formed in front of her, born of Stormlight, created by instinct. She hadn’t needed to draw this image first, for she knew it too well.
The image was of herself. Shallan, as she should be. Curled in a huddle on the bed, unable to weep for she had long since run out of tears. This girl … not a woman, a girl … flinched whenever spoken to. She expected everyone to shout at her. She could not laugh, for laughter had been squeezed from her by a childhood of darkness and pain.
That was the real Shallan. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name. The person she had become instead was a lie, one she had fabricated in the name of survival. To remember herself as a child, discovering Light in the gardens, Patterns in the stonework, and dreams that became real …
“Mmmm … Such a deep lie,” Pattern whispered. “A deep lie indeed. But still, you must obtain your abilities. Learn again, if you have to.”
A long, long time ago, people used to dislike Shallan because she was a spoiled, entitled, flippant little brat. I remember thinking after the beta read that they might not necessarily like her after reading WoR, but they would certainly see her differently.
I find it oddly amusing that some of the information that will be crucial to the endgame of this book is slipped into this chapter so casually, and is so quickly covered up by other events. We don’t have the old maps of Natanatan showing a presumed location for Stormseat, but we do have a map of the Silver Kingdoms (front endpapers of TWoK); we also have the new map of the Unclaimed Hills & Shattered Plains – the back endpapers and the map on pp 14-15 of WoR, which sound exactly like what Pattern is describing. Shallan has obviously overlaid the two, recognized that the Shattered Plains & Unclaimed Hills form what was once Natanatan… and made the connection that the capital city might likely be on the (pre-shattered) plains rather than in the mountains.
As it turns out, of course, not only is Stormseat on the Plains, it seems to have been the focal point for whatever shattered them.
The copy of the copy of the copy of the mosaic, while it looks like a pretty but mostly artsy representation of the city, turns out to be absolutely critical in the end, identifying the tower that still stands and the relative off-center location of that perfectly round plateau. (It’s also interesting to look at this map in light of the last Eshonai interlude – the tower where the Five meet, the round plateau that forms the practice grounds, etc. ::sigh::)
Other tidbits that get dropped here: Adolin is preoccupied with something; Dalinar is “sick” and being attended by Navani; Shallan has slipped hints about “something valuable” into her reports to Palona, hoping to interest Sebarial in an expedition; and Shallan’s brothers have failed to respond to her letters asking them to join her.
On to the central focus of the chapter, though… This is the first time, IIRC, that Shallan directly confronts the fact that she is deliberately blocking her memories. Then again, it’s also the first time Pattern presses her on it and refuses to back off when she blanks out. And blank she does – three times in as many minutes, I think. At long last, though, Pattern ignores her attempts to ignore him and divert the discussion, and presses her to remember; she simply can’t afford to cripple herself by this continued hiding from her memories.
It doesn’t entirely work; while she finally faces the knowledge that she is deliberately blocking her memories, she doesn’t stop blocking them. I think, though, that this is the beginning of her eventual readiness to face the past and then move on.
This chapter takes place four days after the previous one; coincidentally, the same day as the Eshonai interlude we covered a couple of weeks ago. There are 22 days left in the countdown.
Pattern is such a hoot. Humor FTW. One of my favorite exchanges in the whole book is right here:
“Annoying!” she snapped.
Pattern hummed. “I’m sorry that your mystical, godlike powers do not instantly work as you would like them to.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought you didn’t understand humor.”
“I do. I just explained . . .” He paused for a moment. “Was I being funny? Sarcasm. I was sarcastic. By accident!” He seemed surprised, even gleeful.
This is, of course, after the conversation where she made a smart remark and Pattern got into a dissection of humor, making it as not-funny as possible.
Since Shallan can’t/won’t confront her actual memories, she’s pretty intent on starting from scratch rather than remembering the things she used to do. Apparently, in so doing she actually discovers something she hadn’t been able to do before – at least, it doesn’t appear to be something familiar to Pattern. At one time, she’d been able to make her Illusions speak. Now, she can make them move without her direct intervention (by attaching them to Pattern), and she can make them stable at a distance by giving Pattern extra Investiture to support them. It’s really pretty cool, because you can envision all sorts of tricks. She hasn’t done it yet, but I’d love to read a scene where she creates one Illusion for Pattern to carry, and another for herself, and then walks down the street having a conversation between the two of them. Heh. It would be so much fun. And just think of all the ways Pattern could tell her off! Or tell her jokes. Whichever.
Palah is clearly here as the Scholar; she might also be shown as the patron of Elsecallers, pointing up Shallan’s thoughts about Jasnah’s studies and conclusions. Chach isn’t quite so clear, but oddly enough, I think she might represent Pattern’s role in his bond with Shallan at this point… though I just realized that I can’t possibly articulate what I mean by that. Sorry…
I’m amused that Shallan begins this chapter focusing on scholarship, because Adolin is “preoccupied” with something else. Heh. But we’re not talking about that yet, la-la-la-la.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we go flash back to one of those blocked memories… I’d forgotten how depressing this section of the book could be!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She would like to present her apologies for being most notable by her absence in the comments for a stretch here; there’s kind of a pile of work going on right now. But y’all are so awesome she’s not even feeling bad about it. Carry on!