Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Kaladin learned of the disturbing connection between his own past and that of Moash, with predictably negative results. This week, we rejoin Shallan as she attempts to outwit the Ghostbloods, and has an unnerving encounter with a (presumed) Herald.
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 63: A Burning World
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Sebarial & Kholin warcamps
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Talenel
IN WHICH Shallan converses via spanreed with Adolin, who is mysteriously occupied; at the same time, she is attempting to spy on the Ghostbloods who are attempting to spy on her; she finally figures it out and sends Pattern to find the spy; he then carries a Veil illusion and draws the spy out of her hiding place; getting the drop on said spy, Shallan-as-Veil initiates a conversation, resulting in the two proceeding together on the mission rather than Iyatil sneaking along spying on Veil; a little sleight-of-Illusion gets them into Dalinar’s warcamp without Iyatil seeing the means Shallan uses; once they enter the temple grounds, Shallan gets them into the monastery building by claiming that Iyatil is her sister and is doing seriously weird things with this mask gig; Iyatil reluctantly plays along, keeping the ardents occupied while Shallan seeks out her quarry—the man who calls himself Talanel-Elin; he recites his muttered litany about Desolations and loss, bronze and steel, preparations and training; Shallan writes it all down and double-checks it, since he says the same thing every time; when she draws in Stormlight to replace her disguise, however, he comes unglued and grabs her; he seems to recognize her as a Knight Radiant, though he can’t quite put all the pieces together, but then gives up and settles back into his repetitions; as she again attempts to slip out the door, she sees a group coming right to this same cell, and one of them is Amaram.
Quote of the Week
“My name,” the woman said. “Iyatil.”
“I’ve never heard one like it.”
“Unsurprising. Your task today was to investigate a certain new arrival into Dalinar’s camp. We wish to know about this person, and Dalinar’s allegiances are uncertain.”
“He’s loyal to the king and the Throne.”
“Outwardly,” the woman said. “His brother knew things of an extraordinary nature. We are uncertain if Dalinar was told of these things or not, and his interactions with Amaram worry us. This newcomer is linked.”
“Amaram is making maps of the Shattered Plains,” Shallan said. “Why? What is out there that he wants?” And why would he want to return the Voidbringers?
Iyatil didn’t answer.
Somehow I don’t think Iyatil cares about Dalinar’s allegiance to king and throne; she’s obviously more concerned about his possible involvement with one of the “secret society” organizations we’ve been glimpsing. Which makes me wonder… was Gavilar actively committed to the goals of only one group, or was he linked to several of them? These shadowy groups make my head hurt; there are too many of them, with overlapping and contradictory goals. And I don’t know quite enough about any of them… which is a little odd, considering how much more we learned about them in this book.
The plot thickens… The Ghostbloods, whoever they are, are now very interested in Dalinar’s “madman”—mostly because of Dalinar’s connections to Gavilar and Amaram. I find it mildly amusing that neither the Ghostbloods nor Dalinar know/believe who the guy is—but his (assumed) identity is far more critical to current events than they seem to realize. The “Sons of Honor,” on the other hand, believe he is who he claims to be, and take it as a sign that their purpose will be fulfilled—but they don’t seem to realize what horrible things may have been unleashed. But… that’s probably a discussion for another time.
There’s a lovely little worldbuilding sidelight slipped in here, as Shallan and Iyatil approach Dalinar’s temple. Apparently, along with prayer and counseling, the ardents provide both trade school and liberal arts education. (I’m using “liberal arts” in the original sense—the arts worthy of a free person, to enable him or her to take an active part in civic life.)
Darkeyes from almost any nahn could come to be taught a trade, exercising their divine Right to Learn, as mandated by the Heralds. Lesser lighteyes came to learn trades as well, and the higher dahns came to learn the arts or progress in their Callings to please the Almighty.
A large population of ardents like this one would have true masters in every art and trade. Perhaps she should come and seek Dalinar’s artists for training.
So (almost*) any person in Alethkar could go to the ardents to learn any trade appropriate to their means and skills, and those of sufficient rank or wealth to not need a trade could still come to be educated in the arts. Visual arts, music, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics—it would have been available in the level and form suitable to the individual’s skills and inclinations. Despite our earlier conversations about Adolin’s lack of education, I’m suspicious that he’s not necessarily so lacking as we thought—or any absence is more attributable to lack of interest than lack of opportunity.
*almost any person… I assume this excludes those which the Copperminds identifies thus:
While those at the lowest level of nahn without the right of travel are essentially serfs tied to the land they are currently on, this is relatively rare. Many more people are at the slightly higher levels of nahn that include the right of travel.
So there are a few whose right of travel is so restricted that they would not be able to seek out the ardentia for training, but it’s not all that common. WoB is that “To be lower ranked than that, something has to have gone wrong for your ancestors and that sort of thing.” I hadn’t really noted this particular tidbit before, but thanks to some of our discussions, I found it very interesting now.
Last but not least is Shallan’s brief interaction with Talenel’Elin. Most of it is the same old stuff he’s repeated every time we’ve seen him, with two exceptions: Early on, she whispers, “Who are you?” and he gives his name and cognomen. Later, as she prepares to resume her ardent disguise, something about it gets his undivided attention—to the point where she summons her Blade—but after a few mutters about “Ishar’s Knights” he gives up and goes back to his bed. Something I just now noticed, though:
Shallan inched forward, and found he was back to whispering the same things as before. She dismissed the Blade.
Mother’s soul …
“Shallan?” Pattern asked. “Shallan, are you mad?”
She shook herself. How much time had passed?
She just blanked out again, didn’t she? Why did I never see that before? So then the question is: did Pattern ask if she was mad because she summoned her Blade, or because she went blank after she dismissed him? And did he use “mad” in the sense of “angry” or “broken in the head”?
This is the day after Dalinar’s visit to Kaladin; there are 18 days left in the countdown.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
The gnarly tree needs to be mentioned here. Shallan thinks of it as sort of a cross between a dendrolith (literally, treestone) and a dalewillow (valley willow?). In any case, it’s a clever place to hide something when you want to be sure you see who picks it up; they either have to approach slowly, which is rather obvious, or the tree will pull in its fronds, which is also rather obvious. (Of course, if you really don’t want anyone to see what you’re using it for, maybe it’s not such a good choice. Either way you approach, it’s obvious. I don’t think the Ghostbloods really care about that aspect, though; they just want to be sure they see her pick up the instructions, so they can follow her.)
Pattern and Shallan really get their Lightweaving on, this time. It’s fun to watch as they put to use the things they were discovering last time we saw them. They’ve now moved from simply attaching a picture to Pattern, to a sequence of movement allowing him to “walk” the Illusion where others will see it and not be suspicious.
First, though, there was the neat trick with her hideout; arriving in the dark to create an extension of the shed on top of the building—and this time, with a missing brick or two so she can see out. Clever girl. Points, also, for realizing that they were watching for her; fortunately, they don’t know that she has several ways of getting around their precautions. Sending Pattern to find the spy was genius—and a very Shallan thing to do.
She’s getting quite deft at disguises, our girl. Two versions of Veil, a quick switch from Veil to Shallan and back to Veil, the ardent in the monastery, and Veil again. She must have had a whole sleeve-full of infused spheres to fuel all that! This is where I start thinking, “Don’t get cocky, now, there are still dangers! And don’t forget who you’re supposed to be for each scene!”
Shallan took a deep breath and pulled on her hat, breathing out a second image, one that covered her over and transformed her into Veil. The one on Pattern would remain so long as he had Stormlight. That Stormlight drained from him a lot faster than it did from Shallan, though. She didn’t know why.
Do we know why the Stormlight drains from Pattern so much faster than from Shallan? I think I should know, but tonight I’m drawing a blank. Help me out here, friends.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Oh, Iyatil. Shall we start a betting pool on what world she’s from?
She’s obviously baffled and intrigued by Shallan’s—or should I say Veil’s—methods; “I sent a double” can cover Pattern-Veil’s trip to the cache, but getting into the Kholin warcamp isn’t so easily explained. (Shallan is wise not to try, and lucky that her persona would be disinclined to share such secrets.) So here’s my big question: if Iyatil found out what Shallan was doing, would she be more interested in the Lightweaving itself, or in how to use it to accomplish her goals here on Roshar?
We know she’s a world-hopper; what we don’t know is why she’s here, why she’s teaching Mraize, whether she’s part of one of the inter-world organizations we (sort of) know about, which one, and what their ultimate goals are.
“Why the mask?” Shallan asked, leaning forward. “What does it mean? Why do you hide?”
“I have many times asked myself,” Iyatil said, “why those of you here go about so brazenly with features exposed to all who would see them. My mask reserves my self. Besides, it gives me the ability to adapt.”
It disturbs me to know that it will be many, many years before Brandon gets enough of the Cosmere story out there to answer this kind of question. I’m not getting any younger, here, you know! Well, some answers will come sooner than others, I suppose.
Shalash and Talenel are here for fairly obvious reasons: Shalash, for her Lightweaver-in-training and all the clever Illusions being wrought; and Talenel for, well, himself. I know Brandon’s been a bit cagey about whether or not this person really is Taln, but I’m going to assume that he is, at least until I see textual evidence that he isn’t. It’s just easier that way.
I’m guessing that the title “A Burning World” is something to do with the reality that Taln has known for the last 4500 years? That, or what he expects to be happening on Roshar in the near future.
Awww, they’re texting!! Isn’t that sweet? Although Shallan is just a little too good at lying to her betrothed, she could hardly tell him what she’s really doing at this point. Still, they’re awfully cute. The whole thing made me grin—especially the part where he has to have an ardent to do the reading and writing for him, and teases the ardent in the process.
She’s clearly new to the courting game (well, we know she is! duh!); she’s bemused that Adolin seems so surprised at her lack of jealousy. I find it amusing that his reputation is largely what makes the women he’s courted so wary of any attention he pays anyone else—but at the same time, their jealousy is also part of what destroys any real relationship that could have otherwise developed. Frankly, this is one of the reasons I love the Shallan-Adolin ship—she’s a perfect, refreshing change from everything he’s known before. She’s willing to actually trust him.
Perhaps she should cling more firmly, but the thought of it nauseated her. Such behavior reminded her of Father, holding so tightly to everything that he eventually broke it all.
… No, Father’s way was not right. If she wanted to keep Adolin, she had to try something far more difficult than just clinging to him. She’d have to be so irresistible that he didn’t want to let go.
Way to go, girl! (It does remind me of “She’d have to rely, instead, upon her feminine wiles. She wished she knew if she had any.” Poor girl.)
Incidentally, a couple of small bombshells are slipped in here, ready to explode downstream. Adolin is bored; he can’t leave his current location, but he could have a visitor. Heh. I wonder where he is! Also, Dalinar is feeling much better now, thank you… Just a head cold or something, you know? Nothing to worry about, all back to normal. Ya, shurr, you betcha.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Kaladin continues to be frustrated in prison, while Shallan resolves this chapter’s cliffhanger.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. What a ride!