Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan played hide-and-seek with the Ghostbloods and a Herald. This week, she hides from Amaram while Kaladin hides from depression. It’s a cheerful sort of chapter.
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 64: Treasures
Point of View: Kaladin, Shallan
Setting: Kholin warcamp: prison & monastery
Symbology: Pattern, Ishar, Shalash
IN WHICH Kaladin is giving in to depression, as he finds himself slipping into the mode of not eating, not caring, not thinking; desperate, he reaches for Stormlight, praying to not go back into the darkness; the Light resists, but finally comes to him; Sylphrena is worried that he’s becoming darker; he says it’s only the cage; she begins to argue, but then goes off to giggle at a little cremling, while Kaladin thinks how childlike she is. Meanwhile Shallan, trying not to panic as Amaram approaches Talenel’s cell, wraps herself in Stormlight, turns herself black, and hides in the darkest corner; as always, she’s angry at the sight of him, but reason tempers her anger; Amaram speaks to Taln, who merely continues his repetiti0ns; Bordin reiterates his earlier report of a cache of Shardblades, which Amaram assumes to be the Honorblades; he tries to get Taln to speak of them again, but his litany remains the same; Bordin acts nervous, and Amaram finally agrees to leave, to seek out this treasure of Blades; Shallan finally breathes, feeling that she is very much out of her depth, but replaces her Veil illusion and returns to Iyatil; as she prepares to leave, she slips Iyatil the paper transcribing Taln’s ramblings and promises a full report later; Iyatil questions who she really is, but Shallan, though thrilled by the respect shown her, says only that she seeks the truth; later, having sent the promised report, she receives a message from Mraize, informing her of her change of status and welcoming her to the Ghostbloods.
Quote of the Week
Shallan breathed out a long, deep breath, slumping down to the floor. “It’s like that sea of spheres.”
“Shallan?” Pattern asked.
“I’ve fallen in,” she said, “and it isn’t that the water is over my head— it’s that the stuff isn’t even water, and I have no idea how to swim in it.”
That is an excellent simile. Oh, what a feeling…
First, a quick housekeeping note. Since next Thursday is Christmas Eve, there will be no post that day. The following Thursday is New Year’s Eve, but since the post goes up early and the partying won’t start until later (theoretically), I’m shooting to reread Chapter 65 on December 31st. Send the old year out with a bang, finish strong, all that good stuff.
UPDATE: No post on New Year’s Eve. I’m sorry, but it’s just not going to happen.
To the Reread!! Onward, ho! We start off the chapter in an incredibly cheerful mood, as Kaladin ignores his food and thinks about how much he loves being caged, how this is just as much fun as his slave days, and compares it to adventures in mountain-climbing.
Oh, wait. Never mind. Reset.
Yeah… So here’s Kaladin, demonstrating classic signs of depression: lack of appetite, lack of energy, lack of interest. Combined with the recent discussion of whether Kaladin has an over-inflated estimate of his own importance, I’m now beginning to wonder if he’s bipolar; a list of symptoms for the “manic” aspect of bipolar disorder includes “feeling extremely irritable, aggressive, and “wired”; thinking of yourself as overly important, gifted, or special; making poor judgments, such as with money, relationships, or gambling; engaging in risky behavior or taking more risks than you ordinarily would.” That… sounds pretty much like Kaladin during/after the duel. Well, I don’t recall hearing Brandon mention anything beyond seasonal depression, so he’s probably not intentionally written that way. It was just hard to miss the coincidence.
This short scene with Kaladin leaves me with very mixed feelings, though. One, depression is just not fun. At all. No matter what the cause. Two, his desperate reaching for Stormlight, praying to the Almighty that the darkness would not take him again, hoping that his prayer will be heard despite the lack of someone to write and burn the prayer for him—all this makes me so sad for him. Three, I’m creeped out a little by the way the Stormlight resists him, and then gives in. Four, I’m even more weirded out by the way he thinks of it straining against him, trying to escape once he’s got it. Five, his attitude toward Syl is just bizarre, and her behavior reflects that. And he doesn’t even notice that there’s anything wrong with her behavior. I come out of this scene sad and extremely uncomfortable.
Shallan, despite her own desperate situation, is actually a breath of fresh air after that. How much is quick thinking, and how much just a lucky instinct, I don’t know—but she immediately does the only thing likely to work. This just makes me smile: turn everything about yourself black and stand quietly in the darkest corner. No one expects you to be there, so no one notices you. Slick.
In what I’m coming to see as typical Shallan fashion, reason again informs—or at least tempers—emotion: though Amaram is “still a bastard, of course” (which he is!) she recognizes that he was probably just defending himself when “he” killed Helaran. Apparently there is a certain amount of mostly-true information readily available regarding the event; she’s put together enough information to know that when Helaran left Jah Keved—and left his siblings to their father’s mercies—it was to kill Amaram.
Other quick notes on the Talenel scene:
Amaram is immediately convinced that this is indeed one of the Heralds, and his reaction is to say, “Gavilar, we have done it. We have finally done it.” “It” is presumably their goal of bringing the Heralds back, and I have to wonder just what they did to try to reach their goal. I’m almost certain that nothing they did had anything to do with Taln’s return, though Amaram clearly thinks it did. I rather hope we get to see his reaction when he learns that whatever they did was a complete waste, and Taln has only returned because he finally broke under four and a half millennia of torture.
Bordin has planted the rumor about a cache of Shardblades, making sure it went straight to Amaram’s ears. Amaram, for reasons only he knows, leaps to the conclusion that they must be the Honorblades. I wonder if any of them are Honorblades. I have other questions, too: Was there actually more than one Blade in the stash Dalinar planted there? If so, where did they come from? If not, why was Amaram not more perturbed about there only being one, when there were supposed to be a cache? Was one of them the Blade Taln arrived with at the end of TWoK? Or did Taln actually talk about a cache of Blades? So much we don’t know.
Amaram promises Bordin a “reward” for helping him find this cache of supposed Honorblades. Heh. Clearly he doesn’t understand Bordin, or for that matter anything about the loyalty of Team Kholin, at all…
And then Shallan becomes a full-fledged Ghostblood, except that somehow she never gets around to getting that tattoo done.
This is the same day as Chapter 63, one day after Kaladin’s last chapter; it is his 11th day in prison, counting the day of the duel.
It’s rather agonizing to watch Syl regress—and it’s really, really annoying that Kaladin doesn’t even register the change.
“I’m worried about you.” Syl’s voice. “You’re growing dark.”
Kaladin opened his eyes and finally found her, sitting between two of the bars as if on a swing.
“I’ll be all right,” Kaladin said, letting Stormlight rise from his lips like smoke. “I just need to get out of this cage.”
“It’s worse than that. It’s the darkness … the darkness …” She looked to the side, then giggled suddenly, streaking off to inspect something on the floor. A little cremling that was creeping along the edge of the room. She stood over it, eyes widening at the stark red and violet color of its shell.
Kaladin smiled. She was still a spren. Childlike. The world was a place of wonder to Syl. What would that be like?
I want to get angry and smack Kaladin around a bit… but at the same time, I understand all too well the depression, and the way it can twist your perceptions. It seems to me, though, that the difference between Syl two weeks ago and Syl now should be totally obvious; he’s just too self-absorbed to realize it. (And yes, self-absorption is a notable aspect of depression, so don’t tell me I’m being insensitive.)
I’m wondering, now, though: how much does he realize about his effect on her? IIRC, by now they’ve had enough conversations that he knows her increasing “maturity”—or understanding, anyway—is an artifact of their bond. But does he have any real concept that his mindset can affect that bond, and through it affect her mental state? (Does it even make sense to talk about the mental state of a cognitive phenomenon? Heh.)
Also: is “the darkness… the darkness…” referring to the mental/emotional darkness of his depression, or is there something else here, too?
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
Speaking of Syl and the cremling, is there anything unusual about a little cremling with a shell colored “stark red and violet”?
It’s interesting to note that when Kaladin attempts to draw in Stormlight from the lamp, it seems to resist him. I assume that’s a result of the damage his drive for revenge is doing to his bond with Syl… but then why does it suddenly relent? And his reaction… it’s like an addict getting a fix. It’s creepy.
Shallan’s Surgebinding, on the other hand, is totally useful and not at all creepy—unless you think that turning her skin, hair, and clothing all black might have just a little creep factor. Still, it’s useful; she can stand silently in a dark corner and not be seen, plus the Illusion uses up the Stormlight that would normally escape and give her away.
It’s also worth pointing out that she uses Illusion twice in this chapter—to turn black, and to turn back into Veil—and neither time does Taln react like he did previously, when he scared the living daylights out of her. Just guessing, but I suppose that having identified her as “one of Ishar’s Knights,” he has a niche for her, and her Surgebinding is an accepted part of that.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
There’s not a lot new to say about Iyatil-and-Mraize-the-Worldhoppers, but it’s interesting to note her comments on her own and Mraize’s past experience:
“You caught me in stealth spying upon you, and you can lose me in the streets. This is not easily accomplished. Your clever drawings fascinate Mraize, another near-impossible task, considering all that he has seen. Now what you have done today.”
It’s also interesting to note Shallan’s response:
Shallan felt a thrill. Why should she feel so excited to have the respect of these people? They were murderers.
But storms take her, she had earned that respect.
As always, contemplation of the Ghostbloods brings me back around to wondering what their real purpose is and where they originate. Why would they have been working through a relatively obscure rural Veden lord, and what were they going to use him to accomplish? Why were they trying to kill Jasnah? Who are these people?
Ishar and Shalash stand watch over this chapter, for reasons best known to Team Dragonsteel… but my best guess is that Ishar the Priest, pious and guiding, reflects Kaladin’s desperate prayer against the darkness. Shalash is probably there for her little Lightweaver Shallan, with her several uses of Illusion.
“Almighty above, ten names, all true.” Well, that sounds pretty emphatic…
Once again, there will be no post next week on Christmas Eve. We’ll be back on the last day of the year with another uneasy visit to the Davar estate, and then we can start the new year on a brighter note.
UPDATE: Scratch that, we’ll visit the Davar estate on January 7. Enjoy some goodies, anyway. By the time I’m done, the Storm Cellar should be well-stocked with Irish cream fudge, peanut brittle, gingerbread, and cookies…
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She wishes you all a very merry Christmas full of blessings and fudge. (Umm… those might be the same thing…)