Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we sat out the final highstorm of the year in a tiny Shardblade-carved cave, while Shallan and Kaladin exchanged backstories. This week, they finally return to the warcamp, scruffy but triumphant, bringing a gemheart and a perfect map to contribute to the upcoming expedition.
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 75: True Glory
Point of View: Dalinar, Shallan
Setting: the Warcamp
Symbology: Kholin Glyphpair, Jezrien, Vedel
IN WHICH Amaram attempts to intercede with Dalinar for Sadeas as supplies and soldiers are staged for the march; Dalinar refuses to treat with Sadeas, despite Amaram’s chiding about authority; a messenger brings word—Stormblessed has come out of the chasms; Kaladin delivers the gemheart, and Shallan lies about how they got it; Navani arrives and promptly adopts Shallan; Dalinar confronts Kaladin about being a Knight Radiant, but Kaladin denies it; Shallan, having reported to Dalinar & Navani, listens to Pattern report on the conversation they held while she bathed; trying to determine whether she’s Radiant enough to open the Oathgate, Pattern reveals some surprises about spren and the Recreance; Adolin arrives suddenly, and much affection is expressed (!); he promises to protect her forever, and things get tense; Dalinar and Navani enter, and Shallan requests that she be allowed to accompany the expedition; she also recommends that the parshmen be left behind, and Dalinar agrees to both.
Quote of the Week
“I will make sure you aren’t ever hurt,” Adolin said fiercely. “I should have realized that you could be caught in an assassination attempt intended for Father. We’ll have to make it so that you aren’t ever in that kind of position again.”
She pulled away from him.
“Shallan?” Adolin said. “Don’t worry, they won’t get to you. I’ll protect you. I—”
“Don’t say things like that,” she hissed.
“What?” He ran his hand through his hair.
“Just don’t,” Shallan said, shivering.
“The man who did this, who threw that lever, is dead now,” Adolin said. “Is that what you’re worried about? He was poisoned before we could get answers—though we’re sure he belonged to Sadeas—but you don’t need to worry about him.”
“I will worry about what I wish to worry about,” Shallan said. “I don’t need to be protected.”
“I don’t!” Shallan said. She breathed in and out, calming herself. She reached out and took him by the hand. “I won’t be locked away again, Adolin.”
“It’s not important.” Shallan raised his hand and wove his fingers between her own. “I appreciate the concern. That’s all that matters.”
But I won’t let you, or anyone else, treat me like a thing to be hidden away. Never, never again.
Well. Talk about communication issues! Shallan has the nightmare of her past fresh on her mind, from having talked it all out last night during the storm… but she was talking to Kaladin. Adolin hasn’t an earthly (Rosharly?), but she rather lights into him anyway. Okay, I don’t blame her for feeling this way, not at all—she spent a good chunk of her life being “sheltered” and “protected,” and it was a prison of constant, terrified anticipation of what would go wrong next. Still, it’s hardly fair to hiss at Adolin about it. For the past two days, she’s been alive and working hard to stay that way; he’s been grieving the “death” of someone he was (IMO) honestly coming to love, and feeling guilty that he was running the other direction (no matter how worthy the cause) when she fell to her presumed fate.
This will come up again…
Once in a while, I suspect that I might not be entirely fair to Amaram; my view is colored by Kaladin’s experience. He apparently thinks he’s doing the right thing overall, that all of the wrong things are done in service of the greater good, and so the sacrifice even of his own honor is necessary for the sake of The Cause.
On the other hand… Nope. It’s one thing to recruit people to give their lives in a cause; it’s another to decide to sacrifice them for something that a) they don’t even know about and b) might not agree with. Especially when they joined you for one cause, and you sacrifice them for a different one.
I find him difficult to deal with, especially in this chapter. On the surface of it, he has embraced the task Dalinar has given him and takes his responsibility seriously. He is concerned with unifying Alethkar, and with advising Dalinar well, and he really, really is serious—and correct—about the Voidbringers coming. He even has some good advice: that if Dalinar is going to give people authority, he needs to let it stay given instead of reclaiming it whenever he wants. But. But Amaram has other motivations, and he’s actively trying to deceive the man who gave him his lofty position. And… that’s all I’ll say on that subject until we get to Chapter 76; at this point we didn’t know the test Dalinar had set up for him. For now, I’ll contain my burning desire to cause Amaram severe pain.
So I’ll balance the annoyance with amusement over Kaladin’s “melodrama” and Shallan’s much greater experience with lying. It’s a little bit of a bummer that he gets to present Dalinar with the gemheart of the chasmfiend he killed but can’t tell the true story. But explanations would be distinctly awkward, especially for Shallan. It’s no wonder she lies about it—she’s not supposed to have a Shardblade!—and it’s easy, because the lie is far more believable than the truth. At some point, I think it would be nice if they were able to tell someone the real story of the chasmfiend fight, just for fun, but I doubt it will happen. By the time they could tell the story freely, there are much more important, world-shattering issues to deal with. Oh well.
Jumping forward, I do love Navani. After all the time of grief and denial, Shallan is suddenly and fiercely claimed, and that’s that. Partly, I suspect she first had to come to terms with her loss, and then she needed a stimulus to provoke her to active acceptance. Clearly, the sight of Shallan “in half a filthy dress” (I do love that line!) was enough of a trigger; from there, there’s no going back. I wonder how much of it was to do with Jasnah, how much with Adolin’s obvious grief, and how much simple maternal instinct. In any case, I like the outcome.
Last note. Every time I read this bit, it almost breaks my heart again:
“I’ve been searching for you, haven’t I?” Dalinar said. “All this time, without seeing it.”
Kaladin looked away. “No, sir. Maybe once, but… I’m just what you see, and not what you think. I’m sorry.”
Yay! It’s the next day, finally! Uh… it’s the next day. There are now only 8 days left in the countdown, and they still don’t know what they’re counting down to.
We’ve had the conversation about gloryspren before, and whether or not they are appropriately named. Feel free to have the debate again, if you wish, but I would first remind you that the name is the one used by Rosharans, or at least Alethi, and they aren’t always fully aware of what specifically attracts a spren. They’re called “gloryspren” because they show up when someone is reveling in or being lauded for a major accomplishment; whether they’re drawn to that concept of “glory” per se, or whether it’s the approval (from oneself or others), or… something else, we may never know. But they’re called gloryspren, and they show up to replace Kaladin’s exhaustionspren when he reveals the gemheart he and Shallan brought back with them. One way or another, that really is quite an accomplishment!
There’s something more significant than gloryspren revealed in this chapter, though.
“I was not me when the Knights Radiant existed. It is complex to explain. I have always existed. We are not ‘born’ as men are, and we cannot truly die as men do. Patterns are eternal, as is fire, as is the wind. As are all spren. Yet, I was not in this state. I was not… aware.”
“You were a mindless spren?” Shallan said. “Like the ones that gather around me when I draw?”
“Less than that,” Pattern said. “I was… everything. In everything. I cannot explain it. Language is insufficient. I would need numbers.”
“Surely there are others among you, though,” Shallan said. “Older Cryptics? Who were alive back then?”
“No,” Pattern said softly. “None who experienced the bond.”
“Not a single one?”
“All dead,” Pattern said. “To us, this means they are mindless—as a force cannot truly be destroyed. These old ones are patterns in nature now, like Cryptics unborn. We have tried to restore them. It does not work. Mmmm. Perhaps if their knights still lived, something could be done…”
Stormfather. Shallan pulled the blanket around her closer. “An entire people, all killed?”
“Not just one people,” Pattern said, solemn. “Many. Spren with minds were less plentiful then, and the majorities of several spren peoples were all bonded. There were very few survivors. The one you call Stormfather lived. Some others. The rest, thousands of us, were killed when the event happened. You call it the Recreance.”
I… don’t quite know what to say about this. In one sense, spren aren’t living beings; they’re the personification of ideas. But in another sense, some spren become sentient individuals as well. And now we learn that at the peak of the Radiants’ power, just before the Recreance, nearly every spren who could be bonded, was bonded. It’s no wonder the Stormfather hates and distrusts those who would bond the spren; last time such bonds existed, almost all of the sentient-individual-spren died.
I must admit that I’m a little baffled by the statement that “These old ones are patterns in nature now, like Cryptics unborn.” Is that a reference to Shardblades? It sure doesn’t sound like it to me. Or have some portion of the betrayed spren been somehow released from Blade form, to become non-sentient natural spren again? That would explain why there are less than a hundred known Blades, instead of the many hundreds that should have been left if all the Radiants abandoned their spren in Blade form. Alternatively, on the assumption that the Lightweavers weren’t necessarily primarily fighters, were the Cryptics left in another form? And if so, what other Orders might have left their spren in differing forms?
And of course, at this point in the book, we still didn’t know that the spren became the Blades, so it was necessary to keep things as ambiguous as possible. Even cryptic, one might say.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
There’s really nothing new to be said here, other than to point out the rather obvious detail that when Kaladin & Shallan woke up and climbed down from their cubby, they took time to dismantle the chasmfiend far enough to retrieve the gemheart. Also, Shallan must have summoned her Blade again to do so; she’s beginning to get more comfortable with the notion, maybe.
Not a lot of Arcanum going around this time, either, except Pattern’s willingness to function as an intelligent and independently-mobile recording device. That would be downright handy sometimes, but I’d hate to see the capability in the hands of the government. Which… actually makes me view Shallan’s usage of her little spy-spren in a different light.
It’s worth noting, though, that the source of the above-quoted conversation with Pattern was the question of whether Shallan is enough of a Radiant to operate the Oathgate if they find it. While he can’t quite remember what else needs to happen, he’s doing all he can to urge her toward understanding herself better… and that means remembering. Not just the stuff she told Kaladin last night, which IMO she’d never forgotten, but all the way back through her mother’s death and to the time before, when she was newly bonded. When she can remember all of that and face it unflinching, I suspect she’ll be a true Knight Radiant.
Jezrien has plenty of reason to be here. Dalinar is exercising leadership, Amaram is parading around in his head-of-the-Knights-Radiant cloak, and Kaladin the erstwhile Windrunner has returned from the chasms. Pick your reason. Vedel, on the other hand, seems most likely to reflect the activity of the surgeons, and perhaps Navani’s change of heart toward Shallan.
Adolin and Shallan are just so cute!! Adolin has been out delivering Dalinar’s ultimatum to the other highprinces, in an effort to stay busy and not think too much about Shallan.
I do feel sorry for him; he ran for Dalinar, as the obvious target of an assassination attempt, but he lost Shallan in the process. He couldn’t possibly have known that the bridge would collapse; Kaladin was yelling and running toward someone on the far side of the chasm, and his instinct was to protect his father and highprince from an attack. I’m pretty sure that didn’t make him feel any better; he’d saved his father, but his betrothed and an assortment of other men and women fell to their deaths in the failed assassination. He can hardly be blamed for promising that he’ll never let it happen again, can he?
The mother axehound had finally emerged. Shallan was apparently no longer an outsider, but one of Navani’s clutch—and Chana help the man or woman who stood between Navani and one of her own.
“Mother axehound.” “Clutch.” “Chana help them.” These are the fun little world-fitting idioms I love to notice.
Thus endeth the novella comprising Part Four. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we’ll take a good hard look at the letter which has made up the epigraphs, and see what kind of Cosmere connections may be hidden therein.
Completely unrelated to the chapter, I do have another request for y’all. I’m taking part in some panels for the Sanderson track at JordanCon this year. One is on the Stormlight Archive but with no Cosmere connection, and one is on Cosmere speculation. If you were going attend one of those panel discussions, what particular subjects would you be hoping someone would address?
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, and soon-to-be panelist for the SanderTrack at her first-ever JordanCon. Woot!