Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we saw riots in Kholinar and suspicion in Narak. This week, war has devastated Jah Keved, and we join Taravangian there for the continuance of his strategy.
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.
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Interlude 14: Taravangian
Point of View: Taravangian
Symbology: Double Eye of the Almighty, Palah, Jezrien
IN WHICH an aging king awakens and is tested; Vedenar is a heap of rubble and ash; exhausted soldiers cheer the man who engineered the ruin of their nation; an assassin is waiting; soothing lies and reiterated commands send him on his way; speculation and searching ensue; a dying king is visited; a relationship is identified, and an heir designated; a son must kill his father; grief and guilt accumulate.
Quote of the Week
By the light of spheres, Taravangian picked through the tome, poring over translations of his own words written in a language he had invented and then forgotten. Answers. He needed answers.
“Did ever I tell you, Adro, what I asked for?” he whispered as he read.
He was barely listening. “Capacity,” he whispered, turning a page. “Capacity to stop what was coming. The capacity to save humankind.”
I don’t even know what to say about this. It makes me sad. It makes me angry—though whether at the Nightwatcher or at Taravangian, I’m not sure.
This is a long, long chapter, and it is chock-full of information. Not all of it is very nice.
Some trivial notes to start with:
Mrall, Taravangian’s advisor, is a Thaylen with shaved head and eyebrows. The similarity of names and non-traditional hair-styling make me wonder if he is associated with Mraize in ways other than country of origin. Clearly, we’re supposed to make the connection, but we’re left wondering if it’s just world-building, or if there’s something Significant about it.
More to the point, though, what is it about Mrall that gives him the right to demand that Taravangian undergo his morning testing before breakfast? I can see where it’s his duty, but why the phrasing of “It is his right to demand this”? I suppose it could be as simple as “I gave him the job of deciding what I’m qualified to do, so he has a right to demand that I test as soon as I wake.” And that would probably be reasonable… but this is Sanderson, and I don’t trust the simple and reasonable explanation for anything about a character as mysterious as Taravangian.
Speaking of which, there sure seem to be a lot of people who know all about the diagram, his varying intelligence, and his restrictions. Advisors, stormwardens, sailors, soldiers…
We got a lot of answers in this Interlude—more than we had reason to expect, for only the second book of the series. We know where Taravangian is getting his plans and marching orders on a daily basis: from the Diagram he wrote on his most brilliant day, as a “gift” from the Nightwatcher. We know that he’s fully aware of the return of the Radiants, and that Jasnah was a Surgebinder. We know that a great deal of his reputation for compassion is based on a façade; although we learned of that to some extent in TWoK, it’s made eminently clear that “being seen as compassionate” is part of his directive. And we now know that he’s maneuvering to unite all of Roshar under his own direction. One thing we don’t know, though, is how long this has been going on, or whether he confided in Gavilar as much as Gavilar in him. I suppose it’s possible that Gavilar’s revelations and assassination were what sent Taravangian to seek the Nightwatcher… I sure would like to know.
The whole thing is disturbing, though. Emotion without intellect, genius without empathy. Either one is a recipe for disaster in the ruler of a nation. The saving grace would be that on most days, he’s relatively balanced. The counter, which makes it less “saving” than it could be, is that no matter what, he’s unequivocally dedicated to carrying out the plan he made when he was super-duper brilliant… and had absolutely no compassion. This worries me.
Human intelligence is all well and good, but what’s going on here reminds me, first, of Asimov’s Foundation series—the entire course of the human race could be determined mathematically… until one odd, unpredictable mutation threw everything out of alignment. I don’t know where this is going, but all the red flags are waving. Taravangian flat-out admits that the only thing he “worships,” the only object of faith for him, is his own super-brilliant self and the things he wrote on that one day. The concern is, of course, compounded by stuff like this:
Hopefully, Moelach hadn’t decided to slumber again. The Death Rattles had, so far, offered them the best way that they’d found to augment the Diagram.
If Moelach is indeed another of the Unmade (and we have no other category he fits), am I the only one who finds it worrisome that Taravangian’s hope to “save humankind” is being guided by a Splinter of Odium?
This Interlude takes place sometime prior to the last highstorm before the Weeping, though the exact date is not clear.
There don’t seem to be any of the normal spren bobbling around here—or rather, no one bothers to note them—but there is one abnormal one mentioned. Or maybe two.
In reference to Nergaoul, whom they (correctly, per WoB) assume to be responsible for the Thrill, Taravangian instructs Adrotagia not to spend too much effort trying to find him/it:
“I’m not sure what we would even do if we found the thing.” An ancient, evil spren was not something he had the resources to tackle. Not yet at least.
Nergaoul is an Unmade, and Taravangian calls it “an ancient, evil spren.” My researches tell me that Brandon has confirmed that the Unmade are Splinters of Odium; I guess if they go back to the time of the Desolations, that would easily be old enough to qualify as “ancient.”
The next question is whether Moelach fits the same description. Brandon has not confirmed this to the best of my knowledge, but as working theories go, I think it’s reasonably strong. Moelach is referenced several times, being the instigator of the “death rattles” Taravangian uses to correct his Diagram-directed course. ::shudder:: See above discussion…
At first I was surprised that Vedel wasn’t on this chapter’s arch, with all the healers out doing their thing, and Taravangian as their king. After rereading the chapter, I decided that Palah and Jezrien make more sense, though. One angle would be to say Jezrien represents the King, while Palah is his wise advisor Adrotagia. Another would be to say that both are for Taravangian, with Palah representing his raw intellect and Jezrien his kingship.
“Mrall could loom over a mountain and intimidate the wind itself.” That makes me giggle a bit. I also like “favored of the winds” for someone extraordinarily lucky. Both are so very Rosharan.
There is, of course, much more that could be said about this chapter, but I’ll leave it for y’all to bring out in the comments. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we start into Part Five.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She’s currently hip-deep in planning for her first JordanCon, and is looking forward to seeing some of you there. StormCellar meet-up on Friday night!