Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Taravangian saw the fruition of his plans in Jah Keved, and got a surprise visit from his favorite (!) assassin. This week, Part Five launches with unanticipated alliances, unexpected revelations—and a discarded cloak.
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 76: The Hidden Blade
Point of View: Kaladin, Dalinar, Sadeas
Setting: the Warcamps
Symbology: Spears, Talenel, Shalash
IN WHICH Kaladin rejects his own surgical advice; his boyhood fantasy is fulfilled; Sebarial unexpectedly joins the expedition—and brings Palona with him; all are flabbergasted by the arrival of Aladar; Sadeas and Ialai explore and scheme; Dalinar finally understands Aladar; Kaladin watches Adolin and Shallan ride by, then salutes Dalinar; an apology is due; Dalinar has a new Shardblade; the erstwhile head of the Knights Radiant is dismissed from his position; Sadeas writes off his former ally and begins planning for new associates.
Quote of the Week
Aladar met his eyes. “I think the things you say about Alethkar are naive at best, and undoubtedly impossible. Those delusions of yours aren’t a sign of madness, as Sadeas wants us to think— they’re just the dreams of a man who wants desperately to believe in something, something foolish. ‘Honor’ is a word applied to the actions of men from the past who have had their lives scrubbed clean by historians.” He hesitated. “But… storm me for a fool, Dalinar, I wish they could be true. I came for myself, not Sadeas. I won’t betray you. Even if Alethkar can’t ever be what you want, we can at least crush the Parshendi and avenge old Gavilar. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Aladar is more honorable than he thinks he is, and this entire conversation proves it. This was one of the moments on my preliminary list of “Reflections” back when I was doing pre-WoR-release teaser posts, because it shocked me. Just a few paragraphs before this, Dalinar suddenly realized that, all the time Aladar was arguing against him, he was only trying to convince himself that Dalinar was wrong. Because this is what he wanted all along, but couldn’t quite believe in it. He’d spent the last six years (or whatever) torn between idealism and realism, and allowed himself to be pulled closer to the pragmatic side of his nature. Now, when it comes right down to a decisive action, he throws his cynicism to the wind and chooses his longed-for ideals. And I love him for it. It’s just the right thing to do.
Off the Wall
This is, observably, a new unit, specially constructed for the Part Five epigraphs: excerpts from the Diagram.
They will come you cannot stop their oaths look for those who survive when they should not that pattern will be your clue.
—From the Diagram, Coda of the Northwest Bottom Corner: paragraph 3
This chapter’s epigraph is the same passage as was quoted in Interlude 14, which Taravangian now understands to be a reference to the Knights Radiant. While I suppose it does provide another bit of confirmation of the accuracy of the Diagram, it seems like a very clear-in-hindsight-only piece of information. It’s difficult to say without the context, but should he have figured this out sooner? Or did he, and just thought that having identified Jasnah and (perhaps) Shallan, he had it covered? Ah, well. As they say, it’s a mistake any deranged halfwit could have made.
This selection also gives us an early hint as to the structure—or lack thereof—in the original writing: punctuation is entirely missing, because obviously any intelligent person can figure it out, right? Except when they can’t… which may come into play later.
Welcome to Part Five: Winds Alight. And it is indeed going to get windy up in here, in more ways than one! Between the out-of-pattern highstorm, the Everstorm, Kaladin regaining and leveling-up in his ability to ride the wind, and the final battle cresting the stormfront, there’s a whole lot of wind coming.
This chapter hops POVs repeatedly, as it juxtaposes Kaladin struggling, Dalinar coordinating, and Sadeas scheming. The last, being the shortest, is easiest to take first.
Sadeas and Ialai, wretched snakes that they are, display their contempt for Dalinar’s summons by going for a ride in the opposite direction, which not coincidentally takes them out through the area where Sebarial has begun his farming operations. Ialai, frustrated by the failure of her assassin, is proposing a coup to take down Elhokar while Dalinar is gone. Sadeas, however, surprised by Dalinar’s actual commitment to the expedition, is confident that, with him dead on the Plains, no coup will actually be needed. Angered by Aladar’s decision to join Dalinar, he dismisses them all, and begins a new round of scheming. Irony must be served, however:
“I was merely thinking,” she said, seeming distant. “About the future. And what it is going to bring. For us.”
A word in your shell-like, Ialai: you aren’t going to like it.
Dalinar is on the giving and receiving end of multiple surprises. It was looking like just the Kholin and Roion armies going out to confront the Parshendi, and then Sebarial turns up, with a fashionably-garbed Palona, in a carriage, looking for all the world like they’re going on a picnic excursion. With an entire army. But the bit that gives me the shivers is this:
“I’ve got a feeling about you, Dalinar old man. I think it’s wise to stay close to you. Something’s going to happen out there on the Plains, and opportunity rises like the dawn.”
I suppose it could be just a good business sense… but this is Sanderson. I can’t help thinking there’s more to Sebarial and his “feeling” than rising opportunity. I do think it would be marvelous fun if he turned out to become a Radiant. I know we’ve had this discussion before, but this speech gives me a feeling of further surprises to come.
Dalinar’s other surprise, Aladar, I already addressed in the QOTW. But I’m going to insert one other exchange, just because it’s so good:
Aladar extended his hand, but hesitated. “You realize that I’m stained through and through. I’ve got blood on these hands, Dalinar. I’m not some perfect, honorable knight as you seem to want to pretend.”
“I know you’re not,” Dalinar said, taking the hand. “I’m not either. We will have to do.”
As we’ll see in the next book, Dalinar certainly has blood on his own hands. Neither of them is clean and perfect… but they’ll have to do. There’s no one else.
Moving on to Kaladin, he seems to be having a “do as I say, not as I do” day. Knowing full well that he should stay off his injured leg, he drags himself off to the parade ground to watch the armies march. His men give him fetch for doing it, but they are glad to see him. There’s an uncomfortable moment when he registers one decision that was made without him:
“Brightlord Dalinar asked me leave our best man behind with a team of his own selection. They’ll watch the king.”
Their best man…
Coldness. Moash. Moash had been left in charge of the king’s safety, and had a team of his own choosing.
That’s all he does with it for now, though. There’s not much more that’s particularly noteworthy about Kaladin’s POV (except the bits in Sprenspotting and Shipping Wars below), until we get to… THAT… PART. Where the Dalinar-arc and the Kaladin-arc overlap for a few minutes of pure excellence, as Dalinar forces Amaram to meet Kaladin face to face.
“Brightlord,” Amaram said, taking Dalinar by the arm, “I don’t know if the lad is touched in the head or merely starved for attention. Perhaps he served in my army, as he claims— he certainly bears the correct slave brand. But his allegations regarding me are obviously preposterous.”
Dalinar nodded to himself, as if this were all expected. “I believe an apology is due.”
Kaladin struggled to remain upright, his leg feeling weak. So this would be his final punishment. Apologizing to Amaram in public. A humiliation above all others.
“I—” Kaladin began.
“Not you, son,” Dalinar said softly.
The first time I read this, I literally came right out of my chair—laptop and all. I was all, “No, Dalinar, nonononono… uh… Oh! OH YEAH!” And there was fist-pumping, I’m pretty sure. Despite not wanting to believe such a thing of Amaram, Dalinar set up his test. Whether that’s because Sadeas destroyed his trust, or whether he’d have done it anyway, I don’t know, but he played the long game here, and it paid off. Amaram proved himself to be a liar and a thief, and he remains completely unrepentant. Some “son of honor” he is.
There are two additional points I must make about this scene. One is the Blade Dalinar summons:
Wider than most, it was almost cleaverlike in appearance.
We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: this is not the same Blade from the epilogue to TWoK. That was described as:
…long, narrow, and straight, shaped like an enormous spike.
Unfortunately, we’re no closer to an explanation for the discrepancy now than we were last time we debated it. Someday.
The final point is Amaram’s attitude. I find it bewildering, but at the same time, it fits. It reminds me of a JordanCon panel I was watching earlier today, where Seanan McGuire was saying that “your main villain has to see himself as the good guy; if he doesn’t, you’ve failed.” (Or words to that effect. I didn’t memorize it.) Amaram totally sees himself as the hero of the piece, bizarre as that seems.
Amaram looked Kaladin in the eyes. “I am sorry for what I did to you and yours. Sometimes, good men must die so that greater goals may be accomplished.”
Kaladin felt a gathering chill, a numbness that spread from his heart outward.
He’s telling the truth, he thought. He… honestly believes that he did the right thing.
Sadeas is a jerk, and he knows it, and he doesn’t care; for him, the highest standard is his own power and wealth. Amaram, though—he really thinks he’s doing the hard things that need to be done, because they’re the right thing… in his mind. Taken completely out of context, I could agree with his words: sometimes, good men must die so that greater goals may be accomplished. IMO, the defense of one’s homeland or the freedom and safety of the innocent is a high enough goal that those who die to defend the rest of us are heroes, not fools. I have nothing but the highest respect for those who volunteer to put their lives on the line so that we can be free. The problem here, at least for me, is that Amaram figures he’s qualified to make that determination on his own, and the men who die shouldn’t need any explanation or rationale from him. Those who joined for the sake of “punishing the people who killed our king!” deserved better than to be sacrificed for the dubious goals of the “Sons of Honor.”
This scene takes place on the same day as Chapter 75—which is to say, day 61 of the book, day T-8 of the countdown, or day 1 of the expedition. We’re sneaking up on the climax.
No actual spren were observed in the reading of this chapter, but there’s something I’m going to quote anyway, because it’s worth quoting.
“I’ve lost the ability, Lopen,” he said softly. “Syl has left me.”
The lean Herdazian fell unusually silent. “Well,” he finally said, “maybe you should buy her something nice.”
“Buy something nice? For a spren?”
“Yeah. Like… I don’t know. A nice plant, maybe, or a new hat. Yes, a hat. Might be cheap. She’s small. If a tailor tries to charge you full price for a hat that small, you thump him real good.”
“That’s the most ridiculous piece of advice I’ve ever been given.”
“You should rub yourself with curry and go prancing through the camp singing Horneater lullabies.”
Kaladin looked at Lopen, incredulous. “What?”
“See? Now the bit about the hat is only the second most ridiculous piece of advice you’ve ever been given, so you should try it. Women like hats. I have this cousin who makes them. I can ask her. You might not even need the actual hat. Just the spren of the hat. That’ll make it even cheaper.”
Just the spren of the hat. Oh, Lopen. You’re awesome.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
I realize this is totally insignificant. So? The visual of Dalinar haring off on his Ryshadium with everyone else trying to keep up on their horses, only to arrive just in time for him to take off back the way they came from… this gives me fits of the giggles. I want a Ryshadium of my very own, and I’ll bet I wouldn’t be allergic to him, either. So there.
(I’m deathly allergic to horses; can’t breathe within 10 feet of one, even outdoors. It’s very sad.)
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Well, he’s not a world-hopper in the usual sense, but… hey, look! There’s Isaac Stewart! A.k.a. Isasik, the royal cartographer, who is seen here in a snit because everyone is praising Shallan’s map. Or because everyone says she drew it when he drew everything she draws. Or … this is getting too metaphysical and fourth-wally. Hi, Isaac.
I’m not 100% sure of the rationale on this pair. Talenel, the Soldier, is easy enough, especially when you add “dependable/resourceful;” those are well-represented in this chapter. I don’t get Shalash, though; what does “the Artist” have to do with it all? Shallan is only barely seen. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Kaladin found himself standing up amid the bridgemen, despite the pain of his leg, as he noticed Adolin and Shallan riding past. He followed the pair with his eyes. Adolin, astride his thick-hooved Ryshadium, and Shallan on a more modestly sized brown animal.
She looked gorgeous. Kaladin was willing to admit it, if only to himself. Brilliant red hair, ready smile. She said something clever; Kaladin could almost hear the words. He waited, hoping that she’d look toward him, meet his eyes across the short distance.
She didn’t. She rode on, and Kaladin felt like an utter fool. A part of him wanted to hate Adolin for holding her attention, but he found that he couldn’t. The truth was, he liked Adolin. And those two were good for one another. They fit.
Perhaps Kaladin could hate that.
Awww. Poor Kaladin. I don’t think I’d call it “love,” but there is a certain interest displayed here. Of course, we don’t know yet where Sanderson is going to take this, but this was one of several passages that really make me hope that Shallan and Adolin stay together. I believe Kaladin is correct when he observes that “those two were good for one another. They fit.” I also believe that he will leave it at that, though it’s a bit sad-making to see that he feels a need to hate something when he doesn’t get the girl.
“Well said, you old turtle!”
Heh. In context, maybe it’s not a terribly Roshar-specific wording, but I love it anyway.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when the armies begin their long trek across the Plains, while Kaladin returns to the barracks for an uncomfortable conversation.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, and is excited to be attending her first JordanCon next week. Wheee!