Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we launched into Part Five with unexpected alliances and revelations. This week, Shallan passes the time with a new/old book and shares scholarship with Navani, while Kaladin begins to take small steps back toward Honor.
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 77: Trust
Point of View: Shallan, Kaladin
Setting: Shattered Plains, Bridge Four barracks
Symbology: Pattern; Palah, Chana
IN WHICH the armies set off; slow can be majestic; a book arrives; the march turns out to be rather boring, but the book certainly isn’t; the Weeping begins, and Shallan finds it comforting; Navani joins Shallan in her carriage; their collaboration begins; the existence of living Knights Radiant is finally revealed to someone who is not a Surgebinder; the Weeping begins, and Kaladin finds it miserable; he continues to grieve for Sylphrena; Moash comes for a visit; the assassination plan is revealed – and it will be so easy; Kaladin begins to show a deeper understanding, and expresses doubt; Moash is concerned, but Kaladin cannot stop it.
Quote of the Week
Kaladin looked up at his friend. “I think she left because of the plot to kill the king, Moash. I don’t think a Radiant could be involved in something like this.”
“Shouldn’t a Radiant care about doing what is right? Even if it means a difficult decision?”
“Sometimes lives must be spent for the greater good,” Kaladin said.
“That’s what Amaram said. In regards to my friends, whom he murdered to cover up his secrets.”
“Well, that’s different, obviously. He’s a lighteyes.”
Kaladin looked to Moash, whose eyes had turned as light a tan as those of any Brightlord. Same color as Amaram’s, actually. “So are you.”
I see this as the beginning of Kaladin’s conscious return to his Ideals, as he connects the attitudes of Amaram and Moash to one another and to the effect his support of Moash had on Sylphrena. He’s beginning to get past the mourning stage and is starting to take responsibility.
Oh, Kaladin. You were always so ready to take the blame for things you couldn’t control; now you’re beginning to get back to being accountable for your own decisions. It is a beautiful thing.
Off the Wall
One danger in deploying such a potent weapon will be the potential encouragement of those exploring the Nahel bond. Care must be taken to avoid placing these subjects in situations of powerful stress unless you accept the consequences of their potential Investiture.
–From the Diagram, Floorboard 27: paragraph 6
And… what weapon would this be? Something to do with Surgebinding, apparently… but what? I’m wondering if this is related Gavilar’s black sphere. At one point, Szeth thought of it as being safely hidden in Jah Keved, but might he have passed it – or its location – to his master Taravangian? It seems like there ought to be other alternatives, but this is the only object I can think of that could, potentially anyway, be “deployed.” Speculation, please!
And so it begins. (There is a hole in your mind…) (…Also, heh. Yes, there really IS a hole in Dalinar’s mind, come to think of it. Of a somewhat different nature than Jeffrey Sinclair’s, but there it is.)
Anyway. The expedition finally sets off in its motley but majestic array. Ryshadium, horses, carriages, bridges, scholars, scribes, mistresses, Soulcasters… oh, and four armies’ worth of soldiers. Let’s not forget them!
I love the tidbit at the beginning, with Shallan wondering why Gaz wasn’t there, and wondering if, just maybe, she should have looked more closely into his debt issues. (Ya think? Not that I expect it to actually become an issue, but the principle would have been sound… as I believe we’ve discussed once or twice.) The follow-up makes it splendid – when he runs to catch up to her, carrying her very own worn, faded, well-used, but real copy of Words of Radiance. Aw, Gaz. Well done. (Also: I really want to know where Brandon is going with Gaz.)
Also also: when do we get to learn what really is that “wicked thing of eminence”??
To me, the best part of this chapter is when Navani joins Shallan, and really joins forces with her. It clearly takes effort on both sides; Navani has to consciously avoid taking over, and Shallan has to be willing to share her notes and what she retrieved of Jasnah’s. I do appreciate Navani’s straightforwardness in assuring Shallan that she’s not going to steal the project, because really, it’s the obvious thing to do. She’s fifty, and Shallan is seventeen; who is likely to be the better scholar? But Navani places herself in the position of advisor and facilitator: arranging for copies to be made, connecting with archeologists for landmark identification, tapping surveyors to measure and scholars to research quotations.
I know that’s all important stuff, and it’s critical to the mission at hand, but this…
“You’re still human,” Shallan said, reaching across, putting her hand on Navani’s knee. “We can’t all be emotionless chunks of rock like Jasnah.”
Navani smiled. “She sometimes had the empathy of a corpse, didn’t she?”
“Comes from being too brilliant,” Shallan said. “You grow accustomed to everyone else being something of an idiot, trying to keep up with you.”
“Chana knows, I wondered sometimes how I raised that child without strangling her. By age six, she was pointing out my logical fallacies as I tried to get her to go to bed on time.”
Shallan grinned. “I always just assumed she was born in her thirties.”
“Oh, she was. It just took thirty-some years for her body to catch up.” Navani smiled.
The near echo of Gavilar’s words to Jasnah in the Prologue is worth noting, but there are other things as well. One, the “cold and emotionless” aspect of Jasnah’s character is not in itself the result of some trauma; it’s just who she’s always been. Brilliant and logical from an early age, and never a terribly affectionate child, she grew into a woman who was brilliant, logical, and completely impatient of the perceived folly of many around her. I wonder if she’d have had to temper that attitude if she hadn’t been the king’s daughter.
She wasn’t actually emotionless, of course, but her ability to relate to other people was definitely affected by her lack of empathy for them. Her father was different; I’m beginning to wonder if the trauma Shallan suspected (back in TWoK Chapter 36) had to do more with Gavilar’s assassination than something that was done to her directly.
The insight into Navani’s character also gives us a different angle than we’ve seen before. As Elhokar’s mother, she has come across as loving but pragmatic; she knows he’s not very good at being king and makes no bones about saying so, at least within the family. As Dalinar’s old/new love interest, she’s attractive and – for their society – quite aggressive in going after what she wants. As a scholar and artifabrian, she’s clever and insightful, even while mostly accepting her socially-acceptable role of sponsor rather than engineer. Here, though, we see the mother of a strong-willed daughter, who loved deeply but still felt disconnected from her firstborn. (As the mother of a strong-willed daughter, I can sort of relate…)
On a slight rabbit trail, it’s amusing to note the differences between Shallan’s and Kaladin’s reactions to the Weeping. To Shallan, it’s soft and pleasing; to Kaladin, it’s miserable and gloomy.
This chapter takes place on days 1 and 2 of the expedition, with the opening section on day 1 and the remainder on day 2. This corresponds to days T-8 and T-7 of the countdown. Not long now…
Syl, once again, is noticeable by her absence, but her influence is working. It’s good to see.
Pattern, on the other hand, is busy! Now that Shallan has her hands on a copy of the in-world Words of Radiance, and some time to read, his assistance is invaluable.
Pattern had offered some few insights, but mostly he had been of use telling her what sounded likely to have been real, and what from the book was a mistake based on hearsay. His memory was spotty, but growing much better, and hearing what the book said often made him remember more.
I find this unutterably cool. The fact that Pattern (and Syl) actually can’t remember very much keeps them from being a system cheat, and I’m glad it’s set up that way. At the same time, access to something like this that can help Pattern remember, however sporadically, is an excellent find. And, of course, the fact that it only kind of helps, because it’s not exactly accurate… Help, but not too much help. Me likey.
So, anyway, lots of good info here on how the Knights Radiant used to function, according to memory and hearsay from a couple hundred years later. At the moment, I can’t remember how much of it was actually new to us when we read this, and how much was just new to Shallan, but it’s good stuff.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
Roshar sure does breed some nasty specimens. The whitespine, and Shallan’s observations on it, remind me a little of the wild boars of old English stories… except nastier, if possible. Yikes. Seriously, looking at this thing, the stories don’t seem at all exaggerated. It could take on several men at once and destroy them all, if it wanted to.
It’s also a nice little side view into Shallan-the-natural-history-buff; it’s sometimes easy to forget that she’s been studying the flora and fauna for most of her life.
The Heralds seem relatively straightforward this time (for once!). Shallan, poring over her new book and her maps, coordinating efforts with Navani and her scribes, is definitely in the role of Scholar for the entire chapter; Palah is clearly indicated. Kaladin, however imperfectly, is returning to his role as Guard, and even beginning to inch toward becoming a true bodyguard for his king, as he begins to recognize the inappropriateness of his approval of – much less participation in – Moash’s assassination plot; hence, Chana.
I’m not entirely sure what the title of the chapter refers to, since the word itself is only used twice in the text, but here are three possibilities:
- The first usage of the word, where Adolin tells Shallan to trust him about the gentle horse he chose for her; this could be extended to trusting his recommendation to avoid overdoing it, and make use of the carriage. I actually like this, because later she thinks about being closed up in the carriage and reminds herself that not everyone who tries to take care of her will be like her father.
- The second usage, when Moash tries to confirm that he can still trust Kaladin with the assassination plot information. (Turns out he can’t – and it’s a good thing, but that’s for later.) In reverse, there’s also the question of Kaladin trusting Moash.
- Shallan taking the plunge to tell Navani that Jasnah could Soulcast, and was actually one of the Knights Radiant. Okay, it’s not as much of a plunge as admitting that she herself can also Surgebind would have been… but it’s a start, and it did require a measure of trust.
He grinned, Shardplate helm hanging from his saddle so as to not mess up his hair. She waited for him to add a quip to hers, but he didn’t.
That was all right. She liked Adolin as he was. He was kind, noble, and genuine. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t brilliant or… or whatever else Kaladin was. She couldn’t even define it. So there.
Passionate, with an intense, smoldering resolve. A leashed anger that he used, because he had dominated it. And a certain tempting arrogance. Not the haughty pride of a highlord. Instead, the secure, stable sense of determination that whispered that no matter who you were— or what you did— you could not hurt him. Could not change him.
He was. Like the wind and rocks were.
Well. For all the attraction of the “dangerous unknown,” that’s a stark reminder that Kaladin is definitely “unknown” to Shallan. At this point in time, those last three sentences are incredibly ironic – Kaladin is anything but secure, stable, determined, unchangeable. Appearances to the contrary, Kaladin is hurt, broken, damaged almost beyond recovery, and she doesn’t have a clue to that side of him.
In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about how much Shallan and Kaladin opened up to each other during the highstorm, and what a marvy basis for a relationship that is… but when you look at it more closely, they really didn’t. They didn’t go anywhere near the whole truth. They just cracked the door open an inch or so.
Kaladin didn’t mention Syl, the issues surrounding her departure, Moash and Elhokar, anything to do with fighting Szeth, or becoming a Windrunner. He didn’t talk about Tien, or Hearthstone, or Roshone, or his bitterness against being caught in the middle – too high for the other darkeyes and too low for the lighteyes. He only talked about the part where he was a slave – betrayal by Amaram (not the whole truth) up through the Tower. He didn’t even talk about being bought back by Dalinar, though one could perhaps assume that she would have heard that story already.
For her part, Shallan didn’t tell of killing her mother, of blanking out everything that had happened that night; nor did she mention Pattern or Surgebinding in any way. She talked of her abusive father, of her wretched home life between the time of her mother’s death and her father’s, of trying to keep her brothers from giving up or getting themselves killed, and finally of going to Jasnah to steal the Soulcaster, being accepted as a ward, and being causally betrothed to Adolin. She didn’t talk about Tyn, the Ghostbloods, or spying on Amaram – which was obviously relevant to Kaladin’s story, but since she couldn’t talk about how she got in, she didn’t talk about it at all.
Both of them left out vast, significant parts of who they are and how they got there. Before it was over, Kaladin figured out that Shallan was a proto-Radiant, but not because she wanted him to know. Kaladin didn’t actually tell her much that she couldn’t have learned from his men; she didn’t tell him much beyond what she’d already told Jasnah – and certainly her brothers knew it all. Neither one let the other into the deepest, darkest, most closely-held secrets. It was new information for them, in terms of getting to know one another, but when it comes right down to it, they spoke of very little that’s not already known to multiple other people.
All things considered, I’m beginning to realize it may not be quite as significant as we’d assumed. It was awesome in terms of them realizing that the other was less shallow and annoying than they’d thought, and in developing some kind of functional working relationship and perhaps actual friendship, but there are a lot of secrets left.
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when a secret is revealed and Parshendi are encountered.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, and she is extraordinarily excited about the upcoming JordanCon. Anyone who is going to be there needs to connect with the StormCellar gathering on Friday night, 9:00-ish, location tbd. There’s a rumor that she’s offered to buy the first round…