Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Navani’s fabrials aided in the battle for the Plains, while Kaladin made a difficult choice back in the warcamp. This week, Shallan searches for the Oathgate while the battle rages, and Kaladin stands firm.
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 83: Time’s Illusion
Point of View: Shallan, Adolin, Dalinar, Kaladin
Setting: Narak, the Pinnacle
Symbology: the Duelist, Talenel, Shalash
IN WHICH Shallan arrives on the circular plateau; she and Renarin reason out why it must be the Oathgate and must have been preserved in this way; Pattern realizes that the Voidspren are raising a storm; Renarin recognizes that the wind is blowing the wrong way, and that it is the Everstorm; his comments give Shallan the creeps; her team searches for anything strange; at the center, she finds a large mound; she asks Renarin to slay it.
… Adolin looks around a dark chamber in the mound he just slew; it is an enormous building with many rooms; they find the far wall of the building, which the Parshendi are using for protection; he outlines the assault plan, then carves an exit; he and his troops emerge behind the singing Parshendi; he leads the charge, and it’s far too easy; with almost no resistance, and with no Thrill to help him block it out he is disgusted by the slaughter; he is attacked by the Shardbearer Eshonai; he turns eagerly to an honest fight.
… a wounded Dalinar returns from battle to the command tents; though about half of Roion’s army is saved, they have lost the northern plateau; Dalinar’s surgeon is stunned by the scarring, but Dalinar focuses on the battle; Navani is upset but understanding; Adolin has won his plateau, and Aladar is holding steady; an even match is a loss with the Everstorm coming; Roion gets hysterical, but Dalinar’s reprimand is interrupted by the Stormfather; an actual conversation ensues, but is unhelpful; the Stormfather promises only a cleansing storm to wash away their corpses; they are abandoned.
… a wounded Kaladin stands between the unconscious king and Moash; Moash tries the “we’re Bridge Four” argument and Kaladin turns it around on him; Kaladin argues for going after the right people instead; Graves and Moash claim that it’s too late; Moash prepares for a fight.
Quote of the Week
He looked up at Navani grimly, expecting to be dressed down like a recruit who had forgotten his whetstone. Instead, she took him by his good side, then pulled him close.
“No reprimand?” Dalinar asked.
“We’re at war,” she whispered. “And we’re losing, aren’t we?”
Dalinar glanced at the archers, who were running low on arrows. He didn’t speak too loudly, lest they hear. “Yes.” The surgeon glanced at him, then lowered her head and kept sewing.
“You rode to battle when someone needed you,” Navani said. “You saved the lives of a highprince and his soldiers. Why would you expect anger from me?”
I don’t have anything profound to say about this. I just… think it’s beautiful.
Off the Wall
Obviously they are fools The Desolation needs no usher It can and will sit where it wishes and the signs are obvious that the spren anticipate it doing so soon The Ancient of Stones must finally begin to crack It is a wonder that upon his will rested the prosperity and peace of a world for over four millennia
—From the Diagram, Book of the 2nd Ceiling Rotation: pattern 1
This is where we get confirmation that the occurrence of the Desolations was determined by the strength of will of the Heralds under the Oathpact. I always find this particularly poignant: In the distant past, Roshar depended on the willingness of the Heralds to voluntarily remain under torture; they could leave at any time… whenever the pain outweighed the lives of the Rosharan people. (I wonder if we’ll ever find out who usually left first?) It is indeed a wonder that 4500 years have passed, with only one man’s tenacity holding Odium at bay.
In that context, it’s difficult to choose between amusement and anger at the various groups who thought that they could bring about the return of the Radiants, or the Heralds, through their own machinations. Had they only understood …
We’re well and truly caught in the avalanche now. This is the third chapter in a row with at least four viewpoint sections; everything is happening at once.
So we’ve got Shallan and Renarin working together, sorta… at least when they’re united against Inadara’s pedantry. Inadara thinks in terms of current culture: how would the current Alethi highprinces think of something like the Oathgate? It’s all about control and tactical advantage. Shallan’s studies, however, have given her a different perspective about the Silver Kingdoms. (Also, I think Inadara and Shallan just grate on each other, and if Shallan says up, Inadara will say down just on principle.) So Shallan looks for the Oathgate in the most prominent place, and she’ll be right.
So: that’s what’s happening on that circular plateau in the lower right of the map.
In the lower left, we have Adolin slaying his own rocks, and finding an enormous building; there seems to be plenty of room for his thousand soldiers to have to work their way through it to find the other side. Who knows what it was originally; it is at least two stories high, and contains scattered remains of bones and what might once have been furniture. Once they’re on the other side, he can actually hear the Parshendi song resonating through the walls, so… out they go, right on target. And here’s where we see that bit that came up in the discussion last week:
… Often they’d come to just before he killed them— blinking to consciousness, shaking themselves awake, only to find themselves face-to-face with a full Shardbearer in the rain, murdering their friends. Those looks of horror haunted Adolin as he sent corpse after corpse to the ground.
Where was the Thrill that usually propelled him through this kind of butchery? He needed it. Instead, he felt only nausea. Standing amid a field of the newly dead— the acrid smoke of burned-out eyes curling up through the rain— he trembled and dropped his Blade in disgust. It vanished to mist.
For whatever reason, he didn’t get the Thrill at all this time – whether from the lack of actual battle, or because he is moving closer to Honor and away from Odium, or some other reason, I don’t believe we can say with certainty. Yet.
And then Eshonai shows up.
At the upper edge of the map, you can see the plateau from which Roion’s army has been extracted. It is lost to the Parshendi, but thanks to Navani’s interventions, the archers were able to engage the Parshendi enough to save the highprince and Captain Khal (General Khal’s son), along with about half of the army. They also retrieved Teleb’s Blade, though they had to leave his body and his Plate. I’m rather sad about that; we hardly knew him, but I had a soft spot for Teleb. Perhaps we’ll get to know the younger Teleb in Dalinar’s flashbacks.
Just right of center is Aladar’s plateau, which doesn’t really enter into the chapter other than as a path for Shallan’s team to get to the Oathgate, and a comment that he’s holding steady. To the far right is Narak, but there’s probably no one there any more. We don’t know for sure.
In the center, of course, is the command plateau, where Sebarial is busy staying out of the way. This is also where Dalinar has the extremely frustrating conversation with the Stormfather, which is confirmed as an actual conversation but is extraordinarily unhelpful. It ends thus:
I AM CALLED. I MUST GO. A DAUGHTER DISOBEYS. YOU WILL SEE NO FURTHER VISIONS, CHILD OF HONOR. THIS IS THE END.
“Stormfather!” Dalinar yelled. “There has to be a way! I will not die here!”
Silence. Not even thunder. People had gathered around Dalinar: soldiers, scribes, messengers, Roion and Navani. Frightened people.
“Don’t abandon us,” Dalinar said, voice trailing off. “Please…”
And then we jump to Kaladin in the Pinnacle, thinking that
This would be a sad place to die. A place away from the wind.
Interesting parallel. Dalinar, out there in the wind, refusing to die there; Kaladin in a palace corridor, thinking how sad it would be to die here away from the wind.
Turns out to be the same corridor where he’d fought a different assassin a while back, where the hole Szeth had made – and they’d fallen out – has been boarded up. Another parallel.
Moash challenges Kaladin for being willing to attack a member of Bridge Four, though Kaladin contends that going against Bridge Four’s duty means you aren’t a member any more. Moash keeps advancing, and Kaladin challenges him for being willing to attack his own captain and friend. Another parallel.
The case he makes to Moash is a good one, and comes from a good source:
“We have to be better than this, you and I. It’s… I can’t explain it, not perfectly. You have to trust me. Back down. The king hasn’t yet seen you or Graves. We’ll go to Dalinar, and I’ll see that you get justice against the right man, Roshone, the one truly behind your grandparents’ deaths.
“But Moash, we’re not going to be this kind of men. Murders in dark corridors, killing a drunk man because we find him distasteful, telling ourselves it’s for the good of the kingdom. If I kill a man, I’m going to do it in the sunlight, and I’m going to do it only because there is no other way.”
Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination. Another parallel.
Kaladin is starting over, and this time he’s taking the parallel paths the right directions.
Day Zero continues
We see four spren – or their effects – in this chapter. First is Pattern, talking with Shallan, about the second:
“Mmmm,” Pattern said softly. “They are raising a storm.”
“The Voidspren?” Shallan whispered.
“The bonded ones. They craft a storm.”
Interesting little note: it’s only the bonded Voidspren who are involved in making the storm, though there are plenty of unbonded ones in it. Also: I could be wrong on this, but without spending a lot more time than it’s worth… I think this is the first time one of “our team” realizes that the singing Parshendi are actually creating the storm. Obviously Eshonai & Co. knew, but even though Rlain knew the song had to be stopped, he didn’t know what its effect was. Pattern can see it now; presumably the Stormfather already knew, but he wasn’t exactly “our team” at this point. I wonder if Glys knows.
Speaking of Glys, we keep seeing his effects, which we recognize quite clearly in hindsight. Renarin is no longer wearing his spectacles (and in this rain, that’s got to be a blessing!); we don’t see here the difficulty he has with his Blade, but we’ve seen him grimace when he summoned it in the past, and in the next chapter he’ll let out a relieved sigh when he dismisses it. What we do see here is that only he is aware of certain nuances: the direction of the wind, the significance of the direction, and the terrible things it’s bringing. Shallan merely thinks of him as being “creepy and whiny,” which is probably understandable, all things considered. I can’t help sympathizing with Renarin, though I’ll deal with more of that when it becomes relevant in a couple of weeks.
Anyway… The last one, obviously, is the Stormfather. Once again, I find myself peeved at him. “Sorry not sorry, can’t won’t help, sending storm to destroy what’s left of you, gotta go stop a spren from helping anyone, bye.”
However… Dalinar is healing too well. He’s obviously not healing perfectly; there is a lot of scar tissue, but according to the surgeon, he shouldn’t even be able to use his arm after that many wounds. So, just how long has he been using Stormlight, however imperfectly, to heal his wounds? Since he took on Gavilar’s mantle, following the Codes, maybe? It occurs to me to wonder… could his Shardplate have been somehow feeding him Stormlight, to help him heal? I know, that’s kinda out of nowhere, but these thoughts have to be thunk.
There’s not a lot to say about the fabrials this week, other than to note that Navani’s dehumidifiers are still working nicely. Unfortunately, since the archers just ran out of arrows, they aren’t doing much good any more. Also, Adolin & Co. have some large-gem lanterns, which is a good thing if you’re trying to make your way through what sounds like a multi-level shopping mall that’s been crusted over with crem for four thousand years. Also unfortunately, they’re starting to go dim from lack of Stormlight during the Weeping.
This city hid beneath time’s own illusion.
And there you have the title. Singularly appropriate, as both Shallan and Adolin are making use of their knowledge of the buried and broken city.
Shalash graces the chapter arch, presumably due to the importance of Shallan’s effort and insight in finding the Oathgate.
Talenel… well, just about everything associated with Talenel comes into play in this chapter: Dependable, Resourceful; Stonewards; Rock and Stone; Soldier; Herald of War. First of all, he’s noted in the epigraph as “The Ancient of Stones” a.k.a. the Herald of War. Shallan and Adolin are both resourceful in accessing the ancient city to meet their objectives. Everyone is dependable – Shallan, Renarin, Adolin & his soldiers, Dalinar, Navani, Kaladin. (Well, not everyone. Roion is hysterical instead, and the Stormfather is downright fickle.) Shallan, Adolin, and Renarin all deal with rock and stone in significant ways. And of course, all the soldiers are fighting. The only thing missing is the Stoneward… but there may well be a Stoneward out here that we don’t know of yet.
I think it would be hilarious if Rock became a Stoneward.
This isn’t really shipping, it’s just an enjoyable parallel between Shallan and Adolin with their slaying of rocks. In the last sentence of Shallan’s PoV, she asks Renarin to kindly slay the rock/mound she suspects of being the Oathgate building; in the next sentence, Adolin raises a sphere to look around the chamber he’d just carved his way into. Adolin, of course, gives the credit where it’s due:
“How did you know, sir?” asked Skar, the bridgeman. “How’d you guess that this rock mound would be hollow?”
“Because a clever woman,” Adolin said, “once asked me to attack a boulder for her.”
I did have to go back and check, because my memory told me that Adolin had wandered off before Shallan and Kaladin had the conversation about the rock back in Chapter 68. Turns out I was right, but there was another conversation, somewhat later in the chapter. Adolin and Shallan are strolling across the bridge, having given up on their horse and palanquin respectively, and she’s explaining to him about the “hidden remnants of a structure she’d found inside that rock earlier.” Then the carpenter pulls the lever and everything goes pear-shaped. Clearly Adolin remembered that conversation quite well.
This is a total misuse of this unit, but I’m putting it here anyway, so it stands out by itself:
“I had to make the choice that would let me sleep at night, Moash,” Kaladin said wearily…
Thank you, Zahel.
There. That ought to keep us busy for a bit. Next week, Shallan will inspect the Oathgate, Adolin will fight Eshonai, and Kaladin… ah, Kaladin will finally shine.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Her latest endeavor in that regard was the just-completed alpha read of a certain novella coming out this fall in the Cosmere collection Arcanum Unbounded. As a result, she highly recommends that y’all start saving your pennies… you are going to want this book! Lift. Is. Awesome.