Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com

Words of Radiance Reread: Chapter 87

Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan evacuated the armies through the Oathgate while Kaladin battled Szeth through and above the clashing storms. This week, in the aftermath, they face rearrangement of the world as they knew it. Also, Lopen is glow-y and Moash is gloomy.

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!



WoR Arch87

Chapter 87: The Riddens

Point of View: Kaladin, Shallan, Lopen, Moash
Setting: Central Shattered Plains, Urithiru, the Warcamps
Symbology: Double Eye of the Almighty, Jezrien, Shalash

IN WHICH Kaladin crosses the twice-Shattered Plains with Syl; they discuss storms, armies, Shardblades, death, Honorblades, and the Nahel bond; Kaladin reunites with Bridge Four, and grieves the losses; bridgemen glowed with Stormlight during the battle, and Kaladin’s eyes are pale blue.

… Shallan considers Urithiru and identity; Dalinar and Navani send and receive messages about storms, riots, and disappearing kings; the Oathgate brings Kaladin and Bridge Four; Kaladin reassures them that the assassin is dead and Elhokar is safe.

… The Lopen practices with a sphere as his mother scolds the king; Uncle Chilinko brings news of the pending evacuation; Lopen sucks in Stormlight; he glows, and his arm begins to regrow.

… Moash sits gloomily on the back of a cart on the way out of the warcamps; the exodus begins, though not undisputed; Graves plans to rejoin the Diagram, with Moash as his consolation prize; Moash knows he’s been played for a fool, though he’s not sure how.

Quote of the Week

“I don’t feel so hungry, nanha,” Elhokar said. His voice was weak, but he’d awoken from his drunken stupor, which was a good sign.

“You’ll eat anyway!” Mother said. “I know what to do when I see a man that pale in the face, and pardon, Your Majesty, but you are pale as a sheet hung out for the sun to bleach! And that’s the truth of it. You’re going to eat. No complaints.”

“I’m the king. I don’t take orders from—”

“You’re in my home now!” she said, and Lopen mouthed along with the words. “In a Herdazian woman’s home, nobody’s station means nothing beside her own. I’m not going to have them come and get you and find you not properly fed! I’ll not have people saying that, Your Brightship, no I won’t! Eat up. I’ve got soup cooking.”

I love this woman. Maybe Navani should have spent some time with the Herdazians while she was raising her kids.

Off the Wall

Chaos in Alethkar is, of course, inevitable. Watch carefully, and do not let power in the kingdom solidify. The Blackthorn could become an ally or our greatest foe, depending on whether he takes the path of the warlord or not. If he seems likely to sue for peace, assassinate him expeditiously. The risk of competition is too great.

—From the Diagram, Writings upon the Bedstand Lamp: paragraph 4
(Adrotagia’s 3rd translation from the original hieroglyphics)

It’s impossible to completely recall first epiphanies, once you’ve read the whole book a dozen times or so, and I haven’t really tried with the Diagram excerpts. I think it’s safe to say, though, that this one was a real eye-opener. Naturally, we haven’t exactly been convinced that Taravangian is “good”—not since we learned he was the one behind Szeth’s serial assassination spree. We’ve had reasons to question the Diagram, but at this point, it’s obvious: if Dalinar tries to unite Alethkar, he must be assassinated for the Diagram to work. This, naturally and intentionally, strikes a very sour chord with the reader who believes Dalinar is doing the right thing… which is pretty much everyone, I assume.

This brings me to a quotation from one of the links someone gave us recently (I’m sorry, I don’t want to go searching for which link and who shared it—please identify yourself!). Although this wasn’t the subject of the discussion at the time, I noticed it:

Q – Taravangian: On his “Special Day” where he created the Diagram, was he actually as smart as he thinks he was, or was something else going on? It seems suspicious that any level of raw intelligence would let him deduce all of that…

A – That sure IS suspicious, eh? Let’s just say that HE believes it was rational deduction. But other theories are valid.

I’ll just leave that there for you to discuss.


First off, I have to apologize to everyone for my lack of research last week. I assumed my memory was adequate to recall what Brandon had said about the textual changes, and clearly, it wasn’t!! I’ll try to fix that.

Next, a tiny bit of housekeeping: I’m going on vacation for a couple of weeks, soon. I’m planning to work ahead, because this is just a stupid place in the book to take a two-week break; however, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. If it’s not going to work, I’ll let you know; I might have to take a week off. Either way, we’ll finish at the end of July or beginning of August. I’d also like to include a quick review of the Prelude, just to see what we know now that we didn’t know then. Further plans are pending.

Onward, ho!

Well, the majority of the Avalanche is past; now we’re in the final-rumbling-and-stabilizing stage, as the world settles into a brief, uneasy quiet. The battles are fought, the storms have moved on, the new Radiants are revealed, and the Climax is over. In the aftermath, we’re presented with a number of smaller, but significant, facts and implications.

The Everstorm will hit New Natanatan, and after that they can only guess. The untimely highstorm is on its way across the continent, which will be bad enough by being a surprise. It remains to be seen what will happen if the two storms do follow opposite paths around the world, to crash again over some yet-unknown locale. (We the almost-omniscient readers, of course, can be quite sure that they will, of course do exactly that!)

It’s worth pointing out that Syl doesn’t know what will happen, because it’s never happened before. The Everstorm is not a normal part of a Desolation—if “normal” even means anything in this context. There’s certainly a sense of foreboding, though; everything on Roshar is set up to be protected from westward-moving storms, and you just know people won’t take seriously a warning that there’s a really bad blow coming from the west…

My second-favorite part of this chapter is when Kaladin finds Bridge Four waiting for him at the Oathgate. It’s such a good moment. The joy is marred by the death of three of their number, and the injuries suffered by others; at the same time, there’s a delight in being alive, and in being together, and in Kaladin’s return to his powers. I really like the way Rlain is presented: Kaladin is momentarily freaked out by this strange Parshendi saluting him, because this is his first exposure to the concept of the different forms. At the same time, he seems to jump immediately to Rlain’s defense when Sigzil says he’s been “pardoned”—he shouldn’t need to be pardoned for his race!—until Rlain himself explains that the pardon is for being a spy. Teft, ever the observant and blunt sergeant Kaladin needs, is the one with the best lines:

“You can’t protect us all, son,” Teft said. “You can’t stop people from feeling pain, can’t stop men from dying.”

Naturally, Kaladin can’t quite accept that—but he needed to hear it anyway. He will always want to protect his own, but sometimes he won’t be able to. Speaking of which… I really like Jeremy’s suggestion a couple weeks ago about the Ideals relating to the divine attributes. Just in case anyone hasn’t been following the comments, I’ll quickly recap here: The theory is that, while all Orders share the first Ideal, the remaining four are split, two and two, between the two divine attributes associated with the Herald of the Order. As an example, we’ve seen that the Windrunners’ 2nd and 3rd Ideals have to do with Protecting: I will protect those who cannot protect themselves and I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right. According to the theory, then, Kaladin’s 4th and 5th Ideals would have to do with Leading.

Unfortunately, I don’t know more than the third Ideal for any Order yet, so I have no way to check this out. Yet. But looking through the 2nd and 3rd Ideals I have… so far, I think it fits. The proof will, hopefully, come in SA3, with one or more 4th Ideals revealed.

Back to the matters at hand, Kaladin doesn’t know—and doesn’t figure out—what to tell Bridge Four about Moash. There’s no pressing need, at the moment, but it will come, eventually. He’s going to have to deal with that. The end of the chapter finally makes me feel sorry for Moash, though; at long last, he realizes that he’s been a complete tool, and to seal the matter, he’s being dragged along as a consolation prize. He himself doesn’t mean a thing to Graves; he’s just a trophy to make up for Graves failing the assigned mission. Worse, he has two useful aspects in Graves’s eyes: he has Shards, and he knows Kaladin. Miserable as he is, he doesn’t know what to do but go along. This actually gives me hope—maybe, sometime in the next three books, he’ll have a chance to redeem himself and make us all glad Kaladin didn’t kill him.

Meanwhile, Shallan has found Urithiru and revealed her biggest secret to all of Alethkar, and now she has to figure out what that means. Aside from how hilarious it is watching people try to figure out what to do with a Knight Radiant, when they’ve “always known” that the KR were terrible, but now one has just saved the entire army… Shallan is having some difficulty dealing with it. It made me just a little nervous to read

Well, let them see Shallan the Radiant. She could always find freedom later, wearing another face.

I can understand it, sort of, but it worries me that her reaction to everyone watching her is that she can always use her Surges to hide when it gets to be too much pressure. Last week (and I failed to note this) Shallan acknowledged what she called “a deep truth”—that her spren was her living Shardblade. I don’t know if this is part of the self-awareness of a Lightweaver or not; it didn’t give her any noticeable power-ups, though it certainly gave her an instant means to save the armies.

Still, for now she’s willing to be “Brightness Radiant” to everyone, and to freely talk with Pattern about the situation. Oddly, though, she doesn’t respond—and mentally changes the subject—when he says that Lightweavers must speak truths.

In and among all this, we learn that there is very little available by way of natural resources up here. There’s no apparent place for crops, and precious little to burn for firewood. Those at Urithiru will be utterly dependent on Soulcasters for food, and on Shallan & Kaladin for transportation.

No pressure, though.


Day Zero is nearly complete.

Ars Arcanum

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on the magic system, something gets slippery again.

“So they’re all spren,” he said. “Shardblades.”

Syl grew solemn.

“Dead spren,” Kaladin added.

“Dead,” Syl agreed. “Then they live again a little when someone summons them, syncing a heartbeat to their essence.”

“How can something be ‘a little’ alive?”

“We’re spren,” Syl said. “We’re forces. You can’t kill us completely. Just… sort of.”

“That’s perfectly clear.”

“It’s perfectly clear to us,” Syl said. “You’re the strange ones. Break a rock, and it’s still there. Break a spren, and she’s still there. Sort of. Break a person, and something leaves. Something changes. What’s left is just meat. You’re weird.”

Slippery. I don’t have a clear understanding of the Spiritual aspects of spren and rocks. In the Cosmere, do only humanoids have a Spiritual aspect that actually leaves and goes Beyond? All sapient beings? What about sentient beings, horses and chickens and chulls? And what about spren, who originate on the Cognitive realm and then manifest in the Physical? Do they have a Spiritual aspect too? I can see how a rock (or a stick) has a Physical aspect, and a Cognitive aspect of self-perception (I believe that’s how pairing fabrials work—by a split gem which still sees itself as a single gem). But I honestly don’t know whether a rock or a stick has a Spiritual aspect, or how it works if it does. Too much we don’t know yet. Syl gives me a headache, some days…

Then there are the Honorblades:

“The Honorblades are what we are based on, Kaladin. Honor gave these to men, and those men gained powers from them. Spren figured out what He’d done, and we imitated it. We’re bits of His power, after all, like this sword. Be careful with it. It is a treasure.”

“So the assassin wasn’t a Radiant.”

“No. But Kaladin, you have to understand. With this sword, someone can do what you can, but without the… checks a spren requires.” She touched it, then shivered visibly, her form blurring for a second. “This sword gave the assassin power to use Lashings, but it also fed upon his Stormlight. A person who uses this will need far, far more Light than you will. Dangerous levels of it.”

We’ve discussed this before, and I don’t think we have any clear answers; just opinions. Does “imitation” mean that spren always and only match the Surge pairings Honor gifted to the Heralds? Did they first figure out how to grant a single Surge? Could they grant several Surges to one person, before the rules were established? Is there a WoB on this subject?

Also, what does Syl mean by a person needing “dangerous levels” of Stormlight? Is there a danger in holding too much Stormlight, or for too long? Is the danger tempered by a Nahel bond? Or is it that if you run out of Stormlight, the Honorblade will drain your life, or something? This, too, is something I don’t think I understand properly, yet.

But now… another of my favorite parts of the book, and my absolute favorite of this chapter: The. Lopen. Shines.

The Lopen sucked in Light.

It happened in an eyeblink, and then there he sat, Stormlight streaming from his skin.

“Ha!” he shouted, leaping to his feet. “Ha! Hey, Chilinko, come back here. I need to stick you to the wall!”

The Light winked out. The Lopen stopped, frowning, and held his hand up in front of him. Gone so fast? What had happened? He hesitated. That tingling…

He felt at his shoulder, the one where he’d lost his arm so long ago. There, his fingers prodded a new nub of flesh that had begun sprouting from his scar.

“Oh, storms yes! Everybody, give the Lopen your spheres! I have glowing that needs to be done.”

This is so much fun. It comes not long after Teft’s statement that he saw some of the lads glowing with Stormlight just before Kaladin himself showed up at the battle. It’s not much guesswork to surmise that neither event could happen while Kaladin’s oaths were non-functioning. The question, though, is whether he needed to speak his third Ideal before it could happen. In other words, if Kaladin had maintained his bond, could this have happened earlier? Or is it always a third-Ideal-gets-a-live-Shardblade-plus-squires deal?

Note, also, the way Lopen’s arm immediately starts growing, even though he’s not consciously pursuing that. By way of contrast, Kaladin still has his scars.

Ars Mechanica

Quick note on the Oathgate: someone wondered earlier how the Bridge Four members got back to the Plains. Seems that they wanted to return, and as part of experimenting with the Oathgate, Shallan took them back. Once there, the bridgemen had to leave the plateau in order for her to return alone to Urithiru.

Something else to… notice, because there’s not much to say about it except “there it is.”

One of the pillarlike plateaus nearby flashed. It happened with a wall of light revolving around its perimeter, leaving streaks of blurred afterimage to fade. Someone had activated the Oathgate.

Compare this to the scene in the Epilogue (yes, I’m jumping ahead), when Jasnah arrives:

The air in front of him blurred, as if heated in a ring near the ground. A streak of light spun about the ring, forming a wall five or six feet high. It faded immediately— really, it was just an afterimage, as if something glowing had spun in the circle very quickly.

It’s not like we really needed further evidence that the Oathgate uses the Transportation Surge, but if anyone wondered… I’d say that’s it.

Heraldic Symbolism

We actually have to deal with the character symbol as well as the Heralds, this week. Most of the times we’ve seen the Double Eye, it’s been on Interlude chapters—specifically: Ym, Rysn, Lhan, and Taravangian. The only other times it’s used are Chapter 29, which is a Sadeas POV, and the Epilogue. Perhaps this is a way to acknowledge the importance of the POV of someone who doesn’t have an icon of their own.

If that’s the case, then the other two POV characters are well-represented by the Heralds of their Orders: Jezrien for the Windrunners, and Shalash for the Lightweavers.

Shipping Wars

There are two items of interest this week in the Shipping department. First, Shallan and Adolin:

Several scribes passed by, bringing paper to draw out maps of Adolin’s exploration. They bobbed quick, uncomfortable bows to Shallan and called her “Brightness Radiant.” She still hadn’t talked at length with Adolin about what had happened to her.

This implies that they haven’t had—or taken—opportunity for much private conversation; it’s quite possible they really haven’t talked about it at all beyond the “You too?” “Yeah, sorry” exchange from last chapter. I’d say the delay was unhealthy… except then I realize that it’s still the same afternoon they arrived at Urithiru, and there are Things To Do. The army is something less than the original 30,000 soldiers, now, but when you add in scribes, scholars, ardents, mistresses, and whatnot… there are a lot of people to look after. Personal angst over Shallan’s Radianticity™ has to wait.

The other item that at least warrants notice is this, which someone pointed out recently:

Dalinar stepped up beside her and they waited tensely, until a group of figures in blue appeared at the plateau edge and started down the steps. Bridge Four.

“Oh, thank the Almighty,” Shallan whispered. It was him, not the assassin.

One of the figures pointed down toward where Dalinar and the rest of them stood. Kaladin separated from his men, dropping off the steps and floating over the army. He landed on the stones in stride, carrying a Shardblade on his shoulder, his long officer’s coat unbuttoned and coming down to his knees.

He still has the slave brands, she thought, though his long hair obscured them. His eyes had become a pale blue. They glowed softly.

There it is, in context. Some will say that the level of detail indicates that she’s harboring a deeper interest, while others will say that she’s simply being observant, like artists often are. In any case, I expect everyone was relieved that it was Kaladin and not Szeth.


There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Shallan has multiple uncomfortable confrontations, Amaram makes new plans, and Szeth meets some strange characters.

Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She hopes you have all had a chance to enjoy the new graphic novel White Sand, because it is totally canon and is also awesome. If you haven’t, you should.


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