Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last time, our friends began to cope with a changed world in the aftermath of the great clash. This week, secrets come creeping out: the Ghostbloods, the Sons of Honor, the Skybreakers, and Shallan’s past.
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 88: The Man Who Owned the Winds
Point of View: Shallan, Amaram, Szeth
Setting: Urithiru, Kholin Warcamp, an unknown location
Symbology: Pattern, Shalash, Nalan
IN WHICH Shallan finds the Ghostbloods waiting for her; though she confronts them defiantly, Mraize still wants her to be part of them; she finds Adolin waiting for her, which is much more pleasant; Pattern insists that it is time to face her past; she finally acknowledges the whole truth.
… Amaram prepares a message for Restares; he cuts his way into Talnenel’s cell; Iyatil fires poison darts at Amaram, but Talenel catches them with superhuman speed; Amaram escorts Talenel to his coach.
… Szeth realizes to his dismay that he’s alive; Nalan implies that Szeth will become a Skybreaker and will confront his people; Szeth wonders how he is to face those who bear the other Honorblades; Nalan gives him a black sword in a metal sheath; the blade whispers in his mind.
Quote of the Week
“Why did she try to kill me, Pattern?” Shallan whispered.
“It started when she found out what I could do.”
She remembered it now. Her mother’s arrival, with a friend Shallan didn’t recognize, to confront her father. Her mother’s shouts, arguing with her father.
Mother calling Shallan one of them.
Her father barging in. Mother’s friend with a knife, the two struggling, the friend getting cut in the arm. Blood spilled on the carpet. The friend had won that fight, eventually holding Father down, pinned on the ground. Mother took the knife and came for Shallan.
And then a sword in Shallan’s hands.
“He let everyone believe that he’d killed her,” Shallan whispered. “That he’d murdered his wife and her lover in a rage, when I was the one who had actually killed them. He lied to protect me.”
“That secret destroyed him. It destroyed our entire family.”
This makes me sad all over again. After all these years, Shallan has to confront three things: her mother tried to kill her, her father sacrificed his reputation (and eventually his sanity) to protect her, and she killed them both: one defending herself, and the other defending what was left of the family.
The thing we still don’t know is why Lady Davar tried to kill her developing-Radiant daughter. Come to think of it, we also don’t know whether or not her father believed that Shallan was becoming a Radiant, or how he felt about the idea. We just know that he didn’t want his daughter murdered.
Also, this was the same timeframe in which Jasnah first made contact with Ivory, and Gavilar was assassinated.
Off the Wall
1173090605 1173090801 1173090901 1173091001 1173091004 1173100105 1173100205 1173100401 1173100603 1173100804
—From the Diagram, North Wall Coda, Windowsill region: paragraph 2
(This appears to be a sequence of dates, but their relevance is as yet unknown.)
This turns out, on careful examination, to be the dates of the last ten highstorms prior to the Weeping. Or prior to the Everstorm, depending on how you look at it.
One of the things that amazes me about this book is the way the climax blows you away, and then in the aftermath you get blown away in a different kind of storm. There is so much revealed in these last few chapters, even though it seems like there’s not much happening.
For starters, of course, there’s the fact that they’re moving into the tower because there’s really nothing else to be done. While the Everstorm still has to wrap around the planet, the out-of-sequence highstorm will be arriving soon; with no way of knowing what it will be like this high in the mountains, they have to assume it will be bad. Staying out on an open field would just be stupid when there’s an empty tower to be used for shelter.
So Shallan walks the halls, to find a note addressed to her stuck on the wall where she can’t help but see it, next to a room where Mraize waits for her. (How did he know she’d come that way?) Their whole interaction is unsettling on multiple levels. He implies that her Veil disguise is somehow more true than her identity as Shallan Davar – and that he has some right, and some special insight, to know better than she does.
At that point, it’s good to remember that he doesn’t know everything; it seems he assumes that no one else knows about her Lightweaving, but only that she has a Blade that is different than the others. While it’s true that Dalinar is the only one she’s deliberately shown an Illusion, and Kaladin saw some of her Illusions in the chasms, it’s a little presumptuous of him to assume that no one knows, and that she intends to keep it that way.
I guess I just don’t trust Mraize, because I don’t know what his purposes are. He claims that Shallan is a member of the Ghostbloods, and he will help her because they look out for their own people… but he also admits the enmity between them and Jasnah, tells Shallan he has her brothers, reminds her that the Davars still owe him a Soulcaster, and implies that he knows far more about her family than she does.
Ironically, he concludes by saying, “Let Shallan Davar be a Radiant, conformist and noble. Let Veil come to us. And let her find truth.” As a bunch of worldhoppers, I’m sure they know a lot of things she doesn’t, and it might be worth learning what they know. But Radiant=conformist just kills me, given that Vorin teaching has claimed the Radiants to be traitors for hundreds of years, and people aren’t sure whether to be grateful to her for rescue, or kill her as a traitor.
So much for the Ghostbloods: they are still secretive, and have admitted only that they killed Jasnah and are holding her brothers. Let’s move on to the Sons of Honor.
Amaram gives us a whole bunch of info: First, Restares is indeed connected with, and the probable leader of, the Sons of Honor. Second, they consider themselves responsible for the return of the Voidbringers, a goal which they have been pursuing rigorously. (Whether they are actually responsible or not, I find it revolting that they are perfectly happy with being the cause of so much acknowledged suffering, as long as they can achieve their purpose of dominance.) Third, they are confident that the Heralds will necessarily return, now that the Voidbringers have shown themselves. (Considering the current mental state of the Heralds, I question the wisdom of this desire as well as the assumed success.) Finally, we learn that Amaram is planning to go to Urithiru among the armies. And that’s just what we learn from his letter.
He goes on to retrieve “the person who calls himself Talenel” by cutting his way into the back of Dalinar’s monastery and sneaking him out. (Interestingly, he considers the loss of Dalinar’s friendship to be one of the highest prices he must pay for the return of the Heralds. Not sure what to make of that.) In the process of abducting Talenel, though, Iyatil takes a couple of potshots at Amaram, which has a few remarkable implications. One, Amaram recognizes Iyatil as one of the Ghostbloods. Two, the Ghostbloods are trying to kill Amaram, though whether that’s personal or because of his involvement with the SoH we don’t know. Three, Amaram is surprised to find himself a target of the Ghostbloods, though he’s not surprised that the Herald might be.
Lastly, the Skybreakers. When Nalan restores Szeth to life, he makes some very interesting suggestions. One is that Szeth is qualified to be a Skybreaker; another is that Nalan has the capacity to make that happen at will. He assumes that Szeth will want to join them, and states that training begins immediately. This all falls into the category of “unreliable narrator info-dump,” so I don’t know just how much we can rely on any of it. We’ve never before seen an indication that the Heralds were ever directly involved in selecting their Knights, nor that they could command the spren to form a bond. Even if those things were true, though, why would someone in training as a Skybreaker (which Mraize also indicated was the case with Helaran) need or even want a Shardblade other than their spren? Why did Nalan give Szeth this particular blade?
Day Zero… for the last time.
Other than Pattern, there aren’t really any spren to be observed in this chapter. In lieu of that, I’d like to point out a snippet of the conversation between Nalan and Szeth:
“My gods are the spirits of the stones,” Szeth whispered. “The sun and the stars. Not men.”
“Nonsense. Your people revere the spren of stone, but you do not worship them.”
This appears to indicate that the Shin (and/or the Stone Shamanate) worship the spren of stone, and the spren of the sun and the stars. Or, I suppose, it could be read to mean that they think the sun and stars are the spren of the stone.
Is it significant, that they don’t worship stone itself, but the spren of the stone? My mind is going in circles, wondering how that works. Does a Shaman have the power to observe or communicate with the actual spren of stone(s) in the Cognitive realm? As I recall, what we’ve seen so far indicates that objects appear as beads in the Cognitive realm, and the moving/active residents of that realm are the spren of emotions and processes. Does that matter? Shallan was able to communicate with the stick-bead – was that the spren of the stick? I’m so confused…
This chapter holds the culmination of Shallan’s flashback sequence, and the deepest Lightweaving she’s ever done. After a superficial Illusion, she creates “a better lie” – a fully interactive Illusion of the room we saw in her first flashback: red carpet, once white, with a strongbox that opens and bodies that can be rolled over. Finally, we know for sure what happened, and so does Shallan.
To continue from the QOTW,
“I hate you,” she whispered, staring into her mother’s dead eyes.
“I know.” Pattern buzzed softly. “Eventually, you will kill me, and you will have your revenge.”
“I don’t want revenge. I want my family.”
I’m not quite clear, and I suspect maybe Shallan isn’t either, whether the “I hate you” is directed at Mother or Pattern. But it’s not too surprising that Pattern assumes she’s addressing him; combining that with what they know of the Recreance, it’s also not surprising that he assumes she will eventually kill him.
It’s worth noting that two chapters ago, Shallan acknowledged “A deeper truth” – that her Shardblade was different than all the rest. She admits it again earlier in this chapter, thinking that her Blade not only could appear in less than the requisite ten heartbeats, he had done so before. In this scene, she finally says it right out loud: the Shardblade her father had put in the strongbox was actually Pattern.
That leads into the acknowledgement that her mother had tried to kill her, and that she had defended herself with Pattern-as-a-Shardblade. This is the deepest of the truths she’s been hiding from herself for six years.
Does this make her a full-fledged Radiant? Has she reached the level of self-awareness, now that she’s not hiding things from herself, that completes her development? I don’t know that we can be 100% sure, but I do have to wonder. Last chapter, she asked Pattern if she was really “one of them,” and he said that she almost was, but she still had a few Words to say – truths, rather than oaths. This is, if my flaky memory is serving me at all, the fourth time she’s stated something specifically identified as “a truth.”
I’m a murderer. I killed my father.
My Shardblade is different from all the others.
My mother tried to kill me, and instead I killed her (and her friend).
Is this significant? What do you think?
There’s a glaring question here, an artifact of The Changes. Szeth observes the man who healed him tucking something into his pocket:
“A fabrial of some sort? Glowing brightly?”
In the original version, Nalan says that Szeth could be restored “with the right fabrial,” but in the revised version, he says “with the right Surgebinding.” So did he use a fabrial, or not? Does he refuse to use the term “fabrial” because he knows it’s more accurate to say he’s using Surgebinding, or does he not want Szeth to know he has to use fabrials? Or is it a “super-fabrial” like maybe Oathgates and live-Shardblades? Or… what? Speculate, or bring WoBs to bear on the question.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
This week, we finally meet an old friend. Now we know where Nightblood got to without Vasher – but not why or how! Some would say that with this evidence that Zahel is Vasher, it’s proof that he’s not a Herald. Others would say that it makes more sense that a Herald would have given or loaned it to another Herald. As I seem to say a lot these days – we just don’t know enough yet. I wants more, I does.
More questions: what is the reaction of Szeth’s stomach to the proximity of Nightblood? Someone who wouldn’t want to use Nightblood for evil purposes is supposed to feel sick, while someone with ill intent is supposed to be irresistibly drawn to it. Which is Szeth?
The obvious connections in the chapter artwork are for Pattern, insisting on and assisting in Shallan’s growth; Shalash, reflecting Shallan’s progress toward becoming a true Radiant by letting go of the lies she’s told herself; and Nalan as himself. There may be more, but the obvious is… pretty obvious.
He had his wrist wrapped, and the bruises on his face were starting to purple. They made him look slightly less intoxicatingly handsome, though there was a rugged “I punched a lot of people today” quality to that, which was fetching in its own right.
This just cracked me up. It’s followed, of course, by a far more significant conversation, involving kisses and refusals to let things be awkward due to her Radianticity. The thing I love most about it is that, besides being all adorable and stuff, they display signs of actual respect for the other individual, instead of mere infatuation. Oddly enough, there may be a bit less overt respect on Shallan’s part, because she’s so very determined not to be treated like fine china. I’m amused that neither of them seem to notice – or make a big deal of – Adolin’s way of effectively caring for her without using cotton wool. He had a conversation with her spren, found the necessary room, and made sure she wouldn’t be disturbed. He also made sure she had a Stormlight lantern (because he knew she might need Stormlight??) and blankets. She sort of notes his quiet competence without quite… noting it. She appreciates it, without feeling like he’s being overprotective. I really, really do hope these two make a go of it.
Housekeeping: I’m not quite sure whether or not there will be a post next week. I’d really like to, because I want to keep going, but I’m on vacation with my family and not sure I’ll have the time to focus properly. This week has been a bit dodgy, what with only sporadic internet access and lots happening, and next week is more of the same. I’ll let you know as soon as I know, okay? Sorry…
Also, we are moving forward with the plan to do a Warbreaker reread! I’ll spend some time in August sketching it out, and will begin sometime in September. So there’s that.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She can currently be found on the prairies between Montana and Minnesota, wandering around national parks and monuments, and generally going unplugged. Except for this, because she misses this bunch of folks.