Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com

Words of Radiance Reread: Chapter 89

Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last time, the secret societies began to reveal their purposes in aftershocks from the climax. This week, Adolin gets angry and the new Radiants gather in conference.

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 89: The Four

Point of View: Dalinar, Adolin, Dalinar
Setting: Urithiru
Symbology: Duelist, Jezrien, Shalash, Ishar, Palah

IN WHICH Dalinar has a vision of light and warmth; he awakes in his rooms in Urithiru; people are arriving from the warcamps.

… Adolin walks the halls of Urithiru pondering life; he encounters Sadeas, who intends to undermine Dalinar and take leadership from him; Adolin attacks and kills Sadeas; shocked, he drops Oathbringer out a window and removes the traces of his presence.

… Dalinar ascends to the roof of the tower; he shouts at the Stormfather, who finally responds; their conversation is depressing; Dalinar demands to be made a Knight Radiant; defying the Stormfather’s anger, he states the First Ideal of the Radiants, and the Second Ideal of the Bondsmiths; the words are accepted, with conditions; the Stormfather denies having sent the morning’s vision; Dalinar descends to meet Shallan and Kaladin; they identify their three Orders, and Renarin joins them as a fourth; Dalinar shares the bad news confirmed by the Stormfather; Kaladin prepares for a trip to Hearthstone while Renarin goes to requisition spheres for him; Dalinar and Shallan consider the situation and pledge to do what they can.

Quote of the Week

Warm light bathed him. A deep, enveloping, piercing warmth. A warmth that soaked down deep through his skin, into his very self. He stared at that light, and was not blinded. The source was distant, but he knew it. Knew it well.

He smiled.

Then he awoke.

I really don’t know the significance of this vision, and neither does Dalinar, but it’s profoundly beautiful. The first part of the vision places it in his childhood home, with his brother laughing in the next room and his just-outgrown collection of wooden swords carved like Shardblades still on display. It’s fairly clear that this is not a memory—or at least, the part about the light isn’t—but… what is it?

WoB says that the last chapter of the SA has already been seen in one of these two books (thank you, zad-man, for finding that for me!!). Does this seem a likely candidate? I’d suggest that it may be a preview of Dalinar moving from the Cognitive realm to Beyond. On the other hand, last week STBLST suggested the Fleet scene or Taln arriving at Kholinar. Of those, I think the former is more likely. Do you have other suggestions?

Off the Wall

There has to be an answer What is the answer Stop The Parshendi One of them Yes they are the missing piece Push for the Alethi to destroy them outright before this one obtains their power It will form a bridge

—From the Diagram, Floorboard 17: paragraph 2,
every second letter starting with the second

This seems fairly clear, once you separate the words. Apparently genius-Taravangian realized that if one of the Parshendi made the connection with the Odium spren, it would set up… well, exactly what it set up. Unfortunately for genius-T’s credibility, his solution—“destroy them outright”—is also what pushed them to the desperation that resulted in Eshonai’s bonding with the stormspren. Two questions arise, though:

1) Did the Diagram actually have any influence on the Alethi trying to destroy the Parshendi, or was that normal Alethi hawkishness?

2) Was Eshonai “the one” who formed the bridge, or was it Venli? I’m becoming convinced that Venli had already bonded a Voidspren before she trapped the first stormspren, so my answer is leaning toward “Venli.” What’s yours?


This is another chapter with several major events and a plethora of minor ones. Warning: overuse of parenthetical remarks may be encountered.

Aside from the content of the vision/dream Dalinar experienced, the timing is weird and the source is unknown. There’s no highstorm, and the Stormfather denies sending it. So where did it come from? Maybe we’ll find out at the end of book ten?

There are other complications in Dalinar’s life for now, though. He’s got a zillion or so people arriving from the warcamps, for one thing. The new arrivals were able to make the trip much faster than the four armies, partly due to the map he sent and partly because they needn’t watch for Parshendi. It’s a good thing, too. Those already in Urithiru need the supplies and Stormlight from the camps, and those who had stayed behind need to get off the Plains before either the Everstorm or the highstorm wraps around the planet to strike again.

Speaking of new arrivals, Sadeas arrived—more’s the pity. It doesn’t take much conversation to explain his coming in spite of continuing opposition to Dalinar; in fact, it’s because of that opposition. His sole purpose in “obeying” the order is to continue his efforts to weaken Dalinar’s authority. He’s too short-sighted to drop his petty quarrel for the sake of all Roshar, the vindictive old fool.

“…You can’t have an army with two generals, son. Your father and I, we’re two old whitespines who both want a kingdom. It’s him or me. We’ve been pointed that way since Gavilar died.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“It does. Your father will never trust me again, Adolin, and you know it.” Sadeas’s face darkened. “I will take this from him. This city, these discoveries. It’s just a setback.”

Honestly, when I read that again, I can’t blame Adolin at all for his reaction. Sadeas just said outright that he intends to destroy Dalinar by any means available; though he knows Dalinar is right, he simply doesn’t care. Nothing matters but his own ambition. What I can’t quite understand is why Sadeas was so willing to reveal all this to Adolin, and why he so deliberately needles Adolin with it. I can only conclude that he thought the Alethi traditions and customs, the game of political and social manipulation, would keep Adolin from taking direct action against him.

He was wrong.

It’s worth wondering, though we can’t answer it, how much of Adolin’s violent response to Sadeas is triggered by the disruption to his view of life caused by the return of the Radiants. He’s been through a lot lately: the loss and restoration of his fiancée, the march to the center of the Plains, the battle, the fight with Eshonai, his thrashing by Szeth, his father’s seeming destruction and rescue by Kaladin, Kaladin going all Radiant and flying off to fight Szeth, Shallan going all Radiant and bringing the armies to Urithiru just before they all died in the Stormclash—it’s a wonder anyone is functional anymore. Humans are resilient as a whole, though, and survival is a strong motivator. All that said, however, the fact is that the author chose to open this section with Adolin feeling overwhelmed specifically by Shallan’s change in status, and the reversal of their relative positions. (More on this below.) So… is that partly to blame for his eruption?

A major question for Oathbringer is how successfully Adolin managed to destroy the evidence. At first I thought that he’d done a good job, but… Did anyone see him in that part of the tower, someone he didn’t see? What did he do with his bloodstained cuffs? How is he going to explain cutting them off, if someone notices before he can destroy the shirt entirely? Also, why toss Oathbringer out the window? Granted it takes the Blade (theoretically) out of the control of Team Sadeas, but eventually someone’s going to wonder where it got to. Then what? Maybe he should have tossed Sadeas out the window, too.

As a side note, this is one of the rare cases where Sanderson puts in a bit of graphic violence… and I think it’s more disturbing for being the exception. It sets the scene apart, in a sort of bizarre I-fell-into-the-wrong-book way… which is, I think, pretty much how Adolin is feeling the whole time. Effective, no?

Back to Dalinar. On top of the mass migration of the Alethi, he’s got to figure out what to do about storms, Oathgates, Voidbringers, and Radiants. And he’s got a Stormfather to confront. (In the nitpicking-detail category, he recognizes what the Oathgate in Kholinar must be, and considers Shallan’s intent to unlock them all. Which reminds me… Given that only the Oathgate to the Shattered Plains had been left unlocked, might there be a connection between the unlocked Oathgate and the Plains being shattered? Some sort of backlash from whatever locked the other nine Oathgates? Or something like that? Not quite sure what I’m suggesting, but there might be something to consider. Theories in the comments, please!)

I have to say, this place is huge. A hundred stories, each successively smaller than the lower by the depth of a gardening terrace… that bottom floor by itself has to be enormous. It’s also worth noticing, as Dalinar does, that the top is so high there is very little crem on it.

But there’s a bigger reason for Dalinar to be at the top of the tower beyond appreciating the scale. It seems to be the best place for confronting the Stormfather—and if no one answers, well, at least Dalinar is alone this time! Fortunately, he answers—and we finally begin to learn more of what’s behind the visions. They were sent by Honor/Tanavast, and as his personification, the Stormfather literally had no choice about sending them. (We don’t know, still, whether he’d ever sent them to anyone before Gavilar.)

Stormfather is downright hostile here, though, and it’s a little intimidating. “Yes, I have to bond with you, but I want you to know that I hate you and I hope you die. Also, you don’t get to have a Shardblade or Plate. Thhbbbt.” Bizarre.

Still, the scene yields a lot of information, most of which I won’t take time to discuss in detail. (Please do so in the comments, though!) World rulers ignore warnings of the Everstorm; most think Dalinar is mad; Taravangian is pretending to be a friend; parshmen who come in contact with the Everstorm will assuredly become Voidbringers; there’s rioting in Kholinar; there’s a plague in the Purelake. I wonder if there’s an Iriali curse about living in interesting times.

Also, we learn the second Ideal of the Bondsmiths:

I will unite instead of divide, Stormfather. I will bring men together.

Once the Stormfather gets done with his rumbling and grumbling, we get to the title scene: The Four. Shallan and Kaladin are waiting for Dalinar in the very top room of the tower, with its ten pillars mirroring the ten Oathgates and the central pillar like Urithiru. (I can’t help wondering… are these remote controls for the Oathgates? Or just artwork?) Apparently this meeting was planned, and Renarin heard them talking about it, or something. As Dalinar demonstrates what Kaladin & Shallan have told him about sucking in Stormlight, he finishes healing, and knows he’s done it before, though he doesn’t seem to know for sure when. (Will we find out in Oathbringer?) Anyway, Shallan identifies the three Orders to which they belong, from her studies and all, and then Renarin pops in.

We all know this is a matter of some debate. We have only Renarin’s word that his spren, Glys, has made him a Truthwatcher. To support his side of the argument, we know (and Shallan knows) that Truthwatchers are one of the Orders; we also know from WoB that Renarin does see a spren no one else sees. His eyesight has healed from holding Stormlight, and he certainly hears the screaming of the dead spren when he summons his Shardblade, which only happens when a bonded (proto-) Radiant touches it. If he is a Truthwatcher, his Surges would be Progression and Illumination—a combination eminently suited to creating an Order’s “quirk” of looking into the future. It’s worth pointing out that Honor claimed Cultivation was better at seeing the future than he was; with Palah/the Truthwatchers directly opposite Ishar/the Bondsmiths on the KR diagram, it seems reasonable that they would be the ones most closely tied to her abilities. Also: why put Palah in the chapter arch, which most readers don’t really notice, unless she’s there in the same capacity as the other three?

The arguments against are, IMO, mostly a matter of people trying hard not to fall for an unreliable narrator. The readers have neither seen nor heard Renarin’s spren, probably because Brandon wanting this scene to be a surprise. Renarin seems to use his unique ability very reluctantly and perhaps involuntarily, which is different than the experiences of Kaladin, Shallan, and Lift… although I’d suggest that Shallan has come pretty close to “involuntary” a couple of times. The only other argument I can recall—and I’m mostly drawing on the Coppermind, since whoever wrote Renarin’s entry seems to be on the skeptic side—is that he and Shallan should share the Surge of Illumination, but we haven’t seen them do any of the same stuff. He hasn’t created any Illusions (that we know of) and she doesn’t use Illumination to see the future, so they must not be using the same Surge. As noted, though, every Order has something unique—it’s “quirk”—in the way the Surges combine, so that two Orders which share a Surge won’t necessarily be limited to using that Surge the same way. We’ll have to wait and see if Renarin (perhaps with Shallan’s teaching) can learn to create Illusions. I don’t recall anyone suggesting it, but perhaps the best argument “against” is Renarin’s apparent fear in claiming to be one of them. With Kaladin and Shallan being heroes, and his father demonstrating his own Radiant development, why would Renarin be so nervous about admitting it to these three? ::RAFO-sigh::

Anyway. Dalinar’s confirmation from the Stormfather that all the parshmen will go Voidbringer on them when the Everstorm comes gives Kaladin a sudden fit of filial duty. Not that I’m objecting to him finally deciding to go back and see his parents, really; I’m just feeling momentarily cynical. He hasn’t bothered to write to them and let them know he’s okay, but now suddenly he has to fall all the way there, using increasingly valuable Stormlight. Well, I guess. I’m kind of glad he’s going—for the sake of seeing what’s happened since he left, if nothing else—and glad Dalinar approved it. It’s just a little unfair that he’s the only person in the world who has the privilege of rushing off to protect his family; everyone else just has to take their chances.

So Kaladin heads off to pack, Renarin goes to requisition emerald broams from Elhokar, Lopen has been claiming he’s an Alethi king? and in the quiet of the top room, Shallan and Dalinar face the enormous task that lies ahead of them, with only their Ideal to guide them:

Life before death, Radiant.


These events take place one week after the climactic battle and the Stormclash.


There are three mentions of spren in this chapter, and while this was not the original intent of the “Sprenspotting” unit, I’m going to address them here because it’s easier. And I can.


It’s clear, but worth noting, that the Stormfather speaks of the connection between the Voidspren and the Parshendi, who he calls “the ancient ones.” (FWIW, I don’t believe he could mean the Unmade instead, primarily because Honor & Cultivation were on Roshar long before Odium showed up and started dropping spren. Also, because the Unmade are more or less spren themselves.) When Brandon was asked (in separate questions) whether the Parshendi were of Odium, or of Cultivation, or of Honor, the first two were answered with “Not originally,” while the later just got a “No.” My theory is that the Parshendi, along with many of the shelled life forms, are native to Roshar and were there prior to the arrival of Honor and Cultivation; they may even have been direct creations of Adonalsium. Also, I assume that humans arrived with Honor & Cultivation from another place, or possibly that they created humans here like Ruin & Preservation did on Scadrial. Incidentally, I think the extension of the theory would imply that the non-Void forms of the Listeners result from a bond with spren either natural to the planet, or Adonalsium-spren… and the two may be the same thing.

Moving on:


The Stormfather’s description of himself confuses me no end—but almost everything about Splinters, Slivers, fragments, and shadows confuses me if I think about it too hard. This makes me love Dalinar’s response all the more: “I’ll take what I can get.” Another WoB from JordanCon this year expanded my previous understanding of the term spren, when Brandon indicated that Rosharans will call anything a spren, if it seems to be a sapient form of Investiture. Nightwatcher, Honor, Nightblood, Adonalsium… to a Rosharan, all of them would be “spren.” Which might apply to the Stormfather’s words here.

Third instance:

“The other orders must be returning as well. We need to find those whom the spren have chosen. Quickly, for the Everstorm is upon us, and it is worse than we feared.”

I love this casually-tossed-in implication that Dalinar is thinking the same things as the reader: if some Orders are returning, they probably all are, and we should expect to see them soon. Unlike Dalinar, we’ve had the advantage of meeting Ym and Lift already, and we know that Jasnah is still alive, so (assuming you believe Renarin) we already know representatives of six out of ten Orders. Seven, if you count Szeth as a Skybreaker. That leaves only the Dustbringers, the Willshapers, and the Stonewards to show themselves.

All Creatures Shelled and Feathered

A fanciful picture, with animals from mythology. He recognized a few from children’s stories, like the enormous, minklike creature with the mane of hair that burst out around and behind its head. What was it called again?

It sounds like a lion to me. It also sounds like something that wouldn’t do well on Roshar. Interesting, though, that such creatures were still a part of the fairy tales and myths. This could be another indication that the humans of Roshar originally came from another world. When they emigrated, they brought only animals that would be useful enough to be worth the effort; the rest they brought in stories.

Ars Mechanica

Storms, this place was high. His ears had popped several times while riding to the top, using the fabrial lift that Navani had discovered. She spoke of counterweights and conjoined gemstones, sounding awed by the technology of the ancients. All he knew was that her discovery had let him avoid climbing up some hundred flights of steps.

I’m going to assume that this really is a fabrial, since Navani was able to identify things like counterweights and conjoined gemstones, which we already know she understands quite thoroughly. It seems to be a relatively straightforward mechanical device, powered by Invested gemstones. (I’m still not convinced that the Oathgate is really a fabrial in the same sense.)

Have I mentioned that Navani makes my little engineer’s heart happy?

Heraldic Symbolism

The symbols in the chapter arch are too direct to need further clarification.

The Duelist: Adolin

Jezrien: Kaladin, the Windrunner

Shalash: Shallan, the Lightweaver

Ishar: Dalinar, the Bondsmith

Paliah: Renarin, the Truthwatcher

Shipping Wars

As Adolin walked the dark halls of Urithiru, he tried not to show how overwhelmed he felt. The world had just shifted, like a door on its hinges. A few days ago, his causal betrothal had been that of a powerful man to a relatively minor scion of a distant house. Now, Shallan might be the most important person in the world, and he was…

What was he?

We’ve been discussing this aspect of their relationship for several months now…

The initial revelation was pretty clearly not a problem for Adolin. He was delighted that Kaladin saved his father, and equally delighted that Shallan saved the army. The discovery of a couple of powerful magic-users during these terrifying events, and on his side this time, was all for the good, even if he felt a little awkward when he saw Shallan a couple hours later. (Considering how reserved Adolin normally is with regard to public displays of affection, I don’t find his apparent discomfort all that significant anyway.)

Five days later, though, it’s clearly been on his mind throughout the work of exploration and resettlement. I don’t think he ever felt patronizing toward her, despite his awareness of the difference in their social status; if anything, he deliberately ignored the difference because he found her so fascinating. It’s not so easy to ignore the reversal, though: his entire nation is now dependent on her, and her presence is very much in demand. Even his cousin, the king of Alethkar, isn’t as indispensable as Shallan is. Where does that leave him?

I still stand by this ship; I still think Shallan and Adolin are a far better match than Shallan and Kaladin ever could be. (Your mileage may vary, of course!) But… Brandon says he’s fond of conflict in relationships, and these two definitely have some conflicts to resolve! Whether or not Kaladin will be part of the conflict remains to be seen.

Just Sayin’

Silently, Adolin cursed the wind that had persuaded Sadeas—of all people—to heed the call to come to Urithiru.

This was the only Rosharan wind-idiom I caught this week, but I do like that wording.


And so we complete the final chapter. Next week, the Epilogue; the following week, in theory, the ketek and the Ars Arcanum, and then we’ll be finished. This almost makes me sad… but we’ll move on to other things.

Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Rumor has it that Oathbringer will start beta sometime in September, so if she goes into hiding, you’ll know why.


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