Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, a highprince died and four Radiants gathered. This week, Wit expounds and Jasnah Elsecalls, as we conclude our discussions of this magnificent behemoth.
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!
Epilogue: Art and Expectation
Point of View: Hoid
Setting: a week away from civilization
Symbology: Double Eye of the Almighty, Joker, Battar
IN WHICH Wit waits at the back of beyond, entertaining the local fauna with esoteric discussions of art; a ring of light spins before him, and Jasnah appears at the center of it; she points an instantly-summoned Blade at Wit, who is profoundly unconcerned by it; after a bit of verbal fencing, Jasnah begins to list the things that will, or will need to, happen; Wit crosses off each item on her list as she goes; they begin walking toward the nearest town; further information is exchanged; Jasnah realizes that most of what she has learned may be irrelevant; with a brief philosophical discussion of the nature of God, they proceed on their way back to what’s left of civilization.
Quote of the Week
“Expectation. That is the true soul of art. If you can give a man more than he expects, then he will laud you his entire life. If you can create an air of anticipation and feed it properly, you will succeed.
“Conversely, if you gain a reputation for being too good, too skilled… beware. The better art will be in their heads, and if you give them an ounce less than they imagined, suddenly you have failed. Suddenly you are useless. A man will find a single coin in the mud and talk about it for days, but when his inheritance comes and is accounted one percent less than he expected, then he will declare himself cheated.”
I won’t go so far as to say that Brandon was directing this at any particular personal experience, but… have you ever read all the comments (twitter or facebook) when he announces anything? Every time he mentions an uptick in the Stormlight 3 progress bar, someone complains about not having the Rithmatist sequel yet. When he announces a new Stormlight novella for the forthcoming Arcanum Unbounded, someone complains that they don’t have SA3 yet.
(And of course there was the response to his work on The Wheel of Time—which ranged from, “Wow! That’s the story I’ve been waiting to read, and excellently done!” to “This jerk thinks he can write, but he screwed up my beloved story by not being Robert Jordan!” But… we won’t dig into that.)
On the other hand, there are those who have some understanding of just how much work it is to write a really excellent book—not only the story idea, but the story-crafting, the word-smithing, the revisions, the cross-checking—and those are the folks who make it worthwhile to read the comments. The people who say things like, “Take whatever time you need to make it what you want it to be! We can wait.”
Jasnah lives! Oh frabjous day!
I’m really glad I had to write things down the first time I read this book, or I’d be tempted (like everyone else!) to say that I knew all along that she wasn’t dead. But going back to old notes, I can see that I was shocked and dismayed, then disbelieving, then cautiously accepting of her death. I wasn’t 100% sure she was dead—that missing body, you know—but at the same time I could accept that Brandon might actually have killed her, if that’s what he needed to do for the overall plot. And I’d have been okay with that. Not happy, but okay.
I also recall that, while I was delighted to learn that she wasn’t dead, I couldn’t help feeling like the dead-not-dead card was being overplayed. Looking at it now, though, my guess is that we’re going to get a similar type of death in one of the next three books, and just when we’re all looking smugly around and saying, “Nah, he’s not really dead,” the thoroughly dead body will show up and we’ll be gaping like fish, wondering how that happened. (Just guessing, though. I haven’t seen anything yet, honest!)
Ah, well. So what, precisely, has Jasnah been doing over there in Shadesmar? Where did she get a backpack and a bandolier, and what does the bandolier hold? (Wit doesn’t see fit to mention that for us, now does he?) Perhaps she met someone—maybe Khriss?—in Shadesmar, and was able to obtain some useful items. Presumably, she was also able to find some source of food, since she’s been there physically this entire time. (At least, I assume a physical body gets hungry, even when it’s wandering around in the Cognitive realm.) But there are a whole bunch of minor details included that raise a whole bunch of major questions. How did she get burned? That wasn’t part of the assassination. What did she do in Shadesmar to get so tattered? It’s quite possible she had a belt knife, which she could use to cut her dress to a practical length, but did she always carry needles and thread in her pocket? Somehow, she’d sewed herself a glove. Or maybe she just got Ivory to turn himself into a Shardneedle?
There are a few things we do know, however. She was able to learn some things from the highspren regarding previous Desolations, even if the account is incomplete. Unfortunately, she learned enough to know that things are happening differently this time… which means that the information she sought at Urithiru, if it even exists there, may not be as useful as she had anticipated.
We also know that she now has a fully functional Shardblade-level bond. When she spoke the Oaths to bring her up to that level, we don’t know. Considering she’s been working on it for six years, it’s quite possible that she’s been a full-fledged Radiant for a while, and we just didn’t know. But I want to know!
After reading the epilogue again, I can certainly see how Jasnah and Wit wouldn’t get along very well. His particular brand of humor, especially in context of a dire threat to her world, would be really grating. While Jasnah clearly has a sense of humor, Wit’s overt snark wouldn’t be the sort of thing she’d find all that funny. Perhaps, in a time of less urgency, she’d be mildly amused by him mocking Amaram, but… well, this is not that day.
Finally, there is the brief interchange on the subject of God. I really don’t know what to make of it. I enjoyed the specific acknowledgement that Tanavast, so-called “Almighty,” is definitely not God, though for practical purposes on Roshar he was a god. What I don’t quite know is whether Hoid considers Adonalsium to be God, or whether he’s doing some hand-wavey “God is whoever we think he is” schtick. If it’s the latter, there’s not much more to be said. If it’s the former… then I have to wonder about the implications!
Also, how did he know where and when to find her?
The scene leaves us with more questions than answers, despite Jasnah’s return and her identification as an Elsecaller. But… that’s part of the mark of a good epilogue, isn’t it? It leaves you wanting more.
The timing is currently unknown. Wit believes that the storm should hit Shinovar this night, but whether that’s because he knows when it will hit, or if it’s an estimate based on the speed of highstorms, he doesn’t say. In any case, it should be sometime during the gap between Chapter 88 and Chapter 89.
No actual spren were observed in the rereading of this chapter.
That said, Wit’s comment must be quoted:
“You’ve been making quite a disturbance on the other side,” Wit said. “It’s been a long time since the spren had to deal with someone alive, particularly someone so demanding as yourself.”
This makes me laugh, imagining the poor spren trying to figure out what to do with Jasnah, stomping around in Shadesmar demanding answers. Still, it’s pretty cool that she was able to do some research with them.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
We have an “ugly lizard-crab thing,” which I assume must be some sort of cremling? And songlings, which always sound to me like they must be related to cicadas or something like that. The best part is how both critters seem to respond to Wit’s conversation. Does he actually manage to a) communicate with them or b) manipulate their responses? I don’t know that it actually matters, but it’s funny.
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.
In the center of it appeared Jasnah Kholin, standing tall.
I’ve already noted this, of course, but I’ll point it out again anyway: this is exactly the same imagery described by Shallan in Chapter 87, when the Oathgate was activated by Kaladin. At some point, I really need to work out a more detailed theory about fabrials that do straight-up mechanical stuff, and “fabrials” that truly replicate Surgebinding.
Or I could just wait for Oathbringer. That might have answers on the subject.
“You realize we’re at least a week away from civilization. Did you need to Elsecall this far out in the middle of nowhere?”
“I was somewhat pressed at the time of my escape. I’m lucky to be here at all.”
It sure will be fun to learn more about Elsecalling. Presumably, with practice it can be used in a more precise manner than this, or it wouldn’t be much good. But at the moment, I want to know what Jasnah was escaping from when she was so pressed for time. She clearly spent a hefty chunk of time in Shadesmar; even if time doesn’t seem to pass in the same way, she was there long enough to get information from the highspren. So it doesn’t make sense that she’s referring to her escape from the ship. More of those “grinders” (painspren) from the non-canon Jasnah scene? I want to know!!
The symbolism in the chapter icon is fairly clear, once again. The Joker represents Wit, who is also the POV character for the scene. Battar represents the Elsecallers, of which Jasnah is a (the?) member.
I just have to mention, in case anyone missed it before, that (as in TWoK) the phrases of the ketek also form the titles for the five Parts of the book. If you want a little more on the structure of the ketek, look up chiasm, which is the same sort of thing; the ketek, though, has more demanding limitations in that it has to form a comprehensible statement along with the symmetry.
I think it would be difficult to write a good ketek. It would for me, anyway.
While I won’t dig deeply into the Ars Arcanum, there is some very juicy info included. First and foremost, this version includes our first authoritative list of the Surges and a very brief summary of what they involve. It also mentions something that we easily forget: the chart of the Ten Essences, etc., is based on traditional Vorin symbolism, not necessarily hard factual relationships.
Khriss speculates on the relationship between Surgebinding, Voidbinding, and the Old Magic, but what she says is mostly enough to convince us that we know essentially nothing of the latter two. I daresay that’s coming, soon enough!
The information on Fabrials and Windrunner Lashings is much like that contained in TWOK, though I didn’t do a strict comparison. The notes on Lightweaving, which are new, drop tantalizing hints of similar use of magic elsewhere in the Cosmere. I’m always curious when there’s a hint of Yolen involved, since that seems to be as close as we get to an “original world” in the Cosmere.
Well, here we are, at the end of the book. We did it, y’all. We reread, in great detail, Words of Radiance. I’m … rather sad that it’s done, though I’m definitely ready for a break. Thank you all so very, very much for making this such a rewarding experience! Despite occasional friction, I’m proud to be a part of this community; you people are magnificent, and I’m honored to consider you friends.
What comes next? I don’t want to lose momentum, but there’s just no more Stormlight to be had until Arcanum Unbounded comes out in November. You will definitely want to join in on the discussion of the Lift novella Edgedancer when it’s released, though, because we need to talk about it! (Brandon thought it was going to be a 17,000-word novelette, but it ended up right around 40,000 words, because he used it to let us observe some things that needed to happen before the events of the next book take place. Trust me, we need to talk about it.) After that, though, we just have to wait for the release of Oathbringer, and that’s going to be a while. There’s some indication that the beta will begin early this fall, and the beta-readers are currently doing a group reread discussion of WoR in preparation, but… we’ll have to wait and see. Team Sanderson is working on ways to streamline the process without compromising the quality of the work, so it might not be as long a wait as we would currently expect. Dunno.
In lieu of Stormlight, then, we’re going to go explore BioChroma. Yes, I’ve gotten the go-ahead for a Warbreaker reread. I’m looking forward to digging into Vasher’s character, knowing that he was written as a sort of prequel to Zahel. It should also be fun to do a reread where we’ve got direct commentary by the author; I’ll be looking at not only the text, but also the annotations. No idea how it will work or what the structure will be, but we’ll have fun with it anyway! It will start sometime in September; the exact schedule is still TBD.
With that, let me thank you again for being such a superb group. Keep in touch, my friends!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, who is still somewhat shocked—and definitely humbled—to find herself in this position. Her heartfelt thanks go to the wonderful team at Tor, who make it so easy to be here. You ROCK!