Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last time, Siri was primped and prepped to meet her new husband. This week, she enters The Chamber, and Lightsong watches fireworks.
This reread will contain spoilers for all of Warbreaker and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. This is particularly likely to include Words of Radiance, due to certain crossover characters. The index for this reread can be found here.
Click on through to join the discussion!
Point of View: Siri, Lightsong
Setting: The God King’s Palace, The Court of Gods
Timing: immediately following Chapter 6
Take a Deep Breath
Chapter 7: Siri enters the bedchamber, lit only by a fire in the hearth. The room is all in black, right down to the bedsheets and covers. Trying to get her bearings, she inadvertently meets the eyes of a larger-than-life black-clothed figure seated in a black throne-like chair. Overwhelmed with her instructions and the situation, Siri fumbles to undress quickly, then kneels and bows, waiting for her summons. Time passes; she worries; nothing happens; she waits.
Lightsong watches a display of fireworks, outwardly enjoying himself but inwardly thoughtful. Llarimar approaches, but Lightsong insists that he should go enjoy the festivities with his family in the city. Another person approaches: Blushweaver the Beautiful, goddess of honesty, being honest as anything about what’s under the dress she’s almost wearing. Lightsong anticipates an interesting interaction, as he waits to see what she wants. Verbal sparring ensues, resulting in her suggestion that they retire from the festivities to “find… other entertainments.” He hesitates, and in the pause he sees again the face of the woman in his earlier vision; he finds himself declining Blushweaver’s invitation, claiming that he’s too lazy, and must maintain that reputation. She’s both baffled and miffed, but makes no move to leave him; Lightsong’s suspicion that she had a further motive is confirmed.
Blushweaver is concerned about the implications of having a new queen, and this one of the royal line. She attempts to concern him with the political intrigue, but he brushes her off. Finally, she leaves with words of warning—and, of course, teasing. He returns to his entertainments, but his inner thoughts are more troubled than ever.
“The God King rules. Everyone knows that.”
“He didn’t rule three hundred years ago,” Blushweaver said. “The royals did. Then, after them, Kalad did—and after him, Peacegiver. Change can happen quickly. By inviting that woman into our city, we may have initiated the end of Returned rule in Hallandren.”
This whole section, including several paragraphs before, is just full of wrong information. The “royals” are actually descendants of a Returned; Kalad and Peacegiver are the same person; “that king up in the highlands” isn’t remotely interested in taking “his lands” back. We obviously won’t learn most of this until the end of the book, but there are so many false assumptions on the part of the supposed gods, the ones who ostensibly rule Hallandren. I suppose this is true of any ruler or ruling body; they don’t know everything, half of what they think they know is wrong, even then they base their decisions on biases that make no sense from any other perspective, and much of their course is based on fear. This sounds so familiar! What… Oh, I know. It sounds like just about every human being who ever lived. Okay, then.
This week’s annotations talk about chapter breaks—when and how to make dramatic use of them—and Blushweaver. Most of it is Blushweaver, in fact; there’s a good bit of background on her fifteen years of goddess-hood. My favorite bit is this one, though:
When designing this story, I knew I wanted to have a beautiful goddess to give Lightsong some verbal sparring. However, I realized early on that I didn’t want to go the route of having a disposable, sultry bimbo goddess of love. I needed someone more complicated and capable than that, someone who was a foil to Lightsong not just in verbal sparring, but someone who could prod him to be more proactive. And from that came Blushweaver.
“Disposable, sultry bimbo goddess of love.” What a description. Even though she’s definitely sultry, and is eventually… disposed of, I’d say he managed to avoid making her what the phrase implies.
Snow White and Rose Red
Poor Siri. Required to enter the chamber alone, strip naked, and grovel on a cold stone floor in front of someone who, according to everything she’s ever been told, is a tyrant with a short temper who just might decide to execute her for an inadvertent wrong move, it’s no wonder her mind races around the circles it takes. Isn’t she pretty enough? Is he angry that she’s the wrong princess? Is he angry that she looked at him? Did she undress too slowly? Is he just toying with her? Is he trying to emphasize the lowliness of her position compared to his? Is he testing her?
In the end, she perseveres—partly for the sake of her people, but also because she simply refuses to give up. She definitely was the right girl for the job:
Vivenna had the training. Vivenna had the poise and the refinement. But Siri, she had the stubbornness.
And so she waits.
As I Live and Breathe
The white fabric was throwing out a spectrum of colors, like light bent by a prism. She regarded this with shock, wondering what was causing the strange effect.
I’ll just leave that there for now. Siri doesn’t know, and we’ll find out later, what makes this happen. I have just one question, for those of you who have read Arcanum Unbounded: Is this related to the afterimage Lift sees when Szeth moves? Sanderson revealed at a signing recently that “Anyone sufficiently Invested can see them. Connection to the Cognitive Realm helps, too.” Presumably, anyone with a Breath—or enough Breath—might be able to see it, but the big question for me is whether Szeth’s effect is created by the amount of Investiture Nightblood holds? (Spoiler for Edgedancer in white; select the blank area to read it. To discuss it, please identify your comment as containing spoilers, or make the text white.)
Siri notes again that Returned are not uncommon in Idris; they happen at about the same rate as anywhere else, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem, for an Idrian, is the consumption of Breath to keep them alive beyond their allotted week. I have to confess to a certain sympathy with this. Whatever may happen with buying and selling Breath among the populace, and however long it lasts when treated as merchandise, a Breath given to a Returned is used up in one week. A Breath that would have lasted its owner a full lifetime is gone in just a few days for the sake of keeping a Returned alive a little longer. Sure, it got them enough money to feed their family for a year, but long before the money is spent, the Breath is gone, and so is another, and another, and another. It really is a little creepy. I’d like to know what Endowment thinks of the Returned staying alive this way; either way, it’s certainly a point of contention between Idris and Hallandren.
Back to the subject of fear from a few weeks ago (and as referenced in the Breathtaking unit above), Blushweaver seems to believe that Siri’s arrival is part of an Idrian plot to take over Hallandren. Her entire case to Lightsong is the dangers that may arise from having a queen with real royal blood, a series of hypothetical propositions that could perhaps remove power from the Returned and give it to the old royalty one way or another. It’s hard to know with Blushweaver, but she seems sincerely concerned about it.
Ironically, of course, Siri’s arrival is really part of an Idrian hope-against-hope gambit to just be left alone: They see it as giving Hallandren the legitimacy it’s been denied, hoping the Hallandren won’t take over Idris once they’ve got royal blood in the line again.
In Living Color
We meet our second member of the pantheon this week: Blushweaver the Beautiful, goddess of honesty. (I find that so twisted, since she rarely seems to be intentionally honest about anything.) On a reread, it’s easy to observe that she’s another prime example of how the Returned make their physical appearance be whatever they think is appropriate to the persona given them by the priests. The annotations make it clear (more than the text) that her perceived role is carefully crafted in such a way as to put her in the most powerful position she can manage. To tell the truth, I’ve never been able to bring myself to like or trust her very much…
Lightsong, ten years her “junior” in terms of godhood, undoubtedly enjoys the verbal sparring, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t exactly trust her, either. However annoying his flippancy can be at times, the fact that he doesn’t trust her gives me a lot more confidence in him.
I’m amazed, as I reread this book for… the third or fourth time now?… how much more foreshadowing I’m finding with respect to the relationship between Llarimar and Lightsong (presumably because I’m actually looking for it). Like this:
“Scoot,” Lightsong said, giving the man a pointed look, “if there’s one thing you can trust me to do competently on my own, it’s enjoy myself. I will—I promise in all solemnity—have a ravishingly good time drinking to excess and watching these nice men light things on fire. Now go be with your family.”
Llarimar paused, then stood, bowed, and withdrew.
Actually, my dear Lightsong, that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.
So here are a couple more little hints about the Manywar dropped into the pot, telling us that it all happened about 300 years ago, that Kalad had driven the royal line out of Hallandren and into the highlands, and that Peacegiver had taken over from Kalad. Hah!
The biggest takeaway from this chapter seems to be the incredible amount of misinformation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication floating around. The biggest question it raises is whether the priests, on the whole, believe the things they teach or whether they merely use their position to manipulate the gods and the people into doing what they want done. Are all these errors deliberate? Or is truth merely twisted over time as a result of the biases and fears of those in power who stand to benefit or be harmed by it?
I’m rather looking forward to the next Vasher chapter, now. At least he remembers most of the history, and is mostly honest about what he remembers!
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. She hopes you’ve all been reading and discussing Arcanum Unbounded, and are enjoying the holiday season, however you celebrate it.