Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Siri nervously entered the God King’s bedchamber, Lightsong pondered, and Blushweaver flirted. This week, Siri wakes, sleeps, explores, and wonders what to do with herself.
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
Setting: The God King’s Palace
Timing: The following morning
Take a Deep Breath
Siri wakes, deeply uncomfortable from sleeping on the floor after kneeling for hours, but alone and undisturbed. Despite falling asleep, using her dress for pillow and blanket, looking directly at the God King, and generally not behaving as she’d been told, he had not, apparently, ordered her execution. With relief and a sense of having some small power, she puts her shift back on, looks around the room, climbs into the previously-undisturbed bed, and goes to sleep properly.
Siri wakes, rested and relaxed, then realizes that someone had come in while she slept: her dress has been removed and the fire replenished in preparation for the requisite burning of the sheets. This done, and with only her shift for clothing, she opens the door to find two dozen serving women, kneeling on the floor and waiting for her to emerge. They enter with a selection of clothing for her—more choices than she’s ever had in her life, all in bright colors and most cut far more revealingly than anything she’s ever worn. She finally chooses one that looks as nearly modest as possible, whereupon she is dressed, freshened, made up, styled, and perfumed.
Bluefingers stops in to check, but moves to leave as soon as he is sure she has properly disposed of the linens. She stops him, asking guidance for her daily responsibilities, and is unexpectedly dismayed to learn that she has none. Her task is to bear a child; beyond that, she can do as she pleases, as long as she stays within the physical boundaries set for her. This, it turns out, is far more restrictive than any duties she might have expected: for the first week, she must stay in the palace itself, and after that she must remain within the Court. She is free to summon any entertainment she desires, but she may not go outside—not even into the city, much less beyond it.
With nothing specific to do, she explores the palace, discovering that it is essentially a labyrinth of rooms, each draped in a single color, but none with a specific purpose. Whatever she desires will be brought to her in the room she chooses, whether it’s bathing, resting, eating, or anything else she wants. All her needs will be met by servants and entertainers—all except companionship. That, she seems destined to forego.
Is this what my life is to be from now on? she thought. A night spent feeling half-used, half-ignored by my husband, then days spent surrounded by people, yet somehow still alone?
She shivered, her appetite waning. She set down the fork, and her food slowly grew cold on the table before her. She stared at it, a part of her wishing she’d simply remained in the comfortable, oversized black bed.
Frankly, that sounds both realistic (for her situation) and terribly grim. The contrast between her role in Idris and her role in Hallandren couldn’t be more stark. Idris was muted, dutiful, austere, but familiar and loving. Hallandren is bright, lax, luxurious, unfamiliar… and most of all, uncaring. Lonely.
Chapter 8’s annotations are brief; not much really happens, right? But that turns out to be the whole point of the chapter, even though it’s not generally a good writing technique: Siri has nothing to do. I’m amused that this is the source of the modular rooms; it’s important to her character development that she has no direction, she’s drifting, but the chapter still has to have some source of interest in it. So, play with the architecture!
Snow White and Rose Red
Siri is in the unfamiliar situation of having nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing expected of her except presenting herself naked to her husband every night.
All her life, Siri has avoided her responsibilities—yet she always knew she was loved, and she always had the company of people who liked her, however annoyed they may have been an any given moment. Whether it was her father, her siblings, the townspeople, or Mab the cook (and especially Mab the cook!) she’d always had someone to talk to or someone to tease. Now she has no responsibilities to escape, no way to escape her confines; she’s surrounded by people who watch her and serve her, but will not speak with her. Despite the luxury, life has taken on a grim tone. She’s suddenly had pressed in upon her the difference between solitude and loneliness, and I can’t imagine how suffocating this would be for her.
There are glimpses of growth, even in this directionless state. She asks after her escort, doing what she can to make sure that her men are safely on their way home. She seeks to be obedient, making sure she doesn’t endanger Idris by failing in her duties—except that there don’t seem to be any. She sets out to occupy herself, attempting to deliberately keep herself from the kind of impulsiveness she’d have indulged in at home. She even inquires first if there is any part of the palace she is forbidden to go—though once again, there are no expectations placed on her, except that she may not leave the building.
In Living Color
Trapped and aimless as she may feel, Bluefingers offers her two amusements. First (once the week of the Wedding Jubilation is complete), she may attend the Court Assembly, which meets weekly in full, and daily for lesser judgements. The logical assumption at this point is that the gods are the ones who will meet in Assembly to pass and deliver these judgements, but we know very little of it at this point. This is only the second mention of the Assembly, the first being in Chapter 7 when Lightsong mentioned that Blushweaver’s priests were among those in the Assembly calling for war. The idea of Siri being interested in politics is slightly amusing, given her past, but you just never know what boredom may drive her to do!
Second, she may have entertainers brought to her—and this reflects what we’ve already seen from Lightsong’s POV:
“… you may request an artist of the God King’s priesthood to attend you. His priests include devout and accomplished artists from all genres: music, painting, dance, poetry, sculpture, puppetry, play performance, sandpainting, or any of the lesser genres.”
Just a quick foreshadowing there: along with various forms of art—some of which we’re likely to think of as more prestigious than others—he tosses in “sandpainting.” Is this what Hoid will eventually do?
There’s not a lot more to say about this chapter, but I have to quote a section which struck me oddly:
“Not that you’re to blame, of course,” Bluefingers said quickly. “But then… well, I certainly wish I’d had more forewarning.”
“More forewarning?” Siri asked. “This marriage was arranged by treaty over twenty years ago!”
“Yes, well, but nobody thought…” He trailed off. “Ahem. Well, either way, we shall do our best to accommodate you here in the king’s palace.”
What was that? Siri thought. Nobody thought… that the marriage would really happen? Why not? Did they assume that Idris wouldn’t keep its part of the bargain?
Yes, what was that? Is it merely that the Pahn Kahl assumed that the Idrians wouldn’t risk sending a princess into this situation, with all the stirrings of war (which they were creating)? I honestly don’t know, and don’t remember what we learn at the end of the book. I guess I’ll find out when we get there.
That’s it for the blog—now it’s time for the comments! Join us again next week, when we will cover Chapter 9, in which we see the result of Vivenna’s improper idea from Chapter 2.
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. If you Facebook, you can join her in the Tor-Sanderson-rereader-specific group known as the Storm Cellar; since it’s a closed group, you have to ask to join. Identify yourself as a Tor friend, and one of the moderators will add you. Also, be watching next week for another dream-casting event from some Sanderson beta readers. Movie deals left, right, and center!