Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Vivenna was repeatedly sent spinning as she tried to cope with mercenaries and the death of Lemex. This week, we return to a decidedly bored Siri, as she attempts to find something interesting to do with herself—since kneeling naked on the floor for hours is definitely not at the top of the list.
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: Six days after her arrival in T’Telir
Take a Deep Breath
Siri walks through the palace with a disdainful and impatient Treledees, seeking a way to make some kind of exception to the rule about not leaving the building; she’s desperate to simply get outdoors, however briefly. Barring that, even having someone to talk to would help—the servants are too subservient, and the priests too lofty. Bluefingers is the only person who talks to her like a human being, but he’s very busy and she feels bad about distracting him from his work.
Some of her irritability comes from the hours spent kneeling on the stone floor every night for the last six nights, resulting in persistent pain in her back and neck. Every night and every day has followed the same sequence: kneel naked on the floor until the God King leaves, move to the bed for some actual sleep, wake up, burn the sheets, choose from an array of clothing, wander uselessly around for the day, bathe, put on another gown to wear into the bedchamber and remove. Lather, rinse, repeat. The biggest change is that she has taken to requesting the most ornate gowns with the most fabric to use for cushioning and warmth.
Bathed and dressed, she waits with Bluefingers before the golden doors to the bedchamber. Even though this has been repeated every night, she is still nervous about it. At some point, it has to change, and she won’t know when until the moment she hears Susebron knock on the bedpost to summon her.
This night, Bluefingers appears to be nervous as well; he finally asks her how things are going, assuming that her tiredness is a result of a series of… active nights. She allows him to think so. As obliquely as possible, he seems to be warning her to be alert, to be wary, and finally cautions her that not everything in the palace is as it seems.
She enters the room, and the vibrancy of the colors tell her that the God King is waiting. She goes through the ritual undressing, and kneels uncomfortably on the stone floor again. Tonight, she focuses on Bluefingers’s odd behavior in an attempt to distract herself, and is again frustrated by her inability to figure it out, wondering if it would be different if she’d paid attention to her lessons. Vivenna would have figured it out by now, and would have fixed everything, but Siri herself is too incompetent. In her exasperation and weariness, she suddenly sits up and blurts out what she’s thinking: “Will you please just get on with it?”
Terrified at her behavior but with her stubbornness to support her, she looks up to see the God King sitting up straighter, watching her but apparently without anger. Deciding that there’s probably no more risk than she’s already taken, she faces him and stares back. It’s actually a bit more embarrassing and uncomfortable this way, but she’s too fed up with the situation to back down now. Eventually, he simply stands up and leaves at about the same time he left every night. Since no soldiers or priests come to give her fetch for it, she climbs into the bed and falls asleep.
“You’re not ‘locked up,’ Vessel,” Treledees said. “You are observing a period of isolation in which you can dedicate yourself to contemplating your new place in life. It is an ancient and worthy practice, one that shows respect for the God King and his divine monarchy.”
“Yes, but this is Hallandren,” Siri said. “It’s the land of laxness and frivolity! Surely you can see your way to making an exception.”
Treledees stopped short. “We do not make exceptions in matters of religion, Vessel. I must assume that you are testing me in some way, for I find it hard to believe that anyone worthy of touching our God King could harbor such vulgar thoughts.”
This cracked me up. “It’s the land of laxness and frivolity!” Well, mostly… except, as we’ve seen before, when it comes to their religion. Not anyone else’s religion, mind you, but their own is very serious business. I wonder if Treledees is ever lax and frivolous, though.
The annotations remind us that we’re supposed to find Siri’s plot line frustrating and purposeless at this point; spending a whole week with nothing to do, bowing every night in hope of pleasing her lofty husband, and basically going in circles is enough to drive her nuts. Which of us wouldn’t be going stir-crazy in that situation?
The origin of Bluefingers is a little more interesting, but I think I’ll wait to deal with him in more detail when we find out through the story what he’s up to. For now, suffice it to say that his warnings to Siri are intended to make her more nervous, to feel in danger so she’s likely to trust him more than anyone else. I think it’s working.
Snow White and Rose Red
It’s a little unclear whether this is Siri’s character developing or reverting, but it’s a refreshing change one way or the other. Six days of careful control have done nothing but drive her to intense frustration, so her innate orneriness comes to the rescue … maybe, anyway. We’ll have to wait for the next chapter to find out what the results are, but for now, she’s still alive!
The funny part is that it seems more dangerous to annoy the priests than their God King.
As I Live and Breathe
By now, Siri has figured out some of the effects of large amounts of Breath, including the way Susebron’s presence enhances all the color around him and bends white like a prism. It’s such a typical Siri reaction that she wishes she could see it with better lighting, because it would be so beautiful—and then immediately tries to feel guilty about it, because one person holding that much Breath is a perversion of Investiture and comes by devouring the souls of his people. (Again with the souls!)
Soon, Siri. Soon, you will be allowed to see him in broad daylight. It will be delightful.
In Living Color
The God King’s wrath, she thought drowsily, is decidedly less wrathful than reported.
We’re right on the verge, now, of finally meeting Susebron as a real person. Or, you know, as real as a cognitive shadow stuck back in a body can be, which is pretty real, all things considered. This is the first time Siri has seen any reaction from him at all. He always just sat there and seemed (as nearly as she could tell without looking directly at him very much) to more or less enjoy looking at her, but that’s it. When she finally speaks to him, and then sits up and looks straight at him, he does the same. It’s the first thing he’s actually done. I don’t know about Siri, but it gave me hope that something productive might happen sometime soon. Or, you know… reproductive. Or, by contrast, devastating—which from all we know at this point, is far more likely, but since he didn’t strangle her with her own dress, maybe not?
Last time we had a Siri chapter, it was rather frustrating. She was aimless and frustrated, with no purpose except to provide an heir, which she couldn’t do without some participation from Susebron. (Sitting and looking at her doesn’t count.) By now, several days later, her aimlessness and frustration has come to a boiling point.
The only variety in her days seems to come from choosing her clothing. Two things caught my attention and made me smile. One, it’s actually harder for her to choose a dress when she realizes that the same clothes are never presented twice. If she like two different outfits, she’d better choose carefully, because she’ll never get a chance at the other one again. Well, okay, it’s not that big a deal, really, but her options for independent choice are pretty limited right now. (Also, I wonder what would happen if she said, “I want this one today, and I want that one tomorrow.” Would they do it, or would they just look shocked? It apparently hasn’t occurred to her that she could give that kind of orders yet.)
The second clothing-related amusement is her subterfuge with the bedchamber-removal dresses. It didn’t take her long to decide that more fabric would be a very good thing, and that if she kept choosing the most ornate and fluffy ones, they might bring her even more ornate and fluffy choices. Well, it sure beats kneeling on stone!
Again, this is a light chapter, but this time it feels like we’re really, at last, setting up for something to happen. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, next week in Chapter 12, Lightsong reluctantly fulfills his obligations and Siri reflects on surviving the night.
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.