Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Vivenna tried to figure out what to do with her newly-acquired Breath and herself in T’Telir, while Siri prepared for her Court presentation. This week, most of our main characters converge on the arena for the Assembly.
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: Lightsong, Siri, Vivenna
Setting: the Court of Gods
Timing: the same afternoon as Chapter 13
Take a Deep Breath
Lightsong and Llarimar debate the theology of rainfall as they approach the arena, where he ignores his own box and proceeds to join Blushweaver. The usual verbal sparring commences, until they settle down to wait for the appearance of the new queen.
Siri, carried on a chair under a canopy through the rain, revels in simply being outdoors again. At her bizarre request, the serving women reluctantly allow her chair to move out from under the canopy for a moment, but their discomfort at the very suggestion that she might walk is enough to keep her in her seat. Finally reaching her box, she finds herself still isolated from everyone else—in the levels above the common people, and separated from the gods by distance and walls. While waiting for the God King to arrive, which will be after all the other gods have arrived, Siri enjoys some people-watching… and god-watching.
Vivenna and Parlin enter the Court of Gods, admitted without question by the priests; Vivenna pauses to observe how the process works before moving on toward the arena. She struggles with her feelings as she looks around the Court, the beauty of the color conflicting with the knowledge that what she sees is very much enhanced by the amount of Breath she holds. She sees a god entering through a separate entrance unavailable to the common folk, and is awed in spite of herself, until his privileged arrogance makes her angry; she reminds herself that he lives only because he absorbs someone else’s Breath every week. She sees another man in the crowd Awaken his cloak to give him a view over the crowd, and then things start to move and they enter the arena. She quickly spots Siri, and is horrified to see the way her poor sister is being exploited.
Siri waits, counting the gods present, when she realizes that everyone is facing her direction and kneeling. Suddenly, she and her surroundings explode with color and rainbows; the God King is behind her.
The building was ornate, but not really very big, and so it didn’t take her long to locate Siri.
When she did, her heart sank. My… sister, Vivenna thought with a chill. My poor sister.
Siri was dressed in a scandalous golden dress that didn’t even come down to her knees. It also had a plunging neckline. Siri’s hair, which even she should have been able to keep a dark brown, was instead the golden yellow of enjoyment, and there were deep red ribbons woven through it. She was being attended by dozens of servants.
“Look what they’ve done to her,” Vivenna said. “She must be frightened senseless, forced to wear something like that, forced to keep her hair a color that matches her clothing…” Forced to be slave to the God King.
Oh, Vivenna. I appreciate your love and concern for your sister, but you really don’t know her as well as you think. You assume that she has absorbed the same attitudes and expectations you hold; it doesn’t seem to even occur to you that Siri might actually be enjoying herself at the moment.
This week’s annotations cover the Lightsong/Blushweaver interaction, the fact that Returned will only consume their own Breath on the eighth day, that some places in the world they’re regarded more or less as vampires, color harmonics, and the use of multiple viewpoints of the same event. I found the notion of color harmonics particularly fascinating—enough to quote part of it for you:
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of perfect pitch. Pitches and tones are an absolute; music isn’t just something we humans devise and construct out of nothing. It’s not arbitrary. Like mathematics, music is based on principles greater than human intervention in the world. Someone with perfect pitch can recognize pure tones, and they exist outside of our perception and division of them. (Unlike something like our appreciation of other kinds of art, which is dealing with things that are far more subjective.)
However, I wondered if— perhaps— there are perfect steps of colors just like there are perfect tones, with color fifths, sevenths, and chords and the like. In our world, nobody has the ability to distinguish these things— but what if there were someone who could? Someone who could tell something innate about color that isn’t at all subjective?
I’m not sure if I explained that right, but it intrigued me enough to become part of this book.
Snow White and Rose Red
The difference between the sisters is most vividly on display this week, even granted that much of Siri’s happiness lies in simply being out of the palace. Her occasional discomfiture at the daring cut of her own clothing, and the far more revealing clothing of some of the gods, doesn’t really diminish her pleasure. She has no fear of being harmed this day, and so she freely delights in the things she’s always appreciated—color, novelty, and relative freedom. (Okay, it really is only relative to being cooped up in the palace for a week, but it’s not nothing!) I suspect it also helps that she survived the night after accidentally confronting the God King, and her decision to stop being afraid buoys her up to do this whole presentation thing.
Vivenna is almost the inverse. She has occasional moments when she inadvertently enjoys the beauty and the “perfect pitch” of color distinction, but it doesn’t really diminish her loathing of the entire Hallandren culture and the buying and selling of Breath. She assumes that Siri must feel humiliated by clothing so far outside the Idrian norm, and continues to believe that of course Siri is terrified to be here, and desperately needs to be rescued. It’s also hilarious that Vivenna assumes that Siri is being forced to maintain a specific hair color—and that she would actually be able to keep her hair “the golden yellow of enjoyment” while being “frightened senseless.” For all her control, Vivenna herself couldn’t manage that.
As I Live and Breathe
Vivenna spends a few minutes, while she halfway forgets to be revolted, in actually using the abilities granted by her Third Heightening. She notes the distance at which the priests’ First Heightening affected the colors of those entering, and she can tell how many Breaths another person has, and see whether they’re sick. She sees the artistry inherent in the palaces of the gods—artistry which would not even be visible to most people. She even finds herself a little frustrated with Parlin, because with his single Breath, he can’t comprehend the harmony of color that she sees.
One opportunity she really missed in this episode was the chance to observe an Awakener in action. Someone nearby uses an unusually long cloak to lift himself above the crowd and see what’s going on up ahead, and then retrieves his Breath when he’s done. It would have done her good to notice that when he did so, he didn’t turn into a Drab, but clearly placed only some of his Breath in the cloak. But… she didn’t.
This is, I think, the first time we see mention of the Pahn Kahl as specifically distinct from the Hallandren. We don’t get to learn much about them yet, but Blushweaver points out that they do not worship the Returned; they have their own religion. Lightsong is totally surprised by this, since he thought the Pahn Kahl were more or less just… Hallandren people.
Blushweaver also points out that Austrism is a highly complex religion, but doesn’t elaborate. I’d love to learn more about both!
In Living Color
Lightsong spends the chapter once again being either flippant or childish, depending on how you interpret it. There’s not a lot to say; he continues to dig at Llarimar about his own lack of divine qualifications, and then attempts to carry the banter on into his conversation with Blushweaver. Her participation in the wordplay seems half-hearted, though; she’s more focused on the implications of the presentation of the new queen.
There isn’t actually a lot more I want to say about this chapter. All the main players in the book so far, except Vasher and Denth, are in the same place; they don’t yet interact with one another, but they’re all there. The funny thing is, they all have different “big moments” that they’re here to see. Siri wants to see her husband, Vivenna wants to see Siri, Blushweaver wants to evaluate the new queen, and Lightsong wants to see what Blushweaver is up to. Only Vivenna actually achieves her purpose in this chapter; the others will have to wait for the next few chapters.
That’s it for the blog—now it’s time for the comments! Join us again next week, when we will cover Chapter 15, in which Siri sees her husband in daylight and seeks answers from Bluefingers, while Vivenna finds herself watched by a strange man with a sword.
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. Y’all will be pleased to learn that the Oathbringer beta read is proceeding apace, with Part 1 nearly finished and Part 2 about to begin. Also, it’s awesome; if Part 1 were published as a stand-alone book, it would be well worth the money, though it would probably be only about 300 pages long.