Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Vivenna dealt with multiple shocks and emerged with a growing determination to serve her people as best she could. This week, Siri takes a new approach to the nighttime routine, and Lightsong tries to avoid his responsibilities by staying in bed.
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 respective bedchambers of the God King and Lightsong
Timing: The evening of the day in chapters 13-17, the following morning
Take a Deep Breath
Siri waits to enter the bedchamber, thinking back over the events of the day and feeling very stubborn about it all. She has every intention of going in, telling off the God King, and letting everyone know she’s not going to get pushed around any longer. But too many memories linger, and she whispers to Bluefingers, asking if the priests really watch her every night. He’s frightened by her questioning, but tells her that while they wouldn’t dare watch, they do listen. He reminds her that she really is in danger from the priests before waving her in and scuttling off down the corridor.
She enters the room, still wanting to change something, but realizing that open defiance is not a good plan. She stands and looks at the God King, and finally begins to undress, but stops before removing her shift. Taking her courage with both hands, she steps slowly toward him; oddly, he tenses and seems worried, but he doesn’t do anything. Right in front of him, she turns, climbs onto the bed, and begins to bounce. With nothing to go on but Mab’s instruction and hearsay, she fakes the appropriate noises as best she can for what seems like an appropriate length of time. The God King looks at her in complete confusion; she curls up and goes to sleep.
Lightsong refuses to get out of bed, though his servants hover nervously. Finally, about noon, Llarimar enters and dismisses the servants. Lightsong is again in deep self-doubt, torn between Blushweaver’s concern for the kingdom and his own pity for the young queen, not knowing how to know what to do about it. Llarimar, like a good counselor, makes Lightsong reach his own conclusions by questioning every statement he makes, and polishes it off by dropping a tiny hint – that he knew Lightsong before he Returned. He refuses to say any more, but even so, Lightsong finds his melancholy has dissipated, and he prepares to take on the duties of his day.
“If I don’t do anything, then at least I can’t ruin things. Sure, I can let them go wrong, but that’s not the same thing. It really isn’t, no matter what people say.”
“And if, by acting, you could make things better?”
Lightsong shook his head. “Not going to happen. You know me better than that.”
“I do, Your Grace,” Llarimar said. “I know you better, perhaps, than you think I do. You’ve always been one of the best men I have known.”
So tantalizing, for both Lightsong and the reader. Who was he, anyway? How did he die, so that he was given the opportunity to Return? But we’ll have to wait to find out.
The annotations to Chapter 18 discuss how both Siri and Lightsong are sorta-kinda backsliding in this chapter, tempted to return to the behaviors that have worked in the past, but eventually realizing that things have changed and a different approach is needed. Also addressed is Siri’s bouncing act for the benefit of the priests, which Sanderson says was very discomforting for him but necessary to include. Of extra interest is that Bluefingers was actually wrong (not lying, just wrong) about the priests not watching Siri the first few nights; they had someone under the bed the first night, and someone in a hidden chamber beside the hearth as well. So even Bluefingers doesn’t know everything.
Snow White and Rose Red
This evening, especially after Treledees’s pushing about needing an heir, Siri is so tempted to go back to her habitual behavior in Idris – defy all the rules, be a pain, and just generally make it not worth their effort to enforce cooperation. The fact that she ends up thinking it through and doing something different is partially intended to remind us that she’s had that potential all along; she just never needed to bother until now. And, of course, it actively demonstrates that she’s capable not only of self-control, but of thinking past the moment.
That said, I’m not entirely sure she knew what she was going to do until she actually did it. Either way, it really was a clever trick to get Treledees off her back, and had the added benefit of throwing Susebron into complete confusion. Also, since he never seemed to mind what she did anyway, she could take advantage of his confusion to get a real night’s sleep in comfort. Finally. That in itself was probably worth all the embarrassment!
In Living Color
Lightsong, next morning, is trying hard to do his I’m-too-lazy-to-be-a-real-god act, but this time it’s not just a ploy to get out of viewing paintings and such. This time, he really is struggling to know what he ought to do, he has no idea how to decide what’s right, and the lives of a whole lot of people may ride on his decision. Should he grant control of his Lifeless to Blushweaver? Or at least form an alliance with her so that he’s ready to send them out? Hallandren might depend on him, if Blushweaver is right about the Idrian schemes. On the other hand, what if she’s wrong but doesn’t realize it in time? He risks the life of the new queen, depending on Blushweaver’s decision, and he’s pretty confident that the innocence of one girl is not enough to change her mind.
I really think this system is terribly unfair to the Returned. As we learn much later, they really are shown something of the future when they’re given the opportunity to Return, and they each decide to take on the task because of what they see… but then they can’t remember anything. Not who they were, not how or why they died, and not even what they saw that made them choose to come back. That really sort of stinks, you know?
So Lightsong stays in bed with a bad case of analysis paralysis, until Llarimar brings out his little tidbit about knowing Lightsong better than he knows himself, and it works. This is apparently Lightsong’s first time realizing that there’s someone right there who knows who he was before, and probably knows how and why he died. This may or may not help with figuring out what he should do with his Lifeless commands, but simply knowing that his own high priest may be able to help him remember something seems to breathe new life into our young god of bravery.
Like Fresh Blue Paint on a Wall
That was her decision. And it made her nervous as all Colors.
I love this one; the last word keeps it from being quite a direct parallel to a similar Earth idiom, but the concept is clearly the same. Also, I’d never actually noticed it before.
For all that happens in this chapter, I find I don’t have a lot more to say. That seems to be par for the course right now; I still haven’t entered the discussion on last week’s chapter! (Which is a shame, because there are some excellent points made about the differences between the actions appropriate to an individual and those appropriate to a government – or a king. I promise I’ll get back there!)
Back to the chapter at hand, I’m finally hopeful that Siri will make some progress in figuring out what’s going on in the Court – at least, I think we’re almost there? Lightsong is still dragging his feet, but even he will get stirred to action eventually. It’s good to see both of them beginning to confront their respective responsibilities, even though they’re still fumbling around in the dark a bit.
Now, please, dive into the comments! I do read them, even when I don’t manage to respond. Then, of course, join us again next week for Chapter 19, when Vivenna is introduced to Denth’s plans to “work for” her, and finally meets… the rest of the team, such as they are. It’s a fairly intense chapter for big sister.
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. That Sanderson beta thing she does is coming along nicely, with Part 3 in the works; Parts 4 and 5 are rumored to be not far behind. In other beta news, she also had the opportunity to read and give helpful feedback to an aspiring young writer this week, which was a lot of fun in a whole different way. The best return on investment is to have someone say, “That’s what I needed! Now I’m excited to do the revisions!” Sweet, sweet reward.