Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Siri and Susebron started on that baby-making project for reals, while Lightsong had nightmares and Vivenna got serious about learning how to Awaken (and got a lecture on theory for her pains). This week, Lightsong gets serious about his responsibilities as a god, while Siri and Seb scheme to gain him actual power in his own government.
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
Setting: His balcony; the Lifeless Enclave
Timing: Indeterminate; several days after Chapter 42
Take a Deep Breath
Lightsong struggles to avoid the implications of his nightmares, focusing instead on the ways the Hallandren serve their useless gods; his thoughts turn to Calmseer, his mentor and the closest thing to an actual divine being he’d ever known. Frustrated at the position of power and responsibility for which he feels completely inadequate, he stews over what to do with the Lifeless Commands he holds. He worries about what Blushweaver might do, and he worries about Allmother’s reaction. He pushes at Llarimar again, who finally admits that the woman in Lightsong’s dreams was neither wife nor lover but was very important to him, and that she is still alive. This knowledge, and his dreams of T’Telir in flames—the lives of those who depend on him, and her life in danger—finally drives him to choose.
As he walks to the Lifeless Enclave, Lightsong considers how little he’s paid attention to his charges. He passes various workout facilities used to keep them in shape, and is surprised to remember that they are kept in the dark when not being exercised. He also remembers why he didn’t visit them—their lifelessness is deeply unnerving. He dismisses his priests, choosing to keep the new Command phrase to himself alone, unless he has a chance to pass it to the God King. He finds himself slightly disappointed to prove that Allmother had not come and changed the pass phrase, but proceeds to change the code for all of his ten thousand. When he finishes, he knows he will continue on and take control of Allmother’s ten thousand as well, holding the ultimate command of half the army, and perhaps the fate of the kingdom.
Still alive, Lightsong thought.
If this city fell, then she would be in danger. Everyone who worshiped Lightsong—everyone who counted on him despite his best efforts—would be in danger.
T’Telir couldn’t fall. Even if there were war, the fighting wouldn’t come here. Hallandren was not in danger. It was the most powerful kingdom in the world.
And what of his dreams?
He had been given only one real duty in the government. That of taking command of ten thousand Lifeless. Of deciding when they should be used. And when they should not be.
He turned and walked toward the steps.
Oh, the agony of insufficient knowledge.
This is one of my favorite of the annotations; it explains one of the past Returned who did her best as a god and then fulfilled her purpose, when she remembered her past life at precisely the moment she faced the choice that brought her back. Beyond that, Llarimar is written as unflappable so that when he does start yelling, it’s a shock; Lightsong drops a tiny clue about his past without knowing it (statistically valid); if he had not taken responsibility here, they’d have ended up with Manywar II, with Idris gaining the secret to Awakening swords; readers may be disappointed about the identity of the woman in Lightsong’s dreams; and keeping the Lifeless in the dark is a really bad idea, because (like Clod) they’re far more aware than people think. Also, the sequel will probably have a Lifeless as a viewpoint character.
* * *
Point of View: Siri
Setting: The God King’s Bedchamber
Timing: Morning, a few days after Chapter 44
Take a Deep Breath
Siri lies in bed, comfortably waking up next to her husband, once again amazed at the turn her life has taken. Each muses privately on the trouble that may result from their intimacy, until Susebron says that he has decided to try to make himself known to his subjects and to take personal control of his kingdom. They consider various steps to begin, and Siri suggests that they run away to Idris instead. Susebron refuses this route; though his plan is dangerous, it is the best option they have. When Siri agrees that they wouldn’t be able to get him weekly Breaths anywhere else, he reminds her that he has a great store of Breath beyond the one that makes him Returned, and if needed, he could feed off those extra Breaths. He still insists that this is not an argument for leaving, as it would make him a huge target.
They agree that their best option is to reveal what has been done to him and move to take control of the kingdom; the general assembly of the court coming in a couple of days should be a good opportunity. Siri will sit with Lightsong and ask him for help, and they will try to get several gods to demand to know the truth, which Susebron will reveal; the priests will be forced to bow to the will of the gods.
I want to try making myself known to the people, he wrote, and the other gods. I want to take control of my kingdom for myself.
“I thought we decided that would be too dangerous.”
It will be, he wrote. But I’m beginning to think that it is a risk we must take.
“And your objections from before?” she asked. “You can’t shout out the truth, and your guards are likely to rush you away if you try something like escaping.”
Yes, Susebron wrote, but you have far fewer guards, and you can yell.
Siri paused. “Yes,” she said. “But would anyone believe me? What would they think if I just started screaming about how the God King is being held prisoner by his own priests?”
Susebron cocked his head.
“Trust me,” she said. “They’d think that I was crazy.”
I love this for its combination of Major Turning Point and snarky humor. It’s a momentous decision for Susebron, for Siri, for Hallandren, for Idris, and certainly for the status quo. At the same time, Siri’s image of herself screaming about the God King being held prisoner by his own priests is funny in its own right, and funnier for Susebron’s not realizing just how crazy it would look.
The annotation for this chapter mostly concerns the quality of the romantic storyline and its great improvement over the earlier version, after noting that the two character arcs, individually and together, have gone about as far as they can go with their current restrictions. Also, just because it’s hilarious, I have to quote the last bit:
I was finally able to tell this story and bring it to a conclusion, something I’d been waiting for years to do. I’m glad I finally found the time, even if writing stand-alone novels isn’t the fastest way to bestsellerdom in fantasy.
* * *
Snow White and Rose Red
Siri’s musing on the changes in her life is delightful, actually. From the terrified girl sent to be married to a monster, to the beloved wife of the most important religious and secular figure in this part of the world; an imperfect girl, yet the one who could bring to the God King the spark he needed to grow beyond a mere figurehead. She’s still fearful of the massive government/theocracy around her, still longing to just escape to the hills, but she’s grown enough to realize that it really won’t work. She’s also grown, and they’ve grown together, to the point where she recognizes his need to take responsibility for the position he’s been holding in name only.
I rather love the progression of her view of him. First he was a terrifying monster, then an arrogant bully, then a frightened child, then an innocent youth, then a desirable man; now the responsible leader is emerging, and she’s adjusting her attitude yet again. Flexible girl, our Siri.
Siri has now successfully gotten all her loyal Hallandren servants replaced by Pahn Kahl agents. Nice move, that.
It’s worth noting that just as Siri and Susebron consider the uselessness of the various places they could run to in Chapter 48, the annotations to Chapter 47 talk about Yesteel’s location and current schemes in some of those same places. What a mess they could have made by running to someplace that would put them in his sphere of influence!
In Living Color
The tone of the book has been shifting for a while now, but these two chapters together struck me with the parallels between Lightsong and Susebron, as each one decides that it’s time he stepped up to the responsibilities of his position. They’ve each been in their role for a while: Susebron for fifty years, since he was a baby; Lightsong for about five years—but all the life he can remember. Whatever internal debates they’ve had with themselves over this time are mostly left unexplored, but Siri’s presence and the imminence of war seems to stir them to take the duties of their stations more seriously than they ever have before.
Of the two, I find Susebron a little harder to understand (possibly because we’re never actually in his head), because he’s fifty years old with all the naiveté of a six-year-old. What has he thought about for the last forty years or so? Does life pass so quickly as to be unnoticed, when you reach the Tenth Heightening? Is it just an incredibly easy-going temperament that allowed him to be held in such restricted ignorance for all these years, without driving him insane?
Don’t Hold Your Breath (Give it to me!)
Okay, so I already mentioned—twice—the terrifying notion of Yesteel deciding to just start spreading the knowledge of how to Awaken “Type Four BioChromatic entities,” but really? Dude, have you seen Nightblood lately? That thing is seriously dangerous…
Also, we have more hints about that sequel that may or may not ever get written: The Lifeless are far more aware of their surroundings than people generally assume, and keeping them in the dark is a bad plan. But… why? And what’s going to happen with them? Does the continual darkness make them easier to break? Sadly, the sequel is still in “Tertiary” status in Sanderson’s planning.
We’re not quite into Sanderson Avalanche territory yet, but you can see the signs. Things are starting to come together. A Major Thing is planned for the general assembly only a couple days away: will it happen as planned, or will it all blow up in their faces just before they can execute their plan? Stay tuned…
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. In Oathbringer news, you’ve probably noticed the recent publication of the behind-the-scenes beta-reading story. The progress bar for copyedit review is at 100%, the gamma readers have received a preliminary copy of the final text—so as to be able to read & enjoy the final form before they try to scrutinize it—and gamma reading is expected to commence sometime in the next two weeks.