Lyn: Things are starting to get a bit… darker in this week’s reread! (Get it? GET IT?) Prepare to learn a bit more about Darkness and his motivation (Good? Bad? We’ll leave that for you to debate in the comments) and glean some more information about the Philosopher, those odd little cremlings, and… what’s this? SZETH MAKES AN APPEARANCE?
Alice: Hello, Darkness, my old friend…
L: Oh no you didn’t just start a sing-a-long. ♫ I’VE COME TO TALK WITH YOU AGAAAIIIIN… ♪
Chapter 9: Lift listens in on a conversation between Nale and some of his lackeys. A strange bald man in white with a sword (Szeth! It’s Szeth! With Nightblood! ::fangirl squee::) joins in the conversation, questioning Darkness’s methods and the truth of his claims that only by killing potential Knights Radiant will the Voidbringers be kept at bay. Darkness chastises him for his weakness and temerity in daring to question The Law, then directs his lackeys to find the second Surgebinder in the city before he has to do it himself.
Chapter 10: Lift returns to the orphanage and claims her second meal of three while watching the orphans play in the amphitheater. She has a discussion with Mik (the boy who was abandoned the night before), who doesn’t seem so feeble-minded now; then an exceedingly odd conversation with the Philosopher about life and what it means to be human.
Kadasixes and Stars
“Do you choose, or are you molded by the greater good?”
L: Very interesting that the Philosopher should ask this, considering what Darkness has been saying about the greater good and how questioning is a weakness. What is Lift, and who and what will she become? Will she use her powers for herself, or for the benefit of others?
A: Which segues right into the quote I chose this week:
They all seemed to just… know what to do. Cremlings knew to scuttle, plants knew to grow. Everything had its place.
“The only thing I’ve ever known how to do was hunt food,” Lift whispered.
“What’s that, mistress?”
It had been hard, at first. Feeding herself. Over time, she’d figured out the tricks. She’d gotten good at it.
But once you weren’t hungry all the time, what did you do? How did you know?
Our Girl is in a very weird situation.
L: I don’t find it so weird. I think this is a very relatable thing, really… As we grow older, we gain more personal responsibility over our own lives, and sometimes it can be hard to know what to do without a guiding hand. When you live at home with your parents, you’re told what time to wake up, when and what to eat, where to go. For those who left home to live at college, these things suddenly become their responsibility. Some struggle with it to begin with, just as some struggle when leaving college; now they need to find jobs, juggle work and home life, etc… Lift’s growing up, albeit earlier than most. She may not have wanted to change, but she is. Life itself forces us to adapt and change.
A: I was thinking more along the lines of how she has amazing powers, and she’s gaining a lot of the know-how, and even the insight into what others are doing. What she doesn’t have is any way to know what to do about these cosmic-level issues. There’s no one to turn to for advice on rogue Heralds and little things like that.
L: Not yet, anyway.
A: I do love the way it fits both the real-life and the fantasy, tying the two together, though. As you note, Lyn, it’s very relatable to have that transition to increased personal responsibility, though I would reiterate that few of us transitioned cold turkey to personal independence at ten years old (or younger; we don’t really know when her mother died, do we?). What makes it more fantastical is that she’s now facing epic-level responsibility: the kind of thing few in her world and none in her acquaintance have faced. Powers of a demi-god would be a bit much for most of us to handle anyway; to handle it at thirteen years old, with no parental or any other kind of authoritative guidance would be overwhelming.
Perhaps in some ways, being an orphan has been good preparation for this scenario, though I’d hardly wish it on her. But from a certain angle… she’s been pretty independent for quite a while now, and has grown beyond the time when her sole concern was finding food. Frankly, there’s hardly anyone in the entire world who would be capable of providing guidance in being a Radiant, and none in being an Edgedancer – unless you want to count some mostly-wacko Herald hiding out somewhere on the planet. So maybe that independence is a benefit now?
Even so… having a loving parent or mentor who could simply guide her in general wisdom would help.
L: Maybe she’ll find someone like that in Oathbringer. Someone like Kaladin; I could see him taking her under his wing, given that he’s done that quite a lot with others. We can hope, right?
A: We can hope.
“Just try not to die too violently, mistress. A nice rap on the head, rather than a disemboweling. I hear that suffocation is nice, though in such a case, don’t look at me as you expire. I’m not sure I could handle it. I’m not sure about falling to your death. Seems like it might be messy, but at the same time at least there wouldn’t be any stabbing.”
A: Wyndle, shut up about all the ways of dying, already! (Obviously, I was laughing like a hyena on this extended monologue, from which I have removed all of the non-Wyndle-spoken stuff just so you could have the unadulterated beauty of it.) But it makes me wonder: Is this attitude because he’s self-centered, or because he really doesn’t understand what death means to a human, or because he’s trying to lighten things up for Lift, or because he’s babbling nervously? Or… is it all leading up to that blatant hint hint about stabbing?
Wyndle: “Wait… Bollocks? I thought you claimed you didn’t say words like—”
Wyndle: “That’s the name of Nalan, the Herald! That can’t be true. They went away, didn’t they? Even we have legends about that.”
L: A nice reminder here that even the spren aren’t omniscient regarding the events of the past.
“You giving me lip, Voidbringer?”
“I think so? Honestly, I don’t know what that term means, but judging by your tone, I’d say that I’m probably giving you lip. And you probably deserve it.”
A: I don’t have anything profound to say about this. It just makes me giggle. I love Wyndle.
Journey before Pancakes
L: Nothing in this chapter, except the clemabread which we talked about before.
A: Which we agreed sounded rather nasty, and this week’s description emphasizes. Yuck.
Friends and Strangers
Makabaki man “with a round, goofish face.” (Darkness’s lackey)
A: I keep looking for something significant about this guy, but can’t find anything.
Reshi woman (Darkness’s lackey)
A: And ditto this woman.
L: He’s back! And still just as odd as before.
“You still creepy, old man?” “I am the man I was made to be.”
“What’s the secret … to being human?” “That I don’t think I know. At least not better than you do.”
L: Because you’re not human, you mean…
A: Nothing like hiding the truth in plain sight!
“Your life may pass, but the organism that is the city will continue on.”
L: Isn’t he some sort of collective consciousness? If so, fitting that he would postulate this.
A: Yep. At this point in the story, he just seems a very odd old man, but by the end we find out that all his weird questions fit right into his weird life form. Which is very, very weird.
Storming Mother of the World and Father of Storms Above
“Everything is changing,” she said softly. “That’s okay. Stuff changes. It’s just that, I’m not supposed to. I asked not to. She’s supposed to give you what you ask.”
It was obvious to her…that she was taller than she’d been when she sought the Old Magic three years ago.
L: ::slowly, sadly removes her tin foil hat and places it on the ground:: Curses. I’d really thought that it had been longer than three years. Maybe…. Maybe she still just thinks it’s been that long… ::picks up the hat and holds it plaintively, but doesn’t don it::
A: ::hugs Lyn:: It’s all right, Lyn. Even the best theories sometimes don’t pan out. And maybe, just maybe… unreliable narrator and all that… Anyway, it’s a very fetching hat. Do hang on to it, you may need it again.
Darkness & Co.
“If you would earn the trust of your spren, and take the step from initiate to Shardbearer, you must dedicate yourselves. You must prove your worth.”
A: This seems an odd thing to say to a Radiant-in-training, based on what we’ve seen before. With the others, there seems to be trust-by-definition in simply forming the bond. So… do they have spren bonds, or don’t they?
L: Well, I suppose a case could be made that the bond isn’t actually formed until the Words are spoken. Syl had been hanging around Kaladin for a long time, but were they technically bonded yet? I didn’t get that impression – not until he officially said the Words. Has Szeth said the Words?
A: Not that we know of, I think. Knowing the way Szeth was recruited, and watching these two, the Skybreakers appear to function differently than the other Orders. It leaves the question hanging: Were the Skybreakers always different, or is this an artifact of the one functional Order vs. individual Knights being bonded at random?
“We must be careful not to be distracted by petty crimes.”
“I once thought as you, but Ishar made the truth clear to me. If the bonds between men and spren are reignited, then men will naturally discover the greater power of the oaths. Without Honor to regulate this, there is a small chance that what comes next will allow the Voidbringers to again make the jump between worlds. That would cause a Desolation…”
L: Hoo boy. Lots to unpack here. For starters, you kind of have to admire him for doing the hard thing. It must be a very difficult path to walk, killing the few to save the many. And of course, when thinking of this subject, only one thing comes to mind…
One could argue that, depending on his morality, Darkness actually has a HARDER job than Spock did. Spock only had to sacrifice himself. Darkness is having to kill others, people whom he knows haven’t chosen this. They are doomed according to their birth or personalities (still uncertain whether or not the potential to be a Surgebinder is solely a personality/being broken thing or if maybe they’re born with some inherent potential), not by the choice to commit a crime. They don’t know what they’re doing, becoming. If Darkness had any sort of a conscience when he began all this, it must have been awful to have to kill innocents for the sake of the greater good. Is this why he’s so distant, so uncaring? Is it a defense mechanism against the things he’s been forced to do to save the world? Has he had to shut off his empathy, forsake his very humanity? In a way, he’s acting quite a lot like Taravangian. If he didn’t have a habit of killing off little kids I’d really like him, I think.
“You’re wrong,” a voice whispered from the darkness. “You may be a god… but you’re still wrong.”
L: 1.) SZETH! 2.) I wonder… will Szeth become a better Skybreaker than the leader of them all? Will he wind up taking over eventually, convincing the others of Darkness/Nale’s fallibility? Will he return humanity to the ranks of the Skybreakers? IS HE THE CHOSEN ONE?
He shifted in his place, and… storms, he left a soft white afterimage behind him, like you get when staring at a bright gemstone for too long.
L: Alice, you’re the authority on Surgebinding. Thoughts on this?
A: Ah, this one I do know, because I occasionally follow the WoB lists. Turns out that this is a result of the way Nale “rescued” Szeth. He was already mostly dead, and when Nale resuscitated him, his soul didn’t stick back to his body properly. So when his body moves, his soul sort of trails along a few inches behind (or something like that). Most people wouldn’t see it, but it would be visible to anyone sufficiently Invested, or to someone like Lift who sees more of the Cognitive realm than most.
“You are questioning, Szeth-son-Neturo. This is not good; this is weakness. To question is to accept a descent into inactivity. The only path to sanity and action is to choose a code and to follow it.”
L: SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY, Lawful Evil vs. Lawful Good! Get your tickets, ladies and gentlemen! ::ahem:: In all seriousness though. To simply accept that law is just without considering ethics and morality is a terrifying concept. This idea was explored a bit in Dark Knight Returns in the conflict between Batman and Superman, but it’ll be very interesting to see how Sanderson deals with it. (I suspect he won’t be as dark and nihilistic as Frank Miller was… at least, I hope he won’t be.)
A: Fortunately for my sanity, Sanderson doesn’t do dark and nihilistic very much. I won’t go down all the philosophical and theological pathways this discussion could take, but Szeth and Nale certainly present a contrast. Szeth does seem nearly immobilized, because he’s not sure what to believe any more, while Nale is all confidently striding around following the Law to the tiniest jot and tittle no matter what kind of a mess it makes. The ironic part is that, not so long ago, Szeth was the one following the letter of the law, even while he hated it. He just spent the last nine years or so doing whatever he was told by whoever held his Oathstone, because his people’s law/tradition said he had to obey every command except to kill himself or to give up his Blade. A path to sanity and action? Well, it was certainly a path to action, but sanity… not so much. This is the first time he’s allowed himself to question authority, and given the past few years, how could he not question it?
“The other orders always did consider themselves beyond the reach of the law.”
L: Interesting. Were they really on a power trip, or is Darkness just pissy because they were actually thinking for themselves and making MORAL and ETHICAL choices (::sarcastic gasp::)? I’m inclined to believe the latter.
A: I’m inclined to assume there was some of both. The limitations inherent in the spren bond are certainly … stretchier in some orders than others, and any time you have humans involved, there will be some who never quite believe that the rules apply to them. On the other hand, we’ve had hints before that the Skybreakers considered themselves to be The Final Authority on who was right and who was wrong, and people with that attitude don’t tend to make allowances for the perspective or values of others.
“Your minds cannot be trusted. Even my mind–especially my mind–cannot be trusted.”
A: Well, he’s got that one right, anyway. I concur. But I also notice he’s still giving orders…
…the room suddenly darkened. The woman began glowing with a phantom light, and she blushed, looking sheepish.
L: Wait… what? Did she draw the light out of some nearby spheres by accident or something?
A: I think she just sucked all the stormlight out of that big herking diamond Nale was using for a lamp… Oops.
Remember the girl in the market. Steady.
L: Lift, what the heck do you know that you’re not telling us?
“They’re already back. The Voidbringers have already returned.”
A: This is … hard to know what to say. I mean, it has to be pointed out, right? Because Szeth saw what happened on the Shattered Plains, and he saw the magnitude of what was going down – but Nale doesn’t believe him, or at least pretends with all his heart not to believe him. I liked Szeth more in this one chapter than I did in the first two books. He’s finally had it with being forced to lie, and no one has leverage over him any more.
“I have often found [Surgebinders] making contact with one another, these last five years, if I leave them alone. They must be drawn to each other.”
L: That’s a nice little lampshade as to why almost all of our main characters are Knights Radiant now. (Otherwise, it would seem just a shade convenient that for thousands of years we haven’t seen one, then BAM! All of a sudden we have a ton of them all congregating in one spot.)
“Mama always told me to travel,” Lift said. “And go places. While I’m young.”
L: More talk about her mother. She’s been talking about her a lot in this story…
“Mother… come back?”
“Probably not,” Lift said. “Sorry, kid. They don’t come back.”
L: Speaking from experience, Lift? :(
A: These chapters really peeled a few layers off the onion that is Lift. Her Interlude and the early chapters were all this brash, crass, snarky little twerp: she was funny and endearing and obnoxious all at once. Now we seem to be getting a lot more hints at her early life, as well as seeing her uncertainties and the lies she tells herself. She’s oddly mature for her age and circumstances, but somehow it doesn’t feel sudden or unearned at all. Like this was always there, underneath the outer roughness. She’s still the tough street kid, but she’s also a young girl in a dangerous and confusing situation.
The Stump dragged over one of the kids who’d been fighting and plopped him on the stone. Then, oddly, she gave him some earmuffs–like it was cold or something.
L: I’m not well versed on the subject, but could this be a way to calm down a child with ADHD or a similar disorder? Sensory deprivation?
A: I loved this moment. For a kid with sensory processing issues, shutting out all that extra auditory stimulus can be a lifesaver. My son used to go to sleep in the oddest, noisiest environments, because it was the only way he had to shut out the overwhelming input; now he just plugs his ears, and that’s enough to cope with most situations. Some kids withdraw, some get aggressive, some cry, etc. In any case, what they need is help to block out some of the sensory input long enough to get hold of themselves again. I love that this gnarly old woman has figured out the things that work for her kids, probably through a lot of years and a lot of trial and error.
“I miss Mother.”
“We get to remember ours,” Lift said, standing. “That’s more than most like us get.”
L: Argh. Heartbreaking.
A: Knife to the heart, right there. That hurt.
Lift […] smacked her hand at a cremling that had been inching across the step nearby. Starvin’ thing dodged, then clicked its chitin legs as if laughing. They sure did have strange cremlings here. Not like the ones she was used to at all.
L: I don’t think this is because it’s native to this country, Lift… ;)
A: Hah! More of that foreshadowing that you only get to see in hindsight, when it is suddenly Obvious.
Well, things are definitely getting Interesting up in here, even as it gets darker. Join us in the comments – and remember, no Oathbringer spoilers!!
Lyndsey thinks that sometimes it’s a boon having a terrible memory, rather than a curse… she can get almost as much enjoyment out of a reread as she did reading it for the first time. You can follow her writing or cosplay work on her website or follow her on facebook or twitter.
Alice is apparently intent on joining Lyndsey in the can’t-remember-it crew; she used to pride herself on her near-photographic memory, but either the film canister had a light leak, or the memory card got too full. Fortunately for her, there’s always the Coppermind! She is currently elated to tell you (if you weren’t paying attention) that the Kaladin project kickstarter successfully met its goal, and fandom will be getting some epic CDs and artwork before Christmas.