Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Six

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Hello everyone, and welcome to the discussion post for the serial installments of Rhythm of War! Haven’t read the chapter yet? Storms, what are you doing here! Spoilers, ahoy! Go read up before you join us.

Okay, all set? ::phew:: That was a close one. Before we start digging into the chapter, let’s take a moment to congratulate Brandon and the rest of Team Dragonsteel on a massively successful Kickstarter campaign! I’m so excited to get my Windrunner swag eventually. How about you, Alice? Which Radiant order are you?

Alice: After being a little baffled by some of the choices, and then realizing that they aren’t necessarily opposites, and that it’s okay to be balanced on some questions… I’m a Skybreaker! (I suspect people in my Facebook groups might be not at all surprised by this.)

Lyn: Yeah… in retrospect, I should have called that one.

A: I have to get a second set of Order swag, though; my Sanderson-fan (and sometimes beta reader) daughter is an Edgedancer—again to the surprise of no one at all.

L: If you haven’t had a chance to take the official quiz yet to find out which order of the Knights Radiant you’d be, check it out! It’s pretty cool.

A: Absolutely! And as I said, the questions aren’t intended to be opposites; don’t feel like you need to give extreme answers unless you really are extreme in that context. Most of the Orders value a certain balance on some of the questions.

L: Before we get into the fun stuff… A note from the comment moderation team. We’d like to remind everyone to remain vigilant about our spoiler policy, specifically in regards to chapters which have been released via readings Brandon has done (or through his newsletter) but haven’t been released here yet. Not everyone follows every single piece of news, so please be careful about talking about anything that hasn’t been officially released. Anything that’s been serialized here so far is free game, but the prologue to Dawnshard or any readings from future chapters should be whited out should you wish to discuss them in the comments below. Thank you all for being so vigilant and courteous of your fellow fans! We really appreciate it. I’d encourage you to head over to the Stormlight Archive subreddit or the 17th Shard forums if you want to discuss Dawnshard.

A: There are also a few places on Facebook where you can discuss things, but the only ones I know still require spoiler tagging. Wherever you go, please make sure you know what the rules are there, so you can be courteous to your fellow fans. Also, don’t forget there are valid differences of opinion within fandom. I was disappointed to see some of the behavior right here last week. We can do better than that.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now (but not Dawnshard)—if you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of the Stormlight Archive, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

There is one small Mistborn spoiler in Fabrial Technology section, but it’s white-texted, so you’re safe to read on if all you’ve read is Stormlight!

 

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan, Kaladin, Navani
WHERE: The Shattered Plains, Hearthstone
WHEN: Day 1 (immediately following the events of Chapter 5)

Shallan/Veil/Radiant is brought by the Sons of Honor before Ialai Sadeas, whom Veil intends to assassinate. Meanwhile, Kaladin and the rest of the Windrunners are still fighting the Fused at Hearthstone. Leshwi spares Sigzil’s life, and Navani spots Moash standing in the distance, overlooking the battle. In the middle of Kaladin’s one-on-one duel with Leshwi, he sees the unknown teleporting Fused attacking civilians, and Leshwi encourages him to go and rescue them.

Overall Reactions

A: Up there in the “WHO” part of the chapter recap, I was going to make notes each time as to which persona we were seeing in Shallan’s POV. I gave up. With the current mode of functioning, they switch back and forth too much to keep track! I’ll just stick with tracking the scene switches.

L: Forgive me a tiny joke.

A: LOL. Good one.

Humans

Shallan had always viewed Sadeas as a blowhard. A fortress like this—and the escape tunnel she’d traveled through—made Veil revise that assessment. She sifted through Shallan’s memories, and what Veil saw in the man was pure craftiness.
Shallan didn’t have many memories of Ialai, but Veil knew enough to be careful.

A: Well, he was a blowhard; he fits the definition quite well. He was also very clever, and his wife perhaps even more so. They made a formidably crafty team. They were just selfish, too, convinced of their own wisdom and right to power.

“But I still think it’s odd how many Windrunners are standing around.”

“Rushu,” Navani said, rubbing her forehead. “Do try to focus.”

“Well, I do try. I simply fail. Like that fellow over there? What’s he doing? Not guarding the ship. Not helping with the refugees. Shouldn’t he be fighting?”

A: Rather a comic way to reintroduce that horrible wretch…

L: This gave me such a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, once we realized who it was.

Rushu missed the fact that this man’s uniform was black, that he wore no patch on his shoulder. That his narrow face and lean figure would mark him as a man interdicted. A traitor.

Moash. The man who had killed Navani’s son.

A: I hated Moash before it was cool. #noredemption

Okay, sorry, but I loathe that creature. Loathe. Wouldn’t you know, he’d show up right off the bat to make life miserable.

L: Moash.

Singers/Fused

It was vital his team keep to the Heavenly Ones’ sense of honor. So long as the enemy agreed to one-on-one combat, his soldiers were never in danger of being overwhelmed and wiped out.

The forces on the ground might mercilessly brutalize one another, but up here—in the skies—they’d found mutual respect. The respect of combatants who would kill one another, but as part of a contest, not a slaughter. Break that unspoken rule, gang up on Leshwi now, and that precarious balance would end.

A: I kinda like it… but it scares me. What happens when one side breaks the unspoken rule?

More than that, though, it feels a little like these two groups are just playing a little game over here in the corner, and letting the rest of the Radiants—to say nothing of the ordinary soldiers—fend for themselves. While the Windrunners are generally keeping the Heavenly Ones occupied and not killing other people, they’re also not doing much to actually win this war. And that bothers me.

L: I get what you mean, but I do want to point out that killing Heavenly Ones isn’t going to do much to “win the war” either, since they’ll just be reborn. I suppose you could make the argument that eventually they’d run out of singers to possess, but that’s… that’s genocide we’re talking about. Is wiping out an entire people worth winning the war?

A: That would be a horrible plan of action, and not even because of the genocide aspect. There are probably millions of singers out there; remember the ubiquity of the parshman slaves before the Everstorm? If every single Radiant killed a Fused every time they met in battle, it would take years (or decades—I haven’t run the math) to run out of singers. During that time, they would equally run out of humans, because the Radiants wouldn’t win every single time, and they’d constantly be trying to train up new Radiants. It would be racial suicide. As Kaladin notes, a competent Fused will be back in play at the next Everstorm (no more than nine days away), while a competent Radiant will be months away at best. No, I understand the rationale of playing by the rules of the Heavenly Ones, and overall I think it works in favor of the humans. It just grates on me that it seems so much like a game.

On the whole, though, I think that’s partly getting it from Kaladin’s perspective on this particular day, and I’m very sure it didn’t feel like a game to Sigzil…

Leshwi shot forward and speared Sigzil in the chest. Her weapon impaled him straight through, bursting from the back of his blue uniform, slick with blood. He struggled, gasping, Stormlight leaking from his mouth. Leshwi hummed a loud tone, and the gemstone on her spear began to glow, sucking Stormlight from her prey.

No!” Kaladin shouted. He couldn’t simply watch. He couldn’t. He Lashed himself forward, but Leshwi met his eyes. He paused.

She yanked her spear from Sigzil’s chest right before his Stormlight went out. Sigzil sagged in the air, and Kaladin grabbed him, holding him as he blinked in a daze, clutching his silvery Shardspear.

“Drop your weapon,” Kaladin said to him, “and bow to her.”

“What? Sir?” Sigzil frowned as his wound healed.

“Drop your spear,” Kaladin said, “and bow to her.”

Sigzil, looking confused, did as he requested. Leshwi nodded to him in turn.

A: Here, last week’s chapter comes full circle. Kaladin decided not to kill the Fused he was fighting, feeling that one more death wasn’t worth it, especially when the Fused would simply be reborn in the next Everstorm. Because he pulled back from that kill, Leshwi did the same here—and it means a lot more to the reader, because…

Leshwi shouldn’t care that Kaladin had spared the creature. It had been a foolish gesture toward a being who could be reborn with each new storm. Then again, Leshwi probably knew that if Sigzil were killed, a new Radiant could be raised up using his spren. It wasn’t exactly the same—in fact, in terms of Kaladin’s relief, there was a huge difference.

A: HUGE.

L: Absolutely. I don’t want to lose any more members of Bridge 4, please and thank you.

Leshwi eyed him as they hovered. Then Kaladin heard the screaming. … there was a small group of people standing in front of the burning manor… The Fused from earlier, the one that could become a red line of light. He had gathered the soldiers Kaladin had sent away. Several were accosting townspeople, slamming them to the ground, threatening them with weapons and causing them to scream in pain and panic.

Kaladin felt a burning anger. This Fused went after the civilians?

He heard an angry-sounding hum beside him. Leshwi had drifted near—closer than he should have let her get—but she didn’t strike. She watched the Fused and his soldiers below, and the sound of her angry humming intensified.

A: As poorly as I thought of her in Oathbringer, I’m reluctantly beginning to like her in Rhythm of War. Sparing Sigzil was a good step, but her anger at that Fused and his soldiers, implying that she sees their behavior toward civilians as dishonorable (which it is), I’m starting to think that maybe she’s not all awful?

L: Yeah, I have to admit that I’m coming around to her. There’s something to be said about an honorable enemy.

A: Yes, and I’m sure I’ll get over the “it’s just a game to them” feeling soon enough.

Relationships & Romances

L: I’m probably going to catch flak for this in the comments, but I just have to note that I have a tiny bit of a ship for Kal and Leshwi. Probably just because I’m partial to that “enemies turned lovers” trope. I don’t actually expect it to go anywhere, nor am I super invested in it (not like I was for certain other ships regarding Kaladin and ::ahem:: a fashion-minded person), just… I wouldn’t be upset if it happened!

A: (Hey, we could have a whole new race to parallel the Horneaters and Herdazians!) Also… yeah, now that you broke up with him… ;)

L: Amusingly enough I never shipped him with Lyn!

A: I’m pretty sure there was a ship for them, though.

L: Yes, there were some. I watched the setting sail of that ship with great unease and trepidation (and not a few chuckles), only to have Brandon shoot it with the canon. (See what I did there?)

A: LOL. Did that ship ever have a name? And what about this new one you’ve launched? (I’m terrible at naming them.)

L: I don’t want to validate the other one with a name, but let’s see… Lesh-in? Kal-wi? Okay, I like Kalwi. That’s just hilarious.

A: Works for me! (Now excuse me while I chuckle over here in the corner for a while…)

Bruised & Broken

Adolin had killed Highprince Sadeas in a moment of honest passion. Veil had come to finish the job he’d begun.

Today Veil intended to assassinate Ialai Sadeas.

A: That’s … probably not a good idea…

L: Morally, absolutely. While she was almost certainly a party to her husband’s dastardly schemes, she didn’t carry them out. Even the ones she’s allegedly doing now probably aren’t putting lives at risk… or are they? It sure would be more ethical to imprison and try her for her sins, but the middle of a war is a spectacularly bad time for that, and come to think of it, if she’s being viewed here as an enemy combatant… phew. A lot to unpack and think about, here…

A: I’m not a very good Skybreaker. I was thinking more on the lines of “this is a book, and killing Ialai is guaranteed to have repercussions that will make us all cringe. Just don’t, okay?” LOL.

L: But will it? Will it really? Who’s left to avenge her, at this point? Amaram’s gone, all she seems to have left are her inept lackeys in the Sons of Honor. (Let’s face it, this isn’t nearly as potentially cringe-worthy as “And for my boon…” ::laughs::)

A: (Oh, don’t remind me! That was the absolute stupidest thing he could have done—and it was totally believable for the character. ::kicks Kaladin in the shins::)

L: Regardless of Kal’s inherent stupidity about certain things, I’m not sure what repercussions Veil could honestly expect from taking out Ialai at this point. Seems pretty cut and dry… she’s committing treason. Cut off the head of the snake, and all that.

A: When you put it that way, it makes sense to go ahead with it, even though Dalinar would be appalled by the plan. I think my reaction to this was mostly on the lines of “assassination in a book almost always leads to something bad for the assassin.”

L: Szeth would absolutely agree with you on that one.

Kaladin groaned, the deaths of so many he’d failed flashing before him. Tien? Nalma? Elhokar?
He was again in that terrible nightmare at the Kholinar palace, where his friends killed one another. Screams and lights and pain and blood all swirled around one image: A man Kaladin was sworn to protect, lying on the floor.
Moash’s spear straight through him.

A: This hurts. SO MUCH HURTS. Clearly, this is something that he has not been able to accept or deal with yet. It seems possible that part of his sleeplessness is related to this; he’s been talking about nightmares, and I don’t think referring to that scene as “nightmare” is just coincidence.

L: Speaking of Tien, I feel the need to share this heart-wrenching fanart someone shared on reddit the other day, because it’s beautiful and sad and lovely. ::ahem:: Anyway. Kaladin has a lot of trauma to unpack, and he just… hasn’t had a single moment of downtime to do so. Even if he did, I’m not sure quiet time would help. Kal doesn’t seem like the type to self-analyze—he doesn’t have the mental tools in his toolbox to assess and remedy the wounds of the soul, as he would the wounds of the flesh. I think he’s been using his duties as a way to distract himself from his trauma, but they’re just building up, one upon the other, and eventually, they’re going to collapse and bury him.

Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant

They led her through the streets quickly, the hood still on. Shallan took over, as she had an incredible—likely supernatural—ability to sense and memorize direction. She mapped their path in her head. Sneaky little cremlings; they led her in a large double loop, ending at a location near where they’d emerged from the cellar.

A: This makes me snicker a little. They’re being so careful, not letting anyone see the beginning or the ending of their tunnel, trying to hide the relationship of the cellar to their base… and none of it matters, because Shallan is just following the map in her head. She can come back at any time in another disguise and smoke the whole thing if she wants. Handy trick, that. We have yet to see how Lightweavers (as a whole) function in battle scenarios against the Fused and the singers, but for espionage and probably sabotage, the possibilities are endless.

L: This is assuming that this mapping ability does have to do with her Lightweaving, and isn’t just something unique to her. I’m very interested to see how much of what’s going on with Shallan is actually specific to Lightweavers, and how much is just… her. The way she takes “memories” of things and her artistic ability always struck me as being unique to her and not indicative of her surgebinding abilities, but… I could be wrong!

Nearby, Renarin had stepped up to the family with the sniffling children. He summoned a small globe of light, then began bouncing it between his hands. Such a simple thing, but the children who saw it grew wide-eyed, forgetting their fear.

A: This, on the other hand, is just all the warm fuzzies. I love this boy.

L: Renarin is such a sweet little cinnamon roll, I adore him. I think that Tien would have been a bit like him, if he’d lived.

A: Oh, now I’m sad all over again. They were within a year of the same age, too. They’d probably have been great friends.

The ball of light was bright blue. Part of Navani felt it should be red—to reveal the true nature of the spren that hid inside Renarin. A Voidspren. Or at least an ordinary spren corrupted to the enemy’s side. None of them knew what to do about that fact, least of all Renarin. As with most Radiants, he hadn’t known what he was doing when he began. Now that he’d formed the bond, it was too late to turn back.

A: This must be excruciating for Renarin. He’s always been viewed as the odd one, and felt it; at best, this is more of the same.

L: At least he still has Bridge 4. Everyone there is an outsider in one way or another, and I’m confident that they’re not treating him any differently.

Renarin claimed the spren was trustworthy, but something was odd about his powers. They had managed to recruit several standard Truthwatchers—and they could create illusions like Shallan. Renarin couldn’t do that. He could only summon lights, and they did strange, unnatural things sometimes…

A: I’m glad they’re doing comparisons. Now we know that there is definitely a difference between the way Renarin can use his Surges and the way most Truthwatchers can. We also know that normally, Truthwatchers and Lightweavers use Illumination the same way This seems to destroy one of my earlier theories; I was hoping that Renarin’s difference was merely a matter of “different Orders, different usage”—but apparently not.

L: Yeah, this is fascinating! Why light, specifically? Why does it do “strange unnatural” things, and what constitutes as “unnatural” in the case of a glowing ball of light? (I’d argue that’s pretty unnatural to start with.) Especially since we are seeing evidence that the Fused powers seem to be very similar to those of the Knights Radiant. Why are Renarin’s so different? So many questions……

[Dalinar] pulled his hands together, and the perpendicularity opened as a burst of light. Gloryspren, like golden spheres, began to spiral around him. Navani got a better glimpse of Shadesmar this time. And again she heard that tone. That was new, wasn’t it?

A: We don’t have anything but Navani’s observation to go on, but I’ll take her word for it. She’s hearing a distinctive tone when her husband opens a perpendicularity. What does that mean?

L: I think it’s really cool how important sound and light are to this world. It’s really unique to any other fantasy book I’ve read.

“What did you see?” she asked Rushu.
“I didn’t see anything, Brightness,” Rushu said. “But . . . I felt something. Like a pulse, a powerful thump. For a moment I felt as if I were falling into eternity. . . .”

A: A pulse, eh? Just that single thump, or a sequence? I suppose we’ll have to wait for that answer until he does it again when they’re observing.

L: This is such a big event, opening a doorway into basically an alternate dimension, that it would make sense to me for there to be some sort of pressure difference that would result in a tangible feel/sound.

Secret Societies

She wondered if anyone in the area had found it odd that they were leading around a woman with a sack on her head. Judging by how upset they seemed as they finally pulled her into a building, they weren’t thinking very clearly.

A: You almost have to feel sorry for these people. They’re so pathetic. To be fair, the organization has been used and abused by power-hungry people for about a decade at this point. The best and brightest are mostly either subverted or dead, and what’s left are mostly delusional about their place in the world.

L: Who knows what sort of conspiracy theories and mistruths these poor people have been fed for the last few years?

A: True. It’s more fun to laugh at them for being a babbling, bumbling band of baboons…

L: (The author in me needs to applaud you on that alliteration, Alice.)

A: …but they’ve most certainly been lied to. In times of chaos, people do latch onto things that play to their own weaknesses and fears. While not all of these people were necessarily Sadeas loyalists and inclined to hate Dalinar, they probably are mostly from the camps of those who opposed him. (They wouldn’t be out here in the warcamps otherwise, right?)

What We Missed (In the Timeskip)

Highprince Thanadal had started this new “kingdom” at the warcamps. But soon after Ialai had set up here, Thanadal had been found dead, supposedly knifed by a prostitute. Vamah—the other highprince who hadn’t supported Dalinar—had fled the warcamps in the night. He seemed to believe Ialai’s lie that Dalinar had ordered the assassination.

A: Well, now, isn’t that interesting. There are a couple of names that fell out of circulation for a while. We didn’t hear much about them during Oathbringer; they were at the warcamps doing their own thing, but other threats were much more urgent. Now we learn that after Ialai fled Urithiru in disgrace at the end of Oathbringer, she went back to the Sadeas warcamp on the Shattered Plains. (True, going back to the Sadeas princedom wasn’t much of an option, what with all of Alethkar being occupied by the singer armies and all. I wonder if she made any effort to retrieve the too-young nephew who was supposed to be the Sadeas heir.)

But what happened to the highprinces who would have been Ialai’s most likely allies? Would she decide to assassinate them, as Shallan seems to be thinking? Why would she do that? It doesn’t sound like a Dalinar thing to do, so I’m with Shallan in not buying that line. Jasnah, though… Would Jasnah have sent an assassin for Thanadal? If she did, Vamah may have been wise to leave.

L: I absolutely wouldn’t put it past Jasnah.

That left Ialai Sadeas the one true remaining power here in the warcamps. She had an army, had co-opted the Sons of Honor, and was demanding tariffs from arriving trade caravans.

A: Well, okay, I can see that… sort of. But I still think she should have wanted allies more than singular power..

Geography

A: I just have to put in here the fascination of the Sadeas camp having a tunnel from their fortress to the chasm. I wonder if Torol and Ialai had that made, or if it was another one of the pre-existing artifacts they discovered and used.

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

With a captured spren, you may begin designing a proper fabrial. It is a closely guarded secret of artifabrians that spren, when trapped, respond to different types of metals in different ways. A wire housing for the fabrial, called a “cage,” is essential to controlling the device.

A: Welp, that’s a new one on me! I don’t know if it hasn’t been mentioned before, or if I just never noticed, but the metal of the cage matters as much as the gemstone? Now I’m going to have to go back and look! …

I’m back. Nope, the specific metal in any given fabrial is rarely mentioned—in fact, only once that I could find. There was a description of a Soulcaster made with “silvery metal.” Other than that, it’s just a lot of “metal cage” and “wire and gemstones” description. So this is new information. Sweet!

L: I wonder what it is about the metals that makes the spren respond differently. Something about the chemical makeup, the conductivity, or maybe the “cognitive” elements? (Sort of like how Shallan needs to “convince” objects to be something different, does how the metal views itself make some sort of difference here?)

A: So many good questions, and so few answers! It could legitimately be any of those. Mistborn spoiler—

L: (The following is a “spoiler” only if you haven’t read ANYTHING of Mistborn, as this is revealed VERY early in the first book. So if you don’t know anything at all about Mistborn and would prefer to keep it that way, don’t highlight this.)

A: In Mistborn, [highlight to read spoiler] the different metals do different things in much the same way different gemstones behave on Roshar. Is there something about the way a metal reacts with Investiture?

L: We know that certain gems are associated with certain Surges, so it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to assume that the same is true of certain metals.

“There’s someplace beyond Shadesmar, a place where Dalinar gets this power. Once long ago, the tower was maintained by a Bondsmith like my husband—and from what the spren have said, I conclude that the tower got its power from that place beyond Shadesmar as well.”

A: Now that’s an interesting theory for her to propose. We don’t know how much Realmatic understanding they have, but Dalinar at least knows about the Spiritual Realm a little. He’d have to, in order to create the perpendicularity, right? But why has Navani concluded that Urithiru’s power comes straight from the Spiritual Realm? I’m not sure I follow her thinking. Has she concluded that the tower is a unique kind of fabrial that needs a power source different from the highstorms that power all the other fabrials?

L: If you need a bit of a refresher on the three different realms of the Cosmere, check out this information page on the Coppermind.

“… I don’t think either of them realistically understands how much work goes into keeping this one ship in the air.”
“Hundreds of laborers in Urithiru turning winches to raise and lower the ship,” Rushu said, with a nod. “Dozens of chulls used to move it laterally. Thousands of fabrials to facilitate both—all needing to be perpetually reinfused. Careful synchronization via a half dozen spanreeds to coordinate maneuvers. Yes, it is highly improbable we could field more than two or three of these vessels.”

A: Understatement much? Highly improbable indeed. The fabrials are really cool and all, but that’s a LOT of work to move one ship. It’s a marvel of engineering, but it’s really not very practical, is it?

L: This is hurting my head to think about. I just don’t have enough practical mathematical knowledge to suss out the implications!

 

We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others, and please remember not to mention anything about the prologue to Dawnshard here! If you want to reference the other Interludes and chapters Brandon has released in other forms (7 & 8, Venli POV, Eshonai flashback), please do so behind white text. There are spoilers there, and not everyone has seen them yet.

Alice is excited to begin the gamma read on Rhythm of War this coming week, and would like to plant the suggestion now that next week’s readalong might be a touch flaky. Just sayin’…

Lyndsey’s debut novel is now available on Amazon, featuring a bounty hunter attempting to clear the name of a notorious thief charged with murder in a magical floating city. Check it out here! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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