Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Seven

and

Good morning (afternoon, evening, night, depending on your time zone), good readers! Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Read-Along! You have already read all the chapters so far, right? Because spoilers for all of those lie ahead, and we wouldn’t want you to suffer that.

Ready to proceed?

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

In this week’s discussion we also discuss some magic-system (not plot) items from Mistborn in the Fabrials section, so if you haven’t read it, you may want to give that section a pass.

We’d also like to remind you that the chapter you just read has not yet been through the final proofread. You will undoubtedly find an error or two, and they have probably already been found in the gamma read and will be corrected before printing.

 

Chapter Recap

WHO: The Three (Shallan/Veil/Radiant), Kaladin
WHERE: Shattered Plains, Hearthstone
WHEN: Day One Continued

Shallan enters a verbal sparring match with Ialai, with Shallan trying to get more information and Ialai trying to figure out what Shallan knows. In the end, Ialai’s concern over the Ghostbloods—and her conviction that they’re going to kill her no matter what—leads her to drop hints to Shallan, hoping to reveal some of their plots. Her prediction proves correct; she’s mysteriously murdered before they can even get her out of the chambers, leaving Shallan and Adolin with a dead body and more questions.

Meanwhile, Kaladin finds the “hulking Fused” and his soldiers using an injured and Stormlight-drained Godeke as a hostage. Following them into the burning mansion, Kaladin’s Surges and Shardblade are disrupted by a Voidlight fabrial as the Fused taunts him about being unable to fight without his powers. Kaladin promptly proves him wrong, taking out four soldiers with his body and their own weapons, then killing the Fused himself with an ordinary knife. Once the fabrial is turned off, he takes up the burden of his Third Ideal and turns to seek Roshone.

Overall Reactions

A: This chapter, in serialization, contains yet more of those “resolutions” that you realize just leave you with new questions. Ialai is not what most of us expected—and I, at least, certainly didn’t expect her to die so soon. There’s one loose end all tied up… except that now we need to know who did it, and why—to say nothing of sorting out the hints she dropped about the Ghostbloods.

L: Yeah, I wouldn’t say “tied up” exactly. She’s gone, leaving us with even more questions than we had before!

A: Fair point. Dead, but who knows what she’s left to complicate matters—besides more questions. As for Kaladin, the teleport-Fused is dead until the next Everstorm, but what about the fabrial and its implications? And will happen when Kaladin goes after Roshone and the imprisoned townspeople? (If you’ve watched the reading that included part of Chapter 8, don’t spoil it for anyone… but make sure you read the whole chapter next week.)

L: I’d also like to chat a little about that cover that dropped yesterday! It’s so beautiful!

A: Oh, so beautiful. I’ll admit, I’ve always been a sucker for Whelan covers, but they just get more gorgeous every time. His imagery of Shadesmar is simply incredible, and I love his depiction of the plants.

L: That’s got to be Adolin on the back cover, right? With that outfit, it couldn’t be anyone else. I’ve seen a lot of people questioning whether it is or not because the character’s hair color looks white or silver, but I think that’s just because of the lighting in the scene as painted. (Adolin’s hair is golden blond with black strands.)

A: Oh, absolutely it’s Adolin. The Shadesmar lighting is very different than normal daylight—and as you say, the outfit pretty much guarantees the identity. I love that he’s holding an “ordinary” sword; his previous experience in Shadesmar guarantees he’ll never again voluntarily enter that place without at least a side sword. I don’t know if that was specifically on Whelan’s mind when he created this, but given how helpless he felt without any kind of sword last time, it’s a perfect callback.

L: And those OUTFITS! I love Shallan’s!

A: I could only wish to be able to make (or wear) that! What a gorgeous design!

Yeah, okay, Whelan fangirling done for now…

Humans

Ialai Sadeas was a woman of moderate height. While she’d never been renowned as a great beauty, she seemed to have withered since Shallan had last seen her.

A: As you’ll likely have figured out since you read the whole chapter, this really is Ialai. Furthermore, rather than her setting a trap for Shallan, she’s been waiting for the trap to snap closed on her. (It was a good theory, but that’s not where things are going.)

L: I feel bad for Ialai. Sure, her husband was a snake and she was wholly on his side, but she’s had to deal with his murder and her entire way of life falling apart around her, and now the stress of knowing that an assassin was likely shadowing her footsteps…

“I do not intend to be queen,” she eventually said. “That is a lie that some of my more… overeager followers perpetuate.” … “In the past,” Ialai said, “I have supported the heir—Elhokar’s son, Gavilar’s grandson, the rightful king.”

“He is only a boy, not yet six.”

“Then urgent action must be taken,” Ialai said, “to rescue him from the clutches of his aunt and great-uncle, the rats who have deposed him. To support me is not to upset the lineage, but to work for a better, stable, and correct Alethi union.”

Clever. Under such a guise, Ialai could pretend to be a humble patriot.

A: All things considered, I’m inclined to believe that’s really what she intended at this point. She’s still a traitor, and I don’t for a skinny minute believe that Gavinor would ever have grown up to be king under her protection. But at this point in time, I’m willing to accept that she primarily wanted to get rid of Jasnah and Dalinar, and that if she could, she’d have set up some kind of regency for Gavinor—with herself in control of it, naturally.

L: Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what I believe in regards to her motives. Sadeas was a stalwart vassal of Gavilar’s, so I guess it does make sense that she’d want to preserve his lineage in little Gavinor. And she honestly doesn’t seem the type—especially now—to want to take control of the power. Rule from behind the scenes? Yeah, this I could see. But I don’t think she would want to be queen herself. She just doesn’t strike me as the type.

“Nale’s nuts,” muttered one of Adolin’s soldiers. “This is going to look bad, isn’t it? This is exactly what the Blackthorn didn’t want. Another Sadeas corpse on our hands.”

A: Aside from the colorful metaphors curses, this rather points up the elephant in the room, doesn’t it? Do they know who’s responsible for that first Sadeas corpse or don’t they? From the tone of this, and Adolin standing right there, I’m guessing they don’t know.

L: Best. Curse. Ever. (In Stormlight so far, anyway.)

Shallan knew of blackbane herself. She’d studied up on poisons recently. Would I be able to spot a pinprick? Shallan thought, kneeling beside the corpse.

Either way, she suspected Ialai had been right: The Ghostbloods hadn’t trusted Shallan to kill her, and they’d sent a second knife to see the job done. That would mean they had an operative among Adolin’s guards or Shallan’s own agents.

A: Say it with me… Here’s the Next Mystery. Who killed Ialai? Because now Shallan and Adolin are in a position where they can’t trust any of the people who were with them… and they brought the best.

L: Betrayal! Murder! Mystery! Oh my!

Singers/Fused

The Fused carried one captive as he strode into the building…

Kaladin strode toward the broken wall. “You want to fight me, Fused? Come on. Let’s have at it.”

The creature, shadowed inside the building, growled something in his own rhythmic language. One of the soldiers translated. “I will fight you inside where you cannot fly away, little Windrunner. Come, face me.”

A: Oh, like we believe this? Yeah, we just want to keep you contained. Here, kitty… Not that Kaladin exactly believed him either, of course. Unfortunately, he had no way to anticipate what came next.

L: Regardless of whether or not he believes it, it’s not like he has much choice, does he? Not if he wants to save Godeke.

A: Quite true. His purpose was to save the civilians, and now Godeke, and the building is on fire. At least this way he had some warning that the Fused was trying to be clever.

This large room had once been the dining chamber, where Kaladin’s father had eaten with Roshone and talked of thieves and compromises.

Where was the fifth soldier? There, near an overturned table, fiddling with something that glowed a deep violet-black. Voidlight? Wait… was that a fabrial? The light dimmed suddenly.

Kaladin’s powers vanished.

He felt it as a strange smothering sensation, as if something heavy had been placed on top of his mind. His full weight came upon him again, his Lashing canceled.

Syl gasped and her spear puffed away as she became a spren—and when Kaladin tried to resummon his Blade, nothing happened.

A: OUCH! I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the Fused have developed some anti-Radiant fabrials, but that was a bit of a shock. Ironic that Kaladin should be made helpless by this fabrial, in that same dining room where Roshone had made him feel so helpless all those years ago.

L: That’s some good symbolism, right there. I do feel a little like this came out of nowhere, though. The Fused were fighting through most of the last book, why are these fabrials just coming up now? Are they a recent invention, perhaps? It has been stated the humans have come much farther in fabrial tech than they ever had before. Maybe the Fused are working off of their developments to come up with new and innovative technology.

A: It’s a question, all right. One could assume that if they had fabrials like this before, one of their first projects would have been to recreate them as soon as possible. So… is this a new invention, or did it take this long to get it remade from prior knowledge? Or is this the first time they’ve had a chance to trap a significant target in an enclosed space? Oh, the things we don’t know!

Bruised & Broken

The Three never did what only one of them wanted, not in regard to a decision this important. And so, [Veil] held back. Radiant didn’t want to kill Ialai. She was too honorable. But what of Shallan?

Not yet, Shallan thought. Talk to her first. Find out what she knows.

A: So far… okay… Honestly, I will never not worry about “the Three” when they act like they’re completely separate individuals. Right here, they seem to be working well together and keeping their balance, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in that. A year ago, Shallan was super fragile and had barely managed to control things so that there were only three personalities. She seems to have stopped making new pieces, but I still don’t trust this accord.

L: I actually really like this a lot. It’s cool that they’re working together apparently seamlessly, and respecting one another’s boundaries and talents! I especially like this “the Three” part. Perhaps this is growth? Are they working towards coming back together into one person, blending their talents and strengths into one entirely new character? I know a lot of people would be really upset to lose Shallan if that were the case, but it would be a really neat way for Sanderson to do a character death, wouldn’t it?

A: That would be … very different than what I’d expect as a character death, for sure. This is Sanderson, though, so my expectations are often wildly inaccurate!

We didn’t do this, Veil thought. We decided not to kill her, right?

I… Shallan’s mind began to fuzz, everything feeling blurry. Had she done this? She’d wanted to. But she hadn’t, had she? She was… was more in control than that.

I didn’t do it, Shallan thought. She was reasonably certain.

So what happened? Radiant asked.

A: Indeed. What did happen?

L: Well, the logical conclusion is that one of their compatriots can’t be trusted. But which one…

Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant

“Radiants! You rely too much on your powers. Without them, what are you? A peasant child with no real training in the art of warfare or—”

Kaladin slammed himself against the soldier to his right.

L: I just have to say that I heard this scene playing out in my head for this Fused line…

A: I’m sorry for those of you who are tired of seeing Kaladin fighting, because I loved this scene.

L: I’ll never tire of seeing Kal fight! It’s always so cool.

A: Right‽ It rather cracks me up, because Kaladin admits he went in expecting to be able to use his Lashings and his Sylblade, but this Fused has badly underestimated the current crop of Windrunners. Especially Kaladin Stormblessed. “Peasant child with no real training,” my eye.

And of course we have to point out this bit:

Kaladin felt the wind encircle him as he spun between the two of them…

A: If, as we’ve been assuming for a long time now, the windspren form a Windrunner’s Plate, is Kaladin close to achieving his Fourth Ideal? Sure seems like the windspren want him to! Not in this chapter, I guess.

L: Does it have to be that he’s doing something that puts him closer to realizing his Ideal, or is it just that he’s already so close that the windspren are always around, just waiting? Like… are they drawn to actions which are similar to things he would need to do, to achieve that Ideal? Is this something that we can use to draw clues from?

A: It seems reasonable, doesn’t it? It would be interesting to go back through every time the wind/windspren show up like this. In any event, he does have a nice little surprise for the Fused, even without another Ideal:

There, Kaladin thought as the expected ribbon of red light came darting toward him. He will go for my back again.
Kaladin dropped his spear, pulled a throwing knife off his belt, and turned. He rammed the knife into the air right before the Fused appeared—slamming the small blade into the creature’s neck, angled between two pieces of carapace.

The Fused let out an urk of shock and pain, his eyes wide.

A: Wheeee! Nice move, Kaladin. Let’s hear it for untrained peasants!

L: Hell yes.

A: And as Kaladin and Syl observe, having caught the Fused before he could zip off, he seems to be dead for now. Of course he’ll be back in the next Everstorm… Even so, it’s pretty cool that, despite the loss of his powers and his Blade, Kaladin was able to take down four singers and a really nasty (overconfident) Fused. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next time they meet!

Roshone. The former citylord had told Dalinar he was going to search the manor’s stormcellar to free imprisoned townspeople. Though he wasn’t proud of it, Kaladin hesitated—but when Syl looked at him, he gritted his teeth and nodded.

So long as it is right … he thought.

L: Reminder that Kal’s third Ideal was “I will protect even those whom I hate, so long as it is right.”

A: Also worth noting, Kaladin had a much greater reason to hate Roshone than Elhokar, the one he was protecting when he first spoke that Ideal. We saw earlier that Kaladin has only grudgingly admitted that Roshone might have changed, and might be a better person than he used to be. Going into the fire for him has to be huge; while there are also the prisoners to be considered, in the moment Kaladin is only thinking of going in for Roshone.

L: Yeah. Roshone was directly responsible for Tien’s death. I have to admit, I would have a really hard time forgiving him enough to go in and save him, too. But… Kaladin’s a better person than I am.

A: A bit of a side note… In looking for something else the other day, I was rereading the scene where the boys were “recruited” for the army. Kaladin tried to go in Tien’s place—

L: Hmmm ::laughs::

A: —and Roshone refused to permit it. He specifically wanted the defenseless, lovable Tien sent to the army, to cause the most possible anguish to the family. He really was a complete … complete …

L: Alice isn’t the best with swears, but that’s okay, I got this, guys. He was a complete and total douchebag.

Secret Societies

“Strange, how easily my enemies strike at me in quiet, dark chasms. Yet it has taken them so long to attack me in my chambers.” She looked right at Veil.

Damnation. She knew what Veil had come here to do.

A: This whole conversation with Ialai talking about wines with an undercurrent of secrets and suspicions was… slightly bizarre. Shallan really should have been suspicious of poison, even if she could burn it off with Stormlight.

L: I don’t blame her for not being afraid of poison, considering how swiftly she heals. Remember her getting legit shot in the head in Oathbringer and just shrugging it off?

I really loved this part, personally. The wordplay was like watching two masters playing chess, using metaphors and analogies to subtlety attempt to throw the other off track.

A: For some reason, I was having trouble wrapping my head around the layers of insinuation they were playing.

L: That’s fair. We didn’t get much exposition from Shallan about specifically what the insinuations were referring to, and as a result the reader is left to try to figure it out on our own.

A: It did make me giggle when “the Three” decided that if it was a matter of wordplay, Shallan had better do the talking. But the really crazy part comes later:

Invisible. Deadly. Sweet wisdom of Battar…

Shallan had been engaging in this entire conversation assuming that Ialai knew her for an operative of Dalinar. That wasn’t the case at all. Ialai saw her as an operative of Mraize, of the Ghostbloods.

A: On the one hand, it’s moderately hilarious, and on the other hand… well, clearly Ialai was much less worried about the Kholins getting to her than the Ghostbloods.

L: I mean, generally speaking, she’s probably right to be more worried about the Ghostbloods. Dalinar is so honorable that he’s not going to let anyone kill her (if we’re assuming that the general public doesn’t know that it was Adolin who killed Sadeas, which does seem to be the case), whereas the Ghostbloods seem to have no issues whatsoever assassinating people.

A: There’s good reason, for sure. She certainly hated the Kholins, and I wouldn’t put it past Jasnah to send an assassin for her. But the Ghostbloods are terrifying; they’re utterly ruthless, but hardly anyone knows anything about the Ghostbloods. It’s almost a pity she was so hostile toward Dalinar; she’d have made an excellent ally, given what she had figured out.

L: Well. Sure, as long as she never learns that it was Adolin who murdered her husband.

A: Yeah… If she’s correct, the Ghostbloods killed Thanadal when he tried to make a deal with them, and they killed Vamah when he tried to simply get out. If that’s the case, no wonder she was expecting an assassin. She also assumes that the Ghostbloods were behind the deaths of Gavilar and Amaram… and in a way, perhaps they were. There may yet be more we don’t know. Were the Ghostbloods involved in the Parshendi obtaining—and using—Szeth to stop what Gavilar was doing? Were they involved in driving Amaram to the kind of despair that led him to accept Yelig-nar? I… honestly don’t know. If they were, what else were they manipulating behind the scenes?

“They’ll send you after Restares next,” Ialai said.

A: Well, now, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it? Do they know where he is? And why would they send Shallan? (Also, does Ialai know who Shallan is? I don’t think we ever get that clearly answered.)

L: I didn’t get the impression that she did. I think she just saw “random assassin” and not specifically Shallan. Who knows, though? Ialai is pretty smart…

Have you asked yourself what they want? What they expect to get out of the end of the world?”

“Power,” Veil said.

“Ah, nebulous ‘power.’ No, it is more specific than that. Most of the Sons of Honor simply wanted their gods back, but Gavilar saw more. He saw entire worlds.…”

A: I suspect she’s right. Twisted she might be, but Ialai has always been smart. The fascinating thing—and the reason I really want to know if she’d recognized Shallan somehow—is that once she’s convinced that Shallan didn’t know what the Ghostbloods were up to, she does a Gavilar: giving her treasured secrets to (the person she assumes is) the assassin sent to kill her. She tells Shallan to search the room herself, giving her a clue to follow, trying to give her information the Ghostbloods probably don’t want her to have. Why??

And then… she dies. Shallan puts an illusion on her, and stays talking with Adolin while the soldiers take Ialai to the other room, and next thing we know, she’s dead. Who killed her?

L: Also, that line about entire worlds is reeeeaaaaally interesting. Is she referring to the other Realms, or other worlds in the Cosmere?

What We Missed (in the Timeskip)

A: What we don’t seem to have missed is public knowledge that Adolin killed Sadeas. Have they really kept that a secret for a year?

L: It definitely doesn’t seem in character for Dalinar, does it?

A: It doesn’t. He’s been in tell-all mode, but… apparently not about that, or I have to think Ialai would have said something.

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

The two metals of primary significance are zinc and brass, which allow you to control expression strength. Zinc wires touching the gemstone will cause the spren inside to more strongly manifest, while brass will cause the spren to withdraw and its power to dim.

A: Last week, we got our first textual statement that the specific metal used in a fabrial matters just as much as the gemstone. Now we get some details! Zinc increases the effect, while brass decreases it. MISTBORN SPOILERS: Zinc and brass are the “rioter” and “soother” metals when burned by an allomancer. Coincidence? I think not!

L: Yeah, that’s definitely way too close to how they’re used in Mistborn to be a coincidence, especially since we know that the Investiture powers are linked throughout the worlds of the Cosmere. Since all of the powers on the different worlds come from the same root source (namely Adonalsium, which was split into the 16 Shards), it makes sense that they all must follow the same general rules.

Remember that a gemstone must be properly infused following the spren’s capture. Drilled holes in the gemstone are ideal for proper use of the cage wires, so long as you don’t crack the structure and risk releasing the spren.

A: I don’t have much to say about this, other than that gemcutters on Roshar must be incredibly skillful.

L: Yeah, this is interesting. What about the structure of the gem itself is the important part? Is it just the facets on the outside, or something about the actual elemental composition of the gem itself? The fact that drilled holes don’t necessarily harm this “structure” is really fascinating.

 

Another juicy, tantalizing chapter! We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others. Again, if you’ve heard, watched, or read any of the material not covered in the serialization yet, please white-text anything you say about it.

Alice is happy to say that the gamma read of Rhythm of War is nearly finished. It’s pretty amazing what can be accomplished, even in a week, when you have a lot of good people in a well-organized effort. Kudos to Team Dragonsteel (especially Peter) for setting up a fantastic system.

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.

citation

Back to the top of the page

138 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.