Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Eight

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Oh, look, it’s Tuesday again! That means another new chapter of Rhythm of War, and another new discussion! It’s a good one, whether you were awaiting the next steps from last week’s reading, or eager to read the rest of what Brandon didn’t read for the SDCC reading. We’re excited to discuss it with you out in the open, now, so come on in!

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 of fabrials, there’s a very brief reference to the magic system in Mistborn—a spoiler for possibly the first chapter or two, though it doesn’t touch the plot at all. Depending on how you feel about spoilers, you may want to skip that bit if you haven’t read at least The Final Empire.

Reminder: Yes, we know that there are spelling and grammatical issues in some of these chapters (such as “As if I’m wasn’t quite here.” this week). These hadn’t been run by the gamma readers yet, but don’t worry, the book has had a very thorough proof-reading by now. (Speaking of, if you happen to see Peter Ahlstrom or his wife Karen at any future signing events once the pandemic is over, give them a hearty thank you. The amount of work they do on these books is immense and largely unseen.)

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin, Shallan
WHERE: Hearthstone, Shattered Plains
WHEN: Day One, Continued


Kaladin enters the burning citylord residence in Hearthstone, making his way into the prison in the basement to rescue the prisoners trapped there. However, Moash beat him there (of course) and killed them both, then slits Roshone’s throat in front of him. And then… surrenders? Kaladin struggles with what he should do about this, and Moash pushes him to end his own life… but then Renarin arrives and saves the day.

Shallan and her (fellow Lightweavers? Squires?) begin searching Ialai Sadeas’s quarters, and Shallan finds a hidden notebook.

Overall Reactions

There, standing quietly, was a tall man with a hawkish face, brown hair flecked with black. Moash wore a sharp black uniform cut after the Alethi style, and held Brightlord Roshone in front of him with a knife to the man’s neck.

L: GodDAMN but I hate him. Honestly, Aubree really did have me coming around a little to him during the Oathbringer reread, but… ugh. Actions like this? Come on, man.

A: I’ve always been the one to play devil’s advocate and argue in favor of the person everyone else hates, but not for this guy. He was bad before. This chapter? Everything he does, everything he says—it just gets worse and worse.

L: I do want to point out, however, that he’s an EXCELLENTLY written villain. Everyone hates Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, and this feels similar to me. There’s just something so satisfying about being able to completely and utterly loathe a villain! (This said, there are Moash lovers out there and I can see their points, too. If this story had been told from his POV, I’m certain that we would see him as the hero of this story. But… it’s not from his POV, which is what makes all of this just so delicious.)

A: As we’ve said before, his motives are generally comprehensible—or at least they were before this. It’s his constant blaming everything on someone else, never actually taking responsibility, that makes me hate him.

L: Also, I need to point this out because someone mentioned it on reddit last week and it amused the heck out of me… Moash had an evil Bridge 4 uniform tailored? Honestly this just tickles me pink. Did he go and find some tailor (probably someone Adolin knew) in Alethkar after the occupation and go, “Okay, so you know those Windrunners in blue? I need one of those uniforms. Yes, exactly like that. But in black, please. I need it to just scream “evil villain,” so you know, if you have any of that Black 2.0 stuff, that would be ideal.”

Roshone thrashed weakly on the ground before a helpless Kaladin. Then the man who had terrorized Kaladin’s family—the man who had consigned Tien to death—simply… faded away in a pool of his own blood.

Kaladin glared up at Moash, who silently returned his knife to its belt sheath. “You came to save him, didn’t you, Kal?” Moash asked. “One of your worst enemies? Instead of finding vengeance and peace, you run to rescue him.”

L: Moash seems to subscribe to the “once an asshole, always an asshole” theory. He doesn’t care if people change, or atone for their sins, as both Elhokar and Roshone were attempting to do. Their actions led to people dying, and so to Moash, they are beyond redemption. As always, this is a fascinating moral quandary. At what point is someone beyond redemption? If Moash himself were to eventually realize that what he has done was wrong, and attempt to atone, would he be beyond redemption? (This is aside from the point of whether or not we as readers actually want to see this or not.)

A: For a long time now, I’ve thought that Sanderson is going to do exactly that—write Moash a redemption arc where he actually cares and wants to atone, and he’ll write it convincingly enough that I’ll accept it and be glad for it. I don’t want that, at all, but… I really do think I could accept it, on one condition: Moash takes full responsibility for all his own actions, acknowledges his personal guilt, doesn’t blame anyone else, and is genuinely repentant.

L: One interesting thing I want to pull out of the above quote… Moash says vengeance and PEACE. This is very different from most heroes in fiction and how they view vengeance. It is rarely viewed as bringing peace—usually if anything, it just results in a sort of apathetic acceptance (with the exception of Inigo Montoya and the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride… and The Count of Monte Cristo… come to think of it, there’s a whole subset of fiction which I’ll just call “revenge-porn” for the moment). Vengeance won’t bring your loved ones back. Usually if the hero does kill the villain, it’s so the villain won’t hurt more people the way they did the hero’s loved ones. But even so, that rarely seems to bring peace per se. It makes me wonder, though… is there a point at which the sins of the villains are so great, that the reader’s moral inhibitions are overcome and they just want to see the villains suffer? I’m thinking specifically of Count of Monte Cristo here, because goodness gracious did I ever cheer each and every time Edmund Dantes took down another villain!

A: Looking at it first from a realism perspective: It would be easy, especially if (like Moash) you’ve been chewing on your grievance for years, to believe that vengeance would be the thing that finally brings peace to your wretched existence. There’s an expectation of closure, if only you can destroy the person you believe responsible for your problems. While I don’t believe it truly works that way for most people, it does translate into the reader experience: you love to hate the person who is causing pain to your favored characters. You want them to be hurt at least as much as they hurt their victims; it feels like it would be justice. Fortunately for all of us, we rarely get the justice coming to us; perhaps we shouldn’t be so eager to see our idea of justice visited on others.

“I surrender.”

L: I can see nothing good coming of this. It’s got to be a trap. Right? Like, he just wants to get close to Kaladin (or Dalinar) in order to try to assassinate someone. Or learn about their plans. Or get into Urithiru…

A: Well, yes.

Moash… had been his friend. They’d spent hours by the fire, talking about their lives. Kaladin had opened his heart to this man, in ways he hadn’t to most of the others. He’d told Moash, like Teft and Rock, of Tien. Of Roshone. Of his fears.

L: Which is, of course, what makes this betrayal even harder. I do love this trope, though. The best friends turned enemies trope (my favorite example being Magneto and Professor X in the X-men) is such a great one.

A: I, on the other hand, kind of hate it. It’s very useful, and a skilled writer can make it extremely effective… but I still hate it. It makes me angry.

L: The deepest betrayals come from the strongest friendships or other relationships. The better you know someone, the easier it is to know how to hurt them. Look at Gavilar, and his expertly aimed barbs at Navani in the prologue!

“What about Jeber and that other man. You killed them for justice?”

“For mercy,” Moash said. “Better a quick death than to leave them to die, forgotten.”

“You could have set them free!”

L: Kaladin’s logic is spot on, here. Moash is just justifying his own murders to himself any way he can, now.

A: This was infuriating. Now Moash blames his murders on the requirements of “mercy”—and with Kaladin, I am not buying it. These were completely meaningless murders. At best, they were the easiest way to silence someone who might have damaged his “dramatic surprise” for Kaladin. At worst, he killed them for the fun of it. I can’t find any justification for this one.

“Everyone you love, everyone you think you can protect. They’re all going to die anyway. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

L: Eventually? Sure. Not like they’re immortal. But this is just needlessly cruel of Moash.

A: Deliberately cruel, I think. He sees it as “needful” for his own purpose.

L: Fair point.

“There is only one answer. One path. One result.”

“No…” Kaladin whispered.

“I’ve found the better way,” Moash said. “I feel no guilt. I’ve given it away, and in so doing became the person I could always have become—if I hadn’t been restrained.”

“You’ve become a monster.”

“I can take away the pain, Kal.”

L: This just reeks of “join the Dark Side, Luke…”

A: If only that were all. He doesn’t even want Kaladin to join him. He wants Kaladin dead.

“The answer is to stop existing, Kal. You’ve always known it, haven’t you?”

Kaladin blinked away tears, and the deepest part of him—the little boy who hated the rain and the darkness—withdrew into his soul and curled up. Because… he did want to stop hurting.

He wanted it so badly.

L: This hurts so badly to read. Honestly… ugh. I’ve been here. I know what Kal’s feeling. I think… a lot of us, who have struggled with depression, know these feelings. And that’s what makes Moash’s words here even more insidious. To have someone echo those words that you’re telling yourself… to voice them, out loud… to try to convince you to take your own life…

This is evil. This is complete and utter evil.

A: His blatant effort to push Kaladin into suicide is completely abhorrent and vile. My only question is whether he really thinks a) death would mean peace for Kaladin, b) he wants to get Kaladin out of the way for some reason, or c) he believes Kaladin’s suicide would so destroy the morale of the Radiants that it would serve his new masters better than simply killing him. Or some combination.

L: I can’t make myself believe that he actually gives a damn about Kal anymore, so A doesn’t ring true for me, personally. I can absolutely see B and C, though.

A: I agree, to be honest. The only reason he’s interested in Kaladin is for his own validation. As he himself says, he needs Kaladin to admit that Moash is right, that everything about life is horrible and the only answer is the absence of feeling, whether through Odium’s “protection” or through death. He has convinced himself that all hope is false hope—except he really hasn’t, because he still needs Kaladin to agree with him.

Moash shied away from the light—but a version of him, transparent and filmy, broke off and stepped toward the light instead. Like an afterimage. In it, Kaladin saw the same Moash—but somehow standing taller, wearing a brilliant blue uniform. This one raised a hand, confident, and although Kaladin couldn’t see them, he knew people gathered behind this Moash. Protected. Safe.

The image of Moash burst alight as a Shardspear formed in his hands.

L: So… is this just an image of what he could be, like what Shallan does when she shows people their potential? This is Renarin doing this, a corrupted Truthwatcher, but… they share the Surge of Illumination with Lightweavers.

A: We’ve remarked before that Renarin can show someone their “perfected” view of themselves, but we also know that he sees potential future events that can be changed by his decisions upon seeing them. So… I don’t know if this is foreshadowing of what will come, or a view of what could have been if Moash had made different decisions. I lean toward the latter, though; there’s enough parallel between Moash and Kaladin that it’s easy to see how either could have made the choices the other did. If that makes sense.

L: While we’re on the subject… There is an outside possibility that the actions he’s taking now may not entirely be of his own volition (look at how the Thrill affected Dalinar!). If he’s being controlled or somehow influenced towards these actions via supernatural means, I’d be willing to give him a bit of leeway. Alice is completely right about the “not accepting responsibility” part, and that’s something that was a part of his personality before he started working with Odium… but if he’s not entirely himself, right now, that would give him a bit of leeway in regards to culpability.

A: There may be a certain “not himself” element to his behavior, but it’s mostly because he found a way to smother his conscience:

“I’ve found the better way,” Moash said. “I feel no guilt. I’ve given it away, and in so doing became the person I could always have become—if I hadn’t been restrained.”

A: As far as he’s concerned, it’s better to be able to do anything he wants with no qualms of conscience. It was his own conscious decision—and (obviously) intentionally, his choice is the exact opposite of Dalinar’s at the end of Oathbringer. Dalinar had asked the Nightwatcher for forgiveness; Cultivation took his memories so he could grow into a better person, then returned them so that better side could face and accept the responsibility for his actions. Moash deliberately seeks to avoid the pain. Not the memories—he’s okay with those. He just doesn’t want the pain of a guilty conscience. So he makes the choice Dalinar refused.

“No!” the real Moash screamed. “No! Take it! Take my pain!”

A: Could this be setting him up for a redemption? An arc where he eventually faces both the responsibility and the painful guilt for everything he knows he’s done? Maybe even an arc where he finally chooses to step away from Odium and toward Honor, becomes a Radiant, and sacrifices himself to protect someone else? Maybe…

L: Honestly, I really wouldn’t be surprised if it were going in this direction, coming from a writing perspective, it makes a lot of sense. I’d trust Sanderson to be able to turn my opinion around… but I still don’t want him to. I like hating Moash. ::laughs::

Humans

“Nothing in here except some empty wine bottles,” Red said, opening drawers and cabinets on the hutch. “Wait! I think I found Gaz’s sense of humor.” He held up something small between two fingers. “Nope. Just a withered old piece of fruit.”

L: As much as I dislike Gaz, this banter between them was pretty cute.

A: Much to the chagrin of many readers, I expect, we now learn that Gaz has moved up from squire to Radiant. Personally, I don’t mind; unlike Moash, I quit hating Gaz a long time ago.

L: I don’t hate him, not like Moash or Amaram or even Sadeas. I just… dislike him. He hasn’t done anything specifically to redeem himself for me, yet. If he eventually has some amazing self-sacrificing moment, or even an emotional one where he confronts Kal and apologizes or something, I’ll come around to him, I expect. But for now I just put up with his presence.

A: True, he hasn’t actually done anything for a redemption, and if it weren’t for his dark humor he wouldn’t be likable at all. Once Shallan promised to cancel all their debts—and fulfilled the promise—so that he could have a fresh start, he was smart enough to take the situation offered to him. Cryptics are an odd bunch, and have criteria for bonding that make no sense from a more Windrunner view; it will be interesting to see if he ever does something good at a cost to himself, or if he’s going to be a level-2 Radiant content with being able to do whatever is convenient to him.

Relationships & Romances

As he moved away from the inferno behind, Syl giggled.

“What?” he asked.

“Your backside’s on fire,” she said.

L: Bless you, Syl.

A: ::snickers::

“And… what happened to your shoes?”

Shallan glanced at her bare feet, which poked out from under her dress. “They were impeding my ability to think.”

“Your…” Adolin ran a hand through his delightfully messy hair, blond speckled with black. “Love, you’re deliciously weird sometimes.”

“The rest of the time, I’m just tastelessly weird.”

A: Obligatory “Awww, they’re so cute.” I just wish there weren’t quite such an edge to Shallan’s self-deprecation.

L: They are pretty cute. I’m just hoping that Sanderson does a better job with their chemistry than he’s done with other similar romances in the past. (Looking at you, Mistborn.)

Bruised & Broken

The balance was working. She was functioning.

But are we getting better? Veil asked. Or merely hovering in place?

I’ll accept not getting worse, Shallan thought.

L: I mean… she does seem a little better than she was at the end of Oathbringer…?

A: She might be? I suspect we need to get farther into her arc than this infiltration mission before we’ll know.

You need to start remembering eventually. The difficult things

No. Not that. Not yet.

L: Storms. How many more awful secrets does this girl have? It’s like the suffering Olympics, here, with each book revealing more and more awful things that happened to each character in their pasts.

A: Yeah, I thought when she’d finally allowed herself to remember killing her mother, that was the worst of it. Now Veil is implying that there are actually difficult things left to remember? Like that wasn’t difficult enough? Yikes!

He felt himself slipping, losing control. It happened whenever he thought of Moash, of King Elhokar dying, of failing the people of Kholinar and the men of the Wall Guard.

L: Oh, Kaladin. Here’s that PTSD.

Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant

Flamespren ran up the wall alongside him, leaving tracks of black on the wood.

A: This reminds me of what Malata did with her Dustbringer powers back in Oathbringer. Anyone want to bet that flamespren are “cousin” spren to the ashspren whose bonds create Dustbringers?

What We Missed (In the Timeskip)

[Gaz] stuck out his head, fully bearded, now with two working eyes—having regrown the missing one after he’d finally learned to draw in Stormlight a few months ago.

L: Well, chalk this down to another disabled character being magically healed (a trope in Stormlight that I am not terribly fond of, due to conversations about this subject with folx in the disabled community).

A: I understand the objection, but I also think it had to happen in order for the magic to be consistent. Unless there’s some solid character reason for Gaz to truly see himself as one-eyed, rather than merely damaged by whatever happened to injure him, it wouldn’t make sense for him to not be healed.

L: Oh yeah, no, it’s entirely consistent with the magic system. That’s not the issue I have.

A: And that’s another long conversation we could have… but probably not this week! I suspect that Gaz may not be an important enough character to make a magic-system-exception worth developing.

L: If anyone was going to be exception, I would have expected it to be The Lopen.

Geography

“Shin ‘wine.’ They have no idea how to ferment a proper alcohol. They make it all out of the same strange little berry.”

L: This amuses the heck out of me, as this is probably the closest Roshar has to the wine we are most familiar with here on Earth. Makes me very curious what the other “wines” taste like!

A: Shinovar: like so many other items, it’s the only place on Roshar to find grapes.

“This building,” she said, “it’s not new. At least part of it was already standing when the Alethi arrived at the warcamps. They built the structure on an already-set foundation. What are the markings? I can barely make them out.”

“Mmm. Ten items in a pattern, repeating,” he said.

L: Very interesting. This would have been a Parshendi building, wouldn’t it?

A: I believe it was there long before the Parshendi arrived. We know from Eshonai’s chapters in Words of Radiance that they had lived in these camps before the war pushed them out onto the Shattered Plains, but these ruins seem older. The markings would reflect back to the Silver Kingdoms which, as far as we know, were human kingdoms; I doubt the Parshendi would have been responsible for them. That said… we don’t know the Silver Kingdoms were all human; we just don’t know much of anything about that part of history.

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

A bronze cage can create a warning fabrial, alerting one to objects or entities nearby.

Heliodors are being used for this currently, and there is some good reasoning for this—but other gemstones should be viable.

L: So Heliodor is the gemstone associated with Ishar, Herald of Bondsmiths. What possible reasoning could Navani be referring to, here? And why would other gemstones be viable for this purpose, but presumably not for others? (I.e., if rubies ALWAYS have to be used for spanreeds, which seems to be the case… why are warning fabrials different?)

A: Hmm. The only time we’ve seen one of these in action, that I recall anyway, was when Rysn set one up during her Interlude in The Way of Kings. In that case, they were using it to sense when people approached; since heliodor is associated with the essence “Sinew” and other things related to flesh and the body, perhaps it’s especially useful to detect people and animals. If that’s the case, it would make sense that you could use amethyst as a metal detector, for example. I wonder if you could use sapphire as a storm warning…

I’d also like to mention the bronze cage used for the warning fabrials. In Allomancy, bronze is used to detect other Allomancy being used nearby (a Seeker); it makes perfect sense to use it in a warning fabrial. One might think that a fabrial could be built to do one step better than Shallan’s fake fabrial pretended to do a few chapters ago: detect Surgebinding being used nearby.

L: Now I want to sit here and look at Allomancy and try to figure out what effects all the other metals would have on Roshar!

 

We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Also, please remember to refrain from mentioning anything about the sneak peak of Dawnshard.

Alice is happy to say that the gamma read for Rhythm of War is finished—at least as much as the gamma readers can do. The rest is coordination between Dragonsteel and Tor, getting all the fixes incorporated. Now the anticipation for Dawnshard ramps up.

Lyndsey is glad that the gamma is over, but she wishes that this damned pandemic was, too. She misses her job at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire terribly, especially now, when she should have been starting dress rehearsals. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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