Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Twelve

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Welcome back to the read-along! We’re back with Kaladin this week, but this time with Adolin and Veil. Shenanigans, weddings, and poignant amateur therapy, as well as a few answered questions… which may or may not make various readers happy. Come on in, and join the discussion!

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. Please white-text any references to the upcoming Interludes or the Dawnshard prologue. Thanks!

 

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: Day One, cont.

Kaladin suffers a depressive breakdown, but thankfully Adolin arrives to drag him to a tavern with him and Veil (and Radiant).

Overall Reactions

A: I almost can’t bring myself to spend much time on the opening scenes; they’re so realistic and painful if you’ve ever lived with depression.

He stood tall, like a commander should, and gave them the nod. The captain’s nod that said, “You run along, soldier. I have important things to be about, and cannot be bothered with frivolity.”

Nobody pushed him, though he wished that one of them would.

A: That desire to see your friends be happy, while at the same time, kind of wishing they would do it somewhere else. That fake smile as you pretend to be happy with them. That urge to be careful not to drag the people you love into your morass, not to hurt them with your pain. Not wanting to be with people—but wanting to, at the same time.

L: Yeah. This hits extremely close to home. Almost too close to home.

They’re all going to die. There’s nothing you can do about it.

You could never build anything that lasted, so why try? Everything decayed and fell apart. Nothing was permanent. Not even love.

Only one way out…

A: And then the collapse, when no one can see. In this case, it’s made far worse by stinking Moash’s words, worming their way into Kaladin’s mind, with their fatalistic gloom, urging him to despair. Honestly, I hate Moash so much. It was bad when he said this garbage in the first place, and it’s worse now when it comes shoving back in. I … I really can’t bring myself to dwell on this very long.

L: I’m gonna be honest. I might not be as talkative in this chapter as I am in most, for this very reason. This depiction is so real, so well handled, that it hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Seeing thoughts that you yourself have had in the past reflected in a fictional character you love can be thrilling sometimes, but in this case, it’s just… agonizing. I love Kaladin. I want him to see how loved he is, how positive an impact he’s had on the world and the people around him. But just like when I myself was in this position, he can’t. I know he can’t. He’s blinded by the haze of depression and I know how hard it is to break yourself out of that.

A: Fortunately for us as readers, the bright spots are made brighter by comparison, and Adolin is the brightest of bright spots in these pages. As is the ever-darling Sylphrena:

Adolin pushed his way in, a treasonous Syl on his shoulder. That was where she had gone? To fetch Adolin storming Kholin?

A: Who, of course, calls his bluff. That whole “I don’t want to see you, go away” thing we do? Nope. Not gonna fly.

L: Storms bless Adolin Kholin.

“I like being by myself,” Kaladin said.

“Great. Sounds awful. Today, you’re coming with me. No more excuses. I let you blow me away last week and the week before.”

L: As an extrovert who often does this with my introverted friends, I get this completely and I love to see it from Adolin—especially now.

A: And his persistence! This is not a one-off, it’s an ongoing effort. IMO, that’s what makes it work.

“Tell me honestly,” Adolin said. “With an oath, Kaladin. Tell me that you should be left alone tonight. Swear it to me.”

Adolin held his gaze. Kaladin tried to form the words, and felt of the ten fools when he couldn’t get them out.

He definitely shouldn’t be alone right now.

A: At least he’s still able to recognize this—at least when he’s pushed on it—which in itself is good. I find myself wanting to quote this whole page…

L: Yeah, I’m really glad that he hasn’t sunk so low as to not realize this, or be so apathetic as to lie to Adolin (and himself) about it.

“You don’t have to smile. You don’t have to talk. But if you’re going to be miserable, you might as well do it with friends.”

A: The best kind of friends to have are those who don’t do Expectations. I adore Adolin.

L: Or rather, that have Expectations, just reasonable ones. “My expectation is that we’re going to go out tonight and you don’t need to interact or do anything other than be in the presence of other people.”

A: You’re right, of course. There are expectations—just not the expectation that you’ll obviously be cheered up by being with them.

And then there’s Syl:

“Adolin?” Kaladin said as he changed. “Your first thought was to get Adolin?”

“I needed someone you couldn’t intimidate,” she replied. “That list at best includes three people. And the queen was likely to transform you into a crystal goblet or something.”

“Thank you,” Kaladin said softly, turning his eyes forward.

A: Syl is so wise, sometimes. A touch of humor, but solid truth.

L: She is a blessing. I’m so thankful that Kaladin has her.

Humans

Adolin’s favorite winehouse was called Jez’s Duty. He’d forced Kaladin to join him there on more than one occasion, and so the interior was familiar. Themed after a stormshelter—though no such thing was needed here in the tower—it had fabrial clocks on the walls that listed when a storm was happening in Alethkar, and held a daily vigil for the kingdom. An ardent even visited and burned glyphwards.

A: I like to pretend this is a nod to the Storm Cellar facebook group, originated from people who participate in the Tor rereads. Who knows, maybe it is?

Nobody bowed when [Adolin] entered; instead they cheered and raised cups. Adolin Kholin wasn’t some distant brightlord or general who sat in his keep and pronounced edicts, tyrannical or wise. He was the type of general who drank with his men and learned the names of every soldier.

A: I love the portrayal of Adolin here. He’s young for a highprince, perhaps, and maybe that’s part of why it works so well? Mostly, I’d guess, it’s sheer personality.

L: He’s a born leader, and one who genuinely cares for his subjects.

“Groom?” Kaladin asked.

“Wedding party?” Adolin said, waving toward the room of festive people. “For Jor?”

“Who?” Kaladin asked.

… as the groom himself passed by, Kaladin realized he did recognize the man. He was the house bouncer, an affable fellow.

Syl was riding on his shoulder.

…Jor showed up to introduce his new bride, Kryst, to Adolin.

A: This whole sequence makes me grin like a fool every time I read it. As y’all may or may not know, “Jor the bouncer” (from Shallan’s initial sleuthing foray back in Oathbringer) is a tuckerization for one of the beta readers. Between books, the real Jor got married to the real Kryst. It’s so much fun. The image of Syl riding around on Jory’s shoulder is one that will never not make me smile.

L: It was one heck of a fun wedding IRL, too, complete with a lightsaber duel.

A: And I missed it!! I just wasn’t able to get there. Truly a bummer.

Relationships & Romances

“Hey,” Veil said, putting her boots on the table with a thump. “The man said orange.”

L: You know, there are things I really dislike about Veil, but I appreciate the hell out of this. She’s not letting anyone pressure Kaladin into drinking something more intoxicating than he wants.

A: It’s interesting, isn’t it, seeing Veil protecting someone other than Shallan? Perhaps that’s part of her development over the past year; she’s not merely the persona that protects Shallan from painful stuff, she’s there to protect anyone she cares about. (Or not… but it works in this moment.)

(ETA – I realized later that this had been an aspect of Veil in the earlier books, too. Near the end of Oathbringer, for example, she was longing to be out in the streets protecting those who would be vulnerable in the chaos after the battle. Why did I never notice this before?)

“Well,” Veil said, “this is real fun and everything, but shouldn’t we be moving on to a more important topic?”

“Such as?” Adolin asked.

“Such as who we’re going to fix Kaladin up with next.”

Kaladin about spat out his drink. “He doesn’t need fixing up with anyone.”

“That’s not what Syl says,” Veil replied.

A: Yeah, but Syl just wants an excuse to sit on the headboard and kibitz.

Okay, no, she really does want to help. And maybe Kaladin was seeming to do better when he was in a relationship with Lyn; Adolin notes later that Kaladin has been “extra sulky” since the break-up. I suppose they have reason to think it might help; I’m less convinced.

L: While it’s true that it can help to have someone to lean on when you’re depressed, you really shouldn’t be using another person as a crutch to keep you upright. Kaladin needs to learn to stand on his own.

A: I think that’s why some of us are so adamant that Kaladin needs some personal change before getting into a real ship. It’s too easy to rest all your well-being in someone else, and then if they fail you, or something happens to them, you find out you hadn’t actually gotten better.

“Wait… no. Ask Shallan to explain [how babies come out]. She’ll love that.”

“Mmm,” the table said. “She changes colors. Like a sunset. Or an infected wound. Mmm.”

A: Sorry, I just had to include this for the lolz. Pattern is priceless.

“This is not a topic for gentlemen to discuss,” he said with an airy tone.

“I’m neither gentle nor a man,” Veil said. “I’m your wife.”

“You’re not my wife.”

“I share a body with your wife. Close enough.”

“You two,” Kaladin said, “have the strangest relationship.”

Adolin gave him a slow nod that seemed to say, You have no idea.

A: OUCH. I’m sorry, but how does an author even come up with this stuff? What an absolutely bizarre relationship, indeed.

L: I love it. Veil’s like the… the metamour in this unconventional little romance they have. It’s adorable.

A: I find it more painful than adorable, personally. It’s got to be so weird for Adolin; he married the woman he loves, but this other woman takes over half the time? And he really doesn’t love Veil as a woman, so she’s just… there, in his wife’s body, and it’s gotta be weird.

Bruised & Broken

“Shallan had a busy day, and we’re on Shattered Plains time, not Urithiru time. She wants a rest.”

It must be nice, Kaladin thought, to be able to retreat and become someone else when you get tired.

It was sometimes difficult to treat Shallan’s personas as three distinct people, but it was what she seemed to prefer. Fortunately, she tended to change her hair color to give the rest of them cues. Black for Veil, and she’d started using blonde for Radiant.

A: For now, apparently, we can tell who is talking by what color her hair is? I… guess…? The way Kaladin sees it, I’ll agree it sounds nice to just be someone else when you get tired. I seriously doubt it really works that way, though, even for Shallan. She hides with her other personalities, but I’m not convinced that she’s really getting any kind of rest from it.

L: Mental rest, maybe, but her physical body still needs rest, right? Or… does it? With Stormlight, maybe she doesn’t need real sleep anymore…

A: Well, that’s a point. I don’t remember—have we seen anyone use Stormlight to just go without sleep for extended periods? (Readers? Help?) Of course, their skills have grown in the last year, so it may be true even if we haven’t seen it yet.

“She is well enough,” Radiant said. “We’ve found a balance. A year now, without any new personas forming. Except…”
Kaladin raised an eyebrow.

“There are some, half-formed,” Radiant said, turning away. “They wait, to see if the Three really can work. Or if it could crumble, letting them out. They aren’t real. Not as real as I am. And yet. And yet…” She met Kaladin’s eyes. “Shallan wouldn’t wish me to share that much. But as her friend, you should know.”

A: Yeah, we are so not done with this balancing act. It is an act.

L: I do love the fact that Radiant is telling Kaladin, though. It’s really good for friends to know what’s going on, so they can be prepared to help support the people they love when needed.

A: Right? It was fascinating to see Radiant do something she knew Shallan wouldn’t like, not merely something Shallan thought herself incapable of doing. You sort of expect it from Veil, but not Radiant.

“So,” Adolin said, “what’s going on? This is more than just what happened with Lyn.”

“I thought you said I didn’t have to talk.”

“You don’t.” Adolin took a sip, waiting.

A: This is both funny and heartwarming. Kaladin doesn’t have to talk… but he needs to, and Adolin is wise enough to just wait. And of course, Kaladin talks. Being relieved of duty is painful, but when Adolin objects to his father’s actions, Kaladin points out that Dalinar was right; as a trained surgeon himself, he recognizes the truth. And that finally brings him to the real problem: battle shock, or what we now call PTSD.

“There should be a way to help you. A way to make it so you can think straight.”

“I wish it were that easy,” Kaladin said. “But why do you care? What does it matter?”

“You’re my only bridgeboy,” Adolin said with a grin. “Where would I get another? They’ve all started flying away.” The grin faded. “Besides. If we can find a way to help you, then maybe… maybe we can find a way to help her.” His gazed drifted across the room, toward Veil.

A: Again with the mixture of humor and pathos; it’s a beautiful thing. I have to say, too, that this really is a good way to approach things from Adolin’s angle, whether it plays out or not. Kaladin has at least faced facts; he knows he needs real help, and when he’s got someone to talk to that he can trust, he’s (kind of) ready to search for solutions. Shallan, not so much. She says she’s fine, she’s got a good balance, everything is just hunky-dory—but Radiant just admitted that it’s not entirely true. Start with the person who’s willing to admit there’s a problem, and just maybe they can find a way to help others too.

“What does your surgeon’s knowledge say, Kal?” Adolin said. “What do I do?”

“I don’t know,” Kaladin said.

“Surely you can give some advice, Kal,” Adolin said.

“Let her know you care,” Kaladin said. “Listen to her. Be encouraging, but don’t try to force her to be happy. And don’t let her be alone, if you’re worried about her.…”

He trailed off, then shot Adolin a glare.

Adolin smirked. This hadn’t just been about Shallan. Damnation. Had he let Adolin outsmart him?

A: Excuse me, but BAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!! I love this so much.

L: Adolin’s just the best. No holds barred.

Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant

Kaladin didn’t have many squires left—none, unless you counted Dabbid and Rlain. Rock didn’t have a spren either, but he… had moved on to something else. Kaladin wasn’t sure what it was, but he didn’t call himself a squire.

A: Sigh. For all the obvious reasons, “none, unless you counted…” always seems to apply to the Dabbids and the Rlains, doesn’t it. None, unless you count these oddballs.

L: I’m really hoping to see some progress on Kaladin’s part on this count in this book.

Rlain would soon have a spren, and would finally be able to move on too.

A: As we saw a couple of weeks ago, this is Kaladin’s surefire plan. Now that he’s persuaded/ convinced/ commanded Yunfah to give Rlain a fair chance, they’ll obviously bond. Not that I doubt Rlain’s worthiness, of course; I think he has every qualification for a Radiant, and I certainly want that to happen. I just doubt the efficacy of Kaladin’s plan.

Dabbid had gone on the mission today to help Renarin deliver water and supplies to the townspeople. He’d never recovered from his battle shock, however, and didn’t have Radiant powers. He wasn’t so much a squire as someone Kaladin and the others looked after.

A: Oh, Dabbid. He reminds me of my son in some ways. (For those who don’t know, my son has Down Syndrome—which is obviously not the same as battle shock, I know, please don’t explain that to me.) People do care about him, and I appreciate that side of it. It just hurts when someone you love is always shrugged off with “well, that’s as much as he’ll ever be able to do.” It makes me … melancholy.

The rest had all ascended to at least the Second Ideal. That made them more than a squire, but not yet a full Radiant—having bonded a spren, but not yet having earned a Blade.

A: Hey, this conversation sounds familiar! Didn’t we have this very discussion recently? The Windrunners call you a squire the moment you manage to draw in the Stormlight, which (near as I can tell) you can do as soon as the First Ideal means the right thing to you. A spren can apparently start bonding with you any time then, but it always happens before you’ve reached the Second. You earn your Blade at the Third, and Plate at the Fourth.

His friends all had their own teams now.

A: All of them? Have all the original Words of Radiance Bridge Four members reached the Third Ideal? (Except those three.) Or can they have squires at the Second? Just when you think you had a lot of answers, you realize there are more questions!

“We need to get you a spren. Why hasn’t an order picked you up yet?”

Adolin shrugged. “I’m not a good fit, I guess.”

“It’s that sword of yours,” Kaladin said. “Shardbearers do better if they drop any old Shards. You need to get rid of yours.”

“I’m not ‘getting rid’ of Maya.”

“I know you’re attached to the sword,” Kaladin said. “But you’d have something better, if you became Radiant. Think about how it would feel to—”

“I’m not getting rid of Maya,” Adolin said. “Leave it, bridgeboy.”

A: I get frustrated with Kaladin when I read this, but then I have to remind myself: his only experience with dead-spren Shardblades is their screaming in his mind, and their trip through Shadesmar with Adolin’s deadeye. There’s just no way he understands the level of the bond between Adolin & Maya; to him it must look like the palest shadow of his bond with Syl, and well worth replacing.

And finally, back to Rock:

“You saved my life.”

“I made that choice because you are worth that sacrifice.” He reached across the table and rested his hand on Kaladin’s shoulder. “But it is no sacrifice unless I now go, as is right, to seek justice from my people. I would leave with your blessing. But I will leave either way.”

A: So Rock is going home, taking his wife and younger children. Concerned for their safety, especially with Moash out there, Kaladin & Rock agree that Skar and Drehy will go with them, both for protection, and to fly them so they don’t have to walk the whole way. And if they do meet Moash…

“Ha,” Rock said, standing. “He should try to come for me. That will let me get close enough to put hands on his neck and squeeze.”

“You don’t fight.”

“That? Is not fighting. Is exterminating. Even cook can kill rat he finds in his grain.” He grinned, and Kaladin knew him well enough to realize it was a joke.

A: Well… mostly a joke. I sure would love to see it happen.

L: You and me both.

“You gave me back my life,” he said. “Thank you for that, Kaladin, bridgeleader. Do not be sad that now I choose to live that life.”

“You go to imprisonment or worse.”

“I go to the gods,” Rock said.

A: This was a heart-rending scene. I really do hope we get that 4.5 novella about Rock…

L: From a story-teller’s perspective, it wouldn’t make sense not to tell us his story eventually. I’m confident that we’ll get it sooner or later.

He held up his finger. “There is one who lives here. One afah’liki. He is powerful god, but tricky. You should not have lost his flute.”

“I… don’t think Wit is a god, Rock.”

He tapped Kaladin’s head. “Airsick as always.”

A: LOL. I think Kaladin and Rock define “god” somewhat differently.

L: Well, seeing as how Rock calls spren “gods” too…

Secret Societies

“Pity someone murdered [Ialai],” Veil said. “I’d have enjoyed watching her squirm before Dalinar.”

“Murdered her?” Kaladin said. “What?”

“Yeah, someone offed her. One of our people, unfortunately. They must have been bribed by someone who wanted to see her dead. That’s a secret, by the way. We’re telling everyone she killed herself.”

A: Shallan doesn’t go into detail here, but she does recommend that Kaladin see Dalinar for the full report. Combined with her statement to Adolin a few chapters ago, it looks unlikely that Ialai killed herself—unless she was clever enough to make a suicide look like murder?

“Is Ialai Sadeas really dead?”

“Unfortunately. Father already has armies moving to the warcamps. Initial reports say her men have offered articles of surrender; they must have known this was coming.…” He shrugged. “Still makes me feel like I failed.”

“You had to do something. That group was getting too powerful, too dangerous, to leave alone.”

A: You may or may not see this as a valid reason for waiting this long, but apparently the idea is that as long as the highprinces in the warcamps didn’t look too strong, they could be more or less ignored. Then, with the rise of the Sons of Honor as an actual force under Sadeas leadership, things were getting dangerous. I’ll confess that Shallan’s interactions with them didn’t give me that “too powerful, too dangerous” feeling—but I also don’t know that I’d have wanted to see more words spent on building them up, if they’re surrendering and becoming a non-issue this early in the book.

L: Yeah, I find it hard to believe that they were so powerful, too. But I guess if she could make a legitimate claim to the throne, that in this time of upheaval, it could present instability that would be dangerous.

“I know. But I hate the idea of fighting our own. We’re supposed to be moving on to better things. Greater things.”

Says the man who killed Sadeas, Kaladin thought. That wasn’t common knowledge yet, so he didn’t speak it out loud in case someone was listening.

A: Well, there it is. Even now, a year after Adolin told Dalinar, it’s still not common knowledge. It’s unclear just who is included in the uncommon knowledge. Obviously: Adolin, Shallan, Dalinar, and now Kaladin. Likely: Navani, as Dalinar’s wife; Jasnah, as Alethi Queen; and… who else? I’m trying to figure out a logical group that would include Kaladin, and I can’t; why would he have been told? Because he’s Highmarshal of the Windrunners? I dunno.

L: I think this would be on a “need to know” basis, for sure.

What We Missed (In the Timeskip)

… A couple of lighteyed women in havahs, though they probably weren’t of high rank if they were visiting a winehouse frequented by darkeyes. Then again, Adolin was here. And things like nahn and rank had been… strangely less divisive this last year, under Jasnah’s rule.

A: Well, that’s an interesting hint. What has Jasnah been doing to reduce divisions between eye color and status rankings? Hopefully we’ll get more about this!

“He’s human,” Adolin said. “Half the city thinks he’s some kind of Herald reborn, but he’s only a man. He’s been wrong before. Terribly wrong.”

Dalinar killed Adolin’s mother, Kaladin thought. That news was out, spread wide. The city had all either read, listened to, or been told about Dalinar’s strange autobiography. Handwritten by the Blackthorn himself, it wasn’t quite finished, but drafts had been shared. In it Dalinar confessed to many things, including the accidental killing of his wife.

A: Wonder no more. At least, not about whether it’s out. Given Adolin’s brief comment here, and his general attitude toward his father displayed in this chapter, I think it’s safe to say that Adolin isn’t … shall we say, entirely reconciled to this development. (And for those who wanted to see that confrontation… while I can understand that desire, I personally think we’re going to get far more interesting insights by watching Adolin work through his reactions. YMMV.)

L: I’m glad to see this question answered here, and I’m curious to see how their interactions will play out…

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

One of my pleas is for artifabrians to stop shrouding fabrial techniques with so much mystery. Many decoy metals are used in cages, and wires are often plated to look like a different metal, with the express intent of confusing those who might try to learn the process through personal study. This might enrich the artifabrian, but it impoverishes us all.

A: Welp. This one doesn’t give us the kind of detail about actual fabrial technology that we’ve been getting so far. It does tells us about the state of the industry: very secretive, very guarded with their inventions and their craft secrets. When you stop to think about it, it’s true to reality: you make more money on a craft if you’re the only one who knows how to do some particular high-demand thing. It does slow the state of the art development, though. Looks like Navani is trying to set up more of a “think tank” approach, instead of each individual—or even each country—hoarding their own discoveries. I can certainly see both sides of the argument!

 

And that’s it for our contribution today! 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, no spoilers for upcoming Interludes or the Dawnshard prologue, as per usual.

Alice is finished with the Dawnshard beta, and cannot wait to share reactions with you all. It’s excellent.

Lyndsey is missing her faire family dearly. For the next two months in these bylines, she’ll be giving some shout-outs to fellow local performers or vendors who could really use the support. This week, check out Auntie Arwen’s Spices, for hand-made herbal blends (some of which are made from historical recipes) that will simply knock your socks off! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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