Welcome to the all-in spoiler review for Rhythm of War, in which Paige and Alice express all the excitement over the thrills in this book… and maybe certain other emotions, as well. (DIE MOASH DIE!™) If you haven’t finished the book yet, do not click that link, because, well, All The Spoilers! (You can find the non-spoiler review of the book here).
Fair warning, we both loved the book, so if you’re looking for someone to tear it down, this is not the review you’re looking for.
As noted, this was truly a fantastic read, in our opinion. That said, there are a few disclaimers…
This was probably the most difficult book I’ve ever had the opportunity to beta read (-Alice). (Saaame. -Paige). While it was written over the course of 2019, before anyone ever heard of COVID-19, we started the beta read just as the first worries were beginning to look serious. By the time we reached the part where Navani and Kaladin were experiencing the stresses of isolation, we were all well into the lockdown phases too. The depression and loneliness they were experiencing in the book resonated with many of the beta readers in ways I’m absolutely sure Brandon hadn’t anticipated. (We may talk more about that in a separate article, but it’s worth noting here.) A fair number of readers had to simply step out, or delay their responses dramatically, because it was just… too much.
The beauty of it, though, was that the depth of darkness made the bright moments shine even more brightly. The chapter with Wit’s story about “The Dog and the Dragon” was practically a microcosm of the book in this sense: Kaladin dragging through that horrible nightmare, and then suddenly the bright light, and Wit pulling him in, and hot stew, and a story full of humor and pathos and unexpected endings. (Also, his reaction when Kal asked him for a story… I think we all burst out laughing at that one!) (Also also, Kaladin needs a dog.) The final parallel, though, is… well, worrisome. After the promise that there will always be ups and downs, Kaladin has to go back out into the nightmare wind; after the encouraging resolutions and Ideals spoken, we know that Book Five is coming, with a frightening new element and real concern for the fate of some favorite characters.
But let’s talk about this book, for now.
In many ways, Part One stands apart from the rest of the book. It catches us up on what happened since the Battle of Thaylen Field, and then sets up the three separate plot arcs that occupy Parts Two through Five. It’s a little different in terms of structure, but it works.
Avalanche of The Unwritten Book
While we didn’t expect the book to start off with a minor avalanche, it was a great way to show us some of the developments we all expected would happen over the course of the year that’s passed since the events of Oathbringer. By way of a clash in Hearthstone, we can see that the fighting has continued. There are more Fused than before, and there are (thankfully) also more Radiants than before. There have been some advances in technology on both sides: Navani’s airship is most notable on the human side, while the Fused have several new weapons to use against the Radiants.
Concurrent with the battle in Hearthstone, Shallan’s adventures in the warcamp showed what was happening to the Alethi highprinces who weren’t persuaded to join Dalinar after the Battle of Narak. Their fates, while not exactly anticipated, at least gave the hoped-for closure on the rebellious folk. Oh, and the Sons of Honor are finally in complete disarray. We can hope they stay that way.
All in all, this intro-avalanche worked well to provide the infodump on what happened while we were away.
Fused and Singer Culture
While we couldn’t anticipate the details of the culture developing with the continued return of the Fused, and their rule over the newly-awakened singers, we did expect to learn about it. And learn we did. Headquartered in Kholinar, the society is led by the Nine—one from each “brand” of Fused—who are partially encased in stone and have final authority over all decisions. Unlike the humans with their Nahel bonds, each brand of Fused has the use of only one Surge—and they’re really good at it. (With thousands of years of practice, they should be, eh?) While we don’t learn about it until Part Two, the missing Surge is Adhesion, which is wholly of Honor rather than being an inherent part of the planet’s magic. It’s worth reminding ourselves that there is not a direct correspondence between the brands and the Radiant orders, since they only half-way overlap.
In Part One, we only see the society from Venli’s point of view, but that gives us an insider’s look at Lady Leshwi, the flying Fused who seems to have fun playing Kaladin’s nemesis. She’s turning into an oddly sympathetic character; Venli is her top servant (her Voice) and we get to see that she’s a much more reasonable master than many of her peers.
The critical introduction, though, is Raboniel, the Lady of Wishes, formerly known as the Lady of Pains… and if that’s not foreboding enough for you, I don’t know what would be. Since her deadly disease failed to wipe out the humans last time she returned, this time she’s going for an invasion of Urithiru. Yikes.
The Return to Urithiru
Speaking of which—of course we expected to end up in Urithiru, and likely with most of the usual suspects. Even though we don’t get there until halfway through Part One, it’s pretty much what we thought we’d see: more people, new problems, technological advances. With the humans all gathered there to plan their next steps in the conflict, this is where the upcoming arcs are laid out.
First, the coalition agrees on the need to make a military push somewhere, or risk losing too much ground as the Fused continue to return from Braize. It’s decided that rather than try to retake the well-fortified Alethkar, they’ll attempt to dislodge the Fused and singer armies in Emul, giving them full control of the Makabaki region (with the exception of Tukar, which is its own sack of cremlings). Dalinar, naturally, will go off to this war, and Jasnah declares her intention of going as well.
Second, they really need more Radiants, but the honorspren are refusing to grant any more Windrunner bonds, and most of the other orders are also holding back. In hopes of persuading the honorspren that humans are worthy of bonding despite the Recreance, an envoy to the honorspren fortress called Lasting Integrity is organized. Led by Adolin and Shallan, accompanied by a Truthwatcher, an Edgedancer, a Stoneward, and an assortment of Lightweaver squires and Kholin soldiers, this group is to enter Shadesmar via Oathgate and travel to the fortress, armed with gifts and persuasive messages.
The rest will remain in Urithiru, generally taking care of business and keeping the coalition functioning. Riiiiight. Raboniel is coming… which twists the “stay in Urithiru and be bored” plot into the primary storyline, and turns out to be more like “stay in Urithiru and be terrified.”
Plot Alpha: Urithiru
We don’t know about anyone else, but we’re here to tell you that we did NOT expect a successful invasion of the Tower that just… worked. Boom. With Dalinar and Jasnah off in Emul, acting as a hammer to the anvil that is the army of Tezim the god-priest of Tukar, an invading force of Fused, Regals, and singers infiltrate the Tower. The Fused Raboniel, leading the incursion with the blessing of the Nine, activates and reverses the Tower’s defenses—defenses meant to suppress the powers of the Fused, but now used to suppress the powers of the few Radiants left in the Tower, rendering them unconscious.
One afternoon’s worth of resistance, and it’s over. Just like that, all the Radiants are disabled and the entire human population of Urithiru is subdued. Except… two of the Radiants are different than the others, and the human spirit is not so easily quashed. Kaladin still has access to Adhesion, and Lift can still use Progression, though with more effort than before. Now throw in a couple of listeners who know what freedom feels like, a handful of singers who want to know, and a Fused who still remembers a time when the spren were her friends, and things are not so straightforward. Add a leader who is only halfway committed to the project because she has a couple of other private goals in mind, and… well, and you have the Rhythm of War.
Navani’s arc was a surprise in several ways. Even though we had speculated that she might be a good candidate for bonding the Sibling, there were other candidates along the way that would have been good choices in their own way. At one point, we wondered if Dabbid would form that bond, being perhaps the first to hear the Sibling’s voice. Rlain, too, was a prime choice—the Sibling even expressed strong interest in him. While either of those would have been wonderful in their own way, Navani’s development and final bonding was (IMO -Alice) a brilliant arc (Quite satisfying. -Paige).
Up until now, we’ve mostly seen Queen Navani from the outside, with her confidence and intelligence at the fore. But starting with the Prologue, we saw a different side of her—the impostor syndrome, the constant feeling of pretense, the pervasive feeling of inadequacy. Gavilar’s condemnation: “You aren’t worthy, Navani,” (*glares at Gavilar* -Paige) and all the rest of it, telling her that she wasn’t good enough to be a real scholar or a real artifabrian or to achieve anything on her own—it echoes down through the pages, over and over. She spends so much time believing that she’s just faking it, when we can see that she’s so much more; it’s really quite painful, at least for those of us who know what that’s like.
It’s not until Raboniel takes away everything but her studies, defeats every effort to protect her people, and leaves her with nothing but her equipment, that Navani quits worrying about her own competence. Left in isolation, given all the tools to work with, and some suggestions of possibility, she focuses on the science—and makes the breakthrough that Raboniel, over seven thousand years, was unable to make. Considering that Raboniel was a renowned scholar (if a rather unethical one, from our perspective) that’s saying something. One of our favorite moments was when Raboniel says, “If you are not a scholar, Navani, then I have never met one.” Though she continues to doubt herself, and at one point condemns herself in thinking that a true scholar would have seen the implications of her own work (LOL), that acknowledgement from Raboniel is what finally makes her realize that, imperfect as she may be, she is worthy to be considered a scholar and a bondmate for the Sibling.
The finale of her arc may be our favorite so far. “Journey before destination, you bastard” is one of the best level-ups we’ve ever seen. Watching Moash flee in terror from the woman whose son he murdered, as she spoke the Ideal her son was prevented from completing, satisfied a deep and visceral longing. (All the feels. -Paige) It was absolutely brilliant. The scene was made even more glorious (at least to my little engineer’s heart -Alice) when the new Bondsmith was able to understand at a glance the mechanics of the Tower-fabrials—how to eliminate the corrupting Voidlight, how to power things up, which effects were most important to activate… all the things that made Navani a better choice than anyone else could possibly have been. At the same time, the earlier conflict between Navani and the Sibling over trapping spren for fabrials remains a point of contention—which sets up a bonding that will require both parties to consider different ways of thinking and doing. We can’t help wondering whether this is typical of the Bondsmiths or not, but we haven’t seen this kind of conflict between Radiant and spren in the other orders.
We can’t leave Navani’s arc without finalizing her collaboration with Raboniel, though. Even though they were working toward different goals, they were an amazing team. Creating the anti-Voidlight, and then Raboniel immediately using it to kill her daughter—thus freeing her from the terrible cycle of death and madness—moved us in a way we didn’t expect from the enemy “monster” we’d seen in her. In the end, she says, “I want the singers to win. But your side winning is better than the war continuing forever.” That’s… pretty deep. In the end, after Raboniel uses her broken and dying body to delay Moash long enough for Navani to reach the Sibling, we’ll admit that we cried all the way through the scene where Navani sings with her and then gives her the same release she gave her daughter. (Ugly crying on my part. -Paige)
One more thing: The Sibling is the child of Honor and Cultivation, whose essence is “Structure and nature. Knowledge and wonder. Mixing. The song of science itself.” Can we just say, that was magnificent?!
Fourth Windrunner Ideal
Guys! We’ve waited so long to see it and seen Kaladin go through so much. But we finally got it, after much speculation and theorizing… “I accept that there will be those I cannot protect!” Gaahh!! Who called it? Well, only most of us. But do crow about your cleverness in the comments… because we’re feeling it, too.
But rewind a bit and think about what Kaladin experienced in Rhythm of War in order to reach that much-anticipated milestone.
This book was hard on Kaladin (But which one hasn’t been, amirite? -Paige). It started out with him killing a truly terrifying Fused—without Stormlight—which was great, wasn’t it? Unfortunately, just after he did so, he was rendered unable to act as Moash again exacted vengeance right in front of him, this time killing Roshone. Kaladin was again pulled out of that mess, this time by Renarin, and upon returning to the Shattered Plains, he was relieved of duty by Dalinar.
As was to be expected, Kaladin was devastated. So much so that he had an anxiety attack upon returning to his quarters. Adolin, the very bestest friend a depressed Windrunner could have, kept him company during his initial funk.
Then, having again taken up surgery with his father, he and Teft began to treat illnesses of the mind (Called it! -Paige). They pulled men suffering from battle shock from the deep, dark cells of the sanitarium in the monastery that housed the Devotary of Mercy, and start group therapy sessions. It’s working, too, until…
When the Fused invade the Tower, Kaladin kills a singer in Lirin’s newly set-up surgery—much to Lirin’s disgust—and hauls an unconscious Teft to a safe room, led by none other than the Sibling. He becomes a fugitive from the twisted justice of a Fused called The Pursuer, which turns out to be the same Fused that Kaladin had killed in Hearthstone. Oh, and did we mention that Kaladin has no Gravitation? Right. Well, he has no Gravitation. And no Sylspear.
Though he’s in hiding in the middle of occupied Urithiru, Kaladin is called on multiple times to assist the Sibling, the spren of the Tower. They’re being attacked by Raboniel, who is attempting to infuse the gemstone pillar with voidlight, Unmake the Sibling, and take control of the Tower in truth. But in helping the Sibling, he exposes himself each time to the Pursuer.
On the third such meeting, Kaladin is not just holding his own against the Pursuer, he’s winning. When Moash (DIE!!) shows up and dumps Teft’s body in front of Kaladin, he breaks again. Moash (Grrr! -Paige) (Hisssss! -Alice) gives a bound and gagged Lirin to a Fused and goes after Navani. Kaladin pursues the Fused to the top of the Tower; when they toss Lirin over the side, Kaladin (again, with no Gravitation) follows. Dalinar, riding the storm with the Stormfather, intervenes and pulls Kaladin into the centerbeat, where he sees the events preceding Tien’s death from a different perspective. Like the visions Dalinar was given, Kaladin is able to interact with Tien, and yeah, could our hearts break yet again? Spoiler alert: Yes, yes they could.
As Kaladin plummets past the Tower, he is finally able to speak the words, and Dalinar is the one to accept them. Simply beautiful.
Note that Kaladin’s fourth Ideal was not, as many had expected, a matter of accepting that there was someone right here that he couldn’t save, nor of having to choose between two people who needed to be protected. It was about letting go of the people he hadn’t saved in the past, accepting that they made their own choices and took their own chances. He needed to quit feeling guilty for surviving when someone else didn’t. Specifically, he had to let go of the fact that he hadn’t, and couldn’t have, saved Tien and Teft. It’s a great reflection of Kaladin telling Elhokar to leave Aesudan behind, because she’d given herself to the Unmade, and to “Be a hero to the one you can save.” (Ow. I’m punched in the heart again! -Paige) (I suspect Kaladin knew the fourth Ideal already, but it was easier to urge someone else to follow it than to follow it himself. -Alice)
Second Willshaper Ideal
Venli struggles with her dual nature as a listener Regal and a secret Knight Radiant. She frees Rlain from captivity and speaks the Words of her Second Ideal—”I will seek freedom for those in bondage,” but… her Words are not accepted. She realizes that in allowing Lift to remain caged, she hasn’t done enough to truly mean the words. She does eventually free Lift but still doesn’t attain the Second Ideal.
At the very end of her book when reunited with her mother, Venli and Timber have brought a new Reacher spren, which enters Jaxlim’s gemheart and seems to bring her back to herself. She recognizes her daughter and in her mind Venli hears, “Your Words are now accepted.”
This arc was really fascinating. One of the major aspects of Venli’s character was her essential self-centeredness. We saw it in the flashbacks, we saw it in previous books, and we saw it all throughout this book. Freeing Rlain, and even Lift, wasn’t enough to reach her Ideal; both were being done as much for selfish reasons as for the sake of the imprisoned one. She freed Rlain for the sake of having another listener to talk to, and freed Lift in order to heal Kaladin, so that her listener team would have a chance of escaping. Seeking and striving for her mother’s freedom, just for love, not even demanding acceptance for herself… that was the one that finally reached the Ideal.
We also got to see Eshonai again during the flashback scenes, which I’m sure most of the fandom knew was coming. It was nice to read her points of view, before the War of Reckoning, before necessity put her in Shardplate to fight against overwhelming odds. It was so good to see her, and so heart-wrenching. The final chapter of the book from her perspective was truly beautiful. (Brandon got me again. -Paige)
Not So Tiny, But Still Awesome
Lift still doesn’t want to change, but she’s growing up despite the boon she asked of Cultivation. We learn more about why this was the boon she asked, and as has been foreshadowed and speculated, she wanted to remain the little girl she was when her mother died of a sickness. Our poor little Edgedancer.
She runs into Mraize after the fall of the Tower, and he hunts her, eventually caging her and gifting her to Raboniel. He reveals that she doesn’t use Stormlight, but Lifelight, Cultivation’s analog of Stormlight. This is likely why she’s still able to function once the Tower’s defenses are reversed. We always knew that she was different than our other Radiants, because she had to eat in order to use her surges. Now we’re jonesing to get a clearer picture of what Cultivation did with our slippery little Radiant.
She’s eventually freed by Venli so that she can go heal Kaladin after his foray into a highstorm, and soon accompanies Teft to the makeshift infirmary where the unconscious Radiants are being cared for by Lirin and Hesina. She starts to waken the Radiants but is attacked by Moash, who swipes his honorblade through her legs. Injured and unable to heal herself immediately, she still tries to wake the Radiants until Moash kicks her into a wall, knocking her unconscious.
(We don’t know about you guys, but we’re getting pretty sick and tired of Moash kicking children. DIE MOASH DIE!™)
We don’t see Lift again after that scene, but we hear of her when Dalinar gives Kaladin a flute he’d gotten from Lift. It had somehow made its way from the Shattered Plains where he had lost it, and into Lift’s possession. She said it belonged to Kaladin and asked Dalinar to pass it along.
Also, she stole Dalinar’s lunch. Because of course she did.
After precious little screen time in Oathbringer, Rlain has a far more prominent role in Rhythm of War. He is still very much Bridge Four, and stays loyal to Kaladin in the midst of the Tower’s occupation. He is freed by Raboniel at Venli’s request, and helps Lirin and Hesina with the unconscious Radiants while also helping Kaladin. We really, really wanted to see him bond a spren—and we eventually did! And it was every bit as fantastic as we expected it to be.
Life before death, Radiant!
It’s probably worth acknowledging that some people have objected to Rlain bonding a Sja-anat-touched spren, as if he hadn’t spent enough time being the “other.” We find it hopeful, though; with Renarin and Rlain both accepting that kind of bond, it may be a signal from Sanderson that good things are happening with Sja-anat, and they’ll be forerunners rather than outsiders.
Final Thoughts on Plot Alpha
We should note the running theme of the interactions between the Investiture of different Shards. The Sibling combines the powers of Honor and Cultivation, as do most of the Radiants. The book is titled for the combination of Honor and Odium, and we get our second Sja-anat-modified mistspren bond with Rlain. Lift’s powers work during the occupation because she’s using Lifelight instead of Stormlight to power the Surges, and Kaladin’s only Lashing works because it’s solely of Honor. The connections aren’t entirely clear (at least to us), but clearly the interaction is Significant.
Plot Beta: Shadesmar
Shallan’s Deep Truth
Shallan is part of leading the expedition to Lasting Integrity, but (of course!) she has a hidden purpose beyond persuading honorspren. At the behest of Mraize, she is seeking Restares, leader of the defunct Sons of Honor. Mraize said she would know what to do when she found him, and she guesses that he will want her to kill Restares.
In Lasting Integrity, after researching all of the humans in the fortress, she discovers that Restares is none other than the Herald Kelek, revered by the honorspren, and also their High Judge who would oversee Adolin’s trial. Despite telling Mraize she wouldn’t kill him, she changes her mind and decides to dispatch him in order to disguise herself as High Judge. Why? To pardon Adolin, of course. However, she changes her mind at the last minute, when Veil and Radiant require her to confront her deepest Truth and in doing so, absorbs Veil back into herself. (Not gonna lie, I cry every time I read that scene. -Alice) (I was so, so happy and relieved! Shallan! Healing! -Paige)
In the serialization discussion, there were some people who objected to the idea of Shallan healing and reintegrating her personalities; it’s the ongoing problem of whether physical or mental illness should be magically fixed. While I’m sure there will be some ongoing division on this subject, I personally (Alice) found it to be a beautiful resolution: Veil points out that she was created to be Shallan’s veil, to protect her from the memories that were too painful to face, but that the memories are hers nonetheless. Finally convinced that she can be strong enough to accept her own memories, Shallan Lightweaves the scene that she’s been hiding from: her rejection of her first lovely spren, breaking her Ideals after using the sprenblade to defend herself and unintentionally killing her mother. Once that Truth is confronted, the veil is simply not needed any longer, and Veil reabsorbs into Shallan.
So now she has two Cryptics: the living Pattern and the deadeye they name Testament. One can only wonder what happens now; will Maya and Adolin be able to help Shallan revive her?
Oh, and by the way… Shallan also takes possession of the seon that Mraize gave her to communicate with him. Cool, right? And Wit has one, too.
Adolin and Maya
Adolin was excited to see Maya again upon arriving in Shadesmar. He talks to her, as he’s always done, and introduces her around, though everyone thinks him daft for seeing her as anything more than a mindless deadeye. She continues to delight us as she helps Adolin groom Gallant and performs katas with him. Then, when Adolin rushes to rescue Notum (the former Captain of Honor’s Path in Oathbringer) from a band of weird Tukari, Maya helps him again, brandishing a sword (sort of), then guarding his back in a long-rehearsed kata as he fights against overwhelming odds. Speaking of… can you say, “Epic scene of Adolin handing out a serious ass-whooping?” Yeah, that’s what we thought.
After dispatching the Tukari, Adolin and Company arrive at Lasting Integrity, which is on lockdown. When the honorspren refuse to even read the messages he carries, Adolin takes the only way he can think of to get into the fortress. He essentially turns himself in to stand trial against the honorspren’s accusations of betrayal: He challenges them to judge him against the actions of the Radiants who had abandoned their Oaths.
During Adolin’s trial, Maya draws strength from him and manages to speak in his defense, as she’s had his back time and again. She reveals to the honorspren that she and the other Radiant spren chose to sacrifice themselves during the Recreance. They weren’t betrayed by their Radiants but agreed with them when they decided to abandon their Oaths. “You. Cannot. Have. My. SACRIFICE!” What a glorious proclamation.
Oh, yes… Maya was talking! (Happy dance. -Paige) (Loved Maya speaking! Loved being right about the spren cooperation! Terrified about what made the spren and Radiants decide such a drastic measure was necessary!! -Alice) (Every feel. -Paige)
Also, there were hundreds of deadeyes gathered outside Lasting Integrity at the time of the trial. Why? Did they somehow know what was happening? How?
Plot Gamma: Emuli Battlefront
The details might have been a slight surprise, but no one is surprised that Taravangian betrays the human coalition to the Fused. Of course he was going to do that. It was just a matter of when and where. We already knew why he did it… his deal with Odium to essentially sacrifice humanity to save his people, and only his people.
He isn’t executed, to the disappointment of some readers. Instead, he’s imprisoned in a small house in the midst of the coalition warcamp, where he is constantly guarded. In the end, this has way crazy repercussions. Szeth’s hatred of him, held back for a time by his own insecurities, results in a perfect storm of overlapping effects: On Taravangian’s most emotional day ever, Szeth shows up to kill him. In fury, Szeth smashes two gemstones Taravangian is trying to protect, drawing Odium to see why Sja-anat’s children were there. As Szeth stabs his physical body, Odium angrily draws Taravangian into the Spiritual realm. Nightblood, being of all three realms, also manifests there, and Taravangian uses the sword to kill Rayse. That vast amount of Investiture leaves Nightblood sated, even as the loosed Shard seeks a new Vessel, and Taravangian accepts the role.
Taravodium? VargOdium? Odivangian? No matter what your preferred name is, this is terrifying—especially when we find out that Cultivation set it up, hoping that Taravangian would be a wiser Vessel than Rayse had been. Oh, Cultivation… my sweet summer child. The implications for the Cosmere are vague, huge, and frightening.
Also, Cultivation is a dragon. (Told you so! -Alice)
Dalinar doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but what he does have packs a lot of punch. He rides the storm with the Stormfather twice during the book. Both times, he zips past Urithiru and stops to help Kaladin. His actions might surprise and annoy the Stormfather, but they delighted us. Twice, he saves Kaladin’s life; once, he saves Kaladin’s sanity, giving him time and Connection to understand the next Ideal; and again, to top it off, Dalinar is the one who accepts that Ideal. That was so gorgeous.
But about the rest of his arc… He gets it in his head that he needs the Herald Ishar (aka Tezim the god-priest) to help him restore the Oathpact and then rescue Urithiru. Ishy is obviously bonkers (though man, could he wield that sword!) and thinks that Dalinar is Odium’s champion set against him, an aspect of the Almighty. Discovering that Dalinar is a Bondsmith, Ishar almost manages to steal his bond. Yeah, definitely gone round the bend, that one.
Szeth and Ishar clash… and Nightblood mars Ishar’s honorblade, after which Ishar displays a few moments of lucidity before he again devolves into ranting. When he and his men escape into a perpendicularity, Dalinar and his escort inspect the camp. They discover a gruesome scene: The corpses of actual Radiant spren are found, all sliced open. Spren that should not manifest wholly in the physical realm but seem to have done so, anyway. The poor Stormfather is horrified at the outcome.
Dalinar heads back to the warcamp where he hears that Urithiru had been liberated and that Navani is now a Bondsmith. Naturally, because Dalinar is exhausted, Odium shows up and demands that they set the terms for their contest of champions right now, with the result that the contest will take place in eleven more days, and Dalinar’s soul is on the line.
Jasnah’s Unique Approach to Monarchy
Jasnah accompanies Dalinar to Emul, where she very vocally talks about battle tactics in order to bait Highprince Ruthar, the sole Highprince still resisting Jasnah’s role as Queen of Alethkar. She has Wit harshly insult Ruthar until Ruthar challenges him, which is a big no-no. The scene ends with her stabbing Ruthar in the throat with Wit’s sword and then having Renarin immediately heal him. She banishes him and names his eldest son, who happens to be amenable to her rule, as Highprince.
We also get to see Jasnah, in full living Plate (Which was very satisfying to finally see! -Paige), joining in battle and laying waste to singers right and left with her Blade. She doesn’t particularly care for the feelings it gives her to do such a thing, but feels that it was necessary for her to do as Alethkar’s Queen. (But it was great to watch! -Alice)
So how about Wit? While some in the fandom shipped Kaladin and Jasnah, we see that she’s in something of a relationship with Wit. It’s less of a romance and more of an intellectual partnership on Jasnah’s part, though Wit seems quite taken with her. Wit… all smoochy-smoochy, who’d a thunk it?
Final Thoughts on Plots Beta and Gamma
Many readers may not have registered this, but the location of Lasting Integrity in Shadesmar corresponds to the physical location of Tukar. Yeah. Tukar, where his insane highness god-priest madman Ishar is in charge. (Don’t feel bad if you missed this; it wasn’t in the text. You can only tell by cross-checking the map of Shadesmar with the Roshar map. Just… some of us obsess over maps, okay? -Alice) (I need to pay more attention to maps, it would seem. Downside of always listening. -Paige) It’s a pretty fair bet that Adolin’s defense of Notum prevented the latter from being used in Ishar’s experiments. It’s also a pretty fair bet that this coinciding location is not an accident on the part of our brilliant author… So we end up with probable entanglement of the two seemingly least-related plot arcs.
Welp—We Weren’t Expecting That!
There are a handful of things we wanted to address separately—things that specially touched our hearts or took us by surprise. There are more than these few, of course, but… well, there are limits.
Most JordanCon attendees knew the brave and valiant honorary Blademaster, Steve Godecke. Steve battled cancer twice in his too-short life and we lost him shortly before JordanCon in 2019. (Already crying again. -Paige) He was a member of the JordanCon staff, a beta reader, and a huge Sanderson fan. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him were the better for it. And then he was gone, too young, too soon… but Brandon made him Radiant. Thank you so much for Edgedancer Godeke, Brandon. How’s it feel to make a bunch of beta readers cry? (All the tears. And smiles, because it’s a perfect memorial. -Alice) And as beta reader Trae Cooper said at the time: “So touching. Godecke, you are Radiant, you are healed.”
We got a Syl Interlude! It was amazing, which is only to be expected from a Syl PoV. She thought about how she has two brains: the responsible one and the childlike one. She also thought about how Kaladin has two brains, too: a light brain and a dark brain. She wanted to learn how to understand him in order to help him. After joining her windspren cousins during a highstorm, she argued with the Stormfather about Kaladin and then decided to visit Dalinar. She told him of the pain she felt when her last Radiant died, and then thought that if she could remember how it felt during those days, during the pain, then she could help Kaladin with his dark days. Honor love our little Sylphrena.
We also got a Sja-anat PoV, which was super interesting because she thought about how she kept secrets, even from Odium himself. We learn briefly of how she Enlightens spren, rather than corrupting them. She had an encounter with Odium, who sent her to Emul to watch Taravangian, whom she considered to be a weapon. She mostly remains an enigma, though, because we still don’t entirely know what she’s planning.
Cosmere connections are steadily growing in this book. Part One has Zahel using Awakening in a sparring match with Kaladin, while he gives esoteric explanations that go right over our poor bridgeboy’s head… and straight into ours, blowing our pea-picking little minds. Oof. As if that weren’t enough, the ending to the Shadesmar arc also carries strong Cosmere implications when Mraize equates their leader Thaidakar with the “Lord of Scars”… who sounds way too much like Kelsier, eh? Oof.
Show of hands, folks. Who still says Moash did nothing wrong? Anyone? Anyone? After advising Odium on how to drive Kaladin to suicide, sending him nightmares, and killing Phendorana and Teft (DIE MOASH DIE!™), it was with a vicious joy (Much vicious. Very joy. -Paige) that we saw him flee into the storm, his connection with Odium severed for a moment and in agony over what he’d done (However much he hurt, it wasn’t nearly enough. -Paige). He didn’t die, but… permanently blinded by the storm, the cold, or the Tower’s light (I think it was the cold? -Alice) (I vote for Towerlight, unleashed by Navani. -Paige) (You might be right. -Alice) is also fairly satisfactory. The only thing that would be better is to lose Odium’s “gift” that allows him not to feel the guilt. He needs to feel it. Or at least… we need him to feel it. We will never not hate Moash for killing Phendorana and Teft. To be honest, I (Alice) did kind of expect Teft to be killed in this book, but… his spren, too? First?? That was brutal.
There’s been a lot of speculation on the champions to be chosen in the much-anticipated battle of champions, which we’ll see in book 5. But Kaladin will not be Dalinar’s. He actually realized this himself and when he told Dalinar that he can’t do it, Dalinar agreed and said, “This is the sort of thing a man must do himself.” So perhaps we’ll see the Blackthorn unleashed again. What do you all think?
As one might expect from the fourth book of a five-book arc, Rhythm of War leaves everything wide open and set up for the next book. (Only three years away! ::grimaces:: -Alice) Anyone want to play guessing games about that title? There are some events we can be confident will happen, and a few more that are less certain, but clearly something has to follow.
Since Szeth told Dalinar that he had to go back to Shinovar, we’re very much looking forward to what we’ll see and what he’ll do. First and foremost, he will learn what he can of his father, who had carried Ishar’s honorblade before Ishy reclaimed it. Ishar told him his father was dead, which upset Szeth very much. He also has some vengeance to enact on those who named him Truthless. Knowing how skilled Szeth is with a sword, we’re quite looking forward to this. And we’re pretty sure that Nightblood is looking forward to destroying more evil.
We expect to see Adolin and Company return from Shadesmar. Noting the proximity of Lasting Integrity to Tukar, though, it’s hard to guess whether that will be a terrifying “coincidence” or a brilliant intervention. Normally we’d have expected them to simply travel to an Oathgate to get back to the physical realm, but the location pretty much guarantees that Shenanigans Will Ensue one way or another. With Dalinar and Ishar both opening perpendicularities, and Dalinar planning to find Ishar again… it’s hard to know whether to be excited or terrified.
We’re hoping to see more interaction with Adolin and Maya, and perhaps for their partnership to grow into something more. Some fans want to see Adolin speaking the first Ideal and becoming an Edgedancer (C’mon, he embodies the Ideals we’ve seen thus far so perfectly! -Paige) and others would prefer to not have another Kholin Radiant because, really, they’re all over the bloody place. The inkspren Blended noted that while Adolin is definitely not a Radiant (at this point), there is a definite bond between him and Maya. Also, Maya did her best to speak part of the First Ideal after the trial, with Adolin’s help. What does that mean? Where do you sit on this spectrum, Sanderfans?
And, of course, at long last, we’ll see what we expect to be an epic battle of Odium’s Champion versus Honor’s. Will TaravOdium (This is my favorite. -Paige) choose someone else to be his champion, with Moash blinded? Some fans think that Adolin or Renarin… or even Kaladin will become Odium’s champion. What say you? Tell us your theory in the comments.
And that’s about that. Storms, this was a fantastic book. Highs and lows, laughter and tears, joy and grief—it was all there.
Alice hails from the Pacific Northwest, and contrary to expectation, has not yet developed webbed feet. Gills, maybe. An engineer by training and a blogger by choice, she’s also a Skybreaker, to no one’s surprise.
Paige resides in New Mexico, duh. According to Dragonsteel’s official Radiant test, she’s a Truthwatcher/Lightweaver/Edgedancer/Windrunner, and will happily take all the surges! She’s a champ at the in-person social distancing; no really, back away. Further away. Links to her Patreon and her available works are provided in her profile.