Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Introducing the Rhythm of War Reread!

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Welcome back to the Stormlight Archive ongoing reread project! We hope you had a thoroughly fantastic holiday season, and wish you all the very best in the coming year. Now that you’ve had a chance (we hope!) to read Rhythm of War

L: And Dawnshard, and hopefully the rest of the Cosmere given how Cosmere-connected this book is—

A: we’re almost ready to plunge into the detailed chapter-by-chapter discussion, with spoilers for the whole kit and caboodle. This week, we’re just going to talk about Part One a bit more, and introduce the set-up for future discussion.

L: Welcome back, chickens. Or, if you’re new to the reread, welcome, enjoy your stay, and don’t forget to join in the conversation in the comments below if you’re so inclined!

A: If you were following along, you’ll know that we did a read-along as Part One was released in serialization, beginning in July 2020. Those discussions can all be found here; if you weren’t reading along, you might want to go catch up on those. (Or, you know, you might not want to. It’s up to you.) Additionally, if you scroll all the way down in that link, you’ll find the wonderful (if super high-level) reread of Dawnshard done by Lyndsey, Sam, and Drew. You might wish to catch up on those as well if you missed them.

Having already done fairly in-depth discussions, we aren’t going to go back and reread those again. This week, we’ll launch the reread with a brief review of Part One, and then next week we’ll start with the first set of Interludes.

 

Part One Recap

Part One opened on a tense day in Hearthstone, where a certain Herdazian general was expected while Lirin tried to behave as if everything was normal. Then everything exploded at once, as a new kind of Fused showed up shortly ahead of Navani’s new flying ship. Also Moash.

L: Moash…

A: Lots of air-fights, Dalinar Bondsmithing, Navani observing, and Hearthstone evacuating.

Meanwhile, Shallan was busy in the old warcamps, attempting to infiltrate the Sons of Honor organization now headed by Ialai Sadeas, and find out what they’re up to. She eventually succeeded and even got a little information from Ialai, including a very secret notebook. Then, just as Adolin arrived with his soldiers to take Ialai into custody, someone went and killed her. Shallan was left with two mysteries to solve: who killed Ialai, and what secrets had she puzzled out about the Ghostbloods?

From there, the entire ensemble assembled in Urithiru, with the obvious exception of Venli. We only got two chapters from her POV in Part One, but she was located at the Fused/singer headquarters in Kholinar, in a new role as Voice for the Fused Leshwi. Venli, a.k.a Last Listener…

L: (And also newly Bonded Knight Radiant along with her spren, Timbre)

A: …was secretly collecting people she thought might have the temperament and mentality to dodge out from under Fused domination and establish a new nation of listeners. She didn’t have much of a plan for her project, but with that secret spren bond, staying with the Fused and their war on the humans was not a good option. Through her eyes, we saw the leadership of the Fused in council, and the arrival of a terrifying newly-awakened Fused called Raboniel. She presented a plan to lure Jasnah and Dalinar out of Urithiru, then infiltrate the Tower and subvert its defenses to block the abilities of any remaining Radiants.

Back at Urithiru, Kaladin was relieved of duty as a soldier, and spent the rest of Part One trying to figure out what to do with himself. Three events stand out: Adolin refused to let him sink into deeper depression; Zahel gave him a lot of incomprehensible Cosmere-level info and told him he couldn’t be an ardent; and he prepared a place and means for the people of Hearthstone to integrate into Urithiru. This last included setting up a state-of-the-art infirmary for Lirin, with quarters for the family, and a room for himself as part of it. Ultimately, he stated his intention to return to his surgical training.

Navani continued with her roles as Queen of Urithiru, patron/leader for the engineers and artifabrians, and grandmother to Elhokar’s son Gavinor. With the slower pace of this section, we saw her taking time to grieve the loss of her son, and got some hints as to why he was Lightweaver material. During this time, she also occasionally interacted with a mysterious correspondent via spanreed—someone who deeply disapproved of her fabrial developments involving trapped spren.

Shallan spent most of this time trying to manage her three identities, decipher Ialai’s notes, and figure out what the Ghostbloods were up to. In this last, she was “helped” by another meeting with Mraize. Using his relationship with her brothers as an unspoken threat, and Cosmere knowledge as a promised reward, he instructed her to go to the honorspren stronghold called Lasting Integrity in Shadesmar and find a man called Restares… a leader, maybe the leader, of the Sons of Honor.

As the culmination of Part One, all oblivious to Raboniel’s proposal, the human coalition began making plans. Despite the current near-stalemate, the Fused were gaining new rebirths at a faster rate than the humans were gaining new Radiants, plus the singers were developing into better troops as time went on. If they were to have any hope of winning this conflict, they needed a successful offensive, and soon, to give humans not part of the coalition a reason to join it. In addition, they needed a way to convince more spren to form bonds and create more Radiants. To these ends, two courses of action were settled. First, Dalinar and Jasnah (without even needing a push from the Fused’s agent, a.k.a. King Taravangian) would lead an offensive into Emul in the hopes of crushing out the Fused/singer presence in that area, bringing nearly all of the Makabaki region into the coalition and stabilizing things for the Azish. Second, Adolin and Shallan would lead a small team of Knights Radiant on an envoy mission to the honorspren, seeking to persuade them to withdraw their opposition to increased bonding with humans.

The epigraphs to Part One were pieces of a lecture from Navani to the monarchs on how fabrials work, and how important it was to move forward with sharing information among the coalition. Historically, each nation had their own artifabrians, and while they were willing to share some information, everyone had secrets. In the interests of defending humanity from the Fused, Navani was trying to convince them to share those secrets, but apparently without much luck. As we’ll see in upcoming events, she’s right.

A: This is one of those moments when I consciously admire the storytelling devices used. Like most readers, I’m not a fan of the narrative device where people fail to share information solely because the story won’t work if Character One tells Character Two some key fact. In this case, Sanderson makes the (completely realistic) point that industry secrets are real. No nation quite trust another with stuff like this—and on Roshar, it makes perfect sense that no one trusts the Alethi with their own discoveries. That’s why, as we’ll see farther in, the Alethi don’t know the Thaylen secrets about transferring Stormlight between gemstones… and also why that particular technology is available, if only the right people can be persuaded to share what they know when it’s critically needed.

 

Reread Units for Rhythm of War

Moving forward, then, here’s the approach we’ll be taking. For those of you who have been following these rereads, not much has changed. For those who are new, this is what to expect. As has become tradition, we’ll open with summary info: POV character(s), date, location, short summary, relevant comments on the choice of Heralds for the chapter icon, and the epigraph. Then we’ll dive into discussion.

Overall Reactions

We added this partway through the Oathbringer reread, and have decided to continue it. We’ll address the main arc here when breaking it out into the various units is too disruptive to the discussion, and then use the other units to talk about the rest.

L: I also sometimes use this section to discuss things that are more relevant to the craft of writing; Sanderson’s use of plot/character arcs, story structure notes, or other similar observations that don’t quite fit anywhere else.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

Music is a central player in Rhythm of War, so we definitely wanted a unit for that. Before long, music becomes inextricably linked to Navani’s engineering and fabrial design work, so we decided to combine the two in one unit.

L: I’m actually really looking forward to digging more into this, as I’ve been learning a bit about music theory in the last year or so!

A: Along with music, light takes on new meaning in RoW, so we’re including that as well. I’d initially thought it was odd that the Surge of Illumination was described as “the Surge of light, sound, and various waveforms” but now it makes a lot more sense. This is going to be fun!

We’re still working out the title for this one, so if you have suggestions, let us know in the comments.

Spren & Shadesmar

Clearly, this will be the focus unit for all the odd side notes from Adolin & Shallan’s envoy expedition—the things that aren’t part of Overall Reactions, but that catch our attention. It will likely also be used to address spren in general, as well as the glimpses we get into Shadesmar via the Radiants who can peek in.

Relationships & Romances

A: As in the past, this will focus on families, friendships, romances, etc., both good and bad. But mostly good.

L: A general note here that “relationship” doesn’t necessarily imply romantic relationship. This section also encompasses the other types that Alice listed.

Bruised & Broken

You can’t have read Rhythm of War without noticing that mental issues are still a strong theme, along with various interactions that may or may not be abusive. We’ll deal with them here, as best we can.

L: Please note that we are trying our best to be sensitive to all different viewtypes and neurodivergencies, as well as to people who are disabled. If we screw up in this regard, please please let us know, if you have the spoons to do so, and we’ll adjust moving forward.

A: That said, please also realize that we’re only human and are neither medical nor mental-health experts. We’re bound to make mistakes, especially since these are areas in which the terminology is constantly evolving and preferences vary widely. We can only do our best.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

This will mostly focus on the developing powers—and of course any new Ideals—of our Radiants. It may occasionally become useful for other topics, though…

Cosmere Connections

World-hoppers are increasing! Things are rapidly shifting from the infrequent Easter egg to full-blown Cosmere information out in plain view, so this section may be much larger and more frequently used than in the past.

Secret Societies

Well, that’s pretty self-explanatory, right? The Skybreakers will no longer be considered part of this (and haven’t been since Words of Radiance), but the rest of them… Sons of Honor, Ghostbloods, and Seventeenth Shard are all still active. Maybe a new one or two? We’ll see.

TinFoil TheoryCrafting

So. Much. Theory. This will often feed out of Cosmere and Secret Society issues, but there will be crafting. Much.

L: Much crafting. Such tin foil. Wow.

Geography, History, & Cultures

This one may evolve, or devolve, as we go. We’ll likely use this to note proximity of the various storylines as well as what we learn about the human cultures; singer culture will go in its own section. But it will also, and maybe primarily, be used to address the new knowledge of ancient history that we pick up along the way. While it’s never enough for some of us, we do get more tidbits of history about the arrival of humans on Roshar, the Heralds, and the Oathpact.

Singers/Fused

Oh, hey, this one. This is where we’ll talk about the singers, the Fused, their cultures both past and developing, and basically any notes that aren’t part of the Overall Reactions.

Humans

At this point, this unit seems likely to be used mostly to collect comments about humans that show up in chapters dedicated to listener/singer POVs, but… we’ll see what else ends up here.

L: Sometimes we make comments about just… characters in general that we want to talk about that don’t fit anywhere else, too.

A: Absolutely. This will definitely be a good catch-all for character notes—which is definitely necessary for a cast this large!

Flora & Fauna of the Physical Realm

Again, this is self-explanatory, for the most part. IIRC, there’s not a boatload of new information in RoW, but we’ll note it here when it arises.

Arresting Artwork

Oh, the artworks! So much intriguing art, from Navani’s notebook pages (we’ll include the translations) to Shallan’s spren drawings to those gorgeous Herald portraits… We’ll include the artwork as it comes up.

Brilliant Buttresses

This is a new title for the old “Tight Butts and Coconuts” unit, based once again on a line from Lift. This time, it was to Dabbid, on learning that he can speak:

“Say buttress,” she told him. “It’s my favorite word.”

Non sequiturs, humor, general fun and games, that’s the theme for this segment.

 

Overall Note on Cosmere Spoilers Going Forward

L: This book is way more Cosmere-connected than any of the others have been so far. We’re sympathetic to those who haven’t yet had a chance to read the entirety of Sanderson’s work and are trying to avoid spoilers, but it’s getting harder and harder to discuss things without spoilers. As such, we will give a heads-up on spoilers at the beginning of any spoiler-laden section. So, if we’re discussing stuff about Mistborn in the Cosmere Connections section for a particular week, we’ll mention it at the beginning, so you can skip that section to be on the safe side.

A: And that’s how it will go. Make sense? Join us here next week for the first set of Interludes: Sylphrena, Sja-anat, and Taravangian (assuming we can cover all three in one week).

Add your impressions and speculation in the comments! Have fun, and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others. Feel free to disagree, but do it courteously.

Alice is a wife, a mom, an engineer, a Sanderson beta reader, and a few dozen other things that may or may not be relevant. She would like to pretend that her minor in English Literature is somehow relevant to this blog, but she earned that a long time ago, so… who knows. She originally hails from Montana’s Glacier country, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest just a bit north of Seattle, Washington. She strongly identifies with Cadsuane, as members of her facebook groups Storm Cellar and The Stormlight Archive can attest.

Lyndsey has been a Sanderson beta reader since Words of Radiance and is a fantasy author herself, as well as being a mom, cosplayer, and rennie. If you like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram. She also messes around on TikTok from time to time. She wants you all to know that by reading this reread, you are now officially one of her “chickens” and she hopes that you’re staying safe and well (both emotionally and physically) through these unprecedented times in which we’re living.

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