Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Twenty

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It’s Thursday, and you know what that means, my wee Cosmere chickens? That’s right, it’s another installment of the Rhythm of War reread! We’re excited to learn a bit more about the inner workings of the Lightweavers in this chapter, and also to follow The Three around as they try to figure out who the traitor in their midst could be. Intrigue! Danger! Sea shanties!

…No, wait, that’s not right, let me try again.

Intrigue! Danger! Treachery!

There we go. Join us, won’t you?

Reminder: We’ll 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 (this includes the novellas Edgedancer and Dawnshard, as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

In this week’s discussion we talk a little about Mistborn in the discussion about the epigraph just below here, and Elantris in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read it, best to give those sections a pass.


Heralds

Shalash (Ash), Creative/Honest. Herald of Beauty. Lightweavers.Role: Artist.

Talenelat (Talenel, Taln.) Herald of War. Dependable / Resourceful. Stonewards. Role: Soldier.

It’s pretty obvious why we’re getting both of these Heralds this week. Ash is often used for Shallan chapters as she’s the patron of the Lightweavers, and Taln is pretty clearly indicative of Radiant’s large presence in the chapter.

Icon: Pattern

Epigraph

Dear Wanderer, I did receive your latest communication. Please forgive formality on my part, as we have not met in person. I feel new to this role, despite my years holding it. You will admit to my relative youth, I think.

L: Why hello there, Harmony! (Major Mistborn spoilers to follow this comment. If you haven’t read the original trilogy, skip down to Chapter Recap. Ready? Here we go!) Harmony is, of course, really Sazed, who is currently holding the Shards of Ruin and Preservation on Scadrial. This series of epigraphs seems to be written to Hoid, and gives us a ton of really interesting information about the Cosmere as a whole and Odium’s plans. I find it very cool that Hoid is actively reaching out to Harmony, though it does make sense. He’s trying to warn all the Shards about the danger Odium presents, and I’m glad that he has one at least on his side!

A: I appreciate the obvious hints at the identity of the writer, here. “We have not met in person.” “New to this role.” Etc. So far as we know, all the Shards which haven’t been destroyed are, at this point, still held by their original Vessels, except Ruin and Preservation. That means the new Vessel of (R&P=)Harmony is the only Vessel who has not met Hoid in person. I wonder if maybe they have met and Sazed just doesn’t know it, but that’s irrelevant here.

Chapter Recap

WHO: The Three (Shallan/Radiant/Veil)
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1175.4.1.1

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

In this week’s chapter, Shallan/Veil/Radiant debate amongst themselves which of their fellow Lightweavers to bring with them on the expedition into Shadesmar, in an effort to figure out who the traitor is. When Shallan makes a decision, Veil pushes her away and overrides it.

Overall Reactions

She and Adolin had agreed that the team should be small. Shallan and Adolin, along with three Radiants: Godeke the Edgedancer, Zu the Stoneward, and the Truthwatcher woman who preferred to be called by her nickname, the Stump. They’d bring some of Adolin’s soldiers as grooms and guards… In addition they wanted three Lightweaver agents to Soulcast food, water, and other materials.

A: The pretext for this chapter is to determine the make-up of Shallan’s Lightweaver team, so it seems worth noting who else is in the party. As a reminder, we met Godeke earlier in the book, and I’m delighted to see his involvement in the envoy mission. We’ll meet Zu at the beginning of the trek; she’s new to us and will be the first Stoneward we meet. (Sweet!!) The Stump, whose real name turns out to be Arshqqam, is the woman who ran the orphanage in Edgedancer. We’ll talk about them more when we meet them.

I was glad to learn, right up front, the reason for taking multiple Lightweavers along on the venture, beyond “narrative convenience.” Since Jasnah still seems to be the only Elsecaller, the Lightweavers are the only Radiants capable of Soulcasting once they get into Shadesmar. (I don’t know that they’ve tried using a Soulcaster fabrial in Shadesmar yet, but I’m betting it wouldn’t work.) Based on their prior experience, it’s eminently reasonable that Shallan and Adolin would be determined to have some people along who could make sure they didn’t run out of water and food! Okay, I’m happy to have the extras, then.

And what would you rather have, Radiant? Veil asked. An enemy you can see, watch, and maybe fight—or one you leave off somewhere, doing who knows what?

That was more of a valid point.

L: Veil does have a good point, here, but so does Radiant.

A: Indeed. I’m a little worried about the idea of taking a traitor along on a mission this critical, but I’d be equally worried about leaving him/her behind. All in all, I think attempting to take the traitor along makes sense, since both Shallan and Adolin know as much as there is to know about the situation, plus they’ll have three more strong Radiants along should they need help, while the traitor will be isolated from Ghostblood aid.

Bruised, Broken, and Disabled

Radiant was careful not to think poorly of Veil. Though their methods differed, they both existed to protect and help Shallan.

A: One could wish that Veil would extend the same courtesy to Radiant—or to Shallan, for that matter! At this point in my first read—and for most of the way through the book—I was pretty annoyed with Veil.

Shallan was terrified that the ones she loved would turn on her when they found out the extent of her crimes. But she needed to confront her truths.

L: This is pretty relatable. Who among us hasn’t messed up, and been terrified to admit it to those we love? And I’d wager a bet that most of us don’t have such huge secrets in our past as poor Shallan does.

A: Nope, most of us don’t have anything that big. When you think about it, Shallan really does have plenty of reason to avoid thinking about, much less admitting to, the entirety of her past. Radiant’s reference to “that deep wound” and “this last knot of agony” isn’t really dwelt on very much here, but it’s the whole key to Shallan’s mental issues. Poor child.

Curiously, when wearing new faces, both women attacked more recklessly. Many Lightweavers, when offered a part to play, threw themselves into it wholeheartedly. It didn’t seem they had the same mental crisis as Shallan, fortunately. They just liked acting, and sometimes took it too far.

L: This is really interesting for me to look at through the lens of my job as an actress (though out of work now, obviously… ::sob::). I definitely do find that, when acting, I’m more confident. “Wearing a different face” is a powerful feeling—if people judge you, it’s not really you, so you feel more free to do things you normally wouldn’t. There’s a kind of high that you get, your mind shifts into a different gear, and you can find yourself saying and doing things you normally would never think of. For instance, I find that I’m a lot more witty when I’m acting than when I am not! Quips and comebacks come to me immediately, whereas when I’m just “me,” I have to sit and really think about it before I come up with something good. It’s really neat to see these Lightweavers displaying the same experience.

A: While my own acting experience is limited and well in the past, I can confirm this. I could speak and act in ways that as myself were completely foreign. And that’s just with some makeup and a costume; imagine what it would be like to make yourself into a completely different person!

“You must control the face rather than let it control you,” Radiant said. Inside she felt Shallan forming a wisecrack—the Three had their own trouble with that idea.

L: Honestly, good for Shallan for being able to spot the hypocrisy, here.

A: Heh. True. But Radiant does have a valid point, and from this angle Shallan has learned the need for control:

“When you’re fighting, and you intend to distract someone, don’t let that distract you as well.”

A: I have a vague idea she had some trouble with that back in Oathbringer, but I can’t pin it down at the moment. Anyone else remember this?

“But Radiant, why do we even have to learn to fight? We’re spies. If we have to pick up our swords, haven’t we already lost?”

“There may be times when you will need to pretend to be a soldier. In that case, using the sword could be part of your disguise. But yes, fighting is our last resort. I would have it be a viable last resort—if you need to break disguise and abandon your cover, I want you to survive and return to us.”

A: I just have to make a couple of comments on this. One, the Lightweavers all know which persona they’re addressing, presumably by hair color, which I think is really kinda cool. (I’m curious about how widespread this knowledge is, though.) Two, Radiant makes a good point (even if she did learn it from Adolin), that there are many reasons for learning different skills for a team whose primary duty may be infiltration. Actually, “even if she did learn it from Adolin” is its own good point, because Radiant is really, really good at learning valuable lessons, recognizing their worth, and passing them on to other people who also need them. I hope that Shallan will always retain that aspect of this persona.

Beryl claimed to have forgotten her real name, she’d lived so many different lives. Veil had found her after hearing rumors of a prostitute working in the warcamps whose face changed to match that of people her clients most loved.

L: So, some of them do have issues differentiating, like Shallan does. I do wonder if it’s a trauma response for all of them. We do know that some Knights Radiant weren’t as traumatized as others (::cough Lopen cough::), so it’s possible that some of the Lightweavers just really enjoy acting and aren’t using it as a coping mechanism.

A: It may well be a mix, even for a given individual. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to discover that this “trick” you’ve been using doesn’t have to be hidden anymore, and sometimes you can use it just for fun to be a completely different person? That said, I would bet real money that virtually all of those who developed their bond and powers independently did it as a way to deal with personal trauma. The ones who came to the Lightweavers first and bonded later, probably not so much.

Strong. With Veil and Radiant supporting her, she found she could face this.

L: Awww. I love to see them working together and supporting Shallan! Except…

She made her decision—she’d leave these four behind, and pick others who hadn’t been on the mission to the Shattered Plains. She started toward Ishnah to break the news to her, but felt something like nausea.

“Fine,” Veil said. “I’ve made my decision; you’ll be joining me in Shadesmar.

L: Ugh. This is so upsetting. Shallan had made her decision, at Veil’s urging, even! Then Veil just takes over and reverses it because it’s not the one she’d hoped Shallan would make.

A: I’m confused. Did Veil somehow cause/trigger the nausea? Obviously she took immediate advantage of it to take control of their body, but why did it happen in the first place? (I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t matter.)

L: I definitely got the impression that Veil caused it.

I hate how Veil doesn’t respect Shallan’s autonomy. At least Shallan recognizes it, though…

The compact, Shallan thought. Veil … we agreed …

But this was important. Veil had to find out which one of them was the spy. She couldn’t let them stay behind and fester.

Veil held full control all through the rest of the day. She almost let go—Shallan was pounding at her from the inside,

L: ::wince::

A: This was just awful. The whole chapter, they’d been so carefully following their compact, and then… that. It’s almost worse because Radiant agrees to Veil’s insistence, making their majority-vote the final decision, and Veil still holds on and keeps Shallan imprisoned. I was very much upset by Veil’s behavior here, and trusted her even less from here on.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

A: Just for the record…

Half of Radiant’s band of twenty included the deserters Shallan had first recruited.

A: This includes, named in this chapter, Red, Gaz, and Vathah; I’m not sure the others were ever named. (Correction, we know about Glurv, but he’s not in this book.) Along with those three, we have Ishnah, Beryl, Darcira, and Stargyle listed as Lightweavers. That leaves 12 unnamed so far. For what that’s worth.

So her team had begun using their own terminology. Shallan was the Master Lightweaver. The others were Agent Lightweavers. If someone new joined, they were called a squire during the short time before they acquired a spren.

L: Okay, I’m sorry, I have to.

By Windrunner terms, she should be off gathering her own squires and making her own team—they seemed to assume everyone would want to follow their command structure. The Unseen Court, however, didn’t care for Windrunner methods.

L: I’m really glad to see this differentiation, for clarity’s sake! As convenient it would be for all of the orders to follow the same rules, it really wouldn’t make much sense, since all of them are so different.

A: I agree! With such differences between the spren, the Ideals, and the powers, it would be really silly for them to have the same structure. It’s probably not exactly the structure the Lightweavers used 2000 years ago, but it suits this group.

I did think the difference in how squires function was pretty interesting. We know the Windrunners have “strength of squires” as their Resonance, meaning that one Windrunner might have ten or twenty squires (or more? dunno if there’s a limit) who haven’t yet bonded a spren. It looks like at least part of the reason for that might be the attitude of the spren; Cryptics just don’t wait as long to begin forming a bond with the willing (and acceptable) recruit.

Cosmere Connections

‘Spanreeds do not work between realms, but this will. Be very careful with it. It has a value beyond that of some kingdoms. Do not open it, or you risk destroying it.’ … She immediately glimpsed into Shadesmar, and found a sphere of light on the other side, glowing with a strange mother-of-pearl coloring. There was power inside the cube, but no Stormlight.

L: Lots of theories on this one abounded when we were doing the beta read! I recall thinking at the time that it could have been a seon, from Elantris. And that turned out to be a good guess, as it turned out!

A: I saw the seon theory floated in the beta, but otherwise it would never have occurred to me until the end of the book. Yet more Cosmere overlap; this book took huge leaps forward toward integrating the different worlds in an overarching story.

Secret Societies

Mraize wants something out of this Restares person, Veil thought. I can feel it. We need to find out what that secret is, then use it. We can’t do that from here.

A: Mraize most definitely wants something! He wants information that yet another person (his babsk’s babsk) can use. I’m not quite sure why he thinks Restares knows anything useful; if he’d figured it out, he wouldn’t be hanging around Lasting Integrity anymore. Both the Ghostbloods and the Heralds (or at least this one) are trying to find a way for a Cognitive Shadow to leave the system to which it’s bound. All I can say is, they must not know about Zahel and Azure. They’d be far better sources of the information.

Geography, History, and Cultures

Radiant marched through a chamber deep beneath Urithiru, listening to the crashing sound of the waterworks and worrying about the mission Shallan had agreed to undertake. … Radiant clasped her hands behind her back and continued her walk along the edge of the vast reservoir as her Lightweavers trained nearby.

A: As per my usual fascination with Urithiru, as well as with foreshadowing, I had to quote these bits. Not sure if this qualifies as “foreshadowing” or “preparatory world-building” but in either case, we’ll see this chamber again, much later in the book. (Chapter 79, if you’re curious.) At least I assume it’s the same one.

L: Here comes the part where I quote parts about clothes, for myself and all the other cosplayers out there:

She had chosen to wear her vakama, the traditional Veden warrior’s clothing. It was similar to the Alethi takama, but the skirt was pleated instead of straight. The bright clothing featured vibrant blues embroidered over reds with gold woven between, and it had trim on the skirt. She’d noticed the Alethi doing double takes—both for the variegated colors, and because she wore what was traditionally a man’s outfit. But a warrior was who she was, and Jah Keved was her heritage. She would convey both.

L: I love the fact that Radiant is honoring her cultural heritage and spitting in the face of societal gender norms at the same time.

A: I wanna see the cosplay!

L: Well, I’ve got nothing but free time these days…

A: Doooooo iiiiiiiit! On the subject of costuming… I think this sounds so pretty:

Her Cryptic tended to ride about on the ornament on the end of the central hairspike she used to keep her braids in place. Much smaller than Pattern, this one constantly made new designs on the surface of the pale white sphere.

Humans

Beryl and Darcira—two of her newer Lightweavers—

A: Just for the fun of it, I’d like to point out a double tuckerization here. Brandon has both an alpha reader and a beta reader named Darci, and this honors both of them. There’s another in this chapter:

Stargyle, the male recruit she’d picked up before Beryl. A tall fellow who was talented at seeing into Shadesmar.

A: This is Steve Argyle, an artist Brandon has worked with several times. Most recently, he did the artwork for (I think?) all the Knights Radiant orders art prints in last summer’s Kickstarter, as well as the sculpting for the Herald coins.

Arresting Artwork

L: I’m glad that we’re getting to see maps of Shadesmar, as the world map doesn’t have much detail to it.

A: There’s a lot of fun stuff on this map. If you’re into maps and locations, it’s worth overlaying this map with the Roshar map to see where things line up. I have no idea what the “something weird” north of Azimir is, but I hope to find out. The “strange storm brewing on the horizon” indicates that at least some of the notes on the map are old—at least, if that’s the brewing Everstorm referenced in the flashbacks. But some are also clearly new, as the “Path of Adolin and Shallan’s Voyage” is marked. (If you like reference points, note the crossroads, where the Tukari didn’t turn off.)

There’s an historical reference that has me baffled: that banner up by Urithiru that says “Nohadon’s Stairways.” Does that imply that Nohadon’s “walk from Abamabar to Urithiru” was in the Cognitive realm? Or… I don’t know, but I want to. The Coppermind implies that the “stairways” are the Oathgate pillars seen in Shadesmar, which I suppose would make sense, given that they all seem to have ramps winding around them top to bottom, but why Nohadon’s? Maybe Nohadon was able to move between realms? Or maybe he was instrumental in the construction of the Oathgates in both realms? Oh, the things I want to know…

Brilliant Buttresses

“Our names are already all different. I am Pattern. She is Pattern. Gaz has Pattern.”

“Those… are the same words, Pattern.”

L: Oh, Cryptics. They’re all so adorable.

A: His offer to write the numbers for her cracked me up. So serious about it!

 

Well, that’s our offering for this week. See you in the comments! Have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others!

Alice is getting soggier by the day, up in the PNW, and is distracting herself by launching into a reread of Skyward and Starsight. Beta read of book three upcoming in less than four weeks!

Lyndsey has been really enjoying the sea shanty craze, seeing as how she’s been hearing them at the Renn Faires she works for years! If you’re digging some tunes, check out this Spotify playlist. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram. She also messes around on TikTok from time to time.

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