Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Twenty-Two

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Greetings and salutations, my lovely Cosmere Chickens, and welcome to this week’s installment of the Stormlight Archive reread! This week we’re beginning our journey into Shadesmar along with Adolin, Shallan, and their crew. So prepare yourself for amazing sights, odd spren, Pattern’s perambulatory feet, and lots and lots of glass beads as we dive right in!

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.

Heralds: Vedeledev (Vedel), Loving/Healing. Edgedancers. Role: Healer.

Ishi (Ishar). Pious/Guiding. Bondsmiths. Herald of Luck.

L: We often see Vedel in chapters about Adolin, especially when he’s interacting with Maya, who was a cultivationspren. As for ishar… He could be here to represent the discussion Adolin has with Godeke about religion, or he could also be symbolic of Adolin’s role in guiding this group into the unknown.

A: Ishar may also represent the willingness of (some of) the Oathgate spren to obey the Stormfather and Dalinar in the absence of the Sibling. Without that agreement, this whole expedition couldn’t happen.

Icon: The Shardbearer, indicating an Adolin POV chapter.

Epigraph:

I have reached out to the others as you requested, and have received a variety of responses.

A: There’s not a lot to say about this statement, but buckle up. In the upcoming epigraphs, we’ll get a stupendous amount of Shard-related information.

L: I do find it interesting, as usual, that the Shardholders communicate with one another. By letter? Or do they have a more supernatural means of doing so?

A: That’s a good question. I searched the Arcanum a bit, and couldn’t find any reference to how the Shards communicate with one another. Now I want to know!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Adolin and Shallan
WHERE: Shadesmar (Urithiru). (L: I’m using the map from earlier as a reference as to where the specific cities and towns are located in Shadesmar, you can find it down in the Geography section. Celebrant is still a bit of a guess, however.)
WHEN: 1175.4.1.4 (same day as the last chapter)

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

Adolin and company head into Shadesmar. They make their way down the ramp from Urithiru’s Oathgate platform and meet up with the barge that’s going to be taking them south. While settling in, Shallan makes a disturbing discovery: The spy has used Mraize’s box, without her knowledge.

Overall Reactions

The souls of all the objects that made up the physical world. Churning and mixing together, forming waves and surging tides, each composed of small beads no wider than his index finger.

L: I’m sure that there’s something deep and significant we could say about the interconnectivity of souls and emotions, and how each affects the others…

A: …but I have no idea what. I was just happy to see the size of the beads codified. I’d sometimes thought of them as seed-bead size—say, 8mm or so—while others were thinking fist-size. (I think the visceral reaction to people getting beads in their mouths and feeling like they were suffocating contributed to that tiny-bead perception.)  Now we know, they’re about the size of a marble. Or, you know, the width of a tall man’s index finger.

L: For some reason I’d always thought of them as that size (like marbles).

The Book of Endless Pages cannot be filled… though your father made a very nice addition to the text.

L: Each one of the titles of the Stormlight Archive books are based on books in the world. Back when Brandon was first starting work on RoW, The Book of Endless Pages was the working title (which a lot of people found really funny, considering how long his books usually wind up being). Since he decided on RoW, though, that means this one is still up for grabs! I hope we see it used eventually, as it’s a really cool title.

A: Given his reason for changing the Book 2 title, I doubt he’ll ever use it, but I’m sure glad someone had fun with it.

“Strange things in Shinovar.”

L: Ooooh, you don’t say?! I wonder what strange things those could be!

A: Unmade? Heralds? Sleepless? Could be almost anything, these days.

Spren and Shadesmar

“It is done as the Stormfather requires,” the marble one replied, voice booming. “Our parent, the Sibling, has died. We will obey him instead.”

L: I’m pointing this out specifically for the “parent” part. Very interesting that the Sibling appears to be the one who made the Oathgates—though that would explain why the central platform is at Urithiru.

A: That’s fascinating. It makes a lot of sense, given that the Sibling basically turned themself into a giant near-inaccessible fabrial city for the benefit of the Knights Radiant, that they also created a way to connect all the major kingdoms to one another and to the Tower. It also means that the Sibling was able to create intelligent spren, and I’m not sure what to think about the implications of that.

L: To create, or to elevate? Think about how Syl shifted from “mindless windspren” as her Bond with Kaladin grew. I wonder if the Sibling just took “normal” (or even Radiant) spren and granted them more power through means of a Bond to the physical Oathgate, or itself, or something. (Though… if they were Bonded to the Sibling, you would think they would know that it’s not dead.) Lending credence to this theory is the fact that the Oathgate spren do seem to resemble some spren we have seen… Rock, inky blackness (if memory serves)…

A: I recall that my initial reaction was that the black one might be an inkspren—its physical description was pretty similar to the description of Jasnah’s Ivory. It would make sense, right, to have the Oathgate spren be a variation of the spren who grant Transportation. But that would mean the second should look like a Willshaper spren, and… it doesn’t really. But it still makes sense that the Sibling might have, as you say, elevated willing spren from the existing families. Who knows, maybe there are other spren who affect Transportation, and they just aren’t part of the Nahel bonding ones.

Inevitably, this also makes me wonder about the timeline. When was the Sibling “born,” anyway? Am I even correct in thinking that the Tower was formed for the Knights Radiant, or did it originally have a different purpose? There’s so much we don’t yet know…)

But the tower itself was far more majestic than any other sight. Adolin turned around, gazing up at the shimmering mountain of light and colors. The mother-of-pearl radiance didn’t exactly mimic the shape of the tower, but had a more crystalline feel to it. Except it wasn’t physical, but light. Radiant, resplendent, and brilliant.

L: That’s so cool. I hope we get artwork of it eventually!

A: I’m… hesitant. What if the artwork doesn’t live up to my imagination? This is such a gorgeous word picture.

L: It would have to be in color, for sure. A black and white piece of art wouldn’t come close to conveying the beauty.

Adolin ignored the odd spren, instead introducing Maya to his team. He’d told them to expect her, so they each bowed respectfully and didn’t stare at her strange eyes too much. Ledder even complimented her appearance as a Blade, saying he’d always admired her beauty.

L: Awwww, I like this Ledder guy already.

A: Right? It was thoughtful of Adolin to tell them what to expect, and to take the time to introduce her to his men. But Ledder went a step beyond—to not only bow respectfully, but to have thought about something meaningful to say to her. Good man, there.

L: Well, Adolin is an excellent judge of character.

Humans in the Physical Realm were represented here as lights like floating candle flames. A group of them gathered near the horse and were interacting with some shimmering, glowing blue colors.

A: That would be Adolin’s Shardplate, which didn’t make the shift and so is being collected by his armorers, to be sent along to the Emuli battlefront. I wonder why it’s shimmering blue. Does that imply that this set of Plate once belonged to a Windrunner?

…the path wasn’t nearly as long as it would be in the Physical Realm. Space wasn’t a one-to-one correlation in Shadesmar. Things seemed more compressed here, specifically in the vertical dimension.

A: We had a hint at this in Sja-anat’s Interlude, too, where she mentioned the way she was in both realms at once, and they were spatially… different. “Space was not entirely equal between the realms” is the way she said it—as she flowed up steps in one, while barely moving in the other.

They’d find ground where rivers ran after highstorms or at the edges of the continent, where the oceans began in the real world.

L: I wonder what happens with transient bodies of water? Like rivers that only exist when there’s storm runoff?

A: I think that’s what much of the Shadesmar ground is, actually. IIRC, many of the rivers in the physical realm are totally dependent on rainfall rather than groundwater. Like much of Shadesmar, it’s a matter of perception.

L: So because there’s a riverbed, the ground “sees” itself as a river just waiting to be filled, and hence manifests as solid ground in Shadesmar? That would make sense.

“I think those are gloryspren,” Adolin said. “Emotion spren are like this world’s animals. They get pulled through to our side when they sense some kind of strong emotion, and we see them in distorted ways.”

L: So they’re attracted to emotions, not the manifestations of such…

A: Yes… maybe… I think so… Seriously, though, I do think that for the most part, the spren exist in Shadesmar all the time, and are drawn to the things they represent. Even so, I can’t help suspecting some kind of symbiosis—that they are drawn to their “thing” and their presence amplifies it. Or maybe that’s just the spren of physical phenomena, and not emotionspren. ::sighs::

And don’t let [the Honorspren] try to blame you for what Radiants did before.”

L: At least Adolin has the advantage there, not being a Radiant himself!

A: Yeah, but he has a deadeye, so they’ll still blame him. I think they’d blame him just for being human, truth be told.

“Kasiden peakspren, from the east? They are fools! Forget them.”

“You have… different nationalities?”

“Obviously!

L: This is good to know! I think a lot of us, like Adolin, had fallen into the trap of thinking of the spren as one homogenous culture.

A: Or at least each “family” of spren, in this case the peakspren.

L: Yeah, that’s what I meant, sorry—that wasn’t terribly clear.

A: It had never occurred to me until this moment that the same kind of spren from different parts of the planet would see themselves as different groups. I wonder if that’s why some of the honorspren were willing to bond even though the majority won’t—because they lived somewhere else and considered themselves independent of the “ruling body” in Lasting Integrity.

As soon as the mandras were hooked to the vessel, it rose a little higher in the beads.

L: Hmm, interesting. Are the mandras up above the ferry, pulling it up? Or are they out front, and there’s something about them that warps gravity?

A: There is definitely something about them that warps gravity; these are the spren that allow skyeels and larkin to fly, and keep greatshells from collapsing under their own weight. I don’t think they had begun to pull, at this point; merely being connected to the mandras makes the ship more… floaty. (Sure, it’s a word. I just used it!)

Relationships and Romances

I’ll do my part, Father, Adolin thought. I’ll give them your letters, but I’ll do more. I’ll find a way to persuade them to help us. And I’ll do it my way.

The trick, of course, was to discover what his way was in the first place.

A: So, ouch, foreshadowing, since the honorspren reject the entire premise of their careful plan and he completely wings it in a way that truly is unique to him. But the big reason I wanted to include this was the relationship aspect. We talked last week about his (understandable) anger toward Dalinar, but he still loves the man and wants to make him proud. It’s on display again here, and will be repeatedly throughout this journey.

Relationships are complicated, you know? I’m not sure either of them are aware how highly Dalinar values his son; it’s there between the lines, but he so often assumes Adolin’s excellence without overt acknowledgement. As a result, a frequent theme to Adolin’s thoughts is his inability to please his father, never realizing that the reason Dalinar was so disappointed by the Sadeas affair was that it was such a Blackthorn thing to do.

L: I don’t know… I think Adolin understands that, now. Understanding what the problem is doesn’t always necessarily mean that it can be easily resolved, though.

A: Perhaps he does. Of course, now it’s made even more complicated by learning about how his mother died, so resolution is definitely not straightforward! But I believe that, without either of them registering it, Dalinar has always thought Adolin was essentially perfect, marred only by a few silly foibles like a penchant for dueling and a fascination with fashion. His disappointment now is that Adolin actually did something he thinks was wrong, not just silly, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that.

Well, that was a little more philosophy than I’d intended… or is justified by this chapter, for that matter! But there it is.

Bruised, Broken, and Disabled

“Stump,” Arshqqam said through her spren, seeming wistful. “That is what the children called me. A nickname. The only other person who ever gave me a term of endearment was my father. The children see me as a person, when so many others have trouble. So the Stump I am. A glorious title, to come from children.”

L: This is really beautiful. Leave it to children to leave all prejudices by the wayside and simply accept someone for who they are and not who they appear to be.

A: Call me a sap, but I almost cried over this. There has been concern among the readership that Lift was spreading an insulting name, and some felt it was rude for everyone else to use it. I’m so happy for this little paragraph; not only does it validate the name, it gives amazing insight into a character we scarcely know.

Someone had moved the cube. Somehow, between packing and arriving on the barge, someone had rifled through her things and used the cube. She could come to only one conclusion.

The spy was indeed on this mission—and they were using this very device to report to Mraize.

A: I’m still trying to figure out how it was used after packing and before they got to the boat. The only thing I can figure is that it was after she packed her trunks but while they were still in her rooms, because once you have stuff strapped on a packhorse, ain’t nobody getting in there without it being obvious.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

Even Jasnah, whose powers supposedly allowed it, had trouble bringing herself back from Shadesmar.

L: I wonder why… Is there an amount of energy that is required to travel between the realms, and going in one direction takes more than the other?

A: I would love to be able to answer this question. However, I seriously have no idea why it works this way. I mean… we know it takes a lot of Stormlight to go from the Cognitive to the Physical without a perpendicularity, which is why Jasnah has charged gemstones sewn into all her clothing all the time. But why it’s easier to go one way than the other? I have no idea.

He’d felt her emotions through the sword; in fact, he felt like he’d always been able to sense her encouraging him.

L: Just counting down until the inevitable moment of Adolin reawakening Maya, and I’m so here for it.

A: ::hearteyes::

All my life I lived with a deformity—and then in an instant I was transformed and healed. I became what I’d always seen myself as being. Your father has undergone a more vibrant transformation.

L: We’ve known for a long time that Investiture has a lot to do with how the user sees things as being (such as Kaladin’s scars not healing until he stops seeing himself as a slave/dangerous), so this is a really interesting note about Dalinar wanting so badly to change that he forces it to happen. Sort of like… a really over-the-top version of “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

A: This fascinates me. We’re not told what the “deformity” was, just that it was lifelong—but for Godeke, it was clearly something he lived with rather than something he saw as part of himself. The distinction is significant, and hints that the spren bond will have different effects on different people. Godeke’s was apparently a physical issue; Dalinar’s was a heart issue. And it was healed. I feel like there’s a deep theological discussion to be had here, but I’m not quite up for that just now! (Would have been a great conversation to have with the original Godeke, though.)

L: I’ll say that I do appreciate what it looks like Brandon is trying to do here in regards to disability. It’s a trope that disabled folx are “fixed” by magic in many fantasy books, and a good portion of the disabled community hates that trope because it’s removing representation. There’s also a lot of people who love the trope, because it’s wish fulfillment for them. It seems as though Brandon is managing to bridge this gap by giving his characters a form of agency. If they view their disability as an integral part of who they are, there’s no reason for them to be “healed” of it. I really respect this.

A: I look forward to the discussion in the comments on this subject!

Geography, History, and Cultures

Most agreed that the safest path for Adolin’s group was to sail almost directly south until they hit land. From there, they could caravan southwest—along the Tukari coastline in the real world—until they reached Lasting Integrity.

A: Let’s take note here, okay? They’re sailing south from Urithiru, and will end up following the Tukari coastline. At some point during the show, they’re going to be in very nearly the same place as Dalinar, except for the realm difference.

L: This will be pretty obvious on the animated Physical/Cognitive maps I do for the chapters! Also, note that you can see a canon representation of their path on this map from earlier in the book:

Humans

Adolin raised a hand toward them as he stepped across the platform. “Thank you, Ancient Ones!” he called.

L: Yet more examples of Adolin treating everyone the same, be they human, spren, or otherwise.

A: This was brilliant. It’s just so Adolin.

Isasik the mapmaker thought the place was incredible for reasons Adolin hadn’t been able to grasp, despite having it explained to him three times.

L: Another tuckerization to point out! This is Isaac, who is the artist behind most of the maps and symbols in Brandon’s books. (And also one of the sweetest people on the planet.)

A: Hi, Isaac!

“Zu, what did you used to do?”

“Make trouble, mostly,” the Iriali woman said.

A: Hey, it’s our first Stoneward, and she’s a hoot! Also worth noting, our first Iriali, with her metallic-bronze skin and metallic-golden (not blonde) hair.

Adolin fell into line beside Godeke. The Edgedancer kept staring at the sky, grinning like a child with a new sword. “The works of the Almighty are wondrous,” he said. “To think, this beauty was always here with us.”

L: ::tears up:: Steve, whose tuckerization this is, would have loved this.

A: Indeed he would. The whole conversation about the Almighty, Honor, the Heralds—Steve would have truly appreciated it.

Flora and Fauna of the Physical Realm

When Gallant moved, he trailed a faint shadow of light. It was almost imperceptible.

L: This sounds a little like what happens with Szeth, after his death and rebirth…

A: It does, but I don’t think it’s the same thing. With Szeth, his soul had come unstuck and Nale pinned it back on, but not quite properly. With Gallant, I think… well, we’ll talk about it more later, but I think this is his bonded musicspren’s physical form overlaid on Gallant’s. They’re almost the same size and shape, here in Shadesmar.

The horse blew out in annoyance, then looked at Adolin’s brush.

“Yes,” Adolin replied. “I brought all three. You think I’d bring seven different swords but forget your brushes?”

A: I couldn’t decide where to put this, so it’s here with the other bit about Gallant. It’s just one more example of Adolin being courteous to everyone—even his horse. Okay, Ryshadium, so more than a horse, but still. He definitely remembered to bring all three brushes. And the next bit, where Maya voluntarily helps curry Gallant? Beautiful.

Arresting Artwork

L: Shallan’s notes on the artwork:

  1. The porcelain masks sometimes catch the light and sparkle almost translucently. When a mistspren speaks, its mask’s lips do not move, nor does the spren’s expression change.
  2. Many of the mistspren I encountered worked aboard the mandra ships, and their clothing and gear reflected that occupation.
  3. Mistspren can determine how they appear in Shadesmar.
  4. They usually choose a shape like a person, but they don’t have to.
  5. They appear in the physical realm like the light reflected onto a surface from a sunbeam passing through a crystal, regardless of whether a surface or light exists when they appear.

A: I’m so excited to get Shallan’s drawings of all the spren in this series! With notes, of course. It’s a nice callback to her “natural history” drawings from the first two books, except now it’s in Shadesmar.

The last spren was the oddest to Adolin. She seemed to be made entirely from mist, all save for the face, which hovered on the front of the head in the shape of a porcelain mask. That mask had a kind of twinkling reflection to it, always catching the light—in fact, he could have sworn that from some perspectives it was made of translucent crystal.

L: Ah, an uncorrupted Truthwatcher spren! These are soooooo cool looking. I mean… all the spren are cool, but this one is particularly neat. I especially like the masks.

A: We saw a few of these in Oathbringer, but we didn’t have a name or much of a description. Not like this kind of detail, anyway. It’s very cool to find that my guess was right, and they’re the Truthwatcher spren.

“We mistspren can choose our forms, you know. We usually choose a shape like a person, but we don’t need to. You seem so fascinated. Do you think me pretty, or do you think me a monster?”

L: You’d think that this would hold true for most of the spren, being able to choose how they’re viewed… like the cultivationspren, why don’t the vines take different forms? Perhaps there’s something about expectations/energy holding them in certain forms?

A: I suspect it has something to do with how their original bond-holders imagined them to be, but that’s just me suspecting things. It makes sense that a spren literally made of mist can look like whatever they want. At the same time, it is odd that the honorspren can do whatever they want with their “clothing,” but they don’t seem to be able to change their form in Shadesmar. Huh.

Oh, one quick note—Godeke’s cultivationspren is named Archinal, for those keeping track.

Brilliant Buttresses

Adolin trailed off as someone else put their arm around him, then around Shallan. Adolin twisted his head to find Pattern standing behind them, giving both of them a hug.

L: AWWWWW Pattern wants a hug too!

A: I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or shudder the first time I read this. I mean… it’s Pattern, after all, so laughter won out, but before I saw who it was it honestly kinda creeped me out. But Pattern. With his “befittingly perambulatory” feet!!! Yeah, laughter definitely won.

 

We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others!

Alice is remembering why her username is Wetlander, as the rain in the PNW continues. It was a rainy February twelve years ago when she first became part of the Tor community, with comments on Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time reread.

Lyndsey has been a Sanderson beta reader since Words of Radiance and is also a fantasy author herself. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram. She’s been doing weekly tie-in videos to the reread on TikTok as well.

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