Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Twenty-Three

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It’s Thursday, my chickens, and you know what that means! Time to dive back into the Rhythm of War reread for a Kaladin chapter. Thankfully this one is a bit of a reprieve from Kal’s depression—he’s actually doing okay here, though a bit melancholy over his friends all leaving. Better than he is for the majority of the book, though. Personally, I find his chapters in this book to be a very hard read. Not because I don’t like them… but because it all hits just a little too close to home. So chapters like this where he’s not bad per se, are a nice little break. Would I rather see him happy? Of course. But hey… he’s got Teft with him for now, right? That’s a good thing. (Aaaand now I’ve gone and made myself sad again because we all know what’s coming in that regard.)

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 also discuss some things from Mistborn in the Front Matter section just below, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.

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

Battar (Betab), Wise/Careful. Elsecallers. Role: Counsellor.

A: Vedel is pretty obvious here, for Kaladin’s new purpose as a surgeon (or surgeon-in-training, at least) and healer. I expect we’ll see her on quite a few of his chapters, at least for a while. Battar is a little harder, but I think she represents the role of Kaladin’s counsellors in this time of his life: Sylphrena and Teft, primarily, but also Hesina, Lirin, and Oroden as the people who are on his side and give life a new meaning.

L: I absolutely would have pegged Battar as being representative of Teft in this chapter.

Icon: Banner and Spears, indicating a Kaladin POV chapter.

Epigraph:

Much as you indicate, there is a division among the other Shards I would not have anticipated.

A: You almost have to feel sorry for poor Sazed here. He did a good thing for his planet by picking up Ruin and Preservation, combining them into Harmony, but I doubt he expected to get dragged into interplanetary politics.

L: Poor thing. First he has to deal with Kelsier (not the easiest prospect), then Elend, now… all this.

A: Poor guy. Of course, the Cosmere-aware reader knows that some of the Shards are at odds with one another, to say nothing of good ol’ Odium going around destroying other Shards when possible—but as far as I know, Saze knew nothing about even the existence of the other Shards when he took on the job.

L: That must have been a fun realization.

A: LOL. Right? It will be interesting to see how it plays out eventually (30 years from now?): Will there be two factions? More? Two primary factions and a few Shards trying to remain separate from the conflict?

L: Bigger question… Where are we in the Scadrial timeline right now? Has Brandon ever explicitly said?

A: The latest entry I can find is dated December 2020, so that’s as current as it gets. He said then that Mistborn Era 2 (Wax & Wayne) falls chronologically in the 10-year gap between Stormlight books 5 and 6, and then Mistborn Era 3, set 50-70 years after Era 2, will happen after all the events of The Stormlight Archive are completed. As always, this might get changed during the writing, if it’s necessary for the Cosmere timeline, but that’s the current plan.

(Note that this is Cosmere-chronological order, not publication order; the last book of MB Era 2 should publish before SA5 comes out, and then he’s planning to write all of MB Era 3 before starting the back half of SA.)

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: Approximately 1174.4.2.4, assuming Dalinar is sending some of the troops—and the Windrunners—ahead of his own departure.

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

Kaladin is hard at work at the clinic as the rest of the Windrunners are deployed with Dalinar’s troops. He overhears a familiar voice, and discovers that Teft has stayed back with him.

Overall Reactions

A: “You are not alone.” It seems to be the overriding theme for this chapter. Family, spren, and friends are still there for Kaladin, and it matters. He might feel like he’s being abandoned, but he’s not.

“They’re all going away,” Syl said softly, landing on his shoulder.

“Not all of them,” Kaladin said. “Around twenty will stay to guard the tower.”

“But none of our friends.”

A: It seems that Syl has continued her efforts to remember her own pain as a means to understanding Kaladin. At least, she understands what he’s feeling about not going along on any of the missions leaving Urithiru right about now.

Maybe Rlain would stay behind, and work on the fields? Though he often chose to go with the Windrunner support staff, to help out there, with Dabbid and a few squire hopefuls.

A: As we’ll see later, these two do stay in Urithiru—and a good thing, too.

L: So very glad they did… although… maybe if Teft had gone… ::cries::

A: From the inside, I agree, and I could wish he’d gone; from the outside, it was narratively necessary for Teft to stay.

The thoughts didn’t work; it still hurt to see them all leave. Hurt to know Shallan and Adolin had gone off to Shadesmar without him. He had his parents and his new brother, and he appreciated that. But the men and women of Bridge Four had become equally important to him.

A: Talk about mixed feelings! It’s good to see him acknowledge the support of his family—both because it’s good for the reader, and because it’s good for Kaladin to recognize that he loves them, and they him.

At the same time… Adolin and Shallan left about a week ago (or maybe two?), and I suppose in a way that would feel weird to him, since the three of them had gone through so much together in the previous Shadesmar adventure. This trip is much better planned, and there are good reasons for him not to go, but I can see how he’d still feel just a touch left-out.

L: FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a legit thing, and something that I think we’ve all experienced to one degree or another.

A: Oh, for sure—and it’s complicated by Kaladin’s internal imperative to be there for everyone who might need his protection.

On top of that, he has to watch the majority of the Windrunners (and especially Bridge Four) leave to accompany Dalinar and Jasnah, and he can’t be with them. They’ll be very much needed there, given that the Skybreakers seem to be focused on that battlefront, and it must be painful to realize that he really shouldn’t be there. Can you imagine the effect if he froze against the Skybreakers when people were depending on him? They would most definitely take full advantage of even a momentary hesitation.

So there he is, with everyone leaving, knowing that he’s got a good task to perform in Urithiru, but also feeling… inadequate, maybe? There are reasons for him to be removed from each venture, and that has to sting a bit.

Syl landed on Kaladin’s shoulder and gasped at seeing Teft, then clapped excitedly.

“Rock is gone,” Teft said, “and Moash… Moash is worse than gone. Sigzil needs to lead the rest of them, without me being baggage to bother him. You and I were the start of this though. Figure we ought to stick together.”

L: ::sniff:: Oh, Teft…

A: This was such a brilliant thing for him to have done, though it hurts to know how it will end. (Also, he’s probably right about Sigzil needing to lead without Teft to “validate” him.) But if he hadn’t stayed, if Kaladin hadn’t needed to keep functioning in order to keep Teft alive, if Teft hadn’t been there to give him hope… he’d never have reached the fourth Ideal.

It didn’t seem like he had a choice either way. That should have frustrated him. Instead he found himself feeling warm. They weren’t all gone.

“Thank you, Teft,” he whispered. “You shouldn’t have given up so much. But… thank you.”

L: Aaaaaand cue the waterworks.

Relationships and Romances

As one, the Windrunners saluted. The Bridge Four salute; though most had never been in Bridge Four and didn’t use the salute to one another, they always gave it to him and other members of the original Windrunners.

L: This is just… so beautiful. The respect that they show him (and the other original members) tugs on my heart-strings.

A: So beautiful. It’s an ever-so-slightly-painful reminder that Bridge Four is very much in the minority among the Windrunners these days; the old core group has been vastly outnumbered by the recruits. At the same time, it’s wonderful to see that all the new members hold the original crew in such high esteem, and the way they reserve the salute solely for the original Bridge Four members is… deeply moving.

Bruised, Broken, and Disabled

Near the end of his time as a Windrunner, he’d found even simple sparring to be emotionally taxing. Daily activities, like assigning duties, had required so much effort that they’d left him with a pounding headache. He couldn’t explain why.

L: Ah. Out of spoons. I think spoon theory is one that Kaladin could definitely benefit from learning. Only maybe they’d call it sphere theory. “My spheres are dun for the day.”

A: Isn’t it funny how sometimes a goofy analogy can seriously help to a) understand and b) deal with issues like this?

Was he happy?

He wasn’t sad.

For now, he’d accept “not sad.”

L: Some days, that’s the best we can hope for.

A: Heartbreaking in its way, but very true. And it is an improvement over his condition in the aftermath of the Hearthstone expedition.

…told him to spend a month recording each and every headache, with signs he’d noticed of it coming on. It wasn’t much, but Mil grinned ear to ear. Often people just wanted to know they weren’t fools or weaklings for coming in. They wanted to know their pains were real, and that there was something—even something small—they could do about the problem.

L: Once again, Brandon hitting the nail squarely on the head. Anyone who’s had to deal with chronic pain or an autoimmune disorder or any unexplainable illness will understand this feeling all too well. Would that we all could find doctors like Kaladin…

A: Not that Kaladin needs them to be empathetic, but the spren must be helpful to a doctor. He mentions the painspren he sees gathering around Mil, so we all know that there is actual, physical pain going on. That said, I agree; sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that your issue, whatever it is, is really “worth” going to the doctor. It’s nice to have it taken seriously.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

“Um, prodromes. Right… Uh, just a sec.” He looked toward the reading desk to find Syl laboriously lifting pages and flipping them over…

“So,” he said, “when did you learn to read?”

“Last week.”

“You learned to read in a week.”

“It’s not as hard as it seemed at first. I figured you’d need someone to read for you, as a surgeon. I think I might be able to become surgery tools too. I mean, not a scalpel since, you know, I don’t actually cut flesh. But your father was using a little hammer the other day…”

A: Sylphrena is the best. Like, seriously amazing. She’s thinking way ahead of Kaladin about ways she could help him. I wonder if the memories of the way she and her first Knight used to help the common people might be part of the impetus for this.

L: I bet Hesina is teaching her. Which only makes it better, that Syl’s probably conspiring with Kal’s mom (again)…

A: Right? I absolutely adore the relationship between Hesina and Syl. Did you notice that Syl is even mimicking Hesina’s clothing in this scene? So stinking cute.

“Can you become things other than metal? I’d love to not have to share the stethoscope with Father.”

L: This is so cool! I love the implications here.

A: Right? Brandon has been cagey on whether or not spren can really become things other than metal. He mentioned in one conversation that there are legends of spren becoming bows in the past, which would involve a string, which you’d think wouldn’t be metal… but he wouldn’t say whether it was true. He did say that making themselves into complex mechanisms (such as a pen) would be hard, so I’m not sure about the stethoscope, but the reflex hammer would certainly be possible.

Fortunately, there were medicines that could help, and—with Jasnah capable of Soulcasting a wide range of substances—they had access to rare medications. Though Kaladin and the queen didn’t often see eye to eye, it said a great deal about her that she was willing to take time to make medicine.

A: I appreciated this on so many levels. First, I’m amused that Kaladin and Jasnah still don’t exactly get along; IMO, their personalities are such that they should clash. Second, Jasnah’s Soulcasting has progressed, if she can make rare medications. Granted that “strawberry jam” was a completely foreign substance to her back in Words of Radiance, rare medications would be just as foreign now, I’d think. Third, she’s willing to put in the time to learn them well enough to Soulcast them, and provide them in a quantity that allows a peasant from Hearthstone to receive a rare medication.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at that last. This is the woman who has all sorts of radical ideas about freeing slaves, ending the monarchy, and all that, so it stands to reason that if she’s going to make medicines, she’d make sure it wasn’t limited to the wealthy and elite. Still, it’s another peek at her personality and priorities, and I’ll take all of those I can get.

Speaking of Jasnah…

Jasnah was probably operating (the Oathgate) today; she could do things with her powers that were well beyond the rest of them. Though she didn’t show it off, she’d plainly sworn the Fourth Ideal.

A: Just thought this was worth noting. There’s a very good reason the Fused wanted her away from Urithiru before they tried an infiltration… While I understand the narrative reasons that Sanderson hasn’t given us very much action from her yet, I’d dearly love to see more of what she can do!

Cosmere Connections

He dealt with an unusual number of coughs. Apparently there was something moving through the tower—a sickness that left people with mucus in their lungs and an overall feeling of aches.

L: Again, this is the common cold that was brought to Roshar by the world-hoppers. With how much Brandon’s mentioned it, I can’t help but feel as if it’s going to wind up being significant down the line somehow…

A: You have to wonder, right? It does keep showing up.

Hence, I also feel compelled to remind everyone that this was written well before SARS-COV-2 came on the scene; we can testify that it was in the beta, which started on the 3rd of February, one year ago.

L: Yeah. I can’t help but be a little on-edge every time I see references like this, even though I know full well that it’s not an actual plague. Amazing how much all of this has affected us emotionally here in the real world…

Humans

“Next time, Adin,” he said, “take the steps one at a time.”

A: It’s Adin, the Windrunner Wannabee! I love this bit even more in retrospect. On the first read, it’s just a quick moment and then we move on, but this kid will come back in an Interlude, and then again when he’s the first person we actually see being protected by Kaladin’s living and active Shardplate.

Lirin had always wanted one of these (white surgeon’s apron); he’d said white clothing made people calm. The traveling butchers or barbers—men who often did surgery or tooth work in small towns—tended to be dirty and bloody. Seeing a surgeon wearing white instantly proclaimed, “This isn’t that sort of place.”

A: He’s not wrong, you know? We might think of it as “sterile” in a negative sense, given our culture, but when you consider the contrast Lirin points out, that puts a whole new spin on it! It’s not so much that white is calming in itself, but the implications of cleanliness would make you feel a lot better about the surgeon. Say what you want about the father-son relationship (but not now), Lirin has a good understanding of human nature in general.

L: He has a good understanding of the job, at least.

A: I would argue that he has a good understanding of human nature; he just doesn’t know how to apply it to his own personal relationships.

 

And we’re out! Join us in the comments, have fun, and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others. (Also, kudos to you—there have been some great discussions lately, and all with no rancor. So much more fun!)

Next week, Chapter 24 returns us to the Shadesmar Envoy Mission.

Alice is excited to start the next beta read—Skyward 3—in less than a week. This will be her 15th (or so) beta for Brandon, and she still has impostor syndrome about it.

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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