Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, oh my peeps! We’re back with Shallan, Radiant, Veil, and Adolin on the Shadesmar Barge To Nameless. (Getting a bit crowded up in this corner, I’ve gotta say.) Artwork abounds, after a bit of maneuvering, and relationships grow. Come on 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.
In this week’s discussion we also discuss some HUGE spoilers from the entire Mistborn series in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read all of it (original trilogy, era 2, and Secret History), best to give that section a pass.
Heralds: All four icons this week are of Palah (Paliah). Learned/Giving. Truthwatchers. Role: Scholar
L: An interesting choice, for a Shallan chapter! Even though it’s mostly Radiant in control at this moment, this is still an odd choice for her.
A: Definitely unusual. She does spend a good bit of time thinking over what she learned from Ialai’s notebook, and giving us some good hints in the process, but she also spends a lot of time drawing. There’s a nice conversation with the one Truthwatcher spren on the expedition, so… there’s that? I guess?
Icon: Pattern, which tells us this is a Shallan POV chapter.
Endowment at least responded to my overtures, though I have not been able to locate Invention again following our initial contact.
A: Whee! New Shard name!! Invention is one we’ve not heard of before, and the Shard seems rather elusive. I can’t help wondering if this is the one that Sanderson once said just wants to hide and survive, if Harmony has been unable to locate it a second time. This does bring up the question from last week again: How do the Shards contact one another? How did Harmony find Invention in the first place, and why can’t he repeat that?
Endowment, of course, is the Shard openly resident on Nalthis, the planet where Warbreaker takes place. Edgli is the Vessel of Endowment; we don’t know the first thing about Invention’s Vessel yet.
WHERE: Shadesmar, on the way to Lasting Integrity.
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11 (the second day of the voyage, one day after Chapter 22)
In Shadesmar, Shallan struggles with her fear and insecurities. Veil and Radiant join forces to convince her to take control again. She and Adolin have a heart to heart in which Shallan reveals to him that she’d intended to steal Jasnah’s soulcaster.
A: I dare say I’ll repeat this a number of times over the course of this reread, but I’m really having a blast with all the deeper Cosmere information Sanderson is starting to dole out. He’s been so cagey for so long, it feels quite decadent to get some of this stuff!
Ialai had discovered that the Ghostbloods were obsessed with a specific spren named Ba-Ado-Mishram. That was a name from myth, one of the Unmade. It had been this spren who had taken over for Odium following the Final Desolation; she had granted the singers forms of power.
A: Okay, so this one isn’t entirely new to us; we already heard about how this particular Unmade was able to give the singers the same forms of power that had previously been only available through Odium, and only during Desolations. What’s new to us, though, is the Ghostbloods’ interest in her; so much interest, in fact, that Ialai termed it an obsession.
[Mraize] also wants to transport Stormlight offworld, Shallan thought, emerging. I believe he was honest in that point. So perhaps these two are related? Perhaps Ba-Ado-Mishram can help him in this quest?
A: It might make sense, I guess… Ba-Ado-Mishram seems to have some power over Connection, one of the great spiritual attributes in the Cosmere. Do they think she can bind Investiture securely enough to an object that it can be transported completely away from its planet of origin? That’s the only reason I can think of for them to be so interested. Unless they’re just interested in the perfect gemstones, and her prison is the only one they’ve heard of?
Speculate, my friends and little chickens! Why would the Ghostbloods be so fascinated with her?
As a side note, I’m deeply amused by Shallan’s thought at the end, that “it’s all connected” and she just needs to figure out how, without coming apart herself. I suspect it’s connected at multiple levels, including her own internal disconnects.
Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light
It felt so good to let go and draw. To not worry about a mission, or her own psychosis, or even about Adolin. To become so wrapped up in the art that nothing else mattered.
L: As a fellow artist (albeit in different mediums), I always love to see this from Shallan. It’s just so realistic.
A: Sure is. Getting lost in the art is great healing for the spirit. I can’t draw worth beans; my art is music. Sometimes I think my guitar deserves a large part of the credit for getting me through college.
Spren and Shadesmar
She turned the page to show off the cultivationspren she’d drawn. “I’d like to find both male and female subjects for each variety of spren. There might not be time for it on this trip, but it occurred to me that no one, at least not in the modern era, has ever done a natural history of the Radiant spren.”
A: We’ll be looking at these frequently in the next few weeks, and I think it’s absolutely delightful that Shallan has decided to record these. Of course, the other reason I love it is that it brings Shallan’s scholarly pursuit back around to reconnect us with the girl we met back in The Way of Kings. I realize that not everyone enjoyed her back then, but I did—at least once I had enough hints that there were layers underneath that façade of “spoiled teenager” she put on to cover up her fears. Even when she was playing that role, even if you disliked her, one thing she took seriously was her pursuit of natural history. How appropriate for the same chapter where we’re reminded of Shallan’s… history with Jasnah—trying to become her ward in order to steal her Soulcaster.
This week, there’s also a fun little conversation with the Stump’s spren: the mistspren whose name is Dreaming-though-Awake. For some reason, the spren is also interested in Ba-Ado-Mishram. Huh. Too bad the current generation of spren know so little about the Unmade.
Relationships and Romances
You’d do better at connecting these ideas than I will, Radiant thought to her. Why don’t you take control?
What are you doing? Shallan demanded. You’re a terrible artist.
“I know,” Veil whispered. “And you hate watching me try.”
L: I love how subtle Radiant is trying to be here… but of course, Shallan sees right through it. But Veil has her back, and tries to get Shallan to come forward in her own way as well.
A: This is one of the rare times (at this point in the book) that I really liked Veil. It’s a hint that she really does have Shallan’s best interest at heart, even if she lets her own personality overwhelm her priorities sometimes.
We’re not going to let you retreat and hide, Radiant thought—and Veil could feel her relief in discovering the two of them agreed on this. Something is wrong, Shallan. Something bigger than what Veil did. Something that’s affecting all of us, making us erratic.
L: It really makes me happy to see both Radiant and Veil truly caring for Shallan and trying to help her to get better.
…at her core, Veil had a singular purpose: She’d been created to protect Shallan. And she would send herself to Damnation before she let that Formless thing take her place.
L: This is really, really touching. I love Veil for this.
A: There are a lot of times when I get frustrated with Veil, and even find her untrustworthy, but… yes, at her core, she does have a purpose that takes precedence. Sometimes she doesn’t see the problems she creates until she’s already created them, but… don’t we all?
You told Adolin about robbing Jasnah, Radiant said. Well done. It wasn’t so bad, was it?
A: Definitely another small step in the right direction, but while she can’t/won’t remember The Big Thing she’s hiding, it’s really not on the same scale.
“You’re tense, Adolin.”
L: Okay, I need to point out that I am so happy to see this. It’s kind of rare for us to see Shallan managing to pull herself out of her own issues long enough to recognize that someone else is hurting, and to try to help them. It makes me so happy whenever we see it, especially with Adolin, who gives her so much time and attention.
A: It is a delight to see this. She spent much of her early life sheltering the rest of her family—who were quite obviously in need of help—but we haven’t seen that side of her in real-time very much. I suppose part of it is that, by comparison to her brothers, Adolin is incredibly stable and secure, and doesn’t need Shallan’s protection. It’s good to see her realize that he needs her, too, and that there are ways she can help him that suit their relationship.
“I set out to rob her,” Shallan said softly. She felt Adolin shift, looking toward her. “My family was impoverished, threatened by creditors, my father dead. We thought maybe I could rob that heretic Alethi woman, steal her Soulcaster—then we could use it to become rich again.”
L: Honestly, I’m surprised that it took this long for her to come out with this. But then… it is Shallan…
A: I loved Adolin’s response, when he pointed out that since Jasnah hadn’t said anything about it, it must have worked, at least for a while. He knows his cousin well! She’ll admit an error, especially if it affected other people, but admit being fooled? By a backwoods teenage Veden girl? Not if she doesn’t have to! I can just imagine him teasing Jasnah about this someday.
Storms, I love this man, she thought. For his humor, his brightness, his genuine goodness. With that smile, brighter than the cold Shadesmar sun, she became Shallan. Deeply and fully.
L: This. This right here makes me so incredibly happy. This entire conversation between them is so nurturing and supportive in both directions.
Bruised, Broken, and Disabled
…after Veil’s stunt in seizing control a few days back—violating the compact—neither wanted her to be in charge.
A: For sure. At this point, Veil is starting to look even less trustworthy than before.
You’re still troubled by how Veil violated our compact, aren’t you? Radiant asked.
We’re supposed to be getting better, not worse, Shallan thought.
L: I like how Radiant points out later that there’s something else going on to disrupt the balance.
Not you, Shallan thought. You have never seized control like that.
Radiant felt an immediate stab of guilt.
L: Is this implying that she has? I’m a bit confused by her reaction here.
A: It’s about a revelation we’ll get in the future regarding an event that happened in the past. (Does that count as foreshadowing?) Near the end of Part Four, we will learn that Radiant was the one who took control back in the warcamps and killed Ialai. We’re getting very small, isolated hints along the way.
Veil surprisingly found herself in control. It had been four days now since she’d taken over…
L: I find it a good sign that Shallan does have enough control to keep Veil subdued if she needs to. That’s got to be good, right?
A: Yes, I think so. It’s distressing to have such conflict between them, but it may be good that Shallan still has some level of control over the other two.
The place names were locations beyond the various expanses in Shadesmar—worlds beyond the edge of the map. Pattern had confirmed this by chatting with a few other spren who had met travelers from these places.
L: A reminder that the “place names” listed earlier in the book were actually other planets in the Cosmere. I find it fascinating that this implies that other PLANETS are “beyond the edge” of the map. This indicates that space doesn’t function the same way in the Cognitive Realm as it does in the physical one. Travel between planets is easier if you only have to continue traveling along one “plane” rather than having to find a way to leave the atmosphere and travel across space to achieve it!
A: Yes, that certainly makes a difference! It’s more like going from one continent to another than one planet to another—more two-dimensional. Also, the space between planets and systems—what would be “outer space” in the Physical realm—is much smaller in the Cognitive Realm. Since there’s basically nothing there to give it dimension, it doesn’t stretch very far.
Another section of the book contained Ialai’s conjectures and information about the leader of the Ghostbloods, the mysterious Thaidakar.
L: MAJOR spoilers for Mistborn (all of it—original trilogy, era 2, and Secret History) to follow! Do NOT continue reading this section if you aren’t caught up here.
Still here? Okay, good. Because Brandon’s pretty definitively revealed that Thaidakar is Kelsier. (Here’s a little more on that subject.) I am so excited by this! Kelsier’s one of my all-time favorite Cosmere characters, so I’m fascinated to see what he’s got planned here!
A: I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the back five. I have a feeling that from the Stormlight Archive perspective, Kelsier will have more of a villain role than he does from the Mistborn perspective.
Geography, History and Cultures
A: The conversation with Dreaming-though-Awake was… curious. It’s always a little frustrating to be reminded that, as old as most of these spren are, they still weren’t around 1500 years ago, and they don’t know what happened at the Last Desolation and the Recreance. They’re mostly operating on hearsay, just like the humans are. Even the singers have no information on it; the ones living at the time were either disconnected already and part of the listeners, or they lost all ability to communicate anything they might have known about it.
The spren made a very interesting suggestion, though:
“If you wish to know more, ask the Heralds. I have heard several were there for her binding. Nalan. Kelek. Find them; ask them.”
A: Sad for us, Nalan is on the other side and won’t likely share any information he does have. Taln obviously wasn’t there, and Shalash hasn’t said anything that we know of. (Whether that’s because she wasn’t one of the “several” or because no one has asked her the right question, we don’t know.) We may learn more about this in book 5, because it’s apparently one of the subjects Shallan and Kelek talk about when they get together at the end; we just don’t get very much of what she learned yet. The Part Four epigraphs reveal that Kelek was indeed there, and remembers it, so there’s a good chance we’ll get a follow-up plot.
By capturing Ba-Ado-Mishram—locking her in a gemstone—humankind had stolen the minds of the singers in ancient times. They knew this from the brief—but poignant—messages left by the ancient Radiants before they abandoned Urithiru.
L: Interesting that Ba-Ado-Mishram is so deeply connected to the singers…
A: Indeed. She seems to have had a Connection to more than just the singers, but we’ll get into that much later in the book. It does seem that there might be something the Fused could tell us about the Unmade, and this one in particular. They obviously weren’t there when she was captured, but they’d know more about her abilities and effects than anyone other than the Heralds.
L: Okay, we NEED to talk about this sketch of the Crypticspren and PATTERN’S FEET. Look at how CUTE he is! And Shallan’s right, in her little note… Cryptics DO look very silly running, based on that sketch!
Everything about this page is just brilliant, which is to be expected from Ben McSweeney. His sketchbook pages for Shallan never disappoint! One of the most interesting things that I think deserves noting is that the Crypticsprens’ hands are either stark white or stark black, like marble or obsidian. Very intriguing that it’s only those two colors.
A: I wonder if this is in any way linked to the Oathgate spren, who also are stark white and stark black. Clearly it’s not a feature of all spren, or even all the sapient spren, so… why are some black-and-white while others are so varied?
L: I also rather like that their very clothes are described as shifting and folding planes! Way to make it impossible for the cosplayers, Brandon! (But super unique and cool.)
A: Indeed. I keep getting ideas that promptly fail to play out past the initial inspiration. I’m sure someone will come up with a great version, though.
She gripped her pencil and started drawing Adolin. Really, really poorly.
I don’t care, Shallan thought.
Veil gave him a unibrow.
Veil drew him with crossed eyes.
That’s going too far.
L: Oh, storms. I wish we had gotten this sketch!
A: Right? I was cracking up over this.
“Don’t worry. I don’t struggle with feelings of insecurity any longer.”
“I’d say I’m pretty good at them.”
L: UGH THE PUNS.
“Well, I’d say you’re a pretty good thief…” he began.
“Oh, don’t you dare.”
“…because you stole my heart.”
L: …she’s a bad influence on him.
“It was a stealth joke,” Shallan said. “Hiding in plain sight, like a Lightweaver. That’s what makes it genius.”
Join us in the comments, have fun, and we’ll see you back here next week for another chat with Kaladin and Teft. (It’s one of my favorites!)
Alice is thoroughly enjoying the Skyward 3 (working title Nowhere) beta read—and of course can’t say any more about it. She’s also grateful that the three days of local winter are over.
Lyndsey has been a Sanderson beta reader since Words of Radiance and is also a fantasy author herself. She’s been doing weekly tie-in videos to the reread and silly cosmere cosplay vids on TikTok, or you can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.