Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Thirty

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It’s Thursday again, O my chickies and peeps, so welcome back to Roshar and the Rhythm of War reread! This week, we continue on the same day in Nameless, with Shallan flipping personas like shuffling a deck of cards, and Adolin battling his own loss of confidence while trying to sort out the politics and players of Shadesmar. Come on in and join the discussion!

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 (including 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 very general things about the Cosmere in the Epigraph, but it’s not exactly spoilerific.

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

Jezrien (Jezerezeh, Yaezir, Ahu), Herald of Kings. Windrunners. Protecting/Leading. Role: King.

A: Okay, I’m drawing a blank. Y’all take a shot at this one: Why Taln and Jezrien for this chapter?

Icon: Pattern, for Shallan’s POV.

Epigraph:

But this does not get to the core of your letter. I have encouraged those who would speak to me to heed your warnings, but all seem content to ignore Odium for the time being. In their opinion, he is no threat as long as he remains confined in the Rosharan system.

A: I can’t help wondering if Harmony would have more luck giving his own warnings, rather than recommending that the other Vessels listen to Hoid. I get the impression that most of them dislike and/or distrust Hoid; is it likely that Harmony is prejudicing them against himself as well? Or is it really just that they all truly believe that Odium is successfully contained by Honor and Cultivation, and are complacent about the threat (or lack thereof)?

L: I’d also like to point out that’s kind of a dick move to say, “well, that planet over there’s f***ed, but as long as WE’RE fine…”

A: Very true. They’d probably defend it on the basis of their agreement that “we would not interfere with one another”—but that kind of ignores the way Odium has most definitely been interfering with others.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan, Adolin
WHERE: Nameless (the trading post in Shadesmar)
WHEN: 1175.4.3.4 (immediately following Chapter 29)

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

Shallan contacts Mraize via the box he gave her, and has a vague memory of having used such a box before. She mentions seeing corrupted spren, and before they cut the connection he reminds her to watch for corrupted gloryspren, indicating that he must have heard about them from Beryl. Meanwhile, Adolin and Godeke attempt to speak with the humans in one of the caravans, but aside from their hostility, something is very off about them. Shallan muses on the presumed betrayal, but her attention keeps coming back to the box and therefore to childhood memories from which she must hide. Adolin returns to the barge to find Notum, former captain of the ship which gave them passage on their last excursion in Shadesmar. He warns Adolin against going to Lasting Integrity, but Adolin refuses to turn back.

Overall Reactions

This experience … she’d done this before. She’d been here, kneeling on the ground, holding a cube that glowed from the corners. Exactly like this.

…She was on a mission into Shadesmar. Why should she expect to see gardens behind her? Her father’s gardens?

A: She returns to this thought later, absolutely certain that she used a cube like this in her childhood. As far as I can recall, we never learn what she’s remembering. Who would have had a seon, and who would she have been contacting through it? I may just be forgetting something, so help me out if that’s the case, but… I think we haven’t got this one solved yet. (We have to leave something for the next book, I guess?)

“Someone has been moving this cube. Between times I get it out. … There’s a scratch on this side near the corner, and that face was up yesterday—but it’s to the side today.”

“That is a very fine detail. One nobody else would have noticed.”

A: Hint, hint! Even Pattern didn’t notice that detail, I guess? Since we know from later in the book that it was Pattern, not Beryl, using the box… now he has a dilemma. Should he be very careful to replace it exactly, when he uses it, or should he continue to move it so she doesn’t get suspicious about how it suddenly doesn’t get shifted anymore? Heh.

Beryl. She could accept it being Beryl. That hurt—being betrayed would always hurt—but it could have been worse.

Damnation, Veil thought.

What? Shallan thought. What’s wrong?

Does this feel too easy? Veil asked. Too convenient?

L: Leave it to Veil to point out the obvious that Shallan doesn’t want to admit.

A: It’s a good thing she’s got someone to do it!

At this point, most readers don’t quite believe it was Beryl, because it really was too easy. But I don’t think many were considering Pattern, either; in the beta, most of us thought it was Veil under cover of getting Shallan drunk. (See also Lyndsey’s last note in Bruised and Broken.) However, knowing what we know now, I was watching for this during the espionage chapter a few weeks ago, and proved to myself that Pattern was doing other things while she was talking with Ishnah and Vathah, and was only listening to Shallan’s “corrupted spren” spiel while talking to Beryl. So the hint was there, it was just very subtle.

Back to that childhood memory, Shallan does manage to verify in her own mind that this cube is not the same one, before she runs from her memories. That one had a dimpled top… so now we have something else to watch for. In the next book.

Adolin had been useless in that battle at Thaylen City. The world was about gods and Radiants now, not handsome young lighteyes who fancied themselves skilled with the sword. Best thing he could do was accept that, then find a different way to be useful.

He would find a way to get the honorspren to listen to him. Somehow.

A: Oh, Adolin. Hardly useless, though it’s easy enough to see why he thinks so.

L: Yeah, this kills me to see. Poor Adolin. Even the smallest person can change the world! If only he had had the chance to read Lord of the Rings…

A: It’s funny, almost; he did some fairly crucial things in that battle. Even if they were mostly a matter of delaying opponents, supporting Radiants, or rallying troops to assist in both of those, there were elements of the battle that could have been much, much worse without him. But he doesn’t see it, and I suspect it’s because he was a) doing the same thing he’s always done in battle, except b) it was against stone monsters, which require a lot more taking-down than anything else he’s ever fought. I suppose when you combine “my normally successful style was barely effective against these things” with “other people were doing newly-discovered magic-battle stuff,” you can see why he felt useless, but that doesn’t make it true.

Spren and Shadesmar

“Sja-anat extends her influence. I am still waiting for the spren she promised would bond me.”

“She promised to send a spren,” Veil said. “Not that the spren would choose you. Do not blame Shallan if you fail to secure what you want.”

A: It’s a delightfully pointed reminder to Mraize that spren are sapient individuals, and you can’t force a bond if the spren doesn’t want you.

L: We saw echoes of this earlier in the book, too, with Kaladin and Rlain.

A: Kaladin certainly tried, it’s true; he even got Yunfah to reluctantly agree to give it a shot—but even so, the spren had to be willing, and if he’d refused, that would have been the end of it. It’s possible, given what we know of her relationship with her “children,” that Sja-anat would be capable of forcing the spren to form an undesirable bond, but it seems like that would be a last resort. We’ve seen her sacrifice some of her “enlightened”… windspren, weren’t they?… to distract Odium from the mistspren she was sending to check out Mraize, so maybe she’d sacrifice a mistspren too, if it seemed vitally necessary. But she really, really hated doing it even with windspren.

The other thing to point out is that the spren was sent at least eight days ago (according to the 17S timeline we’re using)—which probably means that he’s already in Urithiru, scoping things out. Since Mraize is still waiting, said spren is presumably not terribly interested in him—and who can blame him? (For future reference, this is most likely Tumi, the spren who will eventually bond Rlain.)

Multiple caravans had made camps outside town, and all the others had spren occupants. As Adolin and Godeke had passed, those had waved or gestured in friendly ways. One had even called out to Archinal—Godeke’s spren—recognizing her.

A: This isn’t the first time we’ve seen bonded spren meeting old friends in Shadesmar, but it always grabs me. And it gives me hope that the bonded spren will convince others to join them—whether by active persuasion, or by example, I don’t care. Probably both.

A figure was speaking to Unativi in front of the barge—a figure of white, tinted blue. Tall, distinguished. Adolin was accustomed to seeing this spren in a sharp uniform, not a buttoned shirt and trousers, but it was the same person.

L: Leave it to Adolin to take note of the clothes!

A: Heh. He did that with the Tukari caravaneers, too, and figured out a lot about their connections. (But we’ll talk about that more in Chapter 35.) It amazes me, sometimes, the way Sanderson weaves in these little personality details to provide vital information.

“I’ve been sent on a diplomatic mission, Notum,” Adolin said, “to visit Lasting Integrity. I’m representing the new orders of Radiants and my father, the king of Urithiru. Our monarchs have sent letters of introduction. We hope to forge a new alliance.”

The honorspren opened his eyes wide and drew in a sharp breath—something spren only did for effect, as they didn’t normally breathe.

“What?” Adolin said. “It’s that surprising?”

“It wouldn’t be polite for me to interrupt,” Notum said. “Please continue your insane rant.”

L: This is pretty amusing. I get the impression that Notum wasn’t intending to be funny, but…

A: I do like Notum. Even if I was a bit irritated by him at times, he’s good people. Honorable.

“…Besides, if [Syl is] so precious, maybe you all could listen to her once in a while.” Maya growled softly at this comment, which drew both Adolin and Notum to glance at her.

L: Ooooooh spren showdown! That’s right, Maya! You TELL ‘em!

A: I’m still wondering exactly what she wanted to tell them, but my assumption is that she’s agreeing with Adolin and warning Notum that they should listen to Syl.

“The Stormfather,” Notum said, “won’t be much help to you. Now that he’s agreed to be bound, the honorspren no longer revere him as they once did. They think he must have been wounded by the death of Honor, and that wound is now manifesting as irrational behavior.”

A: Welp. That hurts their chances…

L: Also awfully convenient for the spren.

A: Nothing like discarding evidence that doesn’t fit your narrative, is there? I can relate to Adolin’s frustration that the spren don’t turn out to be any better than humans.

“Look, for thousands of years before the Recreance, spren and humans got along. Will we let one event wipe that all out?”

“One event?” Notum said. “One event that caused eight genocides, Prince Adolin. Pause and think on that. Nearly every honorspren was bound, and those were all killed. Can you imagine the betrayal? The pain of being murdered by the person you trusted with your life? Your very soul? Men die, and their souls travel to the Spiritual Realm to meld with deity. But what of us?”

He waved to Maya, standing in her rags, eyes scratched away. “We are left,” Notum said, “to wander Shadesmar as dead souls, unable to think or talk. Our bodies are used, screaming, as weapons by the descendants of the ones who killed us. It was not a simple mistake that led us to this state, but a coordinated and calculated betrayal of oaths.

“Your people are criminals. The sole reason there was no swift retribution was because you killed every spren who could have acted against you. Do not go to Lasting Integrity. They will not accept letters from your kings and queens. They will not even speak to you.”

A: I realize that’s a very long quotation, but I couldn’t figure out what to leave out. This reaction has so much force, I wanted it all. Notum has, from the spren perspective, a completely valid point. (I mean, from the human perspective, so does Adolin, but let’s stick with Notum for a minute.) At this point, everyone assumes that it was a decision by the humans that destroyed thousands of spren, leaving them as deadeyes. You can’t entirely blame them for their mistrust and antipathy.

But I have questions. I realize that the only living honorspren who know much about the Nahel bond are those who rebelled against the hierarchy in choosing bonds recently, so a lot of the other honorspren aren’t interested in listening to what they have to say. Even so, it seems obvious that the spren choose to form the bonds; has it not ever occurred to them that the spren may also have been involved in choosing to break the bonds? Or are they just too hard-headed to accept that spren could have been involved in something that went so badly wrong?

Of course, Notum also has a reason to resent Adolin personally…

“I was removed from duty,” Notum said, “for letting the Ancient Daughter go after capturing her. … months in prison … assigned to spend two centuries patrolling the empty land between here and Lasting Integrity, … I can see it but not enter.”

“Until when?” Adolin asked. “Until … your patrol is done?”

“Until never, Prince Adolin. I am exiled.”

L: Oof. Well, that hurts.

A: Given that it was Adolin’s party whose existence messed up his life, a certain bitterness is understandable! And of course Adolin, fair-minded being that he is, is both sympathetic to Notum’s situation and appalled at the way he’s being treated by the other honorspren—and yet still can’t quite believe that they’ll be so incredibly unfair as to refuse to even listen to him.

The part where Notum asks for reassurance that they did indeed save the Bondsmith, though… Oh my. He took the risk, and just wants to know that however badly it turned out for him personally, it was worth it for the higher goal. Despite my earlier frustration, I want him to bond a human, now. He seems like one honorspren that will actually comprehend the choice his people made at the Recreance, once he understands that they did choose. Perhaps he can lead his people to not only accept what really happened, but help figure out how to reverse the effect.

Relationships and Romances

HA! Veil thought.

Oh, storms, Radiant thought. Veil’s plan worked. She’s going to be insufferable now.

Insufferable? I’m incredible. Mraize has fallen into a common trap—that of being so clever, you start forgetting your fundamentals. Always question your information.

L: I love how Veil totally misses the irony, here.

A: This cracked me up. So much so that I almost put it in Buttresses. Shallan’s head is a busy place these days.

Beryl was the spy.

L: (Yoda voice) So sure of this are you, hmmm?

A: Hmmmm.

Bruised and Broken

These memories … these were something lost to her. From the years leading up to her … her mother’s death. That twisted, knotted, overgrown time in her brain, hidden behind carefully cultivated flower beds. When she sorted through her memories, it didn’t feel like anything was missing. Yet she knew from other clues that there were holes.

L: At least now she realizes that the holes are there. That’s progress!

A: It is progress. Poor child; she had so much trauma in her early life, and we haven’t even seen it all yet.

Veil nodded, feeling distracted as the sensation of holding the cube overcame her once more. She forced Shallan to take control again, to see the shadows of reflections of memories. …

I don’t want to know, she thought.

A: And then she stops. “Don’t want to know what’s in those holes, thankyouverymuch.” It’s almost ludicrous, how obvious it is now and how most of us didn’t see it (at this point). She’s already acknowledged killing both of her parents, but there’s something else that’s just so terrible that everyone would hate her if they knew. Something worse than killing her parents. What could be so much worse, that people who accept and love her in spite of those events would be expected to reject her for it? And yet, I (at least) didn’t register what could be that bad.

“You have drawn the same cube four times, Shallan. Are you well?”

“No,” she said, “but this isn’t a sign of that.”

A: I can never quite decide whether to laugh or cry at Shallan’s (outwardly) flippant attitude toward her issues…

L: It’s very true to life in my experience. A lot of people (especially millennials) cope by making self-deprecating jokes at their own expense.

“Shallan,” Pattern said. “I’m worried about you. Mmm. You say you’re getting better, but I worry. Adolin agrees, though I don’t think he sees what I do.”

“What do you see?” she asked softly.

“Something else looking out of your eyes, sometimes. Something new. It comes out when … when I try to talk about your past. So I’m afraid to do it. Sometimes you tease that you want me to say more. Then those other eyes see me.”

L: Well that’s completely and totally disconcerting. Yikes.

A: Right? It’s frightening and creepy, for sure. But it also makes me feel bad for Pattern, because I have had that same reaction. If I know someone will react badly—particularly in anger—if I bring up a subject, I fear to do it no matter how much I know the thing needs to be addressed.

Veil found herself in control again, and heard voices drifting in from outside the barge. Adolin, strong and confident. Veil didn’t love him like Shallan did, but she knew right then that they needed to be near him. Shallan needed to be near him.

No, Shallan thought from deep within. No. He’ll hate me. He’ll hate … what I did

Veil went to be near him anyway.

L: I just need to take a moment to say how happy I am with the changes Brandon made to Veil after the beta read. (I got permission from Dragonsteel to discuss this particular change, though we won’t be getting into specifics, so don’t ask.) In the beta read, Veil was extremely unlikable to almost everyone. I have had nothing but good feelings towards her in this version, and it is such an improvement. It’s going to make her eventual sacrifice hit so much harder.

A: Hear! Hear! I have the impression, given the rewrite, that Brandon didn’t intend for us to react so negatively to Veil, but it was almost universal in the beta. I still get frustrated with her at times—like when she drinks too much and goes to bed without burning it off—but the “veil” purpose of her persona is so much more effective now.

And Veil’s choice here… Back in part one, she was making snide remarks about how Shallan wilted if she didn’t get to spend time with Adolin, but here she acknowledges that his presence is good for Shallan, and actively seeks him out. It seems like a hint that Veil is beginning to shift away from simply shielding Shallan, and toward getting her to face her memories. She won’t yet “risk pain she wasn’t certain Shallan could handle”—but it seems that she’s now working toward getting Shallan to where she can handle it.

Secret Societies

“It is always good,” he said, “to reinforce the behavior you want, little knife. In people as in axehounds. Your report?”

… “The hound does not withhold affection to get her feast. She performs first, and then receives her reward.”

A: Sorry, I’m triggered… This kind of dehumanizing talk from Mraize to Shallan/Veil just infuriates me. Between comparing her to an axehound multiple times in the same conversation, and habitually calling her “little knife” as if she’s merely a tool in his hand… UGH. I so badly want him taken down.

L: Yeah, I’m with you on this one. Not a fan of the infantilism being displayed here. But I guess that’s what’s making him a good villain, currently. I have no clue if he’s going to remain a villain, but for now? It works.

“Sja-anat is important, little hunter,” Mraize said. “We must bind her to us. A spren of Odium willing to betray him? An ancient creature with equally ancient knowledge? I give you this secondary mission. Watch for these spren closely, and make contact if you can.”

L: At least “little hunter” is better than “little knife.”

A: A bit better, yes. I can’t decide whether to shudder or laugh at Mraize’s aspirations, though. An Unmade bound to the Ghostbloods and their purposes is a really scary thought, if he were to succeed. At the same time, I can’t help thinking he’s delusional. Gain her goodwill and learn some things from her, maybe, but… bind her to them? Control her? I doubt it.

“Again, I must emphasize: Watch for any signs of these corrupted gloryspren. I worry that Sja-anat is playing us both, and I do not like the feeling.”

A: Ya think? She’s way older and more slippery even than you, you eel.

Also, espionage payoff! (Not quite the way it was intended, but… oh well.)

Humans

The humans that Godeke had found were an unexpected lot. They didn’t appear to be soldiers, but common workers with brown skin and black hair, both male and female. …

Yes, he thought. They look like they’re from Marat, or maybe Tukar.

A: And if that doesn’t set off your alarm system… Tukar is currently ruled by the insane Herald Ishar in the guise of “the god-priest Tezim” and anything connected with it makes me instantly nervous.

“Traders from another land perhaps?” Archinal said. The short cultivationspren wrung her hands. “Oh, it does happen, and more and more these days. People come in caravans seeking to trade. They like your wines, human brightlord. And many have heard tales of your weapons, and I’ve known several to ask to trade for one! As if a Shardblade would be available for purchase.”

L: “Other lands,” eh?

A: Very far-off lands, methinks! I’m betting they get short shrift in Shadesmar if they start asking about buying Shardblades. I guess you can’t blame them for asking, since they don’t know what the Blades actually are, but… nope, don’t think you could buy one in Shadesmar.

Even with [the odd way lighting works in Shadesmar] considered, the way these people seemed to be constantly wreathed in shadow … it was unnerving. As they stepped up, he felt like he could see only hints of features, and no matter which way they turned, the pits of their faces—the eye sockets, the lines along their noses—were always dark. He saw occasional glimpses of their eyes.

L: Because that’s not creepy. Nope, not at all!

A: ::shudders:: We never find out in this book exactly what the shadowy effect is, but it seems certain that they are somehow linked to Ishar.

He and the others retreated to the town. The Tukari watched them all the way. “Those were Tukari,” Godeke said. …

Were these strange travelers somehow connected to that business in Tukar? Or was it a coincidence?

A: There is no such thing as coincidence here. It’s just… Adolin has no idea how very bizarre “that business in Tukar” will turn out to be. I get the creeps just thinking about the things we’ll see in Tukar later.

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 31:  Venli and the Urithiru Invasion Expedition moving up through the mountains.

Alice is having mixed feelings about the arrival of spring this week. The daffodils and rhododendrons are blooming beautifully, and she’s enjoying the sunshine and lengthening days. She is emphatically not enjoying the increase in allergens.

Lyndsey is less wordy than usual this week as she is forced to work on her phone… her laptop had an unfortunate encounter with a bottle of hard lemonade during D&D. She’s been doing occasional tie-in videos to the reread and silly cosmere cosplay vids on TikTok, or you can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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