Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Thirty-Six

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Happy Thursday, Cosmere Chickens! This week’s installment of the Stormlight Archive reread deals with a whole lot of betrayal. Shallan and company arrive at Lasting Integrity, and things… well, go exactly as well as was predicted, with the additional roadblock of Shallan having to deal with a truly nasty revelation about who’s been talking to the Ghostbloods behind her back.

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 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 mention Mistborn’s Shards yet again, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.)

Heralds: Nalan (Nale), Herald of Justice. Skybreakers. Just/Confident. Role: Judge.

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

A: Given the two Big Events of this chapter, these make sense despite the presence of the honorspren. The discovery that Pattern used Shallan’s Seon, with all the implications and the impact on her, puts our favorite Cryptic as one major focus—so, Shalash. Adolin’s challenge to the honorspren, calling for justice, is definitely a Nale moment.

Icon: Pattern, for Shallan’s POV (shared).

Epigraph:

I find this difficult to do on an intrinsic level, as although I am neither Ruin nor Preservation, they make up me.

A: “This” refers back to last week’s advice to consider the power of a Shard separate from the Vessel. Last week, I questioned Harmony taking advice from Hoid on this, as the latter has never actually done the thing. Someone pointed out in a message to Lyn and I that Hoid does have some authority on this, as he at one point held a Dawnshard and it had, shall we say, lasting effects on him. It may also be worth reminding ourselves that he was present when Adonalsium was shattered, and he knew all of the Vessels before they took up their Shards. He’s seen the effects of the Shards on the Vessels, and vice versa, over many millennia. So in one sense, he could certainly be considered as close to an “impartial observer” as can be found. On the other hand, we don’t know enough about the Dawnshards to know how similar it is to hold a Dawnshard vs. a Shard of Adonalsium. Rysn, for example, seems to be quite aware of the magnitude of what she holds, but at the same time she isn’t being noticeably modified by its intent.

L: I’m not sure if we can say for sure yet that Rysn isn’t modified by its intent. We didn’t get to stay with her for very long after she took possession of the Dawnshard. We do know that it certainly changed her; she’s got access to a level of power that is equivalent to a heightening at the very least.

A: True; as with the Dawnshard itself, we haven’t seen enough of Rysn to know whether or how much she will be affected by it. Will she become the Dawnshard in a way that makes her… less Rysn? Here, Harmony points out while he is not the Shards, the Shards make up him, and honestly, semantics aren’t all that helpful on a practical level.

L: We know for sure that when you take up Shards of Adonalsium, your body is destroyed and you become the Shard(s). Not so with the Dawnshards, but… that’s about all we do know for certain, to my knowledge.

A: All in all, I suspect this is an area in which we really don’t know enough to judge.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan, Adolin
WHERE: Shadesmar, approaching Lasting Integrity
WHEN: 1175.4.7.5 (immediately after Chapter 35)

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

Adolin and company arrive at Lasting Integrity, but the honorspren want nothing to do with him and his arguments. Shallan comes to realize that the person who has been betraying her and talking to the Ghostbloods behind her back is none other than… Pattern.

Overall Reactions

A: Shallan and Adolin are both dealing with deep trauma this week! For Shallan, everything she thought she knew about her bond with Pattern is shaken to the core. Could he possibly have been a spy for the Ghostbloods all the way back to her childhood? The level of betrayal that implies would be hard for anyone to bear, and Shallan is already on the edge of coming to pieces. (More on this, with quotations, in Secret Societies.)

As for Adolin, we usually only see it in flashes—a sentence here, a sentence there—but it’s apparent that deep down he believes that he’s useless in all the ways that matter. If someone were to confront him with, say, how much Shallan needs him, he’d acknowledge that, but down in the depth of his soul, the thing he cannot bear is being useless to his father. Doesn’t matter that he’s still angry at Dalinar for Evi’s death, or that he knows Dalinar has no business treating him like the teenage son when he’s actually the adult highprince, or anything else. The thought of returning to Dalinar, having failed this task… nope. Rather than turn back, he essentially gives himself up to what may be permanent incarceration or death in Lasting Integrity. The desperation inherent in this decision is… frightening. At the same time, it’s totally understandable. After all, he presents his case quite well in just a few sentences:

“I’ve come by order of the Bondsmith, my father, to visit your lands and deliver a message on his behalf. I bring with me Knights Radiant of four different orders, all of whom work in concert against the rising Everstorm. Proof that men and spren once again need their bonds of old.”

A: He invokes the Bondsmith—and the one bonded to the Stormfather, which ought to carry some weight with the honorspren. He calls evidence that four other orders, not just the Windrunners, are forming bonds and standing together against their age-old enemy, and that the enemy has indeed returned. Short and sweet, it ought to at least open a dialogue. But honorspren are s t u b b o r n …

“You are to leave. We are not interested in bonds with murderers and traitors.”

… “By reading these, we imply there is an argument you could make to persuade us,” the woman said as the other honorspren further shredded the letters.

… “You will leave,” she said. “We reject your offer! We reject your bonds!”

A: Like… wow. Every bit as bad as he expected, and possibly worse. She wouldn’t even listen, much less read the letters. Immediate rejection without the slightest hint of courtesy. No wonder he got angry! I’m really longing to quote the entire next section, because it’s so beautifully written, but you’ve all just reread the chapter, so I’ll restrain myself. Barely.

L: In a way, I can’t blame them. If you had to confront someone who you believed was responsible for a genocide of your people, would you give them the time of day? Even worse; these honorspren don’t just “believe” it, they know it! They were there; they remember it. They saw hundreds, maybe thousands of their number destroyed by the very people they trusted most. That level of betrayal is incredibly difficult to reconcile. And for people who are practically immortal, it makes sense that the “it was our ancestors, not us” argument wouldn’t hold much weight. Their family and friends were rendered into hapless walking dolls, essentially, and their corpses continued to be used by the very people who betrayed and “killed” them. Yeah… I don’t blame them for not even wanting to listen to Adolin, here.

A: Well, not very many of them actually saw it; Notum told us earlier that “nearly every honorspren was bound” during the Recreance. Still, some saw it, even if (again per Notum) the ones who could have acted against the humans were all dead. Those who survived either didn’t know about the agreement, or were so angry with the result that they refused to pass that part along to the “newer” spren, and we don’t know which. So, yes, with the longevity of spren, it’s understandable that they aren’t interested in large-scale bonding. Still, they aren’t willing to allow that humans could learn from the past once they know what happened, and this attitude seems… I don’t know, a little childish? I just expected more from honorspren.

Moving on… This part seems Significant, and I’m not quite sure why, or how (if) it will come into play later in Adolin’s life:

When he spoke, it was with the same brashness—but the same sense of instinctive rightness—that had led him to attack Sadeas.

A: When all the “right ways” have been exhausted and proven ineffective, you do the right thing a different way, eh?

L: When Adolin stops thinking and just goes by instinct, who wins? The reader. ::laughs::

A: Absolutely! I always love those scenes. And so he rejects their rejection, as well as their assumptions (even though the assumptions were more or less correct), and takes an insane chance:

“You’ve named us murderers, traitors. I reject this, and vow to prove it. Take me, as a representative of the Kholin house and the new government of Urithiru. I am a highprince of Alethkar and the son of the Bondsmith. I will stand in the place of those humans whom you say betrayed you. You wish to reject us because of what they did? Prove, through judgment, that I deserve this treatment.”

A: I’m in awe of this blend of individual responsibility and covenant representation. He’s requiring them to judge him on his own merits, and prove that he personally deserves to be rejected. (And for all his insecurity, he knows that they couldn’t do it.) Then he places himself as representative of all humanity, requiring that they apply that judgment to everyone. Messianic moment, much?

L: It’s interesting, because while we know that Adolin is honorable and just, the same is most certainly not true of all humans. Using himself as a stand-in for all of humanity is a good idea and all, but logically it doesn’t really follow. We are not a homogenous whole; there are beautiful, kind, compassionate humans and there are awful ones.

A: This is true, but at the same time it’s not necessarily a problem. The spren have agency of their own, and they aren’t being required to take any old random person who demands a bond—no more than they ever have. The spren would still choose humans who demonstrate honorable characteristics. It is still a risk for the spren, though, I have to admit, because now a broken bond makes a deadeye.

If the honorspren were as honorable as they claim, it might work. But they have a twisted notion of honor, these days, as well as being constitutionally incapable of setting aside their (not unreasonable) long-standing prejudice against humans. Also, fear of becoming deadeyes if their chosen human turns out to be too weak to hold to their Ideals. So… none of it will work the way Adolin states, but it’s well done nonetheless.

L: It’s a good start, I’ll say that.

A: Beyond that, of course, there are other motivations that float up. He’s furious that they would blame him for what was done to Maya, for one. They’ve insulted his integrity, which is one of the few things about himself he believes is right. And, as they are completely failing to behave in a way that he can understand as honorable, it’s only fitting that they be called out for it and challenged to prove their own honor as well as his.

And then, of course, the underlying reason:

“Do we have a choice?”

“Yes,” she said. “We could turn back.”

And face my father, having failed him again?

A: Sigh. Even though he still firmly believes that killing Sadeas was the right thing to do (as evidenced by the above quote), he still accepts the notion that he failed Dalinar by doing so. It just piles on top of all the other ways he thinks he failed: being a duelist instead of a soldier, being interested in fashion, failing to keep Elhokar alive, refusing to take the crown… all things that he knows are right for him, but still feel like ways in which he failed to live up to his father’s expectations. And he’ll do absolutely anything to just not fail in this mission.

(I love Dalinar, and I really do understand his longing for his beloved son to be better than he himself was. I understand him so much… but I could slap him silly for his abject failure in this one area. He really is proud of his son in so many ways, and while he’s demonstrated his trust in Adolin over and over, he doesn’t say any of it—or at least not without some “but” attached. Lessons in parenting, folks.)

L: I absolutely agree. Dalinar is wonderful in many ways, but no one is perfect, and this is certainly one of his big failings.

A: And so they enter Lasting Integrity: Adolin, Shallan, Pattern, Maya, and Gallant. Whereupon Adolin is promptly seized and put in chains despite his obvious wound.

Spren and Shadesmar

She shooed away the shockspren who were clustering around the spren, practically trying to climb in his lap. It was so strange for all the spren here to have physical forms; they sometimes had to be pushed away with a weapon.

A: This makes me giggle a bit. One, it really would seem strange to deal with physical forms of emotionspren, but it’s nice to see that they’ve gotten more used to it by now. Two, the honorspren drawing shockspren is just funny—at least to me! Add them trying to climb on him, and the mental image is priceless.

L: Little critters representing emotions and concepts will forever intrigue me as a concept.

“Why … why would they do this? Humans have never … attacked spren. What would be the point, the use, the purpose? There is no honor in this!”

A: Last week, we quoted a piece about how it was known that spren couldn’t exactly be killed in Shadesmar, but they could be hurt so much that their minds broke and they “became something akin to a deadeye.” I asked at the time why it would have happened enough to be a known phenomenon. “Was it spren fighting spren? World-hoppers? Rosharan humans? Singers? Voidspren?” This partially answers that question: No, it wasn’t humans who attacked spren in Shadesmar. So… who, then? I can only think of two possibilities: Voidspren I can easily see, especially with them using Shadesmar to move from Braize to Roshar. The other relates to something I just remembered from that non-canonical scene (set during Words of Radiance, but not part of the book) about Jasnah in Shadesmar:

A sudden screech broke Shadesmar’s silence.

Jasnah jumped, spinning. It sounded a trumping beast, only overlaid by the sounds of glass breaking. The terrible noise drove a shiver up her spine. It sounded like it had come from someplace nearby.

Ivory gasped. He leaped forward, grabbing Jasnah by the arm. “We must go.”

“What is that?” Jasnah asked.

“Grinder,” Ivory said. “You call them painspren.”

“Painspren are harmless.”

“On your side, harmless. Here, harmmore. Very harmmore. Come.” He yanked on her arm.

A: So… it’s possible that they know how badly spren can be hurt because some of these silly emotionspren are not so silly? Or at least, are very dangerous in their mindlessness?

L: Hold on. Non-canonical? Did I miss something?

A: Well, in the intro Brandon says it “shouldn’t be taken as canon quite yet, as I haven’t firmed up or fixed all the terminology or Shadesmar interactions.” But I think the implications of the grinders/painspren are valid for the question here.

[S]he spotted what had to be Lasting Integrity: a large fortress on a bleak outcrop of obsidian jutting out into the bead ocean. Imperious—with high walls crafted of some uniformly blue stone—the large boxy fortress was positioned perfectly to defend a natural bay to the north. You even had to cross a bridge to reach the place.

A: Now we see the rest of the cover art! That oversized box on the back cover… that’s Lasting Integrity. And the inside is even weirder.

A woman at the front had the highest collar of the three. She wore her hair up, tight save for one small tail of it pouring out the back. That, like the uniforms, was a fashion style unfamiliar to Adolin.

A: Lol. Trust Adolin, wounded and under immense pressure, to still make note of their fashion choices.

L: ::takes notes::

Relationships and Romances

A: So this is definitely not a romance, and I’m not 100% sure it belongs in Relationships either, but the way Adolin dealt with Notum was fun to read:

“We need to take you to Lasting Integrity,” Adolin said….

“No,” Notum said. “I am exiled.”

“You’re wounded … Exile or not, you’re coming with us.”

… “Your honor does you credit, Prince Adolin, but you must realize my presence in your party will do you harm. … “

“We’ll deal with that then.” …

A: There are two sides to this, and I like them both. One, Adolin isn’t about to risk the Tukari returning to finish the job when his back is turned, even if it has the potential to damage his mission. Which is interesting considering my thoughts in the Overall Reactions above. Adolin will accept any risk to himself to complete the mission, but he won’t risk someone else’s life. This might be diminished by his acknowledgement that the honorspren will probably turn them away regardless, but I do think it says a lot about his character. But the other side is that Notum’s objection to going with them is practically a mirror image of Adolin’s insistence. Notum would risk his own life to protect Adolin’s mission, because he sees honor in this man. It certainly wasn’t obvious at the time, but this is an awesome setup for Notum’s appearance at Adolin’s trial, when he rejects the demands of the honorspren and insists that “Honor is not dead so long as he lives in the hearts of men.” Adolin behaved with honor here, and Notum repays him with honor later.

It occurs to me that much of what I said about Adolin and Dalinar above could belong here, because relationships, but… it fits better there. So I’m leaving it.

Secret Societies

All right, Shallan admitted, if she’s the Ghostblood, she’s an incredible actor. I agree with Veil. We need to rethink our conclusion there.

A: This happened way faster than I expected. Right here she finally admits that Beryl is just not a believable candidate for Ghostblood Spy, and within a few minutes,

Shallan unlocked the trunk and popped it open, then gave a quick glance inside. She didn’t expect … The powder had been disturbed.

A: And the only person who could possibly have disturbed it was Pattern. Veil’s test proves that Pattern is lying to her, and the implications are… really quite terrifying.

Shallan’s father had belonged to the Ghostbloods; her family had been involved with them all the way back in her youth. Perhaps in her childhood, during those shadowy days she’d forgotten? Could the conspiracy go back that far?

Could Pattern have been working with them all along? Feeding them information about her progress? Leading her to contact them when she’d first come to the warcamps?

The implications of that shook her to the core. If her spren was a spy … could she trust anything?

A: While we now know none of this is true, including her assumption that Pattern had been with her all that time, I can certainly understand her desire to curl up in a little ball and hide.

L: Oh yes. This is a totally understandable and valid reaction on Shallan’s part. Betrayal from the “person” closest to you is enough to shake anyone to their core.

Tinfoil TheoryCrafting

A short time later he approached the honorspren—leading Gallant, with Maya on his back—along with Veil, Pattern, and their trunks of clothing on pack animals.

A: Folks, I’m really curious about this. The two humans and the two spren are all instrumental in the culmination of this arc, in parts four and five, but… why is Gallant there? He’s never mentioned again in this book (though as far as I remember, neither are the pack horses…). I half expected him to do a jailbreak or something, but he didn’t. At the end of the book, Adolin and Shallan are still in Lasting Integrity, but it’s clearly implied that they are no longer being held, and Shallan says she will soon leave in the company of those honorspren who have decided to bond with humans. She doesn’t say Adolin is going with her, but one can assume he is. So… does Gallant still have some major part to play in getting them out of Shadesmar or something? It’s gonna bug me for years…

L: The simplest answer is that Gallant needed to be there for the fight last chapter, and/or Brandon didn’t want the readers to forget that he exists. Which implies that the Ryshadium still have some important part to play later on in the series—but obviously not necessarily this book.

Arresting Artwork

A: On a guess, that one on the left is the woman they speak with in this chapter, with that crown and sword and high collar and all.

I like the way this is done, with the spren themselves all in lighter tones, and then the few physical objects—the spear, the sword and sword belt, the fortress—very dark and contrast-heavy.

L: It makes sense, as their clothing is described as being made of the same “light” as their physical forms. Actual solid weapons would have a different look entirely, so this was a really cool choice on Ben’s part to highlight the difference between the physical and cognitive. I also love how loose and flowy their clothes are. Look how billowy and wide the pants on the male honorspren are! Really drives home their connection to the air and the windspren. (Though that facial hair choice on the top right is… questionable.)

A: Indeed! Just because you can make your hair do anything, doesn’t necessarily mean you should… Nice catch on the way their billowy clothing reinforces the windspren link.

Some of Shallan’s notes are particularly applicable to this chapter: one, that the honorspren were devasted by the Recreance, and even now have only rebuilt a fraction of their former numbers. That definitely supports Lyn’s comments on their general refusal to consider bonding. The other one is this:

The style of clothing seems to correlate in some respects with their personal beliefs, even more so than a human’s might.

A: The military look, the crowns, everything reinforces their insistence on the sovereignty of the honorspren and their complete lack of obligation to humans. It might be interesting to watch for this as they interact with other honorspren before and during the trial, to see what clues we can pick up! (Of course, this would require me to remember this bit of inspiration by the time we get back to them…)

 

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! Of note, this is the last time we’ll see Adolin and Shallan for a long time; their next appearance is Chapter 75, in Part Four. Next week, we’ll rejoin Navani, Venli, and Kaladin in a very disconcerting chapter 37.

Alice is enjoying spring in the PNW, and is looking forward to the warmth of summer. Drinks on the patio FTW!

Lyndsey hasn’t been doing well with anxiety lately, but finally did Kaladin proud and found herself a new therapist. She encourages anyone else who has been having trouble reintegrating into society post-pandemic to do the same, and wants to remind all her chickens that she loves them.

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