Greetings once again, O My Peeps. Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, in which war—in all its gory*—returns to the page, while Kaladin and Navani still blithely continue their normal pursuits. Oh, my Chickens, this is a hard chapter to get through, and the next one will be harder. You have been Warned. Things are about to get chaotic.
*No, it’s not a typo. Go reread the chapter if you think it is.
You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve gone solo this week; unlike Kaladin’s preferred approach, Lyndsey is taking a mental-health break. Fitting, that this chapter is the first time Kal has admitted that, just maybe, it’s possible that he could take a bit of a rest. (Not that he’s going to get one, but Lyndsey does, because she’s not a character in a book with an author pile-driving her into the depths. She’s a human being with other people who can give her a break.)
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 there are the usual references to Mistborn in the Epigraph section, plus a vague Cosmere-wide reference at the beginning of the Singers/Fused section. If you’re super paranoid about spoilers and haven’t read the other books yet, you might want to slide on past the first paragraph there.)
Heralds: Battah (Battar). Elsecallers. Wise/Careful. Role: Counsellor.
I’m really not quite sure why Battar was chosen for this chapter. It might be because Raboniel shares the Surge of Transformation with the Elsecallers. It might be, I suppose, because Rlain, Teft, and Syl work together to give Kaladin good counsel. (It’s really good counsel, so… maybe?) It doesn’t seem likely to represent the two scholars who died in the explosion; that would be Palah. Do y’all have any other ideas? Because I’m not really satisfied with this.
Icon: The Singer, for a Venli POV (even though the chapter starts with Navani).
You have not felt what I have. You have not known what I have. You rejected that chance—and wisely, I think.
As has been noted before, Hoid has held a Dawnshard, but he has not held one of the sixteen Shards of Adonalsium. While there are likely some similarities, from our observation there are definitely differences. We don’t know whether or not Harmony knows about Hoid’s Dawnshard experience, but he clearly knows that Hoid had the chance at a Shard and refused it. Interesting that he says Hoid chose “wisely”—is that due to something about Hoid individually, or something that anyone would have been wiser not to do?
WHO: Navani, Venli, Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru (a laboratory, the crystal-pillar room, Jez’s Duty winehouse)
WHEN: 118.104.22.168 (immediately following Chapter 37)
Navani surveys the destruction of the lab where her two scholars were running tests on the sphere Gavilar had given Szeth, instructs Rushu to comb the room for any possible clues, and leaves to try to find some answers. Venli and co. reach the room with the gemstone pillar to see the murder of the last of the scholars working there, and Raboniel begins her attempt to corrupt the tower and invert its defenses. Meanwhile, Kaladin and Teft go to their favorite winehouse, where Rlain joins them for a discussion about alienation and getting help.
This chapter is a continuation of that tension between the invasion and normal life in the tower—the last one before everything goes pear-shaped. It’s an odd balance; our three POV characters are all hopeful but worried, in three wildly different contexts. Next week is going to hurt.
Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light
The destroyed room was their shared laboratory. Thousands of broams’ worth of equipment ruined. And one invaluable sphere.
Szeth’s sphere. The Voidlight one that Gavilar had considered most important out of all his strange spheres.
At this point in the book, remember that we didn’t know what that sphere held. We’ll learn, somewhere in Part Four, and realize that what happened was the contact of Stormlight with anti-Stormlight, contained in the small space of a sphere that created too much pressure and exploded. When Navani granted permission for the two scholars to study the sphere, she gave them a list of tests to run, and told them to keep it secret. It’s too bad she didn’t also ask for daily updates whenever they worked on it, or she might have had more information on what they had already tried and what they were planning next.
“I need you to do something for me, Rushu. Catalogue everything in this room. … Then go through every inch of it. Save every scrap of paper. Every broken lens or cracked beaker.”
“If you wish, Brightness,” Rushu said. “But … if I might ask … why? What do you hope to find?”
“Have you ever known a fabrial accident to cause an explosion like this?” Navani asked.
Being Navani, of course she wants the place scoured for any records or clues. Sadly, after darkening the room to verify that nothing glowed, Rushu went down to the archives to get a couple of scholars to help with the cataloguing. She was there when Raboniel’s troops came in, and never got a chance to look for papers or other indications.
It’s an interesting twist that this explosion happened just as Raboniel was in the process of inverting the Tower’s protections, hoping to find a way to create this exact anti-light. Had this particular sphere not been destroyed, she might well have seen and understood what it contained—proof that her goal was possible. As it is, the secret is kept until Navani recreates it.
Relationships and Romances
Kaladin tried to remember the last time he’d gone out for fun without Adolin forcing him. Skar’s wedding? Yes, Lyn had made him go right before their breakup. That had been the last time he’d gone out with Bridge Four. Half the reason Kaladin had begun courting Lyn was due to Adolin and Syl conspiring against him. Storming man. Storming spren. Bless them both. Though the relationship hadn’t worked out, he could now see that they’d both grown because of it.
Awwww. She was good for him, but I honestly don’t blame her for breaking up with him. That’s too much strain on a romantic relationship, especially when combined with their professional relationship. While I’m not super big on shipping (especially someone like Kaladin, who really needs to work out his own issues), once he gets things sorted out a bit more, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get back together with Lyn. After all, she got along really well with Hesina, and that says a lot! (This assumes, of course, that Kaladin survives the next ten days after Rhythm of War and has a chance to work on furthering the mental health project… either of which may or may not be the case…)
(Note: I’m not saying that you can’t have a healthy romance until you get all your problems worked out! If that were the case, there would be very few romances in life. I’m just noting that Kaladin is the kind of person who will distract himself from his own health by focusing on a partner’s needs, or on the relationship, or… anything, pretty much, rather than get help for himself. So for Kaladin specifically, IMO he needs to find a path to recovery and get on it, before he can have a viable romantic relationship.)
Bruised and Broken
It felt strange to visit without him and Shallan. In fact, it felt strange to be going out anywhere without those two.
I know that Adolin had dual motives in getting Kaladin out of himself; he wanted to help Kaladin, but he also hoped that helping Kaladin would provide a way to help Shallan as well. Even so, Adolin is kind of my hero for the way he refused to give up on Kaladin. I mean… he’s only been married for a year, and a lot of newlyweds don’t really put much effort into maintaining friendships with their single friends IRL. And Kaladin has been doing his very best to push Adolin away. Most people wouldn’t be so persistent, but Adolin? Adolin just won’t stand for it. And it’s a good thing.
“What happens if I get some red?”
“Tonight? Probably nothing. But you’ll get it next time.”
“And then I’ll get some violet,” Teft said. “Then something clear. Then…”
They know how it works, all right. Unfair? Yes. True, nonetheless. Some paths are too dangerous to start down.
That stopped when Rlain stepped in behind Syl. Kaladin winced at how obvious it was.
Referring, of course, to the general air of joviality in the winehouse. I thought about putting this section in the Singers section, but… I think it fits better here. This whole scene, with the attitude of the humans toward Rlain, the way he pretends not to notice it, and how he obviously does… I think all of this contributes to the way he’s broken enough for a spren bond.
It’s really painful to watch this scene play out. The way everyone stops talking when Rlain walks in. The way he exaggerates his facial expressions for the sake of the humans who can’t hear the rhythms. The way the server runs away to find someone more experienced to deal with him. The way Teft is finally able to flag down a server, and still has to order for him. I suspect one of the reasons Rlain is a fan fave has to do with the way so many of us feel like “outsiders” in one way or another, but I’m also betting none of us have experienced the kind of Other that he does.
That’s what makes it even more poignant when he finally opens up about his experience as part of Bridge Four, facing his own people on the battlefield.
“… It had been discussed what we’d do if the humans ever started using parshmen for runs, and we’d decided we had to drop them, same as humans. Then there I was, staring at my friends, knowing they would do their best to kill me…”
That’s brutal. I’m with Syl:
“That’s so terrible…”
“It was war,” Rlain said.
“Is that an excuse?” she asked.
“An explanation,” Teft said.
“One used to explain too much,” Syl said, wrapping her arms around herself and growing smaller than usual. “It’s war, you say. Nothing to be done about it. You act like it’s as inevitable as the sun and storms. But it’s not. You don’t have to kill each other.”
As Kaladin notes, she’s not wrong, and neither is Lirin. Most of the killing is not needed. At the same time, you have to factor in human (or singer) nature in an imperfect world, and just not fighting is probably not going to work. Frankly, no one wants to be the one who laid down the weapons first, only to have all the people you were protecting get wiped out by a foe who doesn’t share your values.
Back to the things they can change, though, and Kaladin’s group therapy…
“Don’t take this wrong, sir,” Rlain said. “But… has it helped you?”
Whereupon, naturally, Kaladin starts making excuses as to why he hasn’t given it a chance to help him. He doesn’t have time. He needs to get the program set up. He needs to find all the people who need the help. Can’t rest yet. ::sighs::
“Pardon, sir,” Rlain said, “but don’t you need it as much as they do? Maybe it would be restful to participate.”
Kaladin turned away, and found Syl—on his shoulder—glaring as hard as Teft. She’d even given herself a little Bridge Four uniform …
Bahahaha! Try to get out of it now, bridgeboy! Not gonna happen.
He has all the arguments, and to an extent, again, he’s not wrong. He does have support. He does have his family, and the work in the surgery, and companions who won’t let him fall. He’s also not entirely right, because while those are all wonderful help, they’re external supports which can (and soon will) be removed; he needs internal healing for anything to change permanently.
This project though, finding those who were like him, alleviating their suffering … that would help the most. Strength before weakness. He was coming to understand that part of his first oath. He had discovered weakness in himself, but that wasn’t something to be ashamed of. Because of that weakness, he could help in ways nobody else could.
I love this. LOVE it. Especially in that he recognizes that his own problems are still there, but that in helping others in this way, he can also accept their help and perhaps find a way through.
It’s all so sweetly hopeful (which is downright agonizing when you think about what his next months are going to look like), but it will eventually come back around. He promised here that he would start participating in the group instead of just organizing it, and he’ll remember that promise when the battle is over.
Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened
As a Radiant, she could have used Stormlight to strengthen her. But that would have been far too dangerous.
This thought recurs to Venli quite regularly. She has the ability to use Stormlight, like any Radiant, to strengthen her body and heal any injuries. Unfortunately for her, a Regal glowing with Stormlight would be just a tad obvious. Having a bunch of stormforms pointing at her and yelling “SUS!” would probably be a bad thing.
Each moment became excruciating, and Venli focused only on taking the next step.
Okay, this might be as bad as people thinking all the Stormlight fans want to see the advertisement for “Radiant White” toothpaste, but… was that just coincidence? “Take the next step” was such a pivotal phrase for Dalinar’s arc in Oathbringer, it’s hard to avoid the connection when another Radiant, however secret, has a similar thought.
I always get a chuckle out of moments like this next one, though, when she observes the way all the Fused’s and stormforms’ eyes are glowing red from holding a Voidspren:
Her own eyes glowed as well, lying on her behalf. She had a Voidspren too; Timbre simply held it captive.
Timbre is just so amazing. Not only can she lock the Voidspren into Venli’s gemheart, she can make use of its various “contributions” like the glowing eyes and the Regal form without letting it actually control anything. So cool.
Other than the light around the door, the only illumination came from the red-ember eyes of the people around her. The sign that a person’s soul had been mingled with that of a Voidspren.
In case anyone was not yet aware of it, the red eyes, as well as most red coloration in Investiture, signifies the corruption of one Shard’s Investiture by another Shard. Presumably, this is some sort of forced corruption, because we don’t see cooperative Shards (Dominion/Devotion, Preservation/Ruin, Honor/Cultivation) turning everything red. (Obviously, the reds associated with the Dustbringers and the Lightweavers are not the same thing—that’s got to do with the color of the ruby and garnet gemstones.) Here, though, it’s worth pointing out yet again that the red eyes, like the red lightning, are not “Odium’s color” but rather the result of Odium’s Investiture interfering with that of Honor and Cultivation, which is natural to the singer people.
Deepest Ones worked well as surprise troops, but—from planning meetings she’d attended—she knew they didn’t have the skill or strength to challenge Radiants in direct battle. So if Radiants could be gathered to defend the crystalline heart of the tower, they could rebuff this attack.
This is where I was wrong last week. I said then, “Given what we see the Regals do in this chapter (and the next), I don’t really know how effective a defense the humans could have mounted even if Navani had received the Sibling’s warning earlier.” I’d apparently forgotten this part! Yes, it’s pretty intimidating to see the way the Deepest Ones can move through the rock, and the way they kill the ordinary humans is downright creepy. It’s particularly disturbing, and perhaps relevant to the above quote, that Venli observes that most of the dead were scholars, and only a few were soldiers; they didn’t really take out very many people whose training would give them the means to fight back.
So it looks like fighting Radiants would have had a very different result. I had, for some unknown reason, assumed that the Fused who could move through stone would be strong like stone, but… that doesn’t necessarily follow, does it? So now it looks much more tragic that Navani decided not to be in a hurry to check her messages. There weren’t all that many fighting Radiants left in the Tower, but it would have been enough to make a very big difference. At the very least, it would have allowed time to communicate with Dalinar and Jasnah via spanreed.
“I hope your slumber is peaceful, Sibling,” Raboniel said, resting a hand upon the imposing pillar. “You shall not awake, at least not as yourself.”
As creepy it was to “see” the Deepest Ones’ murder spree, this was terrifying. I can now note in passing that Raboniel confirmed the connection between the Sibling and this crystal pillar, but… her threat to the Sibling still makes me shudder.
Voidlight—glowing violet on black—surged along Raboniel’s arm. She’d said she would need time to accomplish her task: corrupting the pillar and fully activating the tower’s defenses, but in a way that muted Radiants, not Fused.
It’s kind of heartbreaking, you know? Before the humans even knew for sure that there were defenses against the Fused, those defenses will be turned against them. I also have to note that the Sibling shares the blame here, along with Navani’s desire for control. Had they tried to have a conversation with someone, whether it was Navani or someone else, rather than just yelling at her, they might have had a chance.
I can’t decide whether to feel pity or contempt (probably a hefty dollop of both!) at Venli’s reaction, though.
Please, Venli thought to the Rhythm of the Lost, let it happen without more killing.
She’s been around Raboniel this whole trip; she knows that Lezian’s troops are also mixed in with the ones Leshwi sent to serve Raboniel; she saw them slaughter their way to this place; she’s just watched the Deepest Ones kill even the scholars to avoid letting them give an alert. And now she thinks there’s the faintest chance that there won’t be more killing? I guess I can be a little encouraged by the change from the conniving nimbleform we saw back in Words of Radiance, who was perfectly willing to fling her own people to their deaths against the humans in exchange for her own power, but… gah. I want to like Venli, but she does make it hard sometimes.
Venli could see the exact moment when the tower broke. … the Voidlight moved from Raboniel into the pillar. It infused a small section of the majestic construction, crawling into an embedded grouping of garnets.
Yes, that same grouping of garnets Navani had recognized from the suppressor fabrial, and had been trying to figure out. Now it’s turned against the Radiants in a big way, and the real fighters—the Heavenly Ones—will come to take control.
The two dead were Nem and Talnah, the lensmakers, astronomers, and gemstone experts.
We first met these two on the Cloudwalk back in Chapter 16, when Navani asked their opinion on Szeth’s sphere. They asked if they could keep it to study it, and Navani somewhat reluctantly granted permission. (It’s unfortunate, though very human, that she doesn’t remember exactly what happened on the Cloudwalk that day, because here she thinks of their deaths as something she caused when she asked them to study it. Yet more of Navani taking on herself the fault for something that wasn’t her responsibility. Awfully like our dear Windrunner, sometimes.)
The bodies were under several bloody sheets. Not two sheets: five. For two corpses. Storms.
I… guess at least they probably didn’t feel a thing… but still. Storms.
As Kaladin settled into the seat, he noted some of the scratched-in sketches Shallan had done with a knife on the tabletop. One was a rather unflattering picture of him in oversized boots.
I will probably never not snicker when the subject of boots comes up in a Kaladin/Shallan context. I’m pretty sure I downright guffawed when Bridge Four gave Shallan a pair of boots for a wedding gift.
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 thirty-nine, and I’m not quite ready to think about that yet.
Alice is, apparently, constitutionally incapable of turning down an opportunity to beta read. She is currently in her third beta for this year (and first gamma, simultaneously) and loving every second of it.