Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Forty-Three

and

And so ends Part Two, our Cosmere Chickens! It’s been a wild ride so far, and we’re only getting started. It seems like all hope is lost, but as we know, that only means that we’re in for a long upward climb as our heroes make their way out of the mess in which they’ve found themselves.

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 very briefly mention the current deity of Mistborn and Hoid’s behavior on Scadrial in the Epigraph section.

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

A: Pretty sure we can put all four Jezriens right down to our leading Windrunner, this week! Protecting, leading, Windrunner… everything except actually being a king.

Icon: Banner and Spears, for Kaladin’s POV.

Epigraph:

Regardless, please make yourself known to me when you travel my lands. It is distressing that you think you need to move in the shadows.

L: Anyone who knows Hoid at all shouldn’t be surprised that he’s skulking about in secrecy. That’s his thing.

A: Sure, he’s going to make himself known to the local deity… not. (I’m starting a reread of Mistborn Era 2; I’m going to have to watch for any sign that he’s actually met with Harmony there! I sure don’t remember any from my previous reading.)

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1175.4.6.4 (Within a few hours after Chapter 42)

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

Kaladin is with his parents when a pair of stormforms arrive to take the unconscious Radiants. Much to his father’s disgust, Kaladin kills one and lets the other go in order to take Teft to safety.

Overall Reactions

She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and gave it to Kaladin as he found himself yet again wiping his brow.

L: I’m surprised that neither Hesina nor Lirin commented on the excessive sweating. It seemed very out of place to me, and made me concerned that there was some sort of plague sweeping through the tower (you know, as if they didn’t have enough problems).

A: Hmm. Plague didn’t really occur to me (at least not this time). It’s pretty clear that Kaladin is under severe stress; he’s sweating, he’s not thinking clearly, he feels very odd… I assume part of it is PTSD, magnifying the stress of the situation they’re in; Kaladin actually thinks about this at one point, as he thinks of what his patients must be going through, and admits to himself that he’s in just as bad a shape as he assumes they are. I suspect it’s also partly the suppressor field, which is messing with his bond. It sounds like a vicious cycle, with each factor exaggerating the others.

L: That’s definitely possible that the suppression field is messing with him physically as well as suppressing his powers. It’s messing with the other Radiants physically, after all!

“What would have happened, son, if instead of trying so hard to escape all those years, you’d instead proven yourself to your masters? What if you’d shown them you could heal instead of kill? How much misery would you have saved the world if you’d used your talents instead of your fists?”

L: He probably wouldn’t have been sold to the bridge crews which means he wouldn’t have been there to save Adolin and Dalinar, which means they’d have lost that battle and Dalinar never would have bonded the Stormfather and and and…

Sorry, Lirin, but you can’t just spin hypotheticals like that when your son is pretty much The Chosen One.

A: Well, of course he couldn’t have done any of that stuff, because that’s not the story Sanderson is telling. But hypothetically, yes, his life would have been very different. He might even have still (hypothetically) become a Radiant; it just would have been under different circumstances. And we don’t even know that he wouldn’t have been in place to save Dalinar and Adolin… but he most likely would not have saved Bridge Four.

“Son, think about what all those years spent fighting did to you. How they broke you.”

L: What about all the lives he saved? Life is not so black and white as Lirin believes and I hate how he constantly berates Kaladin and beats him down emotionally over this.

A: You see it as “constantly berating and beating down.” I see it as a father’s concern for his son—whom you definitely recognize as being broken. Lirin may be partially incorrect about what broke Kaladin; from our perspective it was more the people he couldn’t save no matter how hard he fought, and in that way they are very much alike. But he’s right about his son being broken, and broken to the point that he can’t fight without doing himself further damage. Everyone has acknowledged that; it’s why Dalinar took him off active duty, after all.

A more interesting question, to me, is why Lirin thinks it was the fighting. There’s the obvious part: Kaladin went off and joined the army, and next time Lirin saw him he was pretty messed up. But IMO, there’s another story that we haven’t yet been told, that would give us more insight into just why Lirin is so strongly against violence. It’s possible that he simply believes with all his heart that healing is better than killing—and most of us would agree with that, as far as it goes. (Or… we would if we weren’t so intent on protecting Kaladin from any criticism…) But I still think Lirin had some experience in the past that cemented this belief far beyond intellectual assent.

L: Oh, I’m not protecting Kaladin from criticism. God knows he deserves it now and again. He is, after all, still a very young man and he makes some real doozies of mistakes. But there are ways of offering criticism that are more gentle than others, and when you’re dealing with someone who suffers from PTSD and depression, the “hit them with the hammer” type is rarely productive.

“Now,” Lirin said, “think about these last few weeks. How good it felt to be helping for once.”

“There is more than one way to help.”

“And your nightmares?” Lirin asked. “The cold sweats? The times where your mind numbs? Was that caused by my kind of help, or your kind? Son, our mandate is to find those who are hurt, then see them cared for. We can do that even if the enemy has conquered us.”

A: He’s not wrong. However, there’s something more going on here. I’d like to point out a change in Lirin that I think has a major effect in this scene. When we saw him in Kaladin’s flashbacks, he was certainly committed to non-violence, though he only expected his own family to adhere to that; he believed that being a soldier was something any fool could do. (Not a very Vorin perspective, I have to say!)

L: I will say that I think it’s cool that he is so very different from other Vorin men. I appreciate characters who go against the societal norms of their culture.

A: Right? One of the things I admire is his willingness to follow his convictions, never mind what other people say. (I could tell some stories about RL people with similar convictions, but not here. This is going to be long enough as it is!) But he was definitely not committed to non-resistance; he resisted Roshone in dozens of subtle ways, with Hesina as an able accomplice.

In Rhythm of War, though, we’re seeing him prioritize not merely non-violence, but non-resistance. There is a profound difference, and it’s why I have so much sympathy for Lirin. Contrary to what it often looks like, I do understand why people get mad at him, but there’s a level that often gets ignored. Lirin feels personally responsible for Tien’s death and Kaladin’s current condition. For years, he believed that his oh-so-clever resistance to Roshone’s bullying caused the death of both his sons. Now (though he doesn’t say it in this scene—it comes in a later conversation), he believes that he is to blame for Kaladin’s experiences. Yes, Kaladin survived and Tien died, but the physical and mental damage to Kaladin from those years of soldiering and slavery really are appalling. And Lirin believes it’s his fault. If he had simply given Roshone what he wanted, not stood up to him in any way, his sons wouldn’t have been the target of Roshone’s viciousness. Tien wouldn’t have been sacrificed to the army, and Kaladin wouldn’t have tried to protect him. Like any parent, he longs for his son to be healed of all the terror and trauma of those years—and the more so, because he sees it as his own fault. That’s why he’s so hard over on the idea of just submitting to the Fused, keeping their heads down and being healers: He’s seen the kind of thing people in power do to those who resist. He doesn’t want Kaladin to bring that kind of attention to himself or his people. I’d go so far as to say he doesn’t want Kaladin to bear the guilt of being the one whose resistance caused the death of his parents and his baby brother.

It would have helped if he’d managed to talk about all this with Kaladin over the last year, but he didn’t expect it to become an issue.

L: I do have sympathy for him as a character. Thinking that your actions directly resulted in the death of your child will mess you up. And you’re right, Alice, in that this is almost certainly why he is now so adamantly non-resistance.

“That’s always been your problem, son. Letting your heart override your head.”

… Besides, isn’t the entire reason we became surgeons because of the heart? Because we care?”

“We need both heart and mind,” Lirin said. “The heart might provide the purpose, but the head provides the method, the path. Passion is nothing without a plan. Wanting something doesn’t make it happen.

L: He says this as if Kaladin has never had a plan before. Yeah, it’s absolutely true that he’s dived into things without thinking about them, but he’s not a complete idiot driven completely by his passions, either.

A: Kaladin has a history of acting before he stops to think. We saw it in his flashbacks, we saw it in the bridge crew (side carry, anyone?), we saw it in Adolin’s 4-on-1 duel, and many more. He does what feels right, without thinking through the possible consequences. He generally doesn’t make the same mistake twice, but he continues to go on gut instinct more than thoughtful planning. (It’s kinda funny… those leaps are the times where we either wish we were like him, or we cringe in secondhand embarrassment. His best and his worst moments seem to result from unthinking decisions. Hmm.)

“I can acknowledge—have to acknowledge—that you accomplished great things serving Dalinar Kholin.

L: Jeez, Lirin. Don’t strain anything admitting that your son is a great hero who saved thousands of lives.

His father was correct. Kaladin could accomplish far more by backing down than he could by fighting.

L: To head off the argument, yes, Alice. Lirin is right. Kaladin acknowledges this. It’s the WAY he is telling his son about it that’s abusive and problematic. You can be right about something and at the same time be inconsiderate and hurtful in the method by which you convey the information.

A: Let’s just say you and I have different views of what constitutes “abuse.” I’m personally reluctant to overstate this sort of thing; it’s like someone equating a wolf whistle to rape—it diminishes the victims of actual rape. I can agree that Lirin (like Kaladin) often thinks he understands something based only on what he can see, without realizing there’s another angle to consider. But I really think that what we’re seeing is a father terrified that he’s going to lose his son again.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that Kaladin isn’t exactly sweet and kind when he’s talking to his father. He says a lot of sneering and hurtful things himself. Like father, like son, I guess.

Kaladin stood quietly on that precipice. Balanced. The Regal leaped forward, swinging his axe. And Kaladin stepped off the edge.

L: As nice as it is to see Kaladin taking some time to heal his emotional scars, I have to admit that watching him kick ass and take names is just so, so satisfying as a reader. Whenever something like this happens, this is basically my reaction.

A: I mean… there was never really a chance that Kaladin would stop fighting.

Even for a soldier, he corrected. You’re no surgeon.

L: Oh, Kaladin. You can be both. Don’t subscribe to your father’s black and white world view mentality.

A: But I don’t think he can be equally both. He has to put one ahead of the other, and while he can do the work of a surgeon—and do it well—he will always be a soldier at the core. IMO.

“How dare you!” Lirin whispered, his voice hoarse.

Kaladin hesitated, shocked.

“How dare you kill in this place!” Lirin shouted, turning on Kaladin, angerspren pooling at his feet. “My sanctuary. The place where we heal! What is wrong with you?”

L: Good lord. Someone shut this sanctimonious bastard up. Let the boy save lives. Sometimes, especially in this world, violence is the only answer, and all of our wishing to the contrary won’t stop evil people from committing atrocities. Kaladin gave them every chance to live. He tried to use non-lethal methods. And he let the other one go.

A: Hang on. You either don’t have any real concept of, or you’re ignoring, the depth of Lirin’s conviction and the way he regards his place of healing. Kaladin has desecrated it. He’s also put his family in a terribly vulnerable position, with this resistance.

L: I have sympathy for the putting the family in danger part, but “desecration” is a BS excuse when you’re dealing with the possibility of someone dying. Life is more important than some ideal of purity and moral cleanliness. A place can be cleansed. A life once taken can never be returned. And yeah, I know. Kaladin took a life himself. But, as stated earlier, he did not have a choice in this situation. He did try. He gave them every opportunity to walk away, tried to end it by choking him out… it was only when all other attempts failed did he resort to lethal means.

A: No, I don’t think Kaladin should have given Teft up to the Regal and his stormforms. At this point he didn’t know whether he was saving or endangering Teft’s life by trying to hide him. But having waited too long to find a better hiding place, he didn’t really have much choice—he could let them take Teft, or he could stop them. And stopping them meant killing the Regal. That doesn’t really make it any better to see him doing so in the surgery with a scalpel—the place and the object intended for healing, not killing. (FWIW, I think this was actually a brilliant move on Sanderson’s part; it ramps up the contrast and the emotional impact far more than “in the corridor with a dagger.” And now I’m in a Clue game.)

L: Yes, thematically it’s a beautiful thing. The symbols of healing being used for lethal means is very strong symbolism on Brandon’s part. Kaladin had two sides of himself, and in this case he is sacrificing the sanctity of one side in order to fuel the other. From a writing perspective, this is such a strong image.

A: He probably also delights in this particular argument—or would if he knew about it. LOL

“Heralds above…” Lirin whispered. “They really did kill my boy, didn’t they? What have they done to you?”

Kaladin’s smidgen of Stormlight ran out. Damnation, he was so tired. “I’ve tried to tell you. Your boy died years ago.”

… “Storms…” Lirin whispered. “Storms, my son has become a monster.…”

L: Honestly, I wish I had words for this, but it makes me so angry that I can’t. This is not how you treat your child. I do hope that someday we may see Lirin realize the error of his ways and come around to an understanding of the necessity of his son’s actions, and that he apologizes for his behavior. Parents believing that they’re right about everything no matter what is… Just so problematic. None of us are infallible, and we have to be able and willing to admit when we’re mistaken, especially to our children.

A: Have you forgotten the ending?

L: Possibly. We all know how great my memory is. I also haven’t read it since the beta so things may have been changed since then? I remember Kaladin saving Lirin, but I don’t remember Lirin apologizing to him for his words.

A: (Spoilers: Lirin gets the shash painted on his own forehead because he figures that if an entire tower was going to show faith in his son, maybe he could do the same. The words are very much Lirin’s way of speaking, so some people still don’t find it an adequate apology, but IMO it’s pretty profound. Also, it’s Lirin’s touch that brushes away the remnant of Kaladin’s brands, which is beautifully symbolic.)

L: Fair point, I’d apparently forgotten this. It’s a step in the right direction, for certain. I hope he continues in that vein and helps to heal his son (emotionally) rather than causing further harm.

“I’ve taken oaths too, Father,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m not the man you wanted me to be. But if I were a monster, I would never have let that other soldier go.”

L: At least Kaladin isn’t taking the words completely to heart.

A: Kaladin understands his father better than most readers do.

Bruised and Broken

“It was a nice dream, wasn’t it, Syl?” he asked. “That we could escape? Find peace at long last?”

“Such a wonderful dream,” she whispered.

A: Heartbreaking.

L: Agreed.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

Wind surged through the window behind, brushing past him, bearing with it two twisting windspren that moved as lines of light.

L: I love all the instances of windspren appearing around Kaladin when he’s nearing this ideal.

A: It’s almost like they wish he’d hurry up and speak that next Ideal so they could help him, or something.

So many reasons to stay where he was. But one reason to move.

They were going to take Teft.

L: Protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

A: I still can’t decide whether the repetition of “They were going to take Teft” is supposed to be an indication of Kaladin’s muddled state of mind, only able to focus on that one thought, or if it’s just trying to communicate the urgency to the reader. It comes across to me (at least at the moment) as the former, but it’s a device Sanderson uses sometimes to focus the reader.

“Because I will take responsibility for what I’ve done! I will work within whatever confines I must in order to protect people! I have taken oaths not to harm!”

A: Lirin sounds like a Bondsmith here, but he demonstrably takes responsibility for things he really isn’t responsible for. Wonder where Kaladin learned it.

Singers/Fused

Two of his soldiers took the Stoneward’s squires, one each, and hauled them out of the second exam room. “I think we should throw them all off the tower and rid ourselves of a huge problem. The Fused want us to collect them though. Guess they want to have the fun of killing these themselves.”

A: Okay, honestly, I’m kinda glad this particular Regal is dead. Just sayin’… (Not that Raboniel’s plans for them are any better, mind you.)

L: The fact that this guy was willing to just straight up murder unconscious people in their sleep increases my lack of sympathy for him.

“That’s him, Brightlord! The one the Pursuer is searching for! He matches the description exactly!”

The Regal grinned. “You’re going to make me very rich, human.”

A: Yeah, not so much…

L: ::snicker::

He was in warform, so he appeared fearsome, but his expression told another story. That of a person who wanted to be anywhere else, a person horrified by the brutality of the fight.

Storms… He hadn’t considered that singers might feel battle shock too.

A: Sigh. The pragmatic part of me thinks Kaladin should have just killed this one too, but I’m glad he didn’t. I’d like to think this one might be one of Leshwi’s people in the end.

He’d told himself that those fights were more meaningful, but the truth was that he hated killing common soldiers. They never seemed to have much of a chance against him.

Yet each Fused he killed meant something even worse. A noncombatant would be sacrificed to give that Fused new life, so each one of them Kaladin killed meant taking the life of some housewife or craftsman.

A: I really do love the way Sanderson portrays the complexity of the situation. There really isn’t anything straightforward about the entire conflict.

Humans

She had white and grey hair, but was young enough that it seemed premature, and had a pair of white gloves tucked into her belt. An Alethi master-servant doing double duty as a messenger.

L: This is your tuckerization, right, Alice? How does it feel to give Kal a little snark?

A: It me! It me! I love getting to give Kal some fetch. Yes, this is my tuckerization, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Backstory: I almost always go to Brandon’s signings in Seattle dressed as a master-servant. There are a few tasks (like taking pictures) for which I know his protocols well enough that he doesn’t have to explain anything other than “Alice will take care of it.” When I showed up as a master-servant in this book I was absolutely giddy.

You and I need sleep, because we’re going to become very busy men over the next few days. There’s an entire tower full of frightened people, and likely as not a few hotheaded soldiers will take it upon themselves to make trouble despite the queen’s orders. They’re all going to need two rested surgeons.”

L: When he’s not berating his son, I do generally like Lirin. He cares for others and genuinely wants to help them.

A: He tried to talk the Regal out of taking Teft and the Stoneward, arguing that clearly he was better able to care for them, and after all they’re completely unconscious. Isn’t it ironic, then, that he ends up taking care of all the captive unconscious Radiants later? (Um… right up until that wretch Moash shows up and starts killing them, and uses Lirin as a hostage…)

Then Lirin, overcoming his shock, scrambled into the room to try to help the dying singer.

Father is fine, Kaladin thought.

A: ::snort::

Brilliant Buttresses

“Go back to bed, boy,” he eventually said. “You don’t want to try my patience today.”

L: I love it when people underestimate Kaladin like this. Just makes me want to…

 

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 the first of the interludes between parts two and three. Brace yourselves, because it’s a Vyre one.

Alice has survived the record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, mostly intact—although her brain may have melted slightly. Her mission this year is to get fit enough to run messages like Alili. Oh, and also to reread MB Era 2 this summer, because The Lost Metal is on its way. Sixty percent on the status bar!

Lyndsey has finished one Renaissance Faire and is now moving into rehearsal for the next two, and is so relieved that her “day job” is back. She 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.

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