Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, as we launch into Part Three this week! We’ll pick up just a few steps away from where we left off at the end of Part Two: with Kaladin working his way through the Tower, hoping for a way to escape pursuit and hide his friend. Watch for the parallels between the current situation and some of Kaladin’s flashbacks; there’s some very deliberate reflection going on up in here.
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.
There are no Cosmere spoilers this week.
Heyho, it’s Part Three! We haven’t actually talked about the Parts ketek before, and I have no idea why, but the title of this part is “Songs of Home.” If I can remember, we’ll look at that again when we finish this part, and see how it applies. All I can remember of Part Three right now is everyone feeling homeless.
Heralds: Shalash, Jezrien.
Shalash (Ash), Herald of Beauty. Lightweavers. Creative/Honest. Role: Artist.
Jezrien (Jezerezeh, Yaezir, Ahu), Herald of Kings. Windrunners. Protecting/Leading. Role: King.
A: Jezrien is pretty easy, here. We’ve got Kaladin Windrunner, busy trying to protect Teft. Shalash is another matter altogether; the only thing I’ve got is the importance of the garnet veins the Sibling uses to lead Kaladin to safety. (Shalash and the Lightweavers are traditionally associated with garnet.) Anyone got other ideas?
P: I was wondering about Shalash, as well, and the Sibling communicating through the garnet veins is really the only thing I can think of, too.
Icon: Banner and Spears, for a Kaladin POV.
Epigraph: Rhythm of War, Page 1
I find this format most comfortable, as it is how I’ve collaborated in the past. I have never done it in this way, and with this kind of partner.
A: Hey, we finally get our look at the in-world book! I’m guessing that this particular note is from Navani, though it could be Raboniel just as well, I suppose.
P: Yeah, it could really be either of them, but I’m going to go with Raboniel, at least for now, as Navani has never really researched in collaboration with anybody, right? Since she’s “not a scholar.” #sheissoascholar
A: Heh. Good point. Even her own inventions, she mostly credits to “the real scholars” who do a lot of the detail work of getting from the initial idea to the functional product—even if she did all the drawings. #totallyascholar
It’s interesting to realize that we won’t know the source of this document until we get ⅔ of the way through Part Four. All we know about “Rhythm of War” at this point is that it’s a collaboration between two people, with no clue as to past, present, or future. For reference, the in-world version of “The Way of Kings” was from the distant past; “Words of Radiance” was from the near past; “Oathbringer” was near-future, when we saw Dalinar sit down and begin writing it in the last chapter of Oathbringer.
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (immediately following Chapter 43)
RECAP: Kaladin searches for a safe place to hide with Teft, while they’re tracked by the Pursuer and his forces. As they begin to close in on him, a twinkling light in a garnet vein leads him to an embedded gemstone which, when infused, opens a door to an empty corridor and closes behind him. Following the light, he reaches the eleventh floor and a room hidden behind another fabrial-locked door, where he sets Teft down and then collapses.
Kaladin jogged through the dark tunnels of Urithiru, Teft across his shoulders, feeling as if he could hear his life crumbling underfoot with each step. A phantom cracking, like glass shattering.
P: What a chapter intro. So heart-wrenching to see Kaladin feeling as if his life is crumbling. Granted, things look pretty bleak, what with Fused and singers swarming the Tower… but this goes to show how someone with mental illness can internalize everything and feel as if their world is falling apart every time something goes wrong. I feel you, Kaladin… I feel you, buddy.
A: And of course, this time the world nearly is falling apart, which makes it that much worse.
The light approached, revealing a single ruby along with a pair of glowing red eyes. Those illuminated a terrible face. Pure black, with hints of marbled red under the eyes.
P: I’m not gonna lie, the Pursuer is scary as all Braize. And knowing he was so close behind Kaladin still gives me shivers, all these rereads later.
A: Right? He’s so creepy as well as being dangerous and insane. And as Kaladin notes, last time they met, the Pursuer wasn’t expecting much. He knows better now, and will not be easily defeated.
The enemy was forming a noose, slowly tightening around his position. That knowledge sent him into flashbacks of the night when he’d failed Nalma and the others. A night when, like so many other times, he’d survived when everyone else had died. Kaladin wasn’t a runaway slave anymore, but the sensation was the same.
P: Brandon creates such tension with his writing. Even knowing that Kaladin will get out of this situation, if only by the skin of his teeth, reading this is gut-wrenching.
A: This is one of those parallels I mentioned. We got a few extra memories from Kaladin in Oathbringer, and this scene, with its sensation of being surrounded and closed in upon, is eerily similar to the Nalma memory (OB Chapter 97). (I’ll quote part of this again below.)
Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light
A faint violet light had appeared in the crook of the rightmost corner. Almost invisible, even in the darkness. Frowning, Kaladin left his post by the door, inspecting the light. There was a garnet vein in the stone here, and a small portion of it was glowing. As he tried to figure out why, the glow moved—running along the crystal vein. He followed it to the doorway, then watched it cross the hallway to the room on the other side.
P: The very fact that the Sibling helped Kaladin is remarkable to me. They must know that he’s Radiant and yet unaffected by the fabrial that Raboniel activated. Still, did they know how significant Kaladin was at that point, or were they just interested in protecting him because the Pursuer, one of the most horrible Fused, was after him?
A: I would think that, as the only Radiant moving (more or less) freely in the Tower, it’s fairly obvious to the Sibling that he may be their only hope of survival.
It’s also just a tiny bit funny to remember that while we’ve seen this whole thing with the Sibling, the garnet veins, and the fabrial door before, it’s completely new to Kaladin. He hasn’t had a chance to compare notes with Navani yet, so he’s totally clueless as to what’s going on. If he weren’t absolutely desperate, he probably wouldn’t have followed. (You just have to take humor where you can find it in a chapter like this!)
Spren and Shadesmar
As far as they knew, the Fused couldn’t harm spren naturally—the only way to do so was with a Shardblade. Even that was temporary; cut spren with a Shardblade, even rip them to pieces, and they eventually re-formed in the Cognitive Realm.
P: Well, this stabs you in the heart, knowing what’s coming.
A: SOB. (And I’ll let the reader decide which way to take that.)
Relationships and Romances
“Kaladin,” Syl said softly, “could we surrender?”
“That Fused isn’t here to take me captive, Syl,” he said.
“If you die I’ll be alone again.”
P: Stop stabbing me in the heart, Brandon! Syl’s sadness as she remembers her Radiant who died is such a jarring contrast to our usually bubbly little honorspren.
A: It’s been a little bit more painful each time she remembers him, but this is pretty brutal. It doesn’t look good for her either way: Keep running and risk being found and killed by the Pursuer, or surrender and be killed by the Pursuer anyway. I don’t think surrender is a viable option, but I ache for her, trying to find some sliver of hope.
Bruised and Broken
Kaladin continued to hear the echoes of his failure. His father’s shouts. His own tears…
He’d been so close. So close.
P: I hate that Kaladin thinks he’s failed. I hate that Lirin said things to Kaladin to make him think he failed. He had been close, but that was before the Fused took control of the Tower. Kaladin is falling back on the Oaths he took, he decided to protect Teft, who could not protect himself. He also protected himself, as he would have been killed upon capture. He needs to banish Lirin’s words from his head; he is not a failure.
A: Of course he’s not, but between the oppression of the inverted tower protection and the collapse of his hopes, it’s easy to see why he feels that way. It’s heartbreaking to remember him saying, “I think I might be putting myself back together, for the first time in my life,” and the very next thing, Teft collapsed, and it all came from together in a rush. His work with Noril & Co., as well as his surgery work with his father, was part of it—but now his need to protect Teft has set him at odds with everything involved in putting himself together. It’s not just Lirin’s words; I think he could handle that. It’s his own sense of once again watching everything he’s been doing fall apart the minute he allows himself to feel hopeful. Almost (and don’t we know this feeling?) like it’s his fault for daring to be hopeful. Makes no sense, but… it feels that way sometimes.
P: Truth. I can imagine him begging—Honor, the Almighty, the Stormfather?—to just cut him a break, already. I’ve been in that place… like, can’t something just go right for once? This is why I identify so strongly with Kaladin; I feel as if Brandon just plucked him from my brain sometimes.
Teft’s weight across his shoulders wasn’t that different from carrying a bridge. It brought him back to those days. Running bridges. Eating stew.
Watching his friends die… feeling terror anew each day…
Those memories offered no comfort. But the rhythm of steps, carrying a burden, working his body on an extended march… it was at least familiar.
A: Another of those parallels—carrying Teft, carrying Bridge Four (both the physical bridge and, metaphorically, the crew), feeling the terror, and that whole “keep on no matter what” is, again, similar. It’s almost scary to watch Kaladin draw out the parallels from his past. Here’s another:
He knew this feeling. Scurrying through the darkness. People with lights searching in a pattern, hunting him.
A: That happened too many times when he was a slave—and each time, when it failed, he’s seen it as his personal failure.
P: Because even then, he was protecting those who could not protect themselves. And still, all he can protect now is Teft. Not his family, or the captured Radiants, not the Queen herself. He focuses on what he can do and right now rather than on the big picture, and that’s just what’s needed in this particular case. Save the one you can. Mourn later.
A night when,—like so many other times—he’d survived when everyone else had died. Kaladin wasn’t a runaway slave anymore, but the sensation was the same.
A: This has been Kaladin’s personal theme: He’s the one who survives when everyone else dies, and he believes it’s his fault. It’s not even a matter of “thinking it’s his fault”—it’s so deeply internalized that he just… believes it.
P: He does believe it. And he feels as if he’s the one who never dies so that he can continue suffering. It’s almost as though he doesn’t feel he deserves the rest, the reprieve… and that what he really deserves is to continue living and to continue suffering.
He was shocked at the speed with which they’d set up the trap. He had to admit that was likely the result of him letting a soldier run and tell the others.
A: Even here, it’s all his fault because he had pity on that one soldier and told him to leave… Well, okay, that sort of is his fault, but at least it’s a matter of being too merciful, rather than assuming responsibility for things he couldn’t have prevented.
P: Of course it’s his fault, in his own dark and confused mind. It’s been browbeaten into him that any course of action he pursues that isn’t directly in the footsteps of his father is wrong. And not just wrong… detestable.
A: Honestly, I don’t think that has anything to do with his feelings here. He has always assumed that responsibility; it’s why he left Hearthstone in the first place. Taking responsibility for things he couldn’t control. (Also, as I’ve said several times in various places, there are plenty of things Kaladin could have chosen to do with his life that wouldn’t have bothered Lirin in the least, other than perhaps being disappointed by wasted potential. He could have been a farmer, or a caravaneer, or a blacksmith, or any other vocation open to a second-nahn darkeyes, and it would have been okay. The problem for Lirin isn’t that he chose something other than being a surgeon; it’s that he chose the one profession that requires him to do the sole thing that actually is detestable to Lirin: killing people. I think Kaladin knows that, too; in fact, generally he hates killing people too. It’s just that sometimes it’s the only way he can protect others.)
P: Plus, he’s really storming good at it.
Standing there, he felt the weight of it all pressing down on him. The darkness, both inside and out. The fatigue. The dread. Gloomspren like tattered pieces of cloth faded in, as if banners attached to the walls.
P: Oh, my heart. Kaladin’s darkness sings to my own and I ache for him as he prepares to die fighting.
A: This—all of this—is what’s been preventing him from saying his Fourth Ideal. He believes he’s personally responsible every time someone else dies and he survives. We’ve noted it before, and we’ll see it again, but this is really his Big Theme for the book—learning that not every bad thing that happens to “his” people is his fault.
Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened
He’d made his decision. He would not leave his friend to the whims of enemy captivity.
P: I will protect those who cannot protect themselves. OH MY FEELS!
Kaladin doubted it would let him get such an easy kill again.
P: Easy. He calls that kill easy. Heh. I’d wager that it was one of his more difficult kills, especially without having any Stormlight.
A: But it sure was fun to watch, because his spearman instincts are just so beautiful, even without Stormlight.
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 45, in which we finally get the first entry of the flashback sequence: Eshonai, back when she was young and innocent.
Alice is a Sanderson beta reader and administrator of two fandom Facebook groups. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, with extended family out back. Once again, she’s in the middle of a beta read—this time it’s ReDawn, and she’s loving it.
Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She works full-time, goes to school full-time, beta reads part-time, mods or admins 3 Stormlight-themed Facebook groups part-time, and writes part-time. She wishes sleep wasn’t necessary because there’s just too storming much to do! You can find her writing at www.amazon.com/Paige-Vest/e/B0797Z37XV and www.patreon.com/paigevest.