Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Fifty-Six


Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, and another Venli POV. (Stop it with the groans, you! We need her perspective on these things!) As always, her chapter is a mix of doing something good and making some foolish mistake. Not the best at thinking on her feet or seeing the possible ramifications of her words, our Last Listener… Oh, also, cliffhanger. Well, come on in and join the discussion. Let’s see what you make of this one.

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-level discussions in this week’s post.

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

Vedeledev (Vedel). Edgedancers. Loving/Healing. Role: Healer.

A: Once again, I’m confident in one and baffled by the other! Vedel is fairly obvious: We’ve got people caring for the unconscious Radiants, and the promise that Lirin and Hesina will be brought in to care for them more effectively. But what about Jezrien? Is that for the “closer to waking” effect of the Windrunners? For Venli attempting to protect? I could actually see that, since she’s trying to protect: the Radiants from starvation (and potential abuse from irritable Regals); Kaladin’s family from the Pursuer; her recruits from the rule of the Fused; and everyone who will be harmed (primarily the humans and her recruits) if Raboniel can take down the Sibling’s shield.

Icon: The Singer, for Venli’s POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 6 undertext:

But how can we not, in searching, wish for a specific result? What scientist goes into a project without a hope for what they will find?

A: Such insight. Too many scientists forget or ignore this: If you don’t acknowledge your biases (much less your assumptions), you tend to think that your conclusions are inarguable, when they’re merely a reflection of what you wanted to find. ::sighs:: Oh, also, this is probably still Raboniel.

P: I agree that this is Raboniel. Navani isn’t necessarily hoping to find anything at first, she’s just experimenting.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Venli
WHEN: 1175.4.6.5 (Later on the same day that she saved Kaladin’s family. This chapter takes place shortly after he goes out to learn about the Oathgates, since he went out on the balcony “as dusk was arriving” and this opens with violet moonlight and curfew.)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: Venli is now in charge of the unconscious Radiants, commandeering the recently-discovered chamber with the model of the Tower as their infirmary, and setting her own people to care for them. They plan to take advantage of this to collect supplies for their escape, and hope to be able to also use the Radiants as a distraction when the time comes. Leaving her people to their task, she goes to an appointment with several of the Deepest Ones, who are looking for the rest of the nodes powering the Sibling’s protective field. Pressed to make a suggestion as to where mortals might want to put such a thing, Venli inadvertently gives them an idea, which they pursue to its logical conclusion (much to her dismay). As she waits for them to return, one of her people brings big news: They have found another listener.

Overall Reactions

A: It’s a fairly quiet chapter, overall (at least up until the last line). Venli is showing her usual vacillation between growth and regression, with growth once again winning by a small margin. (Sorry, I’ve been reading The Boys in the Boat, and I seem to be seeing everything as a competition right now!)

Anyway, she starts out the chapter observing these 50 or so Radiants, and wondering why they can do so well and discover so much when they have no one to train them. While it’s worth noting that the humans, too, have legends and stories which at least give some hints, it’s generally a valid question. She and Timbre suggest two possibilities:

Sometimes ignorance was an advantage, as you weren’t limited by the expectations of the past. Perhaps that was it. Or perhaps it was something else. New, younger spren, enthusiastic—pitted against weary old Fused souls.

A: I’d be very interested to see what y’all make of this. Is one of the The Answer? Or some combination? Or something else?

Personally I’m inclined to think it’s a bit of both, mostly because both sound perfectly valid. Even in real life, innovations are often a result of a clever individual not knowing that the thing “can’t” be done. In fantasy, it’s practically a requirement—but that doesn’t make it unrealistic. The idea of new, younger spren is also valid; perhaps their “newness” gives them more power (strength? Investiture?) than those who had bonded over and over in the previous millennia. Or maybe it’s the same thing from the other side: Maybe the spren, too, have fewer limitations because of their lack of experience.

In either case, I suspect she’s on to something with that last phrase. New Radiants and new spren, versus weary old souls who are tired of this battle, on (or over) the edge of madness, or even believe that they’re really in the wrong—in which case, it would be no wonder the Fused are struggling.

P: I definitely think it’s both. The Fused have thousands of years of experience but the new Radiants are exploring their powers without anyone there to guide them, yes, but also without anyone to limit them.

“Any time one of the Radiants stirs, it’s always a Windrunner. We’ve caught some of them muttering in their sleep.”

A: And Raboniel seems to have anticipated this. It could be as Dul suggests: She knows one Windrunner is loose, so it’s only logical to watch the others. It’s also likely that she understands the Surges well enough to know or suspect that Adhesion is less affected by the suppressor field than the other Surges.

P: That makes sense. I was still surprised during the beta to see that Windrunners weren’t as affected as the other Radiants, though I did attribute that to Kaladin.

A: Yeah, there was a lot still to learn at this point in the book! It’s both the beauty and the drawback of rereading, isn’t it? Things make more sense because of what you understand now, but it’s hard to remember what’s still unknown to the characters.

“Caring for the humans gives us an excuse to collect blankets and clothing for when we leave. I’ve begun putting away broth paste that should keep.”

A: I can’t decide whether to be amused, impressed, or annoyed by this attitude! I mean… good idea to make use of every advantage you have, but it’s pretty cold to requisition supplies for a bunch of unconscious people, knowing you have no intention of actually using those supplies for their benefit.

P: They’re only humans, after all. *wink wink* But yes, they’re still preparing for their great escape so I actually get it.

“When only our people are around, test those Windrunners and see if you can wake one up.”

“And if we succeed?” Dul asked to Skepticism. “I think that’s a terrible idea.”

A: Venli’s reaction is… just so Venli. She’s angry at Dul for questioning her, which she quickly suppresses because she’s “supposed to be” better than that, followed by the acknowledgment that she is, in fact, basically selfish. She’s also very quick to explain away anything that might look like compassion toward a human. It occurs to me, now, that this is all foreshadowing: She’s actually safer letting Leshwi, a Fused, see that compassionate impulse, than letting her own recruits see it. It’s all well and good to say Leshwi has an affinity for the Windrunners, but we’ll learn later that she was friends with honorspren, and… well, I’ll leave it alone. It’s just so fascinating to see Leshwi’s behavior now, in light of her later decisions.

P: It really explains a lot. That’s why rereading these books is so necessary, I think. Because the knowledge that we gain later really highlights little tidbits like these and we get new insight.

“I don’t like humans any more than you do.”

A: Is this true? I don’t know if it’s just me, or if she’s really written this way, but it sure seems to me that Venli does like the humans more than any of the singers do. I suppose part of it has to do with her frequent realizations that they are the only ones who could teach her anything about being Radiant? At the same time, it gives me the creeps to have her suggest waking up a Windrunner, with equal weight on “maybe they would help us” and “they might distract the Fused long enough for us to escape.”

P: Yeah, Venli is torn between wanting to learn how to be a Radiant and escaping the Fused. While we know which direction she’ll eventually take, I do wish she could learn how to do more.

“What we need is a surgeon. Could probably use one anyway; some of these seem to be getting sores and drawing rotspren. Others won’t take any broth, though they have hungerspren buzzing around them.”

A: Interesting that it’s Dul, who really doesn’t like the humans at all, who nonetheless suggests that they need to do something about the bedsores and possible starvation. Venli’s solution will, of course, be the obvious one: With only the unconscious Radiants here, and them well guarded, the Pursuer will be unlikely to show any interest in what goes on here. Kaladin’s family will not only be reasonably safe, they’ll also be able to do the work they most want to do: saving lives.

P: Yes, it really is the perfect solution to both problems. And will have the added bonus of them being able to keep a close eye on Kaladin’s family.

A: Oh, right! Since they don’t know about the disagreements between Kaladin and Lirin, it really makes sense to keep Lirin where they can see him in case Kaladin gets in touch. (It’s funny to think about the different reactions that would result, depending on who is watching Lirin. It doesn’t happen that way, obviously, but it’s still fun to consider.)

It seemed that most of Venli’s life, she’d been afraid of the wrong things. Her curiosity had led to her people’s downfall. And now she played with powers she didn’t understand, gathering an entire group of hopefuls who depended on her.

If she made a wrong move, Dul and the others were doomed.

A: Venli’s introspection, irritating as it sometimes is, may be the primary reason I’ve started to like her. (Sometimes.) Her awareness, finally, that she bears personal if not sole responsibility for the destruction of her people, has finally made her… not more cautious, exactly, because she was always cautious, but… more thoughtful. Less impulsive, less prone to seize an advantage that might cause harm to others. Less selfish.

P: This has definitely made a difference for me. I loathed Venli before. She was so selfish and played with the lives of her entire people and I hated that she did. She may not necessarily be able to redeem herself completely, but then again, maybe she can. She is certainly on the right road to do so.

A: I need to go back and reread Words of Radiance sometime, just for the contrast in Venli. She’s still kind of a wimp, and definitely still a conniver, but she really has come a long way.

P: She definitely has. Her behavior with Timbre in Oathbringer was what made me start to change my mind about her. Like, okay, maybe she’s not hopeless.

“I suppose,” Venli said, “I would put it someplace easy to give it Stormlight, but a place no one would search. Or…” A thought occurred to her, but she quieted it. She didn’t want to help them. The longer it took to fully corrupt the tower, the better it seemed for her people.

A: Were her words exactly what they needed to figure out where the second node was? Would they have gotten there without her comment? I personally think they would—but that doesn’t stop Venli from feeling like she betrayed everyone yet again.

P: I do love that she stopped because she didn’t want to help them. It’s this kind of change in her that makes me start to like her so much more.

A: Yes. She may not actively want to help the humans, but she’s realized that the Fused, as a body, will never grant her freedom.

And finally, we reach that last cliffhanger moment in the chapter…

“Venli,” she said. “Venli, they… they’ve found another.”

“Another Radiant?” Venli asked to Confusion.

“No. No, not that. I mean.” She seized Venli by the arm. “Another one of you. Another listener.”

A: Guess who! But we have to wait until Chapter 60 to see Venli and Rlain meet.

P: I loooove their reunion! I’m so excited for that chapter!

A: I’d forgotten just how many times Sanderson sets up an exciting moment and then switches away for several chapters in this novel. Heh. Last week I was frustrated that he left us hanging with Kaladin preparing to steal some spanreeds. Now I’m frustrated that we have to wait to see this reunion! Dude knows how to write a page-turner.

P: Isn’t that the truth. And yes, it is frustrating to be left hanging, but I find that the anticipation of that next Kaladin/Adolin/Navani/whoever chapter is half the fun of reading, and of rereading.

Spren and Shadesmar

“Why not use secretspren?” she asked. “They can find fabrials as easily as they find Radiants, can’t they?”

“The entire tower is a fabrial,” one of the Deepest Ones said. “The secretspren are useless here; they spin in circles, confused. Asking them to find a specific use of Light in here is like asking them to find a specific patch of water in an ocean.”

A: One, cool analogy. Two, oh, right; they’re called secretspren, and are the ones that made it so dangerous to use a spanreed in occupied Kholinar. Three, this is really hilarious, thinking of how they are rendered absolutely useless in occupied Urithiru. Take that, you obnoxious things!

P: I thought that was awesome, too. Oh, oops… what an unfortunate side effect. Not!

“Have you seen the chaosspren?”

Venli had. Those types of Voidspren—normally invisible to anyone but the ones they appeared to—left sparks in the air now, as if somehow responding to the dampening field. In this place, even someone who couldn’t look into Shadesmar could know whether they were being watched or not.

A: Another fun effect: The spies can’t really hide here! I expect that would be super annoying for those who would normally depend on them. Hah.

P: As damaging as the dampening field is to the Radiants, those are some nice side effects that limit the Fused.

No invisible spren… and the secretspren were useless. That meant a Radiant in the tower would be free to use their powers without being noticed.

She could use her powers without being noticed.

A: I’ll admit it’s hard to think of Venli as “one of Our Heroes”—but at the same time, this is an opportunity she desperately needs. If she’s ever going to progress and really be a Knight Radiant, she needs to develop her skills as well as her ways of thinking. They seem to be tied together, somehow, so… yay for Opportunity!

P: This made me happy. She’s wanted to explore her powers for so long now and finally, finally she’ll get the chance to try!


Many Fused had trouble speaking to modern singers. That made sense, considering how short a time they’d been back. Venli found it odder that some—like Raboniel—had already learned to speak modern Alethi.

A: Why? Okay, some people learn languages more quickly than others, but Raboniel is one of the most recent to return to Roshar, and she’s already good with modern Alethi. Is she using some form of Connection? If so, how?

P: That would certainly be interesting. Sadly, we likely won’t ever know.

A: True. Also, sad. I guess we could ask Brandon sometime, but at this point it probably doesn’t really matter.

“We cannot see while embedded. We can hear, and we can sing, and the tones of Roshar guide us. But this fabrial is made to be silent to us.”

A: Sanderson’s Second Law of Magic at work! For anyone not familiar with this (and who doesn’t want to go read the essay right now), it’s about the narrative need for limitations in a magic system. In this case, the limitation on the ability of the Deepest Ones to see the crystal veins means they have to use their minds to figure out where the nodes might be hidden… which, unfortunately, they do. Bummer.

P: Unfortunately. But it is nice to know that they have limitations, and probably handy for Venli to know what those limitations are.

A: Oh, good point! I’d love to see this limitation come around again—even if it’s only a matter of Venli knowing what she herself can’t do.

“You are the Last Listener. Few Regals earn a true title, and I find it odd to see the child of traitors developing one.”

A: I don’t really have anything significant to say about this. I just find the concept of “true titles” to be an intriguing aspect of the Fused culture.

Geography, History, and Cultures

“I’ve begun putting away broth paste that should keep.”

A: I just had to make a note of this, because I like seeing little details about how “collecting supplies” actually works. Broth paste that keeps well is a great idea.

P: I wonder where they’re stashing their stuff. I don’t recall if it’s mentioned later.

A: Hmm. I don’t recall either. I think I just assumed they’re keeping it in this chamber, or wherever they store the stuff designated for Radiant-care-taking, so they can pretend it’s nothing out of the ordinary.


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 57—another flashback to the early interactions with humans and Venli’s first (only?) conversation with the Stormfather.

Alice is a Sanderson beta reader and administrator of two fandom Facebook groups. She’s been crazy busy with her daughter’s volleyball team (Go Highlanders!) but is working her way through The Lost Metal beta, and very much enjoying it. Also, ReDawn came out this week!! Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She works full-time, goes to school full-time, beta reads part-time, mods/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! Links to her other writing are available in her profile.


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