Happy new year, everyone, and welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread here on your favorite Tor.com! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and that many good things await you in the coming year. Meanwhile, on Roshar, Kaladin is having nightmares and learning to work with (storms help him!) fabrials. Just between you, me, and the gatepost, I think he finds it a little degrading. Come on in and join the discussion!
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 briefly address the magic system of White Sand in the Epigraph section, so just beware of very mild spoilers.
Heralds: Chana, (Chanarach), Herald of the Common Man. Dustbringers. Brave/Obedient. Role: Guard.
A: Well, I can’t say exactly what the Dragonsteel folks had in mind, but a bunch of things could be considered to tie Chana to this chapter. Kaladin is functioning (relatively speaking) as a common man, rather than as a Radiant—he has to use fabrials instead of lashings. He’s obedient to Navani’s orders. He works to guard not only the tower but also his friends. (So does Dabbid, for that matter—and he probably has to be braver to do it.) It’s even possible that there’s a connection by way of the dozen rubies that make the fabrial function. On a guess, though, it’s the Guard role that was primary.
Icon: Banner and Spears, for a Kaladin chapter.
Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 13 undertext:
I am told that it is not the sand itself, but something that grows upon it, that exhibits the strange properties. One can make more, with proper materials and a seed of the original.
A: Spoilers for White Sand ahoy! The sand on Taldain has a microorganism on its surface which becomes “charged” and also changes color in the presence of Investiture. On Roshar, we’ve seen it used mostly as a means of detection, and that only a couple of times so far. This undertext note makes me wonder: Can you take any old sand from any old planet and mix it with the sand from Taldain, and get the microorganisms to multiply and spread to the other sand? I’d bet it takes more than that, but I wonder what else it takes. Always making me wonder, these epigraphs.
WHEN: 1184.108.40.206 (the day after Navani’s isolation in Chapter 61)
RECAP: Kaladin drags himself from nightmares, and has a conversation with Syl about grief, growth, and choices while he feeds Teft. Soon Dabbid returns, bringing the lift-fabrial Navani’s engineer was able to sneak out for him. Navani and the Sibling get Kaladin through the process of swapping out the gemstones in the fabrial and on the weights which power it, and he spends the rest of the chapter practicing with it.
“I wish he were awake,” Syl finally whispered. “There’s something happy about the way Teft is angry.”
A: I don’t have anything profound to say about this, I just needed to include it. It’s so right.
P: It really is, as though he’s laughing behind his brash exterior.
“I wanted him to Connect me to you. He refused. But I think he somehow Connected me to who I was. Made me able to remember, and hurt again…”
Kaladin felt helpless. He had never been able to struggle through his own feelings of darkness. How did he help someone else?
Tien could do it, he thought. Tien would know what to say.
A: In retrospect, this is such BLATANT foreshadowing, but on a first read it’s just… yes, of course, Kaladin thinks of his brother who could always understand and help him through the darkness. It’s rather glorious to think of the Connection Dalinar is going to reforge for Kaladin, so that Tien can say the right thing one more time.
P: It’s incredibly difficult to try to help somebody fight their own darkness and their own demons when you’re fighting yours. It is possible, but it can be really difficult to initiate. Once you do, though, if you have the spoons to get there, it sometimes helps you to help others. It helps you deal with your own darkness to ease someone else’s.
A: Yes, it does. Sometimes it’s kind of astonishing how much good it can do the both of you.
“When you get like that,” Syl said, “let me know, all right? Maybe it will help to talk to me about it.”
“Yeah. All right.”
“And Kal?” she said. “Do the same for me.”
P: Reading this makes me cry because it’s so important to have someone to talk to. It means so, so much. But reaching out can seem impossible sometimes unless you have a close relationship with someone. I’m so glad these two have each other.
A: Hear, hear! Syl’s personal growth involves reacquainting herself with grief, but that’s what makes the two of them able to understand and help each other. It’s quite beautiful.
Exhaustionspren swirled in the room, though he’d slept half the day.
A: I’m only including this line because I can SO relate today… I’ve had some kind of crud, and it’s bizarre to be able to sleep all day and still be exhausted. Sorry, personal digression and nothing to do with Kaladin!
P: Then you also know how exhausting depression is. You can literally sleep all day and all night and still be exhausted because your mind never stops, and it wears you out.
A: True. The first time I was diagnosed with clinical depression and ordered to take a medical leave of absence, I did nothing but sleep for the first two weeks. (Well, you know. Eating and stuff.) But, yeah. I’d almost forgotten what that was like; I remember now!
“What’s this?” Kaladin asked, then unwrapped the cloth to reveal some kind of fabrial. It looked like a leather bracer, the type Dalinar and Navani wore to tell the time. Only the construction was different. It had long leather straps on it, and a metal portion—like a handle—that came up and went across the palm.
A: Oh, look. Time to learn to fly… differently, bro.
P: And crash. Ouchie.
“Though, I’m not one for technology, Brightness. Pardon, but I barely know how to turn on a heating fabrial.”
You’ll need to learn quickly then,
A: Navani seems disinterested in chitchat today! This whole thing makes me laugh; Kaladin is really kind of a snob, and she’s just not having it. He thinks of fabrials as “rich people’s toys” (never mind that he’s one of the rich people now), and sneers a bit at the thought of flying with a fabrial.
P: And during this whole, long conversation, all I can think about is Raboniel. Is she listening? Why hasn’t she sent soldiers to the 20th floor to find Kaladin? Does she want to just wait and see what happens?
A: I don’t think she really wants to capture Kaladin yet. For one thing, she doesn’t think he’s a serious threat. For another, if she captured him, Navani wouldn’t have anyone to talk to and reveal her thinking and planning. But mostly, I don’t think she’s ready to tip her hand on listening in just yet; there isn’t enough to gain by it at this point.
“That’s annoying,” Kaladin said.
Yes, it is mildly inconvenient that we have to wind a crank to experience the wonder of making a human being safely levitate hundreds of feet in the air.
“Pardon, Brightness, but I can usually do it with far less trouble.”
Which is meaningless right now, isn’t it?
A: I mean, sure, it’s clunky by comparison, but it’s not like there’s a choice here, old sport. Right now, it’s not a matter of “the fabrial or Windrunning”—it’s “the fabrial or nothing” if you need to fly. His reaction is understandable, of course, but it’s also a bit silly. Fortunately for my patience, he recognizes it and apologizes for sounding ungrateful. And I’ll give him this: It has been a rough few days.
P: She’s so no-nonsense. Well, you can’t fly, can you? So take what you can get.
And yes, it’s been hard on our reinstated Highmarshal. 💙
He pointed his left hand down the hallway and opened his palm. Then, thinking it wise, he took in a little Stormlight.
A: Knowing what’s going to happen, this made me snort. “Thinking it wise” indeed. You’re going to be yanked around by your arm attached to an object about twice your weight. What could possibly go wrong? No way this could result in injury or anything.
P: Yeah, definitely wise if you’re going to forget what you’re doing and try to punch through a wall.
In that moment, difficult though the exercise was, he felt something come alive in him again. The wind in his hair. His body soaring, claiming the sky, albeit in an imperfect way. He found the experience familiar. Even intuitive.
That lasted right up until the moment when he noticed the quickly approaching far wall.
A: Okay, it’s not funny to smash up his hand. Ouch. But… it’s still funny. This beautiful feeling of flying… OOPS!
P: Poor Kaladin. Can you imagine the pain while waiting for that to heal? Yikes.
And I’m so #sorrynotsorry, but the wind in his hair just makes me think of this…
“At least you didn’t break the fabrial,” Syl said. “Strange as it is to say, it’s a lot easier to get you a new hand than a new device.”
A: Heh. Very true—even if getting his new hand takes a lot longer than it used to, and hurts a whole lot more.
P: She’s definitely not wrong, Kaladin breaks that fabrial and he is out of luck.
And he intended to practice going up and down outside once it was dark.
A: Not to be picky or anything, but… why does no one think, “Hey, he could use this at night to get far enough away from the Tower to send Dalinar a spanreed message, and then he could come back to help defend the Tower. We could figure out how far the effect reaches, too!” For that matter, since the shanay-im are confined to the tower during daylight, he could probably do it during the day, if he went at it the right way. But no one thinks of it… because it doesn’t fit the story.
P: Well. I’ll admit that I never thought of it!
But now that I am thinking of it, I can’t help but realize that though the Fused may not fly around outside during the day, there are most certainly guards posted to keep an eye on the sky and on the Oathgates.
A: Yeah, cover of darkness probably makes more sense, but I’d be happier if they’d thought of it and dismissed it. Not so long ago, Kaladin suggested he could jump off the tower and see if the suppression faded before he hit the ground, and they agreed it was a bad idea. But now that he’s got a way to fly and probably not die, he doesn’t even think about it.
Spren and Shadesmar
“I went to Dalinar,” she said, “before he left. I asked him if he could make me feel like humans do. Sad sometimes.”
“What?” Kaladin asked. “Why in the Almighty’s tenth name would you do something like that?”
“I wanted to feel what you feel,” she said.
“Nobody should have to feel like I do.”
“I’m my own person, Kaladin. I can make decisions for myself.”
A: This is a major theme for Sylphrena in this book—as well as for the spren in general, in some ways. She develops more independence from Kaladin—which also makes her a better partner for him.
P: Choosing is so important for her. Not only having the option to choose but actually making that choice. Definitely a big theme for our Syl.
“If we can choose, we can change. If we can’t change, then choice means nothing. I’m glad I feel this way, to remind me that I haven’t always felt the same. Been the same. It means that in coming here to find another Knight Radiant, I was deciding. Not simply doing what I was made to, but doing what I wanted to.”
A: In this context, it’s very personal to Syl. In the larger context, it makes an interesting parallel to what we learn of the ancient spren at the end of Adolin’s trial. The ancient spren, the ones who were “killed” at the Recreance, were what Syl is becoming: independent beings who could make moral decisions and choose to take the consequent risks. It’s almost like… all the adults died, and the children never grew up. (Not to go into all the details about spren generations or anything, just the behavior we see displayed.)
P: Exactly! She’s turning into the kind of spren that would be capable of making a choice of the magnitude of the one those ancient spren made.
A: Yes! And it’s the kind of choice that the current spren living in Lasting Integrity can barely conceive of making. They want to be ruled by expectation and tradition; freedom to choose and to change is too hard.
Bruised and Broken
The nightmares felt so real, and they lingered. Like the scent of blood on your clothing after a battle.
A: While it’s perfectly normal (for a certain definition of the word) for someone with PTSD to experience brutal nightmares, are we agreed that these are abnormal nightmares? That Moash and Odium are making them more real to him than they would otherwise be?
P: Oh, without question. Kaladin might have been drawn into a deeper depression because of the enemy occupation and the solitude he’s experiencing, but Moash and Odium are definitely intensifying what Kaladin is experiencing in his dreams… planting these horrible seeds.
Gah, it makes me so angry!
He could see the signs. Or rather, he couldn’t ignore them anymore. He was deeply within the grip of battle shock, and the tower being under occupation didn’t magically fix that. It made things worse. More fighting. More time alone. More people depending on him.
Killing, loneliness, and stress. An unholy triumvirate, working together with spears and knives to corner him. Then they just. Kept. Stabbing.
A: In a way, it’s good to see that the clinical side of his mind is able to recognize what’s happening to him; sometimes it helps just to know why the thing is happening, even if you can’t really change it. Still, it’s infuriating for the reader—and especially the rereader—to know that it’s all being deliberately exacerbated by Moash for the sole purpose of driving Kaladin to suicide.
P: Okay, I am full on hating Moash right now. I mean, always… but especially right now, knowing that he’s behind Kaladin’s dreams and why.
And I agree that it’s good that Kaladin can understand that he’s sinking into a depression, and hopefully try to counter that by doing things to stay busy… like learning how to use a certain fabrial. Most of us can tell when we’re heading down into the darkness, but we don’t always have something to keep us distracted. It’s good that he does.
A: It is good—that he has something to do, and that he knows it will help him. I sometimes find that the hardest part: remembering that I do have tools to use against the depression, if I’ll only use them.
Dabbid patted his chest. He’d do it.
“You seem to be doing better these days,”
A: This is… sort of the opposite of “Bruised and Broken” I suppose, but also it’s sort of the beginning of our insight into Dabbid’s recovery from brokenness. He’s come a long way already, just in his willingness to work with/for the Sibling; in this chapter he’s taking more and more initiative to do what needs to be done without waiting for directions. Knowing what will come later, this is an exciting little moment.
P: So exciting! I just want to giggle knowing what’s coming and how shocked Kaladin is going to be. I heart Dabbid so much.
Syl stood in the air beside him, inspecting the fabrial.
“So?” Kaladin asked her. “What do you think?”
“I think you’re going to look extremely silly using it. I can’t wait.”
A: LOL. I mean, some of the effects turn out to be not so funny, as she later observes, but her initial reaction to the idea of Kaladin using the fabrial to fly is perfect.
P: Reading Syl right here, her energy makes me think of Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie on Ant-Man.
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 64, in which Jasnah gets her warrior on.
Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, all of whom are sharing the flu-rona-whatever-it-is. She wishes you all a very happy new year, nonetheless, and a joyous Epiphany for those who celebrate it.
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.