Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Seventy-One

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Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, as we reach the penultimate chapter of Part Three. It is a surprisingly upbeat chapter, sandwiched as it is between two very low points for other characters. While Dalinar does receive confirmation of the bad news the reader has known since the end of Part Two, his dismay is overshadowed (at least for this reader) by the things he does, sees, and experiences—and the direction he plans to take next.

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’s really no wider-Cosmere discussion this week.

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

Ishi (Ishar), Herald of Luck. Bondsmiths (Tension, Adhesion). Pious/Guiding. Role: Priest.

A: These seem fairly clear: Both are for Dalinar. King of Urithiru and leader of the coalition; Bondsmith to the Stormfather. The latter, of course, is enhanced by the end-of-chapter realization that Ishar is still living and knows pretty much everything about Bondsmithing. Come to think of it, the former is emphasized by Dalinar’s attempts to protect everyone from everything, culminating in his success with Kaladin.

Icon: Kholin Glyphpair—Dalinar’s POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, final page

Voice of Lights. Voice for Lights. If I speak for the Lights, then I must express their desires. If Light is Investiture, and all Investiture is deity, and deity has Intent, then Light must have Intent.

A: For once we know, unequivocally, that this is Navani’s note! I so much enjoy seeing her thought processes. I hope I can remember to refer back to these epigraphs when we reach the appropriate chapters later.

I’m fascinated by Navani’s reaction to the title given her by Raboniel. She knows enough of Fused culture to know that this is a great honor, and enough of Raboniel to know it’s not done lightly. Despite their opposition, she has a profound respect for Raboniel, and takes the title seriously. I can’t help wondering, though, if she’s seeing it from a different angle than Raboniel, who gave her the title in respect for her (incredible) work in finding the way to mix the Lights. Or maybe just taking it a few steps farther. In any case, her theology is developing in accordance with her increased understanding, and I’m loving it.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar
WHEN: 1175.4.8.1 (Simultaneous with and just following the previous chapter, which ended with Kaladin running out into the highstorm. Also, the day after Jasnah’s big battle in Chapter 64. Worth noting, for some reason I had the previous two chapters identified as happening on 4.7.5, but it should have been 4.8.1. Not quite sure how that happened. My apologies!)
WHERE: Laqqi, Emul; the skies above Triax or Tu Fallia; Urithiru

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

RECAP: In the coalition command city of Laqqi, Dalinar worries about Urithiru and his lack of progress with his Bondsmith powers. The Stormfather surprises him by offering a storm-ride, possibly allowing Dalinar to see or note things in Urithiru that the Stormfather might not be able to see. Riding the stormfront, Dalinar rebukes the Stormfather’s perceived unwillingness to be merciful to those caught in the storm’s path; their disagreement is interrupted as they reach Urithiru. The swiftness of their passing prevents Dalinar from seeing anything useful, and he fights his way back through the storm toward the tower. Connection pulls him to find Kaladin clinging to the outside wall; speaking as the storm, Dalinar is able to get a report on the situation in Urithiru. As Kaladin’s strength runs out and he begins to fall, Dalinar manages to use the winds to fling him back up and onto a balcony just before he’s dropped out of the vision and finds himself back in Emul. With his fears about Urithiru confirmed, he is now desperate to learn more about being a Bondsmith. Suddenly, he realizes that with the Heralds still living, there is an experienced Bondsmith who could teach him—if he can find Ishar and persuade him to help.

A: As noted in the intro, this is the last chapter but one in Part Three. Stuck between Kaladin’s Pyrrhic victory at the Well and Navani’s discouragement at being so badly outmatched, it’s an oddly positive chapter. In reaching the end of Part Three and considering it as a whole, I’m suddenly struck by its title: “Songs of Home.” This clearly fits Venli’s chapters, both the flashback and real-time ones—but in one sense it also reflects the longing of various characters for their “ordinary lives.” They weren’t exactly perfect lives, but compared to the current shambles of everything they care about… I just find the title very poignant.

Chapter Chatter—Dalinar and Stormfather

A: With a few minor interruptions, this chapter focuses on an extended interaction between Dalinar and the Stormfather. Part of the time there’s mutual support, and part of the time they’re at odds. We could put all of this under “Spren and Shadesmar” or “Relationships and Romances” or “Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened”—any of them would suit. So … it’s all just going to go in one section, and we won’t even try to divide it out.

He realized he felt more awake on highstorm days. More capable.

Is that you? he asked of the Stormfather.

It is us, the Stormfather replied. Me and you. I enjoy passing over the continent, as it gives me much to see—but it also tires me as it energizes you.

A: IIRC, Kaladin often feels better on highstorm days too. Is it common among Radiants, and more noticeable for some? Or is it an oddity?

P: That would be a great question for Brandon (I almost said “Dalinar”). I wonder if he would RAFO it!

The current plan was for him to lead an expedition into Shadesmar, sail to the tower, then open up a perpendicularity to let spies in. Unfortunately, they didn’t know if it would work. Would he even be able to activate a perpendicularity in the area?

A: I’m including this mostly for context; later, the Stormfather will tell him that it won’t work.

P: Perhaps if he’d spoken more Oaths by now, but we still can’t know if it would work.

A: It might also depend on where they tried to come out. How far down the tunnels does the jammer affect things? How much is Shadesmar affected? Too many questions, not enough answers!

If I had access to the map I could make with Shallan, we might be able to see exactly what is happening at Urithiru.

It would not help, the Stormfather said in his mind […] However, I could show it to you. Perhaps you can see better than I.

[…] You can ride the storm with me, the Stormfather said. I have given others this privilege on occasion.

A: Heh. On first read, this is “clearly” referring back to The Way of Kings (Chapter 46) when Kaladin had his dream about riding the storm. Now we know it also foreshadows the final chapter of this book, when Eshonai had a similar vision.

P: Yeah, on our first read, it was a curious comment. Who besides Kaladin, I wondered?

A: I assumed it was far in the past; turns out, not so far!

[…] Dalinar settled himself, facing eastward. Toward the Origin, toward the storms—though his view was blocked by the large stone stormbreak.

“Stormfather,” he said. “I’m—”

He became the storm.

A: Ready, you were about to say? This made me chuckle. Stormfather doesn’t really bother with human courtesies sometimes.

P: Like, he knows Dalinar is ready, he doesn’t need to hear him say it. Let’s go, boy!

When the Windrunner flew on my winds, he zipped about. […] You simply think. You complain about meetings, but you are well suited to them.

A: Oh, burn.

But a couple of things… As Dalinar notes, he’d probably have behaved like Kaladin when he was younger, but he’s changed, as we all do. Also, I think Kaladin “zips” a lot more as a Windrunner physically riding the wind than he did in his vision. Anyway, I’m amused that the Stormfather pokes fun at Dalinar for being a stick.

P: It’s especially funny because the Stormfather himself is pretty stuffy, too.

“Take mercy upon them,” Dalinar said. “Temper your fury, Stormfather.”

It is not fury. It is me.

A: Thus commences an argument between Dalinar and the Stormfather… Dalinar is seeing first-hand what the rest of the world has had to deal with, and what it’s really like for ordinary people when the stormfront hits, and he doesn’t like it. I’ll admit that it’s terrible. It’s also reality when you live on Roshar. With the notable exception of places like the village they saw which had been devastated by the Everstorm, people generally have—and take—shelter when a highstorm is due.

So… I’m a little baffled by Dalinar’s complaint against the Stormfather, insisting he should “be a storm with mercy” by making sure the storm doesn’t hurt anyone. The Stormfather is also clearly a bit baffled.

P:  Right? It’s not like the Stormfather is malicious or intentionally hurting people, he’s just doing his thing.

A: He does what storms do, and really can’t do anything else:

That defies the definition and soul of a storm, the Stormfather said. I must blow. I make this land exist. I carry seeds; I birth plants; I make the landscape permanent with crem. I provide Light. Without me, Roshar withers.

A: Clearly, I agree with the Stormfather here, though I’ll make a distinction between the storm and the spren. The spren may be the personification of the storm, and may even have some control over the storm, but he’s right: The storm, as it is, is vital to the planet and the survival of every living being thereon. There’s a balance between the good of the many and the good of the one; in my opinion Dalinar is leaning too far to one side. To be fair, Stormfather hasn’t even considered that side, so maybe Dalinar’s reproach is necessary to find a better balance… but I do find him a bit out of line.

P: Yet the good of the one is about to matter enough to Dalinar to put a hurtin’ on the Stormfather.

A: True—and this is clearly a set-up for that moment. (Although one could argue that the good of that particular one is necessary to the good of the many in Urithiru!)

“How can a being so close to divinity be so utterly lacking in honor?”

I am a storm. I cannot

You are not merely a storm! Dalinar bellowed, his voice changing to rumbles of thunder. You are capable of choice! You hide from that, and in so doing, you are a COWARD!

A: Granted that we’re seeing this from Dalinar’s perspective, I’m bothered by his interpretation that the Stormfather is “like a petulant child scolded for their foolishness.” Or, I guess what bothers me in this whole section is that Sanderson has chosen to present it with the implication that Dalinar is 100% right and the Stormfather is being petty and/or lazy. It’s his world, so he can decide that this is correct, but it still bothers me. Stormfather may be “only” a spren, but he’s a spren with a lot more years of seeing the world and the effects of the storms than Dalinar has. IMO, Dalinar is being shortsighted in his demands. He may be right in that they both need to be better, but this seems like a dumb way to start.

P:  Old Dalinar seems a little over the top with it, doesn’t he? I understand his compassion for those people who were killed, and I understand that it’s terrible that it happens, but as you say, it’s just the way things are on Roshar.

Lately the storms had been creeping higher and higher in the sky—something people wouldn’t normally notice, but which was quite obvious in Urithiru.

It is natural, the Stormfather said. A cycle. I will go higher and higher until I am taller than the tower, then the next few storms will lower. The highstorm did this before the tower existed.

A: Is it just me, or is the Stormfather giving Dalinar a subtle reminder that the highstorm has been going around Roshar since long before humans ever came to the planet? Dalinar thinks he sounds timid, so that’s probably what the author has in mind, but I think it’s a valid point. Roshar has natural cycles involving the storm, and you really need to be careful about messing with it.

P:  You may think the Tower is ancient but I am more ancient, he seems to be saying. Hint hint, nudge nudge.

A: Heh. Indeed! (Which reminds me just how much I want to know the history of this place…)

Well, anyway, they finally reach Urithiru, and Dalinar (his mind, anyway) goes zipping through on the fourth floor, so of course he sees pretty much nothing. All the action he’d want to see at this moment has been either in the atrium, the Breakaway, or the cellar, so the fourth-floor corridors, balcony to balcony, aren’t very revealing. Which creates another conflict:

“No,” Dalinar said. “We need to look again.”

You must continue forward. Momentum, Dalinar.

“Momentum kept me doing terrible things, Stormfather. Momentum alone is not a virtue.”

We cannot do what you ask.

A: Once again, they’re both right. Don’t you love it when people talk past each other? “Momentum” was a theme for Dalinar in Oathbringer, and he’s right—he did some terrible things on the strength of it. Even so, he made the decision every time, so I’m not sure the argument is entirely valid. (He even said so earlier in the chapter!) On the Stormfather’s side, if the highstorm stalls in one place on a whim, it could be really bad. Extraordinary destruction in one spot, insufficient mineral deposits further along the path, and never mind the effect on the global wind patterns. You can’t hit pause on a highstorm.

I think they’re both missing a point, though. Just because the entire storm can’t stop, that doesn’t mean Dalinar’s awareness—and the Stormfather’s—is limited to the leading edge. Dalinar proves that it can be more than that, right? Okay, the way he describes it as “wind blowing against wind” might be considered proof that it’s at least unnatural… but why should they not both expand their awareness to fully encompass the storm? It doesn’t, apparently, cause any pain beyond the needed exertion, so… maybe we’ll see this more in the next book. (I can hope, right?)

P:  I would love to see more storm-riding in the next book. That would be incredible. And you’re exactly right, why is his awareness limited to the stormwall? Why can’t he see within the storm as he does next with Kaladin?

A: (Umm… last-minute parenthetical observation… when the Stormfather speaks to people in the storm, it’s always in the centerbeat, not the leading edge. Is this inconsistent?)

His Surgebinding, his powers, drew him through the wind around the outside base of the tower—until he found something remarkable. A single figure, almost invisible in the darkness, clinging to the outside of the tower on the eighth level.

Kaladin Stormblessed.

A: Such a great moment. How Kaladin managed to climb eight levels is never made clear (the fabrial before it ran out of weights? Reverse Lashings with little Stormlight he had left, until that ran out?), but there he is, and the winds haven’t killed him yet. FWIW, since the Stormfather notes that he seems to be waiting for the center of the storm to renew his Stormlight, I’m going with “Reverse Lashings until his Stormlight ran out.” In any case, this is where Dalinar’s efforts to buck the Stormfather’s insistence pays off: Connection brought him where he was truly needed—and where he needed to be.

P: EEEEEE!! I love this moment! Dalinar has no clue what’s going on, but how incredible would it be to see Kaladin in that moment, as battered and beaten as he is, just CLINGING to the side of the Tower? Like, what the Braize is going on right now??

Dalinar calmed himself, resisting the furious winds, and drew power from the soul of the storm.

KALADIN, he said.

A: Just… Wow. Earlier, we had the line “Dalinar became the storm.” But I think this is the moment when he truly became the storm—became part of it in a way that just riding the vision didn’t accomplish. He joined it—and I believe that’s what gives him the power to actually manipulate the wind (in a minute).

“Singer invasion,” Kaladin whispered into the wind. “Navani captured. The tower on lockdown. Other Radiants are all unconscious.”

I WILL FIND HELP.

“Radiant powers don’t work. Except mine. Maybe those of a Bondsmith. I’m fighting. I’m… trying.”

A: This was so incredibly powerful. After all he’s been through, he still manages to whisper his report into the wind, hoping that the Stormfather can pass it to Dalinar. He doesn’t even know where Syl is, but he’s still trying.

(Rabbit trail: I’m still amused by “the tower on lockdown” wording, knowing this was written before “lockdown” became part of our own lives.)

He sagged, going limp, and dropped off the wall, unconscious.

NO. Dalinar gathered the winds, and with a surge of strength, used them to hurl Kaladin up and over the ledge of the balcony, onto the eighth floor of the tower.

A: This. Is. Awesome.

I mean, really, who didn’t fistpump, or yell, or something in reaction to that move?

P: Whooping and hollering. This scene is up there with Dalinar catching the chasmfiend’s claw for me. So exciting!

You have hurt me, Dalinar. This is the second time you have done so. You push against our bond, forcing me to do things that are not right.

I push you to stretch, Dalinar said. That is always painful.

A: All right, I’ll agree with this point. I do think the Stormfather could stretch a bit. He’s kind of unwilling to consider possibilities beyond what he’s always done; he assumes that what he’s done is his limit, and it really probably isn’t. I still disagree with Dalinar’s desire to change the storm itself, but getting the Stormfather to try something new… that’s definitely on the table!

P:  He says it himself, Dalinar is different, he can do things that surprise the Stormfather so why wouldn’t he try to change things up a little bit. He seems not to know the limits of his own capabilites at times.

Did you hear what Stormblessed told me?

Yes, he said. But he is wrong. Your powers will not work at Urithiru. It seems … they have turned the tower’s protections against us. If that is true, you would need to be orders of magnitude stronger, more experienced than you are, to open a perpendicularity there. You’d have to be strong enough to overwhelm the Sibling.

A: Not that Dalinar knows this yet, but if anyone would know how strong the Sibling is, it would be their parents! I think there’s a discussion to be had about why a Bondsmith would need to overwhelm the Sibling, while Raboniel just needs to change their Light, but I can’t quite get a handle on it at the moment.

P: I’m glad I’m not the only one who wondered about that comment about overwhelming the Sibling. That went right over my head.

But here I am, many months after our Bonding, and I have barely progressed.

You are something different from them, the Stormfather replied. Something greater, more dangerous. But also more complicated. There has never been another like you. […]

Except…

[…] 

There was another Bondsmith.

A: Yes, indeedy, and there is. Cracked as a dropped egg, but he is out there.

P: Even before the scene with Ishi (it’s so confusing to have an Ishi here and an Ishy in WoT), I knew it was a bad idea to seek the Herald out.

A: Before leaving this section, I need to muse on something a bit. There’s a definite tension here between Stormfather and Dalinar, and part of it is based on perception of what individuality and intelligence mean, and what that requires.

Dalinar sees the true spren as people with choices and therefore responsibilities, and he keeps expecting the Stormfather to behave as he would expect an honorable human to behave in a similar situation. Spren, though, tend to see themselves as defined by concepts—and indeed, they are the personification of those concepts. An honorspren, for example, is incapable of behaving in a way he himself perceives as dishonorable. (That said… it seems the spren are very good at persuading themselves to believe what is most convenient. We’re going to see that when we return to Adolin in Part Four.)

This conflict of perception seems to be a particular problem for Dalinar and the Stormfather, and they’re going to have to work together to figure out where the Stormfather can stretch his limits, and where Dalinar needs to stop pushing before he breaks something critical. Interestingly enough, this is going to be similar for Navani and the Sibling; they’ll have to work out where the Sibling can try to see things differently, and how Navani can learn more about spren and what effect her fabrials have on them. (Anyone have a bet on the Cultivation Bondsmith, and what compromise they’ll have to sort out? Heh.)

Relationships and Romances

He could barely control his mounting concern about Navani and the tower. Something was wrong. He could feel it in his bones.

[…]

He had to try something. The latest letters from Navani, although they did contain her passcodes, felt unlike her. Too many delays, too many assurances she was fine.

A: This was such a relief to read. Even knowing all the codes, no one else should be able to mimic Navani’s “tone,” even in text, to fool her husband for any extended period. It’s good to finally see that he’s not so trusting as he seemed at the beginning.

P: FINALLY.  I’ve been thinking this all along, that he should have known something was wrong.

Bruised and Broken

The enemy controls Urithiru. Storms, that felt painful to acknowledge. First Alethkar, then the tower? And Navani captured?

Now he knew why the enemy had thrown away Taravangian. Maybe even the entire army here in Emul. They’d been sacrificed to keep Dalinar occupied.

A: I suppose in a way it’s a compliment—Odium throwing away that much just to get him out of the way. (Of course, we know the Fused were every bit as worried about Jasnah, or maybe more so because she was the only known fourth-ideal Radiant. That doesn’t, in the moment, occur to Dalinar.) Still, it would feel wretched, knowing you’d been played like that.

P: Played so hard. It hurts me, too, Dalinar.

“Ishi, Herald of Luck, Herald of Mysteries, Binder of Gods.”

“Creator of the Oathpact,” Shalash said, forcing herself out of Dalinar’s grip. “Yes, yes. We all have names like that. Useless names. You should stop talking about us. Stop worshipping us. Stop painting us.”

A: That really bothers her. The worship is bad enough, apparently, but the artwork is worse. Why? Because art is her own special thing, and she can’t bear seeing it used to glorify a bunch of people she sees as failures and traitors? (Including and especially herself, of course.)

P: I think you hit the nail on the head. She obviously hates herself for leaving Taln to suffer alone. And she hates being venerated by people. Not that I’ve ever been venerated, but I totally get her self-loathing and attitude.

A: Yeah, I can see that. She not only hates herself, she knows she deserves all the self-loathing; after all, she cold-bloodedly agreed with the others that since only Taln had died this time, it would be just fine to leave him holding the whole bag while they strolled away. The fact that he sees it differently doesn’t change a thing.

“I’m sure,” Shalash said. “If any—except me—are still sane, it would be him.”

A: LOL. Yeah, real sane. You bet. Just wait till you meet the super sane guy who’s calling himself the “god-priest of Tukar” and running bizarre experiments on spren. The guy who really thinks of himself as Honor’s successor. Yeah…

It’s funny; of the ones we’ve met so far, Shalash does seem the most sane, and she’s not exactly functioning well, poor thing.

P: Yeah, it surprised me to see her say this. Hasn’t she previously said that none of the Heralds are sane?

A: She’s said a lot of things… But she did think at one point near the end of Oathbringer that Ishar would know how to help Taln.

P: Perhaps if he wasn’t bonkers.

A: Yeah… I’m afraid that unless Dalinar and Kaladin can help Ishar, he’s not helping anyone else!

“He’s near here,” Dalinar said, in awe. “In Tukar. Not more than a short flight southeast of this very town.”

“Isn’t there an army in the way?” Shalash said. “Isn’t pushing the enemy back—crushing them into Ishar’s army—our main goal right now?”

“That’s what Jasnah and our army are doing,” Dalinar said. “But I have another task. I need to find a way to speak to the god-priest, then convince him to help me rescue Urithiru.”

A: And… there’s the premise of the next book, with the added time-crunch of the Contest of Champions schedule. Oy.

P: I’m jonesing to get my teeth into book 5.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

“There were ten of you. Ten Heralds. All were members of an order of Knights Radiant.”

“No,” Shalash said. “We were before the Radiants. They were modeled upon us, but we were not in their ranks. Except for Nale.”

A: I’m losing track of who knows this stuff and who doesn’t. Is this the first time Dalinar has heard this? We got it first from Nale, iirc, when he was talking to… Szeth, I think? But I’m starting to get confused. In any case, I suppose the principle bears repeating: the Heralds were before the Knights Radiant, and did not have the same Ideals to restrain them. They don’t have spren bonds; they are spren of a sort. Incidentally, do we have any idea when Nale joined the Skybreakers? I had a vague notion it was after the Recreance, but I don’t know why. In any case, it’s clear that despite their “go separate ways and have no contact” plan, they all know where the others are and what they’re doing.

Flora and Fauna of the Physical Realm

[…] the underbrush snarled together so green. Full of grass, broad leaves, and other stalks, all woven together with vines and bobbing with lifespren. The vines were a netting tying it all together, tight against storms.

A: During the beta I had trouble with many of the references to trees and things. I think it was from spending so much time on the Shattered Plains, but I’d forgotten that there were places on Roshar where there was a plethora of undergrowth like this. We had so many descriptions of things that pull into the ground, or into rockbuds; it seemed strange to have plants that survived highstorms by growing themselves into their own stormshelter.

P: This really is cool, how the plant life has adapted to the storms.

He saw curious animals with long tentacles for arms and leathery skin instead of chitin. Malleable, they easily squeezed through holes in the underbrush and found tight pockets in which to hide as the stormwall hit.

A: My first thought was wild mink or weasels, but the tentacles don’t seem to fit, and they are furred, not leathery. Should I recognize this beastie, or is it a Rosharan native we hadn’t seen before? Or some sort of hybrid of Rosharan and Ashyn critters? Any thoughts on that?

P: We need art, Ben!

A: Indeed.

 

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 72, in which Navani proves the magnitude of her miscalculation.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. She is currently in the midst of altering multiple formal gowns—a task for which she has questionable qualifications, but it has to be done.

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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