Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Seventy-Eight

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Welcome back to the on-going, in-depth, nit-picking reread of Rhythm of War! Heh. This week we’re back in Shadesmar, where Shallan is once again hiding from memories, but learns some interesting things nonetheless. Adolin, meanwhile, is learning the weird and complicated ways of the spren (some of them, anyway), and then they both discover something astonishing.

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 there are very minor references to a language idiom from Mistborn.

Heralds: Battah (Battar). Elsecallers (Transformation, Transportation). Wise/Careful. Role: Counselor.

Nalan (Nale), Herald of Justice. Skybreakers (Gravitation, Division). Just/Confident. Role: Judge.

Kalak (Kelek). Willshapers (Transportation, Cohesion). Resolute/Builder. Role: Maker.

A: Whee, three Heralds this week! I would assume that Battah gets two spots because of the inkspren Blended, who also serves as Adolin’s counselor in preparing for trial. Nalan is easy: the Judge. Kalak is also easy, because he’s there.

P: Literally there. How fitting that he’d be featured. Lol.

Icon: The Shardbearer, for an Adolin-centric chapter.

Epigraph:

So, words. Why words, now? Why do I write?

A: Indeed, one wonders…! If you sift through all the words, it eventually seems that he writes now because he’s afraid he’ll be targeted like Jezrien (which… yeah…) and he’s feeling a combination of obligation to provide what answers he can, compassion for the trapped spren Ba-Ado-Mishram, and a faint desire to act like a Herald again. It sure will take him a lot of words to get around to saying that, though. He rambles. Oy.

P: I wonder if that’s because that’s how he is, or if it’s because he’s a Herald flavor of crazy.

A: My money is on the latter.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan, Adolin
WHEN: 1175.4.9.5-ish (Immediately after the events of Chapter 75, whenever that actually happened)
WHERE: Lasting Integrity (Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: Shallan hurries from her discovery of Sixteen back to her quarters, intending to contact Mraize about her mission. Before she can do so, Pattern reveals that he’s the “leak” because he’s used her cube to talk with Wit, and their conversation was overheard. That doesn’t answer all the questions, but they move on to the contact anyway. She learns roughly nothing from the conversation, which is then interrupted by shouting outside. Meanwhile, Adolin meets with his inkspren advisor, preparing for his trial. He gains an interesting new angle on the honorspren, and begins to understand why Syl said their perception of honor might not match his own. They go out to seek news of the High Judge, and find that he has returned—hence the shouting Shallan heard. Turns out the High Judge is Kalak.

Chapter Focus—Revealing Conversations

“Yes, I did take the cube. To talk to Wit. He has a cube like it too, Shallan! He told me.

“I was so worried about you. I didn’t know what to do. So I went to him, and he said we could talk with the cube, if I was worried. […] He’s been spied on by the Ghostbloods. The things I told him, another heard. That was how Mraize knew things.”

P: I’m just over here wondering how Wit could allow anyone to spy on him.

And poor Pattern, trying to explain himself, though he really doesn’t feel he did anything wrong.

A: Chapter 64 comes back around… As I recall, Wit was pretty upset with himself for allowing a Sleepless to spy on him. This is our confirmation that he was correct in guessing that the one with the hordeling-disguised-as-a-pen was working with the Ghostbloods. (Well, either that, or there’s another hordeling in among his belongings, but I don’t think that’s likely. I think this is just confirmation—or that was just set-up for this revelation.)

P: Ah, yes, I recall that now.

A: In any case, this was a weird sort of relief. To know that this was what Pattern had been keeping from Shallan, and that all the worries about a spy among her Lightweavers were unfounded… Well, having their communication compromised is worrying, but at least she hasn’t been betrayed by her own. And Pattern really didn’t do anything wrong.

P: And it really was a huge relief to know that Pattern was talking to who we currently see as a friend rather than Mraize, that snake.

A: Exactly. I don’t entirely trust Wit, but I trust him a whole lot more than Mraize, especially where Shallan is concerned.

Who killed Ialai? Shallan whispered from inside.

Veil hesitated.

Perhaps Pattern was the one who moved the cube all those times, Shallan said. And he’s the reason Mraize knew about the seed we planted about the corrupted spren. But someone killed Ialai. Who was it?

P: So was this just Shallan throwing the question out there for them all to ponder, or is she asking her other selves because she knows that one of them killed Ialai? I’m not quite clear on which she might mean. But the thought of them doing things without Shallan being aware is quite unsettling.

A: I’ve assumed that it was Shallan asking, because she knows it wasn’t her Shallan persona, she’s only mostly sure it wasn’t Formless, and she doesn’t see who else it could have been. So it’s kind of an accusation, kind of a fear that there’s another hidden persona. Just my guess, though.

“Either Restares has learned to disguise himself beyond my ability to spot him, or he’s not here.”

“How certain are you of this?” Mraize said, calm. She’d never seen him get upset at bad news.

A: Jerk. You know, I really despise Mraize. He’s so arrogant and manipulative. (Gee, sounds like what I said last week about Ulim!)

P: He really is manipulative. And Shallan has allowed herself to be manipulated for so long.

A: Heh. Shallan manipulates herself, poor child. It’s all she’s known for most of her life. For what it’s worth, I suspect she was just a bit disappointed at the lack of reaction from him; she was hoping he’d be at least annoyed at being proved wrong. It’s a little sad to see how easily she’s distracted, though.

“[…] There are variations on Lightweaving in the cosmere that do not require a spren—plus the Honorblades exist and are poorly tracked these days, even by our agents.”

“I thought they were all in Shinovar, except the one Moash wields.”

“They were.”

A: Veil presented the idea that Restares might be Lightweaving in a way that seems to almost challenge Mraize to come up with a better explanation of how he could hide from her, but the reaction isn’t what I’d expected. He scoffs at the idea that Restares would have joined a Radiant order—and he’s spot on with that, I’ll allow. But this suggestion… I keep forgetting that there are other Honorblades, and at least one of them would allow a Lightwoven disguise. That last line, though. Shallan takes it (probably correctly) as meaning “You haven’t earned those answers yet”—but how much do you suppose Mraize does know about the disposition of the remaining Honorblades? Does he know Ishar has reclaimed his? Undoubtedly he knows about Jezrien’s and Nalan’s, but… do the Shin still have the others? And does Mraize know?

P: Mraize dangles the promise of information in front of Shallan like it’s a carrot and it’s infuriating. In truth, she’s a little more than a child and he has used her for so long. It’s infuriating.

And I’m intensely curious about where the rest of the honorblades are. I can’t wait for Szeth to visit Shinovar and get some answers.

A: Moving now to Adolin’s POV…

The honorspren had a multitude of reasons for delaying Adolin’s trial. Their first and most obvious excuse was the need to wait for the “High Judge,” a spren who was out on patrol. […]

In any case, waiting for the High Judge to return gave the honorspren time to prepare documentation, notes, and testimonies. […] Adolin, they explained, was an idiot. He was woefully ignorant of what they considered proper trial procedure.

A: LOL. It’s funny, but at the same time it’s so… supercilious.

P: Poor Adolin, he takes a lot of storming crem from the honorspren.

His offer, worded as it had been, let them condemn him as a traitor and murderer. Though that hadn’t completely been his intent, this trial would let them pin the sins of the ancient Radiants on him. Before they did so, they wanted him to understand proper trial procedure. What strange beings.

A: Every time we learn a little more about the “trial” it seems like a worse idea. By this point, there’s no backing out, but it also looks more and more like it’s settled before it starts.

P: Oh it’s apparent that it’s absolutely settled before it even starts. They condemned him from the moment they saw him outside the walls. No matter what happens in the trial, he has no chance, short of Maya’s testimony, of course.

“I need to persuade them that I cannot be held accountable for the actions of the ancient Radiants,” Adolin said. “That they cannot shun me or my father because of things done by ancient humans. In order to accomplish this, I will prove my character, I will prove that the modern Radiants are unconnected to the old orders, and I will prove that our actions in the face of the current crisis are proof of the honor men display.”

P: Oh, my sweet summer child. He truly believes that having honor will sway honorspren. And perhaps it should, but seeing how unreasonable they’ve been up until this point, I feel that our boy should know better.

A: Perhaps he should. On the other hand, their honor is his only hope. He’s got to try; giving up and going home isn’t an option any more. Not that it ever was, for him, but… well, even knowing that they have predetermined the outcome, he will try. He’s absolutely determined not to admit defeat—especially not without trying even an impossible task.

“We will choose a trial by witness. Assuming your motion is accepted, the trial will happen in three phases over three days. The first day, the High Judge is presented with three testimonies against your cause. The next day, you give your testimony. The final day, accusers are allowed one rebuttal, then judgment is requested. This format is not often chosen, because it allows so much weight of testimony against you. However, factoring in how weak your grasp of legal systems is, well… this choice is best.”

P: This… is not very reassuring. With every comment from Blended, it seems more and more as if Adolin has already been judged.

A: Sigh.

He wished for a fight he could face with sword in hand—but that was the trouble. Any given Radiant could do better than he at such a fight, so his expertise with the sword was effectively obsolete. He could not train himself to the level of a Radiant; they could heal from wounds and strike with supernatural grace and strength. The world had entered an era where simply being good at swordplay was not enough.

That left him to find a new place. Father always complained about being unsuited for diplomacy; Adolin was determined not to make the same complaint.

P: What good would a Radiant have been, in Shadesmar, without their shards, at saving Notum from certain death? No. Adolin’s “swordplay” was what saved the day.

A: Too true. Also, with Maya actively working with him, he’s not so far behind a Radiant, except for healing. (And I’d say his natural grace and strength still outshines some of the Radiants’ supernatural.)

P: It pains me that Adolin thinks he’s obsolete, that he thinks he has no place, that he thinks he’s essentially useless in a world full of Radiants.

A: That’s really what stands out here to me, as well. For all his innate confidence, the world has changed around him in ways that emphasize the areas where he has always felt inadequate, leaving him feeling completely superfluous. And it’s so not true. He’s a natural leader, with knowledge, training, and experience that make him incredibly valuable. His determination to not be superfluous, regardless of how he feels, is really admirable. While he does tend to be more aware of his weaknesses than his strengths these days, it makes me glad to see his resolve to take on the job that needs doing anyway.

“That one. Did another spren tell you her name?”

“No, she told me herself.”

“Deadeyes don’t speak. This is.”

“You all keep saying that, but you’re wrong,” Adolin said. “I heard her in my mind. Only once, true, but she said her name. Mayalaran. She’s my friend.”

P: Oh, Adolin, you are our very good boi. The best boi. Never change, Brightlord Kholin.

A: I love this, and the way it will come back around later. Blended will go and look up that name, and find out that he’s right. Not that she’ll do anything useful with the knowledge in this book, but at least she knows. That’s got to do some good eventually, right?

Also, his absolute confidence when he says Maya is his friend is just gorgeous. It’s true; he’s always treated her with honor and respect, even before he knew she was a spren, and far more so, now that they’ve walked together in Shadesmar. “Deadeyes don’t speak” is not a barrier for these two.

“That can’t be the High Judge,” Veil said, pointing. “I specifically asked if the High Judge was human.”

“He’s not. […] He might have the form of a man,” Lusintia said. “But he is an eternal and immortal spren who blesses us with his presence. That is Kalak, called Kelek’Elin among your people. Herald of the Almighty.”

P: Dun-dun-DUNNNN… what a cliffhanger, right? I mean, as far as chapter endings go, this one is fantastic. Yet another Herald shows his face. And he’s the very person that Shallan was sent to kill. *goosebumps*

A: Yikes! I mean… yeah, wow. That was a stunner the first time around. So this is where Kalak got to! I could have (maybe) anticipated Nalan showing up as High Judge, but Kalak?

Spren and Shadesmar

“The honorspren do have a store of it; they let us use it to heal Adolin. Makes me wonder where they obtained all the perfect gemstones to hold it for so long.”

“They’ve had millennia to gather them, little knife,” Mraize said. “And they love gemstones, perhaps for the same reason we admire swords. During the days of the Radiants, some even believed the stories of the Stone of Ten Dawns, and spent lifetimes hunting it.”

A: There’s the Stone of Ten Dawns again… At this point, I have little doubt that it exists. What it is, though… Could it hold another Dawnshard or something? I like the bit about collecting the perfect gemstones, too; I have an idea we talked about that in Oathbringer, wondering about why there weren’t more of them available. Makes sense that the spren have been collecting them, even though I can see a multitude of difficulties in the actual process. (It also makes me wonder if this particular collection will become significant in later events—such as a means to transport Stormlight off-world, or something.)

P: Ooh, that’s an interesting idea! I wondered the exact same thing about the gem Mraize speaks of being able to possibly hold a Dawnshard, considering its name: the Stone of Ten Dawns. I hope we get to see it at some point.

She was an inkspren; Jasnah had bonded one, though Adolin had never seen him. This one called herself Blended—a name that felt peculiar to him.

“Ah, Highprince,” she said, noting him. “You are.”

A: Every time there’s a conversation with an inkspren, I wonder how Sanderson comes up with these idioms of speech. At least it makes more sense than High Imperial.

P: I’ve always thought that the inkspren speak in a slightly Yodaesque manner.

And anything’s more understandable than High Imperial!

“Honorspren law is… complex. I wish you could speak for me.”

“It is not their way.”

“It seems designed to be frustrating.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “This is unsurprising, as it was devised by a stuck-up bunch of prim, overly polished buttons.”

P: Blended cracks me up. She’s haughty in her own right, yet she makes the honorspren look much worse. Perhaps they are. I tend to think they should all be like Syl, and they just aren’t.

A: Blended is very odd to me, but we don’t know much about the priorities of inkspren. She’s got my kind of sense of humor, which is always appealing, but she definitely puts her own interests first. Unlike some spren…:

“I know an honorspren in my realm,” Adolin said. “She can be… interesting at times, but I wouldn’t call her prim.”

“The Ancient Daughter?” Blended asked. “She’s not the only one whose personality is as you speak. Many honorspren used to be like that. Others still are. But Lasting Integrity, and those who here are, have had a strong effect on many honorspren. They preach isolation. Others listen.”

P: Syl is nothing if not interesting!

A: And anything but prim! It’s wonderful to get this perspective on the honorspren, though. Syl is more like the honorspren of old, apparently? And we can understand her sense of honor, in general, though we might not always agree. I wonder… there are several honorspren cities, as I recall; perhaps the honorspren who are more like Syl just don’t really like to spend time in Lasting Integrity, and prefer one of the others.

P: Oh, good theory. Headcanon accepted.

“If a human tries to bond me,” Blended said, flipping through the books in her stack, “I will attack him and kill him. This better solution is.”

“I don’t think Radiants force bonds,” Adolin said.

“They would coerce. I would strike first. Your kind are not trustworthy.”

A: Yikes!

P: Indeed. I actually think that a lot of spren don’t quite understand how the bond is initiated, because they had no one to tell them, to teach them.

A: I think you’re right. Some seem to have a more instinctive understanding, and of course Syl was bonded before, but the Recreance destroyed both knowledge and trust, and they have some pretty odd assumptions.

“You believe much in their honor, Prince Adolin. Your sense of justice… is.”

“They are honorspren,” he said. “Don’t they basically have to be honorable?”

“A conundrum is in this thing,” Blended said. “Yes, they are honorspren. But honor … isn’t something that … that is.”

“… spren like us are not mindless things. Our will is strong. Our perceptions mold our definitions of concepts such as honor and right and wrong. Just as with humans.”

“You’re saying that what they perceive as honorable might not be what I perceive as honorable. Syl warned me as much.”

“Yes,” she said. “What they are defines honor to them. Whatever they are.”

P: So an honorspren believes that however they see themselves is honorable, not how they see others’ behaviors. Interesting.

A: This is a fascinating revelation about the honorspren. We’ve had many debates about whether it’s right for Syl to expect Kaladin to comport with what she sees as honorable. Now we find out that it’s not so much “what they see as honorable”—it’s that they see themselves as the definition of honor, which leaves us with no definition at all. (I wonder how closely this reflects the Skybreaker Fifth Ideal about “becoming” law, or if it’s at all the same thing.)

The spren claimed it was not Surgebinding that let them walk on the walls here; the long-standing presence of the honorspren instead allowed the tower to choose a different type of natural law.

P: This is super interesting… that the very nature of honorspren allows the tower to defy nature itself. But my stomach still gets a little squicky when I think about the way they walk around on the walls.

A: Heh. Exactly what is Surgebinding but the ability to choose a different type of natural law? That’s exactly what it means: using the natural Surges of the planet to make something work differently than usual. But of course honorspren wouldn’t be willing to call it Surgebinding.

It’s also interesting to note that, weird as it feels to him, Adolin is much better at handling the local “natural laws” than most humans. I wonder why. His natural athleticism wouldn’t hurt, obviously, but it seems more mental than physical. I guess he had the experience of Szeth sticking him to the ceiling, and he’s been around the Windrunners a lot… But it could just be his mental flexibility.

He’d catch laughter or a hint of a mischievous grin. Then an older uniformed honorspren would walk past—and everyone would grow solemn again. These creatures seemed trapped between an instinct for playfulness and their natures as the spren of oaths.

P: Funny that the younger spren seem to be more like Syl in temperament than the older spren, when she’s the “Ancient” Daughter.

A: I can only assume that her long sleep has helped her retain some of her youthfulness! Actually, there’s another possibility: The spren who were around nearer the time of the Recreance have a more visceral memory of the “betrayal” that killed so many of their kind, while to those who came later, it’s more like ancient history, and Syl slept through the whole thing.

Bruised and Broken

Your trust kills, Shallan, the dark part of her thought. The part she named Formless. Except it wasn’t formless. She knew exactly what it was.

P: Though we also now know what it is, this was just creepy to read about during the beta. Brandon makes Formless sound monstrous, almost.

A: Very creepy. Poor complicated Shallan.

“Answers will help free you,” Mraize said. “Once you’ve earned them.”

“Perhaps,” Veil said. “Or perhaps you’ll be surprised at what I already know.” The trouble wasn’t getting answers. It was finding the presence of mind to accept them.

P: Yes, our Shallan does have trouble accepting answers, doesn’t she? If she hears one that hits too close to home, she just might splinter again.

A: Shallan’s arc in this Part is so painful. The more we learn, the easier it is to understand why she doesn’t want to face her memories; at the same time, we all know that she needs to accept the truth in order to grow into her full strength. And into the person Roshar needs her to be. Poor girl.

Cosmere Connections

“They claim the last human who left was five months ago,” she said. “But that was Azure, not Restares. […] They completely neglected to mention that Sixteen—the person I’ve spent the last few days planning to intercept—was Shin.”

A: More confirmation of Vivenna’s movements. (Wonder where she is now!) Also, gah. Who is Sixteen? Not Shin, in any case. I keep trying to make him fit with someone we’ve met before.

P: I keep feeling that we should know who Sixteen is as well. But I can’t place him. And yes, I’m super curious about Azure/Vivenna, too.

A: Maybe she’ll show up in the next novella. I keep hoping!

Arresting Artwork

Inkspren weapons may or may not be sheathed, and sometimes hang in the air at their sides or backs, not needing to be attached physically to remain with them.

A: Well, now, isn’t that handy! Hope they never cut someone while they’re following their owner around…

They do not wear armor. Instead, the armor is a part of their form and sometimes defies human concepts of anatomy.

A: LOL. Why not?

P: Why would they align with human concepts of anatomy? They’re not human, after all.

It reminds me less of steel and more of shell or carapace.

A: Again, why not? The original inhabitants of the planet have carapace, after all. It’s perfectly natural.

Each surface has an iridescent sheen, a rainbow shimmer that moves independently of the surrounding lights.

A: This seems… right, but also mind-blowing to see. I wish I could explain that.

P: Sounds gorgeous.

In the Physical Realm, inkspren can change their size, but not their shape. They can be as large as a human, or as small as a speck of dust, but they will always look like themselves.

A: Hence Ivory hiding in Jasnah’s hair.

Brilliant Buttresses

If he had to listen to one more lecture including terms like “exculpatory evidence” and “compensatory restitution,” he would ask them to execute him and be done with it.

A: LOL! Poor Adolin. Not only is it boring, but it’s got to be annoying to have some stuffy lawyer type trying to lecture him on their convoluted legal system.

P: Yeah, this is definitely not his jam. He just wants to get out there and prove how honorable he is and he thinks that will be enough.

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Alice will be taking next week off to focus on her daughter’s senior thesis presentation, so Paige and a guest host will be here for you with Rlain’s POV in chapter 79. This will be the first of several Bridge Four chapters which mostly take the place of Kaladin’s POV for Part Four.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, and is up to her eyeballs in end-of-senior-year shenanigans.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. Links to her other writing are available in her profile. Let’s go, Yankees!

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