Wow, what an incredible week’s worth of reading we’ve been treated to! I’m not sure what you are enjoying most about the novel so far, but what I’ve truly come to appreciate about Brandon Sanderson’s writing is his masterful command of pacing and provision of information. One minute we are learning about the Alethi histories, the next we are thrown into battle, the next we meet some strange individuals looking for a mysterious man and then we’re off to witness a foreigner being attacked as he leaves a tavern. These diverse reading experiences provided to us by the author ensures that he never falls victim to the fantasy genre’s worst enemy, ‘info dumping’, but keeps us learning, willingly investing in new concepts and progressing through the story.
In this week’s worth of reading, focus has shifted over almost exclusively to the Shattered Plains. Kaladin has been forced into the trials of life as a bridgeman and it seems for a while that we may lose him to depression. Some of the men – lighteyes – that Kaladin sees as forcing him to endure this kind of life become our next viewpoint characters. The two lighteyes, Dalinar and Adolin, are very close to the king and the addition of their points of view give us an insider’s view of life at the forefront of the war against the Parshendi. Certainly, it’s not as glorious as many of the darkeyes think…
Kaladin has worked out that Bridge 4 has the highest casualty rate (losing between one third to half their number each run). Having been a bridge runner for 2/3 weeks, 23 of the 25 who started with Kaladin are now dead. Kaladin feels he is, and has always been, inbetween what his father thought were the two types of people in the World: ‘those who save lives’ and ‘those who take lives’. He is one of the many ‘who exist to be killed’ and now he waits his turn. Syl seems disappointed in Kaladin and tells him that so many people, even a number of lighteyes, once looked up to him.
Kaladin realises that the armies don’t work nearly hard enough to defend their bridges. Similarly, they don’t push inward towards the enemy. Rather, they just arrive at plateaus, fight the Parshendi and return to camp celebrating. He suspects this is a result of the large chrysalises they always seem to find, because they have gemstones at their hearts… but he is unsure what that has to do with the Vengeance Pact.
Among the new recruits is a young boy who reminds Kaladin of his brother Tien and Cenn who we saw at the beginning of the book. He instinctively wants to protect him, but feels he will just end up watching him die like the others. At that moment Syl tells Kaladin that she can’t watch anymore and that she has to leave. “I’ll try to come back,” she said. “But I don’t know what will happen when I leave you. Things are strange. I have odd memories. No, most of them aren’t even memories. Instincts. One of those tells me that if I leave you, I might lose myself.” But she leaves anyway. As predicted, the young boy dies during his first bridge run…
Execution of Bridgemen: Reserved for bridgemen who refuse to charge at the enemy. The message is that charging with your bridge might get you killed, but refusing to do so would definitely get you killed.
Freedom for Bridgemen: the stories say that if you survive 100 bridge runs you will be set free. Kaladin doubts these stories, but it is said it has happened on one or two occasions.
Chapter 10 – Kaladin Flashback
Kaladin arrives late to his father’s surgery room, missing the administration of a drug to a young girl who has injured her hand/lower arm. At this point in his life, Kaladin is being trained to be a surgeon, although obviously has ambitions to one day join an army and fight under a lighteyes – ambitions his father has no interest in entertaining. He feels the world needs a surgeon more than it needs another solider. Kal’s father Lirin, a surgeon, is seen as a recluse; strange, spending too much time buried in his books and surrounded by sick people. Kaladin, by association, is looked at in a similar fashion. Over the years Lirin’s services as the town’s doctor have become expected rather than seen as a privilege. His family now struggle to get by and survive on the minimal donations that only seem to come begrudgingly following treatment.
The point of this relatively short chapter seems to be to show us Kaladin’s past and the fact he was destined to become ’10 times the surgeon’ his father was due to his impressive ability to learn theories of medicine and surgery. However, Kaladin and Lirin engage in an interesting discussion about the different between ‘Heralds’ and ‘Radiants’. Lirin describes that Heralds were wise beyond humanoid understanding. They were sent to teach mankind and lead them against the Voidbringers after they were cast from heaven. The Radiants were the order of Knights they formed – normal men who were given too much power to wield and not enough sense to use it correctly.
Kaladin’s name: As a child, Kaladin preferred to be called ‘Kal’. He felt his full name sounded like that of a lighteyes’.
Deathspren and Rotspren: Exist around victims suffering injuries or nearing death. Both are said by Lirin to hate water.
Kaladin, having made it back alive, steps outside following a storm. Gaz, who is retrieving spheres he has left out in the storm to become infused by stormlight, believes Kaladin’s plan had been to steal them. Kaladin tells Gaz that he has no need to because he is off to ‘The Honour Chasm’ – the place bridgemen go to commit suicide. Gaz doesn’t offer sympathy or argue against Kaladin’s decision, he simply asks him to leave his leather plate and sandals so he doesn’t have to send a salvage crew after them.
Kaladin has been haunted by the deaths of so many people around him, but especially the young boy who reminded him of his brother. He whispers to his father that he was right when he said you can’t save men by killing men – he now sees that everyone should become a surgeon and save people instead. At that moment Syl appears with a Blakbane leaf. Syl says that she flew so far to retrieve it that she almost ‘forgot herself’, but seems excited and somewhat surprised that she came back to him. She explains that it was Kaladin’s helping of young recruits and their gratitude for it that drew her to him many months ago. Syl begs him to give helping people one more go, she says he can’t lose this time because they are all going to die anyway.
On his way back to the slaves’ barracks Gaz mocks Kaladin for not being brave enough to jump. Kaladin attacks him, throwing him to the ground, and demands that he be made bridge leader. Gaz is overwhelmed by Kaladin, who has strong muscles from carrying the bridge – Kaladin tells Gaz that he will give him one fifth of his wages to leave him alone and let him lead the bridge his own way.
When Kaladin walks into the room where the slaves sleep he realises for the first time how pathetic they all look. Kaladin realises he cannot become Kaladin Stormblessed again, but he could learn from that man and become something else – a leader. He begins asking the bridgemen for their names – something he had avoided doing before under the presumption they’d soon be dead anyway. Now the men matter, their names matter and Kaladin asks for each and every one of them. Syl is delighted – Kaladin now feels he has a purpose, he is going to find a way to protect these men… his men.
Infusing Spheres: In addition to leaving spheres in the storm to absorb stormlight (which is risky because they may blow away if not secured), moneychangers can exchange dun spheres for infused ones or you can pay them to infuse yours for you.
Regularity of battles: There is a battle on average every 2-3 days, but every bridgecrew isn’t needed for each one of them. This is fortunate for the runs are so draining and so horrific that bridgemen often sit almost unresponsive for days after.
Ishikk the fisherman meets with three strange, worrying foreigners – two are dark skinned Makabaki (Grump is thick limbed and bald, Blunt is tall and lean with long hair), the third, Thinker, has light tan skin. Five months ago they set Ishikk the task of finding another foreigner, one who has “white hair, clever tongue, and [an] arrowlike face.” When Ishikk tells them he hasn’t seen him they say that he sometimes dyes his hair or wears disguises. Ishikk answers that he has also used the name they gave him – Hoid – and not found him.
Hoid: For those unaware of who/what Hoid is, he has appeared in almost all of Brandon Sanderson’s books to date and seems to be a ‘Doctor Who’ like being who is seemingly immortal and can move through time and space. Frustratingly, Brandon has said that although we will see a fair amount of Hoid, it is not until his Dragonsteel series is published that we are likely to learn his origins and greater detail on his purpose.
Shallan’s little brother, Nan Balat, is revealed to like killing small animals. This need to torture these creatures seems to stem from both the fact that he is crippled and his feeling weak as a result of Shallan being the one chosen to go and save the family while he has been forced to stay home. Although he has now taken over Shallan’s role of caring for the house, he feels like a coward. Interestingly, Nan feels jealousy towards Shallan because their father never got angry at her… in an earlier chapter Shallan revealed she felt jealous for the attention her brothers were given. Another of Shallan’s brothers, Wikim, appears on the porch and cries that there is a problem.
Nan Balat’s injury: Nan Balat has maimed his leg so badly that a surgeon almost had to amputate it. He was, however, able to save it and, despite being in constant pain, he is able to move with the help of a cane.
We’re back with our friend Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, from the prologue. Szeth is spending his days as the slave of a man named Took and his sole purpose, currently, is for Took to impress people and show off his status and wealth. Whatever Took asks him to do he does – much to the delight of those who frequent the same bars as Took, so basically he has gone from killing a king to being a piece of cheap entertainment. Miners gathered in the Inn request Took make Szeth jump up and down, but quickly progress to having him cut himself. Took tells Szeth to kill himself, but he responds that: “As Truthless, it is the nature of my suffering to be forbidden the taste of death by my own hand.”
The men are surprised at how sophisticated Szeth’s speech is and Took explains that the Shin are like Parshmen, but better because they are smarter, don’t run or question orders and don’t cost anything beyond their initial purchase. Szeth reflects upon how his darkeyed master enjoys owning a slave who speaks like a lighteyes, but can also tell that this same fact makes them a little uncomfortable. Szeth feels this is because they know that, although contained, beneath the surface there is a more intelligent being constantly around them.
The words, ‘Kill, destroy, and cut your way to the king. Be seen doing it. Leave witnesses. Wounded but alive….’ still haunt Szeth, and every day he spends entertaining these people he counts as a day he isn’t being used to kill. He thinks back to the night he killed the king – the night the Parshendi threw his Oathstone away (which he was bound to collect) and left him to be discovered by the side of the road by a merchant – luckily, as it could quite easily have been the Alethi – who took him on as a slave and eventually went on to sell him.
When the miners stop buying Took drinks, he gets up and leaves. Walking through the streets towards a cheaper inn to spend the night, a group of thugs kill Took with a throwing knife. They are about to kill Szeth when one of them recognises him as a Shin and, therefore, harmless. They find no real money on Took, but upon pulling a stone from his jacket Szeth is forced to state that: ‘you are holding my Oathstone. So long as you possess it, you are my master.’ The group now recognise their opportunity to sell Szeth on or to use him as a slave.
Szeth’s life: Szeth is revealed to be 35 years old and having been named Truthless seven years ago. He has large round eyes, a short stature and is bald – like most of his people.
Gavilar’s black sphere: Szeth reveals that he’d hidden it carefully in Jah Keved. He didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t want to risk a master taking it from him.
Chapter 12 – Adolin
For the first time we experience the point of view of Adolin. He rides with Highprince Dalinar (his father), Renarin, King Elhokar, Highprince Sadeas, Highprince Vamah (the only one who isn’t a Shardbearer) and an army of over a thousand soldiers. They are on a hunt for large beasts called Chasmfiends who live in the Shattered Plains and from whom they will be able to retrieve ‘gemhearts’.
Dalinar is known as one of the greatest Warriors and Generals ever to have lived. He and his brother (the King we saw assassinated in the prologue) united the warring high princes after centuries of strife and he is looked up to by the entire Kingdom. However, recently he has been falling into fits and experiencing visions during high storms, which has seen rumours spread through the army. Adolin notes that soon after these episodes he mentions the Knights Radiant.
Sadeas is talking about having won a ‘gemheart’, one the King was unaware of, and the King remarks that certain other members of their entourage (Dalinar) seem to have given up competing for them. Adolin doesn’t trust Sadeas and feels he may use his father’s troubles as a way to finally strike. Adolin feels Sadeas has always been jealous of the fact Adolin has both a Shardblade and Shardplate (Sadeas owns just the plate). It seems Adolin’s concerns about his father’s perceived weakness are warranted, because Dalinar’s recent inability to be the one to capture gemhearts by defeating chasmfiends means that even soldiers are mocking his fall from grace – much to Adolin’s anger and disgust.
Chapter 12 – Dalinar
The King challenges Dalinar to a race to a decent vantage point. Dalinar is winning, but at the last moment allows Adolin to overtake him and enjoy the victory. All the time he is experiencing flashbacks of his visions: ‘unite them,’ he hears, ‘you must prepare. Build of your people a fortress of strength and peace, a wall to resist the winds. Cease squabbling and unite. The Everstorm comes.’ He also has memories of standing upon a vantage point – similar to the one he just raced to – looking down upon desolation. Dalinar hasn’t told the King of his visions, but he feels they may be a warning that they should head back to Alethkar.
As a result of his father’s assassination, Elhokar suffers from paranoia that he will be killed whilst he sleeps. Elhokar feels that someone has been watching him from the darkness of his balcony at night, but Dalinar says he has looked into it and found no evidence. Despite seeing shadows in every corner, Elokar often dismisses the Parshendi as a threat and is happy for Adolin to take charge of ensuring they don’t get ambushed – with little interest as to how he does it.
Adolin, bored of them, describes the typical hunt for a 50 foot Chasmfiend: ‘We’ll bait it for hours while baking in the hot sun. If it decides to show up, we’ll pelt it with arrows, only closing in once it’s so weak it can barely resist as we hack it to death with Shardblades.’ Dalinar explains that the hunts, although tedious, allow the King to practice leading, grow his confidence and earn him respect. That said, Dalinar recognises that although the highprinces give lip service to Elhokar, this war is a game to them, a competition against one another and they are, therefore, not really united as he and the king once believed. Until they return to Alethkar, Dalinar doesn’t believe things will change – the Shattered Plains will continue to divide them.
The King’s Wit arrives. Because insulting others is beneath the dignity of the king, the King retains a Wit so he doesn’t have to debase himself to the level of rudeness or offensiveness. On the Wi’s arrival he makes fun of Adolin for his reputation of consistently courting women. He makes Adolin uncomfortable because he seems to know things that he shouldn’t and couldn’t know. Prince Renarin refuses to speak with him as he begins to make up stories about him courting women (evidently, Renarin is shy due to his Bloodweakness). Dalinar tells the Wit to keep his mocking to people who deserve it and Wit replies that ‘that is what I was doing’ (this could be important in future books – so remember it!).
As the Highprinces get into position – ready for their 3 hour war – on one of the plateaus, the Chasmfiend suddenly appears on the next plateau over. On that plateau stand only attendants, unarmed guests, female scribes, and unprepared soldiers…
Dalinar: Few women had ever called Dalinar Kholin handsome; his nose was the wrong shape, his features blocky rather than delicate. It was the face of a warrior. He is known as one of the greatest Warriors and Generals ever to have lived.
Elhokar: He has light yellow eyes, a strong nose, and a clean-shaven face that is almost too handsome, with full lips, broad forehead, and firm chin. He looks a lot like his father and is 27 years old.
Wit: Tall and thin, the King’s Wit wears a stiff black coat and black trousers, a colour matched by his deep onyx hair. Though he wore a long, thin sword tied to his waist, the man had never drawn it. A duelling foil rather than a military blade, it was mostly symbolic. He had blue eyes, but he wasn’t really a lighteyes. Nor was he a darkeyes. He was a category all of its own.
Dalinar’s Weakened Position: The Alethi princedoms were like Kingdoms to their own. The King doesn’t actually own land, so instead acts like a highprince of the Kholin Princedom – which should be Dalinar’s. Adolin sees this as one of the reasons Dalinar has lost respect so quickly – he should have been a ruler unto himself, but instead he must bend to Alhokar’s will and this can make him look weak. When this is added to his recent visions and inability to win gemhearts we can see why Dalinar has struggled to maintain the level of fear and respect he once did.
Renarin’s Blood Weakness: Not described in detail, but it is believed to be a hybrid of hemophilia and epilepsy. The King’s Wit suggests, though, that Renarin might not be as weak as he seems.
Highprinces: Highprinces rule smaller regions in the Kingdoms of Alethkar and Jah Kaved. There are ten of these and, until Gavilar Kholin united them, they worked independently.
Ryshadium Horse: Two hands taller and much stronger than an ordinary horse.
Gloryspren: Tiny golden translucent globes of light that are attracted by a sense of accomplishment.
It takes 10 heartbeats to summon a Shardblade. To the highprinces running towards the plateau to save their people from the Chasmfiend, this feels like a lifetime. Adolin and Dalinar are first to reach the Chasmfiend and begin taking out its legs with their Shardblades. Dalinar shouts for Elhokar to stay back until they’ve weakened it, but he rides towards it looking to distract it to make their work easier. Suddenly, as he turns his horse, the King’s saddle snaps and he is thrown to the ground. The King is saved only by Sadeas’s ability with a bow that has been enhanced by fabrial science, sometimes referred to as a ‘Shardbow’. Despite his armour being cracked, the King stands and runs at the Chasmfiend. The Chasmfiend lashes out and knocks Dalinar from his horse. Renarin rushes to save him but is called a ‘Fool boy’ and told to ‘GO!’. Adolin is next to be struck by the beast and his armour actually snaps.
With his son, the King and the unity of the Kingdoms at stake, Dalinar moves in a way that only a man with years of experience wearing Shardplate and wielding a Shardblade can. Dalinar holds the beast long enough for Adolin and Elhokar to recover and together they kill the creature by taking out so many of its legs it that it cannot stand. Once it is dead, Elhokar cuts its skin (note: you can only cut through an object if it is not living) and retrieves the largest gemheart ever seen. Gloryspren appear around him and the soldiers yell in triumph.
Oathbringer: Six feet long from tip to hilt, the Blade would have been unwieldy in the hands of any man not wearing Shardplate. Dalinar has carried Oathbringer since his youth, bonding to it when he was twenty Weepings old. It was long and slightly curved, a handspan wide, with wavelike serrations near the hilt. It curved at the tip like a fisherman’s hook, and was wet with cold dew.
Sunraiser: Elhokar’s blade is long and thin with a large crossguard, and was etched up the sides with the ten fundamental glyphs.
Grandbows/Shardbows: Large steel bows with thick strings and such a high draw weight that only a Shardbearer could use them, to fire shafts as thick as three fingers. They were recent creations, devised by Alethi engineers through the use of fabrial science, and each required a small infused gemstone to maintain the strength of its pull without warping the metal. Adolin’s aunt Navani—the widow of King Gavilar, mother of Elhokar and his sister Jasnah— led the research to develop the bows. Some had started calling the bows Shardbows.
Kaladin wakes up determined to fight again and begins to act much like an army general – shouting for his bridge men to pull themselves from bed. Once he has convinced them to go outside, he explains that from now on during their time off they are going to work on getting stronger and being more prepared to stay alive.
The men ask Gaz if they have to follow Kaladin’s orders and Gaz tells them that they don’t. Unable to get the men to participate in his extraneous training, Kaladin heads after Gaz and asks for ALL of his pay – five marks. Gaz reluctantly gives it to him, arguing that Kaladin promised him one mark. Once Kaladin has all five marks he hands one to Gaz and says that he is giving him a part of his pay. Gaz does not take it and walks off. Kaladin then asks Syl to look over him whilst he sleeps as he thinks Gaz may well end up deciding he is not worth the hassle and therefore kill him.
Kaladin asks a carpenter to borrow a large piece of wood and begins running around the camp with it. Many bridgemen watch him, amazed that he is wasting his energy on such a trivial pursuit. Once he is finished, hours later, he returns the board and tells his bridgemen that they have an hour until bridge duty and then it is dinner and their turn to clean up after.
Kaladin walks to where no one can see him and collapses with exhaustion. He talks with his Windspren, who seems to be evolving. She explains to Kaladin that just a day ago she didn’t know what ‘a lie’ or ‘death’ was and now she understands and dislikes them. She asks Kaladin ‘what am I?’ and when he cannot answer she says she feels her changes are because of him.
Laughterspren: minnow-like silver spirits that dart through the air in circular patterns when someone laughs.
1. Adolin and Dalinar are most interesting as characters. What have been your thoughts on their inclusion?
2. What would you prefer: a Shardblade or a Shardplate? Why?
3. What are your thoughts on Spren? Are they energy? Are they living creatures? Are they attracted to something (e.g. creativity) or are they result of something (e.g. death)?
4. What did you think of the Interludes? Do they drive you away from the story or did you enjoy the change of pace?
5. What has been your favourite scene so far?
Make sure you check back next week when we’ll be reading chapters 15 through 22!