Turns out that my birthday was last week and that, as a surprise, I was taken to Scotland to celebrate it. Firstly, I must say: what an incredible country! As a fantasy fan I found it particularly enjoyable – Castles, Harry Potter, monsters in lakes: what more do you need? – but, of course, my relatives didn’t consider this readalong when booking it, did they!? So, I must apologise ON THEIR BEHALF that this week’s post, Chapters 21-28, are coming to you a week later than billed!
However, there was a fair amount of reading, so I hope you didn’t get too far ahead and, if you did, that next week I’ll be able to catch up by saying that this week’s reading will be of chapters 29 through to Chapter 36, which will take us to the end of The Way of Kings Book 1 (if you are reading the two book edition).
Anyway, now that we know what happened: another great week’s worth of reading, right? This week seemed very much focused on Dalinar… we got to see the reasoning for his supposed weakness and took a greater look at his beliefs and plans. What I love about his character is that Sanderson never goes so far as to show him as a ‘white-knight’ styled hero. He has obvious flaws and even he isn’t 100% sure about the direction he is headed. This brings me to the second part of Sanderson’s writing that I really do enjoy and appreciate: how he isn’t afraid to show his characters making mistakes that end up being hugely costly. Many authors fall into the trap of not letting their protagonists fail or do things wrong – Sanderson does it time and time again, but manages to restore our faith in them (you will see this in evidence even more in next week’s reading: so look out for it!).
Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we? As always, questions follow the chapter summaries!
Chapter 20 – Kaladin Flashback
A girl is badly hurt after a fall and Kal is trying desperately to save her. Sadly he can’t – she is too badly injured, there is nothing he can do. When he returns home his father is sympathetic, but realistic: he explains that not everyone can be saved and that as a Surgeon he will have to learn when to save someone and when to let them go. Kal doesn’t think he can do it – he once again decides he doesn’t want to be a Surgeon.
Kaladin is exhausted, not even knowing if he wants to get up; only the need to check on the injured convinces him to. Whilst he is attending to them, one man thanks Kaladin for saving his life. Kaladin is angry that so many of his men have been injured and blames Sadeas.
Kaladin finds his plank and begins working out, much to the annoyance of the other bridge teams watching him. Syl says that some think he is mad, before asking him about the nature of lying. Syl has heard it said that Dalinar never lies and is curious about why anyone would. Kaladin says that all Lighteyes lie, but recognises that this bitterness comes from Amaram.
Gaz approaches Kaladin and says that he must not take food from the mess hall to feed the injured bridgemen. Sadeas intends for them to starve to death to make an example them and reveal why bridgemen are left behind. Many of the men, upon hearing this, consider they’d rather be left out on the field to die then come back and so refuse to help when Kaladin suggests the other men give up some of their food. A bridgeman, Rock, says that he will help Kaladin, as he saved his life by taking his place near the front on a bridgerun. He adds that arrows seem to miss him and that he can see Syl (referring to her as Maf ah’liki).
Kaladin approaches Kaz later that day and tells him that he will take up the worst duty known to bridgemen: the gathering of stones to soulcast them into grain. It is a hard job and Kaz tells Kaladin that his men will hate him for doing it. Kaladin says he knows. On stone gathering duty that night Kaladin is able to convince Rock and two other bridgemen, Teft and Dal, to join him in his ‘plan’ and convinces them that “death isn’t better!”. Kaladin then tells them that shifting rocks is cover for gathering a certain kind of plant…
Elhokar is holding a feast outside his palace for the noble Lighteyes. Adolin can’t drink too much due to his father’s insistence that he follows the codes. Dalinar notices that Wit dresses as the codes outline and as, he believes, a Lighteyes should. They fall into conversation and Wit warns Dalinar that his talk of abandoning the vengeance pact has been revealed and that some now whisper that he is a coward. They are interrupted by Lady Navani, the King’s mother – Dalinar considers her one of the most beautiful women on Roshar.
Adolin appears and says that all night he has been dueling people who are calling his father and their house cowards. Dalinar tells Adolin that it doesn’t matter, that something needs to change for them to win this war. He does say that he has changed his mind on how, though… Now he intends to draw enough Parshendi out by luring them to the ‘Tower’, or maybe even strike at their very centre. Adolin likes the idea, but Dalinar says that for it to happen they’d need all ten Highprinces working together and trusting one another.
Navardi approaches and says that the Vedens have perfected half-shard shields. She speculates that they can block a blow from a Shardblade. When Dalinar asks why she is back she tells him that this is the true political centre of Roshar. Dalinar considers that, unlike Jasnah – her daughter – Navardi is hard to trust; he remembers how she spent many years playing him and his brother (the dead King) against each other.
Suddenly, Elhokar stands up and announces that he has made Sadeas Highprince of Information. His role, the King explains, is getting to the bottom of the assassination attempt. To make matters worse, Elhokar reveals that he’d shared Dalinar’s ideas with Sadeas and that it was him who’d suggested Elhokar test the water by making him Highprince of Information before risking a revolt by making Dalinar the Highprince of War.
Conservative Alethi: The Alethi, as a race, are considered more conservative than others. They do not tend to have the kind of noisy, colourful parties that the Horneaters or Reshi might.
Food by sex: Women eat very sweet foods compared to that of men. This distinction is so ingrained in Alethi culture that the men and women have separate buffets to cater to their expected tastes.
Vision, Code & Way of Kings: Dalinar recognises that his visions, the codes and the Way of Kings must all be connected somehow.
Kaladin, Rock and Teft search for the plants they can extract antiseptic from, Knobweed. Because Rock can see Syl she guides him to the rocks where she spots the plant when flying around. She notices, however, that Rock sees her as some kind of higher-being that he must respect and she doesn’t like it. As expected, Bridge Four are annoyed when they find out that Kaladin volunteered them for this duty. He tells himself that he needs to hurry up and offer them more than simply survival if he is to win their trust and loyalty.
Once they are done, Kaladin and his loyal trio tie the Knobweed to the bottom of the carts used to transport stone. Kaladin, Rock and Teft then sneak out in the evening to get it when the coast is clear and spend most of the night squeezing the plants’ milk into discarded liquor bottles that Syl found. The Knobweed is said to scare away Rotspren by healing wounds.
The four talk, Rock taking the lead by explaining how he became a bridgeman. Other than Alethkar and Jah Keved, few Kingdoms have Shardblades and Rock explains that his people were among those that had none. Among Rock’s people the equivalent of the Lighteyes class are Nutoma and they see the fact they have no blades as shameful. It is said that the first of their race to win one will become King and so every once in a while one of his people head down from the mountains and challenge an Alethi. That turned out to be Rock’s uncle and the man he challenged was Sadeas. After losing, Rock and his cousin were taken as slaves as part of Sadeas’s wrath for a Rockeater challenging him. He actually started out in the kitchens, it was only when he mixed horse dung in with Sadeas’s food that he found himself relegated to Bridgeman. Kaladin says that Rock’s uncle was foolish and that a Brighteyes would never have let him leave Alethi whether he’d won the duel fairly or not.
The men ask Kaladin how he became a Bridgeman and he says simply that he killed someone but that it wasn’t murder. When pushed he revealed that he was thanked by someone ‘very important’ for it, but that Lighteyes don’t take it very well when you turn down their gifts.
Rotspren: Appear around infections.
Dalinar meets with Highprince Roion in the Gallery of Maps. Dalinar notes he looks weak and his dress is sloppy and he has won the least Gemhearts. Dalinar points this out to Roion and Roion counters that Dalinar hasn’t done so well himself lately – saying that many feel the Blackthorn has lost his sting. Dalinar says that he sees that this war has turned into an unwinnable game – that they fight to win Shardblades and they use the Shardblades to fight. Roion says they fight as a way of training to reclaim heaven. Again, Roion says he feels Dalinar has lost his edge. Dalinar tells Roion that he hasn’t and that he wants to try a joint plateau assault and says that together they can win more gemhearts.
Because the size of each plateau is limited, Roion doesn’t see how this will help. Dalinar explains that he known for his heavy infantry; Roion has the best archers and Sadeas’s bridges are the fastest; so, by working together, they could try new tactics. Roion is suspicious and asks who would get the gemhearts and Shardplates / Shardblades. Dalinar says they will share the wealth equally and agrees that Roion could keep the first set, but that he would get the second. Roion is surprised at this as it is likely Dalinar would himself win the Shardblade/Plate as he and his son already have them. Roion is obviously concerned that this offer is Dalinar’s weakness showing and hints at the possibility of a storm that evening – he says he will think on Dalinar’s proposal, but it is obvious that he hasn’t been impressed with Dalinar’s ideas.
Adolin walks into the map room and Dalinar tells him that they will need to approach other Highprinces to unite with. Adolin seems doubtful that his father will find luck elsewhere. He also tells him that Sadeas is sending investigators into his camp to question his men about the saddle. Adolin thinks Sadeas may try something, but Dalinar tells him that the visions told him Sadeas can be trusted; Adolin is angry that Dalinar has begun risking his reputation on advice from the unproven visions (note: remember he has just visited the Ardent who said he does not believe the visions are from any higher power). Adolin tells his father he thinks he is sick, but Dalinar says he must trust himself and tells Adolin to leave him.
Roion: a tall, light-skinned man with a dark, well-trimmed beard. He was thinning on top. Like most of the other Highprinces, he wears a short, open-fronted jacket, exposing a shirt underneath. Its red fabric poked out above the jacket’s collar.
Plateaus: Plateaus on the Alethi side of the border are owned by a certain Highprince. Across the majority of these are permanent bridges. Who owns which plateau determines who has the best pathways to the central plateaus (where the chasmfiends appear), and it also determines who has to maintain the watch-posts and permanent bridges on that plateau. Controlling plateaus is important, as a highprince—by agreement—cannot cross a plateau maintained by one of the others unless he has permission. These plateaus are bought and sold among the highprinces.
The Tower: a plateau that the Parshendi usually bring a large force to. They have rebuffed the Alethi assaults there twenty-seven times and no Alethi has ever won a skirmish upon it. It is just too close to the Parshendi; they could always get there first and form up, using the slope to give them excellent high ground. Dalinar believes there is a way he could corner them there with a force of their own – therefore killing a large number of Parshendi troops and maybe even winning the war- but Dalinar would need alliances to pull this off.
Chapter 25 – Kaladin Flashback
Kal is in Hearthstone and overhears two women talking about how it is unnatural for a human being to cut into another human being – revealing what the almighty intended to be hidden. The other agrees and asks whether she’d heard that the town’s surgeon (Kal’s father) had stolen a goblet full of spheres. Kal tells his mother who explains that, because he is a learned man, and knows things that others do not, they are naturally suspicious of him and think what he does know is dark and mysterious. Kal says he thinks they hate him because he fails so often and his mother agrees to an extent. If a glyphward fails you can blame the will of the almighty, but if Kal’s father fails in providing medicine or suggesting rest then he is easy to blame.
Kal thinks again about how he doesn’t really want that life – how great he felt holding a weapon when fighting Jost and how he could be a soldier one day. Kal’s mother reveals that it had been their plan to have Kal one day marry Laral for the good of the town, however since the death of Laral’s father her nurse, who now looks after her, will not let them see each other – she doesn’t find it appropriate. Kal isn’t sure about this – he doesn’t like the idea of marrying a lighteyes as a darkeyes, or the idea that his children may outrank him. That sets him off to thinking about how life as a surgeon will be a choice to remain an outsider and isolated too. War, though – there he would have a chance of winning a Shardblade and becoming a true lighteyes – then he could marry Laral as her equal.
Word comes that a new citylord is on his way and Kal and Lirin are expecting some kind of accomplished soldier. They race to the town to see him and are surprised when they see an overweight, old looking lighteyes looking distastefully at the crowd. Kal’s father shouts out that he would like to show the new Brightlord around the town, but Brightlord Roshone snaps back that he is the one that let the old Brightlord die and that it is his fault that he has been sent to this ‘pitiful, miserable quarter in the Kingdom’.
Dalinar is having The Way of Kings read to him and Renarin by Litima. The passage talks about how powerful people of status can be when united and the need to control them once they have been – for there is a real possibility of destroying not only yourself but all those within your care. It seems that Adolin’s words have shaken him and hearing someone he trusts suggest that he is going mad means he begins believing it is a real possibility.
Dalinar tells Renarin that Highprince Aladar refused his offer of alliance, just as Roion did. He asks who he should approach next, but – as he often does – Renarin changes the subject and says that Adolin says they should be concerned about Sadeas’s ploy to destroy them. A horn sounds and it is revealed that a Chasmfiend has been spotted on a plateau that Dalinar has the most direct route to – although he is at first hesitant, he realises he needs to do this for morale of his troops and for status. When putting on his armour he considers that his Shardplate doesn’t glow like that of the Radiants in his vision.
One of Dalinar’s officers, Taled, asks Dalinar if he has considered his idea of getting bridgemen of their own. Dalinar says he doesn’t like the idea, that the men are worked too hard. Teleb says he only wants a very small group that can run ahead and get them to the main players to the contested plateau quickly. Reluctantly Dalinar agrees to let him train one bridgecrew. As they get ready for battle, Dalinar feels a rush of elation – it is as if this is his first battle.
Just as they are about to leave, Highprince Sadeas arrives and demands admittance to the warcamp. Sadeas agrees to join Dalinar on his journey to the Chasmfiend to ask his questions as opposed to demand he stay. On the way he asks if Dalinar still feels the ‘Thrill’, which is the joy and lust of battle. Dalinar says he does but that he doesn’t show it and quotes The Way of Kings to explain his point. Sadeas finds the reference distasteful and asks why it doesn’t bother Dalinar that the Radiants betrayed them. Dalinar says that it was so long ago that they cannot possibly know whether they betrayed them or not. Sadeas says that history has taught them that they used elaborate tricks to imitate that they had great powers and a calling from the almighty, then, when they were found out, they fled. Dalinar says that Sadeas cannot know this and that he feels their powers were real. Dalinar doesn’t say why he thinks this (his visions), but Sadeas asks him why nobody has since been able to reproduce them and asks where the incredible skills went. Dalinar feels that they are no longer worthy of them.
Dalinar begins to suggest him and Sadeas uniting, but Sadeas cuts him off and says that the book is ruining him just as it did Gavilar. Sadeas says he needs to stop staying in camp talking of fleeing and begin doing what he is meant to be doing – Killing Parshendi, winning glory and wealth for their kingdom and seeking vengeance. As Dalinar goes to leave, Sadeas shouts that nobody ever really lived the way the Codes claim.
Dalinar and Adolin lead the attack. Their enhanced abilities mean that they massacre those they come into contact with. The Thrill begins to fill Dalinar and tell him that he did need to push harder, assault more plateaus, win gemhearts. He sees himself as a natural force, unstoppable, death itself and then is suddenly so appalled that he feels sick and weak. He sees the corpses and destruction around him and has to fight hard to regain the Thrill and continue the battle as the Parshendi close in on him and Adolin. A voice inside him whispers that ‘Once these weapons meant protecting’ and ‘life before death’. Again Dalinar feels sick, but spotting his men under attack he tells himself that he must fight for them. Eventually they do win the battle and Adolin – to his pleasure – harvests the gemstone.
Afterwards, Dalinar happens to look eastward, towards The Origin, and sees a Parshendi Shardbearer running away with his men – they’d all been forced to strategically retreat. Dalinar wonders why the Shardbearer didn’t join the battle.
The Way of Kings’s change in status: The book was once considered one of the great masterpieces of political philosophy. Kings around the world used to study it daily; now it’s considered borderline blasphemous.
The Thrill: the concept of the joy and lust for battle is similar to our theories on adrenalin. It is the bodies ‘fight’ mode as opposed to our ‘flight’ mode. In Alethi tradition it is a private thing. Dalinar explains that the reason it is private is because although to lack feeling is to be dead, to act on every feeling is to be a child.
Parshendi singing: Parshendi always sing as they fight. Their song changes depending on their actions.
Moving Parshendi Dead: Parshendi grow enraged when you touch or move their dead. Knowing this, during battles the Alethi can draw Parshendi forwards who are otherwise holding back.
The Origin: The Parshendi’s unseen haven at the center of the Plains.
Kaladin returns to the apothecary’s shop to sell him some of the antiseptic they have produced from the reeds – the apothecary tries to play down the substance’s worth and only offers 2 clear marks – Kaladin is confused as he knows the apothecary sells it for many times that (a couple of bottles is sold for about 50 times this – a month’s worth of Kaladin’s wages). Kaladin quickly works out that the apothecary is marking antiseptic up and that he sells it for many times its worth as it is in high demand. Kaladin is disgusted as many soldiers are losing their lives because it is too expensive to heal them. The apothecary tells Kaladin that the highprinces have more than enough money to heal who they want to heal and Kaladin admits that he is right, saying that he will take 1 skymark for 2 skymark’s worth of antiseptic as long as the apothecary continues to buy from him and throws in some extra medical supplies. With the money and newfound freedom he has earned becoming a bridgeleader, Kaladin considers running and starting a new life for himself – then he thinks about how he now has a purpose in life: keeping these bridgemen alive and perhaps one day helping many of them escape.
Gaz assigns Kaladin and his crew to Chasm duty – one of the most hated duties of the bridgemen – as punishment for bringing the injured men back. Chasm duty is the job of patrolling the depths of the chasms retrieving anything of worth from the bodies of soliders who have fallen from the plains during battle; weapons, armour and spheres make the majority of their loot. The fact that even the smallest value spheres can be worth a lot to the bridgemen means that they are checked thoroughly and it is the nature of these ‘thorough’ checks that result in the bridgemen hating Chasm duty rather than the job itself. The men begin to talk whilst they work and Dunny joins in conversation with Rock, Teft and Kaladin about the origins of Rock’s name. They are all impressed that Dunny can sing and it becomes evident that Dunny makes a good fit with their secret operations.
Kaladin finds a spear and upon picking it up hears words from Tukk: ‘It’s good to care when you fight, so long as you don’t let it consume you. Don’t try to stop yourself from feeling. You’ll hate who you become.’ He then spins the spear in his hands and begins to move with it, losing himself to the kind of overwhelming focus he feels every time he picks up a weapon. At first a few of the bridgemen mock him, feel he is trying to show he is better than them, but as the speed, fluidity and complicated nature of the movement increase, they cannot hide how impressed they are. Once Kaladin puts the spear down he plays down what he has done and tells the men to get back to work, but it is evident that many continue to gaze at him in amazement. Teft notes that he could see Syl zipping around Kaladin as he performed the movements with the spear.
The bridgemen find bodies of Parshendi soldiers, but it is explained to Kaladin that they cannot be looted: their armour grows out of their skin. In addition, the bridgemen find gemstones woven into their beards with glyphs carved into them and their smaller blades have carvings with what Kaladin believes to be a picture of one of the Heralds. This would contradict the general belief that the Parshendi fighting out on the plains are simply barbarians without culture. That evening Kaladin speaks to Rock and they arrange to make a warm fire and cook a delicious stew for all the bridgemen who helped them. Kaladin, Rock, Dunny and Teft laugh and sing together whilst they eat – at first it feels forced and it is just them who sit by the fire and eat, but one by one the bridgemen come to join them and the forced talk and laughter turns into something more natural. The next morning when Kaladin calls for the bridgemen to rise from their beds over 3/4 of them do so.
Horneater names: On the Peaks, everyone’s name is a poem. Rock’s full name, Numuhukumakiaki’aialunamor, is a description of very special rock his father discovered the day before his birth.
Death of a soldier: Sometimes the bodies of fallen lighteyes would be recovered from the chasms by special teams so the corpse could be Soulcast into a statue. Darkeyes, unless they were very wealthy, were burned. And most soldiers who fell into the chasms were ignored; the men in camp spoke of the chasms being hallowed resting places, but the truth was that the effort to get the bodies out wasn’t worth the cost or the danger.
Unnaturalness of Parshendi: The Parshendi are bigger and stronger than Parshmen. They can jump chasms, and they grow armor. Their enhanced strength means that many Parshendi use heavier weapons such as axes and hammers.
Adolin is worried how his father can look so weathered even when wearing Shardplate. A prototype of a bridge has been made, but Dalinar feels it is too wide and heavy, he tells his men to redesign it. This leads him to ask Adolin why Shardplate, which gives awesome strength, was never given to anyone for purposes other than war and slaughter. Why did the Radiants fashion only weapons when they could have made productive tools for ordinary men? Dalinar then asks what happens to everyone in 100 years’ time… what happens when so many Gemhearts are won that they are worthless? What about when so many families move out to the shattered planes that it becomes a province to itself? Is it right people will be born and grow up here?
Dalinar and Adolin meet with the men that Sadeas questioned the day of the Plateau assault. They are the groomers of horses and say that they didn’t tell Sadeas, ‘the eel’, anything that would get their Highprince in trouble. Dalinar scolds them for referring to Sadeas as an eel and when they leave he comments to Adolin that their dislike and inevitable attitude towards Sadeas probably didn’t help their cause – rather it likely made it seem they were hiding something. A messenger then arrives from the final Highprince, Thanadal, with notice that he does not wish to meet with Dalinar, that he does not wish to form an alliance with him, nor does he have any intention of going on a joint plateau assault. Dalinar considers that the Highprinces are jealous of his close relationship to the King, that they want to see him fail.
Dalinar has been watching how his son acts and makes decisions, he thinks that Adolin is ready to become a Highprince and wonders whether it is time for him to step aside. He is seriously considering that he is going mad and ‘If he cannot control himself, then how can he control the lives of men?’ Dalinar spots some men working on digging a new pit (which will be the next communal toilet). He orders them out and quickly does the work of many men due to the enhanced strength his plate gives him. Whilst smashing the rock he thinks about how he is losing his ‘Thrill’ and no longer enjoying or longing for war. Navani arrives and tells Dalinar that Jasnah is trying to contact him using the Spanreed. Navani sees that Dalinar is questioning his character, so Navani tells him: “I didn’t pick [your bother] because he would become king … I chose him because you frightened me. That intensity of yours…it scared your brother too, you know.” Dalinar tells her that whether he has changed or not he would not dishonour his brother by engaging in a relationship with her.
Adolin introduces Dalinar to his latest love interest, Danlan Morakotha, and tells his father that he has offered her a job as a clerk. Dalinar asks her to answer the Spanreed for him and indicates to Jasnah that not everyone in the room can be trusted – she asks him about the first time he ran into the Parshendi. When Dalinar mentions Navani – without having mentioned that her mother is in the room – Jasnah warns him, “Keep her at arm’s length, Uncle. She bites”. He then asks Jasnah when she will be coming back, but she answers cryptically saying: ‘I do not dare stop my research. But a time may soon come when I dare not stay away either.’ Jasnah then asks Dalinar whether the Parshendi had Shardblades when he first met them and he says that they didn’t, they only began wielding them after Gavilar’s death. Shallan is then instructed by Jasnah to use the Spanreed and draw what is believed by many to be a Voidbringer, but Dalinar confirms that it isn’t: it is a Chasmfiend. When their conversation is finished, Dalinar tells Navani that he intends to stand down and hand his status as a Highprince over to Adolin. Navani strongly suggests that he reconsiders. Jasnah then asks how long it took the Parshendi to learn the Alethi language after contact had been made and Dalinar tells them it was just a few days.
Alethi need to fight: The grandest of masculine arts was to become a great warrior, and the most important Calling was to fight. The Almighty himself depended on the Alethi to train themselves in honorable battle so that when they died, they could join the Heralds’ army and win back the Tranquiline Halls.
Parshendi Tactics: Parshendi are squat, muscular, and have that strange, skin-grown armor; each is essentially an extremely mobile heavy infantryman. The Parshendi always attack in pairs, eschewing a regular line of battle. Additionally, their jumping prowess can suddenly deposit entire ranks of Parshendi behind Alethi lines. They move as a distinctive group in combat: they manoeuvre with an inexplicable coordination.
Defeating Parshendi: The first way is to use a Shardblade. Effective, but of limited application because they are so few in number. While Shards are incredibly powerful, they need proper support. An isolated, outnumbered Shardbearer can be tripped and toppled by his adversaries. The other reliable way to fight Parshendi depends on quick-moving formations. Flexibility mixed with discipline: flexibility to respond to the uncanny way Parshendi fight, discipline to maintain lines and make up for individual Parshendi strength.
Spanreed: The Spanreeds look like ordinary writing reeds, except that each has a small infused ruby affixed. They are linked to a second Spanreed and they allow communication across long distances. They flash when the person owning the other Spanreed wishes to communicate. The way they work is that a dial is turned by a female and the magic of the pen compels her to mimic the exact movements the other person – in this case Jasnah – makes many miles away.
Vstim and his apprentice Rysn (both Thaylen) visit Shinovar to trade with a farmer named Thresh-son-Esan. Arriving on Shin-land they set up a fabrial that will warn if people approach. Vstim offers the farmer soulcast metal in exchange for his chickens; both remark that they think they are getting the better end of the deal (that what they offer the other is not worth nearly what they are getting in return). Vstim asks if Thresh-son-Esan will sell him another soldier like he did seven years ago (he refers to Szeth), but the farmer tells him that he cannot sell Shin to outsiders. Apparently he was only able to sell Szeth because he was ‘Truthless’ and the small amount of money he did ask for him he had to throw into the river… Selling Truthless yields no profit and so is pointless. Once a deal has been made, Vstim tells Rysn that what she should have learnt is: ‘Never try to cheat the Shin. Be forthright, tell them the truth, and—if anything—undervalue your goods. They will love you for it. And they’ll pay you for it too.’
Shin Classes: Thresh-son-Esan explains that to a Shin, farmers are the highest in the social hierarchy whilst warriors are the lowest.
An Aimian Collector named Axies awakens in an alleyway with a pounding headache after getting drunk with the aim of seeing ‘Alespren’. He believes, based on the notes he has taken on his skin, that he saw them – although feels he should probably continue his research as it could have been a drunken hallucination. The strange thing about Alespren is that they only appear in Iri and only very rarely. Apparently Alespren are not the only stubborn spren – others often refuse to appear too, which is frustrating for a man such as Axies who has made it his job to record every living kind of Spren.
At precisely seven forty-six in the morning, an enormous, sea-blue spren surges from the waters of the bay. It takes the shape of a large jet of water; the center is of the deepest blue, like the ocean depths, though the outer edges are a lighter shade. The spren is at least a hundred feet. The spren arrives at the same time every day and the city’s people have named it Cusicesh, the Protector, and some worship it as a god. Axies thinks it is unique, one of the few types of spren that has only a single member. It forms hands and then a face, it looks eastward toward the Origin and its face shifts quickly through different human faces. Some seem male, others female. Once the spren leaves, Axies feels drained, as if something had been leeched from him. That is reported to be a common reaction.
Aimians: have blue nails and crystalline deep blue eyes. They can change the colour and markings of his skin at will, which means they can take notes on their skin and transcribe them later.
Alespren: Appear as small brown bubbles clinging to objects nearby.
Iriali People: Their golden-hair bred true, like black Alethi hair—the purer your blood was, the more locks of gold you had. And it wasn’t merely blond, it was truly gold, lustrous in the sun. They weren’t nearly as prudish as the Vorin peoples to the east, and were rarely inclined to bickering or fighting.
Szeth has been working for the man who killed his last owner, Makkek. Working primarily in the criminal underworld, Szeth finds it distasteful that many women walk with their hands exposed and men speak openly of crimes, yet obviously fear the Heralds. More generally, he finds it strange that Easterners don’t seem to mind walking on stone, using Stormlight for everyday illumination, that they ignore the spirits of things that live around them (Spren?), and eat whatever they want on any day they want.
Szeth is known as being Makkek’s phantom assassin. It has given him an edge and struck fear in many, but has also got certain dangerous people interested in him. On his latest mission to kill a man named Gavashaw, Szeth considers how he’d initially tried not to use the Shardblade, but was forced to as the jobs got more difficult. Now stories speak of his cutting through stone and of people finding dead men with burnt eyes. Szeth worries that Makkak is getting bolder and wonders how long it is before he is sent to kill Shardbearers or powerful lighteyes. He then considers that it would only be a short while before a connection is made and the Alethi work out the connection to the famous Assassin in White. When that happens he feels that the Alethi King will order his men from the Shattered Plains to Jah Keved and that thousands will die.
Upon reaching his target’s room, Szeth learns that Makkek has been killed and that the man standing in front of him, an admirer of the arts, now has his oathstone. He gives Szeth a list of men he’d like him to kill – they are all high-ranking men. Upon seeing the list, Szeth feels the World will shake once he has killed these targets.
Szeth’s Name: is Szeth-son-Neturo, but he asks not to be called it as his father is sullied by association with him.
Question 1: The odds are stacking up against Dalinar. What are your thoughts on how he is handling things? Could he do things differently to achieve his goals?
Question 2: What do you think of Adolin? Is he ready to become a Highprince?
Question 3: Kaladin’s little Spren, Syl, has now become a full feature character. Often, when discussions about The Way of Kings place as one of the all-time best fantasy books arises, you find a couple of people say Kaladin’s chapters were a little slow. I, personally, didn’t find this. Do you think Syl is one of the keys keeping Kaladin’s chapters interesting? What do you think of her gradual evolution?
Question 4: Another thing that tends to separate readers with The Way of Kings is how they found the interludes. We’ve had six now. Do you feel they enhance the reading experience or take away from it? How so?
Question 5: Can Spren be the cause of something? Are they the result of something? Or do you think they are attracted to certain things?