Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, a full disadvantaged duel was fought; a full disadvantaged duel was won; and a full disadvantaged duel was wasted. This week, the aftermath: a lot of shouting and unwarranted stubbornness.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.
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Chapter 58: Never Again
Point of View: Kaladin, Sadeas
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Symbology: Spears, Nalan
IN WHICH Dalinar and Elhokar argue about Kaladin; Kaladin says stupid things that prove he’s way out of his depth; he gets yelled at by Elhokar for it; Dalinar and Elhokar argue some more; Elhokar stomps out; Kaladin says more stupid things; he gets yelled at by Dalinar for it; Sadeas wigs out about the close call he just had, and begins making plans to get rid of Dalinar before Dalinar can get rid of him; Kaladin goes to prison and says yet more stupid things; Syl does not yell at him for it.
Quote of the Week
“You’re going to let the king put me in prison.”
“Yes,” Dalinar said, rising. “Elhokar has a temper. Once he cools down, I’ll get you free. For now, it might be best if you had some time to think.”
“They’ll have a tough time forcing me to go to prison,” Kaladin said softly.
“Have you even been listening?” Dalinar suddenly roared.
Kaladin sat back, eyes widening, as Dalinar leaned down, red-faced, taking Kaladin by the shoulders as if to shake him. “Have you not felt what is coming? Have you not seen how this kingdom squabbles? We don’t have time for this! We don’t have time for games! Stop being a child, and start being a soldier! You’ll go to prison, and you’ll go happily. That’s an order. Do you listen to orders anymore?”
“I…” Kaladin found himself stammering.
Dalinar stood up, rubbing his hands on his temples. “I thought we had Sadeas cornered, there. I thought maybe we’d be able to cut his feet out from under him and save this kingdom. Now I don’t know what to do.” He turned and walked to the door. “Thank you for saving my sons.”
Oh, blast it all anyway. If it weren’t for Kaladin stepping in, Adolin would never have survived this duel to challenge Sadeas. And if it weren’t for Kaladin stepping in, Sadeas could have been pinned down to an immediate duel. Dalinar is caught between gratitude and fury, and I certainly don’t blame him for giving Kaladin a well-deserved dressing-down.
Well. For all I’ve come to the defense of both Kaladin and Elhokar many times in the past, today I’d dearly like to grab them each by an ear and smash their heads together. Really hard. Yes, I understand where each of them is coming from, but what a pair of tools!
Elhokar doesn’t seem to comprehend, even after all these years, that kingship is not about getting to be the biggest bully on the playground – it’s supposed to involve leadership, self-discipline, even self-sacrifice; whatever it takes to do what’s best for your country. He seems to think that because he’s king, he gets to tell everyone what to do ‘cause he da boss-man; everyone is supposed to bow to his every whim. He has no concept at all of putting the needs of his people ahead of his own impulsive desires.
Elhokar should not ever have let his temper control him so that he lost the opportunity to tie Sadeas down on the duel. As noted last week, he could have perfectly well ignored Kaladin (or told him to wait) while he dealt with Adolin’s boon first. But he didn’t, so now he’s threatening to execute the man who saved the lives of his cousins just moments earlier. There was a time when he was an unwitting tool for those who used him for their own advancement and wealth. That’s not quite as likely to happen anymore, but his current disposition isn’t much better: now he’s a tool for his own emotions, and he doesn’t even realize how stupid it is to make major decisions solely on the basis of how he feels about it at the moment.
Speaking of being “a tool for his own emotions”… Kaladin is just as bad. He did this amazing thing by using the powers he gains from his bond with Syl, and then threw it all away on a perceived opportunity to further his own personal grudge against Amaram. Tool.
While we all appreciate that Amaram is a scuzzbucket, a murderer, and a thief, Kaladin was incredibly egocentric in thinking that he had every right to expect the same reward as Adolin, and (worse) in forgetting that boons are granted, not demanded. I’m not sure, at the moment, whether he’s been so wrapped up in his own issues all along that he wasn’t paying attention, that he didn’t recognize the overriding importance of getting Sadeas off Dalinar’s back. It’s possible; he’s been focusing on protecting/leading the bridgemen, guarding the Kholin family members, and becoming a Windrunner. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention to what Dalinar was trying to accomplish, and subconsciously regarded it as lighteyed politics. That’s not much of an excuse, though; Syl has been going nuts about the red-eyed spren, and there’s the whole Assassin in White thing going down, to say nothing of the countdown scribbles. These are events of world-shaping import, and if he doesn’t realize the significance of removing a major threat to Dalinar’s ability to deal with them, he’s been paying attention to the wrong things.
*sigh* Yes, I understand why Kaladin did what he did. I even understand why Elhokar did what he did. But both of them were being extraordinarily short-sighted and self-centered, and they both bear the blame for ruining the plan. What’s really sick-making is that by all rights, given the loophole in the wording, Adolin shouldn’t even have survived to make the challenge; when he won, astonishingly, against all the odds… these two clowns threw it away.
I never thought I’d say this, but at the moment I’m more angry at Kaladin and Elhokar than I am at Sadeas and Amaram. S & A are foul and slimy by nature, so of course they do foul and slimy deeds, and justify them according to their respective foul and slimy ideologies. Kaladin and (at least in my head) Elhokar are supposed to be part of Team Light, but their combined selfishness just did a bang-up job of stabbing Dalinar in the back.
With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Same day, obviously. There are twenty-eight short days left in the countdown, as Dalinar knows all too well – and as Elhokar and Kaladin also know, but seem to have somehow forgotten while they’re busy being petty.
The only spren in this chapter is a very subdued Sylphrena. Last time we saw her, she was spinning with joy as the judge awarded the day to Brightlord Adolin. In her one appearance today, she finally drifts into the room after Kaladin is locked in prison, and he appears to blame her for the events of the day. I can’t call it the beginning of their downward spiral, but it’s certainly a mile-post on the way to the nether regions.
Nalan, Nalan. Judge. Herald of Justice. There seems to be a bad case of “poor judgement” going around.
Words of Radiants
So Melishi retired to his tent, and resolved to destroy the Voidbringers upon the next day, but that night did present a different stratagem, related to the unique abilities of the Bondsmiths; and being hurried, he could make no specific account of his process; it was related to the very nature of the Heralds and their divine duties, an attribute the Bondsmiths alone could address.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 30, page 18
If Shallan and Jasnah are correct and the Parshendi themselves are the Voidbringers, this would be interpreted as Melishi figuring out a way to bring down an entire race. I begin to suspect that the real Voidbringers are instead those spren which place Listeners in the forms which enslave them to Odium. In that case, perhaps his connection to the Stormfather, combined with the way the Listeners need a highstorm to transform, gave him some way to control which spren could form bonds. Maybe? I’m sure there are a thousand theories. Let’s hear them!
Welp. Thus endeth Part Three: The grand finale of Adolin’s dueling spree has fizzled, and Kaladin is grumping in prison. On the bright side, next week we can leave Kaladin to his grumping while we dodge over to the other side of the continent to begin the third set of Interludes. Lift!
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Lately, she’s been enjoying a fine helping of schadenfreude pie as she watches the reactions to Shadows of Self scattered over facebook. Mwahahahahaha. Incidentally, according to a Sanderson tweet, the action of the Wax & Wayne books is set in the Cosmere timeline after SA5. Just in case you’re keeping track.