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Way of Kings Read Along: Chapters 15 to 20

Way of KingsWelcome back to another edition of Gollancz & Fantasy-Faction‘s The Way of Kings read along. Last week we enjoyed meeting a whole cast of new characters out on the Shattered Plains and this week we got to spend a heck of a lot of time with them. What I’ve taken away from this week’s worth of chapters is that being a Lighteyes isn’t as easy as it’s cracked-up to be. OK, sure, I’d probably still rather be a Highprince than a Bridgeman, but at least as a Bridgeman you know and accept that no one likes you; no one cares whether you live or die. The problem with being a Highprince is that you don’t know who is on your side, who is simply paying you lip service and, perhaps, who is plotting your downfall – or even death!

Well, here come the chapter summaries for Chapters 15 through to 20 and some questions for you guys. Next week we will be jumping up to chapter 28, we’ll see you back here then!

Chapter 15

The highprinces await a bridge crew to replace the bridge that was broken – these were Dalinar’s orders and Alodin recognises that the troops look at him with some respect now (although he doesn’t feel it will last too long). Alodin himself can’t help but be impressed by his father’s actions and wish he’d see them more often. Almost 50 men had died fighting the Chasmfiend and it is Alodin’s job to report that number to Elhokar.

Dalinar reflects on the war. When it first begun the aim was to get vengeance for the murder of Gavilar. The North-Western Parshendi lands are bordered by a mountainous region that is impassible and Chasmfiends prowl any lands between. The Alethi had planned to storm the Shattered Plains from the South-East and box the Parshendi in. However, once the Alethi learned of the Chasmfiend hearts their interest began to shift from defeating the Parshendi to collecting the expensive gems. Now, the only time the Highprinces fight is when a Chasmfiend is spotted and they race to it. If the Parshendi arrive first then the Alethi will fight them on arrival, if the Alethi arrive first they will work on defeating the Chasmfiend whilst secondary forces hold off the Parshendi once they arrive. The siege had so far lasted six years, and Dalinar feels it could easily take another six. Worse than that, though, the nature of the Alethi people means that they’ve started competing between themselves – paying and feeding thousands of troops is expensive and covering the fees together isn’t the Alethi way… The person who retrieves the gemstone keeps it and any money they make from its sale. The larger gemstones can be used by Soulcasters and the larger they are the more potential they have.

Dalinar is concerned that Alodin doesn’t trust Sadeas, but before he can consider it further the King calls him over and asks how many gemhearts he has won. Dalinar admits that before today he hadn’t won any recently and the King tells him that Sadeas had won three in the last few weeks alone. The King says Sadeas’s success is down to the fact his bridges are so efficient. Apparently Dalinar’s bridges have wheels, Sadeas’s are the ones that bridgemen such as Kaladin are forced to carry – Dalinar won’t use them due to a code that says a leader shouldn’t make his men do something he couldn’t/wouldn’t do himself. Sadeas also admits that the bridgemen serve as a distraction from his soldiers – they get shot and that saves the life of his troops. Sadeas mocks Dalinar for not being willing to take up his measures and Alodin jumps in and calls Sadeas a coward for always staying back whilst other men put themselves in danger. Sadeas turns his attention to Renarin, calling him hopeless, Wit then appears and makes fun of Sadeas until he angrily storms off then praises Renarin’s cleverness and wit.

Adolin and Dalinar look over the strap that broke and had Elhokar falling from his horse. Elhokar is concerned it may have been an assassination attempt and Dalinar seems to agree that it has been cut rather than broken from wear. That said, when the King says that they are all being blind and that someone is trying to kill him Dalinar tells him that he is over-reacting. The King refuses to back down and commands that they look into who cut the strap – Alodin notices the look of distrust in the King’s eyes.

Adolin feels it must be Sadeas that is trying to hurt the king for his own gain, but Dalinar takes him to speak with Vamah who he and Sadeas are manipulating together. By working together to remind Vamah how much they rely on Elhokar, they make sure that he will not cause any trouble by bringing his opinion that the King charges too much for access to his Soulcasters (who provide the troops’ food) to the attention of the other Highprinces or start running his own supply line which would take funds away from him. To further enforce Dalinar’s belief that Sadeas wouldn’t turn on Elhokar it is revealed that he was the decoy King on the night Szeth assassinated the real one – therefore he was willing to give his life for him.

The chapter ends with Sadeas saying that the words Gavilar had written, ‘You must find the most important words a man can say….’ (A quote from the ancient text The Way of Kings – used by the Radiants as a kind of guidebook, a book of counsel on how to live their lives) and spoken ‘Brother, follow the Codes tonight. There is something strange upon the winds’ have no real meaning and that he feels it is Dalinar’s persistence in looking for one that has resulted in his fits.

Concepts:

Why did the Parshendi kill the King? The Parshendi had never given an answer for this, despite Elhokar having sent messengers to ask shortly after. Dalinar feels no one really cares any more, except him.

Chasmfiend Spren: Tiny, near-invisible spren were floating out of the beast’s body, vanishing into the air. They looked like the tongues of smoke that might come off a candle after being snuffed. Nobody knew what kind of spren they were; you only saw them around the freshly killed bodies of great shells.

Adolin: Shorter than Dalinar, his hair is blond mixed with black. The blond is an inheritance from his mother.

Dalinar’s wife: Dalinar remembers nothing of his wife. She had been excised from his memory, leaving strange gaps and foggy areas. Sometimes he can remember an exact scene, with everyone else crisp and clear, but she is a blur. He can’t even remember her name. When others spoke it, it slipped from his mind.

The Codes: The Codes are idealised ways that one should live. Sadeas feels they are nonsense and “devised by poets”, but Dalinar tries his best to live by them. It is mentioned that Gavilar began to follow them shortly before his death and changed in many ways – even Dalinar seems uncertain whether the changes were for the better.

The Way of Kings: The book did not have a good reputation, and not just because it was associated with the Lost Radiants. It included stories of a king doing the work of a menial labourer and said outright that lighteyes were beneath darkeyes. Dalinar is reading the book, looking for clues as to the message his brother left behind that was a quote from within it.

Chapter 16

Kal talks to a lighteyed girl not much older than him. She has golden streaks in her black hair and it is obvious that Kal is attracted to her. He is explaining how his father wants him to become a surgeon and she is encouraging him to follow his dreams of becoming a solider and winning a Shardblade and Shardplate instead. To her, as a lighteyes, glory and honor make a man. Kal’s little brother, Tien, then walks up to him and gives him a rock that has an interesting patten on it. As Kaladin smiles, the girl, Laral, remarks that Tien seems to have an ability to completely change Kal’s mood for the better.

Kaladin runs into a group of darkeyes who work on the land in the hills. Although Kal is worked hard by his father, the boys don’t see his education as real work and obviously resent him. That said, they know he knows things and one asks him if he has ever heard of a darkeyes becoming a lighteyes. Kaladin says that Laral told him that if a darkeyes wins a Shardblade in battle then his eyes will become light. One boy claims that his father once won a Shardblade, but Kal points out that he couldn’t have because there were no Shardbearers near the area he could have fought and won one from. The boy gets angry and challenges Kaladin to a fight.

Kaladin has obvious skill with the quarterstaff and a strange kind of energy and excitement allows him to land a number of impressive strikes, but the boy he fights is too strong and too experienced for him. Rather than help him, Laral stands up and walks away toward her father’s mansion. Upon returning home, Kaladin and Tien’s father tells them that the Citylord, Brightlord Wistiow (Laral’s father) has passed away. He has left behind a large number of spheres with the aim that Kaladin goes away to Kharbranth and studies to be a surgeon. Upon his return, Hearthstone will be ensured a surgeon for at least another generation.

Concepts:

Rank: It seems that families are ranked by their profession and place in the community. Kal’s are the only second nahn family in the town. Everyone else was fourth or fifth. For this reason many are jealous and uncomfortable around them. Note: they are still much lower than lighteyes.

Angerspren: appear in small pools at the feet of angry people. They are bright red.

Chapter 17

Kaladin walks into the shop of an apothecary and spends all his money on medical supplies. Kaladin notices that stormlight has been drained from his infused spheres – it usually takes about a week for that to happen, but it has taken just a day or so with these ones… He suspects Gaz gave him ones that were already half worn down.

Syl talks about how different humans are to any other living thing. Other living things all act as they are supposed to, their actions are always easy to predict. Humans, though, are all individuals and never agree – they always act differently. She says spren all act the same too, which is why she is so confused about what is happening to her.

A horn sounds and Kaladin is called upon to take part in a bridgerun. Sadeas himself crosses Kaladin’s bridge and Kaladin is filled with rage as he sees the ‘pompous’ man who condemned him to his fate. Kaladin decides he does not serve this man, he serves his bridgemen and he promises himself that he will save them. When they reach the Parshendi, Kaladin swaps places with ‘Rock’, placing him in one of the most dangerous front positions rather than his privileged position at the back as bridgeleader.

As they run towards the Parshendi, Kaladin screams ‘Tien’ and feels a surge of energy and strength. Arrows take out a number of those next to him, but fall at his feet – the Parshendi bowmen hesitate and look confused. This gives the bridgemen enough time to set the bridge and once it is down, Kaladin runs around trying to save those who are injured. After Kaladin hurts his ribs it becomes obvious he will not be able to save all the bridgemen on his own. The bridgeman named Rock says that he will help Kaladin – adding that he must be mad to do so – and more say they’d like to help too. Once they’ve saved as many as they can, Kaladin treats them with the supplies he purchased. He tells Gaz they are going to take them back to camp, but Gaz says his superior, Brightlord Lamaril, would never allow it. Kaladin says they will go behind Brightlord Lamaril and that they will place them on the bridges so that they can carry them back to base quickly and efficiently. Gaz denies the request at first, even the clear mark that Kaladin offers as a bribe, but  then Kaladin says that if Gaz refuses he will kill him and accept execution as a punishment.

Concepts

Decayspren: Nothing is said about these Spren other than Syl expects to see them around an old man who looks almost too old to be alive. We therefore guess they hover around corpses / long-dead things.

Parshendi Warriors: They have marbled skin, strange reddish or orange helms, and simple brown clothing.

Warcamps: They are enormous, with over a hundred thousand troops in the various Alethi camps. And that isn’t counting the civilians. A mobile warcamp attracts a large array of camp followers; stationary warcamps like these on the Shattered Plains bring even more. Each of the ten warcamps fills its own crater, and is filled with an incongruous mix of Soulcast buildings, shanties, and tents. Some merchants, like the apothecary, have the money to build a wooden structure. Those who live in tents take them down for storms, then pay for shelter elsewhere. Soldiers of one camp don’t mix with those of another, and you stay away from another brightlord’s crater unless you have business there.

Chapter 18

Adolin is talking with leather workers who confirm his hesitant-suspicions that Elhokar’s saddle was cut… they do add that there is a possibility the buckle of the saddle did it (although this seems more because they disbelieve anyone close to the king would want to harm him than a credible occurrence). Adolin leaves with Janala, the latest girl he has been courting. She thinks that men should be allowed out of their uniforms once in a while, but Adolin thinks they aren’t too bad (it seems that Dalinar is following the code in his enforcing soldiers to wear them). Janala remarks that “his requirements are growing tiresome.” Before Adolin can give a suitable reply a horn sounds – a chrysalis has been spotted. The horns announce the location and due to the proximity it will be a race between Sadeas and Dalinar to get to it. Dalinar doesn’t even attempt it, though – he allows it to go to Sadeas; Adolin is obviously disappointed and embarrassed.

When Dalinar hears that one of the Highprinces is considering taking a vacation back to Alethkar he becomes worried. The most fragile time for a Kingdom is during the reign of its founder’s heir and his vision told him that he must ‘unite them’ because ‘The True Desolation Comes’. When Renarin arrives it is obvious that he is distraught about having shown his father up on the field. Upon telling Dalinar he’d be better off dead Dalinar tells him that he will see that he learns to fight and that he will earn him a Shardplate and a Shardblade. Renarin is nervous, thinking that this will be frowned upon, but Dalinar says it is his choice who he gives one to should he win it from the Parshendi. We are told that it was Dalinar who won Elhokar’s blade and plate. This means a huge amount to Renarin, for in the Alethi eyes the highest calling of man is to join the battle in the afterlife where the best warriors who have passed on fight to reclaim the Tranquiline Halls – should he get a blade/plate this is a true possibility.

Adolin visits an Ardent to ask whether Dalinar’s visions could be from a higher power or whether they simply mean Dalinar is going mad. The Ardent tells Adolin that the Heralds themselves denounced any kind of prophecy and that their religion now states that man chooses his own path.

Dalinar is finally let in to speak with Elhokar and notices that he carries himself with relaxed informality and that his clothes are baggy and crumbled – this is the kind of thing that the codes look to protect against… Dalinar feels this relaxed nature is what is causing the rest of the Highprinces to act so slack and the war to drag on so long. Although Dalinar doesn’t mention the codes, he raises the idea that perhaps they should all return home before the war risks all that Elhokar’s father worked for. Elhokar reacts badly, shocked that his uncle would even consider leaving before the vengeance pact is fulfilled. Dalinar says that the war has separated the Highprinces. Although they may fight together against the Parshendi, the competition for gems has split them apart and once they no longer have a common goal they will turn on each other or at very least push each other away.

Eventually Dalinar admits that perhaps retreating is not the best idea, but says that they need to think seriously about an alternative to how things are currently. He tells Elhokar of his father’s idea that each of the ten Highprinces are given a role that will force them to work together. Dalinar asks to be made Highprince of war, but Elhokar thinks that this would cause a revolt and that his father made a mistake with this plan. After more arguing, Elhokar admits that he agrees something needs to change and that he shall allow Dalinar the chance to prove to him that he can come up with a way to have the Highprinces work in harmony together.

Upon leaving, Adolin and Dalinar are caught by a storm. They realise they are too far from their camp and Dalinar is forced to take shelter in nearby barracks where he suffers from another fit.

Concepts

Adolin’s Uniform: A simple blue outfit of militaristic cut. A long coat of solid blue—no embroidery—and stiff trousers in a time when vests, silk accents, and scarves were the fashion. His father’s Kholin glyphpair was emblazoned quite obtrusively on the back and breast, and the front fastened with silver buttons up both sides. It was simple, distinctly recognizable, but awfully plain.

Elhokar’s Palace: Is elevated above the HighPrinces’ War camps.

Dalinar’s Marital Status: Dalinar is frustrated that Jasnah has been away for so long, it seems she worked as his scribe. This gets him thinking about how he is expected to have another wife by now, but doesn’t want to as he feels it would be a betrayal.

The Afterlife: Although the highest calling of the afterlife is to fight, excellence in other areas such as crafting or blacksmithing with ensure you have a place working for the almighty after death.

Calling: Each lighteyes has a calling of some kind. This is decided by Ardents at a young age and the lighteyes must strive to make progress towards excellence in whatever that calling may be. Dalinar’s is leadership and Adolin’s is dueling.

War of Loss: The War of Loss is the reason that prophecy was denounced. The world reached a stage where Ardents looked to control citizens for “their own good”. Essentially, they began fabricating the word of God and using these lies to direct people in certain ways that suited their ideology. This meant the people followed the Ardents and not really the almighty or the Heralds.

Chapter 19 – Dalinar Vision

We share Dalinar’s 12th vision: importantly, he is very aware that he is in a vision. He is in the body of a man during a time when Althkar (known as Alethela at the time of the vision) is a single Kingdom. The wife of the man Dalinar possesses and their daughter are in a house that is under siege by black, squishy, unnatural creatures (called Midnight Essence) that hunt only by smell. When one gets into the house, Dalinar quickly kills it and the shocked wife says that her husband has just fought like a Radiant. Dalinar realises that he is trapped in a time before real history began, before man defeated the Voidbringers. These creatures were what came before the desolation in what was called ‘the Shadowdays’.

The three flee from the house but are quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of creatures that close in on them. Suddenly, a shining blue man comes from the sky. He is wearing a plate and wielding a blade – stormlight is leaking from him. Next a woman appears who looks very similar, Dalinar is shocked to see a female shardbearer. She uses a topaz stone and her touch to heal the family before asking who it was that trained Dalinar. Dalinar recognises them as members of the lost Radiants and they tell him that they have a place for him if he wants to join them in Urithiru and become a member of their order. First, though, the Radiant asks whether Dalinar and his wife can spread the word that the Radiant is coming – she says that if the essence returns they need just call out and they will appear.

Dalinar’s vision fades and a familiar voice says “I miss these times” and explains that they were focused, that their aim was certain and their goal was shared. The voice then says that he wishes he could help the real Dalinar [the implication being that these visions are a form of help] and says that Sadeas can be trusted.

Concepts

The Voice: It is said that the voice is familiar, so we presume it is someone Dalinar knows or, at very least, he has heard speak.

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.

Questions

Question 1: Who is your favourite Highprince?

Question 2: Wit is an interesting character. What do you think of him? Certainly, he seems to echo Robin Hobb and George R.R. Martin’s ‘fools’. Do you think this Jester-like character is becoming a fantasy archetype?

Question 3a: How did you find the vision chapter?

Question 3b: To me, the vision felt a lot like some of the great scenes in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. If you’ve read both, which World do you prefer?

Question 4: How well would you say you understand the religion of the world at this point? Certainly, this section of the book seems to have been very heavy on it.

 

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