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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: Read, Part 9 (Chapters 26-27)

Welcome back to our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson where we explore a great book and learn tricks for writing well. To catch up or review previous segments of this read, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.



Chapter 26: Stillness

Summary: Adolin’s rebuke for Dalinar’s visions, nag at Dalinar, and so, when the next chasmfiend is spotted mounting a plateau to pupate, Dalinar decides to take his army to retrieve its gemheart, a move he hasn’t attempted in a long time. His men are delighted. However, Sadeas chooses that moment to come investigating the king’s broken girth. Reluctantly, Dalinar allows Sadeas to accompany the army on their march to battle and is rewarded by Sadeas’s taunts.

However, when they reach the plateau, Dalinar puts all that behind him while he and Adolin leap among the Parshendi to battle, their Shardplate a tremendous defense and weapon. They take down dozens of Parshendi before the army even charges the plateau. But Dalinar faces something worse than an army and worse than Sadeas. In the midst of battle, the Thrill that usually sustains him wanes, and the sight of death disturbs and unsettles him. He manages to get through the rest of the battle, but wonders if, perhaps, there really is something wrong with him. Then, at the end, on a nearby plateau, he spots another group of Parshendi led by a Parshendi in Shardplate, but he has no idea why they’re there.

Reader Comments: I’m betting Sadeas noticed Dalinar’s hesitation and is going to exploit it. Worse, I’m betting Sadeas insisted on coming on the plateau run to destabilize Dalinar. I’m with Adolin; Sadeas shouldn’t be trusted.

Writer Comments: This is a chapter that highlights the inner struggle and psychology of a main character, Dalinar specifically. To reveal that struggle and how it evolves, Sanderson shows Dalinar in many different situations, all of which reveal varying aspects of his inner self: feasts, during his visions, politicking, and now, in battle. Additionally, Sanderson uses this moment to demonstrate the difference between what Dalinar was, which we know from his fearsome reputation as the Blackthorn, and what he has become. Different situations and stressors are required to fully illuminate the inner qualities and changing life of a character.

Chapter 27: Chasm Duty

Summary: Kaladin sells a bottle of the knobweed sap that he, Teft, and Rock gathered to the apothecary, something that he hopes will turn the tide in his efforts to keep alive the wounded bridgemen. But when he returns to Bridge Four, Gaz informs him that, as Kaladin is fond of unfair duties, the other bridge crews hate him, and their superiors don’t want anyone thinking he can get away with rescuing bridgemen, Bridge Four has been assigned to chasm duty.

With great reluctance, Kaladin leads Bridge Four down into the chasms to scavenge weapons and valuable from the corpses that the highstorm flood waters sweep their way. As they search for anything worthwhile, he encourages conversation and laughter among Rock and Teft, and soon another bridgeman, Dunny, joins in. But the others are resistant, especially when some start taunting Kaladin, claiming he’s trying to lord it over them. Kaladin picks up a spear and, amidst the taunts, slips into a spear kata, his body moving with the grace and skill that made him one of the most superb fighters in Amaram’s army. When he ends the kata and looks up, everyone is silent and staring. In fact, Teft says they could even see a glowing spren dancing with him and the spear through the kata.

That night, Kaladin spends the money he got from the knobweed to purchase a caldron and food to make stew for the whole bridge crew as his last ditch attempt to win them. It works mostly. Everyone comes out, eats stew, laughs, sings, and has a good time. The next morning, almost all Kaladin’s men come at his call and participate in training carrying the bridge. At last, Kaladin has won them. Now, he just has to make that mean something.

Reader Comments: So how can all this mean something, and perhaps, more importantly, how can it mean something to Kaladin? The sad reality is that more people are probably going to die before Kaladin accomplishes anything, assuming he manages at all. Sanderson is starting to give him success, which makes me think that something awful is on its way, and that will likely deal a major blow to Kaladin. I’m also waiting for the higher ups to really notice him. That could potentially be a good thing, but I have a feeling that it’s much more likely to be a terrible thing.

Writer Comments: Eventually, a hero has to have success. It’s all well and good to throw stones at a character, but if he doesn’t occasionally catch one and throw it back, he loses appeal. Sanderson has beaten Kaladin to hell and back emotionally in this book, and now, 40% through, he finally starts to give him success.

Further, 40% means we’re approaching the midpoint of the novel, a significant turning point in the story. In her book, Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, K.M. Weiland describes this part as the moment when the hero stops reacting and starts acting. Kaladin is certainly moving closer to that point.

Thank you for joining me for today’s chapters of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. We’ll resume this read next Monday. Until then, join me Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.

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