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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: Read, Part 15 (Chapters 46-49)

Welcome back to our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, top selling fantasy author. Below, we’ll go through chapters of his novel and learn the techniques of a successful writer.

To catch up or review previous parts of this read, click here.



Chapter 46: Child of Tanavast

Summary: In his dreams, Kaladin rides a highstorm, seeing the world from its perspective. When he reaches far to the west, he comes upon the same face he saw in the highstorm when he was strung up as punishment. It sends him away, calling him Child of Honor, and claiming that Odium rules and so he cannot be there.

Kaladin wakes, disoriented and fighting his fellow bridgemen, who tried to keep him from going out into the highstorm. But Kaladin soon comes to himself.

After the highstorm fully abates, it’s back to work as usual. Bridge Four gets their first new member in weeks. Apparently, now, Gaz isn’t in charge of assigning which bridges get which men. The new captain’s wife gets to choose that, and she sends Bridge Four a single man, a Parshman, kin to the Parshendi they face in war. Everyone is upset by this, and when Kaladin leads the Parshman back to his men, the newcomer swiftly receives a series of insults and hate. Much as Kaladin doesn’t trust the Parshman, he swiftly puts an end to the mistreatment. He refuses to allow his men to treat another the way the lighteyes do.

But clearly, the new captain’s wife is trying to destroy them. Kaladin goes for a walk before chasm duty to think things through. On the way, he talks to Syl and asks her about Odium. The name causes her to hiss and fly away, refusing to come when Kaladin calls.

Before he can get Syl back, an officer shoves a whore out into the street, cursing at her and kicking her. Kaladin rushes over to help, but officers from another highprince get there first and defend the woman. Then the offending officer spits at the defending one, the defending one summons a Shardblade. The offending officer flees, and Kaladin watches as the defending officer helps the whore. When he sees Kaladin, he tosses him a sphere and orders him to send a message to another officer, informing him that Adolin  Kholin will no longer be able to make their meeting. But Kaladin doesn’t deliver the message. In his mind, he doesn’t own the lighteyes anything.

Reader Comments: Ah, I was hoping Adolin would start changing Kaladin’s impression of all lighteyes. Sure, a lot of them are bad, but not all. It would have been cool for those two to really meet, but perhaps that will come at a later time. At this point, I’m thinking there are only a handful of lighteyes who could change Kaladin’s mind about hating them all: Adolin, Renarin, and Shallan. Dalinar might try, but I don’t think he could quite do it. He’d be too overbearing or not realize exactly what he needed to do. Although, maybe close observation of Dalinar might help change Kaladin’s mind. Of course, this is all assuming Sadeas doesn’t kill Kaladin first.

Writer Comments: This chapter is about connections. There’s a very long segment in it where various bridgemen talk about different parts of the world. Now, part of me wants to say that Sanderson was showing off his world there, but I don’t think that was all of it. I think that section was meant to validate to the readers that, in some sense, Kaladin really did ride the highstorm and his men’s comments help validate some of that. Too, I think Sanderson tried to use the highstorm riding scene to hint at what else was going on in the world. There was a Shin man in white with a Shardblade, standing over the bodies of two he had murdered. That was undoubtedly Szeth fulfilling the list his new masters gave him.

I suppose, the best lesson to take from all of that is to provide recognizable features for readers to identify and use as guides through the story. For example, we know Szeth is known for murdering men while dressed in white. We know the face in the sky that Kaladin saw in the highstorm. We know Horneaters live high in the mountains. We know Dalinar’s men dress in pristine uniforms. These things don’t need to be complex, nor should they be, for readers to grasp and use to orient themselves in a story. Characters and groups of characters should have identifiable traits.

Chapter 47: Stormblessings

Summary: A year before...

In Amaram’s army, Kaladin bribes another squadleader to transfer Cenn to his squad. The battle that began the main story begins, but this time from Kaladin’s perspective. Kaladin fights to keep his men, especially Cenn, alive. He kills a lighteyes officer, and then, the completely unexpected happens: A Shardbearer rides upon the field and starts hewing down men, including those Kaladin was trying to save. At the point the Shardbearer is about to slay Amaram, Kaladin strikes. With a spear alone, and nearly dying himself several times, Kaladin manages to strike the Shardbearer in the one weak spot of his armor, the thin slit for his eyes. To everyone’s astonishment, the Shardbearer falls, leaving the Shardblade to Kaladin. But Kaladin won’t take it. He doesn’t want to be a lighteyes, so he walks away and gives the Blade to one of his men.

Reader Comments: I knew it! I knew Kaladin must have killed a Shardbearer. Now, the only big mystery is how that ended up getting him enslaved. I assume that chapter is coming shortly.

Writer Comments: Kaladin is written as very skilled with the spear, eerily so in fact. In fantasy, fighting prowess is fairly common; however, on the flip side lurks a danger: the Mary Sue Character. A Mary Sue is a character who is flawless, or near enough. The Mary Sue exceeds all expectations, always succeeds, and may be a big wish fulfillment for the author, but is rarely one for the reader. Kaladin escapes Mary Sue status in this scene for two reasons.

1. We’ve already seen him fail and suffer a lot. We know that, even while he may win this fight, it isn’t going to bring him fame and glory.

2. While Kaladin is very good in this fight, he still misses. Nearly every attempt he makes to kill the Shardbearer fails. It’s only because he’s fast, enraged, and lucky that he manages to win.

It’s okay for characters so succeed and be awesome, but make sure they don’t slip into Mary Sue status along the way.

Chapter 48: Strawberry

Summary: Shallan now resides in the Kharbranth hospital. She hadn’t intended to make it appear as though she tried to kill herself, but that’s what everyone assumes. However, she decides to play the “suicide attempt” up to excuse her leaving for home. Jasnah visits her and gives her a blank book called The Book of Endless Pages, believing Shallan will be ending her studies. Kabsal also comes with bread and strawberry jam. He and Jasnah still aren’t getting along, but Shallan tries to settle some level of civility between them by insisting Jasnah share the bread with them. However, the strawberry jam tastes awful. Kabsal keeps insisting, however, and takes a big gobbet of it on his finger. Then he collapses, spasming. Shallan leaps from bed to his aid and also collapses. She’s been poisoned. As she fades from consciousness, Jasnah tells her that she must Soulcast her blood to save her life. But Shallan knows that won’t work. Half delirious, she dumps out the stolen Soulcaster. Pain erupts through her, and she loses consciousness.

Reader Comments: Well, that wasn’t how I imagined that happening, but it works nicely. Kabsal is undoubtedly dead, which will haunt Shallan for a long while. Jasnah was already feeling somewhat guilty, but now realizing Shallan stole her Soulcaster is going to make things interesting. Jasnah is going to have to make some difficult decisions, I’m sure. And now, the truth, or at least part of it, must come out. 

And then, there’s the question of who’s trying to kill Shallan. Somehow, I don’t think it was Kabsal who was the target. Though, considering Kabsal’s insistence on the jam, maybe he was in on the plot. Maybe he knew he was going to die. I don’t know. There are so many questions.

Writer Comments: When selecting the events of a story, bear in mind how they will impact the motivations of the characters. Shallan’s supposed suicide attempt nudged Jasnah to be more kindly to Shallan. The poisoning will undoubtedly vastly impact and perhaps alter somewhat Shallan’s motivations. In essence, all of these create impactful, emotional changes in the characters in ways that get them to respond. Choose your events wisely and with an eye toward pushing characters along the path you need them to go.

Chapter 49: To Care

Summary: In the chasms where they are unsupervised, Kaladin begins to teach the bridgemen to fight. Not everyone intends to learn, however. Rock refuses based on his culture, which doesn’t allow anyone but fourth sons to be warriors. The Parshman, Shen, doesn’t fight either. Neither does the one armed bridgemen or the one that has gone mute from shock. Yet Kaladin finds uses for them. He has them collect salvage so no one above will get suspicious and start mapping the chasms so that, perhaps, they can escape that way rather than trying to fight Sadeas’s men.

Reader Comments: Yeah, I’m thinking they’re more likely to escape via the chasms. Either way, I’m enjoying how they’ve come together for the purpose of survival and with some level of unity.

Writer Comments: In this scene, Sanderson demonstrates that he doesn’t forget anyone. The Way of Kings easily fits into a cast of thousands style book. He has more named characters than I can recall. However, Sanderson keeps track. Even if the purpose is small, each character has something they’re doing and something unique about them. It would be easy to lose track, and the fact that Sanderson doesn’t marks him as a skilled author. On the other hand, Sanderson could easily go overboard, making sure each character was included and giving them special moments in the spotlight. This would be a mistake because it would detract from the main story. Instead, it’s a nice balance here.

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, swing back by for further forays in fiction, the speculative, and life.

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