Today, we resume our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, where we look into the pages of an epic and glimpse the way an author creates success.
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Part Four: Stone’s Illumination
Chapter 52: A Highway to the Sun
Summary: A week after Dalinar decides to abdicate, Adolin still argues with him. It was never Adolin’s intention to drive his father away or cut him down. Yet Dalinar is resolute. A highstorm interrupts their argument, and Dalinar is once more cast into a disturbing vision.
He’s a guard at a fortress called Feverstone Keep, and a war rages somewhere out of sight, the Radiants at the front. However, beyond understanding, the Radiants come to the keep in force. For a moment, Dalinar fears they will attack. Then the Radiants thrust their Shardblades into the stone and abandon them along with their armor. As they do so, the light within the Shards fades to naught, like the light of the world retreating. Dalinar races after the Radiants and begs them to explain why? Why are they abandoning the world? They refuse to answer. The other soldiers run forward and claim the Shards, cutting each other down in brutal fashion. And then the man whose voice Dalinar always hears in visions comes to him and once more insists he must unite them.
Dalinar wakes from his vision more disturbed than ever. Adolin remains resolute in his insistence that Dalinar must not abdicate, but Renarin, at least, has an alternate suggestion: Prove the visions false or true by looking for clues in the historical record of the people and places Dalinar sees. With few they can trust such disturbing information to, Dalinar asks Navani, his widowed sister-in-law, to transcribe the visions and check their accuracy with Jasnah. Only once they prove or disprove the reality of the visions can any further decision be made.
Reader Comments: I’m so glad Dalinar isn’t definitively abdicating. I have a feeling that Jasnah is going to prove the visions true and that’s going to strike a disturbed, eerie chord through the family. In an odd way, it’s possible that having Jasnah, Navani, Adolin, Renarin, and Dalinar united in this, especially if the visions prove true, will do more to unite the Alethi than anything else. I wonder too if learning of her uncle’s visions will hasten Jasnah’s return to the Shattered Plains.
Writer Comments: We’re at 73% of the way through the book, so naturally things must begin to shift once more in preparation for the climax. Sanderson begins to tighten the threads of the story. He draws together Navani, Dalinar, and Jasnah in a tight scheme that will undoubtedly tip the story one direction or another. More specifically, he draws together characters from two separate places, the Shattered Plains and Kharbranth. And lastly, he begins to bring together the thread of Jasnah’s research with the plot of Dalinar’s visions. While the various threads of a story, especially one this complex, can span a notable distance, as the climax draws near, they must be woven into an ever tighter braid from which the climactic scene can hand and all the threads make sense.
Chapter 53: Dunny
Summary: On another bridge run, once more, Kaladin feels that surge of strength a moment before the arrows fly and miss him and the rest of Bridge Four. But, after they put the bridge in place across the chasm, Dunny perishes, first from an arrow on Sadeas’s side, second from a Parshendi arrow. Kaladin tries and fails to save him, but it eats at him.
So, despite the fact that their resources are already stretched thin and that the other bridge crews have treated them terribly, Kaladin begins treating the wounded from other bridge crews. His men protest at first, but Kaladin refuses to relent. They will not be like the lighteyes and pretend not to notice others suffering and dying. They will be better than that. As he treats men, Teft quietly talks to him of how odd it is that Bridge Four doesn’t lose men and the importance of keeping a full pouch of spheres on Kaladin during bridge runs. Kaladin thinks the man overly superstitious and, perhaps, a bit rattled from the stress. However, when Kaladin turns to tend his own wound, he finds it mysteriously vanished.
Reader Comments: On the one hand, I’m going, “Come on, Kaladin, make the connection.” On the other, it doesn’t make sense that Kaladin would realize he’s using the Stormlight in the spheres because he cannot conceive of it. Such a prospect would be so far beyond his realm of possibility that there’s no reason it would pop in his mind. I do like Teft here though. He’s fiercely loyal now, and I like seeing him satisfied about what he sees in Kaladin.
Writer Comments: Dunny’s death is symbolic. First, his body is pierced with one of Sadeas’s arrows, wounding him enough that he cannot escape, much as Sadeas intentionally cripples his bridgemen for the purpose of having them die. Then he is pierced with a Parshendi arrow, which makes him spray blood everyone, representing the Parshendi threat to the bridgemen, but more, perhaps, representing the way the battle with the Parshendi are causing the Alethi to break apart and figuratively bleed to death. Then his corpse is trampled by a calvary charge that doesn’t care one bit what they’re stampeding over, as Sadeas and the Alethi pursue a war that grants them little and costs them much they don’t even realize. Dunny symbolizes the bridgemen and the situation Kaladin is in. Perhaps it even symbolizes more that we readers are yet unaware of. However, the symbol stands strong and poignant and it sets an dreading tone to the chapter. Sanderson could have had only one arrow kill Dunny. He could have written his death in many ways, but he chose this way, which heightened the symbolism. Symbols give weight and depth to a work. Don’t neglect them.
Chapter 54: Gibletish
Summary: At the king’s feast, Dalinar meets Wit, who informs him that he must depart and to please explain it to the king. He also warns Dalinar that Sadeas is planning on some big announcement that night. Anticipating that Sadeas might denounce him as attempting to assassinate the king, he and Adolin prepare for a hasty, violent retreat. Then Dalinar confronts Sadeas and demands Sadeas come out with it. Sadeas then informs everyone that the king’s girth was cut on purpose, the gems in his Shardplate were mysteriously cracked, and that someone probably tried to frame Dalinar for it. Dalinar is relieved and stunned. He was right to trust Sadeas. He then asks Sadeas to do the joint plateau assault with him and Sadeas agrees.
Reader Comments: That’s kind of how I thought things would play out. Not in detail, but I doubted Sadeas would actually betray Dalinar, and I figured no one would accept Dalinar’s offer of joint assaults except Sadeas. Yet, I doubted a great deal and wasn’t sure Sadeas wouldn’t turn on Dalinar until he flat out stated Dalinar hadn’t anything to do with the assassination attempt. So, perhaps, Dalinar will indeed unite them. It’ll just be unpleasant along the way.
Writer Comments: Drawing nearer and nearer the climax, Sanderson is starting to tie up loose ends and answering questions. For example, in this chapter, the following are resolved:
1. Wit is indeed Hoid, the man those in the Pure Lake were looking for, and he is indeed something strange.
2. Sadeas won’t betray Dalinar and, in fact, will help him. With this too, we learn that someone did indeed try to kill the king.
3. Dalinar can trust the advice given to him in the visions.
4. At long last, someone will join with Dalinar for his greater purpose of winning the war and uniting the Alethi.
That’s a lot for one chapter. The closer to the end of a book, the more questions should be answered and the more loose ends tied.