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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: Read, Part 19 (Chapters 58-60)


Welcome back to our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, where we learn elements that go into writing a great, successful book. To catch up or review previous parts of this read, click here.

Enjoy!

SPOILERS!

Chapter 58: The Journey

Summary: Before a duel, Adolin drinks with his friends and finds their assessments of his father frustrating. Rumors apparently suggest that Dalinar should abdicate. He leaves them for the duel and, for the first time, really takes a look at those around him. Why does his father insist on all these Codes? But, perhaps, at last, he sees. Don’t the soldiers deserve commanders they can respect rather than those that engage in frivolity and waste? Don’t the dead of this war deserve for the living to take the battle seriously rather than like some sort of festival?

Reader Comments: It’s interesting to see Adolin maturing. I’m glad he’s becoming, at least in small ways, more like Dalinar. Which, I suppose, probably means that, when Adolin is older, he’ll get as much grief as his father for following the Codes.

Writer Comments: There’s something satisfactory about seeing characters change in ways that make sense. It took Dalinar considering abdicating and then Sadeas revealing that he wouldn’t go after Dalinar for Adolin to change, but it made sense. No one goes through life unfazed by what happens. No character should go through a story unchanged. Keep in mind that all characters, however minor or major, should be emotionally, physically, and mentally impacted by the events of a story.

Summary: Dalinar sits with Sadeas and King Elhokar to watch the duels, including Adolin’s. Sadeas listens to Dalinar quote from The Way of Kings, the book the previous king, Gavilar, was obsessed with and which Dalinar lives by. Sadeas dismisses parts of it as ridiculous, but he listens. Too, Elhokar challenges Dalinar. Is he truly a coward like everyone claims? Would he truly flee the war and demand peace? Dalinar answers with a better articulated truth than ever before. Yes, he would want peace to unify and stabilize Alethkar. Yes, he wants an end to a war, but he still wants vengeance, however a more thoughtful variety. Too, he wants to study the Parshendi and learn why they murdered his brother, the former king. And this time, Elhokar admits that it makes sense. He then insists that Sadeas and Dalinar try a variation on their new strategy against the Parshendi. Dalinar will use Sadeas’s bridges on the plateau runs so he’s faster, but he won’t use them to cross that last deadly stretch as Dalinar is opposed to the extreme loss and waste of life.

Reader Comments: I’m enjoying Sadeas and Dalinar being friends again, at least of a sort. Sadeas, despite Wit teasing him about being witless, is actually quite fun to read when he’s needling Dalinar. It’s easy to see how, if just a few things were different, they could be great friends. It’ll also be interesting to see if The Way of Kings makes an actual dent on Sadeas or if he’s just humoring Dalinar.

Oh, and I wonder what Kaladin is going to think of Dalinar now using the bridges.

Writer Comments: In this chapter, Sanderson has Dalinar quote a passage of The Way of Kings. Naturally, this book is entirely made up for this world.Fantasy has a tradition of sorts for quoting ancient books or prophesies in its worlds. However, vagueness and poetry are more common than straightforward prose, so Sanderson’s use of straightforward prose is unusual. It’s also a bit refreshing, in my opinion, because it’s easier to get through and pick up the meaning of. Whatever you decide to include in a story, assuming you include something like this at all, bear in mind the different styles available. Poetry and dense imagery can be beautiful and ominous, but it can also be vague and cumbersome. There are as many styles to delivering prophesy and ancient texts as there are styles for writing anything.

Chapter 59: An Honor

Summary: Kaladin struggles to use the Stormlight, as he can’t figure out how to consciously draw it from the spheres into himself. Before he makes any progress, he’s given orders that, since Bridge Four is so well trained, they will now go on every single bridge run. The order means that the lighteyes are determined to kill off Bridge Four all the faster.

Desperate, when Kaladin and Bridge Four go down into the chasms to scavenge good off the dead, he tries something desperate. He cuts off the breastplate and helm that naturally grow out of Parshendi bodies, takes some of their bones, and puts them all in a sack. Along the way, Syl points out that he draws in Stormlight when he breathes, and that leads him to his first big step in mastering using Stormlight. With the spheres they’ve collected, he uses the Stormlight to climb the chasm wall and then tie the sack to the bridge where they collect things. Then, at Syl’s prompting, just before he runs out of Stormlight, he drops a full forty feet and lands safely.

Reader Comments: Oh dear, I’m afraid that someone is going to question where Bridge Four got the Parshendi bones and armor and figure out what Bridge Four has been doing in the chasms. Then, they’ll be pulled of chasm duty and lose the one hope they have for escape. But then, as that little voice inside Kaladin is reminding him, perhaps it would be good to help all the bridgemen rather than just Bridge Four. After all, if they can’t escape, what alternative does Kaladin have but to help everyone in an effort to preserve those he holds most dear?

Writer Comments: When writing a story, clues must be given of future events. Stories are like Legos. You have to put pieces together that might not be obvious as to their function at first but which form the foundation for the whole. Sanderson drops clues or places down Legos in earlier chapters. Shen, the Parshman bridgeman, freaks out when Kaladin tries to disturb a Parshendi body. Dalinar observes how the Parshendi treat their dead. Kaladin tries to take the breastplate off a dead Parshendi, thinking to scavenge it, and learns that they’re grown rather than put on like clothing. All these pieces build the foundation for Kaladin’s current, desperate act at saving their lives. Build stories in pieces that support each other to the final, glorious climax.

Chapter 60: That Which We Cannot Have

Summary: Before another highstorm, Dalinar gathers with his two sons and Navani, who is there to record his vision. This time, the vision makes him the advisor of a king in the city of Kholinar after a horrendous battle that left the ground covered with corpses. The king speaks of Desolations and failures, that if they hadn’t warred before the Desolation, perhaps they would have been better able to withstand it. That nine out of ten of his people are now dead. What should he do? And Dalinar realizes that he is speaking to the man who would one day write The Way of Kings, a man of peace, but one who, apparently, must now embrace war.

When Dalinar comes out of the vision, Navani insists he repeat the last line he said, and frantically, she pulls down one of the books Jasnah had Dalinar keeping for her. In the book, she finds the last line Dalinar said. What had sounded like nonsense to his sons prove to be an ancient language to Navani, a language that no one before has been able to translate, but which Dalinar just gave meaning. She’s ecstatic at the possibilities for scholarship, but she also boldly insists that Dalinar speaking this language is proof beyond anything else that his visions are indeed true.

Reader Comments: Cool. As someone who enjoys language, I’m pleased to see it used in this way. I also love that Navani is now totally on Dalinar’s side and that they’re speaking peacably.

Writer Comments: This vision of Dalinar’s could have just been Sanderson showing off his beloved world. It could have been, “Hey, here’s this cool guy who wrote The Way of Kings.” Maybe there was a piece of that in there. Maybe not. But regardless, Sanderson included elements of the vision that directly relate to what Dalinar faces now: the challenge of uniting, the danger of not uniting, the fact that people are people no matter when they lived. Too, he perhaps includes warning. If Alethkar keeps fighting this war, they will not be ready, just like this king and his people. No matter how cool a character, setting, or moment is, it must relate to other characters and events of a story. Remember those storytelling Legos? Always be building and connecting.


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 on Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.

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