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Monday, March 24, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: Read, Part 20 (Chapters 61-64)

Welcome back to our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, where we explore the story and techniques of a successful author. To catch up or review previous part of this read, click here.



Chapter 61: Right for Wrong

Summary: After Dalinar’s latest vision, he, Navani, and Renarin try to discern how to handle their new discoveries. Navani and Renarin think that revealing Dalinar’s visions and their veracity, as proven by the fact that he spoke an ancient language during them, will help vindicate him. Dalinar isn’t so certain.

After Renarin leaves the room, Navani lingers and closes the door. She reveals to Dalinar that the reason she returned is that she is an outcast at home. She is nothing but a dead king’s wife, to be pampered but ignored. She’s sick of it, and she will not allow Dalinar to treat her that way also. When he sees tears in her eyes, he kisses her, something he’s been resisting for decades, and so opens a whole new complex element of his life. Too, Navani whispers to him of the return of a Shin assassin with a Shardblade and wearing white, the fact that the highstorms are getting stronger, and men say strange things upon their deaths that no one can explain. She’s terrified.

Reader Comments: Yay about Dalinar and Navani! But, too, this is fun how everything is starting to spin together in a whirlwind. Now, it isn’t just the characters individually chasing after strange visions or odd abilities, they’re drawing together, unifying in ways Dalinar could not have imagined. And that means really bad stuff is probably on the horizon.

Writer Comments: There is a very brief moment in this chapter that’s highly charged with emotion and is as affective as any good romance: when Dalinar kisses Navani. Sanderson doesn’t go into racy descriptions. Rather, he infuses the scene with deep emotions that are true to the characters, and he picks a few choice, specific details that carry that emotion: the scent of Navani, the salty tears on her lips, the tender touch of her safehand on Dalinar’s back. That’s all it takes. You don’t need racy or erotic descriptions to effectively write a romantic moment, even one that crosses into the physical.

Chapter 62: Three Glyphs

Summary: On the next bridge run, Kaladin dons the armor made of parts of a Parshendi corpse. He runs out ahead of the bridges, intentionally drawing the Parshendi archers. Using Stormlight, he dodges and vaults his way to the chasm, barely taking a nick from the full assault of arrows. As a result, practically no bridgemen are even wounded, and Sadeas himself compliments them in a backhanded sort of way.

Then, as Kaladin stitches up the wounded bridgeman they found, a group of Parshendi, furious that Kaladin has desecrated their dead, attack the exposed bridgemen. In an instant, Kaladin sees everyone he cares about and all he’s worked for about to disappear forever. Then Dalinar leaps to their rescue, slaughtering the Parshendi before they can kill a single bridgemen. After, Dalinar salutes Kaladin before heading back to battle.

Reader Comments: I can’t wait until these two meet in person and actually interact. And I think Kaladin has just bought himself a whole lot of trouble, despite the fact that he’s probably just made huge stride forward in preserving the lives of bridgemen.

Writer Comments: This chapter is a great example of trying to balance realism and epic feats. The way Kaladin charges ahead and takes the full assault of the Parshendi archers is insane and cool. No one should be able to do it. Only his affinity with Stormlight makes it possible. However, after, he shakes and is exhausted. Sanderson allows the epicness, which fits his world, but then makes sure to ground it in reality. This isn’t to say that cool feats can’t be done. However, unless the point of the story involves crazy level of epic feats, a bit of realism helps ground the story and makes the epic elements more contrastingly cool.

Chapter 63: Fear

Summary: In the chasms, Kaladin and his men gather more bits of Parshendi to make armor. Kaladin is starting to realize that his plan to escape might be even less plausible than he first thought. Now that Bridge Four has made such a name for themselves, Sadeas will be that much more determined not to let them escape.

In the midst of trying to figure all this out, Kaladin’s men call him to join them for spear practice, but he refuses. When it comes down to it, he’s afraid to pick up the spear again and become the man he was all those months ago.

Reader Comments: I’m starting to think that Kaladin and the bridgemen are not going to get away. Like Shallan, escape would mean Kaladin would leave the main conflict of the story, but also, he’s right in that Sadeas will hunt them down at any cost to save face among the other lighteyes.

Writer Comments: There are different types of scenes. There are scenes that focus on action, events, and turning points. These types of scenes are like what happened in the previous chapter. After these action scenes often come reaction scenes where the protagonist slows down long enough to taken in what’s happened, react to it, ask question, adjust, and plan for what to do next. This type of scene is what this chapter is composed of. While action is important, non-stop, intense action wears out your reader and your protagonist. Reaction scenes are needed both to let your reader breathe and to build upon the action and deepen the conflict and meaning of the story. Like walking on two feet, both sides are needed for a well rounded story.

Chapter 64: A Man of Extremes

Summary: Navani and Dalinar begin a relationship, albeit as somewhat restrained and hidden one. Dalinar is very conscious of not doing anything that would overtly indicate their relationship, like touching her.

Then, as they’re walking together, the horns signally the Tower plateau, the most coveted plateau in the whole Shattered Plain. Dalinar races off. This is a great chance for he and Sadeas to really achieve something. Sadeas comes quickly to strategize and convinces Dalinar to come with as many men as possible and use Sadeas’s bridges, now that the bridgemen have a new method that doesn’t cost many lives. They’ll box the Parshendi in and take out, perhaps a third to half their army in one stroke.

Reader Comments: Why do I have the feeling that this isn’t going to go according to plan?

Writer Comments: This is just before the climax. No, I haven’t read the actual climax yet, but it has all the markers. First, Sanderson is putting in a lot of detail about the main players and how they’re entering this particular conflict. Second, he’s been building up to the Tower for a long time. It’s never been overt, but he’s stated it as the big prize since well before the book’s midpoint. Third, all the stops are coming out. Kaladin has his armor for all his men. The other bridge crews are cheering for Bridge Four. Sadeas and Dalinar are fielding an army bigger than any that has ever made a plateau assault and with hope of finally ending the war. Navani and Dalinar are finally, generally, together. Adolin has decided to fully trust his father. Fourth, the stakes are high. Their risking all they can right now, hoping to claim the greatest prize. Fifth, this battle at the Tower will, undoubtedly, turn the lives of all the main characters.

Thank you for joining me for these 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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