Welcome back to this read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, an epic fantasy novel, which we use to better understand what a successful author does to compose a compelling story. To catch up or review previous parts of this read, click here.
Chapter 68: Eshonai
Summary: The battle on The Tower is fierce and brutal, but at last, Dalinar and his men have hope. With Kaladin and his bridgemen on one side and Dalinar’s forces on the other, they beat the Parshendi back enough to secure escape. However, at the last moment, a Parshendi Shardbearer appears and engages Dalinar. But with Dalinar’s fractured armor, he stands little chance. Despite his best efforts, the Shardbearer brings him down, but doesn’t kill him...yet.
Kaladin fights with the Stormlight raging through him, and when his enemies part and he sees Dalinar’s forces, he rushes to find order and get everyone safely across. But almost all the officers are dead, and what remains of the army is exhausted, stunned, and disordered, enough so that they take orders for an enslaved bridgeman. At last, Kaladin finds Adolin and demands he take the army across the bridge while Kaladin finds and gets Dalinar. Adolin is reluctant and doesn’t take too kindly to Kaladin’s orders, but he sees the wisdom in the strategy.
So Kaladin rushes off to find Dalinar. He spots the Parhendi Shardbearer about to slay Dalinar and fights his way into the fray. However, when the Parshendi see him glowing with Stormlight, they part and murmur “Neshua Kadal,” refusing to fight him. Taking the opportunity this allows, he spears the Parshendi Shardbearer in the leg, where a fissure has appeared in the armor. He disables the Shardbearer and drags Dalinar free. The Parshendi let them pass. He orders Dalinar out his horse, and they all flee.
Safely on another plateau, Dalinar confronts Kaladin and comes to understand that these bridgemen came to his rescue against Sadeas’s wishes. In thanks, he offers to negotiate for their release from Sadeas, and then, he will free them. Kaladin clearly doesn’t trust Dalinar, but he agrees to take this chance.
Reader Comments: My absolute favorite part of this chapter is Kaladin ordering Adolin and Dalinar around like common soldiers. They don’t exactly take it without blinking, but it’s so much fun, like when Kaladin hauls Dalinar away from the clutches of death and demands, “On your horse, lighteyes.” So enjoyable.
Writer Comments: At last, near the end, two of the biggest story lines come together: Kaladin’s and Dalinar’s. For much of this book, these two have been working and reacting independently, but here, their individual journeys collide and become inseparable from each other. Dalinar cannot live unless Kaladin save him dramatically. Kaladin cannot live with himself, nor is he likely to keep living now that he’s so blatantly defied Sadeas, without Dalinar interceding on his behalf. The point to take from this is twofold: 1) That every plot and character journey must intermingle in some fashion to create a cohesive whole. 2) That these journeys to the climax must be carefully orchestrated, whether by the writer’s subconscious or because the author intentionally outlined them.
Chapter 69: Justice
Summary: Back at Sadeas’s camp, Navani comes due to the rumors that Dalinar is dead. She’s enraged at Sadeas and sees through his lies that he had no choice but to leave Dalinar. So she write an enormous glyph upon the stone with an ink that burns, the thath glyph, which means justice. She ignites it as her prayer.
Dalinar returns to everyone’s astonishment. He rides into Sadeas’s camp and confronts him. Sadeas pleads his reasons, that it was for Elhokar’s good, that Dalinar is going insane and to let him die in glory was a mercy, and that, truthfully, Sadeas wanted Dalinar out of the way. They come to no peace, but neither do they war. After all, both still want what’s best for Alethkar and Elhokar, and war would destroy the kingdom.
Then Dalinar makes his bid for the bridgemen. Sadeas refuses to sell, not for even the astonishing price Dalinar offers. Kaladin turns away, seeing yet another dream die, another lighteyes’s promise broken. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, Dalinar summons his Shardblade, a weapon worth kingdoms, and offers it to Sadeas in exchange for every single bridgeman in Sadeas’s possession. Having coveted such a blade for years, Sadeas accepts. To Kaladin later, though, Dalinar explains how he got the better deal, despite the apparent insanity of the trade.
Kaladin shook off his numbness. He scrambled after the highprince, grabbing his armored arm. “Wait. You-- That-- What just happened?”
Dalinar turned to him. Then, the highprince laid a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder, the gauntlet gleaming blue, mismatched with the rest of his slate-grey armor. “I don’t know what has been done to you. I can only guess what your life has been like. But know this. You will not be bridgemen in my camp, nor will you be slaves.”
“What is a man’s life worth?” Dalinar asked softly.
“The slavemasters say one is worth about two emerald broams,” Kaladin said, frowning.
“And what do you say?”
“A life is priceless,” he said immediately, quoting his father.
Dalinar smiled, wrinkle lines extending from the corners of his eyes. “Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me twenty-six hundred priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.”
Reader Comments: That is the coolest thing Dalinar does in the whole book. And that has to get Kaladin’s attention. I don’t think it will make Kaladin change his mind about lighteyes, but perhaps it will change his mind about Dalinar.
Writer Comments: What do characters want most? The answer to this question generally drives the plot of a story. What do the consider valuable? The answer to that helps make turning points. A Shardblade is not the biggest driver of this story, though that could be argued, but Sanderson establishes its value continually. Then, he uses it to turn the story. A priceless Shardblade fulfills Sadeas’s desires. The surrendering of it completely alters Dalinar’s power and position. The price of it buys Kaladin’s freedom and the lives of all those he currently holds dear. Ask yourself what your characters value, and use what you discover to help move your story.
Summary: Dalinar goes to King Elhokar while wearing his Shardplate. Alone in the king’s chambers, with Dalinar’s own men as guards outside, Dalinar beats up the king. He demonstratively proves through force that, should he choose, he could kill Elhokar with barely any trouble at all. Then, he pointedly spares Elhokar and chastizes him for arranging his own assassination attempt by cutting the girth on his own saddle. Elhokar protests that he had to do it so people would believe there really were assassins. But Dalinar is done pampering the king. He informs Elhokar that he will make Dalinar the highprince of war and that he will cease these childish game. He makes it clear that Elhokar’s decisions of jeopardized the realm and Dalinar, and then he leaves ready to truly, forcibly unite Alethkar. After all, he is and has always been a warrior, and if Alethkar will not unite by choice, Dalinar will unite them by force and teach them to be a good and cohesive people.
Reader Comments: Elhokar so deserves this. I didn’t see it coming when Dalinar confronted Elhokar about inventing his own assassin and proof, but looking back, it makes sense.
Writer Comments: In an epic story, deeds of epic proportion are needed. However, they don’t always have to be dramatic action of war or heroism. They can be as simple as sparing a life, as mastering a king, as becoming who a character truly is rather than what he’s been trying to tell himself he ought to be. Epicness comes in many form and is best when used in all.
Part Five: The Silence Above
Chapter 70: Sea of Glass
Summary: Shallan deeply regrets stealing Jasnah’s fabrial. Worse, she regrets betraying Jasnah more than any other part. But not everything makes sense. If the bread was poisoned, then why didn’t Jasnah suffer from it, as she too ate the bread? Shallan struggles through this, using her sketching to recreate the memories containing clues. At last, she realizes that Jasnah Soulcast both the bread and jam. Without a Soulcaster. Which means that Jasnah, like Shallan, can Soulcast naturally.
Despite all reason, Shallan returns to Jasnah’s reading alcove in the Veil and confronts her. Jasnah threatens to call the guard and imprison Shallan for a hundred years, but Shallan presses her, pointing out softly that she knows Jasnah uses a fake fabrial to conceal her abilities. She confesses that she can do the same. Then, she goes to the place with the sea of glass beads to prove it. To get there, she reaches out to the symbol-headed creatures, who require a personal truth. So Shallan confesses that she murdered her father. They take her, and Jasnah rescues her from the sea and shoves her back into the real world. Then Shallan requests Jasnah take her back as a ward, a real ward. She wants in on whatever Jasnah is studying. She can be a confidant, someone who knows the truth that Jasnah can confide in. Jasnah informs her that she will never steal again and she will always tell Jasnah the truth. When Shallan agrees, Jasnah hands her a stack of notes on Voidbringers.
Reader Comments: I knew Shallan had killed her father! I wish I knew why though. There are still a lot of unanswered questions here. Like, what is Shallan going to do about her family now? Is she turning her back on them to join Jasnah?
Writer Comments: This is a chapter of revealed secrets. Shallan reveals that she killed her father. It’s revealed that Jasnah can Soulcast without a fabrial and is concealing that fact. Secrets are not only a delicious spice to a story, they are also a type of weakness for your characters. They are vulnerabilities that the antagonist, others, and the author can exploit to enrich, deepen, and turn a story.