Adolin and Dalinar Chapters
We start Part 2 of the book with another set of main characters, a royal father and son, Dalinar and Adolin. These chapters are different from the others in that the perspective between these two characters shifts back and forth constantly, sometimes rapidly, but it works well given that they are both in the same place most of the time, their stories being deeply intertwined.
These chapters give us a closer look at the higher social classes of Alethkar (and I’m guessing other Vorin cultures). We learn about the Alethi monarchy and the ten princedoms that were united by the king who was assassinated in the prologue. His son, Elhokar, now wears the crown and has been at war since his father was killed.
I was happy to get some answers about what was happening on the Shattered Plains in these chapters. This really drives home the different perspectives of the social classes. What was confounding and frustrating from Kaladin’s perspective starts to make sense from the perspective of the royal classes (though still obviously inhumane). We learn about the competitive and warlike Alethi culture that drives the nature of the war on the Shattered Plains. Their customs dictate a behavior of honor through victory at any cost. There is a great moment where Dalinar expresses his discontent with this culture, saying that the means of victory must be considered important as well, and the other royal leaders react with shock at the sentiment. It’s a great depiction of how tradition and culture can blind us to our own harmful behaviors and create separation in social classes.
Dalinar is a bit of an outlier here, following the code that his brother, the assassinated king, became obsessed with in his latter days. Honor takes a new meaning for him beyond competition and victory among the princedoms. He begins holding higher ideals and with integrity. But we see that his house suffers because of this, another great example of the effect this type of culture can have on one’s ability to succeed in having an ethical stance within an unethical culture.
Sanderson does a great job showing the tension between Dalinar’s perspective and the rest of the Alethi princes through his son, Adolin, who is embarrassed at his father’s departure from tradition and battle yet loyal to his father as well.
In these chapters we get an awesome battle scene with Shardbearers battling the gigantic chasmfiend that was supposed to be hunted in a safer, more traditional manner—until it decided it had plans of its own and attacked the bystanders and wreaked havoc. The scenes with the full Shardbearers, both Plate and Blade, are just cool. Sanderson has a knack for not just battle scenes, but designing magic that just creates really cool imagery and action.
Throughout these chapters, we learn of the king’s growing paranoia, royal politics, wartime infrastructure and economy, and gain some insight into why they are fighting on the Shattered Plains—at least, a seeming reason for it. They are essentially engaged in a siege, using the battles for the gemhearts to chip away at the Parshendi numbers. But Dalinar grows suspicious of the effectiveness of this tactic and recognizes how the Alethi warlike culture may be working against their favor.
Dalinar has been suffering from visions during the highstorms for some time now, and we end these chapters with experiencing one of those, which gave us some great insight into the ancient past. Transported to a time long ago, we witness a confusing battle against mysterious demons and get our first glimpse at the true nature of the Knights Radiant. They seemed to be extremely powerful individuals who could wield the magic that Sveth used in the prologue (at least, that’s what it seemed to me) along with being Shardbearers, which made for some really cool imagery. I especially loved the first appearance of one of the Radiants falling like a shooting star into battle with the demons (called the Midnight Essence).
My questions now are:
What is causing these visions of Dalinar’s? Who is speaking to him through these visions? I suspect there is a relationship with the intelligence of the highstorms.
Did someone actually try to assassinate the new king during the battle with the chasmfiend, or is paranoia getting the better of him and his advisors?
What is the meaning of the message the assassinated king left for Dalinar?
And still, most of all, why did the Parshendi assassinate him and start this war? I can’t help but feel as though the Alethi are playing into a plan, and perhaps some of the Alethi royalty are even in on it.
Not much new happened in Kaladin’s chapters, but they were still enjoyable. We came off of the last section with him hitting rock bottom and then turning around, determined to try to help his fellow bridgecrew. Scheming and bribing his sergeant, he secures a position of leadership and struggles to win over the other members of Bridge Four. Realizing that power won’t help, he sets off to become an example of strength and caring. I think it’s a great story point to have his skills as a medic come into play, helping him win over his crew by tending to them in the battlefield, showing a strength of spirit and compassion they had not experienced until then.
It seems like Syl is becoming more and more sentient and gaining more self-awareness, but we still have basically no explanation as for why. Either I’m missing something or we are deliberately being kept in the dark. I do wish that we’d get just a little more explanation for what is happening there.
The flashbacks into Kaladin’s childhood, in which he learns the skill of surgery from his father, are interesting but not very eventful. It’s a good dynamic tension between him and his father, with Kaladin being so skilled at medicine but desiring to be a soldier. This lays the groundwork for some big ethical questions in Kaladin’s story—is killing and hurting others ever appropriate, even when it is to help people? If you have the skill and ability to do something helpful (like heal people), are you obligated to follow that path, even if it’s not what you want to do? Is there a gray area between those who hurt people and those who help people?
Kaladin’s story arc seems predictable at this point. I’d guess that he will win over his bridgecrew and they’ll become some sort of elite squad with loyalty to Kaladin. But there is a good chance that a wrench will get thrown into that trajectory and Kaladin will experience a major event that changes his circumstances dramatically. Going along with his theme, he may fail his fellow bridgecrew horribly, causing them to die, forcing him to cope with an inability to protect those he cares about.
A couple of references were made to Kaladin’s spheres (currency glowing with Stormlight) fading away quickly. Seems obvious to me at this point, given the hints of his magic as early as the first chapter, that he will end up having the ability to wield Stormlight as magic.
I’m still confused as to what happened with Kaladin during the battle at the beginning of the book and how he ended up in slavery. I feel like I missed something, but I don’t think it was ever explained. He was supposedly betrayed by his Lord, but what does that have to do with the Shardbearer appearing on the battlefield? How did that land him in slavery?
Themes and Thoughts
There are really some cool themes explored here. The pitfalls of tradition in Dalinar’s story, the ethical conundrums of Kaladin’s story, the vast social discrepancies between these two perspectives from on the same battlefield.
Along with these, there is a big theme of family in these chapters. Dalinar and Adolin share chapters as father and son, and Dalinar’s other son is quite present as well. His nephew is the king, his brother’s assassination—and his failure to prevent it—paints his thoughts and actions. Kaladin shares some of these themes in his flashbacks, in which he has some tension with his own father, who wishes for him to pursue a path that Kaladin is unsure about. In the “present day,” Kaladin struggles in failing his brother, and seeks to make up for it by creating a new surrogate family out of his bridgecrew. It is a nice connecting thread between the higher and lower social classes: despite the vast differences of their social lives, they have similar experiences of family, bringing humanity to all of them.
I will say, I am a bit eager to find some more solid plot movement. I really don’t have a sense for a central plot. Shallan seems to have her own story off in another land, and she’s not even in this part of the book. Kaladin seems to just be surviving and doing the best he can without and ultimate direction. And while Dalinar and Adolin have a lot going on with the war, politics, and conspiracy, there isn’t really a clear direction of the plot or unifying motivation. At 30% of the way through the book, I do hope that some unifying plot emerges soon.