Kaladin continues his struggle to unite the bridgecrew as we move on to our next section. This part of the story arcs almost completely in this section, as Kaladin slowly gains the trust of his men through various means. There is an interesting theme that Sanderson explores here, dealing with the question of how to motivate people when they are at rock bottom. Kaladin holds no real authority and can’t punish or reward the crew in any meaningful way. Instead, he has to figure out a way to both train them to survive while at the same time gaining their loyalty.
He started this by caring for the injured men instead of leaving them behind, as instructed by the army leaders. This barely had an effect, but started to sway the men. He ultimately realized what he’d need to do in a touching moment with Rock and Teft, as they were harvesting the antiseptic from the local plants in secret and sharing camaraderie. Taking inspiration from that moment, he devised a way to sell some of the extra medicine to get supplies for a nightly fire and stew for his men, bringing them together each night in brotherhood. I thought it was a touching progression as he struggled to gain their loyalty, finding the answer in something so simple.
There’s an interesting internal struggle going on with Kaladin as well. He’s very conscious of the broken man inside of him, and his struggle to save his men is a struggle to save himself. He thinks to himself about how if he fails at this task, he will fall back to the wretch that took over before he joined the bridgecrew. It’s almost as if he is battling with multiple personalities, suppressing the darker personality.
I’m very interesting in how Sanderson is describing this internal struggle, as method and motivation for personal change is a topic I’ve been contemplating often lately. It seems to me that, typically, if a person suppresses an aspect of their personality through force and external struggle, it tends to linger and haunt them. Lasting and deep change comes from personal transmutation through acceptance and integration instead of rejection and disintegration. Through this deeper change, Kaladin would be able to withstand failure, instead of having it consume him.
That’s a personal and obscure theory though, so I doubt we’ll get some commentary along those lines. But I am quite interested to see how this internal struggle ultimately plays out.
I’m also still looking for answers about what exactly happened in Amaram’s army to land Kaladin as a slave. I think we got a hint of it as Kaladin was explaining his past to Rock and Teft, but it was still very vague. My theory now is that Kaladin succeeded in killing the Shardbearer in that initial battle. Tradition would dictate that he then took possession of the magical items and became a lighteyes himself. I am guessing that somehow, this tradition was not upheld and Kaladin was rewarded for his great victory with slavery.
In the flashbacks, we get more internal struggle with Kal, between his father’s pressure to become a surgeon and his own desire to become a soldier. I’m suspecting there is something quite special about Kaladin given his affinity for using weapons. He discusses how natural it feels in his flashback chapters, and we get a scene of him falling into a sort of trance with a spear in his hands, performing a kata and impressing his bridgemen. They described his skill as being inhuman, as the soldiers in the first battle seemed to.
Of some small interest is more mystery around the Parshendi. While salvaging supplies on chasm duty, Kaladin finds a dagger with intricate design, remarking how odd it was, believing they had no culture. It has been driven home many times how odd everyone thinks it is that the Parshendi are fighting, and mystery seems to surround them. They are sometimes referred to as having a sort of a hive mind. I’m wondering if there is a greater intelligence at work behind the Parshendi.
My questions for Kaladin primarily revolve around his past. What happened to cause him to become a soldier? What happened to his brother, Tien, to make Kaladin feel like he failed him? And what happened in Amaram’s army?
Also, looking forward, I’m really just curious as to the ultimate role of Kaladin in this story. Right now he’s just the leader of a bridgecrew, while the bigger story seems to be with the royalty, politics, and the forces behind the war. How does he go from playing a small and expendable role to being important? And will we see a Surgebinder Kaladin?
Dalinar and Adolin’s Chapters
We continue with the political intrigue among the highprinces of Alethkar. Dalinar tries and fails at getting the nine other highprinces to follow him as a primary war leader, and so his attempt to change the tactics of the war will likely not succeed. Sadeas seems to outmaneuver Dalinar in convincing the king to allow him to become Highprince of Information, allowing him full control over the investigation of the supposed assassination attempt on the king.
(Sidenote, I think a major aspect being overlooked in the investigation is how the chasmfiend was unleased on the wrong plateau to begin with. That might come into play.)
Dalinar struggles as his son grows more frustrated at his increasingly docile nature, shedding the modern Alethi tradition for a more honorable code of war and conduct. Adolin seems to hold more dearly to the culture of the Alethi that values honor, victory, and combat. Adolin’s frustration creates an internal struggle for Dalinar.
In fact, these chapters are rife with internal struggle for him. He begins to question the truth of his visions. He knows in his heart they are true, but begins to wonder if he can trust this knowing. He questions his own fitness in leading his house in war. And during the battle scene, he has flashes of horror at the violence of the war around him. He is engaged by the Thrill, only to have it taken away to feel sick at his own actions. He struggles with a seeming attraction to his brother’s widow, Navani. Then in his last chapter, he struggles with the question of handing over leadership to Adolin.
He also questions this larger theme of social class in wondering why there was no Shardplate for ordinary labor. I loved the scene where he decides to use his Shardplate to dig a latrine.
My questions remaining for Dalinar have to do with the memories of his own wife that have been erased from his mind. Who was she and why are those memories missing? And how were those memories erased? This is hardly discussed at all.
And we are still in the dark about where his visions are coming from. I’m wondering if there is a link between the intelligence behind the Parshendi, the seeming intelligence of the highstorms, Syl’s growing sentience, and Dalinar’s visions.
I thoroughly enjoyed these interludes again. In the first one with Rysn, we get a glimpse at the Shin culture and how trade among the cultures might work. It was a very clever way to reveal some of the differences throughout the continent, geographically, biologically, and culturally. It’s quite interesting that the Shin cannot mine their metals because of their reverence of the stone, so scraps of metal from Soulcasters are worth a fortune to them. We get another glimpse of a kind of fabrial as well. These interludes are such an ingenious way of to flesh out the world building.
The interlude with Axies the Collector was a bit confusing, but it did give some insight into the significance of the spren. It really makes me feel like spren play a larger role in the bigger story, though I really wasn’t sure who Axies was or what exactly he was doing.
Then Sveth’s interlude was quite exciting. We don’t get a lot of answers for much, but there is a sort of exciting horror about how interlude ended. His recent master murdered, someone who realizes his true skill as a powerful assassin takes his Oathstone and sets to unleash him on the world to assassinate the most powerful people. Who is this, and why do they want the world to plunge into such chaos? Is it related to the Parshendi’s motives? I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Themes and Thoughts
Themes here seem to be centered around internal struggle. Internal struggle is obviously a big theme in any good story, but it’s really highlighted in these chapters. Kaladin struggles to keep his darker, broken side at bay. Dalinar has a litany of struggles inside of him, manifested most powerfully in his experience of horror during battle. And poor Sveth, beholden to the orders of whatever master holds his stone, realizes that his abilities are being used for evil, and struggles to come to terms with the bad things he is compelled to do, ending up being forced to live his nightmare.
I can almost sense the larger story coming into the picture, but I still feel as though there is a lack of direction and cohesion to these disparate stories. Each character seems to have their own, smaller, individual conflicts. There are only small hints of larger and mysterious forces at play. My patience is wearing a bit thin now. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the stories of each person so far, or the great world building—I am just ready for some real direction in the story.