Kaladin and Dalinar
Where the previous chapters seemed to be the internal climax for some characters, these final chapters were a sprint through the external climax.
Sanderson wasted no time getting Kaladin’s crew trained and armored after Kaladin discovered the effectiveness of the carapace armor. In several bridge runs, they apparently had no casualties as four other men joined him in acting as a distraction for the Parshendi archers. He also seems to have learned how to utilize his stormlight abilities with more skill, helping him draw arrows to his shield.
Dalinar seems to have embraced a relationship with Navani despite his strict personal codes of honor. There is a great chapter where Navani is asking him why he’s such a stickler for these things, asking him why he has to feel so guilty to give in to their love. He explains that he is actually weak, despite seeming strong. He has to compensate for this weakness by holding true to his codes of honor. Navani comments on his guilt being a sort of self-indulgence, which I think is a very interesting bit of commentary. There has been an interesting theme in this book showing characters who hold ideals that seem to be in consideration of others, but in reality they are indulging in their own internal struggles. Instead of holding to codes, feeling guilt when departing, in order to be honorable for others, Dalinar does it for himself. Previously, Kaladin’s intense desire to help and save others was actually a ploy to save himself from his internal demons. I love the subtle commentary there.
Dalinar and Kaladin’s stories converge on each other with the last major battle at the Tower, a massive plateau. Kaladin’s bridgecrew is completely armored for the first time, and Sadeas convinces Dalinar to join him, lying to him about a “new method” to help protect the bridgecrews.
Then, betrayal. Sadeas abandons Dalinar on the Tower in hopes that he will be overwhelmed without a plan of escape. I can’t say this was necessarily a shock, since Sadeas has been antagonistic for so much of the story, but it was disappointing. I was willing to believe Sadeas was a complex character who was growing to meet Dalinar’s ideals, but it was all an act.
Kaladin and his bridgecrew are ordered to leave with the rest, but Kaladin seems to convince Matal to allow them to fall behind. Once they are allowed, he believes they are free. Despite Dalinar being trapped on the plateau behind them, Kaladin talks about running away with the bridgecrew, but realizes that they’d be leaving injured men behind at camp.
Syl reveals that she is actually an honorspren. She binds things. So, of course, Kaladin’s honor binds him to Dalinar’s struggle, and he brings his bridgecrew back to try to save Dalinar. This is a great moment, as Kaladin sacrifices their freedom (and probably their lives) to save a lighteyes, a person from the higher class that he has come to hate.
This scene is amazing. Kaladin and his crew display how far they’ve come in training and growing their skill, being flanked and executing a side carry to protect themselves, then Kaladin managing to draw fire from dozens of arrows once they are attacked from an unprotected angle. It leaves him beyond drained, and his crew goes on to fight without him. Then he has a flashback to the time when Tien died.
This flashback wasn’t anything revelatory. We knew Tien died, and it was an easy guess that Kaladin tried to protect him, but failed. It was also an easy guess that it was because of an honorless lighteye’s act. Tien, being forced into battle, was used as fodder for the front line – a human shield, because he didn’t know how to fight.
The flashback gives Kaladin the strength he needs to rush into battle and leap across the bridge that hadn’t been extended yet, drawing stormlight from the Parshendi’s gemstones, and dominating on the battlefield. There is a very interesting moment where Kaladin says he feels a rhythm to the battle that seems to match the chants of the Parshendi. Was he in tune with the same mind that seems to connect them all? He also realizes that they fight with a code of ethics, unlike the Alethi, and that was something he had always wanted.
What connection does Kaladin have to the Parshendi? There seems to be a hand of fate at work. Is he bound to them from some divine plan?
We get another sense of this hand of fate in Dalinar’s scenes. As they are attempting to fight their way to the bridge that Kaladin’s crew brought back, he is confronted with another Shardbearer, and they have an epic fight. Dalinar is eventually bested though, and the Parshendi leans over him and speaks to him in Alethi, indicating that he has been looking for him. Before we learn anything else, Kaladin plunges into the scene and attacks the Shardbearer, forcing Dalinar to abandon the fight and retreat. Kaladin and his bridgecrew save the day in truly glorious fashion.
Dalinar convinces Kaladin to return to the warcamp with them, promising to ensure their safety. In another scene of epic honor, Dalinar gives his Shardblade to Sadeas in exchange for all of his bridgemen. This allows him to fulfill his promise to Kaladin and prevent a war with Sadeas. This display ties into Kaladin’s arc perfectly. The final nail in the coffin of his distrust of lighteyes was Amaram’s betrayal in order to acquire a Shardblade. Here he witnesses a lighteyes give up a shardblade to protect him. Kaladin had reached a point of believing that no lighteyes had any honor, but this massive sacrifice helps Kaladin realize that it was possible for a lighteyes to have at least some honor.
Dalinar then confronts the king and essentially beats him up, trying to set him straight as his uncle and trusted counselor. He displays to Elhokar that he has had a sort of rebirth due to the realization of his betrayal, and Navani helping to break down some of his barriers. He demands that Elhokar make him Highprince of War and proposes changes to attempt to unite the Alethi kingdoms and bring an end to the war, but the changes will likely enrage the other highprinces and create danger for Dalinar and the king.
Dalinar then names Kaladin and his crew as his personal guard, giving them special privileges. Kaladin ensures that he is not beholden to the other lighteyes, showing he will only follow Dalinar because he showed honor. Kaladin maintains his distrust of the elite, which will probably serve well in keeping Dalinar safe.
We end Dalinar’s story with a vision in which he learns that all of his visions up to this point were actually planned messages from…God himself. The creator of mankind. Who apparently is dead? We get a glimpse of some conflict among the gods, and perhaps this conflict is behind the Desolations and the Voidbringers. God tells Dalinar that the Knights Radiant must return and the humans must unite against the god called Odium. Odium allowed men to believe they won a conflict, realizing they would turn against and destroy each other. Dalinar ends his story vowing to take up this cause.
Shallan’s story wraps up rather quickly from when we last left her. She almost immediately discovers that Jasnah was hiding something, realizing that she ate the bread that was poisoned yet suffered no effects. With her photographic memory, she suspects that Jasnah Soulcast the bread, showing that she was able to Soulcast without the Soulcaster.
Shallan confronts her and, to prove a point, asks the beings who transported her to the other dimension to do so again. Apparently requiring her to speak truth in order to do so, she ends up admitting that she was the one who killed her father. This is a pretty big plot twist that almost seemed to be casually dismissed as soon as it was revealed. I’m actually pretty surprised that it was handled this way. It perhaps could have been saved for a reveal in the next book, or a few more chapters added to Shallan’s story to help flesh out this mystery and allow readers to process this shocking reveal. But I suppose it does leave us with questions going into the next book. Is this how she got her Shardblade? Why did she do it? What happened to her family to cause this? Is this somehow related to how her brother became crippled?
Shallan actually seems to have put herself in danger by allowing herself to be transported to this other dimension, apparently called Shadesmar, and Jasnah as to rescue her. We end Shallan’s story with one last major reveal: the secret of the Voidbringers is that they are actually the Parshendi. In the last Desolation, humans didn’t win by beating the Parshendi, they won by enslaving them, which is where the parshmen come from. Jasnah expresses deep concern over this, pointing out the danger of the parshmen being so ingrained in the culture. The Parshendi seem to share some sort of mind link, so what would happen if the parshmen were to tap back into that shared mind?
It’s quite an interesting twist, showing that the mythology of the Voidbringers is true, but misrepresented in a way. The monstrous depictions of the Voidbringers are actually symbolic of the threat of the Parshendi.
This really leaves a lot of questions. Where do they come from, how are they connected to the Desolations, and why did they plan the assassination of Gavilar?
And yet even more twists and reveals as Sveth hones in on his final assassination: King Taravangian. In a clever ploy, Taravangian makes it explicit in the contract that Sveth is to approach Taravangian plainly and recite words before the assassination, giving the king of Kharbranth the opportunity to halt the assassination and clue Sveth in on the mysterious plans. Taravangian seems to be a mastermind behind a grand conspiracy to crumble the power structures of the world, seemingly in an attempt to rebuilt them in a way that will help to defend against the coming Desolation. There is a very disturbing scene where we learn that he built his system of hospitals in order to kidnap sick people and bring them to death in order to record their final words, which seem to come from some source connected with the Desolation. The business with the final words is quite confusing, though I suspect it will be a major plot point in the coming stories.
We end Sveth’s story with him in horror, being ordered to assassinate Dalinar.
And we end the book with an epilogue centered on Wit, who seems to have known exactly where to go in order to be present for the return of the abandoned Herald from the prelude, Talenel. He mysteriously arrives at a city and seems to immediately die, declaring failure at preventing the coming of the Desolation. This is cool, but we know basically nothing about what happened.
Thoughts and Themes
The end of the book is heavily focused on action and not as much on personal growth of the characters, but I would say that we did deal with sacrifice here. Kaladin reaffirms his dedication to true service by sacrificing his freedom and the freedom of his crew in order to turn back and save Dalinar. Dalinar sacrificed his Shardblade, one of the most valuable things a person can own, in order to keep his word to Kaladin and the bridgecrew. Tien was sacrificed, unwilliningly, by the lighteyes in the battle flashback. And in the end, Shallan sacrifices focus on saving her family in order to help Jasnah with what seems to be a much larger issue.
You could say that secrets being revealed was also a huge theme in this section, though that seems par for the course with Sanderson. We blasted through secret after secret, from learning Sadeas’s true nature, to Shallan’s dark secret, to the true nature of the Parshmen, and King Taravingians plans. Of course, as is to be expected, all of these secrets leave even more questions for the coming books.
What will happen to the Alethi nobility now that we know there is no real loyalty? Why was Dalinar chosen for these visions, and why did the Parshendi Shardbearer recognize him? It seemed to me as though he was not going to kill Dalinar. What is the true nature of spren? From Syl to Shallan’s spren, connected to her powers. Why do Kaladin and Shallan both seem to have powers?
Dalinar’s visions spoke about the necessity for the return of the Knights Radiant, and it seems all of this is connected to that. Shallan and Kaladin have powers that I think are indicative of different orders of the Radiants. But we still don’t know why they disbanded to begin with, and what this force is calling them to return.
I do suspect that the gods we get a glimpse of, the “Almighty” from Dalinar’s vision and the Odium that he references, are connected to the gods from other parts of Sanderson’s Cosmere. It looks like The Stormlight Archive is going to reveal to us some deep aspects of this ambitious universe Sanderson in creating, and perhaps it will be the true connecting factor in all of them. There are so many mysteries and questions to explore here.
But perhaps the biggest of them all: Who the hell is Hoid?