If you had recently been accepted as an intern to a very well-known and prestigious professor at some very high-ranking university and on the first day you arrived to find out that the professor had packed up and left for somewhere else and you now had to give chase in order to start your internship, how would you feel? Probably not all that great, right?
That’s exactly what happens to Shallan, our newest viewpoint character in this chapter. Many months previously Shallan had written to Jasnah Kholin and asked if Jasnah would consider accepting her as a ward. Jasnah accepted and Shallan soon set off to join up with her, but found herself chasing Jasnah from city to city as the woman kept moving. Shallan finds this incredibly irritating, but at the same time doesn’t give up. She knows that serving as a ward to Jasnah Kholin is the only way to save her family from financial and political ruin, so she isn’t going to give up without a fight.
Ultimately, Shallan does indeed catch up to Jasnah right here in this chapter, but hasn’t exactly met her yet. She is in Kharbranth, a major city in the world, and a very different place compared to the villages and smaller cities she has visited before. Shallan is a sassy woman with a little bit of grit and temper to her. I like that she doesn’t come across as a pushover or someone who is going to toe the line and I think that later in the book that is going to get her into some pretty big trouble, but we’ll see.
Sanderson uses this chapter and Shallan’s arrival in Kharbranth to expand quite a bit about the world he’s creating for the book. We learn a lot about the various cultures in the world, the different religions, the hierarchy of men and women, the monetary system, and even a little about the surrounding creatures and plant life. It’s the first big chunk of world building that Sanderson does in The Way of Kings and it came across as incredibly vibrant and fresh. There are a few concepts he is using such as stone being sacred and important and things like eels that float along in the air that I find quite fascinating.
We also get a lot more back story about Shallan than we have about Kaladin at this point and Kaladin has had a couple of chapters in which he was featured. We know that Shallan’s family used to be rather powerful and wealthy but her father squandered their money away and they are now living in heavy debt. Shallan through her wits has managed to keep this from becoming known to surrounding families, but if her time spent with Jasnah doesn’t turn out well it could mean a life of slavery for her and her siblings down the road.
“But expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
“I should think I’d prefer my wits inside my skull, Captain,” she replied, carefully stepping onto the gangplank. “If I keep them ‘about me’ instead, then someone has gotten entirely too close to my head with a cudgel.”
“Like all Vorin women, she kept her left hand—her safehand—covered, exposing only her freehand.”
“Reading was an unseemly trait in a man. At least, men who weren’t ardents.”
“Before this trip, she’d never used money; she’d just admired the spheres for their beauty. Each one was composed of a glass bead a little larger than a person’s thumbnail with a much smaller gemstone set at the center.
The gemstones could absorb Stormlight, and that made the spheres glow. When she opened the money pouch, shards of ruby, emerald, diamond, and sapphire shone out on her face. She fished out three diamond chips, the smallest denomination. Emeralds were the most valuable, for they could be used by Soulcasters to create food.”
“Like much of Roshar—save for certain coastal regions—Kharbranth was built on raw, unbroken stone. The buildings outside had been set directly on the rock, and this one sliced into it.”