“The Way of Kings” Chapter 17: A Bloody Red Sunset

The warcamps were enormous. All told, there were over a hundred thousand troops in the various Alethi camps, many times the population of Hearthstone. And that wasn’t counting the civilians. A mobile warcamp attracted a large array of camp followers; stationary warcamps like these on the Shattered Plains brought even more.

Chapter 17 keeps us moving in the line of Kaladin trying to win over the members of Bridge Four. Following his morning workout with the wooden beam he visits the camp apocathery to see if he can procure a little bit in the way of first aid supplies to help the Bridge Four members whenever the need arises. He figures that given his past as a surgeon-in-training that is one thing he can provide as bridge leader that previous bridge leaders could not. The trouble is that even with having just gotten paid that morning by Gaz he cannot afford the supplies he was hoping for. Instead he winds up with nothing more than some re-sterilized bandages and some stitching materials. Kaladin had hoped to get his hands on some decent antiseptic because that would literally mean the difference between life and death for most bridge crew injuries.

While paying for the meager supplies he is able to afford Kaladin notices that the spheres he had in his pocket seem to have gone dark. When he received them from Gaz earlier in the morning they were full of Stormlight, but now they aren’t. He’s not sure what could have caused that type of thing to happen, but at least he is still able to use them as currency once the apocathery checks that they are indeed real. I think that the author is trying to tell us something with this odd little happening regarding the spheres. We know from earlier that Szeth can absorb Stormlight into himself and use it to fuel his various magical powers. Is Kaladin going to have some powers of his own that haven’t been revealed as of yet? I sure hope so.

The bridgemen worked hard. It wasn’t just because of threats of beatings—they ran so hard because they wanted to arrive at the target plateau before the Parshendi did. If they did so, there would be no arrows, no death. And so running their bridges was the one thing the bridgemen did without reservation or laziness. Though many hated their lives, they still clung to them with white-knuckled fervor.

Later that afternoon Bridge Four is called on yet another plateau run. Kaladin had hoped that they would get lucky before having to make another run, but luck was not with him. Bridge Four goes about its normal business on the way to the battle but Kaladin makes a point of staying upright during the crossings when everyone else normally slumps to the ground. It’s hard for him to do after such a grueling morning workout, but he manages, if only barely. When Bridge Four arrives at the assault plateau the Parshendi have already arrived and Kaladin makes another move to try to win the bridge crew over. Instead of taking his rightful (and customary for the bridge leader) slot at the back of the bridge, he instead takes the front-center position where he is most likely to be killed. Kaladin feels that if he can show he’s willing to take the hardest job then perhaps some of the others won’t disrespect him as much.

Kaladin survives the assault run just fine, but several other Bridge Four members do not. But, instead of leaving them to die while the army is in combat, Kaladin runs to gather up all of the crew members who are still living. He drags them back to a safer location and begins triage for their injuries. One of them dies almost immediately, another has a horribly broken leg. A third is in the throes of battle shock, and the fourth has serious, but survivable injuries. Nobody helps Kaladin at first, but soon Rock and Teth jump in to retrieve the last couple of crew members still showing life. Three of the four make it back to camp in varying states of wellness. Kaladin makes it his mission to ensure that none of those three die now that he has gone to the effort of saving them.

Despite all of his work throughout the day nobody really turns to Kaladin’s side, but he can sense that he has earned a little bit of respect from Rock and Teth at least just by making the attempt to save the injured members of the bridge crew. Kaladin realizes that it’s going to be hard to win them all over, but that little tiny glimpse of success is enough to keep him going.

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“The Way of Kings” Chapter 16: Cocoons

Kal had never held a weapon before, never been in a fight any more dangerous than a wrestling match with Tien. But the length of wood felt right in his fingers. He was amazed by how wonderful the moment felt.

Chapter 16 takes us on another flashback to reveal more about the origins of Kaladin and why he is the man he is right now. This flashback goes back seven and a half years (the previous went back nine years) and we get to see Kaladin interacting with Tien for the first time. So far in The Way of Kings Kaladin has mentioned how he “failed Tien” several times but we didn’t really know who Tien was. Now we do, he is Kaladin’s younger brother.

This chapter shows us the struggle that Kaladin had as a young man about what he wanted to do with his future. His father wants to send him to Kharbranth to become a world-class surgeon, but Kaladin just isn’t sure if that’s how he wants to spend the rest of his life. Part of him really wants to go exploring the world and see the different people and creatures. Another part of him wants to join the army of a Brightlord or Highprince and earn glory for both himself and his family by perhaps capturing a Shardblade and becoming a true lighteyes.

It’s clearly a big struggle for Kaladin and his friend, Laral seems to think that he should definitely go join the army for both the adventure and the glory. Laral is a young girl that Kaladin thinks he might be smitten with but isn’t really sure. At this age he’s really just begun puberty so he has a lot of feelings that he doesn’t really understand all that well.

Flashbacks are a great way to divulge information to the reader about a character and Sanderson seems to be using them very well in The Way of Kings, especially where Kaladin is concerned. I really like these flashback chapters so far. I hope that other characters might have the chance to be featured in some of them as well.

“The Way of Kings” Chapter 15: The Decoy

Adolin found himself thirsting for more. Today when Dalinar had leaped to protect Elhokar, he’d acted like the stories said he had during his youth. Adolin wanted that man back. The kingdom needed him.

Back at The Shattered Plains we meet up with Dalinar, Adolin, Elhokar, and Sadeas as they continue to deal with the fallout of the chasmfiend attack. This chapter felt a lot like it was trying to flesh out even more the various characters we’ve been introduced to within the Alethi nobility. We are starting to see them separate into distinct entities that play off of each other and we are starting to see them become men with lives, troubles, and hopes rather than just warriors out on a hunt.

For Dalinar we get to learn a lot more about the visions he’s been having during the Highstorms. They seem to be telling him that he must find a way to unite all of the highprinces together into one solid unit and stop their infighting. He’s also been hearing voices at random times that tell him the same thing. Perhaps the most intriguing is the revelation that Dalinar has been having passages from a very ancient tome read to him every day for the past several months. Interestingly, this tome is called The Way of Kings and it seems to have to do with telling how kings are supposed to rule and conduct themselves. Very interesting. I think we’ll see that tome a little later on.

Adolin continues his hatred of Sadeas to the point where it almost seems maniacal. He really doesn’t like Sadeas and it shows in just about everything he does. Thankfully Dalinar has given Adolin a bit of a talking-to and shown him that Sadeas isn’t as evil as Adolin claims him to be. Sure, Sadeas may not be all that moral of a man, but he is just as dedicated to the protection of the king as the rest of them and that is something that should be respected. Adolin also learns that the decoy in the prologue was actual Sadeas and that Sadeas tortures himself over the fact that his act as decoy did not work in deterring Szeth from assassinating King Gavilar.

Speaking of kings, Elhokar shows a lot more of his paranoia in this chapter. He has Dalinar and Adolin investigating what he believes as a veiled assassination attempt from when his saddle broke during the battle with the chasmfiend. Adolin thinks that Elhokar is grasping at straws. Dalinar thinks they might as well give the investigation proper attention. Father and son are at odds on how to get things done in the world, but it appears that they both have the same moral code and the same idea on what the best future for the Alethi should be. I wonder how that will play out later in the book.

They could have taken turns, but that was not the Alethi way. Competition was doctrine to them. Vorinism taught that the finest warriors would have the holy privilege of joining the Heralds after death, fighting to reclaim the Tranquiline Halls from the Voidbringers. The highprinces were allies, but they were also rivals. To give up a gemheart to another…well, it felt wrong. Better to have a contest. And so what had been a war had become sport instead. Deadly sport—but that was the best kind.

Last, but definitely not least, Wit shows up again. There is something about Wit that seems suspicious and I’m sure it will reveal itself at a later point. I quite like the humor Sanderson has the opportunity to throw into the prose by writing a character into the story like Wit. It’s like a fresh breeze to break up the action from time to time.

“The Way of Kings” Chapter 14: Payday

“Things are going to change in Bridge Four,” Kaladin said. “For one thing, there will be no more sleeping in.”

Back to Kaladin we go! I loved the last two chapters of getting to know the Alethi nobility, but let’s face it, I’m a big-time Kaladin fanboy.

The last time we saw Kaladin he had just decided to do something about how things were going with Bridge Four. He was going to shape them up, give purpose to their lives, and finding meaning in his own. It’s a pretty big goal given what he has to work with and given the depressing state all of the members of Bridge Four are currently in. As one would expect, his initial efforts don’t turn out quite like he had hoped they would.

With the dawn of a new day Kaladin wakes the entire bridge crew and forces them outside to start doing a little exercise. His argument is that if they exercise a little every day then they won’t have to pay the price of exhaustion when they do have bridge runs to undertake. The fact that they have so much downtime where the crew sits wallowing makes it so the bridge runs take a much worse toll on their bodies than they have to. Kaladin figures building up endurance every day is a good way to combat that problem. He’s right. The trouble is, none of them care. As Kaladin tries to get the crew to work with him one of them yells to Gaz and asks if they have to listen to Kaladin outside of actual bridge runs. Gaz says that they don’t and all of them walk away to go back to their wallowing.

Needless to say, Kaladin is disappointed.

After a few minutes of considering his options, Kaladin heads a little ways away to the lumber yard, picks up a beam, and begins to run back and forth with it. If the crew won’t work with him, so be it. That doesn’t mean he can’t work himself into good bridge-running shape. Perhaps if the rest of the crew sees him working at it and then notices the difference it makes for him on the runs a few of them will buy in. Kaladin only needs a couple to buy in on the idea and then the rest will eventually follow.

By the end of the morning Kaladin is worn out, but in a good way. Several of the crew members seem to be thinking about what he said earlier and Kaladin figures a victory, even if it is a small victory, is still a victory.

“I don’t know what I am either. A bridgeman? A surgeon? A soldier? A slave? Those are all just labels. Inside, I’m me. A very different me than I was a year ago, but I can’t worry about that, so I just keep moving and hope my feet take me where I need to go.”

The other big thing that happens in this chapter is that Syl starts remembering things. She doesn’t really start remembering events so much as she starts remembering emotions and feelings. All of the sudden she knows what lying is, or what sarcasm is, along with a few others. This confuses her greatly and to be honest it confuses Kaladin as well. Syl tries to get Kaladin to explain what it all means but he has to tell her he doesn’t really know but she should probably consider it to be a good thing. Syl seems a bit frightened by the prospect of knowing what these feelings are, but also a bit excited at what she might remember next.

“The Way of Kings” Chapter 13: Ten Heartbeats

The chasmfiend towered like a mountain of interlocking carapace the color of dark violet ink. Dalinar could see why the Parshendi called these things gods. It had a twisted, arrowhead-like face, with a mouth full of barbed mandibles. While it was vaguely crustacean, this was no bulky, placid chull. It had four wicked foreclaws set into broad shoulders, each claw the size of a horse, and a dozen smaller legs that clutched the side of the plateau.

After taking the last chapter to introduce us to the Alethi nobility, this chapter is where Brandon Sanderson shows us all of these men in action. They may be at the top of the food chain as far as society is concerned, but they are also serious warriors when things get crazy, of that much we can be sure. With a chasmfiend looming over the traveling party, Dalinar, Adolin, Elhokar, and Sadeas all jump right into action to protect the innocents and chase after the glory of downing the largest chasmfiend any of them have ever seen.

It doesn’t take long for the fight with the chasmfiend to go bad. Normally the men would have weakened it first with their specially designed bows, but they didn’t have the chance this time. That means the chasmfiend is at full strength from the get go and it is a lot harder to deal with that way than if its weakened first. Elhokar goes charging in with wild abandon, Dalinar follows him in an attempt to both aid and protect. Sadeas, the only one of the four without a Shardblade, goes for his bow and begins pummeling the chasmfiend with bolts the size of sapling trees. Adolin runs for his massive horse and then joins Elhokar and Dalinar in the fight to disable as many of the chasmfiend’s 14 legs as possible.

This sword was a part of him. He could sense energy racing along its blade, as if it were eager. A man never knew life itself until he charged into battle with Plate and Blade.

This chapter is also the first chance we as readers get to see Shardblades and Shardplate in action together. In the prologue we got to see Szeth using his Shardblade, but the appearance of Shardplate was rather brief. This time we get to see how both items work in tandem. If you ask me, Shardplate is one of the coolest things I’ve seen concocted for a fantasy novel in a very, very long time. The Shardblades are cool in their own right, but what I wouldn’t give for a set of Shardplate. That stuff is awesome in every sense of the word and Sanderson puts it on display in full force with the fight against the chasmfiend. We get to see how it protects the wearer, how much it augments the strength of the wearer, and a pretty decent glimpse into some of its more mystifying properties. All in all, Shardplate is epic.

Following the defeat of the chasmfiend the men have to deal with seeing to the wounded, calling for help getting back to camp, and other various tasks. As a result, there is a bit of a kerfuffle between Dalinar and Sadeas. The two men don’t like each other even a little bit, although it is revealed that at one time they were good friends. But, both of them will never get in the way of the other helping to protect the king for reasons that are also revealed towards the end of the chapter. Adolin has a serious dislike for Sadeas and doesn’t understand why his father tolerates the man, but Dalinar takes a moment to show Adolin why Sadeas is not an evil man, just a man who sees the world a little differently yet has the same ultimate goal. It’s an interesting bit of character development that sort of fleshes Dalinar, Adolin, and Sadeas out as cornerstones in the plot. Elhokar also has a few moments of development, but not really on the same level as the other three.