Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Sixty-Four

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Welcome back to the Stormlight Archive rereadings, my friends! We hope your year is going well so far. Today we take a side-step, as we rejoin Jasnah in Emul to check in on her campaign. Distraction though we know it to be, she is nonetheless gaining experience, and perhaps even learning a little wisdom. Come on in and join the discussion!

Reminder: We’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of The Stormlight Archive (this includes Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

In this week’s discussion we also discuss some things pertaining to Mistborn in the Secret Societies section, so if you haven’t read it, be warned.

Heralds: Talenelat (Talenel, Taln), Herald of War. Stonewards. Dependable/Resourceful. Role: Soldier.

The Joker/Wild Card.

A: Gotta say, these seem pretty obvious for once. Taln, the Soldier, primarily represents Jasnah fighting like a soldier (albeit one with extraordinary tools and abilities), and secondarily the thousands and thousands of other soldiers on the field. The Joker is for Hoid, as it often is when he plays a significant role in the chapter.

Icon: Shadesmar, in this case for a Jasnah POV.

A: It’s interesting that while most of the other characters formerly represented by the Shadesmar icon have now gotten their own unique icon, Jasnah is still represented by this one. It makes sense, in one way, since she’s the one with the greatest mastery over the Cognitive realm, but I keep waiting for her to get a different icon—one that’s never been shared with others.

P: I’d like her to have her own icon, too… Should we talk to Brandon or Isaac about this?

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 13 undertext

The sand originated offworld. It is only one of such amazing wonders that come from other lands—I have recently obtained a chain from the lands of the dead, said to be able to anchor a person through Cognitive anomalies. I fail to see what use it could be to me, as I am unable to leave the Rosharan system. But it is a priceless object nonetheless.

A: This is clearly Raboniel speaking, and I’m not sure what to say. The sand comes from Taldain, of course, but… “a chain from the lands of the dead”?? What and wherefore? Said to be able to anchor a person through Cognitive anomalies? What does that even mean? The only speculation I’ve heard on “lands of the dead” is that it might refer to Threnody, and I suppose a true silver chain might have some realmatic properties… I expect we’ll find out sometime, but I feel like I can’t even make an educated guess, and I’m not used to that!

P: That chain is definitely what Mraize gave her when he delivered Lift in a cage. It was a bag with something inside that clinked, and she was amazed by it, yes? Gotta be one and the same.

A: Oh, right. That could be. Makes a lot of sense. Now I wonder where it’s going to come into play. For that matter, with Raboniel dead and the tower invasion broken, I wonder what happened to it. Will Navani end up with it, and recognize it from this note in their book?

P: Ooh, I like the thought of that!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Jasnah
WHEN: 1175.4.7.5 (Four days after Chapter 50, when Jasnah replaced Ruthar; incidentally, this is also the day that Adolin rescues Notum from the Tukari. The timelines are not in sync here, as we’ll be going back a few days when we return to the Tower next week.)
WHERE: Emul; the Drunmu Basin area

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: Jasnah goes out to war for the first time, determined to experience as much as possible what her soldiers experience. Lacking a normal soldier’s training, she is eventually forced to use her Soulcasting to protect herself. After a very long day of fighting, she returns to the command center, where she has a brief conversation with the Mink before retiring to her own tent. There, Wit tells her that they’ve been spied on by a Sleepless hordeling disguised as a pen, and suggests that it is probably working with the Ghostbloods.

Chapter Chatter—Jasnah on the Battlefield

Reports said there were about forty thousand singers here. That was a number she could comprehend, could analyze. But her eyes didn’t see forty thousand, they saw endless ranks. Numbers on a page became meaningless. She hadn’t come to fight forty thousand. She’d come to fight a tide. …

It was hard not to feel small, even in her Plate.

A: Total sympathy here! Forty thousand is statistically meaningful, and I can deal with it as a number, but as a visual I can’t even begin to grasp it. I suppose the generals who’ve been estimating troop strengths for years can look at that tide and make sense of it, but… it’s mind-numbing.

P: I can only imagine those kinds of numbers in relation to a baseball stadium. They generally hold about 40k people and holy Stormlight, fam… it would be overwhelming to face those numbers in a battle. I’m awed and overwhelmed by the numbers when I’m part of the crowd, I can’t imagine that many people as adversaries.

It wasn’t only academics that drove her. If she was going to order soldiers into battle, she needed more than descriptions from books. She needed to feel what they felt.

… She would escape to Shadesmar if things went poorly. She wasn’t foolish. Yet this knowledge nagged at her as she swept through the formation, keeping the enemy busy. She couldn’t ever truly feel what it was like to be an unfortunate spearman on the front lines.

A: I can give intellectual assent to this desire to understand her soldiers’ experience, but… I also can’t help thinking it’s more than a little egocentric. She doesn’t have the training of a soldier, and she does have Surgebinding, living Plate, and a living Blade. She will never, ever really know what it’s like to be a rank-and-file soldier, and in the meantime she’ll have those same soldiers dying to protect her while she tries to figure out what it feels like to be them.

P: Yes, and yes, and yes. She loses half of her honor guard in the first two hours of the battle. Not to mention how many others in her defense, such as when the singers would surround her or when the Fused was getting the best of her. Yes, she would be a target if they knew who she was, but in using her surges, she could handle it. Being out there on the front line is never going to give her an idea of what spearmen experience, but actually using her skills and not flailing about like an untrained recruit would be more helpful to those spearmen.

A: (Parenthetical note: Given the proximity of the two groups with only the minor difference of being in different realms, I spent the rest of the book anticipating Jasnah doing a jump to Shadesmar and connecting with Adolin and Shallan there. Didn’t happen, obviously, so… I’m still waiting. Also, I need to figure out how to do that shifting map thing, so we can see just how close they are.)

She’d underestimated the effectiveness of those pikes; yes, they were useless for breaking her armor, but they could maneuver her like a chull being prodded with poles. She stumbled and felt her first true spike of fear.

A: Heh. Well, I guess that’s not nothing. She’s at least learning that she’s not invincible, and learning to control fear in the moment.

P: She’d do well to respect her enemies rather than thinking herself invincible just because she has Shardplate and a Shardblade.

A: Absolutely. This is incredibly shortsighted for Jasnah.

This time when the enemy parted around her, they revealed a hulking creature hidden in their ranks. A Fused with carapace that grew into large axelike protrusions around his hands: one of the Magnified Ones. Fused with the Surge of Progression, which let them grow carapace with extreme precision and speed.

A: Can I just say, these guys really give me the creeps? It’s such a weird contrast to what we’d come to expect of Progression, the way Lift and Renarin (and the other Edgedancers and Truthwatchers) use it. We met Progression as a force for healing and growth, and… well, I guess this is “growth” but it’s a really disconcerting version of it!

P: Seriously creepy. And the Fused is described so well that I can see them swinging their axe-hands about. *shudder*

Jasnah resisted using her powers. With her Shards, she should be evenly matched against this creature—and her powers would quickly reveal who she was, as there were no other Surgebinders in the coalition army who had their own Plate.

A: While it’s true that Soulcasting will reveal her identity, what on Roshar, Ashyn, and Braize makes her think that having Plate and Blade—even the living kind—and Stormlight healing qualifies her as “evenly matched” with a Fused who has used Progression as a weapon for thousands of years? She’s not even a bloody trained soldier; she barely bested Ruthar in a “fair fight” and wouldn’t have if he’d really been trying. That’s insane. Ivory notes later that there’s another reason she fights, but I’m not entirely sure what he’s getting at, and she refuses to think about it. Anyone have an idea on that?

P: Yeah, I scoffed at the “evenly matched” comment, too. As for the other reason she fights, could it have something to do with whatever happened with her as a child? I can’t think of anything else, really. Unless it’s seeking revenge for Elhokar, though these singers aren’t the ones she should be seeking revenge with.

Her lunge was on target, and pierced the enemy’s gemheart. The Fused toppled backward, eyes burning like the fires around her.

A: So she does manage to kill the Fused, but only when he’s taken by surprise with her Soulcasting. More on this in a bit…

P: Yeah, I’d call it cheating but she might as well use Surgebinding against a Fused who’s using Surgebinding. As long as she has Stormlight, she would be a force to be reckoned with.

“Continue in this state,” the Edgedancer said, “and you will do more harm than good. More soldiers will die to protect you than you will cost the enemy. Do you want that, Your Majesty?”

A: Thank you, unnamed Edgedancer! For all her intelligence, sometimes Jasnah doesn’t have the common sense God gave little green apples. She’s so caught up in what she can do, she forgets the side effects.

P: I like to think this was Godecke. *all the hearts for Radiant Godecke*

A: Probably not, though, because he’s in Shadesmar with Adolin, and over on that side they’ve just arrived at Lasting Integrity. (Speaking of which, they really aren’t very far away… just in the other realm.)

P: That’s right. I keep forgetting that’s the same book.

“I’m not the unstoppable force I imagined myself to be,” she said. “They know how to deal with Shardbearers; I couldn’t bring down a Fused in a fair fight.”

A: No, she’s not unstoppable; if Radiants could be unstoppable, those before her would have won this war long since. I don’t think she’s quite vain enough to believe that she’s that much greater than the ancient Radiants—but she clearly didn’t think all the way through this concept. As I said before, it was oddly foolish of her to think she could face a Fused—a Surgebinder—with only her Blade and Plate, and I don’t get why she thought that in the first place.

P: It still surprises me that Dalinar let her go. I mean, did he even give her any lessons on how to wield a sword? And he lets her go off to face Fused with millennia of experience? C’mon, Blackthorn. I thought you were smarter than that. But then, I thought Jasnah was smarter than that, too.

A: He actually kind of encouraged her to go, from her thoughts at the beginning of a chapter. He supported all this “feel what a soldier feels” business—which I suppose isn’t all that surprising, given that he made Adolin spend time as a spearman, etc. I don’t think he had much to do with her sword training; I think she managed to get that on her own somehow. But we saw in the previous Jasnah-and-Dalinar chapter that he considered her “equal to a promising student” at best, with an uncertain stance and a tendency to overreach. And that was all of three days ago or so. Maybe Dalinar, too, is overconfident in Jasnah’s powers of survival against Fused—who do know how to kill Radiants, after all.

On the other hand, it’s an exciting plot point, so I suppose it’s “err on the side of awesome” stuff.

P: Yeah, I suppose Wit gave her some lessons. But “some lessons” isn’t training. But I guess her ineptitude gave us an exciting scene?

“There are no fair fights, Jasnah,” Wit said. “There’s never been such a thing. The term is a lie used to impose imaginary order on something chaotic. Two men of the same height, age, and weapon will not fight one another fairly, for one will always have the advantage in training, talent, or simple luck.”

A: Okay, so I don’t entirely trust Wit, but I like him, and he is definitely wise and experienced. Jasnah definitely needed to hear this. All of it. She thinks that Dalinar wouldn’t agree, but I’ll bet he would. Aside from her wilful ignorance about the tens of thousands of Radiants who fought and died before her, there will always be differences between antagonists. Try not to be the weaker one.

P: I adore Wit. Hoid. I know he’s got his own motives and he’d let Roshar burn if he had to, but I can’t help but love him. I crave more scenes with him, in any book. I dread being disappointed by him, if he were ever to do something truly awful.

“Talented or not, you cannot conjure for yourself a lifetime of experienced butchery through force of will. There is no shame in using the powers you have developed. …  Use what you have.”

A: Yes. Jasnah, shut up and listen to him.

P: Utilize your resources, Queen!

“You think your powers are unfair because you slay dozens, and they cannot resist? What happens when a single individual can kill tens of thousands in moments—assuming the enemy will kindly bunch up in a neat little pike block. Things will change rapidly when such powers become common.”

“They’re hardly common.”

“I didn’t say they were,” he said. “Yet.”

A: I hope I’m wrong about this, but I can’t help thinking this is foreshadowing for a long time hence. I suspect this may be what Odium has in mind when he sets the terms for the contest of champions: that he will have Surgebinders to be his army to conquer the Cosmere. And there may not be any other forms of magic out there that could resist an army of well-trained, capable Surgebinders, human Radiants and singer Fused using their powers alongside each other to take over… everything.

P: I shudder at the thought. Odium ruling the Cosmere with an army of Fused and Surgebinders? That would be truly horrific. But our team will emerge victorious. I know it. From my mouth to Honor’s dead ear.

“How did we do?”

“We broke the core of their strength,” he said. “Which is what we wanted—though it wasn’t a rout. We’ll need another battle or two on nearly this scale before I can tell you if we’ve really won or not. But today was a step forward. Do that often enough, and you’ll inevitably cross the finish line.”

A: That has to be one of the most depressing things Jasnah could possibly have heard at this moment. Nine hours of fighting, people dying all around, everyone exhausted… and “we’ll need to do it a couple more times” in order to claim any kind of real victory. That’s brutal.

P: Have I ever mentioned how much I love the Mink? He’s so wise and wily. And I loved when he told her never to take casualty reports on the night of the battle. “Give yourself a little time to enjoy the meal before you look at the bill.”

You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself.”

“Ah, but I am,” he said. “I am staring at the open sky, and wearing no chains.”

A: That’s deep. He’s known what it is to be losing to this enemy, and he was very, very close to being captured by them. Freedom is a precious thing—too easily lost, and regained only at great cost.

P: Yeah, the wearing no chains comment made me a bit verklempt, not gonna lie.

Spren and Shadesmar

She had ordered her Plate to intentionally dull its light, so it looked like that of an ordinary Shardbearer. The enemy would still single her out, but not recognize her as the queen. She would be safer this way.

P: It’s cool that she can do this with her Plate. Like hey, kids, let’s not glow so much today, okay?

A: It’s both clever and funny—and it’s so fun to start seeing what real, living Plate is like. We’ll get several bits of commentary in this chapter, and it’s cool.

They moved with unexpected flexibility, singers dancing away, staying out of the range of her sword.

This is less effective, Ivory said to her. Our other powers are. Use them?

No. I want to know the real feeling of war, Jasnah thought. Or as close to it as I can allow myself, in Plate with Blade.

Ever the scholar, Ivory said with a long-suffering tone…

A: Ivory cracks me up. He’s such a match for Jasnah—every bit as snarky as she is, and completely unafraid to tell her she’s being stupid, even has he goes along with her decisions.

P: I love seeing snarky Ivory in this chapter. We see so little of him, but I always enjoy it when we do.

The Fused stepped away, snapping the carapace free at its elbow, leaving her immobilized. Then he turned as her honor guard distracted him.

Ah, we’re getting so much wonderful experience, Ivory said to her. Delightful.

A: Thank you, Ivory.

P: Much snark. Very Sarcasm. Wow.

Other soldiers came in at Jasnah and began ramming thin pikes through her faceplate. One pierced her eye, making her scream. Stormlight healed her though, and her helm sealed the slit to prevent further attacks. With Stormlight, she didn’t need it to breathe anyway.

A: Okay, now that’s… wild. The pike-through-the-eye is a bit much, but… the helm proactively sealing the slit is amazing. (So are these logicspren, by the way? I don’t think she ever says.)

P: Yeah, the pike-through-the-eye freaked me out a bit. Like, how painful would that be? And yes, her Plate is amazing. And she hasn’t talked/thought about the Plate much, since this is the first time we’ve really seen it! *excite*

… that storming Fused lunged in, slamming two axe-hands at her head, cracking the Plate. The helm howled in pain and annoyance, then lapped up her Stormlight to repair itself.

Such fun is, Ivory said. But of course, Jasnah mustn’t use her powers. She wants to play soldier.

A: Bahahahahahaha!!!! I’m not sure which I like more: the helm howling at her (before using her Stormlight to fix itself) or Ivory being sarcastic about playing soldier.

P: I love that the spren howled in pain and annoyance. “Dammit, Jasnah, what are you doing to us?”

Her helm—transparent as glass from the inside—started to get covered in soot, and soon she had to retreat out of the fire.

A: Have I ever said how much I love the transparent helm thing? Probably not, since this is pretty much the first time we’ve seen it, right? The Plate can do so much on its own, fulfilling the needs of the wearer without instructions or anything. I’m beginning to suspect that even though they’re “lesser” spren, they gain some level of intelligence when they bond to a Radiant to become Plate. We’ve seen the windspren dancing around Kaladin like they’re eager for him to be ready for them, and Syl sensed contentment from Cord’s Plate. So… maybe that intelligence is their reward for bonding? We don’t really know how that works yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

P: The transparent helm is seriously cool. And yes, the first time we’ve seen it. And she just traipses into the middle of a battle clad in living Shardplate like we’ve seen her do it a dozen times. And great theory about the spren gaining intelligence when bonding. That would definitely be a symbiotic relationship.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

She groaned, putting one hand against the rock.

Steady stone, a part of her mind thought. Happy and pleased with its life on the plains. No, it would resist her requests to change.

Fine.

She reached out to the air, which was stagnant and morose today. Draining Stormlight from the gemstones at her waist, she gave it a single command. Change. No begging, as she’d tried when younger. Only firmness.

The bored air accepted, and formed into oil all around them.

A: Well then. Okay.

There’s so much I love about this. There’s the differentiation between the attitudes of the stone and the air—she reads the stone as content, while the air is bored; that determines which will be least resistant to her Soulcasting. (And really, this isn’t the time and place for a battle of wills with an object you’re trying to Soulcast…) It’s funny, though; she thinks the stone will resist her requests to change, but then she commands the air, specifically thinking “only firmness.” Is that a difference between stone and air in general? Stone has to be asked, while air needs a firm hand? Dunno. I hope we see her early efforts at Soulcasting air in a flashback, though; sounds like she did pretty much the same thing Shallan did with the stick, and it didn’t work any better!

And then the air turns to oil. Yuck, and also yikes. I’m a little confused, though; why are her hands suddenly affixed with flint and steel? Was this already set up, attached to her Plate? Or did her Plate form the flint and steel for her? I wouldn’t have guessed that possible, but I don’t really know. Either way, this was clearly planned ahead of time; her soldiers recognized the oil as a signal to get away, while the enemy got caught in her trap.

P: I love how she’s like, “Fine. I’ll do the thing.” And then kapow! And it seemed to me as if she had the flint and steel attached to her Plate somehow. She at least had that move down. And the image of a flaming Shardbearer walking out of the fire… wowsa! I need art of that!

A: I would love to see that artwork. The mental image is pretty stunning!

Relationships and Romances

She trusted him, mostly. And he her, mostly. Other aspects of their relationship were more complicated.

P: Oh, I would imagine that the trust, even tentative as it likely is, would be rather complicated.

A: With these two, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be complicated!

Secret Societies

“… I found a pen in my writing case that did not work.”

“So… what? Is this a trick, Wit?”

“One played on me, I’m afraid,” he said. “The pen was not a pen, but a creature designed to appear like a pen. A cremling, you’d call it, cleverly grown to the shape of something innocent.”

She grew cold, and stepped forward, her Plate clinking. “One of the Sleepless?”

A: Okay, now that’s a problem. Not all of the Sleepless are… trustworthy—and none of them are easy to understand. I really wonder how they got through his defenses. That’s even more of a problem.

P: How would one even evolve to mimic a pen that could easily replace one of Wit’s pens? *side eye at Sanderson*

A: By using Intelligent Design.

“The bright side is that I don’t think any of the Sleepless are working with Odium. … Jasnah, I know at least one of them has thrown their lot in with the Ghostbloods.”

A: Why, though? Why?? Why would a Sleepless join the Ghostbloods? (We did get a hint about  this in Dawnshard, though, didn’t we?)

P: I think it’s time for a Dawnshard reread.

“But I’ve met [Thaidakar], several times. On other planets, Jasnah. The Ghostbloods are not a Rosharan organization, and I don’t think you appreciate the danger they present…”

A: Um… Thaidakar… on other planets? Plural? Does that mean that Kelsier has figured out how to get off Scadrial, or does it mean that “Thaidakar” is more than one person? Or something else I haven’t thought of? Somewhere toward the end of the book, iirc, Mraize says something about him coming to Roshar “in avatar only” because they’re too far beneath him to be worthy of his personal presence. Does that mean Kelsier can “occupy” other people temporarily? I wish I knew exactly what Mraize (and Sanderson) meant by “avatar.” And whether that’s what Hoid is referencing, here. Sigh.

P: The RAFO is strong with Sanderson.

Flora and Fauna of the Physical Realm

She stopped with the others, grass retreating in a wave before her—as if it could sense the coming fight like it sensed a storm.

A: I know it’s not really necessary to comment every time the grass hides, but this visual really grabbed me for some reason. I think there’s something about the sweeping effect, combined with the knowledge that when the battle is done and things are quiet, the grass will come quietly back up out of its holes and cover up some of the damage. I’m not sure if that’s serene or creepy!

P: It really is a great visual. And I don’t know why it can’t be both serene and creepy!

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments. Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 65, in which Navani studies and experiments with Light, and gets a few hints from Raboniel.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. She’s still fatigued from the crud of last week, but definitely getting better. Meanwhile, she’s been reading Dorothy Sayers and Charles Williams to give her brain a little workout and remind herself of long-ago college studies.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She works full-time, goes to school full-time, beta reads part-time, mods/admins 3 Stormlight-themed Facebook groups part-time, and writes part-time. She wishes sleep wasn’t necessary because there’s just too storming much to do! Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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