Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

We’re roughly halfway through Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, and this week I hosted the discussion questions!  These questions cover through Chapter 32, so beware of spoilers! 

1.Dalinar made a very dramatic decision at the beginning of this section.  Do you think it was the right one? What do you think will happen to him, Adolin (and the not-united Alethi) if he follows through?

I’m kind of split on this one.  I think Dalinar is becoming far too different from the ordinary Alethi noble to become an effective leader, if only because no one will listen to him anymore.  However, Adolin isn’t going to do anything about uniting the highprinces, if he is left to his own devices.  So it seems kind of like a necessary decision right now, but not necessarily the right one. 

I think the best case scenario would involve Adolin becoming the face of Kholin house, while Dalinar coaxes him towards the path that the visions want him to follow.  I don’t know if this can happen, though, since Dalinar implied that abdicating would mean he had to leave the battlefront.

2.We’ve gotten to see a little more of Shinovar with Rysn the apprentice merchant.  In terms of plants and animals, it seems to be pretty much like our world.  How do you think it happened that there’s such an ‘ordinary’ place, or what do you think might have happened to turn the rest of the world so unusual?  Given this and the chapter on Szeth, do you have any more ideas on what the meaning of his "Truthless" title might be?

I really don’t have an answer for this, which is why I asked it!  I was wondering if maybe this world was a far-future Earth, where Shinovar is the only place that is still like it was long ago. Given how strange the rest of the world is, it seems really odd to have such an Earth-like region, unless it was meant to imply connection to another world (like ours).

As for Szeth, my current theory is that a Truthless is someone with a Shardblade.  The Shin revere farmers and see soldiers as lowly, so someone who obtained an extremely powerful weapon might be at the bottom of everyone.  Also, Szeth’s two rules are that he can’t kill himself and that he can’t give up his Shardblade.  That seems to imply that having a Shardblade is part of being Truthless.

3.  Shallan and Jasnah’s story has returned!  Based on Jasnah’s words to Dalinar, and the clues Shallan is picking up, what do you think Jasnah’s project is about?  What do you think she hopes to accomplish? 

It seems to me, so far, that she is researching the Desolation cycle, because she believes a Desolation is coming.  It was really interesting to see a Chasmfiend recorded as a ‘Voidbringer’.  Are some of the creatures that the Alethi fight now actually part of the Desolation, and they are just oblivious? 

I also noticed her concern about exactly when the Parshendi appeared.  I somehow didn’t realize before that the Parshendi were an undiscovered (or nonexistent) people, up until sometime during Gavilar’s reign.  Maybe they are also a precursor to Desolation.  Someone mentioned last week that they may have a kind of hive mind—maybe their whole purpose is to stir up war?

4. Concerning Shallan, it’s starting to seem that her drawing ability is a supernatural gift. Do you have any theories on the bizarre figures Shallan accidentally drew behind the king?

I am wondering if Shallan’s drawing ability, Kaladin’s magicalness, and Dalinar’s visions are all of a similar source, like they’re all something to do with the Desolation or the radiation.  Maybe Shallan is now beginning to be contacted, but through her drawings instead of visions.  If that’s the case, maybe the figures are related to Dalinar’s mysterious vision-giver?

5. Back to the bridge crews, now that we’ve seen a bit more into Gaz’s perspective, does he seem any more sympathetic?  Why do you think he owes Lamaril money?

I actually found him a bit more sympathetic at this point.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a great guy, or even a good guy.  But he is a guy that is trapped into perpetuating a system he thinks is horrendous, by the fear that he will be killed by that same system.  I don’t really know what’s up with Lamaril, though.  My first thought was that he regularly bought some kind of drugs, or maybe there is some regular favor that the lighteyes man is doing for him.  Alternatively, maybe it’s blackmail?

6. Kaladin has won over his bridge crew, and enacted a brilliant plan to protect them—which utterly ruined the military strategy. Do you think his plan was a good one, or should he have seen the chaos coming? What do you think will happen to him next?  Also, what do you think he’ll do if he figures out the real reason why bridgemen aren’t allowed shields?

I think he didn’t even really know that it would work, so he can’t be blamed for not anticipating that he would ruin the battle.  Also, Gaz and the others put him in a situation where he needed to do something desperate to keep his bridge moving.  If he’d lost any more men (as it seemed certain he would) then they might not have even been able to carry the bridge.  I think he also couldn’t have expected that all the other Bridge Crews would emulate him.  I think he believed that they mostly hated him, and he wasn’t really thinking of setting an example.

As for what happens next, I’m still holding out hope that the troublesome bridgeleader will be sent to Dalinar!  I hope that happens soon, because I think that Kaladin is going to be extremely angry if he realizes the truth about the lack of shields.  I think he might be so angry that he actually starts a rebellion, which can’t go well when it’s 30 bridgemen against an armed camp.

Other Notes:

--The safe hand custom is beginning to seem more and more silly.  I’m now wondering if it’s some kind of weird assumption of female superiority—they can match men with one hand tied behind their back!   But seriously, why would you force all women to do everything in their life one-handed?

--The chapter on the spren-cataloguer was pretty neat, too.  I didn’t realize that there were so many different kinds!  The cataloguer seemed inhuman, with his ability to change his own skin at will.

Here are other peoples' answers:
Lynn's Books
Musings on Fantasia
Over the Effing Rainbow
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers


  1. 1. I agree with you about Dalinar although I think it's unlikely that he's just going to skulk off home.
    2. I liked Susan's thoughts on the differences in weather, etc, depending on place. Perhaps the nearer to the shattered plains the worse it is.
    Perhaps Szeth being Truthless means that he hasn't yet found the truth? Maybe he's in search of it?? That's probably a daft idea but it literally just popped into my brain!
    3.I hadn't realised about the Parshendi being undiscovered until Gavilar's reign. Interesting.
    4. Good point. I really didn't know what was going on there - I wondered because she has a photographic mind if it was something to do with if she wasn't directly looking at the picture her inner eye or second sight (think Tiffany here) would see things that just looking straight on wouldn't - because the brain denies it?
    5. - Yeah, still not liking Gaz - but I'm probably being too harsh.
    6. OMG I was cringing during that scene. I practically couldn't look - although of course that makes reading a little awkward!
    Lynn :D

    1. 1. He said that he'd have to leave, but I also can't imagine him actually being okay with just walking away from the situation. I think if he does abdicate, he's going to have to stick around for some reason.
      2. Yeah, she had a really interesting answer! If Szeth is in search of the truth, I wonder what that truth would be?
      4. That is a very cool idea. So maybe her conscious brain rejects their existence, but then whatever part of her has the magic memory and drawing ability can see them?
      5. I wouldn't say I like him, either, just maybe understand him a little more. Of course, understanding why someone is a jerk doesn't magically make them not a jerk anymore.
      6. Ah, that was so hard to read. I was actually kind of relieved when they just beat up Kaladin. I was afraid they were going to do something like kill his men, just to show him that he can't protect anybody.

    2. OMG - If Sadeas realised how much it would cut Kaladin up if he'd executed his men he would certainly have done so!! I'm glad I didn't think of that *worry lines*

  2. So many great theories! Everyone had way interesting theories about Szeth. (I'm just waiting for Sanderson to tell me what the heck is going on!) I do agree, though, that everything seems to be connected. If Jasnah is researching the Desolation, and Dalinar is seeing the war in a whole new way, they may actually be thinking along the same lines and work well together on this. Of course, we have to get both Kaladin and Shallan into the mix somehow. I wouldn't have thought of Shallon's strange incident being like Dalinar's visions--a communication of some sort--but that totally makes sense. Can't wait to see how everything plays out. :D

    1. I think if Shallan starts telling Jasnah about these weird figures, she'll be in the mix. She'll need to give up on the whole 'robbing Jasnah' idea, though. I think something dramatic will have to happen to get Kaladin in the team!

  3. "A Truthless is someone with a Shardblade"—that makes perfect sense! If you check out the answer in my post, you can see that I was nosing right around this conclusion but didn't quite get all the way there. Putting our theories together, it isn't just that Szeth has an exceptionally powerful weapon, it's that that weapon can cut stone! The Shin follow Stone Shamanism and consider it profane to walk on stone or damage it in any way. Of course they would strip all honor from a warrior with a Blade that effortlessly slices through stone! Thanks for getting me on the right track!

    And about the safehand custom: My theory has been that a Vorin woman covers her left hand after a certain age in much the way that some Muslim women wear an abaya and hijab. It's a matter of modesty, just applied to a different body part. The Vorin women can use their left hands, they just aren't supposed to expose them. It can seem rather arbitrary to someone of a different culture, but that's the nature of religious differences.

    Here's my link:

    1. Oh, that makes so much sense! I did not quite make it to that last idea, about the Shardblade's cutting stone being a serious violation of Stone Shamanism!

      I agree that it seems like a kind of modesty thing, but it also seems like at least high bred women are expected to completely not use their left hand. They commented that low-born women might just wear a glove (so maybe they still use their hand), but high-born women tend to keep their hand completely sewn up in a sleeve. It seemed like Shallan had to perform all her daily tasks completely one-handed, and that this was a mark of a well-bred lady. I hope they do eventually go into the origin and purpose of this tradition.

  4. #6: Why would Kaladin have considered the greater strategy? He knows Saladis’ doesn’t care about the bridgmen. So he’s doing the natural thing of thinking about himself and his men first. He only takes a step back to look at the larger picture once he’s forced to. If he had felt he was an important part of the army, he might have before then. Then again, he’s been in such a deep depression for so long, he’s not thinking like a squad leader much.

    On the Safehand, you have to remember that only the 'noble women' of the culture cover their hand with a dress sleeve pouch. The working class women just use a glove, which in its own way is wasteful too.
    And the custom comes out of interpreting a line in their religious book a set way. Compared to foot binding and a few other Earth customs, the safehand is not so bad.

    1. 6. Well, he might have considered the greater strategy in order to not get he and his bridgemen in trouble, as they are now! I agree with you, though. It makes sense for him to have focused on the wellbeing of his own, in his situation. I just hope nothing happens to him as a result that will spiral him back into his depression.

      Yeah, it sounds like the working class women actually use both of their hands, they just keep one covered. I had thought of it in comparison to footbinding, because the safehand practice does (at least artificially) impair high-born women in order to make them seem more 'feminine' (within the cultural norms). I agree that the safehand is definitely nowhere near as bad, though, since just hiding a hand doesn't physically hurt women at all.

  5. 6. Kaladin has won over his bridge crew, and enacted a brilliant plan to protect them—which utterly ruined the military strategy. Do you think his plan was a good one, or should he have seen the chaos coming? What do you think will happen to him next? Also, what do you think he’ll do if he figures out the real reason why bridgemen aren’t allowed shields?

    I don't think he understood what was going on with bridgemen as a whole, so I don't think he knew enough to prevent the chaos. Without all the factors there is no way to predict the outcome of the battle, one way or another. Though I hope he survives, or that they don't figure out that hurting his bridgemen would hurt him way worse then hurting him. I think he'll continue to try to protect his crew no matter what the cost.

    As for the safe hands: I think it equates to the same reason Romans shook hands, to see they were unarmed; women are not really allowed to participate in war in this culture, so the safe hand is a way to keep them from using weapons effectively: making their hand safe.

    1. That's true, he couldn't have predicted that without really knowing the full purpose the bridgemen served. I'm really hoping they don't end up killing his crew--I don't think Kaladin could handle something like that happening again.

      I like that explanation. However, maybe it lost some of its meaning along the way, because it seems like it would be easy to sneak a dagger or some other small weapon into a safehand pouch.

  6. I never considered the idea of Roshar being connected to our world! An interesting thought to be sure. I also hadn't realized really that the Parshendi were basically not really known of beforehand until this segment, which makes the idea of them being a precursor to a Desolation more plausible. Considering everyone has trouble thinking of violent Parshmen, it's not all that surprising, really. XD

    My link is here, thank you for hosting this week!

    1. I believe someone mentioned this week or last that maybe the Parshmen were a major potential threat, for that reason (no one can imagine them being dangerous). Maybe Parshmen are some kind of dormant Parshendi?

  7. 6. Kaladin's plan with the bridge crew was an excellent one when acting as a single unit. However, on the overall battle scale it obviously had disastrous effects and was not a good one for battle strategy. Kaladin could not be expected to see this effect coming because he has always functioned as a squad leader and only was required to see a small part of the battle and take care of his squad. He is not used to seeing the whole battle as a commander would and therefore did not foresee the effect his plan would have.

    As for what comes next Kaladin is definitely going to be punished more then likely via Gaz who will also be punished I imagine. If Kaladin figures out the real reason as to why bridge-men are not allowed shields, and I think it is a matter of time, I am worried that he will become enraged at the simple disregard for the lives of these men or will loose hope of keeping his squad alive.

    1. Yeah, I guess even when he was a soldier, he'd never had to plan battles on that scale. In general, one has to trust a commander's strategy, but even Kaladin could tell from his perspective that the current strategy would kill him and his bridgemen.

      That's kind of what I was worried about, with Kaladin realizing that they were planned for death. I can't imagine him being able to continue as he is now, if he knew that. Either way, I think the result of this battle is going to change things for Kaladin.

  8. Sorry, I'm late to the party, my post only went up today >.< Anyway, here's my link:

    Like you, I felt a bit more sympathy for Gaz - I mean, in the end he still made a poor call but for some reason seeing him struggle and getting a better view of his own demons sort of softened me toward him. I also don't think Dalinar should vacate his postion BUT I can understand why he thinks it's the right thing to do! And I agree with you in that I don't think Kaladin could have forseen how disastrous his plan would end up. You said it best when you spoke of him being set up by Gaz and Lamaril. Oh and I agree - the Spren Cataloguer scene was so cool - I'm really curious about ALL the different possibilities now LOL :D

    Thanks for hosting!!

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels a little more sympathetic towards him :). I still don't think he's an especially good person, but I liked that we get to see some of the motivations behind his decisions. On the spren cataloguer, I wonder if he would have some interesting knowledge he could share about Syl, if he were ever to meet Kaladin?

  9. 4. I will not say anything about those strange figures, cause i already read what they are, But its really weird the "spiritual snapshot" she does before drawing. Its like her senses cant register paranormal things, but her mind does.
    6. I think he misunderstood the meaning of being a slave in the bridges. Of course the survival instinct is the first that comes in mind, but he should have understood that they were only a meat shield. Although if he didn't do that, they were probably dead by now. So it wasnt his fault.

    1. Yeah, it's almost like her conscious mind doesn't interpret it, since the input doesn't make sense, but she's still seeing it below the conscious level!

      I wonder how much of him not figuring out the meaning of being a bridgeman was just because he couldn't imagine something so awful being true. I imagine that is a really painful conclusion to come to.

  10. 1. Very true: his strangeness is becoming a significant hindrance and stepping down is the best of a series of bad choices.

    2. I can't decide if this is what the whole world was like before the coming of the Highstorms. This area is mostly protected from them and so the biology is not so effected by the need to survive the storms. It is certainly intriguing . . . like so much of this book!

    3. The Parshendi being somehow connected to the Desolation would certainly provide an answer for so many questions, even though the Parshmen seem to have been around for a very long time.

    4. Interesting idea. It makes sense that magical abilities might increase in preparation for a Desolation.

    5. I like the way that Mr Sanderson can alter our notions of a 'bad' character and show why they behave as they do: it gives a lot of depth and reality to them.

    6. The consequences of this disaster are going to be huge: especially for Kal, who will feel responsible for all the deaths that occurred because of his choice.

    1. I really feel badly for Kaladin-- he seems to always try to make things better, only to see his efforts turned around to make things worse! Also, I really hope there are some more clues soon as to the relationship between Parshmen and Parshendi, and how (or if) they're connected to the Desolations.

  11. I wonder if Dalinar would have to leave the war camps if he abdicated to his oldest son. Perhaps if the king or his mum made him some sort of adviser to the royal house, then he could stay. But I don't see the paranoid king making such a move.

    If the Parshmen and Parshendi are hive societies, are they different branches of the same family? Maybe the hive only breeds the warriors (Parshendi) when there is a big threat - like a coming Desolation? So much to ponder with them....

    Maybe Gaz had to pay Lamaril to keep his position instead of being demoted to a crew member on a bridge crew? Of course, if that happened now, it would really, really suck for Gaz because he has been such a jerk to all the bridgemen.

    I was wondering about the spren-cataloger too. That must be a fun, if sometimes hazardous, job! Inebriation spren! But what if the cataloger took it further and tried to determine if there are various inebriation spren for each type of drug and booze?

    1. I think he implied that, but I'm not sure. I can't see the king making him an advisor, but maybe Navani would keep him on? She thinks it's a terrible idea for him to abdicate, after all.

      That makes a lot of sense. Maybe they're specialized, like bees, such that the Parshmen are the worker-parsh and the Parshendi are the warrior-parsh.

      Yeah, Gaz has definitely not been earning any points with the bridgemen. I don't think he would live past one bridge run.

      Haha, "I have to try this drug... for science!"