Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Part 10 (END)

This is the final post for the read-along of The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson.  It's been a lot of fun, and I've had a lot of fun discussing with everyone who has participated!  This week's questions cover through the end of the book, and are provided by On Starships and Dragonwings.  As always, beware of spoilers below!

1. Syl's true nature as an honorspren has been revealed! She once again asks the interesting question: are spren attracted to their element or do they create that element? What do you think? Do you think there are more honorspren or is Syl unique?

Right now, I think they are attracted to and amplify their element. For instance, I don’t think having Syl as a companion is the only reasonable Kaladin is honorable.  I think his personal sense of honor attracted her, and her presence is driving him towards greater nobility.  I think there are more honorspren, and I bet that the Radiants used to commonly have them. 

It’s a little telling that Syl is the only one we’ve ever seen.  The world isn’t a very honorable place, is it?  Maybe Dalinar will soon be able to attract his own honorspren!

2. The Parshendi had a whole host of reactions to Kaladin's power, mostly including fear and awe, though they also seemed to recognize him or his power. Why do you think that is? How do you think the Parshendi hiring Szeth plays into it?

We’ve figured out that the Parshendi have some sort of hive mind, such that they communicate and coordinate over distance.  I think it’s very possible that their memory therefore stretches back a lot further than human memory.  They probably remember the cycles of Desolation, and the Radiants that they once fought.  I can imagine they would remember those deadly Radiants quite vividly, and be a bit shocked to have to face them once again.
I’m not sure I’m convinced that the Parshendi ever did direct Szeth.  They supposedly claimed responsibility for the assassination, but I can’t remember if we ever got incontrovertible evidence.  It could easily have been someone else (like Taravangian or the ghostbloods), who didn’t want Alethkar to make an alliance with Voidbringers.  If the Parshendi really did direct Szeth, then maybe the Great Parshendi Mind has a drive to destroy humanity, and that seemed the easiest way to fracture a kingdom.  They may not have expected Elhokar to be able to hold things together.

3. Dalinar makes some pretty intense decisions towards the end of this book, including trading his Shardblade to free the bridgemen and completely changing how he wants to deal with the highprinces. Do you think these were good decisions?

I am totally behind Dalinar on both of these decisions.  I’m starting to wonder about the Shardblades… are they originally weapons of the Voidbringers, repurposed for human use?  If so, are they somehow inherently corrupt, and lead to corruption?  Maybe the Thrill is part of that? We’ve heard also of Dawnshards, which I thought were the same thing, but now I’m not so sure.

Regardless, I support Kaladin’s decision not to take up the Shards just as much as I support Dalinar’s decision to trade them for the lives of the bridgemen.  Even if I weren’t starting to get suspicious of the Shards, I am glad we have some heroes who value human life over deadly toys.

As for the highprinces, they have the moral development of particularly mean, small children with extremely destructive weapons as toys.  It’s about time someone took them into hand.  I hope Dalinar can force some basic decency into them, if not honor.

4. A lot of mysteries surrounding Jasnah are finally revealed! Do you think that she is right and that most Soulcasters do work? Why do you think Shallan and Jasnah both happen to have this soulcasting power? What is Shadesmar really?

I think she’s probably right.  If all soulcasting was a personal skill, why would an artifabrian community even exist?  It’s been mentioned that the Radiants had different kinds of natural abilities.  I think this might be one of them, which means both Shallan and Jasnah are going to be Radiants!  I think Navani may know about Jasnah’s ability, which could explain her comment about being afraid of her daughter. 

I am so thrilled that Shallan has decided to prioritize Jasnah over her family.  I get the feeling she’s going to have to tell Jasnah about the Shardblade relatively soon, too.
About Shadesmar, someone suggested it could be a visualization of interacting with matter on a molecular or atomic level.  I think that’s a pretty neat idea.

5. Szeth is once again on a mission, but this time we really don't want him to succeed! What do you think is going to happen with him and Dalinar in the next book? Do you think Szeth and Kaladin will recognize each other's power?

That will be one dramatic showdown.  Given that Kaladin is now the head of Dalinar’s personal guard, there’s bound to be one.  I think they will definitely recognize that they use the same power.  I think that either Kaladin will finally kill Szeth, or it will be the final thing that breaks Szeth’s binding to tradition.  Maybe Kaladin could convert Szeth to his side.

6. We finally have a better idea where the Parshmen and Parshendi came from! What do you think the real history is there? How did people possibly enslave the Voidbringers and why are the Parshendi now changing?

I think we had all suspected that the Parshmen were not as peaceful as they seem.  Maybe there are different ‘hive minds’ of the Parsh-people, and humans managed to reprogram only one of them into enslavement.  Then the Parshendi are maybe driven by a different group consciousness.

7. The last chapter with the Almighty was pretty crazy. What do you think about this vision? What do you think this means for Dalinar's future and the world's (universe's??) future? What is Odium really?

I did not predict this at all! I suppose it answers the question of why the Almighty said to trust Sadeas. He actually wasn’t ever responding to conversation.  From that last bit, I’m wondering if by “unite them”, he meant all the realms of the cosmere, not the highprinces of Alethkar.  As for Odium, I supposed maybe he is some kind of evil god?  He is at least more powerful than the being who created the world where our characters live.

Also, I think we may have finally gotten some information about what the highstorms are.  It sounds like it may have simply been the message system, set on repeat, that the Almighty left as he was murdered, for those who could hear.  That poem from the very end, I think, is referring to the highstorms as a medium to transferring messages, and to the death of the Almighty.

Other things:

--Kaladin’s perspective on the Parshendi may be the most observation anyone has bothered to make during this war.  We know they fight in pairs and they coordinate by their music.  I thought it was interesting that Kaladin noticed they also fought with honor—not attacking incapacitated enemies.  I wonder if the Parshendi, as a people, aren’t really that into their role as Voidbringers.

--Now we know what those morbid pre-death word collections are all about, and I did not see that coming.  Taravangian is not only an intelligent person, he’s horrible as well!  He claims he’s studying the death words and killing world leaders for the good of the world.  I can’t see how wiping out all the leaders could unify the world.  I think it would just destabalize the world, unless he has something very dramatic planned next.  Also, I would be more on his side if he were simply recording people's final words, rather than draining poor people of blood just to listen to them die. I don’t think he can really justify that. Journey before destination, after all.

--In the end, I am more impressed by Shallan’s intellect than Jasnah’s.  Jasnah didn’t even notice anything was going on with Shallan, and accidentally soulcast away the poison remedy instead of the poison.  It seems like she would have at least guessed the bread would be poisoned, since it was well known that she didn’t take jam. Shallan, on the other hand, successfully worked out plenty of Jasnah’s secrets!  I think Shallan may be much more of an asset in her research than Jasnah could have expected.

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