Monday, August 22, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week Three

Forgive me for the lack of introduction, but let's jump straight to the root of the matter.  If you'd like to read more responses to this week's questions, head to the main Group Read site (here).  This week's questions come from Memory.

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"Books can store information better than we can--what we do that books cannot is interpret." (Page 462)

"He couldn't know how long it lasted; time had no meaning in this place of fury and tumult." (Page 520)

"Was it possible to do something horrible in the name of accomplishing something wonderful?" (Page 532)*

"It might be religion, but it still has to make sense." (Page 635)

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Part III reunites us with Shallan, who we haven't seen for a few hundred pages, and separates us from Dalinar and Adolin for a few hundred more. How do you feel about leaving characters behind for such long stretches? Did you lose any of your connection to them during the break?
The splitting of the characters is slightly frustrating, but not to the point where it's detrimental to my enjoyment of the story.  I say frustrating because I'd like to stick with the characters longer and follow their story, but then at the same time, there's likely little-or-nothing going on with them at the times Sanderson gives us different POVs.  Maybe he's just cutting out the redundant fluff that doesn't really add to the main story when he omits POVs?
So far, how would you compare this to other epic fantasies you've read? Does it remind you of any other series?
Compared with other epic fantasies I've read, Sanderson's world and tale is definitely fresh and unique.  It defies many traditional cliches, but at the same time it resonates with the general "feeling" epic fantasy gives off.  Oddly enough, the other books it reminds me of are also by Brandon Sanderson: Mistborn, Elantris, and Warbreaker.  Nothing major really connects these, but the way Lashing works instantly brings to mind Vin Pushing and Pulling in Mistborn.  The Shardblades remind me of the fascinating sword Nightblood in Warbreaker.  And the glyphs (and symbolheads?) are bringing back imagery from Elantris and the language used there.  I think this is more than mere coincidence, but I can't say why exactly.
How do you feel about the masculine and feminine arts? If you're female, do you think you'd be content to stick to scholarly pursuits, or would you rather do something physical, like go to war? If you're male, would you be willing to forgo learning to read, even if there were women around to read to you? What about the food? Does the spicy for men and sweet for women restriction fit your own tastes?
I love this part of the Alethi culture.  It's reminiscent of our culture's history, but it's vastly different, too.  Sexism doesn't seem to exist for the people, and yet to our liberated 21st century American minds, the whole thing screams its wrongness. 

I say that I would be willing to shirk the soldiering life for a scholarly one, but I'm unsure whether or not I really would.  It would have to depend on which nahn I was in, whether or not I was a lighteyes or darkeyes, and whether or not I wanted glory (which I can't see myself wanting) or simplicity.  An ardent's life sounds appetizing, but I'm not sure how sinister these people are yet.  I do find the dissolution of the masculine/feminine arts in the ardentia an interesting fact.

I picture a lot of the food like Indian foods.  Curried, heavily spiced, and naan for bread.  As it just so happens, I love Indian food, so this works for me.  (Of course, I also love ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, and I would be sad not have these.)

Oh, I also think it's pretty clever that the women write their own subtext after a man's dictation.  This opens the doors for all kinds of disagreements in the texts.  (And I think it's obvious now that these opening bits of the chapters are coming from books Shallan/Jasnah/Someone is researching, and could very well be their own notes?  I'm not sure if the death-quotes fit this category, but they could... The letter for Part Two doesn't, though, unless it's something one of them read?)
What do you think of the flashbacks to Kaladin's childhood?
At first I didn't care too much for them, but as they've progressed, I grew more and more intrigued.  I love that Kaladin is a surgeon, trained in healing arts with a healer's mindset, and yet he's a renown warrior.

When I was reading the last few flashbacks, as time was drawing closer to the present, I kept waiting to see what would happen to Tien.  It's amazing that Sanderson's not told exactly what went down, but we've enough of an idea that Tien's death utterly changed the young healer-soldier.  And then when Kaladin faced down the Shardbearer!  Breathtaking.  I can't believe we've gone this long into the novel and just now found this out, but it's omission from Kaladin's thoughts imply truly how much he hates the lighteyes.
Do you have any theories yet as to where the story is headed? What do you most want to see in the last quarter of the book?
I've got theories a-plenty.  Dalinar will die.  I just don't see him living.  Adolin will step into his place, possibly, or the young Kholin will have to leave the Shattered Plains for some reason.  Dalinar's death could come by Szeth's hand (which seems possible), or it could come from Sadeas (which seems possible).  Kaladin and his men will rise up, but like the times before, many of them will die, but Kaladin will escape.  He may get some Shards by the end, and surely he'll end up working alongside Adolin at some point, where his opinions of lighteyes will have to change.  Shallan will tell Jasnah about her visions before she leaves and the woman will allow Shallan to stay on because of her sight into whatever the symbolheads are.  I have no clue about them, other than they're somehow connected to Soulcasting.

Odium reigns.  This Odium must be the series' main antagonist, but I don't see it as a Dark Lord archetype, though I could be wrong.  Odium may be using Szeth's new masters to accomplish its chaos and destruction of Roshar.

I am eager to see more Szeth, of course, but even more so eager to find out more about the symbolheads and about Kaladin's apparent use of Stormlight.  Sadly, I don't think we'll get much more of Shallan until possibly the final part of the book.  Kal, though.  That'll be fun.
Miscellaneous thoughts:  Kabsal's poisoning was an unexpected twist.  Who was he working with?  The deathspren are slightly terrifying.  And what the heck's going on with these bridgemen?  Teft and his mysterious knowledge of what Kaladin is.  Sigzil (I think that's who it was) and his aversion to Worldsingers?  And the one-armed crazy-happy Lopen?  Jeez!  Kaladin Stormblessed, indeed.  Oh, and Kal's surviving the storm was rather exciting, too, I might add.

I'm really enjoying The Way of Kings.  The book keeps me interested, and I really feel like we've only got the faintest notions of what's ahead of us.  I see nine more books of great storytelling and beautiful worldbuilding.
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*I've noticed that this theme crops up in an awful lot of books and movies, and I suppose it's because it makes for compelling characters.

12 comments:

TBM said...

I really like your comment that you don't notice sexism even though there is a division. That is a great observation. Maybe since I've had to deal with sexism (granted not to the same degree as my grandmother or mother but it is still present) that when I read about the divisions I'm yelling why? That's not fair. You're right. I need to look at it from their level and not put our attitudes in it. Thanks! Great observation.

Carl V. said...

I noticed the lack of sexism as well. They don't seem to be at all bothered by what we see as "restrictions". More often we see the characters act as if it would be unthinkable to step across the cultural line and do something or eat something that is deemed for the opposite sex. All of this has to be deeply ingrained in their culture, belief systems, etc.

I'm not so sure that nothing important is going on in the lives of the characters. It is probably just me, but I cannot help but see this through the eyes of the way Tolkien wrote in that when we return to the characters we are seeing what went on with them during the same period of time we just spent with the previous characters.

I'm sure it isn't quite that simple though, I imagine there is some overlap. Shallan's story is easy in that when we weren't with her it could be assumed that she was spending time with her research and studies. Kaladin is a bit harder because if we are away from him for too long it wouldn't make sense that he and his men went on countless bridge runs and all survived. Perhaps that is why we don't go away from Kaladin nearly as much, because his story is so much more riveted in a present that doesn't have down time or free time for us to assume normal day to day living went on like we can for the other characters.

I don't see Dalinar dying, or at least I don't see that happening any time soon. There is so much more to be revealed about these visions and there is the relationship with Navani and much more. I can't see Sanderson tossing away so much rich story material just to kill off a character. Then again I don't expect all of these characters to make it through 10 novels and so it wouldn't surprise me if Dalinar was the first to be picked off. Of course if his death ends up being some kind of sacrifice towards uniting them then I could see this happening sooner.

Adolin will need to grow a lot more for him to become an interesting character for me. Right now he is too much of the child character in the story and I don't enjoy him as much. That being said some things have happened in Part 4 already that have expanded my interest in him a great deal.

I bet we are not done with flashbacks that include Tien and I imagine at some point we'll see his death through Kaladin's remembrances. Don't you?

Loving this story so much. Glad I decided to join in on the group read.

bookswithoutanypictures said...

The scribes' footnotes are interesting, and would add a lot more complexity to interpreting a text. They also mean that you have to trust your scribe... having someone write "Dalinar's ideas at this time may be influenced by bouts of schizophrenia. Take this with a grain of salt." would completely ruin any messages he was trying to preserve were it to happen like that.

I agree that Dalinar is likely to be the first character to get picked off. He's a lot like Ned Stark in "Game of Thrones."

Carl V. said...

SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ A GAME OF THRONES!!!!

SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ A GAME OF THRONES!!!!

SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ A GAME OF THRONES!!!!

It is precisely because he does remind me of Ned Stark that I hope he doesn't get picked off. I realize that Sanderson isn't some wunderkind who will write a book that doesn't play off of ideas already used, but I would like to see this not emulate Martin's work despite the fact that I like it.

Shelley said...

Again, your comments have made me even more interested in reading more of Sanderson's works. It must be great to see the similarities between all of them. I was almost afraid to read your theories because you may have more of a handle on where he is likely to go with the story!
I agree that the most shocking thing about the divisions is how few people seem to desire to defy them. It seems the best way to get some variety in your diet is to become an ardent.
I loved the idea of the subtext! There's a lot of power in that, especially since the men can't read it. It reminds me of Paradise Lost--John Milton was blind and he recited it to his daughters to write down. I kept thinking they should have changed the parts that are so insulting to women because their father would never have known. Subtexts would have been very useful, lol!

logankstewart said...

@TBM: Like Carl mentioned, I think this apparent lack of sexism must be because the masc/fem separation is rooted in Vorinism/history. I mean, maybe it's sinful (or maybe the Almighty disapproves) of crossing these lines for everyone except ardents?

@Carl: Yeah, I guess by "noting important" I mean either things we've already seen or a walking from Point A to Point B type scenario. Dalinar's not a major character for me, because Adolin and Renarin are both there and they could potentially manifest the same powers Dalinar does? I dunno, I just don't see the man making it.

As for Tien's death, I'm sure we'll eventually get to it, as it's too important of an event to gloss over.

@Books...: Absolutely! Ned Stark was exactly who came to mind while reading Dalinar's parts. Both are noble and strive to do the right things, but neither can seem to rise above the politics. Glad I'm not the only one thinking like this.

@Carl: Dalinar's noble intentions surely will lead to his downfall, either through assassination, exile, self-sacrifice, or public execution (unlikely as it seems). I really only think the two deaths would be comparable if Dalinar was executed.

logankstewart said...

@Shelley: Don't worry, I'm keeping my comments spoiler free, even though I'd love to discuss this stuff with someone who's read the other Sanderson stuff.

Carl V. said...

I agree that they'll probably be his downfall, but I wouldn't be surprised if instead of what to me seem like standard things to happen: assassination, self-sacrifice, falling in battle, etc. that he might actually be being used to usher in something really terrible into the world rather than something glorious.

Jay Belt said...

Still enjoying these weekly looks. I enjoyed the ever-loving heck out of this book, far beyond other large epic fantasies that have come out in the past 30 years, so I'm really getting a kick out of the discussion. Thanks again for sharing.

Carl V. said...

Of course if Dalinar does meet his end in a more traditional manner my money at the moment is either on Sadeas (which seems too obvious) or Navani (which doesn't seem likely but I figured I'd throw my prognostication out there).

Abbie Josephsen said...

AHHHH, Kal's flashbacks are some of the best parts! just wait :)

logankstewart said...

@Carl: Ooh, that's good. Being a pawn for something terrible sounds more like it, I think. Good idea.