Monday, August 15, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week Two

Very little in the way of an intro for this week.  Carl, one of the best spoken gents on the internet, as well as proprietor of Stainless Steel Droppings, has taken helm of this week's questions.  You can follow his blog here.  Also feel free to check out the Read Along headquarters to see more responses.

"Kaladin was like a moldy crust on a starving man's plate; not the first bite, but still doomed." (Page 263)

"A man's emotions are what define him, and control is the hallmark of true strength.  To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling s to be a child." (Page 377)

In a recent interview Brandon Sanderson mentioned that the interludes are meant to show us parts of the larger world since much of the action is focused in one or two places. What do you think of the first two sets of interludes? Any characters or situations stand out to you?
Szeth the Truthless is definitely one of the most interesting characters so far.  His powers are fascinating, but the mystery that surrounds him--what exactly is a Truthless?  why is he in the state he's in?  who's he gonna kill next?--is pure brilliant.  I feel quite sympathetic for him, but I'm not exactly sure why.

I'm equally fascinated by Hoid, a man who's only barely been mentioned thus far, during the first Interlude.  Hoid is a unique character in Sanderson's cosmere, as he (or a man named Hoid) has appeared in all of Sanderson's original fantasy novels so far.  Sanderson has hinted that his books all share the same universe, and I suppose that this Hoid is somehow more important than we currently know.
In small increments Brandon Sanderson is revealing the geology and ecology of Roshar. What are your thoughts on what has been revealed thus far?
The Shattered Plains are mesmerizing.  I love the plateaus and how the armies cross them (bridges, poles, or jumping).  The chasms make peril imminent for anyone forgetful or clumsy, even posing dangers to Shardbearers.  This is a brilliant setting for the novel, methinks.

In particular I'm intrigued by the highstorms and the crem that falls with the rain.  Professionally, I work with rainfall and flooding, and the fact that rain in Roshar is poisonous and heavily polluted is another brilliant world-feature of Way of Kings.  I can imagine the stalactites forming on unkempt houses, or worse, sticking to a condemned man forced to weather a highstorm. 

Other than that, there are so many minor tweaks that make Roshar what it is that I'm sure I keep forgetting things, picturing an Earth-like world as opposed to the one the story's actually in.  Multiple moons.  Rockbuds.  Strange grass.  Orange, blue, and purple wine!  Craziness.
This second section of The Way of Kings featured two distinct story lines, those of Dalinar and of Kaladin. How do you feel this section of the book compares with the first section and what are your thoughts on either or both of these story lines?
No cabe duda, the second section blew the first one out of the water.  The fight with the chasmfiend was thrilling (no pun intended).  The politics of the warcamp intriguing.  The visions of Dalinar baffling.  And Kaladin's renewed zeal encouraging.  Dalinar, and indirectly, Adolin, show one side of the war effort, and Kaladin shows the polar opposite.  This dichotomy is well played and very informative to the reader. 

In particular, Dalinar's visions make him another sympathetic character, though less so that Szeth.  Sadly, I don't see him lasting much longer.  His age (and his decision to abdicate to Adolin) all but beg someone to assassinate or duel him.

I also really liked Kal's flashback scenes.  I love that he's a trained surgeon and that he's a gifted warrior.  Again, the conflicting views and motives make for great storytelling.
In the interview set out earlier in the week Sanderson talked about the Stormlight Archive being a series about the return of magic. What are your thoughts on this, particularly in relation to the visions Dalinar is having during the highstorms?
I like this approach to fantasy.  Typically we see magic dying off and leaving the lands, often relegated to arcane sciences and superstition.  Here, magic definitely has birthed mythology, but also religion.  The Heralds and the Radiants and Voidbringers are definitely magical, but so are the Shards and Soulcasting.  People understand that these things are mystical, and while they're not prevalent, they're at least present.

Sanderson has an open door for where he can go with the return of magic.  Perhaps more and more people will start having visions (like Dalinar, though to me he seems chosen for a reason), or more Shards will be found or the plethora of gemhearts will lead to more Soulcasters.  Dalinar's visions must be foreshadowing, and if that's the shape of things to come, the rest of the book/series will be phenomenal.
There has been a change in this second section of the nature of the quotes prior to the beginning of each chapter. What are your thoughts on the opening lines featured in both sections of the book to this point?
I think everyone must have forgot about the pre-chapter quotes last week.  I meant to say something, but it slipped my mind.  Book One's quotes have me perplexed.  Who is keeping these things recorded?  Do all men and women get some sort of erratic "vision" when they die?  Are they somehow related to the spren?  Soulcasting?  This, coupled with Kaladin hearing a dying bridgeman's last words, have me eager to find out the importance of these quotes.

Book Two's pre-quotes were in the form of a letter.  I wasn't as intrigued by them, though they did offer some insight (albeit obfuscated and minuscule) to the world.  I particularly liked the section written to the immortal recipient.

These quotes and letter will undoubtedly be important to the Stormlight Archive, I'm just not sure if we'll find out their significance in The Way of Kings.
In the questions for these first two sections we've talked about characters and the story lines and the world that Sanderson has created, but there are a lot of interesting flourishes and touches to The Way of Kings thus far (shardplate, spren, the actual "Way of Kings" book, highstorms, etc.). Talk about some of the non-character/non-setting things that you are finding either fascinating or annoying (or both) in the book thus far.
Like last week, the spren are still holding my attention.  I cannot dismiss their importance in the grand scheme of things.  Syl's fluttering insights and fuzzy memories seem to point to something, but what that something is I can't grasp.

I'm also very curious to learn more about Dalinar's purging of his wife's memory from his mind.  How is this possible?  And what implications does this have for the rest of the world?  And, dang it, are the spren somehow involved here?

On spren, Axies the Collector and his hunt to find all the spren just whets my appetite.  Does this Axies know Hoid?  Are there beings that are charged to observe things throughout the worlds and archive them or something? 


TBM said...

Like you I am also fascinated by Szeth. I can't figure out why I feel for him since he is a killer. I would love to know more about him.

The Shattered Plains sound brutal and beautiful. Fighting battles there would be complex and terrifying.

That is an interesting thought if all people have a vision right before they die. And how are they recorded? Thanks. I'll have to pay closer attention.

Axies is an interesting addition to the story. I also want to know more about him.

Memory said...

I'm really looking forward to watching Hoid develop over the course of the series. He seems to be a big deal in Sanderson's cosmere, so I assume we won't get any definite answers about him until quite far in; perhaps not even until the final book.

logankstewart said...

@Memory: Have you read other Sanderson novels and noticed the character, too? I doubt we'll find out much about him here, but surely as the series continues we'll learn more.

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious to learn more about the spren. I find Syl to be fascinating, and want to know more about her. In this section, she seems to definitely know she's different from the other spren, and is struggling with whether or not that's a bad thing.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Great quotes to open your post! Love them both. Sanderson has thus far been an easy author to quote because he has such great lines in this novel. At times it is almost like poetry.

That is fascinating about Hoid. I do want to read the Mistborn novels now that I've had a taste of what Sanderson can do.

Szeth is a character I feel sympathetic for as well. I had wondered why he didn't just go off and do his own thing since he was Truthless in the first place and this last interlude gives us the idea that it is his faith he is clinging to and it matters that he follow his oaths. I also wonder if there is some power holding him to it, but with what I am reading into it it seems like it is more his choice to has this kind of integrity, for lack of a better word, to his culture and faith.

I love looking at Whelan's cover when thinking about the Shattered Plains. I found a really nice wide image of the cover art sans lettering and am using it for my desktop wallpaper right now. It is gorgeous.

Thus far I like everything they are doing with Kaladin. I thoroughly enjoyed the slow process of him winning over the men and building them into a team. His companions are very interesting and I'm really growing to like these men. I have a terrible feeling it will all come crumbling down at some point and that will be devastating as I like these guys and hate to think of them regaining hope only to see it destroyed again.

Dalinar could be on a collision course with death, but I could also see him being a long time character. It wouldn't surprise me if for some reason he had to go into exile. I could see him on the run having uncontrolled visions with each high storm. I could also see him sacrificing himself in some way as a way to unify the people. Will be fun to see what happens.

I certainly don't expect to find out anything about the quotes in this volume, so I will be surprised if that changes. I liked the ones in the first section of the book the best thus far and they do bring up a lot of questions. I keep wondering who it is who finds these people just before they are about to die. And of course it brings up all kinds of sinister thoughts as well.

That whole memory thing with Dalinar is so intriguing and so sad at the same time.

logankstewart said...

@books: Yeah, Syl is definitely intriguing. I keep picturing her like Navi from the Zelda video games, floating around, semi-invisible.

@Carl: I loved the moldy bread quote. Brilliant!

I didn't think about exile for Dalinar. I either picture him dying with his honor or retiring with his "sanity," but not exile. That could be an exciting possibility.

Shelley said...

Interesting tidbit about Hoid. Another reason to read more Sanderson stuff. I also did not enjoy the quotes at the beginning of the chapter as much as the first. In response to Carl's question about who records the thoughts, I got the idea that maybe it was Kal's father because somewhere it mentions exact time was important to him and the statements have the exact seconds before death. But that's just a thought.
I have the same question about why Dalinar's memory of his wife has been erased. I wonder how important to the overall plot that will be.

logankstewart said...

@Shelley: Ooh, it could be Kal's father, but it could also be Kal's notes, too, perhaps? So far I'm thinking that the quotes are all coming from some sort of reference texts, perhaps those that are being studied by Shallan & Jasnah.

Good thoughts!

Shelley said...

I love discussing this book as we read because of all the different ideas we have about what may be happening. I hadn't even thought about the quotes being something studied by Shallan and Jasnah. It would help to know what the present year is in the story. If they've mentioned it, I've missed it. Just that what's happening was 4500 years after the Prologue scene. And if they started counting years from then, the quotes are definitely from the past.