So it's finally over. That was an amazing book! Thank you everyone for joining in and making my first readalong so much fun :)
I have said over and over again that Brandon Sanderson is a storytelling god. This book makes me believe it even more fiercely - it takes a mastermind to create such intricate worlds and piece together so many character and plot threads. He does such a great job of feeding you just enough answers/revelations to keep you happy, but keeps you hanging by dangling all sorts of questions for you to answer. Not to mention the bombshells he throws in at the end...
Having read Mistborn, I really should have been more prepared for disaster and mindblowing moments towards the end of the book. The end was just bombshell after bombshell - some were interesting revelations, and others were shattering.
The bombshells of this week:
1) Navani proves that Dalinar's visions are real, and says his unconscious decoding of an ancient language will help pave the way for much more understanding of the past. Pretty cool!
Also, does Navani and Dalinar getting together count as a bombshell? Considering all the outrage, let's say yes.
2) Sadeas pretends to humor Dalinar and ally with him, only to turn around and betray him. He retreats along with all his bridgemen, leaving Dalinar, Adolin, and his men stranded on the plains in the midst of the Parshendi.
Kaladin and co. save the day by running in and providing a bridge, sacrificing their chance of escape in the process. Kaladin discovers his immense stormlight-induced capabilities and practically takes on half the Parshendi single handedly. In thanks, Dalinar appoints Kaladin and the rest of Bridge 4 as his personal guard (after an epic showdown with Sadeas, of course).
2) Syl is an Honorspren! She binds things, like oaths. Now that question of whether Spren are attracted to something or cause something comes up again, because when Syl first met Kaladin he was in a piteous state - definitely not what I'd call honorable. But as he became more and more courageous and honorable, Syl grew and changed as well. So they're connected, but who is causing the changes?
3) Shallan discovers the truth of Jasnah's soulcaster. It's a fake! Both Shallan and Jasnah possess the inherent power to soulcast, and Jasnah promises to start teaching Shallan more about her research and Shadesmar.
4) Szeth discovers his master, and it's at that nice healer king, Trevangian. Except Trevangian isn't as nice or foolish as Jasnah has been leading us to believe - he bleeds people to death in large batches so that he can collect and make sense of their dying words (those epigraphs from Parts 1 and 4). SICKENING. And Trevangian wants Dalinar dead...
5) Jasnah's bombshell about the Voidbringers: "They claim we chased the Voidbringers off the face of Roshar or destroyed them. But that's not how humans work. We don't throw away something we can use."
I feel really dense for not putting this together while Shallan's mind was reeling with "beings of ash and fire". This took me completely off guard - the Voidbringers were enslaved as Parshmen! This can't end well, especially not with the so-called Odium coming...
Oh, and Shallan's bombshell - her father was part of a group of people who wanted Jasnah's research for their own (sinister) means.
6) Dalinar has a vision of the Almighty, who says he is dead and has been killed by Odium. KILLED. And by the looks of it, a long time ago.
7) And of course, Wit. He makes a bunch of cryptic pronouncements and then Talenel'Elin, A HERALD, appears as says the Desolation has come. According to Wit, he is too late. So the Desolation has started already? WHAT IS COMING?
My Thoughts:I'm still recovering from a lot of those bombshells, but I'm so excited to read Words of Radiance and get some answers.
The "Almighty" mentions another power, Cultivation. That instantly brought to mind Ruin and Preservation - so whatever power "Almighty" is, it is probably something that balances Cultivation. And the fact that it's dead...that just can't be good. I'm very curious as to what this power is and the effect its absence has on Roshar. It should theoretically affect the ability of people to manipulate magic, if this is following a similar pattern as Mistborn. In that case, is Kaladin channeling "the Almighty" now that he has found his surgebinding abilities?
I'm also struck by the fact that the Voidbringers are the parshmen. So they aren't those giant rock creatures from the prelude? Or is that a more ancient form of the parshmen? Clearly the parshmen make formidable foes when they decide to turn, as evidenced by the difficulty of the Alethi armies to fend off the "primitive" Parshendi. Kaladin makes it clear that the Parshendi fight more honorably and respectfully than the Alethi, so does that mean they are the counterpoints to the Radiants (and their descendants)?
Honor seems to be a really big deal in Roshar. Syl is an Honorspren. Kaladin and Dalinar always strive to do the honorable thing ("Why did your bridge crew come for us? Why, really?" "Why did you give up your Shardblade?"). Sadeas makes some cheap comment about how that honor of Dalinar's will get him killed. Szeth is ashamed of his killing people because of how dishonorable it is to slaughter the innocents, and yet he justifies it by saying he is "Truthless" - ironically, isn't Truthless dishonorable in itself? How can one evil ever justify countless more? It seems that despite its importance, there aren't actually that many honorable people on Roshar. Perhaps that's why Syl found Kaladin in the first place - she sensed that he, at his core, was honorable. Now that Dalinar has a plan to "take the toys away from the children" I think it will force the rest of the Alethi to find that honor in themselves. I don't really know where I'm going with this, but somehow I feel like recovering honor among everyone on Roshar will help defeat Odium. Whatever that is.
I think the revelation I found most shocking was that Taravangian was behind Szeth's assassination spree. He seems like he is ashamed of what he is doing, but he's taking a "The ends justify the means" approach - this is in such stark contrast to Kaladin, who believes how you do things is just as important as the final result. Is it worth killing thousands of innocents in order to save the rest of humanity? I'm immediately reminded of Kira Walker from the Partials series, who always insists that how you save humanity matters, because in the end we must still be worth saving. The scariest thing is when you realize how earnest he is. He hates having to kill and drain the blood of his people, but he is so unyielding to Szeth's objections because he truly believes this is the best (and only) way to save Roshar.
Also can I just say that I'm half psychic because I totally called Kaladin having to save Dalinar and the Alethi troops with his magical new powers last week. Ok, so he wasn't defending them from Szeth, but the irony still stands!
Other Stuff to Check Out:
Tor put out an article a while ago where Sanderson answered some questions about the Stormlight Archive. It's pretty cool - you can check it out here.
Some deleted scenes of Way of Kings from Sanderson's website.
And, saving the best for last, a LEGO recreation of the final battle of the book!