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WoR Ch27


Point of view: Shallan
Setting: The Davar Estate, five years ago

Progression of the Chapter:

A garden is a refuge, if only a little; cremlings proliferate; lots of shouting happens; one brother is missing, one is a pyromaniac, and one is addicted to gambling; Shallan stares at the wall; and the strongbox glows.

Quote of the Chapter:

They passed Father’s chambers. The heavy stumpweight door was open a crack as a maid tidied the room, allowing Shallan to see the far wall.

And the glowing strongbox.

It was hidden behind a painting of a storm at sea that did nothing to dim the powerful white glow. Right through the canvas, she saw the outline of the strongbox blazing like a fire. She stumbled, pulling to a stop.

"What are you staring at?!" Jushu demanded, holding to the bannister.

"The light."

"What light?"

"Behind the painting."

He squinted, lurching forward. "What in the Halls are you talking about, girl? It really did ruin your mind, didn’t it? Watching him kill Mother?" Jushu pulled away from her, cursing softly to himself. "I’m the only one in this family who hasn’t gone crazy. The only storming one ... ."

Shallan stared into that light. There hid a monster.

There hid Mother’s soul.

Commentary:

Before Words of Radiance came out, many readers described Shallan as selfish, spoiled, lightweight, and shallow. As in real life, it’s amazing how much change can be wrought by a glimpse into someone’s past.

This episode takes place one year after she killed her mother, and whatever semblance the Davars had once borne to a normal family has completely shattered. Opinions vary on what normal might have looked like for them, but whatever it once was, it’s long since gone the way of the lanceryn.

While little actually happens in this chapter, so much is communicated by the setting of it, and by the things that don’t happen within it.

Shallan dreads the shouting and will do whatever she can to avoid it, but it can’t always be avoided. In this case, the shouting is a perhaps-justifiable response to Balat's 'playing with matches'. It can be assumed that he didn’t intend to set the servants’ building on fire, but fire being what it is ... . Or, maybe he did intend that result. So which is worse: setting fires or torturing small creatures? Fire has more dangerous potential, but there’s something about the deliberate dismemberment of helpless and harmless creatures that is just wrong.

Jushu claims to be the only one in the family with any sense. It’s not like he’s exactly sensible; frequently drunk, addicted to gambling, risking his father’s not-inconsiderable (and potentially deadly) wrath by his behavior. On the other hand, from his perspective, it’s normal compared to arsons, killing rages, or staring at the wall for hours.

Maybe he has a point.

Apparently, Helaran is gone most of the time now; he returns from time to time and brings Shallan stacks of drawing paper, but avoids their father as much as possible. Jushu says that Helaran betrayed their father and almost killed him. Is that a reference to the previous flashback where he summoned a Shardblade or does it refer to something else? Helaran wouldn't necessarily be helping matters if he were around more now though.

Meanwhile, Brightlord Davar is holding feasts on a regular basis, providing pretty new dresses for Shallan to be silently decorative. Presumably, all this is part of his power-building initiative. Was he like that before things went so sour a year ago? If not, why now?

Then there’s Shallan. Only she and her father know what actually happened, and she’s blocked it out - blocked it so hard that whenever a hint of it crosses her mind, she goes blank. That happens three times in this short chapter; she just ... goes ... blank. No idea how much time passes, no thought, nothing. And her poor father. He's not a nice man anymore, and getting not-nicer all the time, but the one person who knows he didn’t kill his wife refuses to remember anything about it. She never gives any confirmation to the assumptions that he murdered his wife, but she never denies it either. Not even to him. Of course, he doesn’t want her to tell the truth, but if he could only share acknowledgement of the truth with one person, he’d be better for it. As it is, he has to carry that knowledge alone, and he does not bear the burden well.

Sprenspotting:

There aren't any spren actually seen in this chapter, but there is the glowing strongbox upon which to remark. Back in the first flashback, as her father carries Shallan from the room ...

They passed Father’s strongbox set into the wall. It glowed brightly, light streaming from the cracks around the closed door. A monster was inside.

Shallan sees a glow no one else can see; this is her mind manufacturing what it needs to believe.

All Creatures Shelled and Feathered:

Jah Keved sounds like a rather lush climate - at least, compared with the Frostlands. There are gardens, with shalebark, and trees, and vines, and flowerbeds ... and its difficult visualizing plants that can pull back into some kind of shell for a storm, but can also be trimmed and shaped.

Shallan avoids the flowerbeds because she has allergies, but that was made known in The Way of Kings.

Heraldic Symbolism:

Shalash broods over this chapter; this could be in honor of Shallan’s drawing, or Shalash’s position as the patron of the Lightweavers, or both. Or something else. In any case, Shalash is associated with Shallan’s POV more than any other Herald, as seems fitting being her namesake.

Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?:

Shallan mentioned learning from Dandos the Oilsworn, back when Kabsal was quizzing her about how she learned to draw so well. This is a call-out to one of Brandon’s favorite artists, Dan dos Santos[1]; check out the "folio" illustrations preceding Chapter 22 and Chapter 49 to see why. Also, the Warbreaker cover.

- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson[2]

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