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Words of Radiance: Chapter 35

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<< WoR I. 8: A Form of Power / WoR Ch. 36: A New Woman >>
WoR Ch35


They also, when they had settled their rulings in the nature of each bond's placement, called the name of the Nahel bond, with regard to its effect upon the souls of those caught in its grip; in this description, each was related to the bonds that drive Roshar itself, ten Surges, named in turn and two for each order; in this light, it can be seen that each order would by necessity share one Surge with each of its neighbors.

–From Words of Radiance, chapter 8, page 6


Point of view: Adolin, Navani
Setting: The Shattered Plains

Progression of the Chapter:

Adolin throws his Shardblade and it turns into mist, belying his martial discipline; he maintains a paranoid insistence to keep wearing his Plate, forever; bridgemen are suspected; Soulcasters are observed making a wall out of air; Ardents are questioned about the powers held by Radiants; Navani tests a new technology; through the power of weights, pullies, and magic rocks, a platform is made to hover in mid-air; Adolin approaches and points out that the platform is floating in mid-air, noble mind of science that he is; Navani speaks of further plans "the Ardents" are devising, not allowed to do science on her own out in the open; Adolin points out how she selectively accepts binding traditions, then takes her to an important meeting.

Quote of the Chapter:

"Aunt?" he said, voice strained. "A glove?"

"Far more practical," she said, holding up her safehand and wiggling the fingers. "Oh, don’t look like that. Darkeyed women do it all the time."

"You’re not darkeyed."

"I’m the dowager queen," Navani said. "Nobody cares what in Damnation I do. I could prance around completely nude, and they’d all just shake their heads and talk about how eccentric I am."

This chapter shows how complicated and fascinating the navigation of Alethi gender norms can be. Navani, a craftswoman and scientist, doesn’t have the latitude to bind up one of her hands in a sleeve, and she uses her position as dowager queen to get away with the massive breach of etiquette that is wearing a glove. As a widow, she completed the marriage obligation, and as the queen mother she retains power by proximity to the throne, but as neither widow nor queen mother are positions that have formal requirements of her, she finds latitude in the system to act how she wishes. Strange, then, that she doesn’t also operate as a scientist outright, rather than playing patron to the Ardentia.

Commentary:

Adolin cuts a dashing figure as a gentleman paranoiac. Having been caught without Shardplate once, he’s decided to never take it off, ever. His other readiness protocols include never sleeping and twitching manically at all signs of aggression. He vacillates between giving his bodyguards grudging respect due to proximity to Kaladin, who was quite useful in saving his father's life, and swinging on the secret of Kaladin’s powers and peculiarities with renewed suspicion. He’s ruining himself for any kind of usefulness.

How similar he is to Dalinar! The Highprince also watched an assassination he was powerless to prevent, although he was even more unready than his son, and he totally reinvented himself through his feelings of guilt and shame. The Kholin boys certainly make good use of their personality collapses. Whether the pressures Adolin is under are going to end up making him a better person - as Dalinar's did for him - remains in question.

This chapter plays setup for Shallan's arrival, and with it the gathering of most of the principal players to the same location for the first time. A very nice beginning to the third part of the novel.

Stormwatch:

Same day as Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 33, Chapter 34, Interlude 5, and Interlude 8.

Sprenspotting:

The elderly couple of Ardents in The Way of Kings who experimented with flamespren and weird culinary pursuits have made their return.

" ... changed even when he was in the other room," Rushu mumbled, flipping to another page. "Repeatable and measurable. Only flamespren so far, but so many potential other applications ... "

It seems that scientific knowledge is being broadly disseminated, and a "Quantum Spren Theory" is sure to result. This can be seen in Navani’s experiments in quantum-spren-pairing-levitation. SCIENCE!

Ars Arcanum:

This chapter provides readers with a first, in depth look at Soulcasters, the people, Soulcasting ... and they are truly weird.

Soulcasters. It was the word for both the people who performed the art and the fabrials they used. Kadash was not one himself; he wore the standard grey robes instead of red, his head shaven, face accented by a square beard. He noticed Adolin, hesitated briefly, then bowed his head in respect. Like all of the ardents, Kadash was technically a slave.

That included the five Soulcasters. Each stood with right hand to breast, displaying a sparkling fabrial across the back of the palm. One of the ardents glanced at Adolin. Stormfather — that gaze wasn’t completely human, not any longer. The woman’s skin had hardened to something like stone, smooth, with fine cracks. It was as if the person were a living statue.

Soulcasters who use fabrials to do what Radiants can do through Nahel bonds clearly pay a high price. Perhaps they channel the transformative power through their own bodies, absorbing the minerals of the expended gemstones through the power of the replicated Transformation surge. However it happens, it makes Jasnah's plan to pretend she had a Soulcaster fabrial seem ... well, not suited for the long game. You can only go so long pretending to be a Soulcaster before someone asks why you don’t have stone skin yet.

Heraldic Symbolism:

Kalak is Resolute/Builder, while Battar is Wise/Careful, and the mix of those four attributes provides an interesting backdrop to Navani’s experiments defying the forces of gravity (spren).

Words of Radiants:

Chapter 35, the opening snippet for glimpses into the in-world book titled Words of Radiance, codified a couple of things for readers. One, the Nahel bond is indeed the thing that makes Radiants. As in, it’s not just any kind of spren bond granting Surgebinding powers, but forms the basis of the specific structure laid out for the Orders. Two, each Order accesses two and only two Surges, overlapping one another so that each Surge can be used by two and only two Orders.

- Paraphrased from Carl Engle-Laird[1] and Alice Arneson[2]

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