So this chapter also begins with a little quote that’s supposed to have been collected from a “specimen” at some point in the past. I’m assuming all of the chapters will follow suit and will quite the whole thing just to give you an idea of what they’re like, but I won’t mention them from here on out unless they seem particularly important:
“You’ve killed me. Bastards, you’ve killed me! While the sun is still hot, I die!”
—Collected on the fifth day of the week Chach of the month Betab of the year 1171, ten seconds before death. Subject was a darkeyed soldier thirty-one years of age. Sample is considered questionable.
Also it’s five years later. I’m not sure whether that means five years after the quote was collected or five years after what’s his face killed the king of Spoondybop. Probably the latter.
Anyway, there’s a battle going on and a young lad named Cenn is convinced he’s going to die.
It was hard to recall anything while watching that other army form lines across the rocky battlefield. That lining up seemed so civil. Neat, organized. Shortspears in the front ranks, longspears and javelins next, archers at the sides.
Anyone knowledgeable about pre-firearm warfare feel free to critique the accuracy of this.
What if Cenn had to fight [a Shardbearer]? Ordinary men didn’t kill Shardbearers. It had happened so infrequently that each occurrence was now legendary.
Guess what’s going to happen by the end of the chapter!
The grizzled old veteran beside Cenn reassures him that he’ll be fine, since he’s in the squad (did they have “squads” in pre-firearm days?) of Kaladin Stormblessed, who I guess is something of a badass. If I know my war tropes Cenn will either unlock the soldier within himself and kick ass or die tragically so the vets can tenderly close his eyes and lament the pointlessness of war.
It turns out Kaladin Badassblessed is only about eighteen and he paid money to get Cenn (who only joined the army three months ago and has never fought in a battle) transferred to his squad. I guess we’ve transitioned seamlessly from epic fantasy to anime in the last page or so. Although actually Szeth was pretty anime as well.
Kaladin is “Stormblessed”, which the soldiers describe as him being “lucky”, so his squad always has the least casualties despite fighting right at the front.
Those who can fight well end up getting sent to the Shattered Plains to battle the Parshendi.
I guess everything went to shit after that assassination, huh? Also we now have our white (so far) main characters fighting black people, even if they are fantasy-black people with red bits.
What follows is one of the driest and dullest battle scenes I think I’ve ever seen, utterly lacking in tension. Notably at no point do Cenn or any of the other soldiers in Mr. Anime’s squad feel like they’re in real danger at all, even when they get injured, which really shouldn’t be the case for a gigantic battle. I guess Branderson can only write good fight scenes when they’re full of video game special powers.
The enemies used their spears like skewers, killing men on the ground like cremlings.
“Cremling” sounds like something from a Dr, Seuss novel, so this sentence is giving me weird mental images.
Cenn panics and runs off, then gets a spear through the leg for his trouble. He’s about to be killed when Anime Commander shows up and starts kicking ass, killing six dudes at once. I’m having trouble taking all of this seriously as a work of epic fantasy, I have to say. It feels more like Dragonball Z by way of Assassin’s Creed at the moment.
After saving Cenn a lighteyed “Brightlord” (this is going to kill me) shows up and Anime is all gung-ho about taking him down because he hates lighteyes. Or Brightlords. Or maybe just guys on white horses, I don’t know. He hates the dude for some reason, anyway. He’s hoping this will get them recognized enough to be sent to the Shattered Plains.
“Imagine it, Dallet. Real soldiers. A warcamp with discipline and lighteyes with integrity. A place where our fighting will mean something.”
I’ve admittedly never been within a thousand miles of anywhere that could be referred to as a battlefield, nor have I ever knowingly exchanged words with a real soldier, but it was my understanding bigger, more violent wars are the sorts of things they tend to try to avoid.
One of those—a thin man with black Alethi hair speckled with a handful of blond hairs, marking some foreign blood
What the fuck? Is he a chimera or something? Is that how genetics works in this world?
Anyway he’s calling for runners to come take the wounded away before three turns pass and they become unusable in later battles.
(Everyone played Valkyria Chronicles and knows what I’m talking about, right?)
Normally the runners would only take lighteyes, but Anime General bribed them to take his men as well.
“Why, Dallet?” Cenn repeated, feeling urgent. “Why bring me into his squad? Why me?”
Dallet shook his head. “It’s just how he is. Hates the thought of young kids like you, barely trained, going to battle. Every now and again, he grabs one and brings him into his squad. A good half dozen of our men were once like you.” Dallet’s eyes got a far-off look. “I think you all remind him of someone.”
God, this all feels so rote and predictable. I wonder when this obvious Checkov’s gun is going to fire? Golly I’m so excited, yes sir.
Anyway a Shardbearer shows up and Cenn passes out or dies from blood loss.
2: Honour is Dead
I wonder how that battle is going.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
God fucking damn it.
We’re now riding with Kaladin, who has become a slave presumably after being captured in the battle last chapter. I think all of the other soldiers are dead or imprisoned so I’m not sure what the point of all of that was.
Kaladin is in a wagon with some other slaves, heading to parts unknown. One of the other slaves notices the marks tattooed on his forehead declaring him dangerous (because he’s a badass do you see) and strikes up a conversation.
Kaladin has tried to escape ten times and failed, and the man wants to go with him on the next attempt.
As he spoke, he attracted a few hungerspren. They looked like brown flies that flitted around the man’s head, almost too small to see.
I haven’t been mentioning it, but there are spren more or less everywhere in this world, randomly appearing and sprenning up the place (Kaladin has seen the same windspren repeatedly and speculates that it’s following him). I guess this is nice in that it’s a fairly original method of making the world feel distinct from our own, but I don’t really see what the point is.
It seems after all the failed escape attempts Kaladin has totally given up.
And now, here he was, in an even worse situation than where he’d begun. It was better not to resist. This was his lot, and he was resigned to it
Oh well, no point reading further I guess.
Seriously though, I’m fine with a character who starts off hopeless and regains their confidence, but that moment better not take too long coming. If this turns into Kaladin repeatedly leading his fellow slaves in rebellion or other noble acts despite insisting that he’s too old for this shit, no really, then I’m going to lose my patience very quickly.
The wagons continued to roll, fields of green extending in all directions. The area around the rattling wagons was bare, however. When they approached, the grass pulled away, each individual stalk withdrawing into a pinprick hole in the stone. After the wagons moved on, the grass timidly poked back out and stretched its blades toward the air. And so, the cages moved along what appeared to be an open rock highway, cleared just for them.
That’s actually kind of cool.
Men who had no honor. Were there men who had honor?
No, Kaladin thought. Honor died eight months ago.
For fuck’s sake man, you lost one battle. I know being a slave sucks, but did he never realize that was going on before? How did he think it was going to go if they lost?
That slave who’d been coughing earlier was at it again. A ragged, wet cough. Once, Kaladin would have been quick to go help, but something within him had changed. So many people he’d tried to help were now dead. It seemed to him—irrationally—that the man would be better off without his interference.
I’m super glad that Kaladin’s character development isn’t going to be handled with subtlety or anything. Dodged a bullet there.
I believe I’ve written before about how I hate the way so many fantasy worlds just feel like Ye Olde Europe with magic. The world of this book seems to be trying to alleviate this somewhat- there are multiple moons, there’s a large belt of red stars visible in the night sky, the wagons are pulled by giant crabs. For all that though, it still mostly just feels like Earth, or someone playing a Skyrim mod.
Kaladin has some poisonous leaves he swiped earlier and briefly contemplates using them to kill himself. In the middle of all of this brutal slavery and depression, a Disney fairy shows up.
“Oh!” a soft, feminine voice said. “What’s that?”
A translucent figure—just a handspan tall—peeked up from over the edge of the floor near Kaladin. She climbed up and into the wagon, as if scaling some high plateau.
It’s the Windspren, here to facilitate some severe mood whiplash. This is our first woman to have an actual speaking role, so let’s see how Branderson does with that.
She—Kaladin couldn’t help but think of the windspren as a she—was formed of pale blues and whites and wore a simple, flowing white dress of a girlish cut that came down to midcalf. Like the hair, it faded to mist at the very bottom.
Wow, there are a whole boatload of personal bugbears that paragraph could prompt a digression on, but I think I’ll stick to the weird tendency for male fantasy authors to infantalize women in their books. Rothfuss was a real champ at this, you may recall.
Now to be fair there’s no sign Kaladin is going to want to have sex with the Windpsren so it’s not quite as skeevy, but I still don’t get the tendency to introduce a woman and then describe them as “girlish” or in childish terms, as if you’re defusing a bomb by rendering the character sexually inert.
Her feet, hands, and face were crisply distinct, and she had the hips and bust of a slender woman.
But she’s still hot, guys! Relax!
She bent down, looking at his hand from different angles, like a child expecting to find a hidden piece of candy. “What is it?” Her voice was like a whisper. “You can show me. I won’t tell anyone. Is it a treasure? Have you cut off a piece of the night’s cloak and tucked it away? Is it the heart of a beetle, so tiny yet powerful?”
Oh God it’s Moon fey-chan all over again
I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS
He said nothing, causing the spren to pout.
Windspren-chan reveals that she knows Kaladin’s name, then shoots off impishly into the night. Somehow none of the other slaves heard Kaladin talking to her even though they’re all crammed into a tiny wagon together.
“Storm you!” Kaladin said, leaping to his feet.
Dear genre writers, pleases stop coming up with your own swear words. It always sounds fucking stupid.
Spren didn’t use people’s names. Spren weren’t intelligent. The larger ones—like windspren or riverspren—could mimic voices and expressions, but they didn’t actually think. They didn’t…
Clearly a mystery is afoot. Interesting, I guess. I do like that things are happening.
Then Windspren-chan comes back.
“How do you know my name?” he whispered.
“How do you know it?”
Brandon Sanderson this character is not as funny and adorable as you think she is, please stop.
Windspren-chan’s questioning about why he doesn’t fight prompts him to have a good mope.
They were all dead. Cenn and Dallet, and before that Tukks and the Takers. Before that, Tien. Before that, blood on his hands and the corpse of a young girl with pale skin.
We’re not doing that “daughter/ little sister/ random girl/ love interest/ wife gets killed for manpain” thing are we? I hate manpain.
This life—the casual buying and selling of human flesh—seemed to have an effect on men. It wearied the soul, even if it did fill one’s money pouch.
The poor dears.
The slaveowner notices that one of the slaves has “the grindings”- a disease that causes a cough- and seems to be about to order an underling to kill him.
The windspren took the form of a white ribbon, then zipped over toward the sick man. She spun and twisted a few times before landing on the floor, becoming a girl again. She leaned in to inspect the man. Like a curious child.
Okay, yes. We get it. You can stop now.
The slaveowner and his cronies are all terrified of Kaladin so he manages to convince them not to kill the sick guy. I don’t get why they wouldn’t just kill him. He has brands marking him as both a repeated escapee and dangerous; who’s going to pay for him?
But then the croney kills the sick slave anyway. Oh the humanity. Kaladin is sad because everyone he tries to help ends up dead. Maybe you should stop trying to help people, then.
Kaladin is filled with man-rage and makes plans to poison the slave-master with his magic leaves, but he accidentally crushed them when he saw the slave being killed OH THE HUMANITY. Kaladin, I have a walkthrough for this part of the game and it says you should get Windspren-chan to collect more magic leaves for you. Just a tip.
What always surprises me about Branderson is how amateurish his books feel. The prose, the shallow characters, the video gamey elements, the incredibly inept forced bathos as we see here. But Branderson is patently not an amateur, the dude’s written tons of books. Maybe the speed with which he cranks these things out is to blame.