3: City of Bells
So all that business with Kaladin was pretty interesting, huh? I don’t know about you but I’m really jonesing for more of that specific character’s viewpoint.
Kharbranth, City of Bells, was not a place that Shallan had ever imagined she would visit.
Or, you know, someone else. I guess that works too.
Though she’d often dreamed of traveling, she’d expected to spend her early life sequestered in her family’s manor, only escaping through the books of her father’s library.
I feel like I’ve seen this exact same paragraph like fifty times in other books.
But expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.
Shallan is here in Carbranch to find a princess named Jasnah Kholin.
So Kararabarararah is a pretty cosmopolitan place, with lots of Exotic people from all over the world. I wonder what these beguiling fantasy cultures will be like!
Some wore familiar clothing—trousers and shirts that laced up the front for the men, skirts and colorful blouses for the women. Those could have been from her homeland, Jah Keved
Those single-sheet wraps would mark a man or woman from Tashikk, far to the west
She’d rarely seen so many parshmen as she noted working the docks, carrying cargo on their backs. Like the parshmen her father had owned
Yep, these are totally not just vague caricatures of real-life cultures with random word generator names! Although there is one guy who has foot-long “fans” coming out of his eyebrows. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.
Brightness Jasnah Kholin was one of the most powerful women in the world. And one of the most infamous. She was the only member of a faithful royal house who was a professed heretic
Brightness Jasper Colon seems like a pretty interesting lady, I can see why Shellon came to Carbreath to find her. Scallop is also a “Brightness” by the way, whatever that is.
It turns out Jasnap (now I can’t remember what her real name is) is still in Wherever so Shallan is happy because her long search is over.
We get a little bit of character development for Shallan, all of which furthers her status as Fantasy Women Alpha.
She’d been trained by stern nurses and tutors to hold her tongue—unfortunately, her brothers had been even more determined in encouraging her to do the opposite.
Man I wonder if this proper young lady is going to learn to break out of the confines of her upbringing and Go Wild.
That had established in her what her nurses had referred to as an “insolent streak.”
I’m sure she’s just going to be a fucking rebel.
(I really hate this character archetype, in case you couldn’t tell. It generally indicates that the character is going to be incredibly boring).
They saw her as timid because she didn’t like to argue and remained quiet when large groups were talking. And perhaps she was timid—being away from Jah Keved was daunting.
If Shallan had a theme song it would an EKG flatlining.
She was pale-skinned in an era when Alethi tan was seen as the mark of true beauty, and though she had light blue eyes, her impure family line was manifest in her auburn-red hair. Not a single lock of proper black. Her freckles had faded as she reached young womanhood—Heralds be blessed—but there were still some visible, dusting her cheeks and nose.
Oh poor you
I love it (by which I mean I hate it) when totally traditional western ideals of beauty are cast as undesirable just so the conventionally attractive protagonist can mope about how un-hot he or she is.
Shallan and the sailors on the boat she arrived on have some painfully unfunny banter and then she takes off to look for the princess. She’s at the Conclave apparently, where the “Palaenium” is. The princess is the king’s sister so she’s staying at the big fancy palace.
Shaylor mkabat nour.” The winds have brought us safely. A phrase of thanks in the Thaylen language.
That reminds me of the Alekkian phrase for “many penguins in a tugboat”, dekle aruspicy novercal verbarmedialuna. Gee this is so easy! Although to be fair mine are real words instead of made up nonsense.
The captain smiled broadly. “Mkai bade fortenthis!”
Such sophisticated and realistic fantasy languages, yes indeed.
Why were the Thaylens so fond of mashing letters together, without proper vowels?
I almost have to wonder if this is a joke at the expense of fantasy authors. Which would be funny, if not for the fact that Branderson is still unironically doing the whole bullshit fantasy language thing.
Even a safe city like Kharbranth hides dangers. Keep your wits about you.”
“I should think I’d prefer my wits inside my skull, Captain,” she replied, carefully stepping onto the gangplank.
This character. I do not like this character.
Like all Vorin women, she kept her left hand—her safehand—covered, exposing only her freehand.
Nope, don’t care.
Common darkeyed women would wear a glove, but a woman of her rank was expected to show more modesty
Also don’t care.
The dress was of a traditional Vorin cut, formfitting through the bust, shoulders, and waist, with a
Super don’t care.
Look, I like a well realised fictional world as much as the next person but I can tell when an author is making one of those and when they’re just jizzing useless trivia across the page.
They weren’t pagans here, and writing was a feminine art; men learned only glyphs, leaving letters and reading to their wives and sisters
Huh. Now that’s actually kind of interesting. Naturally if writing is reserved solely for women this would seem to imply scholarship and maybe even political office is also dominated by women while men are stuck to specialized roles in magic as a sort of ecclesiastical class.
Chances of any of this actually leading to a world that isn’t dominated by mens: 0%.
Were the Alethi really fighting parshmen out on the Shattered Plains? That seemed so odd to Shallan. Parshmen didn’t fight. They were docile and practically mute. Of course, from what she’d heard, the ones out on the Shattered Plains—the Parshendi, they were called—were physically different from regular parshmen. Stronger, taller, keener of mind. Perhaps they weren’t really parshmen at all, but distant relatives of some kind.
This is getting into some seriously uncomfortable territory. I really hope the racial essentialism doesn’t actually turn out to be true.
Shallan sets off through the city on a fantasy-taxi thing, taking in the sights of the city which is for the most part generic Exotic Dusty Place With Spicy Food and reads like a mashup of tourist versions of India, the middle east and south-est Asia. Also there are bells everywhere, because why not.
This world has a very unusual system of currency.
Each one was composed of a glass bead a little larger than a person’s thumbnail with a much smaller gemstone set at the center. The gemstones could absorb Stormlight, and that made the spheres glow. When she opened the money pouch, shards of ruby, emerald, diamond, and sapphire shone out on her face. She fished out three diamond chips, the smallest denomination.
Wouldn’t these be way more expensive to produce than the value they represent? How do they even have enough precious gems to go around?
This is exactly the sort of fantasy world-building I hate, where the author has clearly just thrown something into the story because it seems cool or superficially interesting instead of adding to the plot or the setting in any way.
Emeralds were the most valuable, for they could be used by Soulcasters to create food.
Shallan heads to the Conclave to go find what’s her name.
She raised her freehand in a sign of need, and sure enough, a master-servant in a crisp white shirt and black trousers hurried over to her. “Brightness?” he asked, speaking her native Veden, likely because of the color of her hair.
“Brightness” sounds like the sort of cutesy pet name a parent would give their child, so it’s a bit hard to take seriously as a term of respect.
He would be of the second nahn, a darkeyed citizen of very high rank. In Vorin belief, one’s Calling—the task to which one dedicated one’s life—was of
Still don’t care.
Shallan’s own chosen Calling is a scholar of natural history, which is why she’s seeking out Jasnah to become her student.
One book she’d read claimed that Kharbranth had been founded way back into the shadowdays, years before the Last Desolation
The Last Desolation was when the Oath Brigade decided to give up oathing, in case you can’t remember.
Wardship to a woman of great renown was the best way to be schooled in the feminine arts: music, painting, writing, logic, and science. It was much like how a young man would train in the honor guard of a brightlord he respected.
If women hold all of the important positions in society apart from being soldiers why is there still a king? Wouldn’t this place be a matriarchy?
Sometimes, she wondered how it had come to this. She was the quiet one, the timid one, the youngest of five siblings and the only girl.
You were a Joss Whedon-style sassy quipster like five pages ago, where’s all this timid and quiet stuff coming from?
The reason Shallan is so desperate to hook up with Jasnah is that her father died recently, saddling the family with enormous debts. No one else knows he’s dead and she’s desperate to keep anyone (especially his creditors) from finding out.
Before we can actually meet this famous scholar it’s time to see what Kaladin is doing.
4: The Shattered Plains
The windspren is unfortunately talking again.
“The others cry at night,” she said. “But you don’t.”
“Why cry?” he said, leaning his head back against the bars. “What would it change?”
MANTAGONIST DOES NOT CRY
CRYING FOR FEMALES
Kaladin becomes concerned when the wagons don’t stop so they can eat the “slop” they’re given twice a day.
So about that, they’ve been travelling holed up in a wagon in the heat for what appears to be a very long time, with only a ladle-full of water once a day and two large spoonfuls of not terribly nutritious sounding “slop” twice a day for food. Since they’re going to be sold for what I presume will be hard manual labour as slaves you’d think the guy transporting them would have more of a vested interest in keeping them alive and reasonably healthy. As it is I’m amazed they’re even still alive subsisting on such a small amount of water in a hot climate.
Turns out they’re lost. The head slaver with the funky name asks Kaladin if he can help get them on the right path since Alethi armies come this way to fight the not-Africans.
“Let me see the map,” Kaladin said. Tvlakv hesitated, then held it up for Kaladin.
Kaladin reached through the bars and snatched the paper. Then, without reading it, Kaladin ripped it in two. In seconds he’d shredded it into a hundred pieces in front of Tvlakv’s horrified eyes.
I think this is supposed to be cool, but isn’t he possibly damning the rest of the slaves to possibly die of thirst and hunger? They might prefer to go on living, you know.
Tvlakv (the head slaver) assumed Kaladin knows the way and is making himself valuable by destroying the map, but it turns out he’s just being petty. You know that’s actually a pretty good idea. Hell you could probably bargain for your freedom that way, surely Tvlakv would rather let one slave free than risk starving to death.
“Long ago? You cannot be older than eighteen years, deserter.”
It was a good guess. He was nineteen.
Nnnnnnope didn’t buy it with Kvothe and I’m not buying it now. Nice try, Branderson.
Tvlakv tries to badger Kaladin into leading them to safety by convincing him he could still one day be free if he just keeps his head down and stays out of trouble but Kaladin is having none of it.
“I’m finished. I don’t care.”
Well, neither do I then. We don’t have any emotional investment in this character, why should I care that he’s given up? It just makes me wish Branderson would kill him off and switch to someone more interesting.
Kaladin hesitated, then sighed. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I’ve never been this way either.”
Tvlakv frowned. He leaned closer to the cage, inspecting Kaladin, though he still kept his distance. After a moment, Tvlakv shook his head. “I believe you, deserter. A pity. Well, I shall trust my memory. The map was poorly rendered anyway. I am almost glad you ripped it, for I was tempted to do the same myself.
Then what the fuck was the point of this whole scene?
Some time later a Highstorm rolls through, which scares everyone because of the all the Stormlight and the Stormfather and the Stormwall Storm Storm Storm Stormity Storm Storm.
Sorry, where was I?
The storm dies down, allowing all sorts of interesting flora and fauna to emerge from their hiding places.
Tiny lights rose around the plants. Lifespren.
“Lifespren”? Shouldn’t there be millions of those all over the place?
The windspren comes back and announces that they’re close to a settlement of some kind.
Should he care? It didn’t matter where he was a slave; he’d still be a slave. He’d accepted this life. That was his way now. Don’t care, don’t bother.
I’ll do it Branderson, I swear to God.
Turns out Tlakv is bringing them to an Alethi army made up of the king’s own regiments. If you recall this is the sort of place Kaladin had wanted to go originally so, like, irony I guess.
The slaves are happy about this since they’ll be subject to Alethi law and required to be paid a meagre wage for their labours. Unless they’re
black parshmen of course.
Under previous masters, he’d demanded his wages be given to him. They had always found ways to cheat him—charging him for his housing, his food. That’s how lighteyes were. Roshone, Amaram, Katarotam…Each lighteyes Kaladin had known, whether as a slave or a free man, had shown himself to be corrupt to the core, for all his outward poise and beauty. They were like rotting corpses clothed in beautiful silk.
That’s actually a pretty nice simile. You get a gold star, Branderson! But I’ve taken away 20 already for various reasons so now you have -19.
Kaladin entertains the idea of actually managing to stop moping and start becoming an interesting protagonist. God, I hope so.