Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 7

[Just one chapter this time. Updates might be sparse for a bit as I am currently suffering horrendous back pain that makes sitting down to type difficult]

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

7: Anything Reasonable

I’m liking these chapter titles a lot more than the Kvothe ones.

We’re back to Shallan again, running through the poorly described corridors of the Whatever. I meant to talk about this last time, but Branderson is really bad at giving any sense of place- Mistborn takes place in a wacky world where ash constantly rains from the sky but you’d think all the action was happening in London for all the attention the writing pays to it. I think this book is even worse, though. In Shallan’s last chapter the King’s grand-daughter gets no description beyond “a small girl”, doesn’t speak and has no discernible reaction to being trapped behind a cave-in and then rescued by a cool wizard and thus I can’t help but imagine her standing completely lifeless, gazing into space while these things happen.

Branderson seems to pump these things out amazingly fast, and I guess this is how he cuts corners.

There are some parshmen cleaning the soot off the walls from Jasnah’s magic.

As a child, she’d found the patterns of their marbled skin beautiful. That had been before her father forbade her to spend any time with the parshmen.

Oh you poor rich white girl.

Still really not sure what the fuck is supposed to be going on with these people, I hope we get a POV from one of them eventually.

She turned her mind to her task. How was she going to convince Jasnah Kholin, one of the most powerful women in the world, to change her mind about taking Shallan as a ward?

And more importantly how many chapters is it going to take?

We learn that Shallan’s father had been using his secret soulcaster to create marble deposits at strategically timed intervals to keep the family wealth steady (hey, someone using one of these things for a sensible application) and Shallan is planning on doing the same thing once she steals Jasnah’s.

All to give her time to make good on her bold plan. Find Jasnah Kholin. Become her ward. Learn where she kept her Soulcaster. Then replace it with the nonfunctional one.
With the fabrial, they’d be able to make new quarries and restore their wealth.

Okay, I’m fairly sure if Jasnah’s soulcaster mysteriously stops working at the same time as you suddenly run off back home and then a few weeks or months or whatever later your family starts being rich again she’s going to put two and two together.

Shallan goes to the Palanaeum to read some books at the huge library there but it costs a lot to get in so instead she sits and waits for Jasnah again.

 She felt like a child again, locked in her room, not allowed to run through the gardens because of her father’s paranoid fears.

She’s so spunky and rebellious you guys

She could run in. Sneak through—

No. Her brothers teased her for being too timid, but it was not timidity that held her back.

No I’m fairly sure it’s timidity.

Change Jasnah’s mind, prove herself. Considering it made her sick. She hated confrontation. During her youth, she’d felt like a piece of delicate crystalware, locked in a cabinet to be displayed but never touched.

Okay, Branderson, is she supposed to be a delicate hothouse flower or a sassy rebel with a razor wit? Because either could theoretically be interesting but you can’t seem to make up your mind and it’s getting very jarring.

Shallan is almost overcome with memories of the day her father died, which sound intriguingly mysterious:

Memories attacked her. Nan Balat bruised, his coat torn. A long, silvery sword in her hand, sharp enough to cut stones as if they were water.

I can empathise with you Shallan, my unpleasant memories often cut out at just the right point to create maximum intrigue as well.

Shallan needs to come up with some way to woo Jasnah so she clears her mind by drawing, since as we’ve established being an artist is her only personality trait. To be fair to Branderson her description of the act of drawing does actually sound like it’s coming from familiarity, possibly even first hand experience.

She was always more excited by drawing animals and people than she was by drawing things. There was something energizing about putting a living creature onto the page.

I agree with this, mainly because drawing architecture is a royal pain in the ass and leaves almost no wiggle room for error.

Shallan’s drawing brings all the creationspren to the yard, which seems like it would get really annoying but maybe that’s just me.

 Soft charcoal for deep, thick blackness, like Jasnah’s beautiful hair.

If you tell Jasnah you want to have sex with her, that might make her reconsider. It’s worth a shot.

 Shallan knew, with the intuitive certainty of an artist, that this was one of the finest pieces she had ever done.

Yeah, artists themselves are actually very bad at evaluating their own work (just like fantasy authors!) and tend to either massively over-estimate or under-estimate its quality, sometimes simultaneously.

Who was Jasnah Kholin? Not one to be cowed, certainly. She was a woman to the bone, master of the feminine arts, but not by any means delicate.

So, okay, wait. This makes it sound like in this world “feminine” is stereo-typically associated with determination and steeliness and the other qualities that in our world tend to be associated with masculinity, but if that’s the case why clarify that she’s not delicate? And wouldn’t Shallan with her wet blanket personality then be viewed as kind of strange, in the same way that an effeminate guy or a tomboyish woman would be in real life?

Through drawing her Shallan somehow figures out that Jasnah appreciates determination and will listen to another request (if this turns out to be a secret test I swear to God).

Jasnah was also a rationalist, a woman with the audacity to deny the existence of the Almighty himself based on her own reasoning.

You’re living in a world with magic coming out the ass, I’d love to see what line of reasoning led her to the conclusion that this particular supernatural entity is fake.

Shallan starts writing a letter that she hopes will impress Jasnah.

The facts are embarrassing. I have had few tutors and virtually no education. My stepmother tried, but she had no education herself. It is a carefully guarded secret, but many of the rural Veden houses ignore the proper training of their women.

That makes absolutely no sense, in fact in this world it should be the men who aren’t educated.

Branderson is doing something here that I really hate in speculative and historical fiction, which is to create a world with attitudes and social norms different from our own but then twist the story into a pretzel trying to explain why the protagonist thinks and acts more or less just like someone from the author’s own time and culture. Here it’s to impose the regressive notions of our own culture on a fantasy setting that really shouldn’t have them but more often it’s to avoid dealing with the regressive ideas of the past or a secondary creation so you tend to get this a lot in stories set in, say, the antebellum south where the author is writing a character who would have been totally racist but is uncomfortable with actually portraying them that way, so they end up being the magical special snowflake exception.

I have learned has come by way of great personal struggle. What others were handed, I had to hunt. I believe that because of this, my education—limited though it is—has extra worth and merit.

Hmmmm.

I get what point Shallan is trying to make here, and certainly a self-made education in the face of adversity speaks highly of her character; but at the same time if you were hiring for a job the person who was more qualified really should be the one who gets it, regardless of how easy it was for them to reach that point. In fact it’s worse because this is more like a PhD student position, where a degree or some recognition of merit from an authority is important to vet candidates. I think degrees tent to get  a bad rap but the truth is as flawed a system as that might be it still serves a useful function to ensure people aren’t just bullshitting and claiming they have skills and knowledge they don’t actually possess. For all Jasnah knows Shallan could just be lying through her teeth here, whereas if she had passed formal exams or had a letter of recommendation from a tutor that would mean a whole lot more.

I assure you that one of those two will prize your teachings far more than the other.

This is also not necessarily true or even relevant. I’m guessing Jasnah is looking for someone who’s easy to work with and diligent more than someone with a passion for whatever it is they’re going to be studying.

Before she can finish her letter an “ardent” comes in and also wants to wait for Jasnah. I think Ardents might be sort of like wizards? I don’t know there are like six different types of magic in this world and I’m getting confused.

Actually this would be a good time to mention that apart from a few shared elements like the spren and Parshmen and occasional mentions of Shardblades and background lore these two story threads may as well be taking place in completely different universes. I really have to squint to see how Shallan and Kaladin’s arcs are going to connect in any way.

He was tall and lean, and—she decided with slight discomfort—rather handsome.

Here now, I’m already shipping you with Jasnah, stop noticing other people.

Her father had owned only three ardents, all elderly men. They had traveled his lands and visited the villages, ministering to the people, helping them reach Points in their Glories and Callings. She had their faces in her collection of portraits.

the

fuck

Are Glories and Callings like RPG skill trees? Do you get a Point every time you level up?

Also Ardents are priests, apparently.

“By Vedeledev’s golden keys, Brightness!” Brother Kabsal said, seating himself. “Did Jasnah Kholin teach you this skill with the pencil?”

I seriously don’t know how fantasy authors write this stuff with a straight face.

Unfortunately Brother Kabsal is supposed to be a ROFLOLwacky character, so he chuckles and cracks jokes and is zany and generally acts like Branderson borrowed him from Rothfuss.

Shallan found herself laughing at the ardent’s expression, and she took a Memory of him sitting there, admiration and perplexity blending on his face as he studied the picture, rubbing his bearded chin with one finger.

Shallan’s Memories (capital M) have come up a few times, which I think is supposed to imply she’s got a photographic memory or something. I think I would have mentioned that to Jasnah.

Brother Kabsal is there to try and convert Jasnah as a kind of level 5 Monk quest and asks Shallan to tell Jasnah he was there.

Is there anything you’re fond of? Other than respecting ardents and drawing amazing pictures, that is?”

“Jam.”

watsonsm

Just before the chapter ends Brother Wacky leaves and Jasnah enters dramatically, looking displeased. Will our heroine manage to sway her???

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11 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 7

  1. Fibinachi

    It remains just as consistently amazing throughout the rest of this book. I think I mentioned it earlier – there is a bit wherein people discuss historical teatrises and make a few comments on the fact that throughout the ages, women have included small extra bits of information in those books to shed light on the actual events at the time (as opposed to whatever the person they were quoting was saying).

    Women literally have authorial and editorial control over history in this World, yet… still bottom rung.

    sigh.

    Reply
  2. Austin H. Williams

    Okay, I’m fairly sure if Jasnah’s soulcaster mysteriously stops working at the same time as you suddenly run off back home and then a few weeks or months or whatever later your family starts being rich again she’s going to put two and two together.

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Depending on the page count his editors demanded, he could potentially blow this up to hundreds of pages.

    Idiot-ball driven plots are an essential of modern fantasy, doncherknow.

    ***

    So, okay, wait. This makes it sound like in this world “feminine” is stereo-typically associated with determination and steeliness and the other qualities that in our world tend to be associated with masculinity, but if that’s the case why clarify that she’s not delicate? And wouldn’t Shallan with her wet blanket personality then be viewed as kind of strange, in the same way that an effeminate guy or a tomboyish woman would be in real life?

    BRANDERSON: Halp! Halp! I’ve got this Titanium gender box that I live in, but I’m accidentally writing a story that takes place outside of it! Wat do!?!?

    ***

    Jasnah was also a rationalist, a woman with the audacity to deny the existence of the Almighty himself based on her own reasoning.

    /wallbang

    Reply
  3. Austin H. Williams

    It seems like Sanderson didn’t have a clear idea of where this character was going when he began writing, and has been changing his mind along the way.

    Many authors have a tendency to describe characters in certain ways, yet the character keeps behaving in different ways. The way Qvothe was self described as eloquent, yet couldn’t convince a starving child to take a loaf o bread. I wonder whether they don’t have a clear idea of what their characters are like, or their plot planning (if there is, something I highly doubt with Rothfuss) never takes into account how their characters are supposed to behave.

    The applicable trope is informed attribute..

    I was personally thinking, what if Branderson was actually aware of these inconsistencies, and instead of making another generic badass with generic (and informed) flaws, he used this tension between how characters perceive themselves and how they actually are to create an engaging, character-driven plot? Y’know, as opposed to yet another fantasy book by a writer who can’t create a consistent, let alone original, character?

    I imagine Rothfuss tries to swing for this at points in his books, but instead of actual character development, we have Kvothe exchanging one set of self-aggrandising delusions for a set of self-deprecating delusions, both serving to reinforce how precious and special he is and badass he is.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      Would have been an interesting idea to consider, if Shallan was not changing her opinion about her own personality each three paragraphs. First she said she was fowl mouthed because her brothers and the sailors something, then she was a delicate, timid orchid under spring’s first rays, then she was an artist, and then her true calling is science and research, even though she hasn’t shown any interest whatsoever in scientific research.

      I happen to know delusional people like that, and it is actually a pretty interesting concept to write about. 😛

      Reply
      1. Austin H. Williams

        “Would have been an interesting idea to consider, if Branderson was not changing his opinion about his character’s personality each three paragraphs.”

        I fixed that for you.

        And I concur. Delusional and flawed characters are interesting. I also think that plots incorporating how delusional and flawed characters confront reality and develop (or regress…) in the face of it are also interesting.

        But what’s more interesting than either of those? Well, obviously it’s having a total, self-made badass who can do ALL TEH THINGS proving themselves against a system set up against them.

        Especially if it involves an educational arrangement of some sort. Hm.

        Reply
      2. Signatus

        Lol! Yeah, seems like the story of how someone honestly works his way up to grandeur through effort and talent is not as interesting as going against all odds to prove the system is flawed or whatever.
        I’d rather read about normal people, adults who behave like adults and teens behaving like teens, but I guess I’m weir like that. 😄

        Reply
  4. Signatus

    I wish you a fast recovery. Back pains can be terrible.

    I’m not totally displeased with this story arch. The fact that Shallan is actually trying to steal the artifact for her family’s sake is pretty original. However, everything is taking way too long to happen. It’s pretty obvious Shallan will manage to become Jasnha’s apprentice, why spend five or six chapters on it?

    Anyways, I’m having a hard time portraying the girl as timid when she hasn’t shown a single sign of timidity in all the chapters she’s been in. It seems like Sanderson didn’t have a clear idea of where this character was going when he began writing, and has been changing his mind along the way.
    Many authors have a tendency to describe characters in certain ways, yet the character keeps behaving in different ways. The way Qvothe was self described as eloquent, yet couldn’t convince a starving child to take a loaf o bread. I wonder whether they don’t have a clear idea of what their characters are like, or their plot planning (if there is, something I highly doubt with Rothfuss) never takes into account how their characters are supposed to behave.

    Reply
    1. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

      I see this with a lot of contemporary male authors, especially white American ones. They use words that describe behavior that they never actually show their characters engaging in. So they’ll have a “timid” character actually be proactive (a real timid character wouldn’t have run away from home on some scheme to steal from a wizard, at most they’d be the reluctantly dragged-along sidekick), an “eloquent” person actually seems as inarticulate as the average bro-dude, and so on. I can’t come up with a reason for this other than “privilege makes you stupid.”

      Reply

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