Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 8

[Since I only did one Way of Kings chapter last time I decided to do the second one today instead of switching to Wizard’s First Rule]

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

8: Nearer The Flame

Jasnah tells Shallan to get lost. How will our spunky, rebellious, determined heroine react to this setback?

“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” Shallan whispered, clutching her satchel and leaving with as much dignity as she could manage. She barely kept the tears of embarrassment and disappointment from her eyes as she hastened down the hallway, feeling like a complete fool.

Oh. Well, that sure had a point.

After this she huddles over in a stairwell to have a good cry.

Angry people unsettled her. She couldn’t help but think of her father in one of his tirades, couldn’t help but hear screams, bellows, and whimpers. Was she weak because confrontation unsettled her so? She felt that she was.

Okay seriously, I am getting major mixed signals when it comes to this character. I’ve already written about how her personality seems to vacillate between two extremes between paragraphs; I think I’m finding this so jarring because her parts of the story are grounded so heavily in her own voice. It’s not just that she’s being described in contradictory ways, which could be interpreted as a character throwing up a veneer of confidence to hide their actual nature, it’s that she’s describing herself in contradictory ways and the text supports both of these positions at different times.

Also, I can’t help but notice that Shallan is virtually identical to the protagonist of Mistborn, who was also shy, naive and timid apart from occasional moments where the book randomly tried to make her seem like a badass.

Just as the pity party is in full swing a servant comes over to say that Jasnah wants to speak to Shallan again. This is turning into a rather circuitous plot thread.

Earlier Shallan put some of her crystal orb things (which, remember, are used as currency) into a lamp for illumination, which is kind of like stuffing dollar bills into a plug socket to make a lamp work and comes across as one of those ideas Branderson put in just to make his fantasy setting seem cool and unique but okay, whatever. Jasnah just called Shallan in to collect her orb-money, but Shallan asks her to read the letter.

 I will allow you to petition me again at a later date, a privilege I have never given any aspiring ward.

And this time she’ll say yes, right? Right?

Unfortunately she expects Shallan to go brush up on the subjects she’s weak at before coming back, which could take years, so Shallan wanders off despondently and runs into the ship captain, Yalb, who brought her to the city.

Yalb has been gambling and can…. see the future? Because of a “sphere” that Shallan gave her? Was this already addressed and I just forgot about it?

“I’m disappointed in you. This is not proper behavior.”

Stop being so fucking boring, Shallan.

Mr. Ship Captain guy is another ROFLwacky character whose dialogue I won’t bother describing because he makes me want to stick my head in an industrial shredder but what it boils down to is that Shallan decides to go and persuade Jasnah. Again.

For this she needs to visit a book shop.

Yalb didn’t enter with her; she’d noticed that many men were uncomfortable around books and reading, even those who weren’t Vorin.

….Which means women must run this society, right? Right? Hello? Is this thing on?

“Ah,” he said, clapping ample hands, “dear young woman. Are you in the market for a nice novel? Some leisure reading to pass the cruel hours while you are separated from a lost love? Or perhaps a book on geography, with details of exotic locations?”


He would handle the money; commerce was a masculine art in most situations.

This doesn’t make any sense

To be fair I don’t think it was explicitly stated that maths is reserved for women, but you’re really telling me men are in charge of commerce even though they can’t read, or need to pretend they can’t in polite society? How have the women in this world not risen up and overthrown these jokers thousands of years ago? Why isn’t the continent of Whatever wall to wall matriarchies right now?

Wait, that sounds like a totally awesome idea for a fantasy series, someone go write that.

Branderson decides that Shallan should transform into her alternate persona now so she suddenly drops the meek and timid stuff and starts running verbal rings around the shopkeeper movie-Mark Zuckerberg style.

It was just what her nurses had warned her about. A young woman had to mind her words.

This culture is so alien and different from our own when it comes to gender norms, yes indeed.

Shallan gets some fancy-pants academic books.

“I have to admit, I’ve never had any of her work read to me. I didn’t realize that there were any Shin philosophers of note.”

This is the (male) shopkeeper speaking. Either his wife or a female servant- in this society where all scholarship is in the hands of women- reads to him, and yet he’s the one who owns the shop and deals with customers. Branderson has managed to create a world where women have all the education and men need to have books read to them as if they were young children and still managed to put the men on top.

A philosopher from distant Shin, where people lived in mud and worshipped rocks?

I’m really going to enjoy any future chapters set in this place, aren’t I?

The man who had killed Jasnah’s father nearly six years before—prompting the war against the Parshendi in Natanatan—had been Shin. The Assassin in White, they called him.

Oh ho ho

So presumably Jasnah is trying to discover the “most important thing a man should know” or whatever instead of his son.

Shallan is almost in the heart-racing scenario of almost only being able to afford some of the books instead of all of them (does this remind anyone of Kvothe’s many monetary adventures?) but then Yalb rushes in and pretends to have a better offer from someone else to make the shopkeeper drop his prices.

After getting the books Shallan gets an alcove back at the big library and puts her plan into effect: user her photographic memory to absorb a whole lot of information in a relatively short amount of time and impress Jasnah!

Be still, my heart.

But just then Jasnah enters! Again!

“Your house has many enemies,” Jasnah continued, “and your father is reclusive. It will be difficult for you to marry well without a tactically sound alliance.”

Or she could get a job. You know, in this world where women oh fuck it

Anyway Jasnah looks through her drawings and decides spur of the moment to take her on as a ward. That only took about two chapter longer than it needed to, I’m impressed with Branderson’s restraint.






23 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 8

  1. dollsgarden

    >Also, I can’t help but notice that Shallan is virtually identical to the protagonist of Mistborn, who was also shy, naive and timid apart from occasional moments where the book randomly tried to make her seem like a badass.

    Ohhh, fuck you, Branderson. Fuck you very much. You didn’t even try, did you?

  2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    I hear that Branderson’s Mormonism leaks into his stories and I wonder if that is a trend that has increased or decreased over time. Perhaps the Parshmen (or whatever) are an attempt to include the-until very recently-idea that people with dark skin are cursed by God. How long before we hear the virtues of plural marriage? Will I stop going after low hanging fruit?

    1. Austin H. Williams

      “Jasnah donned the sacred garments and pulled out her Soulstone. Divineguidancespreens leapt out from it. ‘Put the soulstone to your eye,’ one of them suggested.

      “She looked at the plates that were her father’s last gift to her. Appearing in writing then was the mystic language, Ægyptus reformitus. Jasnah gasped aloud as all truth became clear to her.”

    2. ronanwills Post author

      I actually didn’t know Branderson was Mormon.

      I’m not familiar enough with the religion to recognise if that’s evident in his writing (apparently Twilight is full of Mormon theology but it went right over my head) so if anyone else notices it please point out in the comments.

      1. Austin H. Williams

        I’ll give Branderson this much: I never had a clue he was a Mormon from his books.

        Actually, considering the treatment he gives to dogmatism in Mistborn and how he seems to be setting up Jasnah’s beliefs in this book, I had him pegged for a Skeptic®. The fact that he is Mormon and then still puts these strawman anti-religious themes in his stories raises my eyebrows. Either he’s got some pretty severe issues with his own beliefs, or he is a master of hitting all the right notes to ingratiate himself to the dude-bras of fandom.

        If it’s the latter, I’m at least tempted to applaud the chutzpah.

      2. braak

        Yeah, there is some speculation that the reason why Orson Scott Card was an early advocate for Branderson’s work is that they are both in The Mormon Club.

      3. braak

        But, contrarywise, the SF/F industry is weird and incestuous, and Card is a dumb asshole, so it’s not like he’d NEED to be in the same club to talk up some substandard work.

  3. Al

    This is the second time in these that a gender or race swap has come up as an interesting basis for a story, but seriously, I’d like to caution people about that kind of thing – if you make that the focus, it’s probably going to 1) be very boring and 2) it’s realllly easy to screw it up. I’m not saying that these kinds of setups couldn’t be an important element of a story, I’m saying going “weeeeeeird it’s all reversed!” can’t be all you want to say with it, and in fact saying something really new and deep with that kind of story is way harder than it might first appear.

  4. BDG

    It has always bothered me that people hold up Branderson up as some holy-warrior of world building. He’s simply objectively not, and it’s even more irritating when he does have decent ideas but pairs those neat thoughts with regressive social conventions of his worldview.

    This world I’ve seen many people hold up as a pinnacle of world build but to be honest its really nothing more than a 80s fantasy with a kind of cool ecology at times. The cultures, characters, and tropes are anything but innovative.

    1. Signatus

      I think he has some neat CGI, but that’s about it. The glowy ball coins give nice imagery, but that’s all they are when Sanderson has demonstrated to have such a weak grasp of economy.

    1. Signatus

      That was a really interesting read and covered many aspects I didn’t know. I have wanted to try my hand at fantasy, but I feel I’m not educated enough to try create a full, credible world out of my own imagination. I have ideas, I just don’t believe they’re good enough.
      This has been a fantastic aid to understand how folklore works and behaves, and best of all, bibliography. 🙂

  5. Signatus

    I used to know someone in a forum who was sort of like Shallan. She would be a true bitch, or the most compassionate and sensitive person in the world, which was kind of annoying after a while since she would agree with you at one point, and disagree in a rather offensive way at others (concerning the very same topic).
    Shallan reminds me of her. I can understand getting a breakdown and crying upon being deceived, even the strongest person can have those moments and Shallan has worked long a hard to achieve this goal. But being told that it is all because her father used to scream? Come on! Can’t people just have emotions without having suffered some childhood trauma? Geez!

    Oh, yeah, I’m getting rapidly tired of this character and this sidequest. I was confident she would be deffinitely rejected because that would be original, and it would make Jashna a much sounder character, who follows her convinctions to the end. But no!
    She accepted Shallan as a ward after, how many chapters? More than it deserved, that’s for sure!

  6. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

    This thing of giving women all the intellectual talents but still letting men run things sounds like the type of crap social conservatives like Mormons come up with when trying to convince people that the idea that women belong in the home with men as heads of household is so not sexist! “See, we just couldn’t do without the ladies’ talents at cooking and taking care of children! Those are just as important as things men do!” This last always said in an insincere tone as none of these men would look at having to do “women’s work” themselves as anything but a personal setback and comedown in status.


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