Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 9 – 10

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

9: Damnation

Back to Kaladin, who is busy discovering the fact that War is Hell. It’s kind of funny that he never realized that in all of his days as a professional soldier, apparently going through multiple battles with the idea of war as a heroic adventure full of glory and courage intact. Take a look at some of the poetry that came out of World War I for a vivid reminder of how quickly that opinion tends to disintegrate in real life.

average bridge crews often lost one-third to one-half of their number on a single run.

I’m still convinced that there would surely be a more efficient way to do this. And where the hell are they even getting replacements for all the guys who get shot full of arrows during every battle?

“Kaladin?” Syl asked, floating down and landing on his leg, holding the girlish form with the long dress flowing into mist.

The book keeps mentioning that Syl can take different forms, but as far as I can tell every form is more or less the same.

Kaladin wallows in self-pity some more. We’re clearly supposed to feel bad for him, and his situation is indeed horrific, so I don’t know why I just get annoyed by this. I think it’s because Branderson is trying just a bit too hard; I quickly get impatient when authors keep telling me what to feel about a situation instead of just letting me come to my own conclusion.

The old Kaladin might have wondered why the armies didn’t work harder to defend the bridges. There’s something wrong here! a voice inside him said. You’re missing part of the puzzle. They waste resources and bridgeman lives. They don’t seem to care about pushing inward and assaulting the Parshendi. They just fight pitched battles on plateaus, then come back to the camps and celebrate. Why? WHY?

Yes, why indeed. Let’s have more of this instead of Kaladin being a sad woobie panda.

Syl mentions that she used to “watch him fight”, which is impossible since she only met him after he was enslaved. But Kaladin only wonders about this for a second, because there’s more wallowing to be done.

Eventually even Syl gets fed up with him and flies off, saying that she might come back at some point.

Anyway more bridge runs, more people get killed, Kaladin wants ti protect everyone but BUT HE CAN’T OH WOE IS HIM.

Blood dripped from the tip of an arrow sticking out his back. It fell, one ruby drop at a time, splattering on the boy’s open, lifeless eye. A little trail of red ran from the eye down the side of his face. Like crimson tears.

Okay, we get it, now can we please get to the point where Kaladin decides to do something?

10: Stories of Surgeons

That’s a weird title. Maybe Kaladin becomes a field medic or something?

NINE YEARS AGO

Oh.

It’s time to find out all about ten year old Kaladin (reminding me once again how unrealistic it is that this dude is supposed to be only nineteen in the present).

Kaladin’s dad is a surgeon and is about to operate on a woman who’s been drugged with some sort of old-timey anesthetic. Kaladin is there to watch for some reason. Maybe his dad wants him to follow in his footsteps or something.

She wore only a white cotton shift, her safehand exposed. Older boys in the town sniggered about the chances they’d had—or claimed to have had—at seeing girls in their shifts, but Kal didn’t understand what the excitement was all about. He was worried about Sani, though. He always worried when someone was wounded.

Because Kaladin cares about people you see, unlike those uncouth non-protagonists who like to ogle girls.

Come on Branderson, let your characters be human and drop this super-special pure hearted nonsense.

While Kaladin is washing his hands he and his dad sit around telling each other things they already know in order to fill in some of what happened after the Oath guys stopped Oathing: they had formed an order of knights called the Radiants, who turned on humanity after they left.

The woman they’re operating on had her hand mangled somehow, and Kaladin’s dad amputates a finger. The whole spren thing gets a slightly interesting angle here, as it turns out people in this world know that soap and water prevents infection because it “scares away” rotspren. They don’t know the actual underlying mechanism of infection and believe that the spren themselves are causing it.

Caring too much can be a problem? Kal thought back at his father.

It can be a problem when it turns you into a moody bastard later in life.

Kaladn says he wants to be a soldier and a short soldiers vs surgeons argument ensues. Kaladin’s dad comes across as by far the more sensible of the two until he dismisses wholesale the idea that it might ever be necessary to kill people in order to save lives. Essentially you have boilerplate fantasy hero “I must be a manly man and protect people” (how much of a virtuous snowflake is Kaladin that he was already obsessed with saving people as a child) contrasted with overly-idealistic pacifism, both of which are pretty shallow and pointless ways of looking at things.

Kaladin’s dad announces that he’s been saving money for years so he can sent Kaladin to Kharbranth (the city Shallan is in now) to train as a proper surgeon when he turns sixteen. Evidently that didn’t work out for some reason.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Way of Kings ch. 9 – 10

  1. E. Kimble (@myrioddity)

    What I’ve noticed about the Way of Kings is that all its heroes (except Shallan) are purportedly Oh So Brilliant at violence but loathe anything that has to do with it. So Kaladin’s this A+++ soldier, but he only truly wants to ~help people~; Dalinar’s an excellent soldier and respected general but despite coming from a “war = honor” nobility is super disillusioned with it and wants to end the war ASAP, and Szeth (book-blurb: “the assassin who weeps as he kills”) has a vast assortment of murder skills and commits murder better than anyone around, but he only commits all this murder because he’s forced into it by his vows as a Whatever from Wherever.

    One reluctant killer per ensemble cast is kind of enough for me. Three’s pushing it. If you want to write action scenes, write action scenes, but it’s a stretch to try and populate them with people who hate combat but who just so happen to be extremely good at it anyway.

    Reply
    1. braak

      It does raise a pretty important question, too, which is how do you get to be so good at violence if you don’t practice all the time? And if you hate violence so much, why do you spend so much time practicing it?

      Reply
      1. Reveen

        Of course, a good solution would be to have the characters be gung-ho at the start and gradually realize the horrors of war when they’re confronted with the aftermath of their cool magic action scenes and these privileged characters have to deal with the consequences of their actions for once.

        But that would require elegance and subtlety, two volatile substances banned by the Fantasy Writers Moot. Better to just have the characters outright spout the message so you don’t have to do any real thinking about it that detracts from the oh so interesting worldbuilding.

        Reply
  2. Reveen

    So we’re really putting war is hell in the forefront here, huh? Seems inconsistent in a series with a magic system geared towards producing badass video game fight scenes and with the enemies being a fantasy race of orcs/black people we’re not supposed to give a shit about that the whitedudes can have heroic stands against. Nice try Solid Sanderson.

    Reply
  3. Signatus

    The whole bridge thing is a very stupid way to go about things. They way these people are treated does not help to make things efficiently. It seems like you have to show how miserable everyone is by putting them through a living hell of survival (once again, coming from middle class, white men, who have as much knowledge about human beings in survival mode as they have knowledge about how economy works).
    The thing I wonder is how this reckless people evolved from stone age to begin with, and didn’t made themselves extinct somehow. Everything they do makes as much sense as using coins as a light source.
    Do they treat their labor animals as badly as they treat their labor humans? Or are they an evil nation that treats animals better than they treat humans?

    Anyways, I like the father. Can we read that guy’s story instead?

    Reply

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