Let’s Read Way of Kings ch. 16-17

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

16: Cocoons

We’re back in The Past, following Kaladin as a child again. I bet you thought that was going to be a once-off thing, didn’t you?

Kaladin (or Kal, here) is talking to a friend called Laral about his dad sending him to Kharbranth to be a surgeon. I have a feeling this will be a clumsy way of explaining Kaladin’s I-must-save-everyone thing.

He and Laral were atop a low ridge of boulders to the east of Hearthstone.

This blog post was sponsored by Activision Blizzard

Laral is a lighteyes and implies that darkeyes like Kaladin can actually become lighteyed, presumably though some sort of pokemon-like evolution. She implies it’s connected with winning a Shardblade somehow. The whole lighteyes/darkeyes thing has such little effect on the plot beyond just being fantasy window dressing I keep forgetting it’s even there.

Kal is at That Age which means it’s time to tackle puberty, a complex and sensitive topic that Branderson handles with the grace of a sledgehammer.

More and more, Kal found that he liked looking at Laral. Kal knew, logically, what was happening to him. His father had explained the process of growing with the precision of a surgeon. But there was so much feeling involved, emotions that his father’s sterile descriptions hadn’t explained. Some of those emotions were about Laral and the other girls of the town.

What is this human emotion you call horniness love

Maybe this is just my experience, but did anyone actually need to have the concept of “you are now finding certain people attractive” explained to them? Isn’t that something people just sort of…. know?

Laral tells Kaladin that the Origin (this blog post was sponsored by EA) is out there beyond their town. It’s the place where Highstorms originate and she wants him to man up and be a soldier because they have a noble tradition of being badasses.

Father says we’re here to be a windbreak for more timid lands to the west.” She turned to him. “We’ve got a noble heritage, Kal, darkeyes and light-eyes alike. That’s why the best warriors have always been from Alethkar. Highprince Sadeas, General Amaram…King Gavilar himself.

This is totally how twelve year olds speak, yes indeed.

(I’m just assuming here that “twelve weepings” means twelve years based on the just-hit-puberty thing)

Speaking of which, Kaladin’s desire to go to war and be a soldier is also being fuelled by some very adult-sounding motives:

He felt that by being a soldier, he could change things. Really change them. A part of him dreamed of going to war, of protecting Alethkar, of fighting alongside heroic lighteyes. Of doing good someplace other than a little town that nobody important ever visited.

As opposed to dude I’m gonna get paid to fucking stab people which was about as sophisticated as my motives would have gotten at that age.

Also, he appears to be suffering from chronic depression or something similar. Which sucks, but I really never get the sense that adult Kaladin, even as he’s preparing to hurl himself off a cliff, has anything more than a case of the blues due to how ineptly this thing is written.

Another pal of Kaladin’s named Tien (actually his brother) arrives and after showing Kaladin a glowy fantasy-rock they go off to hunt lurgs. This is what came up on Google image search when I typed in “lurgs”:


Not just the dirtier- the dirtiest.

They manage to find a lurg, which is like a thing, and Kaladin wistfully remembers when this used to be more exciting, burnt out and world-weary old soul that he is. He also talks to Tian like they’re years apart in age even though Tian is ten and Kaladin is twelve.

Laral seems super enthusiastic about the idea of Kaladin becoming  a lighteyes, but Kaladin is clueless and doesn’t get why.

There’s some more waffling and fantasy world building bullshit and characters repeating things and eventually, after an age, something happens.

Kaladin and Laral spot some older boys not working in the field like they should and head off to investigate. It turns out one of the things that they harvest grain from isn’t growing properly and sssppsjajsjsjjzzzzzzzz

Sorry, where were we? Okay. The older boys want to know about darkeyes becoming lighteyes, and they resent Kaladin because he’s a rich darkeyes and not like them and gffffhhhuuuggzzzzzzzzz

Woah sorry, here we go. Laral says that anyone who wins a Shardblade becomes lighteyed.

“That’s right,” Laral said. “Everybody knows it. Even a slave could become a lighteyes if he won a Shardblade.”

slave, you say? Why, isn’t young Kaladin a slave right now in the story’s present?

W h a t  a  c o i n c i d e n c e

You get a Shardblade by killing it’s bearer. Hey let’s hear some more authentic twelve year old dialogue:

“She’s right, Jost. There weren’t any Shardbearers there—just Reshi raiders who thought they’d take advantage of the new king. They’ve never had any Shardblades. If your father saw one, he must be remembering incorrectly.”


“Er, sure,” Kal said quickly. “I’m not saying he’s lying, Jost. He just might have some trauma-induced hallucinations, or something like that.”

That Branderson is a hell of a writer, let me tell you.

One of the older kids challenges Kaladin to a fight and while he ultimately loses he of course he gets a moment of badassery despite being a scrawny bookworm who literally states that he’s never used a quarterstaff before in his life because it “just feels right”.

Laral walks off and leaves him when he loses and Kaladin begs the boy he was fighting to teach him to fight. The boy refuses and Kaladin’s budding man-emotions are hurt because he man-lost a man-fight and I don’t give a shit about any of this let’s just skip it:

Someone important dies and Kaladin does a lot of moping about His Path and what Path he’ll walk and I guess it’s supposed to be dramatic even though this is a flashback and we fucking know what his Path is going to be because we already read it. Since nothing that’s introduced in this chapter gets resolved (hell, nothing actually happens in it) I’m guessing we’re going to be returning to younger Kaladin at least once more.

17: A Bloody, Red Sunset

Back in The Present, Kaladin is buying medical supplies (oh do you see the bitter irony) for his bridgecrew and it’s really expensive. This takes a very long time and everyone talks a lot.

He now knew about the chrysalises on the plateaus, the gemhearts they contained, and the competition between the highprinces

It’s awfully convenient that Kaladin doesn’t find this out until we do. Hell, it’s almost like the author was just making shit up as he went along!

“People are discord,” Syl said.

Ugh fuck off Syl. We seem to be transitioning straight from one type of annoying personality into another.

“You all act differently and think differently. Nothing else is like that—animals act alike

I don’t think Syl has been around many animals.

 All the world does as it is supposed to, except for humans. Maybe that’s why you so often want to kill each other

It’s time to play what’s that fallacy!


I don’t know whether Branderson actually believes this- let’s be charitable and assume he doesn’t- but it’s a common enough theme for would-be philosophers to prattle on about. It’s also complete bullshit.

Any statement about human beings being inherently flawed or not doing what we’re “supposed to” is presupposing a lot of ideas of questionable veracity, chief among them that humans are somehow capable of being “outside” of nature and the natural world.

First off, this is factually inaccurate any way you look at it. We’ve known for a long time now that we come from the exact same place as all other species on the planet- we are in no way separate from or different to rhinos and wasps except that we happen to be better at certain kinds of higher level brain functions. We’re directly related to everything else on the planet. If we invent criteria for how animals “should” act by examining the behavior of animals (and what other method could there be?) then we have to include human behavior as well, since we’re animals just like every other animal, and conclude that using smart phones and playing WoW are normal animal behaviors. The only way Syl’s line of reasoning could make sense is if we had living beings of some completely different nature to compare everything else with, which, barring the discovery of alien life or leprechauns between now and when this post goes up, we don’t.

And what is this “only humans fight” shit, animals do horrible, brutal things to each other out of territorial-ism or jealousy or just for fun all the damn time. Cats routinely kill prey animals just because they’re bored, which in a human would be interpreted as Hannibal Lector-level psychopathy.

……So anyway Syl is wrong about everything all the time.

Kaladin goes over to his bridge bros intending to train, but then a horn sounds to indicate that they have to go and do a run. Since Kaladin is the leader he gets to run in back and suffer less of a chance of being shot to death with arrows.

His was the safest position in the group, though no bridgeman was truly safe. Kaladin was like a moldy crust on a starving man’s plate; not the first bite, but still doomed.

Such excellent prose

During the run Kaladin tries to be an impressive badass by refusing to sit and rest when soldiers cross the bridge and giving a squadleader sass. When they get to the chasm where the assault is happening he predictably decides to take the front position to be all noble and shit.

I’ll say this, these sections with Kaladin and the bridges at least have some tension. If you stripped out everything else in the story you’d have a fairly decent fantasy war novel, at least so far. But it’s buried under so much fat the effect is muted.

While they’re running the archers firing at them become confused and lower their bows after the first volley for some reason. Kaladin helps rescue injured bridge men who took an arrow to the knee, thus establishing that he’s even more of a badass. Of course, this display prompts some of the veteran bridgemen to help him, because I guess no one in the entire history of the war has ever tried to do that before.

One of the injured bridgemen rambles on with one of those quotes we were seeing before at the start of chapters:

“They break the land itself!” he hissed, eyes wild. “They want it, but in their rage they will destroy it. Like the jealous man burns his rich things rather than let them be taken by his enemies! They come!”

Uh-huh. That’s really interesting. No seriously, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering when in the next 7000 pages we’re going to find out what that meant.

“You will not die,” Kaladin muttered. “You will not die!”


I’m not sure why, but Kaladin’s “oh noes I never get used to losing patients” thing really irritates me. It’s just such a trite and shallow bit of characterization. The doctor who works round the clock to save lives but then shrugs his shoulders when he fails and doesn’t want to bother talking to the grieving relatives because it’s too much hassle is a less sympathetic character, but also much more interesting.

(Also, while Kaladin is doing all of this cauterizing and stitching his patients are all conveniently unconscious, thus sidestepping the lack of anesthetic)

Kaladin bribes Gaz to let him bring the wounded bridgemen back with them, and notices that all of his lightbulb money had gone day which I’m messing means either he or Syl is drawing Stormlight from them without realizing it.




20 thoughts on “Let’s Read Way of Kings ch. 16-17

  1. JM

    >took an arrow to the knee,
    meme time. I don’t know if Branderson is referencing Skyrim intentionally or not.

  2. Silas

    You know, when I dislike a book as much as you guys seem to have disliked this one, I stop after the second or third chapter. I don’t complain ad nauseum, I just stop reading, recognizing that there are some things that other people enjoy that I will just never understand. As someone who has enjoyed 90% of everything Brandon Sanderson has ever written, I don’t understand anyony who doesn’t. But that doesn’t make me dislike them, or badmouth their taste.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      The whole point of these posts is to react to an entire book chapter by chapter; once I start I’ve more or less committed to reading the whole thing regardless of whether I like it, although note that I did in fact give up on Way of Kings less than a third of the way through.

    2. Nerem

      “Hey guys, you’re not allowed to complain if you don’t like the books why would you do that with a book I love???”

  3. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

    That dialogue… the pain… (that should be inflicted on Branderson for writing it). On the other hand, I think I now know why so many giant-volumed huge-o-blocks fantasy novels are being published: editors have just given up. They get these mss. hoisted onto their desks and have to edit them within this galactic eon. So they skim, see that there are paragraphs and everything that counts seems to be written in something resembling English, and pass them on because their publisher has demanded a giant blockbuster to rival “Throne of Doom” or whatever the last big seller was. There’s no time to sit and figure out who is what age and is their dialogue sounding right and anyway “everyone in Fantasy talks like that” probably.

    One more thing:

    The Bloody, Red Sun

    That comma there is really irritating to me. Really irritating.

    1. Signatus

      I think editor have given up pretty much on everything. Twilight someone, and all that came after it?
      That’s like a huge “NOT TO DO” book.

      Seems they don’t give a damn of what they’re publishing any more, as long as it makes money. And since people keep buying these in mass, they are getting justified for publishing them.

  4. lampwick

    >>”Kaladin was like a moldy crust on a starving man’s plate; not the first bite, but still doomed.”

    Man, I’ve read some terrible writing in these posts, but this has to take the, uh, cake. He’s comparing a life — not just a life, but the life of his main character — to a moldy crust? And death to someone eating a moldy crust??? Is there a way to make your main character seem more insignificant?

    1. quorn

      He’s an enslaved soldier in an awful meat-grinder war. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to make him sound insignificant.

  5. shardbaenre

    One of the things that is just as much of a trend across genres, but maybe more noticeable in mantasy (?) is the age factor. You give absolutely nothing up and take nothing away from the character of Kaladin if he’s 15 when he has tha stupid conversation with Laral. You do, however, gain the higher bran function and the idealistic nature that a 15 y5 old boy can properly discuss with his contemporaries about his basic ennui and desire to Not Be His Father ™. Making him 12 removes depth and makes the whole thing infinitely stupider.

    Why does he need to fight at age 12? To prove he’s a badass? He can do that just as easily as 15 since isn’t that generally when medieval soldiers took up soldier-ing anyway? Correct me on that if I’m wrong. This book also blows double time because who the hell is the main character?! Who am I supposed to care about and why? Is it that Highprince whose dad or brother or whatever was Gavilar the Assassin Slain? Is it that one woman who is trying to be apprentice to that older woman because she wants to steal something? Why can’t we follow that intrigue and motivation because that seems genuinely interesting if Branderson would just focus and let that character be a character? Kaladin is about 5 ogre dicks of dicks of suck. Is the main character that one dude who wants to suicide because of the OathKittens Brotherhood of Oathery?

    At least with GRRM we have a common, overarching throughline even if he does scatter his plot so foolishly. The War of the Seven Kings is the defining story here. Everyone wants the Iron Throne in some way. Everyone is linked by that single motivation. How is this story linked? The shardblades (which haven’t even been really defined)? The Plateau War of Stupidity? No one outside of the Suicide Bridge Squad cares. I don’t even see how it’s spilling over and affecting resources of the every day commoner, re: How is that Intergalactic War affecting the world of Star Wars? Is that one woman who wants to steal that one thing to get more money how they’re linked? How is that even possible? Is i the OathKittens of yore? Is that how everyone is linked? But…why? Is there a prophecy foretelling them coming back or something? Because it only seems to affect that Assassin Dude of Existential Angst Who Is Not Kaladin and possibly Kaladin if he gets a blade?

    This has no discernible plotline.

    1. Signatus

      I’ve kind of given up trying to guess what the plot is. This thing bounces back and forth, and while I can accurately predict some things (Kaladin will become a lighteyes, I’m betting a cookie on it), I can’t seem to find what Sanderson was thinking when he started writing this thing. That kind of reinforces my idea that he had some feeble plot in mind, something like “the old ones will rise and threaten the world” and everything in between the prologue and the epilogue is filler fluff he’s been making up as he writes (very similar to Rothfuss).

      Martin kind of lost it when Daenerys forgot about getting to westeros once she had an army, ships and dragons, and began some stupid fight against slavers nobody really cared about, and thus decided to lazily sit on a throne nobody (not even the readers) want her on. That many people praise this sorts of pointless drivels amazes me. I kind of want to reach a conclussion when I read a book, not get carried through a boring journey across events I don’t care about, with characters I don’t care about.

      1. ronanwills Post author

        I get the feeling this book (which, remember, is supposed to be the start of an *eleven book series*) is one of those world-building first, story second deals. I often felt like Rothfuss was making his world up as he went along, whereas here it’s pretty clear Branderson has spent years coming up with this stuff and he’s so eager to shoe it off he forgets to include an actual story.

      2. shardbaenre

        Eleven books?! I had forgotten that or blocked it from mind. I can’t see how this can possibly be 11 books. There aren’t seeds planted for enough story thread to carry this for 11 books of 800 pages. There’s not even enough worldbuilding for that!

      3. Signatus

        Ronan, I agree on the worldbuilding thing. It’s the story I think he’s making up, as ways to show every single detail in his world.
        I get the same feeling about Martin too.

        Funny enough, I’m not getting that vibe from Goodkind. I think he genuinely had a story to tell, albeit a pretty flawed one, mostly because he’s a terrible storyteller and has no clue about realistic human reactions. But I’m having more fun with his book.

        1. ronanwills Post author

          I agree. Wizard’s First Rule has actually been pretty decent about not piling on the world-building, as generally speaking everything that’s come up is directly important to the plot in some way.

  6. Signatus

    This book couldn’t be more predictable if it was a fanfiction.

    Anyways, as a dog behaviorist, I call bullshit of the fact that all animals behave the same. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t need to individualize each case and apply different therapies. As you very accurately stated, humans are no more than animal to which evolution has given a certain characteristics, which are no more than the result of adaptation to the environment. Thinking that we are some sort of being completely separated from nature is scientifically inaccurate.
    Not to mention dozens of examples, like dolphin rape gangs, ants that create slaves and modify their environment, tyranical wolves (which normally last very little), and chimpanzee clans that go to war against other chimpanzee clans for territory and resources (sounds familiar?). Examples go on forever. The fact that humans are highly territorial and aggressive does not make us different from other animals, and brutality is a given in nature… as much as cooperation (pack animals like wolves and dogs are very good at this).

    I question yet again, why do fantasy writers like to write about stuff they don’t know a shit about?

    Anyways, the whole manly man thing starts to be annoying. It was very obvious he would do some really awesome thing (like helping others, guess the people in this world spit at other people) to gain his men’s trust.
    However, the whole bridge concept irks me, and I frankly can’t understand how they put the thing in place. The chasms are very deep, and bridges are super heavy. How can they put them between chasm’s without them toppling over? Even more, how can it be all chasms are equal in width so that bridges can be standarized and fit everywhere? I’ve yet to see them find a chasm too large for the bridge to cover.

    1. braak

      I do like the idea of a world economy based entirely on looting mobs, though, that’s kind of funny.

      “Blizzard keeps trying to make World of Warcraft more like a fantasy novel — but what if I made my fantasy novel more like World of Warcraft?” — a genius.


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