Way of Kings Readalong, Part IV

Welcome to week four of the Way of Kings Readalong!  For those of you on the East Coast, hopefully Irene didn’t hit you too hard.

Just as a general housekeeping note, I started this semester’s grad school courses this morning.  This means that I may not post quite as often as usual, as classes do take up a good deal of my free time.  One of my classes this semester focuses on multiculturalism in libraries, and requires that I read something like 15 books with a multicultural focus (in addition to the novels that are already on the reading list for the course).  I plan on blogging about these books, as I find learning about different cultures fascinating.  If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.  Now, back to the readalong!

Today’s Way of Kings fan art is by mighty5cent.  Please also be sure to check out the discussions on other blogs via the readalong page.  This week’s discussion questions were written by Kailana.

And the disclaimer… from this point on, this post may contain spoilers from the book.

1. One thing that I have thinking about during the course of this book is what Brandon Sanderson is trying to say about religion. Jasnah is an atheist. Shallan believes, but is still trying to find herself. Dalinar believes strongly in the ‘Old Ways’. What do you think of this idea?

Me:  I liked the way Sanderson handles religion.  There isn’t any right or wrong religion in the book, but rather they are different ways of viewing the world, and people who are religious aren’t put on a pedestal or a higher moral ground (*cough* Kasbal *cough*).  Jasnah may be an atheist, but she struggles with morality the same way that anyone would.  I think that perhaps the point that Sanderson might be trying to make is that no matter what religion a person is, people still deal with the same fundamental moral decisions.  I especially like what we see with Shallan–she’s religious, but she doesn’t use her beliefs as an excuse to stop thinking for herself or exploring what else is out there.

Mike:  I wonder whether Sanderson is devoutly Mormon, if he’s a barebones one, or if he’s just incredibly open minded.  As far as the Old Ways… the Old Ways aren’t necessarily a religion.  Sanderson’s basically saying that Dalinar believes in Knightly virtues that have been forgotten in his societyThe Knightly Virtues in our own society during the Middle Ages were perhaps religiously inspired, but not necessarily. In “The Way of Kings,” they are inspired more by what seems like the wisdom of a particular leader and the experience of the past eras.

Me:  As I mentioned a week or two ago, “The Way of Kings” reminds me a lot of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”  The Old Ways are more of a philosophical system than a religious one.

2. The relationship between siblings is an important part of this book. Adolin has always been at the forefront of Dalinar’s two sons, but Renarin is important, too. What did you think of the two brothers? Going back a generation, what do think of Dalinar and our glimpses of his brother? Then there is Kaladin who joins the war to protect his brother and fails. And Jasnah whose brother is King. Or Shallan who puts herself in a dangerous situation to help her brothers out following her fathers’ death. What do you think of these relationships? Did any stick out for you?

Mike:  Did they stick out?  Not really.  I have a brother and the thought of protecting him crosses my mind very often so this isn’t really suprising.  Feeling jealousy over your brother like Dalinar felt… or even Renarin… that’s understandable too.  Now that I think about it, I noticed something.  Dalinar seemed intent to give Renarin Shardplate and have the younger child be a shardbearer. I almost wanna say Dalinar sympathizes with Renarin as a younger sibling who lives in the shadow of his brother.  Does Sanderson have a brother?

Me:  That’s an interesting question.  Wikipedia doesn’t say, and neither does his website.  As the oldest of four kids, I think that Sanderson got the sibling dynamic down very well.  There’s trying to live up to siblings, trying not to disappoint siblings, and trying to protect siblings, and I think that the book portrayed all of those sentiments quite well.  I feel bad for Kaladin and his inability to protect Tien.  I feel for Shallan, trying to help out her brothers because their family, even though they are taking advantage of her.

3. Kaladin has been included in every section. Why do you think this was? Did you wish to have a break from him, or did you enjoy knowing he would be explored with every section?

Mike:  Kaladin was the center of the story, which was already clear.  He had flashbacks to his earlier life, and no one else had anything like that at all… not even Dalinar, who alludes to all kinds of things from his past that haunt him. My guess as to why Kaladin got the most of his past revealed is basically so there’s more for other characters in the next book (which I hear is gonna be Shallan focused).

Me:  Kaladin is badass.  I was happy to see him in every section.  When we saw his point of view, I couldn’t help but be sucked in.

4. One of my favourite characters in the book is Syl. What do you think of her and her development throughout the course of this book?

Me:  I’ve loved Syl since she was just this spren that Kaladin started talking to and everyone else thought he was going crazy.  I love how she’s evolving into something so much more.  I wonder how the link between Syl and Kaladin was formed, and if it can happen with other spren.

Mike:  Well she’s mostly be the same the book, except until the very end when we discovered she was an honorspren.  Why was she acting like a windspren?  When did spren learn how to change into human-sized big spren?  Anyways she’s a good character and all, but beyond her name, learning what kind of spren she was, and her curious questions, she mostly stays the same.

Me:  I think it’s interesting that she can remember the past.  I’m wondering if maybe she’ll start remembering things from as far back as Dalinar’s visions or Jasnah’s studies.

5. And, the big question, what do you think is going to happen in the last section? Any predictions?

Me:  As with last week, we’re gonna be skipping this one, since we already finished the book.  Next week, you can hear our theories on what happens in the next one!

29 thoughts on “Way of Kings Readalong, Part IV

  1. I agree that the “old ways” seem more like a philosophical way to live, however, I also think that some people are more philosophical and religious. I knew Sanderson lived in Utah, but I didn’t assume that he was a strict Mormon. He seems very open to all “religions” in his story. However, I don’t think that is all that rare in Utah. Yes there are strict Mormons, but I think that goes for most religions. Some are more strict some are more open, and then there are some in the middle.

    That is a good point Grace about the spren. I wonder if more will be able to evolve and help others like Kaladin. Is that why in the interludes, there are those who are studying the spren. Will there be more Syls?

    And yes, Kaladin is awesome.

    On a side note, good luck with school!

        1. I hope so… then again, it seems that a lot of our characters are doing things that they shouldn’t be able to do, ie. Shallan soulcasting. I wonder if our characters are all discovering their latent abilities now that something ominous from the past is returning.

  2. I’m glad Mike mentioned the Shallan info about the next book because I just wrote about that over on Memory’s post because I thought I had heard Sanderson mention that in that video interview, but started doubting myself the second I typed it. I would love to see each of the 10 volumes had a different character as the main thread of the story. I think it would be a great way to get to know all the other characters as strongly as we have been able to with Kaladin in this book.

    I agree that not everything about the Old Ways is religious, and agree with the thoughts on Dalinar except I also believe he mixes religious thought in with all the philosophy because he thought for much of this book that the Almighty was the one talking to him.

    I don’t think a person necessarily has to be “open minded” about religion to write this kind of story. If, for the sake of argument, Sanderson was devoutly Mormon he could still be handling religion and culture this way simply because he is trying to make his world authentic as there are many different belief systems in the real world.

    I’m not sure I agree that Syl was basically the same character throughout the story. Her changes were more subtle but they were there. They did come on much more strongly near the end. It isn’t all that surprising that she discovered she was something different than she thought as that seems to be one of the themes with her is that she is not at all what she seems and she herself doesn’t know (or at least didn’t until this part) just what she was or how she ended up in the state she was at the beginning of the book. I suspect we’ll learn much more about her in the coming novels as there is still a lot of mystery surrounding her.

    I’m excited to finally be able to talk about this section since I gobbled up the rest of the book a week ago today. And I can’t wait to talk about Part 5 and the book overall once we get to next week.

    1. I really enjoyed the little discussions where Syl said something funny because she didn’t understand fully what was going on. They reminded me a bit of myself when I just moved to DC and was pretty much clueless about life.

      I like the way that Sanderson uses a variety of viewpoints on religion, largely because it makes his world so much more complex and believable. There isn’t a strict dichotomy between good and evil yet, or heroes and villains, which also makes for a more interesting read. As someone mentioned earlier, Sadeas is the closest thing we have to a real villain thus far, and even he does what he does for clear reasons.

  3. What are books with a multicultural focus? Not books from other countries I presume because that wouldn’t be multicultural but just different cultures (although it might depend on the point of view). Maybe something like Andrea Levy’s Small Island?

    1. Apparently we’re starting out with “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I know that Kite Runner is on the list… I think that different cultures count, so long as half of the books we choose are set in the US. I’m actually kind of excited about this class, even though most of the books look either incredibly feel-good or horribly depressing. I haven’t had a class yet in library school where the reading is composed mostly of novels. 😛

          1. Oh man. You are brave. Don’t know if I could read it again. But after I read I kept giving it to people and said this is so sad. You have to read it.

  4. I wish you all the best for your schooling this semester, Grace. I hope you find the reading enjoyable. I doubt they would let you push the envelope this way, but I really enjoyed Ian McDonald’s short story collection, Cyberabad Days, which is set in a near future India and incorporates a great deal of Indian culture and subculture. The SF elements come in the form of technological advances that are not too far off from what we have now, hence the “near future” description.

      1. His larger novel, River of Gods, which is the same universe these short stories are set in, is supposed to be amazing, as is his newest novel, The Dervish House, which is set in Turkey. It was on the short list for a bunch of SF awards this year. I have yet to read either. River of Gods is a chunkster, Dervish House more manageable.

        Just thought I’d let you know in case short story collections were either not allowed or not your thing.

  5. That’s what I meant with multiculturalism, set in the US/UK… but other cultures, seems what they meant. I wanted to start an African-American reading project but the interest on the posts was so low… I should not care. In any case there are some great books.

  6. I did not read this post because I just started the book myself. However, I skimmed it and I am glad that you are enjoying it. I can’t wait to finish it.

  7. The only suggestion coming to mind right now is something by Edwidge Danticat (if I spelled that right). She writes about Haiti and coming to America in at least one of her books.
    The old ways that Dalinar follows with the code do just seem like philosophy, or even just common sense.
    I like that Dalinar wants to win a shardplate for Renarin, but I also worry that he might be trying to make his son into something he isn’t. I want him to triumph with his intellect rather than through battle.

    1. I agree… I think that Dalinar needs to realize Renarin’s strengths, which aren’t necessarily in combat. I’d like to see Renarin become an Ardent.

      1. I’m pretty certain that Dalinar does see Renarin’s strengths. I could be wrong (wouldn’t be the first time) but I thought there was a point where Dalinar was musing that he wished Renarin would become an Ardent. I don’t see Dalinar wanting shardplate for his son to make him a warrior, I think he wants to do it because he is a father and wants his son to have that protection and the status that goes with it. And in their culture the reality is that Renarin has to go fight when the need arises and his father would want him to be as protected as possible. After all, he isn’t wanting to win a shardblade for Renarin, just shardplate.

        1. I saw it as a kind of last-ditch attempt to make Renarin fit in better. On one hand, shardplate will protect him, but having shardplate seems to mean that one is a warrior. I think that Dalinar wishes that the world was more ideal and that Renarin could be himself, but realizes that that can’t really happen at this point.

          1. I don’t disagree with any of that. I don’t think the “fitting better” would have been because Dalinar wants his son to be something else though, just because he wants his son to be safe and have the best possible chance at life.

        2. I do remember at some point someone suggesting he become and ardent so he could pursue his talent for engineering, but I don’t remember who it was. It was when Navani was showing them the fabrial that could reduce pain and they were all there I believe. As a parent, I can see your point of view. There are certain things I want for one of my children who is approaching adulthood that aren’t necessarily in line with her personality, but things that I feel will provide her with the best insurance for security and safety in life. At the same time I want her to be who she is. I may find that ultimately I have very little control over any of it, and maybe for Dalinar it will be the same.

          1. That is the part of the book I am remembering too, Shelley and I’m pretty sure that would have been during a Dalinar POV which is what makes me think he was thinking it. Again, I could be wrong.

            I’m fairly certain that Renarin is going to become an important character. I would see no reason for his continued existence and the little hints about his character otherwise. It will be interesting to see where Sanderson takes his character.

            1. Call me crazy, but my theory is that he ends up dating Shallan. She seems to be attracted to smart guys and Renarin is more intellectual than most. Also, I think it would be an interesting contrast compared to his brother who was dating a new girl every week.

              1. I hadn’t thought of that possibility, but that would make sense. They’d make an interesting couple.

                I can’t wait till Sanderson finishes the next book!

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