Welcome back to the Edgedancer reread! This week we will be covering chapters 5 and 6, in which Lift has some pretty sobering thoughts about orphans and how they’re viewed in society, meets a Stump, and discusses snot with a philosopher. Gripping, we know. No worries though, we’ll get to the good stuff soon.
Edgedancer can be found in the Arcanum Unbounded collection, or if you wait a few more weeks you can buy it as a separate e-book (or mini-hardcover). Meanwhile, this reread will contain spoilers for both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. We do ask—or even insist—that any spoilers for the early-release chapters of Oathbringer be marked as spoilers and white-texted.
Chapter 5: Lift relaxes a bit after a harried chase from the guard who accused her of assault, and thinks about the Words she’s spoken (“I will remember those who have been forgotten.”). She thinks about her mother, and wonders who will remember her. She tells Wyndle that they had to leave Azir because she’s afraid of people knowing who she is, of recognizing her. Expecting things of her. And that scares her.
Chapter 6: Lift has a slangful conversation with a street urchin about a woman who runs an orphanage. She goes to visit and has some thoughts about the reality of such places. A young injured boy is abandoned there, and the mistress of the orphanage—a woman named Stump—comes out and takes him in, but says that he’s faking it. She refuses to let Lift in, telling her that she can have three meals and sleep on the stone benches outside. An old man discusses philosophy with her, then Lift’s off for an “appointment”…
Kadasixes and Stars
“And who is the person you actually are?”
She’d known that once, hadn’t she?
This is very interesting from a character perspective. Lift seems to be longing to remember the person she was long ago, and not appreciating or realizing the traits that make her who she is NOW. We all grow and change as we have new experiences which shape us, but does she? Does her “unchanging” nature affect her personality as well? And speaking of unchanging… She obviously still remembers her mother, as she thinks of her once or twice in these chapters. But how long HAS it been since she was with her? A dozen years? A hundred? How long has Lift been unchanged, unaging?
Alice: For what it’s worth, Lyn, I really think it’s only been three years. Back in her Words of Radiance interlude, she claimed to be ten (because that’s how high she could count on her fingers) and thought that she’d been ten for three years now. While it’s certainly possible that she’s ignoring time altogether, I think it’s more likely that she’s telling the truth. On the other hand, I could really like being wrong about this—it would be way more fun to have her be an order of magnitude older than she’s willing to accept!
L: I’m sticking to my “she’s way older than she wants to admit” theory. I think that if you’ve remained unchanging (or immortal) long enough, time would cease to have the same meaning for you. She may think it’s only been three years… but I suspect she’s an unreliable narrator in this case, and it’s been longer. I look forward to finding out an answer to this question eventually, one way or the other!
A: Well, she’s totally an unreliable narrator—she all but defines the term—so nothing is really off the table with her. We’ll watch for the answer together!
For my quote, I picked a chunk that really jumped out at me—not the first time through, but on the reread:
“You,” the girl said to Lift. “Outsida?”
“People, they don’t listen.” She smiled at Lift again, then finally scuttled away.
Foreshadowing FTW!! And then later (I’m gonna do two!! You started something, Lyn!):
People, they don’t listen. Did Lift listen? She did usually, didn’t she? Why did the little urchin girl care, anyway?
I don’t think there’s anything Significant about the little urchin girl, but the way she specifically turned back and added the bit about listening… well, it makes me wonder if she’s more than just a little urchin girl.
L: Yeah, that conversation carried more weight than just a simple exchange. And we know that Sanderson rarely drops things like this in for no reason!
A: One of the things I love about this pair is the way Sanderson uses Wyndle to ask Lift all the questions the readers are asking—and it fits perfectly, because he doesn’t really understand her, but he’s bonded to her and needs to understand better. So Wyndle asks her why she hasn’t returned to the Reshi Isles, and he becomes her sounding board as she gives yet another reason (or another angle) for leaving Azir. It gets hilarious sometimes, of course, and at others incredibly poignant, as Wyndle sees things from a (somewhat alien) spren’s point of view, while Lift sees them with the too-mature eye of a street kid. It makes a nice contrast as well as giving us lots of insight without info-dumping.
L: That’s a great point, Alice. Wyndle functions as the “stranger,” and performs his role as “reader stand-in” very well. Interestingly, I don’t remember Sanderson using Sylphrena or Pattern for this same purpose back in The Way of Kings, as they were slowly regaining themselves and their memories.
L: Clemabread is the only food we get a description of in this chapter. It’s thick and granular, with spicy paste at the center. Later Lift says it breaks apart easily, almost a mush. Okay, let me be the first to say EW. It might just be because I don’t like spicy foods, but this sounds completely awful to me.
A: Then let me be the second to say EWWW. On first sight, I thought it had potential to be good, but if it’s mushy… not so much. It sounds like sort of an attempt at a hot-pocket, but made with corn meal and not very much filling.
L: Ugh. The thought of a hot pocket made of smooshy corn meal is making my stomach turn… but I guess in Lift’s case, beggars (literally) can’t be choosers!
A: Having burned off all her Stormlight, Lift needs food and soon, which is why she ends up at the orphanage, of course. And I find it necessary to quote her reaction to this extremity:
“To turn your phrase back at you, mistress, food is food.”
“Yeah,” Lift said. “It’s just… What’s the challenge of eating a lunch someone gives you?”
“I’m certain you will survive the indignity, mistress.”
Oh, Wyndle, I adore you. Lift, shut up and go get some food, already!
Friends and Strangers
L: This guy is too interesting to not show back up later. Something to note: I have an absolutely terrible memory and I haven’t re-read Edgedancer since the beta read ages ago, so I’m almost going into this as a first-time reader. I seem to recall him showing back up… but even if I didn’t have that knowledge, I don’t think Sanderson would have spent this much time on him if he wasn’t going to be important later!
She looked like the child of a broom and a particularly determined clump of moss. Her skin drooped off her bones like something you’d hack up after catching crud in the slums, and she had spindly fingers that Lift figured might be twigs she’d glued in place after her real ones fell off.
A: Aside from cracking up over the description, which was just too good not to quote, we will most definitely be seeing more of this one! (Also, I keep reading “demented” instead of “determined,” which may be part of why I keep snickering.)
L: Brandon’s so good with these evocative descriptions. This is something I struggle with in my own writing, so I always appreciate seeing it done well, as it was here!
“He had a flat, wide face, like Lift had learned to associate with people who weren’t born quite the same as other folk.”
L: Is this meant to be a depiction of Down Syndrome? I love that Lift doesn’t discriminate against this boy, or think of him as lesser than she (as can often be the case in the real world, sadly).
A: I was wondering that too. It’s kind of the typical look associated with DS, though it’s certainly not 100% characteristic. In any case, he’s a) clearly got some kind of developmental disability and b) is pretty high functioning—and I love that it doesn’t even make Lift the slightest bit uncomfortable. She’s who she is, and he’s who he is, and it’s all cool.
The boy stared ahead, sightless, drooling. He had a scar on his head, healed mostly, but still an angry red.
A: This kid will show up again, of course, as a Plot Point. Aside from that, we’ll talk about this scene a little more below.
Storming Mother of the World and Father of Storms Above
A: Do spren fall into this category? What the devil are these “keenspren” for whom Wyndle once grew a garden?
L: Perhaps a spren for an order we haven’t seen yet… I can’t imagine Wyndle making something like that for non-sentient spren, and all the sentient ones we’ve seen so far have been bonding people, right?
A: Oooooooooh. Well, of course. Dunno why I didn’t see that there was one more step to make, because you’re absolutely right. As far as we know, all the sapient spren are capable of bonding, and the non-sapient ones wouldn’t be interested in Wyndle’s gardening. I shall guess… Truthwatchers. They seem the most likely Order to bond “keenspren”—at least of the ones we don’t already know.
L: Sapient, or sentient?
A: Brandon prefers sapient, according to what he said at JCon 2016. Sentient just means that it has senses—sapient means self-aware and capable of independent thought. Or something like that.
L: Really? That’s interesting! I wouldn’t have guessed that based on the dictionary definitions of the two words. This is good to know going forward…
A: I just did a “difference between” search, and got this: “Sentient merely says that you have the power to perceive things, or you have consciousness, where sapient implies that the use of that consciousness is showing great wisdom and sound judgment.” So… there’s that. I think Brandon (like all of us) had been using sentient in sort of the Star Trek sense—looking for sentient life. It’s become part of the vocabulary. And then, for whatever reason, he realized that there was a better term, so he started making the switch. I’ve been trying to switch as well.
L: Hunh! Well, I guess I’ll blame all that Star Trek: TNG I watched in my formative years for this one!
A: Make it so!
L: Does this make me Riker? I’m… strangely okay with this, though I’m sad I could never have such a glorious beard.
A: Hold on. I refuse to be bald! I like my hair as it is, thankyouverymuch.
L: BUT MOVING ON…
Darkness & Co.
L: So apparently in this city they’ve got communal ovens, because a fire raged here that killed thousands. What a cool little worldbuilding touch, and not one that I’ve seen in any other fantasy novels I can remember.
“But the way you talked! With all those odd words and terms! How did you know what to say?”
“It just felt right. Words is words.”
L: I wonder if this is just a holdover from her own time as an orphan, or some other manifestation of power? Can Edgedancers somehow interpret language? (Yet later, she can’t read the words on the door of the orphanage.)
A: This might be a matter of empathy. Like, written words don’t have any emotion or sentience attached to them, so there’s nothing but chicken-scratches to “read.” But a person, speaking, has a lot of non-verbal communication tied in—and if an Edgedancer has an empath/telepath upgrade, that would enable her to interpret the meaning behind the lingo.
… Or it could just be street-urchin comprehension.
L: Money on strings, like wen in ancient China, is just such a cool way to keep and measure currency. I’d seen this before in some kung-fu movies, so it was neat to see it mirrored here in Edgedancer!
People left children who were too big to keep caring for, but couldn’t take care of themselves or contribute to the family.
She hated how rich people made up this romantic dream of what an orphanage should be like. Perfect, full of sweet smiles and happy singing. Not full of frustration, pain, and confusion.
L: This just breaks my heart, mostly because of the truth of it, even in our own world. Yes, babies are given up into adoption. But it’s the older children that often bear the indignities of remaining in orphanages or being shunted about from foster home to foster home, unwanted because of baggage that should never have been theirs to bear. I don’t have personal experience in this matter, but it seems to me that the reality of being in the foster home system is rarely the “Annie” situation we see so often in fiction (and especially in fantasy books, where it’s rare to have a main character whose parents are actually still alive); plucky youngsters who only need a rich patron to take them in and give them a perfect life and then it’s “happily ever after”s from then on. When is life ever that easy or simple? I love that Sanderson doesn’t shy away from these hard truths.
A: I … I just don’t quite know what to say about the scene where the mother leaves her son at the orphanage. Even knowing what’s going to happen, I can’t help crying over. The heartbreak of a mother whose son is injured and looks like he’s never going to recover. The agony of abandoning him, but at the same time knowing that at least he’ll be cared for and fed, as she can no longer do. The knowledge that she’s likely sacrificing this one so she can care for the others. Basically, the pain of trying to make the best choice when the choices all seem hopeless. This short scene hurts so much, I’m tearing up all over again just trying to respond to it.
And since we can’t end on that note, here’s one more quote for you. After the philosopher has given Lift (and the reader!) the hint that Stump has some sort of undercover sphere-trading scheme going, he asks her what body part she feels she is most like:
Lift eyed him. Great. Angry twig running an orphanage; weird old man outside it. She dusted off her hands. “If I’m anything, I’m a nose. ’Cuz I’m filled with all kinds of weird crud, and you never know what’s gonna fall out.”
Thank you, Lift, for that elegant imagery.
And with that, we’re out. See you in the comments!
Lyndsey is a writer and cosplayer who wishes she had her own Wyndle to follow her around and bemoan her often dubious life choices. You can see more of her work on her website or follow her on facebook or twitter.
Alice is a busy SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and general literature fan. She is enjoying the discussion of the Oathbringer preview chapters more every week, and hopes you all have seen and had the opportunity to participate in the kickstarter Kaladin project by The Black Piper. If you do Facebook and aren’t already a member, do join her in the Storm Cellar group. Mention that you’re a Tor rereader and you get past any other questions!