Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Two

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Welcome back, fellow Stormlight fans! Today’s chapter features a handsome prince (::swoon::), the corpse of a traitor (::cheer::), and a certain grizzled Highprince prepared to do whatever it takes to bring unity to the world (::Bridge 4 salute::).

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL (and the two previous) in each reread. There’s no Cosmere connectivity this week. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done, because there are references all over the book this week.

 

Chapter Recap

WHO: Adolin Kholin, Dalinar Kholin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1174.1.1.4 (Same day as last chapter)

We begin this chapter with refugees from the Shattered Plains having arrived at Urithiru. Despite Navani’s attempts to organize them, chaos reigns. Adolin is attempting to supervise the chaos while still sporting his broken wrist from the battle.

Dalinar arrives to find Bridge 4 at the brink of battle with Sadeas’s men over the Highprince’s corpse. He calms the situation and leads his own men outside to allow Sadeas’s men to cool down and care for the body of their Highprince. Everyone else is unconcerned about the death of the traitor, but Dalinar reminds them that this murder could prove a stumbling block in his goal for unity. He assigns Aladar and Sebarial as Highprinces of Information and Commerce, orders Adolin to set a training regimen for the men, and Shallan and Renarin to learn as much about their powers as they can.

Threshold of the Storm

 

Oathbringer Reread Chapter 2 arch icon

Herald: Ishar. Patron of the Bondsmiths, known as the Herald of Luck, or Binder of Gods. He is associated with the Divine Attributes of Pious and Guiding.

Alice: I assume this is because Dalinar is acting Bondsmithy. We certainly don’t see Ishar in person, nor is he mentioned. Dalinar is guiding and unifying; I think that’s enough.

Icon: The Shardbearer

A: Since we didn’t know if this icon would be reserved solely for Adolin, or if it would later encompass others, Carl and I dubbed it “The Shardbearer.” So far, I think we’ve only seen it on chapters that begin with Adolin’s POV, like this one, or where he’s the primary POV.

Title: One Problem Solved

“Well!” said Palona, hands on hips as she regarded Sadeas’s corpse. “I guess that’s one problem solved!”

A: Needless to say, pretty much everyone but Dalinar, including most readers, agree with Palona here. There are more than enough problems to deal with right now; Sadeas skulking around trying to undermine Dalinar at every turn would not be helpful.

Epigraph:

I needed to write it anyway.—from Oathbringer, preface

A: Okay, then. Write on.

Stories & Songs

“[The Desolations] were destruction made manifest, Brightlord. Each one was so profoundly devastating that humankind was left broken. Populations ruined, society crippled, scholars dead. Humankind was forced to spend generations rebuilding after each one. Songs tell of how the losses compounded upon one another, causing us to slide farther each time, until the Heralds left a people with swords and fabrials and returned to find them wielding sticks and stone axes.”

A: So… I guess my brain is broken today, or something, but someone please remind me… Do normal everyday Alethi (or other Rosharans) believe the Desolations happened? I can’t honestly remember how much of it they believed, and how much was relegated to mythology. Lyn, can you help me?

Lyn: I found quite a few references in The Way of Kings, but all of them are from the higher/learned class and not the common people. Dalinar, Shallan, Renarin, and Navani all talk about them at points in TWoK, but Jasnah has the most breadth of knowledge on the subject.

“The Voidbringers were an embodiment of evil. We fought them off ninety and nine times, led by the Heralds and their chosen knights, the ten orders we call the Knights Radiant. Finally, Aharietiam came, the Last Desolation. The Voidbringers were cast back into the Tranquiline Halls. The Heralds followed to force them out of heaven as well, and Roshar’s Heraldic Epochs ended.”

Since I didn’t find a single reference from anyone who wasn’t high nobility or a scholar, I’d theorize that the common people don’t actually think they happened.

“[The Voidbringers] came to annihilate. Their goal was to wipe humankind from Roshar. They were specters, formless—some say they are spirits of the dead, others spren from Damnation.”

L: What we know now about the true identity of the Voidbringers makes this interesting to consider.

A: The history she’s quoting is probably from the time when the Voidbringers literally were the spirits of the dead Parsh, with their goal to wipe humankind from Roshar. But it’s still ironic, given the earlier history.

L: I rather like how the perceived identity of the Voidbringers shifts over time. At first, the Singers called the humans Voidbringers. But over the years this reverses. It’s almost as if the term is simply a “boogey man” type word that the prevailing culture adopts.

A: It seems to be used that way now, mostly relegated to mythology and children’s stories by both species—but it’s rooted in fact. The Singers correctly called the humans “Voidbringers” when they arrived with the powers of Odium (assuming that’s how it worked). But then the humans were accepted by Honor and Cultivation, and the Singers turned to Odium for power – so now they’re the ones who use Odium’s power and Voidbinding.

L: That makes sense. Voidbringer = anyone who works with Odium then, in this case.

A: That’s my understanding, anyway. It reminds me of what Eshonai thought in the Prologue—that in all the stories, the humans were dark, formless monsters. Is that a blending of the human-Voidbringers and the ancestor-Voidbringers? Or did humans once do all that creepy stuff that the Fused do now?

Relationships & Romances

“Other Radiants will be coming to us, and you two will need to lead them. The knights were once our greatest weapon against the Voidbringers. They will need to be so again.” “Father, I…“ Renarin stumbled over the words. “It’s just … Me? I can’t. I don’t know how to … let alone…” “Son,” Dalinar said, stepping over. He took Renarin by the shoulder. “I trust you. The Almighty and the spren have granted you powers to defend and protect this people. Use them. Master them, then report back to me what you can do. I think we’re all curious to find out.”

A: I recall a lot of debate about what Renarin meant here. I’m personally convinced that he was reacting to Dalinar’s suggestion that he should lead the Radiants who would be coming. It could have something to do with his visions or some uncertainty about Glys, but in context, I still believe he was flipping out about having to lead people.

L: Could be a combination of the two. He barely knows what he’s doing when it comes to Radiantness, so teaching others? I can see how that would be scary. What I find more interesting about this exchange is that it’s the beginning of a bigger interpersonal arc—Dalinar and Renarin’s often strained father/son relationship.

A: It’s hard to know what to say about the relationship between father and son here. Do we talk about it in light of what we already know at this point in the story, or about all the things we’re going to learn in the rest of the book?

At this point Dalinar treats him well—lovingly, gently, but still expecting him to do what he can to contribute—a reasonably healthy relationship, all in all. As we’ll see much later, though, their relationship has not been good until the last seven years; up until Renarin was about twelve, Dalinar couldn’t even be bothered to remember his name. A lot has changed.

L: I wonder how much of this could be guilt, trying to atone for past sins. We know that he doesn’t remember Evi at this point in the story, but does he remember how he’d treated his sons? If so, there may be something to be said about how, now that Renarin is a Radiant, he’s “worth” Dalinar’s time and attention. I don’t remember him really spending much thought on Renarin in WoK or WoR, but now that he’s useful in war? This makes horrible sense in light of Alethi cultural norms.

A: Ewww. That’s a creepy thought, but I don’t quite believe it—or I don’t want to. As near as I can tell, Renarin mostly wants to please his father and brother—not out of fear, but because he loves them. They in turn love him, but… It seems that Adolin is close to his brother and accepts him as he is, without having to ever think about it. Dalinar seems… a little at a loss, sometimes, how to deal with his very different sons. Even in this chapter, he thinks of them as “His sons, steady Adolin and impenetrable Renarin.” Dalinar has come to love Renarin, but still doesn’t relate to him very well. Perhaps Renarin’s new status gives Dalinar a little more “handle” on how to interact with him, because there’s finally something specific that Renarin is uniquely able to do. So I would say (maybe because I want to believe it!) that it’s less a matter of “now that he’s useful” and more a matter of “now he has a recognizable role.”

Squires & Sidekicks

Bridge 4’s first appearance in this book! Huzzah! Sadly we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, but that’s what Part 2 is for.

“Navani said [squires] were a type of apprentice Radiant that had once been common: men and women whose abilities were tied to their master, a full Radiant.”

L: Lots of discussion on this in the preview chapter comments. RobertD picked up on the fact that the Windrunner squires only have access to their abilities within a specific radius from their patron Radiant. Kefka said, “From what I understand, each order has a certain special ability unconnected to the surges. … Squires are only ever mentioned in connection with the Windrunners, so that might be theirs.” I went on the hunt for a WoB to verify or contradict this, and came up with a couple.

WoB: “…each Order, there are things that come with [it], things that do not add up from the simple “you get this power plus this power.” For Windrunners, watch the number and the power of the squires. Some Orders don’t have [squires].” [But some have more.]

L: In a different WoB, he said that [Kaladin’s] unique ability is “Strength of Squires”. Interesting that he specifies strength of squires. Strength as in, strength of their powers? Or strength of numbers?

A: Or both? Even by the end of the book, we have very little for comparison; just a few glimpses of the Skybreaker training. But it seems like Kaladin not only has a host of squires, but they are strong, and quick to learn.

L: So many questions about squires remain! How many other orders can have them? What are their powers? The only clue I found in the Arcanum is as follows:

For most orders, squires were knights radiant potentially in training.

To me, this implies that most squires eventually became full-fledged Knights Radiant, as opposed to remaining squires with that specific skill-set (whatever that may be) in perpetuity.

A: Well, we don’t need to jump ahead to the Skybreaker scenes yet, but that’s certainly reflective of what they do. You start as a basic recruit, and then someone takes you on as a squire, and then (hopefully) you get bonded by a spren.

L: It seems to be a minor distinction—in the Skybreakers, you begin your training and gain some small amount of abilities, and then you’re taken on as a squire; whereas in Kaladin’s Windrunners, he takes them on as squires and then they start gaining powers. Whether this is how it was done in the past or just an artifact of Kaladin’s tendency to pick up strays and tuck them under his wings is up for debate.

A: What I really want to know, suddenly, is whether a Windrunner usually makes an active choice of squires, or if it’s more “anyone in his gang.” But again, we can talk about that more in Part 2 when it gets active.

Either way, Dalinar’s lack of officers explained the room’s other occupants: Highprince Sebarial and his mistress, Palona.

“I know you’re desperate, Dalinar,” Sebarial said. “My presence here is sufficient proof of that. But surely we haven’t sunk so far as to be better off with Sadeas among us.”

A: Sanderson takes some pains to point out that Dalinar is functioning without anything like his normal support structure. The paragraphs just before that first quote detail the list of his best officers who have been lost recently, either at the Tower or at Narak. He’s only got one highlord left—Khal, who is recuperating from wounds suffered at Narak. He’s forced to rely on Aladar, Sebarial, and Adolin, and whatever he can get from two very young (ages 17 and 19) and very fledgling Radiants. And Navani, of course…

L: Two? Excuse you, I think you’re forgetting a certain broody Bridgeboy.

A: I’m not forgetting him, but he’s miles away, and no knowing when he’ll be back. He’s not much help just now. If he were here, he’d up the age range to a whopping 20—though at least he has command and combat experience.

Places & Peoples

Women gathered water at the well in the center.

L: The fact that Urithiru has wells intrigues me. Looking at the drawing of the city’s architecture below, it seems like any water would have to be pulled up from really far down. Do they have functional water ladders that pull the water up, or is the water just collected rain water? The mentioned aqueducts are probably just moving the water around once it’s already in the city.

A: I’m so easy to please. I just assumed there are artesian wells here. But now that you mention it, it can’t be rainwater; Urithiru is mostly above the rains. If that was the direct source, it would be kinda scarce, wouldn’t it?

L: I was a little iffy on the definition of artesian wells so I looked it up. Apparently the water table would need to be higher than the well on either side for that to work, which is impossible given how high up Urithiru is. I don’t claim to be knowledgeable in… watery matters (hydrodynamics? hydraulics?), maybe someone in the comments will have a better idea as to how this is being accomplished.

A: Hmmm. I hope there’s a natural explanation as opposed to mechanical, because literally everything else about Urithiru that was designed to support human habitation is dependent on powering up the city. Lighting, plumbing, waste disposal, crops, heat… all sorts of things are hinted at having existed somewhere along the line. Like this bit:

At first, these wide flat sections of stone had baffled them. But the furrows in the stone, and planter boxes on the inner edges, had revealed their purpose. Somehow, these were fields. Like the large spaces for gardens atop each tier of the tower, this area had been farmed, despite the cold.

We get hints from the later epigraphs that it was the Stormlight-powered city that made it possible, though we don’t know how. But it doesn’t seem reasonable that the wells are magic-powered when nothing else is.

Oh… except don’t we learn somewhere along the line that the air pressure up here isn’t as low as it ought to be for the elevation? So maybe there are still a few basic functions being maintained? So many new questions.

L: When speaking to the discontented people, Adolin thinks about how carting water was beneath their nahn, and how Dalinar would now need to be paying people for work that has traditionally been done for free by the parshmen. This is going to create a huge financial burden on the Alethi as society readjusts—not to mention the fact that some privileged people are going to need to begin doing menial labor. The societal implications of all of this are huge.

A: If I were a better historian, I’d go look at how various cultures have dealt with the sudden cessation of slavery.

L: Yeah, honestly… Anything I could find out would just be gleaned from wikipedia, which isn’t the greatest of sources. I think we’ll leave the detailed analysis on this one to the professionals.

A: Exactly. In most RL cases, though, the former slaves were still there and now needed an income, so there was often an incentive to create an employer/employee relationship to replace the owner/slave system. In this case, the slaves are gone—either because they took off, or because the humans left them behind or kicked them out as “too dangerous to have around.” So there’s no one but other humans to do the work. And the ones who aren’t already slaves need paying.

“The walls were twisted with lines—natural strata of alternating earthy colors, like those made by crem drying in layers.”

L: Ah, our first mention in OB of the weird strata. In the comments last week, kirgen brought up an excellent point regarding the windblades having similar lines.

A: It’s in Chapter one: “Even the windblades—once magnificent, sleek rock formations exposing countless strata and variations—had been shattered.” (Also, much later, Kaladin thinks “The large curves of stone glittered with red, white, and orange strata,)

L: Good catch, Kirgen! They later go on to predict that “like Urithiru, they were built to be powered in some way; built to provide an essential function. But now that they have fallen into the hands the Fused will that power be subverted?” Man. This is a really good theory. I wouldn’t be surprised if the strata are some sort of latent defense mechanism, powered by collected stormlight. That big column of fused gemstones in Urithiru being the battery that powers the whole shebang.

A: I’m with the popular theory that the strata in Urithiru carry energy (when the gemstone column is powered up) to provide lighting, heat, perhaps even communications. I hadn’t thought about the windblades also being an energy conduit, but it’s a fascinating thought.

L: And since we’re talking about Urithiru… we finally get a full description of the architecture!

Created from a sequence of ten ring-like tiers—each containing eighteen levels—the tower city was adorned with aqueducts, windows, and balconies like this one.

The bottom floor also had wide sections jutting out at the perimeter: large stone surfaces, each a plateau in its own right. They had stone railings at their edges, where the rock fell away into the depths of the chasms between mountain peaks.

We’ll talk more about the notations on this drawing when it actually comes up in the text.

L: It reminds me a bit of Minas Tirith.

A: I have a hard time wrapping my head around it all; the drawing helps, but… wow.

 

L: Back in the preview chapters, Havoc picked out an interesting little bit of history. “Shin Invasions!!?” they asked. “Weren’t they supposed to be a peaceful people?”

This is a great question. I couldn’t find anything indicating that the Shin were ever on the offensive, which makes me wonder if we misread that little bit and what was actually meant was that other countries were invading them.

A: There’s nothing in the WoBs—I can’t believe no one has asked him about this yet! If the Shin did try invading the rest of the world, maybe it was because they thought it was their job as holders of the Honorblades. It was probably before the Heirocracy, if these are listed in chronological order, so it could be really, really old. The thought about “stone is holy” is fascinating to reflect on; why would they try to invade all that stone-land? Personally, I think it’s likely that their thing about warriors being the lowest level of society—and their being such a peaceful people—is a result of the failed invasions, much like the current position of the Vorin ardenia is a result of the church trying to seize power. “We’re not going to let that happen again!’

L: I’m sticking to my “it was the other way around” theory for now…

 

L: Since we’re talking about the Shin, I’d like to bring up a comment from last week’s post revisiting our discussion on the thunderclasts. JoshB said: “I remember Szeth making a huge deal about Shin being forbidden to tread on non-Soulcast stone. This was probably an early reference to the connection the Shin have with the spren, and the constant ability of some spren to possess such stone like a body.”

A: Interesting theory. My problem with it is that I don’t recall anything about the Shin having any sort of special connection with the spren. The Parshendi certainly do, and (likely as a result of crossbreeding) the Horneaters do as well. Spren are rarely even seen in Shinovar, so… I’m not sure I can agree.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

Looking down on Sadeas’s corpse, Palona says:

“Well! I guess that’s one problem solved.”

L: Bless you Palona. ::Potato-GLaDOS voice:: “Yeah! Yeah! She says what we’re all thinking!”

“You’d better be ready for Damnation’s own thunder,”

A: I don’t recall hearing this one before, but it’s quite the curse! Doesn’t take much to figure out how serious that’s supposed to be. “

“Blood of my fathers”

L: I really liked this in-world curse, but I didn’t remember it, so out of curiosity I went back and looked it up. Interestingly, it was used 14 times in WoK, but never in WoR. Maybe it’s just because we didn’t get as many Dalinar POV sections in WoR.

Weighty Words

L: At the end of the chapter, Dalinar instructs Shallan and Renarin to experiment with their powers more. To Renarin, he says, “I think we’re all curious to find out [what you can do].”

UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE CENTURY, DALINAR. Even at the end of OB, there are still so many questions about Renarin! What’s going on with his corrupted spren? What can he and can’t he do? We know he can heal people, that’s for certain. But can he see the future?

In the preview chapters, manavortex commented that “[At a] signing I asked whether Glys was equally “of Cultivation” that Syl is of Honor. I tried to get anything out of him about Glys’ possible Voidyness. He RAFO’d me, though, so – I’m still concerned for Renarin. More so, now.”

L: You and me both, manavortex. It’s worthwhile to note that Brandon’s RAFO’d a lot of stuff about the Truthwatchers and their spren, saying that he’s “not willing to canonize that yet.” To me, that sounds like “I haven’t 100% figured it out myself yet” rather than a simple RAFO.

A: About seeing the future, though—we know he can do that. Near the end of the book, he even thinks about how everything he’d ever seen happened as he’d seen it, except the one where Jasnah killed him. (That’s why he smiled at the Fused just before Bridge Four came through the Oathgate. I love that scene.)

Murky Motivations

L: I’d like to spend some time talking about Adolin’s motivation in killing Sadeas, because it seems to be a bit of a contentious subject.

A: Really? You’re going to spend time talking about Adolin? I’m shocked. Shocked, I say.

L: LOOK, HE’S AWESOME, ALL RIGHT? Personally, my take on the subject is that killing Sadeas was completely justified. Sadeas had betrayed the Kholin army and left them for dead on the Shattered Plains, for his own gain. He’d done nothing but work against Dalinar, and Adolin had every reason to believe that their lives were in danger from this man. He’d left them for dead once, and Sadeas straight up says that he’s not going to stop. It was preemptive self-defense, and defense of his father and—hence—the world. Was there a healthy dollop of vengeful wrath thrown in there, too? Absolutely. But to be honest, I don’t blame him, laws or no laws. To quote Syl, “Laws don’t matter; what’s right matters.”

Now, if Adolin were in the real world, and governed by our ethics and moral codes, would I condemn him for his actions? Hard to say. “Preemptive self-defense” is NOT a valid excuse for murder, unless we’re talking sci-fi Minority Report type stuff in which future guilt is assured, but I can’t deny that stories like Dexter in which vigilantes take the law into their own hands have a certain appeal. We don’t know much about Alethi law when it comes to criminal proceedings, other than this in-text reference I found from WoR:

Killing Sadeas now—no matter how much he deserved it—would undermine the very laws and codes Adolin’s father was working so hard to uphold.

So Adolin knew it was wrong. But he felt strongly enough about it to do it anyway. It’s a great ethical and philosophical question—when should personal morals override written laws?

A: I’ll admit, I have a hard time with this one. I’m against murder of the innocent, and I’m for the presumption of innocence. And I’m also for the belief that a legitimate government has the only legitimate mandate to exercise the death penalty. And I’ve been known to say that if Sadeas came back to life like some others we know, I was going to climb into the book and kill him myself. The thing is, the Alethi government is not set up to require or enforce moral behavior from its highprinces. Frankly, Alethi government is totally based on “might makes right” at the top levels, even though they have a somewhat better code of laws and justice below that. (Far from perfect, but let’s not go there right now.) The point is that there’s no legal way to stop Sadeas from doing exactly what he told Adolin he was going to do. He was going to use his position and influence to stab the Kholin family in the back until they were all dead. How do you stop that?

L: Whether or not this is an action worthy of a proto-Radiant or not is an entirely different conversation. There are a lot of theories about whether or not Adolin will eventually walk a Radiant path, and whether or not this action would be a boon or a hindrance to that.

Adolin stood for a moment, staring Sadeas in the eyes, and then something finally snapped.

This line from Words of Radiance in particular is the one I think most people are thinking of when they theorize that he’s heading down a Radiant path. But I don’t think this is evidence of him “Breaking”—not in the way we usually mean when we talk about proto-Radiants, anyway.

A: There’s a WoB that says that the term “snapped” was not used magically.

L: Sometimes a chicken really IS just a chicken, guys, even in a Brandon Sanderson book. (This can be read either as a Goodkind jab or a play on every bird in Roshar being a chicken, take your pick.) But… just for the sake of argument, let’s say Adolin is Broken and a proto-Radiant. Which orders would see this murder as not a problem (perhaps even a plus)?

A: We have a WoB that while some Orders would think he was wrong, others would be fine with it. He specifically said that the Willshapers would be okay with it, but that was in response to a leading question, so I don’t think it means much. I’m not sure the Skybreakers would approve, because they’re all about The Law, not necessarily about justice.

L: He was protecting others. There’s also the fact that his dead Shardblade (Maya) was an Edgedancer’s blade. Adolin certainly seems to embody the ideals we know of so far for them—remembering those who are forgotten, and listening to those who have been ignored.

A: Not every action a person takes necessarily fits the Ideals of their future Order. This was a totally human response to the situation. However, I do (now) believe that if Adolin ever becomes a Radiant, he’ll be an Edgedancer. Okay, that’s mostly because of Maya—I want him to bring her fully back to sapience, and if that means he needs to speak the Edgedancer Ideals, that works for me. His general behavior and graceful athleticism seem to fit well with the historical accounts of Edgedancers. Perhaps a smidge more than the one Edgedancer we’ve met, even?

Quality Quotations

  • “We have to assume that this city—our armies—will soon be the only bastion of order left in the world.”
  • “Looking for him? You lost your highprince?”

A: Well, for a relatively short chapter, we sure had a lot to talk about! This is partly because we’re busy referencing things from all three books, which may subside as we get deeper into the world again.

L: I just realized that I didn’t use a single meme of gif this week. I must be off my game. I’ll make up for it next week guys, promise.

A: For now, we’re planning to stick with one chapter next week. It’s Dalinar’s first flashback, which has been talked over a lot, but is HUGE in seeing what young Dalinar was like. Just in case we decide there’s not enough material, though, y’all could read chapters 3 and 4. Just in case.

Alice is glad to see everyone here commenting and answering one another’s questions, because wow—she has NOT been on the thread much. Life. If anyone is planning to attend the Emerald City Comic Con, make sure you look up the Dragonsteel booth. Alice and her daughter will be hanging out there on Saturday (March 2, not this week!) with Kara Stewart. Find them!

Lyndsey has been writing at length lately on her website about the lengthy process of trying to get a novel published, and about how her lessons in European longsword are helping to improve her fight scenes. She’s also got two conventions coming up, so she’ll be posting a lot of WIP cosplay photos on social media. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

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