Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Four

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This week in the Oathbringer reread, we look at foolish oaths, broken oaths, and the necessity of oaths to the fabric of society.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. The Cosmere implications are minimal this week, though we do address one question. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Lyn: Greetings and welcome back to the Oathbringer reread! In this chapter, Dalinar finally marries his life-long love Navani in a ceremony presided over by the Stormfather himself. It’s… ::sniff:: it’s just so beautiful. I always cry at weddings…

Alice: Our first Rosharan wedding—but first, the return of the Everstorm, housekeeping, and a deeply personal revelation.

 

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar Kholin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1174.1.2.1 (Two days after Chapters 2/3)

Dalinar and Navani watch the Everstorm as it sweeps by below, and Dalinar puts forward his plan to have the Stormfather himself preside over their marriage. They leave for the ceremony, accompanied by friends, family, and witnesses. The Stormfather marries them, and Dalinar and Kadash have a sobering discussion regarding what the ardents see as Dalinar’s blasphemy.

 

Threshold of the Storm

 

Oathbringer Reread Chapter 4 Oaths arch icon Brandon Sanderson

Herald: Ishar in all four spots.

A: Now I’m cracking up. Ishar is the patron of the Bondsmiths, founder of the Knights Radiant, associated with the Divine Attributes of Pious and Guiding, the role of Priest, and is sometimes known as the Herald of Luck. I think I can see at least four distinct reasons for Ishar in this chapter! Bondsmith, of course, for Dalinar. Priest, both for Kadesh and for the Stormfather who stands in place of a Priest. Pious, both for the multiple representations of Vorinism in the chapter as well as the opposite position of Dalinar, who outright states that “the Almighty was never God.” Guiding, for all the work Dalinar has been doing to guide the inhabitants of Urithiru to some kind of order, even though it should have been Elhokar’s job. And of course, the Herald of Luck, because Dalinar and Navani each consider themselves to be most fortunate to wed the other. Got a couple more slots in that chapter arch?

Icon: Kholin shield, since this is totally Dalinar’s POV.

Title: Oaths

The word is used 15 times in this one chapter. Oof. I looked back at the various chapter titles that were suggested for this chapter. There were ten different suggestions, and nine of them had to do with, you guessed it, oaths. Some were about a specific oath, and some were about oaths in general, but one way or another, they were about oaths. There you have it. The specific line that was quoted in the suggestion of “Oaths” as the title isn’t even in the book any more, but it was in the context of the necessity of oaths to the fabric of society.

Stories & Songs

This thing is not natural, the Stormfather said. It is unknown.

“It didn’t come before, during the earlier Desolations?”

No. It is new.

L: Assuming they’re talking about the Everstorm in general and not just the creepy feeling, this is very interesting, that the Everstorm didn’t come before. What makes it so different this time? Is it because the Heralds weren’t trapped in Damnation?

A: That’s a really good question, and it doesn’t get answered in this book. I’ve assumed that it’s part of Odium’s big bid to escape his binding, which would be at least partially tied to the absence of most of the Heralds and their failure to fully abide by the Oathpact.

Also, the description of watching the storm from above is totally eerie.

The images of twisting windspren along its sides bore the distinctly rounded look of something that had been carved first from weevilwax, then Soulcast into hardwood.

L: This is probably nothing, but… Do you think this was the mirror of a Windrunner? Providing all of this furniture is stuff they found in Urithiru and not stuff they brought with them from the warcamps… It’s cool to consider that they might be surrounded by the possessions of the long-dead Radiants, but… we don’t see much else in terms of furniture or anything. I’d have thought that it all would have rotted away. So it must have come from the warcamps… right?

A: I’m pretty sure it came from the warcamps. I think it’s been empty too long for furnishings to last, though there were apparently still some wooden doors in place. I can’t find proof right off, but there’s been a lot of talk about stuff being brought in from the camps.

Also, I think it’s hilarious that some of his people were determined to make sure he got his fair share of the stuff retrieved from the warcamps, even though he didn’t ask for it. “Here, Boss. Here’s some stuff. No idea if this is what you want or need, but you should have it. Because Stuff.” Turning the outer room (inner? Depends on whether you’re talking about the outside of the building, or the tower entrance to his quarters) into a common room is a good idea, though.

Relationships & Romances

“It’s all right. I can share you with her memory.”

L: This is sweet and self-sacrificing of her, but I’m really lost as to how NO ONE realized what a dick Dalinar was to Evi. Did they just… never go out in public? Did he put up a good act?

A: Well, Evi certainly put up a good act! But I’m content to deal with that later. For now, I want to talk about something else.

Oh, how little they all understood. He turned toward Navani, set his jaw against the pain, and said it.

“I don’t remember her, Navani.”

As far as we know, this is the first time he’s told anyone what’s actually happened to him. You can see in Navani’s initial reaction that she doesn’t quite get it, but she does when he goes on and explains—that pictures are a blur, her name inaudible, and in any memories he has of events where she was there, he can’t remember details. He finally admits that he can’t even remember if he loved her; he assumes he must have, if the pain of losing her drove him to ask this of the Nightwatcher. (We know now, of course, that he’s wrong in thinking he knows what his boon and his curse were, but we’ll get to that later.)

It was such a relief to finally have him tell someone about this, and I’m happy that Navani is the one he told. She can’t help him remember, but this isn’t the kind of thing that should be kept from her.

L: I agree. It’s really endearing, and I love the fact that he’s trusting her with such a deeply personal secret that he can’t share with anyone else. It bodes well for their relationship.

A: It’s also worth pointing out that this is where we get the first hint of the acquisition of Adolin’s Shardplate. We knew from TWoK that it was “inherited from his mother’s side of the family,” and now we learn that Dalinar was at least perceived as marrying her to get it. Oh, the things we’ll learn about this “inheritance” later on!

Oathbringer map of Alethkar Brandon Sanderson

L: Okay, so let’s move on to the real meat of this chapter—Dalinar and Navani’s relationship.

A: As much as I love these two, I don’t really know what to say about it. To start off with, a quote:

“Your stubborn refusal to get seduced is making me question my feminine wiles.”

While I’m pretty sure she’s never seriously done any such thing, it reminded me so much of Shallan’s line in WoR Chapter 47 (titled “Feminine Wiles” of course), when she decides not to use Illusion to enhance her appearance for a date with Adolin:

She’d have to rely, instead, upon her feminine wiles.

She wished she knew if she had any.

So there’s that chuckle—and that contrast. I doubt Navani has ever wondered.

L: She seems totally confident, showing her freehand like she does. I love this about her.

A: It’s a complex relationship, though, because Dalinar fell in love with Navani somewhere around 35 years ago. Then his brother showed interest, and Dalinar stopped pursuing her, only to spend the next 30 years being bitter and resentful, and feeling guilty for both. For Navani’s part, she seems to have been reasonably content with her choice for a while, but she’s dropped the odd hint that their marriage was not happy in later years.

Now Navani—rightly, IMO—demands to know whether Dalinar is going to keep stringing it along, or if he’s going to find a way to make this happen. His only real hesitation is that he wants to do it “right”—and for a Bondsmith, I think the emphasis on spoken vows make a world of sense—but Vorin tradition and a stubborn senior ardent won’t cooperate. After discussing possibilities like Elhokar, or a priest of some non-Vorin religion (great idea when you’re already being accused of heresy!), Dalinar decides to circumvent them all, and the Stormfather agrees. Navani claims she’d be happy with “a confused dishwasher” to officiate, so she’s good with the super-spren-priest, and who cares what the rest of them think!

Amusingly enough, she actually has all the traditional bridal-wear ready at hand. And somehow, no one has the guts to argue with the Stormfather when he says, “SO BE IT.”

Bruised & Broken

L: I’d like to spend a bit of time here talking about Kadash. Man… knowing what he witnessed at the Rift really breaks my heart. Working so closely with Dalinar probably means that he knew Evi, and to see what Dalinar inadvertently did to her—no wonder the poor guy joined the ardents. Dalinar remembering him retching his guts out on the battlefield is horrifying—for a man so battle-hardened to do that, he must have cared for her. Unlike our proto-Radiants, however, Kadash’s breaking led him into the ardentia. He seems to be genuinely trying to make the world better, and to atone for whatever sins he feels he helped to perpetuate. To follow Dalinar, and then have Dalinar destroy his loyalty at the Rift so completely that he turns to faith for answers… and then Dalinar begins destroying that, too? No wonder he’s so bitter and angry.

A: I don’t want to jump ahead too much, but I’m pretty sure what really did Kadash in was his own involvement. It was his squad that went with Dalinar into the city, and his squad that brought the oil barrels, lit them, and rolled them down into the hiding place turned prison. Dalinar ordered it, but Kadash was right there helping—he knew exactly how and why Evi died. I believe it was the knowledge of his own part that had him retching, and sent him into the ardentia. I can’t really blame him, and it explains some things about his attitude toward Dalinar in this chapter.

L: I still wonder if he knew her personally, or if it was just the knowledge that he’d helped to kill an innocent woman.

Flora & Fauna

[The Everstorm] did not recharge spheres, even if you left them out during the whole Everstorm.

L: Hmmm. I wonder if there are spheres that can hold Voidlight….

A: Do we ever see Voidlight-charged spheres? I don’t recall any.

L: Not so far as I know, but we all know how my memory is, so… The closest I can think of is the “dark” spheres we’ve discussed a few times now, but we seem to be pretty settled on those containing Unmade.

Places & Peoples

“Let the ardents hie to Damnation, with ribbons around their ankles.”

L: Okay, first of all I have to say how much I appreciate the use of the word hie. It is so rare to see and it’s used perfectly here. The real reason I quoted it, though, is the “ribbons around the ankles” bit. Is this something we have seen? A cultural oddity of the Alethi?

A: This is one of my favorite lines! What an image. There’s nothing to indicate whether the ribbons are something one actually sees, or just a figure of speech. I tend to assume the latter, for no good reason.

The balcony ground its inexorable way towards the top of the tower. Only a handful of the dozens of lifts worked; back when Urithiru flourished, they all would have been going at once.

L: Do we ever find out how these these are currently powered? They’re fabrials so I’d assume Stormlight, but why are just these out of all the mechanisms in Urithiru powered via Stormlight? Why not all the other stuff we are suspecting is part of this city?

A: We get a little more detail in Chapter 17 on how they make the lifts work—you put a charged gemstone, not a sphere, in a little slot, and it stops when you take the stone out. There’s a lever you move to make it go up or down. But that still doesn’t explain why this mechanism can be operated with a small charged gemstone, while none of the others can. I seem to be guessing a lot today, but my theory is that most of the other systems are simply too large in scale. I don’t know what else to suggest.

L: They must need more Stormlight than can be provided by a single small gemstone. Maybe the builders of Urithiru wanted to ensure that the lifts would always be able to be used, no matter what. Like emergency lights!

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Is that a proposal?”

“…Yes?”

“Dalinar Kholin,” she said. “Surely you can do better.”

A: I agree with Navani—for a man who claims that words are so important, that was a mighty casual suggestion!

L: I laughed out loud. But then…

“Better than you, Navani? No, I don’t think that I could.”

L: D’AWWWWW. He turned it around on her and made it all romantic.

A: He cheated.

Weighty Words

“Mere words.”

“Words are the most important things in my life right now.”

L: It’s pretty sobering to think about the fact that Dalinar is placing his responsibility to the world right now over everything else—even his family.

“What about foolish oaths? Made in haste, or in ignorance?”

There are no foolish oaths. All are the mark of men and true spren over beasts and subspren. The mark of intelligence, free will, and choice.

L: This is a nice sentiment and all, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Oaths can be made under duress as well. I suppose a case could be made that even in that case it’s free will, but… I still don’t think I completely agree with Stormdaddy here. Dalinar notes that he doesn’t either, which I like.

A: I think it’s a matter of perspective. From a human viewpoint, we who can so easily change our minds, regret rash promises, or find that we are incapable of keeping what we vowed, there are many sorts of “foolish” oaths which should never be made in the first place. In the eyes of the Stormfather, it seems that even an oath made under duress isn’t a foolish oath; the ability to make an oath proves intelligence and the ability to choose one course over another. As he says, non-sapient creatures are not capable of making oaths. There will be further discussion of this general subject farther into the book, though, as the Stormfather comes to understand humanity better.

“Dalinar Kholin is mine, and I am his.”

YOU HAVE BROKEN OATHS BEFORE.

L: This makes me wonder what oaths she’s broken. I suppose they’re probably little things, but still… it makes me wonder.

A: I was sure I remembered debate about this, but I sure can’t find it! The only suggestion in the preview chapters was from stegasauruss, who said, “I’m also curious what other oaths she’s broken. I feel like that might be significant. Or maybe just like she promised Elhokar to help him with math homework that one time and then forgot, you never know with these books.” Heh. But I do wonder if we’ll eventually find out about something significant—an oath to Gavilar, or to one of her children, that she didn’t keep in its intent, at least. I could easily see that; it seems fairly clear that her first marriage left something to be desired in later years.

Meaningful Motivations

L: So… Dalinar. Boy, do we need to talk about Dalinar, and his slow but steady usurpation of the throne. I get where he’s coming from here—Elhokar isn’t doing a bang-up job of… well… anything, really. But does that make it right for Dalinar to pull authority slowly but steadily out from under his feet? Is” the honorable thing” just another victim sacrificed on the altar of “saving the world,” or might there be another way that Dalinar just isn’t seeing because he’s so accustomed to taking what he wants or needs by force?

A: I’ve always had trouble putting this in black-and-white. Dalinar doesn’t want to be king, he just wants to do what needs to be done. A whole lot of lives are at stake here, and they really don’t have time to twiddle their thumbs while Elhokar recovers from severe blood loss so he can make decisions again. I think if he’d been a good king, it wouldn’t matter so much, but everyone knows that, despite good intentions, he really wasn’t a good king. For years, Dalinar had to be power-behind-the-throne just to keep things from going completely pear-shaped. On the other hand, if Dalinar hadn’t been the ruthless Blackthorn all those years, it wouldn’t look so much like he was usurping the throne.

Argh. The pragmatic side of me is totally with Dalinar: you have to take action when it’s needed, because the world is on the line. Do your best to make decisions that Elhokar will be glad to support, but get on with it. The empathetic side of me is conflicted, because Elhokar is the Alethi king, and Dalinar has sworn to serve him. The uncertain young(ish) king can’t help but resent it when his oh-so-competent uncle steps in and takes over for him, no matter how badly he was injured at the time.

Cosmere Connections

“….I have felt… something else. A warmth and a light. It is not that God has died, it is that the Almighty was never God.”

L: Okay so… if the Almighty wasn’t God, what is this warmth and light Dalinar senses? Is there a True God presiding over the entirety of the Cosmere, and this is what Dalinar’s feeling?

A: Got it in one. At least, I think so. I have a couple of mutually exclusive theories on this. One is that, despite the Shattering, there remains a hidden but unbroken essence of Adonalsium, which will regather the Shards when the time is right. The other is that Adonalsium was never God any more than Honor was—that he was only a representative. In either case, I’m almost sure that the warmth and light Dalinar experienced in WoR Chapter 89 was the True God over the Cosmere.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

Passionspren fluttered around them like crystal flakes of snow.

L: This is such a cool mental image. So beautiful. I don’t recall having seen passionspren before, which… makes sense, given that Sanderson is historically pretty stand-off-ish about writing passionate scenes between lovers.

A: They showed up once before—the first time Dalinar kissed Navani, in TWoK Chapter 61.

L: What? I didn’t remember something from an earlier book? I am shocked. Shocked I say! ::laughs::

…High above, starspren swirled and made distant patterns.

L: This is another one I don’t recall having seen before. I wonder if there are actual stars, and then starspren in addition to them? Where do they reside, exactly? In space, or the upper atmosphere?

A: We’ve seen them all of three times before, and at one point Kaladin notes that they are rare. They seem to reside in the air—high enough that no one thinks of them being in reach, but still low enough to be visible. In one of the chasm chapters, Shallan notes that clouds hide the stars, but she can see starspren between her and the clouds. (As a side note, I developed a new theory recently. I was looking for descriptions of the various bonding spren, and discovered that highspren—those that bond Skybreakers—appear like rips in the air, through which you can see stars. So my new theory is that starspren are the “cousins” to highspren, as windspren are to honorspren.)

L: Sorry, all I can see in my head is the crack in time from Doctor Who

All through the gathered guests, smoky blue awespren rings burst out above heads.

A: We haven’t seen these much, either! In WoR, a single awespren bursts above Dalinar when Shallan shows him her Lightweaving, and she thinks that she’d seen such a spren only a handful of times in her life. We also saw one last week, when Dalinar was being amazed at Teleb’s archery. This week, there is a veritable cloud of the things, as the guests react to the Stormfather’s overwhelming presence.

… She was ringed by gloryspren, the golden lights rotating above her head.

A: I love that Navani, instead of an awespren, draws gloryspren. There has been an ongoing debate about the name of these things, since we see them in some very odd situations. Sometimes they seem to reflect how a person feels about their own accomplishment, and sometimes they seem more about how others see that person. In this case, it seems pretty clear that Navani is overjoyed at having finally married the man she loves. It’s also interesting to see the swirl of gloryspren here, considering how they behave at the end of the book. Do you suppose the Stormfather’s presence brought them, or are they purely a response to Navani’s emotions?

He ran over, trailing joyspren in the shape of blue leaves that hurried to keep up with him.

A: Adolin is such a gem. I love the way he is totally, unabashedly happy for them. Even the spren can’t keep up!

L: Adolin Kholin is a gift and I will duel with Shardblades against anyone who disagrees.

Quality Quotations

And vast seas of glowing red eyes, coming awake like spheres suddenly renewed with Stormlight.

Highstorms were the ultimate expression of nature’s power: wild, untamed, sent to remind man of his insignificance. However, highstorms never seemed hateful. This storm was different. It felt vengeful.

She’s gone, leaving debris that mars my memory.

I appreciate the man you’ve become; you should avoid reminding me of the man you once were.

A: I’m not entirely sure we did justice to this chapter; there were so many different, scattered things to collect. (Or maybe that was just my brain?) Anyway, whatever we left out, bring it up in the comments! Next week, we’ll catch up with our foremost Windrunner—

L: FINALLY.

A: —on his mission to protect his parents from renegade parshmen. If all goes well, we’ll cover Chapter 5, “Hearthstone,” and Chapter 6, “Four Lifetimes.” They’re both relatively short chapters—together, about as many pages as this week’s single chapter. Go forth, comment, and reread!

Alice is tired of winter again, after not one but two more snowfalls this week. Can it be spring now? Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to her first time at Emerald City Comic Con, where she’ll be assisting the lovely Kara Stewart at the Dragonsteel booth. Be sure to stop by if you’re at the con!

Lyndsey is hip deep in work for Anime Boston currently. Between coordinating the Cosplay Masquerade and trying to get four cosplays of her own (and for friends and family) completed, her free time has basically eroded to zilch. But she’s still trying to remember to post the occasional update on Facebook or her website.

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