Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Five and Six

and

Alice: Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread, as we finally rejoin our favorite (only?) Windrunner and his lovely spren. In keeping with the writer’s adage that “long journeys are usually boring to read”—

Lyn: Except in Lord of the Rings.

A: —we haven’t seen Kaladin since he left Urithiru, on his way to Hearthstone with a pocketful of Stormlight, to protect his family from the Everstorm. This week, we’ll walk the last few miles with him, and discuss what he finds there in the first half-hour or so. (Also, how does that adage fit with “journey before destination”? Generalizations sometimes fail.)

If you’re interested in going back to review the discussion when this was previewed, you can check it out here.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week’s Cosmere references are small, and aren’t spoilers unless you’ve never looked at the maps before. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin Stormblessed
WHERE: Hearthstone
WHEN: 1174.1.2.2 (The day after Chapter 4, when Dalinar saw the Everstorm pass Urithiru)

Kaladin is on his way home to Hearthstone, hoping to spare his family from the oncoming Everstorm. However, he runs out of Stormlight after only half a day and doesn’t make it in time. He arrives to find his home in wreckage, but the people appear to be mostly safe within the walls of Roshone’s manor. Kaladin makes his way inside to have a tearful reunion with his mother and father, then lands a very satisfying punch on Roshone.

Threshold of the storm

Titles: “Hearthstone” is… obviously obvious. “Four Lifetimes” is from Kaladin’s thoughts as Lirin argues with the guard captain, and Hesina talks to him like the young son she last knew.

What a surreal sensation, being back here, being treated like he was still the boy who had left for war five years ago. Three men bearing their son’s name had lived and died in that time. The soldier who had been forged in Amaram’s army. The slave, so bitter and angry. His parents had never met Captain Kaladin, bodyguard to the most powerful man in Roshar.
And then … there was the next man, the man he was becoming. A man who owned the skies and spoke ancient oaths. Five years had passed. And four lifetimes.

A: For all we’d looked forward to Kaladin’s homecoming, there are aspects to it that I’d never really considered. Like how very much he’s gone through in the years of absence, and how little his parents know him now, and how much his relation to everything there will have changed.

Heralds: Chapter 5 only shows us Talenel: the Soldier, Herald of War, associated with the attributes Dependable and Resourceful. This seems fairly reasonable; Kaladin is mostly thinking and acting like a soldier who is sneaking into an area that may be controlled by hostile forces, and has been very dependable in carrying out his mission to reach Hearthstone as soon as possible.

Chapter 6, on the other hand… Well, look at the title context, and it makes sense. Vedel, the Healer, as Kaladin was when he left Hearthstone; Talenel, the Soldier, as he became in Amaram’s army, and remained in essence during his time as a slave; Chanarach, the Guard, as he became when Dalinar bought his freedom and took him as a bodyguard; and Jezrien, the King—except with Jezrien, it’s the Windrunner that he is becoming; not the role, but the Radiant order.

Icon: For both chapters, naturally, we have Kaladin’s Spears and Banner icon.

A: Did anyone ever get a solid answer on what the glyphs on that banner are? I know there was discussion in some of the groups, but I can’t find anything about it in the Arcanum.

L: The conversation was in the FB group awhile ago, I don’t think we ever settled on a final answer.

Epigraphs:

I can point to the moment when I decided for certain this record had to be written. I hung between realms, seeing into Shadesmar—the realm of the spren—and beyond.

I thought that I was surely dead. Certainly, some who saw farther than I did thought I had fallen.

A: That would be Renarin who “saw farther”? I wonder if he told his father about the things he sees once the Avalanche died out. There’s enough time in that last chapter or so that I assume some useful conversations have taken place, but that we didn’t really need to see them. If this was one, that may be the reference.

Relationships & Romances

Lirin / Hesina / Tien

He’d have to talk to his parents about Tien. It was why he hadn’t tried to contact them after being freed from slavery. Could he face them? Storms, he hoped they lived. But could he face them?

L: ::sobs::

A: I agree; this just hurts to read. Not only did he see his beloved brother die, he’s spent the last five years feeling guilty for failing in his promise to keep Tien safe. He had to come back to save his parents, but if they’re safe… he has to bring his failure out into the open. What he doesn’t understand yet, of course, is that they didn’t ask that promise of him, and they didn’t expect him to keep it, and they will be delighted to have one son back. They’ve done their grieving by now.

Balding, diminutive, thin, bespectacled… and amazing.

L: Kaladin’s relationship with his father is great. It’s so multi-layered. He loves his father and respects him so much, despite the fact that their relationship has been tarnished by the fact that he knows now that his father isn’t a perfect man (those “stolen” spheres).

A: Also, how often does “the young hero” in fiction even have a living father, much less one who is worthy of respect?

L: Kaladin’s interacting with his father here as a man for the first time. When he left, he was still a boy. He’s been through and grown so much in his time away, but he still loves his father just as much as he did when he left. And underneath it all is that sea of guilt, for his failure to save Tien. This is reflected again later, when Kal thinks:

Three men bearing their son’s name had lived and died in that time. The soldier who had been forged in Amaram’s army. The slave, so bitter and angry. His parents had never met Captain Kaladin, bodyguard to the most powerful man in Roshar.

And then… there was the next man, the man he was becoming. A man who owned the skies and spoke ancient oaths. Five years had passed. And four lifetimes.

L: This is just so satisfying, to see how far he’s come in so short a time. He deserves this moment of recognition he’s about to get, this wonder from the people he loves. He’s paid for it with blood and tears and pain.

“Oh, Kal. My boy. My little boy.”

L: Usually when I say things in these rereads like ::sobs:: it’s just internet-speech for “I had feels here,” as I’m sure most of you understand. But this time I am actually tearing up for real. This scene is so pure and wonderful and beautiful and I love everything about it. I am so happy that they’re alive. I’m so happy that Kaladin found them, that he has this one moment of things going right for him.

A: It’s beautiful. It really is. It’s also a little … weird, reading these kinds of scenes, and realizing that I can’t help seeing them through the parents’ eyes now. When we read, we spend most of our time in the minds of Our Heroes, and we naturally see from their perspective. Now I find myself chuckling a little bit at Kaladin. He’d been so focused on his own failure, it never occurred to him that his parents will be overjoyed to have one son return to them, even if it’s just for a short time. Now I’m behind Hesina’s eyes instead of Kaladin’s, and what a joyful moment this is!

Moash

Brightlord Roshone, a man whose greedy ways had ruined far more than one life.

Moash … Kaladin thought as he trudged up the hill toward the manor, shivering in the chill and the darkness. He’d have to face his friend’s betrayal—and near assassination of Elhokar—at some point. For now, he had more pressing wounds that needed tending.

A: Okay, so I’ll admit that I loathe Moash and wish Kaladin would too.

L: F*** MOASH.

A: I find it highly irritating that as soon as he thinks about Roshone, Kaladin immediately thinks about Moash. Worse, when he meets Roshone and punches his lights out, it’s “for my friend Moash”—the dear “friend” who was perfectly willing to kill Kaladin in order to kill the stupid king who was nothing more than a tool for Roshone’s ambition. Kaladin’s loyalty to Moash grates on my nerves, even though I think I’m supposed to admire it.

L: Yeah. This annoys me too, that Kal is still hung up on Moash. But we should remember that though we’ve had a whole book between the events at the end of Words of Radiance, it’s only been a few days for Kal, so the memory is still fresh. He hasn’t had a lot of time to really process what happened between them—and let’s face it, the worst is yet to come. I’ll be really surprised if we go into book 4 with him still feeling this way.

Bruised & Broken

His failure pressed down on him with an almost physical sensation, like the weight of a bridge he was forced to carry all on his own.

A: An interesting simile; not a particularly funny one, but a very Kaladin one. I wonder if his depression will lift somewhat, once he accepts that it’s not his fault Tien died.

Perhaps it was time, for once, to stop letting the rain dictate his mood. He couldn’t banish the seed of darkness inside him, but Stormfather, he didn’t need to let it rule him either.

A: I was SO HAPPY to see this. I thought maybe it would be a big turning point for Kaladin. But life is never that easy, is it? (Or Sanderson books, either.)

L: Never that easy. But recognizing the problem is a step forward, albeit a small one. Kaladin’s seasonal depression has always been a thing I loved about his character, how it’s just so true to life. You have no reason to feel depressed. You know you have no reason to feel depressed. And yet…

A: And yet. Exactly. I do find it moderately disturbing to experience this myself and still get frustrated with Kal for it. I suppose I tend to want my fictional heroes to be better at life than I am, but at the same time, the writing is far better for being so real. Some people are just never satisfied!

Dead.

A part of him scrunched up inside, huddling into a corner, tired of being whipped so often.

L: Poor Kal. Thankfully this time he’s proven wrong, but the poor guy still just can’t catch a break.

These people had never treated him or his family with any measure of kindness.

L: This realization kills me. He’s spent all of this time rushing to get back home, only to find that home isn’t what he expected it to be. Age and wisdom have opened his eyes to the truth—the only thing he ever really loved about home is his family. I think some people who have returned home after being away for a long time have had feelings similar to this—I know I have. Home isn’t a place, not entirely—it’s the people that reside there. The people who care about us. Without them, the memories can be dead and lifeless, or at least not feel quite as full as they did before.

A: To a certain extent, I’ll agree with that. When I return to where I grew up, I’m looking forward to seeing my family more than anything. On the other hand, the woods where I played as a child, the familiar shape of the mountains behind, the hills where I searched out the earliest glacier lilies—those will always be home to me, even with no one there.

But then, I wasn’t surrounded by the kind of antagonism Kaladin’s family experienced, so there’s that.

“I’m sorry, Mother, Father,” he whispered. “I joined the army to protect him, but I could barely protect myself. … I let Tien die. I’m sorry. It’s my fault…”

L: Can I just… pick him up and hug him? Precious little cinnamon roll is too pure for this or any world.

A: I want to hug him and shake him at the same time. It is not his fault! He was a 15-year-old kid who had very little absolutely no say in where he or his brother were sent. While I admire Young!Kaladin’s determination to protect Tien, it was never a promise he could keep. It was beyond his capacity—which is, of course, why his father was so against his going.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

Look at the wounded people in this room, Kaladin. You’re missing something.

The wounded … they displayed fractures. Concussions. Very few lacerations. This was not the aftermath of a battle, but of a natural disaster. So what had happened to the Voidbringers? Who had fought them off?

A: We’ll begin to answer this mystery next week, but at this point it’s worth noting Kaladin’s expectations. He came here hoping to warn his parents (and their neighbors, why not) of the wrong-way storm that was coming. But he was equally expecting that the parshmen would take stormform when it hit, and that they would immediately start attacking the humans. It’s a reasonable assumption, though apparently not one that everyone held (see last week’s discussion). Right now, he’s just a bit bewildered that there was no battle.

Flora & Fauna

Rockbuds here grew almost as big as barrels, with vines as thick as his wrist spilling out and lapping water from the pools on the stone. Fields of vibrant green grass pulled back into burrows before him, easily three feet tall when standing at height….

The grass back near the Shattered Plains had barely reached as high as his ankle, and had mostly grown in yellowish patches on the leeward side of hills. He was surprised to find that he distrusted this taller, fuller grass.

A: This inevitably reminds my of Rysn and her contempt for the stupid, slow grass of Shinovar. Heh. But it makes a good reminder that the Plains are naturally inhospitable, especially compared to these northern reaches of Alethkar. At least part of it would be the climate, as Hearthstone would be nearly or altogether tropical, for whatever the Rosharan version of tropical looks like, rather than the temperate-to-arctic latitude of the Shattered Plains.

Kaladin noticed a bit of debris peeking out of the grass, and he trudged toward it. The foliage obligingly pulled back before him, revealing a broken wooden churn, the kind used for turning sow’s milk into butter.

A: That sounds so weird and repulsive, but it probably isn’t. And hey—sow’s milk butter would be better than no butter at all, right?

Which reminds me of a funny; apparently at the Emerald City Comic Con last weekend, someone got Brandon to write in their book, “Lift and Hoid disagree on bacon.” No clue whether this means that Lift dislikes bacon, or whether they disagree on how it should be cooked, or only on who should be eating it… but when someone posted the picture on facebook, it made someone wonder if they have pigs on Roshar. I love it when someone else does that, too…

L: Someone on the FB group mentioned that they thought Lift was vegetarian, which makes me wonder… have we ever seen Lift eat meat? I’d have to go back and look…

A: She ate a sausage in her first Interlude, trying to replenish her Stormlight to get away from Darkness. I don’t think she’s ever had the luxury of being picky about what she eats.

Places & Peoples

Oathbringer map of Alethkar Brandon Sanderson

A: We’re including the map again this week, because it gives a good frame of reference for Kaladin’s last three days. Put a bookmark there, if you like following maps, because Kaladin spends all of Part One wandering around on that map.

Four days ago, he’d traveled by Oathgate to the Shattered Plains, then flown to the northwest at speed. Filled to bursting with Stormlight—and carrying a wealth more in gemstones—he’d been determined to reach his home, Hearthstone, before the Everstorm returned.

After just half a day, he’d run out of Stormlight somewhere in Aladar’s princedom. He’d been walking ever since. Perhaps he could have flown all the way to Hearthstone if he’d been more practiced with his powers. As it was, he’d traveled over a thousand miles in half a day, but this last bit—ninety or so miles—had taken an excruciating three days.

He hadn’t beaten the Everstorm. It had arrived earlier in the day, around noon.

L: Okay, so… a thousand miles in a half a day. If my math is right, that’s about 83 miles an hour (providing Kaladin’s considering 12 hours a half a day). Average human walking speed is about 3mph, so if he’s walking 10 hours out of every day, the math works out right. (Now… Roshar has a different length of day than Earth, so none of this is an exact analogy, but I’m simply not a good enough mathematician to figure out anything past this.) I like having a general idea for how fast he can fly, and it’s interesting to realize just how swiftly he runs through Stormlight, considering how slowly Shallan burns through it later on in Oathbringer.

A: That’s kind of funny. It never occurred to me to figure out how fast he was flying, even without making all the adjustments for distance and time measurements. The half-day is probably 10 hours instead of 12, but then the mile would need adjusting too, and I don’t know what the ratio is. In any case, this should be a reasonable approximation. ::applauds:: (For my own sanity, I’m going to assume that gravitational acceleration is not in play when falling sideways. Just sayin’.)

L: I was an English Major in college. You’ve gone so far over my head there that you’re in the stratosphere.

A: Now here’s the really funny part: my first thought was, “That’s not very fast! If you’re going to let the guy fly, why not give him some real speed?” And then I started thinking about moving 80 mph with no windshield and no vehicle of any kind to provide cover from the wind of passage, much less any airborne debris (I guess that’s one good thing about not having any wild birds!), and I think 80 is plenty fast enough. I wonder whether Brandon and Peter sat down and worked that out to decide where and when to have Kaladin run out of Stormlight.

Oh, yeah, and Kal notes that the Everstorm arrived around noon in central Alethkar. We know from Chapter 4 that it had hit Urithiru the previous evening, so we can refer to the global map to get an idea of how fast it moves.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Wow,” Syl said, zipping up to Kaladin’s shoulder. “That is quite the glare you gave.”

L: Kal and his black looks and grumpiness will never, ever get old to me. It also cracks me up that he just keeps ignoring this poor guard and wandering around, doing his own thing.

A: Lol! After awhile, you almost have to feel sorry for the guard. He’s trying, but the prisoner just keeps ignoring him!

Roshone wore a lighteyes’ coat that was several seasons out of fashion—Adolin would have shaken his head at that.

L: I giggled. I love that Kal knows him well enough by now to know this.

A: I know, right? And that he thinks of Adolin right now! It makes me happy.

“Storms, what did you do, boy? Hit a lighteyes?”

“Yes,” Kaladin said.

Then punched him.

L: YES KALADIN. This was just perfection.

A: I can argue all day on why this was stupid and unnecessary, but I still cheer when I read it.

L: Oh yes, absolutely unnecessary—but so, so satisfying. And so human.

Meaningful/Moronic/Mundane Motivations

A: Kaladin punches Roshone “for Moash”—why not “for Tien”? Why not for his own brother, who died for Roshone’s petty vengeance? Why not for himself, who suffered a loss as great as Moash’s? Why not for Lirin and Hesina, who suffered that same loss plus ongoing mistreatment for the last five years?

L: Maybe it’s just because Moash’s revelation of his own betrayal is fresher in Kaladin’s mind. He’s just had a bit of… atonement? regarding Tien, so the pain of it might not be as fresh relatively speaking as for Moash.

A: Also, why does Kaladin spend so much time sitting there listening to his parents arguing with the captain instead of just telling them the story? (I mean, I have an answer for that, but it’s an obvious question.)

L: It seemed to me like he was lost in thought, just… taking everything in after so long.

A: It appears that this bothered me on the beta as well—I think it’s mostly that I’m not used to Kaladin being so inactive except when he’s been completely beaten down. Here, he’s not beaten down at all; he’s reached Hearthstone, found his parents alive and had an emotional reunion, and now he just sits there drinking soup and listening to his father try to make arrangements for something that Kaladin knows is completely unnecessary. I can understand me doing that, but it feels a little OOC for him.

L: I can see that, but he’s also totally exhausted. No stormlight, walking for three days… Even Kaladin’s got limits!

A: But he’s The Hero! He can’t have limits! … Oh, wait. Okay, then.

Cosmere Connections

Artemis asked last week, “Regarding the map of Alethkar posted in the article, it is interesting that Hearthstone is marked in handwriting with the note “annotated for your convenience.” I assume this is Nazh’s writing. Why is this important enough to note? I find it odd that worldhoppers would care where Kaladin grew up, or where his family lives. I suppose they are researching the KRs’ backgrounds, but why?”

A: I’m sure it’s Nazh’s writing, and Hearthstone is the only handwritten notation on the map. Why Khriss would want to know is anyone’s guess, though. Unless other members of Kaladin’s family are developing bonds, “Kaladin’s birthplace” is about the only reason I can think of for her to find it of interest.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

He splashed through puddles where rainspren grew, blue candles with eyes on the very tip.

L: These things creep me out. Are they just eyeballs floating where the flame should be, or is the eye lidded in blue flame? Either way… creepy.

A: I’ve always thought that, too. It’s one of the weirder images.

Shockspren, like pale yellow triangles breaking and reforming, appeared behind her.

A: This appears to be the first time we’ve seen shockspren.

“Wow,” Syl said. “Gloomspren.”

Kaladin looked up and noted an unusual spren whipping about. Long, grey, like a tattered streamer of cloth in the wind. It wound around him, fluttering. He’d seen its like only once or twice before. “Why are they so rare?” Kaladin asked. “People feel gloomy all the time.” “Who knows?” Syl said. “Some spren are common. Some are uncommon.” She tapped his shoulder. “I’m pretty sure one of my aunts liked to hunt these things.”

L: I find the hunting part to be the most interesting part of this. So… do the highspren need to eat? Do they hunt the lower spren for food, or just for sport? Do they let them go after they catch them? If they kill them, will there be less gloominess in the physical realm?

A: I have no answers for any of those. For the last one, I’ll say that it would depend on which is the cause and which is the effect, and we’ve never solidly answered that questions as far as I know. If spren cause natural phenomena, hunting them in the Cognitive should reduce their effects in the Physical. If they’re simply drawn to the emotion when it happens from other causes, then there wouldn’t be any effect, except not having the things flapping around your head every time the depression hits. I could see that as a benefit to hunting them…

“They’re like I remember them.”

“Syl, you never knew me when I lived here.”

“That’s true.”

“So how can you remember them?”

“Everyone is connected, Kaladin. Everything is connected. I didn’t know you then, but the winds did, and I am of the winds. The winds are of Honor. We are kindred blood.”

L: This is really neat. I find it interesting how closely tied the honorspren are to windspren. Makes me wonder if other highspren have close ties to lower spren… What would Pattern and the Cryptics be most closely tied to?

A: The only one we know solidly is the honorspren/windspren connection, but others have been postulated. Cryptics (Pattern) to creationspren, cultivationspren (Wyndle) to lifespren, and maybe highspren to starspren as I suggested recently. Possibly Siblings (Bondsmith spren) to gloryspren? They’re all speculation to one degree or another, though I think those first two are strong candidates, while the others are shakier. I’ve wondered if ashspren (which we’re told later are the Dustbringer spren) might be cousins to flamespren.

L: Oh yeah, I had forgotten about the lifespren showing up around Lift in Edgedancer.

“Besides, there was… another voice. Pure, with a song like tapped crystal, distant yet demanding…”

L: Hmm. The mysterious God we were talking about last week, you think? Or maybe just the Mother Honorspren we see later in Rock’s chapter?

A: An Unsolved Mystery! There’s been speculation, of course. I hadn’t considered that it could be the voice of the God Beyond, though someone suggested that Cultivation might have been responsible. I didn’t think that the other honorspren were watching humans that early in the process, but I’m not sure they weren’t. One of the more popular theories I saw was that Tien may have been in the process of bonding a spren; if so, it could fit with Mraize’s later statement (Chapter 40) that the Skybreakers records show that “the only member of Amaram’s army to have bonded a spren was long since eliminated.” I’m not sure if I believe that or not, but it’s an interesting theory. Except… probably not, because if he’d bonded a spren, those wounds wouldn’t have killed him. I wonder who it was, though.

Quality Quotations

  • He couldn’t banish the seed of darkness inside him, but Stormfather, he didn’t need to let it rule him either.
  • The mere memory of that red storm outside his hollow made panic rise inside him. The Everstorm was so wrong, so unnatural—like a baby born with no face. Some things just should not be.
  • Syl zipped up in front of him, a ribbon of light. “Your eyes are brown again,” she noted. It took a few hours without summoning his Shardblade. Once he did that, his eyes would bleed to a glassy light blue, almost glowing.
  • The parshmen had been housed in a small structure built in the manor’s shadow, with a single open chamber and benches for sleeping. Kaladin reached it by touch and felt at a large hole ripped in the side.
  • Then his eyes opened wide.
    “Hello, Father,” Kaladin said.

 

A: That’s what we’ve got this week. Next week we’ll tackle Chapter 7. It’s a long one, as Kaladin gets down to the business of Next Steps.

Oh, and while we’re here… I asked Brandon about some point of discussion at ECCC last weekend, and here’s the answer: “Here you go, blanket statement: Alice is always right. Tell them I said so.” Or words to that effect, anyway. WOOOOOT! I’m right! Whatever it is, I’m right! …

… at least until the next book comes out and proves me wrong….

Alice had a lot of fun working with Kara and Mem at the Dragonsteel booth last weekend at the Emerald City Comic Con. As expected, she completely forgot almost all the questions she’d been thinking of asking Brandon, like whether gloryspren are “cousins” to the Siblings. Sigh. But it was great fun.

Lyndsey is getting progressively more stressed out as Anime Boston approaches—running one of the largest events at a con of about 20k people is practically a full-time job. 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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