Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Seven

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Hello, and welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread! In this week’s chapter, we continue on with Kaladin’s heart-wrenching homecoming before he heads off in search of Wascally Woidbringers.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are no Cosmere connections in this chapter, so read on with no fear of spoilers from non-Stormlight novels. 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, Alethkar
WHEN: 1174.1.2.2

After Kaladin’s (totally deserved) decking of Roshone, he summons Syl to prove his rank and takes a report from the guards about the transformed parshmen, who left the town in peace. He gives Roshone a brief pep talk about leading his people, then Laral arrives. She sets him up with the things he’s requested—a spanreed to report in to Dalinar, some maps—then leaves him to wander through the house. He finds his father and has a sobering discussion with him about war, then reports in to Dalinar via spanreed. His mother introduces him to his baby brother Oroden, and Kaladin inspires the people with an announcement that the Knights Radiant have been refounded.

Threshold of the storm

Titles: A Watcher at the Rim

“You’re a surgeon, Father, but I’m something else. A watcher at the rim.” Words spoken to Dalinar Kholin in a vision. Kaladin stood up. “I will protect those who need it. Today, that means hunting down some Voidbringers.”

Which refers to this, from the Midnight Essence vision:

“Every pasture needs three things,” the woman said, voice changing, as if she were quoting from memory. “Flocks to grow, herdsmen to tend, and watchers at the rim. We of Alethela are those watchers—the warriors who protect and fight. We maintain the terrible arts of killing, then pass them on to others when the Desolation comes. (The Way of Kings, Chapter 19)

Alice: There’s a whole essay in there… but I won’t inflict it on you now! I’ll just note that I personally had never connected these two concepts, but they fit perfectly. Between Desolations, the Knights Radiant mostly withdrew to either Urithiru or Alethela, and kept the Alethi people in training, while others returned to their more peaceful pursuits.

Lyn: Which explains the Alethi societal predisposition towards war.

A: Now, as the Knights Radiant are being re-formed, they are desperately scrambling to catch up to the abandoned task of watching for danger and defending people from it. Interestingly enough, with the blatant exception of the Sadeas army, it will turn out to be the Alethi armies that are needed to protect humanity, supporting the smaller and less well-trained armies of the other nations.

Heralds: Jezrien in all four places. Protecting/Leading; King; Windrunners

A: Well, gotta say that Kaladin is all Windrunner here: The Knights Radiant Have Returned, Y’All, and We Will Lead You!

Icon: Kaladin’s spears-and-banner icon, which Alice still hopes to have explained someday.

Epigraphs:

I did not die.

I experienced something far worse.

A: I assume he’s referring to this:

Dalinar ripped his fingernails off, but the pain of the body couldn’t distract him. It was nothing beside the agony of his soul. Of knowing what he truly was.

Honestly, I can see how in that moment, dying would have been far easier than facing the full truth of all that he had been and done. But we’ll talk about that in… oh, a couple of years.

Stories & Songs

“They looked like Voidbringers, I tell you, with big bony bits jutting from their skin.”

“Weather in turmoil and terrors transformed from common servants? That storm with the red lightning, blowing the wrong direction? The Desolation is here, Roshone. The Voidbringers have returned.”

L: Kal’s sure got a dramatic side. I have to admit I love that about him.

A: Right, that’s all. Admit it, Lyn, you love everything about him. Just admit it.

L: Gladly. Kaladin is a treasure.

A: But, okay, yes, I love his dramatic flair as well. It makes for some fist-pumping moments, for sure.

On another note, though, how did Aric know that they looked like Voidbringers? I can’t believe they heard anything about Narak here yet, so that leaves two probabilities. One, they’ve heard descriptions of the Parshendi warriors by now, and he made an amazingly quick connection based on Kaladin’s news. Two, and the one I think is more likely, they looked terrifying to someone who’s never seen Parshendi in anything other than slave form, and he connected them to the bogeyman from the old stories.

Relationships & Romances

“That was only payment for a little unsettled debt between Roshone and me.”

L: You mean Roshone and MOASH (who totally doesn’t deserve you standing up for him, Kaladin).

A: I must not have noticed this on the beta, and no one else commented on it, but there’s a slight difference between “that was for Moash” and “an unsettled debt between Roshone and me.” Now I wonder whether that was a slip, or whether Kaladin is being inconsistent and/or conflating the two issues. I’ll go with “Kaladin was conflating” for the sake of my sanity.

“And what,” Roshone said, “makes you think you can order anyone around, boy?”

Kaladin turned back and swept his arm before him, summoning Syl. A bright, dew-covered Shardblade formed from mist into his hand. He spun the blade and rammed her down into the floor in one smooth motion. He held the grip, feeling his eyes bleed to blue.

Everything grew still. Townspeople froze, gaping. Roshone’s eyes bulged. Curiously, Kaladin’s father just lowered his head and closed his eyes.

“Any other questions?” Kaladin asked.

L: Okay, so aside from the sheer awesomeness that is Kal being a total badass here (and haven’t we all wanted to see this from the moment Roshone sent Tien off to the front lines?), I’d like to talk about poor Lirin’s reaction.

A: Yes, please! I mean, Roshone calling him “boy” and then being confronted with a Shardblade was cool, but Lirin’s reaction was … unexpected.

L: It’s clear that before now, he was aware that Kaladin had become a soldier through and through. But this moment… this is when I think he realizes that he’s never getting his son back. Not the one he expected, anyway.

A: I have to interject here that the short scene where Kaladin stands in as Lirin’s assistant was bittersweet; it was a moment where Lirin could pretend, however briefly, that his son could be the great surgeon he’d wanted. ::sniffle::

L: It must be a sad moment for him—the moment a father comes to accept that the sweet boy he knew is gone, replaced by this strange soldier. And, from Lirin’s point of view… a murderer. He verifies this later:

“What you’ve become, Lirin continued, “is a killer. You solve problems with the fist and the sword.”

L: I get what Lirin’s saying. I really do. In a perfect world, no one would need to kill. But I have to admit I find him a little naive, too. Roshar isn’t a perfect world, and killing is sometimes necessary in order to save others. I’m with Kaladin on this one. Look for another way, but be prepared to do what needs to be done to protect the innocent.

“And you honestly think that we shouldn’t fight the Voidbringers, father?”

Lirin hesitated. “No,” he whispered. “I know that war is inevitable. I just didn’t want you to have to be a part of it. I’ve seen what it does to men. War flays their souls, and those are wounds I can’t heal.”

L: Lirin breaks my heart here. He realizes that his ideals can’t be held by everyone… he just wanted better for his son. And who can blame him?

A: Not me. Not me.

“I dreamed of coming back,” Kaladin said, stopping in the hallway outside the library. “I imagined returning here a war hero and challenging Roshone. I wanted to save you, Laral.”

L: This makes me cringe. Oh, Kal. It’s a totally understandable sentiment to have, but saying it out loud is just… so childish. Sometimes, with all Kal has been through, it’s hard to remember that he’s only, what? 18? 19?

A: (He turned 20 while running bridges for Sadeas.)

L: Laral, on the other hand, seems to have matured quite a lot in their time apart.

A: Stunningly so, IMO. This was not at all how I expected her to grow up! I do love it, and her reaction to Kaladin’s wish to “save her” was priceless. I mean, I understand that he thought her situation was terrible for her—stuck marrying a disgusting man two or three times her age, and all that, but it was presumptuous of him to think that she would welcome his “rescue.”

That said, I have mixed feelings about her. I felt sorry for Laral back in TWoK when we last saw her, and over all I’m glad for her that she became a strong person and a leader in her hometown. I love that she opened the mansion to shelter her people. I respect that she puts Kaladin in his place with his attitude toward her relationship with her husband; that decision was never any of his business unless she chose to come to him for aid. But while she did say she “was sorry to hear the news of your brother,” she doesn’t in the least acknowledge that Roshone’s action was almost certainly the cause of Tien’s death. I guess… I can appreciate that she doesn’t approve of Kaladin’s behavior this day, and I agree that it was inappropriate. But “your father criticized him!” doesn’t justify sending Tien to a near-certain death, either. ::sigh:: I just have to tell myself that she never got the chance to see Lirin’s initial overtures and Roshone’s sneering responses, and from the day he arrived she only heard his side of the story.

But I’d still like to know exactly why Syl likes her.

L: Probably just because she doesn’t back down. Syl’s awfully independent.

“Kaladin, meet your brother.”

Kaladin reached out. His mother let him take the little boy, hold him in hands which seemed too rough to be touching such soft skin. Kaladin trembled, then pulled the child tight against him. Memories of this place had not broken him, and seeing his parents had not overwhelmed him, but this…

He could not stop the tears.

L: ::screams and cries simultaneously:: I CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS PLOT TWIST. Alice, you’re gonna have to talk about this because I can’t even formulate words.

A: Yeah, about that… ::takes a deep breath:: Okay.
This was an absolute stunner. Not because it’s so far-fetched, really – I mean, why shouldn’t they have another child? – but because it simply never occurred to me. Never. I occasionally thought about their grief, but I didn’t even consider that real people, in that situation, would grieve and go on living. If Laral’s maturity was a mild shock, this was a thunderbolt.

L: Not to mention the fact that this is an extreme outlier in the genre. Usually the main character in fantasy novels is an orphan. It’s exceptionally rare that we see a character with parents who are alive—much less ones who have had another child.

“Oroden. Child of peace.”

A: The name is simultaneously perfect, and ironic. To the best of their knowledge, Lirin and Hesina had lost two sons to war; is it any wonder that they deliberately named this one something opposite? (I have to wonder what the timing was for the arrival of the message that Kaladin had died, and the birth & naming of Oroden.) It’s such a perfect parallel, that Kaladin the (now confirmed) soldier is committed to protecting Oroden, child of peace. I can only conclude that Oroden will play a role in the second arc; the only question is whether he’ll fulfill his name, or twist it inside out somehow.

For now, though, I’m just happy that Kaladin has a new brother to love and protect.

L: ::sniffle::

Bruised & Broken

For a short time, it had been nice to just be Kal again. Fortunately, he wasn’t that youth any longer. He was a new person—and for the first time in a long, long while, he was happy with that person.

A: Well, it didn’t last the book, but it was sure nice to see this evidence that he is capable of being happy to be himself. Despite some fan hopes that he was done brooding, we know from real life that depression isn’t that readily overcome. We also know that healing can come, and it often starts with the occasional moment like this—a moment of unexpected contentment. I have hope that there will be more.

L: I don’t think Kaladin is ever going to be completely “healed”—clinical depression isn’t fixed so easily, and I doubt that Roshar has the right kinds of medicine to help remedy the chemical imbalance in his brain. But he definitely has the potential to be better than he is usually, especially with the help of the people around him and a new sense of purpose.

Places & Peoples

“I don’t like the idea of swinging you about, smashing you into things. … it doesn’t feel right. You’re a woman, not a weapon.”

“Wait… so this is about me being a girl?”

“No,” Kaladin said immediately, then hesitated. “Maybe.”

L: We’ll be seeing more of this ingrained societal sexism in Kaladin later on, but it’s worth noting that when his attention is drawn to it, he doesn’t double down on it. I love that he’s willing to let his opinion on things like this be swayed. He recognizes that it’s a little silly.

The reason I wanted to talk about this here in “people and Places,” however, is that the power divide between the sexes here in Alethkar is really interesting to me. Women, like Roshone’s wife Laral, have authority and power, just a different type from the men. They hold the reins of communication and knowledge through virtue of being able to read and write. Some might say that this actually makes them more powerful than the men, whose primary focus is waging war.

A: I have a hard time calling this “sexism,” at least given the preponderantly negative implication of the term. There is most definitely a distinction in roles between the sexes, and for some it would naturally be grating. (E.g., if you’re a girl and you want to do swordfighting, you can either become an ardent, or go to a different country, pretty much.) That said, women are hardly powerless, as you note. Each sex has its domain, and power within that domain is virtually absolute.

“I’ve got [a spanreed] to the queen regent in Kholinar, but that one hasn’t been responsive lately.”

L: Mostly just noting this for reference in future events. I wonder just how long she’s been under the Unmade’s thrall.

A: Was it just the queen’s spanreeds that were unresponsive, or all of them in the city? I think the latter was implied at the end of WoR, wasn’t it? If so, was there some reason the spanreeds weren’t being used before the Fused showed up? Or… were the Fused already active in Kholinar before the Everstorm was launched?

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“We should just pretend that punch never happened.”

L: I love that they’re at least competent enough to realize that Kaladin is way out of their league.

“Firstly, I don’t smash into things. I am an elegant and graceful weapon, stupid.”

A: Yeah, Kaladin. Don’t be stupid.

Weighty Words

Hadn’t he sworn to protect even those he didn’t like? Wasn’t the whole point of what he had learned to keep him from doing things like this?

L: I mean, sure, Kal, that’s all noble and all, but… dude deserved it. Surely there must be provisions for knocking people down a peg in those lofty ideals.

He glanced at Syl, and she nodded to him.

Do better.

A: As gratifying as the punch was, I actually like this part better; while Roshone is truly a despicable being, hitting him was pointless and counterproductive. But that wasn’t why I quoted this… I was just thinking how much this foreshadows Dalinar’s next Ideal: “If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

“You,” Kaladin said, “are a cheat, a rat, and a murderer. But as much as I hate it, we don’t have time to oust Alethkar’s ruling class and set up something better. We are under attack by an enemy we do not understand and which we could not have anticipated. So you’re going to have to stand up and lead these people.”

L: If part of the job of a Knight Radiant is to inspire people, Kaladin’s already well on his way to mastering it. Let’s face it, he’s had a lot of practice with Bridge Four and the various groups of slaves he tried to escape with, not to mention his regiments when he was in Amaram’s army.

A: I have to snigger a bit at Kaladin’s probable reaction to the idea of being an inspiration to Roshone. I’ll also admit that I laughed out loud at “You are a cheat, a rat, and a murderer.” Inspiring.

“Highprince Dalinar Kholin,” Kaladin said, Stormlight puffing before his lips, “has refounded the Knights Radiant. And this time, we will not fail you.”

L: CHILLS. This scene… oh man. This is everything I could have wanted from this homecoming scene, and then some. It was beautiful, and such a gratifying fulfillment of expectations.

Meaningful Motivations

“He couldn’t report back to Dalinar until he had the Stormlight to fly home.”

L: Despite saying that he’ll report to Elhokar just last paragraph, he first thinks of reporting to Dalinar. Is this a simple “Dalinar is my commanding officer” mistake, or is this another sign of Dalinar slowly usurping the throne?

A: I think it’s more a matter of context. Dalinar is his commanding officer, the one who gave him permission (and spheres) to go, and the one who commissioned him to find out what was happening in Kholinar if he could. Whatever he learns about the effects of the Everstorm, he’s primed to report to Dalinar about it if he can. The “I’ll tell Elhokar” was only in context of someone specifically asking him to “tell the king” about their food and housing shortage.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Some of the old spren have four genders instead of two.”

L: I love this, especially with all of the awakening awareness in our current day and age about gender and sexuality.

“What? Why?”

She poked him in the nose. “Because humans didn’t imagine those ones, silly.”

A: Personally, I like it for the implication that “the old spren” don’t reflect humans. It should be fairly obvious that “four genders” reflects the Listener genders of male, female, malen, and femalen. What’s easy to miss on the first read, I think, is that the old spren reflect Listener genders, while the new(er) ones reflect human genders. It’s either foreshadowing or confirmation, depending on when you guessed that humans were the newcomers, but it should smack you in the face on a reread. (For anyone who doesn’t remember those terms: Listeners were identified as male and female only in mateform; in all the other forms we saw, they were called malen and femalen, and their physical distinctions were much reduced.)

Quality Quotations

  • “Will you tell the king?” Aric asked. “… We’ll be starving afore too long, with all these refugees and no food. When the highstorms start coming again, we won’t have half as many homes as we need.” “I’ll tell Elhokar.” But Stormfather, the rest of the kingdom would be just as bad.
  • “We’re not powerless,” Kaladin said. “We can and will fight back—but first we need to survive.”
  • “I can’t stay. This crisis is bigger than one town, one people, even if it’s my town and my people. I have to rely on you. Almighty preserve us, you’re all we have.”
  • That storm was unexpected,” Kaladin said. “How in the world did you know to leave your spheres out?” “Kal,” she said, “it’s not so hard to hang some spheres out once a storm starts blowing!”

A: Bahahahaha! You can tell that Kaladin isn’t used to having responsibility for money, or he’d know that…

  • Hearthstone wouldn’t see this much excitement for another hundred years. At least not if Kaladin had any say about it.

Thus endeth the grand homecoming. He didn’t stay long, did he? Now he’s off a-hunting; we’ll rejoin him in a couple of weeks. Next week, we’ll return to Shallan in Urithiru for Chapters 8 and 9, and some weird artwork.

Alice is back to normal after her Comic Con weekend, which is to say, going too many directions at once. Isn’t everyone? She’s still working on that article about the Kaladin album, so keep an eye out for it sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Lyndsey is currently in convention-staffing hell getting ready for Anime Boston at the end of the month, but somehow she’s still managing to keep up with these rereads. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website. (Especially if you like Yuri!!! On Ice, because she and her Victor will be posting a lot of FB updates about that from the con.)

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