Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, as we return to Urithiru for disturbing drawings, cooperative cartography, international intrigue, and mystifying murder in Chapters 8 and 9.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week, there are no Cosmere spoilers in the article, though we make no promises about the discussion in the comments. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Shallan Davar
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (The same day as the preceding Kaladin chapters)
We start off Shallan’s first chapter in the book with drawing. She’s having trouble depicting the city—for some reason, her drawings are coming out surrealistic. She’s also actively trying not to think about the revelation of the truth she spoke in the last book regarding her parents’ deaths. A scout arrives and brings her to a meeting with Dalinar, Navani, Adolin, and Renarin. After establishing that Shallan knows next to nothing about world politics, Dalinar goes on to list off the locations of the ten Oathgates and decides that their next step should be trying to secure alliances with the cities which contain them. However, their meeting is interrupted by the news that there’s been another murder.
Our heroes hurry to the site of the murder, where Bridge Four is waiting. Adolin is shaken by the fact that this man has been murdered in exactly the same way as he’d killed Sadeas, and then is shaken further then Dalinar orders him to investigate the murders.
Threshold of the storm
Chapter 8: “A Powerful Lie” is taken from Pattern’s commentary:
“It’s all right,” Shallan said in a hushed voice as the wind died down. “Just … just let me draw.”
“Mmm…” Pattern said. “A powerful lie…”
A: The subject lie is, presumably, Shallan’s claim that it was all right, or would be if she could just draw. Because clearly things are not all right, and even drawing will not be enough distraction to make it so. The theme of “powerful lies” carries through the rest of the chapter in Shallan’s pretenses and illusions, what with “power is an illusion of perception,” her disguise as an Elsecaller, and the map she creates with Dalinar.
Chapter 9: “The Threads of a Screw” comes from Shallan’s thought about the strata patterns in the walls as they run toward the scene of the crime:
The strata here spiraled, twisting around the floor, ceiling, and walls like the threads of a screw.
That’s the obvious part, but there’s so much twisting around in this chapter that it’s very appropriate thematically as well—especially that bit with the copycat murder that everyone (except Adolin) assumes is a serial murder.
Chapter 8 shows Shalash (Artist, Creative/Honest, Lightweaver) in all four spots, which I assume is due to Shallan’s drawing and Lightweaving throughout the chapter. Chapter 9, though, has Battar in all four, which is very unusual for a Shallan chapter. Battar is associated with Counsellor, Wise/Careful, and Elsecallers, so she would be expected if Jasnah were around. Since she’s not, I suppose it could be “Shallan pretends to be an Elsecaller,” but I think it’s more associated with Dalinar’s wish that Jasnah could be there to give counsel, and the inversion of the role as Adolin attempts to hide what he knows.
L: Well, an argument could also be made that Dalinar is the main character of these chapters for the most part, despite them being from Shallan’s POV. All of the action is coming from him, with Shallan as a simple observer. With this in mind, Dalinar is being very wise and careful in chapter 9 by setting Adolin as his investigator. Honestly I could see it even better if it had been the previous chapter that had Battar, but Dalinar’s still in wise-councilor mode here too.
With Shallan as the sole POV in these two chapters, naturally Pattern is the icon for both.
That moment notwithstanding, I can honestly say this book has been brewing in me since my youth.
The sum of my experiences has pointed at this moment.
—From Oathbringer, preface
A: Even having finished all the flashbacks, I’m a little baffled by this first sentence. Is he referring to “his youth” as the early days of the campaign to unify Alethkar, back when he was the blood-thirsty kid who would do almost anything to activate the Thrill? That’s the only way I can make sense out of it; he’s thinking back to his first experiences with Nergaoul, and the entire process that led to his ability to embrace it and tempt it into that gemstone.
Stories & Songs
She glanced at a soldier who wore the gold and red of Hatham’s army. He immediately looked down and rubbed at the glyphward prayer tied around his upper right arm. Dalinar was determined to recover the reputation of the Radiants, but storms, you couldn’t change an entire nation’s perspective in a matter of a few months. The ancient Knights Radiant had betrayed humankind; while many Alethi seemed willing to give the orders a fresh start, others weren’t so charitable.
A: Sanderson is going to keep reminding us that the whole world knows the old Knights Radiant had betrayed humanity, and willingness to trust the new ones is far from universal. It might get irritating, but as readers I think we need to bear it in mind; as “outsiders” to this world, and “insiders” to the minds of the new Radiants, we know they’re the good guys, or at least they mean well. The mistrust of the rest of the world needs to be part of our assessment all the time, if we’re to understand future events and reactions.
Relationships & Romances
Curiously, it was Renarin who stood up, setting aside his blanket and cup, then walked over to put his hand on his father’s shoulder. The youth looked even more spindly than normal when standing beside Dalinar, and though his hair wasn’t as blond as Adolin’s, it was still patched with yellow. He seemed such a strange contrast to Dalinar, cut from almost entirely different cloth.
“It’s just so big, son,” Dalinar said, looking at the map. “How can I unite all of Roshar when I’ve never even visited many of these kingdoms? Young Shallan spoke wisdom, though she might not have recognized it. We don’t know these people. Now I’m expected to be responsible for them? I wish I could see it all.…”
A: This really is unexpected, though more to Shallan than to the reader (at least, the reader who has been discussing Kholin family behavior to the point of exhaustion). Later, we’ll see that it’s happened before—Renarin is sometimes the one who sees a need within his father and finds a way to reach out and give support. All the same, it’s almost painful to see Dalinar looking overwhelmed by the task at hand.
L: I really love that Renarin is the one to realize that these words may have hit a little too close to home. The boys may not know the extent of their father’s damage (hell, Dalinar himself doesn’t yet), but they clearly remember at least a little of what he was like before the Shattered Plains.
Ahead of her, Adolin stopped and looked back. He danced for a moment, as if impatient, then hurried to her instead of running ahead.
L: Awww. Adolin’s just too adorable. He’s thinking of her well-being over his own curiosity. I love his chivalry.
A: I’m also glad he waited for her, so that we could get her reaction to his reactions!
Bruised & Broken
“I understand why you hate me, Shallan. I did not mean to help you kill your mother, but it is what I did.”
It meant she had to summon her Blade each time. The Blade she’d used to kill her mother. A truth she’d spoken as an Ideal of her order of Radiants.
A truth that she could no longer, therefore, stuff into the back of her mind and forget.
“The sword isn’t you. The sword is me, my father, the life we led, and the way it got twisted all about.”
L: Hoo boy, here we go. Shallan’s arc in this book is pretty bad, in the respect that she’s just… so very broken. So so broken. This is only the beginning. The realization of what she’d done cracked her wide open, and a slew of personalities just comes spilling out.
A: This was the beginning of a surprise to a lot of readers. At the end of Words of Radiance, it appeared that Shallan had faced her past actions and resolved her issues; now, when we finally get back in her head, it turns out that her head is a very messy place. As we proceed, we’ll see that her issues are so far from “resolved” that the two words shouldn’t be on the same page. For some readers, this was frustrating, as they’d hoped to be done with watching Shallan hide from her memories. For others, it was a mark of brilliant characterization, because the simple fact is, her issues are not simple; to resolve the whole thing in one Moment Of Realization would be cheap and unrealistic.
[Renarin] wore his Bridge Four uniform, but had a blanket around his shoulders and was holding a cup of steaming tea, though the room wasn’t particularly cold.
L: Interesting that Sanderson called this out. There must be some deeper meaning to it. Any thoughts, Alice?
A: I don’t have anything solid, but I agree—there’s supposed to be some significance there. The absolutely only thing I can think of is that when we see his spren at the end of the book, it looks like a snowflake; could Glys have the effect of making him cold? Maybe he’s feeling the presence of the Unmade, too; Shallan draws weird surreal pictures as her reaction, and Renarin gets cold? I don’t think he’s trying to hide Glys, because he doesn’t hesitate to set the blanket aside later. Now I want to watch for other instances of Renarin being cold when others aren’t!
(For your entertainment… I went back and looked at the beta, and it turns out I asked this exact question. The only suggestion, from Sarah, was that perhaps it was more about comfort in an overwhelming situation, which I could totally see.)
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
L: Okay so, I’m going to put this stuff about the strata in Urithiru in this section even though this isn’t exactly what this section was meant for. Patterns and Designs are pretty close, right?
Couldn’t they distinguish the pattern here of wide reddish strata alternating with smaller yellow ones?
L: It makes total sense that Shallan, with her training as an artist, would be more keyed in to the varied designs and alterations of color than a normal person. I wonder if the colors have any special significance, though? If we’re going to go with the widely accepted theory that this city is supposed to be powered by Stormlight, these could be conduits of some sort. Are the different colors significant to different types of energy?
A: The descriptions of “strata” in the walls of Urithiru are really bizarre. During the beta read, I noted that actual rock strata don’t behave in the ways they were sometimes described. Since the term “strata” remains in the text, now I’m watching to see if the descriptions change. If they continue to do weird and unnatural patterns, I will assume that they were shaped by the construction process rather than being naturally formed. Yes, I’m going somewhere with this…
In the meantime, though, I’m pretty sure that some of the strata carry Stormlight, anyway. It’s too obvious a way to channel it around, right?
L: Right, and there’s also something to be said for the fact that if gems can hold Stormlight, why couldn’t certain types of stone?
Squires & Sidekicks
“How does it work? Being a Radiant? You have a Shardblade?”
So that was where this was going. “I assure you,” Shallan said, “it is quite possible to remain properly feminine while fulfilling my duties as a knight.”
“Oh,” the scout said. Oddly, she seemed disappointed by that response.
L: I love the fact that Shallan completely misses the point of what Lyn was getting at here. As we see later, Lyn doesn’t much seem to care about femininity. She wants to fight with Bridge 4, not be constrained to traditional Alethi societal norms. I won’t be speaking too much about how this character is based on me in this reread, and how her characteristics may or may not line up with my own personality (if you ever run into me at a con or at a signing you can feel free to ask me in person), but I will say that I really love this about her character. As nice as it is to see female characters like Shallan and Jasnah who don’t hold to the typical archetypes of “warrior-woman,” “mother,” or “seductress,” it’s also nice to see women actively struggling against the inherent sexism of their culture.
A: One thing I’ve noticed in WoR and OB is the roles women play when they aren’t wealthy, or the wives of officers, etc. In WoR, we saw that a number of the Kholin grooms were women; since that occupation isn’t specifically mentioned in Arts and Majesty, it’s open equally to men and women. The ardentia, of course, is likewise equally open. We’ll see in Oathbringer that, while there are certainly far more men than women scouts, Lyn is hardly the only woman in the group. We’ll also see a number of shopkeepers, etc., if I remember correctly, as well as various scribes keeping things orderly. So it seems that there are avenues other than marriage or the ardentia open to women (both light- and darkeyes), but it probably depends a lot on the opportunities they find. Sort of like real life, come to think of it…
On that subject, I have to throw in one more quotation, mostly because it makes me laugh at the same time that it reminds me that every culture has different expectations:
Nobody tried to shelter Navani from the sight—as if it were completely proper for the king’s mother to be poking at a corpse. Who knew? Maybe in Alethkar, ladies were expected to do this sort of thing. It was still odd to Shallan how temerarious the Alethi were about towing their women into battle to act as scribes, runners, and scouts.
L: Peet! Lopen! Rlain! Oh, how I’d missed these guys. We don’t see much of them yet, but there’s one part I did want to point out.
[Rlain] drew attention from the other soldiers, several of whom positioned themselves subtly to protect Dalinar from the Parshendi. They considered him a danger, regardless of which uniform he wore.
L: As sad as this makes me (I love Rlain), I can’t say that I blame them at this point in time. No one knows how the transformation into “Voidbringers” works. All they know is that when the Everstorm swept over them, the parshmen changed. Who’s to say, to these soldiers, that Rlain might not suddenly turn evil?
A: As far as I know, the only thing keeping Rlain from going Voidbringer is his own determination not to change, though he might receive some additional protection from Kaladin’s squire effect. I agree on all points, Lyndsey; as much as it makes me sad to see him so thoroughly mistrusted, there is a valid reason for people to worry.
Places & Peoples
A: This chapter provides a great overview of the cultures we’re going to meet soon. Prior to this, we saw them only by reference or in Interludes; the action centered on the Shattered Plains, with bits in Kharbranth, Jah Keved, and Alethkar. Oathbringer has Our Heros conversing and meeting with people from these other nations, and sometimes traveling to them as well.
“They’re Azish,” Adolin said. “How can they not be predictable? Doesn’t their government mandate how to peel your fruit?”
L: A reminder here (for those with poor memories like me) that Azir is where we first met Lift. Their society is tightly structured around rules and laws, and requires a ton of paperwork for just about everything. Renarin might insist that Adolin is stereotyping, but I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if Adolin’s tongue-in-cheek comment doesn’t have a shred of truth in it.
A: Hey, stereotypes exist for a reason!
“There’s that warlord in Tukar. What’s his name?”
“Tezim,” Navani said. “Claims he’s an aspect of the Almighty.”
L: For some reason I’m getting shades of the False Dragons from Wheel of Time here.
A: Hah! He does sound a lot like those… but, from a certain perspective, he’s not entirely wrong.
“Azimir, capital of Azir,” Dalinar said, stepping from Urithiru to the center of Azir to the west, “is home to an Oathgate. We need to open it and gain the trust of the Azish. They will be important to our cause.”
He stepped farther to the west. “There’s an Oathgate hidden in Shinovar. Another in the capital of Babatharnam, and a fourth in far-off Rall Elorim, City of Shadows.”
L: (Which is such a cool name for a city, just sayin’.)
A: (I know, right? So intriguing! Unfortunately, I suspect that we’ll have to wait for Lift’s flashbacks to learn much more about it. ::pouts::)
“Another in Rira,” Navani said, joining him. “Jasnah thought it was in Kurth. A sixth was lost in Aimia, the island that was destroyed.”
A: Keep this in mind for later Interlude discussions!
Dalinar grunted, then turned toward the map’s eastern section. “Vedenar makes seven,” he said, stepping into Shallan’s homeland. “Thaylen City is eight. Then the Shattered Plains, which we hold.”
“And the last one is in Kholinar,” Adolin said softly. “Our home.”
A: I haz a sad. Adolin doesn’t know much yet; there are indications that something is not right in Kholinar, but all they have to go on is that the spanreeds in the city aren’t working, plus what little intel they received from Kaladin. They don’t talk about it much, focused as they are on the immediate issues of creating a functional society in Urithiru, warning other nations of the Desolation, and forming a coalition to save humanity. So this one soft remark stands out—it’s one of the few times someone verbally acknowledges the very real concern for their home.
While we’re on the subject… in the next couple of paragraphs, Dalinar outlines the plan to focus on Azir for its organization, Thaylenah for its shipping, and Jah Keved for its manpower.
“And Kholinar?” Adolin asked.
Dalinar doesn’t get a chance to respond before the scout comes in, but the question is left hanging. What about Kholinar? Strategically, it’s not terribly important; the Alethi are known primarily for military prowess, but most of those resources—the good ones, anyway—are already gathered at the Shattered Plains or Urithiru. From that standpoint, Kholinar is no more vital to the coalition than Shinovar or Babatharnam. But it’s home. ::sniff::
Well, anyway, there’s the run-down of all the important places on Roshar.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
Maybe when Brightlord Brooding-Eyes returned, he could fly her to another peak along the mountain chain.
L: I will never not laugh at “Brightlord Brooding-Eyes.”
“Brightness Shallan,” he said. “How would you deal with the Makabaki kingdoms? … Azir is the most important, but just faced a succession crisis. Emul and Tukar are, of course, at war, as Navani noted. We could certainly use Tashikk’s information networks, but they’re so isolationist. That leaves Yezier and Liafor….”
“Yes, yes…” Shallan said, thoughtful. “I have heard of several of those places.”
L: You know, a lot of Shallan’s quips fall flat for me—she reads as if she thinks she’s just soooo much smarter than everyone else and has a tendency to make others feel a little stupid, I think. In real life, I don’t much like that type of humor, so often times I don’t find myself amused by her comments. But this line worked perfectly for me, possibly because she’s admitting to a fault of her own rather than touting her own wit.
“And to be frank, Brightlord, I think [Pattern]’s scared of you.”
“Well, he’s obviously not a fool,” Adolin noted.
Dalinar shot his son a glance.
“Don’t be like that, Father,” Adolin said. “If anyone would be able to go about intimidating forces of nature, it would be you.”
L: Adolin’s flippant little quip here made me chuckle.
A: Every time I read that line from Adolin, I snicker again. It’s perfect. The funniest part is, Dalinar just recently bonded the cognitive aspect of the dominant force of nature on the planet, right? So, yeah, “intimidating the forces of nature” is sort of what Dalinar does these days.
“Any number of people could have wanted him dead, right?”
L: Right, Adolin. Any number of people! It could have been ANYONE! But certainly not you.
“I couldn’t have created this, Brightlord. I don’t have the knowledge.”
“Well, I didn’t do it,” Renarin said. “The Stormlight clearly came from you, Brightness.”
“Yes, well, your father was tugging on me at the time.”
“Tugging?” Adolin asked.
“The Stormfather,” Dalinar said. “This is his influence—this is what he sees each time a storm blows across Roshar. It wasn’t me or you, but us. Somehow.”
L: One of our first depictions of Dalinar’s interesting powers, here.
A: So is this Tension (soft axial interconnection), Adhesion (pressure and vacuum), or a resonance peculiar to Bondsmiths? The Stormfather later mentions what he calls “Spiritual Adhesion” with which Dalinar can make a Connection and learn other languages. My best guess is that this is another form, except that in this case it gave the Connection to Shallan. Maybe?
L: Hell if I know. I’m still confused more often than not by the mechanics of Windrunning, nevermind this, whatever it is. I love Sanderson’s depth of detail in his magic system, I appreciate the heck out of it, but I can’t analyze it. I was an English Major. Physics and science are not my fortes.
A: I just get a total kick out of the way he makes this all “physics and science” on the surface, and then suddenly he turns and applies the concepts of the physical forces to cognitive and spiritual abstractions instead of physical objects, and now everything is inside out and upside down. And it still makes sense. Sort of.
“I’ve seen the enemy’s champion—a creature in black armor, with red eyes. A parshman perhaps. It had nine shadows.”
Nearby, Renarin had turned towards his father, eyes wide, jaw dropping.
L: RENARIN. What do you know?! I’d kill for his POV of this scene.
A: I have to assume he’s seen this nine-shadowed champion in vision by now, though probably not yet with identity attached. Why else would he react this way?
L: And since we’re talking about Renarin…
As they moved, Shallan felt something prickle at the back of her neck. She shivered, and couldn’t help glancing back over her shoulder, hating how this unfathomable building made her feel.
Renarin was standing right behind her. She jumped, letting out a pathetic squeak. Then she blushed furiously; she’d forgotten he was even with them. A few shamespren faded into view around her, floating white and red flower petals.
“Sorry,” Renarin said. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
L: So… is Shallan just feeling the Unmade who’s taken up residence here, and Renarin’s presence is a coincidence, or…
A: … or is she feeling the presence of a corrupted spren, much like she feels the presence of the Unmade?
“You did well investigating the incident with the king’s saddle, even if that turned out to be something of a wind chase.”
L: I like this little in-world term.
A: Mmmm, good lies.
She looked to Adolin to get his read on the situation, and found him staring, aghast, mouth open and eyes wide. “Adolin?” Shallan asked. “Did you know him?”
He didn’t seem to hear her. “This is impossible,” he muttered. “Impossible.”
A: Poor Adolin. What a horrible shock this would have been!
“I’ll need to leave [the murder investigation] to you, son.”
“Me?” Adolin said. “You want me … to investigate who killed Sadeas.”
L: Well. That’s awkward.
A: Also hilarious.
Adolin swallowed. “I understand.”
Shallan narrowed her eyes. What had gotten into him? She glanced toward Renarin, who still stood up above, on the walkway around the empty pool. He watched Adolin with unblinking sapphire eyes. He was always a little strange, but he seemed to know something she didn’t.
A: It’s hard to know whether Renarin has seen a vision involving this, or whether he just knows his brother so well that he’s figured something out. Either way, it seems like only Shallan and Renarin notice how strange Adolin is acting, and Shallan dismisses it by thinking that Adolin isn’t remotely deceitful enough for her to be suspicious of him. Still, Adolin’s final comment just destroys me:
“I have no idea who did this, Shallan. But I am going to find out.”
Not worried that someone saw you kill Sadeas, by any chance?
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
We’ve already discussed most of the Pattern issues elsewhere, so we don’t need to talk about him here. There aren’t many others in these chapters.
…coldspren growing up like spikes around her.
…a windspren passing and troubling the pages.
A few shamespren faded into view around her, floating white and red flower petals. She’d rarely attracted those, which was a wonder. She’d have thought they would take up permanent residence nearby.
A: Aside from the snicker this always elicits, are shamespren like gloomspren—a common emotion, but uncommon spren? Never enough of them to go around?
She couldn’t get an angle from which to view the entire tower, so she kept fixating on the little things. The balconies, the shapes of the fields, the cavernous openings—maws to engulf, consume, overwhelm.
L: I absolutely love what Ben McSweeney did with these surrealistic, creepy images of Shallan’s. Not only does it reflect her growing unease of what’s lurking in Urithiru, but it’s an interesting window into her mind, as well. She’s fracturing, breaking apart—and her artwork reflects this. In my experience, when I have suffered from depression, I find it very difficult to write or work on any sort of crafts. The inspiration doesn’t come, and when I do manage to get something accomplished, there’s just something off about it. So I relate to this artwork of hers a lot.
A: I seem to remember reading complaints somewhere about the artwork in Oathbringer having “gone downhill.” I think it was someone flipping through the book before they’d read it, maybe, and they were really disappointed. And the beta readers were all going, “No, no, it’s all good, it all belongs, same artist, just RAFO…” As I recall, there was also a story about how hard Ben had to work to get these Part 1 illustrations bad enough to suit Brandon.
- Though the place was stuffed with rugs and plush furniture, the finery fit this bleak chamber like a lady’s havah fit a pig.
- Storms. He always seemed so … large. Bigger than any room he was in, brow perpetually furrowed by the deepest of thoughts. Dalinar Kholin could make choosing what to have for breakfast look like the most important decision in all of Roshar.
And that’s all for today, even though I’m pretty sure we left out some interesting stuff! We can pick up the rest in the comments, eh? Be sure to come back next week, when Paige will join Alice to talk about Chapter 10. We’ll check in on Kaladin’s progress, and enjoy our second Adolin POV.
Alice has nothing much to say about herself this week. Lame, isn’t she? But hey, did you see the announcement of the new Legion book? It’s really good, if somewhat weird and unexpected.
Lyndsey probably won’t be able to make it next week. Between learning stage combat choreography, auditioning for her local Renn Faire, practicing modern dance choreography for an event, running the Anime Boston Masquerade at the end of the month, and finishing up her cosplays, she’s going to be just a smidge busy. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.