Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Eleven

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Greetings, oh fans of the Cosmere, and welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread! This week, we jump back in time again, thirty-three years, as Dalinar shows what a warrior armed with Shardplate can do to… well, pretty much anyone without Shardplate. It does have a few disadvantages, though.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week’s post doesn’t have any Cosmere spoilers, though we make no such promise for the comments. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Also, Lyndsey had a killer weekend at Anime Boston, so Paige is graciously giving her another week off.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Young Dalinar
WHERE: Rathalas
WHEN: 1140 (33 years ago)

Dalinar, Gavilar, and Sadeas, all in Shardplate, lead the attack on Rathalas. Nearly impervious to the defenders’ weapons, they take the wall and let their troops into the city. Dalinar steps into a trap, and falls down the side of the Rift; though he’s mostly protected by his Shardplate, he destroys one gauntlet and breaks his fingers in the fall. Recovering, he finds the local highlord, Tanalan, who bears the Shardblade Oathbringer. Dalinar defeats him by throwing them both down the Rift again, and follows the soldiers who retrieve their dying lord into a hiding place. There he finds Tanalan’s weeping wife and their six-year-old son, who struggles to lift Oathbringer to defend himself and his mother.

Dalinar and Gavilar rest after the battle, considering the probable necessity of politics as Dalinar holds his newly-won Shardblade.

Threshold of the storm

Title

“The Rift” is pretty obvious, as titles go. This is the first time we see the city of Rathalas, at the northern tip of the Sea of Spears, in the weather-protected Rift… which doesn’t protect it very well from Blackthorns.

Heralds

We’ve got Nale in all four spots this week: Herald of Justice, the Judge, Just & Confident, patron of the Skybreakers.

Alice: Okay, so Dalinar is extremely confident, but I’m not sure I see a lot of justice here. Maybe the opposite, I don’t know. Paige, any ideas?

Paige: I’m fixating on the fact that Dalinar actually spared Tanalan’s young son. He was an innocent, a small child trying to protect his fallen father from a monster. Perhaps Dalinar’s mercy in leaving the boy alive shows a smidge of sound judgement in the midst of his Thrill-tainted thoughts in this flashback.

Icon

The icon is Young!Dalinar’s inverse Kholin shield, of course, since it’s Dalinar’s second flashback.

Stories & Songs

A: At some point between the first and second flashbacks, Dalinar has acquired Shardplate:

He’d won it himself, in combat. Yes, that combat had involved kicking a man off a cliff, but he’d defeated a Shardbearer regardless.
He couldn’t help but bask in how grand it felt.

A: Turns out there are some drawbacks for Dalinar. For one, there’s no need for actual skill, when the other guy might as well be wearing tinfoil and waving a cardboard sword against the enhanced strength and imperviousness of a man in Shardplate. For another, in a city like Rathalas, with all its bridges and wooden walkways, the weight of the Plate makes it easy to rig traps that will send the bearer plunging down into the Rift. Still, I’m amused at Dalinar’s declaration that he’s going to sleep in it, if he has to, to get used to wearing it. Isn’t that pretty much what Moash did back in WoR?

P: Sounds like it’s a helpful tactic to get used to the Plate, though I can’t imagine it would be very comfortable.

A: Anyway, in this chapter he acquires the Blade to go with his Plate:

“Oathbringer?”
“Your sword,” Gavilar said. “Storms, didn’t you listen to anything last night? That’s Sunmaker’s old sword.”
Sadees, the Sunmaker. He had been the last man to unite Alethkar, centuries ago.

A: So far as I’ve been able to determine, Sadees was the guy who brought down the Hierocracy, and then decided that since he was on a roll, he might as well take over the rest of the planet. Something like that, anyway. He killed an awful lot of people for really lame reasons, but in Alethkar he’s a cultural hero. (Weird, bloodthirsty people that they are.) His biggest legacy, aside from trade routes that far outlasted his kingdom, is that his sons squabbled over the kingdom until they finally broke it up into ten princedoms; the families that rule the princedoms all consider themselves direct descendants of Sunmaker. There was a fair amount of speculation in the pre-release discussions that maybe he was the author of the in-world Oathbringer, since the Blade was his back in the day.

P: The Alethi are, indeed, a weird people, Alice. They tend to solve problems with brute force and devalue human life to an alarming degree, at times. I have wondered if the Sunmaker named Oathbringer (let me know if I’ve missed it!) and if so, the name feels a bit ominous, considering his ruthlessness as a warlord.

A: As near as I can tell, the best thing that Blade has ever been used for was buying all of Sadeas’s bridge slaves.

P: I agree. I would like to see the freedom that Blade granted to those bridgemen become its lasting legacy.

Relationships & Romances

“If Gavilar commands me,” Dalinar said, “I’ll marry.”
“Don’t bring me into this,” Gavilar said. He summoned and dismissed his Shardblade repeatedly as they talked.
“Well,” Dalinar said, “until you say something, I’m staying single.” The only woman he’d ever wanted belonged to Gavilar. They’d married—storms, they had a child now. A little girl.
His brother must never know how Dalinar felt.

A: All the family, right there in one piece. Dalinar, Gavilar, Navani, and Jasnah. I… don’t really have anything else to say about it.

And then there’s this:

With those keen, pale green eyes, he’d always seemed to know so much. Growing up, Dalinar had simply assumed that his brother would always be right in whatever he said or did. Aging hadn’t much changed his opinion of the man.

A: I’m not sure whether I admire this or hate it. I’d probably think it was cool, except that Gavilar made some spectacularly horrible decisions later in life. I guess at this stage, Dalinar’s probably all of 20 or so, right? So maybe assuming his brother will always be right is is still understandable?

P: The admiration for his older brother is definitely to be expected, especially at Dalinar’s age, as you say, Alice. I found it sad, because Dalinar, already so misled by Odium and the Thrill at this point, has so much misplaced admiration for his brother.

Bruised & Broken

He reached gingerly with his right hand, the less mangled one, and raised a mug of wine to his lips. It was the only drug he cared about for the pain—and maybe it would help with the shame too. Both feelings seemed stark, now that the Thrill had receded and left him deflated.

P: Rereading this after learning of Odium’s preparation of Dalinar really makes the horror of the Thrill hit home. It turns Dalinar into someone else, much as his excessive drinking will do after his next visit to Rathalas. It changes his behavior, as we see during the attack on the wall, when he felt dissatisfaction at the ease with which he had killed so many people. He then actively seeks out the Thrill to banish that feeling, and again takes pleasure in the slaughter. It’s disconcerting to see, and he does seem to crave the Thrill like a drug because of the high it gives him. Though that knowledge of Odium’s plan makes me loathe Young!Dalinar slightly less than I did during the beta. Only slightly, though, because as he says during the Battle of Thaylen City, he made those choices … it wasn’t Odium’s influence alone that resulted in so much death at the hands of the Blackthorn.

A: It still feels a little odd to think of Young!Dalinar growing up into Old!Dalinar (is that the right name?)—he was such an admirable character, almost flawless, in the first two books, and now we see him as a young barbarian. As you say, Paige, the knowledge of Odium’s influence mitigates it a little, but … he really was the monster Tanalan accuses him of being.

P: He was truly horrible, yes. But Brandon made me love and admire this character so much in the first two books of the series, that even knowing of the atrocities he committed didn’t mar my opinion of him in the present day.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

A: You know, this totally doesn’t fit here, but I can’t find a better home for it, so… here it is. Because mysteries, or something. See also, Will Come Back To Bite You.

[The wine] was the only drug he cared about for the pain—and maybe it would help with the shame too.

A: The big question, first time through, was just why Dalinar was feeling so ashamed. I had fun going back and scanning through the raging debate on the serialization over whether or not Dalinar had killed Tanalan’s son, which was the primary candidate for the shame. There were a lot of good arguments on both sides, but most of them came down to whether the reader though Dalinar would more likely be ashamed of having killed him, or having let him live. We now know, of course, that he was ashamed of being too “soft” to kill the crying little boy.

P: I agree, Alice. I think this quote is telling:

Dalinar closed his eyes, distracted by the shame he felt. What if Gavilar found out?

P: In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious that he’s ashamed of something that he feels would disappoint Gavilar. He regards his brother so highly that sparing that child’s life shames him. It’s actually quite sad.

A: Which reminds me… there were a few voices claiming that the shame was for his feelings about Navani. Turns out, no. The other major speculative debate over this chapter was whether there was enough brutality here to cause Kadesh to vomit and leave soldiering for the ardentia. And again, we now know for sure that this was not that event.

P: Yes, we knew when we didn’t see that tidbit in Dalinar’s recollection that we would be revisiting the Rift at some point. And we were not particularly looking forward to it.

Squires & Sidekicks

“Calm, Dalinar,” Sadeas said from beside him in the mist. Sadeas wore his own golden Plate. “Patience.”

P: It was interesting to see Sadeas as an ally to the Kholin brothers after seeing his outright animosity toward Dalinar in the first two books of the Archives. Of course, knowing how oily and manipulative he will be in the future colors the motivations of this loyal sidekick of a Highlord. He is just not to be trusted, even this early in the game.

A: I have to say, though, it was pretty funny watching him get so frustrated with these punchy Kholin boys.

P: Indeed, it was. *wink*

A single black arrow fell from above, swooping like a skyeel. It dropped one of the soldiers. Another arrow followed, hitting the second soldier even as he gawked at his fallen ally. … He turned, spotting a man standing near the sheared-off section of stone above. He lifted a black bow toward Dalinar.
“Teleb, you storming miracle,” Dalinar said.

A: Hi, Teleb. That’s all.

P: I did like Teleb, he was pretty much a badass.

A: One of the best.

And for good measure, we’ll throw this bit about Sadeas in here:

“Congratulations,” Gavilar said, nodding toward the Blade. “Sadeas is irate it wasn’t his.”
“He’ll find one of his own eventually,” Dalinar said. “He’s too ambitious for me to believe otherwise.”

A: Ironic foreshadowing, much? He’ll eventually get this exact Blade. Not that he’ll keep it very long, mind you.

P: I do love that little tidbit, considering the fact that he didn’t so much find a Blade as trade a thousand slaves for one. Which makes me wonder, once again, how Sadeas never acquired his own Blade in the intervening thirty-three years.

A: Seems kind of odd, on first thought, but there is some valid rationale for it. For one thing, Dalinar is the guy who goes charging ahead, so he’s a lot more likely to get to the Shardbearers before the more cautious Sadeas. (I think that’s how he obtains the Shards he gives Gavilar that eventually go to Elhokar, right?) And then once they get the kingdom gig mostly sorted out, Sadeas stays in Kholinar playing politics, while Dalinar goes out and fights the battles. So after while, Sadeas lost his chance until they started the Vengeance Pact and went after the Parshendi.

P: Point. Lots of points, rather. But not even a duel? Of course, if he’d already owned a Blade, he wouldn’t have traded all of his bridgemen for Oathbringer. *shrug*

A: Narrative necessity FTW.

Places & Peoples

“The Rift” was a fitting name. To his right, the chasm narrowed, but here at the middle he’d have been hard-pressed to throw a stone across to the other side, even with Shardplate. And within it, there was life. Gardens bobbing with lifespren. Buildings built practically on top of one another down the V-shaped cliff sides. The place teemed with a network of stilts, bridges, and wooden walkways.

To survive in Alethkar, you had to find shelter from the storms. A wide cleft like this one was perfect for a city. But how did you protect it? Any attacking enemy would have the high ground. Many cities walked a risky line between security from storms and security from men.

A: I was going to explain how the Rift both helps and hurts the people of Rathalas, but Dalinar just did it.

P: Truth. That 12-foot wall may have provided some measure of protection from regular troops, but not from Shardbearers.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Brightlord Tanalan is a Shardbearer, right?” Dalinar asked.
Sadeas sighed, lowering his faceplate. “We only went over this four times, Dalinar.”
“I was drunk. Tanalan. Shardbearer?”
“Blade only, Brother,” Gavilar said.
“He’s mine,” Dalinar whispered.
Gavilar laughed. “Only if you find him first! I’ve half a mind to give that Blade to Sadeas. At least he listens in our meetings.”

P: I just adored this entire conversation and the exasperation that Sadeas shows by sighing.

A: He was kind of a ruthless bastard even back then, but he seemed a lot less slimy. It helps to see how he and Dalinar were once allies.

“All right,” Sadeas said. “Let’s do this carefully. Remember the plan. Gavilar, you—”
Gavilar gave Dalinar a grin, slammed his faceplate down, then took off running to leave Sadeas midsentence. Dalinar whooped and joined him, Plated boots grinding against stone. Sadeas cursed loudly, then followed.

P: Okay, fine. I didn’t hate this bit of Sadeas. Not really. It’s actually funny that he’s the voice of reason and Gavilar and Dalinar are like kids playing at war.

A: You took the words right out of my mind! “Voice of reason.” Sadeas? Heh.

That had been a flat-out greenvine mistake.

P: “Greenvine” is a great in-world substitute for “rookie”.

Weighty Words

Dalinar might not pay attention to the grand plans Gavilar and Sadeas made, but he was a soldier. He knew battlefields like a woman knew her mother’s recipes: he might not be able to give you measurements, but he could taste when something was off.

P: I liked this bit, it shows that despite the fact that Odium led Dalinar around by the nose, Dalinar did have a mind for tactics and the like.

A: That was a great moment; even though Dalinar himself fell into the trap, he figured it out before the other two were caught. And then, naturally, he used the trap to his own advantage, because a guy in Shardplate is really stinking hard to kill. I don’t have any strong feeling that his battle sense (or whatever you call it) is necessarily related to his eventual bond, but … you never know, do you?

P: At least not until we’re told otherwise!

Military Motivations

We’re going to put all the conquest-y stuff in here, because the motivations are discussed in this chapter more than usual. To start off with:

After two years of fighting, only four of the ten princedoms had accepted Gavilar’s rule—and two of those, Kholin and Sadeas, had been easy. The result was a united Alethkar: against House Kholin.

A: So they’ve only been at this conquest thing for a couple of years now. That would mean the first flashback is set only a year or so into the effort. I think that fits the situation there—long enough to have developed reputations, but not so long that Dalinar being 19 is completely unbelievable.

P: Knowing how young they were, it makes sense that so many princedoms resisted their rule.

A: it really does. Who wants to accept some punk kid as the king? Why take these boys seriously? It’s interesting that at this stage, Gavilar wants to manipulate the opposing houses into mutual backstabbing, while Sadeas wants to have such a fierce reputation that they’ll give in rather than fight.

P: Exactly. Alethi highlords likely had quite a few “get off my lawn” moments with those Kholin boys and their unfortunate-looking friend.

“We’re going to have to grow up,” Gavilar said softly.
“And become soft? Like these highlords we kill? That’s why we started, isn’t it? Because they were all lazy, fat, corrupt?”
“I don’t know anymore. I’m a father now, Dalinar. That makes me wonder about what we do once we have it all. How do we make a kingdom of this place?”

“By the time we’re done, I’ll have it so that nobody even thinks of Sunmaker anymore. Just House Kholin and Alethkar.”

A: So on the one hand, they started out to “fix” the corruption of the highlords, and now Gavilar is starting to realize that it’s going to take more than killing them to make a kingdom. And then mere moments later, he’s all about the glory of house Kholin and Alethkar. In the meantime, they’re busy being … well, horrible.

P: Completely detestable, yes. I can’t help but go back to the concept of them playing at war … just haphazardly (and happily, ugh) slaughtering their way across Alethkar, as Tanalan says below.

“The way I see it,” Dalinar said, “the people of Alethkar deserve a king who is the strongest and most capable of leading them in battle. If only there were a way to prove that.”

“You speak of the people. As if this were about them. As if it were for their good that you loot, you pillage, you murder. You’re an uncivilized brute.”
“You can’t civilize war,” Dalinar said. “There’s no painting it up and making it pretty.”
“You don’t have to pull sorrow behind you like a sledge on the stones, scraping and crushing those you pass. You’re a monster.”

A: There are definitely two sides to the story!

P: Tanalan’s not wrong with that comment about pulling sorrow like a sledge on the stones. That makes one look at the “unification” of Alethkar with different eyes. They are indeed descended of the Sunmaker, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

A: I don’t believe we see any new spren this week. According to my list-as-you-go notes, we’ve got anticipationspren whipping in the air behind Dalinar as he waits for the charge; lifespren bobbing around in the hanging gardens; angerspren boiling like pools of blood around Dalinar at the loss of Thakka & his men, and again around Tanalan when Dalinar challenges him; painspren crawling around the young heir as he tries to defend his daddy; and exhaustionspren spinning over Gaviliar’s head after the battle is done.

P: Dalinar’s lucky no shamespren showed themselves after the battle. Gavilar would certainly have noticed. Now that I’m thinking about spren, I’m wondering if Dalinar’s shame prevented a gloryspren from popping in when he was praised about the acquisition of his Blade. /rambling thoughts

Quality Quotations

  • “The Kholin boys are chained axehounds, and we smell blood. We can’t go into battle breathing calming breaths, centered and serene, as the ardents teach.”
  • This was how it should be. Dalinar, Gavilar, Sadeas. Together. Other responsibilities didn’t matter. Life was about the fight. A good battle in the day—then at night, a warm hearth, tired muscles, and a good vintage of wine.
  • He was a destroyer, a conqueror, a glorious maelstrom of death. A god.

P: That one isn’t a favorite so much as it is utterly creepy.

A: Especially since it’s a total result of the Thrill.

  • He struck with a crash of Plate on stone. It didn’t hurt, but his pride took a serious blow.
  • Well, Tanalan was a fine enough fellow. Dalinar had beat him once at pawns, and Tanalan had paid the bet with a hundred glowing bits of ruby, each dropped into a corked bottle of wine. Dalinar had always found that amusing.
  • Well, Dalinar had used both Blade and Plate, and if given the choice of one, he’d pick Plate every time.
  • Honorable duels like this—on a battlefield at least—always lasted only until your lighteyes was losing.
  • “Daddy said … we fight monsters. And with faith, we will win.…”
  • “We can’t just keep acting like a bunch of thugs,” Gavilar said. “We can’t rob every city we pass, feast every night. We need discipline; we need to hold the land we have. We need bureaucracy, order, laws, politics.”

 

Well, we’ve said our piece. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and join us next week for Chapter 12. It’s another long one, wherein Dalinar attempts to play politics on a global scale, with mixed results and a gut-twisting finale.

Alice is thoroughly enjoying her beta read of Skyward, the new YA science fiction project from Sanderson due out in November. She’s also having fun creeping the “teen beta” spreadsheet, where her daughter is participating in a new target-audience beta read. There are some seriously insightful kids out there!

Paige juggles two jobs, two cats, numerous writing projects, and her sanity. She’s stupid excited to be traveling to JordanCon in Atlanta this month for her extended family reunion. She lives in Truth or Consequences, NM, which is a real, weird place. Also, #goYankees!

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