Alice: Hallo out there! Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread for two—count ‘em, two—chapters this week.
Lyn: Huzzah! Double the chapters, double the fun!
A: First, we briefly join Kaladin in his bewildered watching of the “Voidbringers” he finally caught up with. Then we’ll switch back to Shallan and Adolin—and Mr. No-Mating Pattern—as she begins learning swordplay.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are no references to the greater Cosmere in this week’s post, though we make no promises about the comments. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Kaladin; Shallan
WHERE: Rural Alethkar; Urithiru
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11 (two days after Chapter 10); 118.104.22.168 (immediately following Chapter 13)
Chapter 14 begins with Kaladin spying on a group of Parshmen who are, despite Kal’s expectations, playing cards. He swiftly realizes that these people aren’t the monsters he had come to expect. When he’s spotted by a spren and the Parshmen are alerted to his presence, he chooses to be taken captive.
In chapter 15, Adolin and Shallan are discussing the strange copy-cat murder. Adolin insists that it must be a different killer (which, of course, he’d know since he was the original killer), and Shallan is annoyed by his insistence with seemingly no evidence. He swiftly transitions the conversation into one about Shallan’s Shardblade, which makes her uneasy. As Adolin leaves to get blade guards to teach Shallan some swordsmanship, she decides that she must create a new identity to deal with the horrible memories and emotions threatening to overwhelm her—Brightness Radiant. Radiant proceeds to learn stances from Adolin for some time, with him being none the wiser to her growing instability.
Threshold of the storm
A: “Squires Can’t Capture” comes from the conversation between two of the parsh who are attempting to play cards and discovering that they don’t know the rules very well. The comment that went with this suggestion in the beta was this:
[The phrase] seems to hold more meaning than the game of cards. Squires are untrained, as are these ‘Voidbringers’.
“Brightness Radiant” is obviously the new persona Shallan creates here to deal with her discomfort over handling the Patternblade. We’ll deal with that below.
A: Chapter 14 gives us Taln, Herald of War; Soldier, Dependable & Resourceful, patron of the Stonewards. Whether this reflects Kaladin as the soldier, the parshmen he expected to be soldiers but aren’t, or… something else, I really couldn’t say. Lyn, any ideas?
L: I’d say that it fits Kaladin well in this instance. He’s scouting ahead, checking on the enemy. Just because that enemy isn’t at all what he expected doesn’t change his duty—he needs to gather as much information on them as possible in order to pass along to his commanding officer.
A: Chapter 14 shows Chana, or Chanarach if you prefer. She is associated with the role of Guard, the attributes Brave & Obedient, and the order of Dustbringers. At one point, I had a theory that Adolin would become a Dustbringer because Chana was so often the Herald on his chapters. I concluded eventually that my theory was likely wrong, and Chana was shown more because Adolin was both brave and obedient in most of those chapters, and sometimes also held the role of Guard for his father. Here, I suspect it’s primarily the Guard aspect, as he’s teaching Shallan to use the Blade she holds.
A: The icons are no surprise: Kaladin’s banner-and-spears, and Shallan’s Pattern.
In this record, I hold nothing back. I will try not to shy away from difficult topics, or paint myself in a dishonestly heroic light.
I will express only direct, even brutal, truth. You must know what I have done, and what those actions cost me.
—From Oathbringer, preface
A: The first line could, I suppose, be addressing Kaladin’s willingness to face his wrong expectations, and to surrender to the parshmen in order to learn more about the truth. The second one, in context of Shallan hiding in the new Brightness Radiant persona to escape the painful truth of her past, is almost hilariously opposite. (But only almost, because her issues are too painful to be that funny.)
Stories & Songs
Monstrous terrors from the mythological past, enemies of all that was right and good. Destroyers who had laid waste to civilization countless times.
They were playing cards.
L: I really dig this type of “reversed expectation” humor—probably part of the reason why I love The Gentleman Bastards series so much. But aside from the humor, this is the beginning of Kaladin’s realization that All Is Not As It Seems. This must be such a shock to him—not only is he trying to reconcile this new information against thousands of years of ingrained cultural myth, but he’s also personally been fighting the Parshendi for most of the last year. They’ve tried to kill him. And, even worse from Kaladin’s point of view, they’ve killed and injured his friends and those he’s sworn to protect. I love his arc in this book, because this realization that the enemy isn’t a monster is so real. We’re all the heroes of our own stories, and even those we fight against are still people with their own desires, loves, families, and reasons.
A: This is such Sanderson thing to do, and also one of those things that makes you say, “Well, of course!” after you see it. What else would they be, but … people?
The parshman looked so forlorn, staring down at his card, shoulders slumped.
“This is wrong,” Kaladin whispered to Syl. “We’ve been so wrong.…” Where were the destroyers? What had happened to the beasts with the red eyes that had tried to crush Dalinar’s army? The terrible, haunting figures that Bridge Four had described to him?
We thought we understood what was going to happen, Kaladin thought. I was so sure.…
L: I’m certain that this won’t be the first time Kaladin makes a mistake like this. But the fact that he can actually change his opinion based on new information is one of the things that makes him so likable to me. He isn’t mired in his own beliefs and opinions, unwilling or unable to change them even when presented with evidence to the contrary. He’s willing to listen to other ideas, other points of view. He’s willing to allow himself to be swayed and moved—which becomes something of a problem for him later on, as he’s literally paralyzed with indecision about what the right course of action is. Despite the basis for his name, Kaladin isn’t some stalwart Paladin who’s following his (perhaps misguided) beliefs to the bitter end.
The parshmen seized cudgels made from branches or the handles of brooms. They bunched together and held the sticks like frightened villagers, no stance, no control.
Kaladin hesitated. I could take them all in a fight even without Stormlight. He’d seen men hold weapons like that many times before. Most recently, he’d seen it inside the chasms, when training the bridgemen.
These were no warriors.
A: If I recall correctly, this chapter is the first time we actually see the awakened parshmen on screen, rather than just in the second-hand retellings of frightened villagers. Watching them here, as they try to puzzle through a card game, as they speak like native Alethi, as they seem so confused… This is when the Azish parshmen trying to negotiate, and the Thaylen parshmen sailing off in the ships, all snaps into focus. They’re all doing the normal things that would be done in the cultures where they grew up. What other shaping experience would they have had?
Except for one thing…
“Alarm!” a sudden, shrill voice called. “Alarm! You fools!”
Something zipped through the air, a glowing yellow ribbon, a streak of light in the dim afternoon shade.
“He’s there,” the shrill voice said. “You’re being watched! Beneath those shrubs!”
A: … And now we know why they’re all grouped together and apparently on the march somewhere. There’s a spren directing the group.
L: A spren with a strange way of speaking. Who just says “Alarm!” like that? Maybe language has evolved while they’ve been trapped over in Damnation.
Relationships & Romances
When Adolin returned to the room a moment later, he found a poised, calm woman who wasn’t quite Shallan Davar. Brightness Radiant is her name, she thought. She will go only by title.
L: Yeah, because this is a great foundation upon which to build a relationship, Shallan. ::sigh::
As she was swinging, he grabbed his own Blade and fell in beside her, modeling the stance and the strikes.
L: I really love this. Sharing these physical movements almost feels a little like a dance to me. And Shallan seems to agree:
Sharing these moments with him and drinking of his excitement felt special. Intimate. Even more so than their closeness had been earlier in the evening.
L: This makes a lot of sense to me. Being together physically is one thing, but sharing an understanding of what the other person loves is a deeper form of connection. Anyone can kiss someone else (NO MATING). But taking part in your partner’s joys, the things that make their hearts sing—that’s love.
A: This is a bit of a revelation for Shallan, IMO, and one we should all recognize. If you love someone, it’s well worth the effort to find interest in the things they enjoy. I don’t think Shallan has ever had reason or opportunity to discover this before; she was always too busy being what other people needed, or trying to stay alive and in some measure of control. Now she has the chance.
Bruised & Broken
She could see only before herself, and she wanted to run, go somewhere. Be away.
No. No, just be someone else.
L: Shallan, Shallan, Shallan. My poor, broken dear. I have to admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of her in the first two books. Her sense of humor grated on my nerves, and I really disliked how she treated Kaladin (up until the chasm scene). But her troubles in this book actually endeared her to me, despite the fact that I was constantly shouting at the book because she just. Kept. Making. Awful. Decisions.
A: She did make a lot of terrible decisions in Oathbringer—with a few good ones sprinkled in between—and I know it drove some readers straight up the wall. As I’ve said before, though, I think it was well done. This scene is a perfect example: I so badly wanted her to accept Pattern as her Blade and get on with the awesome. At the same time, it would be totally unrealistic; she’s just recently acknowledged that the first time she used that Blade, she used it to kill her mother. On top of that, the knowledge of that Blade’s existence was the primary thing that kept her father from treating her as badly as he treated her brothers… so that he would hurt others in her place, giving her all the guilt and no means of expiation. So yes, of course she hates the Blade, even though she has used it since then to save her own life, and also to save the lives of the entire human army at Narak.
I can hide, Shallan thought, drawing at a frenzied pace. Shallan can flee and leave someone in her place.
L: I think we can all identify with having memories we wish we could just hide away. And who hasn’t put on a different persona in order to fit in better with a social group? Granted, I doubt most people’s persona shifts are as… ::ahem:: drastic as Shallan’s. But it’s human nature to try to make yourself look better to those you love or admire. And if heightening one aspect of yourself while downplaying others will achieve that end? I think most people will do this unconsciously. Shallan’s taking it to a whole new level, though. The fact that she’s thinking of herself as an entirely new person gives me the shudders, and this moment in particular made me Very Concerned for her:
“Hey,” Adolin said. “That’s not bad.”
“Shallan did spend quite a lot of time drawing you all.”
L: Okay, first of all, how the heck did Adolin not notice that little slip of the tongue? Talking about yourself in third person is never a good sign.
A: I just tell myself that Adolin was focused on how he was going to teach her, and wasn’t really listening. On the more analytical side, though, I like the way this chapter is written. She shifts back and forth between two personalities, and sometimes it’s more of a spectrum shift, e.g. when she needs to stay mostly focused, but still needs to be able to draw. The different speech patterns are a combination of blatant signaling and hilarious inappropriateness. (“Brightlord Kholin” indeed!) Whether or not you like what’s happening to her, it’s brilliantly drawn.
L: Secondly, this was the first moment where I got a legitimate chill regarding the direction her character was heading in.
…whenever the pain of holding the sword started to spike–whenever she really thought about what she was doing–she was able to become Radiant and avoid it.
L: ::sigh:: Yep. Because avoiding your problems has worked out so splendidly in the past.
A: This makes me think about how hard it must have been for her to keep working the Oathgate by herself for, what, two or three weeks? She had to keep blocking this pain every time, poor girl. I guess this setting, with just the two of them and no “job to do” to distract her, was more than she could face. My only question is, did this scene actually break her further, or is it merely demonstrating how broken she already was? I’m with the first option, myself. I think she’s getting worse.
Places & Peoples
“I know it’s not feminine, but who cares? You’ve got a sword; you should know how to use it, and custom can go to Damnation. There, I said it.” He took a deep breath. “I mean, the bridgeboy can have one, and he’s darkeyed. Well, he was. Anyway, it’s not so different from that.”
Thank you, Shallan thought, for ranking all women as something equivalent to peasants.
A: Gah. I’m not sure how to react to all this. On the one hand, I think it’s absolutely hilarious and perhaps a little awesome that Adolin has to really work himself up to saying something so horribly contrary to Vorin Custom. On the other hand, there’s more than a smidge of irritation that the rules of eye color and gender are so strong, though I suspect for me that’s partly influenced by knowing how arbitrary the distinctions are. (Interestingly enough, both can be traced directly to the aftereffects of the Recreance.)
I’m actually more bothered—and I’m not sure this is fair—that Shallan is irritated at him for ranking women with peasants. The reasons for the two customs are vastly different, and her sense of affront makes me want to slap her.
L: I’m kinda torn on this one. On the one hand, I’ve definitely had similar annoyed thoughts when people of privilege have looked down on those they deem as “below them” in similar fashion. On the other, the very fact that she’s thinking of darkeyed people as “peasants” is frustrating. Adolin is usually pretty good about treating everyone the same regardless of social standing, but Shallan’s got a ways to go in that respect.
A: I think that’s what bit me in this scene. Adolin lives with the societal restrictions almost without thinking about them; they’re just the facts of life, and he follows them as expected. But that never keeps him from viewing and treating everyone with whatever dignity and respect they’ve earned; he simply gets along with everyone at their own level. He jokes around with the stable boys as easily as he dines with the highest lighteyes—and he doesn’t think about it. Except for her time on the Wind’s Pleasure, Shallan never has achieved that level of courtesy.
He approached and reached toward her with a thumb and two fingers. She thought he was going to adjust her grip, but instead he pressed his fingers against her collarbone and shoved lightly.
Radiant stumbled backward, almost tripping.
“A stance,” Adolin said, “is about more than just looking great on the battlefield. It’s about footing, center of balance, and control of the fight.”
L: I couldn’t think of a more appropriate section for this, so I guess my discussion about stances and Alethi martial arts is going to go here. Anyone who has ever studied any martial art will recognize this little speech Adolin gives—practicing stances is the first thing that you learn. It’s the base of everything, the foundation. Looking at the sketches in Words of Radiance, I’d hazard a guess that Brandon/Ben loosely based the Alethi Shardblade stances on European longsword stances. Windstance could be Vom Tag, and Flamestance could be a modified Ochs. Vinestance is probably Pflug. I haven’t been learning this martial art for very long so it’s probable that there are others with a broader knowledge base who could make more accurate guesses, but without detailed, labeled sketches it’s all guesswork. Note to self: ask Ben McSweeney if there’s labeled concept art detailing the different stances…
::ahem:: Moving on to the more “mystical” side of things.
“The Blade is part of you,” Adolin said. “The Blade is more than your tool; it is your life. Respect it. It will not fail you—if you are bested, it is because you failed the sword.”
L: This reminds me a great deal of Japanese swordsmanship. I like that Brandon is drawing from several different types of real-world swordsmanship for the Alethi, and not just sticking to one culture.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
What in Damnation’s depths?
A: I just like that line.
He lounged with his back against the wall, coat unbuttoned while tossing a small leather ball filled with dried grain into the air and catching it again.
A: Who knew they played hacky sack on Roshar? Huh.
L: Could be juggling balls too.
By now he’d removed his jacket, standing in only shirt and trousers. She did like how that tight shirt fit him.
A: On the beta, the “r” was missing from “shirt.” Need I say more?
L: My all-time favorite of Sanderson slips. I don’t think any other typo will ever beat it.
“Was it the makeup that tipped you off, or the dress? Oh, it was the breasts, wasn’t it? Always giving us away.”
L: I love that Adolin doesn’t even skip a beat at this.
“I still think there might be two murderers,” Adolin said. “You know … like someone saw Sadeas dead, and figured they could get away with killing someone else, blaming it on the first fellow.”
Oh, Adolin, Shallan thought. He’d arrived at a theory he liked, and now wouldn’t let it go. It was a common mistake warned of in her scientific books.
A: Oh, Shallan. He’s wrong about the motivation of the second killer—though who could ever have expected to guess that?!—but he knows there most definitely are two murderers. It makes me think of the times Shallan has thought of him as so easy to read, unable to deceive anyone, etc. Yeah, maybe not so much.
His blue eyes were alight, and Shallan loved seeing that glow from him. Almost like Stormlight. She knew that passion—she’d felt what it was to be alive with interest, to be consumed by something so fully that you lost yourself in the wonder of it. For her it was art, but watching him, she thought that the two of them weren’t so different.
A: We get these little tidbits about Adolin every so often, and it’s such a delight to see him become so alive and unconsciously passionate about something he loves. I don’t think I can explain this, but somehow this makes me see him becoming an Edgedancer even more readily.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
“It’s because you hate me,” Pattern said softly. “I can die, Shallan. I can go. They will send you another to bond.”
L: WHY IS PATTERN THE SWEETEST THING EVER? Precious spren-baby. If he ever dies I will legitimately cry. A lot.
A: That line. Oh, my aching heart. He just offered to die so she could not hurt so much any more. (It wouldn’t actually work, I think, but he doesn’t know that.)
“Have you considered,” she said, “that your Shardblade was once a living spren, wielded by one of the Knights Radiant? Doesn’t that change how you look at it?”
Adolin glanced towards his Blade, which he’d left summoned, strapped with the sheath and set across her blankets. “I’ve always kind of known. Not that it was alive. That’s silly. Swords aren’t alive. I mean… I’ve always known there was something special about them. It’s part of being a duelist, I think. We all know it.”
L: I wonder if he’s playing this a little close to the chest in order to look cooler, because his actions before his duel in Words of Radiance definitely make me think that he’s believed his sword is alive for a long time:
The Shardblade didn’t respond, but Adolin imagined that it listened to him. You couldn’t use a weapon like this, a weapon that seemed like an extension of the soul itself, and not feel at times that it was alive.
L: And, as we know now, she is alive. Sort of. But we’ll get to that much later.
A: I’m not sure, but perhaps we should have called it “Appalling Artwork” for this one.
L: I can get behind that.
A: You can sort of see how she’s drawn the strata, the passageways, and the ductwork, but it’s very surreal and creepy. Effects of a certain lurker in the depths, as we’ll discuss later, but wow! I’m assuming this is another example of Ben having to work hard to create the twistedness that Shallan feels when she tries to draw Urithiru.
L: Those circular things (vents?) in the ceiling remind me of eyes and it’s creepin’ me out. I would not want to walk down that hallway, and I’ve investigated some pretty creepy haunted places.
Then he held his hands to the sides, speaking more loudly. “I surrender.”
* * *
“You’re saying someone happened to kill a highprince,” Adolin said, “by accident? Like … a back-alley murder outside a pub?”
* * *
“I can’t—” she said. “I can’t be this person, Pattern. I can’t just wield the sword. Some brilliant knight on a tower, pretending she should be followed.”
A: That’s sort of foreshadow-y, there, you know? Reminds me of Shalash way out yonder in Chapters 117 and 121. Is this a Lightweaver thing?
* * *
“Should I teach you dueling? Or should I teach you how to fight in an army?”
“I shall settle,” Radiant said, “for knowing how to avoid cutting off any of my own appendages, Brightlord Kholin.”
* * *
That night she slept, for once, in peace.
As usual, there’s far more to be discussed, so we’ll take it to the comments. Join us next week for Chapter 16, in which Dalinar behaves in fairly bizarre fashion.
Alice is likely to be MIA when this post hits the streets; she’ll be playing chaperone to a bunch of eight-graders on a three-day history tour. Wish her luck!
Lyndsey had a fabulous time at her first JordanCon! If you’d like to see her Bridge 4 inspired karaoke performance or the lengths to which her “F*** Moash” badge ribbons stretched, check out her Facebook page. She’ll also be posting a ton of gorgeous cosplay photos from the weekend soon!