Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four

and

Lyn: Greetings and welcome back to another installment of the Oathbringer reread! Alice is taking a much-needed vacation, so I’ll be joined for a few weeks by our resident Stormwarden and Lift super-fan Ross Newberry! Hiya, Ross! Want to introduce yourself?

Ross: Hi, all! I’ve been a Sanderson beta reader for a couple of years, and Lyn’s calling me a Stormwarden because, during the Oathbringer beta process, I built a spreadsheet to help calculate Highstorm and Everstorm transit times across Roshar. That stuff got…

L: Complicated?

R: A bit. But what I was going to say was, it got me hung with the title of Stormwarden among the beta group, a title which I was secretly quite proud of and never argued against whatsoever. In addition to that stuff, I’m a sometimes author of Tor articles, pretty exclusively on Sanderson stuff, because Brandon is my jam.

The Lift thing is kind of funny, too. As soon as her first Interlude hit, I knew she was my favorite Stormlight character. This was before I learned any Edgedancer Ideals. I’m also a person with a very high level of empathy for others, so as Lift grew through Edgedancer and Oathbringer, I felt that the character had been written just for me. Brandon has a way of making sure every reader has a connection with one of his characters, and it’s something I find most amazing about his writing. My other role in Lift lore is that I tried to get the chapter in Oathbringer where she first appears entitled “A Thing About Butts”. It was a close thing, but I failed.

L: Well, we at least named one of the sections in the reread similarly, so there’s that!

R: So yeah, that’s me!

Now, without further ado, let’s make with the rereading! Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. No spoilers for other Cosmere novels in this particular reread, so you’re safe there. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin Stormblessed, Dalinar
WHERE: Somewhere in Vamah lands, Urithiru.
WHEN: 1174.1.4.2, three days after the last Kaladin scene. 1174.1.4.3

We begin with Kaladin securing shelter for his new parshman compatriots under the pretense of a “very private brightlord.” As they settle in to sit out the highstorm, the Voidspren confronts Kaladin and asks him if he’s planning to fight with them.

Switching back to Urithiru for chapter 24 finds Dalinar waiting for Taravangian to arrive. The old king appears to be having a bad day, and struggles to find the words to introduce the Knight Radiant he’s discovered—a woman named Malata. Dalinar and Navani have a discussion about the Nightwatcher’s deals and how said deals always last until death—so why is Dalinar’s wearing off now, allowing him to remember Evi? They receive a missive from the God-king of Tukar soundly refusing Dalinar’s alliance, and Taravangian assumes that Dalinar will begin conquering the rest of the world.

Threshold of the storm

Titles: “Storming Strange” and “Men of Blood and Sorrow”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s storming strange, I’d say.”

L: Not only is this taken from a direct quote, but it’s pretty fitting, seeing as how we’ve got a highstorm arriving in this chapter. And that Voidspren is pretty storming strange.

R: All of the Voidspren are storming strange.

“I do not think you and I are destined for such a glorious place. Men of blood and sorrow don’t get an ending like that, Dalinar Kholin.”

L: This is a little heartbreaking. I’m one of those who has a soft spot for Taravangian. He’s doing terrible things, yes. Awful things. Things that he has no expectation of redemption for. (Perhaps someday we’ll be able to say “Taravangian did great things. Terrible… but great.”) But he’s doing them because he truly, genuinely believes that only by doing them is he going to save the entire world. He’s shouldering this evil because he doesn’t want anyone else to have to—or because he doesn’t trust that anyone else would succeed. Reminds me a bit of a certain someone in one of my favorite animes…

R: I have a strong Journey Before Destination feeling about this kind of stuff, so I tend to come down more on the side of Big Daddy Dalinar. If you can’t win without turning super evil, maybe you don’t deserve to win. If you can’t make a world-saving omelet without breaking murdering several thousand (hundred thousand?!) eggs people, then I’m not hungry.

L: Ross the Edgedancer NOT WANTING FOOD? ::gasp:: Lift would be so offended. But in all seriousness, this is really a tough question, and one that I don’t think has a right answer. I get so many Code Geass vibes off of this whole situation (vibes that I shan’t go into detail on here because if you haven’t watched the show, it would spoil one of the best twist endings in anime history for you), and that show completely wrecked me (in a good way), so…. Maybe it’s just because of that, but I hold at least a little sympathy for T’s outlook here.

R: Well I haven’t seen that, so for me, he’s just an evil jerkface. ::harrumph::

L: Fair enough! (I suspect that I’ll be in the minority on this viewpoint anyway.)

Heralds

Chapter 23, all four are Talenel, the Herald of War. He is associated with the attributes Dependable and Resourceful. Well, Kaladin is certainly being dependable and resourceful here! He’s taking good care of his new wards, getting them into shelter before the highstorm hits.

In chapter 24, we’ve got THREE Heralds represented. Chanarach (dustbringers), Battar (elsecallers) x2, and Ishar (bondsmiths). Whew! That’s a lot of Heralds for one arch! So let’s start with the most obvious one—Ishar’s present because he shows up in this chapter. He’s the God-king Tezim. As for the others… Chanarach’s probably here because Malata—a Dustbringer—is. As for the double Battar… hmm. Her divine attributes are Wisdom and Care. Dalinar is trying to be wise in his dealings with T, and Navani is exemplifying “care” in her attempts to help her new husband come to terms with his awakening memories.

Icon

Kaladin’s cloak & spears and Kholin glyph, indicating Kaladin and Dalinar POV chapters, respectively.

Epigraph

I am no poet, to delight you with clever allusions. I have no doubt that you are smarter than I am. I can only relate what happened, what I have done, and then let you draw conclusions.

–From Oathbringer, preface

R: Recall that Dalinar is writing the content of these epigraphs just at the end of Oathbringer’s timeline. He may still be somewhat reeling from the crash of memories of all that lead to Evi’s death. That’s the only reason I can think that he’d automatically assume that any reader of his book would be smarter than he. The man’s not that modest.

Stories & Songs

“In each case I’ve looked into, the boon and curse both lasted until death.”

“Each case?” Dalinar said. “How many did you find?”

“About three hundred at this point,” Navani said.

L: That’s a lot of people who have visited the Nightwatcher.

R: Busy valley!

L: Though I have to admit, if I had the chance to get any wish I wanted granted (with the caveat of a curse being added on too), I might just take it. I can’t blame those who went to the Nightwatcher, it’s a tempting offer for sure.

R: Very. And the Old Magic has also been quite thoroughly misrepresented to the reader, since either one or both of the primary characters we thought had gone through the Nightwatcher Makeover may have gotten the much stranger Cultivation protocol instead.

L: Wait a second. You think T got the Cultivation treatment? Or are you thinking of someone else?

R: I was thinking of Dalinar and Lift.

L: Oh, duh. Right. Of course you were.I’d say it’s a pretty good bet that she went to Cultivation, yeah.

R: I have a whole giant theory about Lift and Cultivation, but I’m not sure if this is the time or the place to get into that. Maybe I can drop by when My Girl arrives onscreen.

Relationships & Romances

“I’ve never had anyone to share this burden with,” he said softly. “Thank you.”

“I didn’t find anything.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

L: Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I really love this romance, because—unlike most I see in speculative fiction—it’s a mature romance. There’s no squabbling or love triangles or uncertainty. It’s like… relaxing by a nice warm fire on a chilly night. Comfortable. Most times we see the roaring fires, devouring everything in their passion. Rand and Aviendha. Kvothe and Denna. Locke Lamora and Sabetha. Reason is left by the wayside when the heart flares so bright and hot. But Dalinar and Navani just feel… different. Strangely, it reminds me a little of Eddie and Susannah in The Dark Tower. Ross, do you concur?

R: Ayuh. Or, at least, what Eddie and Susannah eventually grew into. He was plenty young, dumb, and full of… uh… himself? at the beginning of their relationship. But yes, though there’s obvious passion between Dalinar and Navani, it’s the banked coal bed that keeps all night, instead of the ten-foot-high bonfire made of kindling.

L: You say true, Gunslinger.

Bruised & Broken

He had always remembered the years following Evi’s death, which had culminated in his being drunk and useless on the night Szeth, the Assassin in White, had killed his brother.

L: We’ll get a lot more of this later (too much, maybe, for my soft heart to bear), but for now it’s worth noting that Dalinar has no idea how bad things are about to get when these memories truly return.

…someone might have muscled him out of power, and acted like king in all but name. Dalinar sighed softly, but kept a firm grip on his guilt.

R: I actually really like this thought from Dalinar. He knows he’s overstepping, and he doesn’t like it, but he’s not going to let a bit of nephew-usurpation get between him and the end of the world. Practical!

L: But he’s still feeling guilty about it, which ties into what I want to talk about in a section farther down….

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

Taravangian smiled at Dalinar, then licked his lips. He seemed to have forgotten what he wanted to say, and had to glance at the woman beside him for support.

L: Is Mister T having a “stupid day” here, or is he playing dumb? Honestly, it could go either way. If it’s a smart day, he’d know that he’d need to live up to the reputation that preceded him. However, when he’s “smart,” he doesn’t seem to be able to act with empathy and compassion at all. I’m not sure any act he tried would be convincing enough to Dalinar.

“Ah, how I wish this day hadn’t come.”

“You sound as if you anticipated it, Your Majesty,” Dalinar said.

Taravangian laughed softly. “Don’t you? Anticipate sorrow, I mean? Sadness… loss…”

L: Nice cover there, Mister T. I suspect that this might have been a slip of the tongue at first, which T managed to sweep aside because really, who would suspect this doddering old man of predestination? (My mind just tried to take a side track into theories-ville regarding the Vorin religion’s aversion to telling the future—what if someone in the past had a similar ability and it turned out AWFUL and this is why the abhorrence of ‘divination’ exists? But that would mean that someone else asked the Nightwatcher a similar question and that it didn’t have anything to do with the Truthwatchers which I am pretty sure has been explicitly stated so this is probably just exhausted rambling on my part… Also, how long has the Nightwatcher been ‘in business,’ so to speak? I’m almost certainly wrong, but it would be interesting if the whole Truthwatcher bit was a red herring.)

R: That’s a lot of questions with not a lot of answers. But they’re good questions!

What had happened in Vedenar must have troubled him deeply—the death of the previous king, the field of slaughter.

L: Yeeaaaah. I’m certain T’s been directly responsible for way worse… but of course, there’s no way that Dalinar could know that.

(Regarding the Shin): “Hateful people,” Taravangian said. “Murdering so many worthy monarchs!”

L: ::dryly:: Right, T. Like you had nothing to do with it.

R: I just… ugh. He makes me feel dirty, even on a “dense” day.

Squires & Sidekicks

“Blackthorn, this is the newest Knight Radiant. Malata of Jah Keved.”

L: I do. Not. Trust. This woman. Part of it might just be my long-ago training in Latin making me suspect her based solely on the root of her name—“Male” meaning “wrongly” or, more commonly when used as an English root, “bad.” Now, it’s not fair to judge characters in an entirely different world on the Earth uses of word constructs, as those wouldn’t exist there—but I can’t help it. And it doesn’t help that she consistently acts so damn sketchy! Plus, she’s on Taravangian’s team, and that’s certainly a reason to question her motivations.

R: And Brandon tends to write the books as if they’ve been translated for us, right? So it’s conceivable that Latin roots could still be hints. Plus, the fact that the leader of a secret society that’s done a whole lot of evil in the name of the “greater good” just happens to show up with a Radiant in tow does not at all scream “hinky”. Mmmmm. Lies.

“A Releaser. Dustbringer, though they don’t like the term. She claims her spren told her that.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t like how she smiles.”

L: GOOD, Dalinar. Trust your instincts. I DON’T LIKE HER EITHER.

R: It’s also said that they like taking things apart. Looney theory: Balat Davar, with his cremling-vivisection tendencies, is an incipient Dustbringer!

Places & Peoples

In Alethkar, this man would never have been able to hold a throne after the apoplexy struck him. An unscrupulous family would have removed him by assassination.

L: Interesting that Dalinar mentions this, when we’ve set up in previous recent chapters that the Alethi don’t like assassination. I guess that explains the “unscrupulous” bit.

R: Will he and Jasnah ever end up having a very uncomfortable conversation about the employment of assassins?

L: Only if he finds out about it via other sources. I don’t think Jasnah’s the type to admit to doing this without some good reason.

In other families, someone would have challenged him for his throne. He’d have been forced to fight or abdicate.

L: I wonder if he means a duel or an outright war by “fight,” here.

R: That’d likely have a lot to do with whether the challenger thought they could win a duel…

In Kharbranth—which didn’t wage war—

L: Whoa whoa whoa, hold the phone. Not at ALL? Because they just don’t have anything worth taking so no one has ever bothered attacking, or what?

R: Or they’ve taken great pains to be Roshar Switzerland. The Swiss do have the benefit of being buried in the Alps, though….

Teshav had finished pointing out the strange glass panes on the inner walls that seemed like windows, only clouded.

L: SCREENS, perhaps?! Like computer screens, or televisions?

R: But Dadlinar is too old to figure out newfangled Urithiru computer tech. He’ll have to call Shallan to reset the VCR.

She moved on to the pairs of discs on the floor and ceiling that looked something like the top and bottom of a pillar that had been removed—a feature of a number of rooms they’d explored.

L: So many mysteries about Urithiru! I can’t wait to find out more about this city and how it used to function.

R: I really hoped we’d see some of that in Oathbringer. Alas, we’ll just have to wait a bit. If the one-year break between books three and four works out, though, we may begin the next volume with some glances of already-working discoveries.

“A warning,” Navani read, “from Tezrim the Great, last and first man, Herald of Heralds and bearer of the Oathpact. His grandness, immortality and power be praised. Lift up your heads and hear, men of the east, of your God’s proclamation.”

L: Hey there, Ishar! Nice to see you! I find it somewhat amusing that no one even considers that this guy might actually be one of the Heralds.

R: In their defense, it has been 4,500 years.

L: That’s true. To put it in perspective, Jesus was alive only 2,000 years ago in our world (half as long as this!), and I’d raise an eyebrow if someone claimed to be him today.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“He’s as sincere as ever,” Dalinar said softly. “But…”

“Dense?” she asked.

“Dear, I’m dense. This man has become an idiot.”

L: I have to laugh a little at the “I’m dense” part. Dalinar never gives himself enough credit!

R: I know how he feels. My wife has a pair of neurological conditions known as obsessive thoughts and racing thoughts. What this means is that, any time we disagree on an issue, by the time I’m halfway done with a sentence, she’s already played through all the possible solutions to our game of conversational chess, and is already getting bored of waiting on my mouth to stop moving so she can pounce. Dalinar has had enough exposure to Navani and Jasnah in his life to know exactly where he stands on the intellectual spectrum. And he’s comfortable with his relative position.

Weighty Words

Since when had the state of the entire world become his concern?

L: I’m putting this little quote here, because I suspect that it ties into what will become Kaladin’s fourth ideal. The best theories we have as to what that could be revolve around Kaladin realizing that he can’t possibly save everyone.

R: Boy, maybe Hoid kicked Kaladin just a touch too hard when he told the story of the Uvara all the way back in TWoK. The point of the story was to have K step up to lead Bridge Four, not necessarily take the weight of the entire world on his broad, muscly, bridge-trained shoulders.

“If she’s truly a Radiant,” Navani said, “can she be anything but trustworthy? Would the spren pick someone who would act against the best interests of the orders?”

L: Man, this is a good question. I’d assume that the spren aren’t omniscient, or infallible—surely they’ll have made mistakes in the past? (Hell, Syl started drawing away/fading when Kaladin started making dumb choices in WoR, so it’s entirely possible that the people the spren choose can mess it all up with their choices even if the base attributes which drew the spren to begin with are still there.) And then there’s the fact that the spren don’t always seem to like one another, and the fact that so little is known about the Dustbringers… And the fact that some spren ::cough Glys cough:: have been corrupted… lots of red flags. Lots.

R: There’s another angle that Navani misses here. Every Radiant bond we’ve seen so far tends to obey the same rules. Break the Ideals, you sever the bond. This was even the case with Shallan and Pattern. Lightweavers don’t swear any Ideals past the First, but Shallan definitely had access to Patternblade as a child, and then regressed from that point as she suppressed her memories.

Here’s my point. Just because spren need to pick Radiants who will follow the Ideals of their Order, there’s no evidence that the Orders all have the same goals….

L: Well, it’s a relatively good bet that all of them used to be on the “saving-the-world” bandwagon, but now? Who knows.

He’d need to see if he could determine whether her Shardblade was only that, or if it might be another Honorblade in disguise.

L: Or that. Though I think Dalinar’s still being awfully trusting if that’s the only hesitation he has, here.

R: It does seem an easy enough test. “Yo, my Radiant! Can you dismiss and re-summon your Shardblade within one heartbeat for me? Just for funsies.”

Martial Motivations

“Where do we attack first?”

Dalinar listened to the words with dismay. It was the obvious assumption. …What would he do if nobody listened? … He’d been willing to conquer Alethkar for its own good. … How far would he go for the good of all Roshar?

I will unite instead of divide.

L: Wow. Lots to unpack here. Why don’t you start us off, Ross?

R: First would be the question from Taravangian. Is he defaulting to the way he’d interact with the Blackthorn of old? Or is he poking and prodding cleverly, informed by the Diagram? Without a PoV, it’s difficult to tell whether Mr. T’s eccentricity in this chapter is genuine.

L: Then there’s the question of how far Dalinar really is willing to go. Is he ready to make the same sacrifices that T is, killing half the world to save the rest? Let’s play Devil’s Advocate for a moment here and say that there’s no other option. Could he make that decision, take on the burden of becoming a warlord, in order to save what’s left? I don’t think so, especially after the events at the end of this book. I think he’d keep looking for another solution until the bitter end. Although… Remember how I said there was more I wanted to talk about, with Dalinar feeling guilty about usurping Elhokar’s throne? He was willing to do that, for the greater good. What else might he be willing to do?

R: I don’t see Dalinar ever going that route. Hoid could, and has said straight up he’d let Roshar burn to achieve his goals, but Dalinar has been shown to us on this arc toward honor for a narrative reason.

L: Ah, but letting the entirety of Roshar burn for the greater good of the Cosmere would be different from Dalinar’s POV. Hoid’s not native to his Roshar—his loyalties of course lie elsewhere. Dalinar would almost certainly be unwilling to sacrifice everyone he knows and loves, his entire home—as a great sage and wise scholar once said, he’s “one of the idiots that lives in it.” But part of Roshar? I’m still unsure. It’s a hard choice, and one that any military commander has to be at least passingly familiar with. Leaving behind the wounded to save the majority. Sacrificing a regiment of your troops to gain advantage with the rest. It’s strategy, unfortunately, and while Dalinar has come a long way from the uncaring asshole of his youth, he’s still a military commander. Kaladin’s struggling with almost the same question—not everyone can be saved.

Can they?

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

The spren beside him was glowing yellow, not blue-white. The tiny woman stood on a translucent pillar of golden stone that had risen from the ground to put her even with Kaladin’s gaze. It, like the spren herself, was the yellow-white color of the center of a flame.

She wore a flowing dress that covered her legs entirely. Hands behind her back, she inspected him. Her face was shaped oddly—narrow, but with large, childlike eyes. Like someone from Shinovar.

L: There are a few interesting things going on with this Voidspren. For starters, she’s wearing a dress. From what we’ve seen, the Listeners don’t wear dresses… so why is this Voidspren adhering to Rosharan standards of beauty? Also, I find the fact that she has Shin eyes very interesting. We know that the Rosharans aren’t native to this world, but then, neither are the Shin…

R: The fact that their default physical appearance mirrors the Shin starts off as a, “huh?” moment. But, once the Humans-are-the-Voidbringers reveal gets dropped, I think that takes on a new relevance. I think these ancient Voidspren appear Shin because Surgebinding itself was brought by those Voidbringer humans. They are some of the original spren who formed those first Rosharan Nahel bonds, and their appearance recalls that first contact.

L: So the Shin were the first arrivals in this scenario?

R: Mmmmm. Lies. I’d say, instead, that the humans who immigrated to Roshar settled (or were confined) first behind the high mountains in Shinovar, where they were safe from the highstorms (for textual evidence, see “The Girl Who Looked Up” and “The Girl Who Stood Up”.) My theory is that the epicanthic fold and other physical features of non-Shin Rosharan humans came from evolutionary adaptations and interbreeding with other races. The current Shin still look like their ancestors because their bloodlines have remained pure, and the relatively peaceful biome of Shinovar leaves no room for such evolutionary adaptations to confer a survival benefit.

L: That implies interbreeding with either native life-forms or world-hoppers, though, right?

R: Well, we have WoB that the Horneaters are human-Parshendi hybrids, and the Iriali and Siah Aimians are potentially from off-world originally, so there’s lots of room there to play with genetics.

“I’m a tad older than a month.”

R: Wayyyyy older. Aharietiam (gesundheit!) was 4,500 years ago, and was, according to lore, the ninety-ninth Desolation. It’s quite likely that, given the years between Desolations to allow civilization to crawl back a bit, we’re talking about ten to twenty thousand more years during that time. A tad more than a month, indeed.

“Would you fight for us, deserter?” she asked.

“Would I be allowed?”

“My kind aren’t nearly as inclined towards discrimination as yours.”

R: I mean, they called storming Moash out of the bullpen…. ‘Nuff said?

L: (Obligatory f*** Moash.)

R: However, what if this passage is Brandon dropping us a hint? What if spren bonds between humans and Voidspren are possible, and are also radically different from Radiant bonds, to the point that Ideals aren’t necessary?

Quality Quotations

“Deal with today’s problems, then sleep and deal with tomorrow’s problems tomorrow.”

* * *

“The Shin send only a quick reply to congratulate us, whatever that means.”

“Hateful people,” Taravangian said. “Murdering so many worthy monarchs.”

R: Ohhhh you son of a whitespine.

L: To congratulate them? On what?

 

Next week we’ll be focusing on one chapter—25, The Girl Who Looked Up. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below, and if you haven’t yet had a chance, check out Ross and Paige’s latest article about mental illness in Roshar!

Ross is a software engineer by day and an aspiring author by night. He lives in Roswell, GA with his wife, two sons, and a tiny dog named Hercules.

Lyndsey is still doggedly working through revisions on Crimson Intent, book two of her own fantasy trilogy. She’ll be taking a break to travel to NYC on Friday to attend Jim Butcher’s book signing—if you’ll be there, feel free to say hi! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

103 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!