Lyn: Well… Ross and I are here again, brightlords and ladies, with—brace yourselves—another Dalinar flashback chapter. Strap yourselves in for a good Blackthorn-ing, because boy does Dalinar ever deliver on the death and destruction in this one (though not as much so, of course, as he will later on ::shudder::).
Ross: Yeah, I’d say things are smoldering right now, but later on, they really catch fire.
L: They sure do. A glorious, glorious dumpster fire.
I have to say, as much as I love this book in its entirety, I am so ready for Part One to be over. It drags a little for me, probably because of the lack of Kaladin and Bridge 4. (MAH BOYS)
R: Well, it’s going to end strong with B4. Including a certain scout…
L: True, I am a bit biased when it comes to Part Two. But overall I much prefer the flow of the rest of the book once we get past this section.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are no spoilers for other Cosmere novels in this week’s reread. However, if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Young!Dalinar, Shallan
WHERE: ???, Urithiru
WHEN: 1148 for the Dalinar flashback chapter, and 118.104.22.168 for the present.
Chapter 26 finds us with Dalinar and Evi, the latter of whom is burning prayers for the safety of her “near husband” in the upcoming battle. Gavilar gives Dalinar a mission—kill Kalanor, the leader of the opposing force and a Shardbearer. Dalinar gives in to the Thrill and plows a swath of destruction through the enemy army—but when the proverbial dust clears, he’s disturbed to see that among the fallen (slain by his hand) are some of his own elites. When Kalanor finally rides out to meet him, they battle until Dalinar destroys part of the other man’s Shardplate. Kalanor retreats up a nearby rock formation, where the two continue their duel. Dalinar kills him in an act of “mercy” and descends to claim his Shards before nearly attacking his own brother in a fit of Thrill-induced powerlust.
Moving back to the present, we return to Shallan, who is sitting in a meeting, sketching and only half paying attention to the events that are transpiring. She is approached briefly by Malata, then Ialai Sadeas arrives and pronounces Amaram to be the heir of the Sadeas Princedom. Adolin, incensed by this, leaves, and Shallan follows. They have a discussion in which Shallan learns—and promptly shuts away—that Kaladin was the one who probably killed her brother. Adolin goes to check on his father’s horse and Shallan goes down to check on her “squires,” who are surprised to see her.
Threshold of the storm
Title: Blackthorn Unleashed; Playing Pretend
“Bring me Kalanor, Brother,” Gavilar said. “We need the Blackthorn today.”
“All you need do is unleash him.”
L: Jeez. Dalinar let off the leash is a terror.
R: A terror who commits some of the very same sins as Moash in this chapter. Killing his own elites, Shardstabbing a surrendering opponent through the face. His fearsome reputation was bought and paid for, and I really can’t blame any of the leaders who scoffed at his initial overtures of peace and unity.
L: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at least Moash had a legitimate reason to do the terrible thing he did. Dalinar’s just cruel and uncaring. The man is completely lacking in empathy. (Oh storms I just defended Moash, quick, someone check me over for brain-controlling alien slugs.)
That refined diction, that perfect face, that crisp uniform… [Amaram] was what every soldier aspired to be.
I’m not the only one who is good at playing pretend, she thought.
L: UGH. AMARAM. We hates him, Precious. ::ahem:: But aside from my hatred, it’s pretty obvious where the chapter title for this one comes from. We’ve also got Shallan playing a little pretend of her own (not that this is anything new for her), when Adolin confronts her with the information about exactly where Amaram got that Shardblade. Shallan promptly shuts that information away, not willing to think about Kaladin having killed her brother—and pretending that everything’s fine. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)
Chapter 26 has Nale in all four positions. He is associated with the attributes “Just” and “Confident,” and if there’s one thing that Dalinar is in this chapter, it’s confident. And not just Dalinar—everyone else is confident in Dalinar’s abilities, too. Except, perhaps, Evi.
Chapter 27 depicts Shalash in all four places, almost certainly because this is a Shallan POV chapter in which she spends a great deal of time drawing.
L: I’m not gonna lie, I forgot to note these as I was doing my initial read through and now the book’s in the other room and I’m all nested in the blankets on the couch with my laptop and I don’t want to get up, soooo… I’m just going to assume that these are the inverted Kholin glyph and Pattern. I figure I’ve got a 90% chance of being right.
R: You’re correct!
L: Hooray for laziness.
I will confess my heresy. I do not back down from the things I have said, regardless of what the ardents demand.
–From Oathbringer, preface.
L: No idea what to say about this. Good on you, Dalinar? Way to… not… back down? ::looks at Ross:: I got nothing.
R: I think it’s just Dalinar doing his best to convince the reader that Vorinism isn’t going to help in the coming battle. He’s bonded to all that remains of the Almighty’s power, and he’s met Heralds. He’s not saying he had a crisis of faith and backed off to agnosticism, he’s saying he met Jesus in a restaurant in Des Moines, and they caught up on the past 2000 years or so while giving the entire city an all-you-can-eat bread and fish buffet.
Stories & Songs
Enthralled, he cut down foe after foe, sensing a strange rhythm to the fighting, as if the blows of his sword needed to fall to the dictates of some unseen beat.
L: A RHYTHM, YOU SAY? Okay, silly gifs aside, that’s veeerrrrrry interesting. If the Unmade are of Odium, as Pattern says:
“…it is not a thing of us. It is a thing of him.”
“An ancient spren of Odium. Delightful.”
then why is the Thrill (which, reminder, comes from the Unmade Ner… Narg…. Ugh I hate spelling this, Nergaoul) seeming to harmonize with the Listeners’ ideology?! Is it just a random coincidence? Knowing Sanderson, I doubt it.
R: Yeahhhh, no way that’s random. But there are rhythms and rhythms, you know? Praise vs. Spite. But Nergaoul isn’t the only one operating on the Listeners’ carrier wave, since we see the Fused speaking to the rhythms when they give Moash Jezrien’s Honorblade. Soooo, if all the “evil” rhythms come from Odium or the Unmade, where were the “good” rhythms being broadcast from?
L: All of the “Odium” rhythms seem to be corruptions of the “good” ones. I think the good ones are just completely natural to this world (and hence not really being broadcast from anywhere in particular, they’re just the background beat that has always existed here), and Odium co-opted them for his own use. I have literally no textual evidence for this, mind.
R: My only complaint with that is that we still don’t have much evidence for Cultivation’s involvement other than crem, which is basically manna for crustaceans, and a primal pulsing heartbeat feels like a thing Cultivation might be behind.
L: That’s a good point… Cultivation is a huge unknown, and that would be really cool. But would you be positing that Cultivation was around before the humans arrived, or that the Listeners only started attuning the rhythms after she got there?
Relationships & Romances
“Hail the Blackthorn, men! Hail him!” Gloryspren burst around Gavilar, golden orbs that rotated around his head like a crown.
* * *
I give way to Gavilar in all things. Let him have the throne, let him have love.
I must never be king.
L: The relationship between the brothers here is really sad. Gavilar trusts Dalinar seemingly implicitly—I wonder if he has any idea at all about Dalinar’s long-held flame for his wife. My spheres would be on “no.”
R: It’s interesting that, while Gavilar exults in the unification, Dalinar draws a lone shamespren. Is that merely because of his less-than-honorable battlefield tactics? Or is part of it tied to the unburned glyphward from Navani that Dalinar carries in his pocket?
L: I think it was just him being ashamed that after he was thinking of killing his brother, Gavilar turns around and gives all the glory of this battle to Dalinar without any hesitation. That’s pretty telling, I think. Gavilar’s not just a bloodthirsty warlord like some other Alethi we could mention, ::cough Dalinar cough:: he’s honorable and all too happy to give credit where credit is earned. In another story, the animosity between brothers might have burst into the flames of an all-out war (GRRM, is that you?) but not here. Their relationship, despite Dalinar’s one brief fling with contemplation of murder, remains intact.
“Shallan… that Blade. You know where Amaram got that, right?”
“On the battlefield?”
“From Kaladin.” Adolin raised his hand to his head. “The bridgeboy insisted that he’d saved Amaram’s life by killing a Shardbearer.”
Shallan’s throat grew tight. “Oh.”
Tuck it away. Don’t think about it.
L: As much as it pains me to admit it, I can’t blame Shallan for not wanting to think about this, especially since she’s still kind-of-sort-of subconsciously got the hots for our favorite Bridgeboy.
R: At least part of her does.
L: A part veiled in secrecy.
Who would want to consider the possibility that your crush murdered your own brother? That’s some grade-A nightmare fuel right there, and Harmony knows that Shallan’s already got a noodle-full of that.
Bruised & Broken
He felt sad to have to engage a Shardbearer, instead of continuing his fight against the ordinary men. No more laying waste; he now had only one man to kill.
He could vaguely remember a time when facing lesser challenges hadn’t sated him as much as a good fight against someone capable. What had changed?
L: Okay, so. I’m putting this in Bruised and Broken, because honestly? Dalinar’s broken here. He just doesn’t know it yet. This is some bona-fide sociopathic (psychopathic?) thinking. Now, it’s not all Dalinar’s fault—he’s being influenced by Nergaoul (HA I GOT IT ON THE FIRST TRY) here, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s considering cutting down swaths of practically unarmed men enjoyable, never mind “more” enjoyable than a challenging one-on-one fight. How twisted do you have to be to think, “Yes, yes… I could fight an armored knight like me, that’s true, but it would take a long time to kill him and there’s a whole FIELD of easy pickings right THERE! The more blood the better!”
Young!Dalinar is awful. Just awful.
R: You’re right. It feels like this flashback chapter might be the nadir of his downward trudge into dishonor. And then you remember he burned a city because people ambushed him….
“It must be convenient to tell yourself that your murders belong to the Almighty instead.”
“They’d better not belong to him!” Dalinar said. “I worked hard for those kills, Kalanor. The Almighty can’t have them; he can merely credit them to me when weighing my soul!”
“Then let them weigh you down to Damnation itself.”
L: I gotta credit Kalanor here for an absolutely A+ retort. Classy AF. Not quite mic-drop worthy, but a zinger for sure.
R: I was going to make a snappy quip about the physical impossibility of stuff weighing you down to another planet in the solar system, but then I remembered that Our Heroes have access to the Gravitation Surge and could totally do that and now my joke doesn’t work. I have a sad.
“Mercy,” he whispered.
“This is a mercy,” Dalinar said, and struck him straight through the face with his Shardblade.
L: Dude. DUDE. Dalinar. Not cool.
R: Future!Kaladin, when finally having this story read to him as Our Heroes are enjoying a fine bottle of violet wine, will mutter, “Storms, you pulled a Moash?!” And Dalinar will clock him a solid one across the jaw and declare that it is still Too Soon. And it will be.
L: At least Kalanor’s little infant son wasn’t right there. (Although… Dalinar does get around to killing someone in front of his son eventually.)
Shouldn’t the strongest rule? Why should he sit back so often, listening to men chat instead of war?
There. There was the man who held what he wanted. A throne… a throne and more. The woman Dalinar should have been able to claim. A love he’d been forced to abandon, for what reason?
L: And here it is, the final step he’d need to take to become a true tyrant. He had every reason to take it, by his own logic. But he drew back from that one, final (so very final) act. What happened to Evi was horrible, but at least it wasn’t on purpose.
R: So…. sometimes it’s important not to take The Next Step? Or is the idea to never walk toward mindless barbarity?
L: I think it depends on which path that step would carry you down. There are endless paths stretching before us, and The Next Step should carry you down one leading in an upwards direction—not down towards Damnation.
Squires & Sidekicks
“Orders, sir?” asked Rien.
“Stay out of my way,” Dalinar said, lowering his faceplate.
L: Again, we see the stark difference between how Kaladin (and Adolin) lead, and how Dalinar did. Did he actually give a damn about any of his elites? I wonder. It’s obvious that Dalinar thinks he can handle this himself, but did he ever spare a thought as to doing it himself in order to spare the lives of his men (as Kaladin certainly would have)? I doubt it. He may respect them for their fighting prowess, but respect doesn’t always equal care. I think that he only cares about them in so much as they can get him what he wants.
R: He certainly seemed to at one point. But, as he gave in more and more to the Thrill, his essential humanity seeped away.
Dalinar grinned in satisfaction, then grew chill. A few of those bodies with burned eyes—three men he could spot—wore blue. His own men, bearing the armband of the elites.
L: Yeah. Great job, Dalinar.
R: In his defense, he does feel bad about it. Though he also refuses to acknowledge responsibility for their deaths, claiming simply that they “fell” in battle.
“If they want to,” Malata said. “Things don’t have to be the way they were. Why should they? It didn’t work out so well the last time for the Radiants, did it?”
L: Remember how I said I don’t trust her? STILL DON’T, despite the fact that she’s probably got a pretty good point here. I’m almost certain that things aren’t going to play out the way they have for any of the previous Desolations. Something’s gonna shake up, because if it doesn’t, we’re still stuck in this loop of Desolations and that just ain’t good story-telling.
R: I can’t help wondering if what’s going to end up changing is a fundamental rebalancing of allegiances, with some Honor/Cultivation Surges defecting to Odium, and some Voidish Surges defecting back.
Places & Peoples
“While [Evi] spoke of Jezrien and Kelek, she said their names strangely; Yaysi and Kellai. And she made no mention of the Almighty—instead she spoke of something she called the One, a heretical tradition the ardents told him came from Iri.”
* * *
“If you must fight, do it knowing that each death wounds the One. For we are all people in Yaysi’s sight.”
L: These two quotes are really fascinating to me. It makes total sense that different cultures would have different names for the Heralds—we see that often enough in religions in our world, after all. It’s the part about the One that I’d specifically like to pick out, which is why this discussion is down here in Peoples and Places rather than Stories and Songs.
So, the concept of One lifeforce of which we are all a part isn’t strange to consider to anyone who’s a fan of fantasy. Final Fantasy 7 and Fullmetal Alchemist are the two that immediately sprang to my mind, and I’m certain there are a ton more.
R: Right here, we should really go re-read Ym’s interlude in Words of Radiance, I-2. Ym tells his street urchin “customer” a lot about the One.
L: Oh jeez. I had forgotten all about Ym. ::starts sobbing all over again:: Let’s revisit that, shall we?
“Long ago, there was only One. One knew everything, but had experienced nothing. And so, One became many—us, people. The One, who is both male and female, did so to experience all things. … Iriali need no preaching, only experience. As each experience is different, it brings completeness. Eventually, all will be gathered back in—when the Seventh Land is attained—and we will once again become One.”
L: Do you think this might have broader Cosmere connotations?
R: Honestly? It’s entirely possible that this right here is that Ym’s story miiiight just be a Reader’s Digest condensed version of the entire Adonalsium storyline. Long ago, all was One, but the One had to split itself into many in order to gain experience. In order to maybe comprehend itself? Give Ym’s interlude a read with an eye to the Shattering, and the potential reason behind it, and see what you think after.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
Idly, he wondered that it would take to actually earn the ardents’ displeasure.
L: Oh, you’ll figure that out before long, Young!Dalinar, never you worry.
R: Heresy’s always an excellent place to start…
“Highprince,” Dalinar finally said.
“Highprince,” Amaram said back, tipping his head.
“Bastard,” Adolin said.
L: Once again Adolin proves that he is indeed a blessing.
Was there a way she could learn to leave her illusions behind her? They’d need Stormlight to keep going…
L: I’m reminded here of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series, and how they learned to weave folds of glamour into glass in order to move them about. Maybe Shallan can just tie her illusions to spheres, like little batteries, and hence they’ll be self-sustainable and whoever’s got it can move it around…
R: Did that happen already? It sounds familiar. Perhaps one of our intrepid Rereaders will clue us in.
“Well,” Shallan whispered, “she’s annoying.”
“Mmm…” Pattern said. “It will be worse when she starts destroying things.”
“Dustbringer,” Pattern said. “Her spren… mmm… they like to break what is around them. They want to know what is inside.”
L: Like… like people? Physically? Emotionally? Did they used to go around dissecting people to figure out how they ticked, or doing psychological experiments on them to try to determine how their minds worked? (Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Stephen King again.)
R: Or Kingkiller (where there’s a story of Gibea, one of the Amyr, who performed horrific medical experiments on living subjects and advanced medicine by hundreds of years for the greater good.)
L: Oh jeez, I just had a thought. If Malata winds up being instrumental in discovering how to power Urithiru because she and her spren break stuff to figure out how it works I’ll be really mad. I don’t want to like her…
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
Ryshadium? Yes… he could see the spren trailing after them in the air. Musicspren, for some reason.
L: Very interesting. If there’s something to the theory that the Ryshadium were native to Roshar, might this have some link to the Listeners and their Rhythms? Sanderson’s been awfully dodgy in his answers at signings about these. He’s said that they’re invested, and that they evolved symbiotically with spren, which… doesn’t tell us much.
R: I agree. I feel like the Ryshadium are probably tapped into the rhythms somehow. But only the good ones, because they’re magic horsies, and magic horsies shouldn’t listen to death metal.
L: As someone who really likes death metal, I would love a magic horsie who listens to it.
Passionspren—like tiny crystalline flakes—dropped around him.
L: I just realized that no one on Roshar probably has any idea what snow looks like, because that’s exactly what I imagine here.
R: Wouldn’t the Thaylens?
L: You’re the keeper of the Rosharan weather patterns, you tell us! I got the impression that the only weather on the planet was the highstorm/weeping cycle.
R: I’m not sure how it falls, but the Horneaters are very well acquainted with snow. They build snow forts as children (or childs, as Rock says). I’d imagine that a lot of the actual precipitation in the Frostlands during the Weeping might fall as snow.
L: Ah, so up in the higher elevations. That would make sense.
Awfully Abominable Artwork
She finished her sketch, then tipped it toward Pattern, holding the sketchbook with her sleeved safehand. He rippled up from his post to inspect her drawing: the slot obstructed by a mashed-up figure with bulging, inhuman eyes.
L: Yep. That’s what it is, all right.
R: I feel like Brandon missed a chance at working another Lovecraftian adjective in here. We’re still working up to eldritch, but I wouldn’t have minded something a bit milder.
He was not a man. He was judgment.
* * *
Shallan wasn’t certain what she thought of the idea of a “true soldier” being the type who didn’t care about politics. Shouldn’t the why of what a man was doing be important to him?
Well, that about sums it up for this week! As always, please join us for more discussion in the comments, and tune back in to the same Blackthorn-time and the same Blackthorn-channel next week, when Alice returns and we discuss Chapter Twenty-Eight!
Lyndsey is looking forward to eventually seeing Hereditary, once she can find someone to keep an eye on her toddler. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.