Lyn: Welcome back, intrepid re-readers, and an extra special welcome back to Alice! It was fun trading puns with Ross while you were gone, but no one’s better than you at reminding me of all the things I’ve forgotten about these books! (Let’s face it, I get way too caught up in character motivations to spend much time on Cosmere theorycrafting…)
Alice: I’m ba-ack! Thanks to you and Ross for doing a fantastic job while I was gone! But it’s also good to be back, and the end of this chapter was one of my fist-pump moments, so it’s a good time to be back. Dalinar has multiple frustrations, a couple of difficult conversations, and one shining light-bulb moment.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are speculations regarding Adonalsium in the Cosmere Connections section this week; if you haven’t read anything outside The Stormlight Archive, you might either be confused or find it to be spoilerish, so feel free to skip that section. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done, because we do talk about some further events a little.
WHEN: 1188.8.131.52 (Two days after Chapters 24, 25, and 27)
Dalinar receives answers from the Azish and from Queen Fen in Thaylenah, both of which can be summed up as “no, you may not march an army through our Oathgates, now kindly bugger off.” He’s summoned away to where Bridge 4 has made an interesting discovery—Oathbringer (the sword, not the book) has been discovered. Dalinar gives the Shardblade to Ialai and has a brief but troubling conversation with Amaram, then heads back to his own rooms where he has a longer but no less troubling conversation with Taravangian about the morality of innocent casualties in war. The chapter ends with the Stormfather revealing that, while a Highstorm is sweeping over a distant land, he can pull people in that land into the visions that were left by Honor for Dalinar.
Threshold of the storm
Title: Another Option
“What he did was, nevertheless, another option.”
This was Dalinar’s evaluation of the landlord’s choice in Nohadon’s story: rather than the false binary of either killing all four men or letting them all go, the landlord chose to imprison them all. But talk about double meanings! Dalinar now has another option for meeting with monarchs and convincing them to join him.
Nalan and Jezrien: Judge and King, Skybreakers and Windrunners, Herald of Justice and Herald of Kings, Just & Confident and Protecting & Leading.
A: I rather think that both of them are here for the Nohadon story, in which a king considers matters of justice.
Icon: The Kholin Shield designates Dalinar’s POV for the chapter.
Finally, I will confess my humanity. I have been named a monster, and do not deny those claims. I am the monster that I fear we all can become.
–From Oathbringer, preface
A: Aside from fitting in with the sequence of “things Dalinar must confess,” this statement fits frighteningly well into the context of this chapter—especially so, the more we know about Dalinar’s past. As Lyn mentioned above, both Azir and Thaylenah are (ahem!) reluctant to let Dalinar bring an army into their capital cities. He has indeed been named a monster, rightly so in some cases, and the whole world knows his reputation. Also valid, however, Dalinar makes the point that humans all too readily do behave like monsters.
Stories & Songs
He was a good man, the Stormfather said.
“Nohadon?” Dalinar said.
L: I wonder if Nohadon was a Bondsmith, and had bonded the Stormfather previously. Was it ever said whether or not Way of Kings was written before or after the Recreance?
A: It’s not stated in so many words, but there’s a pretty strong indication that Nohadon was around before the Knights Radiant were founded. In the vision where Dalinar first meets him (TWoK Chapter 60), he talks about Surgebinders quite a bit, and wonders how to constrain their behavior—but he noticeably does not mention Knights Radiant. In retrospect, I think it’s quite possible that not only was Nohadon a Bondsmith, he may have been the first Bondsmith. It may have been in the aftermath of that Desolation that Ishar set up the Ideals and made the agreements with the spren that resulted in the Radiant orders. This does raise questions about the presence of Urithiru, however… Who built it, and when, in order for Nohadon to make his pilgrimage to “the holy city”?
(Also, I’d like to take this moment to point out that I WAS RIGHT. Back during the TWoK discussions, I kept claiming that Surgebinders and Knights Radiant, historically, might not have been exactly the same thing. People got mad at me for that. But I was right. Just sayin’.)
Places & Peoples
A: The chapter opens with the final responses—well, they intended them to be final!—from Azir and Thaylenah regarding Dalinar’s request for them to open their Oathgates and become allies. The Azish are much more round-about than Queen Fen, but she summed them both up pretty well:
Well, okay then! They both have much the same rationale, and it’s valid based on what they know so far. “The Alethi warmongers, led by Dalinar Blackthorn Kholin, would like you to kindly allow their armies free access to the center of your ruling city, thankyouverymuch, and they promise not to do anything untoward. Really. They only want to be your friend.” Can’t say as I blame them for being reluctant!
L: Neither can I, especially after all of these flashbacks we’ve been getting of Dalinar’s past. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him if were them, either.
On a completely different note:
It was three feet wide, and about one foot tall. It seemed endless, and he could feel a faint breeze coming out of it.
A: So Dalinar climbs up on a chair he stuck to the wall (!!) to peer into the hole in the wall in his chambers. Aside from mink and rats, there is air circulating. I was bummed not to be able to comment on this (very limited internet connectivity!) when Ross and Lyn talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but I’m pretty well convinced that these really, truly are ventilation shafts. Sure, we can think of a hundred or so nefarious purposes for them, but this place is enormous. These lower levels are probably at least half a mile in diameter, and without some kind of forced air movement, the inner regions would be uninhabitable.
That’s my two cents, anyway.
L: It almost seems too simple to be the only explanation. Whenever I come across a “too-simple” explanation in one of Sanderson’s books I start giving it the side-eye. I’ve been fooled by him too many times.
A: I know, it does seem like it’s too simple for Sanderson. At the same time, you’ve got to move air around that place, or anyone in the inner rooms will suffocate on carbon dioxide. So I do think it’s possible that he’s subverting his own trope and making it something really simple… but I’ll admit it’s not probable. (I suppose, inevitably, we’ll find out that it’s both ventilation AND something we never even imagined.)
Tight Butts and Coconuts
Your garnet-lit tongue and pleasant words make it seem like you really assume this will work.
A: Aside from making me giggle, I thought it was worth noting that garnet is associated with Lightweavers. Is this phrase a carry-over from the times of the Knights Radiant, and the ability of Lightweavers to influence people to do things that were, perhaps, not in their own best interests? I’m thinking of that epigraph in Words of Radiance, Chapter 47:
Yet, were the orders not disheartened by so great a defeat, for the Lightweavers provided spiritual sustenance; they were enticed by those glorious creations to venture on a second assault.
L: I think you’re definitely right on this one.
L: Heeeeeere we go. Hope you’re all ready for some deep philosophizing on the nature of war, because Sanderson sure laid all the cards on the table in this chapter.
“I stand by what I was forced to do, Brightlord,” Amaram said, stepping forward. “The arrival of the Voidbringers only proves that I was in the right. We need practiced Shardbearers. The stories of darkeyes gaining Blades are charming, but do you really think we have time for nursery tales now, instead of practical reality?”
“You murdered defenseless men,” Dalinar said through gritted teeth. “Men who had saved your life.”
Amaram stopped, lifting Oathbringer. “And what of the hundreds, even thousands, your wars killed?”
L: I hate Amaram. This is no secret. I wear that hatred openly and honestly on my sleeve. That’s why is makes me ill to have to say that I can see his side here, especially considering the rest of the conversation in this chapter (which we’ll get into below). Say one thing for Sanderson–he makes his villains have believable and even, dare I say, human motivations. No Dark Lord Saurons here… just regular men and women, making choices based on their (in this case, wrong) beliefs.
A: There is, however, a huge difference (IMO) between killing soldiers on the other side in battle, and killing your own men, in your own headquarters, because you’re going to take something that doesn’t belong to you and you don’t want to risk them outing you. Which is not to diminish the fact that a lot of innocent civilians die during wars—and especially in some of the in-city battles Dalinar led—but Amaram’s actions were premeditated murder.
L: Yes. This, for certain. But the fact that HE can justify his actions to himself at least makes him a three-dimensional hate-able villain and not a two-dimensional one.
A: Agreed. It’s the old principle of “everyone is the hero of his own story” and it rings very true to human nature. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating of Sanderson to write such human villains; I can usually see their point (even if I don’t agree), and that makes it both easier and harder to hate them.
“Morality is not a thing you can simply doff to put on the helm of battle, then put it back on when you’re done with the slaughter.”
L: AMARAM. Stop making good points and JUST LET ME HATE YOU for f***ing over Kaladin.
A: Hey, if you have no morality to doff, you can just be an evil git all the time. Right, Amaram?
“Is it not our duty, as kings, to ask questions that make the minds and souls of other men cringe?”
L: As our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is wont to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And sometimes that responsibility means making hard choices.
“Three of those men were violent threats, guilty of premeditated murder. One was innocent. What do you do?”
“Hang all four,” Taravangian whispered. “One innocent dead, but three murderers stopped. Is it not the best good that can be done, and the best way to protect your people?”
“If you can’t prove who is guilty–if you can’t be sure–I think you should let them go.”
“You say that,” Taravangian said. “Many men do. But our laws will claim innocent men–for all judges are flawed, as is our knowledge. Eventually, you will execute someone who does not deserve it. This is the burden society must carry in exchange for order. … it’s not a matter of morality, is it? It’s a matter of thresholds. How many guilty may be punished before you’d accept one innocent casualty? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred? When you consider, all calculations are meaningless except one. Has more good been done than evil?”
L: This… this is a really heavy conversation, and one which has been echoed time and again both in the book itself and in this reread. It’s nice to think that another choice can always be found. It’s nice to think that there’s always a remedy, somewhere, that will please everyone and satisfy justice. But in real life, such choices are rarely easy or even possible. Sometimes I want to sink into a book, into an alternate reality, and know without a doubt who is evil and who is not. But I usually prefer books like this, books that hold a mirror up to our own reality and, as Wit says, “give us questions to think upon.”
A: It is a heavy conversation. One thing I found very interesting was Taravangian’s pejorative evaluation of both the landlord’s and Nohadon’s responses: “He refused to commit.” Is this Taravangian justifying his own deeds, insisting that you have to commit to the binary choice presented? We know that he’s caught in a bit of an artificial binary himself—he cannot be both highly intelligent and greatly compassionate at the same time. Perhaps he finds himself wishing that he could commit to one or the other, instead of the awkward situation where every day, whether he’s intelligent or compassionate, he has to regret the decisions made when he was the other way.
“I have felt warmth,” Dalinar said, “coming from a place beyond. A light I can almost see. If there is a God, it was not the Almighty, the one who called himself Honor. He was a creature. Powerful, but still merely a creature.”
L: Alice, we talked a little about this concept while you were away, but maybe you’d like to give your two cents here? Do you think this is the God behind the entirety of the Cosmere, or what?
A: Well… this is just me spitballing, you understand, right? Because we don’t have solid proof of what’s going on with that warmth and light gig. That said, I currently believe this to be “the God Beyond,” and a glimpse into the Spiritual Realm.
I also think this ties into the Iriali belief in “the One” who is experiencing the universe as Many. If you’ll permit me a little loony-theory moment, I suspect that “the Shattering of Adonalsium” may not have been what that crew thought it was when they did it. I have sneaking suspicions that Adonalsium, or the God whose physical aspect formed what they knew as Adonalsium, set the whole thing up and let them “shatter” a being far beyond their comprehension. That being still holds firm in the Spiritual realm, and is the true God beyond all that they can see or comprehend. /End loony theory
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
He seized the sword, bracing himself for the screams. The cries of a dead spren. They weren’t the shrill, painful shrieks he’d heard when touching other Blades, but more of a whimper. The sound of a man backed into a corner, thoroughly beaten and facing something terrible, but too tired to keep screaming.
“This one doesn’t scream as loudly as others. Why?”
It remembers your oath, the Stormfather sent. It remembers the day you won it, and better the day you gave it up. It hates you—but less than it hates others.
“Could it be rescued?” Dalinar whispered as they entered the tower and climbed a stairway. “Could we save the spren who made this Blade?”
I know of no way, the Stormfather said. It is dead, as is the man who broke his oath to kill it.
A: I’ll admit that I was surprised by this conversation. I’ve been hard over on the revival of Adolin’s Blade ever since half-way through the beta on Words of Radiance, (so, coming up on five years now!) but it caught me off-guard that the first actual mention of such a concept in-book was about Oathbringer. It’s fascinating that the Stormfather specifically mentions Dalinar’s oath, remembered by a Blade named Oathbringer. I really wonder if this is just a plot bunny, or if it’s going somewhere?
L: “I’ve got a theory… It could be bunnies.” And now that I’ve got that stuck in your head, I’ll say that I think this is simply setup for Adolin’s awakening of his own Blade. Sanderson’s laying the seeds for the eventual reveal that, yes… this can happen. I don’t think there’s any more to it in this case than that.
“I should like to rewatch the vision where I met Nohadon,” Dalinar said. “Though let me go fetch Navani before you begin. I want her to record what I say.”
Would you rather I show the vision to her as well? the Stormfather asked. She could record it herself that way. Dalinar froze. “You can show the visions to others?”
A: This is one of my favorite mind-blown-moments in the book, especially coming in Part 1, where I (foolishly—this is Sanderson!) don’t really expect to find such shocks. The storming Stormfather can storming show the visions to anyone he wants? As long as they’re either with Dalinar, or in the middle of a highstorm? I practically howled with glee over the concept.
Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a person who is in the process of changing.
This is one of my favorite ever quotes from a Sanderson novel.
Well, that’s about enough out of us for this week. Your turn! Be sure to tune in next week for a pair of Shallan’s chapters (29 and 30), as her investigations lead to a series of astounding discoveries.
Alice is glad to be back home and rereading again. She would like to express her gratitude to Lyndsey and Ross for making it so easy to take off the time needed, without worrying about breaking up the reread. If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to check out Deana “Braid_Tug” Whitney’s first article on Cosmere Cuisine, and watch for more to come. One suspects that crustaceans and chickens might feature prominently in at least one episode. Just sayin’…