Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Thirty-Nine and Forty

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Hello, rereaders! Alice and I hope you’ve got your burn gel handy for this chapter. In the purple corner… Jaaaaaaaaaaasnah Khoooooooooolin! Princess of Alethkar, scholar extraordinaire, and badass supreme, ready to take on any and all challengers! And in the blue corner, the brooding bridgeboy, the hero of the Shattered Plains, the protector of the innocent and overall good guy Kaladiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin Stoooooooormblessed! Thursday Thursday Thursday, don’t miss all the fun as these two Knights Radiant go toe to toe in a battle of the burns that will be sung of throughout the ages!

And what’s this? A mysterious letter revealing secrets about Shallan’s family? Read on to find out more!

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. As in the past few installments, we’ll be discussing some broader Cosmere information in regards to the epigraph, but nothing hugely spoiler-y. However, if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan
WHERE: Urithiru: basement; her quarters, Sebarial’s barracks
WHEN: 1174.1.7.1 (Two days after Dalinar’s vision, and eight days after Shallan’s last appearance)

Chapter 39 begins with a meeting. Dalinar, Jasnah, Navani, Kaladin, Shallan, and Renarin have all gathered to discuss the Voidbringers and what should be done. Kaladin insists that the common parshmen are just as much victims as anyone else, and Jasnah heartily disagrees. They move on to debate who should go with Kaladin and Elhokar on their expedition to liberate Kholinar. Jasnah suggests that they’re thinking too small—they need to find the Heralds. And kill them, in order to restore the oathpact and banish the Fused back to whence they came. Dalinar thankfully smacks this idea down and sets a plan to find them for more information instead. Jasnah chides Shallan for being distracted, and when Shallan returns to her room she finds the promised information from the Ghostbloods—information about her dead brother.

In chapter 40, we learn that Helaran was a Skybreaker. They believe he was sent to eliminate Amaram. The letter also gives some exposition regarding the motives of the Sons of Honor and the Skybreakers. Shallan heads off as Veil and meets up with Gaz and the rest of her “squires,” who are enjoying a game. However, her visit is interrupted by a spy—Ishnah, the woman from earlier who had been so keen to work for the Ghostbloods. Veil gives her a charge—to train her squires to be spies.

The Singing Storm

Titles: Notes; Questions, Peeks, and Inferences

A: “Notes” comes from a couple of things. Obviously, Jasnah asks Shallan to take notes, which she does—badly (and also “doodles” an impressive sketch…)—and the topic becomes a bit contentious. Then the chapter ends with discovery of the note from Mraize.

“Questions, Peeks, and Inferences” comes from the description of the game Shallan’s men are playing, but it really defines the whole chapter.

Heralds: Battar, Nale; Nale, Shalash

A: Battar, patron of Elsecallers, could easily grace Chapter 39 just for Jasnah’s key role in the chapter. However, her role as Scholar and her attributes of Wisdom and Caring are very relevant as well. The group is trying to figure out the wisest course of action, and we see caring reflected both in Jasnah’s concern for the defense of humanity… and, oddly enough, in Kaladin’s concern for the ordinary parshman. Nale, patron of Skybreakers, Judge, Just/Confident, most likely represents the attempt to be fair to both sides while not doing anything stupid, and maybe Dalinar’s continual mediation between Jasnah and Kaladin. Come to think of it, he might also represent Jasnah’s evaluation of Shallan’s situation.

For Chapter 40, though, I think Nale clearly represents the Skybreakers first of all. Could he also, in some sense, represent all of the secret organizations, just because the Skybreakers are one of the four we know about? Shalash pretty easily maps to Shallan’s Lightweaving, as she dons her Veil disguise to escape from the Shallan issues.

Icon: Pattern

Epigraph

No good can come of two Shards settling in one location. It was agreed that we would not interfere with one another, and it disappoints me that so few of the Shards have kept to this original agreement.

As for Uli Da, it was obvious from the outset that she was going to be a problem. Good riddance.

A: Well, then! Somehow, I get the feeling that Edgli doesn’t think highly of … well, anyone besides herself?

She phrases this as though there had been a formal agreement among the Vessels, but we’ve already talked about how that doesn’t seem to fit with the Stormfather’s statement that “spren and gods cannot break their oaths.” I see a couple of possibilities here: the obvious one is that the agreement she references was made before they took up the Shards, and so did not bind them by nature. This theory has a few permutations, of course, given that we don’t know just how long it takes the Intent of the Shard to permeate the personality and abilities of the Vessel.

There’s also the possibility that the Stormfather, accustomed as he is to Honor, doesn’t actually understand the rest of the Shards at all; perhaps most of them would be able to break an agreement with impunity. And of course, if the wording of the agreement was actually “not to interfere with one another,” any Shards who joined forces expecting to cooperate could interpret that as within the meaning of the terms.

Then, of course, there’s “Uli Da” who is promptly dismissed as a problem, and best out of the way. (Harsh, lady!) We know three things about Uli Da, as far as I can recall: She was of the Sho Del, she held the Shard Ambition, and she’s dead. The Sho Del were one of the three sapient species on Yolen; the other two are dragons and humans.

L: For the non-Cosmere-scholars among our readers, which book does this relate to?

A: Heh. It mostly doesn’t, yet! The Sho Del info and almost everything else about Yolen is from Dragonsteel, which a few fans have read in its larval form at the BYU library, and the rest of us have to wait to see.

L: (So don’t feel bad if this is the first you’ve ever heard of this.)

A: For what it’s worth, we don’t know if Uli Da was the only non-human Vessel, though she may have been. She was attacked near the Threnodite system; while her final Shattering took place elsewhere, the power released in the battle had massive effects on Threnody and the rest of the system. Presumably, the attack and the final blow were both Odium’s doing. Unlike the Sho Del thing, this part is from Arcanum Unbounded.

Stories & Songs

“Looking over what you discovered, it seems that all parshmen can bond with ordinary spren as part of their natural life cycle. What we’ve been calling ‘Voidbringers’ are instead a combination of a parshman with some kind of hostile spren or spirit.”

A: I really liked this insight. It helps to remember that the ordinary parshmen are… just ordinary parshmen, despite their species’s ability to adopt different forms for different purposes. The real baddies, the Voidbringers, are the Fused, and they really are bad. They’re crazed, and they take over the bodies of the ordinary parshmen. Maybe this will be part of the final solution—when the parsh decide that they’re tired of being used as disposable tools to fight a war that’s millenia past. I mean, it would make me mad to think that some crazy spirit can just kick me out of my body, use it up, and throw it away.

“The Stormfather has found Kholinar to be a ‘dark spot’ to him.”

L: Was this ever explained in the end of the book? I forget.

A: I… don’t think so. I assume it’s due to the presence of Ashertmarn, or maybe the number of the Fused there, but I don’t remember anything more than that. Readers? Help us out, here?

Relationships & Romances

Shallan glanced at him. There was something about that wavy dark hair, that grim expression. Always serious, always solemn—and so tense. Like he had to be strict with himself to contain his passion.

L: And so it begins. I know a lot of people really detest love triangles, but I think they can be done very well provided the interest on the parties’ parts is realistic and engaging and not simply “Oooh he’s so dreeeaaaaamy!” However, I also recognize that this particular trope has been played out nearly to death, and a lot of readers are sick and tired of seeing it. And speaking of…

Shallan paused, looking at the doodle she’d been doing. Actually, it was more complex than a doodle. It was… kind of a full sketch of Kaladin’s face, with passionate eyes and a determined expression.

L: So uh, maybe there’s a bit of “he’s so dreamy” going on here after all.

A: Ya think? Heh. I’m one of those people who loathe love triangles, but I was mostly okay with this one. Mostly—primarily because by the end of the book, it was pretty clear that the Veil persona was the one sighing over Kaladin, and the one I think of as “the real Shallan” was still in love with Adolin. This chapter disturbs that angle a bit, though, because she’s very much Shallan while she’s doing this drawing. Is it “Veil in the back of her mind”? Or is Shallan herself actually attracted to him?

L: I think it’s perfectly natural for a young woman to be attracted to more than one person. Jasnah berates her for “wandering eyes,” but as long as she’s not acting on those impulses, I don’t see an issue with admiring someone else aesthetically. Then again, I’m also coming from a much different place from most teenagers, being in a long term stable marriage in which my husband and I don’t get jealous when we admire handsome/beautiful people. I may be an outlier here…

A: It’s totally natural. Is it wise to allow herself to indulge in the attraction? Maybe not so much, and I think that’s Jasnah’s concern. All we know about Alethi wedding oaths is that Dalinar’s and Navani’s is not the traditional version, but Alethi marriage convention seems to be specifically monogamous in intent. I think the problem Jasnah sees with the drawing is that, given the evidence, Shallan doesn’t seem to be merely “admiring the aesthetics.” At a clear-thinking 34, Jasnah is probably enough a student of human nature to doubt the ability of a 17-year-old girl to draw a solid distinction between aesthetic beauty and physical attraction, and the last thing she wants for Adolin is a fiance/wife who isn’t committed to him. Along with her personal love for her cousin, I’d bet Jasnah is considering the implications for the princedom, the nation, and the war effort if Adolin is either undermined or distracted by a faithless wife, and she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen—now, while it would still be relatively easy to stop. (Come to think of it, we haven’t been told what promises are involved in a causal betrothal, have we? That could be part of what’s happening too.)

Jasnah had turned down every suitor for her hand, including some very attractive and influential men. People wondered. Was she perhaps simply not interested?

L: Asexual, or just so focused on her career and studies that she doesn’t have time to pursue romance? I wonder.

A: Gotta be careful here. Brandon said that Jasnah wouldn’t be best pleased by people speculating about her love life…

L: I was about to say “I can speculate all I want, she ain’t gonna hop over to Earth to smack me down” but then I realized… wait… I may be safe, but Lyn isn’t… ::yikes::

A: You just watch yourself, young scout/squire. She can take you down.
Personally, I think there are a couple of different things going on. She may be asexual. She may be traumatized by past experience to the point that she would actively avoid romance. Primarily, I think that for the last 6 or 7 years, she’s been so focused on the hints of a coming Desolation that she’s not the slightest bit interested in distracting herself from that study.

Next to Jasnah, Shallan felt pale, stupid, and completely lacking in curves. What would it be like, to be so confident? So beautiful, yet so unconstrained, all at once? Surely, Jasnah Kholin had far fewer problems in life than Shallan. At the very least, she created far fewer for herself than Shallan did.

A: This is one of the passages that make me believe that Shallan’s perspective on Jasnah is not a matter of attraction, so much as it is sheer envy. It’s a teenage girl looking at a beautiful, confident woman twice her own age, and feeling totally lame and worthless by comparison. I think it reveals something about Shallan’s shaky state of mind, though, that she’s reverted to comparison. Not so long ago, she was able to view Jasnah as someone to emulate; that whole thing with “power is an illusion of perception” was something she aspired to, and it helped her to be more. Now instead of seeking to be more, she accepts being less.

Bruised & Broken

Oh, Shallan…

She’d settled against the tile-covered wall, sitting on the floor in her blue havah, and had intended to spend the meeting doing sketches.

A: Shallan’s state of mind is pretty dodgy these days. As Jasnah points out later, she’s been actively avoiding the things she should be doing as a Knight Radiant: she skips meetings, barely pays attention while she’s there, slips out early. How much of this is that she resents returning to her role as “Jasnah’s dutiful ward” instead of being the “lead Radiant” that she’d been before Kaladin and Jasnah showed up? Is that what’s going on? Or is it that the pressure of being Miss Responsible Radiant is too much for her, as we saw happening several times in Part One?

He had killed Helaran, her brother. The emotion of that peeked out, but Shallan smothered it, stuffing it into the back of her mind. Kaladin wasn’t to be blamed for that. He’d just been defending his brightlord.

L: I have to admit, this surprised me the first time I read it. I hadn’t expected her to accept the reality of this situation quite so easily. Let’s face it, up until now Shallan has been shockingly naive and childish about a lot of things, and this is very much a trope that fantasy readers are familiar with—the misunderstanding between two people that festers and festers until it eventually explodes at a climactic moment. The fact that Sanderson subverted this trope and at the same time gave Shallan this moment of maturity was masterfully done, in my opinion.

A: I just keep worrying that this will come back to haunt us. Was it maturity, or was it a justification for stuffing it? It’s pretty easy to find a rationalization and then pretend that everything is okay, so that you can shove the painful things back down instead of facing them.

Shallan nodded. She wasn’t working with the Ghostbloods. That was Veil.

L: ::wince:: Oh, Shallan, you are wading deeper and deeper into the waters of mental instability, here.

Veil was enjoying her mug of beer more than she’d expected. It was refreshing to sit here with these men and not have to worry about all Shallan’s problems. Couldn’t that girl just relax? Let it all blow past her?

A: Deeper and deeper…

L: During the game, there’s a moment where “Veil” slips into Shallan briefly that I found interesting. When the cards are revealed, Shallan comes out and calls them all correctly. It’s the only time that Shallan peeks through the Veil facade, and I’m curious as to why.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

The following letter explains the truth about your deceased brother. Nan Helaran, acolyte of the Radiant order of the Skybreakers.

L: Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

“…the sons of honor explicitly worked for the return of the Desolations. They believed that only the Voidbringers would cause the Heralds to show themselves—and they believed that a Desolation would restore both the Knights Radiant and the classical strength of the Vorin church.

L: Well, there’s a whole slew of questions answered in two neat little sentences.

A: The answers make me angry, even while they’re a very… Vorin approach to life. The idea of explicitly trying to start a world-wide conflict as a means for a small handful of people to gain religious power is revolting. I guess it’s been long enough since the Desolations that maybe they don’t comprehend what effect such a war would have on the world, but I still find it repulsive.

From our spying upon the Skybreakers, we have records showing the only member of Amaram’s army to have bonded a spren was long since eliminated.

L: I’ve seen theories that this mysterious proto-Radiant was actually Tien, and I rather like them.

A: ::sniff:: Yes, I agree.

“Secrets,” Pattern said. “There are lies in this letter.”

L: Okay, so… we can’t trust this completely, can we? What might the lies have been, do you think?

A: Pattern is so stinking cryptic sometimes! I can never tell whether he’s talking about actual lies, or something in the language that he finds clever. And does he consider it a lie when something is not true, but the person speaking doesn’t know it’s not true?

I did wonder about something, though. Mraize claims that Shallan’s mother was connected to a Skybreaker, and that the Skybreakers thought Helaran was the family member who was close to bonding a spren. Does that mean that neither the Skybreakers nor the Ghostbloods know that Shallan was already bonded to Pattern back then? Did the whole thing with them trying to kill Shallan, and her killing them instead, all happen in one fell swoop, so that the truth never got back to the Skybreaker organization?

Well, whether that’s what Pattern meant or not, I’m pretty sure Mraize wouldn’t even consider telling Shallan the whole truth! So there are definitely more secrets to learn, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of what he said is a direct lie.

Squires & Sidekicks

“You think you could be a Knight Radiant, Gaz?”

“No. No, I guess I don’t.”

L: Which, by my estimation, means you’re absolutely destined to become one.

A: Definitely. At least a squire. Except… I’m half expecting Gaz to do another Bluth or Elhokar—Brandon will make me like what he could become, and then he’ll die in the process of trying to become that man. I’d like one to actually succeed.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“In short, everyone who might have been able to help us is crazy, dead, a traitor, or some combination of the three.” He folded his arms. “Figures.”

L: Oh, I adore him.

“If you wish, Captain,” Jasnah snapped, “I can get you some mink kits to cuddle while the adults plan. None of us want to talk about this, but that does not make it any less inevitable.

“I’d love that,” Kaladin responded. “In turn, I’ll get you some eels to cuddle. You’ll feel right at home.”

L: ::ahem::

“If it’s not a lowly task,” Shallan said, “then perhaps you should have done it.”

L: This chapter is full of burns and I am here for it.

A: Jasnah, Shallan, and Kaladin all scored a fair number of points here. It was fun.

Pieces was one of those games that the Vorin church grudgingly allowed, as it involved no randomization. … Vathah had arranged nine of his pieces in a triangle shape; the tenth one he set to the side and flipped over as the seed. It, like the hidden nine, was marked with the symbol of one of the Alethi princedoms. In this case, the seed was Aladar’s symbol, in the form of a chull. The goal was to arrange your ten pieces in a pattern identical to his, even though they were facedown. You’d guess which were which through a series of questions, peeks, and inferences. You could force the mink to reveal pieces just to you, or to everyone, based on certain other rules. In the end, someone called and everyone flipped over their pieces. The one with the most matches to the mink’s pattern was declared winner, and claimed the pot. The mink got a percentage, based on certain factors, such as the number of turns it took before someone called.

A: This sounds familiar, but I can’t quite identify it. The questions, peeks, and inferences is a lot like Clue, but I think there’s another game I should be recognizing. Oh well.

L: There’s a game where you have to match cards up that this is reminding me of—I remember it most strongly from one of the old Mario games (Super Mario 3, I believe) where you had to find the two matching cards and remember where they were from previous rounds.

“That’s a little like saying you want me to teach hogs to talk—with promises it will be easy, as they only need to speak Alethi, not Veden or Herdazian.” … “All right. We’ll see. Just don’t blame me if the pigs don’t end up talking.”

A: This cracked me up. Poor Ishnah! (sort of…)

Weighty Words

“If we can be certain of one thing, it is the morality of defending our homeland. I don’t ask you to go to war idly, but I will ask you to protect.”

L: I really love how Dalinar worded this. He knows full well what Kaladin’s oaths were.

“I’ll do what is right, regardless of my feelings, sir.”

L: Atta boy, Kaladin.

A: He even acknowledges that his feelings may be a non-issue with respect to Elhokar, which is… well, it’s not nothing.

“Radiant, yes,” Jasnah said. “Full? Where’s your armor?”

A: Ouch. That’s gotta burn.

L: Yeah, Jasnah’s savage.

Appealing/Arresting/Appraising/Absorbing Artwork

A: Lyn, you’re the fashion expert around here! All I can say is, “Oooo, pretty!!” Do you have anything more cogent to say?

L: Do I ever. Are you sure you want to open this door, because I could probably go on about this for like… a month.

A: I stand by my question!

L: Okay, you asked for it. I love that the text on the bottom of this is talking about how the fashion elites in Liafor are influencing Alethi fashion by making subtle changes to the traditional havah—it’s a fascinating concept, thinking about how one culture can attempt to force fashion changes onto another by indirect, subtle means.

If you didn’t follow my cosplay series of articles or don’t remember, the havah is an Alethi dress that is tight-fitting in the bust and hips and flares out in the skirts. It’s typically described as having buttons up the side and the left sleeve longer than the right, which generally buttons up to hide the safe-hand. In Dan Dos Santos’s art here, we see in the main drawing what appears to be a traditional havah. It looks a little more militaristic than some designs I’ve seen cosplayers favor, with the flap more closely resembling a civil war frock coat than the Asian style some people choose to go with. This fits with the Alethi preoccupation with war, however. It would make sense that even the women’s outfits would reflect society’s predisposition towards martial arts. The model is also sporting the hair pins that Navani and Jasnah are often described as wearing, though if memory serves, Navani’s are shaped like little Shardblades, which is just so storming cool.

A: Those hairspikes are one of the only things that make me consider growing my hair long again. They sound so beautiful—way prettier than sticking a pencil through a messy bun, like I did in college. Without actually researching it, I’m betting that Navani and Jasnah both have quite a collection—but like you, I love Navani’s miniature Shardblades.

L: So the first drawing in the little circle in the top left is just this same outfit, but not on a model. The second one down is more interesting, with exposed pleated skirts and a matching pleated safe-hand sleeve. It also has a beautiful criss-cross folded design to the bodice, which I rather like. It looks a bit like kimono, bringing back in that little bit of Asian flair.

The final and bottom design is far more daring and removed from the traditional havah. This is something that I would expect to see on Scadrial in the second era, not here on Roshar! The only element of the original design remaining is the safe-hand sleeve—the full skirts have been replaced with more of a tight-fitting pencil skirt, and the bodice with a fetching little jacket. It looks very 1950s to me. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see Marasi or Steris wearing something similar!

Also, aside from the fashion itself, I simply adore everything about this artwork. From the dark palette of color with just a splash of gold for accent to the dignified pose of the (gorgeous) model to the little Rosharan flora chilling out in the bottom left, everything about this art is stunning. No wonder Adolin likes looking at them so much, if they’re all like this!

Quality Quotations

“Perhaps,” Jasnah said, “you should visit my uncle’s vision and see for yourself the consequences of a soft heart.”

L: Dude, Jasnah coming in with another sick burn here. I love that Kaladin didn’t let her get under his skin, though.

A: I’m torn about the visions comment, though. In a way, I’d like to have seen Kaladin do exactly this, but at the same time I’m glad Brandon didn’t overuse the idea. Limiting it to highstorms really helped to keep it contained.

L: I don’t want Kaladin to visit the visions. It would hurt him too much to get attached to these people and be unable to save them. Poor little cinnamon roll.

“I can’t afford to stay my hand from war,” Dalinar said. “Everything you say is right, but it’s also nothing new. I have never gone to battle where some poor fools on either side—men who didn’t want to be there in the first place—weren’t going to bear the brunt of the pain.”

A: There’s something to be said for single combat as a solution.

“Listen, brightness…”

L: I’m getting some real shades of Han Solo, here. “Listen up, princess…”

“Around her, I do act more like a child. It’s like part of me wants to let her take care of everything. And I hate, hate, hate that about myself.”

“Is there a solution?”

“I don’t know.”

“Perhaps … act like an adult?”

A: Tssssss… Even Pattern gets in on the burn.

L: You get a burn! And YOU get a burn! EVERYONE GETS A BURN!

 

Well then. Let’s talk more about it in the comments, okay? Be sure to join us again next week for Chapters 41 and 42, with another Bridge Four chapter, and yet another trip to Aharietiam.

Alice has nearly survived her daughter’s excursion through driver’s training, possibly even with sanity intact. Also, the Skyward signing tour is starting to come together—and it includes a Seattle stop!

Lyndsey finally got her photos back of her Star Lord cosplay, and she’s over the moon with how they turned out. Check them out on her Facebook page, and stay tuned as she applies to the Avengers Initiative, a charity organization which sends cosplayers into children’s hospitals.

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