Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Forty-Seven and Forty-Eight

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Greetings, oh wondrous rereaders of the Oathbringer! Welcome back to the discussion, as the winsome threesome tackle yet another Moash chapter full of sledge-pulling, fatalism, and a moment of sheer rebellion. Oh, but that’s after a fascinating chapter of Jasnah discussing Radiants and Desolations with her spren, Ivory.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are very minor spoilers for Sixth of the Dusk in the Epigraph speculation, and that’s it for Cosmere spoilers. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Jasnah; Moash
WHERE: Jasnah’s quarters in Urithiru; the road from Revolar to Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.1.8.2 (one day after Skar’s chapter), 1174.1.7.1 through 1.10.1 (starting nine days after the last Moash chapter, and ending the same day that Kaladin’s team arrives outside Kholinar)

Chapter 47: Jasnah reviews the transcription of the Herald-madman’s ramblings, discussing its contents with her spren Ivory. The two spend most of the (highly informative) chapter worrying over how much they don’t know, how to find the Heralds, how to deal with Shallan, and how to prepare for the coming conflict.

Chapter 48: Moash pulls a sledge along a familiar route, as he travels with the Voidbringers from Revolar to Kholinar. It’s not such a bad life, compared to carrying bridges, and the Voidbringers seem to be pretty decent as slave-owners go, with one exception: the group of parshmen who had brought a “false god” with them are treated brutally.

The Singing Storm

Title: So Much Is Lost; Rhythm of Work

So much is lost between Returns.

AA: The title comes from Talenel’s ramblings, as read by Jasnah. It applies as much to Jasnah as Taln, though, because this time much was gained since the previous Desolation. (Well, okay, a lot of knowledge was lost, but more in terms of history than technology; in the latter, much has been gained.) But Jasnah…

In one moment, all of her expertise had been wiped away. “We’ve lost so much time,” she said.

“Yes. We must catch what we have lost, Jasnah. We must.”

She not only lost her notes—she’s retrieving those now—but she lost her lead in research, and much of what she’d learned may turn out to be irrelevant. Mostly, she’s lost time.

Moash fell into the sturdy rhythm of the work. It wasn’t long until he was sweating.

The reason for this choice is fairly clear, as Moash moves toward greater sympathy with the Parsh and away from humans. He can’t hear the rhythms, of course, but the title is clearly reflective of them.

Heralds

Talenelat (Dependable, Resourceful—Stonewards), Battah (Wise, Careful—Elsecallers); Kalak (Resolute, Builder—Willshapers)

AA: Okay, not much debate needed for Jasnah’s Heralds! Our favorite Elsecaller is reading the transcription of Talenel’s ramblings. Need we say more? As for Moash’s chapter, my first reaction is, “Well, it had to be someone, I guess.” I don’t read him as particularly resolute, nor as terribly constructive. I suppose it could be due to his admiration for the efficiency and effectiveness of the Voidbringers’ organization and logistics. Aubree, you must have a better idea.

AP: He does also have a moment here where he stands up for others, in interceding for the parshmen that Kaladin helped.

Icon

Shadesmar; Not Bridge Four

AA: This is the first time in Oathbringer that we’ve seen the Shadesmar icon. Originally, this one was on all the Shallan chapters—up until she drew Pattern into the Physical realm. Since then, we’ve seen it on Jasnah’s rare chapters, so we don’t really know whether this will be specific to Jasnah from here on, or whether it will be used for developing Radiants in general. I guess we’ll have to RAFO.

L: I wouldn’t say that Jasnah is developing, though. She’s farther along than most of the others we’ve seen POVs from, so if that were the case, all of the budding Radiant characters should have this icon. I think it’s more likely to do with the fact that she’s an Elsecaller and more closely linked to Shadesmar than the others.

AA: No, Jasnah never was a “developing Radiant” on screen except in the WoR Prologue. But we have to identify it somehow, and it was used for Shallan up until it was revealed that she was a Lightweaver. At that point she got her distinct Pattern icon, and now Jasnah has the Shadesmar one. Quite true, though, that the Shadesmar icon suits an Elsecaller better than anyone else!

AA: “Not Bridge Four,” of course, denotes another chapter in the Moash spiral.

Epigraph

Indeed, we admire his initiative. Perhaps if you had approached the correct one of us with your plea, it would have found favorable audience.

But we stand in the sea, pleased with our domains. Leave us alone.

L: In the sea?

AA: I think this might be the reason I associate the correspondent with First of the Sun—because that story all takes place on an archipelago called the Pantheon. I dunno, though.

Stories & Songs

Ishar keeps talking about a way to keep information from being lost following Desolations. And you have discovered something unexpected. We will use that. Surgebinders to act as guardians… Knights…

L: Something unexpected? And who’s the “you” in this letter?

AA: I assume he’s referring to the Radiants, and “you” is just whoever in this time frame happens to be listening, but it’s highly cryptic. His entire ramble mixes up time frames and events so that it’s almost impossible to really understand—except that he’s talking about the way things have been in the past, through a mind that’s almost destroyed by 4500 years of torment.

AP: So I know this one was an extra long time period before Desolations. Do we know how long the gap “usually” was? It’s pretty amazing that Taln held out for that long.

AA: The first gaps were, according to the Stormfather, a matter of hundreds of years. By the end, they were more often less than ten years, and the last one was less than a year. Hundreds of years is pretty impressive for them all, even though at least part of that would have been while they were effectively hiding. Once found, the torture began. It seems that the ancestor-souls got better at finding them (or they got worse at hiding), and it’s only reasonable that someone would break sooner each time. Except Taln. Still, 4500 years? I mean, maybe with just one person it was possible to hide longer, but … wow.

“We must search Shadesmar… In this world, men can hide easily—but their souls shine out to us on the other side.”

“Unless someone knows how to hide them.”

AA: So… does this apply to everyone, or only to Cognitive Shadows? Are Cognitive Shadows easier to distinguish from ordinary living people when viewed from within Shadesmar? I’m a little disappointed that this notion was not pursued… unless it was, and we just haven’t seen it yet.

AP: I got the sense that this is how the Fused found Jezrien at the end of the book. But I may be totally off on that. I also think that the ability to hide the reflection of souls in Shadesmar is going to come in handy later on in the series.

AA: Oh, duh. I never thought of that, and it makes way more sense. They had control of the area around Kholinar in both Physical and Cognitive realms, so of course they would have found him that way. Okay, now I’m sad again.

What had they done with that victory? They’d set up false gods in the form of men whose eyes reminded them of the Knights Radiant.

AA: Well, a history scholar he ain’t… but conflating things from his perspective, and leaving out about 3000 years, I suppose he’s not entirely wrong. A bit hyperbolic, I think, because no one sees the lighteyes as gods, but it’s a fascinating little juxtaposition when the the parshwoman later refers to an actual Knight Radiant as a false god.

AP: Hyperbolic in the sense that the lighteyes aren’t gods. But not overmuch given the deep social divide and effective caste system.

The life of men over the centuries had been nothing more than a long string of murders, wars, and thefts.

L: Interesting that he seems to assume that the Voidbringers would be any better. My father once told me something that really stuck with me—he told me that every thirty or so years, someone would start a war. I think about that fact a lot, and this revelation Moash has about humanity seems to indicate that things aren’t much different on Roshar than on Earth in that regard.

AP: So we, as readers, know that they aren’t better, but with everything that Moash has been through, I’m not at all surprised that he’s ready to jump from Team Human. I don’t think that in Alethkar there is even a 30 year period of peace. The Thrill in Alethkar was really messing with stuff. All he knows is that Team Voidbringer treated him better as a slave than he was treated by the humans. He’s got proper equipment, a reasonable pace to keep up, food, and rest breaks.

L: Yeah, especially given his time as a bridgeman.

The Voidbringers seemed so much better than the human armies he’d been a part of… except for one thing.

There was a group of parshman slaves.

L: Oh hey there, parshmen that Kaladin helped! Sucks to see them being treated like this, though. Poor Kal would be heartbroken if he knew.

AA: Especially since he would see it as his fault. Which it sort of is, though he certainly wasn’t responsible for the way they’re being treated. It’s another one of those cases where he had all the good intentions when he helped them, but someone else has to bear the consequences of his decision to leave. The manner in which he left certainly didn’t help.

AP: I’m really glad they showed up again. I also think it’s interesting that Kaladin couldn’t ultimately help them, but Moash does. Quite a reversal in roles here, and gives possible hints to people that think Moash may end up as a Dark Windrunner.

AA: Unfortunately, mostly it seems that Moash was able to get them a position in the invading army, so they all died in the clash with Kaladin’s Wall Guard squad. But that’s a sad story for another day.

Relationships & Romances

AA: I’ll just put in a quick note here that Moash had an uncle who was a caravaneer, who was apparently his first mentor in that society. I forgot to mention last week that Moash says his grandparents had encouraged him to join the caravans, “to give him something productive to do.” That’s loaded with a variety of interpretations…

Bruised & Broken

Jasnah had rejected the nice rooms with balconies on the rim of Urithiru; those had such an obvious entrance for assassins or spies.

L: I’d like to take a moment here to talk about Jasnah’s paranoia—whether founded or not, it’s an interesting aspect to her personality. There are a lot of theories about her past, and what kind of violent trauma she may have suffered. Is it just the illness she mentions, or was there more? Many people think she suffered a rape or other physical assault, and moments like this really cause me to side with that possibility. Granted, we’ve already seen one failed on-screen assassination attempt, so this could feasibly be a result of that and not some murky historical event we’ve yet to see. But… I keep thinking back to that moment in the alleyway in WoK, when she baited and annihilated those thieves. This… is not the action of a woman whose mind is entirely unbroken. Something happened to her. As to what exactly it was? We probably won’t find out until her flashback book.

AA: I agree with everything you say. I also have to add that Jasnah had a close relationship with assassins, and likely learned from them a lot about their methods. She thinks in terms of politics and intrigue, so it’s pretty natural to protect herself against others like herself!

You are like a spren. You think by facts. You change not on simple whims. … Compared to other humans, you are practically a stone!”

She sighed, standing up and brushing past him, returning to her writing desk.

“Jasnah?” Ivory asked. “Am I… in error?”

“I am not so much a stone as you think, Ivory. Sometimes I wish I were.”

L: Poor Jasnah. Viewed by everyone as being this unfeeling rock driven only by intellect. I can’t wait to learn more about her.

AA: I find it … odd? that even her spren sees her that way. I guess we’ve already decided that your spren can’t read your mind, but I keep expecting them to have more insight than humans.

Something stirred deep within her. Glimmers of memory from a dark room, screaming her voice ragged. A childhood illness nobody else seemed to remember, for all it had done to her.

L: An illness no one seems to remember? That’s really, really interesting. Sounds like some odd magic is afoot here, something like Dalinar’s pruning.

AA: It’s driving me crazy, frankly. Do they not remember it because it didn’t seem all that significant to the adults? Just a typical childhood illness, though she reacted badly to the treatment? Something that, right or wrong, she somehow blamed on the adults? Or was it something far deeper that no one else will talk about?

It had taught her that people she loved could still hurt her.

L: The plot (and mystery) thickens further.

AA: Which people, Jasnah?? If it was her parents, that really bothers me. But we know so little of her childhood, and who she would have loved and trusted at that time.

What happened at the Shattered Plains wasn’t my fault, he thought as he hauled the sledge. I was pushed into it. I can’t be blamed.

L: Oh FFS.

AA: ^^ This. Also this:

Moash had failed Kaladin and the others—but that was merely how men were in this debased age. He couldn’t be blamed. He was a product of his culture.

AA: That’s a load of chull dung.

There was a lot of great discussion last week about Moash—his personality issues, his feeling of not belonging, his inability to demonstrate loyalty, and where that all might have come from. I could relate to some of the points made—at least enough to sort of comprehend why he might have developed as he did. The picture of a guy who never fits in and can’t quite figure out what to do about it … helps. More, I can relate to the idea of not letting anyone see that I want to belong if I feel I can’t; I’d rather have people think I’m arrogant than that I’m embarrassed. (Well, not so much any more, but when I was his age, yeah.) So that gives me a handle on Moash as a believable person, in a way that all the arguments about social injustice fail to do.

That said, I still cannot accept the fatalism that says, “I’m just a product of my culture and I couldn’t have done anything else.” If that were true, no one else could ever be loyal or trustworthy either, dude. Of course, that’s deliberate on the part of the author. We see other characters who could easily claim the same rationale, and they don’t. I don’t think it’s any coincidence, for example, that Kaladin and Moash were both very high nahn, they both see injustice in society, and then they react very differently to it.

AP: This is where I see Moash at his most broken, and where he does try to abdicate responsibility/blame for his actions, which he wasn’t doing in the last chapter. His reaction to his revelation that most humans are awful is to try to lose himself in difficult work. It’s a believable reaction, I’ve known plenty of people who just want to tire themselves out instead of thinking about things that are difficult. But it’s a bad reaction, and a complete reversal to “it’s my fault that I failed Bridge Four” that we had in the last chapter. This also is where he has the visible cracks that begin to let Odium’s influence in, which we see in his next few chapters.

The whipping began. The cries, the harsh crack of leather on skin.

That’s enough.

L: I remember reading this for the first time and being really happy to see this moment. Not the whipping, of course—the fact that Moash FINALLY stepped forward to do the right thing.

AP: I agree, and it’s the beginning of a new arc for him, toward Team Voidbringer.

“Stop it!” he snapped, then shoved the other overseer aside. “Don’t you see what you’re doing? You’re becoming like us.”

The two overseers stared at him, dumbfounded.

“You can’t abuse each other,” Moash said. “You can’t.”

AA: Because if you show me that you’re just as bad as the humans are, you might destroy all my rationalizations. I say this, of course, because like Lyndsey, I thought maybe this would be a turning point, but it really isn’t much of one. Correction: It isn’t the kind of turning point I hoped it would be! As we see him later, that whole “do the right thing” isn’t his thing; he continues with his “someone else made me do it” gig, except now it’s Team Voidbringer giving the orders.

AP: What is interesting though is that they listened to him, and did stop whipping the parshmen. Because he showed his passion. The different motivators here are in stark contrast Team Human with it’s Honor/Obligation/Vengeance and Team Voidbringer with Passion/Do What Feels Right. Both of these are broken systems, but Moash is actually equipped to navigate the latter.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

“We must tell the others what we learned from Wit, Ivory. Eventually, this secret must be known.”

“Jasnah, no. It would be the end. Another Recreance.”

AA: It was so frustrating to read this and get no more discussion! Jasnah knows what caused the Recreance, and she won’t tell us?! I wonder, though, whether she knows the whole thing, just like I wonder whether the revelation of the Eila Stele is the whole story. For that matter, I wonder if the Knights Radiant who abandoned their oaths knew the whole story!

AP: There’s always another secret! I think the truth is much more complicated than either side would like to believe.

AA: I’m counting on that!

Places & Peoples

There, miles and miles away, a scribe was carefully rewriting each page of her notes, which she had originally sent to them to keep safe.

AA: Now there’s a serious dedication to backing up your files! I wonder whether she knows these scribes personally, to trust them with her most guarded information, or if it’s just that this particular facility is known for its careful security. It seems like a huge risk for someone like Jasnah to take; on the other hand, she would consider the possibility of losing her notebooks and take steps to prevent complete loss. I find myself really hoping that there’s still good information in there that will be needed; it would be a shame for all that work to be wasted.

She was a young parshwoman with dark red skin, marbled only slightly with white. She wore a havah. Though it didn’t seem like marching clothing, she wore it well. She had even done up the sleeve to cover her safehand.

AA: A good little Vorin Voidbringer? Heh. I doubt she really cares about covering her safehand; that’s just the way this dress is worn, and that’s what she’s grown up with. But the irony was too good not to remark on it.

AP: I thought it was a nice remark on how the former parshmen slaves took on the outward trappings of power that their oppressors wore. The havah is what lighteyed human women wore, and the parshwoman has taken that marker of status and used it to signal that she is important to the army as an Overseer. We know that she’s not, the Fused are the ones in charge, but wearing the havah makes her feel like she is in charge.

“They harbored a false god. Brought him into the very center among us.”

“The Almighty?”

She laughed. “A real false god, a living one. Like our living gods.”

AA: I find it fascinating that they refer to the Knights Radiant as “real false gods.” Apparently in their lexicon, someone who can use the surges is by definition a god, whatever their source of power. “True” and “False” are defined by the source—Odium, or Honor/Cultivation. This is making my brain hurt a little, given what we know—and don’t know—of their history.

Weighty Words

“All ten orders are again,” Ivory said from behind her.

“Ten orders,” Jasnah said. “All ended in death.”

“All but one,” Ivory agreed. “They lived in death instead.”

L: Which order is Ivory referring to here? The Skybreakers?

AA: Presumably. I wonder if he sees them as having abandoned the spirit of their Ideals, though they follow the letter. It could also be that he sees their hiding from the rest of humanity as a form of death, since the Knights Radiant were formed to protect humanity and keep knowledge alive between desolations.

Meaningful/Moronic/Mundane Motivations

Moash found himself enjoying these weeks hiking and pulling his sledge. It exhausted his body, quieted his thoughts, and let him fall into a calm rhythm. This was certainly far better than his days as a lighteyes, when he’d worried incessantly about the plot against the king.

It felt good to just be told what to do.

AA: At least he’s consistent. If you want no responsibility for your actions, just following orders is a whole lot easier than actual freedom. Frustrating as I find this attitude, I can understand it. The sudden jump from second (or third, maybe) nahn to fourth dahn would be unsettling; when you’ve been walking around with a chip on your shoulder for years, and all of a sudden you’re one of the hated nobles, what do you do? Sometimes it’s just easier to be a little cog in a big machine, than to try to steer the machine.

AP: Yeah, I mentioned this above, but this is where I see Moash at his lowest, abdicating his responsibility. It doesn’t last, because he does pick a team and start advancing within Team Voidbringer. But here, he can try to lose himself in the work.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

She leaned back in her seat and Ivory—full-sized, like a human—stepped over to the table. Hands clasped behind his back, he wore his usual stiff formal suit. The spren’s coloring was jet black, both clothing and features, though something prismatic swirled on his skin. It was as if pure black marble had been coated in oil that glistened with hidden color.

L: This is such a cool description. Also, interesting that he’s full-sized. We’ve seen Syl do this once before as well, but the spren usually seem to prefer being smaller. I wonder if it takes more energy to manifest a larger size like this in this plane?

He could change his size at will, but not his shape, except when fully in this realm, manifesting as a Shardblade.

L: Neat that he can’t change his form like Syl can.

AA: One of these days, I’m going to research this phenomenon…

“The ancient ones,” Ivory said again, nodding. He didn’t often speak of the spren who had been lost during the Recreance. Ivory and his fellows had been mere children—well, the spren equivalent—at the time. They spent years, centuries, with no older spren to nurture and guide them.

L: From what we see in Shadesmar later on, those spren are still around—at least, some of them are. Did some die off completely, or are they all wandering around lost like Maya was?

AA: This is yet another of those ongoing mysteries. Presumably, any that still exist as bonded Shardblades in the Physical realm are still wandering around Shadesmar when unsummoned… but where are they all?

“One does not war with Cryptics, as one does with honorspren. Cryptics have but one city, and do not wish to rule more. Only to listen.”

L: Spren culture/society fascinates me. I find it amusing how all the others seem to hate honorspren so much, when the one that we’ve seen and gotten to know is so sweet and charming.

AA: I expect we’ll be talking about that a lot more in a few months! The honorspren we meet in Shadesmar aren’t quite as sweet as Syl!

AP: It’s important to note that the honorspren are the ones who are causing wars. As much of a good quality as we think of honor, or being an honorable person, the flip side is that there are a lot of people (and apparently a lot of spren) that will turn violent quickly due to perceived slights against their honor. The whole Alethi culture is based on honor/vengeance, and the war on the Shattered Plains is a war of honor.

L: Reminds me of the Klingons!

The difference between a higher spren like him and a common emotion spren was in their ability to decide how to act.

L: So autonomy/sapience?

AA: I’d say so, yes. There are other differences, I’m sure, but in the current context, this is the important part. I do wonder how they came about in the first place, though.

Quality Quotations

Kalak will teach you to cast bronze, if you have forgotten this…. Vedel can train your surgeons, and Jezrien will teach you leadership…. I will train your soldiers.

 * * *

“We are naught before him, Jasnah. He would destroy my kind and yours.”

 * * *

He had taken the name Ivory as a symbol of defiance. He was not what his kin said he was, and would not suffer what fate proclaimed.

 * * *

Compared to bridge duty, this was a paradise.

 * * *

Though strict and unforgiving, the Voidbringers understood that to work hard, slaves needed good rations and plenty of time at night to rest.

 * * *

Everything was converging on the capital.

 

Okay, we’re done for now. Whew! Next week we’ll give Aubree a week off (if she wants it) while we flash back with Dalinar in Chapter 49. It’s a very special event in his life. Meanwhile, join us in the comments for more excellent discussion!

Alice is enjoying Indian summer in western Washington. The Weeping will arrive soon enough, but for now, it’s lovely out thataway.

Lyndsey is still waiting on news on the Yuri!!! On Ice movie. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

Aubree goes all the way up to eleven.

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