Hey, y’all! It’s Thursday up in here, and you know what that means: Oathbringer Reread Time! This week we’re twenty-three years in the past, as Dalinar deals with addictions, relationships, fatherhood, and monstrousness.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week contains no Cosmere spoilers, but if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHEN: 1150 (Twenty-three years ago)
The chapter begins with Dalinar in a bar, enjoying some firemoss. When a wrestling match breaks out, he and his former elites place bets—but one of the combatants can’t make it. Dalinar offers to fight the reigning champion, but the man refuses, afraid for his own well-being. Dalinar’s brother-in-law arrives with happy news to break up the tension—Evi is in labor!
Dalinar arrives back home to find his first-born son healthy and his wife exhausted but well. He names the child Adolin, “born unto light.” As he’s leaving, Gavilar pulls him aside and tells him that he needs him to go back out on campaign to quell some uprisings. Not at the Rift—not yet, anyway.
The Singing Storm
Title: Born Unto Light
“Adoda.” Light. He glanced toward Evi, who nodded in agreement.
“Without a suffix, my lord? Adodan? Adodal?”
“Lin,” Dalinar whispered. Born unto. “Adolin.”
A: And now we know what the name means. I wonder if knowing the meaning of your name makes you more likely to reflect that meaning in your personality. Despite his occasional dark moments, the name really seems to fit.
L: Just popping in here to say how much I LOVE the meaning behind his name. In a world in which Light holds such significance, this name may be particularly portentous.
Jezrien (King, Protecting/Leading, Windrunners)
A: I… really don’t have anything to suggest here. If Adolin had been made king at the end of the book, I’d call Jezrien “foreshadowing,” but that doesn’t work. And he’s not a Windrunner, nor likely to be. So… Dalinar as protector? I guess?
L: Jezrien is mentioned in here, and there’s quite a lot about what it means to be a king in regards to Gavilar’s conversation with Dalinar towards the end.
A: That works.
Kholin Glyphpair Inverse, meaning that this is one of Dalinar’s flashbacks.
Stories & Songs
“Excellent,” Dalinar said. “What? You worried about injuring your highprince? I promise you clemency for anything done to me.”
“Hurting you?” the man said. “Storms, that’s not what I’m afraid of.”
L: I love how Dalinar’s reputation precedes him.
He’d agreed to wear a crown after much debate—Sunmaker hadn’t worn one, and the histories said Jezerezeh’Elin refused them as well.
L: Interesting little tidbit about Jezrien here!
“Do you ever wonder about the time when this kingdom was truly great, Dalinar?” Gavilar asked. “When people looked to the Alethi. When kings sought their advice. When we were … Radiant.”
“Traitors,” Dalinar said.
“Does the act of a single generation negate many generations of domination? We revere the Sunmaker when his reign lasted but the blink of an eye—yet we ignore the centuries the Radiants led. How many Desolations did they defend mankind?”
A: So… wow. I find it disturbing that Gavilar only thinks about the time of the Radiants and the related Alethi status in terms of world domination, though I suppose given modern Vorin belief it makes sense. But the first paragraph? He’s not wrong. There was a time, according to Dalinar’s visions, when the Alethi were a great kingdom. They were the ones the world looked to, the ones whose advice was sought. Their task between Desolations was to maintain the arts and skills needed to be prepared for the next attack, so naturally people looked to them for information and training. Alethela was great because they protected, not because they dominated.
What I find really sad is that the attitude represented by Gavilar here is the one that causes the most problem with Dalinar’s attempts to return to the original responsibility of the Alethi. Dalinar, like the old Radiants, wants nothing more than to unite the world, using whatever resources they have, to defend humanity against the Voidbringers. Those resources necessarily include the primary Alethi strength: warfare. Unfortunately, until they actually have to fight, the rest of the world leaders cannot help but see the way the Alethi have behaved in recent millennia: just like Gavilar.
Relationships & Romances
Gavilar hated the stuff. But then, Gavilar liked his life now.
A: We’ve seen hints of this before, though it gets stronger from here on out. The more they settle into this royalty business, Gavilar likes it better and Dalinar hates it worse.
Dalinar closed his eyes. He felt as if he could drift off, maybe get some sleep without worrying about Evi, or dreaming of war.…
A: I’m pretty sure I totally missed this the first time through—that he’s worrying about Evi because she’s so close to giving birth. We knew she was pregnant from the previous flashback, so the connection is obvious in retrospect, but I’m really not used to him actually being concerned on her behalf!
L: Yeah, this is nice to see. He does care about her, in his own obtuse kind of way.
A: A fitting description.
Dalinar stood up as others, ahead of him, raised their hands and cheered.
The contest. The fight.
That led me to almost kill Gavilar.
Dalinar sat back down.
A: The more I reread this book, the less I like Gavilar, you know? But I do like Dalinar’s loyalty to him. Here, I like the way he can even (sort of) manage to reject the Thrill he loves so much, when he remembers that he almost killed his brother under its influence. I find it one of the younger version’s most redeeming characteristics. I guess I must have a thing about loyalty.
L: I’m with you on this one. A fun writing trick to make an unlikable character resonate with an audience is to give them one thing that makes them better than others around them, or just something “good”. This can be a sense of humor, a penchant for saving animals… or, in this case, loyalty to one’s brother. This said, that modicum of goodwill can only carry an audience so far. Eventually the character must grow and change—and, thankfully, Dalinar does (with a little supernatural help).
Looking into that face, swelling with joy, Dalinar finally understood. This was why Gavilar thought so much about the future, about Alethkar, about crafting a kingdom that would last. Dalinar’s life so far had stained him crimson and thrashed his soul. His heart was so crusted over with crem, it might as well have been a stone.
But this boy… he could rule the princedom, support his cousin the king, and live a life of honor.
L: In most stories, this would be the turning point for the character. This is where they’d turn things around and start to change. I love that this isn’t the case for Dalinar. It’s true that having a child often changes people, but not always. One moment of joy, of clarity—then the reality returns and drowns him.
A: I just need to interject here that Dalinar begins idealizing Adolin the moment he’s born, as the perfect, honorable man Dalinar feels he himself can never be. While there are a few moments in his teens when Dalinar is irritated with his son, that idealization doesn’t really end until maybe the moment when Adolin tells his father about killing Sadeas. I say “maybe” because we don’t really know what Dalinar’s long-term response is going to be. Will he still see Adolin the perfect Alethi highprince in the next book, having rationalized his faults into virtues? But for now, as you say, the high will soon be followed by a low.
L: We see him come to this very revelation a page later:
You’ll be anxious again in a few days, Dalinar told himself. A man can’t change in a moment.
L: Interestingly, however… he does change in a moment. The moment that Cultivation prunes him. But it’s worthwhile to note that the only reason he was able to change so swiftly was due to outside influences. If he’d been left to his own devices, would he have been able to change himself? Maybe. But not overnight.
He needed to celebrate—buy drinks for every man in the army, declare a holiday, or just run through the city whooping for joy. He was a father!
“An excellent day,” Gavilar said. “A most excellent day.”
“How do you contain it?” Dalinar said. “This excitement?”
A: This is a bittersweet moment. He’s so excited about the birth of his son, and then… well:
“It is time to show the kingdom that we are not soft, Brother.”
Oh no. Hours ago, he would have leaped in excitement. But after seeing that child …
“Gavilar,” he whispered, “I’m worried.” … “I’m like an animal, Gavilar. Did you hear about the bar fight? Storms. I can’t be trusted around people.” …
“Sure, I can crush this little rebellion, bathe Oathbringer in some blood. Great. Wonderful. Then what? I come back here and lock myself in a cage again?”
“… Go do what I command, then return and we can discuss further.”
Dalinar stopped near his brother, then took a single purposeful step into his shadow. Remember this. Remember you serve him. He would never return to that place that had almost led him to attack this man.
A: Again, I find myself angry at Gavilar. It echoes the previous flashback, when Dalinar was angry at Gavilar for ignoring Navani’s excitement about her research while he made notes on his maps. Here, I’m angry at Gavilar for ignoring Dalinar’s concern about his mental state, because the thing Dalinar is worried about has been very convenient for the conquest.
L: He’s doing what a king must and putting aside his own feelings and concerns for the good of the kingdom, but that doesn’t make it any more savory.
A: I don’t suppose I’ll ever find a realistically-written king that I like very well. They have to use people, and use them up when necessary, placing the good of the kingdom first. I can defend it logically, but when I get into their minds too much, I really dislike them.
Bruised & Broken
Dalinar pressed his fingers together, then rubbed them, scraping the dry, red-brown moss against itself.
A: Dalinar the druggie… except he isn’t, really. He’s an addict, all right, but the moss is just a lame replacement for what he really wants, and moss is never enough.
L: When one addiction isn’t available, people often turn to another.
Here, he didn’t have to listen to reports of rebellion and imagine himself out on those fields, solving problems the direct way. Sword in hand, Thrill in his heart …
He rubbed the moss more vigorously. Don’t think about war. Just live in the moment, as Evi always said.
A: Oddly enough, this last line is one of those that makes me most angry at the younger Dalinar. He’s twisting Evi’s philosophy to justify what he knows is bad behavior, and in a backhanded way he’s blaming her for something she’d hate.
“You told me everyone was fine.”
“They lived,” Havar said.
“One … of the brawlers you fought will never walk,” Bashin admitted. “Another had to have his arm removed. A third babbles like a child. His brain doesn’t work anymore.”
“That’s far from fine,” Dalinar snapped.
“Pardon, Dalinar,” Havar said. “But when facing the Blackthorn, that’s as good as one can expect.”
A: Welp. That hurts. I have to admit, I didn’t see this coming in the earlier line about Dalinar’s reputation. He gets in a brawl, and even without his Shards, he maims multiple people.
L: Yeeeaaaah this one hurt. Getting blackout drunk and destroying people’s lives is never okay. (That’s all I’m going to say about that.)
“It’s your daughter,” Dalinar guessed. “Her lunacy.”
“Jasnah is fine, and recovering. It’s not that.”
A: Given what we know of the Alethi approach to madness, it seems like a pretty good assumption that Jasnah’s “lunacy” referred to here is related to her memory from last week, of a dark room and her own screams. She would be eleven years old at this point, poor child.
L: Yeah, I am desperately curious to find out what happened here.
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
Tanalan is raising an army and settling into his fortifications. Worse, I think the other highprinces are encouraging him. They want to see how I handle this.” He sneered. “There’s talk I’ve grown soft over the years.”
“They’re wrong.” Dalinar had seen it, these months living with Gavilar. His brother had not grown soft. He was still as eager for conquest as ever; he simply approached it differently. The clash of words, the maneuvering of princedoms into positions where they were forced to obey.
L: I both love and hate this. I love the fact that Dalinar correctly views Gavilar’s diplomacy as strength, but at the same time I hate the fixation on conquest and violence that’s so pervasive in Alethi society.
A: Yes. A taste for power can make people do some pretty heinous things, all in the name of (what they see as) the greater good.
Squires & Sidekicks
Bashin though … well, Bashin was an odd one. Darkeyed of the first nahn, the portly man had traveled half the world, and encouraged Dalinar to go with him to see the other half. He still wore that stupid, wide-brimmed floppy hat.
A: I can’t help thinking that Bashin is an homage to Chel Vanin from the Wheel of Time series. The characters are so similar in this description! It’s worth noting that he stays with Dalinar for a lot of years; he’s the huntmaster for that disastrous chasmfiend hunt back in TWoK Chapter 12, and later we see him as the scout coordinator in the trek to Narak.
L: I wonder if he’s going to wind up playing a bigger part eventually. I really like this world-traveler bit!
Tight Butts and Coconuts
He’d ripped the buttons free in removing it so quickly.
Soon, he and his friends were alone in the room, surveying empty tables, abandoned cups, and spilled drinks.
L: Tell us more about those empty tables, Dalinar. (I really wish I had meaningful discourse to make but it appears my main contributions this week are silly gifs and videos and you know what? I’m okay with that.)
He looked down at the boy, who—red faced—wiggled and thrashed with his tiny fists. He had shockingly thick hair, black and blond mixed. Good coloring. Distinctive.
May you have your father’s strength, Dalinar thought, rubbing the child’s face with his finger, and at least some of your mother’s compassion, little one.
A: I love this moment. It’s almost prophetic, because in many ways, that’s how Adolin turned out. There’s some debate about the quality of his strength, though I think he’s strong in all the ways he should be. He certainly got some of his mother’s compassion; you see it in the way he interacts with people from all walks of life.
L: I’m not sure how anyone could argue that he’s not a strong person. He’s a born leader, he’s compassionate to those below him AND above, and he’s a talented fighter in a world that values that above almost everything else.
“I need more than just words!”
L: How ironic, considering where he’s headed.
“Words are important,” Gavilar said. “Much more than you give them credit for being.”
“Perhaps,” Dalinar said. “But if they were all-powerful, you wouldn’t need my sword, would you?”
“Perhaps. I can’t help feeling words would be enough, if only I knew the right ones to say.”
L: Dun dun duuuuuuuun!
A: Seriously! I can’t help wondering whether Gavilar could truly have become a Radiant and spoken the Ideals… but I suppose the question comes because I’ve found myself disliking and distrusting him a lot this week.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
He held the boy aloft in both hands, letting out a whooping laugh, gloryspren bursting around him as golden spheres.
L: There’s those gloryspren again! It’s been awhile for Dalinar.
A: It’s really entertaining to see these gloryspren all the time now, after seeing how important they became at the end of the book.
Also, as a mother, my first thought was, “I sure hope he was supporting that baby’s head properly!” If he wasn’t, it doesn’t seem to have done Adolin any harm, I guess…
“Lighteyes need folks to obey them, right? I’m making certain that you got lots to serve you, at least by weight.”
A: Such a generous fellow, that Bashin.
Gavilar had settled upon a black iron circlet. The more Gavilar’s hair greyed, the easier the crown was to see.
L: I’ve got to wonder if there’s some symbolism at play here, either on Gavilar’s part or Sanderson’s.
What are your thoughts on the chapter? Tell us about it in the comments! Then rejoin us next week, along with Aubree, for Chapters 50 and 51, all full of Dalinar and Moash and Shallan, oh my.
Alice is, quite suddenly, sopping wet. Indian summer is over, and it’s probably going to rain in the Pacific Northwest for the next eight months. You can almost see her brain rusting… except when it’s just frozen, like the windshield this morning.
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