Hello again, faithful rereaders and Cosmere fanatics! This week we’ll be delving into some more philosophical conversations between Dalinar and Kadash, following along as Kaladin flies Dalinar back into the Shattered Plains for some recon, watching as Shallan convinces Elhokar to let her tag along to Kholinar, and… oh, yeah. I suppose we’ll cover a little bit of Moash in here, too. If we muuuuuuust.
Aubree: You know you missed me!!!
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. As usual for Part Two, there are very minor Cosmere discussions regarding the epigraphs. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Dalinar; Moash, Shallan
WHERE: Shattered Plains warcamps; Kholinar environs, Urithiru
WHEN: 118.104.22.168 (8 days after our last Dalinar chapter, 3 days after the last Urithiru events); 122.214.171.124 (4 weeks after the previous Moash chapter), around 1.9.1 (Shallan’s portion of Chapter 51 comes after the events of Chapter 50, but we’re not sure how long)
Kaladin flies Dalinar, Navani and some others back to Narak for some reconnaissance and so Dalinar can look for the madman Herald. He has no luck finding the man, but he does find that someone with a Shardblade cut open the wall to get to him, and left behind a small poisoned dart. A discussion with Kadash reveals that the ardent is wary of where Dalinar’s visions are coming from, but he does seem to be ever so slowly coming around.
Meanwhile, in self-loathing-ville, Moash and his team of parshman slaves have reached the outer edge of Kholinar. (Dun dun duuuuuuuuun…)
Shallan approaches Elhokar and convinces him to allow her to accompany the team heading to Kholinar. She plans to use her illusions to disguise the team in order to make it easier to infiltrate… but she’s also using the trip as a handy escape from her own troubled mind.
The Singing Storm
“Shash Thirty-Seven” is the room number where Taln had been … “treated” by the ardents when they thought he was a madman.
“Shash building,” he finally said, pointing absently out the window. “That one right there. Room thirty-seven. Insah ran the facility; her records will list details of the madman’s treatment….”
Alice: This goes all the way back to Chapter 38, where Dalinar suddenly realized that the “madman” who showed up with a Shardblade really was a Herald, and it just might be a good idea to talk to him.
Lyn: I feel like this was a missed opportunity to name the chapter “Shash Building,” as in… danger building. Danger is most certainly building for our heroes here, and the tension in this chapter is so thick you can almost taste it.
AA: “Full Circle” is another of the few non-quote titles. It ties back to Chapter 45, when Moash practically predicted his fate while talking to Guff. He used to be a caravaneer, then he carried bridges, and now he’s pulling a sledge. He used to work the route from Kholinar to Revolar and back, and now he’s approaching Kholinar on that same road. He used to hang out at a tavern he now passes in the suburb where they stop. The bridge crews were housed next to a lumberyard just like the one he’s sent to now. And in a few weeks, he’ll be carrying a ladder to assault the walls, instead of a bridge to cross chasms, but in both cases serving as cannon fodder.
AP: Ladder Four!
Taln (Dependable/Resourceful, Stonewards) is the sole Herald on chapter 50, and with good reason; most of Dalinar’s effort in returning to the warcamp is centered on trying to find him, or any record of what happened to him.
Shalash (Creative/Honest, Lightweavers) is the Herald for chapter 51, which makes sense with Shallan’s activities, presenting her Lightweaving as a useful tool for the Kholinar infiltration. I’m not sure how it fits Moash, other than possibly his honesty about the situation he’s in.
Icon: Kholin Glyphpair; Not Bridge Four
We’ve got a Dalinar chapter followed by a Moash chapter, except that the latter also has a couple of Shallan scenes.
We also instruct that you should not return to Obrodai. We have claimed that world, and a new avatar of our being is beginning to manifest there.
She is young yet, and—as a precaution—she has been instilled with an intense and overpowering dislike of you.
This is all we will say at this time. If you wish more, seek these waters in person and overcome the tests we have created.
Only in this will you earn our respect.
AA: So… Obrodai. We have only speculation about where this might be; it could be a world we haven’t seen at all yet, or it could perhaps be part of either the Threnodite or Drominad system. My money is on “a world we haven’t seen at all yet”—but one we’ll likely see in another novella, if we see it before Dragonsteel comes out. Unlike the Coppermind article, I don’t believe “these waters” have anything to do with Obrodai. Instead, I think that phrase indicates that the persona responding to Hoid is on First of the Sun, and is challenging him to survive Patji if he wants any further communication with Autonomy. But that’s just my guess.
Stories & Songs
… the warcamps: ten craterlike circles arrayed along the northwestern edge of the Shattered Plains. From up here, it was obvious they had once been domes. The way their walls curved, like cupping fingers from underneath.
AA: I realize it’s probably not critical to the story or anything, but who built these massive domes out here? And why? They’d almost have to be from the days when Surgebinders were well-trained and powerful: well after Aharietiam, but before the Recreance. Again, just guessing. I wonder if it will ever matter.
AP: Soulcast? But for what originally?
AA: Possibly Soulcast, or possibly constructed by Stonewards, but the burning question remains: For what? I have no idea. They’re enormous, and I can’t come up with a single usage suggestion.
“No, that sail will never stand.”
“It’s not meant to be completely accurate,” Navani said. “Just a concept. My question is, can it work?”
In her sketchpad, he caught sight of some kind of shiplike contraption, but with the sail on the bottom.
L: I am so here for Navani’s eventual airship fleet. I can totally see her standing on deck, hands on hips, grinning as she flies them into war to provide backup for Dalinar. Aaaaaand now I want to write an “airship commodore queen Navani” fanfic.
AA: I’d totally read that! I love her designs, and I love even more that she’s so far outside the traditional thinking in her ideas. The fact that Rushu never even blinks about the ideas and just checks the maths also makes me inordinately happy. (By the way, this is another reference to the artwork at the beginning of Chapter 43.)
AP: I’m really interested in how the surges are converted into fabrials that make them accessible to a larger population. And what role the comparative technological advantage for the humans will play. The Voidbringers are used to humans with a stone age level of technology at the start of a desolation.
AA: Hmm. I wonder how much the advances in fabrial technology will balance out the lack of experienced Radiants. Obviously the numbers of the Fused overwhelm the number of Radiants, but as you say, Aubree, fabrials don’t need Radiants. Will that shift the balance of power?
What happened to a Herald’s body when they died?
L: A better question would be “What happened to their soul when they died?”
AA: That’s certainly a question Dalinar should be asking, but I personally want the answer to exactly what he asked, because I want to understand how they always appear to have the same body. What did happen to a Herald’s body when they died?
He knelt down, shooed away a cremling, and picked up a small object.
L: A CREMLING YOU SAY? I can’t help it, I’m always suspicious when one of these is called out.
AA: I know, right? ::whispers:: Where are the rest of them?
“This was supposed to be an apocalypse, but you don’t farm an apocalypse.”
L: I’m still convinced that there’s something else coming. Something worse than Odium and the Fused, and that’s what the real apocalypse is going to be.
AP: I’m with you on this one. That there is something way worse coming. The Fused are only the beginning.
AA: … Yikes?
The letters out of Kholinar—the last ones they’d gotten—were frightened, worried things. They spoke of riots, of darkness, of spren taking form and hurting people.
L: Definitely creepy, especially that last one.
Bruised & Broken
No, wait, he thought. There was one, of course. A trip to the Valley …
He barely remembered that voyage, though he could not blame that solely upon the Nightwatcher.
AA: Yeah… we’ll get to this much later in the book, but Dalinar was pretty much passed-out drunk for that whole trip.
AP: Dalinar was basically passed out drunk for large stretches of his life.
“And the things you did in conquering Alethkar?” Kadash said. “No divine mandate, Dalinar. Everyone accepts what you did because your victories were proof of the Almighty’s favor. Without him… then what are you?”
L: Kadash with the tough questions, here.
AA: This is definitely the answer to the oft-asked question of why Dalinar always gets a pass (in-world) for the horrible things he did. “Your victories were proof of the Almighty’s favor.” Nice self-fulfilling “mandate” there—you can be as horrible as you want in order to win, because as long as you win, everyone says you’re approved by the Almighty. It’s interesting to note that proving this mandate to be false is much harder on the ardents than it is on Dalinar… so far, anyway.
AP: And I wonder if people will stop giving him a pass once they realize that Vorinism is empty lies. Twenty years isn’t all that much time in world for people to just forgive & forget. And it’s only been what, 5-6 since Gavilar died and he started actively trying to be better? This definitely lays the groundwork for why no other world leaders trust him.
L: Is it really so different from “the winner writes the history books” though? Let’s face it, some truly awful atrocities have been glossed over in the past just because the people committing them happened to win the war.
AP: It is different, in as much as we readers are very susceptible to the narrative framing. Dalinar has done really objectively terrible things, but we sympathize with him because he is the protagonist. The flashbacks and scenes like this show that there very good reasons for others to not want to work with him in-world.
The ardents knew what was best for the sick—they had access to all the world’s latest research in all fields—but was it really necessary to lock madmen away like this?
L: Putting this quote here because I’m saddened at how it echoes the ways the mentally disabled were abused and tortured in our own world. I’ve toured some pretty awful asylums and learned the history of these places, and it’s worse than some of the worst fictional horror stories you could imagine.
AA: It ties into the extended discussion we’ve had of Jasnah’s childhood memory and her “lunacy” as well. The way Shallan described these chambers back in WoR sounds so much like Jasnah’s memory of a dark room; the inescapable conclusion is that the ardents were treating her for what they interpreted as madness. And yes, the descriptions make me so sad for those who were treated thus. It may have been effective, and sometimes even helpful, for a portion of their patients; but there must have been others who were driven catatonic by what is all too close to sensory deprivation.
AP: It also shows how little they actually know. I’d like to know how other cultures on Roshar treat mental illness.
The parshmen of Moash’s new sledge crew didn’t like him. That didn’t bother him. Lately, he didn’t much like himself.
L: GOOD. I hope you’re feeling like crem, you stinker.
AA: Hear, hear.
AP: So this:
“He didn’t expect or need their admiration. He knew what it felt like to be beaten down, despised. When you’d been treated as they had, you didn’t trust someone like Moash. You asked yourself what he was trying to get from you.”
…is actually pretty darn self-aware and empathetic. And I’ll throw out there again, Moash’s degree of self-hatred and self-sabotage are not signs of a healthy mind at work. He’s broken, like so many of our main characters. I expect he would have had Radiant potential if he stayed on Team Human.
“When the assault happens, you’ll be at the front, running a ladder toward Kholinar’s infamous walls.”
Moash laughed even louder.
L: Ka is a wheel, do ya ken? (Long days and pleasant nights to those who get the reference.)
AP: Full circle indeed!
A part of her knew what she was doing. It was getting harder to hide things in the back of her mind and ignore them, now that she’d spoken Ideals. Instead she was fleeing.
AA: Oh, girl. For all she faced her truths at the end of WoR, she really hasn’t accepted them. She blames Jasnah, being a Radiant, the pressure of being needed… she blames everything outside her for feeling overwhelmed, and wanting to get away. She justifies it by “helping the mission” with her ability to create disguises—and there’s no doubt that ability will help. But the real problem she has is on the inside, where she’s desperately trying to go back to burying the things that are too painful to remember. Poor child.
AP: This also relates back to:
“She’d still been telling most people that she was of the Elsecallers, like Jasnah so they wouldn’t know of her ability to become other people.”
She’s lying to others as well, for her benefit. It makes me wonder if this isn’t part of why the other spren think Cryptics are dangerous and to be avoided. Creating illusions and disguises are more “lies” but she is also using spoken lies to cover up what she has been doing in creating multiple personas.
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
That variety doesn’t fly, he thought. They can raise the dark light around themselves, but it doesn’t give them Lashings. Something else. He glanced back at the one nearest him, the one hovering. But that type almost never walks. It’s the same kind that captured me.
AA: This was one of our early introductions to the multiple forms of the Fused, and the probability that there are different “orders” like the different orders of the Knights Radiant. There doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between the abilities of the Fused and the Radiants, but there’s clearly plenty of overlap to be observed.
Also, I feel a need to point out Moash’s surprise regarding the Voidbringers’ behavior. He keeps expecting them to wipe everything out, destroying all the useful things on principle. He didn’t expect them to want to come live here, and be interested in preserving things like crops and housing. Who knew the monsters and the bogeymen needed homes and food too?
AP: This tells us a lot about what Vorins are taught about Desolations, that it’s just a total destruction. When really, there’s more to it than that. We know now that the humans are invaders, colonizers, on Roshar. And that the Fused wanted to take it back. They chose Odium as an ally, which obviously didn’t work out great for them, but this shows that despite their many resurrections/reincarnations/whatever we want to call the body possession thing they do that they still have a responsibility for their people.
They’re trying to burden the city with refugees, Moash thought. Ones that aren’t fit to work or fight anymore.
L: Gotta say, this is a great strategy. Super smart. If you’re planning on laying siege to a city, overwhelming it with mouths to feed is an excellent plan.
AP: Absolutely, and we see just a few chapters ahead that it’s super effective.
If you eliminate her, we will help cover up the disappearance, at your request.
L: Yikes. I’m still not sure what to think of Shallan working with these people, even if she’s only really doing it to know what her enemy is up to (and to get information about her brother).
AA: As a plot device, I think it’s marvelous. From an immersive perspective, though, I just hate it. She’s just not nearly clever enough to be involved with these people. She’s smart and witty and resourceful, but she’s a toddler in a rugby game compared to the Ghostbloods.
AP: She’s definitely in over her head.
Squires & Sidekicks
He was the only one who seemed truly in control of his flying. Even his men flew more like dropped rocks than skyeels. They lacked his finesse, his control.
AA: That description made me snicker. I assume they’ll get better at it, but it does make me wonder whether an actual Knight Radiant simply has better control of the Surges than his squires ever can.
L: I took it as Kaladin just being more practiced.
AA: That’s probably all it is, but these things make me ask questions!
“I long ago accepted that you weren’t mad. These days, it’s more a question of who might be influencing you.”
L: I meeeaaaaaan it’s a legitimate concern. I can’t really blame Kadash for being careful here, when this knowledge would undermine his entire religion.
AA: It’s totally legit, no matter how frustrating it might be. We know so much more about his religion than Kadash does, so it’s hardly fair to criticize him for the things he doesn’t know!
I do appreciate the work Kadash has been doing in the weeks since he and Dalinar had that confrontation back in Chapter 16. He’s contacted the people who were using the Dawnchant “key” Navani created from Dalinar’s visions, and they’ve sent him translations. He gave Dalinar the benefit of waiting until he heard back from them with validation of the translation, and he waited for that before he responded to the questions he was receiving about Dalinar from the various leaders of the Vorin church.
AP: It’s extremely legit, given what we know of the Thrill and where it comes from. Dalinar has been under the influence of bad actors a lot. His history makes him not the most trustworthy dude to take moral guidance from.
Flora & Fauna
…particularly in the face of Shallan’s assessment that they had likely hunted chasmfiends near to extinction.
L: Aww. Poor chasmfiends.
AA: Another hanging question mark… will this have a detrimental effect on some other part of the world’s balance?
Places & Peoples
They had prayed and burned glyphwards on his behalf; that was why highlords owned ardents.
L: Fascinating religion. What I find most interesting about this particular aspect is that people aren’t necessarily expected to be devout themselves, as long as they have the right people doing it for them. Seems a little like just paying lipservice as opposed to being truly devout, but I’m looking at it from an Earth perspective, not an Alethi one.
AA: It bugs me too. I can set it aside from a practical perspective, because we know how little of their belief system is supported by reality. But from the perspective of a rather religious person, it’s grating to see such a casual assumption that as long as someone else does the job properly on your behalf, you’re fine.
L: It’s like if a priest were to say, “No, don’t worry, you don’t need to actually be a good person, just do whatever you like and I’ll be good for you.” Granted, it’s not quite the same, because of this:
Even during his darkest days of war, they’d assured him that in pursuing his calling—by leading his armies—he served the Almighty.
L: Whatever your particular devotary is, adhering to it is sort of like prayer. It really is a unique system.
AA: Must. Suspend. Disbelief.
As invented religions go, it’s realistic even when it makes me grind my teeth. Given the circumstances, it’s exactly the kind of thing people would come up with. See, for example:
Everyone liked the system they had. The lighteyes got to live without guilt or burden, always confident that they were active manifestations of God’s will. The darkeyes got free access to training in a multitude of skills. The ardents got to pursue scholarship. The best of them lived lives of service. The worst lived lives of indolence—but what else were important lighteyed families going to do with unmotivated children?
AA: I… don’t quite know what I think. It’s very pragmatic, and actually does several things any “good religion” does (education, charity, service), but the first item and the last are the ones that get on my nerves. Granted, they get on my nerves in real-world situations, too, so there’s that!
AP: Except that it’s all fake. The lighteyes are absolved of all the terrible stuff they do, while being fed a fiction that the darkeyes are given “free” training and everyone is happy with the system. We know that’s not true. This is similar to narratives that were told about how slaves in the American South were “happy” being taken care of on the plantation, that it was in their best interest after all. Utter nonsense.
AA: I suspect it’s not all fake, since some darkeyes do take advantage of the training, and the ardents (both lighteyed and darkeyed) do get to study what they want. Still, “everyone liked the system” is way overstating the case, and I agree that the lighteyes don’t actually know how hard it is for many of the darkeyes to access the “free training.” Basically, the higher lighteyes and most of the ardents like the system, and those are the ones Dalinar notices because they’re the ones who can affect his life with their disapproval.
AP: If all the training were free, then Kaladin & family would not have been in the situation they were with Roshone. No need to steal spheres if you get free training in any skill, like becoming a surgeon. And yes, the system is totally a good one for the elite ruling class.
AA: There’s free and then there’s free. One of the problems with “free training” is that the person who wants to be trained still has to get to where the training is, and needs food and shelter during the training. If that stuff isn’t free, then the free training is pretty expensive. It means that a darkeyes who lives in the same city as the ardents who can train him has a good deal, but the darkeyes who lives out in the middle of nowhere, with no relatives who can help, is out of luck.
AA: In other news, Queen Fen has agreed—in the tersest possible way—to visit Urithiru, after Dalinar reluctantly agreed to let her enter the Aharietiam vision without him. (No word on how the Stormfather felt about this!) The chapter closes with Kaladin agreeing to take someone along as a test when he flies the next highstorm to Thaylen City to open the Oathgate there. Presumably, they’ll take the Oathgate to Narak first.
“He’s asked me to fly with him above the storm to Thaylen City,” Shallan said, “to open the Oathgate there. He’s overly worried about dropping people—but if he does that to me, I’ll have Stormlight of my own, and should survive the fall.”
AA: I’m only including this here because we’re on the subject, but this is the next step in the planning. I also found Elhokar’s reaction interesting; he’s gotten really used to being surrounded by Radiant powers in recent weeks.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
Her hair was a wind-tousled mess, much of it having escaped her careful braid. Elhokar hadn’t fared much better—his hair sprayed out from his face like waxed Thaylen eyebrows. The two ardents, of course, were bald and didn’t have such worries.
Without thinking he put his hand to the side and tried summoning his Shardblade. Nothing happened.
What are you doing? the Stormfather demanded.
“Sorry,” Dalinar said, shaking his hand out. “Habit.”
AA: This makes me laugh. Poor Dalinar! I wonder if the Stormfather feels some kind of “pull” when Dalinar tries to summon a Blade.
AP: It’s definitely an interesting reaction! I wonder what sort of effects it will have later?
Pattern hummed from her skirts, and she hummed along with him.
L: I can’t help but find this unbearably adorable.
“And my other Surge?” Dalinar said. “That Radiant in the vision made stone warp and ripple.”
You are not ready. Besides, that Surge is different for you than it is for a Stoneward.
AA: Obviously, I’m looking forward to learning what Tension looks like when Dalinar uses it. Most of what we see in Oathbringer is Adhesion, if I recall correctly.
Kaladin would never have been able to stay aloft as long as these did. He’d run out of Stormlight.
L: So are they just more practiced at using their powers, or is Voidlight more economical in regards to power usage than Stormlight is? Does it have to do with the Parshendi’s gemhearts, perhaps? They’re more effective “batteries” than humans are, because they’re actually native to this planet whereas the humans are aliens?
AA: There’s a quote from Szeth in the Prologue to The Way of Kings that’s relevant here:
Stormlight could be held for only a short time, a few minutes at most. It leaked away, the human body to porous a container. He had heard that the Voidbringers could hold it in perfectly.
AA: We know now that part of the problem is that Szeth was accessing Stormlight through an Honorblade, without benefit of actually being one of Honor’s Heralds. A Knight Radiant can hold it much longer, and presumably a true Herald could as well. Even for a Radiant, though, it leaks away. It seems logical that the Singer’s gemhearts would enable them to hold their light—whether Stormlight or Voidlight—in a way that humans simply can’t. (And I’m assuming that when Szeth refers to the Voidbringers, he means the Singer ancestors who fought in the Desolations, rather than the much-farther-back humans who brought the Void first.)
AP: We do see that “perfect” gemstone at the end of the book. I wonder if gemhearts are more “perfect” at storing Stormlight. Voidlight. Whatever. Or if Voidlight just behaves differently. We don’t really have enough information to say.
L: …shit. What if that perfect stone is a gemheart? Trapping an Unmade in a HEART is pretty dark if you think about it.
The interesting thing about it was not the illusion itself, but how she was powering it. … This one, however, she’d attached to a sphere inside the pouch. She was going on four hours now with the Lightweaving needing no extra Stormlight from her. … This had begun as an experiment on how she could help Dalinar create his illusory maps of the world, then leave them for him, without her having to remain in the meeting. Now, however, she was seeing all kinds of possible applications.
AA: Whatever weird mental games she’s playing with herself, it’s good to see the scholar reemerging occasionally. I’ve always liked watching Shallan experiment with Lightweaving to see what else she can do.
AP: I love power up and mechanic sequences. How Stuff Works always fascinates me, and I like that Brandon does these little peeks to give us the “rules” and set expectations for what character powers can and can’t do.
“This is a long march from Narak and the Oathgate. I fear that by dividing our forces among Narak, here, and Urithiru, we’re increasing our vulnerability to an attack.” … Unfortunately, they would probably need this place for farming operations, not to mention the lumber. Plateau runs for gemhearts couldn’t sustain the tower city’s population forever,
AA: I call foreshadowing here. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Anyway, right now they need the resources from this area; Alethkar’s resources are being taken over by the Singers, and they haven’t figured out how to “turn on” Urithiru so they can grow food up there. I’m beginning to suspect that they won’t actually accomplish that until the second arc, and part of the struggle for the remaining two books of the first arc will be how to feed their people. It’s not an insignificant issue. Anyway, that question appears to be part of the reason Dalinar is out here, along with his need to find Taln.
AP: I think that’s very perceptive.
AA: This week, Moash doesn’t seem to have any motivation at all. He doesn’t care about his companions; he’s not particularly worried about the Fused; he isn’t bothered about his own slavery, much less the rest of the humans the Fused have taken; the thought of Kholinar under siege is a matter of indifference. The only thing that really gets a reaction from him is the realization that after all he’s gone through, he’s right back to being a slave who builds and carries large wooden objects in front of an army that doesn’t care if he dies in the first rush.
AP: There’s a lot of apathy here, and again, this is a sign of deeper issues that Moash has. His laughter and inappropriate affect at being told he is going to run ladders are big red flags. Moash makes a lot of bad decisions, but his apathy/anhedonia and executive dysfunction aren’t choices. This Moash sequence is here to give us more insight into how the Fused army works, and it’s a very effective info dump.
AA: (You learn something new every day if you aren’t careful. Turns out “anhedonia” means exactly what it looks like.)
In my painful experience, the truth may be simple, but it’s rarely easy.
And we’re done. Housekeeping note: Given one thing and another, we’re going to drop back to a one-chapter-per-week pace for a while, unless we have a really short chapter. It’s necessary for the sanity of your questionably-sane rereaders. So next week, join us for another Dalinar flashback in Chapter 52. See you in the comments!
Alice would like to point out that the Weeping has begun in the Pacific Northwest, and she is reminded that she shares a certain seasonal reaction with Kaladin. On the other hand, the Skyward tour is coming, with the need for a new cosplay, so that will be fun.
Lyndsey is out late every weekend bringing the scares, which is an excellent distraction from the fact that November is swiftly approaching and she doesn’t have an outline for NaNoWriMo yet. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.
Aubree is back! She was not on a secret mission to infiltrate a city deep in enemy held territory with only a fake moustache as a disguise. There was also a goatee.