Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Fifty-Eight and Fifty-Nine

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Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread! We hope that you had an amazing holiday break. Alice and I are ready to start off the new year right as we delve into Part Three—Aubree will be back next week. In these chapters, Dalinar’s finally starting to make some inroads on unity, in more ways than he expected…

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There are brief and very limited mentions of Cosmere happenings, but if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar
WHEN: 1174.1.9.4 (The day after Chapter 57’s Recreance & Odium vision)
WHERE: Urithiru to Thaylen City, via Oathgate

Kaladin and Shallan arrive back from Thaylen City after having opened the Oathgate on that side. Dalinar drops a heavy burden on Kaladin’s life—that of (more) responsibility. When the war is over, he’ll have lands and people to manage in his capacity as a Shardbearer and a brightlord. Dalinar and his retinue activate the gate and step through, finding the destruction that the Everstorm has wrought.

Queen Fen gives Dalinar a tour of the devastated city. They wind up at a temple housing the injured, and Taravangian offers some of his surgeons to lend assistance. Fen agrees. At the last temple, Dalinar confronts Fen’s son and agrees to a duel with him. He allows the young man to stab him in the chest, the wound immediately healing thanks to his stormlight. Disturbed by the message this action sends, he goes to the destroyed temple, which his powers urge him to repair. He does, much to the shock of everyone nearby, then sends for Renarin to come help to heal the injured of the city. Queen Fen finally agrees to join the coalition, and offers some advice on getting the Azish to join as well…

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Title: Burdens

Personally, I’ll count us lucky—you included—if at the end of all this we still have a kingdom to burden us.”

A: There’s a whole conversation on the subject of burdens, and the fact that power brings with it burdens that, wanted or not, are now the responsibility of the one in power. (More on this below.)

Heralds

Talenel, Herald of War, Soldier, patron of Stonewards, associated with the attributes of Dependable and Resourceful, the gemstone Topaz, and the essence Talus.

A: As Lyn will note below, Dalinar is very much in Soldier mode.

Icon

Dalinar’s glyphpair shield, representing his POV.

Epigraph

As a Stoneward, I spent my entire life looking to sacrifice myself. I secretly worry that is the cowardly way. The easy way out.

—From drawer 29-5, topaz

A: Okay, so here’s the thing with the Part Three epigraphs. Remember that wall of drawers Renarin found in the library/cellar, each drawer with its own gemstone? The ones that Shallan and Pattern realized held coded messages? Well, here they are—a few of them, anyway. We’re going to start reading hints from the time before the Recreance, and from before the abandonment of Urithiru. Look for some serious theorizing to happen in the Epigraph discussions!

That said, now I’m going to be watching for connections between the epigraph and the Heralds, since we start right of with a Stoneward on a chapter with Taln as the Herald. I never really looked at that before. This time, it’s an interesting personal reflection from someone worried about his life choices. His reflection reminds me of Kalak’s comment on Taln’s approach to battles, from back in the Prelude:

Taln had a tendency to choose seemingly hopeless fights and win them. He also had a tendency to die in the process.

I wonder if this is a common attribute among the Stonewards. I can see where the willingness to risk the sacrifice is a valuable thing in the Soldier, but I’m not so sure about the “looking to sacrifice myself.” It’s a twist on Taln’s proclivity—he chose “hopeless” battles and won them, but this guy sounds like he’s looking for a fight he can’t win. It’s also the opposite of Dalinar’s comments on the burdens of power; it’s like he worries that he’s looking for a way to sacrifice himself so he doesn’t have to bear those burdens. Sometimes living with responsibility is a lot harder than dying.

L: Maybe there’s more to this than we can see right now. Maybe the sacrifice is something intrinsically linked to their powers, like protecting people is Kaladin’s.

A: Uh… duh? That never occurred to me, but I’ll bet you’re right. We don’t know anything solid about the Stoneward Ideals yet, though there’s some speculation that one of their Ideals will be “I will stand when others fall.” It’s someone’s Ideal, in some form, but we don’t know who.

Title: Bondsmith

No, the man he’d been twenty years ago could never have done this.

Bondsmith.

A: Chapter 59 takes its title from Dalinar’s actions of restoring the broken pieces of the temple into the united structure it so longed to be, and his realization that this is one of the things he can do.

Heralds

Kalak, Maker, patron of Willshapers, associated with the attributes of Resolute and Builder, the gemstone Amethyst, and the essence Foil.

A: Even though the title and the focus of the chapter is on Dalinar’s Bondsmith surgebinding, we’ve got Kalak as the Herald. My guess is that it reflects multiple aspects of Dalinar’s situation: not only rebuilding the temple, but his resolute determination to build the coalition among humans to stand against Odium and the Voidbringers.

Icon

Dalinar’s glyphpair shield, representing his POV.

Epigraph

If this is to be permanent, then I wish to leave record of my husband and children. Wzmal, as good a man as any woman could dream of loving. Kmakra and Molinar, the true gemstones of my life.

—From drawer 12-15, ruby

A: And *poof* goes my notion about correlations between the epigraphs and the Heralds for each chapter, right away. I’d have expected this to be from a Willshaper, in an amethyst, but it’s not. The ruby indicates that this is a Dustbringer’s memory. For what it’s worth, it sounds like she’s Thaylen—or at least her husband is, since he and one of their children have very Thaylen names. It’s possible that she’s Alethi, since the other child’s name sounds much more Alethi. I’m happy to see confirmation that the old Radiants married and had kids, though it was probably assumed by most of us anyway. I wonder if the Vorin “lighteyes” are all descended from actual Radiants, and those who become lighteyes from bonding a Shardblade don’t actually pass the genes. Sheer speculation…

Thematic Thoughts

A: As we start the new year, we’re adding a couple of new recurring units. As with any other unit, neither of them will necessarily show up every week, but now we’ve got them when we want them. This one is something I’ve wished for a few times; how often we’ll actually use it, I don’t know. This is the one we’ll use when there’s a lot that ties together in the chapter and we want to keep the whole discussion in one place rather than letting it spread out through the other units. It’s also the one we’ll use when we have a chapter that just… doesn’t fit anywhere. (Like Venli’s previous interlude, for example…) We’re not using it today, but now you’ll know what it’s for when it does show up.

Stories & Songs

Who’s to say what [Odium] can and cannot touch in the real world?

L: I mean… a fair point. Ruin sure did cause a lot of havoc over on Scadrial this way (not that these words can be trusted, not having been written in metal…)

A: There’s so much we don’t know about Odium’s access in the Rosharan system. Is he mostly tied to Braize, and can only directly affect Roshar when the Voidbringers are freed? Or… which one of the gazillion other possibilities we could name? We’ll be finding out right along with Dalinar—and Venli—as the series progresses.

It was a pity to see several statues with the faces broken off.

L: Ah, Shalash has been here, I see.

None of the other temples had fared this poorly. It was as if Odium had a grudge against this one in particular.

L: Probably true.

A: What, you think Odium might have an extra mad on for the only Herald who didn’t abandon the Oathpact? Nah, couldn’t be.

Relationships & Romances

L: Dalinar and Navani’s relationship in this chapter is really sweet. She clearly understands him so well, and loves him dearly despite all his warts.

A: There was a recent discussion on one of the Facebook groups about whether people found Navani’s love for Dalinar believable. I came to the conclusion that, all arguments to the contrary, it’s quite plausible given their culture, and it fits her personality. In any case, I love the way she understands him. She’s an engineer at heart, and it shows in the way she evaluates and responds even to his expressions.

Bruised & Broken

Couldn’t Fen have taken him on a tour to see those Shards instead?

L: Dalinar’s having a bit of a throwback to his jerk-wad soldier days here, I see. It seems to me that lately he’s been better than this. I wonder if it’s just because Odium’s gotten him rattled that he’s reverting to his old behaviors.

A: Hmm. He is impatient with the temple tour, partly because he didn’t understand it until Navani explained the tradition, but he’s always been a soldier, and he still is. While he’s trying to be diplomatic in order to build the coalition, the purpose of the coalition is war—a war for all of humanity. So I honestly can’t blame him for thinking like a soldier, although as a soldier I’m surprised he even thinks that Fen would want to show him their defenses right off the bat.

L: Speaking of old behaviors…

It was shocking, then, to feel his own sudden, stark displeasure. For some reason, those frightened faces hit him harder than the sword had.

L: Poor thing. He’s forced to embrace his dark past for the good of the future, but it’s barbed and cuts him every time.

What had he just accomplished? He said he didn’t want to conquer this people, but what story did his actions tell? I’m stronger than you, they said. I don’t need to fight you. I could crush you without exerting myself.

Was that what it should feel like to have the Knights Radiant come to your city?

L: Man, Dalinar’s really in a rough place here. He’s got this awful reputation that he’s trying to use to his advantage, but every time he does, he’s just playing into these fears that he’s turning back into the man he was. If he plays nice and diplomatically, people don’t trust him because they don’t think he’s being genuine. If he is genuine, he’s turning back into the warlord he hates.

A: Add to that, there’s an internal conflict between the person he is genuinely becoming, and the person he used to be—the guy who legitimately earned that awful reputation. The duel displayed the skills they expected of the Blackthorn, and those skills are still his. The problem comes when his last step was intended to show that he didn’t want to hurt them, and instead is interpreted as contempt. They can’t read his mind and heart, and just see him being so Alethi it stinks.

L: But then…

No, the man he’d been twenty years ago could never have done this.

Bondsmith.

L: There’s another way. There’s always another way.

AA: And it’s beautiful.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

Taravangian and Adrotagia finally arrived, followed by Taravangian’s strange Surgebinder, the short-haired woman, Malata.

A: Malata gives me the heebie-jeebies. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t remember ever trusting her at all.

L: Same. There’s just something about her that makes my hair stand on end.

A: We’ve gotten some negative hints about Dustbringers (*ahem – Releasers*) from the in-world books about the Knights Radiant, and Malata seems to fulfill them all. The fact that she’s on Team Diagram… that just makes it worse. Do. Not. Trust. For that matter, do not like either.

L: And the fact that she was on Team Diagram before she was a Radiant makes it even worse.

A: She’s just a nasty piece of work.

Malata joined her, watching over Navani’s shoulder as she fiddled with the keyhole, which was in the center of a ten-pointed star on a metal plate.

A: I suppose any new Radiant would legitimately want to know everything they can about working the Oathgates, but this has a feel of intrusion. (I can’t help thinking I’m being played like a fiddle… I’m reacting just like I’m supposed to!)

Places & Peoples

“As you fly, wave to the lands along the south fork of the Deathbend River. The parshmen may have conquered them by now, but they actually belong to you.”

“…Sir?”

“You’re a Shardbearer, Kaladin. That makes you at least fourth dahn, which should be a landed title. Elhokar found you a nice portion along the river that reverted to the crown last year at the death of its brightlord, who had no heir.”

[…]

“Sir. You know I don’t want this burden.”

“If you’d wanted a life without burdens, you shouldn’t have said the oaths.”

L: Kaladin’s gonna make a great brightlord, though. So much better than that rat bastard Roshone.

A: He has a lot of advantages over Roshone—like not starting out as a rat bastard at a basic personal level! The simple fact that he sees it as a burden, a responsibility rather than a privilege to which he’s entitled, guarantees that he will do his best for those people. Lucky folks—if they ever get a chance to try it out, anyway.

“My family is in northern Alethkar. Now that I’ve practiced flying with the storms, I’ll want to go and fetch them,…”

L: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay! The idea of Kaladin being able to keep his family well provided for and safe gives me the warm fuzzies.

By spanreed reports, the Voidbringers were slowly moving northward, northward, and had captured much of Alethkar. Relis Ruthar had tried to gather the remaining Alethi forces in the country, but had been pushed back toward Herdaz, suffering at the hands of the Fused.

A: Oh, hey, it’s our old buddy Relis! Just had to point out that he apparently isn’t a complete loser; after being sent home in disgrace after losing the four-on-one “duel” with Adolin, he at least tried to behave like a soldier and stand against the Voidbringers. Given that he’d held both Blade and Plate, and is now fighting with neither (they were given to General Khal after the duel), I’ll give him credit for trying anyway.

Beyond that, many more of these structures had been of wood, particularly in the Loft Wards. A luxury available to a place like Thaylen City, which up until now had been subject only to the most mild of the stormwinds.

A: So in worldbuilding notes, apparently Thaylenah has—or had—a fair amount of forestry in the protected areas. I wonder if they’re far enough south that they don’t get quite as much of the force of the highstorms?

By Thaylen tradition, he would be merely another officer, not the heir. The monarchy of the kingdom was not a hereditary position.

L: I’m curious as to how they choose their next monarchs.

“The council of merchants and naval officers pick the new monarch, after all.”

L: Thank you for immediately answering that question, Sanderson.

A: Heh. Ask and you shall receive! I wonder how often the new monarch is the son or daughter of the previous one, though. It seems like they’d have an advantage in training and experience, if they want it.

“The Azish aren’t as desperate as I am—and frankly, they aren’t Vorin. People here, myself included, respond to a good push from a determined monarch. Strength and passion, the Vorin way. But those tactics will just make the Azish dig in and rebuff you harder.”

A: I’m not sure which I find more interesting: “strength and passion, the Vorin way” or the Azish stubbornness. I love the bits we’re learning about the Azish as we lead up to Dalinar’s meeting with them… and we’ll get there soon. But I wonder: Is “strength and passion” the Thaylen take on Vorinism? Or does the current version of Vorinism lean more toward Odium’s Intent than Honor’s?

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Stop scowling.”

“I’m not scowling.”

“You’re bored.”

“I’m not … scowling.”

A: ::snicker::

“I suppose it’s possible you’re right. Perhaps the people seeing you be polite and calm is actually bad for our message.”

“More scowls, then?”

She sighed. “More scowls.”

He grinned.

“Or a grin,” she added. “From you, one of those can be more disturbing.”

A: ::gigglesnort::

“I’m not your enemy, son.”

“I’m not your son, tyrant.”

L: I have to.

Dalinar coughed, spat blood to the side, then took the young man’s hand by the wrist, shoving the sword farther through his chest.

L: I’m sorry, all I can see is that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Aragorn stabs the orc and it just grabs the sword and does this.

Weighty Words

For a moment, Dalinar felt he could almost understand what they were saying. As if a part of him were stretching to bond to the man.

L: Like the powers that Venli’s eventually going to display. Fascinating correlation, captain.

Meaningful/Moronic/Mundane Motivations

…the aged monarch was weeping openly as he regarded the people in the temple.

L: High empathy day for Mister-T, apparently.

“I need your help, Fen,” Dalinar whispered.

“I find it hard to believe you need anything, considering what you’ve done today.”

“Shardbearers can’t hold ground.”

She looked at him, frowning.

“Sorry. That’s a military maxim. It … never mind. Fen, I have Radiants, yes—but they, no matter how powerful, won’t win this war. More importantly, I can’t see what I’m missing. That’s why I need you.

“I think like an Alethi, as do most of my advisors. We consider the war, the conflict, but miss important facts. When I first learned of Renarin’s powers, I thought only of restoring people on the battlefield to continue the fight. I need you; I need the Azish. I need a coalition of leaders who see what I don’t, because we’re facing an enemy that doesn’t think like any we’ve faced before.” He bowed his head to her. “Please. Join me, Fen.”

“I’ve already opened that gate, and I’m talking to the councils about giving aid to your war effort. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Not close, Fen. I want you to join me.”

“The difference is?”

“The distinction between referring to it as ‘your’ war, and ‘our’ war.”

A: I know, that’s far too long a quote. But I couldn’t figure out what to cut, because it’s all so much part of what our Bondsmith is both learning and becoming. Does Fen have any idea how foreign this concept must be to an Alethi, and that there’s much, much more to winning this kind of war than merely having a big army?
Come to think of it, this concept is foreign to pretty much everyone. The Alethi have always been the ones to be feared, because they have the biggest, best-trained army, and they love conquest. The other nations don’t trust Dalinar because he is (at least by reputation) the most Alethi of them all. Each nation is rightfully proud of their particular expertise, but they aren’t used to thinking that their strengths are needed by the big warmonger over there.

Cosmere Connections

Rial saluted him. Again.

“You don’t need to salute me each time I look at you, Sergeant,” Dalinar said dryly.

“Just trying ta be extra careful, sir.” The leathery, dark-skinned man saluted one more time. “Wouldn’t want ta be reported for being disrespectful.”

A: There’s no real basis for thinking this guy is a world-hopper. Even his accent is explained as being from Koron, near the Sunmaker Mountains, and he’s a sergeant from Bridge Thirteen. I guess I’ve just started getting suspicious when a named character with no backstory shows up.

L: Yeah, this guy’s been given too much screen-time to be a nobody. There’s something going on with him, or… there will be. I’m not sold on him being a world-hopper, but he bears watching as the series progresses.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

[Malata] summoned her Shardblade and inserted it into the slot. The metal of the plate shifted and flowed, matching the shape of the Blade. They’d run tests, and though the walls of the buildings were thin, you couldn’t see the other end of the Shardblade jutting through. The Blade was melding into the mechanism.

A: In my typical fashion, I went down a rabbit trail when I read this, and now I want to know: When Adolin tried to use his Blade in the Oathgate at Narak, it went in but couldn’t activate the mechanism. I’m good with that much, but… did it just go all the way through the wall and stick out the other side? If so, I guess there must have been enough crem build-up on the outside that he didn’t poke anyone with the pointy end, or we’d have heard about it.

Appealing/Arresting/Appraising/Absorbing Artwork

A: Lyn, as the fashion/costuming expert, this is all yours.

L: Oh I am so here for this. So this is Thaylen fashion (if you can’t tell by those oh-so-fashionable eyebrows), which is rather fitting (get it? Fashion? Fitting? I’ll see myself out) since these chapters have to do with Thaylen City. I’m loving these gathered skirts under tunics and/or overskirts, with the bold contrasts and patterns. It’s very lovely. I wish we could see a full-color version of this illustration!

A: They really are beautiful. It makes me wish I were a better seamstress, so I could make one of these. I swear if I could do that much, I’d find a way to make those eyebrows happen!

L: It would be doable with lace and wig wefts… but time-consuming. /cosplay mode off

Sheer Speculation

A: Loonie theory time! As you may have observed, I like to wax speculative from time to time. I’ll attempt to collect those speculations in this section, at least for a while. We’ll see how it goes. This may or may not prove useful.

Also, I don’t think I have any loonie theories this week. Just… introducing the title, as it were.

Quality Quotations

  • Though the Stormfather had returned to his previous self-confident ways, Dalinar could not shake the memory of the mighty spren whimpering in fright.
  • Transferring only the control buildings, instead of the entire platform, should save us Stormlight.

A: I just had to mention this, because it’s the next step in their Oathgate learning-curve: There’s more than one way to use the Oathgates. It doesn’t say how they figured this out, but it’s a nice thing to have discovered. Also, it’s a good thing the default is the whole platform and the next step is transferring just the control room. A whole lot more people would have died at Narak if it were the other way around. And… we wouldn’t have much of a story! Guess the author did it this way on purpose, eh?

  • Once Elhokar and Adolin returned from the mission to rescue Kholinar, they’d need to get on with Elhokar’s highking arrangement.

A: Ping ping ping. Keep this on your radar…

  • “I should have seen it earlier—I should have sent for [Renarin] the moment I saw those wounded. I’m a fool.”

L: He’s not wrong.

A: Agreed.

Next week, we’ll join Kaladin in chapters 60 and 61, as his team begins their mission to Kholinar.

Alice would like to wish you all the best in the new year. She also invites you to watch along on brandonsanderson.com, as a new progress bar for Stormlight Archive Book Four should be coming soon!

Lyndsey is just beginning to delve into the real work of convention organizing, as Anime Boston is looming on the distant horizon. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

 

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