After a long time away, we’re finally back with a Kaladin POV chapter! (It’s been so long. We missed you, you poor emo Windrunner, you.) He, Shallan, Adolin, and Elhokar are on their way to Kholinar to begin Mission: Open Oathgate (and Mission: Find Out What The Heck Is Going On In This City Anyway) and we’re along with them for the ride! So grab your glass face shields, pin up your skirts (if you’re wearing them) and prepare yourself for a ride on the highstorm for this week’s reread.
Originally, we’d planned on doing two chapters this week, but there was more we wanted to talk about than could comfortably fit, so we pared it down to one. If you read two chapters to prepare for this week, we apologize! Now you’re ahead of the game for next week, though…
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. No Cosmere spoilers this week, folks. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (the second day after Shallan and Kaladin returned to Urithiru from Thaylen City)
WHERE: In the air on the way to Kholinar
Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, Elhokar, Skar, Drehy, and three of Shallan’s followers are riding the storm towards Kholinar. When they arrive, Kaladin immediately notices that the city is still under Alethi rule, but there’s something dark and wrong with the palace—or more accurately, the oathgate platform beside it.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Title: Winds and Oaths
AA: The title actually comes from a line that was removed after the beta; it was something Kaladin thought Syl would say if he asked her why his powers worked in a certain way. Pretty relevant to the chapter anyway, wouldn’t you say?
L: I guess? No one does too much talking about oaths in this particular chapter.
AA: True, that. Lots of wind, though!
AA: Presumably for the Windrunner who pretty much does all the doing in this chapter!
Banner and Spears, indicating Kaladin’s POV
I worry about my fellow Truthwatchers.
—From drawer 8-21, second emerald
L: Well, this is ominous, especially given what we know (or don’t know) about Renarin and his corrupted spren. Was this corruption something that was happening even back before the Recreance?
AA: Welp. If only we knew, eh? If these records are, as I think, approaching the time of the Recreance within a decade or so, it’s certainly possible. I wonder if Sja-anat has to have some level of cooperation from the spren she changes.
Oh, I’d also like to point out that this is one of a handful of epigraphs that confirm some identity questions. We already have the gemstone/Herald connection as a general Vorin tradition in the Ars Arcanum chart, but several of the epigraphs specifically mention an Order—and every one of them uses the gemstone associated with that order. So, hey. Vorin tradition maintained some things accurately.
AP: I read this differently. If it were approaching the time of the Recreance, on which I agree with Alice, then the Truthwatchers may have seen it coming. It sounds like there were factions among the Truthwatchers, and how they handled this foreknowledge likely fed into the Vorin superstitions about predicting the future. Something happened to make that very taboo.
Stories & Songs
A cloud hung over the palace, a darkness that—at first glance—seemed like nothing more than a trick of the light. Yet the feeling of wrongness persisted, and seemed strongest around a portion at the east of the palace complex. This flat, raised plaza was filled with small buildings. The palace monastery.
The Oathgate platform.
L: So it begins. I forget, Alice, which of the Unmade is chilling in the Oathgate again? It’s not the Heart of the Revel, that one’s in the city proper, right?
AA: It’s a little difficult to distinguish them at this point, I think. Ashertmarn, the Heart of the Revel, is certainly affecting the entire city, but it appeared to be centered on the Oathgate platform. We’re not really given much about Sja-anat’s specific location, but she’s been affecting the spren all over the city, and then she makes contact with Shallan up at the palace a couple of times. For now, though, I’ll go with that darkness being Ashertmarn’s presence more than Sja-anat.
L: Interesting though that this Unmade doesn’t appear to be All Bad, yet it’s still giving off the Dark Vibes. Can the Unmade change their natures, or are they forever doomed to be unnatural and dark?
AA: It’s my opinion, which fits but isn’t proven by the text, that Ashertmarn is too much a part of Odium to change—if it had enough “mind” left to change at all. Its nature is sheer gluttony—consumption for the sake of the consumption itself, not because the thing being consumed is needed or even wanted. Sja-anat, on the other hand…
L: Yeah, she’s the one I was thinking of. I just have trouble remembering their names; they’re all quite a mouthful!
AA: We’ll cover her more as we reach the end of Part Three, but it appears that she may have been, well, less completely Unmade than the others? At least, it seems that she may remember what she was before she was Unmade, and is trying to figure out how to get back to being that.
AP: I am really intrigued by Sja-anat, and the implications for the Radiants, namely Renarin. But I agree that Ashertmarn is definitely all bad. And isn’t our Unmade count in Kholinar actually 3? The one in the palace itself corrupting the Queen is yet another separate entity, Yelig-nar. That one is associated with darkness as well.
L: Oh jeez, I’d completely forgotten about Yelig-nar.
AA: True. He doesn’t seem to have as much effect until someone swallows a gemstone to give him a body, so I wasn’t thinking of him as a possible source for the darkness. Could be, though.
L: Maybe it’s just a side effect of all of them being in such close proximity rather than one creating the darkness more than the others. Which makes me wonder… what’s pulling them all here? Is it just that this is the seat of most power in the world right now, or did one show up here and the others gravitate towards it? Are they under orders from Odium, or making their own decisions?
AP: I figured they were there under orders, as a way to assist the Voidbringer takeover of the city.
Relationships & Romances
How does she smile like that? Kaladin wondered. During their trip through the chasms together, he’d learned her secrets. The wounds she hid. And yet … she could simply ignore them somehow. Kaladin had never been able to do that. Even when he wasn’t feeling particularly grim, he felt weighed down by his duties or the people he needed to care for.
Her heedless joy made him want to show her how to really fly. She didn’t have Lashings, but could still use her body to sculpt the wind and dance in the air…
He snapped himself back to the moment, banishing silly daydreams.
L: I have to admit, I really love this. I still think that Kaladin could do better—not that Shallan’s a bad person, just that I don’t feel like their personalities mesh very well in the long run. If they had wound up together, I think he would have been depending on her for a lot of his emotional well-being, which isn’t a good basis for a relationship. Two broken people together don’t always make a whole. BUT. This is really sweet, and I love that he wants to give her joy. I love that he looks at her and sees hope, and I’m hoping that this resolves into a beautiful and supportive friendship once all these leftover romantic feelings are overcome.
AA: This scene stirs up such mixed emotions for me. It really is beautiful, and if they weren’t each so messed up individually, you can certainly see how a romance could develop. But I agree—Shallan is just not the right person for Kaladin. Not only would he depend on her for his emotional well-being, but that’s exactly the kind of dependency that led to the creation of her multiple personalities in the first place. At twelve years old, she couldn’t let herself be the terrified, traumatized girl she really was; she had to be an innocent little sister who teased and entertained her brothers into some semblance of normalcy. Facing her truths caused some other issues, but at least it helped her start to break out of that persona. Getting in a romantic relationship with someone who depended on her in much the same way? Not good. Very not good.
L: Compare this to her relationship with Adolin. She seems to be able to be more honest with him, because he’s not relying on her for anything. Yeah, she does still have a tendency to fall into Radiant with him sometimes, but for the most part they complement one another much, much better.
AP: Count me as a third who is glad they did not end up together. I think that they make much better friends than romantic partners. Separate from that, I do love that absolute joy that Shallan shows here, the description is great. Even if skirts and wind aren’t a great combo. Those must be some industrial strength pins!
“Think?” Syl said. … “I know. Don’t think I don’t spot you stealing looks.” She smirked.
L: Syl… not helping. (She’s just trying to help in her own way, I know, but… more on this in the next section.)
AA: I have a vague recollection of wanting to smack her upside the head. “Not this again!!”
AP: Super agree, Syl is a terrible matchmaker.
AA: Just for fun, I looked back at the beta comments. There were a lot of “I hate love triangles!” comments from… some of us.
“My wife and child are inside,” Elhokar said. “They might be in danger.”
You didn’t seem to worry much about them during six years away at war, Kaladin thought.
L: Soooooo Kaladin’s got a bit of a point, but he’s also being a smidge unfair. Elhokar wasn’t worrying about them because he assumed that they were safe, in the seat of his power, protected by an entire country and whatever he’d left of his army. But now that they’ve lost contact and there are Dark Clouds hanging over the palace and rumors about civil unrest and invaders on the doorstep? Yeah. NOW he’s worried.
AP: It’s definitely unfair, but it reflects Kal’s ideas about soldiers in general.
L: Sort of? Kaladin didn’t spend too much time worrying about his own family while he was away at war, until he heard that they might be in danger. He was focused on keeping the people around him who were in direct danger alive. It’s a little hypocritical of him, but then… that’s realistic for his character, too. At least he usually realizes it when it’s pointed out to him and amends his world-view…
Bruised & Broken
Her hair streamed behind her, a stark auburn red. She flew with arms outstretched and eyes closed, grinning. Kaladin had to keep adjusting her speed to keep her in line with the others, as she couldn’t resist reaching out to feel the wind between her freehand fingers, and waving to windspren as they passed.
L: It makes me really happy to see Shallan so relaxed, especially given all the turmoil we know is going on in her head right now.
AP: I definitely love this description. She is able just be herself for a few hours instead of putting on a persona.
“Come on…” Syl said, zipping around to his other side. “You need to be with people to be happy, Kaladin. I know you do.”
“I have my bridge crew.”
L: I really like this, because honestly? No one should have to depend on romantic love to make them happy.
AP: Amen, sister, preach!
L: No one should have to depend on others for their own happiness at all. They need to learn how to make themselves happy first and foremost. Syl doesn’t seem to get this—and I wonder why. She obviously wants the best for Kaladin, and that’s really sweet. But she’s not human. She hasn’t had human life experiences or the wisdom that comes with them. I think that pushing him into a romantic relationship, at least right now, could actually do more harm than good. That being said, the second part of this is what really made me stop and think. “I have my bridge crew.” These are people who depend on him; his responsibility. Kaladin seems to be happiest when he’s making the people around him happy, and if you’re going to depend on others for your own happiness, I think that’s the healthiest way to do so. Bring joy to others, and let it instill joy in your own heart.
AP: I think this definitely shows that the spren are not infallible. Syl doesn’t understand the full range of human emotions and how love for friends can be just as meaningful as romantic love. Kal absolutely has a support system. He doesn’t need a partner just for the sake of being partnered.
AA: That’s another thing I love about this magic system and the way it breaks expectations. We sort of expect the spren to be perfect and all-knowing, because they’re all spirit-y, but they really are fallible creatures too. They’re limited by their perceptions just as much as any human.
“All this,” Adolin said, amused, “to justify your sense of humor, Shallan?”
“My sense of humor? No, I’m merely trying to justify the creation of Captain Kaladin.”
AA: It occurs to me that Shallan’s sometimes sophomoric humor has an interesting source. As we saw her in her flashbacks, this kind of humor was perfect for her to bring her teenage brothers together and to some semblance of sanity. In the context of their family life, it really worked to take their minds off the worst things and remind them that not everything in the world was quite so grim.
Now, when she’s with adults in a very different situation, sometimes it’s a bit… flat, and sophomoric in this context.
L: Humor is so difficult, because it’s all subjective, really. What one person finds hilarious, the next can find utterly stupid. Shallan’s jokes don’t often hit for me, but when they do, they hit hard. Understanding the psychological reasoning behind them gives them new weight—so even if I don’t think they’re funny, I can at least understand why she’s making them.
AP: Why things are funny is such a fascinating field of research. So much is based on shared experience and cultural touchstones. I’m a bit of a comedy nerd, and I love to listen to how comedians talk to each other. The topics they riff on are so transgressive as they try to see what works and what doesn’t. This is flat for me because she is punching down, making a joke at the expense of a soldier of a lower social class.
L: Oh wow. It had bothered me and I couldn’t put my finger on why, but you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head here.
AP: Conversely, her takedowns and snide comments at ladies in her own class hit better, but give her a bad reputation. She’s not good at finding a balance. She wants to be clever and witty, but keeps falling short. I want to see if it improves as she starts to have more of a shared history with these people, like her attempt at a callback about boots.
L: It works better for me when she mixes her insults with quips about herself. I remember reading once that when you’re writing a roast speech, you should be making fun of yourself at least as much as the person you’re roasting. It indicates humility and that this is in good-natured fun. Sometimes, Shallan’s insults come across as just plain hurtful because she doesn’t do this.
AA: Hmm. While the external fact is that she’s “punching down” socially, I don’t think she’s likely to see it that way. From the first time they met, with Kaladin on horseback and Shallan shoved into pretending she’s a Horneater princess wearing slippers in the Frostlands, she’s felt at a disadvantage. She may be a Radiant, but so is he—and he’s so outwardly confident, while she’s so inwardly uncertain. It’s an interesting contrast in perceptions.
It’s so easy to forget that we know so much more about her internal state than the others do. Kaladin knows a little of it, and thinks he understands, but he doesn’t. Adolin hardly knows any of it yet. While I fully agree that her humor is more enjoyable to read when she mixes in the jabs at herself, I suspect that her self-perception (worthless, incapable, source of trouble) interferes with her ability to realize how she comes across (arrogant, spoiled, rude). So, yeah, her humor fails a lot, but when you look at where she’s coming from, you understand why it’s off.
(I’ve heard a lot of people say that Sanderson is just not very good at this sort of humor, but I think he hit it pretty accurately. Shallan’s humor is flat because of who she is internally, not because it’s badly written, if that makes sense.)
Squires & Sidekicks
AA: As noted above, the team consists of Elhokar, Adolin, Kaladin and Shallan, plus two of Kaladin’s squires (Skar and Drehy) and three of Shallan’s… maybe squires? Maybe just sidekicks? (We’ll talk about that in later chapters.)
L: I love Skar and Drehy.
AA: I think it’s super fun that these are the same two that were Adolin’s protectors during the battle of Narak, and now they’re here to protect him again. While Skar, at least, isn’t the most advanced of the squires (by far!), these two were always among the best of the fighters in Bridge Four. Makes sense to bring them.
L: Same. Kaladin probably noticed that they got along well with Adolin (although really, who doesn’t, aside from assholes like Sadeas) and chose them for this purpose.
AA: Then there’s the callback to a certain conversation Shallan had with Elhokar back in Chapter 51. Kaladin is, apparently, slightly confused and irritated about why Shallan is bringing two unsavory ex-soldiers and a handmaid, and seems slightly miffed that Elhokar had insisted without giving any reason.
L: It’s a fair reason to be miffed. He’s leading this mission and is responsible for the lives under his care, and now he has what he views as three people who can’t defend themselves. This is a military mission with quite a lot of danger involved, and so far as he knows, these three have no skills to lend to the mission. They’re liabilities. I’d be annoyed, too.
AA: I would too, and in a sense Shallan cheated to do it. She was looking for a way to get out of Urithiru—away from Jasnah, and away from the Ghostbloods, both of whom were getting a bit insistent in their demands on her—and the idea of going with the group to Kholinar would certainly do that. She went and offered her Lightweaving skills and her best spies to Elhokar at the end of Chapter 51, and he was convinced that it made sense.
L: And, proving once again that she is not a soldier and not always the best example of a champion of common sense, she neglects to tell the mission’s commanding officer about the special skills of the people she’s insisted come along.
AA: Heh. Well, she did talk to the king…
L: Let’s be honest here, we all know who’s really in charge of this mission. Shallan went over Kaladin’s head and it was a dick move.
AA: I’m not entirely sure it was intentionally so, though. She was thinking in different terms—as you say, she’s not a soldier!
L: Yeah, I do agree with you there. I think this is one of Shallan’s biggest issues—she’s so caught up in herself sometimes that she fails to empathize with the people around her. (Interesting, given that her split personalities have been forcing her to put herself into the heads of “other” people…)
AA: The question of “who is in charge” will come up next week even more, and it’s funny to think about. You’ve got the king, who is ostensibly the highest-ranking person there. (Plus he’s a Shardbearer.) You’ve got the highprince-in-training, who has been leading the Kholin armies for several years. (Plus he’s a Shardbearer.) You’ve got the Knight Radiant Windrunner, the only one who can fly them around and the one most experienced in leading small-sortie squads. (Plus he has a living Shardblade.) And then you’ve got the Lightweaver who doesn’t quite get command structures, or the concept of how a team really works…
L: But also has a living Shardblade. ::laughs:: Shardblades all around!
AA: I think she fails to comprehend both her own importance, and the responsibility for her safety that the others are shouldering by her very presence.
L: If there’s one thing that Kaladin is always thinking about, it’s personal and professional responsibility.
AA: Which brings us full circle… Kaladin is really annoyed at having people foisted on him by regal fiat! (And no, I don’t blame him at all for being annoyed!)
Places & Peoples
Kholinar’s defining feature, of course, was the windblades: curious rock formations that rose from the stone like the fins of some giant creature mostly hidden below the surface. The large curves of stone glittered with red, white, and orange strata, their hues deepened by the rain. He hadn’t realized that the city walls were partially constructed on the tops of the outer windblades.
L: These are really cool and there’s something more to them than meets the eye. The strata appears similar to that in Urithiru, so presumably Stormlight can power them somehow—but to do what? Do they spin around the city maybe in a defensive maneuver? Can they maybe… spread out and join together, forming a shell to protect it?
AP: I had never considered that they might be able to move! That could be disastrous since parts of the city are built on them.
L: Yeah, that was my immediate thought…
AA: That would be fun—for a certain definition of the term. I suspect they’re quite solid and immovable, but I’m pretty sure they were constructed using some of the same techniques as Urithiru. If they are defensive, I’d almost expect them to be able to put up shields of “solidified air” between them. I’m imagining a combination of Windrunner and Stoneward powers, I think. Honestly, I expect them to turn out to just be rocks shaped by Surgebinding using cymatics to guide the process, but it’s fun to speculate on what else they could be. Especially with that strata comment.
Partial Lashings worked by making part of the person’s weight forget the ground, though the rest continued to be pulled downward.
L: Just taking note of this because I always find the explanations of the Lashings to be interesting. Also I like that Sanderson doesn’t use the word gravity, as it seems that this law of nature hasn’t been discovered here on Roshar yet.
AP: I love the “how the magic works” tidbits.
L: I always love seeing these city maps; they’re so different from the world ones. For the next few chapters I’ll be switching to using this map (rather than the world map) to document our heroes’ journey through the city, as much as I’m able to, anyway.
Also… is it just me, or is the city of Kholinar shaped like a glyph, a bit?
AA: I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you say it… Given the symmetrical nature of glyphs and the equally symmetrical nature of cymatics, it makes sense, though. I really hope we get to learn about the origin of the windblades, along with the other cities that have cymatic shapes to them.
Well, I think you can see why we decided to go with a single chapter this week after all. We will tackle Chapter 61 next week, and it promises to be just as full of juicy stuff to discuss!
AA: I’d like to throw in one more housekeeping moment here. Or perhaps a grandmotherly lecture. Or something. It has come to my attention that there are a number of people who are reluctant to comment because of perceived hostility from people who disagree with them (or who purportedly know “more” than them). While I won’t go as far as “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all,” I would strongly remind you all that our opinions are our opinions, and we’re all discussing a work of fiction.
L: Alice might not be willing to, but I’ll go that far. If you can’t say something politely and respectfully, don’t say anything at all. There are plenty of ways to express a differing opinion on matters while still being respectful of the OP. We’re all fans, we all love this story and these characters. There’s no reason to flame anyone else.
AA: It is 100% sure that, given human nature, we will each have a different perspective. I’m asking you all, as nicely but firmly as I can, to do two things: One, express your opinion as graciously as you can without going into bizarre contortions to do so. Two, accept the comments of others as graciously as you would like them to accept yours, realizing that sometimes we don’t say things as clearly as we’d like.
All in all, be as kind as you can and give other people the benefit of the doubt. Okay? Okay.
L: Be the Knights Radiant I know you all can be. Make Kaladin proud of you.
Alice is getting soggier by the day. The Weeping is firmly upon the Pacific Northwest, and she looks forward to seeing the sun again in a few months.
Aubree is back from the holidays and entirely too full of cheese.