Greetings, fair rereaders, and welcome back to Kholinar! It’s sneaky-time for our intrepid crew, as they take on some unexpected disguises and attempt to make their way into the city without being recognized by the locals or attacked by the Voidbringers. Wish them luck, because it’s weird in this man’s town.
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are very minor spoilers for Warbreaker under Cosmere Connections. Very minor. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHERE: Kholinar environs, city. (Lyn: This route on the map is my best guess. I’m assuming they came in the southern gate since they’d have been approaching the city from the south to begin with, and they pass the market… Then, in a later chapter, it takes Veil several hours to get from the tailor’s to the palace, so the tailor’s can’t be too close.)
WHEN: 122.214.171.124 (the day after Chapter 60)
Kaladin and company are outside of the city, preparing to begin their infiltration. Shallan crafts disguises for some of them from Lightweaving, and they make their way to the front gate, where they are denied entry by orders of someone Elhokar doesn’t recognize named “Highmarshal Azure.” A brief sortie by the Voidbringers allows them their chance to enter the city along with the rest of the refugees trapped outside, and they make their way deeper into the city, heading to a safe haven that they can use as a base of operations—namely, Adolin’s tailor.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Title: Nightmare Made Manifest
“Haunting. A nightmare made manifest.”
AA: This was Adolin’s description of the experience with the Midnight Mother beneath the tower. Kaladin jokes about it also describing the illusion Shallan placed on him, which Adolin turns into another joke, which is pretty fun all taken together… but at the same time, it’s pretty clear that it applies to what they expect to find in Kholinar as well, based on that shadow around the palace.
AA: This chapter, though it’s from Kaladin’s perspective, is all about the Lightweaver making illusions, either to hide them from view or to disguise the recognizable members of the team. Hence, Shalash.
I wonder, though… Elhokar is also the focus of a lot of Kaladin’s thoughts and interaction in this chapter, and though we didn’t know it yet (for sure), he’s already beginning to bond a spren. A Cryptic. So perhaps Shalash is here for Elhokar, too. ::sniffle::
Banner and Spears, indicating Kaladin’s POV
We can record any secret we wish, and leave it here? How do we know that they’ll be discovered? Well, I don’t care. Record that then.
—From drawer 2-3, smokestone
L: Whoever this unknown Radiant was, I like their style.
AA: This is from a Skybreaker who sounds either rebellious or just salty. Given that the Skybreakers are the only Order that didn’t participate in the Recreance, is he saying he doesn’t care about the things they’re learning that might be leading that direction? Or that he doesn’t care about leaving Urithiru? Or that he doesn’t care whether it’s discovered? We don’t get any more recordings from this particular drawer, though there will be other Skybreaker records.
“Basic military theory,” Adolin said. “Shardbearers do a great job killing people—but what are they going to do against the population of an entire city? Murder everyone who disobeys? They’d get overwhelmed, Shards or not. Those flying Voidbringers will need to bring in the entire army to take the city.”
L: It’s nice to see this echoed again (and explained in more detail), after Dalinar brought it up last chapter. The theme that single men wielding great power aren’t enough by themselves is one that’s brought up time and again in this book. This is why it’s so important that Dalinar fulfill his objective to unify the disparate cultures and societies against Odium. The Alethi cannot defend the world alone, no matter how powerful they are. They’re the Shardblades, but they need the rest of the world to back them up.
AA: Good point, Lyn! It will sure be interesting to see how this plays out in the next two books. I expect it will help that the Thrill is currently… bottled up, so to speak.
Stories & Songs
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
But somehow, the palace was still in shadow.
“What could it be?” Adolin said, lowering his spyglass.
“One of them,” Shallan whispered. “The Unmade.”
Kaladin looked back at her. She’d sketched the palace, but it was twisted, with odd angles and distorted walls.
AA: Two things jumped out at me here. One, the shadow is visible to anyone, apparently. For some reason I’d half expected it to only be visible to the Radiants, but Adolin can certainly see it. Two, Shallan’s sketch of the palace sounds terrifyingly reminiscent of the drawings she’d done of Urithiru while Re-Shephir was in residence.
AP: It’s also worth noting that once again Shallan sees the effects of the Unmade in a way the others can’t. Is this an effect of being a Lightweaver?
AA: True. Others see the shadow, but only Shallan sees the distortion effect. I don’t recall Elhokar making any comments on it, though now I’ll have to watch for it. I’d thought it might be possible that the Lightweaver could see the effects of the Midnight Mother partly because of the connection to Illusion-crafting, but that’s clearly not the case. If Elhokar comments later, we’ll know it’s a Lightweaver thing; otherwise, it’s still a debate between Lightweavers in general and Shallan in particular. There’s a WoB that Shallan’s family was influenced by an Unmade; I wonder if that created a sensitivity or something.
Those strata, he thought, remind me of the tunnels in Urithiru. Could there be some connection?
L: There had better be, with all these little hints scattered about.
AA: I know, right? It was discussed in the comments last week, but all we know is that “they aren’t powered by Urithiru.” Which… did anyone really expect that, at this point? I don’t know. But at the very least, I’m confident that some of the same methods were used for building both, and I certainly hope there’s more than that.
AP: I don’t think they are powered by Urithiru, but in the same way as Urithiru. Same mechanism, but not directly connected to the city.
AA: That’s what I’m hoping! I really want to find out that there’s more to the windblades than just the means by which they were formed.
Relationships & Romances
He’d used that fictional man, relied upon him, to equip his team and to get soldiers transferred to his squad. Without it, he’d never have met Tarah.
AA: There’s Tarah again… I do hope he finds her someday and she’s still unattached. Not too likely, but you never know. It could happen.
L: I need to find out more about her before I determine whether she’s worthy of our favorite Bridgeman…
AP: Count me in on those who are interested in the mysterious Tarah!
Bruised & Broken
“I wasn’t speaking of you, Captain,” the king said quietly. “I was referring to my own limitations. When I fail this city, I want to make sure you are there to protect it.”
AA: Elhokar just grabbed my heart, right there. “When I fail this city…” He’s determined to protect the city, even though he doesn’t honestly believe he’s capable of it. Up until this point, I didn’t think much of him. Even the “flying off to save the city” seemed almost childish, and kind of made me want to tell him to stay home and let the soldiers take care of it. But now… is he changing, or am I?
L: This is really serious and moving but I have to make this joke first.
::ahem:: Now that that’s out of the way. Later in this article I’ll call out the first moment when I started turning around on Elhokar. This is the second. He’s trying to be a better person, but he recognizes his own failings and is setting up contingency plans to protect the people he loves in case he screws up. This is such a likable thing, and a clear step towards redemption for the apathetic, pathetic f***-up he’s been up until this point.
AP: This is a sign that he’s trying to do better, but sometimes it’s too little too late. I like the self awareness here, but he’s spent his entire life being weak and ineffectual.
“A king must do whatever he can for the good of his people, and my judgment has proven… deficient. Anything I have ‘accomplished’ in life has been handed to me by my father or my uncle. You are here, Captain, to succeed when I fail. Remember that. Open the Oathgate, see that my wife and child are ushered through it to safety, and return with an army to reinforce this city.”
AA: From a purely pragmatic angle, it might have been better for him to stay in Urithiru and let Kaladin and Adolin take care of this mission. But he’s right, you know? All he has is a position inherited from his father and protected by his uncle. Reasonable or not, as a man he needs to do this job himself. At the same time, he believes it’s too important to be risked on his limited ability, so he’s making sure that it gets done with or without him. I think it was this moment, right here, that set me up to be absolutely devastated by the outcome of the expedition. ::sniff::
L: Anyone who’s willing to sacrifice themselves to protect those they love gets points in my book, and to be honest the fact that he’s so self-deprecating adds to it. Who hasn’t felt that they’re not good enough… especially when all the people around you are insanely talented?
AP: Again, I’m glad to see that he’s finally getting some honest self-assessment. This also is a good hint toward him bonding a cryptic, the Lightweavers level up with Truths. And admitting to being a bad king with poor judgement is a pretty big truth.
AA: There’s a WoB saying that would have been his first Truth (second Ideal)—“…to admit the thing that he knows, which is that he’s a bad king.”
Those rumors had become a challenge, creating for everyone the notion of a man who was like Kaladin, but at the same time greater than he could ever be. He’d used that fictional man, relied upon him, to equip his team and to get soldiers transferred to his squad… It was useful to have a reputation, so long as it didn’t crush you.
L: This is some pretty deep stuff here. I think anyone who’s ever been in a position of leadership has experienced this to one extent or another.
Squires & Sidekicks
Storms, the command structure in this expedition was going to be a nightmare.
L: This must be so frustrating for a seasoned soldier like Kaladin.
AP: This also feeds back into how weak of a king Elhokar is. He should be the leader of the expedition, and should have a command structure in place.
AA: We talked about this last week, so I’ll quote that with a little editing: The king, the highest-ranking person here. (Plus he’s a Shardbearer.) The highprince-in-training, leader of the Kholin armies. (Plus he’s a Shardbearer.) The Windrunner, the only one who can fly them around, and experienced in small-sortie squads. (Plus he has a living Shardblade.) The Lightweaver, who doesn’t grok command structures or team missions. (And also has a living Shardblade.) Add to that a couple of Windrunner squires, who will naturally want to follow Kaladin but are also habitually Adolin’s bodyguards, but also are (as Bridge Four) bodyguards to the royal house and the king. Then add in a couple of deserters-become-servants-and-armsmen who are loyal only to Shallan, and mostly just because she pays them. Last but not least, a trained but low-level spy who works for Shallan mostly because she wants into the Ghostbloods.
What a crew. Yeah, someone really needed to lay out a command structure and make everyone agree to follow it before they ever got on the Oathgate platform in Urithiru.
Shallan’s soldiers pulled tight around her, hands carefully on their pockets. They seemed familiar with the underbelly of city life. Fortunately, she’d accepted Kaladin’s pointed suggestion and hadn’t brought Gaz.
AA: Heh. “Kaladin’s pointed suggestion”—like, with a knife?
Places & Peoples
It was a man in all white, with strips of cloth that streamed and fluttered as he moved. Head down, he stood on a street corner, leaping back and forth from one position to another.
Soon, a strange procession came marching down the center of the street. These men and women were also dressed like performers–their clothes augmented with brightly colored strips of red, blue, or green fabric. They walked past, calling out nonsense phrases.
“Spren,” Shallan whispered. “They’re imitating spren.”
AP: This whole part was so ominous! We learn more about it later, but the crowd’s initial reaction to this group was eerie.
AA: And it just gets more ominous. This whole thing is seriously creepy.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“Your Majesty, you’re going to be a woman.”
“Fine,” Elhokar said.
Kaladin started. He’d have expected an objection. Judging by the way that Shallan seemed to stifle a quip, she’d been expecting one too.
“You see,” she said instead, “I don’t think you can keep from carrying yourself like a king, so I figure that if you look like a highborn lighteyed woman, it’s less likely that you’ll be memorable to the guards who—”
“I said it was fine, Lightweaver,” Elhokar said. “We mustn’t waste time. My city and nation are in peril.”
AA: This was totally unintentional humor, at least on the characters’ parts, but I wanted to tie it to last week’s conversation about Shallan’s humor and the ways it so often fails to be funny. It seems to me that she’s got her little spiel all thought out, and she can’t resist saying it. All of it. Even though no one needs or wants to hear it. In this case it wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but nonetheless, she had to explain. Last week, it was supposed to be funny, but she got too elaborate, and then the punchline was just kind of rude instead of funny.
It seems like she feels a need to explain, and it comes across as needing to show how clever she is, whether that’s what she intended or not. Sometimes I think she is showing off her cleverness, and sometimes… well, I guess sometimes I think she just explains out of habit. (Face it, her brothers weren’t entirely the brightest spheres in the basket. She probably got used to explaining everything from humor to scheming!) Anyway, that visual of “See how smart I am!” is one of the reasons I’ve heard from readers who dislike her.
L: On another note, I just wanted to point out that I love that Elhokar doesn’t even question this. This was the moment when I started changing my mind about him, from a sort of disgruntled annoyance to genuine liking. If this were… almost any other book, we’d expect him to sputter and go “B-b-but I can’t dress like a WOMAN!” And it would all be played off as a big joke, har har har, isn’t it hilarious to expect a MAN to wear WOMEN’s clothes! (Sorry, I have a lot of non-binary friends and this absolutely drives me mad.) The fact that Elhokar doesn’t subscribe to the (frankly) toxic masculinity inherent in this tropey situation makes me like him a great deal.
AA: I thoroughly enjoyed the way Sanderson set us up to fully expect Elhokar to splutter about it—and then yanked the rug out from under us—and Shallan. I mean, even Kaladin expected a protest, and Elhokar was just, “I brought you along to be the expert on disguises, so do your job.” I agree that this was a big step for his character development: We see him expressly relying on his team members for their particular expertise, which we really haven’t seen before. Along with the situational humor, Shallan’s penchant for over-explaining gives Kaladin the opportunity to let us know just how well the illusion works with Elhokar’s normal bearing. So there’s that, because it was pretty funny too.
AP: Totally agree that she needs to show how smart she is. But she’s with other smart people now, and they don’t need the long explanation. Elhokar has enough insight to delegate. It’s one of the things he is truly good at.
“Haunting. A nightmare made manifest.”
“Kind of like my face?” Kaladin asked.
Adolin glanced at him, then grinned. “Fortunately, Shallan covered it up for you with that illusion.”
Kaladin found himself smiling. The way Adolin said things like that made it clear he was joking—and not only at your expense. Adolin made you want to laugh with him.
AA: This, on the other hand, is genuinely—and intentionally—funny. Anyone else want to chime in on how Adolin makes you want to laugh with him, while Shallan just makes you roll your eyes? Both of them are poking fun at someone “below their station” but it’s got a very different effect.
L: I honestly think it’s got the most to do with tone. Adolin smiles at the person in question as he pokes fun, to make it clear that he’s joking, and—this may just be me—when I “hear” lines like this in my head, the tone is warmer, kinder, with maybe a little sardonic edge to it. Shallan always comes across as quick and snappish, sarcastic. It’s entirely possible to say the same exact thing but have it come across in two completely different ways, based on nothing more than body language and tone. It seems like Adolin is bringing himself down to the same level rather than punching down, if that makes sense.
AP: It’s absolutely the tone. Sanderson gives a good description here. Adolin is smiling, he knows his audience, and Kaladin responds because he has enough of a rapport with Adolin that it feels like two friends riffing with each other. The way a joke is delivered matters as much as the actual words.
AA: As someone who uses a lot of sarcasm, that’s kind of a bummer. Part of the point of certain kinds of humor is to not make it obvious that you’re joking. Then again, the best part of humor is knowing when and how to use it, and Shallan’s training as a comedienne isn’t exactly stellar. Also, Shallan made her joke to Adolin about Kaladin (in Kaladin’s hearing), while Adolin made his, with the exact same meaning, to/with Kaladin, and no one else. (Frankly, the girl’s social skills are pretty horrible when you think about it. She’s got the training in etiquette, but not in people.)
“I’ve got just the place. Run by people I trust, and close enough to the palace to do some scouting, but far enough not to get caught in… whatever is going on there. Hopefully.”
L: I just have to take a moment to point out that he’s talking about his tailor and this tickles my funny-bone so hard.
AP: As a fellow cosplayer, let me assure you, your tailor knows all. There are no secrets from the person who is paid to make you look good! Fittings get very…um…intimate at times!
“Almighty above,” Kaladin said, poking at the scars and bulges on his face, some with open sores. Fake teeth jutted from his mouth, and one eye was higher in his head than the other. His hair grew out in patches, and his nose was tiny. “What did you do to me, woman?”
AA: For someone who’s supposed to be disguising the team so they don’t stand out, this seems like a fail.
“I’ve recently learned,” Shallan said, “that a good disguise can be memorable, so long as it makes you memorable for the wrong reason. You, Captain, have a way of sticking in people’s heads, and I worried you would do so no matter what face you wore. So I enveloped it with something even more memorable.”
AA: Hmmm. Well, maybe…
“We’d need to stay with someone I’d trust with my life, or more.” He looked at Kaladin, then gestured towards the woman. “So I brought us to my tailor.”
L: Storms bless you, Adolin. Never change.
AA: Indeed. This is very fitting. :P
They’d decided to spend the night outside the city, hidden by one of Shallan’s illusions. Impressively, her Lightweaving had lasted all night on very little Stormlight.
AA: This is another of those little “oh, yeah!” moments, as it clearly refers to the experiment Shallan was doing back in Chapter 51. Back then, she’d placed an Illusion on a small pouch, tied the Illusion to a sphere, and then let it run on that sphere’s Stormlight, which proved to be much more efficient than holding the Illusion herself. She even left it in her room running on its own… because she’s trying to find a way to get out of Dalinar’s meetings where her presence is required to maintain the map illusions. Apparently she’s been working on that technique, and was able to create a much larger Illusion here. By tying it to a charged sphere and letting it run on its own, she didn’t even have to stay awake to maintain it. Slick!
L: Very much so. Sanderson is also reinforcing something that’s going to become much more prevalent later—Shallan’s powers use up barely any Stormlight at all. Now, whether this is an inherent Lightweaver thing, or because she’s just been subconsciously utilizing it for so long that she’s gotten very efficient at it, is yet to be seen…
AP: I’m glad you mentioned the prior experiment, because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how she kept it going while asleep!
Shallan stepped over and breathed out, and Stormlight wreathed him. He felt he should be able to take it in, use it—but it resisted him. It was a strange sensation, as if he’d found a glowing coal that gave off no heat.
L: This is really interesting. It means that Kaladin (or any other Radiant) wouldn’t be able to recycle the Light left behind in a Lightweaver’s illusions—or any other Radiant power (though the others would be less likely to “stick around,” as it were).
AP: Agreed, and I want more information here. Is it only illusions? Or does other stormlight end up “claimed” by whatever use it is put to. How much can one Radiant interfere with another’s powers?
Steady, he told himself. The point is to get in without being seen. You would ruin that by flying to the defense of the city?
But he was supposed to protect.
L: And so the questioning begins. Kaladin’s journey towards his next ideal in this book is so difficult. He has so many conflicting responsibilities that it’s hard to make out what the right choice in any given situation is.
AP: Absolutely. Knowing when not to fight is just as important. As Kenny Rogers said, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.
AA: Ironic, isn’t it, though? The only reason they got into the city was that a group of Voidbringers attacked the wall, pulling the guards away to defense and leaving the gates open for the crowd of refugees to pour in. Uh… thanks??
“Who is your superior?” Elhokar cut in.
“I serve Highmarshal Azure, of the Wall Guard.”
L: Go on, Alice, I know you want this one.
AA: Heh. I love it… but the reveal comes so much later. At this point, all we know is a name—but it’s a name that doesn’t “belong” on Roshar. This should be getting everyone’s attention as a start. In retrospect, of course—or for anyone who saw the WoB telling people to look for Vivenna in Oathbringer—“Azure” has all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the head. Without either of those factors, though, this Highmarshal whose name and colors no one recognizes creates a lot of suspicion. In the beta (my only reference for first-read reactions), speculation about Azure in this chapter was either an Unmade or an opportunist usurping authority. Either way, it was a worrying development.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
“Syl,” he growled, “could I summon you not as a sword, but as a flat, shiny piece of metal?”
“A mirror?” she asked, flying along beside him. “Hmmm…”
“Not sure if it’s possible?”
“Not sure if it’s dignified.”
“Dignified? Since when have you cared about dignity?”
“I’m not to be toyed with. I’m a majestic weapon to be used only in majestic ways.”
L: Compare to Wyndle, who became… a fork.
A burst of exhaustionspren appeared over her, like jets of dust rising in the air. Only these were bright red instead of the normal brown, and seemed distorted.
“Oh, this is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Syl said from Kaladin’s shoulder. “Oh… oh, that spren is from him, Kaladin.”
L: Is it just a regular exhaustionspren that’s been distorted, or is it a different variety altogether just masquerading as an exhaustionspren?
AP: I think this is the first indication that we get of our bonus Unmade in the city, Sja-anat. She corrupts spren.
AA: I’m with Aubree on this one. This is a Clue.
Shallan wrapped Adolin in Light. He resolved into a sturdy, handsome man in his sixties, with dark brown skin, white hair, and a lean figure. […] He looked like the kind of old rogue you’d find in a pub, with handy tales about the brilliant things he’d done in his youth. The kind of man that made women think they preferred older men, when in reality they just preferred him.
AA: I just had to. Shallan’s artwork…
Elhokar didn’t show what he thought of Kaladin’s face; the king kept his eyes forward. He never did think much about other people, so that was normal.
“They call it the Windrunner, you know,” the king said softly.
AA: This comes just before the conversation in Bruised & Broken, and it made me want to smack Kaladin. He just assumes he knows what’s going on in people’s heads so much. And he’s wrong here; no matter what his face shows, Elhokar was obviously thinking about Kaladin.
“Be extraordinary, Captain. Nothing else will suffice.”
“He liked to think he knew a great deal about warfare, but the truth was, he didn’t have the training of a man like Adolin. He’d participated in wars, but he’d never run any.”
Whew. This is getting intense! Next week, we’re just doing one chapter again, because despite very little action, there’s a cartload of information. So Chapter 62, where Our Heroes will be trying to figure out what in Damnation is going on with this city.
Alice is really enjoying this whole expedition. Such excitements!
Aubree knows better than to count her money when she’s sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.