Hello, there, friends of the Cosmere! Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread for this week’s installment, in which Shallan has some mighty sharp adventures. Also, many-layered disguises. Come on in, the shadows are
fine everywhere, and really creepy. As are a lot of the people, come to think of it.
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are no spoilers in the post this week, though we make no promises about the comments. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHERE: Kholinar city streets and palace (Lyn: As before, the below map is my best guess as to a route, especially once they get into the palace. It seems logical that that long hallway is the one they carried Veil down, but I have no real idea if it’s right or not.)
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (same day as the previous two chapters)
Veil wanders through the city of Kholinar on her way to the palace, observing the poor and the strange cult that has taken up residence in the streets. She assumes Lyn’s face and meets with Kaladin outside the palace gates, then goes in alone after assuring Kal that she’ll send Pattern back out if she gets into trouble. After delivering her message to the queen to one of the soldiers inside, the men promptly run her through and carry her down to dump her body with the others that have come before her. On their way down, she sees an unsettling image in a mirror.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Title: Within the Mirror
And beyond that, deep within the mirror, something turned—the normal image fading—and looked toward Shallan with a sudden and surprised motion.
Alice: Well, that’s not disturbing or anything. Could it be that giving the chapter title to the image in the mirror is a hint that we’re not done with this apparition after one glance? (And did anyone think we were?)
A: Palah is the patron Herald of the Truthwatchers, associated with the divine attributes of Learned and Giving and the role of Scholar. I’m not entirely sure why she was chosen for this chapter. Shallan seems to think she’s doing research and all that, but the only scholarly-ish things she does are nearly accidental or accomplished in such a foolhardy way as to look more like sheer luck. Maybe that’s the point? Help?
L: Your guess is as good as mine.
The Pattern icon tells us this is Shallan’s POV—though it turns out to be a lot of Veil’s POV, really.
I returned to the tower to find squabbling children, instead of proud knights. That’s why I hate this place. I’m going to go chart the hidden undersea caverns of Aimia; find my maps in Akinah.
—From drawer 16-16, amethyst
A: The amethyst tells us this was recorded by a Willshaper. Maps and charts and exploration, FTW!
L: Undersea caverns?! Color me interested.
A: No kidding!! Cool new info hints about Aimia? Tell me more! (Please?) Also, what’s this about maps in Akinah? Presumably, Akinah was still a functioning city at the time, so he or she really was planning to go there.
But about the person who wrote it… Their plans fit with the Words of Radiance epigraph description of Willshapers, where they were called “enterprising, erratic, capricious, frustrating, unreliable, [having] a general love of adventure, novelty, or oddity.” (I just took out all the commentary and listed the adjectives…) Come to think of it, this really fits with the speculation regarding Eshonai’s spren Timbre being a Willshaper spren. If that doesn’t describe Eshonai as well as this adventurous Willshaper, I don’t know what does! Could we possibly learn more about those maps and charts in the next book? (Okay, that’s a stretch, but I really do want to know more about Aimia in general and Akinah in particular.)
Today’s thematic thoughts are a sequence of events that don’t fit anywhere else as a group, and I wanted to keep them together.
She walked into a grand entryway, marked by marble and a brilliant sphere chandelier. No Unmade. No darkness waiting to consume her. She breathed out, thought she could feel something. That phantom eeriness was indeed stronger here. The wrongness.
A: The feeling of approaching something supernatural would definitely be unnerving. I wonder if her focus on the Unmade’s presence is what caused her to be less wary of the human dangers.
… She itched to be out of this place. To flee madly, if she were being honest. She had to stay. Whatever she learned here would be of—
One of the soldiers ran her through.
It happened so quickly, she was left gaping at the sword blade protruding through her chest—wet with her blood.
A: That was… unexpected. It was just so casual. I’m reasonably sure that more than one reader jumped and/or gasped on the first read—I know I did. Is it standard protocol to execute all messengers, or just the ones who ask to actually see the Queen?
She reached for Stormlight, by instinct.
No… no, do as… as Jasnah did…
Pretend. Feign. She stared up at the men in horror, in betrayal, painspren rising around her. …
She let her eyes close, then took in a short, sharp breath of Stormlight. Just a tiny amount, which she kept within, holding her breath. Enough to keep her alive, heal the wounds inside…
A: Worth noting: Though we don’t see it on screen, Jasnah clearly explained to the others how she survived the assassination attempt on the Wind’s Pleasure. We can assume she also told them at least some of what she learned there, and will find out about that when it becomes relevant. Also worth noting: She apparently didn’t tell them much about what Shadesmar was actually like, with its travel, politics, and society! I’m guessing she didn’t expect any of the others to be spending time there so soon.
Pattern. Please don’t go. Don’t do anything. Don’t hum, don’t buzz. Quiet. Stay quiet.
A: That’s probably a good idea: Do not draw attention in any way.
Don’t shift. Stay perfectly still. Don’t even breathe. Stormlight allowed her to survive without air.
A: I just have to giggle—in the middle of the tension—at the way this has been set up for two and a half books, and now we finally see someone in a truly critical situation, using this minor detail. Whether the author had this in mind from a long time ago, or whether it just came in handy here and he used it, or something in between, I don’t know, but I love it when I see things like this come together. Breathing would definitely give away the game, but he doesn’t have to suddenly introduce this extra detail to explain not-breathing; it’s been in place, but it never mattered like this before. This kind of thing just makes me happy.
Stories & Songs
…men in dark uniforms whose colors and heraldry she couldn’t discern. In fact, when one glanced at her, she couldn’t make out his eyes. It was probably just a trick of the light, but… storms. The soldiers had a wrongness about them; they moved oddly, rushing in bursts, like prowling predators. They didn’t stop to talk to each other as they passed.
L: I’ve played way too many horror games because all I see when I read this is Silent Hill.
A: I’m clueless on that specific subject, but this started to get creepy real fast.
[The Oathgate] connected to the main palace by a covered walkway that rested atop a small wall.
They built that walkway right over the ramp, she thought with displeasure.
A: I’m trying to figure out why she’s so displeased about this. Because they connected the Oathgate to the palace instead of leaving the ramp to the city where people could get to it? Because they messed with “her” artifact? I’m trying to figure out why it matters, and I can’t come up with anything that makes sense.
L: If she were Shallan right now I’d say that maybe she was upset with them ruining the aesthetics, but since she’s Veil? No clue.
The guard carrying her passed a floor-to-ceiling mirror rimmed in a fancy bronze frame. In it, she glimpsed the guard with Lyn thrown over his shoulder. And beyond that, deep within the mirror, something turned—the normal image fading—and looked toward Shallan with a sudden and surprised motion. It looked like a shadow of a person, only with white spots for eyes.
L: Welp. Thanks for that, Brandon.
Relationships & Romances
I like him, Veil thought. An… odd thought, in how much stronger that feeling was to Veil than it had been to Shallan. I like that brooding sense he has about him, those dangerous eyes.
Why did Shallan focus so much on Adolin? He was nice, but also bland.
A: Heh. Nice link. Still, it’s easy to see in retrospect that Brandon was setting us up for the weirdest sort of “love triangle,” with one of Shallan’s personas interested in Adolin and another in Kaladin. (And both requited, at least to some extent. So which is it? A love triangle with four sides, or a square with three?)
You couldn’t tease him without feeling bad, but Kaladin, he glared at you in the most satisfying of ways.
L: Okay so. I know a lot of people don’t like the “love triangle,” but I really feel like this is an interesting take on the trope. If anyone’s going to have feelings for two distinctly different people, it’s someone with two distinctly different personalities. It makes total sense.
A: It does, and that’s why I think the whole thing worked for me. I’m an anti-love-triangle person in general, but Veil and Shallan are so different it makes sense they’d have different taste in men. (I still hate Shallan’s ever-widening gulf between bits of herself… in the sense that it’s awesome writing and I love that, but it’s painful to watch.)
Bruised & Broken
Veil enjoyed being in a proper city again, even if it was half feral. … Everyone talked about towns and villages out in the middle of nowhere as if they were uncivilized, but she’d found people in those places pleasant, even-tempered, and comfortable with their quieter way of life. … There was a tension to cities. You could breathe it, feel it in every step. Veil loved it.
A: This bothered me. Veil doesn’t know anything Shallan doesn’t, so she doesn’t have any more basis for comparison than Shallan—which is not very much. I think it’s meant to help us see how much Shallan is just making up knowledge for Veil; later on, this is going to come back around. Painfully.
These poor people. Even in this more affluent area, she could barely walk a quarter block without having to weave around huddles of people.
L: This brought up an interesting thought for me regarding Shallan and Veil. Thinking back over Shallan’s reactions to things, Veil appears to be more empathetic to the suffering of others, especially the downtrodden. As a relatively high-born lady, Shallan really doesn’t seem to see the pain of the poor very often, even when she really should. She, of all people, should understand. But maybe she just doesn’t want to see her own pain reflected back at her in the social mirror. Maybe she closes her eyes to it as an act of self-preservation, but Veil—not constrained by Shallan’s past—is free to really open her eyes and see it.
This is backed up by her reaction to seeing the bodies later in the chapter.
She focused on his voice, something familiar. Not the memory of a sword protruding from her own chest, not the callous way she’d been dumped here and left to rot, not the line of corpses with exposed bones, haunted faces, chewed-out eyes…
Don’t think. Don’t see it.
L: She’s not going to be able to keep going through life this way, burying her head in the sand whenever she’s faced with something like this. Not if she’s going to be a Knight Radiant. Lies may be important to her order, but she has to face the truth if she’s going to heal.
A: At the same time, I rather loved that moment. The horror of what she was looking at could have made anyone freak out, but her long experience with deliberate, intentional amnesia helps her to stay calm by blocking out the nightmarish scene, enabling her to figure out how to get out of there. I thought it was a great bit of writing—the moment when your self-destructive coping mechanism becomes the only thing that keeps you alive and (semi-) sane.
She left the park as Veil playing a part. She tried to keep this distinction sharp in her mind. She was still Veil. Merely in disguise.
L: Yet another in the ongoing list of Problematic Shallan Behaviors.
Squires & Sidekicks
Away from potential prying eyes, she used Stormlight to overlay Veil’s features and clothing with those of Lyn.
L: Back when we did the beta, I noted that I was curious as to whether or not Shallan has some sort of supernatural ability to understand the inner thoughts of real people she mimics, or if she’s just extrapolating based on her observations and what she thinks they’re like.
(Also I feel I should mention that now, as when I first read it, this totally weirds me out.)
A: Heh. Nothing like a major character playing an imaginary character playing a character based on you… Is your head spinning? Seems like it ought to be!
If I remember right, this is the first time Shallan disguises herself as another real person for any length of time. (She changed her face, at least, to Adolin, a random cleaning woman she’d drawn, and a soldier back when she was convincing Elhokar to bring her along.) I don’t recall that we ever got any hint one way or another whether she has any supernatural Connection with someone she mimics. I… would guess not, but I can see a viable argument for either theory.
Places & Peoples
Soulcast out of bronze, the statue depicted a figure in Shardplate rising as if from waves.
L: I wonder if this is a statue of a Herald, one of one of the Knights Radiant from back before the Recreance, or a more modern statue of someone in “dead” Shardplate…
A: Such a curious image, and not one I can recall being associated with any of the historical figures so far. It reminds me of Aphrodite rising from the sea, except that the subject is… a bit different… (!!) It also reminds me of Cusicesh rising from the waters of Kasitor Bay. Odd, indeed.
They were too theatrical—and there were too many of them—for all to be truly deranged. This was a fad. A way of dealing with unexpected events and giving some shape to lives that had been turned upside down.
A: Ah, the good ol’ Cult of Moments folk. We had some discussion of this in last week’s comments, wondering whether these people were specifically being controlled by the Unmade and/or Voidspren, or whether they were just people being weird. Or something in between.
The only other paths up onto the platform were sets of steps cut into the rock, and those were guarded by people in spren costumes.
A: Drawing from the beta comments again, here’s a question: Is it possible that there were real, sapient spren—either natural Rosharan spren, corrupted spren, or Voidspren—hiding among the cultists? It was a little too reminiscent of the masquerade/parade in The Great Hunt, where some of the “trollocs” in the parade turned out to be real trollocs.
As mentioned in the comments last week, since it never came up again, I assume the answer is no—they’re just people. Frightened people doing weird things, but still just people. However… what are they doing here? Are they actively involved in the stuff going on with the Heart of the Revel? (We do find out a lot more about them before the end of Part Three, but I’ll wait to talk about that until we get there.)
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“Hey,” she said softly. “It’s me. Do you like the boots on this outfit?” She raised her foot.
“Do we have to keep bringing that up?”
“I was giving you a passcode, bridgeboy,” she said. “To prove I’m who I say I am.”
“Lyn’s face made that clear,” he said…
A: I think Shallan is trying to force a little humor into the situation, in that ever-so-slightly-hysterical fashion we sometimes have when we’re extremely nervous. Kaladin was Not Amused. He’s right that her disguise is plenty of identification, of course; I have to grant him that.
Readers seem divided on this one: Is the “boots” reference funny and Kaladin is just being grumpy, or is it really not funny and she should drop the subject? Personally, I think she sees it as what could be a shared joke (and I agree), and he’s being overly touchy about it. (To be fair, he’s never had reason to find out how off-balance she was by Tyn introducing her as a Horneater princess; he saw the scene as “lighteyes toying with the darkeyes,” but she saw it as mortifying.) I suspect my thinking it should be a joke they share may be colored by her wedding gift from Kaladin and Bridge Four, though.
She smiled at him. “You could say, um, it made that point quite clear.”
L: See, this one works for me because she smiles before she says it.
A: I think this one would work whether she smiled or not, because it’s just a straightforward pun, not a joke at someone else’s expense. The smile probably helps Kaladin understand a little of what she’s doing, though, so there’s that. What really grabbed me, though, was the part that followed:
Smile. I need you to smile.
I need what happened to be all right. Something that can simply roll off me.
“Well…” Kaladin said. “I’m glad we … took a stab at this anyway.” He smiled.
It was all right. Just another day, another infiltration.
I can just feel her desperation here. She’s (understandably!) freaked out by what just happened, on so many levels. She just blocked out what she was seeing so she could function. Now she still needs to get back to the tailor’s house and keep functioning, and in order to do that, she needs something that at least purports to be humor.
The beautiful part is the way it reflects the scene in the chasm. That time, he was amazed that she could smile with all she’d been through. This time, she desperately needs him to smile—and however awkward he feels about making puns with her at this point, he does it. And he smiles. And I could just reach in and hug him for it.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
This covered her as she breathed out Stormlight, transforming her features and hair to match those of Veil, instead of Shallan.
No spren came, screaming to warn of what she’d done. So Lightweaving was different from using fabrials.
A: Such mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it might be good to do this at a distance from their safe place. On the other hand, what was she going to do out there by herself if the screaming spren did come? Might have been handy to have an extra soldier or two around if one of the Fused came looking!
On a more scholarly note, this is the first test on the screamer-spren. This technically only proves that Lightweaving doesn’t draw them, rather than Surgebinding in general, but at least they don’t see every access to the Surges. I’m betting it’s got more to do with the trapped spren than the Surges, but I can’t prove it.
Anticipationspren rose around Veil, and she jumped. While two of the spren looked normal—like flat streamers—the others were wrong. They waved long, thin tendrils that looked like lashes to whip a servant.
A: Well, that answers one question. Not all spren of a single kind are affected by Sja-anat, and it’s not a lasting area effect. I really think (but this is speculation) she touches each spren in order to corrupt it, probably in the Cognitive realm. I would also bet that certain types seem more affected because more of their type have been drawn to activities, emotions, or events taking place in her immediate vicinity. Types who have not had reason to be attracted to people near her are less frequently—or not at all—affected. Maybe?
At the door she finally heard Pattern, who had been talking, though his voice had seemed distant.
L: Well that’s odd. Was it just because she was so near death? Or was there something weird going on with their bond? Proximity to the Unmade, perhaps? Something to do with the specific illusion she was using, and/or her state of mind?
A: I took it to be panic and a resulting inability to consciously hear him even though he was right there. I’m not 100% sure on that, though. It reads… oddly.
- “Storms!” he said, kneeling beside her. Pattern slipped off his coat, humming happily.
A: Awwww. The image of Pattern riding around on Kaladin’s coat just makes me smile.
- He helped her to her feet, then looked to check on her wound, and she slapped his hand. The cut was not in an appropriate location.
Welp. That was full of shenanigans, I must say. Join us in the comments to discusssss. Next week we’ll be returning to Urithiru and Dalinar in Chapter 64, with lots of fun Stormfather conversation and the beginning of a quick trip to Azir.
Alice is having fun watching those Sanderson progress bars, and is now eagerly awaiting the Starsight beta read.