Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Seventy-Seven

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Greetings, O Readers of the Re! This week in Oathbringer, our heroes learn about Unmade, do a little strategizing, and do some crazy—literally—shenanigans. Well, Shallan does, anyway. Also, a new squire emerges.

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There’s no wider Cosmere discussion this week, but if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin, Shallan, Veil
WHERE: Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.2.3.2

Kaladin, Shallan, and Adolin meet in a stormshelter to compare notes and plan their next moves. Shallan shares information from her new book, Hessi’s Mythica, about the Unmade currently resident in Kholinar. Once the Everstorm has passed, they go their separate ways—Kaladin back to the Wall Guard Barracks, Adolin back to the tailor’s place, and Shallan to meet Vathah and prepare for her next heist and her infiltration of the Cult.

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Title: Stormshelter

This was one of those fashionable places that—while technically a stormshelter—was used only by rich people who had come to spend the storm enjoying themselves.

AA: The chapter doesn’t focus particularly on the shelter itself, but on the conversation; later, it’s also pointed out what happens to those who had no shelter during the storm.

Heralds

Shalash, the Artist, is associated with the divine attributes of Creative and Honest and is the patron of Lightweavers.

AA: As patron of Lightweavers, she’s also associated with Illusion, and that’s a major theme in this chapter. From Kaladin’s bafflement over Shallan’s differing behaviors toward him, to the disguise Adolin wears, to the multiple Illusions she creates while she’s alone, to the end of the chapter where she settles into being Veil, it’s a Theme… and let’s not forget Vathah creating his first Illusion! Shallan’s artwork is a secondary theme; she carves a very nice drawing into the tabletop, she has a whole new collection of drawings for Adolin to admire, and she makes use of those drawings to create some of her Illusions later. I’d say Shalash is well represented in the chapter!

Icon

Kaladin’s Banner and Spears icon gets the spotlight, but he shares the POV with Shallan, and then with Shallan-as-Veil.

Epigraph

Something must be done about the remnants of Odium’s forces. The parsh, as they are now called, continue their war with zeal, even without their masters from Damnation.

—From drawer 30-20, first emerald

AA: I always thought this was odd. Aharietiam was, by the time they were preparing to abandon Urithiru, about three thousand years past. Is this saying that the parsh have been zealously waging war against the humans for that entire time? Once Taln and all the ancestor souls were back on Braize, it would have been Humans with Radiants (no Heralds) vs. Parsh with Voidforms (no Fused), which is not completely unequal, but… it doesn’t quite make sense. The only way I can make sense of this is to assume that the war ended at Aharietiam for a long time, giving both sides a chance to recover and rebuild their societies with only occasional hostilities. Then, somewhere in more recent history, Ba-Ado-Mishram figured out how to make the kind of Connection that would allow the Parsh to bond the voidspren even without the Fused present, and so the war rekindled at a level that again threatened to engulf the world. Does that make sense?

AP: Well, we know that several of the Unmade were active during that time. It’s no surprise that they would continue to cause trouble.

Stories & Songs

Everstorms didn’t quite match up with scholarly projections. The previous one had arrived hours earlier than anyone had guessed it would. Fortunately, they tended to blow in slower than highstorms. If you knew to watch the sky, there was time to find shelter.

AA: Nice little foreshadowing detail here. We can’t know about it yet, but Odium has the ability to speed up or slow down the Everstorm, to some extent. Whether he’s just now experimenting with this, or whether he’s using that ability sparingly at this point, we don’t know. Maybe there will be a clue in the next Venli Interlude, which happens only a couple days after this.

“One of my contacts finally tracked down a copy of Hessi’s Mythica. It’s a newer book, and has been poorly received. It attributes distinct personalities to the Unmade.”

AA: Unmade ahoy! Now we finally get to start learning about them, like we learned about the Knights Radiant in the previous book, from in-world documentation. As always, we have to be a little skeptical of in-world research, since it may be unreliable. At the same time, Sanderson does make use of it to give a lot of great information that would be otherwise implausible for us to learn. So… here goes, I guess.

Rather than trying to quote and comment, I’m going to attempt a quick summary. Hessi says that there are nine Unmade, probably originally ancient spren from before humanity’s arrival on Roshar. Not all of them were destroyed at Aharietiam, and some are active now. Two of them appear to be active in Kholinar now. Sja-anat, the Taker of Secrets, is recognizable by the presence of the corrupted spren around the city. Ashertmarn, the Heart of the Revel, leads people to indulge in excesses; its presence is confirmed not only by the behavior in the palace, but by Wit’s statement back in Chapter 68:

“… The common members wander the streets, moaning, pretending to be spren. But others up on the platform actually know the spren—specifically, the creature known as the Heart of the Revel.”

AA: Regarding the Unmade in general and these two in particular, this is all pretty solid information, so far as it goes; most of it is confirmed elsewhere. So… two Unmade hanging around the palace, which just coincidentally also houses Elhokar’s family and the Oathgate—their two objectives in the city.

“How do we fight two?” Kaladin asked.

“How do we fight one?” Adolin said.

AA: Indeed. As he points out, they didn’t exactly “fight” Re-Shephir; mostly they (or Shallan) frightened her into leaving. Shallan’s book doesn’t say much about fighting them; it seems Hessi’s only advice is to beat feet. Not exactly helpful, under the circumstances. Oh, and it also says that the Unmade can corrupt people as well as spren. (No, really?)

AP: And unbeknownst to them there are actually three! The Unmade Yelig-nar is possessing the Queen, though they haven’t made that connection yet. It’s also interesting to note that Hessi says there could be ten Unmade instead of nine. I suspect that is significant and could show up in later books.

AA: I just assumed that was because of the Rosharan penchant for everything in tens. But… yes, it could be significant later.

Schemes & Strategems

“What if I can’t open [the Oathgate]?” Shallan asked. “What then?”

“We have to retreat back to the Shattered Plains,” Kaladin said.

“Elhokar won’t leave his family.”

“Then Drehy, Skar, and I rush the palace,” Kaladin said. “We fly in at night, enter through the upper balcony, grab the queen and the young prince. We do it all right before the highstorm comes, then the lot of us fly back to Urithiru.”

“And leave the city to fall,” Adolin said, drawing his lips to a line.

AA: One of the things I both love and hate about Sanderson’s writing is that he doesn’t actually let the Classic Fantasy Solution work—because it doesn’t. Kaladin has this cool scheme to use his new magic powers to achieve one of their primary objectives, and it would work as far as it goes. Unfortunately, Adolin has to go and point out the fact that if they bug out via Windrunning, they leave the city—citizens, refugees, and all—to the mercy of the Voidbringers. That doesn’t—and shouldn’t—sit right with any of them.

(Of course, as it works out in the end, it might have been the better solution. They didn’t really make much difference except in freeing the Palace Guard guys so they could die fighting. Elhokar and Aesudan both died, all five squires and little Gavinor got left behind, the city fell, and the remaining leaders ended up in Shadesmar. One could almost wish they’d gone with Kaladin’s plan after all…)

Anyway… there’s a nice little discussion about how a fortified city is supposed to be able to be defended by a relatively small garrison, but it won’t work here because flying Voidbringers plus Cult plus enormous invading army. (Plus thunderclasts, but they don’t know that yet.)

Relationships & Romances

Kaladin lingered, watching Shallan laugh at something Adolin said, then poke him—with her safehand—in the shoulder. She seemed completely enthralled by him. And good for her. Everyone deserved something to give them light, these days. But … what about the glances she shot him on occasion, times when she didn’t quite seem to be the same person? A different smile, an almost wicked look to her eyes …

You’re seeing things, he thought to himself.

AA: Is this the first time Kaladin has (sort of) registered that Veil is really a different “person” than Shallan? I think it must be; he’s always just assumed she was Shallan wearing a disguise and being a good actress, rather than Shallan morphing into a different person altogether.

L: Kal’s never been the most observant of people, but Shallan has been very good about keeping her multiple identities a secret. It makes sense that he’d only really start noticing this when it directly affects him…

AP: He has no reason to suspect Shallan’s actual degree of mental illness. It’s reasonable to assume that Veil is just a disguise to that Shallan wears using her Lightweaving powers. To an outside observer, she does act pretty weird.

“Oh hush,” she said, and batted his arm in a playful—and somewhat nauseating—way.

Yes, it was uncomfortable to watch the two of them. Kaladin liked them both … just not together.

AA: Sigh. I think we’ve all had that experience, maybe? But it does make me chuckle a bit.

L: This touch of jealousy is very realistic, even more so because Kaladin can’t quite put his finger on why he’s feeling the way he is.

“There’s kind of an army in the way,” Kaladin said.

“Yes, amazingly your stench hasn’t cleared them out yet.” Shallan started leafing through her book.

Kaladin frowned. Comments like that were part of what confused him about Shallan. She seemed perfectly friendly one moment, then she’d snap at him the next, while pretending it was merely part of normal conversation. But she didn’t talk like that to others, not even in jest.

What is wrong with you, woman? he thought.

AA: I have to admit I don’t really get it either, but I’m probably forgetting something. I don’t buy his theory that she’s embarrassed by what they shared back in their chasm ordeal. (He, quite reasonably, doesn’t get why she’d be this way sometimes, and then give him sly grins and winks other times; we know it’s because Veil likes him and that persona slips through sometimes.) At this point, my best guess for why she throws these insults at him and no one else is that he’s sort of a fill-in brother for her, and the only person in her immediate vicinity that remotely qualifies. It’s the kind of stuff she’d have said in private with her brothers, and they’d know she was teasing; sometimes her weird humor—puns, insults, and all—was the only thing that kept them halfway sane. Any other ideas?

L: Honestly, I think she’s afraid of what she/Veil feels towards him and is lashing out because of it. She’s outwardly denying that she feels anything, like a little boy who makes fun of the girl he likes as a smokescreen.

AP: I’m sure that’s part of it, but Kaladin isn’t familiar with Alethi Lighteyes women’s culture and their penchant for throwing shade. Which Shallan often tries with varying degrees of success. We’ve also talked about her humor before, which tends to land flat when she is “punching down”.

He put his arm around her, pulling her closer as they walked. Other Alethi couples kept their distance in public, but Adolin had been raised by a mother with a fondness for hugs.

AA: D’awwwww. Also, ouch for the reminder of last week. Thanks for that, then.

L: Yet another example of how Adolin’s upbringing has left him with different societal norms. He doesn’t care what other people think of him and his relationship, he’s confident.

Bruised & Broken

“Elhokar is working on last-minute plans through the storm,” Adolin said. “He’s decided to reveal himself tonight to the lighteyes he’s chosen. And … he’s done a good job, Kal. We’ll at least have some troops because of this. Fewer than I’d like, but something.”

AA: It makes me sad that even Adolin is surprised that Elhokar has done a good job of something. I think this is part of why I get so angry about him being killed—he had finally started to quit worrying about what people thought of him, was focused on a worthy task, and was starting to demonstrate that he was good at some things. We’re starting to see that he’s got the makings of a good king after all, and then… but we’ll get to that in a few weeks.

L: He’s making good progress towards actual change. Then… :(

AP: I’m glad he’s trying to do better, but it underscores what an ineffective and weak ruler he was for years before this.

AA: Yes, Adolin’s reaction is telling. Even he didn’t know Elhokar had this in him.

Still, she lingered, enjoying Adolin’s presence. She wanted to be here, with him, before it was time to be Veil. She … well, she didn’t much care for him. Too clean-cut, too oblivious, too expected. She was fine with him as an ally, but wasn’t the least bit interested romantically.

AA: Ugh. Shallan is so broken… She’s so okay with being different people. Like… completely different people occupying her mind and body.

L: Yeah, this is SUPER problematic. Having emotional attachments to multiple people isn’t a bad thing, but segmenting your own personality obviously isn’t healthy in any way, shape, or form. Not for her, and not for Adolin or Kaladin, either.

AP: Agreed that this is very serious. The degree of dissociation among her personas is increasing to a worrying degree.

I can become anything. Adolin deserved someone far better than her. Could she … become that someone? Craft for him the perfect bride, a woman that looked and acted as befitted Adolin Kholin?

It wouldn’t be her. The real her was a bruised and sorry thing, painted up all pretty, but inside a horrid mess. She already put a face over that for him. Why not go a few steps farther? Radiant … Radiant could be his perfect bride, and she did like him.

The thought made Shallan feel cold inside.

AA: Shallan, NO!!

L: Well, at least it’s making her feel cold inside about it. She’s realizing how bad this is, which is a step forward.

AP: That she retains some insight is good. But she needs a much better support system. Her upbringing has taught her not to rely on others, but girl needs help. She can’t manage her mental illness in her own. Roshar is in serious need of some mental health professionals.

“What do you do out there, Shallan? Who do you become?”

“Everyone,” she said. Then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for being you, Adolin.”

“Everyone else was taken already,” he mumbled.

Never stopped me.

AA: I… don’t even have anything to say about this. It’s just… it needed to be quoted.

AP: I’m just going to repeat SHALLAN, NO!!

She felt her face changing as she walked, draining Stormlight from her satchel. … Face after face. Life after life. … She unbuttoned her havah up the side, then let it fall. She dropped her satchel, which thumped from the heavy book inside. She stepped forward in only her shift, safehand uncovered, feeling the wind on her skin. She was still wearing an illusion, one that didn’t disrobe, so nobody could see her. … She stopped on the street corner, wearing shifting faces and clothing, enjoying the sensation of freedom, clothed yet naked skin shivering at the wind’s kiss. Around her, people ducked away into buildings, frightened. Just another spren, Shallan/Veil/Radiant thought. That’s what I am. Emotion made carnal.

AA: Now that’s just weird and creepy and disturbing. Girl is nuts.

L: I can kind of understand. As a theater kid, being able to become someone else for awhile is very attractive, especially if you’re not happy with who you are to begin with. But Shallan’s taking it to the extreme.

AP: Shallan is the artsy and dramatic one, remember? While this does underscore the difference in the two personas, it also shows a disturbing lack of impulse control on Shallan’s part.

“…I think Shallan was making illusions off and on for years before she said the oaths. But then, it’s all kind of muddled in her head. I had my sword when I was very young, and…”

AA: … and she doesn’t even know whether to speak in the first person or the third.

AP: This starts to become really common in this section of the book.

Squires & Sidekicks

The Wall Guard might have a Soulcaster, and was definitely producing food somehow. It had seized emerald stores in the city—a fact he’d recently discovered.

“Azure is … tough to read,” Kaladin finished. “She visits the barracks every night, but never talks about herself. Men report seeing her sword cut through stone, but it has no gemstone. I think it might be an Honorblade, like the weapon of the Assassin in White.”

AA: It just feels wrong to place Azure as a “sidekick”… but where else? At this point, she is peripheral to the story.

Anyway, so now we know there’s a firm basis to Azure-has-a-Shardblade: It cuts through stone, and no ordinary sword could do that.

AP: Also a good reminder that Honorblades don’t have gems powering them like dead Shardblade do. It also throws the readers off of Azure being a world hopper because it’s an alternate explanation for her weird Shardblade. Where are the other honorblades anyway? I keep expecting them to show up.

AA: As far as we know, the Shin still have seven of them, but I do expect them to come into play one way or another; that should happen by book 5 at the latest, when Szeth takes center stage.

Vathah had taken to planning operations under Ishnah’s guidance, and was proving quite proficient.

AA: That’s kind of fun to read. I’ll admit I still don’t have much affection for Vathah, but he’s starting to grow on me. Especially with the end of this chapter.

“You know, when you reformed me from banditry, I figured I was done with stealing.”

“This is different.”

“Different how? We stole mostly food back then too, Brightness. Just wanted to stay alive and forget.”

“And do you still want to forget?”

He grunted. “No, suppose I don’t. Suppose I sleep a little better now at night, don’t I?”

AA: He’s finally starting to let go of his cynicism, maybe? A little?

Vathah was gone, replaced by a bald man with thick knuckles and a well-kept smock. Shallan glanced at the picture on the table, then at the drained sphere beside it, then back at Vathah.

“Nice,” she said. “But you forgot to do the back of the head, the part not in the drawing.”

“What?” Vathah asked, frowning. She showed him the hand mirror. “Why’d you put his face on me?”

“I didn’t,” Veil said, standing. “You panicked and this happened.” …

“We’ll do the mission as planned, but tomorrow you’re relieved of infiltration duty. I’ll want you practicing with your Stormlight instead.”

“Practicing…” He finally seemed to get it, his brown eyes opening widely. “Brightness! I’m no storming Radiant.”

“Of course not. You’re probably a squire—I think most orders had them. You might become something more.”

AA: That was unexpected, I have to say! Cool, though. Also, one of the last things we’ll see of Vathah until the very last chapter, so we’ll have to wait until the next book to see how it goes.

L: Also, a very cool verification for us as readers that yes, Lightweavers can also have squires who take on some of their powers, just like the Windrunners.

Flora & Fauna

Kaladin finished his drink, wishing it were one of Rock’s concoctions instead, and flicked away an odd cremling that he spotted clinging to the side of the bench. It had a multitude of legs, and a bulbous body, with a strange tan pattern on its back.

AA: Hey, look, there’s a Dysian Aimian in Kholinar!

L: WHICH ONE IS IT? WHY’S IT SPYING HERE? I can’t wait to find out more about their motives!

AP: The Dysian Aimians are such a cool little detail. It’s totally seamless as an easter egg. Of course an establishment in a city under siege might get bugs. But I now automatically get suspicious of any lone cremling we see scuttling around.

Weighty Words

Their Radiants were not a battle-ready group, not yet. Storms. His men had barely taken to the skies. How could they be expected to fight those creatures who flew so easily upon the winds? How could he protect this city and protect his men?

AA: Okay, I could be wrong on this, but I suspect this is a hint at the Fourth Ideal that Kaladin can’t say: He’s having trouble with the fact that he can’t protect everyone. One way or another, it’s got to be something to do with accepting that fact.

L: I think you’re absolutely right. I think the ideal will be something like “I will protect those I can, and accept that I can’t save everyone.”

AP: I totally agree with both of you. To move forward, Kaladin has to accept that he is not capable of protecting everyone, because right now, the fact that he can’t save everyone is breaking him. We will definitely get to talk about this more, later in the book.

“You’re getting better, if that’s possible.”

“Maybe. Though I don’t know how much I can credit myself with the progress. Words of Radiance says that a lot of Lightweavers were artists.”

“So the order recruited people like you.”

“Or the Surgebinding made them better at sketching, giving them an unfair advantage over other artists.”

AA: I don’t know if this is significant or not. It’s interesting, either way.

L: This is an interesting distinction. Sort of a chicken or the egg situation.

AP: I think the magic does make her better. It also allows her to “see” and capture a situation—like her portraits that show the best version of a person, or her drawings of Urithiru and Kholinar showing the Unmade’s influence that she wasn’t able to consciously figure out.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Be glad the door got stuck.”

Syl sat on the hinges, legs hanging over the sides. Kaladin doubted it had been luck; sticking people’s shoes to the stone was a classic windspren trick.

AA: It’s been a long time since we saw Syl playing tricks! In the middle of the doom and gloom of Part Three, it’s nice to have this little callback to the time she stuck Kaladin’s bowl to his fingers and stuff like that.

L: For sure. I just wish that Syl and Pattern has played more of a part in the conversation. Sometimes it feels like they’re not “real” characters and only foils, not really taking part in bigger conversations between the main players. Is this because they’re still holding on to that “we can’t interfere” mindset that they’d lived under for so long?

AP: I think that’s exactly it. I expect they will get more involved as the series progresses and the Knights Radiant don’t have to hide their identities. They can’t exactly hop up on the table here and join the conversation without being suspicious.

… Adolin reached out toward Kaladin. “Let me see your sword.”

“My sword?” Kaladin said, glancing toward Syl, who was huddling near the back of the booth and humming softly to herself. A way of ignoring the sounds of the Everstorm, which rumbled beyond the stones.

“Not that sword,” Adolin said. “Your side sword.”

AA: This cracked me up—Kaladin is so used to only ever having Syl as a sword that he totally forgets he’s carrying a normal one. Heh. But also, poor Syl, doing her very best to ignore the Everstorm, which probably feels even more wrong to spren than it does to humans. Or… wrong on a different level, anyway.

L: Who would remember that they have a dinky little arming sword when they’ve got a SHARDBLADE?

Appealing/Arresting/Appraising/Absorbing Artwork

AA: The Mythica is introduced with some very nice artwork.

L: It reminds me of a Tarot card.

AP: I really like how it’s outlined by the “wrongspren” that we’ve seen in the city. Any significance to the crooked lines on the border? Some sort of glyphs?

A mother with her daughter, sitting in shadow, but with her face looking toward the horizon and the hints of a rising sun. A thick-knuckled man sweeping the area around his pallet on the street. A young woman, lighteyed and hanging out a window, hair drifting free, wearing only a nightgown with her hand tied in a pouch.

“Shallan,” he said, “these are amazing! Some of the best work you’ve ever done.”

“They’re just quick sketches, Adolin.”

“They’re beautiful,” he said, looking at another, where he stopped. It was a picture of him in one of his new suits.

AA: LOL

Okay, I love the descriptions of them all, and they’ll come into play later in the chapter, but his reaction to the picture of himself is so funny.

L: It’s got to be cool to see how someone else views you. Good thing he stopped when he did, though I’m not sure he would have been upset by her sketch of Kaladin (unless it was Kal half naked giving a sultry wink or something).

Quality Quotations

“A longer blade would be impractical.”

“Longer … like Shardblades?” Kaladin asked.

“Well, yes, they break all kinds of rules.”

AA: Yes, I’d like a side of Fourth Wall with my snark, thanks. Heh.

 

That was a lot of crazy! Join us next week for even more crazy, as Shallan gets into the Cult of Moments in Chapter 78.

Alice is planning to take next week off!

Lyndsey is busy preparing for this season of renaissance faires, but if you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

Aubree is probably reading too much into the fact that she found a lone centipede in her window planter today.

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