Hear ye! Hear ye! It’s another Oathbringer reread, with two—count ‘em, two—chapters this week! (Okay, short ones. But two of them.) Kaladin has a first-time victory for the Wall Guard, when he brings down a Fused in battle. Shallan, on the other hand, realizes something distinctly not a victory. Mixed emotions up in here this week, peeps.
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are spoilers for Warbreaker in the Cosmere Connections unit, so if you haven’t read it yet, you need to get with the program. (Seriously. Go read it.) And if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Kaladin, Shallan
WHERE: Kholinar wall, streets
WHEN: 122.214.171.124 (same day as chapters 77 and 78)
Kaladin leads “his” troops up onto the wall to defend against the attacking Voidbringers. He kills one and reveals who he really is to Azure. Meanwhile, Veil!Shallan returns to the people she’s been supplying food to, only to learn that her good deed has backfired tremendously and made the people into victims – especially young Grund, who dies at the hands of the street toughs who have been stealing all the food from them after Veil leaves.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Chapter 79: Echoes of Thunder
Kaladin charged up the stairwell beside Highmarshal Azure, the sound of drums breaking the air like echoes of thunder from the departed storm.
AA: I don’t know that it’s significant to the rest of the chapter, but that sure is an appropriately portentous title!
L: And a beautiful simile to boot.
Chapter 80: Oblivious
“How oblivious are you, woman?”
L: We’ll get into this more down in the “Bruised and Broken” section.
AA: Yeah… not sure whether to sniffle or sigh.
L: There’s no question why Jezrien’s heading Chapter 79. Kaladin is living up to his Windrunner ideals to a T, protecting and leading the men on the wall. Ishi, however, heading up Chapter 80, I’m not quite so sure on. Maybe because Shallan thought that her actions were pious?
AA: I’ve been pondering this for hours, and the best I can come up with is the combination of Shallan intending to be pious (and perhaps “guiding” as well) and then turning out to be ignorant and dangerous instead. I’m not sure that’s quite “opposite” of Ishi’s characteristics, but it’s close. It’s also possible that it has to do with Ishi’s associated madness, but since we don’t know exactly what that is, we can’t judge.
Kaladin’s spears (Kaladin POV), Pattern (Shallan POV)
Our revelation is fueled by the theory that the Unmade can perhaps be captured like ordinary spren. It would require a special prison. And Melishi.
—From drawer 30-20, third emerald
L: We know that the Unmade can be trapped in perfect gemstones, but is this the first time we’ve had it mentioned that a Bondsmith is needed for this process?
AA: … Uh… Oh, good grief. It never even occurred to me that you actually have to have a Bondsmith to trap an Unmade, but I’m betting it’s not coincidence that we’ve only seen it happen (you know what I mean) with a Bondsmith doing the deed. I wonder, is that only for Unmade, or would it also be required to trap a Voidspren?
L: Going off of that, I wonder if it’s possible to capture the “souls” of the Fused too? So they can’t be constantly reborn?
AA: Sure would be nice! It’s something Kaladin considers in this chapter; it doesn’t matter that he kills one, because it’ll just grab another body in the next Everstorm. It also makes me wonder (again) what was in those black-glowing spheres Gavilar had. I doubt they were Unmade, but they could have been Voidspren, or Voidlight… but could they have been ancestor-souls?
Ba-Ado-Mishram has somehow Connected with the parsh people, as Odium once did. She provides Voidlight and facilitates forms of power. Our strike team is going to imprison her.
—From drawer 30-20, fourth emerald
L: So… did they succeed? If B-A-M is the source of all Voidlight (that can’t be right, can it?) then she must be around somewhere. If not, maybe she acts as… a conduit? She channels it more effectively, or can hold it like a sphere/reservoir and allow others around her to access it?
AA: I’m pretty sure Odium is the actual source of Voidlight, but being a Splinter of Odium gives her access to his power, meaning that she was able to give the parsh people access to all the nasty-forms once she figured out how to Connect with them properly. I’m not sure what the mechanism is, but since the Unmade are much more localized than the Shards, it seems reasonable that they at least have to be in her general vicinity. Like the Thrill. Or like the Everstorm, in fact.
As for succeeding, I’m assuming they did, and that’s what “broke” the parsh. Somehow, trapping her not only took away their access to the Voidforms, it removed their ability to take any forms at all. It must have blocked their gemhearts, somehow… but I don’t quite know how.
Or… we don’t know that it was exactly this scheme that succeeded. There’s that line from the in-world Words of Radiance, where Melishi had some new idea that he didn’t have time to explain. But it was something along this line.
Stories & Songs
Even worse, the one he’d killed would be reborn. Unless the Heralds set up their prison again, Kaladin couldn’t ever really kill one of the Fused.
L: Are there any Listeners left for them to bond with? For some reason I got the impression that all of them had either been killed or bonded already.
AA: We don’t really know for sure what the status of the Listeners is. We have a healthy suspicion (but I don’t think we have confirmation?) that they were the preferred hosts for the Fused, because they hadn’t lost mental function like the parshmen had. But when they run out of Listeners, you know the Fused will use whatever parsh bodies are available, and there are a lot of those.
It’s yet another mark of how desperate humanity is this time. Not only do they have a mere handful of fledgling Knights Radiant and one semi-functional Herald, they don’t even have a way to take out any of the Fused for more than nine days at the most. (That’s the expected interval of Everstorms, isn’t it?) It really doesn’t bode well.
Bruised & Broken
“Hate…” Grund whispered. “Hate you.” … “Why couldn’t you leave me alone?” he whispered. “They killed them all. My friends. Tai… … You drew them,” he hissed. “You strutted around, throwing food. You thought people wouldn’t notice?” He closed his eyes. “Had to sit all day, wait for… for you. My life was waiting for you. It wasn’t here when you came, or if I tried to hide the food, they beat me.”
“How long?” she whispered, feeling her confidence shake.
“Since the first day, you storming woman. Hate… hate you… Others too. We all… hate you…”
L: Well damn. That’s the ultimate kick in the stomach. Not only is she the reason this poor kid is dying, the thing she thought was the right thing to do wound up backfiring almost completely.
AA: This is one of the first big cracks in Shallan’s build-up of Veil—the point where she has to face the fact that that Veil doesn’t know anything Shallan doesn’t, including how the “underworld” of a city works. Veil has become the smart, street-savvy person who has none of Shallan’s perceived weaknesses, and “so much better” at navigating the city and being useful to the team. Now it turns out that she isn’t better at all (duh, because she’s not someone else!), and all the people she was “helping” hate her with a justifiable passion.
L: Shallan’s not stable to begin with, and something like this is just going to push her further into instability, as is proven when she can’t even manage to hold onto Veil’s persona through her grief and guilt. (Although I’m happy to see that it’s Shallan she reverts to rather than one of the other personas…)
AA: You optimist, you. Always seeing the bright side!
It’s true, though, and a small moment of encouragement that she maintains the Illusion while dropping the persona.
“They took the food I gave you, didn’t they? Storms, they killed Grund!”
Muri stopped, then shook her head. “Poor kid. Better you than he.”
AA: While I can’t exactly blame Muri for her thought, it just adds to the load of guilt and pain. I’m really torn about this. I can’t think that Shallan deserves to be killed for her ignorance—but that poor boy, Grund, didn’t deserve to be killed for her ignorance either.
Using [Stormlight] for Lashing would attract screamers, and in this darkness, even drawing in a small amount would reveal him for what he was. The Fused would all attack him together; he would risk undermining the mission to save the entire city.
Today he protected best through discipline, order, and keeping a level head.
L: Glad to see that he’s learning to put aside his (albeit noble) intentions to save Everyone in order to preserve the greater battle plan.
AA: It’s almost a shock to see him put the mission first in a scenario like this, isn’t it? Very un-Kaladin-like, but it’s good to see him developing a wider view. (Unlike the side carry episode, for example, or the four-on-one “duel”…)
He could protect without Stormlight. He’d protected people long before he could fly.
L: Yeah, but… not from an assault like this, Kal. When you’re being attacked by a superior force you can’t hold back your most effective weapons. He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. If he reveals himself, he puts their entire mission at risk. If he doesn’t, the wall falls. Darned Kobayashi Maru tests…
AA: Well, this time at least, he manages to do something very useful without revealing himself. Which is rather cool, even if we know perfectly well that it won’t work more than once or twice at most.
The Fused wanted Kaladin to crash into them, but it had made a mistake.
The sky was his.
L: Aaaaaaaw yeah.
AA: Love it. It’s like when he challenged Szeth during the battle of Narak.
Annoyingly, it also reminds me of when Moash killed that Fused. I’m sure the parallel is totally intentional, though it feels weird for Kaladin to be imitating something Moash did already. (For the sake of my sanity, I’m happy that Kaladin is the master who actually can fly, and Moash’s success was solely the result of Kaladin’s teaching. I can pretend that makes it different.) In both cases, though, they were able to kill a Fused because they were used to being in the air; not only did they not panic, they were able to use the effects of the Lashings to their own advantage.
Kaladin responded immediately to the Lashing, and reoriented himself in the blink of an eye. Down became the direction he was falling.
AA: It must be said: “The enemy’s gate is down!”
“Leave. My. Men. Alone!”
L: Kaladin’s full of badass moments and sayings in this chapter, and he’s just getting started…
The woman studied him, and reluctantly Kaladin summoned Syl as a Shardblade. Noro’s eyes bulged, and Ved nearly fainted–though Beard just grinned.
“I’m here,” Kaladin said, resting the Sylblade on his shoulder, “on orders from King Elhokar and the Blackthorn. It’s my job to save Kholinar. And it’s time you started talking to me.”
L: I do love Kaladin’s dramatic streak.
AA: Heh. Absolutely. Oh, one other thing that made me laugh in this chapter: When it came right down to a battle, Kaladin kinda sorta forgot he wasn’t in charge. He’s shouting orders and demanding reports, including from his nominal commander. So much for subterfuge. It also just occurred to me that Kaladin doesn’t exactly reveal his entire identity; he just lets them see that he’s a Shardbearer without clarifying that he’s a Knight Radiant. I wonder if that was intentional, or if he’s so used to it that he didn’t think about making it clear. Or if it matters.
On another subject… for all her failures, Shallan is getting better at Lightweaving.
As she wove into the market, she put her hand before her face, changing it with a wave of the fingers. She took her hat off, folded it, and covertly Lightwove it to look like a waterskin. Each was a little change that nobody would notice. She tucked her hair into her coat, made it look shorter, then finally closed her coat and changed the clothing underneath. When she took off the coat and folded it up, she was no longer Veil, but a market guard she’d drawn earlier.
AA: I enjoyed the sequence of small changes, little things no one will notice unless they’re watching her carefully and specifically. It’s clever and sneaky, and a perfect way to get lost in a crowd.
“I’m missing something, like white on black…”
L: Love these Nalthis sayings, though this one… doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. I suppose if I were from Nalthis I’d get it!
AA: I never comprehend any of these color metaphors. Or most of the adjectives, for that matter. I just sort of assume they make sense in the original language… Actually, I suspect Brandon means for them to make no sense, so they register as “foreign” signals.
He found Azure surveying the Eighth Platoon’s losses near their guard tower. She had her cloak off and held oddly in one hand, wrapped around her forearm, with part of it draping down below.
L: Sounds to me like she’d been Awakening it. Using it as a shield, or something? Alice, you’re the Warbreaker expert, care to weigh in?
AA: If you weren’t already convinced that this was Vivenna, this description of the cloak (especially after the so-Nalthian saying) seems to me like proof positive. We never get to see her actually using it in battle, but I’ve assumed she used it as a shield. We saw similar things done in Warbreaker; Vasher Awakens his cloak with the Command “Protect me” in the Prologue, for example, as well as several times later in the book. There’s a scene where a guy wears an over-long cloak and uses it to lift him up to see above the heads of the crowd. Apparently a cloak can be really strong if it’s properly Awakened! In protecting, it does things like this:
Vasher’s cloak, however, suddenly whipped out—moving on its own—and grabbed the surprised man by the arms. (Warbreaker, Chapter 49)
AA: Neat trick if you can pull it off!
Vivenna’s Awakened cloak also grabs, and then drops, an arrow someone shot at her, and Vasher’s cloak fights multiple opponents on its own part of the time. I doubt Azure is using it in such an obvious fashion here in Kholinar, but it can still make an excellent shield, and much easier to carry than the normal kind. Warmer, too.
“I’d bet my red life on it.”
L: There’s another one…
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
Kaladin! Syl’s voice, in his head. I sense something… something about its power. Cut upward, toward the heart.
L: The GEMheart you mean, Syl?
AA: I’ve always wondered exactly what she could sense. Is it just that there’s a center of Voidlight, or does she sense the soul of the Fused? Or are those the same thing?
The Shardknife struck something brittle and hard.
L: Yep, there it is.
AA: We had a discussion of this in the beta, and, I think, hit on something revealing. Someone commented that if the gemhearts are so easily broken, and if breaking them is instant death, then that would make the Fused awfully vulnerable to the Knights Radiant. We came to the conclusion that the design/function of the Honorblades, and thus the Shardblades modeled after them, now makes a whole different kind of sense: Their primary purpose was to destroy gemhearts, essentially ignoring the surrounding flesh. The fact that they also work super well against thunderclasts is an awesome bonus, I have to say—but it seems probable that this is more a side effect than the original intent.
Syl landed on his shoulder and patted him on the side of the head.
Well folks, that wraps up another week! As always, join us in the comments below for more nitpicking, theory-crafting, and general good-natured geekery. Next week we’ll be tackling chapters 81 and 82, as 81 is very short.
Alice enjoyed her week off, hanging out with her sister. Now she’s back and ready to give Aubree a break.
Lyndsey is so excited to be playing the (new) Sheriff of Nottingham in this year’s Mutton and Mead Festival in Massachusetts on June 15 and 16. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.