Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, as we launch firmly into the avalanche known as the Part Three Climax (and also as the climax of Oathbringer Book Two, if you think of each book as a trilogy). However you look at it, though, things are getting exciting up in here. Time to storm the palace, even as the Voidbringer army storms the city.
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. As has become normal in these chapters, there will be Warbreaker spoilers, especially in Cosmere Connections, as well as mentions of things to come later in Oathbringer.
WHERE: Kholinar—the tailor’s shop and into the palace. On the following map, Adolin and his group’s path is marked in purple, whereas Kaladin’s group when they split off is marked in blue.
WHEN: 1188.8.131.52 (immediately after Chapter 82)
Elhokar and his group (including Adolin, Kaladin, Shallan, and Azure) leave the tailor’s shop as the walls come under attack, leaving a spanreed with an ardent with orders to use it to alert Dalinar of the impending opening of the Oathgate. They make their way to the palace, where Kaladin, Shallan, Skar, and Drehy break off to loop around and take the Sunwalk. After assaulting the main doors of the palace and making it inside, Adolin discovers a small group of palace guards who didn’t fall under the sway of the Unmade. Kaladin and his men (and Shallan) rejoin them, and they regroup for a moment before Elhokar leads Kaladin off to try to find his wife and son. Meanwhile, the rest of the group continues along the Sunwalk towards the Oathgate platform… and the two Unmade waiting there for them.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Title: Crimson to Break
“That’s going to be crimson to break,” Azure said. “We’ll fight for every inch.”
A: This is said as they’ve broken into the palace, and the soldiers there have fallen back to the corridor leading to the eastern gallery and the royal chambers—the place Elhokar most needs to go if he’s going to rescue his wife and son. If this doesn’t convince you that Azure is from Nalthis, nothing will.
A: I have no idea why Battar, the Counsellor (Elsecallers, Wise/Careful) is here. There are no Elsecallers, and I’m not sure anyone can afford to be either wise or careful about this venture. Maybe she’s here because they’re doing the exact opposite?
L: I’d argue that Adolin is being very careful, in as much as he can be in the middle of a battle, anyway. He’s displaying a lot of wisdom and restraint as well, being cognizant of the tactics at play and taking care not to injure more people than are absolutely necessary.
A: Chana (Dustbringers, Brave/Obedient) makes sense all the way around. Guards everywhere—on both sides of the conflict, though I like to think she’d be happier about the Wall Guard and the ones tossed in the pokey because they wouldn’t go along with the weirdness. Brave? Everywhere. Obedient? Again, everywhere. This entire group is committed to the task. I only wish there were a Dustbringer handy to take on that thunderclast.
Adolin’s Shardbearer icon (Yay! An Adolin POV!)
As the duly appointed keepers of the perfect gems, we of the Elsecallers have taken the burden of protecting the ruby nicknamed Honor’s Drop. Let it be recorded.
—From drawer 20-10, zircon
A: I can only assume this is the same ruby we’ll see later, now known as the King’s Drop, which Rysn and Vstim view in the Thaylen Sphere Vault, and which Dalinar puts to a (now well-foreshadowed) different use. How many perfect gemstones are there, I wonder? Will we see others, eventually?
L: Also, interesting that the Elsecallers are the keepers of these gems, considering the fact that Bondsmiths are required for… something regarding them.
We’re entering an era of gods, Adolin thought.
The door opened, revealing a glowing figure.
“Stormfather…” Adolin whispered.
Kaladin shone with a powerful brilliance, his eyes beacons of blue, streaming with Stormlight. He gripped a glowing metallic spear that was easily twelve feet long. Behind him, Skar and Drehy also glowed brilliantly, looking little like the affable bridgemen who had protected Adolin on the Shattered Plains.
L: I find it fascinating to see the Radiants from Adolin’s perspective. He may be a prince and a superb duelist, but he’s still a “normal” person in regards to the superhuman powers that so many of our main characters are gaining. It’s valuable for us, as readers, to see how these characters are viewed by Everyone Else in Roshar. Otherwise we’d get blinded by the perspectives of the Superhumans.
A: Hear, hear! It’s useful, too, that he’s familiar with all the strategy and tactics needed, so it’s not merely “Ooo, they’re glowing!” but also what they do. But… this visual is stunning.
Stories & Songs
“The control building is completely overgrown with that black heart, Your Majesty,” Shallan said. “I don’t truly know how I drove away the Midnight Mother—and I certainly don’t know that I’ll be able to do the same here.”
“But you’re willing to try?” the king asked.
“Yes.” She took a deep breath.
A: That, as we used to say, takes kidneys.
Seriously, though, I have to admire her, even though if she’d said anything else I’d be down on her like a ton of bricks. She came here to do exactly this job, so if she refused to try, I’d be mad. At the same time, given what she went through in the last 24 hours, it’s kind of amazing that she can even contemplate it.
L: Yeah, gotta respect Shallan for being the Girl Who Stood Up.
A strange thumping started, and Adolin took it as another set of drums–until a head crested the top of the wall nearest them.
Storms! It had an enormous stone wedge of a face that reminded him of that of some greatshell beast, though its eyes were just red spots glowing from deep within.
L: This is the first thunderclast we’ve seen, isn’t it?
A: Other than the one in Dalinar’s vision, yes. What a shock!!
“They’re there,” she whispered. “Two of them, this time. Last night, Adolin … I had to run. The revel was getting inside my head.”
“I’ve heard it,” he said, resummoning his Blade. “We’ll face it together. Like last time.”
A: I almost put this in Relationships & Romances, because it’s about Shallan and Adolin. I almost put it in Bruised & Broken, because I can’t help thinking that part of Shallan’s vulnerability last night was her splintered persona. But this is seriously intimidating. They’re facing not one but two Unmade, the stuff of legends, about which they know so very little; they have no clue what they’re doing or how to go about defeating these things. But no pressure—it’s only the whole mission, the city, and your lives depending on it…
As Shallan had warned, it was overgrown with a dark mass that pulsed and throbbed, like a pitch-black heart. Dark veins spread from it like roots, pulsating in time with the heart.
“Storms…” Drehy whispered.
“All right,” Shallan said, walking forward. “Guard this area. I’ll see what I can do.”
A: As we approach the end of Oathbringer Part Three, this is an eerie echo of a line near the end of Words of Radiance, Part Three: “Honor is dead. But I’ll see what I can do.”
(Yes, I checked. It’s not used in The Way of Kings.)
Relationships & Romances
Something was wrong. … Then he finally realized what was bothering him.
He summoned his Shardblade.
“I don’t have my mother’s necklace,” he said, “or any of the other traditions I used to follow. I never really needed those. I’ve only ever needed you.”
He took a deep breath. “I guess … I guess you used to be alive. The others say they can hear your screaming if they touch you. That you’re dead, yet somehow still in pain. I’m sorry. I can’t do anything about that, but … thank you. Thank you for assisting me all these years. And if it helps, I’m going to use you to do something good today. I’ll try to always use you that way.”
A: Aside from the obligatory “I adore Adolin” comment, this is really quite beautiful. It was always nice to see him think of his Shardblade as a “person” somehow, even before he knew anything about how. Now he knows far more, and he treats her with even more respect while still acknowledging his need of her for the things to come. I like to think that she’s willing to help him in this attempt to reclaim his home.
L: Same. After Honor knows how many years of being treated like an inanimate object, it must be nice for Maya to be recognized as a Real Person again, even before Adolin knew that she was.
I do wonder what happened to Adolin’s mother’s necklace, though. Did he just leave it at Urithiru where it would be safe?
A: I sure hope so. This is the only time it’s mentioned in the entire book.
“Windrunner,” the king said. “The duty I give you and your men is to get Queen Aesudan and the heir to safety.”
L: “The heir”? Jeez, Elhokar. At least call the kid by his name. Sometimes it feels like for every two steps forward he makes in my regard, he takes one back. (This being said, has he even met his son? He’s been away at the Shattered Plains for so long that he probably barely knows him.)
A: Barely, at the most. I asked Brandon about it one time, and he confirmed that while Aesudan had visited the Shattered Plains and Elhokar had returned to Kholinar at least once during the war, the vast majority of their time has been spent apart. Elhokar probably has seen him, but he’s three years old at the most. Come to think of it, you know a little boy just about Gavinor’s age, Lyndsey…
L: Great, thanks for driving that particular knife home. I suspect that upcoming scene is going to hit me a lot harder since my son’s about the same age now…
A: That’s kind of the way I felt when I did the Words of Radiance reread. Shallan’s early flashbacks happened at about the same age as my daughter was at the time—which made it way too easy to “see” everything in a very personal way.
The other thing I noticed here is that Elhokar frequently addresses Kaladin as “Windrunner”—though he mostly addresses his Lightweaver by her name. Is it because he is more in awe of Kaladin than of Shallan? Because he hero-worships Kaladin and feels the need to address him by a title? We may never know.
L: I think that’s a sound theory. I’m going to put this here as it’s a friendship:
“If the city holds,” Adolin said, “you’ll be fine. But if it falls…” He took a deep breath. “Reports from other cities indicate that there won’t be wholesale slaughter. The Voidbringers are here to occupy, not exterminate. I’d still suggest you prepare to flee the city and make your way to the Shattered Plains. … Thank you so much for taking us in. We’re going to do what we can to stop this.”
L: I just really adore that Adolin cares so much about the “common people.” As a prince, he could just as easily imagine himself as being better, above them. But he doesn’t. He genuinely cares, which is what makes him a good leader. Much like Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar… most of our main characters. But Adolin, when he interacts with people, seems to put himself at the same level.
Adolin nodded, then gave Kaladin a quick salute–tapping his wrists together with hands in fists. The Bridge Four salute. “Good luck, bridgeboy.”
Kaladin smiled, his silvery spear vanishing as he gave the salute back, then hustled after the king.
L: MY HEART. I adore their friendship. (And I’m totally not shipping them, nope, not me…)
A: This was awesome. It also made me almost sure that one of them wouldn’t survive the battle. (Not that I’m complaining about being wrong, you understand!)
Bruised & Broken
“Your Majesty, the bulk of my soldiers are dying on the wall in a hopeless fight. I’m here because Stormblessed convinced me that the only way to help them is to take the palace.”
L: And those men are going to die in vain, because no army’s coming through the Oathgate to help them. :(
Squires & Sidekicks
Nearby, Elhokar approached with the timid ardent who had come with Azure. He had been hurriedly painting glyphwards for the soldiers, and jumped as Elhokar took him by the shoulder and shoved an object into his hand.
“What’s this?” the ardent asked, nervous.
“It’s a spanreed,” Elhokar said. “A half hour after my army marches, you are to contact Urithiru and warn them to get their forces ready to transfer here, via the Oathgate.”
“I can’t use a fabrial! The screamers—”
“Steady, man! The enemy may be too preoccupied by their attack to notice you. But even if they do, you must take the risk. Our armies must be ready. The fate of the city could depend upon this.”
A: Okay, so there’s a plot reason for the ardent. So maybe it’s not Nazh. On the other hand, I almost hope it is, because at least Nazh has a chance of using the spanreed and surviving. Random timid ardent, I’m not so confident.
Skar, fortunately, seemed to appear out of nowhere; the bridgeman caught the blow with his shield, then rammed a spear through the guardsman’s chest.
“How many is that I owe you now?” Adolin asked.
“I wouldn’t think to keep count, Brightlord,” Skar said with a grin, glowing light puffing from his lips.
L: Skar and Drehy are awesome and I’m so sad that they get left behind.
A: Yeah, but their reappearance later is totally worth it. SO brilliant, that scene.
L: You speak true, Wordslinger.
Places & Peoples
An assault on the palace, his home for many years.
A: We haven’t come to this bit yet, but we’ll learn in Dalinar’s next flashback that after Evi’s death, Dalinar and his sons had moved back into the palace; his own keep reminded him too much of her. That would make it about five years, and important years, where the palace truly was Adolin’s home. Just in case you were wondering.
Adolin glanced at the highlords, who seemed to be taking all of this—the arrival of Knights Radiant, the king’s decision to storm his own palace—in stride. He knew a little of how they felt. Voidbringers, Everstorm, corrupted spren in the city … eventually, you stopped being shocked at what happened to you.
A: I hadn’t thought about it before, but they’re all facing the same effect, just in a different sequence. Take Adolin: He saw Szeth Windrunning first, then the stormform Parsh, then the clash of storms, and then the revelation of Kaladin and Shallan as Radiants in quick succession; transport via Oathgate was followed in a matter of hours by Dalinar and Renarin revealed as Radiants. By the time they learned of all the parshmen being affected by the Everstorm, the presence of the Voidspren, and then the Fused, it was more a matter of gathering information than of any surprise. The highlords in Kholinar had a different experience, in that they felt the presence of the Unmade in the city, then the Everstorm hit with its effects on their parshmen slaves, and then the city was besieged by the Fused and the Voidbringer army. By the time Elhokar showed up with a couple of Radiants and said they needed to reclaim the palace from the Unmade there, it was merely one more in the line of unbelievable things they faced. I’m thinking they were all becoming highly aware of why “May you live in interesting times” is considered a curse!
Adolin joined the troops, calming his nerves by force. Just another battle. He’d been in dozens, if not hundreds of those. But storms, he was used to empty fields of stone, not streets.
A: Two reasons for quoting this. One, it still makes me happy to see a character taking active control of his reactions without using magic to do it. We live in a culture where emotions are too often accepted as the final authority, and it’s such a childish way of thinking. I love seeing a young man with the self-control to “calm his nerves by force.” Two, this is another reminder of Adolin’s backstory. Dalinar’s history is a mixture of fighting on fields and fighting to take villages, towns, and cities. Adolin, while he may have observed some of those battles from a distance, has done all his active soldiering out on the Shattered Plains. He’s never fought for a city before, either as attacker or defender.
L: True. Dalinar was very much a conqueror… Adolin, on the other hand, seems to view his part in battle as a defender of his troops. We see this time and again as he thinks about the best methods of protecting the men under his care rather than putting them in danger needlessly.
A: That’s… wow. I hadn’t really thought about that before. It’s true; he leads them into battle, but most of the time his primary focus is on making it as safe for them as he can, even at his own risk. I guess it’s practical to make sure your troops have a good chance to survive and fight another day, but that doesn’t seem to be his mindset. He wants them to survive and live another day.
As they waited, Adolin stepped up to the edge of the plateau and surveyed the city. His home.
It was falling.
A: I hadn’t realized how many little reminders this chapter contains that this is his home. It’s so easy to get caught up in the action, and forget how painful this must be for Adolin and Elhokar. The city where they grew up is being ripped apart by monsters from legends, while they themselves are destroying the palace gates and fighting down the corridors of their home against soldiers who had always protected them. Painful doesn’t begin to cover it.
Kaladin rose into the air on a streak of light.
He hit the stone and rolled with it, twisting and tumbling in the air. His glow diminished severely.
The boulder lurched. It somehow changed momentum, tossed away from Kaladin like a pebble flicked off a table.
A: In the midst of all that’s happening, it’s so fun to see Kaladin finally get to use his powers. I love the way he throws it back over the wall and almost hits the thunderclast. (Okay, it would have been fun to actually hit the thing instead of almost, but that might have been a bit over the top. And the plot needed the thunderclast to keep going.)
L: It’s always cool to see Kal being a badass.
Of course, he carried another weapon: his belt knife, long and thin. A weapon intended for stabbing armored men.
It had felt so satisfying to shove it through Sadeas’s eye. He still didn’t know whether to feel ashamed or proud.
When he walked down the steps to the main room a short time later, he was wearing his Kholin uniform. His skin missed the softer silk and better form of the tailored outfit, but he found he walked taller in this one. Despite the fact that a part of him, deep down, worried he didn’t deserve to bear his father’s glyphs any longer.
A: So far as we can tell from the text, killing Sadeas is the one thing that consciously makes him feel he doesn’t deserve to be Dalinar’s son. It may or may not have deeper roots, but anything in that regard is speculation. We do know that, according to the Codes, killing Sadeas was “wrong;” it’s not so clear that it was all that bad according to general practice in modern-day Alethkar. Assassination seems to be something of a way of life death. We also know that Dalinar had lived a life of bloodshed before he was even Adolin’s age, so if you want to look at it in a certain light, Dalinar doesn’t deserve to bear his own glyphs. Oh well. Adolin doesn’t know all of that yet.
L: Yeah, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how (if) Adolin’s view of his father changes when he learns about certain events in Dalinar’s past.
On another note… I’m still not convinced that killing Sadeas (and the dishonor he feels that brought him) is enough of an Inciting Event to Break him and allow him to become a Radiant… but I’m happy about that. I’m of the opinion that Adolin is badass enough without powers, and I rather like the “normal person” vibe he has. It’s nice to have at least one POV character with whom we, as (presumably non-Radiant) readers, can relate more strongly to.
A: I have such mixed feelings about that! He’d be an excellent Edgedancer, and I really hope he can fully reawaken Maya, but at the same time, I love seeing him interacting with the Radiants as a non-Radiant. He brings such a unique perspective, as a highly trained military leader who is used to being in a position of authority equivalent to what the Radiants are supposed to become. He’s like… the best adviser Kaladin or Shallan can possibly have for what’s going to be expected of them.
As he watched, she stabbed an enemy soldier who tried to push through. Remarkably, his eyes didn’t burn, though his skin did go a strange ashen grey as he died.
Blood of my fathers, Adolin thought. What’s wrong with her Shardblade?
L: Well, Adolin, it’s not a Shardblade—but you can hardly be blamed for not knowing that. I find it intriguing that it drained the color from the skin of the person she killed…
A: I keep thinking I should go do some research on this, but I’m not sure where to start. It is a sort of Shardblade, if it’s related to Nightblood, so it severs things at a more-than-physical level, but I’m not sure I get how it works. Somehow it drains the color from the person, like an Awakener drains color from a nearby object, but… what is being Awakened? I don’t honestly think anything is, but it’s weird.
L: Do you think it’s possible that it’s somehow draining the Breath from the people she kills with it? Maybe that’s what powers it? Totally crazy theory, I know, but…
A: Not entirely crazy. Nightblood drains life and Investiture from anyone it can. Azure’s blade doesn’t seem to be quite so aggressive about it, but there are too many similarities to shrug it off.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
It was thick at the base, as wide as a man’s palm, and the front waved like the ripples of a moving eel. The back had small crystalline protrusions growing out of it. No sheath could hold a weapon like this, and no mortal sword could imitate it—not without growing unusably heavy. You knew a Shardblade when you saw one. That was the point.
L: Maya is such a beautiful Shardblade. It seems very fitting that she’s Adolin’s, given his propensities for appreciating fashion.
They’d cry in pain if stabbed, or grunt with exertion, but they otherwise seemed muted—as if the darkness smothered their emotions.
L: So one of the Unmade is driving some towards passion (as we see on the Oathgate platform). But then we’ve got this one, which seems to be doing the opposite? Is this the second Unmade? It’s so hard to differentiate the effects that the two of them are having, with what little we know about them…
A: I’m not sure if these are influenced by Ashertmarn, the Heart of the Revel, or Nergaoul—which we haven’t seen yet. Is it possible that Nergaoul has an area effect too? Because you’re right—these don’t seem to be affected by the Revel in any way that makes sense. Maybe their emotionlessness is supposed be our foreshadowing of yet another Unmade in the vicinity.
“You’ve been locked in here for weeks, men! I don’t expect that you’re fit for combat.”
“Weeks?” Sidin said. “Surely it’s only been a few days, Brlightlord.” He scratched at a beard that seemed to argue with that sentiment. “We’ve only eaten… what, three times since being thrown in here?”
L: This time dilation going on is really, really interesting.
A: Ugh. This was so bizarre. It kind of has to be an effect of the Unmade, right? But which one?
Adolin had the distinct sense that he could hear something. Over the din of the fighting, over the shouts of men echoing against the walls. A quiet voice that somehow cut to his soul.
Passion. Sweet passion.
L: It’s worth noting that up until now, Adolin hasn’t been fighting passionately. He’s been cool, logical, reserved. He hasn’t let his emotions carry him away. I wonder if this is just a part of his personality (much like the men they rescued who also weren’t affected), or if it has something to do with his growing Bond with Maya. Is she protecting his mind, somehow? Like Pattern did for Shallan?
A: I hadn’t thought about that when I made the earlier comment on Adolin “calming his nerves by force.” I assumed that it’s a combination of his training and personality, but… it could be something to do with Maya. If so, I doubt even he could tell the difference between his training and her effect; he’s had her since he was 17 or so.
- “Well,” Elhokar said. “I suppose I understand why you did what you had to in taking control of the Guard. I can’t very well have you hanged as a usurper. Good work, Highmarshal.”
“I … appreciate that?”
- … the highlords he and Adolin had revealed themselves to the night before. All they’d needed to do was walk away from the spheres powering their illusions, and their true faces had become manifest.
- We’re entering an era of gods.
For the next few weeks we’ll definitely be sticking to one chapter a week, as we’re in climax territory now. Hold onto your Shardblades, folks, as things are going to keep escalating from here! As always, feel free to join in on the comments. See you next week!
Alice is mightily relieved to be on summer break, even though that has its own sort of busyness. Cocktails on the patio before dinner could be addicting, you know?
Lyndsey is in love with her little rescue pup, Sirius Black… despite the fact that he learned how to break out of Azkaban (his gated enclosure). If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.