Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Eighty-Five and Eighty-Six


After all that craziness last week, we’re not done with the Avalanche of Part Three. We’ve still got to get our heroes out of the battle! Well, Adolin and Shallan have to get them out, anyway. We’ll also check in with the folks back in Urithiru (remember them? Dalinar, Navani, Taravangian? Those folks?) and see what they know. It’s not pretty, my friends.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. This week, there are Warbreaker spoilers in the Cosmere Connections unit. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Adolin, Shallan; Dalinar
WHERE: Kholinar palace; Urithiru
WHEN: 1174.2.3.3

Adolin, Skar, and Drehy bring Kaladin and the remaining loyal soldiers back to the Oathgate, where Shallan worries over the probability that the gate is booby-trapped. On Adolin’s orders, she activates it anyway. Meanwhile, back in Urithiru, Dalinar struggles to cope with his recently-recovered memories of Rathalas as they wait for the Oathgate to activate, or to receive news from Kholinar. When news comes, it’s bad; the city has fallen, and there’s no word about the team he sent.

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Chapter 85
Title: Grieve Later

It was one of the first battlefield lessons his father had taught him.

Grieve later.

A: Well, that’s just painful. The thought of “lessons learned from his father” is particularly difficult right now, given the last Dalinar flashback; the obvious callback to the death of Sureblood is even more so.

Herald: Paliah

Paliah is the Scholar, patron of Truthwatchers, with the divine attributes of Learned and Giving.

A: I currently have no idea why she’s here; hopefully the discussion will enlighten me.

…and it didn’t. The only things I have to go on are the epigraph from a Truthwatcher, and the potential connection between Sja-anat and Glys. That’s pretty tenuous, but it’s all I’ve got.

Icon: Shardbearer

Adolin’s Shardbearer icon tells us we’re getting his view of the events, but he shares the chapter with Shallan.


Don’t tell anyone. I can’t say it. I must whisper. I foresaw this.

–From drawer 30-20, a particularly small emerald.

A: Saw what? This is the final—and it’s called out as very small—emerald in a Truthwatcher’s series discussing the plan to deny the parsh their Voidlight by trapping Ba-Ado-Mishram. I have to wonder: Was this added later? Is “it” the result of the plan they made—the complete incapacitation of the parsh? Come to think of it… did trapping BAM destroy the existing bonds, or only make it so they couldn’t form new bonds? Leave them their existing bonds, but with no Voidlight to fuel any special abilities? And is the writer fearful because of the foreseeing, or because they don’t want to admit that they ignored the forewarning, or… what?

Chapter 86
Title: That Others May Stand

The burden for the blood of those wronged must rest somewhere. I am the sacrifice. We, Dalinar Kholin, are the sacrifices. Society offers us up to trudge through dirty water so others may be clean.” He closed his eyes. “Someone has to fall, that others may stand.”

A: In the following paragraph, Dalinar notes that he’s often thought something similar, but Taravangian’s version sounds so hopeless. It occurs to me that “fall” means something very different to these two men. One thinks of falling in battle, striving with all his might in the hope of winning the cause even at the cost of his own life. The other thinks of moral decisions, compromising his values in the hope of saving lives. Somehow, I have more respect for one than the other.

Heralds: Chana and Nale

Chana is the Guard, patron of Dustbringers, with the divine attributes of Brave and Obedient. Nale is the Judge, patron of Skybreakers, with the divine attributes of Just and Confident.

A: I’m clueless about Chana’s presence, but I think Nale is here because of the conversation between Dalinar and Taravangian about the hard decisions kings and generals have to make. Chana… maybe the courage of the team? I dunno.

Icon: Kholin Glyphpair

So now we’re back in Dalinar’s head, present day. It’s not a happy place.


My spren claims that recording this will be good for me, so here I go. Everyone says I  will swear the Fourth Ideal soon, and in so doing, earn my armor. I simply don’t think that I can. Am I not supposed to want to help people?

—­From­ drawer ­10-12,­ sapphire

A: Well, that was deliberate placement! Right after the chapter where Kaladin freezes up because he can’t help everyone, and right before an entire Part where Kaladin stews over the fourth Ideal and his inability to say it, we get an ancient Windrunner stewing over whether or not he can/will take that same step. There are only two things we can say for certain: Windrunners get their Shardplate with the Fourth Ideal, and it has something to do with not helping someone. Beyond that, it’s all speculation.

L: After the last two ideals being all about helping others, this one must be particularly hard—not quite a reversal of the previous ones, I don’t believe that, but… a realization about the ones you can’t save. There’s been a lot of theorizing about what this might be, and I can’t wait to eventually find out.

Stories & Songs

“Brightness Davar told me to clear everyone  else out,” the highmarshal said. “Something’s wrong with the device.”

A: Not good. Not good at all…

“Adolin,” Shallan whispered, “the heart was a trick. I didn’t chase it off—it left on purpose. … They let us come here because the Oathgate is trapped.”

A: Uh-oh.

“Sja- anat. The Taker of Secrets. She says that if we engage the device,  we’ll be caught in a disaster.”

Adolin took a deep breath.

“Do it anyway,” he said.

A: I mean, what choice do you have? You take a chance on your escape route being trapped, for which you have only the word of an Unmade, or you stay where you are and get slaughtered. Well, I suppose they could have tried Windrunnering out like the devil was on their tails… but that would mean unequivocally leaving everyone else to the tender mercies of whatever Fused weren’t busy chasing you down, and without a highstorm for power, it’s probably not a valid option anyway.

L: Better to take a chance on the fate you’re uncertain of than succumb to the fate you know.

Shallan looked away from the pleading figure in the mirror. The others couldn’t see her— she’d confirmed this with Azure already.

A: Lightweaver effect, or Knight Radiant effect? We’ll never know; Kaladin was too dazed to look.

I will show you, Sja-anat said. I will try. My promise is not strong, for I cannot know. But I will try.

“Try what?” Shallan asked.

Try not to kill you.

A: Well, that’s not ominous or anything.

Relationships & Romances

“The team you sent,” Teshav continued, “has apparently failed, Brightlord.” She swallowed. “The remnants of the Wall Guard have been captured and imprisoned. The city has fallen.  There is no word on the king, Prince Adolin, or the Radiants. Brightlord … the message cuts off there.”

A: No word on your son or your nephew… which, come to think of it, applies equally to Navani.

L: The family members must be the hardest blow for sure, but this was Dalinar’s home for a time just as much as it was Adolin’s. On top of everything else he’s going through right now, now he’s got to face the fact that all of those people he knew, interacted with even in small ways (servants, guards, even street vendors or what have you) are doomed, or dead already. Not good news to get when you’re already on the verge of a breakdown…

A: Mental fail on my part. When thinking about Dalinar, I looked at Kholinar solely as a strategic issue, with the team being his personal connection. Short-sighted of me, because you’re right—he spent a lot more of his life there than Adolin did.

Bruised & Broken

Kaladin stumbled along. Though he didn’t appear wounded, he stared with a glazed- over look. Those were the eyes of a man who bore the kinds of wounds you couldn’t fix with bandages.

A: Our poor broken Windrunner is all broken again.

L: Poor Kaladin. Sweetest of cinnamon rolls, he just wants everybody to be happy.

Kaladin followed, dazed. After what he’s been through, Adolin thought, I wouldn’t have expected that anything could faze him. Not even Elhokar’s…

A: Adolin doesn’t know that it wasn’t (only) Elhokar’s death that fazed Kaladin, of course. As we discussed at great length last week, it was about his inability to protect all his friends from all his other friends. Now I don’t remember; does Kaladin eventually talk to Adolin—or anyone—about it? Just Syl?

L: I don’t remember either. Guess we’ll refresh our memories together eventually. This shaking of the very foundation of everything that he believes has to be so hard. It’s not just that his friends were fighting each other, or the betrayal, or the death… It’s the realization that every enemy he’s ever fought has had friends, family, loved ones. They’ve all been human (even when they’re parsh). Do they deserve to die for trying to regain what they’ve lost? For defending their own loved ones? It’s a hard question that not every soldier has the courage to face.

A: Also, it occurs to me that Adolin doesn’t know it was Moash that killed Elhokar. Why has no one ever asked what happened to the bridgeman who got the Shards he won in the four-on-one “duel.” Was Moash not viewed as one of the bridgemen any more? Did everyone assume he was killed at Narak? I guess that would be a fair assumption for them to make, but they still should have asked questions, it seems. A full set of Shards is no small thing.

L: It’s possible that he knows and we just never saw this conversation happen “on-screen.”

I think… I think the Voidbringers intentionally left Kaladin and his men alone after only a brief fight.

A: If this is true, the specific losses hurt even more. Had Kaladin not been paralyzed by the unexpected appearance of Sah and Khen, he could probably have used his abilities to keep his friends apart until the attackers pulled back; he might even have been able to protect Elhokar and bring him back too. Of course, it would have been dreadfully Gary-Stu of him, and the narrative would have been flat… and of course, then they’d have had a bunch more people trailing along in Shadesmar, and all sorts of complications from that.

L: I think Shallan is referring to when they were attacked earlier, during the initial breaking-into the palace, not the big battle that happened inside…

They thought he was sick. …  But if he stopped standing up straight, if he let it bow him down, he worried the memories would crush him.

The memories of what he’d done at the Rift.

The crying voices of children, begging for mercy.

A: It was a shock to jump from the events of Kholinar to Urithiru. The last time we saw anyone but the Kholinar Infiltration Unit in “real” time was back in Chapter 65, when Dalinar visited Azir and suddenly regained a new batch of memories just as he arrived back in Urithiru. Since then, we saw him in four flashbacks–Jah Keved, the road to Rathalas, and the two chapters at Rathalas. To suddenly be back in his head in the present day… well, I’ll admit I had to look back and remind myself.

L: This week is full of tough self-realizations. Kaladin, Dalinar, even Adolin realizing that his home has fallen…

A: Now we get to be in Dalinar’s head as he wrestles with what happened at the Rift. As hard as we were on Dalinar in the discussions a few weeks ago, we’ve got nothing on Dalinar himself.

 Dalinar closed his mouth, eyes ahead, and stared at the expanse. At attention, like a soldier. That was how he would wait. Even though he’d never really been a soldier. He’d commanded men, ordered recruits to stand in line, inspected ranks. But he himself… he’d skipped all of that. He’d waged war in a bloodthirsty riot, not a careful formation.

A: Ummm… he’s not wrong. It’s not even a surprise to him; his memories of the early campaigns are untouched. But it must really stink to have a perception that you outgrew the young berserker and became a highly competent general, only to be slapped in the face with the missing middle of the story where you did worse things than your young self ever imagined.

Problem was, he’d given in to a kind of fancy, one every one told about him. They said the Blackthorn had been a terror on the battlefield, but still honest. Dalinar Kholin, he would fight you fair, they said.

Evi’s cries, and the tears of murdered  children, spoke the truth.

A: It’s got to be a horrible, rude awakening, to suddenly discover you’re not who you think you are at all.

And I had the gall to condemn Amaram for killing one squad of men to gain a Shardblade. Dalinar had burned an entire city for less. Thousands upon thousands of  people.

A: There’s a lot more in this vein, as Dalinar worries over it. He wishes the memories hadn’t come back yet, and castigates himself for being a coward in asking the Nightwatcher for relief. (Hah. Little you know, dude.)

L: He has a point, and you have to wonder about what Sadeas thought about all of this as he saw it happening. He was uniquely positioned to have seen the entirety of Dalinar’s arc. I wonder if he thought Dalinar was a hypocrite, or if he realized that Dalinar had no memories of the terrible things he had done… and how either of those things would have affected Sadeas’s perception of him.

A: I agree. Now we see the attitudes of the other highprinces (and people like Amaram) in a different light, and makes Sadeas and Ialai much less sneeringly evil. They’re still evil, but their interactions with Dalinar make more sense now.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

“How does one live  after making a decision like that? Particularly if you eventually discover you made the wrong choice?”

“This is the sacrifice, isn’t it?” Taravangian said softly. “Someone must bear the responsibility. Someone must be dragged down by it, ruined by it. Someone must stain their soul so others may live.”

“But  you’re a good king, Taravangian. You didn’t murder your way to your throne.”really

A: Oh, the irony! No, Dalinar, Taravangian didn’t murder his way to anything… he merely bought a man’s honor and made him do the murdering. Stained soul, indeed.

L: I’d argue that Szeth was just the gun and Taravangian was the one pulling the trigger, making him very much a murderer indeed.

A: I don’t disagree. Not that I’ll exactly let Szeth off the hook, but Taravangian is definitely a murderer many times over.

“Almighty above,” Taravangian whispered, grey eyes reflecting the glow of the heating fabrial. “I am so, so sorry, Dalinar.”

A: I have to think it’s intentional, that Taravangian’s grey eyes are reflecting the glow of the “bright red ruby” in the heating fabrial…

L: Yikes. I didn’t think of that. It would make his eyes look red. Creepy.

Squires & Sidekicks

Adolin pulled Kaladin out along the Sunwalk while Skar and Drehy guarded their retreat, encouraging the last of the Wall Guard to run—or limp—to safety.

A: Well, it’s nice to know that not all of the Wall Guard was slaughtered right away. I wonder how many of them survived the next hour. Also, this visual:

Skar and Drehy dropped down to the platform, guarding the way onto the Sunwalk, to prevent the Queen’s Guard or parshmen from following.

Mindful Motivations

A: I love being in Adolin’s head. For all his lack of self-confidence in certain regards (mostly relating to Dalinar and Shallan!), when he’s not thinking about himself he’s a pretty savvy guy. (And really, despite appearances, IMO he doesn’t spend that much time thinking about himself.) The way he instantly evaluates Kaladin’s condition speaks of a commander who recognizes all the forms of battle trauma, because he’s always aware of his men. In this chapter, he faces all the hard truths of losing the battle for his home, and he immediately turns to doing what can be done for the living. He’ll grieve for the dead later, when there’s time.

Adolin took it all in, and admitted the terrible truth. His city was lost.

“All forces, hold the platform,” he heard himself saying. “But pass the word. I’m going to take us to Urithiru.”


“Sir!” a soldier said. “Civilians are crowding the base of the platform, trying to get up the steps.”

“Let them!” Adolin shouted. “Get as many people up here as you can.”

“The city has fallen. Transfer the entire platform, not just the control building. We need to get as many people as we can to safety.”

A: Lyndsey, this reminds me of your comments a couple of weeks ago, about Adolin’s final conversation with his tailor and his habitual care for the “little people” of the world. Here it is again: He knows his city is lost, so what does he do? He tries to get as many people as possible on the Oathgate platform, so that when they activate the Gate they’ll at least take some of his people to Urithiru in a swap for the army.

“The king—”

“The king is dead. The queen has joined the enemy.”

A: That’s… blunt. It must be excruciatingly painful to say that.

L: I agree with all of this. This is one of the reasons why Adolin climbed so high in my regard, to the point where he and Kaladin are tied for my favorite characters. As far as protagonists go, he is almost always “active”—and his actions are usually moral and kind. (Usually. We’ll leave the Sadeas debate alone, as that’s a horse we’ve beaten to death.) Unfortunately, I have a bad, bad feeling that these very attributes are going to be what dooms him, from a story-telling perspective.

A: As I understand it, his arc is not settled yet… but that might argue in favor of your last statement. Depending on how things play out around him, he could go either direction.

Cosmere Connections

“My men on the wall!” Azure said.

“They’re dead or routed,” Adolin said, gritting his teeth. “I don’t like it any more than you do.” …

“… I’m ordering our retreat, Azure.” Adolin locked gazes with the woman. “We gain nothing by dying here.”

She drew her lips to a line, but didn’t argue further.

A: I can’t help thinking back to Vivenna’s plot arc in Warbreaker. She started out as a duty-bound stickler of a princess who knew her role to the letter, believed it was critical to the survival of her people, and wouldn’t even consider abandoning it. After realizing that not only was her sister better at the role, but she herself would have failed to save her people at all, she pretty much walked away from all her responsibilities. Now, here, it seems that perhaps she’s found a balance that her younger self was incapable of achieving. In her early days, she was mostly concerned with her own self-perception as The Sacrificial Princess Who Would Single-Handedly Keep the Wicked Hallandren In Their Place. Now, after who-knows-what adventures, she’s gained a good bit of maturity; leadership and responsibility seem natural to her as they never did before.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Why did you bond me?” Dalinar whispered to the Stormfather. “Shouldn’t you have picked a man who was just?”

Just? Justice is what you brought to those people.

“That was not justice. That was a massacre.”

The Stormfather rumbled. I have burned and broken cities myself. I can see… yes, I see a difference now. I see pain now. I did not see it before the bond.

A: It’s so fun to watch the Stormfather developing new perspectives.

L: And another parallel here with what Kaladin’s going through, too. Kaladin didn’t let himself see the humanity of his enemy before now. The Stormfather couldn’t see the humanity of the “lesser beings” he destroyed, because he was simply too alien to understand it. Now that he’s been bonded, he’s beginning to see.

Word had come from Kholinar via spanreed, one that somehow still worked. An assault on the palace, an attempt to reach the Oathgate.

The spanreed was writing. Navani gasped, safehand to her lips. Teshav turned pale, and May Aladar sat back in her seat, looking sick.

The spanreed cut off abruptly and dropped to the page, rolling as it landed.

A: So it looks like Elhokar was right: For whatever reason, the enemy was too preoccupied to bother with the spanreed for the first message. By the time the second one came through, it looks like they were paying attention again.


Next week is Independence Day here in the US of A, so per tradition, there will be no post. The following week, however, should make up for it: We’ll be closing out Part Three with Chapter 87, and then doing a bit of a recap of unanswered/answered questions and ongoing themes for the book so far. If you have anything you’d like to see us address, drop it in the comments below and we’ll do our best to get to it!

Alice is looking forward to a week in Montana—Glacier Park, Flathead Lake, lots of R&R… (she hopes)

Lyndsey was so excited to read Sanderson’s recent update on Stormlight 4. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.


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