Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Eighty-Seven

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Welcome back to the Reread! We were planning to do a big “the book so far” wrap-up post this week in addition to chapter Eighty-Seven, but… it was a little too big, so we’ll have an entire article next week dedicated to that. In the meantime, we’ll discuss Chapter Eighty-Seven all on its lonesome, as well as discuss a few points that people requested in the comment section last week. Batten down the hatches, folks. It’s about to get intense up in here!

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread—if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

No spoilers for other works this week. You’re safe!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Adolin
WHERE: Shadesmar!Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.2.3.3 (immediately after Chapter 85)

The Oathgate control building shakes and shifts its platform into Shadesmar, dumping Adolin into the beads until Azure pulls him out. Two enormous spren hover above them; below, Pattern and Syl take their Shadesmar forms along with a weird-looking woman/spren. They, with Kaladin, Azure, Shallan, and Adolin himself, are the only people there.

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Title: This Place

Azure looked up at the sky. “Damnation,” she said softly. “I hate this place.”

AA: “This place” is obviously Shadesmar, and as much as we’ve been fascinated by it, apparently those who experience it don’t all find it worthy of appreciation. We’ll explore that reasoning as we make our way through Part Four!

Heralds: Jezrien, Shalash, Vedel, Chana

AA: One of the most obvious (and, IMO, legitimate) ways to explain the four Heralds here is to associate them with the four humans. Jezrien represents his Windrunner, Kaladin, and his spren Sylphrena. Shalash reflects her Lightweaver, Shallan, and her spren Pattern. Vedel, presumably, represents Adolin with his Edgedancer-blade. That leaves Chana to be associated with Azure, which makes sense as she takes on the role of Guard so frequently.

Adolin has often been associated with Chana, but in this case I don’t see how Azure would be linked to Vedel, so… we’ll go with the first proposition. For what it’s worth, we had the WoB confirming that she was an Edgedancer’s Blade, which someone had figured out based on her appearance, before Oathbringer came out. In any case, this description and the upcoming journey should make it very clear; this is a “sibling” to Wyndle.

Icon

Shardbearer, meaning we get this last chapter from Adolin’s POV.

Epigraph:

Good night, dear Urithiru. Good night, sweet Sibling. Good night, Radiants.

—From drawer 29-29, ruby

AA: Interestingly enough, this is a Dustbringer recording. I don’t generally associate this kind of affection with the Dustbringers, but that’s probably completely unfair of me. Anyway, this is clearly a farewell to the tower, and to the Sibling who (in my opinion, anyway) likely gives life and functionality to the tower city. It may be viewed as foreshadowing to say “good night” to the Radiants, since the Recreance was only a few decades away; in intent, it was probably referring to the way the Radiants would be dispersed when they left Urithiru, finding new homes elsewhere. Certainly some would remain in groups, and perhaps even whole Orders would stay together, but they would no longer have a single, central place that belonged to them.

L: All I can think of when I read this is “Goodnight, Moon.”

AP: Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight voidbringers everywhere!

AA: LOL

Bruised & Broken

L: I’d like to take a moment here to address the concerns of one of our most frequent commenters, Gepeto. They’ve expressed concern that Adolin’s lack of grieving might pose a problem for him emotionally down the road. We believe that this is being addressed “off-screen.” Just as we didn’t see Jasnah and Navani’s reunion, Sanderson probably doesn’t have a secondary reason to show these scenes. We know that they’d fulfill the “character” portion, but would they also serve to advance the plot or the worldbuilding? If not, then the book is already long enough and scenes like this probably hit the cutting room floor or weren’t deemed important enough to show in the first place. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. I fully believe that Adolin is taking the time to grieve his losses between the scenes. This doesn’t mean that he’s being short-shrifted by Sanderson, or that he’s any less of an important character. It just means that these scenes wouldn’t serve the narrative as a whole.

AA: This is something I’ve observed in other areas as well. For example, many readers were frustrated about not seeing any reunions with Jasnah. I understand the frustration, but I can also see that it wouldn’t have added anything substantive to the story he’s telling—or at any rate, nothing he couldn’t achieve better in a different way. The same goes for Adolin and Shallan’s wedding at the end of the book. It happened, but the narrative wouldn’t be served by showing it. Same with his decision not to write sex scenes: It’s safe to assume that Dalinar and Navani are actively enjoying one another, beginning with their wedding night, but we don’t need awkwardly-written descriptions to prove it.

It may or may not be a weakness, depending on the reader, but Sanderson doesn’t seem to dwell in-depth on the process of grieving. Everyone grieves differently, so it’s difficult to portray without resorting to stereotypes; in any case, we haven’t seen much. When Jasnah was presumed dead, the little we saw of anyone grieving was in service to character development, such as Navani’s comments about the only way to mother Jasnah was to not let her know you were doing it. That tells us a lot about both women. Later in this book, we’ll see Navani and Adolin weeping together over Elhokar, though we’re not really told what either is thinking.

My expectation is that we’re to understand that people have grieved for their loved ones. If their thoughts in the process will help the story in some way, we’ll get those thoughts; if not, not. That’s not to say that Brandon couldn’t decide that he wants to write an arc with Adolin’s refusal to grieve being an issue, but I don’t think he will. He’s pretty much done that gig with Shallan’s voluntary amnesia, as well as Dalinar’s Cultivation-induced amnesia; both were ways of dealing with grief by not dealing with it. IMO, Adolin doesn’t need to go there too.

AP: All good points. I also think that right now they are in survival mode. Adolin is an experienced soldier. Though the loss of his cousin and nephew is probably devastating, he has to focus on the task at hand—escaping the city and then being thrown into Shadesmar, where he almost immediately starts to drown in beads. And then the entire arc of trying to find their way back. There’s not a lot of opportunity for mourning loss in a visible way at this point. At this point, overwhelming grief would be a distraction to the mission, and he is too well trained for that.

Places & Peoples

L: RogerPavelle in the comments last week asked us to discuss the “Old Magic” and possible connections to architecture (windblades, Urithiru). I’m assuming that he’s referring to whether or not the Sibling is somehow attached to Urithiru… Alice, you want to take it away on this one, since this is your theory-baby?

AA: But of course!! I love to speculate on things like this, even though we have very little evidence to go on. (Never stopped me before, can’t stop me now.)

One key tidbit comes in a WoB telling us that the Old Magic is specifically linked to the Valley. As you know, Bob, the Valley is where you go to find the Nightwatcher and ask for your boon. This indicates that the Old Magic is tied to either the Nightwatcher, Cultivation, or both. Digging back into that connection, we know that the Nightwatcher was a major spren on Roshar even before Cultivation and Honor came to town, and that Cultivation “adopted” the Nightwatcher in much the same way as Honor adopted the Stormfather.

The windblades seem to be associated with the various cities with cymatic formations, and there’s been in-book speculation that they are the original Dawncities, created by the Dawnsingers. (Kholinar, Akinah, Vedenar, and Thaylen City are the examples provided by Kabsal; there’s a possibility that Sesemalex Dar is also one such.) This makes a lot of sense, in that sound is an essential part of cymatics. Urithiru, on the other hand, doesn’t fit the cymatic construction, so I think it has to have been made differently—but that’s not to say that one didn’t inspire the other. (IMO, Urithiru would have been inspired by the Dawncities.) If this is correct—that the Dawnsingers formed the Dawncities using cymatics and large quantities of Investiture—it seems probable that the Old Magic would be involved. But… what is the Old Magic, anyway?

If the Dawncities were made before the arrival of Honor and Cultivation, it seems reasonable to think that the Great Spren were involved—and I’m assuming that the three Great Spren represent the storms (atmosphere of the planet), life (growing things on the planet), and the continent (rock, mountains, what-have-you landforms of the planet). The three could have worked in harmony with the Dawnsingers (a.k.a. the parsh, a.k.a. the Singers) to create these beautiful rock formations which also protect them from the highstorms. It’s quite possible that the Nightwatcher is simply the only one of the Great Spren which remains associated in the minds of humans with the magic that came before the Shards arrived—that is, the inherent magic of Adonalsium when he formed the planet, now referred to as the Old Magic.

Alternatively, the Dawncities could have been created after the arrival of the Shards, based on their greater knowledge. There’s a strong implication that the Shards had a good relationship with the parsh (and presumably the Aimians) for many years (likely centuries or millennia) before they welcomed the humans fleeing Ashyn. If the cymatic works were done by the Shards instead of with the Great Spren, much of the same dynamic might still apply, except that over time, the Old Magic came to mean Cultivation rather than the Nightwatcher/Adonalsium’s magic.

There are a couple primary supports for this idea, and I’m probably going to miss some other hints. The Alethi think of Cultivation as “pagan superstition”—though we know she’s a Shard and every bit as real and powerful as Honor ever was—only worshipped by those silly heathens to the West. They also think of the Old Magic as pagan (though not as superstition, since they go to the Nightwatcher shockingly often). It’s possible that, since Honor holds the place of “Almighty” in Vorinism, tradition somehow morphed into viewing Cultivation as a sort of opposing deity and then into dismissal as superstition.

Initially, though, it seems humans knew about both Shards, so it’s feasible that over the years, understanding simply shifted so that Honor was the “known” deity, and the other power was… well, not forgotten, but relegated to obscurity. It seems likely that, since the Heralds were associated with Honor more than with Cultivation, he was the one who took the more active role while she stepped back and was simply less visible. (It’s also possible that this was done deliberately by the two Shards, in an effort to shield her from Odium’s… odium.)

Does this prove anything? Not really. It’s my personal opinion that the Dawncities were created by the Shards working through the Great Spren and the Singers, but I can’t prove it. As for Urithiru, my theory is that it was formed centuries or millennia later, formed specifically for the Knights Radiant, with the Shards and the same Great Spren involved but this time working through a team of Radiants and their Surges.

The fact that both the windblades and the tower have strata that take strange forms is, I think, an indication that both were artificially formed. So far, however, we have no indication that the windblades have any kind of active function in the way it seems probable that Urithiru would, if only it were powered up. So… those are my best guesses, based on what little we know about any of these subjects!

Cosmere Connections

…But where had it taken them?

Azure looked up at the sky. “Damnation,” she said softly. “I hate this place.”

AA: Well, if by some chance you missed all the myriad clues along the way, this should tell you there’s something different about Azure. She recognizes Shadesmar, and sounds very much like she’s physically been there before. (She has; we’ll learn more about it later.)

AP: Yes, this is a dead giveaway that she isn’t from around here. I also really want more information about world hopping and where the gateways/perpendicularities are. I’m very eager to get to the cosmere level phase where we see characters going from place to place instead of just showing up unexpectedly on other planets. Bring on the crossovers!

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

Hovering in the air were two enormous spren… thirty feet tall … One was pitch-black in coloring, the other red. … they shifted, one turning eyes down to look at him.

AA: Welp. That would be enough to freak you out, if shifting Realms and almost drowning in beads hadn’t already done the job. Poor Adolin—everything familiar is gone, except the humans with him.

L: Yeah, this is pretty terrifying. It seems as though the size of the spren in the cognitive realm is somewhat indicative of their power, unless I’m very much mistaken. The non-sapient spren are tiny, the sapient ones are human-sized, and the Unmade are HUGE. This doesn’t bode particularly well for trying to destroy them eventually…

AA: Some of the non-sapient ones are pretty big and dangerous on this side, but the Unmade… yeah. I wonder what would happen if they tried to attack an Unmade in both realms at the same time.

AP: Since the Unmade, like other spren, exist in two realms at once, I think it’s likely that they have to be attacked from both realms (physical and cognitive) to be defeated. It’s likely that there are different weaknesses/vulnerabilities that exist in each realm. Perhaps not as opposite as the land/water inversion, but probably equally as significant.

“Oh, this is bad,” someone said nearby. “So very, very bad.”

Adolin looked and found the speaker to be a creature in a stiff black costume, with a robe that seemed—somehow—to be made of stone. In place of its head was a shifting, changing ball of lines, angles, and impossible dimensions.

AA: Not so cute on this side, our Pattern. More like terrifying, if you stop and think about it!

L: I dunno, I always thought that Pattern’s “true” form was pretty damn cool, myself. I can see how the lack of a human face would be disconcerting, but still… cool.

AP: I agree on coolness factor! It’s also a good way to remind folks about the creepy way that cryptics manifest to potential Lightweavers in the physical realm. It would be utterly terrifying to have scribble-headed robed figures showing up out of the corner of your eye.

AA: Cool, absolutely. Cute? Not so much. No renegade Roomba in this realm! Speaking of looking different…

… a young woman with blue-white skin, pale as snow, wearing a filmy dress that rippled in the wind.

AA: Has Adolin seen Syl before? Obviously not lifesize, but it seems he may recognize her here. At least, it seems he’s aware that she and Pattern are spren, because he observes that:

Another spren stood beside her, with ashen brown features that seemed to be made of tight cords, the thickness of hair. She wore ragged clothing, and her eyes had been scratched out, like a canvas someone had taken a knife to.

L: Hello, Maya! I’m really excited to start rereading this part, as her gradual reawakening was one of the coolest parts of the rest of the book for me.

AA: Oh, totally. This was a tremendous revelation, and I love the way it builds through the rest of the book.

AP: I’m also in the Maya fan club! I’m looking forward to her story.

Other Brilliant (‽) Discussion

KiManiak in the comments last week asked if there were any particular of-note conversations during the beta read of part 3.

L: The only one that’s coming to mind immediately is the Kaladin/Adolin/Shallan/Veil “triangle.” Brandon wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to include this or not, so the version we initially read didn’t have Veil mooning over Kal. We were asked for our input at the end of the book, and there was quite a rousing discussion on it, with lots of readers weighing in with opinions all over the place.

AA: Lyndsey, the Master of Understatement! Heh. That was a rousing discussion to say the least. The funny part (to me) was how several of us who were vehemently anti-love-triangle changed our position on it, given the proposed resolution. I’m sure it doesn’t make everyone happy, but IMO it works so well with Shallan’s personality-dissociation to have one personality attracted to Kaladin and another to Adolin. (And Radiant trying to be all logical and weigh the advantages of each made me laugh!)

Anyway, IIRC Brandon beefed up the Veil/Kaladin attraction a little, which we’ve already seen happening, and made it a smidge clearer that it was Veil, not Shallan, who was drooling over him. (I am personally always amazed at how much difference he can make with just a few words here and there!)

AP: I was on the other side of this. I hate love triangles in general. I think they are overdone, and rarely is there a new aspect to it. I’m a huge horror/thriller fan, especially crime dramas and the “multiple personalities made me do it” trope is a huge one there. I would have preferred a non-romantic reason for Veil to prefer Kaladin’s company, like that they are of a similar social class, or comrades in arms. She isn’t a soldier, but she is a spy, and is more practically minded. What I think it does accomplish is highlighting the dysfunction that Shallan is experiencing with her constructed personas. I use Dissociative Identity Disorder to describe Shallan’s mental state. It’s not really that, but it’s adjacent. There are a lot of features in common, and she is losing conscious control over her initial constructs. You can see this in particular when she starts to argue with “herself” as Shallan/Veil/Radiant. In that sense, having Veil prefer Kaladin to Adolin is a good indicator of this progression.

AA: There was also a great debate about whether or not Elhokar was really dead. It pretty much came down to “no sword, no dead” vs. “somebody has to stay dead.” Oh, and I just went back and reviewed the beta comments for the end of Chapter 86… Talk about weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! So many comments, SO MAD AT MOASH. “Wait, did he just kick a toddler??”

AP: He nudged him out of the way! Unlike Dalinar, who murdered the whole family at the Rift. Ahem…I’m getting off track. Yeah, I totally lobbied for “characters who are dead stay dead”. Because after Jasnah, loads of folks would be expecting a miraculous save if it wasn’t reallyreallreally clear that Elhokar was really most sincerely dead.

AA: IIRC, in the final version, Sanderson made sure to include the appearance of Sunraiser to eliminate the question. Also, he confirmed it the first chance he got. Poor Elhokar.

 

Next week will be the Big Book-So-Far Recap. If there are things you still want us to address, leave them in the comments! We’ll go over Questions That Haven’t Been Answered, Interesting TidBits to Note, and Major Themes.

Alice is back from her vacation in Montana, and—naturally—up to her ears in the resultant laundry. Oh, special. But she’ll be off again soon.

Lyndsey is going right from being cast in one Renn Faire directly into fight rehearsals for another. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

Aubree has returned from her worldhopping ways. Like Hoid, she comes and goes as she pleases and shows up when you least expect it.

 

Footnotes

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