Well, now that we’re done recapping Parts 1-3, we’re excited to dive back into the story proper! This week we’ll be covering the first three interlude chapters of this section. We’ll spend most of our time with Venli, with a brief stop to see how laundry is best done. Thrilling, I know. It’s worthwhile to note that, though we’re all super excited about the reading Sanderson did at SDCC, we will not be discussing it or any aspects of it here in the reread (and we ask that you don’t in the comments, either). Many readers enjoy going into the next book of the series entirely blind, and we wouldn’t want to spoil anything for them. So please be considerate and keep your comments about unreleased material to the Tor postings specifically regarding them!
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.
In this week’s reread we also mention some things from Aether of Night in the Cosmere Connections section, but since we can’t remember much, we didn’t discuss it much. Still, if you haven’t read it, you may wish to give that section a pass.
WHO: Venli and Mem
WHERE: A small town outside Kholinar, Vedenar, Kholinar
WHEN: While Venli’s sections happen chronologically (the day after the fall of Kholinar, 1126.96.36.199), Mem’s chapter actually happens much earlier, at 1188.8.131.52—a few days after Ishnah starts training Gaz and Shallan’s other squires as spies.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
L: Venli is engaging in her duties as an envoy primarily in this chapter, hence… the title.
L: As with most minor character interludes, the chapter title here is simply the character’s name. However, it’s fun to note that this is a tuckerization of one of Sanderson’s employees and friends—her official title is “Minion of All Things Spectacular!” She does most of the customer service email and trains the other minions. She enjoys throwing henchmen into the on-site volcano when things aren’t done right. She runs the booths at conventions and can always be found helping at local events. She is known for her blue hair and witty comments. She has worked for Dragonsteel for almost six years. She was the first minion hired and loves her job! (So far as I know, though, she isn’t super hung up on laundry.)
True Labor Begins
“Child, you haven’t even begun. Those little villages were practice. Today, your true labor begins.”
Vedeledev (Vedel), Loving/ Healing. Edgedancers. Role: Healer
Kalak, aka Kelek. Resolute/Builder. Willshapers. Role: Maker
A: I’m having a hard time figuring out why Vedel is here; the best I can guess is that she represents the healing of the former parshmen to become Singers. Kalak, on the other hand, is most likely a hint at the nature of the little spren who secretly travels with Venli.
Chach, aka Chanarach (Chana). Brave/Obedient. Dustbringers. Role: Guard
Shalash (Ash), Creative/Honest. Herald of Beauty. Lightweavers.Role: Artist.
L: It’s pretty obvious why Ash is here, as she’s actually physically here in this chapter, destroying more likenesses of herself. As for Chach… I’d venture a guess that it’s because Mem seems to pretty obedient.
A: You could stretch it to say that Mem also guards Mraize’s image, the way she cares so thoroughly for his clothing. On the other hand, it’s been speculated that Ash will become a Dustbringer herself, so… maybe it’s another hint!
Jezrien, Herald of Kings. Windrunners. Protecting/Leading. Role: King.
L: This chapter is so short that I don’t really know what we’re to make of Jezrien being the main Herald. Maybe because the Singers are going to have to begin the task of leading all of these people, both listener/singer and Alethi, within the walls?
A: Honestly, my best guess is the Windrunning, with the Fused flying their pet Regal to Kholinar. It could also be a reminder of the fact that Jezrien lives in Kholinar, and they’re liable to run up against him soon.
The Singer always (so far) indicates Venli’s POV, so that is the obvious signature for Interludes 7 and 9.
The Double Eye of the Almighty is the generic Interlude icon, and is used everywhere that something more significant is not needed.
Stories & Songs
Time to add to our running tally of Listener Rhythms—Curiosity, Awe, Peace, Pleading, Skepticism, Appreciation, Anxiety, Consolation, Praise, Reprimand, Mourning, Lost, Longing.
ADDED: Excitement, Amusement, Irritation, Resolve
For the Voidbringers, we’ve got: Rhythm of the Terrors, Craving, Command, Fury, Satisfaction, Derision, Spite, Abashment, Destruction, Agony
ADDED: Conceit, Ridicule, Subservience
At least her new form—envoyform—was tall, the tallest she’d ever worn. It was a form of power, and brought strange abilities, primarily the ability to speak and understand all languages.
L: Well, that’s handy. Especially if you’re acting as an envoy!
A: It seems to share a Surge with Bondsmiths, using Adhesion on a Cognitive (or is it Spiritual?) level to form Connection and speak other languages. (I find it interesting to see the overlap between the Fused/Regal powers and those of the Knights Radiant, like the Windrunning effect of some Fused, which we’ve been seeing since the end of Part One, or this Connection.)
AP: It’s also interesting to note that this form is very tall, which would also be useful for an envoy. Much easier to persuade a crowd when they can see you!
The people gathered around the wagon bore thick lines of marbling—of red and either black and white. Venli’s own white and red was far more delicate, with intricate swirls.
L: I always like seeing the differences in the marbling of the skin of the parsh/Singers!
AP: I agree! I keep trying to find significance to particular patterns and color combos, but I don’t have anything yet. It is interesting that it seems that Venli’s own pattern may have shifted with this form, becoming more delicate and intricate. This surprises me because I had thought of the patterns as a “fingerprint” that was unique to each singer and allowed for recognition when switching among forms. How much of a change is this from her prior marbling?
The listeners were to be the foundation myth of his growing empire: the last of the old generation, who had fought bravely against the Alethi, then sacrificed themselves to free their enslaved brothers and sisters.
L: It’s a very compelling and heroic tale, for sure.
A: Interesting that Venli acknowledges (if only to herself) that it’s mostly a lie. Or, “it’s the version Odium instructed her to tell”—which amounts to the same thing.
AP: PR specialists would call that “spin”. ;)
Hauntingly, the narrative said that Venli’s people were now extinct, save herself.
L: Truth, or just another of Odium’s lies?
A: Hmmm. As I recall, we don’t actually know what happened to the remainder of Venli’s stormforms—how many actually survived Narak, and how many still survive. We know some were taken over by Fused… but we only know of eight. The other thing we don’t know, and I hope we learn in the next book, is what happened to Thude, Venli’s mother, and the rest of the Listeners who refused stormform. I really want them to have survived…
AP: Unknown! This may be what Venli actually believes, but we have no evidence one way or the other.
We had named ourselves listeners because of the songs we heard. These are your heritage, but you are not to merely listen, but sing.
L: And so a new “nation” is named.
A: Interestingly enough, Venli refers to “the songs we heard”—but those songs were also what she now contemptuously refers to as the old, inferior rhythms, and in her Interludes so far, she’s had trouble even remembering the old rhythms. That begins to change in this chapter, I think.
AP: I wonder what effect it will have to have groups attuned to two separate varieties of rhythms? I expect this to have ramifications down the road.
She’d learned there were three levels in the hierarchy of Odium’s people. There were these common singers, who wore the ordinary forms Venli’s people had used. Then there were those called Regals, like herself, who were distinguished by forms of power—created by bonding one of several varieties of Voidspren. At the top were the Fused—thought she had trouble placing spren like Ulim and the others. They obviously outranked the common singers, but what of the Regals?
L: This is particularly interesting to note considering Sanderson’s latest reading at San Diego Comic Con, but we won’t be discussing that in depth here in case you want to avoid spoilers.
Her people had spent generations struggling to discover new forms, and here these people were given a dozen different options? How could they value that gift without knowing the struggle?
L: This is a pretty poignant question, and one that’s been asked by older generations throughout time. How can we truly appreciate smartphones for instance, without knowing the struggle of early computers? (To put a more geeky slant on it, these kids these days with their Overwatch and Minecraft don’t know how good they have it! They never had to play Atari!)
A: I think it goes a lot deeper than smartphones and computers, though. We saw only a little of their struggle in Words of Radiance, where everyone was taking their turn trying to make some sort of art in the hope of attracting creationspren. Eshonai told us they had spent many, many years in dullform, avoiding any forms that might get the attention of the Unmade. It’s better than slaveform, but not by a lot. There were no brilliant scientists or philosophers or anything else; they barely had enough mental capacity to do more than survive on their own.
After many years—we don’t know how many—they finally regained mateform and workform, and then, through more generations of searching, they added nimbleform and eventually warform. Each new spren they were able to attract was a result of hundreds of people trying to attract the right kind of spren to form a new bond. No wonder she’s frustrated—her people tried for hundreds of years to find these spren, and now they’re plentiful and easy for the singers to attract and bond.
Perhaps she should be happy for them, but that kind of selflessness is not (yet) part of Venli’s personality.
AP: It also highlights the difference between Eshonai and Venli. The former was dedicated to finding new forms to help her people, and would have been happy for them to see those efforts succeed. The latter is thinking of herself and what benefit she personally gains from these forms. Venli resents others receiving a benefit they didn’t “earn”.
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
Two of them stood in a doorway Mem passed, a man and woman speaking quietly. Both wore swords, and though they didn’t interrupt their conversation as the washerwomen passed, they watched.
L: Really curious about these two. Are they people we know already? Worldhoppers? Who knows?!
A: Gah. We have no way of knowing—which drives me nuts! We just don’t know very many of the Ghostbloods, and there’s no description of these two. I guess that means they don’t matter much except to let us know that there are a number of them here.
“Finally! The masterpiece of the Oilsworn was all it took, was it? Excellent!” Mraize stuffed out the confused guards, then pulled the door shut. He didn’t even seem to notice Mem.
“Ancient One, would you care for something to drink?”
“I know where Talenelat is,” Mraize said.
“Yes… let’s have that drink, shall we?” Mraize asked. “My babsk has been eager to speak with you.”
L: So many questions here, but I’ll start with… who the heck is Mraize’s babsk? (Which, reminder, is a word similar to “teacher.”)
A: Back in Words of Radiance Iyatil claims that Mraize is her student, and I don’t know anything to contradict that. For the time being, at least, I think we can accept that she is the aforementioned babsk, though I don’t know why she might be so eager to talk to Ash.
L: As a reminder… Do we know where Talenelat is, at this moment? Last we saw of him he’d vanished from Dalinar’s care, right?
A: That’s correct. At the end of Words of Radiance, we saw Amaram hustling Taln into a coach, after smuggling him out of the monastery in Dalinar’s warcamp through a Shardblade-cut hole in the back wall. It also appeared that the Ghostbloods weren’t best pleased, since Iyatil was busy shooting darts at Amaram… though that might just be personal, and not related to Taln.
L: And who could blame her, really.
A: Exactly my thought.
L: So, now we’re left with the question of how the Ghostbloods figured out where Taln was, since they and Amaram (who, reminder, is affiliated with the Sons of Honor) certainly aren’t on the best of terms. I suspect this is a mystery that will either be answered at a later date or not at all.
A: A little research tells me that when Ash finds Taln (much later in the book), he’s in the camp used by Amaram’s army while they were helping to rebuild Thaylen City.
L: Right, but my question was how the Ghostbloods found out where Amaram was keeping him, savvy? I suspect it’s just your plain standard espionage.
A: Well, since Iyatil saw Amaram absconding with Taln, the first place to look would always be “wherever Amaram is,” I’d guess.
L: Which really makes Amaram even more stupid, doesn’t it? Ugh. I despise him. Though in this case I guess I’d rather that Mraize have poor Taln than Amaram…
A: As much as I don’t trust Mraize, he seems to be marginally better stuff than Amaram, anyway! In Part One, Mraize was working “for” Ialai as a guard, trying to figure out what Sadeas was up to. He might even have seen Taln in Urithiru. That’s a bizarre thought.
L: So what, exactly, are the Ghostbloods up to here? Their primary objective is hunting information on the Desolations, right? Well… now they’ve got Ash, one of the Heralds, who presumably has more information about the Desolations than anyone other than another Herald. Why bother siccing her on Taln? Why not question her on everything they need to know? They must have another motive.
A: I am so baffled by the Ghostbloods sometimes. I don’t know what they’re up to, but it seems to involve the Heralds. Ash, while certainly a nutcase, seems to be slightly more sane—or at least coherent—than either Taln or Jezrien. Nale is coherent, though his moral compass seems to have gone ‘round the twist, and Ishar is having delusions of godhood. Whatever the Ghostbloods are up to, it seems that maybe the ability to communicate with Taln is a big part of their need, so Ash might be their best means to that end. Are they trying to reestablish the Oathpact? Or trying to figure out how it relates to whatever is keeping Odium contained? Here’s an alternate scary thought: What if the Ghostbloods are all about trying to free Odium, and they’re going about it by methodically trying to determine how he’s bound so they can undo it?
Flora & Fauna
“How can they bond spren, Ancient One?” she asked to Subservience. “Humans don’t… you know…”
“So timid,” he said to Ridicule. “Why is mentioning gemhearts so difficult?”
“They are sacred and personal.” Listener gemhearts were not gaudy or ostentatious, like those of greatshells. Clouded white, almost the color of bone, they were beautiful, intimate things.
L: This is really cool. I wonder if greatshells could bond spren as well?
A: My assumption is that they do, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect since they aren’t sapient. (Or… are they?) Sanderson has said that the enormous creatures can only exist because of a symbiosis with spren, which sounds a lot like a bond IMO!
Places & Peoples
Whenever she encountered things like this, she had to remind herself forcefully that the Alethi being technologically superior did not make them culturally superior.
L: Very true. Though I wonder what, in Venli’s mind, constitutes cultural superiority? Art? Tradition? Ethics?
A: I’m betting she doesn’t have a definition—she just doesn’t want to think of herself as inferior! I’m reasonably sure that the ancient Singers had a vibrant culture that may well have been superior to the human culture in some ways, no matter how you define cultural superiority. At the moment, however, they have virtually no culture at all; they’re rebuilding it from the ground up. But to contradict myself a little, she does think that the creation of beautiful art is worth a lot.
AP: It’s a squishy area to declare one culture superior to another. Different cultures have different core values, and while those can come into conflict, it doesn’t always mean one is better or worse than the other. Obviously sometimes they are, like when one suggests “exterminate all humans.” But values like work/leisure balance are morally neutral. What she is facing here is the effective extinction of the listener culture. As the only remaining listener (that she knows of), it’s up to her to attempt to pass on the culture. Which she does slightly later when instructing the Alethi listener, who has completely adopted the human Alethi culture, down to the impractical dress!
Could they really exterminate the people who had created such beautiful and delicate swirls in the glass?
A: The Fused just told her that their people will never be safe on Roshar so long as humans exist, and therefore the humans must all be destroyed. While she has no way of knowing what creativity her own people may eventually be capable of—or were, in the past—something in her recognizes beauty, and instinctively respects the person and the culture capable of creating it.
But did they know how to relax the fibers of a stubborn seasilk dress by returning it to a warm brine, then restore its natural softness by rinsing it and brushing with the grain?
A: This is a fun little world-building interjection. I can’t help wondering what seasilk is made from, and I love the idea that returning it to salt water is part of caring for the fabric.
AP: Some sort of fibrous sea plant, I would assume. Makes me want to figure out what a real world equivalent could be!
Stone buildings and reinforced towers. Marvels and wonders. … Now, smoke rose in patches throughout the city, and many of the guard towers had been shattered. The city gates lay broken. Kholinar, it seemed, had been conquered.
A: Because we needed the reminder…
“It… shocked us when it first happened,” Rine eventually said. “Humans don’t have gemhearts. How could they bond spren? It was unnatural. Yet somehow, their bond was more powerful than ours.”
L: My crackpot theory is that this has to do with the friendships/partnerships the humans are making with their spren. While the Singers are trapping them and using their powers, the humans are forming more of an equal partnership. It makes sense that the spren would be giving them more power if they’re not fighting against being constrained. However… like I said, crackpot theory. Ulim doesn’t seem too upset about his kind being trapped in gemhearts, so I might be way off.
A: As I understand it—and I may well be wrong—the spren aren’t trapped in gemhearts in quite the same way as they’re trapped in fabrials, but in both cases they are mostly the lesser spren and don’t seem to care. I think that’s for the common Singers, though; when you get to the Regals, the spren might be a higher level. At least, they can grant Surges, so that seems to be different from the “ordinary” spren.
I can see two differences between the Regal bond and the Knight Radiant bond, at this point. One is the sapience of the spren itself: We know the spren “families” that form the Knight Radiant orders are independent beings, at least in the Cognitive Realm, and as far as we know, they are the only truly sapient spren. If that’s the case, the Regals may be bonding lesser spren which give them the ability to control Surges like Gravitation or Connection, though perhaps only one Surge at a time. The other difference, which I can’t help thinking must be significant, is the difference between a gemheart bond and a soul bond. The gemheart is a natural part of the Singer’s body, and the bond may be mostly physical. For a Radiant, the soul itself must be open to a bond, and I think that kind of bond must be stronger and more pervasive of one’s entire being.
Well, I may be completely wrong on this, but I sure hope we learn more! With the next book’s focus on Eshonai and Venli, there’s a good chance.
“Is that my Azish cavalrylord’s suit?”
“You got the aether out of it?”
L: Oooooh interesting! What’s he been up to where he’d come in contact with aether? All I really know about it is from the title of Aether of Night, one of Sanderson’s early (unreleased) books.
A: And all I can remember is that I had trouble wrapping my head around exactly what an aether was. Guess it’s time to go back and read that again, even if it’s not canon!
AP: Thanks for the reminder! I was at a total loss about the reference.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
The little spren rose from where it had been hiding among the light. It looked like a comet when it moved, though sitting still—as it did now—it only glowed like a spark.
It pulsed, sending off a ring of light that dissipated like glowing smoke.
L: Timbre is really adorable. I can’t wait to see what kind of personality it winds up having.
A: She’s certainly a curious one, and also very stubborn. I think I like her.
“Are you one of them?” she asked softly. “The spren that move in the sky some nights?”
A: We have fairly solid hints that Timbre is one of the Reacher spren, the ones who form Willshaper bonds. Now I wonder… are their “cousin” spren the starspren we’ve seen mentioned here and there? I think that would be awesome.
The spren peeked out, then pulsed in a quick blinking succession.
That’s Curiosity, she thought, recognizing the rhythm.
L: I wonder if Timbre only knows the rhythms because it’s spent so much time around Eshonai and Venli, or if it’s something that all the spren intrinsically know/understand.
A: I’m going with the latter. I think that the spren which belong to Roshar inherently know the rhythms of the world.
AP: I agree, I think they understand the rhythms. It makes me wonder about communication though. Is this unique to Reacher spren? Do Syl and Pattern speak Alethi because their bonded humans do? Is Timbre pulsing to the rhythms instead because Venli is a singer?
She hummed it to herself, then hesitated. Curiosity was an old rhythm. Like … Amusement, which she’d attuned moments ago. She could hear the normal rhythms again.
She looked at the little spren. “Is this your doing?” she demanded to Irritation.It shrank, but pulsed to Resolve.
A: I find this absolutely fascinating. This little spren seems determined to help Venli reconnect with the “normal rhythms”—which is an interesting contrast to the way Venli had just earlier referred to those same rhythms as old and inferior. Somehow, the spren is able to affect Venli in spite of herself, reconnecting her to her home world and overriding (some of) Odium’s influence. The stubborn resolution of this one little spren seems poised to have an enormous effect on the upcoming conflict.
- The end of the world could come, but that would only mean more bloodstains to wash.
The next interlude (Sheler) is quite short, so we’ll be tackling it and Venli’s third one (Her Reward) together next week. As always, join us in the comments below for more discussion and theory-crafting!
Alice is currently hanging out in Montana, again. Family time is good time.
Aubree is trying not to over analyze soap and dye combinations to make real world analogs…but the slugs could totally be related to murex purple…