Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread! This week we’ll be hunting rats on the Herdazian border, then storming around the edges of Kholinar, as we cover the last two interludes in the third section before diving back into the main story next week.
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.
WHO: Sheler; Venli
WHERE: Herdazian border; near Kholinar
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11 (same day as Chapter 74, when Shallan was invited to the Revel); 118.104.22.168
Sheler, a commander formerly in Amaram’s army, is captured by a force of Herdazians and given a choice of how he should die.
Venli has arrived outside of Kholinar, but isn’t allowed in. She’s kept outside, giving her “sermons” to dozens of groups of singers a day. She spends some time chatting with Timbre before Odium arrives with the Everstorm to tell her that she’s not doing a good enough job.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
AA: Sheler, a (former?) commander in the Sadeas princedom army, is the POV character.
Venli had schemed to return their gods.
This was her reward.
AA: Turns out to not be quite what she’d hoped…
Nalan (Judge, Skybreakers, Just/Confident) and Talenel (Soldier, Stonewards, Dependable/Resourceful)
AA: This doesn’t seem too challenging: You have military justice (if of a somewhat rough-and-ready form) being served on a real scum of a military commander. I hesitate to dignify Sheler with the title of “soldier,” although the Herdazian general and all his men certainly qualify. Sheler is a heel.
AP: I think the Herdazian general shows particular resourcefulness here!
AA: He does. For a guy with a very small role, I really like him!
Kalak (Maker, Willshapers, Resolute/Builder)
AA: AAAAAAHHHHHH!!! It just registered… Timbre pulses to Resolve a lot. Does this sound like the divine attributes of anyone? Oh, I’m slow some days. But I’m glad to have finally made that connection. If we needed more hints that Timbre is a Willshaper-spren, this is another!
L: Good call!
Double Eye of the Almighty, which is the general icon for Interludes
The Singer represents Venli’s novella Interludes
AA: Let me just say up front that no, Evi’s brother Toh does not make an appearance in this Interlude, despite having taken up residence on the coast of Herdaz. I don’t recall where, but I recently saw someone insisting that he was… the Herdazian general, I think? So I thought I’d address the possibility. He can’t be the Herdazian, because “dark brown skin the color of weathered stone” and “ridiculous little man” don’t exactly match “the tall, blond-haired Westerner.” As for Sheler, he’s Alethi if he’s “cousin to the highlord himself!” (Amaram, I guess?) Also, just in case you missed it, Sheler was the commander of the company which had the squad made of messenger boys—the commander who gave Varth three untrained boys, including Tien, as “soldiers.” Since they were really not useful in fighting, Varth used them as a distraction for the opposing soldiers while his own experienced men regrouped.
AP: Given Toh and Evi’s attitudes toward violence, I wouldn’t expect him to be hanging around with the soldiers anyway. And yes, it seems to be Amaram‘s cousin. Though, do we actually know how many highlords there are per Princedom?
AA: No, we don’t. Probably several, at minimum. I assumed Amaram because he served under Amaram in the much-earlier fighting during Kaladin’s flashbacks.
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, Excitement, Amusement, Irritation, Resolve
ADDED: Annoyance, Remembrance
For the Voidbringers, we’ve got: Rhythm of the Terrors, Craving, Command, Fury, Satisfaction, Derision, Spite, Abashment, Destruction, Agony, Conceit, Ridicule, Subservience
“I’m the wrong one,” Venli said to Annoyance.
L: I find it reeeeaaaally interesting how she unconsciously reverts back to the old Rhythms when she’s talking to Timbre.
AA: There are so many places where you can see Timbre’s influence on her, especially in this chapter. It makes me wonder whether the sapient spren were already around before the conflict began; they seem to resonate so well.
AP: I think that is an early hint that there was a process for the natives of Roshar to bond spren prior to the humans (and Odium) arriving. The one in her gemheart (not exactly a Voidspren like the Fused have, but something else?) obviously pulses to the voidbringer rhythms. Odium, the latecomer to Roshar, has spren that behave in a similar but twisted way to the native spren of Cultivation and Honor. Did he just copy them? Corrupt then? I need more lore!
Venli eventually dropped onto a hard surface. She hummed to Destruction and opened her eyes, finding herself standing on a platform hanging high in the sky, far above Roshar, which was a blue and brown globe below. Behind her was a deep, black nothingness marred only by a tiny blip that could have been a single star.
L: Only one “star?” Interesting that in this vision Odium sends, he doesn’t include the rest of the solar system/Cosmere. Maybe because he thinks of himself as the most important thing in it, so why bother showing anything extraneous?
AA: Hmm. I wasn’t (originally) thinking of it in terms of Odium sending the vision, but of course he is. I assume the “star” is Braize, right? I suppose for purposes of the vision, he is the only thing that matters… he and his prison.
Also, this “conversation” is deeply disturbing. Venli’s reward for working to return their gods is essentially the pain and torture of Damnation, at least in this moment. Congratulations, child, you get to feel what they felt? Yikes. Odium is not a gentle master.
Bruised & Broken
How long will you keep being two people, Venli? She seemed to hear Eshonai’s voice. How long will you vacillate?
L: I struggled with whether to put this here or in Relationships & Romances, but I think for the purposes of this conversation it belongs here. Is Venli really hearing this voice, or is it all in her head? I honestly tend to think the former. If the Fused can reincarnate themselves, why not Eshonai? What if it’s something inherent to their species?
AA: That would be kind of cool, all right. I go with the latter, myself, though. I think she’s either remembering a conversation, or thinking of what her sister would say based on their past interactions. It certainly seems that for much of the first part of her novella, she thinks of Eshonai almost like our concept of “her better angel” or something—her conscience, the part of her that knows what she’s been doing is a really bad idea in the bigger picture.
AP: I would love to see Eshonai be reincarnated! I do wonder what that process is like though. Obviously not every Listener becomes a Fused soul that gets sent back over and over. Or do they? Does Odium get to choose directly? I would guess not, or he would eliminate the useless/insane ones.
AA: I could be wrong, but I think Brandon already quashed the idea of Eshonai returning in any way. I would like to know how the ancestors who repeatedly return were chosen, but I do have a strong impression that it was kind of a one-off—there aren’t new individuals being added to the group.
“I can’t do it,” she whispered to Derision. “You’ve got the wrong sister.”
The wrong sister had died. The wrong sister had lived.
L: Man, talk about your redemption arcs. Venli’s got a looooong climb ahead of her, but I am really excited to see it happen.
AA: Indeed. Once again, Sanderson is taking a character I loved to hate, making her sympathetic, and holding out hope for a fantastic redemption story. I was pretty shocked when he did that with Bluth, and even more with Gaz.
L: For what it’s worth, I’m still on the fence with Gaz. I don’t hate him like I do Moash, but I sure don’t like him either. I don’t see that he’s done much to deserve a redemptive arc yet, but… the story is far from over.
AA: Well, not many of them “deserve” a redemption arc; that’s why they need redemption. I’m not sure what he’s doing with Gaz, yet, but there’s at least that hope that redemption may not only be possible, but desirable. For me, so far, Sanderson has not yet taken step two with Moash. I still find him completely non-sympathetic—which is kind of astounding, considering how much I loathed Venli in Words of Radiance.
AP: Moash isn’t meant to be liked or sympathetic yet. He just had his super bad guy moment. I also don’t know that he needs a redemption arc per se. I want to see him become a sympathetic/complex antagonist for Kaladin. I think that would be a more interesting direction overall. I also don’t forgive Gaz, and don’t find him to be redeemed at all. He is such a heinous character to me.
A form changes the way you think, Venli. … Control the form, don’t let it control you.
But then, Eshonai had been exemplary. A general and a hero. Eshonai had done her duty.
All Venli had ever wanted was power.
AA: This is why I detested her so much in Words of Radiance, and I think her acknowledgement of it here is part of why I’ve come to cheer for her. Self-awareness, and particularly awareness of one’s own faults, is a thing I appreciate.
AP: On the other hand, I love Venli’s arc so far. The understanding and then rejection of her current position. The change in attitude from extreme self-centeredness to a desire to help her people. I’m in for it. I love that Eshonai’s influence extends beyond the grave.
Places & Peoples
“You have three choices,” the Herdazian general said.
AA: Woo Herdazians! The criminal gets to choose his own sentence‽ Within limits…
“First, you can choose the sword. … We’ll give the sword to the women you abused. Each gets a hack, one after another. How long it goes on will depend on them.”
AA: Whew! Brutal. Sounds well-deserved, but still brutal. I’m a little shocked with myself for thinking this is a good idea, but they did catch him in the act. It’s not like they maybe got the wrong person or something.
L: He deserves these options. What a pig.
AP: Agreed. And fitting comment Lyndsey, considering his crime and fate…
“Second option … is the hammer. We break your legs and arms, then hang you from the cliff by the ocean. You might last until the storm that way, but it will be miserable.”
AA: I wonder how they do the hanging. If it’s by arms and legs, or wrists and ankles/feet, broken legs would insure that he suffocates within a few hours at most. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.
“… But there’s a third option: the hog. … It lives down by the shore. … We grease you, and you wrestle the hog. It’s fun for the men to watch. They need sport now and then.”
AA: Okay then…
Obviously, the Herdazian general was too frightened to actually /kill/ an Alethi officer. So they would humiliate him by making him wrestle a pig. They’d have a good laugh, then send him away smarting.
AA: Sheler is really thick, isn’t he? Given the first two choices—having your head cut off with a butter knife, or hanging on a cliff with all your limbs broken—he really thinks the third choice would be mere humiliation? Then again, he doesn’t seem to think he’s actually done anything very bad; I mean, they’re just dark-eyed Herdazians he’s been robbing, raping, and murdering. That isn’t all that awful, is it? Riiiiight.
L: He vastly underestimates them because of his own prejudices. What a moron.
AP: I also like the not so subtle push by the general to get him to choose this option by saying that he did it before.
“I’d say ‘good luck,’ boss,” the Herdazian soldier told Sheler… “but I’ve got three marks on you not lasting a full minute…”
… The soldier dashed back up the bank, leaving Sheler locked in place, doused in pungent oil, and gaping as an enormous claw broke the surface of the ocean.
Perhaps “the hog” was more of a nickname.
AA: Ya think?
As noted before, Herdazian military justice is nothing if not direct. But a man who uses his military training (assuming he had no soldiers under his command at this point) to prey on civilians in that way… IMO, he’s forfeited his rights to any better treatment. My only problem with the hog is that it seems too quick, but I expect the anticipation as it comes up out of the water is worth a good bit. Never forget, terror is also a form of communication.
L: Hey, you never know. Maybe it will eat him slowly while he’s still alive! One can hope.
AA: I could get on board with that.
L: Or swallow him whole and let its digestive juices slowly eat away at him. (Can you tell which of us is the horror fan, here?)
AP: I mean, they did add that whole bucket of oil so he goes down easy. (Also a horror fan…)
AA: Yeah, I’ll freely admit that your imaginations are much more developed in these areas! I’m… not a horror fan.
She wasn’t allowed into Kholinar herself. They kept her sequestered in this stormshelter outside, which they called the hermitage.
L: Hmm. I wonder why… Keeping her outside of the city seems a bit counter-productive. Is there something they don’t want her to see? Or is it just that they want to keep her isolated, not able to form any sort of meaningful connection with any of the other singers?
AA: I wondered about that as well. I suspect the latter; for whatever purposes, they want to keep her from any relationships. It’s also possible they fear that there might be other Listeners she would recognize—people too afraid of them to contradict the story outright, but who would mess up Venli’s obedience if she saw them.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
Timbre pulsed to Peace. Upon hearing that, something stirred deep within Venli: the Voidspren that occupied her gemheart. That spren couldn’t think, not like Ulim or the higher Voidspren. It was a thing of emotions and animal instincts, but the bond with it granted Venli her form of power.
L: I find it really interesting that these are non-sapient spren. It makes sense that they can be bonded to singers whereas humans lack the capacity—singers have gemhearts in which to contain the spren, when humans do not.
AA: I appreciated that clarification. These are emotionspren, like angerspren or fearspren, rather than the sapient ones, either Void or Nahel. (Now I wonder if the higher Voidspren like Ulim can form bonds—and what happens if they do!)
L: Are there specific emotionspren that are tied to the Void powers, I wonder? I’d assume that it would have to be the ones that are more commonly associated with the Singer Rhythms, harsher, more negative emotions.
AA: We’re in theory territory here, but my supposition is that specific emotions create specific forms, and that certain forms are more readily manipulated by Odium. I have… yeah, zero evidence for that. It just makes sense to me. An alternate theory could be that emotion spren create Void-friendly forms, while activity spren create non-Void forms, or something like that. E.g. angerspren or passionspren might create a Void form, but creationspren or logicspren would facilitate a non-Void form. Meh. It sounds plausible, maybe?
L: Also… it’s not addressed exactly what emotion the Voidspren is displaying, here. It’s described as “stirring,” but does that mean that it was upset by the old Rhythm of Peace? Or did it perhaps like it?
AA: Good question. Either one seems possible, though I’ve always assumed a conflict between the two sets of rhythms. A little later, when the Everstorm is approaching, the gemheart-spren gets pretty excited about it—it “leaped to feel it.” So my guess is that it recognizes Peace as something foreign to it, at least.
AP: I think these are something different than the “regular” emotionspren. I mentioned above that they pulse to the “new” void rhythms, not the native Rosharan rhythms. I think they are of Odium, but whether created or corrupted, I dunno!
AA: I do hope we get more information on this—and I think it’s probable, given the focus of the next book.
On a side note, I can’t help remembering back in Words of Radiance, after Eshonai accepted the stormform—every time she tried to attune Peace to calm herself, she could hear “herself” screaming in her head, which seems to have been Timbre. Now we have Timbre attuning Peace almost as much as Resolve. Interesting indeed.
Timbre suddenly pulsed with a flash of light, and zipped away under the bed, terrified.
“Ah,” Venli said to Mourning, looking past the city at the sudden darkening of the sky. The Everstorm.
L: Timbre is scared of the Everstorm… I wonder if it’s just because it remembers what happened when Eshonai and the others got Stormform, or if most of the sapient spren are afraid of it. I don’t recall Syl or Pattern being scared of the Everstorm…
AA: IIRC, Syl was worried about the stormspren, but she saw them in the highstorm. Wyndle was more worried about being used as a weapon than he was about the Everstorm. I’d go with remembering what happened to Eshonai, and her vulnerability since she’s not even bonded to Venli yet.
Also, Venli responds to the Everstorm with mourning? That’s… cool.
AP: Well, we know that the Fused are on the lookout for spren like Timbre. Maybe she recognizes the storm as a way that she could be “seen” and then caught?
Those monsters insisted her people were gone, and rebuffed her questions about the thousands of listeners who had survived the Battle of Narak.
L: Theory: They’re still alive and this is where Rlain vanished off to during the course of this book. He’s gone to find them and bring them back around.
AA: I agree with this theory. There should be two groups—or at least I hope there are. There’s the group of those who refused stormform and escaped into the chasms before they were executed; we’ve heard nothing at all about them, and Brandon has so far refused to answer questions about them. There’s the other group, the one Venli is thinking of, who were stormforms during the battle and escaped the clashing storms. She was with them for a time, before she and a few others were taken to be “honored” with Fused takeovers. Now Venli is—rightly—worried that all of her friends have been conscripted for Fused. While you could sort of say they had it coming, I find myself hoping for redemption for more than just Venli.
I kind of hope Rlain finds the first group, but I wouldn’t mind if he found the second group and restored them, too. I just hope, between the two groups, there will be some who resist the Voidforms.
- She didn’t close the window. He didn’t like that.
AA: I wonder if Sanderson intended this to sound as “abuse victim” as it does…
- You are mine. Remember this.
Stay tuned to the same storm-channel at the same storm-time next week, when we’ll be covering Chapter 88, in which Dalinar makes a new friend.
Alice is (hopefully) done travelling for the summer, but life doesn’t slow down. LaserQuest upcoming!
Lyndsey is heading to a small anime convention in Massachusetts this weekend, where she’ll be competing in the masquerade and participating in the Cosplay Death Match (hopefully not against The Hog). If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.
Aubree is attuning the Rhythm of Peace to avoid stress from work deadlines! It mostly sounds like Enya.