Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Ninety-Six

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Hey! Hey, listen! (If you want a chuckle, check out Sanderson’s latest tweet about Legend of Zelda.) Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread, for an excursion into international politics. Will the coalition come together, or will it disintegrate into squabbling before it ever accomplishes anything? And what does your choice of seating say about you? All this and more as we join Navani in the council chamber at the top of Urithiru.

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 from other Cosmere works this week. You’re safe!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani

WHERE: Urithiru (Lyn: In the below map, I’ve marked out the various nations represented in the meeting with simple circles to better highlight specifically where everything they’re talking about is, as well as the nations they declare lost to the Voidbringers.)

WHEN: 1174.2.4.1 (Eleven days after Dalinar remembered Evi’s death, three days after hearing that Kholinar has fallen.)

Navani conducts the first meeting of the monarchs of the (potential) coalition against the Voidbringers. There’s a lot of politicking, as well as observations on the various attendees; she finally breaks through the worst of their worries by distributing responsibilities according to strengths, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Beginnings

Title: Pieces of a Fabrial

Heralds

Palah (Paliah). Learned/Giving. Truthwatchers. Role: Scholar

AA: I have to think that the way Navani thinks and studies and directs this meeting is all in the Scholar mentality. She is also learned, a student of human nature… and in this case very giving as well, as she sets aside her own worries for her son so that she can fill in the kind of leadership that Dalinar can’t provide right now.

Icon

Fabrial Gemstone (for a Navani POV)

AA: Woot! It’s a new character icon!! We generally only get these for characters who will have multiple POVs in the book, so we can count on hearing more from Navani. I love that her icon is the gemstone in a fabrial. With her interest in fabrial technology, it’s logical; I also like to pretend that the emphasis on the gemstone rather than the entire fabrial is a reflection of the way she and Dalinar call each other “gemheart”.

Epigraph

Yelig-Nar is said to consume souls, but I can’t find a specific explanation. I’m uncertain this lore is correct.

–From Hessi’s Mythica, page 51

AA: Foreshadowing again, much? Or, I guess, an explanation of what happened to Aesudan. Either way, for all her uncertainty (real or pretend), I believe this is Sanderson telling us what happens when you try to take in Yelig-Nar. If you’re strong-willed enough, you may remain “yourself” longer, but in the end, it consumes not only your body, but your soul as well.

Relationships & Romances

Ever since he’d collapsed after visiting Azir, it seemed that something in Dalinar had snapped. This morning, he had quietly asked her to lead the meeting. She worried, deeply, for what was happening to him. And for Elhokar. And for Kholinar. …

She’d already grieved for a daughter, but then that daughter had returned to her. She had to hope the same for Elhokar—at the very least, so she could keep functioning while Dalinar mourned.

AA: I almost started this with “Poor Navani” – but I don’t think she’d appreciate the sentiment. Yes, Dalinar has almost shut down, and all she’s got is (mostly incorrect) guesses as to why. At the moment she’s telling herself that he’s mourning for his son, nephew, and city—the very things she’s distressed over, naturally.

L: And she’s not entirely wrong, I’m sure that’s a huge weight on his mind as well, just… not the biggest one.

AA: But while she may be frustrated with Dalinar, she seems to be far more focused on making sure their work thus far doesn’t fall apart, no matter what’s going on in his head. Whether it’s a matter of personal ego or the good of the world probably depends on your evaluation of her character, but either way, she is not going to let this slip away.

I do find it disturbing that after two full weeks, Dalinar still hasn’t told her what he remembered. Obviously, he’s got to work through the memory of what exactly he did, what exactly Evi did, and how the truth was twisted afterward, but… why doesn’t he talk to Navani about it? And why doesn’t she ask more questions?

L: I imagine that a big part of him not talking about it is that he’s afraid he’ll lose her if she sees the “true monster” he feels like he is. Currently she sees him much the same way as everyone else does, and taking the chance of someone you love completely changing their outlook towards you is a daunting prospect. As for Navani… if someone’s not willingly opening up about their problems, sometimes the best course of action is to wait until they’re ready to do so rather than forcing a confrontation.

She took his hand in hers, but he stiffened, then stood up. He did that whenever he felt he was growing too relaxed. It was as if he was looking for danger to face.

L: I really love how cognizant of the inner workings of his mind she is. She’s very observant. Even if she doesn’t know what’s going on with him exactly, she recognizes that something’s wrong.

AA: I just wanted to note here, without talking much more about it, how stressful this time is for everyone we care about in Urithiru. Renarin is noted as seeming “terrified that something had happened to his brother,” which is quite reasonable on a personal level, and naturally people are wondering what happened to their king and their Radiants, to say nothing of those they were attempting to rescue. Tension in Urithiru must be high.

L: The worst part of a situation like this is the not knowing. But everyone rallies and continues on, and I have a lot of respect for that.

Bruised & Broken

AA: We don’t get a lot of insight into Dalinar’s condition, other than Navani’s under-informed worry for him, but it’s pretty clear that he’s really struggling to figure out who he really is. There’s the man he thinks he is, or at least that he has grown to be, trying with all his might to keep to the Codes… and then there’s the man he now remembers that he was: the man who would take revenge for a highlord’s ambush by destroying every last one of his people, and the man who, however unintentionally, killed his own wife along with that city full of civilians.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

Notably, Ialai Sadeas ignored the requirement that she carry her own chair. … She met Navani’s eyes as she sat, cold and confident.

L: Ialai’s cool as ice here. She’s making her point subtly and very, very clearly—she doesn’t respect Navani’s rules and she doesn’t intend to be constrained by them.

AA: If I liked her better in the first place, I might admire this (at least, under other circumstances). As it is, she’s being deliberately disruptive at a time when literally the whole world is in danger, and that torques me off. You may not agree with the approach being taken, but there are more constructive ways to make suggestions than just being disruptive. (Also, as we see, her ideas stink.)

It seemed so long ago when Ialai and Navani had huddled together at dinners, conspiring on how to stabilize the kingdom their husbands were conquering. Now, Navani wanted to seize the woman and shake her. Can’t you stop being petty for one storming minute?

AA: They made a formidable team, back in the day. Who has changed the most since then? From the glimpses we got in the early flashbacks, I’m guessing that Ialai hasn’t changed all that much, except that she’s gotten better at subtlety when it suits her – and maybe she’s gotten more actively vicious? Navani seems a lot more sympathetic now than she did back then – like she’s matured and gotten over the “mean girl” attitude. I suspect, though, that neither of them has changed much, fundamentally; it’s just that their goals don’t align anymore.

Adrotagia sat with [Taravangian], as did his Surgebinder. She didn’t go join Bridge Four … and, curiously, Navani realized she still thought of the woman as his Surgebinder.

AA: That’s some painful foreshadowing, right there. Malata never does join forces with Our Knights Radiant. I wonder if calling her “Surgebinder” instead of “Radiant” is a subtle hint from Sanderson? Also, I wonder if she stayed away from the rest of them because she felt no kinship at all, or because she didn’t want to risk developing any kinship.

“I will send troops to your aid, Taravangian,” Dalinar said. “But one army can be construed as an invading force, and I am not intending to invade my allies, even in appearance. Can we not mortar this alliance with a show of solidarity?”

L: This is very clever of Dalinar, if a bit transparent. I feel like Navani would have been more subtle in her wording, but perhaps the direct approach was the right one in this particular moment.

AA: If nothing else, the straightforward approach is unexpected in politics, and sometimes gets the desired result just from the shock value!

As always with Taravangian, though, I’m suspicious. Does he already know that the real attack will be in Thaylenah, and he’s attempting to keep Dalinar focused elsewhere? That Diagram of his predicted a lot of events; how much of this did it predict? And how much of his apparent weakness on any given day is real, and how much is pretended for the sake of gaining sympathy? (And also, being underestimated, which is useful to him.)

Squires & Sidekicks

Many [of Bridge Four] had brought simple seats, but the Herdazian had stumbled onto the lift with a chair so grand—inlaid with embroidered blue cloth and silver—it was almost a throne.

AA: Let’s hear it for King Lopen the First of Alethkar! What a goof.

L: Of Alethkar, or of Herdaz? ::wink::

Bridge Four had, characteristically, taken the news of their leader’s potential fall with laughter. Kaladin is tougher than a wind-tossed boulder, Brightness, Teft had told her. He survived Bridge Four, he survived the chasms, and he’ll survive this.

AA: Well, they’re not wrong, though they’re not 100% right either. I have an ongoing expectation that Kaladin will die before the end of Book 5… and now I wonder what will happen to Bridge Four if I’m right.

L: DON’T. YOU. DARE.

… the little Reshi who was currently outeating the huge Horneater bridgeman, almost as if it were a contest.

AA: Heh. It probably is a contest, knowing Lift and the bridgemen! But at least she gets a good meal without needing to burn it all off in Surgebinding, for once.

Places & Peoples

On the day of the first meeting of monarchs at Urithiru, Navani made each person—no matter how important—carry their own chair. The old Alethi tradition symbolized each chief bringing important wisdom to a gathering.

L: I really like this little touch. You can tell—as exemplified in the chapter—a lot about a person and their intent by how they choose to present themselves in the seat they choose to bring. Or don’t choose to bring, in Sebarial’s case…

AA: Sebarial loves to be the exception, doesn’t he?

The only other person of note was Au-Nak, the Natan ambassador. He represented a dead kingdom that had been reduced to a single city-state on the eastern coast of Roshar with a few other cities as protectorates.

L: We haven’t heard a lot about this place yet, right?

AA: Not a lot, no. They aren’t exactly a world power, but they sure would like to gain some influence by claiming ownership of the Oathgate that is, at best, located in lands that once belonged to them.

“Wait,” the Yezier princess said. “Shouldn’t we be concerned about Iri and Rira, who seem to have completely fallen in with the enemy?”

L: This is where Evi was from. I wonder if Dalinar has any thoughts about that during this chapter, considering his state of mind concerning her right now…

AA: I wish we knew more about them as a people. How typical was Evi of the Riran mindset, anyway? Obviously not 100%, or she and her brother wouldn’t have left. How much of their “falling in with the enemy” is just a matter of accepting whatever comes along, vs. any kind of active support? The former seems more likely, to me.

L: They did seem very pacifistic, that’s for sure.

“But Shards…” Fen said.

“Manifestations of spren,” Jasnah explained. “Not fabrial technology. Even the gemstones we discovered, containing words of ancient Radiants during the days when they left Urithiru, were crude—if used in a way we hadn’t yet explored.”

L: It’s pretty cool to realize that the technological advancements of the current “age” are actually quite more advanced than those in the times of the Radiants!

AA: I know, right? We’ve been getting hints about this, and I love that Jasnah is sorting them out. The “ancient technology” that they thought was so advanced seems to consist mostly of Shardblades, Shardplate, and Soulcasters; I keep expecting to learn that the Soulcaster fabrials are similar to the Blades and Plate. Even the hinted wonders of Urithiru are beginning to look more like the active involvement of the Sibling and other spren, rather than human invention.

L: Well, when you have magic, what need is there for technological advancement? For example, if we had the power to fly, there would have been no need to invent airplanes.

“We should be addressing where to invade to gain the best position for an extended war.”

[…]

With one targeted arrow, Ialai Sadeas proved what everyone whispered—that the Alethi were building a coalition to conquer the world, not just protect it.

L: Bloody Ialai. I know she’s pissed off about Sadeas dying and all, but sabotaging this is just… stupid. This is YOUR survival too, here, lady.

AA: So infuriating.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

Well, at least [Sebarial and Palona] hadn’t shown up bearing massage tables.

L: Probably would have made this tense meeting more relaxing, though.

Sebarial choked softly…. He’d wanted that job.

That will teach you to show up late to my meeting and make only wisecracks.

AA: Heh. He’d probably do a decent job of overseeing trade (and getting a good profit from it, naturally), but it’s a lot more useful to have Fen in charge of that. She’s got the entire infrastructure to do it, and it gives her ownership. But I have to admit … even if it weren’t politically advantageous, just watching Sebarial’s reaction would have been worth this gambit!

“By every Kadasix that has ever been holy!”

AA: I like that one… and the variation across cultures of what people swear by.

Weighty Words

“I understand your concern, but surely you have read our reports of the oaths these Radiants follow. Protection. Remembering the fallen. Those oaths are proof that our cause is just, our Radiants trustworthy. The powers are in safe hands, Your Majesty.”

L: I mostly agree with her, but I’m still on the fence about most of the Skybreakers, and Taravangian’s Radiant. It seems as though the way you interpret them is still of vast importance, and let’s face it—it’s pretty rare that people think that their actions are evil. Taravangian’s a prime example of this.

AA: She’s extrapolating from the few she knows and trusts, as are we. I’m afraid that from here on out, “Radiants” as a group are not going to be the Trusty Heroes we were expecting them to be. Individuals will still be trustworthy—or not—but the spren seem to have changed their selection criteria, and we can’t count on them choosing people who are on the same side any more.

 

Next week we’ll be rejoining Kaladin and company as they seek out passage across Shadesmar in chapter Ninety-Seven.

Alice is delighted to report that her favorite volleyball team (her daughter’s high school team) won their first match, 3-1, in tense and high-scoring sets. Aren’t y’all thrilled to know that? Yeah… we’ll try to keep the v-ball chatter to a minimum, at least until post-season excitement ramps up.

Lyndsey is hard at work bringing law and order to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire as Constable Affable, along with her trusty dog, Deputee Bork. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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