Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Ninety-Seven

, and

Our heroes in Shadesmar have made it to the lighthouse, seeking a means of travel across the ocean of beads. But what will they find there? Giant toads with strangely good comedic timing? Fashionable clothing? Corrupted spren? Strange visions of the future? Or all of the above? Tune in to this week’s reread and find out!

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 discuss some things from Elantris in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.}

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin, Shallan
WHERE: Shadesmar, near the end of the river-ridge-thing
WHEN: 1174.2.4.1 – The same day as Navani’s meeting in Ch. 96; two days after we last saw the Shadesmar team in Ch. 95.

Kaladin and company have temporarily split up so that Kaladin can scout ahead to the lighthouse they’ve found. Inside, he finds what he thinks is a Shin man who tries to tell his fortune. Kaladin accidentally looks into the fortune-teller’s crystal and sees as a vision of Dalinar in trouble. Meanwhile, Shallan is contacted by a corrupted spren telling her that Odium is hunting for them, but in the wrong place. When they all rejoin one another in the lighthouse, they debate about which direction to go—towards the Perpendicularity in the Horneater Peaks, Thaylen City, or Celebrant.

Beginnings

Title: Riino

Kaladin sat in the main room of the lighthouse, in the chair Riino—the Shin lighthouse keeper—had occupied earlier.

AA: Heh. The “Shin” lighthouse keeper… If you need a clue as to where he’s from, take a closer look at that name! Clearly from Sel, and from the nation Arelon, where they build their names based on the Aons. We’ll talk about him more in the Cosmere Connections.

Herald

Kalak, the Maker: patron of Willshapers, with the attributes Resolute and Builder

AP: I’m not sure why Kalak is here, other than that Kaladin does resolutely decide on a new goal after his vision – protect Dalinar. The Builder attribute doesn’t resonate with me, unless it’s a reference to the lighthouse – an unusual feature in Shadesmar for sure. But that’s a stretch. It could also be a reference to Riino, but we know very little about him. It may make more sense if he becomes a more prominent character. And as a worldhopper, he’s definitely a candidate for that.

Icon

The character icon is Kaladin’s Banner & Spears, though he shares the POV with Shallan.

Epigraph

Of the Unmade, Sja-anat was most feared by the Radiants. They spoke extensively of her ability to corrupt spren, though only lesser spren—whatever that means.
—From Hessi’s Mythica, page 89

AA: Looks like our little Unmade has gained some new powers in recent years. I wonder if Glys is the first/only of the greater spren that she has changed; that might be why she mentioned “my son” when communicating to Shallan – she only has one “son” among the sapient spren. It seems odd that her ability to corrupt spren would make her more feared than, say, Re-Shephir or Nergaoul, especially if (as far as they knew) she could only affect the lesser spren. It brings me back around to the old question: are the spren solely caused by phenomena of the physical realm, or do they also cause some things?

AP: I definitely think that Sja-anat’s powers have the potential to be much more scary than the other Unmade that we’ve seen so far. The others have temporary effects, or are geographically limited. The corruption of the spren appears to be permanent. So the more she is able to travel and be active, the more threat. I could also see the effects making an already dangerous Shadesmar completely impassable for all but the most skilled Radiants. The high spren, while they may not previously have been corruptible by Sja-anat, are already scared of what some of the “regular” spren are able to do in Shadesmar. I assume having vast amounts of corrupted spren there would be much worse. With regard to Glys, first maybe, but I don’t expect him to be the last!

Thematic Thoughts

Kaladin remembered holding a dying woman’s hand.

AA: This is the first of a few “alternate flashbacks” we get from Kaladin in this book – scenes where he is literally remembering an event from his earlier life which wasn’t included in his flashback sequence in The Way of Kings. They each have to do directly with the events of the chapter in which they appear, one way or another. In this one, he remembers one of his various attempts to escape slavery—a disastrous one in which he was leading a whole group, and every last one of them was killed… all but him.

The snapping sound of the trap closing sent a jolt through Kaladin. A year later he’d still wonder how he missed stepping in it himself. …

After killing the others, the brightlords found him still kneeling there. … Regardless of the reason, Kaladin had lived.
He always did.

AA: I have to ask: Why? Aside from narrative necessity, because the author needs his main character to have survived all this stuff, was there something “extra” going on? Was Syl affecting things? That seems unlikely, because at the time she wasn’t much more intelligent than your average flighty windspren, but at the same time it seems too much for coincidence.

L: I think his prescient bond with Syl was protecting him, at least a little. We see him using his powers well before he says the Words, after all. And it’s also possible that there are Other Supernatural Forces at play here that we can’t know about yet.

AP: Narratively it works, yes. But the “leave one person alive to ensure compliance” trope works for me. I didn’t question the reason given by the highlord, spren or no spren.

L: I think Alice is more referring to the fact that it keeps happening over and over, rather than just this one occurence.

AP: Definitely! The pattern makes it a lot more suspicious. Any one incident has a good explanation, but the whole series of events….Definitely early warning signs that Kaladin has a supernatural connection.

… neither Adolin nor Azure had experience scouting. Kaladin didn’t mention that most of his practice sneaking had come as a runaway slave.

AA: Which is how the flashback fits here, and this is something we knew about for a long time. As much as I hate the events, I have to admire Sanderson’s timing; this time in Shadesmar when Kaladin is feeling so down, feeling like he’s always failed the people who relied on him —this really is the time when Kaladin would be actively recalling all the failures, without a single thought for anyone he’s helped along the way.

Stories & Songs

L: I’m going to put discussion of Shadesmar here, for lack of a better section.

…he might have expected the heat of the enormous fire to be oppressive. Instead, he could barely feel it. Notably, the flames caused his shadow to behave normally, extending behind him instead of pointing towards the sun.

L: This is absolutely fascinating. First we have the lack of heat. So… does energy transference just not work the same way here in Shadesmar? Is the very atmosphere different? It can’t be too different or Our Heroes wouldn’t be able to breathe, right?

AP: So because stuff in Shadesmar Is Weird (™), my first assumption was that it’s not actually fire, like we would think of it in the physical realm. But it’s, like, the cognitive idea of light, which looks like what Kaladin would think or as fire, but doesn’t give off heat. Light as a Platonic ideal?

L: Then we’ve got the tidbit about the shadow going the right way. So clearly there’s something about the light of the sun that draws darkness rather than casting it.

AP: It makes his shadow behave “normally”, which the typical light sources in Shadesmar does not. Note, I have no evidence for this whatsoever, just my attempts to make sense of the cognitive realm!

“You wish me to see the unwalked paths—during the highstorm, when realms blend.”

L: The realms blend during the highstorms? Well that’s new and interesting! I wonder… just these two (physical and cognitive), or the third (spiritual) as well?

AP: We definitely have had hints before that this is the case, with the gems becoming infused with Stormlight. It’s a good confirmation to have it laid out more clearly this way. I think the three realms (physical, cognitive, spiritual) definitely have crossover, and this is a major hint to the potential for creation of a new Perpendicularity. For that to happen, the realms have to crossover or blend.

Outside, the sky rippled with light. The clouds shimmered, gaining a strange, ethereal luminescence.

“That…” Kaladin said. “Is that what a highstorm looks like on this side?”

L: I don’t really have much to say about this aside that it’s interesting to see.

“Did you come directly from the perpendicularity?” The old man frowned. “Not a lot of people coming through there anymore.”

L: There are hints in this chapter that there’s something really Not Good happening near the Perpendicularity (the one they’re probably talking about is in the Horneater peaks), but we don’t know yet exactly what it is.

AP: I don’t think we know why yet. I expect it’s a Red Flag that will come up in later books.

He thinks something strange happened to the Oathgate because of our influence—we’ve never managed to Enlighten such powerful spren before.

L: So the spren tied to the Oathgate are more powerful than the sapient spren (such as Glys) that can bond to Knights Radiant. This is good information to know. Also, now we know that the word Odium’s forces use for this corruption is “Enlighten”ing.

AP: This is another big clue toward who/what Glys is before that big reveal, when combined with the epigraph. Sja-anat’s powers/influence are growing, whether she wants them to or not. I also still don’t trust her. I don’t know how she found Shallan, and/or how she is able to keep that information secret from Odium. Or if it is. Or if she is just super tricky. I flip flop on this one a lot. Narratively, I want to trust her and have her be a double agent. But I talk myself in & out of it constantly.

Then a figure. Dalinar Kholin, kneeling someplace dark, surrounded by nine shadows. A flash of glowing eyes.

The enemy’s champion was coming.

L: Dun dun duuuuun!

AP: I’m really interested in how/why Kaladin is able to use the crystal ball thing. Can anyone who is invested use it? Or only certain types of investiture? And how does Riino do it? Is the mechanism the same?

L: I’d assume that he’s Invested somehow, as that’s what he initially assumes Kaladin is.

AP: Apart from that, this vision is disturbing. I do like how it ties together the various character plotlines that are happening in disparate areas of the world. And, of course, it gives Kaladin a thread to focus on and pull him out of his current spiral.

Relationships & Romances

“You all right?” Adolin asked, kneeling beside her, putting his hand on her back, then rubbing her shoulders. Storms, that felt good.

L: Adolin has come a long way since his playboy days in The Way of Kings. He obviously genuinely cares for Shallan, but he still has a ways to go. He knows something is wrong, but he can’t determine what it is—and who can blame him? Who would come to the conclusion that their significant other has multiple distinct personalities without said SO actually opening up about this?

AP: I love these little moments between them, when they are forging a genuine connection. In a stressful situation he is taking a time out to emotionally support his partner. Soldier Playboy Adolin would not have done this.

Bruised & Broken

Find freedom. Find honor again.

L: I’m only quoting this one part, but there are so many heartbreaking moments in this flashback that starts off the chapter. Poor, poor Kaladin. Every time we think we’ve seen the extent of his past trauma, another memory of losing people rears its ugly head. The thing I love about Kal is that while he’s often engaging in self-pity, it’s often because of how he’s failed others rather than because of things that have happened to him, if that makes sense. Yes, he does have the occasional “woe is me for Amaram f*ed up my whole life” but this isn’t the sum of his experience. He truly cares about the people around him, and wants so desperately to save them. But…

Regardless of the reason, Kaladin had lived.

He always did.

L: It must be so difficult to continue to lose the people you care about while you seem somehow shielded by fate.

What other simple, stable parts of his life were complete lies?

L: Oh, Kaladin.

She hated sending [Kaladin] alone, but Shallan knew nothing about that sort of work. Veil did. But Veil … still felt broken, from what had happened in Kholinar. That was dangerous. Where would Shallan hide now? As Radiant?

L: Maybe it’s for the best that Veil is “broken,” Shallan.

AP: This inner monologue is really interesting. She recognizes that she is Veil, and needs to accept that, but she’s not there yet. The admission to herself that she is using her personas to hide is a big step. It’s also really interesting to me that Veil’s reaction to what happened in Kholinar is similar to Kaladin’s reaction to what happened in Kholinar. Kaladin being one of the people that Shallan studied as she continued to develop the Veil persona.

Shallan lowered her pencil, looking with dissatisfaction at the attempt she’d made at drawing a fearspren. It looked like a child’s scribble.

Veil was seeping out.

AP: And then we have this. Even as she begins to accept her personas as constructs they are becoming more & more distinct with different abilities, or rather, “Shallan” has decided that they are. Is there an issue in Shadesmar that is interfering with her Lightweaver-enhanced drawing ability that she is blaming on Veil? Or is this actually a progression? Was the trip to Shadesmar a necessary step in her being able to take control of the personas that she created & solidified with her untrained Lightweaver abilities? I refer to Shallan’s mental illness as Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is what it most closely resembles as a real life counterpart, but this is a good time for a reminder that it isn’t, really. It’s a fictional version bolstered by magical interference. Which I suspect is affected by her physical presence in the cognitive realm.

“He’s got battle fatigue, but an objective will help with that. We have to watch him when he’s sitting around doing nothing, not when he’s got a specific mission.”

AA: Whether this is his training or his personal observation, he’s at least mostly correct. Kaladin can brood even when on a mission, but at least most of his attention will be on the mission, and at least for that time he’s not likely to forget what he’s doing.

L: Yup. It’s when you don’t have anything to do to distract you from the depression and the spiraling thoughts that you really have to watch out.

AP: Yeeesss….but it also makes me really really nervous for him. Focusing on a goal helps with symptom avoidance, but it’s not a long term solution. I still need a Rosharan mental health system, like stat. This series is excellent for focus on what are often serious effects of hidden/misunderstood mental illnesses in society, but it really makes me feel for the characters who have to go through life untreated.

He had a purpose. A goal. Something to focus on other than the people he’d lost in Kholinar.

Protect Dalinar.

L: I’m glad he’s got something specific to drive him. But I fear the day when he doesn’t have something like that to fall back on.

“It’s a lake on our side,” Adolin said. “Called the Sea of Spears, in the southeast of Alethkar. By the ruins… of Rathalas.” He drew his lips to a line and glanced away.

“What?” Kaladin asked.

“Rathalas was where my mother was killed,” Adolin said. “Assassinated by rebels.”

L: Oof. I really do fear the day when he inevitably finds out the truth. It could go one of two ways, I think… either Adolin will forgive his father, or… he won’t, and we’re going to see one of the biggest heel-turns in fantasy fiction.

AP: It’s a concern for sure. I do like that we get his perspective on Dalinar’s behavior when the Rift is mentioned. From Dalinar’s POVs we know that he just didn’t remember what happened, so the “strange distant expression” is literally him trying to put the pieces together. But it comes off as grief to everyone else, especially his son who thinks his father and mother had a much stronger relationship than they actually did, thanks to Evi building up an idea of Dalinar for his sons.

Places & Peoples

He’d promised to help the older woman find her husband, who had been sold to another household. That wasn’t supposed to be legal, but you could get away with doing all kinds of things to slaves with the right brands, especially if they were foreign.

AA: And… once again we see the dark underside of Alethi culture. Or at least one aspect of it. Sometimes I think the parsh slaves may have been … if not “better off,” at least better cared for than the human ones. With their lack of self-motivation, they were treated like animals, but they were prized and generally well-kept animals. (Yes, infuriating, and there were HUGE problems, since they weren’t as oblivious as the humans assumed. But we’re not really dealing with the parsh here.) What always astonishes me is how horrible people can be to other people, as long as they can put them in some sort of classification that “justifies” the treatment. “Oh, he has a ___ brand. Oh, he’s just a Riran. Oh, no one wants this one. Oh, this one is dangerous.” Then they can tell themselves it’s okay to treat them worse than they’d ever treat a useful animal.

AP: Yeah, so, I don’t see this as a “dark underside.” This is what their culture is. Full stop. The only ones who don’t see this side of the culture are the brightlords who are able to ignore what is happening by virtue of their privileged spot in the hierarchy. They don’t have to bother with the details of how the lighteyes below them are enforcing said hierarchy. Othering of people who don’t belong to your specific cultural and social class is a major issue.

Next to Kaladin, Nalma’s leg was caught in a fierce steel trap—a thing of springs and jaws that they wouldn’t even use on a beast, for fear of ruining the sport.

AA: I… I can’t even say anything. This kind of brutality beggars my vocabulary. I’ll leave this one to Lyndsey, to say all the things I can’t.

L: This is absolutely atrocious and the slave-owners/hunters are f*ing monsters.

AP: This is also absolutely reflective of actual incidents of slave owning culture in the history of the U.S. (and other places). Higher value was placed on the entertainment value to the slave owner of having a “good” hunt than the value of an actual human life. Which was viewed as property damage. Absolutely disgusting, but an excellent example and I’m glad the attitude was included because it is such a clear illustration of how the lighteyes view the darkeyes and their respective places in the society. Brutal and effective passage.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

She nodded towards Azure… . “What do you make of her?”

“That uniform is well tailored,” Adolin said…,

L: At this point he could still be about to make some sort of conclusion about where she comes from, or her personality, but in true Adolin fashion:

“But the blue doesn’t work with her skin. She needs a lighter shade. The breastplate is overly much, like she’s trying to prove something. I do like the cape though. I’ve always wanted to justify wearing one. Father gets away with it, but I never could.”

“I wasn’t asking for a wardrobe assessment, Adolin.”

“What happened to the fancy suit you got in Kholinar?”

“It didn’t fit me anymore,” he said, resuming the massage. “But you do raise an important problem. Yes, we need to find food and drink. But if I have to wear the same uniformthis entire trip, you won’t have to murder me. I’ll commit suicide.”

L: Reason #567 I love Adolin: that sense of humor.

Cosmere Connections

“How? Impossible. Unless… you’re Invested. What Heightening are you?” He squinted at Kaladin. “No. Something else. Merciful Domi… A Surgebinder? It has begun again?”

L: Oh hey there, Elantrian! Fancy seeing you here! (And how long have you been here, to say “it has begun again”? Have you just heard stories, or were you here for the last Desolation? Can normal people age in the cognitive realm? SO MANY QUESTIONS!)

Also, just as a tiny note, it’s interesting to note that since Kaladin mistakes this Elantrian for a Shin, we can assume that the Elantrians look more western in appearance. Bigger eyes, probably fair skinned.

AP: Giveaways that he is from Sel include the “merciful Domi” exclamation, since Dominion was one of the shards of Adolnasium that settled there. HOWEVER, this is also a big clue that Riino is either very old, or very well experienced in world hopping, since Dominion was killed and shattered by Odium before the formation of the skaze, which are a result of the splintering. (The seons being splinters of the other shard that settled there, Devotion.)

L: Granted it’s been a long time since I read Elantris, but didn’t they use “Merciful Domi” often in that? It’s possible that he’s not that old if that’s the case… Could just be one of those turns of phrase that lingered well after the reason for their inception is long gone.

AP: I grant that this is also a possibility, but the paintings on the walls make me suspicious.

L: Another interesting tidbit is that he mentions Heightening, which is a solely Nalthis (Warbreaker) thing. So not only has this world-hopper jumped here to Roshar, he’s either visited Nalthis or has spoken to people from there.

“In all my life, I’ve only met one human I believe truly understood it. And he might actually be a god. I’m not sure.”

“Wit,” Kaladin said. “The man that brought you the metal that protected your Soulcaster.”

L: I’m relatively certain that Hoid would be annoyed at being thought a god.

AP: Depends on the day, I think.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

… a round, lurg-like creature with a fat, bulbous body and squat legs. About the size of a toddler, it hopped close to him, then tipped the entire top half of its head backward. A long tongue shot up in the air from the gaping mouth; it began to flap and wave.

Storms. An anticipationspren? … [He tries to shoo three of them away, but no dice.]

Finally, he just continued forward, his three bothersome attendants hopping behind. That sorely undermined the stealth of his approach, making him more nervous—which in turn made the anticipationspren even more eager to stick with him.

AA: Oh, help! The mental image of Kaladin, deeply depressed but intent on a mission, being followed around by a trio of footstool-sized toad waving their tongues in the air… I’m dying here! I guess we needed the comedy break, eh?

L: This really tickles my funny bone, too. I also love that when he’s spotted because of them, our poor long-suffering Windrunner just sighs.

AP: I absolutely love the juxtapositions in the descriptions of the spren in the physical realm and their cognitive realm counterparts. I find myself trying to guess what each will look like now.

“So,” Syl said, sitting on a rock nearby and swinging her legs. “I’ve always wondered. Does the world look weird to you, or normal?”

“Weird,” Pattern said. “Mmm. Same as for everyone.”

“I guess neither of us technically have eyes,” Syl said, leaning back and looking up at the glassy canopy of their tree-mushroom shelter. “We’re each a bit of power made manifest. We honorspren mimic Honor himself. You Cryptics mimic… weird stuff?”

“The fundamental underlying mathematics by which natural phenomena occur. Mmm. Truths that explain the fabric of existence.”

“Yeah. Weird stuff.”

L: As an English major and theater kid, gotta say I’m with Syl on this one. Math and science were never my forte, but I love that Pattern is a physical representation of the very laws of nature.

AP: And as a total data nerd, I’m definitely into Pattern’s reading of the universe!

She followed his nod and spotted and odd little spren floating through the air. Bone-white and brown, it had wings extending to the sides and long tresses for a tail. In front of its body hovered a cube.

“Looks like those gloryspren we saw earlier,” she noted. “Only the wrong color. And the shape of the head is…”

“Corrupted!” Syl said. “That’s one of Odium’s!”

L: I always find it really interesting to see the ways the physical appearance of the spren are corrupted by Odium.

AP: Saaammmeee…and I’m also super interested in how Sja-anat is able to use this one to send a message! Is that a feature of all corrupted spren? Glory spren being used because they likely showed up in the Voidbringer takeover of the city? Or only particular types of spren, and she had to track down a good one that could send a message (wings and can follow directions to find Shallan)?

Sheer Speculation

One wall contained a picture of people kneeling before a bright white mirror. Another was a cityscape at dusk, with a group of low houses clustered before an enormous wall that had light glowing beyond it.

L: Hmmm, interesting. These could be Cosmere connections, or just random paintings. But I’m going to throw out some wild speculations here. I think the picture of the mirror might be a representation of Adonalsium, before being shattered. The second one could be a depiction of the city in the “Girl who stood up” story.

AP: Definitely a Cosmere connection, to my mind. I don’t know what it refers to specifically, but Riino being a worldhopper, I expect that the reference is meaningful, even if I don’t know to what.

 

Next week will see us back to Skybreaker training in chapter 98! Get your Lashings ready, squires!

Alice is celebrating her birthday this week!

Lyndsey will play the wild rover no more… no, nay never, no nay never no more. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

Aubree can be found cremposting on Twitter.

citation

37 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.