Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Ninety-Nine

, and
  1. Greetings, O Fans of the Cosmere! Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread, wherein Kaladin is depressed but learns cool things anyway, Syl is in disguise, and Shallan draws. She also demonstrates her favorite coping mechanism, much to Kaladin’s envy. Everybody wants to be somebody… else.

A: Before we dive in, I want to extend my huge thanks to Paige for stepping in at the last minute to give me a sanity check and balance the input! Lyndsey has been swamped lately, so last-minute assistance was a great boon.

P: It is always a pleasure, Alice! I love chatting with you about this wonderful story.

A: 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 there is a spoiler for Mistborn: Secret History in the Shadesmar Shenanigans section, plus a minor Warbreaker note in Cosmere Connections; if you haven’t read them, best to give those sections a pass.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Shadesmar ship (Lyn: This week’s map is my best guess as to their current location.)
WHEN: 1174.2.4.2 (the day after the lighthouse events of Chapter 97)

Having escaped being captured by a Fused by hopping a Reacher ship, Kaladin observes a variety of phenomena: Syl looks different, the captain provides water via a condenser fabrial, many spren are interesting, and Shallan is drawing and making jokes.

Beginnings

Title: Reachers

Syl said they were lightspren, but the common name was Reachers.

A: Oh, the things we’ll learn now!

P: Lots of new info, still more questions!

Heralds: Kalak (Willshapers, Maker, Resolute/Builder) and Shalash (Lightweavers, Artist, Creative/Honest)

A: On a guess, I’d say that Kalak is here to represent the Willshapers, since we have fairly strong evidence that the lightspren/Reachers are the family whose bond makes that order of Knights Radiant. Shalash is probably here because Shallan is drawing again, which is always cool.

P: I love that we get a peek at “Shallan’s” bad art. I love their interaction in regards to the stick figure drawings.

Icon: Kaladin’s Banner & Spears

Epigraph:

Nergaoul was known for driving forces into a battle rage, lending them great ferocity. Curiously, he did this to both sides of a conflict, Voidbringer and human. This seems common of the less self-aware spren.
—From Hessi’s Mythica, page 121

A: Fascinating, Captain. It’s almost like Nergaoul feeds off of the battle lust, and it really doesn’t matter who it’s coming from as long as they go berserk with it. From the perspective of “let’s win the battle” it seems counterproductive, unless originally the effect on the parsh was different than the effect on humans. If, perhaps, the humans get crazy and undisciplined, while the parsh get fiercer and stronger, that would be useful. Otherwise… I dunno.

P: I would surmise that the parsh aren’t prone to battle lust as are humans. So it makes sense that they would instead become fiercer and stronger. In battle, that would be useful against crazed and bloodthirsty humans.

A: So… maybe it’s a feature, not a bug?

P: Yes! Great phrasing!

Stories & Songs

He sat, bleary-eyed on his bunk, listening to beads crash outside the hull. There almost seemed … a pattern or rhythm to them? Or was he imagining things?

A: I’ll admit I don’t see how it would work, but could this be related to the Rhythms that the parsh peoples hear? I’m personally convinced that the Rhythms are something from the Cognitive Realm, but I’ve never had a good theory on what. I don’t know that the beads would necessarily create the rhythms, but perhaps they respond to the same things the parsh are hearing?

P: I found this comment about patterns and rhythms very interesting. I wouldn’t expect that the beads would create the rhythms, they’re more likely to respond, as you say.

A: I wonder if the Rhythms are sort of like spren: Cognitive manifestations of a particular emotion, but in the form of a beat (and/or melody?), rather than the form of a creature. Or is there a sort of “master spren” for each Rhythm, and then the beads pulse in time with whatever “master spren” is nearby? Probably not, but it’s sure fun to wonder about.

P: It’s almost physically painful to wait indefinitely for Brandon’s reveals!

Relationships & Romances

Something felt warm within him at being near her. Something felt right. It wasn’t like with Laral, his boyhood crush. Or even like with Tarah, his first real romance. It was something different, and he couldn’t define it. He only knew he didn’t want it to stop. It pushed back the darkness.

A: Sometimes I forget he’s only twenty. Poor guy hasn’t had much time for relationships, has he? I know a lot of people saw this passage as a strong basis for a romance between Kaladin and Shallan; to me, it’s more of a hint that it’s not actually a romance; it’s something else, but he doesn’t understand what, just yet.

Bruised & Broken

When Kaladin awoke on the ship in Shadesmar, the others were already up. …
He hated that he was the last to rise. That was always a bad sign.

A: While I’m sure it’s not true of everyone who suffers from depression, I can certainly relate to this. When I’m depressed, waking up in the morning (much less getting up) is terribly difficult.

P: I can attest to the fact that it is, indeed, a symptom of depression. Sleeping too much and an inability to get out of bed, much less make oneself presentable or leave the house. What’s interesting to me is that Kaladin is so self-aware regarding his depression and its symptoms. Not everyone who suffers can recognize something like this, even after suffering for decades.

A: That’s so true!! Even after working through causes and effects for years, I find myself not recognizing a symptom like this until it’s been happening for weeks. Even so, I’m glad Sanderson wrote Kaladin as someone who can see it; I think this works much better for the story-telling.

Referencing their night in the chasms, he asks,

“How do you do it, Shallan? How do you keep smiling and laughing? How do you keep from fixating on the terrible things that have happened?”

“I cover them up. I have this uncanny ability to hide away anything I don’t want to think about. It … it’s getting harder, but for most things I can just…” She trailed off, staring straight ahead. “There. Gone.”

“Wow.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I’m crazy.”

“No. No, Shallan! I wish I could do the same.”

She looked at him, brow wrinkling. “You’re crazy.”

A: There’s humor in her words, but it’s a bitter, black humor.

P: This is absolutely a coping mechanism. You try to make light of your illness to avoid stigma.

A: Kaladin envies Shallan the abiltiy to block things out; he would love to not have his mistakes and failures (real or perceived) hanging over him all the time. I can understand that, to be honest.

P: Often, people who suffer from depression also experience anxiety to some extent. Kaladin’s insecurities smack of anxiety regarding what he considers to be mistakes or failures throughout his life.

A: Absolutely. It doesn’t even matter if he recognizes that some of his “mistakes” weren’t actually his fault; he feels like they must have been, so they weigh on him just the same. Then here we get Shallan, finally ready to be honest enough to say what we all know: too much pretending makes you just as unable to function as too much worry. It just doesn’t look like it from the outside.

P: This conversation echoes what was said in the chasms, when Kaladin was so amazed that Shallan smiled anyway. She also mentioned being crazy during that conversation. Another bit of dark humor to cope with her condition.

What I find fascinating about this conversation is that despite hiding her feelings away and ignoring them, she’s imploring Kaladin to not do the same because it’s not healthy. She’s fully aware that she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing, yet she continues. My therapist would call that self-sabotage.

A: At some level, Shallan does recognize that she is actively damaging herself, poor thing. She just doesn’t see any option that isn’t damaging, so she takes the path that involves the least current pain.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“I had a splinter once,” Shallan noted. “It eventually got out of hand.

“You … you did not just say that.”

“Yes, you obviously imagined it. What a sick, sick mind you have, Kaladin.”

A: There’s a whole bunch more, before and after this, where they’re playing silly word games amid the more serious discussion, but it doesn’t seem to have the usual punch. There’s a reason for this, and we eventually get there:

“Everything on a ship has odd names. Port and starboard instead of left and right. Galley instead of kitchen. Nuisance instead of Shallan.”

“There was a name … railing? Deck guard? No, wale. It’s called a wale.” She grinned. “I don’t really like how it feels to sit against this wale, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get over it.”

He groaned softly. “Really?”

“Vengeance for calling me names.”

“Name. One name. And it was more a declaration of fact than an attack.”

She punched him lightly in the arm. “It’s good to see you smiling.”

“That was smiling?”

“It was the Kaladin equivalent. That scowl was almost jovial.” She smiled at him.

A: We’ve debated Shallan’s humor before, and I still believe that the way she normally teases Kaladin is because she expects him to comprehend the snark involved, not because she thinks she’s better than him. We saw it with her brothers; she teased Balat more gently, because he really wasn’t the brightest sphere in the pouch, while her best wittiness was for Wikim, who was much cleverer. This time, she’s very light, playing with exaggeration and a few bad puns, deliberately drawing him out of his depression—just like she did with her brothers in their bad times.

P: Shallan provides a distraction for Kaladin, much like Tien did with his rocks and childlike enthusiasm about everything. Even at this point, I saw their relationship as close friends, rather than anything remotely romantic.

A: YES.

P: *fist bump*

Weighty Words

A: As noted up there in Bruised & Broken, Shallan seems to be nibbling around the edges of acknowledging that blocking things out and pretending they didn’t happen is actively harming her. I wonder if this means she’s getting close to stating another Truth.

P: I’d like to see her level up again.

I think that her conversation with Wit was very beneficial, in that somebody knew to tell her that she wasn’t a monster, and that that she’s valuable, when she feels she has no value. Further, I think that helping pull Kaladin out of his depression is therapeutic for her. So, keep doing that, Shallan.

Meaningful Motivations

P: Perhaps we could include a bit here about Kaladin wanting to get to Dalinar. It is, after all, the only reason he got out of bed.

A: Good point. He and Azure are totally at odds on this; once they reach Celebrant, he wants to go south to Thaylen City, while she wants to go west to the Horneater Peaks. His reasoning is based on a vision—which no one else trusts—that Dalinar will be in Thaylen City and will desperately need help. Hers is based on knowledge that there’s a Perpendicularity in the Peaks, even though the spren tell them there’s something sketchy going on around it.

Motivations, though… motivations are significant, especially in this chapter with Kaladin’s depression and obsession with protecting All The People. As near as I can tell, Azure’s motivation for going to the Perpendicularity is that a) she knows it’s there and b) she wants nothing more than to get out of Shadesmar and back to the Physical Realm. Also, being a worldhopper, it may be easier for her to dismiss the importance of an individual, though I’m just guessing on that one. Kaladin, having failed to keep his friends from fighting each other, and having been unable to stop Moash from killing Elhokar, now feels that the only thing he can do that matters is to protect Dalinar. He’ll take anything to guide him, and all he’s got is Thaylen City, and Dalinar’s need. In his defense, he’s seen trustworthy stuff from the Stormfather before, so I can understand his confidence despite everyone else’s skepticism. But I can also understand their skepticism.

Shadesmar Shenanigans

… the captain turned on a small oil lamp—so far as Kaladin could tell, he didn’t use a flaming brand to create the fire. How did it work? It seemed foolhardy to use fire for light with so much wood and cloth around.

A: Is it real fire? Does Captain Ico have some kind of a fire-starter? Or is this like the ::SPOILER WARNING:: fire that Nazh folded up and carried around in Mistborn: Secret History? That would explain why they don’t worry about open flame, and it seems to fit what happens here. That’s … sort of cool. I hope that’s what’s going on, because I really like it. And as Ico explains, since Stormlight fades quickly in the Cognitive Realm, they can’t rely on spheres for lighting. I guess it hasn’t been an issue thus far, because they’ve been outdoors the whole time (except for the lighthouse) and there isn’t really “nighttime” per se; that expains why the question hasn’t come up before. Huh.

“At Celebrant, the moneychangers have perfect gemstones that can hold the light indefinitely. Similar.”

“Perfect gemstones? Like, the Stone of Ten Dawns?”

A: This is not the first mention of “perfect gems” we’ve seen, though we still don’t know much about them at this point. An Elsecaller mentioned them in the gemstone archive epigraphs, claiming that their Order was duly appointed as keepers of the perfect gems and specifically mentioning one called “Honor’s Drop.” I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense that the perfect gems would end up in Shadesmar, if the Elsecallers were trying to hide them from those who could only access the Physical Realm. Do you suppose the moneychangers are inkspren, still holding the gems on behalf of their order, but devolved into using them as banking devices since the Elsecallers disbanded?

P: This is a great theory, and I have nothing to counter it.

A: Kaladin, naturally, only thinks of perfect gemstones as a way to keep Stormlight accessible to Radiants all through the Weeping. Dalinar will eventually find another use…

P: That’s our Windrunner, constantly thinking of protecting others, constantly looking for ways to survive.

Here, the captain knelt and opened the box, which revealed a strange device that looked a little like a coatrack—although only about three feet tall.

Cradling the sphere in one hand, Ico touched the glass bead he’d put in the fabrial. “This is a soul,” he said. “Soul of water, but very cold.”

“Ice?”

“Ice from a high, high place,” he said. “Ice that has never melted. Ice that has never known warmth.”

A: It’s a Shadesmar fabrial! I’m trying to decide if using the souls of objects (in this case, glacial ice) is better or worse than trapping the non-sentient spren of physical phenomena (like fire or rain) to power devices. Or if either one is all that bad. If they aren’t even sentient, I’m kind of thinking it’s no worse than melting ice or burning wood.

Later, when he tries to explain the device to Shallan, she immediately recognizes the process as condensation and mentions that Navani would be interested in the device. Which is another of the hundreds of little reminders that in Alethi society, the men typically know diddly-squat about science or engineering; they traded all of that, along with literacy, for their precious Shardblades.

Cosmere Connections

She nodded toward Azure, who stood across the deck, holding on to the railling for dear life and occasionally shooting distrusting glances at the Reachers. Either she did not like being on a ship, or she did not trust the spren. Perhaps both.

A: Ah, this makes me laugh! I’d bet it’s both… but I’d also bet that the largest part is that she doesn’t like being on a ship! Our Vivenna didn’t like seafood or anything to do with the sea, and I’m betting that hasn’t changed.

P: That was my first thought, that she was never fond of the sea. It would seem that her travels haven’t changed that particular aspect of her personality.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

They looked like humans with strange bronze skin—metallic, as if they were living statues. Both men and women wore rugged jackets and trousers. Actual human clothing, not merely imitations of it like Syl wore.

A: I don’t have much to say about this, but it’s always worth noting what another family of sapient spren looks like!

P: My thought here was that, since they sometimes provide passage to humans, they wear clothes in order to set their passengers at ease. Imagine how disconcerting it might be for humans to see naked, bronze men traipsing about on the ships.

A: LOL! That would certainly be… disconcerting. It’s a definite possibility.

“You know how to manifest souls?”

“No,” Kaladin said.

“Some of your kind do,” he said. “It is rare. Rare among us too. The gardeners among the cultivationspren are best at it.”

A: We’ve seen both Jasnah and Shallan do this, though Jasnah seemed to do it much more instinctively than Shallan. What’s fascinating is that Lift’s spren Wyndle is probably an expert. Maybe that’s why he had such an impressive array of chairs (or whatever it was)—it was impressive because he was able to manifest their souls in Shadesmar. It seems funny, though, that the spren who are best at this thing are Edgedancer spren—not one of the Orders who can normally even access Shadesmar very readily.

[Syl’s] dress was red, instead of its normal white-blue. Her hair had changed to black, and … and her skin was flesh colored—tan, like Kaladin’s. What on Roshar?

“It’s a Lightweaving,” she said. “I asked Shallan, because I didn’t want rumors of an honorspren spreading from the ship’s crew.”

A: Kaladin, naturally, doesn’t have the first clue why this is important, but we’ll all find out eventually. Meanwhile, Syl is an expert at diverting a conversation that she doesn’t want to have; Kaladin tries to admonish her about wasting Stormlight, and she tries to get him to go flirt with Shallan.

P: She’s much like Shallan when it comes to steering a conversation away from an uncomfortable subject.

“Kaladin. I’m your spren. It’s my duty to make sure that you’re not alone.”

“Is that so? Who decided?”

“I did. …”

A: Oh, Syl. You’re so precious. It just goes along with being a piece of a god, you know!

P: We wouldn’t know how to take Syl if she wasn’t being snarky.

[Captain Ico] resembled a Shin man, with large, childlike eyes made of metal. He was shorter than the Alethi, but sturdy.

A: Once again, we’re reminded that the sapient spren reflect the thoughts and visualizations of the humans as they looked when they first came to Roshar. Shin, because of the eyes not yet adapted to the constant winds of eastern Roshar. Shorter, because again, not yet adapted to the lower gravity of Roshar. And… maybe some other things, too, but that’s a start.

A line of copper plating ran down the inside wall of the stairwell…. Touching a plate with the tips of his fingers, Kaladin felt a distinct vibration…. “The copper vibrates,” Shallan said. “And they keep touching it. I think they might be using it to communicate somehow.”

A: Gah. I never know quite what to think about Shallan’s thoughts. Is this Sanderson giving us the answer via Shallan’s guess, or is it misdirection?

P: Much as I want to believe that Shallan is giving us relevant information, because I love the way her mind works during scholarly pursuits, I’m less inclined to trust her completely because, well, Kabsal.

A: Fair point, Kabsal… Sometimes she gets it right, but I think we have to consider her speculation to be unreliable.
And of course, once again I’m wondering if these vibrations are related to the Rhythms, but this one doesn’t seem to make as much sense as the earlier one. Hold the theory loosely…

[The spren sailors] didn’t sleep, but they did seem to enjoy their breaks from work, swinging quietly in hammocks, often reading.

It didn’t bother him to see male Reachers with books—spren were obviously similar to ardents, who were outside of common understandings of male and female. At the same time … spren, reading? How odd.

A: How odd, indeed. I mean… why not, but at the same time… spren, reading? How odd. They’re obviously self-aware, intelligent, and to some extent self-directing, but at the same time, they’re manifestations of thought. I think this just broke my brain.

P: Again, I wonder if they didn’t adopt this habit from human passengers.

Absorbing Artwork

A: As a quick aside, the notes on these drawings are a sharp reminder of Shallan’s scholarly pursuits in the area of natural history. I’ve gotten so used to her Lightweaving, spying, personality issues, etc. that it was almost a shock to see the clear thinking that goes into her observations regarding the mandras.

P: I think Shallan is the most herself when she’s being scholarly. These kinds of scenes are some of my favorites.

A: If you can’t read the text, she talks about size and shape, about the steering mechanisms, and that they don’t seem to have to obey any of the laws of physics when they fly. The movement of the wings doesn’t seem to provide either lift or locomotion, but the shape of the head is exactly the same as the spren she’s seen around skyeels, chasmfiends, and other greatshells. When she points it out, Kaladin recognizes the shape as well.

P: I got a kick out of Syl saying she wanted to ride one. That would have been … interesting.

“Chasmfiends, skyeels, anything else that should be heavier than it actually is. Sailors call them luckspren on our side. … These are biggeer, but I think they—or something like them—help skyeels fly.”

“Chasmfiends don’t fly.”

“They kind of do, mathematically. Bavamar did the calculations on Reshi greatshells, and found they should be crushed by their own weight.”

A: Sanderson has been dropping hints about this ever since the first book came out, and now it’s spelled out in the text: some of the Rosharan critters could not exist, even in a low-grav environment, without magical assistance. So much fun worldbuilding! But here’s the bit that makes me really curious:

“Those mandras, they vanish sometimes. Their keepers call it ‘dropping.’ I think they must be getting pulled into the Physical Realm.”

A: This seems so odd. No one ever sees more of them than the arrowhead shape, and lots of other spren show only a part of themselves in the Physical while not disappearing from the Cognitive. So… am I missing something, or is Shallan just wrong about what’s happening? (Here we go again!) What else could make a mandras disappear? Do they stay in one place in the Cognitive, until the critter they’re accompanying gets too far away in the Physical, and then they jump closer, maybe? That’s all I’ve got, shaky as it is.

P: To be honest, this is something I pretty much skated over during my first couple of reads. But I also found it odd once I took the time to consider it. It doesn’t make sense that the mandras would disappear completely from the Cognitive, considering that most other spren don’t manifest fully in the Physical. What makes them different? There’s always another question, eh?

A: Isn’t there, though! The only thing I can think of that’s even close is (as we’ll see in a few weeks) that windspren are extremely rare in Shadesmar, because they spend most of their time fully in the Physical Realm. The mandras can’t be something super rare, like larkin, if “dropping” is a common occurence. But… gah. I’ve got nothing more. Anyone else have a theory? Someone has to be thinking about it out there…

“And you can’t take them—or most other spren—too far from human population centers on our side. They waste away and die for reasons people here don’t understand.”

A: This one makes more sense to me; since the spren are a reflection of thought, they have to stay where there’s someone to think. (For what it’s worth, I’d bet they aren’t limited to human population centers; a parsh population would probably work just as well. It’s just that, well, it’s been a long time since there were more than one or two small parsh population centers. …That we know of.)

P: Dun, dun, DUNNN…

It also makes sense that because if spren feed on human emotion, they need to stay near population centers.

Quality Quotations

… the ship had wicked harpoons clipped in racks at the sides of the deck. Seeing those made Kaladin infinitely more comfortable; he knew exactly where to go for a weapon.

A: That’s our Kaladin—look for a spear! I mean, since Syl can’t be a Blade here, it’s good to know; and of course it will be useful eventually. I just thought it was funny.

P: Leave it to the soldier to be constantly thinking about defense or escape.

“Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I dragged it out back and clubbed it senseless for getting me into the army.”

 

Well, Shadesmar is always fun, so let’s keep talking about it in the comments! Be sure to join us again next week, when we’ll visit Vedenar with a deeply stressed-out Dalinar.

Alice is, as usual in the fall, having fun watching, line judging, and cheering madly for her daughter’s volleyball games. Seriously, y’all have no idea how much time and energy that takes!

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course, and writes to stay sane. No, really. Links to her work are provided in her profile.

Lyndsey is swamped with Renn Faire costuming and work, and was unable to comment this week; she had to limit herself to mapping the team and giving offline feedback. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

citation

Back to the top of the page

31 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.