Hey there! Welcome back! We’re back in Urithiru for the Oathbringer Reread this week, and not dreaming either. It’s all meetings, logistics, and scholarship this week, with undercurrents of personal interactions to keep things interesting. I mean, Sebarial is always… interesting, right?
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. There are no Cosmere spoilers in this week’s reread, so you’re safe in that regard.
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11 (The same day as Dalinar’s dream/vision/nightmare in Chapter 103)
Navani meets with the loyal highprinces in Dalinar’s absence, trying to address the many different issues that arise with thousands of people living in a semi-functional tower city. Once that is concluded, she checks in with Jasnah’s team down in the gemstone library.
What had happened to them in Kholinar? Where were they?
Strength. They would return.
A: This whole chapter is full of Navani maintaining strength even though she’s worried sick about her son, grandson, and nephew—because somehow, someone has to be strong and keep this kingdom functioning. Of course, for reasons she doesn’t yet know, Dalinar has even more to cope with than she does, but we’ll get to that later.
Herald: Paliah is the Scholar, patron of the Truthwatchers, with the divine attributes Learned and Giving.
A: I’m guessing Paliah is here equally for her role as Scholar, reflected in Jasnah and her team, and for her position as the original Truthwatcher, per the focus on Renarin and his abilities. It’s also possible that Giving is demonstrated in Navani’s efforts to keep things going until Dalinar can recover from the worst of his issues.
Icon: The Fabrial Gemstone icon, new just a few chapters ago, tells us we’ve got Navani’s POV.
Ashertmarn, the Heart of the Revel, is the final of the three great mindless Unmade. His gift to men is not prophecy or battle focus, but a lust for indulgence. Indeed, the great debauchery recorded from the court of Bayala in 480—which led to dynastic collapse—might be attributable to the influence of Ashertmarn.
— From Hessi’s Mythica, page 203
A: It seems fairly obvious that Ashertmarn was already taking up residence in Kholinar during Words of Radiance, when we had the Interlude from the ardent Lhan. It also seems likely, in retrospect, that it didn’t arrive there until after Navani had left to return to the Shattered Plains (in The Way of Kings). I’m happy about this; it explains why Navani thought that Aesudan had things well in hand, when the first thing we saw in Kholinar was a complete shambles. I wonder if the timing of the arrival of a powerful Unmade is significant—like, if it’s tied to one of those dark-light spheres Gavilar had.
L: I’ve been wondering the same thing about the dark-light sphere.
Relationships & Romances
She just had to give Dalinar time. Even if, deep down, a part of her was angry. Angry that his pain so overshadowed her growing fear for Elhokar and Adolin. Angry that he got to drink himself to oblivion, leaving her to pick up the pieces.
But she had learned that nobody was strong all the time, not even Dalinar Kholin. Love wasn’t about being right or wrong, but about standing up and helping when your partner’s back was bowed. He would likely do the same for her someday.
L: This is a wonderfully mature way of looking at things, and a very nice contrast to the more immature romances we’ve seen up to this point. Adolin and Shallan are sweet, yeah, but they lack the life experiences that Navani has. I don’t blame her for feeling a little angry, but the fact that she’s able to self-analyze the reason why and come to terms with it is absolutely wonderful. It’s a good thing that Dalinar has her.
A: You nailed it, Lyndsey. This maturity in a relationship is such a breath of fresh air! Sure, we all understand why she’s angry about it, but I do admire her decision to step up and do what needs to be done when Dalinar can’t. I especially admire her internal acknowledgement that it’s not all one way, and he’ll do the same for her. (I wonder if this is foreshadowing…)
It’s also worth noting that Navani doesn’t know the extent of what Dalinar is facing. There’s the obvious: the disappearance of the Kholinar team, including their sons, and his excommunication from the Vorin church. Both of those are traumatic—but honestly, I’m pretty sure Dalinar could keep going in the face of those two problems. It’s the problems he hasn’t told her about, at least not in detail, that have him crawling into the bottles. I have a suspicion that she’ll learn about those (probably off-page between books) as she proofreads his biography manuscript. I wonder how she’ll respond.
Storms, Navani thought. [Renarin] truly looks happy. … She’d worried when he had first “joined” Bridge Four. He was the son of a highprince. Decorum and distance were appropriate when dealing with enlisted soldiers.
But when, before this, had she last heard him laugh?
A: This just… I don’t quite know what to say, but I love seeing Renarin with Bridge Four. They are so good for him.
L: Same. Bridge 4 is a haven for misfits, and it’s always lovely to see someone find a home there.
There was no arguing with Jasnah, any more than there was arguing with a boulder. You just stepped to the side and went around.
A: Hah! That’s Jasnah, all right—and a wise mother! Their other interaction is priceless:
“It’s not the language, but the dismissal,” Jasnah said. “Histories.”
“History is the key to human understanding.
Here we go.
“We must learn from the past and apply that knowledge to our modern experience.”
Lectured by my own daughter again.
“The best indication of what human beings will do is not what they think, but what the record says similar groups have done in the past.”
“Of course, Brightness.”
A: This just cracked me up. I mean… Jasnah isn’t wrong. You see it all the time IRL—people think that this time they know what to do, and it will be fine, despite the fact that their big idea has been tried and proven to fail repeatedly. But giving her mother the professor lecture, with Navani’s thoughts interspersed, and then “Of course, Brightness”—maybe it’s just me, but I laughed so hard at that section.
Bruised & Broken
Teft, for example, had been hauled before Aladar’s magistrates two days ago. Public intoxication on firemoss. Aladar had quietly requested her seal to free him.
L: Oh, Teft. We know that his story winds up positive (at least… so far), but this still hurts, to see him backsliding.
She had no problem being a wife or mother to monarchs, but to be one herself—storms, what a dark path that would lead them all down.
A: Why? What do we not know about Navani??
L: Yeah, honestly, I don’t see the horror in this. She doesn’t strike me as the type to be making an observation about women in positions of power, so there must be something else going on here.
A: Exactly. She has nothing but respect for Queen Fen, and we don’t hear that she objected to crowning Jasnah. It seems that the issue is with Navani herself. It could just be that she doesn’t think she’d be a good queen, but… the phrasing seems more emphatic than that.
Squires & Sidekicks
The five men of Bridge Four arrayed themselves behind Navani. They had been surprised when she’d asked them to escort her; they didn’t yet understand the authority they lent the throne.
A: There’s nothing huge to say about the Bridge Four team in this chapter; they’re just solidly there, as chill as ever. Leyten, Hobber, Huio, and two others escort Navani, remain cheerfully expectant of Kaladin’s return, circumspectly remind Navani that their abilities are limited (by Kaladin’s absence and the fact that only one at a time can use the Honorblade), tease Renarin, and generally act just like themselves. Love those guys. (Also, if you didn’t see the cut text, it’s one of my favorite lines ever. I even suggested it as a chapter title.)
L: They’re the best.
Places & Peoples—& Politics
Brightness Bethab had come representing her husband. The men in the army tended to disrespect him for letting her do so — but that ignored the fact that marrying Mishinah for her political acumen had been a wise and calculated move.
A: Ah, Rosharan politics and roles. It’s pretty funny that among the Alethi nobles, women being the scholars and engineers as well as the only ones who can read, there’s still this idea that men are the clever politicians. Personally, I find it quite admirable that Highprince Bethab was smart enough (given his position) to recognize his own areas of weakness, and find a wife who is strong in those areas—and one he can trust, too.
Aladar cleared his throat, sitting. “You know, Brightness, that we are the most loyal to your husband’s cause.”
“Or at the least,” Sebarial added, “we’re the ones hoping to get rich by throwing in our lot with him.”
A: Sebarial cracks me up, even as I sometimes want to smack him. Nothing like enlightened self-interest to keep things going!
L: I mean… at least he’s honest.
“Navani,” Brightlady Bethab said. … “We appreciate that you’ve taken the initiative in this difficult time.” There was a glint to her orange eyes, as if she assumed Navani was enjoying her new power.
A: That’s a natural assumption, even if it’s not true currently; we know that in the past, Navani did enjoy the scheming and politicking, and did her part enthusiastically. I still find myself annoyed by the assumption.
L: Eh. I think there’s a distinct difference between scheming behind the scenes and taking the actual reins, which is what is being insinuated here.
“The highking proclamation has not been made official,” Navani said. “I think it’s best to pretend you don’t know about it, for now. …”
A: Sigh. It’s painful to read this now, knowing how this secrecy will later be used against them. I’m not sure openness would have served any better, of course, but… it’s still painful to look ahead.
L: Transparency may have helped them, but then again, it may not have. We honestly have no way of knowing.
A: Meanwhile, there’s a meeting. They have to sort out the latest logistical problems with living in Urithiru, where the infrastructure is all there but is stubbornly non-functional. Plumbing issues (going both ways), labor issues, materiel issues, food issues… Fortunately, the temporary solutions are worked out in a three-hour meeting we don’t have to read.
L: ::says a silent prayer of thanks to the Stormfather for that::
Tight Butts and Coconuts
… all but Sebarial, who appeared to be flipping through a stack of cards bearing pictures of women in compromising positions.
A: How many of them are showing their safehands? Seriously, though, this is totally a thing Sebarial would do—bring his favorite porn collection along to a boring meeting.
L: Sebarial just doesn’t give a single, solitary flying f*** about what anyone thinks of him and I’ve got to respect that.
A: Except Navani, a little? (Actually, I think he does care—he deliberately presents himself in a way that pushes others to see him in a light that keeps them from taking him seriously. It leaves him a lot more room to maneuver.)
“The only thing he seems to be mourning,” Sebarial said, “is the fact that people won’t bring him bottles of wine fast enough for—“
“Damnation, Turinad!” Navani snapped. “That’s enough!”
Sebarial blinked, then pocketed his cards. “Sorry, Brightness.”
A: I’m not sure which is funnier, Sebarial’s initial comment, Navani’s reaction, or Sebarial’s reaction to Navani! I mean, no, Dalinar in a drunken stupor isn’t exactly funny, but Sebarial’s phrasing sure is. I think he sometimes forgets that people can be passionate about things he thinks are unimportant—which is why it’s so funny when Navani snarls at him, and he actually apologizes for ill-timed snark. Who knew he could do that?
Also, now we know what “Turi” is short for.
During Gavilar’s last days, he had gone strange. Few knew how dark he’d grown, but they had seen the eccentricity.
A: Am I right in thinking this is the first hint of Gavilar “going wrong” in a more obvious sense? I mean… that whole thing about bringing back the Listeners’ “old gods” and having something with Voidlight trapped in a sphere was pretty wonky. The Sons of Honor plan to jumpstart a new Desolation to bring back the Heralds was bizarre at best. But… I don’t remember seeing him as really growing dark. I guess most of what (little) we know had come from Dalinar before this, and he a) thought his brother was next thing to God and b) was too drunk most of the time to notice anyway.
The Prologue for Rhythm of War is from Navani’s perspective. I wonder if we’ll get more on the subject of Gavilar growing dark.
L: I seem to recall discussion of him going strange (presumably in reference to his adherence to the Way of Kings), but I don’t recall ever reading anything about him being dark. It does seem to fit with his actions and with that dark gem he was carrying around, though. Which I still want to find out more about…
“Tell us honestly, Brightness,” Sebarial said, leaning forward. “What does the Blackthorn want? Is this all secretly a way for him to dominate the world?”
Storms. Even they worried about it. And why shouldn’t they? It made so much sense.
A: It’s not true, of course, and she convinces them of that. There are a couple other things worth noting here, though.
One is (as we’ve said before) that it really is understandable that the rest of the world views Dalinar’s coalition with suspicion. Unification is, far too often, merely a code for subjugation. Unfortunately, he can’t drag the entire world into the visions with him, to convince them of the burning necessity to come together.
L: …Not yet, anyway.
A: The other thing I… well, I wonder about, though I don’t have evidence: Do the Alethi highprinces actually object to the idea of Alethkar dominating the world? As long as they’re well-positioned to benefit from it, I can see some of them (at a minimum) thinking that it would be just fine. Why not?
L: Yeah, we don’t really get the tone of that dialogue. Navani assumes they’re worrying about it, but they could very well be hoping for it instead. It’s certainly possible.
And, bless them, these four did want the coalition to work. Aladar and Sebarial, for all their flaws, had followed Dalinar into the dark of the Weeping and found Damnation waiting there. Hatham and Bethab had been at the advent of the new storm, and could see that Dalinar had been right.
They didn’t care that the Blackthorn was a heretic—or even whether he usurped the throne of Alethkar. They cared that he had a plan for dealing with the enemy, long-term.
A: This almost needs a different title, because the motivation here is clear as crystal: Survive.
L: They’ve seen first-hand what’s at stake, so it makes perfect sense that they’d be all in.
Stories & Songs
A: The end of the chapter involves Navani checking in on Jasnah’s team of scribes, who are attempting to translate all the gemstones in the library to see what they can learn. Navani, naturally, is primarily concerned with any tidbits of information about making Urithiru work. Jasnah is interested in the history. It makes for some funny interactions, but we don’t actually learn a whole lot.
Navani does comment—in a statement that we now know as foreshadowing of dire things to come—that the Dawnchant is close to being cracked. That seems to trouble Jasnah, but no explanation is given. In retrospect, it seems possible that Jasnah has been keeping close tabs on the project, and is becoming aware of the implications of what has been translated thus far.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
The glyphs were scrawled in white on the highprince’s wall, the paper read. [There follows more quotation, and then a summary of Renarin’s secretive warnings prior to the Everstorm.]
It was a little odd, but in the face of everything else, it didn’t really register. And… well, it was Renarin. Why had Jasnah collected all of these?
A: This fits loosely within Jasnah’s earlier assertion that she needed to keep Renarin close and to study his powers. However…
I have a description for you, finally, Jasnah, another said. We’ve convinced the Radiant that Lift found in Yeddaw to visit Azimir. Though she has not yet arrived, you can find sketches of her spren companion here. It looks like the shimmer you see on a wall when you shine light through a crystal.
A: Knowing what we know now, it’s impossible not to feel apprehensive. Jasnah was apparently suspicious of something at this point—and Navani’s reaction indicates that this is not merely normal procedure. She was not only collecting every bit of information about Renarin’s abilities, but also about his spren. Was she bothered by not ever being able to see his spren? Had she caught a glimpse? Was she becoming convinced that his powers didn’t line up with the historical record of what Truthwatchers did? What was her concern? We really don’t know what triggered this investigation, but something has her worried. And, unfortunately, rightly so.
A: There’s just a brief mention of this little item in the chapter, but it will become a Plot Point later on. The translated text reads as follows:
Touch the gems in the correct combination to release a shock from the front nodes that will incapacitate an attacker
L: This reminds me a great deal of Asami’s gloves in Avatar: Legend of Korra. I wonder what kind of spren they’ve got trapped in there? Are there different spren/gems for each function?
Well, that wraps it up for this week. Next week, we’ll be tackling Chapter 105 all on its lonesome. We’ll join Dalinar in attending Gavilar’s funeral, and watch him make a momentous decision…
Alice is losing her voice from yelling at volleyball matches. She also, finally, learned how libero substitution works. It’s complicated.