Lyn: Welcome back from Thanksgiving break, faithful readers! Aubree and I are back from the Starsight release party, where Brandon read an excerpt from Rhythms of War! If you’re not opposed to spoilers, you ought to go and check it out, if you haven’t already. We had a lovely time, but now Alice and I are ready to jump back into the reread with chapter one hundred and seven! Dalinar is (thankfully) coming off his bender in this chapter, and boy oh boy do we have a lot of information imparted to us about military strategy. I spent a lot of time on the map this week to help illustrate what’s going on, from locations of Oathgates to vague areas of conquest by the Voidbringers and arrows to indicate what Dalinar suspects their next movements to be. We hope this helps to better illustrate how the major players are moving on the world map, as we’re beginning to enter the end-game…
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. You’re safe from broader Cosmere spoilers for this week.
WHEN: 1184.108.40.206 (the day after the last chapter with Navani)
Dalinar pulls himself out of the haze of alcohol he’s been under and attends a planning meeting, in which he realizes that they’ve misinterpreted the Voidbringers’ actions. They’re not planning on attacking Jah Keved – they’re going to attack Thaylen City. He leaves and talks briefly with Kadash about his excommunication, then we switch over to Taravangian, who’s having guilty thoughts about setting plans into motion regarding Dalinar…
Title: The First Step
What was the most important step a man could take? The first, obviously. But what did it mean?
A: He’s not entirely wrong, but not entirely right either. At this point, though, it’s important for him to take that first step out of self-pity and back into the fight.
Heralds: Battah (Battar), Wise/Careful. Elsecallers. Role: Counsellor. Chach, aka Chanarach (Chana). Brave/Obedient. Dustbringers. Role: Guard
A: Hmm. Well, both orders are represented by their members (Jasnah and Malata) in this chapter, and I expect that’s part of why they’re here. I also expect that the content of the meeting – strategy, consultation, and the effort to protect humanity from Odium – is also intended.
Icon: Kholin Glyphpair, denoting a Dalinar chapter
Epigraph: There is very little information about Bo-Ado-Mishram in more modern times. I can only assume she, unlike many of them, returned to Damnation or was destroyed during Aharietiam.
–From Hessi’s Mythica, page 226
A: Bahahaha! If you only knew!
L: Wishful thinking, here.
A: Right? I’m just waiting for one of the Fused to find that imprisoning gemstone…
He liked the ritual [of shaving]. The chance to prepare, to cut away the nightly chaff and reveal the real person underneath–furrows, scars, and harsh features included.
L: There’s a lot more going on with this than just the obvious, of course. The metaphor should be pretty clear, but he’s indicating that he doesn’t like hiding who he really is now. All of those imperfections are what make him who he is, and he’s not going to hide them. Or drown them in liquor. Not anymore.
Stories & Songs
Most, Navani included, seemed to remember him as more noble than he deserved. Yet he didn’t ascribe any magic to this. It was simply the way of human beings, subtly changing the past in their minds to match their current beliefs.
L: Similar to “history is written by the winners,” isn’t it? People do have a tendency to see what they want to see… all one needs to do is look at all the different interpretations of any religious text to see this apparent in the real world.
A: It’s also very much a matter of perception. Not only do we remember things from our own viewpoint, we always interpret them based on our own expectations and understanding at the time. People see you much differently than you see yourself. In this case, Dalinar was pretty much the ideal of the Alethi in many ways, the more so because he rarely let his doubts and uncertainties show. He looked confident and heroic from the outside, even though he was often unsure, frustrated, or simply running on adrenaline. In the matter of Rathalas, too, there was the PR campaign to spin the events into the most useful narrative they could. Even worse, for Dalinar, he’s changed so much in his own ideals and standards that he can’t help but see the younger version of himself as an immature, self-centered hothead – but everyone else remembers The Blackthorn as an idealized Alethi warrior. Cognitive dissonance FTW!
“Moelach seems to have settled in the Horneater Peaks. Joshor is on his way there now. We might again soon have access to the Death Rattles.”
L: I wonder why Moelach fled… Did it realize that Taravangian was taking advantage of its presence, maybe?
Relationships & Romances
Gavilar had taught him to shave. Their father had been too busy getting himself cut apart in foolish duels of honor, including the one where he’d taken a blow to the head. He’d never been right after that.
L: Is this the first time we’ve heard anything about Dalinar’s father? I think it is.
A: We’ve heard a very little bit about him before; Adolin thought about him for two sentences back in The Way of Kings, Chapter 12, noting that he’d suffered from delusions in his later years, believing he was back at war. (What war, we don’t know, but it seemed like the Alethi were always fighting one another if they didn’t have anyone else to fight, so that’s pretty believable.) I was amused by “he’d never been right after that” – it sounds to me like maybe he’d never exactly been what you’d call “right.”
L: I wonder if this is why Dalinar is, for the most part, so condescending regarding Adolin’s penchant for duels. It would make a lot of sense.
A: It would. He might remember a time when he thought his dad was pretty cool for being a duelist, but that stage was clearly overshadowed by a time when he realized that the duels were stupid and useless. I wonder if Dalinar also saw them as his father trying and failing to relive his “glory days” of being a warrior.
L: Well, I more meant that he’s remembering that it was a duel that resulted in his father’s injury, and he might be afraid that his son would suffer the same fate. I can absolutely see Dalinar subconsciously blaming dueling for his father’s condition, and that’s why he thinks of duels as stupid and useless.
A: Hmm. That’s a fair point. Given their society, it’s not a thing you could outright tell your son not to do – especially not with “fear for your brainbox” as a rationale – but it might well be that Dalinar dislikes dueling for more reasons than just “it’s only pretend war.” And I have to say, watching your parent go delusional is really hard.
“You’re more patient than I deserve. You should have dumped me out of bed and poured the wine on my head.”
“I had a feeling you’d push through.”
L: These two are just too sweet.
A: …but I’d have laughed if she followed his suggestion. Just sayin’.
Bruised & Broken
“You’re not the man you were back then.”
Oh, Navani. I never grew beyond that man; I just hid him away.
L: Interesting philosophical query; is he right? Is all growth and change just burying the things we don’t like about ourselves, and encouraging the things we do want to grow in their stead? Our experiences are a part of us, unless we forget them entirely (supernaturally or otherwise), but even then… scars remain, scars which subtly change us. Everything that happens to us changes us, so can we ever truly say that we’re not the person we were before? Or are we an amalgamation of all the people we’ve been, piled one atop the other until each individual ceases to be recognizable as such, like colors blending into black?
A: Is a fruit merely the same thing as the seed from which it grew? Is a peach seed the same as a peach tree the same as a peach? They all have the same basic genes, but growth means that you leave some things/forms behind as you become the next thing. You’re not (quite) the same person today as you were yesterday, because you had some small experience which changed the way you looked at some small thing. No one is ever quite the same person they used to be.
In this case, I think Dalinar believes he hasn’t changed, and IMO he’s wrong – but there are a couple of mitigating factors. We need to keep in mind that Dalinar hasn’t yet recovered the memory of his visit to the Nightwatcher; at this point, he assumes that he merely asked to forget – taking the coward’s way out of dealing with his pain. Although that’s more or less what he intended to ask, even then he had grown enough to realize that he needed forgiveness, and he unintentionally asked for it. The decision to go to the Nightwatcher was, as we talked about a few weeks ago, one step toward dealing with his past in a way that didn’t involve alcohol poisoning.
Another thing he hasn’t yet realized is that he has grown and changed tremendously in the intervening years. It may be that this growth would not have been possible if certain memories hadn’t been removed; that doesn’t mean he didn’t grow. IMO, the removal of those particular memories didn’t change his essential character, and it’s that person who was able to grow into the Dalinar who became the first Bondsmith in centuries.
L: If he’d gone back to the way he was before after getting his memories back, there’d be a case for him not changing. But he’s definitely not the Blackthorn anymore.
A: No, in this case, I think Navani is more correct than Dalinar, though both have elements of truth. Yes, Dalinar did hide (or have hidden from him) some of his experiences, but he has outgrown the need to bury them, and is (as we will see soon enough) now ready to face them. All of them.
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
L: I’m going to put Ialai here, for lack of a better place…
Her silence now didn’t mean she was being respectful. It meant she was saving her barbs to whisper where he couldn’t hear.
L: You know… I both love and hate her. I love her because she’s playing the Game of Houses/Thrones perfectly–you want to be circumspect, you want to spread rumors to take your enemies down as ruthlessly as possible. But I hate her because damn, woman, there is more at stake here. Also I value honesty… and she’s definitely the opposite of that. (I would be a terrible, terrible politician.)
A: I dunno; I think we could all use a little more honesty in politics! But you’d hate it, so there’s that. Anyway… I agree on Ialai; she’s clever (despite Jasnah’s barb about “work harder on the intelligent part”) and has shown herself to be quite capable of plotting to secure her own ends. Back in the day, her “ends” lined up with those of Gavilar and Dalinar; hence Dalinar’s recollection of the days when they’d joked together. In more recent years, her goals separated from his. IMO, she was always looking out for her own personal interest, and she (and Torol) put their money on Gavilar as their own best bet for a rise to power and wealth. As long as that’s what was happening, they were aligned; after Gavilar’s death and Dalinar’s trip to the Nightwatcher, it became apparent that they could advance their own power by undermining Dalinar and crowding him out of his influence over Elhokar, so… that’s what they pursued. Now, she still wants power, but she also wants (what she sees as) revenge, since she’s convinced Dalinar was behind Torol’s death. I suppose in a way I can’t blame her for that, but… as you say, Lyndsey, humanity itself is at stake here, and you’d think she could set aside her personal issues for a while.
“Taravangian?” Dalinar said. “We’ll leave troops in Jah Keved too, in case I’m wrong. Don’t worry.”
The old man looked to Dalinar, then strangely wiped tears from his eyes.
“Are… are you in pain?” Dalinar asked.
“Yes. But it is nothing you can fix.” He hesitated. “You are a good man, Dalinar Kholin. I did not expect that.”
L: Yikes. We readers, with our inside knowledge of what’s going on with Taravangian, realize what’s going on here. He feels guilty for putting plans into motion that will result in Dalinar’s death. Poor Dalinar, though, has no clue…
A: Even as I pity Taravangian, I really hate him. If “the greater good” requires deliberate sacrifice of good people without their knowledge, is it really the greater good? It’s not an easy question, I’ll admit; nonetheless, I find it deeply disturbing that he takes it upon himself to decide who lives and who dies.
“We’ve found what happened to Graves,” Adrotagia continued. “Scavengers found the storm-blown wreckage of his wagon, and there was an intact spanreed inside.”
“Graves is replaceable.”
“And the Shards?”
“Irrelevant,” Taravangian said. “We won’t win the prize through force of arms. I was reluctant to let him try his little coup in the first place.”
He and Graves had disagreed about the Diagram’s instructions: to kill Dalinar or recruit him?
L: Well, we knew that Graves was dead (he was with Moash when the Fused attacked), but it’s cool to see this verification of how he fit into the Diagram organization!
A: It still seems odd to me, that Taravangian can be so confident in the Diagram that he orders people murdered on the strength of it, and at the same time allow his underlings to decide that it means something different that requires a whole different set of people to be murdered.
Places & Peoples
“We don’t want to normalize what you’ve done or what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean we will abandon our posts. Your people need us, Dalinar, even if you believe you don’t.”
L: I’m really glad that Kadash, at least, is a good man too. He’s more concerned about his flock than himself. The ardentia shares a lot of traits with modern organized religion, and this sentiment seems to echo what a lot of religions believe – do what’s right, regardless of what government (ie, earthly power) tells you. Man is fallible. The god you believe in, presumably, is not. This gets a little murky in this particular situation, considering what we know about the Cosmere as a whole and that holders of Shards (who were usually at one time mortal) are often revered as deities… and hoo boy, are a lot of them fallible!
A: Heh. It’s well written, and it’s one of my ongoing frustrations with the Cosmere – all the “deities” turn out to be just normal, fallible human beings with extra power but no extra intelligence.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“I was excommunicated from the Vorin church soon after hearing of Kholinar’s fall. I took it poorly. Did you expect me to react by throwing a feast?”
“I expected you to lead us, not sulk.”
I deserved that.
L: Yeah… you kinda did.
“Ialai,” Jasnah said, “it is good you are here. Sometimes, an intelligent dissenting voice tests and proves a theory. I do wish you’d work harder on the intelligent part.”
L: ::wistful sigh:: Jasnah, you absolute treasure.
A: This whole scene was so rich. I find it highly amusing that Dalinar’s Eureka! moment is the result of a snarkfest.
“But most of our ships were lost to the blustering Everstorm.”
A: I have to point this out as a most suitable epithet from a Thaylen admiral. “The blustering Everstorm” seems so fitting from him.
There is one I have been watching, the Stormfather added. I can see her, when I don’t see others.
“A leader?” Dalinar asked.
L: This has to be Venli. I imagine the Stormfather can see her because she’s also a proto-Radiant… but this begs the question, why can’t he see the other Voidspren? Can Odium mask them from him, somehow?
A: I honestly have no idea, and no theory either. It’s logical that if there’s only one member of Team Odium he can see, it’s got to be Venli and it’s got to be because of Timbre. But I don’t know why.
“This place is awful. Every last idiot here is frozen, ears to toes.”
L: Well… that’s an interesting saying!
She reached forward, whipping off her glove–safehand no less–and pressing it against the table.
Marks spread out from the point of contact, little swirls of blackness etching themselves into the wood. The scent of burning filled the air, but the flames didn’t persist if she didn’t will them to.
The swirls and lines extended across the tabletop, a masterwork of engraving accomplished in moments.Malata blew off the ash. The Surge she used, Division, caused objects to degrade, burn, or turn to dust.
L: I love how she just does this for fun. There’s literally no reason for her to do it, other than to prove a point–I’m dangerous, and don’t you forget it.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
“Still there, I see,” Dalinar said, relieved.
Where would I go?
“I hurt you,” Dalinar said. “When I activated the Oathgate. I was afraid you would leave me.”
This is the lot I have chosen. It is you or oblivion.
L: Oblivion? Interesting. I wonder if he’s referring to oblivion coming if Odium achieves his goals, or if he’s saying that breaking his oaths now would result in his destruction…
A: I’m assuming that if their bond were broken, he’d go back to being essentially the mindless storm, rather than the increasingly sapient being he is. I’m not sure that makes sense, entirely, though, because he seemed to be pretty intelligent prior to bonding…
I… may have felt something, the Stormfather said. During a recent highstorm, it felt like Stormblessed was there with me.
L: I kind of like that the Stormfather calls Kaladin “Stormblessed.” Not Kaladin… not “the windrunner…” No. Stormblessed. It’s a damn cool name so I’m happy to see it, but it rather denotes a degree of respect (especially coming from the storm), doesn’t it?
A: I think it does, and it does indeed seem like a high compliment from him. I’m fascinated that he can feel Kaladin through the highstorm in Shadesmar.
“Spark is game for whatever it takes to get vengeance. And what lets her break stuff.”
L: Very interesting. Vengeance for the Recreance and her fallen brothers and sisters, perhaps? Or vengeance against the Voidbringers?
A: Given her comment just a couple of paragraphs earlier, about “what the Radiants did to Spark’s friends” and the death of “hundreds of ashspren,” I have to assume she’s referring to the Recreance. She doesn’t seem to notice (or at least care) that there were hundreds of other spren involved as well. Granted that a number of the orders’ spren seem to be reluctant to trust humans again, the ashspren are the only ones who are outright hostile.
Chapter 108 is another long one, back with the Shadesmar Exploration Society, so we’ll just tackle that one next week. (L: Kal and Adolin return! Hooray!)
Alice is happily playing Christmas carols again. It’s Advent!!
Lyndsey had an absolutely amazing time at the Starsight release in Utah! Have you started reading it yet? If not, SCUD, WHY NOT? Get going, it’s an amazing book! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.