Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred and Nine

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All the best of the season to you and yours, as we head into the last reread episode of 2019! This week we’re back with (a sober) Dalinar, as he ventures back into the visions. This time, the Stormfather is bringing in someone hinted at in Chapter 107: Odium’s very own Envoy. Or at least the one who holds that title, though she doesn’t seem quite as committed to Odium as one might expect.

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. We really don’t address any wider Cosmere issues other than a passing reference to Odium’s interactions with other Shards, so you should be safe on that front.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Venli, Dalinar
WHERE: Urithiru, Past!Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.2.7.4, nine days after our last Dalinar chapter

Dalinar and Navani briefly discuss the form and function of Urithiru as they wait for the arrival of the highstorm. Once it hits, Dalinar enters the Nohadon vision with Venli. Dalinar attempts to reason with Venli, but before they can get beyond the first round, the vision is disrupted by Odium pounding on it like a piñata. The whole place comes to pieces, but Venli sees Dalinar holding Stormlight and keeping the area around him stable. In awe, she recognizes him as a true Knight Radiant. As Odium punches another hole in the shell, she sees Timbre trying vainly to reach her, and risks Odium’s pull to rescue the little spren. With the third hole, Venli herself is falling when Dalinar risks himself to reach her and dismiss her from the vision. As pain diminishes, he finds himself next to Odium, who says a number of disturbing things before the whole thing ends.

Beginnings

Chapter header art from Oathbringer

Title: Neshua Kadal

Dalinar stood on the balcony. And he was glowing.

Neshua Kadal. Radiant Knight.

A: And at long last, we get the unambiguous (if heavily implied) direct translation! It makes me happy. Also, I think it’s fun that the first time we heard this term, it was for Kaladin; now it’s for Dalinar. (Don’t ask me why I think it’s fun; it’s too complicated. I just like it.)

Heralds: Kalak, aka Kelek. Resolute/Builder. Willshapers. Role: Maker

Ishi (Ishar). Pious/Guiding. Bondsmiths. Herald of Luck.

A: On a guess, I’d say this is a straightforward shout-out to the Knight Radiant orders to which the two POV characters belong – or will eventually, anyway. (I’m assuming what is almost-proven-but-not-confirmed about Timbre, that she is a Reacher and her bond forms a Willshaper.)

Icon: Singer (denoting a chapter focused on Venli)

Epigraph:

Re-Shephir, the Midnight Mother, is another Unmade who appears to have been destroyed at Aharietiam.

—From Hessi’s Mythica, page 250

A: Correct me if I’m overreaching here, but to me this sounds like the ancient Lightweaver who trapped Re-Shephir must have done so very soon after (or during) the last Desolation 4500 years ago. If all indications of her presence vanished at about that time, it seems the logical assumption. With no further hints until Dalinar & Co. moved into Urithiru, she must have been imprisoned until sometime after the Knights Radiant vacated the place, somewhere around 1200 to 1500 years ago. Three thousand years is a long time to be trapped; I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed with the Radiant who created the trap, or more sorry for any sentient being who is trapped that long. (I guess it’s less time than Taln spent trapped alone on Braize with all the Fused torturing him, so there’s that…. Okay, I don’t feel very sorry for her.)

L: Well, she wasn’t the one torturing Taln. I do feel bad for her still. If she was sapient/sane before going in, it’s not much of a surprise that she wouldn’t be now. (Side-note: It sort of reminds me of a genie in a bottle scenario. “Phenomenal cosmic power… iiiiiitty bitty living space.”)

Stories & Songs

Odium sees that the vision has begun, the Stormfather warned Dalinar. The enemy is focusing on us. He comes.

“Can you hold him back?”

I am but a shadow of a god. His power vastly outstrips my own.

… “Can you hold him back? I need time to talk to her.”

I will… try.

L: It always freaks me out when we’re reminded of how much stronger Odium is. When you think of how powerful the Highstorms are to begin with….

A: …and the Stormfather himself has always seemed so incredibly powerful. To see him shrink in fear is bizarre.

She was using the old rhythms. She’d never been able to do that when Odium’s attention was on her.

L: I’d noticed this (Curiosity, Irritation, Reprimand, Resolve, Anxiety), so I really like that it’s called out that she notices it.

A: I like the way it tells her that this isn’t coming from Odium, even though he’ll interfere all too soon and confirm it. I also like that she finally seems to see a connection with the “old rhythms” as a good sign rather than a weakness.

“Why must you live there? To you, Alethkar is a place to conquer. But it’s my homeland.”

She attuned Reprimand. “Don’t you understand? The people who live there—the singers, my cousins—are from Alethkar. That is their homeland too. The only difference between them and you is that they were born as slaves, and you as their master!”

A: That pretty much sums up the current conflict, all across Roshar (at least if you leave out the vengeful Fused). Both races can claim “homeland” with full justification. One can claim ownership, the other can claim reparation, and both are valid claims. Unfortunately, it means that unless both sides are willing to give up some of their perceived rights, the only way to resolve it is genocide. (Pretty sure they’ll find a reason for compromise before it gets that far, but still.)

L: It’s such a difficult situation, because the generations of Alethi living there weren’t responsible for the current situation and view this place as just as much their home as the Parshendi do, not to mention the poor dullform slaves who were born there….

His words were dead, like those of all humans, but he wore his feelings on his face. So much passion and emotion.

Is this why the spren betrayed us for them?

L: Really good question…

A: It certainly fits with the possibilities we noted back in Words of Radiance, in one of those Listener Songs epigraphs. I suspect that from the spren perspective, the story might sound different, but we don’t know enough yet. All we have is that the Singers, and later the Listeners, believed that they were betrayed by the spren.

A sudden thump resounded in the vision. … The air was breaking. The clouds and sky seemed to be a mural painted on an enormous dome ceiling, and … a web of cracks appeared overhead.

Beyond them shone a vivid yellow light.

A: This was terrifying if you were too much in the moment. The “vivid yellow light” confirms that this is an attack from Odium, and it’s pretty much awful. The way this all plays out was, IMO, brilliant – with Odium pounding away at the structure of the vision from one angle, breaking in and vacuuming out the pieces, then attacking from another angle, and then another.

Dalinar stood on the balcony. And he was glowing.

Neshua Kadal. Radiant Knight.

Without meaning to, she attuned the Rhythm of Awe. … Long ago, these humans had resisted her gods. Yes, the enslavement of her cousins—the singers—was impossible to ignore. Still, the humans had fought. And had won.

The listeners remembered this as a song sung to the Rhythm of Awe, Neshua Kadal.

L: I find it very interesting that they have a song sung in awe of their conquerors. Usually such events are demonized by the people being conquered, and we do see a lot of that in their oral traditions. But there is this one instance of respect, which is fascinating. I would better understand it if they were Alethi, who value war so highly.

A: Another possibility is that the Listeners who wrote this song didn’t see the humans as their conquerors, or even as enemies. Certainly there had been enmity between the “Singer Ancestors” (or whatever you want to call the beings who become the Fused), but the Listeners gave up most of their heritage in order to simply be free of those beings. I can see where they (the Listeners, not necessarily the Singers) would revere the Knights Radiant who stood up to the Fused and defeated them in battle. They themselves couldn’t fight the Fused, because all the war-appropriate Forms were too easily controlled by Odium. Their only way of escaping the “gods” they had come to fear and hate was to become the next thing to mindless. If I’m right about this, how they must have longed to have the kinds of spren bonds that would have let them fight Odium’s control, like the Knights Radiant did!

[Dalinar] felt himself being ripped apart, flayed, shredded. Each piece of him removed and allowed to hurt in isolation. A punishment, a retribution, a personalized torment.

…Dalinar squeezed his eyes shut. What a fool he had been. If there had ever been a hope of peace, he’d probably destroyed it by pulling that Parshendi woman into a vision and subjecting her to Odium’s horrors.

A: Little does he know. She’s already quite aware of Odium’s horrors and the pain he can inflict. And little does he know that his ability (however limited) to stand against Odium, and his willingness to risk himself to send her away from the vision, will be a turning point for her.

“It hurts, doesn’t it? Yes. I know pain. I am the only god who does. The only one who cares.

L: When Odium says “only god,” I wonder if he’s thinking in terms of the entire Cosmere or only Roshar…

A: Good question. I’ve always assumed he meant the whole Cosmere, because Odium seems to believe that he’s superior to the rest of the Shards and has a perfect right to destroy them all. In context, though, he mostly seems to assume that Dalinar is only aware of the Roshar system gods. (What’s funny is that despite Odium’s assumption, Dalinar doesn’t even know that Cultivation is a Shard at the same level as Honor and Odium. Not yet, anyway.)

“Be strong, Dalinar. I have faith in you, even when you don’t have it in yourself. Though it will hurt for a time, there is an end. Peace is in your future. Push through the agony. Then you will be victorious, my son.”

L: Man… I just don’t know what to think about him. I still have this feeling that Odium’s gonna wind up being one of the good guys eventually, when some Bigger Bad Guy is revealed…

A: I don’t think so – or maybe it’s just that I hope not. He’s done enough damage (destroying Dominion, Devotion, Ambition, and Honor) that I’d really hate to seem him become one of the good guys. It’s a little like my feeling about Moash: #noredemption.

Bruised & Broken

And what of the grand purpose? What of the power he offers? Did she still want those things? Or was that merely something to grasp onto, now that she had brought about the end of her people?

L: A good question, and one that I’m glad to see her bringing up to herself.

A: YES. I love that after all we’ve seen her go through in her Interlude scenes so far, she’s come to the realization (when she dares) that Odium is not a benevolent god. She seems to have recognized that her actions brought about the destruction of the Listeners, rather than any return to glory or power. It’s almost like she’s finally seeing a truth that her long-ago ancestors knew: Odium doesn’t really care about her or her people (either Listener or Singer), he’s just using them as tools.

Self-awareness can be painful. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with her (and her people) in the next book. (I’m hoping for a reunion with the rest of the Listeners, followed by a mass revolt of both Singers and Listeners against the Fused and the Voidspren-bonded, enabled by a bunch of Knights Radiant of their own.)

Places & Peoples

It’s like the other strata lines ripple out from this one, getting wider as they move away from it.

L: I feel as if, when Sanderson eventually explains what’s going on with all this, we’re all gonna feel really silly for not seeing it sooner.

A: I know, right? And far too likely, it’ll be something beyond whatever I imagined. I do love these little moments when someone comments on the physical details of Urithiru, because every tiny bit of lore adds to the puzzle.

Emeralds for grain… and heliodors for flesh. … He was pretty sure diamonds made quartz … Topaz made stone.

A: Okay, call me a geek, but these glimpses are dear to my heart. He mentions a few other tidbits, like raising animals for the important gemhearts, and why they needed certain substances.

“Garnets make blood,” Navani said. “We don’t have any Soulcasters that use them.”

A: I had to laugh at this; as stated, comes across as a bit of a shocker. Uh… why would you need to Soulcast blood…? (Yes, of course, if you have the medical technology to do transfusions, it’d be awesome, but aside from that, I’ve got nothing.) She clarifies that it’s probably any water-soluble liquid, not just blood; which makes me immediately guess that the garnet veins have to do with plumbing. ALL the plumbing, like sanitation and water reclamation and stuff. And… you know what, I don’t think I need to go further down that path.

“…The records below,” Navani said, “speak of this tower like a living thing. With a heart of emerald and ruby, and now these veins of garnet.”

“If this tower was alive,” Dalinar said, “then it’s dead now.”

“Or sleeping. But if that’s the case, I have no idea how to wake it. We’ve tried infusing the heart like a fabrial, even had Renarin try to push Stormlight into it. Nothing’s worked.”

L: My tin-foil theory with absolutely nothing to back it up is that it needs at least one of each of the orders of Knights Radiant to be present in order to wake it up.

A: That’s actually a pretty fun theory. Hopefully we’ll see the rest of the Orders represented soon! I’m glad to see a reference to them trying various approaches to getting things running; it would be awfully out of character for Navani not to be poking at that in every free moment.

As for what it will take to make the city work again, or “be a city” as Renarin said… Personally, I’m still more inclined to the Sibling-bonded Radiant, but somehow the Sibling still has to be brought back from its “sleep,” whatever that means. I wonder if Stormfather and Nightwatcher could do something about that, or if it has to be voluntary, or if the humans have to find it in Shadesmar, or what. I do hope we see it happen in book four, though.

L: Well, if the Amazon blurb for Stormlight 4 is any indication, we’ll definitely be seeing more of Urithiru… (This text is whited-out in case you’re trying to avoid ALL possible spoilers. Highlight to read. “The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.”)

“A merchant ship vanished in the Southern Depths this morning, just off Marat. They went ashore at what they hoped was a safe distance—to use the spanreed—and reported a large number of ships at dock along the coast. Glowing figures rose from a nearby city and descended upon them, and the communication cut off.”

A: Ugh. Shades of Kholinar, when they made sure no communication could get out. Apparently the distance allowed for a little time, but… that ship is certainly lost. Clearly their “safe distance” wasn’t far enough, or the Fused are spread out along the coast farther than the ships are.

Weighty Words

Above, the man in the blue uniform leaped into the chasm.

He fell beside the hole’s perimeter, and stretched one hand toward Venli. His other ground against the rock wall, hand scraping the stone. Something flashed around his arm. Lines of light, a framework that covered his body. His fingers didn’t bleed as they scraped the stone.

Around her, the rocks—the air itself—seemed to grow more substantial. In defiance of the heat below, Venli slowed just enough that her fingers met those of Kholin.

Go.

L: This is so powerful! I love that Dalinar was willing to put himself at risk (even within the visions, he’s clearly not entirely safe from Odium) and the fact that Shardplate was gathering around him makes it even cooler. Do we have verification on the type of non-sapient spren that are associated with Bondsmiths, yet? I have a vague memory that they’re gloryspren but I forget if this has been verified anywhere later in this book of by WoB…

A: This scene was amazing, and as I noted earlier, I think Dalinar’s actions (as well as his appearance) have a strong impact on Venli and her future decisions. Taking that risk to send her out of the vision was huge, and I’m fascinated by the parallel between her rescue of Timbre (see below) and Dalinar’s subsequent rescue of her.
And the proto-Shardplate!!! I can’t help thinking that, no matter what the “usual” process for acquiring your armor, the spren themselves can take a certain initiative to protect you if they want. As for which spren would be doing this, we don’t seem to have any confirmation yet – at least, not that I can find. Gloryspren do seem to be a strong candidate, since they so often seem to appear in Dalinar’s presence, and they show up en masse when he does his Unification thing near the end. It’s still just a guess, and even if it’s correct, it may only apply to the Stormfather-Bondsmith. The Nightwatcher and the Sibling Bondsmiths might have different connections.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

The arm device had a painrial in it too; a kind of fabrial with a spren that feasted upon pain. He’d never yet remembered to use the thing.

L: This is absolutely fascinating. There are so many amazing things that could be done with something like this in the real world. Imagine people with chronic pain being able to use one of these! Literally life-changing. It’s a symbiotic relationship in the very best way.

A: I really love the idea, and if it’s true that the spren actually feasts on pain, it is a perfect symbiosis.

L: The fact that Dalinar hasn’t “remembered” to use it implies to me that he’s not experienced any dramatic physical pain since he got it.

A: I can’t think of anything that he hasn’t just numbed with alcohol, anyway.

L: Also, this type of fabrial seems a lot more “humane” to me than how most are described. At least this trapped spren is getting something out of the arrangement!

A: Right? If this is true, it’s great. I keep worrying about the fabrials, though, because of the implication that the spren is “trapped.” I’m mostly sure that this sort of spren is sufficiently non-sapient that it’s roughly the equivalent of saying that your houseplant is “trapped” in its pot—it sits there in a very hospitable environment and flourishes. But I’m still worried; if you can trap a painspren, what else can you trap? We know you can trap an Unmade (which are spren of a sort); can you trap an honorspren or a Cryptic? (Taravangian seemed to think they could, but with him you never know whether he’s speaking from knowledge, from ignorance, or from mendacity.) Also: given the whole concept, what about the Sibling? Are they trapped and need to be released?

L: Not to mention the fact that the highspren might not look too kindly upon their lesser-sapient siblings being enslaved like this. I wonder if they’ve even realized that it’s happening yet… it seems as though this type of fabrial is pretty “new” in terms of world history, and with the spren being as long-lived as they are…

She opened her eyes, and saw Timbre fighting against the wind in an attempt to reach her. Bursts of light exploded from the little spren in frantic rings. … The little spren changed to the Rhythm of the Lost and began to slide backward. … With her other hand, she twisted and snatched Timbre from the air.

Touching Timbre felt like touching silk being blown by a wind. As Venli folded her left hand around the spren, she felt a pulsing warmth. Timbre pulsed to Praise as Venli pulled her close to her breast.

L: You know, for something that’s never spoken a single word, I love this little spren so much. Timbre is the sweetest little cinnamon roll and needs to be protected at all costs.

A: Right? She only communicates by way of the rhythms, and yet she’s so clear and precious.

Through his bond, Dalinar sensed weeping. The Stormfather had kept Odium back, but storms, he had paid a price. The most powerful spren on Roshar—embodiment of the tempest that shaped all life—was crying like a child, whispering that Odium was too strong.

L: Poor Stormfather. For all his somewhat condescending nature, he’s genuinely trying to help Dalinar to achieve his goals, even at great personal cost. I have to respect that.

A: I seem to mostly be nodding along this week, but this is so true. For a long time I liked the idea of Stormfather more than his personality, because he always seemed so supercilious, not to say occasionally vindictive. The more I see his side, and especially the more we get these reactions to Odium, the more sympathetic he becomes! And the bit at the end (which we’ll get to in a few months) redeems all these moments.

Sheer Speculation

A: I thought I might have a looney theory for this week, but it turned out to be something we’ve talked about before, if from a slightly different angle. It was that whole bit about the Listener survivors understanding their own history, and making the choice to join the humans against the Fused. We’ve long been speculating, though, that between Rlain and Venli, maybe they’ll find some survivors. The only thing that’s new (to me, anyway) is the possibility that the Listeners had awe, respect, and possibly a sort of envy for the humans who were able to stand against the gods they themselves had come to hate. I love the way that could fit in with the first-ever Parsh Knights Radiant.

For what it’s worth, speculation on the reread will likely come to an end in the near future. Since Lyndsey and I are both beta readers, as are all of our usual co-conspirators (Paige, Ross, and Aubree), once the beta read for Rhythm of War starts, the reread has to change tone a little. We’ll be limiting ourselves to what’s actually in THIS book (or existing Words of Brandon, of course), and avoiding guesses at what comes later. Obviously, we don’t want to risk spoilers, so we won’t mention anything that’s in the next book. Less obviously, we don’t want to tell you what’s not in the book. We won’t be saying, “Subject A doesn’t get dealt with, so we can still speculate about it!!” because that would be a different kind of spoiler. The beta read is currently slated to begin toward the end of January, though of course it depends on a lot of varying factors.

L: Being a beta reader is an amazing experience, but it also can be a difficult one, as we have to be very careful about what we do and don’t say once it begins!

 

Next week we’ll be off for Christmas Break. Alice and I wish you all a happy holiday season filled with joy and time spent with the people you love. When we return on January 2, we’ll be back with the Shadesmar Exploration Society, in a relatively short chapter. The one following it is a longer one, so we’re sticking with a shorter week following the holidays.

Alice is feeling pretty crunched by all the seasonal events, but she’s still enjoying them. Crunching on peanut brittle always helps, right?

Lyndsey is looking forward to this winter being over – bring on the warm weather and the return of Renaissance Faire season! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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