Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred and Eleven

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Hold onto your spheres, rereaders, because we’re heading into climax territory! In this week’s chapter, Dalinar thinks he’s got everything under control—so of course, it all starts going south on him. We finally learn the translation of the Dawnchant, and our characters learn that everything they thought they knew was a lie. They are the Voidbringers, the invaders. Humans stole Roshar from the Dawnsingers. Which puts them… on the wrong side of this war, from a certain point of view.

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.

No broader Cosmere spoilers this week, so you’re totally safe to read on.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar, with Navani, Jasnah, Taravangian and others
WHERE: Thaylen City
WHEN: 1174.2.7.5, the day after Dalinar’s vision with Venli & Odium

(I just have to point out here that, despite all that’s still to come, this is one day before the big battle. One. Day.)

Dalinar arrives in Thaylen City and has a brief meeting with Amaram, in which Amaram expresses his displeasure at not being used to his full potential. He has a discussion with the Stormfather about the third Sibling. They begin the grand meeting in which they lay out guidelines for their new coalition, but in the middle, news arrives that a new Everstorm is on that way—early, and far stronger and faster than usual. Jasnah and Navani, meanwhile, have finally received a translation of the Dawnchant… and it is not what they expected. Everything begins to unravel as news spills in from several sources, all seeking to discredit Dalinar and his aims.

Beginnings

Artwork header for Chapter 111 of Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer

Title: Eila Stele

“The piece that historians have been most eager to translate is called the Eila Stele. Other sources claim it is old, perhaps the oldest document in written memory, said to be scribed by the Heralds themselves.”

A: For reference, Eila is a city in southern Iri, near the mountains and the border with Rira (see purple circle on the map above). Also for reference, a “stele” is an archaeological term for a stone or slab with an inscription carved into it. This piece, then, is presumably from a carving in the far west of Roshar—and probably preserved for this translation process at least partially from rubbings and drawings, since the stone itself would be about 6000 to 10000 years old, iirc.

Heralds: Battah (Battar), the Counsellor, patron of the Elsecallers, divine attributes Wise & Careful.

A: Okay, what do we do with her? She could be there to represent Jasnah and the scholars who translated the Eila Stele. Or for Dalinar, trying hard to be wise and careful as he maneuvers the political waters. Or for Taravangian, in a twisted way, who very carefully, with the wisdom of a true snake, prepared this day to destroy Dalinar’s leadership. Anything else?

Icon: Kholin Glyphpair, for Dalinar’s POV

Epigraph:

It will not take a careful reader to ascertain I have listed only eight of the Unmade here. Lore is confident there were nine, an unholy number, asymmetrical and often associated with the enemy.

—From Hessi’s Mythica, page 266

A: I really don’t have much to say about this epigraph, other than … yes, well then.

Oh, and this is one of the times when “lore” is correct.

Stories & Songs

“They came from another world,” Navani said, reading from her sheet. “Using powers that we have been forbidden to touch. Dangerous powers, of spren and surges. They destroyed their lands and have come to us begging.”

L: Forbidden to touch? Forbidden by whom?

A: Hmm. Forbidden by Adonalsium when they were created? Or by Honor & Cultivation, who thought it would be best avoided?

“We took them in, as commanded by the gods.”

L: So if this is the Listeners writing this, are their ancient gods still their ancestors? Or back then, did they have different gods?

A: I’d always assumed that they meant Honor and Cultivation, except that the next bit seems to contradict it.

“What else could we do? They were a people forlorn, without home. Our pity destroyed us. For their betrayal extended even to our gods: to spren, stone, and wind.”

L: Note that that’s three gods, they mentioned there. Wind, for Honor. Spren, for Cultivation. And Stone… for the Sibling?

A: I suspect that the three gods might be the ones we think of as the greater spren: Stormfather (wind), Nightwatcher (spren), and the Sibling (stone). The fact that Honor & Cultivation “adopted” the first two is part of what creates the confusion for the reader. Perhaps, when they came to Roshar, they deliberately chose to simply step into existing roles in a sort of partnership with those who already held those positions, granting them greater power in their own sphere rather than competing with them or putting them down. It’s kind of a cool thought.

L: It is. And it lends more credence to the idea that the Shin have some sort of close relationship with the Sibling, what with their reverence of stone and all.

“Beware the otherworlders. The traitors. Those with tongues of sweetness, but with minds that lust for blood. Do not take them in. Do not give them succor. Well were they named Voidbringers, for they brought the void. The empty pit that sucks in emotion. A new god. Their god.”

L: Odium? So when did he switch sides, here?

A: One area in which we need to be wary, I think, is accepting this limited viewpoint as pure fact. We know that the humans came from Ashyn, and we know that (at some point) Odium was trapped on Braize. Was Odium ever really their god, or did he just claim to be, once he was able to bring some influence to bear on Roshar? Either answer is possible, from what we know at this point.

“These Voidbringers know no songs. They cannot hear Roshar, and where they go, they bring silence. They look soft, with no shell, but they are hard. They have but one heart, and it cannot ever live.”

L: And so the shoe drops, and realization strikes home for our heroes.

A: It would appear so. My questions still revolve on A) Did the scholars translate the entire thing, or did they just send the first part once they had it? B) What other documentation exists that gives other angles on this event? I just… don’t quite believe that this is the whole story. There’s always another secret.

“The first Desolation was the invasion of humankind onto Roshar. We came here and we seized this land from the parshmen—after we accidentally used Surgebinding to destroy our previous world. That is the truth that destroyed the Radiants.”

L: And now we come to it, the turning point. Though, I still believe that there had to be something else going on to make the Knights give up their oaths. Learning that you were the bad guys, THIS many generations removed, is a sucker punch for sure—but I just can’t believe that it would be bad enough to make people kill their closest friends (their bonded spren) and give up defending their homes and families.

A: I agree. There’s got to be more to the story.

“What of this ancient record?” Taravangian said. “It claims that the Radiants already destroyed one world. Is that not what caused them to disband? They worried that their powers could not be controlled?”

L: I still don’t quite buy this.

A: Well, Taravangian has reasons to sow discomfort right now, and he really doesn’t want people to trust Dalinar. Factually, we know it’s not correct; the Radiants didn’t even exist until somewhere after the Desolations got started, the Heralds had formed the Oathpact, and the spren decided to copy it. I’m reasonably confident that Taravangian is sufficiently well-educated in all the lore to know that, and is deliberately conflating the Ashyn Surgebinders with the Rosharan Knights Radiant. Even if he doesn’t know it and is making a reasonable assumption, I’m not likely to give him the benefit of the doubt; he has strong incentive to defame the Radiants and reduce their heroic appearance.

Relationships & Romances

A: Navani and Dalinar are priceless. That is all.

Bruised & Broken

Sometime near the end of this discussion, Dalinar noticed Renarin shifting uncomfortably in his seat. As the Azish scribes began explaining their code of rules and guidelines for the coalition, Renarin excused himself in a hoarse voice, and left.

L: Just his introversion coming through, or is there more to this? Does he sense the same storm that the Stormfather mentions later, only earlier?

A: My bet is that he saw a vision of what was coming and either wanted to go find a way to stop it, or just couldn’t bear to watch. Depending on what the Stormfather was sensing, maybe Renarin does sense it earlier. Glys, however corrupted, is still a Truthwatcher spren; it could even be that Sja-anat’s meddling gives him a greater sensitivity to Odium activity.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

A: This chapter kicks my anti-Taravangian sentiments into overdrive.

The Oathgates were under almost perpetual use these days—Malata was running the device today, as was becoming her duty more often.

A: She probably complains about it being boring, even as she uses the opportunity to set up future plans. (I don’t like Malata, for the record.) This so perfectly plays into Taravangian’s Diagram, getting everyone used to trusting his pet Radiant and thinking of her as “one of the heroes.”

L: Yeah, I absolutely do not trust her and am waiting for the inevitable betrayal.

“You could call me Vargo, if you wish,” Taravangian said, pacing without looking at Dalinar. “It is what they called me as a youth….”

A: Trying so hard to be human, is that what’s happening here? I think this is one of his smart-but-not-compassionate days, but with just enough balance for him to understand that it’s not really a good way to be:

“It is nothing, Dalinar. Nothing. Silliness. I am … I am well today.” He stopped and squeezed his pale grey eyes shut.

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes. But it is not a day to be heartless. So I worry.”

L: Yikes. So today is a Smart day, is it?

A: Unfortunately, it appears so. This hint of a small part of Taravangian that is both intelligent and compassionate is the only saving grace for the man, IMO. I feel bad for the part of him that understands how awful he’s going to be in the rest of this chapter. But the part of him that says, “I will be better once we’ve started” — that’s the part I want to kick into orbit.

Jasnah leaped to her feet. “This is obviously a concentrated attempt to destroy our reputation. Someone deliberately released all this information at the same time.”

A: That someone is sitting right there, pretending to be shocked, worried, uncomfortable, and sad about it all. Taravangian planned all of this, right up to making sure that Jasnah’s correspondents would send her the translation at the exact time of this meeting, that he’d get his copies at the same time, and that just coincidentally Fen would receive news of the “highking business” and Noura would learn about the visions at the same time. Planned chaos, not allowing people time to deal with any one thing before they’re hit by the next. We know that the report Fen received was twisted just enough from the truth to make it seem like the highking idea was Dalinar’s plan for the coalition. The reports Noura received made it sound like Dalinar was choosing to meet with Odium to plan things, rather than that he invaded the visions against the will of both Dalinar and the Stormfather. (Also, why did Lift gasp? Just shocked that anyone knew about it, or fearing that she had let something damaging slip to the wrong person?) It’s possible my suspicions about the Eila Stele translation stem from the proximity of two known distortions of truth. Or it’s possible that I just don’t believe Sanderson would give us the whole story right away!

Back to Taravangian. This is what I meant about most hating the villain I’m reading currently. At the beginning of the chapter, I was itching to pummel Amaram, but now he seems like small potatoes compared to Taravangian’s vicious attack. I’m assuming that a lot of this was dictated by the Diagram, and I’d still like to know exactly where that information all came from. I also wonder whether he knew the Everstorm would come faster this time, and the timing?

Squires & Sidekicks

In addition to the five scout women in uniform, two women in havahs had joined Bridge Four. They carried notepads and pencils, and had sewn Bridge Four patches to the upper sleeves of their dresses—the place where scribes commonly wore their platoon insignia.

A: I smell a new cosplay coming on!

Seriously, though, I love this. Remember back when Lyn was disappointed with Kaladin’s “offer” that she could join Bridge Four as a scribe, and she turned him down? We were pleased when he realized that a scout might actually want to be a squire (and maybe a Radiant some day); after that, he opened up the opportunity for the scouts to “try out” for Bridge Four. (I don’t know about y’all, but I think I might have screamed a little bit when Lyn first drew in Stormlight.)

What we ignored at the time was that this solution, great as it was for Lyn and the other scouts, didn’t do a thing to solve Sigzil’s problem of being the default scribe for Bridge Four. He, too, wanted to be a Windrunner, but he was stuck managing logistics and doing paperwork half the time. I’m so happy to see this fixed in a way that benefits everyone; women who wish to do thing things they know how to do are part of the team.

L: Yes, I really love this (and not just because I’m, ::ahem:: partial to Lyn). I love seeing the scouts who are becoming full squires, but it’s nice to know that there’s still space for more traditionally feminine roles within the ranks as well. There’s no “right way” to be feminine, not even in Roshar.

Flora & Fauna

A: I’m being deliberately obtuse with this; I know Amaram doesn’t really belong in flora & fauna, but he doesn’t deserve to be called a sidekick, and he’s such a cremling. He turns into a rock-creature later… does that count?

L: Works for me. Amaram the cremling.

Dalinar stepped out of the Oathgate control building into Thaylen City and was met by the man he most wanted to punch in all Roshar.

A: As villains go, I don’t think Amaram is the worst, even in the Stormlight Archive. But he’s still a smarmy git and needs to be punched. His sense of self-importance is just stunning.

L: I think he’s worse than most, mostly because he truly does think that he’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. The worst villains in history are driven by what they view as moral imperatives, after all. His actions are self-serving, but he also does see them as right. And that makes him so much more dangerous, in my opinion, than a villain who exists solely to be Evil.

A: In this section, he’s salty over being sent to do cleanup duty, while others get the more “important” task of attempting to liberate Alethkar. His blatant attempt to glamorize his assignment as “the tactical importance of knowing the enemy fortifications” is just revolting… and in retrospect, all of this is foreshadowing. His troops will be the ones on the line to defend humanity, and they—with their knowledge of the fortifications—will be the ones who betray humanity and do Odium’s bidding. Especially Amaram.

L: F*** Amaram. Honestly, Moash gets a lot of hate, and rightfully so, but I hate Amaram just as much.

A: It reminds me of Robert Jordan’s response to “who’s your favorite character?” “Whichever one I’m writing.” I’m that way with villains: “Who do you hate most?” “Whichever one I’m reading right now.”

It’s also fun to notice that, despite Amaram’s pride in his reputation for running a well-disciplined army, his soldiers have been making a nuisance of themselves with their carousing. Clearly, they’re still the Sadeas army, despite the change in command…

L: …and Amaram’s not as great of a commander as he thinks, if he can’t get them under control. Kaladin is a great leader because he inspires greatness by leading by example. I don’t think Amaram could figure out how to do this if he were given a thousand page textbook detailing every exact thing to do.

Places & Peoples

“More bankers,” Fen’s son said. “The quiet economic collapse of Roshar continues.”

A: And then Jasnah and Kdralk have to explain to Dalinar (and the reader) just what effect the Everstorm and the new Desolation are having on the planetary economy. At least they’re all coming to a place that’s part of the coalition, I guess?

Also…

“Any larger gemstones?” Renarin asked. He turned toward them. “Anywhere in the city?”

“Sure, lots of them,” Fen’s son said. “Some really nice pieces, lie in every city. Um … why, Brightlord?”

“Because,” Renarin said. He didn’t say anything more.

A: Anyone placing bets? I’m betting that he’s thinking about the records in Urithiru’s gemstone archive, with its references to the perfect gemstones and trapping spren… Also, foreshadowing, especially combined with Jasnah pointing out the Thaylen Gemstone Reserve.

L: Yeah, that’s my bet, too.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Permission to stab him a little, sir,” said Teft, the bridgeman leader.

“How do you stab someone ‘a little,’ soldier?”

“I could do it,” Lyn said. “I’ve only started training with a spear. We could claim it was an accident.”

A: Please? Just a little bit? It would be so awesome… (Hi, Lyn!) (Also, this is totally something RL!Lyn would say, except that she’s been training with a spear a bit longer than book!Lyn.)

L: Mmhmm. I would stab Amaram in a heartbeat. More than a little stab, though. And since I primarily use stage combat weapons, it would hurt more.

A: Also, Lopen with short jokes for his cousin Huio, who throws them right back. I rather like Herdazians, you know? The humor is a little obvious, but it’s also delightfully pervasive. I like cheerful people.

L: Yeah, they don’t let anything get them down. I love that about them! I’m left wondering if this is a cultural thing, or just a familial trait…

A: Heh. Since they all seem to consider each other cousins, you could say they’re the same thing.

Weighty Words

“I’ve done it,” Dalinar said. “I’ve united them, Stormfather. I’ve kept my oath, and have brought men together, instead of dividing them. Perhaps this can be penance in some small way, for the pain I’ve caused.”

A: Well, it’s a start, but you have no idea how much farther you have to go! Poor man. The sad thing is, he’s worked hard and gone way outside his skill set to accomplish this much, and I’m pretty sure it feels like the most difficult thing he’s ever done. It might be… until the next 30 hours or so.

L: There’s always another step forward.

Unite them. A voice whispered the words in Dalinar’s mind, echoing with the same resonant sound from months ago, when Dalinar had first started seeing the visions.

“I’m doing so,” Dalinar whispered back.

Unite them.

“Stormfather, is that you? Why do you keep saying this to me?”

I said nothing.

L: This gives me the chills, honestly. Who or what is he really hearing, here? Is it just a memory, as he posits in the next sentence? Or is there something more going on here?

A: I’m convinced there’s something more. I just don’t have any valid guesses as to what.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Feeling any better?”

I do not feel like men. I do not sicken like men. I am. The Stormfather rumbled. I could have been destroyed, though. Splintered into a thousand pieces. I live only because the enemy fears exposing himself to a strike from Cultivation.

A: Fascinating. Even though the Stormfather thinks Cultivation is being cowardly, he still reckons her to be immensely powerful, and knows that Odium is aware of the danger he poses. I think there’s more to this than we’ve been told; my pet theory is that Honor’s Splintering was an accepted risk in the plan he and Cultivation put together to contain Odium, and the plan worked, also making Cultivation stronger than anyone else realizes. But that might just be wishful thinking.

There is … a third sibling. They are not with us.

“In hiding?”

No. Slumbering.

“Tell me more.”

No.

“But—”

No! Leave them alone. You hurt them enough.

A: I can’t even begin to express how very much I want to know this backstory. What was it that hurt the Sibling? This implies something done by humans/Radiants; did their bonded Radiant damage them? What happened to the Sibling??

L: This one really has me scratching my head, too. If we’re going with the theory that the Sibling is Urithiru, the slumbering part makes sense… but how did humanity hurt it? By abandoning it and leaving it alone? If it’s primary purpose is to serve and protect, to harbor, then I can see being left alone and empty being particularly hurtful to it.

A: I’d agree, except for that thing in the gem archive about there being something wrong with the Sibling before they even left. I’ve had so many different theories, and every one of them gets contradicted by some other small comment. ::sigh::

L: I’m willing to bet that when we do find out what’s going on, we’re going to feel awful silly for not seeing it sooner.

“Honor, the Almighty? Did he truly care about men’s pain?”

He did. Then, I didn’t understand why, but now I do. Odium lies when he claims to have sole ownership of passion. The Stormfather paused. I remember … at the end … Honor was more obsessed with oaths. There were times when the oath itself was more important than the meaning behind it. But he was not a passionless monster. He loved humankind. He died defending you.

A: This brings up several issues as it harks back to Odium’s conversation with Dalinar in Chapter 57. There, Odium claimed to be “emotion incarnate” and said that the result of Honor’s influence would be to separate emotion from men. He said, then, that “Honor cared only for bonds. Not the meaning of bonds and oaths, merely that they were kept. Cultivation only wants to see transformation. Growth. It can be good or bad, for all she cares.” He claimed that only he understood human pain, and only he cared about it. The Stormfather’s clarification here addresses a bunch of interesting things.

One, Odium was kind of right in that the Skybreakers are what you get if you try to completely separate emotion from judgement. He was also wrong in that Honor’s influence did not solely result in the Skybreakers. The Heralds and all Orders of the Knights Radiant show Honor’s influence as well as Cultivation’s.

Two, it’s easier to see now why the Skybreakers were the only Order that stayed together; as Honor was dying/being Splintered, he became more tightly focused on the letter than the intent of an oath. That’s pretty much exactly where the Skybreakers went, right?

Three, I can’t help wondering if Honor’s “obsession” with oaths had something to do with the means of imprisoning Odium in the Rosharan system. If keeping his oath even to death was what it took to keep Odium tied down, his dying focus on keeping that oath no matter what would be pretty reasonable. Brandon has said that the process of killing a Shard is a “slow burn;” it takes a long time. It seems likely (to me) that during the years (decades? centuries?) that Honor was being Splintered, he became more and more focused on keeping the oath that gave meaning to his death.

L: Or perhaps clinging futilely to the one thing that he hoped might save him.

A: Very true. It could well be that he was trying to hang on to some vestige of his Shard’s Intent, hoping it would be enough to hold him together.

Four, and this may contradict Three, the Stormfather says that Honor died defending humankind. Was he protecting the Rosharan humans from Odium’s direct intervention, by binding Odium to Braize? Or was he protecting humanity as a whole, by binding Odium to the Rosharan system?

Five, the Stormfather has several times indicated that his bond with Dalinar is helping him understand both humans and Honor better, in a way that his previous Radiant bonds apparently didn’t. Is this because he’s forgotten what he knew before? Is it that he’s got so much more of Honor’s Investiture now, that the bond is significantly deeper? I’d really like to understand this better.

One more thing about the Stormfather:

Something … something is coming. A storm.

A: At this point, the spanreeds start blinking with news of the too-soon Everstorm, which is confirmed from multiple sources. The meeting takes a break, once they convince themselves that their ships can be protected from the storm, and Dalinar breathes a sigh of relief, thinking it wasn’t too bad.

That wasn’t it, the Stormfather said. He rumbled, his concerned voice growing very soft as he continued, There’s more.

A: I’m seriously trying to figure out how the Stormfather could sense the mess of information that was heading their way. He didn’t seem to know what it was, only that there was trouble coming. Ah, well. I suspect I’ll never know as much about the Stormfather and his abilities as I’d like.

 

How will our heroes deal with the knowledge that they’re the Voidbringers? Will Dalinar manage to hold onto the reins of this and ride through to true Unity? Stay tuned to the reread from here on out, and as always, chime in in the comments section! Next week we’ll be covering both chapters 112 and 113 and the first of the interludes, about Venli, as these are all short chapters. After that we’ll dive into Rysn’s interlude paired with Teft’s. Our schedule for the rest of the book is as follows:

  • 1/23 – chapters 112, 113, and Venli Interlude
  • 1/30 – Rysn and Teft interludes
  • 2/6 – chapter 114
  • 2/13 – chapter 115
  • 2/20 – chapter 116
  • 2/27 – chapter 117
  • 3/5 – chapter 118
  • 3/12 – chapter 119
  • 3/19 – chapter 120, part 1
  • 3/26 – chapter 120, part 2
  • 4/2 – chapter 121
  • 4/9 – chapter 122
  • 4/16 – Epilogue, Ars Arcanum, and wrap-up

Alice is cheerfully snowed in. Yes, it’s only a few inches, but the way weather works around the Seattle area, there’s black ice under the snow, and it re-forms every night until the weather breaks. Having made sure there’s gas for the generator and plenty of foodstuffs in the house, she’s content… as long as the internet doesn’t go out.

Lyndsey is hard at work preparing a variety act for this season’s New England Renaissance Faire season, as well as being on cast for two (maybe three) others. Oh yeah, and Anime Boston is coming up too… If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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