Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred Fifteen

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Welcome, fellow Sanderson fans and Cosmere enthusiasts, to ::ominous chord:: the beginning of the Battle of Thaylen City. We’re poised at the top of the roller coaster in this chapter, waiting for the descent. The calm before the Everstorm, if you will. And here’s where the POVs really begin to start switching as well, as Sanderson generally tends to do in his climaxes. We’ve got a lot to discuss, so without further ado…

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.

This week’s reread is Cosmere-spoiler-free. Read on with no fear of spoilers from other books!

L: I would like to take just a teensy moment to point out that Alice and I won’t be engaging in as much speculation from here on out. The beta read for Rhythm of War has begun, and we don’t want to risk letting anything slip that we shouldn’t. So if you want speculation and theorizing, you may have to turn to the comments section.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar, Shallan, Jasnah, Venli

WHERE: Thaylen City

WHEN: 1174.2.8.1 (most of the rest of the book happens on this day)

The battle is coming. In Thaylen City, Dalinar prepares to make a final stand, alone (he believes). Adolin, Kaladin, Shallan, and their spren stand outside of the city in Shadesmar, unable to approach as the Oathgate is guarded by an army of Fused. Jasnah faces the knowledge that Renarin is corrupted and a traitor, and prepares to do the unthinkable. Venli stands with the Fused and the Singers, questioning her place in this battle, as Odium himself arrives to personally oversee it. He summons forth Nergaoul, the Unmade which controls the Thrill, to fight for his side. Teft, wallowing in guilt, is horrified to realize that Urithiru is also under attack. On the walls of Thaylen City, Navani watches as a creature of legend rises from the stone itself. As the army of Fused begins to cross over from Shadesmar to the physical realm, Adolin, Shallan and Kaladin hatch a scheme that they hope will allow Shallan to access the Oathgate and allow them to cross over.

Beginnings

Interior artwork for chapter 115 of Oathbringer

Title: The Wrong Passion

“These have the wrong Passion,” he said. “The ones who attacked Kholinar did so gladly.”

A: This is in context of the former Thaylen parshmen, who don’t really want to attack Thaylen City.

Heralds: Talenelat (Talenel, Taln.) Herald of War. Dependable / Resourceful. Stonewards. Chach, aka Chanarach (Chana). Brave/Obedient. Dustbringers. Role: Guard

L: Well, Taln is pretty obviously here because war is on the horizon. Lots of characters are displaying bravery—Dalinar, Kaladin/Shallan/Adolin, Navani, Jasnah. They’re looking at the train barreling towards them and standing firm.

Icon: Double Eye (signifying many POV characters)

Epigraph:

They came from another world, 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.

From the Eila Stele

L: We already discussed this when it was revealed, so I don’t think it necessarily needs more discussion here.

A: You’re right, but I have to ask just one teensy question: They must have already been taking on the various forms, though only the ones natural to Roshar. How much different is that than bonding spren and manipulating the Surges?

Thematic Thoughts

“Even if we did,” Syl whispered, “where would we go? They hold Celebrant. They’re watching the Oathgate, so they’re probably watching the others…”

Shallan sank down on the obsidian ground.

L: In terms of story structure, we’ve reached the “Bad Guys Close In” moment. Depending on which theory of story structure you follow, this has many different names. The one I use most often is from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book and relates more closely to film scripts, but story structure is remarkably similar across genres and types. In the Hero’s Journey, this would be the Abyss. If you follow Dan Wells’ Seven Point Story Structure, it’s Pinch Point 2. It’s the moment when our heroes appear to have lost everything they’ve worked for. Dalinar’s coalition has crumbled. Kaladin and co’s quest has failed. Everything is poised on the brink of ultimate destruction. (Fun fact: once you’ve done enough analyzing and study of story structure, every movie ever made will be forever ruined for you.)

A: The only good thing about a situation like this is that you know it has to get better now. It’s almost the end of the book, and it’s a story, and … it just has to get better! (Especially since Sanderson doesn’t generally do complete grimdark.)

Stories & Songs

Those are the spirits of the dead, she realized. Fused who haven’t yet chosen a body. Most were twisted to the point where she barely recognized them as singers. Two were roughly the size of buildings.

One dominated even these: a creature of swirling violence, tall as a small hill, seemingly made up entirely of red smoke.

L: Later it’s revealed that some of these are the thunderclasts, which is really interesting to me! The thunderclasts are themselves Fused, and not something else entirely. It makes a lot of sense.

A: That took me by surprise, because from Dalinar’s Purelake vision, I had assumed the thunderclasts were formed by a particular kind of Voidspren, rather than Fused. Partly, at that time we didn’t know about the Fused, I guess. I hadn’t really given it any further thought until we got to this part, but yes, it does make sense that it would take a Fused soul.

L: I’m assuming that the big one is the one that possesses Amaram (and Moash towards the end). Or at least… I hope so, because something bigger and badder than that… well, I’m afraid to contemplate it!

A: I’m not 100% certain about “the big one.” The way it’s described in this passage made me assume it was Yelig-Nar, waiting for his chance with Amaram, but I think it must be Nergaoul. Venli only mentions one other “red churning power” kind of entity in her various POVs in this chapter, so… I’m still not sure. (Okay, I just “cheated” and looked ahead. Yelig-Nar is described as black smoke, so I think the red-smoke thing has to be Nergaoul.)

I also have to note something I’m not sure I registered at first: those “hundreds upon hundreds of strange spren” they see in Shadesmar have to be these same Fused spirits. It’s not going to be fun in the Physical to have all of those Fused take bodies and start fighting, but it will sure be nice to get them out of the way here in Shadesmar.

Lines and cracks split the stone, and then an enormous stone arm pulled itself from the ground—the fractures having outlined its hand, forearm, elbow, and upper arm.

A monster easily thirty feet tall pulled itself from the stone, dropping chips and dust on the army below. Like a skeleton made of rock, it had a wedge-shaped head with deep, molten red eyes.

L: THUNDERCLAST AHOY!

A: We’re all gonna die! In searing paaaaaaiiin!

One crawled into the stone ground, somehow inhabiting it like a spren taking residence in a gemheart. The stone became its form.

A: I find this a fascinating description, with the spren inhabiting the stone like a gemheart – those are so clearly the thoughts of a Singer (or Listener) who is familiar with the gemheart-spren bond. Humans wouldn’t see that at all; for example, when Dalinar saw one in his Purelake vision, he just described it as vanishing into the rocky ground and then ripping itself out.

Charging red horses, angry and galloping. The forms of men, killing and dying, shedding blood and reveling in it. Bones piled atop one another, making a hill upon which men struggled.

The red mist climbed up from the surging waves, rolling out onto an empty section of rock, northward along the rim of the water. It brought to her a lust for the battlefield. A beautiful focus, a Thrill for the fight.

L: And there’s the Unmade. Lovely.

A: Such a pretty sight, no? … Okay, no.

Bruised & Broken

At the very least, she hoped that Amaram’s band of malcontents would soak up arrows and spears long enough to let the Thaylen civilians evacuate.

L: I do love Jasnah, but let’s not overlook the fact that this woman’s got some pretty dark and troubling reactions to things. This just… reminds me all too much of Sadeas’s mentality about the bridge crews. Is Amaram himself a dick? Absolutely. Have his men been dicks? So far as we know. But one could argue that most of Bridge Four were dicks to begin with, too. Because they were beaten down and broken. How do we know that Amaram’s men aren’t as well? If led by someone better, could they be better men? I’m betting so. Yes, she’s trying to save civilians and that’s a noble goal, but Jasnah callously throwing their lives away without a second thought doesn’t make her a good person, and it makes me worry for her in her new role as Queen. I’m hoping that this is the beginning of an upwards character arc for her and not an indication of trouble on the horizon….

A: You make a good point, and one I’m not very happy about acknowledging. It’s so easy to loathe Torol Sadeas, as well as Amaram, for the decisions they’ve made, but their decisions have affected other people. Sadeas shaped his army to support his goals; Amaram, while trying to make them a more disciplined group to match his own image, hasn’t made them any better. If you stop and think about it, Kaladin started out on the path to become a soldier in Sadeas’s army, until a set of Shards turned his path into slavery. What would he have become in that army? Would he have remained honorable? If so, is it fair to assume there are other men like him? Probably.

“The facts align,” Ivory said. “The truth that has always been, will now soon manifest to all. … You are correct. A traitor is.

True to the information she’d been given, she found Renarin Kholin kneeling on the floor inside, head bowed. Alone.

A spren rose from his back, bright red, shimmering like the heat of a mirage. A crystalline structure, like a snowflake, thought it dripped light upward towards the ceiling. In her pouch, she carried a sketch of the proper spren of the Truthwatchers.

And this was something different.

L: We know so little about this even now, and I can’t wait to find out more. I am impressed with Jasnah’s resolve to take care of what she sees as a traitor in their midst, even though it’s someone she loves… however. The fact that her immediate reaction is to kill him rather than try to save him somehow highlights how very different she is from almost every other character in this series.

A: Why is that so easy to forget? She has frequently been callous to the point of brutality in dealing out what she sees as justice, but every time it comes up, I’m shocked all over again. Maybe it’s because of her (however reluctant) acceptance of Shallan, and the knowledge that her family loves her, and she them; I just seem to forget that there’s a hardness to her that I just don’t comprehend.

He’d done it again, to yet another group that trusted him. Just like with his family, whom he’d sold out in a misguided attempt at righteousness. Just like with his squad in Sadeas’s army, whom he’d abandoned for his addiction.

L: I feel so bad for Teft. That’s a lot of responsibility to shoulder.

A: I think it feels worse because the first one, which likely set the stage for all the rest of his betrayals, was so innocent. He was just a kid, and he thought he was getting help for his family; it wasn’t his fault the citylord’s solution was to kill them all. Who wouldn’t be broken by that?

“You don’t want me. I’m broken. Pick Lopen. Rock. Sigzil. Damnation, woman, I…”

L: It’s sad to me that Teft doesn’t realize that they’re all broken, in one way or another. Well. Except for Lopen, presumably, but maybe he just hides it better than most.

Ahead of them on the battlefield, the human ranks slumped, their banner wavering. A man in glittering Shardplate, sitting upon a white horse, led them.

Deep within his helm, something started glowing red.

“Go,” Odium whispered. “Kholin would have sacrificed you! Manifest your anger! Kill the Blackthorn, who murdered your highprince. Set your Passion free! Give me your pain, and seize this city in my name!”

The army turned and—led by a Shardbearer in gleaming Plate—attacked Thaylen City.

L: F***ing Amaram. But as much as I hate him… I can’t entirely blame him, here. Odium is right—they were going to be sacrificed. And it’s not just a self-preservation thing—his men were going to be sacrificed as well, and I do believe that Amaram, for all his faults, cared about the men under his command. Was he willing to sacrifice them if needs be, to further his own ends? Yes, as was proven when he had Kaladin’s men killed before taking the Shardplate that Kaladin refused. But a good commander does need to know when sacrifices must be made. He, like most Sanderson villains, did truly believe that he was doing the right thing.

Does this mean that I forgive him, or think that he doesn’t deserve his eventual fate? Oh, hell no. He deserves everything that’s coming to him. He allows Odium and the Unmade to get into his head and turn him against his own people. But I can see how he was maneuvered into this position.

A: Odium himself explains it:

“I’ve prepared these men for decades,” Odium said. “Men who want nothing so much as something to break, to gain vengeance…”

A: I don’t know how much of that you can give Odium direct credit for, because humans do still have agency. However, I have to admit that having Nergaoul hanging around Alethkar all the time, giving them the Thrill whenever they get into battle, would definitely turn them toward enjoying the fight. They’ve definitely been groomed to seek a confrontation.

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

“They knew,” Adolin said. “They led us here with that cursed vision.”

“Be wary,” Shallan whispered, “of anyone who claims to be able to see the future.”

“No. No, that wasn’t from him!” Kaladin looked between them, frantic, and finally turned to Syl for support. “It was like when the Stormfather… I mean…”

L: So… was this a misleading vision from Odium, or not?

A: I don’t think it was Odium; I think Adolin is misinterpreting here. After all, Dalinar is here, and he does very much need their help. The Shadesmar Exploration Society, though, has no reason (other than Kaladin’s vision) to have expected anything significant to be happening at Thaylen City; they went along with the plan because (they thought) it was a safely coalition-controlled Oathgate from which they could get anywhere they needed to go. To arrive and find all this, though… yeah, it looks bad. Since they don’t yet know what’s going on in the Physical realm, it’s easy to assume that this was all for them.

Squires & Sidekicks

Eth dead.

L: ::Bridge Four salute to the fallen::

A: ::salutes:: ::sniffles::

Places & Peoples

Azish, Thaylen, Marati … a host of nationalities, these newly awakened singers were frightened, uncertain.

“We aren’t soldiers, ma’am. We’re fishers. What are we doing here?”

“It’s just that … Thaylen City? This is our home. We’re expected to attack it?”

… “They enslaved you. They tore your families apart, treated you like dumb animals. Do you not thirst for vengeance?”

“Vengeance?” the sailor said, looking to his fellows for support. “We’re glad to be free, But … I mean … some of them treated us pretty nice. Can’t we just go settle somewhere, and leave the Thaylens alone?”

A: This is the context for the title, as noted above. It brings up a major contrast between the different cultural backgrounds of some of the singers – reflecting several aspects of the different human cultures. The Alethi singers were perfectly happy to attack Kholinar, since the culture they had absorbed was war-like. The Thaylen (and other) nationalities aren’t taking to warfare nearly as easily, because they simply didn’t grow up with it. It appears, though, that there’s another difference: the Thaylen singers point out that they were treated pretty well, and they have no desire for any revenge on their former masters. This seems to imply that, as a whole, the Alethi treated their slaves rather poorly, so that a chance for revenge was eagerly accepted.

Weighty Words

“You know, Cultivation warned me that my memories would return. She said she was “pruning” me. Do you know why she did that? Did I have to remember?”

I do not know. Is it relevant?

“That depends upon the answer to a question,” Dalinar said. … “What is the most important step that a man can take?”

L: Here we go. (This is the most appropriate gif I have ever used.)

A: Very, very soon, he’s going to find out just how necessary it was, poor man.

Meaningful/Moronic/Mundane Motivations

It came together with a frightening beauty. Their armada fleeing the storm. Their armies unprepared. The sudden evaporation of support

“He’s planned for everything.”

It is what he does.

A: This kind of freaked me out. A few weeks ago, we were talking about how Taravangian had carefully planned the messages that all came at once, resulting in the breakup of the coalition. Now we’re seeing that breakup as one of many things coming all at once to leave Dalinar & Thaylen City unprotected. It makes me think that either Taravangian’s entire Diagram is a “gift” from Odium, or else that Odium has been able to see everything he was planning and build on it. I’m not sure which would be worse.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

Timbre pulsed to Peace in her pouch, and Venli rested her hand on it.

A: Just in case it wasn’t already obvious, I’ll mention that back in Words of Radiance, after Eshonai took on stormform, she heard a voice screaming every time she attuned Peace. Clearly, Timbre really likes that rhythm.

Awe-inspiring Artwork

Interior artwork from Oathbringer

L: I’m really curious about the 1400’ notation on the bottom. Is that feet? It must be, because it looks like it says “to shore” beside it.

A: Yes, it must be feet. In the Physical realm, presumably this would also be the distance horizontally from the shore to the Oathgate platform? I wonder why this one has a bridge. The Kholinar Oathgate didn’t, did it? Maybe the “land” in Shadesmar (water in Alethkar) is too far away from the platform.

 

Next week, we’re onto Chapter 116 on its lonesome. From here on out the climax is ramping up in intensity, so prepare yourselves for the Sanderlanche!

Alice is delighted to be taking her daughter to the Washington All-State Honor Choir this weekend, and hopes to finish Part One of the beta read while the girl is in rehearsals. Never a dull moment!

Lyndsey is heading down to KatsuCon in Washington, DC this weekend with a carful of cosplays and friends. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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