Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, where we are just now teetering on the top of the roller coaster ride that is the climax of this novel. Emotions are riding high as our heroes believe that all is lost and the enemy’s forces will prevail. Without further ado, let’s jump right in, shall we?
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.
In this week’s reread we also discuss some very mild spoilers from Warbreaker and Mistborn in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read them, perhaps give that section a pass.
WHERE: Thaylen City
Odium tries to convince Dalinar to give him his pain, thereby becoming Odium’s Champion. Szeth fights on the battlefield, protecting Lift as she continues trying to reclaim the King’s Drop—but he loses Nightblood’s sheath, and the sword begins to consume him. Lift places her hands against his head and tries to ease his burden. Jasnah approaches Renarin, intending to kill him, but at the last moment she loses her resolve and vows to help him instead, thereby proving that Renarin’s visions of the future aren’t infallible. Ash arrives to rescue Taln. In Shadesmar, Kaladin struggles to say the Fourth Ideal, only to fail. Navani is captured, but uses her fabrial to save herself and Queen Fen.
Title: The Weight of It All
Dalinar tried to stand, straight-backed and at attention, beneath the weight of it all.
A: This quotation is actually from Chapter 100, at a point when Dalinar has recovered all of his memories except the visit to the Nightwatcher. He’s in Vedenar, looking out over the damaged city, smelling the smoke and hearing the cries that take him back to Rathalas; Nergaoul, drawn to the Veden civil war, is calling to him. He’s trying so hard to fill his Leader of the Coalition role, while the combination of memories and responsibilities weigh on him. It’s a terribly fitting parallel to Odium pouring out memories on him in our current chapter, trying to bury him under his guilt. Unfortunately for Odium, he’s faced these memories once already, and accepted his guilt. Beautiful foreshadowing.
Heralds: Nalan (Nale), Just/Confident, Herald of Justice. Skybreakers. Role: Judge (x2)
Battah (Battar), Wise/Careful. Elsecallers. Role: Counsellor.
Palah (Paliah). Learned/Giving. Truthwatchers. Role: Scholar
A: Well, hmm. Everyone has a representative in the mix this week, so there’s that—Szeth for Nalan, Jasnah for Battar, and Renarin for Paliah. You could also make the argument that Dalinar and Jasnah are both dealing with issues of Justice, and also with the need for wisdom and caution. Navani’s trick with the fabrial is definitely a matter of being learned… and maybe giving too: giving pain! Lift is certainly giving—she risks being “eaten” by Nightblood in order to help Szeth. My favorite is probably Renarin, making the connection that Jasnah’s decision proves that the future is still malleable. I suspect there are more connections to be made, though.
Icon: Double Eye (indicating multiple POV characters)
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.
—From the Eila Stele
Stories & Songs
“We must follow one of them?” Turash asked. “A human?”
Venli’s breath caught. There had been no respect in that tone.
Odium smiled. “You will follow me, Turash, or I will reclaim that which gives you persistent life.”
L: Ooooh, hmm. The fact that Odium can take away whatever it is that causes their reincarnation is a good sign, right? That means that it can be taken away. Now if only our heroes could figure out how to do it!
A: That would be most excellent, wouldn’t it? As much as I don’t like Odium at all, it was salutary to see the arrogance of the Fused brought up short with this reminder. They’re so used to being super-powered, especially in this incarnation where there are so few Radiants. I wonder if Nightblood’s destruction of the thunderclast gave them pause, or if they actually registered what happened there.
Relationships & Romances
Suddenly they were young again. He was a trembling child, weeping on her shoulder for a father who didn’t seem to be able to feel love. Little Renarin, always so solemn. Always misunderstood, laughed at and condemned by people who said similar things about Jasnah behind her back. …
Jasnah fell to her knees, then pulled Renarin into an embrace. He broke down crying, like he had as a boy, burying his head in her shoulder.
L: MY. HEART.
A: I’m surprised and delighted by this all over again, every time I read it. The realization that Jasnah was a very present friend to Renarin when he was a child, and was apparently his protector and comforter, is just… such a contrast to what we often expect of her. Of course, every time I read it, I also want to know more about Jasnah’s childhood experiences, but that will have to wait.
The part that always grabs me is when Renarin looks at her and nods. He not only accepts that she’s going to kill him, he thinks it would be better than living to see his father become Odium’s champion.
L: I also got the impression that he is so confused about whether or not he’s evil himself, that he thinks that it would be better if he were taken out of the picture. That must be a terrifying position to be in—to truly believe that you’re the bad guy, that you’ve been corrupted without any hope of redemption.
A: As we both mentioned in the opening paragraphs, the spectacular upshot of Jasnah’s decision not to kill him, even though he’s accepted it as his fate, is that he gets to see one of his visions fail completely. That revelation is pretty huge—for Renarin and the reader both.
L: And also probably gave him hope for his own redemption from corruption. If his visions can be wrong, then maybe there’s hope.
A: I fully agree with this. Renarin had always been “the different one” (to put it kindly, in some cases), and the fear that he’s not only different, but deeply wrong, has to have been devastating. Now there’s hope, again, and it is a beautiful thing.
Bruised & Broken
“Blame me, Dalinar. It wasn’t you! You saw red when you did those things! It was my fault. Accept that. You don’t have to hurt.”
Dalinar blinked, meeting Odium’s eyes.
“Let me have the pain, Dalinar,” Odium said. “Give it to me, and never feel guilty again.”
L: Oh, how tempting an offer this must be. I’m so glad that he didn’t offer this to Kaladin, because I’m pretty sure that Kal (in his current state) would have taken it without hesitation. In this moment, Dalinar is a stronger man by far than I think most of us could be.
A: It’s almost incomprehensible: the offer that someone else could have all of the blame for the actions you regret. Not forgiveness (which is what Dalinar knew he needed), nor absolution, but complete abdication of responsibility for any of it. Yes, it would be unbelievably tempting, which is what Odium is counting on. Make him feel all the pain, all the guilt, and then offer to take it all away. Who could possibly resist that?
L: A stronger person by far than I am, that’s for sure.
[Nightblood] screamed at him to destroy evil, even if evil was obviously a concept that the sword itself could not understand. Its vision was occluded like Szeth’s own. A metaphor.
A: Sometimes I find myself ambivalent about Szeth. On the one hand, he’s horror-stricken by all the death he’s dealt out; on the other hand, he did it himself, of his own free will, no matter who gave the orders. He is pitiable indeed, because he has no hope of forgiveness; his best hope is to follow someone wiser, but that’s not always a straightforward decision either.
L: I’m not sure about the free will part. If he was brought up believing completely that he had to follow those orders, that there is no choice, then breaking that social conditioning would be a Herculean task (one that we are seeing the forward steps of now). It’s hard for us to understand that mindset, not having been raised in such a society.
A: “Free will” is an intricate concept. I’m just using it in the sense that nothing was physically compelling him to obey those orders; the fact that he felt obligated to obey due to his cultural creed is the painful part.
Squires & Sidekicks
“But be warned, the queen at Kholinar tried this, and the power consumed her.”
L: Does this mean she’s dead, or simply a burned out husk somewhere? I’m very curious to see if she ever returns.
A: I’m pretty sure it means she’s dead. I don’t have proof, or a WoB confirmation, but I don’t honestly see how you could try controlling Yelig-nar, fail, and still survive.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“By Kelek, storms, and Passions alike,” Kmakl said. “What is that?”
A: I just felt the need to include the Thaylen swears here. Quite the mixed bag of icons he’s got there!
L: I see this as the “If anyone up there is listening…” sort of swear. Gotta cover all your bases in a situation like this.
A: Heh. Reminds me of the altar to “The Unknown God” on Mars Hill—we’re pretty sure there’s something else out there, so we’re gonna make an altar for it just in case he’ll give us some credit for that!
“I… I will…”
He thought of friends lost. Malop. Jaks. Beld and Pedin.
Say it, storm you!
Rod and Mart. Bridgemen he’d failed. And before them, slaves he’d tried to save. Goshel. Nalma, caught in a trap like a beast.
L: It’s so beautiful (and heart-rending) that he remembers the names of all those he’s lost. I almost wonder, if Syl hadn’t chosen him as a Windrunner, he’d have been a candidate for an Edgedancer.
A: It’s a good thought, and quite valid. I need to note, too, that he’s not merely thinking of “friends he’s lost” like we think of having lost a parent or a dear friend to age or illness. He’s thinking of them as friends he, personally, failed—that he actively “lost” them by not adequately protecting them. He takes each loss as his own fault, whether that’s reasonable or not, which is why this is so brutally difficult for him.
L: “With great power comes great responsibility” indeed. Poor Kaladin.
“I… can’t,” Kaladin finally whispered, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I can’t lose him, but… oh, Almighty… I can’t save him.”
Kaladin bowed his head, sagging forward, trembling.
He couldn’t say those words.
He wasn’t strong enough.
L: It’s pretty clear that Kaladin knows the words that need to be said (even if we as the readers don’t, despite all our speculation). Whatever they are, they’re going to be powerful indeed.
A: Undeniable! A bit before this, he asked himself if he could say “these Words” and really mean them—which answers a question I had somewhere along the line: Could you say an Ideal for the sake of saving a situation, even though you really didn’t want to do them? Apparently not.
The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it?
It’s the next one. Always the next step, Dalinar.
L: Need any more be said on this beautiful line?
The sword was growing frustrated. DESTROY, DESTROY, DESTROY! Black veins began to grow around Szeth’s hand, creeping toward his upper arm.
A: Nightblood is really, really scary when he gets loose, you know? Even Vasher was never able to stop this effect, at least not that we’ve seen. Szeth doesn’t stand a chance.
L: I guess that depends on what it would take to “control” Nightblood. Is it just Investiture, or does mental strength play into it as well? Vasher’s definitely got more Investiture than Szeth, that’s for sure.
A: We really don’t know what it would take, come to think of it. The sheath is, thus far, the only way we’ve ever seen this sword controlled. I wonder what would have happened if Susebron had drawn Nightblood—would that much Investiture have enabled him to control it, or would that just have given Nightblood more fuel?
She breathed life into him somehow, and the sword drank of it freely. Her eyes went wide as the black veins began to grow up her fingers and hands.
A: Aaaand this is where Nightblood just isn’t fun any longer. That whole thing about throwing him into the middle of the bad guys, and the worse they are the quicker they kill each other, while any good guys just get sick to their stomach? Yeah that was sorta fun, and the perky voice is great, but… when you start eating children, it’s time to draw the line.
L: Yeah, it’s an interesting dichotomy for sure between the funny cheerful voice we get most of the time and… this.
There, she swept gracefully to her feet and seized the sheath off Szeth’s back. … When Szeth turned to attack, she blocked the sword with its own sheath.
A: Szeth is shocked by this, because he doesn’t know anything about the sheath except that it seems to control the DESTROY attitude. This is not surprising; he knows nothing of the sword’s provenance. My question is, how does the Fused know about it? How did she know to steal the scabbard, and that it would block the sword? As far as we know, Nightblood was created long after the last Desolation.
L: Is it possible that Odium knows way more about the other planets than we give him credit for? Perhaps he’s been watching from the sidelines all this time. He does seem to have been the one to give the order to get the scabbard…
[Navani] flipped the switch on the painrial, drawing away the agony of the cut.
L: The way that she’s storing up her own pain to redirect towards others reminds me a lot of how the feruchemy works in Scadrial… Hmm.
A: Oh, that’s not actually how I read this, though you could be right. I never thought about the pain being a zero-sum quantity; more like an electric current that can go either direction—in or out of the fabrial. Huh. That’s a question I might need to examine more closely!
L: So you view it as less… storing and more redirecting in the moment? I definitely got the impression that the pain could be stored as long as the fabrial was powered by Stormlight.
A: I honestly don’t know. There’s definitely the possibility of storage, it’s just not something I’d considered before. Either way, I just have to point out that when she used the painrial to disable the soldier, she knew exactly what he was feeling, because she’d tested it on herself. That’s dedication to your craft, right there.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
In the back of his mind, the Stormfather wept. …
The Stormfather’s weeping faded as Odium somehow shoved the spren away, separating them.
A: This freaks me out every time it happens; we’ve talked about it before. Even though Odium appears to Dalinar in a more or less human-sized form, he’s so vast he can casually shove the Stormfather himself off into silence.
L: Not only that, but he’s actively interfering with the bond that they share. That’s a terrifying concept.
Inside his fist, he somehow found a golden sphere. A solitary gloryspren.
A: We don’t know if the gloryspren was one of the ones that flitted through the temple in the Jasnah/Renarin scene. We don’t know how intelligent or empathetic gloryspren are. But this one, right here, right now, is pretty much exactly what Dalinar needed… and a teeny tiny foreshadowing of something truly glorious to come.
Screaming, as if they thirsted for death.
It was a drink that Szeth was all too good at serving.
L: Okay there, edgelord. (In all seriousness I know he has excellent reason for saying this, but it’s still kind of funny sometimes how emo he can be.)
“You cannot have my pain.”
It’s a good thing this chapter ended with that line, because it was looking pretty hopeless up until then. Join us next week for the stunning follow-on scene, as we work through Chapter 119.
Alice is trying to balance “ignore the media over-hype” with “be prepared for quarantine, because Washington is weird that way and her husband’s office is full of people who travel all the time.” (But the way soap and hand sanitizer are flying off the shelves, one has to wonder: Were these people not washing their hands before now? Just sayin’…)
Lyndsey is grieving the loss of a friend and an icon of the New England theater community. For many, he was the Kaladin to their Bridge Four, finding them in dark times and helping them to discover a family and a purpose. She likely would not be alive today were it not for him. If you’re so inclined, please raise a glass of your beverage of choice and join her in saying: “Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.”