Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Seventeen | Tor.com

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Seventeen


Well, here we are again! Did that chapter have some unexpected developments, or what‽ As a continuation of last week’s events, this week gives us a wacky combination: overview of the past year, current status of the war, the Mink’s reactions to developments, plus rumors and proposals. Come on in, and let’s talk it over!

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now—if you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of the Stormlight Archive, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

In this week’s discussion we have no spoilers from other Cosmere books, so fear not!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: Day 17, continued (immediately following Chapter 16)

L: I’ve done my best with the map, to give approximations of the troop placements and current battlefields as described in this chapter. Anything that I’m uncertain of (in regards to who holds which territory) I’ve simply left alone.

A: Excellently done. I love the visual layout of the world as it stands now. I mean… I could wish the blue areas were bigger, but that’s how it is.


The Mink arrives for a strategy meeting with Dalinar and company, in which we learn the state of the world currently in regards to battles and troop placements. It is revealed that there’s… some sort of relationship going on between Jasnah and Hoid, and Jasnah indicates that she’s taking her new position as Queen of Alethkar seriously with some sweeping new legislation…

Overall Reactions

The map’s sudden appearance caused the Mink to scramble away. He was at the door in a fraction of a second, standing with it cracked, ready to flee. He was a paranoid type, wasn’t he?

A: For all those wanting the Mink’s reaction to the map… there it is. LOL.

Okay, technically, that’s his reaction to the Stormlight flooding the room. When the map snaps into place so he can see what it is…

The Mink’s eyes went wide, and awespren burst above him like a ring of smoke.

A: This makes me smile. We as readers have gotten used to the whole magic thing, but I love the moments when we get to watch someone see this kind of thing for the first time.

L: Especially for someone who’s so seemingly jaded.

A: Much of the interaction with the Mink is just going over the current state of affairs, but he—painfully—shows several times why he’s the man who fought off the singer invasion of Herdaz for a year, and will be an excellent addition to their command staff if he’ll join them. This, for example:

“Tell me why you have so many troops stationed here, here, and here.” …

“We need to hold the ports,” Dalinar said.

“Hmm. Yes, I assume that excuse works for the others in your coalition?”

A: Buurrnnnnn.

“It’s almost like you don’t trust the one watching your back…”

A: So Dalinar is finally forced to admit that no, they don’t trust the one supposedly watching their back. Taravangian.

There’s actually a lot of infodump in this chapter, but it works because they need to explain things to the Mink. We get the reiteration of the end of Oathbringer, the layout of troops, the position of the navies, the defection of the Skybreakers, and the current battle lines.

L: Fellow writers, take note. This is a super effective way of dumping exposition on your readers.

I do not trust the Blackthorn, but perhaps I can trust the man who would write the words you did.

A: Up until now, we’ve thought a lot about the impact of Dalinar’s book on his family and, to some extent, the Alethi in general. Now we see a completely different angle: A very hostile Herdazian general, whose expertise they desperately need, indicates that the change in Dalinar may be the thing that persuades him to work with them. Hmmm.

L: I wonder how much of Dalinar’s internal justification to write it was based on this vs. his desire/need to atone for his sins. He had to have known, or at least suspected, that admitting to his faults would have this sort of effect on some people.

A: After the early mistrust of the other coalition members who then warmed to him once they met the “new Dalinar,” it would be naive of him not to think of it. After the way Taravangian used secrets against him at Thaylen City, it was also probably expedient to make sure there weren’t any more skeletons in the closet. Laying out the contrast, not hiding the horror but showing that he’s a different man… yes, the more I think of it, the more I think it was wise. It’s hard on his sons, because not only did he unintentionally kill their mother, he proves that she was… not entirely correct in her evaluation of him. Still, like I said: the more I think about it, the more I think it’s better to put all the old secrets out there so they no longer have power over him.

Sadly for Dalinar, the Mink advises exactly what he didn’t want to hear, even though he probably knew it: if they’re going to make a push in this war, trying to reclaim Alethkar is not the move to make. They tacitly agree, however reluctantly, that it makes more sense to escalate the battle for Emul, where they hope to be able to pin the singer forces against the army of Tukar. Yep, Ishar’s army. Fun fun fun!

L: It’s not really clear whether or not Ishar can be counted on for… much of anything. I hope our heroes don’t wind up having to fight him, though. Fighting against what’s essentially an immortal warrior, viewed by many as a “god”? Oh yeah. That’d go great.

A: Right? I’d assume they’re hoping the mad god-king-dude will go berserker on the other side of the singer army and do half their work for them, but I guess we’ll have to RAFO that. It does leave another question in my mind, though: Suppose they manage to completely oust the singers and Fused from Emul. Then they’re right next to Ishar, and this makes me nervous.

Not unreasonably, Dalinar has further concerns to discuss after the Mink leaves.

“But I have this terrible feeling, Jasnah. It whispers that there is no way to win this war. Not against an immortal enemy. I worry about losing, but I worry more about something else. What do we do if we force them out of Azir, and they agree to cease hostilities? Would we give up Alethkar, if it meant ending the war?”

“I don’t know,” Jasnah said. “That seems to be putting our chulls to work before we’ve bought them. We don’t know if such a compromise as you suggest is possible.”

“It wouldn’t be,” Wit said. … “Odium will not compromise. He will not settle for anything other than our complete submission, perhaps destruction.”

A: We don’t know whether this is Wit pushing for his own goals, or if this is truly what he believes; I’m going with the latter option. Actually, I’m going with both, because this is Hoid we’re talking about, and he’s sufficiently committed to his own goals (whatever they are!) that he wouldn’t jeopardize them; I just think it’s probable that he truly believes that an accord of the kind Dalinar suggests is not something Odium would accept.

The sad thing is, if it were up to the singers, and maybe the Fused like Leshwi, they might get that kind of agreement. But then there are the Fused like Lezian—and in anycase, it’s not up to them; as long as Odium is the driving force, they don’t get a lot of choice in the matter.

L: I’m inclined to believe that Hoid is being genuine here too, since we’ve seen evidence of most of this mentality. Odium has pretty much outright said this.

“Once in a while though, I do think you need to be reminded that not everyone sees the world the way you do.”

“It would be better for us all if they did,” he grumbled.

L: YIKES. Danger, Wil Robinson, danger! I’m really glad that Dalinar has people around him to keep him in check, because I think he’d definitely have the potential to become a tyrant (albeit one with good intentions) if left to his own devices.

A: Most tyrants believe they have good intentions, and the results are usually less than desirable.

Relationships & Romances

It was the same Wit who had served Elhokar, so Navani had known this man for a few years. Yet he was… different now. … There was a mystery about this Wit that Navani had never noticed during Elhokar’s reign. Perhaps he molded himself to the monarch he served.

A: One of the small mysteries of the Alethi remains the relationship between the King/Queen and the Wit. When Elhokar was king, Wit apparently spent most of his time taking the mickey out of everyone except Elhokar and Renarin. It would seem that now he spends more of his time conspiring with his monarch. Conspiring what, though?

L: It’s a really interesting relationship, for sure. At first I had thought that The Wit functioned something like a court jester of old, existing solely to entertain the monarch… but he also seems to be fulfilling a bit of an adviser role, which—let’s face it—for Hoid, could be either awesome for the Cosmere, or dangerous.

A: Way too true.

L: We as readers just don’t know enough about him or his goals. We don’t know if his assertions that he’s trying to save the Cosmere (at any cost) are true. I truly hope that Jasnah is wise enough to be able to drill down to his true motivations. Hopefully she knows more than we do, at this point.

As soon as [the Mink] was gone—the map collapsing as Shallan left—Jasnah changed subtly. Her face became less of a mask. She didn’t walk with a queenly gait as she strode over and settled down at the room’s small table. This was the woman taking off her crown, now that she was with only family.

Family and Wit, Navani thought as the lanky man, dressed all in black, walked over to fetch some wine. She couldn’t tell if the rumors about those two were true or not, and hadn’t felt comfortable asking. Strange, that a mother should feel so unwilling to chat with her daughter about intimate matters. But… well, that was Jasnah.

A: Well, isn’t that interesting. Not only do we get to see two sides of Jasnah in one chapter—the elegant, precise Queen and the down-to-earth woman—there are rumors. Rumors about Jasnah and Wit. And lest anyone miss what these rumors might be, Navani specifies “intimate matters.” So what’s the betting? Are the rumors true, or no?

L: This makes me really uneasy. (And no, not because it “disproves” the prevailing fan theory that Jasnah is ace. People who are asexual are completely capable of being in romantic relationships. We don’t know yet one way or the other which is true, but whichever way Sanderson decides to go with it, I’m fine with.)

A: (FWIW, I really wouldn’t call that a “prevailing” fan theory, though I know some people hold to it. Like every other theory, it’s just a theory, and I’m not convinced that it’s widespread.)

L: Regardless, the reason this makes me uneasy is because I’m afraid that Hoid is using her. As I stated earlier, I’d like to believe that Jasnah is wise enough to look deeply into this and suss out all of Hoid’s possible motivations. But… she’s also human, and people have a tendency to overlook things when they fall in love. If she’s legitimately fallen for Hoid, here… there’s a possibility that those feelings aren’t really reciprocated and he’s just using her to further his own goals. We know he would do so, if the fate of the Cosmere was at stake. And that’s what makes me uneasy about this situation.

A: Valid concern, for sure! Even if the whole thing were a Romance for the Ages, reciprocal feelings and all, I think we know enough about Hoid to realize that he’d let it go if it got in the way of his other goal. And no matter how much he might love her (might, if the rumors are true), he’d still use her to further that goal.

L: And—and this is such a hard thing to say—who’s to say that he wouldn’t be right to do so, if it would save the entire universe? Here’s those tricky ethics at play, again.

Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant

L: Let’s talk a little about the Oathpact.

My father would occasionally discuss matters of deep Realmatic Theory with him—but I didn’t care for it. Why should I? Ishar had it in hand.”

“He forged the Oathpact,” Jasnah said. “The . . . binding that made you immortal and trapped the Voidbringers in another realm of reality.”

“Braize isn’t another realm of reality,” Ash said. “It’s a planet. You can see it in the sky, along with Ashyn—the Tranquiline Halls, you call it. But yeah, the Oathpact. He did that. We all simply went along with it.” She shrugged.

L: This isn’t exactly new news, but I do find it interesting that they (Heralds and Fused both) were trapped on another planet. (For some reason this is stranger for me to consider than being trapped in an alternate dimension/form of reality, possibly because we have verified cases of world-hopping already.) How, exactly were they trapped there for so long? Were they transported there, with no way to leave? What was keeping the traditional methods of world-hopping from working, here?

A: So much we don’t know!! I believe we’ll have to learn more about Bondsmith powers to understand the mechanics. We learned earlier that the Heralds were able to decide when to lock in the Oathpact each time, and also when to let it go. The Fused had significantly less flexibility. But… why did it work? How did it work? I really want to know…

“It’s broken,” Ash said. “Done, shattered, upended. They killed my father a year ago. Permanently, somehow. We all felt it.”

L: ::mutters:: F*** Moash.

A: Yep.

“And do you think Dalinar,” Jasnah asked, “as a Bondsmith, could repair or replicate it somehow? Sealing the enemy away?”

“Who knows?” Ash said. “It doesn’t work the same for you all as it did for us, when we had our swords. You’re limited, but sometimes you do things we couldn’t.”

L: Verrrrrry interesting. This is, at least, leaving the door open to possibility!

A: Doesn’t it, though? I don’t think Sanderson would have Dalinar just recreate or repair the Oathpact, and go back to the way it’s been in the past, because that doesn’t seem like the narrative he’d write. But when I read this, I wonder what variation he might be able to craft.

L: I agree. I think we’re going to be looking at something entirely different, whether that be unity or destruction. No more half-measures for Roshar.

What We Missed (In the Timeskip)

“I forbid this,” Dalinar said. “You can’t simply free every Alethi slave. It would cause mass chaos.”

“I wasn’t aware,” Jasnah said, “that you could forbid the queen from taking action.”

“You called it a proposal,” Dalinar said.

“Because I am not finished with the wording yet,” Jasnah replied. “I intend to propose it to the highprinces soon and gauge their reactions. I will deal with their concerns as best I can before I make it law. Whether or not I will make it law, however, is not a matter I intend to debate.”

A: BOOM. And we wondered what kind of changes Jasnah would make as Queen of Alethkar. Now we know one of the things she’s been working on, and it’s a doozy!

L: I love this. I’m also getting some real shades of Daenerys Targaryen, here. Let’s hope that this goes better for Jasnah than it did for Dany… Aside from A Song of Ice and Fire references (which I am certain are unintentional on Sanderson’s part as he’s purportedly only read the first book, and let’s face it, freeing of slaves is a pretty common theme in fantasy books), I love the fact that Jasnah is really taking the helm here and doing what she believes is right regardless of what anyone else thinks. Even her uncle. And while we’re on this note:

“This isn’t the time, Jasnah. We can’t create social upheaval on this scale during such a terrible moment in our history.”

“Says the man,” Jasnah said, “who wrote a book earlier this year. Upending centuries of established gender norms.”

L: I just need to point out how much of a badass Jasnah is here. She never backs down—she calls Dalinar out succinctly and clearly, and rightfully so.

A: She’s brilliant. Also, she points out that she’s done the research and this is the perfect time to institute such a change. Her background as a scholar and historian may be downplayed, but I love the way it shows at just the right times. She’s not just a scholar, but she is a scholar, and a brilliant one. And she pulls no punches.

Jasnah held weekly meetings with the Heralds, trying to pry every bit of historical knowledge from their minds. She’d claimed the meetings were mostly fruitless, but Navani knew to hang on to the word “mostly” when coming from Jasnah. She could hide a great deal in the spaces between those letters.

A: We haven’t seen much in the text (so far) of information gained from having two Heralds living in Urithiru. Taln is, sadly, still nearly catatonic, and Ash seems to be… well, less cooperative than one might have hoped.

In this particular case, she doesn’t seem to know very much about the Bondsmith abilities, and most of what she tells us here about Bondsmiths was either known or guessed by the readers long since. However, we do get one new bit of info: Ash spent a lot of time in Shinovar; she knows they have the Honorblades, and that they have people who have practiced with those Blades to develop an understanding of all the Surgebinding on Roshar. Also, for some reason they tried to kill her, and she didn’t mind, but she left when they started worshipping her. Okay, then.

L: I love Ash. I hope we get a lot more information on her when we eventually get Taln’s backstory book in the back five.

A: In further developments, it seems that Our Heroes have been trying to contact Shinovar, which has become extraordinarily hostile, what with disappearing scouts and storms of arrows launched at Windrunners. Dalinar is worried that he needs to progress his Bondsmith skills, but the only people who know anything about his Order, the Shin and Tezim/Ihsar, are hostile to him. What’s a lonely Bondsmith to do?

L: I don’t know… experiment? That’s how he’s managed to find out everything he has so far, right? I’m surprised that Navani isn’t pressuring him more to perform experiments with the other Orders.

A: It’s implied that he’s tried without success, but it does seem like he ought to be spending more time on the effort.

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

The simplest Fused weapon against us isn’t truly a fabrial, but instead a metal that is extremely light and can withstand the blows of a Shardblade. This metal resists being Soulcast as well; it interferes with a great number of Radiant powers.

Fortunately, the Fused seem unable to create it in great quantities—for they equip only themselves, and not their average soldiers, with these wonders.

A: My first assumption on this was aluminum, but I’m not at all sure of that. The fact that this stuff resists being soulcast isn’t evidence, because we know you can soulcast things into aluminum, but soulcasting aluminum into other things might not work so well. Also, it’s possible that soulcasting things into aluminum is difficult and unreliable; maybe that’s why it’s still so rare and expensive. But that’s hardly proof. I hope we find out at some point, though—I’d like a canon answer to the metal question!

Navani had seen Shallan and Dalinar summon the map dozens of times, but—as with Dalinar’s ability to recharge spheres—she felt there was more to be learned by careful examination.

A: Navani is determined to wrest every last iota of information she can from observing the powers of Radiants in action, and particularly Dalinar’s Bondsmith abilities. The fact that he hasn’t been able to do anything similar with other Radiants is particularly interesting. Though she doesn’t say so, I can’t help wondering if part of why she watches so closely is an effort to understand how it works and how it might function differently with another Surge. In any case, it’s always fascinating (to me, anyway) to watch Navani’s thought processes. She’s such an engineer at heart.


We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others!

Also, as a note of interest. We’ve laid out how the discussion/reread posts will be working for the rest of the year. After Rhythm of War is released, Alice and I will be diving into a reread of Dawnshard for the second half of November and all of December (though we will be moving back to Thursdays). We’ll then be starting up the reread of Rhythm of War in January, after everyone’s hopefully had a chance to read through it once (or more). There will be a few more scattered articles on Stormlight subjects over the next few months to look forward to as well, so keep an eye on TOR.com!

Alice is busy prepping new articles for the Rhythm of War release run-up. Watch these spaces.

Lyndsey is missing her faire family dearly. In these bylines, she’ll be giving some shout-outs to fellow local performers or vendors who could really use the support. This week, check out Drunk and Disorderly for all your pub song needs! If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.


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