Alice: Heya, O Chickens of the Cosmere!
Lyn: Awww, you’re coming around to it! I told you this chickens thing was fun. I feel like we need t-shirts or something…
A: Oh, I could definitely get into that!
L: Well, chickens and t-shirts aside, we’re about to dive back into the Fall of Urithiru, so I hope you’re all holding onto your feathers, because the plot is continuing its descent into darkness. Navani has one last slim hope of saving the Tower, but it really is a slim one, and the Sibling finally begins communicating with her openly in an attempt to save their own figurative butt. Join us, won’t you?
Reminder: We’ll 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 (this includes Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.
Heralds: Chana, (Chanarach), Herald of the Common Man; Dustbringers; Brave/Obedient; Role: Guard.
A: It looks to me like Chana, as Guard, represents pretty much everyone in this chapter, as they seek to guard the tower and its people from the invasion—and especially as Navani and her team do what they can to guard the Sibling.
Icon: Fabrial Gemstone for Navani’s PoV.
My instincts say that the power of Odium is not being controlled well. The Vessel will be adapted to the power’s will. And after this long, if Odium is still seeking to destroy, then it is because of the power.
A: I’d say he’s not wrong! Brandon has spoken several times recently about what he chose to do with Odium in this book. One of the things he’s talked about is that Rayse/Odium, having lost badly to Our Heroes twice in two books, was pretty much finished as a believable villain. He lost his chosen Champion in Oathbringer when Dalinar refused to give up his pain, which was bad enough. Then he spent all of this book trying to twist Kaladin via Moash’s interference, whether the goal was suicide or a new Champion, only to have Kaladin refuse the despair and speak his fourth Ideal. This epigraph gives us an in-world reason for Rayse to fall (other than Szeth and Nightblood being Team Terror)—he could no longer control the power of his Shard, and was unable to prevent his own death. (I’m not sure I’m getting this across well, but I have an impression that the Shard was perfectly happy to dump Rayse in favor of Taravangian. Maybe that’s just my read, though.)
L: I’d like to point out a different part of this, the part about “if he is still seeking to destroy, it is because of the power.” That… seems like an odd way to word this. Is Harmony trying to say that Rayse is completely overwhelmed by Odium’s influence at this point? That seems to be accurate, but if he’s right, I’m really curious to see whether Odium and Taravangian have any conflict or if they manage to work together in ::ahem:: harmony.
A: Heh. I hope they have massive conflict; the two of them in rhythm is a terrifying thought. It is a fascinating question, though; Hoid seems to think that Rayse was always awful, so he’d have been up for the “destroy everything” whereas Taravangian is more about “let’s all be orderly, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me will be made to agree.”
L: Taravangian was also firmly in the “I want to save my people” camp. I wonder if that will change, now that he’s under Odium’s influence…
A: It might make for some initial conflict, at least, because Taravangian isn’t really about hating everyone. If he retains his craftiness but submits to the Intent of the Shard, yikes.
WHEN: 1188.8.131.52 (immediately following Chapter 39)
(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)
Navani makes plans with the remaining soldiers in Urithiru to attempt to retake the pillar, thereby freeing the Radiants. They surmise that it’s their only hope of success. The Sibling communicates with Navani and tells her that Raboniel is attempting to alter their mind, and informs her that there is something they might be able to do to forestall this…
A: I find this chapter a crazy mix of hope, frustration, and fascination. Hope, because there seems to be a chance, however small, to save the Radiants and therefore the Tower. Frustration, because Navani and the Sibling seem to spend so storming much time throwing irrelevant accusations at each other, when time is seriously of the essence. Fascination, because the Sibling is finally speaking openly, and there is an amazing amount of lore even in this short conversation.
The soldiers at each [checkpoint] waved her through with visible relief.
A: My initial response to this was that they have enough respect for Navani as a leader that they’re relieved to see her arriving to take charge, which is pretty cool. Except then it turns out to be … only sorta true. They’re relieved to see her (or maybe just relieved to see that she’s alive and safe?), but they aren’t entirely ready to just follow her lead.
Navani didn’t miss their delayed response. They’d moved only after hearing the command from Teofil. These soldiers would fall over themselves to do her bidding when it came to peacetime requests, but during a fight…
L: I don’t entirely blame them (from a sociological standpoint). Navani is queen, yes, but she doesn’t have much experience in battle strategy. She’s wise in that regard, but doesn’t have the real-life experience to back it up. In addition, she’s a woman, and to the Alethi, that’s another mark against her in the realm of battle. I’m sure we will see that mentality begin to shift and change now that a great many women are Radiants (Jasnah chief among them), but for now… I can understand why they’d defer to Teofil. However, we soon get this, which is just hilarious and brilliant:
“I figure the Blackthorn has studied every military text known to man,” he said. “And we could do worse for a general than the person who likely read ’em to him. Particularly if she’s willing to listen to a little sense. That’s more than I can say for some highlords I’ve followed.”
L: Teofil is wonderful.
A: He is. He’s absolutely a hero, and it was wise of Dalinar to promote him. He’s proof of the value of merit-based rather than eye-color-based promotion. He’s courageous, sound, and wise.
“Brightness, if there’s a chance to turn this tide right now, I think we need to take it. We lose the tower, and … well, it will be a disaster for the war. If there is even a possibility you can wake the Radiants, I’ll risk everyone we have on that chance.”
A: This comes after he’s reminded her that surrender is one of their options, and they do both acknowledge that it may ultimately be necessary, assuming the Fused take their usual approach of occupying but not destroying. Without any further extensive quotations, I just have to say that this conversation between Navani and Teofil is fantastic, not only because it’s a valuable counsel of war, but because even this short scene made me care about Teofil. Which, you know… tears will be coming shortly, but I’m still amazed when one scene can create a character whose death is actually painful.
Oh, also, Taravangian is a horrible traitorous wretch. There was one single Shardbearer in the tower who wasn’t a Radiant, and Taravangian told the Fused exactly where to find him so they could take him out first.
Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light PLUS Spren and Shadesmar
A: This week, these two concepts are too deeply intertwined for me to separate most of the discussion, so I’m going to just combine discussion of the Sibling and discussion of using Light.
“I know you can hear, Sibling. … You’ve been listening in on us the entire time, haven’t you? Spying? …”
A: I have to start out with a LOT of annoyance at Navani. When she finally gets done planning with the soldiers, she goes to the garnet vein and promptly starts making accusations. I mean… is this really the time to antagonize your best hope of fighting back? Really? What am I missing here?
L: Yeah. This is needlessly antagonistic, especially since she suspects that something is being done to the Sibling.
You are a slaver, the Sibling said.
“Am I better than a Fused?”
The Sibling didn’t respond at first. I’m not sure, they said. I have avoided your kind. You were supposed to think I was dead. Everyone was supposed to think I was dead.
A: Okay, ouch. Raboniel is trying to Unmake the Sibling, but they’re still not sure Navani is a better choice? That’s gotta sting a little.
L: Mmm. In a way, I can see where they’re coming from. From the Sibling’s perspective, the things that Navani and the humans have been doing must look awful. Just as awful as the Fused’s slavery, or the humans’ slavery of the parshmen before that.
A: As things develop, it will later become clear that the Sibling feels they were betrayed by the humans somehow—or if not exactly betrayed, at least treated badly.
It’s also worth noting that initially, Navani can’t tell if the voice is male or female, because it seems pitched between the two. Later she decides it sounds like a child’s voice, and now I wonder… We’ll eventually learn that the Sibling is the child of Honor and Cultivation; are they somehow permanently childlike in essence? That would explain some things.
L: In some ways they read like a child. Their reactions to some things are simplistic… but their reactions to others are mature, so I’m not really sure on this one. An immortal being could still be childlike if their brains never develop the cognitive leaps required for adulthood (despite having been alive for thousands of years). Or, the Sibling could just be non-binary.
A: Well, the Sibling intentionally has no gender; they imply as much when they sneer at spren “pretending as if they are male or female, malen or femalen, when they are neither.” But you’re right; there’s a really odd mix of childishness and maturity that I don’t quite get. It might just be an artifact of their lengthy unbonded state, and as their bond strengthens the Sibling will demonstrate greater maturity… maybe…
I really was asleep. Until… a Bondsmith. I felt a Bondsmith. But the tower is not functional, and I have not the Light to restart it.
A: That’s… pretty cool, in terms of lore. I wonder if the fact that Dalinar spoke his first two Ideals right here in Urithiru had anything to do with awakening the Sibling. While it’s possible that the Sibling would have awakened due to the mere presence of a Bondsmith in the world, I can’t help thinking the proximity might have been helpful.
L: Now I’m imagining the Sibling sleeping and Dalinar screaming at the top of his lungs in the next room, with the Sibling looking up with an annoyed look on their face.
A: LOL. “Shut up out there, would you?”
The second part of that quote, though… that hurts. The Sibling needs Light (note that the kind is not specified, and at this point Navani knows only Stormlight and Voidlight) in order to restart the tower beyond the minimally functioning fabrials that keep the temperature chilly instead of freezing, the air pressure breathable, and the water fresh and flowing.
I… I’m kind of stunned at how this is woven together across the length of the book. The Sibling specifically needs Towerlight, and they can no longer make it because Honor is splintered and they can’t hear the tone of Stormlight. Simply feeding Stormlight into the system isn’t enough; they need the pure tone. Even in peacetime, if Navani and the Sibling got along perfectly, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t be able to figure out what to do about the missing piece. It will be Navani’s work with Raboniel, and their experiments in creating Warlight and anti-Voidlight, that give her the understanding to be able to sing Stormlight—and the Sibling needs that tone, along with the remaining tone of Cultivation, to create the Towerlight that will heal both of them from mortal wounds. Oh, and restart the tower, in all it’s amazing beauty and power.
But that’s all a long way down the road. For now, we have a terrified little Sibling with virtually no light of their own, and a fearsome foe taking over the place:
The… Lady of Pains is here…
She is bad. Terrible. Few Fused are as… frightening to me as she is. She’s trying to change me. So far, she changed only the portion of me that suppresses Surgebinding, reversing it so it affects Radiants instead of Fused. But she intends to go further. Much further…
The Lady of Pains is returning, the Sibling said. I think … I think she’s going to change me. My mind might alter. I might not care.
A: If you didn’t already find Raboniel frightening, you should now!
L: This entire concept is horrifying. It’s taking lack of consent to the most extreme length. Having someone change your body without your permission is bad enough, but having someone alter your very mind? Perhaps permanently? ::shudders:: There are few things that I can think of that are more horrifying than this.
A: Not to get personal or anything, but my family is currently caring for an elderly relative who is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia. It reminds me of this, in a way; the effects of multiple minor strokes have altered his mind in ways that… well, that I’m glad he’s only dimly aware of the changes. The worst times for him are when he’s aware that something has changed. To be in the Sibling’s position, knowing that this incredibly powerful person has plans to make you someone different, and that you have almost no chance of resisting that change—and that once it’s done, you might not care… it truly is a terrifying thought.
You cannot be trusted.
“Let me show you that I can.”
I… You will need Stormlight, Navani Kholin. A great deal of Stormlight.
A: I have to think that, given how the Sibling doesn’t trust Navani (whether because she’s human or because of her work with fabrials), the thought of being unmade by Raboniel is what finally pushes them into this minimal level of trust. And a good thing, too, because that “great deal of Stormlight” is going to make all the difference.
Bruised and Broken
Long ago, before I banished men from these halls, my last Bondsmith made me something. A method of protecting me from the dangers I saw in men. He thought it would help me trust again. It did not. But it might stop the Fused from corrupting me further.
L: This is really interesting on so many levels! The thing he made were the failsafes that we see later on, right? But what happened to betray the Sibling’s trust in men? What happened to the Bondsmith eventually? When exactly did all this happen in the grand timeline? So many questions that I’m excited to someday get the answers to!
A: So many questions! This is the first time we’ve seen the angle that the Sibling banished the Radiants—so, why? Was it the Radiants in general, or that Bondsmith in particular, that made the Sibling reject them?
And yes, the thing Melishi made for the Sibling was the Stormlight protection fabrials (which we’ll see in the next chapter)—and I wonder why he made them to be powered by Stormlight, instead of Towerlight? Was Honor already sufficiently broken that he feared Towerlight might fail? Or… it might be that he knew Adhesion was the only Surge not susceptible to Odium’s interference, accessible only to Bondsmiths and Windrunners, and powered solely by Stormlight. We don’t really know—but it turns out to be a good thing for our friends.
Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened
What you do is dangerous and evil, the Sibling said. Those ancient Radiants gave up their oaths because they worried they had too much power—and you have gone far beyond them.
L: I’m still not wholly convinced that that’s the whole story, here.
A: Yeah, I’m questioning it too. The Radiant bonds were created to harness the power of Surgebinding and keep it in strict limits; would they really have come to believe that those limits weren’t enough? I think we’re still missing a piece, and I suspect it might be connected to Ba-Ado-Mishram somehow.
Those highly Invested might not be as strongly affected. Unmade, for example, were sometimes able to push through my suppression.
L: It’s always cool to see the Unmade pop up in lore like this. I wonder if they’re Invested with a single type of power each (like the Fused), or if they have access to several…
A: … Uh… For all I’ve thought about the Unmade, I’ve never really considered whether they access the Surges, or which ones… Now I’m wondering whether each Unmade is associated with a brand of Fused!
Radiants of the high oaths might be able to access their powers.
A: This confirms what we learned back in Chapter 14, when Raboniel talked about luring “the Elsecaller and the Bondsmith away” because “Their oaths might be advanced enough to push through the suppression, much as the Unmade have done at the tower in the past.” She assumes that only a Fourth-Ideal Radiant would be able to do that; their intel would show that Jasnah is the only current Radiant with living Plate (presumably how Leshwi can be so confident that Kaladin isn’t at the Fourth), so… her plan should have worked. Except that Windrunners who are close to their Fourth seem to be able to function, especially when they have lots of Stormlight. And Lift—though whether that’s because she’s close to her Fourth, or because she uses Lifelight, we don’t know.
And Honor’s Truest Surge, the Surge of Binding and Oaths, could still work.
L: This is Adhesion, right? I find it very interesting that this is the Surge that the Fused do not have access to, and is also the one that their method of suppression here cannot affect. I wonder what it is about this Surge in particular that causes it to be “off-limits” to the Fused. We know that it’s the only one linked to Honor alone, but… why would all of the other Surges “allow” themselves to be used by the Fused, and this one doesn’t?
A: Yes, it’s Adhesion, and I have only random guesses as to why and how and wherefore. The Sibling confirms what Kaladin figured out, that Adhesion works and Gravitation doesn’t. But I really don’t understand what the deal is with “Honor’s Truest Surge.” I don’t believe for a skinny minute that Raboniel is right and it’s not a true Surge, but I can’t help wondering if perhaps it’s so strongly tied to Honor that it can only be powered by Stormlight. Whatever the mechanism, it’s a clever way to keep the number nine associated with Odium and the Fused, while maintaining the association of the number ten to Honor.
(There’s an interesting parallel when Lift discovers that Progression works but Abrasion doesn’t. I suspect that Progression is almost as purely Cultivation’s as Adhesion is purely Honor’s, but I don’t know that. It might be that Progression just works better with Lifelight.)
Roion—the youngest highprince, and the only one in the tower currently—had gathered them around the tables.
A: It makes me happy, in a sad way, to see young Roion here. His father was a bit of a twit at times, but when it counted he showed courage, and he died an honorable but terrifying death. (For anyone who forgot, Roion Senior was the first to agree to go with Dalinar on the Narak expedition. He tried to stop Szeth from killing Dalinar, and Szeth killed him by lashing him toward the sky and then letting him fall to his death.) I’m glad to see his son here, stepping up to fulfill his role as highprince. I hope he survived.
“We’d best have the head of the Tower Guard here.”
“He’s fallen unconscious, Brightness,” said one of the men. “He had a spren choose him last month…”
A: Well, talk about the worst possible timing!
We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 41, in which Venli has a cozy chat with Raboniel, while Navani prepares to carry out the Sibling’s plan and Kaladin does his best to keep his head down.
Alice is completely incapable of turning down a chance to beta read; unfortunately, she’s also incapable of doing everything at once. These two issues have been conflicting lately, but she’s still going, Energizer-bunny-style.
Lyndsey wishes that the New England weather would make up its mind, seeing as how it jumped 50 degrees over the course of one week (not kidding, we went from 40 to 90)! She has been a Sanderson beta reader since Words of Radiance and is also a fantasy author herself. She sometimes does tie-in videos to the reread and silly cosmere cosplay vids on TikTok, or you can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.