Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Seventy-Two

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This week, the reread comes to the final chapter in Part Three, and in typical Part Three fashion, it leaves us in the slough of despond. The title, “Outmatched,” really says it all. This is one of Navani’s worst moments, as all her accomplishments turn out to have only served the enemy’s purposes. It promises to be a somber discussion, but please, come cheer us with your participation!

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.

{There are no wider Cosmere concerns discussed this week.}

Heralds: Palah (Pailiah, Paliah). Truthwatchers (Progression, Illumination). Learned/Giving. Role: Scholar.

A: My bet is that Palah reflects Navani’s pursuit of truth and understanding, even while she’s devastated by the effects of her latest “accomplishment.” She’s willing to behave humbly for the sake of needed information—and of course, there’s Raboniel’s push for her to quit fighting and study.

Icon: Fabrial Gemstone, for Navani’s POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, endnotes:

Intent matters. Intent is king. You cannot do what I attempt by accident. You must mean it. This seems a much greater law than we’ve ever before understood.

A: I think this is Navani again, though it could be either author. I attribute it to Navani because of her later thoughts on Intent when she creates the anti-Voidlight (Chapter 97); the concept is a huge breakthrough for her.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHEN: 1175.4.8.1 (Shortly following the events of the previous two chapters.)
WHERE: Urithiru

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: Navani sits in her library cell, contemplating the implications of what she knows so far. Eventually Raboniel arrives, and confirms what Navani had guessed in terms of the eavesdropping. Raboniel doesn’t give much more information, instead demanding that Navani turn all her efforts to studying Light in the hope of ending the war forever. Sickened, Navani prays for Kaladin and returns to the contemplation of her failures.

Chapter Chatter—Navani’s Failure

A: Once again, I feel like I’m quoting the entire chapter. It’s a short chapter, but everything in it has Implications and Significance. Ah well. We’ll try to limit the quotes, and address the themes.

After all her assurances and promises, Navani had proven untrustworthy after all.

A: I take this to mean the assurances and promises she gave the Sibling, not Raboniel. (Someone in the beta talked about how she proved that Raboniel couldn’t trust her, but somehow I don’t think that would bother Navani at all.) As we’ve mentioned a time or three in the last few chapters, this is really painful. She worked so hard to convince the Sibling that despite their differences regarding fabrial technology, she could be trusted to work together in good faith. Now, however inadvertent, her assurances have proven false—and in nearly the most devastating way possible.

P: I think this is Navani severely self-deprecating. She didn’t have any idea that Raboniel was eavesdropping on her conversations with the Sibling. She wasn’t being malicious with her attempts to get the Sibling to reveal the location of the node. She isn’t actually untrustworthy. If she’s guilty of anything, it’s ignorance. And maybe arrogance.

A: True, but try telling her that! She’s supposed to be perfect, you know. She’s the Queen.

No, you’re absolutely right, but she does have unrealistic expectations of herself sometimes. Also, she definitely underestimated Raboniel, so she’ll have a hard time forgiving herself for that.

Navani gritted her teeth, then stood up and bowed. She’d been hurt, outmatched, and defeated. But she couldn’t let anger and humiliation rule. She needed information.

A: Moments like these are the ones that make me admire Navani the most. She never lets her pride get in the way of a greater need. IMO, even the decision at the beginning of Part Three—to work under Raboniel’s supervision rather than taking on menial labor—fits this pattern. She could easily have refused to do anything that might benefit the Fused, and taken perverse pride in her humiliation. Instead, she chose the only path she could see that might give her a way to subvert the occupation—and while she did give the Fused a terrible weapon, she also created one of her own, and used it to great effect.

P: I agree. I adore Navani and seeing her in this chapter, refusing to be defeated, shows me that she truly is a queen.

A: (Also, this quotation is where the chapter title came from, in case anyone hadn’t noticed. There were a number of good suggestions for this one, but I do think “Outmatched” is the most suitable description for Navani’s current state.)

P: And this title is a good way to close the part, which is ending on a decided down note.

I gave them the secret to the third node. I pried it out of the Sibling, walking directly into the enemy’s plan.

A: Ever since the Fused suddenly found the node right after her conversation with the Sibling, she’s been pretty sure that Raboniel (or her people) were listening in. Raboniel’s confirmation—with the added knowledge that this has been true since the very beginning—has some dreadful implications.

P: Navani’s reaction to Raboniel’s confirmation is heartbreaking. She’s so disappointed in herself.

 When I touched the pillar, I knew the Sibling was awake—but pretending to be dead. So I let the ruse continue, and I listened.

A: This means that Raboniel has heard some of the Sibling’s objections to Navani’s fabrial work. It also means she knows about Dabbid (if not by name or face), and everything Navani just told the Sibling about Rlain… the listener who is part of Bridge Four and doesn’t serve Odium. I’m a little surprised that she left him free; I can only assume she didn’t think he’d be a threat to her plans, and so didn’t bother to recapture him. Still, it’s worthy of a shudder or two!

P: Right? The sheer volume of information that she’s surely gained from her eavesdropping is staggering. And disheartening.

A: Disheartening is the word for it. As far as Navani knows, everything is now compromised, and she must be frantically thinking back over every conversation she had with Kaladin or the Sibling to see what she might have given away. (Did Kaladin tell her what floor he was on?)

“Study. Find us answers about Light, Navani. Stop trying to fight me; help me end this war instead. That was always your purpose here.”

A: Well… it was always Raboniel’s purpose for her. I’d say Navani’s purpose has always been to circumvent Raboniel if at all possible. Raboniel is right about one aspect: finding answers about Light will result in Navani and the Sibling driving the Fused, Regals, and singers out of Urithiru, and end this part of the war. But it will happen, because Navani will never stop trying to fight.

P: Exactly. Raboniel is just too arrogant to admit that Navani isn’t happily doing her research for her. As much as the research fascinates Navani, it’s not been her focus.

“[…] when the Windrunner was spotted fleeing the tower a good half hour after, his wound hadn’t healed—so I think the Sibling’s transformation is almost complete. This makes your Windrunner’s powers quite unreliable. I find it unlikely he survived after running out into the storm.”

A: It sure is a relief to know more about this than Navani does, just now. We know that Kaladin survived, though last we saw he still had to get from the eighth floor balcony to his hiding place on the eleventh floor—but we also know enough (even on a first read) to know that he wasn’t going to just lie there and die after Dalinar saved him. It would be all wrong.

That said, the damage to the Sibling and the resulting effect on healing is really, really bad. And Raboniel’s suggestion that she’d really like to study Kaladin’s corpse was… revolting.

P: Seriously. This makes her seem more like the Lady of Pains that Leshwi so feared. So creepy.

Navani pushed through her sickness to write, then burn, a prayer of protection for Kaladin. It was all she could do. Then she rested her head on the table to think about the profound scope of her failure.

A: I fully understand the nausea. Her actions, however noble her intent, have resulted in severe harm to both the Sibling and the Windrunner—her only known and viable allies. She intended to protect the Sibling, but she miscalculated both Raboniel’s cleverness and the Sibling’s awareness, and now for all she knows Kaladin is dead and the Sibling on the verge of being Unmade.

P: It wouldn’t be unusual to see someone just give up after such a defeat. But not our Navani.

A: Yeah, Navani will give up when she’s dead and gone Beyond.

Spren and Shadesmar

“The Sibling is truly to blame—they always have been so innocent. And unaware of their own naiveness.”

A: (I have to say it… why “naiveness” instead of naïveté? Is that too French?) Anyway… At this point on my first read, I was getting pretty frustrated with the Sibling, and rather agreed with Raboniel’s assessment. It felt (still does, sometimes) like they were being determinedly foolish and petulant—too much so for a spren this powerful.

Which is not to say that I dislike the Sibling, and I have some hope that part of this aspect is the un-bonded state. Most of the spren have “matured” as they formed a bond and strengthened it; look at our insights into Syl and Pattern in their early days! So maybe the Bondsmith spren have more natural awareness and intelligence even without a bond, but with a bond they become… wiser, and more able to think through things. Maybe?

P: I’ve had this same thought about the Sibling seeming so immature. They’ll hopefully become more amenable with the bond.

A: I really, really hope so. There were some indications of greater understanding, I think, in the way they came alive with the bond and with seeing Navani’s instant comprehension of their systems. There may yet be compromises to work out, but those first minutes gave each of them reason to respect the other.

Bruised and Broken

A: Thought exercise… How much do these events contribute to Navani being sufficiently soul-broken to form a bond? I’ve long thought that her level of self-doubt, nurtured as it was by Gavilar’s attitude, might be more than enough. Still, this defeat must make her feel that she was always right to doubt herself, and she’d just never realized how terribly she could fail when it really mattered.

P: Gavilar definitely planted a toxic seed that’s grown and forced cracks. But you’re likely correct that this defeat pushed her closer to being able to bond the Sibling.

Singers/Fused

Raboniel finally arrived, wearing a simple outfit of trousers, a blouse, and a Thaylen vest. She’d previously said she found their designs fascinating. She’d chosen traditionally male clothing, but likely didn’t mind the distinction.

A: I really enjoy the notes on Raboniel’s fashion sense. This particular one is so incredibly appropriate to the Fused mindset; since a Fused might take either a malen or femalen body, they are probably accustomed to wearing whatever they like without regard to sex. Each one likely has their own priorities (don’t we all?), emphasizing comfort, style, color, whatever appeals to the individual. Raboniel seems to enjoy human fashions, as long as she can have them tailored properly to her particular form. (Then there’s Lezian, who apparently only wears his hair or something? Ugh.)

P: There’s nothing that’s not ugh about Lezian.

But yes, Raboniel does seem to enjoy human fashions. Her and Adolin would get along swimmingly!

A: Agreed on both counts!

Part Three Wrap-Up

A: As we noted last week, Part Three was titled “Songs of Home,” and that theme was reflected in the flashbacks (especially the ones about Jaxlim), Venli’s memories of home, and the longing of Navani and Kaladin for days when things were more normal and home-like.

Part Two ended with Navani surrendering to the Fused in order to save human lives wherever possible, once she’d done what she could to protect the Sibling. Part Three opened with Kaladin, having learned the terms of the surrender, desperately trying to hide Teft and himself from the designated fate of the Radiants. There was a lovely resistance going on, facilitated by the Sibling, where Kaladin and Navani could coordinate their efforts and cleverly make the best use of their extremely limited resources. That’s broken, now, and their secrets are (presumably) all exposed. Venli isn’t looking brave enough—or resourceful enough—to actually help them, even if she wanted to, and Leshwi is too smart to oppose Raboniel directly.

That said, I have a couple of outstanding questions. If Raboniel heard all the instructions about the lift fabrial, why did she not send someone up there to disable the weights? Why leave Kaladin with such a useful tool? I realize she’s fascinated by the human advances since last time she was on Roshar; is she just curious to see what they’ll do, and not really worried that they can defeat her?

P: I think she enjoys seeing what her enemies can accomplish. She seems more fascinated by Kaladin than anything.

A: Also, as above, why did she do nothing about Rlain? Is he just not a perceptible threat?

P: Yes, I very much believe that she didn’t see Rlain as a threat.

A: Oh, and why did she give away the eavesdropping by so obviously going after the node within a few hours of learning its location? She could have waited until she heard Navani and Kaladin planning his movements, and then “discovered” it before he got there—it seems like that would have been to her advantage. Or, again, maybe she just doesn’t see them as any kind of threat, and she just decided it was more sporting to let Navani know the truth instead of giving her false hope. Or… I suppose she could have done all this deliberately to isolate Navani and truly keep her from distracting herself with planning the resistance.

P: Perhaps she had tired of playing the game with Navani. Maybe she was trying to break her to make her more willing to continue the research.

A: Further thoughts, oh readers?

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun! Next week, we’ll launch into the third set of Interludes, beginning with Szeth’s always-interesting conversation with his sword, and his troubled thoughts about his former master.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, and is going insane trying to keep up with senior-year schedules and demands.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She works full-time, goes to school full-time, beta reads part-time, mods/admins 3 Stormlight-themed Facebook groups part-time, and writes part-time. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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