Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Eighty-Nine


Lyn: Good morning, cosmere chickens!

Paige: Happy Stormlight Thursday to you all. We’re rejoining Navani and Raboniel this week, our favorite frenemies who love to science.

L: Obligatory…

P: And love to do it together. We see some great conversation in this chapter between the Queen and the Lady of Wishes, but we’ll talk about that below.

L: Alice had to take a bit of a breather for a (joyous) family reason, so I’ll be joining Paige again this week.

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.

In this week’s discussion we also discuss some things from White Sand in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.

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

Kalak (Kelek). Willshapers (Transportation, Cohesion). Resolute/Builder. Role: Maker.

L: Well, it’s patently obvious why Palah’s here, in her role as scholar. Interesting that Kalak is as well, though. Perhaps due to the connection they’re building, or in their resolution to solving the problem.

Icon: Fabrial Gemstone (Navani’s POV).


Instead I think, if I were to remember my life in detail, I would become even worse. Paralyzed by my terrible actions. I should not like to remember all those I have failed.

P: It’s apparent that Kelek has gaps in his memory. I imagine it’s to be expected after thousands of years. And probably a good thing, because he’d likely be even more unstable than he already is. Makes you wonder if Jezrien was so unbalanced because he remembered more. Though they all abandoned Taln, I can’t help but feel sorry for them.

L: I can’t imagine what it was like, being reborn only to go back and be tortured… not to mention all the people they’ve seen die. If ONE lifetime of that has screwed Kaladin up this bad (and he’s still young!), imagine what a HUNDRED would do…

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHEN: 1175.4.9.5 (Several days after Chapter 84)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: Navani and Raboniel continue their experiments in stormlight and voidlight. Meanwhile, the Sibling is still being slowly unmade. Raboniel gives Navani a new name, and gifts her with a song… through which Navani makes a startling discovery.

Chapter Chat—Harmony

Days passed. Navani barely noticed.

For the first time in her life, she let go completely. No worries about Dalinar or Jasnah. No worries about the tower. No thoughts about the million other things she should be doing.

This was what she should be doing.

With no distractions, she was able to draw up precise experiments—charts, careful measurements, lines. Science was all about lines, about imposing order on chaos. Navani reveled in her careful preparations, without anyone to tease her for keeping her charts so neat or for refusing to skip any steps.

P: When she’s finally powerless to do anything else, such as rule the tower, or even interact with her scholars, Navani is finally free to pursue her own scholarship. She can geek out as much as she likes, and do it the way she wants to do it. As much as she doesn’t consider herself to be a scholar, she sure is good at it, as Raboniel points out later.

L: Interestingly, we see this sort of thing happen to a lot of folks when they retire. Without the need to bring home a paycheck anymore, they’re freed to finally follow their passions.

Sometimes Raboniel visited and joined in the research, writing her own musings alongside Navani’s in their notebook. Two opposing forces in harmony, focused on a single goal.

P: Once again I’ll lament that they met under these circumstances, when they could have been fast friends in some dramatically different scenario.

L: It really it a shame.

Anything you could measure was useful to science. But for these few blessed days, it seemed like time was not properly measurable—for hours passed like minutes. And Navani, despite the circumstances, found herself loving the experience.

P: Not a scholar. Pssh.

“Humility,” Raboniel said. “It’s not a Passion my kind often promote. Would it help you believe if I told you that you no longer have to use titles when speaking to me? Your discoveries so far are enough to recommend you as my equal.”

This seemed an uncommon privilege. “It does help, Raboniel,” Navani said. “Thank you.”

P: And another big moment for Navani, to have Raboniel consider her to be an equal, knowing how far above humans the Fused feel that they belong.

“Raboniel,” Navani said …. “Negotiate with me, help me. Let’s join forces. Let’s make a treaty, you and I, ignoring Odium.”

“I’m sorry,” the Fused said. “But the best chance we have of ending this war—barring a discovery between us—is for my kind to control Urithiru. I will finish my work with the Sibling. Ultimately, we are still enemies. And I would not be where I am—able to contemplate a different solution—if I were not fully willing to do what has been asked of me. Regardless of the cost, and regardless of the pain it causes.”

P: “Barring a discovery between us,” she said. And there it is, the great deception that she uses to keep Navani hunting for anti-voidlight. She already planted the seed of a possible truce between them, and brings it up again here, while still declaring them enemies and admitting that she’s beholden to Odium. Mixed signals much, Raboniel?

L: Is she just that good of a manipulator, or is there a tiny seed of rebellion deep in her heart somewhere, I wonder?

On a whim, she tried humming to the Rhythm of War. It didn’t work—the rhythm required two people in concert with one another. In return, however, Raboniel smiled. “I would give you something,” she said, then left.

“The tones were a terrible cacophony when combined, but somehow beautiful at the same time.”

“Like the two of us?” Raboniel asked.

“Like the two of us.”

Harmony could be reached, but it was exceedingly difficult.

What kind of emulsifier could you use with people, to make them mix?

L: There’s something undeniably beautiful about the theme of this chapter, and Raboniel and Navani’s entire relationship. They’re both trying, for their own reasons and by their own methods, to find some kind of harmony between one another and their peoples. Sometimes it can be so difficult to find those moments of resonance, the shared moments when we look at one another and see how very similar we are. How, despite our differences, we truly are all the same.

For Navani and Raboniel, they’re finding their common ground in science. And seeing this friendship bloom is truly a beautiful thing.

P: It is beautiful, though without knowledge of what comes later it seems doomed.

Navani tried to return to her experiments. After an hour, she conceded that the spark wasn’t there. For all her talk of control and organization, she now found herself subject to the whims of emotion. She couldn’t work because she didn’t “feel” it. She would have called that nonsense—though of course not to their face—if one of her scholars had told her something similar.

P: Oh, it’s a real thing. I experience not feeling it every storming day!

L: Oof. You and me both.

“By this music,” Raboniel said, “I give you the title Voice of Lights, Navani Kholin. As is my right.”

Raboniel hummed curtly, then bowed to Navani. With no other words, she waved for the singers to take their equipment and go. Raboniel retreated with them.

P: Wooowwww… not only does Raboniel bestow a title on Navani, she bows to her to show her respect. This is kind of huge, Sanderfans. A big moment, though we can see Navani wonder what the point is.

L: Yeah… it’s nice that she’s showing her this honor in private and all, but it would sure mean a lot more if she were doing it where any other Fused could see. Just sayin’, Raboniel…

Navani understood the honor in what she’d just been given. At the same time, she found it difficult to feel proud. What did a title, or the respect of one of the Fused, mean if the tower was still being corrupted, her people still dominated?

This is why I worked so hard these last few days, Navani admitted to herself, sitting at the desk. To prove myself to her. But … what good was that if it didn’t lead to peace?

P: What good, indeed? Of course, we do know that it will do some good other than peace, we just have to get there first.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

Navani sprinkled some of the black sand on the tabletop, then placed the gemstone in the center, measuring the strength of the Investiture inside. But because the air didn’t warp around this gemstone, she secretly knew her experiment had failed. This was not anti-Voidlight. She made a note in her log. Another failed experiment.

P: I wonder what her note might have been if she was actually hoping it would be anti-voidlight and hadn’t told Raboniel that’s what she was hoping to happen with this experiment.

“This is an ancient form of music among my kind,” Raboniel said. “A way to revel in the rhythms. As a gift, I have decided to share the songs with you.”

P: Yet another moment of almost friendship between them, which is achingly beautiful with how much we want it to be a real, true thing.

L: In order for it to be a real, true, thing, though… one or the other would have to forsake their side. Friends don’t hurt one another the way that they’ll have to, if they remain on opposite sides of the war.

The music of the plates had caused the entire desktop to vibrate. And that had made the sand vibrate—and it had therefore made patterns on her desktop. One pattern on the right, a different on the left, and a third where the two mixed. Stormlight and Voidlight weren’t merely types of illumination. They weren’t merely strange kinds of fluid. They were sounds. Vibrations.

L: This makes a lot of sense, actually, given that the Singers were the original inhabitants of Roshar. The Rhythms, and music in general, are an integral part of their culture; their very biology. So why wouldn’t stormlight and voidlight be sound? Each of the planets in the cosmere have a sort of… theme, that their magics are based around. In Warbreaker, it was color. Elantris, patterns. Mistborn was sort of gravitation… pushing and pulling, both physically and emotionally. So here, on Roshar, it’s sound.

P: Makes sense! And I love the next line:

    And in vibration, she’d find their opposites.

P: There’s our girl. Bet she’s feeling it now!

Spren and Shadesmar

Outside, Navani glanced down the hallway—lined with boxes of equipment, some hiding her traps—toward the shield around the Sibling. It seemed darker inside than before.

P: The poor Sibling… being slowly corrupted must be agonizing for them.

L: I wonder if being unmade is like having Alzheimers. Slowly becoming someone else… forgetting all you were… Terrifying.

“I should return to my duties,” she said, and Navani could pick out the same rhythm in her voice. “The Deepest Ones are close to finding the final node.”

“How?” Navani asked.

“You know I can’t tell you that, Navani.”

P: They’re close to finding the final node? Yikes! Way to crank up the tension, Brandon! Though I can’t help but wonder if Raboniel already knows where it is and is just waiting to see if Navani can solve the mystery of anti-voidlight.

She closed the notebook, then made her way to the back of the room and rested her hand on the Sibling’s crystal vein.

“I have tried to find a way to merge spren who were split by fabrial creation,” she whispered. “I thought it might please you.”

No response came.

“Please,” Navani said, closing her eyes and resting her forehead against the wall. “Please forgive me. We need you.”

P: I wonder how often Navani has begged the Sibling for forgiveness since they stopped speaking to her. But I think they only respond now because they can feel the end.

I am cold, the voice said, small, almost imperceptible. They are killing … killing me.

“Raboniel said she is … unmaking you.”

If that is true I … I will … I will die.

“Spren can’t die,” Navani said.

Gods can die … Fused can … can die … Spren can … die. 

P: The poor Sibling. It’s a fair bet that they’ve never felt fear on this level, never having been assaulted as Raboniel is doing. They’ve got to be terrified.

Bruised and Broken

“You often remark that you are not a scholar. Why?”

“I’ve always been too busy to engage in true scholarship, Ancient One,” Navani said. “Plus, I don’t know that I have the mind for it; I’m not the genius my daughter is. So I’ve always seen it as my duty to grant patronage to true scholars, to publicize their creations and see them properly encouraged.”

Raboniel hummed a rhythm, then picked up the fabrial with the copper coiling it. The metal burned her fingers, but she healed from it. “If you are not a scholar, Navani,” she said, “then I have never met one.”

L: Poor Navani, the poster child for imposter syndrome.

P: She really is. But I absolutely love this scene, when Raboniel says that if Navani is not a scholar, then she has never met one. It’s so perfect coming from this ancient Fused, who is quite the scholar herself. If she can’t convince Navani that she’s a storming scholar, I wonder if anyone can.

If I am made into someone else, that is death.

L: There’s some real deep philosophy in this. If you consider that you are many different people in your life, that as you change, you are reborn into a new person… does that mean the old you is dead? It’s a very fascinating topic to ponder. One that I don’t think there’s a right answer to. Every person will come to their own conclusion.

P: I once read that you’re a different person to everyone who knows you. Coworkers don’t know me as my daughter knows me. People that knew me in high school don’t know the same Paige that people know me as now. That doesn’t mean the high school Paige is dead, because she lives on in some people’s memories. But to me? Yeah, that storming person is dead and gone!

Cosmere Connections

Raboniel gave her the strange black sand, explaining the difference between static and kinetic Investiture.

The sand slowly turned white when exposed to Stormlight or Voidlight. However, if a fabrial was using the Light, the sand changed faster. You could wet the sand to reset it to black, though it had to be dry again before it could turn white. It was a useful way to measure how much Light a given fabrial was using. She noticed that it also changed colors in the presence of spren.

L: This is really cool. We’re seeing the sand from Brandon’s graphic novel White Sand being used here. If you’re unfamiliar, and don’t mind spoilers, you can read up on it here.

“Offworld?” Navani asked, looking up from the fabrial she’d been housing. “As in … another … planet?”

L: Poor Navani. I imagine there are (still) some stormlight readers unaware of the cosmere who are echoing her statement…

P:  Yeah, this book definitely ended the whole “can be read separate from the cosmere” thing that Stormlight had going.

I’m trapped in this system, my soul bound to Braize—you call it Damnation—a planet farther out in orbit around the sun.”

You can’t travel to Braize in the Physical Realm. That would take … well, I have no idea how long. Plus there’s no air in the space between planets. We sent Heavenly Ones to try it once. No air, and worse, the strange pressures required them to carry a large supply of Voidlight for healing. Even so prepared, they died within hours.

L: It seems as though outer space in the cosmere works mostly the same as it does in the real world. That’s interesting to note.

P: I almost feel bad for the Heavenly Ones they tried to send into space!

History, Geography, and Cultures

Captive lightning seemed to have boundless potential applications,

L: Uh… yeah. Yeah, you have no idea, Navani.

P: So many applications! Lol!

“I’m not killing the Sibling,” Raboniel said. “I’m … doing something worse. I’m unmaking the Sibling.”

L: ::shudder::

P:  The Sibling ‘unmade’ is definitely shudder-worthy.


“Mizthla” was his singer name; he said the Alethi had called him Dah. A simple glyph instead of a true name, because it was easier to remember. Perhaps if she had lived her entire life called something because of its utility, Navani would have shared his disposition.

L: An interesting thing to consider.

P: I’m sure she would.  As would most people.

Brilliant Buttresses

Navani and Raboniel left the room, as the lightning could be unpredictable. “Remember,” Navani said on her way out, “only a tiny release of energy. Don’t melt the coils this time.”

“I’m not an idiot,” the Regal said to her. “Anymore.”

P: I put this here because the added “Anymore” cracked me up. It left me wanting to know what had happened previously to prompt Navani’s reminder!

L: It kind of left me feeling sad, because I read it as “back when I was in dullform.”

She removed her hands from Navani’s, then picked up and proffered their notebook, the one where they logged their experiments. Rhythm of War, they called it.

L: Ding ding ding! We have a book title!

P: Yay! And we didn’t have to wait for the end of the book to get it!  I love that they named their book this, it’s so fitting.


We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 90, in which Adolin’s trial in Shadesmar continues…

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. But during baseball season, her heart is in the Bronx. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

Lyndsey is gearing up for the fall season of the Renaissance Faire, in which she’ll be performing in a stage combat storytelling show called The Sisters Pendragon. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.


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