Oh, hi there! We’re back! Time for another reread installment, isn’t it? This week we’re in Laqqi again, with Jasnah and Dalinar arguing over coalition strategy now that the Emul campaign is over. Mostly, this one sets up Dalinar’s next moves—one of which he’s planning, and the other something he can only wish for right now. Also, Alice is annoyed with Jasnah’s illogical negativity in certain regards, or at least irritated about not knowing the rationale behind it. Fun times! Come on in and join the discussion, 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: Palah (Pailiah, Paliah). Truthwatchers (Progression, Illumination). Learned/Giving. Role: Scholar.
A: Well, now. At first glance I thought this was Battar (for the Elsecaller), but it’s Palah—presumably for Dalinar’s scholarly pursuits. He just wrote a book. To cast a wider net, Jasnah has really been studying strategy, and Yanagawn also displays a far keener understanding of situations and people than he possessed when we first met him.
Icon: Kholin Glyphpair, for Dalinar’s POV.
I love their art. The way they depict us is divine, all red shades and black lines. We appear demonic and fearsome; they project all fear and terror upon us.
—Musings of El, on the first of the Final Ten Days
A: Interesting juxtaposition there between “divine” and “demonic.” I assume that by “divine” he means that he really, really likes the art? The other alternative I see is that he has embraced the idea that he is demonic and serves an evil deity. Also, how else does he think they should be depicted, given that their most common skin coloring seems to be red and black? (Also also, I assume he’s referring to art from the past 14 months, since before that no one would have been depicting the quiet, obedient parshmen slaves as “demonic and fearsome.”)
P: I found this a bit odd, too. How much art could there really be after such a short time?
WHEN: 118.104.22.168—If correct, this is the same day as the battle for Urithiru. I see no particular reason it has to be the same day, though it may well be. Dalinar only says that he plans to go to Tukar “as soon as was reasonable,” and we know that happens the same day as the battle. So… maybe it’s the same day?
WHERE: Laqqi, Emul (the coalition war headquarters)
RECAP: Dalinar makes his way through Yanagawn’s entry room, early for a strategy meeting, to see the end of the young emperor’s breakfast ceremony. Once the breakfast is finished, the meeting begins. Jasnah presents all the reasons they can’t retake Urithiru right now, along with her recommendations for their best plan of action: to ensure their control of the southern half of the continent. Dalinar argues that they need to invade Urithiru via Shadesmar, but acknowledges that he’s not ready and needs to contact Ishar for some tutoring first. They discuss the contract Jasnah and Wit have prepared for Odium, and finally end the meeting. Afterward, Dalinar gives Jasnah the final copy of Oathbringer (the in-world book) and asks her to write the undertext. After warning him that she will be completely honest, brutal if necessary but always respectful, she agrees.
Chapter Chat—Plans, Hopes, Beliefs
“We have practically no chance of recovering Urithiru,” Jasnah said in Azish.
A: I won’t quote it all, but she proceeds to list all the problems with such an attempt. Fabrials don’t work, the caverns are blocked, fighting through a contested tunnel system would be futile, marching along the tops of the mountains is impossible… and if they could get in by any means, they would have to fight with no Radiants or Shardbearers against a tower full of Fused and Regals. So… she’ll have other plans to suggest, but she’s not up for resting any strategic decisions on “if we can retake the tower.”
P: At this point, she’s not wrong. There is no feasible way for them to retake Urithiru right now. I know she may come off as being negative, but I feel that she’s just being realistic.
A: Well, yeah. I have mixed feelings about this… because part of me thinks they ought to put all their thoughts toward how to manage a rescue, and part of me grants that it would be stupid to waste what they’ve achieved so far by failing to secure it. Okay, I’m flaky sometimes. I know it.
“We’d have Kaladin,” Dalinar said. “His powers still work. …”
“With all due respect to him,” Jasnah said, “Kaladin is just one man—and one you relieved of duty before we left.”
A: Oh ye of little faith…
P: Right? Relieved of duty or no, Kaladin is Kaladin. He will always do what he can to protect those who cannot protect themselves. *sniffle*
Once, in the warcamps, he’d argued with Kaladin’s soldiers who had set up a vigil for the young Windrunner—then presumed dead. Dalinar had been proven wrong that time. Now, he found himself possessing some of the same faith as those soldiers.
Beaten down, broken, surrounded by enemies, Kaladin continued to fight. He knew how to take the next step. They couldn’t leave him to take it alone.
A: Okay, that gets an emotional reaction from me! For Dalinar to think of how Kaladin knows how to take the next step… that’s a deeply meaningful phrase for him, and shows the kind of respect he holds for Kaladin.
P: I may need to take a quick break… the words are suddenly all blurry.
“Our best chance,” Dalinar said to the others, “is to deliver me and a force through Shadesmar to the tower. I might be able to open a perpendicularity there, and we could surprise the enemy with an attack.”
“You might be able to open one there, Uncle.”
A: While it’s not at all unusual to see Jasnah in the role of skeptic, it does seem a bit odd for Dalinar, general extraordinaire, to consider this kind of a gamble as their best chance. Is it out of character, or is that just me? Is he so worried about Navani, and wanting so badly to get there to rescue her, that he’s propounding a wild solution? Or is this really a good plan? Jasnah certainly manages to poke holes in it.
P: If Jasnah can poke holes in it, it’s not much of a plan. I think that Dalinar’s just desperate to get to Navani.
“As long as we have a stronger navy—and proper air support—we can control the southern half of Roshar. It will necessitate weeks or months of travel—but we can coordinate our battlefields as long as we have spanreeds.”
A: Yikes. This sounds… not good. Granted, if they hadn’t found Urithiru but had still somehow managed to form a coalition against the Fused, this is what they’d have had to do, just like anyone planning a major conquest has been doing for many centuries. But it’s a huge setback compared to using the Oathgates!
P: Losing the Oathgates is a huge setback, no matter how she tries to sugarcoat it.
“I’m not suggesting we [abandon Urithiru], Uncle,” she said, her voice cold. “I’m merely presenting facts. For now, I think we need to act as if we will not soon retake the tower.”
A: Um… Is it not possible to at least work on plans for both of these? It reads like Dalinar and Jasnah both want to do only their idea, which looks really short-sighted to me. So they sit here in this meeting—the two of them, plus Yanagawn and Noura, practically bickering over their preferred plans. It seems… weird.
P: I don’t know… Jasnah can’t be okay with just leaving her mother to the mercy of the Fused. As I said above, she’s just being realistic. Fight the battle you know you can fight.
She was trying hard, and mostly succeeding, at learning to be a capable tactical commander. He couldn’t blame her for feeling she had something to prove there; her entire life had been a series of people demanding she prove herself to them.
A: And once again, we have hints at something in her past—and maybe more than one thing—that drives her in ways we can’t yet understand. Are we really going to have to wait until book 10 to find out what traumas her childhood held?
P: I am in agony at the thought of waiting so long.
“The way you talk lacks hope.” …
“How often has ‘hope’ been the reason someone refuses to move on and accept a realistic attitude? How often has ‘hope’ caused more pain or delayed healing? How often has ‘hope’ prevented someone from standing up and doing what needs to be done, because they cling to a wish for everything to be different?”
“I would say,” Yanagawn said, leaning forward, “that hope defines us, Jasnah. Without it, we are not human.”
A: She’s not persuaded, but then she’s not willing to be. She’s also seeing only one side of “hope,” and IMO not the normal one at that. What about the hope that helps someone keep going when everything seems lost? How often has hope given someone the strength to pursue survival and healing even in the midst of terrible pain? How often has hope given someone the courage to stand up and do what needs to be done because they hold to a confidence that everything can and will be different if they take action? She has a very jaded view of hope and realism, and I don’t know how much of it is past trauma, personality, or… what.
P: Both? I’m of two minds when it comes to hope. On the one hand, I tend to agree with a quote from a Laurel K. Hamilton book, don’t ask me which one (it was before things got really weird), that says, “Hope is a lying bitch.” On the other hand, I live and breathe hope some days. Hope that I’ll be here to watch my granddaughter grow up. Hope that I won’t be alone to watch her grow up. Hope that I can become a better version of myself. And so on and so forth.
A: I think Gawx is right. Hope defines us in many ways, and as I said, for many of us (dare I say most?) hope is what keeps us going through hard times. We persevere because we hope that things will get better.
“You are still far from mastering your powers. What if you can’t open a perpendicularity at Urithiru?”
A: Well, what if he can’t? What has he lost by trying? As far as we know, the Fused aren’t guarding the Shadesmar side of the Oathgates at this point, so… why not at least try? Why refuse to hope?
P: This, I agree with. They’d be in Shadesmar, so what’s the harm in trying?
“I have spoken with the Stormfather, and the two of us think this is our best solution. Ishar is a master with the Bondsmithing art. If I can recruit him, he could be the secret to saving Urithiru.”
A: I’m inordinately pleased to see Noura step in with the 64,000-broam question: You’re going to place your reliance on an insane Herald for this? Also Noura and Yanagawn with the truly obvious “Why would you go personally into the camp of an insane and powerful person who has given every indication of hating you?”
P: Listen to the Azish, Dalinar!
“It’s an old family tradition, Majesty,” Jasnah said. “We are prone to putting ourselves into the thick of things. I blame long-standing Alethi conditioning that says the best general is the one who leads the charge.”
“I suppose,” Yanagawn said, “that a history of having excessive numbers of Shards might create a feeling of invincibility.”
A: Bahahahahahahaha!!! Nice burn, Gawx. Nice burn.
P: ‘Atta boy!
“I’ve deliberately put the Mink in command of our military so I can step away to see to more… spiritual matters. Jasnah and Wit are preparing a contract for me to present to Odium, once we have pushed him to come speak to me again.
“Until we can make that work, I need to do something to help. I need to bring Ishar to our side—then see if he can teach me how to restore the Oathpact and help me rescue Urithiru.”
A: I seem to recall that last time we were in his head, he noticed that the Mink seemed to be the only one who had figured out the rationale behind bringing him into command. (Nice Dalinar is finally being open with his allies about it.) He’s been moving toward this for a long time, long before Urithiru was invaded, so the impetus to focus on his Bondsmith role has not always been merely about that rescue. But I suspect the current rush to get Ishar on board… is. He’s so desperate to do something about the tower—and I honestly don’t blame him. I just think he’s too willing to jump onto a plan without thinking it through. (Okay, knowing the end of the story makes us far more aware of the risk as well as confident in the result, but I’m just trying to evaluate the motivations here.)
P: I have little doubt that Dalinar thinks that perhaps Ishar can show him some way that he can single-handedly go retake the tower and rescue his damsel in distress.
A: Okay, this may be one case where hope is unfounded… though I’d call this “wishful thinking” more than actual hope. Because I think you’re right.
Jasnah took the reins of the conversation next, explaining the contract she was preparing for Odium.
A: Speaking of wild hopes… I still don’t understand how she truly believes Odium would accept that contract so readily. She’s rightfully (!!) having to work hard to persuade the monarchs that they won’t lose too much by hanging their fate on a contest of champions between Dalinar and Odium. Who can blame them for being skeptical of the whole approach? But she still hasn’t acknowledged that Odium might not be interested in a contract that, win or lose, still keeps him bound to the Rosharan system. Has Wit been so reticent with truth that she doesn’t realize how much Odium wants to escape that restriction?
P: I’m frankly flummoxed by this.
He held the book toward Jasnah…
“Oathbringer?” she said, taking it eagerly. “It’s complete?”
“No, but my part is done,” Dalinar said. “This is the original, though the scribes have made copies following my last round of alterations. I wanted you to have the one I wrote.”
A: This is so nice to see, after their clashes in the meeting. They may be at odds on certain policy and strategy issues, but they also still have a deep respect and affection for one another.
P: My feels! These crazy Kholins.
“I fear you’ll find it to be mostly religious drivel.”
“Ideas are not useless simply because they involve religious thinking,” Jasnah said.
A: I feel like I should say something profound about this, but… I don’t know what. Mostly, I’m thinking that while she hasn’t yet realized that her own belief system is also a form of religious thinking, at least she doesn’t write people off because she disagrees with their beliefs.
P: I think she’s far too level-headed to do such a thing, despite how she feels about religion.
“The things you said about hope in the meeting,” Dalinar said. “They bothered me, Jasnah, But perhaps in a good way.”
A: This irritates me. While I can accept his appreciation for her questioning things, why does he simply assume her arguments are valid? Why does no one push back with the ways hope impels people to positive action? And why does she have such a negative view of the concept?
P: Because she’s storming brilliant? No, really. Dalinar respects her mind, even if she comes off to him as repressed in some way.
A: Maybe I just keep expecting Dalinar to be quicker-thinking than he is in certain areas. I don’t have room to talk—in a similar situation, I’d have all the parking-lot answers rather than an immediate and clear rebuttal.
“Tell me. Am I pushing too hard to establish myself as a military leader? I feel it’s an important precedent, as your book here is, but… I hit the target a little too squarely, didn’t I?”
A: Well, that’s one way to describe it. Yes, you are. Dalinar is more gracious about it than I would have expected of him, though—he just calls it a “stumble” and moves on. But then he has something else on his mind.
“I would like you to write the undertext for Oathbringer,” Dalinar said. “Openly. To be read and discovered by any who would like to read it.”
“Uncle?” Jasnah said. “I’m not certain the tradition should continue. It was questionable to begin with.”
“I find the insights offered in the undertexts to be essential,” Dalinar said.
A: While I agree that the “women only” aspect of the undertext was questionable, that was only a Vorin tradition. Were they the only culture who used undertext? And did they hide that part from scholars of other countries? I hadn’t gotten that impression. Given that Dalinar specified that the undertext should be more of a commentary and should be open to everyone, I don’t see Jasnah’s objection.
P: I wouldn’t think it was the only culture that used undertext. Jasnah’s studies encompassed readings from other cultures, I’m sure, so I think it’s just a Rosharan woman thing.
“If we’re revealing a new world, Jasnah, should we not do it together? Arguments and all? I feel like… like we are never going to agree on the details, you and I. This book though—it could show that we agree on the more important matters.”
A: There’s something to be said for that. Civil discussion is a good thing, especially when there are deep disagreements.
“I consider it among the greatest honors I have ever been offered, Uncle. Be warned, however. … I will be thorough, I will offer counterpoints, and I may undermine your entire argument. But I will be respectful.”
A: Well, that’s not nothing. It’s a lot of work to be respectful while evaluating something you completely disagree with.
P: Tell me about it! Jasnah is capable of being diplomatic when she needs to be.
“I hope that in your additions, we will create something greater than I could have alone.”
She smiled back. “Don’t say it that way. You make it sound like the odds are against it being possible, where I should say that it is the most reasonable outcome.”
A: That’s just… I find her response rather bizarre. What is there in his words to imply that the odds are against it? Is it merely the word “hope,” about which she holds such negative connotations? Because it sounds to me like he thinks the “something greater” is most probable, but not 100% certain until it’s complete. That’s kinda how hope works.
P: I think she definitely has issues with the word “hope!”
History, Geography, & Cultures
A: This week we get a few reminders about the Azish culture, and a few new insights. It’s pretty creative.
Dalinar stepped into the Prime’s warcamp home … This entry room was so full of rich furniture—painted bronze on every surface that wasn’t of some plush material—that it created a maze Dalinar had to wind through to reach the other side. … Twice Dalinar had encountered someone in bright Azish patterns who had to physically climb onto a couch to let him pass.
A: Seeing Dalinar’s thoughts about all this is pretty funny in itself, but it’s also nice to see him developing an understanding of (if not exactly appreciation for) a very different culture. Bronze, bronze everywhere—reminding us that the only Soulcaster they’d had for centuries had been one that would Soulcast things into bronze. It’s a hallmark of their culture at this point. Along with the bronze, there is an abundance of ornate decoration and multitudes of servants—again, both representative of status in the Azish culture, and done up to the point of near impossibility for the emperor. It all kinda freaks Dalinar out, a reaction to which I can very much relate!
P: This was such a fun scene to read! Dalinar is completely out of his element.
Though, he noted, turning back across the room as he reached the other side, this would certainly slow an assassin or a force who tried to break in here and attack the Prime.
A: Heh. Not so silly after all, eh? This reminds me of two other scenes. One, back in Oathbringer when Dalinar first visited Azimir, when he observed much the same effect in getting from the Oathgate to his meeting with the viziers. The same effect was created by the multiplicity of buildings and lack of straight pathways—as he called it then, “a kind of reverse fortress” making it difficult to get from the Oathgate control room to anywhere important in the city. The second is just a couple of chapters ago, with Jasnah’s paranoia leading her to choose a house that had a room with no outside walls. Everyone uses their own security measures: The Azish use obstructions, Jasnah uses fabrial traps and warnings, and Dalinar employs the Assassin in White carrying Nightblood.
The Prime—Yanagawn the First, Emperor of Makabak—sat in a throne at the head of a long table. … A large rank of people stood to either side of him … standing and watching the emperor eat his fruit one delicate bite at a time.
A: Oh, storms. I’d kinda forgotten this little ceremony. The common folk have the opportunity to enter a lottery to watch the Prime sleep, eat, or perform his daily rituals. Poor Gawx. But he seems to have adjusted to his role of being public property fairly well…
P: He seems to have adjusted and even seems to have embraced his duties.
A: It’s really rather fun to watch, isn’t it?
Dalinar liked the Azish—and they’d proven to be good allies with a shockingly effective military. But storms above and Damnation beyond, were they strange.
A: I’m not sure which I like more, his acknowledgement of their military prowess, or the curse idiom. Worth noting, the idiom is spatially correct.
P: I rather like the curses, myself. *wink*
Dalinar couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be Prime. … Maybe that was why their “scholarly republic” worked in a way Jasnah liked so much. They had accidentally made the position of emperor so awful, no sane person would want it—so they’d needed to find other ways to rule the country.
A: I’m not a big fan of bureaucracy, but there are ways in which it can limit tyranny. Dangerous if you get the entire bureaucracy pointed in the wrong direction, but still better than the often mercurial whims of a dictator.
“I’m sorry we didn’t have plates of food for you as well,” Yanagawn continued in Azish. “I should have known you’d both arrive early.”
“It would have made a fine memento, Majesty,” Jasnah said. … “But we were not of the chosen today, so it wouldn’t feel right to be so favored.”
The boy looked to Noura. “I told you she understood.”
“Your wisdom grows, Imperial Majesty,” the older woman said.
A: Heh. I love this interchange. Jasnah knows all the right social graces. In part, as we saw a couple chapters ago, this is precisely because she doesn’t really empathize with anyone else, regardless of culture. She studies her own people as well as others because it’s important to treat people according to approved social behaviors.
The other reason I love it is seeing Gawx (he’ll always be Gawx to me!) emerge as an intelligent observer of human nature as well as cultures. While the viziers will probably never entirely allow him to make national decisions without advice (any more than they have ever allowed a Prime to be sole ruler), I like to think they are coming to respect his insight and perspective.
P: He will always be Gawx!
“Go with Yaezir’s own speed then, I suppose.”
Yaezir is dead, Dalinar thought, though he didn’t say it.
A: Honestly, Dalinar’s reaction annoys me. Yes, Jezrien is dead, murdered by that foul cretin Moash, but that doesn’t negate the use of a cultural expression referring to his legendary speed.
P: Which is why he didn’t say anything out loud. He does know better sometimes.
Relationships and Romances
Dalinar was realizing how much less of his time was wasted now that everyone knew precisely when to meet together. Without ever saying a word, Navani was bringing order to his life.
Be safe. Please. My life’s light, my gemheart.
A: I don’t have anything profound to say. I just love their relationship. They have the emotional connection, obviously, but they also have a deep respect for one another’s strengths along with acknowledgement of weaknesses. They balance so beautifully, giving and accepting support and assistance where it’s needed.
P: This bit gave me feels. *sniffle*
“Dalinar,” the youth said, “do we know anything of Lift? We left her at the tower.”
“Kaladin said the other Radiants were unconscious,” Dalinar said. “That probably includes her.”
“Maybe,” Yanagawn said. “She often does what she isn’t supposed to. If you hear word, send to me, please?”
A: He does know his friend, doesn’t he! His concern for her just warms my heart—and so does his belief in her unpredictability!
P: I love that he asks about her. He’s so sweet, our little Gawx!
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 102, in which Venli, Navani, and Kaladin all see the avalanche begin to shift.
Alice is a former Sanderson beta reader who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. She had a lovely Thanksgiving with her family, and is now eagerly awaiting Christmas break but also trying to make the most of the interval.
Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She has just started a new job, working for the Staters, though she actually has to venture out of her cave of a house to go to work! Links to her other writing are available in her profile.