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Oathbringer Summary, Characters and Themes

“Oathbringer” is the third novel in “The Stormlight Archive,” a high fantasy series written by American author Brandon Sanderson. 

Published on November 14, 2017, the series is set in the cosmere universe, which is a shared universe where several of Sanderson’s novels take place. “Oathbringer” continues the epic saga started in “The Way of Kings” and “Words of Radiance,” focusing on a world ravaged by storms and inhabited by spirits known as spren.

Summary

The tale begins with Eshonai, a Listener, who ventures into the human city of Kholinar with hopes of peace, only to find her dreams shattered by the assassination of King Gavilar Kholin—a death she mourns deeply, orchestrated by her own people to prevent the return of their gods.

Years later, Dalinar Kholin, brother to the slain king, rises as a beacon of hope. From the ancient city of Urithiru, he endeavors to unite the fractious kingdoms against the Voidbringers, using the mystical Oathgates and the emerging Knights Radiant, warriors bonded with elemental spren, to forge a coalition. 

Despite his tumultuous past as a warlord, Dalinar’s vision of unity begins to take shape, with monarchs slowly rallying to his cause.

Parallel to Dalinar’s efforts, Kaladin Stormblessed, a soldier turned savior, grapples with the complexity of war. Upon discovering that the parshmen, once thought mindless slaves, seek only peace, Kaladin’s convictions are tested, challenging the very notion of enemy and ally.

Shallan Davar, a scholar and Lightweaver, delves deeper into her powers of illusion and identity, unearthing secrets that threaten to unravel her very being. 

Her journey is one of self-discovery, as she navigates the shadowy corridors of power and the mysteries of her past, with her mentor Jasnah Kholin returning from the brink of death to guide her.

As Dalinar’s coalition faces betrayal and the threat of dissolution, revelations of humanity’s true history with the Voidbringers cast doubts on the righteousness of their cause. Yet, in the face of overwhelming odds, Dalinar finds strength in his pain, uniting realms in a moment of transcendent power, turning the tide of war.

In the besieged city of Kholinar, Kaladin, Shallan, and a cast of brave souls fight for survival and escape, only to find themselves in the enigmatic realm of Shadesmar. 

Their journey back to the physical world is fraught with danger and discovery, leading to a climactic battle in Thaylen City where heroes are forged, sacrifices are made, and the fate of Roshar hangs in the balance.

As the dust settles, the legacy of battles fought and sacrifices made begins to shape the future. 

Dalinar, emerging as a true leader, contemplates his legacy while the mantle of leadership shifts in unexpected ways, with Jasnah Kholin ascending to the throne, and Shallan and Adolin uniting in marriage, symbolizing the hope of unity and peace.

“Oathbringer,” Dalinar’s memoir, serves as a testament to the journey from darkness to light, from division to unity, encapsulating the essence of the struggle against the odds and the power of redemption. 

As the saga of Roshar continues, the lines between hero and villain blur, revealing a world where the light of hope perseveres in the shadow of ancient enmities.

Oathbringer Summary

Characters

Dalinar Kholin

Dalinar, once a feared warlord, has evolved into a leader seeking peace and unity in a fractured world. His journey is marked by introspection and a desire to atone for past sins. Bonded with the Stormfather and striving to reestablish the Knights Radiant, Dalinar’s quest for unity is both a personal and political crusade. 

His struggle with his violent past and the revelation of his actions in the Rift highlight his complex character—a man torn between his nature and his aspirations for a better world.

Kaladin Stormblessed

Kaladin’s story is one of resilience and moral conflict. As a Surgebinder bonded to Syl, a windspren, he grapples with his duty as a protector and his skepticism of established hierarchies. 

His journey among the parshmen showcases his empathy and evolving understanding of “enemy” and “ally.” Kaladin’s internal battles, particularly his struggle with depression and his sense of responsibility towards others, add depth to his character as a hero who is profoundly human.

Shallan Davar

Shallan’s narrative explores themes of identity, trauma, and healing. Gifted as a Lightweaver, she uses her abilities to craft illusions, a metaphor for her fractured sense of self. 

Shallan’s development is intricately tied to her coping mechanisms for past abuses, resulting in multiple personas. Her journey is as much about unearthing her own truths as it is about unraveling mysteries around her, making her a complex character balancing on the edge of discovery and denial.

Adolin Kholin

Adolin’s character offers a contrast to the heavily burdened lives of his father Dalinar and betrothed Shallan. 

Despite his privileged position, he faces his own challenges, including the weight of expectation and his role in Sadeas’s murder. His loyalty, charisma, and sense of honor make him a steadfast ally and provide a grounding presence among the more tumultuous arcs of other characters.

Jasnah Kholin

Jasnah, a scholar and Elsecaller, embodies strength, intelligence, and pragmatism. Her survival from presumed death and her ascent to the throne encapsulate her resilience and capability as a leader. 

Jasnah’s rational approach to the world’s mysteries, coupled with her formidable abilities, positions her as a key figure in the battle against the encroaching darkness.

Eshonai

Though her presence is more felt in the backstory and her viewpoints are limited, Eshonai represents the potential for understanding and peace between humans and Parshendi. 

Her tragic transformation into a Stormform and eventual death underline the novel’s themes of loss and the cost of conflict.

Sylphrena

Syl, a honorspren, serves as a moral compass and companion to Kaladin. Her innocence and evolving understanding of human complexities add a lightness to the narrative. 

Her bond with Kaladin is not just a source of power but a deeply emotional connection that challenges both to grow.

Odium

Odium, the god of hatred and the primary antagonist, personifies the external and internal conflicts faced by the characters. His attempts to manipulate Dalinar and others into despair and violence highlight the novel’s exploration of choice, free will, and the nature of evil.

Themes

Redemption and the Power of Choice

Central to “Oathbringer” is the theme of redemption, a nuanced exploration of how individuals haunted by their pasts can find a path toward healing and self-forgiveness. 

Dalinar Kholin’s arc is emblematic of this theme. Once known as the Blackthorn, a fearsome warrior with a blood-stained legacy, Dalinar’s journey from a man tormented by his actions to one who seeks to unite the fractured kingdoms of Roshar under a banner of peace is a powerful testament to the human capacity for change. 

His struggle with his memories, especially the harrowing revelation of his wife Evi’s fate, showcases the complexity of redemption. It’s not merely about forgetting or erasing the past but confronting it, acknowledging the pain caused, and choosing to forge a different path forward. 

Dalinar’s refusal to relinquish his guilt to Odium, instead embracing it as a part of his journey towards becoming a better leader and person, underscores the theme that redemption is a choice—a hard, often painful one, but ultimately a path toward light.

Unity in Diversity

The quest for unity, despite vast differences, forms the backbone of the narrative. Roshar is a world divided by ancient feuds, cultural divides, and conflicting interests. Yet, as the threat of the Voidbringers looms large, the necessity for unity becomes ever more apparent. 

Dalinar’s vision of a united Roshar, fighting together against a common enemy, highlights the theme that true strength lies in diversity. This theme is mirrored in the coalition Dalinar attempts to build, comprising various nations, peoples, and even species with disparate beliefs and practices. 

The challenges Dalinar faces in convincing others to join his cause, overcoming prejudice, and historical grievances, reflect the real-world difficulties of fostering unity amidst diversity. 

The eventual coming together of different factions, despite their mistrust and past animosities, to defend Thaylen City embodies the idea that unity does not require uniformity; rather, it is the acknowledgment and acceptance of differences that forge the strongest bonds.

The Search for Identity

“Oathbringer” deeply explores the theme of identity through its characters, who grapple with understanding who they are and who they wish to become. Shallan Davar’s storyline is particularly poignant in this regard. 

Struggling with multiple identities—Shallan, Veil, and Radiant—she embarks on a psychological journey to reconcile these facets of herself. 

Her struggle is emblematic of the broader search for identity that many characters face, including Kaladin’s reconciliation of his past as a slave with his present as a leader and protector, and Dalinar’s reevaluation of his identity post the revelations of his past actions. 

This theme is interwoven with the narrative’s fabric, suggesting that the search for identity is both a personal and communal journey. Characters find that their identities are not fixed but evolve through their choices, actions, and interactions with others. 

This exploration of identity emphasizes the idea that understanding oneself is crucial to overcoming internal and external conflicts.

Final Thoughts

“Oathbringer” masterfully intertwines individual journeys of growth, redemption, and discovery with epic fantasy elements, presenting a richly detailed world where moral ambiguity and the quest for understanding are as pivotal as the battles fought. 

The novel excels in depicting complex characters who evolve in response to the revelations and challenges they face, emphasizing the themes of unity and the importance of confronting one’s past. 

Brandon Sanderson skillfully balances the personal with the epic, crafting a narrative that is both deeply human and grand in scale, leaving readers with much to ponder about duty, honor, and the possibility of change.

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