HSuperLee

What's up with all the Jasnah love?

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Alright, I figure this is probably the post that will make me hated on this forum and shunned for life, but this has been an issue for me for a while so I'd like to see if it can be resolved. I don't get why a vast majority of the commentary and opinions I see on Jasnah are so positive. I honestly can't remember a time I've seen someone not like Jasnah. But to be honest, that's how I feel about her, especially after her few chapters in Rhythm of War. This last book pushed me from generally disliking her to being actively annoyed during her chapters. So, I guess I'd like to know why everyone seems to be such big fans of her. I don't want to dislike her, especially since she'll apparently be the focus of one of the books in the back half of the series, and I'd prefer not to be super annoyed with a lot of that book. I considered using this thread to explain in detail why I don't like her, but I'm worried that has too much of a possibility of me turning this thread into a rant, which I'd like to avoid. In general, I just find her unrealistically perfect and pretty much a Mary Sue as well as generally lacking in uniqueness and any really interesting qualities. So what is it y'all find interesting about her? What is it I am missing that really pulls her character into to the heights everyone else sees? I genuinely want to know.

Edited by HSuperLee
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Interestingly, that's the very thing about Jasnah that this book seemed to be exploring, her being put on a pedestal by even her family like the awkward Navani hug, Adolin's "Jasnah could've done it"

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I think something I made a while ago comes in handy here...

Spoiler

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On a more serious note, she's mostly enjoyable because I like Soulcasting and not much of that happens on screen by anyone other than her.

Edited by Invocation
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I've never been a big Jasnah fan.  I don't hate her but I prefer Navani (Science Mom ftw!), Lift, and increasingly Shallan.  Not really sure why, in fact I'm not sure if I could place it even with time to think about it.  Maybe it's just that she hasn't had as much screentime until recently?  But then Lift doesn't have much screen time and she's amazing.  

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Thing with Jasnah is, we don't know her too well at this point. We've had, what? Four or five chapters from her point-of-view? (and those written to keep a great deal of Jasnah knows hidden from the reader) And in other characters' viewpoint chapters, Jasnah's stoic and aloof demeanor keeps her something of a mystery.

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Here are some reasons why Jasnah is awesome:

Quote

“I forbid this,” Dalinar said. “You can’t simply free every Alethi slave. It would cause mass chaos.”

“I wasn’t aware,” Jasnah said, “that you could forbid the queen from taking action.”

...

“Our lives are already in chaos,” Jasnah said. “This is precisely the time to make sweeping changes, when people are already adjusting to a new way of life. The historical data supports this idea.”

“But why?” Dalinar asked. “You’re always so pragmatic. This seems the opposite.”

“I seek the line of action that does the most possible good for the most people. This is in keeping with my moral philosophy.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Jasnah "Abraham Lincoln" Kholin. More political stuff:

Quote

“I do like them,” he said. “I just don’t like how much bureaucracy Fen has to go through before anything gets done. The Azish are even worse. Why name your ruler an ‘emperor’ if he has to get approval from a dozen different functionaries to do his job?”

“One is a constitutional monarchy, the other a scholarly republic,” Jasnah said, sounding amused. “What did you expect?”

“A king to be a king,” he muttered, drinking the rest of his wine in one gulp.

“Both of their governments go back centuries,” Jasnah said. “They’ve had generations to refine their processes. We’d do well to learn from them.” She eyed him, thoughtful. “The days of absolute power in one person’s hands will likely soon pass us by. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the last true Alethi monarch.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Kaladin doesn't get along with her. And yet...

Quote

He ignored that, chatting with Mil about his pains. He suggested visiting the Edgedancers for Regrowth—but Mil’s pains had been around for months, so it was unlikely that they could do anything.

Fortunately, there were medicines that could help, and—with Jasnah capable of Soulcasting a wide range of substances—they had access to rare medications. Though Kaladin and the queen didn’t often see eye to eye, it said a great deal about her that she was willing to take time to make medicine.

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Jasnah is awesome because her morality is a rational, reasoned one. She's the quintessential philosopher-king. She's what Taravangian wants to be: relentless, almost ruthless pragmatism nevertheless tempered with altruistic motivations.

Quote

Jasnah froze, as if standing at the edge of a cliff. Wind blew through the temple, carrying with it a pair of spren in the form of golden spheres, bobbing in the currents.

Jasnah dismissed her sword.

“Jasnah?” Ivory said, appearing back in the form of a man, clinging to her collar.

Jasnah fell to her knees, then pulled Renarin into an embrace. He broke down crying, like he had as a boy, burying his head in her shoulder.

...

“Jasnah,” Ivory said, becoming full size as he stepped free of her collar. He leaned down. “Jasnah, this is right. Somehow it is.” He seemed completely stunned. “It is not what makes sense, yet it is still right. How. How is this thing?”

...

“Jasnah,” Renarin said. “My vision was wrong about you. What I see … it can be wrong.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 1133). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

By defying the prediction, Jasnah probably saved Roshar if not the Cosmere here. The fact that she was in position to make such a decision is also a testament to the methodical scholarship to recognize that there was something dangerous about Renarin; the decision she makes is what makes her a better Taravangian.

Despite her awesomeness, I would argue against the claim of her sue-ness. First, Jasnah has relatively small direct impact on the plot given her ability: she's missing for essentially all of WoR and a significant chunk of Oathbringer. This puts her somewhat behind despite her massive initial lead, something she acknowledges in Oathbringer:

Quote

Ivory looked toward the growing stack of notes in the corner; one of the pens had finished writing. Jasnah rose to change the paper; Shallan had rescued one of her trunks of notes, but two others had gone down with the sinking ship. Fortunately, Jasnah had sent off these backup copies.

Or did it matter? This sheet, encrypted by her cipher, contained lines and lines of information connecting the parshmen to the Voidbringers. Once, she’d slaved over each of these passages, teasing them from history. Now their contents were common knowledge. In one moment, all of her expertise had been wiped away. “We’ve lost so much time,” she said.

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 477). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Second, not everyone likes Jasnah. As noted above, Kaladin doesn't get along with her very well. Shallan forces herself onto Elhokar's mission team to get away from her. Her highprinces certainly have issues with her policies. Navani is pretty ambivalent considering she's Jasnah's own mother. Dalinar does get along very well with her, but this was noted as far back as TWoK; it's not a sudden development:

Quote

“Dalinar?” Navani asked. “Are you going to answer me? Why is it you trust my daughter so much when others almost universally revile her?”

“I consider their disdain for her to be a recommendation,” he said.

“She is a heretic.”

“She refused to join any of the devotaries because she did not believe in their teachings. Rather than compromise for the sake of appearances, she has been honest and has refused to make professions she does not believe. I find that a sign of honor.”

Navani snorted. “You two are a pair of nails in the same doorframe. Stern, hard, and storming annoying to pull free.”

Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, Book 1) (p. 427). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

It may feel like everyone has a high opinion of Jasnah in RoW, but this is mainly because she's interacting primarily with Dalinar and Wit, and to a lesser degree the other monarchs.

Finally, Jasnah's not immune to making mistakes, and there's plenty of things that she's not necessarily an expert in; the most immediately applicable is that she's not particularly good in personal combat. Her surgebinding makes her incredibly lethal, but she's not able to automatically become proficient in battle in general:

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“I’ve read about it, you know,” she eventually said. “The feeling you get out there. The focus that you need to adopt to cope with it, to keep moving. Simply doing your job. I don’t have their training, Wit. I kept getting distracted, or frightened, or confused.”

He tapped her hand. The closed left gauntlet, where she held the Edgedancer’s topaz. She stared at it, then drew in the Light. That made her feel better, but not all of her fatigue was physical.

“I’m not the unstoppable force I imagined myself to be,” she said. “They know how to deal with Shardbearers; I couldn’t bring down a Fused in a fair fight.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Fundamentally, though, Jasnah is awesome because she's the best person to be leading your country.

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I do disagree with you, I think Jasnah is pretty ok, but I genuinely love that you shared your opinion. I think it’s great to have differing opinions, and that the consensus is taken as general fact far too often. Your opinion is presented very well too. While I disagree, I can absolutely see where you’re coming from. I don’t feel like your arguments are stretched or invalid. 

I think another reason I like this post is because I feel almost the exact inverse about Shallan. Like, why do so many people hate her? She’s an awesome character! I feel like most of the time I see a topic devoted to Shallan, it contains some sort of criticism of her. So I like that you shared the same sorta thought. Even though it’s the opposite, and about a different character. =P  Shallan opinions do seem to be split a bit more evenly though. You’re right, it seems like almost everyone has positive feelings about Jasnah. 
So basically, good on ya for giving the few Jasnah haters the representation they’ve never had :P

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8 hours ago, HSuperLee said:

Alright, I figure this is probably the post that will make me hated on this forum and shunned for life, but this has been an issue for me for a while so I'd like to see if it can be resolved. I don't get why a vast majority of the commentary and opinions I see on Jasnah are so positive. I honestly can't remember a time I've seen someone not like Jasnah. But to be honest, that's how I feel about her, especially after her few chapters in Rhythm of War. This last book pushed me from generally disliking her to being actively annoyed during her chapters. So, I guess I'd like to know why everyone seems to be such big fans of her. I don't want to dislike her, especially since she'll apparently be the focus of one of the books in the back half of the series, and I'd prefer not to be super annoyed with a lot of that book. I considered using this thread to explain in detail why I don't like her, but I'm worried that has too much of a possibility of me turning this thread into a rant, which I'd like to avoid. In general, I just find her unrealistically perfect and pretty much a Mary Sue as well as generally lacking in uniqueness and any really interesting qualities. So what is it y'all find interesting about her? What is it I am missing that really pulls her character into to the heights everyone else sees? I genuinely want to know.

So it is pretty accepted i am a fan of jasnah, so i just have three things to say.

 

1. Totally understand if she doesnt do it for you. Everyones got their favorites and ones they dislike. Not typing this to change your mind. You asked why people like her, so just providing that perspective.

 

2. Having said that, i hope you can learn to if not like her, then at least appreciate her as Brandon has been quoted in saying that jasnah is not only a main character in the back half of stormlight,  but possibly THE main character of the back half. So it looks like we will be getting a whole lot more of the queen by then.

 

3. Instead of typing out a whole bunch of reasons, i will just link to the thread i wrote that took every quote associated with jasnah across way of kings, words of radiance and Oathbringer to show a more complete (in my opinion) image of her. I included the quotes with page references so if anyone didnt like her, there would be easy and open discourse with the facts readily present for both sides. I hope you will give it a gander. Link below

 

 

Edited by Pathfinder
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I think the fact that she suffered while going to war (that chapter from her point of view in which she charges in full shardplate and become way more tired than she expected) was a way to show she isn't as great at everything she does as we may think. She tries to learn tho, and work hard for that.

Anyway, I really think her book will show a weaker side to her. She seems the kind of character that is strong precisely because she was forced to endure hard circumstances. I think she really is a character devoted to "being as great as she can" while having personal problems, so I get why you'd see her as a mary sue. 

Btw, as someone who didn't like kelsier and had to endure him in Mistborn, I feel you and I hope you get to like the book that features her flashbacks. 

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Wow, okay, this a blew up a little while I was asleep. I can't respond to everyone directly (well, I could, but that would be highly impractical) so I guess I'll make some general statements.

First off, thank-you everyone for being so polite. I've wanted to make this thread for over a year now and have always been too afraid to do it because of how beloved a character Jasnah seems to be. It was only with my opinion of her worsening after RoW that I've finally had the conviction to actually instigate a discussion.

My bigger issue now is that it seems I need to further clarify my stance. I understand Jasnah. The issue has never been me not seeing past her whole disguise of being stern and emotionless and missing how truly compassionate and emotional she can be. I understand all that. One specific address, @Pathfinder, I read that thread back when it started, reread it now, and I agree with most of the conclusions you came to about Jasnah's character. Heck, I agree with most of the facts presented here about Jasnah's character. 

If I had to express my problems with Jasnah as clearly as possible, its that she is a perfect character, not that she is a character who is perfect. Let me explain: When I read Jasnah, I do not feel like I'm reading about a character that could actually exist. I feel like I'm reading about a book character that was invented for a story. She doesn't feel like a Sanderson quality character, but like something you'd find in lower quality, but still good, fiction. She's too, I guess the best word I have is "clean," of a character with her depth feeling telegraphed. Of course the stern emotionally-distant character is actually very kind and compassionate. Of course the rational atheist isn't actually trying to spread her religion and is actually more moral than dang near everybody else. Of course one of the flaws of the experienced scholar is that she doesn't have a lot of combat experience (though I'd argue she's still portrayed as far far more competent in combat than she should be.) Of course the first female monarch is progressive enough to want to move towards a democratic system. Each of these feels like the obvious twist and subversion. Which isn't always bad. We all expected Kaladin's fourth oath to be what it was, and it being obvious didn't lessen it. But in Jasnah's case, she feels like she's all obvious twists. I struggle to find what makes her really unique as a character. Each time I read about her I feel like I've seen this exact character many times before. Each time a new development happens with her I'm just like, "Yeah, of course that's how it happened." I've never been shocked or taken off guard by Jasnah or what she's done (except by the fact Hoid fell for her, which bothers me for a whole slew of reasons, but that's a different discussion.)

So, I guess, to continue this discussion, I'd like to know what really makes her unique. Y'all have presented the depth of Jasnah's character, now I guess I'd like to see why that depth matters. I'll admit she's deep, but prevents her from being hollow? What makes her realistic? If I can lean into metaphor for a moment, what makes Jasnah jagged. What parts of her character don't fit together like a puzzle? Because real people are complicated and not straightforward. We don't make sense. What about Jasnah doesn't fit with the rest of her character. What is the mess that makes her actually feel human and not constructed?

 

I really cannot thank y'all enough for how this thread is going so far. To be honest I'm still terrified of this conversation and how quickly things could turn so sour. So I appreciate how open y'all have been. I'm trying very hard to hold myself back from just railing against the character, and I am thankful for those of y'all that have probably been having to hold yourselves back from railing in her defense. I hope we can continue to be civil with each other's opinions.

Edited by HSuperLee
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38 minutes ago, HSuperLee said:

What about Jasnah doesn't fit with the rest of her character. What is the mess that makes her actually feel human and not constructed?

I would argue that the rare moments we see behind her mask are the moments that humanize her.  Jasnah presents herself as eminently composed, knowledgeable, and rational. But as readers, we know she doesn't really feel that way all the time. We get to see her insecurities about her research of Urithiru and the Voidbringers not being meaningful despite her best efforts. We see how exhausted she is at the beginning of WoR, and how behind the 8-ball she feels when she shows up in OB. We see her struggle between her rational mind recognizing Renarin as a threat, and her heart recognizing him in love. Yes, Jasnah often appears perfect, both to the reader and the other characters. But what humanizes her is that we readers are shown that she really isn't perfect. She's trying just as hard as everyone else. 

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22 minutes ago, HSuperLee said:

So, I guess, to continue this discussion, I'd like to know what really makes her unique. Y'all have presented the depth of Jasnah's character, now I guess I'd like to see why that depth matters. I'll admit she's deep, but prevents her from being hollow? What makes her realistic? If I can lean into metaphor for a moment, what makes Jasnah jagged. What parts of her character don't fit together like a puzzle? Because real people are complicated and not straightforward. We don't make sense. What about Jasnah doesn't fit with the rest of her character. What is the mess that makes her actually feel human and not constructed?

It's probably worth noting that the reason she looks so put together is intentional. It's remarked multiple times how perfect Jasnah's appearance seems to be despite expectation:

Quote

Jasnah tapped the table with a nail on her freehand. She wore her safehand in a sleeve, eminently proper, though Navani knew Jasnah thought little of social constructs. She followed them anyway. Immaculate makeup. Hair in braids. A beautiful, regal havah.

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

I think that 'constructed' feel from Jasnah is often intended; it's something Jasnah presents to the world and not entirely representative of her character. We see some of the same complaints/observations from in-world:

Quote

“Well, your wife writes a good essay,” Noura said.

He started. “Navani’s essay was the one that convinced you? Not Jasnah’s?”

“Each of the three arguments were weighed favorably, and the reports from Thaylen City are encouraging,” Noura said. “That had no small part in our decision. But while Jasnah Kholin’s writing is every bit as impressive as her reputation suggests, there was something … more authentic about Lady Navani’s plea.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 655). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Jasnah's letter, which was described as:

Quote

“This is a work of art,” Noura said.

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 649). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

ends up feeling too perfect, too contrived, and thus less authentic. And her facade is the same way. Why? It's not definitive, but there's suggestions of deep trauma during her childhood:

Quote

Jasnah settled back, listening to the three spanreeds scratching paper, writing out notes that—she feared—would mostly be irrelevant. Something stirred deep within her. Glimmers of memory from a dark room, screaming her voice ragged. A childhood illness nobody else seemed to remember, for all it had done to her.

It had taught her that people she loved could still hurt her.

“Have you ever wondered how it would feel to lose your sanity, Ivory?” Ivory nodded. “I have wondered this. How could I not? Considering what the ancient fathers are.” “You call me logical,” Jasnah whispered. “It’s untrue, as I let my passions rule me as much as many. In my times of peace, however, my mind has always been the one thing I could rely upon.”

Except once.

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (pp. 478-479). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

And in many of her interactions, she seems very practiced. Looking at chapter 50 of RoW ('Queen') where she sets up Highprince Rutham:

Quote

He stilled himself, then glanced about the room. She shouldn’t have confronted him here, where representatives of the other monarchs might hear. Knowing Jasnah, that was part of the reason she had done so. With her, every conversation was a little contest, and she always considered the terrain.

...

Dalinar narrowed his eyes toward Jasnah, who was making a display of going over the battle plans with the Mink. She’s putting on a show, he thought, noting how she specifically called out details on the maps, suggesting troop arrangements. She did a fair job, though she was no general.

...

Jasnah nodded to him, then returned to her exaggerated discussion of the maps. Yes, she was acting a role here.

...

Jasnah was making herself into bait. And Ruthar bit. Hard.

...

“Ruthar,” Jasnah said, standing above him. “You have insulted me thrice tonight. First, by implying a queen should not take concern for the welfare of her own armies. Second, by threatening to assault my Wit, a man who is an extension of the royal will. Third and worst of all, by judging me unfit to defend myself, despite my calling as a Knight Radiant.

“As you have died tonight, and I have bested you legally in combat, I name you forfeit of your title. It will pass to your eldest son, who has been speaking quite frankly with Wit recently. It seems he will make a far more fitting highprince.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Jasnah sounds practiced most likely because that's what she did; she sounds like a book because the things she says are things she's already polished with effort. It's like a mathematical proof - what you see is usually the final result of multiple iterations and false starts and intermediary calculation; it just looks like out of nowhere flashes of insight that elegantly all fit together. Or perhaps more on-point, like the process of writing a book.

And while we don't have direct evidence yet, I think the reason Jasnah is this way is intentional - early on in her life, she learned that if she did not do this, did not present a perfect self, she would find herself locked alone in a dark room. So she's always tightly controlled, and what she says in public is not spontaneous:

Quote

The Mink bowed to her and retreated with Adolin and Shallan. As soon as he was gone—the map collapsing as Shallan left—Jasnah changed subtly. Her face became less of a mask. She didn’t walk with a queenly gait as she strode over and settled down at the room’s small table. This was the woman taking off her crown, now that she was with only family.

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

And even there, it's likely based off her discussion with Dalinar regarding emancipation (quoted in my earlier post) that her speech wasn't off-the-cuff, either. 

I don't think we see Jasnah really relax in any of her scenes except the one passage in Oathbreaker where she's alone with Ivory. In every other case, she's essentially performing (for herself, if not for anyone else), even in the scene with just her and Wit (she is fascinated by Wit, but clearly does not fully trust him). So if she seems a little too perfect, a little too artificial, it's probably because a lot of it is that way. All that said, even if all we see is what she chooses to show the world, her choice of what to show is indicative.

Quote

“That’s why I’m so fond of you,” he said. “You are poised, you are smart, and you are always ready with a ploy; but when each of those things fails you, Jasnah, you are—above all else—paranoid.”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) . Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition. 

Poised I think is the perfect term - elegant, yet prepared, both in the sense of being ready for things and in the sense of not being spontaneous.

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She's a hypercompetent and brilliant girlboss.  She's the perfect avatar of a worldview that suggests if only we put the smartest rational people in charge, all the problems of the world would fix themselves through sheer intelligence.  The institution of slavery and a caste-based society with rigid cultural gender roles are no match for the smart person in charge.

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I really like Jasnah, mostly because she ISN’T perfect.

She has turned ‘Striving for Competence’ into an art form and perfected it. She is absolutely brilliant and from the outside it is difficult to see any of the Humanity behind it.

I can’t quote any of the relevant pieces, but there are a few from Shallan that vaguely come to mind where Jasnah’s calm, perfectly self assured demeanor shows cracks or breaks down visibly. 
 

Trauma in her past or simply her personality are things that I won’t even try to comment on, but She is sort of the Ideal that appeals to me the most in the SA. Be so Storming competent and self assured outwardly that all of your internal struggles are either yours alone or only shared with a VERY few, very close people. 

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4 hours ago, HSuperLee said:

So, I guess, to continue this discussion, I'd like to know what really makes her unique. Y'all have presented the depth of Jasnah's character, now I guess I'd like to see why that depth matters. I'll admit she's deep, but prevents her from being hollow? What makes her realistic? If I can lean into metaphor for a moment, what makes Jasnah jagged. What parts of her character don't fit together like a puzzle? What is the mess that makes her actually feel human and not constructed?

For one thing, her aceness stands out to me. That's a very human thing, a very rare thing to see in media, and is a character trait that really stands out to me as making her unique.

Beyond that, I honestly have to ask - and I mean this with all sincerity - why is Kaladin more realistic than Jasnah? Aside from the depression, since we don't know what mental struggles Jasnah may be having, not having gotten her book yet.

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2 hours ago, HSuperLee said:

So, I guess, to continue this discussion, I'd like to know what really makes her unique. Y'all have presented the depth of Jasnah's character, now I guess I'd like to see why that depth matters. I'll admit she's deep, but prevents her from being hollow? What makes her realistic? If I can lean into metaphor for a moment, what makes Jasnah jagged. What parts of her character don't fit together like a puzzle? Because real people are complicated and not straightforward. We don't make sense. What about Jasnah doesn't fit with the rest of her character. What is the mess that makes her actually feel human and not constructed?

I don't think there's a single thing as real uniqueness in stories; or if they do, the uniqueness is not the draw. I'm drawn to characters because there is something familiar in them. Jasnah has a lot of things about her that are familiar to me. It resonates with me to see a woman have to be strong in public. It resonates with me to see a woman using Jasnah's arguments and way of thinking, because she thinks a lot of the way I do. She feels a lot of the way I do. I appreciate the desire to reverse-engineer seeing what feels good about Jasnah, but I genuinely feel like I've never had someone quite like Jasnah before in that in it's not really the character archetype that's unique, but it's how she's presented. I see myself in her in a way that other characters of the same archetype can't attain.

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7 hours ago, Greywatch said:

I don't think there's a single thing as real uniqueness in stories; or if they do, the uniqueness is not the draw. I'm drawn to characters because there is something familiar in them. Jasnah has a lot of things about her that are familiar to me. It resonates with me to see a woman have to be strong in public. It resonates with me to see a woman using Jasnah's arguments and way of thinking, because she thinks a lot of the way I do. She feels a lot of the way I do. I appreciate the desire to reverse-engineer seeing what feels good about Jasnah, but I genuinely feel like I've never had someone quite like Jasnah before in that in it's not really the character archetype that's unique, but it's how she's presented. I see myself in her in a way that other characters of the same archetype can't attain.

This is exactly it. I totally see it this way. Thank you.

I was downright struck by Jasnah when she first appeared on the page. I do not see myself in Jasnah as much as you do; but she resonates as a parallel to so many “brilliant girlbosses” that I know but who don’t get the respect—even grudgingly—that she does. I’m a professor in a pretty male-dominated and masculine cultured part of academia, and have experienced all of the disdain that gets thrown at her, and have connected with so many other women professors who have gone through the same.
 

ill also say that, for me, it’s striking to see a woman just be brilliant and competent and *end up taking charge like everyone knew she should.* there isn’t a moment where she’s caught crying over a man. There isn’t a moment where we find out she’s been raped and all of this is just a cover for her desire to be loved. There isn’t a moment where her intelligence fails her and she needs her merry band of misfits to help her save the day. Or a time where she realizes that she had it wrong the whole time and she was too arrogant to see it but a good hearted scoundrel showed her the way. (Not that I don’t love me a good hearted scoundrel lol.) She’s just her. And that authenticity is really refreshing to me.

I haven’t seen as many of her type in fantasy. But even if I had, I’d still enjoy her. And I think the more we get her POV the more I’ll enjoy her. :-)

Edited by Bliev
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@Bliev Yes, exactly. I think you really captured it - so many times when writers, especially male writers, try to make a strong, empowered woman, they "humanize" her in kind of insulting ways. It undercuts the competence of the character - so for many archetypes of the Strong Competent Business-like Woman in Charge, they don't actually feel competent. They feel like a "safe" version of a strong woman, which is not interesting or fun, nor do I feel such a character is respected. It's nice to see Jasnah, being fully respected by the text as someone who's actually the top of her field and gets to act like it.

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8 hours ago, Greywatch said:

It undercuts the competence of the character - so for many archetypes of the Strong Competent Business-like Woman in Charge, they don't actually feel competent. They feel like a "safe" version of a strong woman, which is not interesting or fun, nor do I feel such a character is respected.

It’s kind of the plot to every Hallmark Holiday Movie: brilliant big city business woman retreats to the country and finds her true calling as wife and mother and small town wedding planner! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I want the opposite: she finds that the whole small town really needs her brilliance and she becomes the mayor. Lol 

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8 hours ago, Greywatch said:

@Bliev Yes, exactly. I think you really captured it - so many times when writers, especially male writers, try to make a strong, empowered woman, they "humanize" her in kind of insulting ways. It undercuts the competence of the character - so for many archetypes of the Strong Competent Business-like Woman in Charge, they don't actually feel competent. They feel like a "safe" version of a strong woman, which is not interesting or fun, nor do I feel such a character is respected. It's nice to see Jasnah, being fully respected by the text as someone who's actually the top of her field and gets to act like it.

This post actually crystallized some things for me--I don't think I dislike Jasnah so much as I don't really like her.  It's neutral rather than negative, though I'm pretty sure I'd actually hate her as a character if she were male because that would remind me of far too many Just Plain Better Than You self-insert characters from bad fanfic (especially since she's introduced from the perspective of a woman who idolizes her and has deep-seated issues of her own).  And I did like the hints of past issues that she's been working through.  But I'm now quite certain that my "issue" with Jasnah is just that we haven't seen what makes her tick the way we have other characters.  

It reminds me of how the other characters--especially Adolin, Dalinar, and Kaladin, but also Best Science Mom Navani and even Shallan--see themselves versus how others see them.  E.G. Adolin idolizes Dalinar where Dalinar has a much less rosy opinion of himself, Kaladin is a broken wreck inside who's constantly fighting serious mental illness and all but those who are the most intimately close with him generally only see a shining hero descending gloriously from the sky to save the day (it took considerable time for Dalinar to notice Kaladin's worsening PTSD, probably months at least, for example, when Dalinar probably interacts with Kaladin regularly considering that Kaladin's unit are the best bodyguards for Dalinar the living trump card that the coalition has).  We mostly see Jasnah from the POVs of others, we don't see her internal struggles to the same degree we do Navani's and Dalinar's and Kaladin's and Shallan's and even Adolin's.  

Kinda like how in Rick Riordan's YA novels, when you see Percy Jackson from his own POV he's always pretty self-deprecating and complaining about the insane situation he's in, but then when you see him from the POV of other characters they're like, "holy crap this guy is amazing how do I even compare myself to this dude who soloed an evil giant and killed him with a severed stone head after fighting abut two major battles in a day and causing an earthquake and doing a nose-dive off a glacier with no apparent ill effects?"  I guess I much prefer to see the inner workings and struggles and impostor syndrome and other foibles of the heroes, especially having the protagonists introduced that way rather than being introduced as total badasses who are Just Plain Better Than You.  

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So I am basically going to be building on a lot of what has already been said, but here we go!

 

I think everyone's main point as to why they love Jasnah as a character (including myself), is like the other characters in the Stormlight archive (Kaladin/Depression, Dalinar/Alcoholism, Renarin/Autism, Shallan/DID, etc), Jasnah shows representation. I will go into that further below:

 

On 12/5/2020 at 11:13 AM, HSuperLee said:

Of course the stern emotionally-distant character is actually very kind and compassionate.

This is representation for Individuals that struggle with emotions, and have trouble interacting with others. It does not mean they lack empathy nor compassion. It means they struggle with knowing when to dole emotion out, how to, and to what appropriate level. What further complicates this, is there isn't exactly a rule brick to work with. Everyone has their own interpretations in how to act and when, and their own views of what is appropriate. For instance, my wife knows I deal with hard things with sarcasm, cynicism, and humor. My mother passed away from cancer on thanksgiving. It was barely a year later around Halloween when I saw a pumpkin with a candy skull painted on it (for those who do not know, it is a skull with bright colors around the eyes, cheeks, and surrounding area). I turned to my wife and said "hey maybe I should get that to put at my mother's grave, their faces match". Now I understand to some people that joke is horrific and incredibly inappropriate. But that was concerning my own mother's death, and that is just how I deal, so it is normal for me to cope as such.

Now take someone who doesn't know how to handle their emotions. If they based my comments on how it is to react and handle such situations, then they would be incredibly offensive if they said such a thing to someone else who lost a loved one. So it would be very difficult for them to navigate such interactions. People would react negatively and lash out at that individual, ultimately hurting that person. So what do they do? Some end up agonizing over every interaction to the point of inaction. They stay silent and do not contribute at all, or avoid interactions entirely. Or alternatively, feeling like they will be attacked and hurt by the way they act no matter how hard they try, they lean into it. They accept, this is how they are, and if people are going to misrepresent them or hurt them, well then fine. They then put up a guard, push their emotions down, focus on one constant they feel they can depend on (in Jasnah's case logic), and distance themselves from people thinking it will protect them.

But no person is an island upon themselves, and there will always be a sense of sorrow at being unable to connect like seemingly everyone else. That is why I do not think of the seemingly stern and emotionally distant character being shown to be very kind and compassionate as a twist and subversion. I see it as representation of real people just trying to deal and survive in an incredibly complicated world. 

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Of course the rational atheist isn't actually trying to spread her religion and is actually more moral than dang near everybody else.

Now I do not know your personal background, and I do not offer any commentary on such. Brandon is a theist, and his religion is a big part of his life. I respect that, and acknowledge as result a large portion of his readership holds to those same convictions. So I am not assuming this is why you present it in this manner, but I am saying I understand how it could be seen in this way. I understand that some religions view morals as directly from their god. And I respect that. I personally disagree with that, and in no way shape or form are attempting to change that view for those that hold that, but am only offering commentary on an alternative perspective.

For an atheist, people can be moral without any association with any religion or deity. I will not go into the reasons as to why because as I said I am not attempting to convince you or anyone of anything. Nor do I feel explaining it would be with the intention of changing anyone's mind. My intention would only to be sharing understanding, but I know that can be seen in a different light, so I choose to just not go in that direction. My meandering point is this. For an atheist, it is not a twist and subversion for an atheist to be shown to be moral. Just like it would not be a twist to show a religious individual to be moral. Just like it would not be a twist to show an atheist to be immoral, or a religious individual to be to be immoral. There are numerous examples of both on both sides of the "aisle" across history. Again I feel it is just representation.

I understand it is a crucial tenet for some religions to convert in an effort to save others from various levels or manifestations of harm. And I am in no way shape or form saying all individuals who are religious act this way. I also acknowledge there are problematic individuals who are atheist. But please imagine for a moment that you spent your life, living well and doing right by others. That through your own experience you have come to the conclusion that you are an atheist, and that is your own choice. And that despite this hard work, and personal choice, (no matter how well meant) you are regularly told by strangers on the street, or even your own family that your choice is wrong, and you will be irreparably harmed by it.

It is very difficult to experience. It feels as if all your hard work, and self discovery is worthless. You feel that you have to constantly defend yourself about your personal truth. Worse, just defending yourself on your personal truth is seen as an attack simply by explaining why it doesn't work solely for you. It is draining. You almost wish there was a "mailing list" that you could sign to reject such solicitation overall and be done with it. Or wear a big sign over your head that says "I am an atheist. Yes I know all your arguments. I do not agree with them. I have my own. No I will not convert. Please respect that, and move along." But you can't because again it is a main tenet of various religions and you understand that for those individuals that hold those beliefs, they think you are actively harming yourself by doing so, and they are only trying to help. When all you want to say is "I didn't ask for your help, I don't want your help, and I don't even want to hear that you want to give me your brand of help". Further "No I am not being close minded, because you are now number one hundred sixty two this year alone that I have had to hear out, talk to, and deal with to be allowed to continue as I wish to be."

So Jasnah represents what again I feel is not a twist, or subversion. She just represents an individual who holds to convictions that are counter to the mainstream standard in her world. She represents an individual who has to strive for perfection in all things, because if she falters for even a moment, then fingers are pointed and it is stated "See how she is? That's because she is an atheist. See how bad and wrong it is to be an atheist? Don't be an atheist!". That is a whole lot of pressure just for trying to be a genuine self. And I think we do see that in Jasnah. Storms she said it herself when speaking to Dalinar.

"They will try to define you by something you are not. Don't let them. I can still be a scholar, a woman, a historian, a Radiant. People will still try to classify me by the thing that makes me an outsider. They want, ironically, the thing I don't do or believe to be the prime marker of my identity. I have always rejected that, and will continue to do so. You are not a heretic, Dalinar Kholin. You are a king, a Radiant, and a father. You are a man with complicated beliefs, who does not accept everything you are told. You decide how you are defined. Don't surrender that to them. They will gleefully take the chance to define you if you allow it."

So can you see how people who have experienced what I explained above, could see that quote as powerful and representation? How they could identify with Jasnah as a very real person?

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Of course the first female monarch is progressive enough to want to move towards a democratic system.

Bliev and Greywatch already commented on this far better than I ever could, mainly being because I hold the privilege (as in the sociological term. not in the sense that I think men are better than women) of being a male in our current society. So although I believe I am knowledgeable and consider myself an ally, I would not be able to speak of such with the same level of experience, so I will just leave it to them. 

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Each of these feels like the obvious twist and subversion. Which isn't always bad. We all expected Kaladin's fourth oath to be what it was, and it being obvious didn't lessen it. But in Jasnah's case, she feels like she's all obvious twists.

So for all the above, that is why I do not feel like it is a twist. I feel it is showing a real person.

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On 12/5/2020 at 11:13 AM, HSuperLee said:

eel like I'm reading about a book character that was invented for a story. She doesn't feel like a Sanderson quality character, but like something you'd find in lower quality, but still good, fiction. She's too, I guess the best word I have is "clean," of a character with her depth feeling telegraphed. Of course the stern emotionally-distant character is actually very kind and compassionate. Of course the rational atheist isn't actually trying to spread her religion and is actually more moral than dang near everybody else. Of course one of the flaws of the experienced scholar is that she doesn't have a lot of combat experience (though I'd argue she's still portrayed as far far more competent in combat than she should be.) Of course the first female monarch is progressive enough to want to move towards a democratic system. Each of these feels like the obvious twist and subversion.

You are picking up on something very real.  Jasnah in WoKp was Brandon's attempt to create a hyper competent politician and stateswomen.  Given the "economics" of how important she is to how much time we spend with, rather then around, her it stands to reason that he find her a bit boring.  Jasnah has already had her introductory character arcs.  I am sad it will probably be years before we get her initial development as a person and radiant.

On 12/5/2020 at 11:13 AM, HSuperLee said:

Y'all have presented the depth of Jasnah's character, now I guess I'd like to see why that depth matters. I'll admit she's deep, but prevents her from being hollow? What makes her realistic? If I can lean into metaphor for a moment, what makes Jasnah jagged. What parts of her character don't fit together like a puzzle?

I think a good example of this is a deep seated insecurity.  We are talking about one of the most powerful and important people on the planet and yet Jasnah still realizes that she might not be enough.  She is deeply scared of her own inadequacy and this has governed the course of her life and many of her choices.  She fully realizes she is one of the 20 people on roshar whose choices could easily mean the death of millions and can never be sure if she has accidentally made the wrong ones.  Sure she might avoid one crisis but she might easily plunge everyone headfirst into another and because of her lack of friends and confidants this is all on her. 

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A lot of what I have to say has already been said by others on this thread, so I'll do my best to keep this brief. Before RoW, Jasnah was my favorite Stormlight character. After RoW, Navani absolutely swept her off the board, but most of the reasons that I loved Jasnah still remain. 

Jasnah suffers from chronic competence. This is a character who's amazing at practically everything, from scholarship to politics to combat. When done poorly, this can be annoying to a reader. "How can a person be so perfect?" we cry. "It's just not fair!" In my reading, however, that was not my reaction. I think this is because her abilities don't feel cheap. We don't get the impression that she woke up one day with the ability to write perfectly logical treatises; instead, we feel that she has pushed herself for years to reach this level of excellence. Yes, she's powerful, but that's because she earned it. (Of course, this is a simplification - she had plenty of natural talent to help her on her way. Still, my point stands.)

But an interesting thing happens when you start to excel: expectations change. Almost all of the characters in the book show this awe of Jasnah, really beyond what is reasonable. They treat her like a figure of legend. Because Jasnah has pushed herself to such heights, the people around her expect her to do the impossible. So she does. Others in this thread have already spoken of those that wish for her to fall - I agree that she likely does some of what she does to prove them wrong. But even more powerful, I would argue, is the influence of those that expect her to succeed. We see hints, in all four books, of the effect this has on her. She's absolutely terrified of what would happen if she doesn't live up to what's expected of her - what she now expects of herself. 

It's this insecurity, I believe, that makes her so beloved. Fear of failure is something that a lot of people can relate to, so seeing an example of it in someone so amazing as Jasnah is really powerful. If Jasnah were just a hyper-competent, powerful woman, I'd still probably cheer for her. But I wouldn't love her. Because despite what everyone thinks of her, despite what she herself thinks, the real Jasnah is still just a human.

I have more to say on this topic (Kaladin parallels, relationship with Hoid, childhood, etc.) but I've talked for long enough. Suffice it to say that we've only gotten hints at Jasnah's character development, but those hints make me very excited for the back 5 books.

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On 5-12-2020 at 10:09 AM, Seloun said:

Jasnah is awesome because her morality is a rational, reasoned one. She's the quintessential philosopher-king. She's what Taravangian wants to be: relentless, almost ruthless pragmatism nevertheless tempered with altruistic motivations.

That summarizes very well in my opinion. I love all the philosophical questions Brandon puts in his works and the different points of view of Jasnah, compared to Dalinar or others is great food for thought. Jasnah is precisely as you put it here, and that does not make her style and philosophy better or worse than others. It has its pros and cons. The moment of finally not killing Renarin was so good, but I could not agree with her suggesting killing of all the heralds. The fact that she brings it up makes me like her, she is never afraid of putting anything on the table. I hope my ramblings are coherent enough to make my point :).

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