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Llarimar

Character appreciation thread (Navani/Raboniel, Shallan, Taravangian, Venli)

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All right, so I just finished RoW and I'm still sort of digesting everything, but something I wanted to express right away was how good the characters are in this book.  Sanderson is often good with characters, and he himself has said that it should practically always be the most important element of a story, so it wasn't really a big surprise.  But I just found myself so supremely pleased with the character arcs in RoW, especially in comparison to OB (in which Dalinar was the only real highlight for me) that I had to say something about the following people:  

Navani/Raboniel - I did not expect so much of Navani in this book (I'm sure I'm not alone there), by my goodness, did I love her chapters and her characterization.  And the character of Raboniel was just so excellent, so utterly fascinating - I'm not sure I've ever seen an antagonist like her before, and the fact that she made such an impression on me despite only appearing in this book is quite something.  The scenes with Navani and Raboniel were some of the most transfixing character work I've ever seen from Sanderson - their tense cooperation, their subterfuge, Navani's feverish scientific discoveries, their singing of the tones of Roshar, the murder of Raboniel's daughter - it was all just so good, probably the best part of the entire book for me.  And when Navani bonds the Sibling and sends Moash fleeing in a beam of light, that was honestly one of the coolest Stormlight moments I've seen - rivaling Bridge Four's rescue of Dalinar in WoK, or Dalinar's showdown with Odium in OB.  And the Navani/Raboniel relationship was made even better because of its profound implications for the Stormlight series - the discovery of anti-Light, humans hearing the tones of Roshar, the coexistence of humans and singers.  The only thing that could have improved it, I think, would be if Navani had some connection to music or singing prior to this book.  

Shallan - I'm not sure if I really like Shallan as a character, but I'm fascinated by her, which is probably better anyways.  I think she's very well-crafted, very well-written - the way that Sanderson blends such dark, personal undertones beneath her seemingly cliché, perky exterior just draws you in, makes you confused by her and annoyed by her, but also transfixed at the same time - I always find myself looking forward to her chapters the most.  Her character arc in this book was good, I thought, really good, much better than it was in OB, and the split personalities finally made sense (up till now they've really bothered me).  The thing about Shallan is that she kind of defies description, which is all the more amazing considering how stereotypical she seems at times - the bubbly girl, the quirky girl, who despite often being basically an archetype of any number of female characters in Sanderson, and despite lacking any of the calculated intrigue and the coldness of Jasnah, is somehow even more elusive and more fascinating.

Taravangian - I am really delighted by this one - as early as WoK, I've been fascinated by Taravangian and have gobbled every morsel we've been given of him.  He's such a good character - so complex and interesting, and so deserving of the attention he'll surely be given from this point on.  I was quite disappointed early in the book when Taravangian had basically given up, resigning himself to saving Kharbranth and facing execution, so you can imagine my excitement with what happened later.  I also think this is a really brilliant move to make from a storytelling perspective since Odium is a good villain, yes, but I've often found Rayse to be lacking, and it was one of the main reasons I was slightly disappointed by OB.  But Taravangian in that role?  There's no one better I can think of, and having a really good villain usually translates into having a really good story.  Plus it's so exciting to think of the implications of this development further on - the excellent contrast of Dalinar and Taravangian, the collision course the two of them are on, and its ramifications for the cosmere.  

Venli - I was very shocked by Sanderson's decision to kill Eshonai and have Venli take her place, and that shock has kind of carried on throughout OB and most of RoW, as I constantly asked, "Why?  Why did he make this choice?"  I have fantasies of writing books someday and doing random things - just randomly killing a character, because not every death and action has to have a reason - random things happen in everyday life all the time.  But I wouldn't expect such random, shock-value deaths from Sanderson, which is what the death of Eshonai felt like to me, and I was astonished at his boldness for going through with it.  But RoW justifies the decision so perfectly, and sets up such a satisfying character arc for Venli - I love how she's detached from both humans and singers, how she has such complicated strengths which are just as easily weaknesses, and how she, in the end, was the right person for Timbre to bond.  

You'll notice most of my opinions here are just sort of vague and adulatory - I'm sort of in a honeymoon phase right now where I'm just so pleased with RoW, and so pleased that it was better than OB, that all I can say is, "That part was so cool!  Oh, and that part was so cool!"  Hahaha.  Despite my excitement, however, I've purposefully excluded [Support] from the title, because it's totally all right for people to disagree with me and express their opinions - I promise you won't hurt my feelings.  I'd love to hear what characters you were satisfied with in RoW, and which you ones you weren't satisfied with, and whether you agree with my assessment of the characters I've listed here!

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I'm happy that others enjoyed it as much as I did, and I agree with pretty much everything you've said. 

I also loved the character of Raboniel.  So nuanced, so believable... the only thing I didn't like is that now she's dead.  I've sung Brandon's praises in other threads for how he's writing Shallan, so I won't do it again here.  I have no doubt that Todium is going to be the BBEG in the Cosmere for a good long time going forward, and I found both Venli and Leshwi to be very satisfying characters.

It was stunning how many AMAZING things happen in the last 100 pages of RoW.  A perfect Sanderlanche!

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13 minutes ago, AquaRegia said:

I found both Venli and Leshwi to be very satisfying characters.

Ah yes, Leshwi!  How could I forget?  Another great character, though not as good as Raboniel, but who is happily not dead.  

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Agreed! I think Navani and Raboniel's interactions were one of the strongest parts of the book, which is good, because their interactions also functioned as scientific infodumps. Their complex manipulation, cooperation, and betrayals added a very raw emotional dimension to what would otherwise be the Rosharan Wikipedia page of sound waves. Their understanding of each other as scientists, and mothers who have experienced loss; their unequal standing as captor and captive, mortal human and ancient singer—it was just so good! I love complicated enemy relationships in general, and I think Sanderson really outdid himself with these two.

I also really appreciated Raboniel (and Leshwi to an extent) providing different perspectives on this eternal war. Raboniel killing & freeing her own daughter from reincarnation and Leshwi's joy at finding out that Venli has become a Radiant were some of the most heart wrenching moments in the book for me. Both Fused are looking for a way out, really. Raboniel no longer gives a f*ck, so she's chaotic, willing to do whatever to end the war once and for all. Meanwhile Leshwi is less...shall we say, creative, and is resigned to fighting as she always does. But suddenly Venli shows that there's a new path that they could take, something that has never been explored in history. And Leshwi is so, so happy. (And it made me so happy too.)

Edited by yulyulk
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28 minutes ago, yulyulk said:

I also really appreciated Raboniel (and Leshwi to an extent) providing different perspectives on this eternal war. 

I did love this!  I was a bit concerned at times that they were "humanizing" the antagonists too much and making it seem like no one is "the bad guy", which does bother me to an extent (I like fleshed-out villains but I also like them to truly be villains).  But I appreciated that even as we developed a better understanding of where Raboniel's motivations were coming from, that doesn't mean she became a "good guy" - she stayed true to her convictions by continuing to corrupt the Sibling and by inventing anti-Stormlight.  Leshwi is a different example since I think she is leaning more towards "good" at the end - or at least, towards neutrality with the Parshendi.  But there's also no shortage of unambiguous bad guys, such as Odium, Moash, and the Punisher, to contrast with these more intermediate figures.  

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i'll just say, i get really sad when a character lasts one book, and then dies, especially with a likable, well written character like Raboniel.

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Man, your post perfectly captures a lot of my own feelings. I can't stop raving about Navani - she went from kinda forgettable side character to top of my list - but honestly all the characters in this book were done really well.

I was taken aback by the fact that we got relatively little of Venli and Eshonai, since this was supposed to be their book, but I think what we did get was satisfying enough to make up for it. I don't even like Venli that much (which is intentional, I believe) but I nevertheless found myself rooting for her. And crying over Eshonai. I would give Sanderson a lot of money to write a short story where the two of them reunite and reconcile, Venli having gotten her redemption arc and Eshonai returning temporarily from her most ambitious journey yet... storms. Now I'm sad again.

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On 1/19/2021 at 5:12 PM, Rushu42 said:

Man, your post perfectly captures a lot of my own feelings. I can't stop raving about Navani - she went from kinda forgettable side character to top of my list - but honestly all the characters in this book were done really well.

I was taken aback by the fact that we got relatively little of Venli and Eshonai, since this was supposed to be their book, but I think what we did get was satisfying enough to make up for it. I don't even like Venli that much (which is intentional, I believe) but I nevertheless found myself rooting for her. And crying over Eshonai. I would give Sanderson a lot of money to write a short story where the two of them reunite and reconcile, Venli having gotten her redemption arc and Eshonai returning temporarily from her most ambitious journey yet... storms. Now I'm sad again.

Thanks for this, @Rushu42, I'm glad to know other people were as impressed with Navani as I was!  I can't wait to see her figure out her powers and oaths in the next books.

I feel the same that Venli is a curiously dislikable character in a way that seems intentional (it's perversely part of her appeal), but I've also talked to someone who says she's unironically one of their favorites, so go figure.  And that's a great idea to have a Venli-Eshonai reconciliation arc, perhaps akin to Dalinar in OB where he hears his wife's voice through the spiritual realm.  

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I think Venly and Eshonai are more important than any of us realize. The fact that leshwi turned after seeing that Venly had become a surgebinder was important. Also that taravangean wanted to eliminate them was something that was interesting. I do believe that the Diagram was ultimately served to ascend Taravangean. The diagram was always odiums pupets. if you look at the epigraph at the end of book 2 we see that line where Taravangean thinks it corresponds to Kaladin and bridge 4. But it is not about the bridgemen it is about the listeners. They will form an alliance with the Blackthorn to fight odium.

Quote

"There has to be an answer. What is the answer? Stop. The Parshendi. One of them. Yes they are the missing piece. Push for the Alethi to destroy them outright before this one obtains their power. It will form a bridge."

 

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I take exception to the idea that Rabonial “murdered” her daughter. Rabonial was motivated by kindness and mercy in that moment. It was euthanasia. I couldn’t imagine a more painful thing than watching your own daughter suffer and deteriorate for 1000s of years. 

Edited by teknopathetic
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18 hours ago, teknopathetic said:

I take exception to the idea that Rabonial “murdered” her daughter. Rabonial was motivated by kindness and mercy in that moment. It was euthanasia. I couldn’t imagine a more painful thing than watching your own daughter suffer and deteriorate for 1000s of years. 

to play devil advocate Rabonial was not kind she was selfish and she could not stand seeing her daughter so she gets rid of her. similar to how dalinar used to hate his sons.

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4 hours ago, Forms of mind said:

to play devil advocate Rabonial was not kind she was selfish and she could not stand seeing her daughter so she gets rid of her. similar to how dalinar used to hate his sons.

 I think we read completely different books. 

Also, WOB

WeiryWriter

In a lot of Navani's viewpoints, Navani is very uncertain of how genuine is Raboniel being. Beyond the obvious deceit considering her true intentions. Did she really not know about Sunraiser being Elhokar's Blade, how true was her grief over her daughter's death, and with Venli what were her intentions, revealing the survival of the listeners and dismissing her from service. I just love Raboniel. I want to know everything about Raboniel.

Brandon Sanderson

I will only answer one of those. Her grief over her daughter's death was completely authentic, as was her desire for bringing an end to the war. That part of her is completely authentic and legitimate. Her motive is to make sure [the war] can't keep going; whether she's right in that, wether it can keep going or not, is a subject for discussion. But she believed this was the best way to make sure the fighting ended, that was her primary goal, and that was at cross purposes even at times even with Odium. So that is legit. Some of the other stuff I will leave subject to reader interpretation.

Edited by teknopathetic
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i think it was pretty obvious that Raboniel's joy was authentic. just because she's a fused doesn't mean she's heartless, and she is one of the more sane fused, so of course she would be happy for her daughters death, because she finally is free from the madness, and immortality. i think lots of villains are thought of as heartless, but some of the best ones are the ones with depth, who have visible emotions, that are realistic.

Edited by Shob the Voidbringer
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On 2021-02-11 at 11:03 AM, Shob the Voidbringer said:

i think it was pretty obvious that Raboniel's joy was authentic. just because she's a fused doesn't mean she's heartless, and she is one of the more sane fused, so of course she would be happy for her daughters death, because she finally is free from the madness, and immortality. i think lots of villains are thought of as heartless, but some of the best ones are the ones with depth, who have visible emotions, that are realistic.

Agreed. I think Rabonial is someone who has been put in an impossible situation morally speaking. She was somewhat of a monarch at one point, and she had had the unique opportunity to see how her people's kindness and morality led to their downfall . Conversely, she also has seen how her people's hatred has led to the same miserable outcome. Having been on both sides of the morality spectrum, she likely doesn't perceive a difference anymore. Why be Dalinar or Taravangian if you have done both already and both have failed equally catastrophically. 

Rabonial has explored utilitarianism (Mt T) and deontology (Dalinar) , and both have failed her people. Now she has moved back to greek philosophy whereby the absence of pain is the highest good. She will end pain in the long run no matter what it takes. Her daughter represents this. Rabonial is not insane. She is horrifying because she rationally has come to her conclusion. 

Now, all Raboniel cares about is ending pain. SOMEHOW. This is why she is fascinated by change and by finding something new. She truly believes that collaboration is the only way to move forward, but she doesn't believe collaboration can be done in a "hug and be friends" mass market way. 

Rabonail has even moved past caring who ends it for whom, as long as the suffering can end for one side. Having lived fo so long, who are we to say she is wrong? She likely has seen every moral high-ground collapse, as well as every moral low blow fail to materialize results. It sucks. Her life sucks. But she kept trying. 

Edited by teknopathetic
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On 1/15/2021 at 7:28 PM, Llarimar said:

I have fantasies of writing books someday and doing random things - just randomly killing a character, because not every death and action has to have a reason

Haha yes! Remove the plot armor! Nobody is safe!

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