Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Deadhouse Gates, Chapters 8 and 9

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Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter 8 and 9 of Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson (DG).

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, so while the summary of events may be free of spoilers, the commentary and reader comments most definitely will not be. To put it another way: Major Spoilers.

Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!

Chapter Eight

SCENE 1

Duiker, still trying to catch up to Coltaine’s army and the refugees, finds that Coltaine has surprisingly attacked a larger army and slaughtered them, leading to exaggerated rumors that would work against the enemy, such as that the Wickans were demons or were helped by a Malazan ascendant. Duiker makes his way to the nearest oasis and finds that the refugees had been and gone, wrecking the oasis before heading out into the steppes (a move Duiker can’t fathom). Wondering how long Coltaine can hold off “the inevitable” Duiker continues to follow.

SCENE 2

Having reached the coast, Felisin, Baudin, and Heboric make a meal of some crabs on the shore where they had hoped to rendezvous with their rescuers. Heboric, now totally black, is in a surprisingly good mood. When Heboric goes to bed, Felisin invites Baudin into her tent. After Baudin appears to fall asleep after sex, she tries to stab him but he was prepared the entire time for the attempt. She blames him for leaving Beneth to die and he tells her he killed him himself. Before leaving, he says he only had sex to see if she was “still what you were.” Felisin thinks he already knew she was but he wanted to show it to her.

SCENE 3

Sorcery lights up the sky off the beach and Heboric stands between it and Felisin, while Baudin crouches next to her. The lightning seems to strike Heboric, making his tattoos flare, then it shatters and vanishes, due Heboric says not to him but the Otataral. A boat appears with sorcery attacking it. Four men leap out and one, a mage according to Heboric, says they need the group’s help.

SCENE 4

Kulp and the others on the Ripath (Gesler, Stormy, etc.) have been running for days under the random attack of an insane mage trapped in a nightmare, driving them to the Otataral Island shore (Kulp thinks it’s an escaped prisoner driven mad by the Otataral). They’d been sailing along the coast for some time when Kulp had felt the Otataral presence “soften,” as if some power were weakening or negating Otataral’s effect. Having landed, he believes it has something to do with Heboric. As he looks at the group of three, Kulp is “alarmed” by something. He also immediately notes that Baudin is something more than just a thug and is also “disturbed” by Felisin for some reason. Looking at Heboric via his warren, Kulp sees a “ghost hand” of power continuing on from his left stump; it looked like it was reaching into a warren and holding something tight. His right stump had a different kind of power—a mix of Otataral red and some unknown green, which was blunting the effect of the Otataral. He sees it as a “battle of warrens”—the ghost hand Fener’s warren, the other hand a mix of Otataral and a warren Kulp has never seen before. Kulp fills them in on what he knows. Heboric tells him he believes Coltaine lives. Felisin tells them (they’re a Fener cult remember) that Heboric is an excommunicated priest and the “bane of his own god.” Kulp and Heboric go away from the others; Kulp asks if the other two can be trusted. Heboric says Baudin can be trusted so long at their interests are shared and that Felisin cannot be. Later, when Gesler asks Kulp how they’ll get off the island with the insane mage still out there, Kulp says Heboric will deal with it.

SCENE 5

Felisin looks at the newcomers with “disdain,” worshipping a god torn down to ground and vulnerable. She asks Baudin about the talon she found in his gear and Heboric, overhearing, tells Baudin “well done,” but refuses to explain to Felisin. Baudin, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to agree with Heboric’s assessment of him. Felisin, angered, dreams of the rebellion succeeding and taking the entire Empire down with it: “an end to repression, an end to the threat of restraint as I set about exacting revenge.” She decides to try and get the newcomers on her side via her usual method. After some great humor, Gesler tells her to take off, that they see through her. Spitefully, she tells them Heboric will betray them and that he despises them. She goes into the water herself, exhausted, and thinks how she can’t do anything but lash out and that there must be some way to “reflect something other than hate and contempt . . . a reason.”

SCENE 6

The next day Kulp says he hopes the Otataral in Heboric will keep the insane mage at bay. He notes his warren, Maenas, feels different, more “eager” and less “remote” than usual. They enter the water and the ship is attacked by sorcery again in the form of “spears,” one of which pierces Stormy’s thigh. Heboric covers Felisin. When the sorcery stops, they are in the mage’s warren and Kulp looks up to see a tiny figure riding the storm high above, blood spraying around it. Heboric uses his Fener ghost hand to heal Stormy’s thigh, though Kulp had seen some taint pass through. Baudin had also been injured (his hand) but refused Heboric’s healing. A strange pale blue thick water is slowly filling the ship’s hold, but they’re only fifty yards or so from a large, seemingly abandoned ship, which Baudin identifies as a “Quon dromon, Pre-Imperial.” They swim over to the Silanda, which Baudin has identified because it had been the only ship allowed to trade with the Tiste Andii and it had gone missing years ago. When they open up one of the on-deck bundles, they find a severed Tiste Andii head inside, which is the case for the dozens of other bundles.

Below decks, Kulp and Gesler find the oars manned by headless bodies. Kulp says someone killed everyone, beheaded them, then set them to work as rowers. In the captain’s cabin they find four more bodies, non-Tiste Andii. Three of them are crushed. The fourth is in the captain’s chair impaled by a spear. His is the only corpse with blood, and it still looks wet. Kulp guesses these four killed the Tiste Andii, sailed into the warren (possibly accidentally), then were killed by someone else. While Gesler goes to get Heboric, Kulp studies the maps in the room and recognizes very little. Heboric thinks they are Tiste Edur, referenced in Gothos’s Folly as one of three Tiste groups from another realm, the Edur from the “unwelcome union of Mother Dark with the Light.” He explains the Tiste Andii considered it a “degradation of pure Dark, and the source of all their subsequent ills.” He also says the spear is a Barghast weapon, though oddly large. Kulp takes the rowers’ whistle from the captain’s neck. Out on deck, Kulp feels the whistle’s sorcery and realizes the cabin had Otataral in it. Up in the crow’s nest, Truth sees a sorcery storm approaching (the insane mage). Gesler blows the whistle and the oarsmen begin. The eyes in the severed heads also open. Felisin looks at Truth and envies his innocence, thinks she walled off all that was vulnerable in herself.

SCENE 7

Fiddler wakes in Pust’s temple with Pust and Mappo there. After Mappo leaves, Pust says he knows Fiddler’s goal is Tremorlor, asks if Fiddler knows “The Chain of Dogs,” which he says has already begun, then utters “shadow-borne prophecies . . . The gutter under the flood. A river of blood, the flow of words from a hidden heart. All things sundered. Spiders in every crook and corner.” Mappo tells Fiddler to pay attention to everything Pust says, then, after admitting he follows Icarium to keep his search endless, says he and Icarium will join them to find Tremorlor. He also tells Fiddler that Pust saved Fiddler’s life and rebuilt his shattered ankle. Crokus bursts in worried that Apsalar will be re-possessed because they are in a temple of Shadow. Prompted by Icarium, Pust reassures them by explaining Cotillion won’t repossess her due to Rake’s threat (from GoTM), Cotillion no longer see her as valuable, and that his residue of skills in her is cause for concern (thought that last was possibly an accidental slip).

Fiddler then gives a mini-lecture on Tremorlor and the Azath houses. Says they are rumored to be on every continent, they are a lodestone to power, that Kellanved and Dancer occupied the Deadhouse in Malaz City. He continues with Quick Ben’s theory that all are linked via gates and one can use them for near-instantaneous travel and says they plan on using Tremorlor to get to Malaz City, a half-day’s sail from Apsalar’s home. Pust says at Tremorlor there will be blades and fangs; Icarium shall find his past, Apsalar what she doesn’t yet know she seeks, Crokus the cost of becoming a man (or not), Fiddler the Emperor’s blessing; and Mappo will do what he must. He then vanishes. When Fiddler asks if there is magic in words, Icarium says enough “to drive gods to their knees.”

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eight:

Hah, I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired as I work on these chapters this week, but I had to read the extract from Heboric’s writings about seven times before it made any sort of sense to me… I don’t think I could manage a whole book of his work! *grin* Anyway, “Conspiracies in the Imperium” sort of says it all.

I don’t know… I realise that throughout history smaller forces have beaten larger through a combination of tactics, cunning and luck—but beating a force seven times larger simply through catching them unawares seems a little preposterous. The amount of time it would take to kill that many people would take away the advantage of having caught them unawares, surely?

Here we have a clear example of unreliable narration and how stories grow, thanks to the tales that the survivors of the massacre say about the Wickans: they’re demons, breathe fire, cannot be killed etc. Of course, this being a Malazan book any one of those aspects could actually be the truth!

This is very interesting:

…more than the simple lashing-out of a wounded, tormented beast […] The Fist was conducting a campaign. Engaged in a war, not a panicked flight.

I’m just a tiny bit confused trying to keep everything straight in my head in terms of “sides” for this conflict—let me see if I can set it out. On one side we have the Malazans, which includes the Wickans led by Coltaine. He is also a Fist of the Seventh. On the other side we have Sha’ik and the Whirlwind and Kamist Reloe, and the Tithansi horsemen are part of this motley revolutionary force. All correct? [Bill’s interjection: Yep! And a few more to come….]

It strikes me that Coltaine must be a very strong personality indeed—let’s contemplate his achievements so far: he’s managed to escape from the marauding revolutionaries—and not just the army but refugees as well. He’s massacred part of Kamist Reloe’s force. And, on top of that, he’s keeping those refugees moving at such a clip that so far Duiker—a man on his own on horseback—has not managed to catch up with them. That’s some incredible work! However, Duiker’s final thought is both realistic and ominous:

How long could Coltaine delay the inevitable?

[Bill’s interjection: Plus, don’t forget he held the Empire at bay for awhile and so impressed Kellanved that he basically co-opted him to the Empire’s side rather than fight him.]

How awful must it be to have struggled all the way across the desert, seen the terror of Fener and then find no salvation at the coast when you arrive?

“We’ve reached the shore, where Hood awaits and no-one else.”

I like this gentler and humorous version of Heboric much more than the spiky and yet resigned version we first encountered. His frivolity and softly mocking tone are very different, it seems to me—is this perhaps because his god has acknowledged him again? Or is it because he is resigned to death with Fener’s return and attention? Or has he been possessed? Or is he not that different at all and I’m just reading too much?

Oh, why does Felisin reduce herself to nothing more than a transaction? She had the opportunity to change her ways and wipe her slate clean by leaving the mines, but she keeps pursuing the same path. And she has learnt a crudeness that I think no noblewoman would ever utter:

“Do you prefer men? Boys? Throw me on my stomach and you won’t know the difference.”

It’s so painful that Baudin goes through with the sex to prove to Felisin that she has not changed since the mines—and really rather nasty of him. I originally found Baudin entertaining/interesting enough, but I am developing a hefty dose of dislike for him. Am I on my own here?

When the sorcery begins, Heboric puts himself between Felisin and the threat. This is not the first time he’s done this. Does he love her? Is he merely protective?

Here we have additional evidence—if any more was needed—that using magic is not a walk in the park in the Malazan world:

Its very wildness was all that saved them, as the madness that gripped the sorcerer tore and flayed his warren. There was no control, the warren’s wounds gushed, the winds howled with the mage’s own shrieks.

Interesting that Kulp can see immediately the issues between Heboric, Felisin and Baudin:

Weary as he was, something about the way the three stood in relation to each other jangled alarms in his head. Circumstances had forced them together, and expedience cared little for the bonds of friendship. Yet it was more than that.

It strikes me that Kulp’s head-in-sand attitude is probably not the best approach—but I can totally understand why he has it:

“Worry about it later. Worry about everything later.”

Mmm, more jade statue goodness:

A wholly different power pulsed around his right stump, shot through with veins of green and Otataral red, as if two snakes writhed in mortal combat. The blunting effect arose exclusively from the green bands, radiating outward with what felt like conscious will. That it was strong enough to push back the effects of the Otataral was astonishing.

So…. We can deduce that the power from the jade statue reacts with the magic of Kulp’s warren; it might well be sentient; and, unlike any other magic encountered so far, Otataral doesn’t deaden it.

If, as the commentators to the Malazan re-read have stated, these jade statues are a running theme through the books and still not explained going into the final book, might they be connected with the Crippled God?

“A warren I can’t recognise, a force alien to every sense I possess.”

I think that there might well be foreshadowing here in the fact that Truth has been denied by his own priest, and seems to feel his belief shattering down around him. I can see trouble ahead. Although Heboric and Kulp seem to be talking candidly—Heboric confesses his position and opinions about Baudin and Felisin easily enough—there is definitely some fencing taking place in their conversation, especially in the point where they talk about what Kulp saw when he opened his warren and looked upon Heboric. I like the manner in which they complete each other’s sentences—it does imply an understanding between them. More foreshadowing:

“If Geslar realised…”

“He’d cut me loose.”

“Messily.”

If Geslar realised what?

Why does Heboric say “Well done […] So far” to Baudin when he realises that he is a Talon? Well done for staying hidden? Well done on completing his mission so far?

*shudders* In this world it is not a good idea to swear to either gods or demon lords—sometimes they seem interchangeable!

“The day you lose your bodyguards, sister Tavore, I will appear. I swear it, by every god and every demon lord that ever existed.”

*grins* So far I am liking Stormy very much! I am also liking the fact that Geslar sees through Felisin and turns her down:

“Play your games elsewhere, lass. No offence, but we’ve done enough rutting to know when an offer’s got hidden chains.”

I worry about the reason that Felisin will find to help her through the hatred and contempt.

I like the little hints here we’re given into warrens through Kulp’s contemplations about his warren Meanas. The Path of Shadow and Illusion is characterised by “cool, detached, amused intelligence.” It is emotionless and clinical. It makes it sound like a living entity, but then Kulp dismisses this, thinking:

“Sorcery could be the ladder to Ascendancy—a means to an end, but there was no point to worshipping the means.”

Spears of water are strangely frightening to think about, they just feel more alien. Here is another instance of Heboric deliberately shielding Felisin from threat as well…

Ugh, what does Heboric pass from himself to Stormy in the process of healing him? “Virulent and tinged with madness” doesn’t sound like anything Stormy would want in him. Is this a matter of Fener, or will it prove to be as a result of the jade statue. I notice we’re not told which “hand” Heboric used to heal Stormy with—deliberate, no doubt, so that we can speculate what power it is that has passed from one to the other.

Do warrens have colours? Is the pale blue water as a result of the warren they entered?

So did Baudin actually know Dassem while he was part of the prison gang? Felisin is bound and determined to try and reveal all his secrets, isn’t she?

“Baudin the thug. Did your prison gangs work in libraries as well?”

How creepy is this silent ship, with the severed heads and the fact it hasn’t moved in years?

“Someone took the ship, beheaded everyone aboard…then put them to work.”

Who took the ship? Who could behead that many Tiste Andii? How is it that the ship is stuck in the warren? [Bill’s interjection: Oh, you’ll get your answers. Just not soon. :) ]

Here we have another colour associated with sorcery:

Sorcery lined everything, sickly yellow and faintly pulsing.

We’ve seen in Kruppe’s dreams different colours as well, and I assumed they reflected different sorts of sorcery.

I feel an absolute onslaught of information here as Kulp and Gesler enter the captain’s cabin and see the four dead people—Tiste Edur, mentioned in Gothos’s Folly, which is a tome we’ve encountered before. Erikson goes to great lengths to point out that the spear looks like Barghast, but is too big. Both Kulp and Heboric observe this, therefore it must be important. I suspect the fact that Otataral deadened the magic in the cabin is also a fact I should remember…

Aha! Finally have confirmation that it was the Fener hand that Heboric used when healing Stormy. Guess now we can start watching him intently to see hints of him changing…

And back to pitying Felisin deeply, firstly for this quote:

If demons rose out of the waters around them right now she would feel no shock, only a wonder that they had taken so long to appear and could you be swift in ending it all, now? Please.

It’s that “please” that wrings my heartstrings. Following on the heels of that quote I found this one:

…no weighty bodies taking turns to push inside, into a place that had started out vulnerable yet was soon walled off from anything real, anything that mattered.

Poor, poor girl.

As a quick aside, and because I recently finished a book where a woman had tried to write male characters and failed abysmally, I just want to say that Erikson appears to KNOW women. His female characters are not cliched and they’re not just there for show. They are flawed and fantastic and very real.

And an abrupt shift across to Fiddler waking up—Pust has a real thing for spiders, doesn’t he? Is he using them as a form of metaphor perhaps? [Bill’s interjection: Oh, there’ll be literal spiders, don’t you worry.] And I find it impossibly amusing that he was sweeping Fiddler’s head as the sapper woke up—is that an indication of Pust’s character, or something more to the broom? The source of all his power?

Oh, thank you Fiddler! Him shaking Pust was one of the most satisfying scenes so far! *grin*

WHAT IS THE CHAIN OF DOGS?!?! You’ve all mentioned it, apparently it’s been started, but I have no clue what this means! Unless it means war? [Bill’s interjection: Wait for it.]

And what does Icarium seek? It’s interesting that Mappo is trying to prevent him finding it rather than assist him in the finding. I’m glad that Mappo and Icarium are going to be joining Fiddler’s gang—lots of VERY cool characters together!

“You owe Iskaral Pust your life.”

“Precisely my point,” Fiddler muttered.

I don’t think that I would want to be obligated to an avatar of Shadow either. I’m curious that Fiddler sees no discernable difference between Shadowthrone and Cotillion—for me, they are distinct and seem to be following different paths. Am I wrong?

Oh! Cotillion himself is worried that he hasn’t managed to take every hint of himself back from Apsalar!

How crucial is this? Icarium himself says:

“I have not heard the name Quick Ben. Who is this man purporting to possess such arcane knowledge of the Azath?”

Who indeed? And… would Icarium know him by another name instead? Does Fiddler know that Quick Ben was once of Shadow? Is this one reason why he wouldn’t expand on who exactly Quick Ben is, for fear that Pust would hear?

Here is one example of us only seeing one character’s thoughts: when Mappo goes silent after Fiddler mentions that Apsalar was once a fishergirl and they’re delivering her back to her father, is he really thinking:

After what she’s been through, she’s going to settle for a life dragging nets?

Or is he wondering about the fishing boat that he and Icarium found?

Iskaral Pust is growing on me. *grin* I find it particularly humorous the way he reveals all his thoughts, even those that should remain secret:

“Are they deceived? Subtle truths, vague hints, a chance choice of words in unmindful echo? They know not. Bask in their awe with all wide-eyed innocence, oh, this is exquisite!”

And which of you can imagine Steven Erikson saying that line as he watches us all flounder over his little hints and subtle truths dripped into each novel?

Apparently in Tremorlor all truths will converge. What a very interesting word to use…

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eight:

The opening appears to be perhaps an excerpt from the sort of history that got Heboric in trouble, calling into question as it does Laseen’s “victory” that night in Malaz City. I’d say that last line also holds true for much of what we’ll witness in the series.

While the opening scene is all Duiker, really its focus is Coltaine. We see for instance, as we did with the attack on Hissar, that Coltaine will not fold easily, that in fact he is not simply fleeing but is coolly and calculatedly running an actual campaign against Reloe even as he retreats. That said, though, we also get a sense of the immensity of Coltaine’s problems: the refugees, the huge disparity in numbers, the idea that his retreat is already mapped out due to the need for water and so the whole guerrilla tactic of hiding in the wilderness isn’t really an option. By the way, Amanda, I was with you on the slaughter ratio’s plausibility. It seemed too high to me as well at first and pulled me out of the story for a moment, given the weapons and methods of death-dealing. Several flights of arrows on an unprepared camp (or a fierce magic attack in this world) can ratchet up that ratio pretty quickly, but we’re explicitly told it was a charge of horse that did the damage. So yes, it was a problem for me too as described, the dying “a hundred for every one.” And while POV always is a question, large exaggeration doesn’t seem Duiker’s style.

Back with the trio of escapees, as you’ve noted, we can see that Heboric and Felisin seem to be going in opposite directions. Heboric seems to have gained strength and even some humor, while Felisin is longing for death. And before death, revenge. She thirsts for it on Tavore, but she’s just as eager to take it out on Baudin as well, who is far too sharp for Felisin’s amateurish trap. Her hopelessness when he takes the knife and rolls her under him is truly total: not simply the stoic submission (“I can survive it”) but the even worse

“I can even enjoy it. If I try.”

That’s about as absolute submission as one can get. Combined with the lines you’ve already pointed out, she’s pretty near the nadir of her existence I’d say.

I’ll admit I’d forgotten Baudin just tells her he killed Beneth, though the reveal comes as no surprise. Did it to anyone? And I have to say, Baudin going through with the charade is disturbing to me and I didn’t buy the necessity of its cruelty, so I’m with you on that Amanda.

The arrival of Kulp and the others is simply a great close to a section—the escapees near to death and seeing it as pretty guaranteed and then the spectacular sight and sound arrival of the rescuers. I love visualizing it cinematically—the survivors dragging themselves, dry-mouthed, worn, haggard, barely able to raise their heads, then thrum of music as the boat moves in to shore, the survivor’s heads coming up, hope blazing in their eyes while the music rises. Then the “rescuers” ask for help. Classic.

Heboric putting himself between Felisin and the malevolent sorcery is the type of protectiveness we saw at the very beginning of the book, then as well on board the Silanda when he throws his body over her. Note too though that Baudin, as well, stays right next to her on the beach.

It’s a somewhat abrupt shift backwards in time with the change to Kulp’s POV, but I like how we see their plight then back up a bit to get the explanation. Kulp is one of my favorite characters in this book and I like his sensitivity when he lands, noting immediately the tension among the three escapees as well as how Baudin was clearly much more than he appeared (which Stormy sees immediately as well). Never forget—the Malazan soldier is a thinker, probably their greatest advantage.

That war of warrens in Heboric’s body—the Otataral versus some unknown force—will be important later and something to file away, as well as its source being the jade giant. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about it now though.

It’s interesting that lengthy pause of Heboric’s when Kulp asks if Felisin can be trusted. I wonder if he’s really debating it or if he knows the answer but it just pains him to admit it (I lean toward the latter).

I also wonder why he doesn’t tell her about Baudin and what the talon means, but I’m not sure this is the best time to discuss it. Just as interesting is the disagreement between Baudin and Heboric over Heboric’s praise of Baudin.

We see Felisin’s amateurishness again as she tries to seduce the marines and how transparent she is to those around her. It’s a wise move of Erikson’s here to add some comic relief in the form of Stormy and Gesler’s repartee to lighten the heavy, heavy load that is Felisin. The humor doesn’t last though, as we get that dark image of Felisin in the water seeking a way out of what she’s become, a reason to change. I like how he places her in the water as well, so often a symbol of cleansing, of rebirth/new life, but not here.

This chapter has a lot on the warrens in it, more information dribbling out here and there. We learn that Kulp’s warren is Meanas, one of illusion, and that he thinks it part of Shadow. It also has a “feel” of coolness or remoteness to it he thinks, as if calling upon its power was a minor distraction to it. (Though that sense seems to have changed recently.) We then get a sharp distinction between warren magic/sorcery and priestly magic, involving divine intervention. Later, we see how Erikson’s POV shifts keep us on our constant toes, as Henoth tells Kulp his warren is an offspring of Kurald Emurlahn, and Edur warren (and tells him the Edur were before Shadowthrone and Cotillion). We’ll continue to hear more about how warrens work, but these chapters should give us pause with regard to simply trusting what some seemingly knowledgeable narrator tells us (or another character) about them. Just because they use magic doesn’t necessarily mean they understand it, much as few of us could explain our smartphones.

We also get some information on magic from a non-magic-user’s view as Felisin thinks of how it really isn’t all that common for the “regular folks”. Something to think about—that while we see it tossed around a lot from our characters, that these characters aren’t run of the mill populace and so we’re getting a very skewed view of its place in the world. I also greatly appreciated the lines with regard to the effect of simply witnessing it on those unused to it: the negative psychological aspect of it and how it can make one feel utterly vulnerable and can darken one’s view of the wider world. While I can sometimes ignore it for the sake of the story, I often feel that too much fantasy simply blithely ignores the social/psychological aspects of magic in a world/society, making it never seem a fully thought-through concept or making it never seem quite real in that world. (Besides Erikson, C.S. Friedman does a great job with this, I think.) It’s good to get this non-wielder aspect from Felisin, to see that magic isn’t simply a wave of a hand and then time to move on to smores.

Point of view is even more important with regard to the Silanda, as these characters have seemingly stepped into the middle of a separate story—what killed the Edur? Who are the renegade kin sought by the Imass and what did they do to make them renegade? Why is that spear so big? Does the size of the spear really matter? Ahem, we’ll revisit this scene again, but I love these sort of scenes where you feel like you’ve slipped momentarily into a whole other storyline. This is after all how life works; it isn’t the simplistic streamlined one path (or two parallel paths) of most fantasy epics. Stories and people cross and re-cross; sometimes they interact, sometimes they pass each other in the night, like looking out your car window into someone’s living room and seeing a tableux for a few seconds only. It adds a richness to the story, as well as of course a sense of anticipation.

We also get more obvious hints that Baudin is more than a thug as he is surprisingly well-informed about some relatively esoteric things.

The whole headless crew is such a great surreal image. I’m glad Erikson doesn’t make the Silanda a one-shot, but that we get to see it again and again. And really, who doesn’t want to see that in a movie?

A lot of introspection from Felisin in this chapter, and none of it light. Again we get her sense of loss at what she’s become since that day in Unta and what she witnessed, her wish for it all to end “swiftly,” her envy of Truth’s innocence (and what a hard thing to face in a boy named Truth). Her dialogue, filled with spite and pettiness isn’t much of a change, though it comes without the attendant sympathy, at least until we get back inside her head or force ourselves to think past the words.

Luckily, we get to leave some of that heaviness behind when we rejoin Fiddler, thanks mostly to Pust’s “dialogue.” Though as Mappo tells Fiddler, attention must be paid to Pust’s seeming nonsense. In his prophecies, for instance, a close reader will recognize the phrase “river of blood,” which we’ve heard from Felisin with regard to her dreams. And later we get more. A fight with soletaken for instance seems inevitable (“unsheathed blades and unveiled fangs”). Mappo will face a crucial decision of some sort, perhaps dealing with the prediction that Icarium will find his “long past.” Apsalar seeks her father but what will she find that she “does not yet know she seeks?” And what “blessing” will the “weary sapper” receive from Shadowthrone? And while it isn’t quite a prediction, let’s not ignore Pust’s line about Tremorlor and “hollow artifice.”

Just like we got a little mini-seminar on the warrens in chapter 8, here we get one on the Azath houses. While we don’t get a lot of info, it’s interesting to note how clear cut this all is, which had been vague speculation earlier. It’s always good to remember that a lot of things we find maddeningly incomplete or abstract or confusing often get laid out eventually in very straightforward fashion (think for instance of the whole Kellanved is Shadowthrone and Dancer is Cotillion explanation earlier in the book). So patience is rewarded.

I’m glad you’re warming to Pust Amanda, as he’s one of my favorites. Oh, to have Pust and Kruppe and Tehol and Bugg and Shurq and now Manask (from Stonewielder) all in a room at once….

And just to keep a major theme in front of us, Icarium reminds us that even gods are going to be vulnerable in this series. Even they can be “driven to their knees.” Coming from Icarium, I find that line especially chilling.

Chapter Nine

SCENE 1

It is five days after the soletaken attack and Kalam is feeling tracked by someone. He comes across the scenes of an ambush with a trail of Malazan refugees leading away into hostile land. Apt finds the survivors’ trail but Kalam says it isn’t there problem. He runs into a band of bandits (using the rebellion as cover) who tell him the rebellion holds all the cities but Aren (“and Aren has the Jhistal within”) and only one Malaz army is left, burdened by refugees and led by a Wickan named Coltaine. The bandit leader threatens to take Kalam’s horse but pretends it a joke when Kalam doesn’t back down. Instead, he asks Kalam to join them when they attack the survivors from the ambush. Kalam agrees, but says they should join the army to attack Aren and leave the survivors to the desert. The leader says they will go to Aren’s “yawning gates” afterward. Apt, meanwhile, disappeared before the bandits saw the demon.

SCENE 2

The band splits and readies to attack. Kalam kills the bandit leader. Riding into the survivors’ camp, Kalam sees it’s a trap (the bedrolls have nobody in them). The survivors kill three of the bandits and Kalam kills the last. The survivors are Captain Keneb, his wife Selv, their two children, and her sister Minala. Before Keneb passes out from a head wound, Kalam convinces him to trust him (Keneb also recognizes Kalam’s name when he learns it). Kalam decides to attack the last bandit back at their camp for their supplies; the survivors go with him.

SCENE 3

When Kalam arrives at the bandit camp, the lone guard has been joined by another group of seven, who had brought women they had raped and killed. As Kalam looks on, Apt reappears. Kalam kills them all. Minala arrives and tells him there had been two others whom she’d found torn apart.

SCENE 4

Keneb tells Kalam that the nearby rebellion army is commanded by Korbolo Dom, a former Fist of the Empire who married a local and turned traitor, executing half his legion who refused to go along. They took Orbal (Keneb’s city) by riding in as allies. Kalam knows Korbolo, who was Whiskeyjack’s replacement for a time after Raraku. Kalam recalls him as an excellent tactician but too bloodthirsty. Laseen seemed to agree and had him replaced by Dujek. Kalam takes charge as Keneb’s head wound makes him a bit suspect decision-wise. They ride out.

SCENE 5

A wave throws a knee-deep layer of silt on the Silanda. Heboric notes that the warren had been prairie and was recently flooded. Out of the silt form six T’lan Imass, Logros T’lan. Their bonecaster (Hentos Ilm) tells Kulp to stand aside (calling him “Servant of the Chained One”) because they have come for their kin and the Tiste Edur. Kulp tells them there are no T’lan Imass and the Edur are dead. While two Imass check, the bonecaster tells Heboric to call down his mage in the sky because his wound is spreading and must be stopped, and also tells him to tell Fener that the Imass will not allow the god to damage the warrens. Felisin laughs and tells Hentos she’s gotten nothing right so far. Heboric explains. The other Imass tell Hentos the Malazans were telling the truth and she tells them they were looking for “renegade kin.” Hentos tells Heboric she doesn’t recognize the strange power in his ghost hand but that if the insane mage isn’t dealt with, Heboric will lose his sanity to his Otataral power. She says they must kill the mage and seal the wound. When Kulp asks what warren they’re in, she informs him it is the elder warren Kurald Emurlahn. Kulp says he’s heard of Kurald Galain (the Tiste Andii warren) and she tells him Emurlahn is the Edur one, and that Kulp’s warren (Meanas) is the “child” of Emurlahn. Kulp says that doesn’t make sense as Meanas is the warren of Shadow, of Ammanas and Cotillion and her reply is Edur came before Shadowthrone and Cotillion.

Hentos touches Heboric and tells him he is “shorn” from Fener though Fener still makes use of him. Hentos goes into the sky (in dust form) and kills the mad mage and while the storm disappears what is left is a black “lesion” the size of a moon. Hentos says a soul must bridge the wound. One of the Imass, Legana Breed, volunteered as he is clanless. He gives Stormy his sword then goes up into the lesion. The wound closes in on itself. Before they disappear, one of the Imass, in answer to Stormy’s question, tells him that Legana will feel great pain forever, as the wound heals around him and he doesn’t die. Truth tells them that Legana took one of the Edur heads with him. (And he was pretty sure Hentos didn’t see him do it.) Felisin converses with Baudin, who tells her “You ever think that maybe what you are is what’s trapping you inside whatever it is you’re trapped inside?”

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Nine:

Oh, how I love the description of the Malazan engineers at the start of Chapter Nine. *grins* Apart from the thick-headed part (which is pretty far from what we’ve seen before), this amply covers Fiddler and his ilk.

Every now and again—and it really is only on the odd occasion—I sigh at the idea of skipping from the storylines I am enjoying to one that I’m not fully invested in just yet. I have this realising that we’re skipping back to Kalam. For some reason I’ve found him cold so far, and very difficult to get to grips with—what with his relationship with Quick Ben and his conflicted loyalties.

I do like the way that Erikson showed us—from Duiker’s POV—the Malazan army doing well, and now shows us the Malazans being decimated. Shows us that conflict is never one-sided and people will die from both sides. I am wondering if this is Coltaine’s bunch of refugees or another train—still haven’t quite got all the geography firmed up in my head!

It must be creepy walking around with a demon tailing you—one who you have no idea will support you or not:

Moreover, he was uncertain whether Apt would assist his efforts—he suspected not.

Heh, I am loving the horses in this book! First we have Fiddler’s mount shaping up to protect him, and now Kalam’s stallion is competing with Apt:

He’d begun to suspect that an issue of pride had arisen between the stallion and the demon – his mount’s bolting from the fight must have stung, and it was as if the horse was determined to recover whatever delusions of dominance he possessed.

What I like particularly is that even without names these are lively characters.

Isn’t it callous that Kalam observes the survivors’ tracks but doesn’t even consider helping them—not their problem, he says to Apt.

Okay, just got a nice prod towards the fact that these Malazans are not those of Coltaine:

“We have heard that but one remains, far to the southeast. Led by a Wickan with a heart of black, bloodless stone.”

Again we see Kalam’s darker side when he says “Not black-hearted enough, then” regarding the fact that Coltaine is protecting the refugees.

People do seem very aware of Kalam’s dangerous nature, don’t they? He’s completely out-numbered, sat on his own in a camp with some VERY unsavoury gentlemen—and they are the ones on edge.

Erikson once again spills some wisdom about war—personally, I love reading these. None are at all preachy, and all feel very poignant and real:

Such creatures were common in the world, and a land locked in war left them to run free, the brutal truths behind every just cause. They were given a name in the Ehrlii tongue: e’ptarh le’gebran, the vultures of violence.

Oh oh oh! Kalam is bad ass! He just slit the bandit’s throat! Ha, nice piece of work Mr Erikson, making me think Bordu would feature—he had a name and everything!

And now he finds himself saddled with a family to ride with—wonder what will happen when and if they meet Apt? I love the reaction of the captain when he realises exactly which Kalam he’s speaking to:

“It seems you’ve a reputation, by Keneb’s reaction.”

“Fame, or notoriety?

“I expect he’ll say more when he comes around.”

I hope not. The less they know about me the better.

Did I mention Kalam’s badassery?

There was little gain in elaborate planning. He had eight men to kill.

So is it Apt that took bites out of the two men guarding the horses? Or is it the “something” that Kalam sensed was following he and Apt? [Bill’s interjection: Think you’re safe going with Apt as the answer.]

Minala and Kalam? Do I sense a little romance? I do sense that when Kalam leaves the little family and has no need of his horse, it will end up going Minala’s way—although that might be my finely honed fantasy cliche spider sense!

Aching joints, old wounds—his years always caught up with him while he slept.

Now that is definitely something I can associate with!

It sounds very much as though this isn’t the life Kalam would have picked for himself, being “indoctrinated” into the Claw and then saying:

“I expect your father has a better life in mind for you, lad. Fighting is for people who fail at everything else.”

Have we heard the term “Jhistal” before? “The bandits spoke of ‘a jhistal inside’ Aren.”

Back to the most depressing storyline in existence. [Bill’s (rather snarky!) interjection: I thought that was Twilight :) ] The first point of interest for me is that this warren was flooded recently.

Eeek! The appearance of the T’lan Imass is downright creepy. Are they calling Kulp “Servant of the Chained One” because he carries the whistle that controls the rowers? And Chained One? I wonder what this is in reference to—hints at the Crippled God? Relating to the Chain of Dogs? Something to do with Rake’s sword and the chains within? Ha, do you think chains might just be a theme of the series?

And with the arrival of the T’lan Imass we suddenly have a deluge of information—but, since Felisin already says “…you haven’t got one thing right yet…” We certainly can’t rely on the information the T’lan Imass provide us. This includes the fact that the two powers on Heboric’s left hand are in balance right now, but that if the Otataral becomes more powerful, Heboric will be lost to madness; the warren they are lost in is Kurald Emurlahn, of the Tiste Edur, and the warren Kulp uses (Meanas Rashan) is the child of Kurald Emurlahn. It also sounds as though the Tiste Edur are the forerunners of Shadow.

I’m so upset at the way Heboric is talked to by Hentos Ilm:

She could see Heboric’s shoulders slowly sag, as if some vital essence had been pulled, pulped and dripping blood, from the chest. He’d clung hard to something , and the Bonecaster had just pronounced it dead.

I think it is probably of great import that Legana Breed is established to be clanless before he performs the sacrifice to bridge the wound in the warren.

“Clanless […] As good as useless. Existence without meaning.”

The passing of his sword to Stormy is also key—hands up who also thought Stormy was about to have his head lopped off?

So Baudin has met the T’lan Imass before? That quiet scene between Baudin and Felisin is the first time I see any hope of a future for the girl.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Nine:

We start to see a glimpse that Apt isn’t just some inhuman (or inhumane) creature when Kalam seems to sense that Apt would like to go after the survivors of the bandit attack:

“not our problem . . . We’ve troubles of our own, Apt.”

Even his use of the shortened name, Apt, indicates a burgeoning familiarity and relationship. As for Kalam being callous or not with regard to leaving the survivors, on one level yes, but on another, it’s a somewhat pragmatic one I suppose. This is the person after all who unleashed the Whirlwind so as to put a thorn in Laseen’s side. It’s hard for me to get too upset over his decision.

For all of Kalam’s skills and reputation (which we see in this chapter and will again is well-earned), I can’t help but note this is twice he’s been surprised.

We’ve been set up to dislike Mallick Rel the first few times we met him obviously. But not the more direct implications here:

“Hissar is now in Kamist Reloe’s hands. As are all the cities but Aren, and Aren has the Jhistal within”.

And later, the bandit again about Aren:

“We will walk through Aren’s yawning gates.”

In other words, no need to worry about Aren as the Jhistal will take care of it. It’s a relatively subtle reference to impending treachery and it shows yet again how one needs to pay attention to what even minor characters say in Erikson’s work—throwaway characters and throwaway lines often have a surprising amount that can be mined from them.

Kalam’s musings on warfare continues a running theme, as you point out Amanda (and like you, I rarely if ever find them preachy):

“Words can so easily glide over mayhem and terror and horror . . . “

It’s somewhat akin to Duiker’s thoughts on how the soldier must make inhuman that which he kills. Language is often the servant of war.

And here we see that Kalam’s reputation is indeed well-earned. What I liked about this scene was its step by step movement and little asides such as the enemies’ lack of familiarity with the Malazan crossbows that made the one on eight victory plausible, rather than having him be a whirlwind of motion for a few lines then surrounded by corpses. And to drive the point home further, we get Kalam’s own explanation.

I really like Kalam’s statement on soldiering:

“soldiering means standing firm when that time’s required.”

There’s just something about its dignified simplicity that touches me, especially when I think of all those Malazan soldiers we see in this series.

If you missed the Jhistal—Mallick Rel—treachery hint earlier, here’s a chance to catch up as Kalam is even more explicit here, referring to the Jhistal as a “shaved knuckle.”

“That bastard Korbolo Dom”

Nuff said. (Though of course we’ll say more.)

And here’s more. Note the “execute half his own legion” and “too bloodthirsty” and “They rode in like allies. We didn’t suspect a thing.” Note. File. Rage.

How’s that for a great entrance, the T’lan Imass? Swirling out of the mud and silt (and again, what a great cinematic scene). Funny, but I didn’t find it creepy at all. That said, the (to me) impressively grand entrance and all is humorously undermined by, as Felisin points out, how much wrong they get right away: looking for Edur (dead), renegade kin (gone), calling Kulp “servant of the chained one,” assuming the mage in the sky is with them, assuming Fener is pulling strings. It’s as if Superman came swooping down from the sky like a meteor onto the roof, then tripped and skidded over the edge. [Amanda’s interjection: *chortles*]

As mentioned before, some more fascinating information on the warrens, though at this point it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Hentos knows of what she speaks or just thinks she does.

The soul bridging a wound in the warren is important in its own right for the plot purposes of this book, but it also sets us up for other such events. As is often the case, small scenes get repeated as major ones later.

Ahh, Stormy and Gesler. So many “favorites” in this series and these guys join the list.

Stormy: When, after “a soul must bridge it,” Legana Breed walks up to him with the massive sword and “The scarred veteran did not recoil.” (Kalam’s soldier “standing firm”)

Gesler: Stepping in and offering himself as sacrifice rather than Stormy.

Storrmy again: Qhen Legana hands over his sword, how he “took the weight and held it.” (There’s that standing firm again.)

Stormy: “A beat-up old veteran, knocked down cynical, just another of the Empire’s cast-offs . . . Insufficient, she said. Indeed.” Tell me those words—cast-off, insufficient—don’t hit you like blocks of stone.

Gesler: Ready to take on an Imass when he thinks Stormy is in trouble.

Stormy, his eyes wet.

Ahh, Stormy and Gesler . . .

So whaddya all think about the Tiste Andii head Legana took with him—we going to see that ahead or Legana again?

Lots of set-ups in this section for scenes to come. Obviously the whole what happened on board ship and what’s going on with the Imass. But Stormy’s new sword. The sealing of a wound with a soul. The Tiste Andii of Drift Avalii. Tiste Edur. The new lands on the map. The anger of the Tiste Andii over Mother Dark’s union with the Light. The Chained One. This is a section brim full of throwaway lines that will play major, major roles in books to come, and as usual Erikson does the fieldwork of sowing the seeds so those scenes and places/people/conflicts/etc. don’t appear to come out of nowhere.


Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

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