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 Seven of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
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. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.
Harllo heads out of the city to collect dung. Snell comes out afterward. Ominous voiceover.
Burn’s priests find themselves unable to give Mappo the protection he needs to travel Burn’s warren due to the web of Ardatha that had earlier healed him, and they suspect she has “ensnared [him] for purposes unknown to any but her.” When Mappo says he will track down Mogora, who had called upon Ardatha to heal him, the priest says he has a better idea (but it’ll cost him).
SCENES THREE THROUGH FIVE
Sweetest Sufferance, Quip Younger, Faint, Glanno Tarp, Reccanto Ilk, and Master Quell recover from their last Guild return trip in the bar when a young boy arrives to say he has someone who wants to negotiate for a delivery. Faint sends him back to return with whomever it is. Burn’s priest leads Mappo there and then leaves. Mappo recognizes the carriage outside the shop as similar to the one that had arrived in Tremorlor. Master Quell recognizes Mappo, who says he needs to hire the Guild to get him to Lether and the Edur Empire. When Quell asks, Mappo says he thinks Icarium and the Emperor did not fight or Mappo would have sensed it. Quell says he can let Mappo know by the next day if they can take the job.
High Marshal Jula Bole, High Marshal Amby Bole, and the swamp witch Precious Thimble (former Mott Irregulars), sign up as shareholders with the Trygalle Trade Guild, thus giving Quell enough for the job.
Councilmen Gorlas Vidikas (Challice’s husband), Shardan Lim, and Hanut Orr sit in Vidikas’ home plotting to put a nominee on the Council and then “shove aside the elder statesmen… and take the real power.” They worry that Coll might be a problem. Vidikas, bored, thinks of how the other two are fools but at least useful to him, especially as they lust after his wife, whom he’s seemingly happy to dangle as both bait and prize.
Challice looks at a favorite wedding gift—a glass hemisphere with a semblance of the moon shining bright floating inside. Once, she thinks, it offered her “promise” but now it seems a symbol of entrapment and of the inevitable fading that comes with time, and a provoker therefore of “strange thoughts and hungers growing ever more desperate for appeasement.” She avoids Gorlas, whom she’s felt nothing toward for some time now and prepares to head out. She thinks of warning her father about Gorlas and his allies and their plotting, but knows her father would just dismiss it.
Gruntle visits Stonny at her dueling school and tries to get her to visit Harllo and the others. When she tells him she gives money to Snell for them he tells her Snell has been stealing it all. She tells him she can’t look Harllo in the face; she sees only her rapist, adding later that “Stonny Menackis died years ago.” Gruntle says he’s considering joining the Trygalle Trade Guild and she says not to, accusing him of having a death wish. He decides he’ll do it, “take my share, my fortune, and buy them a new life.” He heads out to join.
Snell knocks out Harllo and leaves him there.
A shepherd finds Harllo and decides to take him to his shack and sell him.
Cutter wonders if he should have taken a different path in his life. Murillio tells him he (Cutter) has changed and he isn’t sure it’s for the better, guessing someone broke Cutter’s heart. Murillio says he is feeling old and will take advantage of the second chance he’s been given, beginning with trying to get a job at the new dueling school (Stonny’s).
Rallick has healed more quickly than normal, due apparently to lingering effects of the otataral dust he’d used all those years ago. He considers his options: he could return to the Guild, but Seba would see him as a threat and try to kill him; he could go into hiding and wait for Vorcan to make her move and then second her, as he’s one of the few she trusts; he could kill Seba himself and await Vorcan’s quick return. He’s surprised Cutter left without visiting, and then is saddened by Irilta’s obvious terminal illness. Murillio tells him not to pity her as “she’s ready to leave.” Murillio fills Rallick in on what’s happened while he was in the Azath House.
Torvald listens to his wife working on her pottery. He wonders about the time he was gone, and she tells him she’s had only two brief lovers. She’s laundered his ill-gotten goods. She warns him not to get mixed up with Scorch and Leff.
Scorch and Leff discuss their list of people who owe money with Kruppe. Kruppe tells them the six found before had “mysteriously” flown the coop just in time. Nom arrives and hands over all the money he owes Gareb (from what he stole from Gareb). Kruppe mentions how a thief took Gareb’s money and slept with his wife. Kruppe tells Torvald Rallick has returned and suggests a reunion, warning him, though, to keep Rallick’s return secret. Torvald passes and asks Kruppe not to say anything to Rallick.
Antsy’s group is recovering from the night before. Fisher and Duiker talk, Fisher revealing he’s from Korel originally, “but that was a long time ago,” adding he knew Greymane. When asked what is true or not, Fisher replies as a bard he doesn’t care: “Lies, truths, the words make no distinction in what they tell, nor even the order they come in.” Duiker then asks about the verses of Anomandaris Fisher has been singing that Duiker has never heard before. Fisher suggests he help Duiker tell the tale of the Chain of Dogs, and Duiker agrees.
Picker and Blend discuss the sex they all had the night before (their group and Barathol’s group, save Chaur). Barathol and Mallet went out to find the Blacksmith’s Guild.
Down in the basement of K’rul’s, a ghost tells Bluepearl he should breach a cask and “that will tell you everything you need to know.”
Faint watches as the Bole brothers follow Precious Thimble and thinks she won’t be surprised if one or more are killed on this job. Gruntle shows up and Quell isn’t happy but when Mappo says they’ll probably need someone like Gruntle, Quell shrugs and says fine. They take off.
In Kruppe’s bird’s eye view, we see several characters and then close with Harllo being taken away after being sold to an ironmonger for the mines.
I am enjoying the new narrative technique employed here by Erikson, swapping chapter by chapter between the humans and the Tiste Andii storylines. One thing you can say for Erikson is that he experiments thoroughly with different ways of telling his stories. Although the prose is easy to tell as his in each book, occasionally I’ve been surprised by the manner in which the stories unfold.
I love this perspective on childhood, and how far children can see, how they believe the improbable. Having just spent a long weekend with my six year-old nephew, I can totally vouch for the innocence and irrepressibility of youth!
Those lizard-ducks are monstrous—at first you think they’re quite cute, as they quack along with the hourly ringing of the bells. And then you learn that they feed their newborns by enticing eels to eat the eggs so that they can provide their own bodies—the babies eat these eels from the inside out! Shocking!
Kruppe does try to give us a reason for Snell’s evil—that he is frightened and suffers cruel urges, and might well be possessed—but it still gives me no ease since Harllo is currently in his sights….
It seems an echo that in the first section of this chapter Snell is referred to as having a thing inside him like a spider, and then there is reference to the spider’s web that covers Mappo’s skin, despite the attempts to give him Burn’s blessing. There have been continual little references to the Spider Goddess Ardatha throughout the series. Does make me wonder if she has more of a part to play.
The scene in Quip’s is a great way of giving us more insight into these people of the Trygalle Trade Guild, and their relations with each other. Neatly done. And I do like: “Master Quell is peremptorily predispossessed.”
I also like the implication that they always end up with the jobs that either no one else wants or no one else can do:
“…maybe it’ll be a quick, easy one.”
The others all stared at her.
Faint relented. “Fine…”
This job—presumably to carry Mappo to Icarium—is definitely not looking like an easy job, that is for sure.
A neat little conversation between Mappo and Quell, where the Master indicates that he knows quite a bit about the current affairs of Icarium, also handily reminds the reader of where Icarium currently is, and what he has been up to. This is the sort of neatness of writing and prose—where tedious infodumps are avoided—that I greatly admire about Erikson’s writing.
Oh ha! I love this list of what love can entail! It’s about as real as it gets…
There is, as a legion of morose poets well know, nothing inconsequential about love. Nor all those peculiarities of related appetites often confused for love, for example lust, possession, amorous worship, appalling notions of abject surrender where one’s own will is bled out in sacrifice, obsessions of the fetishistic sort that might include earlobes or toenails or regurgitated foodstuffs, and indeed that adolescent competitiveness which in adults—adults who should of course know better but don’t—is manifested as insane jealousy.
Mott Irregulars joining the Trygalle Trade Guild? Oh hell!
The scenes with Gorlas and then Challice again show a talent for slowly unfolding details and never letting the reader relax, thinking they know everything. We now know a little more about the relationship between Gorlas and Challice, and the reason why she won’t bear his children. We pity her poor father—his newfound freedom being affected by his great age. We see again how Challice is waiting for release—a true damsel in distress.
Poor Stonny. Her bravado and jibing are barely skin-deep, aren’t they? Seeing her drawn up and tightly clenched is a handy reminder that this strong woman has been utterly broken and can barely find anything to live for now. In his own way, Gruntle echoes her—trying so hard to fit into a new life, but knowing that the tiger won’t be caged and that his life is no longer his own. They’re a hard pair to read about:
“You’d better go,” she said in a tight voice. “Come back when the world dies, Gruntle.”
“I was thinking about the Trygalle Trade Guild.”
Her head snapped round. “Are you mad? Got a damned death wish?”
“Maybe I do.”
Wow, Snell is full of darkness, isn’t he? That reads like the actions of a psychopath.
I entirely concur with Murillio when he looks at Cutter and reflects on the fact that he’s changed—and not sure it’s for the better. The whole sequence dealing with Cutter’s new cynical perspective on life—the fact that romance is for fools—is very telling. It makes him a rather tiresome character, in some respects. Why can’t he just get over it all? Why can’t he find some meaning in the life he has now? I guess possibly because his new life was all created for Apsalar (who didn’t want it) and his old life is something that he’s finding it impossible to slip back into.
I like the theme very much in this chapter of people trying to find their place in the world—those who have been one thing and are now another, of those realising that they can no longer follow the same path, of those finding it hard to settle. We’ve seen different views from the different people currently haunting Darujhistan with all their ghosts and baggage.
And I really like this quote, although I do find it a little sad-making as well: “Pull a stick from the mud and the mud closes in to swallow up the hole, until no sign remains that the stick ever existed.” It reminds me of the way I would feel on returning from a two week vacation to my job prior to publishing, and realise that the impact of my being away was absolutely nil.
There is a real warmth in the scenes involving Torvald Nom and Tiserra—even as they discuss the lovers she took during his absence (and he has a little dalliance to consider as well!) I do enjoy the fact that we see in this series both new loves and settled loves.
Leff and Scorch—still a bit yawn for me, I’m afraid.
Ah, Fisher on stage. And the offer of his voice to Duiker, who can’t seem to find his, seems a noble one, since he confesses that he is there for another reason. Now… groping a little here. Fisher declaimed the unfinished verses of Anomandaris in the bar—could it be that he is in and around Darujhistan to complete the unfinished verses? As in, tell the last part of the story of Anomander…?
This is a lovely image of Harllo wandering out into this huge “vista” of a world, filled with possibilities. But being as we’re in an Erikson novel, no reader would be blamed for wondering how things are going to go badly. And certainly the lepers, the hungry dogs, the thirsty sun, the sewage, and the eat-their-way-out-from-the-insides-of-eels lizard-duck babies might give one a little pause. But then Kruppe (don’t forget after all who is telling this tale) makes it more than clear that this is indeed not going to end well, that Snell, from whom the dogs flee, is going to do some terrible harm to poor naïve/indifferent Harllo.
So what might Ardatha have in store for Mappo?
It’s funny sometimes what pulls you out of books. For some reason, Quell’s reference to a papaya just jolts me right out. I mean, why don’t references to apples do that? I wonder if it’s because apples (and other things like that) are so much a mundane background of my life (I pretty much eat five a week) that they seem “universal,” so why wouldn’t they appear in a fantasy. But papaya, which I eat a handful of times a year, are more exotic, and thus seem more narrowly “earthly,” and so yank me out. Weird. Anyone have anything like that?
I also thought the little momentary reminder re Icarium, the Edur Empire, the Emperor was a nice bit of economy. We see that quite a bit in the series, these little very brief cheat sheet sort of lines for the reader.
Love how Kruppe manages to stick in a little rationalization of his own lack of a significant other: “nor bemoan his present solitude as anything other than a voluntary state of being.” And that “present” is a bit interesting.
Mott Irregulars, Bole brothers, Guild journey. Yeah, this will be smooth sailing….
I agree with you, Amanda, that these segments with Challice and her husband and his plotters are an example of a slow unfolding. I like, as well, the sense of mystery and tension it sets up: Who is this mysterious nominee? Will something bad befall Coll? Will they take power? Will Gorlas turn on his fellow-conspirators? Is this part of a larger plot with the mystery nominee? Will Challice be pimped out against her will? Will it be against her will or might it jive with her newfound craving for “hedonistic indulgence”? Might things spiral out of control, even into death?
Poor Stonny indeed. And again, I’ll praise Erikson for the way he refuses to have his characters “move on” from horrific events. That rape of Stonny reverberates down the years and ripples out to so many other lives: her own obviously, Harllo’s, Gruntle’s, the adoptive parents, Snell, and then from that inner circle the ripples will widen. And no, Gruntle—the First Sword of Trake, a man who just commanded the dead, who can drive fear into just about anyone, “could do nothing.” Because sometimes you can’t.
From Challice and Gorlas to Stonny and Gruntle to psychoSnell to child-stealing shepherd (there’s an ironic title) to Cutter’s personal revelation that “Romance was for fools… the heart… a thing to be grasped, twisted by uncaring hands, then wrung dry and discarded… Pain and grief… bitter and lifeless… rotted the soul.” We’re going to need some comic relief pretty soon, I’m thinking.
Luckily, Kruppe gives us a momentary, all-too-fleeting chuckle with “Was there really room in the world for more than one Kruppe? Assuredly not!”
And isn’t this the way of the world: “How the time for dreams of the future seemed to slip past unnoticed, until in reviving them a man realized, with a shock, that the privilege was no longer his to entertain, that it belonged to those younger faces he saw on all sides.” A bit early it seems for Cutter to be having a mid-life crisis, but here it is. It is a bit tiresome Amanda, but it’s also, I think, pretty spot on with his age. I can picture him hanging out in his dark room listening to the Cure… (or whatever today’s version of the Cure would be for kids reveling in their own tragedy). [Amanda: Or perhaps the song “Time” by Pink Floyd—always my go-to song for reminding myself of my own mortality!]
OK, we’ve had Gruntle mention Stonny might find someone, and here we have Murillio thinking about getting a job at her school. Is this being setup for some reciprocal healing, perhaps?
That is a sad line re the mud and the stick. We all like to think if we were removed from the world it would suffer a jolt and long-lasting repercussions. How sad for Rallick to return and find none of that has happened.
Amidst all of this regret and remorse that fills the book, and all this pondering of possible different lives: Challice, Cutter and seeking out new lives: Barathol, Scillara, Irilta is like a breath of fresh air. The irony is the one with the least regret, the one fully content with the life being lived and the life lived, is the one who sees the nearest end: “I ain’t got no regrets, Rallick… ain’t nobody gonna say of Irilta she didn’t have no fun when she was alive, no sir… Try chewing on that lesson some.” Try indeed.
There is indeed a real feeling of warmth in those scenes with Torvald and Tiserra. A seemingly healthy relationship makes one worry though, doesn’t it?
Kruppe—always the slippery yet sharp one.
That seems a sharp observation from Duiker: “The soldier’s face was always the same once the mask fell away—a look of bemusement, the faint bewildered surprise to find oneself still alive, knowing all too well there was no good reason for it, nothing at all but the nudge of luck… And all the unfairness of the world made a bitter pool of the eyes.” And not many more bitter at this point than Duiker.
That line of Fisher’s to Duiker: “You see their faces” is a killer.
And boy, is our bard a little mysterious or what? Mysterious origin on Korel. Mysterious time reference. Mysterious connection to Greymane. Mysterious purpose here in Darujhistan. That’s a good question Amanda, should we read into the fact that he’s singing “unfinished” songs of Anomandaris? Should we read into the fact that it was his suggestion that put Antsy’s group and Barathol’s group together? He’s a cypher this one.
Bluepearl seems a little too dismissive of this ghost. What is in the cask that would tell them all they need to know? Who cut this monk’s throat and why? Why has K’rul “coughed” him out, if he has?
“The living never heed the dead.” Another example of something I’ve mentioned before, how in fantasy the metaphor can become the literal. Or in this case, I’d say, the other way around. Here we have this being literally true, but the metaphor works as well—we don’t pay enough attention to what the dead are telling us. Though it appears Fisher and Duiker are going to try like hell to change that.
Anyone thinking with Gruntle joining up and the introduction of the Bole Brothers and Precious Thimble and the scenes we’ve had with the Guild characters that they’re just going to reappear in Lether, drop Mappo off and say bye? Didn’t think so.
This is yet another instance of that sweeping view of Kruppe’s that I love in this book. In this case, I like how it reminds us of characters we haven’t seen for a little while, such as our killer and his wife (just what is she doing in that garden of hers?). And now we’ve got another piece of Gorlas’ plot perhaps—what’s he want with an iron mine? And is it going to be significant, this tendril that now connects him to Harllo, sold off to the mines? And yet another reminder of the Tyrant—they seem to be piling up, don’t they?
And oh, that’s a heartbreak of a close.
So many people in this chapter setting out on new paths:
- Harllo: to the mines
- Gruntle: to the Guild
- The Boles and Precious Thimble: to the Guild
- Mappo: to Lether (maybe), not a new life but trying to regain an old one
- Challice: now turning from her husband and perhaps to her own desires
- Murillio: to (maybe) become an instructor at a dueling school
- Duiker: (maybe) beginning to heal with Fisher’s help
- Barathol: off to the Blacksmith’s guild to find a new life
And what about some others?
- Cutter: lost and trying to find a path
- Rallick: lost and wondering what path to take
- Torvald: freeing himself via his paying off his debt to do what with his old life back?
And while all these in Darujhistan step onto new trails in their lives, or seek them out, let’s not forget there are those whose roads are leading them this way. But that’s the next chapter….
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.