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 the second half of Chapter Thirteen 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.
A few notes: Amanda is off in NYC for Book Expo (Have fun Amanda!) and thus will miss the next two or three posts. So Amanda misses less, and since this is one of our longer chapters, we’ve split this one and Bill will be commenting solo today. Going forward, Chapter 17 definitely will be split, while Chapters 15 and 18 may be as well; they are long, but sometimes the split is determined as much by what happens as by how many pages. Finally, fair warning that Bill will be hit and miss as we near the end as he’ll be driving to Alaska, then around central Alaska, then back from Alaska (assuming the grizzlies have behaved themselves).
Darujhistan’s watch finds lots of assassin corpses and rumors start to spread that the Guild had bit off more than it could chew, as people wonder who could “with impunity cut down a score of deadly assassins.” Nobody takes note of K’rul’s Bar, boarded up.
Rallick and Krute discuss the assassin’s guild, with Krute thinking Seba is destroying the guild with his errors and wondering what he and Rallick are waiting for. Rallick goes out for a walk, thinking how things used to be easier.
Thorby continues to work in her garden, rubbing ashes into the grooves on the stones, covering over “beautiful glyphs with all the promises they whispered to her.” Gaz enters and she thinks how he kills every night and were it not for that he’d kill her. He notes the place is full of flies and wonders why she put the stone in the middle of her garden, then leaves. She thinks he shouldn’t worry about things, “Be a plant, Gaz. Worry about nothing. Until the harvest.”
Another beaten body is discovered in a gutter outside a tavern and inspected by the guard with the heart condition. The corpse wagon carter offers up his not-far-off theory on cells/genes/DNA (or “bags” and “notes” as he calls them).
Sordiko Qualm goes to a meeting with Pust, whom she’d hoped not to bring along. When they enter Lady Envy’s home, Fisher is there. He leaves and then, after all of one minute, Envy mentions she’s considering killing Pust. Qualm informs her he’s unfortunately the Magus of Shadow. Pust tells Envy he arrived with Spite.
At breakfast, Cutter thinks of the past night spent talking with Challice, the way he’d realized they had both changed and aged, yet still could talk like old friends. He notes how “she is bored. She wants a lover . . . what she could have had but didn’t take. A second chance, that’s what she wants. Do second chances even exist?” He considers it “sordid” and wonders if Apsalar “saw all too well. Saw right into me, to the soul that was less than it should have been . . . Maybe she was right to walk away.” He worries there was a “darker current” to Challice’s desire, though he knows he will meet her at a small apartment this evening.
Barathol, Chaur, Picker, and Antsy are burying the bodies in the cellar. Scillara sits next to Duiker, wishing she could ease his grief, and recalling the look of anger he’d given her upon realizing he would have died with them had she not taken him away earlier. Fisher enters and Scillara thinks how he (they assume) had killed a half-dozen assassins. He tells Duiker whatever the Bridgeburners do he’s in, and when Duiker says he thinks they’ll just sell the bar and leave, Fisher says he “called in an old favor.” A crash comes from the cellar and they rush over to see a broken cask with a dead Seguleh in it.
Kruppe zooms out. We see Stonny unable to sleep, Murillio trying to comfort her. Tiserra works on her pottery, amazed at how much she loves Torvald. Torvald walks the Varada estate wondering just who the Lady is and considering the rumors about the Assassins Guild. Out in the mines, Harllo has been whipped for being in unauthorized areas and Bainisk for not supervising Harllo enough. Harllo tries to come up with a cover story, but Bainisk doesn’t believe him and leaves Harllo feeling all alone.
Dev’ad Anan Tol uses the emlava bones Harllo brought him to stand. He recalls Raest crushing his legs after Dev’ad had dared challenge him. He goes to his hiding spot and pulls out an iron sword “forged in the holy fires of Tellann,” and a knife. Armed, he makes his plans: “The Tyrant was gone. Somewhere close then, waited an empty throne. Waiting for Dev’ad Anan Tol.”
I like how in the midst of all this turmoil and focus on our beloved characters, Erikson slips in some class issues. Note the differences in how deaths are treated—the assassins show up in the ritzy area and court mages are brought in by the Guard (as opposed to a guard). In comparison to our weary, chest-pained Guard who gets to the bodies eventually in the poorer district, who doesn’t get to call in court mages, etc.
I also like the presentation of the city’s inhabitants—the larger group who sees only the surface and feels some schadenfreude over the assassins being killed, and then the all too “rare” group, much smaller, who is smart enough to wonder who the hell can wipe out assassins and maybe we should be worried about that.
Krute and Rallick are clearly a bit at odds over the Guild and what’s going on there. That’s made clear by their conversation. But I also want to point out a slightly more subtle moment: when Rallick wonders why he was so “obtuse” with Krute right before he left, and he thinks “Maybe just. . . instinctive.”
So we knew Thordy was working on something odd in her garden, and now it appears to be associated with magic, since there are “glyphs” involved. Remember earlier the word “sacrifice” was associated with the pattern as well. Something to file. A few other hints here to file:
- Gaz’s comment that the house is “full of flies,” which we know is our usual association with Hood.
- Her mention that her ash is coming from pyres.
- Her ominous connection between Gaz, plants, and “harvest.”
It seems to me I’ve pointed out a lot more “science” in this book than in past ones in the series. I’m not sure if that’s true, if I just didn’t notice earlier ones, if I just didn’t speak to it in the recaps, or if there are a lot more in this book for some reason. But here we have the carter talking about making a microscope and about cells and genes and DNA and inherited traits (using different words obviously). And I love the tiny little characterization when the carter says “brats” rather than “kids” or “children.” And how, in typically grim Malazan fashion, the carter thinks of building a hybrid ox-human. He’d be a good addition I think to Bauchelain and Korbal Broach’s group.
We saw Thurule, if you remember, back in Memories of Ice as part of the “punitive army” of Seguleh sent to punish the Pannion Seer (Envy co-opted them).
Note the statues of Seguleh, yet another connection between this city and those people.
Hmm, what is Fisher doing with Envy and what “old favor” did he call in? More mystery surrounding this guy. Certainly Envy seems intrigued by him: “A most unusual man. He invites confession.”
Cutter continues to try and find his way—is he Cutter? Crokus? He knows, as he said, the is a different man, a changed man (and not in his mind for the better), but the ease with which he falls in with Challice (also changed) is yet another example in this book of the past dragging at the heels of so many of these characters. The Bridgeburners trying to retire from their military/death-dealing past. Rallick’s connections to the Guild. Duiker still haunted by the Chain of Dogs. Endest, Spinnock, Seerdomin pulled back into their roles. . .
As young as he is, though, Cutter is at least sharp enough to pick up on that dark undercurrent running under Challice. We’ve already seen her consider killing Gorlas; does this dark undercurrent mean she’s going to try and get Cutter involved in it? That “I need you,” could certainly have two meanings. She has to know he’s dangerous.
Scillara’s monologue on sadness could easily be applied to today’s focus on medicating sadness (as opposed to actual depression).
Her recap of Mallet and Bluepearl, of the others’ grieving over them, brings back the pain from the last chapter (thanks for that btw Steven). Capped off by that achingly sharp, bitter moment from Duiker, who grieves not simply for the deaths, but that he wasn’t there to die with them. Is anything/one going to be able to pull him up from this?
Man, these Seguleh are popping up all over the place lately
This moment with Dev’ad Anan Tol I thought was a great switch on the reader. I think because he’s T’lan Imass, because he talks with a young boy nicely, because he’s wounded and lonely, we’ve been conditioned to probably think of him as nothing but benign. But here he gets his legs back and bam! He’s Mr. Ambition, off to claim a throne for himself with his super-weapon. I know I never saw this coming on my first read.
At the book’s halfway point (53% through), coming after some major action scenes—the attack on the Bridgeburners, the confrontation at Bastion, Seerdomin and Salind—we’ve dropped down in intensity to let this chapter do a lot of setting up:
- Envy learns Spite is in town—what will she do?
- Fisher calls in a favor with Envy—what will she do?
- What will the Bridgeburners do?
- What is the deal with the pickled Seguleh?
- Cutter and Challice will meet this evening—what will happen?
- Rallick and Krute are a bit at odds—what will happen?
- Dev’ad is now mobile and armed—what will he do?