Welcome back to the Malazan Reread 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 Fourteen (Part One) of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Blood and Bone.
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.
Blood and Bone Chapter Fourteen Part One
Golan wakes from a disturbing dream where he thought he caught the chanting of the ancient ritual that brought the Visitor down long ago. He dismisses it as merely a dream though. He thinks of how his army, what’s left of it, is falling apart, being picked off a few at a time every day and nearly all of them sick, including himself (he has a fever and chills). To his surprise, he realizes he still hears the chanting, and then has the horrid epiphany. He looks up and sees the Visitor close overhead. He wonders what would drive his masters to such an act, then orders thickly decamped and aimed east. Thorn arrives and “records” the orders, including that the yakshaka carry the ill and wounded.
Jatal and Scarza continue their pursuit, on foot for several days now since Jatal’s last horse died. As they rest one night, Scarza mentions the news that Moon’s Spawn has fallen, and says when all this is done he might head over to salvage what he can there. Jatal though thinks that “there was no ‘after this’ for him. He would join Andanii.” After a while, Scarza, looking up, asks if Jatal has ever seen one of the Visitors so close. Jatal says this is the only one he’s ever seen, but Scarza replies he’s seen many and none of them so close, noting the legends of “The Fall of the Shattered God.” Jatal is fatalistic about it—if it falls it falls and they can do nothing about it, but Scarza wonders if perhaps it is meant “for someone in particular.” Jatal says if that’s the case, he’ll hold Kallor down himself. Scarza wonders if that’s what Andanii would want, but Jatal says she waits for him; Scarza can do whatever he wants. Scarza hopes that this one misses like the first one.
The Crippled God’s priest brings Mara and the Disavowed to a tower on a cold, rocky shoreline. As they move toward the tower, Mara notices bodies in the water, Korelri Chosen and Stormriders. Then a wave strikes, and a group of Stormriders as well. Mara uses her Warren, pushing them back and under the water. They continue on, dragging an unconscious Petal with them. Another huge wave hits (Mara wonders how the waves can strike so high), and when it falls back several Disavowed are down, impaled by Stormrider spears. Mara watches as Skinner kills one. A group of Chosen surround them and demand to know who they are and from where, but Skinner says who cares, they’re here to help. The Marshall grudgingly accepts their help and the Chosen move to their posts. Another wave and attack is pushed back, and then the Marshal tells Skinner they can leave now; the Chosen are holding fine thank you very much. Skinner thinks not, but the Marshall says no matter. Skinner says he has just one request, then grabs the Marshall by the throat and demands to know where the shard is. Another wave and attack, and when it recedes, the Disavowed kill the Chosen. Skinner demands again news of the shard, but the Marshall dies. Mara uses her warren to blast a path through the jumble of debris to where the priest says the shard is, and Skinner and the priest head in, leaving just eight remaining Disavowed. Another wave, then a huge concussion, and the tower begins to fall apart. They all run out and the priest comes running up as well, says Skinner has the shard. Petal, who had apparently been washed away earlier, struggles toward them, and then Skinner appears with a large chest. The priest opens a portal as Mara senses a familiar magery from the far side of the tower. They all enter in just as they hear someone yelling, “Skinnnnnerrrr!” On the other side, Skinner tells her it was Bars and Blues, probably coming for the shard. Mara is glad they got away before a confrontation took place. Skinner, to Mara’s shock, kills the priest, saying they no longer need him; “Now we have a bargaining chip [the shard],” adding being the King of Chains is also no longer needed; “it too has served its purpose.” Mara asks if he isn’t worried about retribution, but Skinner merely laughs, saying, “That creature has far greater things to worry about.” Later, as they’re moving through the jungle, Petal says something is watching them. They stop and then something strikes Skinner—“a shape that resembled a woman, yet not a woman, something half else.” They come across Skinner fighting a woman in a loincloth and Mara recognizes her as the same one caught in the Dolmens. Mara is shocked to see her holding her own against Skinner. Spite grabs the chest, telling Skinner, “this one is mine.” She backhands Skinner and takes the chest up a tree. Skinner yells at Mara to use her warren to take her down. Spite yells out, “Sister Envy, I am coming!” then veers into her dragon form and flies off. Petal thinks Envy is “in for rather a nasty surprise.” Petal says they’ll need to figure out if K’azz is really around, and Skinner tells him that’s his (Petal’s), which makes Petal more than a little nervous since he knows Ardata will be waiting.
Ular Takeq’s dismissive tone about how the locals have no ambition sits rather uneasily aside the picture we’ve already seen about how the locals never seem to have enough food, and have to cope with all the pressures of living in a jungle that is gradually killing a whole army. He seems like a bit of a dick when you think about it that way!
The ritual that Golan thinks about—I wonder if it is included here just to create menace, or whether that ritual which has only been completed once is about to gain a second outing. It’s never certain in a Malazan novel whether they are adding things for background and flavour, or if it is a Chekhov’s gun thing. Either way, a ritual that even the Thaumaturg consider virtually unachievable seems like something we should be wary of.
The iron chest and the whispering—forgive me, but we have been working through this novel for a little while and I am not able to retain every detail. Is this chest something we’ve seen before? And what link does it have to the Visitor? Why his sudden sense of urgency? This is not the army carrying the shard of the Crippled God, is it? That was Murk and his lot, wasn’t it, hence the visitations from Celeste? Hmm, not good when you get your shards and damaged child-gods mixed up!
Anyone feel as though Thorn’s humour is getting more and more dark and biting? I still appreciate the inherent wit and cleverness, but can’t help but wince at the idea of him writing down things like Golan ordering his wounded soldiers carried into battle. Especially when it seemed like a rare example of compassion!
Poor Scarza, he’s trying so hard here to jolly Jatal along! But the boy seems bound and determined to move from lovesick to obsessed and with a death wish. Not really the most jolly character to have in the novel!
I suppose I can admire the fact that, even when Jatal is presented with history happening literally above his head, he is still only interested in catching up with Kallor and killing him. Well, not admire him so much as appreciate the fact that Esslemont is showing his character changing so thoroughly.
A heap of Stormrider bodies? Well, we’ve certainly been conditioned to see that as a rather shocking display… who can have killed so many?
Gosh, nice little evidence there as well of how much power Mara actually wields. She’s a bit of a badass. I did have a little moment of terror there at the possibility of Petal having fallen. He might be a lugubrious bastard, but he’s sort of wormed his way into my affections. He still seems more Crimson Guard than Disavowed somehow.
Korelri, with the Stormriders and the Chosen, feels like some kind of watery hell, with the never-ending battle between them and the fact that there is no respite from the cold and the fighting, and no one really makes it out alive—it is more a case of gaining honour the longer they manage to last. It really does give me chills.
Heh, I liked this domino effect of magery—Mara, warmed by Red, who is healed by Farese.
A little part of me sincerely wishes that this priest would end up being washed away, or stabbed by one of the Stormriders. He’s not exactly endearing, is he?
Petal’s been washed away? *wobbly lip*
Petal’s back? *little smile*
Gosh, how beautifully different are these two environments? When you go from one to the other in a flash, it emphasizes how strongly they’re both been written.
Ooh, nice little mention of Bars and Blues, and a glimpse of the stories interweaving.
It’s funny—I would have been happy to see the priest swept away—a death by accident, if you will—but I don’t like the manner of his demise at Skinner’s hands. Such a wasteful attitude to life. I guess Skinner sees the shard as a bargaining chip with Ardata?
I confess, I do love Petal’s so-literal interpretations of events. It surprises me to see him described as so giant. He almost seems to have a gentle nature, and feels remarkably out of place as part of Skinner’s crew.
Looking at the quotation that begins this chapter, part of me wonders (sadly) if some of these are taken verbatim from actual accounts of Europeans coming in contact with non-Europeans, say in Africa or the Americas or the islands.
Golan’s views on dreams are interesting. On the one hand, I can easily see how the Thaumaturgs would dismiss the chaos and surrealism and random encounter nature of dreams in the face of their love of logic and reason and discipline. On the other hand, part of me is surprised, not that they don’t see dreams as “portents,” but that they don’t see wish to examine them more fully as their superior minds still at work even in sleep and try to devise some meaning from them.
I wouldn’t have minded a bit more on just how he and his “fellow students discussed [the call down of the first Visitor] in the most muted and guarded terms.” A sense of Golan’s own attitude, the other students’, etc.
I am glad we didn’t drag out the dreams/omens/are they or aren’t they mystery about a second attempt at calling down a Visitor too long from Golan’s POV.
I think, Amanda, that the chest contains his rod or baton he uses to communicate with his masters; I seem to recall it being cold when he used it some time ago to make his report.
Ahh, I do love these moments between Thorn and Golan.
I liked the call out to the other book with regard to folks scrounging around inside Moon’s Spawn.
Yes Jatal certainly does appear little interested in life nowadays, despite Scarza’s best efforts. So the question is are we being set up for some sad finality with regard to Jatal, or a cheerful rally?
And here’s one of those nice shared universe moments where events from one story intersect directly and concretely, if only briefly, with events from another. We get some references now and then, but not so many of these direct overlaps, which I always find welcome. It’s nice to see this Stonewielder scene from the other side—it is interesting how quickly and happily the Disavowed are to turn and ambush the Chosen (not that I have much sympathy for the Chosen) to get what they came for. Don’t they know cheaters never prosper?
Mara has her some game, huh?
I too am glad to see Petal make it, always liked him.
Doesn’t matter what book it’s in, the “Skinnnnerrr!” cracks me up every time. And Skinner’s nonchalance over it, the sort of scornful laughter, is such a polar opposite from Bars on the other side of the portal tearing things up because he missed his nemesis.
Speaking of cheaters never prosper, one does have to sort of start to wonder how many betrayals Skinner has in him and when, if ever, one of them will catch up to him. Not that anyone is feeling sorry for that priest of course.
Spite is so aptly named. I like how we are witness to this terribly rigorous and dangerous mission, full of violence and disaster and death and destruction and narrow escapes, all of it to get this chest that is immediately stolen away from the thieves.
I agree Amanda, Petal does seem a bit of an anomaly amongst this group—vulnerable, gentle. Hard not to pull for him making it.
After training and working as an accountant for over a decade, Amanda Rutter became an editor with Angry Robot, helping to sign books and authors for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Since leaving Angry Robot, she has been a freelance editor—through her own company AR Editorial Solutions, BubbleCow and Wise Ink—and a literary agent for Red Sofa Literary Agency. In her free time, she is a yarn fiend, knitting and crocheting a storm.
Bill Capossere writes short stories, essays and plays; does reviews for the LA Review of Books and Fantasy Literature, as well as for Tor.com; and works as an adjunct English instructor. In his non-writing and reading time, he plays ultimate Frisbee (though less often and more slowly than he used to) and disc golf.