Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Assail, Chapter Five

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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, and finally comments from Tor.com readers. Today we’re continuing Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Assail, covering chapter five.

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.

 

Assail: Chapter Five

SCENE ONE
Fisher decides to call the Andii “Jethiss”, meaning roughly “one-who-comes-from-the-sea.” As they march, Fisher notes the Malazans (particularly the mage Holden from Cawn) taking detailed notes. He thinks the Malazans are biting off more than they can chew if they were turning “an appraising eye” to Assail, though he decides it’s none of his business. He’s much more curious about Jethiss, wondering who he was and where he came from. He muses on how there are fewer Andii around, and how the fall of Moon’s Spawn “had marked the end of an age for their kind.” He’s heard rumors many withdrew from Coral to Avalli, though that’s hardly the only such rumor. The fact that Andii are “well known for their similarity in face and kind… to outsiders they all looked alike” will make it harder to pin down who Jethiss might be. Though his appearance and his apparent skill makes it clear he was/is a swordsman. Fisher decides against quizzing Jethiss out of politeness, but plays music in sneaky fashion, knowing it “could pluck the deepest memories from the recesses of human minds.” And every now and then Jethiss does react, at least partially, to some scrap of song or music. As they march, Teal keeps his Letherii in check, taking just enough to supply them but not too much. Fisher notes how sharp an eye the Malazans keep on the women of the girls. Enguf’s Genabackan pirates are another matter, and it’s only when the other two groups threaten to take them on that the pirates stop looting and raping, though grudgingly (Enguf reminds them the big prize is at the end). On the seventh day, Holden waves Fisher up to where he stands with a local and Alca (the female mage from Cat). The farmer tells them they’re on the Wight Road and should turn back because of the Bonewright (the “monster” they’d heard/read rumors of). The farmer calls it’s a “Jotunfiend” and says it waits under the bridge, which makes Holden laugh derisively. The mages leave, but Fisher thanks the farmer, who adds the monster killed his brother. Fisher warns Jethiss of a potential threat ahead, saying the mages don’t buy it but saying they haven’t seen the things Fisher has. They move on into the cold wind and rain. Fisher thinks the old stories’ consistency is to be heeded.

SCENE TWO
That night Fisher plays as it snows, and after Jethiss moves restlessly in his sleep and Fisher stops playing, he realizes he’d been playing Anomandaris. The camp is awoken by a violent “discussion” amongst Enguf’s group over the “merits” of continuing as they are on the mission. Enguf says his people don’t like passing up good loot for all this marching. Fisher tells them they’re close.

SCENE THREE
They finally reach the rumored bridge, coming upon it in a mix of rain and snow and fog. It’s a very narrow, dangerous trail to the bridge. Teal tries to order Enguf to explore, but he refuses. He then tries a group of Malazans, who also refuse. Teal tells Sgt. Stubb he’ll talk to the Malazan commander about the insubordination. Stubb doesn’t seem all that concerned. Fisher agrees to scout, and is joined by Jethiss. At the ledge just before the bridge is clearly visible, Jethiss says he senses “something terrible. A crime.” Moving forward, they see the bridge is built entirely of bones. They back off to find Sgt. Stubb and the three other Malazan veterans there. Teal and some of his people arrive (worried they might miss out on money Stubb whispers), and then Holden and Alca. Holden says the bridge smells of Elder magic and warns Alca off when she wants to investigate. Fisher suggests going around, but Teal thinks that’s too long. Jethiss suddenly warns them they’re all in great danger and should leave, and after a few “listen to the crazy amnesiac guy” looks, they all move toward the bridge, with the rest of the force coming down the trail behind them. Suddenly bones start moving and coming up from the ground and then the disparate bones assemble themselves into a “gruesome skeleton of gigantic size that reared fully some four man-heights above them.” The figure claws into the dirt at its feet then eventually comes up with a dragon skull that hit places atop its shoulders. It declares they must “pay the price” to pass—“One in three must give his bone… Fight or flee, the bones of all will stay behind.” Jethiss demands its name, and the creature notes he (Jethiss) doesn’t know his own. Jethiss asks it to tell him his name, and the creature says it will make a deal that the Andii’s bones will suffice for all. Jethiss asks about his name, and it replies, “That you shall have—for a time.” Jethiss agrees, much to Fisher’s dismay. The giant says they can pass. Teal thanks Jethiss sincerely, saying, “We in Lether believe that everything has a price, but we are not fools. We understand that the most important things are paid for with blood…You have found something more precious than life. I can only hope to find a thing so precious myself one day.” Malle tells Jethiss they could have found, but he says it would have cost more than twenty of their lives. She tells him to remember his ancestry and moves on. Engulf, teary, gives Jethiss a hug, leaving only Fisher, who tells Jethiss he isn’t leaving as he too wants to know Jethiss’ name. They are grabbed by the creature, who then leaps into the chasm.

SCENE FOUR
The giant shoves them into a cave, and when Jethiss demands his name, the creature responds that he never said when he’d tell Jethiss. The follow a distant glow to a fire, and here they find two others: Badlands and Coots. They recognize Fisher and then he eventually remembers them, saying, “Oh no.”

SCENE FIVE
Kyle is ambushed by a warband after a few days of travel. He notices how similar they look to him. He asks to speak to their leader, but is attacked instead and he slices off his attacker’s hand. He tells them he wants not trouble, merely to pass. They ask about his sword, glowing in the sun, and he tells them it was given to him and him alone. He warns them to report to their elders and not return. The head of the warband snarls they will in fact return. They leave and Kyle continues on.

SCENE SIX
That night an older warrior finds him in his camp and asks his name, so he might “recite it before the Circle.” Kyle answers, Kylarralten of the Sons and Daughters of the Wind clan. The warrior says he knows of them, and identifies himself as one of the Silent People. He asks what Kyle is doing here, and when Kyle says he’s on his way to the mountains in the northeast, the warrior assumes Kyle is on a hero quest to prove his worth before the ancient ones, the ancestors. Kyle though doesn’t know who he refers to, and the man wonders if Kyle’s clan has forgotten everything. Kyle thinks how he’d been sold off into slavery when he was young after his father died, and so hadn’t had much listening to old stories in his childhood. The warrior explains Kyle has to recite his lineage to be allowed into the Greathall, where he will “fight and feast forever, shoulder to shoulder with all the heroes of the past.” He gives his own name—Ruthel’en—in case Kyle should defeat him, so that he may commend him to their ancestors in Joggenhome. Kyle agrees, and though he tries to say they don’t have to fight, the warrior says they do, and attacks, wounding Kyle even as his own arm is severed. Kyle eventually fatally wounds him, and says he will say his name to the ancestors, adding that Ruthel’en was the best he’d ever fought. Kyle prepares to leave, and when Ruthel’en asks if he won’t kill him, Kyle says he might last until morning and so feel the sun’s warmth one more time on his face. He adds Ruthel’en’s hatchet to the knife he’d claimed from the warband leader and leaves.

SCENE SEVEN
The next day he kills another challenger, one he surprises him by calling him “Whiteblade.” The next day he’s knocked down by a young woman in mail who demands to know why he’s following them. He says he is just traveling east and has been set upon by the locals. She totally gets that, and informs him she’s part of a group of 40 or so that was shipwrecked on the coast and is now aiming for civilization on the east coast. She introduces herself and her young (about eight) brother as Lyan and Dorrin respectively, the only ones left of the group. She confirms she is from north Genabackis when Kyle asks. She says they came for gold of course, but now are just trying to survive, heading north for water and shelter. When Kyle says he’s going east, she ask if he’ll just abandon them, and he tries to explain he’s being hunted and it’s probably safer if they don’t join him. Then she says they’re eventually going east to the Sea of Gold and so he goes with them.

SCENE EIGHT
At camp, he compliments her sword and after some discussion of it, she tells him her family fought the Malazans on the east coast of Genabackis—in Taph, one of the last cities to fall. He asks if she ever saw the Crimson Guard who had been hired, and she says she met one names Blues who’d seemed kind. He decides against telling her he had been part of them once. She continues, saying the CG were fools, that “You can’t defeat an Empire. It’s just too damned huge… Only thing you can do [is] make your own little patch of ground too much trouble to bother with and it [the Empire] will just lumber on and swallow someone else.” They’re interrupted by another challenger, a girl who calls out for “Whiteblade.” Kyle tries to convince her to just head home, but then he’s knocked nearly unconscious by another girl. They introduce themselves as Neese and Niala, saying he killed their cousin and uncle. When Kyle says Ruthen’el will be ashamed that they avenged him via ambush, they say they decided on victory over honor. She holds up Kyle’s sword, saying she’ll cut him to pieces with it then return it to their house as a symbol of their power. He tries to warn her but she draws it hard and the sword slices through its sheath and most of her fingers. They all fight, then Lyan kills the girls. Kyle says he didn’t want to kill them, but she doesn’t buy it. She stares in awe at his glowing blade as he sheaths it once more. He tells her he’ll head off by himself on the morrow, but she says they’ll travel east together. He agrees, though he worries they’ll get killed because of him.

SCENE NINE
Their trio travels another three days, with Kyle finding the brother-sister relationship between Lyan and Dorrin oddly “very formal, almost businesslike.” When he asks, she admits she’s the last of his bodyguard, explaining that Dorrin is the king in exile of Anklos. She fills him in that Anklos was one of the more powerful city-states in the north-east of Genabackis and their ruling family were the ones who hired Caladan Brood. They’re here to get gold to support a rebellion and an army. When he asks why she’s telling him all this one would think highly secretive information, she says she’s heard songs of the Malazan campaign in Fist, of Greymane/Stonewielder, and his companion Whiteblade, who “abandoned the Malazans with the death of Greymane his friend. Such a champion would have no use for the empire that used his friend so cruelly.” He tells her he left all that behind and has no interest in returning. She replies he “will do what you must.”

SCENE TEN
Later, they smell smoke and carefully advance to find an ox-cart still smoldering, surrounded by staked out mutilated bodies. Kyle questions one of the two survivors and finds out that the women and children had been taken. The old man tells him they came for gold and Kyle can’t believe how foolish they were to think they could just cross the clans’ lands. He tells Lyan wagon trains are heading north to the gold, and she realizes the clans are killing them all. He asks Dorrin if he knows how to use weapons, and is surprised and impressed to learn that Lyan, whom Dorrin says is teaching him, is one of the legendary “shieldmaidens of north Genabackis.” They continue on.

SCENE ELEVEN
Two days later they come across a fortified hilltop and while both agree they should go around, Kyle wants to warn them first. She tells him not to be a “fool hero,” reminding him of Ruthen’el’s words, and he thinks he isn’t trying to be heroic; he just want to help these people. He nears the hill and shouts to the occupiers that they can’t stay; they need to move on or they’ll all be killed. The leader says they are doing fine holding them off. Kyle asks if the clans are attacking in twos and threes, and when the answer is yes, he tells them they’re just using the foreigners to blood the clan’s most inexperience fighters. It’s just a game. The leader though suddenly says “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re the one they’re after. You caused all this!” He orders his people to fire on Kyle, adding that Kyle’s sword is worth a fortune. Kyle runs and eventually catches up to Lyan, who notes how well that all went and how she is particularly impressed with how his “diplomacy skills” are “making friends all over the region.” When she asks if he’s just going to leave them to their fate, he says he recognized them as slavers from Kurzan in the south and so as far as he’s concerned their fate is deserved. Dorrin calls him “sir” and when Kyle laughing says there’s no need for that, the boy replies that “all champions should be called sir. As a sign of respect,” adding he’s heard all the stories as well. He names a few and Kyle mostly confirms their truth. They discuss their path and Kyle says they’ll skirt the shore of the Sea of Terrors (cursed he says) and soon pass out of the Silent People’s lands. He warns the Silent People don’t go farther north because they are afraid of those lands, known as the “Vanishing Lands,” since all who go there disappear never to be seen again. When she suggests the Sea would be a better choice, he tells her he knows the Sea better than the northern lands, and “there is only death on that sea. All agree that it is cursed with madness.” She tells him lots of ships are entering the sea heading north, sure that some will come back south. He says none will return and she mocks his certainty. Before they can fight more, Dorrin suggests making camp.

SCENE TWELVE
The march the next morning begins in awkward silence/isolation but then Kyle and Lyan make up. He agrees they do need water and so they head toward the sea.

SCENE THIRTEEN
After four days their lack of fresh water is taking its toll. They reach the Shore of Fear/Anguish Coast and are able to catch sight of the sea. They discuss how they are still being watched by the Silent People by day and stalked by predators at night.

SCENE FOURTEEN
The next day they come to a dry streambed and Kyle digs down to find some dampness. Before he can dig deeper, five clan members appear across the bed. He asks leave to drink first, but they ask if he’s really traveling north and when he confirms it, the female elder says, “It is the quest then… You go to the great mountains, Joggenhome, to stand before our ancestors and prove our worth as our champion.” A male warrior, Willow, isn’t too thrilled, and wants to challenge Kyle without the blade. Kyle says that’s fine, and the elders agree that he shall have two days of rest, water, and food (they proved the water), then leave. Lyan says Kyle shouldn’t have agreed, but he tells her it was the only option; it was all a test of honor and bravery and if he hadn’t they would have all been killed. She calls all this “stupid,” but he says this form of “formalized war” is in many ways more humane since only the two challengers risk injury or death, unlike full-scale conflict. After two days the five appear again. Kyle gives instructions to Lyan just in case. She kisses him and calls it motivation. He asks where her shield is, and she says she lost it in the wreck, to which he replies he’ll get her another. Kyle is surprised and impressed that Willow chooses to fight with brittle obsidian blades, a sacrifice on his part, just as Kyle had to sacrifice his blade. Willow says he challenged Kyle to take his place on the Quest and tell the ancestors his name. Kyle calls him a fool, much to Willow’s shock. The fight goes on, as Kyle recalls Greymane’s advice: “Just win… The only ugly fight is the one you lose.” Willow wounds Kyle, Kyle kills Willow, Kyle goes unconscious.

SCENE FIFTEEN
He wakes and Lyan tells him they’re safe and have food and water as guests of the Silent People. He passes out again, wakes, pees (with her help), passes out again as she says she’ll call for healers.

SCENE SIXTEEN
When he comes to, Lyan tells him they had to remove a piece of obsidian from his side. She asks about his necklace, and he tells her it was from a Thel Akai friend.

SCENE SEVENTEEN
The next day he manages to get up. The Silent People bring three horses (incredibly rare on Assail) they took from foreigners crossing their lands. They ask Kyle to “Remember us to the ancients. Prove our worth and bring honour to us all.” They leave Kyle’s group to it.

SCENE EIGHTEEN
A young boy, Aiken, is out hunting when he sees a storm cloud to the south. In the village the elders seem oddly upset. His mother tells him get inside the hut as a warband runs by. She draws her own blades and runs off, and then amidst the concealing dust storm he hears the sounds of battle. Through the haze, he sees his people are fighting the demons of their stories: “skeleton thin, bearing armour of animal bones.” His mother enters, wounded, and she shoves him under a pile of blankets to hide. Through a small gap he sees his mother killed, then something inhuman enter. It rips off the blankets, revealing that its face is bone only. Another says, “the scent is too thin,” saying to leave him. They exit, pursuing those of Aiken’s people who fled.

SCENE NINETEEN
Three days later a single female rider arrives at the village where Aiken and the other survivors are mourning. The rider asks how many, appalled when Jalia answers a third of the village. Then they notice she carries “demon weapons” and just before they can attack, more demons swirl upward from the dirt. The rider yells to the demons not to harm the villagers, and tells Aiken to run. He does.

SCENE TWENTY
Silverfox looks in horror at the funeral biers. Pran Chole tells her she has to rest. She says those they pursue are close and he agrees only a few days separate them. She answers that she therefore has to press onward so they don’t have time to kill everyone. She worries that the Imass killed a third of these people and as they move northward it will become half, then two-thirds, then all. She rides on to warn the next clan, which Pran Chole informs her is the People of the Wind (Kyle’s clan)

SCENE TWENTY-ONE
Watching her ride on her exhausted horse, Pran Chole tells Tolb Bell’al she will not rest. He asks what they will do, and Tolb says they’ll continue to sustain the horse. When Pran replies, “we are cruel,” Tolb responds, “The need is cruel… Lana Tog must not reach the mountains… At any cost.” Pran Chole agrees, and Tolb can hear the dread in that answer. He knows Pran cares for Silverfox as his own child, and thinks, “were they not all their own children? And what would a parent do to secure the future of their own? Indeed, what not?”

 

Bill’s Reaction

Reading Fisher’s notes on the Andii end of an age gave me a flashback to Tolkien’s elves “sailing, sailing away” off to the undying lands and the end of the Third Age.

When Fisher notes how the Andii “all look alike,” I can’t help but feel Esslemont is just having fun with us—“I can describe him so he looks a bit like Rake, but you’ll never know.”

That’s a nice little digression on the power of music to call up memories or evoke powerful emotion. Indeed its own kind of “sorcery” as he says is often ascribed to bards. (And now I’m thinking of my old D&D bard who if I recall correctly could raise the fighting morale of my battling comrades by plucking away on his lute and reciting poetry. A moment of silence for good old Amok, who died not in battle but via relegation to the nostalgic past). I did like Fisher’s honesty in his ulterior motive for playing music around Jethiss. Sneaky bard.

I confess though I didn’t like the Anomandaris moment. Just too on the nose for me, whether this is Rake or not (I’m holding off on my view until our book wrap discussion, which is why I haven’t chimed in yet on the topic in comments).

Fisher makes a good narrator thanks to his eye for detail. I like how he is picking up on the Malazans’ seeming interest in this land. Not just in the obvious ways via how they are surveying/mapping, but also in the more subtle aspects, such as making sure women aren’t raped so as not to have a population that looks askance or is outwardly made hostile toward the Empire. That also tells us something about how good the Empire is (not good in the moral sense but in the execution sense). They pay attention to everything and take a long view. And that acuity seems to percolate down through the ranks; it isn’t just the smart strategy people back on the Advising Council back home.

I love Stubb’s response to Fisher informing him the bridge is built of bones: “That’s not you being all bardish, is it?”

As always, Esslemont does a nice job with the eerie/horror genre aspects: the fog and snow, the lack of visibility then the structure looming up, the rocky defile, the isolation, the bridge of bones, then the bones gathering together into the gigantic creature, the momentary pause while it finds its head, the dragon skull, the bits of “dark blue-black flames flickering within.” All so nicely creepily atmospheric. Then of course we all expect some sort of big fight scene and instead it turns into emotional farewells. And from folks one didn’t really expect emotion from—Teal’s sincerity and depth comes as a bit of a surprise, and then Enguf’s teary hug is a nice bit of leavening—some comic relief.

Love Fisher’s reaction to finding two possible helpers and even two he actually knows: “Oh no.” Here’s a reminder from our reread of when we saw Coots and Badlands in Stonewielder:

In the city of Delanss on the Falar subcontinent, Greymane (going by his given name of Orjin) has opened a training academy. Coots, Stalker and Badlands had taught for a while, but their methods were a bit “strenuous” and so they’d headed off west by ship.

If my hand had been just sliced off and the stump was still bleeding, pretty sure I wouldn’t be engaging in much conversation beyond a lot of screaming. And my eyes would be filled with tears rather than fury. And if my arm were severed to the bone above the elbow, rather than using my other hand to fight with my weapon, I’d be using it to frantically wrap a tourniquet. While I was screaming. Guess that’s what happens when you aren’t born on Assail.

I confess to getting a little confused in all these directions. Kyle tells Ruthel’en he’s going northeast, then he runs into Lyan who says she’s heard there are civilized towns in the east. Then she says they’re going north. And he says he’s going east. Then she says they’re going north. And they talk at each other as if it’s wholly opposite directions. Then Lyan says they’re eventually turning east and Kyle goes with them, seemingly annoyed she didn’t just say east at first. But I thought she did (the civilized towns) and in any case, he’s going north anyway as is she, so it seemed they were going the same way anyway. I don’t know; it all made my head hurt (and it hadn’t been hit with a flying hatchet).

While I like the two girls Neese and Niala, especially their willingness to go for the win rather than worry overmuch about trivial bits of “honor,” this may have been the point in my first read where I said enough already with the magic sword slicing through everything. At least, I recall growing quite weary of it, so I’ll be curious to see if there is much more of it or if I’m misremembering.

I’ve long said I’m not a big Kyle fan, but I have to give him credit for trying to do the right thing most of the time. His attempt to warn the slavers was the right thing to do, and I enjoyed his frustration at their obtuseness. Still, it was nice to hear they were slavers later as not knowing how crazy murderous the Silent People are doesn’t really seem to balance out they’re getting slaughtered as they obviously will.

I for one am glad we’re out of the Silent People’s land so the challenges are done.

We’ll see where it goes, so I won’t say much here save that I just found the kiss and burgeoning romance between Kyle and Lyan a bit off-putting as a reader. But more later.

That’s a horrific but powerful close to the chapter, with the slaughter by the Imass and then Silverfox arriving too late. There’s a nice driving sense of urgency here in her pursuit and her sense of guilt. A sense made even stronger by the revelation that the next clan in the way is Kyle’s, and then by that conviction and “dread” embodied in that final conversation.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

It’s odd that Jethiss would not be able to remember anything concrete, but is still immersed in the nuances of his race’s politeness and demonstrating manners. I like that Fisher deliberates for a few days over what to call Jethiss, because names have been shown in this series to have great import, and so they should be thought about.

I really like this quote: “The way was rocky, the slopes bare, and Fisher wondered if perhaps it was this feature of the landscape that lay behind the name the Bone Peninsula. He wondered, but was not convinced.” Based on what we’ve seen so far of other Assail locations, I probably wouldn’t be convinced of that either, and would expect to see actual bones.

There is a sense of time moving on here within the Malazan world. The Malazans are looking to conquer another continent. The Andii have vanished and are said to have left Coral. This is all very different to what we’ve seen in the past novels, and it’s good to know that the world isn’t remaining static even within the same series.

Unlike Bill, I don’t like the whole “to outsiders they all look alike” because it smacks too much of racism. I hate to bring the idea forward, but isn’t that what white people have sometimes said of black people, and it therefore sits really uneasily with me to see it like this regarding a different race in the Malazan novels.

Yep, music totally speaks to the emotions and not to the intellect. I enjoyed these few paragraphs on the power of music, because I completely ‘get’ it. Music has the power to transcend situation, and speak directly to your soul.

Ah, after the previous chapter, another glimpse at the Letherii approach—here taxing to the bone, but not beyond, and Fisher deeming that a kindness. Also, this: “It seemed they did not want to leave behind a name synonymous with wholesale rape and murder”—so just the occasional one is fine?

Another great name: the Wight Road, and I loved the deadpan response of the homesteader when asked why they should turn back: “Because o’ the Bonewight.” Of course.

I feel as though Alca and Holden are made to be more skeptical of the idea of the Wight than they should be in order to make Fisher seem reasonable and accepting. See, Malazan mages should have seen plenty by this point, if they were stationed anywhere. They use Warrens as a form of magic. And yet they dismiss this as folktales? It just doesn’t sit quite right.

*scoffs* Wow, Esslemont really wants us to feel that Jethiss is Anomander Rake. It feels manipulative. Or is it more associated with Anomander Rake? That this is a person who knew Anomander? For me, that is better because it would be a person who was still struck and affected by his death, surely—even with memories gone, that event would create a resonance.

I like the image of all of these Letherii and Malazans creeping around, trying not to give any hint to what might be on—or under!—the bridge, and then the Genabackan pirate comes striding in, shouting to them about what is going on. And then the additional humour of each of the three parties giving good reasons as to why they are not going down to check on the bridge.

See? Expect to see bones. That image of the bridge entirely constructed of bones is pretty bloody chilling, especially emerging out of cloud and darkness.

It’s nice to see that the Malazan vets did actually go on a mission of reconnaissance—it fits perfectly with their character: to refuse flatly to explore when ordered to by someone they have no respect for, and then to go ahead and do their jobs for their own commander.

Ha! Now loving the fact that all parties couldn’t bear to be left out of whatever is happening by the bridge!

Even given his amnesia, if a Tiste Andii, a member of an elder race, is telling them they are in grave danger, wouldn’t you think to pay attention?

This section with Fisher and Jethiss is of one hundred times more interest to me than Orman’s sections, I’m not going to lie. I just find it all so intriguing and entertaining. Even little touches, like the manner in which the three different people—Letherii merchant, Malazan noble, and Genabackan pirate—thanked Jethiss for what he had done. The Malazan salute, in particular, tugged at my heart.

I confess that I didn’t remember Badlands and Coots, so that little reveal was lost on me.

Any particular meaning to be taken from the fact the these people bear a resemblance to Kyle. He descended from them?

“I mean no challenge to you.” But you did just cut off someone’s hand, Kyle…

Okay, I’ve clearly blanked all of Kyle’s story out of my mind, because I did not realise he was originally from Assail and part of the tribes there. Kylarral-ten is a very different name. Does that make him part of this whole Jaghut descendent thing? Are the T’lan Imass going to come for him?

This really is a barbaric place, with all these challenges Kyle is now facing. I’m in a soft mood today, obviously, because I can’t see why they all have to be fights to the death.

Why is Kyle looking at Lyan with wonder and acting as if he knows her, when she shows no indication of knowing him in return?

I do like the girls Neese and Niala. Shame they didn’t last. It would have been awesome to see them with the Reddin brothers!

Hmm, even with the gold, I’m not sure I would take the last of his line, king in exile, Dorrin to Assail, where there are bone dragons and challenges to the death and a whole heap of T’lan Imass descending on them…

It’s funny—the first part of this chapter was Malazan to the core, and I loved it. This Kyle section, with the quest and the challenges and the cursed blade, could be any generic fantasy novel. It feels more like Wizard’s First Rule than Malazan, and might be why my reading seriously slowed down.

Bah, the gift of the horses thing disturbs me, as a horse rider. So, yeah, they might have ridden before, but do they know how to take care of the beasts on the road? Do they have all the necessary equipment—tack, hoof picks, hobbles, nose bags, additional food and water for them? I don’t think so. These are basically fantasy horses that can be used at will and then ignored.

Top scene at the end, with Silverfox. Her pain and terror of what is to come is palpable. And it does create a whole heap of tension, knowing that we’re racing to the mountains.

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.

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