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 Chapters 6 and 7 of Gardens of the Moon (GotM). Other chapters are here.
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 Next Eight Months.
Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!
Crone, a Great Raven of Moon’s Spawn flies down to Darujhistan on a mission from Rake to seek out a particular sorcerer.
A guard with the alias Circle Breaker mans his position at the Despot’s Barbican and watches as two Darujhistan councilmen meet: Turban Orr and an as-yet unnamed one. The guard muses on an upcoming civil war.
High Alchemist Baruk reads a message from Circle Breaker, informing him of Orr’s meeting (the other councilman was Feder). We learn Circle Breaker is a servant of the Eel, a mysterious, unknown but powerful figure in Darujhistan, that Baruk is a “secret” power in the city and fighting for its defense, and that Circle Breaker and the Eel have been feeding Baruk information for a year. Crone arrives at Baruk’s window to request a meeting with Rake. Orr arrives.
Assassin Rollick Nom spies on Lady Simtal and Councilman Lim at her estates. Nom is there to avenge a friend against Simtal. He overhears Lim tell Simtal that Baruk has power of some sort and mentions a secret “cabal.”
Orr and Baruk speak (Crone appears as a dog to Orr) and Orr wants Baruk to agree (and convince the city’s mages as well) to a proclamation of neutrality with the Empire. He tells Baruk that an Empire Claw assassinated all the mages of Pale before the attack. Baruk says his information contradicts this, and refuses to support Orr’s proposition of neutrality. Crone hears a spinning coin and senses a tremble of power from somewhere in the city.
Rollick hears the coin as well and suddenly changes his mind, assassinating Councilman Lim instead of Lady Simtal. Later Ocelot, an assassin Clan leader, tells Rollick that Darujhistan’s assassins are being hunted; they suspect Claws. Rollick is to be bait for a trap.
Crone tells Baruk that a convergence of power is starting. Rake arrives with Dragnipur, his impressive sword, to seek alliance. He tells Baruk that the Claws did not kill Pale’s mages: Rake killed the Claws, but that the mages fled. Rake demands their heads. He also says Tayschrenn attacked his own people. Baruk agrees to give up the mages rather than have Rake use Dragnipur on them.
Inside the Phoenix Inn, Crokus, Murillio, and Kruppe play cards. Coll is passed out drunk. Crokus tells of assassins being killed. Rallick arrives and says it’s just rumor. Crokus suspects Rallick and Murillio of conspiring. We learn Crokus apprenticed in thievery with Kruppe, whose “mask of blissful idiocy” has never slipped in the years Crokus has known him.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Six
Hmm, is this poem mention of the Greyfaces who monitor the gasses that light up Darujhistan? Or is it reference to a proper cabal and sorcery—the emerald fires being a specific magic of the Warrens? [Bill’s interjection: I’d say go with the sorcery]
Our first viewpoint from Moon’s Spawn! And we’re introduced to Crone, a Great Raven, who flies on the business of her Lord (which must be Anomander Rake). Great Ravens can detect sorcery, as well as using it to lengthen their lifespans. This demonstrates ably that we are moving to a viewpoint which fair crackles with sorcery and ancient magic. As a complete contrast, we have the mention of “publicly known sorcerers” in Darujhistan, which suggests a control over magic, and hidden sorcerers. Definitely a clash of cultures on the face of it.
Just as an aside, am I alone in not appreciating lengthy descriptions of how many gates a city wall has, or where this District is in relation to that District? I imagine some people find this invaluable and essential to the story, but I end up glazing over while I read it.
We definitely have another set-up chapter here—lots of viewpoints, light on in-depth details, probably moving the plot along but in a manner I am currently struggling to ascertain. I don’t like to confess this publicly but I groaned out loud when I saw what a bitty chapter this was. I needs me some good solid plot that fits neatly with what has gone before. *whispers* I definitely want a short section that is a little less challenging... At the moment (with this chapter and the one prior), because I’m not really finding out anything that makes sense and I’m unable to pull out themes or gain much impression of new characters. I’m ending up doing nothing more than slightly lengthier chapter summaries rather than providing any true discussion on new facts gleaned from GotM. Ack, I hope Bill can bring more to the party than this!
Maybe I should just pick out the passages I feel most directly push the plot onwards? Like this one for example:
If Circle Breaker’s luck held, he might survive the civil war into which Darujhistan, he felt, was about to plunge—and never mind the Malazan nemesis. One nightmare at a time, he often told himself, particularly on nights like these, when Despot’s Barbican seemed to breathe its promise of resurrection with mocking certainty.
With all that I’ve said above, I still really enjoyed the conversation between High Alchemist Baruk and Crone—they are both knowledgeable and sly, and their wordplay is sharp with mockery. I am looking forwards to reading more about these two characters.
Wow, Anomander Rake is something special! Much is made of those unnerving, vertical-pupiled eyes—so much so that I feel it will prove important. The Tiste Andii are Erikson’s “Elves” and even he couldn’t avoid the cliché of cat’s eyes for an otherworldly race. And that sword... We have a real nod to Elric and Stormbringer here, I reckon. The description of the sword is amazing:
From the weapon bled power, staining the air like black ink in a pool of water. As his gaze rested on it Baruk almost reeled, seeing, for a brief moment, a vast darkness yawning before him, cold as the heart of a glacier, from which came the stench of antiquity and a faint groaning sound.
I also love the fact that Baruk deems it more merciful to cut the heads off wizards than have Anomander kill them with the sword!
Speaking of wizards, as Bill pointed out I find out in this chapter the different perspective on the siege of Pale: the wizards of Pale fled when they discovered an Empire Claw had infiltrated the city—a Claw that Anomander himself dispatched. There is also confirmation that Tayschrenn did indeed raise demons and unleash them against his fellow mages. It’s definitely interesting to hear about this event from two different angles. [Bills’ interjection: wait for it, wait for it...]
Also, how is this for a throwaway mention that adds further intricacies? Back in my commentary for Chapter Three I highlighted the author of the work Gothos’ Folly—Gothos himself—and I idly wondered whether he would be mentioned again. Here in Chapter Six we have the following quotation:
“In the alchemist’s library lay copies of the surviving tomes of Gothos’ Folly, Jaghut writings from millennia past. In them Tiste Andii were mentioned here and there in an aura of fear, Baruk recalled. Gothos himself, a Jaghut wizard who had descended the deepest warrens of Elder Magic, had praised the gods of the time that the Tiste Andii were so few in number.”
Very intriguing mention of Gothos. I also like the reference to the “gods of the time”—implying that the gods in power shift and flux. After all, we’ve already been given hints that they can die!
What this chapter does very effectively is present the idea of a power struggle within Darujhistan: with the Council split down the middle as to whether to declare neutrality (I love the fact Orr boasts to Baruk that they are one vote ahead as Rallick kills Lim!), the assassin war starting, and the real power, the Cabal led by Baruk, being courted by Anomander. The levels of political intrigue are dense and intricate right now and only going to become worse, I imagine.
Bill’s comments on Chapter Six
Nice sum up in that last paragraph Amanda. This chapter is a “bitty” whirlwind of vignettes that mostly serve to set up future events, so I think I’ll respond in kind:
Another nice unity of image, moving from the Moon Spawn assassins floating slowly down, cloaks spread like “black wings,” to Crone flying down to Darujhistan, black-eyed and enormous-winged. If all of this isn’t intentional, I sure hope Erikson is smart enough to pretend it is when we point it out.
We are also reminded of how steeped in time some of these characters are, as we learn Crone is thousands of years old—a “hundred thousand” as a matter of fact, if she doesn’t exaggerate. This span of time means more a difference of kind than degree, I’d say, creating a truly alien point of view to our own short-lived one.
The tiny detail of Orr’s arrival at the barbican, with his finger tapping in time on his dueling sword, sets us up nicely for events toward the end of the book. I love sentences like that in a 600-page book; they let me know the writer isn’t taking any time off.
That Rake really knows how to make an entrance, doesn’t he? Lights flickering, walls groaning, mansions nearly crumbling. Guy just can’t use a doorbell, huh? And yes, a definite nod to Elric with that sword, but I truly envy you Amanda learning how much more there is to that weapon.
I have to say I was surprised at Baruk’s seeming surprise that Rake is Tiste Andii. Guy’s been around for millennia, poems and songs about him, and Baruk is clearly a man of deep knowledge, but this is a surprise? I admit the lack of knowledge about Rake didn’t make sense earlier to me back in Pale, and it makes just as little sense here, especially as it’s mentioned that he’s encountered the Empire before, so we know that it isn’t like Moon’s Spawn has just re-emerged after thousands of years of absence. I’m curious as to whether anyone else was bothered by this or has an explanation.
Rake’s eyes—file that description away Amanda! [Amanda’s interjection: Hang on, hang on! With the dragon chat as well—oooh, am I totally barking up the wrong tree? If I’m not, then by God I am now excited!]
Good question on the descriptive passages; I too am curious where readers of this series are on that spectrum between “look, no dialogue—time to skip ahead!” and “wait, did he just say the fourth gate was 14 meters high? But that would mean that his description of the third gate 48 pages ago was off by...” I actually do tend to read the whole thing, though I can’t say I focus too hard on it. If the writer hasn’t been holding my attention all along though, I have more of a tendency to skim through such passages. I do like city maps though. And country maps. And world maps. I’ll take a map of somebody’s dinner table: where the plates and utensils are in relation to the pitchers of ale, etc. Love a good map. (And hate the lack of them in a lot of books).
Kruppe dreams and meets the Elder K’Rul, who tells him to seek out Adjunct Lorn and Tool, the “Awakeners,” and then says he (K’Rul) will lose a battle.
Circle Breaker waits to deliver a plea for help against Turban Orr to an agent of the Eel, but then tears up the message.
Lady Simtal accuses Orr of appeasing the Empire w/ “neutrality” to gain the title of Fist. She fears the traditional Malazan culling of the nobility. She asks Orr set up the murder of coll, her ex-husband.
Murillio manipulates two invitations from Lady Orr to Lady Simtal’s party on Gedderone’s Eve.
Rallick warns Crokus off of thieving the Orr estate. Crokus asks Kruppe (his fence) for his D’Arle stolen goods back and shows Kruppe the coin of Oponn. Rallick and Murillio meet, deduce Crokus is infatuated with Challice D’Arle, and decide to conspire in turning Crokus “honest.”
Baruk is bothered by noisy roadworkers outside his estate. Kruppe arrives and the two discuss assassins being killed by some outside force and then Kruppe shows Barkuk a wax copy of Oponn’s coin and tells him Crokus is its owner. Baruk tells Kruppe to protect the coinbearer but also to prepare Rallick for the possibility of killing him if necessary.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Seven
This chapter begins with an epitaph to Gadrobi—person? place? god? not sure—although on the map in my edition (yes, despite my general disdain for maps, I did actually take a look) there is a location called Gadrobi Hills which, I’ve just realised, doesn’t actually shed any more light!
Aww, we’re joining Kruppe again—let’s see how well I get on with his style of speech this time around...
I am wondering if Kruppe’s dreams are his way of accessing his warren? I especially noted the reference to the sky which “swirled a most unpleasant pattern of silver and pale green” since I know the warrens have different colours. Kruppe also says “’All is in flux’” which would refer to the great period of upheaval we’re observing.
I must admit I do love Kruppe’s statements of arrogance—they are so humorous:
“Of course, Kruppe is unique in never requiring practice—at anything.”
Who is the hooded figure, with his hands in the flame?
“Have you summoned me, then? It has been a long time since I walked on soil.”
Aha! Just read a little further! Looks like we’ve now met K’rul, who was awakened by the blood of Talo in Chapter Five.
I could see exactly why Kruppe would be disconcerted and scared by the new presence of an Elder God!
The thought of an Elder God awakened and wandering through his dreams sent his thoughts scampering like frightened rabbits.
Wow, what an exchange between Kruppe and K’rul! We gain a sense of just how long K’rul as been dormant—again lending weight to the sheer amount of history in these Malazan books.
“Long before the first towers of stone rose to mortal whims, I walked among hunters.”
K’rul also mentions the fact that he is “here to await one who will be awakened” and reveals to Kruppe that he is being used. I’m not completely sure by whom, although reference to the Child Gods could be K’rul talking about gods such as Oponn. And a key, key phrase (or at least I think it is so):
“Play on, mortal. Every god falls at a mortal’s hands. Such is the only end to immortality.”
This definitely suggests that gods merely fade into obscurity if they lose their followers, but never actually die unless killed.
Councilman Turban Orr has not come to Circle Breaker this night, breaking the recent routine.
We are never far away from a bittersweet or grim moment in Erikson’s prose. With Circle Breaker he brings forward the idea of an innocent youth making choices through his life out of desperation that lead to a dark life.
The years between him and that lad marched through his mind, a procession of martial images growing ever grimmer. If he searched out the many crossroads he had come to in the past, he saw their skies storm-warped, the lands ragged and wind-torn. The forces of age and experience worked on them now, and whatever choices he had made then seemed fated and almost desperate.
Here we have another of those throwaway lines that Erikson likes so well, that mean so much and that resonate through the series:
Never reach too far.
I want to know who Circle Breaker is—this spy seems to be more than what he is initially represented as. He is desperate to preserve his “frail anonymity.” He is also wondering whether to seek help from the Eel or whether to face off against Turban Orr himself. When he decides against it, the coin of Oponn can be heard spinning, which would indicate he has entered their game.
Circle Breaker’s life seems so bleak and dangerous! And certainly he is aware of the skills of wizards—so what on earth is his background?
In that room he allowed no place for memories; nothing to mark him in a wizard’s eye or tell the sharp-witted spy-hunter details of his life. In that room, he remained anonymous even to himself.
And then an entertaining and biting conversation between Simtal and Turban Orr. When Rallick assassinated Lim, he made mention of the fact Lady Simtal was bedding two councilmen in order to aid her bid for power, so Orr must be the second—unless there are more that Rallick was not aware of. Which doesn’t seem right considering he has a personal vendetta against Simtal.
This all shows us another example of being dropped right into the middle of a situation: we don’t know anything much about Simtal’s “beloved dispossessed” and we have no idea why Rallick has such a vicious hatred for Simtal (unless he is the dispossessed!). There is also a hint that Simtal is definitely just using Orr:
A hint of contempt had slipped into her tone and she wondered if he’d caught it.
She is relieved when he doesn’t pick up on this contempt, so she clearly still needs him as well. Also, Simtal and Orr have a discussion about Darujhistan being handed to the Malazan Empire for peaceful occupation: Simtal accuses Orr of simply trying to become a Malazan High Fist and using the city to achieve this aim. Simtal is worried about what will happen to the nobility in the event that Darujhistan is handed to the Malazan Empire:
“This Empire devours noble blood.”
Certainly we have seen previously to this that culling has taken place. [Bill’s interjection: And that policy will have oh-so-major consequences in upcoming books.]
What continues to astonish me is the sheer level of detail available in each section. On the face of it we have a discussion between a man and a woman, intimate chat after what appears to be sexual relations. Beneath that, though, Simtal and Orr’s conversation seethes with hidden elements, with little plants ready for future reveals, little throwaway comments, descriptions of the political situation. It is just breathtaking—and this is a mere three pages amongst hundreds. It gets to the point where I am studying every word for all its nuances—and still missing information!
In the very next section we meet Murillio, the “dandy” who is courting Lim’s widow and raising the interest of Lady Simtal. It appears here he is lunching and wooing Orr’s wife—am I right on this? (Ah, reached the end of the section and it looks like Murillio is arranging a little adultery for Gedderone’s Eve with Orr’s wife). Erikson shows us another God here:
“The Wolf Goddess of Winter dies her seasonal death, on a carpet of white, no less.”
Ooh, Murillio is in cahoots with Rallick, Lim’s assassin! It looks as though Murillio doesn’t think much of Rallick:
“Idiot! The man’s face, his hands, his walk, his eyes, all said one thing: killer. Hell, even his wardrobe had all the warmth and vitality of an executioner’s uniform.”
But it looks as though, when we read Rallick’s own section next, that he has been told to make it plain what he is as he strolls through Darujhistan. Rallick has his own worries, apart from his vendetta towards Lady Simtal—he knows the the Malazan Empire does not look fondly on those who practice the assassin’s trade outside of the “secret ranks of the Claw.” The assassins of Darujhistan will either find themselves assimilated or disappeared.
It is interesting to see Crokus’ reaction to his visit to the rooms of the D’Arles daughter:
Yet he’d never before understood the most subtle and hurtful insult his thefts delivered—the invasion and violation of privacy.
Is this the start of a change of heart when it comes to the thievery? We see a little more of the personality of Crokus—he seems so young and idealistic, having the same point of view as his uncle and despising the “pretense so rife in Majesty Hall.”
I sort of get that Crokus, as a thief, will notice all the little details about his surroundings—height of walls, materials of buildings etc—but it feels like so much extraneous information. Either Erikson is deliberately putting in the details for future use, or he enjoys showing off his world and the knowledge he has—could be a little bit of both!
We’re given a little tidbit of information relating to the nature of Darujhistan and High vs. Low society:
It had been a long time since the last High Criminal was hanged, while off in the Gadrobi District the Low Gallows’ ropes were replaced weekly due to stretching. An odd contrast to mark these tense times.
I love the description of Oponn’s coin, with the young man and woman showing the two different faces of Oponn. I also adore the chat in the tavern between Kruppe and Crokus! I’m finally coming round to the wonderfully irreverent humour of Kruppe [Bill’s interjection: Yeah, one more for the team!], which hides his burning curiosity and fierce intelligence. The moment when Crokus declares he is keeping the coin for good luck—“Kruppe looked up, his eyes bright”—I think that this is a side of Kruppe kept mostly hidden. Especially when people see him being garrulous and jovial, and playing to an audience.
Ooh, I do like the fact that we are led to believe the goldsmith Krute is completely genuine, and then we find out it is a front for a Guild passageway—something that Rallick has told Murillio. Another conversation full of meaning and detail follows between Rallick and Murillio: they are both concerned about Kruppe finding out about their plans; they talk about the wraiths in the tower of Hinter (Real? Or is Rallick keeping Murillio out of the tower?) and they seem to start the wheels in motion to setting Crokus up with the D’Arle maiden:
“Turning a thieving child into a man of standing and learning will require more work than a swooning heart will manage.”
I’m interested in knowing why Murillio says of Kruppe:
“All that holds him together is fear of being discovered.”
By whom? [Bill’s interjection: check out my list of throwaway lines.]
Rich symbolism inherent in the scene where Baruk is filling his map with red to show the advance of the Malazan Empire, and then spills his red inkpot and watches “the spreading stain cover Darujhistan and continue south to Catlin.” I like the brief mention of Caladan Brood facing off against the Crimson Guard—I’m guessing we see this in detail in another novel? [Bill’s interjection: We’ll see a lot more of Brood in Erikson’s books and more of the Crimson Guard in, wait for it, Return of the Crimson Guard by Esslemont.]
Kruppe is one of Baruk’s agents! But Baruk doesn’t trust him:
He studied the man, wondering if he would ever catch a glimpse of what lay beyond Kruppe’s cherubic demeanour.
Kruppe’s description of the coin says so much, and reveals his intelligence and knowledge to Baruk to some extent:
“An item,” he said softly, his eyes on the disc, “that passes without provenance, pursued by many who thirst for its cold kiss, on which life and all that lay within life is often gambled. Alone, a beggar’s crown. In great numbers, a king’s folly. Weighted with ruin, yet blood washes from it beneath the lightest rain, and to the next no hint of its cost.”
Baruk knows that Oponn are involved now, and that this will transcend any matters of the city. Baruk wants all his contacts to watch over Crokus, and find out whether the Lady has him, or the Lord.
This chapter moved on apace the story within Darujisthan—giving us a flavour of both the petty politics that the Councilmen are involved in and the magic and gods that are directing the main players. I really like Crokus and I’m starting to feel sorry for him—not only are Rallick and Murillio planning on manipulating him, but his life now belongs to a god (and one that might either push or pull). Kruppe DEFINITELY grew on me; I enjoyed every part of the chapter involving him and his unique style of dialogue. We now move onto Book Three: The Mission.
Bill’s comments on Chapter Seven
Hmm, I wonder, is Kruppe actually arrogant if he can back up what he says? Is he arrogant or merely accurately descriptive?
That is a great scene between Kruppe and K’rul. You’re right to point out Kruppe’s fear (we don’t often hear a “tremor” in his voice), but it also tells us something about him that he remains there and maintains an intelligent conversation. The fact he guesses so quickly and correctly who K’rul was also shows us Kruppe’s sharpness. [Amanda’s interjection: This is something that Erikson does so well, in my opinion—he is definitely in the school of “show, don’t tell.” We are given so many snippets about characters but never overtly told, always shown.]
We also, of course, learn something about K’rul and through him about the gods. As we’ve had reason to believe from prior scenes, they are not omniscient (there is “doubt” in K’rul’s voice—perhaps a parallel to Kruppe’s “tremor”) and they are not aloof from emotion (Kruppe hears the “wistfulness” in Krul’s tone). Their plans can go awry (“The Child Gods have made a grave error”) and they have reason to fear mortal action (one of my favorite recurring themes in the series; I love these mortals taking on the gods).
I think the whole subplot with Crokus and Challice, while it has its plot purposes here, also sets us up for what we’ll see in the future with Crokus. His realization of what he’d done: “He’d come into her room...where innocence didn’t just mean a flower not plucked. Her sanctuary. And he’d despoiled it...his crime against her was tantamount to rape. To have so boldly shattered her world..." prepares us for his response to another young girl we’ve already seen who has experienced such a violation, but worse. And thus the brick-laying continues.
I’m glad you liked Circle Breaker so much, Amanda. He’s one of my favorites in the book because he’s another example of Erikson investing his world with real-life characters rather than disposable action figures (the aforementioned “red shirts”). Just look at the detail we get: the Freeman Privateers, Filman Orras, Dead Man’s Story, the burning deck of a corsair, its belly filling with the sea as it drifted outside the pinnacle fortifications of a city named Broken Jaw. Or as another author might have put it: “the gruff former pirate waited.” I’m also curious (or will be as we go on) where you think these books fall on “don’t reach too far”—as good advice or bad advice? [Amanda’s interjection: Knowing Erikson as I do so far, I suspect it shall fall on both sides of the line. *grin*]
Speaking of throwaway lines, here are a few:
- “He’s a slippery one, is Kruppe.” (Hmmm....)
- “Seek the Awakeners.” (What’s to be awakened and why is it a huge plot point?)
- “Dessembrae be praised.” (Not really a major plot point but a mention of a major historical figure we’ll learn much more about in later books—the fact that he appears early on in this kind of tossed-out phrase gives us a vague sense of familiarity so when we hear more about him we experience a fullness to the world we keep talking about.)
The same is true for Rallick’s description you mentioned of wraiths caught in a “sorcerer’s nightmares.” This particular sorcerer or these particular wraiths won’t play a role, but we’ll see later in the series characters caught in other characters’ nightmares/dreams and so yet again, we’re set up for it in a casual aside. This way, when it happens and actually is a plot point, it doesn’t feel like some arbitrary artificial situation crafted by the author—but rather a natural outgrowth of how things work in this strange world.
And from a casual stroll through the market:
“...the man recognized the dyed lavender twists...two cities to the southeast he knew had been annexed by the Pannion Seer in the last month.”
Park this little tidbit of news from the greater world someplace safe.
“Who’s in charge of road maintenance?”
(Which also makes that closing paragraph oh so funny.)
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.