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 10 and 11 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!
Toc meets Paran and tells him he is a soldier of the 2nd rather than a Claw. Paran tells him Tattersail is on the way to Darujhistan and believes Lorn means to kill Whiskeyjack and his squad, though he doesn’t agree. Toc says Lorn’s mission is well beyond killing Sorry and that the Bridgeburners days are numbered which will lead to mutiny and civil war. Paran decides to go to Darujhistan and Toc says he’ll go with him.
Tattersail is travelling by warren but something is deadening her magic. She finally exits the warren on the Rhivi Plain and finds Bellurdan, sent by Tayschrenn to intercept her. He tells her it was Tool’s Elder magic power that created a magical dead space. Tattersail asks Bellurdan what Tayschrenn sent him to Genabaris for and he tells her it was to seek an ancient Jaghut text Gothos’ Folly to learn about the entombment of a Jaghut tyrant near Darujhistan. She realizes Lorn’s task is to free the Jaghut, but Bellurdan argues they’re most likely trying to prevent that. They ready to fight and Tattersail opens her warren fully withinin the Imass’ area of influence, which consumes her and Bellurdan, though just before doing so she gets an idea from noting her own spell of preservation on the sack Bellurdan still carries with Nightchill’s remains.
Tool and Lorn, from a distance, witness a pillar of fire, a mixture of many warrens. When the fire dies, Tool says its source was destroyed but something also born.
Crone flies into Brood’s camp. Brood wears an enormous hammer reeking of power. They discuss tactics and the power on the Rhivi Plain from last night that all sensed. Crone tells him of Oponn’s meddling and that she knows the Coin Bearer. Brood decides to protect the Coin Bearer and try to prevent a confrontation between Rake and the Empire that would destroy Darujhistan. Brood leaves Kallor in charge, who mutters under his breath that Brood should destroy Rake and that would be his “last warning” to him (Brood does not hear it).
Toc and Paran approach the scene of the fire. They find Tattersail and Bellurdan’s bodies embraced and charred. Toc notes small tracks leading away, tracks that appeared to have been made mostly by bone feet. Paran decides Tattersail’s death was Tayschrenn and Lorn’s doing. As they exit, Toc, as he has before, notes a powerful itch in his blinded eye.
Crone flies over the Rhivi Plain and sees bursts of power. Arriving, she receives a report from another great raven who tells her a shape-shifter puppet arrived on the plain via warren and has killed two ravens. Investigating, she is almost killed by Hairlock’s chaos magic then flies off to inform Rake.
Lorn and Tool watch the interaction between Hairlock and the ravens and Tool tells her whatever creature is using Elder magic (Hairlock), it appears to be tracking them. He tells her a convergence is happening and that power draws power, something the Jaghut and Forkrull Assail knew (the two founding races besides the Imass), though the lesson has escaped the Imass and humanity.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Ten:
Kallor? Who is Kallor? Has he been mentioned before? I guess now is time for another confession in terms of my personal reading habits: I really do have a memory like a sieve. If I have a large cast of characters to deal with, then those of lesser importance or who have only been mentioned a couple of times will be lost. And then I experience moments like this where I can’t be sure whether I’ve already met a character! Frustrating! And certainly makes for numerous re-reads of those long-running fantasy series whenever a new volume comes out so that I am able to follow the action in the new book...
Here I’m guessing that we haven’t yet encountered Kallor—but, hell, I want to! The T’lan Imass are an ancient race yet this guy has been around for countless years more... “I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone on tall thrones.” Just, wow! And how revealing that Caladan Brood is a step above this guy—man, do I want to get to know him properly as well!
Has to be said, so far Gardens of the Moon is both chockful of absolutely stunning, vibrant characters that you just want to read more and more about, and heavy with hints about future characters that will also steal our hearts and fill our thoughts. Erikson’s characterisation is just excellent.
We open with Toc, who is in Pale—again, we join the action which has been occurring in our absence: Toc has received instructions to travel to a particular inn, the Vimkaros Inn. Who instructed him and for what reason will undoubtedly become clear as the chapter progresses, but Erikson likes to keep us thinking just for the moment!
Gosh, I know my head is full of this tale to the point of struggling, because I wondered whether Toc had been in Pale before... Yep, I actually confused Pale and Darujhistan!
“Toc suspected the peace between the two men would not last.” Since Dujek and Tayschrenn have “mutually exclusive responsibilities,” I would assume that Toc’s thought is an understatement.
“The less noticed he made himself the better, as far as he was concerned.” I would assume that, as a Claw, this would be Toc’s constant aim! I’m not sure why even ranking Claws would make themselves known considering their use to the Empire as assassins and spies. Is there a specific reason why they would become known to all and sundry?
Did Toc hear about Paran’s death? If he did, that is one deadpan reaction to seeing Paran alive and well! *grin* And what about Paran’s curious message to Toc—does this have hidden meanings apart from the obvious fact of Paran’s death? “A gentleman will soon join you who has been out of his depth yet not aware of it. He is, now.”
I like the fact that Toc reconfirms his loyalty to the Second Army:
“Tell me, Toc the Younger, am I speaking to a Claw, or to a soldier of the Second?”
Toc’s eye narrowed. “Thay’s a tough question.”
“Is it?” Paran asked, his gaze intense and unwavering.
Toc hesitated, then grinned again. “Hood’s Breath, no, it damn well isn’t! All right, Captain, welcome to the defunct Second, then.”
But I can see—especially when Paran asks questions to him as a Claw—that this could become a very conflicted position for him, with these mixed loyalties.
There is a quick build of trust between Paran and Toc—built, I think, because of their mutual association with Tattersail:
“Captain,” Toc’s expression was grim, “the days of the Bridgeburners are numbered. Whiskeyjack’s name is damn near sacred among Dujek’s men. This is something of which I couldn’t convince the Adjunct—in fact she seems to think the opposite—but if the sergeant and the Bridgeburners are eliminated, this army won’t be pulled back in line, it will mutiny. And the Malazan Empire will be up against High Fist Dujek with not a single commander who can match him. The Genabackan Campaign will disintegrate, and civil war may well sweep into the heart of the Empire.”
I just don’t see two people who don’t trust each other saying anything to this level of detail about the situation in the Malazan Empire.
I like the way that Erikson does tie up some loose-ish ends, or, rather, reveal a few bits that we were mostly sure of: here he shows that Tattersail “distracted” Paran—this romance really is occurring between the lines—and Tattersail let slip that Paran’s connection to Lorn has been severed.
And do you know something that just came to me: Malazan Book of the Fallen reminds me in some ways of Lost. Lots of theories coming through, a few minor plotlines resolved, but the overall arc kept secret until the final denoument. Agree? Disagree?
And we move viewpoints to Tattersail:
“She travelled a Warren of High Thyr and not even Tayschrenn possessed the ability to assail it...”
Is this another indication of just how powerful Tattersail is? “The power that opposed her was pervasive, and it deadened her sorcery.” Lorn? Tool? Hairlock? I have these few names but I’ve been wrong in my theories before!
Here is an indication that something we discussed before might be true—wherever events of chance take place, Oponn might be taking a direct hand in events:
“She entertained once again the suspicion that an outside force had acted upon her, severing her from the Deck. The first distraction had come from Captain Paran, and while it had been pleasant, she reminded herself that Paran belonged to Oponn.”
The fact that she has been separated from her Deck sounds rather ominous—or is she just becoming paranoid, what with the situation?
Ah, it does appear to be Tool’s magic that has affected Tattersail’s Warren:
“The T’lan Imass who accompanies the Adjunct has created around them a dead space. Our sorcery is devoured by the warrior’s Eldering powers.”
Also, is it just me or is Bellurdan really damn creepy? It is chilling the way he says so calmly, if with regret, that he has to kill Tattersail.
Bellurdan also makes an interesting point, which I think we have touched upon in our discussions:
Bellurdan spread his hands wider and said, in a pained voice, “I will never betray you, Tattersail. The High Mage commands both of us. How can there be betrayal?”
We discussed the fact that it is hard to draw up sides in this conflict. After all, technically Paran, Tattersail, Tayschrenn, Dujek, Whiskeyjack, Lorn, even Laseen are all on the same side—all fighting for the might of the Malazan Empire against those externally who would destroy it. So, Bellurdan wouldn’t be betraying Tattersail if Tayschrenn ordered her death for the good of the Empire. But we think he is definitely betraying her. Hard to know where those lines are drawn.
This short exchange between Tattersail and Bellurdan is another one of those confusing ones, with plenty of information given to us but not all of it immediately understandable right now. We speak again of Gothos’ Folly, which has come up a few times previously; we hear that Bellurdan has Jaghut blood, but that Gothos would deny this, we learn of the burial of a Jaghut Tyrant, “a burial that was in fact a prison.” It is not completely clear whether Tattersail is correct about Lorn and Tool heading to the prison to free this Tyrant.
Hmm, neat little foreshadowing:
A spell. My own spell. She recalled now: a gesture of compassion, a spell of... preservation. Is this my way out? Hood’s breath, is it even possible? She thought of Hairlock, the journey from the dying body to a lifeless...vessel. Shedenul, have mercy on us...
Now, is Tattersail thinking of trying the same spell that Quick Ben did to move Hairlock into the puppet? Is she thinking of using Nightchill’s body to reside in? If so, how does she have the power to accomplish this? I thought that the spell was as a result of Elder magic? Curious...
And now we see the reactions of Lorn and Tool, having seen the magical effects of the battle between Tattersail and Bellurdan—it leads to an interesting exchange:
“Do you recognise the Warren, Tool?”
“Warrens, Adjunct. Tellann, Thyr, Denul, D’riss, Tennes, Thelomen Toblakai, Starvald Demelain...”
“Starvald Demelain, what in Hood’s Name is that?”
“I thought there were but three Elder Warrens, and that’s not one of them.”
“Three? No, there were many, Adjunct, all born of one. Starvald Demelain.”
Lorn wrapped her cloak tighter about herself, eyes on the column of fire. “Who could manage such a conjuring?”
“There was one...once. Of worshippers there are none left, so he is no more. I have no answer to your question, Adjunct.”
Is this K’rul, the Elder God who has been awoken, stepping into the fray?
“...the source is indeed destroyed. But something has also been born. I sense it, a new presence.” So is this Tattersail being successful in her rebirth to Nightchill’s body?
And a sinister but intriguing final few words from Tool:
“Life is fire [...] With such words was born the First Empire. The Empire of Imass, the Empire of Humanity.” The warrior turned to the Adjunct. “You’ve done well, my child.”
Finally we meet Caladan Brood face to face—and he seems more burly than I was imagining him to be when I just heard the briefest mentions of him from other characters. He and Crone throw a few names and places at us that we haven’t heard about yet—just goes to show that just when you settle into the characters in the book, Erikson shows he isn’t done with adding in new viewpoints or situations. It is interesting to hear about the Crimson Guard but right now we have no real knowledge about them or allegiance: Erikson is laying those bricks again though:
“Why not drive northward?” Crone asked. “Prince K’azz could liberate the Free Cities over the winter.”
“The Prince and I agree on this,” Brood said. “He stays where he is.”
“Why?” Crone demanded.
Brood grunted. “Our tactics are our business.”
And it does sound as though there is history aplenty between Anomander Rake and Caladan Brood:
“Rake’s disdain for everything beneath him has left us stumbling and flat on our faces one time too many,” Brood said. He glanced at Crone and raised a hairless eyebrow. “You’re scattering my armies. Stop it.”
Crone stopped pacing and squatted. “Once again,” she sighed, “Caladan Brood the Great Warrior seeks the bloodless way. Rake gets that coin and he’ll pull Oponn right in and spit the Lord and Lady on that lovely sword of his. Imagine the chaos that would ensue—a wonderful ripple that could topple gods and deluge realms.”
It seems as though Crone is working for both Rake and Brood, but I’m deeply confused about all of this and a little help wouldn’t go amiss, especially when I read something like:
“If only Rake wasn’t even more stingy than you,” Crone said, as she hopped towards the doorway, “my spying skills would be used on you instead of on him.”
“The freedom that is death, a freedom denied me.” Well, okay, I have to say that I hadn’t considered the implications for Paran about being put back in life by a god—is he now immortal? Can he not die? Feeling more and more sorry for him, especially since he has now lost Tattersail after such a brief snatch of time together. Even if she is still alive, it won’t be in any recognisable form, I wouldn’t have thought.
And Paran is NOT happy!
“...Lorn’s taken her from me, just like she’s taken everything else.” [...] Paran’s hand unconsciously gripped the pommel of his sword. “That heartless bitch has a lot coming to her, and I mean to deliver it.”
Oh, and another hint here that Brood and Rake are not playing well together:
“This was something Anomander Rake must know of, never mind Caladan Brood’s instructions that the Tiste Andii lord be kept ignorant of almost everything.”
To finish Chapter Ten (and Book Three) I’m just going to pull out these sentences which I think will prove enlightening:
“The Adjunct paused to test her shoulder tentatively. It was healing quickly. Perhaps the injury had not been as severe as she’d first thought.”
Bill’s reaction to Chapter Ten:
Ah, Kallor. We’ll learn much, much more about him and his long, long history. He is, by the way, not exaggerating in that opening declaration. And you’ve got to love after all that pompous self-aggrandizement how sharply and concisely Brood takes him down. But as far as this chapter goes, his last few acts/lines tell us a lot about him: recalling his past advice to Brood to betray his ally Anomander Rake, waiting for Brood to leave before saying Brood will “rue” dismissing Kallor’s advice, and his final threat: “consider that my last warning,” only voiced once Brood has gone out of sight.
I have to say as well, it’s when you say “hints about future characters that will also steal our hearts” that I really envy you your first trip through here. Can I get a Beak from anyone? Anyone? Oh, so many great characters you’re going to meet...
Wow, you really want to open that door with Lost? Danger Will Robinson! Danger! I can see how one might make that connection with the complexities of plot and character, and the idea, as you say, of smaller plot lines being resolved while larger ones march onward. But as someone who thought season one of Lost was one of the best single seasons of television in the past few decades (and the next few seasons some of the worst writing on TV), I’ll offer up my opinion that Erikson blows Lost away because he knows where he’s going and how he’s getting there while it quickly became apparent the same was not true of Lost’s writers. I’ll let it rest there (oh, I could rant and rant, believe me), though I’m sure we’ll pick this up in the comments section!
The clue that it was Tool deadening Tattersail’s magic (revealed quickly enough by Bellurdan) is that “mustiness that reminded her of unearthed tombs.” Note too that bricklaying as Bellurdan warns her about what would happen were she to open her warren fully (BTW—this T’lan Imass ability is pretty much limited to GoTM I believe—anyone else?) Also, if you recall, in Chapter Nine Tattersail told Paran that were she to try to open her warren in her then-current state, she’d be “consumed to ashes.”
Another interesting tidbit that gets tossed into the conversation between Tattersail and Bellurdan is that the Jaghut Tyrant (who will play a major role) was imprisoned by other Jaghut, “for such a creature was as abominable to them as it was to Imass.” It’s a line to file away and pull out to mull over every time we hear about the Imass’ “nth” war with the Jaghut from the Imass point of view.
That list of warrens is indeed informative and you’re right, K’rul does involve himself in that birthing, as you’ll see. And Tattersail is reborn as you guessed as well, though not finally into Nightchill’s body.
It’s interesting you read the “fire is life, life is fire” exchange as “sinister” Amanda. I didn’t take it that way at all. I took the “fire is life” aspect, and its relation to the beginning of the First Empire, in the sense of fire as the symbol of civilization (as in Prometheus) with all it brings to the table: the expansion of time (no longer is night unavailable), the expansion of space (no longer does one have to migrate with warmer weather or crouch hiding from predators frightened of fire), the expansion of tool use: fire hardened tools and weapons, alloys, etc. and so on. And the “life is fire” I took as passion, energy, but also quick-burning for humanity. Though thinking about it more I can see “life is fire” as destructive (and Erikson will get into that in later volumes—the way we destroy as we grow or progress) so I guess it can turn sinister.
As for the Crimson Guard, we’ll hear much more of them and see several up close and personal, but the real exploration of them will take place when we look at Esslemont’s Return of the Crimson Guard. A few other lines just to note in that scene with Brood: the powerful “earth magic” bleeding from his command tent while Brood is in it and the description of him as like “a shaping of stone and iron...” both of which don’t tell you much here but prepare you for further information. And you also get a quick note as to how the Malazans are doing against the Guard with a tossed off “entrenchments once held by Malazans and now marking Brood’s front lines.” Finally, note how Brood waits for Crone to be out of sight before calling for Kallor: he and Rake do not get along, to put it mildly.
Paran’s abilities will become more apparent to both reader and Paran himself as he feels his way through what he is and what he will eventually become. With regard to feeling sorry he’s lost Tattersail, you’ve already noted that Tattersail appears to have been reborn, something confirmed by several people: Tool, Toc, Brood. So has Paran really “lost” her? We’ll see...
In his dreamscape, back at the “very beginning of things,” Kruppe meets Pran Chole, a Bonecaster of the Kron Tlan. Pran tells Kruppe that their wars against the Jaghut continue, with the Jaghut dwindling and in retreat; that the Forkrul Assail have vanished, that the K’chain Che’Malle are no more, that the T’lan are over hunting the herds. And also that they are about to perform the Rite of Imass, which will make the mortal T’lan into the undead and near-immortal T’lan Imass.
They are joined by a pregnant Rhivi women who tells them that the Tellann Warren of present day has birthed a child in a confluence of sorceries (Tattersail’s sorcery) and its soul needs a vessel. She says K’rul will help and he is using Kruppe’s dreamscape because Kruppe has somehow made his “soul immune” to interference from the Younger Gods. The child’s soul will be born a Soletaken (shapeshifter), akin to the T’lan Imass bonecasters. Tattersail appears in a horribly wrecked body and is informed of what they will attempt. K’rul appears and advises Kruppe that what the Malazans want isn’t necessarily clear and also warns Kruppe that Lorn and Tool approach the city with “destructive” purposes and that Kruppe should seek knowledge of them but not directly oppose them as others will do so. Tattersail is reborn via the Rhivi woman and when Pran bemoans that he won’t see the child grown to womanhood, K’rul tells him he will, in 300,000 years.
Kruppe hears a Malazan curse from the roadworkers outside of Baruk’s home.
Sorry tells Whiskeyjack that Kruppe, now walking away, is “vital” and possibly a Seer. The Malazans continue to plant mines under the roads as Whiskeyjack thinks about Sorry’s eeriness, her cold murderousness and feeling of being “old” and then thinks as well how she is a mirror to what he feels himself becoming—inhuman. He tries to hold up against despair for his men.
Crokus visits his uncle Mammot, who is writing a history of Darujhistan. Mammot tells him of the battles between the Jaghut and Imass and that a Jaghut’s barrow is rumored to lie in the hills near Darujhistan.
Sorry, following Kruppe, tries to get hold of herself after Whiskeyjack’s use of the word “Seer” had blossomed in her head, awakening a presence that is now losing a battle inside her, to the sound of a child weeping. She names herself “Cotillion” and soon buries the other presence, then continues after Kruppe, whom she considers dangerous, and, “all that is dangerous, she told herself, must die.”
Kruppe wanders the market casting spells to steal food, then enters the Phoenix Inn.
Sorry kills a sort of lookout outside the Inn then goes inside.
Crokus finds the dead body.
Crokus enters and tells everyone of the murder. He figures out Sorry did it as Sorry figures out he’s the Coinbearer (when he pays for his ale).
Kalam meets Quick Ben and tells him he’s had no luck contacting the local assassins who have gone to ground. They discuss a plan of Quick Ben’s that will attempt to get a lot of Ascendants involved, though that’s usually something to avoid at all costs.
Kruppe, Crokus, Coll, Rallick, and Murillio are together at the Inn and they discuss rumors of an alliance with Moon’s Spawn and that it is home to “five black dragons.”
Quick Ben travels via warren to Shadowthrone’s realm and hears the baying of Hounds.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Eleven:
The little poem by Ibares the Hag seems to be fairly clear, highlighting Oponn. If this is true, and I haven’t been tripped up by alternative meanings, then I must reflect on how far I’ve come in 350 odd pages. We’re pretty much at the halfway stage of Gardens of the Moon at the start of Chapter Eleven, and my initial gropings towards meanings at poems near the beginning of the novel were meagre stabs in the dark. Now, at least, I am able to make a better stab at what is being spoken about—and, I have to say, I wouldn’t have this base of knowledge if I had read the book at my normal reading speed without pausing to ponder and make comments.
Having stated that so proudly, the second poem defeats me! The mention of the masons reminds me of the Deck that Tattersail did, though.
And we kick the new book and the new chapter off with another visit to Kruppe on one of his dreams. “He held his hands over the flickering, undying hearth that had been stoked by an Elder God. It seemed an odd gift, but he sensed a significance to it.” And he doesn’t like not knowing the significance!
I might be wrong here, but I think that each time Kruppe enters the dream the sky is showing a different flux of colour, this time a green “almost luminescent though no moon had risen to challenge the stars.” I wonder whether this reflects the new players in the game, or Warren colours—it is definitely related to magic and to the situation in Darujhistan. It also sounds as though Kruppe enters the dream without conscious choice.
Kruppe has indeed traveled far in this dream, which is being used by K’rul. We learn that Kruppe’s mind is unassailable by the younger gods; I think this amply demonstrates his power. He has traveled “To the beginning and to the end...” to a place where he meets a member of the Tlan race which became the T’lan Imass:
“We are the Tlan, but soon the Gathering comes, and so shall be voiced the Rite of Imass and the Choosing of the Bone Casters, and then shall come the sundering of flesh, of time itself. With the Gathering shall be born the T’lan Imass, and the First Empire.”
So the Tlan chose to become the Undead warriors? Although in the previous chapter, Lorn mused a little on the T’lan Imass:
Before meeting Tool she had generally thought of them as undead, hence without a soul, the flesh alone animated by some external thought. But now she wasn’t so sure.
“You would make of this child, born of Imass powers, a Soletaken.” They have to be talking about Tattersail—it appears that K’rul has now stepped in to ensure that Tattersail achieves some sort of humanity again, even as a shapeshifter.
Ha, I love the gentle humour of Kruppe’s sections—as where he congratulates himself on his charms, since he manages to encourage the abomination to follow him!
An explanation of sorts:
“Within you is the past,” Pran said. “My world. You know the present, and the Rhivi offers you to the future. In this place all is merged. The flesh you wear has upon it a spell of preservation, and in your dying act you opened your Warren within the influence of Tellann. And now you wander within a mortal’s dream. Kruppe is the vessel of change. Permit us to aid you.”
In recompense for using him, K’rul offers Kruppe knowledge. But how much does K’rul know, having been only recently reborn? Is the knowledge that he offers going to be biased, so that it will achieve the aims he has?
I absolutely love the exchanges between Kruppe and K’rul actually—they are vibrant and humorous. I like this response to where Kruppe asks how much Tattersail will remember of her previous life:
“Unknown,” K’rul replied. “Soul-shifting is a delicate thing. The woman was consumed in a conflagration. Her soul’s first flight was carried on wings of pain and violence. More, she entered another ravaged body, bearing its own traumas. The child that is born will be like no other ever seen. Its life is a mystery, Kruppe.”
I notice that the white fox tattoo has gone, and the child is birthed “furred in silver,” although “the fur sloughed away.”
Oh, and this little discussion is simply priceless!
“I am saddened,” Pran said, “that I may not return in twenty years to see the woman this child shall become.”
“You shall,” K’rul said in a low tone, “but not as a T’lan. As a T’lan Imass Bone Caster.”
The breath hissed between Pran’s teeth. “How long?” he asked.
“Three hundred thousand years, Pran Chole of Cannig Tol’s Clan.”
Kruppe laid a hand on Pran’s arm. “You’ve something to look forward to,” he said.
[Bill’s interjection: He knows when to leaven scenes with humor, for sure.] Brilliant! And also adds mystery to the link between the Tlan (or T’lan—it was spelled both ways in this section; guess that might be a GotMism, and corrected in future editions) and the T’lan Imass. It seems as though T’lan from the past are drawn through to the future to become T’lan Imass. Am I way out? [Bill’s interjection: Yes if you think that’s why they’re still around hundreds of thousands of years later—that they were “drawn through” as in “brought forward”—they have lived through all those years.]
And terrible puns! “For a time there, Oponn’s power had waxed considerably.”
*grins* I finally get all your sniggers [Bill’s interjection: Nice sniggers, though!] about who is mending the road against Baruk’s residence. And I confess to feeling rather silly for not realising sooner—but the timelines are slightly off, being as we saw the Bridgeburners ready to enter Darujhistan after we’d seen Baruk thinking about the road workers. Is this usual? This loose attitude to timelines?
Although Sorry is aware of many things, she seems to have misread the sheer importance of Kruppe: “No. He works for the alchemist. Not a servant. A spy, perhaps. His skills involve thievery, and he possesses...talent.” He might have this attributes, but he is also so much more than this. And why does Sorry fear Seers so badly? [Bill’s interjection: If you remember when Sorry was possessed, the woman with her was a seer. A question to ask is whether her response to seers is Sorry’s or Dancer’s.]
Dear God, I do love the Bridgeburners—so funny!
Trotts was swinging his pick as if on a battlefield. Stones flew everywhere. Passers-by ducked, and cursed when ducking failed. Hedge and Fiddler crouched behind a wheelbarrow, flinching each time the Barghast’s pick struck the street.
This and the remainder of the same passage is just so endearing.
Sentences like this actually strike me as a little bit clumsy for Steven Erikson—I expect to see this sort of heavy hint from a lesser author who doesn’t have as much careful consideration for their words:
“Something nagged at the back of Whiskeyjack’s mind but he dismissed it.”
I mean, we’re not given anything else—I don’t think—to even start guessing at what this must be, and it makes it too obvious a pointer that we need to watch out for this.
Ha, how cool are the Bridgeburners as well:
“Planting mines ain’t going to be easy,” Fiddler had pointed out, “so we do it right in front of everyone’s nose. Road repairs.”
Whiskeyjack shook his head. True to Fiddler’s prediction, no one had yet questioned them.
I love hearing about characters from the perspective of other characters—particularly someone as mysterious and chilling as Sorry. Here are Whiskeyjack’s thoughts:
He could look at her and part of him would say: “Young, not displeasing to the eye, a confidence that makes her magnetic.” While another part of his mind snapped shut. Young? He’d hear his own harsh, pained laugh. Oh, no, not this lass. She’s old. She walked under a blood-red moon in the dawn of time, did this one.
Whiskeyjack’s terror is almost palpable. What occurs to me is this is the first time we’ve really heard anything about Sorry’s appearance since she was a poor fishergirl, and the fact that she is alright to look at sits uneasily with the fact she is possessed. I can’t even comprehend her looking nice. It is the nature of evil that it should be cloaked and hooded and walk in shadows, obviously, otherwise how would we ever be able to identify it? *laughs*
Wow, Whiskeyjack is falling apart at the seams here: seeing in Sorry a reflection of his soul, since he will be sending people to their deaths. I really feel for him, because he is in reality worlds away from Sorry—he feels, he cares, he knows he has to earn and keep the trust of his squad.
When he had looked upon Sorry at Greydog, the source of his horror lay in the unveiling of what he was becoming: a killer stripped of remorse [...] In the empty eyes of this child, he’d seen the withering of his own soul. [...] And yet his friends might die - there, he’d finally called them what they were [...] The roll-call of shattered lives seemed unending.
We’ve already seen numerous examples of these shattered lives: Sorry herself, Lorn, Tattersail, Paran, virtually everyone we’ve met in Gardens of the Moon has been damaged by the course of war.
These headaches of Whiskeyjack’s—due to stress, or because of something more supernatural?
Mammot has a flying monkey! How could I have missed that before? Actually, it occurs to me that, despite the world-building being pretty strong, we’re not hearing much about the flora and fauna of the Malazan Empire and surrounding places. I quite like this, find it refreshing—in other fantasy series, we stop and observe (along with the characters) interesting animals and birds that they would have encountered many times, but regard in detail so that the author can lovingly describe them.
This is a rather cute piece of writing:
Mammot leaned forward and poured tea. “Lad, a thief must be sure of one thing—his concentration. Distractions are dangerous.”
Crokus glanced up at his uncle. “What have you been writing all these years?” he asked suddenly, gesturing at the desk.
Surprised, Mammot picked up his cup and sat back.
A real neat little distraction from Crokus towards his uncle there!
Darujhistan was “born on a rumour” which is an intriguing way to say it. Turns out that Darujhistan came into being thanks to people searching for the lost Jaghut barrow—the same one, presumably, that Lorn is now heading for. So, if the barrow wasn’t found all that long time ago now, what makes Lorn think that she can find it? What extra knowledge does she have? The information from Tayschrenn? The presence of Tool? [Bill’s interjection: Yes and yes.]
“So the Krussail vanished, the Jhag were defeated. What happened to the third people, then? The ones who won? Why aren’t they here instead of us?”
Mammot opened his mouth to reply, then stopped, reconsidering.
Crokus’s eyes narrowed. He wondered what Mammot had been about to reveal, and why he’d chosen not to reveal it.
Mammot set down his cup. “No one is certain what happened to them, Crokus, or how they became what they are today. They exist, sort of, and are known, to all who have faced the Malazan Empire, as the T’lan Imass.”
Handy little potted history—although I suspect this isn’t the full story [Bill’s interjection: Ohhh no], and probably doesn’t tell us what really happened from the perspective of each race. I’d like to know whether Mammot actually said what he’d thought about originally, or if his reconsideration brought about different words.
Poor Sorry! For the first time we’re given a slight insight into what it must feel like to have so many conflicting characters in her head:
“I am Cotillion,” she heard herself murmur, “Patron of Assassins, known to all as the Rope of Shadow.” The weeping grew fainter.
“The Seer is dead.”
A part of her mind cried out at that, while another asked, What seer?
What a fantastic passage showing the colour and cultures clashing in Darujhistan! I enjoyed reading the descriptions—you can almost smell the marketplace, see the livestock being sold, hear the cacophony of noise. And then we see Kruppe performing his own particular brand of magic, which amuses me no end. So often we see mighty mages using their powers during titanic struggles. And here instead we see a rotund little man stealing food. *grin* And then immediately we are forced to once again reassess Kruppe and remind ourselves that he is far more than meets the eye:
The fat little man was a wonder. She’d seen enough of his exquisite ballet to recognise him as an Adept. Yet she felt confused, for the mind behind the man’s facade hinted at capacities far greater then those he’d shown.
Gosh, it is shocking how easily Sorry kills the guard at the Phoenix Inn. [Bill’s interjection: ’Course, it helps soften our reaction that he is planning on raping her.]
Who are Meese and Irilta really? Why are they so keen to help Sorry? Will I ever get past this feeling that every new character introduced is much more than what they originally seem?
Alright, so this style of reread makes me frustrated at times—where I’m sure if I was just reading without taking notes it would feel much smoother. Like here, for example, I noted the fact that Crokus eyes Sorry and then his face whitens as his gaze moves down her body, but wasn’t really sure why until approximately seven paragraphs and another page later where it is revealed that he has seen the blood on her hands. So, you must excuse me, if sometimes I mention items where you know for sure that a couple of pages later it will all be revealed, but I will try to keep them to a minimum!
“A likely lad,” Meese said. “Me and Irilta, we look out for him, right?”
Sorry leaned against the bar, her eyes on the tankard in her hand. She’d have to play this very carefully. That burst of Shadow sorcery, responding to the Coin’s influence, had been entirely instinctive.
“Right, Meese,” she said. “No worries on that count. OK?”
And here we have Meese threatening Sorry as well—either Meese has no idea who Sorry is, or knows who Sorry is and doesn’t care—I really am curious about this little duo now...
We stop briefly with Quick Ben and Kalam as they try to search out assassins—we’re obviously seeing the fallout here of the fact that assassins have been dying to an unknown source in Darujhistan; (not so unknown if you remember they dropped from above) those remaining are now hiding. It is amusing to me that the Daru assassins wonder if they’re being taken out by members of the Claw, while Quick Ben and Kalam think that the City Council might be behind it.
Wow, Quick Ben’s plan seems to involve drawing the sharks deliberately—he says: “The more Ascendants we can lure into the fray the better.”
“Five black dragons!” In Moon Spawn? How does Coll know? Bring on the dragons!
Bill’s reaction to Chapter Eleven:
You’re right the first poem deals with the coin of Oponn, but it also has some play on words with Crokus’ dream to get “Chalice”—a noblewoman “made for gems” (which Crokus is not).
Away for a moment from the interpretation/analysis aspect of these posts and just a note on Erikson’s writing craft, something we don’t want to just put aside in favor of plot/meaning. You’ll see a lot of times when Erikson moves us fluidly from chapter to chapter or scene to scene by repetition of images or language. As here, where we move from Chapter Ten with the lines “fire is life/life is fire” hanging in our heads to Kruppe holding his hands over a “gift” of fire. I’m not sure a reader picks up on these consciously, but I like to think they smooth and enhance the reading on a subconscious level. A page later, of course, we get the blatant literal repetition as Pran Chole repeats the fire/life lines.
Other times, more I think for emphasis of plot/theme rather than for structural fluidity/cohesiveness, we get more direct repetition, as when Pran Chole repeats the fire/life lines or K’rul warns Kruppe that “power attracts power,” an almost exact mirror of Tool’s words to Lorn a few pages back and Quick Ben’s (“power draws power”) a few pages later. “Convergence” will be emphasized again and again (you know, until we finally get a, well, convergence).
And then, in the usual fashion, the accretion of more detail with regard to back history (in this case on the elder races); sometimes we get more knowledge and sometimes we just get reminded of details so they don’t end up so far in the reading background that we completely forget them.
I think that while we often hear how “difficult” Erikson is, this chapter shows us that perhaps what we call “difficult” or “complex” is in many places merely our own impatience. A common technique (albeit perhaps not common enough for some) in the books is a full explanation coming shortly after something that had been previously wholly mysterious: what happened to Tattersail, for example, is answered in this chapter in quite clear, expository fashion. I wonder if in recalling books we read so long ago we forget how so many “frustrating mysteries” or “WTF Just Happened” are so clearly and quickly resolved. BTW, mixed into that explanation regarding Tattersail are a few hints of upcoming reveals: Pran Chole telling the others when he looks at Tattersail, “I see the effects of the Imass upon her. But there is more” and then later, “the child drew from me power beyond my control.”
I agree with you Amanda on the clumsiness of that Whiskeyjack line: “something nagged at the back of Whiskeyjack’s mind but he dismissed it.” You actually do have all the information you need to figure it out, but the line doesn’t add anything to that info save that it has to do with their plans, which we’re already seeing in action. So it’s not merely superfluous, but intrusive. I felt the scene with Baruk and Crokus sometime later in the chapter is equally clumsy, though for different reasons. I’m always leery of “lecture” scenes, where one character suddenly feels the sudden need to “instruct” another character i.e. the reader and this scene felt a bit forced to me.
But those annoyances are swept away by that powerful scene inside Whiskeyjack’s head as we bear witness to his grief, strength, sacrifice, and the stakes at hand. Beyond our further bonding with WJ the character, through him, again, Erikson refuses to let the reader distance him/herself from the deaths that will ensue in this series. And not just from the singular deaths but the ripples that spread outward from those deaths—every literal death resulting in a series of little metaphorical deaths; every life lost resulting in less of a life for the survivors: the wives, husbands, children, parents.
The scene inside Sorry’s head fills in a bit more on the earlier question you asked, Amanda, about why she is so afraid of seers. And how heartbreaking is that “weeping of a child”? Made more heartbreaking by it being heard only “faintly.” (Erikson uses children in powerful fashion throughout the series and it never feels exploitative or manipulative). Think too of how her battle here echoes so many other characters. Her self is utterly subsumed by Cotillion in this scene, similar to how Lorn subsumes herself into the Adjunct, how Whiskeyjack walks the edge of loss of self into Sergeant, how Tool and the T’lan Imass subsume themselves into vengeance: so many battles of inner selves being waged and it’s not always clear who wins and who loses, or even what constitutes victory and loss.
One of my favorite parts of that scene with Crokus and Sorry in the bar is Crokus looking at Sorry and being reminded of the time when, as a young boy, he watched a troop of mercenaries ride through, echoing Sorry’s own similar moment.
I love the description of Quick Ben in the warren and entering Shadowthrone’s realm, but I’m not sure we see anything like it in later versions of warren travel. And how about that close: the howling of Hounds...
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.