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 8 and 9 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!
Whiskeyjack and the others have been deposited and armed w/ munitions by the Moranth, who seem to approve of the Bridgeburners, though they recognize the corruption within the Empire. Whiskeyjack tells the squad they’re dropping the Empress’ plan for conquering the city of Darujhistan since it appeared intended to get the Bridgeburners killed, and that they will be following his own plan instead.
Quick Ben meets Hairlock within the warren. Hairlock, who is growing more independent, more powerful, and less sane from his use of Chaos, tells him of the Hound’s attack, Tattersail’s injury, and that Paran’s strange ability to wound the Hound implies the meddling of god(s).
Quick Ben proposes something, which leaves both Whiskeyjack and Kalam “shaken.”
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Eight:
Boy, am I lucky?! Two poems at the start of Book Three... *grimaces*
Tackling them one by one... The first by Theny Bule, which is not a name I can recall from prior to this. The idea of marionettes being used by masterful hands does bring to mind all of our characters being manipulated by gods. The dancer trying to stay free of the marionettes is being tangled in the schemes regardless.
The second poem is another by Toc the Younger (whose work featured at the start of Chapter Four as well). Okay, I’m not completely sure on who is being written about in the poem, but I’m thinking the two candidates are either Whiskeyjack or Dujek Onearm. The poem talks about the assassination of Kellanved and Dancer by Laseen (“...in her foul cleansing”). Ah, I believe this is almost certainly about Whiskeyjack now: “...and so in stepping down but not away...” Basically he is still in Laseen’s view and so remains a prick against her conscience. I’m not sure about the last few words, “...and damned its reawakening...” but I’m sure it will begin to come clear.
We’re back with the Bridgeburners—yay! They’ve arrived on the far side of the lake to that of Daru, but can see the glow of the city—this is particularly lovely descriptive work. The glow of Daru has been mentioned before, but each time I hear about it I see the most wonderfully vivid picture in my mind of what it must look like—especially on the shore of a misty lake.
I am also discovering myself to be so suspicious of every random line now, especially after missing the wax on the coin and the true nature of Murillio and Rallick’s relationship in the last chapter! So here I read the line, “...the Quorl tossed about in the midst of three warring thunderheads” and wonder if the storm was natural. It amuses me anyway to imagine that the Bridgeburners are caught between three warring factions—the thunderheads therefore being a representation of the situation they find themselves in! Am I reading too much? Almost definitely, at this stage. *grin* [Bill’s interjection: Ahh, now he’s got you!]
We learn that the Green Moranth have delivered on their munitions promise—in fact, provided more than expected for the sappers to use. Whiskeyjack is curious as to why, and it seems as though the Moranth are fine with providing munitions to causes that they agree with. The Moranth are aware that Whiskeyjack and his squad are fighting against the Empress and state that “from the Moranth, assistance will never be scarce.”
I am wondering about two things right now. One, when Whiskeyjack was given his Moranth name Bird That Steals, and two, what that actually means. I am guessing it came about in Nathilog when Whiskeyjack fought by the side of the Moranth warrior with one arm? People with one arm are becoming a little theme! We have this Moranth chap, Dujek Onearm and Sorry’s fisherman dad. I would be thinking one and all of them were connected, were it not for the Moranth being of alien features compared to humans. Mind you, the Moranth wear helmets and armour—maybe they are human behind them... Whiskeyjack does seem incredibly relieved that this former colleague of his survived—I guess we’ll encounter him at some point.
The Moranth judge people by their actions—which is why they’re prepared to help Whiskeyjack’s squad and also why they culled 18,739 people during the fall of Pale (an eye for an eye style of vengeance writ large). Just as an aside, when I see eighteen thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine souls written out like that, I find it much harder to comprehend the sheer scale of deaths caused for vengeance. Writing it as 18,739 brought the scope of it home to me that much faster. Do any of you experience that with numbers?
“There are worms within your empire’s flesh. But such degradation is natural in all bodies. Your people’s infection is not yet fatal. It can be scoured clean. The Moranth are skilled at such efforts.”
I don’t know whether Whiskeyjack is appalled by the suggestion that the Moranth can aid in the scouring that would be involved in cleaning the empire of those corrupting it, or whether he is trying to decide how to include it in his plan. It does mention the “ice tingling along his spine” so I suspect he is not yet so ruthless.
Bah, every little glance seems to represent something. Now that I realise how carefully Erikson chooses words (such as calling Kruppe the slippery one) I am left wondering about everything. Such as when Whiskeyjack explains to his squad that they will not be sticking to the Empress’ plan, and this happens:
“We ain’t going to mine the city gates?” Fiddler asked, glancing at Hedge.
Why does Fiddler glance at Hedge? Why doesn’t he glance at Kalam? What does the glance mean? Maybe it is merely because they are the two sappers and the change in plan will directly affect them, since they are involved in the exploding of whatever needs to be exploded? However, the fact that Erikson put it in there suggests it is weighty with meaning, but I’m not sure what it is!
Again, the fact that Sorry is disliked and suspected by Whiskeyjack and his squad is put across strongly. Whiskeyjack hesitates before putting her with Kalam and Quick Ben, then mutters an oath under his breath when she smiles mockingly at him. She is really creating tension in a situation where tension already exists one-thousand-fold.
The last line of Whiskeyjack’s, “All right, everyone listen and pay attention, or we won’t come out of this alive...” shows that the plan is absolutely fraught with danger, since they are still going into Daru to cause upset, but that the Empress will soon be onto them as well, since the plan has changed. Poor Bridgeburners!
We then join Quick Ben as he performs a ritual that appears to bring the bound Hairlock to him—or him to Hairlock. Erikson writes the ritual slickly and cleanly, so that I am able to imagine exactly how Quick Ben ties the gut around the sticks. This is not the first time I have admired how efficient Erikson’s style is.
The encounter between Hairlock and Quick Ben is heavy with unspoken menace and filled with those lines that I feel I ought to be able to grasp but still can’t quite get the measure of. Hairlock is proceeding ever deeper into the warren of Chaos, and his appearance is becoming ever more disreputable as he becomes corrupted:
“...his wooden body smeared and scorched, the doll’s clothing ripped and frayed.”
I don’t know what relevance the Spar of Andii has, but its similarity to Tiste Andii makes me wonder if there is a connection.
We also learn that Quick Ben has been in the warren of Chaos before! (One of his many warrens, I am beginning to wonder...?) He knows enough to offer Hairlock the threat of “creatures who call this realm home.”
I know that Quick Ben performed the spell that put Hairlock into the puppet’s form, but even so this exchange had more meaning than I completely understood:
“You are my protector,” Hairlock snapped. “I’m bound to you, Wizard! The responsibility is yours, nor will I hide the fact if I am taken.”
“Bound to me, indeed.” Quick Ben lowered himself to his haunches. “Good to hear your memory’s come back.”
Hairlock reveals that Tattersail is recovering from her encounter with the Hound Gear, but that now she (and the Bridgeburners) are under suspicion from Tayschrenn. He is also outraged that Quick Ben must have known that gods had entered the game. His raving to himself while Quick Ben listens is harsh and mad—and warns Quick Ben that Hairlock has the strength to break the strings of control attached to him.
“The wizard knew what he’d have to do—Hairlock had given it to him, in fact. Still, Quick Ben wasn’t looking forward to it.”
The fact he thinks about Gear suggests the Hound is connected to what he has to do—if not, then I have no inkling. Just another of those occasions where I am uncertain if I am meant to still be in the dark or whether I have been handed the various tiny pieces of the puzzle and I have just been unable to piece them together.
It seems as though Whiskeyjack’s plan really is one bred of desperation:
“The expressions arrayed around him were sober, eyes downcast or fixed elsewhere, closed into some personal, private place where swam the heaviest thoughts.”
And hmm...Whiskeyjack thinks of Sorry so clearly, “...wondered who was doing the approving within those eyes,” he suspects she is being ridden, but also doesn’t want to believe that of her.
He is not the only member of the squad starting to express true doubts about Sorry:
Kalam grunted. “Since when does the girl know about fishing?”
The sergeant sighed. “I know. Came out of nowhere, didn’t it?”
I also find myself laughing at the exchange since, for once, we, the reader, actually know more than the characters in the book at this point i.e. the fact that Sorry does have some knowledge of fishing!
And this exchange is just loaded with meaning and I am positively aching to find out what is going on:
Quick Ben reached the dome of rock. Both men fell silent at seeing his expression.
“I’m about to propose something you’re going to hate,” the wizard said.
“Let’s hear it,” Whiskeyjack replied, in a voice empty of feeling.
Ten minutes later the three men arrived on the slick pebbled beach, both Whiskeyjack and Kalam looking shaken.
WHAT did Quick Ben propose, that even jaded Bridgeburners look shaken?!
And then after that shocking pronouncement, we have one of those moments of soldier humour, where members of the squad play jokes on each other—even while waiting to begin a mission which could cost them their lives.
Bill’s Comments on Chapter Eight:
That first poem you’ve pretty much covered, though I’ll just add that the gods themselves aren’t free of being manipulated by “masterly hands” and that I also like how it works literally as well, with the focus on Hairlock this chapter. Oh, and the First Sword was Daseem Ultor, of whom we will hear/see more, here and also in Esslemont’s books.
I’m with you, Amanda, that the second poem deals with Whiskeyjack and that he is indeed the prick against Laseen’s conscience, as well as a literal threat to her rule as he’s beloved by an army (never a good thing from an emperor’s point of view). My take on those last few lines is that what he “surrendered” was a sense of human connection. That as leader, he tried to see the soldiers as pieces on a board and not as real men and women with whom he had true human bonds of friendship. That sense of friendship I think is reawakened in him and why he “damns” it is due to the accordant pain that comes from sending those you care about into danger and death.
We will indeed see that one-armed Moranth again, and this is just another example of the careful brick-laying that Erikson does, introducing a character in small asides so the character becomes a thread woven into the tapestry of the story, rather than something just dropped onto the fabric later for emotional effect. We’ll also learn more about the Moranth (and that armor) in later books—that is another aspect I like about this series, that we learn a lot as the characters do.
A few of you have written about the cinematic aspects of GoTM, and that close to the first section with Whiskeyjack gathering them around and saying “All right, everyone listen and pay attention or we won’t come out of this alive . . . “ reminds me of those classic sort of movie scenes where the characters huddle together while one relays the oh-so-important plan and the volume drops so the viewer can’t hear and we zoom out or fade away to let the plan be revealed as it happens later.
I’ll confess to ignorance Amanda, on the Spar of Andii. It does seem that it holds some weight, but I’m not sure what that is. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been revealed yet in GoTM, however, so don’t feel bad about that. This scene is another of those cinematic ones—the background, the spar, the black flames lighting Hairlock’s eyes, the billowing yellow clouds—all combine for an arresting visual.
That tension you mention between Quick Ben and Hairlock is so strong in this scene—a running theme throughout the series: the tense alliances wherein everyone is working for their own desires within the larger shared goal, not everyone likes everyone, and some would be happy to kill another. Everyone wants to make a tool of someone else but half the time it’s like you’re using a chainsaw as a tool, but that chainsaw is sentient and would be just as happy to slice through your arm as much as through that tree branch you’re trying to use it on. [Amanda’s interjection: Haha, I have a picture of Ash from the Evil Dead movies in my head now!] Or, as Hairlock says, the tool can be grabbed by another and “turned against” its original user—another theme we’ll see played out again and again, including later in this book. I think those lines you quoted about Hairlock being “bound” to Quick Ben is Hairlock threatening Ben, saying if he’s caught he’ll rat Quick Ben with no qualms.
This conversation is also another example of how perspective is an issue: Hairlock says Tayschrenn wants the squad dead, but is his information correct? Do we know if he’s even telling the truth?
As for Quick Ben’s plan, one hint is that face associated with Gear: what is Gear and who is associated with him? [Amanda’s interjection: Hmm, this could be to do with Ammanas—or maybe Paran, because of that whole snarling like a dog thing you brought up in a previous commentary?]
And yes, from tension and menace and terror into comic relief—thank god for the humor in these books.
Toc the Younger is three days out from Pale on the Rhivi Plain looking for Adjunct Lorn. He comes across a group of Malazan Marine elites killed by a group of Barghast (a clans-based people from far away who fought with the Crimson Guard against the Empire). He finds the corpse of the Barghast shaman who had led them (Lorn has a reputation for being tough on magic-users which turns out to be thanks to her sword made of Otataral, a substance that “kills” magic save for “Elder” magic) and then follows the tracks away.
Lorn and the two remaining marines make their stand on an ancient barrow. The marines are killed but Lorn is rescued by the T’lan Imass Tool and Toc, whose father she knew before he disappeared after the Emperor’s death). As they leave, Tool tells Lorn the barrow “yielded a truth.”
Tattersail awakes and she and Paran discuss what happened: that a god intervened to bring him back, that Whiskeyjack needs to know his assassin, that the coin has stopped spinning, that Paran is being used, that Hairlock wants both of them dead.
Toc and Lorn arrive in Pale. Toc tells her that rumor is that the Bridgeburners will be disbanded, which will be trouble. She recognizes the army is on edge of revolt. She and Dujek meet and he informs her Tayschrenn has ordered a more-than-usually-severe culling of the nobles and that he (Dujek) has had several attempts on his life. Lorn wonders why the Empress/Tayschrenn seem to be pushing him into rebellion, especially as their homeland is on the verge of the same. Dujek and Lorn agree the Moranth alliance with the Empire seems tenuous. Lorn tells Tayschrenn to lay off Dujek, that he and a handful are the only exceptions to the general idea that the “old guard” of the Emperor must die. Tayschrenn tells Lorn Oponn is meddling in Darujhistan, that he suspects Whiskeyjack and Tattersail of being in league, and that Paran is likely dead though not passed through Hood’s Gate yet. The section closes with Lorn recalling bad history with Tattersail in Mock City nine years earlier during the cleansing of the Mouse quarter.
Tattersail muses on several topics:
- She’s glad she missed the chaos and death in Pale, a scene she’s seen before.
- That the Empire would soon turn Pale’s past rulers into “demons.”
- She hopes, to her surprise, that Whiskeyjack and the others find their way free of Empire.
- The mutual attraction between her and Paran.
She’s invited to a dinner with Dujek, Lorn, Tayschrenn, and Toc and learns from Paran’s reaction that he’s working for Lorn.
The dinner. Lorn informs Tattersail that when Lorn was eleven, she was in the Mouse Quarter when Tattersail and the other mages purged it and that her mother, father, and brother died afterward. Lorn tells Dujek that Tattersail’s cadre of mages was sent into the Old City to cleanse it of magic-users, but they were “indiscriminate.” Tattersail replies it was their first command and they lost control and that she resigned as an officer the next day, but that if the Adjunct wishes to execute her, she’d accept it as just penalty. Lorn says fine but Dujek says no, especially as the list of far too great of those who’ve committed crimes in the Empire’s name. He then tells them he’d gone down to reign in the mages at Whiskeyjack’s command. Tayschrenn tells Lorn the minute she became Adjunct her personhood as Lorn, as that young girl, ceased to exist. Toc thinks to himself as he saw the Adjunct slow acceptance, that he had witnessed an execution.
Tattersail informs them Oponn and Shadowthrone are in the fray over Darujhistan but lies about why the Hound was in her room. Toc notes the lie but doesn’t rat her out, paying back the times the mage cadre had taken so much for the lives of the 2nd Army.
Tattersail thinks of how she’s changed since that night in the Mouse Quarter and how she’d been given a second chance. Paran relays a message from Hairlock that Lorn arrived with a T’lan Imass and that Hairlock would track the two of them when they left Pale. Paran confesses to her his mission to find Sorry, though she suspects there is more to the Adjuncts arrival than the hunt for Sorry, that the plan was to kill Whiskeyjack and his squad. She worries Hairlock knows more than he said and decides she needs to warn Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben about him and the Adjunct. She also tells Paran that she will leave what happens to Sorry up to Whiskeyjack. The two of them sleep together.
Lorn and Tool leave Pale. Tool informs her the T’lan Imass legions left Seven Cities after the conquest to exterminate a group of Jaghut. He alone survived among his clan and thus is “unbound.” He tells her like all the Imass, he knelt before the Emperor before the First Throne, that Dancer had been with the Emperor, and that the Logros Imass gathered minds and performed a binding, part of which entails not being able to disclose where the First Throne is. He also informs her that the Kron T’lan Imass is coming, marking the end of the diaspora, as it’s the Year of the Three Hundredth Millennium.
Crone flies over the Rhivi Plain toward Brood, noting that change was coming, a convergence on its way.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter Nine:
Okay, the poem at the start of chapter nine? The Lay of Onos T’oolan? Pretty sure I currently know nothing of a) the T’lan Imass in general and b) this one specifically. All up to Bill and you lovely commentators to shed some light!
Regarding the “He should have met her two days past.” line. I think it is with comments like this that Erikson frustrates me the most. Why not just say who “her” is right then at the start of the passage? I’ve had this before—wondering who is being referred to and then being told a couple of paragraphs later, and it makes me think it would be easier on the reader to just say! At the moment I am wondering who would be both female and a candidate for meeting Toc the Younger—is it someone we’ve already met? Or someone being introduced for the first time? Since he’s an agent of the Claw, it could be Laseen or Lorn; since this woman is delayed meeting him, it could be Tattersail.
This level of analysis in a book is unheard of for me—I am a reader who quite often skims. To sit and have to contemplate who a character might be is forcing me to slow down—and, I have to say, the reading experience is that much more rewarding. I am not having those usual moments in a book where I think “now I know I’ve met this character before—who were they?” Or, I mean I am, but only as a result of Erikson wanting me to think this rather than because I am reading too quickly and skimming over details. Has anyone else had to adjust their reading method while tackling GotM and later Malazan books?
“Chaos seemed a sign of the times.”
*snort* How apt a sentence!
I enjoy the way Erikson is showing us the world of the Malazan Empire one brick at a time. Here we learn a little about the Rhivi—not warlike, but forced into taking sides in a war that doesn’t concern them.
We also learn a little about the clans of the Barghast when Toc stumbles across the bodies of dead marines (Jakatakan - elites) and realises that their foes were the Barghast.
“Somehow they’d stumbled upon a trail and this shaman had recognised it for what it was.”
This makes me wonder about another aspect of warrens. It sounds here as though the warren used to journey over four hundred leagues left a trace (trail) in the air that the shaman was able to access?
“Well, she’s said to be hell on mages.”
I think I know now that Lorn is who Toc was supposed to be meeting, since we’ve already had it pointed out to us that Lorn has a great dislike for magic users.
“But he knew he had no choice...”
Why does Toc have no choice about going to the aid of Lorn and the remaining Jakatakan? No one knows that he has come upon this scene, so why does he go to what he believes will be almost-certain death for Lorn?
Now we meet Lorn as she ponders what is entombed within the hill before which she stands, feeling misgivings. I don’t blame her! Having seen an Elder God brought back to life thanks to blood being spilled on his temple, I dread to think what might be reawakened from a millenia-old tomb!
My, these Jakatakans are hard as nails.... The nameless soldier remaining with Lorn has already taken a lance barb in his shoulder, refuses the protection of the crossbowman, and his only response to receiving a lance through the leg is a “soft gasp”! And he still carries on fighting to protect Lorn as charged.
“That he was able to move at all, much less defend himself, spoke eloquently of Jakatakan discipline and training.”
And certainly the preceding paragraphs show elegantly Erikson’s ability to build a picture for us without ever having to explicitly state what he means: I knew the Jakatakans were skilled and tough, thanks to how Erikson presented this soldier. It almost makes me wonder whether that sentence I have quoted was a little redundant—a little too much pushing the point home.
I love the way that the skeletal hand comes bursting from the earth—thanks to Erikson’s ambiguity we don’t know whether it will hurt or harm Lorn, although it has attacked the Barghast, so could be assumed to be on her side. We also don’t know whether it was meant to be there or whether the blood of the nameless soldier summoned it. Since Erikson spoke about Lorn’s misgivings at being near the tomb, it is an easy step to believe that the dead have been summoned to life. So it overturns our expectations to realise that:
“I was expecting you days ago,” Lorn said, glaring at the figure.
Ah, finally we meet a T’lan Imass—not only that, but the T’lan Imass of the poem at the start of this chapter. Erikson gives us a fabulous description of this creature, including his voice “born of stones and dust”. We also learn that “‘...he’s an integral player in my mission.’” Strikes me that a) Lorn does not have complete control over what the T’lan Imass will do and b) whatever you need a T’lan Imass to achieve cannot be good!
Toc the Elder disappeared during the time of Laseen’s purges—Lorn states that the Empress has regretted his death, but Toc the Younger insists that he is just missing “...his tone tight and his single eye averted...” It sounds as though he doesn’t quite believe that his father is simply missing—knowing Erikson, this exchange wouldn’t have been included unless there was a good reason so I do imagine we’ll be seeing Toc the Elder at some point in the future (even if he doesn’t seem exactly as he did when he disappeared!)
It is interesting to both Lorn and me that Toc the Younger has taken a path so different to that of his father:
“There was nothing pleasant, or proud, in being a Claw.”
There is definitely a story behind him veering so utterly from the path of his father.
After a brief search he found the longsword in the grass, and his eye thinned to a slit upon seeing the weapon’s dusty red blade. He brougt it to her, and said, “An Otataral sword, Adjunct, the ore that kills magic.”
“Well,” Lorn said, “Otataral is no mystery to you of the Seven Cities, but few here know it, and I would keep it that way.”
So this is the source of Lorn’s ability against mages, and probably helps her reputation as one who is hard on those with magic. Clearly she would want to keep this sort of advantage hidden in the Malazan Empire, where magic is wielded by those who would threaten the Empress.
“The Warrens of the Imass are similar to those of the Jaghut and the Forkrul Assail—Elder—, blood— and earthbound...”
I’ve included this quote merely to outline the fact that the mystery of the warrens constantly thickens, with different layers being added!
We learn a little more about the character of Lorn here—hard as iron [Bill’s interjection: good simile and one we’ll see Erikson’s characters using in very precise terms later on in the series], but with surprising touches of softness (such as when she expresses grief for the loss of her horse). I like the fact that Toc feels such shock at the idea of sharing a saddle with her.
“The barrow has yielded a truth, Adjunct,” Onos T’oolan said.
Toc felt her stiffen. “And that is?”
“We are upon the right path,” the T’lan Imass replied.
Again, we have another of these exchanges that I know moves the plot forward, and I should probably be able to piece together what they’re talking about from hints and clues dropped elsewhere. I know that various people are on the hunt for Sorry—and the god who is riding her. I know that Hairlock is also being searched for. It could be this path that they’re now on. Or it could be something entirely different that I’m not managing to piece together!
Something occurs to me as we move to the viewpoint of Paran and I read “...a nasty puppet whose painted eyes seemed to fix on him with intense hatred.” When Quick Ben and Hairlock were talking, Hairlock realises that the gods are involved, but does he actively realise that Paran is now an instrument of the gods? He clearly doesn’t know which gods are active at the moment, because otherwise I think he would have said. Or does he show hatred towards Paran because there is a mystery to be solved and he doesn’t know why the captain was able to wound a Hound?
It is interesting that Paran has lost his memory of what happened during his brief period of death—does that include the fact that someone close to him will die in his place?
Hairlock is showing himself to be a most unreliable voice—as Bill pointed out from Chapter Eight, can we actually trust anything that Hairlock says now that the madness of Chaos is starting to take him? (And also because he looks to his own interests before that of anyone else?)
“Hairlock had told Paran that she’d somehow hidden him when Tayschrenn arrived...”
Paran quite clearly shouldn’t trust anything that Hairlock says. Also, just as an aside, would you feel comfortable with a rather horrible little puppet when you’d just woken from a rather murky dream about a slavering Hound that you think you might have killed—or not? I can’t even imagine the confusion and fear that Paran must be feeling at that time—even disregarding the fact that he has at least encountered magic prior to this.
“Slowly, a new awareness tickled the edges of his mind...”
Is this merely Paran becoming slowly aware of the fact that Tattersail is awake? Or is that he can now sense the presence of magic, or some similar thing, that leads to this? Add this to the snarling and the fact that he is god-touched and Paran is starting to look like another mystery to be solved. [Bill’s interjection: By you, by the other characters, and by himself.]
“And that made him feel as if he were descending a spiral, with the sorceress in the centre. Descending? Perhaps it was an ascent.”
I am grinning at the moment. The use of the word ascent—considering the presence of ascended people—really must be deliberate, otherwise that really is going to lead the reader astray. Also, I have a hint of a forthcoming romance between these two! Paran finds himself responding to her, despite her physical mundanity... [Bill’s interjection: Both good catches!]
“I’m being used,” Paran stated flatly.
She raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t bother you?”
Paran shrugged and turned away. “It’s nothing new,” he muttered.
Okay, so, on the one hand I can start feeling sorry for Paran, but on the other he did choose the life of the soldier that led to this point. Swings and roundabouts.
Oh, and what a hint that this powerplay has had its roots many years back:
“Yet I named the weapon the day I bought it.”
Paran’s grin was ghastly. “Chance.”
“The pattern has been long in the weaving,” Tattersail said, closing her eyes and sighing. “Though I suspect even Oponn could not have imagined your blade tasting its first blood on a Hound of Shadow.”
Wow, see, all the events that have passed so far have seemed to happen (well, if you’ll pardon the expression) by chance... The possessing of Sorry seemed to be because she was in the wrong place at a very wrong time. The fact that Paran chose the life of a soldier, to put him at a point where Sorry could kill him and Oponn could use him: completely based on a decision in his youth. The background of the mages, and the Bridgeburners, and Moon’s Spawn—none of it seems to be part of an over-arching plan—but then, I guess, Erikson is not the sort of writer who would reveal that in any case. I think maybe it will only be at the end of book ten and assorted other novels/novellas that I can sit back and say “Ah, now I see how it all fits together!”
And now Erikson points out himself just how unreliable most of the narrators in his book are:
Tattersail’s smile was drawn. “You think he’d just come right out and tell you how dangerous you really are? [...] Hairlock wants you kept in the dark—about everything. The puppet lied.”
[Bill’s interjection: There’s another brick in that dialogue as well.] And in the same sequence Paran suspects that Tattersail is hiding things from him too. The unreliable narrator/lack of trust is building to become a real theme.
We’re given another bleak picture about the situation within the Malazan forces as Lorn arrives at Pale:
In Pale, ten thousand soldiers crowded the edge of revolt, the spies among them brutally removed, awaiting only High Fist Dujek’s word.
“...now there’s the rumour that the Bridgeburners are going to be retired. [...] People around here don’t like that.”
The Adjunct was eager for her meeting with Tayschrenn and this sorceress Tattersail - the name was familiar, tugging at memories that seemed born in her childhood. And around such evasive hints rustled a cloak of fear.
A ha! This must have meaning for us in the future. I just know that the fact Tattersail and Lorn have encountered each other before will turn out to be important.
Another glimpse of the humour that Erikson does so well:
A small smile came to Lorn’s mouth as the scene emerged in her mind: the High Fist a worn, weary one-armed man, he Empress’ Adjunct, her sword arm in a sling, and Toc the Younger, last representative of the Claw on Genabackis, one-eyed and half his face scarred by fire. Here they were, representatives of three of the four Empire powers on the continent, and they all looked like hell.
This scene is so easy to imagine, and makes me giggle—yet is also bittersweet and speaks of the horrors and vagaries of war.
I like that Dujek is looking out for Toc the Younger and trying to remove him from peril. But I also wonder whether he is attempting to rid himself of a spy and an assassin?
“The nobility are about to be culled,” Dujek said at her side.
“Tayschrenn wants it to be thorough, and public.”
“Empire policy,” Lorn replied stiffly. “You’re well aware of that, High Fist.”
Dujek glared at her. “Nine out of ten nobles to hang, Adjunct? Children included?”
The above exchange begins to make explicit this culling we’ve encountered in the past—showing us that it is regularly encountered, in order to subdue the new city and remove the nobles who are most likely to implement counter-manoeuvres against the Malazan Empire. It does make me wonder whether Laseen ever considers the common people and why they are not included in the culling that takes place? Does she have a blind spot here? Does she not realise that the common people are often those who will act most vigorously for change? Lorn’s reaction to Dujek here is interesting—does she not agree with the practice of culling? And I do adore how we find out later that Dujek has had a hand in ensuring that the census lists were not available for Tayschrenn to administer the culling! I really like Dujek!
Seven Cities recruits were being sent elsewhere these days. The Empress did not wish Dujek’s soldiers to become aware that their homeland was on the brink of open rebellion.
Here is another of those building bricks being put into place for us, I believe. [Bill’s interjection: Yep, for the entire structure of buildings that will be a few books—that “brink” is about to be leapt over.]
She realised that she needed Dujek’s support more than he needed hers.
The delicate shifts and balances of power are being carefully catalogued by Erikson. And again:
She knew he was giving her the opportunity to hear answers that didn’t come from Tayschrenn. Though as to whose version of the truth she would accept was up to her.
We have a sneaky glimpse into Caladan Brood as well:
“I had a hell of a time getting the Gold legions—their elite warriors—to fight Caladan Brood. Seems they consider him too honourable to treat as an enemy.”
“I’ve seen the work of Hounds before,” she said, meeting his eyes. In that moment of locked gazes they shared something profound. Then Dujek pulled his eyes away.
WHAT? What have they shared?! Why can’t we be told just one or two things? *grin*
As I said above, I am really starting to appreciate Dujek—and I also love the respect that Lorn is forced to pay him:
“Dammit, Tayschrenn, where’s your sense? You’ve taken on the craftiest bastard the Empire military has ever had the privilege of possessing and he’s eating you alive.”
“Dujek is not just one man. Right now he’s ten thousand, and in a year’s time he’ll be twenty-five thousand.”
“He’s the best of the Empire.”
I just have a horrible feeling that, after setting Dujek up to be so classically good in the sense of a fantasy novel, we are going to lose him. I both hate and like the fact that I do not feel safe that everyone will make it out of this alive. [Bill’s interjection: Welome to the world of Malaz!]
“Mages by nature never commanded loyalty.”
This is an interesting statement—perhaps because by supernatural means they have the ability to kill people. It must breed less respect than going toe to toe with your enemy. Ooh, and we have the little note that the assassinated Emperor was a mage.
Okay, a key passage, I think, which defines the position of the Empress and Lorn:
“The old guard must disappear. All who stood with the Emperor and still cling to his memory will ever work against us, whether consciously or unconsciously. Dujek is an exception, and there is a handful of others like him. Those we must not lose. As for the others, they have to die. The risk lies in alerting them to that fact. If we’re too open we may end up with an insurrection the size of which could destroy the Empire.”
It strikes me that the gods have their hands all over this situation as well, manipulating those they must not lose, starting the insurrection that will destroy the Empire.
I really like this statement:
“How can one plan anything with Oponn in the game?”
And here is a statement that propaganda plays its part when new rulers move in and occupy a city—the victor will write the history to suit them. This is enormously realistic and has happened right from when Richard III of England was given a hunchback to where Hitler issued propaganda to say exactly what he needed.
“No matter how benign the original rulers, no matter how generous the nobility, the word of Empire, weighted by might, twisted the past into a tyranny of demons. A sad comment on humanity, a bitter lesson made foul by her own role in it.”
I made a point in a previous commentary about how fraught Whiskeyjack must be feeling—and here we have Tattersail making the same point:
Whiskeyjack, a man pushed to the edge, or, rather, the edge creeping on him on all sides, a crumbling of beliefs, a failing of faiths, leaving as his last claim to humanity his squad, a shrinking handful of the only people that mattered any more. But he held on, and he pushed back—pushed back hard.
Hmm, again I am probably thinking it too hard, but Erikson’s choice of words is so often very deliberate, that I am wondering whether the repetition of the word “push” in this paragraph is relevant.
I like the hints about what might be in store for Toc the Younger (Bill, thanks for the nudge to notice the eye thing!):
“In the Seven Cities, supestition held that the loss of an eye was also the birth of inner sight.”
Ha, that dark sense of humour strikes again—and also a demonstration of why the troops would be so loyal to Dujek:
The High Fist set his crystal goblet down on the mantel and deliberately scratched the stump of his left arm.
“Bet it’s driving you half crazed,” the old man said, his grin broadening.
“I scratch with both hands,” Toc said.
I’m shaken by the scene where Lorn confronts Tattersail over what happened when she was but a child and the cadre of mages lost control, especially when Tayschrenn says:
“The woman named Lorn, the woman who once was a child, who once had a family,” he looked upon the Adjunct with anguish in his eyes, “that woman does not exist. She ceased to exist the day she became the Adjunct.”
Watching Lorn retreat behind the duty and need of being the Adjunct—in service to the Empire—after her fragile show of true character, is desperately sad. I’m also confused by Tayschrenn’s anguish. So far we have taken the side of Dujek and Tattersail against Tayschrenn, but here we see a hint of Tayschrenn’s humanity. Who to side with?
We have the same imagery of sharks circling with the presence of blood in the water when Tattersail says:
“The Twin Jesters’ opening move has created ripples [...] and thus attracted the attention of other gods.”
And then learn that this is not the first time that gods have interfered with the Malazan Empire:
“Oponn is not the first god seeking to manipulate the Malazan Empire [...] Others have failed, come away bloodied.”
Oh, I am loving Toc as well. This is definitely the chapter where the characters have blazed alive for me. Toc’s defiance of all his teachings as a Claw, his throwing his lot in with the 2nd army, his secret defence of Tattersail in thanks for what the mage cadre have done in the past—this is the sort of action that gives you a fist punching moment. I’m so pleased, because Toc the Younger has become more and more intriguing. And hey look! His itching has ceased now that he’s made his decision!
We also see another of Erikson’s themes spoken of by Tattersail:
For Lorn, it had been a pivotal event. But for Tattersail, it had been just one nightmare among many.
Erikson does like to put across the different perspectives of war, the way that a moment of importance to one person is nothing to another. This then creates ripples of cause and effect.
I think it is important to note that the Emperor reawakened the T’lan Imass—you have to ask whose control he was under to do that, where the power and knowledge came from and, seriously, why he suddenly needed a host of undead warriors! Curious...
Once more we’re overloaded with information that will no doubt prove of use as the re-read progresses: the significance of the Kron, the year of the three hundredth millenium approaching, the Diaspora ending. None of this makes any sense at all right now, but I rather think I should be keeping it all in mind!
Lastly, we are given the musings of Crone as she flies to attend a master who isn’t Anomander Rake—which god is in charge of her, I wonder? And we are told that a mystery surrounds Caladan Brood—half human and half...something else. Have I been told that and forgotten?
Okay, so that was a MAMMOTH undertaking, and I sincerely hope I didn’t lose your interest partway through. This chapter is EPIC—we are gradually shifting into higher gear here, the pace of the plot unfolding is definitely speeding up. Now that we’ve met most of the major players and started setting in our minds who we are planning to root for, everything gains greater momentum and import. I really enjoyed Chapter Nine and am itching to move on.
Bill’s Comments on Chapter Nine:
That poem does get a bit more grounding, as you point out a few pages later when we meet Onos T’oolan, and we’ll continue to fill in the gaps about the T’lan Imass in general, what the ritual was that sealed them “beyond death” and why they performed it, why Tool “stands apart,” and why the host of Imass might be termed a “plague” while Onos is described as a “seed unfallen”—a more positive connotation and one involving the idea of potential.
I can see your frustration with the “he should have met her” and I do have to agree that sometimes I think Erikson does this sort of mysterious referencing unnecessarily. Since we don’t really have many choices as to the “her” that make much sense, there really isn’t any suspense built into that lack of precision. And since it’s only two pages later that we get a pretty clear reference to Lorn via the tough on mages description and then a paragraph later her actual name, there doesn’t seem to be much point in not starting with “he should have met the adjunct two days ago.” One could argue that Erikson is just trying to create in the readers’ minds the same sense of dislocation/confusion/ignorance that the characters so often deal with and that isn’t a bad argument. But it doesn’t make it less annoying. *grin*
The subtle world-building continues as you say, with brief asides on the Rhivi and the Barghat, the Crimson Guard, and some little geography.
Now, that scene with Onos arriving is an example of where I think Erikson’s mystery works to great effect, as you pointed out Amanda. Who does this “skeletal hand” belong to? Is it a rescue of Lorn or is it a general attack of the undead? I like that it’s a full two paragraphs before we know for sure, rather than having Lorn immediately respond with relief or in some other way indicate the undead is an ally.
And here we get a bit more on the Imass. Around for 300,000 years (more long-lived Erikson characters!), undead, allies of the Empire but not wholly so (legions of them marching off eight years ago to some goal the Empress knew nothing about), longtime enemies of the Jaghut (a reference to the “sixth Jaghut War), immune to Otataral, wielding unbreakable flint swords. We’ll learn a lot more about them and they rank I think as one of Erikson’s best creations in the series.[Amanda’s interjection: This summary is excellent. *approving* I mean, the Imass are so intriguing, right from the off, but putting all these facts that we can glean about them enforces the fact that they are pretty damn cool!]
You’re right to note that brief conversation on Toc the Elder. There are a lot of the Old Guard who “died” at the same time as the Emperor and Dancer and yet of whom rumors and ambiguity remain. We already have seen that the “deaths” of Dancer and the Emperor weren’t quite what they seemed so it’s not a bad idea to not trust a reported death unless you actually see the body. And then watch it. For days. And days. And then, of course, as Onos shows us, there is death and there is “death”...oh, such fun awaits...
While we’re on Toc the Younger, keep an eye on that eye... [Amanda’s interjection: Actually, I believe that he seemed to be scratching subconsciously when he noticed Lorn’s reaction to Onos’ declaration. Bah, now you’re just giving me these tiny little hints that just frustrate as much as Erikson’s own writing. *grins*]
You’re right to think there’s more to Lorn’s “path” than that leading to Darujhistan or Sorry.
And to note the warren mystery deepens, though as others have pointed out in discussions, GoTM isn’t the best of the books to plumb the depths of what the warrens are, as it does seem to have some inconsistencies (the aforementioned Gotism) in comparison to the others, due to the interval of time in the writing.
Good job on picking up the tension underlying the army. You see it as well on an individual level with Toc when he encounters Dujek:
“Toc the Younger snapped a salute, the energy behind it making Lorn wonder at his loyalty.”
The question of whether Toc is a Claw or a soldier of the Second will soon be asked/answered very directly.
Lorn and Tayschrenn’s conversation also gives you a sense of that same tension underlying the entire empire: old guard vs new guard, who needs to be “disappeared” and who shouldn’t be. And who has already disappeared—as we’ve seen with Toc the Elder that term is a bit vague—will play a role in future books. Or should I say those who “haven’t disappeared” will play a role in future books. *grin*
And then we see that tension play out throughout the rest of the chapter via a host of interactions: some macroscopic and concerned with the Empire and broad strategy and some much more personal, as with Lorn’s history with Tattersail—a history we were set up for in the very start of the novel, with Paran looking over the Mouse Quarter at the very scene Lorn and Tattersail were directly involved in (I’m glad you pointed out those lines with Lorn submerging her identity—those are some of the most chilling lines in the whole book, I think). We see it with Toc’s decision—temporary or permanent?—to side with Tattersail against the Empress and lie for her. We see it in Tattersail and Paran’s conversation where Paran confesses his mission to find Sorry and the two determine that the Adjunct must have much more on her mind to be employing a T’lan Imass.
And we see it as well even between Tool and Lorn, as he divulges that the Imass have more going on than what they are ordered to do by the Empire: their war against the Jaghut is ongoing (Tool was left clanless in the 28th Jaghut War), there’s a whole other clan out there (the Kron T’lan Imass), someone has organized the hiding of the First Throne, which commands the Imass, and this year is somehow going to see the end of the Imass diaspora. Secrets and suspicion are underlying currents throughout the book/series, sometimes blossoming into full-fledged betrayal, another series motif.
If that last line by Tool on the imminent end of the diaspora wasn’t enough to sound the knell of imminent change, Erikson pounds it home (perhaps a tad too much) more directly via Crone:
“...changes were coming to the world.”
A good set-up for movement forward...
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.