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 18 and 19 of Gardens of the Moon (GotM). Other chapters are here.
Before we get into this week’s summary and commentary, two quick announcements:
One: Amanda is currently on holiday and so is joining us for the first chapter only. (Though I’m sure she’s thinking of all of us, not to mention the impending doom, death, and destruction, while sitting on a beach somewhere. No really, I’m sure she is...)
Two: For those who may have missed it in our last discussion thread, Steven Erikson has graciously made an appearance—despite feeling under the weather—and had a lot to say regarding his writing process. It’s, as one would expect, well worth the read and goes a long way toward explaining why these books are so ripe for re-reading and in-depth discussion. We’ll pause a few moments while you head back to last week’s and peek behind the curtain of Steven’s story-crafting...
Whiskeyjack’s squad is discussing plans for Kalam to try and contact the Assassin’s Guild again. Quick Ben tells them he can’t “find” Sorry, which probably means she’s dead. The squad confronts Whiskeyjack with his attempts to stay sane by cutting himself off, taking away his soldiers’ humanity (from his perspective) so he doesn’t think of them as hurtful losses, and that such a method will drive him crazy eventually. Whiskeyjack sees this as an offer of friendship and he acknowledges he is “finally, and after all these years, among friends.”
Coll and Paran arrive at an entry gate, Coll barely alive. He tells Paran to get him to the Phoenix Inn.
Rallick continues to climb toward Ocelot in the belfry.
Coll is unconscious. A guard recognizes him and agrees to help Paran get him to the Inn. Paran’s attention is caught by K’rul’s tower and he sees movement on it.
Rallick and Ocelot fight. Rallick kills Ocelot but not before taking a blade deep into his chest.
Paran turns away from the tower, seeing no more movement. The guard gets a wagon for Coll.
The Tiste Andii Serrat awakens from having been blindsided while she was preparing to attack the woman outside Mammot’s house. She disappears into her warren.
Meese and Irilta discuss the arrival of Paran and Coll at the Phoenix Inn and that the Eel has told them to keep Crokus and Sorry/Apsalar at the Inn.
Paran, at the Phoenix Inn bar, considers what to do with his sword. He recalls a tutor telling him once that the gods get you by separating you from others (your human contact) then offering to end the isolation they helped create.
Kalam arrives in the bar and Paran orders him to get Mallet (the squad healer).
Mallet and Whiskeyjack arrive. Mallet heals Coll. Paran tells Whiskeyjack he and Tattersail figured out the squad had been set up to be killed and that Tattersail had been killed (“Tayschrenn got to her”). He also tells him he (Paran) is no longer Oponn’s tool though the sword is and that the adjunct has a T’lan Imass with her.
Whiskeyjack uses a magical artifact to contact Dujek. Dujek tells Whiskeyjack that Tayschrenn was “last happy” when Bellurdan and Tattersail killed each other (two more Old Guard down) and is wondering what is going on with Oponn, Rake, Shadowthrone, and some soul-shifted puppet. He also says Laseen is planning on dismantling Dujek’s army and setting him in command over in Seven Cities to deal with an impending rebellion. He informs Whiskeyjack that Lorn and Tool have reached the barrow and that if they release the Jaghut the squad is meant to be among the casualties. Finally, he says the Black Moranth are leaving Pale and Dujek is “ready to move” once Tayschrenn triggers events by disbanding the Bridgeburners.
Paran tells Dujek Toc was tossed into a warren and that Tayschrenn killed Tattersail. He wonders what Dujek and Whiskeyjack intend because he wants vengeance for Tattersail and for the adjunct betrayal of him. Dujek tells Paran the Empire loses Genabackis: the Crimson Guard will repel whatever army Laseen tries to send and the Moranth will no longer be her allies. He also says they’re going to take on a new player—the Pannion Seer—who is “damn nasty.” Finally, he tells Paran to leave vengeance on Tayschrenn to someone else but feel free to deal with Lorn if he wants.
They break communication and Kalam expresses shock at all the secrets. Whiskeyjack tells him that plans changed when Lorn told Dujek of the reinforcements coming, which proved to Dujek that the Empire wanted the Bridgeburners dead. Whiskeyjack tells Paran Lorn must live to lure the Tyrant into the city, then afterward perhaps she can die.
In the Jaghut Tyrant’s tomb, Tool tells Lorn they’re looking for a “finnest” as “within it is stored the Jaghut Tyrant’s powers.” When he awakens he will hunt it down. Lorn’s sword will deaden its aura for a while, enough to get it into the city for the Tyrant to get lured into Darujhistan. They leave as the Jaghut begins to awaken.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter 18:
Oh, Blind Gallan—how you confuse me! He’s talking about Darujhistan, the beautiful blue city, and the spider reference is clearly about a person who is keeping control with a web over the city, knowing everything that is happening. Not sure who this Paralt is, though, or the reference to Power’s gentle balance. Help!
Gosh, the scene with Whiskeyjack and his squad made me want to tear up! There is some wonderful interplay there between the characters, and their faith in their captain really shines through. The fact that they—despite all they’ve been through and faced—want to believe the best in human beings is extremely touching. I love this line:
He saw the caring in their eyes, the open offer to the friendship he’d spent years suppressing. All that time pushing them away, pushing everyone away, and the stubborn bastards just kept on coming back.
It gives a sense a hope, and shows how highly Whiskeyjack is thought of—and also indicates how lonely his existence has been, trying to remain aloof and not make friends, so that he doesn’t have to order them to die.
Crokus treated Coll—does that mean Oponn was trying to take Coll out of the game?
Bill’s reaction to Chapter 18:
I do have some views as to what Blind Gallan (whom we will see later in the flesh, similar to most—all?—of our poets) is referring to, but why jump in front of people eager to respond to your plea for help? So I’ll see you all in the comments thread on this one!
The discussion between the squad and Whiskeyjack continues WJ’s earlier struggle in how to protect his men and himself while keeping his humanity; this battle to retain humanity will play out amongst a host of characters. This could have been cloyingly sentimental, but Erikson manages to avoid it being such while still making it painfully moving. Part of its success I think is in realizing just how long Whiskeyjack has fought this battle; he is clearly not a young man and so this realization, finally, that he is “among friends” evokes happiness for him but also comes with an attendant sense of sadness over its lateness. It also comes with an edge:
He’d seen too much in his life. There’d be no sudden faith in his view of human history, no burgeoning optimism to chase away all the demonic memories of the horrors he’d lived through.
Without those things, this would be a typical sappy Hollywood change of heart, but Erikson is too good to give us that.
Erikson employs one of his usual suspense techniques here, shifting between POVs and scenes quickly so the reader is constantly left wondering. Is Coll going to make it? Is Rallick? Will Paran break the sword? Will Rallick get Mallet in time? Will Mallet be able to heal Coll? Erikson shows some good decision-making as well in breaking up the whirlwind of tension with some humor as Mallet examines the wound and discovers “someone’s stuffed this with herbs!”
We’re also witness to Paran’s continued growth—note how sharply he takes control with Kalam (so much command in his voice that Kalam nearly salutes) and then his command to the innkeep and the warning to the crowd:
“Nobody touch that sword,” he ordered, swinging a glare across everyone in the room. Nobody seemed inclined to challenge him. With a sharp, satisfied nod, the captain ascended the stairs.
This is a far cry from the earlier Paran and a good precursor to what we’ll see from him in the future.
How cool is that K’Chain Che-Malle artifact? (By the way, hoo boy will the K’Chain play a huge role in this series, is this our first mention?) Am I remembering correctly that we never see this again? Anyone? I’m wondering if being able to be in instant contact just ruins too many plot points (much as horror movie folks now have to deal with why nobody just uses a cell phone to call for help).
We get another mention, this one much more substantive in terms of plot if not detail, of the Pannion Seer, as Dujek tells Paran that the army is “readying ourselves” to take the Seer on, which will drive a huge amount of the story coming up.
To the file cabinet, Amanda! This time with the word “finnest”—these will play a major role in the series.
We close on a good “da da duh!” line with “Even now the Jaghut Tyrant stirs,” but I prefer the tragedy of the lines above:
“Tool, they [The Jaghut] weren’t very warlike, were they? I mean, before your kind sought to destroy them.”
The Imass was slow to reply. “Even then,” he said at last. “The key lay in making them angry . . . “
Crokus is getting restless and senses big things are happening. He and Apsalar sneak out from the Inn. Crokus plans on talking to Challice.
Serrat, waiting on the roof above the Inn, attacks Crokus as he climbs up. A mysterious force drives her away and over the roof’s edge, though she retains her invisibility/flight spells.
Crokus says he thought he felt/saw something, then shrugs and he and Apsalar continue.
Rallick gets to Murillio, who’s been waiting for him so they can put their plan into action to kill Turban Orr. Rallick tells him he killed Ocelot but was badly wounded. When they take off his armor, the wound has closed and the Otataral powder has disappeared from his skin. Murillio tells him to still rest due to lost blood while he heads off to confront the Eel, whom he now suspects might be Kruppe
Kruppe and Baruk are meeting. Baruk tells Kruppe he’s considering finding out who Circle Breaker is because he needs to find the Eel to see if they can work together to save Darujhistan. Kruppe tells Baruk he’ll get the message to him to forestall Circle Breaker being found out.
Paran tells Whiskeyjack he thinks he’s figured out what Whiskeyjack and Dujek haven’t told him—that they plan on conquering Darujhistan themselves to use its wealth to fight whatever Laseen sends after them in reprisal. Whiskeyjack tells Paran they don’t care what Laseen does as they have bigger and worse fish to fry—the Pannion Seer.
Lorn leaves Tool to head into the city. She tells him her wound from Murillio is already nearly healed, thanks to her Otataral sword. She plans on seeking Sorry and then the Coin Bearer once she places the finnest in the city. She bemoans the loss of Paran, thinking of her attraction to him. She no longer has second thoughts.
Crokus and Apsalar entry K’rul’s belfry as a hiding place and discover Ocelot’s body. Crokus sees give winged shapes leaving Moon’s Spawn. Apsalar tells him about the oceans on the real moon and the underwater gardens on it and how one day the chosen will be taken there and there will be no wars or empires or swords.
Bill’s reaction to Chapter 19:
This poem will be pretty clear as to its subject as the “Maker of Paths” is named as such. (So look again if you missed it.)
Is it just me, or is everyone else seriously laughing along with Serrat’s continuing problems?
We had some hints that the Otataral powder would have some strange effects on Rallick and now we learn that it’s had the same quick-healing impact of Lorn’s sword. Even more interesting is that it seems to have “disappeared” from his skin: used up in healing or absorbed internally? Hmmmm...
I like Murillio’s insight into Kruppe being the Eel, but does anyone else get a sense that Baruk has figured it out as well by his conversation with Kruppe? I thought his gaze that “dropped calmly to Kruppe” after Kruppe said he could get a message to the Eel pointed in that direction.
I admit to being a little confused by Whiskeyjack’s conversation with Paran. Since Dujek just told Paran last chapter that the army was getting ready to take on the Pannion Seer, I don’t quite get why Paran doesn’t figure that into his otherwise keen insight into Dujek and Whiskeyjack’s plans and why he asks, “what’s to the south?” Can anyone explain that absence? Did I miss something here?
We also get yet another reference to the impending rebellion in Seven Cities. (Cue book two in three, two, one...)
And I’m just thinking out loud here, but does anyone else think a character saying out loud to him/herself, “Well, dying’s never in anybody’s plan,” is just asking for the irony police to show up down the road?
In the discussion of our last post, several of us mentioned the Malazan soldier’s gift of free thought (at least under Kal/Dassem). Here, with Lorn, we get perhaps a glimpse of why Laseen/Surly fails at Empress. (I’m in the camp of those who do think she fails.) Look at Lorn’s description of a good soldier:
She realized that the doubts that had plagued her, borne on those dark wings of knowledge, now lay quiescent . . . she knew how to control all that was within her. Years of training, discipline, loyalty, and duty. The virtues of a soldier . . . the weight on her shoulders vanished.
She subsumes her own thought (expressed as doubt) into what appears to me to be mindless loyalty and discipline to a single person ("The Empress’s pleasure . . . would be immense”). And look how she characterizes knowledge, the precursor to thought as “dark wings.” I can’t feel much sympathy for a character who views knowledge as sinister and finds refuge in thoughtlessness. My sense of loss at this Lorn is compounded thanks to Erikson giving us her musing on how she might have had something with Paran, which humanizes her and makes the fall deeper and more poignant.
We’re seeing with Apsalar that despite Cotillion’s eviction, his former presence has left gifts behind: ability to see in darkness, ability to climb, grace, etc. She’ll clearly remain a formidable force, despite the god’s absence.
We close with a focus on the moon, which I liked for a few reasons:
One, we get a link to the title, obviously, though I’m pretty sure much later in the series we’ll get another Gardens of the Moon reference.
Two, I loved the poetic and hopeful bent of Apsalar, after all the poor girl has gone through.
Three, I liked the contrast between that poetic idealism looking at one moon and the imagery of Moon’s spawn: reddish glow, the five dragons coming out to do battle. (And how about that “worm” of fear coming just before we see the dragons?)
Four, an echo for the future when “look at the moon” will mean something wholly different.
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.