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 24 and the Epilogue 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!
And just one more quick ANNOUNCEMENT before we get started on this week’s post - if you hadn’t seen here Steven Erikson will be answering questions submitted by you, the readers, next week!
Crokus is rebuffed by Baruk’s ward. Before he can enter another way, he’s interrupted by the demon lord dragon crashing to the ground nearby, knocking a hole in Baruk’s wall. The demon veers back into his shape and tells Rake (who has appeared behind Crokus) that the Empress will let him leave. Rake refuses. Rake kills the demon but is wounded; he tells Crokus to go protect Baruk, who is in danger.
Derudan and Baruk have felt yet another of their fellow mages die. Vorcan arrives but before she can attack is attacked herself by Serrat. Vorcan kills Serrat, strikes Derudan with a blade dusted in white paralt poison, and is about to kill Baruk when Crokus knocks her out with two bricks. Baruk saves Derudan with the only antidote to the poison and then notices Vorcan is gone.
Whiskeyjack contacts Dujek via the bone phone. Dujek tells him he knows Rake killed the demon lord because Tayschrenn is in a temporary coma. Whiskeyjack tells him Lorn’s gambit with the Jaghut failed, they’ve decided not to detonate the mines due to the gas, and that they’re pulling out. Dujek says they’re about to lose Pale, Seven Cities is a week from rebelling, and the Empress has outlawed Dujek, who is supposed to be arrested and executed (they intercepted a messenger from Laseen to Tayschrenn). He says he’s parleying with Brood and Kallor tomorrow to see if they’ll attack or let Dujek go or join him against the Pannion Seer. He also says the Black Moranth are on Dujek’s side.
Dujek promotes Whiskeyjack to second-in-command, puts Paran in charge of the Bridgeburners. He tells Paran Whiskeyjack and the squad have earned the right to walk if they want. All tell Paran they’re with him, but Fiddler and Kalam say they’re going to take Apsalar home. Coll wakens and offers them his help in getting out of the city.
Rallick, back in the garden as the Azath grew into a house with a yard filled with mounds, one of which the roots had pulled a man-shaped figure into. Vorcan appears, wounded, chased by Tiste Andii. Rallick picks her up and runs into the house.
Korlat and the other Tiste Andii arrive too late. Korlat says there is precedence for the Azath allowing Rallick in; the Deadhouse in the Empire had let in Kellanved and Dancer. Though Rake could destroy the Azath while it’s still young, Korlat decides to leave it.
Kruppe and Murillio watch Moon’s Spawn head west. Crokus joins them and tells them Rallick is in the garden and Apsalar’s been kidnapped by Malazans. Crokus tells him not to worry, and also that Gorlas saved Challice at Simtal’s estate.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four:
Conveniently, the poem at the start of chapter twenty-four concerns the Azath and hints at the qualities of this strange entity—imprisoning demonic hearts, starving pilgrims, holding for ever the dream of fruit. Once again, my poetry analysis is not up to much. (I am glad for those who follow this re-read and have greater skills than I!) One point of interest is that the name of the person who wrote the poem is Adaephon, which also happens to be one of the names by which Quick Ben is addressed.
I wouldn’t want to be in Crokus’ shoes right now. Trying to get to Baruk—now one of the few people he knows and trusts—having watched his uncle die, and then getting caught up in a big ass dragon fight. I like the humour inherent in Crokus believing that the demon lord was talking to him at first.
Erikson certainly does write the sweepingly epic moments well, but he also excels at bringing the action down to just two characters. (As with the duel we saw between Rallick and Orr.) This duel is turned up to eleven, compared to that one! Sword swallowing light, while axe flares—two immortal bad asses attempting to destroy one another. The image of the Galayn being swallowed by the smoke and chains into the sword will long stay with me.
It was unlikely that Vorcan would possess such material [Otataral], given that she was a High Mage...
Strange that he would think this considering he was the one who gave Rallick the Otataral that now affects him—and I’m pretty sure that Baruk has skills in that direction. Or am I wrong? And Baruk has no magic, only knowledge? Huh, just read further and Baruk actually uses magic in this section, so I reiterate that it is strange Baruk would think that Vorcan wouldn’t go near Otataral! [Bill’s interjection: His thinking I believe is that Vorcan wouldn’t deaden her own magic abilities by using Otataral. Lorn/Rallick have none, so Otataral gives them advantage, but it would be detrimental to an actual mage.]
Oponn in action, it seems, as Crokus is able to take down a master assassin/High Mage with just two bricks. I wonder how much of that result is also a commentary on magic vs. mundane?
After all the chat about DEM over the last few weeks, I find the fact that Derudan was cured of poison with a cure that no one but Baruk knows about a little bit DEM, actually!
Lastly I’m not sure at the “sudden panic in the boy’s face” relating to Crokus—why the sudden panic? Because he’s seen the Tiste Andii? Because he realises that Apsalar might be beyond his reach?
I’m sure we have so much more to see with Apsalar. [Bill’s interjection: oh yes, much more.]
Whatever Mallet had done to her, she was a changed woman from the one he’d known. Less, and somehow more as well. Even Mallet was unsure of what he’d done.
People were hinting about Whiskeyjack’s wounded leg being a key moment from the last chapter. Here we have mention of it again—the fact it has been healed, but some damage remains. I’m completely sure that, without those hints from the commentators last week, I would just have skimmed over this information as well.
I love seeing the way that Dujek knows exactly how to deal with Whiskeyjack, making sure that he doesn’t rush back to Pale. These two work great together, in scenes of dialogue that feature them both. The shorthand they speak conveys exactly how friends who greatly respect each other would talk.
Alright, we now see the completed Azath house with Rallick, who seems a changed character. The use of Otataral, his near-death, the culmination of his revenge mission—all have changed him, and here we see the slightly mystical:
He knew with unaccountable certainty, that what grew here was right, and just.
It will be interesting to see what happens to him within the house with Vorcan.
Oooh, some intriguing little tidbits about the Azath from Serrat: there are others, including the Deadhouse of Malaz City (which I presume gives the title for the second book in the main series) and the Odhanhouse of Seven Cities; Pillars of Innocence, they are also refered to as; and two people who went into the Deadhouse are Kellanved and Dancer! Interesting as well that Serrat could summon Rake at this point to destroy the Azath, but chooses not to since it is new and innocent, like a child.
It is both lovely and amusing that Kruppe, so wise in so many other ways, is clueless as to the fact that Crokus has transferred all his affections to Apsalar rather than Challice!
This is an odd chapter to read, going from all-action to a peaceful scene as Kruppe, Murillio and Crokus come together at the end. The pacing set my teeth on edge, as we came to a juddering halt after a couple of chapters of heroics and mage warfare and excitement.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four:
I too liked the comic relief in such a tense scene of having Crokus answer the demon lord—classic Erikson.
We get another reference to Tiam here as well, note the “reek of Tiam” is not “on” Rake (the usual preposition with reek) but “in” him.
And seriously, did anybody, including the Galayn Lord, actually think Rake would entertain that offer of Laseen’s reward? Anyone?
I actually found that battle with the demon lord interesting for reasons beyond the actual fight itself. For one, the fact that the demon lord is a dragon Soletaken. I also found his axe “cascading light” was an odd sort of descriptive touch, made even odder by Rake’s recitation:
“To the Mother’s regret
Was Light granted birth.
To her dismay . . . she saw too late . . . it’s corruption.
Galayn, . . . you are the unintended victim . . . to punishment . . . long overdue.”
Seems like a lot more going on here than fighting Tay’s pet demon but I’m not sure that’s actually the case as I can’t quite get “much more” to mesh.
I have to confess I don’t care much for the Vorcan attack at Baruk’s. The melee among the mages is fine, and I find Serrat’s death moving, but Crokus’ “bricking” of Vorcan was just a bit too easy, especially with Vorcan facing him. I could live with the even-mages-can-be-taken- down-by-mundane-methods, but I needed a bit more sneakiness. I’m also not a fan of the “luckily I’m the one person who can . . .” so I’m with you Amanda on Baruk’s white paralt antidote. Granted, if anybody would have an antidote, it would be Baruk—an alchemist/mage aware of the assassins and their methods, but the use of the white paralt didn’t add anything to the moment as it’s resolved so immediately. Finally, I always hate the unconscious-villain-who-seems-down-but-really-isn’t-and-so-gets-up-and-leaves-unnoticed bit. Especially as it seems she could have easily killed Baruk and Crokus since they were clearly oblivious to her standing up. Though I do like her and Rallick entering the Azath house and yes, those are tantalizing tidbits on the other Azath’s: more to come!
I’m all for Korlat’s decision to forsake vengeance (in contrast to far too many in the series). I like to think she eventually gets rewarded for this (more later on this) and this scene also sets us up for what happens with her later; it’s an early important characterization.
Kruppe’s wrong girl comment is priceless and does a good job of puncturing his bubble of omniscience.
Mallet and Whiskeyjack watch Moon’s Spawn depart. Mallet worries he hasn’t fully healed Whiskeyjack but Whiskeyjack tells him later. Quick Ben has a plan he’s keeping from Whiskeyjack.
Paran, wearing the Otataral sword, vows he’ll come to Tattersail once they deal with the Pannion Seer. He hears her in his head saying she’ll wait.
Crokus joins Kalam, Fiddler, and Apsalar in the boat heading to Unta to take Apsalar home. Crokus drops Oponn’s coin in the water. Circle Breaker watches from the bow.
Amanda’s Reaction to the Epilogue:
Well, it’s a brief one so not that many comments to make: Whiskeyjack’s leg is emphasised twice—first when Mallet expresses that fact he’s not happy with the healing process, and then when Quick Ben decides it isn’t time for...something, not until the “old man’s” leg is better.
I’ve got no idea what plan Quick Ben is hatching either, so I hope that I’m not meant to have picked up teensy hints about it prior to this!
It’s lovely that Paran is visited by Tattersail, and realises that she might well remember those feelings she had for him previously.
I love this:
The only voices reaching the assassin came from Apsalar and Crokus. They sounded excited, each revolving around the other in a subtle dance that was yet to find its accompanying words. A slow, half smile quirked Kalam’s mouth. It’d been a long time since he’d heard such innocence.
It’s also lovely to know that Fiddler misses Hedge as though he had lost an arm and a leg!
A nice quiet ending—but I suspect this is the peace before the storm descends...
Bill’s Reaction to the Epilogue:
Oh, that damn leg!
As far as Quick Ben’s plan, I don’t think you’re missing anything Amanda. The only direction I’d point you in is to consider who is usually in on Quick Ben’s plans and what’s going on with that person.
The Fiddler-Hedge relationship is one of the great ones in this series, and surprisingly enduring. *grin*
I like the little throwaway line that Paran is rising from Lorn’s grave. As much as I think she made her bed and is now lying in it, having lots of choices and always choosing the wrong path despite having all the info she needed, I’m happy she’s given this moment of respect and dignity.
And I’m a huge fan of Circle Breaker closing the book, a book of all the formerly anonymous—the grunts in the trenches, given voice through the Book of the Fallen. Nice close.
Amanda’s Reaction to Gardens of the Moon:
Well, Book 1 of a long, long journey completed and time to reflect on this opening chapter...
I don’t think, when I took on this project, that I knew how all-consuming it would become, or how it would force me to look differently at my reading habits. Over the last two months or so, I have come to deeply enjoy my time spent in Erikson’s world—loving the dissection of words, the wondering about foreshadowing, the commentary that accompanies every post Bill and I put up. When I haven’t been reading Gardens of the Moon directly, my mind has often wandered to it, which rarely happens with books I read. Part of that is the density and challenge provided by GotM, but mostly it is because I am reading it so slowly—enjoying every chapter, and not skipping past essential parts of the plot because I am skim reading. It makes it far easier to remember plot points as well, which I hope will stand me in good stead over the next few books!
Anyway, Gardens of the Moon...I started the novel with confusion and no little frustration as people I didn’t know had conversations I didn’t understand. But then gradually my understanding expanded, my desire to know more about the world grew and I immersed myself more fully in GotM. By the time the big finale came, I was a little bit in love with virtually all the characters, and I definitely don’t want to get off this ride!
One thing I have been enjoying most about the novel are the different levels of interest it provides—for someone like myself, whose attention is captured by human relationships and great dialogue accompanied by big ass fights and lots of magic, it does the job. For someone who likes their fantasy grim and grimy, it delivers. But GotM also delivers for those readers who appreciate a philosophical slant, and discussion points galore. Erikson writes comfortably on the theme of war, the fact that there is no easy right or wrong. He shows us moral dilemmas and doesn’t let his characters take the easy way out. In the commentary each week, I have seen some people take the easy ride like me, and just read this thumping good story, enjoying the characters and not looking much past the surface detail. And I have watched with awe as some of you dissect key passages, provide essays on points that interest you and argue philosophy. Good job! And what a great thing that we can get all that from one book and (hopefully) one series!
So, final wrap-up:
Favourite moment of the book? Probably when Rake transformed into his dragon form—I had waited so long to see it and it didn’t disappoint at all!
Favourite character? Hmm, I’m going to get tiresome and say Anomander Rake here! I think everyone who reads my commentary has been able to see which way that was going. Right now I have an almighty fiction-crush on the guy and I can’t wait to see more of him.
Would love to hear yours! And, y’know, least favourite on both counts if you have them...
So, onto Night of Knives— and I have to confess I’m a little nervous. Mostly because I am wondering how I will adjust to Esslemont’s writing style versus that of Erikson, and whether I will find characters that are as enduring as in this first novel of the Malazan. One good thing! I took a sneaky peek and there is no poetry in sight! *grins*
Bill’s Reaction to Gardens of the Moon:
Boy, Amanda, am I with you on how I hadn’t thought how all-consuming this would be. And I went into it thinking it was going to be pretty time-consuming, having read the series already. And I too am loving the commentary that follows our posts and just wish I could dip in more often.
As a general reaction a few things struck me on the reread. One is that the book was far less confusing than I’d been prepared for, not so much based on my own memories of being confused (it’s been years after all) but based on all the complaints I’ve seen on it over the years. The book, save for a few areas, was much more straightforward than I’d expected. Another is how much brick-laying Erikson had done, something I obviously couldn’t have picked up on during my first read. I had no memory, for instance, of Whiskeyjack’s leg breaking in that last scene, but that sort of small, throw-away line that ripples out throughout the series to reappear thousands of pages later showed up again and again in this re-read.
In my original review long ago, I referred to the story as “stimulatingly frustrating” due to the lack of clear answers and spoonfeeding and said I liked it for that reason. On a reread, it was less “frustrating” as I knew many of the answers this time around (though not all, not all!) but no less stimulating. In many ways, I found it even more so thanks to looking for or finding all the links to future events. I also said that some of the characterization was a bit “shallow”—that flaw didn’t arise on a reread though, because I’d spent so long with so many of these characters. It was impossible not to feel the weight of all those pages bearing down on my interaction with them in these earliest of pages.
As for favorites, I envy Amanda being able pick out a single character or two and who could quibble with Rake, but I’ve seen so much of these people as mentioned above that I can’t pick one out.
Favorite moment? Again, how do you pick one?
- The entire scene with Paran getting killed is one, the suddenness of the killing, Hood’s gate, Hood’s herald, Shadowthrone’s arrival, Paran’s strength.
- Rake’s first arrival on scene, at Baruk’s.
- Serrat’s running troubles attacking Crokus.
- Circle Breaker at the very end.
- Quick Ben meeting Shadowthrone.
- Paran inside Rake’s sword.
OK, I’ll stop there!
Further on and further up!
And don’t forget to get your questions in for Steven!
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.