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 16 and 17 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!
Lorn surprised herself that she broke off the attack on Kruppe’s party. Tool arrives to say he’s found the barrow’s opening and as they begin to release it, expresses doubts as to the wisdom of doing so. Lorn agrees to ambivalence but they continue. Tool says his vows have been snapped by the Jaghut’s power and when he is done, he will leave to seek “an answer.”
SCENE 2 Sorry asks for a Darujhistan name, as she doesn’t know hers; Crokus names her Apsalar: goddess of thieves.
Kruppe and Murillio follow Sorry and Crokus as Kruppe explains Oponn has chosen Crokus and thus his need for protection, as well as his correct suspicions regarding what Lorn was doing at the barrow and Murillio and Rallick’s plan to return Coll to his place in Darujhistan society and avenge him.
Paran is attacked by Rhivi but through miraculous luck is unharmed. He meets Tattersail reborn (not a 5-yr-old, so growing abnormally fast) and she tells him who she is and that they’ll meet again.
Paran continues to Darujhistan, thinking he is now serving himself, not the Empire, and wonders if Sorry/Cotillion is an enemy anymore. He meets Coll and they agree to head into the city together. They share backstories.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter 16
We heard the name Dessembrae back in Chapter Seven for the first time (my, that seems a while ago now!) and Bill told me to keep a watch on it since Dessembrae will prove to be of importance later on. So, here I am, keeping a watch on the name as it is thrown out in our little piece of poetry for Chapter Sixteen! I’m guessing that Dessembrae is the Lord of Tragedy? [Bill’s reply: Yes, and so much more...]
I am interested in the way that Erikson is making two distinct characters of Lorn and the Adjunct. For years she has only been the Adjunct—cold and unfeeling. Now “emotions seeped into the Adjunct, clouding the world around her.”
I’m also intrigued by the line, “...to the immortal power that had seized her for its own use.” Who is controlling Lorn? Is this merely a reference to the fact she is working with Tool? Or is it something more?
Also, I believe that here Lorn is at a crossroads where she decides whether she will be Lorn or the Adjunct, when Tool offers her the chance to leave. I’m taking note of the fact that Tool is going in search of an answer—what is his question?
Lastly, I just want to pull out this exchange because it made me giggle!
“And when we return?” Lorn interrupted. “How much time will have passed?”
“I cannot say, Adjunct.” The Imass paused and turned back to her, his eye sockets glittering with a sourceless light. “I have never done this before.”
It is a rather sweet scene between Crokus and Sorry—now Apsalar. Her confusion and questions are heartbreaking, given what she has been through. You can entirely understand Crokus’s sense of trepidation around her, though! What I don’t quite understand is Crokus’s slightly odd behavior, where he is so quick to anger and then forces her to ride closer to him—is this the influence of Oponn? [Bill: More the influence of his age and hormones, I’d say.]
“He saw things falling into ruins behind her eyes - what were those things?”
I would like to know this alongside Crokus. [Bill: I’m thinking a sense of finding a friend and sense of self.]
Again we see possible implications of a name here—Crokus advises that it may not be wise to take the name of a goddess; possibly it will bring her attention to a mortal?
One thing that is occurring to me now to ask... I know that obviously Kruppe likes Crokus and therefore wants to see him survive the interest of Oponn, but, apart from that, what makes him so determined to protect the Coin Bearer? Just the word of K’rul? How does he know that Oponn has favorable intentions? How does he know who is pushing or pulling? How does he know Oponn is better than the alternative?
The conversation between Kruppe and Murillio showcases more of Kruppe’s quick thinking and his sneaky tactics. He recognizes Otataral immediately (that explains a question I had from a previous commentary!) and therefore knows the woman is from the Malazan Empire. He senses the presence of the Imass and hence realizes that they are searching out the Jaghut Tyrant. What is Kruppe trying to distract Murillio from? Simply going back to aid Coll or something more?
Okay, I have heard it said that Erikson does fill the later books with a great deal of philosophizing. I will confess here that it does little for me—I have never been, nor will ever be, a student of philosophy and sections like the following do absolutely nothing for me. I find them confusing, to tell the truth!
Morality was not relative, they claimed, nor even existing solely in the realm of the human condition. No, they proclaimed morality as an imperative of all life, a natural law that was neither the brutal acts of beasts nor the lofty ambitions of humanity, but something other, something unassailable.
Anyone fancy telling me (by speaking slowly and clearly and using words of one syllable, preferably) what Mr. Erikson is trying to convey here? *grin*
I know a lot has happened to Paran and I should be feeling sorry for him, but his self-pitying introspection does become a little much at times. I am glad he has found some hope in knowing that Tattersail lives though.
Three iron lanceheads sprouted from the blade like leaves, each point split and jammed, the hafts shattered and gone, leaving only white wood jutting out from the sockets.
This is one of those immensely cool moments that Erikson writes so tremendously well. I could see it so exactly and knowing that Chance is having such an effect on events is interesting to note.
“Have you ascended?” Paran asks this question while thinking of Tattersail and it made me wonder whether his knowledge of ascending and Ascendants comes from being associated with Oponn or whether it is common knowledge in the Malazan Empire that ascending happens? So far I don’t think this has ever been made clear and it would be interesting to know.
Again a nice little touch by Erikson, idly dropping in the fact that Caladan Brood’s next target is Pale—I’m sure we’ll hear about that at some point!
“Scholars and mages write endlessly of fell convergences—it seems I am a walking convergence, a lodestone to draw Ascendants. To their peril, it seems.”
I wonder whether Paran will always do this, and what implications it has for the future. Here we have Paran relinquishing himself from any previous ties he had, and choosing no enemies. How long can that last?
And, however, much I get fed up of Paran at times, I did love that last scene between him and Coll—two damaged men sharing war stories. It is filled with humor and pathos and realism. Excellent stuff.
Bill’s reaction to Chapter 16
I don’t want to say much on the poem, as Dessembrae becomes a major point later, save to note the focus as we were just discussing last time, on the theme of vengeance (a word which will have several meanings with regard to Dessembrae).
Lorn opens the chapter with a nice segue from the regret of the poem to her own as she muses on how her emotions are now warring with her cold control as adjunct—a microcosm of humanity as a whole she thinks. Her line “through the gamut of life we struggled for control, for a means to fashion the world around us, an eternal, hopeless hunt for the privilege of being able to predict the shape of our lives” is a great summation of one of the series’ (and life’s) major themes.
I agree, Amanda, that she is at a crossroads, and it’s a few paragraphs later that Lorn loses me as a reader, when she thinks to herself:
“she shrugged off her doubts. There was no turning back now. Had there ever been such a chance . . . the course had been chosen for her.”
I think the last few chapters she’s been straddling the knife’s edge and here she takes the cop-out way of avoiding both responsibility and compassion as she heads to free the Jaghut. As she does a little later when she remains willfully ignorant:
“You don’t want to know. Remain ignorant in this.”
We’ll see lots of people having choices, some will choose what we’d consider wisely, some poorly, and others, like Lorn, take perhaps the worst road: pretending they don’t have a choice.
A clear contrast to Lorn comes a few pages later when we get to Paran, who has decided:
His was no longer the Empire’s road . . . What lay before him was the singular effort to save the lives of Whiskeyjack and the squad. If he managed that, he would not begrudge his own death as a consequence. Some things went beyond a single man’s life.
If the reader hasn’t put together the contrast with Lorn earlier, Erikson whacks them with it in a few lines as Paran himself recalls Lorn’s differing attitude, and her line “just another hunt for certainty.” Along with compassion, armor, betrayal, and a few others, “certainty” is a word that will be popping up a lot in the series. Beware those characters who claim to be “certain.”
The scene with Paran and the Rhivi reunites him briefly with Tattersail, enough for us to see her supernatural growth rate and thus prepare us for the two of them meeting when both are at the same age. Speaking of age, any guesses on that old woman Amanda? [Amanda’s reply: I’m wondering if this is the woman who gave Tattersail new birth?] It also clues us in, as you say, that Caladan Brood is on the march.
The meeting of Paran and Coll is the first time we actually get the details of Coll’s story, almost 500 pages into the book; that’s some delayed explanation. Like you Amanda, I really enjoyed visualizing this scene. I think the idea of choice also arises here as Coll says it wasn’t so much that he was betrayed by Simtal but that he chose to betray himself by not fighting her. So the same question rises for both Coll and Lorn—do they get a chance to make a choice now, a different choice?
I come to Erikson’s (or his characters’) philosophizing differently; they’re actually some of my favorite passages/dialogues in the series, granting it a heft beyond most fantasy. I’m willing to overlook the question of whether these particular people would have these particular thoughts at this particular time just for the enjoyment of the intellectual stimulation. As for the precise passage you picked out, the way I read it is that Paran is beginning to think that justice and morality are inherent within the universe, as is gravity (that doesn’t mean, again, as with gravity, that we “see” justice necessarily).
Rallick meets an Eel’s agent (likely Circle Breaker) at the Phoenix Inn who tells him Orr, in the name of Lady Simtal, has hired the assassin’s guild, specifically Ocelot, to kill Coll.
Rake tells Baruk they won’t be able to avoid a fight and he plans to prevent Laseen from getting Darujhistan, but not at the cost of destroying the city as Baruk fears he’ll do. When questioned by Baruk as to what restrains him, Rake answers what drives him is duty to his people—to return to them “the zest for life.” They discuss the upcoming convergence of powers. Baruk shows Rake Mammot (revealed as a High Priest of D’rek) in a trance, which Rake explains means Mammot is trapped in the barrow.
Circle Breaker signals Meese outside the Phoenix Inn and continues to one last contact for the Eel, expecting he’ll be killed sometime tonight as he’s exposing himself so much.
Meese goes into Mammot’s house.
Crokus and Apsalar are in Mammot’s and Meese warns him D’Arle is looking for him due to the guard Sorry/Apsalar killed. Crokus thinks Challice betrayed him.
Murillio leaves Kruppe at the Phoenix Inn and is given a message from the Eel by Circle Breaker.
Rallick rubs Otataral dusk on his body to make him impervious to magic (though it has unpredictable side effects) then heads to K’rul’s tower to await Ocelot.
Amanda’s reaction to Chapter 17
And we march onto Book Six of Gardens of the Moon... Everyone still with us?
Fisher (again) is first up with the poetry, and this one is definitely intriguing. “...an eel had slipped ashore”—is this mention of Kruppe? “Under a jagged moon that might be dead”—Moon’s Spawn? Now, does this poem speak of recent events? I thought so when it spoke of “...a demon’s death cry on the rooftops on a night of blood...” but if so I cannot remember “...a dragon [...] sailing high silver and black in the nightsky”!
In the second poem Silverfox brings us a bleak image of Dragnipur, I think.
I want to know who the man is waiting for Rallick Nom—Bill seems to think this is Circle Breaker, but I wonder if it might not be someone else? What makes you think this, Bill? The chap is very nondescript, and has about him “a kind of assurance that was calming.” What I also want to know is whether he is actually associated with Kruppe, or if he is using the Eel’s name for his own agenda, to achieve his own ends. We hear in this section that Orr’s plan to pass the proclamation has failed, also that the assassins have gone to ground. The person Rallick is talking to knows he is an assassin. I just suspect that this person is way more than who he seems to be—merely a go-between for the Eel.
Also, Rallick says, “Tell Murillio to go ahead if I don’t show, and if other... events occur. And, if that happens, tell him our man’s eyes are open.” This is strangely obtuse. I feel I should know what is being said here, but I am struggling to see what it is about. I do like how Rallick doesn’t want to be wished luck—with Oponn playing around, you can see that people would be concerned about which sort of luck would be brought down on them!
This is an enormously powerful scene between Baruk and Anomander Rake, where Rake speaks of duty, of the people who are able to challenge his power, of the integrity that keeps him from betrayal. He indicates what it must be like to live for many thousands of years, trying to inspire his people to regain a sense of will and urgency. I love Anomander Rake! It is also curious that Baruk mentions the lack of his sword on this visit, and how Rake looks incomplete without it. Have to say, if I owned Dragnipur, I don’t think I’d leave it just lying around! Is it back on Moon’s Spawn, or is Rake able to put it into another reality to keep it safe?
“But we never betray our allies.”
The Tiste Andii are definitely a race you want on your side! This that Rake says makes me unutterably sad:
“And they die in the mud and forests of a land that is not their own, in a war not their own, for a people who are terrified of them.”
Strikes me that Erikson is making a very valid assessment of all wars there—exactly the same could be said of those who fought in Vietnam, or these days in Afghanistan.
What is also interesting is that Rake knows exactly why Laseen is attempting to free the Tyrant—either to kill Rake, or leave him so weakened that he can then be taken down by her own agents.
Ah! Our first actual knowledge that Mammot is much more than what he seems—a High Priest no less. Of D’rek, the Worm of Autumn.
And I do love the humor that pierces all of the moments of great seriousness:
Baruk was surprised that this Tiste Andii had read Mammot’s Histories but, then, why not? A life spanning twenty thousand years necessitated hobbies, he supposed.
I concur with Baruk when he calls Mammot an old fool! Knowing that something as serious as raising a Jaghut Tyrant is going down, I think I’d stay as far away as possible from it! And here a very sinister end to the section:
“A High Priest, is he? The Jaghut would find him very useful. Not to mention the access Mammot provides to D’rek. Do you know, Baruk, if this Tyrant’s capable of enslaving a goddess?”
We actually see Circle Breaker here—guess that is why Bill said it was he in the Phoenix Inn? He signals to Meese and Irilta, and they perform back-up for him—which makes it a little funny that Meese didn’t indicate that she knew Circle Breaker (if it was he) when she told Rallick that there was someone waiting for him?
Sorry/Apsalar (guess we will be sticking on Apsalar from now on, since that is who she now is) is showing hints that she has kept some of the skills granted by the Rope while he possessed her. She noted the fact that they’d seen a stabler when Crokus misses it, and she knows she can take to the rooftops without problem. Considering Crokus is meant to be a half-decent thief, the fact she seems better than him is a good indication she will always be more than just a fishergirl now.
Something occurs to me... I might be way off base here. The man Circle Breaker—is he a Claw? Because with the information he is passing to Rallick and Murillio, he is ensuring that the assassins of Darujhistan are being taken on (since we see Rallick hunting Ocelot). Not sure!
Oh, this is something interesting... The reddish powder given to Rallick by Baruk is clearly Otataral:
“The powder changes some people. There is no predicting such changes, however.”
And then Rallick puts the powder all over his skin! Does that make the last line of the chapter even more telling?
“He began his ascent.”
Bill’s reaction to Chapter 17
Fisher’s poem, I think, is more setting up future events than looking at past ones—so the dragons are yet to come.
That Rake/Baruk scene is one of my favorite Rake scenes (and I have a lot of Rake scenes I enjoy). We’ve discussed how often Erikson plays with point-of-view to leave us thinking one thing and then switches over to reveal we weren’t playing with a full deck, so to speak. But in this case, I immediately bought Rake’s sincerity in describing his sense of duty and eight books later I have yet to question that first impression of sincerity. How can you not respond to the tragedy of:
“Do I raise Moon’s Spawn into the heavens . . . beyond any risk? What, then, will I be preserving . . . The Tiste Andii point of view is one of disinterest, stoicism, and quiet, empty despair. Are these gifts to the world worthy of preservation?”
Or that line you quoted, Amanda.
And just after I noted to be wary of characters espousing their own certainty, here we get Rake doing just the opposite:
“There’s no certainty in this, Baruk. That seems a fact particularly galling to you humans.”
Another reason I take him more reliably as presented than some others.
By the way—that’s an interesting point in this scene where Rake is described as not wearing his sword. For those veteran readers, doesn’t this conflict with a scene we see much later where he divests himself of his sword and we see where he puts it? Based on that scene, I can’t imagine him not wearing it this casually or for this long.
We get some heavy foreshadowing as well with Rake’s fear of Mammot being taken by the Jaghut—sinister indeed.
And then some more perhaps with Rallick and the “changes” Baruk warned him about with regard to having Otataral in contact with his skin. Nice catch on that last line, Amanda. Brings up some questions, eh?
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.