Feb 16 2011 1:37pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Deadhouse Gates, Chapters 18 and 19

Deadhouse Gates by Steven EriksonWelcome 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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapters 18 and 19 of Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson (DG).

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.

Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!

Chapter Eighteen


Fiddler’s group comes across the bodies of four Nameless Ones who appeared to be guarding the entrance. Icarium, looking at their staves, says he has seen these before in a dream, which he then recounts: he arrives at the edge of a Trell town that has been utterly destroyed, with Great Ravens feasting on the corpses. A Nameless One appears and from the power still pouring from her staff, Icarium realizes she has destroyed the town. She tells Icarium he must “not wander alone.” Her words recall horrible memories of past companions, “countless in number,” sometimes individuals and sometimes large groups, all of them betrayed and all of them eventually failing in keeping Icarium from doing what he does (he wonders if he himself killed many of them). The Nameless One’s staff flares and Icarium finds himself alone with his pain and memories gone. And then he wakes from the dream. Mappo thinks it’s impossible, that someone has tainted Icarium’s dreams. When Mappo identifies them as Nameless Ones, Icarium looks hard at him. Apsalar says the cult was supposed to be extinct. Pust says they claim to be Servants of the Azath and that Kellanved and Dancer’s Talons had purged them from the Empire. Just as Pust was about to say something about the Deadhouse, Apsalar stops him from revealing any more, which makes Icarium wonder if that was her or Dancer doing so. Apsalar says she’s tired of everyone wondering who she is, “as if I have no self.” She says she is “not a slave to what I was. I decide what to do with my knowledge.” Icarium apologizes and asks Mappo what more he knows about the Nameless Ones. Mappo says it’s rumored they date from the First Empire and it is they who recruited Icarium’s guardians, though nobody knows why (Rellock guesses guilt).


Fiddler views hordes of arms and limbs and demons, Ascendants, etc. caught in Tremorlor’s roots. They can hear battles on all sides of them as they move through the maze, along with the Azath’s roots and branches being broken. Fiddler looks at how close Blind stays to Icarium and thinks he and Mappo are both suspicious that Shadowthrone had made a deal with the Azath that it wouldn’t take the Hounds and they’d help it take Icarium. Suddenly Messremb charges but not at the group; instead it attacks an enkar’al Soletaken about to attack. Mappo kills the Soletaken, but Rood attacks Messremb and pushes him against the maze wall where he’s held by a green-skinned arm around his neck. Rood tears one of Messremb’s arms off as Mappo is restrained by Icarium from going to help him. Icarium tries to comfort Mappo by telling him he’s being killed by the arm and so he won’t be imprisoned for eternity in the Azath.


Fiddler thinks there’s no way they can survive this, with thousands of shapeshifters there, meaning only the strongest will survive to the end. Shan arrives with lots of wounds. Icarium senses Gryllen coming and Mappo tries to hold him back. Fiddler turns to see Gryllen approaching as a “seething, swarming wall.”


Felisin’s group is stopped by a young girl standing guard at the entrance to Sha’ik’s oasis camp. She is an orphan and thus nameless (nobody to speak for her in the naming ritual) and Felisin says if they will fight and die for her all the orphans have earned names and she herself will speak for them all. Heboric says the ancient city was destroyed by invaders. Leoman tells them there are 40, 000 “of the best-trained cavalry the world has ever seen.” Heboric says it doesn’t matter as the Malazan Empire always adapts its tactics, pointing out it’s already defeated a horse culture—the Wickans. When Leoman asks “how” Heboric says he doesn’t know—he isn’t a military historian—but Leoman could always try to read Duiker and others who were. Leoman has in fact and reels off the Malazan tactics. A crowd begins to gather and follow them, drawn by Felisin. Over Leoman’s objections, Felisin decides to address the crowd. Felisin wonders at how the goddess has been so amenable to a deal with Felisin: she will grant power to Felisin yet allow Felisin to remain Felisin, seemingly confident she’ll eventually give in. She tells the crowd that all but Aren has been liberated and that the Empress has sent a fleet commanded by her Adjunct. As she speaks, she reads the thoughts of the three High Mages, none of which kneeled when the crowd did. Bidithal had found the other Sha’ik as a child and “used [her] so brutally . . . broker her within her own body.” She says she has reserved a place for him in the Abyss but he will serve her until then and forces him to kneel. Febryl tried to poison her three times and years ago had fled from Dassem Ultor and betrayed Seven Cities but she will use him as bait to identify those who are against her and forces him to his knees. L’oric is a true mystery to her/Sha’ik, and has strong sorcerous shields she cannot pierce. He is a “pragmatist” and judges her every act and decision. He drops to one knee—a “half-measure”—of his own volition, which makes Felisin smile. She tells the crowd they will march and then raises the whirlwind into a giant column of dust and sand that towers overhead as the standard of Sha’ik’s army.


Fiddler’s group retreats from Gryllen, who has grown to encompass thousands or tens of thousands of rats, but end up trapped. Icarium throws Mappo to the ground and draws his sword. The sky reddens and forms a vortex. Shan attacks Icarium but gets swatted aside like he’s nothing. Fiddler reaches into his munitions bag for one of his last cusser and throws it but it was the conch shell from the Tano Spiritwalker Kimloc. Music fills the air and now it’s Gryllen who tries to retreat but begins withering, devoured, giving the song even more power. Everybody’s down on the ground, the Hounds cringing, Icarium knocked unconscious by Mappo. A wall of water appears, filled with the wreckage of the past: the remains of sunken ships, ancient metals, bones, etc and the wave buries them then disappears, the music gone to silence. Fiddler looks up to see the Hounds surrounding the unconscious Icarium and Mappo standing over the body to protect him. Fiddler tells Pust to call them off and Pust says this was the bargain. Fiddler shows Pust his bag and says he’ll fall on his own cusser and kill the Hounds if they don’t back off. Pust looks to Apsalar, but she agrees with Fiddler. They see the House just ahead and Mappo gently picks up Icarium and carries him.


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eighteen:

I just wonder—reading the poem at the start of Chapter Eighteen—whether this is the first time to Path of Hands has been used.

Nameless Ones = Priests of the Azath, although Mappo does acknowledge this is a clumsy way to define them. So... Azath, Nameless Ones, Ascendancy, jade statues, warrens—these are the parts of the series that will only be truly revealed by the end of The Crippled God, and maybe not even then? [Bill’s interjection: Truly revealed? Not so much. More revealed? Some of them.]

It’s upsetting that Icarium confesses to dreams where he suffers pain:

“No, the pain is within me, as of a knowledge once gained, then lost yet again.”

Wow, Icarium’s dream is so dark... It seems as though he has killed countless companions, and yet must still never walk alone to ensure his rage is kept in check. Mappo is brave but, I bet, fatalistic about the fact he is likely to die at Icarium’s hands.

But is Icarium’s dream truth or not...? Mappo thinks:

Impossible. A twisting of the truth. I saw the slaughter with my own eyes. I spoke with the priestess. You have been visited in your dreams, Icarium, with fickle malice.

So who has been sending Icarium these dreams? Everyone is being manipulated, aren’t they?

Interesting trickle of information here about the fact that Shadowthrone—as Kellanved—scoured the Empire to remove the Nameless Ones. And they, in turn, resented Kellanved’s ascension through the Deadhouse. Oooh! Loving that people still aren’t one hundred percent about who speaks from Apsalar’s mouth.

She makes it clear that it is only her speaking and not Cotillion—and that she is now choosing what to do with her memories. She is choosing her cause. And has told Iskaral to stop talking... Apsalar is suddenly feeling like a pivotal character, in terms of what she knows and what she plans to accomplish.

After her soft talk with Icarium, I really hate her harsh words towards him:

“Possessing these memories enforces a responsibility, Icarium, just as possessing none exculpates.”

Has Mappo been alongside Icarium for 94,000 years? [Bill’s interjection: No, he’s had lots of companions.] If so, why did he never think to ask the Nameless Ones why they were so concerned with choosing Icarium’s guardians?

Such beautiful prose:

The shock of that unmanned him, mocking his audacity with an endless echo of ages and realms trapped within this mad, riotous prison.

Here Erikson is exploring once again the idea of human beings leaving very little impact on the universe, the insignificance of existence. Fiddler is looking at these demons and Ascendants and alien creatures that the Azath holds safe from the world, and realising that human beings are only one tiny part of a massive world. I wonder if this is Erikson’s archaeological nature coming through—during digs etc he must have seen the remains of ancient civilisations and lives that are as nothing in this modern age.

Also, I just want to put this out there... At the moment we sort of see the Azath as benevolent, because in Gardens of the Moon the Azath grew and captured the Jaghut Tyrant, and pretty much saved Darujhistan from devastation. So, my thought is concerning the Ascension of Dancer and Kellanved through an Azath—either the Azath are neutral and just thrive on power, or they are actually malignant and manipulative, or Dancer and Kellanved are actually a good thing for the Malazan Empire (i.e. them leaving the Empire and taking positions as Shadowthrone and Cotillion). My head is getting all twisted up. Ooh, here’s another possible theory—I wonder if particular Nameless Ones have control over particular Azath, and the Azath takes on the nature of the Nameless One—hence can be either benevolent OR malignant? Okay, okay, I’m just musing out loud! I know y’all are going to say READ AND FIND OUT!

Ah, politics and manipulations and secrets... Has Shadowthrone struck a deal with the Azath? To bring Icarium into its grasp? After all, Shadowthrone has been using Pust to make sure that the group make their way to Tremorlor... Have to say, I wouldn’t want those ancient killers being so close to me—especially not knowing what they have planned, and what instructions they have been given by Shadowthrone...

Poor Messremb—even though he’s only been a very peripheral character, I still feel sore at his loss. And the fact that Rood eats his arm is just so icky. The phrasing of it makes it even worse:

placidly devouring the severed paw...

It’s interesting that Fiddler thinks on the group as minor players: here we have a sapper of the Bridgeburners, one of the few who has survived hell; a lad educated by a coven, and taught by assassins, once possessed by Oponn; a fisherman taken by Shadowthrone and given a new arm (what else has he been given?); a fishergirl taken by Cotillion, with all that master assassin’s memories; a Trell that can destroy a Soletaken with one sweep of his arm; and Icarium himself... Not exactly minor players, any of them.

Icarium’s sudden surge of anger stilled the air on all sides—as if an entire warren had drawn breath.

This helps to convey the magnitude and power of Icarium’s rage.

His gaze held on Icarium, as the edge they now all tottered on finally revealed itself, promising horror.

Leoman knows well the tactics he should use to defeat the Malazans. I wonder whether that knowledge of his will prove important before the end of the novel [Bill’s interjection: Better to say novels]...

“Know your enemy better than they know themselves.”

I like the fact that Heboric and Felisin are happy to share comments about their past—both seem to have mellowed towards each other with the changes wrought within them.

He gave Felisin an ironic grin. “When did we last travel a crowded street, lass?”

Hee, I enjoy all of Erikson’s uses of “converge” and “ascend”! Like here, for instance—Felisin says:

“I shall need your lungs to start, Toblakai. Name me once I’ve ascended.”

Aha! I see now why we shall have such problems parsing Felisin and Sha’ik! Felisin has made a deal with the goddess instead of simply opening the Book and being taken over. She thinks she will be in control—knowing what I do of gods already from the books til now Felisin is fooling herself to believe this. And she is also playing a very dangerous game with Leoman.

Is it coincidence that Sha’ik the Elder was also brutally mistreated, and ended up at a point where men would be no distraction? Sha’ik Reborn and Sha’ik the Elder have a lot in common, it seems.

So Febryl served under Dassem Ultor? And it sounds like “once a betrayer, always a betrayer” in this High Mage’s case.

I really enjoyed the scene where Felisin judges the three High Mages—Erikson writes these sort of scenes incredibly well. I can picture them exactly in my head.

And, oh my... The raising of Dryjhna’s standard is another of those scenes! How foreboding:

“Dear sister, see what you’ve made.”

Oh my word, Icarium is one scary S.O.B. The very sky is changing colour with his unleashed rage; he bats aside Hounds as though they don’t exist.

Hmmm... I recall the scene where Fiddler received the conch. The conch had within it the songs of the Spiritwalker. And the touch and songs of the Spiritwalker might be enough to make the Bridgeburners ascend... Was this the moment? Has Fiddler become more?


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eighteen:

And so once again we’re given a scene we’ve been shown before via a different POV that cast a wholly different light on the scene. In this case it’s the destruction of Mappo’s Trell village, the act that drove him to become Icarium’s most recent guardian. Was it destroyed by Icarium as Mappo was told? By the Nameless Ones as Icarium recalls now from his “dream”? Do/did Mappo’s Elders know which it truly was? Imagine how long Mappo has held that belief and what it has made of his life, then imagine the response to having it called into question. But does it even matter? After all, if Icarium didn’t destroy that Trell village, he’s certainly destroyed, as Mappo thinks, “countless” others—peoples, civilizations, warrens.

As one life becomes more in question, another seems to be coming into its own, as you point out Amanda with Apsalar making a stand for herself with everyone, announcing she’s tired of all the worries or suspicions she’s merely a vessel for Cotillion, or a puppet that dances to his strings: “As if I have no self unstained by the god who once possessed me . . . I am not a slave to what I was. I decide what to do with the knowledge I possess. I choose my own causes.” And as they say, “any resemblance to persons, living or dead (cough cough Felisin) is purely coincidental (cough cough).” One can conjecture about the strength of Apsalar’s statement by the fact it precipitates an apology from Icarium.

The other information on the Nameless Ones we’ve mostly already been given or been able to deduce, but what I found the most intriguing comment on them from the group was Rellock’s statement that perhaps it is “guilt” that drives them to keep Icarium in check via the guardians. Certainly makes one wonder....

Earlier we had a simple glance between Fiddler and Mappo to hint at their shared idea that Shadowthrone and the Azath might doublecross Icarium and, as we’ve seen occur often in the series, after giving us a slight nudge toward an idea, Erikson later fleshes it out for us, as Fiddler’s POV explicitly lays out the idea of a possible doublecross.

I highlighted earlier how the scene with Gryllen and Kulp gave us a further reason to like Messremb, along with his first interaction with Mappo and now we see why: it forces us to grieve at his death along with Mappo, feeling an actual loss rather than simply feeling bad for Mappo. It makes Mappo’s desperate cry of “Messremb! . . . An ally! . . .” and then his broken whisper, “a friend” all the more painful. As it does during the relatively lengthy description of Messremb’s slow choking death, though at least Icarium offers up to Mappo, and via Mappo the reader as well, the tiniest comfort that death is a mercy compared to the alternative—eternal imprisonment. And you’re right, Amanda, that matter-of-fact description of his arm becoming an appetizer is just so cold.

Gryllen... don’t you just hate him? And when Icarium yells out “He was warned!” who doesn’t want Mappo to let go, especially after what just happened to Messremb? We want someone to pay for that and who better than Gryllen?

Lots of rebirthing going on: Apsalar claims her selfhood, Felisin takes on Sha’ik to some extent, forging a new self of her own, and now the orphans will get renamed. We’ll have to see if anyone else recreates themselves....

Yet another sign of Erikson’s anthropological background as Heboric gives Felisin a little history lesson via potshards. And what an uplifting lesson it is as well:

From something delicate to something brutal, a pattern repeated throughout all of history.

It’s an appropriate line for an early book in a massive series that deals so much with cycles and deep time, a series that shows us yet another cusp of change. And so this line sets up one of the many big questions for the series: will we in fact, by the end, see another move to something more brutal that what has come before, or might we see a glimmer of hope that the direction needn’t always be downward?

We see from Heboric and Leoman’s discussion that Leoman is a bit more than we’ve seen so far, that he has some hidden depths. Keep the keenness of his mind and study of battle tactics, especially Malazan ones, in mind for the future.

I like the introduction of the three High Mages as well, Amanda, one by one through Felisin’s speech (as well as the little throwaway reminder of Tavore’s fleet). It’s a quick, gliding intro to three men who will play major roles, but enough for us to get a sense of them and their relationship with Sha’ik to start with. Save for L’oric, who is a mystery even to the goddess, which tells you something about those sorcerous wards Felisin mentions. But it’s hard not to respond positively to him as he’s presented: first just because the other two are presented so negatively we’ll be fonder of L’oric simply by default; secondly, it’s hard not to chuckle at the character presented as a mysterious pragmatist who does a halfway kneel (one knee, bowed head); and finally we’ve got an exchange of smiles, and well all know smiling is contagious. The question of course, with such a mysterious character becomes is Erikson giving us this positive introduction because L’oric wil end up revealed as a decent guy or is he setting us up for a surprise?

Finally in this section, as you say, what a great closing image, the whirlwind rising up to the top of the sky

And yet another (somewhat similar) great image in Icarium’s drawing of this sword:

the iron sky blushed crimson, began twisting into a vortex directly above them.

Well, we mentioned long ago about Kimloc’s touch on Fiddler’s shoulder and hundreds of pages later it’s finally paying off as the Spiritwalker magic breaks open. And finally that bastard Gryllen gets some comeuppance. We also get a view of the ancient sea of Raraku (kinda) that’s been referenced again and again. And the images just keep on coming, this time with the flotsam and jetsam that can be seen in the sea. These last few pages are some of the more visually cinematic (to be a bit redundant) in the book.

But it wouldn’t be Malaz were it simply surface visuals. A few pages earlier we had Heboric musing on the fall of civilizations, the transitory nature of achievement and now we get a concrete image of the concept with the “submerged memory of countless civilizations, an avalanche of tragic events, dissolution, and decay all of it drowned under the waves of sea and time, and then even that become “dust.”

By the way, now that we have an idea of Kimloc’s true power (and we’ll see later that his magic continues to work in Tremorlor), let’s not forget why he asked to touch Fiddler—so he could learn the story of the Bridgeburners:

“There is in a Tano song the potential for Ascendancy, but can an entire regiment ascend? Truly a question deserving an answer” [though not in this book]

Fiddler. Fiddler. Earlier I said something about the greatness that was Fiddler, and here we see one of the myriad examples of such: the way he is willing to stand up against the Hounds themselves to stand by Mappo and protect Icarium, willing not just to fight the Hounds but to blow himself up in order to do so. The soldier stands.

And you’ve got to love how Pust thinks he has a “shaved knuckle in the hole” in Apsalar, only to have her refuse to stop Fiddler. And I like how she doesn’t call him Fiddler but “the soldier,” thanks to how it echoes that whole “the soldier stands” idea. And a nice tension breaker is Pust’s sputtering “kids these days” little rant, not to mention the inherent humor in Pust complaining about “loyalty.”

Chapter Nineteen


The chapter opens saying the Vather river crossing would later be known as “The Day of Pure Blood” and the Season of Sharks and that it would “hone [the] deadly edge” of the woman now sailing with the Empire’s fleet, a woman “hard as iron.” Coltaine lost over 20,000 refugees at the crossing and lots of soldiers, along with Sormo, and Dom continues to harass them. Lull asks Duiker, in all those books he’s read, “How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of... Does each of us . . . reach a point when all that we’ve seen, survived, changes us inside . . . What do we become then? Less human, or morehuman.” Duiker tell him that everyone has their own threshold before crossing over “into something else . . . [into] a place not for answers . . . lost.” When Lull says he’ll go mad without an answer, Duiker replies “sleight of hand . . . illusion . . . wonder.” Which you’ll find, he goes on, in “unexpected places” where you’ll fight “both tears and a smile.” As they cross through the forest, they see T’lan Imass skulls in the trees, left from the ancient war in List’s dreams. The survivors of that war carried the T’lan Imass too shattered to go on here and hung them in the trees to watch, rather than bury the immortals in the ground. They pass as well cairns topped with skulls marking places the Jaghut turned and fought. Duiker and List find Coltaine, Bult, and Lull in the vanguard, along with the sappers. Coltaine tells the sappers that, due to their repeated bravery, several clan leaders have asked to adopt them. He says he had them withdraw as he assumed that is what the sappers would want. But, he continues, he will follow the traditions of the Empire and so he promotes one who showed “natural leadership” to sergeant. Lull and the others are informed by another sapper that Coltaine actually just demoted the man, since he had been their captain (Captain Mincer). Mincer then grabs a woman named Bungle, who had been his sergeant, and says she should be made captain. Coltaine and others try not to laugh, and Coltaine agrees to the promotion, suggestion Bungle listen to her sergeant. When asked why he never attended staff briefings, Bungle says it was because Mincer needed “beauty sleep.” She also mentions he carries a sack of rocks to throw when he breaks his sword, and there’s nothing he can’t hit. Save, Mincer interrupts, “that lapdog,” which causes Bult to choke in laughter/sympathy. Coltaine asks Duiker to make sure he records this moment and Duiker says he’ll get every word down. The sappers leave and Coltaine admits he didn’t know what to do or why they seemed to not mind him demoting a man for bravery. Lull says he “returned him [Mincer] to the ranks . . .And that lifted every one of them up.” As Duiker watches Lull, Coltaine, and Bult walk away still talking about it, he thinks back to his conversation with List: “Tears and smiles, something so small, so absurd, the only possible answer.”


List shows Duiker a ruined tower nearby and tells him it was Jaghut, that they lived alone as they feared each other as much as they feared the T’lan Imass. He says the tower is a few hundred millennia old and that they were pushed back by the T’lan Imass to tower after tower after tower (the last “in the heart of the plain beyond the forest.”) Duiker asks if this was a typical Jaghut-Imass war and List answers no, it was a unique bond among the Jaghut family, that when the mother was endangered the children and father joined the battle and things “escalated.” When Duiker muses she must have been “special,” List says yes, and that it is her mate who is his ghost guide. Suddenly, they feel something and turn to look and spot Sha’ik’s column rising to the sky.


Kalam is unnerved by the strangeness aboard Ragstopper: the blurry sense of time’s passage, the captain’s strange illness and seeming attempts to communicate something of importance to Kalam, the suspicion that Elan is a mage, an unusual storm driving them southeast. He finds a private spot and uses a magical stone to contact Quick Ben. Quick Ben speaks to him, seemingly under some pressure wherever he is. Kalam asks him to try and sense what is happening aboard Ragstopper. Quick tells Kalam he’s (Kalam) in trouble and the ship “stinks of a warren, one of the rarest among mortals” and that its purpose (or one of them) is confusion. When Kalam tells Quick that Fiddler and his group headed for Tremorlor, Quick Ben is upset because he’d suggested that possibility when things were at peace but now “every warren’s lit up” and “something’s gone bad there.” Kalam mentions the Path of Hands and Quick Ben gets more worried and says he’ll try and think of some way to help them, then trails away, saying he “lost too much blood yesterday.”


Kalam finds Elan in the captain’s room. Elan tells him the storm is blowing them off course to Malaz City.


Mappo is beginning to doubt the story he’d been told of his town’s destruction by Icarium. He wonders if it matters, as there’s no doubt that Icarium has taken countless other lives. He vows the House will not take Icarium and he will fight it and any who try to help it do so. Fiddler confirms that Mappo is not so caught up in his own plight that he won’t help the group if needed.


As Fiddler looks at his group, he realizes that not only Mappo but all of them will fight to keep Icarium from being taken, foolish as that may be. They can see the assault on Tremorlor is having an effect on the House, can hear the forest being destroyed. They sense something coming up behind them and hear a scream and a battle. From behind comes Moby and the Hounds shy away from him. Fiddler sees Moby is more than he appears and Pust says he just tore apart a shapeshifter. They can see the house now and decide to make a run for it. Apsalar leads, saying a house opened once for Dancer. When asked what it takes, she says “audacity.” Mappo says the conch shell did and is still doing damage to the shapeshifters and may prove enough for the Azath to survive. He asks Fiddler what it was and Fiddler answers he got it from Kimloc, the Tano Spiritwalker. Mappo deduces Kimloc must have touched Fiddler and learned of his plan to find Tremorlor and so crafted the shell in accordance. Above them opens a warren with four huge dhenrabi in it. Fiddler realizes the one he killed earlier in the book was part of a D’ivers. The Hounds attack the dhenrabi and kill several as the group watch, then they run for the House as a swarm of bloodflies heads their way. Apsalar tries the door but it won’t open.


The army passes the first Jaghut tomb, a tilted stone slab. List tells Duiker it was the youngest son, his face looking horrible and Duiker realizes List’s ghost has been watching over the tomb and grieving in torture for two hundred thousand years. List says the boy was five and he was dragged to this spot, all his bones shattered, and then pinned beneath the rock (killing him would have cost the T’lan Imass too much). Duiker realizes the army is working in near silence and List says the father’s grief drove all the spirits away and hangs over all of them like a pall. He suggests moving quickly through this land, though he says things only get worse in the plain. Duiker wonders why the Imass did what they did and List says “pogroms need no reason . . . difference in kind is the first . . . Land, domination, pre-emptive attacks . . . just excuses that do nothing but disguise the simple distinction. They are not us. We are not them.” Duiker wants to know if the Jaghut tried to reason or negotiate and List says yes (save the Tyrants), but their innate arrogance “stung” the Imass. Duiker is skeptical it would do so enough to drive the Imass to swear a vow of immortal war and List answers that he didn’t think the Imass knew how long it would take to kill all the Jaghut, that the Jaghut never really flaunted their true power and that even when they used their power it was often passive and defensive, such as by creating barriers of ice (which the Imass could survive and pass by becoming dust).


As they march, the army is attacked by two tribes—the Tregyn and the Bhilard, while the third, the Khundryl, awaited them; people are starving, the herd animals are dying, and Dom’s army is growing behind them, now five times Coltaine’s number of soldiers. They enter a valley and see two large encampments of the Tregyn and Bhilard waiting.


Lull tells Duiker that the soldiers are dropping like flies due to thirst and he and Duiker both say something feels odd tonight, like “maybe Hood’s Warren has drawn closer.” At a command meeting, Coltaine says the warlocks have sensed something coming tonight. Duiker anticipates tomorrow’s battle will be a slaughter by Dom’s army. He thinks to offer “one word”—surrender?—but even without him saying it, Coltaine looks at him and says “we cannot.” Duiker silently agrees that this must end in blood. The air suddenly changes as the predicted “something” arrives: three massive carriages arriving out of Hood’s Warren. A mage steps out of the lead one and tell Coltaine his exploits are spoken of with wonder in Darujhistan and that people (“alchemists, mages, sorcerers”) have arranged with the Trygalle Trade Guild to supply the army with food and water.


The mage, Karpolan Demesand, was one of the original founders of the TTG, an alliance of mages that came to “specialize in expeditions so risk-laden as to make the average merchant pale.” He tells them Hood’s warren is warped tight about Coltaine’s group. He tells them the Malazans that formerly were going to attack Darujhistan are now allies against the Pannion Seer and that Dujek sends his greetings and was the instigator of this resupply, helped by the cabal of mages in the city. Dujek told the Guild “The Empress cannot lose such leaders as Coltaine,” a sentiment Karpolan finds odd coming from an “outlaw.” Dujek also sent Coltaine, from Quick Ben, a strange bottle for Coltaine to wear at all times. When Coltaine at first refuses, Karpolan tells him it’s an order from Dujek and when Coltaine questions how he, a Malazan soldier, can be ordered by a Malazan outlaw, Karpolan says when he himself asked Dujek the same question, Dujek’s answer was “never underestimate the Empress.” Everyone there realizes the “outlawing” was faked so as to ally with Brood and Rake. Coltaine takes the bottle and Karpolan tells him to break it against his chest “when the time comes.” Karpolan then says he will not stay to witness the tragedy of tomorrow’s battle, plus he has an even more difficult delivery to make. He asks if Coltaine has anything to say to Dujek and Coltaine says simply “no.”


With the food and water, the army rises in the morning in better mood and shape. Coltaine prepares an attempt to punch through the tribes blocking the valley mouth leading toward Aren. List arrives saying he feels hope is in the air. The Khundryl, in tens of thousands, appear and send a small group, which the Malazan assume will be a personal combat challenge to Coltaine. When Duiker tells Coltaine it is madness, that Coltaine is acting like a Wickan and not a Fist, and that Quick Ben’s bottle will only work once, Coltaine rips it off and throws it at Duiker. The Khundryl war chiefs though are not here for combat. One tells them the Khundryl have long waited for this day to see which of the great tribes of the South Odhans is the most powerful and that Coltaine should watch what happens.


As Coltaine’s army is giving ground to the Tregyn/Bhilard tribes on one side and Dom’s army on the other, the Khundryl suddenly attack all three. Dom’s army eventually pushes them back, though the tribes among it were shattered. Meanwhile, the Tregyn and Bhilard were routed. The same Khundryl warchief returns and asks if Coltaine noted which was the most powerful. Coltaine says the Khundryl and when the Khundryl chief says no, they lost to Dom, Coltaine says it must be Dom then whom the Khundryl recognize as most powerful. The war chief calls him a fool and says it’s “The Wickans! The Wickans! The Wickans!”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Nineteen:

The litany of losses within the Chain of Dogs is mind-numbing. Do you ever have the feeling that you simply can’t comprehend the enormity of a number? When you hear about losses from wars and things like that, the numbers are so huge they don’t really mean anything. This is how I feel about seeing twenty thousand refugees having been killed, less than five hundred remaining in the Foolish Dog Clan... It becomes much more meaningful when we see the name Sormo—a name attached to the madness and death gives it more weight somehow.

Some more of Erikson’s philosophising, but I can easily imagine policemen and soldiers and people on the frontline asking themselves the same question:

“How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of? Does each of us, soldier or no, reach a point when all that we’ve seen, survived, changes us inside?”

And again the emphasis on the children—how much more they suffer by virtue of the fact they are so young and will carry these events with them for the rest of their lives:

“Yet you and I, Lull, we are lost late in our lives. Look upon the children, and despair.”

It is a truly haunting vision—this twisted, petrified forest, the last resting place of those T’lan Imass who battled the Jaghut.

I truly don’t understand the fragile black humour of the battlefield at times [Bill’s interjection: Consider the alternatives.] Where Bult says:

“We’ve just managed the prodigious task of assembling the sappers—you’d think battles with Kamist Reloe were tactical nightmares.”

Oh dear Lord—and how quickly I go to full-blown belly laughs! That moment when Coltaine realises he’s just demoted the sapper captain—absolutely priceless. And when Bult snorts in sympathy with the prior captain because neither of them can hit the damn lapdog when they throw stones at it. This is just brilliant, and seriously helps to lighten the dark mood that was coming over me reading about the Chain.

A “green and strangely luminescent cloud”? Magic? Or do I once again see zebras where there are horses? The odd matter of time suggests Kalam’s ship is under the influence of magic.

This is a question I want answered as well! “So, who plays with us here?”

Isn’t that conversation between Kalam and Quick Ben cryptic? And it goes to show that Quick Ben doesn’t know everything and isn’t in control! As soon as a battleplan reaches the actual battlefield, it is likely to go wrong... And magic is involved on the ship! “That ship stinks of a warren, Kalam, one of the rarest among mortals.”

Pust really does give me the creeps at the end of the section where Fiddler and Mappo discuss loyalties. That “different tone of voice” makes me feel as though we see a little of the “real” Pust—a truly dangerous individual, for all of his posturing. You’d have to be dangerous to have a god like Shadowthrone riding you and survive. “The blathering of secrets [...] so they judge me ineffectual.”

Moby is quite the mysterious little character, isn’t he?

“My uncle’s familiar,” Crokus said, approaching.

The Hounds shrank from his path.

Oh, lad, much more than that, it seems.

This is interesting to me—usually (as you’ll probably have realised from the episodic nature of my commentary) I read a few paragraphs and pick out pertinent points to chat about and quote from. But, rather like towards the end of Gardens of the Moon, I find myself breathlessly turning page after page and then realising I’m not actually commenting at all on what I’m discovering.

But I guess that breathless reading and inability to stop for anything is a comment all of its own! I am loving these battle-ridden scenes of Hounds fighting dhenrabi in a titanic struggle—the Hounds spewing magic; the sprint of the party towards the Azath entrance; the way Apsalar turns with shock after she has been refused—even though Dancer/Cotillion was permitted entry.

When we suddenly switch from action-packed running and fighting to the quiet despair of the Chain, there is even more of a contrast.

Erikson also gives us the other side of the story here. In Gardens of the Moon we met a T’lan Imass and heard his sorrow and anger about the wars with the Jaghut. Because there was a Jaghut Tyrant involved, I sort of assumed the Jaghut were therefore the bad guys. But here, with List, we experience a father’s pain for his lost child and find enormous sympathy for the Jaghut. I guess there are always two sides to every conflict.

The Chain of Dogs storyline makes me feel even more desperately sad. The one bit the really caught the breath in my throat was this:

“One word, yet even to voice it would be to offer the cruellest illusion. One word.”

I’m guessing: surrender. But the Chain has gone way too far for that. It would make a mockery of everything that has been suffered so far—as Duiker reflects:

“For the rebellion’s warriors as much as for us, the end to this must be with blood.”

The appearance of water could only occur in such a histrionic manner. *grins* The wildness of the carriages, the coming of the Darujhistans. What I most love is the fact that Coltaine’s feats are now legendary—people have been beseeching their gods to save those on the Chain of Dogs. In the isolation of the desert and in the battle to stay alive, they could not have known that people watched and waited and wanted desperately for them to survive.

Hmm, I confess, the whole matter of Dujek rescuing Coltaine, because the Empress needs such as he, and yet Dujek being an outlaw of the Empire has me all confused. And then Coltaine’s response, that he does not want word taken back to Dujek—and Duiker’s concern about this—all of this has me frowning and scratching my head. It’s odd—I was used to this feeling for the majority of the first novel in the Malazan sequence, but now I hate it, now that I’m finding it easier to take things on faith and read through the confusion. Anything that stops me in my tracks almost annoys me! Shed me some light, fellow readers, if you will!

Oh man! The Khundryl are betraying their own!

And here is another of those fist punching the air moments:

“The answer this day... [...] The Wickans! The Wickans! The Wickans!”


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Nineteen:

And the emotional roller coaster continues. From the humor of Pust and the gentle love of Mappo carrying Icarium in his arms, to the blood-soaked and corpse-choked River Vather and the ongoing death march that is the Chain of Dogs. We’re pounded with the horrific imagery of the river “gush[ing] blood and corpses . . . for close to a week, a tide that deepened from red to black amidst pallid, bloated bodies.“ Then pummeled again by the simple brute force of math: “Over twenty thousand refugees, a disproportionate number of children among them . . . Seven hundred soldiers of the seventh.” Then, after the abstract, we’re hit with the personal and concrete: Sormo dead, Lull’s hands trembling, List wounded.

And then we’re kneed in the gut by Lull’s demand for an answer to all this, to the question of “How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of?” (Note, too, that he doesn’t say “human” but “mortal”—since as we see in this chapter, humans don’t have a monopoly on cruelty and atrocity.) And the answer as well to “Does each of us . . . reach a point when all that we’ve seen, survived changes us inside? Irrevocably changes us? What do we become then? Less human, or more human? Human enough, or too human.” And if you read that as a question merely for fictional soldiers fighting in a world that doesn’t exist, then I’d say you’re not respecting this series enough. And if you take it another step and think it’s a question merely for soldiers, real or fictional, then I’d say you’re playing a good game of denial. For what does it do to any of us to see, day in and day out, in the papers, on the TV, on the web, what people “are capable of”? And one can’t really call Duiker’s answer, “illusion . . . sleight of hand” all that uplifting.

And the good times keep coming, as they ride through the T’lan Imass burial ground. And what could be more uplifting than the thought of undead immortals who “cannot even flee their prisons of bone and withered flesh” limited to being heads only looking out for all eternity at each other and life passing by?

And just as we think we’re not going to come up for air, we get a little breather via the sappers. Sure, we’ve got another few thousand pages to go, but I’m pretty sure this scene will remain a favorite of new readers. It cracks me up everytime so I’m glad you found it as funny, Amanda: the demotion of Mincer from Captain to Sergeant; the promotion of Bungle (great name) to captain; Coltaine flustered for the first time we’ve seen; Coltaine, Lull, Duiker all trying not to burst out laughing; the “beauty sleep” as the excuse for missing meetings; that damn lapdog, and finally Coltaine’s last words on it: “They win . . . I am defeated.” But then, from the lightness and humor, it segues smoothly into deeper emotional territory as Duiker reminds us of his conversation with Lull and tells us this was the answer:

...tears and smiles, something so small, so absurd, the only possible answer.

Amanda points out how we get another side of the T’lam Imass-Jaghut wars here with List’s vision and this slow accretion of detail regarding these wars and the surprising ways the narrative turns is actually one of my favorite parts of this series. Things are nearly always more complex in the Malaz world than they first appear and our shifting views toward the Imass and the Jaghut is just one of the more concrete examples of this. Even so early in the series we should have learned by now not to take at face value the presentation of someone/some group as “evil.” We are presented a lot of villains in this series big and small: Jaghut, the Seer, the Crippled God, Draconus, K’Chain, Laseen, Tayschrenn, Brood, and the list goes on. Some we’ve already shifted our views on, others we’ve had hints that things are more complex, others on that list we haven’t met yet. Some of them it turned/will turn out we were completely wrong on, some of them (groups or individuals) will turn out to be not “all” one thing or another and will surprise us. Hold off on the labels, is the message.

I like too, sticking to the Jaghut aspect here, that we’ve been prepared for the sorrow over the Jaghut child by a haunting refrain that so far we’ve only attached to humans: “children are dying.” That line gains even more tragic weight as it broadens out beyond this single war or even the history of humanity as Lull and Duiker had earlier discussed. It gains weight as well for the way in which Erikson makes it less abstract: by giving us the physical details (“they dragged the child here—shattered his bones, every one, as many times as they could on so small a frame”), a father’s determination to see it through (“it wore a father’s grief . . . He stands guard still”), and a mind-numbing expanse of time to carry said grief: (“a grief that had . . . grown with the tortured, unfathomable passage of two hundred thousand years.”)

The father’s grief, the death of a child, of course, continue to make us reassess the T’lan Imass (coming after the idea of the Tyrant Raest in GoTM especially), especially put together with List’s statement that the Jaghut tried to negotiate with the Imass. And then there’s List’s tragically simplistic summary of the cause of the Imass-Jaghut wars, and all the others since (and by extension those in our real world history): “They are not us. We are not them.” That line echoes with the same simple despair as the “children are dying” line—the fact so much tragedy, atrocity, horror and death can be summed up so matter-of-factly and simply makes it all the worse somehow.

What I find interesting about Quick Ben and Kalam’s conversation is not the news about Kalam’s side of things (I already am suspicious of Elan, figured magery was involved, etc.) but the hints of what was going on with Quick Ben: things going to “Hood’s shithole” where he is, the fact he’s lost a lot of blood, and the hint he’s going to try and do something to help Fiddler in Tremorlor.

It’s hard to imagine anyone surprised by Mappo’s decision to protect Icarium, no matter what. Could the Mappo we’ve been shown, the one to whom Fiddler responds so well, have chosen otherwise? Or could Fiddler? And I like Fiddler’s confidence that the others will be equally “wide-eyed stupid.”

I love that Moby scene—imagine that as a film clip: the monsters we’ve seen, the tension as the group feels something coming, the scream hidden out of sight, the camera waiting for the newest monstrosity to appear, pause, pause, cue Moby’s entrance.

Speaking of cinematic, gotta love the appearance of the dhenrabi D’ivers (and, as often happens, something we see very early in a book reappears in some form at the end). And that little detail Amanda pointed out about the Hounds shying away from Moby gets a bit more interesting with the way the Hounds leap right at the dhenrabi. Take on a massive dhenrabi D’ivers but flinch at Moby’s presence? Hmmm.

Bloodflies. Hate those things.

I like how Erikson sets us up for something terrible, that sense of impending doom, especially made tense by its association with Hood, and then turns the tables into it being succor rather than disaster. I know people have differing reactions to the Trygalle Trade Guild (and no, this book won’t be the last we see of them), some seeing them as a bit too convenient a plot device, sometimes acting as a deus ex machina. I have to say I like their appearance here and usually in the other places as well. (In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing a group of short stories of their adventures in this universe.)

Though we all know by now that the whole outlawing thing was a sham, I like how Erikson keeps circling back to this via different characters’ viewpoints, basically milking the plot point again and again, even though the surprise aspect of it only gets the one shot.

As before, I don’t have much to say about the battle details. But oh, that ending! There haven’t been a lot of scenes in my reading that can stir me both emotionally and physically, so that my heart rate rises, my blood pulses, and I want to leap up and join a charge, swing a sword, whatever is happening at that particular moment. This is one of them. “The Wickans! The Wickans!” I’m this (picture my thumb and index finger almost touching) far from going into the other room and waking my wife up by yelling that (it’s currently 1:14 a.m). Course, that would be the end of this reread for me....

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

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to, as well as reviews for her own site (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

1. amphibian
File away for later moment:

The T'lan Imass put Jaghut and other nasties under rocks when they can't kill them.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter

But is Icarium’s dream truth or not...?

When I read this scene, it seemed to me that Icarium's dream was the more truthful version. At this point there is no real proof either way. But, we can note that the Emperor didn't like the Nameless One's either and had them exterminated within the empire.Icarium is being manipulated, but Mappo too is manipulated.
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
I think the appearance of the Trygalle Trade Guild (and Bill, I was thinking the same thing yesterday about seeing a collection of TTG stories) ran the risk of coming off as a D.E.M., but Erikson deftly avoided it by making victory come not from the unanticipated food and water from Darujhistan, but from the Khundryl deciding to test themself against Dom's army.
Amanda Rutter
4. ALRutter
I'm obviously preaching to the converted here, but on my blog I'm doing a giveaway of all TEN books in the Malazan Book of the Fallen:

Even if you don't want to enter, would be cool to have the word spread :-D
Karen Martin
5. ksh1elds555
"Sappers got a saying.... wide eyed stupid" (LOVE this quote)

Seriously how can anyone not love the sappers by now? They practically steal all the scenes they're in. I love the Coltaine-Mincer-Bungle interaction. It's a huge relief to have a comic moment in the midst of all the danger and tragedy and grief. The writing here in these chapters is just so powerful.
Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
@Moby: First of all, you just have to love winged monkeys.
By now, it should be pretty clear that Moby isn't just a cute little winged monkey. Think back to the times the group has sensed something helping them out. It's been Moby, tailing along and taking care of business.
I'm with you Bill on the visualization of the scene with it being Moby emerging from around the corner. And then the hounds flinching from Moby really does say something.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
Again, we see a contrast between Apsalar and Felisin. Apsalar is coming into her power and knows that she has to use it in a responsible fashion. Felisin is obtaining power and her thought is, vengence.
Apsalar has also been possessed and knows what that entails. Felisin plays with a goddess and thinks she has control.
Melissa Goodrum
8. Daydreamer
RE the Trygalle Trade Guild: I persoanlly agree with SaltManZ that their appearance here avoids coming off as a dues ex machina. I think it would be if they provided a 'final' rescue for the Chain of Dogs or if this were the only place they appeared. But they turn up several times throughout the series and, despite their help here, the Chain could still easily have been destroyed the next day if not for the Khundryl (love the end of that chapter so much!). They overcome one challenge for Coltaine but hardly the final one. And, as Amanda mentioned, it's interesting to get a feel for the fame the Chain has acquired in this fashion. I also feel that their appearance adds extra poignancy and sorrow to the ending.

Swiftly edited because spoilers still not working for me, despite showing up in the preview. You'll find out what I mean soon enough. :(
9. Alt146
I admit I'm one of the people that didn't really like the appearance of the Trade Guild, it was a bit left field the first time and a bit convenient on rereads. The explanation of why people would know about the Chain of Dogs also didn't gel that well with me. It's a fairly minor gripe though - I think I would have prefered if they were there only to deliver Dujek's message and bottle. A good way to introduce the guild though, we will be seeing them again and having them appear here is way less convenient then suddenly introducing them even later in the series.

I don't remember the explanation of Dujek being outlawed appearing so early on, but file away since it's important for book three. I like that we get glimpses of what's happening on Genebackis - revisiting the same scene from different viewpoints is something Erickson does really well.

Any of the other rereaders feel like these chapters are the calm before the storm? I remember being so swept up in them the first time round, now I keep realising how thin the pages on the right are getting with baited breath.

If Erikson wrote comedy I would definitely buy it - the scene with the sappers is just brilliant and incredibly subtle.
10. Alt146
First of all, you just have to love winged monkeys

It's really funny - I read a scene in the Dresden Files where winged monkey demons try kill the protagonist with flaming poo less than an hour ago, have exactly the opposite image of winged monkeys right now :P
Steven Halter
11. stevenhalter
Alt146@9:That's interesting. I felt chapter 17 was little of the calm during the storm and these chapters were very much storm.
Kind of like a hurricane--first one side hits you, then the eye is calm, then the other side hits you (if you're lucky enough to be directly in the path).
The passage through the embattled Tremorlor is a wild ride.
Of course, the storm is far from over.
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
Those (Dresden) monkeys weren't very cute though.
Melissa Goodrum
13. Daydreamer
Alt146 @10: OT but I have got to read that series. That really is some image. :D
Matthew Fisher
14. iguanaaa
@9: I'd classify the novellas (Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, The Lees of Laughter's End, and Crack'd Pot Trail) as (dark and twisted) comedy
15. Alt146
@11, maybe it's because I'm reading at the reread pace, everything so far seems to be peaceful compared to what I know is coming

@13 yes you do :P, it's definitely on of the most popular other series on the malazanempire boards. Very different from malazan (I've reread the first five in a little under two weeks), but still a lot of fun
Maggie K
16. SneakyVerin
Alt 146: The Dresden Monkeys were more like D"vers, how they moofed together and enlarged!

I found the sapper scene simply hilarious as well! Beauty Sleep!

I think I felt the opposite effect on my first read as most of you...The Chain of Dogs was soo depressingly death-filled I was always reading through those parts too fast so I could get to the mysterious ship of Kalam's. I had a big guess who Salk Elan really might be and was anxious to see if I was right.
Steven Halter
17. stevenhalter
There's a new topic/poll: Which thread(s) did you like most on your first read. On my first read, I liked the Kalam thread and the Fiddler thread the most, followed by the Chain thread once Dukier caught up. The Felisin thread was the one I hurried through.
Tricia Irish
18. Tektonica
I'm traveling, and I so wish I had my book with me. So many good quotes and scenes! Now that I'm finished with RG, rereading this is amazing. So much is getting clearer! SE, you are amazing.

“How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of?”

Bill: What does it do to any of us to see, day in and day out, in the papers, on the TV, on the web, what people “are capable of”?

Perfect example of why I love SE. He asks big questions.

This quote and your comment, Bill, both really stopped me cold when reading. It's so true. I don't watch the news on TV anymore, I read papers. And I don't start my days with world news. Too grim. It's just not the way I want to think about my fellow humans or face the day. I have great sadness as I see the idealism in my son replaced with disgust and cynicism at our foreign policies and government idiocy. rant....but you're right Bill....SE hits the nerves!

Love the whole "promotion/lapdog" dialog and it's juxtaposition with the seriousness. And sad watching him lose it. But why wouldn't he, given what he's seen? It's amazing any of them keep it together.

“They are not us. We are not them.” More real world parallels.

I love the way SE makes us sympathetic to characters we assumed were "bad guys". Two sides to every argument indeed.

Flying monkeys, eh eh eh.
Tony Zbaraschuk
19. tonyz
>“How does a mortal make answer to what his or her kind are capable of?"

Watch out for the "make answer" line in _Memories of Ice_.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
Near the start of Chapter 19 we have:
Horror knew no sides, played no favorites. It spread like a stain outward, from tribe to tribe, from one city to the next. And from that revulsion was born fear among the natives of Seven Cities. A Malazan fleet was on its way, commanded by a woman hard as iron. What happened at Vathar Crossing was a whetstone to hone her deadly edge.
I really liked the dawning realization that maybe things had gone too far. Retribution would come--and it wouldn't be good.
Then we have the line:
Yet, Korbolo Dom was anything but finished.
For yet another reason to really dislike Korbolo Dom.
David Thomson
22. ZetaStriker
I'm right there along with everyone mourning Messremb's passing. I thought he was a very interesting side character, as one of very few First Empire Soletaken that haven't been driven to savage primacy by their affliction. He appears all over the book, saving multiple groups of characters from his brethren, only to die by the whim of a Hound.

In fact, on the whole I'd say this entire exchange pretty much sums up my feelings on the Hounds. I find them incredibly fascinating. They seem capable of great loyalty to a purpose or cause, and at times may even appear as selfless heroes in these stories; the way they protect Fiddler and the rest in this section is a good example of that, as was Paran's empathy towards them in Gardens of the Moon. But their fickle moods and occasional acts of wanton, almost random violence makes them a force to be feared, making any alliance or honest cause they're put to as mercurial and deadly as a storm-tossed sea.

And while we're on the topic of Shadow, one thing I've always wondered while looking back on these chapters was whether or not Fiddler breaking Kimloc's shell in Tremorlor was a part of Pust's, and consequently Shadowthrone's, plans. I can't really go into graphic detail here due to the neophytes following along, but considering the effects this event has on later parts of the series. . . well, there certainly isn't an obvious link, but it would put a different spin on things if every events to cascade out of this one gave Shadowthrone a "just as planned" grin.
Amir Noam
23. Amir

the way is willing to stand up against the Hounds themselves to stand by Mappo and protect Icarium, willing not just to fight the Hounds but to blow himself up in order to do so.

I believe that Fiddler was bluffing at this point. He thought he had one last cusser left and that turned out to be Kimloc's conch shell. Then he put his hand inside his satchel and faked having another cusser so that Pust and the Hounds would back off of Icarium.
Amir Noam
24. Amir

Bloodflies. Hate those things.

I have to admit, knowing what happened to Felisin from the bloodflies, I actually shuddered at the concept of a D'ivers in the form of a huge swarm of bloodflies. As Fiddler said, it's one thing to face beasts, but insects? I'll pass, thank you very much...
Amir Noam
25. Amir
Regarding the Jaghut child buried under the rock:
This echoes back to an earlier scene (from a few chapters back) where Duiker had a mental image of List as a young child looking under rocks. Certain images and themes have a tendency to come back around in unexpected ways in this world. Usually tragic ways.
Melissa Goodrum
26. Daydreamer
shalter @17:
Ooh, now that's a good question. First time through (actually, two rereads of this book later, this order is still true) I enjoyed the Chain thread the most, even before Duiker caught up to it. One of my favourite scenes was Duiker piecing together the events of the fighting in Hissar. Mappo and Icarium were also right up there. I really love the way SE portrays close friendships and I found that one especially touching. I liked Fiddler's sections as well, really started liking the character here. Then it was Felisin, who I managed to retain a lot of sympathy for but she did become rather tiresome. I liked Kalam's storyline the least, especially the bits on the ship. It certainly picks up once he disembarks. :D But his character never quite 'clicked' with me. Maybe next time.
27. Sciz

Not sure how Brood ever comes off as a villain!
Joe Long
28. Karsa
And I like how she doesn’t call him Fiddler but “the soldier,” thanks to how it echoes that whole “the soldier stands” idea.

when I first read this I saw echos of the roles of houses here...if not for the capitalization ("Soldier"), i'd have thought that this was an indication that a House had chosen Fidler as its Soldier...
Robin Lemley
30. Robin55077
@ 23. Amir
"I believe that Fiddler was bluffing..."

I thought the same thing, that he was out of cussers. But I don't have my book with me so can't say exactly why I thought that.

@ 27 Sciz
"Not sure how Brood ever comes off as a villain!"

I cannot answer for Bill, but for myself it was never as a "villain" per se, but rather as the enemy due to the fact that each time Brood was mentioned in GotM it was as the leader of the forces opposing the Malazan Empire. Thus, I saw him as the enemy, clear up until such time as we actually meet him and get enough information to base our own opinion on.

@ Amanda
"In Gardens of the Moon we met a T’lan Imass and heard his sorrow and anger about the wars with the Jaghut. Because there was a Jaghut Tyrant involved, I sort of assumed the Jaghut were therefore the bad guys. But here, with List, we experience a father’s pain for his lost child and find enormous sympathy for the Jaghut. I guess there are always two sides to every conflict."

Even though we were told in GotM that Jaghut "Tyrants" were the exception rather than the rule, I found my sympathy lying with the Imass without giving much thought to the Jaghut. Then I read this scene. I was absolutely horrified. A group of T'lan Imas attack a five-year old Jaghut child, shatter (not simply break, but shatter) every bone in his body, and then cannot be bothered to take the time to actually kill him but rather just trap his shattered body under a large slab of rock! And the sole reason being simply that he was a Jaghut...not that he had harmed them in any way, or even that his parents did....simply that he was Jaghut. Horrifying! Absolutely horrifying! We meet various T'lan Imas throught the series that I really like, but I never read about the T'lan Imas without this scene creeping into the back of my mind.
Joe Long
31. Karsa
@30...remember they didn't kill the child because the cost was too high. We see many times that the T'lan Imass are not cruel. they are just very, very focused and pragmatic. My take is that the 5 year old is a child. but a very, very powerful 5 year old and killing him wasn't worth 200,000 years of cruelty. imagine that for a moment.
Allana Schneidmuller
32. blutnocheinmal
I don't know exactly how I felt about it as I was reading it, but even books and books later, the Chain of Dogs remains the most memorable part of this series for me. I love Coltaine, and the entire crew, Duiker and the sappers, even the cattle dogs and that runty lapdog. :-P

Erikson really has a gift for taking your breath away. In horror, in awe. And then a few pages later, has you laughing out loud. (The scorpions? what book is that...)

Started reading Dust of Dreams a few days ago. The shear amount of characters and events between this book and that one is staggering.

I'm so glad I've been reading these blogs, though. This and the encyclopedia malazica have at least blown the dust off of the metaphorical books. It's been over a year since I read Toll the Hounds.

The Dramatis Personae in the front sure doesn't help, unlike previous books, where some characters at least had "a mage" "an assassin" "this character's wife/son/servant". It's just 9 pages of names. >_
Mieneke van der Salm
33. Mieneke
@Amanda: I love your questions regarding the Azath!

@Bill: Is Rellock's comment on the Nameless Ones maybe being motivated by guilt one to store away in the filing cabinet?

Alt146 @9: Calm before the storm? I had to remind myself to breathe a couple of times! If this is the calm before the storm, I'm scared to find out what's coming up!

The way SE paces his narrative, taking us to the bleak hopelessness of despair with the Chain of Dogs philosophising and then lifting us out of it with the priceless scene with the sappers, is genius. I loved Lull's mouthing 'Sleight of Hand' to Duiker.

Am I the only one, or is the trek through the Azath's maze SCARY! Man, that had me quaking in my boots. When those bloodflies showed up I felt like pushing Apsalar aside and trying to break down that door myself!

This is kind of an off-topic question, but it's inspired by the scene with the Jaghut child. For those of you who have children, do you find that ever since you had them, these kinds of things hit you harder? I ask because I have an almost 11-month-old and lately I'm noticing that reading about anything like the Jaghut child being killed will hit me harder than it did before she was born. Is that me just being weird or have other people had the same experience?

In response to Shalther's poll @17: I love both the Chain of Dogs storyline and Fiddler's storyline. The one I care least for is Kalam's. Not because I don't like Kalam, I love him, but because it's sort of dull compared to the other storylines!

Was I the only one who expected Korbald and Bauchelain to step from that carriage? I had forgotten about the Guild and I can't remember when K&B show up for the first time, but the thing about Hood's Warren drawing closer made me think it was them. It just reminded me how much I have forgotten about the Malazan books I've read before!
Robin Lemley
34. Robin55077
@ 31. Karsa
"...they didn't kill the child because the cost was too high. We see many times that the T'lan Imass are not cruel."

I guess that is the part that bothers me most about the scene, the fact that the T'lan Imass felt that the "cost was too high" to actually kill him, but found the shattering of his body and pinning him beneath a rock was acceptable. Perhaps that is the mom in me, I don't know.

I agree that some of the T'lan Imass that we meet are not horrifyingly cruel. However, I also think this scene gives us our first glimpse of some of what they may have lost when they went through the ritual. I cannot say more without spoiling for those new to the series, but I am sure this topic will be picked up again at a later time.
Steven Halter
35. stevenhalter
Karsa@31:The actions of the T'lan show us a couple of things.
1) They assume that the 5 year old Jaghut will cause 200,000 years of suffering. In fact, their entire identity is tied to this assumption. The ultimate prejudice. We, being outside the story, have at least some evidence (even now) that this assumption may have been false and at the least was fraught with complications.
2) Their base assumption drives them to horrifying pragmatism. This is the breaking and pinning part of the choice. There probably isn't an explicit cruelty going on for the part of the T'lan, just a terrible efficiency. We don't know one way or the other. Later we will encounter T'lan whose motives seem less than pure.
Thomas Jeffries
36. thomstel

You are not alone in having far too strong a reaction to child-affecting moments in literature once you have one of your own.

Ever heard of the game Silent Hill? Where you wake up after a car crash and can't find your daughter in the fog that's rolled in?

Yeah, I loved that game. Then I had kids and I can't get any further than 10-15 minutes into it now. Bleargh.
Thomas Jeffries
37. thomstel
You want comedy? Get yourself the Broach and Bauchelain novellas quick. They're epic funny stuff: black as blackest night.

When the dedication/warning of "The Healthy Dead" is "WARNING TO LIFESTYLE FASCISTS EVERYWHERE. DON'T READ THIS OR YOU'LL GO BLIND.", you know you're in good hands. :)
Tricia Irish
38. Tektonica

No, you are not alone. It seemed my whole perspective on life shifted when I had kids. I gave up many of my "danger driver" ways, thought longer term, grew much more respect for all parents, and most certainly couldn't go to those movies that depicted child abduction, or abuse. And reading about said

Children are so innocent. They have such potential.
And perhaps it is that "potential" that caused the I'mass to be so callous about the torturing and imprisoning of that child.
Sorry, It's still hideous, and it makes me dislike the I'mass in general, although we certainly meet a few who defy that prejudice.
David Thomson
39. ZetaStriker
I can completely understand that change in perspective, even though I'm not a father myself. It causes you to shift your point of view from seeing the victim as "that child" to viewing it as "your child". You emotionally place your relationship with your own children in each of those interactions with fictional characters, and it makes their effects that much more powerful.
Karen Martin
40. ksh1elds555
Meineke@33- Your comments about the change in perspective when you have children is exactly how I feel. I posted a few weeks ago how sometimes hard it is for me to read the battle and slaughter scenes when SE brings the children into it. I have definitely changed since having a son (3 years old now) in my empathy and my emotional response to any kind of depiction of violence against kids. Hell, I can barely watch the evening news anymore because of it. I think what has drawn me to these books more than any other, is the emotional connection I am making to the characters, their stories, their hardships, their loves, pain and losses. I don't know if I would have made such a connection prior to have some experiences in life that gave me those feelings... and having a child is certainly one of the major ones.
Karen Martin
41. ksh1elds555
On a lighter note.... would it be too much of a mindbender to do a 1st read of TolltheHounds and reread Memories of Ice at the same time? That's the way the reading schedule seems to be shaping up for me. Although I do have a thing for Anomander Rake and you can never have too much Anomander ;-)
Philip Thomann
42. normalphil
The trade guild event fit into the mental slot of "in the wake of world-wide media attention, somebody got the Wells Fargo wagon out to Chinese Gordon at Khartoum."

@35 Shalter

1) They assume that the 5 year old Jaghut will cause 200,000 years of suffering. In fact, their entire identity is tied to this assumption. The ultimate prejudice. We, being outside the story, have at least some evidence (even now) that this assumption was most likely false.

....I respectfully contest this. At the very least support substituting "most likely" for "potentially".
Something to dwell on is that for their purposes, the T'lan Imass were right about the comparitive utility of killing/mutilating the child. This just wasn't normal. Children went to their parents aid- which they shouldn't have, mates aided mates- which they shouldn't have done, and it all just kept snowballing- which it shouldn't have done, and the T'lan Imass had an actual war on their hands. Forget Jaghut not supposed to have civilizations, towns... Jaghut weren't supposed to have families. But here was one. It gathered, stood, and died. Whatever this was, it beggared the Chain of Dogs. And now its just a kind of terrain.
Steven Halter
43. stevenhalter
normalphil@42:Fair enough. I changed the sentence to be:

that this assumption may have been false and at the least was fraught with complications.

Their immediate tactical decission was quite likely the right one to make to keep themselves from being wiped out in the battle. At that point there probably wasn't a lot else for them to do. Of course, given the info that List is being supplied with, if they had just gone up to the Jaghut mother and asked her if she was planning on exterminating the Imass under sheets of ice, it sounds like this particular Jaghut would have said no.
We'll get more info on the background of the Jaghut/Imass as we go along, for n0w, I think it suffices to say that neither side is blameless.
44. Margaret Brinkley
Hi! I've finally caught up with the re-read! Great job, Amanda and Bill and all the commentators! Thank you!

Meineke@33 and others: yes, once one has children one's attitude changes. I first read DG when my daughter was 15, Felisin's age, and I found that storyline almost unbearable.
45. amphibian
There was a trope for a long time of Native Americans being all small unit hunter-gatherers who eschewed each other's company and are all natural stewards of the land. This benign image has been changed considerably with the discovery of places like Cahokia and the greater knowledge we have of inter- and intra-tribal behavior.

This trope is subverted many, many times in Erikson's books - with the T'lan Imass, with the Tiste and with the Jaghut - in rather spectacular fashion, as per Erikson's usual style. We've already seen how the Jaghut Tyrant Raest was so comfortable attacking a city and attempting to impose his order upon it and we see many later examples of Jaghut trope subversion later (Icarias and the unwinnable struggle story that Gothos tells us of ).

So, despite the possible justifications that the T'lan Imass had for declaring a war upon the Jaghut, the question of "Whether that child/parent/Jaghut deserved that treatment?" is still valid. Does war excuse an offense against so many societal and moral standards like that? Is murder a kinder thing than mutilation and imprisonment?
Steven Halter
46. stevenhalter
It occurs to me that the Jaghut plain is a very good example of the failure of compassion. The Jaghut initially had little compassion for the Imass. This eventually escalates into the compassionless behavior of the T'lan Imass and the pinning of the Jaghut child. Also note that it is a rare incidence of compassion for the family that brings about the events of the escalation of the war. The T'lan are unused to this behavior on the part of the Jaghut.
Initial compassion from both sides could have saved a lot of problems.
David Thomson
47. ZetaStriker
I would argue that what they did wasn't even a war, and so any argument about the justifications of war is moot. There were no Jaghut armies, no cry for retaliation against T'lan Imass. It was a pogom. Execution and genocide. They had suffered under ony Tyrant and tried to murder an entire race to prevent another. It's just that the Jaghut don't die as easy as you and I.
48. amphibian
ZetaStriker, have you read further into the series?

The intent of the Imass may have been akin to pogrom, but what actually ocurred was a bit different than Real World pogroms and the reasons behind my words lie deeper into the series.
Chris A
49. Christohopper
I'm not sure I understood what effort would be involved in the T'lan Imass killing the Jaghut child.

Is this meant to imply the Jaghut are so powerful/difficult to kill that the T'lan would exhaust their warrens, or perhaps be too damaged to take on the rest of the family awaiting them if they did so?

It doesn't sound quite right for some reason. Maybe I'm missing something.
Thomas Jeffries
50. thomstel

I've wondered about that as well. What sort of situation are the Imass dealing with? Apparently spending the time to incapacitate the child, break all the bones, and heave a rock on him is as nothing compared to actually killing him. Now given that the incapacitation part is a fixed value for either outcome, why not run him through once he's down and be done with it?

I think that for Jaghut there's definitely something uber going on. See all the remarks that they rarely unveiled their actual potential, and that they played defensively save for the Tyrants.

So, if decapitation, mortal wounding, or dismemberment are not options to kill a Jaghut, then what exactly WOULD? Is it more like chasing its soul, ala Raest, where he just said "blip" and hopped out to some other location, ignoring the destruction of his body? Seems likely, as it jives with the theory that once helpless, they can just pin a Jaghut under a rock and leave.

Now this is where it doesn't work though: why does pinning them under a rock even work? While I could understand that having their body destroyed is a prerequisite to having your soul hop out to some other person, what happens to all that power they have? Couldn't they just push that rock off, heal themselves with sorcery (or not, Raest didn't seem to mind the damage he took), and get back to killing T'lan Imass?

The only thing I could imagine is that their sorcery is based on a somantic component, so without the ability to gesture (pinned in the earth and all bones broken), they can't use their sorcery, and their soul remain trapped in the body.

If that's true the same true for Forkrul Assail, who also find themselves under stones from time to time?
Steven Halter
51. stevenhalter

Is this meant to imply the Jaghut are so powerful/difficult to kill that the T'lan would exhaust their warrens, or perhaps be too damaged to take on the rest of the family awaiting them if they did so?

That is basically what is being said. Killing the child would have used too much in resources (time, people, power) with the rest of the family still out there.Think back on Raest in GotM. He had a running battle with the dragons. He was crushed and burned and smashed and ... . None of that really ultimately mattered.
also think that Raest wasn't killed in the first place. He was trapped in the barrow by the combined efforts of Imass and Jaghut.
From this, we can surmise that actually killing a Jaghut is a pretty difficult thing.
Steven Halter
52. stevenhalter

Now this is where it doesn't work though: why does pinning them under a rock even work?

It doesn't really mention it in this passage, but I would guess that the rock is imbued in some fashion to keep the being that is pinned from breaking free.
David Thomson
53. ZetaStriker
I have read further into the series, and that's where most of my dislike for the T'Lan Imass comes from. The Imass were fine, at least those that abandoned the ritual, as were exceptions like Tool and Onrack. But for the most part. . . well, they seemed to fight a very misguided war. Jaghut had their problems, but they were not such a monstrous threat for total annihilation to be the only option.

If they could be honestly judged as such, than the Imass may as well be Assail. There isn't a race in the world that doesn't have a few powerful guilty parties! Raest? Kill all Jaghut. Kallor? Kill all humans. Any Assail Ever? Behederin stomped your crops? Kill all Bhederin. It's a rather large leap in logic that ended up causing more damage to them and their environment than anything else could have, and as the Imass were the only aggressors. . . well, I can't blame the Jaghut for their somewhat careless use of power when it was only done in self-defense. It hardly warranted their extinction, even if that seems to be the only collective skill the Imass had.

And then there's the whole Dust of Dreams thing. . . yeah, that didn't earn any of them points in my book.
Melissa Goodrum
54. Daydreamer
shalter @ 52:
It doesn't really mention it in this passage, but I would guess that the rock is imbued in some fashion to keep the being that is pinned from breaking free.

I think this is confirmed early in HoC. My browser doesn't seem to like me whiting out spoilers so I'll word this carefully. The rock is seen to have a pale glow, when someone touches it without being affected they theorise that the magic 'was not meant to ward, then, only hold' and the stone can be physically lifted. IIRC this is the only close-up look we have at T'lan Imass handiwork (so far, I'm only halfway through DoD so anything could change, I guess) so I suppose we don't know if this was standard procedure.
55. ThinkingMalaz
I think I can somewhat empathize with the T'lan Imass. There were Tyrants amongst the Jaghut , and these were monstrously powerful and extremely hard to get rid of. Often they posed as Gods to the Imass. When the Imass found out they were justifiably P*ssed off. They wanted to get rid of the Tyrants who were rare but very dangerous. It's the next part of their reasoning where they lose me, but I can still see the logic. Since Tyrants periodically amongst the Jaghut, the Imass would never be really safe from Tyrants until all Jaghut were gone. I see it as their desire for freedom being perverted by the collective anger of the Imass when they discovered they were being played for fools by Jaghut Tyrants. I don't particularly agree with it, but it makes a twisted kind of sense to me
Fabian Schaller
56. Aldric
I think the T'lann Imass realized fairly early in the fight that they are fighting a whole Jaghut family which would protect each other. So they kept the child as bait so that the other Jaghut don't run. After they killed the rest of the family they left the child behind to die under the rock. Typical efficient T'lan Imass behavior. They realy come off as the good guys in this book. First we learn about the slaughter of the First Empire population after the failed solteaken ritual and now the more personal fate of the Jaghut child.

The T'lan Imass are undead and even forgot how to feel. It doesn't matter to them if they kill children or if their cause is just or if they actually succeed with their genocide of the Jaghut. They are more like robots, still going on with their programmed task even if it is meaningless for themself. As Tool said in GotM thinking for them is just futile.
Iris Creemers
57. SamarDev
A few weeks ago we discussed the use of 'Adams apple' and 'Achilles tendons' in the Malaz world. We wondered how people in a non christo-judea tradition call these bodyparts. Because I think most people don't read back, I'll post my small research results here.

Or mine... I have some Turkish colleagues, but even for the one educated as Turkish-English translator and interpretor the question wasn't as simple as it seems.
Finally he thought that the most common term is Adem elmasi, which is not surprisingly 'Adams apple' (with the aside that the origine of the word is 'about a story, not real'). But girtlak çikintisi is used as well, and this translates something like 'curve of the throat'.

So I go for Hoods Hump :-)

(edited to change the Turkish 'i without dot' for the latin 'i' because the website can't handle those)
Steven Halter
58. stevenhalter
Good info SamarDev!
Jeffrey Strauss
59. strizzel
just a random comment...
I've always found it kind of intriguing that the Azath seems to have a very similar approach to power as te FA do. However, they achieve their goals by different means...
Where the FA just obliterate everything, the Azath simply locks everything of any power away.

and also, for those who have read the series, and the CG excerpt…there's that thing mentioned between the Azath and the FA warren...

let's just say I have some sort of suspicion that these 2 parties have some ties to each other that once revealed will explain a fair bit, maybe anyway
Sydo Zandstra
60. Fiddler
There is a lot of single-minded mental aim in this series. The T'lann Imass were out there to kill every Jaghut. They didn't stop there, since they are happy to jump in wherever they think a Tyrant is at work (HOC); Poor Tiste Liosan. Poor L'oric...

Which is funny in a way, maybe, because that just may have triggered to make the Tiste Liosan become more involved in the world.

And that, in a way, was started by Gesler, Stormy and Truth journeying through their Realm, piggybacking on the Silanda being on Olar Ethil's back while traveling through the warren of Light.
Joe Long
61. Karsa
@60 and basically the rest of the latest comments...the tragedy is that the T'lan Imass *know* that this issue exists. There will be a lot said over the series about the cost they paid for their singular focus. for example, they not only "killed" the Jaghut children, but they killed all of their own and in essense killed themselves (not only becoming undead, but destroying/changing what it means to be an Imass) to execute against this singular goal.
Julian Augustus
62. Alisonwonderland
Kshields @41:
Holy Moly! Memories of Ice and Toll the Hounds at the same time? Everybody on the re-read would be an emotional wreck before it's over!
Robin Lemley
63. Robin55077
@ 52. Shalter
"It doesn't really mention it in this passage, but I would guess that the rock is imbued in some fashion to keep the being that is pinned from breaking free."

If I recall correctly (and even I freely admit that may not always be the case with my memory) through Erikson's books up to the CG, there are at least 3 instances where we are specifically told that the rock was imbued to "keep the being that is pinned from breaking free." Thus, it makes sense to me that you are correct with your assumption that something similar happened with the "pinning" of the Jaghut child.

Bill Capossere
64. Billcap
"I think the appearance of the Trygalle Trade Guild (and Bill, I was thinking the same thing yesterday about seeing a collection of TTG stories)"
Well, that's two votes here. Steven . . . still hovering? . . .

You're right--forgot that he'd thought the shell was his last cusser--good catch. And another on the List-looking-under-rocks echo

On Brood in my list of "villains"
Robin has it right--I meant him simply being introduced as an adversary, a concept that get flipped on its head eventually, obviously.
Bill Capossere
65. Billcap
Compassion does rear its head a lot in this series and that's a good summation of its effect here. Your phrase a "rare incidence of compassion" caught my eye as the entire next book can be said to stem from the unintended consequences of a "rare incidence of compassion" with regard to the Jaghut/Imass.

on the general Imass: I think they are a concept that, in usual Malaz fashion, is introduced in very simplistic fashion. Imass persecuted by Jag Tyrants, Imass rebel, Imass war against big bad Jags, no more Jag tyrants--Imass good. And, again in typical Malaz fashion, as time goes on those simplicities get replaced by complexities that cast lots of different angles of light: not all Jaghut were Tyrants or even big and bad, some Jaghuts worked with the Imass to fight against their own kind who were big and bad, some Jaghuts were tiny children who were killed/imprisoned by Imass, some Imass didn't join the ritual or think it a good idea, many Imass regret the ritual. Even the sense of them as undead and thus lacking feeling or memory of feeling gets called into question (to say the least, which is what I'm trying to do). Often, Erikson doesn't seem interested in giving us simply things to root for or against but instead is asking us to weigh uncomfortable truths or choose amongst ugly options--neither of which, once the weighing/choosing is done, makes us feel particularly happy about it.
Robin Lemley
66. Robin55077
@ 65. Bill

Erikson pretty much does this over and over again throughout the entire series with individual characters and with different "races" or entities. It is another of the things that I really love about these books. Usually in books, (not always, but usually) if a character starts of as "good" or "bad" they pretty much remain so for the duration. You certainly learn quickly not to assume the "same old thing" in this series.

This short a distance into the series and we have already seen our initial impressions of individuals (Dancer for example) and of entire races (Andii, for example) turned completely around from the impressions we formed upon initially meeting them. Personally, I can only think of a couple of characters that my initial "dislike" has maintained throughout, and that is extremely rare in this series.

This "technique" of SE's became no more blaringly apparent than with a certain race (and all you "old timers" know exactly who I mean without me naming them, I'm sure). Having always been mentioned throughout in a negative light and even, when we first get to see them in "person" and experience them on a page-by-page basis, that "dislike" continued to grow for me. Then suddenly, in another book way down the road, we are introduced to them in an entirely different light and my compassion is stirred and everything I thought I felt about them gets turned on end.

As weird as it sounds, one of the things I am really looking forward to with the CG is to see if (and if so, how) SE turns my thoughts/feelings toward that certain "Founding Race" that still remains almost unchanged from my initial thoughts of them. Since they will be much more "present" in the final book than they have been to date (I am assuming, as I am not one of the lucky ones who received an earlier copy), that is one of the things that I will be particularly "looking for" as I read the final book in the series.

Gerd K
67. Kah-thurak
The interesting thing in this, is that Erikson does not really change the behaviour/mindest of the characters, like for example Martin did with Jaime Lannister. He changes our perception of the characters, by giving us different perspectives on what they did and why. Kallor is another good example for this I think.
68. David DeLaney
Hey Bill & Amanda? You're copy-pasting the introduction from week to week, and the URL for the link back to the collected posts page has been broken for several weeks now - it's got an extra /blogs/2011 in the middle. Can y'all fix that before you copy it again for the next post? Thanks!

69. Abalieno
I'm still commenting the previous chapter but would like to ask an unrelated question.

I've read that some of you, Bill included, have started to read The Crippled God. Since you are both engaged with the last book and this reread I'd like to hear impressions about the kind of contrast it creates.

Do you feel that the writing style or characterization is different? Or that the book is paced differently? Not asking spoilers or any plot-related thing, I'm just curious about how the final book sits in comparison with the earlier books.

I also think I should stop even reading non spoiler impression because I had a sudden illumination and "guessed" how that last book may end. If true (and it's about turning the whole series upside down) the implications are... incalculable.

...But maybe I'm wrong ;)
Karen Martin
70. ksh1elds555
67- Kah-Thurak...Not to get too offtopic, but this relates somewhat to an earlier post about children and violence. IIRC, my first memory of Jaime Lannister is him pushing a 7 year old boy out of a window because he saw him engaged in a sex act with his own sister. I know his character gets more developed and complex throughout the series but I could never get over that first impression. He never grew on me like most other readers have said. I think SE's characters have changed/evolved much more for me than Martin's. Cotillion, ST, Anomander, Apsalar, Karsa, Tavore, Trull....
Robin Lemley
71. Robin55077
@ 67. Kah-thurak
"The interesting thing in this, is that Erikson does not really change the behaviour/mindest of the characters, like for example Martin did with Jaime Lannister."

You are correct. This is something that I really like about his writing. It really goes hand-in-hand with this series being written as a "history" rather than as a simple "story". The "technique" or skill that he uses where he brings about this change in how we perceive them, not through the character's changing in any way really, but through providing us, as readers, with this history (often spanning 100's of thousands of years) behind how and/or why they came to this particular point. Added to that, is the fact that we are rarely told how to feel about it, but rather the information is provided (usually a bit at a time) and we as readers are left the task of making of it what we will and allowed to form our own opinions as to the information we have at hand.

For me, much more enjoyable than simplying being told person "A" is good and person "B" is bad. I am far more invested in these characters because of it, not simply the story, but the characters as well. A very refreshing change from what we usually get.

An excellent example you provided with Jamie Lannister. Martin began him as a character we were not supposed to initially like and then takes us by the hand and walks us through each experience and/or "aha" moment that brings about Jamie's change. I'm not complaining that Martin does it this way. That is exactly the way that most writers do it.

I just really find the fact that SE does it differently very refershing and a particular skill of his that I truly admire. People frequently talk about the fact that with SE the readers have to "trust" that he is going to do this or that. I think the flip side of that is that as the writer, he trusts as, as readers, to form our own opinions based on the history he has provided. It is very hard for me to explain, but the result is that I feel that he puts more "trust" in his readers by allowing us this freedom. I feel....more respected by him, maybe? Does that explanation make any sense?

72. amphibian
@ Abalieno, 69:

You may have a guess, but if my memory serves me right, you're still mid-way through the series. That's important because the series changes considerably past The Bonehunters and keeps skittering in unexpected directions. There's more layers of the story to be accreted and imbued with meaning, grief, happiness and wonder by you, the reader.

Who knows - your guess may be right. However, don't worry too much about the final ending right now in your read. As you get into Toll the Hounds, then start wondering. And be prepared to be surprised.
73. Abalieno
I reread the first chapter here. The poem seems rather straightforward. The only observation I have is that I read "from the darkness all mysteries emerged" as a possible hint that these shapeshifters may be related to "darkness", and so Kurald Galain. I also wonder like Amanda if this Path of Hand is a recurring occurrence or something always present. I said already a number of times that I don't know where to place these shapeshifters in the mythology so I won't repeat again.

On a second read I'm paying attention to the details about the Nameless Ones. There's quite a bit of emphasis on Rellock's comment about them being possibly moved by "guilt", so I'd guess this will play a role. Iskaral Pust enmity with them, and so Shadowthrone's own, was already present when he said they are more crafty than even ST. Here we learn that ST has "purged" all the Nameless Ones known within the Empire borders (or known to him, anyway). It is interesting the motivation we're given. We know that ST was trying to achieve that hidden power (specifically we know of the Deadhouse, well before they ascended), but the reason of the purge doesn't seem to seize control. Pust speaks about "vulnerable secrets", as if the Nameless Ones were doing a poor job protecting these powers, so hinting that ST may have culled them in order to grant a better protection. It somewhat reminds what happens with Laseen and the Empire, with her taking control because she thought ST was neglecting it (and so "whatever is perceived as the greater need", explained in regards to Cotillion and his sympathizing with the Empress).

Especially @Amanda:

And they, in turn, resented Kellanved’s ascension through the Deadhouse.

I think it's not a spoiler to say that Kellanved entered and stayed in the Deadhouse for a long time before the day of the ascension. The Deadhouse was in fact the headquarter of the Empire before Kellanved disappeared. Am I wrong here...?
Steven Halter
74. stevenhalter
Abalieno@73:I don't think the Deadhouse was so much the headquarters of Empire as the launching board. It was from here that they engineered the Malaz take over.
Steven Halter
75. stevenhalter
Robin@71:I agree. The gradual perception shift by revealing more details and sides to a story is a wonderful technique.
Steven Halter
76. stevenhalter
Bill@65: That's a good observation wrt MoI. Seem's like something to file away.
77. Abalieno
This is the chapter where I remember I started to have a few problems with the book. Meaning a number of little things I didn't like.

Let's start at a wider level. When beginning to read the book I was already aware that so many readers loved the part about the Chain of Dog. Now, part of the impact is lost because right when you take the book you observe the maps. So the first feedback comes from the maps before one even starts to read.

The maps told me clearly that the Chain of Dogs was going to be a very long march toward Aren. That Coltaine would arrive there was already guaranteed because the maps detail the whole path and even point the battles in the place they happen. This obviously contrasts with the sense of sudden disaster that follows the whole narration of Duiker. As a reader I know they would succeed, so a part of the tale is diminished. The other problem is about wrong expectations. The Chain of Dogs is something extremely vivid in memory, but if one observes carefully the plot only starts halfway through the book. Then we are at this chapter. 150 pages or so left before the end of the book. "Coltaine's March" takes two maps, yet the book is almost over and we still have to go through the whole second half. The maps were so detailed that I thought a whole lot of those details and places would come in play. So again, wrong expectations. Even if the book is not short, I still had the perception that Erikson was fighting for space and things moved too quickly to really "feel" them.

The other aspects that made me like less this last part of the book were mostly about Fiddler's side of things and Kalam (but not yet). One problem was that Tremorlor was hard to visualize and feel as real. Their initial entrance in the warren was extremely well portrayed, but this entrance in Tremorlor itself was more problematic for me. Arms and limbs, moving roots and trapped beasts (but aren't the roots closing completely? why arms and limbs are free? and what sustains them?). Then an endless stream of bears, bees and rats fighting each other (but oddly enough the group only sees a couple of those already known, as for a cameo appearance). The scene was clumsy to me. The dread or suspense of seeing bears and rats fighting wasn't working (ordinary things, but supernatural powers), then Mappo struck Icarium even before he started to fight. I thought the issue with Icarium was that he can't control his power, while the scene here looked more like the problem was that Icarium couldn't hold his patience (and it contrasts with the calm of the character). The result is diminished. The awkward part is the mix of ordinary elements (rats, bears, oversize dogs) with fantastic ones. Both struggling again suspension of disbelief. Dissonant picture.

And then, well, call it not Deus Ex Machina, but Fiddler reaching for a cusser only to take out the spirit shell made me raise an eyebrow much more than it felt dramatic or spectacular. I have the exact problem with a scene with Kalam in House of Chains: character acquires magical object early in the book, reader forgets it, magical object is then used to save the day at a key point. If it's not a Deus Ex Machina because it's still established early, yet it's still a pretty big and awkward cliche' that, for me, killed whatever impact that scene was supposed to have. I wonder why Erikson even uses these and for which purpose since they are entirely avoidable. He wants so much to surpass the trappings that make the genre so trite, yet sometimes falls headlong into them (and usually at the highs of the dramatic tension). Usually when he does this, he does for a clever reason, but I failed to see something clever or subtle or even cool in that scene. It just fizzles for this reader.

There were a number of very cool things (for example in his commentary Bill explains some subtext that was lost to me) but it was all somewhat swept away and drown in the awkwardness.

Then I also didn't love so much even Felisin's part in this chapter. The quick presentation of the three High Mages felt like blatant set-up for a following book, with the broad touches in characterization giving again the idea of cliche and aimed more to the reader than the necessity of the story. On a second read it is Leoman who seems rather well characterized and dominates the scene. It's noticeable that Felisin is changing now that she has at least some kind of purpose. I didn't remember the scene but it's clarified that she's still in control of herself and that, by refusing to open the book, she made a deal with the goddess and refused to be "reborn":

The young woman must relinquish her life. Opening the Holy Book – yet who would have thought the goddess so amenable to a deal? She knows my heart, and that grants her the confidence, it seems, of deferring her claim on it. The deal has been struck. Power granted – so many visions – yet Felisin remains, her rock-hard, scarred soul floats free in the vast Abyss.
78. Abalieno

I don't know if I'm again biased but I see "compassion" as pivotal because it is a rather unique feeling of humanity.

From a side it is distant from "natural laws". Nature is impersonal and somewhat "cruel". It serves its own purpose regardless. Darwinism, in a similar way, is not compassionate. It follows a path and doesn't stray.

From the other side if you make a parallel between the progress of men and, say, capitalism (so something still human-centered, so subjective), you can see that it also serves its own purpose without mercy. Maximizing profit means disregarding those who fall behind and are a burden. You work for a part instead of for the whole. You're smart, beautiful and productive? Good. Otherwise you are useless and so pushed out. It's not Darwinism but it's still selective and self serving.

So I see "compassion" as something that is exclusive of "men", and also different from an idea of practical purpose, convenience or natural justice. It's men *versus* nature. And so I'm quite curious about how Erikson may develop this theme and if he gives it an interpretation before the series' over.

(and my "guess" about the ending of the series is vaguely related to this)
Bill Capossere
79. Billcap
Ab@69 Re TCG

I wouldn’t say it is any different in style or pace or structure. Or characterization, though that isn’t to say we won’t be surprised by some character actions. What most surprised me though was just how much of what happens has been set up as early as this book we’re on. The echoes from thousands of pages and years and years ago are pretty impressive in terms of a unified concept.

I actually just turned in my review which I believe they’re still aiming for putting up Tuesday (which has put me up against it for this week’s post as I read TCG twice in the past two weeks for the review). No spoilers in it so feel free to check it out.
80. Night Owl
I missed something, why does Shadowthrone want Tremolor to take Icarium? Does he somehow pose a threat to him?

Belly laugh on the scene between Coltraine and the sappers and the lapdog is comical, why does everyone throw stones at it? (to yappy?)

And then the other "dogs", eating the limb of Messremb...bad dog, bad dog!

Robin@71: so insightful - I knew I was reading about the past civilizations, the rise and fall of each, but never put it together that the "story of these charactors would become dust motes" in the next layer in this History.

Will we meet L'oric in later books? I can't remember.

I'm loving this reread, I'm learning about so many things that eluded me first time around, the commentary from all is insightful.
Gerd K
81. Kah-thurak
@Night Owl
Icarium poses a threat to practically everyone. He is dangerous to the extreme and (@Abalieno) in hindsight - after having read The Bonehunters - it is pretty clear why Mappo knocked him out before he got going.

And yes L'oric appears in 3+ later books.
82. Abalieno

I finally just sat down to read some of Midnight Tides and stumbled right on this. I quote because it's not really a spoiler and because it's directly connected with all the discussions of history and repetition already well alive in Deadhouse Gates.

Warm yourself, warrior, while I tell you of peace. History is unerring, and even the least observant mortal can be made to understand, through innumerable repetition.

...You don't want to know who says that.
Maggie K
83. SneakyVerin
Robin @ 66

re: the good/evil thing, someone who is just starting GotM asked me if somebody was the good guy, and I instinctively started to say "No, the good guy is..." but couldn't think of a character to fill in the blanks!
I know this has come up many times previously, but EVERYONE here has faults, which is what makes the book so great to me. Sure I have characters I like, characters who are good friends, good soldiers, thoughtful ascendants, but no one is good through and through. Just like no one is evil through and through.
There are though a lot of people who always try to do what is right, but what is right is a very subjective thing, and they are operating on the info they have, so sometimes what they think is the right thing isn't. What a
This book comes to me as more of a philosophy, making me realize how little anyone really knows.
Steven Halter
84. stevenhalter
Abalieno@77:The map is not the story. So, setting expectations based upon a map is probably a practice guaranteed to be fraught with the overturn of those expectations.
As for Tremelor, I guess my reading experience was the exact opposite of yours. The bears, wasps, and rats are not ordinary things, They are Soletaken and D'vers. They've been causing problems and showing their supernatural side all along.
The Kano shell was introduced early--just like Chekov's gun, it needs to be used. We will find more echos of its use as we go along in addition to killing rats.
Steven Halter
85. stevenhalter
Bill@79: Twice! Grrr.
You know, I would have been happy to lighten your load and read it through once for you ;-) Amazon tells me March 1 for my order.
Travis Nelsen
86. Zangred
Abalieno@77: Seriously? Diminishing the story because of what the map says? Here's a little hint, the story is told through the POV of the characters, not the freaking map.

Tremorlor...on one hand you have an issue because beings trapped by the azath are still alive and trying to escape and then on the other hand you have issues because the D'ivers and Soletaken are insects and bears and rats which aren't fantastical enough for you. What? We have beings imprisoned in barrows, pinned under rocks, trapped by the Azath, walking the world alive, or undead, for hundreds of thousands of years and you have an issue because you can't understand what is sustaining things trapped by an Azath?

I try to read what you write. I try...I really do. And I can read. And I see that you have written something. Yet usually about halfway through your first paragraph, my eyeballs declare war on me for forcing them into this and try to stab me in the brain.

Do you have any idea how much this hurts? To have your own eyeballs try to stab you in the brain. I try to reason with them. "C'mon eyeballs," I say. "You're my second favorite pair of balls on my body. I don't mean you no harm, I just want to read this guy's comment".

But do they listen? No. They just keep trying to stab my brain with oddly formed silia.
Chris Hawks
87. SaltManZ
Gredian @86: Okay, that is the FUNNIEST thing I have read all week!
Stefan Sczuka
88. moeb1us
hehe -rolls on floor laughing-
you made my day gredien

I'm totally on the side of shalter & Gredien with the Tremorlor thingy. To me the scene completely worked. High tension, fast paced, threats everywhere, chaos. And come on, to call Gryllen ordinary is ... like the definition of wrong? Sure, he is rats. But a real zerg of little animals is some nasty piece of power. Awe. Fear. Imho the concept of Soletaken and D'ivers is very good and functions on all its levels. Be it a single bird like in MoI or a herd of dhenrabi (not to mention dragons -cough-).
Robin Lemley
90. Robin55077
@ 84 . Shalter
"As for Tremelor, I guess my reading experience was the exact opposite of yours."

My Tremorlor experience was more like yours. In fact, I would have been very disappointed if the Azath had been more defined, more spelled out, and/or clarified at this point. For me, a big part of the "power" of the Azith is still linked to the mystery of them. Now, with the release of the CG, I am ready to have that mystery revealed if SE chooses to do so, however, I have kind of enjoyed the not knowing and not being able to understand it up to this point. It places me more invested in the events.

"The Kano shell was introduced early--just like Chekov's gun, it needs to be used. We will find more echos of its use as we go along in addition to killing rats."

Actually, for me, the "killing rats" effect of the Tano shell was viewed as nothing more than a mere side effect. I know I am probably wrong on that, as some see Kimlock's intent when he gave it to Fiddler was two-fold, one of the two as being used here in Tremorlor for this purpose. I am not so certain that Kimlock had any intent that it would be used for that specific purpose. I believe the shell had to be broken in Raraku for Kimlock's main purpose to come to pass, and so it was and so it has. I still tend to think that the killing of the rats was more of a "side-effect" of the releasing of the power from Kimlock's shell.

Julian Augustus
91. Alisonwonderland
Sneaky Verin @83
Just like no one is evil through and through.

I will dispute that. I can't think of ANY redeeming features for Kallor, Mallick Rel, and Korbolo Dom, to name but a few.
Steven Halter
93. stevenhalter
For those interested, I see that SE posted a new edition to his Life as Human web series. This one is about themes. In particular, it discusses some general themes of Midnight Tides and a common question. (No real spoilers in it.)
While he is talking about MT, one can see his application of theme throughout the series. In particular, the Jaghut/T'lan Imass conflict we have been discussing is an exploration of a couple of themes. We've talked somewhat about compassion as a theme. (And we'll no doubt be returning there.) Various inequalities is another good theme to think about with the Jaghut/T'lan conflict.
94. amphibian
@Abalieno, 77,

I can give my brother a map of what it is like to drive from Alaska to Florida. I can tell him sort of what to expect along the route in terms of cities, mountains, river crossings and so on.

But none of what I say will even come close to approximating the actual experiences that he will have when he drives from Alaska to Florida. It will be easier and harder, it will be longer and shorter, it will be more boring and more fun and above all it will be him going through it.

I run into this in Brazilian jiu-jitsu all the time. You can sort of know things when they're told to you ("Oh, this is how you escape the guillotine: Step 1, 2, 3, 4."), but to actually encounter and experience the situations in which they arise (being put in the worst-feeling guillotine ever and finding the courage to escape instead of tapping), to dealing pro-actively with the situations (escaping the guillotine, by passing guard to the opposite side, hooking a hand to give yourself some space and slowly doing the steps once told to you).

There's a big difference between mental knowledge and visceral knowledge. The same applies to having a map tell you where things will occur and having to read about Sormo Enath going down in a storm of butterflies for compassion and anger.


So I see "compassion" as something that is exclusive of "men", and also different from an idea of practical purpose, convenience or natural justice. It's men *versus* nature. And so I'm quite curious about how Erikson may develop this theme and if he gives it an interpretation before the series' over.

Compassion is not limited to humans alone. There are many, many examples of animals exhibiting compassion. Even within the Malazan books themselves too. There is a valid evolutionary purpose towards love, compassion, teamwork and mutualism. It's a viable evolutionary strategy that does heighten chances of survival and occasionally, animals will exhibit signs of all four behaviors/feelings outside their own species. Erikson knows this and you will see it later in the books.
Melissa Goodrum
95. Daydreamer
@ Gredien: LOL! The laugh is much appreciated! :D

@ Abalieno: I have to say that, for me, the Chain of Dogs map didn't take anything away from the story at all. I love maps and always look at them if they're provided at the beginning of the book. IIRC, thanks to the blurb on the back of the book, I was aware of what the CoD was before starting. The maps just made me feel awe and extreme curiosity. I wanted to know who the hell this Coltaine was and how he managed all that. I would say it enhanced my first reading experience. As for having the ending 'spoiled' through the battles shown, well even knowing that the ending still had some very nasty surprises in store for me, at least. But then, 2 DG re-reads later, those surprises still make me cry, so I guess 'knowing' has never detracted from an event's impact for me.

As for the lack of detail in the narrative compared with the map, I don't feel that extra battle scenes or just scenes of the general suffering of the journey would have added anything to the story. I think we get the point, Coltaine continuously snatches victory (or at least survival) from seemingly impossible situations. Now, I admit I don't find battle scenes particularly fascinating but I don't see what more of them would add to the story. The map gives us an idea of the scale of journey and the constancy of the fights without us needing them all detailed and we're given plenty of scenes regarding the plight of the refugees and soldiers. I much prefer the slow build-up before the Rebellion starts with us feeling the inevitability of the Chain ahead.

Regarding Fiddler's cusser/shell, it worked for me because I had also forgotten about the shell. I don't really get why you're calling it a cliche. It isn't just there to save the day. I'm sure SE could have written the scene with a cusser instead but the implications of the Spiritwalker's song are huge. It certainly didn't 'fizzle' for me.

Well, those are my thoughts, anyway. :)
Michael Rubino
96. Bauchelain
@91 Alisonwonderland :

Well, Kallor has at one point been reluctant in killing a certain character and he also asked that same character if they ever think what forcing him to do these things does to him. He also cried when his horse died.

Mallick Rel: One of his reasons is that his entire people was exterminated by Kellanved

Korbolo Dom: He was a more than competent general who was constantly overshadowed. He tried to prove his worth against Coltaine but failed and then he snapped.

( Of these three characters Kallor is the only one I actually like, I was just trying to confute the thesis)
Matthew Fisher
97. iguanaaa

I'm with you on Korbolo Dom, but I think later books have at least given us a more nuanced look at Mallick Rel and Kallor (not that they are good people, but I can understand them a bit better).
Matthew Fisher
98. iguanaaa

You beat me to it (I should've refreshed the page before replying). I agree with your assessments, but for some reason I still don't empathize with Korbolo Dom at all, even though the other two have arguably done larger, more "evil" things than he has.
Brian O'Reilly
99. idlefun
I won't argue that Mallick Rel is all sweetness and light but is he really any less callous, cruel and vicious than Kellanved most likely was in his empire building days? I think by presenting Rel as a sly, oily creature with nothing from his point of view SE is encouraging us to view him as a fantasy trope which will possibly be overturned. Even if not, what does Rel do that makes him particularly detestable compared to other powerful figures? A discussion best left to the end of this book, I guess.
Judged by actions alone Kallor must rank as one of the worst characters in the series (I'm thinking of the prologue to MOI. Can any one character match that?) but we can't help like him a little when we see some of his frailties.
100. amphibian
The worst character in the series has been Poleil. There were no redeeming features whatsoever to her and that plague wiped out hundreds of thousands - if not millions - albeit mostly off-screen.
Thomas Jeffries
101. thomstel
As for Mallick Rel and Kallor as the series progresses, and finding that there's this strange sense of not-total-dislike that bubbles up, I imagine that feeling arises from their competence. It enables me (at least) to assign them a measure of respect even when their actions are reprehensible.

Dom? At no point in my memory does he seem the least bit capable, in any endeavor put to page. The closest he gets is when he isn't talking when a certain meeting of his betters occurs in a couple books from now.
Steven Halter
102. stevenhalter

...but we can't help like him (Kallor) a little when we see some of his frailties.

Nope, still don't like him--even a little. Now, is he an interesting character? Why yes, but that's an entirely different question.
pat purdy
103. night owl
Another thought flitted through, the book often refers to Icarium as a Jhag. In chap. 1, he is described as a half-Jaghut and half -what? Why not just a Jag? Has anyone else wondered? Is there any answer?

I'm going to keep the boys as bad, and I'm sure the list will get much longer as we read along.
104. Abalieno

The shell doesn't save the day, but it is the climax of the scene without a doubt.

The structure itself is definitely a cliche. The acquisition of magic object and then its use later as the climax of a scene (and rather spurious plot point) is like a Propp function.

I'm giving all these details about personal reactions I had to the books just for feedback. I also know that on some of these I'm not alone and I've heard more than one complaint about this book and the dramatic tension shattered by divine intervention (whether magical, godly or supernatural).

I'm just bringing up these issues because they exist and so want to express them too.
Sydo Zandstra
105. Fiddler
The only character I really find despicable and evil is Dryjhna's Mage Bidithal...
Brian O'Reilly
106. idlefun
I can't say the map had any effect on me first time round because while I knew the chain of dogs reached Aren I had no clue as to what that would mean - the whole army and refugees, a few survivors, something else. If this was any other fantasy I'd imagine a nice, predictable end but not here. I really had no clue and I'd be interested to hear what current first timers felt.

Fiddler and his shell confused me first time round which made me feel like it was a bit of a cliche like you do but this time round it made more sense. The casting of the Tano spell is a significant event in itself and SE chose a dramtic moment for its introduction. The fact it saves the group is an added bonus which is not surprising considering the power of Kimloc and his debt to Fiddler. Though Fiddler throwing it by mistake seemed a bit too neat.
In general in this series there's lots that doesn't make sense to me but unlike other books I'm happy to lay the fault with my memory or understanding than with the text.
What's a Propp function (In 20 words or less!)?
107. Abalieno

See #14 ;)

And #3 and #6 in the Character section.
Jeffrey Strauss
108. strizzel

I've been wondering the same thing, to my knowledge its never said what the other 1/2 is and I'm doing a re-read myself (at least until I get my copy of CG) and so far nothing to state his other half…my guess, FA, entirely a guess though
Maggie K
109. SneakyVerin
Oh don't get me wrong Alison, I dont like any of those people. I am just saying that we are shown human signs of them as well.
Melissa Goodrum
110. Daydreamer
My point was that the point of the shell is not just to provide an impressive climax to the scene. It sets things in motion for events throughout the series. In that I see it as much more than simply a magical agent to help the hero (I think I agree with Robin55077's view that the rat killing effect is entirely secondary but don't have my book to re-read the section where the shell is given right now). But I guess I just don't have a problem with it being a staple fantasy function (even though I think the implications make it more than that). It would be dreadfully restrictive to have to avoid all of them, especially one as huge as the acquirement and use of any magical object. Or am I misunderstanding your objection?

You're giving your personal reactions and I'm giving mine. Clearly the things you take issue with are not issues for everyone. :-)

@108 and 103:

If it isn't stated outright then I'm sure it's very strongly hinted at in RG. Sorry, can't be bothered to fight with IE to let me spoiler anything at this time of night. :-p Hopefully someone else will be helpful if you want details.
Robin Lemley
111. Robin55077
@ 98. iguanaaa
"...for some reason I still don't empathize with Korbolo Dom at all, even though the other two have arguably done larger, more "evil" things than he has."

I have always said that there are really only two characters that I can think of that I didn't like when I first met them, and nothing since then has ever been able to change my mind about them. The two characters being Korbolo Dom and Kamist Reloe. I admit that part of this is certainly because we never get any backstory on either of them. That being said, I still don't like them!

@ 99. idlefun
"I won't argue that Mallick Rel is all sweetness and light but is he really any less callous, cruel and vicious than Kellanved most likely was in his empire building days?"

Exactly! Rel's actions thus far all seem calculated as a means to reach his goals. I don't like either his means or his goals, but I don't see them as EVIL. We are told throughout the series, numerous times, that Kellanved was insane and viscious (including wiping out of entire tribes of people) in forming his Empire.

My thoughts on Mallick Rel are basically the same as they are with anyone here in real life who is wasting such potential. He is definitely not a warm and fuzzy character, not someone I would ever hang out with, definitely not someone I would ever like....but I see him not as someone so ultimately EVIL so much as a very greedy, vengeful, great big bag of wasted potential. I believe he is extremely intelligent (possibly near Kruppe in this area) but he has turned all of his assets to personal pursuits, rather than to the good of those around him. Not a nice person at all...but I just don't see him as EVIL.

Robin Lemley
112. Robin55077
@ 101. thomstel
"As for Mallick Rel and Kallor as the series progresses, and finding that there's this strange sense of not-total-dislike that bubbles up, I imagine that feeling arises from their competence. It enables me (at least) to assign them a measure of respect even when their actions are reprehensible."

I agree! I definitely "respect" certain aspects of Rel, such as his intelligence, and his tenacity. With Kallor, it is harder for me to put my finger on but there are definitely moments where the "not-total-dislike" bubbles.

Unfortunately, I basically see Korbolo Dom as a petulant, yet extremely viscious, child who didn't get what he wanted and is going to get "even" in the most viscious way he can think of. I compare him to that sociopathic, serial killer in the making, who in his early teens probably brutalized and killed animals just for fun. Although I have looked, I have yet to find any redeeming quality for him.

113. Abalieno

My point was that the point of the shell is not just to provide an impressive climax to the scene. It sets things in motion for events throughout the series. In that I see it as much more than simply a magical agent to help the hero

The problem is not the role in the plot (not the reader has any idea of consequences at this point).

The story is still happening through a number of structures. What gives the bad feel is more technical than plot-related. There's a scene with action, that moves quickly and with an idea of danger that grows till the characters are trapped and without choice.

Tension climbs. The shell itself and its consequences are out of the discussion. The problem is that the "relief" to the tension doesn't come from the tension and the struggle themselves, but through "external" or "divine" or "incidental" intervention. You can justify and excuse this in a number of ways, but for a reader this still has a diminishing and cheap effect.

Dramatic tension is sabotaged right when it should be the most intense.

And, worse, it "trains" the reader to expect it. So the next time there's dramatic tension the reader may suspect the divine intervention again. Same with the number of characters that die but are not truly dead, at some point death itself is diminished of its impact.
Steven Halter
114. stevenhalter
@107: Well, obtaining a magical item is not uncommon in fantasy. A crime is quite common in a mystery.


You can justify and excuse this in a number of ways, but for a reader this still has a diminishing and cheap effect.
Dramatic tension is sabotaged right when it should be the most intense.

While this may be your experience, what many of us are saying is that it is not our experience. No diminishing effect, no sabotage.
Julian Augustus
115. Alisonwonderland
Robin @111

I am curious to know what your definition of EVIL is. Here we have a character (Malick Rel) whose sole purpose in life appears to be personal ambition, to the exclusion of almost everything else, and is quite happy lying double-crossing and murdering thousands and tens of thousands of people for his own advancement. If you don't think that is evil, then what is? In another book, he appears to achieve his ultimate objective, but for what? And how many people had to die for him to achieve it?
Robin Lemley
116. Robin55077
@ 115. Alisonwonderland
"...whose sole purpose in life appears to be personal ambition, to the exclusion of almost everything else, and is quite happy lying double-crossing and murdering thousands and tens of thousands of people for his own advancement."

Based on that description, then really not much different from Kellanved, is he?
Stefan Sczuka
117. moeb1us
"You can justify and excuse this in a number of ways, but for a reader this still has a diminishing and cheap effect."

Your opinion, man. If you claim to write about your personal reactions as a feedback, start naming them so and stop to formulate them like general truths.

Imho the namedropping of Propp is meaningless. Propp as a formalist just identified basic narrative structures. If the use of an aquired magical object in an important situation is a basic narrative structure for fantasy authors, so be it. An accidently use like here seems better than a "use this when you have no other means" or "you will know when to use this". Still, all versions use an object.
What would be the alternative? Dropping it somewhere in the desert next to a highroad? Never mention it again? Putting it on a shelf at home, never using it? Come on.
Imho, this is the border of formalism vs creative work. These basic narrative functions exist because they work. Over centuries. And that doesn't makes them bad or good.
118. Abalieno
What would be the alternative?

Not using it as the "resolution" for sudden danger. Or use by introducing it again within the scene, so that Fiddler (and the reader) is aware of its presence and is going to use it when the need arises.

"External intervention" means exactly an element of plot that conveniently enters the scene without being introduced within that scene. It happens often even in movies where the character is saved at the very last second. And it's bad even in that case.

My opinion is the negative reaction to the cliche. But the cliche exists and is a fact (same for the Trygalle Trade Guild).
Brian O'Reilly
119. idlefun
night owl@103
Icarium's other half is revealed outright in Reaper's Gale. It's a minor plot point so no sense in spoiling it.
Brian O'Reilly
120. idlefun
I guess this is a matter of taste. For many the sudden introduction of the shell causes memories of the early story to click into place (or a furious rifling through pages in my case) and they really like the scene. For others it seems forced and annoys them.
People can write lots to explain their reactions but it's not a debate that can change minds.
Anyway... how is it that Mappo could knock Icarium out when he so easily brushed off Shan? I thought once Icarium got his rage on he was practically invulnerable.
Gerd K
121. Kah-thurak
I guess we do not know enough about Kellanved deeds&motivations to judge him in the way we can judge Rel. I guess we may know more after having read The Crippled God. Of which my copy arrived yesterday :-)

You obviously do not like things that happen without a consious decision of the acting characters. This is a valid opinion. Howether it is Erikson's style to include events that surpass the characters comprehension of events, appear to be or plain are luck (good and bad). I personally like this because it simply is more realistic. Shit happens after all...
Robin Lemley
122. Robin55077
@ 121. Kah-thurak
"I guess we do not know enough about Kellanved deeds&motivations to judge him in the way we can judge Rel. I guess we may know more after having read The Crippled God. Of which my copy arrived yesterday :-)"

Congratulations! I am a wee bit jealous as I still have another week and a half or so to wait for my copy. :-(

As to Rel...I am not defending either him or his actions, I simply do not see him as the embodiment of pure evil. I know that my feeling this way is "wrong" when compared to the vast majority of readers, however, that does not change the fact that I, personally, just don't see him as evil, that's all. We have all spoken numerous times on here about the fact that in this series the line between good and evil is constantly being blurred. Perhaps it simply becomes more blurry for me than most readers?

I apologize that somehow I have caused this much emphasize to be placed on Rel in the discussion this week, especially when he isn't even a character in play at the moment. I should probably stick to simply reading everyone else's posts and quit posting my personal feelings on anything as it seems that I don't think things through clearly enough prior to posting and I end up taking everyone off on a tangent that end up with us off course for the chapters at hand. No matter how often I tell myself I am going to simply answer someone else's question and not post my own thoughts on anything, I lapse back into posting something about a topic I shouldn't. I cannot promise that it won't happen again (because it is very hard for me not to post) but I will try to do better!

Brian O'Reilly
123. idlefun
The Malazan world may be blurry but the internet is definitely black and white so you are now listed under 'Loves Mallick Rel' :-) No one will like you come the end of the book.
Don't worry if you feel people don't like your posts. When I come across a post I don't enjoy reading I use my magic scroll bar to move swiftly along avoiding all problems! Keep the posts coming.
Gerd K
124. Kah-thurak
@122 Robin
No need to apologize. Posting opinions is pretty much the point here ;-)
Steven Halter
125. stevenhalter
Robin@123:Your thoughts are quite welcome here. A lively discussion is a wonderful thing.
Do I like Rel? No. He is a nasty piece of work--as the saying goes. Is he PURE EVIL? Probably not. In Stonewielder, we see some signs that he may not be dedicated to the total destruction of everything. So, there's that.
Next week we can say more on his shadow in this book.
Steven Halter
126. stevenhalter
For this week, something from the start:

Imagine a pigsty by the sea and that’ll do. A rotten, festering bug-ridden swamp—

and something from the end:
“Too high—too high!
Thomas Jeffries
127. thomstel
Robin, you keep on posting those opinions.

Hell, I'd spend all day on here talking about anything and everything if I didn't have this darn day job.

Oh, and curse you folks with the finale. Curse you to the Abyss! The one where the land drops out from under you as you ride through!
128. amphibian
@idlefun, 120:

Anyway... how is it that Mappo could knock Icarium out when he so easily brushed off Shan? I thought once Icarium got his rage on he was practically invulnerable.

Mappo hit Icarium when he was unaware of the impending blow. It's a recurring thing with Icarium (hit him when he's not looking) and with powerful MBotF series characters in general. Most characters that are ridiculously powerful are still vulnerable to ambushes and combined attacks.

"Don't skate with your head down" might be the most sports-appropriate metaphor for Erikson's theme here...
129. Mayhem
@120 indeed, the shell is pure and simply a chekov's gun. It would be more of a problem if it wasn't used at some point in the book. Revealing its presence before the use would have been a waste however, as it removes the element of surprise, for ourselves and for the characters, which is the essence of a chekov's gun - the reader has to have forgotten about it or it loses its effect.

As for Mappo being able to knock out Icarium, remember two things - one, he wields magic imbued weapons, and two - he's been doing it for a very long time, he certainly knows exactly where to hit for best effect, plus being a known ally means he can probably approach safely.
Bill Capossere
130. Billcap
Hey folks,
Just wanted to let you know there may be a 1-2 day delay in this week's post. I've been sick the past week and The Crippled God took precedence over the regular post. Apologies . . .

Steven Halter
131. stevenhalter
Thanks for the heads up Bill. Hope you're feeling better soon.
Steven Halter
132. stevenhalter
It seems to me that the Tano shell is right for the moment in a number of ways.
1) It was set up to enter the story at some point. We had heard of Kimloc's power and that this was an unusual gift. Fiddler had thought of casting it aside, but had not.
2) Fiddler is in a mad dash for safety (or at least not death by rats) his forgetting about the shell seems believable.
3)Note the effects of the shell. The consumption of the d'ivers is almost a side effect--the spell uses available power that is inimical to its wielder. The spell itself is embodied by the song and it calls up the memories of Raraku--the walls of water that wash across the scene.
4)The fact that it is a shell and Raraku is an ancient sea show that Kimloc almost certainly intended its use in the warren scatteredness of Raraku.
The quote:

“There is in a Tano song the potential for Ascendancy, but can an entire regiment ascend? Truly a question deserving an answer”

leaves us wondering what other effects lie ahead from the song.
133. StevenErikson
The problem with formalism and similar approaches to critical theory is that they define themselves through a set of parameters that divides the subject into those elements (within that subject) that fit said parameters and those that don't; and then promptly dismisses the latter.

But I'm not chiming in here to argue critical theory ad nauseum. The problem I wish to address regarding critical theory is specific to this site and its intent. Academics dissect; they never vivisect. In order to engage they have to first kill that with which they are engaging. In this case, what they kill is Story. Now, fine, that's what's academics do. But this is a cold, clinical exercise. It demands a full disengagement of emotional aspects that are inherent in Story; whereas what a story seeks to do is the very opposite: engage the audience, on levels that are in essence ephemeral and ineffable (this is why millions can love Harry Potter or Twilight while the academics choke and gnash their teeth in disbelief). Story succeeds in this through the use of numerous narrative techniques, with are both familiar (and thus satisfying to the audience) and effective (which is why storytellers, generation upon generation, make use of them).

The analytical approach is like asking a dog to chose colours when it can only see in black and white. So long as the dog is in its pack they're all happy, because in that pack, why, it's a black and white world.

But that's not quite what I mean (I actually wrote another version of this response but it was eaten by an iffy internet connection, so I'm rewriting it by memory). Let me try this way: even when people come on to make comments on subtextual elements to this story, they tend to do so with an air of excitement or appreciation; in turn this invites others to join in, and the streams flows and flows well. And people feel pleasure.

Voicing criticisms based on formalism or any of a dozen other square-peg-round-hole theoretical frameworks is all very well, but Ab, friend, this isn't the place. I suspect the reason others get frustrated with some of your comments is that you appear to be disengaged emotionally, and fully caught up in critical theory to the extent that you impinge on the flow -- you drop stones in the stream. Things back up, swirl and get muddy.

I am not suggesting that you once again recuse yourself from this discussion. What I am suggesting is that some sensitivity to context may be required on your part (as an aside, this is one of the problems of critical structuralism: it's woefully blind to context). I would hope that even four or five novels into this series, you might recognise that my writing and my approach to writing is all about context. Maybe I should say that again: my writing and my approach to writing is all about context. Now, you might conclude, this is why I have no time for formalism or most other forms of critical thinking, and you would be right. They are, to my mind, dead modes of thought, and even more distressing, they are deadening modes of thought.

There are many kinds of pleasure to be had to from reading, but for the sake of simplicity let's divide them (formalistically) into intellectual pleasure and emotional pleasure (the latter to which, as subheading, we can place spiritual pleasure). Thus far, Ab, all I am getting from your commentary has been exclusively intellectual. Do I begin to see why?

Some pleasures need no propps.

Finally, Ab, ref the quote you tagged onto your comment on the Life As A Human essay ... what is its relevance?

Steve (written in Leeds, while on book tour...)
Amir Noam
134. Amir

Thank you for once more dropping by to share your thoughts with us. Much appreciated and enlightening, as always.

Have fun on the book tour.
Mieneke van der Salm
135. Mieneke
Aba @113:

And, worse, it "trains" the reader to expect it. So the next time there's dramatic tension the reader may suspect the divine intervention again. Same with the number of characters that die but are not truly dead, at some point death itself is diminished of its impact.

If one occurence trains the reader to expect the resolving of tension, then that makes for a gullible reader, no? Plus, by then not resolvong tension in that way again, would an author not be subverting exactly that reader expectation that you decry?

Robin @122:
Please. please don't stop posting your thoughts! I enjoy them tremendously, even though I'm a tweener (that's the term we came up with right?). With your discussion of Rel, I found it very interesting, especially since I've already finished next week's (or rather this week's at time of writing) chapters and it does bear on those!

Mr Erikson @133
It's so cool when you drop in! Say hi to Amanda for us on the 26th :D
Mieneke van der Salm
136. Mieneke
Something that made me snigger:

'While that foul monkey pisses terror into the lad's lap! Optimism!'

And something that made me cry:

But who will hold me?

Steven Halter
137. stevenhalter

Some pleasures need no propps.

Very nice, lol. I quite agree with the stricture of formalism being a deadening mode. Once you collect the butterflies and mount them on the wall, they aren't quite the same.
For the most part, I think, what we are engaged in here is indeed akin to the better nature documentaries. We are trying to show the subject in its natural habitat (and alive) rather than stuffing it and bringing it back to be mounted on the wall. As we procede, we may (hopefully) shed light upon nuances of behavior that might be missed by a casual stroller through the jungle. And, if the creature we're photographing should have a few warts, well, we won't photoshop them out or gloss over them, but it's the living heart that needs witness, not a cold specimen.
Perhaps extending the metaphor a bit, but hey--we're here to have fun.
Chris Hawks
138. SaltManZ
Mieneke @ 136: "And something that made me cry"

I'm in tears for almost all of Chapter 21, I've read it so many times now.
Steven Halter
139. stevenhalter
SaltMan Z: 21 and then 22 have tears aplenty.
Here's one (21):

I cannot watch.
Yet I must.

Mitch Ziegler
140. mziegler1
Nice comments, Steve.

@Abalieno (I have blasted you on the forum, but I won't here):
I certainly shared your confusion with the Path of Hands plot, especially at Tremolor -- drove me crazy the first time. And I have been teaching English for long time to advanced high school students and I have a master's in Comparative Lit. One would have to be a fool to consider me an incompetent reader. It took a re-read to make that part of the book comprehensible to me, and I have come to like it. That I love the series despite how difficult the first two books were says much about Erikson's skill.

I am also get your point about the map, but years ago I came to realize that I don't care that much about plot -- there are not that many plots anyway. To me it is all about the trip, about the way the writer handles the plot through language. Erikson definitely works for me, which is all I feel I need to say. My general advice is to relax and enjoy the life.

A professor of mine, a published poet, once said that he sometimes preferred to read epic poems and novels as opposed to concise poems because it gave the author the ability to stretch out, to not need to make every sentence and word perfectly precise. In this ten volume series, there is a long of stretching.
141. Ciceronian
Awesome of you to drop in, Steve. Getting my meat hooks into the Crippled God tomorrow and 'working from home' all day (read: drinking Irish coffee and voraciously tearing into the book.)

Just to add my two cents to Steve's point regarding Abalieno (not that he needs elaboration from me,) the application of critical theory in moderation is all good and well, I think, when done organically, and not as a primary practice. Unfortunately, in this thread, and elsewhere all across the Malazan forums and the internetz, Abalieno has demonstrated time and time again that applying formalistic critical theory to what he reads is his knee-jerk reaction.

Abalieno, if you happen to read this, I dearly, dearly hope as someone who's passively followed your tireless campaigning on multiple forums that you take SE's words to heart. I'm sure that instinct of yours to deconstruct EVERY facet of EVERYTHING you read would be extraordinarily useful in a philosophy course that asks you to dissect precis. And I wouldn't ask you to suspend that instinct altogether (nor do I think you need to in order for works like Deadhouse Gates to be credible in that regard) when reading Malazan, fantasy at large, or any genre for that matter. But if you can't scale it back just a touch - find some way to rein yourself in such that you aren't taking as your sole aim the application of critical theory - man, you're going to miss out on some serious literary enjoyment.
David Thomson
142. ZetaStriker
I hate to hijack the thread, but I really need to bring this up because of how amusing I find it. I'm reading Stonewielder right now, I absolutely love the fact that Esslemont seems to be subverting his and Erikson's own trope- primarily the competence of the Malazan soldiers. No real spoilers, but I'll tag the rest with the appropriate colors.

Suth seems to be the absolute worst soldier, fighter, thinker and tactician this series has ever seen, and he's our primary eyes and ears in the Malazan army. I can't help but smile every time I think of it!ne
Amir Noam
143. Amir
Ah, next-chapters-quoting time :-)

"Tremorlor welcomes you with all its heart… even if you have made a mess on the hallway floor."
Karen Martin
146. ksh1elds555
This has been a great week of commentary and I have so enjoyed reading all of the comments. It certainly gives the "wanted to be an English professor but ended in IT for the money" part of me a much needed outlet. I am constantly surprised, educated, and elevated by what other readers have to say and how articulate the discussion here truly is. Also how cool is it to read the author's comments- and I truly appreciate the fact that he is responsive to this group of readers.

I told myself when rereading this book that I would stay to the 2 chapters a week schedule but at this point... I CAN'T STOP READING! Even though I know what is going to happen, the beauty of the story is just captivating. It just grabs your heart and doesn't let go. I did study some literary criticism in school, and I have to agree it has its merits. But I did find it awfully dry. But there is a point in DG where the heart or gut, if you will, takes over and that is what makes the story so wonderful to me.

And please don't apologize Robin for the Rel discussion. I could chat with someone about these characters for hours and be very contented indeed! Comment away!
Travis Nelsen
147. Zangred
SE: Once again thanks so much for stopping by. I actually get excited every time I see your name at the beginning of a post. I think there may be a bit of a man-crush going on.

kshield@146: I too told myself that I was going to stick with the reread pace, but yeah, didn't work out so well. I was doing so well up until a couple weeks ago when I just couldn't stop reading and ended up finishing the book. I find it amazing that even knowing how the book ended I still found myself drawn in to such a degree where I physically could not put the book down.

@Robin: Please do not hold yourself back from posting. I do not post very much here, usually because I find my own thoughts mirrored so well in your posts that I feel no need to add anything. I have had the disturbing thought on a few occasions that you are somehow pulling thoughts directly from my brain when you post. While I know that is highly unlikely, just in case you are actually doing this, I feel the need to apologize for the odd random thoughts that are continously floating around in there. :)
Travis Nelsen
148. Zangred
Bill@130: How dare you allow the grand finale of this series take precedence over this weeks posting!! That's...just...mean...gloating over the fact you got to read it before the rest of us!

Yeah, so, anyway thanks for the heads up and hope you feel better soon.
149. Abalieno

I'm not analyzing the story before having a reaction to it. The other way around: I first had a reaction, and then analyzed it so that I could explain it to others and understand why I had it. So formalism is not what I use to judge. It is what I resort to use when looking more into things (and I have no deep education so my tools are still quite limited and superficial).

And yep, my flaw to be disengaged emotionally and more analytical. The way I am. My armor. I live in the brain.

The reason why I insist is because I try to be precise, the reason why I wrote those comments is that I give feedback on a reaction that exists, and I know exists even beside me since I voice complaints that I read from other readers.

You may as well believe that my approach even when I start reading a page is all wrong, but the point is that it's also the emotional pleasure that was disrupted in the scene because of those reasons. The "external intervention" disrupts emotional resonance because it disrupts the natural tension of the story by introduction of elements that are external.

In this book there are a number of scenes that didn't sit perfectly well with me: Lull's monologue with half his face missing, Baudin walking dead to Felisin, Fiddler's use of the shell, the Tygalle caravan and Kalam vs the Claws at the end. They all have in common what I perceive as tiptoeing on a fine balance and going overboard on those cases. As if overreaching. In one of the earlier comments I think I explained this better.

I'm giving feedback to reactions I had, then analyzing them to understand/explain why.

On the matter of the comment, well, I was commenting about "certainty" versus "doubt", remembering a similar theme in The Healthy Dead. And that scene, "Oh, Purest of the Paladins" is humorous and about someone who has no doubts at all. Seemed very fitting to me :)

"It would seem," Bauchelain said as he led the others through the gateway, "that much of the present fabric of comportment has frayed in your city, King Necrotus, nay, torn asunder, and none of it through my doing. I am pleased to discover said evidence of my own cherished beliefs."
"What?" Storkul Purge demanded drunkenly, "are you talking 'bout?"
"Why to transform the metaphor, that piety is but the thinnest patina, fashioned sufficiently opaque to disguise the true nature of our kin, yet brittle thin nonetheless."
Robin Lemley
150. Robin55077
@ All my friends on here!

I truly doubt that there is anything that could prevent me from posting as long as I am physically able to do so! LOL Even if every single person on here disagreed with every word I typed, you would still find me on here each week. It honestly doesn't bother me at all if someone disagrees with my view on a topic. I live my life with a very firm belief that life would be extremely boring if everyone agreed on everything! I absolutely love seeing differing opinions on anything and everything. Without any differing of opinions, how would we exercise our grey matter? :-)

I wasn't threatening to quit posting, although upon re-reading my post I can see where it reads that way. Sorry, but I posted that as I was on my way out the door for work this morning and didn't read over it for "tone" before I hit the "Post" button.

This is not the first time since we started this re-read that I have posted something that is only remotely related to the week's chapters and felt guilty for taking the posts off track from the weeks' chapters at hand. Sooooo, I was apologizing for once again diverting people (from this week's chapters to Mallick Rel) when that was not my intent. If it is any consolation, I can be just as irritating in person (probably much more so, I suspect) as I frequently shoot off on some tangent in daily conversations with my friends. However, as they are friends, they usually just smile and go with it. LOL It is just the way I am. I analyze everything, then usually analyze it again, and then a few days later, analyze it yet again, etc. I am constantly re-thinking things.

This past year I began dating a man here in my home town. He happend to be psychiatrist and after we had been dating for a while he made the comment that I think too much and over analyze that is a BAD thing! I guess I always assumed that a psychiatrist would want people to think about and analyze things! I told him that of course I do! I am well aware of that and at my age, it certainly wasn't going to change! Needless to say, I am still single....but happily still thinking and analyzing! LOL

Anyway, thank you to all of you for your nice thoughts sent my way today. Rest assured, I am here for the duration of this re-read. I will try to curb my tendancy to take you off on tangents, although I cannot promise it won't happen again at some point. It most likely will (especially since we still have a very long way to go) and you will find me again, somewhere down the road, apologizing to all of you for having done it again.

151. Abalieno
Also, another reason why I drop stones in the flow is because on the internet discussions usually reduce to two factions facing each other and erasing differences. "Fans" versus "haters", dismissing each other on the accuse of unability of critical thinking.

While I think that there can be a worthwhile discussion.
Robin Lemley
152. Robin55077
@ 147. Gredion
"I have had the disturbing thought on a few occasions that you are somehow pulling thoughts directly from my brain when you post. While I know that is highly unlikely, just in case you are actually doing this, I feel the need to apologize for the odd random thoughts that are continously floating around in there. :)"

I promise I am not in there sorting through your mind so all of those odd, random thoughts remain your personal, private property, at least from me anyway! You are completely safe to think away...unless, of course I am just trying to lull you into a false sense of security....ooops...what was that?....ah, no, you are absolutely safe. Think away!

Robin Lemley
153. Robin55077
@ 133. StevenErikson

As always, thank you for stopping in. It is always such a treat when I come in from work and log on here and see that you have paid us a visit!

"There are many kinds of pleasure to be had to from reading, but for the sake of simplicity let's divide them (formalistically) into intellectual pleasure and emotional pleasure (the latter to which, as subheading, we can place spiritual pleasure)."

I have started, on at least a couple of occasions, to express this same thought but, alas, I certainly do not have either your gift or your skill with words and the written language, and I always end up giving up on it. Thank you very much for putting it into words for me! Why does it always look so simple when someone else writes it?

Robin Lemley
154. Robin55077
@ Friends of "bennyrex"

I just thought I would drop a note in here to let you all know that Ben is very happily progressing through the series. As you may recall, he left us about a month ago to read through the complete series because he desires to experience this process as a re-reader rather than as a "newbie."

Ben is currently in 7C with the Bonehunters and his joy and enthusiasm with this series continues to grow as he progresses through the books. Fortunately for me, I do still get to vicariously experience the series with him from time to time. I am looking forward to his return to the site here as a re-reader.

Just wanted to post an update, for those of you who may have been wondering!

Robin Lemley
155. Robin55077
@ 123. idlefun
"The Malazan world may be blurry but the internet is definitely black and white so you are now listed under 'Loves Mallick Rel' :-) No one will like you come the end of the book."

Oh, how true! Thanks to the Black/White internet world I WILL probably be remembered as that awful person who "Loves Mallick Rel." I am about to become an appaling pariah! No one will want to talk to me for fear others may think that they, too, love Mallick Rel!

Thanks for pointing that out to me! LOL

Tai Tastigon
156. Taitastigon
Aba, dear Aba @149

I dunno.

I live in the brain.

I really dunno. *Brain* is nice, but such a cold, rational, kinda lonely place. I really do like to mix it up with *heart* - it warms them old bones right cozy, ye know....

I try to be precise.

Well, Aba, so do I...- on my job. On the rational things I have to do in life to make a living, etc. ...- but re this here ?? Re SFF ?? Re MBotF ??? know what I want from this cycle ? Especially THIS cycle ? After over 30 years of reading cycle after cycle of the same or similar crypes in this genre ? I don´t want precision. I don´t want brain. I want imagination. I want creativity.

I don´t give a flying f*ck about timeline displacements, distorted maps and other microdetails of things that might seem *off* after lengthy, brainy analysis.

I only care about one thing...and ONE thing only, expressed in several questions: Does this guy called Steven Erikson WOW me with his ideas ? Does he get them across in an adequate fashion ? Does he surprise me, baffle me, entertain me ? Does he make my imagination *fly* ? Does he stimulate my brain as well as my heart ?

Or simply: Does he put *fantasy*back into science fiction fantasy ? And NOT hold back ?

Because if he does THAT, I couldn´t care less about the details that may be off. He will have rewarded me well enough with *imagination*...something that 99% of the authors out there do not have.

On a cold, analytical level, your points possibly have validity. But quite frankly, I personally don´t give a shit about that. I am not reading MBtoF for *cold, analytical*. If I wanted that, I´d get myself an engineering book or some crackpot like Nietzsche...

But please do keep posting...- my eyes may bleed as much as Gredien´s, but you do bring a very interesting flavour to the discussions here....
157. amphibian
@Abalieno, 151,

Also, another reason why I drop stones in the flow is because on the internet discussions usually reduce to two factions facing each other and erasing differences. "Fans" versus "haters", dismissing each other on the accuse of unability of critical thinking.

Is there factionalism occurring here? I'd say nothing of the kind regarding the discussions here. The Malazan peeps have been astoundingly civil, clever, analytical and respectful of both the others and the newbies, while being willing to engage on almost any topic of discussion.

I commend you all for this. I knew you could follow my example if I set it (kidding).

Ease up, please. Try to suss out whether you're pointing out a genuinely clunky moment (Iskaral Pust's directions to Mappo within the Shadow Temple being my favorite of those) or saying that Michelangelo's Pieta should be criticized for being outside normal human scale (an artistic choice that works in context and in the experiencing of it).
Tricia Irish
158. Tektonica
I'm so sorry I haven't been around! (Visiting my son at school.) But I've enjoyed reading the great discussions this week!

Robin: More tangents, please! And no apologies for them! Thanks for the bennyrex update too.

SE: Always enlightening. Thank you for keeping your eye on us.

I must say I'm having a bit of trouble doing both the reread of DG (which I loved!) and plowing through Toll the Hounds. Heavy lifting....and loving it!

Feel better, Bill!
pat purdy
159. night owl
Idlefun @ 119 (love your sign-on name)

thanks for the heads up on the "other half" info in the Reaper's Gale.

When I read the "Wickens, etc." My mind raced to that scene in TLotR "The Elves, the Elves are coming!"
Julian Augustus
160. Alisonwonderland
ZetaStriker @142

I'm reading Stonewielder right now, I absolutely love the fact that Esslemont seems to be subverting his and Erikson's own trope- primarily
the competence of the Malazan soldiers.

This is something I've been meaning to bring up as well. Throughout the series and especially in this book Erikson has waxed lyrical about the Malazan soldier being the most forbidable weapon because he is allowed to think! Well, at the end of this book some Malazan soldiers display the most shocking piece of unthinking obedience one is ever likely to read. Was Erikson setting us up with his constant harping on the thinking Malazan soldier only to prove the opposite? We'll talk about this further when we reach it.
Julian Augustus
161. Alisonwonderland

no need to apologize about Malick. If anything, I started the whole diversion by telling the thread I could see no redeeming features in Kallor, Malick, or Korbolo. So, continue to fire away. I'm sure we'll get back to the subject of Rel as pure evil in only a few weeks.
Mieneke van der Salm
162. Mieneke
SaltmanZ @138:
Oh I know, I wasn't keeping it dry at all either, I just thought that quoting the entire chapter would be a bit overkill ;p
Mieneke van der Salm
162. Mieneke
SaltmanZ @138:
Oh I know, I wasn't keeping it dry at all either, I just thought that quoting the entire chapter would be a bit overkill ;p
Ian Whittaker
163. Barbarian Bookkeeper
Alisonwonderland @161
Certainly 3 characters to despise there; although in the case of Kallor there is potentially more than a touch of tragedy there.
Ian Whittaker
164. Barbarian Bookkeeper
Its interesting to see the debate about micro-analysis and context.
Analysis in the absence of context is fundamentally flawed and often results in a disconnect that can render the analysis irrlevant or dangerously misleading. .

Of course there are several forms of context at play here, from the context of the narrative line within the story, to the subjectivity of personal perspectives.

I admit to being someone who always considered the way English Literature was taught academically to be ridiculous, trying to impose hidden meanings on a story piecemeal, generally without access to the source (i.e. the author). With the "analysis" often becoming more of a work of fiction than the original work itself whilst pretentiously posing as academia.

I always go back to one question what is the purpose of a story?
Generally (except when authors are seeking to milk a cash cow) this would seem to be to entertain and perhaps to engage and stimulate a response, maybe intellectual, maybe emotional.

Breaking things down into component parts may aid analysis of those parts, but if it disassociates those components from the whole it risks seriously diminishing their relevance.
However, the question then raises its head as to how to analyse large literary works whilst maintaining sufficient focus on individual elements to explore them in depth (but then without diverging, there's the risk of ignoring the inter-connectivities that often lead to depth).

But then I read fiction for entertainment (when not reading crackpots like Nietzsche :p for the light relief such a whimsical view of the world provides) so I'm along for the ride.
Once I've finished reading The Crippled God, hopefully questions will be answered within the arc of the story itself; if not, no doubt there will be plenty of speculation and queries for the author, some of which will probably remain unanswered until future related novels outside the main series (which I look forward to).

Anyway to those involved in re-reading Deadhouse Gates, I hope you enjoy it and the treats to come.
Steven Halter
165. stevenhalter
More thoughts on the nature of evil:
If you think hard enough and look long enough about a given person who has done something that might be labeled evil, you can usually come up with some non-evil bits and pieces for that person.
Maybe they loved their mother or their horse. Or maybe they are so completely insane they really belong in the natural disaster category instead of evil.
All of this amounts to shades of grey. In Malazan, the characters all share this shading. No one is utterly evil, or utterly good. Now, to be sure, some of those greys are darn near black and some are just somewhat smudged. The question then is one of how dark a character needs to be before we internally add that last touch of darkness to our mental picture.
And that, is really what it comes down to. SE provides the characters, with their context and actions, and the story. But, each of us paints in the details a little differently based upon our own subjective experiences to date.
Feeling philosophical this morning.
Steven Halter
166. stevenhalter
Or, as the Romans said:
De gustibus non est disputandum.
Paul Boyd
167. GoodOldSatan
Today is Wednesday, and while Bill recovers (and reads CG) this thread will have to continue ....

I have what is sure to be viewed as rather simplistic take on the dissection or vivisection of an author's work. If I enjoy the ride (re: mziegler1 @140), I continue reading. If the ride becomes intolerable, I quit.

An author's world is their own, not mine, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to leave it if I want or stay if I enjoy. There are a number of such worlds that I have left. Interesting to me are the one's I wish I had left -- Earwa being the most recent -- but didn't (the ride was fine, the destination a dissapointment).

Compared to the talent needed (and employed) to create plot, characters, and a world, criticism is pathetically easy (with the possible exception of NYRB type analyses, whose authors bring vast knowledge to the discussion). I am incapable of writing a better work than MBotF, and I appreciate the effort Steve and Ian have made. Very much!

There are a world of things that confuse me about MBotF (ha). That confusion rarely turns to annoyance. I see the Tygalle caravan a solution to a plethora of (other) problems that arise throughout the series, but are only utilized when no other solution/outcome moves the plot in the desired direction. But, so be it. It's not my story. And I can certainly overlook these perceived transgressions because the story, world, & characters are so engrossing.

Which brings us to why I'm rereading along here. I made a comment a few chapters back about not having a filing cabinet big enough to store all the plot details that would become relevant later in the series. For that matter, on my first read through the series, I didn't even know that I needed a filing cabinet, that the deatils provided were more than just tidbits that spoke to the depth of the worldbuilding.

Here's an example of details ignored or forgotten: I can't remember anything about Truth; I'd forgotten that he was even a character, I don't know what happened to him after DG , and I fear it was important ( but at this point, I'm just not sure).

On reading these books, there is always a trade-off between stopping and searching an increasingly large number of prior books, or proceeding along with the current story (with the hopes that, if something is truly confusing, I can find the answer in one of the MalazanEmpire forums -- and I've pretty much given up on that). But, the excitement of moving the story always wins out.

The reason this reread is so great for me is that you all provide me with the details to questions long unanswered. And for that I am truly grateful. The LitCrit stuff is annoying, inconsequential to my interests, and easily dealt with idlefun's (@123) magic scroll bar.

The details and connections you all provide are exactly what I had hoped for here; they enrich an already rich experience.

Thanks, and vivisection be damned.

Steven Halter
168. stevenhalter
At the end of chapter 19, we have the multiway battle. Korbolo Dom's forces are arriving, with various southern tribes we have already seen like the Semk. Then, there are the new tribes--the
Tregyn, Bhilard and the Khundryl. Initially, we anticipate slaughter, but then the Khundryl show that they are not that interested in the events of the whirlwind. They have a much longer standing question to answer: Which is the supreme tribe?
To answer this, they attack all of the other forces.
I thought this was nice in that not only does it help Coltaine & friends, but it shows that the whirlwind is not the monolith it has seemed. Even as the spear-like tower of Sha'ik raises itself up, we see cracks at the base.
Julian Augustus
169. Alisonwonderland
Shalter @165:

Certainly if one looks hard enough one can find something laudable about anybody. Maybe Hitler loved his dog and Stalin loved his mama. The question is, should those laudable traits keep us from labelling as pure evil anyone who, in his/her ruthless ambition and lack of feeling for his/her fellow man, pursues a path that leads to the death and suffering of untold numbers (in the case of Comrade Stalin, over 20 million)of other human beings, for the sole purpose of achieving and holding on to personal power?

Where does the looking for "something good" stop, is what I'm wondering. In my view, people like Kallor, Rel and Dom, among others we can discuss, are beyond the pale. My whole point is that not all characters are shades of grey; some are so steeped as to be considered pure evil.
Chris Hawks
170. SaltManZ
shalter @169: I think it was Erikson himself who said that none of his characters are "grey" characters--they all have their own (more or less) black-and-white moral views. How all of these differing viewpoints overlap and integrate with each other in the reader's mind is what makes the world "grey". But any declaration of "good" or "evil" comes purely from the reader.
Steven Halter
171. stevenhalter
Alisonwonderland@169: Yes, but where we draw the line in our minds over which actions carry the character from greyish to evil is subjective.

Saltman Z@170:
Yes, every character has their own views. And they draw their lines of black and white. We, as readers, have our own views. We see the actions through the grey colored lenses of our own subjective perceptions.

(I'm agreeing with both of you, by the way.)
Brian O'Reilly
172. idlefun
I agree with you but my contention is that if this story was told from the perspective of 7 Cities then Kellanved would come across as pure evil. Can anyone look at the events in Itko Kan at the beginning of GotM and say Shandowthrone and Dancer are not evil?
I think that from a distance we are good at judging good and evil but when we get close to characters we get confused and them being clever or competent or pursuing important goals or being nice to their mother confuse's our judgement. We get close to Shadowthrone but not to Mallick Rel.
Steven Halter
173. stevenhalter
idlefun@172:That's a good way of putting it. As we get closer, we can see the blacks and whites that make up the overall grey (or black) that we see from a distance.
Maggie K
174. SneakyVerin
Idlefun: Good comes down to what each individual reader thinks is eveil, I guess. Maybe there are people who think that Stalin loving his mama does take him out of the realm of evil...

At anyrate, the start of this good/evil question was merely meant to point out how variable the characters are...and by variable i mean how they form up in each individual readers mind. Just like we dont hear much re physical description, the different sides of the characters make them play out differently for each of us.
Al Cunningham
175. BygTymeGuy
@123 idlefun

The Malazan world may be blurry but the internet is definitely black and white so you are now listed under 'Loves Mallick Rel' :-) No one will like you come the end of the book.
Don't worry if you feel people don't like your posts. When I come across a post I don't enjoy reading I use my magic scroll bar to move swiftly along avoiding all problems! Keep the posts coming.

I just don't like your post. That magic scroll bar is obviously another example of Deus ex machina!
Robin Lemley
176. Robin55077
@ 172. idlefun & 173. Shalter

I can agree with what you are both saying and I can see how many people would feel this way if you are meaning "close" as in an emotional closeness to a character.

For me though, I think it is a little different. Up close to a specific moment in time, a specific event...many characters can certainly seem PURE EVIL! However, when I step back from that, then there is a chance to see a little bit more than just that spcific action. The further away I stand, the wider my view. The wider my view, the more of the character I can see. The more of the character I can see, the more interactions I can see, the better overall picture I feel, then the better I can begin to find motivations.

For me, EVIL boils down to motivation. What is the character's motivation for the actions taken? Then, I think it is a judgment call that we as readers make individually, based on our own personal life experiences, losses, values, etc. Actually, the truth or validity of the motivation doesn't even matter to me, so long as the character thinks it is true.

For example, say you have a character whose desire is to topple an empire and take over leadership and in the process kills 100,000 people on his way to achieving his goal. If his only motivation is greed and personal gain, then I would see that as EVIL. But, if you found out that in the forming of that empire this man's entire people, and not just his, but many towns, and cities, and whole tribes of people were wiped out, maybe 1,000,000's of people wiped out through the expansion of that empire, then I could begin to see some possible motivations behind his actions. Perhaps I could begin to see vengance as a possible motivation, rather than simple greed. If I can understand and sympathize with the motivation (only a small amount of sympathy is required for me) then I have a very hard time judging the character as EVIL.

There is a Christian saying, "There, but for the grace of God, goes I." I think if I can personally understand their motivation, I have a harder time judging them on how they act on it.

Don't know if this makes any sense or not? I am definitely not very good at putting these kinds of thoughts into words.

Amir Noam
177. Amir
Robin55077 @152:

I promise I am not in there sorting through your mind so all of those odd, random thoughts remain your personal, private property, at least from me anyway! You are completely safe to think away...unless, of course I am just trying to lull you into a false sense of security....ooops...what was that?....ah, no, you are absolutely safe. Think away!

How very... Pust of you :-)
Brian O'Reilly
178. idlefun
Byg Tyme Guy@175
Deus ex Machina are everywhere in real life. Here's an amusing blog post about WW2 as a tv show:

"Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender... So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now."
Amir Noam
179. Amir
idlefun @178:
Thanks for the link. Hilarious stuff.

Of course the Nuclear Bomb is an uneralistic Deus Ex Machina. I should have seen it. Completely unlikely.

"At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made"

Steven Halter
180. stevenhalter
idlefun @178:Yeah, that's exactly the sort of stuff I was thinking of in the GotM DEM discussions. Real life is full of them.
Steven Halter
181. stevenhalter
Robin@176:I think we are saying pretty close to the same thing. When we get close to a character in a book, we often begin to get insight into their motivations. This is, of course, especially true when we get POV characters. Since we know what POV characters are thinking, we know their motivations (unless they're insane). Often, their motivations do soften their actions.
Interestingly, we can really only know the motivations of charaters in books. In reality, we don't get POV into other people. People may say one thing or another, but it is in their actions that judgement lies.
Probably the Malazan character most fraught with this is Laseen. We see the results of lots of her actions. We hear of some of her motivations, but we don't get a POV from her.
Amir Noam
182. Amir
Robin, shalter and the rest:
Consider Kalam as is another example: His actions in this book have led to (possibly) millions of horrible deaths (many of them civilians). I don't think any of us considers Kalam as "Evil".
Steven Halter
183. stevenhalter
Amir@182:Exactly. That's a really good example of the power of POV. Kalam's an assasin. But, we know that he means to do the right things.
Chris Hawks
184. SaltManZ
@182: Did they though? Wasn't the rebellion about to erupt anyway before Kalam even got the book from Mebra?
Steven Halter
185. stevenhalter
SaltMan Z@184:There are several angles to that question. Would the rebellion have happened without the book at all? This is unknown to us. It does seem likely that some sort of rebellion would have occured since many of the main actions so far seem to be unsanctioned.
Could Kalam have not delivered the book? Once Kalam had the book was he set upon a predestined path to deliver the book? Again, we can't know. He certainly didn't vary from the path. If he was acting as an agent of prophecy and not really completely of his own free will, then that would seem to lessen his culpability in this quite a bit.
Thomas Jeffries
186. thomstel

Why is it when I see the word "flavour" (spelled that way particularly) I want to immediately watch Jurassic Park?

Oh, yeah, just finished my DoD re-read. :)
Al Cunningham
187. BygTymeGuy
Deus ex Machina are everywhere in real life.


The bottom line for me in a fantasy story is whether or not everything fits within the magic system. Is the Azath a DEM for Gardens of the Moon or a key piece of the entire series? Why is it plausible for the danger, the dhenrabi, to show up out of a warren, but somehow be a negative plot device for the Tygralle TG to arrive in the same manner?

And along that same vein, I enjoyed the fact that I had forgotten about the conch shell. The moment would have lost a little something for me if the author had to remind me of the shell a chapter or two earlier. Plus, I liked the irony of Fiddler reaching for one "weapon", yet finding another.

I think Steve said it best for me when he said it's all about the story! And this story (what I can understand to this point being a first-tyme reader), with such an intricate plot and driven by Erickson's ability to tug at me emotionally with his well-crafted prose, demands that I keep turning the pages. That is why I read. Therefore I leave the intellectual distractions of the writing to people like Ab, while I thoroughly enjoy my initial journey through the Malazan world.

And finally:

I decided to follow this re-read because I figured that the veterans’ comments would clear up some of the initial confusion of jumping into a series like this, but I have found that your participation has been as equally important. I really like the way that you do a stream of consciousness review, rather than a chapter summary at the end. It allows a first-tyme reader to compare their interpretation of events to yours. I’m very impressed with your ability to pick things out that have gone over my head completely! I’m sure some of that is because you are writing this review, but that doesn’t matter. The end result is that I have found a lower reading gear, which allows me to enjoy the storyline even more. I just wanted to thank you for all your effort! (Yes, Bill and you too!)
Sydo Zandstra
188. Fiddler

Oh, yeah, just finished my DoD re-read. :)

Well done! I had to stop it, since tCG arrived two days ago.
Finished it last night. Awesome!!

Now I can sit back, and do a quiet reread of the last three books ...

And pick up this reread. :-)
Robin Lemley
189. Robin55077
@ 181. Shalter

Yes, I think we are saying basically the same thing. Someone on here asked me the other day what my definition of evil was (I think it was Alisonwonderland). I have thought about it, ALOT, and it is a question that is extermely hard to answer. What makes it hard for me to answer is the fact that I don't have a black/white answer. It all boils down to the motivation behind the actions that would mark the actions in such a way for me. Simply put, if I can understand the motivations on some gut level, then I personally find it hard to simply classify it as pure evil. Maybe on some base level, I feel it would reflect back on my own personality in some small way, if I considered a character as pure evil, for acting on motivations that I understood?
Amir Noam
190. Amir
SaltMan Z @184:
I assume that the rebellion would have erupted even without Kalam. But I can't ignore the fact that he was willing (hell, he volunteered!) to light the fuse of this particular gunpowder barrel. This makes him responsible in my eyes.
Karen Martin
191. ksh1elds555
@Robin55077- The irony of being told that you "think too much" is that I think that is a curse of being an intelligent woman :-) Sometimes we just have to relax with some wine and a good book and then it's all good. LOL.
Robin Lemley
192. Robin55077
@ 191. ksh1elds555

A great way to look at it. Besides, is it even possible to "think too much?" For some of us, it is as natural as drawing breath! LOL
193. Abalieno
Ok, finished reading also the last chapter.

Rereading the part of the Trygalle I confirm my reaction, but at least it's also crucial since it links this book with what's happening on Genabackis and sets up nicely some doubts and different interpretations in regard to Laseen that will fuel the end of this one.

On the matter of the Trygalle Guild I wanted to add that the diminishing effect depends on the "external intervention" as much on the fact that it's a rather big power showing up (plus another delivery of magic death-defying item). Fiddler's shell as well. These are major powers that enter at the height of dramatic intensity and as completely external powers. These two traits being equally problematic. In this case the Trygalle could have basically single-handedly solved that storyline. They have powerful mages AND fighters. So their "need" to leave quickly seems a bit weakly supported. Even with their own agenda, their permanence could have had a pretty huge impact on the way the story unfolded.

With so big powers entering the scene frequently and abruptly it's hard to keep a flowing storyline consistent (it's a risk that DG avoids for the most part, though). Their intervention is too game-changing to the point that one doesn't know what to expect anymore so, again, working against the natural tension of the story.

Moby's arrival also shares a bit of clumsiness. Another huge power suddenly revealed and appearing conveniently? Hounds that cower?

And I guess I should put on the disclaimer since I'm criticizing small details is a sea of awesomeness, even in regards to these two chapters. It's just that they are placed at strategic points where they do the most damage and so I think the book could have been more incisive if it kept those details smoothed as well...

The rest of the chapter stays quite strong. I like how Kalam's call to Quick Ben is basically completely useless. QB just confirms Kalam's suspicions and adds nothing to them. Instead they use most of their time asking how things are going. The scene sounded truthful to me, with people more worried about each other than to think all possible implications, also both underestimating each other ends.

I don't understand why QB asks Kalam if he's in Unta. Wasn't the plan about reaching Unta, then using the first stone (the one for the Imperial Warren portal) to reach Malaz palace, and then the second to summon QB? It seems that QB expected the second stone to be used in Unta, and looking at how the scene unfolds it seems also unlikely that QB could have used it to be summoned (...although, QB appears in House of Chains, but I forgot how he arrives).

Quoting Amanda:

That “different tone of voice” makes me feel as though we see a little of the “real” Pust—a truly dangerous individual, for all of his posturing. You’d have to be dangerous to have a god like Shadowthrone riding you and survive. “The blathering of secrets so they judge me ineffectual.”

That's the part that originally confirmed my take on Pust (that he's being manipulated). When he called the Hounds it became obvious that he had a direct link with Shadowthrone. This link is again confirmed when he says lines such as "Shadowthrone is thinking. Yes! Thinking furiously! Such is the vastness of his genius that he can outwit even himself!". This means that ST is "observing" what is going on and communicates directly with Pust. So it is also plausible that he can take control of Pust himself whenever he wants. This is why in the scene we hear his voice changing I suspected that it was ST's voice we were hearing, and that ST was playing in and out of Pust to create exactly the deceit he wanted.

That's what I put together and why I thought Pust "was not in control" and was only being used slyly by ST. It seems everyone agrees I'm wrong, but as I said what I read in this book confirmed and not disproved my theory.

A final note: the idea of T'lan Imass who continue to "witness" passively for eternity is particularly painful. The idea of "observing", or even the importance of history that was repeated in this book, has the purpose of "learning", and so acting. But in this case what the T'lan continue to see is only a staggering idea of memory with no hope of putting it to use. It's simply about remembering forever and the pain connected to it.

Also noticed in the comments the discussion about T'lan Imass cruelty. From what I understand they are completely unable to be "cruel". Being cruel would imply a conscious choice, a possibility of being pitiful, but I think it's part of the ritual to erase all uncertainty (and the bigger theme of "culture" in general), so they can't even judge anymore, and so act consciously. They are just mechanically pragmatic and their own tragedy consists in that.
Sydo Zandstra
194. Fiddler
@Abaliene, re: Trygalle

In this case the Trygalle could have basically single-handedly solved that storyline. They have powerful mages AND fighters. So their "need" to leave quickly seems a bit weakly supported. Even with their own agenda, their permanence could have had a pretty huge impact on the way the story unfolded.

I understand your point here, and on my first read I thought the same. However, the Trygalle Trading Guild has no own agenda, except doing what they have been paid for. They are a sort of Express Special Delivery Service.

Or maybe non-combatant mercenaries is a better way to describe them. They can handle violence, and can deal out a lot of damage, but they do not fight for causes or in wars. They're in it for the money. BTW, we'll be seeing them more in the later books, and always in a manner I described here.

Apart from that, they also help in synchronizing events in DG and MoI. The contact between Kalam and QB has the same function here, as I see it.
Steven Halter
195. stevenhalter

Moby's arrival also shares a bit of clumsiness. Another huge power suddenly revealed and appearing conveniently? Hounds that cower?

Moby's been foolowing them all along helping them. On a re-read it should be fairly clear that he is there from the beginning and is quite powerful.
196. Abalieno
I know he was there.

In that case I say it feels clumsy in the integrity of the storyline only because it's lined up with a series of escalating powerlevels that is done so bluntly that fails to awe/impress, and so looks to me a bit awkward. A too neat chain of scenes going against the grain of the suspension of disbelief.

Toward the end, and similar to the last 80 pages of GotM, Erikson packs too much power leverage and display of it, and so it falls on the other side of the balance and feels fake-ish.

All this I'm repeating again merely because it's part of my reaction to the book a couple of years ago, and now that I'm rereading I'm trying to analyze what it was that I didn't like and why.

I thought that this book was incredibly ambitious and reached some impressive and unexpected heights. But it also stumbled here and there. A more bumpy ride toward the end. In MoI instead I thought the writing was more even, if slightly more perfunctory compared to DG, but it also goes on a crescendo and with the end of the book it reaches well above DG itself. HoC is even more balanced and solid, and what I didn't like was about very minor details. So I continued to like the following book better than the previous (and to me Erikson within the genre has no peers, and has achieved something unique even outside the genre).
Steven Halter
197. stevenhalter
@Abalieno:It's always interesting to hear how others perceive a story. Especially, when that perception differs from one's own perception.
For example, for me the Moby storyline was a lot of fun. There really is a whole other storyline going on there, just out of sight. The characters are aware that something is happening. Powerful forces are at work around them. Something seems to be protecting them. Somewhat of a analog for the story as a whole. The very incongruity of the (seemingly) helpless Moby vs. the glimpses of the powerful force at large add a deliciousness. As the reader (the first time through) we can guess at the forces and on rereads we can anticipate.
In short it seemed, again to me, a well integrated and plotted piece of the story.
198. Morik
I note that no one (from a quick search for Dujek, and reading maybe 50 of the comments) seems to have responded to Amanda's question from chapter 19.

Here is what she said:

"Hmm, I confess, the whole matter of Dujek rescuing Coltaine, because the Empress needs such as he, and yet Dujek being an outlaw of the Empire has me all confused. And then Coltaine’s response, that he does not want word taken back to Dujek—and Duiker’s concern about this—all of this has me frowning and scratching my head. It’s odd—I was used to this feeling for the majority of the first novel in the Malazan sequence, but now I hate it, now that I’m finding it easier to take things on faith and read through the confusion. Anything that stops me in my tracks almost annoys me! Shed me some light, fellow readers, if you will!"

I am also new to the series, and found this very confusing.

This is the first I can recall seeing any evidence that the outlawing of Dujek was a sham, but I picked up on that well enough. (He was outlawed at the end of GotM, right? And started a rebellion... but now we learn its all some sort of plot to gain allies amongst the empire's enemies.)

What I couldn't figure out is what the underlying meaning behind Coltaine's refusal to send word back to Dujek, and why Duiker thought this was so significant.
Alex P. W.
199. Alex_W
So first, I'm sad to see the dead of Messremb here. Even so, we have not gotten to really know him. He seems like a decent guy and probably did not deserve to die like this.

Then I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the scene where Fiddler seems to be killing Gryllen with this Spiritwalker-Seashell. I guess mostly, because I wanted to see some of the rage of Icarium unleashed in action. Then he is so easily taken out by Mappo and suddenly Fiddler throws this shell like out of nowhere. Well, the scene did not really do it for me.

Will we ever have the chance of witnessing the full power of Icarium? Will we see what he is capable of? Of what everyone seems so frightened to happen? I could imagine myself, that Icarium will play a major role towards the end of this series. That his power is needed to fend of the overall greater evil that is or will be threatening this universe. Am I right somehow? And why is it anyway, that he seems not to be able to controll his anger? Was he born that way? Did someone make it that way?

Nice to see that Felisin is growing in that way she is. With her three bodyguards at her side. Interesting indroduction of those three High Mages of her. While the two first mentioned seem to be some real horrible guys, the third promises to be a really interesting Character. I'm sure there's more to come about them.

I'll join in the eulogy of the sappers here and now. They are just great and the scene with the demotion of Mincer is just priceless. Great humor at its best. I still hear myself laughing out loud as I have read that passage.

Really interesting knowledge we get about the war between the T'lan and the Jaghut. It seems by now that really every Jaghut was a very very powerful beeing. For only one family gone the T'lan needed countles members to be able to win the thing. And so many of the T''lan left behind in that battle. I wonder if this Jaghut family had anything to do with the Jagh's we've allready met or heard about. Gothos, Raest and Icarium. If I remember right when we have read Gardens of the Moon we were private to some memories of Raest about his past. Where we read about his mother and father. Maybe this family is somehow related to this one mentioned here? Maybe the little Jaghut child is even the brother or sister of Raest? And Gothos and his mate the parents of them both? And may be Gothos is the Jaghut Ghost appearing in List's dream? I have no idea, just thinking out loud.

Now the scene on the ship with Kalam is getting more interesting. I have to admit this storyline was kind of boring to me too. But now, having it really cleared out, that there is some very powerful mage messing about around and above the ship, the suspense is rising. Who's the mage? Probably Salk Elan who is of course not really Salk Elan. Could it be Tayschrenn on some other mission? Well, probably not, since he is last known to be on Genabackis and Kalam would probably have recognised him unless Tayschrenn is able to disguise himself with his magic. Could it be a Claw? Topper may be? Since he was described as wearing green robes like he was described in GotM by Ganoes Paran? Well, guess I'll soon know. Very nice here is also the short appearance of our wonderful Quick Ben and the tiny little hints about some terrible but great action going on with our Bridgeburner crew on Genabackis. That promises of course something for our next book to come since it seems it's about these happenings.

And again, the mystery around Icarium. Did he really destroy the Trell town of Mappo? Did Icarium actually ever really destroy so much and so many as we are beeing told so far or is this may be all some deceit for some reason? Some greater sheme of someone behind the scene which we may not have yet met?

What a mean Cliffhanger there with Apsalar trying to open the door but not able to. Well, I guess one of the crew will probably be able to. This surely won't be the end of the road for them.

I find the idea of this Trygalle Trade Guild very interesting. Cool idea to insert such a merchant guild in our story here. I'm wondering what there other mentioned even more dangerous delivery to make is about and to whom. Will we find out?

It confuses me too, a lot actually, like it obviously did Amanda as well, all the talking about Dujek still working for the Empire (Huh?) as I have not read or at least don't remember to have read something like that before. That the outlawing seems to be just a sheme of Laseen and Dujek. As I remember right Laseen tried to kill the Bridgeburners in GotM. QB and Kalam and Fid decide to go after Laseen. To assassinate her. And here we learn they work all together?

And yes, what was that about with Duilker thinking it so important that Coltaine had no message to send along for Dujek? Was I supposed to catch something here? Well I certainly did not.

And yes Bill, a great emotional ending to Chapter 19. "The Wickans" "The Wickans" "The Wickans". I contrary to you, caught myself actually yell it out aloud with my fist raised over my head. And I would probably not have been able to hold it back even with a wife sleeping beside of me. Which is probably the reason somehow, why I am alone now after all. This lack of sensibility towards my Es-Wife may be? :-)
Brian R
200. Mayhem

Will we ever have the chance of witnessing the full power of Icarium?
Will we see what he is capable of? Of what everyone seems so frightened to happen?
Am I right somehow? And why is it anyway, that he seems not to be able to controll his anger?

It is very much Read And Find Out I'm afraid, but rest assured, you will see Icarium again.

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