Wed
Jun 15 2011 2:08pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapter 23 (part 2)

Memories of Ice 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 Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter 23 (part 2) of Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (MoI).

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.

Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A forum thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

Remember we’ve split Chapter 23! This second post picks up at scene 7, with Picker staring out, “on the black waters of Ortnal’s Cut.”

Chapter 23, Part 2

SCENE 7

Picker looks out onto Coral Bay while Paran and Quick Ben meet with the squad mages Spindle, Shank, Toes, and Bluepearl. Mallet tells her the mages are nervous about the condors and Paran’s news about Rake. He also thinks Quick Ben and Paran have some secret plan, another mission Dujek doesn’t know about, though he implies Whiskeyjack does, and his squad, especially Hedge and Trotts.

SCENE 8

Brood’s army is becoming stretched on the way to Maurik, with the Grey Swords and Gruntle’s legion lagging behind, becoming a rear guard. Itkovian has been enjoying his time with Stonny and Gruntle, but feeling more and more an outsider with regard to the Grey Swords. He feels bad for the new Shield Anvil, bearing the burden of the position without the veteran support Itkovian had via Brukhalian and Karnadas. Gruntle tells him Itkovian’s sense of guilt reminds him of Buke, but Itkovian says the difference is “the notion of redemption. I accept torment, such as it is for me, and so acknowledge responsibility for all that I have and have not done. As Shield Anvil, my faith demanded that I relieve others of their pain . . . bring peace to souls . . . without judgment.” When Stonny asks whom he gives the souls to now that Fener is gone, Itkovian says he still carries them. Stonny is angered the new Shield Anvil, who has a god, hasn’t taken them and Itkovian tells her the Shield Anvil offered, but she isn’t ready or strong enough, nor is her god. He says it’s up to him “I must find a means . . . of redeeming them. As my god would have done . . . I must.” They’re interrupted by High Marshal Straw, of the Mott irregulars, who asks where they are marching to and why so fast. Gruntle says Brood is trying to beat the Malazans to Maurik and the Malazans are going quickly for uncertain reasons. Straw says he knows—they have spies with the Malazans—and tells them the Black Moranth are flying whole companies away and that Whiskeyjack’s group is building barges at Maurik River. When asked why he hasn’t told Brood, Straw replies he and the Bole brothers think Brood’s forgotten about them and that Kallor, who had ordered them to go away before the march, has been preventing their people from speaking to Brood. He mentions they’re all getting antsy and even thinking of taking on Bauchelain and Broach. When Gruntle warns they’re necromancers, Straw tells a story of how the Bole brothers killed one back in Mott Woods. Itkovian asks if they should tell Brood about the Malazans and Stonny says what it’s matter, just means Brood’s army will have fewer days to wait at Maurik. Itkovian wonders what he’s doing, why he feels “indifferent, empty of concern” and wonders if he is “done. Finally done.”

SCENE 9

Hetan is complaining about her third day on the barge. Whiskeyjack says another day and they should be at Maurik. Taur asks if he thinks Brood knows and Whiskeyjack says at least partially, noting they have Mott Irregulars with them so they know what the spies know. He tells how the Irregulars were created by the Malazans when they pushed into Mott Woods, where the Irregulars defeated both the Malazans and Gold Moranth several times until Dujek just pulled out, but by then Brood had heard and so recruited them. Taur says one day the Empire will march on the White Face Range and when Whiskeyjack says he doubts it, Taur asks if the Barghast aren’t worthy enough foes. Whiskeyjack tells him “We have treated with you and the Malazan Empire takes such precedents seriously. You will be met with respect and offers to establish trade, borders, and the like—if you so desire. If not, the envoys will depart and that will be the last you ever see of the Malazans until such time as you decide otherwise.” Taur calls them “strange conquerors” and asks why they’re even here on Genabackis. Whiskeyjack says, “We’re here to unify, and through unification grow rich. We’re not selfish about getting rich, either.” Taur asks if they really only care about silver and Whiskeyjack answers “There’s more than one kind of wealth . . . Meeting the White Face clans of the Barghast is one such reward. Diversity is worth celebrating, Humbrall Taur, for it is the birthplace of wisdom.” The last is a quote from Duiker, whom Whiskyjack says speaks for the Empire “in the best of times.” When Hetan complains of sea sickness again, Taur suggests perhaps she is pregnant.

SCENE 10

Korlat rides through Maurik, while Brood, Kallor, and the others ride around. She thinks if Rake is OK, she’ll have to end her service with him, after fourteen thousand years. Then she realizes it will be suspending it, rather than ending it, as Whiskeyjack has only a mortal’s lifespan. If Rake is dead, she’ll be the ranking commander, though only of the dozen or so Andii left—those in Brood’s army. She has already decided she’ll simply free them to their desires. She realizes she doesn’t have the strength or personality Rake has used to unify the Andii. She wonders about all the tasks he has set the Andii to:
The disparate causes in which he chose to engage himself and his people were, she had always assumed, each a reflection upon a single theme—but that theme and its nature had ever eluded Korlat . . . wars . . . enemies, allies, victories and losses. A procession through centuries that seemed random not just to her, but to her kin as well . . . Perhaps Anomander Rake was equally lost. Perhaps this endless succession of cause reflects his own search. I had all along assumed a single goal—to give us a reason to exist, to take upon ourselves the nobility of others—others for whom the struggle meant something . . . Why do I now believe that, if a theme does indeed exist, it is something other? Something far less noble . . . For despair is the nemesis of the Tiste Andii. How often have I seen my kin fall on the field of battle and have known . . . They died because they had chosen to die. Slain by their own despair. Does Anomander Rake lead us away from despair—is that his only purpose . . .? Is his a theme of denial? If so . . . he was right in seeking to keep us from ever realizing his singular, pathetic goal . . . To choose not to share what I had seen as arrogance, as patronizing behavior . . . ah Lord, you held to the hardest mercy. And if despair assails us, it assails you a hundredfold . . . I must needs find the strength . . . to hide the truth from my kin . . . Oh Whiskeyjack . . . The world holds no paradise for you and me . . . All I can offer is that you join me . . . [and] that it will, for you, be enough.

SCENE 11

Brood, Kallor, Korlat’s second and brother Orfantal, are joined by Korlat as they await the Malazan barges. Korlat marvels at the number of them built so quickly and thinks the Black Moranth must have been involved and that Dujek and Whiskeyjack had planned this for some time. When they land, Brood asks where the rest of the army is. Whiskeyjack says they couldn’t build enough boats so Dujek took half via the Black Moranth to Coral. Kallor and Whiskeyjack insult each other again, then Brood accuses the Malazans of deception. Whiskeyjack answers that since Brood’s group had some secret plan with Rake and Moon’s Spawn, they “started it.” Brood says Moon’s Spawn wasn’t meant to attack Coral alone and gain an advantage on their allies; it was meant to be used in unified effort. Whiskeyjack replies their secret is the same—the Bridgeburners are trying to find out what preparations the Pannion has made while Dujek and his six thousand are following to destroy whatever the Bridgeburners find. Brood sees immediately that Dujek is undermanned and tells Whiskeyjack the Malazans might lose half their army, to which Whiskeyjack says he knows which is why he’s planning on making for Coral with all speed. Kallor suggests letting Dujek get wiped out, especially as the Malazans set themselves up for it. When Korlat calls the idea petty and emotionally motivated, Kallor says of course she’d side with her lover. She says not if his ideas were bad, which is what makes her different from Kallor. She advises Brood to hurry to Coral to relieve Dujek, saying a five-day quick march will do it. Kallor says the army would arrive tired and so they should take eight days. Whiskeyjack says he doesn’t care what they do; he and the Malazans are leaving and hurrying. Korlat asks Brood if he trusts the Andii and he says of course. She then says they will join the Malazans (and the Barghast that are with them). If there is trouble or betrayal, she or Orfantal can take dragon form and return to inform Brood. Kallor insults Korlat again and Orfantal almost comes to blows with him. Brood tells Kallor he trusts the Andii far more than Kallor, whose loyalty he begins to wonder about, and Kallor warns him “beware your fears . . . lest you make them come true,” though he backs down to Brood. Before leaving, Orfantal tells Kallor he thinks one day he will “come for you.” Korlat and Whiskeyjack share a look of love.

SCENE 12

Gruntle and Itkovian wait to cross the river (well after the Malazans). As Brood settles to camp, Gruntle wonders at the different pace of the two armies. Gruntle speaks to High Marshal Sty, who tells him while discussing the barges that Whiskeyjack was once apprenticed as a mason. While Gruntle is trying to convince a Rhivi herder to let his group cross first, Sty knocks out a Rhivi guard and steals a pile of dung.

SCENE 13

Whiskeyjack and the others slog onward through rain, two days still to Coral. He looks forward to some time with Korlat later. She and the Andii are trying to use Kurald Galain, trying to purge it of the CG’s poison before battle. He thinks she is different in her command role: “some bleak resolve has hardened all that was within her. Perhaps it was the possible death of Anomander Rake . . . perhaps it was their future paths they had so naively entwined without regard for the harsh demands of the real world.” He is certain Rake is not dead or lost, trusting utterly he will be there at the attack on Coral simply because he had said he would. As he watches the storm come to an end, he thinks he is pushing the army too hard, and admits to himself he was more shaken by Brood’s loss of faith and unwillingness to march with them than he let on to others. He wonders if this was all a “fatal” mistake.

SCENE 14

Kallor watches muddy water flow always south and even uphill, and thinks it is the T’lan Imass: “so you march with us after all. No, understand, I am pleased.” He goes to Brood and says he was wrong; they should have gone to relieve Dujek. While Brood will have to wait to morning to speed up, Kallor says he will go now and offer his experience: “I have walked this land when the T’lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?” Brood’s answer: “Yes. You never learn, Kallor.” When Brood continues, saying the Malazans seem to be doing fine without Kallor, Kallor tells him he hasn’t been defeated with his blade drawn in a hundred thousand years. Not so impressed, Brood notes that Kallor is always very choosy about whom he draws that blade on, pointing out he hasn’t challenged Rake, Dassem, Greymane, the Seguleh First. Kallor says he won’t have to worry about any of them. Though Brood is a bit surprised and suspicious perhaps by Kallor’s newfound “zeal,” he gives him permission to go. Kallor leaves, smiling.

SCENE 15

Envy’s group finally lands. Lanas Tog says a group of about 20-50 walked here four days earlier, heading for Coral. She adds they were tracked by a predator—a large cat. They move toward Coral.

SCENE 16

Paran and the Bridgeburners have discovered trenches and tunnels filled with weapons—preparations for defense. They’ve spotted a group of 400 or so Pannions coming to stand guard in the command tunnel area. Paran tells Spindle to rig the tunnels to blow if the Bridgeburners get pushed out, then use the rest to booby-trap the approach to the tunnels and also make it appear as if there are a lot more Malazans than the 40 of them. The mage cadre says they’ll take out the sorcerer with the Pannions. They see the other plans.

SCENE 17

A little later, Paran is watching the Malazan mages at work as the Pannions approach. Shank takes out the Pannion sorcerer, the sappers (Hedge, Spindle, others) toss munitions, setting afire trees they’d drenched in oil, and the Pannions trapped there. Paran thinks, “We’re not a friendly bunch, are we?” Looking at Quick Ben, Paran thinks he sees a tiny stick figure, but it disappears and he thinks he’s just seeing things. The fire starts to go out and the screams have stopped. Paran looks at the corpses and thinks: “if Hood has reserved a pit for his foulest servants, then the Moranth who made these munitions belong in it. And us, since we’ve used them. This was not battle. This was slaughter.” Mallet joins them and says Dujek is arriving via Black Moranth bringing in waves of soldiers. Paran says good, anticipating the Pannion sending a stronger force to retake the tunnels now that he knows the Malazans are there.

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter 23, Part 2:

The chunks of ice that Picker observes floating in the river—are these as a result of the frozen harbour? A link to the Lady Envy plotline? After all, the storylines need to begin their convergence with so little of the book left. *sobs a little at the idea*

I just want to take a pause here and say how good I think Erikson’s character names are. They are memorable, easy to say (in the most part), not too many apostrophes, and help to evince the spirit of the different cultures. It occurred to me as I read this line, “Paran sat with Quick Ben, Spindle, Shank, Toes and Bluepearl.” None of the names made me scoff at all, and, for me, that is a fairly unique situation in a fantasy novel! What do you think about Erikson’s names? Do you like the way he does them?

“Spindle’s magery was notoriously unpredictable, and more than once she had seen him unveiling his warren with one hand while throwing a Moranth munition with the other.”

Doesn’t this show a truly terrifying image?

We have a real indication of both the fact that originally the Bridgeburners were the rag-end of the army and that they have lost a huge amount of their talent at Pale by seeing the descriptions of Toes, Shank and Bluepearl. It doesn’t sound as though they have much talent to share between them!

Another lovely picture of the history of the Bridgeburners—the fact that they have all been together long enough to realise how each will react given a situation. Here, they suspect Quick Ben. What is nice is that Paran is now very much included and has found a place in the Bridgeburners.

With Brood being such a good commander (or so it has seemed from previous words we’ve read about him) it surprises me that he is keeping up such a punishing pace. Because he is suspicious? Because it is part of his plan with Anomander Rake? Because he wants to be certain to arrive at the rendezvous point to support the Malazans? Whatever it is, the Grey Swords and Gruntle’s troops seem to be far more canny at this point.

Hmm, I’m even getting the theme of parenthood from Itkovian’s musings on the new Grey Swords—the new company is like a child who has flown the roost. Everything is slightly more awkward when you meet them afterwards; they have developed their own personality and foibles, some of which you won’t be aware of; ultimately, they are a legacy to be proud of.

Ahh, Stonny—so often oblivious of what is occurring....

“Stonny,” the Daru growled, “I lost Harllo. I nearly lost you.” The admission clearly left her speechless.

Lots of foreshadowing, I do believe, in this discussion of Itkovian’s burden of souls—what is going to happen to those souls? Who will he give them to? Will he burden someone who “deserves” it? I snuck a look at one of Mieneke’s spoilers in the comments recently, and it does strike me that she is so right when she suggests that the fates of Itkovian and the Seer are very much bound together....

Hah! Love Stonny’s comment, “Why can’t I have normal friends? [...] Ones without tiger stripes and cat eyes? Ones without a hundred thousand souls riding their backs?”

Aha! I was right! “Brood’s in a hurry [...] because he wants to get to Maurik before the Malazans—who seem to be marching at a faster pace than we’d thought possible.”

I do think I’m going to like the Mott Irregulars. *grins* The outright defiance of Kallor, their love of trees, the fact that they stole the table back—they are COOL. And why is it that Kallor wants to steer the Mott Irregulars away from Caladan Brood? Why is he preventing them from telling Brood about the Malazan information?

Caught out! I, too, thought the Bole brothers were just two—sort of reminded me of the Frog brothers from the Lost Boys!

Now is this a sly pointer from Mr Erikson? “I care nothing for this Pannion Seer—he’ll accept no embrace from me, after all, assuming the Malazans leave him breathing.” Whatever, I don’t think Itkovian is done just yet.

Such delicious irony—Kruppe has managed to get one over on Hetan. (Perhaps literally. *ahem*) I am just slightly disturbed that her father seems entirely familiar with the whole situation, and laughs about it with her. Not a conversation I’d have with my dad!

Argh! It feels as though Erikson might be laying this on a little thick now... “Whiskeyjack smiled, feeling once more his wonder at the gifts of friendship he had received of late.”

An interesting perspective on the act of occupation, and the fact that the Malazans deem themselves to be enriched by drawing diversity into the ranks, and learning from the places they occupy. It seems quite a rose-tinted view on occupation....

We’re given a little more background to the Tiste Andii and their Lord here—the fact that Korlat finally realises Anomander Rake might have had no higher purpose in the battles he pursues, the allies he makes, the “disparate causes”; that he is, in fact, lost. But that he doesn’t want the other Tiste Andii to know, else they all fall into despair. The strength of the man—and his ultimate mercy and compassion—is unbelievable.

Hmm, there is a definite hint of “you started it,” “no, you started it” in the conversation between Brood and Whiskeyjack, in terms of the additional secret plans that were concocted.

And now we’re finally getting the essence of all the secrecy. (Well, apart from Moon’s Spawn—it can’t really have gone missing, can it?) Dujek is leading a force of Malazans, including the Bridgeburners, as an advance force to snuff out the threats that we already know the Pannion Seer has set in place to destroy the army against him. I’m sure there are yet more twists and turns to come though!

Kallor really can’t help himself gibing at Brood, can he? And here he starts to drop hints that his loyalty might not stay intact—something we already know, thanks to his discussions with the Crippled God.

“Did you know Whiskeyjack was apprenticed as a mason, before he became a soldier?” What a very odd, throwaway comment to include... We’ve encountered references to Masons before, with regards to the Deck of Dragons, haven’t we? Something is definitely tickling my memory here.

It must be fairly horrific to make a decision like that Whiskeyjack has made—knowing that there could be enormous loss of life if you make the wrong decision i.e. leaving Brood’s force behind, not waiting for the rest of the Barghast before contacting with the enemy. Have his emotions led him into the wrong decision?

How is it that Kallor and only Kallor has realised that the T’lan Imass still follow the army? “From dust...to mud. So you march with us after all. No, understand, I am pleased.” And why is Kallor so pleased at this fact? Because he knows some of the Crippled God’s plans?

SUCH arrogance! “With my blade drawn, I have not faced defeat in a hundred thousand years.” And, yet, I feel like we do underestimate Kallor a great deal, considering the people he keeps company with. I have to confess, I always see him as weak—but that is compared to Brood and Rake!

This here reminds me of the inept bad guy in poor fantasy novels: “...on which the Pannions had conveniently mapped out the entire maze of tunnels and entrenchments, the locations of supplies and what kind, the approaches and retreats.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first time that Paran has seen munitions in action? We know he has a very strong stomach, from the times he has disregarded death and mutilation before, but watching this very deliberate slaughter must be something very different. Both shocking and ugly. It’s a grim note by which to start the battle against Coral.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter 23, Part 2:

I like the insight Erikson presents with a really irrelevant little detail in this section: Shank’s showy expression of his Seti blood via his wearing charms and trinkets the actual Seti themselves have left long in their past, so assimilated they’ve become. One sees this in our world as well, those who have either a true connection to another culture/heritage, or perhaps a very diluted one (“1/16th on my mother’s side!”) who try to be almost “more fill-in-the-blank-heritage” than those who actually are. And how these types often get the heritage wrong because they are so removed from it, or the actual inheritors of the culture are themselves, and so what you get is this bastardized romanticized version—from TV or film or books—all done in this ersatz kind of fashion: polyester “buffalo hide” bought in some suburban big box store kind of thing.

Note the mention of Ruse slid in there by the way—something we’re now familiar with a bit thanks to the earlier discussion re the dead Edur.

I’d agree Amanda that Erikson does a good job with names. A lot of these are soldier names as well—blunt, descriptive, solid. They simply fit.

I think that’s also a good reading of the relationship between Itkovian and the new Grey Swords as a parental one. It’s that awkward letting go stage that’s often so tough to do. Though in this case, it appears to be a more healthy type of relationship than the others we’re following. The way Itkovian, for instance, recognizes that the new Shield Anvil isn’t yet ready to take on the burden he carries. A judgment that appears to me to be a pretty good one, as opposed to a parent being unwilling to let the child fly. And he does this without any sense of overprotectiveness or resentment or martyrdom.

File:

“I must find a means of redeeming them . . .

You’re not a god! You’re a damned mortal! You can’t—

But I must.”

Poor Stonny. It is a great line—”Why can’t I have normal friends? . . . Ones without tiger stripes and cat eyes? Ones without a hundred thousand souls riding their backs?” And she banks her hopes for normalcy on a Motts Irregular.

Don’t worry Amanda—we’ll see more of the Motts Irregulars and even a few of those Bole brothers as we continue....

I like how now that we’ve met the Mott Irregulars we get their history. Just a personal thing, but I’m so much more a fan of this structure—reference then explanation—rather than the reference with explanation. I also like the picture of unintended consequences—the idea of “making” one’s own enemies. And the way we get played along with Gruntle etc. at how the Malazans are being spied upon and it turns out they’re using the spies.

I had to laugh at Taur’s indignation when he thought the Barghast wouldn’t be attacked by the Malazan Empire, “What, we’re not goooood enough for you to make war against us and kill thousands?”

Whiskeyjack’s viewpoint on expansion and occupation does seem a bit rosy-tinted. And there are perhaps other reasons for the Empire to occupy/unify. But there have been empires in history that were relatively open/tolerant of diversity—diversity of religion, of culture. So long as they paid their taxes, etc. but still. And Whiskeyjack of course isn’t an idiot; he makes it clear he knows this is an aspiration, it is the empire at its best and the empire is not always at its best, as we’ll see. And we’ll also see empires not so tolerant as the Malazans. Can an empire be this good? If it can, can it be that good for long?

How’s that for some imagery poor Korlat is riding through? Alone, a city of emptiness, of loneliness, a city that has the taint of “decay.”

I like how she (and through her Erikson) does not sugarcoat the relationship she has with Whiskeyjack. It will be the love of Whiskeyjack’s life (and perhaps, even probably that of Korlat’s), but it will be a mere flicker of a moment in Korlat’s life. She need not “quit” Anomander Rake; she need only ask for a leave of absence. Though even that gives an exaggerated sense of the time. Less a leave of absence maybe and more a personal day.

What must it have been like for the Andii to do all they did and think it mere randomness? That alone might be enough to tell us how removed from what we think of as “life” they might be. And what bond and faith must there have been for it to only come now, after 14,000 years—that though of Korlat’s, that maybe Rake was lost as much as his kin.

It’s been a long while, and I can’t say I recall in any detail why the giants did what they did in Stephen Donaldson’s work (something to do with a reaver? Becoming what they hated?)—but Korlat’s description of Andii falling in battle because “they had chosen to die. Slain by their own despair” reminded me of the dimly-recalled scene in the Covenant the Unbeliever series where the Giants are described (if I remember correctly) as going to their homes and dying in their beds—it has the same feel of overwhelming despair.

It’s an interesting line Korlat draws in her prior belief and her current fear. In the former, Rake leads the Andii to give them something—a reason to live—it is an avowal. But in the latter, he leads them into action not for something, but against something—despair. It’s a very fine, subtle distinction I think. A very subtle one.

And what can one say about Rake? As Korlat says, if the Andii are so full of despair, what more the man who leads them? Who bears the burden of keeping them alive, against even their own wishes? Who also bears, let us not forget, the burden of Dragnipur (of which at this point we really know only the tiniest, tiniest part of). And these are the burdens we know. It’s a type we see in other characters as well, bearing the burden and doing so alone: Whiskeyjack, Itkovian.

So just a little while after we hear Dujek and Whiskeyjack discuss the what seemed even then the too idyllic vision of domestic bliss and lack of burden—Korlat and Whiskeyjack in a snug little cabin with a garden—already the world threatens to shatter that dream.

It’s a little thing—but I like the Great Ravens heckling the Malazan boats as they approach.

Well, anybody else sense a bit of something brewing between Kallor and Orfantal?

‘Course, he’ll have to stand in line perhaps while Kallor and Whiskeyjack sort out their own to-do-a-brewin’.

I agree Amanda that the first few words between Brood and Whiskeyjack sound a bit juvenile: the whole “you started it..." I do like the formality of their address though: “Commander.” “Warlord.” A bit tense.

I love the close of that scene though—that look between Korlat and Whiskeyjack, and that final line: “Mother Dark, but these mortals live!” The sense of passion inherent in it. The reveling of life. And, I’d say for many readers who have paid attention, the sharper tragedy of reading that line and having a strong sense that knowing how to live will not translate necessarily to actually living.

Here we see Whiskeyjack’s thought walking the same path as Korlat’s—that the world will not let them have their dream, and the reader begins perhaps to get a sense of inevitability of what is to come.

I like how Whiskeyjack has the unshaking belief in Rake now. He has learned from his moment of doubt with the Tenescowri women, and now he simply believes. Not even “faith,” but simple belief—just the way Korlat had described her own thoughts about Rake earlier.

I confess Amanda, I do not know why the Imass seem to be traveling secretly alongside the army. Or at least, it makes sense why they are traveling secretly (so as not to tip their presence to the Seer), but why seemingly secretly from Brood’s army. Though perhaps at this point the reader might think Brood knows but isn’t telling Kallor. Why, however, there is no discussion of the T’lan Imass going with the Malazans (or even ahead of them) I’m not sure. They, after all, would not arrive exhausted. That seems a plot weakness to me. Or why Brood doesn’t think of it once he decides he’s made a mistake in not joining Whiskeyjack. That seems to double-down on the plot flaw. Anyone? Now, as to why Kallor is pleased—remember what he wants from the Crippled God—a shot at Silverfox. So the Imass being present means she is still around, meaning he still has a chance at that shot.

That paragraph of Kallor’s with its ringing intonations, its use of parallel structure: “I have . . . I have . . . I have,” its self-important poetic language, followed by Brood’s blunt “yes, you never learn” is one of my favorite exchanges in the series. And I also enjoyed Brood’s sharp reminder to Kallor when he boasts of his undefeated record that he is quite careful about whom he fights—like the schoolyard bully who picks on the smallest kids.

Back to a minor criticism of this plotline, I wonder at Brood saying earlier he has begun to wonder about Kallor’s loyalty, and then here saying he is “surprised” by Kallor’s “sudden zeal”—a line that seems to strongly imply suspicion on his part. I don’t wonder that Brood thinks this way, but at the fact that despite feeling this way, he takes no steps based on that thinking. He doesn’t, for instance, send a company with Kallor, or a few Great Ravens, to keep an eye on him.

So Envy’s group is preceded by a “large cat”—we’ve had reference to a large cat in this book. Remember? (not Trake) [Amanda: I’m plumping for Tool’s sister!]

It is the first time Paran has seen munitions in action, and yes, it is a grim opening to battle. Certainly too it has application to our modern warfare, where we rain down destruction from afar or up high. It’s a message we’ll see delivered a few times as we move forward. There is the horror of war and then there is the horror of war—is there a difference? Does it make a difference? Think of the world moving from the 19th century to WWI—with its first appearance of tanks and machine guns and aerial bombardment and poison gas. A war on such a whole other level of destruction that the world decided they needed to make rules about how exactly we kill each other. This is the sort of thing I imagine the munitions is bringing to warfare here.

So the stage is being set, and the actors are rushing to their places....


Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.

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

30 comments
Michael Rubino
1. Bauchelain
@Bill:

I too wondered why after Kallor practically shouted at him that he's going to betray him and Brood obvious distrust he still let him go. Maybe Brood simply thought kallor didn't have the guts to betray him.
Chris Hawks
2. SaltManZ
I see Brood as being a kind of idiot savant: brilliant general and tactician, but outside the field of battle, not exactly a high-wattage bulb.

And I don't understand why Brood and the Malazans are keeping all these plans secret from each other. Simply trust issues? I can't think of any good reason, besides plot. Though people keeping secrets for no apparent good reason seems to be another theme of this book.
Tai Tastigon
3. Taitastigon
Amanda:

I just want to take a pause here and say how good I think Erikson’s character names are. They are memorable, easy to say (in the most part), not too many apostrophes, and help to evince the spirit of the different cultures. It occurred to me as I read this line, “Paran sat with Quick Ben, Spindle, Shank, Toes and Bluepearl.” None of the names made me scoff at all, and, for me, that is a fairly unique situation in a fantasy novel! What do you think about Erikson’s names? Do you like the way he does them?

In the case of the soldiers names, I would have to say that they are a direct hommage to Glen Cook´s The Black Company, from where SE lifted this naming system.

Interesting that this system of short names/nicks makes perfect sense; if you want to coordinate actions in the middle of a heated battle, you need short, pregnant names to be concise and get through to people
Jordanes
4. Jordanes
So many things to comment on here (love it!):

1) Amanda, I too am almost always impressed by Erikson's choice of names, and, moreover, the continuity in the sounds of these names. After a while in this series, you can pretty much identify a character's origin by the type of name they possess. For instance in this book, the Grey Swords have strong-sounding, 'k-filled' names, often with some form of 'ian' at the end - Itkovian, Brukhalian, Karnadas, Tanakalian, etc.

2) My suspicion is that the rose-tinted view of the Malazan Empire isn't Whiskeyjack's, it's Erikson's. This isn't the first, or the last, time in which the Empire is described in a 'force for good' type of way. Sure, they brutally conquer, but once order is asserted and laws are put in place, everyone is free to carry on as they were - no imposition of outside culture, no back-breaking taxes- so long as they don't break the few laws the Malazans to impose.

So, freedom, so long as you behave in the way we want you to behave. You can begin to understand why Seven Cities did rebel despite being better off under the Malazans - this notion of 'true freedom', which quickly and horribly descended into chaos and savagery.

3) Those sneaky Malazans! I didn't buy Whiskeyjack's explanation that they went ahead purely to negate any pre-emptive defences of the Pannions in my first read, and I sure don't now :) What else are those dastardly and not-so-outlawed Malazans up to now?

4) On the other hand, I do like this twist which SE added - on what seems the cusp of victory, one more battle, the alliance is shakier than it has ever been. And both sides are making fatal errors - the Malazans simply don't have the forces to achieve what they intend, but what choice do they have? And now they've left most of the Barghast behind. And Brood, as we've seen before, can let his emotions rule him at times.

5) As for Korlat's musings on Rake....well, how about this alternative controversial idea? Rake does what he does out of a sense of profound guilt. After all, why are the Tiste Andii no longer in Kurald Galain? Why is Mother Dark 'turned away?' We'll get a lot more in this in the next book, which has musings throughout on the history of Light, Dark, and Shadow.

6) I love the scene of Kallor standing in the torrential rain, spying the trickle of muddy water moving *upstream*, and recognising it for what it is. Canny bastard :) And the scene in Brood's tent after, with the exchange that we first read as an chapter-opening quote in Gardens of the Moon :)

As for the T'lan Imass, I think it's clear no one but Kallor has realised they are still moving with the armies. As for the reason for this, well, I think one can lay blame once again at the feet of Silverfox's infuriating secretiveness. She clearly believes despite all the evidence thrown in her face that any business of the T'lan Imass is consequently no one else's business.

7) The scene with the munitions and oil burning alive the Pannion forces and Paran's thoughts on its awfulness will gain a grim, grim reflection in the Bonehunters.
Jordanes
5. Jordanes
@ 2

If you think forward to what happens immediately after the battle of Coral (i.e. who shows up) the Malazans' intentions and reasons for keeping their plans secret become clear.

As for Brood, I think he genuinelly doesn't know what exactly Rake intends with Moon's Spawn, but after all these centuries has learned to trust his judgement.
Chris Hawks
6. SaltManZ
@5: Good to know. It's been a few years since I last read these first books, and I've definitely forgotten most of the details.
Emmet O'Brien
7. EmmetAOBrien
Jordanes@4: We're told about the Malazan Empire as a force for good that way several times, but I'm not recalling being shown it in any way that seems intended to convince us it's a good thing, so I can buy the occurrences you mention as Erikson illustrating character idealism to which his world does not live up. If anything, I think Erikson has whatever the opposite of a rose-tinted view is, here; the series as a whole strikes me as extremely sceptical of the capacity of authority to do much of anything positive competently at all.
Amir Noam
8. Amir
Paran did see some munition use when the Bridgeburners stormed their way into Capustan (through a company of Pannions) a few chapters back. But that was relatively mild compared to the action in this chapter.
Sydo Zandstra
9. Fiddler
Bill:

I confess Amanda, I do not know why the Imass seem to be traveling
secretly alongside the army. Or at least, it makes sense why they are
traveling secretly (so as not to tip their presence to the Seer), but
why seemingly secretly from Brood’s army. Though perhaps at this point the reader might think Brood knows but isn’t telling Kallor. Why, however, there is no discussion of the T’lan Imass going with the
Malazans (or even ahead of them) I’m not sure.

I can think of 2 reasons: logistics and morale.

There is only so much room to march, I'd guess, and this allows the T'lan Imass to travel the same road as the main part of Brood's army (just slightly deeper).

As for morale, Silverfox and the T'lan Imass at this stage have only committed to battling the Undead K'Chain Che'malle. If I were Brood, Dujek or Whiskeyjack, I'd prefer them to show up when they are willing to fight, instead of standing and looking dusty instead when they are not committed...
shirley thistlewood
10. twoodmom
re Paran & munitions: He was also in the neighbourhood when Hedge took out Raest.

re secrets between the armies: It is weeks not years since they were at each other's throats.

I love this reread!
Tricia Irish
11. Tektonica
Names: They seem quite personal as well as cultural. Especially the BB's and the Malazans. (And they're not too weird!)

An interesting perspective on the act of occupation, and the fact that the Malazans deem themselves to be enriched by drawing diversity into the ranks, and learning from the places they occupy. It seems quite a rose-tinted view on occupation....

I doubt that the average soldier thinks about these things, but they will probably grow and benefit from this attitude created by the actions of their leaders. Kind of Pollyannaish, but an admirable goal.

How sad that for WJ the relationship with Korlat is the ultimate, and for her just a flicker in time (but perhaps her ultimate too.). 14,000 years she's been with Rake. I can't even get my head around that. And Rake...as lost as all the others, but continuing to lead, to try to find reasons to go on, and not showing any of his loneliness, doubt, and despair. Wow. I *heart* Rake.

There does seem to be a glaring disconnect for Brood in his conversation with Kallor. Noticing Kallor's "zeal", Brood should be suspicious, given his earlier observations about Kallor. But then, we know things, as readers, that the players don't. Kallor....one my my most disliked characters, though, we are even given reasons for his disfunction. Does that excuse his lack of character? No, not for me.

I'm so amazed at all the foreshadowing that I missed on my first gallop through these pages. Have I said this before?
Jordanes
12. David DeLaney
Amanda: "Moon’s Spawn—it can’t really have gone missing, can it?"

Oh, gee, I dunno...

(There's been foreshadowing of where it's been and what it's been doing. {Imagine that.} You just haven't put the pieces together, because you haven't seen The Reveal yet. And yeah, there's not much book left.)

--Dave
Amir Noam
13. Amir
Two random thoughts following this (half) chapter:

1. The Seti no longer follow their own traditions and have been completely absorbed into Quon culture? This seems to be in great contradiction to Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard (unless I've missed references to a *huge* cultural revolution movement on Quon Tali over the next few years of the story).

2. I *get* Kallor's character in this book, but I think that in the future we see him actually showing a lot of respect to the Tiste Andii - nothing like the contempt that he shows here and that angers Brood. (OR is it that we later learn that he greatly respects *certain* Andii?)
Jordanes
14. Jordanes
@ 10 twoodmom

Actually, it's been about a year and a half since the fall of Pale now, but I get your point anyway.

@13 Amir

Actually, the Seti really don't follow their own culture anymore, not as how it used to be anyway. Consider the next book, in which a part of the army is made up of Seti cavalry. But it's also revealed that the Seti weren't even horseriders before the Malazans waged war on them, they took that up after.

A Seti culture continues to exist, but it seems mostly made up out of a few wild tribes whose numbers are heavily supplemented by half-breeds who've fled civilisation to try and go back to their roots. But they've taken with them their own notions of what those cultural roots are supposed to be, and that's not the same as what actually was.

Note that I'm not trying to deny that contradictions exist between Erikson's and ICE's books - they do. Sometimes to an extent where you start questioning how much attention they paid when the other was describing what they intended to write. As with most writers, I suppose, they wanted to go their own way and had different visions in some cases - but sometimes when reading an ICE book it does feel like he's said, 'aww, to hell with what's been written before, I'm going to do it this way!'

As for Kallor's virtual character transformation further down the line in this series - I have to say, it is one of the few things that I hated in an SE book. That wasn't character development and added depth, that was just completely changing what a character was about. It didn't feel right to me at all.

On a COMPLETE side note: I happened to be looking at the cover of my Bantam edition of the Bonehunters yesterday, and noticed the tagline, from a website called Salon.com, read: 'A master of long and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics.'

Erm, come again? Long epochs? Aren't all epochs long? This phrasing felt so odd to me that I dug out my Bantam copy of Midnight Tides, to find that the tagline there reads instead: 'A master of LOST and forgotten epochs.'

Oh dear, Bantam, a typo on the cover!!! For shame :)
Chris Hawks
15. SaltManZ
@14: In my MMPB of GotM, the quote from Glen Cook references "mighty drumbcats" (drumbeats).
Jordanes
16. djk1978
I generally like the names. They are pretty simple and easy to remember, especially among the Malazans. For the most part they are easily recognizable and not fancy fantasy names like many authors are prone to do. The Malazan army names in particular usually tell a one word story about the character's past.

I wonder really if the lack of purpose in Rake's life is so real as everyone thinks. I think he has purpose, mostly unknown to everyone, because he doesn't share his thoughts. What he doesn't know is how to accomplish it but that is part of the story that we'll find out more about later. For now he is an enigma and the causes he takes up are a bit inexplicable.

Jordanes@14: Can't say I agree about Kallor. He's a peripheral character so far but I don't think his future development conflicts with what we know of his past. If anything his stand by role now is odd.

I do think he has a healthy respect for people he thinks can challenge him. He knows who he can beat and who he can't. He's very smart that way. Brood lists a number of them, and there are other characters he shows respect for as well. His past is deplorable but I find him rather interesting now.

As for Brood letting him go, I think you could argue that he's rather sick of him and happy to let him leave. He might also think that Kallor has kowtowed to him and Rake long enough that he might not be so suspicious of Kallor's motives.
Jordanes
17. Jordanes
But Kallor essentially continues to maintain a 'stand-by' role in his other prominent feature in this series, so I'm not sure how that's at odds. Sure, he makes a fairly half-hearted attempt to gain something in that later book, but then decides actually, nah, I'll have a beer instead.

His past actions are more than deplorable. They were horrific, and they make him just about the closest thing to pure evil that you get in this series. Neither did he show any respect to anyone or anything, more powerful beings like Elder Gods included. Perhaps you could argue that, like Draconus, he's now had millennia to think over his past actions, and come out a - somewhat - changed man. Perhaps.

But we see with his alliance with the Crippled God that he is still a man of overweening ambition, as well as fixated on revenge and acts of cruelty. I just can't reconcile this man with the one we see later on, who weeps - weeps! - at the sacrificial actions of others, who bemoans the expected fate of one he has to fight. All he's ever shown before then is self-absorption, and it just comes across as a bit too unexpected.

Don't get me wrong, I do love a lot of those later scenes with Kallor, usually when he's displaying an 'f***k you' attitude :)
Jordanes
18. djk1978
I guess that's where I differ with you. Kallor is all the things you mentioned. I just don't see that being all those things excludes him from having certain emotions from time to time. I suppose you might say that someone who exterminated an empire can't feel sympathy for a single person's sacrifice. But as you also say, perhaps he has changed slightly. It's been more than a few millenia, we're talking about what, 100,000 years?

I see your point exactly, I'm just trying to reconcile the different facets of character that we see.
Sydo Zandstra
19. Fiddler
On Kallor, IIRC we do not get a POV from him in this book, showing his thinking about his outward thoughts, just about him being approached and being opportunistic. What he says in MoI is not necessarily what he thinks. And the Andii in question are certainly not on his side here anyway...

In TTH, we do get to see some of his thoughts, like 'being disgusted with his own company at times' (Or something like that; read that in TTH yesterday).

So I don't see anything out of character with Kallor over the series, really...
Jordanes
20. Jordanes
We do get one POV with Kallor and his thoughts in MoI actually. In his tent before and after Gethol shows up to invite him into the House of Chains.

I can't remember exactly what he says, but I think it just serves to show us how self-absorbed and power-hungry he remains. All about biding his time to strike or something like that.
Jordanes
21. jgtheok
On Kallor: he has about 6 lines in Chapter 20, most of which are followed by other characters telling him to shut up. This seems noteworthy, given that the scene includes encounters with both Silverfox and K'rul (whom he possibly hasn't encountered in 100 thousand years).

Given his ego, incredibly passive behavior. Almost as if he were thinking, drawing conclusions, and making decisions. What might he have to think about? Well, about the not-so-final fates of Silverfox and K'rul (and possibly Draconus)... how much Brood/Rake value his services, compared to what his old enemies might offer them... whether anyone could possibly benefit from dealing with the Crippled God.

Kallor is pathologically selfish, not stupid.
karl oswald
22. Toster
haven't played the quote game in a while...

"We're all going to die!"
"Damnit, Toes, shut up!"

A half-dozen heartbeats, within which Oponn's coin spun...
A single lazy turn...
From Lady to Lord.
Iris Creemers
23. SamarDev
@ 22 Toster
excellent choice of quote, that second one. It is so strong foreboding, that you're instinctly screeming 'noooooooo!' (I think even as first-reader).
SE's pick of words is great. He could have written 'A half-dozen heartbeats, within which Oponn's coin turned from Lady to Lord.' Same meaning, but not half the suspence.
Iris Creemers
24. SamarDev
You are in pain. I would embrace you now...

(btw: I missed the quoting game. To me it wasn't random quoting when everything to discuss was discussed, to kill the time waiting for the next post).
Mieneke van der Salm
25. Mieneke
@ Amanda:
And why is Kallor so pleased at this fact? Because he knows some of the Crippled God’s plans?
That is a big question for me too. What in his perceived presence of the T'lan Imass makes Kallor change his mind? [Well, I guess Bill just asnwered that question!]

@ Bill:
I’d agree Amanda that Erikson does a good job with names. A lot of these are soldier names as well—blunt, descriptive, solid. They simply fit.
Aren't most of the Bridgeburner names nicknames though? We know Fiddler is and Toes' name is explained in the sequence as well. It makes me wonder if somewhere SE and ICE have a little file with all the proper names for these characters stashed away!

Toster @22: That second quote actually had me asking my hubby, whether it just meant luck turning or whether it was more as the Lady and Lord each personify one form of luck. So that part stood out to me a lot!

How come the Tiste Andii can cleanse their warren? Can all magic users do this or is it something peculiar to Kurald Galain or the strength of the Andii?
Hugh Arai
26. HArai
Mieneke@25: I don't claim to know for certain but I think several factors are involved in the Tiste Andii locally cleansing their warren. First, the Andii involved seem to be individually strong: several are Soletaken, we know they are used to combat mages, assassins, summonings etc. Second they're all using the same warren, have thousands of years of experience and apparently know how to assist each other. We see in the series groups working together can do some truly amazing stuff, on the level that tends to burnout/kill individuals. Third, Kurald Galain is Elder. We've already seen Elder warrens are less susceptible to interference. T'lann overcoming Otataral for instance. Fourth, we know it can be done: Talamandas, boosted by Hood, is doing something similar for Quick Ben.
Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
Back from vacation. Not much to add, but, yeah it is good not to underestimate Kallor's ability--he has lasted a long time. Part of that lasting is no doubt due to the curse, but part is no doubt due to basic nastyness. The curse is still operating.
Brood should really have just smacked him between the eyes with his hammer.
M D
29. Abalieno
Bluepearl, Shank and Toes only get introduced this late in the novel. It seems Erikson needed some new characters in order to make work this final part of the book. As a structure it feels contrived but it works well anyway. Not much space to develop characters, but enough to make them recognizable and charming in their quirky way.

The small stories they carry with them are like personalizations. They are like folds in the bigger plot, a closed system, and within they have their own life and personal dimension. Carried along like in a big river, or as part of the Malazan army, but each with his own story and perception.

Blend in this scene is surprised that Paran sniffed her out again, so I'm wondering if there isn't something about magic since Paran has that specific talent. That suspicion continues to linger, but there's always a way out since it's always possible that magic isn't involved.

Can't remember if the story of Buke is over. In the recent conversation Erikson said he included Buke and the others because he liked the arc even if it wasn't indispensable in the wider plot, so I guess there's something there. But I can't quite remember if we got that conclusion or if it's in the remaining chapters. If it's already over then I must have missed the point.

The matter of the split between the armies seems a bit problematic as we see an avalanche of consequences without having a good grasp of what put them in motion (sometimes this seems to be a general problem). I still have to see if the Malazans have their own good reason. There's the mention of a plan between Paran and Quick Ben, and it is something hidden already into another.

This problem carries over in some of the scenes in this chapter because we see characters who behave in a odd way. In this moment of ASOIAF revival it makes more a contrast that sometimes here characters are not just partially hidden, but opaque. So even when you expect to know them you are being unbalanced by something they say or they do whose motivation you cannot readily understand (WJ's, for example, describing the Malazan empire to Humbrall Taur without much ambivalence, and just after having commented about the "gifts of friendship").

I commented about Kallor as the "weak link" in the epilogue comments, and the scene here shows it. I agree that Brood's behavior is quite weird. The only solution I can work out is that he learned to put some trust in WJ and Dujek, and then once again he sees that trust betrayed. So I guess he started to feel quite annoyed and when Kallor asked permission to go, Brood gave it because of his current frustration with the way things developed.

There's still quite a big gap to close, though. Even Erikson said that Kallor was around because it was better to keep a potential enemy close and so control him, than far away and unchecked. Yet here it's Brood setting Kallor free, especially when he's most doubtful about him. The reasons may even be there, but the way events develop would require a more grounded motivation (since it's not a detail). Done like this it feels that the whole thing happens solely because it was convenient for the plot's development.

In any case there are these chunks of plot, like the dispersion of the army and all it leads to, that is not so well grounded. So one reads about it without being given very solid motivations. Added to characters who seem to behave oddly, and then Korlat's own PoV that I don't think works too well either.

Despite these weakness there's also lots of good stuff within. I like the way Itkovian questions himself and seeks a kind of company (Stonny, Gruntle) that is the very opposite he's been all his life. He's in a crisis, but it's not an arid one as it seems. Actually, from my point of view this made him more human.

A reason why I don't like Korlat's PoV is because of what I've said previously about the theme of choice. Here Korlat, about Rake, says:

To choose not to share... what I had seen as arrogance, as patronizing behaviour of the worst sort - enough to leave me incensed... ah, Lord, you held to the hardest mercy.

Which is the voicing of the same idea of what Paran told to Nightchill, down to the same words:

Keeping us ignorant is your notion of mercy?

Patronizing bitch.

I still do not accept the idea that the negation of awareness is a legitimate form of mercy. It equals to the erasure of choice, and so it's an imposition. I have a complete block against this theme.

Korlat also voices some of this:

Curse of the Light, he has spent centuries evading my questions, discouraging my desire to come to know him, to pierce through his veil of mystery. And I have been hurt by it, I have lashed out at him more than once, and he has stood before my anger and frustration. Silent.

Which could as well voice the Mhybe. Was the Mhybe also protected from the "truth"?

The interesting aspect is how the "theme of denial" could be seen as not specific to the Tiste Andii, but all human condition.

About this:

Did you know Whiskeyjack was apprenticed as a mason, before he became a soldier?

I also read it as a reference to the Deck of Dragons. In GotM WJ is described quite explicitly as the mason of House Death. While the Soldier of House Death was mentioned in the Deck reading earlier in this book (though rereading it doesn't seem to clarify much). Only it works better as the mason figure (builder of barrows) than as a soldier. WJ still has a role of responsibility here, so why the switch? What brought to it?

While looking for this I noticed that in the Appendix the Queen of Dreams is the Queen of House Life. So once again, and directly in the structure of the Deck of Dragons, Life and Dreams are put together. The Queen of Dreams was involved directly in the plan leading to Burn's sleep (it was mentioned earlier in this book) so there's always this interplay with life as a dream. This features heavily in all Erikson's work, but I still need to understand it fully...
M D
30. Abalieno
Another thing. Both Amanda and Bill said this is the first time Paran sees the munitions being used, but this is not correct.

He was in that group that entered Capustan during the siege. They used the munitions in order to pass among many unaware Tenescowri. In fact this could be considered as a flaw. I always say that these books are rich in ideas and you can dig forever, compared to other series that feel diluted and overstretched. Yet this is a case of a certain redundancy.

Usually redundancy in Malazan books is used to give things a different slant, but here the same observations are simply repeated. The PoV is the same (Paran) so it's justified, but they are still somewhat redundant. He was shocked about the horrors of war at that time when they entered Capustan, and again he offers very similar comments here, again about considering the "other" perspective. So both these aspects had a precedent (Paran seeing the use of munitions and coming to the same conclusions).

That part also didn't convince me so much because I can't believe they left all those tunnels unmanned. I know they absolutely have no reason to believe the Malazan arrived already, but it's still unbelievable that the whole place is deserted.

On WJ's PoV I like this more subtle interpretation more than usual:

Feeling old beyond his years, burdened by flaws born of a spirit mired deep in exhaustion, Whiskeyjack rejoined the vanguard.

As if those "flaws" are those of the body, and the body is a reflection of a more complex condition.

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