Aug 10 2011 2:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Chapter Seven

Malazan Reread of the Fallen on

Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Seven of House of Chains by Steven Erikson (HoC).

Just a note for today that Amanda has had to deal with a sudden crisis and so may or may not be commenting this week. She sends her apologies.

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.

Chapter Seven


Back near Sha’ik’s camp in Raraku, Heboric is climbing up a rise to collect hen’bara flowers on it, which can be dried and steeped to make a soothing tea. Heboric thinks how life cannot be “bloodless. Spill that of those blocking your path. Spill your own. Struggle on . . . with all the frenzy that is the brutal unveiling of self-preservation. The macabre dance in the tugging currents held no artistry, and to pretend otherwise was to sink into delusion.” He believes he has no delusions any longer; “He had drowned them one by one with his own hands.” For others in the camp, however, he thinks “such clear-eyed vision was absent . . . guided by a will . . . that was drowning in delusions.” His bemoans that his vision has been failing, as well as the fact that he is trapped in the desert, the Whirlwind wall impassable in either direction. He is joined atop the ridge by Felisin’s adopted daughter — Felisin Younger, who carries scrolls of Felisin’s poem “Call to Shadow, a continuation of a poem by Felisin’s own mother. Felisin Younger tells Heboric that Korbolo Dom, whom army he has named “dogslayers,” is afraid and lists whom he is afraid of when Heboric rejects the idea: Leoman. Toblakai. Bidithal. L’oric. Mathok. And the one he finds most terrifying of all: Sha’ik” She adds that Felisin has banished Mallick Rel and Pullyk Alar, and Dom sees that as the removal of two of his allies. Heboric tells her “the Whirlwind Goddess whispers in the Chosen One’s ears. There are secrets with the Warren of Shadow . . . containing truths that are relevant to the Whirlwind itself . . . The sundering of an ancient warren scattered fragments throughout the realms. The Whirlwind Goddess possesses power, but it was not her own, not at first. Just one more fragment, wandering, lost and in pain. What was the goddess, I wonder, when she first stumbled onto the Whirlwind? Some desert tribe’s minor deity, I suspect . . . it did not take her long for her to destroy her old rivals.” Felisin Younger questions how that explains all that came afterward — the Seven Holy Cities, the prophecy of Dryjhna, etc. Heboric answers that religions feed on each other, coopt other myths. Seven cities, he says, built upon an earlier legacy — an ancient civilization that itself was built upon the ruins of an even older one — the First Empire of the T’lan Imass. Anything that is still recalled is mere chance. Felisin Younger tells him she was sent to say Leoman wanted to see him in the pit temple. The two return to camp and Heboric, noting its “ills” sees it as a microcosm of Seven Cities and as proof that the Empire’s conquest was beneficial as it ameliorated or removed many of them. Passing through the Circle of Temples, he thinks of how the children that once thronged there have been adopted by Felisin: “her private retinue, the Whirlwind cult’s own acolytes . . . over three thousand.” The act had angered the pimps exploiting the children. As they prepare to head down to the pit temple, Heboric thinks how Sha’ik had looked into Leoman’s soul “and found it empty, bereft of faith, by some flaw of nature inclined to disavow all forms of certainty.” She could no longer trust him fully and so put him as second to her general Mathok. Heboric recalls the rumors that Karsa and Leoman has once “shared a chain” as Malazan prisoners. Felisin leaves and Heboric climbs down into the pit temple, which smells of Leoman’s durhang use. Leoman tells Heboric that Bidithal is “back to his old ways . . . with children . . . Girls. His unpleasant hungers.” When Heboric asks what Leoman expects him to do about it, as Felisin appears to no longer listen to him while Bidithal is her High Mage. Leoman says that all three of them (Heboric, Leoman, Karsa) care about Felisin Younger and she has “caught Bidithal’s eye. But that attention is more than simply sexual . . . Bidithal believes she must be shaped in a manner identical to her mother . . . As the mother was broken inside, so too must the child be broken inside.” Heboric says Sha’ik should be told, but Leoman says she has been, but because she needs Bidithal to balance out Febryl and L’oric (the other High Mages), she won’t do anything outright, but has told Leoman, Karsa, and Heboric to “be watchful.” In response to Heboric saying Bidithal should just be killed, Leoman says Bidithal actually isn’t the problem; he may in fact be Sha’ik’s savior as he will divulge Febryl’s co-conspirators when Febryl invites him into the conspiracy. Right now Leoman is only sure of L’oric, but he says traitors could be Dom, Kamist Reloe, the lesser mages Henaras and Fayelle. Heboric worries that all the command structure might be compromised, but Leoman says it won’t matter: Sha’ik has the Whirlwind, she has Mathok and him to lead the armies, and L’oric as a mage, but Dom is more of a liability than a plus. Heboric realizes then that Leoman lied, that Sha’ik actually hasn’t been told and this is a way for Leoman to get back into her good graces. Leoman says Heboric is partly right—Sha’ik was told that Bidithal was harming girls again, but wasn’t told anything about Felisin Younger. Furious, Heboric leaves. Karsa thinks he’ll go straight to Sha’ik, but Leoman says he won’t, not to Sha’ik.


Looking at the temple Bidithal now resides in, Heboric recalls how Bidithal had not always been a High Mage; he had once been the archpriest of the Cult of Rashan, a cult which long pre-dated Kellanved’s claiming of the Throne of Shadow. The cult hadn’t liked the ascension of Shadowthrone and Dancer and had “torn itself apart . . . blood had been spilled within temple walls . . . only those who acknowledged the mastery of the new gods remained among the devotees . . . the banished [such as Bidithal] slunk away.” Heboric believes the fact that the Rashan cult exiles found refuge with the Whirlwind is confirmation of his theory that the Whirlwind is a fragment of the shattered Shadow warren. Which makes him wonder whom Bidithal is loyal to. “The unknown player” he thinks, “the unseen current beneath the rebellion — indeed, beneath the Malazan Empire itself — was the new ruler of Shadow and his deadly companion . . . I now wonder, whose war is this!” Before he can enter Bidithal’s temple, L’oric steps out and warns Heboric that he just was with Bidithal and Bidithal is highly upset over something and short-tempered. L’oric confesses it might have been something he said to Bidithal that upset him. L’oric leaves and Heboric continues, passing Silgar who sits outside Bidithal’s tent, using one of his stumps to draw patterns in the dust, “surrounding himself in linked chains, round and round, each pass obscuring what had been made before.” Inside the tent, it appears Bidithal is talking in gestures with his shadow. He interrupts and Bidithal tells him to step closer; he wants to see if Heboric’s ghost hands have shadows. Heboric refuses and then brings up Bidithal’s “appetites.” Bidithal waves Heboric’s complaints off and Heboric tells him if he even looks at Felisin he’ll kill him. Bidithal says there are plenty of others and when Heboric says all of them are under the protection of Sha’ik and she will not permit it, Bidithal says perhaps Heboric should ask Sha’ik if that is so. He dismisses Heboric, but Heboric pauses, considering whether he should just kill Bidithal now and wondering how Sha’ik could allow him to do what he does. Bidithal warns Heboric that he has resanctified the temple. When Heboric asks if Bidithal really thinks Sha’ik will let him have a temple to Shadowthrone, Bidithal rages “that foreigner? The roots of Meanas are found in an elder warren. Once ruled by . . . Oh, not for you, ex-priest. There are purposes within the Whirlwind. . . Challenge me Ghost Hands and you will know holy wrath.” Heboric informs him he’s known such wrath before, then steps out of the tent. Silgar has gone, leaving behind “an elaborate pattern . . . Chains, surrounding a figure with stumps instead of hands, yet footed.” Heboric scuffs through the pattern as he leaves.


Karsa thinks how Heboric, despite his near-blindness, had “seen clearly enough those trailing ghosts, the wind-moaning train of deaths that stalked him [Karsa] day and night now, loud enough in Toblakai’s mind to drown out the voice of Urugal . . . mortal faces each and every one twisted with the agony and fear that had carved out the moment of dying . . . the children among those victims—children in terms of recently birthed as the lowlanders used the word—had not all fallen to the bloodsword . . . They were . . . the progeny that would never be, the bloodlines severed in the trophy-cluttered cavern of the Teblor’s history.” He wishes for solitude and peace but “the rattle of chains was unceasing, the echoing cries of the slain endless. The name he now goes by — “Toblakai, a name of past glories, of a race of warriors who had stood alongside mortal Imass, alongside coldmiened Jaghut and demonic Forkrul Assail” — he senses is full of “blinding irony,” and he vows vengeance on those who deceived his people, assisted them in their fall, though “the enemy had so many faces.” Karsa knows the Whirlwind is a lesser stepchild of the true power of Raraku itself and recalls how he knelt to Felisin as the reborn Sha’ik not out of faith but relief that he could drag Leoman from the spot where they had failed to protect the first Sha’ik. He knew Felisin was “but a hapless victim that the insane Whirlwind Goddess had simply plucked from the wilderness, a mortal tool that would be used with merciless brutality. That she had proved a willing participant in her own impending destruction was equally pathetic in Karsa’s eyes.” He thinks Felisin is similar to the old Karsa — the Karsa that led his two friends out to attack Silver Lake. Now he is witness to “the madness that was the soul of the Whirlwind Goddess seep[ing] out like poison in the blood to infect every leader among the rebellion.” He believes they rebel, though, not against the Malazan Empire, but against “sanity itself . . . Order. Honorable conduct. Rules of the common as Leoman called them.” Karsa knows that Leoman’s seemingly heavy use of durhang is a sham, that Leoman hasn’t ever actually used the drug but pretends to.

He believes Leoman is “biding his time,” as is Karsa, as is the desert itself: “Raraku waited with them. Perhaps, for them. The Holy Desert possessed a gift, yet it was one that few had ever recognized . . . a gift that would arrive unseen, unnoticed . . . too formless to grasp in the hands as one would a sword.” Leoman has been showing him the secrets of the desert, hidden springs, ancient sea-god temples, petrified remains of ships, fossils, ancient docks and piers, etc. He thinks how “Raraku had known Apocalypse first-hand, millennia past” and he wonders if it really wants to see it again, if the Whirlwind was really aligned with it: “did the goddess war with the desert?” In the grove he’s been walking to, he finds Felisin waiting for him. She says she wanders in the grove to think and says she’s concluded, “The gift of the goddess offers only destruction.” He tells her the grove and its stone will resist and she answers “for a while . . . but there remains that within me that urges creation.” When he suggests she have a baby she laughs. Pointing to the book of prophecies she is reading, she says “There are naught but bones in this tome . . . obsessed with the taking of life, the annihilation of order . . . not once does he [Dryjhna] offer anything in its stead. There is no rebirth among the ashes of his vision.” When she asks if this makes him sad, he brings her deeper into the grove and shows her a clearing ringed with petrified tree trunks, two of which he had carves into shapes of warriors (Bairoth and Delum). She asks if all the trunks will be warriors and he answers that the others will be different. She hears a snake and Karsa tells they always come to watch. She senses power and asks what it is, stating it isn’t the Whirlwind. Karsa agrees but says he doesn’t know what it is, perhaps he says it is the desert itself. Felisin says she thinks it’s actually Karsa’s own power. She asks how many carvings he will make and he says seven more, adding that these two were his friends, his only friends. He then points to them and says “creation.” She tells him she has “resurrected the habit” of writing poetry and he hopes it “serves her well.” She bridles a bit and answers “but that is never its purpose, is it. To serve. Or to yield satisfaction—self-satisfaction . . . the drive to create is something other, isn’t it?” He tells her the answer can only be found “in the search—and searching is at creation’s heart.” When she asks what he was searching for when he carved his friends, he says he doesn’t know, to which she responds, “Perhaps they will tell you, one day.” She thanks him and adds she is “humbled and revived.” He tells her the camp is troubled and she says she knows. As they work their way slowly through the many snakes now surrounding them, she says she should be “alarmed by all this,” and he thinks to himself “it is the least of your worries,” but only says he will keep her updated. She leaves. He turns to begin carving.


Heboric sits alone in his tent, dreading the nightly visions that come of “a face of jade, so massive it challenged comprehension. Power both alien and earthly, as if born of a natural force never meant to be altered. Yet altered it had been, shaped, cursed sentient. A giant buried in otataral, held motionless in an eternal prison.” He wonders who abandoned whom — he Fener or Fener him. He feels sure that someday he’ll have to return to the giant, though he doesn’t know what for. He thinks how he’d always thought Fener had taken his hands “into keeping, to await the harsh justice that was the Tusked One’s right,” but now that Fener had been dragged into this world, “Heboric’s severed hands had found a new master, a master possessed of such immense power that it could war with otataral itself. Yet it did not belong. The giant . . . was an intruder, sent here from another realm for a hidden purpose. And instead of completing that purpose, someone had imprisoned it.” He drinks more hen’bara tea, hoping it will narcotize him and keep the dream visions away. Felisin Younger appears and tells him her mother is calling a counsel. The confusing trip to Sha’ik’s tent reminds him of being led by Baudin out of the mines. He thinks “Tavore, you were not wrong to place your faith in him. It was Felisin who would not co-operate. You should have anticipated that . . . you should have anticipated a lot of things. But not this.” Inside the command tent/”Throne Room” are all the leaders save Leoman and Karsa, including Korbolo Dom, Kamist Reloe, Henaras (“a witch from some desert tribe that had for unknown reasons banished her.”), L’oric, Bidithal, Febryl, Fayelle, and Mathok. Felisin seems excited and she tells Heboric that “distant catastrophes have rocked the Malazan Empire . . . Less than a week [ago]. The warrens have been shaken, one and all, as if by an earthquake.” L’oric then announces, “the brutal reshaping of the pantheon . . . usurpation. Fener, Boar of Summer, has . . . been ousted as the preeminent god of war . . . In his place, the once First Hero Treach. The Tiger of Summer.” Heboric blames himself and Sha’ik and he share a glance of shared knowledge. Dom interrupts and says who cares, “War needs no gods, only mortal contestant . . . and whatever reasons they invent in order to justify killing each other.” When Sha’ik asks what his reasons are, he answers, “I like killing people. It is the one thing I am very good at.” Heboric asks if Dom is referring to “people in general” or does he mean just the Whirlwind’s enemies and Dom simply replies, “As you say.” L’oric continues with the news, telling them that the Beast Throne was taken by Togg and Fanderay and adds “I would suggest personally to those Soletaken and D’ivers among us ‘ware the new occupants . . . They may well come to you eventually to demand that you kneel before them.’” He then laughs about “the poor fools who followed the Path of the Hand,” at which Fayelle says “We were the victims . . . of deception. By minions of Shadowthrone,” and she vows vengeance. L’oric then informs them that Dujek’s army allied with Brood and Rake and Darujhistan to fight the Pannion Domin. He notes how this had been a matter of concern as a Genebackan peace would free Dujek’s Host to work with Tavore to deal with the Rebellion. Dom interrupts to say Tavore isn’t a concern, but Dujek is another matter, especially as Dujek owns his men “body and soul.” “Barring a few spies,” Sha’ik mentions “flatly.” Felisin Younger points out that Dujek had been outlawed, but L’oric says it was just a ruse. As Dom starts to tick off all the bad things about Dujek’s army coming to Seven Cities, L’oric says not to worry, “The Pannion War proved devastating. [The Host] lost close to seven thousand . . . The Black Moranth were similarly mauled. They won in the end but at such a cost. The Bridgeburners gone. Whiskeyjack dead . . . And Dujek himself a broken man . . . the scourge that is the T’lan Imass is no more. They have departed . . . Thus, what has the Empress left? Adjunct Tavore.” Dom starts to celebrate the news and Reloe asks about Quick Ben. L’oric tells them Ben is alive, as is Kalam. He adds a handful of Bridgeburners survived but were listed as casualties on purpose by Dujek. Reloe asks who and L’oric asks if it really matters since they are so few. When Reloe says yes, L’oric asks Sha’ik for permission to contact his spy and she gives it. Meanwhile, she tells her counselors that the Rebellion will deal the “killing blow” to the Empire. But Heboric hears “the hollowness of her words. Sister Tavore stands alone now. And alone is what she prefers. Alone is the state in which she thrives . . . [Felisin], your fear of sister Tavore has only deepened. Freezing you in place.” L’oric starts to list the survivors and at Paran’s name Sha’ik pales in shock. L’oric adds Quick Ben has been made High Mage, the Bridgeburners seem to have gone to Darujhistan though it isn’t definite, Moon’s Spawn was abandoned and became the tomb of Whiskeyjack and the others. He finishes by saying Whiskeyjack was killed by one of Brood’s commanders. Reloe worries about Quick Ben and the remaining Host but L’oric says the army is broken, “hence the wavering souls among them who sought me out.” Reloe asks about Kalam and Dom says the assassin “is nothing without Quick Ben . . . Even less now that his beloved Whiskeyjack is dead.” Kamist, seemingly terrified, asks what happens if the two of them reunite? Dom says he and Reloe weren’t the ones who killed Whiskeyjack; Quick Ben and Kalam will focus on vengeance for that. Sha’ik abruptly orders everyone out except for Heboric. When they leave, she breaks down, sobbing “My brother lives.” She goes into Heboric’s arm and he holds her, “the child in his arms — for child she was, once more — cried in nothing other than the throes of salvation. She was no longer alone, no longer alone with only her hated sister to taint the family’s blood.”


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Seven

Not the most encouraging of openings: “the world was encircled in red.”

The hen’bara tea — file that away.

Note the extended metaphor regarding life: “Struggle on, wade the growing torrent with all the frenzy that is the brutal unveiling of self-preservation. The macabre dance in the tugging currents held no artistry, and to pretend otherwise was to sink into delusion” This metaphor fits quite well into a book which has a flooded realm as a major setting. The same is true of what Heboric thinks of his delusions: “Heboric . . . possessed no more delusions. He had drowned them one by one with his own hands.” It’ll be interesting to see if this flood imagery runs throughout the book.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard this criticism of modern poetry ever: “to speak plainly is a true talent; to bury beneath obfuscation is a poet’s calling these days.” Is a poem’s quality related to its difficulty?

Remember that we’ve seen portions of this poem — “Call to Shadow” — in earlier books.

All that infighting and dissent in Sha’ik’s camp — file that away.

So Sha’ik has banished Mallick Rel (it’s been a while so I should probably mention I hate Mallick Rel) and Pully Alar, leading to the obvious question — where have they gone? We will find out....

So the Whirlwind’s power comes from a fragment of the shattered Warren of Shadow (a different fragment from the Nascent). Well, that’s a lot of info coming from Heboric. I will just say, here, that not all of his speculation is all correct. File it, but with a question mark.

“That which survives . . . or falters and fades away is but chance and circumstance.” How’s that for an archaeologist’s line?

So do historians “devour,” do their explanations “destroy the mystery”? I confess that Heboric’s line, “there are more worthy things to wonder at in this world. Leave the gods and goddesses to their own sickly obsessions” speaks to me; I’m with him on that one. (As an utter side note, the movie Tree of Life does a nice job of conveying the day-to-day “wonders in this world.”)

The camp followers are an aspect of war and armies that rarely gets mentioned in fantasy and usually not with this detail — another example of Erikson’s strong worldbuilding focused as much on the human (or otherwise) constructs as on the physical world itself — something that doesn’t always happen in fantasy novels.

Coming soon after Torvald’s similar commentary, we get Heboric’s opinion that the Malazan Empire’s conquest of Seven Cities was a net plus, based on the camp being a microcosm of “all the ills the Malazan Empire had set out to cure as conquerors then occupiers.”

Interesting parallel: Felisin adopting three thousand kids juxtaposed against Shadowthrone’s army of children.

The description of what Sha’ik thinks she found in Leoman provokes in me an interesting and complex response. An “empty” soul is hard to not take as a negative. Being “bereft of faith” I tend to be fine with at first, taking it as “religious faith” but then thinking, hmm, maybe it’s faith of any sort — faith in your fellows for instance — and that doesn’t seem so great. Then we get to “disavowing all forms of certainty” and I’m thinking again — that’s a good thing. Those who are too certain, as we’ve seen mentioned on several occasions, can be all too dangerous. But then, one wonders about other types of certainty — moral certainties maybe — and that causes one to think what can Leoman do if “nothing” is certain in his mind — doesn’t that mean “anything” is possible?

And then we get his willingness to let Bidithal predation of children continue — so long as he leaves Felisin Younger alone — if it will help him catch the conspirators against Sha’ik. And Sha’ik’s willingness to go along with this as well. Can a reader empathize with this cold rationalism at all? I’d say no. Of course, it’s matched up against Bidithal’s own acts — sexual predation, female circumcision. We talk a lot about Erikson having so many grey characters, complex characters — can he give us a “good” side of Bidithal?

Nice little reminder there of Fener — the Boar of Summer. As it’s been pointed out in commentary, just a reminder to readers that we saw Karsa stomp on/crush a statue of Fener. And yes, that is significant. But only hugely.

That’s very interesting phrasing regarding Shadowthrone and Dancer ascending into the “penultimate” position of power in the Shadow Warren. Who/what holds the “ultimate” position? Do they know they are in the “penultimate” one?

Lots of snake imagery in this chapter — Heboric talking about snakes, asking L’oric what he’s doing in this “army of vipers,” the snakes in the grove, etc.

I know it really doesn’t need to be said, but Silgar drawing chains in the sand — file that away.

I always like when we’re in POVs and just going along mostly trusting the POV and then Erikson pulls the rug out, making sure we always remember just because someone is narrating doesn’t make them any more knowledgeable. As when Heboric asks Bidithal if he really thinks Sha’ik will let him worship Shadowthrone and Bidithal makes clear he isn’t just wrong, but oh so wrong.

And nice cheap tease there: Shadow Warren was “one ruled by . . .“ and then the cut off.

Luke: ”You killed my father!“

Darth Vader: “I am whoops, gotta call, gotta go...”

More chains via Karsa. I’ve seen lots of characters “haunted” by the faces of those they killed (just read a book today that had a character say this), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one haunted by the faces of the unborn children of those he killed. Talk about some exponential guilt build-up.

This is obviously further evidence of Karsa’s growth — the ability to regret, to feel guilt. His recognition that he should no longer revel in what he once took pride in. And his ability to face the hard truth regarding his gods; remember how he shut up his two friends when they tried to make him face hard truths earlier.

Feints within feints as we learn via Karsa that Leoman’s seeming durhang use is but a sham.

A telling parallel use of language, perhaps, with Karsa being “reshaped” by Raraku — a phrase we’ve seen attached to Whiskeyjack’s squad, one which leads us toward a positive association.

Lots of ocean/sea imagery in this old Raraku. File.

If Karsa loves Raraku, and the Whirlwind wars with Raraku, and the Malazans war with the Whirlwind, then the math says....

If this grove is strong in the spirit of Raraku, and “resists” as Karsa says, is this why Felisin can question the Goddess here — can be Felisin and not Sha’ik?

Karsa was just thinking how Felisin has given in to her own destruction via the mad Goddess. But here we have Felisin discussing a separate, an opposite path — one of “creation” versus the Goddess’ gift of “only destruction.” Thus her return to poetry. Which path will she end up taking? Can she resist the Goddess? I think on a larger scale as well, there’s the general idea in our world of “creation” in all its forms being at least one of the answers (not as solution) to the world’s ills (along with those other key words in this series — compassion and empathy).

Again, it need not be said, but Jade Giant speculation — file.

The conference is a nice way of recapping events readers may have been fuzzy on. Rather than having one character explain to another who already knows most of what he/she is being told, as happens far too often, there’s actually a sensible, realistic plot reason to have this recap.

If we didn’t have enough reason to dislike Korbolo Dom (and we really have quite a lot), his reveling in the death of Whiskeyjack and shattering of Dujek would be enough for most readers, I’m thinking.

I love Reloe’s fear of the dynamic duo of Quick Ben and Kalam.

And we end on an unexpected human moment with Felisin — raising the question again — will she be Felisin or will she be Sha’ik? And what will happen with this family? It’s also an interesting parallel we have here with Paran’s family and Trull’s family at the start.

Lots of references in this chapter to betrayal and snakes. Let’s keep an eye on that.

Also, as one would expect based on the title—lots of references to chains. Chains and prisons. So who is chained and by what? I have my own list but I’d like to see others’ first.

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

1. Bauchelain
Enter Bidithal. Easily the most despicable and repulsive character in the entire series.
And,no, I don't see anything remotely positive in him,not even a pet the dog scene.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
‘Kalam Mekhar is nothing without Quick Ben,’ Korbolo Dom snarled. ‘Even less now that his beloved Whiskeyjack is dead.’

Anyone believe that? Anyone? Dom is not only completely unlikeable, but he constantly reveals himself to be ignorant.

This chapter had a lot of good behinfd the scenes info. although, as Bill said, it is always best to take things with a grain of salt.
From the recap of Whiskeyjack, we can see that we are now back in synch with the timeline from Memories of Ice.
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
No Amanda?

I kinda like Korbolo Dom, if only because he's such a pompous buffoon.
4. Croaker
‘I will leave you now,’ Felisin said at the pit’s brick-lined edge. ‘When next I desire to clash views with you, I will seek you out.’

From almost any one but her, this is a pretty cool line. However, even after learning she saved the lives of 3,000 children - I ... just .... cant .... muster ... sympathy...

Aaaargh - Teenage Uber Angst finding solice in away!
Ruth M Be
5. rbette1299
Some foreshadowing of the traitors.

'Right now Leoman is only sure of L’oric, but he says traitors could be Dom, Kamist Reloe, the lesser mages Henaras and Fayelle.'

Leoman is astute.
karl oswald
6. Toster
@ Croaker #4

be at ease, good doctor, for this is one of those very 3,000. named for her adopted mother, whom everyone but heboric knows as sha'ik. felisin younger is the girl that felisin and heboric ran into at the end of DG. so you're safe in your sympathy for this one, and will likely find it growing.

anyhow, this is a great chapter, and a great ending. going from the moments of gleeful pleasure at the fate of the Host that we can't help but feel angry at, right into an extremely powerful and wrenching emotional display from felisin paran. as bill says, will she be felisin, or will she be sha'ik. will she be a scared little girl, or a powerful seer?

will she have a choice?
7. Jordanes
The chapters dealing with the goings-on in the Raraku camp have always been my favourite bits of HoC. The conspiracies, double crossings, everyone having a different agenda - it's great. And there are some great little scenes and lines in this chapter.

- Karsa coming to the grove and seeing the little form Felisin - what a juxtaposition those two are, one all outward strength, the other bearing power inside. And yet, Felisin seems so small, lost and alone sitting in that grove.

- And how different does this Karsa now seem to the one we met at the beginning of the book (and it feels a lifetime ago now)?

- "I had but two friends." This line from Karsa seems immensely sad, especially when you consider that Delum and Bairoth weren't exactly his friends in the strict sense either.

- Faithless Leoman, got to be one of my favourite characters from MBotF. I like the expression, 'some flaw of nature', having left his soul empty of any kind of faith in...anything. If anyone just wants to see the world burn, it's Leoman.

- Bill asks if there's any redeeming quality to be found in Bidithal. Well, no. Except...think about what it is that Leoman and Sha'ik expect - that Bidithal will stay loyal and not become a part of Febryl and co's conspiracy. Sure, he has his own private agenda, but he isn't about to sell out either. So he does have some complexity. Having said that, he is pretty much the most reprehensible, irredeemable character that SE has written, alongside Karos Invictad and Tanal Yathvanar (I don't think that's a spoiler to say those two names).

- The reminder of Whiskeyjack's death still pains, and Korbolo Dom's triumph stings.
8. Jordanes
Also, I have to say, it took me like three rereads to finally understand exactly what the links between the Whirlwind, Kurald Emurlahn, Raraku, Bidithal, and Febryl and co were, and what the heck was happening at the end of the book :)
Iris Creemers
9. SamarDev
@ Croaker # 4 / Toster # 6
You are both right: the POV is Felisin Younger, but the poetry reference Croaker gives is to Felisin/Sha'ik.

I can understand the lack of sympathy for Felisin/Sha'ik based on the previous book, but doesn't give this chapter some kind of hope for her? Felisins (not Sha'iks!) visit to Karsa's grove, Sha'iks breakdown in Heborics arms when she hears her brother Ganoes is still alive?
Again, Bills formulation 'will she be Felisin or will she be Sha'ik' is just the question to be asked after this chapter.
Iris Creemers
10. SamarDev
@ SaltManZ # 3, or those who skim the weekly repeting introduction (as I tend to do most of the time as well): there you'll find news about the absence of Amanda this week. So Amanda, take care...
Iris Creemers
11. SamarDev
@ Jordanes #8: I second that wholeheartedly. And the grip still feels feebly. There are a few storylines in the series that are really difficult to grasp and a few of them are related to this book. So file Kurald Emurlahn, file Jade, file file file... so we can discuss it in this reread and finally get to full understanding with all the necessary details :-)
David Thomson
12. ZetaStriker
I felt that I understood everything pretty well on my first jaunt through . . . we'll see if that's accurate or not as we progress though. XD
14. ksh1elds555
I am finally caught up after a 2 month lag. We took a vacation and it has taken me til now to finally catch up with House of Chains. I am absolutely loving the re-read of this. I want to comment longer but that will have to wait til I have more free time. I have a question to throw out there though- is the cover scene referring to the early part of the books where Karsa has that pack of dogs attack the lowlanders? I always thought they were Hounds of Shadow but could not remember what scene it might be portraying. I'm pretty sure the large man with the red sword kneeling is Karsa... ;-)
Joe Long
15. Karsa
@14, I don't think they are the hounds of shadow. we'll come up to what they are soon...
karl oswald
16. Toster
@13 kshield

the cover doesn't portray any one scene, but combines a few momentous scenes from the book. karsa kneeling before the faces in the rock is just one of those scenes. i don't think we've gotten to the rest yet...
Brian R
17. Mayhem
The US cover, once again, is a fairly random bit of painting combining several parts of the book, as Toster said.

The UK cover however depicts a specific scene from later in the book.

Personally I don't like any of the US covers, they have that classic american obsession with putting a badly drawn character on the front, while the UK covers are all very strong images that tend to be more evocative of particular scenes or themes. They also tend to be a bit more subtle.
That being said, the original UK GoTM cover does a terrible job of evoking Pale, but at least it isn't the Rake in armour and riding a horse that the US got.
Chris Hawks
18. SaltManZ
HoC is actually the only UK cover that I like.
Steven Halter
19. stevenhalter
In the conversation between L'oric & co it is revealing to note how much information they have with regards to the events of Dujek & Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners. As we go forward, contrast this to the information available to the 14th.
Hugh Arai
20. HArai
shalter@19: L'oric is interesting to me. He's got the knowledge and the ability but he doesn't seem to integrate the way a lot of other characters do.
Iris Creemers
21. SamarDev
Interesting is the question: who are the contacts in the 14th which whom L'oric is in contact? I'm not sure if we are told / it is implied somewhere.
Steven Halter
22. stevenhalter
I don't recall if we get told either. Whoever it is, they pretty much have to be using some form of magic as they got the info to L'oric pretty quickly (it seems).
HArai:Yeah, L'oric is an interesting one.
Amanda Rutter
23. ALRutter
Chapter Seven - brief thoughts

What an astonishingly dark image
to open the chapter: "The world was encircled in red, the hue of old
blood, of iron rusting on a battlefield." We've seen a lot of blood so
far in this series, and I doubt we've seen the last.

Heboric has a tattooed face as well as Karsa - coincidence or saying
something about how they came about receiving them, through slavery and
through faith.

Having recently read a book called The Poison
Diaries, I am now of the realisation that every single plant, pretty
much, has the capacity to kill and/or cure. Some of the most potent
cures are also the most potent poisons. I have my eye on the hen'bara
plant. "Hen'bara's gift was dreamless sleep at night. The solace of

Poor Heboric. I felt enormously sorry for him in Deadhouse Gates and
that doesn't change any meeting him again - trapped in the Raraku
desert, trapped among people who are polar opposite from him, trapped in
a darkness of faith lost.

Agree with whoever talked about teenage emo girls writing poetry! *grins*

in this one simple exchange I like Felisin Younger - her clear-eyed
thoughts about the poetry and the subject her adopted mother has chosen
is good to see. I like her mocking of Korbolo Dom as well: "Now,
consider the name by which Korbolo Dom's army is now called. Dogslayers.
That, old man, is poetic. A name fraught with diffidence behind its
proud bluster. A name to match Korbolo Dom himself, who stands
square-footed in his terror."

And she sees right to the heart of the fact that Sha'ik's army is riven
by dissent. So many are focussing on the Malazan army being so slight
and Tavore having no battle experience that they're not realising that
they are causing their own problems.

We're gradually seeing various fragments of this broken warren now -
we've seen the SIlanda fragment, the bit that Onrack and Trull are
walking through, and now the bit that the Whirlwind Goddess has used to
generate additional power.

I like the discussion of cult, that could so easily be applied to religion as well.

This is an interesting idea: "Poets may know hunger," she commented
drily, "but historians devour. And devouring murders language, makes of
it a dead thing." I would dispute that roundly - often it is only the
records of historians that keeps alive languages that would die
otherwise. However, I suspect that Erikson has more of an idea of this
than me!

Heboric has truly lost his faith: "Leave the gods and goddesses to their own sickly obsessions."

I rather like hearing about Toblakai from the point of view of other people now that I know this is actually Karsa.

This description of the camp shows how some of this dissent could come
to be - people and tribes gathered together who would normally be at
war, politics, renegades. "The city was a microcosm of Seven Cities, in
Heboric's opinion. Proof of all the ills the Malazan Empire had set out
to cure as conquerors then occupiers." And part of the dissent is
provided by Heboric himself, who wishes for the Malazan army to sweep
Sha'ik's army from existence.

I don't care her motives, I have a lot of admiration for this: "There
had once numbered among these people abandoned children, but Sha'ik had
seen to an end to that. Beginning with Felisin, she jad adopted them all
- her private retinue, the Whirlwind cult's own acolytes." Does this
not have an echo with the children saved by Apt?

Ugh *sad* "The pimps had lost their lambs."

So Sha'ik has dispensed with the advice of Heboric, Leoman and Toblakai?
Who has replaced it? I am so uncomfortable with the idea that Sha'ik
isn't listening to Heboric anymore, who seems, by far, the most
reasonable of those who follow her. "It is the gazelle with its nose to
the ground that the lion sups with, after all."

This image tells us so much.... "Else I'll make my way back to the light."

The storyline involving Bidithal makes me feel so, so uncomfortable.
Unpleasant hungers indeed...... And beautiful innocent clear-eyed
Felisin Younger is his target. Cold horror fills me as well as Heboric.
And I am even more horrified at the idea that they would be willing to
leave Bidithal to his 'hungers', because at least he is loyal to Sha'ik!
Now that is cold-blooded practicality.

Hmm, a little background to Bidithal - a member of the cult of Rashan,
and someone banished by Shadowthrone and Cotillion when they ascended to
the throne of Shadow. That's going to make anyone bitter. Maybe
Bidithal was banished because of his hungers for very young girls?
Neither Shadowthrone nor Cotillion - for all their faults - feel as
though they would let something like that occur. Not sure exactly where I
have that impression from, but that's the way I do feel.

Heboric asks the same questions we ask - what are Shadowthrone and Cotillion up to? What is their ultimate plan?

We're seeing some of the possible motives behind those who assist with
the leading of the Whirlwind's army - here we meet L'oric for the first
time, a person who does seem incredibly out of place. He says: "Mathok's
tribes have among them women and men who dance with flare-necked vipers
- such as are sometimes found where grasses grow deep. It is a
complicated and obviously dangerous dance yet one possessed of a certain
charm." He likes the risk.

Evil draws to evil, with Silgar sitting outside of Bidithal's tent.
Silgar was maybe not completely evil, just a very nasty man, but Karsa's
punishment towards him was absolutely evil.

I'm intrigued by the pattern that Silgar is drawing in the dust, and by
the fact that he sees himself kin to Heboric. Just because of the
missing hands? Or the fact they are both maimed and therefore prime
targets for the beguilement of the Crippled God?

How many evil people try to excuse their actions? Here, Bidithal's
excuse is reprehensible. Oh, Felisin isn't a virgin. Well, that's all
right then! Have at her! *sarcasm*

"Once ruled by...." Oooh! Who has their teeth in Bidithal? Who is he
working for? "The roots of Meanas are found in an elder warren!"

Heboric, surrounded by chains? Links into the imagery of this book - and into the bonds of gods.

You know something? It is fabulous to see this character growth in Karsa
- the fact that he looks on his given name of Toblakai as "blinding
irony", and also recognises that when he was younger he would have
revelled in that name. Having seen the beginnings of this proud warrior
now makes everything resonate all the more - I admire Erikson's
technique here, very much. It was a huge risk to stick with Karsa, but
the pay off already is handsome.

Karsa's utter disdain for Sha'ik Reborn (as he knows her, having failed
to protect Sha'ik Elder) has a foreboding feel to it. He sees her as
being a willing instrument to her own destruction - not the way you
should be feeling about the person who supposedly leads you.

We've seen some real vices amongst those who profess to lead the
rebellion, and here we have Karsa pondering: "Rebellion...oh, there was
truth enough in that. But the enemy was not the Malazan Empire. It is
sanity itself that they are rebelling against. Order. Honourable
conduct." We can see this in the durhang, the molesting of children.

Erikson's description of the desert Raraku is utterly beautiful.

*grins* Love Toblakai's shrugging response to Sha'ik's urge to create: "have a baby"!

Why are the snakes coming to watch Karsa carve his figures? Is he
generating the means to ascend or bring a god into being? I feel so very
sad at the idea that Karsa considers Delum and Bairoth. And what of
Torvald Nom, who Karsa named friend? Is he not present here because he
is not dead yet?

The statue of jade can touch the world with the hands that Heboric
submitted to the will of Fener? Is this the means by which the Crippled
God is touching events now?

Korbolo Dom is an idiot, isn't he? Thinking that war does not need gods -
it might not need gods but it seems like they'll always step in.

Hmm, so Shadowthrone and his priest Iskaral Pust were deceiving those
who followed the Path of Hands in Deadhouse Gates? Does this mean that
Shadowthrone knew there was a chance that Togg and Fanderay were on
their way to awakening and wanted to ensure that they took the throne in
their own time, rather than having it stolen from them? Is the Hold of
Beasts beholden to the House of Shadow?

Did everyone know the "secret" of Dujek being outlawed?

I *detest* the fact that these leaders of the rebellion are gloating at the death of Whiskeyjack. I *hate* them for that.

Here is an exact sum up for why the series is called Malazan Book of the
Fallen: "An extraordinary year for the empire. Coltaine and the
Seventh, the Aren Legion, Whiskeyjack, the Bridgeburners, Onearm's

Who is the spy who knows such details about the war on Genabackis?

Kalam is nothing without Quick Ben? Do they even *know* what they're talking about??

That scene - where Sha'ik discovers that her brother still lives - is
one I have been waiting long for, and it seriously doesn't disappoint at
all. Her reaction is exactly what I wanted to see.
Amanda Rutter
24. ALRutter
Sorry for the massive block of text! Am catching up with the re-read myself, after having to look after my mum who was rushed to hospital last week. She's fine, thank any God or Gods who are listening, and I feel able to pick up Malazan duties again :-) Chapter Eight to come soon! Thanks for your patience!
karl oswald
25. Toster
so glad that you're mum is ok Amanda. i wish her the best.

just to speak to one point, that being iskaral's deceit of the shapeshifters on the path of hands. togg and fanderay might have motivated them in part, but i think the fact that the true path of hands was in their magus's temple, as well as not wanting an insane shapshifter to become a god, were also strong motivators.
Amir Noam
26. Amir
Welcome back, Amanda. Glad your mum is better.

And thank you very much for going ahead and still providing us with your commentary for this week's chapters. Much appreciated!

Did everyone know the "secret" of Dujek being outlawed?

It seems that some things which were considered as top secrets are suddenly common knowledge at this point in the story. Dujek's "outlawing" is one. Another is the identity of Shadowthrone and Cotillion - this was a huge "wow" moment when Fiddler and co. figured this out in DG, but now it seems that everyone knows this (e.g. Heboric).
Gerd K
27. Kah-thurak
Heboric is not exactly everyone... wasnt he actually send to the mines because he wrote a history which gave to many to accurate details on the Night of Knives?

Also the Rebels seem to have good sources in Dujek's host and I think after Corel the (not) "oultawing" stopped beeing a secret.
Chris Hawks
28. SaltManZ
@26/27: Plus, in DG Baudin tells Kulp, Heboric, and Felisin outright that Dancer ascended that night.

"Dancer's not dead. He ascended, alongside Kellanved—my father was there to see it, in Malaz City, the night of the Shadow Moon."

Kulp snorted but Heboric was slowly nodding.

"I got close in my suppositions," the ex-priest said. "Too close for Laseen, as it turned out."

Amir Noam
30. Amir
SaltManZ @28:
Thanks for this quote!

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