Aug 19 2011 1:05pm

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

Malazan Reread on Tor.comWelcome 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 Ten of House of Chains by Steven Erikson (HoC).

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 Ten

Scene 1

Karsa wishes Bairoth were still alive to help him with his carvings of the seven Teblor “gods;” he feels “something essential was missing from the seven faces had had carved . . . though that did not seem the case with the carvings of Bairoth and Delum. The energy of their lives seemed to emanate from their statues . . . as with the entire forest, in which there was the sense that the trees but awaited the coming of spring, of rebirth . . . it seemed that the two Teblor warriors were but awaiting the season’s turn.” As he faces Urugal’s statue, he feels the grove is no longer a refuge for “he had brought is own life to this place, the legacies of his deeds.” He thinks also how Raraku gives a false illusion that time stands still, but outside armies are marching and his people are under siege. Leoman arrives and asks what the seven statues are (he recognizes the other two as Toblakai). When Karsa says “my gods,” Leoman is shocked. Karsa adds some explanation and then says his gods still call him, haunt him. Leoman asks what they’re demanding of Karsa. Karsa doesn’t answer and Leoman tells him he came because of news about the Malazans. Leoman believes Tavore’s march should be contested, but not by big battles as Dom desires. Sha’ik has given permission for Leoman to ride out with a company, and when Karsa rightly assumes the permission is to scout only rather than harass/attack, Leoman says once he’s out, he’ll do what he wants. Karsa warns him Sha’ik will know and Leoman shrugs. When Leoman starts to complain about her, Karsa answers that she is Malazan. Leoman argues she was reborn and “became the will of the Goddess,” so her past doesn’t matter, but Karsa says it does: “It is those memories that chain her so. She is trapped by fear, and that fear is born of a secret which she will not share. The only other person who knows that secret is Ghost Hands.” When Leoman says Karsa sounds defeatist, Karsa shrugs and said he’s had good years: “Your company, Leoman. Sha’ik Elder. I once vowed that the Malazans were my enemies. Yet, from what I now have seen of the world since that time, I now understand that they are no crueler than any other lowlander. Indeed, they alone seem to profess a sense of justice. The people of the Seven Cities — who so despise them and wish them gone — they seek nothing more than the power that the Malazans too from them. Power that they used to terrorize their own people. Leoman, you and your kind make war against justice, and it is not my war.” Leoman says he won’t disagree, perhaps he has “seen too much” and that is why there is, as Sha’ik says “no loyalty” in him. He asks Karsa if he’s ever wondered then why Leoman has stayed and he answers his own question: “The Apocalyptic, Toblakai. Disintegration. Annihilation. Everything. Every human, lowlander. With our twisted horrors — all that we commit upon each other. The depredations, the cruelties. For every gesture of kindness and compassion there are ten thousand acts of brutality. Loyalty? I have none. Nor for my kind, and the sooner we obliterate ourselves the better this world will be.” Karsa, though, is paying attention to his carvings and thinks he’s figured out it is the light causing the problem; the light “makes them look almost human.” Leoman struggles to not say anything.

Scene 2

Heboric, L’oric, Sha’ik, Febryl, Young Felisin, and Bidithal are looking at a Deck, specifically at cards of the House of Chains. Heboric senses flaws in each while L’oric senses great power. When he says it’s even greater than Shadow’s power at birth, Bidithal explodes: “Those deceivers could never unveil that realm’s true power . . . In this House, the theme is pure. Imperfection is celebrated, the twist of chaotic chance mars one and all.” Sha’ik tells him to shut up. Heboric wonders if this new House will be ally or enemy; he leans toward enemy, as — he thinks — does L’oric, while Bidithal seems to think it will be a “source for renewed strength.” Sha’ik asks again to see the new unaligned card and Bidithal puts it down, saying the idea that this person is a Master of the Deck is absurd. Sha’ik asks, yet again, if Heboric senses anything, and he tells her there is no link of power between his hands and the Deck. She tells him she isn’t asking because of his hands, but because of his past life as a priest and historian. She starts to describe the picture, noting his average height, a scar or blood running down one side of his face. She adds: “he stands on a bridge. Of stone, shot through with cracks. The horizon is filled with flames. It seem she and the bridge are surrounded, as if by followers or servants.” L’oric points out they could also be guardians, especially as they look like soldiers. Heboric asks what they soldiers are standing on and after wondering how Heboric knew there was something to see there, Sha’ik says “bones . . . Not human. Very large. Part of a skull is visible, long-snouted, terribly fanged. It bears the remnants of a helmet of some sort.” Heboric begins to rock, feeling a “sourceless keening in his head, a cry of grief, of anguish.” Sha’ik continues: “The Master . . . stands strangely. Arms held out, bent at the elbows so the hands descend, away from the body.” Heboric asks if his feet are together and she answers “almost impossibly so.” Heboric thinks to himself it is like the Master is “forming a point,” then asks what the figure is wearing. Sha’ik answers, “Tight silks . . .Black . . . a chain. It cuts across his torso, left shoulder down to right hip . . . black wrought iron. There are wooden discs on his shoulders — like epaulets . . . four.” From his questions and responses, Sha’ik and L’oric can tell Heboric knows something. Febryl asks him why the Master is standing as he does and Heboric replies, “Because he is a sword,” and then thinks: “but not any sword. He is one sword, above all, and it cuts cold. That sword is this man’s own nature. He will cleave his own path. None shall lead him. He stands now in my mind. I see him. I see his face. Oh, Sha’ik.” L’oric describes the figure as a “lodestone to order in opposition to the House of Chains,” but points out he stands alone, despite the possible guardians, while the House has many servants. Heboric says “Alone? He has always been thus.” L’oric asks why Heboric smiles like “a broken man” when he says that and Heboric refuses to answer, though he thinks, “I grieve for humanity. This family, so at war with itself.” Sha’ik says she will speak alone to Heboric, but he tells her he will say no more but “have faith in the Master of the Deck. He shall answer the House of Chains. He shall answer it.” He stands up to leave and Young Felisin guides him out. Outside, he can hear Dom’s army training and he thinks how militarily Tavore’s and Sha’ik’s armies will be evenly matched and trained, and that Tavore’s advantage in munitions will be answered with Sha’ik’s advantage in sorcery, as it appears Tavore has no mages save the “broken” Nil and Nether. He thinks Sha’ik might actually win. Younger Felisin tells Heboric he needs to leave the camp and “retrace your path, else what haunts you will kill you . . .. Something is contained within you. Trapped within your moral flesh. What will happen when your flesh fails?” He says his death may seal the portal, put things back as they were, but she answers it won’t happen: “It’s here — the power behind those ghostly hands of yours — not the otataral, which is fading . . . Have not your dreams and visions worsened? Have you not realized why? . . . An entire island of otataral was created to contain that statue, to hold it prisoner. But you have given it a mean to escape — there through your hands.” He asks if Sha’ik told Younger Felisin [hereafter referred to by me as just Felisin] about herself on that journey and when Felisin says it doesn’t matter, he says it does, but then stops before saying what he is thinking: “Because she is Malazan. Because she is Tavore’s sister! Because this war is no longer the Whirlwind’s — it has been stolen away, twisted by something far more powerful, by the ties of blood that bind us all in the harshest, tightest chains! What chance a raging goddess against that?” Felisin says she’ll go with him and he is horrified by the idea and its terribly perfect symmetry. She says she’ll find a warrior as well. He tells her say nothing to anybody, including Leoman, whom she’s considered asking.

Scene 3

Leoman asks if Karsa will come with him when he rides out and Karsa says there are no horses for him. Leoman says there are some to the west in the Jhag Odhan, wild horse once bred by Jaghut, that would fit him. He tells him how to get there, two weeks travel past Y’Ghatan, which is itself a ways away. He adds the nomadic Jaghut, who had fallen nearly into savagery due to predation, were all killed by the Logros T’lan Imass. Karsa says that is a name from the Teblor past and Leoman mutters “Closer than that.” He tells Karsa to ask Sha’ik leave to go and Karsa says he will, but that Leoman shouldn’t wait for him. He will join him if they are still in the field upon his return. Worried about Felisin, Karsa says he should kill Bidithal before going, but Leoman says he’s pretty sure Heboric will soon leave the camp and take Felisin with him, adding he’ll send someone with them and had actually been considering Karsa. Karsa says he will not travel with Heboric and Leoman replies that Heboric “holds truth for you, Toblakai. One day, you will need to seek him out. You might even need to ask for his help.” Karsa scoffs that he needs nobody’s help, then says he’ll leave tomorrow. Leoman mentions maybe all this will distract Sha’ik from the new House of Chains and Karsa says, “chains . . . I so dislike chains.” Leoman leaves and Karsa thinks “Chains. They haunted him, had haunted him ever since he and Bairoth and Delum rode out from the village. Perhaps even before then. Tribes fashioned their own chains after all. As did kinship, and companions, and stories with their lessons in honor and sacrifice. And chains as well between the Teblor and their seven gods. Between me and my gods. Chains again, there in my visions — the dead I have slain, the souls Ghost Hands says I drag behind me. I am — all that I am — has been shaped by such chains. This new House — is it mine?” The air grows suddenly cold and the snakes flee the grove. Karsa watches as Urugal’s face wakens and he hears in his mind “a thousand souls moaning, the snapping thunder of chains.” Urugal speaks, telling Karsa they have waited a long time for this fashioning of a sacred place and he complains of Karsa wasting time carving his two friends, demanding Karsa destroy them because of the sentimentality that taints the temple and because they offend the gods, all of who are now awake. Karsa warns Urugal that he is the one that brought them here, freed them of their prison in the Teblor land (pointing out he knows more than they think he does), and what he made he can shatter. The seven are angry and Urugal eventually says Karsa has brought them close enough so they can sense the location of what they desire and he orders Karsa to go there. Karsa asks what they want in that place and Urugal answers, “like you warrior, we seek freedom.” He tells Urugal he is to travel west into the Jhag Odhan and they are shocked and excited and want to know how he knows this. He doesn’t say it, but thinks “Because at last, I am my father’s son.” He tells them he will leave at dawn and find what they desire. They fade out and he knows they are not as powerful nor as close to freedom as they want him to think. He turns to face his friends, “those for whom this place had in truth been sanctified. By Karsa’s own hands. In the name of those chains a mortal could wear with pride.” He tells them “My loyalty was misplaced. I served only glory. Words my friends. And words can wear false nobility. Disguising brutal truths. The words of the past that so clothed the Teblor in a hero’s garb — this is what I served. While the true glory was before me. Beside me. You.” Bairoth’s statue speaks “Lead us Warleader.” He tells Karsa “WE have walked the empty lands . . . Empty, yet we were not alone. Strangers await us all Karsa Orlong. This is the truth they would hide from you. We are summoned. We are here.” Delum speaks and says “none can defeat you on this journey” and Bairoth asks who their enemy is now. Karsa answers, “Witness my answer my friends. Witness.” Delum says, “We failed you Karsa Orlong. Yet you invite us to walk with you once again.” Bairoth says the same, but Karsa replies, “It is I who failed you. I would be your warleader once more, if you would so permit me.” Bairoth says “At last, something to look forward to,” and Karsa thinks, “Dear Urugal, you shall witness. Oh, how you shall witness.”

Scene 4

L’oric enters Heboric’s tent as he is musing on death and dying, the ultimate journey for all mortals. L’oric says he is there to offer an exchange of knowledge that will stay between the two of them. Heboric asks why he should trust L’oric and says anyway, L’oric has nothing of interest to him: Febryl is a fool, Bidithal will be killed by a child he abuses, Dom and Reloe will be brought before the Empress and treated as criminals, and the Whirlwind Goddess gets nothing but contempt from him. L’oric, though, says he can tell Heboric of the Jade statue. Heboric says OK, but tomorrow because he is too tired. L’oric offers to make his tea for him and Heboric, struck by his kindness, asks L’oric to promise to be long gone form the camp when the final day arrives. L’oric says it’s a hard promise to make, but he’ll think about it. As he makes the tea, he ruminates on the warrens: “some of the oldest scholarly treatises on the warrens speak of a triumvirate. Rashan, Thyr, and Meanas. AS if the three were all closely related to one another. And then in turn seek to link them to corresponding Elder warrens . . . There certainly seems to be a mutual insinuation of themes between Darkness and Shadow, and, presumably, Light. A confusion among the three, yes. Anomander Rake himself has asserted a proprietary claim on the Throne of Shadow . . . set kin to guard it, presumably from the Tiste Edur. It is very difficult for us mortals to make sense of Tiste histories . . . human history is ever marked by certain personalities, rising . . . .to shatter the status quo. Fortunately for us, such men and women are few and far between, and they all eventually die or disappear. But among the Tiste, well, those personalities never go away, or so it seems. They act, and act yet again. They persist. Choose the worst tyrant from . . . human history, Heboric, then imagine him or her as virtually undying. In your mind, bring that tyrant back again and again and again. How, having done so, would you imagine our history then?” Heboric answers human history would be far more violent than Tiste, and says he has never even heard of a Tiste tyrant. L’oric says perhaps tyrant isn’t the right word; he meant “in human context, a personality of devastating power, or potential. Look at his this Malazan Empire, born from the mind of Kellanved, a single man. What if he had been eternal?” Heboric laughs that maybe he is, and tells L’oric he’s missing something: “the Tiste are no longer isolated in their scheming. There are humans, now, in their games — humans, who’ve not the patience of the Tiste, nor their legendary remoteness . . . Kurald Galain and Kurald Emurlahn are no longer pure, unsullied by human presence. Meanas and Rashan? Perhaps they are proving the doors into both Darkness and Shadow. Or . . . how can one truly hope to separate the themes of Darkness and Light from Shadow? . . . An interdependent triumvirate. Mother, father, and child — a family ever squabbling, only now the in-laws and grandchildren are joining in.” L’oric is stunned into silence, then says he’d come to warn of Tiste meddling in human affairs and Heboric ended up warning him about the opposite. As L’oric speaks, Heboric feels “ a strange, whispering suspicion . . . as if tickled into being by something in L’oric’s voice.” But he dismisses it as “Too outrageous, too absurd.” Instead, he asks L’oric to tell him about the statue. L’oric says what about Heboric’s side and when Heboric says he doesn’t know who might be listening, L’oric tells him he has raised wards and illusions to prevent it. Heboric says if L’oric wants details about Sha’ik and the new Master of the Deck, it’ll have to be in Sha’ik’s presence and L’oric will have to reveal more of himself. L’oric then says “tell me this . . . He was created in the wake of the Malazan disaster on Genabackis . . . he was of, or is somehow related to, the Bridgeburners, for they were destroyed in the Pannion Domin.” Heboric says he can’t be certain but it seems likely. L’oric continues: “So the Malazan influence ever grows — not just on our mundane world, but throughout the warrens and now n the Deck of Dragons.” But Heboric points out that L’oric is making a common mistake in assuming the Empire is monolithic; “I do not believe this Master of the Deck is some servant of the Empress. Indeed, he kneels before no one.” When L’oric asks why the Bridgeburner guardians then, Heboric replies “some loyalties defy Hood himself.” L’oric then connects that the Master was a soldier in the Bridgeburners and says that makes sense. He explains that Kimloc, a Spiritwalker, has given the Bridgeburners a Tanno song that “begins here, in Raraku . . . the birthplace of the Bridgeburners.” He asks if Heboric knows the significance of this, but then goes on to say the significance has waned, “since the Bridgeburners are no more, there can be no sanctification . . . For the song to be sanctified, a Bridgeburner would have to return to Raraku . . . and that does not seem likely . . . Tanno sorcery is elliptical. The song must be like a serpent eating its tail. Kimloc’s Song of the Bridgeburners is at the moment without an end. But it has been sung and so lives . . . like a spell that remains active, awaiting resolution.” Heboric interrupts to ask about the jade giant and L’oric tells him the first one was found in the otataral mines (more than one surprises Heboric) . . . and the miners who got too close vanished. Sections of two other giants were found and those veins have been closed off. He says they are “intruders to our world from some other realm,” and Heboric adds, “arriving only to be wrapped in chains of otataral.” L’oric says it does appear that the arrival has been anticipate each time and is making sure the threat is negated. But Heboric disagrees, arguing that the passage of the giants through a portal is what creates the otataral, though he can’t be certain. He says one scholar though otataral was created by the “annihilation of all that is necessary for sorcery to operate. Like slag with all the ore burnt out . . . the absolute draining of energy — the energy that rightfully exists in all things, whether animate or otherwise . . . Perhaps the magnitude of the sorcery unleashed — a spell that is all-devouring of the energy it feeds on.” L’oric objects even the gods couldn’t wield so much power, but Heboric says he thinks a ritual, a collective sorcery could do it. L’oric says like the Telann Ritual and Heboric says yes, or the calling down of the Crippled God, which leaves L’oric speechless for a while. L’oric then says he has one last piece of information that he sees he must give, though it will reveal much about himself. As Heboric listens, “the confines of his hut dimmed to insignificance, the heat of the hearth no longer reaching him, until the only sensation left came from his ghostly hands . . . at the ends of his wrists, they became the weight of the world.”

Scene 5

Leoman sees Karsa off. Karsa warns him not to strike so hard at Tavore’s army that he “awaken[s] the bear,” but Leoman scoffs. In turn, Leoman warns Karsa that “if ou must kneel before a power, first look upon it with clear eyes.” Karsa heads off, flanked by his two friends, whom he can see and hear.

Scene 6

Reloe tells Dom Karsa has left. Dom thinks of how he has nothing but contempt for Reloe and for sorcerers in general. They both anticipate Leoman soon-departure and think Febryl will now “advance his plans.” Dom worries about Heboric still, but Reloe calls him a “doddering fool” who isn’t even aware that the hen’bara tea he drinks to alleviate his visions is actually enhancing them. The two discuss their plans that will lead them to the final goal: “the throne that will one day belong to us.” The plans include:

  • Febryl kills Sha’ik.
  • Tavore kills Febryl
  • Dom and Reloe destroy Tavore and the Malazan army
  • Dom and Reloe destroy the Seven Cities rebellion themselves
  • The Empress calls them back to reward them
  • They kill the Empress (not clear if them literally or someone else wielding the knife)
  • The Talons destroy the Claws
  • Dujek is helpless a continent away

Also involved in the conspiracy is Mallick Rel, to what extent is unclear.

Reloe brings up L’oric as a concern, but Dom just tell him to “deal with him.” As Reloe leaves, Dom thinks of how he’d get rid of all magic if he could, “return the fate of mortals to the mortals themselves.” Then the world would belong to him and people like him, “and the empire he would shape would permit no ambiguity, no ambivalence. His will unopposed, the Napan could end, once and for all, teh dissonant clangor that so plagued humanity, now and throughout history. ‘I will bring order. And from that unity, we shall rid the world of every other race, every other people, we shall overpower and crush every discordant vision . . . “ And he revels in the fact that the opponents he feared — Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners — are no longer in the game against him: “You are now at Hood’s feet, Whiskyjack . . . You and your damned company . . . None left to stop me now.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Ten:

Leoman is a cheery soul, isn’t he? He basically wants the apocalypse and the annihilation of the human race, because they commit such acts of brutality. Does he not see the slight irony in his thoughts? [Bill: Nope.]

There are snakes mentioned again! Watch me file, Bill. *grins*

I’m intrigued by the references to light and shadow concerning the carvings of Karsa’s gods. I’m sure that that has a great deal of weight and thought behind it.

I like that Karsa realizes that Bairoth’s difference in attitude might have caused him to carve the gods differently: “That was your greatest talent, wasn’t it? Seeing so clearly my every wrong step.” I also like that Karsa is aware that the Malazans are actually the lesser evil, and that the Whirlwind/Seven Cities rebellion fights against justice. Such growth again!

Got to be said that Bidithal is broken in mind, so it is more than possible he will be taken up into the House of Chains — especially with his hatred of the “usurpers” who stole the Shadow realm.

Sha’ik refers to Heboric as Ghost Hands — is that to generate distance between them? Since she knew him as Heboric when she was at her weakest?

So it seems as though the card showing Paran, Master of the Deck, represents him as the sword Dragnipur, correct? “There is a chain. It cuts across his torso, left shoulder down to right hip. It is a robust chain, black wrought iron. There are wooden discs on his shoulders [...] Four.” Somewhat like the wooden wheels of a wagon, yes.

And here we’re given an idea of how Paran will take his role as Master: “That sword is as this man’s own nature. He will cleave his own path. None shall lead him.”

Oh help.... Heboric’s hand of otataral is currently holding back the statue of jade from manifesting!

Chains, chains, chains: “Because this war is no longer the Whirlwind’s — it has been stolen away, twisted by something far more powerful, by the ties of blood that bind us all in the harshest, tightest chains!”

Hmm, will Heboric and Young Felisin be accompanied by Karsa on their journey to the statue of jade? This is what I am currently thinking will happen. It’s neat, especially given that Leoman suggests Karsa find a Jhag mount, and also gets Felisin Younger away from Bidithal (something I think every reader will be very grateful for).

Oh dear God — Karsa believes that the House of Chains might be for him. Can you imagine him working for the Crippled God? Except, I guess, he sort of is, since Urugal has been influenced by the Chained One. The scene with Bairoth and Delum is just lovely — and also has echoes back to the previous chapter where the idea of idols and drawing spirits into carvings was mentioned.

L’oric is a mysterious soul, isn’t he? Promising to reveal to Heboric information about the jade statue! Who is L’oric? Where does he come from? How does he know? Suddenly my curiosity is piqued!

Rashan, Thyr and Meanas — without light, there can be no darkness, and vice versa, with shadows in between. It is no surprise that there would be a big connection between them. “They are as those scholars said, an interdependent triumvirate. Mother, father and child — a family ever squabbling... only now the in-laws and grandchildren are joining in.”

Oh, hang on, hang on. L’oric = Osric? Similar names... [Bill: Nice catch!]

Fiddler is going to get a surprise as he enters Raraku, isn’t he? *grins* “For the song to be sanctified, a Bridgeburner would have to return to Raraku, to the birthplace of the company.”


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Ten

So just after we see spirits inhabiting icons/statues in the Nascent, we get the same image/concept here in Karsa’s Grove. (Is that like Grover’s Corners?)

That image of rebirth — “as with the entire forest, in which there was the sense that the trees but awaited the coming of spring, of rebirth” — is a resonating line. Who or what is going to be reborn? Will it be a true rebirth? We see Karsa’s two friends “reborn” — or at least, come back to sentience. We see Karsa “reborn” as a true Warleader, rather than just a title. We’ve also seen Karsa grow over time — his recognition that the Malazans are not really his enemies for instance would argue for a “new” Karsa coming into shape. And what about Onrack who is broken? Will he be reborn? Trull who is Shorn? Two creatures cut off from their own who meet and find companionship in a world of water: is this a rebirth for each, with water as the old standby symbol of such a thing? What about Sha’ik? Will she be re-reborn into a newer, better Felisin? How about Fiddler — a new life, a new name. And since Raraku is so personified in this very line, and throughout our entire experience with the desert, will the desert itself be reborn? And what would that mean for a desert?

Note that tiny detail about Karsa’s carvings of the Seven: “He had carved level with his own eyes.” That’s a concrete descriptive line that carries some plot and characterization weight as well: this is not the submissive to the gods Karsa of earlier. Will the Seven recognize their placement for what it symbolizes?

Another nice single line to characterize a changing Karsa: “He had brought his own life to this place, the legacies of his deeds. It had ceased to be a refuge.” This isn’t the Karsa who viewed regret as a ridiculous notion. This is a haunted Karsa. And haunted characters are so much more interesting than non-haunted ones.

Karsa’s line about Sha’ik are pretty insightful for a barbarous lout.

So, anyone want to stand up for the human race? Cuz Leoman makes a pretty strong point here. (I actually had a guy tell me in Yosemite last month that the best thing that could happen for this world was an all-out nuclear war that would take out about 3 billion people or so. Not sure why he picked me out as the guy he thought would be the one to tell this to, but...)

Oh, and file this speech. Definitely file:

  • The Master of the Deck card has a lot going on in there
  • Paran obviously
  • Bridgeburners
  • “guardians”
  • standing on bones
  • a K’Chain skull
  • a chain
  • Paran as a “cold sword” (would that be “cold iron”?)
  • possible connection to Dragnipur/Rake/Darkness a la Amanda’s thoughts
  • The interpretation by Heboric that Paran will go his own way. (Which we’ve certainly seen already when he deals with gods and ascendants, let alone regular ol’ mortals.)

Load that sucker in the file cabinet.

“This family so at war with itself”

We can say that about several families in this series — something to keep an eye on. We’ve already seen Trull’s in this one. One might argue the clans or the race of the Imass could argue for some being at war with each other. Families may make a good microcosm for the “family of humanity.”

“The Army of the Whirlwind possessed a full cadre of High Mages, whilst Tavore had — as far as they knew — none.” Set your bets on Tavore showing up with no magic — windows open all day.

“The ties of blood that bind us all in the harshest, tightest chains” More chains obviously. And a pretty harsh view of those blood ties. Is this the only way to view them?

Heboric and another Felisin heading to a Jade Statue. Now if they could only find an assassin to go along with them, we’d have true symmetry, eh?

Leoman clearly has some good insight into both Heboric and Karsa. So should we take as foreshadowing his statement that one day Karsa will need to ask Heboric for help?

I’ve mentioned before some of the people who seem to wear chains and some of the things the chains can represent. Should have just waited for Karsa to do my job for me: tribes, kinship, companions, stories of honor, religions, one’s dead. And still only a partial list. It’s not an original metaphor, but one rarely sees it in such extended form. And I like too its complexity: after all, are the chains that bind kin to kin really bad? Necessarily bad? And as well, one of my favorite aspects of fantasy is that metaphor can become real.

“The new House — is it mine?” File.

So yes Amanda, Urugal is working for the Chained God. And Karsa is working for Urugal. But is either truly working for who they say they are? We know Karsa knows more than he lets on about his gods, and we se in concrete fashion he is no longer submissive to them. And let’s not forget what Karsa does with chains....

“Words can wear false nobility. Disguising brutal truths”

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

“It is I who failed you.” Can anyone imagine Karsa of a few chapters back making such a statement? He’s a guy on a journey, our Karsa.

This is one of the more poignant scenes involving Karsa, I’d say (not that there are a lot of poignant ones with him, I admit). But I do find it moving — his sad confession and recognition of his errors, that first “Lead us Warleader,” Delum and Bairoth’s admission of failure, Karsa asking permission rather than demanding, Bairoth’s perfect dry “at last, something to look forward to,” and finally that repetition of “witness” with all its built up tension and potential.

L’oric does seem pretty knowledgeable about those shadow/darkness/light concepts, doesn’t he? And Amanda has already done a nice job in pointing to a noticeable similarity between L’oric’s name and Osric. We’ll have to see if this is true foreshadowing or a red herring.

And I know it’s my human side, and my “who doesn’t love an underdog” side, but I confess to a cheap thrill every time someone makes that same point Heboric does here: don’t mess with the freakin’ mortals; you have no idea what these people are capable of. I can just see Shadowthrone on the throne: “You talking to me? You talking to me?” Or Cotillion asking, “Do I amuse you? I make you laugh? Am I here to....”

And I love L’oric sitting there stunned thinking “well, s — t”

Well that’s a pretty authorial tease coming from Heboric — that suspicion about L’oric that flits through his mind. One he dismisses because it’s “too outrageous.” Hmmm. I think if one really thinks about L’oric’s reaction, about what Heboric is saying, and about what L’oric says about his reaction, one can put together that suspicion. The name certainly helps.

I’m not sure how I feel about the rest of this conversation. Anybody have a reaction? Part of me thinks it’s a bit too pat — all this explanation/exposition about Kimloc and the Tanno song and the Bridgeburner has to return which is a bit too much of a “wink wink nod nod” I think. I don’t hate it, but it does leave me with a bit of a funny taste in my mouth, so to speak.

chains of otataral

I’m sure it goes without saying, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure it’s going to do a lot of good anyway, but let’s just keep filing anything dealing with jade giants.

So a small tease earlier, and now the big one — the old dramatic movie scene where one person says to the others “I’ve got a plan” and then we see them gather together, arms around their shoulders, and the character starts saying “Now first we gotta....” and then the volume drops and then we pull away. What oh what is L’oric saying that so chills and burdens Heboric?

“...silver is the color of oblivion. Of chaos.” Another connection between Karsa and the Crippled God.

Karsa: “When I began my first journey, long ago, none came to witness.” Just a reminder that this isn’t actually true.

Karsa’s line: I have come to respect the Malazans, and fear that you would awaken them to themselves,” reminds me of the famous line (perhaps apocryphal — hey, that’s an appropriate word) supposedly said by General Yamamoto regarding Pearl Harbor: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

“May you slay a thousand children” Even Leoman “blanches” at that. But file it anyway.

Talk about a nest of snakes. You’ll need a pretty good-sized dance card to keep track of all the planned betrayals here. Or a pretty big database for the young’uns. Clearly, file that list in the summary of planned events.

And what a chilling concept that Dom Empire is — you can almost hear him breathing through his big black helmet as he talks through this... “I, I am your father Fiddler....”

And whenever a gloating maniacal villain starts gloating manically about there being “no one” left to stop him, well, I think we all know how that’s gonna go...

And finally: file that line regarding Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners.

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

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

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Korbolo once again shows that he is both nasty and ignorant.

Maybe Leoman should have actually smoked a little of that durhang and chilled out. Also, a good dose of compassion would be of benefit. Maybe that is part of the point of Leoman. Without compassion, either despair or depravity result.
2. Greyhawk
Did anyone wonder how the people in Sha'ik's camp had so much knowledge about events in the wider world? The knowledge that the Bridgeburners are done, Whiskeyjack dead, Paran is Master of the Deck, etc. I mean why would L'oric know anything about Kimloc and the Tanno Song? Is there an ascendants newsletter that everyone has access to? I just remember getting to this point in the story and going how in the world do these people know all this? It seemed so unlikely and then, when contrasted with fact that none of Felsin, Tavore and Paran know who or what the others are doing--or are unwilling to say anything if they do; it seemed to me that some of the secrets that were being kept were more for plot purposes than internally consistent character motivations while other otensible secrets/knowledge of people and occurences that happen in remote areas or heretofore unconnected characters are somehow supposedly known. --I don't know, it just bugged me a little.
Michael Rubino
3. Bauchelain
Greyhawk @2 : They know about the Bridgeburners' fate because L'oric has a spy in the 2nd with which he is in magical contact. Heboric knows that the Master of the Deck is Paran due to his vague mystical prophetic powers. As for the Tanno Spirit song, I don't know, but one could argue that such powerful magic would have been noticed by powerful mages like L'oric. In fact, later in the book we see another mage with no ties to the Bridgeburner who knows about it.
4. Greyhawk
Bauchlelain @2. Thx--didn't remember or missed it about L'oric's spy. As for your thoughts on the Tanno Spririt song, I guess, but it doesn't seem quite right to me.
Iris Creemers
5. SamarDev
@ 4, see the end of chapter 7, where L'oric magically informs about the wherebouts of Dujeks army, and Felisin crashes into Heboric arms when she hears her brother Ganoes is alive.
But I agree with you the overall level of knowlegde (especially about Kimloc) is quite... surprising.
Tricia Irish
6. Tektonica
Isn't there a Bridgeburner already wandering around Raraku? Kalam, over liberating the Malazans with Sinn? That is part of Raraku, isn't it?
Maybe not.

Either way, I'm not sure Fiddler will "feel" anything when he steps foot in Raraku. It seems to me that no one really knows when they approach ascendency. Gesler and Stormy don't seem to know it. Other "adepts" sense it about them, but they don't mention their knowledge of ascendency, at any rate.

Oh Dom and Reloe and Rel...what scary, power mad, evil dudes. *shivers*

Good catch Amanda on Ossric/l'oric.

Shalter@1: Compassion. Yes. The great moderator of judgement .
pat purdy
7. night owl
Sign me up for that newspaper!
Well, we certainly get everyones POV here. No one will yell," go team" with this group. They all have ulterior motives for why they are following (undermining) Sha'ik.

Maybe Leoman has it right about annilation, after hanging out with this motley crew. : )
8. alt146
I don't think the level of knowledge displayed by the characters is all that unbelievable. We've already been shown some of how the characters know what's going on on screen, and there's always the deck of dragons to supplement that. L'oric knowing what's going on isn't that surprising, we've been given some hints in this chapter that he is much more than what he seems. I do think him mentioning the song now is necessary, in terms of the timeline of the story.

Is it really as important as Leoman makes it out for Karsa to have a steed? It seems to me that Leoman is just trying to find some way of getting Karsa out of the camp and I never understood exactly why.

More on the creation of ottotaral, I like that there are conflicting hypotheses on whether the arrival of the statues create ottotaral or if ottotaral is created to contain the statues. I think the previous argument that the ritual of the first empire was responsible for the creation of the ottotaral island is all but confirmed here. The main issue is that the fact the statues have landed and been contained conflicts with some information about them given much later in the books.
Bill Capossere
9. Billcap
Shalter--I agree that Leoman fits nicely into this running large theme of compassion

the L'oric having a spy explains the knowledge of what's happening there. And somebody having a spy in the enemy's camp makes perfect sense to me. But as I said, the whole spirit song explanation did leave a bad taste for me. It does seem kind of strange, even knowning what I know of L'oric, that he is aware of this (though it is possible I'm forgetting something that explains his knowledge later). The Deck positions at least have the explanation that they are linking to the Deck and readers are sensitive to varying degrees on that. But this is does't seem to fit this and I don't really care for the idea that it was picked up via the people-who-do-magic rumor grapevine or that those who do magic just can pull this sort of thing out of the ether. It's also that "necessary" aspect that leaves a bad taste because it feels done for that reason, rather than it being a natural outlflow of character/events. Plus, having it revealed in sort of lecture format is never a big plus for me.

on Karsas steed. On the one hand, it is necessary if Leoman is going to be doing a slash and run guerrila/harrassing style of attack. Kind of hard to do that on foot if your opposing force has any mounted force at all. Barring that, it certainly is possible that Leoman doesn't want Karsa in this mix of betrayals, fearing that as he's seen as a threat Dom or Relow or any of a host will try and take him out. And we do see that gets mentioned, so it's a logical concern.
Amir Noam
10. Amir
The converstaion between Korbolo Dom and Kamist Reloe is one of the few I've seen from Erikson in which I've felt that the dialoge was forced (for the benefit of the reader). That is, they provided too much information on a plan with which they are both very familiar.
Brian R
11. Mayhem
I don't see Leoman encouraging Karsa to find a mount exactly. It's more Leoman encourages him to come with him against the Malazans, and as soon as Karsa learns of Jhag horses, he suddenly gets all excited at the chance to be properly mounted again.

Remember Karsa has a secret little smile when Leoman asks is his kind ever fought on horseback or just used them for transport. Only the reader knows just how effective a trio of mounted Toblakai can be.

The whole sequence acts as a kind of renewal, assuming Karsa gets a horse, then we're back as we were at the start, with Karsa leading his two friends out to the wider world. The real change is in how Karsa views that world and his place in it, and what he plans to do about it ...

With regards the Tanno Song, we get an proper explanation on it towards the end from a newly arrived mage into 7C.
"Tell me, had any conversations with a Tanno Spiritwalker lately?"
I get the impression that most major mages have a pretty good understanding about who are the Powers around them at any given time. Remember back to DG, when Fiddler met Kimloc, and he says that Kimloc could have destroyed the amassed Malazan forces utterly. That definitely fits the definition of Power, certainly in the context of Seven Cities.

Agree about the dialogue between Korbolo & Kamist, I think this is pretty much the only time we ever see him as a PoV character and all he seems to do is twirl his mustaches and cackle over his Secret Plan™
12. djk1978
I agree with Mayhem. Kimloc didn't come across as just any mage. He has great power, enough that probably a lot of ascendants/people in tune with that sort of thing might know what he's up to. This is a guy who apparently has the ability to cause not just one, but an entire regiment of men and women to ascend. Nothing to sniff at. I'd conclude that the release of that much power when Fiddler dropped the conch in Tremorlor was probably an event that a few people noticed. L'oric certainly would be among them in my opinion. Especially since that spell is now drifting around the very place where L'oric is hanging out. If he was on Genabackis or further away maybe he wouldn't have noticed.
Joe Long
13. Karsa
@11 -- totally agree. I don't think Leoman has one iota of worry about Karsa being around for the betrayals. Two reasons -- he knows that Karsa can take care of himself and Leoman doesn't give a crap about anybody but himself anyway. He just wanted Karsa's sword to protect his backside - that required a damn big horse, which put an idea into Karsa's head.

speaking (writing?) of protecting backsides, we get to meet Corabb next, right? Another of the great characters!
Bill Capossere
14. Billcap
whoops--confess I forgot about the whole conch thing. That works better, though I wish L'oric had actually referenced that a bit more. Not the conch in particular but that he had sensed the song and when or something along those lines. Not only would that help the reader with recall, it makes it sound less like he got the magicians' newsletter that week. I think it's his specificity to, with regard to whose magic it was, that makes this ring a bit false in my head--given he had "felt" an actual magic, I can buy his sensing of Tanno magic. I can live with that generality, could buy him deducing from the power or "signature" that it was Kimloc--but as presented, it feels less natural.

Karsa, I'm not sure that Leoman doesn't care about Karsa. I think he's one of the few he does, at least to some extent. Also, I agree he thinks Karsa can take care of himself in a fight, but I think Leoman isn't thinking Dom or Reloe would be in a fight with Karsa--in fact, since those two know Karsa somewhat, I'm thinking he'd be pretty confident they'd kill him in as underhanded, no-risk-to-themselves method as possible (whether that would still be good enough is another story)

Corabb--definitely one of my favorites
Andy Rawcliffe
15. ajsr1982
I may be over-thinking things, but has anyone considered the possibility that the voices of Bairoth and Delum in Karsa's head might be figments of his imagination? A very strange way to keep himself in check perhaps?
Tabby Alleman
16. Tabbyfl55
@15. At this point in the book, that might be all they are...

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