Sep 9 2011 1:16pm

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

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 Sixteen 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 Sixteen


Kalam has been in Pust’s temple for over a week and is itching to move on, now that’s he’s delivered the diamonds and is healed. He hears singing and thinks Mogora’s voice is grating. Pust gives him a few of the diamonds and says he can go, telling him to “breach the Whirlwind — into the heart of Raraku.” Kalam asks how he can do that without being detected and Pust says with his help: “High Priest and Master of Rashan and Meanas and Thyr”


Kalam and Pust exit a warren near the Whirlwind. Kalam asks Pust what that singing is, realizing it hasn’t been Mogora all along as he’d thought. Put tells him he can’t hear any singing, then, in one of his “monologues” says it’s “the Tanno song.” Kalam asks how they’ll enter the Whirlwind without the goddess knowing and Pust tells him they’ll use “misdirection.” The azalan demon appears, swoops up Kalam, and breaks through the whirlwind, tossing Kalam into a crevice in the ruins of a city, then running out again. Kalam, noting he can no longer hear the song, settles in to wait.


Cutter, carrying Apsalar, heads out on the trail leading to the ships. Cotillion is standing amidst the many corpses, but looking at one in particular — the old with who had been burned. Cutter is surprised by the god’s expression: “the ravaged look that made him suddenly appear twenty years older.” Cutter asks if Cotillion knew the woman and Cutter says her name was Hawl and adds, “I’d thought Surly had taken them all out. None of the Talon’s command left. I thought she was dead . . . I made them good at hiding . . . Good enough to hide even from me, it seems.” When Cutter asks what she was doing here, Cotillion says the real question is why was she with Traveler. He wonders first if Traveler knew who she was, then answers his own question with of course Traveler did. He pulls the talon off Hawl and tosses it to Cutter, telling him to go to the Edur ship and that Cotillion is sending them to meet another “agent of ours” to wait there in case they’re needed to “take down the Master of the Talon.” Cutter inquires if Cotillion knows where that Master is and the god replies, “I have a suspicion. Now, finally, a suspicion about all of this.” He picks up Hawl in his arms and walked away, but not before pointing out the similarity between himself and Cutter at that moment. Cutter yells after him “it’s not the same. It’s not! We’re not...“ Cotillion disappears into shadow and Cutter heads for the ship.


Cotillion reaches a glade and puts Hawl down gently. Shadowthrone appears. After some silence, Cotillion tells him Traveller is in the Edur ruins and Shadowthrone says Traveller is too stubborn to answer any of their questions. He confirms it is Hawl, then says “How many times do our followers have to die, Cotillion? Then again, she clearly ceased being a follower some time ago.” When Cotillion tells him she thought they were dead and gone, Shadowthrone says she was right, “in a way.” Cotillion agrees, but says, “not in the most important way . . . she was a friend.” Shadowthrone says “Ahh, that most important way” then asks if Cotillion will pursue the matter. Cotillion says yes, they seem to have little choice in finding out what the Talon is up to and stopping them. Shadowthrone says “No, friend. We need to ensure that they fail.” Cotillion tells him he’s realized who is masterminding the whole thing and he’s sent Cotillion and Apsalar there. When Shadowthrone asks if they’ll be enough, he says no, he has other agents there. He wants Apsalar close just in case something goes wrong. Shadowthrone asks where all this is and when Cotillion answers Raraku, Shadowthrone grins and says “Ah, dear Rope, time’s come, I think, that I should tell you more of my own endeavors.” Cotillion says he’d been wondering about those diamonds he’d given Kalam. Shadowthrone tells Cotillion they should bring Hawl home and talk, adding being so close to Traveler makes him nervous. They exit.


Cutter reaches the damaged ships and as he looks upon them, Apsalar comes to. He tells her Darist was killed, along with all the Edur, thanks to Traveler. She says, “I felt him. Such anger . . . Dancer knew him. Knew him well. They were three. It was never just the two of them . .. just Dancer and Kellanved. No, he was there. Almost from the very beginning. Before Tayschrenn, before Dujek, before even Surly.” He informs her they are on another task for Cotillion and she tells him “Do not walk this path, Crokus.” He says he thought she’d “appreciate the company.”


Pearl identifies where he and Lostara are as the Pan’potsun Hills. They’ve been traveling for several days. Pearl wants a buried city to perform a ritual to open a sorcerous trail and Lostara tells him they’re standing on top of one. He performs a ritual, speaking to the ghost of local earth spirit. Pearl leads them to a flat area where they find the wreckage of a trader’s wagon, bones, and a burned circle. Pearl tells them the bones are from rats that were part of a Di’vers named Gryllen, who seemingly was badly harmed in this area. He walks over to a heap of ash and uncovers it to reveal the gnawed bones of a corpse, pulling out a melted piece of metal he thinks is a Malazan badge — mage cadre. They uncover one of the four remaining ash heaps to find another corpse. This one opens its eyes and speaks, telling them its name is Clam and it dies a horrible death before becoming Gryllen’s porter. Pearl tells Lostara the sorcery animating Clam is fading, leading him to think Gryllen is far away or dead. He also says the warren of fire that was used here has left a trail they can follow. Lostara, though, says it’s too dark and they should camp for the night. He tells her the trail isn’t far and so she agrees to follow. Soon they come to another, larger, burned corpse. Pearl tells Lostara “Hood was here . . . The god himself came to take this man — not just his soul — but also the flesh — all that had been infected by the warren of fire — the warren of light, to be more precise . . . There’s been a change in Hood’s household.” When Lostara asks what this has to do with their quest for Felisin, Pearl replies: “Remember Stormy’s tale . . . Heboric, Kulp, and Baudin. We found what was left of Kulp back at Gryllen’s wagon. And this . . . is Baudin. The damned Talon . . . Remember their strange skin? Gesler, Stormy, Truth? The same thing happened to Baudin . . . That warren changed them.” Lostara figures out the timeline and deduces that Felisin and Heboric are with the Apocalypse army in Raraku: “Think man. Felisin’s hatred of the Malazan Empire must be all-consuming. Nor would Heboric hold much love for the empire that imprisoned and condemned him. They were desperate, after Gryllen’s attack . . . and probably hurting.” Pearl nods in agreement, then asks why Lostara’s attack on Sha’ik with the Red Blades failed. She answers it didn’t; they killed her. When he asks who then is commanding the uprising, she says she doesn’t know. He asks to see the ambush sight and she agrees to take him in the morning.


Onrack is flooded by memories — “what had lain within . . . layered, indurated by countless centuries, was a landscape Onrack could read once more.” He looks at the setting and rather than the mesas and sand, sees it as it once was: an inland sea, reefs. He sees Imass — Renig Obar’s clan — walking down the strand to trade whale ivory and dhenrabi oil. The cold weather, perhaps, “hinted of something darker. A Jaghut, hidden in some fasthold, stirring the cauldron of Omtose Phellack.” This Onrack had stepped aside as Bonecaster for Absin Tolain, who was “far superior in the hidden arts and more inclined to the hungry ambition necessary among those who followed the Path of Tellann.” This Onrack had found his mind “drawn to other things. To raw beauty . . . he was not one for fighting, for rituals of destruction. He was always reluctant to dance in the deeper recesses of the caves, where the drums pounded and the echoes rolled through flesh and bone as if one was lying in the path of a stampeding herd of ranag — a herd such as the one Onrack had blown onto the cave walls around them. His mouth bitter with spit, charcoal, and ochre, the backs of his hands stained where they had blocked the spray from his lips, defining the shapes on the stone. Art was done in solitude . . . on unseen walls, when the rest of the clan slept . . . Onrack had grown skilled in the sorcery of paint out of that desire to be apart, to be alone. Among a people where solitude was as close to a crime as possible. Where to separate was to weaken. Where the very breaking of vision into its components — from seeing to observing, from resurrecting memory and reshaping it beyond the eye’s reach, onto walls of stone — demanded a fine-edged, potentially deadly propensity . . . And when you [young Onrack] broke the unwritten covenant and painted a truthful image of a mortal Imass, when you trapped that lovely, dark woman in time, there in the cavern no one was meant to find . . .you fell to the wrath of kin. Of Logros himself, and the First Sword. But he remembered the expression on the young face of Ono T’oolan, when he had first looked upon the painting of his sister. Wonder and awe, and a resurgence of an abiding love . . . He had never known if Kilava herself had gone to see the painting.”

Trull interrupts Onrack’s walk through memory, saying Onrack’s silence always make him nervous. Onrack tells him how he was supposed to be banished from his tribe the night before the Ritual for committing “a crime to which there was no other answer.” Instead, he says, that was interrupted by four Jaghut tyrants had joined in a compact and tried to destroy the land, “as indeed they have.” Onrack continues, telling Trull the night before he was to be banned, he was in the cavern where he’d committed his crime and some unknown woman came — not his wife who had been “among the first to shunt me, for what I had done, for the betrayal it meant.” He wonders in his mind if it was Kilava: “I will never know. She was gone in the morning . . . even as the Ritual was proclaimed . . . She defied the call — no, more horrible yet, she had killed her own kin, all but Onos himself . . . Was it her? Was there blood unseen on her hands? That dried, crumbled powder I found on my own skin, which I’d thought had come from the overturned bowl of paint. Fled from Onos, to me, I my shameful cave. And who did I hear in the passage beyond? Did someone come upon us?”

Trull says Onrack needn’t say more, and Onrack thinks were he mortal he’d be weeping, but Trull still sees his grief. Onrack changes the subject to tell Trull the trail of the renegades is fresh. When Trull says Onrack enjoys killing, Onrack answers “Artistry finds new forms, Edur. It defies being silenced.” He says though he can’t pursue freely, as he’s vowed to serve Trull. Trull agrees though, since the renegades are somehow involved in the corruption of Trull’s people. When he says Onrack can kill them once he’s spoken to them, Onrack says he thinks he is too damaged to do so, adding though that Monok Ochem and Ibra Gholan are still chasing him and Trull and so they can kill the renegades. He also says they are holding off dealing with Onrack in hope Onrack leads them to the renegades, whom they believe Onrack will join once he finds them. When Trull asks if Onrack would do that, Onrack replies only if Trull does.


They walk through hills “where the T’lan Imass had broken the ice sheets, the first places of defiance. To protect the holy sites, the hidden caves, the flint quarries. Where the weapons of the fallen were placed. Weapons those renegades would reclaim. There was no provenance to the sorcery investing those stone blades . . .They would feed the ones who held them, provided they were kin to the makers — or indeed made by those very hands . . . Finding those weapons would give the renegades their final freedom, severing the power of Tellann from their bodies.” Trull asks about Onrack’s memories of betrayal and Onrack replies “Perhaps we are destined to repeat our crimes.” Trull inquires as to the nature of the crime and Onrack tells him “I trapped a woman in time. Or so it seemed. I painted her likeness in a sacred cave. It is now my belief that in so doing I was responsible for the terrible murders that followed, for her leaving the clan. She could not join in the Ritual that made us immortal, for my by hand she had already become so. Did she know this? Was this the reason for her defying Logros and the First Sword? There are no answers to that. What madness stole her mind . . . She was a Bonecaster, a Soletaken.” Trull realizes she wasn’t Onrack’s mate and says; “yet you loved her.” Onrack answers, “Obsession is its own poison.” Trull says he doesn’t accept the idea of being doomed to repeat one’s mistakes, believing that one’s experiences lead to lessons learned, to wisdom. Onrack points out he has just betrayed Monok Ochem and Ibra Gholan, and the T’lan Imass by not accepting his fate — the same crime he committed long ago. He says he always longed for solitude and was content by himself in the sacred caves, or in the Nascent. Trull asks about this moment, and Onrack replies, “When memories have returned, solitude is an illusion, for every silence is filled by a clamorous search for meaning.” Trull’s response is Onrack is sounding more and more mortal every day. Onrack answers “Flawed, you mean,” and Trull agrees, then points out what Onrack is about to do — return home.


The Tiste Liosan are camped a ways away, “battered, but alive.” They’ve also been bitten by bloodflies, though they don’t know what they were, just that “those bites seemed to crawl, as if the insects had left something behind.” Malachar senses an air of “unwelcome” to this strange realm they’ve entered. Jorrude looks up from grieving and tells them the Guardian is dead, “our realm is assailed, but our brothers and sisters have been warned and even now ride to the gates.” He also tells them their mission to find the trespassers continues. He adds that he senses “the [nearby] presence of an old friend to the Tiste Liosan . . . The Maker of Time.” Malachar nods his head at the name, thinking “A friend of the Tiste Liosan indeed. Slayer of the Ten Thousand. Icarium.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Sixteen

This sentence that starts Chapter Sixteen — isn’t Kimloc one of the Spiritwalkers? Is he saying this about himself? Anyhoo, just another reminder of that song that might/will/perhaps affect the Bridgeburners on their entry into Raraku — in case people hadn’t drawn the dots yet, I guess?

On the one hand — awwww, sweet bhok’aral pup; on the other hand “flecks of mouldy skin covered his midriff, and the thin woollen shirt was sodden from the pup’s runny nose.” Yeah, actually, I can see where Kalam is coming from removing this from him.

Ha! Mogora is a proper harpy, isn’t she? I am amused by the idea of Shadowthrone and Cotillion magicking meals out of thin air for Kalam’s pleasure! And that pup, the one Kalam was just considering throwing against a wall? Now his sense of compassion comes to the fore as he realises that Mogora plans to wring its neck — funny stuff.

Oh, now that’s interesting! Pust’s declaration that he is “High Priest and Master of Rashan and Meanas and Thyr!” Not the first time we’ve seen those three warrens referenced together, but here is someone who claims to be master of all three. I mean, it is Pust and hence could be a dubious boast, but Erikson has been careful to push these three together in our minds.

And now Kalam can hear the singing, too….

And Pust knows about the Tanno song….

I like the quick flitting backwards and forwards between storylines that Erikson does, because it keeps my attention and keeps those pages turning at a rate of knots, but just occasionally I think he misjudges how late to go back to a storyline. Here we join Cutter and Apsalar, and I had to stop and think for a second about their situation when we left them, which jarred me out of my read a little.

Oh my word, this emotion from Cotillion — the ravaged look, the wan smile. Somehow it makes him utterly human, and really helps me form even more of a bond with him. What is interesting is in this whole process of bonding with Cotillion and learning more about the god, we seem to know less and less about Shadowthrone, and he therefore becomes more inhuman as a result. I really do think this is absolutely deliberate on Erikson’s part.

And it looks as though Cotillion has been played false regarding the Talon and what they’re up to. I wonder who the Master of the Talon is? (Topper is Master of the Claws, right?)

That scene with both Cotillion and Cutter holding downed women in their arms, and then Cutter’s desperate refusal about being like Cotillion, is a surprisingly moving section. It seems as though Cutter has not yet walked too far down this path of becoming a master assassin.

And speak of the devil — Shadowthrone himself, in the first meeting between these two gods since the very beginning of Gardens of the Moon. What questions do they want Traveller to answer? It’s telling that Shadowthrone says “How many times do our followers have to die?” implying that people die over and over again in this world. Ammanas doesn’t really understand friendship anymore, does he? And so more key players are heading to Raraku, where both Cotillion and Ammanas have plans invested….

Oh, and this is some information about Traveller/Dassem Ultor that we have never had before: “Dancer knew him. Knew him well. They were…three. It was never just the two of them — did you know that? Never just Dancer and Kellanved. No, he was there. Almost from the very beginning. Before Tayschrenn, before Dujek, before even Surly.”

Although I do like the pair-up of Lostara and Pearl for comedy value, I’m just so suspicious of Pearl and his ultimate motive in all of this. In some ways, their bickering dialogue between man and woman reminds me a little of some of the exchanges in the David Eddings novel (obviously a bit sharper and a little less homely, but the same back-and-forth one-upmanship nature).

Here is more of a hint that Pearl wants more than just to find Felisin: “A man seeking his name in tomes of history. Some crucial role upon which the fate of the empire pivots.”

Geez, this is enough to give you nightmares… “As the Claw swept the last of the ash from the corpse’s face, its eyes opened […] Behind the corpse’s wrinkled, collapsed lids, there were only gaping pits. Its lips had peeled back with dessication, leaving it with a ghastly, blackened grin.”

I really like this trail of Lostara’s and Pearl’s through the remains of Gryllen’s caravan. It takes us full circle in some ways, both a reminder of what happened and, in the fact that someone else has now seen and taken note, an affirmation. We also get here, if we hadn’t added up the clues, that Baudin is now serving Hood (as we saw during Memories of Ice).

I also like the fact that sometimes a character will piece together all the clues and get five when they should have got three — this foreknowledge makes it so much more interesting for us as we await their inevitable discovery.

I have no idea what this is about — but I have a feeling either someone will tell me or it’s a RAFO moment!

“Onrack, you were never what you were meant to be. And when you broke the unwritten covenant and painted a truthful image of a mortal Imass, when you trapped that lovely, dark woman in time, there in the cavern no-one was meant to find…ah, then you fell to the wrath of kin. Of Logros himself, and the First Sword.”

It is about Kilava as we’re told — did he love her? How did he trap her?

I am still struggling with the storyline involving Trull and Onrack. I like them far better than I first did, but their path seems dreamlike and unlike any other part of the book at this time.

Icarium is an old friend to the Tiste Liosan? Now that is not something I thought I would hear!


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Sixteen

That’s a great opening with the bhok’aral pup. Made better by the sharp details: the “huge, liquid eyes,” the “mewling pathetically,” the “flecks of moldy skin” left behind on Kalam. I also like how it gets turned around in just a few paragraphs so Kalam is defending the pup against the knife-wielding Mogora.

Did anybody really think that was Mogora singing?

Note that throwaway line by Pust as he hands Kalam the sack of diamonds: “Spend them here and there, spend them everywhere!” File that.

You’re right, Amanda, after all we’ve heard about these three warrens, it’s interesting that Pust declares himself “master” of all three: Rashan, Meanas, and Thyr. And while it may be dubiously boastful, don’t forget we have seen Pust be surprisingly effective. And I think it was Mappo who said (I paraphrase) that Pust does pretty much exactly what he says.

We see some of Pust’s insight, as you say, when he makes clear that he knows about the Tanno song. What I also find interesting in that section is what he says about the song: first, that is may “confound his master plan,” and second, that it only “potentially” might confound it. So we’ve already guessed that the song might have something to do with the Bridgeburners ascending, so why might it screw up Shadowthrone/Cotillion’s plans to have that happen?

While we’re on the song, interesting that the Goddess’ power seems to counteract it, that Kalam stops hearing once he’s inside the Whirlwind.

Have I mentioned that Cotillion is one of my favorite characters in this series? This scene is one of the reasons why. I think you’re right, Amanda, that we are very purposely given two contrasts in this pair of ascendants — one perhaps moving further from humanity and one trying to hang onto to it. And in my usual repetitive mode (sorry folks), I’ll point out as well that as fantasy can do, the metaphor is made literal as we often see Shadowthrone as insubstantial — a collection of shadows, fading away, disappearing. Cotillion, on the other hand, while still at times ethereal, has a bit more solidity to him, feels more part of the tangible world. Plus, he giggles less.

Just that word “caress” tells you much about Cotillion. A single word can carry a lot of weight even in a massive tome.

And I’m going to push this as far as I can. The “caress” is with a “gloved” hand. Poor Cotillion.

So Hawl. What do people think — did Nok not know (and try and say that several times fast) or did he lie when he spoke to Tavore about his wife?

We’ve had lots of references to the Talons in this book so far, which might lead one to think they (whoever they are) will play a role by the end. And what a nice tease Erikson gives us by having Cotillion announce he now thinks he knows who the mastermind is, which of course makes the reader think we should know, too.

How about that image of the Talon — Cotillion’s mark — being thrown by Cotillion to Cutter, rebounding off Cutter and landing on Apsalar? Anyone want to read anything into that?

I agree Amanda that Cotillion remarking with that ”wan smile" on the similarity of the two of them holding a woman in their arms was nicely moving. As was Cutter’s attempt to reject the similarity. I also like that the shadows swallowed Cotillion rather than Cotillion disappearing into the shadows — giving us a less active, more sad image of his departure.

I also like how Erikson gives us the distance by beginning with “the god Cotillion” rather than just Cotillion.

Hey look, I just said Shadowthrone is more insubstantial and here he appears, described as “insubstantial.” I love when that happens!

As much as we’ve spoken of Shadowthrone moving further from humanity, seemingly less concerned about such motion than Cotillion, he does come off as oddly warm here. And I do like how the relationship between the two is portrayed in this brief scene.

We see him appear and stay quiet for “a long time.” That in itself is unexpected and unusual — giving a sense of him recognizing the solemnity/sadness of the moment and doing one or two things: grieving himself over Hawl’s death, respecting Cotillion’s grief.

His question also points to some sadness: “How many times do our followers have to die?” I like this line because it can be read so many ways:

First, how many of our followers have to die?

Second, how many times do they have to “die” and die (“die” meaning the faked deaths, but in some ways not so fake as they have to give up prior lives, friendships, family, etc. so even a faked “death” is a little death in ways.)

Third, how many times does the same follower have to die? Okay, granted this isn’t such a clear one, but we’ve already seen Paran die once, so we know death doesn’t have to be singular for any one individual. (A fact, by the way, that will play a major, major, major role eventually.)

That’s sad, Cotillion’s statement: “She was a friend.”

I also think Shadowthrone’s humanity is emphasized by use of “Ammanas,” how he “sighed,” his use of Cotillion’s name, and his calling Cotillion “friend” and “dear Rope.”

I’m not sure Amanda, if I’d agree he doesn’t understand friendship anymore, though it is perhaps getting more tenuous save for Cotillion.

And there’s a big hint for us — the Master of the Talons is in Raraku. Let’s think of the major players in Raraku. We can eliminate Seven Cities folk obviously; we need Malazans. We can just as obviously eliminate the Malazans Felisin and Heboric for other reasons. Which really leaves us with Dom and Reloe I would think. Am I missing any other major Malazan there?

And more tease — just what is Shadowthrone planning on doing in Raraku?

I like that last line of the scene with Apsalar and Cutter, “[She] slowly accepted it,” with the “it” being unclear as to its referent: the ladle or the appreciating Cutter’s company on the path to Ascendancy via Cotillion’s road.

I also like the banter between Lostara and Pearl. And the scene as they arrive at Gryllen’s wagon. One of the things I remember being surprised at in this reread was that these books were not as “confusing” or “hard to follow” as all the reports about them have said. I couldn’t recall if I’d thought of them that way originally or not, and of course, they’ll seem less that way on a reread in any case. But what I’ve been surprised by is just how often bits are foreshadowed, then arrived at, then circled back around to, so that by the time a lot of pages have passed, we’ve have several looks at something, which means it is often made pretty clear. Perhaps it’s just we need to be a little patient and let the explanations come, let them accumulate. That isn’t to say it everything becomes crystal clear (I’m looking at you giant jade guy), but it has been a point of surprise to me how bluntly concrete some explanations are.

I wonder a little at the ease with which Pearl makes his contact. He explains that the surprising ease was because the spirit was killed nearby and recently and is eager to talk. But part of me also wonders if it was surprisingly easy as a hint that the spirits (dead and alive) in this area are nearer to the surface reality than one would normally expect/find.

Kulp. Still makes me so sad. I really liked Kulp.

Pearl is certainly circling around the horrific answer, isn’t he?

Tell me the description of Onrack painting in the cavern, the drums going, the herd on the walls — tell me this isn’t an anthropologist’s voice. I love, really love, this description for so many reasons.

The image of the figure in the cave creating beauty on its walls, the flickering light, the stained colors, the way I can see the cave paintings of Lascaux in my mind as I read this (pictures of them — I haven’t been lucky enough to see them personally) or some of the pictographs I’ve seen. I love the sensuality of the description: we get sight, sound, taste.

The obsession with beauty, with capturing/recreating beauty, especially natural beauty.

The solitary nature of art, painting scenes not meant to be seen — which speaks to the internal drive of it all.

And I love the poetic nature of the description. Listen to the sound quality of a line like this:

bitter with spit, charcoal and ochre, the backs of his hands stands where they had blocked the spray.

You’ve got the assonance of the short i in bitter and spit and his; the long o in ochre and charcoal, the a in backs, hands, they, and spray. The consonance of the hard c in coal and ochre and back, and block; the d in hands, stands, had, blocked. The alliteration of backs and blocked. And the rhymes of hands and stands, they and spray.

Or this line:

to dance in the deeper recesses of the caves, where the drums pounded and the echoes rolled through flesh and bone

the consonance of the d in dance, deeper, drums, pounded; the assonance and near-rhyme of the long o in echoes, rolled, bone; the near-rhyme of recess and flesh. We don’t bore down often to this level in the reread (Because really, how could we?), but it’s good now and then to point out this sort of craftsmanship beyond the bigger pictures of plot and character, theme and metaphor.

I like how characters are becoming entwined: Tool whom we’ve met, Kilava whom we’ve met, and Onrack: Onrack loving Kilava, Tool punishing Onrack. Makes one wonder if any or all will meet and how those meetings will go if they happen.

And how’s this for a line: “young” face of Onos T’oolan. And doesn’t it recall the last time we saw him?

Amanda, he “trapped” Kilava by “capturing” her figure (and perhaps her spirit — at this point we don’t know how the Imass saw this) in a frozen moment of time for all time. The Kilava of that moment — how she looked, moved — was made immortal.

So who was that masked lady in the cavern? (Okay, she wasn’t masked — some creative license). Was it Kilava? Did anything come of that night? And by “anything” I mean “anyone”; I mean, we don’t get any indication they were practicing safe sex.

And who was listening? The wife? Tool? Logros? Someone else entirely?

What a sad statement — “Artistry finds new forms. It defies being silenced.” And so the painter’s hands, forbidden from the paint, are turned to dealing death. That defines “tragic” for me.

Hmm, will Trull join the renegades, thus allowing Onrack to?

Talk about some heavy guilt. Onrack believing he is the reason Kilava killed all her clan save Tool. That’s a heavy burden to bear. We know Kilava is out there; perhaps we’ll find out if Onrack is right.

More debate as to whether or not we are doomed to walk the same paths, make the same mistakes. Can people break out of their pattern or must they be forced out by exterior forces?

Bloodflies. I hate those things. But I like the reminder of them.

“Never trust a corpse.” Now that is simply a great line. Can’t say that in a non-fantasy work. Reminds me a bit of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer scene with Xander talking to a walking undead about how there’s dead and there’s drinking with your buddies dead. See, realistic fiction just can’t have that kind of fun.

“Slayer of the Ten Thousand” And people wonder why Icarium is so feared. Is he truly a friend to the Liosan? What will happen if they find him and try to gain his alliance? Hard to imagine their arrogance going over well.

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

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

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
The comment from Onrack:

Four Jaghut tyrants had risen and had formed a compact. They sought to destroy this land—as indeed they have.’

gives us some insight into why the ritual happened when it did. The prospect of facing 4 tyrants must have been pretty dreadful to say the least.
By the way, how fitting is the name Onrack? As we see, he is quite literaly suffering on a rack forged of guilt and memory.
Tricia Irish
2. Tektonica
Thanks Bill and Amanda! Good recap! Much good info here to file. I am just loving these books the second time through, possibly even more than the first!

Bill..thanks for pointing out all the aliteration. So sublte and effective. The drums in the deep caves reminded me of the orgy scene in the Matrix. ;-)

Bill says: I agree Amanda that Cotillion remarking with that ”wan smile" on the similarity of the two of them holding a woman in their arms was nicely moving. As was Cutter’s attempt to reject the similarity.

I always thought it was Cotillion's attempt to relate to Cutter, to be more human, if you will.

Shadowthrone seems to be the mastermind of this duo/book plot, but we don't have nearly as much interaction with him. Brief, shadowy glimpses and giggling. Cotillion is the "front man", and is much more comfortable around mortals. I do think he's trying to hang onto his humanity. This scene was really nice between them. I was surprised that there were aspects of Shadowthrone's plan that he had not told Cotillion about just yet. I thought they were plotting this stuff together. Guess not. Perhaps they each have things going on?

I found the Onrack/Tool/Kilava/Trull business very difficult at first, but I grew to really like them. Especially the Onrack/Trull duo and Kilava. Then some other things get thrown into this mix.
Thomas Jeffries
3. thomstel
I recall reading Onrack's memories and thinking highly of them as well on my first read. I think the thing that most stood out wasn't the phonetic choices (as I wouldn't have been attentive enough to notice those, thanks for the share Bill!), but instead I was intrigued by the mechanism.

Creating the paint admixture in his mouth, creating a stencil of sorts on the wall by using his hands to define the negative space that he would fill by blowing it with his own exhalation. The drums, the fire and smoke imagery, the Imass propensity for innocence, and the shamanistic tendencies of the people all combine into one blazing mental image of a proto-human tableau. It is very well done.

And Onrack knew he was committing a "crime" by capturing Kilava's likeness on the cave wall, even admitting he did it in a place that "no one was meant to find." Oh, you bad boy Onrack!

Oh, and no one really mentioned it, but this memory is actually of fairly vital importance, and within this novel, so don't forget it! It seems out of place (Trull and Onrack's stuff feels like that a lot as they wander about through the other stories), but it's the majority of another character's "origin story". File!
karl oswald
4. Toster
@3 thomstel

yeah, i totally love the way that SE does this particular reveal. completely shocked me the first time i read it, but in an awesome way.

i love to imagine the scene when onos toolan finds onracks crime. likely there is a crowd, and so, when he finds himself awestruck by onrack's talent and obvious love, he can't let those emotions rule him. they show for a minute, and onrack sees, but then onos must follow the mores of his clan and administer the punishment. tool and his emotions become important later on as well, since as he is now mortal, he has to discover them all anew. one of my favourite characters.

a good thing to remember regarding Cot/ST and their various schemes is that Pust can almost be considered ST's mouthpiece. obviously cotillion can tell Pust to find kalam and heal him, but for the most part, Pust works on ST plans. we can see this over the course of this chapter, with Pust encouraging kalam to send the diamonds out into the world, and then later when cotillion asks ammanas about them.

now, i think it was cotillion who actually gave kalam the diamonds, maybe i'm wrong, but it's definitely ST who trapped the azalan in them, and he's the one they ultimately work for.

speaking of azalan, i love the exit that SE gives kalam's buddy (kalam seems to have a lot of demon buddies, doesn't he?). outracing the goddesses fury, thumbing his nose at the whirlwind. you go azalan!
Joris Meijer
5. jtmeijer
Still loving the reread, although I hardly ever post.

I always assumed the crime of Onrack was that he used the same magical way that was used to conjure and capture the prey animals to make the image of Kilava.
That would fit into one of the old theories on the goal of cave paintings, that they were 'magic' used to attract a good hunt.
Iris Creemers
6. SamarDev
Ah, Hawl! Again something I missed completely until now... How did you pick that up, I think she is only mentioned once, in chapter 5! :-)

I wonder, of course Traveller was the one with power which Apsalar mentioned. But when Hawl is indeed Nok's wife and joined Kellanveds 'family' in the Deadhouse, gaining the 'certain gifts' like longevity etc... That is some kind of power too, but sadly not enough to stand the Edur magic. We have seen what that did to Andarist too.

The story of Onracks crime is written well, though I think it wasn't the magic painting versus 'normal' painting, as jtmeijer suggests. I think the fact that he made not just a sketchy picture of a human being (well, living Imass), but an accurate, 'truthful' picture that caused the trouble.
Tricia Irish
7. Tektonica
I completely missed the Hawl bit the first time through as well...might have missed it this time too, if you hadn't mentioned it. ;-) But I do love how SE brings those little details in and ties them up.

That whole exchange between Shadowthrone and Cotillion is most interesting. It seems Mr. Shadowthrone wasn't being completely forthcoming with Mr. Cotillion up to this point. Did HE know about the Talon and it's head?
8. Jordanes
As thomstel pointed out, one of the main points of the Trull and Onrack storyline (though we know it not yet), is to actually tell us more about how a certain other character came to be...the way they are. And it really is a great twist near the end of the book.

Pearl and Lostara finding Kulp's remains gets me every time. Poor Kulp.

One thing I never understood did Pearl and Lostara actually get here? I mean, I know how they got here...but there's no real explanation for why wandering through the Imperial Warren, then pretty much almost accidentally ending up in Thyrllan, and then escaping that would mean they exited so close to the site where Felisin and co. met Gryllen. I mean, that wasn't even where Felising and co. themselves exited the Thyrllan warren - they had to travel quite a bit before getting to the place where they run into Gryllen. Unless I'm missing something, it seems a bit fudged to me.
9. MDW
Bill said : Am I missing any other major Malazan there?

Yes, although whether he is actually in Raraku at this time or Cotillion just thinks he is still in Raraku is uncertain.

Both RotCG and BH suggest he is the one commanding the Talons.
karl oswald
10. Toster
@8 jordanes

travelling by warren is tricky business. recall that kalam simply being distracted extended the journey from the odhan to aren. you have to visualize your destination in order to get there. in kalam's case, he finally visualizes a corner in an alley, and the warren opens up right there.

lostara and pearl are just groping about for the area where felisin and the rest might have dropped out of the warren. pearl is following a magical trail. a 'stench' as one squad mage might call it. as a mage, and being 1/4 andii, pearl senses are good enough that he can bring them into the general area where the warren of fire opened.

which brings up another point. warrens and the real world are sort of layered over one another, and geographical points can be somewhat analogous across realms. not very analogous, but a little. enough that the silanda could disembark at otataral island, dump felisin et al in the raraku desert, and re-emerge from the warren at the mouth of the vathar.

actually, there's a quote from kulp in DG regarding this. something about the elements asserting a constancy across the realms, iirc.
Bill Capossere
11. Billcap
"It seems Mr. Shadowthrone wasn't being completely forthcoming with Mr. Cotillion up to this point. Did HE know about the Talon and it's head?"

We'll certainliy see in other books that the two wouldn't always take the synchronized swimming pairs trophy. That's a good question re the Talons. I can't recall details coming up, but my gut instinct is no, based on how I think he'd react

Shalter--nice pick up on Onrack's name, completely missed that

Tek--I agree Cotillion was both seeing and trying to make that more human connection, which is part of why I find it so moving, especially to have it rejected so forcefully as he's swallowed into shadow

Thomstel: 'Proto-human"--that's the phrase I was looking for when writing this--thanks!
Sydo Zandstra
12. Fiddler
Bill said:

We'll certainly see in other books that the two wouldn't always take the synchronized swimming pairs trophy.

LOL! I will never look at ST and Cot in the same way again from now...
Robin Lemley
13. Robin55077
I have always felt that Nok believed Hawl was really dead when he spoke to Tavore. Unfortunately, I can't reference anything to back that up, just the way it has always felt to me.

The scene with Cot holding Hawl in his arms and being swallowed by the shadows....can anyone read that and not see it on the big screen? This is one of those WOW scenes for me.

I completely forgot about Cot tossing Hawl's talon to Crokus. It is amazing how much I forget sometimes.
Iris Creemers
14. SamarDev
@ Fid/Bill
hmm, reminds me of that hilarious Dutch commercial about two nicely moustached men who take synchronized swimming very serious...
You don't need to understand their chatter to enjoy the commercial (there is enough to see), but as they say at one moment: 'Synchromized swimming is a way of life'.

(btw, for those who have read RotCG: this is how I see Kyle's moustach too...)
karl oswald
15. Toster
what's up with no update? am i missing something here? is it not wednesday? i'm surprised i'm the first person to comment on this.
16. Kadere
What happened to the update?
karl oswald
17. Toster

*dramatic sting*
Bill Capossere
18. Billcap
Hey folks
sorry--post was delayed today (further notes from Obvious-World soon to come). It's been sent to our Tor overseers and should be up early tomorrow. Our apologies.
Bill Capossere
19. Billcap
Samar--great video! And luckily I could enjoy it and also have the two so removed that I don't have to picture ST and Dancer as those two every time they appear in the book--which would have not been good.

Robin--I have nothing I can recall that leads me to any concrete reason for thinking so, but I've also always felt Nok was telling the truth. No idea why--maybe I just like the tragic element of it.
karl oswald
20. Toster
i agree with you about Nok Bill. Nok always came off, to me, as a tired old man, who has nothing left but his commission as the empires admiral, and he puts all his efforts into it. he's kind of the one that got left behind as all his old friends were killed off and/or faked their deaths.

Much like Laseen, Nok is a true enigma (we get no POV), but i do get the feeling that when he's alone in his quarters, he drinks cup after cup of wine and wonders what it was all about. poor guy :(
Sydo Zandstra
21. Fiddler
I remember that one SamarDev. There is a second one/follow up too. I had two co-workers who looked a lot like these guys too at the time.

So, has the schedule moved up, or can we expect a double post tomorrow?
22. Karambha
Doesn't Nok swear to never touch land again because he thinks his wife is dead?

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