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 Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twenty-Four 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.
Gamet looks over the camp area, not happy with it. He thinks the army is nervous over “Tavore’s headlong approach into the maw of the enemy, to the battleground of their choosing.” Gamet himself wonders if this march is “suggesting what, exactly? A single-mindedness worthy of imitation or a failure of imagination?” Keneb comments that Dom has prepared for them by building ramps, smoothing the ramps, etc. Gamet says they should assume what is obvious to them is equally obvious to Tavore, to which Keneb says it’d be nice to have some confirmation of that. Gamet reminds him there will be two meetings of the offices before dawn. The two discuss how Tavore has placed Keneb’s legion (one third of the army) in charge of preventing the enemy from retreating, “a premature assumption of victory that whispered of madness.” Gamet assumes Tavore will hold back the horse warriors as well due to lack of space and also to cover a Malazan retreat. Gamet leaves to meet Tavore. From where they stand, they can see the enemy and Tavore points out Dom and Reloe, saying that Reloe has been seeking Malazan sorcerers and that Nil and Nether are safe from such scrying because they are with her (and her otataral sword). She asks him how confident he thinks Dom is feeling. He answers that Dom’s confidence is probably “wilting” because it all seems too easy and too much in his favor. Glancing at the Wickan sorcerers, Gamet is startled by how much they have each grown. After a moment, Tavore announces Reloe has finished his questing and will need to leave to rest. She removes her sword to a distance and asks Gamet to spill a few drops of blood on the ground for a Nil/Nether ritual. The two speak of “spirits . . . rising with anger . . . A song . . . of war and warriors . . . New and old . . . so very new and so very old. Battle and death, again and again. The land remembers every struggle played out on its surface, on all its surfaces from the very beginning . . . The goddess is as nothing to this power — yet she would steal . . . the warren. She would claim this fragment and settle it upon the land like a parasite. Roots of shadow, slipping down to draw sustenance, to feed on the land’s memories. And the spirits will not have it.” Tavore asks if the spirits are resisting and the two nod yes, and Nil says, “Ghosts casts no shadows. You were right Adjunct. Gods, you were right.” Tavore wants to know if “they will suffice,” but Nil says he doesn’t know; it’s dependent on if “the Talon Master does what you think he will do.” And if Sha’ik doesn’t know of “the viper in her midst,” adds Nether, to which Tavore replies that if Sha’ik had known she would have killed him. Nether, though, wonders if Sha’ik and the goddess were merely waiting until “all their enemies were gathered.” Gamet is shaken by the ritual (“something had used him”) and can hear “distant music, a song of voices and unrecognizable instruments.” He asks to be dismissed and Tavore tells him to return to his legion and tell his officers that “Units may appear during the battle on the morrow which you will not recognize. They may seek orders, and you are to give them as if they were under your command.” He walks off, his headache worsening, feeling “the song seemed to have poisoned his veins, a music of flesh and bone that hinted of madness.” He thinks as he leaves, “Leave me to peace, damn you . I am naught but a soldier. A soldier.”
Fiddler sits on a boulder having tossed off his helmet. He feels “waves of pain that rose and fell like a storm-tossed sea . . . The song had burgeoned sudden and fierce in his skull.” Bottle uses sorcery to quest into him then to heal him by creating “a spreading silence. Blissful peace.” He looks up and finally is aware of his squad around him. When Bottle asks if Fiddler can hear him now, Fiddler says yes, but faintly, as if from a distance. Bottle and Fiddler are left alone and Bottle tells Fiddler that spirits are awakening and they came to Fiddler because of “Mortal blood has its own song. They remember it. They came to you Sergeant, eager to add their voices to it. To you.” When Fiddler asks why him Bottle says he doesn’t know, though Fiddler senses that is a lie and then asks, “You think it’s because I’m fated to die here at his battle. Bottle, unable to meet Fiddler’s eyes, says he’s not sure about much or what it has to do with Fiddler. Fiddler tells him “I’m a Bridgeburner, lad. The Bridgeburners were born here. In Raraku’s crucible.” Bottle points out that the Bridgeburners were wiped out and Fiddler says yes, they were. After some silence, Bottle says it won’t be the “usual battle” and Fiddler corrects him that there isn’t such a thing; “There’s nothing usual about killing and dying, about pain and terror.” When Bottle objects that isn’t what he meant, Fiddler says he knows, “But wars these days are fraught with sorcery and munitions, so you come to expect surprises.” The two cattle dogs from the Chain of Dogs pass by and Bottle says, “This place is complicated.” He picks up a rock and says “Eres ‘al. A hand-axe — the basin down there’s littered with them . . . Took days to make one of these, then they didn’t even use them — they just flung them into the lake . . . Why make a tool then not use it?” Fiddler asks what he’s talking about and Bottle explains the Eres, according to his grandmother, were “The Dwellers who lived in the time before the Imass, the first makers of tools, the first shapers of their world . . . I never expected to meet one — it was there, she was there in that song within you . . . I shared her mind. She was the one who gifted you the silence . . . I asked and she showed mercy.” When Bottle mentions the song again, Fiddler thinks of Kimloc, that “he did it anyway. He stole my story — not just mine, but the Bridgeburners’ — and he made of it a song. The bastard’s gone and given us back to Raraku.” Fiddler thanks Bottle for his help and Bottle says he’ll pass it on to the Eres witch next time he meets her. As Bottle leaves, Fiddler wonders what Bottle hadn’t told him about the Eres witch that made him thinks he’d see her again. He also wonders if this will indeed be his last battle, if he was “being called to join the fallen Bridgeburners. Not so bad, then. Couldn’t ask for more miserable company. Damn, but I miss them. I miss them all. Even Hedge.” He looks over the basin and thinks “You too Kalam Mekhar. I wonder if you know why you’re here.”
In Leoman’s camp, a shaman finishes performing a ritual. Leoman asks what he saw and the shaman says armies and when Leoman says that’s pretty obvious, the shaman says “No. More armies!” Leoman tells Corabb to go to Sha’ik and find out how Mathok’s tribes will be set up. The shaman screams, “They are here! The dogs, Leoman! The dogs! The Wickan dogs!” Leoman thinks him crazy. On the way, Corabb finds Leoman’s previous messenger dead on the trail. As he continues on, he feels two sharp blows against his back nearly knocking him off the horse. He regains his mount and rides on, realizing that what had saved him was that the two crossbow bolts fired at him had struck the lance shaft he was wearing on his back.
Heboric thinks Scillara’s mind is clearing of the durhang. He tells her he wants to find L’oric and wants her to go with them, and then they’ll go to Felisin. He tells her no one is going to command or manipulate her, and she tells him “very well, lead me into the darkness.” He answers, “I shall, as soon as it arrives.”
Sha’ik looks at the Malazan army digging in, then at Dom also watching the Malazans. She thinks now that they’re all in place it all seems so “pointless. The game of murderous tyrants, pushing their armies forward into an inevitable clash. Coldly disregarding of the lives that would be lost in the appeasement of their brutal desires. What value this mindless hunger to rule? What do you want with us, Empress Lassen! Seven Cities will never rest easy beneath your yoke. You shall have to enslave, and what is gained by that? And what of her own goddess? Was she any different from Laseen? Every claw was outstretched, eager to grasp, to rend, to soak the sand red with gore. But Raraku does not belong to you, dear Dryjhna . . . This desert is holy unto itself. And not it rails . . . against one and all.” Mathok interrupts her thoughts to point out Tavore across the way. Sha’ik comments on Reloe’s failed attempt to find Tavore’s High Mages or “unsuspected allies” but blocked by the sword, he finds only a few squad mages. Mathok identifies Nil and Nether and when Sha’ik says they were “broken of spirit” by the Chain of Dogs, he wonders if they might not be more capable than thought since Tavore is hiding them in her sword’s shadow. Sha’ik says perhaps it is simply to hide their weakness or to sow doubt. But then Reloe leaves and Sha’ik feels the surprising power of the Wickans’ ritual: “the goddess within her flinched back — as if stung . . . for Raraku was answering the summons, a multitude of voices, rising in song, rising in raw, implacable desire — the sound, Sha’ik realized, of countless souls straining against the chains that bound them. Chains of shadow. Chains like roots. From this torn, alien fragment of warren. This piece of shadow that has risen to bind their souls and so feeds upon the life force.” She asks Mathok where Leoman is, knowing suddenly that they need him. She spies Dom, “studying the enemy with an air of supreme confidence that made Sha’ik want to scream. Nothing — nothing was as it seemed.” The sun drops down in a “crimson conflagration. The day was drowning in a sea of flame, and she watched shadows flowing across the land, her heart growing cold.”
Exiting his tent, Heboric asks Scillara if she hears what he does. At first she says it’s the wind but then, realizing there is none, listens then says “a song. From far away — the Malazan army, do you think?” He shakes his head no, but says nothing. The streets are empty, due to fear Heboric believes. Scillara wonders where the girls are, Bidithal’s spies. Heboric realizes with them gone, Bidithal is blind. He tells her “There will be events this night. Blood will be spilled. The players are, no doubt, even now drawing into position.” She replies that Bidithal had told her the world would change this night, and Heboric calls him a fool sunk in the Abyss. Scillara tells him Bidithal “dreams of true Darkness . . . Shadow is but an upstart, a realm born of compromise and filled with imposters. The fragments must be returned to the First Mother.” To which Heboric answers that Bidithal is worse than a fool; he is mad, mad to think he is a force “worthy” to involve himself in “the most ancient of battles.” She warns him that Bidithal had said something was coming that only Bidithal “has any hope of controlling . . for he alone remembers the Dark.” As they turn to head to Bidithal’s temple, two of Dom’s killers appear but are quickly slain by Heboric. Then three crossbow bolts take him down, wounding him badly. He tells her to flee to the stone forest and she does. A trio of killers close in and as Heboric waits for the final blow, there is silence then someone standing over him and someone else standing near his feet. The assassins tell the “wraiths” to leave, but the newcomers answers “Too late for that assassin . . . Besides, we’ve only just arrived.” One of the assassins tries to banish the wraiths in the name of Hood, but the ghost just laughs and replies “Kneel before Hood do you? Oh yes, I felt the power in your words. Alas, Hood’s out of his depth on this one. Ain’t that right, lass?” The other ghost grunts in agreement. The assassin gives a final warning, saying their “sanctioned” blades will “bleed your souls.” The ghost says that’s assuming the blades will ever touch them, and when the assassin responds there are “but two of you and three of us,” the ghost simply replies “Two?” Heboric hears the sound of a scuffle, then blood spraying on the ground. One of his saviors says they should have kept an assassin alive to send back to “that fly-blown Napan bastard with a promise for the morrow” but the first says it’s better this way to keep the surprise. One ghost wonders if Heboric will live and another says since he’s Treach’s Destriant, probably. They hear Scillara returning and leave, saying to each other that they won’t surprise anyone else until the dawn. Scillara arrives and tells Heboric there were soldiers there that “didn’t look too good.” Heboric says never mind them and has her pull the quarrels out so he can heal, then drag him back to his temple. He blacks out.
Sha’ik stares down on the armor of her predecessor, which includes a full visored helm, overly large with a web of chain over the eye-slits. She puts it on (its magically lightened), all save the gauntlets and helm, then pauses, wondering: “Have I any choice in all this? The goddess remained a towering presence in her mind, rooted through every muscle and fiber, her voice whispering in the flow of blood in her veins and arteries. Ascendant power was in Sha’ik’s grasp, and she knew she would use it when the time came. Or, rather, it would use her. To kill her sister.” L’oric enters her tent wearing white armor. He mentions the more than 300 warriors Mathok has set to guard her palace and when she says Mathok is overly cautious, that the Malazans are far away, he replies that it isn’t the Malazans that Mathok worries about. She answers, “The goddess protects me. I have nothing to fear.” He warns her there will be a convergence this night, that ascendants are gathering, that treachery is “in the air,” that “Raraku is awakening.” She waves it all off, saying, “None of it matters. I cannot be touched. Nor will the goddess be denied . . . The rage of the goddess consumes all, L’oric. If you can hear the voice of the Holy Desert, then it is Raraku’s death-cry. The Whirlwind shall devour this night. And any ascendant power foolish enough to approach will be annihilated. The goddess, L’oric, will not be denied.” L’oric looks at her, than “seemed to sag beneath is armor. He drew a hand across his eyes, as if seeking to claw some nightmarish vision from his sight.” Before he leaves, a pair of guards drag Corabb in. He tells her he is the third and only surviving messenger from Leoman, that assassins have been behind him the whole way. She calls for Mathok and has L’oric heal Corabb of his exhaustion. Sha’ik then orders Corabb to return, escorted, to Leoman and tell him to come back and assume command. She orders L’oric to inform Dom of this. He leaves, making his warren visible to potential enemies. He passes through the reserve trenches where the Dogslayers are, thinking how they had “made of themselves a separate force. Marked by the butchery of their deeds. By the focus of Malazan outrage. They know that no quarter will be given them . . . Their lives were in Korbolo Dom’s stained hands. Entirely. They will not sleep this night.” He wonders if they will mutiny if Leoman tries to assume command and thinks maybe Sha’ik waited too long, though he also considers the possibility that she did so on purpose so Dom would be caught by surprise, with no time to counter her move. He tells the guards outside Dom’s tent he’s come from Sha’ik, and the sorceress Henaras comes out to tell him he has to release his warren first. He agrees to, saying he is under her protection. She asks protection from whom and he simply smiles. Inside, Dom sits in a huge chair: “The high headrest was carved in arcane symbols that L’oric recognized — with a shock — as Hengese, from the ancient city of Li Heng in the heart of the Malazan Empire. Dominating the carvings was a stylized rendition of a raptor’s talons, outstretched, that hovered directly over [Dom’s] head. Dom calls L’oric a fool for coming to him, though he adds, “Granted, you might have assumed we were allies.” L’oric begins to say Sha’ik demands Dom’s presence but Dom interrupts, “To relieve me of my command, yes. With the ill-informed belief that my Dogslayers will accept Leoman.” L’oric asks if Dom will betray the Apocalypse and when Dom says “if Sha’ik insists,” L’oric responds it’s the Goddess he needs to worry about, “and I believe her toleration of you is about to end.” Dom, though, says he doubts the goddess will destroy the Dogslayers, her own army. L’oric pauses a moment, then answers “I see now the flaw. You have approached this tactically, as would any soldier. But what you clearly do not understand is that the Whirlwind Goddess is indifferent to tactics, to grand strategies. You rely upon her common sense but she has none. The battle tomorrow? Victory or defeat? The goddess cares neither way. She desires destruction. The Malazans butchered on the field, the Dogslayers slaughtered in their trenches, an enfilade of sorcery to transform the sands of Raraku into a red ruin. This is what the Whirlwind Goddess desires.” Dom scoffs, saying the goddess can’t reach him in this “sanctified place,” but L’oric can see him sweating and calls him a fool, saying the goddess won’t bother with him herself. When Dom asks if L’oric refers to himself, L’oric says he’s not even a messenger, just the “voice of common sense . . . It is not who she will send against you, Supreme Commander. It is, I believe, who she will allow through her defenses.” Dom gestures and a knife strikes L’oric from behind. Not a killing blow because L’oric never fully released his defenses, his “innermost layers of Kurald Thyrllan,” but he is driven to his knees, “bleeding into the weave.” As he hears Dom shouting orders, he thinks, “Blood is the path, you foolish man. And you have opened it. You poor bastard.”
Greyfrog tells Felisin he has to leave her due to “an invitation from my brother.” To her question about whether L’oric was in trouble, he says “There is darkness this night, yet the Mother’s face is turned away. What comes cannot be chained . . . My brother can come to no further harm, but my path is made clear. Glee. I shall eat humans this night . . . The shadows are fraught — no path is entirely clear, even that of blood.” He tells her to stay in the grove until dawn and that a potential ally is coming. Scillara arrives, saying Heboric sent her, adding that assassins tried to kill him and he is healing in his tent/temple.
The Tiste Liosan overlook the oasis. That withdraw so as not to be noticed by Karsa passing by: He was huge . . . Astride a horse to match. And a thousand ravaged souls trailed him, bound by ethereal chains that he dragged as if indifferent to their weight. A sword of stone hung from his back, and it was possessed by twin spirits raging with bloodthirst.” After he passes, Jorrude tells the others the trespassers are camped in the Malazan army and at dawn the Liosan will strike them. As they head into the hills, Jorrude checks to make sure Karsa hadn’t seen them hiding, thinking “Hiding. Yes, that is the truth of it, ignoble as the truth often proves to be.” He thanks Osric Karsa hadn’t seen them.
Karsa watches the Liosan ride away, thinking “there were enemies aplenty awaiting him in the oasis, and no night lasted forever. Alas.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four
Hmm, the Eres ‘al seem to be very much wild spirits, a wild people who draw power from the land — not quite sure how they fit in right now, but it creeps me out that one of them is now carrying the seed of Trull. [Bill: Oh, they’ll do more than “fit in” — file in a large folder.]
I love the theme and imagery that has followed through the whole book (and, in fact, previous books) about Raraku once being a great sea. Here we see the ridges of coral that were once beneath water. [Bill: Hmm, wonder if there might be a reason for this running imagery?]
It seems such a shame that both Gamet and Tavore now have this lack of faith and belief in the other. Mind you, I can’t fathom whether Tavore ever felt faith in Gamet — it seems as though she only has faith in herself and possibly the mysterious T’amber (who I am becoming increasingly curious about — especially because we’ve seen nothing of her so far in this novel. Everything has taken place off-screen. Who is she? What is she?) [Bill: Must. Not. Reply. Must. Not. Type...]
In a previous chapter we’ve seen Leoman take himself out of the battle, so now cold iron battles against hot iron — even though both Tavore and Korbolo Dom are employing Malazan battle techniques. And now we hear that Tavore is certain of victory (“They were to guard avenues of retreat, not for their own forces, but those the enemy might employ. A premature assumption of victory that whispered of madness.) Is Tavore so very certain? What does she know, if so? Or is it more that she is trying to build confidence in her troops?
I feel great sadness every time I read about the manner in which Nether and Nil have changed since the Chain of Dogs. Both of them still showing signs of grief and immense loss.
Wow! What a great scene — where we discover that Tavore has known a GREAT deal more than we ever suspected (or, certainly, than I ever expected!) She knows about the song, right? The spirits that are there and not there that Kalam saw. Is it going to be that an army of the dead will come to assist Tavore? Brought by the Bridgeburners to protect Raraku from the goddess who wishes to steal? So who has been talking to Tavore? And WHO IS THE TALON MASTER? I should have made a guess by now, I’m sure, but my mind is utterly blank. Please let it not be Bidithal. [Bill: We can give you that solace; it is not Bidithal.]
And Bottle is another that seems to be greater than he at first appears. His use of Hood in a previous scene and Fiddler’s surprise at such is telling. Now we know that Bottle can feel the rise of the spirits that are so drawn to Fiddler. These spirits include those who were there at the dawning — these eres’al. Why doesn’t Fiddler let anyone know that there are still members of the Bridgeburners alive. What makes him so convinced that this will be his final battle? Hmm, in the past we’ve spoken about a surrendering before ascending — death possibly being part of this. Does this mean that Fiddler has to die before the Bridgeburners can ascend? Or is it that they will remain completely tied to Raraku?
And will I ever write a commentary on these Malazan books in the future that isn’t just formed of a lot of questions? *grin* [Bill: No.]
Those quarrels that are presenting Leoman’s messages from getting through — I suspect Kalam. I know that Corabb isn’t about to fall here though since you lot have mentioned how awesome he is! Sort of suggests he’ll be sticking around a little bit.
It was truly painful seeing what happened to Scillara before her rescue by Heboric. I totally see the similarities in this situation and the one concerning Heboric and Felisin. It’s as though he’s been given a chance to put right what happened with Felisin.
How true is this?
“Perhaps, he reflected with a grimace, this talent for intuitive thinking was a woman’s alone...”
Poor Heboric — totally out of his depth!
How is it that Sha’ik is suddenly able to see matters so clearly? Up until now she has been entirely fogged by the presence of the goddess. Is this because of the few minutes that she spent outside of the goddess’ influence while with Heboric? Or is it just that it suits the story for her to make these perceptive discoveries? This, for me, feels a little clumsy; that Sha’ik is changing just to suit the story.
Hmm, this “something” that is coming, the something that Bidithal knows is on its way — is this relating to what Heboric saw when he was amongst the stars? The massive jade statues? Is this Dark the actual villain of the piece?
Who protected Heboric? They sounded like Malazans, by their style of talk and irreverence. In fact, they sounded like Bridgeburners...are the dead walking?
And now we see Sha’ik sinking back into the chains of the goddess — is it just that she is having moments of lucidity? After the previous conversations she’s had with L’oric, I would have thought she would pay him some attention when he tells her that the desert itself is rising!
Haha! Korbolo Dom calls himself “Supreme Commander of the Apocalypse”! That is incredibly amusing, given the disdain with which virtually everyone holds him.
Although...is Korbolo Dom the Talon Master? “Dominating the carvings was a stylized rendition of a raptor’s talons, outstretched, that hovered directly over the head of the seated Napan, who sat slouched, his hooded gaze fixed on the High Mage.” Or is this symbolism of the fact that he is a target? [Bill: Yes.]
Oh, I do adore Greyfrog — he is my new favouritist character, with sentences like these: “Leave not this glade until the sun rises, dearest she whom I would marry, regardless of little chance for proper broods. Besotted. Suddenly eager to depart.”
Pah, the Tiste Liosan seem so inept!
Looks to me as though Chapter Twenty Five might well be explosive!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four
Soldiers on a long march. Soldiers unsure of what Tavore plans. Officers a bit confused and worried. Tavore not communicating much. A desert. We’ve mentioned before how much of Tavore’s march was a retracing in many ways of Coltaine. I’ll just say it’s also an eerily prescient echo of a situation to come far, far down the road. But you’ll see all this just listed again.
I can see why Gamet and Keneb might think Tavore, outnumbered and fighting on her enemy’s chosen and carefully prepared ground, might seem mad in preparing for victory (by setting up to prevent a retreat by the rebels), but they don’t have the advantage we as readers do of seeing her replaying those old battles again and again and again. Or of hearing Leoman’s logical analysis that Laseen must have chosen Tavore for some reason.
So we know by now where this is all heading — the dead walking, ghosts of Malazans, probably Bridgeburners past returning to Raraku. We’ve had lots of hints about restless spirits, had Kalam meet marching dead soldiers, etc. Now our foreshadowing is becoming more direct, more blunt. Here we have Nil and Nether speaking of “war and warriors new and old . . . so very old. Battle and death, again and again.” Later we’ll have Leoman’s shaman talk of armies besides the obvious ones, and the Wickan dogs.
We also have had lots of lines pointing us to a conflict between the Goddess and Raraku, and again, Nil and Nether now give us a more clear, precise description, with them saying the Goddess is trying to claim this particular Kurald Emurlahn fragment and use it as a “parasite” to send its “roots of shadows” into Raraku and feed on its memories.
This directness and clarity continues as we learn that Tavore, rather than marching “blindly” has in fact been planning this, has been counting on it. And that her plans also involve anticipating the Talon Master (Dom).
Less directly, not the increasing pressure in Gamet’s head and his own sensitivity to the song; a bit more foreshadowing there for us.
Also less direct is Tavore’s statement that strange army units may appear tomorrow to aid the Malazans, but given the use of “ghosts” and all we’ve had up to this point, it isn’t too hard to see what is strongly implied by her statement. That said, while I appreciate the need or at least the desire for the author to be somewhat cryptic, one would think she’d be more precise so as to better prepare her officers for what is coming. After all, “strange” doesn’t quite do it justice I’d say.
Amanda pointed out, and we’ve done so along the way, of how Erikson always keeps in front of us the physicality of Raraku’s marine past. But what I enjoy even more is when the marine imagery goes beyond the physical, as it does with the description of Fiddler almost breaking under the song: “waves of pain that rose and fell like a storm-tossed sea.” All this imagery is leading us somewhere. If the once-living past can rise in the form of spirits and ghosts, and if the land is constantly being referenced as being “alive,” then....
This is a classic war movie scene, the gruff seasoned old war veteran and the wide-eyed young soldier, the vet telling the kid things like “there’s nothing usual about killing and dying, about pain and terror” and that battles come with surprises. One can almost hear the plaintive harmonica sound in the background....
Love those dogs, by the way.
Why make a tool not to use it? Indeed. Begging the question — what is the tool (or are the tools)? And what is its (their) purpose?
As I mentioned, file the Eres’al — that’s gonna be a biggie.
How many Corabb scenes do you want to see on film? All of them, like me?
It’s a good question, Amanda, about these seemingly larger moments of lucidity Sha’ik has in this chapter, coming after the last few where we’ve seen her in such a fog. We’ve been told she has these moments, so it isn’t out of nowhere. But it is a bit convenient. Perhaps one could argue the Goddess is a bit distracted with all that’s going on and so leaves Sha’ik a bit more leeway now and then as she (the Goddess) sends her attention elsewhere.
Her comments about Laseen “having to enslave” to hold onto Seven Cities are interesting as we’ve seen that while the Empire certainly has occupied the country, “enslavement” might be not quite the right word based on what we’ve seen (sometimes via the eyes of Seven Cities natives) of how the Empire has improved the lives of many in this continent.
The sea imagery is one running line throughout the novel. If one rivals it for frequency, it would of course be the titular “chains” that we see again and again. Here we get it in Sha’ik’s vision of the Desert spirits rising up “straining against the chains that bound them. Chains of shadow. Chains like roots.” With all this imagery we get throughout of the negative connotation of Chains, it is good to stop and think of to whom that image is most often connected — the Chained God — and why he is called that.
Not a great omen for Sha’ik, that sunset. And we get more of the water imagery with the day “drowning in a sea of flame.” I’ll also just say that “conflagration” and “flame,” the opposites of water, have their own place in this series, and especially with connection to whom Sha’ik is just thinking of.
Scillara’s lines to Heboric are not the first time we’ve had the warning that “something is coming.” Here that something is connected directly to the Dark. Think of what we know is out there that is fearful and associated with true Dark.
I always really enjoy this scene with the dead Malazan soldiers saving Heboric. Love the byplay and dry wit. And that wonderfully pithy “two? And now we’re certainly clear about what’s going to be facing Dom’s group the next day — lots of dead Malazans it seems.
I spend some time quoting the description of Sha’ik’s armor because I think all those details about the helm have a purpose — read those lines again and you’ll see just how concealing that helm is as to what lies beneath it, how much it hides of the person wearing it. That’s going to be important.
It’s a bit uneven to me, Sha’ik wondering to herself if she has a choice in accepting this armor, in killing her sister, while having the Goddess rooted in her in such toto, then so cavalierly dismissing L’oric’s warning because the Goddess is so powerful as to consume all. I’m not quite sure how to read this — the first seems like the Goddess is not consuming everything as Sha’ik can still question what is happening and the second seems like a surety the fist Sha’ik wouldn’t have. If that makes sense.
Perhaps what is happening here is that the first question comes from a Sha’ik still unsure and in those few moments in between, she is no longer unsure, that her statement “the goddess will not be denied” is more answer to herself — do I have a choice in this — than to L’oric. It seems a bit abrupt to me, but I can live with that interpretation. Anyone else?
My personal additional evidence for this reading is L’oric’s reaction to her statement — the way he looks at her, “sags,” then wipes that “nightmarish vision” from his sight. To me, what he is seeing and hearing is Felisin’s surrender to Sha’ik to the Goddess. What deflates him is the realization she is utterly lost — that is the nightmare vision. Anyone differ?
Poor Corabb — barely makes it here, gets force healed, and has to turn around and go right back.
Well, I’d say Dom’s throne answers the question as to who styles himself Master of the Talons.
I’m a big fan of echoes, so when L’oric tells Dom he screwed up because he accorded the Goddess some interest in tactics and strategy, I just enjoy thinking of all the times those two words have popped up already in this book, and how (I’m pretty sure), Sha’ik at one point had told us the Goddess had no interest in them. Lots of bricklaying.
Erikson isn’t always above the cheap moment, as I’ve pointed out here and there — the cheap tease — but it is relatively rare. Here I like that he is restrained and doesn’t offer up one of those times with L’oric getting stabbed, ending the scene with a “My god, is he dead?” moment (though, as we know, and as will play a large role momentarily, there’s “dead” and there’s “DEAD,” not to mention “DeAd” and “DEAd,” etc).
With so many characters, Erikson allows himself lots of freedom to create all sorts of voices. Kruppe’s of course is one. Pust’s another. Karsa. We can add Greyfrog to that list as well. I happen to enjoy them all, though Karsa’s I enjoy more for its satirical (what I read as satirical) nature rather than the voice itself which can be grating to me.
A moment of seemingly rare introspection and honest appraisal from a Tiste Liosan as Jorrude does not pretend that their hiding was anything but hiding in fear (as opposed to a tactical retreat so as to...).
Well, I said before just about everyone was here but Karsa. We’re ready to go (with a few bit actors to still show).
Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.
Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.