Oct 21 2011 1:00pm

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

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


Sha’ik considers the Whirlwind Goddess and her own past. Since she first had let the goddess in, she has at times “caught a glimpse of that girl. As she once had been . . . Round-cheeked and flushed, a wide smile and bright eyes. A child with a brother who adored her, who would toss her about on one knee as if he was a bucking horse, and her squeals of fear and delight would fill the chamber.” Her mother had the gift of visions and younger Felisin had hoped she would share that gift, and now she has them from the goddess: “this spiteful, horrific creature whose soul was more parched and withered than any desert . . . [the visions] were the conjurings of fear. A goddess’s fear.” While she recognizes the goddess’s power, Sha’ik labels it “bitter with age, bilious with malice . . . [bearing] the sour taste of betrayal. A heart-piercing, very personal betrayal. Something that should have healed, that should have numbed . . . Spiteful pleasure had kept the wound open, had fed its festering heat, until hate was all that was left. Hate for someone.” Looking at it reasonably, Sha’ik can see this hate is insane, is out of all proportion to the crime against the goddess—“the proportions had begun wrong”—which makes her think the goddess pre-ascendancy was already deeply and darkly flawed, already perhaps insane or on the road toward insanity: “Step by step we walk the most horrendous paths. Stride tottering along the edge of an unsuspected abyss. Companions see nothing amiss. The world seems a normal place. Step by step, no different from everyone else—not from the outside. Not even from the inside. Apart from that tautness, that whisper of panic. The vague confusion that threatens your balance.” Felisin/Sha’ik sees this because “she had walked that same path. Hatred, sweet as nectar. I have walked into the abyss. I am as mad as the goddess. And this is why she chose me, for we are kindred souls . . . Why do I persist in my belief that I can save myself? That I can return, find once more the place where madness cannot be found, where confusion does not exist. The place of childhood.” Armored in her tent, she can feel the goddess reaching to embrace her—“not a mother’s embrace, no, nothing like that at all. This one would suffocate her entirely, would drown out all light, every glimmer of self-awareness. Her ego is armored in hatred . . . Her walk is a shamble, cramped and stiff, a song of rusty fittings and creaking straps . . . Felisin Paran, hold this mirror up at your peril.” As dawn begins, she reaches for her helm.


L’oric is surprised at the lack of movement in the Dogslayer trenches. As he moves toward Sha’ik’s forward position, he wonders at his sense that last night somehow Darkness had been defeated. He feels too that this fragment of Kurald Emurlahn is waking and the goddess is readying herself to claim it, “to fashion a throne. To devour Raraku.” He notes the ghosts of soldiers still in the shadows and can hear them singing, the Tanno song changed now to one more “pensive, mournful.” He wonders why the ghost soldiers are there, whom they will fight for. He knows the Tanno song belongs to the Bridgeburners, but senses “the Holy Desert itself had claimed it . . . And every soul that had fallen in battle in the desert’s immense history was now gathered in this place.” As he nears Sha’ik’s hill, he sees Mathok’s soldiers but, worryingly, neither Mathok himself nor his personal tribe. Leoman and Karsa appear behind him, Karsa badly wounded, “his hands a crimson ruin. One leg had been chewed by vicious, oversized jaws.” Behind their horses they drag the heads of the two Deragoth Karsa killed. When he sees Karsa’s stone sword, L’oric thinks, “He is indeed the one, then. I think the Crippled God has made a terrible mistake.” Karsa tells them he killed Febryl and Bidithal, but couldn’t find Dom or Heboric to kill them as well. Though, he adds, he did find the corpses of Reloe and Henaras. Leoman and Karsa tell L’oric the Dogslayers have all been slaughtered by the ghosts of Raraku and Leoman says they can still win with the desert warriors; they just have to convince Sha’ik to leave so they can regroup. L’oric tells him the goddess is almost there and so it’s too late—“Moments from being too late for everything.” The step over the ridge and see Sha’ik. Leoman realizes “I’m not in time. Oh, gods below” and then he opens his warren, jumps toward Sha’ik, and disappears.


The goddess savors her memories, her anger and hate having carved them “as mockingly solid and real-seeming” as the petrified trees. “The hate was all that mattered now. Her fury at his [her betrayer’s] weaknesses. Oh, others in the tribe played those games often enough . . . she herself had more than once spread her legs to another woman’s husband . . . But her heart had been given to the one man with whom she lived. That law was sacrosanct. Oh, but he’d been so sensitive. His hands following his eyes in the fashioning of forbidden images of that other woman, there in the hidden places. He’d used those hands to close about his own heart, to give it to another—without a thought as to who had once held it for herself. Another, who would not even give her heart in return—she had seen to that, with . . . accusations. Enough to encourage the others to banish her forever. But not before the bitch killed all but one of her kin . . . Her rage had not died with the Ritual, had not died when she herself—too shattered to walk—had been severed from the Vow and left in a place of eternal darkness.” Local spirits had “drawn close in sympathy” and she’d fed on them, taken their powers. “She had a purpose. The children swarmed the surface of the world. And who was their mother? None other than the bitch who had been banished. And their father? Oh yes, she went to him. On that last night. She did. He reeked of her when they dragged him into the light . . . Vengeance was a beast long straining at its chains. Vengeance was all she had ever wanted. Vengeance was about to be unleashed . . . The children will die. I will cleanse the world of their beget, the proud-eyed vermin born, one and all, of that single mother. Of course she could not join the ritual. A new world waited within her. And now at last, I shall rise again. Clothed in the flesh of one such child, I shall kill that world.” She sees a tunnel opening and looks forward to feeling again, to breathing, to killing.


Sha’ik moves down the hill. She hears shouts behind her and recognizes the voices of Karsa and Leoman. She knows they’d take her place, “But they cannot. This fight belongs to me. And the goddess.”


Keneb enters Tavore’s tent as she armors herself and he tells her Gamet has died from a clot in his brain. She has to steady herself on the table, then begins to order him to get T’amber when a messenger rushes in to say Sha’ik has walked into the basin and offered a challenge to Tavore. She thinks for a moment, belays her order about T’amber, then dismisses them. Outside, the messenger asks Keneb if he thinks Tavore will fight Sha’ik. He says yes, but there will be a battle anyway. Keneb goes to T’amber’s tent and calls her. She steps out, armored and weaponed, and he tells her that Tavore has just been informed of Gamet’s death and of a personal challenge from Sha’ik. He says Tavore might want help with her armor. But T’amber replies, “Not this morning, Captain. I understand your motives. But no.” Keneb thinks, surprised, “I do not understand women,” then turns to see Tavore exit her tent, fully armored and wearing a helm with no visor to cover her eyes. He follows her.


L’oric forces himself through a blackwood forest filled with shadow wraiths; he is seeking the goddess. He sees fire and runs toward it, sees it is her, the flames confirming his suspicion: “An Imass, trailing the chains of Telann, the Ritual shattered—oh, she has no place her, no place at all. Chthonic spirits swarmed her burning body, the accretions of power she had gathered unto herself over hundreds of thousands of years. Hatred and spite had twisted them all into malign, vicious creatures. Marsh water and mold had blackened the limbs of the Imass. Moss covered the torso . . .Ropes of snarled gray hair hung down . . . From her scorched eye sockets, living flames licked out . . . The goddess was keening. As he nears, L’oric sees she is stuck in a web of vines, wrapped around her arms and legs and body: “they were flickering, one moment there, the other gone—although no less an impediment for their rhythmic disappearance—and they were changing. Into chains. L’oric yells to her that Sha’ik isn’t strong enough for the goddess but she answers “My child! Mine! I stole her from the bitch! Mine!” L’oric has no idea what she is talking about, but he offers himself in Sha’ik’s place. Before she can respond, he is stabbed from behind, a killing blow had he been human. The assassin is about to cut his throat when another says there’s no time, warning that the goddess is breaking the chains. L’oric drops to the ground and sees the assassins, with sorcery-invested knives, kill the goddess: “a prolonged, brutal butchering. Korbolo’s Talons . . . waiting in ambush, guided here by Febryl.” He watches the goddess kill three of the four assassins, but “more chains ensnared the goddess, dragging her down, and L’oric could see the fires dying in her eye sockets, could see spirits writhe away, suddenly freed and eager to flee. And the last killer darted in, hammering down with his knife. Through the top of the skull . . . both skull and blade shattered . . . Chains snaked over the fallen body of the goddess, nothing visible was left of her, the black iron links heaped and glistening.” The wind dies and all goes silent. L’oric thinks “They all wanted the shattered warren. This fraught prize. But Toblakai killed Febryl. He killed the two Deragoth. He killed Bidithal. And as for Korbolo Dom—something tells me the Empress will soon speak to him in person. The poor bastard.” He realizes he is dying, but then Osric appears and tells him this is what he gets for sending his familiar away again. He adds L’oric’s room hasn’t changed since L’oric left the keep (which Osric hasn’t seen in centuries). L’oric wonders if the keep is still standing and Osric says, “It still stands, son. I always keep my options open.” He gathers L’oric in his arms to bring him to his old room to heal him. L’oric is surprised, at his age, how much at peace he feels “in his father’s arms.” At least, until his father says “Now how in Hood’s name do we get out of here?


Sha’ik stumbles, feeling the goddess’ departure. She sees Tavore descending the hill toward her and around them, ringing the ridge and the islands of coral, the armies watching. She feels herself again: “She is gone. I have been abandoned. I was Sha’ik, once. No, I am Felisin once more. And here, walking towards me, is the one who betrayed me. My sister. She remembered watching Tavore and Ganoes playing with wooden swords . . . Had the world beyond not changed—had all stood still, the way children loved to believe it would—she would have had her turn. The clack of wood, Ganoes laughing and gently instructing her—there was joy and comfort to her brother . . . but she’d never had the chance for that. No chance, in fact, for much of anything that could now return to her, memories warm and trusting and reassuring. Instead, Tavore had dismembered their family. And for Felisin, the horrors of slavery and the mines. But blood is the chain that can never break [She sees Tavore draw her sword] And though we leave the house of our birth, it never leaves us [she is surprised to find her own sword drawn] No catching up. No falling back. How could there be? We are ever the same years apart. The chain never draws taut. Never slackens. Its length is prescribed. But its weight, oh, its weight ever varies. [she feels light, “perfect”]. But for me, the blood is heavy. So heavy. And Felisin struggled against it—that sudden overwhelming weight. Struggled to raise her arms—unthinking of how that motion would be received. Tavore, it’s all right.” Then her sword is knocked out of her hand and “something punched into her chest, a stunning blossom of cold fire piercing through flesh, bone . . . Felisin looked down to see that rust-hued bald impaling her.” She falls back and looks up to see Tavore standing over her, “a figure standing behind a web of black, twisted iron wire that now rested cool over her eyes, tickling her lashes. A figure who now stepped closer. To set one bot down hard on her chest—a weight that, now that it had arrived, seemed eternal.” Tavore pulls the sword free: “Blood. Of course. This is how you break the unbreakable chain. By dying. I just wanted to know Tavore, why you did it. And why you did not love me, when I loved you. I—I think that’s what I wanted to know. The boot lifted from her chest. But she could still feel its weight. Heavy. So very heavy. Oh, Mother, look at us now.”


Karsa catches Leoman as he nearly drops to the ground in response to seeing Sha’ik killed. He tells Karsa “she did not know how to fight,” and Karsa agrees. He wonders why the Malazan army isn’t cheering and Leoman guesses, “They probably hate the bitch.” Leoman plans on riding to Y’Ghatan but Karsa says he won’t join them. The two make their farewells.


Lostara and Pearl walk down the hill carrying Dom. Tavore stands over Felisin’s body, but is looking instead at the standard raised over the Dogslayer trenches—Coltaine’s standard, the Crow Clan. Lostara recalls their journey to the basin: “Kurald Emurlahn swarmed the entire oasis, as shadows warred with ghosts, and the incessant rise and fall of that song grew audible enough for Lostara to sense, if not hear. A song still climbing in crescendo.” Lostara though can only think of how she and Pearl had come too late, had come only in time to see Tavore kill her own sister: “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want it. I’ll never be without it. Oh, queen, forgive me.” Tavore looks up at her and Lostara thinks there will be time later for private conversation. Pearl drops Dom down to the ground. Tavore asks what the two of them are doing there, if they lost the trail. Pearl tells her “We found her, Adjunct. With deep regret, Felisin is dead.” When Tavore asks if they’re certain, he answers “Yes . . . I can say one thing for certain Tavore. She died quickly.” Tavore is quiet for a long moment, and then says “Well, there is mercy in that, I suppose,” then walks to meet her officers. Pearl picks up Felisin, saying, “She’s a heavier burden than you might think.” To which Lostara says “No, Pearl. I don’t think that.” She asks where he’ll take her and replies, “A hilltop, you know the one.” After he says he’ll try to convince them to get out of Raraku as soon as possible. She tells him to come for her when he’s done or she’ll come with him. He says he will. He watches Tavore and says “Just watching her walking away. She looks so . . . “ Lostara asks “alone” and he says, “Yes. That is the word, isn’t it.” He leaves by warren.”


Keneb watches Tavore come toward them: “There was none of the triumph there he thought he would see. Indeed, she looked worn down, as if the failing of spirit that followed every battle had already come to her, the deathly stillness of the mind that invited dire contemplation, that lifted up the host of questions that could never be answered. She orders Blistig to send scout to the Dogslayer trenches and informs them the Claw has delivered Dom. Nil tells her the Dogslayers are all dead via Raraku’s ghosts as well as, according to Nether “the spirits of our own slain. Nil and I—we were blind to it. We’d forgotten the ways of seeing. The cattle dog, Adjunct. Bent. It should have died at Coltaine’s feet. At the Fall. But some soldiers save it, saw to the healing of its wounds.” Tavore asks what she’s talking about and Nil and Nether continue: “Bent and Roach. The only creatures still living to have walked the Chain the entire way. Two dogs [Temul adds Duiker’s mar] . . . They came back with us . . . And the spirits of the slain. Our own ghosts, Adjunct, have marched with us . . . Step by step, Adjunct, our army of vengeance grew . . . Last night, the child Grub woke us . . . so we could witness the awakening. There were legions, Adjunct, that had marched this land a hundred thousand years ago. And Pormqual’s crucified army . . . Thus you were right Adjunct. In the dreams that haunted you from the very first night of this march, you saw what we could not see. It was never the burden you believed it to be. You did not drag the Chain of Dogs with you.” Tavore asks, “Did I not?” then wonders “All those ghosts simply to slay the Dogslayers?” But Nether says there were other enemies. The two also tell her Gamet rode with the ghosts and that Grub spoke to him. Baralta interrupts to tell Tavore Lostara stole Sha’ik’s body. Tavore ignores him and asks who the two soldiers Baralta arrived with are. They introduce themselves as Captain Kindly and Lieutenant Pores and say they were prisoners in the Dogslayer camp, freed by Bridgeburner ghosts. She dismisses them to get cleaned up. She tells Keneb (back to Fist) to prepare to follow Leoman’s group of desert warriors: “If we have to cross this entire continent, I will see them cornered and then I will destroy them. This rebellion will be ashes on the wind when we are done.” A warning is shouted and they all look to see Karsa riding down the hill toward them. Squint, one of Tavore’s bodyguards, identifies Karsa as a Thelomen Toblakai riding a Jhag horse. Lostara asks what’s dragging behind the horse and then they all flinch as they see the Deragoth heads. They ready their swords, but Tavore tells them to hold as he’s made no threat. Karsa tells Tavore, “Once long ago I claimed the Malazans as my enemies. I was young. I took pleasure in voicing vows. The more enemies the better. So it was, once. But no longer. Malazan, you are no longer my enemy. Thus I will not kill you. Tavore says “drily” that they’re all relieved. Karsa is quiet a moment then simply says, “You should be,” and rides off. Squint says, “Something tells me the bastard was right.” Tavore responds, “An observation I’ll not argue, soldier.”


Lieutenant Ranal fights his horse and someone behind Fiddler says, “Gods take me, somebody shoot him.” Cuttle asks what Ranal is up to, pointing out they’ve left Gesler and the other squads behind. They join Ranal atop the raised road and he points out a group of 20 or so desert warriors. Fiddler tells Ranal: “There’s a spider lives in these sands. Moves along under the surface, but drags a strange snakelike tail that every hungry predator can’t help but see . . . Hawk comes down to snatch up that snake and ends up dissolving in a stream down that spider’s throat.” Ranal ignores him and says the warriors are there because they got out late, probably looting he says. Fiddler warns him they’d be better to wait for the rest of the company; they’ll catch them anyway. Ranal orders them ahead after the warriors. Fiddler sees something strange on the horizon as Ranal yells the warriors have left the road. They’re heading for a sandstorm and Fiddler tries to tell Ranal not to go in, but Ranal orders pursuit anyway.


Gesler sees the Tiste Liosan heading toward him and his group fast and he wonders who they are. Stormy points out whoever they are they don’t seem pleased with Gesler and the group. Gesler calls up Sands (a sapper) and asks if he’s tried his new munitions crossbow. Sans says no and Gesler orders the others to retreat to the other side of the dune. Sands lobs a cusser and there’s a large explosion. After recovering, Gesler looks down and says “Well, they wont be chasing us any more I’d say . . . Armor seems to have weathered the blast—you could go down and scrape out whatever’s left inside ‘em.” He orders them to move out.


Jorrude groans. Enias tells him he wants to go home. Jorrude tells him to check the others. When Enias asks if Gesler’s group were really the trespassers they’d been seeking, the ones who road the ship through their realm, Jorrude says yes, “And I have been thinking. I suspect they were ignorant of Liosan laws when they traveled through our realm. True, ignorance is an insufficient defense. But one must consider the notion of innocent momentum. . Were not these trespassers but pulled along—beyond their will—in the wake of the draconian T’lan Imass bonecaster. If an enemy we must hunt, should it not be that dragon? Malachar calls that wise thinking and Jorrude says they’ll go home and resupply. They agree and Jorrude thinks, “It’s all the dragon’s fault, in fact. Who could refute that?”


Fiddler’s squad rides into the sandstorm and are immediately blinded. The desert warriors attack and Fiddler’s horse bucks him off, his bag of munitions rolling up over his head. He prepares to be blown up but then sees a warrior (Corabb) riding by clutching the bag in his arms in surprise. Fiddler runs then someone tells him “Not that way, you fool,” and Fiddler is shoved to the ground and covered by a body.


The bag nearly knocks Corabb off his horse. Near the ground he lets it go and is carried away by his horse as he pulls himself back up on it.


There’s a huge explosion, one Fiddler thinks should have killed him. The voice, which he recognized, tells him: “Can’t leave you on your own for a Hood-damned minute, can I? Say hello to Kalam for me, will ya? I’ll see you again, sooner or later. And you’ll see me too. You’ll see us all. Just not today. Damned shame ‘bout your fiddle though.” The body disappears and Fiddler, on his knees, cries out “Hedge! Damn you, Hedge!” Cuttle finds him and tells him Ranal died in the explosion. The rest of the squad joins them, then Borduke’s group is seen. Smiles wonders at the size of the crater and says “Gods, Sergeant, you couldn’t have been much closer to Hood’s Gate and lived, could you?” He answers “You’ve no idea how right you are, lass.” As he listens to the song and feels his heart “matching that cadence,” he thinks “Raraku has swallowed more tears than can be imagined. Now comes the time for the Holy Desert to weep. Ebb and flow, his blood’s song, and it lived on. It lives on.”


Fayelle, the last one of Dom’s mages left alive, realizes she and the thirteen Dogslayers had fled the wrong way. She thinks the ambush of Leoman had been perfect until the ghosts arrived. They themselves are ambushed and Fayelle is pinned under her dead horse. She looks up to see “The child. Sinn. My old student.” She tells Sinn she’ll wait for her at Hood’s gate, “and the wait won’t be long” and then Sinn kills her. Sinn rejoins the 16 surviving members of the Ashok regiment. She looks north and sees the horizon “limned in white, and it was rising.” Sinn thinks Fayelle knew what was coming, then they all get on the horses and ride as they hear “a roar that belittled even the Whirlwind Wall in its fullest rage. Raraku had risen. To claim a shattered warren.”


Nil and Nether, sensing what was coming, had warned Tavore and the army got to the islands of coral—the highest points. They see high clouds, then hear “A roar unceasing, building, of water, cascading, foaming, tumbling across the vast desert. The Holy Desert, it seemed, held far more than bones and memories. More than ghosts and dead cities.” Lostara wonders if Pearl is high on that hill with Sha’ik’s grave and if it were high enough. And thinks too of what she’s seen recently: “Crucified dragons. Murdered gods. Warrens of fire and warrens of ashes. It was odd, she reflected, to be thinking these things even as a raging sea was born from seeming nothing and was sweeping towards them, drowning all in its path.” She’s upset as how hard she’d been on Pearl, “what a stupid thing to have let it happen.” Pearl appears and they banter like they had. He tells her they’ll survive the sea—where they stand were islands once. She asks what they’ll do stranded in the flooded basin on islands and he says he assumes they’ll build rafts and then a bridge; “I have every confidence in the Adjunct.” The sea hits and Lostara sees he’s right. She looks at Tavore and thinks, “Why does looking at you break my heart?”


Fiddler’s squad, waiting for the sea to hit, watches Karsa riding away in the distance. Fiddler thinks the song of the sea is “strangely warm, almost comforting.” Then two men step out of a warren and he goes to embrace them: “they were his brothers. Mortal souls of Raraku. Raraku, the land that had bound them together. Bound them all, as was now clear, beyond even death.”


Heboric’s group looks down from the ridge to the sea below. They’re interrupted by Pust’s arrival on his mule. He tells them L’oric is not dead and they will be his guests.


Cutter in the top chamber of Pust’s temple. When he had woken, Apsalar had been gone and he knew she was gone and he could not follow. Cotillion joins him and tells him “There are countless paths awaiting you.” When Cutter says he knows Cotillion had spoken to Apsalar and helped her make a decision, Cotillion says the choice was hers to make. Cutter replies it doesn’t matter and admits that though Cotillion says there are countless paths, Cutter sees none “worth walking.” Cotillion asks if he wants one and tells him how once a man charged with protecting the life of a young girl had done so with such honor as “to draw, upon his sad death, the attention of Hood himself. Oh, the Lord of Death will look into a mortal’s soul, given the right circumstances, the uh, the proper incentive. Thus, that man is now Knight of Death.” When Cutter says he doesn’t want to be Knight or anything for anyone, Cotillion tells him that isn’t what he’s suggesting. He continues with the story of Baudin, saying he failed and the girl, Felisin, Captain Paran’s sister, is dead. Soon, he says, Pust will return with guests, including a child named Felisin, taken in by Paran’s sister: “She adopted a waif. A sorely abused foundling. She sought, I think—we will never know for certain, of course—to achieve something, something she herself had no chance, no opportunity, to achieve. Thus, she named the waif after herself.” When Cutter asks why he should care, what the girl is to him, Cotillion calls him obstinate and says the right question is “What are you to her?” He names her companions: another woman, a very remarkable one, as you—and she—will come to see. And with a priest, sworn now to Treach. From him, you will learn much of worth. Finally, a demon travels with these three humans. For the time being.” He explains they are stopping by to pick up Cutter: “Symmetry, lad is a power unto itself. It is the expression, if you will, of nature’s striving for balance. I charge you with protecting Felisin’s life. To accompany them on their long and dangerous journey.” Cutter replies, “How epic of you,” and Cotillion “snaps” angrily “I think not,” causing Cutter to regret his words. Cutter agrees to join them, but says, “abused, you said. Those ones are hard to get to. To befriend I mean. Their scars stay fresh and fierce with pain.” Cotillion says Felisin elder did OK despite her own scars and Cutter should count his blessings he has the daughter and not the mother, and to also think of Baudin must have felt. When Cutter begins to ask Cotillion more about “this notion of balance,” he is silenced by Cotillion’s eyes—“their unveiling of sorrow, of remorse” when he interrupts to say “From her to you. Aye.” Cutter wonders if Apsalar saw that and Cotillion says, “All too clearly, I’m afraid.” Cutter looks away, saying, “I loved her, you know. I still do,” to which Cotillion replies, “So you do not wonder why she has left.” And Cutter begins to cry as he answers, “No Cotillion, I do not.”


Karsa stops alongside the new inland sea for lunch, then pulls out Siballe’s head. He asks her what she sees and looking upon the water she says “My past . . . All that I have lost.” Karsa tells her “You once said that if you were thrown into the sea, your soul would be freed. That oblivion would come to you.” He asks if this was the truth and when she says yes, he picks her up and walks to the water’s edge. She says she doesn’t understand and he answers, “When I began this journey I was young. I believe in one thing. I believed in glory. I know now, ‘Siballe, that glory is nothing. Nothing. This is what I now understand . . . [and] one other thing. The same can not be said for mercy.” He throws her into the water and watches her head sink. Looking at his sword, he says, “Yes. I am Karsa Orlong of the Uryd, a Teblor. Witness my brothers. One day I will be worthy to lead such as you. Witness.” He rides “West, into the wastes.”


Onrack meets with Minala and her “young killers.” She wonders if they can be trusted and Trull says he doesn’t know how to convince her except by giving her the whole of his “lengthy and rather unpleasant story. She says, “spare me” and exits the room. Trull begins to say he isn’t surprised that no one wants to hear it, but Onrack interrupts and says he will listen. Trull laughs at his audience: “a score of children who do not understand my native tongue, and three expressionless and indifferent undead. By tale’s end, only I will be weeping, likely for all the wrong reasons.” Monok looks at Onrack and says, “You have felt it . . . so you seek distraction.” When Trull inquires, Monok answers, “She is destroyed. The woman who gave Onrack her heart in the time before the Ritual. The woman to whom he avowed his own heart, only to steal it back. In many ways, she was destroyed then, already begun on her long journey to oblivion.” He stops to ask Onrack if denies it and when Onrack says no, Monok continues. “Madness, of such ferocity as to defeat the Vow itself. Like a camp dog that awakens one day with fever in its brain. That snarls and kills in a frenzy. Of course we had no choice but to track her down, corner her. And so shatter her, imprison her within eternal darkness . . . Madness, then, to defy even us. But now, oblivion has claimed her soul. A violent, painful demise, but none the less.” He stops in surprise, then says “Trull Sengar, you—have not begun your tale, yet already you weep.” Trull is silent a moment, then replies, “I weep, Monok Ochem, because he cannot.” Monok turns to Onrack and tells him, “Broken One, there are many things you deserve, but this man is not one of them.” When he turns away, Onrack speaks, “Monok Ochem, you have traveled far from the mortal you once were, so far as to forget a host of truths, both pleasant and unpleasant. The heart is neither given nor stolen. The heart surrenders.” Monok doesn’t bother to turn around when he replies, “That is a word without power to the T’lan Imass, Onrack the Broken.” But Onrack rejects that statement, saying “You are wrong, Monok Ochem. We simply changed the word to make it not only more palatable, but also to empower it. With such eminence that it devoured our souls.” When Monok denies that, Trull sighs, “Onrack’s right . . . You called it the Ritual of Telann . . . And you’ve the nerve to call Onrack broken.” A long silence follows, through which Onrack keeps his eye on Trull, patiently, thinking “To grieve is a gift best shared. As a song is shared. Deep in the caves, the drums beat. Glorious echo to the herds whose thundering hoofs celebrate what it is to be alive, to run as one, to roll in life’s rhythm. This is how, in the cadence of our voice, we serve nature’s greatest need. Facing nature, we are the balance. Ever the balance to chaos. Eventually his patience was rewarded. As he knew it would be.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Six

One thing I do love and appreciate at the end of each Malazan book is the fact that the sections within the chapters get shorter and snappier. It helps with the commentary — seriously! Can sometimes be hard to find things to say about a massive block of text! But, more than anything, the structure drives the pace along at a vicious rate and sweeps the reader up into a Whirlwind (yes, I said it) of action.

I feel we are walking the end of Felisin’s path, as she comes to realise that the madness and hate of the goddess is reflected in her, and makes them kindred spirits. I think she finally recognises the fact that she is not truly fit to live in this state, that her path has taken her to a truly dark place. The most heartbreaking part of this section is hearing her memories of the beloved brother and his treatment of her. That really hurts — especially when thinking about how far they’ve now both travelled down strange paths.

Also, I wonder what was the betrayal of the goddess: “Bitter with age, bilious with malice. And whatever fuelled it bore the sour taste of betrayal. A heart-piercing, very personal betrayal.”

It is definitely an eerie picture, those soldiers in the dawn not moving and then we find out that every single one of them is dead. Raraku has claimed more lives. This is a desert of blood, isn’t it, when you consider what has taken place there.

Finally a character asking some of the same questions as me. *grins* “Who will they fight for? Why are they here at all? What do they want?”

Heh, considering the comments from many of you about how the fight between the Deragoth and Karsa was a bit “off” in terms of what Karsa managed to achieve — well, L’oric here provides the awe that some of us were possibly missing. “Gods, he killed the Deragoth.”

“I think the Crippled God has made a terrible mistake...” This is possibly true.
What has L’oric seen? What makes him leave so abruptly? (I’m guessing that this is one of those things that will be revealed almost immediately).

Oh my word! The goddess is in a funk (still!) because Onrack drew pictures of Kilava? These events really are all interlinked, aren’t they?

Umm, the children of Kilava: “The children will die. I will cleanse the world of their beget, the proud-eyed vermin born, one and all, of that single mother. Of course she could not join the Ritual. A new world waited within her.” Who might this race of people be? Is it the Eres’al?

Our first proper on-screen sighting of T’amber as well, with words and everything, and.... Nothing seems to be revealed. Except, maybe, that she has a true understanding of what Tavore needs?

Finally the whole game plan is revealed — or certainly Febryl’s part in it, as the Goddess is murdered before L’oric’s eyes. L’oric really is very careless, isn’t he? We seem to constantly find him with his life blood draining away! I love that moment where L’oric is held in his father’s arms, how he cherishes it, and then is almost immediately annoyed by something his father says. That feels rather like the way I and my father interact. *grins*

The story of Tavore and Felisin is so damn tragic. I feel such epic sadness for these sisters who have ended up at war through the whim of others. It’s even more sad that Tavore never realised who it was that she was fighting against. Or is it more sad that, in the very endgame, Felisin came back to herself, abandoned by the goddess, and was raising her arms to her sister as she was cut down. And that comment from Leoman: “She,” -his face twisted- ”she did not know how to fight.”

I’m so fiercely proud that Coltaine’s standard was raised amongst the remains of the Dogslayers — the Bridgeburners did good!

This is heartbreaking as well: “They had come too late. Within sight, only to see Tavore batter Sha’ik’s weapon out of her hands, then thrust that sword right through her... name it, Lostara Yil, you damned coward. Name it! Her sister. Through her sister.”

Does Tavore have any inkling of what she’s done? “There was none of the triumph there he thought he would see. Indeed, she looked worn down, as if the falling of spirit that followed every battle had already come to her, the deathly stillness of the mind that invited dire contemplation, that lifted up the host of questions that could never be answered.”

I feel a little dense, but I’m not clear why the two dogs and the mare helped bring the spirits of the slain there — is it because there was a connection to previous events?

Nice to see Keneb receive his promotion.

And here we see the true journey that Karsa has made over the course of this novel — his revoking of the vow he made against the Malazans as a younger man. I’m not sure why he now feels the Malazans are okay, to be honest, but it is definitely personal growth that he doesn’t feel the need to kill everyone.

Sappers really are insane, aren’t they? Just sayin’.

Ha, finally the Tiste Liosan provide me an emotion that isn’t irritation - now I’m merely amused at the idea of them saying “I want to go home” and then coming up with a suitably serious reason as to why they can do that. They’re such ungodly cowards! Although, having said that, they’ve just had a cusser explode around them so maybe I should cut them a little bit of slack! That last line kills me: “It’s all the dragon’s fault, in fact. Who would refute that?”

Corabb really is the luckiest bastard in all the world. Snakes indeed....

That is a great scene where Fiddler realises who saved him: “Can’t leave you on your own for a Hood-damned minute, can I?” How lonely must that be for Fiddler, to realise that all his mates are there to be met, but he can’t join them just for now.

Sinn... Now, Sinn was the girl that Kalam met, right? That feels like a long time ago now....

All those hints about the sea and finally we now see why. Raraku is returning to its original state. I like the fact that it is sweeping through and renewing an area which has seen such pain and sorrow.

Oh... Well met, Kalam and Quick Ben: that picture of them hugging Fiddler in one embrace soothes my soul.

Hmm, what has Pust stolen Felisin and Scillara for?

And another cracking scene involving Cotillion. I should have seen it coming that Cutter was finely placed to take up the role of Baudin in the balance of the new Felisin and the journey she must make. This is excellent writing:

“Cotillion. This notion of balance. Something has occurred to me-”
Cotillion’s eyes silenced him, shocked him with their unveiling of sorrow...of remorse. The patron of assassins nodded. “From you. Aye.”

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Six

I know people went (go) back and forth on Felisin as a character. While I can see how her earlier self could be nettlesome to some readers, I’ve never had that negative a reaction to her. But once we move into Sha’ik mode, I find my sympathy for her rising, and as the book continues, I find it to be accelerating. As a rereader, rather than a first-time reader (and it’s been so long since I read her for the first time that I cannot recall my response at that time), it is difficult for me to read these last few chapters, and most especially this one, without a growing, almost overwhelming sense of sorrow and tragedy. Tragedy in the true classical sense, as for instance Greek audiences would already know where all those dramas by Sophocles and Aeschylus were going. It’s like those horrible nightmares where you see the horrible event descending—the killer moving methodically forward, the train hurtling ever onward—and you’re frozen in place, eyes forced wide open.

And so it is I find all these last moments with Felisin, and like Erikson, I have to use Felisin rather than Sha’ik, so painful and so heartbreaking. Much of that is situational. But much of it is also technique. Just in the opening paragraphs:

  • The way Erikson shifts from Sha’ik to Felisin, giving that young girl life once more.
  • The way he offers up a visual of innocence: “Round-cheeked and flushed, a wide smile and bright eyes.”
  • The way he offers up a scene of true familial bliss: “a brother who adored her, who would toss her about one knee as if it was a bucking horse” before having her sibling kill her.
  • The way he offers up a young girl dreaming of being like her mother (the gift of vision) and then achieving that dream in such twisted, perverse fashion.
  • The way he offers up a Felisin who sees herself, at the end, clearly. “[I have] walked that same path. Hatred, sweet as nectar. I have walked into the abyss.”
  • The way he shows her still, in the face of the goddess’s consuming power, still clinging to a fragment of her soul. And to a wish, a hope, a tiny against-all-odds hope, that she might return to what she was, return to a place where “confusion does not exist,” return to “the place of childhood.” And of course, we know as we read this that no matter what the outcome, this is an impossibility. And we know she knows it as well, and so it hurts all the more. And oh, for us rereaders. Oh, what we know.
  • The way she thinks of a mother’s embrace.
  • And the way she reaches for her helm. As Oedipus reaches for the truth.

Outside of the Felisin focus in the opening section, I just wanted to point out the description of the goddess toward the end: “Her walk is a shamble, cramped and stiff, a song of rusty fittings and creaking straps.” That ending of the sentence—the fittings and straps—seems a nice hint to me of the Imass.

I like how even at this very end point, Erikson keeps L’oric’s intentions a mystery. What is it he is going to offer the goddess? I don’t think I saw him offering up himself as he does. I’m pretty sure I felt whatever he was going to do would be basically “good,” but I think he was pretty cryptic to me.

We had some talk of the “ease” with which Karsa took out the two Hounds of Darkness. Now, in his description, one might say it doesn’t seem all that easy. But wounds, no matter how bad, still don’t cut it for me, I have to admit. And also, I’m not sure I “feel” these wounds. Sure, we’re told his “hands were a crimson ruin” and his leg had been “chewed by vicious oversized jaws,” that he “favors” his leg when he dismounts, but I never get any sense that this truly, significantly affects Karsa at all (heck, I “favor” my legs after a game of ultimate Frisbee cuz of some patella tendinitis).

That said, I do enjoy his matter of fact litany of death and mayhem. Oh yeah, I killed Febryl. Oh yeah, and Bidithal. Oh, and....

Another hint to the goddess in her rage carving her memories’ likenesses “as mockingly solid and real-seeming as those carved trees in the forest of stone.” And what faces are carved there? Yep, T’lan Imass.

And here of course we get the direct confirmation that the goddess is Onrack’s wife. And the “bitch” is Kilava. I can’t say for 100 percent surety, but my memory is that I’d figured this out and was proud of myself for doing so on my first read. And that it was an intellectual pleasure to do so, something one doesn’t always get in a fantasy novel.

Chains. I like the metaphor of vengeance like a “beast long straining at its chains,” both for how it fits the motif of the novel, for the image itself, for its irony in how she dies.

So, what do you all think of the Goddesses discussion of humans as the “children” of Onrack and Kilava? Literally true? Metaphorically true? Mad ravings of an insane person?

For all the “aloof” and cryptic references we get with regard to Tavore, it’s good to recall that she is not presented as robotic. Her reaction to Gamet’s death is a very human, very vulnerable one. Steadying herself on the table is, for Tavore, the equivalent of a weeping meltdown. But it is a reaction. It is too easy, I think, to see her as “cold” because we get that description from so many povs and so we should note with extra emphasis perhaps these sort of moments throughout the series.

T’amber. Wait for it.

“There was no visor covering her eyes.” Oh, but there is. Tavore will not see what she does.

It’s an interesting description of the goddess from L’oric’s magical sight. She “trails the chains of Tellann.” I wonder how to read that. Are those chains similar to Karsa’s—chains that once connected her to the “ghosts” (read “undead”) of her kin in the ritual? Chains are usually presented in a negative light in this series—so is this another example of the ritual being a bad thing? A negative linkage of technique or principle between the Chained God (read “villain” seemingly). Or are these chains symbolic of the links of kinship and friendship, and so it’s the severing of them that is bad?

All in all, not a lovely image she presents, by the way.

So why is L’oric offering himself up in Sha’ik’s stead? To save Felisin? To save the Goddess? To save Raraku from the Goddess? To save Raraku from the Chained God who seeks to usurp it through the Goddess?

Remember we were prepared for the efficacy of these assassin’s ensorcelled knives earlier. As well as the ambush, obviously.

Why is it no surprise the Dom’s assassins get called “butchers”?

Love this conversation between Osric and L’oric. There some true warmth there. And love the dry ending.

And now back to heartbreak.

  • Felisin being called Felisin again.
  • Felisin standing “alone.” (How many times has this poor kid been “abandoned” by those around her, even if not intentionally?)
  • The softness of her memory: “Ganoes laughing and gently instructing her”, “joy and comfort,” “natural pleasures.”
  • The ache of that separation from childhood, where you believed the world does not, cannot change, that all will be as it always is—mother, father, brother, sister, laughter, happiness.
  • “blood is the chain that can never break.” Chains in their more sophisticated usage again.
  • The weight of blood, of kinship, of connection, of love.
  • That painfully sharp naivety and innocence of raising her arms and “unthinking of how that motion would be received.” I read this as a proffered embrace and oh, how much that hurts—raising her arms to the sister that did so much to her, raising her arms to end all this, to join herself to her family again, to join herself to herself again, and that brutal efficiency with which it is yanked away from her.
  • That beautiful imagery “a blossom of cold fire” the contrast between image and action.
  • The innocence of a child’s question: “Why?”
  • The agony of a child’s question: “Why did you not love me when I loved you?”
  • And that last line.

This scene gets me every time. But worse, it gets me every time before I ever get to it, because it is so hard to read Felisin without this ever present, especially in this book. You’ll never read her character the same way once you’ve read this when you embark on your own reread.

And of course, the question now will haunt the reader for as long as we’re with Tavore—will she ever find out?

Gotta love Pearl. The lie that isn’t a lie. The removal of the body. And how many times have we seen, and will we see, this exchange: “She looks so... alone” with regard to Tavore.

Kindly and Pores. Oh Amanda, I envy you Kindly and Pores for the first time.

Tavore: “This rebellion will be ashes on the wind when we are done.”

File like you wouldn’t believe.

Who says great huge barbarian killing machines cannot change? Have to hand it to Karsa. I do like his development in this book, his growth in wisdom, no matter how many of his aspects bother me. The same holds true for the later scene with Siballe. His recognition of the error of his youthful focus on glory and his more mature realization that glory is “nothing.” And mercy? Mercy, on the other hand, is something.

Love that whole “I will not kill you” — “We are relieved” — “You should be” — “something tells me the bastard was right” exchange.

Ranal. Hmm, take out the R and....

That scene with Felisin and Tavore is so all-encompassing agonizing and tragic, that it’s good I think that Erikson offers us up the comic relief afterward—Karsa’s scene, the Tiste Liosan scene, Corabb’s scene. (Snakes!)

Admit it, y’all forgot about Sinn didn’t ya?

But I’m assuming nobody forgot about the waters of Raraku. You can’t say we weren’t set up for this event. Start to finish, this book (series actually) has been paving the way for the sea’s return.

After all that’s transpired, who doesn’t smile at the reunion of Quick Ben, Fiddler, and Kalam? I love Erikson’s decision to leave us mere distant spectators—that moment belongs to them.

I like Cotillion’s focus on symmetry (something we’ve noted already in this book) as physicists theorize it does in fact underlie nature’s most basic laws.

And once more we get an emotional moment from Cotillion, that “sorrow . . . remorse” in his eyes. We’ve had two times in this book where much has been made of his killing prowess. This is a god (or a “patron”) with power. And a god with plans (not to mention a crazy, devious partner). What would that power do when wedded to compassion and empathy? What will that power be employed in the pursuit of in a god who can show remorse and grief? Who might that kind of god set himself against? And what, in this vein, about Karsa? A killing machine who dares to threaten the gods themselves and who now believes it seems in the power of mercy. Who might he, in turn, set himself against if mercy becomes a guiding, if not a primary, principle? If compassion and empathy and mercy starts to become the order of business among some ascendants, the gods themselves (or at least some of them) may shiver.


Amanda’s Reaction to the Epilogue

In this epilogue I love the fact that Erikson returns to the example of the mad dog that needs to be cornered, tracked down.

Another indication that the T’lan Imass really are not the good guys we once imagined they were — they were the ones who created the goddess that stole away Felisin’s life.

And so we start the tale of Trull Sengar....

Bill’s Reaction to the Epilogue

That camp dog metaphor should sound pretty familiar—it is, after all, what we see in the book’s opening.

Trull weeping for Onrack is simply a great moment. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it many time after—nobody does pairs like Erikson.

It would have been easy to end the book with Felisin’s death, or nearby to that, give the book that lingering weight of tragedy. But I like this ending better — “life’s rhythm” and “ever the balance to chaos.” But I’m a softie.

Okay, we’re waiting to hear about Steven joining us for questions afterward. And we’ll probably take our usual “we need a week to put our brains back together” break in between books. So we’ll let you know in comments as to what and when. Let’s hear what you though about the book as a whole as well as this chapter.

As for Midnight Tides, I have two words: Tehol and Bugg.


Amanda’s Thoughts on House of Chains

House of Chains... what to say... I don’t know whether it was because of the period I had with working abroad and then vacation causing my reading to feel disjointed, but I didn’t connect with House of Chains the same way as previous books in the series. For the first time since those very early pages of Gardens, it felt like a chore trying to muster my thoughts. Sure, there were some cracking scenes in the grandest tradition of what I have come to expect, but there was also Karsa’s early scenes, the relationship between Trull and Onrack that I’ve never managed to really enjoy, and the increasing tragedy of the scenes within Sha’ik’s camp. It was a dark book, with less of the humour and fierce joy that has characterised previous novels. For the first time, I’m not considering a re-read.

I know that a lot of people have said that House of Chains is a novel that transitions you from the introduction to the actual story of the rest of the books in the series. All I hope is that it isn’t an indication of the future direction.

And did it feel a little bit like the novel somewhat limped to a close? All this time we’ve been building to a tumultuous battle in my mind, and I sort of feel cheated that it never happened, that we didn’t see the achievements of Tavore’s army that was so green when it first came together. (Limp is probably the wrong word, considering some of the events, such as Karsa gaining the heads that he now drags around as ornamentation!)

Still, saying that, there were some great aspects to enjoy — the coming together again of Kalam and Quick Ben (who is a right scene stealer, isn’t he?); some of Karsa’s dialogue; the change wrought to Heboric. But, for me, they were overtaken by the parts I didn’t enjoy. House of Chains is so far my least favourite of the books, and leaves me a little hesitant to pick up the next. I’d be really interested to hear your views, especially those who are re-reading this novel. Did it become a better experience second time round? Are there future novels that stand up to the excellence of Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice?

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 scene between Tavore and Felisin really firms up the correlation with a Greek tragedy for me. We have the sisters and just as Felisin is freed from the control of the Goddess, and is reaching out for her sister (with compassion) she is slain by that sister.
Very sad.
The Gunslinger
2. The Gunslinger
Amanda: Don't lose faith! I had the same reaction when I finished House of Chains. I felt cheated by the climax. However, I do urge you to re-read the book once you've finished the series. There is so much foreshadowing that is done that, by the time you reach the last few chapters, you'll be slapping yourself and wondering why you didn't see this ending coming. Erikson lays it all out for us; it's just our blind desire to see Tavore and Sha'ik's armies do battle that makes the ending seem a bit paltry.

There is still greatness to come. Midnight Tides will definitely be something else for you, and as you didn't find much enjoyment in Trull's character, I do hope that you enjoy it (then again, even if you don't like Trull, there are enough other good characters that you still should). Once you understand Trull's past, though, I think you'll change your mind.

I would disagree with people who say that House is the transition book. The Bonehunters is who I'd give this title to (which is also my favorite book in the series).

As for your question concerning whether or not any other books in the series stand up to the greatness of those two: In my opinion, definitely (although others will say the series hit its peak at Memories of Ice).
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
@Amanda: Regarding future books, a lot of people claim the next book (#5) as the best in the series, so don't worry too much. I think HoC suffers mostly in comparison to its predecessors: DG is such an amazing book, and then MoI cranks it all up to 11; you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed by HoC at that point.

I don't know if I'd consider HoC a "transition" book, but it does mark the end of a phase (the setup, really) of the series. The third main plotline—that will drive most of the rest of the series—arrives in book 5, and book 6 ties everything together before the final "act" that plays out in 7, 9, and 10 (with book 8 doing some housekeeping in the meantime.)

This was my third time reading HoC (and the first since reading books 7-10) and it certainly got better each time (though admittedly I enjoyed more than a lot people at the first.)

I have to confess I didn't quite grasp the thing between Cotillion and Crokus Cutter at the end: "From you." And why exactly does Cutter think Apsalar left him?
The Gunslinger
4. djk1978
Amanda, I felt a little bit of what you felt at the end of House of Chains. I blazed through Midnight Tides and Bonehunters altogether too quickly and then set the series down. Some time later I restarted the series again at GotM determined to give it a full read. I feel that House of Chains is far better on re-read, but it is so mostly if you have read at least through the next 2 books in the series. If you re-read it now you'll pick up and appreciate some things you missed but you won't get a sense of its pertinence to the rest of the series arc. I shouldn't worry about the series going downhill from here though. Some of the best books in the series are yet to come IMO.

As for the end I too admit to disappointment at the battle on the first read. But he overturns a trope here too, not every fantasy story has to end with an epic battle. The anticlimax of this one makes a point of that and I appreciate it for that. Plus the personal nature of Felisin vs Tavore is all the more powerful for that. Oh mother... look at us now!

Loved L'oric and Osric again, and of course another great Cotillion scene. You get the feeling that Cotillion is Erikson's favorite too don't you?

I'm looking forward to seeing in the future if Amanda's view on Trull and Onrack changes in the future. Especially Trull who is going to get more screen time in the next book. But it's not just Trull's story...

I suspect some people will struggle with Midnight Tides too. We know it's Trull's story but it's a full change and Trull aside there really isn't anyone in it that we have seen before (ok a few but not many). So MT can be tough on first read too, but it's fantastic I think. And I echo Bill: Tehol and Bugg! Erikson does pairs wonderfully and Tehol and Bugg are right up there with any of them.
Hugh Arai
5. HArai
@Amanda: I think you'll find Midnight Tides is another shift in perspective and another major piece of the "actual story". I hope your interest in Trull picks up when you see more facets of him. And for humor and heart, Midnight Tides is where we're introduced to another of the truly great pairings of the series. As far as other novels living up to Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice, I'd say so and so would lots of other people I suspect. I also think people will differ on which ones :). I'm quite partial to Toll the Hounds myself.
karl oswald
6. Toster
the ending of this book, with tavore killing felisin, and there being no battle, was always so shocking to me, both in good and bad ways. for a long time i too was put out by the anti-climax, and didn't realize till way later how well foreshadwoed the ghosts were.

speaking of ghosts, the ghosts of the chain of dogs being gathered by the dogs and duikers mare is a very nice touch. how it manages to make sense i don't know. perhaps because the dogs had one paw in hood's realm when truth found them, a connection was forged between them and their dead comrades.

karsa. karsa karsa karsa. what a master of understatement he's becoming. an effect of raraku perhaps? spare in water, spare in words? just a great exchange between him and tavore, and then, suprise! squint's still around. for a character that appears all of three times in this series, he has some of the best dialogue.

oh the liosan... bit of an unfair introduction to this race with the clown brigade, but way down the line, after a series of events that surely could have a trilogy all to itself, we meet a different breed of liosan entirely (not literally a different breed though :p).

great scene with fiddler and his friends, hedge included. "I'm wearing Ranal" might be one of the greatest things cuttle has ever said.

finally, the epilogue, and it's a heartbreaker. for some reason, monok ochem's denial of surrender's power over the t'lan imass, and trull and onracks opinion that they simply made surrender into a ritual, somehow, that always plucks my heart-strings.

and Bill, i have to agree. Tehol and Bugg!
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
In House of Chains we get introduction, transition and conclusion. We meet Tavore and the Bonehunters, Karsa and Trull. We continue with Fiddler, Apsalar&Cutter, Kalam & QB and watch them head for new journeys. We also see that the Bridgeburners have been seriously transitioned. Their mortal lives ended in MoI and now they are become something else.
Then, there is conclusion to the Felisin story and the story of On'rack & his wife.
On a first read, this can all feel a little incomplete but as others have said after you have read on for a few books and then look (or reread) back, the stories in HoC become much richer.
For Midnight Tides, Amanda--"And now for something completely different."
(Tehol & Bugg!)
The Gunslinger
8. djk1978
It's easy sometimes to forget that L'oric is a Liosan too, so that gives a bit of a different perspective on the race when compared to Jorrude, Enias etc. Not that L'oric is without flaws and obviously living away from other Liosan may have changed him. But it should leave us to conclude that not all Liosan are like Jorrude's group.
karl oswald
9. Toster
ah yes, i always forget that l'oric is actually a full-blooded liosan. so that's a nice contrast to jorrude and co.
The Gunslinger
10. Tehol Lives
Tehol and Bugg!

All first timers are in for a treat with this, my favorite, combo.
Sydo Zandstra
11. Fiddler
They introduce themselves as Captain Kindly and Lieutenant Pores

One of my favourite duos in the series. :D Amanda, you will love them!

He rides “West, into the wastes.”

@Bill, I was expecting a Western comment from you here, because this is so Western!

Also, the next time we will see him again, in tBH, is one of the best entries on stage in the whole series. SamarDev will probably agree.


I’m not sure why he now feels the Malazans are okay, to be honest, but it is definitely personal growth that he doesn’t feel the need to kill everyone.

During his wanderings in the west, while looking for a horse, we see him reflecting on how the Malazans didn't bring ruin to Seven Cities, and that things are worse for the people there under the Rebellion. This is just him saying, 'you are not as bad as I thought'.

Did it become a better experience second time round?

Initially, no. But all my rereads before the last one were before the series was completed. You have the luxury of seeing how much has been laid out in this book on your first reread. :)

Are there future novels that stand up to the excellence of Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice?

Yes. :)

The Gunslinger @2:
I would disagree with people who say that House is the transition book. The Bonehunters is who I'd give this title to (which is also my favorite book in the series).

Yes, I'd consider HoC to be the Seeding Book. tBH connects threads from HoC and MT, and closes up a few, while preparing us for the last Acts at the same time...
The Gunslinger
12. ksh1elds555
I had some of the same reactions as Amanda the first read though. The Trull/Onrack story didn't seem to be going anywhere that I understood. The final confrontation between Tavore and Felisin was quite a shocking letdown. So much happened in the last 2 chapters re: the whole Goddess/betrayal plotting that it was hard to keep my head straight and understand it all.
But certain scenes and themes were just gems in my mind... Fiddler, the Bridgeburners, the scorpion scene, hot vs. cold iron, Karsa's evolution, L'Oric, Greyfrog. I was very excited to reread for those parts I did remember loving.
And like most of the rereaders, I have found this book works much better for me the second time. It has moved up on my list of favorites in this series. I have to say at the end when Felisin asks, Why.... It really tears me up. Like the most poignant of Greek tragedy.
I remember being put off as well as Midnight Tides since it was such a departure from everything I loved in the previous books. But now, I am excited to reread it and see if I, like a lot of other rereaders have mentioned, will find more joy and fulfillment in it the second time. I certainly am looking forward to meeting Tehol and Bugg again! They are awesome.
As far as future books- on a first read, I really loved The Bonehunters and Toll the Hounds, tBH being my favorite in the whole series. I'm wondering how those will hold up on a reread.
Robin Lemley
13. Robin55077
I think I am sometimes so fascinated by a writer's use of words because it is a talent I don't have mysef (as you all well know by now). But I offer this example from Felisin in this chapter:
"No catching up. No falling back. How could there be? We are ever the same years apart. The chain never draws taut. Never slackens. Its length is prescribed. But its weight, oh, its weight ever varies."
For me, this is a beautiful example of one of the things that sets SE apart for me. His addition of the final line of this, "But its weight, oh, its weight ever varies" is exceptional. The depth and heartfelt pull that these few words add to the moment bring tears to my eyes every time.

Many writers can come up with a line like this every now and then. SE is the first writer that I have read who seems to have the ability to do it consistently. I think that we (myself included) sometimes get so caught up in the story that we fail to see how beautifully and skillfully it is written. I just wanted to take a moment to point this out, since I find it so exceptional to most writers out there.

Sydo Zandstra
14. Fiddler
Toster @9:

ah yes, i always forget that l'oric is actually a full-blooded liosan. so that's a nice contrast to jorrude and co.

Isn't L'oric a half-blood Liosan? I seem to recall Osric commenting on how his mom was Andii .
Robin Lemley
15. Robin55077
"We found her, Adjunct. With deep regret...Felisin is dead." "Are you certain?" Yes, Adjunct. I can say one thing for certain, Tavore. She died quickly." "...He bent down and tenderly picked her up, then faced Lostara once more. "Yes, she's a heavier burden than you might think."
Although Pearl is one of the characters in this series that I see as more "bad" than "good," I absolutely love him at this point for his treatment of both Tavore - in not telling her that she had just killed her sister; and Felisin - in his taking her body away and his admitting to Lostara that Felisin was a "heavier burden" than she would have thought. I love Pearl in that moment for his compassion, an emotion not usually expected with Pearl.
Robin Lemley
16. Robin55077
Re: Coltaine's Chain of Dogs:
"They came back with us, Adjunct-- The dogs. And the spirits of the slain. Our own ghosts, Adjunct, have marched with us. Those that fell around Coltaine at the very end. Those that died on the trees of Aren Way. And, step by step, more came from the places where they were cut down. Step by step, Adjunct, our army of vengeance grew."
"And yet you sensed nothing?"
"Our grief blinded us."
Two things to mention about this. First, remember on the march after the Burned Tears joined the 14th and Keneb is talking to Gamet and tells him that he often follows/watches those two dogs and that he believed they were searching for something. Now we know what they were searching for, the Fallen. Although the Wickans believe the Fallen were gathered by the three beasts to have survived the entire trip from Hissar to Aren, I suspect that it was probably as much Grub's involvement as the three animals.

Because of the "newbies" on here, I cannot explain my reasoning behind that but suffice it to say that down the road we get an "explanation" surrounding Grub that I believe supports this. Just file in the overfull filling cabinet the possibility that Grub was involved in this aspect here in HOC.

The second point I want to mention about this exchange is the fact that Nil and Nether admit that their grief "blinded" them to what was happening. I think their acknowledging this was a turning point for them. They began healing that day.
Robin Lemley
17. Robin55077
@ 14. Fiddler

I am probably wrong but I thought that L'oric's mother was one of the mysteries still being debated. If you (or anyone else) can provide a reference, I would very much like it so I can look it up.

There are so many "threads" that I am trying to follow in this re-read. I was so organized and kept a small notebook with everything written down. I told myself at least 100 times that I needed to get that list typed into a spreadsheet so it could be more easily managed. I never found the time and about a month ago, my notes came up missing. I suspect that in a cleaning frenzy, I accidentally picked it up with the trash.

I could shoot myself!

Robin Lemley
18. Robin55077
Re: The Liosian foursome.
"But one must consider the notion of innocent momentum."
Their attempt at finding a plausible reason for giving up on their pursuit of Gesler's trio is so funny. The Liosian would rather face "the draconian T'lan Imass bonecaster" than Gesler, Stormy, and Truth. This leaves this group of Liosian looking rather weak. However, if they have a clue who that Dragon is, (and I suspect they do with their very specific description of her as "the draconian T'lan Imass bonecaster") then they are voicing a very, very high opinion of Gesler's trio specifically, and the Malazans as a whole by extension.
Robin Lemley
19. Robin55077
@ Amanda

I suspect that by the end of MT your opinion of Trull will have changed. At this point, his character is at pretty much the same point Karsa's character was earlier in HoC. I think that once you learn Trull's story, it is hard to be so indifferent to him.
Robin Lemley
20. Robin55077
@ Amanda
"Umm, the children of Kilava: “The children will die. I will cleanse the world of their beget, the proud-eyed vermin born, one and all, of that single mother. Of course she could not join the Ritual. A new world waited within her.” Who might this race of people be? Is it the Eres’al?"
The Eres'al were way before the Imass. I think we learned earlier here in HoC that the Eres'al were the first humanoids, "pets" almost to the Daragoth. In fact, I think we were told that the Imass were descendants of the Eres'al.

The race created by Kilava and Onrack that night was the human race. We have previously been told that humans are decendants of the Imass. Here we are told exactly which two specific Imass it was.

This gives deeper meaning to the comment in last week's chapter that the Goddess did not care who won the battle of Raraku, that she only wanted the blood to flow. Human blood. She wanted all humans dead.

This also provides another reason for Kilava to not have gone through the Ritual. I wonder, did a god play a hand in keeping her out of the Ritual or, as a bonecaster, did she know that morning when she left Onrack's side that she had conceived and now carried a "new world within her?"

If some god were involved, it was a horrible hand she was dealt, not the least of which was her killing her family and all that was involved to keep her from joining the Ritual.
The Gunslinger
21. djk1978
Wow, Robin, great comments but so many I'm not sure what to answer. :)

Regarding L'oric, I think you are correct. I am not certain that L'oric's maternal parentage is ever explicitly stated. I do think it's probable that his mother is not Liosan though and likely an ascendant herself.

Good insights about Pearl too. I confess, I like him as a character. I've never found reason to dislike him. Sure his motives and actions are maybe on the darker side of gray but he's likable enough for me.

Yes, the Eres'al are definitely not Kilava and Onrack's children and we'll discover more about them in coming books, I think starting with the next one actually.

I'm so eager to get into Midnight Tides I'd almost be willing to forego a Q+A with SE. Almost I say...
Hugh Arai
22. HArai
@Robin55077: I suspect at least part of blaming "the draconian T'lan Imass bonecaster" is the convenient fact that they have no idea where said bonecaster is, so they can go home. Also when you consider what Gesler, Stormy and Truth have done and will do in the series, I don't think you can objectively say not wanting to fight them immediately after being hit with Moranth munitions makes the Liosans weak. More like uncharacteristically sensible. :)

As far as Kilava goes, my read on her character is no god would have been needed to keep her from joining the Ritual. Kilava does what Kilava decides to do. Period.
Joe Long
23. Karsa
@20 -- I agree with the analysis, although I also think it is more metaphorical than literal. I think Kilava represents all the Imass that didn't participate in the ritual and since she was preggers when the ritual happened, hers was the first post-ritual child and therefore the first of "that what came next(tm)"
Robin Lemley
24. Robin55077
@ 21. djk1978

I apologize for all the different posts. It is easier for me that way, rather than throwing them all into one very, very long post. I tend to note each individual item I want to comment on as I read the chapter in preparation for the post each week, and then when the chapter is up, I will post whichever of my comments have not been covered yet. Today, I happened to get on before most people posted so there were a bunch of them.


Robin Lemley
25. Robin55077
@ 22. HArai

I agree on both points. The point I was trying to make about Gesler's trio was that, although a lot of readers may see the Liosian's hesitance as a weakness, I saw it more as respect for both Gesler's trio and the Malazans as a whole. Especially when you consider that the the dragon they have kind of decided was perhaps the lesser of two evils is no slouch herself.

Robin Lemley
26. Robin55077
@ 23. Karsa

I see your point with it being metaphorical. I feel that it is probably a grey shade of both, that she is both the literal and the metaphorical mother of the human race. If that makes any sense!

Also, as HArai pointed out in #22, I don't really believe a god was specifically involved in it, it was just a thought that I had while typing it up (since some god or another seems to have his/her hands in things all the time) and thought I would throw that in to see if anyone else had any thoughts about it.

You all know me...I like to stir up conversations.

Not conflicts! Just conversations! LOL

Iris Creemers
27. SamarDev
I'll comment on the chapter later (great posts from Amanda and Bill ánd you fellow readers), but for now just wanted to say to Robin @ 24:

no need to apologize at all for posting several posts! To me, long comments with a lot of different themes in it are often less 'readible'. Not that I can't / won't read them, but especially when one has to say more things about one theme it gives a better overview when posting separate themes in separate posts. That's easier referring to as well :-)
Robin Lemley
28. Robin55077
@ Bill
"So why is L’oric offering himself up in Sha’ik’s stead? To save Felisin? To save the Goddess? To save Raraku from the Goddess? To save Raraku from the Chained God who seeks to usurp it through the Goddess?"
Just a few of the many questions I have about L'oric that leave me wishing we knew more about him.
Robin Lemley
29. Robin55077
Re: SE's "duos"

Steven and Ian obvisouly made a great duo when creating this series. I wonder how/if this affected SE's writing of some of the great duos he has created? There are more than just a few of them!

A few of my favorites (in no particular order):

Kalam/Quick Ben
Telorast/Curdle (one of my absolute favorites!!!)

The list could go on and on.

Simply put, some very, very excellent writing!

Robin Lemley
30. Robin55077
@ 27. SamarDev

Thanks! I know it makes it easier for me. :-)
The Gunslinger
31. djk1978
Robin, to clarify I was NOT complaining. I enjoy reading your posts but you pointed out so many interesting things I had a hard time deciding what to respond to. Keep them coming!
David Thomson
32. ZetaStriker
Yeah, I was lynched for long posts at the start of the year. They had torches, pitchforks and everything!

Anyway, while we're discussing Kilava and the birth of humanity . . . I have to wonder if Onrack and she birthed the first men in more ways than one. It's true that not all Imass were present for the Ritual, but at the same time what we do eventually see of them is a life very much removed from humanity. The kept and eventually died with their culture, in the same way we saw the Teblor being subsumed by humans at the start of the novel - abused, enslaved and used up until - eventually - there would be nothing left. So where then did this new culture come from?

I wonder if it's possible that Onrack's triggering Kilava's Ascension with his painting could have somehow affected or changed her to the point that her children were something else entirely. While we don't know exactly what Ascension is, I think the change in Kilava could have affected her offspring in s0me way, and her isolation from the other Imass could certainly have given these children the chance to begin building the new world that would eventually consume the old.

It would certainly match with another character we will eventually see, who serves a similar role to the Imass themselves and who is also an Ascendant. Is Ascendency then the change that gives rise to these new races in the Malazan world? I don't think it's not really something we can prove within the text, but it is an interesting thought.
Robin Lemley
33. Robin55077
@ 31. djk1978

No offense taken. I did not think you were complaining in a negative way at all. I have that many comments most chapters, however, I usually do not get logged in until later in the evening so most of them I simply pitch to the waste basket. LOL Today, I logged in much earlier so I ended up posting most of them.

Believe it or not, I still pitched a few today, so it could have been even worse!

The Gunslinger
34. Jordanes
As quite a few before me have said, this book was a little underwhelming the first time through, but improves markedly on a re-read. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it gets up there on a DG/MoI level just for the sheer amount it manages to pack in that leaves you feeling so profoundly sad and overwhelmed - the difference is that that feeling is caused by events which unfold in further books which this one foreshadows.

That is, unlike with DG/MoI, House of Chains is not self-contained in its emotional punch, but requires (and enhances) other books in the series.

I have read this book four times now, and, unlike with many other books, wherein you don't feel the impact as much upon a re-read of events or revelations, because you know they are coming, with this book it is the very opposite. With this book, you feel everything stronger *because* you know it's coming.

I did get the feeling that Amanda was not enjoying this book as much - her comments got far shorter and less detailed than for previous books. But I would strongly encourage her to give this one a re-read once the series is done - it's like reading a whole new book.

- Even though I've read the book so many times, this is the first time I've realised that the 'mad dog' scene at the beginning is recalled at the very end :)

- I like the contrast this book provides in relation to the previous two in terms of tragedy. Here, we see a very personal tragedy instead of the greater (in terms of numbers) but less personalised tragedy in DG and MoI.

- I believe that the goddess' ravings about Kilava and Onrack's children were indeed the ravings of an insane mind. Kilava did not give birth to the entire human race. Humans evolved from pockets of Imass who had not joined the Ritual, not this one woman alone. But the goddess (Dryjhna?) knows only of Kilava having forsaken the Ritual.

- It's amazing to think we started with something completely different to where the book ended - with Karsa's journey down from the Laederon Plateau. Seems a lifetime ago - and yet this in one of the shorter novels in the series.

- Ranal, the only person in the series to become a verb later on :D

- Even though both DG and MoI ended with terrible events and major catastrophes, House of Chains has the most downbeat ending of all three, and I think that this is another reason why people are put off by this book. Perhaps because there is no victory and no satisfactory culmination here. The Fourteenth Army is left frustrated, having marched all that way seemingly for nothing. Pearl and Lostara failed to reach Felisin in time. Fiddler lives but gets a reminder most of his friends are dead. The star cross'd lovers Apsalar and Crokus part ways. Trull ends by weeping for Onrack's past, and about to tell his own tragic story.

- We get several different, equally affecting, types of sadness in the ending. We get the harrowing tragedy of Tavore killing Felisin; the guilt of having arrived too late from Lostara and Pearl; the happy-but-sad reunion of Fiddler, Kalam, and Quick Ben; the melancholy sadness of Crokus' conversation with Cotillion; and then the final scene from Trull and Onrack, the tragedy of not being able to grieve and the promise of further grief in the future.

And how can you not like them Amanda, with lines like this!: "I weep, because he cannot." "And you've the nerve to call Onrack broken." "To grieve is gift best shared." :D
The Gunslinger
35. Jordanes
As for the next book, Midnight Tides, I keep veering between it and The Bonehunters as my favourite, so suffice to say I am looking forward to it! :)

I think MT is probably the most 'standalone' novel in the series, which makes its plotting very tight and bound within itself. And it has some of the best characters yet, and I don't just mean Tehol and Bugg. Who doesn't like (and by 'like', I mean 'likes to read about them', rather than always literally like :) ) Kuru Qan, Iron Bars, Hannan Mosag, Shurq Elalle, Ublala Pung, Gerun Eberict, the entire Sengar clan, Brys Beddict, Lilac........

In the previous novels, there's always been a plot strand which I looked less forward to reading than some others (Kalam in DG, Mhybe in MoI, Kalam again in HoC), but in MT, I really don't think that's the case!
Robin Lemley
36. Robin55077
My overview of HoC.

On my initial read of HoC, I was not overwhelmed by the book. I couldn't understand why SE was giving me Bottle, Koryk, Smiles, Tarr, when what I wanted was Whiskeyjack, Toc, Itkovian, Coltaine, Duiker. I had a vested interest in those characters. I didn't know and didn't care about Fiddler's new squad. To be honest, I had already had my fill of Felisin. So....on my initial read of HOC, this was definitely my least favorite of the books up to this point.

However, on re-read this is a totally different book. A totally different experience. Even more so now after reading through TCG. This is probably at least my 6th time through HoC and it is definitely in the top 3 of the series for me. Fiddler's squad is my favorite group of characters. Believe me, at the end of my initial read, I would not have thought that possible.

On initial read, it is very difficult to see the value of HoC to the series because it is such a switch from the prior books. On re-read, the value of HoC grows more and more with each scene as you can then place what you are reading in context to the grand scheme of this series.

For all you newbies out there, I would suggest that after you complete the entire series, go back and do a re-read because there is so much of this series that can only be appreciated on re-read, HoC not least among them.

Dustin George-Miller
37. dustingm
Greetings, all.

A few chapters back I had mentioned that I was working on a "mind-map" of the 14th Army divisions over the course of the series, something that I first posted a few years ago on the forums after my first reading of The Bonehunters. It's a document that changes over time, as, well, people die. Now that we're finished with HOC, I thought I'd post my first draft. I put the PDF in my public Dropbox for (re)readers to view and comment on.

The Bonehunters Army Divisions - post HOC (.pdf)

I'd love some feedback on this, as well as any clues from the text that I've missed. I tried to be explicit to what was found in HOC only -- ie. if there's a soldier who is in a certain squad later but not in this book, I left it ambiguous until we're told specifically by Erikson. I realize that I may find some ambiguity/contradictions (i.e. "the timeline is not important") here, but for me that just adds to the fun.

Let me know if you scary mob see anything that needs to be changed. :-)

Edit: Removed spoileriffic stuff and reposting with added suggestions.
The Gunslinger
38. djk1978
Neat chart. Warning to readers, don't look at it if you haven't read beyond HoC though.
Iris Creemers
39. SamarDev
@ Dustingm
Ha, nice overview to make the Dramatis Personae more visible. Maybe in this first draft for HoC it isn't neccessary to mention the legenda of 'died after fight X', because it doesn't show in this map yet? That makes it 'safe' for people who haven't read further yet.

Two things I think of after a first (not to thorough) 'inspection':

- why did you place the Ashok regiment (2nd company) in the ninth company (Cpt. Keneb's), between the squads? Untill the end of HoC they are not really part of Tavores army, and after that I think they count under fist Keneb, with Kindly as captain next to other captains. I think it is ok to add them on the map (because they are Malazans and during HoC heading for Tavore), but then as a separate branch like Blistig and Tene Baralta. Then you don't have the double captain-line (Keneb-Kindly-squad) either. And you might make it
Kindly-Pores-Squad (as you did with Ranal) in stead of giving Pores a separate line.

- A smaller note, but not less important because we all love him: typo with Fiddler...

Oh, another (not too serious) suggestion... Maybe you can add Neffarias Bredd as a separate branch somewhere in the 8th Legion? ;-)

I'm looking forward for your complete chart, including all those color-codes :-)
Dustin George-Miller
40. dustingm
Excellent points. Forgot this is a spoiler-free zone.

I'll make the changes, upload a second draft. Will edit my original post when completed.
Chris Hawks
41. SaltManZ
Regarding Kilava possibly birthing the human race:

I forget if we learned this in MOI so SPOILERS:

We know she's the mother of Treach and Treach is human. He's also a "First Hero". Could it be that the First Heroes are the first humans born of Kilava & Onrack?
Tricia Irish
42. Tektonica
I liked HoC the first time through, except for the initial intro to Karsa part. I know now there are some good nuggets in there, but I just did not like Karsa, and found his arrogance and the brutality of his culture hard to take. The second time through, HoC is wonderful. So much meat in here! Robin@36: fwiw, I agree totally.

I did NOT like Felesin's story up to this point. Did not like her at all. But as Sha'ik, I came to really feel for her. Her realization in Heborics tent of her "occupation" by the Goddess, and her subsequent abandonment, again, this time by the goddess, at the critical meeting with Tavore, makes for a true Grecian tragedy! I didn't mind missing a big battle here. I think the pathos of the Chain of Dogs soldiers killing the dogslayers, the dead BB's appearance with the Song, and Felesin's death at the hand of her sister, more than makes up for a big chaotic battle.

I am very pleased with Pearl for not telling Tavore who she had just killed, as well. I think it would have killed Tavore. That little "omission" was surprisingly kind and perceptive of Pearl. Perhaps Lostara is a good influence on him. ;-)

I had nothing invested in Trull/Onrack at this point the first time through either, Amanda, and I'm not sure I would've figured out the whole Onrack/Kilava/Goddess mess without a bit of help from a friend.
I was dreading MT, and having to hear Trull's story ;-) The beginning section didn't do much for me, much like the first section of HoC with Karsa. I am looking forward to seeing how I feel the second time through MT, knowing where all the puzzle pieces fit.

Robin: Good catch @16 about the dogs "searching" for something. Bingo!

I did enjoy the comedic relief of the Liosan Foursome...especially justifying their return home after their defeat by Gesler, et al. LOL

And "I am wearing Ranal", LOLOL. One of the best lines in the book! What a douche. Nice to see him used for comic relief.

And I love the emotion Fiddler shows when QB and Kalam return. After seeing/hearing Hedge, and then having to be the strong leader of his group, it was nice to see him in the embrace of his fellow BB's, who understand, and provide a brief moment of support for him.

Dustingham@37: Excellent, thank you! I've filed that.

Zetastriker: Nice to see you back! More long posts, please! Seriously!
The Gunslinger
43. djk1978
As a contrast to Tek, at this point in Trull's story I could not wait to get to Midnight Tides and find out exactly why he was Shorn and chained to a wall in the Nascent. So much so that the first time through I missed out on most of the other plot lines because I only wanted to read about Trull. I had to read it a second time to get involved with the rest of Midnight Tides.
44. amphibian
The following is not really a big spoiler, but I am whiting out the text to cover my bases:

I think some of you are forgetting that Onrack and Kilava had one night together. That's it. We see the son of their single union further on in the books. Onrack + Kilava does not = human race. Kilava and someone else (presumably several others) had more children and from those children we get the human race.

It's my thinking that Kilava is sort of Erikson's emotion-invested take on Lilith and the host of demon children Lilith bore.
45. amphibian
And yes, House of Chains is an amazing book. It remains one of my favorites in the series, as well as Midnight Tides.

I said this before and I'll say this again: contrary to many stated opinions that it's House of Chains, I believe that Memories of Ice is perhaps the most skippable book for a re-read.

Non-sequitur: Anyone get a hint of SLC Punk in Karsa? Much like the movie's protagonist moving from being a stupid punk to a smart punk, Karsa goes from being full of directionless rage and full of contempt to the entire world, through misdirected rage and selective admiration and ends up with the "grown-up" targeted fury and remarkably sane/intelligent take on reality as it actually is.
Robin Lemley
46. Robin55077
@ 41. SaltManZ

Actually, I think we might not learn that until TCG so thanks for whiting it out.
Joe Long
47. Karsa
The first time through I really liked HoC. I was very unhappy when I started MT because of the change of scene. I wanted more of characters I was so invested in. the change was a suprise to me - maybe first time readers who are better prepared will be more open to the new character set.

On reread, I still rank HoC up with the best of them. But as you can tell from my screen name, I'm fond of Karsa! :)

I've come to really appreciate and love MT as well.
Iris Creemers
48. SamarDev
@ SaltManZ 41 / Robin 46 re Kilava
actually we didn't learned that in MoI. BUT: in the comments (MoI ch. 6&7) it was mentioned (partly as white-outed spoiler, partly as a 'know fact') and it was even discussed. At that moment I wondered if I missed something because I thought it was (far) later knowledge as well, but nobody seemed to care then. I think it's not that huge a spoiler, but better find out when it is there.
So, officially we don't know, unless newbies read all the comments and remember everything of it :-).
Justin Thibodeau
49. Pugnax
I think you will find that your concerns for the future are very minute in retrospect. Midnight Tides in my opinion is where Steven Erikson really moved closer into the realm of Literary fiction(a realm I enjoy more) ie: the commentary on Ecomomic institutions that parallel our own world for instance. I also believe his prose take a great leap foward in form starting at book 5 and beyond.

I will agree though that HOC is the second worst out of the bunch (GOTM being the worst). But for me it's kind of like saying The Two Towers film is the worst out of the LOTR. Yeah the other books are better but each single novel of the Malazan series is nearly twice as good as 90% of the genre. I feel that alot of people, myself included, get spoiled with Steven Erikson's abilities that when he writes something that is not quite up to par to what has come before, it makes us that much more critical of it. When in reality, if HOC was our first experience in the world of Malazan, we probably would have been blown away by it. A great example of this is your own summarization of your feelings toward Night of Knives. In that post your tone seemed to be far kinder to that novel. One of which most agree, as did yourself, as being average to below average. Which there is nothing wrong with that, but it does go to show how we can get blinded by how good these books are. To the point where we can dislike something or be disappointed by it just because it is only good to very good, but yet not exceptional.
Justin Thibodeau
50. Pugnax
I will say one thing though. It is amazing the rereading value Eri kson has put in these books. This is my 3rd time reading HOC, and though it is one of my least favorites, it has increasingly gotten better every time I've read it. Almost to the point where other books in the series are only better by the slightest of margins.
Robin Lemley
51. Robin55077
@ 50. Pugnax
"It is amazing the rereading value Erikson has put in these books."
I agree 100%. I re-read books all the time. I read on average 2 to 2-1/2 books a week. Malazan Book of the Fallen is by far the best series for re-read that I have found to date.
Robin Lemley
52. Robin55077
@ 48. SamarDev
"I think it's not that huge a spoiler, but better find out when it is there."
I agree that it is not much of a spoiler. However, it is not revealed until Chapter 16 of tCG (page 485 in my eBook version). Wether Kilava means this literally or figuratively we can discuss when we get there.

Emiel R
53. Capetown
Now may be the best time to discuss this quote from chapter 2 of Deadhouse Gates fully:

“Two fountains of raging blood! Face to face. The blood is the same, the two are the same and salty waves shall wash the shores of Raraku. the Holy Desert remembers its past."

And yes, I've been waiting for this moment. ;-)
Robin Lemley
54. Robin55077
@ 53. Capetown

Great catch! We oldtimers knew that this phrophecy (witnessed by Duiker in Hissar) foretold the end of HoC, but the newbies didn't know that. The two fountains: Tavore & Felisin.

Wasn't that a great foreshadowning?

Antoni Ivanov
55. tonka
I really liked HoC on my first read. I liked the ending a lot actually. It felt more realistic, touched my heart more than would have any shiny battle scenes. This had the emotional climax that few battles can give you.

On my first read I remember that I skipped Karsa's first chapters. I was eager to get to Fiddler and Kalam, meet Paran's sister (Tavore) and I didn't weant to bother with him. I read them during this reread and thanks to you and your analysis I am coming to see Karsa in a new light. I've never liked his character before but now ...

Btw I've never read Midnight Tides because all familiar people were missng and I didn't want to begin new book with new characters. But I am going to read it now with Amanda when they begin. People say it's really good. Hopefully you are right. I read Bonehunters and Toll the Hounds while skipping MT and most of RG. But I will be reading them with you.
The Gunslinger
56. AlanM
First time poster, so please excuse my ignorance if I'm repeating myself. I am in the same boat as you Amanda, this is my first read of the series and actually finished GotM completely before finding this site. What a joy it has been to share this series with you all, it certainly has made it easier to understand (I forget stuff fast) and way more rewarding. So far Memories of Ice is not only my favourite book of the series, it's probably the best read of my life. So, of course going into HoC I had high hopes and for the most part it lived up to it.

Contrary to many others here, I really enjoyed my first read of Karsa. I knew from the forums that he would be important but I thought the point of view and the story was so different than the rest of the books so far, it was just a nice refreshing change, so to speak. I'll admit though that the first appearance of a Malazan soldier did make me feel like I was home.

I'm not a fan yet of the ending of this novel, being in the boat of looking forward to a big battle but also understanding that if there was a battle, the "good" guys were going to lose, so I kind of figured something other worldly was in the cards. Regardless, what I really wanted to say in this thread, was more to Amanda about MT and continuing the series.

I am about 200 pages into Midnight Tides and I made the choice early on to forget about the fact that I was reading a novel within the Malazan Fallen series, and treat it as though it was a stand alone book. So far, that has turned out to be a great idea and wow, the characters in this book rank up there with some of the greats in this series. Sure it's all new characters (mostly) and sure it's in a land/time we have not seen yet (as far as I know so far) but what a great story, great writing (of course) and great characters. I hope Amanda that you continue with this "reread" so that I can share your experiences in this series, which is fast becoming my favourite.
Iris Creemers
57. SamarDev
When I read HoC the first time, I needed time to grow to like Karsa's story. Apart from being again a new pov, he wasn't that 'likable'. But of course he developed and I became less irritated by his bold 'witness'. In a reread it all reads different because you know where he is going. For those who have read further, I think I don't need to explain why I'm looking forward to his new entry on stage (do I, Fiddler? :-)).

In HoC I could manage Felisin's storyline better than in DG. It was good to see the mix between her own thoughts and the thoughts when the Goddess took over. Even though she was still bitter, it felt less tiresome to read. It was easier to feel with her.

Being back with Strings/Fiddler was good, even though he had a new squad we had to get acquainted with. There were already some nice scenes with them (scorpions!). And again: on a reread it feels even better to see how they are introduced for the first time.

Another nice thing is that in this book it becomes clear that Shadowthrone / Cottillion are deep in it, actually deep in everything. Lostara, Apsalar, Cutter and Kalam all work for them. Quick Ben as former high priest / destroyer of the cult. Cottillion active in Raraku, on Drift Avalii against the Edur. With all those fragments of shadow. And of course Iskaral Pust and Mogora run a warm, welcoming bed-and-breakfast for all those doing jobs for ST/Cot.

Just like Amanda I was not that much attached to Trull and Onrack at this stage in the series (wait, it will come...). But I didn't dislike their story either. It was nice how their path got together with Karsa's, and to see how Onrack grew kind of philosophic when he was severed of the ritual. We see already a few typical characteristics of Trull. 'I weep, because he cannot.'

Actually there was no story-line in HoC I liked significantly less, as I had before (Felisin in DG, Mhybe in MoI) and will have in the future. And still, it's not high on my favorites list. That is, when I have to place it between all the other gems SE has written. When isolated and compared with other books, it climbs up rapidly again :-). I don't know why. I liked the book, but apparently not that much.

So: I'm getting ready for a new ride: Midnight Tides! I think the suggestion of AlanM (btw: welcome!) to see MT as a new book helps newbies to enjoy it. It is quite a new environment again, but you'll enjoy it. Don't expect to meet our dear Malazans, but trust SE that the story-arcs will come together farther in the series, and then you'll need Trull's story as told in MT. And of course by now you're undoubtedly anticipating one 'Tehol' and one 'Bugg' because they are foreshadowed by the rereaders already so often as brilliant. Believe me: they are!
Iris Creemers
58. SamarDev
@ Dustingm 37: nice updates. I think it would be helpful to post it again when we meet the Bonehunters again in… The Bonehunters. It’ll give a nice starting point / reminder then.
Iris Creemers
59. SamarDev
@ Capetown 53
Good to remember us to that prophecy. Way back in DG Amanda already guessed it was about Felisin and Tavore, but the accuracy of the prophecy keeps stunning. Salty waves shall wash the shores of Raraku. And face to face indeed…
Robin Lemley
60. Robin55077
Bill and/or Amanda?

Do we know yet when we will be starting MT?

Sydo Zandstra
61. Fiddler
SamarDev @57:

I think I don't need to explain why I'm looking forward to his new entry on stage (do I, Fiddler? :-)).

No, you don't. ;-) In fact that scene is very high on my list of scenes I would LOVE to see in a movie...

Edit: removed the description of the scene, since I couldn't manage to get it whited out in any way.
Justin Thibodeau
62. Pugnax
When I talk to people about Midnight Tides and the way it seems to depart from our regular cast of characters, I always try to explain to them that Erikson is writing about an entire world, not just about a group of people. That is whats so fascinating and epic about this series. Erikson wasn't happy just to tell a tale of two continents, no, he wanted to talk about an entire world. So to do this one has to except the fact that at some point he will have to devote a large amount of time in a completely new setting. One just has to realize that it is all just one part of a massive story and that your characters will return and the story will be just that much bigger and better.

I always try to explain to my friends that when you step back and take a look at the series as one whole massive book, one can get a feel for what Erikson is doing. For me, the first 5 books is like Erikson setting the stage, the foundation of his story. They give us time to meet all the characters, countries and cultures. We see the beginning of major arcs and subplots coming to fruition These 5 are almost like the first Act in a film or play. Then books 6, 7, and 8 are when all of these various plots and subplots come together and we start to get glimpse of the big picture. So those 3 are like the 2nd act. So finally the 3rd Act, the climax, are books 9 and 10. This is where we get our payoff and hopefully our satisfactory ending.

So in the end I feel if you ever start to get discouraged by the jumping around, or you start missing other plotlines or characters, try to think about the awesome undertaking this story is. Trust me when I first read the series I had the same feelings when I start MT but by the end of it, it was like they were always a part of the story, I just hadn't gotten to that chapter yet.
Amanda Rutter
63. ALRutter
As far as I am aware, guys, Bill and I are starting Midnight Tides next Wednesday. We were only intending this one week off. It just allows us to clear our heads before we move forward to the next book :-)

And I just want to say thanks for all the insightful, wonderful comments from all the crew who bother to post and feedback (and thanks as well to all those lurkers who read each post that goes out). I really appreciate it, and I'm sure that Bill does too :-)
The Gunslinger
64. djk1978
I have finally got my hands on The Crippled God and Stonewielder from the library. Hurray. My question is should I read one or the other of them first or do they not spoil anything?

My preference is to read TCG to finish the series and then read Stonewielder, but if Stonewielder is better read first I will do that.
Gerd K
65. Kah-thurak
I think, that it is largely irrelevant which book you read first. At least I cant remember any spoilers one way or the other.
Chris Hawks
66. SaltManZ
@64/65: Yeah, there's no real crossover between SW and TCG, so it doesn't so much matter. Personally, I'd read it between TtH and DoD, as I think DoD/TCG would work best read back-to-back.

@62: Nicely put. My response to MT being such a departure from the previous books goes like this: Hey, remember in HoC when SE spent the first quarter of the book on this guy Karsa who we had never heard of? And then later you realized how it all fit together and it made sense to do that? Okay, well, now he's doing the same thing in MT, only this time with an entire book. Trust in SE.
Robin Lemley
67. Robin55077
@ Amanda

Thanks for the update and thank you (to you and Bill both), as always, for your devotion to this project.

David Thomson
68. ZetaStriker
There was ONE small crossover between Stonewielder and TCG, which indicated Stonewielder happens first. I small cameo by a character, I believe, but I'm not sure it actually spoils anything. You just miss out on that one easter egg if you haven't read Stonewielder yet.

If I remember correctly - and if anyone else does chime in - I think the thing I'm referring to is Skinner making a brief cameo post Stonewielder. I could be wrong though.
karl oswald
69. Toster
Hmm, i don't think so Z-Striker, iirc, Skinner doesn't appear in DoD, or tCG.
The Gunslinger
70. djk1978
Thanks for the replies. I've dived into TCG. So far so awesome.
Brian O'Reilly
71. idlefun
Skinner gets a very brief mention in TCG in which actions of his in Stonewielder are alluded to.
David Thomson
72. ZetaStriker
@Toster: It happened near the end of Stonewielder, although I can't remember when it was mentioned in TCG - probably near the middle. The event in Stonewielder was Skinner and the renegade Crimson Guard stealing the heart of the Blessed Lady in order to bleed it like the Assail did her "brother", the Crippled God.

Anyway, Bill, are we doing the Prologue AND Chapter 1 for Wednesday, or just the Prologue? I'm assuming the latter, but I want to be prepared either way.
The Gunslinger
73. djk1978
Re: overlap between TCG and Stonewielder - I've seen mention of that person a few times. Nothing I would call a big spoiler though and I'm 3/4 done TCG now.

@72: I don't know about you but I re-read the Prologue and Ch. 1 both. I think it's my favorite prologue of the series.
Chris Hawks
74. SaltManZ
I absolutely love the MT and RG prologues, which is funny because they're my least favorite books in the series.

RotCG takes the prize for favorite prologue, though, no contest.
Iris Creemers
75. SamarDev
In anticipation of the start of Midnight tides...

'Ah well, what I have in mind is a very particular sword...'
Amir Noam
76. Amir
'Anomander Rake.'
Gothos nodded.
Mael shrugged. 'Anticipated. Osserc moves to stand in his path.'
The Jaghut's smile revealed his massive tusks. 'Again?'
Amir Noam
77. Amir
'Ice,' the Elder god snorted. 'The Jaghut answer to everything.'
'And what would yours be, Mael? Flood, or... flood?'
Sydo Zandstra
80. Fiddler

TOR is flagging the links they place on my FB Wall as spam here.

Unless it shows up later today, you guys might check the Wertzone. There's good news...

Anyway, this is the message accompanying the link on my Wall:

"The Wertzone is reporting that Steven Erikson has finished the next MALAZAN novel (in a *new* trilogy)! Who doesn't want more Anomander Rake?"
Sean Molloy
81. hocknose
Does anyone know what the issue is with the forums over at Malazan Empire? not been able to get into them for a couple of days...
The Gunslinger
82. Jordanes
@ 81:

Driver error...whatever that means. It's happened before. If you google 'malazan empire forum down' the first link will take you to an emergency forum (for your emergency Malazan needs ;) ), where it's been said they're currently trying to fix the problem but are having trouble getting in touch with the right people.

Hopefully it'll soon be back on its feet.
Bill Capossere
83. Billcap
"The Wertzone is reporting that Steven Erikson has finished the next MALAZAN novel (in a *new* trilogy)!"

I'm never going to finish this reread, am I?

the Midnight Tides prologue post should be up today folks--see you there
Sydo Zandstra
85. Fiddler
Thanks, Bill.

Oh, I forgot to quote this from the article:

"Meanwhile, Erikson's collaborator Ian Cameron Esslemont's latest Malazan novel, Orb, Sceptre, Throne, is due for publication in January 2012."

Keeps you off the street, Bill ;-)
Hugh Arai
86. HArai
I'm never going to finish this reread, am I?
As far as I'm concerned Bill, that's a good thing.
Chris Hawks
87. SaltManZ
All right, here's my projected reread timeline. Assuming ICE doesn't write any more books, it looks like we catch up by the end of the Kharkanas trilogy in early 2016. :)

(Assumptions made: 13 months between ICE's books, 18 months between Kharkanas books, with TFoD published early 2013, and 17 weeks to read each book, which is what HoC ran us.)

Jul 2010 - GotM - Started
Oct 2010 - NoK - Started
Nov 2010 + SW + Published
Nov 2010 - DG - Started
Feb 2011 + TCG + Published
Mar 2011 - MoI - Started
Jul 2011 - HoC - Started
Nov 2011 - MT - Started
*Feb 2012 + OST + Published
*Feb 2012 - TB - Started
*Jun 2012 - RG - Started
*Oct 2012 - RotCG - Started
*Jan 2013 + TFoD + Published
*Feb 2013 - TtH - Started
*Mar 2013 + CitJ + Published
*Jun 2013 - SW - Started
*Oct 2013 - DoD - Started
*Feb 2014 - TCG - Started
*Apr 2014 + Assail + Published
*Jun 2014 - OST - Started
*Jul 2014 + KT#2 + Published
*Oct 2014 - CitJ - Started
*Feb 2015 - Assail - Started
*Jun 2015 - TFoD - Started
*Sep 2015 - KT#2 - Started
*Jan 2016 + KT#3 + Published
*Jan 2016 - KT#3 - Started
Bill Capossere
88. Billcap
that's just depressing.

Promise not to show that to my wife--she will kill me!
The Gunslinger
89. Karambha
I know this is so long since the re read but did anyone remember when Paran didn't die - someone in his familly had to die instead of him - at the time I thought this was his mother. Now I'm thinking it was poor Felisin who died instead.

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