Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover the Epilogue of Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson (MT).
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.
A quick note on our schedule for the next couple of weeks. This Friday at noon Tor.com will be hosting a Q&A about Midnight Tides with Steven Erikson, then the Malazan reread will take a break until March 14, when we will begin Bonehunters.
All set? Good!
The Kenryll’ah demon princes look down a hole they threw the Forkrul Assail down. They urinate down the hole.
Withal, Sandalath, and the Nachts are on the beach as a storm rages and they can feel its “wrath and its impotence.” Sandalath says it is waiting for someone to do something and he says he’s thought of something, then spots a boat. He runs to the Crippled God’s tent and knocks it down, then yanks it away from the god. The storm arrives on the shore save for a patch of calm where the boat pulls in. Bugg gets out and tells him the ship is for them all, adding he’s “going to beat a god senseless.”
Amanda’s Reaction to the Epilogue and Midnight Tides
Well, this line really does say it all: “As the world unfurls anew...” As we close the last pages of Midnight Tides, it feels like everything has changed and we are ready to start the story anew.
These two Kenryll’ah do make me laugh a lot. They are so crude and yet somehow entirely childlike.
And there is so much potential in this sniping relationship between Sandalath and Withal — loving that!
FINALLY Withal gets what those rather clever Nachts have been trying to tell him! Nice to see Mael arrive in answer to Withal’s prayers and, oh boy, did I want to see Mael beat the Crippled God senseless... A good ending.
BUT... my first comment regarding Midnight Tides is one that is starting to apply to the whole series: what exactly is achieved by these epilogues? I mean, what is done there that can’t be achieved by just putting that section on the end of the previous chapter? Mind, I’ve often wondered as to the point of Prologues like those Robert Jordan produced in the Wheel of Time, and now these Epilogues that Erikson writes. They are just an extension of the rest of the story being told within the novel. Anyway... *shrugs* ...I suspect I shall be alone in my thoughts on that, so onwards!
My overwhelming view of Midnight Tides is one of deep appreciation of a writer’s craft. Yes, I know that the novel is nigh on 1,000 pages, but, even with that, it feels as though Erikson has included masses of detail and none of it is extraneous to the plot. The way that the different plotlines and scenes all slot together by the end of the novel is a joy to experience. The fact that we have explosive battle scenes and quiet moments of reflection gives brilliant balance to Midnight Tides.
I won’t deny, when I realised this was going to be a whole novel featuring Trull, who hadn’t exactly set my world alight during House of Chains, my heart sank. I went into Midnight Tides thinking that it would be the most difficult novel of the series. Instead, it has easily become one of my favourites, and Trull is now a character with depth, someone I have enormous liking and pity for. So here is a question... How many of you re-readers/old-timers liked Trull in House of Chains purely because you knew his back story would be filled out in Midnight Tides? I’d be interested, because I found his storyline dull in the previous novel. Now I’m very keen to go back to his parts of House of Chains and re-read them — see just how much of Trull has been created by the events in Midnight Tides.
I loved the fact that Midnight Tides was both a complete story, and also opened like a flower at the end to show the potential of the rest of the series. I am DYING to read the rest of the stories of some of these characters — and it will be of great interest to see how they slot into the rest of the characters we already know and adore.
What also gets me is the fact that I truly have NO idea where the tale is going now. I want to find out, of course, but nothing would surprise me. All I know is that we have gods, ascendants and regular or not-so-regular people assembling on stage for........ And that is the bit that I’m not sure about. What exactly are they assembling for? I know it’s likely to involve death and tragedy and dark humour, but other than that I’m a blank. And I love that. I love the potential. I love the fact that I simply cannot predict this epic fantasy. With other series it is easy to see the way the author is taking things — the journey is what becomes important and how they get there — but you pretty much know what the ending will bring. I could not even try to predict the end of The Crippled God!
Bring on The Bonehunters!
Bill’s Reaction to the Epilogue and Midnight Tides
Giving us some slapstick buddy humor is a nice breathe of air at the end here, coming as we have through such emotionally wrought scenes: so much death and tragedy and, in the Errant’s word “poignancy.”
We also get to feel pretty good at the end with the escape of Withal, the comeuppance via Withal to some extent of the Crippled God, and then the emergence of Mael who makes us feel even better as we picture the CG getting what’s coming (and wise to let this happen off-stage because really, how are you going to show us one god beating the hell out of another?).
A few big picture items, certainly not exhaustive, I’d like to mention before handing off the baton to Steven.
Wait, this already happened?: The flashback nature of the book adds a constant background of, yes, poignancy, to the novel that we know always where it is heading in terms of the Sengar brothers. Granted, it is difficult as a re-reader to separate out what haunts the novel because of what’s come before (Trull’s shorning) and what haunts you because of what you know coming up. (You don’t really think I’m going to put an example in this parentheses do you?). But I’m pretty sure offering this novel up as a flashback makes the reading experience richer than had we gotten it in chronological order. And I admit, I’m a sucker for playing with time and structure and order and the like. I don’t care for such things as gimmicks, but when they are woven in to the heart of the story, they enhance the read for me.
Hey, where’s everyone going?: We get some resolution at the end — Lether is conquered, Rhulad is Emperor, Hull is dead, etc. But look at how much of the end of the novel is in truth a “beginning” or a “rebirth.” Silchas crawls out of the earth and is reborn into the world. We have no idea. Kettle is “reborn” into the living. Seren is reborn into purpose. Tehol is pretty literally reborn. Mael is reborn from Bugg, coming into his full nature. Udinaas is released from his old life as slave. Shurq is about to begin the pirating life. Sandalath is literally reborn. Withal is off to a new life. And I’m sure I’m leaving some out. Beyond the characters themselves and how they are reborn or beginning anew, we have plots starting up: the questing group at the end, Iron Bars reference to the Crimson Guard getting together, the Edur beginning their rule rather than their conquest of Lether, Rhulad about to begin to start Malazan Idol — the search for a champion. Trull and Seren making with the swordplay. Tehol about to put his plot into effect. And of course, now that Trull has told his tale, we can get back to what he’s going to be up to. And I’m sure I’ve left out characters and plots. But the point is obvious — the tide comes in, and the tide goes out, and Midnight Tides ends sweeping us outward into more and more story.
Trull and Seren, sitting in a tree, first comes sword...: Yes, we’ve got sweeping epic storytelling, kickass world-shaking sorcery, major battles, trips to the bottom of the ocean, people killing gods, etc. But give me character and relationship if you want to hold my attention for longer than a short story or novella cuz action alone isn’t going to do it for me. What keeps me reading isn’t to see how the Ceda kicks Mosag’s butt in a battle of magics, it’s what happens between Tehol and Bugg; between Fear, Rhulad, and Trull; between Kettle and the adults in her “life,” between Ceda and Brys, Brys and Tehol, Iron Bars and Seren, Trull and Lilac. It’s the banter, the growing intimacy, the growing estrangement. It’s the relationships.
We’ve got philosophy, yes we do; we’ve got philosophy, how ‘bout you?: I love the social criticism of this novel. The rapaciousness of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism in both its obvious and not-so-obvious fashions. The deleterious nature of our old friend “certainty.” The nature and impact of inequity. The horrors of rationalization and destiny. The dangers of the unexamined belief system. All the ways one can be enslaved (literally, to an addiction or a drug, to power, to a belief/faith, to self-delusion, to the past, to family). I like that Erikson makes me think.
When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes: I actually don’t have much to say about this yet, save to point out that
a) we’re getting more gods coming on stage
b) some of those gods get killed. That’s going to be an important concept down the road
c) Hood has balls
What did he say again?: Just a few reminders:
- Kolanse: Seems it’s a very messed up place.
- Bluerose: Home to some estranged Andii apparently.
- The Shore
- Where are all these released Forkrul Assail going?
- Udinaas has a son.
- Sheltatha Lore is still trying to get out.
- Brys is dead, sure, but still in the game (albeit a wet one). After all, there’s dead, and there dead. Or as Xander once described it, “walking-around-and-drinking-with-your-buddies dead.”
Okay, there’s lots more to discuss with the book so have it folks, what did we leave out?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.