Mar 14 2012 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: The Bonehunters, Prologue

The Malazan Reread on Tor.comWelcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover the Prologue of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (TB).

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 strange, old-fashioned ship from Malaz Island puts in at Kartool City in the morning, an odd time of year for such a journey due to the winds. Later, after receiving a message, nineteen-year-old Sergeant Hellian of the city guard, leads her squad to the Temple of D’rek. On the way, she thinks of old violent celebrations of D’rek that have since been outlawed after the Malazan conquest. She remembers as well how Surly and Dancer, the night before the invasion, had assassinated the cult’s sorcerers and Demidrek (who had taken over from Tayschrenn — the prior Demidrek — in a coup). At the entrance to the Grand Temple of D’rek she meets Banaschar, who had sent her the note. He tells her they have arrived as fast as they could based on a presentiment he had (he is a former priest of D’rek on Malaz) and they need to break in. One of Helian’s squad, Urb, notices lots of dead spiders on the steps (Helian has a fear of spiders). A high priestess of the Queen of Dreams arrives and asks what Banashar is doing. They break down the doors and discover the temple priests have all been slaughtered horribly, torn to pieces. Banaschar tells Hellian the temples will be informed and investigations begun. Hellian turns away for a moment and Banaschar disappears. She and her guard can’t remember what he looked like and realize sorcery was involved. Hellian says she and her squad are about to be sent away.


A large burial mound stands in a desert and in it, a long asleep presence is imprisoned in wards: Dejim Nebrahl, “born on the eve of the death of the First Empire . . . a child with seven souls.” The creature came of seven T’rolbarahl, creatures formed by Dessimbelackis and then hunted and exterminated at his command when things went badly. The seven had escaped, bound their souls into a mortal female, and then Dejim, a D’ivers, was born from her. He was eventually caught by the Dark Hounds and their master, who bound him in this pit. Now, twelve hooded Nameless Ones arrive and begin a ritual to free Dejim. Toward the end of the ritual, they tell Dejim he must perform a task before they complete it. He agrees and relieved at its seeming ease and that the “victims” are nearby. The twelfth Nameless One, once called Sister Spite, casts the final part, knowing the others will be killed by Dejim for food. He rises and begins killing.


A distance away, Taralack Veed, a Gral, hears the sound of the Nameless Ones being killed and notes a dragon rising from where the noise comes from. He watches then says “Bitch . . . I should have known.” He waits until he “sensed that the creature had finished feeding,” then heads off to track it.


At a crossroads, two days west of the Otataral Sea, five strangers arrive at the outskirts of the tiny hamlet. Barathol Mekhar, the blacksmith and de facto head of the town, as well as the only non-native of it, goes out to investigate. He immediately sends a local to get his weapons and armor then tells everyone else to go home and stay there. His gear arrives and Barathol puts it on then stands to meet them, telling the others before they leave that the five are T’lan Imass.

Amanda’s Reaction to the Prologue

Oh my. Contemplate that Dramatis Personae for just one moment. Look at all those familiar and beloved names.

This is a fantastically powerful poem to open with and one I enjoyed reading very much — the cadence, the themes present, the sorrow, the feeling of something passing. It makes me wonder whether this poem speaks about the events we are just about to embark upon.

Hmm, after a couple of novels where we didn’t have any chapter headers indicating the time passing or where we might be along the timeline. I’m not sure I like their return! Just one question: which Sha’ik is being referred to? The original or that which was Felisin?

What a very sinister start to this novel — the idea of spiders lurking waiting for prey, massive nets waiting to capture the unwary, threads all linking together. Can anyone else see within that metaphors for various situations and themes from the Malazan novels or just me?

And also.... fist-sized spiders?! This would totally be me! “Born in the city, cursed with a fear of all manner of spiders, she had lived the entirety of her nineteen years in unrelieved terror.”

A few initial thoughts — I hesitate at thinking that Hellian is just going to be a bit character, since her background has been sketched in some. I can sort of see why she would turn to alcohol, but it automatically makes her a pitiful and less than likable character. But then we open out from Hellian and get to see what Kartool City was like before the Malazan conquest and then, as far as I’m concerned, Hellian is right to turn to drink! Rubbish and maggot-strewn streets; mangy dogs being stoned to death; public flaying — it is not a charming place to live, by any means.

I’m thinking that the Malazans arrival was a blessed relief — the inhabitants of Kartool City think the opposite: “The present sordid condition was the fault of the Malazans, everyone agreed [...] More than the cult of D’rek had been crushed, after all. Slavery was abolished, the execution pits had been scoured clean and permanently sealed.” And the stray dogs are being rescued — yay!

So right from the get-go I’m not really liking Hellian or her city. And that doesn’t improve with the mysterious ex-priest of D’rek who had a “feeling” that compelled him to rush to Kartool City. His mean comments — however warranted — to Hellian make me feel rather sourly towards him as well. Hah! I’m not being too positive about this start to The Bonehunters, am I? At least by this point I can remain entirely open-minded about how the novel will continue and feel trust in Erikson to sort things out.

Oh, and I have noted that the ousted D’rek priest was none other than Tayschrenn. I think I knew that he was involved with D’rek (if I didn’t, I do now!) but it is interesting having a little tidbit from his history. And after feeling so comfortable and happy with that Dramatis Personae and who features in it, I’m now having to adjust to more new characters/places!

Ugh ugh ugh. “The stench was overwhelming, and in the gloom was visible great splashes of blood on the walls, fragments of meat scattered on the polished tiles, and pools of bile, blood and faeces, as well as scraps of clothing and clumps of hair.” I wonder who this was and why they received this fate?

Okay, so here is our first awesome scene of the new book — the freeing of Dejim Nebrahl. We get more hints about the Nameless Ones — and I’m starting to suspect that they might be the bad guys of the piece... Either that or they are being totally manipulated by Sister Spite. Now, am I right in thinking she is the sister of Lady Envy?

Right, let’s try and piece some bits together. Dejim Nebrahl is a D’ivers, formed of seven T’rohlbarahl. These creatures were created by Dessimbelackis, before he created the Deragoth — the Dark Hounds of which two were killed by Karsa. Dessimbelackis then bound Dejim Nebrahl — the binding that these Nameless Ones and Sister Spite are right now unwinding. Am I all square? Following what is going on? Anyway, the scene is awesome. And SCARY.

Does Spite have a dragon form? Is that who Taralack Veed sees flying away? [Bill: Yes.]

Finally we meet the blacksmith Barathol Mekhar. Now that name seems familiar — the surname anyway. Kalam Mekhar? Any relation? [Bill: Yes.]

Whether he is or no, Barathol is definitely more than just a blacksmith, what with those awesome weapons and his knowledge of the T’lan Imass. [Bill: Yes. (Don’t you love such easy replies?)]

Well! That was an intriguing beginning. Looking forward to diving into the main book proper on Friday.


Bill’s Reaction to the Prologue

Just a moment of quiet please among the vets for the silent cheering going on for the arrival on scene of Hellian.


And Amanda, if you can’t tell from the above, I think you’ll find that she does indeed become a “likable” character.

It’s funny, but I don’t recall every having the sense of Hellian being this young. But for some reason on this reread (not my first of this book), her age just leapt off the page at me as a shocker. I’m still readjusting.

Whenever I think of Hellian, one of the things I think of is picturing her as Indiana Jones in the first movie: “Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?”

Speaking of which, the image of those huge paralt spiders, taking down pigeons and sea gulls is indeed a pretty disturbing image to start off with. And yes, I’d agree those webs make a nice metaphor for the series as a whole.

We’ve seen before these effects of Malazan conquest and the seemingly illogical response by the locals to the consequences: the outlawing of slavery and ending of violent, barbaric rites and then the locals “blaming” the Malazans. Recall the conversations between Torvald and Karsa earlier. Love that mention of the local dog shelter as a funny aside. (Maybe Bent could be taken in?)

That association of Tayschrenn with D’rek is going to be important.

That’s a lot of name-dropping going on with the gods when the temples are mentioned, some of whom we’ve seen (some literally) play major roles and some of whom have been referenced merely as curses. But don’t forget them, especially Soliel and Poliel, who are relatively unfamiliar to us at this point (though good to recall Poliel has already been very briefly mentioned as an ally to the Crippled God).

So who has slaughtered D’rek’s priests? Those spiders and their condition are a clue.

Poor Hellian, into the pan indeed....

Yes Amanda, you’re remembering right about Spite:

Menandore’s eyes fell to the motionless form of Sheltatha Lore. ‘This one. She took a lover from among this world’s gods, did she not?’

“For a time. Begetting two horrid little children.”

“Horrid? Daughters, then.”

Sukul nodded. “And their father saw that clearly enough from the very start, for he named them appropriately.”

“Oh? And what were those names, sister?”

“Envy and Spite.”

Menandore smiled . . . “Sheltatha’s lover. That god – what is his name?”

Sukul’s reply seemed to come from a vast distance, “Draconus.”

Nice recap of Dejim Nebrahl, Amanda. I’d say you’ve got it. The only thing I find a bit odd is that there is a direct reference to Dessimbelackis, but when there is mention of him eventually getting caught by the Deragoth and a sorcerer, that person is simply referred to as “a clever master” rather than use the name Dessimbelackis. I’m not sure why there’d be such a distinction unless it’s meant to imply that the “master” was not Dessimbelackis, whom earlier we’d been told had made a pact or bargain with the Deragoth, which doesn’t quite imply “master.” I don’t think it’s a big deal, just a bit odd.

Buried things just don’t like to stay buried in this series, do they? The past will out, as they say. A concept given us directly when Erikson writes: “They [the wards] were intended to last forever . . . in the flawed belief that . . . all that was once past would never again be revisited.” Also in that passage is the pretty depressing if accurate statement that other false assumptions included the idea that “mortals would one day be without malice” and that “the futre was a safer place than the brutal present.”

I like how we get little reminders of these side notes such as the Trell Wars that don’t really play a major role but keep giving us this sense of a fully developed world with a history that is three-dimensional, one that ripples throughout events, rather than simply a history simply painted onto a backdrop, like the town at the end of Blazing Saddles.

And there’s yet another interesting take on the T’lan Imass — the idea that rather than simply kill Dejim, they would have instead, had they found it, fed off its power to further their war against the Jaghut. Always good when we get these moments to recall how that war was first presented to us as so just and admirable.

A few interesting tidbits in the Nameless Ones’ ritual:

  • Another reference to the theme of the buried/unburied past, as the second NO speaks of the plain in Raraku where the winds reveal “a million broken pots.”
  • An interesting line from the third: “As we fashioned this dilemma . . . so we must initiate its resolution.”
  • And another: “We have chosen one current, a terrible, unchained force — chosen to guide it, to shape its course unseen and unchallenged. We intend to drive one force upon another, and so effect mutual annihilation.” Think of what great force with a “guide” that we’ve seen, one associated with the Nameless Ones.
  • And from the Fourth: “We must acknowledge grief for the impending demise of an honourable servant . . . “ And whom have we met that serves the Nameless Ones? Put that together with “guide” and “terrible force” (not to mention “annihilation”) and I think you can figure out the intended victims of Dejim.
  • From the Fifth: “Shadowthrone cannot — must not — be underestimated. He possesses too much knowledge. Of the Azath . . . He is not yet our enemy . . . He perturbs. And I would we negate his existence at the earliest opportunity, although I recognize my view is in the minority within our cult.” I love that understatement about Shadowthrone — “he perturbs.” Yes. Yes he does. I also like how this sets up some tension for the reader — what might happen if this person’s view changes so it is no longer the minority? Just how “minority” a view is it now?
  • The Sixth. It’s an interesting word — “otherworldly” — used to describe this one. Tell me that doesn’t pique your interest. We get a clear statement of what the Nameless Ones are — “the hands of the Azath, the shapers of the will of the Azath” — though the question does raise itself: is this true or is this what the Nameless One’s “believe” is true of themselves? Do they act upon “instruction” from the Azath or do they somehow “interpret” or take it upon themselves to decide what the Azath “want”?
  • The Seventh gives us a bit of a genealogy lesson: the Barghast, Trell, and Tartheno Toblakai are offshoots of the T’lan Imass. And he also gives us yet another depressing lesson in the way mortals separate themselves into “us” and “other”, and these are the lies that rationalize killing.
  • The Eighth: “Frozen worlds hide in darkness . . . and so hold the secret of death.”

I like that tonal/stylistic shift from the High Language of ritual to Veed’s “Bitch, I should’ve guessed.” Not to mention the “phlegm,” “mucus,” and “piss [ing] on the fire.”

And here is the archaeologist/anthropologist again, showing us what happens when people don’t pay attention to the environment, what happens when your industry and your food system don’t use a sustainable process: “The industry died with the last tree [a truffula?]. Low-growth vanished into the gullets of goats, the topsoil blew away and the village shrank within a single generation to its present decrepit state.”

And that’s a nice cliffhanger of a close to the prologue, eh?

Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

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

Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
Love love LOVE that poem. I asked Amanda on Twitter whether it sounded familiar, or whether I was just remembering it from a previous read, and she didn't recall it. (A search of Google Books came up empty as well.) But it sure felt like I had just read it recently, and I think it's because it seems to encapsulate Midnight Tides so well. We had the Seventh Closure, the end of an age, supposedly an ascent to empire, but instead (as lamented by Trull) we see the Edur descending to the level of the greedy Letherii. And the question posed near the end of MT is: who will give answer?
For someone must
Give answer
Give answer
To all of this
Beautiful. And brilliant.
Chris Hawks
2. SaltManZ
And, I should say, who do we think will be the one(s) to give answer? :)
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
And by the way, the Barnes & Noble link in your header paragraph goes to House of Chains (as it did through all of the MT reread, too, I'm afraid.)
Brian R
4. Mayhem
a mortal woman, widowed by the Trell Wars and without family, a woman whom none would notice, whose mind could be broken, whose body could be made into a feeding vessel, a M’ena Mahybe, for the seven-faced D’ivers T’rolbarahl child swiftly growing within her

I really like this line calling back to the Mhybe of MoI, showing just how old a concept what was done to her was. And just how unusual it was that someone did indeed notice and step in to make sure her mind wasn't broken.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
I can sort of see why she would turn to alcohol
Just you wait -- hee hee.

And, yes, we'll be seeing more of Hellian.
Tai Tastigon
6. Taitastigon
Finally, my favourite book in the cycle. Not on first read, but after 2-3 rereads. Easily the best composition of cast and dialogue, IMHO. And possibly close to 20 different plot strands to boot.

Loving Friday´s session with Chapter 1 already.

And BTW, we do know who the 5 Imass are...
Sydo Zandstra
7. Fiddler
I agree with Taitastigon.

I liked the Bonehunter Army in HoC, because Fiddler, Gesler and Stormy were with them.

Reading this book for the first time made me love them all. :)

Amanda, you're going to love a new duo that was introduced slightly in HoC. A certain Captain and Lieutenant... :D
Iris Creemers
8. SamarDev
Yay, Bonehunters! And yay, Hellian (and Urb)! And yay, Barathol! (still yay, although I admit to a little less yay than for Hellian...).

I like the ritual very much. The formal phrasing, how with every next invoking line some senses return to Dejim, and how Spite outwits the rest of them. Is she just as lovely as her sister?
And Amanda, don't you shiver with the thought of spitting in your hands and use it to keep your hair flat at your head? Well, get used to the idea... Maybe you remember the Gral? Fiddler used that clan as a disguise during DG, and he didn't choose it for it's peaceful, friendly image.

Bill, I had the same 'huh' as you when Hellian was stated as being 19 years old. Partly because characters aren't given such a explicit age most of the time, but mostly because I'd figured her way older. Well, I think I'll forget it soon enough like I did before :-)

Oh, about the timeline and the question after which Sha'iks execution we will continue now:
By choice of words, I think you can see the death of the first Sha'ik as an ambush, while the death of Felisin-Sha'ik looked more like a execution by her (unknowing) sister.
But it will be clear soon enough that we're continuing right after HoC. Having said that: never mind the timeline... :-)
9. Jordanes
@6 Taitastigon:

I agree entirely with you, this is my favourite book of the series too :) Not solely because of a certain chapter, but there are just so many epic setpieces throughout and just about every character gets their 15 seconds of fame.

Yet another prologue that introduces characters we will come to be very fond of, in one way or another: Hellian, Urb, Banaschar, Barathol, Taralack Veed. Love them or hate them (and of course I love them all as characters), they'll all go on to make a huge impact on the series :)
10. Jordanes
Regarding characters' ages:

I think it's somewhat of a (strange) trend in the fantasy genre as a whole that many central characters are in their late teens/very early twenties, and SE does it at times as well (consider Felisin is 15/16 years old, and I think Paran is around 20 in GotM). To me, this always felt as just a bit too young to be going around accomplishing the things they're supposed to do. Anyone else find this?
David Thomson
11. ZetaStriker
As the dates we see specifically stated come from a historical viewpoint, and historically Sha'ik didn't die in the ambush but was simply reborn into Felisin-Sha'ik, I think that only the one meaning can apply.
Chris Hawks
13. SaltManZ
I was always under the impression that, historically, people did stuff at a younger age than we do in present day. Shoot, what's Ganoes Paran going do at 18 years old? Attend Malaz University for four years? And it's gotta be fairly common for people today to join the military right out of high school. I too did a quick double-take when I read Hellian's age, but I quickly justified it to myself; besides, the Bonehunters all age pretty quickly, and I'm not talking temporally.
Steven Halter
14. stevenhalter
Jordanes@10:Well, Alexander (the Great) was proclaimed king by the nobles and army at the age of 20 and had been campaigning since 16. So, starting young is not unheard of.
Robin Lemley
15. Robin55077
Back to the Bonehunters! (My favorite as well.) It seems as if I have been waiting forever to get to this point.

Hellian and Urb, just the tip of the iceburg. Just reading the character list in the front of the book sets my heart to pitter-pattering with excitement.

I am one of those readers who takes special note of ages (when they are given) and have never been bothered by any of the character's ages in the Malazan series. I agree that in many fantasy series it is irritating that everyone seems to be between the ages of 18 aand 22. However, that is certainly not the case with the Malazan and I think it is because of this balance that it has never bothered me with this series. The "under 22" characters are blanced out by the "over 40" characters.

I believe that another reason why the stated ages do not bother me is because SE provides us with such character growth that it just seems natural. For example, Paran at the beginning of GotM was far "younger" than he was at the end of the book. It is not only conceivable to me that Hellian could be 19, but perfectly believeable as well.

Chris King
16. KingFielder
Nineteen year-old also jumped out at me. Strange to see an exact age because it places the reader so firmly in "our" world, rather than the Malazan world. Who's to say there aren't 400 or 450 days in a year in the Malazan world? That would make 19 a lot older than it is for us.

I'm kind of surprised SE used an exact age. "Teenage" gets the point across that Helian is young(ish), but doesn't drop our calendar into the Malazan world. Of course, I usually get annoyed when a writer can't just call "coffee" coffee (I'm looking at you "kaf" in WoT) and now I'm complaining about the number of days in a year, but it was jarring to me from a style perspective (not to mention way younger than I always pictured Helian).
17. Dreamwolf

It's not so long ago that childhood stopped the moment you entered puberty, the concept of a extended period of innocence is realy just from the 19 century. Nobody saw anything weird with the fact that the nobles guilliotined during frech revolution included children down to six years of age. Children were just small grownups and thats how they were treated, as smaller, weaker and simpler adults.

The boy that would become the Swedish warrior king Carolus XII is renown for pitfighting bears as a 12 year old and to take command of the Swedish army as a 14 year old and successfully defend the country againstst three contemporary invasion attempts.

You were simply expected to deliver and take responsibility at least ten year earlier than we would expect nowadays.

The modern viewpoint is probably a result of a much increased mean age of society just as much as the increase in general wealth.
Hugh Arai
18. HArai
However, that is certainly not the case with the Malazan and I think it is because of this balance that it has never bothered me with this series. The "under 22" characters are balanced out by the "over 40" characters.
Yeah, over 40... centuries :P
Allana Schneidmuller
19. blutnocheinmal
It's been 2 1/2 years since I read this book, and about 2 since I read Toll the Hounds, so the series is pretty fuzzy to me...
but I am super exicted for this re-read. One of the top five most cinematic sequences in this series for me is in this book. Have to stop myself from picking up the novel myself to follow along. :)
Tricia Irish
20. Tektonica
I took his book on my vacation, to get a bit of a head start on Amanda and Bill, and now I'm in Book 4. Just. Love. It. Hard to put down. Great characters and dialogue. Hello Hellian! (I think you'll grow to like her, Amanda.)

As for ages....I think people mature earlier, of necessity, in a hard-scrabble existence. They certainly matured earlier in less modern, (read medicine, nutrition), times in our world. They also tended to die earlier....unless, of course, they ascended, or were a mage, or were not a common soldier. ;-)
21. Ser Lorne
I've lurked about reading the rereads for a while now without commenting. Just wanted to say I agreed with Bill's comment regarding Hellion's age. I honestly thought she was in her mid to late 30s, maybe early 40s; a drink adled guard.

Also, Amanda, remember you also started out being unsure of Tehol and Bugg ;) Hellion grows on you (though many of her crowning moments of awesomeness don't happen until later)
22. Jordanes
Thanks to everyone who responded regarding age in fantasy, your answers make a lot of sense. But it's interesting to note yet another way in which the fantasy genre relies on things which are commonly held to be true for whatever may be identified 'ye olden times'.

I would argue, however, that this shouldn't be taken as gospel truth, but rather a general perception that it was so.

This wasn't really the case for many people even in the past. The individuals mentioned like Alexander the Great and other rulers are exceptions more than the norm really. And the reason why they were thrust into positions of such responsibility so early has a lot to do with the fact that their fathers/previous rulers died and they were the next in line - in that position no distinction is made for age. Though, regardless, even Alexander had his advisers.

For instance, the commonly-held belief that people married at a much younger age in the past (in western Europe anyway) is for the most part a myth. Again, it only really applies to rulers and those in positions of great power who wanted to link their houses. The vast majority did not begin to get married until into their mid- to late-twenties, if not later.

It is true that people may have begun work at a much earlier age in general, due to the restriction in openess to further education, but one could argue that has as much to do with the fact that there was nothing else for them to do so much as it was to do with people believing that they were fully-responsible adults at that point :)
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
Jordanes@22:Of course, the characters in the stories are really exceptions to the norm also. If they were "normal" everyday folk who didn't have any adventures or perform daring feats then the stories would tend be a tad dull--only so much excitement to be had in pulling weeds.
Brian R
24. Mayhem
Given SE's extensive background in archaeology & anthropology, combined with his desire to break out of convention, I would be cautious about saying things are done 'because genre relies on that assumption'.

In documented laws from Western Europe, the age of consent for women was generally around 12, though it was known to go as low as 7, and marriage of girls under 12 was relatively common in the records of early America. I would also be careful not to confuse the age when someone gets married with the time which the marriage was actually consummated.

Consider also that prior to the 12th century, which is when most of our modern state records really start, that marriage was generally practiced either as a social contract between families, or as a business contract within guilds and other trade organisations.
The Roman customs around Matrimonium are fairly extensively recorded, and cover a huge range of fairly recognisable practices in modern times, from pre-nups to divorce and custody agreements.
The primary reasons were political alliances, social status, wealth and reproduction. Love was an occasional bonus. The minimum age was standardised at 14 for men and 12 for women under Justinian, to avoid physical examinations to determine puberty, as proof of reproductive ability was a requirement. Eunuchs could not marry in any way.

All that being said, I strongly suspect that the historical tendency was for men to wed once they had completed their apprenticeships and established their social position. Probably somewhere around the age of 20-30. Scale that down for military types and up for polititians. Women would marry much younger, so that they had a higher chance of surviving childbirth, and if they didn't, the man could get a new wife and still be young enough to try again. Demographic information I have read put 75% of the Roman population under the age of 35-40 with a mean of 25. By comparison, England today has a mean of 39 with the 75% under around 56-57.
Darren Kuik
25. djk1978
Lots of comments so far. I don't have too much to add except that I'm not nearly as strongly in the "love Hellian" camp as everyone else seems to be. Nor do I love Barathol or Banaschar particularly, nor Taralack Veed. I'm also not inclined to say a certain chapter is as epic as everyone else thinks it is. I'll be interested to see if a re-read will change any of that.

I've been guilty of it in the past too but I think we should be careful not to impose our expectations on Amanda and other first time readers. They might come to agree but equally they might not. But I don't want to set up something as totally awesome only to find that someone else doesn't think so. Hence I'm offering my less awesome perspective of this as a counterpoint.

That's not to say I don't like this book, there is much about it that I do love.

Speaking of duos, there's another one introduced in chapter 1 that I personally enjoy.
26. Jordanes
@24 Mayhem

I don't dispute any of what you're saying, but the discussion really centres around responsibility and treatment at an earlier age, with some saying that in earlier period of history children were treated as small grown-ups.

This is only partially true. Yes, they may have been given the status of adults much earlier on in life than we would today (also due to the much lower average lifespan than today), but if anything, earlier periods were far more ageist (or is that youthist?) than today. Sure they were adults at twelve or whatever, but they were second-class, if not third- or fourth-class adults for the most part.

Consider something like voting restrictions. What have they been based on? Class, property ownership, citizenship, gender, and...? That's right, age. And, of course, in many places the voting age is now significantly lower than it was in the past. Governmental positions also used to be restricted according to age (in theory anyway, although many found ways around it, usually with money :) ).

But the essential point is that youth was still equated to inexperience. Yes, you were an adult, but normally you didn't hold the same rights - or rather, privileges - as someone ten years or twenty years older than you earned.

So once again I would argue that many fantasy writers with books set in a semi-medievalish/early modernist world do not take into consideration the type of uneven interaction their major characters would have with the rest of the world when they make their characters very young and if they were being consistent (now you're going to argue but it's fantasy and they can do what they want :P ).

Having said all that, I actually have no issue with Hellian being 19 - soldiers the world over tend to be very young.
Brian R
27. Mayhem
True. Older societies were heavily hierarchical, especially within family groups, with either the eldest retaining all the authority, or more often the next one down taking the reins and the eldest acting as an advisor. Property ownership is an odd one though - the Romans were quite liberal in that in certain circumstances woman could hold property in their own right, and in rarer cases could even head families. Greece on the other hand was purely patriarchal, and women were property. Both however were very careful in who they classed as a citizen, and what rights non-citizens could have.

I agree with you that many fantasy writers didn't do a lot of consideration of the reality of their time period, although this has improved a lot in recent years. I would however protest that the inexperience are assigning to youth isn't necessarily the case in a different time period.

The western world today does a lot to protect their children, to allow them a true childhood, and to educate them to unlock potential.
In older times though, times were harder. Children were generally expected to start contributing soon after being weaned, with responsibilities increasing fast, especially in rural or poorer families. I have friends who came from eastern europe, go back a generation and things are wildly different to today. One friend of mine grew up minding sheep in Ukraine, from the age of 7-8 he and his younger brother were alone in the hills for weeks at a time.

Hellian being 19 and a Sergeant in the City Guard makes a fair bit of sense - she probably enlisted around 15, four years in the Malazan military would involve growing up pretty damn fast and a sergeant is still only a squad leader, so limited authority. Kartool is also near the heartland of the empire, so I imagine that the older and more senior had already been pulled out into the main forces by this point.

It really acts more as a snapshot of how the empire as a whole is, with stretched lines of supply to the fronts, increasing tensions from within, and younger and younger people taking the lead...
Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
I don't normally have a problem with spiders. But:
just in case anyone missed it, these aren't just run of the mill pigeon eating large spiders. They are deadly pigeon eating large spiders. And they are all over the place.
There is no way I wouldn't run screaming out of Kartool. If I absolutely had to be there I'd be checking myself for giant spiders all the time.
Large, deadly poison numerous spiders.
Rubbish and maggot-strewn streets; mangy dogs being stoned to death; public flaying.
Bad place, Kartool--just saying.
Tai Tastigon
29. Taitastigon
Can anybody give me the number of that *legendary chapter* ? even if by shout or in spoiler tags?
Because I feel dense as heck right now...
Kimani Rogers
30. KiManiak
I'll "delurk" for a moment to state that I also really like this book. I think that there are a few exceptional chapters in this book, but I would say that my favorite is one a little bit later where we are reminded that gods probably shouldn't mess with mortals all that much (also, to paraphrase the Godfather, just when a certain character thought they were out...).

I'm doing my first re-read of the Malazan series (had to take a few months break after finishing my original read, but now this series calls to me again) and I'm hoping to catch up to Amanda and Bill in the next several weeks, and hopefully before this book is done.

Oh, and yes, this book definitely introduces one of my favorite duos, as well. Some of my favorite dialogue...
Darren Kuik
31. djk1978
@Tait: I don't think its a big secret that chapter seven is the one being referenced.
James Golden
33. Treemaster
I am reading the series for the first time. I wanted to keep the same pace as the reread, but 've really enjoyed The Bonhunters so far, and am now around page 650. (Of course, that's only about half-way through this book!) So far, it's one of my favorites, if not the favorite. I like it much more than the past two.
Iris Creemers
34. SamarDev
I have another character to file away: Kulat with his clicking pebbles. I had long forgotten who he was when he showed up again, and it took me a few good scratches on my head before I realised we met him in the prologue.

@ Treemaster: yes, those things happen... :-) Have fun!

And KiManiak, good to see you back! Hope you will join in again!
Robin Lemley
35. Robin55077
@ 27. Mayhem
"It really acts more as a snapshot of how the empire as a whole is, with stretched lines of supply to the fronts, increasing tensions from within, and younger and younger people taking the lead..."
Great point! And even more to the point when you consider that the Bonehunters/14th is, for the most part, a large bunch of new recruits.

Chris Hawks
36. SaltManZ
I'm partial to Chapter Two myself; after having read TCG, that one's an eye-opener.
Robin Lemley
37. Robin55077
@ 29. djk1978
"Speaking of duos, there's another one introduced in chapter 1 that I personally enjoy."
There are actually a couple of duo's introduced in Chapter 1 that I enjoy immensely. I would guess that you are referring to the first mentioned in the Chapter. The second duo we meet in Chapter 1 is (in my humble opinion) some of SE's funniest writing and one of my favorite duo's in the series.

Robin Lemley
38. Robin55077
Quote Time!

Corabb to Leomen:

"Spirit dreams, yes. They do not frighten me, Commander. Except for all the feathers."

Captain Inashan to Karsa: "Can you understand my words?"
Karsa's reply: "They have been simple enough thus far."
Darren Kuik
39. djk1978
No I think I'm referring to the same two as you Robin. :)
Kimani Rogers
40. KiManiak
SamarDev@34 – Thanks! I’m going to try to be more active when I can. I’m picking up so much that I initially missed or didn't quite understand on my reread (as you all have promised, multiple times), so I’m hoping I’ll be able to follow the posts on a series-wide level as well as the individual book level.
42. Osyris
It's great to see some discussion going again. Bonehunters is definitely a series favourite for many fans :)
Bring on chapter 1!
Iris Creemers
43. SamarDev
As you might guess, I'm looking forward to the other (half) new duo in chapter one, which isn't as hilarious as the duo you mention, but still a lot of fun to read.
'... but then I broke my foot-'
'Kicking the wheel.'
Mieneke van der Salm
45. Mieneke
Woohoo, I'm glad we're back for the reread. This break was perfectly timed though, as I managed to have the baby in the middle of it. Some pics of her on my blog:

So, The Bonehunters is a book I've heard a lot about and that most people seem to love to bits. This makes me very curious to see how I'll like it. Looking at the Dramatis Personae I had a similar reaction as Amanda, namely one of joy at seeing old friends again!

There is a lot going on the prologue, but what stuck with me the most was how unpleasant a place Kartool is, not just in the present time, but even more so in the past. Public flayings, stoning dogs, weird religious ceremonies... add in those spiders and Kartool would be high on the list of places I'd only go over my dead body!

Lots of new characters as well. From the comments I gather we'll be seeing more from all of them right?
Iris Creemers
46. SamarDev
Ah, Mieneke, congratulations with your beautiful daughter! She is 'Lief!' indeed, although she still looks a bit bewildered at entering this world... :-).

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