Fri
May 11 2012 1:00pm
Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: The Bonehunters, Chapter Sixteen

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

 

Chapter Sixteen

SCENE ONE

The Fourteenth is on its third day of boarding ships to take them away from Seven Cities. Keneb worries about morale, the army having had its “heart” cut out with the loss of so many veterans. He is also concerned about chaos among the leaders, especially Tene Baralta’s bitterness and hatred of life. He runs into Nether, who tells him they can’t do anything about the plague and that they’ve lost contact with Dujek. She adds that Pearl is still missing. Keneb joins Tavore, Blistig, and Nok. Tavore tells Keneb Nok has informed them the Empress has ordered them back to Unta once they’ve boarded (two more days he thinks) and they have decided to take an alternate, longer route in hopes of avoiding the plague and restocking. Nok leaves, saying he wants to keep an eye out for a strange fleet they’d spotted. Blistig leaves and Tavore and Keneb discuss the army, with Tavore saying she thinks they’ll eventually be sent to Korel. Keneb realizes she doesn’t actually believe it though and wonders what she suspects Laseen of. Keneb leaves and Grub tells him to make it three rather than two days to board, adding some predictions.

SCENE TWO

Kindly watches over the packing of his comb collection (Kindly is almost completely bald). Kindly complains about Keneb’s incompetence in causing a delay in boarding then leaves. Pores and the remaining soldiers discuss thinking.

SCENE THREE

Barathol leads Cutter’s group out of the town. They are followed by Chaur and they take him on.

SCENE FOUR

Cutter is impressed Barathol didn’t reject Chaur or beat him. Cutter tells Scillara they are taking Heboric to the Jade Statue, explaining Heboric’s hands are now solid jade flecked with imperfections. Scillara says afterward she’d like to go with Cutter to Darujhistan and he can teach her how to be a thief. He says there are better people there for her to be with.

SCENE FIVE

Scillara thinks Cutter is feeling lonely, guilty, and useless now that he’s failed both Heboric and Felisin and hopes her flirting will keep him distracted. She worries about the ease with which she gave up her baby. She and Barathol speak, briefly and with little substance, about the future.

SCENE SIX

Ganath stands above the fissure where she had ensorcelled the K’chain sky keep, sensing that dragon blood had been spilled and in combination with chaos had destroyed her ritual. She can’t pin down the time order though and also has a strange sense of order having been imposed. She wishes Cynnigig and Phyrlis were with her, and then wishes for Paran as well. She is suddenly attacked/killed by K’Chain Nah’Ruk (Short-tails).

SCENE SEVEN

Spite’s ship is crewed by bhok’arala from Pust’s temple. At sea, Spite seems upset and when Mappo asks what is wrong, she tells him a murder has happened. The two discuss faith, gods, godlessness, war between gods, inequity, motivations for war, etc. She ends by telling Mappo they are heading for the Otataral Sea.

SCENE EIGHT

Ormulogun paints Dujek’s barrow. He and the toad Gumble spar over art, Ormulogun’s talent and effect, what Ormulogun will paint on the barrow walls.

SCENE NINE

Paran looks at the High Fist’s army inherited from Dujek, wondering what had been in Dujek’s logs to lead the army to choosing him. He thinks he’ll do what he pleases with the army until Laseen takes it away. Hurlochel tells Paran the soldiers are his no matter what the Empress says. Paran says scouts have seen survivors heading northeast and says the army will resupply then follow them, helping and survivors and letting them join. He goes to meet Ormulogun to ask him to make him a new Deck of Dragons.

SCENE TEN

Karsa’s group finds a friend of Boatfinder who has been killed/tortured by the invaders. Karsa says they are close, are hiding via sorcery, then takes off. Samar, fallen behind, hears the sound of Karsa killing then comes to a camp and sees Karsa fighting 50 or so Edur among dead/tortured Anibar. A female Edur tries sorcery, but it is ineffective against Karsa. Samar stops him before he kills all the Edur, saying he needs to leave some alive to carry back the fear so they don’t return. The Edur bring out a Taxilian interpreter and Samar lies, saying Karsa is just one of a “horde” of Toblakai. Samar recognizes the language as descended from the First Empire. The leader of the Edur agrees to withdraw all forces and when Karsa says that is insufficient, the leader offers to convey Karsa to face their Emperor, whom they say has killed over a thousand challengers. Karsa agrees, though Samar says he is “chaining” himself.

SCENE ELEVEN

Keneb asks Temul how it feels to be heading home, commander truly of his men, and Temul says he thinks the Wickans will leave the army at Unta and say little of Seven Cities to their families, feeling shame at the army’s failures. He says they wanted to die as Coltaine did against the same enemy and this return will break them.

SCENE TWELVE

The dogs all start barking and Pores sees a troops marching up the road toward the ships. He takes Tavore’s horse to ride closer, recognizes them as survivors from Y’Ghatan, then heads back to the ships when Faradan Sort says they’re in desperate need of water.

SCENE THIRTEEN

Tavore walks with Keneb, Blistig, and a few others toward the commotion, asking why he purposely delayed their departure. He tells her Grub told him they would die otherwise. Pores goes galloping through them calling for water. Tavore and the others see who it is coming up the road and are stunned. Faradan surrenders herself but asks leniency for Sinn (for desertion). Fiddler tells Tavore if she hangs Faradan she better get a lot more nooses for the survivors. Tavore welcomes them back, “Bonehunters in truth.”

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Sixteen

I like how these past few chapters have a bit of a rhythm to them—a rise and fall. In this case, we move from the announcement of Dujek’s death to Keneb’s concerns about the army and we’re given a litany of dismaying concepts: the army’s morale gone bad, the hole at the center with the loss of so many in Y’Ghatan, the fear of mutiny, the lack of food and water, the plague surrounding them, Tene Baralta’s horrible wound and its effect on the man. Some of this we know of course is about to be ameliorated—the plague for instance—though that knowledge is counteracted a bit by the fact that we also know that when the army does “get in touch with Dujek” the news will be bad. But by the end of this chapter, we will have climbed out of this abyss thanks to the arrival of the survivors, and that scene is made I’d say all the sweeter and more effective thanks to this beginning.

Also, in the list of things to worry about, note that little throwaway line about how High Denul is becoming more rare among the Malazan Empire. Healing, it appears, is becoming less and less likely which would seem to set up the reader for some more deaths to come. One also wonders what that might say about the sustainability of the Empire’s expansion/occupation. We’ve heard before that high magery is also becoming more limited.

And another quick line—where is Pearl? A nice bit of suspense to toss in there. Is this the Claw acting on Laseen’s orders? If so, where is he? Is he killing someone? Planning to? Is this Kalam’s revenge? Is this Apsalar? Is he off on his own?

I’ve said before, probably more than once (I assume you’re used to my repetitions by now, and we’ve got books and books to go folks!), that one of the craft aspects I like about this series, one of its more clear signs of the author’s attentiveness and world-building and respect for the readers is how events in the past don’t simply disappear into the past. They don’t happen, have an immediate impact, then get washed away by the turn of pages. We see this in thematic ways such as how all these characters are constantly walking on the bones (sometimes literally) of the past. But we also see it in tiny ways, such as when Keneb walks into the command tent and immediately notes how it still smells of smoke, “a grim reminder of Y’Ghatan.” I think far too many authors would never have had that very concrete, very sensory reminder of the past.

So, anyone think that Tavore’s fleet going the “long way round” to Unta, through somewhat unknown waters, with some mysterious fleet out there, might prove to be eventful on the way?

We’ve heard of Sepik before, and Nemil as well. Earlier, Samar Dev had told Karsa that Sepik has “two distinct populations, one the subject of the other” and it is this information that enraged Karsa and made him head toward the island. And Veed told Icarium they are heading for the coast “opposite the island of Sepik.” Nemil, meanwhile, is the land whose army Mappo recalls the Trell defeating, though the Trell eventually succumbed anyway. Then of course there is Shal-Morzinn, though I already spoiled last chapter that we wouldn’t be dealing with them—sorry. And then Drift Avali, and we’ve seen some interesting things happening there.

Good ole’ Blistig. Even surrounded by negativity, he can bring a room down . . .

So, we have a mysterious fleet out there (though probably not so mysterious to us readers). More than Nok’s mention of the fleet, I like how we get that Meckros city casually tossed in there, which should remind us of a few events/characters from the past.

Here is another reference to possible tension between Tavore and Laseen, to some concern that the Fourteenth Army and the Empress might be on a collision course. What does Tavore know? What does she suspect? And where is that damned Claw?

And the potential bad news continues as the Foreshadow Express arrives via Grub:

“Sepik will be bad”

“Nemil will be good. Then bad.”

“Then we find friends, twice.”

“Then we end up where it all started.”

“Then it will be very bad.”

“That’s when she realizes everything, almost everything.”

We know some people heading toward the same general area—will they be the “friends”? Or will they be brand new folks? Or old folks we haven’t seen for a while? Where is “where it all started?” As Buffy once said to Giles, “Can you vague that up for me a bit more?” Might “it” be Malaz City? Aren? The First Empire? The list goes on... And who is he collecting that bone whistle for? We’ve seen a bone whistle before....

Before things get unbearably heavy though, Erikson winds us down a bit with some much-needed comic relief with Pores and Kindly. Oh, how I love those combs. And Kindly’s lines just crack me up: “I’ve personally killed more lazy soldiers than enemies of the empire.”

Barathol simply accepting Chaur’s addition without yelling or worse, beating him, does characterize him nicely. But I’d say the group’s reaction, or lack thereof, also does the same. Cutter doesn’t complain about dragging along someone both “simple and stubborn.” And Scillara offers to make him sandals. I think it’s funny that Cutter, while internally praising Barathol for his behavior, doesn’t seem to give himself any credit. And while I have no idea whether it is intentional or not, I have to confess that I laugh at the idea that Scillara, a new mother, is going to make “baby booties” for a giant with the mind of a child.

It’s certainly an intriguing bit of info that Heboric, even though he’s been stuffed and dried, has had some sort of major change in that his hands are now solid (but not pure) jade. Something is going on there obviously, even if it isn’t a “climb out of my old skin and be alive again” kind of thing like Greyfrog.

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten much into the head of Scillara beyond her pregnancy, and I like this Scillara we see here—the one who is attentive enough to see Cutter’s various pains (guilt, grief, loneliness, self-esteem), who actively tries to distract him from those pains by flirting, who picks up on Barathol’s dryly subtle warning not to push Cutter too far. A Scillara who is actually looking forward to something rather than dreading the future: “Thoughts of a city lit by blue fire, a place filled with people, none of whom expected anything of her, and the possibility of new friends—with Cutter at her side—were in truth rather enticing. A new adventure . . ." And then, after her very dry and not-so-informative conversation, if one can call it that, with Barathol: “I think I’m going to enjoy this journey.”

Oh, poor Ganath. I got to the first line of this section and felt a pang immediately. I liked her and the few moments we get with her in this scene make her death more painful. It begins with her sense of vulnerability, which automatically is going to make us feel sorry for her. And her futile wish for her friends of old. Whose names, by the way, should sound familiar. We met both Cynnigig and Phyrlis in House of Chains. Cynnigig took Karsa to see Phyrlis who was the one in the tree who called the Jhag horses for Karsa to choose (her wood also furnished Icarium with his arrows).

Then it really puts me on her side when she wishes for Paran. A Jaghut wishing to have a human (albeit an ascendant or near-ascendant one) at her side when she feels anxious and alone. Which is yet another knock against the whole T’lan Imass genocide by the way.

The pity only goes up when she tries to kill herself by throwing herself over the cliff into the crevice rather than be killed by the K’Chain. And then up again when she sees her own blood, thinks she needs to put it back into herself and clean it.

I’m not sure if we had this distinction between the two K’Chain Che’Malle races before or not. The Long-Tails are (according to Ganath) the “truly chaotic ones” while the Short-Tails (the Nah-Ruk) are the “servants of machines, of order in all its brutality.” So they seem to mirror the most elemental of conflicts.

And what a lovely, sad, quiet end to a relatively minor character whom I still bemoan the loss of: “She was cold, and that felt good. Comforting. She was, after all, a Jaghut.” Sad, but I was happy for that bit of comfort at the end at least.

More mule: “Iskaral Pust’s black-eyed mule had somehow preceded them [aboard the ship]”

And how is this for setting us up for a future conversation: “If bhok’arala could possess faith in a god, then their god had just arrive, in the dubious personage of Iskaral Pust, and the endless mewling, chittering, dancing about the High Priest was clearly driving Pust mad.” Hmm, doesn’t take much translation there to see that as a more serious parallel.

So unpacking Spite’s conversation with Mappo. She tells Mappo a murder has happened and “godless ones walk the sands of Seven Cities once again.” We’ve seen Ganath just killed, and one could argue Poliel was “murdered” as well. I think it’s the former Spite is referring to and that the “godless ones” are the Short-Tails. I suppose one could argue killing a god like Poliel could make you “godless,” but it’s the “walking once again” that makes me lean toward the K’Chain, who have been absent for so long. Any ideas?

So we’ve had this “war of the gods” mentioned repeatedly in this book, and at first it seemed relatively simple perhaps: Crippled God and his allies (Poliel, for instance) versus the “good” gods such as Cotillion, Mael, etc. But we’ve had lots of intimations that things aren’t going to be that simple. We’ve had some moments where the Crippled God is given a little shinier polish than originally shown (not much, but a little). We’ve had Poliel’s death get muddied with her dying thoughts that she wished to save the land. We’ve had other “simple” wars called into question—if the Imass-Jaghut war is a parallel, what might that say about this war? And now we’ve got Spite laying out that no, this war is not simple at all. We don’t know where the battle-lines are drawn. We don’t know what is being used as a weapon sometimes. Even when we think we know something is being used as a weapon, she says, we don’t know if that weapon may not rebound on the user. We’ve been trained by now by Erikson to know things are gray and not to take things at their first glance and we should keep this in mind as we go forward whenever we think we know what the alliances are, who the enemies are, what the goals are (not that I’m saying anyone is walking around crystal clear on any of those things at this point....)

Out of the abstract, tell me this isn’t a timely real-world argument:

inequity . . . is the poison that breeds the darkest fruit. Mundane wealth is usually built upon bones . . . the holders of that wealth . . . are often blithely indifferent in their ostentatious display of their wealth. The misapprehension is this: that those who do not possess wealth all yearn to, and . . . this yearning occludes all feelings of resentment, exploitation, and most relevantly, injustice . . . When wealth ascends to a point where the majority of the poor finally comprehend that it is, for each of them, unattainable, then all civility collapses and anarchy prevails.

Bonehunters—contemporary Western capitalism. CWC—Bonehunters. You two seem to have met.

This is one of those passages that I can fully understand people complaining about. It’s dense. It’s talky. It’s lecture format. It slows action. I do get why people don’t like this sort of thing happening at all or happening too often. But for me, this is one of those scenes that helps distinguish Malazan from a lot of other fantasies. I like getting to chew over dense, thoughtful passages that deal with the big issues: economics, culture, religion, how humans treat one another, and so on. I’m willing to pay the narrative price, and sometimes the characterization price for these sort of moments.

We move on to the idea we’ve heard several times already—the concept that the worshipers drag their gods along, the acts the worshipers say they do in their gods’ names are in fact “godless”, assuming those gods were “moral” ones. When she speaks then of these “godless” being allied with the previous named “godless”—is this an alliance with the Short-Tails?

And who would have predicted that a goddess named “Spite” would make the argument that “motivations prove, ultimately, irrelevant”? That “slaughter is slaughter”? She presents Icarium, in this scenario, as sort of the Doomsday Bomb—the way to end all such conflict, by wiping out both sides utterly. It’s an argument Erikson forces upon the reader, a prism through which to view not just the “bad guys” but also the “good guys”, who do in fact deliver (and will deliver in the future) some hellish destruction, so much so that some of them question themselves their methods and effects. I’m not saying Erikson is forcing agreement upon the reader; personally, I think motivation is highly relevant nearly all the time. But he does force us to think on the question.

As he forces us to ponder the choice of enemies, another wholly topical subject nowadays: “A civilization at war chooses only the most obvious enemy, and often also the one perceived at first, to be the most easily defeatable. But that enemy is not the truest enemy, nor is it the gravest threat to that civilization. Thus, a civilization at war often chooses the wrong enemy.” (we’ll see this played out later in this series). It’s a question the reader can ponder with regard to this series: is the Crippled God the true enemy? Was Poliel? Lether? The Edur? Rhulad? And it’s a question the reader can ponder in his/her own life as we live through a war on terror, conflict with Iran, conflict with China, conflict in the Middle East, in the Sudan, and the list is seemingly endless. Not to mention that Spite’s little parable about the two kingdoms fighting over water isn’t at all removed from our literal world either—check out the tension over China’s proposed dams and their effects on Bangladesh and India, for just one such example.

And certainly her litany of all the steps that led to the water fight could be used to describe many of humanity’s missteps on this planet: “the game that was hunted to extinction, the forests that were cut down . . . “

As can her seeming despair over the needed responses ever actually happening: “one must think in the long term; and then one must discern the intricate linkages . . . motivate the population . . . that of the neighboring kingdoms . . . Can you imagine such a leader ever coming to power? Or staying there for long?”

Okay, I’m tired now.

Another reason to like Paran—his sense that he has not earned Dujek’s armor, his position.

So, we’ve had hints of possible conflict between Tavore and Laseen—between the Fourteenth and the Empire. And now we’ve got Hurlochel telling Paran Dujek’s Host is his, not the Empress’. Brother and sister, each leading an army, each seemingly not all that tightly bound to the Empress’ will. Things could get very interesting with that dynamic.

“But I don’t want an army.” (Yes, actually. Yes, he does. Just saying.)

Okay, Karsa is tough. And I like his rage at what has been done to the Anibar. But have I mentioned I am rarely a fan of the single fighter carving his way (literally) through 50-70 enemies. Just not a fan.

I do like this scene though. It is fierce. It is cinematic. I do like his rage. I like Samar’s quick thinking and her bluff that Karsa is just the one guy who sprinted ahead of all the others exactly like him (imagine that realization sinking into one’s head after what he just did). I like the interpreter catching on and winking. I like Feather Witch reappearing (that finger is the clue as to her identity), not because I like Feather Witch but I like the convergence of plot and character. I like Samar’s scholarly nature coming out in her recognition of First Empire language. I like that Hanradi Khalag, the Preda, is the chief without a shadow who surrendered mysteriously to Hannan Mosag back in Midnight Tides. I like the reappearance of the chain imagery. And of course, the predicted convergence of Karsa the Killer and Rhulad the Unkillable (and let’s not forget Icarium is heading this way...). I like all that, if only it hadn’t come after Karsa took on five dozen warriors.

But as much as I like that scene, it pales to one of my all-time favorite moments in this series. Oh, how I absolutely love replaying this scene in my mind. It begins, as the chapter began, with so much doubt and despair and sorrow: Temul talking of his Wickans abandoning the army in shame, wanting and failing to die; the army thinking Tavore was going to be demote; Nok and Tavore fighting; Baralta, sad in his physical state, also being a source of “sedition” among the officers; the dread of this long, ugly sea voyage to come. And then the dogs start barking (and for us rereaders we were there when Bent took off), then they lead Pores’ eyes to a group of soldiers on the road, (and now we know what is about to happen and Erikson—thank you for this—drags it out so we can sloooowwwllly enjoy this moment), then Pores goes through the possibilities of who it can’t be, then he rides nearer, then he sees Faradan Sort and sure we knew she was alive so big deal and then he sees Quick Ben and sure we knew he was alive so no big deal though a bit odd and then “god’s below, but they’re all—no, they weren’t. Marines! Damned marines!” And I’m already getting choked up.

And then we get to relive the moment again through Keneb’s eyes and again we get Faradan Sort and no big deal, then we get further delayed and get to feel oh so superior when Blistig screws it up again, and then we see Tavore (Tavore!) actually “stagger” (well, almost, but this is Tavore!) and then we get the roll call: Fiddler. Gesler, Lostara Yil, Stormy (and I love Fiddler gets his own sentence. Don’t tell me punctuation doesn’t matter!). And then we get the kids like a blow to the heart: “And in their arms, children, dull-eyed, shrunken.” (and file that image—the army carrying children) Then Faradan offering herself up to be killed and standing up for Sinn. Then Fiddler. Fiddler with “a scrawny child sleeping or unconscious in his arms.” An image that should stay and stay with you. “Bonehunters in truth then . . . Welcome back, soldiers.” (that last word is key). This is where thousands of pages with these characters pays off, in scenes like these. The emotion is so earned here. So earned. And what are we going to feel in thousands of more pages?


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

21 comments
Tufty
1. Tufty
That last scene is a great emotion-stuffer, alright. Not fist-pumping, not tear-jerking, just a nice, slow little tug.


Anyone else get the sense Spite doesn't have any friends she can chat with over a pint every now and then, and so is relishing having someone to talk to on her cruise ship? Helps that there's no way off the boat except into a dhenrabi's mouth... I'm not criticizing - I like everything she says, but when has any character in this series said so many words in one conversation?! If only she could meet up with that Bonehunters corporal who paraphrases Shakespeare...
Iris Creemers
2. SamarDev
Bill, I'm with you with that last scene. It is powerfull and heartwrenching indeed. Makes me want to whisper the conversation of Tavore and Fiddler myself. I was looking which quote I would add at the last chapter, but it's all of it that makes it.

More process-question though, is Amanda joining us again? I hope she is well... Maybe it is possible to give an estimation when we will see her again? Not that I don't like your thourough analysis (hmmm, never made the connection between Spite's 'godless' and the Nah'ruk but it sounds reasonable), but the combination of fresh experience and analysis is even... more complete.
Sydo Zandstra
3. Fiddler
SCENE TWELVE

Yes, the returning of the Marines was a very powerful moment, and a fabulous pay off. (Gets me weepy when reading the moment where Pores realizes still)

And Erikson shows some brilliance in starting it with Pores watching the 2 dogs, thinking So only now we find out that they're terrified of water. Well good, we can leave the ugly things behind.

BTW, file those dogs for later in the series... When we get there, I will point out that it was Bent who was so unrestive and sprinted ahead...
Tricia Irish
4. Tektonica
Another great chapter. I've reread the ending so many times. Once through is just not enough.

The only criticism I've heard from people who either quit Malazan half way through, or didn't like it, was about the monologues like Spites, where we get a lot of philosophy, and SE observations on civilization (theirs and by implication, ours). I happen to love the ideas he presents, even if I don't always agree. SE is always thought provoking.
Really, this is just the meatiest Fantasy I've ever read. It's got great action, wonderful characters, dialogue, world building, and big ideas.

I do hope Amanda is OK and just on vacation. I hope she hasn't abandoned us! She's missing some great chapters here.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
The ending is great. Ganath's is a sad ending--and it certainly predisposes us against the Short tails.
I really liked Pust, the Mule and the bhok’arala. "How does a Mule get on a boat?" is a much better question than chickens crossing the road.
Spite's conversation reaquaints us with the concept of inequity and how it lies at the heart of so much trouble. Notice how compassion is the other side of that coin. Great inequity can only come about with a great lack of compassion. And, yes we are seeing big examples of that here and now as well as in the story.
I like the philosophical sections as well as the action.
Mieneke van der Salm
6. Mieneke
So with Amanda not asking the newbie questions, I'll have to ask mine myself!

Who is Grub's big man with the cut hands? Surely that isn't Heboric? Apart from the obvious (he is presently dead) I can't remember him being described as especially big.

I loved Pores and the coughed up bones. Kindly was SO not impressed! That scene was hilarious.

Scillara's 'I'll follow in your shadow.' surely has some further meaning? I mean with all the shadow imagery and Cutter being one of Cotillion's adherents (sort of) that can't just be a throwaway line, can it?

I did find the scene with Spite and Mappo a bit tough going, I kept having to reread the line to get the meaning or a least the drift, but that might be due to the fact that my toddler was trying to read the book with me *facepalm*
Chris Hawks
7. SaltManZ
Mieneke: Memory's fuzzy, but I think that Grub's "big man" is Withal; (the bone whistle is for the Silanda.)
Bill Capossere
8. Billcap
Hi all,
Amanda is just taking a new job/mental health/catch a breath break. Not at all a permanent deal and not any sort of personal emergency or tragedy. Our plan was to have her pick up again on Monday, but I'll let her speak more to that if she wishes. I'm sure she's happy she's missed!

Even before Amanda signed up as a new-to-the-series reader, this reread had always been planned as a two-person job partially so one or the other could take a short breather now and then, massive and lengthy as this reread is going to be (and certain people aren't helping by putting out more books in this world, cough cough won't name names cough cough Steven).

In that vein, fair warning that we're also looking at taking a small hiatus after Bonehunters for a few weeks, partially to regenerate our batteries and partially because I'll be on my annual family camping trip and it's tough to stay caught up in the back country or when visiting family. But that's still in early planning stages and we'll give you the details once we've settled on them.
Iris Creemers
9. SamarDev
Hi Bill and Amanda,
Good to hear there are no major negative conditions re yourself / the reread (in that order...). Of course it's good to take time to catch a breath from time to time. Reading your comments it's easy to forget that they're written by mere humans with mundane human needs :-)
Tufty
10. KarlinDelaware
I get chills just reareading you writing "Welcome back, soldiers." Hella awesome chapter as it moves everything FORWARD. This is perfect example of a useful chapter. Not one wasted word. And as far as Karsa carving up 50 Edur, c'mon dude! It's FANTASY. Also, he is a freaking badass killing machine, in case its slipped your mind.
Amir Noam
11. Amir
And notice the title of Preda for the Tiste Edur leader. Preda is the Lether Empire's term for a captain/commander - this is not an Edur title.

This is a very nice subtle touch by Erikson. As has been hinted numerous times in Midnight Tides, the Edur get absorbed into Letherii ways depsite being the conquerors.
Amanda Rutter
13. ALRutter
Just letting you know I posted reactions to Chapter 14 in the comments! Catching up gradually :-)

And thanks to everyone who asked after me! x
Amanda Rutter
14. ALRutter
Catch-up comments left on chapter 15 as well - epic, that one!
Amanda Rutter
15. ALRutter
Okay, finally, brief thoughts as a catch-up for this chapter:

- If the 14th feels like it has its heart cut out right now, then I can't wait for those who were buried within Y'Ghatan to catch back up and give them a reason for fighting again.

- The Adjunct shares so little of her burden.

- Ha, there is Shal-Morzinn mentioned again!

- An unknown fleet to the north? Tiste Edur on the hunt?

- Grub is ace. That whole 'wait three days' business reminds me of The Two Towers and waiting for Gandalf to arrive, except a little less full of battle! Also, this quote: "Sepik, but that will be bad. Nemil will be good. Then bad. And after that, we find friends, twice. And then we end up where it all started, and that will be very bad. But that's when she realizes everything, almost everything, I mean, enough of everything to be enough. And the big man with the cut hands says yes." Strikes me the remaining plot of the book is right there (and perhaps in a few more of the Malazan books)! Also, the man with the cut hands = Heboric??

- "Kindly was mostly bald." *grins*

- Ah, very humorous and mocking: "Now wouldn't that be something? High Fist Kindly, commanding all the Malazan armies" in view of Paran having taken the name Kindly briefly and then becoming High Fist.

- Chaur is a very sweet character so far.

- I like that Cutter is trying to fulfil Heboric's last wish. I still can't really believe that he is dead, it feels as though he still has a role to fulfill?

- Nice echo of Cutter following Apsalar, as Scillara announces that she plans to follow Cutter in the ways of a thief. I think that if anyone can bring back some semblance of Crokus, it will be Scillara.

- I like that Scillara is deliberately flirting with Cutter, in an effort to prevent him wallowing in guilt over his lack of ability to protect his party. It shows real thought by this woman.

- Ganath is dead? Nooooo! I liked her! And at the hands of the K'Chain Nah'Ruk - the short tails. They're back.

- Haha - that mule of Pust's makes me so curious!

- Wow, if we weren't already to feel wary about what is coming, Spite certainly spells it out for us here: "The war in question, then, is messy, the battle-lines muddied, unclear, and even the central combatants struggle to comprehend what constitutes a weapon, what wounds and what is harmless. And worse still, to wield such weapons proves as likely to harm the wielder as the foe."

- Hell, this conversation between Spite and Mappo Runt is fundamental and yet so deep that I only grasp but a tenth of its meaning! Sometimes I feel like an ineffectual reader! I especially note this: "All that they do in that god's name is at its core profoundly godless."

- Not really sure how much the conversation between Ormulogun and Gumble adds to proceedings :-/

- Dujek wanted Paran in charge of his army after his death. And interesting that brother and sister are now both in charge.

- Poor Paran, trying to follow in the footprints of a hero, and somehow not realising that he is starting to reach that status himself.

- I think it was a masterstroke to put Samar Dev as Karsa's companion. We gain perspective on his skills; we are amused by some of his barbaric ways and appalled by others; his character coloured by Samar Dev makes him more appealing. And it also allows Erikson to make sure that he is able to be reigned back at times - not often, but sometimes Samar Dev can influence his actions.

- Oh man! "Were these tall, unhuman strangers such poor fighters?" We know this is not the case where the Tiste Edur are concerned. This really does provide some perspective on how good Karsa is. Or is it true that their isolation has prevented them from advancing?

- I love how this clash of cultures are both surprised by the use of the words Tarthenal and Toblakai.

- Lots of things tumbling into place here. Has Karsa been baited to try and kill the Emperor?

- Temul's view on his soldiers is bitter and heartbreaking: the fact that they expected to die and are shamed by having to return alive.

- The frustration at Keneb by the rest of the soldiers and commanders makes me laugh, since we know that it is all delaying tactics to ensure Grub gets his three days.

- The whole end of the chapter and the "welcome back, soldiers"? Yeah, I might have something in my eye....
Mieneke van der Salm
16. Mieneke
Welcome back Amanda!

Re: - Not really sure how much the conversation between Ormulogun and Gumble adds to proceedings :-/

I completely agree! I didn't really like that scene either.
Darren Kuik
17. djk1978
I think the big man with the cut hands is Kalam. I've seen argument that it's Withal but that makes less sense to me.
Rajesh Vaidya
18. Buddhacat
@17: Why does it make less sense? Haven't seen any mention anywhere that Kalam's hands are "cut", while there are numerous mentions of Withal's hands being cut or having weals, etc.
juanita heath
19. nanajade
Since ST is being so unsubstantial in this book it occurred to me that he could be the mule !!? Then I thought about Bottle rearranging QBs doll into a 4 footed "something" so maybe not so far off??
juanita heath
20. nanajade
re: conversation between Ormulogen and Grumble ...isn't it just another easy way to remind readers of prior events. Pale, Black Coral etc
Tufty
21. Wilbur
Regarding the objection to the Karsa v 50 Edur warriors scene, I have an appreciation for how this is less fantastic and more realistic than Bill C. finds it.

As a foundational assumption, fighting is essentially an athletic pursuit. The bigger, stronger, faster, more aggressive boxer with heart will always win in the squared circle. The bigger, stronger, faster, more aggressive horse with heart will always win on the track. The bigger, stronger, faster, more aggressive basketball player with heart will always beat his man on the court, etc. Better athletes almost always win.

As a tennis player, I have played in numerous ladder tournaments, where the individual can challenge a player one or two places above him to a match each week, and a player must play a match against a challenger one or two rungs below him on the ladder. The winner of the match retains or takes on the position a rung above the loser.

These ladder tournaments result in good, even matches with opportunities for both players to win the match because the talents find their own relative levels among the players within a few weeks. I enjoy these matches and win some and lose some, and have even ended the tournament closer to the top than the bottom.

Then I have been called in to play the club pro when he needs some exercise. This is just a club pro, not one of the professional tennis players we see on television competing for big money. These club pros, middling players in the grand scale of things, will play a match against me wherein they want to practice one specific stroke, for instance, an Eastern grip forehand. So they hit this one shot almost exclusively throughout the match, contorting themselves into disadvantageous positions and postures solely to hit this single stroke on almost every shot.

And they beat me like a red-headed stepchild. Easily. Effortlessly. Using this one stroke that they need to improve almost exclusively. And while I am a middle aged man now, I played tennis in college against very good collegiate athletes. But on the continuum of athletes, these club pros are so far ahead of me that it really is no contest.

Thus I can readily believe the scene where a ten-foot barbarian with a nine-foot stone sword takes on tens of warriors successfully, just as Roger Federer could probably defend one side of the court against all of the rest of us who enjoy and comment this re-read series on the other side of the net and still win.

Thank you for this re-read analysis - I decided to work my way through these books this summer, and this blog has multiplied my enjoyment of the process tremendously.

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