Wed
Jun 13 2012 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: The Bonehunters, Chapter Twenty-Three, Part Two

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 first half of Chapter Twenty-Two 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 Twenty-Three Part Two

SCENE ONE

Fiddler continues to play his song, musing on how he has changed, how he’s come to no longer believe in peace save as an ideal; he has learned that suffering exists regardless of the definitions of war and peace. He is tempted to turn away and willfully no longer see to avoid the pain his compassion causes him. He grows angrier, more demanding (a god that doesn’t require suffering, one who celebrates diversity) until Gesler tells him not to end the song in anger. And Fiddler agrees, beginning a new, more lively one.

SCENE TWO

Bottle heads out from Agayla’s to Coop’s Inn and finds Foreigner (Withal, the man with scars on his arms) and gives him the message “Your long wait is at an end.” Foreigner asks Temper (who is bar keeping) to keep an eye on Bottle while he prepares to leave. Temper tells Bottle there’s no need to worry; those in Coop’s (mostly veterans) know the Fourteenth did fine. Foreigner says Bottle being in the Fourteenth means the message makes more sense.

SCENE THREE

Helian and Banaschar are still at Smiley’s where three shadows/wraiths sit at a table nearby. Banaschar gives his guess about the bartender, saying Kellanved summoned the demon then when Kellanved left the demon took over the bar. He tries to convince her to let him go to Mock’s Hold to perhaps save the world, and she says the world’s going down. The three shadows exit.

SCENE FOUR

Kalam’s group fights through another ambush, with Kalam getting badly wounded and T’amber even more so. They get chased from behind, then from in front and Kalam realizes they are being herded to the bridge entering the Mouse. Suddenly they’re ambushed again and Kalam sees T’amber taking impossible wounds. They fight through and move forward when sorcery seems to strike some of the Claw behind them. In sight of the bridge, Kalam tells T’amber and Tavore to head for the river and to the harbor while he leads the Claw away. Looking at T’amber, he can see she hasn’t long. They leave and he heads out.

SCENE FIVE

Grub meets Lostara Yil and tells her he’ll take here where she needs to go, though it will be “sad.” She sees shadows paralleling them, but Grub tells her they’re his friends. They begin passing the remnants of slaughtered Claw (over a hundred).

SCENE SIX-SEVEN

Kalam flings Quick Ben’s acorn to the ground. Aboard the Froth Wolf, Quick Ben can sense the Perish getting pushed back while Destriant Run’Thurvian is magically protecting the ship from both mundane and sorcerous attack, though it seems the Destriant is saving his power from something bigger to come. He can also sense magical traps/ambushes throughout the city, traps created by High Ruse (sea sorcery) and he feels someone is waiting for him, is trying to keep him contained. At Kalam’s summons, he heads into a warren but hears Shadowthrone saying it’s time for Quick Ben to pay his debt.

SCENE EIGHT

Kalam realizes Quick isn’t coming and heads out. He fights through an ambush with the biggest, best assassins he’s faced yet (he says they’re—almost—like him), taking bad wounds in the process.

SCENE NINE

Pearl watches Kalam, appalled at his ability and terrified of him. As Kalam drags himself toward a hole in the roof, Pearl shoots him with his paralt dart just as Kalam drops through. He collects Kalam’s weapons as his trophies and orders the single other survivor to gather the Hands so they can go after Tavore, telling the Claw Kalam is finished. The assassin calls Pearl the Clawmaster and Pearl thinks he will kill both Rel and Dom by dawn now that he has the Claw. When the assassin learns Pearl uses paralt poison, he starts to leave in disgust, saying he won’t follow Pearl’s orders. Pearl kills him.

SCENE TEN

Fiddler ends playing. Legana Breed appears and reclaims his sword from Stormy, saying it took him longer than he’d thought to escape the portal at Morn. Gesler says Breed still owes them since they didn’t tell his T’lan Imass companions when he took the Tiste Andii head into the portal. Breed agrees to escort them to the docks.

SCENE ELEVEN

The Perish and marine squads are slowly losing at the docks, but Keneb won’t call more in, fearing they’ll just get pulled deeper and deeper into the mess, worried especially about all the sorcery he can feel. Run’Thurvian warns them of Claw trying to board, saying they are especially aimed at Nil and Nether. He adds he can stop them this time but not for long, and also that the power “sleeping” in Nil and Nether won’t be of use as “it is not for us.” Keneb orders a protective cordon around the two Wickans and sends Smiles to go get Quick Ben. She returns to say he’s gone. Keneb can see armed and armored soldiers now in the rioting crowd.

SCENE TWELVE

Pores watches and wants the other Malazans to go help, but Kindly says they’ll follow orders and remain where they are.

SCENE THIRTEEN

A “cloth-wrapped” figure appears on the roof Kalam dropped through. The assassin killed by Pearl appears as a ghost, a “gift” he says for the stranger as to why he hasn’t passed through Hood’s Gate yet. He tells the stranger Kalam pulled out the arrow and points to it, saying there is enough poison left for Pearl. The stranger takes the arrow and exits.

SCENE FOURTEEN

The stranger moves with surprising ease through the sorcerous traps and quickly nears the Claw converging at the harbor. It begins to attack them.

SCENE FIFTEEN

Pearl sees the stranger and thinks “Shadow Dancer” at first, then worries it is Cotillion himself coming after him for killing Kalam. He runs into an alley preparing to flee by warren, but when he reaches for Mockra nothing happens (he forgot he was carrying Kalam’s otataral knife). He is hamstrung, tossed around, until the stranger stands over him. Pearl hopes Lostara will meet him at Hood’s Gate. The stranger, revealed now to be Apsalar, tells Pearl he was the last on her list and that she had planned to make it quick, but thanks to Kalam, she won’t. She stabs him with the poisoned quarrel.

SCENE SIXTEEN

Shadowthrone appears in front of Apsalar and she tells him to let Cotillion know she did what was asked. He was impressed with how she cut through the Claw, saying “Not even Cotillion.” He refers to Laseen being on her own now, bereft of allies as well as over 300 Claw killed by Apsalar, and says she made “too many bad judgments. As we feared.” He then tells Apsalar she is free. She gives him Kalam’s weapons and leaves.

SCENE SEVENTEEN

Shadowthrone goes to Obo’s tower and tells him Oponn has “commandeered” his tower and suggests Obo “ousts” them. He leaves and a few minutes later the tower top explodes with a huge fireball.

SCENE EIGHTEEN

As Fiddler’s group passes Smiley’s, Helian and Banaschar stumble out drunk. They move on then at the bridge Gesler and Stormy start to run for a crowd up ahead.

SCENE NINETEEN

Tavore and T’amber near the docks, having seen no Claw on the way. They run into City Guard who turn to attack, soon joined by Claw. Tavore sees T’amber impaled. Before the Claw reach her, munitions land and kill them. Fiddler grabs her and starts to drag her toward the jetty with the reset of his group covering him.

SCENE TWENTY

Grub leads Lostara to Pearl, dying in agony from the poison. He tells her to put him out of his misery, that Pearl, thinking Lostara dead, had given up everything save hope for vengeance against Tavore. She asks who killed him, but Grub refuses to say. She kills Pearl and they leave. He touches Lostara so she can see with his sight and they both look upon T’amber’s corpse. A “golden glow” lifts from the body as a “savannah grasses” wind brushes past. The glow becomes the Eres’al and Grub says, “She used T’amber. A lot. There wasn’t any choice. The Fourteenth. It’s going to war,” adding Lostara can never tell Tavore, another secret to go along with the truth of Felisin’s death. Lostara says she’s not going with the army, and Grub says she has to take T’amber’s place. They head for the Mouse docks.

SCENE TWENTY ONE

The Silanda and Forth Wolf pull away. Fiddler tells Tavore they appear to have left Bottle, Quick Ben, and Kalam behind. She says they’ve failed if Bottle hasn’t retrieved whom he was supposed to. Keneb arrives via another boat and has Bottle with him, along with Grub, Lostara, Withal, Cartheron Crust, the three Nachts, and Sandalath Drukorlat. Tavore tells Nil and Nether to help their people who face the pogrom. Nether tells Bottle “When you are done, come back.”

SCENE TWENTY TWO

Kalam is fighting on, trying to reach a destination in mind. He collapses before doing so. Shadowthrone and three shadow-wraiths move in and Shadowthrone tells them to drag the near-dead-but-not-quite-dead (“I want to go for a walk . . . I feel better”) Kalam to the threshold of the Deadhouse. They put his knives back as well. Shadowthrone knocks then exits he grounds. The Guardian takes Kalam inside. Shadowthrone disappears just as a door opens at Coop’s nearby

SCENE TWENTY THREE

Braven Tooth reaches Coop’s Tavern as Temper steps out. Temper sniffs the air as if sensing Shadowthrone’s presence. A woman (Apsalar) passes them into Coop’s leaving bloody footprints. They enter.

SCENE TWENTY FOUR

Fist Aragan, inside Coop’s, watches as Braven Tooth tries to speak to the woman who just entered and gets threatened with a knife near his eye. He leaves her alone and the woman takes her bottle and heads upstairs.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three:

Since I am doing a catch-up generally, I will tackle the whole darn chapter to make sure that you chaps know all my thoughts. Some of this might lack a little detail, but you will at least hear what I thought!

Kalam is a truly great character who sometimes, I think, gets a teeny bit lost with the others who have come to mean more. Although he has had some awesome scenes, I’m not sure people have the same feeling towards him as they do Fiddler, for instance. I might be wrong here! What made me say this was that he often provides the steady commentary that shows us, the reader, what is happening — like here highlighting that the Moranth munitions will make easy work of the citizens of Malaz City (which would make the Mouse Quarter seem like a street party, I guess...)

This is not the first time that Kalam has headed through Malaz City on a mission to face down the Empress. There is some odd symmetry here, and it does make you wonder especially how Kalam now views the Empress after the meeting he had with her in Deadhouse Gates.

This silent march is like a funereal walk, quiet and grim...

And this quote reflects what the meeting between Laseen and Tavore might signify: “Was he seeing the Malazan Empire’s death-throes? On the island where it began, so too, perhaps, would its fall be announced, here, this night, in a chaotic, senseless maelstrom of violence.”

Who is casting this veil of Mockra across Malaz City, and causing this horrible maelstrom? Who do we know that uses Mockra?

Bottle is related to Agayla? This is the witch that Kiska stopped with in Night of Knives, isn’t it? It’s really cool when you see these little links from book to book, especially between Erikson’s and Esslemont’s.

Foreigner’s rescue might “save the world”? Curious! And I truly don’t know why Bottle would be surprised by Tavore withholding info *dry*

What a contrast this scene featuring Keneb and Koryk and Cuttle shows, comparing the early actions of the Fourteenth with the hardened veterans they now are. Truly excellent development. And, as usual, some great comedy moments: “Think on it, Lobe. How many hands you got? Where you gonna hold the third one — between your cheeks?”

It isn’t nice seeing a Malazan army take arms against Malazan citizens though, is it? “Gods below, we’re killing our own here.” Very poignant.

A character whose development has happened slowly and steadily is Keneb. This confrontation with Rynag showcases exactly how far he has come — I like him very much at this point.

Wow, didn’t see Koryk doing that! I wonder whether there will be any repercussions from this... “...wanted us to hand them the Wickans...”

Oh, WOW! This is an amazing moment, where Keneb realises what has happened: “We’re holding the jetty, and not one damned soldier down there gives a damn about anything else! Why?” He thumped the rail. “Because we’re waiting. We’re waiting for the adjunct. Destriant, we’re hers, now. It’s done, and the damned empire can rot!” This echoes nicely with Kalam’s musing on whether he’s seeing the death of the empire — this moment where the Fourteenth Army became the Bonehunters.

*grins* And from a moment of high drama and revelation to a balancing moment of humour (although some poignancy as Fiddler talks about ghosts e.g. the Bridgeburners).

I must have something in my eye. It appears to be leaking slightly as I read that list of the fallen, those people we’re missing as each page turns.

What an awful moment it must be, to enter that room and see what is basically a judge, jury and executioner sat waiting for you. And then the blows will keep coming, what with Tene Baralta making it very clear that he has fallen on the side of the Empress. This really does set the tone for this scene to come, doesn’t it? That and “Welcome home, Tavore.” Could be meant in so many ways...

Tavore approached the Dom and Rel situation with much more calm than I would have shown! I would have been absolutely spitting rage at two such traitors being freed and allowed to take high powered places in the Empire again.

Oh, they make horrendous actions sound so bloody reasonable, don’t they? The fact that plague, economy and war have created a situation where they must have a scapegoat — is this not something we’ve seen during our own times? I hate them. I so hate Dom as he insists that he is now First Sword — as if he could possibly fill the shoes of Dassem Ultor! I really am damn angry now.

And how interesting that Kalam sees fear in the eyes of the Empress at the idea of facing Tavore alone... Because of what Tavore might do to her? Or because the Empress knows that she is truly in the wrong, and needs the support of Rel and Dom to force through these ideas and new structure?

You know, I sort of feel the Empress is speaking absolute truth when she talks about the Adjunct not being meant to command armies. This makes perfect sense, that the Adjunct would be her instrument and extension of her will in matters of representation and visiting places held within the Malazan Empire — that circumstances more than anything have caused Tavore to go and take charge of an army.

“As you command, Empress.” Who else thought ‘nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!’ at that point, at the idea that Tavore would go quietly?

How very sarcastic: “But Korbolo Dom, in all his percipience and razor-honed judgement, simply nodded.”

And then how very intolerable and horrendous from Rel: “In this way necessity is an economic matter, yes? That an ignorant and backward people must be eradicated is sad, indeed, but alas, inevitable.”

I feel great admiration for Tavore as she schools Mallick Rel in how events might seem very different from another perspective. Shame someone as vile as him won’t ever learn this lesson.

As well as that welcome from the Empress, this is a very, very leading question: “Are you ready, Adjunct?” Ready for what? It seems to hold more weight than just asking if she is ready to head down to the docks. And then what exactly is Tavore saying in reply? What does she indicate she is ready for. A very weighty exchange in two simple sentences.

Hell, I can see why Kalam has been wondering which direction his decision would go — the ability to destroy Rel and Dom and other cancers in the Malazan Empire, if he can only sacrifice the Wickans, after what happened on the Chain of Dogs and bearing in mind Kalam’s own personality.

Oh, I cannot truly express the coolness of this conversation between Kalam and the Adjunct and T’amber. Honestly, the thrills just kept coming — Tavore making clear she is leaving the Empire; the fact that killing Mallick Rel might save the world, but that the loss of the adjunct and the Wickans and all the others might destroy it; SIX HUNDRED ASSASSINS; the list of those who demand vengeance; again, the emphasis that T’amber is way more than she seems.

And then this — Kalam’s demand that Tavore choose between herself and the Fourteenth, which is a strange reflection of the moment when Keneb realises that the Fourteenth’s loyalty is to Tavore. Does she repay this loyalty?

That song: the Bridgeburners’ song? Or the one that Fiddler is playing within the city — that dirge to those who have fallen and one who will fall...

Wait. WAIT. Is Kalam going to die from this choice? Does Tavore know this, which is why she has such pain in her eyes as she looks at him?

Oh, Mallick Rel is a dick.... “His power is an illusion. His title as High Mage is unearned, yet I suspect he enjoys the status, and so will do nothing to reveal the paucity of his talents.” About Quick Ben? Really? Rel has NO idea.

Lostara’s task for Cotillion is revealed, and how fitting it is — removing a new ally of the Empress, and someone we’ve come to see could not come to anything but a tragic end.

A good point, but a terrible one: “Our first real scrap, Sergeant. And it’s against Malazans!” How unutterably sad that is.

Even in the midst of awesome moments, Erikson manages to floor me: “Gods below, I’ve never seen them bow before. To anyone.”

She’s a god, right? T’amber has to be a god?

And, oh boy, Kalam KICKS ASS!

And, hang on, if T’amber is a god now, but she was T’amber, then Tavore must be watching the body of her lover die. That is heart-breaking.

Any coincidence that Fiddler plays The Paralt’s Dance and Pearl’s crossbow is armed with a paralt-smeared bolt?

’Tis cool that Bottle wore his usual magic and the older magic of the Ere’sal in his jacket, and Agayla reached for the right one.

Can I just say that these fight scenes involving Kalam and the Claw are AMAZING?!

I’ve done my usual as we reach the last few chapters of a Malazan novel — I’m just gulping it down and finding it hard to stop and make comments. The pacing is absolutely breathless. I’m now at the point where Kalam has summoned Quick Ben — but Shadowthrone has nicked him from the warren, hasn’t he? And now Kalam’s doom is spelled — I’m getting very nasty feelings that this wonderful character is not going to make it through this night, and that makes me feel so, so sad. “So, I’m on my own. Well, so be it, I’ve been getting sick of this life anyway.” Who else is on the verge of tears right now?

“Closing the circle, right? Hedge, Trotts, Whiskeyjack...” Jesus, this is really hurting. And how on earth will Quick Ben cope without Kalam in his life?

I just don’t know what to say. Maybe it is because of the sheer heroism and startling scenes of seeing Kalam properly unleashed, but this one has hit me so hard. *cries* You know something? I think Kalam and Shadowdancer would have been a very close encounter...

And I’m viciously pleased that Pearl’s companion at this point leaves his service on his ascension to Clawmaster, thanks to the dishonour he shows. Pearl is a hard character to read — on the one hand, his first targets are the same first targets that Kalam would have chosen; but he has used a vile poison on an utter hero and then makes it clear he feels he is no longer governed by rules. A difficult character to appreciate.

Oh, Fiddler.... He’s lost so many now. I can’t understand how he doesn’t just curl up in a little ball and weep.

Oooh! Stormy is a Shield Anvil? Interesting. Of which god? *suspicious*

This is a fitting sentence in this chapter: “Tonight, then, I too am a marine. Let us go kill people.”

Yes! How extraordinarily fitting as well that Apsalar kills Pearl — and how appropriate a way for him to go. I approve fiercely. And Apsalar showing such feeling for the loss of Kalam, so that she feels the need to kill Pearl so slowly and horribly. Is her task now truly done? Can she rest? Will she be allowed to lay down arms, or is she still a player in this war?

Wait, Apsalar took down three hundred and seven Claws?! Wow.....

Even in the midst of this pain, the humour is present: “Absurd! I must walk. And, perforce, quickly!” Oh, but if Shadowthrone is here, who nicked Quick Ben?

It’s a very poignant moment when Apsalar hands over those daggers and crosses the bridge.

How wonderful that Tavore is rescued by some of her own; how wonderful that she is back within the Bonehunters and ready to take them on in this war.

It’s another closed circle that Lostara Yil is the one to take the life from Pearl. I like it, but how painful for her.

Finally! The mystery of T’amber — she’s the Eres’al! Man, I started believing that she might be a god of some sort, but I never once expected this. Poor T’amber. And, indeed, poor Tavore. I don’t know if it’s just naivety that makes Grub push Lostara towards being Tavore’s new companion, but it comes across as a tiny bit cruel. ‘You’ve just lost your lover, but, hey! Here’s a nice replacement!’

Hahahahahaha! Foreigner is Withal — and he is now the husband of Sandalath Drukorlat! And still has the Nachts! Man, this is a really nice moment in a chapter that has been very hard to read at times.

Although I adore Kalam and don’t want him to be dead, I equally don’t like the idea of Shadowthrone manipulating him into the Deadhouse. See, the thing is, Kalam seemed to accept and be resigned to the idea of death, the freedom from this fight. And now it seems he might be ascending thanks to the activities of this god. I’m not sure I like that. But, then, I really don’t want Kalam to be dead.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three Part Two:

The scene with Fiddler’s playing is I’d say one of the touchstone moments of this entire series. A few thoughts about it:

  • It focuses on one of the most central characters (and that’s saying something in a series filled with so many).
  • It focuses on compassion and empathy, which I’ve said ad nausea are perhaps the two most important concepts in the series.
  • It depicts that struggle between two choices—to walk away or not, to “see” (or in other Malazan terms, to “witness”) or not. And does so in sophisticated manner, arguing that walking away might not be merely, simplistically the act of a cold, inhuman personality, but might be the act of one who feels too much:

“There was too much compassion within him . . . he could feel the pain, the helplessness, the invitation to despair, and from that despair came the desire—the need—to disengage . . . to walk away . . . If he could do nothing, then, dammit, he would see nothing.”

  • It is a moment of transformation as Fiddler realizes “he could no longer look upon things the way he used to, he could no longer walk and see what he saw with a neatly partitioned mind”
  • It is a reminder of what this whole series is about: “We weep for the fallen. We weep for those yet to fall.”
  • Along with compassion and empathy, it reminds us of yet another key concept—diversity, tolerance: “Show me a god that celebrates diversity, a celebration that embraces even non-believers and is not threatened by them.”
  • It cries out for more choices than gods who require mortal suffering or gods who speak of a “peace” that comes only after death
  • The cockroach is a bit too spot on for me, but this scene is so moving I can live with it
  • “The Paralt’s Dance” reminds us of paralt the poison, which will play a role
  • Boy, I love Fiddler.


I like the depiction of the veterans in Coop’s—refusing to take part in the madness against the Fourteenth and the Wickans.

Also nice to see Temper again.

And here we see Grub’s old lines to Keneb come to fruition: “end up where it all started [Malaz City] and that will be very bad. But that’s when she [Tavore] realizes everything, almost everything, I mean, enough of everything to be enough. And the big man with the cut hands says yes” And here is our big man with cut hands.

I also like the hints to Foreigner’s identity—his “broad back and shoulders,” the “skein of scars” on his arms, the “eyes dark as cold forges,” and then the gleam in the eyes “as of embers fanned to life.”

Nice little bit of comic relief with Hellian before the tension and violence about to erupt.

I think Erikson does a great job in these scenes with Kalam, the way he has them overmatched but takes us so clearly blow by blow through the battles so that it their victories remain plausible. You can see how they are getting through despite being so outnumbered. It also helps the plausibility in that they aren’t getting away unscathed and in fact, were it not for T’amber’s mysterious ability to put off dying, they probably wouldn’t be getting away at all.

I like the build up with Kalam dropping the acorn, the shift to Quick Ben and all his knowledge and power (multiple warrens, his determination, etc.) and then to have it all whipped away at the very end of the scene by Shadowthrone’s appearance. I’ve mentioned the hints we’ve had of just where/how Quick Ben is going to be asked to repay that debt.

And of course, in contrast to Kalam’s ability, we have Pearl, who watches, is afraid, then shoots Kalam sight unseen with poison. Gotta respect the other assassin who is so disgusted with Pearl’s act (not just the poison but the cruel slowness of the poison) that he tells him basically to go F himself. No surprise Pearl kills him. But then, despite our dislike (at least) of Pearl at this point, who isn’t hoping he will indeed take out Rel and Dom (though I’d guess few readers think that will actually happen).

After all this tension, I absolutely love, love the horror-movie build-up “screams . . . Heavy footsteps on the stairs . . . Thumping steps coming up the corridor. Scraping. Dragging . . . a heavy, splintering knock, like claws gouging the wood . . . “ (slowly I turn, step by step . . . ) followed by “Stormy, it’s for you.” Absolutely love that. And a great tension breaker. As is the:

It’s scratched
What? Oh, but I—oh, well—‘
Humour is extinct

Or:

You are all marines?
Aye.
Tonight then, I too am a marine. Let us go kill people.

Amidst all that great relieving humor though, it’s possible they buried the lead. Note Breed calling Stormy “Shield Anvil.” File that away.

Hmm, what is that great sleeping power in Nil and Nether waiting for? It’s a nice tease.

It’s strange how mixed my feelings are on Pearl’s death. Certainly, the readers’ views are stacked against him in recent interactions. He tries to kill Kalam, he uses poison, he uses a very bad poison, he kills the assassin who expresses a sense of honor, he runs away and appears generally cowardly. And yet, he’s got that whole loving Lostara thing going for him. Couldn’t Erikson have made it easy on us and just make him despicable? At least we get the bone tossed to us that Lostara puts him out of his misery.

Well, we had quite the discussion on Laseen last week (and I’m sure we’ll revisit it soon), but it’s interesting to note Shadowthrone’s statement here about her—“too many bad judgments.” It’d be nice to see a list of them from her perspective. We’ve already named some in our prior discussion. Any new ones anyone wants to add?

Again, a nice bit of humor to relieve what’s been going on with Shadowthrone’s understated “suggestion” that Obo “oust” Oponn, followed by his none-too-gentle doing just that.

Amidst all the death and chaos and violence, it’s nice we get some slowed down moments of emotional response, such as when Lostara is with Pearl and when Tavore thinks of T’amber’s death.

Clearly, where the Fourteenth is heading is into the major leagues. All those references to end of the world, Grub’s fortellings, Agayla’s look ahead, the Eres’al helping, the war they “have to” go to, and the idea that Tavore, who has yet to balk at anything, “cannot do this alone.”

And just where has the Eres’al suddenly gone? The world can end in more than one way and if you think back, you might just figure out the way it might end tonight.

I like Tavore’s “tip” for Cartheron’s service. From 16 golds to 200. She’s got class, Tavore. (there’s also the possibility she’s thinking she won’t be able to spend it where they are going I suppose, though one would think gold is gold).

Nice to see some optimism from Nether, who has seen so little to engender it.

And Fiddler. Yet another farewell. One more for the song. At least for now. Since we readers know Kalam is only “mostly dead” and well, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. Whereas with “all dead,” well, I’m sure some of you know the one thing there is to do then...

And yes, like you Amanda, I’m of mixed feelings, as usual with the spectrum of dead, nearly dead, once dead, still dead, etc. we get in the series. Though I can’t complain overly much about the chance of seeing Kalam again.

And I like the full circle, sad as it is, of Apsalar once again putting a knife to some guy’s eye in a bar.

And we’re not done yet folks...


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 fantasyliterature.com.

25 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
This is my favorite chapter of the book. We have Fiddler's dirge in the background and the build up of the betrayel of the Wickans. The showdown with the Empress and then the action. As Bill and Amanda mentioned, there is great symmetry here. We are in Book 6, a halfway point of a sort and we have come back to Malaz. The same place we started back in GotM. Fiddler reminds us of all the friends we have met and lost along the way.
The fantastic detail of the harrowing fight of Kalam, Tavore and T'Amber both provides a realistic grounding (as Bill mentioned) and (for me) serves to highlight/contrast the awesomness of Apsalar's seemingly effortless destruction of the Claw. Apsalar's dance occurs mostly off screen. We see pieces of what is left in her wake, a vision of blood at the docks and her killing of Pearl.
Here we see that Apsalar is truly ascendant. She fulfills Cotillion's list and heads off to Coop's--another symmetry. She could have gone on and taken out Rel and Dom, but that isn't her path. Somehow the lack of description of her fight makes it all the more real in these scenes. "Not even Cotillion. Not even Cotillion."
As Fiddler finishes his dirge and turns from anger to bitter humor, we have the re-entry of Breed and the return of the sword. Again symmetry and the tying up of a loose end.
I think Shadowthrone's synopsis of "She's on her own now. Too bad for her." neatly wraps up Laseen's predicament. She made her bed, now she's got to lay in it.
Rel has set his traps of Ruse and his poison of Mokra. We're all ready for QB to go kick him in the teeth and then the Shadowthrone interception really turns that about. The question remains here, of where QB is now.
I share Amanda's ambivalence on Kalam. I really don't want him to be dead, but I don't want him to be a tool either.We'll have to see how that turns out. I also really liked that even though ST removed QB from the picture, he tidied things up himself.
Chris Hawks
2. SaltManZ
At the time, I remember there being some speculation as to what Shadowthrone might be up to, collecting assassins in Azath houses. (Recall Vorcan and Rallick Nom from the end of GotM.) Not that things turned out like anyone predicted; why would they? :)
endymion
3. endymion
definitely agree with shalter, my favorite chapter in the book, and possibly the series (TBH is my favorite book of the series after all).
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
SaltManZ@2:Yes and ST even says:
In time? ‘No way of knowing. Not for a while … my, Shadowthrone’s collection is most impressive, yes?’
Tricia Irish
5. Tektonica
Such an amazing chapter! I get emotionally exhausted every time I read it. And I love it! This whole book is power packed with Big Scenes, this being the Ultimate.

Fiddler provides the background music, Kalam, Tavore, T'Amber and Apsalar, the dance. So many players....so many circles completed.....so much set up for the next 5 books! Amazing. Just amazing.

In this world I've come to accept that many don't just "die", so Kalam being dragged into the Azath was a relief to me. I don't want to lose him.

So, bye Laseen. We'll be shoving off now, for parts unknown. Good luck with Rel and Dom. Harumph. Bad decisions......
Dustin George-Miller
6. dustingm
Since we readers know Kalam is only “mostly dead” and well, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. Whereas with “all dead,” well, I’m sure some of you know the one thing there is to do then...
Oh, THANK YOU for the most excellent movie reference.





I think this book, and this chapter in particular, is where the series stops being about the Bridgeburners and really starts being about the Bonehunters and their journey. It's one reason why this book is my favorite of the series, hands down.
Tricia Irish
7. Tektonica
Forgot to say, Welcome back Amanda! Just in time!
Iris Creemers
8. SamarDev
No time to react on this chapter in the way it deserves, because it is a great chapter. I'll just highlight one detail, about how Admiral Nok stays loyal to the empire (he doesn't follow Tavore and stays behind), but at te same time helps her get away.
'They can chase us down-'
'But they won't find us. The Admiral has assured me of his impending incompetence.'
:-)
karl oswald
9. Toster
Such a great chapter! re: shadowthrones 'collection', i always thought that ST considered them a collection because they were people sleeping in azath houses, and we know how well he and cotillion know those houses. each one of them could have been a potential tool for him. of course, things always fall out in unexpected ways.

now, fellow re-readers, correct me if i'm wrong, but i think scene nineteen, tavore and t'amber arriving at the docks, is the ONLY POV we get from Tavore in the entire 10 book series. she's exhausted, bloody, shocked and heartsick over her dead-but-still-walking lover, then she gets a concussion and goes way deeper into shock. thanks SE, for that informative and insightful window into this enigmatic characters head :P
endymion
10. The Gunslinger
Favorite chapter in the book, and my favorite climax of a Malazan book. Amanda, your reaction was everything I was looking forward to and more. You remind me of exactly how I felt the first time I read this book.

And sure, the next chapter didn't quite leave me with the same feeling as this one, but that's not to say it's not incredible (especially the last paragraph of chapter 24...man, that has to be my favorite non-epilogue ending in Malazan).

Can't wait to see you guys analyze chapter 24! Keep up the great work!
Paul Boyd
11. GoodOldSatan
I too love this chapter. But a lot of stuff here begs questioning. By what means did Tavore (and/or Grub) come to know that Withal was in Malaz City and that he (they) would be important?

I understand now, having finished the series (save OST) where the 14th was going, and why. But, that was very unclear on first read. This is how I viewed it then at the end of BH:
The 14th was Tavore's (and vice versa). They were abandoning the Empire. They were, per Grub, headed to war (unclear as to whether they were to be aggressors, defenders or mercenaries). We'd had (recent, undefeated) bad guys, but not, I thought, sufficient call to be the aggressors. Do any first time readers know where they are going (or why)? What do you think they (Tavore and the 14th) are up to?

Are we readers -- now, as of this chapter -- aware of all that Tavore "realizes" (Per Grub's: "But that’s when she, realizes everything, almost everything") or are we still in the dark. If we are still in the dark (small d), was there a point in this chapter where we are made aware that she realizes something ... other than Laseen's debacle with Rel and Dom?

One last request, What do we know about Breed's whereabouts since we last saw him? (and what happened to the head he took with him?)

Thanks all! You guys are great!
endymion
12. Cassanne
When I first read this, I had no clue what was going on or why :D I've read up to book 8 and still don't know (or forgot) what Tavore realizes here.
And I suppose Breed was in the rent and he left the head there to seal it.
Brian R
13. Mayhem
@11 Breed was sent to the rent in the Nascent somewhere near Seven Cities, he then left the Andii head behind to keep it sealed, and walked from 7C to Malaz following his sword. Gotta love undead underwater breathing bonuses eh?

Grub was connected to Withal via his three friends on the island, which I presume were the Nachts. (How they ended up his friends now, that I don't know)
Bottle is sent to find Withal by the Adjunct, based on information from T'amber (This – all of this –belonged to that tawny-eyed beauty, T’amber) and presumably through her .. from the Eres.

As for the rest, well, Tavore does seem to have additional access to information but we won't learn why until The Crippled God so I won't go into it.
endymion
14. King of Flames
Pearl is an assassin, not a knight. Shooting someone in the back is how he's supposed to act.

I always thought Mallick knew Quick Ben was capable of more, and was saying that for the benefit of his audience.
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
@14:They actually make it pretty clear that using white paralt poison against other assassins isn't in their code. That's why the other Claw turns away from Pearl on the roof.
Chris Smith
16. Delat
I've been waiting for this chapter since I stumbled across the re-read. TB is one of my top three books in the entire series and this chapter is one of the reasons.

And like Gunslinger the last paragraph of chapter twenty-four... Even now, years after reading it for the first, I'm still left speechless/awed/humbled/heartbroken/etc whenever I read it. If I wasn't already one, it would have turned me into a total fanboy.

Oh, and Apsalar is awesome.
Emiel R
17. Capetown
Mayhem@13 I had always assumed that legana Breed was the meteor we see crashing down in Malaz City bay just before the battle starts (and which the people of MC see as an omen).
Mieneke van der Salm
18. Mieneke
Just for my peace of mind, is Kalam Fid's And one more – no name yet, and it's not so bad as that.?

And I was tearing up as well during this chapter, you're not alone Amanda!
Brian R
19. Mayhem
@17
Oooh, I like that thought. Talk about making an entrance in style.

@14
Yeah, it is very much disgust at Pearl stooping to torture. Shooting Kalam in the back, perfectly acceptable. Using white paralt .. a quick death, almost expected, part of the job. Using kartoolian paralt ... the spider ... now that was beyond the pale. It's the difference between saturation bombing and nerve gas .. same effect, but some things simply are not done.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
GoodOldSatan@11:I don't think that a first time reader can know everything that Tavore realizes at this point. At least my recollection is that I didn't (not that I always remember or realize everything).
Kartik Nagar
21. BloodRaven
A few clarifications required for a first-time reader:

Exactly what was the meteor/fireball that plunged into the bay, in the first half of Chaper 22. Someone above suggested it was Legana Breed, or could it be the top of Obo's tower when he blew it up(although this does not fit the timeline).

What impact did Oponn have on the events? I think that Mudslinger survived and Gentur died due to Oponn's intervention, and I have no idea why and are there any other events?

T'amber is not the Eresal but was used by the Eresal, right? It seems T'amber was just a human, but still showed amazing endurance in the fights. Are there any more secrets about her? Also, why is the Eresal suddenly taking such an active part in all these events?

Also, how exactly did Withal and company end up on Malaz island and why? I assumed in MT, the island of the CG was somewhere near Lether. Oh, and how does Grub know all these things, and how is he able to negotiate his way through fanatic mobs and hundreds of claws on his own?
Joseph Ash
22. TedThePenguin
Bottle's Withal doll had a piece of metal inside of it, did Withal not use ALL of the shards of Ruin's swords? did he keep one for himself? red herring or checkov's gun... although in this series, its checkov's red herring gun, since everything is important, eventually, 5 books away, possibly written by a different author.

Mostly dead!!!! :-) with all dead, you rifle through their pockets looking for change. Love that reference (and that movie!).
endymion
23. Mormont
So I have a question that I was wondering if anyone could clear up for me (two years late I know)

But in this chapter a whore in Malaz City says she'll "light a candle" for a guy who's pissing her off, that made me think of the wax witch in GotM who had Cotillion and Ammanas within her... And THAAT made me think of Laseen's purge of magic in Malaz City

So my question is did Laseen conduct the purge of magic to kill this wax witch? (Although I have no idea how they went from entering the Deadhouse to being trapped in an old wax witch, can anyone enlighten me on that too?)
Joseph Ash
24. TedThePenguin
@23 Mormont
that made me think of the wax witch in GotM who had Cotillion and Ammanas within her
wait.. what??
I think we missed something here, that was definitely not how it was in GOTM, even after a re-read. The Wax witch was dead before Cotillion and Amannas even showed up, killed by the troops passing by. Though she did leave a little bit of herself in Sorry (Apsalar, Not-Apsalar) while Cotillion was posessing her, I think to help her hold on to the tiniest bit of herself.
Now... How the Cotillion that made Sorry into what she was, is the same Cotillion that we know now to have such compassion, I dont really understand. and going all the way forward to TCG, whited for spoilers. Could he have taken some of this compassion FROM Sorry? and left her with some of those aspects of himself as an assassin? Think of his Conversation with Lostara. Sorry (therefore he) really was pretty ruthless and disturbing according to, well... everyone.
endymion
25. Mormont
@24 TedThePenguin

Hah so I just read that part of chapter 1 of GotM again for the first time and oh, how misguided I was before I found this reread! When I read GotM I thought, since a woman who captured souls inside her died and immediately two men appeared, that they were souls she had captured, especially as ST said they'd been "waiting", I thought they meant for release! This little misunderstanding has caused me so much confusion aha!

But now I still have no idea why Laseen tried to purge Malaz of magic, especially when her backbone is made up of assassin mages

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