Sep 12 2012 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter Thirteen

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

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 Thirteen


Throatslitter, Deadsmell, and Sergeant Balm sit in the tavern and watch as Shurq and Skorgen take responsibility for delivering the cask of ale to Shake Brullyg. Deadsmell tells them she’s dead, and they don’t believe him at first.


Shake Brullyg watches as a pair of Malazan (Lobe and Galt) play a game and Masan stands guard at the door, thinking how the Malazan have taken control of the island from him, just before he becomes King of the Isles (if none of the queen’s daughters shows up). He asks to leave, to show himself to his people, but Lobe says they’ll “walk him” later. The Malazans can tell someone different is delivering the ale and they react with suspicion when they let Shurq and Skorgen in. Shurq tells Shake the harbor is blockaded with the biggest ship she’s ever seen and a war galley coming into the pier. With that news, the Malazans become more comfortable and say their waiting is over.


Blistig thinks how their army is now cut off from home and recalls the events between now and their departure from Malaz City a year ago: Lostara Yil, maybe at Keneb’s suggestion, stepping into the place of T’amber as Tavore’s aide; rumors of mutiny among the troops (save the Malazans); Lostara via Grub’s arcane knowledge getting Banashar to dole out cash from his hoard to pay and mollify the soldiers; then Tavore coming out and giving a speech. Tavore told them they were sailing to Sepik, a Malazan Protectorate, whose population was slaughtered, and they will “give answer.” She told them of T’amber’s words (“What awaits you in the dusk of the old world’s passing, shall go unwitnessed”) and then closed with her own: “We shall be our own witness, and that will be enough. It must be enough. It must ever be enough.” Blistig hasn’t understood that speech since she gave it, hasn’t understood the army’s acceptance of it, and can’t believe that Tavore had them burn their ships upon landing on Lether.


Lostara enters the harbor aboard the Froth Wolf. She’s glad to leave the ice behind. She thinks about the army’s reorganization and is happy they nudged Blistig out of real command. She tells Tavore Sinn is keeping the ice at bay though she doesn’t know how, adding that Ebron thinks the ice/Jaghut ritual is breaking down. She and Tavore discuss Grub’s close connection with the nachts, and then Tavore tells her to get the other ready to disembark.


A group of Letherii ride past Fiddler’s hidden squad, not seeing them thanks to Bottle using Mockra. Gesler and Fiddler discuss the “invasion” tactics—landing the marines, small groups, ambushes and night raids.


Sergeant Helian readies her squad and divides up the salvaged rum.


Keneb considers how Tavore has reshaped the army for the Lether invasion, standardizing the magic-users, using sorcery as communications, joining heavies and marines and sappers, making sure someone knows Mockra in all the small forward squads. He realizes all of this meant that Tavore had known where they were going and what they’d be facing. He thinks how she only met with the Meckros blacksmith (Withal) and the Tiste Andii from Drift Avalii and wonders what they told her. He recalls coming across a pair of Edur ships and torturing the Edur officers for information, then taking the ships logs and charts. He wonders why they are here and if Laseen and Tavore had cooked up the whole thing at Malaz City, similar to what Laseen had done with Dujek and Whiskeyjack in the Pannion War, though he doesn’t believe it. Faradan Sort interrupts his thought to say her squad is ready and she wants to take Beak as her squad mage. As they head out, Keneb considers the plan—fight the Edur, encourage the Letherii to rebel, create a civil war—and finds it sadly ironic that they deliver what they avoided in Malaz City.


Beak thinks how nobody likes him and how the one thing he knows well and loves is sorcery. He grew up in a horrible childhood (and adolescence, and early adulthood) where he was regularly beaten, sometimes near to death. He learned magic from a Seti witch who told him magic for him was “the lone candle in the darkness” and she taught him then found others to teach him the other warrens, which he sees as differently colored candles. Sort collects him as her mage to find the other squads and organize/communicate with them. When she asks about his family, he tells her they all died the night he “showed them my candle.” On the march they camp over some rubble and Beak identifies it as Jaghut and says there are Forkrul Assail and Tiste Liosan bodies under the ground and ghosts, remnants of the Just Wars. He warns them the ghosts will have them killing each other soon and they move on.


In the north of the island, Cord watches the icebergs and floes. Shard tells him he doesn’t know if Sinn is getting tired holding the ice back, saying he doesn’t really know his sister anymore, not since Y’Ghatan. He adds that she isn’t just holding back the ice anymore though; she’s “killing” it, quickening its decay and using the Omtose Phellack to “weave something else.”


Withal bemoans the way the gods use mortals, himself and Tavore and Rhulad. He wonders if Tavore is setting herself against the gods and wonders as well why Mael had him wait for her. He thinks about the other legion off the coast, and how only Tavore knows where the Perish and Khundryl have gone. Sandalath Drukorlat (his wife) tells him he should be more sympathetic toward the Andii from Drift Avalii, saying they’ve been several times abandoned—by Rake, by Andarist.


Nimander watches Phaed glaring at Sandalath and wonders at her ever-present malice, thinking she is capable of murder. He worries about her response to Sandalath, who has taken Phaed’s measure and returned scorn and contempt. They look out on the island and prepare to follow Sandalath off the ship.


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Thirteen

You know, I can see the relationship between gods and mortals reflected in this line from the opening poem: “ beast and I chained together as we must/who leads and who is the led is never quite asked...”

I know Bill was niggling me towards thinking about who those people were who had come ashore on the Isle, by emphasising all the strange things about them, but I confess that, until now, I hadn’t made the connection that they were the Malazans. I feel stoopid. *slaps forehead*

I adore the fact that Balm has no idea that Shurq Elalle is dead and instead is mightily jealous of the men she’s attracting. “Maybe somebody should...I don’t know...maybe...tell her?” As though Shurq Elalle has no idea!

And from chuckles to belly laughs with Deadsmell’s “Excuse me, ma’am, you have a complexion to die for and I guess that’s what you did.” *falls over*

It is dangerous to ever assume that, among foreigners, no one speaks your language—the Malazans appear to be doing that, and now we see that Shake Brullyg is starting to pick a few things up. And he must be wondering exactly how the Malazans gained power over him when he hears some of the bickering that takes place amongst them!

Did they send the ice? Or was it the remnants of some Jaghut sorcery? [Bill: The latter.]

Hmm, looks like Shake Brullyg isn’t keen on the idea of Twilight coming along and enforcing their betrothal: “...and if none of the dead Queen’s bitch daughter show up before then, it all falls to me.”

Sinn is becoming more and more eerie a character, especially when I remember back to when Kalam first met her.

Seems like the Letherii have always been bastards, going by their actions towards the Fent on their first meeting! Big reflection with the English colonists when they first met the Native Americans there.

These are confident Malazans! Their switch from relaxation to dangerous soldiers is instinctive and they work together like a well-oiled machine. Sort of reminds me of a pack of lionesses going on the hunt! So far removed from the Bonehunters we saw even half a book ago.

Hee, Masan Gilani pressing the knife through the chair reminds me of the part in the Disney version of Robin Hood, where Little John got Prince John to free Robin Hood. *grins* (One of my fave films, by the way!)

Another example of that confidence: “Galt looked at Masan Gilani again, and though she said nothing, some kind of communication must have passed between them...”

I don’t much like this first glimpse of Shake Brullyg, but I feel a little sorry that he knows he’s being so obviously played by the Malazans, with Masan Gilani’s constant presence to stir his blood.

Can I just say it is bliss skipping out of the other storylines to spend more time with the Malazans? So many of Erikson’s other storylines are experimental in their nature, and few of them have so many glorious characters, which I think makes them a little more hit-and-miss. I wonder if Erikson has as much fun returning to the Malazans as we do reading them?

I guess this is something that I never really considered about the Bonehunters stepping out under the leadership of Tavore and forsaking the Malazan Empire—this puts it very explicitly: “Our families depend on the wages, the tax relief, the buy-outs and the pensions. And a lot of us were young enough to think about signing out, making a new life, one that didn’t involve swinging a sword...” Now they’ve been cut adrift and have no idea what their future holds. As such, their confidence is even more formidable.

Poor Tavore. My heart breaks for her, and the fact she has to be a leader in the face of such grief. It brings T’amber’s death screaming back—and Kalam’s as well. I feel the loss anew, reflecting on the events at the end of the last book. “You can heal wounds of the flesh well enough, but it’s the other ones that can bleed out a soul.”

Tavore’s speech... brought me to tears, I confess. It was blunt and dark. But this particularly: “The First Sword of Dassem Ultor—the Plains of Unta, the Grissian Hills, Li Heng, Y’Ghatan. The Bridgeburners—Raraku, Black Dog, Mott Wood, Pale, Black Coral. Coltaine’s Seventh—Gelor Ridge, Vathar Crossing and the Day of Pure Blood, Sanimon, the Fall.” This speaks to Erikson’s idea that he is writing just a small part of a vast history, that we joined the conversation partway through and will leave before it’s ended. Some of these events listed we have been witness to, others we haven’t.

And here we see a theme of the series explicitly handled. First T’amber’s words: “What awaits you in the dusk of the old world’s passing, shall go... unwitnessed.” And then: “Unwitnessed. There was crime in that notion.” Finally: “We shall be our own witness.” The idea of witnessing events, being party to them.

Ah, an answer to an earlier question of mine in this post: “...this ice is dying. A Jaghut ritual, crumbling.”

Nice way to introduce Bottle back into the story, using the owl!

This just goes to show that the Malazans don’t have any comprehension of the type of place they’ve invaded: “If I was this damned empire, I’d be flooding this coastline with soldiers before this day’s sun is down.” They have no idea of the bickering, the factions, the fact that so much is concentrating on Rhulad and the city of Letheras. From the impression we’ve got during the first half of this book, the Malazans could practically walk up to the Emperor’s door, thanks to what is happening with the Awl, the Bluerose, the increasing hostilities between the Letherii and the Edur.

And yet the Malazans are focused on the Tiste Edur? Why are they pursuing them? Because they were the ones who committed the atrocity on the island of Sepik?

The little jumps from squad to squad helps to reintroduce all of the Malazans of the Fourteenth to us again, and also shows little hints as to the campaign they plan to run, how far they’ve got etc. It’s just very comfortable to spend time with them. Not so comfortable knowing how much Tavore has been preparing for this: what does she know? And who told her?

Oh, now this is interesting—no matter Tavore’s speech and the lack of desertions, some people still aren’t convinced: “None of us are sure of this, are we? [...] Find the Tiste Edur...and cut them down [...] foment a civil war [...] Odd, isn’t it, how we now deliver upon another nation what we would not have done to ourselves. About as much moral high ground as this damned swamp. No, we’re not happy, Adjunct. Not happy at all.” That doesn’t bode at all well.

Oh bless. Beak is so cute! “Oh, and how old are you, by the way?”

And, wow, Beak is formidably strong, isn’t he? Giving us hints about the Just Wars, between the Forkrul Assail and the Tiste Liosan—now there are two races who are both convinced they’re right!

Oh yes, I forgot that Withal was the one to forge the sword that Rhulad now carries. And now Withal is in the same place as both Mael and that sword—guessing that this is an important thing to remember!

Lots of “tools of the gods” present also—you might think that something important like a war between the gods was getting up to speed or something....

It is going to be very interesting seeing more of these Tiste Andii, these adopted children of Sandalath Drukorlat. For me, the Tiste Andii are one of the more interesting races—fractured, with different strands, different ideals and different attitudes. We’ve seen a few different examples. I’m still fondest of those from Gardens of the Moon. Their separation can be understood when you consider their role models—Anomander Rake, Andarist and Silchas Ruin.

Altogether, a very intriguing chapter and a great return for the Malazans!


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Thirteen

Tehol and Bugg are fun, but c’mon, it’s good to get back to our Malazan friends, especially as a break from the Bickersons traveling in the Bluerose Mountains. The names alone suffice—Throatslitter, Deadsmell. And then the repartee over Shurq being dead. Ahh, good to be back....

We’ve all had those head-slapping moments in this series, Amanda, believe me. And you’re right that it isn’t a good idea to assume nobody speaks your language, and that Shake seems to be picking up some Malazan, which would appear kind of careless on their part, but you’ll also note they’re using hand signals throughout and when they start speaking important stuff Shake can’t follow it at all.

Yes, for the “betrothed,” Shake doesn’t seem to think too highly of Twilight. We’ll have to see how that engagement play out.

Yes, Sinn is becoming more and more eerie. Something to definitely keep in mind. Even her brother says he doesn’t recognize her anymore. Nor her growing power.

Yes, that Lether tapestry does smack a bit of the English colonists and Native Americans, though I think sadly one could say that it is reminiscent of a lot of first contact.

I also like the line in that section that speaks to a running theme: “Strange how the past was remade to suit the present.” Something particularly applicable in today’s political season....

“A blinding beacon on this dark shore.” A shining city on the hill?

I love that so short but so cinematic moment when Lobe and Galt are sparring over the language issue (and the line “someone who knows things, that all”) and then they hear unfamiliar footsteps and that dismantled dagger that Lobe seemed “at a loss on how to put it all back together” flies together in Lobe’s hands and gets tossed to Galt who catches it on the fly without him ever slowing. Just take a moment to visualize that and enjoy.

You plucked out a lot of the strong moments in that scene, Amanda. As much as I dislike what happens with Blistig—what he’s been like lately and what’s coming—he makes a very moving point with regard to this army. We don’t see much of this because the characters we follow in the army have mostly made the army itself their family, but Blistig reminds us there are others who had families to return to—wives, sons, daughters, lovers, brothers, sisters. It’s something we need reminding of now and then because of the nature of our main characters.

And I like that speech of Tavore’s as well—plain, as Blistig says, not an oratorical flight of fancy by any means, but that litany of names, and the weight of each name, the burden of all the dead associated with each name. In other hands, those names may have been banners of supposed glory, but while they are moments of pride and of history in Tavore’s words, they are also heavy with grief: “comrades now fallen, now dust... the cracked vessels of your grief and pride. And you cannot stand in one place too long, lest the ground turn to depthless mud around your feet.” What a great image—dust, mud, earthen vessels, the way the past, grief, can suck one under.

And oh yes, “unwitnessed” indeed. Such a key word moving forward. Wait for it.

And we see that separation of Blistig from the army continue—“There had been no desertions. He did not understand. He didn’t think he would ever understand.” The Bonehunters, it seems, have moved beyond poor Blistig. I do, however, love his closing line: “We are not here in festive spirit.” No indeed.

What does Tavore know? And how? Welcome to a question that will now dog us the rest of the way, Amanda. I have my own theories, as I’m sure many of our rereaders do, but can’t really say anything at this point. But don’t forget that question: What did she know and when did she know it?

As for why they’re here and why they’re going after the Edur, well, that’s another good question. Sure, there’s Sepik, but that seems a bit of a stretch, wouldn’t you think? The abandoned Malazan army bringing Malazan justice down on those who offended the Empire that just tried to kill a bunch of them and exiled them? Or, as Keneb worries, is this yet another Pannion dodge, a la Dujek and Whiskeyjack? Hmmmm.

I do like Keneb though, and the way he stands as a nice contrast to Blistig.

And yes, Beak is strong. Note what he tells Faradan, Amanda—he knows all the warrens. All of them. And that will, as you might imagine, come into play later on in much more important fashion than finding them a better campsite. But what I want to point to here is his childhood—that’s a moving introduction we get, this poor kid living in that hell of a family, being beaten near to death. And how sad, that he runs to the army and finds it so lonely. Will he find his family here as others have? So far it doesn’t seem to have worked so well, with nobody liking him. Hard not to feel some compassion for this poor guy. Even after we find out what happened with his family. Not a lot of sympathy for them on my part, I’ve got to say. His obliviousness, his innocence to that night makes it all the more moving.

More bad omens about Sinn. Just saying....

Withal has a point about all the meddling the gods are doing, all the ways they are using the mortals. But remember those lines we’ve seen before, remember how well some of those manipulations have gone. Be careful when you mess with mortals. And Withal also has another key thought along those lines with regard to Tavore: If she had decided to stand against them [the gods], then she stood alone.” Is Tavore working against the gods? If so, which ones? Or is it all of them? And is she truly alone in doing so?

I like how Withal traps himself trying to avoid cynicism. Even horseshoes don’t let him escape. Does that say something about Withal? Or something about us?

Well, not a lot of great omens circling around Phaed, eh?

Nimander’s introspection regarding the Andii is reminiscent of similar language used by Korlat and Rake way, way, way back. It’ll be interesting to see if Nimander finds his way to an answer, or if he finds his way to someone with an answer. Also, perhaps we should note that we have some young Andii landing on Lether where we’ve also seen another young Andii (Clip). Any chance of the young Andii hooking up at all? (Not literally, though I suppose all is possible)

I’m with you, Amanda, it’s good to be with our Malazan friends once again.

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

Julian Augustus
2. Alisonwonderland
I guess I must be the only one who found Beak's introduction and his influence on the rest of the story typical of my problems with Erikson. We've know the bonehunters through two fat books, House of Chains and The Bonehunters. Not a peep about Beak. Suddenly, in Reaper's Gale Erikson decides that he needs an arch-mage, so he pulls one out of his .... An arch-mage (or at the very least, a high mage), hiding among the ranks all this time? Where was he when half the army got trapped and burned to death in Y'Ghatan?
Julian Augustus
3. Alisonwonderland
I don't remember that what Tavore knew, when she knew it, and how she was getting that information, is ever satisfactorily answered in the rest of the series. Maybe ICE will explain that in one of his books.
4. parabola
@2: I can understand that complaint, but I totally forgive Erikson because of the absolute beauty of his writing and character building.
Julian Augustus
5. Alisonwonderland
I agree with you both, Bill and Amanda, about how pleasant it is to get back with the Malazans. This is the first time we meet the Shake, but they will come to increasongly dominate the rest of the story, especially the last two books. I would have preferred more Malazan and less Shake, to be honest.
Darren Kuik
6. djk1978
Alison@2: I think all of your reservations are explained as we get Beak's backstory. Of course, you can call that all hand waving, but nonetheless it is done. And Beak is not exactly the only Bonehunter that gets introduced here. He's also not the only mage who keeps his true abilities under wraps. We've already seen Quick Ben and Bottle both doing the same.

I'm going to put the rest in white so as to not spoil things. Beak plays himself off as stupid and cowardly. Moreover it's pretty clear that his fellow soldiers don't think much of him. It's also clear that his childhood has scarred him and that he needs to keep his magic use in check. Later on we'll see that Beak thinks he smelled Bottle under Y'Ghatan, but was too afraid to speak up. Faradan is looking for something specific in the mage she chooses, and SE has already shown that she is willing to buck the normal trend as she did previously by trusting Sinn. Beak has a quality that Faradan is looking for, and it will take Faradan's confidence in him to unlock all the power that Beak has.

I really don't see any of that as SE pulling him out of his a$$. Although new, the character is well defined and developed through the book.
Eric Desjardins
7. SirExo
Phew, I have finnaly catched up with the re-read! I'm a big fan of the Malazan world and stumbled upon the reread during the spring and have been doing alot of catching up. I want to point out here how efficient Hellian's squad will be and how much I love that character.

Also we see that Shake Brullyg is learning the Malazan tongue in secrect and trying to play dumb about it. But the marines can obviously see that, with their use of hand signals and other Quon dialects, but they also pretend to be worse at speaking letherii than they actually are.
8. Dafthoser
@2 I can also see where you are coming from, but I can't help but overlook that due to my love for Beak. I think Beak is a shining example of SE's fantastic writing. Only he can make me feel so much so fast for a brand new character.
And it is great to see the old gang!
Thomas Jeffries
9. thomstel
Re: Beak. Freakin' BEAK.

I can't even read his scenes, just too tough man. His moments sum up a lot of the series's themes of hardship and the compassion that can be born from it, instead of the usual hatred, vengeance and bitterness.

As for getting him dropped in from nowhere...consider that we'll have Bonehunter infantry getting introduced as characters all the way through the final battle in Book 10, it's one of those things you should try and cool down about. Efficacy is all relative, as we'll see with Quick, Trull, Ruthan Gudd, Silchas, etc.
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
Ah yes, we're back amoung the Malazans and it's like being back home (in a very strange a deadly way).

what does she know? And who told her?
As Bill said, those are great questions. We'll have great fun figuring those out.

Beak: I agree with djk1978 and thomstel on both we'll see he's been there and aw, Beak. Keep in mind that there are thousands of Bonehunters and we have only met a few.
Julian Augustus
11. Alisonwonderland
True, Beak is given a fully developed backstory ... in Reaper's Gale.
But that doesn't mean that Erikson didn't just make him up while writing
RG because he needed somebody to do the things Beak does. Considering
the major part that Beak plays in this book, and the extent of his power
(greater than Letherii and Edur mages combined), I find it impossible
to believe that if Erikson had had in mind that he will be needing a
character like Beak as far back as HoC or tBH he wouldn't have
introduced him to readers in preparation for his later heroics in RG.
The alternative, that he knew all along that he will be introducing
someone with Beak's powers, and waited until the character was needed
before introducing him out of the blue, is even more unbelievable as
that would be bad, bad writing. No, the most likely explanation is that,
just as he invented characters like Skulldeath specifically for RG, he
also invented Beak for RG. The main difference between Beak and
Skulldeath as characters is that it believable for us not to have met
Skulldeath and co earlier. Beak, on the other hand, because of his
extreme power level, there is no way he would have gone unnoticed in an
army that has Tavore and T'Amber/Eresal, and Grub, and Fiddler, and
Quick Ben, and ... This makes Beak, but not the other new characters
like Skulldeath, a huge DEM.

By the way, I don't disagree that Beak is one of the best and most tragic characters in the entire series.
12. huh?
@11 so the "argument" is that if he character was made up (as of course all the other characters in the books are equally made up) for this book for this purpose then it is a DEM. but if SE made Beek up and mentioned him in one line in a previous book, then it wouldn't be. honestly, this seems quite silly to me.
Keel Curtis
13. captaink
I figure Beak went unnoticed the same way Bottle managed to. Keeping your head down seems to be a thing for a lot of mages.

This reread has really made me pay attention to Limp's misadventures, which I'd always glossed over before. A great running joke.
Eric Desjardins
14. SirExo
The reason I believe he was never discovered for his power before is that nobody realised his potential before, be it because he was hiding it or kid like mentality. Now with the restructuring of the marines, and the whole 14th army, soldiers changed squads and legions so that the right balance was there for the marine invasion. This meant that every marine squad needed a squad mage, which brings Beak into the picture. He might of stayed an obscure squad mage with untaped potiential, but he happend to cross the path of Faradan Sort. She has the special power of seeing or knowing the potential of someone, just like in BH with Sinn after the firestorm at Y'Gathan. It's really because Sort found him and that she is able to understand unusual people like him and Sinn.

You just have to think of Beak like that scotish lady that was discovered as a superb signer on the british tv show. She didnt really try to be discoverd until she had the right people there to take advantage of.
15. Tufty
Just because someone has a superb talent doesn't mean they would immediately need to be pulled up to an important position and be executing that talent ALL THE TIME.

Fiddler is singularly adept with the Deck of Dragons, and Tavore knows it, and she's still only called upon him to demonstrate it once so far, the rest of the time leaving him as a sergeant in the marines, not forcing him into her private entourage.

Beak isn't half as noticeable as Fiddler because unless pushed by someone, he generally won't do much of anything on his own initiative. His squad/company probably think he's pretty capable from seeing him do a couple odd things here and there throughout their campaigns, but enough to run off reporting it to the Fists? Probably not (and even then they wouldn't because they don't want to lose their mage, just like Gesler and Borduke worried in HoC).
Darren Kuik
16. djk1978
This whole conversation is why I posted my comments in white. But what I said there is pretty much the same as what SirExo posted at 14. The key to Beak is Faradan Sort. Her ability to seek out and make use of the talents of mages that no one else knows/trusts is demonstrated prior to Reaper's Gale. That is why Beak is not a DEM.
Eric Desjardins
17. SirExo
Quote time.

"Why are dumb brutes so damned smart, anyway?"
"Why are us smart folk so often stupidly brutal, Quick Ben?" Trull asked.
"Stop trying to confuse me in my state of animal teror, Edur."
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
‘We’re invading Lether from tavern to tavern?’
19. PJBrs
For me, the question is not whether Beak is a DEM or not. I have thoroughly enjoyed Reaper's Gale in any case. But I do recognise the sense of unease that Alisonwonderland tries to describe. If there is any weak point to Reaper's Gale, especially how it builds on the Bonehunters, then, for me, it would be that Beak's appearance is quite sudden, given how pivotal his presence is later in the story. I would say--irksome, DEMish tendencies. And, for me, those DEMish tendencies are the main drawback to this series as a whole (the timely arrival of the Azath in GotM, the Eres'al in the Bonehunters).

I remember SE commenting that, to him, the arrival of the Azath in GotM was not a DEM, but I really would have appreciated a plausible backstory to that event, as well as why Beak remained hidden so long. I appreciate the efforts of the other commenters in this regard, but I myself am not entirely satisfied.

Of course, this drawback is more than made up for by the qualities of the series, or I wouldn't have finished Toll the Hounds already :-)
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
@19:We had a lively discussion on DEM's in the GotM reread. I think that pretty conclusively showed why the Azath are not a DEM.
Beak is not a DEM. He is a new character who is being introduced now. Every character has to be first introduced somewhere. There are thousands of Bonehunters we haven't met. Beak's story will be shown. Note that he hasn't really done anything at this point. A DEM is introduced with no warning to resolve an unresolvable plot point. Beak qualifies under none of these.
Darren Kuik
21. djk1978
I just don't get it. I can see why other things have appeared to be DEM's (although I still think it's an unfair and misapplied accusation). The Azath's sudden introduction in GoTM, The Trygalle Trade Guild's appearance. The problem I have with DEM accusations is that they need to be out of place in the world, but in a fantastical world such as Malazan nothing is really out of place. Not fully explained yes, but isn't part of the wonder of the series trying to figure out what is going on? For me that's the very thing that is compelling about MBotF compared to a more traditional fantasy.

But as for Beak, I really don't get it. Yes, he's introduced only in RG, but it's done about 600-700 pages before the event which people suggest is the DEM. That's plenty of time to establish the character, and given all the arguments presented about the character's back story and development through the book the DEM argument just doesn't hold any water with me. It seems to me that every point that is made about the DEM issue is adequately explainable. The reason why Beak remains hidden so long as hinted at and touched upon over and over from this chapter onwards until the end of the book.

Anyway I'm glad people who do feel this way aren't turned off by it. At least not enough to set down the series.
22. PJBrs
@20 shalter

Yes we did :-)

I don't think that it is possible to objectively conclude whether something is or is not a DEM. It will always be a matter of taste. So, to me these examples are more DEM-ish than they are to you, which is fine by me. That's why I speak of DEMish tendencies. Also, to me, it's not about accusation. Let's just say that the, to my taste, relatively sudden appearance of Beak leaves some unresolved questions. They have not yet been answered to my satisfaction, and I really would like to hear more explanation. That, at least is my take on Beak. I would at least have liked Beak's PoV before RG. That would have made it much less sudden. And I kn0w, we're dealing with a huge cast here. And I know, who would agree to miss out on Beak's part of the story just to resolve some unease about his introduction! I wouldn't. Still, a character like Feather Witch has a similar impact on the storyline as Beak, so I also would have enjoyed an earlier introduction of Beak.

And no, it does not put me off the series, haha!
Darren Kuik
23. djk1978
Ok, it looks like unless you register you can't ask some of those questions without spoilers. But otherwise I'd like to see what questions you feel are not adequately answered by anyone here. I don't know if it's even possible to do so satisfactorily. But I for one would be willing to take a stab at it. :)
24. Tufty
For the record, there is a few bits of information learned in TtH that you can combine for a really good explanation as to why the Azath House appeared when and where it did in GotM...

Is it a ret-con? Only as much as not knowing how the warrens work in GotM and them being explained better later is, IMO.
25. PJBrs
@djk1978 Short comment, no more time today :-(

Example of unresolved question: Beak was lying low in the Bonehunters. First question: why? For me, this question is answered by Beak's underestimation coupled with his shyness. I think that Beak would be quite surprised at the number of candles the average High Mage has at his disposal ;-) But here's a meta-unresolved question--what made SE decide not to let Beak share this information with us _before_ RG? That's what _I_ at least don't understand. My assumption--SE himself wasn't aware of Beak before RG, and decided that he wanted Beak in RG, to be able to tell the story that he wanted to tell. And in any other book, that would be the normal approach. But here, to me, it feels unbalanced when I compare Beak's relatively late introduction in the plot with the amount of foreshadowing SE uses with the introduction of other characters in the story, sometimes several books in advance. E.g., Udinaas.

Sorry, have to stop now.
Darren Kuik
26. djk1978
I see. I guess that's the part where I diverge from you. I don't need to know why an author does that so long as he establishes the what and how of it. For me, the meta-unresolved question, as you put it, does not make it DEM-ish (as you also put it). After all, why does the author do anything? Could he not equally go another way? If the character is introduced solely for one purpose later on, why does the author not write alternative scenario. I would argue that in Beak's scenario it could have been played out differently. He has 600+ pages to work with after all. And i'm also reminded that here we have an author who regularly makes us feel empathy for characters who will only be onscreen for a handful of pages. So I don't see Beak as too late arriving. Obviously Beak IS there because that is the story as SE wanted to tell it. Would a few lines here and there have changed that? Is it unknown in any world for someone to go from relative obscurity to great power? That's not even unheard of in human history, so why is it implausible in fantasy?

I get the sense that this won't satisfy you, which is fine I guess. It works well enough for me though. :)
27. PJBrs
@26 djk1978

I certainly see your point! And indeed, for me it is a little bit different--I still am curious about SE's reasons and motivations. Anyway, we'll probably never find out.

Mind you, an entirely different reason would be as simple as SE not wanting to deal with another character in tBH, seeing how long it already was, while always having planned for Beak's role in RG.
Brian R
28. Mayhem
I initially found Beak to be a little out of place towards the end, but rereading closer, the signs are all there as to what is going to happen and why.

Especially when you consider what happens to Quick Ben from here on out. I don't want to say too much here, but I consider Beak to be the mirror counterpart to Quick Ben - an autistic simpleton, with a deep natural affinity for magic instead of numbers, but lacking in any guile or knowledge to take advantage of that skill for his own benefit.
For the benefit of others though, who know what to ask him to do ... well now he changes from a distinct liability in the field to a superb asset.

As for why he hasn't been seen as yet ... up until now we've focussed on a handful of squads, arranged as Greymane's irregular mix of marines, soldiers and heavies escorting a larger contingent of regulars. They acted as our eyes, but as everyone was generally in one place, you only needed so many viewpoints.
Now we're in a completely new arrangement, one of purely irregulars doing what they do best. The legion has split, and the remaining companies are soon to separate into dozens of small parties. Naturally, our number of viewpoint characters needs to expand to match.
Lets face it, we haven't even heard of the 3rd company before, now we get near a score of new faces. Easy enough to have Beak have come from among them.
30. Innad
Btw, @shalter: that was my favorite quote as well.

Being a first time reader - and reviewing the comments of the re-readers - I needed some time getting used to Hellian, but she is really growing on me.
She is mostly in a stupor - but Gods (all of them) is she brilliant, or what?
Kartik Nagar
31. BloodRaven
So, no sooner has Tavore reached Lether than her controversial decisions have begun. The reason why the army has been split up into small, independent units and has landed in the dead of the night is to engage a covert, hidden, war full of surprise ambushes against the Edur. But, what does Tavore do, she just burns all the transports and announces not only that an army has landed, but also how many have landed.

Now, let us look at Tavore's speech. She first gives a pathetic reason to travel half the world and engage in a war against a powerful empire(if an empire is sending huge fleets across the world it must appear powerful, at least to the Malazans) - to avenge the slaughter of a people whom none of the soldiers ever met, in a remote corner of the empire, (not to mention the empire has already outlawed the army). Then, she says not only is the war going to be meaningless, but it is also going to go unwitnessed.

And about this grieving on the loss of T'amber, we have not seen Tavore ever grieve, even once, on the loss of the soldiers of the army. The massacre at Y'Ghatan didn't really seem to have much effect on her, but now when the army was successfully able to extricate itself with minimal losses from what could have been another bloody massacre at Malaz city, Tavore is suddenly human and uncontrollable in her grief. I am constantly baffled by how much loyalty the army is showing Tavore here.
Brenda Alexander
32. endertek
Alisonwonderland - I think the epic nature of the MBotF series skews the idea of set-up and planning greatly. A typical novel is 200-400 pages long and in it, every character and plot line that is ever going to be introduced or resolved gets introduced and resolved. In MBotF, we have 10 books of 800+ pages that are complemented by numerous books from ICE, so the introduction of any major character at this stage seems a little too convenient. Aren't all characters and plot lines DEM when you think about it? IMO - SE has indicated that his goal is to make us feel. Beak does that without question. That's good enough for me.

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