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 begin our coverage of the second half of Chapter Twenty-Four 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 spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.
Chapter Twenty-Four (Part Two)
As Cuttle and Fiddler try to figure out how to open the door Sirryn entered the city from, it opens from the other side and the female Seguleh champion exits. The two of them avert their eyes, offering no challenge, and she passes beyond them. Keneb sends the marines through the tunnel and into the city, saying he’ll take the gate and sending Sort and Fiddler through to take the palace.
Quick Ben, Hedge, Seren Pedac, and Trull enter at the Azath tower behind the Old Palace via portal. Hedge and Quick tell Trull they’re going to get him and Seren some quality alone time before they do anything else by escorting them to her house.
Walking the sea, Bruthen thinks back on his life choices, the unraveling of his people, his sympathy even for the Letherii, his desire to kill Triban Gnol. He meets the sea god’s Guardian, who tells him he is a ghost and that he has come to send Brys back. The Guardian says he could refuse, but won’t, and sends him to a pillar where Bruthen uses the finger to call Brys out (Bruthen is surprised to see Brys is missing two fingers, not just one). The Guardian brings Brys his (Brys’) sword and Brys takes it, then disappears. Bruthen tells the Guardian he had been to a house and he’d like to find it again; the Guardian tells him he will.
Selush notices that Brys’ other finger (in a jar in her shop) has twitched, so she sends Padderunt to tell Rucket it’s time.
Janath has killed Tanal Yathvanar and thinks she will die soon since nobody else would come to the room he kept her in.
Karos has had his guards flinging coins over the side of the walls to keep the mob at bay, but is running out of money. One of his agents informs him the main block is filling with rats and that the mob outside is calling for Tehol to be released, hailing him as a “hero, a revolutionary.”
SCENES SEVEN AND EIGHT
Feather Witch senses Brys’ return. She starts to use her magic and the fact that Brys’ finger still has a connection to her to control him, but some force drags Brys from her. When she starts to fight she drops into the water and the Errant, thinking “sometimes, it was true, a nudge was not enough,” drowns her. She submits with a sense of relief.
Hannan Mosag crawls up the street toward Settle Lake, thinking of how all will come back to him, a pure Kurald Emurlahn, a healed body, power. He thinks how if he had had his way, he would have ruled over the Edur in the forests, kept them separate from the Letherii, and how he now, having sent his people home, plans on ruling over them again as the Warlock King.
Ormly nears Settle Lake, after having paid people to shout for Tehol in the crowd. He meets Ursto Hoobut and Pinosel, calling them “the fell guardians.” He adds that he’s seen a panel in the Old Palace depicting Settle Lake from six hundred years ago and in it are pictured as well Ursto and Pinosel. Brys comes up from the lake and Ormly gives him the finger from Selush.
Ursto says they need to know the demon god’s name so they can send it away and Brys gives it to them. Brys asks to be taken to Tehol and Ormly says he’ll do so and explain what’s been happening on the way.
SCENES TWELVE - FOURTEEN
Ursto and Pinosel step away from Mosag and watch as he is killed by the Jaghut that sealed the creature in ice at Mael’s request. They tell her she’s not really needed as they now have the name of the demon god and offer her a drink. She accepts and joins them.
Balm, a tad confused (flashing back), enters the city with his group and is met by Keneb, who orders Masan to go tell Tavore to double-time it to Letheras to support his marines.
SCENES SIXTEEN - EIGHTEEN
Fiddler and Gesler’s groups take out a large group of City Garrison troops with Moranth munitions.
Hellian finds a tavern.
Icarium thinks he is done being used, done with companions. He heads to Scale House to begin using the machine he built here long ago, though he realizes it has been damaged over the millennia. Taxilian meets him there and tells him “This is your day.” White light starts to emanate from beneath Scale House, the city shakes and buildings collapse as part of his machine come to life. Icarium slices up his forearms so blood falls freely, thinking “If K’rul can, why not me.”
Taxilian dies in the blast of white fire and power and then Senior Assessor and Taralack Veed are killed by the debris from falling buildings, Veed after seeing a vision of his home and recalling his blood feud.
Buildings collapse all over and a web of white fire rises over the city. Rautos Hivanar is killed by a large part of the machine that rises up to a large height then drops down on him. He is enveloped in white fire that “sucked out from his mind every memory he possessed.”
The web of fire lasts only a few seconds and all who die in it “emptied their lives into it. Every memory, from the pain of birth to the last moment of death.” The web fades out and the city begins to settle back.
The earthquake cracks a canal and up from it rises Mael, “torn between incandescent rage and dreadful fear [for Tehol].” Furious that he can’t save Tehol in time, he heads off to deal with Karos Invictad.
Riding toward the city, Tavore’s group feels the earthquake while Sinn is dazed by Icarium’s power. The river is filled with the Malazan fleet and the rest of the army is just a little behind Tavore’s cavalry. They enter the city and Keneb moves to join them.
Old Hunch Arbat wakes up Ublala Pung and tells him to get out of the circle he’s cleared.
Karsa and Rhulad meet. Rhulad flails away at Karsa, who moves only to deflect Rhulad.
Karos Invictad drags a beaten-to-unconsciousness Tehol into his office. He wants the mob to see him kill Tehol. Brys arrives and kills Karos.
Brys tells Ormly there’s no need for a healer; an Elder God is on the way. Tehol wakes and, seeing Brys cradling him, asks if he’s dead. Brys says no.
Quick Ben and Hedge move toward the sound of sharpers.
Silchas Ruin nears Letheras in dragon form, “a white leviathan with murder in his heart.”
Karsa slices off Rhulad’s sword arm just after the sword impales Karsa’s leg. Samar Dev releases the spirits in her knife, who swarm Karsa just as he is swallowed by chaos and disappears.
Kuru Qan, trapped a while ago in Samar Dev’s knife, had figured out how to leave but decided to stay, curious as to the sense of purpose he felt among those others in the knife. When Samar releases them, he leads the spirits to the sword impaling Karsa’s leg, “understand[ing] the path that must be forged . . . the sacrifice that must be made.” The spirits open a portal and then sacrifice themselves to the chaos that strikes against them, holding the portal open and pushing Karsa through. The spirits are joined by those within Karsa’s sword, but even then Kura Qan feels they are failing.
Old Hunch tells Ublala it is time and Ublala, weeping, stabs Old Hunch as he sits in the circle, bleeding him to feed the ghosts now rising from the old cemetery. He warns Ublala to leave then “showed them [the spirits] their new god . . . and the way through.”
The Tarthenal/Toblakai spirits shove the others forward, giving them enough power. Kuru Qan pulls Karsa forward onto the Crippled God’s beach, then he and the other spirits fall into the sea and end.
The crowd waits for Rhulad to rise while Ruin nears in the sky.
As Fiddler lays out the plan to enter the Eternal Domicile, Corabb tries to interrupt with the somewhat important news that a huge white dragon is about to land on them.
Hedge tells Quick Ben they need to get to the roofs; that’s where Fiddler will be. Quick follows but senses something amiss, then tells Hedge to hurry.
Fiddler blasts Ruin with a cusser that wounds the dragon’s chest and shreds its wings. As Ruin falls, Hedge hits him with another, sending him crashing into a building that collapses on top of him. Fiddler sees Hedge and Quick Ben and follows them. Ruin rises from the building terribly wounded and Quick Ben hits him with sorcery, driving Ruin back until finally he retreats. Fiddler calls after Ruin, “This ain’t your fight . . . Fucking dragon.” Hedge tells him he’s back, alive and everything.
Bottle, Koryk and the others stare from across the street at Quick, Hedge, and Fiddler in amazement. Bottle, watching Ruin exit stage left, thinks “Allow us to introduce ourselves.”
Trull tells Seren he must go seek Rhulad and his parents. She asks him to come back and he says he “can do nothing else. You have all there is of me, all that’s left.” He heads out for the palace, the Errant watching him do so.
Bugg heals Tehol then tells him he’s found Janath and they’ll have more “work to do” to heal her. They hear the mob outside and Bugg informs Tehol he’s now a hero to the people, mostly due to the work of Rucket and Ormly. Tehol asks to be taken to Janath.
The Letherii garrison surrenders to Tavore and she leads a group to the Eternal Domicile. As they march through the crowd, they can hear them shouting two names: Savior (Brys) and Emperor (Tehol). They meet Tehol, Brys, Ruckett, and Ormly and after Tehol is introduced as the new Emperor, Brys says they will escort them to the palace, adding he assumes the “liberating” Malazan will not “overstay their welcome.” Tavore asks if he’s aware of how the Letherii have been defeated out in the country, then admits she has no wish to stay as conquerors. They move to the palace.
Sirryn, fleeing the Malazans, heads for the arena.
Triban Gnol realizes Rhulad is truly dead. He orders Varat Taun to gather the soldiers to escort him to the Throne Room to meet the Malazans, and to bring Samar Dev as well.
SCENES FORTY-SIX AND FORTY SEVEN
Gnol’s group runs into Fiddler’s and Gnol is killed before his men surrender. Quick Ben tells the Malazans not to kill them and Fiddler orders they be taken prisoner. Varat Taun tells them the Emperor is dead in the arena and leads them there to see.
SCENES FORTY-EIGHT AND FORTY-NINE
Trull finds Rhulad’s body and cradles it in his arms, thinking he has forgiven Rhulad and wondering if Rhulad in turn would have forgiven him. Sirryn stabs Trull in the heart from behind and is then shot by Koryk.
Hedge grieves for Trull, as does Quick Ben. When Fiddler announces Sirryn will live, Hedge asks Quick Ben to send him somewhere with eternal torment. Quick asks Fiddler if he should, but Fiddler tells him to decide, to “do what needs doing.” Quick Ben says Hood owes him and magics Sirryn so the body disappears with a final scream. Quick tells Fiddler not to pity him and Fiddler says he won’t. Hedge weeps over Trull’s body.
The Errant, having observed, steps away, thinking “He was what he was. A tipper of balances. And now, this day — may the Abyss devour him whole — a maker of widows.”
Karsa pulls the sword from his leg then overturns the Crippled God’s hut. Behind him, Rhulad’s spirit awakens and the CG tells him to take up the sword lying nearby. Karsa warns him not to, saying when he kills his spirit, Rhulad will find oblivion. The CG tells Rhulad he can go back and make everything right, adding that Trull is even now going to the palace to find Rhulad, that Rhulad can now ask Trull to forgive him. Rhulad looks up at that, seeming so young, and Karsa, with a moment’s regret, decapitates him. The CG tells Karsa he’s waited and worked a long time to get Karsa the sword, but Karsa tells him “No one chooses me . . . All choices belong to me.” The CG promises him immortality, tells him he can proclaim himself Emperor of the Teblor and sweep all before him. Karsa turns his back on the god and goes to meet Withal and the three nachts that have appears on the beach.
Withal tells Karsa he will break the sword now, surprising the Crippled God. Karsa asks if he’s the one who made it and when Withal say yes, Karsa backhands him and tells him not to do it again. Karsa disappears into a portal. As the Crippled God weeps, Withal starts to destroy the sword.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four Part Two
I love the reaction of Fiddler to the Seguleh! “We’d never have got our shots off - no way. Our heads would have rolled like a pair of oversized snowballs.” Just goes to show the relative power of Karsa, a stark reminder before he goes head-to-head with Rhulad. Also cool that these Malazans understood well enough how not to go up against the Seguleh - by averting their eyes.
Ack, I really can’t see a good ending for Trull - he seems so defeated here. And I wonder whether the goodbye with Onrack was more painful for him than the loss of his brother? Onrack certainly has stood by him when the whole of the rest of his life was falling down around him. I do think it’s sweet that Hedge is the one who suggests that they need to be alone together. And surprisingly perceptive for him!
Poor Bruthen Trana - becoming a ghost in truth without even realising it. It’s the latest in a long line of sad moments in this book: “Your soul has been severed from now cold, now rotting flesh.” Even more sad, Brys Beddict departs without a single word to the person who drew him back into the world of the living. I do hope Bruthen Trana reaches that house again and finds peace of a sort.
Hmm, how did Selush know that that finger was going to be a way of learning that Beddict is on his way back - and why is she telling Rucket? I’m sure all will be made clear soon!
Oh man, I HATE the sections with Janath - it’s just a step too far for me, and has rather spoiled part of my enjoyment of this part of the book. Too dark. I don’t care how realistic it might be, it is just nasty.
But I do absolutely delight in Karos Invictad’s realisation that everything he has done was for nothing, that his coins have been squandered and the crowd are calling for Tehol Beddict’s release, not for his murder. It is truly delicious.
Oh ick! Grotty little image there of Feather Witch picking the strips of skin hanging from her toes! And a second ICK - the idea of Feather Witch having had the finger inside her, using it as a way to sop up monthly blood. Anyone else starting to get a bit nauseous at this point? Was this a test of Erikson’s readers, to see whether they would stick with the story?
And the Errant just shows us again how lovely and compassionate he is...
Hannan Mosag is a character that I think none of us really like, and yet his vision of the future was something that I can get behind: “He never wanted anything to do with these Letherii. No, he would have raised an impenetrable wall between them and his people. He would have ruled over the tribes, remaining in the north...” I mean, what really is wrong with that picture? I guess the real issue is that he was being guided by the Crippled God, so would have been unlikely to achieve his own goal.
Oh haha! I missed that the people of the Ratcatchers’ Guild would have plants in the crowd crying out Tehol Beddict’s name as a saviour of the people.
I do admire how Erikson has linked everything that is happening - the fact that Brys Beddict now knows the name of gods and demons, that this demon god is breaking free and needs to be sent away. It’s like loads of teeny tiny pieces of the puzzle just all slotted into place. And I like how this is now going to foil Hannan Mosag’s plans. I might have some sympathy for him, but utterly no liking.
I love that picture of the Jaghut sitting down with Ursto and Pinosel for a drink!
However, I’m not loving and getting tired of all these soldiers following Masan Gilani’s shapely behind as she rides them all into danger... It’s just so dull....
But this reunion, when both we and the Malazan marines learn at the same time that perhaps this audacious charge into Letheras is going to succeed, is a fine one. In fact, there are a number of great reunions throughout this section.
This is a neat little look from both sides of the conflict - first the analytical and very pointed decision of Fiddler as to how to clear the Letherii garrison from their path; and then the poor young ranking officer charging into a doomed fight. It’s sad, because although the Letherii have never been a race to look on favourably as a whole, some of them have shown themselves to be honourable and true. And these who remain in Letheras are unlikely to be those who have caused all the issues with the economy and the city - innocents (as far as that can be said about anyone) are being cut down. Another of those very grey conflicts.
Those munitions are damn nasty as well.
Ah, Hellian - some things never change!
Poor Icarium; a quick reminder here of how very vulnerable he has been, and how desperately his previous companions have tried to prevent him from striving to seek his true self. “To be used; to be, indeed, abused.”
Oh, I can imagine this scene in film as Icarium walks through the city that is going up in flames - a slow motion scene a la John Woo. Yes, I know, I know, not someone who is able to do justice to this whole thing but he does do slow motion scenes beautifully. There could even be a cloak swirling, with smoke and flame around him!
Anyone else concerned at this? “Lifestealer faced the ruin.” And this: “If K’rul can, why not me?” K’rul opened the Warrens with his blood - what will Icarium create? Or destroy?
This is the second time we’ve seen a blast of pure power - the first from Beak and now this from Icarium. One saved lives and protected those within it; this one has done nothing but destroy, both buildings and lives. I don’t like the way this is going. And stealing memories... Exactly what was done to Icarium, isn’t it?
Bit of a fist pump moment, at the fact that Mael’s first thought on release is of Tehol, and either rescue or vengeance.
“Aye, they had them a fight all right.” And much more to come....
Lies, lies, lies! Triban Gnol deserves to die. Since we’ve seen a few of the worst offenders die so far, I have my fingers firmly crossed that he’ll be next on the list. Telling Rhulad it’s an earthquake and that the streets are cleared of invaders? Just wrong.
I LOVE this battle scene between Rhulad and Karsa. It is very much what I wanted it to be. Karsa, standing there so still and silent, merely parrying Rhulad’s blows and showing the Emperor that he really can kill him at any moment. “Invitation not accepted.” I also agree with Samar Dev - she really should have had sex with Karsa.
Again, absolutely delighted that Karos Invictad gets what is coming to him. It is telling that this man died as he lived - lying to himself about events.
Oh bless... Of course Tehol would think he was dead, what with it being Brys who turns up to save him. That’s a sweet moment between the two brothers.
Haven’t we all thought this, at least once during the series? “Next time I see Cotillion . . . I’m going to strangle him with his own rope.”
Ah, a number of other plotlines all falling into place as Karsa uses the dead spirits from Samar Dev, from himself and, finally, from Arbat and Ublala Pung in order to drive himself through chaos to get to where the Crippled God dwells. Now this I really admire. A lot of these incidences that have culminated in this happening have occurred as little one liners, or brief conversations. Tiny little signposts as to what might happen in the future, but still allowing for a glorious realisation of the reader. What gets me is how much preparation that takes - especially when the build-up is going on through multiple books. I think at this point we really can cut Erikson some slack when it comes to timeline, considering the expertise with which he approached pretty much everything else!
After all that build-up, all that knowledge that Silchas Ruin is flying on Letheras with death and vengeance on his mind, and then he gets chased away “in full retreat” by Quick Ben and some Moranth munitions! What an incredible anti-climax! It does allow for the very best reunion of them all, though, and it is just fantastic:
“No ghost. Aye, Fid, I’m back.”
Fiddler scowled, then shook his head. “Hood help us all.”
Now raise your hand if you feel terrible foreboding as Seren Pedac lets Trull go, as she begs him to just come back. Not just me? At least they had their moment, but I feel that Seren Pedac once again has heartbreak in her future, especially with the Errant watching Trull head towards the Eternal Domicile. I do hope that Mael gets to The Errant first especially with his: “Yes...he’s next.”
Oh, Tehol does love Janath!
I picked this out because it is something that we’ve covered before: “The city was a mess. Riots and earthquakes and Moranth munitions. Lostara Yil began to realise that, if the arrival of the Bonehunters signified anything, it was the promise of a return to order, a new settling of civilization, of laws and, ironically, of peace.” The invaders become the peacemakers.
So many fine moments in that encounter between the invaders and those who have raised Tehol up as the new emperor, from when Lostara thinks ‘financial genius?’ as she stares at Tehol, to when she recognises the attraction of the man when he smiles. Just wonderfully done, with a light touch of humour.
We’re still building to something, aren’t we? As Sirryn Kanar runs to find the Chancellor, and Triban Gnol prepares to head to the throne room, thinking Rhulad to be finally dead....
Now this is interesting... “Damned High Mage and his nose in the air - and where in Hood’s name did all that magic come from? Quick had never showed anything like that before. Not even close.” So this is someone who has been working with Quick Ben for a long time, and he sees something very different in the mage... What has triggered this new burst of magical ability?
So Triban Gnol is gone now as well? Taken by a quarrel? It is almost as though Erikson had a list of all the bad guys here and was checking them off to make sure he got ‘em all!
Oh Trull... In the very moment where he begs Rhulad’s forgiveness—too late—and thinks wonderingly about a future with Seren “Oh, he had not known such love could exist” he is cut down by an utter bastard of a man. One who has not even a quarter of Trull’s character, ability and presence. I feel sick to my stomach, both that it has happened and that Sirryn Kanar was the one to do it. I can’t even express how unutterably sad I am that Trull has survived such horrors, such loneliness and, in the moment that he thinks life might have a future again, it’s torn away from him. Erikson, why do you do this to us? Don’t you like your readers? Are there to be no happy endings?
It is fitting that Sirryn Kanar is sent to suffer eternal damnation. He deserves it. This mourning scene is powerful and raw, and is exactly how I am also feeling.
It’s a cool moment where Karsa just lifts the entire hut away from the Crippled God. This god is so pitiful, yet has caused such pain and anguish across the world. His eyes are filled with pain - because of how broken he is, or because of what he has caused to happen?
Ah, finally Rhulad achieves peace, thanks to Karsa. I’m glad that Karsa killed him before he could go back and find Trull dead - that would have been a dark moment too far, I think. It is nice to know that it was the idea of asking Trull’s forgiveness that had Rhulad reaching for the sword again - both brothers, in the moment of their death, thinking of the other and hoping that they can be forgiven.
And Karsa! What can we say about him? Is he the very first to turn away from the Crippled God, from all of his blandishments? This is an immensely strong character. I think everything about him can be summed up with this: “No-one chooses me. I do not give anyone that right. I am Karsa Orlong of the Teblor. All choices belong to me.”
I’m glad that Withal is unmaking this cursed blade - just a shame that it was forged in the first place, considering the pain it has caused along the way. Think of all those events that could have been prevented, were it not for that sword, all the lives that could have been saved... Withal rather deserves that punch to the face from Karsa, and the admonishment “Don’t do it again.”
And it remains to be seen now what the Crippled God will do next. I rather hope he will consider all his plans dashed and live quietly in his hut on the beach, but we still have three more books, so I can’t see it being true!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Four Part Two
That’s a great bit of characterization with Hedge and Quick Ben getting Trull and Seren some alone time as their first priority - here they stand in a city/empire besieged, their mates are out there somewhere fighting, and yet their number one job as they see it is to advance a single relationship. Hard not to like these two.
This also makes for a smooth if sad transition to Bruthen Trana, as he thinks “No wife, no single face to lift into his mind’s eye.” What increases the sorrow of course is that we know, even if he himself doesn’t yet fully know it, that he has lost his chance to make any different choices, since he is dead. And then the sorrow is doubly increased as he evinces the qualities of empathy and compassion that run throughout the series as well as a cultural insight that rings so painfully clear to our modern world, his understanding that the Letherii too are:
“as trapped in the nightmare as anyone else. The rapacious desperation, the gnawing threat of falling, of drowning beneath the ever-rising, ever-onrushing torrent that was a culture that could never look back, could not even slow its headlong plunge into some gleaming future that — if it came at all — would ever only exist for but a privileged few.”
And that “gleaming future” is just a little bit contrasted with this cold, dark present littered with the detritus of the Empire’s setting, I’d say.
Once again, we see Erikson making the metaphor real, as Bruthen learns from the Guardian that he is a ghost in truth, and so his earlier recognition that he is attached to no mate, has seen his comrades die one after another, has felt his own people recede from him, in other words, his sense of growing isolation is made real by what the Guardian tells him:
“Your soul has been severed from your cold, rotting flesh . . . ”
He had, he realized, felt, severed. For a long time, yes.
It is, as you say Amanda, nice to think of him in the house at least.
Buried in the ugliness of Janath’s situation and Karos’ thoughts is this nice little ironic tidbit, as Karos thinks he’s been abandoned by Tanal Yavanath: “[he was] likely hiding with his prisoner, and he could rot in her arms for all that the invigilator cared.”
I also love that comic moment when Karos tells his worker: “I want him [Tehol] able to walk when we march to the drownings,” and we get “The man stared at him for a long moment.” Thinking what must be going through the agent’s mind in that moment cracks me up.
Yeah, could have lived without the tampon reference myself. But we press on....
Feather Witch is not one of my favorite characters. Though I find it interesting that Erikson gives her a measure of sympathy by the revelation of her rape/abuse early and then this relatively pleasant ending with its sense of relief and peacefulness.
I’ve got to say, the yoking of this line—“Rot, dissolution, the dying of the ice”—with this one about Mosag—“At long last, all his ambitions were about to come true” doesn’t exactly fill one with a sense of surety that the second line is really going to happen.
Our two lovely drunk guardians are another example of how large a tapestry this whole story is being stitched onto, and how we’re getting only a little bit of the story of this world. I so enjoy these moments where the light is lifted a bit higher and we get to see a little more of what else happens behind or off to the side of our main story. I also like how we get this variety of gods and former gods - not every one needs to be some puissant world-striding leviathan. Nor do they need to have withered away to nothing or to a bitter black seed. These two seem pretty happy. And like you Amanda, I love the image of the two of them passing the jug to big powerful Jaghut lady.
Another nice bit of little short comedy with Balm.
I’d agree with the “shapely behind” criticism by the way; it does get a bit tiresome after a while.
I like how Fiddler has faith in Gesler with regard to the tactics: “He’ll work it out.” And then Gesler doing so and thinking as they retreat: “Expecting to see Fiddler and his own soldiers waiting opposite them again.” Another nice tip of the hat to something we talked about long ago - that the greatest strength of the Malazan Army was its soldiers’ ability to think.
Another nice bit to this scene, as Amanda points out, is the dual point-of-view. Rather than just have us cheering on our heroes as they oh-so-cleverly wipe out a detachment of the “bad guys,” we are grabbed by Erikson and put into the head of this poor nineteen-year-old kid who has no idea at any point what is going on, including why his own legs weren’t working and why he had a fire in his back. It certainly robs the reader of a big chunk of that “go team!” response with “our guys” defeating the “bad guys.”
This is indeed a great cinematic scene with Icarium - the fire, the machine parts grinding, the buildings collapsing, the white fire, Taxilian being incinerated by the blast. Senior Assessor and Veed caught in the collapsing building (nice touch with Assessor’s laughter). This moment has been foreshadowed for some time, and it’s interesting that for all this cinematic spectacle, all this sound and fury, it all just kind of blips out here, leaving far more questions than answers: where is Icarium, what does the K’rul reference mean, what about the references to and obsession with time, what does it mean that the machine was broken? There are some hints as to how to piece some of this together. But definitely file away that those who died joined their memories to the white fire. File that away.
Oh, who wants to face Bugg/Mael at this moment?
I’m not so sure Karos got “what was coming to him,” Amanda. I’m not normally a bloodthirsty kinda guy, but I could go with him getting the Sirryn treatment we see later. This was a little quick and I hate the smile—warranted or not—on his face at the end.
The body count is definitely picking up in this chapter though, isn’t it” Bruthen. Feather Witch. Mosag. Tanal. Karos. Veed. Senior Assessor. Taxilian. Rhulad. Old Hunch. We’re running out of characters. Unfortunately, I think a reader has to be thinking amidst all this body count, and the return of one (Brys), it can’t all be minor characters. It can’t all be people I don’t mind so much....
I miss the Ceda. He was such a great character and I’m glad we got to see him one more time. I love that he could have escaped and chose not to, and like as well he takes on the leadership role here as he did before, leads the spirits, pulls Karsa through, knows the sacrifice.
I also like that we get someone like Old Hunch - a tiny little extra on stage. And yet, just as much as those world-bestriding big characters, he does what he must and affects events. And does so alone and bleeding out. Amidst all the ascendants and armies and Emperors, let’s pause a moment and give Old Hunch his due. He’s earned it.
Oh, I have so been looking forward to this scene. “Fucking dragon.” One of my all-time, favorite, greatest lines in fantasy. “Fucking dragon.” And you have to have the italics. Oh, I love it. “Fucking dragon.”
And what a great reunion scene of Fiddler and Hedge - two cussers meeting in the night. And Quick Ben. And I like how Erikson pulls us away to see the effect on the others of these three legends.
And please tell me someone else had Mick Jagger in their head at Bottle’s line watching the dragon limping away? Anyone?
And from such utter satisfaction to utter trepidation. Yep Amanda, hard not to read this scene with Trull and Seren and feel that tragedy is about to rear its ugly head. Too much has gone too right.
And yes, that’s a nice scene with meeting the new Emperor, but still with Trull. Such an achingly painful scene. The image of him cradling Rhulad in his lap. The reminder that this is the second time in a brief span of time that he has done such a thing with a dead brother. His lack of bitterness or hatred, his desire to forgive and be forgiven, his recognition that he has arrived “too late” for any of it. Then, a moment’s bloom of happiness amidst all this tragedy and grief and regret—his recognition of love, “I finally see—” cut short right after. And then a last thought yet again of desire for forgiveness. I remember what a shock this was despite having a sense things weren’t going to end well after that good-bye scene, and a sense that someone was going to die, and it was most likely going to be him. Still, it shocked. And still does on a reread even.
And that damned owl, the shadow that could have been seen, that could have warned, could have prevented this. I’m curious what you all think of the Errant here. It’s an interesting way of describing him: “The Errant stepped back, pulled away as if he would hurl himself from a cliff. He was what he was. A tipper of balances. And now, this day — may the Abyss devour him whole — a maker of widows.”
This is a nice scene with Rhulad—the way he appears in his youth, “not unhandsome”—all that he once was. His refusal to pick up the sword at first. Then, as you say Amanda, being won over not by victory over Karsa or being Emperor again, but by the need to ask forgiveness of Trull. “So young.” Hard not to feel a sense of pity for him here and relief that it is all over. And look at Karsa, who “felt in his heart, a moment of regret.” That alone should drag the reader along because let’s face it, we don’t get such moments often from Karsa so we should pay attention when we do.
Did anyone seriously think Karsa was going to give in to the Crippled God? Seriously? How badly did the CG misjudge this guy? And Amanda’s right I’d say, that line about “choice” absolutely sums this characters up. He is the embodiment of will as power in this series.
I’m glad that even here Erikson gives us a bit of comic relief. The way Karsa backhands Withal and says simply, “don’t do it again.” Withal’s line about having lied about the “unbreakable sword”: “We’re always saying that. Pays the bills.” And does anyone doubt that?
No, we’re not quite done with the Crippled God, Amanda. Though that closing image of him “bawling” is an interesting choice for our Big Bad, I’ll note.
I think Erikson makes a lot of interesting choices here that fly in the face of genre and series expectations. We’ve got all these references to convergence, all these big foreshadowed events, and if you look at them, things end in ways large and small pretty anti-climactically.
Ruin with his eyes of red and thoughts of death never even gets to land in the city. Karsa and Rhulad don’t ever really fight. The big battle between the Letherii, Edur and Malazan forces turns into either no battle at all (the dome of light) or a slaughter barely discussed. Several characters die as nearly an aside, such as Triban Gnol. Thoughts on these choices?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.