Fri
Oct 19 2012 3:00pm

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

Malazan Reread on Tor.com: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter 23Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twenty-Three 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-Three

SCENE ONE

Onrack recalls his earlier crime of painting a woman (Kilava, Tool’s sister) on the cave wall, how he’d been imprisoned, and how she had come to him, and finally how he’d destroyed her life as well. He looks at cave paintings done by Ulshun Pral and ponders the idea of witnessing, of the separation between human and beast. Trull and Onrack discuss how the Bentract think they never joined the Tellan Ritual, but Onrack says that can’t be true; they must be ghosts, memories enfleshed by the power of the nearby Gate. When Trull says Ulshun tells him he remembers his mother, Onrack says Ulshun is a 100,000 years old and his memories are mere delusions. Trull disagrees and they head off to see the Gate.

SCENE TWO

Trull sees Onrack has been awakened to something bitter in viewing the paintings. When they arrive at the Gate, they find it not as Rud Elalle had described but instead discover many gates pulsing with white fire. Onrack says the old Bonecaster has failed and the realm is dying. Trull stays behind to meet what might come through the gates while Onrack goes to Rud Elalle.

SCENE THREE

Hedge and Quick Ben spar like old comrades. Quick tells Hedge enemies will be coming from the south as dragons. When Hedge asks if Quick is worried, Quick says no because having “stretched” himself (against Icarium) he is now “nastier.” Hedge says he’ll have a cusser ready in any case and Quick tells him not to blow him to pieces, even if he thinks he’s dead because he “won’t be.” Menandore moves toward them (from the south).

SCENE FOUR

Menandore calls the two “pathetic” and wonders why they’re standing where their enemies will see them first and thus kill them first. Quick tells her Rud and Ulshun Pral are coming then notes the similar gait of Ulshun and Onrack. Rud tells Menandore he will not fight with her and plans to take the Bentract away, saying he had nothing to do with her long-running feud. She tells him fine, but Ulshun Pral has to stay. Rud is about to fight Menandore when Pral tells him his mother is right; he has to stay because otherwise they’d all be pursued for his secret. Rud wants to stay then, but Quick tells him he and Hedge will do their best to keep Pral safe. Menandore is contemptuous of the idea, but Rud, looking at the two of them, grows calm and accepts their offer, then leaves.

SCENE FIVE

Menandore storms off and Quick tells Hedge he put one of his “special stones” in her cloak.

SCENE SIX

Sheltatha Lore and Sukul Ankhadu look on the hills where the prior conversation took place and discuss how the Refugium is dying. Sukul is sickened by the Imass here, “Building nothing. All history trapped as memory . . . delud[ing] themselves into believing they actually exist.” She blames Hood’s indifference. When Sheltatha wonders at Sukul’s desire to kill them when they’ll die anyway with the Refugium, Sukul tells her “their conceit has made them real. Mortal, now. Blood, flesh and bone” but oblivious to their world’s impending demise, claiming her killing them is an act of mercy. Menandore joins them and asks if they are still all in agreement, saying she cannot guard the Finnest against Ruin on her own, adding Ruin’s group is almost at the Gate. The three agree to kill Ruin and the Imass but not Rud. Menandore tells them a pair of stupid mortals will try and stop then, and warns them Ruin has allies. The three veer into dragon form and move toward the hills.

SCENE SEVEN

Seren is shocked by the sheer number of dead dragons in Starvald Demelain, noting they all seemed to die of old age, not violence. Udinaas says they’re like flies trapped on the sill of a window that wouldn’t open. She watches Udinaas walking, holding Kettle’s hand, and muses on how Kettle has seemingly shifted her affection/allegiance from Ruin to Udinaas. They near the Gate and Kettle shies away until Udinaas whispers something to her. Fear tells Seren the others have seen a body, then asks her if she has yet chosen a side. Seren asks if they must kill each other at the end of all this and he wryly wonders at her assumption that they are “all that evenly matched.” Despite being overmatched, he says, he’ll do what he must, though he adds that her new power may save them. She wants to know his plans and he says he will awaken Scabandari and “purge Kurald Emurlahn . . . drive out the poison that afflicts us . . . shatter my brother’s cursed sword.” She thinks him foolish, wondering to herself if Scabandari might not be enslaved by the “poison” (the Crippled God) or might not have his own desires, such as for vengeance. She asks if he finally sees she’s not worth his protection and he, pained, tells her yes. Stung by his hurt, she thinks she will do what she can for him. He leaves her, somehow different, and the narration tells us he moves now like a warrior ready to kill.

SCENE EIGHT

Udinaas looks down at the body of the Bonecaster, thinking she should have found some other way to save her people, should have stayed alive for them rather than died for them. Clip announces that the world beyond the Gate is dying, then asks Udinaas if Menandore still watches them through Udinaas. When Udinaas says no, Ruin thinks she is getting ready to oppose them on the other side. Udinaas gives his Imass spear to Seren, thinking she’ll need it more as she plans on helping Fear while he (Udinaas) plans on running. Ruin starts to arm up.

SCENE NINE

Hedge, seeing the three Soletaken dragons, tells Pral to go but the Imass refuses at first, “fixing into his memory the faces of these two men so that death would not take all of them.” Pral thinks how alone among the Imass here, he was not a “ghost memory,” but had lived a true, if crazily extended, life in the Refugium because the realm had been, but was no longer, “deathless.” As he nears the cave, Onrack exits it.

SCENE TEN

Hedge and Quick agree that Menandore has betrayed them. Quick punches Hedge in the nose to impress on him that he is now bleeding.

SCENE ELEVEN

Menandore looks down to see Quick Ben raise his arms and laughs at the stupidity. She prepares her own magic.

SCENE TWELVE

Quick Ben raises the Earth—the sod and soil and roots—against the dragons, crashing them to the ground, then striking them with waves and bolts of power. Amidst the carnage and chaos, Sheltatha turns on Menandore, killing her, as Sukul heads eastward. As a wounded Sheltatha starts to crawl away, Hedge lodges a cusser into her belly wound and blows her up into pieces (including one which knocks Hedge out when it hits his head). Quick Ben laughs.

SCENE THIRTEEN

In the cave, Ulshun Pral tells Onrack a long time ago a Jaghut (Gothos) gave him something, explaining that in the Refugium, the Jaghut and Imass made peace. Onrack tells him to stay in the cave then leaves. Pral remains briefly, then follows.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Rud Elalle leads the Imass into a narrow pass in the hills. The three T’lan Imass (Hostile Rator, Til’aras Benok, Gr’istanas Ish’ilm) tell him to keep going; they’ll guard the rear, explaining to enter such a narrow passage, the dragon will have to veer back into human form. He doesn’t really answer when Rud asks why they will do this, but Hostile thinks, “Because you please us Rud Elalle. So too Ulshun Pral. And the Imass. And we came here with chaos in our hearts.”

SCENE FIFTEEN

Sukul is shocked by the deaths of her two sisters and the destruction of their plan. She nears the ravine with the intent of killing Rud and the Imass. Hostile stands before her in Imass form and sacrifices himself so that the other two can attack her in their Soletaken forms. They kill her, though die doing so.

SCENE SIXTEEN

Onrack meets Trull at the Gate just as Ruin’s group exits it.

SCENE SEVENTEEN

Seren watches as Fear steps out and then gets a look of horror on his face before moving to stab Ruin in the back. Before he can do so, Clip kills Fear with this chain. Udinaas, holding Kettle in his arms, is swarmed over by Wither. As Ruin fights someone Seren cannot see, Clip moves toward Udinaas, even as Wither is choking Udinaas to death. Seren sends her power into Wither, shattering the shadow wraith into pieces. Clip grabs Kettle and throws her hard across the floor. Seren hammers him with Mockra and he throws a dagger that buries itself in her shoulder.

SCENE EIGHTEEN

Trull sees Ruin step out (The Betrayer) then, shockingly, Fear. He watches Fear die and moves toward Clip, slashing Ruin because he’s in his way. The two of them begin to fight and Trull realizes he cannot take on Ruin.

SCENE NINETEEN

Onrack sees Trull in trouble but does not move because he suddenly realizes the Pral, behind him, is his son.

SCENE TWENTY

Seren sees Clip going after Udinaas and Trull losing to Ruin and as Trull’s spear shatters in his hands, she tosses him the Imass one then attacks Clip via Mockra.

SCENE TWENTY-ONE

Trull uses the spear to hold off Ruin.

SCENE TWENTY-TWO

Clip turns on Seren but when Trull knocks Ruin to the ground, stunning him, Clip leaves her and moves on to Trull, surprised at Trull’s skill. Trull knocks Clip out then falls due to his damaged leg.

SCENE TWENTY-THREE

Ruin tells Onrack to step aside, that Pral is his. Onrack refuses and Ruin knocks him out with sorcery.

SCENE TWENTY-FOUR

Seren moves to help Trull, who is dragging himself after Ruin. She tells him it’s too late.

SCENE TWENTY-FIVE

Udinaas, barely alive, thinks he has failed but forces himself to witness.

SCENE TWENTY-SIX

Kilava enters and tells Ruin, who has just grabbed Pral, that if he harms her son she’ll kill him. Ruin puts Pral down and takes his dagger, saying that’s all he needs.

SCENE TWENTY-SEVEN

Seren watches as Ruin shoves Kettle against the ground and stabs her with Pral’s dagger.

SCENE TWENTY-EIGHT

Udinaas turns away, weeping, thinking both he and Kettle had known. Where Kettle’s body lies, an Azath begins to grow. Udinaas thinks Ruin finally has his vengeance on Scabandari. He notes that Clip has exited via one of the Gates, much to Udinaas’s dismay.

SCENE TWENTY-NINE

Seren helps Trull stand and takes him to Fear, calling Trull her love and telling him they must return to her house so she can bury his sword before her threshold. He tells her he’s long dreamed she would say that. Udinaas tells the grieving Trull that Fear died a hero. When Trull said Fear was going to betray Ruin, Udinaas rejects the suggestion, telling Trull Fear had seen him and knew Ruin would kill him. He adds that he is “proud to have known him.” Trull thanks him.

SCENE THIRTY

Onrack wakes to see Kilava over him. She tells him Ruin used the Finnest to power an Azath seed (Kettle), which will grown into an Azath house that will seal the gates and thus rooting the Refugium so it does not die. Onrack asks if she was indeed the woman that night in prison and she mocks his stupidity. She tells him the Ritual no longer claims him and he tells her he has found all he needs (wife, son). He sees Trull grieving and worries.

SCENE THIRTY-ONE

Rud stands where Sukul was killed and knows will soon find his mother’s body. He feels the death of innocence inside him.

SCENE THIRTY-TWO

Quick Ben tells Hedge an Azath is now growing in the realm, making it and the Imass real. He also says the Azath will have towers and all the gates, meaning Shadowthrone and Cotillion now have access to them and thus to those other realms, including Starvald Demelain. He worries what those two know. He tells Hedge they’re going to go through one of the gates: “Fid’s never been the same without you.”

SCENE THIRTY-THREE

Ruin thinks he’s kept his bargain with the Azath and has also given Scabandari a “reprieve Bloodeye did not deserve,” thinking that he well knows the poison that is vengeance. He veers and takes off, heading toward Letheras with “blood on his mind” and thinking he does not like “this Crippled God.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three

A timely reminder of Onrack’s crime, since we have just seen the woman who inspired him to commit her image to a wall in the form of a painting, in the previous chapter.

Another mention of the word “witness” – this time Onrack thinks: “We are the witnesses. We are the eyes trapped for ever on the outside. We have been severed from the world.”

Onrack has always been a melancholy character, with what has happened to him. But he has become even more so, now that we know the price of his friendship with Trull is his soul, now that we know if he ventures back outside this branch of Tellan he will become as he once was.

The gentle relationship between Trull and Onrack is actually one that I savour. I know that I was once a person who disliked their storyline, but now I find it oddly comforting – such loyalty and strength between them. I do find myself worrying for Onrack a great deal though. I wonder if Erikson is signposting an imminent demise as Onrack protects this realm and those in it?

Ha! Love the way that Hedge is constantly needling Quick Ben about his mysteriousness: “It’s all the posturing, Quick [...] You turn picking your nose into a Hood-damned ritual, so it gets I just give up on knowing when to talk to you or not.”

And I love even more the way that they bicker and say how much they dislike each other, while, at the same time, able to enjoy companionable silences.

Quick Ben has Soletaken in him?! Is that something that I knew and forgot? Or is it something just being revealed now?

Menandore doesn’t show herself to be the most intelligent here, as she completely dismisses Quick Ben and Hedge! Oooh, who does Quick Ben see in the walk of...Rud, I’m guessing? He didn’t know Udinaas, did he, so wouldn’t have recognised that in him?

Hmm, if Ulshan Pral believes everyone will pursue him if he leaves with Rud Elalle, does that mean he holds the Finnest that they’re after?

What has Quick Ben slipped into the cloak of Menandore? What is he up to now?

How interesting, the fact that the Imass in this realm of Tellan believed themselves to be alive and hence made themselves real. So they don’t actually exist? Except that they now do. I wonder if Hood’s indifference is more to do with the fact that he is Jaghut and doesn’t want to remove this realm, for fear of continuing the war between their people? Or does the fact that he’s Hood override the race he came from? “The greatest failing here...lies with the Lord of Death. If not for Hood’s indifference, this realm could never have lasted as long as it has. It irritates me, such carelessness.”

Ooh! Starvald Demelain is “the very chambers of K’rul’s heart”? So the dragons who use its magic – where do they come from? What relation are they to him?

This scene—as the three dragons cruise through the air towards battle—is one of those deliciously cinematic moments in the series. Damn, I can just imagine it!

And—related to the dragon questions and the K’rul questions—why are there SO many dead dragons in this part of Starvald Demelain that Seren Pedac and the others find themselves walking through? What happened to all those dragons? And why are there chained dragons? Ahh, so many mysteries!

This is rich imagery: “The lifeless air tasted foul to Seren Pedac, as if immeasurable grief tainted every breath drawn in this realm, a bleak redolence that would not fade even after countless millennia.” It really drives home the fact that something happened to cause these dragons to die. And this, that Udinaas says: “Wrong side, trying to get out. But the window stayed closed. To them, maybe to everyone, everything. Or...maybe not every thing.” The dragons were trapped? Who by? And who is still able to move freely in and out of Starvald Demelain?

It is a very sweet image, this one that Seren Pedac observes, of Kettle walking with her hand in Udinaas’. And finally something to respect about Seren Pedac once again - her acknowledgement that Udinaas is the only truly likeable member of the group, and the only one who has anything to offer Kettle. But then immediately back to disengaging from Seren Pedac, as she deals a crushing blow to Fear Sengar and casually says “dead brother” about Trull, although it is good to see that she plans to use her power to do what she can for Fear. It’s odd, this. I know exactly why she has become the person she has done. She was always a complex character, even before her rape. And yet I find myself impatient and not understanding why she deals with people the way she does. I think this is one of Erikson’s best-written characters, actually, in the way she makes you absolutely conflicted as to who she is and whether you like her.

Okay... I’ve been trying and trying to recall who this dead Imass is at the gate of Starvald Demelain... Do we know? “The witch who gave her soul to staunch the wound.” Hints from Ulshun Pral that it was a Bentract Imass, and one who was mostly a ghost.

A nice echo here as well, as Udinaas reflects on the fact that he actually quite likes Fear. It’s a shame that it’s only as they come to the endgame that they’re willing to make these observations. “And who, when all is done, will wade out of this crimson tide?”

Eep! Hedge is alive? But only within this realm, right? But no wonder Quick Ben wants him to stay out of the fight, since he is so vulnerably human at this present time.

Wow, Quick Ben is something to behold, isn’t he? Standing up to three dragons at the same time, and bringing them down? Just astounding. And he’s sure that Menandore was taken down by her sister Sheltatha, that Menandore isn’t the one racing for freedom? I’m just suspicious because Menandore has been a larger part of the storyline than Sukul....

And I’m giggling at Hedge being knocked unconscious by a flying piece of debris.

Oh, Hostille Rator! What a glorious way to announce your sacrifice! “Because you please us, Rud Elalle. So too Ulshun Pral. And the Imass... And we came here with chaos in our heart.”

These three bitter sisters really are quite despicable, aren’t they? I’m glad that all three are removed forcibly from the proceedings.

Here Sukul Ankhadu (yes, she is the only one left alive) remarks on Quick Ben something I shall keep in mind: “No, not a mere mortal human. There were other things hiding inside that scrawny body, she was certain of that.”

Awww – Seren Pedac can feel Trull, can’t she? “A strange tug took hold of her soul, a sudden, excruciating yearning that overwhelmed her growing dread.”

Man, that was an explosive arrival, wasn’t it? Clip is such a bastard! Did I ever say that I liked him? Man, I was completely foolish to say so! And another Sengar dies. They really are one of the most tragic families in this series, although the Paran family comes close....

Poor Trull. What horrible shocks, one after another.

And poor Onrack, held from assisting his friend Trull because of having to protect his own blood. This encounter isn’t nice.

Glad to see Trull avenge his brother by hurting Clip – hope he’s dead! (And it isn’t often I say that about characters in this series). Heh, I did say hurt, rather than kill, because I suspected he might creep away while the action continued, and so I was proved right.

Oh Onrack... “As he dropped down hard onto the floor, a single thought drifted through his mind before unconsciousness took him: Not again.”

I really don’t know what to say... Silchas Ruin has plunged the dagger which is the Finnest containing Scabandari’s soul into Kettle. I can’t even....

Oh! Silchas has joined the creation of an Azath to a Finnest – this will grow a new Azath, won’t it? Just as we saw in Gardens of the Moon? “An Azath, to hold for ever the soul of Scabandari. Silchas Ruin, you have your vengeance. Your perfect exchange.” It does seem to be poetic justice, this.

Ah. Quick Ben saw that Ulshun Pral was the son of Onrack just by his walk... Just catching up with earlier in the chapter – sometimes it takes me a while!

It’s a bittersweet reunion, this one between Trull and Seren Pedac. I am glad that she declares her love, very much, but I worry for their future when she thinks: “Shall I cry out in grief for what is to come? For all that I will bring to you, Trull Sengar? My burdens-”

A much more beautiful reunion between Kilava and Onrack, where she says: “Yours was a forbidden desire and it wounded so many. But not me. I knew only that I must give answer. I must let my heart speak.” I can’t even imagine how much of a burden has been lifted from Onrack with those words.

The permanence of this realm is a wonderful thing to realise, and a good thing for Silchas Ruin to have done – but, at the same time, we’re shown the death of innocence within Rud Elalle, which strikes me as being a bad thing.

Oooh, is this part of the Shadowthrone and Cotillion masterplan? To create an entrance into Starvald Demelain? Yes, I agree with Quick Ben here: “But you know, it’s what those two sneaky bastards know, or seem to know, that really worries me.”

Awwww. “Fid’s never been the same without you.”

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three

So a bit of an emotional rest period after that last chapter (but just a bit). I like how this chapter opens with Onrack thinking back on his “crime” and of Kilava, his guilt over destroying her life, his sense of being severed from the world, and ends with Onrack reunited with Kilava and united with a son, an artist like himself. Sure, that happy moment is surrounded by blood, death, grief, murder, betrayal, etc. but hey, we take what we get in this series, right?

His thoughts as he looks at the cave art are deep ones, one of the many moments where the series moves into “big ideas” that we don’t often get in other genre works. This sort of Edenic fall from grace, this moment of mortals realizing the reality of death and how that awakening to death came with a severing from the natural world, from the “beasts.” And with that sense, it seems (and the idea of “art”) Erikson is referring as well to death/mortality bringing with it a sense of “time,” which also separates us. Because now we can both anticipate our own death and those around us, which brings sorrow and terror and angst but also a sense of preciousness. And we can look back in memory and grieve those already lost. And one of the ways we do that—grieve—and one of the ways we forestall death—by preserving memory—is through art. Not just visual art, but singing, as Onrack thinks of and others as well. I’ve said it repeatedly, but it’s this willingness to slow the “action,” to step into “big thoughts” that makes this series stand out so much against the crowd of other genre material.

I also find this doubly interesting in that it comes via a T’lan Imass now Imass (and soon to be?), because they of course are the living embodiment (unliving embodiment? Undead embodiment?) of being severed from the natural world. But not only did their ritual separate them from the natural world, it separated them from the mortal world, from those “good” things that death might bring—that sense of every moment being precious, of all life being precious, of increased empathy and compassion. Though granted, the mortals we see don’t evince such qualities to the degree one would like.

And here is I think one of our first clues (any earlier ones?) that Pral is Onrack’s son: “such [artistic] skill is passed down in the blood . . .” And then there are the “flaws” which sound suspiciously like Onrack himself. Actually, I confess that when I read these, I thought Onrack already knew Pral was his son and was trying to figure out how I’d missed that realization and not mentioned it.

Interestingly enough Amanda, there is grief at the end of this relationship with Trull and Onrack (just in this book I mean – I’m not spoiling future events) but it’s a surprising one. Here we as readers are (I think) worrying about what happens to Onrack when he has to return to being T’lan, what a horrible reimprisonment that seems, one that I dread as a reader, and it turns out that at the end of this chapter, it is Onrack who has seemingly all (wife, son, flesh and blood nature) and it is Trull who grieves for what he has lost (Fear). It’s a subtle and nice touch of playing off readerly expectations on Erikson’s part.

For us rereaders, this is a nice bit of dramatic irony: “Ulshun Pral says he remembers his mother.”

Note the attention to layers, change, time and geology yet again even in such a small, throwaway moment as a quick setting transition to Hedge and Quick: “a modest hill [...] had once been an atoll, assuming the plains had once been under water, and that, Hedge thought [...] [kicking] his way through a ribbon of sand studded with broken shells was a fair assumption.”

Love this line: “You turn picking your nose into a Hood-damned ritual, so it gets I just give up on knowing when to talk to you or not.”

Regarding Quick’s “souls”, remember Quick’s origin story Amanda, getting bitten by a radioactive spid, oh wait. Getting chased into Raraku and “absorbing” a dozen souls (and clearly their knowledge and power). As far as being able to veer as a “Soletaken”, who knows with this character....

Yes, I think the set-up for Menandore getting her comeuppance from Quick Ben and/or Hedge was pretty clear, huh? Though you’d think she’d pay a little more attention to her instincts: “The other was a mage, and without question more than just a mage” or “that sliver of disquiet returned to her, stinging.” And another great closing section line: “Just for that, I’m not giving you my favorite stone.”

Speaking of set-ups, does the back and forth about Hedge not blowing up Quick’s allegedly dead body cuz it won’t really be dead set us up for some time where maybe we shouldn’t think Quick Ben really dies? Hmmmmmmm.

I also love their sparring and this: “From the south, you bloated bladder of piss.”

I’ve said a few times that one of the things I like about fantasy is howthe metaphorical can be made real. And damn if Erikson doesn’t double down on that concept with these Imass: “The conceit has made them real.”

Boy, these three are something though, aren’t they? You can only shake your head.

Dragons. Well, Amanda, there’s more to come so it’s probably a discussion that should be held for later. But if anyone wants to have at it, feel free in the comments.

I’ve tried to point out several clues that things aren’t going to end well for Kettle, and that Udinaas knew this. This chapter, with his tenderness toward her (the hand holding, the whispers, etc.) is more of the same. As is this: “Kettle had held herself close to Silchas Ruin [...] he had made vows to protect her and the burgeoning life that had come to her [...] But Silchas Ruin had revealed some of himself [...] a brutality.” Thus a connection between whatever bad thing Kettle has coming and Ruin being perhaps the instigator of it. And then this: “How different is that from Kettle tale of murdering people in Letheras [...] Of feeding their corpses into the hungry, need grounds of the Azath?” And so a reminder of the connection between the Azath and Kettle, of the idea of death feeding an Azath.

One wonders if some readers have the same shocking realization as Seren—that Udinaas is the only likable one in their group....

Poor Fear. What a life-his love, his brother, his brother, his brother, his hopeless quest to raise Scabandari and “purge Kurald Emurlahn" (hands up amongst those who thought he was going to achieve that?), and now Seren’s brutal attempt to wake him to the “reality” of her. And then to die just after being “reunited” with his brother (and to be killed by Clip, who is not the most likable person in their group).

When Udinaas says he actually likes Fear, you know that’s not going to end well....

I like that artist—Ulshun—memorizing the faces of Quick and Hedge. Touching. But also again that sense of art as preservation.

Even though it was so telegraphed, I still love Quick taking down those dragons. And of course, Hedge getting knocked out by that vertebrae.

After all we’ve seen of the Jaghut, of the Imass, all those millennia, ponder for a moment the depth of tragedy in these simple, brief, all-too-easy-to-overlook-midst-the-action words: “Here, in this world, we long ago ended our war. Here, we chose peace.” No, seriously, think about that for a moment.

And here we see the great last stand of Hostile and his group, who we (OK, I on my first read) never quite wholly trusted. That’s a great scene and another moving one, that sacrifice for the Bentract. Nice moment of redemption.

Explosive arrival indeed. Yes, Clip bastard. Fear tragic. So many heart-wrenching choices. Poor Kettle. Another Edur about to stab Ruin in the back. Seren opening up to power. Udinaas witnessing. Kilava’s steely power and determination. And I so love the anticlimax of Ruin “deftly plucking” the dagger and saying “this is all I need.”

And Seren, still not getting Ruin, thinking he had his vengeance on Scabandari while later we learn he thinks he gave Scabandari a “reprieve he didn’t deserve.” I still can’t wait to see what happens with these two in the prequel trilogy.

Speaking of oblivious: “For remaining at my brother’s side, I thank you both.” As Seren says, may Trull never learn the truth.

So is this a happy ending or a sad one? Fear and Kettle are dead. But Onrack is absolved of his “crime,” reunited with lover and son, Trull is reunited with Seren. And then poor Rud—innocence lost. The Refugium is a “refuge” no longer. And as we started with Onrack at the beginning, a paradise is lost.

“Jaghut are strange.” Understatement much?

Yes indeed, just what do Cotillion and Shadowthrone know and how much do they manipulate events?

That’s an enticing close – if blood hasn’t been on his mind yet, just what is this guy going to do in Letheras?


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.

27 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
@Amanda:Hedge is just guessing what many have tried to guess--is QB a soletaken, as in shapeshifter. We know he is a soul taker, but we don't know what all abilities lie within.
I really like the dragon fight scene (silly dragons). We see QB has been stretched and is still very very tricky.
Kettle's sacrifice really shocked me the first time through. Well, it still shocks me. Whom, one might wonder will be the guardian of this Azath.
Keel Curtis
2. captaink
One of the higher bodycout chapters we've had in terms of named characters. Fear, Kettle, all three sisters, Hostille Ratator and Co.

I think I read through the end of this book too fast last time, so I tried to slow down this time around. Things connected in my brain a little better.

Now is a good time to flip back and read through the prologue again. Makes things clearer. I guess the finnest somehow gets from Gothos to Ulshun Pral? That I can't recall.

And, having finished Forge of Darkness, I'm curious how we get to here from there. Half the people from this chapter show up in that book, but there is more explaining to do.

And an administrative note, will we be splitting the final chapter in two? It's pretty hefty.
Jordanes
3. Jordanes
SCENE TWENTY-TWO:

Trull beats the living s**t out of Clip.
Jordanes
4. Tufty
Dragons. Well, Amanda, there’s more to come so it’s probably a discussion that should be held for later. But if anyone wants to have at it, feel free in the comments.
I can't recall whether we have yet learned how/why (most of) the dragons returned to Starvald Demelain or if that is a spoiler still to come. In any case, I think Udinaas explains it pretty well - the dead dragons they see wanted to leave Starvald Demelain, but the gate was sealed. So they lay down and waited, but it never opened and they died.
Jordanes
5. Jordanes
Fear and Silchas' group...what more can you say? :( So tragic.

I love how SE repeats the image of Scabandari stabbing Silchas in the back, with Fear clearly tragically aware of the reflection. But there is a welling-up of pride for his immediate understanding of the situation and his attempt to save his brother's life.

Then there is Trull once again showing his skill with the spear - a skill which kept Icarium at bay and now doing the same with Silchas. And who didn't grin as they remembered Clip's earlier contempt for spear-wielders? :)

But for me, the moment which encapsulates this chapter is when Trull, Seren and Udinaas are standing over Fear's body, and Trull thanks them for keeping loyal company with Fear all this time. You can just picture the look that Seren and Udinaas give to each other, even as they comfort Trull.

What a sad group they were - and, of course, a wonderful upending of the fantasy trope of a group of companions on a heroic quest.


And, finally, SE gives us another greyest of greys situation. Silchas Ruin saves an entire realm, and fulfils the mission set by the Azath. But he also kills a child - a symbol of innocence - to do so. Was it worth it? Can the taking of the life of a child be justified? It can be argued that was, after all, the entire purpose behind the creation of Kettle in the first place - that was her fate and destiny. Yet still. She was just a child.
Tricia Irish
6. Tektonica
This was some chapter, all righty. And it just picks up speed from here! I nearly finished it again last night. It was so hard to put down!

I was so glad to see Clip get his comeuppence...but he did manage to escape. Drat! I do remember you saying you liked him when you first met him, Amanda! Glad you came around, or I'd have to wonder about you!

Losing Fear never really moved me, as I didn't care much for him since we first met the Edur, but to happen just as he and Trull were reunited, was tragic for both of them. Trull and Seren Pedac have such a tragic air about them. Even though they are reunited, and have declared their love, it is in such sad circumstances! And Serens thoughts are still bleak. I really like both of them, and wish happiness for them, in an ugly world. I'm glad Onrack and Kilava are reunited, and Pral is with them too.

The loss of Kettle really got to me the first time through, although now that I've reread it, it seems very well foreshadowed. Udinaas is the most likeable amongst this group? I find him bitter, sarcastic and opaque. I don't begrudge him his anger over being used by so many, but it is tiring to read.

Ruin seems to me to be the most honestly just who he is. He keeps to himself, and is a known quantity. He'd get my vote for the most likeable amongst a group of pretty sorry choices.

Although Rud loses his innocence, this piece of the warren has become Real, so it is a great gift for the Imass living there. He lost his mother, but he gained Life for his Bentract.

And QB....wow. Love that mysterious, obstreperous man, wizard. He and Hedge are great here...a love/hate relationship, full of respect. And so long, nasty sisters! Good battle!

I too, did not trust the 3 T'lan Imass that showed up, so I was pleased to see that they were so moved by the peace and care in this realm, that they stood to defend it.

I really enjoy SE's bringing the "big ideas" into this series. As you say, Bill, it really separates Malazan from the rest.
David Thomson
7. ZetaStriker
I always found Fear to be the most likeable member of the group. I enjoyed most of the other characters for their unique qualities, but Fear himself - despite his anger at Udinaas and disagreement with Ruin - always seem the most hopeful about how things turned out. And his personal motives were rather touching.
Kartik Nagar
10. BloodRaven
I thought Fear's death was a bit of an anti-climax, similar to Hull Beddict's death. How powerful is Kilava that she actually threatens Silchas Ruin and then Silchas avoids the confrontation? btw, if Kilava didn't participate in the t'lan ritual, then why is she immortal? Is she an ascendent? Or are all soletaken immortal?

Really surprised that all the three sisters died here. Although how has Quick Ben suddenly become so powerful?

Looking back at the events of the prologue, they happened way before the birth of Ulshun pral, which raises the question as to why Gothos selected the flint dagger to be the Finnest. The Imass hadn't even performed the T'lan ritual by then. I am guessing he just found it amusing to use an enemy's weapon for an important purpose. But later, when Ulshun Pral was born, he thought the Finnest would be safe with Ulshun(what with being present in another realm and having a powerful bonecaster as mother)
Darren Kuik
11. djk1978
I think Kilava is not immortal, she is however extremely long lived. It seems to me this is a result of being Soletaken. I think that imparts a certain longevity, although maybe not immortality. I believe it's also fair to conclude that Onrack's painting of her had something to do with it. Onrack was a bonecaster also, although not one of great power. And yes, Kilava is powerful, possibly foremost among the Imass (with maybe a couple exceptions I can think of). She's also had 300K years to increase her power. Silchas is pretty astute I think. He's just been held off by an Edur, which was probably a surprise to him. Testing himself against another unknown quantity (to him) shows that he isn't stupid. He might lose, or even if he wins, it might cost him too much. This is a significant difference from Menandore, who assumes an unknown quantity can't match her. She feared only what she knew (Silchas).

As for Quick Ben, I don't think he suddenly became more powerful. Quick's already tangled with a god, he's set himself in direct opposition to the Crippled God in MoI, he's bargained with Hood and with Shadowthrone in the past, more or less as an equal. He displayed his power at Coral and against the Edur fleet and he resisted Icarium. QB himself notes that going up against Icarium stretched him. It tested him to limits he hadn't previously explored and I think that revealed to him the extent of the power the souls within him provide. He now knows what he can do and knocking a dragon or two out of the sky isn't that hard for him.
Julian Augustus
12. Alisonwonderland
I believe it was said in one of the books that Onrack's painting of Kilava in the sacred cave is what conferred immortality on her.
karl oswald
13. Toster
onrack says that himself i believe, but is he being literal, or just using a poetic turn of phrase?
Brian R
14. Mayhem
Kilava Onass is *the* last living Imass bonecaster from before the Ritual. Her brother was First Sword of the Imass, the pre-eminent warrior of all the tribes. She certainly comes from a significant background, and not submitting to the ritual means she never had to sacrifice any of her power. I'm not sure where her longevity comes from, but she is almost certainly an ascendent - some of her children have become ascendents in their own right.

The other aspect is of power is to what extent you are willing to use it and for what reason. Kilava has survived a *very* long time by being extremely careful about where and when she is willing to throw down. Her only remaining son, and hence only family connection outside of Onos T'oolan? That's one hell of a motivation - I would expect that under those circumstances she would be able to take on near anyone in the setting and either kill or wound them enough they couldn't continue, although whether she would survive as well is debatable.
Jordanes
15. Jordanes
I don't think Onrack was being literal when he said that about the his painting of Kilava. I think her longevity comes from her being Soletaken - which does indeed seem to confer extremely long life, for whatever reason (see Ryllandaras or Treach, for example).

As for Quick Ben suddenly being more powerful and taking down three dragons...well, have another look at how he actually does that.

He doesn't attempt to pound the dragons with magic straight away, not at first. Instead, he attacks them indirectly - he raises the earth so that it knocks the dragons out of the air and half-buries them in an avalanche. He then sits back whilst Sheltatha Lore attacks Menandore, and only then does he start attacking directly.

He never attacks all three dragons at once, and he never attacks them face-to-face.

Quick Ben defeats them through superior intelligence, rather than superior power.
Bill Capossere
16. Billcap
I also don't think Onrack's painting is the reason for Kilava's longevity--I think she herself is. I think were it due to Onrack, she'd have said it directly (not necessarily to him though) and it would be wrapped up in all this complexity of her having no choice in such an extension of life, him robbing her (whether intended or not) of choice/death, etc. and so on. Since we don't get any of that exploration, it makes me lean toward the art not being the reason. Though as I say, in this world, we often see the metaphor made real (and in fantasy in general).

As for Ruin's reaction to her, he strikes me as pretty pragmatic. He'll take on an entire garrison because he won't break a sweat. But here, he's got a powerful, long-lived Bonecaster who sees her child threatened--you don't step between the grizzly and her cub (or panther) without good need. And he doesn't have it. So why bother?

On Quick, I think Jordanes has the right of it. It isn't simple pure power and he has started to "bloom" somewhat as over the course of these books he's been asked to do more and more (especially with Icarium). If will is a bit part of power, as I think it is in this world, Quick's will is being tempered I'd say, it's a muscle that is getting stronger with use. And if one considers his "origin story," it's a will that was pretty strong to begin with.

Like some of you, Fear's death never struck me emotionally. I can see the tragic aspect, but for me, the emotional impact strikes harder via its effect on Trull rather than its affect on me. Kettle's struck me much more, even though I'd had a sense it was coming on my first read and the same on this reread, even though I knew exactly where it was going.
Steven Halter
17. stevenhalter
In addition to fighting smartly during the fight, notice that QB slipped one of his stones onto Meandore's person. This allowed him to specifically target her with the earth magic. Interesting how he knew that weakening her was a really good idea in the fight gameplan.
Bill Capossere
18. Billcap
forgot to mention, we'll take a look at the last chap to see about splitting. We've got 8 10-yr-old boys over for a bday sleepover and they're still up at 2:11 am . . . so it ain't happening tonight. But we'll let you know, as well as to whether Steven will be joining us again.
Bill Capossere
19. Billcap
Hi all,
We will split the next post, splitting at the not-quite halfway point in the chapter. We'll end Wed. with the scene that closes with the line: "Rhulad's command was soft as a breath. "Bring him." Our Friday post will begin with the next scene, starting: "They let the poor fool go once he had shown them the recessed door . . . " On my Kindle version it says page 748/location 20103 if that helps. In my PB trade it's pg 851

We're looking at
Wed 10/24: Chapter 24 Part 1
Fri 10/26: Chapter 24 Part 2
Wed 10/31: Epilogue
Fri 11/2: Whole Book wrap-up
Wed 11/7: Maybe Steven
- -
20. hex
Are we doing TtH or RotCG next?
Tai Tastigon
22. Taitastigon
shal@17:

Shal, old bugger:

In addition to fighting smartly during the fight, notice that QB slipped one of his stones onto Meandore's person. This allowed him to specifically target her with the earth magic...

Steve-O plays it differently in DoD...namely stating that Menandore never figured *how much* Rud took from her before she attacked QB...

;0)
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
Tai@22:A wizard has many layers--wizards and onions are the same! Or something like that. :-)
Bill Capossere
27. Billcap
I got the post late to Tor today--the delay is my fault. I assume it'll be up tomororw. Sorry folks!

Bill
Tabby Alleman
28. Tabbyfl55
Amanda:
"Clip is such a bastard! Did I ever say that I liked him? Man, I was completely foolish to say so!"
Kah-THUNK! (the sound of the other shoe falling)

Reference my comment on Ch 6...I love it!
Jordanes
29. Mormont
No one else completely shocked that Withal tried to kill Udinaas? I mean sure they were no longer friends but killing him? Guess those Tiste Andii have a real strong sense of identity as a species...

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