Jan 11 2013 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Return of the Crimson Guard, Book Two, Chapter One

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen on Return of the Crimson Guard, Book Two, Chapter OneWelcome 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 One of the second part of Return of the Crimson Guard (RotCG).

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.


Book Two, Chapter One


In Li Heng, Storo and his squad let out a group of refugees on rafts down the river, despite Storo’s belief that the attempted departure is doomed, something he had already tried to impress on the refugees. Magistrate Ehrlann tells Storo the Council is opposed to the attempt and Storo says he couldn’t stop them. Ehrlann then complains that Storo has left a bridge standing and Storo says other forces might need it and he’s waiting to see which one—Toc’s or Laseen’s—arrives first. As they watch, the refugees are eventually attacked and killed by the Seti, the rafts set alight by flaming arrows. Ehrlann tells Storo he’s lost the Council’s confidence. The gathered crowd curses and throws stuff at the Malazans for “letting” the refugees get slaughtered.


Ho overhears Treat and Grief talking of how they’ve heard nothing from “them...or Fingers,” and how they thought “the Brethren shouldn’t give a damn about the Otataral . Treat thinks they should just leave and wonders what the pit’s mages are up to, revealing to Ho that Treat himself isn’t a mage. The two spot him and he joins them to deliver some apples, noting that Treat has made himself a spear, the first weapon Ho has seen in some time. Ho asks them again to not attempt escape and Grief asks what the mages are up to, then offers up a theory that they are investigating Otatatral’s effect on magic, figuring how it deadens magic and maybe trying to deduce how to get around it. Ho thinks Grief is both closer to and further from the truth than he might think, but that it’s best the two think it is the Otataral being investigated. When Ho “confirms” the theory, Grief tells him he and Treat can leave whenever they want and take anyone with them, which makes Ho think the two are crazy. He tells them, though, that most would not want to leave, considering the “research” too important, though he agrees that many would want vengeance on the Malazans, if they could ever get rid of the contamination. Ho leaves and thinks he needs to keep Yath and Sessin away so they don’t learn how close Grief and Treat are to figuring out what they’re researching.


Ghelel’s been traveling downriver for a few days now, the rafts being sped by sorcery. As they near Heng she begins to worry about when her departure will take place, but that night Molk appears and tells her it’s time to go. She and he swim over to another raft. Ghelel, disguised as an officer, takes her place among the Talian soldiers. At dawn, she’s shocked by the sight of Li Heng and its huge walls. Molk tells her they were built to keep out the “rampaging demon...the man-jackal...Ryllandaras.” She recalls how they’ve never been breached and Kellanved only took the city with his T’lan Imass and by Dancer assassinating the Goddess Protectress. She tries to find the Marchland Sentries and is directed to Captain Leen at the command tent.


Ghelel is told by Leen’s assistant, Tahl, that the Sentries are on the other shore in a village to the south. Molk tells her they’re working for Amaron gathering intelligence. When she worries that’ll be the first place people look, Molk tells her nobody else knows the Sentries are working for Amaron and informs her they have a double on her barge so nobody will think she’s even missing. They cross the river and head south. Molk tells her the local legends say Burn is sleeping right beneath them under the Seti Plains. When she calls their surroundings a “wasteland,” he criticizes her, saying that too many people call something a wasteland because the people on it use it differently. He also tells her they’re being shadowed by a group of Seti riders, though she doesn’t believe him until the five riders advance. The Seti take them as escapees from Li Heng, though the two protest. When Molk mentions Choss, the lead rider points out Choss is far away, then the Seti ride away. Molk worries they “mean to have themselves some fun.”


The Seti harry Molk and Ghelel as they run along the plain. She and Molk stumble on the Imperial road to Dal Hon and take it to where Molk believes a hostel lies. The building is burned down (the Seti had said they’d burned everything), but they find a Sentry, Sergeant Shepherd, there. Molk introduces Ghelel as Provost Alil, a new officer, and Shepherd doesn’t seem to buy it. The Seti rider leader arrives and is greeted as “Toven” by Shepherd, who tells him the fun’s over.


Shepherd leads them to the Sentries’ camp, whose temporary headquarters is a brothel. Inside, he introduces them to Marquis Jhardin and Prevost Razala, leader of the Heavies. Ghelel suspects Jhardin knows who she is but doesn’t say anything. In her tent, she complains to Molk that Choss and/or Amaron has made the Sentries nothing more than babysitters for her and she thinks they must hate her for it. When she says it’s a waste, Molk tells her the 500 extra soldiers would have no effect on the siege. He tells her Jhardin knows “a lot. Razala less” and says what she tells them is up to her.


As he rows, Iron Bars thinks of his group’s (The 4th Company, commanded by Cal-Brinn) failure on Assail, how they’d been “annihilated.” Jemain tells them something is out there in the fog and Corlo confirms it, though he can’t say who or what, adding he’s picking up agitation and “hints of movement” from the Brethren. They arm just before spotting a war-galley. Jemain frantically stops them from firing on the ship, telling Bars it’s a Seguleh ship and that they have to drop all their weapons immediately. They all do this except for one, Tillin, who finally does at Bar’s order. Eight Seguleh board, killing Tillin almost immediately, saying he was armed. The spokesman (actually a woman—Leal) tells Bars they will take the Guard’s food and water as well as the strongest among them to row. When Bars demands Jemain give him an option, Jemain says he has to challenge the spokesman, but only him. Bars, barely surviving himself, kills Leal. The next in line, Oru, challenges him but Bars declines (on Jemain’s advice) and gives his name to be entered in the ranks. The Seguleh say they’ve heard of the Avowed. Before they go, Bars asks what they’re doing out there and Oru says “We search for something...that was stolen from us long ago.” The Seguleh leave and Jemain tells Bars he thinks Oru was ranked in the top twenty.


Five days after escaping from the garrison fort, Rillish, whose leg wound is infected, is told by the ten-year-old girl who leads the Wickans, Mane, he will be dragged in a travois so he doesn’t slow them anymore. Every time he tries to argue she gets her way. Later, he’s wakened by Chord who tells him there is a small group of armed settlers that they’ll have to deal with. When Rillish orders an attack and says they have to kill them all, Chord says that’s what Mane had said too. Rillish notices Mane is carrying Chord’s knife in her belt and when he asks if that means something, Chord says yes but he hadn’t know that at the time. As Chord leaves, Rillish is amused that the Wickan’s seem to be reporting to and taking orders from the toddler in the other travois. He passes out.


Rillish flashes back to when he met Chord, the two of them on a troop transport being attacked by a Mare war-galley, which rams them. Rillish orders the crossbows to fire and calls for the cadre mage, who has been killed. He wonders if any of the Malazan ships had made it through the blockade of Korel. He prepares his men to swim for shore or another ship.


Rillish wakes at night and Chord tells him he’s been feverish. A Wickan child, one with Denul talent, wants to look at him but Rillish says it’s too dangerous, so young and untrained. Mane says it’s been “ordered” (seemingly from the toddler in the travois) and they do it. He passes out.


He “wakes” seemingly alone save for a Wickan youth. When he calls out, voices calling him “outlander” tell him they’re deciding how to kill him. Then the shapes in the grass freeze and a “presence” enters the area. He feels it as “the rich scent of fresh-turned earth” and then when it goes to the Wickan boy he hears “Such innocence...Must it be punished?” The presence speaks to him and says, “In these young times my ways are named old and harsh...but hold efficacy. Guidance was requested and guidance shall be given. My children needs must now take a step in to that other world from which you come.” It asks him to help, saying it cannot coerce understanding and acceptance. Rillish agrees. He wakes to afternoon and Mane tells him the healer died saving him.


Rillish is able to walk again. He notices Chord has two crow feathers on his helmet and the sergeant says it’s for safe passage, adding they’re heading for the Golden Hills, “some kind of sacred lands for the Wickans,” saying Mane thinks there will be others there. Rillish wonders what his future will be, thinking his command at Korel and now here had both been destroyed.


Riders are spotted by the scouts and Mane, not happy, tells Rillish she’s been ordered by the child in the travois to place themselves under Rillish’s command. He tells them to retreat and hide in the hill. They are spotted and have to engage. In the midst of the fight, the enemy is killed by insects. Wickan’s ride up, led by Nil and Nether. They thank Rillish and say they’ll escort them to the Golden Hills.


Kyle’s group tries to steal the boat but are interrupted by the arrival of Traveller and Ereko. They tell Traveller they quit, which he didn’t think possible. He agrees to hire out the ship. Ereko asks where they’re going and Kyle answers The Dolmans on Jacuruku (Ereko’s homeland and the place Skinner mentioned the night in the woods). The set sail on the Kite.


Amanda’s Reaction to Book Two, Chapter One

This is a pretty powerful scene with which to open the second book of Return of the Crimson Guard. The idea of these citizens of Heng deciding that they’d rather run the gauntlet towards freedom than try and stick out the siege with the Seti is a really sad section of the book.

And I feel very sorry for Storo here—damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, really. After all, there is no point trying to keep people in the city if they’re determined to leave, but he’s now considered a monster for “allowing” them to leave.

I also like the imagery where the flaming rafts and boats remind Hurl of a peaceful Festival of Lights, and she considers that this is only an offering to the God of War.

Hmm, Ho is fooling himself with all this talk about how he wasn’t intending to eavesdrop—sure, that’s why he crept silently and on tiptoe towards the cave where Treat and Grief are talking.

How very, very mysterious—if the mages are not investigating Otataral (and why is this suddenly capitalised in this novel—it hasn’t been before, has it?) then what are they doing? “Better by far, though, for him and for them, that he suspect it was the Otataral they were investigating.”

Hmm, if the mines are chockfull of otataral then how can Treat and Grief get out? I assume, like Ho, that they would use a Warren, but surely the magic would be negated?

Eep, something is buried beneath the mine! Suddenly this storyline is looking up a little bit... I’m making a silly leap—and no doubt someone is going to correct me in the comments—but it isn’t going to be the otataral dragon, is it? Actually, strike that, I’m pretty sure that’s in a Warren somewhere!

If the Seti are involved with Ghelel, does that mean that this storyline is on a collision course with that of Storo, Hurl, Silk et al? Is that how they connect together?

Molk might well be the best thing to bring Ghelel back to reality, and stop her from believing the pretense of being leader. She seems the type to start getting incredibly high-handed, like with the whole ‘I only get ONE servant?’

Ugh, I know that soldier talk can be vile, but do we really need concrete examples like snatch? Besides, what about the female soldiers? Erikson makes it very believable having female soldiers in his books and treating female characters with respect. I don’t get the same impression from Esslemont.

I do object to some of the language that Esslemont uses, actually—it is very jarring. We go from “snatch” to “making out” on the same page and it just doesn’t feel authentic to the world we’ve been immersed in for so long. It’s too much like modern slang.

Who wants to take a bet that those never-been-breached walls of Li Heng are about to lose that particular notoriety?

Ghelel seems to possess the ability to take on the character of whatever she is meant to be acting out—first, the Duchess and figurehead of an army; now an officer. Who is the real Ghelel? Mind, I do prefer a Ghelel that is a bit more kickass and willing to forge her own path....

Hmm, this Ghelel storyline—thanks to the introduction of Molk—is one I’m starting to warm to as I read on. It’s much more interesting now that she’s being guided by this rather disreputable soldier.

Now this I absolutely agree with: “Just because they don’t use the land in a way familiar to you doesn’t make it useless or wasted.” So very true.

Okay, now Ghelel is just annoying me. Sure, she isn’t getting the future that she wanted and things have all gone a bit wrong for her, but her attitude isn’t helping any. Molk is very clearly a knowledgeable person, someone to whom she should look for advice and help—but she can’t see past that initial appearance. And then her whole “Like I give a damn” response makes me want to slap her.

I just can’t see that Ghelel is going to have much success if she keeps up the way she started, antagonising the Seti and being generally childish. I think Shepherd got the measure of her straight away!

I don’t know if it is part of Ghelel’s character or, rather, Esslemont’s make-up that leads Ghelel to put that emphasis on her being female. It’s the second time in this chapter that it’s come up, which makes it noticeable. In previous Malazan books there has never been any hint of male soldiers resenting women, even those set very high above them. There has been a fairly even ratio of characters amongst the soldiers. Makes you wonder whether the attitudes of the author have leaked a little into the book....

It’s very cool that the effect of the Vow is being emphasised here—the fact that, even though they can’t die, they can be virtually incapacitated by wounds taken, just as normal. Sets some ground rules for how it works.

Huh! You would have thought the Seguleh were famous enough for someone as long-lived as Bars to have caught wind of them before now...For me, this is clumsy—allows Esslemont to explain a little about them, but he probably shouldn’t have used someone as experienced as Bars to be the ignorant questioner.

Apart from that, the scene is a brilliant one—from the highhandedness of the Seguleh’s demands, to the battle itself, to Bars’ acceptance as one of the Agatii thanks to his victory. Lovely stuff. I wonder what the Seguleh are hunting for?

I love that Rillish gets embroiled in that little spat with a ten year old girl. “Well. He’d just been dismissed by a gang of brats.”

Who is the entity that comes to Rillish while he’s delirious? This is poignant: “Such innocence. The aching desolation within the voice wrenched Rillish, brought tears to his eyes. Must it be punished?” I’m thinking this entity that takes the small Wickan child is either a Wickan god or some Malazan god with an interest?

Oh, and what is the significance that Chord gave his knife to the Wickan ten-year-old girl-leader? Does it mean that he’s offered her his service? Or something a little more inappropriate? Whatever is happening here, it’s quite sweet to see him adopt the crow feathers.

I think Rillish is pretty much my favourite character so far in this book. Although it’s not nice for him, I appreciate the fact that he is haunted by the young mage-child who healed him, Tajin.

Hmm, so last night I read a scene in Robert Jordan’s Knife of Dreams, showing a man dying as he vomits beetles from his mouth. And now Esslemont is bringing us this: “Like an explosion, a mass of chiggers, wasps and deer flies as large as roaches vomited up from between the corpse’s gaping teeth like an exhalation of pestilence.” Delightful. Nightmares ahoy.

Fab to see Nil and Nether again. And to see how they’ve grown.

Oh man, were Stalker and Kyle intending to steal a boat from Traveller? Heh, that’s not going to go well!

The gods are made to sound so petulant and childish by Stalker’s little speech about castles in the sand. Alright, some of them maybe deserve that, but the gods we’ve seen? In the most part they are far from this idea.


Bill’s Reaction to Book Two, Chapter One

I’m not sure I found this opening scene quite as powerful Amanda. Parts of it yes, especially as you pointed out the impact on Storo and the other Malazans (Malazans, refugees, death. Hmm). But I thought the actual death of the refugees was lacking a bit in descriptive quality and impact. I thought there was a nice build-up of tension at the very start, but then it became inconsistent in its effect. It petered out a bit, then I liked the single flame arrow, but the language (“that’s a shitter all right”) distracted and cheapened the impact a bit, then I also liked the connection Hurl made to the Festival of Lights, but then wished she hadn’t given us the last few lines of that paragraph (As so to what Gods...) as that seemed to write past a good close to it.

That is a nice tease about just what is being “investigated” in the pit here. Something “buried.” Without saying anything else, I’ll just note it isn’t something new....

Yea, more Ghelel! (Yes, that was sarcasm, though I did like the chamberpot. Thank god for Molk). As far as storyline’s merging, that’s usually how things go in these things, but I won’t give anything away....

I don’t know, but when I get “legendary falls” and “Broke Earth Falls” (great name), I kinda want to actually see ‘em. At least a bit (making things even worse, Esslemont gives us “a view of the falls” and “amazing spectacle”).

Yet another mention of the man-jackal. Just saying....

I also liked Molk’s line that “just because they don’t use the land in a way familiar to you doesn’t make it useless or wasted.” Certainly a nice historical analogue to how settlers here viewed Native American usage of land.

These lines don’t ring particularly true to me: “It seemed to her he [Jhardin] was far too accepting, too relaxed for an experienced commander who had just been saddled with a young, inexperienced officer—and female to boot.” My problem with it is first, we’ve seen that females are not accorded any skepticism in the Empire’s armies, and since these people have been working under the Empire (regardless of their loyalties), they’ve seen this first-hand (I mean, an Empress and two adjuncts?). If I’m to accept this as an issue, I need to see this more fully earlier. It’s similar to the issue I have with them going back to the officers having servants. Secondly, seems to me an experienced commander might just shunt off the officer he’s been “saddled” with and ignore him. As opposed to getting all upset as she seems to think he should be. Maybe if she’d tried throwing her “officer weight” around or something.

Now this, with Bars and the Seguleh, is a much better scene and storyline. With the Seguleh, you have automatic tension built right in, with that whole “Are you looking at me? You lookin’ at me?” thing they’ve got going. Even before then, the whispers, the fog, then Jemain’s terror are all nicely built on to create the pre-Seguleh anxiety in the reader.

Now granted, I’m pretty sure we all knew Tillian was going to get it. And that Iron Bars was going to fight and win. But still, I thought this was mostly well well-executed writing.

OK, this is not meant to nitpick, but just to point out an example of how I think we’re still seeing a writer coming into his craft in some ways in this book. When Iron Bars give his name, he looks at the Seguleh who all stare at him, then “remembered Jemain’s warning and looked away.” Then only a few lines later, when the Seguleh asks about a challenge, he looks at him, “then he again recalled Jemain’s words.” I just don’t think we need that recollection again; I think we all know why he’s looking away. Now this is a very tiny thing, and many people probably wouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but there are enough of these small little bits of wordiness or awkward emphasis/repetition to make this book feel to me like still a somewhat raw construction. I find it a bit better than NoK, but not as good as Stonewielder or Orb Sceptre Throne, as Esslemont so far seems to continue to improve (I’ll have to see how Blood and Bone goes).

I like this storyline with Rillish and the Wickans, though I think the bits on the “boy in the travois (cough cough)”—and all I can think of is John Travolta and the Boy in the Plastic Bubble—are a little overdone. But I do like Rillish throughout this and I especially like the running line with Chord and his spiral. There’s a nice little tone of humor that runs throughout this along with the seriousness of what they’re facing.

But here again is a little issue with the writing. When Rillish objects to being healed by saying “Too young. No training. Dangerous,” there is no way to know how to read those lines. One way is Rillish doesn’t want to risk being killed by an untrained healer. Another way is he doesn’t want to risk an child being killed. Those are two very different ways of characterizing him and I for one can’t see any real clues to definitively read it. I want it to be the latter, and I personally think it is because of his prior acts and because I like Rillish, but there’s no real need for that ambiguity here.

I do like the arrival of Nil and Nether though, and Chord’s lines about them

Not much to say about the Kyle-Traveller scene, save I liked their interaction—civil, pleasant, almost jovial in some ways. And I could have done with a little less of the gods and fate bit at the end.

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

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1. hex
The scene with the Seguleh was easily my favorite for the entire book. There are some more gems later, but this was the one that made a lasting impression.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
The refugees being killed and then the citizens reaction was well done I thought--a lot of reality denying going on there.
The Segulah scene was enjoyable. As Bill mentioned, it was predictable, but enjoyable.
The Wickan storyline continues to be my favorite. The" boy on the travois" and the arrival of Nil and Nether--good stuff.
Brian R
3. Mayhem
Yep, I really like all the Wickan scenes in this book - Esslemont really knows the way they work.

For Amanda - think back to Deadhouse Gates. What else have we seen buried ... and in the presence of Otataral ...

For the knife in the belt ... I have a strong feeling that Chord has accidentally married the 10 year old Mane ... and she is quite firmly happy with the idea, even if he isn't quite so much.
karl oswald
4. Toster
Small nitpick with the seguleh scene summary. Oru is not the next in rank - he's the highest ranked. Top twenty if Jemain is right.
King of Flames
5. King of Flames
It's Ghelel's perspective. She doesn't have the same experience of the Malazan army that we do. We have seen a lack of females in other armies -I don't remember any women Seerdomin or Dogslayers, for example-, and maybe the old Quon armies she's read about discriminated, so her knowledge is out of date. We don't see any actual discrimination towards her, just her wondering why there isn't. So she's just holding an out of date opinion.

As for Iron Bars' not knowing about the Seguleh, it's a flyspeck island virtually unknown outside Genabackis and not widely accepted there. Has Bars ever been there?
karl oswald
6. Toster
yeah i don't find it odd that iron bars has never heard of the seguleh at all. they're isolationist to the extreme. why should he have heard of them?

also agree with King of Flames about Ghelel. her perspective is skewed. she's been raised by a talian noble family and she was an oddball for being taught the sword. i have no doubt that the old quon talian aristocracy discriminated against women. it is odd though that amaron and choss have fallen back to talian practice with servants. would they really feel that much pressure to adopt talian ways? is it not a mistake to use those strategies against the very empire that exploited the inherent weaknesses in them the first time round?

all in all though, this is one of the best chapters of the book so far. love to see nil and nether again. and i mean, who doesn't immediately think of 007 when iron bars says "bars. iron bars." :D
King of Flames
7. Kjtherock
I believe that the section with Rillish in this chapter is why Ian mentioned that all their healers were dead in the last chapter.
Bill Capossere
8. Billcap
Toster--thanks for the nitpick. I don't even know wy I wrote that, as I knew Oru wasn't next in line. Sometimes things just get weird . . .

On the Segeleh, I agree it isn't too surprising Bars doesn't know about them. They are small, isolated, don't interact much, Bars has been off being busy, etc.

I still have issues with Ghelel. She has lived under Malazans, sees them around (refers to the "damned Malazans") etc, so it's hard for me to imagine she hasn't seen women soldiers. Plus, there's no way she'd be unaware that the Empire is led by a woman and I find it just as hard to believe she would be unaware thatthe last two Adjuncts were female as well. You pretty much just have to be alive (in Malazan territory) to know that. Then, of course, we have the much more direct and immediate problem of her having just been introduced to "Prevost Razala commands the heavies." Having just met not only a woman soldier but a woman officer in command, why would you expect Jhardin to not want women officers? If you do want to show this about her, then you'd do it earlier, as in when she's training way back, or when she sees a female Malazan soldier, or even when she meets Razala. If she evinces surprise at Razala being there, then the "female to boot" comment makes sense. On the other side of the debate, it's hard to argue for her lack of experience/knowledge with armies when she says how odd it is to put a "sergeant on picket duty."

Not a big deal, but these things add up for me personally as a reader and have more of a culmative effect than making me get upset with each one.

Toster, that was the issue I mentioned earlier re using these tactics. It's hard to have Choss argue that all he cares about is "winning" and also have him accede to these changes which he'd have to think make winnign less likely.
Sydo Zandstra
9. Fiddler
Huh! You would have thought the Seguleh were famous enough for someone as long-lived as Bars to have caught wind of them before now...For me, this is clumsy—allows Esslemont to explain a little about them, but he probably shouldn’t have used someone as experienced as Bars to be the ignorant questioner.

Iron Bars and his squad never fought on Genebackis. If it were Corporal Blues (remember GotM?), he'd know about Seguleh.

Speaking of Corporal Blues, keep an eye out, or in...

Apart from that, the scene is a brilliant one—from the highhandedness of the Seguleh’s demands, to the battle itself, to Bars’ acceptance as one of the Agatii thanks to his victory. Lovely stuff. I wonder what the Seguleh are hunting for?

That will be explained in Orb, Scepter, Throne. It's a certain mask.

EDIT: Bill, I always wanted to ask you this. Does your criticism on ICE have anything to do with you comparing him to SE's level of writing? I ask, because I have seen a lot of people complaining on ICE exactly doing that, and I think that's unfair to ICE. SE is extremely gifted, and there are a lot of writers out there who are worse than ICE.

Personally, I enjoy ICE's books, because I don't expect him to be SE, and it's still Malazan. Actually, later on ICE hits the Malazan soldier thing as least as good as SE... (IMO)
Kartik Nagar
10. BloodRaven
Is the boy in the travois Coltaine reborn? The crow feathers seem to be pointing to that, along with the respect given, and the fact that the Wickans back at the fort possibly sacrificed themselves to save the boy.
Bill Capossere
11. Billcap
That's a good question. I agree that is is unfair to simply compare ICE to Erikson s0 I try to keep pointing out that my criticism of ICE isn't in direct comparison to Erikson but are (in my mind) examples instead of a writer still working through the issues of craft, trying to keep them more objective than relative complaints. So when I find fault, it isn't that the characterization or exposition is "worse than Erikson's," it is "clumsy" or "awkward" at those points and would be even if I'd never read Erikson. As here with Ghelel, it doesn't matter whether or not Erikson would have done "better," it's that it seems poorly constructed that Ghelel thinks nothing of meeting a female officer in charge of the heavies but a few paragraphs later is showing a belief that female officers are a bad idea.

Because these are issues of craft rather than comparison, I try to also remember to mention periodically that there are fewer and fewer such instances as he becomes a more experienced craftsman, and so this book was better than his last, and his next one is better than this one, and the last one I read was his best yet in my mind (Orb that is; Blood and Bone is sitting about two feet away from me right now but haven't gotten to it yet).

I will make comparisons to Erikson in the reread but (and perhaps I'm not clear enough on this) but not to argue ICE should be Erikson but because our readers are so familiar with Erikson, it makes it easier to give concrete examples of a good way to do something. I could pull from another author, but then it's much more abstract.

As for other authors out there worse than ICE, oh absolutely. Even with NoK, what I consider his worst, there are lots worse out there (and not all by "new" authors). And while I have criticisms of this one, which I also consider flawed in lots of ways, I think he does some absolutely wonderful work in this that points to the direction he's going in. I agree with you on his grunts, his pacing and structure increasingly get smoother, and I think he may even outdo Erikson in humor in his last two books.

long answer--sorry
karl oswald
13. Toster
@11 Billcap

interesting opinion on ICE outdoing SE in the humour department. certainly there are some moments in RotCG (i'm looking at you jumpy!) where ICE's humour is top notch. chord inadvertently marrying mane could be one of them. if you feel that his humour has improved in SW and OST, then i think i can say with some confidence that there's at least one plotline in B&B that you'll love.
Nadine L.
14. travyl
It was nice to see Nil and Nether again, but where are Temul and the surviving Wickan veterans from Seven Cities? They weren't with Tavore anymore in Reapers Gale (or I don't remember), so shouldn't they have come back to the Wickan plains as well?
(This is my first time through, and I'm not looking for spoilers. So should we know at this point or will it be clear when we'll read the next books?)

As to critizicing ICE by comparison to SE:
They write in the same universe and therefore I think sometimes it is justified to critize, when the Malazan world we've come to know changes because of the different author.
For example: how could I read 7 Malazan books and in the eight book I'm reading (haven't yet read KoN) "suddenly" everybody speaks Talian. - Had I not read SE this would be completely ok, but why "introduce" something that seemed to be "set" in the (SE) Malazan world: they share the world, the characters, and they should share some common rules. (Sorry for the rant)
Brian R
15. Mayhem

You will see the surviving veterans soon enough, if not necessarily by name.

As for the Talian, well, we already know of marine recruits from Dal Hon privately speaking Dal Honese and later we'll hear of Cawn cant.
I see it more that a rebellion being driven from one part of the empire would embrace the traditions that used to encompass that area as a means of self expression as compared with the enemy. Especially if the rebellion is being driven from the nobility rather than as a popular uprising - they would insist on the languages of their ancestors.
Time for a great quote from HoC ...
‘Possession and control, the two are like insatiable hungers for some people. Oh, no doubt the Malazans have thought up countless justifications for their wars of expansion. It’s well known that Seven Cities was a rat’s warren of feuds and civil wars, leaving most of the population suffering and miserable and starving under the heels of fat warlords and corrupt priest-kings. And that, with the Malazan conquest, the thugs ended up spiked to the city walls or on the run. And the wilder tribes no longer sweep down out of the hills to deliver mayhem on their more civilized kin. And the tyranny of the priesthoods was shattered, putting an end to human sacrifice and extortion. And of course the merchants have never been richer, or safer on these roads. So, all in all, this land is rife for rebellion.’

Think of Seven Cities - all the tribes had separate languages, but most spoke traders tongue - a narrative convenience for us, but also a practical reality in the world. Most people we have encountered within the Malazan Empire speak a common tongue, but then, they are soldiers, so would have to speak the common language of the army. I would expect 'Malazan' to be a common trade tongue across the empire, similar to how English is across the former British Empire but even in the heart of the empire you would still have many tongues from the conquered people.
Think of Great Britain, where Irish, Welsh and Scots Gaelic are still well known languages, and then you have the English dialects, like Cornish, Geordie, Scouse, Cockney or Brummie. Despite Great Britain being relatively stably conquered for what, 500 years or so, the various regions still take pride in maintaining their traditional languages.
I've been reading a lot of napoleonic war books lately, and
for example it is noticeable how many problems some of the navy ships had because the pressed crew don't actually speak the same english as the rest.

The main reason why we don't see more of it is partly because Erikson cheats a lot - most of the human people are descended from the First Empire, so would share common linguistic roots - think French and Spanish from Latin for example - which is how the marines can talk with the Letherii. That, and I think he deliberately focussed on cultural trappings for his ethnic groups rather than Tolkein style linguistic trappings.
Sydo Zandstra
16. Fiddler
Thanks, Bill. No need to apologize for the long answer. :-)
Tabby Alleman
17. Tabbyfl55
At this point in my initial read, I was easily able to guess what was buried on the otateral island, but I didn't read the books in this order, so I don't know if it's because of stuff I knew that a reader going in this order wouldn't know.

I mean, yes you first see the object in DG, but I think in some later book a character speculates that this object has some relation to otateral -- like maybe it was deliberately encased in it, or maybe it is even the source of it.

Or maybe that was a comment from a re-read and not a character at all. Can't remember. : )

Agree that it wasn't bothersome that Iron Bars didn't know about the Seguleh. Kinda convenient that exactly one person on his crew did, though. Phew.

I have more trouble with the speed of Ghelel's transformation from "who, me? I'm nobody" to "why is MY army dividing??"
Amanda Rutter
19. ALRutter
Nope - we did the whole stretch. But Chapter Three is being split.
Joseph Ash
20. TedThePenguin
Well, I believe there was precisely one member of the original crew left, so not all that suprising that only he knew. And he probably basically LIVES on the ocean, and when he isnt, my guess is he is swapping tales with other sailors in port. So again, if someone was going to know about the Seguleh, it would make sense he does. Probably has heard tales about the Endur, Andii, Stormriders, maybe even the Perish, and mermaids? pirate treasure? :-)
Also, as has already been said, theyre pretty reclusive.

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