Fri
Jun 7 2013 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Toll the Hounds, Chapter Thirteen (Part Two)

Toll the Hounds Steven EriksonWelcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover the second half of Chapter Thirteen of Toll the Hounds (TtH).

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.

A few notes: Amanda is off in NYC for Book Expo (Have fun Amanda!) and thus will miss the next two or three posts. So Amanda misses less, and since this is one of our longer chapters, we’ve split this one and Bill will be commenting solo today. Going forward, Chapter 17 definitely will be split, while Chapters 15 and 18 may be as well; they are long, but sometimes the split is determined as much by what happens as by how many pages. Finally, fair warning that Bill will be hit and miss as we near the end as he’ll be driving to Alaska, then around central Alaska, then back from Alaska (assuming the grizzlies have behaved themselves).

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE

Darujhistan’s watch finds lots of assassin corpses and rumors start to spread that the Guild had bit off more than it could chew, as people wonder who could “with impunity cut down a score of deadly assassins.” Nobody takes note of K’rul’s Bar, boarded up.

SCENE TWO

Rallick and Krute discuss the assassin’s guild, with Krute thinking Seba is destroying the guild with his errors and wondering what he and Rallick are waiting for. Rallick goes out for a walk, thinking how things used to be easier.

SCENE THREE

Thorby continues to work in her garden, rubbing ashes into the grooves on the stones, covering over “beautiful glyphs with all the promises they whispered to her.” Gaz enters and she thinks how he kills every night and were it not for that he’d kill her. He notes the place is full of flies and wonders why she put the stone in the middle of her garden, then leaves. She thinks he shouldn’t worry about things, “Be a plant, Gaz. Worry about nothing. Until the harvest.”

SCENE FOUR

Another beaten body is discovered in a gutter outside a tavern and inspected by the guard with the heart condition. The corpse wagon carter offers up his not-far-off theory on cells/genes/DNA (or “bags” and “notes” as he calls them).

SCENE FIVE

Sordiko Qualm goes to a meeting with Pust, whom she’d hoped not to bring along. When they enter Lady Envy’s home, Fisher is there. He leaves and then, after all of one minute, Envy mentions she’s considering killing Pust. Qualm informs her he’s unfortunately the Magus of Shadow. Pust tells Envy he arrived with Spite.

SCENE SIX

At breakfast, Cutter thinks of the past night spent talking with Challice, the way he’d realized they had both changed and aged, yet still could talk like old friends. He notes how “she is bored. She wants a lover . . . what she could have had but didn’t take. A second chance, that’s what she wants. Do second chances even exist?” He considers it “sordid” and wonders if Apsalar “saw all too well. Saw right into me, to the soul that was less than it should have been . . . Maybe she was right to walk away.” He worries there was a “darker current” to Challice’s desire, though he knows he will meet her at a small apartment this evening.

SCENE SEVEN

Barathol, Chaur, Picker, and Antsy are burying the bodies in the cellar. Scillara sits next to Duiker, wishing she could ease his grief, and recalling the look of anger he’d given her upon realizing he would have died with them had she not taken him away earlier. Fisher enters and Scillara thinks how he (they assume) had killed a half-dozen assassins. He tells Duiker whatever the Bridgeburners do he’s in, and when Duiker says he thinks they’ll just sell the bar and leave, Fisher says he “called in an old favor.” A crash comes from the cellar and they rush over to see a broken cask with a dead Seguleh in it.

SCENE EIGHT

Kruppe zooms out. We see Stonny unable to sleep, Murillio trying to comfort her. Tiserra works on her pottery, amazed at how much she loves Torvald. Torvald walks the Varada estate wondering just who the Lady is and considering the rumors about the Assassins Guild. Out in the mines, Harllo has been whipped for being in unauthorized areas and Bainisk for not supervising Harllo enough. Harllo tries to come up with a cover story, but Bainisk doesn’t believe him and leaves Harllo feeling all alone.

SCENE NINE

Dev’ad Anan Tol uses the emlava bones Harllo brought him to stand. He recalls Raest crushing his legs after Dev’ad had dared challenge him. He goes to his hiding spot and pulls out an iron sword “forged in the holy fires of Tellann,” and a knife. Armed, he makes his plans: “The Tyrant was gone. Somewhere close then, waited an empty throne. Waiting for Dev’ad Anan Tol.”

 

Bill’s Reaction

I like how in the midst of all this turmoil and focus on our beloved characters, Erikson slips in some class issues. Note the differences in how deaths are treated—the assassins show up in the ritzy area and court mages are brought in by the Guard (as opposed to a guard). In comparison to our weary, chest-pained Guard who gets to the bodies eventually in the poorer district, who doesn’t get to call in court mages, etc.

I also like the presentation of the city’s inhabitants—the larger group who sees only the surface and feels some schadenfreude over the assassins being killed, and then the all too “rare” group, much smaller, who is smart enough to wonder who the hell can wipe out assassins and maybe we should be worried about that.

Krute and Rallick are clearly a bit at odds over the Guild and what’s going on there. That’s made clear by their conversation. But I also want to point out a slightly more subtle moment: when Rallick wonders why he was so “obtuse” with Krute right before he left, and he thinks “Maybe just. . . instinctive.”

So we knew Thordy was working on something odd in her garden, and now it appears to be associated with magic, since there are “glyphs” involved. Remember earlier the word “sacrifice” was associated with the pattern as well. Something to file. A few other hints here to file:

  • Gaz’s comment that the house is “full of flies,” which we know is our usual association with Hood.
  • Her mention that her ash is coming from pyres.
  • Her ominous connection between Gaz, plants, and “harvest.”

It seems to me I’ve pointed out a lot more “science” in this book than in past ones in the series. I’m not sure if that’s true, if I just didn’t notice earlier ones, if I just didn’t speak to it in the recaps, or if there are a lot more in this book for some reason. But here we have the carter talking about making a microscope and about cells and genes and DNA and inherited traits (using different words obviously). And I love the tiny little characterization when the carter says “brats” rather than “kids” or “children.” And how, in typically grim Malazan fashion, the carter thinks of building a hybrid ox-human. He’d be a good addition I think to Bauchelain and Korbal Broach’s group.

We saw Thurule, if you remember, back in Memories of Ice as part of the “punitive army” of Seguleh sent to punish the Pannion Seer (Envy co-opted them).

Note the statues of Seguleh, yet another connection between this city and those people.

Hmm, what is Fisher doing with Envy and what “old favor” did he call in? More mystery surrounding this guy. Certainly Envy seems intrigued by him: “A most unusual man. He invites confession.”

Cutter continues to try and find his way—is he Cutter? Crokus? He knows, as he said, the is a different man, a changed man (and not in his mind for the better), but the ease with which he falls in with Challice (also changed) is yet another example in this book of the past dragging at the heels of so many of these characters. The Bridgeburners trying to retire from their military/death-dealing past. Rallick’s connections to the Guild. Duiker still haunted by the Chain of Dogs. Endest, Spinnock, Seerdomin pulled back into their roles. . .

As young as he is, though, Cutter is at least sharp enough to pick up on that dark undercurrent running under Challice. We’ve already seen her consider killing Gorlas; does this dark undercurrent mean she’s going to try and get Cutter involved in it? That “I need you,” could certainly have two meanings. She has to know he’s dangerous.

Scillara’s monologue on sadness could easily be applied to today’s focus on medicating sadness (as opposed to actual depression).

Her recap of Mallet and Bluepearl, of the others’ grieving over them, brings back the pain from the last chapter (thanks for that btw Steven). Capped off by that achingly sharp, bitter moment from Duiker, who grieves not simply for the deaths, but that he wasn’t there to die with them. Is anything/one going to be able to pull him up from this?

Man, these Seguleh are popping up all over the place lately

This moment with Dev’ad Anan Tol I thought was a great switch on the reader. I think because he’s T’lan Imass, because he talks with a young boy nicely, because he’s wounded and lonely, we’ve been conditioned to probably think of him as nothing but benign. But here he gets his legs back and bam! He’s Mr. Ambition, off to claim a throne for himself with his super-weapon. I know I never saw this coming on my first read.

At the book’s halfway point (53% through), coming after some major action scenes—the attack on the Bridgeburners, the confrontation at Bastion, Seerdomin and Salind—we’ve dropped down in intensity to let this chapter do a lot of setting up:

  • Envy learns Spite is in town—what will she do?
  • Fisher calls in a favor with Envy—what will she do?
  • What will the Bridgeburners do?
  • What is the deal with the pickled Seguleh?
  • Cutter and Challice will meet this evening—what will happen?
  • Rallick and Krute are a bit at odds—what will happen?
  • Dev’ad is now mobile and armed—what will he do?

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.

12 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
@Bill:Yes, the parts with Dev’ad Anan Tol were much more ominous on a reread. Harllo just can't get a break here so far.
Darren Kuik
2. djk1978
Feels like a catch your breath section, but as Bill says also a lot of what's going to happen here moments. We just came up for air and about to plunge back into the thick of things.
Nancy Hills
3. Grieve
To me, Darujhistan always engenders thoughts of class issues, much as Letheras does. I see Letheras, however, as more of a caricature of the consequences of an economic system while Darhjustain is a reflection of a Italian Renaissance city state. Class issues are an inherent part of being a city, even the way a city grows physically. The rich build in one place, the middle class in another and the poor congregate other areas. Could class issues be at the core of Karsa’s objections to “civilization”? The unequal treatment of living things? I think, perhaps, that it is just more intense and apparent in a city than in villages and wandering tribes. They certainly have their class differences, too.

I find it interesting, though, that it is in Darujhistan we get two examples of more “normal” (the right word fails me here) good people and relationships. There is heart-stricken guard and the loving relationship between Torvald Nom and Tiserra. Yes, the Torvald and Tiserra are not normal, but their relationship is not one of the twisted, cruelly fraught relationships that are scattered throughout MBotF. Both are kind of a relief. Of course, you could contrast Torvald and , Thordy and Gaz and, perhaps, Picker and Blend though as Bridgeburners, they are kind of special. I would also say Challice and Gorlas, but that doesn’t seem to fit. A reflection of class differences generated by my own prejudices, perhaps?

When Harllo finds the T’lan Imass, I first thought this would be someone to help Harllo. However, now it is more of an “uh oh, what has Harllo released?” He doesn’t seem interested in helping Harllo at all or even think of him.

I can never quite get a handle on Crokus/Cutter, though in many ways, he reflects the typical confusions and the passive opportunistic nature of young men (and women). He, also, is kind of “normal”. Lol. Holden Caufield goes to Wu and finds he’s good with knives.
karl oswald
4. Toster
good point grieve. i think crokus/cutter is the most 'normal' of all the characters we meet in MBotF. talented when he applies himself, but otherwise average in almost every respect. he's a man who's defined himself in relation to others for so long, his very identity is uncertain. he himself recognizes this now, after his talk with challice. now we the readers have to ask, since he's woken up to this realization, what will he do about it? will he break away? will he at last become his own person, or will challice manipulate him into her tool?

@Bill re: science

IMO, TtH lays on the proto-science thicker than any book so far in the series. our k'chain che'malle sections have shown us advanced technology, but we've had no insight into it for the most part, since k'chain seem uninclined toward sharing knowledge with humans. what we're seeing in TtH is humanity waking up to the idea of physical phenomena beyond their senses, not just metaphysical and supernatural phenoma going on in crazy warrens and whatnot.

other examples from earlier in the series are few and far between, but recall from HoC, gall's short lesson in the camp of the Bonehunters about the stars. He says they race away from the observer, and that their light is only echoes from the past. there's knowledge of an expanding universe and the idea of light having a speed right there. pretty high order scientific thinking for a people who's technology isn't far beyond the iron age. this goes to show - and i think this is SE's point - that we can't write off the thinking of less technologically advanced cultures as moribund or quaint. just because someone doesn't have access to the latest tech or the combined knowledge of generations to refer to doesn't mean their thinking isn't sophisticated and complex.
Bill Capossere
5. Billcap
Grieve, I agree with you re Cutter as normal. I know he frustrates some, but he's a young male; he should be frustrating! Especially in comparison to many of our other characters who are either older or have had the
discipline of an institution like the military or both.

Toster,
Thanks for the science reference. I thought I vaguelly recalled something about starts and maybe gas, but couldn't remember for sure if it was this series or somethign else (I'll be honest--sometimes it all blurs). And a good read as to the point.
worrywort
6. worrywort
Samar Dev and Quru Kan both previously express some scientific interest/knowledge as well IIRC, but TTH does seem to have the most pound for pound.
karl oswald
7. Toster
@Bill 5

well one might imagine that darujhistan would be a place with more scientific knowledge, since the grey faces have to control the gas under the city somehow. probably some scientific mechanism at work there
Nancy Hills
8. Grieve
Samar Dev is a scientist and inventor, but Erikson doesn't use that much. I am very disappointed in that. She could make some very cogent arguments to Karsa's view, but never does. (I will repeat this in future discussion, btw.)

I view the Jaghut's as scientists and much of their "magic" is actually very advanced technology. Witness Icarium's time mechanisms scattered everywhere. It was no surprise that Gothos would talk about DNA. I even think that their society and personalities are Erikson's affectionate inside joke about scientists and professors. Loners in their towers, that are brilliant, sarcastic, edgy nerds who don't seek out wars - with the occassional Tryrant.

I agree that there is more overt science in this book. That might be because Erikson feels that, having made it this far in to the series, the reader won't be yanked out of the fantasy world by concrete, recognizable examples of science. I think the science is woven throughout the story, but is disguised by descriptions we do not recognize. I am reminded to the old trick in anthropology classes of describing our modern scociety as an anthropologist describes ancient civilizations to see how many students recognize their own world. Few do.
worrywort
9. worrywort
That view of the Jaghut is hilarious, I love it.
Tabby Alleman
10. Tabbyfl55
I recall feeling optimistic, rather than ominous, about the Imass' new legs. Not necessarily that he would help Harllo, but that he would turn out to be a Good Guy.
Amanda Rutter
11. ALRutter
My quick thoughts on the second part of Chapter 13:

I like this little look at what I presume the remaining Bridgeburners have managed to accomplish: "Precisely who is in this city who can with impunity cut down a score of deadly assassins?" I'm guessing it is the Bridgeburners since there is mention of no one noticing and putting together the fact that K'rul's Bar has now closed. Those poor Bridgeburners - pulled back into a form of service while trying to make a life after the military.

What wears off, in this conversation between Rallick Nom and Krute? Didn't quite grasp this: "Things were easier before - should have recognised that back then. Should have liked things just fine. Should have stopped gnawing." Is Rallick Nom indicating that Krute's thankfulness that Nom survived is wearing off?

The storyline involving Thordy and Gaz is really, really creepy - Thordy knowing that Gaz wants to murder her; Thordy building the weird stone and ashes and glyphs in the garden. What is she building? The storyline is an exercise in slowly increasing tension.

It doesn't help that we see what Gaz has done to various bodies in the city: "Another one, this man beaten so badly he was barely recognisable as human. Not a single bone in his face was left unbroken. The eyes were pulped."

Ah, a very sweet view of DNA: "And I figure that in that wallet there's notes With all the details of that body written on 'em."

From the very mouth of the horse, Iskaral Pust: "And she'll see that with me she'll have more than she ever believed possible! Why, I shall be a giant walking penis!"

An interesting meeting, to be sure, and isn't it a little convergence that both Lady Envy and Lady Spite are in Darujhistan at this time?

Now, see, this meeting between Challice and Cutter sort of makes me think about how it would be meeting my first love - how you have the past in common, but don't know anything of each other now; how you are able to talk like old friends, but have much between you that goes unsaid. Uncomfortable, awkward, and yet comfortable.

And all of that encapsulated in this simply beautiful paragraph: "He was not the same man. She was not the same woman. Yet they had sat as if they had once known each other. As if they were old friends. Whatever childish hopes and vain ambitions had sparked the space between them years ago, they were deftly avoided, even as their currents coalesced into something romantic, something oddly nostalgic."

Poor Cutter, thinking that Apsalar somehow knew that he might be capable of having an affair with a married woman. His self-esteem is just non-existent.

It's upsetting to see Scillara's view of those Bridgeburners who died: "We just stumbled into these people. A crazy contest at a restaurant. We were just getting to know them, to treasure each and every one of them." Heartbreakingly, we see her perspective on all of them and it brings it home just what the reader has lost with their deaths as well.

Equally upsetting to know that Duiker would rather have died with them than live, and that he blames Scillara for taking him away, when she was just trying to provide him with a new life.

Fisher is so, so much more than he seems, what with having taken down his share of the assassins, and seeming younger to Scillara, and having a tone in his voice that comes before cold killing. He truly is one of the enigmas of the series. Him and Edgewalker both, I simply haven't managed to get a read on.

Poor Harllo. And I am starting to get a little unnerved by Dev'ad Anan Tol, who is thinking about an empty throne.
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
Duiker is so very broken at this point. The contrast between his strength in Deadhouse Gates and his current situation is really heart rending.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment