Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Eighteen 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.
Bill is going to be in and out until Wednesday 7th August, doing various fun things with his family on vacation. I will be doing the chapter recaps and posting alone (apologies in advance)—Bill has dropped in for this installment to make comments, but we shouldn’t rely on it. And, indeed, he should be enjoying his holiday!
We see the Hounds of Shadow, accompanied by Lock and Pallid, running across the plain. Shan doesn’t like Lock at all. They meet with Shadowthrone and Cotillion, who discuss the fact that there are new complications to their plan. Tulas Shorn then joins them and beckons to the Hounds, who do not approach him. Tulas is aghast that the two white Hounds have joined the Hounds of Shadow, and it looks as though he runs away, since he turns into a dragon pretty damn quick and flees.
Kallor also walks through the plain, living with past memories—of a wife who committed suicide rather than spend eternity with him; of a warhorse that gave its life in battle.
Skintick and Nenanda bicker, watched by the other Tiste Andii. Nimander reflects on the fact that they are having the same arguments, the same discussions over and over again.
While Samar Dev, Traveller and Karsa are sat by the fire, a bear god—De nek Okral—turns up and gazes at them. It is another god of war, to join Togg, Fanderay, and Treach. When it departs, the three of them discuss the nature of progress and Karsa’s plans to further his own vision of progress.
Within Dragnipur Pearl, the demon defeats an enkaral that is trying to kill him, affected by madness. Pearl and Draconus talk about the end drawing near and Pearl says he will welcome it. Pearl suddenly hears drums and they both watch as an army of chaos materialises behind them. They both start wondering about the nature of chaos, and how it is manifesting here.
Ditch dreams. I’m not quite sure what the dreams mean!
Kadaspala watches Ditch dream, and thinks about patterns. In his madness, he addresses the godling that he intends to birth through his patterns.
Seerdomin and the Redeemer watch as Salind, High Priestess, weaves and dances and grows in power. The Redeemer wants to know if Seerdomin will still fight her, and he says he thinks so.
Monkrat walks through the pilgrim camp, which appears far more dishevelled than it used to be. Monkrat considers the fact that he prefers to stay apart from the world. It is revealed that Monkrat came from Mock’s Hold originally, and it seems to be indicated that he was once a member of the Bridgeburners.
Anomander Rake meets with the High Priestess and talks about Endest Silann, and the fact that they both know he still has his abilities, and it is more his faith that is lacking. Then Anomander Rake takes what seems to be a very final leave-taking.
Reccanto hides beneath a table as the demonic women try to force a way in, but are prevented by Gruntle, Mappo and the Bole brothers. In a slapstick moment, Reccanto manages to hurt himself in the action of somehow killing one of the demonic women.
Precious Thimble worries that the Bole brothers are not paying her much attention. They all learn from a local that the demonic women are actually cursed daughters of the village, so they go hunting for the cause of the curse.
Gruntle and the Boles leave the shelter of the inn to go fetch Glanno Tarp, whose leg is broken, and Cartographer.
Precious Thimble realises that there is probably a Jaghut living in the Provost’s tower. Quell points out that if they stay in the village too much longer then the women amongst them might also fall foul of the curse.
Mappo, Quell and Precious Thimble have a chat to Bedusk Pall Kovuss Agape, a Jaghut Anap and the person elected Provost. He buried his mate after an argument, and then fell in love with a woman from the village who spurned him, and so he brought forward the curse (which happens not to affect those who have been with child).
We have a look at the beach where the villagers conduct their wrecking activities, luring ships to their doom. Something emerges onto the beach from the sea.
Precious Thimble marches back to the inn with the intention of getting out of the village as soon as possible, worrying about the fact that the curse might afflict her and not liking the way that she could get around it.
The Provost’s Jaghut wife is the creature who came from the sea. She says she’ll allow those of the Guild to live, but she’s planning to destroy the village and everything in it.
Kedeviss goes to join Clip, and talks to him about the fact that he is now more than he was. She realises with horror that they actually released the Dying God to go into the world with their actions. Clip tells her that his target is the Redeemer, and then kills her.
Aranatha wakes as Kedeviss is killed, and tells Nimander what has happened, warning him that he cannot show anything when Clip comes to them with the news that Kedeviss has fallen down a crevasse. Aranatha thinks fondly that many people under-estimate Nimander, and then sorrows for the loss of Kedeviss.
Endest Silann and Anomander Rake part ways.
As with most of the scenes that feature Cotillion and Shadowthrone, I thoroughly enjoyed this—even though I’m quite sure I didn’t pick up everything that was going on. I think that the complication they talk about is the arrival of Tulas Shorn—but the fact that they then refer to Shadowthrone using Iskaral Pust suggests that it is something to do with events in Darujhistan. We last saw Pust in his encounter with Fisher, so is that part of the terrible twosome’s plan? Not sure!
And this, well, I have no idea about this either:
Cotillion glanced back over his shoulder, eyes narrowing on the gaunt figure walking towards them. Well, not precisely—the stranger was on his way to a damned reunion, and what would become of that?
Does it merely mean that Tulas Shorn is coming towards the Hounds, and Cotillion doesn’t know if the Hounds are going to go with this stranger?
This for me was something to note—the fact that dragons have chaos in their blood. A reminder that chaos is a key enemy in this series, what with the chaos eating up Dragnipur and the chaos surrounding the Crippled God.
I think Cotillion is right to be concerned about the Hounds and their respective roles. What were they created for? Why do they mirror each other, especially since the Deragoth were actually part of the First Emperor? Shadowthrone seems a bit too quick to dismiss the two new Hounds as mere albinos. Interesting to note that he was the one to summon them—purely by thinking about the need for reinforcements.
I love this little bit of humour:
“It seems,” the undead Tiste Edur said, “my Hounds have found new...pets.”
“Saw his head off, Cotillion,” Shadowthrone said. “I hate him already.”
I wonder why the Hounds don’t respond to someone who is dead? And I wonder whether Tulas Shorn once sat the Throne of Shadow? Or some other Throne? Why do the white Hounds hate Tulas Shorn so much? And what does this mean: “The leash, you fools, is frayed...” Hmm, as usual, I have more questions than answers!
And this just fills me with a massive sense of foreboding:
“We’d deceived ourselves into thinking we were the masters, that every force bowed to our command. And what happened? They destroyed everything!”
Who is the “we” in this? And, probably more pressing, who is the “they”?
For me, there is one particular paragraph amongst Kallor’s thoughts and introspection that really sums up the character for me:
So, hate Kallor even as he hates himself. Even in that, he will do it better. Innate superiority expressed in all manner of ways. See the world gnash its teeth—he answers with a most knowing smile.
This arrogance, this thought that Kallor is just better in all things; it all encapsulates this chap.
This is a telling line, and helps to keep the reader aware of one particular growing suspicion:
Nenanda’s expression filled with fury and he would have risen, if not for Aranatha’s gentle hand settling on his arm, magically dispelling his rage.
I love this picture of the group—the familiar lines, the way Skintick knows just what buttons to press. It echoes something that Skintick has said to Nimander:
“...it is our curse to be social creatures, so we’ve little choice but to try to get along.”
Anyone else feeling the pull towards an ultimate war, what with the manifestation of yet another god of war? Is it just that Fener’s absence opened a gap which is now being filled? Or is there a requirement for these gods to be around?
I was absolutely chilled by Karsa’s vision of his future—the future he intends to bring about. He doesn’t even want his own people to survive; he thinks that they suffer the same faults as everyone else. All he sees is a cleansing of the earth, like a culling of a deer herd. Get rid of everyone who has the intention of destroying the world, and allow the world to turn on its own. For me, there is a reflection here of what we are doing to our own world—the trouble we’re causing by believing that the world is our possession:
“Because, woman, we ride it to hunt, to kill, to destroy. We ride it as if it is our right and our excuse both.”
Some wonderful visuals here in Dragnipur—firstly, the idea of the world gaining an edge, raw as a cliff, beyond which chaos rages, and then the appearance of this chaotic army. My seesaw view of Draconus continues, since I find him a sympathetic character here, as he talks with Pearl about the end.
Erikson has flagged this, hasn’t he? To what purpose?
Draconus said nothing. The demon’s suggestions horrified him, and he thought—oh, he was thinking, yes—that Pearl had found a terrible truth. Somewhere among those possibilities.
It certainly made me look more closely at what Pearl said about chaos being the evil within each person, torn free when they die. Not sure what I can glean from it, but I certainly paid attention!
You know something? I read the two sections involving Ditch’s dream and Kadaspala’s patterns and had not a clue what was going on! Except that I think Kadaspala is either entirely mad, or he is indeed bringing a god into being.
There is a slight biblical echo in this vision of Salind:
...she was mesmerising, this child-woman, this found of corruption, and the notion that a woman’s fall could be so alluring, so perfectly sexual...
Now all Salind needs is a snake, an apple and some fig leaves!
This little interlude with Monkrat walking through the camp feels pretty ordinary—a character musing on his character and lack of caring about other people—right up until the impact point where we’re given to understand that Monkrat was once a member of the Bridgeburners, a group known for their compassion. It makes you wonder what happened in those intervening hard years to cause this lack in him. Also, I’m intrigued that his name is on the list of the fallen—people don’t know he’s still alive. I wonder what effect this will have on future events?
A lovely scene between Anomander Rake and the High Priestess. I love the fact that she clearly is attracted to him. I love this as well, when she says: “...there is so little to think about and so much time”—it’s another indication of how a fearsomely long life can affect the way you think about things. I like that Erikson is constantly considering and pointing out the ways in which the Tiste Andii would be affected.
The way that Erikson introduces the idea that Endest Silann is not broken is beautifully done—we realise as the reader that we’ve only had his perspective, and so haven’t realised that it is, indeed, his faith that needs bolstering.
Then two things that end the scene—the fact that this seems a pretty permanent leave-taking between them, which makes me feel ill at what this could mean: “And out he went, leaving in his wake a sudden absence, an almost audible clap of displacement...” And then the High Priestess revealing that Draconus seemed to be behind the rift between Anomander and Mother Dark.
Some of you seem very enamoured with the Gruntle storyline in this book, but it just seems so completely devoid of connection to the rest of the novel. I know that Erikson has done this before, and everything tied in neatly at the end, but the reading of it makes for uncomfortable pacing, as far as I’m concerned. I keep wanting to just skip past the sections, but don’t feel able to in case something essential is mentioned. Having said that, I did appreciate the humour of Reccanto’s rapier lunge. I don’t have much to say about the whole curse/Jaghut woman/Provost storyline.
Kedeviss’ death came as a shock to me, especially on the heels of a section full of tomfoolery and funny dialogue. It seemed even darker when placed against that. Plus, it leaves me feeling awful that Kedeviss dies before she can pass warning to the others—although I suspect Aranatha can probably fill in the gaps. Am I reading it right that Clip/the Dying God (not too sure how to refer to him, since he seems to contain both) is planning to make Nimander his Mortal Shield?
Aranatha’s thoughts about both Nimander and Kedeviss show a great deal of love and compassion. I can barely remember what this character was like before she started developing this new power and grace. She is now so much more than what she began as, and you have to admire Erikson for all those little hints and phrases and the way he’s built this up.
And who else had the tears that Endest Silann couldn’t cry in their eyes, reading about these two parting ways, and Anomander walking away like a sacrifice. Is he going to sacrifice himself? What could be so important in his mind that that is the only path?
Another hint to this plan of Shadowthrone and Cotillion’s: “We need the Hounds there, just to ensure nothing goes awry.” I think we can be pretty safe in guessing just where the “there” is, but as to what might go awry? Well, hard to say at this point I’d say with specificity. Though with all these powers there or heading there, I’d also say it’s harder to think that nothing will go awry. Which Shadowthrone wisely seems to assume as well. Though it’s also interesting that he thinks neither Sordiko nor Pust are enough for what may ensue.
Really, Shadowthrone cherishes “dullness”? Anyone buying that?
Now the musing on the “need for a breathlessly beautiful Queen of Shadow?” That I buy.
Now this is a carefully phrased bit of ambiguity:
“You want the Throne of Shadow, do you?”
“My first rule was cut short. I have learned since.”
Now, does Tulas Shorn mean that Shorn ruled Shadow at one point? Or does he simply mean he ruled someplace/something at some point? Either reading is perfectly valid. Jerk.
This is really an enjoyable scene with the by-play. The humor, the sarcasm, the underlying tension. Really a lot of fun.
And then it ends in this intriguing, frustratingly mystifying bit from Tulas with regard to the Hounds. I do like this idea of the Hounds as “manifestations”—appearing as a warning, as a wake-up call to growing arrogance. Though if I said I understand this wholly, or the distinctions, I’d be lying through my teeth.
Speaking of manifestation, I had wanted to talk back a few chapters ago about Kallor in this sense, about how his curse combined with his own personality/actions had almost made him a living symbol/abstraction, an “aspect” in Tulas Shorn’s words, himself for ambition. And here we have Kallor himself talking about how he’d been the “paragon of acquisitiveness.” Note how he views near-eternal life as a means of “devouring for ever.” And then his seemingly rationalization of his acts:
“And the violence he delivered? Well, watch how it played out in smaller scenes everywhere—the man who cannot satisfy his wife, so he beats her down with his fists. The streetwise adolescent bully, pinning his victim... ”
This also makes him in my eyes a sort of self-aware symbol (note his “most knowing smile”)
But if Kallor is in some ways getting more intriguingly complex, I wouldn’t say he’s getting more likable here, what with “dragging by an ankle the corpse of his wife” (a great if disturbing image btw of the arms like snakes with their throats slashed). We see his self-awareness as well when he admits his claim that it must have been “madness” that made her not only refuse his offer of a near-eternity with him but kill herself was a self-delusion. Which echoes our earlier lines of how we tell lies to ourselves so we might live with ourselves. Of course, Kallor’s problem is that his life is so long it get harder and harder to keep that delusion going. His other reason—her clear-eyed view of what might happen to her in such an eternity, though we aren’t given any reason to believe it more, seems more tenable to me. And it’s hard not to imagine that this is the voice of experience here. Though we have seen that long-life does not necessarily lead to this—take Rake for example.
A nice little fly-by reminder of Forkrul Assail—don’t want to forget about those folks.
More self-awareness as he is coldly, brutally honest in his description of himself. And then his own presentation of himself as symbol:
“I am as humankind... Impervious to lessons... I hold forth goodness and see it made vile, and do nothing, voice no complaint, utter no disavowal [there’s that indifference again] The world I make I have made for one single purpose—to chew me up, me and everyone else.”
Luckily, we don’t have to take Kallor as our sole symbol, just a symbol. After all, as Nimander thinks in a few lines, “There were so many ways to live.”
Another quick reminder of the layers of time and life underfoot—the ruins, the fossils, the midden. As Tulas Shorn said earlier, “it begins again.” Because it’s always beginning again. And ending again. And beginning again.
What are all these gods of war coming around for? Is it just what’s going down now around Darujhistan, this mysterious plan. Or is there something else going on?
So does this mean Karsa will use his people as his army to sweep away civilization then turn on them? Or just turn them somehow? Lead them to other thinking?
Karsa’s words on progress are an interesting echo of Tulas Shorn’s warnings about the Hounds—this idea of riding the tiger, thinking we have control when we actually don’t.
I like his distinction between all those others “progress” or I suppose one could also call it “time” or “nature,” has wiped away and humanity—that of all these, only humanity uses its time to hunt and kill beyond all measure, beyond all balance. And “destroy” seems a pretty uniquely human activity—other creatures kill, but I can’t really think of any that “destroy”—anyone? And of course, the whole idea of “ownership” is also uniquely human, though I think one could be even more narrow there. We are, I’d guess, naturally territorial, but the idea of “ownership” of said territory/land is not naturally human, as there are certainly cultures to whom such an idea is/was foreign.
Karsa makes an interesting comparison to Kallor. Both linked to mass destruction (Kallor in the past, Karsa aiming for the future). Kallor the symbol of greed/devouring, Karsa “emptied of greed” (greed here as a larger idea than simply monetary greed).
The snuffing out of the fire was a bit on the nose for me I admit.
Are Draconus’ words here limited to just those in the sword, or do they also describe us in general:
“Each of them here, seemingly alone, each with his or her own shackle, his or her own chain… We are an army in retreat. See the detritus we leave in our wake, the abandoned comrades… When at last we tear it [the veil before our eyes] aside, we will find the despair we have harboured for so long… all revealed as we look into each other’s eyes. Was the comfort found in mutual recognition of any true worth?”
Don’t we all carry our own chains, ghosts, burdens, regrets, etc? Aren’t we at the core each and all alone? If we face our future clearly, what else would inevitable death and oblivion, lost in memory and time, lead us to but despair? And don’t we seek comfort and consolation in others? Doesn’t it hold back the despair for a while at least? And don’t we as we near the end want to rage? (Rage, rage against the dying of the light?)
Well, I think we can safely add this vision of the Chaos army to our list of cinematic scenes, eh?
Some interesting chaos theories here. The old evil twin/Bad Kirk, Good Kirk idea that chaos is the evil inside us, that Dragnipur severs the two sides. Or that it is all the evil of all the souls of all time, “torn free” at our deaths to become one with Chaos again. What “secret” is in there that Draconus almost feels he can tease out?
Lots of gods in this book. The Crippled God of course. The Dying God. And now Kadaspala seems to be aiming to birth yet another god. One focused, in an echo of Bedek’s words at the temple of the Crippled God, focused on “justice.” Though not an exact echo—Bedek thinks of a god focused on “injustice” and Kadaspala’s is focused on “justice.” A meaningful difference? Bedek was hoping for a god to relieve injustice, but Kadaspala seems to want a god to punish in justice’s name (is this different from Karsa? From Seerdomin?)
Speaking of Seerdomin. And echoes. Look how his words to Itkovian remind us of Pearl’s words to Draconus about facing one’s evil self:
“Redeemer, I have looked in the eyes of my enemy, and they are hard, cold, emptied of everything but hate. I have, yes, seen my own reflection.”
If indifference is the gift of death, does it then follow that its opposite—empathy—is associated with life?
And speaking of indifference, we get to Monkrat looking at the starving, dying children:
“There was nothing to be done for them, and even if there was, Monkrat was not the man to do it. In his mind he had left humanity behind long ago. There was no kinship to nip at his heart. Every fool the world over was on his or her own, or they were slaves.”
This echoes so much of what we’ve seen/heard before: the indifference, the similarity of “there was nothing to do” to the farmer’s “What could I do?”, the similarity to Snell’s Darwinistic view of the world, the refusal of “kinship” or connection (implying there could be such a thing). But what’s interesting here is Monkrat’s self-awareness of this—he doesn’t seem quite as cold as Snell for instance, and some others. A slight, subtle difference, but perhaps one to keep in mind. We do seem to coincidentally be learning a lot more about him here. And finally, in my mind, that closing line, “Not that he cared,” reads more like a man trying to convince himself than a simple statement of fact.
Rake. Rake. Don’t you love how the simple choice of a chair can act as characterization? How can you not like the millennia-old ruler who chooses the “least ornate one”? And then the “mercy” he shows his High Priestess by not letting her see “all that was in his eyes.” His purposeful turning away from worship by his people for his people, admire him as seemingly does the High Priestess: “Mother Dark, hear me. Heed me. You did not understand your son then. You do not understand him now.” Has she then perceived something of Rake’s plan? And what a damn tease about Draconus.
Ahh, the famed “Reccanto move” Good time for some comic horror relief. I also like how this moment with Reccanto sort of plays off of all the swordsmanship/duelling talk we’ve had lately.
While I do think this is a funny scene, I am more than made uncomfortable by Quell’s seeming joyful hope/anticipation that the women folk will need to be impregnated by the men to avoid the curse. I’m not a fan of rape jokes nor does this seem in character for Quell, nor do I like thinking this about the character. Nor does looking “somewhat sheepish” at the idea make things better.
So what do you all think of the group’s decision to not try and talk the Jaghut woman out of destroying the entire village?
OK, gotta go get the family at the airport so can’t do justice to the Kedeviss scene. But real quick on the end, we’ve had lots of intimations that Rake is planning something major, something dangerous, and something possibly even final. And here, in this scene, I think it’s pretty impossible to escape that feeling. These all have the tenor of a farewell, a final farewell:
“You have ever been, my friend, more than I deserve.”
“If we our to live, we must take risks.”
“Should we fall, we will know that we have lived.”
“Endest nodded, unable to speak. there should be tears streaming down his face.”
“This walk… I will take pleasure in it, my friend.”
And then this: “Blue seeped into the sky, shadows in retreat along the slope. Gold painted the tops of the tree line” Normally one would think of the rising sun, sunrise, as a note of hope, of optimism. But let us not forget, this is the “Son of Darkness” Think on that. And on him “vanishing”.
That’s a lot of ominous foreshadowing, to go along with smaller hints earlier. Can Erikson do it?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.