Jul 19 2013 12:00pm

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Toll the Hounds, Chapter Twenty

Toll the Hounds Malazan Steven Erikson Welcome to the Malazan Reread 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 Twenty 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—Bill has said that he will try and drop in here and there to make comments, but we shouldn’t rely on it. And, indeed, he should be enjoying his holiday!



We go back to the group of Tiste Andii, who have now learnt of Kedeviss’ death. Skintick feels betrayed by Nimander’s lack of emotion and draws away from him. He wants to climb down the crevasse so that they can observe Kedeviss’ death properly. They set out again and Nimander walks behind Clip, feeling the judgement cast against him by the eyes of his companions. When they draw closer to Black Coral, the Tiste Andii talk and Nimander realises that none of them are fools, that all of them have realised to a greater or lesser degree that Clip is not what he once was. Nimander asks them to pretend to be fools for a little longer and pick their own time to confront Clip.


Nenanda asks Skintick how Nimander has managed to bring them back into his hands, and Skintick reflects that it is true leadership, that he helps them find their resolve.


Monkrat watches as new pilgrims approach the camp by the barrow, and feel the wrongness of the place. They are offered cups of kelyk, and Monkrat wonders how many will succumb. He knows that if the Redeemer falls to the seduction of kelyk then the dragon will fly from the tower and raze the camp in flames. As he heads back to Black Coral, Monkrat realises someone is following him. It turns out to be Spindle, and he recognises the soldier (ex-Bridgeburner) that Monkrat used to be. They talk about current affairs, and then head into Black Coral to get a drink together.


The High Priestess realises that the time is coming, and reflects that she isn’t ready. She contemplates Mother Dark and Anomander Rake, and suddenly comprehends that Rake’s betrayal of their god had been necessary, at least in Rake’s mind. A priestess—the temple historian—hurries in to her and asks whether they are at war, and the High Priestess says that they face a greater risk than at any time since Kharkanas.


The Redeemer explains to Seerdomin the difference in worship, intent and followers between the Crippled God and the Dying God. The sky begins raining kelyk and Seerdomin realises that Salind is now ready to begin the fight.


Kallor stops to observe the Gadrobi Hills, and thinks about the throne within the city. He seeks to take it by wresting it from the Crippled God—or, at least, open negotiations about the manner in which he will sit the throne. He plans to make demands of the god, and, with that thought, approaches Darujhistan.


Samar Dev and her companions arrive at a line of enormous standing stones. She realises that she has been slowing them down, because she’s not as driven as they are. Karsa asks her why she will not share the back of Havok with him.


Karsa wonders whether he truly wants to lead his people into a world of cynicism, even to deliver civilization from evil. He thinks about the fact that the Crippled God has never understood him since Karsa knows he cannot be broken, and yet all the CG’s gifts are an invitation to be broken. Something happens to Traveller where he stands against the standing stone—he becomes haggard and Karsa tells Samar Dev that “shadows are cruel.” She decides to ride Havok with him.


Ditch watches as Draconus violently tells Kadaspala that he must not fashion a god there, that Dragnipur is nobody’s womb. He is angry because Kadaspala was supposed to be creating a cage to keep Darkness in and Chaos out. Kadaspala thinks that the pattern to keep out Chaos is doomed to fail. Draconus tells Ditch that he has been made the nexus of the pattern, that the word of identity is written on him—and if he manages to hold onto himself then he can break the pattern. When Draconus leaves, Kadaspala tells him the word is kill.


The three ladies of the Trygalle Trade Guild watches as the wagon approaches and ask what happened with the Jaghut couple. Master Quell says they need a new place to hole up to mend the wagon, and so Cartographer draws a map which he tells Quell should be invested with power—then they can get to where they need to.

SCENE 11-14

Kallor, Samar Dev, Traveller, Karsa and the Seven Hounds all converge on Darujhistan. The Hounds howl and Kallor knows a moment of fear.

Amanda’s Reaction

After the pain of the last chapter, it is a wrench to find that we are beginning this chapter with another group responding to the death of a companion. So much death. So much grief. But I do appreciate the way that this scene, coming so quickly on the heels of the scene with Kruppe et al, is very different in tone and reaction. I think this is governed by Nimander’s dry eyes and Aranatha’s private nod to him. Although Desra weeps, I feel that the reader is unlikely to weep here along with her.

This is a worrying question, and something that I hadn’t really considered until Nimander thought it: “Could something as alien as the Dying God assume the Unseen Crown?”

And I think that this is both a strength and weakness of the Tiste Andii:

“Obedience had never been deemed a pure virtue among the Tiste Andii. To follow must be an act born of deliberation, or clear-eyed, cogent recognition that the one to be followed has earned the privilege.”

On the plus side, the Tiste Andii are unlikely to ever let themselves be taken over by a tyrant; on the other hand, it does mean they are less likely to have the blind loyalty that other leaders can inspire and that can be a positive quality.

This I enjoyed, because it’s just so Malazan:

“...oh, he’d seen how such fools were usually weeded out, through the informal justice system practised by the common soldier, a process often punctuated by a knife in the back...”

Interesting that even Nenanda—who seems the least sharpest—questions Aranatha about the fact that she must have sensed something. Seems like we’re starting to get to the point where Aranatha’s true nature will be revealed.

I also love the way that Nimander has gone from just following along and assuming Anomander would know everything and deal with them, to believing that “it’d be dangerous to assume someone else can fix all this.” He doesn’t see himself as much of a leader still, but that sense of responsibility is what the others are beginning to respond to.

It is a relief to me that Silanah is an option for razing the camp of those unfortunates now in the thrall of the Dying God. Especially when considering how far it has fallen, and how terrible it must look to newcomers, what with the dead child in the ditch and the weeds on the path leading to the barrow, showing that worship of the Redeemer is over.

And what a cool meeting between Spindle and Monkrat. I am wondering if Monkrat is someone we’ve met previously, or merely a random deserter from the Bridgeburners who we have never met before. It’s a nice reminder of what Dujek did for the Bridgeburners left after the battle—added their names to the list of the deceased. Damn, and an echo of the grief from the previous chapter as we realise that Spindle has no idea about what has happened to those left behind in Darujhistan.

Well, now, the High Priestess didn’t really tell us anything in that scene where she first thinks lots of philosophical things (someone else have at them in the comments, if you’re so inclined!) and then warns the temple historian that they are facing massive risk. We sort of knew all of this, but it’s not been said so explicitly before—that Anomander Rake has gone abroad to try and win a war on multiple fronts. And this, how ominous:

“No room for failure?”
“And if one should fail?”
“Then all shall fail.”
“And if that happens... ashes, oblivion—that will be our fate.”
The High Priestess turned away. “Not just ours, alas.”

So, with the Crippled God “salvation arrives with death, and it is purchased through mortal suffering.” But the Dying God there is “worship as self-destruction” where they “celebrate the act of dying,” and there is nothing to follow death. See, if it was a choice between those two, suddenly the Crippled God doesn’t look too bad, does he? At least some sort of salvation is achievable!

These standing stones that Samar Dev, Traveller and Karsa approach remind me of Stonehenge, in the way that Samar Dev thinks on the fact that their use and true purpose has been lost somewhere in the past. We can speculate but will never know the truth. “And the purpose of all that effort? Not even the gods knew, she suspected.”

I like Karsa’s examination of the different ways in which stubbornness can be employed—either as a pure desire to achieve a task, or perhaps just stupidity. But I was not sure at all what happened to Traveller and why he was suddenly so haggard and desperate-seeming.

This is an exchange that sums up Samar and Karsa for me:

“Ride it with me, Witch—you surrender nothing of value.”
“I don’t?”

For me, it shows Karsa’s development, in that he recognises what may or may not be a surrender of something valuable—considering when we first met him we saw him involved in rape, and not realising that he was stealing something that wouldn’t have been surrendered; something of great value. It shows his recognition of Samar Dev’s character—the fact that she has pride and doesn’t wish to surrender to Karsa in any way.

I think one of the most confusing characters of the series for me (along with Tavore) is Draconus. I just can’t get a grip on whether he is a good character or a bad. I don’t know his actual role in what happened between Mother Dark and Anomander Rake. I don’t know if he is doing the right thing while trapped here in the sword. All the time that I have felt such strong regard for Anomander Rake, I feel as though Draconus is the bad guy. And so I’m wondering here whether Draconus or Kadaspala is who Ditch should be listening to. Anyone else so conflicted by Draconus?

I properly giggled when Sweetest Sufferance said: “Either of you other girls feeling a tad bloodthirsty?”

And those last short scenes... The convergence on Darujhistan and the beginning of the end could not be made more clear.

Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
@Amanda:As the priestess thinks on the face of apparant wisdom, "The lie of wsidom is best hidden in monologue," think to Socrates. If someone is left to speak by themselves (a monologue) they can often sound very good, quite persuasive.
In a perceptive dialogue, the persuader must defend their points as weakness is exposed. Really the heart of the Socratic dialogue.
Then, her thoughts on indulgence and privilege seem to be a reflection on relative power. Having the privilege to make a decision is not an argument for the merit of that decision, merely an indulgent nod that the power was there. Gods, goddesses, rulers--power given or wrested.
Darren Kuik
2. djk1978
I'm not conflicted by Draconus at all. But then I also don't think he's a "bad guy". Recall, that being against someone in Malazan doesn't make you wrong or right. Also past conflict is no indication of current status. Furthermore, while Rake is undoubtedly awesome and for the most part the reader can side with him and feel comfortable, we've been given enough of his past to know that he might not be just a "good guy". Shades of grey.

So right now I'm in Rake's corner, and Draconus's corner, and I think it's currently unclear as to what their end goals are. Myself, I've always been inclined to think that Rake has a sense of what goes on inside that sword of his. With the way it makes the rock tremble, how could he not. It exerts that kind of influence on the wielder.

I like the fact that at the same time as we are seeing characters known and unknown coming to their ends we're still also seeing the growth of others. The changes still reflecting in Nimander and Karsa in particular I enjoy.

Also, whilst the threat of Silanah cleaning up the mess sounds like a good solution if all goes wrong, I think unleashing a pure Eleint, without Rake around to keep her in check, might get a little messy. I don't think that's what Rake wants Silanah for.
Sydo Zandstra
3. Fiddler
SCENE 11-14
Kallor, Samar Dev, Traveller, Karsa and the Seven Hounds all converge on Darujhistan. The Hounds howl and Kallor knows a moment of fear.

Minor nitpick, but relevant considering stuff with Hounds coming up soon. :) There are only 5 Hounds of Shadow left...

Considering Silanah, is Monkrat the first non-Andii to realize she's there and what she can do? I find SE's description on how she is sitting there, looming and waiting one of the most impressive depictions in this book, just because of the sheer unspoken alien threat of her presence...
Darren Kuik
4. djk1978
Well there are still 7 hounds heading toward the city aren't there? Amanda didn't say anything about them all being Hounds of Shadow.
Nisheeth Pandey
5. Nisheeth
I find the change in Nimander's group to be very interesting. I could never have imagined in Reaper's Gale that the others would look at Nimander the way they do in this chapter.

And, I found an intersting line:
If Clip and the Dying God that possesed him truly believed tthey could usupr Mother Dark, and indeed her chosen son, Anomander Rake, as ruler of the Tiste Andii, then that conciet was doomed.
Amanda Rutter
6. ALRutter
Ha, thanks Fiddler! But I did mean the five Hounds of Shadow and the two white Hounds :-) Next time I'll be more explicit ;-)
Bill Capossere
7. Billcap
OK, I'm sitting in a leather chair bellied up to a Comfort Inn bathroom sink covered with a food tray for a desk and using the toilet to rest my mug on, so apologies for errors of both text and thought--we do what we can)

This seems an important point to make about the Andii, after we've seen them generally follow Rake, but more importantly in this book, we've seen several of them follow him wholly: "Obedience had never been deemed a pure virtue . . . To follow must be an act of deliberation, of clear-eyed, cogent recognition that the one to be followed had earned the privilege." Clearly, we can see this in Rake. But note how Nimander does not recognize it in himself at the end of this scene, when he is befuddled by his companions' "obedience."

Niimander's dismissal of the Dying God/Clip outright usurping Mother Dark's place (can one "usurp" an abdicated role?) makes a lot of sense to me--I just can't see it happening. But his fear of something like saemankelyk, the idea that to a race seemingly drifting and perhaps drowning in ennui and loneliness, there might be other insidious lures/dangers, that also makes a lot of sense.

I think we mentioned earlier that there were signs of complexity surrounding Monkrat, signs of a conscience. It's possible this meeting with Spindle might be a turning point for him, one way or the other. There are some new encouraging signs--his turning away from Gradithan, his recognition of the camp's realities, his honesty with Spindle. We'll have to wait and see if these are borne out at all.

"History, she realized, was mostly lost. No matter how diligent the recorders, the witnesses, the researchers, most of the past simply no longer existed." Is this the cry of the poor archaeologist/historian? Surrounded as we are so often with evidence of recaptured history--books on the topic, biographies, famed identified ruins (what a feeling to walk the Forum, the Acropolis, the streets of Pompeii, to look at this ship, this castle, this spacecraft), The History Channel, and so on, it sometimes does come as a surprise all we do not know. The Minoan language we still can't understand, the huge gaps in the fossil record (and a moment of silence as well here for poor Brontosaurus, victim of a misplace body part), Look at all we don't know about our most revered writer--Shakepeare--who hardly lived in a paleolithic or non-literary time period. A mere blink of the eye ago in time, during a time fertile with writing. And yet, we know so little people still argue (even if not particularly convincingly) over if he even really existed (step up Lord of Buckinghmam . . . ). How often we try to pretend otherwise--how many different things have we ascribed to Stonehenge--how many builders, how many purposes? And even when we have a "history", as we see in this series and in our real world, we have to question just who concocted it. Might the history of WWII be slightly different had Hitler won? What might think of innumerable folks had the other side won the war between them?

It's also interesting to get Samar Dev's sense here of stone and cycles and repetition in contrast to those others we see in this chapter--the short-lived humans versus the long-lived Andii or Kallor--is there a difference in histories amongst them? In the way history is viewed? Kept? What does an Andii historian do--just make sure things are down on paper so everyone can check their memory of the events?

"A gate that is denied its wandering must find a home, a refuge, a fortress." File.

You can get a sense of the coming climax. Character have either left to head toward their destinies (Rake, Endest, etc.) or are nearing their destinations (Nimander, Kallor, Trraveller--looking not so good in consideration of what he will face there in Darujhistan). Things are being made more plain (Clip is possessed by the Dying God, the Dying God and Crippled God are similar but different and Itkovian lays it out for us). The High Priestess raises the stakes (not just "ashes, oblivion" for the Andii but for all?). And the rain thunders down. And the Hounds toll the bell . . .

Is it just me, or do I sense sarcasm in that last line?
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
Bill:You are a trouper.
Peter Bathge
9. Fansal
Here's one of the things that bother me about this book: It kind of drags on and on. Not only in the Andii story, but also in the camp: Seerdomin was knocked out/killed/send to the Redeemer all the way back in chapter twelve. He fights for a bit with Salind and then, for all of seven chapters, nothing happens except some philosophical talk between the Redeemer and Seerdomin. Seems to me, this particular plot line began much too soon for it to be part of the ending. It's just kind of exhausting ;)

Amanda wrote:
"But I was not sure at all what happened to Traveller and why he was suddenly so haggard and desperate-seeming."
I am also at a loss regarding this tidbit. Anyone able to shed some light on this?

Draconus always struck me as more of a good guy in so far as there are straight-up good/bad guys in these novels. As djk1978 mentioned, it's good to keep in mind the story of how Rake got to be bearer of Dragnipur with regards to Draconus. Our white knight in shining armour is not all good either. Also, I believe we've already had some insight into Draconus' mindset and his regrets for past mistakes, which makes him somewhat more relatable. Or maybe that was in TGC? It kind of gets hard to remember ...

All in all, this was very much a "taking a deep breath before the finale" chapter without too much happening. Though the last few scenes do a very good job of preparing us for what is going to be one of, if not THE biggest convergence of the whole series.
Paul Boyd
10. GoodOldSatan
Well, with that closing, this HAS to be the last of the set-up chapters.

The closing also brings us back to a question raised in the discussion of the Prologue regarding the word "toll." The tolling of the midnight bell on the last night of the fete heralded the howling of the hounds of Shadow (and Light), and all that followed. Thereafter known as the Toll of the Hounds?

(Or did I get it all wrong? ... again.)
karl oswald
11. Toster

seems pretty likely to me, although, the phrase, 'pay the hounds toll' pops up in RG. certainly it would acquire an all new even more terrifying meaning for the denizens of darujhistan after the last quarter of this book.

@ Amanda and fansal re: travellers state.

i was also very confused by travellers behaviour as he closes on the city. its so out of character, but we can't forget that traveller is really dassem ultor. dassem, who forswore hood after the loss of his daughter and seeks revenge. he now stands at a threshold, and it seems like something is going on with death. the dead are all marching somewhere, and hood is releasing minions in the form of the undead dragon and cartographer. lets not forget that hood was one of the three people who met in the prologue, the other two were shadowthrone and edgewalker, and they waited for anomander.

dassem ultor is surely seeking an audience with the hooded one, so what might hood do to avoid that? those dead are marching somewhere, and that meeting in the prologue, what was it about anyway?

so consider this a roundabout way of saying that dassem's state of mind is pretty conflicted now, and it doesn't help that his sword, to paraphrase andarist "requires a singularity of will in it's wielder."
12. aaronthere
1) @billcap. seconded steve's sentiments. i've also been travelling all month, so as it is written, so it shall be read. in tiny bathrooms while my girlfriend sleeps :)

2) @amanda. something that has been building for a while.

In a series that very strongly attempts to dispel with cliched notions of good and evil, it is disconcerting to consistently listen to character assessments reduced to "is this guy good/evil?" and the inevitable conclusion, "do I like this character or not?" Not only is the language surounding these statements ambiguous, but it really goes against one of the core goals in SE's writing IMHO.

First, what does good or bad mean to you? Is the character a hero or villian, or do you find the character well written and fully realized? It seems to me that there really isn't a clear delineation between the two. IF a character is mean or exhibits traits that fall into the "evil" or "bad guy" trope, then you seem to say "I don't like them." I assume you mean you don't think you'd want to be their friend, but you really seem to exhude an actual distain for having to read about them, as if your judgement of this series comes down to how many hero archetypes ("good" characters) there are vs. how many villian archetypes ("bad").

For me, the richness and uniqueness of these books is bolstered by the ambiguity of character. As SE eloquently illuminated a while back (I think it was in Bonehunters Q and E) character is built on motivations, which are based in a paradigm of varying degrees selfishness and altruism, which creates more realism without relying on cliche.

If a character is harder to read on the "good/evil" scale, it usually is because they are painted as more complicated than a mere trope, and to me that makes a more interesting read, which I feel is "good." Therefore my judgement of a good charater is one that is strongly written and compelling, regardless of whether or not their intentions fall into this other spectum.

I'm sorry if this sounds judegmental, in keeping with the sentiment of my above statements I DO feel that you are free to read and interpret this series any way you like, (there is no ONE RIGHT WAY of course!) I just wanted to raise this issue in the form of a question of authorial intent and potential clarification in your assessments. (I'll add that you've done an AMAZING job at fathoming the unfathomable, for a first time reader, and probably got more out of your first read than I am getting out of a second. It's pretty humbling.)
Kenneth La Rocque
13. kjtherock
I believe what causes Travellers state at that point will be answered very soon.
ana fernadez
14. pasioni135
I'm not conflicted by Draconus at all. But then I also don't think he's
a "bad guy". Recall, that being against someone in Malazan doesn't
make you wrong or right. Also past conflict is no indication of current
status. Furthermore, while Rake is undoubtedly awesome and for the most relojes Dorados
part the reader can side with him and feel comfortable, we've been
given enough of his past to know that he might not be just a "good guy".
Shades of grey.

So right now I'm in Rake's corner, and Draconus's corner, and I think
it's currently unclear as to what their end goals are. Myself, I've
always been inclined to think that Rake has a sense of what goes on
inside that sword of his. With the way it makes the rock tremble, how
could he not. It exerts that kind of influence on the wielder.

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