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 Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twenty-Three 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.
Kruppe shows us the chaos of Darujhistan, and an ox tearing his way through the crowds, wishing for the safety of his mamma. We also see Iskaral Pust and Mogora departing the Temple of Shadow in a frenzy.
Pallid—one of the white Hounds—heads through the city, followed by Baran intent on vengeance. The two Hounds battle each other, destroying a gaol in the process—which just happens to be the one where Barathol was trapped. As Kruppe remarks, serendipity. Barathol’s legs are pinned under the rubble from a falling ceiling and he cannot get away as Pallid notices him and gathers himself for a charge. As he springs forward, a small figure strikes the Hound—it’s Chaur. Chaur throws Barathol the axe he carries, then faces down Pallid with a rock. The Hound sweeps him across the alley, leaving him motionless. Barathol finally breaks free, tearing his legs. As Pallid turns to face him, Baran breaks into the alley and Pallid flees.
Barathol sees that Chaur is wounded grievously. The reader is given the news that he is in a protective oblivion but not quite dead yet. Antsy also breaks out of the gaol, bemoaning his loss of weapons, and Barathol asks where there is a healer. As they head off, they hear the sound of hoofs and wheels on cobbles.
It’s the ox!
The two Nom cousins stand on the roof and watch the Gadrobi District go up in flames. Torvald wonders why the Hounds are there, and they both stare up at the shattered moon. A lot of the fragments are heading away from them, towards another moon. Torvald wonders if that tiny moon is a world as large as his, and will be experiencing a rain of death soon. Vorcan comes to join them and suggests that she and Rallick head to the High Alchemist. Torvald is amused that his cousin has attracted the most dangerous woman alive.
Scorch and Leff go hunting Hounds, discussing what they want to do with the body parts once they’ve taken it down. When a Hound of Shadow slinks into view, they get ready to shoot with their crossbows but it flinches back after smelling something and leaves. Leff blames the smell of Scorch.
Cutter rides through Darujhistan, haunted by his memories of Apsalar.
Challice climbs out onto the roof of the estate tower, holding onto a globe that seems to hold the moon prisoner, and stares up at the sky.
Cutter continues through the city, thinking that the Hounds know him and so he has no reason to fear. He suspects that their wilful destruction of Darujhistan is at the command of Shadowthrone, since Cotillion wouldn’t have anything to do with this. He carries the lance he was given and hopes that Shadowthrone appears, so that he can “plant the damned thing” in the Ascendant.
Back to Challice on the roof, who thinks about the choices that have brought her to this point.
Cutter thinks about his destination—Challice. He wants to deliver the news about her husband, but knows that he never wants to be in her future because of what it would mean subjecting her to. He knows that this journey through Darujhistan is his last, that he plans to leave the city.
Challice looks once more into the globe and sees the flagstones beyond it far below. Then she jumps.
Kruppe sorrows as he leaves the Phoenix Inn. He thinks about the death of a god, a pact that has been sealed, and contemplates the honourable man Anomander Rake. He thinks that “Rake is the sort of man who sees no other choice, who accepts no other choice.”
Barathol and Antsy arrive at the house of Baruk, who tells them that he cannot delay and must leave immediately. Antsy suggests another option and they head on.
A tiny flash in Chaur’s mind proceeds along a darkened path it has never explored, and then something happens. *shrug*
Antsy and Barathol continue on to the estate of Coll. Barathol is incredibly upset about Chaur and the fact he didn’t stay on the ship with Spite. Behind the estate is the Finnest House, and they carry Chaur up the path. Antsy knocks on the door and Raest answers. As they chat Raest indicates a steaming pile of earth where a visitor has expired—a T’lan Imass with odd legs (Dev’ad?) Antsy asks if they can leave Chaur in the Azath and Raest agrees once Antsy hands over a dead white cat.
Chaur’s body hovers in limbo, but his mind continues to explore new pathways.
Quick poetic look at Dragnipur and the fact that it has drunk deep this night, “caring naught who wields it.”
Envy and Spite put their feud on hold, knowing that Anomander is currently weakened. Both think that they can kill Anomander together and then contemplate killing their sister with the claimed Dragnipur.
Samar Dev and Karsa witness as Traveller comes upon the kneeling figure of Anomander Rake, who stands to face him. Traveller wants Hood, but Anomander will not stand aside. Traveller says that Rake has never been his enemy. He doesn’t want to fight Anomander Rake, but the Tiste Andii says: “If you so want Hood, come and get him.” As they fight they are surrounded by a chanting crowd of Dassembrae cultists, and watched by hundreds upon hundreds of Great Ravens. It is an even match, but then Samar Dev watches the death blow, which seems “all wrong.” Rake is actually killed by his own sword, Dragnipur. Dassem Ultor cries out in anguish and then collapses. Rake’s body is surrounded by Ravens and the five Hounds of Shadow, and Samar Dev realises that things are not over.
The moon explodes and fills Darujhistan with light—and the Hounds of Light arrive.
There are ten Hounds of Light, each a match for the Hounds of Shadow who remain and who number just five. These Hounds of Light have come to claim Dragnipur for their master.
Shorn, in his dragon form, flies above the city and tracks the Hounds of Light.
Mule on mule showdown! Iskaral Pust and Kruppe sharing page space as they battle each other in a truly epic, titanic struggle.
Samar watches as two women stalk side by side down the street towards Rake. She asks Karsa who they are, but he is too busy watching a rider with a lance also approach.
Baruk weeps for Anomander Rake—knowing that he has made a necessary sacrifice and understanding why it had to be done, but mourning the loss of a friend.
Cutter dismounts and walks to Anomander’s body. He asks how it could be and who did it, and Samar Dev tells him it was Dassem Ultor, who was known to them as Traveller. Cutter whispers about the sword that Dassem carried, forged by Anomander Rake himself, and known as either Vengeance or Grief. Karsa tells Samar that he needs Traveller, and that Cutter should ready his spear, as the ten Hounds of Light arrive. Cutter introduces himself to Karsa as Crokus Younghand. As the Hounds of Light charge, Spite and Envy use their combined warrens to destroy the Hounds of Shadow.
Spinnock holds Kallor at bay, being wounded to death in incremental hits. As he falls, Kallor asks him what the point was. Spinnock felt the death of Anomander Rake, and realises that he has achieved his goal of delaying Kallor. Spinnock offers Kallor compassion and hopes that he will one day find his true self. Kallor rails at Spinnock, and the Tiste Andii flinches, asking if Kallor will curse him now. Kallor says he will offer a clean death as tribute to the fact that Spinnock defended against him for so long. He admits Spinnock could have wounded him, but the Tiste Andii says he wasn’t there to do that and then reveals that Anomander Rake is dead. Kallor sets off up the road to Darujhistan. As he does, two dragons fly over him, one of them heading down to grasp Kallor in its talons, the other landing and sembling near Spinnock. It is Korlat and she gives Spinnock a potion to start him healing. She is astonished by how long he held up the High King.
As the dragon—Orfantal—carries Kallor, the High King manages to wound him with his sword and they both plunge to the ground. As Kallor watches, Orfantal sembles then falls to the ground. Kallor heads onwards towards Darujhistan despite his wounds.
The first thing that really got me in the read of this chapter—apart from the awesome spectacle of the two Hounds destroying the city as they battle each other—was that quiet moment where Barathol pleads with Antsy that there must be a healer somewhere and Antsy says: “Well, there’s Mallet, but he’s—shit, he’s dead. I forgot.” Damn, that’s a very hard moment to read and just thrown into the chapter.
But really, the whole chapter is about that showdown between Iskaral Pust and Kruppe, right? Who hasn’t been waiting books and books and books to see those two on the same page? And it didn’t disappoint—the mules’ charge, the insults flying. It reminded me very much of Xander and Harmony having their bitch fight in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (for those who remember that particular episode)!
Oh, alright, I can’t avoid it anymore. I’ve been trying to. But this chapter is all about Anomander Rake. I. Just. Can’t. Believe. It. I just can’t. I don’t want to. He’s been pretty much up there for me as a fave character since the moment he first walked on-page. Y’all know how much I love him. And now... Damn. I actually cried when I read it. Proper full-on bawling. Especially because of the way that it happened, and who did it, and then the reactions afterwards.
I think Baruk’s hit me hardest. This intelligent man reduced to tears because a good man has fallen. His absence will be hard to bear.
In epic moments, I also love the meeting between Cutter and Karsa and the charge of the Hounds of Light (by the way, who *is* their master? Osserc?) And who else also teared up when Cutter introduced himself as Crokus Younghand? That was something I have been hoping for—that he would be able to start going back to the man he once was. At least I hope that’s what his claiming of his old name means.
And, damn! What about that quick mention of Dev’ad? Is he just dead then? What was the point to his story? I don’t quite understand.
And I’m afraid that is all you’re getting from me today. I need to mourn.
Erikson does a great job conveying a sense of scope of violence and chaos and randomness in these opening pages and also giving us some humor to break up what has come before and what is yet to come. We then get some nice emotional manipulation in the ensuing scene at the prison: the freeing of a prisoner (we think it’s one of our guys, rise in emotion), realizing it isn’t one of our guys and the prisoner dies (drop in emotion), the freeing of Barathol (rise in emotion), the rescue by Chaur (rise in emotion) and then the dying Chaur (plummet in emotion), Antsy cursing the loss of much of his gear (comic relief), Antsy’s painfully pragmatic diagnosis (drop in emotion), the arrival of the ox, who now thinks the world is right because he’s got a dead body to carry. I also love that wholly realistic moment when Antsy thinks they’ll get Mallet to heal Chaur. Of course he’s going to forget Mallet is dead now and then—that’s what happens with people you’ve been so close to for so long who are no longer around. Great tiny moment and reminder of the emotions at the core of these characters.
I’m less enamored of the Scorch/Leff scene as I don’t need to be brought away from my main characters here at this climax (long climax, but still), nor do I need more comic relief than I’ve already gotten. And it also reminds me that sometimes the relative power of all these creatures/people befuddles me—in that it’s hard for me to imagine the same Hounds we’ve seen in their effect on the walls and guards “flinching” from these two (wounded or not. In fact, the wounding makes me think the Hound would be more likely to attack—to take out its anger/frustration on these two). But as usual, I just note my dissatisfaction and quickly move on.
Our little boy Cutter is growing up! He shows some nice signs of mature insight here as he trots toward the chaos.
I like what happens with Chalice in these scenes, and the back and forth between her and Cutter, but I wish Erikson had let us make the connections with the moon and Challice ourselves rather than have her do so. I do think this character, looking at this moon and this globe, would have these thoughts, but the connections are so nice that I’d rather they weren’t laid out so fully for us.
“Dust of Dreams” Hmm, why does that sound familiar…
A tiny complaint, but I wish Kruppe hadn’t had the references to his waistline and wheelbarrow, which detracted a bit from the depth of what his happening, the sense of sorrow and tragedy he alludes to.
On the other hand, I absolutely love the scene with Raest. I’ll take Jaghut humor anytime. “I shall call it Tufty”—c’mon, one of the greatest ending lines to a scene in this whole series. Beyond the humor, I love what happens with Dev’ad. It’s such a fantastically anti-climactic close to a huge build-up: the buried ages-old creature with thoughts of power and vengeance brought back into the light of the world and setting out to gain just those two things. And now he’s in the garden and replaced quickly in thoughts by a dead cat named Tufty. Love it.
I also like the humor of Envy and Spite heading off to kill Rake and grab the sword even as each is already picking out the spot in the other’s body in which to plunge the dagger.
By now though, we should know that in these moments, these bits of humor are perhaps preparing us for something fraught with sorrow. And still, Kruppe is not yet weeping, despite all that has happened. What is going to come?
And here we have it perhaps—a confrontation between Rake and Traveller. One hundreds of Ravens settle to witness. Why?
Note that tone of Rake’s: “cold.” It seems an odd tone for him to take with Traveller. Unless he chooses that tone purposely.
OK, and minor point, but I feel I am missing something here. Hood is “close”—I get what Rake means and why Traveller senses him; he’s in the sword after all. But did I miss something with regard to Hood’s body? Is the assumption that since the body was a “manifestation,” it disappeared when Rake killed him? (Though so much was made of the god being physically “here” in the world.) Did I miss something happening with it? Because it seems Rake hasn’t moved and so I can’t quite get why Traveller isn’t going all “damn, is that Hood there? And there?”
“Rake’s gaze settle briefly on Dassem’s sword, and it seemed a sad smile showed itself”
“Samar saw the death blow… and somehow, somehow, it was all wrong.”
“[...] a single moment shaping a perfect cruciform”
“Cheated,” he said. “Cheated!!”
“Wrong. It was wrong.”
We’re being led to a pretty clear conclusion about what happened here in this fight. And of course, we also know there’s long been a plot underfoot, a “pact” as Kruppe has just reminded us of. And it seems pretty clear where this part at least is meant to lead—after all, we know what happens to those killed by Dragnipur…
We don’t get long to linger on this incredibly massive moment in this series though, for as Samar Dev says, this isn’t over. And as Kruppe makes clear, the universe spins on with little regard to such things. And so we’re quickly off—to an explanation of what happened to the moon—which offers us a bit of clarity (a bit) with regard to one mystery, even as it introduces another: who has sent the Hounds of Light to claim Dragnipur?
And then, another cryptic line: “Tulas Shorn [felt] a kind of blessing, alighting with faint, lilting notes of wonder. Tulas Shorn had never known that Hood, Lord of the Slain, could prove so generous. Or perhaps, it was nothing more than a Jaghut’s talent for anticipating the worst.” What sort of blessing did Hood give? Why to Shorn? What did Hood anticipate? (I think this also would seem to imply that Hood allowed himself to be killed and also knew Rake’s death would ensue)
Wasn’t this a Tennyson poem—the Charge of the Mules? Indeed, “When can their glory fade? O, the wild charge they mad! All the world wondered…” Oh, to see this noble spectacle, this fleet-footed attack… I know we get details like punches (albeit inadvertent) and jabbings of thumbs, and the like, but in my mind, I picture this as one of those slapfights with neither participant looking and neither wanting to get too close or too physical. It’s a great twisted reflection of the sword fight just witnessed between Rake and Traveller and the one we’re about to see the end of between Spinnock and Kallor.
And a nice pause to catch our breath after Rake’s death (Rake is dead. Holy shit. Rake is dead.) and before the convergence of powers continues, as we start to draw up the sides: Envy and Spite (and who saw those two on the same side) vs. the Hounds of Shadow; Cutter (or is it Crokus now?), Karsa, and Samar (and her bear?) vs. the Hounds of Light. But before we get to those confrontations and others, I’m glad Erikson doesn’t whisk us to far/quickly/wholly afield from Rake (Rake is dead. Holy shit. Rake is dead.) and gives us this moment with Baruk to show us true grief. Yes, this whole take is a grieving moment, but give us one in-the-moment concrete reaction before the rest of the stuff hits the fan.
And with Rake dead (Rake is dead. Holy shit, Rake is dead.), can you feel confident at this point as a first-time reader that any of these people are invulnerable?
And then it’s another epic battle (one also somewhat rigged, one also with a hidden agenda and a combatant who holds back) and further complication of the Kallor character. Does Spinnock see true into Kallor? Does Kallor claim otherwise out of anger and grief and having been at least momentarily revealed? Or is Kallor right and Spinnock sees what he wants to see?
After all this death and mayhem (Rake is, well, you know), it’s nice to see Spinnock healed. But we’re not done (I also like the thought of him leaving his sword). But just as we the audience are like “ahh, a moment’s happiness” wham! There goes Orfantal (though I’ve got to say, what the hell was he thinking just carrying Kallor around like that?). So much for the new and soft Kallor.
And we’re still not done (I’m going to hold off really discussing Rake till the end)…
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.