Fri
Oct 11 2013 11:00am

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Stonewielder, Chapter Four

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 four of Stonewielder.

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.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENES ONE–TWO

East of the city of Ebon, the Synod of Stygg (magic folk) meets:

  • Sister Esa
  • Sister Gosh
  • Sister Nebras
  • Totsin Jurth
  • Brother Carfin
  • Brother Jool

The Synod elements are clearly opposed to/by the Lady. One, Sister Prentall, was captured and delivered to the Lady, which clearly implies eventual death. Another, Brother Blackleg, seemingly drank himself to death. They discuss the need to vote on what they should do based on “the proliferation of signs and portents,” (perhaps including the strangely high tide this night). Jool reads the Tiles and sees “conflagration… All paths lead to destruction… This season will see the grasp of the Lady tightened beyond all release. Or shattered beyond repair.” Jool sees the Malazans coming and all agree this will be a season of contention: “The Lady. The Stormriders. The Invaders… The Elders/The First.” The believe “The Lady and the Invaders shall bleed each other dry and they [Stormriders] will finally prevail.” Totsin wonders if they should reconsider, but the majority agree they have tired of The Lady’s “protection.” They separate.

SCENE THREE

Leoman (yes, yes, he’s still Jheval but the hell with it I say. I’m making my stand!) and Kiska are hiding in a crevice trying to wait out a pair of Shadow Hounds and decide to have a share moment. Leoman tells her he left Seven Cities with a woman he’d hoped could be a true partner, but she’d been surprised that he cared nothing for the future, a trait he says he has retained. Kiska tells of how she’d joined the Claw thinking it was a “shining perfect example of what could be right in the world” but then found it to be as corrupt and stupid as everything else, dangerously filled with incompetents and people concerned only with their own advancement and so she walked away, “rather than be a casualty of someone’s self-seeking.” Leoman, deciding share time was over, jumps out to see if the Hounds are still there. They are.

SCENE FOUR

Rillish heads over to Admiral Nok’s flagship, thinking of all the rumors he’d heard of Greymane over the years and of how his reinstatement is further evidence of what Rillish had always suspected about Rel—he’ll do anything to win. He wonders if Rel sees the same quality in Greymane. He fears this meeting and is relegated to hoping Greymane won’t remember him. He has a sharing moment with Devaleth (there’s a lot of this going on seemingly). He tells her of his time in the first invasion when his group was caught by Mare warships off of Fist and hardly a fifth survived to shore, where they joined the Sixth army. There he was a witness to Governor Hemel’s court martial of Greymane and though he knew it was sketchy and that Greymane was merely becoming a scapegoat, he’d kept his mouth shut. He adds he thinks he’s going to pay for that when he meets Greymane, and she tells him she’ll do what she can, but reminds him she too is a traitor.

SCENE FIVE

On Nok’s ship, Rillish and Devaleth meet Nok, Fish Khemet Shul of the Eight Army; Swirl, commander of the Blue Moranth; Kyle, now Greymane’s adjunct; and Greymane. Greymane tells Devaleth she’s a welcome addition due to the lack of mages. She points out that’s because The Lady’s “influence” makes most mages useless, but not the Ruse mages of Mare. Her usefulness becomes quickly clear when she warns them Mare has been aware of them for some time and is already sending out warships. Nok asks Rillish to debrief them about Fist, which shocks him as his intel—the best they seemingly have— is almost a decade old. He tells of how he’d been given orders to reach the Malazan High Command and relates a journey that stuns all there: crossing the entire Bloodmare Ocean, a tragic landing on the island of the Seguleh, and then final delivery of his urgent communication. Nok reveals that the very classified message was evidence that the Sixth had named themselves Overlord of Fist and declared itself sovereign, and that this fleet is the punitive blow for that mutiny (though it means they must invade Korel to do so).

SCENES SIX–SEVEN

Ivanr marches with the Army of Reform. He asks about the many mysterious high-sided wagons being built and doesn’t buy it when he’s told they’re for supplies. As they march, he continues to search for the boy he’d picked up earlier, who has been pressed into the ranks. As Martal, or The Black Queen as she’s called, rides by, he thinks it odd that he’d never heard of such a commander out of Katakan, where she’s supposedly from. He’s joined by a Lt. Carr, who has been assigned to act as his escort. Carr tells him the army is escorting the refugees to Blight, where they hope that the population will be sparked by their ideas and goals. Ivanr has his doubts. Coming across a depressingly incompetent “training” session, Ivanr takes over.

SCENE EIGHT

Ussu is slicing up yet another man, helped by his apprentices Yurgen, Temeth, Seel, and Igor (OK, kidding on that last one). He needs the heart/essence of this man to reach his Mockra Warren, the only way he’s found to get power in Korelri, where The Lady drives magic-users insane or to the point of suicide. Accessing his warren, he sees a vision of devastation: “Shores scoured clean by a tidal wave invasion of sea-borne demon Riders. The land poisoned, lifeless. Cities inundated, corpses lolling in the surf in numbers beyond comprehension.” The corpse is suddenly possessed by The Lady, who tells him she’s tolerated his heresy because she feels he has potential. She tells him to come to the Dark Side. He tells her the Malazans are coming and they should join forces. She’s impressed he’s seen this (he, meanwhile, is relieved she doesn’t know about their prisoner) and says she allowed the Malazans to land before to bring “a renewed vitality to the true faith” thanks to the challenge they presented. When he asks of the Riders, though, she grows furious, saying “That Queen bitch has ever stood in my way.” She tells him again to accept her and when she starts to threaten, Urgen decapitates the body. He decides next time he’ll gag the victim first.

SCENES NINE–THIRTEEN

Goss tells the men what’s going on: that Greymane is in command and that a select few will be selected to fight with the Moranth Blues that will lead the shore assault (and get some loot maybe). The selection will be via tryouts with the Malazans fighting against the Blues. Kyle and Suth are intrigued; Pyke complains a lot. Their turn comes up and Suth tells Goss to swap for last so they can watch the Moranth fight and also so perhaps they’ll be tired by the time it’s the Malazans’ turn. The first group is taken down quickly and easily because they fought as individuals and not disciplined soldiers, something Suth has now learned the power of. Len gets Suth to realize “trust” is the key, and Suth accepts that. The next two squads lose, each doing better than the prior one, each fighting more smartly and more coordinated. Suth’s squad also loses, but does better than most of the others and is chosen with two others to cross over to the Blues’ ships. Suth realizes the Blues were looking for those that would fight as a unit and to the bitter end, which doesn’t seem to bode well for the upcoming battle.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Karien’el shows up drunk at Bakune’s house and tells him the Malazan garrison (with the Watch) is marching away tomorrow and the Mare fleet has been raised in anticipation of a new Malazan invasion. Bakune is confused that Malazans will fight Malazans and disgusted, Karien’el explains how the Sixth are traitors and the Malazans are coming for them. When Bakune asks who will enforce the laws, the Captain tells him the Guardians of the Faith, and he warns Bakune to be careful of them. He then shocks Bakune by telling him he thinks the Malazans will win the day, and if he (Karien’el) doesn’t return, Bakune’s files are still around; he hasn’t destroyed them as he’d been ordered. He also tells him the two escorts from the Watch are now assigned to Bakune’s office and they’re good reliable men; it was the best he could do. The Captain leaves and Bakune thinks he never really knew him.

SCENE FIFTEEN

Hiam’s aide, Staff Marshall Shool, wakes him to say Riders have been sighted across a wide front and skirmishes have been reported. As he dresses, Hiam wonders if the Stormriders know how weak the defense is, or if they’re trying to create a diversion away from the center. Outside, he orders “The Champion” (Iron Bars) moved out. Looking outward, Hiam sees the Riders moving closer.

SCENES SIXTEEN–EIGHTEEN

Corlo, in a cell with other prisoners, is ordered to attention and the men are unchained. He meets a Toblakai named Hagen, who says he is from the south, though Corlo can’t understand how that works, since south should be Stratem. Hagen has to carry Corlo, whose legs are too stiff and frozen to work right. They stop to pick up Iron Bars, who looks terrible, and then are brought to the wall, where Bars is brought to the lowest, outermost spot. Bars refuses to pick up the sword dropped at his feet, even when he is attacked by a pair of Riders. Instead, he disarms them and then the Riders drive them back with crossbows. The Chosen leader tells Corlo if Bars doesn’t fight next time, the Stormguard will kill him and put Corlo in his place. Corlo yells out to Bars that Seven of the Blade remain alive. Bars is shocked, and then when he is suddenly attacked, he fights and picks up the sword, pointing it at Corlo before turning back to face the Riders. Corlo thinks Bars will kill him if the Riders do not. Hagen and Corlo are dragged to the nearest tower and Hagen tells Corlo that Iron Bars reminds him of the Champion before Hagen—Traveller, who escaped. Corlo says he’s never heard of the man.

SCENE NINETEEN

Hiam is helped into a tower, near frozen. Shool says he stood two shifts and Quint, angry, replies someone should have come to get him. Hiam says he’s fine but Quint tells Shool he can’t let Hiam do this again; they can’t afford to lose him. Shool agrees and Quint leaves, with Shool thinking they may need to call on the Lady by season’s end, as things aren’t starting well.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

Heh, just to let you all know that I am a very active knitter, and so I don’t take it well when the knitter we’re shown seems a bit senile and odd! We’re not all old, grey and mad!

It is definitely a cute scene, though, with very active characterisation and a swift build by Esslemont of a very charming group. I especially chortled at the:

“I see conflagration.”

“Well...it is a fire.”

Although a neat little scene, it is clearly designed to create some foreshadowing about what it to come, what with visions and tile readings and whatnot. It seems as though the Lady and the Malazans are going to do battle, and leave the Stormriders free reign to… what? I mean, we have never known what their intent is. They’re always presented as being this evil force, but is that not more a matter of perspective and seeing it from a particular angle? I mean, we now know that we don’t like the Lady, right? What if the ultimate aim of the Stormriders is to bring her down—we’d be all in favour then, surely?

I forgot that Kiska was there on the night that the Hounds ran through Malaz City, when Shadowthrone and Cotillion ascended! That is going to give you a real respect for the Hounds, isn’t it? I doubt they are something you can just forget having seen.

I love the conversation between Leoman and Kiska as they hide from the Hounds and Leoman teases them with rocks. The idea of two people coming together where one feels ambition and the other doesn’t—well, that is the sort of incompatibility that would drive a relationship into the dust. This Leoman is so very different from the one we saw before, and I confess that it is difficult to reconcile them. It is one of the few occasions, I feel, where we are seeing some conflict between Erikson and Esslemont about how a character should be viewed. After all, did anyone ever think that Leoman could have given a boyish grin?

Now this Kiska I can finally get onboard with—she is one of the characters that I couldn’t ever have seen myself appreciating, but then she now says things like this:

“I came to see that many were only concerned with their own advancement and avoiding responsibility for mistakes, and I saw how this directly threatened the lives of those below and around them. Including myself. And so I walked away rather than be a casualty of someone’s self-seeking.”

Very intrigued to know about past events between Rillish and Greymane, especially considering Rillish is so worried about facing him:

“...the best he could hope for was that the man would fail to remember him. That would be the absolute best possibility. Otherwise… gods, how could he bear to face him?”

This sounds like anguish over something. We get a little bit of it as Rillish confesses to Devaleth that he chose to do nothing as Greymane was court martialed. Having seen Greymane in action, though, I could see him viewing this as pragmatism?

So the Lady is not able to interfere with mages who are involved with sea and the mysteries of Ruse? Might this give an indication why she wants the Stormriders put down?

Oh, now this is a sign of just how far Esslemont has come for me—and what a joy to see him improve to this extent. I loved the scene where Nok, Greymane, Rillish and the others meet to discuss the orders they have been given. I was breathless reading about Rillish’s achievements, especially on the island of the Seguleh. And then this ending:

“And so we fight not only an entire subcontinent, Marese, Korelri, Theftian and Dourkan, but Malazans as well. Traitorous Malazans. Gods below—are we enough for even one of these enemies?”

I think a lot of Ivanr for trying to seek out the boy that he brought in, and I feel bad alongside him at the idea that this boy has been drafted into the army. Not good, but not the first time we’ve seen children dealt with in this manner.

Heh, as soon as I saw Ivanr begin questioning the Army of Reform and the fact it seemed doomed to fail, I got a montage in my head of training, and improving the army—all set to some inspirational 80s power chords.

Ugh, not keen at all on Ussu’s method of gaining power—through sacrifice, mutilation, death. It is a very dark path, especially when shown with such a cool thought process: “Power existed here in the Korelri subcontinent. The followers of the Lady had access. And the source of that potential, he had discovered, lay in… sacrifice.” Also, not a great picture of the Lady—again.

Esslemont again emphasises the power of rumours as he goes back to Goss and Suth—how stories that, at their heart are true, are mangled into something entirely different.

Really enjoyed the battle scenes on the Lasana between the Moranth and those who have volunteered to fight with them. Also, linked back to the comments from a post or so ago, where we were talking about the Seguleh versus the Malazans, there is this:

“How was it that man for man, or woman for woman, no Kanese or Talian was a match for the Dal Hon warrior, yet years ago their tribal armies crashed like surf against the Malazan legion?”

It doesn’t look good that the Guardians of the Faith will be responsible now for peace keeping and authority—especially given what Bakune saw in his pattern of red dots.

It has to be said, this is the first time reading Esslemont that I have been caught up in the prose to the point where I find it difficult to pause and make comment. It is still harder than Erikson to have a lot to say because it is more simple and to the point, in my view, but it cannot be denied that it is very entertaining, especially bits like where Corlo expresses such incredulity at the fact his companion is a Toblakai.

What is it that Corlo has done to Iron Bars by saying: “Seven! Seven of the Blade!” Whatever it was, it seemed the only thing that has made Iron Bars snap back into fighting mode. And it seems terrible, from what Corlo then thinks: “From what I have done, Hagen of the Toblakai, there is no escaping.” It’s a stark and cold scene, this one on the Wall, and the Stormriders are pretty terrifying.

 

Bill’s Reaction

This “High and Mighty Synod of Styg Theurgists, Witches and Warlocks” doesn’t seem so high and mighty here, does it? What with the knitting, silver flask, one absentee picked up and probably killed by The Lady, the other absentee seemingly having drunk himself to death, and one of them living in a cave, um “subterranean domicile.” It’s a very charming introduction, I’d say and it does pique one’s interest as to where these folks will be going. What will their vote lead to?

We are getting a lot of omens and portents in this book, several visions by several characters. We’ve got Hiam’s references to an earlier vision of the total defeat of the Stormguard. The Queen of Dream’s discussion with Agayla. The reference here to the high tide and the final victory of the Stormriders. Stimins’ ominous exploration of the Wall’s weaknesses. Ussu’s vision of utter destructions, cities inundated, etc. Are we being set up for a twist on these visions, or is this foreshadowing? If the later, if it they turn out correct, are we diluting suspense here? Is it heavy-handed? Talk amongst yourselves…

Jakatakan. Yet another name change, referring to something we once knew by another name. (Malaz) At least here we get the familiar name right away.

Hard to picture Leoman in domestic squabbles. What sort of ambition did Dunsparrow have I wonder? Where is she now—trying to act on that ambition?

On the one hand, it strikes me as just a little too neat, but I do like the parallel in their stories, Kiska talking about joining something only to find it as corrupt/stupid as everything else, her refusal to “be a casualty of someone’s self-seeking,” both responses one could apply to Leoman’s time with the Whirlwind uprising. I think this is also goes a long ways toward explaining that difference in character we see between that Leoman and this one.

Tiny little thing I know, but I would rather have not had the Blue Moranth’s armor connected so directly to the sea—“His armoured plates shone with the deep blue of open ocean.” It’s the sort of thing I like to “get” on my own as a reader and while it is really minor, it makes me more aware of the writer at work.

I find Devaleth’s line about how the Mare mages “have turned our eyes to the sea” is why they can work magic without getting mind-wracked by The Lady. Would seem to perhaps explain why she also has a hard time with the Stormriders, creatures of the sea. But why that would be would be interesting to find out.

Devaleth’s already earning her money though I’d say.

I’ve always liked Rillish since we met him (at least, I think I have but it was a while ago), but you’ve got to like him even more now that we hear his back story. Remember, Devaleth is a water-witch and she’s impressed by his crossing the Bloodmare (and in a Skolati ship too! And we all know how awful those Skolati ships are. I mean, I’d never get on one). And then to land on Monster Island, um, Seguleh Island, and get off (and yes, he lost 30 marines, but we all know not losing all of them when facing the Seguleh is pretty damn good). And now it’s Swirl’s turn to be suitably impressed.

So I wonder what the cover story was about the Sixth, because it’s hard to imagine the army just up and disappears and nobody wonders/hears things. I’m thinking the Empire had to concoct something, maybe even going with the oldie but goodie—“they all drowned.”

So, do you think there were any high-level talks between the Malazans and Korel and Mare etc. along the lines of “we’re giving up on trying to invade and occupy your land—we just want to come in, take out our mutineers, and get out again”?

Mysterious wagons amidst an army alert! Remember back to the Chain of Dogs and some creative wagon use?

Speaking of mystery, Martal is a bit of one, with her funny nose and the fact that Ivanr had never heard of “any such military commander.” And she has a nickname: “The Black Queen.” That sounds kinda impressive.

Hmm, so his escort is a former acolyte priest whose family name is known. We know the priesthood is shaping up to be a player, is this a potential connection?

C’mon, admit it. When you first read the line about the trainees, you all just knew Ivanr was going to take over, right?

Well, here comes some of that “other, darker path” Ussu referenced earlier.

Nice little bit of foreshadowing with “Ussu once almost lost an arm to an entity that took possession of the corpse of a great boarhound.”

“The followers of the Lady had access. And the source of that potential, he had discovered, lay in sacrifice.” Connection to Bakune?

I think this is a bit of unfortunate ambiguity (though perhaps purposeful?), when the Lady says of the Riders: “I have no vision of them. She stymies me yet. That Queen bitch has ever stood in my way.” Is this the Stormrider Queen? Some powerful figure at their head? Or is this a reference to the only named Queen we’ve seen in this book—The Queen of Dreams? If so, is she linked to the Stormriders? Or is she merely a barrier to the Lady, hemming her in to her island so to speak, and thus the Stormriders merely the un-connected beneficiaries? And if so, whey is the Queen of Dreams so opposed to the Lady (well, besides the obvious blood sacrifice, driving folks insane, etc. etc.)

We’ve seen this referenced many times before and this little bit of auditioning to fight with the Moranth—this difference between fighting as individuals and fighting as soldiers. I’m not sure I needed it so starkly drawn, but I did like the little mini-battles and how they gradually changed and how we see Suth growing as this book moves forward.

So I mentioned earlier that some of Karien’el’s description could possibly be taken as an indication of his not feeling so thrilled about his job/actions. Whether that was intentional or not, we see here he clearly isn’t and it’s hard not to like the guy for this visit and his turning a blind eye to any of his people deserting , despite his bribe-taking etc. (and to feel for his benign disgust at how oblivious Bakune is) and hope he survives what is coming. And of course, that is completely amplified when he gives his big reveal, that all of Bakune’s work still exists. Go Karien’el!

But then, lest we feel too good for too long, we get to see poor Iron Bars. You’ve got to wonder when this poor guy is going to get a break. Perhaps Corlo’s news and his picking up the sword means the worm is about to turn. And at least we know help is on the way. And it’s hard not to feel a little more optimistic, even if it doesn’t pan out, to have a good-natured Toblakai around. That little mention of a previous escapee—Traveller—also keeps us hoping for good stuff coming.

Then again, the chapter ends with that “frigid wind” and yet another sense that things aren’t going to go so well for the Stormguard. Do we care about that though? Are these the guys we want to root for or against? We get a tease with the Stormriders, but wouldn’t it be nice to know more about them to gauge this a bit better?


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 fantasyliterature.com.

27 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Rel continues to make useful Imperial decisions. This is good for the Empire as Laseen had really messed things up. Also, as a contrast against Laseen's style, it seems pretty stark. None of this makes me actually like Rel as a person but, for a evil scheming pile of visciousness, at least he is our evil scheming pile of visciousness.
The stage for the sea battle continues to be set.
Nadine L.
2. travyl
No, I won't ever say anything good about Rel, and I still hope we'll see the end he deserves for his treatment of Coltain's Wickans.

And still out of topic, let me say how glad I am to have reached the stage of "re-Reader" and therefore refresh my memory with the chapter summaries. I wouldn't want to miss them.
Jordanes
3. Jordanes
@1:

You sure do display a dislike for Laseen! Did we read about the same person in RotCG? I would argue that whatever the success rate of her actions, she always had 'what's best for the Empire' in mind. I don't disagree that she didn't make mistakes, but what mortal doesn't. And you ignore the successes which she did have - conquest of Genabackis, taking down the Pannion Domin thanks to a pragmatic alliance. With the Wickans, she was left in an almost impossible situation - the Empire needed to be fed somehow after the plagues in Seven Cities.

And, of course, let's not forget (as it seems so easy to) that Mallick Rel himself had a personal hand in undermining her rule and the stability of the Empire.
Jordanes
4. Jordanes
Regarding the actual chapter, it's lovely to see how strong ICE's writing is getting here. As he flits from plot to plot, there are lot of different tones and atmospheres he must balance, and I think he's done it very well. The Stormwall genuinely makes me feel freezing reading about!

I'm not in love with Kiska/Leoman plotline, but it is good to see Leoman back. The discussions about how much he relates to the SE Leoman are interesting. He bears some similarity to the Leoman we see in the lighter moments with Corabb before they reach Y'Ghatan in the Bonehunters, but then he also seems in stark contrast to the very grim, clipped version we see interacting with Karsa in House of Chains. Perhaps his demeanour depends very much on the company he keeps!

Loved that moment with Karien'el revealing that Bakune's work hasn't been destroyed. Great touch.
Jordanes
5. Jordanes
And now we have it officially confirmed what happened on Korel. It seems the Empire has a bit of a tradition of armies turning 'renegade' (Onearm's Host, the Bonehunters, Malazans under Korbolo Dom's command during the Whirlwind, Paran's army disappearing, and now the Sixth), but only one of them (unless you count Dom's) actually had the balls to do it for real. All hail the Sixth! :D

Related to this, surely questions must be asked of how wise it is to put Greymane in charge. After all, what evidence do we really have that he was a good commander other than hearsay? He was ousted by his own command - a decision which must have had popular backing in order to succeed - after a campaign which had become hopelessly bogged down.
Sydo Zandstra
6. Fiddler
I have an off-topic question.

I just finished Orb, Sceptre, Throne. It was my first reread, and it is obvious that that book happens parallel in the timeline to what is happening in Dust of Dreams. Not because we wouldn't know, but because of the wow-factor there.

I have the feeling that reading the scene with Lady Envy and her dad at the end of OST would have spoiled some for me for a major scene in DoD as a first reader.

And apart from that, the rest just ties up Darujhistan after TTH, so it could easily be placed behind TCG.

Any thoughts on that? Bill? Bueller?

I'm whitening out the name. Please don't mention it, in follow up posts.

On a side note, in my opinion, OST is the best of ICE's work :)
Jordanes
7. Jordanes
I think really OST should go in between Dust of Dreams and the Crippled God, but at the same time you don't want to split those two up...it's a tough call either way. I don't think OST should be read before DoD, so either in between DoD and tCG, or after both of them - I would assume more people would agree with after both of them.

On a side note to respond to your side note - I thought OST was a shocking fall in quality after Stonewielder, by far my least liked of any of the books. Heh, shows how differently the same things can be perceived by different people :)
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
Jordanes@3:Yep, I don't think Laseen was a good Empress or a particularly nice person (a very interesting character though). We don't see the whole Genabackis campaign, so we don't really know if she was useful or a hinderance there.
The Wikkan disaster is a result of her mishandling of Seven Cities, so no credit there.
She did let Tay & co help in the Pannion situation. She should have listened to her better advisors more often.
That she was undermined by Rel is another sign of her unsuitability. She was a fine assassin from all accounts. Empress, not so much.
Sydo Zandstra
9. Fiddler
@ Jordanes:

Plot preferences I guess. I was never much interested in Korelri :)
Bill Capossere
10. Billcap
Yes, we placed OST after DoD and CG so as not to break those two up, which was both my preference (obviously Amanda doesn't know what ramifications there are, being a first-time reader) and also (I believe I'm recalling correctly) Steven's. Though I think all of us, including Steven, recognize there are different ways of doing things.
Sydo Zandstra
11. Fiddler
Thanks for the heads up Bill. I thought OST was going to be next. :)
Bill Capossere
12. Billcap
Yeah, it's been a while since we discussed. We should probably keep tossing out the schedule now and then. Here it is:

Dust of Dreams
The Crippled God
Orb, Sceptre, Throne
Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach
Blood and Bone
Assail ?
If people still want us around after Blood and Bone, and if we're still sane, we’ll tackle Forge of Darkness et. al.
Steven Halter
13. stevenhalter
@Bill:Well, none of us are sane--but that hasn't slowed us down and I'm sure we'll still want you around.
Brian R
14. Mayhem
@Bill
I'm with Shalter - it hasn't stopped us yet ... and heck, at this rate Amanda will be just as up to speed as we are when the Kharkanas trilogy finishes!
- -
15. hex
@12 Bill/Amanda,

If you guys keep posting, I'll keep reading. The existance of this reread project helped convince me to read Malazan in the first place. I owe you both for that!

@7 Jordanes,

I'm with you on SW vs OST. I'm most of the way through OST now, and I feel like it's a step backwards in ICE's writing. By the end of SW I felt like his writing had really come into its own. Gripping stuff! OST just isn't holding together as well for me despite my love for the characters, peoples and settings there-in. I've got 10% left. I'm really hoping he pulls it out.
Jordanes
16. Jordanes
@ 8:

Just to continue this discussion (I think Laseen must be one of the most 0ft-debated topics, probably because we have so few first-hand accounts)...

I'd say an argument could be made for Laseen being just as good (or bad) a ruler as Kellanved, who, let's face it, abandoned the Empire for over a decade. Who stepped up to continue running things (through personal ambition or otherwise) - Laseen. I would also argue that her attempted assassination of Kellanved was less to do with wanting to keep her throne and more to do with recognising the danger of a godly interest in the Empire bringing down the wrath of the other gods (see also the ban on cults within the army).

As for the 'should have chosen her advisors better' - we saw from RotCG that she expected to keep much the same Old Guard group as before, only to see them all 'drown' themselves in a fit of pique at her usurpation, before then destabilising the Empire still further in a misguided attempt to overthrow her (not realising that really it was their own time that had passed).

There's no way to know if the Seven Cities rebellion would not have happened under Kellanved or another ruler either - it seems to have been one of those things that was bound to happen sooner or later (the real error here was in the corruption of the army command - but who then chose Coltaine and later Tavore to campaign in Seven Cities?). Let's again not forget that it was the old Emperor who released the T'lan Imass in Aren, arguably the start of a rebellious feelings towards the Empire.

Were it not for Taya (and Possum's incompetence), who knows if Laseen might not have next taken down Rel a peg or two? Alright, that is pure speculation, but I do think Laseen deserves more credit than you give her.

Most interestingly, she is one of the very few characters in high command to neither seek nor have any access to 'divine intervention'. A mortal woman through and through.

Ahem, slightly off topic :)
Steven Halter
17. stevenhalter
As you say, one of the things that allows debate here is that we never got a point of view (or even very many on camera appearances) from Laseen so we don't know for sure what the reasons were behind what she was doing.

It is true that the Empire was really just a stepping stone for Kel on the path of ascendency. He has bigger fish to fry in the grand scheme of things. We can't go into all of those fish at this point, however. How much Laseen taking the title was a power grab vs. a caretaker is open for interpretation. Her paranoias seem to have gotten the better of her in a number of cases. The Old Guard didn't just vanish in a fit of pique; they also had very good reasons to believe they were in danger from Laseen.

There is uncertanty surrounding Aren. We have:
"'Who ordered the T'lan Imass into Aren? I shall tell you. Surly, the commander of the Claw, the woman who took upon herself a new name- '

Fiddler: 'Laseen...I have never before heard that assertion...There were no written orders - none found, in any case-'

Apsalar: 'I should have killed her there and then...these memories...they are so clear. I was...sent to Aren...to see the slaughter. To find out what happened. I...I argued with Surly. No-one else was in the room. Just Surly and...and me.'" - Apsalar, speaking from Cotillion's memories, and Fiddler DG, UK MMPB, p.195

"...the T'lan slaughtering the citizens of Aren. But, as even with that one, each disaster yields its truths. Laseen didn’t give that order, but someone did. Someone returned to sit down in that First Throne – and that someone was supposed to be dead – and he used the T'lan Imass to wreak vengeance on Laseen, to shake her grip on the Empire. Lo, the first hint that Emperor Kellanved wasn’t quite as dead as we would have liked." - Dujek Onearm MoI, UK Trade, p.685
I would tend to go with Cotillion's account here--Dujek wasn't in the meeting he is just supposing.

For Seven Cities, we encounter the problem of prophecy. If it was really ordained that 7C would rise and the events of the Whirlwind would unfold, then no Emperor could prevent them. But, there also seems to be some amount of non-deterministic free will involved in the Malazan world, so the particulars might have been changeable. Hard to say.

Laseen was certainly a mortal woman. Maybe no one could have done better--basically impossible to determine, but it does seem she didn't do well.
*Note edited to remove links that weren't appearing right. Sections gathered from the encyclopediamalazica.
Jordanes
18. Onlooker
@17

Recall also the quote from Onrack regarding humans in House of Chains Chapter 6:
“They are prone to mistakes . . . The Logros have killed them in their thousands when the need to reassert order made doing so necessary."

Which suggests they may have simply acted on their own to put down the rebellion leading to the subsequent confusion when trying to figure out who gave the order.

There might be more information there but I don't have my book with me, that quote was taken from the chapter summary from this blog.
- -
19. hex
@18

I don't exactly recall the context, but I want to say I remember reading that as a possible description of the slaughter that took place when the human rituals of d'ivers and soultaken got out of hand. I think it was Heboric who described the event toward the end of his jaunt with Baudin and Felisin in DG.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
@18:I also recall thinking that referred to the First Empire soultaken ritual getting out of hand and the Logros "dealing" with it. Not to say that they couldn't at any particular time slaughter people who they see as standing in their way.
Jordanes
21. Onlooker
@19,20

Agreed, I don't think it referenced Aren at all, but simply gives precedence that the T'lan Imass could have acted on their own at Aren.
Jordanes
22. Leoman(not of the flails)
Leoman, formerly of the Flails, is one of the most complex characters in the entire series, and one of the most human. This is why it is so difficult to understand his actions and behaviors. Remember that Leoman has had few that he could trust, and he witnessed, with his own eyes, the murder of one of the only people he believed in. Couple this with his feeling that he is reponsible for, or at least in his eyes he is, the failure to stop the assassination of Sha'ik Elder, and you can understand that he is a broken man. This is why so many people don't understand Leoman. Who could possibly be the same after watching ones world collapse around them? After watching the efforts of so many (himself included), their spilled blood and savagry, become not what was promised, but just a memory of senseless slaughter and of a dream surrendered? Once you have seen that all you do is doomed to failure, it is easy to see the point of doing nothing. Leoman does behave very much in character in this excellent story. Its just that his core has changed so drasticly, moreso than most other characters in this series.
Jordanes
23. BDG91
Honestly I think Leoman progression makes perfect sense--how would a man who hated responsibility act when freed from it and sent on a adventure? I think he'd act as Leoman acts in this book.

I honestly think Kellanvad was a good conquer or war time leader but a pretty shitty adminstator from what we've seen, good at empire building but terrible at keeping that power base strengthing without ritual culls of the noble classes. Lassen doesn't seem to be good at much except leading from the front and killing people which is really not a emperor's job. She also as brutal as Kellanvad without having all the resources of Kellanvad had at hand. Rel, being the slimy snake that he is, is a very good adminstator, and from we have seen so far is willing to grease a couple hands to keep the machine running. I fear for the Wickans, but with Su in place, I am not sure Rel can do much to them.
Philipp Frank
24. KillTheMule
@18-21: Is there any indication somewhere in the books which clan of the TI did the deed at Aren? Can't think of one myself...
Gerd K
25. Kah-thurak
@KillTheMule
Logros. These were the only ones Kellanved ever controlled as far as I remember.
Sydo Zandstra
26. Fiddler
Wether Kellanved really controlled them, remains to be seen.

I'm whiting the next out, since I am not sure if we already passed this in our reread.

.
Wasn't it Dassem why the T'llan Imass chose to follow Kellanved in the first place?
.
Sydo Zandstra
27. Fiddler
BDG91 @23 pointed out why, to me, Rel is a better Emperor. He's the better administrator.

Nevertheless, Laseen did recognize the threat behind the Pannion Domin, and broke off a conquering war and instrumented a peace between the Malazans and Brood/Rake's side. True, Dujek seemed to break his ties with the Empire, but the other side (or at least Rake) saw through that ruse, and accepted it for what it was.

But at this stage in the series, the Malazan Empire is no longer expanding. There aren't even that many Malazan armies left on Genebackis at this stage. That would make Rel a better Emperor at this moment, in my POV.


Re: Wickans
My personal impression is that the Wickans don't need to fear much from Rel, despite his hatred in DG. Somehow I get the impression that Rel used the Wickans as a reason to estrange Tavore (and the 14th) from Laseen, and to get her removed from the Throne. He has that now.

But that's a matter of opinion, I guess. And it'll be pure speculation on what he'll do with them.

sidenote: I did smile at the picture of Rel throwing a fit when Paran defied him and took off from Aren with Dujek's Host

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