Fri
Nov 22 2013 12:00pm

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Stonewielder, Chapter Nine

Ian C Esslemont Stonewielder Malazan Book of the Fallen 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 nine 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

SCENE ONE

Bakune sits in judgment of a trial in the Banith courts civil, and finds it hard to remain interested in the petty disputes being brought before him. He wonders why his fellow countrymen are choosing to pursue silly legal action while the Blue Moranth inhabit the city and young people are dying. Once court has been closed, Bakune meets with Hyuke who tells him that the Mayor has scarpered and he is the only candidate to take the role.

SCENE TWO

Bakune heads for home, noting that he is being treated differently by people depending on their disposition towards him and his new role. At his home waits Ipshank, who talks to him about the rumours concerning Yeull and the Roolian Army and the fact that Banith isn’t going to be relieved. Ipshank also warns that it seems Greymane is actually marching on Banith rather than Paliss, to link up with the Moranth fleet.

SCENE THREE

Kiska, Jheval and Warran continue towards the Whorl, only pausing to catch some fish that fail to excite Warran because they are too small. Kiska starts to watch Warran more carefully after seeing him sat facing the Whorl one night and thinking she could see stars and things through his translucent body.

SCENE FOUR

A dust storm comes upon Kiska, Jheval and Warran—but it is actually a huge swarm of bloodflies, a D’ivers that has dwelt in Shadow for a while. This being is heading away from the Chaos Whorl, and warns them that dangerous beings are converging on the Whorl, beings that even he would not consume. He also tells them to beware the Army of Light. Kiska and Jheval discuss the fact that Warran is hiding much from them, is cloaked, and Warran retorts by saying: “Why is it, I wonder, that it is always those with the most to hide who accuse others? Why do you think that is… Jheval?” This seems to imply that Warran knows Jheval is actually Leoman. Kiska dwells on the thought that the incredibly powerful D’ivers negotiated with Warran and had chosen not to attack them.

SCENE FIVE

Kiska, Jheval and Warran are taken by the Army of the Light, to a massive encampment, the largest gathering of force that Kiska has seen. Warran confirms that they are the Tiste Liosan, and Jheval looks rather ill at this news. The leader of the Tiste Liosan is Jayashul, who turns out to be the daughter of Osserc. She asks the three why they are there, and says that the Tiste Liosan are also there to explore the Chaos Whorl, something that she refers to as the Devourer and calls ‘him’. She says it has been summoned and is being sustained by a powerful magus, and Kiska worries this is Tayschrenn.

SCENE SIX

Back with Suth as they progress unimpeded across Rool. Pyke is now back with the squad, and there are rumours that he deserted to the Roolians in order to ensure he got enough to eat. Hmm… Suth asks Goss about his time in the Claw and Goss reveals that he left due to politics. Lard asks where they are heading and Pyke and Goss both say the capital, of course. Just as they all begin relaxing, they are informed that they’re being transferred to the command of Rillish, which Pyke moans about. Len talks to Suth about the fact that he thinks Pyke was crossing the river to reveal intelligence about the forces.

SCENE SEVEN

Kyle is back on his feet, albeit looking a bit battered, and is with Rillish. They head with fifty or so south away from the main column. As it turns dark they come to a valley with a single lit tent and Wess suggests they are there to parley.

SCENE EIGHT

Apparently Greymane has sent Rillish because a commander of the Roolian forces has asked for a meeting. But why did he send both Rillish and Kyle, wonders Rillish—it just makes the men think that Greymane has no confidence in his Fist. Rillish cannot find it in himself to hate Kyle though.

SCENE NINE

Goss and Suth are chosen to attend the meeting with the Roolian commander. Turns out it is Karien’el. Rillish establishes that “Baron” Karien’el is not presenting himself as a representative of Yeull. Karien’el makes it clear that they want to rid themselves of ALL Malazans.

SCENE TEN

We go back to Corlo, who is slowly fading through starvation and the knowledge that he betrayed Iron Bars so thoroughly. He just wants to die now.

SCENE ELEVEN

Corlo finds himself taken to a nicer room, and given food by someone called Jemain, who was First Mate on the ship that brought them there. Jemain tells Corlo about Shell, and that she came with others. Corlo requests that he ask about them. Jemain refuses to tell Corlo who is left of those who came together to the Stormwall.

SCENE TWELVE

Hiam heads out along the Wall to find Master Stimins, who, it turns out, has been hiding the fact that part of the Wall is being enveloped by ice. Stimins says that the sea is rising. Hiam pledges to provide additional resources to plug this section of the Wall (which, presumably, will include the Avowed).

SCENE THIRTEEN

Orman tells Ivanr, who is chafing at the slow progress, that the Priestess still lives and is in the hands of the Imperial Army. This is bad news because she is probably going to made an object death.

SCENE FOURTEEN

A sinister little scene, where Totsin murders Brother Jool, after the latter comes to him with concerns about a reading of the tiles.

SCENE FIFTEEN-SEVENTEEN

Ussu and Borun are travelling hard to Paliss, both of them suffering. They are informed that their new destination is Lallit on the coast. When they arrive, they realise that Yeull is based here and not at the capital. Ussu and Borun meet with the Overlord and are informed that he is abandoning Rool. Ussu asks whether they are capitulating, but Yeull says that they are, in fact, going to the real battle, which will take place at Korel. This is why Yeull has guaranteed manpower to the Korelri—so that together they can throw back the Stormriders and the Malazans, and then in the spring the grateful Korelri will aid them in retaking Rool.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

Bakune is most certainly one of the more interesting parts of this novel. I continue to enjoy watching him adjust to a new world, where his former viewpoints seem to be far too narrow. Here, for example, he is sitting in judgment upon a case that previously he would have found to be of interest, but now he struggles to think that it is important. As he thinks: “Our country is invaded by a foreign power, alien troops walk our streets, and our reaction? We attempt to sue them and each other.”

A timely warning from Ipshank that Greymane is probably heading to Banith. What was more interesting was Bakune’s thoughts regarding how the future might pan out in the event that no clear victor came from the coming confrontation. His reluctant admission that he would be the one to put forward the interests of Banith in this new order is humble and, I think, very different from how he might have acted when we first met him at the start of the novel.

Once again the interlude in Shadow/near the Chaos Whorl feels so oddly tacked on to the rest of the novel. I do like the side quest element of it, in that it provides relief from the other storylines, but, at the same time, it gives this novel a very odd balance of storylines and interest. The most intriguing part is most certainly Warran, and who he actually is, since he is obviously WAY more than what he seems—as shown by these little scenes that show his oddities.

What is this Army of Light, then? And why is it in Shadow? Seems distinctly odd. Is it related to the white hound, and the Tiste Liosan?

Alright, so we’re definitely being encouraged to remember Kiska’s encounters with this white hound, and the fact that she feels she can rely on it way more than either of her two male companions. Slightly heavy foreshadowing for something here, methinks.

Quick answers here—yep, Tiste Liosan, who are in Shadow to investigate the Chaos Whorl, which they refer to as the Devourer and imply that it is sentient. Hmm, we’re being encouraged to suspect that the Whorl is there as a result of Tayschrenn, but, honestly, I think this is a red herring and the powerful mage sustaining this Whorl is someone other than him.

Well, more mystery about Pyke and where he was… Seems as though this is something we’ll be finding out at a later stage, since it’s been brought front and centre for us to notice.

Pyke also seems to know a little bit more about where they’re heading than the regular troops i.e. NOT Paliss, but Banith. I wonder why their ultimate destination is being kept from them?

I just can’t see that Pyke is a traitor and was spilling secrets to the opposition. Although maybe I am being too kind here, thanks to him being a Malazan soldier, and them being pretty loyal on the whole.

So Karien’el is now presenting himself as a Baron, and negotiating with the Malazans!

I think the second half of this chapter is part of why I am struggling with this novel a wee bit. It all feels so disjointed and each little moment spent with the characters doesn’t seem like enough to really get to grips with their story. I know Erikson flits around a lot between characters, but that tends to be towards the end of the book once we’ve reached convergence and already have a strong grip on each of the plotlines. Here it is sort of coming together, but in a far more fractured manner that makes it more difficult to retain interest.

 

Bill’s Reaction

I also like Bakune’s growth throughout this book—from oblivious to more insightful, passive to active, as well as his move up the chain of power. His disgust at these litigations he’s now presiding over shows how he no longer is that once-oblivious man, his concerns for the future show he’s no longer passive. And so when Ipshank tells him to consider what might happen if there is in fact no overlord after all this, we get the sense that Bakune has been primed for being one of those to step in the vacuum and “guard the interests of Banith,” even as he is doing that now.

I’m planning on discussing it more at length in the whole book wrap, but I know what you mean about the Kiska storyline, Amanda. I’ll be curious as to folks’ thoughts on that at the end.

It’s probably not a moment of hallucination on Kiska’s part, that brief bit of time where she thinks she can see through Waran, “As if he were translucent, or wasn’t really there at all.”

A d’ivers of bloodflies—yum. And one fleeing what Kiska’s group is heading for—like Leoman, that wouldn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Nor does the d’ivers’ warning that they will face not only the Whorl but also “dangerous beings. Ones even I choose not to consume.” A surprisingly helpful and polite d’ivers of bloodflies, I have to say. One wonders if that’s simply its nature, or if one amongst their small group might fit that category. In that vein, Warran is clearly starting to assert himself these last few scenes as a person of knowledge and power. And even knowledge of “Jheval” it appears, by his intonation when he uses that name in context of people hiding things.

The Liosan are so much fun, aren’t they?

As for the sentience of the whorl and powerful mages, while Tayschrenn is certainly one possibility, recall where we last saw him and how he disappeared. From our summary:

A new mage suddenly appears next to Nait, says he cannot allow this, and attacks Yath with incredible force. They watch as Tayschrenn tries to send Yath through the rent, but then Heuk realizes Tayschrenn is standing right near Tourmaline and the munitions. Nait sees Kiska holding off three trying to attack Tayschrenn (Nait thinks they might be Veils). Blues, Ho, Treat, and Sept arrive as Kiska falls, but one of the attackers manages to strike Tayschrenn and then both Tayschrenn and Yath disappear into the rift.

Like with Bakune, I like this growth we see in Suth: “Looking back, he could hardly remember the brash youth who’d joined up so many months ago. Then his goal had been to challenge everyone he met… Now the last thing he wanted was to draw his sword in anger. He’d be happy if he saw no more action.” Our little boy is growing up.

Yep, another mystery to add to the mix—Pyke. It does seem a bit on nose, this discussion of him being a traitor if that in fact turns out to be the case. So is this misdirection? Or is Esslemont planning on us thinking it’s misdirection. Does he know we know he knows we know?

Poor Rillish is stuck in a pretty untenable position in this army. Greymane certainly isn’t treating him great. Though I think Kyle is more on the positive side than the negative, when Rillish tries to figure out his behavior.

“Baron” karien’el. Worth a chuckle or two. As is his smooth offer and evidence of neutrality. Corrupt, sure. But I kinda like this guy.

Things are definitely quickening, and I think this swirling movement around the various players is meant to both express that and also add to that sense of quickening pace. But I know what you mean Amanda. I’m generally (not always, but generally) not a fan of dipping in and out of scenes/characters in brief fashion and while I’m not super bothered by it here, I remain not a huge fan. The Totsin scene I don’t mind so much as I see that as secondary anyway (though important), but I’d like to be spending a bit more time with other characters. That Totsin though; one has to hope for some comeuppance there. And more than Jool’s tease of a prophecy, which I’m also not a huge fan of, though I did like this little scene otherwise. And this overall small sidestory, with Totsin trying to knock folks off one by one—adds a nice bit of serial killer suspense. The rest of these though are just sort of putting things in place plot-wise and aren’t really adding to what we as readers know, though what we know is being disseminated to some of the characters via others.


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.

11 comments
David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
Regarding the D'ivers, it seems remarkably similar to the one we saw back in Deadhouse Gates. I can't remember exactly but didn't the Azath swallow the bloodfly D'ivers from that novel?
Brian R
2. Mayhem
Heh, beat me to it. Yes, the blood fly d'ivers was taken by the azath at the last with the assistance of the Hounds. An interesting callback nonetheless - this one seems far from the thunderstorm cloud of the previous - if the same, it appears it learned humility the hard way...
Tufty
3. Tufty
It did kind of annoy me that Esslemeont's insectoid Azalan is completely different from how they were depicted in HoC.
Ryan Dick
4. Wilbur
This book frustrated me to read. I know I have said this before, but about every fifth episode of your review reminds me again. The book contains interesting concepts, worldbuilding, characters, situations, and potential conflict, and the author has clearly thought how and where to bring these disparate aspects together well.

On the other hand, reading the book is a very "muddy" experience, as noted in the last chapter's review. Greymane's Fourth Army runs up against the mutinous Malazan Sixth supported by Moranth in a mountainous pass with a deep river spanned by a huge wooden bridge! Greymane distrusts some of his proven commanders and relies upon an unproven Adjunct! The Sixth and their Moranth are in conflict with the Envoy! An assassin appears, a god intervenes, Suth barges around, members of his squad disappear and reappear! I wanted to really be drawn into this world, but the actions all happened in a sort of neutral emotional state, and without a strong character or viewpoint that really draws me into the scene, and thus it all feels "muddy".

In this chapter, we again get Kiska, Jheval and Warran on their "adventure" from a 1970s late-New-Wave fantasy novel, and I just can't care about what happens to them. Is it because Tayschrenn has been portrayed as either an ass or a traitor or a remote, passive figure in previous books? Is it because Jheval of the Flails doesn't seem to be the same guy as Leoman? Is it because I can guess who Warran is, but none of his actions seem important in terms of the overall storyline of the Book of the Fallen? Is it because they interact either with irrelevant beings (various random demons, etc.), annoying beings (the Tiste Liosan have never come off as interesting or charismatic), or incommunicative beings (the capital-H Hounds)?

Then we have Bakune, who is warned that Greymane is coming. Minor spoiler, but this book contains a lot of what I consider to be loose ends; hints and an entire Checkov's Armory that (for me) never really seem to pay off. Unfortunately I end up identifying most closely with Karien'el and Totsin by the time the book concludes - they aren't nice guys, but at least they seemed to have clear goals and take specific steps to achieve them without a lot of inner turmoil.

In this book there are several sets of characters whose inner conflict and failure to communicate with each other "drives" plot points, and I find that sort of set up quite unsatisfying. Included in these groups are Hiam-Stimmins-Quint, Greymane-Devaleth-Rillish-Kyle, the Styggian witches, Ivanr-Martal-Beneth, and Corlo-Iron Bars. I have a limited apetite for a fantasy novel in the style of Harold Pinter.

So for me the author has done a good job of creating identifiably different characters, and some quite thrilling situations and set pieces, but never quite brings them into my personal focus of interest. It is like hunting with a rifle that includes a scope that you can't quite bring into a clear field of vision. You know that your game is out there, and you can kind of tell it is moving around into exciting positions, but you can't ever in good conscience squeeze off the shot.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
Kiska has a good description of the Liosan:
Hood-damned humourless methodical military order.
Keeping a sense of humor in the face of mind melting world changing events seems like a really useful traits. Think about how the Malazan sappers operate. Kind of the opposite tack to the Liosan.

And, Warran sums up quite a useful statement with:
‘Shadow is everywhere,’ Warran replied, rather smugly.
Gerd K
6. Kah-thurak
I think it is pretty clear who "Warran" actually is. What I dont understand is why Esslemont actually had to "disguise" him. He does this all the time. Malakai in OST, the "Warlord" in Blood and Bone.... I fail to see what is gained by it.
Brian R
7. Mayhem
@6
In this case I think Warran is disguised because he wants to be disguised - he's working undercover for a reason, if not necessarily one we understand at this point. His characterisation I'll talk about after the reveal, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Orjin/Greymane & Jheval/Leoman would be a better fit for your arbitrary rename theory - I can understand the logic behind it but it seems very arbitrary in text. Probably the character should have gone by "Orjin" to the outside world but "Greymane" in internal dialogue, but that might be more confusing still.

I have no idea who Malakai is supposed to be other than a claw, and the "Warlord" in B&B is also hiding his true identity for a very important reason, much as Warran does, which we shouldn't really go into here.
Ryan Dick
8. Wilbur
Who was Malakai supposed to be? I never realized he was someone we had met previously.
Amanda Rutter
9. ALRutter
Just a heads up that Bill and I are breaking this week for Thanksgiving. The next Malazan post will be the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
Tufty
10. aaronthere
@Kah-Thrurak

It seems to me that a general rule here is if a character is disguising himself from the other characters in the novel, chances are he is disguised from the reader as well.

This is a trope used not just be Esselmont but by Erickson as well, most notably with Bugg/Mael (hidden but with many clues) and The Errant(kind of an out of nowhere surprise) in Midnight Tides.

Why would a character want to remain hidden to/from others? A running theme in this series is that power tends to attract power, and there are many times that the attention isn't wanted. We see many characters learn the hard way that the attention of the gods usually leads to trouble.

We are told much earlier in the series that the reason Shadowthrone doesn't sit on the Throne of Shadow is because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself. (Remember when we as readers didn't know that Shadowthrone wasn't Kellanved? It seems so long ago:)

I hope this makes sense/sheds some light.
Tufty
11. aaronthere
that Shadowthrone was Kellanved! arrgh!

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