Wed
Apr 16 2014 11:00am

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Dust of Dreams, Chapter Eighteen

Malazan Book of the Fallen reread Steven Erikson Dust of Dreams 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 eighteen of Dust of Dreams.

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

Yan Tovis enters Kharkanas, which is lifeless and overgrown but still surprisingly well preserved. As she walks, she thinks how she and her brother are so different—she seeing indecision as a “way of life” and her brother being exactly opposite—two people “meant to stand together… like counterweights… and in that tense balance they might find the wisdom to rule” their people. She realizes she needs him. Her vanguard follows behind, led by Pully and Skwish, Brevity and Pithy. She tells the latter to get the people settled but not spread out, then heads to the Citadel to find Yedan Derryg.

SCENE TWO

The Great Hall is in partial ruins and Yedan can feel old magic still in the place. He moves through and into the temple, the Terondai and recalls the legends of the place: that darkness was “absolute [and] only the true children of the Mother could survive in such a realm,” but that “Light seeped in with the wounding of the Mother—a wounding she chose to permit… and then the birthing that came of it.” As he dismisses the legends as “likely little more than nonsense,” he notes the lack of valuables in the area and finds it odd is people’s legends had made no mention of looting, since their ancestors had supposedly been there at the end, though he wonders what their role was: “Who in the name of the Shore were we? Their damned servants? Their slaves?” He wonders too about their titles and what it is they claimed to rule. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Twilight, who tells him to get his horse out of the temple. She’s surprised at his suggestion they occupy the city, and he replies that it was once their home and it is their destiny to make it so again. But she says none of their legends said they ruled there, and so they will move on to the forest and past, to “where it started. Our true home. The First Shore.” When he replies they don’t even know what that means, she says they’ll at least finally find out.

SCENE THREE

Yedan and Twilight leave the chamber. Something weird happens there.

SCENE FOUR

Brevity and Pithy find the two witches sleeping/dreaming.

SCENE FIVE

Sandalath flashes back via a dream. At the edge of the temple, she looks down on Newly-Blind Gallan, who has just gouged out his own eyes so as to return to the world of darkness. She sends Orfantal (her son) off to find a priestess. She wakes to the line, “What’s broken cannot be mended. You broke us, but that is not all—see what you have done.” She wakes and Withal asks her what was broken, having heard her speak in her sleep. Upset, she wanders off, thinking some one of the ancient races should have seen the threat of humanity and nipped it in the bud. She wonders why the Nachts had attached themselves to Withal, what their connections to the Crippled God and to Mael are, and why they are currently digging a hole. Withal asks her about her past, and she tells him to read Forge of Darkness and its sequels. OK, actually, she tells him, “There were factions—a power struggle… for generations… everything changed… Alliances, betrayals, war pacts, treacheries… I was a hostage… Everything was breaking down.” And she thinks to herself, “We were supposed to be sacrosanct.” She says none of it matters, she can’t go back to it anyway. They continue on toward Kharkanas.

SCENE SIX

Sandalath flashes back to Orfantal asking why Gallan is eating his eyes. She thinks Gallan should have eaten his tongue, since “if we said everything we could say to each other, we’d have all killed each other long ago.”

SCENE SEVEN

“Taralack Veed” thinks how because he had felt bad about hurting someone, he has turned that bad feeling outward rather than inward. Recalling he has killed, he now thinks he will kill again. He enters the K’Chain Che’Malle city where Icarium is.

SCENE EIGHT

Sulkit the drone works on the city’s mechanisms as the ghost worries over Veed’s entry. The “others” argue over whether to continue or stop, and Taxilian says, “We must let this happen… in what the drone does we will find our salvation.”

SCENE NINE

“Veed” “kills” “Nappet,” tells the “ghost” that it was he who summoned “Veed,” and demands the “ghost” lead him to the “others” so he can “kill” “them” before we all drown in air quotes.

SCENE TEN

Torrent feels his hate growing, and Olar Ethil tells him she has been “feeding it” because it amuses her, but it has always been inside him. She feels a gate cracking open and says, “the road will welcome what comes through. And such a road!” They head for the Spires of the Awl’s legends.

SCENE ELEVEN

Toc has been missing for days, and the group heads east as that was the direction Toc had been leading them.

SCENE TWELVE

Yedan and Yan Tovis head into the Blackwood Forest, each of them feeling intense pressure building into pain as they near its end, such pressure that they begin to bleed from their eyes and nose. Yedan tells her it isn’t what awaits them but what lies behind them—“Kharkanas is empty no longer.” She wonders of Mother Dark has returned as they continue on to arrive at the First Shore.

SCENE THIRTEEN

As clouds move in, the Akrynnai and Barghast battle begins. Strahl stands before the Senan and declares: “Bakal… Onos Toolan. Before him Humbral Taur. We came in search of an enemy. We came seeking a war… Not this enemy! Not this war!” He leads the Senan away from battle.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Maral Eb is bummed.

SCENE FIFTEEN

Sceptre Irkullas is not.

SCENE SIXTEEN

Sekara is angry. And pragmatic.

SCENES SEVENTEEN—TWENTY-TWO

The clouds arrive. Everyone dies.

SCENE TWENTY-THREE

Veed kills Asane, Last, Sheb. Sulkit has finished his work and is now a J’an Sentinel. Veed kills Rautos and then “talks” to Feather Witch and Taxilian, telling her Icarium had tried to do what K’rul had, create warrens. Icarium had wanted to “trap him [self] in time.” Feather Witch and Taxilian disappear, and Veed tells Icarium the Sentinel sees only him, “The Nest is ready, the flavours altered to your tastes.” Icarium feels “reborn” and steps forward to take control of the Nest.

SCENE TWENTY-FOUR

Yan Tovis and Yedan look on the First Shore. The beach glows and as they examine it they realize it is made of bone, not sand. The sea rises like a wall, but rather than water it is light. Yedan says, “Memories return. When they walked out from the Light, their purity blinded us. We thought that a blessing, when in truth it was an attack. When we shielded our eyes, we freed them to indulge their treacherous ways.” When Yan Tovis interrupts to say she knows the story, he responds that they know it differently as the Watch “serves the Shore in its own ways.… The Queen is Twilight [and] is the first defender against the legions of light that would destroy darkness. But we did not ask for this. Mother Dark yielded and so to mark that yielding, Twilight relives it.” She wonders how they could have been so superstitious back then, pointing to the sea and saying, “This is the true border of Thryllan… The First Shore is the shore between Darkness and Light. We thought we were born on this shore… but that cannot be true. The shore destroys.” He asks her why there are so few Liosan, why Light is so weak in all the other worlds. She answers that if it were not there’d be no life. He says he can’t say, but he believes that “Mother Dark and Father Light, in binding themselves to each other, in turn bound their fates. And when she turned away, so did he. He had no choice—they had become forces intertwined, perfect reflections. Father Light abandoned his children and they became a people lost—and lost they remain.” When Yan Tovis says the Andii escaped, he agrees, telling her they were the means: “In Twilight was born Shadow.” But she argues that makes no sense, because “Shadow was the bastard get of Dark and Light, commanded by neither.” He tells her though it is everywhere and it was shattered, that the bones on the beach belong to the Shake: “We were assailed from both sides… Shadow was first shattered by the legions of Andii and the legions of Liosan. Purity cannot abide imperfection. In the eyes of purity, it becomes and abomination.” When she responds that Shadow was the realm of the Edur and had nothing to do with the Shake, he calls the Edur, “our very own bastard get.” He continues to explain their background: Scar Bandaris, the last prince of the Edur. King, I suppose by then. He saw in us the sins not of the father, but of the mother. He left us and took all the Edur with him. He told us to hold, to ensure his escape… I wonder if the last of us left set out on his trail with vengeance in mind, or was it because we had nowhere else to go? By then, Shadow had become the battlefield of every Elder force, not just the Tiste—it was being torn apart… every territory… warrens. Every world was made an island, isolated in an ocean of chaos… The Watch… held until we were told to withdraw… The Road was open then.” She tells him it was opened by Gallan, the Seneschal of the Court of Mages, ordered to do so by Silchas Ruin, who saw how few Shake remained, saw the destruction, and dropped his broken Hust sword on the Shore. When Gallan arrived, his companion an Andii woman, he told the Twilight that Darkness had left for new worlds, and that Ruin (“Winged Grief”) had commanded him to make a road for the survivors and charge them to remember the day. Yedan asks what happened to the sword, and when she says Gallan’s companion threw it into the sea, he says it would have healed by now, and that the Light would have rejected it. He goes in search, telling her they can go back to the city once Mother Dark has fully returned.

SCENE TWENTY-FIVE

Olar Ethil wonders what Errastas will do now. Torrent points out some odd carriage tracks that seem to appear from nowhere. She says they’ll worry about it later, then says “The First Temple’s a mess… We have to move on, find another.” They head onward.

SCENE TWENTY-SIX

Sandalath collapses at the bridge of Kharkanas and the Nachts disappear, blood running from her mouth as she repeats the same line about being broken. She recovers a bit and tells Withal Mother Dark is back. As Withal goes to get water, he complains aloud about the gods “fuck [ing] with a thousand million lives” and tells them to “get lost,” adding at the end, “As for my wife, hasn’t she suffered enough?” A voice in his head tells him yes.

SCENE TWENTY-SEVEN

The Barghast-Akrynnai battlefield buckles and heaves, weapons explode, the earth splits, the air itself opens. A figure steps out amidst chaos and lightning and a vortex of flesh and destruction. A sword, “bleeding darkness,” forms in his hand. He looks around at the scene, says, “Ah, my love. Forgive me,” and heads out.

Draconus is back.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

I love this idea of Yan Tovis and Yedan Derryg being equal and opposites of one another, so that leadership of the Shake is conducted through a combination of indecision and absolute certainty. This balance—with each exerting force on each other—seems to be a good way of making sure that any bad decisions can be negated:

“They were meant to stand together, meant to fix pressure each upon the other like the counterweights at either end of the bridge, and in that tense balance they might find the wisdom to rule.”

I do envy those of you who have read Forge of Darkness, because it seems that this passage where Yedan walks into the ruins of the Citadel will be ripe with foreshadowing and little things to pick up and enrich the reading of both books.

Of course, for the first time reader, it just opens up a swathe of questions as to what exactly happened in this place, especially with things like this being written:

“Currents of power still drifted in this place, thick with discordant emotions. Horror, grief, black rage and terrible agony. Madness had descended upon this citadel, and blood had drenched the world.”

Hmm, the Azathanai—is there some link here to the Azath Houses? And was it the Azathanai that caused Mother Dark to bring forth light and shadow to accompany darkness and create balance: “Without ground, there can be no sky?”

In fact, first with the nature of Yan Tovis and Yedan Derryg’s balance of leadership, and now this reference to the ideas of the Azathanai, we are being pushed towards the idea and nature of balance, with equal and opposing forces. And it is certainly something that has been occurring throughout this book, talking about chaos and life, magic and otataral etc.

Pithy and Brevity do make me smile—in a dark way, obviously!

“What should we do?”

“I’m tempted to bury them.”

“But they ain’t dead.”

“I know. But opportunities like this don’t come every day.”

Ugh….. Gallan ate his eyes?! In front of Sandalath’s son?

Looks like we have way more to learn about Sandalath, going by her whole “And that is the bitter truth. I have not mended. After all this time…” What broke her?

We’ve seen this view of mortals before, right back in Gardens of the Moon, I think—the idea that they’re so far beneath the ascendant and gods walking among them, and yet have the power to effect change and cause disruption.

“More to the point, if the rest of us hadn’t sneered in our idle witnessing of their pathetic efforts—if we’d wised up, in fact, one or all of us would have wiped them out long ago. Tiste Andii, Jaghut, K’Chain Che’Malle, Forkrul Assail.”

Interesting that we’re seeing all of those players starting to emerge in different storylines. And also interesting that nothing is mentioned by Sandalath of the T’lan Imass.

Is Sandalath sensing the awakening of Mother Dark when she says: “But… somewhere far below the surface, in depths unimaginable… something moves”?

Hmm, so it seems that Icarium has “resurrected” Veed in order to sort out the various personalities within his head?

Why does Olar Ethil need people to hate? Does she think that this will drive them to vengeance more surely? And vengeance against who or what?

I must confess, I was quite surprised by the Senan being led away from the field by Strahl. I mean, I’ve been hoping to see some sign that these Barghast are not just mindless and heartless barbarians—I don’t know if this is actually what I’m looking for, but good to see the most despicable of the Barghast left high and dry when the Senan leave!

These fight scenes are short, sharp and fantastically written little glimpses into the overall chaos of the battle. I also like how we’re starting to see hints that all is not quite right—the arrows punching through armour they should never have penetrated, the frost burning into people’s eyes, the bowstrings shivering into sparkling dust. Something is coming. Something is happening.

It is especially chilling to see Marab El fused with the body of the soldier he has just been fighting.

Oh, this is just superb: “Thousands of warriors frozen in the clinches of murder, as if a mad artist had sought to paint rage, in all its frayed shrouds of senseless destruction.” What perfectly chosen words.

I am glad that Icarium is sort of put back together again now, because I would prefer his storyline to become more focused than simply a bunch of ghosts wandering around.

Umm. That is mostly what I have to say about the conversation between Yan Tovis and Yedan. Umm. There are bits that seem to be something I should recognise and put together with other things I have read in the series, but altogether, it’s pretty mystifying.

And, hell, THAT is the way to end a chapter! Draconus’ return is so suitably badass and epic.

 

Bill’s Reaction

We’ve had a lot of references throughout the series, but especially lately (just last chapter for instance, with the newly risen T’lan Imass) to the false nature of stories and legends, of “history,” and we see this again with Yedan, as he recalls the “history” or stories of Light and Darkness and then thinks of them as “Secret legends, likely little more than nonsense.” History has always been a shifty thing in this series, and we would be wise as readers amongst all the references to past characters and deeds to keep that in mind. As we eventually work our way through to the Forge of Darkness series (in, you know, 2021), we will see in more concrete form just what might have been lost, twisted, or gained with regard particularly to the Tiste, the Shake, the Edur, etc. For those who are have read FoD and who do not want to wait until then, the spoiler thread is probably a better place to discuss the Shake history that gets referenced so much in this chapter, though that’s just a thought and not any sort of decree from on high.

We already know as readers that Mother Dark is not gone, so when we see that hint of something entering the temple, and hear what sounds like a sob, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise later in the chapter when Yedan tells Twilight that Mother Dark has returned. Though the question, of course, becomes what does that mean? For the Tiste Andii. For the Shake. For Sandalath on her way and who if you recall from Chapter Two and Fiddler’s reading was named “Queen of Dark.” And for all the godly machinations going on.

And speaking of Sandalath, there’s a lovely memory we flash back to, huh? Not sure I needed the eating of the eyes, or the hacking them back up, though it does give a nice segue into the poet should have eaten his tongue, but still. And I can’t recall if we’ve had this wholly confirmed or not, but just in case, we do get the confirmation that she is mother to Orfantal (and thus to Korlat).

What has Sandalath not mended from? And will she ever? Nearing the end of this series, there is not a lot of time for a mending, meaning she will probably either heal somehow, or that brokenness will play some part (one would assume a la Chekhov’s Gun).

Based on Sandalath’s musings on humans and the Elder races, none of them ever heard the “He had high hopes” song about the ant and the rubber tree plant. They all had their chance to knock out the humans and didn’t (interesting she leaves out the Imass).

“Cute” is just not a word I associate with Sandalath.

Her description of her life as a hostage, when she says, “We were supposed to be sacrosanct,” would seem to imply some sort of violation of a pact that hostages were not to be harmed.

I know people have mixed feelings about the Icarium storyline. I kind of like it myself. I like the conceit of the various parts in his head acting as if they are alive with part of Icarium being the “ghost” flitting around. And then the “healing” that takes place when the extra personalities are conjoined and suppressed via being killed by Veed. There’s a nice bit of metaphor and symmetry to it. And I like how rather than just have them be empty vessels, just the conceit, they become actual characters rather than throwaways. And are employed in the service of theme as well, as in Veed’s insight into how all too often we turn the anger that should be directed against ourselves outward, or how Last gives us yet another lesson in environmental destruction with the horrid imagery of the clear-cut land and the idea of extinction, another especially hard-hit thematic thread in this book. I like that clever move in contrasting reactions from Last to Sheb in terms of one finding his extinction “deserved” and “justice” and the other fleeing in the surety that he didn’t deserve what was coming.

It seems Olar Ethil is collecting/making a lot of haters—Tool, Toc, Torrent (hmm, or maybe she’s just collecting folks whose names start with T?). One has to wonder why.

What gate does she refer to “cracking open”? We’ve had several mentioned in this book.

It’s an interesting echo we get of images—Torrent pictures a Letherii standing atop a pile of bones (his own face a skull) and Setoc pictures Toc standing atop a mountain of bones.

So I’m pretty sure when I read this the first time, I had a pretty good idea what the Senan were going to do. Was anyone surprised at Strahl leading them away from the fight? Even though I wasn’t surprised, I found Strahl’s speech and the shout at the end a nicely effective touch. Maybe we’ll have some Barghast to root for?

I also liked the misdirection, somewhat, of the focus on the clouds and the storm, as we think we know what’s coming but it turns out to be something wholly different (if I’m reading this right). We think it’s going to be the same sort of “clouds” or storm that struck that last battle scene, the same clouds that have wiped out others on the plains, but instead it turns out to be a different cause—Draconus stepping into the world (more on him later). It’s nicely played out to toy with what has already been set up. I also liked how the scene and suspense over what’s happening is increased via the quick shifts among POV, never letting us linger enough to get a full sense of what’s happening until the very end. Especially the way we don’t know if Irkullas is actually seeing/hearing a “figure emerging from the darkness”—is this another soldier? A hallucination? Death? A good use of structure.

OK, as mentioned, I think those of us who have read ahead might want to have the discussion of what Yedan and Twilight find and converse about in the spoiler thread, or at least, be somewhat circumspect as to what we say. But I’d be curious to see what first-time readers make of this conversation. It’s been a long, long time obviously, but I’m pretty sure I was mostly completely lost when I read the first time. The concrete parts were the Gallan opening the road at Ruin’s command (not necessarily knowing why, but just that it seemed easy to understand the “what” in that bit as opposed to the whole Mother Dark/Father Light, Edur-Shake-Andii thing. The other bit that seemed pretty concrete was that Ruin had a kickass sword that can “heal” itself. And after seeing Yedan deal with the Liosan and FA earlier with his normal weapons, you just have to be rooting for him to find the “Hust sword” on this beach.

Hmmm, where’s that carriage going?

C’mon, seriously. Give me that Draconus scene on the big screen. Please. That’s got to be on the top ten cinematic scenes in this series. And a return like that, a character like that, has to end a chapter. And get short sentences, each one driving home with impact. Each shorter than the other, until you get just his name. Great ending. Great ending. A formidable character obviously. A name to cause a lot of quaking in fear. But still this is, one assumes, a Draconus changed by his long tenure in the sword and especially by the events at the very end. As evidence of this, perhaps, we are given a Draconus who enters with an apology on his lips. To Mother Dark? Maybe for Rake’s death? Maybe for past events? Maybe even for all the dead crunching underfoot?

This has been a book of rebirths/returns/reawakenings: Draconus back in the world, Mother Dark returning to Kharkanas, the Shake returning to the Shore, Tool returning as a T’lan Imass, the other Imass rising, Jaghut fighting in the world again, beasts entering the world from another, Killy and Sechul Lath back meddling. Hints of others possibly—dragons, the Otataral Dragon. Lots and lots of folks coming back. Any more to come? This could be one heck of a convergence…


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.

23 comments
Sydo Zandstra
1. Fiddler
Bill:

The other bit that seemed pretty concrete was that Ruin had a kickass sword that can “heal” itself. And after seeing Yedan deal with the Liosan and FA earlier with his normal weapons, you just have to be rooting for him to find the “Hust sword” on this beach.

Amen.


This could be one heck of a convergence…

Understatement ;)



This is one of my favourite chapters in the series. We have known Draconus to be trapped in Dragnipur since GotM, and we knew at some point Dragnipur would be broken, knowing the consequences of that: Draconus returning as a Player.

With Draconus being freed, of course there was the risk of a lot of Bad People returning as well, but that was handled quite superbly in the end of Toll the Hounds. It took me a few rereads to understand why SE called TTH the keystone of the series, but I see it clearly now. The storyline in DoD went parallel with TTH on the Timeline (sorry for mentioning that word guys) for a while, but from this moment, we go forward.

With both Icarium and Draconus back, and the Shake reaching the Real Shore, most pieces are on the board now, and it's a crowded board.

Let's enjoy the ride :)
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Hot damn, that's a beautiful chapter! We've joined back up with the timeline from Toll The Hounds and the real game can start.
SCENES SEVENTEEN—TWENTY-TWO
The clouds arrive. Everyone dies.
Ha! Excellent. I can totally see that in a whirlwind cinematic style and then the cameras is shifting to Yan Tovis and then to Sandalath and we get so many interesting snippets of info. Then we get back to Icarium! (Yay!)
And then, finally, with some of the best prose of the series, we get the entrance of Darconus. And. It. Does. Not. Disappoint.
Darren Kuik
3. djk1978
So Yedan and Yan Tovis' conversation is a bit of a dump of history isn't it? But I don't think you need to have read FoD to put it all together. Sure it helps, but if you have been filing away the bits and pieces about the Tiste races and the Shake since they were introduced you are well on your way to getting it. I remember having questions but not being overly confused by this point. Also Yedan with a Hust sword... :)

I can't say I felt much in the way of sympathy for either the Barghast or the Akrynnai. The scene descriptions you put in, Bill and Amanda, are apt, although they don't do justice to how well written they were.

Also Draconus, TtH set him up as a pretty sympathetic character for the reader. It will be interesting to see what side he comes down on, or if he just comes down on his own side.
Tabby Alleman
4. Tabbyfl55
Yeah, no.

On my first read, I was confused long past this chapter about the whole Yedan/Twilight/Shake/First Shore thing.
Chris Hawks
5. SaltManZ
I understand less about the history of the Tiste races/Shake/Kharkanas/etc. having read FoD than I did before. The reread isn't clarifying much in that regard.
Sydo Zandstra
6. Fiddler
Saltman Z, did you speedread FoD?

It's true we don't have it mapped, but the basis of the Tiste Schism is there. Although I agree on that it will be made more clear in the next book.

With what we learn here, and in the coming chapters in DoD and TCG, I can see where the Kharkanas series is heading. :)
Paul Boyd
7. GoodOldSatan
Well, gotta agree with SaltManZ here. I don't think reading FoD would help Withal whatsoever. Maybe its sequels?

I don't recall having a clue what "Azathanai" meant fist time through, although it certainly would have helped.

What indeed could Draconus be apologizing for? I thought, on first read, it was for what was yet to come.
Ryan Dick
8. Wilbur
This chapter holds a lot of disappointing elements for me.

1. Senan leads the Barghast away from the battle. This would seem to be an indicator that Tool's actions did have an impact upon a few of the Barghast. And we basically never hear about them again, so why even talk about it?

2. Icarium's ghosts are eliminated one by one. I really liked the story of Icarium and Mappo in earlier books. But since the newly formed Icarium never seems to achieve personhood or act in any way like the Icarium and Mappo type of Icarium we knew and grew to love, again, so what? Other than acting as a fancy Patriot Missile Defense Shield, how does this new Icarium contribute to the books?

3. The Shake reach The Shore. The Shake have never really been my favorite characters, mainly because I have never understood them, their motivations, their history, or their purpose. It doesn't get any better here, as the Shake participants talk seemingly at cross-purposes to each other. And eventually the Shake engage in heroic battle on the Shore, but I never did understand why they did or why it was necessary. It was very well described and interesting in a way to read, but I always felt like it was a plot line that didn't fit with the rest of the MBOTF, or at least didn't contribute to the overall conclusion.

4. Sandalath and Withal arrive in Kharkanas. Sandalath is another one whose plot line seemed rather a sideline for me. Withal was important to the story and I sympathized with him, but Sandalath just seemed to be a sad person resurrected to a purposeless life. And the fact that she gradually loses her mind once she gets back to her hometown isn't something that I ever understood or enjoyed reading about.

I sure do seem to be complaining a lot here, but this chapter is just full of characters and plotlines that seem to be secondary to the overall thrust of the books and marginal to the action in which I am most interested.

Do any of you have strong positive feelings about one or more of these sets of characters or plotlines as inherently important and integral to the books as a whole?
Eoin8472
9. Eoin8472
What I love about this chapter is the brilliant example of circularity that SE provides yet again. Remember the start to this "book" of Dust of Dreams, Only the Dust will Dance, back in Chapter 13? Ruin and Rud have a conversation about Draconus. And here at the very end of the "book", Draconus returns.

SE does this stuff a lot and I love it.
Rajesh Vaidya
10. Buddhacat
Wilbur, the Senan do not just go away into the mists. They are obliterated by Tool's Imass.
Tabby Alleman
11. Tabbyfl55
Wilbur, you've hit on my least favorite thing about the Malazan series. Lots of plotlines that either don't connect at all, barely connect and not in a meaningful way, or don't contribute to the final ending of the series.

I do love these books, but I love them in spite of this feature, not because of it. Another way they could have been written is each plotline getting its own book, instead of reading all the plotlines more or less chronologically and having to remember where this character left off the last time we read them six chapters ago.

Maybe the next time Steven does a Q&A, I'll ask him why he chose the multi-threaded approach over the one-book-one-plotline approach.
Darren Kuik
12. djk1978
Wilbur @8: Yes absolutely!

I find the Shake storyline quite compelling, partly because I find Twilight, Yedan, Pithy and Brevity to be interesting characters, but also because I'm interested in their voyage of discovery ever since they ran into Deadsmell on the island. Are they a side-plot? I guess that depends on what you consider the main plot to be. I view all of these plots including those of the Bonehunters to be sub-plots in the overall story. The Bonehunters may be one of the most important ones but the others also contribute to the whole of the series. The Shake are tied very much to the events of Toll the Hounds in my opinion. Mother Dark is back, she's in Kharkanas, and she's alone...

I find it interesting, as a general observation, that so many readers seem to prefer to just stay with the characters introduced early on in the series, the Bridgeburners, the Bonehunters, Rake etc. Or they have to force themselves through other POV's and plots. I'll admit I'm more interested in some parts than others too, and maybe it's because I actually don't find the Bonehunters particularly compelling a lot of the time but I think the series loses a lot of depth if you take all those pieces out. The machinations of multiple players and the lingering effects of past events and choices in the series provide much of the complexity that makes MBotF stand out from the common fantasy series.

I'd much rather read more about the characters that the more mainline plots have interacted with at some point and then moved on, than I would have them be seen, disappear and never read about them again.

(Note: those last 2 paragraphs are not specific to you Wilbur. Amanda, for example, also frequently observes that it's hard to connect to some of these plots and that she's happy to get back to familiar ground. )
Tai Tastigon
13. Taitastigon
Re discussion @8 onwards: Per se, I kinda like the multiple threads. However, specifically after following the DoD reread: There are pacing issues. Some of these late arcs would go down better if DoD wasn´t the first half of the last book (DoD/tCG), with a programmed finish line. 3/4 into DoD and arcs like the Barghast downfall feel like deviations that may be interesting to read, but take up space that could have been used otherwise. I´ll leave it at that, because this discussion is for after we wrap-up tCG.
Tai Tastigon
14. Taitastigon
Aah, and Draconus´ entrance is kickbuttowski ! Atta boy !
Brian R
15. Mayhem
One of my favourite moments which wasn't highlighted above:

When Withal rails against Mother Dark, and gets a personal answer. And freezes there by the river in shock, not quite knowing what to do.

Which is both incredibly daunting - an Elder Goddess just heard you, and everything else you said or thought - and reassuring - the Goddess does in fact care - and immensely satisfying as a follow up to TTH - Mother Dark is no longer turning away from the plight of her people, and is even paying attention to the non-andii connected with those people
Eoin8472
16. BDG
One of my favourite things about the series is that is moving from plotline to plotline, sometimes they connect and sometimes they don't. I think it's one of those feature that set it apart from other fantasy series where this very important thing is all that matters in the world. In a sense it treats all stories and the people in those stories equally. For instance I love the Snake storyline and I think for at least DoD is much better reading than the Bonehunters one but is overall less important to the plot.
Eoin8472
17. Tufty
@8 and the discussion it has generated:

I do, in fact, really like the Icarium, Shake and Sandalath storylines (the Senan, not as much, but then again it isn't as full of a story either - just a part of the whole Barghast storyline).

The thing is, DoD is overall a very bleak book. Horrible things happen, to individuals and to groups. So many of the storylines are struggling against some sort of oppression or unachievable goal - the Snake are starving and dying, Kalyth's quest seems futile, the more open-minded Barghast have failed to reshape their society or even find the enemy they were prophezised to fight, Toc and Tool are both being compelled into hateful things they don't want to do, etc. The groups that aren't as oppressed still aren't faring all that well either - the Shake's arduous journey has taken them to an empty, eroding city; Icarium's machine failed and he's now a schizophrenic, broken personality; Torrent doesn't have the most amiable traveling companion...

And all of this is overlaid with themes of extinction - of the wild animals, of the land itself, of peoples like the Elan and the Awl. Plus we have a mysterious force seemingly casually obliterating various forces.

The setup here is deliberately bleak, and I think it needs to be after TtH (which while it contained its fair share of sadness was overall more hopeful in tone, IMO).


All that being said, for Icarium I like how things have been going across DG->HoC->tBH->RG->DoD. True, he is very unlike how he was with Mappo in DG/HoC, but there's been quite a bit of time where he was with Taralack, and then afterwards on his own/shunning Taralack, too. So we've seen a much bigger picture of Icarium now - what he's like with a good companion, a bad/manipulative one, when he starts thinking for himself, when he goes batshit crazy, and now when he goes insane from triggering a broken warren-creating machine with his own blood. I think with bringing in the ghost Veed and consolidating his fragmented personality, we're seeing an Icarium that is neither the kind friend of Mappo nor the unstoppable rage monster from tBH, but something that combines both.


And I do like the Shake storyline. It definitely seems like the closure to a story we didn't really read the beginning or middle of, but I just like the "journey to a prophesized magic kingdom oh wait it sucks" aspect of it. Plus I like having some parts of the Malazan world that are only semi-explained like this, rather than everything being either fully explored or just a one-off mention.
Sydo Zandstra
18. Fiddler
Wilbur,

The Shake storyline may seem to be a subplot, but it isn't. It is the same with the events where armies get killed from the clouds (barring the one event where Draconus lands on 2 warring armies)

This will be said out loud in TCG, but without trying to spoil, there are 3 championing parties working with each other here. They champion Justice, Order and Righteousness.

Which is the worst combination ever, for others...
Sydo Zandstra
19. Fiddler
Thinking about Justice, Order and Righteousness, I think this may be a warning by Steven, since they oppose the major theme of this series: Compassion.

I am going to ask him about that in the next Q&A. :)
karl oswald
20. Toster
i've always loved the re-entry of draconus to the world. i love it because it has to happen where it does, because of what draconus is. god of elder night, and never forget that the elder gods require blood.

all night the barghast called to the darkness, killing their own and killing animals by the score. then they awoke to do battle and spill akrynnai blood. that's more than enough blood for draconus to come calling i'd say.
michael
21. worrywort
I've proposed to this chapter, the chapter has accepted, and we've set a date for next June.
Joseph Ash
22. TedThePenguin
I love this chapter, the Senan leaving, the interrupted battle, Draconus' reappearance, all very well done, and quite epic. Then we also have Mother Dark directly answering Withal, which, while profound and moving, I also found funny, and is definitely one of my favorite scenes in the book.
Michael Friedman
23. lycophidion
This chapter had some excellent imagery, plotting and characterization, but left me rather unclear about the Shake. Just who are they and what is their actual relationship to the Andii and Edur? Yes, I caught the bit about the Shake being the "bastard get" of light and dark, and about the Edur being their "bastard get." But, by whom? More, if Scabandari is offspring of the Shake... not sure how this plays out, nor how Scabandari's backstab against the Andii (and Ruin) runs with this. So, the Andii left Galain when Mother Dark turned her back on them. Or as a result of the conflict with the Liosan? And the Edur and Emurlahn? Then they ended up in the world of Malaz.

What I am getting is that the Kharkanas convergence is almost set. We have the Shake and Mother Dark. Sandalath. The Drift Avalii crew is presumably in this mix, as descendants of Rake. The Liosan are on Gallan's Road, together with the Assail.

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