Jul 18 2014 12:00pm

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: The Crippled God, Chapter Five

Welcome to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover chapter five of The Crippled God.

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.



Withal approaches the throne room in Kharkanas and is almost brained by a thrown amphora. He enters the room into the middle of an argument between Yan Tovis, who is insisting that only a Tiste Andii of royal blood can sit the throne, and Sandalath, who really doesn’t want the honour. Eventually she is talked around, although she plans to decline the honour as soon as another Tiste Andii arrives. She blames Tavore for her current predicament, because she believes she shouldn’t have been there at the reading where she was given the card of the Queen of Darkness. Withal suggests to her that he might not be the best consort for her—he thinks that the Tiste Andii will look down on him as a mere mortal. But Sandalath tells him they will see him as a threat.


Yedan Derryg watches the wall of light ahead of him, with the faces trying to break through. He talks to Pithy about it—the fact that they are children here on the Shore, and that they are threatened by those beyond the Lightfall. Yedan and Pith talk about what might inspire the Letherii to fight here. Yedan provides lofty ideals—they should fight to save the world—while Pithy says that money might work better. When Yedan asks Pithy which of the two causes would make her stand and fight, she says neither and confesses that watching Yan Tovis and Yedan as they saved the Shake has made her decide to fight for what is right.


Yan Tovis watches Pithy talking to her brother, and feels the relentless call of the First Shore to her Shake blood. But she feels aggrieved that her people are being chained to the Shore, that they will have to be involved in the fight to come. Skwish and Pully approach Yan Tovis and tell her that she has to surrender to the Shore.


We see five Pures ascending the Spire, led by Reverence, a Forkrul Assail whose body has been battered in fights with Jaghut and T’lan Imass. She thinks about their judgment upon humanity, their defence of the world. As she reaches the Altar of Judgment, Reverence looks upon the heart of the Crippled God, and glories in the fact that they will soon pierce it and allow the blood to feed them and then open the gate of Akhrast Korvalain. The Pures discuss how to deal with the invaders who arrived by Warren into the keep and now inflict damage upon the Watered and Shriven. Sister Calm is trying to convince them that Brother Diligence should be sent, he who happens to be Sister Reverence’s closest ally. The Forkrul Assail are also aware of those approaching them from the west—but they seem to think they have armies enough to deal with the threat. Sister Reverence drops into conversation the fact that the Spire and Altar is where they are most vulnerable. As they agree that Sister Calm shall head into the west to face the threat there, they are interrupted by Watered Amiss, who tells them there are ships of war in the harbour.


Sechul Lath remembers his time within and facing Chaos, remembers the birth of the twins named Oponn, and is interrupted by Errastas. They discuss their plans while watching over Kilmandaros, who is facing down Korabas.


The Snake prepare to leave the city in which they have rested and head out again into the Glass Desert.

Amanda’s Reaction

Withal really doesn’t have it easy, does he, having hooked up with Sandalath? She isn’t the easiest of partners to deal with in the first place, and now he finds himself consort to the Queen of Darkness, and dreading the arrival of any other Tiste Andii because they will see him as an upstart human in their realm. I wonder what Sandalath was going to say about Withal that Mother Dark whispered in her ear, that she changed to the fact that he will be needed?

Alright, this Lightfall, with the faces pushing through—I realise that I have no idea about whether we’ve seen this before. Did I skim over it somehow when we covered it in Dust of Dreams? It just seems such an incredible threat for me to have completely neglected to remember it!

“If the enemy destroy us, they will march down the Road of Gallan. Unobstructed, they will breach the gate to your own world, and they will lay waste to every human civilization, until nothing remains but ash. And they will slay the gods themselves. Your gods.”

Who are this enemy trying to push through?

We’ve seen the Forkrul Assail presented as our enemy for this novel—but these enemy behind the Lightfall seem to be just as much of a threat?

I loved seeing Pithy confess that she would now fight for what is right, rather than for saving the world or for the money.

So the Shake storyline begins to confuse me again. These faces on the other side of the Lightfall are the Tiste Liosan? They are the ones trying to fight through, who are able to take down worlds and gods? Forgive me, but I just haven’t seen them as capable of this sort of carnage. They’ve always seemed like a complete joke, really.

So, the Forkrul Assail are massively intriguing, they really are. First of all, it seems like they are invaders to this world, that they came from somewhere else originally. They are the one species that both the Jaghut and the T’lan Imass are willing to do war against—considering their outright hatred for each other, the fact that they are able to both hate another species shows how bad that species must be. And the Forkrul Assail feel that they should defend this land against the nasty spread of humanity—yet they are invaders themselves. That is some breathtaking hypocrisy, for a race that values judgment.

Interestingly, there appears to be conflict between the Pure over a few things, like how to deal with the approaching threats. Sister Calm and Sister Reverence really don’t see eye to eye. All of this implies that those seeking to do battle with them could somehow divide and conquer.

And a rare point of clumsiness from Erikson, as Sister Reverence gestures to the Spire and tells the people who already know that this is their point of vulnerability. Because he so rarely does things like this, it stands out when he does!

I wrote very little describing the scene where Errastas and Sechul Lath talk together, but that is mainly because I don’t understand much of it. One thing that did jump out is their mention of Calm—I presume this is Sister Calm, who we just saw with Sister Reverence? She is playing the double crossing game, and working with the gods that the rest of her people are seeking to take down? To what ends?

Also, it was interesting that Sechul Lath believes that Olar Ethil is providing a suitable distraction—to what they are up to, as they try to defeat the dragon Korabas?

I would welcome any sort of explanation for that scene with Errastas and Sechul Lath! (I miss Bill).


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

George A
1. Kulp
The Shake storyline becomes really interesting in this book, but that plotline always felt a bit separated from the others in the series. I always found myself a bit bored reading about Yan Tovis in the books leaduing up to tCG. That being said, I think the payoff in this book is worth it.
2. vanye
Sadly, I don't find it all that compelling. I think it may have been better had it just been left at the point where they took the Road, and we're left wondering what happened to them. I don't recall anything that happens in Kharkanas having any bearing on anything else in this book, and with this being the final book of the main sequence, that's a bit of a flaw, in my opinion.
Cory S.
3. Hungry_For_Hands
I was one of those who did not quite understand the Shake story line. Not that the story itself was bad, but I kept asking myself "Who are these people and how does this affect the rest of the story?"

I had a hard enough time on my first read through this series remembering who all of the characters were. So once I got to this story line I hit my peak of confusion.

I've not reread the series yet (excluding tuning in weekly for these posts the last few years), but I imagine this storyline will feel more rewarding the 2nd time around.
4. Tufty
The Shake storyline becomes really interesting in this book, but that plotline always felt a bit separated from the others in the series. I always found myself a bit bored reading about Yan Tovis in the books leaduing up to tCG. That being said, I think the payoff in this book is worth it.
Yeah, it does often feel a bit disjoint from the rest. There's a couple hints here and there that it is possible that MD's return resulted in a sort of magic beacon psychically affecting people and/or causality into returning to Kharkanas... that the Shake returning there and the Liosan usurpation and expansion is happening now because of Anomander's death and MD's return.

If that is true and intended, I think it should have been more explicit, as that would give a stronger bit of tying into the other books and plotlines. The Shake in DoD would go from "now we're taking this road to escape the mob" to "the events of TtH have opened Kharkanas and now we can finally return" or something like that. Would have seemed more linked to the rest of the story and also given a good reason for why it is happening now out of however many millions of years Kharkanas has been empty and the Liosan have sat around in isolation.

That being said, there *is* a hinted reason why they are doing this now and how it connects to the rest of the story... but it's somewhat tenuous and not very explicit. We'll see when we get there.
Tai Tastigon
5. Taitastigon
Can´t help it: In and by itself, the Shake is a well-written arc, but within the overall cycle, it feels like an alien body. IMO, that wordcount could have been put to better use while leaving this arc for the Kharkanas trilogy.
But that´s just me.
George A
6. Kulp
Yeah I agree it should have been more explicit. I will say that after reading FoD, some things are clicking into place better than they did the first time through. I'm thinking that the Kharkanas trilogy will flesh out the Shake storyline in the main 10 book sequence better, and it will fit better with the rest of main series after the trilogy is complete.
7. Ruin
The Forkrul Assail are a Founding Race. They are not invaders, they are native to that world. The fact that they fought both Jaghut and Imass doesn't mean anything in particular. The K'Chain also fought both races, it wasn't like they set up an alliance just to deal with them.

Also, those Elder Gods are not trying "to defeat the dragon Korabas". Their plan has been to release it.
Ryan Dick
8. Wilbur
Add me to the list of readers who could have lived without the Shake storyline. On the other hand, it is a model of clarity and gripping, charismatic interest compared to Blood and Bone.

The phrase "surrender to the Shore" is used several times, and I never understood what it was that was being asked of Yan Tovis.
9. worrywort
I hate to speak about the book as a whole so early in the reread, and I won't post a specific spoiler, but I'm pretty sure the Lightfall front in the war couldn't be any more explicitly connected to the others than it becomes. It hasn't happened yet in the reread, but at least one character comes right out and says in plain English how everything is connected. If I have time I'll look it up and post it in the spoiler thread. Then again, part of the reread is catching things you missed the first time around, so you might want to look for it as we progress.
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
worrywort@9:Yep, good post for the spoiler thread when you refind it.
Brian R
11. Mayhem
Setchul Lath and Errastas are basically playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on a rock in the background while Kilmandaros recovers.

She has just smashed her way through the ground into this chamber, shattering a number of layers of wards set by Anomander Rake and other dragons in the past to seal the Otataral Dragon.
Her plan ... to unleash the dragon to wipe the world clean.

The interesting thing is that all the major "enemy" factions named at this stage .... the Tiste Liosan, the Forkrul Assail, the gods here, and Olar Ethil have the same simple goal - to wipe the slate clean - but for noticeably different reasons.

The Forkrul Assail (the last few who remain) wish to obliterate all intelligent life ... to return the world to the simplicity of animal species and the clean bloody Justice of the hunter and the prey. They believe in the Justice of Arbitration ... of absolute pure balance.
The Beast Gods wish much of the same, they want to return to their old existence without the presence of Humanity. (whited out as we don't officially know of them yet, though they did just arrive)
The Tiste Liosan (from the prologue) seem to want to bring their vision of Purity to what remains, and finally win the war with the Andii. They support Justice, but it is the Justice of Zealotry and the arrogance of inherent Rightness of their cause.
The Errant wishes to return to a position of pre-eminence, which involves obliterating K'Rul's warrens and starting again.
Olar Ethil seems to want something similar, but with her on top again.
Sechul Lath just wants it all to stop, to step away from the world and enjoy the decline. He's pretty much completely apathetic at this stage, just doesn't care.
And Kilmandaros simply wants everything gone - she's become the ultimate in nihilism, time to see the world end.
12. worrywort
For the record, the tone of my above post is more about the joy of the reread and the slapping-your-forehead "Ohhhhhh I get it now" moments, not like a condemnation of people who didn't see it the first time around. Though it is also an affirmation that Shake/Lightfall is (and has been) a wholly integrated thread in the book/series.
Bill Capossere
13. Billcap
If the last chapter gave us further sense of a convergence out in the Kolanse area, with the Worm, Cotillion, the armies, the Snake, etc. moving or preparing to move, early on here we get a sense of another convergence elsewhere, with the references to an impending attack at the Shore, and of Tiste Andii returning. And Mother Dark already there of course (not to mention seemingly having plans for Withal).

this does a nice job of creating some more building suspense: will there in fact be another attack? Will it be repulsed? Will the Tiste Andii we've already met be involved? If the Andii do return, how will they interact with the Shake? What is Sandalath's role as Queen? Will her mysterious past come into play? What is Withal's role? Will we see the Hust sword in action?

Beyond the internal suspense within this storyline, it allows for further suspense in the Kolanse plot line as we are forced to leave it, perhaps at harrowing points, to return to this one (then again, some might declare that a negative rather than a positive)

I like not just the impending sense if attack for the suspense, but the concrete imagery of it offered up byPithy's observation that the faces are getting closer and more numerous and she expects to see an "arm thrust out any time now" "There are some things you can't run from" would make a great tag line for this series as we see it's truth again and again.

And another reference to Tavore knowing more than one might expect. Did Tavore set this up?is this somehow a second front? a diversion? Is there a. Linkage, or did she just somehow see a necessity unrelated to Kolanse? Is it a debt paid?

Is there a parallel here between the two armies: the one at the Shore and Tavore's? Pithy says their army needs a cause and we've seen some of the Malazan soldiers suffering for having no sense of why they are marching, fighting, and dying. Will Tavore show them a cause? That it might "save the world?" Might she Show them that what they do is the right thing, not having to do with saving the world?

But as Yan Tovis reminds us, there is the idea that two opposing sides might fight "for what is right" in their minds. And also how easy it is to slide from ""right" to "righteous", which has its own attendant dangers.

More using here on the relationship between worshiper and worshipped. Is this "bargain" a form of enslavement? Of being in chains, a consistent thematic image in This series. We've seen what tends to happen to those chains . . .

What does Yedan seen wheeling above the impending army? It's probably not starlings . . .

I like how this introduction to the Pure reminds us of long past battles and wars we've had some mentions of earlier in the series, such as the T'lan Imass battle against the FA

From an implication that two opposed sides can see themselves each fighting for what is right to a concrete statement of such as we see the FA viewing their attempted destruction of humanity as a "burden" thrust upon them to "save the world". And all the many, many references we have had to humanity's impact on this world make this seem not so unreasonable perhaps. How could one witness that impact--on the animals, on the earth, on the plants, on other peoples, and not feel rage?

I'd like to see that day when "peace was declared dead"

Then again, reasonable or not on the surface, hard to side with folks who have an "altar of judgement". Particular one with blood channels. Or who would've feed on one already made victim, who seem ok with chaining what you can use, and who seek to use the endless pain rather than end it. The pain of the Crippled God, lately the Chained God, more lately given an actual name, perhaps to grow our empathy. Might these points lead us to that distinction between saving the world and doing what is right?

So much for the monolithic enemy--dissension amongst the FA ranks. How might that play out on what is to come? Can our folks make use of this?

Well, Reverence may not know what Calm has found, but we do. What will she do with Icarium? Will Mappo find his way there first?

Poor FA. First Paran shows up out of nowhere, and now the Perish ships. Interesting image here of Sechul Lath in that he is fighting the idea of fate, fighting for "freedom". Does this make us empathize with him more?

Also interesting that out of his fight, his demand for release from such bondage, are born the Twins we've seen before.

Note that reference to the Azanathai btw--well get to that eventually!

this Is not an easy section, but it seems to emphasize a theme we haven't seen for a while--the idea of uncertainty. Ware the certain we've been told repeatedly earlier on, and this might seem an appropriate time to bring this back up, in that we've seen two uncertain armies and in the FA, one very, very certain one. Life is contadiction and uncertainty, which makes us read Errant's line about no regrets in a negative light.

Dissension in the ranks of the FA to dissension in these ranks (which we've seen before). Again, might this play into the hands of our Malazan friends? What do these ones plan that makes them need K'rull and the others? Or makes them think those others will in facts join them? (Save for Olar Ethil?). Are they right or are these false assumptions based on their own tunnel vision, lack of being able to understand others? If so, is that shared self deception, or is Lath playing the Errant? is Lath truthful when he says he's happy to wander the ruins? When he says he will kill his Twins? about no to feeling anything? Is that the true opposite of empathy?

And behind all this, the snake

(apologies for massive typos. Using the ipad in a tent not easy . . .)
14. KarlReadsTheseBooks
So I put the relevant quotes regarding the Liosan's motivations at Lightfall in the spoiler thread and why the Shake are so important.

@Mayhem, your spoiler thread treatis on Blistig was wonderful. I love reading reader interpretaions of things. It always makes me smile.

Also, I love you little discussion there of the big baddies' goals.

Carry on, y'all.
15. Jordanes
Re the Shake storyline connection: Remember in DoD that the Shake, while wandering the Road of Gallan, bumped into a Forkrul Assail (or more specifically, Yedan did, soon after bumping into some Tiste Liosan). That's the first clue to a point of connection.

And as Worry says, one character basically just comes right out and says what's going on later.

@11 Mayhem: Great post!
16. Nechtan
Hi, de-lurking for a bit to re-iterate what Worrywort and others have said about the Shake. It will get stated, quite clearly, what the connection is. And as Worry also said, this isn't a condemnation of anyone. It took me three reads of DoD/CG before I noticed it and when I did, I stared at it for a few minutes, thinking "How did I miss that?". There have been clues though. Jordanes has mentioned one. Think about the FA and their notions of Purity and Judgement. Does that remind you of anyone? There is also a thematic connection between the Shake and another storyline. Pithy says she'll fight for what is right, not money or saving the world. Someone else has spoken about similar themes. Not glory, not fame but because it is the right thing to do. The phrase used was "Unwitnessed." And I've just looked back and Bill already made that point. Oh well. Many thanks, Amanda and Bill. This has been an amazing series. And thank you to all the commentors with their insightful and thoughtful comments. Really looking forward to see what everyone thinks about OST, Blood and Bones, Kharkanas trilogy,etc. Sorry about the wall of text. It won't let me put spaces in. Is it because I haven't "taken the black"?
- -
17. hex
Re: Sandalath
She blames Tavore for her current predicament, because she believes she shouldn’t have been there at the reading where she was given the card of the Queen of Darkness.
Is this evidence of Tavore having her hand in this front against the Liosan and allies*? Is there other evidence that she's done things to manipulate events in the Shake storyline?

*see spoiler thread
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
Blistig has problems. A nice rest in a quiet room would probably help a lot. No quiet rooms in sight though.

This is one of those chapters where things are being put into place. These are all useful things and we will see much more on them. I think everything might actually be quite crucial.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment