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 eight 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.
The children of the Snake watch as Thorl is taken by the cloud of Shards. In turn, as she dies, the children pluck Shards off of her and consume them. Rutt tells Badalle that they are running out of water and he wants to give up. Badalle talks about Held, and asks him if he will leave Held to the Shards. She convinces him to continue and they head west, towards the Bonehunters.
The crew of Shurq Elalle’s ship are utterly discomfited by Felash’s use of Omtose Phellack in saving them, and now shun her company. She, in turn, thinks they should be grateful for her assistance. Shurq talks to Felash about the fact that there are no trees on this land to effect repairs on her ship, and so they are effectively stranded. She asks the Fourteenth Daughter is the Omtose Phellack is a true Hold, and can be used to obtain trees. Felash rambles on a bit about why Omtose Phellack was developed by the Jaghut, and its uses. Shurq Elalle interrupts and asks what Felash knows about the other aspects of Omtose Phellack, and Felash cheerily admits that she knows nothing at all. She agrees to explore the possibilities while Shurq Elalle moves her camp to a safe distance.
Shurq Elalle and Skorgen Kaban head back to the rest of their shipmates, and they discuss the fact that Felash’s handmaiden is far more than what she appears to be, and definitely not useless in any way.
The handmaiden dresses in armour, and is ready when Felash announces that she is sending her into the Hold of Ice.
As Shurq Elalle really gets into her stride bitching about Felash’s various attractions, a sudden explosion happens at Felash’s camp, and Shurq runs back. Felash tells her she has sent her handmaiden through, and sincerely hopes that it is going to be worth the sacrifice.
The handmaiden lands right in the middle of a camp and first has to fight her way through several fiends, then she heads through a forest and finds a ship. She is attacked by several other varieties of weird creatures. She is surprisingly skilled at fighting them all off…
Shurq Elalle and Felash share a smoke and chat about the nature of desire, sex without complications, and what life really entails, before they are rudely interrupted by the rather explosive arrival back into their world of the ship that the handmaiden has procured.
Shurq Elalle pulls herself onto the deck of the strange ship, which is covered in lots and lots of blood. Despite her capabilities as a warrior, the handmaiden is definitely not a sailor and Shurq quickly calls her crew on board.
Silchas Ruin enters a realm filled with corpses, including the remnants of a body hanging from two trees with an arrow through his forehead. Other ghostly figures are walking the field of death, and he realises they are gods. A few seek to intercept him. They identify him as Tiste Andii, despite his pale skin. One (Mowri) calls him dangerous and said they don’t want Silchas near when they slay the Fallen One in order to feed and free themselves. Dessembrae then tells Mowri that they will never be free. Some of the gods blame the Master of the Deck for them being trapped, because he gave his blessing to the Crippled God raising the House of Chains. However, Dessembrae states that they were in shackles long before that. He also says that soon they will commit murder, by slaying a fellow god before the Unknowable Woman can reach him. As the gods bicker, a new god arrives and Silchas Ruin turns to see Shadowthrone.
Jhess refers to the Bonehunters (the Malazans) as Shadowthrone’s children when she says that they cannot hope to defeat these gods. Shadowthrone asks Jhess whether she can see the Queen of Dreams anywhere in this realm, and then says she can’t because the Queen of Dreams is awake.
Shadowthrone is accused of coming there to mock the gods, but he says his curiosity lies with the arrival of Silchas Ruin. Silchas tells him he is seeking a weapon for a companion. Shadowthrone says he has found a weapon and reveals a sword that Hust forged. Silchas Ruin feels he should recognise it, but he doesn’t, even though he thought he knew all of Hust’s earliest swords. Silchas Ruin says the sword is too good for his companion, and Shadowthrone tells him to carry it himself, that he should consider it a gift, a thanks to the brother of Hood’s slayer. In return Silchas Ruin tells Shadowthrone he should leave this mob of gods alone.
Dessembrae demands to know what Shadowthrone is up to, and Shadowthrone makes reference to the fact that part of Dassembrae wanders the mortal world, and the worst of him remains here. Then he vanishes.
Cotillion and Shadowthrone meet up, and Cotillion asks whether it is done to which Shadowthrone says of course it is. Then Shadowthrone asks whether Cotillion returned to Shadowkeep to send ‘her’ off, and Cotillion says he did, ‘to kill the biggest, meanest one’.
Withal wanders down towards the Shore, and on the way finds some primitive drawings showing the Tiste Liosan. Down at the Shore he goes to Yedan Derryg, who sits facing Lightfall. Withal asks from Sandalath whether the Shake feel ready and how soon the Breach will come. Yedan Derryg points out a dull spot on Lightfall that stains the surface and says that it is dragons, seeking to make the barrier fail with their sorcerous breath. Withal is aghast and asks how they can possibly stand against dragons. Yedan Derryg describes his plan with no hint of fear. Withal asks if the Shake can do it, and Yedan tells him that Yan Tovis refuses to kneel before the First Shore in the act the sanctifies the queen of the Shake. Withal asks why, and Yedan pretty much says it’s because she is stubborn. Another dragon makes a pass and Yedan tells Withal that they are breached.
Yan Tovis watches the slaughter begin and thinks that her people will never hold. Pully and Skwish tell her again that she must kneel, but she refuses again.
I wonder if these children of the Snake are exactly what the Bonehunters need to really bond them together and give them a cause to fight for. I like this idea that Badalle has about Tavore: “And there is a mother who leads them, and all her children she holds in her arms, though she has made a Born.”
So, who or what is this handmaiden of Felash? To send her into the Hold of Ice, and to then see the way in which she tackles all the fiends and nasty creatures thrown at her—well, there is definitely far more to her than what we saw when she was lighting fires and preparing meals… Have I missed hints that give me a clue as to what she is?
I love all those scenes with Shurq Elalle and Felash—their dialogue together is just so rich with laughter and life. I do like how Felash says that Shurq, despite her rather unique situation, is definitely alive.
Oh Shadowthrone—he lights up every scene he is in, with this sarcastic nature and his surprising moments of compassion. Here I love the idea of him coming along and mocking these other gods. It seems that these gods are the ones that Tavore knew she was putting herself into direct competition with in terms of what happens to the Crippled God. I’m very intrigued by the fact that they refer to her as the Unknowable Woman, and clearly are not privy at all to her thoughts and ideas.
This realm that Silchas Ruin enters, where the figure of Coltaine remains on the hill. Shadowthrone refers to it as Coltain’s Eternal Fall—does this mean that this place is a constant reference to it? I’m not quite sure why the gods are trapped here, that’s for sure.
And I don’t really get Shadowthrone’s reference to the Queen of Dreams and why he says:
“She is not here, Jhess [...] because she is awake. Awake! Do you understand me? Not sleeping, not dreaming herself here, not plucking all your mad tails, Jhess, to confuse mortal minds. You are all blind fools!”
Nope, none of that is entirely clear.
From one Hust sword to another… Why can Silchas Ruin not recognise this sword, even though he knows those that Hust manufactures? What is the significance of the dragons carved onto it? Where did Shadowthrone get it? How did he know that Silchas Ruin was in need of a sword? SO MANY QUESTIONS!
And how appropriate is Shadowthrone’s picture of himself? “If I was blood kin to this family, I’d be the uncle slumped drunk and senseless in the corner.”
Ha, sometimes Erikson truly makes me tear my hair in frustration! So the giving of the sword to Silchas Ruin was part of the big master plan conceived by Shadowthrone and Cotillion. Who is this ‘her’ that they refer to? The one that was put on a horse and sent to kill the biggest and meanest? We have lots of ‘her’ candidates. Was it Apsal’ara? We know that she is now with Nimander, and nudging him towards his true fate? Or was it Tavore—she has had dealings with these two rogues? Or was it Lostara Yil—we saw Cotillion with her not long ago? Dammit, but everything to do with Cotillion and Shadowthrone is wrapped up in mystery and shrouded further in enigma!
Wow, this is the first time that I have read anything about the Shake and thought that I am invested and enjoying it. The image of Yedan sitting alone, facing Lightfall as dragons seek to breach it with their sorcerous breath, planning calmly how to best beat them is quite chilling. And it’s very interesting to see Yedan’s perspective on why Yan Tovis needs to surrender to the Shore—his idea of it makes me wonder why she is being so damn contrary and stubborn.
I also appreciated the fact that Yedan is presented to be openly gay. Subtle and nicely done: “...a prince who will never produce an heir.”
I have no clue what Yedan is talking about when he refers to Awakening Dawn or Sister of Night. Certainly it seems as though the Shake are missing a lot of what they require to really make a stand. Certainly it leaves me with a sense of dread.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.