Aug 1 2014 12:00pm

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

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 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.


Amanda’s Reaction

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.

1. Tufty
This is one of those chapters that adds a whole bunch of frustrating new questions, isn't it? Thankfully *most* of them will be answered eventually.

This little pocket realm with the gods is certainly curious and we haven't seen anything much like it before, nor have we seen so many of the not-quite-so-important gods like Mowri and Jhess manifested before, and here are a bunch all together! Though as ST notes, only part of Dessembrae is really there. Could it be the same with all the others, and we are only seeing a fragment of them? The nature of gods is certainly not simple! But maybe Coltaine's Fall being there is a bit of a hint - like Dessembrae, we know Coltaine still has a mortal body roaming the world. Is this place then a representation of where the worshipped aspect of a god or goddess manifests? The parts of Dessembrae, Jhess, Beru, Mowri and Coltaine that are here are the parts empowered by people worshipping them while their bodies and mortal wills (if they still have any) can be elsewhere?
Who is this ‘her’ that they refer to? The one that was put on a horse and sent to kill the biggest and meanest?
You'll know her when you see her... probably :P

Keep in mind that when Cotillion says ‘To kill the biggest, meanest one, aye.’ he is talking about metaphorical wolves symbolizing a person's regrets. So this girl or woman Cotillion has is doing so in order to undo her greatest regret - not necessarily anything about literally slaying somethign big and mean (then again, it could be both)!

Lastly, as for Awakening Dawn and Sister of Night, we had a poem a short while back about a woman named Awakening Dawn dying at the shore, and we've also seen Nightchill referred to as Sister of Cold Nights which is similar to Sister of Night. It definitely seems like these are other Shake titles, too bad they're currently missing.
dylan rice
2. StudiousLock
Coltaine's Eternal Fall. So much given and so much hidden from the reader in this section. This scene (and setting) blew my mind when I first read it. I Probably re-read that section half a dozen times on my first read through of TCG, scrutinized it again and again on my second read, and it still mostly confounds me. Not that there isn't a ton given, but in true Erikson style, it raises far more questions than it answers.

Amanda, you are not alone in being confused by this section. I am sure there are veterans on the board who will help illuminate and parse, but this section is a doozy. (Bill, please pitch in here if you can! Other than Fiddler's Deck of Dragons reading in DoD, your input has never been more missed. (No offense even remotely intended, Amanda. You are just as essential to this re-read.))

Coltaine's Eternal Fall is so damn illuminating and frustrating, even my MBotF standards. So Dessembre and Dassem are two separate entities? Does this bifurcation hold true for (some) other ascended gods as well? Is Coltaine being eternally martyred, or is this his new divine aspect? Or is it that these gods are feeding off Coltaine that in some way mirrors the F.A. and the heart of Kaminsod? Queen of Dreams is missing because she is awake? (Granted, that is rather fitting.) What about Cotillion and Shadowthrone? - They still occasionally refer to one another as Dancer and Ammanas. Is this how/why they've kept aspects of their humanity? To avoid this chained and divine state? Where the hell did this Hust blade come from if Silchas doesn't know it? So intrigued. So confused. So much to unpack here.

Hood's Balls! Veterans, please help!
Tabby Alleman
3. Tabbyfl55
And now we really begin to see why I loved Felash and the Handmaiden. (add an "s" to make a band name).
dylan rice
4. StudiousLock
-'I care nothing for any of you,' Shadowthrone replied, with a laconic gesture of one ethereal hand. 'Betray? Too much effort over too little of worth.'
-'You come here only to mock us?'
-'I am here, Beru, because I am curious. Not about any of you. You're nothing but gods, and if the Assail succeed you will all vanish like farts in the wind...'
-Lordy, I love me some Shadowthrone.
Bill Capossere
5. Billcap
Hi all,
Just a note that I'm home and catching up with you all finally. I think I've now got my comments up in all the back posts I missed; I'll be adding comments to this one this weekend and back regularly on Wed. (though Amanda's been covering my absence so damn well, maybe I'll just wait for the Forge of Darkness trilogy to be done . . . )

Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
This was a key chapter for me for answering a bunch of questions about the nature of gods and the Malazan world. Very cool stuff, I think, that I'll mention later on.
I'll fourth that I also love me some Shadowthrone here.
And, yes this is where the Shake storyline really starts to gain traction and grow some teeth as it were.
karl oswald
7. Toster
As Silchas comes upon Coltaines Eternal Fall he gives us a bit of the metaphysical reasoning behind the world he's in. the events that took place at the fall were of such power and significance that they literally burned themselves into the fabric of the warrens. the place Silchas visits is a warren i liken to the mhybes dream-world, except this world is kept alive by the memories of the dead and those who witnessed.
(i'll bet the worship of the burned tears had a lot of impact on this)

i imagine that a mage of sufficient skill could visit the actual physical hill outside of aren and step into this little pocket of existence themselves.

another interesting tidbit is the fact that d'rek has already 'come and gone' and has apparently made the gods a passage. does this mean d'rek is on their side? or are they piggy-backing on d'reks hard work?

i also love the scene with yedan and withal. a model of understatement if i ever read one. the casual inclusion of yedans preferences is just classic SE humanism and the casual nature of his discussion of dragons is pure badass. "Soletaken. Or allies." as if it doesn't even make a whit of difference to him. woah.
Ryan Dick
8. Wilbur
As much as I liked Shurq Ellale in earlier books, her lack of care for her ship's crew as this section begins and its story line finishes up sours me on this character in TCG.

As much as "Beru fend!" is an aphorism or involuntary oath or prayer in the world of Wu, the god we see in this chapter sure doesn't seem likely to care for her adherent, either.
Steven Halter
9. stevenhalter
Any Malazan people going to be at Loncon 3? I'll be there.
Bill Capossere
10. Billcap
“Children are dying.” How many times have seen this line or a version of this line in this series? I give you Deadhouse Gates all those thousands of pages ago:
“Children are dying."
Lull nodded. "That's a succinct summary of humankind, I'd say. Who needs tomes and volumes of history? Children are dying. The injustices of the world hide in those three words.”

This idea goes way back, the line, the image, the concept dogging our steps each and every book forward. They are, as Badalle thinks, “Still dying. For ever dying.” How bleak a series, how devastatingly bleak a journey, if this doesn’t get addressed somehow.

And lest we think this safely contained in this fictional universe, this made up world unrelated to our own, I also give you Gaza. And Nigeria. And Iraq. And lest we think, “well, yeah, in those places, sure, but not . . . “ I give you Newtown. And Columbine. And . . . And lest we think, “well, yeah, crazy folks and their crazy guns . . .”, I give you poverty. And hunger. And inequality. And climate change. And pollution. And . . . And . . . And. Made up? If only. But even in a made up world, we’ll take some sense of hope, right?

And so Amanda’s question about the Snake and the Bonehunters is a good one. We had a lot of discussion in recent chapters about soldiers needing “a cause,” something beyond the abstraction of “saving the world,” something that will allow them to say it is the “right thing to do.” And as we hear about the Bonehunters heading off into the Glass Desert as the “rusty knife”, one that may snap, that need would seem to become even stronger. And so we have the Snake heading also into that desert (and really, what are the odds in a novel of these two groups not meeting?) and Badalle seeing something waiting for them in the desert. A “great family” (and how often have the Malazan soldiers been spoken of in that fashion? Just last chapter we had Bottle speaking of the army in that same vein—“I miss . . . I miss . . I miss”). And that “mother” who has never born a child is pretty clearly Tavore, who leads a group, who carries the burden, who dies a little every time one of her own does. Considering what they have already done, what might happen when the Bonehunters wake up, when the army “opens its eyes”? An army that has not only Tavore, but also, as Ruathan Gudd has reminded us, Fiddler, a father-figure who is the “best of” humanity. Something we’ve seen with his own soldiers, with his responses to the world around him. But it isn’t just the soldiers. Let’s not forget this scene from The Bonehunters:
The little girl with the runny nose sniffled in her sleep, one small hand clutching his left shoulder. Her other hand was at her mouth, and her sucking on her thumb made tiny squeaking sounds. In his arms, she weighed next to nothing.

While we’re in this Snake section, I wonder if Badalle’s words here are meant partially for the readers who have complained about the darkness of some of this series:
This is the story of the world. Do not flee us . . . this scene. Do not confuse dislike and abhorrence with angry denials of truths you do not wish to see. I accept your horror and expect no forgiveness.”
After all, she is a wordsmith . . .
And again, Erikson shows a deft hand, moving from this very bleak opening to some humor thanks to Felash, her handmaiden, and Shurq. And yep, definitely much more to that handmaiden . . .

We get another point for the Jaghut here, in Felash’s statement that had they thought offensively rather than defensively (in other words, had they been more “human” perhaps), they could have “annihilated their enemy.” And yet, they did not.

Yeah, I’m not sure we’re supposed to “get” Coltaine’s Fall. I mean, they’re gods, they’re mystical, they’re reflections and shadows and creations of desires and despairs. Plus you’ve got Shadowthrone doing his crazy drunk uncle with a steel trap devious mind. I could just be rationalizing away my obtuseness, but to me this is the sort of scene purposely not explained, purposely left magical and mysterious—this is fantasy after all. Or maybe I’m just dim.

That said, I sort of get the sense that the magnitude of what happened with Coltaine, followed upon the way the place became a shrine, a mecca, a repository of people’s dreams and nightmares and wants and prayers, etc. sort of “seared” a hole in the worlds and made it its own little universe. I don’t think Coltaine is here at all in the sense of presence—not just the real Coltaine—who remember was reborn in the world—but I don’t think even a godly piece or shadow of him is here.

As for the gods who are here, I get the sense they may not be so much “The” gods but aspects of them, faces of them (one amongst many). Lost or held in this place by the power maybe of those prayers, desires, etc. And thus why one refers to it as a “curse” and them as “snared.” Their wandering and “lost”-ness seem at odds with more active or maybe “whole” gods we’ve seen like Hood or K’rul etc. Maybe they are here because they have removed themselves from the world and were drawn here by this place’s power in a partial state—a “sleeping” state, while those gods who have not withdrawn from the world, like Queen of Dreams and D’rek are less lost? But I’m pulling all that out of my own nether-verse, so who knows? “Snared” is an interesting word as it implies not just captured but caught doing something they wanted to do, lured almost. Not that this was intentional, this Fall, but maybe they sought to use its power and could not then break free of the worshipers, or at least, the aspects they sent here could not—we do get a sense of gods being in different places, having different aspects, being molded by their worshipers. But if they are “trapped”, how can they go to another place? D’rek they say is making a passage—but it appears from phrasing D’rek was not trapped here for the god has “come and gone”. So is D’rek working to free them? Or is D’rek playing another game, are these god aspect being freed to work some purpose unbeknownst to them (a la the Otataral Dragon?)

Sorry Studiouslock!

About the only clear part is that like others, they want to feed off the Crippled God, take his power for their own and use it for their own purposes.

Two Hust swords now? (one of which at least apparently we’ll see in action soon).

Sneaky, devious, long-range planning schemers these two upstart gods. As for the “she”, there are a few other options there, and while I can’t say this is the answer, if one thinks of Cotillion’s focus on “regret”, the setting with gulls, maybe the reference to the Hounds as “apt” in this particular place, and Cotillion’s conversation with Losatara, those might point a reader in a particular direction.

Not a lot to say about the Shake line. Not because I don’t care for it—I do and I like both the martial suspense (battle about to take place, huge underdogs, etc.) but also the torn nature of Twilight as opposed to the stoic nature of her brother.
11. Sirocco

I think it's explained in Reaper's Gale that "Beru fend!" is used sarcastically, much like "Togg's teats" or "Hood's breath."
George A
13. Kulp
I forgot when it was supposed to come out, but Assail showed up on my Kindle this morning. I guess homework will have to wait a few days...
Darren Kuik
14. djk1978
Just posting to say I'm still here.

Personally I can't wait for the Shake storyline to kick into high gear. It's really one of my favorites, although I appear to be in a clear and significant minority there. I've understood the connection to the main plot that they have (at least insofar as has been revealed) for a while so it hasn't seemed to be a stray part to me.
Sydo Zandstra
15. Fiddler
I agree with you on the Shake, djk. And I had the connection early on too.

Just as it wasn't a coincidence that the KCNR were going for the KCCM when they did, it all comes back to the FA masterplan.
Michael Friedman
16. lycophidion
@Bill (#10): Hmm... When I first read through the piece about the woman on the horse, when the gaunt rider appeared, he exclaimed "Sorry!" So, at first glance, I thought, "Aha!" But, she is not in the Dramatis Personae. But, some of what you mentioned brought to mind someone who's been out of the picture for a while (who also had a strong relationship with a bedraggled bunch of children) and who is the gf of a certain assassin...

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