Welcome to the Malazan Re-read 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 the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (MoI).
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, so while the summary of events may be free of spoilers, the commentary and reader comments most definitely will not be. To put it another way: Major Spoilers.
Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!
Set during the 33rd Jaghut War. Pran Chole (whom we saw in Silverfox’s birth in GotM) is looking at a scene preserved in ice: three extinct ranag trapped in a sinkhole—a male, mate and calf—along with six extinct Ay (huge wolves), though a young Ay seems to have escaped only to die, Pran thinks, in solitude. Pran Chole is joined by another Imass—Cannig Tol—and the two discuss how the Imass hunted creatures to extinction, and how they can see themselves and their war with the Jaghut in the scene before them. We then learn they are tracking Jaghut and are close. Pran senses another Bonecaster nearby, traveling alone.
The Jaghut mother being pursued is exhausted and wounded and knows she and her son and daughter will be killed soon. She thinks they are the last Jaghut on this continent and recalls how she and other Jaghut allied with the Imass to chain the Tyrant Raest, knowing the Imass would turn on them immediately afterward. She is surprised by the Bonecaster Pran sensed, who offers the Jaghut mother a bargain: leave the mother for Pran’s group but the Bonecaster will save the children.
The Bonecaster takes the boy and girl to a tower with a warren’s damaged gate high up in the air. She assumes it is Omtose Phellack (Jaghut warren) due to its proximity to the tower, which seems Jaghut in nature. She plans to send them through to save them.
Pran Chole’s group finds the Jaghut mother, without her children. She tells him the other Bonecaster took her children to a gate in the south. The Imass kill her. Pran tells Cannig they must head south quickly as the other Bonecaster is about to send the children through the Rent at Morn, incorrectly believing it to be Omtose Phellack. Cannig tells Pran to go quickly for “we are not cruel.”
The renegade Bonecaster sends the children through. Pran appears and she identifies herself as Kilava of the Logros clan. Pran tells her the Jaghut tower was atop the ruins of an ancient city and it was the Rent that destroyed the city. He asks Kilava how such wounds are sealed and she says if a soul had sealed it, her sending the children in would free it and put the children in its place. He challenged her to sacrifice herself to save the children, knowing she will not. Looking at a large mound on the plain, he tells her the prior soul has arrived, though it will have to free itself of the tomb and dig out from under the lava flow, meaning they have time to deal with it. He adds they’ll have lots of time, as the First Gathering has been called to perform the Ritual of Tellann. Kilava says they’re all insane to make themselves immortal to fight a war and declares she will defy the call. He tells her he has spiritwalked far into the future and has seen his T’lan Imass self. She says her brother will be pleased: Onos T’oolan, the First Sword. At his name, Pran identifies just who she is; she is the one who slaughtered her clan and kin save for Tool. She says she did it to “break the link and thus achieve freedom.” She asks Pran who built the ancient city and he answers K’Chain Che’Malle. When Kilava says she knows almost nothing of them, Pran says he’s pretty sure they’ll learn.
Set three years after the Fall of the Crippled God on the Korelri and Jacuruku continents. The Fall had destroyed an entire continent with firestorms for months, the fallen god screaming in pain the whole time, the pain eventually turning to rage then poison. K’rul walks the continent among the few survivors, feeding on the blood from the Fall and from the killings in his wake, thinking this power will be needed.
The Crippled God had broken into pieces. K’rul had seen some of the pieces and the maggots crawling from them and then turning into Great Ravens. He thinks it will be long before the Crippled God could reclaim the fragments and show its true nature and K’rul worries it will be insane from the shattering. The summoners of the god had opened a portal through chaos to an alien world and pulled the god down for power to try and destroy Kallor. K’rul had come here to destroy Kallor who had ruled with such “heartless mastery,” worse even than a Jaghut tyrant. He was to be joined by two other Elder Gods whom he now senses nearing. He senses as well a one-eyed beast following, wounded by the Fall. A beast that has roamed this land long before Kallor’s Empire rose. As K’rul walks across Jacuruku, he sees no life, just ash. The other two gods—Draconus and Sister of Cold Night— approaching from other directions, tell him they are finding the same. The three meet Kallor, sitting on his throne atop a hill of bones. They tell him they came to end his “reign of terror” and he tells them he conquered the continent in only 50 years, save for Ar-datha who has fled. He then says they will not be able to liberate his people as he has killed them all, incinerating the entire continent. K’rul tells the others he will “fashion a place for this. Within myself”—another warren [the Imperial Warren]. Draconus and Sister are appalled at the cost to K’rul. The three curse Kallor to: “know mortal life unending. Mortal in the ravages of age, in the pain of wounds . . . dreams brought to ruin. In love withered . . . you shall never ascend . . . each time you rise, you shall then fall. All that you achieve shall turn to dust in your hands.” In turn, Kallor, using the power of all the death he caused, curses them: “K’rul you shall fade from the world [and] be forgotten. Draconus, what you create shall be turned upon you. And as for you woman, unhuman hands shall tear your body into pieces upon a field of battle, yet you shall know no respite.”
They create the warren to hold the destruction so the land might heal. K’rul is nearly broken by it, wounded for all time, and he can already feel his worship dwindling. Draconus mentions he has been forging a sword since “the time of All Darkness,” a sword that “possesses a finality.” K’rul suggests he change the sword before finishing it and Draconus agrees. Sister says she won’t live her life worrying about the curse and her destruction will come from betrayal. The others advise she be careful whom she chooses to fight for and also finds herself a companion.
The one-eyed beast, identified as more ancient than the Elder Gods, watches the Elder Gods depart. It has lost its mate and will seek it. It heads into its own warren.
Amanda’s Reaction to the Prologue
Okay, anyone else foreseeing wrist strain from this one? *hefts tome*
Since this novel is called Memories of Ice, and we all now associate ice with the Jaghut, I sense we will be delving much more into the history of their war. The extract at the start of the Prologue also emphasises this as it tells about the titanic struggle between the two races: “Sorceries raged until the sky itself was fire…”
298,665 years before Burn’s Sleep—way to remind us instantly about the tremendous scope of this series. I am still sometimes totally overwhelmed by the idea of how much worldbuilding went into the Malazan Book of the Fallen….
One thing I love about Erikson’s writing is that you can feel instantly that you are reading one of his novels—after two books, the style is enormously recognisable and we can see themes that flow from book to book, such as the first sentence here: “Swallows darted through the clouds of midges dancing over the mudflats.” Insects! Straight away!
Is it just me that reads about that inland sea and wonders about the name of the sea that became Raraku? The words “born from the shattering of the Jaghut ice-fields” conveys such earth-shattering pain and destruction.
Pran Chole—if I hadn’t read Bill’s synopsis of the Prologue I wouldn’t have remembered this chap! I dread to think how bad I’ll be when reaching the final novel and trying to dredge up details….
Once again we are given a nice example of how Erikson builds a world and its creatures without unnecessary explanation—here, Pran observes the ranag and the ay, and we’re given enough detail to realise they can be equated to elk and wolves, for instance.
Again an emphasis on age and ancient battles with the ranag and ay tableau—“We see before us an ancient battle. These statements have depth, for they stir my soul.” It is interesting that we are looking back on this period, and Pran and Cannig are looking back further. I like the symmetry.
Also, the description of hunting the animals to extinction demonstrates the lack of foresight of various races—and has extreme parallels with what we are doing these days. I do like the fact that a lot of Erikson’s work has got enormous resonance when considering modern times—the careless manner in which we treat the other humans and animals who share our world. Hindsight is a terrible thing.
Okay, ‘fess up—who needed a dictionary to find out what “crepuscular” meant? Just me?
Here again we have a conflict where we might have difficulty knowing what side to root for. The last time we saw Pran Chole, he was instrumental in the rebirth of Tattersail into Silverfox and so I personally felt as though he was a decent chappie. Here he is pursuing a Jaghut mother and two exhausted children for less than happy purposes. Good or evil? Ah yes, I forgot, Erikson doesn’t play with white and black hats on his characters!
A couple of comments—there is mention that the Imass and Jaghut are able, at times, to cooperate, such as over the chaining of Raest; the Jaghut mother also believes the Imass care nothing for torture—well, we’ve seen the Imass break every bone in the body of a Jaghut child and bury it under rock; is that not torture?
It’s very odd the sort of things in books that make you grimace. Here I’ll say that the Jaghut children suckling the breasts of the Imass made me cringe a little, knowing at least a little of the history between the races….
“The rotted tooth of a ruined tower rose from the plain’s edge…” Now that doesn’t sound like a pleasant place, does it? Rotted teeth are never fun!
“She could not recognise the warren—the old damage obscured the portal’s characteristics.” Who thinks that playing with unknown warrens is a seriously bad idea? When she suggests the elder warrens it might be, she doesn’t think about Tiste Andii or Tiste Edur—is this because those races have not yet arrived in the Malazan Empire, or because she’s unaware, or…?
What is the Rent? What do the Imass know about it? “Go to Morn, Bonecaster,” the Clan Leader whispered. “We are not cruel.” This doesn’t sound good for those poor Jaghut children.
Ooh, now what has been released by the exchange of souls? What or who? Since we’re currently back in the past the soul could be anyone. It sounds like a Big Bad… The Crippled God? The Tiste Edur? Someone we’ve met already? Someone we’re yet to meet? “The creature must now free itself of its tomb, and that has been thoroughly warded.”
The Imass became the T’lan Imass for the sake of their eternal war with the Jaghut? How unutterably sad, and single-minded, and, quite honestly, horrific. [Bill: Single-minded is rarely a good trait in the Erikson universe.]
The city was built by the K’Chain Che’Malle—a name we have heard before, and never under positive circumstances.
Now here is something that occurs to me with the second part of the prologue: since I am aware that the Crippled God is a big enough feature of the series to have the final novel named after him/her/it, I keep trying to spot the first arrival on the scene. But, other than jade statues, I think this is the first occasion that we see any proper mention of the Crippled God and the effect he/she/it has had on history. [Bill: Erikson is tricky—we get a throwaway references by the T’lan Imass who board Silanda in DG. One of them mistakenly refers to Kulp as “Servant of the Chained One.”]
But what a mention! “The conflagration had seemed unending, world-devouring, weeks into months, and through it all could be heard the screams of a god.”
Oooh, was it just me thinking Star Wars at this line: “Pain gave birth to rage. Rage, to poison, an infection sparing no-one.” It was a little Darth Vader!
Elder Gods. Elder warrens. A fallen god. Wow, the possibilities for “harsh unpleasantries” are many….
“The foreign god had been torn apart in his descent to earth.” The Crippled God came from elsewhere? The same as the Tiste races? Does he belong to them?
Dear Lord, and the god was brought through to destroy SOMEONE ELSE?!
“Desperate enough to part the fabric of chaos, to open a way into an alien, remote realm; to then lure a curious god of that realm closer, ever closer to the trap they had prepared. The summoners sought power. All to destroy one man.”
Wait…. Kallor… We’ve heard that name, haven’t we? Wasn’t he connected to Brood in GotM? [Bill: Yep.]
And Draconus—he forged Dragnipur, right? [Bill: Yep again.]
These are some weighty names we’re seeing right from the first page!
Oh! And here we’re seeing the creation of the warren used by the Imperial Army—all that death and destruction, all those bones and statues and the dust of ages, that is all Jacuruku, within the Imperial warren. “They merged their power to draw chains around a continent of slaughter, then pulled it into a warren created for that sole purpose, leaving the land itself bared. To heal.”
And, considering what he has dealt upon the people he held tyrannical sway over, I think it is more than fitting punishment for Kallor—to always live, and never ascend.
Sister of Cold Nights: I don’t recognise the name at all. Help?
Will be interesting to revisit the prologue having read the entire novel!
Bill’s Comments on the Prologue
We’ve heard a lot about the T’lan and Jaghut wars, or, another perspective, pogroms. And it was relatively early in GoTM that we had our first hint that the simplistic “Imass good—Jaghut bad cuz they’re tyrants” wasn’t going to be the whole story, as in this exchange between Lorn and Tool:
“Tool, they [The Jaghut] weren’t very warlike, were they? I mean, before your kind sought to destroy them.”
“Even then,” he said at last. “The key lay in making them angry . . . ”
Then of course in DG we have the Jaghut ghost and his family, including the children whose bones were shattered and pinned under rocks, an image that can’t help but raise the reader’s sympathy. And Amanda, it does seem to call into question Pran’s comments, though we’re told they didn’t “have time.” I think what we see in that is how the T’lan Imass have a ruthless pragmatism that can in fact substitute for cruelty, save in the eye of the ruthlessly pragmatic. And/or possibly the idea that the Imass have degenerated in their view of cruelty—either accepting it or losing their awareness of it—the effect of an eternal war.
Here we get to see the war in action. But first we open with another of those scene settings. The Jaghut sorcery is breaking and so the land is recovering from the glaciers, though “memories of mountain-high ice” remain (title flag!). The freshwater sea that had formed with the breaking of the Jaghut sorcery is itself morphing as the land rises. And within the geological lies the biological. Literally in this case, as Pran Chole looks on the an ancient scene frozen before him— a family of ranag surrounded by the ay hunters who fell victim to the same sinkhole as the ranag, another “memory of ice.” (By the way—we’ve seen this before with the Semk god in DG and we’ll see it again later). Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here:
Layers and changes: generational shifts, and remnants/scars/legacies of what came before. It’s a theme we’ve already seen (think the detritus of civilizations or the sea that lies below Raraku in DG) and which we’ll see repeatedly throughout the series, all the way to TCG. The geological shift is mirrored by population shifts as well: ice to sea to newly birthed land—Jaghut to Imass to Human. (Although let’s not assume it ends there. After all, it never has).
Hunter and hunted: The scene is mirrored by the T’lan Imass and Jaghut frozen in endless war: hunter and hunted, both made victim, both sinking.
Overhunting and ecological ripples: the recognition by Cannig that they have hunted the tenag and ranag to extinction which in turn led to the starvation of the ay and so on certainly has echoes with our own experiences, as Amanda has pointed out, as well as other unintended ecological consequences of our actions. It’s a reference to ecological short-sightedness that builds on Duiker’s little mini-history in DG about the deforestation.
All of this could have been too blunt a metaphor, so I like how Erikson filters it rather through the eyes of Pran Chole and Cannig Tol, allowing the characters to wrestle with the metaphor, so it becomes part of the story rather than a loud red flag waved from the author to the reader.
Moving on, I like how Jaghut and Imass are further blurred by language when Pran Chole looks at his shadow (his darker self) and thinks it makes him look “almost as tall as a Jaghut.” Then again when he thinks how “when pursuing Jaghut, the distinction of hunter and hunted had little meaning.”
“Crepuscular” Love that word. And of course, it is the “twilight” of the Jaghut, and, in differing fashion, of the Imass.
We find more reasons to sympathize with the Jaghut in the next scene:
- We have a mother’s pov. It has to be a pretty bad mom (think closet hangars) for one to not sympathize with a mother’s pov.
- It’s a mother contemplating the death of her children and taking comfort in the fact that her hunters aren’t cruel, but will kill quickly and cleanly.
- We find out that she had been allies with the Imass.
- She had turned against her own—good ole Raest from GoTM.
- Her lack of bitterness at all that. Can any of us say we would reject bitterness in that situation?
- The idea that Jaghut mothers have “always [sought] bargains to spare the lives of [their] children” and that the Imass “never agree to them.” Try and picture that scene occurring time and time again and not feel sympathy.
Note the detail regarding Kilava: “Her large swollen breasts indicating she had recently birthed.”
Hmm, perhaps the “cracked” earth, the “wound,” the “birth” of a “molten river . . vast and black . . . of stone and ash,” the “rotted tooth of a ruined tower,” the “red welt,” and Kilava’s “unease” are small clues that what seems like an act of compassion might not end well. Just saying.
Or the “sultry clouds of dust that hung motionless in her wake,” though that line has depths of echoes to it: the dust that the T’lan Imass will be/travel as when the Ritual is performed as well as the idea of of our actions haunting us, riding in our wake always.
Remember that physical description: mounds in circles, a larger one in the center, a ruined tower.
Note the scent of “one ancient and dead, the other . . . less so.” Less so is not so good, maybe.
Her thoughts, “the journey will not be long. Your mother waits beyond” are indeed a lie, though the first as much as the second, though Kilava doesn’t know it. And never, never, ever ask “what could be worse than death” in a fantasy novel. Turns out lots of things can be (it also turns out, as we’ll see in this book, that death might not be so bad).
I like the irony of the conversation between Pran Chole and the Jaghut mother, how she says she always thought the Imass lacked “such concepts as compassion and mercy” followed immediately by Pran Chole displaying both qualities by not telling her what is about to unfold with her children. And then shortly afterward (after killing the mother) Cannig Tol does the same, telling Pran to hurry to try and “save” the Jaghut children—save them by killing them cleanly and quickly as the Jaghut mother took former comfort in, echoing Pran’s interior thought with his own spoken one: “We are not cruel.”
“Morn.” Hmmm, is it “morn” as in morning and thus rebirth, new life, new hope or is that other kind of “morn”, which is umm, not so much?
Funny to hear Pran Chole described as a “young man,” isn’t it?
And then we get the horror that will reverberate throughout this book (and in ripples throughout the series). The rent is not Omtose Phellack. It is a wound sealed by a soul, a soul that suffers for all eternity. Unless it is replaced, as it just has been. And beyond the tragic horror of the children is the idea that something has been freed, something powerful enough to free itself of that massive tomb then through the stone itself. And yes, we will see just what that was. By the way, if you recall, we were set up for this sort of plot point in DG when Stormy, Gesler, etc. were on the Silanda and a group of T’lan Imass appeared, one of them sacrificing himself (seemingly at least—remember that Tiste Andii head…) to seal a rent.
We also find out the Gathering is nigh (soon to be known as the First Gathering, implying…), when the Imass enact the Ritual of Tellann and become the T’lan Imass that we’ve seen in the prior two books. All for the sake of war. Kilava, however, tells us she will not partake of the ritual, which of course also begs the question of whether other Imass did the same. And now we get more connections to the prior books (we’ve seen Pran already in his “withered” form when he helps birth Silverfox, and we’ve met Raest of course) when we learn that Kilava is the sister of Tool. We also learn why Tool is “clanless”—because his sister killed their clan. More details to follow….
We’ve had K’Chain Che’Malle mentioned before (remember the bone phone from GoTM) here and there, but Pran Chole is right when he implies we’re about to hear much more about that race. Much, much more.
Speaking of things we’ll hear more of. The Crippled God. And what a scene we get of his fall. It’s interesting to note that for all the ways we’ll soon see the Crippled God, he’s introduced to us as being pulled down unwillingly and “screaming” for months, as being in pain (the word is used three times in this regard in close proximity) and grief. Though then his “pain gave birth to rage. Rage to poison”—poison being a word associated with him and that will play a major role in MoI.
We’ve seen K’rul before, of course, and his connection to blood. Remember he was reawakened when blood fell in the bell tower of his temple in Darujhistan. And in this prologue we find out why he was “asleep.”
It’s a bit of a tease to tell us that those who summoned down the Crippled God did so out of desperation to kill one man—what and who could have driven them to such straits? Here I picture “Kallor” being said in the same way Seinfeld used to say “Newman” on that show.
Yum, maggots. Crawling out of “rotting, endlessly pulsing meat and broken bone.” But soon transformed into Great Ravens (think Crone from GoTM). File that fact away. Also the idea that the CG came down in pieces.
Kallor. Think of all the bad stuff we’ve been told about the Jaghut Tyrants. So bad the Imass decided to make themselves immortal and kill all Jaghut to prevent them arising again. And now we’re told Kallor was worse. Fair warning then—don’t be surprised by Kallor’s actions in this book. (Which actions, of course, would be telling.)
Interesting too to note that K’rul, as we see in present time, is intervening for “good” here.
Ash. Ash and bone. Layers and heaps of it. Everything incinerated. Ring a bell anyone? Later we’ll be told K’rul will create a new warren to hold this all so the land may heal. Earlier, in DG, we had Kalam find a sign of Kallor in the warren he traveled through, a warren we’ve had repeatedly described as filled with ash.
How’s this for an image:
Upon a ragged hilltop where wind swirled through the ashes, spinning funeral wreaths skyward. Directly before them, on a heap of burnt bones, was a throne. The man seated upon it was smiling.
Tell me that’s not a portrait waiting to be painted. Or a movie scene waiting to be filmed.
And now we get the big reveal of just how bad Kallor is. Not only was he a tyrant of millions. He’s the murderer of them. All so they wouldn’t be taken from him by these three Elder Gods: K’rul, Sister of Cold Nights (cough cough Nightchill cough Silverfox), and Draconus. The old “if I can’t have them, nobody can” game. Wow.
Then the formal exchange of curses (got to say, it does appear on the surface at least that Kallor seems to get the best of these curses, though perhaps not from his pov). Kallor gets unending life, though filled with mortal pain and age and despair and all he touches or attempts will turn to dust. Meanwhile, K’rul will fade away (until a certain night in Darujhistan). Draconus will have his creation turned against him (that special sword which we’ve already seen. hint—Draconus is associated with Darkness). And Sister of Cold Nights will be torn apart by demons outside Pale and then reborn into the body of Silverfox. (Okay, okay, Kallor’s curse was a tad less specific but I’m pretty sure this is all pretty straightforward here.) By the way, that curse on Kallor gives us some insight into what we saw in GoTM:
Kallor said: “I walked this land when the T’lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?”
“Yes,” said Caladan Brood, “you never learn.”
We close nearly how we began, with an animal scene. In this case, an Elder Elder god (the Elder gods are young to him), one-eyed (ring a bell?) and searching for its mate. Much, much more to come from that angle.
And that, my friends, is one hell of a packed prologue, setting in motion events and characters not only for Memories of Ice, but plot threads, characters, and themes that will ripple all the way through to the bitter end, raising their heads (literally or metaphorically) in The Crippled God.
Gruntle, leader of a caravan guard group (Harllo, Stonny Menackis), waits at the crowded ford outside Darujhistan to take his master’s (Keruli) carriage across. He is hailed by Emancipator Reese, who says his masters in another waiting carriage want to speak to him.
Gruntle meets Bauchelain and feels immediately uneasy. Bauchelain tells Gruntle that Keruli’s “prying is none too subtle” and this time they’re making an exception to such invasion of privacy. He leads Gruntle to a fresh crater and introduces him to his partner Korbal Breach, who scares Gruntle even more than Bauchelain did. Bauchelain tells Gruntle the crater was a prison for a Jaghut Tyrant, freed by a T’lan Imass and a representative of the Malazan Empire, and mentions a few rumors that basically recap some highlights of GotM. He then says they’re going to explore the tomb and asks if Gruntle wants to join them, saying his master would probably urge him to accept. Gruntle refuses, then points out Moon’s Spawn in the distance moving away. When Bauchelain mentions the tilt, he’s impressed when Gruntle says that was caused by the Malazan mages. Broach seems a bit nervous at the idea that Rake may sense them, but Bauchelain reassures him he senses no such thing. When the pair head into the tomb, Gruntle heads back, wishing Rake had sensed the two and done something about them.
The one-eyed beast from the prologue (identified now as a wolf), has found a human body in the Warren of Chaos and while it hesitates over possibilities is pleasantly shocked by noting the human’s face is “mirrored” to its own, making its decision easier.
Toc the Younger (one-eyed) awakens on a field with barrows, remembering the ambush by Hairlock and being thrown into a warren. He can tell by the condition of his bow it was a long time ago. He notes one has been holed. Atop the central barrow, he can see the ruins of a stone tower with a “welt in the sky beyond the tower.” Looking at the barrow, he sees something made its way out of it. As he heads for the tower, he stumbles across Tool who briefly recounts some of what happened in GotM and tells Toc they are in Morn and that the woman who lives in the tower has returned. He says he will help Toc with food and arrows. The woman approaches, flanked by Gareth—a large dog—and Baaljagg, an Ay, which shocks Tool. Tool identifies the woman as Lady Envy, daughter of Draconus (killed by Rake with Dragnipur, forged by Draconus) and sister to Spite. Tool wants to know what she’s doing in Morn. Inside the tower are three masked Seguleh. Toc says that for the Seguleh “rank is everything. If the hierarchy’s in doubt, challenge it” and that only the lowest ranked will speak with non-Seguleh. One of the Seguleh has only two slashes on it. Senu challenged Tool and is quickly knocked unconscious, even before he can fully draw his swords. Tool asks Envy what she knows of the Rent and she says it has been bridged by a mortal soul and it seems “almost mechanical.” She adds the K’Chain Che’Malle barrows have been empty for decades and one contained a Matron. She believes the Matron was the one originally sealing the Rent and she has been replaced. Tool says if she wants to know more, she should go with him, for he follows an ancient trail that will lead to her answers. He also tells her that her “old travelling companions”—Rake and Brood—are heading the same way, toward the Pannion Domin to fight against the Domin. Envy says she will accompany Tool and Toc north.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter One
Imrygyn Tallobant provides us a little look at the events of GotM, reminds us that the Pannion Seer is a big old threat, and then throws in the idea that the breaking of one bridge led to the Pannion Wars—all that in seventeen odd lines!
And then we immediately see the destroyed bridge through the eyes of one Gruntle—and are given a perspective on what this means for trading to and from Darujhistan.
I am already cheerful about the prospect of spending time with Gruntle (is it merely coincidence that whenever I see his name I also see the word “disgruntled”?) He is suitably cynical—not believing tales of dragons and demons without seeing them himself—and has a relatively low opinion of his fellow man. Definitely the sort of character that appeals to me!
I’m curious about Keruli—did he overhear the conversation between Gruntle or Reese, or is he all magelike? He’s certainly no damn merchant, that’s for sure! “Your rates were high? I see. Hmm. Inform your two companions, then, that an aversion to trouble will yield substantial bonuses to their pay.”
*giggles* I like the little fashion reference as we meet Master Bauchelain for the first time:
“Black,” the captain said to Reese, “was last year’s shade in Darujhistan.”
“Black is Bauchelain’s eternal shade, sir.”
Oh, I think I’m going to like Bauchelain too! I’d heard that he and Korbal Broach are some of the most entertaining and amusing characters Erikson has written, based on the novellas, so I have been most intrigued to meet them myself. I do like this exchange:
“You have had schooling, then. How interesting. You’re a swordsman, are you not? What need you for letters and numbers?”
“And you’re a man of letters and numbers—what need you for that well-worn broadsword at your hip and that fancy mail hauberk?”
“An unfortunate side effect of education among the masses is lack of respect.”
“Healthy skepticism, you mean.”
“Disdain for authority, actually.”
What I sense is that Gruntle is very much a man hardened by life and experience—it does not seem to be idle boasts concerning the fact that he and his two companions are worth much more than ordinary guards. So the fact that he feels very real fear about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach suggests they truly are men to be feared. Men? perhaps not. What is their profession? Why does Bauchelain hesitate as he refers to Korbal Broach as his partner? What is their interest in tombs…?
I think Gruntle is very astute when he wishes that Anomander Rake had sensed these two, and removed them from the game.
Oooh! The Elder Elder wolf has discovered Toc the Younger—is he going to do some good old god possession? “The gift, the creature saw at last, was a true one. Nothing else could explain what it discovered in the mortal man’s face. A mirrored spirit, in every detail.” One eye, see?
I’m so, so, so glad to see the return of Toc the Younger—I was really beginning to enjoy reading about him in GotM when he was so abruptly removed from proceedings. How scary must it be to wake in a place you don’t know, after days or weeks have passed, with no real knowledge of what must have happened? Consequently, Toc’s pragmatism and admonitions to himself to think like a soldier and ensure his survivial shows a rare man indeed.
I am also pleased to see Tool again—the unique, deadpan humour of this character is very rewarding. Toc and Tool have been effectively used by Erikson here to bring the reader up to speed on various events—such as the death of Lorn, the fact that the Malazan Empire failed to take Darujhistan.
The difference in perspective of Toc and the reader here is incredibly amusing—when Lady Envy and her lineage are introduced (the daughter of the god who forged Dragnipur), the reader will suck their teeth and understand that she is powerful beyond comprehending and probably an Ascendant if not a god. Toc has only heard the name Anomander Rake, and only to the extent that he has been a supposed enemy of the Malazan Empire.
Despite this, even Toc knows enough to feel unease about having to furnish Lady Envy with a favour to be specified some time in the future. I have a feeling that will become a big plot point! Don’t make bargains with gods!
With the Segulah we see another example of Erikson just overturning tropes a little—usually intricately marked face masks would indicate a leader. Here, it seems as though the Segulah marked only with twin slashes is the one to be most feared.
“Trying to make sense of the conversation thus far was giving him a headache.” Finally one of the characters feels what the reader feels at times!
And yet more about the K’Chain Che’Malle—I’ve been intrigued about them for three books now, and it looks like they’re about to come front and centre!
Bill’s Comments on Chapter One
So here we are two months after the events of GoTM’s close. (Take the clear dates when you get ‘em I say.)
Our first introduction to Gruntle is of him as a skeptic. Get used to it.
We also get an early hint that Keruli (Gruntle’s boss) is much more than he appears: his equanimity, his knowledge of things beyond his carriage though he’s never left it, his lack of concern with money and lack of knowledge about prices for caravan guards. Interesting name as well.
Ahh, Bauchelain and Roach. These two make for some great moments in the series and I highly recommend Erikson’s collection of three novellas with them as the main characters.
More of the ecological theme here as Bauchelain discusses the eco-web involving fire, prairie grasses, the bhederin herds and the disruption soon to be caused by the introduction of goats (a topic mentioned in DG as well by Duiker). From the specific Bauchelain segues into the general: “violence and destruction, both vital for life,” and so on to another major theme in the series—balance of opposing forces.
Note the clever little plot summary we get of events in GoTM here. It’s been years after all between books, and even if one is reading them once they’re all out (Amanda), it’s been an entire novel since we were last here. Bauchelain’s dialogue, as well as Gruntle’s thoughts on the rumors regarding the bridge’s destruction are highly efficient ways to concisely recap important events without stalling narrative.
I mentioned the one-eye of the wolf in the Prologue as in important detail and now we return to that one-eyed character it was meant to recall: Toc the Younger. And while Toc “mirrors” the Wolf God physically via the one eye, one has to wonder if there’s a bit more to the idea of the human and the predator being “mirrors” of each other as well.
Here’s that physical landscape from the prologue again: the mounds and a large central one, for the careful reader to recognize Toc’s location as Morn. And the careful reader will also note the previously unholed barrows are now open—that something that was released by Kilava and working its way out appears to have done so.
More concise and perfectly natural recaps of GoTM-first in Toc struggling to recall what happened to him and then when he asks Tool to tell him what happened.
More on the themes of ecology, and of struggle. Life as a perpetual war for dominance and survival and the distinction between the animals and the sentient, according to Tool, is the sentient have “the privilege of choice” and “the gift of foresight.” Though ironically enough, our “foresight” often comes too late. Or at least, our recognition of those gifts and the responsibilities they bring do.
So we’ve got the Seguleh introduced now. And their obsession with hierarchy via the sword. Senu has challenged Tool and lost quickly. That’s one down, two to go, unless anyone thinks Lady Envy is really going to be able to prevent challenges for a few more hundred pages. Anyone?
We finally learn what was released when Kilava sent the Jaghut children into the rent. Turns out it was a K’Chain Che’Malle Matron who escaped her tomb, then released her children and departed. Begging the question of where are they now, of course. And now we’ve got a road trip and a plan to find Rake and Brood and those heading to the Pannion, along with whatever trail Tool is on.
A K’Chain Che’Male Matron. The Pannion Seer. Tool and Toc. Lady Envy. Seguleh. A pair of dogs (or akin to dogs). Gruntle. Keruli. Stonny. Kallor. Nightchill. K’rul. Bauchelain and Roach. We don’t have all our characters on stage yet, but we’ve got a bunch. And soon we’ll return to some old friends.
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.
Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.