Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapters 4 and 5

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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 Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 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.

Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A forum thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

Another note: Tor.com is collecting questions for Steven Erikson regarding Deadhouse Gates!

Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!

Chapter Four

SCENE ONE

Gruntle watches a fellow caravan guard, Buke, approach Bauchelain’s carriage, seemingly in search of a job. Buke’s wife, mother, and four children had died in a fire while Buke was lying drunk in an alley just around the corner and Gruntle thinks he’s had a death wish ever since. When Gruntle and Buke speak, Buke tells him he believes Korbal Broach is the killer responsible for two weeks of murders in Darujhistan and Gruntle realizes Buke plans on trying to stop/kill Broach or die trying. Stonny arrives and though she doesn’t know the full story, asks Buke when he’s going to start living again.

SCENE TWO

Quick Ben meets an old woman in Pale, who refers to Quick Ben as a “snake of the desert,” “many-headed snake,” and “twelve-souls.” Quick asks her why Burn sleeps and about the idea that there are earthquakes and eruptions when Burn “stirs towards wakefulness.” The witch tells him these are “natural things . . . bound to their own laws of cause and effect.” She compares the world to a “beetle’s ball of dung [traveling] through a chilling void around the sun” and says Burn is the “egg within the dung,” the “pain of existence. The queen of the hive and we her workers and soldiers. And every now and then we swarm.” Quick tells her Burn is sick and she agrees. Quick then objects to the image of humanity (and others) as workers, saying it sounds like they’re “slaves.” The witch replies that Burn “demands nothing . . . Yet all that you do serves her no matter what you do. Not simply benign . . . but amoral. We can thrive or we can destroy ourselves, it matters not to her.” Quick asks again why the goddess sleeps and the witch says, “to dream.” She continues by saying she is “fevered” now (her sickness) and thus her “dreams become nightmares.” Quick Ben says he needs to figure out a way to stop the infection, and that he’ll need help. The witch says he may call on her and asks him to make sure he shuts the door on the way out, as “I prefer the cold.”

SCENE THREE

Paran, Quick Ben, Mallet, and Spindle are to join the parley at Brood’s camp. Mallet tells Paran he can sense a “new power” from Brood’s camp, something with “hints of T’lan Imass” that is “overpowering everyone else.” As they ride, Spindle’s warren is causing all sorts of chaos around them with animals. Paran’s mind wanders as they ride: he recalls Itko Kan; wonders about the rumors of pending rebellion in Seven Cities, and thinks of how his sister Tavore—”cold and canny” and “not the type to accept defeat”—will protect their House and especially Felisin from Laseen’s current purge, though he’d probably “recoil from using whatever methods she’s chosen.” They’re met by Whiskeyjack and Dujek and the others ride off, leaving Dujek to speak with Paran. Dujek tells him his father died and his mother “elected to join him,” that Tavore salvaged what she could of their holdings, became Adjunct, and sent Felisin to the Otataral Mines, where Dujek says she’ll probably be “quietly retrieved.” Paran blames himself for all of it, but tells Dujek “it is all right . . . the children of my parents are . . . capable of virtually anything.”

SCENE FOUR

Later, Paran sorrows over it all alone. Whiskeyjack joins him and tells him Silverfox is Tattersail reborn, and is also Nightchill. Paran looks at Silverfox where she and others wait at the foot of the barrow he and Whiskeyjack stand atop and says she’s more than just Nightchill and Tattersail; she’s a Soletaken. Whiskeyjack tells Paran that Silverfox has named him “Jen’isand Rul” which means “the Wanderer within the Sword” and that Silverfox says Paran is set apart from mortals or ascendants; he’s been “marked” (something Quick Ben senses as well). Paran tells him of seeing Rake kill two Hounds of Shadow, getting their blood on/in him, of entering Dragnipur and freeing the Hounds trapped inside. Whiskyjack says not to tell the Tiste Andii about it. When Paran says he doesn’t want to meet Silverfox, Whiskeyjack says it’s beyond just Paran (and his relationship with Tattersail), that Silverfox has lots of power and Kallor wants to kill her, though right now the Malazans, Brood, and Korlat are against it. Whiskeyjack wants Paran to help draw Tattersail forth to be the dominating soul inside Silverfox.

SCENE FIVE

Picker, Trotts, Detoran, Spindle, Hedge, and Blend steal the map table from Brood’s tent and bring it to an empty tent. Hedge lets them know how he and Fiddler rigged the earlier games and they’re going to pull it again with Spindle taking Fiddler’s place so they can take money from the other squads.

SCENE SIX

The rigging no longer seems to work and the Seventh Squad lost lots of money. Spindle crawls under the table and says there’s an image painted underneath like a big card. Hedge says he and Fiddler didn’t put it there. Spindle says it’s a “new card. Unaligned, without an aspect.” It has a figure in the middle with a dog-head on its chest. Spindle thinks he can make a copy and do a reading, figure out the card so they can re-rig the table.

SCENE SEVEN

Paran and Silverfox are together. Paran feels Nightchill’s presence “entwined like wires of black iron through all that was Tattersail . . . a bitter, demanding presence . . . She knows she was betrayed at the Enfilade at Pale. Both her and . . . Bellurdan.” Paran asks why the Gathering and Silverfox says the T’lan Imass are gathering for her “benediction,” but the alliance will need the T’lan Imass’ “full strength” for the upcoming war with the Pannion. She tells Paran that Tattersail believes the Deck of Dragons is “a kind of structure imposed on power itself. each card is a gate into a warren and there were once many more cards . . . may have been other Decks.” She continues by saying “there is also a kind of structure focused upon power itself . . . Houses . . . Holds.” She believes the Houses of the Azath and Houses of the Deck are the same or linked. When he recalls rumors that Kellanved and Dancer found a way into the Deadhouse in Malaz City, she tells him they have ascended and are now Shadowthrone and Cotillion/Rope. He asks why, since they went into the Deadhouse, they didn’t take the aspect of the House of Death and Silverfox theorizes it’s because that House is already occupied by Hood, King of High House Death. If, however, each Azath is linked to all others, gaining entrance to one as ST and Cotillion did allows one to choose, so they picked an empty House/throne and so the House of Shadow appeared. She adds it was once a Hold, “bestial, a wilder place, and apart from the Hounds it knew no ruler for a long, long time.”

Paran asks about the Unaligned and she makes a few guesses: “Failed aspects? The imposition of chance, of random forces? The Azath and the Deck are both impositions of order but even order needs freedom.” He asks what it all has to do with him and she begins with Rake: “Rake is Knight of the House of Dark, yet where is the House itself? Before all else there was Dark . . . so it must be an ancient place, or Hold, or something that came before Holds themselves. A focus for the gate into Kurald Galain . . . the First Wound, with a soul trapped in its maw, thus sealing it.” Paran then picks up the train of thought: “Or a legion of souls . . .Before Houses there were Holds . . . both stationary. Settled. Before settlement there was wandering. House from Hold. Hold from a gate in motion . . . a wagon, burdened beneath the countless souls sealing the gate into Dark.” Silverfox interrupts to say she thinks Paran is now the Master of the Deck, “birthed by accident or by some purpose the need of which only the Azath know.” When he scoffs, she tells him “An unseen war has begun, Paran. The warrens themselves are under assault . . . An army is being assembled perhaps, and you—a soldier—are part of that army.” He tells her about his dreams of a child screaming inside a wound. She tells him to run toward the child, not away. He says he is always “the wrong choice.” He thinks Whiskeyjack and the other Malazans also put their faith in him mistakenly. As he looks at them he thinks at least he can tell WJ that Tattersail appears to be at the forefront, though he closes with the idea: “I will fail you all.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Four

Is Fisher Kel Tath the Fisherman we saw in Night of Knives? [Bill: No, but more to come on Fisher.] This poem at the start of Chapter Four is clearly talking about the Elder Gods and their experiences at the hands of the curse given to them by Kallor. Lots that needs discussing and holding in mind, I think. What is the betrayal that greets Sister of Cold Nights’ dawn? Is this the telling of her “death” and rebirth into the body of Silverfox? “You chose to trust the knife, even as it found your heart.” This might be an oblique reference to Bellurdan, her mate? Referring to K’rul, the work says he might make of his grief the sweetest gift. Really not sure what to make of it, but will pop it all in my filing cabinet!

At times Erikson’s work reminds me of many other books and/or TV series. Here at the start of Chapter Four I’m reminded strongly of Firefly as Gruntle mocks Harllo and Stonny Menackis. It sounds like Mal teasing Jayne and Zoe as they relax after a job. The teasing, the betting, the casual insults—all feel remarkably comfortable and are a great way to write in the friendship between these three characters. [Bill: Must. Resist. Anti-Fox. Firefly Cancellation Rant. Must. Resist]

Interesting that Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are referred to as “sorcerers” by Gruntle—and mention is made of the way their wagon crossed the uneven path of the ford without so much as a jolt. But I don’t think they are mages. They certainly don’t seem to be of the same ilk as the mages we’ve seen in the army, although I guess mages would come in all flavours and not all of them will be military based. I wonder if they use warrens?

Buke, Buke, Buke—did he feature in Gardens of the Moon? Was the “tenement fire” actually fire caused by the events conducted by the Bridgeburners? Or is Buke an entirely new chap to the series? Whichever it is, I don’t think his acceptance of employment from Bauchelain is a sensible decision! Certainly we have this paragraph to hint at future suffering:

“Ah, friend Buke, I hope you do not come to regret your choice. No doubt violence and horror swirls around your two new masters, but you’re more likely to be a witness to it than a victim yourself. Haven’t you been in suffering’s embrace long enough?”

Now, the killings in Darujhistan where Vorcan’s guild were enlisted could have been to do with the events we read in Gardens of the Moon—the various killings that took place thanks to an assassin’s war. Equally Broach could have been behind it—what we do know is that Buke intends to kill Korbal Broach. I suspect this story thread will extend through the whole novel. “Who can abide the murder of innocents?”

Ahh, Stonny is sweet on Buke, by the looks of things. I like the way relationships and romance are handled so far by Erikson—no swooning from women; nice no nonsense attitudes to it all! I also like the way that modern phrases (such as large cars compensating for a man lacking in… *ahem*… other areas) are switched into ye olde terms by Erikson—here: “Everyone knows that two-handed sword of yours is nothing but a pathetic attempt at compensation, Harllo.” [Bill: Sometimes a sword isn’t just a sword, eh?]

Erikson constantly reminds us of themes he needs us to pay attention to:

“Don’t push!” a voice shrieked behind it. “Pull, you snake of the desert!”

Shrugging, Quick Ben tugged the door towards him.

“Only fools push!”

Pushing and pulling—something we’ve heard a number of times before now.

There is also reference to Quick Ben smelling of Raraku, and the old woman calls him “snake of the desert,” which is more, I think, than we’ve known before—although the fact Kalam is from Seven Cities might have hinted at this anyway.

Snake = Soletaken? Or snake = dragon?

Quick Ben = twelve souls? What does this mean? Twelve people within him? [Bill: Let’s see, that’s five sentences about Quick Ben. Five of them ending in question marks. Get used to it.]

This conversation between Quick Ben and the oldest witch of Tennes (the warren which is the Path of the Land) is another of those that you just KNOW has portent for the over-arcing story of the entire series! Lots of hints about Quick Ben, asking questions about Burn and why she sleeps, the idea of those who inhabit Burn “swarming”—possibly into warrens. Lots to bear in mind, methinks!

Burn is presented as amoral—distant and uncaring:

“We can thrive, or we can destroy ourselves, it matters not to her—she will simply birth another brood and it begins again.”

And here is the crux of the issue—the presence of the Crippled God is a sickness upon Burn, and she sleeps to dream, so at the moment is suffering burning nightmares. Hence the world falling to pieces around her—the wars, the ascendants gathering, the momentous events.

Heh. If Quick Ben’s mind nags upon something I feel it would be wise to bear it in mind! So… “She prefers the cold. Strange. Most old people like heat and plenty of it…” So who is this old woman? Is she younger than she seems, and not an old woman at all? Is she a being who naturally prefers the cold—maybe Jaghut blood? I would like to think she is Lady Spite, the complete reverse of Lady Envy!

We’ve just seen reference to the heat and fever of Burn—and then we hear Paran has a fiery pain in his belly. Is this just a coincidence?

Erikson offers us a neat little precis of how the cauldron is simmering in the city of Pale since the outlawing of the Malazan soldiers—there is no administrative backup, and no Claws to rule the black markets. The Malazans are finding themselves beholden to the Darujhistans, which is not a situation that invaders would wish to suffer.

I’m grinning at the effect that Spindle’s warren usage is having on the neighbourhoods of Pale—it just seems so prosaic and commonplace.

Here is a juxtaposition of life and death, which reminds me somewhat of the poppies in the fields of Flanders:

Midsummer flowers cloaked the flanks of the recent barrows two hundred paces to their left in swathes of brittle blue, the hue deepening as the sun sank lower behind the mounds.

Ouch… “No matter what, Tavore will take care of Felisin. That, at least, I can take comfort from…”

He doesn’t remain under this illusion for too long, with the conversation that occurs between he and Dujek. What a truly sad conversation it is. It makes my heart hurt hearing Paran take on the fault of the cull, Felisin’s experience, the death of both his parents. It sits strangely with Felisin’s conviction that Tavore is entirely at fault—I don’t think there was a single instance where she blamed Paran for her circumstances.

“The children of my parents are, one and all, capable of virtually anything. We can survive the consequences. Perhaps we lack normal conscience, perhaps we are monsters in truth.”

Paran’s moments of reflection reveal some questions and statements that should maybe be dwelt on in the comments: the idea that we never truly move beyond childhood, we merely shroud ourselves in the armour of adulthood; the idea that this same armour can both protect us from bitter experiences—but can also trap us to suffer the memories forever. Have at it. *grins* What struck you about these matters of philosophy?

And finally Paran is told about Silverfox—and is being used to try and bring forth Tattersail within Silverfox, so that she will not betray the Malazans. “She is but a child.”

I don’t know how many here have read Stephenie Meyer’s novels. I have. In the third and fourth novel Meyer introduces “imprinting,” the idea that two souls are joined—no matter the age of the two participants. In Breaking Dawn Meyer allows imprinting to occur between a female child and an adult male, with hand holding and companionship. Here Erikson chooses the opposite path—Paran immediately shying away from the idea of hand holding with Silverfox. I found it interesting having seen both avenues investigated in literature.

Now Paran has been gifted the name Jen’isand Rul—the Wanderer within the Sword—and we learn that his sickness and awakening powers are to do with his sojourn within Dragnipur. There is also a representation of “even gods may bleed” when Whiskeyjack says:

“The Son of Darkness is an unpredictable bastard, by all accounts. And if the legend of Dragnipur is true, the curse of that sword of his is that no-one escapes its nightmare prison—their souls are chained… for ever. You’ve cheated that, and perhaps the Hounds have as well. You’ve set an alarming… precedent.”

Ooooh wait! Two Hounds escaped… Might these be Baaljagg and Garath? [Bill: Recall the Hounds of Shadow killed by Rake in GoTM. These were later freed by Paran within the sword. That’s not to say B and G don’t have their own little secrets….]

*giggles* I love, love, love the image of the Bridgeburners creeping through camp to retrieve the table in Brood’s tent! They are like children, with their whispering and jostling and cursing each other as they carry the table back through camp. Here is confirmation too that the Decks were real, thanks to the sensitivity of Hedge and Fiddler. With Spindle’s rather weak ability and his odd powers, I wonder if this will have any effect on the readings and the use of the table?

“Who’s that figure in the middle—the one with the dog-head on his chest?” Might that be Paran? And the creation of a new House? Or Paran taking a position in a particular House? “It’s a new card. Unaligned, without an aspect.”

Five pages. That is how long the conversation between Paran and Silverfox lasts at the end of Chapter Four—but, my god, the amount it covers. Ideas that have been hinted at. Links between the Azath and the Warrens. The idea that the Deadhouse is an entry point into the Warren of Death—but that, once in there, you choose. The fact that Kellanved and Dancer could not ascend and take positions in the House of Death because Hood already owned that position. The fact that Paran might well now be the Master of the Deck….

“Paran, something has happened—to the Deck of Dragons. A new card has arrived. Unaligned, yet, I think, dominant. The Deck has never possessed a… master. […] I now believe it has one. You.”

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Four

I like Buke’s backstory for a few reasons. One, I like that that Darujhistan—that jewel of a city with its blue gas—isn’t painted as just some funky fantasy prop. That gas is useful and gives the city a surreal ethereal kind of beauty, but I like that Erikson gives us the darker realistic side of it: the obvious increased danger with regard to fire. I think the vast majority of authors would never have mentioned that (having not thought of it or thought why ruin a great image) and a tiny number would have used it for some spectacularly explosive scene. But Erikson gives us such an obvious downside via individual grief—as so often happens in the series. And really, what has more impact on a reader—delving into the effect of grief on an individual as we do with Buke (and others) or some abstractly massive loss of life?

I also like how Erikson not only shies away from the clichéd use of such a backstory but reminds us of the cliché: the griever turned to drink.

Another plus is that Buke’s backstory once again lets us see relationships in action. Too often we’re given the base relationships—the love relationship, the best friend relationship, and the bonded (not bondage folks, bonded—you all know what I mean). But relationships in the world run the spectrum and so we get Gruntle and Stonny reacting to Buke who is maybe a strong acquantance but I wouldn’t fit him into either of the usual categories. Even Stonny caring for him is much more individualistic rather than played as a relationship “type.”

Finally, of course, Buke is just a great character and has one of my favorites endings of all characters. And he is given early on one of the classic theme tags for the series: “who can abide the murder of innocents?” A nice echo, rephrasing of Deadhouse Gates’s “Children are dying.”

A bit more info on Quick Ben as the witch tells us she sees twelve souls in him. (Explaining perhaps all those warrens? All that knowledge?)

Every now and then we get a scientific glimpse at the world, which I always find fascinating in these works. We get one here from the witch who describes the world “traveling through a chilling void around the sun. The surface floats in pieces on a sea of molten rock. Sometimes the pieces grind together…” It took us some time and lots of angry debate and vilification (not to mention some stake burning) to get to either of those two views as consensus opinion and one doesn’t expect it from an old witch in a roughly late medieval fantasy.

I’ll just point out at this point that this is the second time we’ve ended a Quick Ben scene dealing with Burn’s poisoning with him focusing on “cold.” Any reference that closes a scene is usually going to be important as they tend to linger—when it happens twice….

We get more of the Emperor’s wisdom with regard to empire-building—the idea that the army is not meant to be either an occupying or administrative force (where was ST when we needed him cough cough) and that “bureaucratic manipulation” of the economy (including the shadow economy of the black market) is the way to go.

Spindle’s hair shirt—another great creation, as is the response to his warren. We’re getting a broader and deeper view of magic as we continue on and one aspect I like of this version is its idiosyncratic nature. I prefer that over the monomagic (?) we see in other works, where it’s a singular body of study and magic-users are mostly distinct in their power levels or quantity of spells or both. Here, the magic is much more individualistic and Spindle is a good example of that. (Bottle will be another one eventually.)

Speaking of power levels, what does it say about Silverfox that she is “overpowering” Brood, Korlat, Kallor in Mallet’s senses? That’s some serious firepower there.

Poor Paran, thinking that at least he can count on Tavore taking care of Felisin. He’s about to be rudely disabused of that notion. Of course, having read DG, readers are already well aware of how she’s been “taken care of” and so this is a painful read. With regard to Tavore, however, his description of her as “not the type to accept defeat” will ring on down through many, many pages. Back to Paran, though, imagine the impact of each one of Dujek’s news bits: your father—dead, your mother—dead, your sister—sent to the mines, your other sister—the one who sent her, as well as Adjunct to the Empress. Bam. Bam. Bam. Body blow after body blow after body blow. And he takes it. Standing there, he takes it. And then smiles. This is, as we’ve seen somewhat already and will see more and more, one tough family. Or as Paran says, “The children of my parents are, one and all, capable of virtually anything. We can survive.” Which if ended there is perhaps grimly inspiring. But oh, where he goes next: “Perhaps we lack normal conscience, perhaps we are monsters in truth.”

Later, he muses on one of our theme words: armor.

“armor encumbers, restricts the body and soul within it. But it also protects . . . Feelings lose their edge, leaving us to suffer naught but a plague of bruises, and after a time, bruises fade . . . but memories and revelations settle in like poisons, never to be expunged.”

So what then does the armor serve? To get one alive to a time where memories can settle? Does it in fact serve? Is it a matter of balance between overly-armored and overly-vulnerable?

We mentioned it in our prior post, but we see instances of it throughout these chapters as well—the subtle and concise ways Erikson reminds us of plot points we have perhaps not read for two years or so: we’ve had Paran recall the Hound’s attack on the barracks (the one involving Tattersail and Hairlock) and in the conversation with Whiskeyjack we get reminders of Paran’s connection with the Hounds and Rake. It all falls naturally into place—arising as conversation where it would make sense to, rising up from interior monologues prompted by surrounding events or visuals. So much better than those awkward dialogs you sometimes get when one character explains to another what that character already knows: “Well Kanath, as you know because you were there, when the Dark Lord raised his mace and blah blah blah . . .”

Nice echo in the conversation with Whiskeyjack of the prologue when WJ asks Paran, “You think Rake takes much comfort in the belief of his swords finality?” Recall Draconus and K’rul’s conversation:

Draconus: The power invested within the sword possesses . . . a finality

K’rul: Then . . . you must make alterations

Draconus: So it seems

Hmm, perhaps Rake shouldn’t take comfort in the “finality”?

After the fraught nature of that conversation, you gotta love its wry ending when Whiskeyjack tells Paran, “it seems we will have to promote you to a rank equal to mine, if only to circumvent your confusion as to who commands around here.”

Don’t have anything to say about the table theft scene except I’d love to see it on film.

We learn eventually that it’s Paran on the table, but we do have a few hints before that reveal: the dog-head on the chest being the most obvious one. We’re told it looks “Rhivi.” Then a few pages later Silverfox tells Paran she recently “fashion [ed] the card that is you.”

That’s a great conversation by the way. It could have been a simple info dump, but what I like about it, and what prevents it (in my mind) from being that, is that both characters are feeling their way toward a truth, lacking any real (to use a key word) certainty in their theories. I said this before about a scene with Kulp doing something similar—I like listening in on smart people thinking. And so much cool stuff in here:

  • The cards as gates into warrens. (It’s no spoiler to say this will be a key revelation all the way to the very end of the series, though we’ll see its use prior to that.)
  • The connection between House-Azath and House-Deck.
  • The connection between House and Hold: this (or the wagon) may have been my favorite move in this whole conversation. I love the sense of lively intellect and stimulation in grasping that concept, that link between evolution and the terminology: nomadic/migratory (the wagon) to settlement (Hold) to more civilized (?) settlement (House). And we will eventually see a place where Holds are still more dominant.
  • More on Shadow: once a Hold, “bestial, a wilder place,” knowing “no ruler for a long, long time.”
  • Balance once again, this time via the unaligned: “the imposition of chance, of random forces? The Azath and Deck are both impositions of order, but even order needs freedom, lest it solidify and become fragile.” Think the Twins, for instance.
  • The gate into Dark (Kurald Galain) as a wound, possibly sealed by all those souls in Dragnipur.
  • The perhaps “punctur [ing]” of that seal by Paran sending the two Hounds through it.

And outside the whole Master of the Deck, structure of it all, let’s not ignore some key lines at the end about Paran’s nightmares of a “child within a wound.” That should echo for the reader; we after all saw two children placed into a wound in the prologue.

Not a very optimistic way to end the chapter: “I will fail you all.” But as readers, I think Paran’s POV on this is tempered by the very faith he thinks he will fail. Personally, I’m willing to trust Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben on this one.

Chapter Five

SCENE ONE

Toc has been traveling for two days with Lady Envy, Tool, the Seguleh, and the two “dogs”—Garath and Baaljagg. Toc tells Envy her flirtations make him nervous. Tool teaches Toc the making of arrows. As they watch Tool flake obsidian Toc, in answer to Envy’s question, says iron was discovered half a thousand years ago and before that people used bronze, before that copper and tin, and before that probably stone. Envy says humans as usual focus only on humans, and that the Elder Races knew quite sophisticated forging methods, and mentions Dragnipur. Toc says sorcery replaces “technological advancement . . . supplanting the progress of mundane knowledge.” Tool gives Toc some info on Lady Envy. Rake, Brood, and a sorceress who later ascended to become Queen of Dreams used to wander together. Rake was joined by Envy and Osric while Brood went off on his own. Brood was gone for score centuries and reappeared a thousand years ago or so carrying Burn’s Hammer. Meanwhile there was a falling out among the trio: Osric left and Rake and Envy eventually parted “argumentatively” before the chaining of the Crippled God, which Rake attended and Envy did not. The two discuss the Seguleh and Toc says he thinks Mok’s twin stripes means he is the Third highest Seguleh and says there is a legendary Seguleh with an unmarked white porcelain mask that only the Seguleh have seen. Tool asks Senu why the Seguleh came here and he answers they are the “punitive army of the Seguleh.” Usually their Blackmasks (First Level Initiates) kill everyone who comes to the island but as the unarmed invaders—priests of the Pannion—kept coming, and then threatened an army, the Seguleh decided to deal with the source. Tool asks how old Senu is and he says fourteen (Tool had been greatly impressed by Senu’s swordsmanship).

SCENE TWO

Thurule attacks Tool. As they fight, Envy tells Toc how Rake once visited the Seguleh island (not knowing anything about them) and because he deferred to none, ended up fighting Seguleh for two bells and eventually had to step into his warren to slow his heart rate. Mok says the Seguleh call him Blacksword and that his people still hold the Seventh Mask for Rake to claim. Tool wins the fight. When he tells Toc he used only the flat of his blade Mok is taken aback. Envy, over Mok’s objection, heals Thurule then forbids any more fighting.

SCENE THREE

Whiskey, Quick Ben, and Mallet are together on the same hill where they found Tattersail and Hairlock in GoTM. WJ asks for a report. Mallet says Paran’s blood has the “taint of ascendant blood and ascendant places . . . like shoves down a corridor” and the more he refuses to go the sicker he gets. Quick Ben says Paran is pretty much an ascendant himself. Quick Ben wonders where the Hounds went that Paran freed and says his link to one of them makes Paran unpredictable. He suggests they shove Paran down that corridor themselves, even if they don’t know what’s at the end of it. They worry about Nightchill taking the dominant role in Silverfox. Quick says her warren was Rashan, Darkness and Whiskeyjack recalls her as “remote, cold.” Quick Ben thinks to himself how there have been “other Nightchills long before the Malazan Empire . . . two thousand years ago . . . if she’s the same one.” Whiskeyjack tells them to keep pushing Paran and find out everything they can about Nightchill.

SCENE FOUR

Whiskeyjack and Dujek meet. They say there is a lot of power marshaled against the Pannion and wonder what that implies. WJ reports Twist has said “his flights should remain unseen . . . he has scouts seeking a strategic place to hold up close to the Pannion Border.” The two discuss Quick Ben initiating contact with the Grey Swords in Capustan. Whiskeyjack says the Second Gathering is causing some consternation, as is the idea that the T’lan will be needed in the war. Dujek and Whiskeyjack discuss Kellanved’s surprising “restraint” in his use of the Imass and worry about them being led by a child. Dujek says they need to make sure Tattersail takes the reins. Whiskeyjack says Kallor will try to kill Silverfox but Dujek disagrees, saying Kallor worries about Brood. He says friend or foe, you don’t want to mess with Brood, and rumor is the hammer is the only thing that can wake up Burn. Dujek, though, worries that Kallor will try to persuade Brood, and later Rake, to his view re Silverfox. Whiskeyjack says he will not stand the killing of a child, even if Dujek commands him to. They get themselves another drink.

SCENE FIVE

Brood wonders aloud to the Mhybe if maybe Kallor might be right and the Mhybe says they’ll kill Silverfox over her dead body. Brood says it pains him to see what Silverfox is doing to the Mhybe. The Mhybe explains that “blood-bound lives are the web that carries each of us, they make up that which a life climbs from newborn . . . to adulthood. Without such life-forces, one withers and dies. To be alone is to be ill.” She says for Silverfox, the Mhybe is the only one as the Imass have no life-force to give and Tattersail and Nightchill were both dead. When Brood asks why its accelerated, why Silverfox is so “impatient,” Korlat asks if he thinks she’s doing so in order to have more authority (since she’ll no longer be a child) when the Second Gathering occurs. The Mhybe says whereas the Andii or Brood have the centuries “of living necessary to contain what you command, Silverfox does not . . .to fully command [great power] she must be a grown woman.” The three agree that a concern is that even then, she will be “untempered,” lacking experience. Korlat speculates Silverfox may also be hurrying her growth to be able to defend herself against Kallor and they wonder what is the secret between the two of them. Brood asks if she does not have “experience” via the other souls in her. The Mhybe says she is still learning of the others and is comforted by what she sees of Tattersail, less so by Nightchill, of whom she senses “a seething anger, a hunger for vengeance, possibly against Tayschrenn (of Bellurdan she says he is only a memory of Nightchill). When Brood says wasn’t it Rake who killed Nightchill, Korlat says not, she was betrayed by Tayschrenn. Brood suggests they try to ensure Tattersail is dominant and when Korlat says trust Whiskeyjack to do just that, Brood says he hears “her heart in [her] words.” Brood tells the Mhybe to keep an eye on Silverfox.

SCENE SIX

The Darujhistan contingent arrives to meet with the above group, as well as Dujek, Whiskeyjack, Twist, Paran, Kallor, and Silverfox. The Mhybe thinks she’s ready to die now that Silverfox has gotten allies. Kruppe is first to arrive and the Mhybe says they’ve met before, at Silverfox’s birth. Kruppe sees what Silverfox has done to the Mhybe and is struck silent in sorrow. Murillio and Coll, along with Estraysian D’arle, (the “official” Darujhistan delegation) arrive. Kruppe suggests using the Trygalle Trade Guild to supply the army and all agree.

SCENE SEVEN

Crone senses magic from within the camp and seeking it out, finds Brood’s table. She listens in to a group of Bridgeburners. Spindle had done several Deck readings and each time “Obelisk dominates—the dolmen of time is the core. It’s active . . . first time in decades.” Spindle also says the new card (the one under the table) holds everything together but it feels like it hasn’t “woken up yet.” He continues with his reading: “Soldier of High House Death’s right-hand to Obelisk. Magi of Shadow’s here—first time for that one too—a grand deception’s at work . . . The Captain of High House Light holds out some hope, but it’s shaded by Hood’s Herald—though not directly . . . Assassin of High House Shadow seems to have acquired a new face . . . it’s Kalam!” Based on the reading they guess the Whirlwind is rising and Seven Cities is ready to rebel. Crone checks out the card under the table.

SCENE EIGHT

The Mhybe leaves the command tent and is followed by Paran, who asks about possible hiding places for a table. She leads him to the tent. On the way they discuss the Malazan invasion. Paran tells her Dujek’s army was being “chewed to bits” and the arrival of Brood, Rake, and the Crimson Guard stopped the Malazans cold. It was only the mages and the Moranth munitions keeping the Malazans going, but the Moranth are in a schism, with the Blue and Gold still working with the Malazans. Near the table’s tent, they come across Crone, who flees Paran for some reason. Paran orders Hedge, Spindle, Blend and Picker to return the table. Spindle says “it’s him” (meaning the picture under the table is Paran). As Paran and the Mhybe leave, he tells her he has no idea what Spindle was talking about.

SCENE NINE

Paran meets Whiskeyjack, who tells him Kruppe, Coll, and Murillo will be joining the march and that the Black Moranth will take Paran and the Bridgeburners to the Barghast Mountains in hopes that Trotts will get the White Face Barghast as allies, then they are to continue on to Capustan. Rake appears in dragon form in the Andii part of the camp.

SCENE TEN

Kallor tells Rake he seeks his justice with regard to Silverfox and not to let “sentiment” guide him. Korlat and the Mhybe also try to speak to him. When Rake says it appears his judgment has been anticipated, Brood says he will not allow Dragnipur’s unsheathing in his camp. The Mhybe worries things are on the edge of collapse and then thinks she senses power from Artanthos, but then dismisses the possibility. Korlat says she sides with Brood and when Rake tells Kallor he stands alone, Kallor says “it was ever thus,” a response with which Rake can empathize. Whiskeyjack arrives and stands before Silverfox then unsheathes his sword to face Rake and Kallor and the rest. Rake sends out a sorcerous feeler toward Silverfox and it is quickly shattered by her, as the Mhybe senses rage from both Nightchill and Tattersail and “another. A stolid will, a sentience slow to anger, so much like Brood.” Rake wonders what is being hidden from him and as he reaches for his sword, Brood reaches for his hammer and Whiskeyjack raises his own sword. Just then, Brood’s table appears flying overhead with Kruppe hanging from it.

SCENE ELEVEN

Back with Picker’s group, she sees Paran disappear. She calls for someone to find Quick Ben.

SCENE TWELVE

Paran appears facing Rake and Kallor. At Kruppe’s cry he looks up to see the table floating above, his face painted on the bottom. Sudden pain overcomes him.

SCENE THIRTEEN

The Mhybe sees tendrils of power reach from Silverfox to the table. The legs snap off and Kruppe falls. The underside of the table faces Rake and Kallor, with waves of sorcery coming off the image of Paran then touching Paran in “silver chains.” Quick Ben arrives and says “that’s the largest card of the Deck I’ve ever seen.” He steps between the two groups and says a confrontation perhaps isn’t the smartest idea. Rake sheathes Dragnipur and asks who Quick Ben is. Quick says “just a soldier.” Kruppe arrives and stands between Paran and Rake and asks if the meeting has adjourned.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Paran finds himself in a hallway. Two bodies lie there—Rallick Nom and Vorcan—which places him in the Finnest House in Darujhistan. A Jaghut enters and introduces himself as Raest, “Guardian, prisoner, damned,” then notes Paran is here only in spirit. When Paran asks why he [Paran] is here, Raest leads him down some steps. Paran asks how long Nom and Vorcan have been there and Raest says he doesn’t measure time inside the House; they were there when he arrived. Paran asks if they are Guardians as well and Raest says no. Raest names him Master of the Deck. They reach a landing where the ground is a bunch of roots and Raest says Paran has to go on by himself. Paran asks why the Azath has suddenly found the need for a Master of the Deck and Raest answers because a war has begun that will affect all entities: mortals, Houses, gods, etc. Paran moves forward and finds himself on a flagstoned floor where each stone has a card carved on it. He bends to study one and finds himself before a hut made of bones and tusks (the image on the stone) and realizes he can travel at will from there. He enters the hut and finds twin thrones of bone on a dais of what appear to be T’lan Imass skulls—The Hold of the Beasts, “the heart of the T’lan Imass’ power—their spirit world when they were still flesh and blood, when they still possessed spirits to be worshipped . . . long before they initiated the Ritual of Tellann.” He realizes the Tellann warren must have been born from the Ritual, “aspected of dust.” He grieves for the Imass, having outlived their own gods, existing “in a world of dust . . . memories untethered, an eternal existence, no end in sight . . . so alone for so long.”

SCENE FIFTEEN

He returns to the flagstone area and looks at a stone etched with the image of a sleeping woman. He sees it is Burn and that her skin is forest and bedrock, and so on, and also that she is “marred.” Looking closer, he sees “at the wound’s heart, a humped, kneeling, broken figure. Chained. Chained to Burn’s own flesh. From the figure, down the length of the chains, poison flowed into the Sleeping Goddess.” Continuing to study it, he realizes “she sensed the sickness coming . . . chose to sleep . . . to escape the prison of her own flesh in order to do battle . . . She made of herself a weapon. Her entire spirit, all its power, into a single forging . . . a hammer . . . capable of breaking anything . . . then found a man to wield it . . .but breaking the chains meant freeing the Crippled God. And an unchained Crippled God meant an unleashing of vengeance—enough to sweep all life from the surface of the world. And yet Burn . . . was indifferent to that. She would simply begin again.” Of Brood, Paran understands “he refuses . . . to defy the Crippled God’s unleashing . . . Brood refuses her.” Paran pulls back, weeping, and finds himself back with Raest, who asks if he’s found knowledge a gift or curse and Paran answers both.

SCENE SIXTEEN

Paran returns to in front of Rake. Silverfox puts a hand on his shoulder. Quick Ben, eying Rake, steps closer to Paran. Rake says Quick Ben’s advice seems wise. Kallor says now is the time to kill Silverfox before she gets even more powerful. Rake says what if they fail, not to mention she has only acted in self-defense. Brood sheathes his hammer and says it’s about time wisdom prevailed. He asks Paran if he can do something about the floating table. Quick Ben says he might be able to, which causes Rake to note he’s not simply a soldier as he had said. Quick downplays his ability then tells Rake not to quest toward him. Rake turns away.

SCENE SEVENTEEN

The Mhybe hobbles off, in great pain, the tribal wards against pain—copper on wrists and ankles—seemingly not doing anything. She falls to her knees and Crone speaks to her, grieving for her and asking how she can help. The Mhybe says Crone cannot, and tells her she is nearing hatred for Silverfox at what is happening to herself. Crone says she will find a way to help and the Mhybe says it is impossible. Korlat arrives and raises the Mhybe up and tells her she will also try to help, will remain at the Mhybe’s side and will not let her give in to despair and kill herself.

SCENE EIGHTEEN

Brood tells Rake Burn is dying. Rake asks if there is anything Brood can do and Brood says only the same old choice. Rake says he, Hood, Brood and the Queen of Dreams all agreed about the Crippled God. Rake asks what happens if Burn dies and Brood says he does not know all, but that her warren will die, will become the Crippled God’s way into all the other warrens, which will then all die, and all sorcery as well, which Brood says may not be so bad. But Rake says the destruction will not end there, and it appears no matter which of the two choices Brood makes, the CG wins, though at least Brood is giving the living extra time. To which Brood answers, time spent warring and killing one another. Rake changes the subject and asks if given Burn’s illness if Brood had been bluffing earlier. Brood says he can still raise power but it is filled with chaos and unpredictable. They turn to the Pannion Domin and Rake says chaos is at its core. Brood says it can’t be a coincidence, since chaos is the Chained One’s power. When Rake says that adds a complication Brood says Silverfox has said they’ll need more and has summoned the T’lan Imass, which doesn’t particularly please Rake.

SCENE NINETEEN

Kallor tells Whiskeyjack he is a fool and will regret protecting Silverfox. Whiskeyjack walks away and Kallor tells him he isn’t done with Whiskeyjack. Whiskeyjack asks Quick Ben about the table-card of Paran and Quick identifies Paran as the Master of the Deck and says he’ll have to think about how that is linked to him also being the Wanderer in the Sword. He suggests they have the Trygalle Guild take the card to Baruk. Silverfox says that’s a bad idea, as Paran will be needing it because “we struggle against more than one enemy.” Kallor steps in and Quick Ben says he’s not part of the conversation. Kallor threatens Quick, who makes a hole under Kallor’s feet, then leaves. As do the others.

SCENE TWENTY

Whiskeyjack watches the march start. Twist has already taken Paran and the Bridgeburners several days earlier. He and Quick Ben discuss how Silverfox has grown five years since the parley and the Mhybe is on the edge of death. He’s also worried about Rake’s probing. Whiskeyjack says he needs Quick for a little while more then asks what else Quick is up to that has him visiting every temple and seer and Deck reader, not to mention sacrificing a goat. Quick Ben tries to change the subject by noting that the Rhivi spirits are all gone, recently “cleaned out,” but then tells Whiskeyjack he’s doing some investigating and it won’t interfere. Whiskeyjack can tell Quick is worried about something big.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Five

This poem at the start of Chapter Five deals with the First Sword of the T’lan Imass, the rallying point of the tribes against the Jaghut. Tool was the First Sword at some point, wasn’t he? If not still? [Bill: Still is.] I sense he will have a role with Silverfox and the gathering.

I’m not 100% sure I like Lady Envy, especially when Toc thinks “All my defences broken down… for your amusement?” and sees a flash in her eyes that confirms his guess. Strikes me Lady Envy has spent far too much time [Bill: And she’s had a LOT of time.] manipulating people and not seeing them as individuals.

I wonder how much Erikson knows of early man [Bill: Remember his profession—archaelogy/anthropology.], since his description of the arrow making is exactly precise to the way Jean M. Auel describes it in the Earth’s Children series. The research this man must have done just for casual passages like this one defies belief, truly.

I have to say, it’s handy having all this nice long-lived characters who are able to explain to newcomers (Tool talking to Toc) about various events that happened thousands of years previously. *grins* The trope of using a wise old character to talk to a wide-eyed youngster is tried and tested in fantasy, and occasionally it becomes noticeable in Erikson’s work (such as here). However, invariably, the information being passed over is a) of such interest you care little about the method of receiving it; b) never contains everything you need to make the picture complete and c) is coloured by the character telling the tale and their respective knowledge/beliefs, which might not necessarily be the truth.

Now a rather enlightening chat with the Segulah Senu, who reveals that the Priests of Pannion are trying to convert them—religious wars are always the worst, and so it seems it will be with the Pannion Seer.

Ha, this book is just so much fun to read. *grins* I adore sentences like those where Tool reveals he used the flat of his blade to defeat Thurule, and Mok turns slowly to regard him. I love it where we find that Anomander Rake is demanded to take his place as the Seventh of the Segulah. There are so many bits of this book that make me thrill to read it. The confusion of Gardens of the Moon has faded; the readjustment of changing continents and conflicts is removed; Memories of Ice is just all out fun so far.

Quick Ben raises a really interesting point—one that has been told to us a few times in passing, but is never reinforced. The sword Dragnipur doesn’t belong to Rake. It was forged by Draconus. I think that needs to be borne in mind as we go on, and I think it might reveal more about Paran’s “affliction.”

Although we already know Nightchill’s actual name, it is worth highlighting this passage which would help readers on their own come to realise we have, in fact, met Sister of Cold Nights:

“There have been other Nightchills… long before the Malazan Empire. […] A woman, a sorceress, named Nightchill, again and again. If she’s the same one…”

Regarding this point, I am also left wondering if Quick Ben merely heard stories or if some part of him was present and met the other Nightchills? How old is he? Where did he come from? I am half-wondering about Draconus—linked to Quick Ben—now. We’ve seen possession by gods, we’ve seen rebirth of characters….

Heh. Whatever and whoever he is, Quick Ben certainly has a high opinion of himself! “Fine, O Fallen One, but that means you’ll have to outwit me. Forget the gods and their clumsy games, I’ll have you crawling in circles before long…” A reasonable expectation? Or over-confidence? [Bill: We’ll see. Good rule of thumb though in Malaz—don’t bet against Quick.] Seems to me they came out of their encounter fairly even—sure, Quick Ben stole back his pebble, but, if not for Burn’s helpers, the Crippled God would have had Quick Ben in his grasp.

Neat work with the conversation between Dujek and Whiskeyjack—it’s a nice little recap of the personalities involved, the issues that are likely to be encountered, and drops in either reminders or new knowledge about such items as Brood’s hammer.

Awww, Korlat and Whiskeyjack. *gets all soppy* “I hear your heart in your words.”

Erikson chooses interesting language when he says, “Should you begin to see the spirit of Nightchill rising and that of Tattersail setting…” This brings to mind images of Tattersail being the sun and Nightchill the moon within Silverfox. Day and night. Light and shadow. It’s as though a conflict between utterly opposed elements will take place within Silverfox. [Bill: Nice.]

I delight in seeing Kruppe again. *grins* “Kruppe and the truth are lifelong partners, friend Coll! Indeed, wedded bliss—we only yesterday celebrated our fortieth anniversary, the mistress of veracity and I.”

And then I giggled out loud at this:

Kruppe was the first to lower himself into a chair—at the head of the makeshift table.

All those mammoth personalities within the command tent and Kruppe decides that it is fitting he should sit there.

Ooh, a quick reminder of the girl Challice, target of Crokus’s affections in Gardens of the Moon.

Okay, the Deck reading… let’s see how I do! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the fact that the Obelisk is dominant—it was heard in Deadhouse Gates. We discussed the idea it might be related to Icarium. The new card holds everything together: Paran, the new Master, who has not awakened yet. Soldier of High House Death’s right hand to Obelisk—does that mean Mappo is the current holder of this position? Magi of Shadow—well, that simply has to be Iskaral Pust, right? I’m not too sure about Captain of High House Light or Hood’s Herald, however.

I can see precisely why others have said the Mhybe storyline is depressing and goes on a fair bit. We already KNOW that the Mhybe is dying, yet it is constantly re-emphasised.

Anomander Rake! *swoons* Welcome back! “He had stood then as he did now: tall, implacable, a sword emanating sheer terror hanging down the length of his back, his long, silver hair drifting in the breeze.”

He’s just SO cool! “His attention was a fierce pressure, power and threat, enough to make her softly gasp, her limbs weakening.” *fans herself*

And yet Caladan is willing to defy Rake:

“Decide what you will, Rake, but I will not countenance Dragnipur’s unsheathing in my camp.”

WHAT A SCENE! And no, my caps lock key was not pressed in error… I just LOVE this! Especially as Rake quests his power towards Silverfox and is impertinently slapped down.

This visit into the Finnest Azath reveals a few matters—the fact that each Azath will choose its Guardians, the fact that the Jaghut Tyrant Raest (so feared and reviled in our read of Gardens of the Moon) is now revealed to be a fully rounded character in his own right, the fact that a war has begun, and every conflict currently in progress is part of this greater war.

Here Paran’s role as Master is partly revealed:

“I can travel at will, it seems. Into each and every card, of every Deck that ever existed. Amidst the surge of wonder and excitement he felt ran an undercurrent of terror. The Deck possessed a host of unpleasant places.”

Oh my, this makes me unutterably sad:

“Oh my, they’ve outlasted their own gods. They exist in a world of dust in truth—memories untethered, an eternal existence… no end in sight.”

This increased background to Caladan Brood is welcome, and reveals much of the power and responsibility that allows him to stand toe to toe with someone as powerful as Anomander Rake. To have the fate of the world literally held in his hands is bound to affect a person.

Why does Crone love the Mhybe so?

Gosh, meetings and conversations and encounters of portent all, on the run up to the end of the chapter. I adore the way Erikson jumps swiftly from point to point and gives us a snippet before moving on. I like the quiet conversation between Brood and Rake—the innate respect and companionship of people long allied. And then the chat between Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben—the latter always mysterious, even to the former.

These two chapters have been an absolute deluge and I have drunk from it with delight—but I’m sure I missed an absolute ton. Readers—tell me what I missed! Tell me the hints and extracts you think I should carry forwards!

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Five

It’s a nice break from the emotional toll of the prior chapter as well as the theory-heavy last few pages, not to mention a pretty heavy opening poem, to get the lighter touch of Envy and Toc. Not to mention the very funny image of Seguleh laying out a bath and setting out combs.

Here’s more of Erikson’s professional background as we get the fashioning of stone tools by, um, Tool. I read this before and seen it done on TV, and even so I still found it fascinating. By the way, as Toc watches him, Toc thinks Tool has “an artist’s hands,” which is a pretty obvious way to describe Tool’s deftness, but it’s also got a nice resonance as there’s an eventual connection with Tool and an artist later on.

In the same scene, I like Toc’s argument that magic “replaces technological advancement—it’s often a means of supplanting the progress of mundane knowledge.” It’s an interesting point in fantasy and can rationalize the whole medieval kind of setting we see so often in magic worlds. Other authors have done some neat work in showing technology marching side-by-side (sometimes at an equal pace, sometimes more slowly) with magic. We see that here as well with the references to the munitions and various alchemies, which in itself in our world acted as a transition between magic and science. And later we’ll see some more science and technology (talking humans here as opposed to say the K’Chain) and even meet an inventor who discusses the ethical implication of technology.

That said, Envy does a pretty nice job of taking Toc down a notch for not thinking fully enough on his own with regard to the idea. And I think sometimes that’s true of authors as well, who seem very content for that easy rationalization that magic precludes or stultifies technology/science and so they don’t need to bother with it. In my mind that’s a bit of an overstatement and I’d argue it especially depends upon the ease and prevalence of magic. But that’s going a bit afield….

I enjoyed Tool’s discussion of how the Imass have lots of names for stone, which reminds me of the debatable idea that the Inuit have lots of words for snow.

Okay, so then we get what could be termed an infodump via Tool on the backstory of Envy, Rake, Osric, and Brood. But again, to me this has less of an awkward feel because it’s a natural outgrowth of situation. In other words, I think of an “infodump” not as simply a block of information, but an awkwardly or clumsily placed block. It makes perfect sense that Toc asks these questions in this situation. In fact, it would make absolutely no sense for him not to ask these questions (the thing that drove me the most crazy about the show LOST was the utterly implausible and inexplicable lack of conversation among the characters. Sorry—it’s been a while since I could rant about that).

And now of course we find out the Malazan/Brood alliance has three unexpected allies—the “punitive army” of the Seguleh. I like the matter of factness that this gets stated. But it does raise a few questions. Do they see themselves as getting close enough to the Pannion Seer to kill him among his guards (probably easily done for three Seguleh) or do they really think they’ll march through armies? Given how Envy has overpowered them, are they naïve about the possibility that the Pannion could also wield magic against them, or arrogant to believe it won’t be effective, or arrogant but correct in that Envy’s power is so much greater than most? And does anyone else ever get an image of a bunch of Seguleh going up against a Malazan army, going all Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Arab sword-guyish with sword spinning and whirling etc. and then the Malazans looking at each other then going all Indy on them by just lobbing a few munitions and blowing them the hell up? Anyone?

And anyone else want to see that fight between Rake and the Seguleh?

Just as an aside while we’re on the Seguleh, Mok’s line, “Seguleh who die fail . . . We spare no thoughts for the failed among us,” reminded me a lot of the Bloodguard in Steven Donaldson’s Covenant series. I seem to recall that same kind of cold eye cast on failure (not to mention they share the same kind of martial prowess, though the Bloodguard if I recall correctly didn’t use weapons—been a while).

I love the little double-take moments we get with this whole running Seguleh thing.

Tool, you did NOT just take down Senu so fast!

Senu, you did NOT parry Tool without even drawing your swords!

Tool, you did NOT just get parried by a 14-yr-old!

Thurule, you did NOT just get beat by a guy using only the flat of his blade!

Cracks me up….

Talk about full circle—back to the hill we see in Chapter Two (I think) of GoTM. With Hairlock falling to pieces, the Bridgeburners nearly wiped out… Ahhh, memories….

Good old Quick Ben. Always holding back a bit. And just how much does this guy know? And how? How does he know about all those prior Nightchills? The First Age of the Nathilog Wars? The Liberation of Karakarang? The Seti expelled from Feen?

Nice too that after we get the mention of Nathilog, we get it again from Dujek, who has read up on Brood in the Nathilog histories.

Interesting this little quiet strategy session between Dujek and Whiskeyjack. Are they discussing logistics earlier planned in the larger group strategy sessions? Or is this (i.e. Twist’s Moranth’s plans) something on their own?

If you didn’t already love Whiskeyjack (and really, why wouldn’t you) how could you not after, “I’ll not stand to one side in the butchering of a child . . . No matter what power or potential is within her.” And then tell me you don’t smile at both of them at the end of this conversation.

We’ve had other characters remark (I think, I might be flashing forward here) on Kellanved’s restraint with regard to his use of the T’lan Imass. Hearing of Dujek and Whiskeyjack’s relief in that restraint, and their discomfort in fighting alongside the T’lan Imass makes clear their fears with regard to Silverfox—their fear at what a child would do with such power. The same fears brought up by the conversation we segue into, when they discuss how Silverfox is draining so much life force to accelerate her move into adulthood so as to not only create a greater sense of authority but also “contain” her power. But quickly becoming a physical adult isn’t the same as gaining an adult’s experience, and, as the Mhybe says, “experience tempers.” Leaving Silverfox as “untempered power.” Though she does have an odd sort of collection of experiences: the questions are if she can integrate them, make use of them as experience and not simply a collection of memories, and if all/any of them perhaps shouldn’t be integrated—say perhaps the one with a “flashes of darkness . . . seething anger, a hunger for vengeance.”

I liked the Mhybe’s rumination on the kinship web—the way it gives sustenance and how poor Silverfox’s “kin” are mostly dead (that’s gotta suck). I wonder too if the Mhybe’s definition of the web might be too narrowly limited to bloodkin.

Ahh, Kruppe. Need I say more? (And if I did, a lot, lot more, than I’d be Kruppe.)

No surprise the Trygalle Trade Guild being used as a supplier; we’ve certainly seen their capabilities under some awful circumstances. And we’ll see even more such.

We’ve got another Deck read. The obvious aspects of course are Kalam as the new assassin of Shadow, Paran as the Master of the Deck (the “glue”) who has yet to wake to his potential, and the Whirlwind rising. We’ve got Obelisk “dominant,” a Captain of High House Light and Hood’s Herald, and some “grand deception.”

The Mhybe in her mind to Paran: “detachment is a flaw, not a virtue.” Another of those running themes throughout the series. Remember Whiskeyjack having to learn this very early in GoTM. And in that same thought, a nice reminder of where he’s been: “you hold so much within yourself, chained and in darkness.”

Love Crone’s reaction to Paran after she’s seen the bottom of the table. And Spindle’s as well.

I mentioned this the first time we saw Rake in GoTM, but does this guy make an entrance or what? By the way—great little simile there, describing him swooping down “like a piece of night torn loose.” But really, go back and reread his entrance scene; it’s worth it. If you’ve seen The Lion King (movie or musical), you’ll know there’s a scene when one of the hyenas talks about the power of the Lion King Mufasa and just his name makes her shiver. “Oooh, Mufasa. Say it again! It tingles me. Mufasa!” That’s Rake.

Talk about fraught with tension. Rake unsheathing Dragnipur. Brood unsheathing his hammer. Kallor, whose killed an entire continent. Quick Ben and his warrens. Silverfox (and Nightchill. And Tattersail. And “by the Abyss, another!” Artanthos—what, wait, Artanthos? Yes, Artanthos. Move along). Whiskeyjack. This is a nose bleed scene for sure. And who saves it? The love child of Lou Costello and William F. Buckley. Um, I mean Kruppe.

Then, after Kruppe’s diversion brings a momentary pause, Quick Ben (“just a soldier,” he says of himself) steps in to break up the tension. Talk about some supreme confidence—stepping into this morass of power.

Looks like Rallick and Vorcan are being nicely stored—odds on seeing them again at some point? Yep, pretty good.

Ahh, Jaghut Tyrant humor. These are the jokes people! Raest is here Thursdays, Fridays, and twice on Saturdays.

Once again, a good glimpse at Erikson’s background (I assume) coming into play as we see the Beast Hold hut made out of “mammoth” bones—something from our own early human history. And then the knowledge “blooms” in Paran’s mind: the Beast Hold, the spirit world of the Imass before the Ritual, now abandoned by them as they’ve shifted to Tellann—a warren born of the Ritual and linked not even to Death but to dust. (And how bad is it when Death seems to be the preferred alternative?) And some key lines as Paran’s muses on the tragedy of the T’lan Imass—“memories untethered, an eternal existence, no end in sight . . . so along for so long”—lines tied somehow in Paran’s mind to the Second Gathering.

Then onto Burn’s flagstone (the floor here nicely set up by what we witnessed via Fiddler’s group in DG) and the great image of the Chained God’s poison seeping down the chains into the skin and body of Burn. And then his realization (and answer to Quick Ben’s earlier question) that Burn chose to sleep, “to escape the prison of her own flesh, in order to do battle with the one who was killing that flesh . . . [making] of herself a weapon . . . a hammer.” And then finding Brood to wield it, a hammer that can break anything, even chains. Except of course that freeing the CG would wipe life from the world as much as Burn’s death would as he sought vengeance for all those millenia of pain. So Brood refuses his own goddess. Revelations thus in hand, Paran returns.

With a good question: who will ascend to those two ancient, long-forgotten thrones?

I love Quick Ben’s grudging understatement when Brood asks Paran to do something about the floating table: “I might be able to manage something” and Rake’s dry rejoinder: “Not simply a soldier, I see.” And then his slap down of Rake’s curiosity: “do not quest towards me, Son of Darkness. I value my privacy.” And then, curiously, Rake graciously accedes. He’s a classy guy. But don’t you just wonder what his “questing woulda found?”

Then the Mhybe hobbles off (note the details of the tribal remedies (the not working ones seemingly)—copper on her wrists and ankles. I know there have been lots of complaints regarding this storyline in the discussion of the previous chapter. And to be honest, I can understand it—it does go on a ways and is certainly depressing/oppressive and appears frequently. Myself, I could have lived with some judicious editing (scalpel, not an axe). But it is quite often moving, not only in its focus on her and Silverfox, but how it acts as a catalyst for others to show their compassion. And it pays off nicely. I’ll say that much. This scene between her and Crone and Korlat is I think one of the most moving scenes in the series. If it doesn’t read that way to you, that’s okay. Maybe imagining it as a movie scene with your favorite actors doing these lines and reactions. I see/hear her “She has stolen my life” ripped out of her throat in the same agonizing fashion as John Proctor’s “Because it is my name!” a la Daniel Day Lewis in The Crucible’s closing scene. Works for me. And now we’ve got Crone and Korlat on a suicide watch. Something to keep an eye on.

Once again, we get the sense of time and weight some of these characters carry around with them. “Almost twelve hundred years, this burden,” Brood says of carrying the choice of, as Paran says, killing the world or killing the goddess (and thus killing the world). And anybody else a bit unnerved that the guy whose choice it is sees people using the extra time he’s giving them “dying, waging wars and unleashing slaughter”? Wouldn’t you like to see a few more optimistic views of humanity from the guy who has to decide if it continues?

The conversation also brings up, I think for the first time (another one of those blur moments), the idea of sorcery disappearing from the world (something a few fantasy authors have tackled in their books) and whether or not that would be a bad thing. A concept we’ve been set up for by Toc and Envy’s earlier conversation (he’s good at structure, this Erikson guy).

So we’ve had some hints the Pannion is a lot more than it seemed and now we get some more direct ones here as Rake and Brood draw a line between the Pannion and the Crippled God.

Whiskeyjack. Kallor. Not exactly Crosby and Hope. Martin and Lewis. Butch and Sundance. Han and Chewy. Elwood and Jake. Tehol and Bugg. Well, you get the idea.

“I am not done with you.” File.

And oh my god did I love Quick Ben dumping that ass in a hole in the ground (and cracked up at his sudden departure when Kallor started climbing back out).

Speaking of file cabinets:

“What did the lost spirits in the barrow tell you?’

“Nothing. There, uh, weren’t any . . It was, uh, cleaned out recently . . . Someone or something gathered them up . . . Where are they?”

Where indeed?


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.

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