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 25 Part 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.
Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.
We have split this monstrous brick of a chapter—the first part goes up to the point where Lady Envy storms out, heading for the Seer before “Kilava robs me of my vengeance.” Part 2 will go from there to the point where Toc enters Anaster’s body. Part 3 finishes Chapter 25 and then includes the Epilogue. So we’ll be finishing Memories of Ice on Wednesday, June 29th. We’re still trying to pin down the schedule concerning whether Steven Erikson will be discussing the novel and answering your questions, so stay tuned in upcoming posts for that news.
Finally, here is a disclaimer from Bill:
Those of you reading Bill’s commentary over the next few weeks [Bill: “What do you mean, those reading my commentary? Isn’t everyone reading my commentary?] may notice a decline in quality, substance, length, depth, and insight. Some of you may notice no difference at all [Bill: “Hey!”], even if his commentary is completely absent [Bill: “Double hey!“]. The reason for said decline or possible absence is that Bill is currently wending his way across the U.S., through the southwest, trying to avoid the now-raging forest fire, and up to Yosemite National Park, then wending his way back through Death Valley, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and so on until returning home. He is dutifully carrying his trusty Kindle and equally trusty iPod Touch in a valiant, noble, and some (mostly Bill) might say Herculean effort to stay on top of his blogging duties, but it seems his archaic tent is not equipped with wi-fi (what is this, the Franklin expedition or something?) and so his ability to stay in contact with the actual world (you know—the online community as opposed to that place with all the rock, flora, fauna, bears, etc.) may be limited.
Assuming bears do not eat him, he’ll be back in a few weeks!
Chapter 25, Part 1
In Hood’s temple back at Capustan, Coll watches as K’rul enters the temple and is welcomed by Baudin as The Knight of Death. When K’rul moves toward the Mhybe, Coll steps before him and says if K’rul plans on sacrificing her on the altar he’ll have to go through Coll. Murillio steps beside him in support. Hood, through Baudin, comments to K’rul on mortal “audacity,” which K’rul calls their most “admirable gift.” To which Hood responds, “Until it turns belligerent, perhaps. Then it is best answered by annihilation.” K’rul calls that’s Hood’s answer, implying it is not his own. He tells Coll and Murillio he is there to save the Mhybe, not kill her, and says due to events far to the south, it is time for her to “dream for real.”
Silverfox is motionless in shock: the T’lan Imass are “gone from her soul” after Itkovian’s embrace, the T’lan Ay have “abandoned” her, Whiskeyjack and her two marines are killed. She looks at the K’Chain Che’Malle and thinks the T’lan Imass will be unable to resist once the Hunters attack, thanks to Itkovian—”you noble fool.” She watches the Grey Swords and Gruntle’s legion prepare to attack, Tayschrenn preparing his warren, the dejected Malazans getting ready, Brood healing Korlat, and thinks it all for naught, as the they will all die at the hands of the Pannions. Despite that, she “had no choice. She would have to begin. Defy the despair, begin all that she had set in motion so long ago.” She disappears into her warren.
The Mhybe thinks she wasn’t ready to be a mother when it happened, thinks she could have said no to Kruppe, K’rul, the Imass. She believes everyone assumed that the mere fact that Silverfox was born of the flesh from the Mhybe like all other children, the maternal bond would be automatic and thinks they should not have made that assumption, and says Silverfox was not born “innocent,” but was born with purpose, out of pity rather than love. She feels now she is expected to act in this dreamworld, with “ancient gods, bestial spirits, a man imprisoned in pain,” and wonders if she and this man are akin to each other: “The beast waits for me—the man waits for me. We must reach out to each other. To touch, to give proof . . . we are not alone.” Realizing the cage of ribs must be broken from the outside, she begins to crawl toward it, refusing to “forsake” the man, “this brother of mine,” as she believes Silverfox has forsaken her.
Itkovian prepares to embrace the T’lan Imass, who had “twisted all the powers of the Warren of Tellann into a ritual that devoured their souls . . . left them—in the eyes of all others—as little more than husks, animated by a purpose they had set outside themselves, yet were chained to—for eternity.” But Itkovian knows they are not husks at all, and he feels their memories, a series of them (including some whom we’ve seen earlier): death, love, fear/distrust of the ritual, a realization that “there was no justice in this war. We’d left our gods behind, and knelt only before an altar of brutality.” Itkovian takes it all, but it is too much and he begins to fail. But before he does, Pran Chole tells him he can lead Itkovian to a place. Itkovian reaches out and a hand clasps his forearm.
The Mhybe crawls toward the cage, but then suddenly feels a huge weight, the air suddenly grows hot, and she knows something is happening.
The hand leads Itkovian “through a mindscape” whose land lies far below him. Pran Chole then tells him to “shed these memories. Free them to soak the earth . . . through you they can return life to a dying, desolate land . . . Memories belong in the soil, in stone, in wind. They are the land’s unseen meaning . . . old, almost shapeless echoes—to which a mortal life adds its own. Feed this dreamscape.”
The Mhybe watches clouds form in the sky, then something like rain or hail falls: “Each impact was explosive, something more than simply frozen rain. Lives. Ancient, long forgotten lives. And memories—All raining down. The pain was unbearable.” Kruppe appears and, sheltering her from the rain, begins dragging her forward: “Not much further dear lass. This storm—unexpected . . . yet wonderful. But you must not stop now. Here, Kruppe will help you.”
Silverfox in her dreamworld thinks how her intent had been to deny the T’lan Imass and Ay only for a “brief time, in which she would work to fashion the world that awaited them. The spirits that she had gathered, spirits who would serve that ancient people, become their gods—she had meant them to bring healing to the T’lan Imass, to their long-bereft souls. A world where her mother was young once more. A dreamworld, gift of K’rul. Gift of the Daru, Kruppe. Gift of love, in answer to all she had taken from her mother.” Now she grieves over all she lost, and the part that was Tattersail “keened with inconsolable grief” over Whiskeyjack, who had stepped in to protect her for all that she had turned away from him. She has lost the Imass, and thinks how she has been defeated by the courage of all around her: Whiskeyjack, Itkovian, Coll, Murillio, Tayschrenn. Then the sky changes and she looks up in disbelief.
The wolf batters against the cage of ribs and Toc feels the pain but also pain from outside, “a storm blistering the skin covering his ribs—yet it grew no stronger, indeed seemed to fade, as if with each wounding something was imparted to him, a gift . . . lost moments of wonder, of joy, of grief—a storm of memories.” He is suddenly pulled out of the dreamworld and is back to darkness and the sounds of the Matron shrieking and pulling at its chains, trying to reach for him. He can feel/hear the sounds of battle: screams, concussions, yells. Then light arrives and he sees the Matron and the Seer, the latter holding a “lizard’s egg, latticed in grey magic.” As he chants, “something exploded from the Matron’s body, a coruscation of power . . . snared by the web of sorcery . . . then drawn into the egg . . . the Finnest.” The Seer leaves, taking the Matron, and darkness falls again. Toc feels the wolf dying inside of him, trying to get out and failing. Then more sounds, silence, then a hand on his forehead. Tool announces himself “kin to Aral Fayle, to Toc the Younger,” and picks him up.
Picker’s group has followed Tool to the Keep but not inside, but then are forced into where Hedge’s group breached the Keep by the appearance of a K’Chain behind them. They find Hedge, Bluepearl and more Bridgeburners. Before they can do much of anything, Blend throws Picker forward as the K’Chain arrives faster than expected, forcing Hedge to toss his final cusser right at the ground at his and its feet. The explosion blows Picker and Blend through a doorway. She and the remaining Bridgeburners meet up with Envy, who asks if they’ve seen a T’lan or the Seguleh. After a moment’s confusion, she realizes the Imass they mention was Tool, not Lanas. She tells Picker her group is there to rescue Toc and says if they help her she’ll heal them. Picker agrees and has Envy start with the unconscious Blend. Baaljagg joins them.
Paran’s group can’t figure out what is causing all that screaming they hear from below or what is distracting the condors, but they can tell its an enemy to the Pannions so they take advantage of it by heading for a trapdoor leading off the roof (save for Paran and Quick Ben who stay behind).
Dujek’s army had held up well against the first few waves of K’Chain thanks to the munitions, but then they ran out and they began to be slaughtered. His own company has been destroyed. He is found by a soldier sent by Captain Hareb to look for Dujek. She tells him they are killing K’Chain thanks to Twist, who brought in more (the last) munitions and the sappers are using them to drop buildings on top of the Hunters. She starts to lead him to the squad.
The Grey Sword commanders asks if Gruntle will flank them as they attack, and Gruntle says no; his group will lead the attack and hers will follow as they aim for the gate, though they both know their attempt to relieve Dujek will fail. Tayschrenn sends a messenger saying he will deal with the mages on the wall while the Barghast and Andii, led by Orfantal, will help attack the K’Chain. Gruntle looks at his legion and thinks they are “Like D’ivers only in reverse. From many, to one—and such power!” He feels they will transform again for the battle: “his god seemed to possess a particular hatred for these K’Chain Che’Malle, as if Treach had a score to settle. The cold killer was giving way to bloodlust—a realization that left Gruntle vaguely troubled.” He looks up to the hill and sees Korlat rising beside Brood, and senses she is not fully healed, that “Brood’s warren suffers.” He can tell Tayschrenn is paying a price for the magic he will use. His legion forms again into the Tiger and they attack.
Korlat feels Kurald Galain flowing. Brood tells her they don’t have time for the army; she must find Rake and Moon’s Spawn—they need him. He asks if he is in the approaching storm cloud. But Korlat tunes him out, watches as Orfantal veers into dragon form while condors fly out to meet him, Gruntle’s legion attacks and loses people, Tayschrenn uses Telas to attack the Pannion sorcerers, and the Grey Swords come to Gruntle’s aid. Tayschrenn is struck by sorcery and falls to his knees and Brood again begs her to call to Rake. The storm cloud dissipated, revealing no Moon’s Spawn, and she tells Brood “Anomander Rake is no more,” feeling despair within herself and thinking “He is dead. He must be.” As she continues to watch, she sees Orfantal attacked by the condors. She tells Brood “this battle is lost. I fly to save Orfantal” and veers into dragon shape and heads to battle.
Brood watches as the K’Chain wade through Gruntle’s legion, the Grey Swords, the Malazans, the Barghast. Four Malazans appear and lay an unconscious Kruppe on the ground. The T’lan Imass, meanwhile, remain unmoving, kneeling before Itkovian, who is also kneeling. Looking at all the losses, Brood thinks “No choice. Burn, forgive me.” He raises his hammer, but before it falls, he freezes.
Picker’s group, Envy, and Baaljagg move downward. Blend finds tracks: bony ones (Envy assumes Tool or Lanas Tog), but also a woman in moccasins. Envy wonders who might be following the T’lan Imass. The last set of tracks belongs to a man. They hear fighting from above heading toward them, but Baaljagg suddenly takes off farther below and Envy says she must have sensed Toc. As Envy is about to explain the whole Togg/Fanderay thing, the fighting from above arrives via a score of Urdomen.
Detoran, Mallet, Spindle, Antsy, and Trotts, are heading down from the roof and finding lots of dead bodies. They run into enemies above and below. Antsy is badly wounded and Detoran killed. Mallet is wounded by Trott’s sword as he comes falling down the stairs amidst a group of Seerdomin. Trotts kills them despite being badly wounded himself. He and Mallet head down to collect Spindle and Antsy.
Toc is being carried by Tool. He wishes for the Seer to come and free him to “walk through Hood’s Gate.” He can feel the wolf dying. They enter a room and Tool is met by Mok, who waits for Tool to gently put Toc down. Tool asks that when Mok is done with Tool, he takes Toc from here. Mok agrees, then the two begin to fight. As Toc watches, he feels the wolf inside him stir, still trapped in this “cage of bone.” He sees a large beam capped in bronze and slowly drags himself upright.
Kruppe tells the Mhybe “you must touch, lass. This world—it was made for you— . . . a gift—there are things that must be freed.” The Mhybe thinks, “yes, she understood that word. She longed for it, worshipped it . . . freed . . . Like these memories of ice, raining . . . freed to feed the earth—deliverance, of meaning, of emotion, history’s gift—the land underfoot, the layers . . .” She reaches out.
Toc staggers toward the beam, then falls toward its end to let it meet his rib cage. It shatters them.
The Mhybe touches.
The wolf feels the cage broken, feels itself freed, and howls.
The howl freezes Brood, and then another answering cry from the T’lan Ay who rise and attack the K’Chain Che’Malle, destroying many of them. Above, the condors break from the two dragons and head for the keep, followed by Korlat and Orfantal and tens of thousands of Great Ravens.
Kruppe, holding the Mhybe, steps back as the wolf erupts from the shattered cage. The rain of memories stops and he feels “a pressure, a force, ancient and bestial. Growing.”
Sudden gloom and weight falls over the city. Quick Ben identifies it as Kurald Galain and says he can use it to get them over the wall. Paran hears condors screaming in terror. He looks up and sees the Seer thirty paces away, holding the Finnest with the Matron beside him—”mindless, her soul stripped, filled with a pain he [Paran] knew she could not even feel.” Two K’ell Hunter bodyguards move toward a pair of Seguleh that appear. Out in the harbor, from below the water, Moon’s Spawn rises “darkness bleeding from it in radiating waves,” as the Andii perform a full unveiling. As Quick Ben and Paran watch, it continues to rise, spilling massive amounts of water from newly formed fissures, and as it turns, Rake comes into view standing on a ledge.
Itkovian tells the T’lan Imass he will take their pain, now that the memories are done. The T’lan Imass tell him he cannot take it, he is mortal, he cannot carry it nor deliver it, but he says “I shall” and as it rises over then falls toward him, he smiles.
Moon’s Spawn, badly damaged, listing, moves toward the keep as waves of Kurald Galain from dragons incinerates the condors. Brood, watching, “overcome with a vast, soul-numbing helplessness,” thinks: “Kurald Galain spreading out, down, into Coral—A true unveiling . . . the world has never known this—in all the millennia since their arrival—never known this. Burn’s heart, what will come of this unveiling.”
Korlat can tell Moon’s Spawn is dying as it moves toward the parapet where stand the Seer and Matron. She thinks “Darkness comes to this world. To this place, this city. Darkness that would never dissipate. Coral. Black, black Coral.
Envy, taking Picker’s sarcasm as confidence, didn’t help the Bridgeburners at first. Realizing her error, she kills the Urdomen but only three Bridgeburners are left alive by then. Mallet, Spindle, Antsy, and Trotts arrive, but as they do, Trotts dies. Envy says she will help heal the wounded, but before she can begin, Kurald Galain drops down and she tells them they have to head down.
Mok defeats Tool, knocking his sword away, and just as he is about to finish Tool off seemingly, he is thrown against a far wall and knocked unconscious by Kilava in panther from. Tool tells her not to kill him. She cannot believe Tool was beaten by a mortal man and says she will kill him so Tool has no more challengers. Tool tells her “our time—it has passed. WE must relinquish our place in this world. Mok . . . is the Third. The Second and the First are his masters . . .Do you understand me?” He looks to Toc’s corpse, impaled on the beam. Kilava tells him Togg is free and asks if Tool can hear it. He says no. She says, “That howl now fills another realm, the sound of birth. A realm brought into existence by the Summoner. As for what now gives it life . . . something else entire.” Lanas Tog appears, looking for Silverfox. Baaljagg steps into the chamber and mourns at Toc’s corpse. When Tool tells her Togg is free, Kilava says Baaljagg knows and that to find Silverfox, Tool will need to take the path of Togg: “into the Warren of Tellann. Then to a place beyond.” He ask her to come and she refuses, says she has come for the Seer. Toc knows she seeks him “for redemption” and tells her to come to Toc when she is done. He and Lanas fall to dust then vanish. Kilava steps to Baaljagg and says “you grieve for this mortal . . . for him you hold back on what you so long for—your reunion with your lost mate . . . This mortal’s soul—it rides Togg’s own—and your mate would deliver it, but not to Hood’s Gate. Go then, pursue that trail.” She opens a warren for Baaljagg, who disappears into it, then Kilava leaves.
Blend steps out of the shadows where she has been watching from and is followed by the others, Envy complaining of Kilava’s “rudeness” in bowling through them in panther form on her way out. She is saddened then by the sight of Toc’s corpse and decides to head for the Seer “before Kilava robs me of my vengeance.” Picker says they’re heading back for Dujek’s army. Envy storms out.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter 25, Part 1:
So Ormulogen (a name we heard before) presented a portrayal of Whiskeyjack—and manages to hint at the level and the manner of betrayal suffered. Betrayal being something terribly hard to either vocalize or represent, since it is such an internal feeling. I think that is what the extract gives us.
The slow realisation by Coll and Murillio as to who K’rul is makes me smile—it’s exactly what a real person would be thinking… “K’rul? Don’t I know that name? Wasn’t there a tower in Darujhistan named for K’rul—an Elder God. Oh s**t!” I also like the fact that we’re aware—even if Coll and Murillio aren’t—that K’rul is one of the nicer Elder Gods to know.
Another great moment when Rath’Togg gasps at the fact that these mere humans are prepared to stand in the way of a god to protect a fellow human. Gives you a sense of pride. Also, the fact that the humans have these fierce personalities mean that they never get lost on the pages while surrounded by uber characters.
Do you think that sometimes Erikson uses words deliberately to have us thinking about something other than what is being explicitly mentioned? Here, K’rul says that the Mhybe has to dream for real, and I straightaway think about the other Dreamer we know—Burn. Any connection between these two, or should I sometimes just take the face value of the words? Always hard to know.
Betrayal is mentioned again with regards to Silverfox. On top of the betrayal still felt by Nightchill and Tattersail within her, due to the events of Pale, she now feels the double betrayal of the T’lan Imass and the T’lan Ay being lost to her. And I can’t help but think—had Silverfox revealed her plans to more people, if she had been more open, if she had been less juvenile about the whole affair—would she now be in this situation, with her plans around her in tatters?
A really strong commentary on the nature of the bond between mother and child. How does love develop? Does it only require that you bring a child physically into the world? Or is there much more besides that leads to true motherhood? Here I finally feel pity again for the Mhybe, and it is mostly because of how she decries that she is not ready—how many times have you heard or seen the same sentiment from people (in films, on TV and in real life) who are about to embark on pregnancy and bringing a child into the world? I mean, gods, I’m thirty one and I’m scared at the idea and wonder if I’m ready to have a child!
I love hearing all of the memories of the T’lan Imass—so sad, so lonely, having carried these memories for many thousands of years. Remembering what it was to be Imass before the Ritual, remembering family and friends, some wishing that they had followed Tool in refusing the Ritual (and that is not the first time we’re heard that from members of the T’lan Imass).
I also feel really sad for Itkovian here—so empty with the loss of his god, his company and his friends. Chan Prole keeps him focused by reminding him about the Grey Swords—they who are now no more in the form that he remembers.
And now Itkovian is to shed the memories as rain into the dreamscape through which the Mhybe wanders, where Toc is trapped. Is Itkovian here developing the Warren or Realm that will be used by Togg and Fanderay?
Fantastic sequence featuring Silverfox—love it! First we have that feeling of remorse, that reveal that she always intended to provide for the T’lan Imass, that she only wished to use them for a brief time. I feel uncomfortable that she felt she had the right to decide the future of the T’lan Imass—I know that this is what she is supposed to have been born to—but how can she possibly know what is right for them? Anyhow, nice to see the remorse. And then brilliant to see her rather wry observations on the fact that she was beaten by the courage of mere mortals. There is nothing “mere” about Whiskeyjack, about Itkovian, about Coll and Murillio.
When Toc says, “She…she is my soul” about the Matron—is this something like the love that some captives gain for those who keep them restrained? Has Toc gained affection for the Matron, knowing that her mistreatment of him was caused by love?
I like (although maybe that is the wrong word?) the imagery concerning the Seer, and the way his body is gradually disintegrating around the Jaghut soul that inhabits it. It almost shows everything falling apart, which is what the reader must hope is going to happen to the Seer?
What a very beautiful moment between Toc and Tool, where the latter claims the former as kin. A very quiet and lovely piece of writing. “We are leaving now, young brother.”
I don’t know… usually I appreciate Erikson’s offerings of humour between the seriousness and carnage of the rest of the chapter, but Lady Envy just doesn’t hit the mark for me. Besides, in some ways, I don’t believe the humour is needed here. Sure, it would make it unrelentingly grim without any humour, but this is the situation our characters are in! Lady Envy seems to out of place and light-hearted, while I am still grieving for the loss of Whiskeyjack.
“Push and pull, Captain.”
“And to you, Healer.”
Nice to have a quick reference to Oponn, especially since we say the switch from one aspect of Oponn to the other at the beginning of the battle for Coral.
Well, this certainly gives a sharp image of the desperation and chaos of war: “Dujek dragged the wounded soldier through the doorway, and only then noticed that the man’s legs had been left behind, and the trail of blood leading back to the limbs thinned to virtually nothing by the time it reached the threshold.”
We’re losing so many… Looks like Twist will have fallen as well, after leading that final flight. “Final” sounds rather terminal, anyway!
It’s great that Erikson always harks back to events from earlier in the book, such as reference to Treach having a score to settle with the K’Chain Che’Malle. This really helps me to cement the events of the book in my mind.
It’s also deeply cool the different effects that being associated with a god that Erikson introduces—and never do they feel artificial. All feel entirely organic and as though they fit with everything else. I’m especially liking the gifts of Treach:
“A moment later, the Mortal Sword and his Legion were one, bones and muscles merging, identities—entire lives—swept under a deluge of cold, animal rage.”
What a picture we’re presented, of battle joined. I think it was wise to give us this view from Korlat’s eyes. The fact she was so close to death and has been healed only partially, the fact she is numb with shock and loss, gives a very shaky view. She has a negative edge to her thoughts—what is the point?—and is trying to readjust to the situation, given what has happened. This makes the sequence slightly confused and shocky, deliberately so, I think.
The moccasin shoes? Guess this might be Tool’s sister, the live Imass? She was certainly following Tool before… Kilava, that was her name!
Trotts and Detoran! Such heroic, bloody battles! These are written so well—I can see every step of the battle clearly. I think that Erikson writes one on one battle much better than large scale warfare—but I’d probably be persuaded otherwise if any of those commenting brings up a suitable battle as an example!
And now from the issues of childhood and motherhood to an actual birth—the arrival of a physical Togg. The Mhybe helping to bring it forth in an echo of the way she birthed Silverfox.
Oh WOW! This appearance of Moon’s Spawn is just AMAZING! All the time we’ve been looking to the skies, waiting for the clouds to clear and Moon’s Spawn to be hiding behind. Never did I think about that harbour. Such cunning from Rake. And the fear that is brought forth by Quick Ben shouting, “They’ve unveiled Kurald Galain […] All of them!”
And then again—I hope the mystery of this is soon unveiled (if you’ll excuse the pun!)
“A true unveiling. All of the Tiste Andii, joined in ritual magic—the world has never known this—in all the millenia since their arrival—never known this. Burn’s heart, what will come of this unveiling?”
This both saddens me, but also is understandable—the inability of Lady Envy to comprehend the sarcasm and fatalism of Picker, leading to the deaths of most of the Bridgeburners. So many lost….
Oh my… Kilava has come for redemption, regarding the Seer. She was the Imass who threw the Jaghut children into the rift and freed the Matron, wasn’t she? Is she coming to seek redemption for that action?
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter 25, Part 1:
Once again, you’ve got to love the way Coll and Murillio step forward, willing to put themselves between someone they care about or feel is their charge and even an Elder God. Being mortal myself (far as you all know), I can’t help but love that “audacity” we see again and again when the mortals match up against the gods—whether it’s this scene here, or Quick Ben taking on the Crippled God, or Paran talking to Nightchill, or any of a host of other examples before and to come. “Gods Schmods; I’ve got your Elder whatever right here,” seems to be the general attitude from many of our characters and how can you not root for that?
And it’s a nice touch by Erikson to make sure we know this isn’t some ignorant bravado or foolish lack of fear: Coll and Murillio know just what they face—”another blood-hungry bastard from antiquity”—and so Coll steps forward not fearlessly (which would be pretty stupid) but with “fear rising to lodge in his throat,” while Murillio’s own terror is evinced by the trembling of his hand, which doesn’t by the way stop him from placing said trembling hand upon the hilt of his sword.
K’rul seems to respond well to this audacity, calling it mortal’s “most admirable gift,” while Hood will take it to a point. (“You’ve got spunk. I hate spunk.”) “Annihilation” seems a bit strong of a response, though, n’est-ce pas?
Okay, let’s start talking about that “noble fool,” Itkovian. Should he have waited a few hours to relieve the T’lan Imass of their burden? Could he have? Anyone? Buehler?
That description of what Silverfox sees is so dark: the T’lan Imass kneeling helpless, the Grey Swords preparing a suicide charge, Dujek’s army being wiped out, the Malazans wavering and heartbroken, Tayschrenn—scarred, in pain, preparing to do what he can, Brood desperately trying to heal Korlat while her brother stands over her watching her on the edge of death (after millenia of years of life of life). It’s another one of those moments I see in cinematic form—the camera panning from one image of desperate futility and about-to-die to another. And then her dark, dark summation: “all for naught.” Ouch. It reminds me a bit of near the close of LoTR—with the last army before Mordor’s gates, having seen Frodo’s mithril coat and “knowing” him dead/taken, and preparing themselves regardless for the hopeless fight.
It’s an interesting question posed by the Mhybe: “is it enough that the child issued from my flesh?” I like that concept of how everyone simply assumed a maternal-child bond between her and Silverfox due to the mere physicality of the birth: despite there being no preparation, no idea of a shared world (not to mention one to share the conception/birth with), etc. And the grim concept of a child conceived not out of love, but pity, or worse, to serve a purpose (makes me think of parents having a child to have a donor match for the sick child they’ve already had).
We’ve mentioned before as well the parallel and mirroring of themes and imagery in the book, in particular parent-child. The Mhybe herself wonders at the parallel between her and Toc: both trapped, both in “ravaged bodies.” Toc being killed by a mother’s need, the Mhybe being killed by a daughter’s.
From the very beginning, we’ve had the T’lan Imass presented just as Itkovian talks of them being viewed—as cold, empty, husks. But we’ve also had signs that this wasn’t necessarily the case. And here we see in fact they are full—full of memory, of pain, of loss, of love. This is a great scene—these little vignettes that express so much so quickly and concisely. I love the singsong repetition, the almost ritualistic repetition of “I remember.” The first person. The mix of beauty and joy and grief and sorrow: new life, death. I think it’s also a great touch that so many of these vignettes deal with change, with “becoming”: birth and death, change of seasons, child to adult. The kind of change and growth that the ritual destroyed—the way it took “our love, our dreams of more children.” Individually, some of these are simply heartbreaking—the death of a little sister and the loss of a mother’s love, the regret over not standing with Tool and defying the ritual, the loss of remembered laughter, the realization of what the ritual would rob them of, Cannig Tol’s bitter understanding of what they have become. And our emotional response is heightened by how we recognized some of these individuals—Cannig from the prologue, Legana Breed from the Silanda in Deadhouse Gates. But as a whole, thinking of these memories/thoughts multiplied over the numbers of an entire people, then multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of years of carrying them—it’s more than heartbreaking.
One great scene to another—the rain of memories upon the land. We’ve been set up for this idea earlier when we saw the layers of the past that had soaked into Capustan. And so here we’ve got the memories seeing the ground, where they “belong” according to Pran Chole, to “touch the souls of all who would look.” It’s reminds me of a scene in the play The Field, a great play turned into an excellent film. In it, Richard Harris plays a farmer whose family has worked this field for years and years and when it appears he might lose it, a priest asks something like “can’t you find another field” and the look on Harris’ face at the complete lack of comprehension displayed by such a question is just stunning, as is his monologue that follows explaining why it’s a inane question. There’s a similar scene I think (if I remember aright) early in Grapes of Wrath, where a character is asked why he doesn’t just move off the dying land. In both cases, and here, it’s because the land isn’t just rock and soil—it’s memory. It’s full of human fluids—blood and sweat and salty tears and urine; it’s full in places of bones and flesh; and when the fluids have evaporated and the flesh rotted away the memories and echoes of those lives remain. This is the perfect example of what we’ve mentioned before, the way fantasy can make the metaphorical literal. I’m going on and on, but I just love this scene—these memories of so many lives, memories that haven’t been able to bond to a place, finally getting to do so. And the great paradoxical imagery that what brings this rain of life (rain itself an obvious metaphor for life and rebirth/renewal) is not just memory but the memories of a people who are long dead (okay, undead), of people who are dry and dessicated and seemingly bereft of any life at all. And that it falls first as rain but then as hail—our titular “memories of ice.”
Okay, returning to Silverfox as she wanders. I confess to being a bit lost on the whole Bellurdan thing. We’ve had him mentioned, then not mentioned, then not sensed (if I recall correctly—it’s all blurring a bit), but here we have Silverfox herself saying “I am Bellurdan.” Hmm, perhaps this isn’t the best place for that discussion. But it does nag at me a bit.
“Hood, have you come for us then?” File.
Oh, the quiet, gentle beauty of Tool finding Toc.
Hedge. I love that final grunt—so many ways to fill that blank in. No thought of running—a fair exchange.
Envy always makes for some good comic relief. And we really need some after these last few scenes.
More fair exchanges—Paran and Quick sending Mallet and the others off to give them a fighting chance of getting out alive.
Twist—such a small character but still. I like that Erikson gives him some heroism in these final pages.
Hmmm, wonder why the Tiger of Summer seems to have something personal against the K’Chain? Couldn’t be them tearing his other body apart, could it?
Well, Tayschrenn is certainly getting some redemption in this book, eh? First that talk between Dujek and Whiskeyjack saying he wasn’t as bad as they’d thought. Then his saving of Silverfox, his grieving over Whiskeyjack. The chaos wound that makes us pity him. And here you’ve got to respect his setting aside that obvious pain and stepping up to deal with the mages as Gruntle and the Grey Swords attack. Just to make sure we know he deserves some respect, we’ve got Gruntle telling us “I see the price he pays.”
How expected would that have been—the storm cloud hiding Moon’s Spawn? Like one of Spielberg’s alien ships coming out of a massive bank of clouds. Glad he didn’t go that route.
And somehow, the dark keeps getting darker (pun semi-intended). Korlat looks around and sees death and destruction—Gruntle’s legion being cut to pieces, Tayschrenn struck down, etc. Her words—”this battle is lost” and her need for “a promise of murder”—a double shot of despair from the woman earlier so full of life and love and hope. Another LoTR reference—it reminds me of Eomer on the fields of the Pellenor realizing it’s Eowyn’s body he sees next to Theoden’s corpse—that moment of realization that the day is lost, and then sweeping off yelling “death.”
Then we get Brood getting the same panorama of loss, the same sense of despair, and so the hammer rises (what a great cut).
More comic relief from Envy, but shortlived. And now the bodies of the known, rather than the abstract soldiers, are starting to add up: Whiskeyjack. Hedge. Detoran. And so the reader knows Erikson is willing to kill of some major characters. Which means we watch in horror as Toc moves toward that beam.
And great use of quick-cutting here to keep the suspense, to whirl us around emotionally.
And now the tide begins to turn. The Wolf god freed. The Ay’s appearance (“The Eagles! The Eagles are coming!”) And then, and tell me you don’t want to see this on an Imax screen, Moon’s Spawn (“I see a bad moon rising. I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightning. I see bad times today . . .”)
Erikson knows how to use space on a page, I tell you. Something not enough authors do.
Rising . . .
Slowly spinning . . .
Where stood a lone figure.
And they saw, one and all.
They saw Itkovian’s welcoming smile.
The tide is turning. But too late for some. Trotts. Toc. And so Erikson reminds us this will not be some fairy-tale ending. All will not live happily ever after.
Good old pragmatic, clear-sighted Tool. “Our time—it has passed.”
If you haven’t put the pieces together yet about the Seer, the conversation between Tool and his sister offer up more clues as to just what is going on: mostly thanks to her desperate need to get to the Seer for “redemption.”
But wait, maybe Toc is not yet done (to steal a phrase from Itkovian). He will be delivered but not to Hood’s Gate? Where then?
The list of Bridgeburners: “Picker. Mallet. Spindle. Antsy. Bluepearl.” No wonder Blend closes her eyes at the sight.
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.