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 3 and the Epilogue 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.
This is the third part of our Chapter 25 split—in this section, we’ll be reading from where Toc enters Anaster’s body to the end of the chapter and also the Epilogue.
Since Bill is still away I’ll repeat his disclaimer (although he has managed to spend some time working on Malazan while driving up mountains, or whatever active thing he is doing *grin*): 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.
CHAPTER 25 PART 3
Lanas Tog leads Silverfox to the gathered T’lan Imass, now “unburdened.” She asks forgiveness of Pran Chole, who says there is nothing to forgive. She says she will now free them, as she has the Ay, but he tells her no. They have heard from Lanas of their kin trapped on Assail and they must save them first, then they will return to her to have her end them. She says she will join them and he tells her they would be honored. She then asks what Itkovian has done and Pran Chole tells her to sense what he has done, sense the power in the ground. She says the realm is home to the Beast Thrones, the Rhivi spirits, and the Wolf Gods, but he says even more. “You have, perhaps unwittingly, created a realm where the Vow of Tellann unravels. . . Itkovian freed our souls and found, in this realm you created, a place for us.” She asks if they have been “redeemed,” and he tells her only she can do that, “the T’lan Imass have been awakened. Our memories—they live once more, in the earth beneath our feet. And they are what we will return to, the day you release us. We expected nothing but oblivion, upon that release. We could not have imagined that an alternative was possible . . . it surpasses us what one mortal man so willingly embraced.” He tells her they have one more thing they must do before leaving.
Picker watches the Rhivi looking for more bodies. The Bridgeburner corpses had already been retrieved (with the help of the Andii) and she suspects they didn’t find Paran or Quick Ben’s corpses because they weren’t there. She thinks of how the Bridgeburners are destroyed—had been destroyed at Pale. Envy, Garath, and the three Seguleh appear, and then Rake. Rake asks Envy what she wants and when she tells him she’s traveled far to tell him something, he asks what. She says they should go somewhere private and he tells her just say it. She informs him Draconus is plotting to escape Dragnipur and Rake says he wonders what has taken Draconus this long. Envy says “in case you’ve forgotten, we worked damned hard to slay him the first time.” Rake points out she just watched the battle and anyway, there isn’t much Rake can do until Draconus actually frees himself. Envy asks what he knows of the Master of the Deck and when Rake makes it clear he knows a lot, she’s infuriated. She warns him they will try to break the sword and that his “very life totters on the whim of a mortal.” Rake says, “I’d best step carefully then,” and leaves. Picker tells Blend to gather the last Bridgeburners and they’ll head for the gate, where waits the wagon holding their dead. Blends tells Picker she did what she could, but Picker replies “wasn’t good enough, was it?” Blend leaves and as Picker moves away Rake asks if he can join her group on their way to the command position. She says they aren’t very pleasant company but he responds they are “worthy company,” and then tells her he regrets he arrived so late. He says he would pay his respect to a fallen soldier, and she answers they all would. He and the five remaining Bridgeburners head for the hill.
Stonny tells Gruntle she wishes Harllo were there, even just his body with all the other fallen rather than out in the middle of nowhere alone. Brood and Dujek approach Korlat and Dujek asks who saw what happened. Korlat tells him and Dujek asks if the leg was responsible for Whiskeyjack’s death. Korlat lies and says his leg broke after Kallor killed him. Dujek says “We kept telling him to have it properly healed. ‘Later,’ he’d say. Always ‘later.” He asks her again and she lies again and he muses that Whiskeyjack was an excellent swordsman, gave Dassem trouble. He asks how long it took Tayschrenn to recover from Kallor’s attack and the mage said only moments, but too late. Korlat tells Dujek Kallor is “a formidable warrior,” but Dujek still seems troubled by the story. Stonny tells Gruntle the broken leg must have come first and he grabs her and shakes his head. Dujek says, “I have lost a friend.” The simple statement strikes Gruntle hard as he recalls Harllo and Itkovian. Rake arrives with the Bridgeburners and Crone. Dujek’s army—under a thousand—line the slopes of the hill, with the Barghast, Rhivi, Andii, and Brood’s army behind them, silent, mourning, honoring. Mallet steps up and sees immediately that it was the leg and collapses. Rake asks Korlat how she will answer Whiskeyjack’s murder and she tells him she and Orfantal will hunt Kallor down. He tells her to leave him alive for Dragnipur and she agrees. Rake tells the others that Moon’s Spawn is dying and will be sent over the ocean to sink there. He ask that the three Malazans be interred there, along with the other Bridgeburners. Picker agrees.
The Mott Irregulars are packing up their loot when their table glows and out of the “card” underneath step Paran and Quick Ben and Kilava.
Shortly afterward, Quick Ben calls the Bole Brothers the “scariest mages we’ve ever faced,” though he changes it to “warlocks” rather than mages, and says they have a sister “you wouldn’t want to meet, ever.” Kilava had already left them by then. Paran feels numbed by everything: “He was unused to being the hand of redemption . . . . So long ago, outside Pale, I’d felt her [the Jaghut girl], felt this child, trapped in her eternal pain, unable to comprehend what she had done to deserve what was happening to her. She had thought she was going to find her mother . . . and then it had all been torn away. Suddenly alone. Knowing only pain. For thousands of years.” He thinks how Quick Ben and Talamandas had taken her memory of it, with Hood’s help, how the Seer still has issues, and how Quick Ben had told Paran that “I needed to find a way to slow the infection, weaken the poison. I’d warned the Crippled God, you know. Told him I was stepping into his path. We’ve knocked him back, you know.” He thinks with pride of all they’d accomplished, including “we gave a child her life back.” But just then they reach sight of the hill and Quick Ben says, “I don’t like the feel of this.”
The bodies had disappeared into Kurald Galain and Rake himself took care of interring them. As Gruntle looks after Moon’s Spawn, he sees a group of soldiers standing around a bier and pile of stones. He takes Stonny with him and leads her to where the Grey Swords stand around Itkovian’s body on the bier. Gruntle notices that Anaster is no longer empty, and in fact now feels like Gruntle’s “rival.” The Destriant gives a small speech, but before they can lay the body in the shallow grave, a Malazan soldier steps forward, holding Itkovian’s helm, and tells her he would replace it for his helm he had exchanged earlier. She says no, Itkovian would refuse as he was pleased by the soldier’s gift, but if the soldier wishes, he could return it to . . . “She tails off at the sight of all the survivors of Dujek’s Host lining up at the slope, along with the Andii, etc, and then the Imass. The first T’lan Imass steps forward and tells the Destriant each will offer a gift in turn for the gift Itkovian gave them: Together, they shall become his barrow, and it shall be unassailable. If you refuse us in this, we will defy you.” She doesn’t refuse and he lays a shell on Itkovian’s chest. This continues throughout the night and at dawn, the Malazans start, beginning with the soldier placing the helm. At the end, Gruntle looks at the massive barrow and sees Tellann sorcery in it, holding each object in its place. He leaves the torcs there—thinking “Sorry, Treach. Learn to live with the loss. We do.”
Paran and Quick Ben had watched, but not joined. Paran feels too broken by Whiskeyjack’s death as well as by him and Quick Ben arriving too late to take part in the ritual farewell since they had arrived after Whiskeyjack’s body was already gone. As he and Quick Ben watch Moon’s Spawn drift toward the sea, Quick Ben tells him to draw Moon’s Spawn. He does and then takes them through to a chamber at the end of which was a raised dais, a throne pushed aside to make room for three sarcophagi. Along the approach were others, warded by Kurald Galain. Quick Ben identifies who lies in them, including Twist, Hedge, Shank, Toes, Detoran, and Trotts. They reach the dais and Quick says Rake did those spells himself. Quick Ben adds it was the leg that killed Whiskeyjack, that he had Kallor. Paran thinks how Picker and the others are watching Mallet, worried he’ll try to kill himself out of guilt, though “Mallet, he kept pushing you away . . . It wasn’t your fault, Mallet. Soldiers die.” Quick Ben leaves one of his pebbles behind in case he wants to visit, maybe with Kalam. As they prepare to leave, the mage tells Paran the Andii left everything behind in Moon’s Spawn. Paran wonders why, since they’ll settle in Black Coral and the city is empty. Paran opens a portal and Quick Ben steps through. Paran turns for a final farewell: “Whiskeyjack, for all that you have taught me, I thank you. Bridgeburners, I wish I could have done better by you. Especially at the end. At the very least, I could have died with you. It’s probably far too late. But I bless you, one and all.” He leaves and the portal blinks out, but a new glow appears in the chamber, “seeming to dance with the black web on the sarcophagi.”
Gruntle awaits the approach of the necromancer’s carriage. Reese halts the carriage and bangs on the sides. Bauchelain and Broach exit and says, “This is a place I could call home.” Gruntle laughs and says neither the Andii nor the Malazans will tolerate Broach’s activities. Broach agrees but Bauchelain says think of all the corpses, plus the dismembered K’Chain. Broach smiles. Bauchelain asks Gruntle to move out of their path but asks first if he could answer a question. They’ve received a strange note from a Jib Bole and brothers asking if they could visit the necromancers and Bauchelain wants to know if Gruntle knows them and if so, what sort of etiquette advice he’d give with regard to hosting them. Gruntle smiles and tells him to “Wear your best.” Bauchelain thanks him. Gruntle leaves for the temporary camp set up by the Grey Swords near Itkovian’s barrow. Tenescowri are flocking there, having heard of Anaster’s rebirth and hoping for salvation. Gruntle thinks the Tenescowri “too need to be reborn. The stranger within Anaster . . . has much to do.” Gruntle decides he should “take the man’s measure,” assuming Toc/Anaster will be “a better Mortal Sword than I am. Likely smug, sanctimonious.” When they meet, Toc asks him what it means to be a Mortal Sword. Gruntle, surprised, asks, “You don’t know?” Toc says “No. Do you?” and Gruntle laughingly admits “not really.” The two take an immediate liking to one another as they share experience and head off for a drink. Gruntle says he’ll get Stonny and the two part calling each other friend.
Paran watches as Quick Ben speaks to a Trygalle mage and Kruppe. Picker joins him and tells him he shouldn’t have left her in charge, that she messed up. Paran tries to take the blame, saying he abandoned them, but Picker says Quick Ben told them what the two of them did and they were all thankful that at least some kind of victory came out of all this. Paran then tries to buck her up by saying she came out of Coral with survivors and nobody could have bettered that. Dujek appears and says Paran is right. Dujek looks awful, as if he’s aged years, and his single arm trembles. He calls the Bridgeburners (the five beside Paran and Picker) together and tells them there’s a full complement of back pay in one of the Trygalle carriages and the guild will take them to Darujhistan. As far as he and Tayschrenn “know,” and will report, all the Bridgeburners were killed in Coral. Before anyone can speak, he adds that this was Whiskeyjack’s wish for the company and himself. Finally, he says, he’s giving them one more mission—to deliver someone to Baruk, someone who is not well and who, he says, needs “Malazans. Soldiers.” He dismisses them all but Paran and tells Picker to send “High Mage Quick Ben” up. When Picker is startled by the title, Dujek tells her “That bastard can’t hide any longer. Tayschrenn insisted.” Alone with Paran, Dujek informs him Dujek is taking the Host to Seven Cities to support Tavore’s army and invites Paran, who tells him no thanks. Dujek says he’ll add Paran to the casualty list and he can go with the Bridgeburners. When Paran diminishes his soldiering, Dujek tells him he is truly a “noble man”—not by birth but earned, something he calls “damned rare.” Paran disagrees, saying he’s been “humbled, again and again, by those around me.” Dujek sends him off to his “fellow Bridgeburners” and the two say goodbye. As Paran walks, the significance of that—”fellow” Bridgeburners strikes him: “My fellow Bridgeburners he said. Well, the achievement is shortlived, but even so. I made it.”
Toc/Anaster retrieves the beer for his meeting with Gruntle and Stonny. As he prepares to meet them, a stranger (Tool—whom Toc has no memory of) steps forward to him. He looks like a Barghast Toc thinks, “covered in scars—more scars of battle than Toc had ever seen in a single person before. Despite this, there was a comfort there in his face—a gentleman’s face, no more than twenty years of age . . . framed in long black hair devoid of any fetishes or braids. His eyes were a soft brown.” Tool tells him “I only sought to look upon you to see that you were well,” and Toc thinks, “He believes me to be Anaster. A friend of old perhaps—not one of his lieutenants though—I would have remembered this one.” He tells Tool he is well and Tool replies “This pleases me . . . I will go now, brother. Know that I hold you in my memory,” then heads off into the forest. Something about his walk nags at Toc but before he can place it, the Grey Swords Shield Anvil interrupts with a question. Toc tells her not now and heads off to drink with Gruntle and Stonny.
Kilava meets Tool at the edge of the forest and asks if he is done. He says yes and she tells him she’s missed him. He says he’s missed her as well. She notes the absence of his sword and when he asks if she thinks he’ll need one, she tells him “now more than before I would think.” She tells him of a quarry and says she’ll “invest it, of course, to prevent it shattering,” as she did once before, “so very long ago.”
Envy reawakens Mok and tells him his mask has cracked, saying, “I reluctantly admit, none of our facades have survived unfractured.” She adds Rake has banished them from the city and yes, he awakens in the same forest they had spent days in earlier. But, she says, your punitive mission is done, “perhaps satisfactorily, perhaps not,” though the Pannion Domin is done. When she tells them it’s time to head home, Mok replies they will demand an audience with the Seventh (Rake). She tells him it’s futile—Rake won’t see them and the Andii will blast them with sorcery rather than cross swords. She ends by saying she’s decided to escort them home.
On the way north, Hetan and Cafal meet up with Tool and Kilava. Hetan asks the stranger’s name and Tool says Onos Toolan. She says she can tell he hasn’t bedded a woman in a long time and he smiles. She likes his eyes, “my lover’s eyes.”
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter 25 Part 3
Here is an idle thought… If the T’lan Imass has not been unburdened by Itkovian, would they have been so willing to head for the other continent to save their kin, or would they still be entirely invested in happenings on Genabackis and wondering what the Summoner plans?
Certainly Itkovian’s sacrifice and compassion have had a profound effect on the T’lan Imass, and I do think that left them able to think about helping others. More than that, wanting to. Also, how much easier must it be to remain “in torment” when knowing that an entire Realm holds your memories and that there will be no oblivion? Then to continue on your eternal task, not knowing when you’d find surcease, or what would be waiting when you were released?
Also, here: is this the first time that Silverfox has openly acknowledged the fact that four travel within her? She outright states that the T’lan Imass will be accompanied by Nightchill, Bellurdan, Tattersail and Silverfox. I think this is a new level of acceptance.
Ouch, this observation from Picker really hurts: “We were brittle. Destroyed months ago, outside Pale, it’s just taken this long for the few of us left to realize it. Hedge, Trotts, Detoran. Corpses who kept saluting-”
Okay, I’m going to go get my tissues. I think I’m going to need them, with such quotes as:
For the last time.”
Those Bridgeburners are everything characters should be in novels: realistic, three dimensional, humorous, angry, mournful. Their dialogue is sarcastic and biting, but at times honourable. We’ve seen them despairing, desperate, furious, bantering and soldiering. We’ve seen the very best of them and, dear Gods, I’m going to miss them. Someone asked in the comments why I didn’t mention Hedge’s death particularly in a previous analysis—the fact was, I couldn’t face yet another of the Bridgeburners to have gone down. I love them. And this tiny remnant is almost worse than if all of them have died. The survivors having to dwell on the departed is more than painful.
“And aren’t you looking very martial this afternoon…” *grins* Is there ever a time, while dragon or Tiste Andii, that Anomander Rake doesn’t look martial? Either he’s carrying a damn great sword or has teeth!
Much as Lady Envy makes my teeth hurt, I did love this exchange between her and Rake—but mostly because Rake slaps her down royally. He doesn’t allow her all those little mysterious utterances she’s so fond of, and generally makes a mockery of her concerns. Have I mentioned, I do like that Rake fellow?
Poor Picker, with her “wasn’t good enough, was it?” line. It’s such a bad thing that she feels guilt for the deaths of the soldiers under her command. I can see why she would—it seems as though any good Lieutenant should do—but these circumstances were beyond the pale (and I intend no pun there…). I don’t think anyone would have been able to extract any more of the Bridgeburners than Picker managed to—in fact, most would have done worse.
*grins* Is Rake avoiding the Seguleh, in order not to be drawn into discussions with them, considering he is one of them?
*flinches* Imagine being one of those Bridgeburners—surviving the horrific events of Coral, watching people you’d known for years die, and then to find out that Whiskeyjack hadn’t made it. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one to deliver that news. I like the quiet respect that imbues every word of Rake’s as he talks about the Bridgeburners being allies and worthy. It means a lot coming from an Immortal who has seen thousands of years pass—for him to be so moved by the actions of some soldiers and their commander, well, it must just take a lot to get that reaction from him….
This is an incredibly neat book-end to the novel, that Stonny verbalises, where she remarks on how the three of them watched Moon’s Spawn on the move right at the start of Memories of Ice. It is truly incredible to see them now, with what they’ve been through, and realise that Erikson has accomplished that character development in the course of one novel. Excellent stuff.
Oh man… I am broken. This with Dujek—wondering about that damned leg and whether it was responsible indirectly, whether he was responsible for Whiskeyjack since he didn’t absolutely insist on the leg being healed. And then that “I have lost a friend.” Indeed, raw simplicity. And so very painful.
Oh Mallet… That one hit hard as well. “Some wounds never heal, and that man has just taken such a wounding. Would that Dujek had left Whiskeyjack hidden beneath the rain-cape…” I wonder what this means for Mallet’s future character development.
I like how Korlat is offered the chance for vengeance against Kallor.
*shudders* “He has earned Dragnipur.” Even for Kallor, that is a dark punishment.
Wow, even more respect for Rake—here, he takes on a great deal of responsibility for Whiskeyjack’s death: “…slain by a betrayer delivered here by myself and Caladan Brood…”
Moon’s Spawn is a fitting sarcophagus for Whiskeyjack. I fiercely approve.
Ha, I really want to read more about the Bole brothers—and that sole sister mentioned. Gods, if even Quick Ben talks them up as the scariest warlocks around, then there is definitely a story there!
Ahh, the horrible juxtaposition between the quiet satisfaction of Paran and the ego of Quick Ben, and then their realisation that something has gone so very wrong. They had every reason to feel pleased with themselves, and it is so painful that they are about to discover Whiskeyjack’s death. Erikson uses the reader’s knowledge well here, creating a sense of dread with few words.
And I fiercely approve of the gestures shown towards Itkovian. His funeral is a fine moment, a sparkling occurrence to pay tribute to a very special man. Yes, I definitely approve. And another nice book-ending situation where we see the Malazan soldier return that helmet.
More sadness, as Paran mourns Whiskeyjack and then as Quick Ben says that he will tell Fiddler of Hedge’s death. That is not something I would be offering to do.
There is a real ache in me for the fact that Quick Ben whispers the names of the Bridgeburners to Paran—I suspect this is because Paran didn’t have the opportunity to meet them all properly in the time he took command. And then the echo when he thinks: “Whiskeyjack, for all that you have taught me, I thank you. Bridgeburners, I wish I could have done better by you. Especially at the end. At the very least, I could have died with you. All right, it’s probably far too late. But I bless you, one and all.”
So, these Bridgeburners have been blessed by the Master of the Deck, and have the possibility of ascending thanks to events in Deadhouse Gates. I will be very interested to see what happens, especially with those last words: “A dance of mystery.”
Hee! “Aye, I’m ready to hate the bastard, I admit it.” I like this misdirection!
And then a final dart of sorrow, as Anaster/Toc says “I won’t, even if they torture me…” and then pales. I think those scars will never fade.
Seriously, guys, I can’t take much more of this—this chapter has left me in bits! Now Dujek’s offer to the Bridgeburners, the elevation of Quick Ben to High Mage, the fact that Paran is considered ‘noble’ not for his blood, but for his actions, the way Paran says: “…there’s but one experience I will carry with me of my time in this campaign, High Fist, it is that of being humbled, again and again, by those around me.” And that final line: “I made it.” Excuse me while I go and have a bit of a cry in the corner.
So very sweet, this scene between Toc (his name for the last time, I suspect) and Tool. And lovely to see Tool taking back his humanity (although, I confess, I’m not quite sure how this happened—help please? All we saw is him relinquish his sword, did that then equate to him becoming human again? Is it because he was outside of the Ritual?)
Some lighter moments to lift the mood as we leave the main bulk of the novel, but nothing can really take away the pain of the passing of the Bridgeburners, the tragic death of Whiskeyjack and the noble compassion of Itkovian. I will miss them.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter 25 Part 3
While I think what Silverfox did for her mother, in creating the dream world, was truly admirable, it unfortunately gets somewhat tainted for me by all the baggage surrounding it. But her immediate decision to join the T’lan Imass, to lend her formidable powers to saving their and her kin, is something I can enjoy and respect in a pure sense. It may be my favorite moment of hers, though I’d have to think about it. I do find Pran Chole’s “long moment” of hesitation interesting though. Why the long pause before accepting? Is it a father’s concern about the safety of his child? A sign that he doesn’t fully trust Silverfox to act in their best interests? A worry she will be a constant reminder of what she didn’t do or perhaps what she can do? Anyone have ideas? Or maybe he just had a little dust in his throat….
“You have been redeemed”—File.
Pran Chole’s statement that the Imass expected “nothing but oblivion” upon release gives you a sense of just how much they wanted to end their existence.
Funny how many little cliffhangers Erikson tosses at the reader at the end of these small scenes—what does Tool want, what is the “one more task,” etc. I think if these were divided into chapters and an equal number of chapters ended in this fashion, it might seem gimmicky or annoying. But in the flow of these multiple scenes in long chapters, one feels the bit of suspense, but not as strongly, and so they don’t feel so cheap or cheesy.
Picker’s thoughts are so poignant, have such an emotional impact. Again, note how in so many of these moments Erikson really pares back the language: short paragraphs, short sentences, fragments, no fancy latinates, few polysyllabic words:
Our wagon. The wagon carrying the dead Bridgeburners.
For the last time.
Nice touch that repetition of “last” as well.
Speaking of nice touches—how light and sharp is that image of a “scarred cattle dog” coming here, after a battle, amidst memory and grief and sorrow and loss.
And then a deft pivot amidst all this grief and literal darkness into the light (yes, pun intended) repartee of Envy and Rake.
Then another sharp momentary pivot as Picker looks at Envy and thinks, “not a scuff on that telaba . . . Yet there we stood, side by side, in that hallway.” That unmarked telaba I’d say stands for more than just a piece of clothing here—Envy is not marked by events like Picker; Ascendants (most of them) are not marked by events like mortals.
Then more humor. And false pomposity from Envy: “Hear me then, Wielder of Dragnipur.” Forcing your sense of self-importance much? “Blood whispers.” Yes, yes, and the crow croaks at midnight. I love that Rake’s first response is a “grunt.”
How’s that for a tidbit of a scene you want a much bigger bite of: “we worked damn hard to slay him the first time!” ‘Course, it turned out Envy didn’t do much save watch, but still—more, I want more.
By the way, I’d say this qualifies as Chekov’s famous rule of drama: “If you stick a big bad-ass god on the wall in Act I, he’s gotta go off in Act II.” In other words, does anybody really think that after all these references to Draconus wanting/trying to get out of Dragnipur, it’ll all end up with him sitting on the back of the wagon complaining to Pearl about how he never could figure out how to do it: “I coulda been a contender; I coulda been somebody.”
And I love her deep dark, once again self important: “do you know of . . . ” followed by Rake reeling off all he does in fact know, that Envy does not.
“Gather ’em up, Blend.”
“Shouldn’t take long.”
Think about that for a moment.
I like how when Rake joins Picker, her first impression of him, and so the readers’ in this particular relationship, is of “the Tiste Andii’s hard, unhuman gaze.” (Nice touch by the way of not using a pronoun—his—but giving us the inhuman species name.) And how that segues into “you are worthy company” followed by sincere regret and sorrow and an apology. Though with a bit of a bite (intended or unintended?) and perhaps reproach in the “I didn’t know you Malazans had, without telling us beforehand, stolen ahead and entered the keep.” And Picker’s recognition of that, as well as her insight that her fellow Bridgeburners would as well and her staunch “That alliance was solid as far as we were concerned.” And Rake’s humble, “Then I would walk with my allies, Lieutenant, one more time.”
And then the impact of that last line, with all the allusions to the few Bridgeburners we’ve had the past few paragraphs, to get that concrete, monosyllabic actual number—five—it hits you like a wall.
From grief to grief. Once again, Erikson doesn’t let us forget the fallen. Too many authors, too many books, feel they’re being “gritty” or “tough” by killing off characters—sometimes just by quantity, sometimes by knocking off a major character or two—but then it all becomes just a gimmick because they never force the survivors, and thus the reader, to face the recurring, constant loss of those dead. It’s on to chapter 12, on to the next big battle! Erikson doesn’t let us move cheerily on as if the dead were nothing to us beyond a page or two. So we get Gruntle and Stonny grieving over Harllo—my god, that was so chapter 12! (he says without bothering to check). We get that line about a cattle dog, so we feel the pang of losing Coltaine and Duiker (yes, yes, I know), and Bult etc. all over again. It’s an adult version of grief. Now, grant you, there’s also the whole dead people don’t die, they just come back as people who had been turned into a shell thing, but more on that later….
Speaking of grief, this scene on the hill kills me every time. Every time. Dujek wiping his face. Korlat speaking tonelessly. Korlat’s lie. Gruntle covering for the lie. The simplicity (again) of “I have lost a friend.” The roll call—so short a list—of the Bridgeburners filing in. And then Mallet. Mallet is the dagger. Rake’s gesture is grand, noble, and great, and Picker’s wry response rescues some good feeling, but Mallet. It just sticks.
And then after that very quick comic relief from the prior scene, we’re back in it again as Quick Ben and Paran start moving toward what they don’t know and we, the readers, do. And so the pace gets slowed by Paran’s thoughts as they move toward tragedy, stretching it out for the reader. And by the end, we start to feel good again as Paran starts to check off all the good they’d achieved: “stolen the Seer from under Anomander Rake’s nose . . seen an ancient wrong righted . . . removed the threat . . . gave a child her life back.” (And let’s just say that this is a very interesting checklist. Or is it a roadmap?) But just as we’re starting to smile again, we’re plucked back to reality: “I don’t like the feel of this.”
And then we get to feel both good and bad at Itkovian’s burial scene. The Malazan soldier and his helm. The line-up of those there to honor. I love the flatness of the Imass as they begin to honor: “if you refuse us this, we will defy you.” So much packed into that. And Gruntle dropping the torcs in there.
File that barrow by the way.
More on rituals. We’ve seen this kind of examination before—of the meaning of rituals, of what they offer. And the pain of not being able to partake in the ritualistic farewell to Whiskeyjack. The emptiness that leaves Paran with. That would have been too much, I think. I can do grim, but this would have hurt a lot had Erikson not given us the two of them in Moon’s Spawn.
Did I mention Erikson doesn’t let us forget? Nice touch to include Twist in this Hall of the Fame for the Fallen. And another roll call. We’ve had a shorter roll call of the fallen, then a roll call of the survivors to remind us of the fallen, and now another of the fallen again. Thud. Thud. Thud. I like that it isn’t a “greatest hits” of characters either—not just the big boys, the ones we know like Hedge and Detoran and Toes. Aimless. Runter. Story. Thud. Thud. Thud.
More evidence of TATIR (reminder—The Awesomeness that is Rake): “These spells. He worked alone.”
Mallet. The dagger twists.
Good old Quick Ben. I love the idea of him visiting Moon’s Spawn. But again, just as you get a bittersweet smile, another dagger; “Me and Kalam.”
Did I mention cliffhangers? Hmmm, a little dancing glow… a “blessing” from the Master of the Deck. And don’t forget, a song. Hmmmm.
“Wear your best Bauchelain,” indeed. I love that scene.
Note that semi-cult already starting around Itkovian. File.
Once again, Erikson makes good use of dramatic irony—of the audience knowing more than the characters. Hard not to smirk as Gruntle gives us his “measure” of Anaster/Toc as “likely smug, sanctimonious.”
“I don’t want followers” seems to be a surprisingly common refrain among many of these characters, eh?
A quick little detour to remind us of the other events of Deadhouse Gates—Fiddler this time rather than Coltaine. Smoothly done.
So Paran is now officially a Bridgeburner in his mind. Hmm, does that mean he blessed himself?
So after all the grief, we’re staring to get some good feeling: Rake’s noble acts, Quick and Paran getting to say goodbye, a hint that the Bridgeburners might not be as finished as first appeared, Toc and Gruntle, and now Tool refreshed. Stop for a moment and picture all the times we’ve seen him prior, all those scenes of bones and dust and disappearing into ground and the burden of the Vow—and now this: “a comfort there in his face—a gentleman’s face, no more than twenty years of age . . . His eyes were a soft brown.” Tell me that doesn’t warm you. And reunited with his sister as well.
Let’s go to the list:
Mother Mhybe—daughter Silverfox reconciled? check
Brother Jaghut—sister Jaghut reunited? check
Father Pran Chole—daughter Silverfox reconciled? check
Brother Tool—Sister Kilava reunited? check
Mother Dark and Andii? “closer?” but no check
Did I miss any familially-themed pairings?
And what a great ending (yes, I know there’s an epilogue, but still). Hetan and Tool. Been a long time for that guy . . .
There’s a happy close though: “My lover’s eyes.” True joy to top off all this grief and loss.
MEMORIES OF ICE EPILOGUE
Paran enters the Finnest House (the Azath in Darujhistan) with a pack of gold and tells Raest he’s decided to live there after spending three weeks in an inn. Raest asks what Paran plans to do with the two bodies in the hallway (Vorcan and Rallick Nom) and Paran replies he doesn’t know yet. He tells Raest tonight is the opening of Picker’s new tavern (in partnership with the Bridgeburners) which they’ve made out of K’rul’s old temple/belfry.
As Paran exits the House, he stumbles over an old hooded figure with useless legs who asks for a coin. Paran gives him some silvers and the beggar tells him he is seeking a treasure buried in the Tahlyn Hills. Paran tells him he’s got enough money, and warns him hanging around outside the House probably isn’t a great idea, that “The House does not welcome strangers.” The beggar says, “Not this House . . . but I know one that does.” Paran leaves.
Picker stares at the man they had brought back to Baruk (Duiker). She thinks how Baruk “had done all he could to restore life to what had been a mostly destroyed, desiccated body.” Duiker hasn’t spoken a word since the resurrection. She looks around the nearly empty bar (only the Bridgeburners, Kruppe, Murillio, and Coll), depressed at the failure of opening night at K’rul Bar. Baruk enters. Picker says the hell with the opening, time for some stories, and she suggests that the Daru might like to hear how Coral was taken. But nobody wants to tell it. Spindle says, “Too close . . . a story to break our hearts all over again! Where’s the value in that?” Duiker answers: “There is value,” but says Spindle was right—it is too soon for the story of Coral. He begins to tell the story of the Chain of Dogs.
Amanda’s Reaction to the Epilogue:
Hahaha, I love Raest! You know what he reminds me of? An Igor type character. You know, the lugubrious voice, the mocking humour that the master fails to grasp entirely. He makes me giggle.
“The Imperial Historian had fallen silent. No-one knew why.” Oh, we know… And I miss Coltaine all over again now as well. It seems truly fitting that Duiker is to tell the Bridgeburners of the Chain of Dogs—heartbreak for heartbreak. This truly is the Malazan Book of the Fallen. *sighs* See you on the other side.
Bill’s Reaction to the Epilogue:
I love the Odd Couple routine one can imagine with Raest and Paran.
Those two bodies will eventually stop being doorstops.
Jaghut humor. God help me, I like Jaghut humor.
So what do you think, do people actually speak in capital letters when they say the word “House”? Poor Munug, he does seem to have fallen on hard times. I know he can’t make trips to sell his goods anymore, but I am surprised he’s reduced to begging, as his talent lies in his hands and head (and possibly heart), not his legs. Did the Crippled God take more than his legs from him? Is this just spiteful cursing? Any guesses?
Ahh, the power of stories.
And so we go from the joyful close of the book proper to the oh-so-bittersweet close of the narrative as a whole—and Coltaine’s story comes crashing down on us once more….
Amanda’s Reaction to Memories of Ice:
Well, now… It’s hard to marshal my thoughts on this one—but what I can immediately verbalise is the fact that it would be impossible to pick a favourite part of the novel, unlike with Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates. For me, I pretty much loved every part of Memories of Ice.
I also want to mention just how tight Erikson’s writing is. I was thinking about what a tome Memories of Ice is—well over one thousand pages in my edition—and yet there is not one redundant scene, in my opinion. Not one part that could easily be excised. For someone who is used to reading bloated fantasy epics, it comes as a real breath of fresh air to realise that, despite its length, Memories of Ice is an incredibly honed book.
My over-riding feeling when coming out of the read last night was one of loss and sorrow. Despite some of the lighter moments within Memories of Ice, this is a novel where real life hits. Not everyone is safe. Characters you love will succumb to this tragic war. None of the deaths felt gratuitous either—done for shock value. All of them felt incredibly fitting given the events of the novel.
And what about the classic moments—where Moon’s Spawn comes crashing down into the Keep; the release of Toc from his torment; Itkovian’s desire to free an entire race from their burden; and Whiskeyjack… This novel is chock-full of moments to cherish and read back.
I loved the banter of the Bridgeburners. I loved the change in Gruntle, and his mocking of the Gods. I loved (and hated) the siege of Capustan. I loved the way Quick Ben tweaked the Crippled God’s nose.
From huge epic sweeping moments, to the mundane talk between soldiers waiting for the next battle, this is a supreme novel and the very finest example of what can be accomplished within fantasy fiction.
Bill’s Reaction to Memories of Ice:
Okay, I don’t have a lot of time as the Starbuck’s employees are:
a) mopping around my table
b) grimly toting up the time I’ve spent here typing and drinking the same single medium (or whatever Starbucks calls a medium; I confess I never bothered to learn) Earl Grey (more hot water please).
This series is obviously a favorite of mine, or I wouldn’t be doing this, so who knows how often I will say this, but I do think MoI is one of my favorites among my favorite series. GoTM grabbed me, but it has its weaknesses and while its above average, with some great scenes (Rake’s arrival at Baruk’s for instance), it doesn’t match what’s to come. Deadhouse Gates is a big step up in so many ways. And the Chain of Dogs—just wow. But MoI has so much in it, so much depth and richness and emotion. Sure, it has its battles, but it’s so much a smaller focus, so tight on characters and relationships: Korlat and Whiskeyjack, Paran’s acceptance into the Bridgeburners, Blend and Picker, Tool and Toc. DG has a lot of spectacle and while MoI has its own (such as Moon’s Spawn rising out of a harbor then dropping like the vengeance of Stone and Sky), it draws me in and holds me closer. This is a series of big scenes, big battles, big set pieces, big ideas. But none of those work without the human element—and MoI has it in spades (I think of how I reacted to Mappo and Icarium in DG). Not to mention it sets up oh so much to come. Like I said, I may call each one “my favorite,” but of the three so far, MoI takes the lead….
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.