Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Chapter Nine


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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Nine of House of Chains by Steven Erikson (HoC).

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.

Chapter Nine

Scene 1

Kalam is shopping at a G’danisban shop selling decks, weapons, other items, some clearly looted from tombs, some blessed by gods. The shopkeeper tells him the Decks are in flux due to a new House. When Kalam scoffs it’s probably just some fake cult, the keeper says he believes it’s a real House because “for, a new Unaligned card, a card denoting that a Master now commands the Deck. An arbiter, yes? And then . . . the new House. Sanctioned? Undecided. But not rejected out of hand . . . And the Readers—the patterns. The House will be sanctioned—not one Reader doubts that.” Kalam asks the about the House’s name and ruler and the shopkeeper tells him it is the House of Chains, but as for who rules it or what throne, “there is naught but confusion . . . Ascendants vie. But . . . the Throne where the King will sit—the Throne, my friend, is cracked.” Kalam asks if he means the Chained One and the keeper confirms the House belongs to the Crippled God. When Kalam muses that “the others must be assailing it fiercely,” the show owner replies “You would think, but not so. Indeed, it is they who are assailed.” The owner shows Kalam a pair of Wickan knives—”booty from the Chain of Dogs.” One of them is “alloyed with otataral” and the other invested with Elder magic impressed with a serpent’s tail and Kalam recognizes the stamp: “Fenn. Thelomen Toblakai . . I know that mark. I know precisely who invested this weapon [Bellurdan].” Kalam buys the weapons with diamonds from Cotillion and the shopkeeper recognizes their Shadow. The shop owner tells him of a group of several hundred Malazans besieged in a nearby fortress—B’ridys—though he imagines they’re almost finished. As Kalam walks away, he thinks, “You damned fool, Cotillion. You were there at the last Chaining, weren’t you? You should have stuck a knife in the bastard right then and there.”

Scene 2

Kalam walks on the road toward B’ridys thinking the Malazans there were probably starving. Looking ahead, he assumes the known water sources have been fouled in preparation of Tavore’s army approaching, though he’s not worried, as he knows several secret sources. He realizes Sha’ik “had drawn the Whirlwind close, a tactic that suggested to the assassin a certain element of fear” or perhaps the makings of a trap, leading Tavore into the heart of Raraku which Sha’ik’s forces knew better. Though Kalam knows of “at least one man in Tavore’s army who knows Raraku. And he’d damn well better speak up when the time comes.

Scene 3

Kalam arrives at the besieging camp mid-morning and notes a lack of sharpness among the besiegers, as well as a note of impatience as they prepare for a final assault, apparently coming tomorrow. The besiegers are mostly former Malazan soldiers from Seven Cities. As Kalam moves toward the lieutenant seemingly in charge, he observes his uniform labels him Ashok Regiment and he thinks “Stationed in Genabaris a few years past. Then sent back to Ehrlitan . . . I’d have thought they would have stayed loyal.” The lieutenant introduces himself as Captain Irriz and Kalam wonders if he felt “underappreciated in the regiment,” based on his self-promotion. The captain says a mage just arrived who says she can blow a big hole in the easy-to-defend balcony entrance. She arrives—young, Malazan—and tells Kalam to keep his otataral knife away from her. Greed flashes through Irriz’s eyes as he asks Kalam where he got it; Kalam tell him form the Wickan he killed on the Chain of Dogs. The besiegers pray and voice blessings on the Chain of Dogs. Irriz demands to know why Kalam isn’t with Sha’ik and wonders why Korbolo Dom would have let Kalam leave. Sinn—the mage—says, “Because Korbolo Dom is an idiot, and Kamist Reloe even worse. I am amazed he didn’t lose half his army after the Fall. What true soldier would stomach what happened there?” She asks Kalam if he deserted Dom’s Dogslayers and Kalam responds he went “looking for a cleaner fight. She mocks him for coming to B’ridys then and Kalam thinks to himself “her mind is broken” before saying out loud that he finds it “odd that you are here, seemingly so eager to kill fellow Malazans.” She tells him she has her own reasons then tells Irriz she wants to speak to him alone. Irriz tells Kalam they want to take the besieged alive “to give us sport. Punishment for being so stubborn. I especially want their commander [Captain Kindly].” He continues that he knew Kindly from the Ashok and “this is a personal argument for me . . . it’s why I want those bastards alive.” Sinn points out that Kalam’s knife can neutralize the Malazans’ mage and Kalam agrees to enter the breach first, thinking “first in, last out” before saying “It won’t be my first time sir.” As Sinn and Irriz leave, Kalam thinks “Captain Kindly. Never met you sir, but for years you’ve been known as the meanest officer in the entire Malazan military. And, it now seems, the most stubborn too. Excellent. I could use a man like that.”

Scene 4

He finds an empty tent to sleep in. When he wakes up at night, he approaches the fort but stops at the sight of sorcery around the base of the siege towers. He watches Sinn for a while, then moves toward her, getting her attention when his otataral blade interferes with her magic. He tells her it’s “a nasty nest of snakes for you to play in,” and she says she wasn’t sure which side Kalam was on and still isn’t. He says he was going to weaken the towers just as she’s done, but he wanted to keep one. He realizes how young she is. She tells him she’s only just learning magic and had been tutored by Fayelle “who slid her knife across the throats of my father and mother. Who went hunting for me too. But I slipped away.” She says this is the beginning of her revenge and she needs soldiers and one of Kindly’s sergeants is her half-brother, though she doesn’t know if he still lives. When Kalam says he’ll work with her she asks why, and he responds, “Fayelle is with Korbolo Dom, yes? Well, I have a meeting pending with Korbolo. And with Kamist Reloe. So we’ll work together in convincing Captain Kindly.” The relief in her voice makes him recall the thirteen hundred children he’d saved: “And there, in those faces, was the true horror of war. Those children had been alive when the carrion birds cam down for their eyes.” Sinn tells him she’s already taken care of Irriz and his warriors by poisoning their water with Tralb, which she thinks will just make them a bit sick and thus useless in the morning. When she tells Kalam how much she’d used and when, he realizes only a few guards had probably drunk it, but also that the amount would mean they’d die horribly. Kalam leaves her for a moment and kills the three guards as an act of mercy. As he thinks about staving in the water casks to prevent more poisonings, he sees three Malazans come down via rope from the fortress and realizes they’d been watching. The lead soldier asks Kalam who he is and just responds a soldier, then tells the soldier he needs the mage with them to empty the camp’s water casks due to the poison. When the soldier says he’d be fine with the besiegers dying that way, Kalam suggests he take it up with Captain Kindly. Another Malazan says they didn’t come down to deal with the besiegers but to retrieve Kalam. When Kalam wonders what for, he realizes the soldiers don’t look starved or parched. They tell him they can leave whenever they want by back tunnels but they’ve got nowhere to go as the “whole land is out for Malazan blood,” saying they haven’t heard any news for a long time. Kalam says he’ll go with them, along with Sinn, if they empty the water casks. The Malazans say they want Irriz too and Kalam tells them he’ll bring him. He leaves to get Sinn, whom he finds dancing under the towers, “hands fluttering like capemoth wings.” He brings her to the Malazans and they take her with them as he turns back to the camp. He pulls out one of Cotillion’s diamonds and takes out a bone whistle that Cotillion had given him, telling him “Blow hard and you’ll awaken all of them. Blow soft and directly at one in particular and you’ll awaken that one alone.” Kalam uses the whistle and an Azalan demon arises, “From a territory in the Shadow Realm bordering that of the Aptorians.” Kalam thinks how to phrase his request—”Get Captain Irriz. Alive, but kept quiet. Join me at the rope”—especially as the demon possesses no language, but his thoughts are interrupted when the demon urinates and the stench drives Kalam out of the tent. The demon exits and disappears toward Irriz’s tent and Kalam realizes it must have read his mind. He sees smoke rising from where the demon had urinated and heads toward the rope hanging down the wall, reaching it as his tent bursts into flames. He hears shouts then screams, “each one ending in a strange mangled squeal.” As he climbs he’s passed by the demon, carrying Irriz. Kalam gets into the fortress just as the balcony collapses (the demon held it for him until he was safe). Kalam tells the Malazans his real name, which silences them. The mage—Ebron—says he thought Kalam and the others were outlawed and Kalam tells them it was a feint. They introduce themselves as Sergeant cord, Bell, and Corporal Shard—Sinn’s half-brother. Kalam asks about Kindly and Cord says they lost him and the lieutenant days ago when they fell down a well shaft and drowned, swept away by an underground river. Cord, saying he outranks Kalam, drafts him to join the Ashok Second Company—51 soldiers (including Limp, who broke his leg in a rock slide). When Kalam tells him he’s got news and alternatives to staying at B’ridys, Cord says when he wants advice he’ll let Kalam know and then says to get rid of the demon. Kalam informs him the demon just killed 500 besiegers in a few minutes and he can’t claim for surety it does what he wants. Cords asks if that’s a threat and Kalam tells him he’ll take Cord’s squad and even follow his orders “unless they happen to be idiotic” and if Cord has a problem with that he can bring it to Kalam’s sergeant Whiskeyjack because outside of the Empress, that’s the only person he answers to. Ebron guess Kalam is on a mission for the Empress, probably back with the Claw.

Scene 5

Cutter and Apsalar approach Drift Avalii as a storm nears. He’d told her of Cotillion’s visit and she’d been distressed and furious, seemingly that Cotillion had recruited Cutter. He realizes his thought that making Cotillion his patron would bring the two of them closer was an error and had been surprised to learn she wasn’t happy with the path she was on, didn’t find “pleasure or satisfaction from her own cold, brutal efficiency as a killer.” He’d thought competency alone would be reward, but Apsalar believed “competency was not justification.” When he mentions that Cotillion has said there’d be trouble on the island, she tells him the inhabitants are Tiste Andii—”Rake’s own—placed there to guard the Throne. She remembers a conversation Cotillion had with them and says, “These Tiste Andii have known isolation for far too long. Their master left them there, and has never returned . . . There are complications.” Trying to land, their boat is wrecked and Cutter gets yanked down by a current under the island then spat out into an underground pool but he’s too weak to pull himself up out of the water. He’s saved by an old Tiste Andii who calls himself Darist. He tells Cutter he was the only one in the pool and that Apsalar probably drowned, adding they need to leave quickly because “the very presence of life in this place risks his awakening.” Cutter asks whose awakening but Darist doesn’t answer. They take stairs up into a hall (still below ground) and Darist tells him the island is under attack. When Cutter asks about the Throne, Darist wonders what brought him to the island. Cutter replies he was sent by a mage, Baruk of Darujhistan, whose studies had made him think the island and Throne were at risk. Cutter guesses the Tiste Edur have returned to try and retake the Throne of Shadow and mentions Rake. Darist interrupts and says if Rake isn’t happy with how they’ve protected the Throne he should come himself. He then guesses Cutter lied about Baruk sending him and demands if it was Rake who did so, also asking if Rake “renews his claims to the blood of the Tiste Andii? Has he renounced his Draconian blood?” When Cutter says he doesn’t know, Darist asks if Rake looks as old as he does, then assumes based on Cutter’s facial reaction Rake does not and starts to tell Cutter what he can say to Rake when he returns to him. Cutter tells him he wasn’t sent by Rake and doesn’t know him, only saw him in passing while Rake was fighting a demon. Darist stops talking and moves on. Cutter realizes he should have thought more about what Cotillion would do with the knowledge Cutter brought him of the island and thinks his old self—Crokus—would have asked more questions. He believes “This new persona was imposing a certain sense of stricture—he’d though it would bring him more freedom. But now it was beginning to appear that the truly free one had been Crokus.” Cutter asks again about Apsalar and Darist answers that above them they can sense Tiste Edur and no one else. When Cutter feels sick at the thought, Darist tells him “Death is not an unkind fate . . . you will miss her company, and that is the true source of grief—your sorrow is for yourself . . . I speak from experience. I have felt the deaths of many of my kin, and I mourn the spaces in my life where they once stood. But such losses serve only to ease my own impending demise.” Cutter calls Darist a “fool” and tells him to shut up. Cutter asks about the battle and Darist says they lost, there is only himself left here in the Hold where the Throne is. He warns Cutter to rest for they will soon have “company.”

Scene 6

Back in the Nascent, Onrack can hear the “howls of rage” coming from the spirits trapped inside two of the statues. Trull asks what Onrack knows of the Hounds of Shadow and he replies “Very little. The Logros crossed paths with them only once, long ago, in the time of the First Empire. Seven in number. Serving an unknown master, yet bent on destruction.” Trull questions is he means the human or Imass first Empire and Onrack says the Imass one; he doesn’t know much about the human one: “We were drawn into its heart but once . . . in answer to the chaos of the Soletaken and D’ivers. The Hounds made no appearance during that slaughter.” Looking at the statues, he relates how bonecasters believe “to create an icon of a spirit or god is to capture is essence within that icon . . . In this way power is chained, and so becomes manageable,” and asks if the Edur believe the same. Trull asks if he thinks the Edur made these statues and if his bonecasters “also believe that power begins as a thing devoid of shape, and thus beyond control? And that to carve out an icon—or make a circle of stone—actually forces order upon that power?” Onrack thinks then says, “It must be that we make our own gods and spirits. That belief demands shape, and shaping brings life into being. Yet were not the Tiste Edur fashioned by Mother Dark? Did not your goddess create you?” Trull says he doesn’t know of his kind make the statues, and “as for Mother Dark, it may be that in creating us, she but simply separated what was not separate before. When Onrack asks if he means that the Edur are Tiste Andii shadows, “torn free by the mercy of your goddess mother,” Trull responds, “we are all torn free.” Onrack notes that the statues cast no shadow and Trull informs him the Hounds don’t either, to which Onrack replies “If they are but reflections, then there must be Hounds of Darkness, from which they were torn . . .yet there is no knowledge of such.” When he turns abruptly silent, Trull laughs that Onrack clearly knows more about the human First Empire than he’d let on, and asks “what was that tyrant emperor’s name?” Onrack answers “Dessimbelackis . . . The founder of the human First Empire. Long vanished by the time of the unleashing of the Beast Ritual. It was believed he had veered [into seven beasts].” Trull looks again at the statues and says he doubts that were built by Edur: “I feel no empathy. They are ominous and brutal to my eyes . . . The Hounds of Shadow are not worthy of worship. They are indeed untethered, wild and deadly. To truly command them, one must sit in the Throne of Shadow—as master of the realm. But more than that. One must first draw together the disparate fragments. Making Kurald Emurlahn whole once more.” Onrack points out Trull’s kin are trying to do just that, and adds the idea “distresses” him. Trull says he didn’t worry at first, but cam to see that “another power acts behind the veil in all this” and he would learn what it is because “it has made of my people an abomination.” Trull continues to say Onrack doesn’t know what it’s like to “see your kin fall into dissolution, to see the spirit of an entire people grow corrupt, to struggle endlessly to open their eyes.” Onrack replies “true “before Trull continues: “Nor is it mere naiveté . . . Our denial is willful, our studied indifference conveniently self-serving to our basest desires. We are a long-lived people who now kneel before short-term interests.” Onrack interrupts to comment that “if you find that unusual, . . . the one behind the veil has need for you only in the short term” and points out that such a power would either discard its pawns if they were merely useless or annihilate them if they posed a threat. Trull agrees, then changes the subject and wonders why the two spirits of the Hounds are there. Onrack says “The stone has been shaped to encompass them . . . No one asks the spirit or the god, when the icon is fashioned, if it wishes entrapment. Do they? The need to make such vessels is a mortal’s need. That one can rest yes on the thing one worships is an assertion of control at worst, or at best the illusion that one can negotiate over one’s fate.” When Trull asks if Onrack finds such notions pathetic, Onrack answers “I find most notions pathetic.” Trull asks him if he thinks they’re trapped for eternity, if this is where they go when destroyed and Onrack gets frustrated, saying, “you possess your own knowledge and suspicions yet would not speak them. Instead, you seek to discover what I know . . . I care nothing for the fate either way of these Hounds of Shadow” and he bemoans that apparently there are only five left alive because it decreases his chance of killing one. Trull laughs and says he doesn’t think Onrack would walk away from such an encounter. Onrack breaks one of the pillars and it explodes, followed quickly by the second one. The Hound is as tall at its shoulders as Trull is and it casts shadow below it. The two Hounds attack and one throws Onrack to the other, who catches him and shatters his left arm, tearing it from his body, before tossing him to the ground where he can’t move. The attack ripped the Vow from him; “He was now, he realized, as those of his fallen kin, the ones that had sustained so much physical destruction that they had ceased to be one with the T’lan Imass.” The Hounds leave and Trull stands over Onrack and tells him “I do not know if you can hear me . . . But . . . those were not Hounds of Shadow. Oh no, indeed. They were the real ones. The Hounds of Darkness, my friend. I dread to think what you have freed here.” Onrack replies, “so much for gratitude.

Scene 7

Onrack tells Trull “if my kin were present they would complete the necessary rites. They would sever my head from my body, and find for it a suitable place so that I might look out upon eternity. They would dismember the headless corpse and scatter the limbs. They would take my weapon, to return it to the place of my birth.” He adds since Trull can’t do any of that, he’s forced to continue on. He stands and retrieves his sword. Trull asks Onrack, if his kind had been there, would they have done all Onrack had mentioned even though Onrack could still move. Onrack says he is, like Trull, “shorn.” He is shorn from the Ritual and from his fellow T’lan Imass: “My existence is now without meaning. The final task left to me is to seek our the other hunters, to do what must be done.” They walk through the city. The reach a bridge and at the near end they find a box of Moranth munitions, which Onrack explains to Trull. They head toward an arch—the portal they’ve been seeking. It’s emitting a lot of heat, which they assume is a ward. Onrack thinks the munitions might shatter the ward. They toss a munition and it breaks the ward, revealing the warren. Trull senses something coming and Onrack tells him to flee: “He could feel the power of the ones on the other side of the gate, a power brutal and alien. The breaking of the ward had been noted, and the emotion reaching through the barrier was one of indignant outrage.” Trull runs across the bridge and out of sight as Onrack slowly backs up, ready to purchase time for Trull with his life. Four riders on white horses come through the gate: tall, pale, wearing enamel armor, wielding curved scimitars. As they try to ride down Onrack, he wounds one of them but his body takes a terrible toll, losing bone shards and the side of his face. The four wheel around to face him and one asks him if he “can understand the Language of Purity.” When Onrack says it seem no more pure than any other, the other responds “We do not forgive ignorance. You are a servant of Death. There is but one necessity when dealing with a creature such as you, and that is annihilation.” But the wounded one (called seneschal Jorrude by the others) interrupts (calling the other Enias), saying Onrack is not “one of the trespassers we seek . . . none of them are here.” He adds he needs healing and asks another one, Orenas, to help him. He says Onrack might have answers and if they want, they can kill him later. Enias asks Onrack what sorcery holds him together and when Onrack mentions he seems to be of Tiste blood, he says “Only among the Liosan is the Tiste blood pure. You have crossed paths with our tainted cousins, then. They are little more than vermin.” When Onrack starts to say what he knows about the Tiste Andii, including they were the first, Enias interrupts with “The first! . . . and so tragically imperfect. Bereft of Father Light’s purifying blood. They are a most sordid creation. We tolerate the Edur, for they contain something of the Father, but the Andii—death by our hands is the only mercy they deserve.” Onrack replies “My kind has much experience with arrogant creatures. Although that experience is singular: in answer to their arrogance we proclaimed eternal war, until they ceased to exist. I have always believed the T’lan Imass should seek out a new enemy. There is, after all, no shortage to be noted among arrogant being. Perhaps you Tiste Liosan are numerous enough in your own realm to amuse us for a time.” Malachar, Enias’ brother, tells him Onrack is an example of the “lesser races” and their lies that he’s been warning Enias about. Malachar and Enias exchange words, then Jorrude tells Onrack if he doesn’t answer their questions they’ll destroy him. The four Liosan and Onrack draw swords, but before they fight Trull appears at the end of the bridge and tells Onrack he is sorry, but he’s brought assistance. Four T’lan Imass swirl up next to Trull. Onrack identifies Monok Ochem and Ibra Gholan and tells them he is the sole survivor of the flood from his group of Imass hunting the rebels. Monok says Onrack has “failed the Ritual” and so needs to be destroyed, but Onrack tells him the “that privilege will be contested” as the Liosan claim him as their prisoner. Three of the Imass approach and Jorrude says the Liosan are happy to give them Onrack; they have no quarrel with the Imass. Jorrude then asks if Trull wants to go with them, saying “we have need of a servant.” Trull says no and suggests they rotate the role amongst them. Jorrude tells his brothers it’s time to go, but Monok says they won’t find it very easy: “This warren is a shattered fragment of Kurald Emurlahn . . . your kind have remained isolated for far too long. You know nothing of the other realms, nothing of the Wounded Gates. Nothing of the Ascendants and their wars.” Jorrude interrupts to say they serve only one Ascendant—Osric, Father Light’s son. Monok asks when Osric last walked among them, then informs them he is one of the “contestants in the other realms. He has not returned to you because the is unable to do so. Indeed, he is unable to do much of anything at the moment . . . He is lost.” This is news to the Liosan, but before they can continue the conversation, Monok suggests they all work together in a ritual to make a gate, using Telann, Liosan, and the Edur’s blood. When Trull asks what that was about needing his blood, and Monok replies “Not all of it, Edur. If all goes as planned.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Nine:

Okay, a little bit of an apology upfront from me—last week I went AWOL (although you can find my commentary on those two chapters in the comments section now—oh, and is it just me who sees AMOL now when AWOL is typed?!) thanks to personal reasons. And now this week I am away with work, so, although I am going to be providing some thoughts on Chapters Nine and Ten, it might be a little light on content! With that said, I’ll do as much as I possibly can!

I’m going to dig out my file cabinet, and shake loose something that tickles about “obsidian”—oh, alright, I wrote it in my copious notes file, I’m a total geek. Call to Shadow: “Hear now the dirge faint reprised, before the sun’s fall, this day spills red on buckled earth, and in obsidian eyes vengeance chimes seven times…” I only mention it because of the obsidian objects “looted from some tomb, each one newly blessed in the name of gods, spirits and or demons.” And it just bears saying again that I’m absolutely unable to let anything pass now as I read the Malazan books without wondering whether this is something crucial.

So he is the confirmation that Paran has not rejected the House of Chains, but has also not yet sanctioned it: “Sanctioned? Undecided. But not rejected out of hand, oh no, not rejected. And the Readers—the patterns! The House will be sanctioned—not one Reader doubts that!”

Oh, now that’s interesting… I thought that the Crippled God would rule the house, but he simply sits the Throne as King. Still powerful, obviously, but if there is a ruler to the house it suggests that that person would have dominion over the Crippled God?

The only Thelomen that I know Kalam knows is Bellurdan, so I’m guessing he invested the weapons? I really can’t remember who within the Chain of Dogs carried these weapons, though, can anyone refresh my memory please!

The diamonds are invested by Shadow. By taking the diamonds does this give the proprietor some extra value? I don’t think he could call on Cotillion through them, so why are they so valuable?

“Hide that pouch well, and may the gods ever walk in your shadow.” Nice. *grins*

These attackers of B’ridys are a motley crew, aren’t they? No discipline, no lookouts, etc. Makes you straight away want the Malazans within to defeat them in their attack. Wonder if Erikson will aim to turn this impression around at all? Although Captain Irriz’s attitude towards Kalam doesn’t help me change my mind much. Nor the fact that this man (and possibly others) deserted.

The Chain of Dogs has already started drifting into myth and legend — the fact that they look with awe on Kalam when he says he survives the Chain is interesting, but more so the fact that they disdain Kamist Reloe and Korbolo Dom. (They’re not alone in that!)

Ah, we meet Kindly again. *grins*

And an echo from the Bridgeburners that made me incredibly melancholy: First in, last out. “It won’t be my first time, sir.”

Ha, I didn’t even suspect Sinn of being anything but face value—a slightly mad young mage. And now we find that she is on “our” side. I like those little oho! moments very much. In fact, I appreciate them almost more than the big ones because it shows that Erikson is constantly working to give the reader something to enjoy.

Oh dear God, Tralb is more than a bit nasty, isn’t it? “The warriors were doomed to suffer like this for what to them would be an eternity—they would still be spasming by dawn, and would continue to do so until either their hearts gave out or they died from dehydration.”

She’s a little eerie, this Sinn, isn’t she? I’m getting funny vibes off of her—to first off use Tralb against her enemies (if she didn’t know properly what it did, then she is dangerous in her ignorance; if she did know, then she is monstrous) and then to dance when she thinks that Kalam has died. Odd little girl.

Hmm, it’s rare that Erikson goes for such outright shock value and toilet humour. I disapprove. I much prefer his subtle touches than sentences like: “A soft cluck, then the demon wheeled about and lifted a hind limb. Two penises dropped into view from a fold of flesh.” For me, something like this should actively affect the plot for it to be included, otherwise it feels unnecessary and gratuitous.

Oh, for heaven’s sake—so the pee does affect the plot. Might have known Erikson was using it for something, but I still dislike it intensely.

Oh, so there are demons in each of the different warrens? We’ve seen Imperial demons, and Aptorians and now azalans as well. Will there be demons in the Beast warren, for instance?

Nah, Kindly can’t be dead. Not until you’ve seen the body. I expect to see him soon. And he fell? Or was pushed. *snickers*

These casual sentences that just break the heart: “If you have a problem with all this, take it up with my own sergeant next time you see him. That’d be Whiskeyjack. Apart from the Empress herself, he’s the only man I answer to.”

Is this just imagery for cloud or is there actually a bloody great sword hanging in the sky? “A blurred sword of dark iron rose along the horizon, a massive, bruised blade that flickered as it swelled ever larger.”

Trouble in paradise between Cutter and Apsalar—why don’t they just talk to one another? Why all this misunderstanding? “He’d found himself at subtle war with her, the weapons those of silence and veiled expressions.”

The Throne? The Throne of Shadow is on Drift Avalii? Or is it a whole other Throne? [Bill: No, you’re right—The Throne of Shadow.]

Actually, the island Drift Avalii reminds me of nothing so much as Moon’s Spawn, except seabound and not skybound.

As with Kindly, I cannot believe for one second that Apsalar has died. This is something like the third or fourth “faux” death that we’ve had in House of Chains. Do you think that Erikson overuses this as a writing technique to generate drama? At this point I would be utterly shocked if Apsalar had died, but I just can’t see it.

Wow, hints of a massive rift within the Tiste Andii—Darist says of Anomander: “Does he renew his claims to the blood of the Tiste Andii, then? Has he renounced his Draconian blood?”

And the Tiste Edur are after the Throne of Shadow? [Bill: Yep.]

Huh, here a hint that Cutter and Crokus are pretty much different people—not just a quick name change: “But that’s something I should think about, I suppose. Damn it, Cutter—Crokus would’ve had questions! Mowri knows, he would’ve hesitated a lot longer before accepting Cotillion’s bargain. If he accepted at all!”

Hmm, is this where the two Hounds were cast when Paran spent time within Dragnipur: “Two of the Hounds are here, Trull Sengar.”

Hang on, this Dessimbelackis is a D’ivers formed of SEVEN HOUNDS?! Or am I reading that entirely wrong? What a horror if so! [Bill: More to come, but not entirely wrong. But file.]

Who or what is manipulating the Tiste Edur?

Now this is a stunning scene—the attack by the two freed Hounds, their absolute ease by which they conquer Onrack, his power and Vow being shorn from him, and then the big finale: these are actually Hounds of Darkness and not of Shadow. How very, very ominous!

Onrack has now become as Trull—shorn from his own kind. It seems fitting that these two are together.

*grins* You know something? In some ways, Onrack and Trull remind me of two teenage boys, getting up to mischief through curiosity and perhaps boredom. This attitude of throwing unknown munitions at a ward seems incredibly dumb—but if you set it in the idea of teenage boys, it seems entirely normal!

And here are the High Elves, the sneering arrogant “pure” against the Dark Elves and Shadow Elves… Sorry, Tiste *winks* Tiste Liosan?

Now, Onrack must have made some impression on me, because the thought of the Logros taking his head from his shoulders makes me feel rather angry. Especially after his stupendous showdown with the Tiste Liosan—when he turns his back on them, I wanted to cheer a little bit. *grins*


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Nine

On the knives, (feel free to correct anyone) I don’t think we ever do make a specific connection to the owner, save that Kalam is pretty sure it was not Coltaine. He does make a specific connection to knowing “who” invested the knives, as opposed to the kind of mage or magic, so I feel pretty confident that it is Bellurdan who did so.

By the way—serpents on the blades. More snakes.

The shop owner’s discussion of the new House—”Vast power, ’tis said. Tremors to the very roots of the world,” takes on a little scarier meaning if we recall the Crippled God’s attack on Burn herself and the two Jaghut living down at the “roots.”

We’ve already seen some of those who hold or have been asked to hold a few of the new House’s positions (and recall these are not permanent positions) and the question of who will join them will be part of this book’s plot.

We’ve had several references to the Crippled God’s chainings before. I can’t recall if it’s been mentioned before now specifically that Cotillion was present, but in any case it’s a good point to either remember or to file away now if it’s the first time: “You should have stuck a knife in the bastard right there and then.”

As Amanda says, you can see almost tell who to root for in this siege just based on the folks who do things well and those who don’t. “Makeshift” towers, no scouts or guards, lack of patience, unmaintained scaffolds in poor condition, an air of “dissolution.” Is this a bit of a microcosm of the larger Seven Cities—first under the influence of the Empire and people thrive, trade thrives, etc., then, the Empire pulls back (or is forced back) and the slide backwards begins. It’s a nice little metaphor here.

Ashok Regiment. I give you Torvald and Corporal Shard:

“So why aren’t you down South, Corporal?

“”She don’t trust us, that’s why . . . We’re Seven Cities, and the bitch don’t trust us.”

Hmm—seems she had some call not to for some of them… But then, mistrust was clearly not called for in other cases.

I like how Irriz’s self-promotion is a nice bit of concise characterization, especially as we see him promote himself after we’ve seen the, ahem, “results” of his command. This characterization is followed by his woeful underestimation of the difficulty in getting into the fortress (at best, an over-reliance on the mage). Followed shortly thereafter by his “avarice.” Then, he pulls the coffin lid over himself with his making it a personal thing and wanting to get the Malazans alive for “sport.” By the end of these few paragraphs, I think we all have a pretty fully realized picture of Irriz.

Sinn. Ahh, Sinn. Kalam sees true and early: “her mind is broken.” File.

Like Amanda, “first in, last out” comes with so much baggage now.

Captain Kindly. Oh, I like that character. What’s great is I don’t have to actually see him (something Erikson plays well, a la Norm’s wife in Cheers for you old folks); I just have to have his name referenced. (Something else Erikson plays well later.)

An odd little detail when Kalam finds his tent, the little bit about the latrine tent. But then, turns out it plays a role. I know what you’re saying Amanda, about the later scene with the demon, but it didn’t bother me much. I found it an effective way to show the “difference” of demons. Beside simply describing their “nasty, big, pointy teeth.”

A true veteran’s ability—sleeping at will.

“Lass, this is a nasty nest of snakes for you to play in.” More snakes.

Not a great life for Sinn to this point. And note that “flinch” when Kalam lays a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Kalam’s memory of the children he’d saved and his line about them being the “true face” of this war should recall a key phrase: “children are dying.”

I like the characterization of Kalam not only in his being merciful to Irriz’s men by killing them cleanly, but more subtly his mercy toward Sinn in not letting her know what she’d done.

A pretty stark difference in competency between the Malazans and the rebels—Kalam and Sinn can wander around wrecking stuff while the Malazans see what’s going on and come down to investigate.

Sinn dancing, “hands fluttering like capemoth wings.” There’s an ominous simile, I’d say.

You might want to wonder why a Captain and his lieutenant would be “exploring” a well shaft, especially as they already knew back ways out. Just saying….

By the way—drowning? Really? What are the odds of that in this series?

Good old Limp. If you recall, he had a bad leg when we first met him. Then it was made worse by Karsa. Now he broke it in a rockslide. Will this be a running gag, you might want to start asking yourself? And if so, kind of a funny twist as a bad leg calls up so much pain/sorrow for obvious reasons.

So, Cutter’s move to come closer to Apsalar by turning killer turns out to have been a bad play. Poor guy.

What are the “complications” that make it difficult for Rake to return to the island?

The sword imagery in the sky is just that—imagery regarding the storm—but highly appropriate imagery for what we’ll find on this island.

Apsalar drowning? I repeat the above line. Drowning? Really? What are the odds of that in this series? By the way, I don’t see this as Erikson playing a “is she or isn’t she dead” card cuz I don’t think he expects us for a moment to think Apsalar is really dead. Especially not drowned. (Of course, it’ll be a real shocker if anyone really does drown in this series.)

Hmm, who is the “him” that might be “awakened” by the presence of life in that underground pool?

Boy, Cutter better be real good at the sneaking around and not being seen part of being an assassin, cuz he’s a pretty sucky liar.

Darist is Mr. Up with Sunshine, ain’t he?

The discussion of worshippers having some power over even the gods they worship, or the gods somehow being constrained by their worshipers, is one we’ve discussed before and we’ll see it come up again. Onrack’s line “it must be that we make our own gods and spirits” might raise a question about why so many of them are so bloodthirsty.

Trull’s comment about “to truly command” the Hounds one must sit on the Throne of Shadow AND make Kurald Emurlahn whole again is an interesting one in that it points to the idea that Shadowthrone and Cotillion don’t control the Hounds as fully as they think they do. Assuming, of course, Trull is correct or not lying. We know that’s never an issue in these books though.

A bit ironic, Trull’s commentary on his people compared to Onrack’s: “I imagine you know little of what it is like to see your kin fall into dissolution, to see the spirit of an entire people grow corrupt, to struggle endlessly to open their eyes.” Think of how some of the other T’lan Imass have looked upon their people. Think of what they ask of Silverfox.

As for who is manipulating the Edur. Well, I’d say the word “corruption” is a big clue.

Anybody else finding Onrack as funny as I am?

Onrack’s line about how he’s sad two of the Hounds have been killed cuz it makes it less likely he’ll have a chance to kill one smacks a bit of Karsa, n’est-ce pa?

Anybody think that’s the last we’ll see of the Hounds of Darkness?

As Amanda says, Onrack and Trull make a nice combo pack of shorn folks

As a small aside, I’m thoroughly enjoying the different moons/suns in this realm. Tiny, meaningless (I think) details, but they color the background nicely.

it’s another interesting tiny detail that Trull knows nothing of munitions as since if you recall, the Moranth learned the art of making them from the ancient Edur—another sign of the Edur’s lost knowledge perhaps.

“Curved scimitars” Are there any other kinds?

So, who are the “trespassers” the Liosan seek? We’ve seen them already….

Osric is missing. File.

Monok is encouraging about that blood, huh?

So now we’ve seen the three Tiste: Andii, Edur, and Liosan. They have some issues, wouldn’t you say?

A few big picture running items again:

  • More snake imagery
  • More betrayals
  • Sinn “betrays” Irriz
  • Irriz betrays his regiment/Empress
  • More chains

Cutter learns that becoming someone else is not bringing him the freedom he had thought it would; instead he is being confined or chained by this new him: “This new persona was imposing a certain sense of stricture—he’d though it would bring him more freedom. But now it was beginning to appear that the truly free one had been Crokus.”

The gods themselves (beyond the CG of course) can be “chained” by their worshippers: “to create an icon of a spirit or god is to capture is essence within that icon . . . In this way power is chained.”

I might start to wonder, based on this first meeting, if Sinn is “chained” to her vengeance. We’ll have to see how that develops.

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to, as well as reviews for her own site (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

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


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