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 Twelve of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (TB).
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.
A group of Anibar confront Karsa and Samar. They ask Karsa to deal with sorcerous “revenants” who have been slaughtering the Anibar. Karsa vows to drive them back to their ships, but says Boatfinder must go with him. Boatfinder tells Samar of Iskar Jarak, the Iron Prophet, who came with the “Mezla” to chase and kill the Ugari but told the Anibar to flee as others behind Jarak would not have the same mercy. Boatfinder leads them toward the revenants and tells them more about Jarak—he was a Mezla, his kingdom is lost, and there is a burning bridge from the “frozen time” (the past) to the “flowing time” (the present).
Veed and Icarium reach the coast. Veed thinks how he has changed Icarium from his usual “equanimity” to “dark and dour” per the Nameless Ones’ instructions. Icarium wonders why they can’t avoid offending the natives and how Veed knows so much of them, deducing Veed had been prepared for Icarium. Veed says Icarium’s lost memories are dark and his amnesia is a blessing, but Icarium argues it merely keeps him ignorant and unchanging and unmarked by his dark acts. Veed tells Icarium long ago he tried to free his father (who didn’t want to be freed) from an Azath House and destroyed the Azath (freeing its prisoners) and shattered a wounded warren. The Nameless Ones then chose warriors to “guide” Icarium’s fury and to “assert a moral focus.” He adds they go now to face a new enemy. Icarium weeps in response then says he sees ships on the sea.
At the site where Cutter’s group was ambushed, Barathol Mekhar finds the town healer trying to help Cutter, Scillara in labor nearby, Heboric chopped to pieces, and Greyfrog in pieces and strangely “deflated.” The others carry Scillara and Cutter to the village. A rider (L’oric) appears and kneeling beside Greyfrog asks who did this. Barathol tells him five T’lan Imass and the two realize Felisin had been the target and taken. L’oric introduces himself, saying the girl was supposed to go to the Queen of Dreams. Barathol asks L’oric to try and heal the wounded and L’oric bridles at the implicit criticism.
Barathol arrives at the village where Scillara has given birth to a daughter. L’oric arrives and does what he can for Cutter and Scillara. He tells Barathol the Unbound Imass were servants of the Crippled God and that the gods are at war. He will not seek Felisin and wonders why if Greyfrog is dead he doesn’t feel the usual separation from his familiar. Barathol heads back to the ambush site and figures out the Imass took Felisin.
Barathol returns to the tavern and finds L’oric with drawn sword having heard Barathol’s name. It was believed Barathol opened the gates of Aren to the T’lan Imass, allowing the slaughter that followed. Barathol says the Imass didn’t need gates; he opened them after the slaughter when he fled. When L’oric says Aren rebelled in Barathol’s name, Barathol says he never told them to. L’oric sheathes his sword and says it’s all over and he’s too old for this.
Felisin finds herself with the Unbound at a rock wall. An old man (Kulat) with leaking sores meets her and says she has been chosen as Sha’ik Reborn. She realizes that are back at a dead city they passed weeks ago and the old one says others will come to serve her, adding a temple awaits her and telling her she should accept it and kneel to weakness. He informs her of the plague, how it marked people for the Chained God, whom even Poliel bowed before, and how death will bring salvation.
Cotillion arrives with the Shadow Hounds to Pust and Mappo’s camp. Cotillion tells Mappo destroying the Azath gave Icarium something akin to an infection or parasite of chaos and discontinuity that must be removed if Mappo is to save Icarium. He explains he and Shadowthrone tried to map every Azath House in this realm and while they didn’t complete that mission, they learned a lot—including he and Shadowthrone needed to Ascend to achieve certain goals and that the Houses were “repositories for the Lost Elementals.” They also realized the Azaths were failing (as did the Nameless Ones). He and Shadowthrone think the Nameless One’s plan will weaken the Azaths and so they are gong to try and stop them. Cotillion asks Mappo to pursue Icarium, warns him of a massive convergence coming, and tells him to have hope. Cotillion says he is confident Mappo will succeed in saving Icarium and leaves.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve
If I’ve got this right, I’m really liking the extract from Heboric, particularly the line: “Specific gives way to general; detail gives way to grandiose form, and in the telling we are exalted beyond our mundane selves.” This is about telling stories, correct? How words can change an event over time? I like it.
Karsa really gets to the heart of the matter when dealing with people, doesn’t he? Here he is clearly contemptuous of the fact that Boatfinder is not able to protect him own people. But what is interesting to see is his willingness to teach Boatfinder, asking him to witness so that he can start to face up to those who threaten the tribe.
So, these invaders from boats—Tiste Edur, surely?
“We do not know what we do to offend them so.”
“Probably offered them a damned penis bone.”
Why the sudden raw fury from Karsa when Boatfinder says that the invaders aren’t leaving?
As we hear a little more about the Iron Prophet and the Anibar, it makes me wonder how much work Erikson puts into things like this. I have no knowledge as to how important the Anibar are going to become in the story, but right now they seem to be a very minor part. And so I want to know how much work Erikson does to flesh in the details of the tribe—I mean, here we have the little details about the moon pendants, and the various items that they wear. With Erikson’s love of history and the development of societies, I’m guessing he doesn’t just throw in details without thinking about how they might impact on the tribe? Bit rambling, but hopefully you get what I’m driving at!
Amused to see Karsa insist on riding his horse and then look blankly at the impenetrable forest as Boatfinder disappears down a game trail. His impotent fury is so very funny, because it is so overblown.
Wow—a version of communism is being practised by these tribes on the plains, what with their sharing of grain.
Alright, I’m missing who Iskar Jarak actually is! Samar Dev obviously has worked out who he is, but I’m struggling… He’s obviously some sort of Malazan personage (ascendant? god?) since Mezla is the way that Seven Cities peeps refer to Malazan, correct?
Veed is already starting to feel the weight of being Icarium’s companion, since he has to “be the whetstone” and force Icarium into becoming the weapon that the Nameless Ones require. At first I feel glad to know he is suffering, but then I feel the humanity—the fact that Veed is not indifferent to the blade that is Icarium.
So… this tale that Veed tells Icarium about his need for companions? It sounds similar to what we’ve pieced together over the course of the last few books, but I find Veed a very unreliable source, especially when he congratulates himself on remembering the words exactly that he has been given.
And now we finally come to the aftermath of the ambush that ended the previous chapter. I didn’t realise they were so close to Barathol Mekhar’s village—now we link back to the T’lan Imass back in the Prologue. So it sounds like Cutter is alive although in desperate straits. Scillara is alive and now in labour. But Heboric has been chopped to pieces. I simply cannot conceive that this is the end of his plotline, considering all of the foreshadowing concerning Treach, Fener and the jade statues.
And Heboric was the target of the T’lan Imass. What were they worried that he would achieve if he remained alive?
Oh, hang on… No, Felisin was the target! And has she been removed to foil the plan of the Queen of Dreams?
Right… Scillara’s baby girl is born, and had a Napan father—and I have my suspicions that this babe (or another member of the party) is now L’oric’s familiar, that Greyfrog passed over the responsibility before dying?
Damn! What is it that Barathol Mekhar did in the past? Opened the gates? Of what? And who rebelled in his name? Against whom? Lots of questions!
Hell, Felisin has become Sha’ik Reborn! And it sounds as though The Crippled One has taken her to achieve that end. But… wasn’t the Queen of Dreams trying to achieve the same? So they are on opposing sides and were both trying to steal Felisin to fulfil their plans…
Iskaral Pust: “Has Hood seen better days?” Man, what on earth has happened or is happening to Hood? These are now continuous references to Hood and the fact that all is not quite right with him!
Another spot-on scene featuring Cotillion—I truly welcome the opportunity to have seen more of this god. The scope of his plan and Shadowthrone’s is truly breathtaking… And I am so pleased at the fact that Icarium might be healed of his problem.
That is that from me. Not the most indepth analysis, but I’ve been sat here (Thursday) doing this on my birthday and a cinema trip to watch Avengers Assemble is now calling. See you next time!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve
I like that closing line in the epigraph: “We are, in truth, bound into greater humanity by this skein of words . . .” Isn’t that the hope of language and literature, or art of any kind? To bind people together, to make them recognize the core of what we share versus the surface of how we differ? And isn’t that binding yet another aspect of empathy and compassion, such major themes in this work? I also like the almost playful “in truth” in that last line, coming after a passage that deals with truth and distortion
The second epigraph is one to file away, as well as the later information about this Iron Prophet Iskar Jarak who warned the Anibar to flee. He is a “Mezla”, which we know is a Malazan. He is associated with a “burning bridge” i.e. is a Bridgeburner. He shows mercy. And “Iskar Jarak” should sound a bit familiar in a subtle way.
I don’t recall if there is any later significance to the fact that the Anibar seem to have a special place for the moon in their culture (“ornaments . . . shaped to mimic the phases of the moon . . . a necklace . . . representing she surmised a total eclipse”), but I will note that we have seen a lot of imagery, details with regard to the moon as a theme so far in this book
I find Samar Dev’s pov interesting in this section. For all her intelligence with regard to her inventions, her insights, etc. it’s a little disconcerting to note some of her language here. When the Anibar arrive, they are “savages” in her pov, she talks of barter with merchants from the “civilized” lands (I’d love to know if this is said acridly or not), she wonders mockingly to herself if the “revenants” are slaughtering the Anibar because the natives “probably offered them a damn penis bone.”
Yep, revenants = Edur. Remember what they are looking for?
I think the fury from Karsa is twofold: one, the fact that the Edur are slaughtering the Anibar (who really aren’t worthy opponents) and two, that the Anibar are “hiding” and wondering what they did to offend. The hiding also cuts a little too close to home and what Karsa learned of his own people.
Yes, Karsa riding towards the trees and realizing Samar is right would be a classic moment on screen
I love the use of the petroforms. You’d think you’d see this more often as it’s an historical reality but I don’t recall reading this in anything like this kind of detail (you can see petroforms today by the way, which I highly recommend); usually you get people making use of the same old “cairns”. I also love the whole frozen time/unfound time/flowing time view. As Amanda says, these cultures come so alive in this series—they feel utterly fleshed out, utterly real and fully formed, as opposed to the simple “horse culture” stock type you see for instance in so many fantasies where they have, you know, horses, and that’s about the only cultural detail we get, as that solely defines them or that they wouldn’t need certain geography or climate or other cultural attribute to actually be a “horse culture.”
And here we get “inequity” as a running theme, and we have a contrast between the Anibar and some place like say Lether (or, say, most of the known world).
Hasn’t taken long for Veed to have an impact on Icarium, huh? I have to say, it’s good that we get an early glimpse that Veed isn’t a total monster, that he does have feelings and is already tasting the bitterness of his job, but I can’t say I have any sympathy for him at this point. Look how he “aims” Icarium at the “savages”, knowing the effect it will have on both Icarium and the innocent natives. Look at his contempt for their ways and beliefs. The way he hammers at Icarium for his past deeds. His pride in being a good trained dog for his masters. His “good” when he sees Icarium weeping. Yes, hard to like Veed much here.
I have to confess that I have a vague memory of feeling a bit cheated when we returned to the site of the ambush. And it still seems a little cheap to me, I have to admit, the way we’re left at the end of the prior scene and how things turn out. Anyone else have that feeling at all?
We know a Napan that Scillara had sex with….
“I have lost my familiar . . . yet there is no pain—with the severing there should have been pain.”
If you recall Amanda, we’ve heard earlier tales of how the T’lan Imass slaughtered the inhabitants of Aren (there is confusion/conflict over who gave the order or if such an order was given). We will get more on Barathol’s involvement.
I like the tone/language in the Felisin section—all so appropriate for what is here and what is coming: “sunlight flung sharp-edged shafts,” the rock wall is “rent through with stress fractures,” there is a “reek of ancient decay,” the wind “moaned mournfully,” Kulat’s “suppurating sores,” the “broken, wasted land”—physical is meeting the metaphysical here.
I am, however, curious about how folks feel about the whole Sha’ik Reborn coming around again, and another Felisin as well….
Yes, I’m a big fan of any scene with Cotillion. Especially as it is often either filled with some emotion, some insights, or lots and lots of exposition. Even if you aren’t always sure it’s correct, it just feels good to have someone out and out explain something. In this case, not just what happened to Icarium, but the utter cojones he and Kellanved displayed in their attempt to map every Azath as well as dig into and possibly harness the power of the Elementals. Plan big much?
Of course, I can’t say that the Elementals is all that clear a concept at this point to me. Sure, we all know the four basic food groups of Elemental life: air, water, earth, and fire. And I can get behind life, death, dark, light. But when we start getting into “desire and deed” or “sound and silence” (does this make Simon and Garfunkel Elemental gods?), well, the whole thing starts to go all hazy and amorphous on me. Though even not fully understanding it (or maybe more so for not understanding it) I love the nerve of those two to go after it, and Mappo’s similar reaction, especially when he wonders if even gods might pale before such an attempt then realizes these two began the attempt as plain old guys.
I also find his little tidbit about the Nameless Ones interesting—that he seems to understand their desperation even if he opposes their response to it.
Despite how much I like Cotillion, though, I have to say that “Icarium has earned an end to his torment” has certain chilly possibilities surrounding it coming as it does from the Patron of Assassins.
Thank god for Pust’s ability to break the tension….
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.