Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter Twenty-Three


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 Twenty-Three of Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson (RG).

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 Twenty-Three


Onrack recalls his earlier crime of painting a woman (Kilava, Tool’s sister) on the cave wall, how he’d been imprisoned, and how she had come to him, and finally how he’d destroyed her life as well. He looks at cave paintings done by Ulshun Pral and ponders the idea of witnessing, of the separation between human and beast. Trull and Onrack discuss how the Bentract think they never joined the Tellan Ritual, but Onrack says that can’t be true; they must be ghosts, memories enfleshed by the power of the nearby Gate. When Trull says Ulshun tells him he remembers his mother, Onrack says Ulshun is a 100,000 years old and his memories are mere delusions. Trull disagrees and they head off to see the Gate.


Trull sees Onrack has been awakened to something bitter in viewing the paintings. When they arrive at the Gate, they find it not as Rud Elalle had described but instead discover many gates pulsing with white fire. Onrack says the old Bonecaster has failed and the realm is dying. Trull stays behind to meet what might come through the gates while Onrack goes to Rud Elalle.


Hedge and Quick Ben spar like old comrades. Quick tells Hedge enemies will be coming from the south as dragons. When Hedge asks if Quick is worried, Quick says no because having “stretched” himself (against Icarium) he is now “nastier.” Hedge says he’ll have a cusser ready in any case and Quick tells him not to blow him to pieces, even if he thinks he’s dead because he “won’t be.” Menandore moves toward them (from the south).


Menandore calls the two “pathetic” and wonders why they’re standing where their enemies will see them first and thus kill them first. Quick tells her Rud and Ulshun Pral are coming then notes the similar gait of Ulshun and Onrack. Rud tells Menandore he will not fight with her and plans to take the Bentract away, saying he had nothing to do with her long-running feud. She tells him fine, but Ulshun Pral has to stay. Rud is about to fight Menandore when Pral tells him his mother is right; he has to stay because otherwise they’d all be pursued for his secret. Rud wants to stay then, but Quick tells him he and Hedge will do their best to keep Pral safe. Menandore is contemptuous of the idea, but Rud, looking at the two of them, grows calm and accepts their offer, then leaves.


Menandore storms off and Quick tells Hedge he put one of his “special stones” in her cloak.


Sheltatha Lore and Sukul Ankhadu look on the hills where the prior conversation took place and discuss how the Refugium is dying. Sukul is sickened by the Imass here, “Building nothing. All history trapped as memory . . . delud[ing] themselves into believing they actually exist.” She blames Hood’s indifference. When Sheltatha wonders at Sukul’s desire to kill them when they’ll die anyway with the Refugium, Sukul tells her “their conceit has made them real. Mortal, now. Blood, flesh and bone” but oblivious to their world’s impending demise, claiming her killing them is an act of mercy. Menandore joins them and asks if they are still all in agreement, saying she cannot guard the Finnest against Ruin on her own, adding Ruin’s group is almost at the Gate. The three agree to kill Ruin and the Imass but not Rud. Menandore tells them a pair of stupid mortals will try and stop then, and warns them Ruin has allies. The three veer into dragon form and move toward the hills.


Seren is shocked by the sheer number of dead dragons in Starvald Demelain, noting they all seemed to die of old age, not violence. Udinaas says they’re like flies trapped on the sill of a window that wouldn’t open. She watches Udinaas walking, holding Kettle’s hand, and muses on how Kettle has seemingly shifted her affection/allegiance from Ruin to Udinaas. They near the Gate and Kettle shies away until Udinaas whispers something to her. Fear tells Seren the others have seen a body, then asks her if she has yet chosen a side. Seren asks if they must kill each other at the end of all this and he wryly wonders at her assumption that they are “all that evenly matched.” Despite being overmatched, he says, he’ll do what he must, though he adds that her new power may save them. She wants to know his plans and he says he will awaken Scabandari and “purge Kurald Emurlahn . . . drive out the poison that afflicts us . . . shatter my brother’s cursed sword.” She thinks him foolish, wondering to herself if Scabandari might not be enslaved by the “poison” (the Crippled God) or might not have his own desires, such as for vengeance. She asks if he finally sees she’s not worth his protection and he, pained, tells her yes. Stung by his hurt, she thinks she will do what she can for him. He leaves her, somehow different, and the narration tells us he moves now like a warrior ready to kill.


Udinaas looks down at the body of the Bonecaster, thinking she should have found some other way to save her people, should have stayed alive for them rather than died for them. Clip announces that the world beyond the Gate is dying, then asks Udinaas if Menandore still watches them through Udinaas. When Udinaas says no, Ruin thinks she is getting ready to oppose them on the other side. Udinaas gives his Imass spear to Seren, thinking she’ll need it more as she plans on helping Fear while he (Udinaas) plans on running. Ruin starts to arm up.


Hedge, seeing the three Soletaken dragons, tells Pral to go but the Imass refuses at first, “fixing into his memory the faces of these two men so that death would not take all of them.” Pral thinks how alone among the Imass here, he was not a “ghost memory,” but had lived a true, if crazily extended, life in the Refugium because the realm had been, but was no longer, “deathless.” As he nears the cave, Onrack exits it.


Hedge and Quick agree that Menandore has betrayed them. Quick punches Hedge in the nose to impress on him that he is now bleeding.


Menandore looks down to see Quick Ben raise his arms and laughs at the stupidity. She prepares her own magic.


Quick Ben raises the Earth—the sod and soil and roots—against the dragons, crashing them to the ground, then striking them with waves and bolts of power. Amidst the carnage and chaos, Sheltatha turns on Menandore, killing her, as Sukul heads eastward. As a wounded Sheltatha starts to crawl away, Hedge lodges a cusser into her belly wound and blows her up into pieces (including one which knocks Hedge out when it hits his head). Quick Ben laughs.


In the cave, Ulshun Pral tells Onrack a long time ago a Jaghut (Gothos) gave him something, explaining that in the Refugium, the Jaghut and Imass made peace. Onrack tells him to stay in the cave then leaves. Pral remains briefly, then follows.


Rud Elalle leads the Imass into a narrow pass in the hills. The three T’lan Imass (Hostile Rator, Til’aras Benok, Gr’istanas Ish’ilm) tell him to keep going; they’ll guard the rear, explaining to enter such a narrow passage, the dragon will have to veer back into human form. He doesn’t really answer when Rud asks why they will do this, but Hostile thinks, “Because you please us Rud Elalle. So too Ulshun Pral. And the Imass. And we came here with chaos in our hearts.”


Sukul is shocked by the deaths of her two sisters and the destruction of their plan. She nears the ravine with the intent of killing Rud and the Imass. Hostile stands before her in Imass form and sacrifices himself so that the other two can attack her in their Soletaken forms. They kill her, though die doing so.


Onrack meets Trull at the Gate just as Ruin’s group exits it.


Seren watches as Fear steps out and then gets a look of horror on his face before moving to stab Ruin in the back. Before he can do so, Clip kills Fear with this chain. Udinaas, holding Kettle in his arms, is swarmed over by Wither. As Ruin fights someone Seren cannot see, Clip moves toward Udinaas, even as Wither is choking Udinaas to death. Seren sends her power into Wither, shattering the shadow wraith into pieces. Clip grabs Kettle and throws her hard across the floor. Seren hammers him with Mockra and he throws a dagger that buries itself in her shoulder.


Trull sees Ruin step out (The Betrayer) then, shockingly, Fear. He watches Fear die and moves toward Clip, slashing Ruin because he’s in his way. The two of them begin to fight and Trull realizes he cannot take on Ruin.


Onrack sees Trull in trouble but does not move because he suddenly realizes the Pral, behind him, is his son.


Seren sees Clip going after Udinaas and Trull losing to Ruin and as Trull’s spear shatters in his hands, she tosses him the Imass one then attacks Clip via Mockra.


Trull uses the spear to hold off Ruin.


Clip turns on Seren but when Trull knocks Ruin to the ground, stunning him, Clip leaves her and moves on to Trull, surprised at Trull’s skill. Trull knocks Clip out then falls due to his damaged leg.


Ruin tells Onrack to step aside, that Pral is his. Onrack refuses and Ruin knocks him out with sorcery.


Seren moves to help Trull, who is dragging himself after Ruin. She tells him it’s too late.


Udinaas, barely alive, thinks he has failed but forces himself to witness.


Kilava enters and tells Ruin, who has just grabbed Pral, that if he harms her son she’ll kill him. Ruin puts Pral down and takes his dagger, saying that’s all he needs.


Seren watches as Ruin shoves Kettle against the ground and stabs her with Pral’s dagger.


Udinaas turns away, weeping, thinking both he and Kettle had known. Where Kettle’s body lies, an Azath begins to grow. Udinaas thinks Ruin finally has his vengeance on Scabandari. He notes that Clip has exited via one of the Gates, much to Udinaas’s dismay.


Seren helps Trull stand and takes him to Fear, calling Trull her love and telling him they must return to her house so she can bury his sword before her threshold. He tells her he’s long dreamed she would say that. Udinaas tells the grieving Trull that Fear died a hero. When Trull said Fear was going to betray Ruin, Udinaas rejects the suggestion, telling Trull Fear had seen him and knew Ruin would kill him. He adds that he is “proud to have known him.” Trull thanks him.


Onrack wakes to see Kilava over him. She tells him Ruin used the Finnest to power an Azath seed (Kettle), which will grown into an Azath house that will seal the gates and thus rooting the Refugium so it does not die. Onrack asks if she was indeed the woman that night in prison and she mocks his stupidity. She tells him the Ritual no longer claims him and he tells her he has found all he needs (wife, son). He sees Trull grieving and worries.


Rud stands where Sukul was killed and knows will soon find his mother’s body. He feels the death of innocence inside him.


Quick Ben tells Hedge an Azath is now growing in the realm, making it and the Imass real. He also says the Azath will have towers and all the gates, meaning Shadowthrone and Cotillion now have access to them and thus to those other realms, including Starvald Demelain. He worries what those two know. He tells Hedge they’re going to go through one of the gates: “Fid’s never been the same without you.”


Ruin thinks he’s kept his bargain with the Azath and has also given Scabandari a “reprieve Bloodeye did not deserve,” thinking that he well knows the poison that is vengeance. He veers and takes off, heading toward Letheras with “blood on his mind” and thinking he does not like “this Crippled God.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three

A timely reminder of Onrack’s crime, since we have just seen the woman who inspired him to commit her image to a wall in the form of a painting, in the previous chapter.

Another mention of the word “witness” – this time Onrack thinks: “We are the witnesses. We are the eyes trapped for ever on the outside. We have been severed from the world.”

Onrack has always been a melancholy character, with what has happened to him. But he has become even more so, now that we know the price of his friendship with Trull is his soul, now that we know if he ventures back outside this branch of Tellan he will become as he once was.

The gentle relationship between Trull and Onrack is actually one that I savour. I know that I was once a person who disliked their storyline, but now I find it oddly comforting – such loyalty and strength between them. I do find myself worrying for Onrack a great deal though. I wonder if Erikson is signposting an imminent demise as Onrack protects this realm and those in it?

Ha! Love the way that Hedge is constantly needling Quick Ben about his mysteriousness: “It’s all the posturing, Quick […] You turn picking your nose into a Hood-damned ritual, so it gets I just give up on knowing when to talk to you or not.”

And I love even more the way that they bicker and say how much they dislike each other, while, at the same time, able to enjoy companionable silences.

Quick Ben has Soletaken in him?! Is that something that I knew and forgot? Or is it something just being revealed now?

Menandore doesn’t show herself to be the most intelligent here, as she completely dismisses Quick Ben and Hedge! Oooh, who does Quick Ben see in the walk of…Rud, I’m guessing? He didn’t know Udinaas, did he, so wouldn’t have recognised that in him?

Hmm, if Ulshan Pral believes everyone will pursue him if he leaves with Rud Elalle, does that mean he holds the Finnest that they’re after?

What has Quick Ben slipped into the cloak of Menandore? What is he up to now?

How interesting, the fact that the Imass in this realm of Tellan believed themselves to be alive and hence made themselves real. So they don’t actually exist? Except that they now do. I wonder if Hood’s indifference is more to do with the fact that he is Jaghut and doesn’t want to remove this realm, for fear of continuing the war between their people? Or does the fact that he’s Hood override the race he came from? “The greatest failing here…lies with the Lord of Death. If not for Hood’s indifference, this realm could never have lasted as long as it has. It irritates me, such carelessness.”

Ooh! Starvald Demelain is “the very chambers of K’rul’s heart”? So the dragons who use its magic – where do they come from? What relation are they to him?

This scene—as the three dragons cruise through the air towards battle—is one of those deliciously cinematic moments in the series. Damn, I can just imagine it!

And—related to the dragon questions and the K’rul questions—why are there SO many dead dragons in this part of Starvald Demelain that Seren Pedac and the others find themselves walking through? What happened to all those dragons? And why are there chained dragons? Ahh, so many mysteries!

This is rich imagery: “The lifeless air tasted foul to Seren Pedac, as if immeasurable grief tainted every breath drawn in this realm, a bleak redolence that would not fade even after countless millennia.” It really drives home the fact that something happened to cause these dragons to die. And this, that Udinaas says: “Wrong side, trying to get out. But the window stayed closed. To them, maybe to everyone, everything. Or…maybe not every thing.” The dragons were trapped? Who by? And who is still able to move freely in and out of Starvald Demelain?

It is a very sweet image, this one that Seren Pedac observes, of Kettle walking with her hand in Udinaas’. And finally something to respect about Seren Pedac once again – her acknowledgement that Udinaas is the only truly likeable member of the group, and the only one who has anything to offer Kettle. But then immediately back to disengaging from Seren Pedac, as she deals a crushing blow to Fear Sengar and casually says “dead brother” about Trull, although it is good to see that she plans to use her power to do what she can for Fear. It’s odd, this. I know exactly why she has become the person she has done. She was always a complex character, even before her rape. And yet I find myself impatient and not understanding why she deals with people the way she does. I think this is one of Erikson’s best-written characters, actually, in the way she makes you absolutely conflicted as to who she is and whether you like her.

Okay… I’ve been trying and trying to recall who this dead Imass is at the gate of Starvald Demelain… Do we know? “The witch who gave her soul to staunch the wound.” Hints from Ulshun Pral that it was a Bentract Imass, and one who was mostly a ghost.

A nice echo here as well, as Udinaas reflects on the fact that he actually quite likes Fear. It’s a shame that it’s only as they come to the endgame that they’re willing to make these observations. “And who, when all is done, will wade out of this crimson tide?”

Eep! Hedge is alive? But only within this realm, right? But no wonder Quick Ben wants him to stay out of the fight, since he is so vulnerably human at this present time.

Wow, Quick Ben is something to behold, isn’t he? Standing up to three dragons at the same time, and bringing them down? Just astounding. And he’s sure that Menandore was taken down by her sister Sheltatha, that Menandore isn’t the one racing for freedom? I’m just suspicious because Menandore has been a larger part of the storyline than Sukul….

And I’m giggling at Hedge being knocked unconscious by a flying piece of debris.

Oh, Hostille Rator! What a glorious way to announce your sacrifice! “Because you please us, Rud Elalle. So too Ulshun Pral. And the Imass… And we came here with chaos in our heart.”

These three bitter sisters really are quite despicable, aren’t they? I’m glad that all three are removed forcibly from the proceedings.

Here Sukul Ankhadu (yes, she is the only one left alive) remarks on Quick Ben something I shall keep in mind: “No, not a mere mortal human. There were other things hiding inside that scrawny body, she was certain of that.”

Awww – Seren Pedac can feel Trull, can’t she? “A strange tug took hold of her soul, a sudden, excruciating yearning that overwhelmed her growing dread.”

Man, that was an explosive arrival, wasn’t it? Clip is such a bastard! Did I ever say that I liked him? Man, I was completely foolish to say so! And another Sengar dies. They really are one of the most tragic families in this series, although the Paran family comes close….

Poor Trull. What horrible shocks, one after another.

And poor Onrack, held from assisting his friend Trull because of having to protect his own blood. This encounter isn’t nice.

Glad to see Trull avenge his brother by hurting Clip – hope he’s dead! (And it isn’t often I say that about characters in this series). Heh, I did say hurt, rather than kill, because I suspected he might creep away while the action continued, and so I was proved right.

Oh Onrack… “As he dropped down hard onto the floor, a single thought drifted through his mind before unconsciousness took him: Not again.”

I really don’t know what to say… Silchas Ruin has plunged the dagger which is the Finnest containing Scabandari’s soul into Kettle. I can’t even….

Oh! Silchas has joined the creation of an Azath to a Finnest – this will grow a new Azath, won’t it? Just as we saw in Gardens of the Moon? “An Azath, to hold for ever the soul of Scabandari. Silchas Ruin, you have your vengeance. Your perfect exchange.” It does seem to be poetic justice, this.

Ah. Quick Ben saw that Ulshun Pral was the son of Onrack just by his walk… Just catching up with earlier in the chapter – sometimes it takes me a while!

It’s a bittersweet reunion, this one between Trull and Seren Pedac. I am glad that she declares her love, very much, but I worry for their future when she thinks: “Shall I cry out in grief for what is to come? For all that I will bring to you, Trull Sengar? My burdens-”

A much more beautiful reunion between Kilava and Onrack, where she says: “Yours was a forbidden desire and it wounded so many. But not me. I knew only that I must give answer. I must let my heart speak.” I can’t even imagine how much of a burden has been lifted from Onrack with those words.

The permanence of this realm is a wonderful thing to realise, and a good thing for Silchas Ruin to have done – but, at the same time, we’re shown the death of innocence within Rud Elalle, which strikes me as being a bad thing.

Oooh, is this part of the Shadowthrone and Cotillion masterplan? To create an entrance into Starvald Demelain? Yes, I agree with Quick Ben here: “But you know, it’s what those two sneaky bastards know, or seem to know, that really worries me.”

Awwww. “Fid’s never been the same without you.”


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Three

So a bit of an emotional rest period after that last chapter (but just a bit). I like how this chapter opens with Onrack thinking back on his “crime” and of Kilava, his guilt over destroying her life, his sense of being severed from the world, and ends with Onrack reunited with Kilava and united with a son, an artist like himself. Sure, that happy moment is surrounded by blood, death, grief, murder, betrayal, etc. but hey, we take what we get in this series, right?

His thoughts as he looks at the cave art are deep ones, one of the many moments where the series moves into “big ideas” that we don’t often get in other genre works. This sort of Edenic fall from grace, this moment of mortals realizing the reality of death and how that awakening to death came with a severing from the natural world, from the “beasts.” And with that sense, it seems (and the idea of “art”) Erikson is referring as well to death/mortality bringing with it a sense of “time,” which also separates us. Because now we can both anticipate our own death and those around us, which brings sorrow and terror and angst but also a sense of preciousness. And we can look back in memory and grieve those already lost. And one of the ways we do that—grieve—and one of the ways we forestall death—by preserving memory—is through art. Not just visual art, but singing, as Onrack thinks of and others as well. I’ve said it repeatedly, but it’s this willingness to slow the “action,” to step into “big thoughts” that makes this series stand out so much against the crowd of other genre material.

I also find this doubly interesting in that it comes via a T’lan Imass now Imass (and soon to be?), because they of course are the living embodiment (unliving embodiment? Undead embodiment?) of being severed from the natural world. But not only did their ritual separate them from the natural world, it separated them from the mortal world, from those “good” things that death might bring—that sense of every moment being precious, of all life being precious, of increased empathy and compassion. Though granted, the mortals we see don’t evince such qualities to the degree one would like.

And here is I think one of our first clues (any earlier ones?) that Pral is Onrack’s son: “such [artistic] skill is passed down in the blood . . .” And then there are the “flaws” which sound suspiciously like Onrack himself. Actually, I confess that when I read these, I thought Onrack already knew Pral was his son and was trying to figure out how I’d missed that realization and not mentioned it.

Interestingly enough Amanda, there is grief at the end of this relationship with Trull and Onrack (just in this book I mean – I’m not spoiling future events) but it’s a surprising one. Here we as readers are (I think) worrying about what happens to Onrack when he has to return to being T’lan, what a horrible reimprisonment that seems, one that I dread as a reader, and it turns out that at the end of this chapter, it is Onrack who has seemingly all (wife, son, flesh and blood nature) and it is Trull who grieves for what he has lost (Fear). It’s a subtle and nice touch of playing off readerly expectations on Erikson’s part.

For us rereaders, this is a nice bit of dramatic irony: “Ulshun Pral says he remembers his mother.”

Note the attention to layers, change, time and geology yet again even in such a small, throwaway moment as a quick setting transition to Hedge and Quick: “a modest hill […] had once been an atoll, assuming the plains had once been under water, and that, Hedge thought […] [kicking] his way through a ribbon of sand studded with broken shells was a fair assumption.”

Love this line: “You turn picking your nose into a Hood-damned ritual, so it gets I just give up on knowing when to talk to you or not.”

Regarding Quick’s “souls”, remember Quick’s origin story Amanda, getting bitten by a radioactive spid, oh wait. Getting chased into Raraku and “absorbing” a dozen souls (and clearly their knowledge and power). As far as being able to veer as a “Soletaken”, who knows with this character….

Yes, I think the set-up for Menandore getting her comeuppance from Quick Ben and/or Hedge was pretty clear, huh? Though you’d think she’d pay a little more attention to her instincts: “The other was a mage, and without question more than just a mage” or “that sliver of disquiet returned to her, stinging.” And another great closing section line: “Just for that, I’m not giving you my favorite stone.”

Speaking of set-ups, does the back and forth about Hedge not blowing up Quick’s allegedly dead body cuz it won’t really be dead set us up for some time where maybe we shouldn’t think Quick Ben really dies? Hmmmmmmm.

I also love their sparring and this: “From the south, you bloated bladder of piss.”

I’ve said a few times that one of the things I like about fantasy is howthe metaphorical can be made real. And damn if Erikson doesn’t double down on that concept with these Imass: “The conceit has made them real.”

Boy, these three are something though, aren’t they? You can only shake your head.

Dragons. Well, Amanda, there’s more to come so it’s probably a discussion that should be held for later. But if anyone wants to have at it, feel free in the comments.

I’ve tried to point out several clues that things aren’t going to end well for Kettle, and that Udinaas knew this. This chapter, with his tenderness toward her (the hand holding, the whispers, etc.) is more of the same. As is this: “Kettle had held herself close to Silchas Ruin […] he had made vows to protect her and the burgeoning life that had come to her […] But Silchas Ruin had revealed some of himself […] a brutality.” Thus a connection between whatever bad thing Kettle has coming and Ruin being perhaps the instigator of it. And then this: “How different is that from Kettle tale of murdering people in Letheras […] Of feeding their corpses into the hungry, need grounds of the Azath?” And so a reminder of the connection between the Azath and Kettle, of the idea of death feeding an Azath.

One wonders if some readers have the same shocking realization as Seren—that Udinaas is the only likable one in their group….

Poor Fear. What a life-his love, his brother, his brother, his brother, his hopeless quest to raise Scabandari and “purge Kurald Emurlahn” (hands up amongst those who thought he was going to achieve that?), and now Seren’s brutal attempt to wake him to the “reality” of her. And then to die just after being “reunited” with his brother (and to be killed by Clip, who is not the most likable person in their group).

When Udinaas says he actually likes Fear, you know that’s not going to end well….

I like that artist—Ulshun—memorizing the faces of Quick and Hedge. Touching. But also again that sense of art as preservation.

Even though it was so telegraphed, I still love Quick taking down those dragons. And of course, Hedge getting knocked out by that vertebrae.

After all we’ve seen of the Jaghut, of the Imass, all those millennia, ponder for a moment the depth of tragedy in these simple, brief, all-too-easy-to-overlook-midst-the-action words: “Here, in this world, we long ago ended our war. Here, we chose peace.” No, seriously, think about that for a moment.

And here we see the great last stand of Hostile and his group, who we (OK, I on my first read) never quite wholly trusted. That’s a great scene and another moving one, that sacrifice for the Bentract. Nice moment of redemption.

Explosive arrival indeed. Yes, Clip bastard. Fear tragic. So many heart-wrenching choices. Poor Kettle. Another Edur about to stab Ruin in the back. Seren opening up to power. Udinaas witnessing. Kilava’s steely power and determination. And I so love the anticlimax of Ruin “deftly plucking” the dagger and saying “this is all I need.”

And Seren, still not getting Ruin, thinking he had his vengeance on Scabandari while later we learn he thinks he gave Scabandari a “reprieve he didn’t deserve.” I still can’t wait to see what happens with these two in the prequel trilogy.

Speaking of oblivious: “For remaining at my brother’s side, I thank you both.” As Seren says, may Trull never learn the truth.

So is this a happy ending or a sad one? Fear and Kettle are dead. But Onrack is absolved of his “crime,” reunited with lover and son, Trull is reunited with Seren. And then poor Rud—innocence lost. The Refugium is a “refuge” no longer. And as we started with Onrack at the beginning, a paradise is lost.

“Jaghut are strange.” Understatement much?

Yes indeed, just what do Cotillion and Shadowthrone know and how much do they manipulate events?

That’s an enticing close – if blood hasn’t been on his mind yet, just what is this guy going to do in Letheras?

Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

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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