Welcome to the Malazan Reread 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 twenty-four of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
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.
The fragments of the shattered moon rain down on this new world as Endest Silann watches. They start to release light around Black Coral, driving back Night. Endest thinks back to events from his past, where he chose to make a stand, and remembers holding back the sea. Now he reflects that Anomander Rake has asked him to hold back Light itself, and he does not know how.
The High Priestess watches Endest Silann as he gets beaten down by the Light besieging Dark. She knows that the Dying God is aiming to claim for itself the Throne of Darkness and the only thing standing against that is one old and broken warlock. She dwells on the fact that without Rake their confidence is lost, and perhaps their previous successes came because Rake believed in them. She is angry at him for failing them, but desolate because she knows they will fail him.
Apsal’ara struggles away from the swirling vortex of darkness, then falls onto the ash-smeared clay, free.
As she realises what has happened and thinks to crawl her way to freedom, Apsal’ara hears a familiar voice that tells her to steal the eye of the god. She suddenly feels hope.
The battle rages between the forces of chaos and those who have answered Hood’s call. Of the dead, most were too ancient to have enough power to face the indomitable legions. However, a few had the power to stand tall—Brukhalian willing himself immovable, unconquerable; the Seguleh fighting through pride, having been downed by Rake; and the Bridgeburners. Above them, two chained dragons tear the storm clouds.
Toc rides a Wickan horse—one of appalling endurance—into battle and feels miserable at his habit of dying and dying again. The horse bears him away from the front line of the Bridgeburners, and Toc curses, wanting to die for the final time beside them, however little he thinks he deserves to do so. The horse carries him to Hood, who watches the battle. Hood tells Toc that he is the Herald of Death and has a message to deliver. Toc says his missing eye is driving him mad, and Hood says: “about that—”
Glanno Tarp guides the wagon to a rather precarious halt in Dragnipur, and yells for Cartographer. Hood comes to greet Cartographer, telling him that he wondered whether he had got lost. He also calls Gruntle Treach-spawn and suggests that he’s not required.
Toc mutters “damn Trygalle,” then sees Gruntle and exclaims with surprise, although then realises that he doesn’t look like Anaster anymore. Hood tells Toc it is time, that he is to go with the Guild. Toc asks if he is going back to the living, but Hood says no, says that this is his final task as Hood’s herald and that another god now claims him.
Gruntle stares at the battle and steps away from the carriage to join the carnage, but Glanno Tarp tells him shareholders can’t just walk away, that they’re leaving now.
Draconus watches as his Bound companions fall away, as chaos eats them. He thinks back to the moment where he forged Dragnipur, even in the face of Burn’s displeasure. He wonders now what will happen to the world once chaos (the chaos that he snared away from everyone else) is unleashed. He steps forward to take his place beside his companions, but Hood stops him, says it is not yet time.
Draconus is convinced that Hood must be wrong, that he is the last to arrive. But then Anomander Rake arrives in Dragnipur.
The Second of the Seguleh watches the Trygalle Guild and Toc depart, then Hood says he is free from his service and can pursue Skinner. The Second leaves the realm of Dragnipur…
…and snatches the lance from Cutter’s hand, charging towards the white Hounds in front of him.
Karsa Orlong is badass. The Second is just as badass. They bond over killing a white Hound together, after having dispatched two others.
Cutter watches as seven Hounds round the two warriors and unsheathes two knives. As he does so, he is pulled out of the fray.
Barathol takes on this Hound, which happens to be the one that Chaur tangled with. He manages to cause a nasty blow, but is thrown unconscious to land near Anomander Rake’s body.
A dragon sails above the street as Karsa and the Second whirl around. It grabs two Hounds in its talons and then snaps up another one in its teeth.
Samar watches the dragon fly away, then crouches over the fallen form of Dassem Ultor, who looks at her and then begs for her not to blame him. Then he grabs her just as a white Hound and the bear clash pretty much where she was standing. The two behemoths crash into a building and fight in a frenzy.
Two Hounds of Light proceed on to Anomander’s body and one grabs hold. Both are driven back by the combined forces of the Second, Karsa and two mysterious Teblor women accompanied by a dog. Karsa voices an ancient Toblakai warcry, and once the Hounds flee, the Second advises him never to voice it again where the Seguleh can hear.
The Daughters of Draconus—Envy and Spite—drive back the five Hounds of Shadow, drawing ever closer to the prize of their father’s sword.
The sisters don’t register the arrival of a carriage, but do sense the regard of one who steps out from the carriage, and back off.
Samar Dev approaches the mostly demolished building, seeing that the bear and the Hound have battled to the death. Samar asks what the bear god wanted, then uses its blood to bind it.
Tulas Shorn drops the three white Hounds with immense satisfaction.
Iskaral Pust climbs from the ruckus to find that Kruppe has already gone. He and Mogora swap some choice insults, and she terrifies him with the thought of them having babies. He flees at the mule’s pace, which is no pace at all.
Picker, stuck in the cave, hears thunder and the Trygalle Guild comes rushing into the cave. She recognises Toc, and he says that he is Hood’s Herald now and has a message for her, torc-bearer. She curses as she realises that she has a task: “I ride to all the gods of war.” He tells her to “Find the Toblakai… and lead him to war.”
Anomander Rake stands in the heart of Dragnipur, above the very Gate of Darkness, and thinks on the fact that he will stand, and “face that ferocious chaos.” Beneath his feet the tattoos drawn by Kadaspala swarm.
Kadaspala watches Anomander Rake and plans his vengeance. “This is the sacrifice he will make, oh so worthy so noble so noble yes and clever and so very clever and who else but Anomander Rake so noble and so clever.”
In Black Coral the Tiste Andii have felt the death of their Lord and feel despair. A rain of kelyk falls on them, and against it they feel helpless.
So, I think I sold you short last week, but I honest to goodness had no words to do justification to my feelings. I mean, Anomander Rake, dudes! Gone! How is that possible? The thing is that with the deaths of such major players as Whiskeyjack and Coltaine, with Laseen having gone down in the last novel, with Hood dying (at least in some form) the chapter before, I should absolutely have known that no one was safe. Being a keen reader of GRRM, I’m now familiar with beloved characters not making it. But Anomander Rake seemed like such an unstoppable force. Certainly flawed, certainly tragic, but I somehow thought he would get through the series. There is also the fact that Erikson has been bringing people back, and there is the tiny thought that maybe Rake has made it through in some form. Yet the writing in this novel, the way that Erikson has been building to this moment, tells me that death in this case is as final as it can possibly be in the Malazan world.
Also, the lack of Hood’s body. I read it that the Hound was chewing on the headless body and I found it pretty damn disrespectful! I didn’t like that at all. Hood manifests physically and gets used as a doggy chew toy? Nuh uh. No way. Just so ignominious.
And, yes, two wonderful moments that I’m not certain I paid tribute to effectively. The first was, of course, Karsa’s shaken tones. For Karsa to be shaken…! And the second was where Korlat asked how long Spinnock had held Kallor at bay, and he let her know that he had managed a full night. Stunning moments.
Right! Let’s have at today…
Okay, immediately intrigued by who has spoken to Apsal’ara and what this eye is that they want her to steal. Is it Hood? Or perhaps Rake? Ah, Rake seems favourite considering they actually encountered each other. Oh my word, does that mean Rake deliberately put the queen of thieves into Dragnipur for just this moment? Is that how far back his game goes?
The image of these weary dead being summoned once more to fight is a painful one. Didn’t we all hope that people such as Brukhalian and Whiskeyjack would be resting in peace right now? After all they suffered? It seems rough asking them to fight again.
I do love the idea of these Seguleh fighting through desperate pride: “Each one had fallen to Anomander Rake, and this knowledge alone was sufficient, for it burned like acid, it stung like shame.”
And Pearl, grieving over the fallen. We’re all grieving by now, I think.
Nice to switch to some humour at this point. Sometimes I think Erikson misjudges the moment for humour, but here it feels pretty necessary. I love Glanno’s tumble onto the horses, who then smartly step to either side so that he falls further. And I do enjoy this description of Hood: “A wretched dead-looking Jaghut”—not so damn impressive, considering he’s the Lord of Death.
Why is Hood so nasty to Gruntle, calling him Treach-spawn? What enmity does Hood have towards Treach?
Well, damn, the scenes with Draconus and Hood, and then the arrival of Anomander Rake are just superb. I love seeing the forging of Dragnipur, and also learning that Draconus intended to snare chaos, to keep it from the world. What would happen if chaos swept the world? And how can they prevent it if Dragnipur is now failing? I suspect that even Rake’s arrival cannot stop Dragnipur from coming apart at the seams.
This arrival of Rake… It’s not the first time we’ve seen him arrive on-page with a bang, and this truly is NO exception: “Arriving with the power of a mountain torn apart in a long, deafening, crushing detonation.”
And then, on our part at the same time as Draconus, there is the realisation as to what Anomander Rake is planning here… That mention of Mother Dark being snared. Seems it’s time to break those shackles.
Yay! Thank god the Second has been sent to assist Karsa and Cutter. And it is ace the way the lance is snatched out of Cutter’s hand! Could just see that happening in a movie.
The various battles against the white Hounds are thrilling and I enjoyed the varied responses. I think I particularly liked Karsa and the Second’s instant rapport. I did completely fail to realise that these two Toblakai with the dog are Karsa’s daughters—what gave that away, because I think I missed it?
Also completely missed that it was Gruntle who drove back Envy and Spite. See, when the Trygalle carriage is mentioned as appearing with Picker, I did think that it couldn’t also be in Darujhistan! I mean, which other carriage is going to hold someone who could face down this terrible duo? Personally, I really enjoyed the absolute fatalism of the two sisters—first of all allying through expediency to get to the sword, and then backing off from someone else rather than go all-out trying to get it.
And how intriguing that section is with Picker. And, man, do I appreciate the fact that the torc-bearer thing was set up so long back! That is talent, right there… Can’t wait to find out what Toc tells Picker about Karsa.
I really like how Erikson turns things around here with the “assault” on Coral. We’re so trained to think of light as “good,” and moonlight especially as this sort of beneficent, silvering all with beauty, tranquil force. And here light, and moonlight, are weapons. And along with my intellectual enjoyment of playing against type, I think this is another of those cinematic scenes, but of a different sort. Rather than the spectacular, I can visualize this playing out in different fashion, almost slow-mo, the light shafts stabbing down and then a slo-mo creep of glow, like disease slowly taking over.
That’s a hell of a tease line, with Endest recalling standing over Andarist’s wife with blood on his hands. And that’s all I’ll say about that here.
To go along with the opening, I like that parallel-but-opposite image of Kharkanas dying as it “flickered crimson and gold.” Once again, light as a bad thing, but here described not as silver/white moonlight, but the crimson and gold of sunlight (yes, flames, but still).
It’s funny, but in a series where people regularly die, and where Rake’s death has just put the exclamation point on that, I remember having no doubt as a reader that Endest would hold. Whether he’d survive, I know I wasn’t sure. In fact, I think I was pretty sure. But hold? I was solid on that and would have been shocked had I been wrong. And part of that does go back to Rake, because as a reader, I had faith in his faith. His faith in Endest. In his people. And so when I read the priestess’ lines, a woman who by definition should have faith (but who has clearly had that faith tested by Mother Dark’s long abandonment), I think, “Oh ye of little faith…”
And then from one with not enough faith yet, to one who, despite all that time inside Dragnipur, despite the bitter irony of freedom as chaos threatens immediate oblivion, hears Rake and is returned to hope.
Here is a little throw-away phrase amidst the boggle-the-mind spectacle of hordes of dead fighting and, well, dying: “too ancient to even remember that will alone held power.” Will alone—that is key to so much of who people are, what they can accomplish in this series, with folks like Rake and Karsa nearly pure embodiments of the idea.
And how great it is to see some of our favorites in battle again—the Grey Swords and Brukhalian, the Bridgeburners and Whiskeyjack. A little rush at the masks of the Seguleh melting away into purity. A lump in the throat at the image of Pearl at the point, tears streaming down that face, a bright star of grief and compassion amidst all this tumult and turmoil. Remember way back, GoTM?
Before he passed from sight Pearl spoke again. “Ben Adaephon Delat, do you pity me?”
“Yes” he [Quick Ben] replied softly, then pivoted and dropped down into darkness.”
Oh Pearl, how much more do I pity you and grieve for you now…
And then a reminder of Trotts. And Detoran. Such a mix of pain and smiles.
And I agree Amanda, this is well-timed humor, beginning I think with Hood’s silent look of reproach at his muddied robes after Toc’s horse skids up to him. Can’t you just picture that look? At this point, I don’t even need a Jaghut to say anything to find them funny.
“The blood is needed.” File.
Note that “one hammer” Draconus used to forge Dragnipur and file that away.
Nice to see that just a few millennia (or however long it is—the timeline is… ) has sufficed to change Draconus. Cruelty replaced with compassion. But even in is self-acknowledged cruelty, what a goal—to “lead chaos on and away from everything else.” Not a correct goal I’d argue, but still, what audacity. How can you not admire it?
Man, does Rake make an entrance every time or what? Recall his entrance back in GoTM in Baruk’s place? And here we go again.
This scene has such power, such emotional heft to it. And Erikson does a great job of building it—the battle against chaos, the dragons et. al fighting and dying, our favorite characters making yet another last futile stand, Pearl’s continued fighting while weeping and grieving for all around him, Draconus’ weight of guilt and sadness and despair. Hood’s arrival beside Draconus holding us, pausing things. Rake’s arrival with all its momentousness. The blow-the-mind idea of Rake asking forgiveness of Draconus. And then the slow turn at the end of this scene, the short sentences, that blunt how-much-weight-does-this phrase-carry-by-now-in-this-series final two words:
“Draconus slowly rose. And turned. To face the wagon. To witness.” And then to brilliantly yet cruelly take us away. I declare it physically, humanly impossible to put this book down at this moment.
I love this line: “These three did not even see the dragon.” Something about it just speaks volumes about this series.
Hmm, two Teblor women who calmly faced down a Hound—two javelins out and winding up two more. And the dog that Karsa sent home. Yep, these are Karsa’s daughters—chips off the old block. Well might that Hound hesitate. And then run.
And think of the last few pages with Karsa—first stunned by swordsmanship as he watches (witnesses) the duel between Rake and Traveller, and now near tears at the sight of his dog. Our little barbarian is growing up…
And again, I love visualizing this moment with Spite and Envy: their looks of triumph, their slow inevitable movement forward, then the arrival of the carriage, Gruntle stepping out, looking at them, and then sudden rethinking and retreat.
What might Samar Dev do with a bear god’s—a God of War’s—spirit?
Talk about a file moment: What is Hood’s message to Karsa via Picker via Toc? Remind him of what? Yep, file this.
And so why does Kadaspala blame Rake for the death of his sister? The one, remember, whom Endest stood over with bloody hands. Did Rake kill her? Did he have Endest kill her? Did his actions lead to her death? Or is this just Kadaspala’s madness?
And then again, a masterful switch of setting, from Kadaspala readying his god’s knife against Rake and now away. So mean. So effective.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.