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 three of Dust of Dreams.
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.
Bill is busy with real life shenanigans and will be adding his thoughts in the comments section at a later stage. Unfortunately, that means you’re stuck with Amanda summarising this chapter—well, you’ll see…
Shurq prepares to leave her bed companion of the night—one Ruthan Gudd—who both likes her but is also trying to avoid the reading that Fiddler is doing, so wants to stay away from the Malazan compound. As Shurq leaves on her way to find another man to sex—her appetites are currently voracious—she encounters Ublala, who has been inducted into the Palace Guard, but isn’t enjoying his time because the other guards are bullying him into cleaning their boots and stuff. Shurq tells him to talk to Tehol about it, since they are such good friends.
We learn a little of the history that led Kisswhere and Sinter into the Bonehunters and into this particular situation. As Kisswhere contemplates the fact that she has lost her sister to the Bonehunters, Sinter urges the whole squad back to the city at speed.
Keneb and Blistig talk about the way in which Arbin associates perhaps a little too much with the troops in his command. Blistig then asks Keneb what it is like to be at one of the readings, and points out that people say the last reading led to the Adjunct’s decision about Malaz City and Kalam’s fate. More building of tension about the reading.
Deadsmell and a group of marines are crowded into a room that he hired for the night. They are all trying to find a way to get through the reading intact, including carving, drinking, praying etc.
Urb and Hellian head into a brothel to retrieve Brethless and Touchy.
Brys Beddict observes the other people attending the reading. There is talk before the reading starts—people there trying to convince Fiddler not to begin the reading, saying that there is too much power present. Even Quick Ben seems very reluctant. Fiddler says he is able to do the reading, but he worries about the possibility of unexpected guests. The effects of the start of the reading ripple out across the city, causing the Errant to taste blood, Seren Pedac to watch as Pinosel and Ursto Hoobutt burst into flames, dead creatures return to a semblance of life.
Okay, I think that Bill would have been able to sum up this scene a little better, but I’ll give it a go. Fiddler throws cards at each of the participants at the reading and names them—Orb, Sceptre, Champion of Life, etc. I’m sure there needs to be discussion about why certain people are given certain names. The card for Brys Beddict is King of Life, but the card doesn’t strike him as the others did (don’t know why). Banaschar is given Fool in Chains—he belongs to the Crippled God, I guess? Tavore Paran isn’t given a card, or a role (don’t know why). The Errant comes striding in to claim his card—the Master of the Deck? But obviously that role is already taken by another Paran we know. The Errant retreats. Then there is some chat between Fiddler, the Adjunct and Brys where Fiddler apologises to Tavore and Brys wants to (don’t know why). Yep, everything cleared up there. I knew exactly what was going on… (Sorry Bill!)
Bugg and Seren Pedac contemplate the colourless puddles that used to be two gods, and discuss what happened that night. Again, I’d like to be able to sum up Bugg’s words in some semblance of order, but I’m not entirely sure what he was saying. Man, I do wish Bill had been the one to provide this summary. I’m doing you all a disservice! Bugg does tell Seren Pedac that Onrack will always be there for her son, and that Kilava has set a blessing on her so that she will be aware of what is going on. Seren Pedac’s son’s card was dropped onto the table by Fiddler. Ehh. I’m pretty sure that’s important.
The Errant thinks on the events of the reading, and decides that, although he cannot go up against the Master of the Deck and avoided that confrontation, he can kill Brys Beddict. Rather than use sorcery, he wants the more personal approach—something he thinks he could become addicted to after experiencing snuffing out Feather Witch’s life. He thinks about his potential allies—Banaschar, Fener, and some mysterious forces far to the east who might value his alliance.
Telorast and Curdle enjoy the aftermath of having briefly sembled into dragons and gone flying across the city. They discuss the fact that someone in the city is causing trouble (not specified whether this is the Errant or Fiddler), and wonder whether they should kill the one who likes keeping the throne empty (not sure who this is!) They wonder what the green blobs in the sky are.
Sandalath and Withal talk about the cards and the role assigned to her. She questions the whole High House Dark thing, and how she is able to be Queen of Dark. She also asks how Quick Ben could be Magus of Dark when he’s not even Tiste Andii (a good question, non?)
Aftermath of the evening discussed between Ebron, Shard and the others. They figure that the reading has decided the Adjunct’s next actions, now that the roles are set. Ebron says that it is like the warrens all woke up at once.
Tavore talks to Brys Beddict about the fact that her brother is Master of the Deck of Dragons, and that they are not allies. Tavore then says that she intends to go east.
Quick Ben is rather cross at Fiddler, thanks to the whole Magus of Dark thing. He and Hedge talk about the reading, with Quick Ben saying that Hedge is needed to build a road. Quick Ben also mentions that Tavore was behind the reading, that she was the one who told him.
The Errant attacks Brys Beddict but is hit in the face by Ublala, who is accompanied by Sinter’s Malazans. They then escort him to the palace. Quick Ben relaxes back down on his roof—he finds the Dal Honese woman interesting (Sinter?)
Fiddler says that Tartheno Toblakai is the Herald of Life. And then looks at the last card—Unaligned. Chain.
Shurq amuses me, as always, although there is something a little bit tiresome about a female character who has to have sex with loads of different men in order to keep herself “alive” and functioning.
It makes me a bit upset to think on Ublala being bullied by the other guards—he is such a softy. I hope that Tehol does do something to change it.
That section with Kisswhere thinking about the circumstances that led her into that cell she was so recently freed from is some truly superb writing. In less than three pages, Erikson gives us a full picture of these two sisters and their relationship. We know a little about their respective characters and can have a guess at what might be in their future. Three pages. Some authors can’t convey that much in a whole book. That right there is why I hold this man’s writing in such high regard against other authors in the field.
Ah, Brys says exactly what I think!
“They were a serious, peculiar lot, these Malazans. With a talent for combining offhand casual rapport with the grimmest of subject matter, a careless repose and loose discipline with savage professionalism. He was, he admitted, oddly charmed.”
As am I, of course. Damn better be after eight books down and partway through the ninth…
I am loving this view of the Malazans through Brys’ eyes actually—the fact that he sees the absolute loyalty of the Malazans towards Tavore, but notes that “it was strangely flavoured” and he “was still unable to determine its nature.”
I think this says everything about the Malazans as well:
“He knew the High Mage, Ben Adaephon Delat, known to the other Malazans as Quick Ben—although to Brys that name seemed a version lacking in the respect a Ceda surely deserved.”
See, I think that this actually shows a great deal of respect in the way that Malazans tend to show it i.e. downplaying their respect verbally.
So, that reading. Wow. Didn’t have a clue what was going on—as usual when Fiddler picks up the cards—but hell, what a scene. Loved it. Compulsive reading. Now please help! I think the thing that I found least able to comprehend, and that no doubt is a spoiler to discuss fully, is the Tavore business. The fact she doesn’t have a card, the fact she understands the people there were marked, the fact that Fiddler grieves for her and can see the end. Mysterious stuff, and no doubt key to some big event that means you can’t actually tell me anything about it!
Haha! I wonder if this is Erikson speaking directly to the reader:
“People do not understand power. They view it exclusively as a contest, this against that; which is the greater? Which wins, which fails?”
I remember our early discussions while dealing with Gardens of the Moon and even then commentators saying, ‘I don’t know how X can beat Y, when A already beat D’ or something along those lines!
I think that perhaps Bugg’s words here are incredibly important:
“There is so much power in this Deck of Dragons. In the right hands, it could drain us all dry. Every god, new and elder. Every ascendant cast into a role. Every mortal doomed to become a face on a card.”
Perhaps that is the very purpose of this series—to show them fighting against this future, against these hands who would drain them all.
The Errant really is a nasty piece of work, as he considers the pleasure of killing Brys Beddict personally, rather than using sorcery against him.
I like the way that these mysterious eastern forces are referred to every now and again to keep them on the radar. Hmm, wondering if they are the K’Chain Che’Malle we saw in the prologue.
Ahhh, the mystery of this—are they talking about Edgewalker here?
“The one who likes keeping the throne empty. In out in out in out, just shuffle them through. Nobody gets comfortable! Chaos and confusion, civil wars and betrayals and blood everywhere! What a creep!”
Who else might it be?
Oh, I do love this:
“Reconciliation does not demand that one side surrender to the other. The simple, mutual recognition that mistakes were made is in itself a closing of the divide.”
I think these are words that have sharp depth.
Quick Ben is rather cross at Fiddler, thanks to the whole Magus of Dark thing. He thinks “there was a throne once…” where I think he’s considering when Mother Dark was still around. And we, the reader, know well that she is now back, so might there be a throne again.
Is that last card of Fiddler’s the one that relates to Tavore? Unaligned. Chain. Doesn’t sound good.
“Now, if only you weren’t so…strong. If only you were weaker. If only your chains didn’t reach right into the heart of the Bonehunters—if only I knew who was dragging who, why, I might have reason to hope.”
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.