Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Dust of Dreams, Chapter Four


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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover chapter four 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.

Note: As many of our rereaders know, and have already commented on (albeit vaguely in nice, non-spoilerish fashion) we will eventually be coming to an extremely horrific and troubling event, one that greatly disturbs many readers (as I believe is its intention) and which has even caused some to give the series up. We wanted to let you know that we’ve had discussions between ourselves and with our folks here at, and we’ve decided that when we do get to this event, which won’t be for a while, we are going to dedicate an entirely separate post to discussion of it.

We hope this will do a few things. One, it will allow those who have no desire to focus or dwell on this event to avoid doing so. Two, it will allow us to broaden our discussion of the event as we’re going to try and place it in the context of violence/graphic detail in this series and in the genre as a whole. Three, it might allow Steven to chime in and give us some authorial insight into what he was thinking as he developed this story line and how he approached it (and the key word here is “might” as we’ve not yet broached this idea with Steven). As we near the time, we will offer more details, but since it has already reared its head in comments, we thought we’d address it now (also, just to be clear, at this point Amanda is maintaining her first-read stance and so is unaware of any details). We hope we can meet the needs of all of our readers in this fashion. Feel free to let us know what you think by contacting us through Tor (rather than discussing it in the comments section). Thanks!




Camped along their trail, Kalyth prepares to “ride the Spotted Horse,” recalling how the shamans of her tribe (the Elan) took vision quests via a combination of potentially deadly herbs. She wonders if she is doing so to seek out prophecy and clues to finding a Mortal Sword and Shield anvil, or if she wants to see the ancestors of her now extinct tribe to see if they might forgive her. Overhead, Gu’Rull flies sentinel. She pops the herb mixture into her mouth.


Sag’Churok, Gunth Mach’s protector, overhears Kalyth’s whisper “Never trust a leader who has nothing to lose” and looks over, the only one of the three K’ell Hunters to pay attention. Sag’Churok thinks that “errors in judgment plagued Ampelas Rooted,” and thinks of the Matron and her spawn as “flawed,” leading to an “abiding sense of failure. He considers Redmask (another flawed person) and wonders if maybe the Matron relying on a human is not a bad idea. Gu’Rull sends a message of intruders ahead with lots of fires and when Sag’Churok wonders if what they seek might be there, the assassin responds, “The one who leads is not for us.” The scent he sends along with that prepares the K’ell Hunters for battle, but the assassin warns they should avoid battle, as they are so outnumbered. Gunth Mach tells Sag’Churok that the assassin wants their quest to fail, though he respects Sag’Churok. She adds that she could overhear Gu’Rull’s sendings because the assassin isn’t aware of her maturity, that she has hidden it from the others who think her a mere drone. She tells Sag’Churok “I am close, first love, so very close. He is shocked and asks about the matron, but Gunth Mach tells him “she cannot see past her suffering.” He tells the other hunters about he humans and says they will avoid them, but they should prepare themselves for eventual battle.


In her vision, Kalyth sees an old man with tattoos, digging before a jade monolith of a finger buried in sand. He tells her of an ancient tribe that quenched blades in sand as he is trying to do, though he has forgotten so much he believes he is doing something wrong. Asked if he is Elan, he says he can name hundreds of tribes and all have this in common—they are “”about to be extinct. Melted away in the fashion of all peoples, eventually… nothing but dust, even their names gone.” She replies that she is the last Elan and he answers that he is “readying myself to wield a most formidable weapon. They thought to hide it from me… even thought to kill it… The key to everything you see is to cut clean, down the middle. A clean cut.” After a discussion on vision questing, she tells him “The old ways have failed,” and he responds that “The old ways ever fail…so too the new ways, more often than not.” She begs him for something and he adds “The secret lies in the tempering… You weapon must be well-tempered… It is a flaw to view mortals and gods as if they were on opposite sides… Because then, when the blade comes down, why, they are forever lost to each other.” He pulls his hands out, which are rust-colored, and he says they are not green jade, “not this time, not for this.” But then says they aren’t ready and shoves them back into the sand.


A group of scouts, faces painted white, approach the lone campfire. Gu’Rull kills all but two and takes off after those ones.


Sag’Churok smells the battle but holds back, disappointed in the way the other two K’ell have lost control of their glands and thus shown their inexperience/immaturity. He thinks they will move out into the wastelands to try and avoid the humans, but such attempts would eventually fail if there as many as the assassin implied.


Gu’Rull ignores the dogs rushing back to the human camp, thinking them mere scavengers. He kills the two fleeing scouts and heads back.


Her vision of the old man fading, Kalyth hears him say “It ever appears dead, spiked so cruelly and no, you will see no motion . . Even the blood does not drip. Do not be deceived. She will be freed. She must. It is necessary.” She has a new vision of a burning plain and shadows overhead. She sails upward and looking down sees the fires are “crushed and twisted pieces of the kind of mechanism she had seen in Ampelas.” She wonders if this is a vision of the past or the future. She sees a battle, wonders “Humans? K’Chain Che’Malle?” but cannot tell. She exits the vision in a flash of fire/light.


K’Chain Che’Malle eat meat a lot.


Hetan thinks how her twin daughters (via Kruppe), Stavi and Storri, are good at manipulating their stepfather Onos Toolan, who tends toward indulgence anyway. She scoots them away and informs Tool that the clan chiefs are gathering, troubled, adding that a third haven’t sent anyone. She continues that most are saying those that haven’t, mostly from the south, have mutinied, “lost their way, their will. That they have broken up and wandered into the kingdoms…hiring on as bodyguards… to the Saphin and the Bolkando.” When she tells him outlying clans too have not sent anyone, he thinks that odd and she agrees. She warns him the chiefs need to be reminded of why they are there, but Tool says he doesn’t know if he can help. He says that though they rushed after the Grey Swords to fight the Tiste Edur, “we sought the wrong enemy.” Hetan agrees, saying there is no glory in defeating a crushed foe, with Tool adding nor one terrorized by their own.


She thinks how he has had trouble since becoming Warchief, how he was “deaf to the fury of the awakened Barghast gods . He’d shown no patience with those so eager to shed blood.” The prophecy, “which had seemed so simple and clear, was all at once mired in ambiguity, seeding such discord.” Hetan wishes Kilava had stayed, thinking her presence would help Tool, not just with the Barghast but in his grief for Toc. She worries about the restless young warriors, though she agrees when Tool says he sees no enemy. Tool tells her things were simpler with the Imass and she mocks the idea: He admits it is not good “to ignore one’s own flaws. The delusion comforts, but it can prove fatal.” She tells him he’s not dead and his response is “Am I not?” She closes the conversation by telling him, “We are White Face Barghast! Find us an enemy!”


Torrent is agonizing over being so close to the Awl’s homeland, where he is camped with the Gadra White Face clan and where he feels haunted by the ghost of Toc. The dogs from the slaughtered scouts find Torrent as he rides out from camp and he goes with two of them to where he spots some circling birds while the other dogs continue on to camp. As he rides, he recalls Redmask’s time, how Torrent had felt “contentment” then, killing Letherii, but how then Toc’s skepticism had shaken his faith in Redmask and what the Awl were doing. He thinks the Letherii could never in truth be defeated, with their “need to possess and rule over all that they possessed… desires that spread like the plague, poisoning the soul of the enemy.” Even the Barghast, Torrent thinks, are doomed, considering that “Invaders did not stay invaders for ever… Eventually they became no different from every other tribe or people in a land.” He thinks as leader of the Awl (a group of children already picking up Barghast ways) his task is to preside over their extinction. He finds the slaughtered bodies of the scouts and realizes they had fought a single huge foe. He heads back to camp.


In the Barghast camp, Setoc sees the four dogs come in, noting that they “stank of death.” And she recalls how the wolves, “who had given her life… her first family” had howled at dawn. She is called “The holder of a thousand hearts” by the clan thanks to her having been found among the wolves that had eaten the hearts of the Grey Swords. The wolves are anxious about a gathering storm and “understood that she would be at the very heart of the celestial conflagration. They begged to sacrifice their own lives so that she might live. And that she would not permit.” She thinks she is the symbol of the wild and “it was this wild that must be worshipped.” She considers the words she will say to Cafal: “God, my children, is the wilderness. Witness its laws and be humbled. In humility find peace. But know this: peace is not always life. Sometimes peace is death…The wild laws are the only laws.” She thinks she will also tell him the Gadra and many Barghast would die, that “from the skies death was coming,” and that she will warn him to return to his own clan and make peace with his kin.


Cafal recalls his pretentious words to Paran long ago (“A man possessing power must act decisively else it trickle away through his fingers”) and wishes he could speak to him again, thinking what he had taken as indecisiveness had been instead wise caution. He thinks Tool is losing his power, but Cafal doesn’t know what to do about it. At news of the dogs, he wakes Talamandas and the two spar a bit. Talamandas tells Cafal the Barghast gods “cannot live in isolation. We cannot. They are stubborn… We need allies… Against what comes.” Cafal sees Setoc and thinks she “had been given back to the wild, a virgin sacrifice whose soul had been devoured whole. She belonged to the wolves, and perhaps to the Wolf God and Goddess, the Lord and Lady of the Beast Throne.” He thinks back to how the Barghast had come after the Grey Swords, seeking an enemy, the Barghast gods “eager to serve Togg and Fanderay, to run with the bold pack in search of blood and glory.” He thinks of them now as “worse than children.” Talamandas warns Cafal to cast Setoc out, but instead Cafal speaks to her. She tells him the warriors that just left will die, that the Barghast “have found the enemy, but it is the wrong enemy. Again.” When Cafal sends Talamandas to bring the group back, she warns him it doesn’t matter; the entire clan will die. She asks if he knows what he green spears in the sky are and he tells her that “the firmament is speckled with countless worlds no different from ours. To the stars and the great burning wagons [comets like the spears] we are as motes of dust.” She finds it interesting that the Barghast believe this, then seemingly makes a comparison between the spears and a hunter throwing his weapon at a dodging antelope. Before leaving, he asks her, as priestess of Togg and Fanderay, who the enemy is, and she replies, “peace.”


Badalle speaks words over Visto’s corpse, then they continue their march. Badalle and Rutt, still carrying Held, are joined by a new girl—Brayderal, who had joined the Snake two days earlier. She reminds Badalle of “the Quitters, the bone-skins who stood taller than anyone else… and commanded everyone and when they said starve and die, that’s just what everyone did.” She thinks if the Quitters found the Snake they would kill them all. She wonders if Brayderal thinks to take Rutt’s place at the head “when Rutt finally broke.” She does not like Brayderal.


Saddic, who worship Badalle, is walking behind Rutt and Brayderal. He considers that Badalle’s words weren’t for Visto but were for the survivors, and that she was telling them to “give up remembering. Give it up so when we find it again it all feels new . . The cities and villages and the families and laughing.” The Snake finds a waterhole and rests, even as scores die. Shards, flesh-eating locusts, attack.


Amanda’s Reaction

I like this about the seven herbs concoction: “Any one of the seven herbs, if taken alone, would kill. The seven mixed in wrong proportions delivered madness.” Talk about living on the edge when taking this oblong disc!

I feel sorry for Kalyth—she really has no real prospects of a good life, does she? Very likely to be killed, the last of her people; it’s no wonder she thinks this: “And might there not be another kind of salvation she was seeking here? The invitation into madness, into death itself? Possibly.”

I love the idea that the K’ell Hunters are sort of ‘activated’ in order to begin hunting and battle—the scales lifting, the innermost eyelids adjusting so that they can recognise heat signatures. It’s pretty damn cool—and makes them seem even more alien and dangerous.

Now this is intriguing, and definitely shows something to come: “Does he know of my growth? I think not. Only you know the truth, Sag’Churok. To all others I reveal nothing. They believe me still little more than a drone, a promise, a possibility. I am close, first love, so very close.” Close to what? If she is a daughter of the Matron, could she be turning into a Matron? Or a K’ell Hunter? Not entirely sure.

Every now and again I am forcibly reminded of how lovely Erikson’s prose can be: “Inside, outside, familiar, strange, that which is possessed, that which is covered, all that is within grasp and all that is forever beyond reach.” It’s just so elegant at times. It makes the reader work. I sincerely hope that the Malazan books will become true classics of the genre.

Okie doke—this old man: Heboric Ghosthands? The jade statue, the hands he is moulding into weapons, the thick tattoos of swirling fur? All seem to point that way, but I would be happy to be guided here. In fact, the whole scene left me bemused and wondering what he was talking about. Again, we have reference to a ‘she’: “Do not be deceived. She will be freed. She must. It is necessary.” What she? [Bill: ask and you shall receive]

Another wicked scene demonstrating the awesome killing ability of the K’Chain Che’Malle—this Assassin kills sixteen men like they’re nothing. Does it seem rather petty that he kills them and doesn’t allow the unblooded K’ell Hunters their opportunity, leaving them all fired up and nowhere to go?

Stavi and Storii give me the creeps, which is a little odd considering how much I adore at least one half of their parentage. Hetan I can’t remember much about prior to now. In fact, I can’t bloody remember how she ends up having Kruppe’s kids! Damn, I need a refresher on all these characters. I know we saw the Barghast when we followed Redmask’s story, but it seems a whole long time ago.

This sort of thing makes me wonder about Stavi and Storii: “Oh, they could be lovable enough, when it suited them, and, in sly gift from their true father, both possessed a natural talent for conveying innocence, so pure and so absolute it verged on the autistic, guaranteed to produce nausea in their mother, and other mothers besides.” Why does it produce nausea? And was anyone else completely jarred out of their reading by the presence of the word ‘autistic’? [Bill: yes]

Poor Tool—he seems singularly unsuited to leading the Barghast, especially in the aftermath of the death of Toc the Younger and the loss of his sister Kilava.

This is pretty sinister, and implies that any will do: “We are White Face Barghast! Find us an enemy!”

It’s interesting to see the same point a few times in this chapter—the tribal people gradually vanishing. Here we have it talked about in connection to the Awl being subsumed into the Barghast: “Undisputed ruler of a vast tribe of a few score children, some of whom had already forgotten their own language, and now spoke the barbaric foreign tongue of the Barghast…”

Here again a very pointed look at people: “Invaders did not stay invaders for ever. Eventually, they became no different from every other tribe or people in a land. Languages muddied, blended, surrendered. Habits were exchanged like currency, and before too long everyone saw the world the same way as everyone else.”

I don’t know, I find it sort of comforting that the K’Chain Che’Malle Assassin did not see the use of killing the dogs that have now approached Torrent. Sure, he is an immense killing machine, but his alien nature means that he doesn’t understand human beings or understand the threat of everything they could produce. Sort of like the aliens in War of the Worlds, who had no concept of bacteria.

Wow, isn’t Torrent just a wee bit depressing: “Yes, he was the leader of the Awl, the last there would ever be and it was his task to oversee the peaceful obliteration of his culture.”

How terrifying must it be to see that scene of devastation—the sixteen Barghast warriors destroyed—and start to realise the picture presented. That the devastation was caused by just one creature.

I’m embarrassed. I can’t honestly remember Setoc either. [Bill: Here for you, and our other first-timers] But this is what I note from her section: “She would warn him to look to the skies, for from the skies death was coming.”

And then this as well: “Are you saying that these spears of green fire are the javelins of a hunter, and that we are the antelope?” This is interesting—it implies that the jade statues falling through the sky have been sent by someone or something.

The snake is a dark thing to read about—and those locusts at the end are just horrible. Man-eating locusts. Not fun.


Bill’s Reaction

I like this description of the Elan vision quest, the “riding the Spotted Horse.” We’ve seen this need, this near-obsession, perhaps this defining mark of humanity/intelligence, to pierce that veil between worlds, to alter the mind, transcend this world. I both like the way Erikson presents it so frequently to show it as one of the defining attributes, and also how we get so many variations on a theme and all presented so concretely.

Speaking of variations on a theme, a few examples of more imagery of change/decay in this scene and chapter:

  • The extinction of the Elan
  • A sun “withered”
  • “the ashes” of her people
  • motivations “rotted through and through”
  • a “sickle of fire”
  • Heboric’s discussion of the ultimate fate of all people’s: “Everyone one of them is or is about to be extinct…”
  • The wearing away of the Barghast, the Awl, the Elan

I so enjoy finally getting the POV of K’Chain Che’Malle in this book. How often have we had our presumptions overturned by new POVs in this series? Will this happen here? Even if it does not, or does not fully, it is I’d say near impossible not to feel at least some connection to someone/something when one is within its POV. Authors count on this. And so even if the K’Chain Che’Malle, or these K’Chain Che’Malle don’t pull a Jaghut, even if they prove to be fiends, seeing through their eyes will automatically break through their sense of entire alien-ness that we’ve seen to this point for the most part. Allowing us their POV, letting us stand the Radley [K’Chain Che’Malle] porch gives us, in some meta-fashion, that empathy that is such a central theme of the series.

So here I like the parallels with our human characters: we’ve certainly seen flawed leaders, we’ve seen people following knowing they are following toward disaster, we’ve seen “a dull, persistent anguish.” And we’ll see several parallels with extinction and the last of one’s kind—the Matron fearing extinction for her people, Kalyth as the last of the Elan, Torrent as the last of the Awl.

The start of Kalyth’s vision is an image/theme we have seen before—this idea of buried time and memory—how the landscape holds what has been in different form: “A plain that had been the bottom of a lake…” A reminder of deep time.

A few questions re: Heboric’s lines in the vision:

  • So what weapon is Heboric preparing to wield? How/where was it hidden? How could a weapon have been “killed”? File.
  • Against whom or what is he planning on wielding it? For whom or what?
  • Is this the weapon: “It never appears dead, spiked so cruelly and no, you will see no motion, not a twitch. Even the blood does not drip. Do not be deceived. She will be freed. She must. It is necessary.” Here is a reminder from House of Chains:

They fall down a sandslide into the pit, Lostara ending up next to an edge. Pearl cast a magical light and they see “An X-shaped cross, tilting over them, as tall as a four-story building. The glint of enormous, pitted spikes. And nailed to the cruciform — a dragon. Wings spread, pinned wide. Hind limbs impaled. Chains wrapped about its neck, holding its massive wedge-shaped head up as if staring skyward to a seas of stars marked here and there with swirls of glowing mist.” Pearl points out it is enclosed in a “pocket warren, a realm unto itself.” Lostara says it could also be sealing an entranceway and Pearl thinks she may be right. He tells her the dragon is aspected: “Otataral. Her aspect is otataral, woman. This is an otataral dragon.” Pearl tells her it’s still alive and “this thing devours magic. Consumes warrens.” When Lostara objects, saying all the old stories say dragons are the “essence of sorcery,” he responds: “Nature always seeks a balance. Forces strive for symmetry. This dragon answers every other dragon that ever existed, or ever will.” He points out dragon tracks, at least six, and says that solves the question about who could chain/crucify a dragon. They step through the gate “into a realm of gold fire,” that was, “for the moment, survivable” though it sears their lungs. In front of them is a pillar shaped like a pyramid, carved with the names of those who chained the Otataral Dragon.

  • So will she be freed? And if so, why? What is the intended effect? What might be the unintended effect? File.
  • What sort of “clean cut” is being envisioned?
  • The finger is pointing straight toward them—what? (OK, this one seems pretty easy) File.
  • And after Heboric comes this last vision, which Kalyth is unsure of in terms of it being past or future. A battle. A confusion of K’Chain Che’Malle and humans. Shadows overhead. A blinding light. File.
  • Hmm, pretty much just file this whole vision quest. If Kalyth wakes no wiser, perhaps we readers wake a little wiser.

That’s a nice image of Hetan’s twins and how they avoid looking too closely at each other so as to not “ambush [their] own innermost feelings”—the very human fear of examining ourselves too deeply, scared of what we might find there.

It’s also a lovely and very cute domestic scene—the two girls playing innocent, plying their outnumbered and out-manipulated father. Lovely and cute. Hmmmm.

“Long before their coming of age, of course, tribal life among the White Face Barghast would beat that out of them, or at least repress its more vicious impulses, all of which were necessary to a proper life.” Some tough love in the Barghast socializing process, it seems.

In the midst of this domestic musing, this line echoes a bit more broadly in the series: “it was no easy thing to measure evil, or even to be certain that the assignation was appropriate.” Recall our readerly first reactions to those evil Jaghut, for instance. A reaction that Hetan does a nice job of puncturing with her upbraiding of Tool here: “You had a ridiculous war against a foe that had no real desire to fight you. And so instead of facing the injustice you were committing, you went and invoked the Ritual of Tellann.”

Since the Jaghut, we’ve also had the evil Crippled God. The evil K’Chain Che’Malle. Are our “assignations” appropriate?

From the domestic to the political, where it seems trouble is afoot in the Barghast world:

  • Southern clans are losing their way (something btw we have seen before amongst tribal groups—this breaking up and linking up in some way with “strangers.”
  • Outlying clans haven’t sent emissaries, yet mutiny doesn’t appear to be a possible answer as to why.
  • The young warriors are getting restless, “eager to see their swords drink blood,” eager for battle and glory (and note here, the parallel to the two young K’Chain Che’Malle with Sag’Churok, his disdain for their own eagerness for battle)
  • Tool’s leadership is being questioned (by himself as well)
  • There are schisms among the chiefs, among the shamans
  • The newly awakened Barghast gods are eager for an enemy, having been thwarted in their desired war of vengeance against the Tiste Edur

There is such a tone of finality in so many of these early scenes, such an abiding sense of loss as we’re faced one by one with characters who are the last of their kind—Kalyth the last of the Elan, the K’Chain Che’Malle the last of their kind, now Torrent the last of the Awl. And I like how Erikson gives us to them in differing stages. The Elan, it appears, are wholly gone. The Barghast are numerous and yet seem to be disappearing at the edges. The K’Chain Che’Malle are on the brink and trying to forestall extinction and so have a shot. The Awl are about to disappear, still having a few young ones, but these will not be Awl, as they “had forgotten their own language, and now spoke the barbaric foreign tongue of the Barghast, and had taken to painting their bodies… and braiding their hair.” So we see the extinction in process-not one of violence (though that precipitated this), but one of assimilating. A question might arise though and that is, how much are we supposed to mourn these? Or is it as simple as mourning or celebrating, since nothing is life is so simple, so black and white. Maybe there are things to mourn and things to celebrate in this kind of extinction, assimilation. There is a loss of richness, of variety, of different means of viewing the world, of uniqueness (as when later Torrent thinks: “before too long, everyone saw the world the same way.” On the other hand, it is easy to fall prey to the “Noble Savage” way of thinking, prizing overmuch what was lost simply because of that loss, assuming that what came before, what was unique, what predated assimilation was somehow purer, cleaner, nobler. Are there aspects of Awl life, Barghast life, Elan life, etc. that the world is better off without? That they are better off without? Do we/can we sit in judgment or not on these?

Torrent’s line about how once everyone sees the world the same way, then “if that way was wrong, then misery was assured, for virtually everyone, for virtually forever,” seems a nice call back to one of my favorite Shadowthrone lines: “Acceptable levels of misery and suffering… Acceptable? Who the fuck says any level is acceptable?”

Based on what we’ve seen of certainty in this series, one wonders (hopes?) this bodes well for Torrent going forward: “Torrent had cast away his faiths, his certainties, his precious beliefs.”

A little reminder as we move to Setoc here. Here is a quick recap from an earlier chapter reread:

Stayandi (Abasard’s sister) recalls leaving the city for their settlement on the plains, the slaughter by the K’Chain Che’Malle, Abasard’s death, and how she had fled for days/weeks. She is adopted by wolves for a while then wakes alone to find the wolves had run off rather than face a hunter wearing wolf pelts and with a white painted face. He crouches down to her and when he leaves, she follows. And “Redmask tells Toc the wolves came and took the hearts of the Grey Swords”

So clearly we have Setoc associated in this scene with the literal wolves in the area, but also with the god Wolves Togg and Fanderay, and thus with the Beasts and, as she thinks of it, “the wild.” Something to keep in mind as we go forward, because clearly the agenda of people and the wild are seldom aligned. We’ve seen many a reference in this series to the horribly destructive impact of humanity on the wild—the beasts and the land—including not long ago the Snake’s description of Stump Road and the deforestation that took place there. We get a sense of where Setoc’s sympathies lie with her view toward the camp dogs: “[she] felt a rush of sorrowful regret at what such beasts could have been, if their wildness was not so chained, so bound and muzzled.” And then later when she makes clear to Cafal that the laws of the wild are the only laws (not leaving room for human laws) and there is more than a bit of edge and threat in her declaration that “Sometimes peace is death.” Then of course there is her whole “you’re all going to die, die, die!” pronouncement. More precisely along with that, the death is going to come “from the sky”—we’ve got several options here for sky deaths—good old Gu’Rull flying around up there, and the jade spears. Plus, Heboric’s words about freeing the otataral dragon. Then there are other dragons out there, several of which we’ve seen. Lots of dangerous things up there. Are there potentially others?

Nice to see an older, wiser, self-aware Cafal here. Also, this is our second mention of Paran here—where is he and what is he up to?

So the Wolf gods appear to think something big is coming (a “celestial conflagration”) and now Talamandas is warning us of something big coming, something that if the Barghast are to survive they’ll need allies to do so. But not, seemingly, Setoc and the Wolves—what does Talamandas fear so much about her?

I like the play with Setoc and the rhinazan—those “smaller” winged lizards (just a little smaller than Gu’Rull)

So per Setoc’s conversation with Cafal, are the jade spears being “aimed”? Or do the Wolf gods just like the idea of the possible devastation? Because let’s face it, if you’re rooting for “the wild,” then a nice little extinction-level comet collision would be pretty ideal. Of course, if not that, then warfare would also suit you, wouldn’t it? Also knocking off lots of those pesky humans, if on a somewhat smaller scale.

Clearly we might want to keep an eye on this Brayderal. And should we worry about her “too white” face and unusual height? Her resemblance to the “Quitters” who can command folks? And who would kill all the Snake if they learned of it?

This scene is a glossary of horror that one thinks can’t get any worse. Until it does. And that is our lingering close.

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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