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 The Crippled God.
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.
Felash and her handmaiden discuss the fact that the date means Felash has turned fifteen years of age. Felash wonders about going out on deck, but the handmaiden tells her (and reminds us) that the effects of communication with Mael have left the ship in dire straits. Felash insists that it was worth it, because her Mother heard what was passed.
Shurq Elalle discusses with her First Mate Skorgen the fact that the ship is sinking beneath them, and the timing with which they all need to head for the launches. Skorgen is worried about the fact that the two launches are not big enough for all those aboard. As Shurq Elalle tells him to get their highborn guests ready to leave, Felash arrives on deck. On being told that the ship is sinking and they need to depart, she summons aid in preventing the sinking. Shurq Elalle worries that she has asked Mael again, but, in fact, Felash is using Omtose Phellack—sealing the boat with ice. Shurq Elalle demands that they meet in her cabin to discuss exactly what the bargain just struck is all about.
Kalyth, Gesler and Stormy are riding Ve’Gath’s as they head east. Kalyth tells the other two about her people—how they killed beasts and were one with the land, until the Adjudicators came out of the east, speaking of justice. They judged the Elan and found them wanting, proclaimed that their reign of abuse should end, and destroyed them all. Kalyth then tells what she knows about the Adjudicators—all of it secondhand knowledge. The fact that they settled originally around the Spire, apparently where a star fell from the sky long ago, that they are not human, and that with voice alone they can make armies kneel.
Gu’Rull flies high, observing the armies beneath him as instructed by Gesler, even though he has little interest in them. Rather his interest lies with Sinn and Grub and the power that emanates from them. He thinks that they need to die. Soon.
Grub and Sinn discuss the fact that Kalyth talks of Forkrul Assail, and they are familiar with this because of the connection they have somehow made with Badalle. Grub reveals that not all of the Bonehunters are dead, that he can reach with his mind. Sinn is aware that Gu’Rull wants to kill them, and knows it is because of their power. She said that she could turn on him, but Grub says he would stop her. They mention that Gesler is planning to join the K’Chain Che’Malle to the Bonehunters so that they can face the Forkrul Assail.
Gesler calls a halt for food and he and Stormy talk about the fact that they’ll be facing Forkrul Assail. Gesler believes that the battle against the Nah’ruk would have actually been a strategic withdrawal. Then they bicker. A lot.
The Snake have settled in the city of Icarius, but Badalle wants to move on. She knows that someone is seeking them, coming from the west, and believes that Icarius is killing them.
Kisswhere and Spax talk over a drink about the differences between men and women, and their desire to possess. Mostly it’s flirting. Spax is then summoned by the queen.
Kisswhere sits alone and thinks about the Bonehunters, the fact that they now know there have been some survivors. She doesn’t want to go back to them and face them.
Spax meets with Queen Abrastal. She tells him she wants him at the parley with the Adjunct. Spax confesses that he is scared of the Malazans, that he does not want to face them because they have known the crucible.
Tanakalian and Krughava prepare to join the same parley with the Bonehunters.
Aranict stands looking at the Malazan encampment, thinking about how they would be coping with the gaps in their company. She believes the Letherii comported themselves with honour, allowing the Malazans to withdraw, although she thinks that it was actually a rout. Brys approaches her, because he awoke and felt her absence. They talk about the love that has grown between them. Then Aranict reminds Brys that she is also his Atri-Ceda, and that she can sense something around them, something hidden, that was present with the Bonehunters during the battle. She fears it.
Hanavat is in her tent, being tended by Shelemasa. Both of them are haunted by the charge of the Khundryl Burned Tears, and its after-effects amongst those who survived. Hanavat tells Shelemasa that the memories will fade, and Shelemasa asks if this is the same for Gall. But Hanavat says that it is not, that they have lost him, that he now intends to waste away. Hanavat is bitter and full of sorrow because of that moment she and Gall shared before the charge.
Jastara, the widow of Gall’s son, tries to encourage him into laying with her, and then berates him for his inability to recover from the charge that destroyed the spirit of the Khundryl Burned Tears. He intends to give his people over to the Adjunct and then pass away.
Just a small comment on the Felash section—I really appreciate Erikson’s skills as a writer to remind us about how we left characters, without having to infodump what happened before. There was just enough here to remind someone who hadn’t read the previous book for a while exactly what situation Felash is in, and why she got in that state.
Felash is a very interesting character. So far she has struck a bargain with Mael, and now accesses Omtose Phellack (“The Throne of Ice, do you see? It is awake once more—” What has caused this reawakening of Omtose Phellack? The general convergence of many powers?) She is clearly way more than just the fourteenth daughter and a spy to the Letherii court!
This information given by Kalyth about the Forkrul Assail is very interesting, especially this business about the Spire. A star falling from the sky? Would this be related to the Crippled God coming to rest? This is the heart that they are now using to draw power from? Or is it linked to these jade statues that are constantly being mentioned?
Kalyth doesn’t like the two children, Sinn and Grub—perhaps because they are now using Icarium’s new warrens and are therefore feeling different. Turns out Gu’Rull is of the same mind, that he can see the power emanating from them and the “joy in their eyes at the devastation they can unleash.”
That is something that I can sort of understand. Imagine your usual young child and the chaos they can cause just being them. Now imagine them granted formidable power—far greater than anything else Gu’Rull can sense in the surrounding area. That is scary. Power without any sense of responsibility. Indeed, that quote about the joy in their eyes about the devastation they can cause does capture the fact that Sinn and Grub probably have too much power now. Even more frightening, perhaps, is the fact that Sinn thinks she is able to just turn on them—and who would stop her? Hurrah for Grub, keeping her in check, quite frankly. I dread the idea of Sinn being unleashed on her own.
Also, interested that Gu’Rull thinks this about them as well: “The power was sickly, a swathe of something vile.” Is this just Gu’Rull’s prejudice? Or is it the fact that Sinn and Grub are tapping into warrens produced from Icarium who isn’t exactly the most balanced individual in the world?
Love this scene with Gesler and Stormy—it just shows that, despite their new roles, they are still the same people they have always been, and they still have a fierce allegiance to Tavore and the Bonehunters. Hearing Gesler’s reasoning about how the Adjunct actually treated the battle against the Nah’ruk—“She didn’t want that fight. So they ran into her. She would’ve done what she needed to do to pull her soldiers out of it. It was probably messy, but it wasn’t a complete annihilation”—actually makes me feel calmer about the chances of the Bonehunters to survive, that we will still see many of them. This build up, though, is making me dread finding out who hasn’t made it…
The image of those poor children settling in Icarius is haunting—pretend-fathers and pretend-mothers, and youngsters who want to rediscover their youth and playfulness, but are too scared to.
With Kisswhere we feel the dread in facing the Bonehunters verbalised perfectly—what she feels here is exactly what I, as the reader, am feeling:
“Of course I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to know. […] I don’t want to see their faces, those pathetic survivors. Not the shock, not the horror, not all those things you see in the faces of people who don’t know why they’re still alive, when so many of their comrades are dead.”
Unlike Kisswhere, I do have curiosity about who has made it out alive.
This little section with Krughava and Tanakalian helps illuminate some things, including the fact that Tavore was concussed in the battle, but now recovers.
The Bonehunters have moved on so far from that band that we first met, the army who hadn’t been tested. Here now:
“They said—with something burning fierce in their eyes—that the Bonehunters awakened that day, and its heart was there, before the Adjunct’s senseless body. Already a legend is taking birth…”
When Brys and Aranict talk of their love, I don’t know whether it is a good or a bad thing. It seems to imply that their love isn’t equal, that Brys feels more for Aranict than she does for him? I don’t know if I am reading it wrong. It just doesn’t seem quite healthy—more like obsession: “I feel swollen, as if I have swallowed you alive, Brys. I walk with the weight of you inside me, and I have never before felt anything like this.” I could be reading it very wrong!
Also, after the hope of hearing Gesler’s interpretation of the Bonehunters’ and their survival, we have now been crushed first by Kisswhere’s perspective and now by Aranict:
“They had distracted the enemy. They had with blood and pain successfully effected the Malazan withdrawal—no, let’s call it what it was, a rout. Once the signals sounded, the impossible iron wall became a thing of reeds, torn loose and whipped back on the savage wind.”
That doesn’t sound like many survived. This chapter really has been a masterclass in letting us see all the different perspectives about the Bonehunters before we actually face them and learn of the fates of our favourites.
And what is this presence that Aranict sensed during the battle and that is around them now. There are so many possible contenders, to be honest. But it does seem as though Tavore is now witnessed and that she has come to the attention of many.
I think this scene with Hanavat and Shelemasa is one of the most painful of this chapter—especially where Hanavat confesses that she and Gall had found each other, that they had been awakened again to their love for one another. And now she has lost him. More heartbreaking, that, than if they had never found each other again, I guess.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.