Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: The Crippled God, Chapter Nine

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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 nine 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.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE
Toc finds a woman’s corpse, a corpse missing feet (a big clue but I’m trying not to name what isn’t named here, at least early in this discussion). The spirit of the corpse is gone and Toc wonders how he might find it. He has a vision of an old woman sitting in a chair, while outside a wolf is being hunted. The horns of the hunt sound victory, and the old woman plucks out one of her eyes and tosses it in the fire, telling Toc to “Loose the wolf within you… and one day you shall find her.” He asks who she is, and she tells him to smell the “wax in the fire.” When he asks where they are, she tells him “Love lives here. The Hold you have forgotten, the Hold you all yearn to find again.” He opens his eye to find himself back with the corpse, which he puts on his horse, then he opens his wolf eye.

SCENE TWO
A female rides her horse after having exited a warren. A storm comes as she pushes on, “regrets like hounds at her heels.” The storm worsens, the road shakes to “thunderous reverberations, like the hoof’s of a god descending.” Beside rides a man on a “huge, gaunt horse black as the sky overhead.” She recognizes him and also recognizes him as the cause of the storm. He tells her it might end when the gate closes. He says it was good to see her again, and she asks, “Does he even know you’re here?” She wonders where he had been and thinks, “The man had ever infuriated her. And now here he was, at her side, reminding her of all the reasons she’d had the first time around for doing… what she did.” She wonders at the things she does “for love.”

SCENE THREE
Olar Ethil tells her group they have to go north and as the two lizards follow her, Torrent wonders where they’ve been the past few days. Torrent recalls the last time he’d been tasked with taking care of children—how he’d seen Toc die—and thinks children shouldn’t ever see what they see. He muses on the inevitability of a child realizing their parents are not gods, are “as flawed and as lost” as the child, and when Storii looks up at him, he is torn by what he sees, thinking: “No, I am not your unflawed protector… Do not look at me like that.”

SCENE FOUR
Olar Ethil reaches her power out. She tells Tool: “You refuse to understand what I seek for you… and all your kin… those who follow you shall find salvation.” She warns him against heeding the call of the First Throne, the “child of the Emperor”, saying her power over him is mere illusion. That what really urges him to follow her is “the stain of Logros” who knelt to the Emperor. But, she says, the Emperor is dead. She warns him his current path will lead him and those who follow him to utter destruction. She threatens him with his son, the death of his daughters, but Toc interrupts and warns her she’d better not harm any of Tool’s children. She mocks his threats and moves forward, but is blocked by Whiskeyjack and a few other soldiers from Death. She’s stunned by their power, and when she says, “You dare challenge me?” and Whiskeyjack pulls his sword, she flees.

SCENE FIVE
Olar Ethil takes out her anger on Torrent.

SCENE SIX
Tool has “unleashed the full power of Tellann,” such that he barely heard Olar Ethil. He remembers the meeting with Logros, after he and the T’lan Imass had killed the last Jaghut of the Odhan and how they were about to return to the Empire, to the Emperor and to Dassem Ultor, “his [Tool’s] mortal shadow, who had taken for himself… the title of First Sword. Prophetic inspiration, for they would soon all be dead—as dead as Onos Toolan, as dead as the T’lan Imass. Or if not dead, destroyed.” He is shocked when Logros severs Tool from the title of First Sword, saying the T’lan Imass instead will avow service to Dassem Ultor. Tool tells Logros Dassem is only a mortal, he doesn’t know what taking the title means, but Logros says the T’lan Imass, by serving Dassem, will “sanctify him,” make him a god, a concept Tool considers the same as damning Dassem forever. Tool thinks Hood will strike at the T’lan Imass through Dassem, “for our crime, for our defiance.” He warns Logros they will make Dassem “a god of sorrow, and failure, a god with a face doomed to weep, to twist in anguish.” Logros merely casts Tool out. Tool thinks how wrong Lorn had been to blame Kellanved’s death for the breaking of the alliance with the Logros Imass; it had been Dassem’s death—though “neither man truly died, but only one bore the deadly kiss of Hood in all the days that followed. Only one stood before Hood himself and learned of the terrible thing Logros had done to him.” He thinks too how everyone had it wrong in thinking Hood had betrayed Dassem: “They understood nothing. Dassem and his daughter, they were Hood’s knives, striking at us.” Tool calls out to Logros, telling him Dassem has rejected his role, “his footfalls now mark the passing of tragedy. You have made him the God of Tears,” and he warns Logros now that Hood is dead, Dassem will hunt down the next one who made him what he was—Logros.

Tool calls himself the “weapon of the godless” and call Logros a fool for thinking the T’lan Imass would be safe from their new god: “Ask Kron. Ask Silverfox… Olar Ethils seeks to wrest me away from Dassem’s curse—but she cannot. You gave him mastery over us… We march to our annihilation. The First Sword is torn in two, one half mortal and cruel in denial, the other half immortal and crueler still.” He says Logros should be happy Dassem and Tool are not together. He warns, “The weapon of the godless needs no hand to weild it . . It is without fear… empty of guilt and disdainful of retribution… It will not cloak brutality in the zeal that justifies, that absolves. And that is why it is the most horrifying weapon of all.”

SCENE SEVEN
Ulag Togtil feels Tool’s thought sweep across the T’lan Imass who follow him. He thinks he and the others also felt Olar Ethil and also reject her: “Our time is over… The blood you demand from this world is too terrible, and to spill it in our name is to give final proof to this theme of tragedy, the dread curse born of the mortal named Dassem Ultor.” He tells Logros he’d tear his head off and bury it if he could.

SCENE EIGHT
Rystalle Ev asks Ulag if they are yet again to be a weapon, “Is peace nothing but a lie”? She wonders if destroying the T’lan Imass is the “only legacy we can offer to all who follow… tokens of useless defiance” since “kinds will still stride the earth, the slaves will still bow in chains… “ Ulag tells her to find a memory of joy or love, and when the time comes, “when you fall inside yourself, and fall and fall, find your moment, your dream of peace.” She tells him she remembers only grief and he says she has to do it. He turns from her when she says the only peace she dreams of is Tool destroying them all, and she thinks, “We are the T’lan Imass. We are the glory of immortality. When oblivion comes, I shall kiss it. And in my mind, I shall ride into the void on a river of tears.”

SCENE NINE
Gruntle enters a cave filled with human, ape, and Eres’al bones, “proof of a time when the world’s future tyrants were nothing but victims” of the big cats. He thinks how all the worlds/warrens are filled with “perfect banality.” He knows he holds on to his own humanity, refusing “the sweet bliss of the tiger’s world.” He says it’s no wonder Trake forgot everything, “no wonder you weren’t ready for godhood. In the jungles of ancient days, the tigers were gods. Until the new gods arrived. And they were far thirstier.” Tonight, he knows, he’ll dream of hunting, and he thinks, “black fur, the taste of blood in my mouth.”

SCENE TEN
Mappo flashes back to finding Icarium outside a dead city (one Icarium himself had destroyed), picking up shards of broken pots and trying to put them back together. Mappo tells Icarium only yesterday he’d spoken of wanting to travel northeast to meet with the Tanno, who have records back to the First Empire. Icarium looks forward to it, though he is dismayed over the broken pots. He asks Mappo if it’s true that the city behind him is filled with thousands of dead and Mappo says yes. Icarium wonders at how that happened, and asks if everything must “break in the end.” Mappo says no, their friendship will not.

SCENE ELEVEN
Mappo thinks of what he told Icarium as “the biggest lie of all” out of so many lies he told over the years, his job being to “feed him only the memories I judged useful, to starve all the others until they vanished.” He wonders what he will find Icarium doing now.

SCENE TWELVE
Faint tells the others a large army had split its forces, a smaller group heading east and the other, larger one heading southeast. She says they’ll have to follow one because right now they’re starving and dying of thirst. Precious Thimble tells her east is something “terrible that way” while southeast tastes of blood. She adds the army going east is all going to dye—-she sees no water for them, sees lots of bones, “mean and women driven mad… children—oh gods—they come walking up like nightmares, like proof of all the crimes we have ever committed.” Faint says they’ll go southeast then. She wonders what the armies are doing, thinking, “Wherever you’re going, it can’t be worth it. Nothing in this world is worth it.

SCENE THIRTEEN
Setoc rides the wild wolves in a frenzy toward cliffs that maybe contain the Beast Hold. She thinks “I am the Destriant of the Wolves. I hold in my chest the souls of all the slain beasts, of this and every other world. But I cannot hold them forever. I need a sword. I need absolution… Ten thousand iron swords. In the name of the Wolves of Winter, in the name of the Wild.”

SCENE FOURTEEN
Sister Equity walks in the far south. She recalls how she once “dreamed of peace… lived in a world where questions were rare.” A world where nothing made her uneasy or gave her pain. The Forkrul Assail had lost their god violently—murdered—and she had hoped perhaps a new god could be made: Harmony. A god that would not demand death, not require killing to feed; there would be no tragedy, no untimely deaths, and the world would be filled with life. She knows now it was a childish dream, impossible when faced with the truth of the world, where “adults took weapons in hand and killed each other over them,” an adult world where “there was no place—no place at all—for peace.” She remembers seeing the humans fighting “for status, for dignity,” trying to keep them and/or take them from other humans, and she believes the Forkrul Assail were right in ending it all: “in the making of peace there must be judgment and retribution. The people of Kolanse and the kingdoms to the south must all be returned to their childlike state, and then built anew.” While she does think it too bad thousands had to die, when placed against the deaths of more, of even everyone, it was the right call. She would have been happy with that—a new balance, maybe a new god, a faith of Peace spread by the FA. But the Heart of the Crippled God changed things: “Our god was slain, but we had already found a path to vengeance—the Nah-ruk… So much was already within our reach. But for the Heart, so poisoning their [the Elders’] souls… A new solution burned bright, so bright it blinded them to all else. The Gate, wrested away from the K’Chain Che’Malle… Akhrast Korvalain, returned once more to the Forkrul Assail, and from that gate… we could resurrect our god. We could be made children once again.” The FA would wipe humanity, “the one force eternally intent on destroying [the] balance.” She has tried to tell herself it will work, they’ll have “the peace of a silent world” at the cost of a “little blood.” But she has looked into Sister Reverence’s eyes and seen “how the hunger of our allies has infected” her: The Tiste Liosan, Elein, the Wolves are allies, but “all they desire is chaos, anarchy, destruction, the end of the Age of Gods and the Age of humans… they thirst for… . oceans of blood.” Equity, working with Calm, plans to work against Reverence and the others, using Calm’s weapon [Icarium] to end their “insane ambitions.” Not because they cared for what happened to humanity, “she cared nothing”, but because of “principle. Balance has an eternal enemy, and its name is ambition”; they plan to remind Reverence of that.

Reverence comes upon Shurq’s group, whom she’d been looking for. She kills several easily after they attack her immediately upon sighting her, then fights Felash’s handmaid. She also uses her Voice to command. Eventually they actually talk, and Equity tells Shurq and Felash that they don’t really understand the complexities of what is going on with the Forkrul Assail. Nor does she understand why the Jaghut would value such weak players, which leads her to ask if the handmaid, who might have a “glamour” on her, is a Jaghut. When Felash says no, Equity demands their ally step forward. Felash replies she made no bargain with any particular Jaghut, an answer that stuns Equity with its seeming ignorance. The handmaid describes the warren she found the ship in, and Equity tells them that wasn’t Omtose Phellack. After saying her group will help them take the Spire, she tells Felash to open the gate again so their mysterious patron will be revealed. Felash does so, and Hood appears, shocking Equity. Equity tries to mindspeak Calm, telling her: “An ally stands before me—an ally of ancient—so ancient—power! This one could have been an Elder God!.” She speaks to Hood and wonders aloud at how the Jaghut, “made you their king… Those who followed no one chose to follow you. They who refused every war fought your war. And what you did then… “ She is rudely interrupted when Hood eats her face. Equity’s last thoughts were of her childhood dream of peace.

SCENE FIFTEEN
Hood tells the others they don’t need allies. Plus, he’d just learned a lesson “in brevity,” from someone, though he doesn’t answer whom when Shurq asks. Felash throws up.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

This first section with Toc is so quiet and sad, as he looks as this corpse (which must be Hetan, with the stumps for feet—and isn’t that also a sad picture, the idea of her all curled up and looking at what happened to her as she dies?) I hate this line particularly: “No gestures left to remind himself of who he had once been.” Toc has come so far and suffered so much that it really does seem a long road back.

The part with the woman and the whole ‘wax in the fire’ thing perplexed me. I don’t have any idea who she might be. But this did jump out at me: “Love lives here, Ghost. The Hold you have forgotten, the Hold you all yearn to find again.” What Hold might that be?

Hmm, this woman on the horse—could it be the one that Cotillion and Shadowthrone referred to? The one that Cotillion had pointed towards a particular mission? The fact that she talks about the Whirlwind makes me think that I will know her, but I can’t put together the hints right now.

Now this part of Torrent’s thoughts—where he thinks about when parents fall from their pedestals for children—is very poignant. I’ve been through it myself, and there is a real sense of loss.

“Did there not come to every child that moment when the mother, the father, loses that god-like status, that supreme competence in all things, when they are revealed to be as weak, as flawed and as lost as the child looking on?”

I feel so strongly for Torrent actually—all he can remember is the time he has failed, but, in his actions here with the children of Tool, he shows that his spirit is still unbroken. Even with his treatment by many of the characters around him—like Redmask and Olar Ethil.

I think one of the most scary things in the world is a person who acts in a horrific manner because they believe they are doing something that is needful. Olar Ethil, with her thoughts that Tool needs to bring her the T’lan Imass not vowed to Silverfox in order for them to achieve salvation, is willing to threaten children to bring it about. Not cool. Her approach is rather bull in a china shop.

I love how Toc thwarts her and then, especially, seeing the Bridgeburners and Whiskeyjack force the Bonecaster away from Tool. For me, that suggests that what Olar Ethil is doing has no good in it, because otherwise Whiskeyjack would not feel moved to challenge it.

Uhhhh, what? That whole memory of Logros blew my mind a little! So everything we have believed about Dassem Ultor and his daughter, and the way that they related to Hood was actually wrong! Instead Dassem was forced into the position of First Sword and that meant torturing a mortal man with something that only a T’lan Imass can handle. And this as well led to the creation of Dassembrae, a god of tragedy and sorrow. And means that Dassem Ultor walks the earth now, seeking vengeance from Logros, since he has taken down Hood. I think that’s what it all means. It did make me pause and read a couple of times, because it has completely overturned something that we felt was true for the rest of the series gone so far.

And it seems that even with all this, the world might be better served with Dassem still as First Sword: “We march to our annihilation. The First Sword is torn in two, one half mortal and cruel in denial, the other half immortal and crueller still.”

It is so worrying that nothing at all can reach Tool—not the power of Olar Ethil, but also not the thoughts and concerns of his followers. I wonder what will be able to reach Tool, what will turn him from this path.

Talk about circle of life reflected in written form: “This was proof of a time when the world’s future tyrants were nothing but victims.”

Oh wow… That was something I hadn’t considered about Trake. We’ve seen that the wolves were hunted, but here we also have Gruntle thinking about the jungles now being empty of tigers. Is this why Trake doesn’t really seem to have a direction right now?

“No wonder you forgot everything, Trake. No wonder you weren’t ready for godhood. In the jungles of ancient days, the tigers were gods. Until the new gods arrived. And they were far thirstier for blood than the tigers ever were, and now the jungle is silent.”

Oh. The whole section where Mappo thinks to when he met Icarium tears at my heart. “It is such a loss, when precious things break, isn’t it?” That could easily be the phrase that sums up both Icarium’s life and the friendship between these two. Indeed, “a friendship that could never break.”

And oh again. Mappo still carries those pot shards, the shards that Icarium had forgotten the same day. My heart really does break for these two.

The foreboding! “East. That army—they’re all going to die.” I still can’t help feel some sort of hope that the Bonehunters will survive what is coming, but everything that is being said and done makes me wonder. Are they all going to die? All of them? “Wherever you’re going, it can’t be worth it. Nothing in this world is worth it.”

Well, Sister Equity doesn’t sound anything at all like the other Forkrul Assail we’ve seen, with her memory of the terrible grief her race suffered when their god died, and her childish hope that a new god could be made. And her picture of how the future would be with that god called Harmony. It’s all almost sweet, and able shows that not every member of a race feels exactly the same about everything.

Having said that, she does still believe that in the making of peace there must be judgment and retribution. And it was all going so well…

Wait, what? The Forkrul Assail are in alliance with the Tiste Liosan, the Eleint, and the Lord and Lady of the Beast Hold? And, with that last, it makes me wonder how Setoc and the Perish fit into that. If the Lord and Lady—Togg and Fandaray—are in alliance with these folk, will they drag their Mortal Sword, Shield Anvil and Destriant along with them?

Wow, Felash’s handmaiden presents mystery after mystery with her fantastic ability. Even with a Forkrul Assail using her Voice to stop her from attacking, she is still attempting to get up and join the fight. That is some will and power.

Can Forkrul Assail heal themselves? That isn’t exactly going to make fighting them very easy…

That last scene! That appearance of Hood; Equity’s assessment of his power. I cannot express how horrifying and gratifying and unexpected it was to see Hood’s reaction to Equity. I mean, sure, Forkrul Assail. But then Equity did seem to be one of the better ones, and was seeking to find alliance against her Elders who were seeking to destroy everything. Hood’s… eating of her seems rather precipitous.

 

Bill’s Reaction

I haven’t seen Amanda’s response at this point, and because there are a few unnamed characters in this chapter, I’m going to err on the side of not revealing too much in case she hasn’t written it yet so as to allow her some space to figure things out and to enjoy that sensation without me just naming folks (some have some pretty big hints, others are a bit more subtle). And to allow the same pleasure for her fellow first-timers. Once I see her post, I’ll comment in more detail once I have, as I assume the rest of you will as well…

So much of this novel has shown us characters who agonize over what they have become, or mourn the loss of the person they were. Here we see Toc go through this, something we’ve seen before from him: “[There were] no gestures left to remind himself of who he had once been.” Besides the big plot questions—how will they stop the Forkrul Assail, what will happen with the heart of the Crippled God, etc.—we as readers are also left to wonder how many, if any, of these characters will find their way back to who they were, or find some sense of redemption, or peace.

The corpse is unnamed but its condition—“the stumps of her feet” are a good hint. In fact, it seems to me such a huge hint, almost a naming in and of itself, that I admit I wonder at the lack of a name, which does draw attention to itself. Is it to keep the reader on his/her toes? Just habitual obfuscation? Or does it say something perhaps about the state of these two?

Another mysterious personage in his vision—the old woman. “Wax in the fire” seems to be a clue. I’ll confess to not knowing who this is though.

Another unnamed character, this one with the ability to travel the warrens. Someone haunted by past actions and past regrets. Someone near a sea. Someone who had been in Seven Cities during the Whirlwind. Someone doing something for love. Someone who recognizes the other rider who appears, on a “gaunt” black horse. Another rider who knows her, who says it’s good to see her again, who grins a lot, who makes her ask if another unnamed person “know he’s here. Again, I think there are clues here, than can narrow options as to who these people are (one I think easier than the other). Is there a reason for the ambiguity? How do people—those who know and those who don’t—feel about this ambiguity?

Amidst all the talk of how humanity treats other creatures, the small details, seemingly throwaway, re Toc’s treatment of his horse take on more significance

I like how his not so insightful views on how children inevitably learn their parents aren’t infallible gods (wait, my son will sometimes stop seeing me that way?!) takes on a bit more meaning in universe where we actually see the gods people look to.

Lots of folks with plans we don’t know much about. What is Olar Ethil planning? What does she mean by “salvation” for the T’lan Imass? Is that necessarily a good thing? And at what cost? We used to think ill of Jaghut, of the Crippled God; might we find out Olar Ethil is trying to do some good here? Earlier changes rippled outward from prior books, making us question what we think about everything, everyone. Even if so, can one countenance using Tool’s children (or any children) as a weapon, as a, um, tool?

Don’t you love that moment of realizing it is Toc coming to this stern defense? And who might Olar Ethil also need to be wary of? What wings in the darkness? What eyes in the morning frost? What scents? What ice? I think we could name some.

And then don’t you love Olar Ethil getting taken down by Whiskeyjack?

Olar Ethil sees Tavore as the “child of the Emperor,” one who may “even stand in the shadow of secrets.” Is this implying Tavore is in contact with Shadowthrone?

OK, speaking of having things we thought we knew overturned or complicated, what the heck with the whole Logros—Dassem deal, right? (btw, it’s interesting that Olar Ethil makes the same mistake Lorn did—thinking Kellanved’s death was the big deal with regard to the ties between the T’lan Imass and the Empire). I’d love to give my deep insight as a rereader here and lay out exactly how all this happened and why and what it all means, but unfortunately I’m in fail mode on that. So what we seem to have here is:

  • Tool is First Sword (best fighter I think that means)
  • Logros decides Dassem is Tool’s heir and thus Tool will lose that title (why I’m not clear. Is it that Dassem is “better” or is it that transferring the title to Tool will gain the T’lan Imass something?)
  • The T’lan Imass will serve Dassem as their First Sword and this in turn will make him a god
  • Tool finds this godhood a horrific concept, one that will damn Dassem forever, make him a god of sorrow and tragedy. Is this because he will be a god of battle, a warrior’s god—and this is inevitably tragic and sorrowful? Is it because he will be linked the eternal grief of what the T’lan Imass have done themselves in the name of a war that has turned out not to be the clean war of liberation we might have first thought? Or is it due to some other reason?
  • What had broken the alliance of the Logros T’lan Imass and the Malazan Empire was not the “death” of the Emperor but the “death” of Dassem
  • Tool thinks Dassem was not betrayed by Hood (via his daughter and one of the Chainings if you recall), but Hood used both Dassem and the daughter as weapons against the T’lan Imass. Why? Because via the ritual the T’lan Imass had defied Death? Because Hood is a Jaghut and they were, well, T’lan Imass? For some other reason?
  • Tool says Dassem has “rejected” his role as First Sword, yet he is now the God of Tears—is that different than the curse of being a god of sorrow? Or was he cursed by the sanctification and then kept the impact despite rejecting it? Or did he shove off that part of himself into Dessembrae?
  • Tool thinks Dassem will go for Logros next (does Tool know Dassem that well?)
  • Tool says Dassem still has “mastery” over the Logros—might that come into play still?

Tool’s promise of annihilation is bad enough. But in this series, tying an action to someone “immune to doubt, armoured in pure righteousness” well, that would seem the kiss of death. Three concepts we’ve been told/shown again and again not to trust: certainty, purity, righteousness.

Well, Ulag at least thinks whatever Olar Ethil wants or plans (if he even knows) is not worth the cost.

Is oblivion the best these T’lan Imass can hope for? The best peace?

Sometimes it’s hard to pick out saddest (non-children) plotline in here. Mappo and Icarium have to be in the running, so many layers of tragedy—Icarium’s destructive nature, his memory loss, his innocence (is the “mud” really “mud”?), Mappo’s lies, the depth of their bond. (I’ll admit, the lines on things breaking were a bit too on the nose for me).

If we thought this was going to end prettily, the visions of what happens to the two armies doesn’t really bode well.

Where might Setoc find a bunch of iron swords? And absolution?

This section with Equity has a lot to like.

One is the different look at a Forkrul Assail. We’ve already been shown dissension in their ranks, so that isn’t much of a revelation. But this is a more intimate POV than we’ve gotten before I think and that intimacy complicates readers’ viewpoints. I think a first-person POV does that on its own—lends a kind of intimacy that starts the reader in empathy mode, but this one goes further. For instance, who thought of Forkrul Assail has being children? As having a childhood? We warm to Equity here, almost instinctually.

Here too, we have another example of nodding in agreement with the horrible Forkrul Assail. Who could argue against the idea of a god not dependent upon death? Against a world where killing wasn’t necessary for survival? A world filled with birds and fish and animals? Especially in our current world where those things are fast disappearing before our very eyes. Each of our generations sees fewer and fewer fish, fewer birds, fewer animals, fewer honeybees, fewer frogs and fireflies and salamanders and the list goes on.

Who could argue against a desire for a world at peace?

But then she has to go and ruin it all with the understated, “unfortunate” deaths of “many thousands,” a “selective” culling, and the like. But still, thanks to the POV, thanks to the language (“child”), thanks to the content, we read this in a different light than we would have a few pages earlier. It’s all quite well done.

And then, how different a goal, how different a response, to the desire to “be made children again” (though considering how children fare in this series, that sounds a lot better on paper than in reality).

So we’ve wondered before, and had a few bits and pieces and hints and blunt statements, but now the alliance is directly laid out for us: Forkrul Assail, Tiste Liosan, Eleint, the Wolves.

We’re also bent toward her a bit by her “victimhood” in the way that she starts to announce herself but is attacked before she can say much of anything. ‘Course, we are bent away from her almost immediately by the ease of her lethal violence.

Yep, that handmaid is curiouser and curiouser. So, not a Jaghut (if we can trust Felash, assuming she knows). But perhaps a glamour laid upon her. But clearly not what she seems, as has been made manifestly clear time and time again.

Then of course we have the big reveal, Hood stepping forward, he who has been there in some fashion all along, unbeknownst to Felash. I love Equity’s response to his appearance, talk about building up the character.

Even better though, I love how just as she is soooo impressed by his power, his reputation and his history, and just as the reader is perhaps thinking—finally, we see our guys catch a break, now they’re going to get FA allies and have ringers on the inside and those Pures won’t see them coming and and and—And then wham, Hood eats her. Eats her! (followed by the double entendre of “never liking Forkrul Assail”—their attitudes or their taste one wonders?). Love that suddenness, that shock value.

And I love too that call back to having learned a “lesson in brevity.” Think back and you might recall when Hood had something similar done to him.

But here we are, not quite a third of the way through, and Hood is now out onto the board. That’s a major player added to the foreground.


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 fantasyliterature.com.

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