Malazan Reread of the Fallen

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

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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 eleven 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
On the outskirts of Coral, Spindle works on the Redeemer’s Barrow. The Andii have left, taking Kurald Galain with them but leaving everything else behind. As he looks on the city, all the Great Ravens take sudden flight from it. Recalling all that had happened, Spindle declares to himself that “Only a bastard would say… That the finding of faith could only come from terrible suffering. That wisdom was borne on scars.” He weeps.

SCENE TWO
Banaschar, feeling the pain of no alcohol anymore, comes across soldiers who have discovered one of the many dangerous denizens of the Glass Desert. After the soldiers head off to ensure the camp is clear (after Faradan Sort forbids betting on the creatures), Banaschar looks around and thinks that “Something died here. Someone. The shock had torn through the land… And the power unleashed in that wild death had delivered such a wound upon the Sleeping Goddess.”

SCENE THREE
Blistig makes “personal” arrangements with Pores to set aside some water that his own guards will watch over. Blistig leaves, telling himself “She’s not going to kill me. I ain’t here to die for her, or any other fucking glory. The real ‘unwitnessed’ are the ones who survive… Pores understands. He’s cut from the same cloth as me… You ain’t getting me Tavore. You ain’t.”

SCENE FOUR
Pores sends a note to Kindly to set up a meeting.

SCENE FIVE
Kindly, Lostara, Faradan Sort, and Ruthan Gudd meet with Tavore to discuss concerns—the toll of the desert on the wagons, animals, and soldiers; the lack of water; the inability of the mages to access their warrens; the fading morale of the soldiers, and the many rumors of Tavore: she’s going to sacrifice the army so she and the Elder Gods she’s in league with can ascend, she’s in league with the Younger Gods and is kidnapping the Crippled God’s heart as a bargaining chip. Gudd tells her the common thread is she is “kneeling before a god, and what Malazan soldier doesn’t get a bitter taste from that… doesn’t know the story of Dassem Ultor? Homage to a god by a commander is ever served by the blood of those under his or her command.” When he adds the army isn’t serving the Empire but her, she wonders confusedly what she’s done to “deserve that,” which stuns them all. Kindly points out their cause—saving the Crippled God—isn’t a great one since nobody worships him or even much likes him. She questions whether none of the soldiers has ever suffered, or broken, or wept, or grieved, and when Kindly says of course they have but they won’t worship those things, she challenges him to look into the god’s eyes and “make your thoughts hard. Make them cold. Unfeeling. Make them all the things you need to in order to feel not a single pang… Look into his eyes before you choose to turn away.” He responds he cannot do that since the god “does not stand before me”, but Tavore replies, “Doesn’t he?” Banaschar interrupts the others leave. As Gudd exits, Banaschar makes a strange gesture at him.

SCENE SIX
Kindly tells the others “You can’t ask soldiers to open their hearts. If they did, they’d never take another life… We need to harden ourselves… she wants us to go soft.” Gudd though tells her he and the others missed her point: “We don’t dare look across into the eyes of a suffering god. But Kindly, she dares. You asked for more from her—gods below, what more can she give? She’ll feel all the compassion none of you can afford to feel. Behind that cold iron, she will feel what we can’t… And you asked for more?” He adds to Sort, who had mentioned her soldiers don’t talk much (Kindly was worried of mutiny), that maybe it’s because they have realized what Tavore is doing, “what she’s taken from them. What she’s holding inside, for safekeeping. The very best they have.” Gudd leaves, but Sort still wonders what she can tell her soldiers to stiffen their spines. Lostara says just by standing with Tavore, that’s enough for the soldiers; it’s what Blistig does—his obvious opposition—that is the real risk to the army and soldiers. The messenger arrives with Pores’ note for Kindly, and when asked about the grunts’ rumor-mill, he says there are a lot of rumors but it’s all just for entertainment. The officers wonder if they are worrying for nothing.

SCENE SEVEN
Gudd tells Skanarow he’d considered kidnapping her and leaving, but Tavore changed his mind and so they’ll stay “till the bitter end.” She likes his marriage proposal.

SCENE EIGHT
Tarr’s group prepares to march again in their usual inimitable fashion (“piss bottles” are discussed).

SCENE NINE
On the march, Tarr confirms with Bottle that there are no warrens around, and that this also means nobody can find the army in the desert. Bottle says Fiddler should just ask him himself, and wants to know if this is coming out of a Deck reading. Tarr asks again if “they” are blind, and Bottle says yes. Bottle asks who came up with the name “Bonehunters,” but when Tarr says it was the Adjunct, Bottle thinks that’s impossible; she couldn’t have known back in Aren. Tarr asks about Quick Ben and Bottle tells him he doesn’t know (he doesn’t have a “sense” for any of the Bridgeburners), but if he had to bet, he’d say Quick’s alive and “still in this game.” Tarr leaves and Cuttle comes to Bottle to talk about the army not collecting any booty, that he (and others) aren’t thinking about the future and a possible need for coin. Bottle asks if he means it’s because they’re the “walking dead,” but Cuttle says no, “Something’s happened to us… We’re any army not thinking about loot… No one cares about silver and gold… We’re probably the only army the world that doesn’t… This army has gone insane.”

SCENE TEN
Widdershins, having overheard Bottle ask about the Bonehunter’s name, tells his group (Deadsmell et. al) that Bottle knows something. They decide there is some “inner circle” that’s in the know and has all the plans. They ask if Sinter is in it and when she says she isn’t, Badan says to forget it.

SCENE ELEVEN
Sinter recalls exploring caves when she was a child, caves filled with sarcophagi, and she remembers the worry about people being buried when they weren’t dead. She feels she is just waking up, “to find that I have been buried alive… This desert belongs to the dead.” She thinks her sister finds it easy, and was surprised she had returned rather than deserting. She thinks Kisswhere should have just kept going; it would have made it easier for Sinter. Kisswhere though hasn’t spoken to Sinter since her return. The other soldiers, though, look at Kisswhere differently, “with a seriousness… that spoke tomes about finally belonging.”

SCENE TWELVE
Kisswhere rides the wagon in a lot of pain, wishing they’d left her behind as “an act of mercy,” but she knows armies don’t allow anyone off—“We got us a war, comrades… No one’s allowed to get off.”

SCENE THIRTEEN
Kisswhere falls unconscious off the wagon. Sinter realizes she has a bad infection and is feverish.

SCENE FOURTEEN
Helian is sober and confused.

SCENE FIFTEEN
Despite Helian’s confusion, and former drunkenness, her squad are glad she is their sergeant.

SCENE SIXTEEN
Urb thinks perhaps Helian is seeing herself clearly for the first time and wonders if she likes what she sees. He wonders as well if he wants to get involved with her (not, he notes, that she’s shown any interest), though being the “walking dead,” what difference it makes he’s not sure. He thinks if he professed any feelings she might just mock the idea of love or just laugh. He’s not brave enough for that he thinks, not brave about anything much, but he’ll do what he could to keep her alive—“he didn’t have the courage for anything more.” He realizes “I’ve been the walking dead all along, and I didn’t even know it… I’ve been telling myself this was being alive… This hiding. Wishing. Dreaming. Wanting… Hiding ain’t living. Hiding’s just walking dead.”

SCENE SEVENTEEN
Saltlick tells Clasp she and others have figured out there was a “kind of elite group… Somehow all closer to Fiddler, back when he was a sergeant” and she and they want in. He tells them fine, they’re in.

SCENE EIGHTEEN
Gaunt-Eye and Flashwit discuss Skulldeath—how he’s a prince, his jumping ability, how the soldiers saw him kill eight Nah’ruks.

SCENE NINETEEN
Hedge hears the soldiers laughing behind them and tells Bavedict Fiddler must have given them the “Old ‘Walking Dead speech.’” He recalls Dujek doing the same at Pale, then says what Fid says to his Bonehunters doesn’t have much to do with the Bridgeburners. Bavedict points out how Hedge had been complaining that Fid had rejected him, and hedge muses on how it had been easier on Fid when he thought Hedge was dead. “He could put me away, on some shelf in his skull, and leave me there… I get it… I just don’t like it… I mean I’m back… Fid should be happy. Bavedict tries to say Fid is growing closer to Hedge with the Walking Dead speech, but Hedge says, “You’d be wrong. When you’re dead, Bavedict, you ain’t got no brothers. Nothing holds ya together… the dead Bridgeburners are all together, but that’s just old memories, chaining ‘em all to each other… The dead ain’t got no friends.” But after Bavedict mentions Whiskeyjack, Hedge admits maybe Whiskeyjack can change things, and says Bavedict has given him something to think about. He points out Fid never did that, and says he never actually much liked Fid, and eventually Bavedict gives him the insight that Hedge loves all the dead Bridgeburners but not the one live one.

SCENE TWENTY
Jastara thinks of how she and Gall have taken comfort in each other, and the angry words and looks from the others thanks to that. She decides not to talk to Hanavat.

SCENE TWENTY-ONE
Shelemasa, seeing Jastara turn back, tells Hanavat she can’t imagine what Jastara thinks she might say to her. Hanavat is angered at the judgmental tone of Shelemasa and the others who presume to know what Hanavat feels: “What I hear from you—see in the eyes of the others—has nothing to do with me. Have I asked for pity?… Do not speak to me of sides. There are none. There are but people… doing what they can to get by.” She says she understands what Gall sees when he looks at Hanavat (pregnant with a child she says it is for her to know whose it is) and why he cannot. She tells Shelemasa Jastara doesn’t deserve hatred and when the women go to Jastara and comfort her, then “I shall go to her and take her into my arms.”

SCENE TWENTY-TWO
Henar Vygulf recalls the day his father took him into the herd for him to choose his first horse. When Henar asked about a horse “choosing” him, his father told him “There’s not a horse in the wide world happy to choose a rider. Not one beast eager to serve… delighted at being broken, its will beaten down. Are they any different from you or me?” When he chooses a horse, his father is surprised he didn’t pick the truly stand out one, and when he asked Henar if he thought he didn’t deserve “the best,” Henar surprised him even more by saying, “Not if it means breaking them.” He thinks his father would love, and laugh, to see him and Lostara together. They discuss Brys’ sentimentality and perhaps sense of pity in putting them together, and also how Brys and Aranict are together. She says how she thinks they won’t survive this journey, and he relates a story of his maid from his youth, how she told him stories with happy endings (her own love was far gone) because “she wanted that happy ending. She needed to believe in it. For her, and for everyone else.” When he mentions how she eventually married and became pregnant, Lostara says she must have given up on her original love—“probably wise I suppose. Part of growing up.” But Henar says he thinks of her with that child, he pictures “tears run[ning] down her cheeks. And she’ll remember a young man on the edge of the sea.” Lostara is crying herself as he tells her they will in fact survive, and one day he’ll introduce her to his father, “and he will laugh.”

SCENE TWENTY-THREE
Banaschar is telling Tavore of how he used to counsel commoners when he was a priest of D’rek and how some were irritated by love: most were complaining about relationships and thought the priests knew nothing of love and/or romance. He says he eventually learned that “romance is the negotiation of possibilities, towards that elusive prize called love.” In the silence that follows, he thinks of the jade spears and how he can words if he listens carefully enough: the language from some world where people look to the heavens and ask “Are you there”, but the heavens do not answer. While here, in this world, Banaschar asks and “down come the voice: ‘Yes. We are here. Just reach.’”

SCENE TWENTY-FOUR
Fiddler watches the priest and Adjunct talk. A Group of young Khundryl walk with him, and he doesn’t send them away, as “too many had that lost, hopeful look in their eyes. Dead fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters. Massive absences through which winds howled. Now they hovered . . as if he was the column itself.” He knows if they don’t have water, “all of her plans die here. And the gods will close like jackals, and then the Elder Gods will show their hand and blood will spill. The Crippled God will suffer terribly… They will feed on his agony… for a long, long time.” He thinks how the decision to have the CG’s house sanctified might end up a terrible error if they fail, as it will trap him in this world. “It will make suffering your holy writ—oh, many will flock to you. No one likes to suffer in isolation…for no reason. You will answer both, and make of them an illness. Of body, of spirit… I never said I’d like you… You just asked us to do what’s right. We said yes… [but] we’re mortal… fragile—among all the players, we’re the most vulnerable.” He thinks though that might be appropriate, and then muses how “Ignorant historians will write of us… will argue over our purpose… seeking our motives. Looking for hints of ambition. They will compose a Book of the Fallen. And then argue over its significance.… but truly, what will they know? Of each of us?”

He thinks how children have always made him feel awkward, reminders of futures he’d set aside, and made him feel guilty—“Crimes of necessity, each time I turned away.” He recalls Whiskeyjack standing at Mock’s Hold talking to a child of some merchant (Paran), though he cannot recall the advice Whiskeyjack gave him. He tells the Crippled God (in his head) that whatever they “manage to do, it will have to be enough. We will bring this book to an end, one way or another.” He realizes as he looks at Tavore, “we have lived the tale of the Adjunct. First it was Lorn… now it is Tavore… The Adjunct never stands at the center… The truth of that is right there in her title… it means this: she will do what she has to do but your [CG] life is not in your hands… your life is in the hands of a murderer of Malazan marines and heavies. Your life is in my hands.” The historians will get it all wrong, he says, missing the point that “Fallen One, we are all your children.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction

It is amazing to step back to Coral and see something that has happened as a result of a novel we read so long ago (or what feels so long ago now), to see Spindle again and a reminder of the Redeemer’s High Priestess.

It seems the Andii are heading back to Kharkanas—hopefully they arrive in time to assist with the Shake’s defence of the Shore.

The Great Ravens? All I can think here is of the scene in Batman Begins where the bats swirl around young Bruce Wayne and leave him terrified of black winged creatures. I remember that the Great Ravens came from the Crippled God, right, so I’m guessing they are heading to where the main thrust of the action is in this novel.

In the scene with Banaschar and the many-mouthed worm (creepy, non? I would not want to wake up with that anywhere near me!) I do like this example of how language can develop organically:

“Myriad are the forms of the Autumn Worm-”

“What’s that? A myrid worm, y’say?”

So a mishearing leads to a renaming, which is then enforced later in the scene. And you can absolutely see this having happened with names and phrases all through history.

This death that happened in the desert… It sounds momentous, and I wonder if we will see the results of it: “Something,” he whispered, “died here. Someone…” The shock had torn through the land. And the power unleashed, in that wild death, had delivered such a wound upon the Sleeping Goddess that she must have cried out in her sleep.

There is something horrifying about a quartermaster attempting to ration water for a desert crossing when he has no idea about how many days the desert crossing will take. Impossible. And the Adjunct is holding her knowledge of how wide the desert is close to her chest—no doubt to prevent mutiny or stealing of private rations etc. Except that Blistig here is making sure he has private rations, which I find to be particularly despicable behaviour. We’ve seen in recent chapters the way the Bonehunters have closed ranks and taken on this battle ahead of them, but here we see Blistig creating a rift that you know will become a chasm pretty soon.

Aww, that letter from Pores to Kindly—I love it. And I also love Himble who is introduced here, as a heavy who survived two pushes by the Nah’ruk but lost the fingers on both his hands, and is now working as a clerk. Something tells me that Pores decision to talk to the armourer and weaponsmith about rigging up a contraption for Himble is also about giving this heavy his pride back, as well as the future need for his abilities again.

This Glass Desert is warrenless? Seems so, since the Bonehunter mages can’t dowse for water using their magic. But we have seen some magic employed within this desert—I wonder if the new warrens would work here?

Here we have a strong example of how the Bonehunters are rallying around the Adjunct and her insane decision to cross the desert. Rather than dissuading her against it all, Kindly and Faradan are offering solutions to help the soldiers march quicker and longer. And they follow her even with knowing that the soldiers are raising all manner of rumours that the command group are unable to face down, because they have no idea where she gets her knowledge.

I have to say, this is frustrating me now. You think that if the Adjunct could just reveal something, then it would make it all so much easier for those beneath her to stomach what they are doing. Yes, they follow her right now, but they don’t know why and she doesn’t know why either. What is causing them to follow her? Really? Magic? It is frustrating for me as a reader to see all these encounters and discussions, and know that a lot of them could fade away with some extra knowledge of how Tavore comes by what she knows, and whose is the hand guiding her.

Is it the Crippled God? She certainly talks strongly enough here about the fact that the whole army should be worshipping him, since there is not a one of them who isn’t broken in some way. And then this:

“I cannot, Adjunct,” Kindly replied, in a shaken voice. “For he does not stand before me.”

And Tavore met his eyes once more. “Doesn’t he?”

Does this not imply that perhaps she is a representative of the Crippled God? Tavore, the High Priestess of the Crippled God!

Wow, Ruthan Gudd’s words here are so powerful—the idea that Tavore is giving everything of herself, feeling everything and suffering compassion, so that the soldiers of her army can remain immune and able to do the fighting without feeling.

The heavies always seem to surprise and delight me—here we have Himble reciting Pores’ message to Kindly perfectly from memory. And then some laughter from me, when we realise that actually a lot of the rumours about the Adjunct are coming about because the soldiers are a bit bored. And then this also made me chuckle:

Faradan met Kindly’s eyes. “Are we panicking over nothing Kindly?”

“To be honest,” he admitted, “I really don’t know anymore.”

Ha, this scene with Koryk and Cuttle and the others is just a perfect little glimpse into what the soldiers are actually thinking and how they’re coping—mostly by nagging and jibing each other, as they usually do. Yeah, the idea of drinking their own piss is a horror show that might well come true depending on these water rations, but they don’t seem to be thinking any worse about their future, even with the clearing down of their possessions. They seem so single-minded.

This is so zen—and it’s actually something I aspire to myself: “In any case, he’d lost most of his useful gear. Only to discover that he really didn’t need it after all.” It’s amazing how little you actually need to get by in life. For me, some clothes and toiletries, a Kindle, a credit card and this laptop I type on might be about all I actually need. The rest are just nice trappings.

I’m curious as to why Bottle asks about the name of the Bonehunters and how they got it, and then thinks: “But this is impossible. Aren. She couldn’t have known. Not then.” Does that mean that they are named for the task they are performing now?

Some wonderful scenes through this chapter, featuring the various soldiers, and their discussions. One that pulled on the heartstrings for me was where Sinter watches her sleeping sister and thinks about that fact that the rest of the soldiers now realise that she didn’t desert, that she went to find help, that she would have been in the charge of the Khundryl if not for her horse going down. And then Kisswhere’s fever-filled thoughts, where she thinks: “We got us a war, comrades. Can’t stop and chat. We got us a war, and no one’s allowed to get off.”

Poor Urb. Poor unrequited love Urb.

And then poor Hedge, feeling so alone and unwanted amongst those of the Bridgeburners who are still alive. He is neither with those alive, or with those who are in the realm of the dead.

Oh wow, that sweet, sweet scene between Henar and Lostara really touched me—he believes they will survive because he believes in their love.

I really don’t think I have any surprise at all that Fiddler also shares the compassion towards the Crippled God that Tavore has.

 

Bill’s Reaction

I like how we shift away to Coral here to get a reminder of things moving in other parts of the world. The Andii leaving shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise at this point, and I think we might hazard a guess as to where they might be going. As for the Great Ravens, if one recalls where the come from, that might help for some guessing as to where they are going, if not to join the Andii.

I also like how the metaphor works with Spindle and his peace, his emotions that he’d thought safely sealed away—this idea of a deep well as the metaphor coming from someone of whom it was just said had trained (somewhat at least) in military engineering and was now a pit boss on the works. And then how that idea of something being “sealed away” underground fits as well the horrors of his memories of Pale and the collapse of the tunnels there, sealing away so many: “My friends… The tunnels. Oh my heart, my heart.”

And then along the same crafting discussion, that very purposeful language of memories “wheeling” and coming to “roost” in Spindle—the bird imagery obviously in line with the flight of the Ravens (and dark, black memories they are as well, just like the Ravens).

And that moving closing image of him on his knees weeping, made all the more moving by the simplicity and brevity of that line, “He knelt,” (also apropos coming as he thinks of gods), emphasized by it being on its own line. Powerful opening scene.

Interesting difference in the view toward betting in the worm scene with Banaschar and Sort and the soldiers in comparison to an earlier march and those scorpions

We’re getting many references to some disaster that has befallen this Glass Desert, some great death that happened here. We get it from Banaschar , then later in this chapter from Sinter. We’ll have to see if this is just background enrichment or if it will play a part in what’s to come

Blistig continues to be a sad storyline for me, but what I like about this scene is how he assumes Pores is just like him, which on the surface might make sense, but Pores’ response seems here at least to argue against that premise. On the other hand, his opposition to Tavore is becoming more active and more overt (in his head at least). And then later we have Lostara worrying about the effect on the army of his opposition and concerned about him attracting “followers.” Might these guards of his be the beginning of such a stage? It’s a nice bit of added suspense.

I know we later hear that many of the rumors re: Tavore that she is confronted with are said by the messenger to be mere “entertainment,” but I think I would have liked hearing these in the grunt talk rather than conveyed via the officers. At least at first, I know they need to confront her with them to put some pressure (more pressure) on her. And while no reader obviously is going to think these are correct, I think they do raise the questions readers actually do have—is she in league with some gods? If so, which ones? Does she talk to any of them? Where does she get her “hidden knowledge” from?

It was a nice structure move to have the conversation about Dassem and godhood earlier before this scene (for all that earlier conversation raises its own host of questions/confusion)

I have to confess, I don’t recall if we’re supposed to know what that gesture of Banaschar’s is to Gudd, or if we find out later. Anyone? It does draw attention to itself.

I think Kindly answers his own question about Tavore (or at least one of them) when he says, “How can she not understand… “ that the soldiers can’t “feel” as they kill, for it is clear she does understand that.

A nice setting detail on this conversation: “The sun blinding their eyes”—since they all are “blind” to Tavore’s speech until Gudd makes his points.

Is it just me, but when it is mentioned that Gudd seems distracted as they talk about the soldiers’ morale—is that an odd little POV in the italics part “Or maybe a thousand years.”?

Also an interesting little acknowledgement of his power when he says nobody could stop him if he decides to leave.

Gudd’s point is a nice second layer atop the discussion of Tavore and compassion that we saw at the end of the earlier chapter. And I like how his words don’t simply end the conversation, or the concerns, which would not have been realistic.

The humor, both Pores’ note and then the interplay between Skanarow and Gudd, does a nice job of lightening the tone. On another level, I think it’s a nice sort of microcosm of the overarching theme of compassion—these little dips into loving relationships we’re seeing throughout—these two, Lostara and Henar, Brys and Aranict, poor Urb and Helian, even Banaschar later talks of love. When one talks about compassion, it helps to see these people have the capacity for love in the concrete, not just the abstract.

In a different sort of way, I think the scenes amongst the grunts show us the same—a capacity to form bonds, to feel. The scenes do other things—continue to characterize, raise some questions (where is Quick Ben and how is he keeping himself in the game, what is it that Bottle thinks Tavore knows but shouldn’t have with regard to the Bonehunters’ name), point to some ideas (it’s important “they” don’t see what this army is doing), show that things/morale are not as bad amongst the army as the officers thought, etc. But mostly for me it continues to show them as a bonded. It’s also, for me, just so much richer to get this viewpoint from the ground, from the grunts, and from so many of them. Too many faceless soldiers in other fantasies. Not in this one.

And in that vein of the grunts POV, the whole inner circle/elite group bit cracked me up. Of course they’d think that. Not a lot to say about it, save I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Speaking of bonding, poor dead Hedge. You can’t help but hope Bavedict’s points penetrate Hedge’s head and that he and Fiddler find something between them before things go from desperately awful to even worse.

This brief scene amongst the Khundryl nicely echoes the compassion theme with Tavore. Note the similar wording even as Jastara wonders, “Do I dare look into Hanavat’s eyes?” and later Hanavat talks of Gall “facing away.” She is a marvel of compassion and understanding here. And I love her line, which is so universal, of “They are but people. People of all sorts, each doing what they can to get by.”

If Tavore is the character of whom it is said she holds compassion, then Fiddler I’d say is one of the characters who embodies it, who lives it, and acts on it. We hear of Tavore’s compassion, but we don’t really see it, not so much, at least not yet. But we do get to see it with Fiddler. If Tavore is the “mother” of this army and Fiddler the “father”, then this little aside with the Khundryl youths is a nice metaphor of that—Fiddler’s small act of compassion in not sending them away, his recognition of them, their need, their pain. And if Tavore is the enigma, the closed book, Fiddler is, often, wholly open, via dialog or, in this case, interior monologue. We see his compassion in his response to the agony of the Crippled God, the use of him. We see it in how it doesn’t matter whether he “likes” the Crippled God or not. And his humanity, alongside his compassion, is clear in his acknowledgement of the fragility of people. The acknowledgement that they can but try, do what they can, do their best, but that is no guarantee.

And, of course, there’s the whole meta-thing going on. Here we are reading The Malazan Book of the Fallen and here is Fiddler thinking of how historians will write a Book of the Fallen. Is this what we’re reading? Was this composed by a historian? How do folks feel about this?

We’ve seen Fiddler and children before, and it’s good to remember that as he thinks on how children make him feel awkward and worse, guilty, that there is another group in the Glass Desert now. How will Fiddler feel if they come across the Snake?

When Fiddler says the CG’s life is in his hands (and how heartbreaking is that description of himself as a “murderer of Malazan marines and heavies”?), is he talking in the abstract, or is this part of that special mission Tavore has for him and his people?


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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