Malazan Reread of the Fallen

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

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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 eighteen 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 Gideon Smith amazon buy linkkeeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE

Quick Ben and Minala (sent by Cotillion) get Kalam out of the Azath House (though not before Kalam has some fun with Blob and Blur). They catch him up on events and exit the house, forgetting to shut the door behind them. Temper shows up and asks if they grew up in a barn. Quick Ben shuts the door, Kalam discusses retirement with Temper, Quick Ben acts very humble, and they leave.

SCENE TWO

Shadowthrone, who had just witnesses the just-ended conversation, upbraids Temper for how he talks to gods, and also feels Temper is not treating the just-passed moment with the gravitas and respect the ”momentous scene” deserves, as it is when “everything really, truly finally begins!” Temper, inspired to acts of dutifully awed eloquence, tells Shadowthrone to “fuck off.”

SCENE THREE

Sister Belle, a Forkrul Assail Pure, awaits a parley with Paran, the “infuriating[ly]” defiant enemy commander who she thinks has just made a “fatal error” in agreeing to meet, as she plans on making him kill himself in front of his own “horrified” soldiers. When Paran asks snarkily if she’s come to “adjudicate,” she tells him “human arrogance ever takes my breath away,” and references to trophy room in the palace of Kolanse, filled with stuffed animal trophies. She asks if he can explain, “this sordid need to slay animals.” He says he himself could never “comprehend the pleasure of slaughter,” and the reasons he’s heard make little sense to him. She says she did ask the former Kolanse king, as Paran suggested she should have done, and had been told “it made him feel one with the animal he killed.” Paran says he’s heard the same, and she goes on to say she then killed all the king’s children and had them stuffed and displayed so he could feel “one with is offspring too.” After further discussion, he asks if that wasn’t also a display of arrogance, and she said it was an experiment to see if she too would feel “as one,” but instead she only felt “sad that I should have such power in my hands, and should choose to use it for destructive.” She adds, though, that she also learned “a truth about myself… There is pleasure in destroying… I suspect this is what is confused with the notion of “oneness.” Paran observes that her pity for “the lesser beasts of this world” doesn’t include humans, and that her “justification is predicated on the very same notion of arrogant superiority” she declaims in humans: “the beast that knows no better can be slain with impunity.” She tells him, “Well, this was fun” but now he needs to kill himself so she can take over his army and use it. Paran replies by saying that “it all comes down to power. The king killed those animals because he had the power to do so and expressing that power made him feel good. But it never lasts long, so out he goes to kill some more. I find it pathetic,” adding that she is doing the same thing. “By your voice… you will seek to fill that void in your soul… the hunger for control, when the bitter truth is you really control nothing.” She challenges him if he believes in using power to do good, to do what is right,” and he says the Hold of Beasts wants vengeance for all the slaughter, but “it’s too late. Their age is past.” He tells her the Forkrul Assail will fail, and so fail their allies as well, adding that what the Wolves need to do is be patient, because humans will destroy themselves.” She orders him to kill himself and he mocks her use of the Voice. He introduces himself as Master of the Deck, then disappears using a card, telling her he now understands her better than she does him, “an advantage I intend to exploit.” She is not happy. The assault on the citadel is redoubled.

SCENE FOUR

Paran tells Noto Boil to prepare for the assault, happy they’ve stirred them up and drawn more Pure and legions to this point. He calls for Ormulogun so he can finish an engraving—their escape hatch.

SCENE FIVE

Picker talks to Bluepearl in her dream. He passes on orders from Whiskeyjack. She says she knows whom she’s supposed to find and where he is, then suddenly notices she’s wearing Treach’s torcs again. Bluepearl tells her Treach needs her now. He explains Hood’s gone and now the Bridgeburners guard Death’s Gate. She’s worried about getting gout of the city, which is apparently undergoing some problems, and he says they have arranged a guide for her.

SCENE SIX

Tufty: Undead Jaghut Cat

SCENE SEVEN

Hood, though he hates revelatory moments, tells Shurq Ellale those who have escaped his former realm are miserable in that “they know no paradise awaits them, and that no amount of diligent worship, sacrifice, or piety can change that,” something he calls “inexcusable.” Shurq is angry. She says “the gods take, but give nothing in return,” and asks if he couldn’t have done something about that. He tells her he has and then says the possibility of something being done began when Kellanved and Cotillion reawakened Shadow, traveled the warrens and holds, found “the truth of things,” and decided to do something about that ugly truth. They collected allies first from “mortals” they had once commanded, then collected more including Rake, “who understood the true burden of a surrendered future”; Caladan Brood; Stonewielder; The Queen of Dreams; Dessembrae; and a “host of others.”

Shurq asks about Tavore and Hood responds that the plan “is not above cruel use of mortals,” and admits Tavore will get no reward. Shurq is really angry. She wants to know if Tavore agreed, but Hood will not answer. Shurq is really very angry, and Hood tells her he looks out through Felesin’s eyes when Tavore killed her: “You speak to me of innocence? There is no such thing.” When Shurq asks if this is “punishment” then, he says she can think of it that way if it makes her feel better. Shurq wonders if Tavore is seeking redemption then out of guilt over murdering her sister, then realizes Tavore might not have known it was Felisin she killed. But Hood says it’s irrelevant: “it is the ignorant who yearn most for redemption.” Shurq is really very super angry.

SCENE EIGHT

Felash and her handmaiden discuss problems with her mother’s army—lack of food and the Perish being unreliable.

SCENE NINE

Shurq calls Felash up to point out a ship bearing down on them and the princess identities it as an Assail ship, adding she is too drained to be of much help in defense. The ship comes nearer and the handmaiden leaps over to it. The Assail captain, a Lesser Watered Intransigent, tells the handmaiden everyone should submit to being adjucated. The handmaid asks if the same happened to the Perish, but the FA simply says this isn’t a Perish ship. She tries to Voice the handmaiden unsuccessfully and a fight begins.

SCENE TEN

Watching the fight, Shurq asks Felash where the handmaiden came from. The princess answers there were originally seven of them, six of whom remain after there was some sort of failed challenge. Alchemies have been used to “maintain the vigour” of the six, who were “most recalcitrant about divesting themselves of their horrid masks.”

SCENE ELEVEN

The handmaiden kills them all.

SCENE TWELVE

Draconus tell Ublala he [Draconus] has to leave him now, and tells him to head north toward his destiny, saying the two will probably not see each other again. Ublala hugs Draconus, who says, “You give reason, friend, for what I must attempt. If sorcery must die, the magic in the mortal soul will persevere—or so I hope to believe.” Ralata tells Ublala to kill Draconus and take his sword. When he doesn’t, Ralata pulls her knife and Ublala knocks her unconscious. Draconus veers and leaves.

SCENE THIRTEEN

Brother Diligence reports to Reverence that they’ve lost some of their own—killed or rebellious. Diligence says the cancer is Sister Calm, but Reverence says Equity is the heart of the Ideals while Calm is the practical one. He further reports the assault on the citadel has failed and that the commander is immune to the voice, adding the commander is Master of the Deck, a commander of warrens, but one who cannot get closer to the Spire due to the FA’s sorcery being strongest there. Diligence suggests sending reinforcements but Reverence says not yet. he Perish enter as allies of the FA, with their leader saying the Mortal Sword had committed blasphemy in sweating to Tavore and that their Shield Anvil believes the same. Reverence, not willing to let it stand on common cause alone, uses the voice on them and they kneel. When she asks Diligence, “what are wolves but dogs not yet beaten into submission?” he reminds her their cause is just. She agrees, but says wildness needs discipline, needs to be channeled. He suggests using the Perish against Paran and she agrees.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Gu’Rull saves Krughava from the Shards, though so badly injured he wonders if she will make it to be delivered to Stormy and Gesler. He is looking forward to “a final clash between Elder power.” He wonders about the Bonehunters, thinking of the wreckage and death he’d found, and believes they must all be dead by now.

SCENE FIFTEEN

Queen Abrastal and Spax discuss the lack of food. He tells her of how the White Faces had left seeking “a final battle, a moment of perfect glory,” and how after Humbrall Taur died, the Gilk had seen how mismatched Tool was “ There was no flaw in Onos Toolan… he accepted the title out of love… He possessed nothing of the zeal the younger warriors so desired in their warleader. His eyes did not shine with glory… you’d think… we’d heed his warnings against self-destruction… we Gilk saw… what was likely to be done to him… And so too his family. We Gilk would not be party to that.” She asked if Spax had warned Tool, and he replied no, explaining Tool might have asked the Gilk to help him, and Spax could not have refused such a request. Or even had Tool not asked (Spax thinks now he wouldn’t have), Spax would have probably offered anyway, so he took his people away to save them, adding he believes Tool’s lack of pursuit showed he understood Spax’s reasons. She points out that now the Gilk, alone of the White Face, will get that promised final battle. He says he knows, and prays nightly Tool will be there to lead, though he knows it will not happen. When asked what he will do to inspire his warriors—since Tool will not be there and Spax will not call on his gods, Spax says he will “shame them.”

SCENE SIXTEEN

Faint and Precious Thimble ride to the K’Chain camp with Brys and Aranict. Precious Thimble complains about the Malazans, but Faint is more neutral, pointing out One-Eye Cat was a hole“ before the Malazans conquered it. They meet with Stormy, Gesler, and Kalyth. Faint says they can’t figure out why the Malazans are doing what they’re doing. Kalyth asks what she knows of the Forkrul Assail, and Faint answers not very much: her people think of them as mythical rulers in ”an age when justice prevailed over all the world. We’ve since fallen from that age of course… [and] no one wants it back… Because then we’d actually be taken to task for all the terrible stuff we do. Being fallen excuses are worst traits.“ Kalyth says she believes the Malazans ”seek to rise higher, taller. That once fallen, they now wish to stand. One more time. Perhaps the last time. And not just for themselves, but for all of us.“ She adds the Forkrul have judged humans and decided they all must die, which Faint says does not surprise her. But Kalyth goes on to say the Forkrul ”are in no position to judge… They judged their own god, and found him wanting, and for his imperfections, they finally killed him.“ She tells Faint there was war between the K’Chain Che’ Malle and the Assail and when the FA began to lose, they wounded their god to feed off of him, taking more and more. The Che’Malle nests fell one after the other, until the last Matron, ”in her desperation, opened a portal to the heart of chaos… hiding its presence from the advancing Assail. And when at last she stood facing them, when the tortured god’s power rushed to annihilate her and all her kind, she surrendered her life, and the gate… opened. To devour the Assail god’s soul… What remained of him in this realm was shattered, mindless and lost.“ This is the D’ivers in the Glass Desert she says, then tells Faint the Assail were broken, but the war had destroyed both groups, ”and when other races appeared through the cracks of chaos—which could now reach this and every other realm—neither could stop the invasions.“ Precious argues the Malazans, in their typical arrogance, are just using the Che’Malle, using them up. Inside the command tent, according to Kalyth, Krughava is telling Brys the Perish have gone over to ally with the FA in the name of Togg and Fanderay. She says the Perish are led by the Shield Anvil Tanakalian, but the Destriant is dead and the position unfilled. But Faint tells her that’s untrue; Setoc is the Destriant.

SCENE SEVENTEEN

Tanakalian, in his inimitable, inspiring way, tells his soldiers none of them have yet proven themselves worthy of being raised to Mortal Sword or Destriant, though he is being oh-so-patient until some clod shows a glimmer of potential, no matter how small. He will thus carry the, sigh, burden, sigh, alone, sigh. Setoc arrives with her ghost wolves, and he sees the Wolves of Winter in her eyes. Horrified, awed, he sinks to his knees. The Wolves rip into his mind, sort through, then dismiss him. The Wolves—through Setoc—announce Tanakalian is not the one to command their swords due to his pettiness and his vanity. Instead, they will serve Setoc: ”She is our voice. She is our will… Your kin kneel before the Forkrul Assail in the palace of Kolanse… This offends us. When Sister Reverence summons Destriant Setoc, when she seeks to wrest this army from us, she shall know the wrath of the wolves.“ When a soldier asks if they are to fight the FA, if Krughava was right, the Wolves answer, ”Around us now are only enemies… before us every army shall fall… every city shall burn… there shall be slaughter to redress the balance… We shall give answer!“ Tanakalian can’t like believe that like his power and glory is being stolen. By a girl!

SCENE EIGHTEEN

The fight between Gruntle and Kilava is nearing its end, and Gruntle, sensing his death close by, thinks of Stonny: Don’t you see? In all your fraught moments—and isn’t every moment fraught—you miss the chance of peace. The calm of all these truths, the ones us dying discover, and even then we can say nothing. Offer nothing. This time it’s all past. No. It’s my past. And with it I can do nothing.” The first dragon comes through, and Gruntle feels Trake bursting through, out of Kilvava’s “denial,” and he attacks. He seems to have a chance at killing the dragon when Kilava strikes him. The dragon, free, strikes as well, then unleashes its sorcery. Gruntle hears “Trake’s death cry… and all at once his god left him, stumbling away… A trail, another cave… a place to lie down and die.” Gruntle thinks, “Again. You damned fool. You never learn. And now it’s too late.” The dragon dies, but another and then a horde come through.

SCENE NINETEEN

Gruntle, dying, thinks, “In my dreams, a blackened cat… dying… I saw not her, but myself. Dear Kilava, you did warn me. And I did not listen. And when I warned Trake… he did not listen. You fool. You needed wisdom in the one you chose, Trake. Not just another damned version of you. With all the same useless, deadly flaws… Stonny, see what I have done? Or failed to do. You were right to refuse me. I always thought bigger than I could deliver.” He thinks back to his promise to her he’d be back, and the knowledge in her eyes that he was wrong—“Ahh, my love, so many truths, come too late. And this love, it is the last thing I have left… All I ever wanted, feel it slip away, slip away. Woman, you should never have let me go. I should have given you that power over me. If I had, you would’ve understood… believed in my love for you… [and] I would have believed too… Stonny, my love, I am sorry.” He dies.

SCENE TWENTY

Kilava sits sorrowfully beside this “noble fool [who] understood the inescapable, profound tragedy that is the beast that hunts, that dares to challenge our domination. I did not mean to take your life.” She believes he would have killed her had he not gone instead after the dragon. She promises to remember him: “I will curse Trake until the end of my days, but you, brother of the hunt, I will remember.” A pair of emlava enter and she says, “My husband lives. For now.” She wonders if she did the right thing here.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

What struck me most about the scene where Quick Ben and Minala come to break Kalam out of the Azath (and yay, by the way—been waiting for him to take the stage once more, I just didn’t want his story to be over like that) is how far behind everything Kalam is. Time stopped for him when Laseen was still a presence in the story. Since then we’ve come a looooong way. Laseen was just a speed bump really on the way to where we are now. Kalam talks about Laseen cutting Tavore loose, when now we now that Tavore’s plan all along was to take the Bonehunters away from the Malazan Empire. It’s interesting, seeing a character talk about things we left behind long ago.

And Quick Ben’s arrogance! It’s probably warranted, but, damn, does he think a lot of himself! “Gods below, Kalam. Because I’m back, that’s why. Now stop talking and leave me to it, will you?”

Ha, the exchange between Shadowthrone and Temper is brilliant, especially where Shadowthrone asks for Temper to come up with something profound, and his rather earthy response. I also like the mocking that Erikson does here of momentous scenes in novels and films, where someone always manages to pull a speech out of the bag.

Ah, Belie… Methinks your idea of Paran not being able to stand up to a pure-born Forkrul Assail is about to be sadly disabused. Sentences like “The fool was unguarded” does build up to her experiencing a shake-up in her comfortable world view.

Not long ago, I visited Sandringham Palace and, in the museum there, they have a room devoted to the stuffed kills made by various members of the royal family from past years. It was thoroughly creepy and I, too, found myself asking questions like Belie does here: “Can you explain to me this sordid need to slay animals? Are we to believe that each and every beast in that chamber sought to kill its slayer?” Having said that, her response to this—to kill and stuff all the children of the king of Kolanse—seems rather dramatic.

I’m somewhat conflicted about Paran suggesting that the Beasts just have patience. That the humans will destroy themselves in the end, and leave the land to them as before. Because it is probably true. But, on the other hand, the world that is being left is one far removed from the one the Beasts had before the humans trashed it. And how many Beasts die before the humans are gone. After all, on this planet we humans probably will destroy ourselves eventually, but the polluted and possibly nuclear world we leave behind is not one that Beasts would want. And how many species are already extinct down to our behaviour and actions? Yes, the Wolves could be patient. But I can absolutely see why they would not want to be.

Hmm, I don’t feel very comfortable about Picker’s Treach torcs coming back. Trake already has Gruntle, so why does he now call to Picker?

I love that Shurq is amused by the fact that she has Hood walking her deck, when, as someone who is the dead walking, she believed she would never encounter him.

Hood finally lets us know that it was Shadowthrone and Cotillion who set things in motion, who came up with this grand plan. It’s wonderful to have that confirmed, to know that these bold upstarts were the ones to shake everything up.

And I also like what Hood says about Tavore: “She takes our arrogance and humbles us.” And it seems she does all this with no thought for reward, or in the knowledge that there can’t be a reward for her—that is sad and, indeed, humbling.

Aha! Masks?! So Felash’s handmaiden in Seguleh? That would certainly account for her being able to stand up to Forkrul Assail and demons and everything else she has been fighting recently. How did Felash’s mother ever get them to give up the masks?

Hmm. I wonder if Erikson’s view on babies is emerging here as Ublala talks: “Whole people disappear when a baby arrives. Poof! Where’d they go? Oh, I know, they’re crawling around making baby noises.”

Aww. Ublala’s reaction to Draconus saying farewell is so sweet—first grasping him in a fierce hug and then crying his eyes out. Not as fond (and that is an understatement) of him knocking Ralata unconscious and then dragging her by her ankle. Casual violence like this, especially for comedy value, must be abhorred.

The poor Perish. They have no idea about their new allies.

“What are wolves but dogs not yet beaten into submission?”

Diligence frowned. “Their cause is just, Sister Reverence.”

“It is indeed, Brother. But wildness is without discipline. Even savagery must be controlled, given direction and focus. We shall be the guiding hand.”

Tanakalian has just exchanged one master for another, it turns out. And this master does not have the compassion of Tavore.

I think it was only in Abrastal’s section that it really resonated with me that everyone here is marching to their deaths. I mean, yes, I know that that has been held up, and watching the Bonehunters struggle on for just one more day, well, it all pointed in that direction. But we fantasy readers are given to hope, I think. For that one last charge that saves the day. The appearance of Gandalf at the head of an army after three days has past. That kind of eleventh hour reprieve. But here we have three armies marching to a place where they seem to have no hope of coming out of. The resources just aren’t there. The magic is deadened. No way out, and yet they keep marching.

There is something profoundly amusing about Stormy not letting Gesler have the title of Mortal Sword, that he got busted down as a Malazan and so only deserves to be called Sergeant. As Aranict observes, a Sergeant commanding seven thousand K’Chain Che’Malle!

Oh my! I love this reveal from Kalyth about the identity of the d’ivers in the Glass Desert—that it is the god of the Forkrul Assail, destroyed by his own people as they fed on him. And this is something I admire about Erikson’s work. There is real satisfaction in knowing the story now after seeing all the hints and whispers about what the d’ivers might have been. Of course, Kalyth herself admits what she says can’t be relied upon, but I do like the story.

Anyone else get a huge sense of glee at Setoc’s arrival amongst the Perish, and her utter condemnation of Tanakalian? Anyone else look at him seeing this girl haunted by the spirit of his gods and feel happy that he is so belittled? Just me?

That is a fantastic scene, with the gleaming eyes and the ghostly howls. And interesting the fact that Setoc brings the will that they will be going against everyone who has wronged them, which includes the Forkrul Assail.

Perhaps here, in this momentous scene as the dragons claw their way through the gate despite the best efforts of Gruntle, perhaps this is where we need a profound speech, since it feels as though things are really kicking into high gear. And maybe it was Trake’s death cry that provided that speech. And, yes, I am avoiding talking about the death of Gruntle, because that is one that hurts.

This chapter really feels like the true beginning of the endgame.

 

Bill’s Reaction

I like the slow reveal here as to whom we’re with, because there are a few clues: a reference to “decay” and “old, old blood” giving a sense of a place where time is very old or very slow. The reference to poison. The reference to a “door” being open. The biggest clue is probably the allusion to “the guardian” being off wandering the warrens—as that combination usually points to an Azath House. Then a few paragraphs later another hint of Azath with “the yard.” Then we get it more clear when Minala (though we don’t know it’s her yet) reminds us of Cotillion sending somebody out, and then we can recall Quick Ben on his crazy horse coming up on a woman riding. But we didn’t have to try and puzzle too long because it’s just a few lines before Quick uses names.

Love that “handful of Laseen’s weasels”—do you remember that last fight of Kalam’s? “Handful” indeed.

Note that reference to the “green”—we’re not to be forgetting those things in the sky getting closer.

I liked Temper sending Quick back to shut the door, but liked even better Quick’s clever line about how Temper should have joined the Bridgeburners:

“I hear they’re all dead.”

“Exactly.”

And I more than like that last exchange between Quick Ben and Kalam—good to have the gang back…

Did anyone really expect anything else from Temper when Shadowthrone asks for some profundity?

We’ve gotten this structure a lot in this series—being in someone’s head as they are so cocksure of whatever they’re thinking/planning while the reader thinks, “Nuh-huh, not gonna go down quite that way…” I always enjoy those moments, and enjoy this one here with Sister Belie thinking Paran is about to bow down before the superior voice power of the Forkrul Assail Pure. Nuh-huh.

Though here again, as with several prior scenes involving the FA, it’s hard for me not to nod my head a bit (or more than a bit) in agreement with much of what she says. I certainly can’t explain this “sordid need to slay animals,” or the irony of “worshipping” nature even as one destroys it. Certainly Paran doesn’t put up much of a defense. And the defense he does mount—that we humans will eventually cede the world back to the wilderness once we’ve killed off ourselves—is hardly cheering (though again, if I’m not in complete agreement on that, I can see how it’s got a significant possibility to it).

I like the clever use of the Deck in how he funnels her Voice so he is unaffected by it, and truly enjoyed the way he twists it in her with the “the only things… succumbing to your power are insects and worms in the mud. They’re confused. They don’t know what a knife is.”

That’s good use of a repeated image/idea at the end of this scene, with the reference to nailing Paran’s hide up as a “trophy” a la the former king’s hunting trophies, and her acknowledgement of Paran’s theory on power: “I will… because I can.”

OK, everyone remember who Picker is supposed to get and what that person is supposed to do? From our reread of Toll the Hounds:

Picker arrives and tells Karsa she has a message from Hood: “You must not leave Darujhistan… [or] you will have lost your one opportunity to fulfill a vow you once made… to kill a god.” Karsa shocks her by simply asking “which god.”

I think Picker having Treach’s torcs again might be a hint of something

A few strange references to trouble in Daru. We’ll eventually get to that…

Tufty. You have to love Tufty. And all the Tufty details: sliding rather than making an effort to walk, its name on a collar (in case it’s lost?), the collar made of T’lan Imass skin. Jaghut humor. Love it.

OK, from humor to deadly serious. This is a hell of a conversation with Hood and Shurq. We’ve had some questions about who has been planning what and for how long, and Hood seems to offer up some answers (with of course the boilerplate language from us re unreliable narrators blah blah possible deceptive blah blah might not know all they think they know blah blah).

Before we get into that talk though, just a quick aside that I really liked that little insight from Shurq on powered ships, how once they’d lost their connection to nature—to the elements, to wind and weather—and their connection to skill—to “canvas and cordage,” ships became “uninteresting.” And how it brought with it a sense of “tragic loss.” I think one can acknowledge some of the obvious benefits of technological change while also acknowledging that sometimes it brings with it some loss (whether that loss is greater or less than the benefits of the change varies, but loss all the same). I also like the next step of her thoughts—that it is not simple nostalgia for what was lost, but also a recognition that hand in hand with this example goes an accordant loss of humility—and “humanity without humility is a dangerous force,” as I’d say we’ve seen repeatedly in our history.

OK, back to the big reveal from Hood.

It didn’t come as any surprise to me that this all began with Shadowthrone and Cotillion, but I’m glad of the confirmation—something about those two humans looking around and going, “Nope, not gonna put up with that anymore” just really charms me to no end. As does that idea of “audacity”—a word that has been used more than once or twice in this series. I also tend to be charmed by that.

Then we get the roll call of allies, none of which I think we find particularly surprising, though we might wonder a bit on timing. And also if “allies” is used in the sense of “always knowing they were helping the two gods’ plan move forward”

I love that Hood—Hood for Hood’s sake—thinks the complexity of this plan “beggars belief.”

That’s a nice image of Cotillion—“certain individuals deserve a knife through the heart, so too do certain ideas.”

Now Tavore is an interesting point of discussion, if a bit maddeningly vague. Almost Nixonian in the “what did she know and when did she know it” vein, if she even does in fact “know” anything. And of course, Hood could be telling the truth, he could be lying, he could not even know what she knows (or how she knows what she knows). Typical that she remains enigmatic even in this conversation.

In my view? No, Tavore knowing she killed Felisin would in no way be a “gift,” truth or no.

Hmm, so was that sudden storm that scattered the FA fleet Shurq’s storm of anger? Or a little gift from Mael?

Love that “carry on” from Felash.

This is a chapter of reveals, apparently, for now we get the answer to at least one mystery. Felash’s handmaiden is a Seguleh (I also like how we were reminded of Seguleh in the scene between Picker and Bluepearl, a well-constructed bit of narrative there). That certainly explains her prowess.

I’ve mentioned several times that Ublala’s storyline is not one of my favorites, and this scene is one of my least favorites of that storyline. Ralata yielding to Ublala has always been distasteful to me, and here, where she is nonchalantly knocked unconscious and then dragged away, well, that ratchets up the distaste let’s say (I won’t go into the unfortunate parallel to Ray Rice dragging his wife out of the elevator…). I like Draconus’ interaction with Ublala, just not sure that what Ralata adds outweighs what she detracts.

While the Perish turning allying themselves with the Forkrul is clearly a blow, I always think when someone speaks with the arrogance that Reverence does, she/he is due for a tumble. Her semi-dismissal of Paran is one clear part of that. But so is her use of the Voice on the Perish and her dismissal of the wild, a dismissal even her Brother calls her on. And one has to think the Wolves will not take kindly to such an act, a response that is confirmed after not all that long a time.

As I was reading this section with Gu’Rull, I thought when he got to the part about how concrete his racial memory is—none of that “convenient rewriting of histories” that we humans do (and that rewriting is something we should keep in mind even as we read this), I wondered what the effect that would have on not being able to lie about one’s past. We typically think of lies, delusion, etc. as negatives, but certainly it has its benefits. And then as I’m mulling this over, as often happens, Erikson goes to the same spot—as he has Gu’Rull comment on humans’ ability to start over. Some of which at least, if not most of which, I might argue has to do with our ability to lie to ourselves, delude ourselves, or has to do with our ignorance of our pasts.

And then in that same mode, I like how we move from this idea of learning (or not) from one’s past—as Gu’Rull puts it “stupidity needs no excuse to repeat itself”—we get a concrete example of this in Spax’s dialogue re Tool: “You’d think tribes beaten down by centuries of defeat, clans rotted by feuds and mutual hatreds… we’d listen to measured wisdom.”

It is a chilling image, that sense of inevitability that Spax talks of, how it must have been to see so clearly (and it turns out correctly) what was happening, and to feel unable to stop it (chilling as well that insinuation that Taur might have been murdered). And the memory also serves to further characterize Tool in his fear that Tool would have asked Spax to side with him and his subsequent thinking that Tool never would have asked that of him, and that Tool not chasing him down was perhaps proof of Tool’s understanding, his empathy, his compassion.

Hmm, will Tool be there to lead the Barghast? He’s marching somewhere…

That back and forth between Faint and Precious Thimble about One-Eye Cat echoes what we’ve heard before about places Malazans conquered—their pre-Malazan and post-Malazan state. Or as Torvald said way back in House of Chains:

“Seven Cities was a rat’s warren of feuds and civil wars, leaving most of the population suffering and miserable and starving… with the Malazan conquest, the thugs ended up spiked… or on the run. And the wilder tribes no longer sweep down out of the hills… And the tyranny of the priesthoods was shattered, putting an end to human sacrifice and extortion. And of course, the merchants have never been richer, or safer on the roads. So, all in all, this land is rife for rebellion.”

That sort of cynicism (some might call it realism) appears in Faint’s discussion of the Age of Justice:

“We’ve long since fallen from that age, of course… [and] no one wants it back… Because then we’d actually be taken to task for all the terrible stuff we do. Besides, being fallen excuses our worst traits. We’re not what we once were, too bad, but that’s just how it is.”

Certainly, humanity is being “taken to task” for their “terrible stuff” now, and as I’ve mentioned before, while I obviously can’t defend the FA’s methods, it’s hard not to acknowledge much of their criticism.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as we near the end of this series, we’re getting more straightforward revelatory passages than we used to get. I’ve always said if readers were patient, what seemed obscure would often be made clear soon afterward, but here we’ve had Hood’s outline of events leading up to this plan (whatever the plan is) and now we have Kalyth explaining the origin of the d’ivers god in the desert (assuming of course, which is a big assumption in this series, that this is trustworthy information).

I like too how this story parallels current events—the FA feeding off of a god in their past—their god—just as they plan to feed off of a god—the Crippled God—now. To “wield [him] as a weapon, a thing to be used, a thing not worthy of anything else.” In both a gate is opened. One has to wonder with these parallels if a sacrifice will be required here as well.

Note that little throwaway phrase buried in there about “a time between the stars” with regard to the K’Chain Che’Malle’s history.

Ahh, Tanakalian. Boy he opens sounding like a jerk here. You can see his issues as a “commander” with the description of his soldiers: “bleak, beaten down… discipline had given way to bestial indifference.”

I love this description of Setoc’s arrival—the language, the imagery. Tanakalian’s “horror” at seeing his own gods before him. The eyes/minds of the gods sinking “like fangs” into his brain. How they “tear” and “rip” into him (the “rape” felt a bit out of place to me). The way she speaks in the voice of a “multitude of howls.” Love how she nails Tanakalian—petty and vain. Lots of questions in this scene as well about trust and loyalty. Questions about “betrayal.” You’ve got the Wolves ticked off at their allies the FA, whom they consider just another of the “enemies” all around them. And you’ve got Tanakalian feeling he’s been robbed, not so much by the gods but by Setoc, by “this, this girl,” and promising “it will not end this way.” That certainly doesn’t seem to bode well.

Gruntle. Oh, Gruntle. This is one of those deaths, one of many in this series, that really hits hard. This man who didn’t want to be what he was, who loathed this idea of gods of war. Who desired peace. It’s hard to see him go out like this. And then of course it’s made even more moving by the way his thoughts keep coming back to Stonny, the way he looks critically at his own life, at his own decisions, the way he thinks of what could have been between him and Stonny had he chosen differently.

On the other hand, it’s also another one of those great cinematic scenes. These two huge cats, the searing wound of the gate, then the dragon coming through and Gruntle launching himself at it, taking it down, until Kilava takes him down.

And so if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now that she wants the dragons out (I think it was pretty clear before this, but actions over words and all). It also seems, if I’m reading this right, that the confusion over the visions Gruntle was having is cleared up too. I think. (how’s that for authoritative?) The black cat he’d thought was her was him—maybe the seared body, his “scorched flesh”? That seems to me to be the implication. It seems clear as well that she had hoped to not kill Gruntle. And she’d hoped to keep Trake down within him, but the blow of that first dragon’s arrival, coming on top of that fight that had already almost killed her, proved too much for her, so she couldn’t stop Trake coming forth.

Speaking of “clear,” what about Trake? Gruntle says he hears his “death cry,” and he thinks as “his god left him” that he is stumbling off someplace to die. And later Kilava talks about not “mourning” Trake. But is this a death or a DEATH?


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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