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 the first part of chapter twenty 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.
Bill will be adding comments later. Sorry for brevity of the post today—we didn’t want to let another day slip, but both of us have things going on right now that are taking attention away.
The boy—presumably Rutt—totters into the Khundryl camp, drawn by the cries of a woman and watching the Khundryl gather.
Warleader Gall hears his wife’s labour pain and tries to hide from it. Jastara wields a knife against him to convince him that he needs to go to her, to be the Warleader one last time on the night that is the end of the Khundryl. As he leaves, he tells her that his son did well by her.
The children of the Snake gather in response to a mother’s cries. Badalle wonders at the strength of these warriors who have found the will to get up for one more day. She sees the way they look at her and the other children and doesn’t understand it, because she feels not as though the children have blessed them, but that the soldiers have blessed the Snake. Badalle gives words to the warriors, words that Saddic records. She knows that Saddic won’t die here, but doesn’t know how she knows. Gall strides into the tent and they hear the sound of a baby crying. The Adjunct stands near and Badalle takes her hand. Tavore flinches and Badalle asks when she will let herself feel.
Koryk thinks about the ways in which women are stronger than men. He thinks about whores and the fact that they understand every bad thing that human beings are prepared to do to each other. He dwells on the Bonehunter that he killed last night—someone trying to steal an empty cask. Finally, he thinks about the speech that Ruthan Gudd gave about the children who no longer knew what toys or playing is. Koryk rails against the Crippled God for taking away everything from the whores, and then stands up to walk for one more night because of the children and their innocence.
Bottle considers the fact that a story really shouldn’t be enough to keep somebody alive, and yet he remembers back to his grandmother and the charms that she wove into toys to keep children safe, and he uses that to inspire him to one more step.
Smiles thinks about a future time when she is a mother and has twin girls and then is told she must choose between those children—one to be blessed, one to be cursed. And then the reader finds out she was the sister blessed.
Cuttle remembers his brothers and thinks that he is the last brother who is going to die for a cause, in a last stand worth remembering.
Corabb reflects on his past and remembers Leoman of the Flails, and the burning of Y’Ghatan. He remembers the moment that he made his mother cry.
Tarr knows that he will never fail while he has Fiddler up ahead somewhere and Cuttle right behind him. His loyalty to the Adjunct is what will keep him and his squad moving.
I love that, after all the nasty words thrown at her, and the way that the rest of the Khundryl have viewed her, it is Jastara who pricks Gall into doing the right thing and shouldering his burden for one last time. This degree of duty to her people shows a very different impression of Jastara than we have seen through the eyes of others.
Knowing that the Snake feel blessed by the Malazans, and the Malazans feel blessed by the Snake—that is a beautiful moment. Neither understands why the other feels that way, but both are now drawing more strength from the fact that they won’t die alone and have purpose again.
You wonder that, if Tavore opened herself to all her feelings, how would she possibly cope with all that she felt, everything that she has gone through?
Wow, Koryk’s section is powerful, especially the fact that he hates the Crippled God and everything he stands for, so he should not be willing to take one more step in the service of this creature and yet, for the children and their innocence, he manages to take another step.
I love the technique employed by Erikson for Smiles’ section, where we see this dream she has about being a mother with twin girls, and then we gradually realise that she was the twin girl not given to the Elders, that Smiles committed vengeance and retribution against people who would ask a mother to make such a choice.
Cuttle’s idea of being remembered in a monumental and epic last stand doesn’t exactly gel with the whole unwitnessed part of Tavore’s plan.
Erikson has employed this technique many times, of flitting from person to person among the Bonehunters and hearing their thoughts. It really helps to consolidate our feelings about them, and the tiny snippets of history here, especially, make us realise what motivates each of the soldiers we touch upon.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.