Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: The Crippled God, Chapter Twenty-three (Part Three)

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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 part three of chapter twenty-three of The Crippled God.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing.

Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE

The K’Chain Che’Malle and T’lan Imass attack at the Spire with Sister Reverence watching from the tower, using her sorcery to keep the Kolansii fighting, holding until Festian arrives with reinforcements. She wonders how Diligence was killed, how the Matron managed to avoid the FA’s notice long enough to breed so many, who those two humans riding Ve’Gath are (they can’t be commanders she thinks). After the FA victory, she plans to find the other Pures on other other continents and invite them to share power and help “cleanse.” Her thoughts are interrupted by the Bay suddenly freezing under the power of Omtose Pellack, a shock, since “They are gone! Extinct—there is not one Jaghut left with this kind of power—we would have found the threat, we would have destroyed it.” The Spire sways under the icy attack.

SCENE TWO

Gesler watches as the T’lan Imass, now able to fight in close, begin to slaughter the Kolansii. He orders the K’Chain Che’Malle forward, but there are too many of the enemy.

SCENE THREE

Gunth Mach tells Kalyth the Kolansii will not break, that they fight under a “geas”—under sorcery. She warns that the K’Chain Che’Malle are tiring (and being killed in large numbers) and that more Kolansii are on the way from the other battlefield. The Matron cannot get through to Stormy and Gesler, who in a battle frenzy “call upon a name I do not know, but each time it is voiced, something trembles in the air. A flavor pungent and bestial.” She asks Kalyth to try and mind-speak them and tell them some K’Chain Che’Malle have to break off and deal with the reinforcements coming their way.

SCENE FOUR

Gesler’s tattoos are burning. As he watches the seemingly unstoppable T’lan Imass, he realizes that had Kellanved actually used them, “he could have conquered the world… delivered such slaughter as to break every kingdom.” He wonders if Kellanved had taken command of the T’lan Imass not to use them, but to “keep them out of human wars.” Kalyth interrupts with her message, and he says he’ll send the T’lan Imass. She passes on that Gu’Rull says Gelser has called a storm that is quickly arriving, but he doesn’t know what she’s talking about and blames it on Stormy.

SCENE FIVE

Gesler orders Tool to go help against the reinforcements. Tool warns him to beware the Pure in the tower—her voice.

SCENE SIX

Reverence looks up into the storm and realizes “a god is among us. A god has been summoned.” As she watches, Fener takes form in the sky, not a sending but an actual manifestation.

SCENE SEVEN

Karsa lays the dead Munug down, then kicks in the door of the temple of Fener. He finds the altar. On it lies a boar tusk which Karsa hews through—the tusk, the stone upon which it rests, and the altar itself.

SCENE EIGHT

Onos T’oolan thinks about himself as a boy, thinks that something is awakening in the souls of the T’lan Imass. They re-materialise on the road to face the Kolansii heading towards them, and he thinks that the fighting and killing goes on forever. Then he hears a massive concussion and turns to see a massive Imass sword slicing through the vague bestial shape. He hears the death cry of a god and watches as waves of blood descend over him and the T’lan Imass, driving them to their knees. As Tool watches, he and his kin are remade by the blood of a slain god. He then lifts his gaze to the rapidly approaching Kolansii and thinks that the timing could have been better.

SCENE NINE

Sister Reverence watches as the Crippled God’s heart now pulses and surges with life. But it is still chained and she thinks that this changes nothing. In fact, she will take in the blood of a god and use it as part of Akhrast Korvalain.

SCENE TEN

Kalyth and Gunth Mach talk about what this might mean, and the Matron says she cannot give any answer, that immortal rituals are unravelling and ancient power melts. As Kalyth watches the fighting begin again, she thinks that here is the history of the world writ large. Sinn then approaches, bathed in blood, and tells Kalyth to disengage the K’Chain Che’Malle, that they are too exhausted.

SCENE ELEVEN

The Imass are being slaughtered since, among them, Tool is the only one who remembers what it means to protect his body from attack. He grieves over the idea that his kin have been reborn, only to live but moments. As he sees the Kolansii flinch back, he watches as fourteen dead Jaghut push their way into the ranks of the Imass and banter before throwing themselves into battle.

SCENE TWELVE

Gilli and her troops disregard everything down to a rain of blood in order to join the fight.

SCENE THIRTEEN

Sag’Churok and his K’ell Hunters find themselves affected by the glory of seeing Jaghut and Imass fighting side by side and their exhaustion fades as they charge the enemy.

SCENE FOURTEEN–FIFTEEN

The Teblor and the K’ell Hunters both join the Imass and undead Jaghut in the battle against the Kolansii and commit bloody slaughter—in response, High Watered Festian orders his reserves (another eight thousand heavy infantry) into the battle.

SCENE SIXTEEN

Bitterspring lies close to death and wonders if it was worth tasting life again, if it is to be torn from her immediately, and reflects that this was a gift, no matter how short-lived.

SCENE SEVENTEEN

Shurq and Felash debate which way to go now, after having discussed the fact that Hood is walking across his own ice towards the spire. Felash mentions that Omtose Phellack is sleeping once more. They decide to go west, although Shurq secretly wishes to follow Hood if only to spend less time with Felash.

SCENE EIGHTEEN

Toc watches in despair as Tool fights among his kin, and gradually all of them are being worn down. He sees Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners also watching the scene and begs them to prevent Tool from dying. Whiskeyjack replies in surprise: “Toc Younger. Did you truly imagine that we would say no?”

SCENE NINETEEN-TWENTY-ONE

As the god dies, the blood falls like rain and the ice fields rise, Torrent tells the children to run inland and that he will catch them up. Once done, he turns to see Olar Ethil reborn as a young woman, and glorying in the idea that she and Tool will rule the Imass together. She searches for the children, who she wishes to give back to Tool, along with more, and Torrent finally sees that her plans have come about through love for the First Sword. Everything she has done has been in an attempt to bring them together. Torrent lies about where he has sent the children and tells Olar Ethil they slid down the ice. He follows her onto the ice and falls into a crevice, both thigh bones snapping and blood streaming from him. Olar Ethil comes back to him and she drags him free of the ice, laughing at the fact that he will die. He tells her if she goes to the rise she will be able to see the children. When she does so, he reaches for his bow and shoots her through the eye. Then the last warrior of the Awl dies.

SCENE TWENTY-TWO–TWENTY-FOUR

Gesler drags Stormy out of the battle and watches as the Ve’Gath also draw back—because Sinn is approaching. She rises her hands and a wall of fire engulfs the trenches and burns the Kolansii to a crisp. Kalyth wants Gesler to call her back, but he says it is too late. As Stormy is healed by Gunth Mach, he is already telling Gesler that it needs to be them to walk through fire to stop her, that she can’t be allowed to take the power of the Crippled God otherwise she will burn the world. Kalyth begs Gesler not to do it, but he kisses her hard and tells her to teach the lizards only the best of the humans, then the two old marines set out in the wake of Sinn, busy arguing with each other about who exactly of them got their god killed. Kalyth watches them go in despair, but they do not burn and she asks the matron what gift this is. Gunth Mach says she doesn’t understand herself, but that Kalyth chose them wisely and that the K’Chain Che’Malle would want to follow these two men through the firestorm.

The Wickan cattledog is trying to find a way into the fire to follow his master and fight at his side, and ends up following the pup—the one of tangled hair, who never grew up—round onto the frozen sea.

SCENE TWENTY-FIVE

As Gesler and Stormy climb in Sinn’s wake, Stormy tells Gesler that he will try to hold Sinn back while Gesler goes ahead to fight the Forkrul Assail and then retrieve the heart. As Gesler contemplates the fact that Sinn will be fighting the Forkrul Assail—Telas versus Akhrast Korvalain—he thinks that this is old shit and it shouldn’t be up to them to fight wars that they didn’t start. But then he thinks that a foreign god’s wounded heart was stolen and it just isn’t right. Stormy closes on Sinn and tears her from the stairs and drops her into midair. As she falls, her face darkens and Gesler knows that Stormy is about to feel her wrath. Stormy tells Gesler to get going and, knowing he shouldn’t, Gesler turns round to look at Stormy one last time.

SCENE TWENTY-SIX

Hood climbs to the spire, feeling the ice weaken beneath him. He now has mortal flesh and feels more cautious about his chances of survival. He muses a little on the fact that the god of death actually doesn’t know much about it. He jumps a fissure and, as he does so, watches a dog jump past him. Then another dog jumps the same crack and uses Hood’s foot (with his teeth) to get him the rest of the way. Hood resumes his journey, limping.

SCENE TWENTY-SEVEN–TWENTY-EIGHT

Sinn comes for Stormy, igniting the air around her. She screams words that bring to mind what she suffered as a child, seeing in Stormy (the one who touched her) some part of the man who raped her. She engulfs him with something that isn’t Telas, something that burns him utterly. Even in the moment that he feels death stealing over him, he jumps for her and grabs her, sending them both falling from the steps. He dies from the flames before they land, but there is enough of him that remains to kill Sinn. The fire consumes her.

SCENE TWENTY-NINE–THIRTY-ONE

Gesler reaches the top of the spire, knowing that Stormy has died taking down Sinn. A female Forkrul Assail awaits him. She mocks him, that he killed his god, that he has borne endless losses. He agrees and invites her to lead him from here. In the moment she reaches for him, he punches her in the nose. As she retaliates, he hears snarling and watches as Bent strikes her and chews off one side of her face.

She starts strangling the dog, and Gesler somehow finds his feet and smashes her arm to pieces that holds the dog. Reverence’s own blow connects with his forehead and he’s dead before he hits the floor, although her arm is now useless.

Bent sees his master lying lifeless on the floor and, although his breed rarely gives voice, he now howls with loss. As he prepares himself to leap for Reverence, someone steps past him.

SCENE THIRTY-TWO–THIRTY-THREE

Hood batters Reverence to death, sobbing that he has ‘had enough of your justice.’ As Hood drops Reverence, Bent lies next to Gesler and places his head on the man’s chest to stake his claim.

SCENE THIRTY-FOUR

Hood hears wings and turns to watch a Shi’gal Assassin descending to the spire. Hood sees that the Pure’s chains on the Crippled God’s heart are now gone, and he gestures for the Assassin to take it. He hears the assassin lifting into the air and knows the heart has been taken. Hood feels empty as he looks down upon all the death.

SCENE THIRTY-FIVE

Bitterspring somehow survived the battle and has been bandaged up. She watches as Tool leaves them all—no one asks where he is going. She sees the procession of people to the Spire and thinks that this terrible silence must be peace.

SCENE THIRTY-SIX

Tool walked past the city and sees three figures in the distance. He draws closer and, dropping his sword, begins running towards them. Childish cries greet him and then his three children are in his arms, telling him garbled stories about witches and saviours. Looking north, Tool then sees something else and walks closer. Once more he starts running and finds Hetan, lifting her into his embrace. She tells him that she has someone else’s toes. As he looks up, he sees a shadowy figure seated on a horse. He watches as it raises one hand to him, and he returns the salute.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

I do hate this first scene, where the K’Chain Che’Malle and the T’lan Imass are being taken down in droves but managing to push towards the trenches, and the Kolansii soldiers have absolutely no choice but to stay where they are thanks to the sorcery of Akhrast Korvalain. That is a nasty situation—these soldiers not being allowed to turn tail if they wished.

What gets me is that all of the old races we’ve seen—the T’lan Imass, the K’Chain Che’Malle etc—they’ve all managed to come to terms with exactly what it means to live in this new world alongside humans and they now are changing to reflect that. But the Forkrul Assail can perceive no other way: “The K’Chain Che’Malle would never yield to human rule. They are ever commanded by their Matron and none other. It has always been so and so it remains.”

This vision of ice rising, and, once again, Reverence’s complete misjudgement of who she faces is a beautiful moment. But, then, I wonder how many really remembered that the God of Death was also a Jaghut and therefore the very strongest of them. Hood, who gave up his position in order to take back the power of Omtose Phellack?

I love Gesler’s thoughts as he watches the T’lan Imass wade into battle: “Bastards are showing us up. Of course, we’re all flesh and blood, and they’re not. Nothing’s more irritating than an unfair advantage on the field. At least they’re on our side—gods, why am I even complaining?”

Hmm, it seems that the Matron is wanting Gesler and Stormy to be reached through their battle madness, so that they can pull back a little from the slaughter. In some ways it is good that she wants them to pay attention a bit more to combat other threats, but in other ways it sounds like she isn’t as invested in this battle now because she is seeing thousands of her children fall (which is fair, really).

Also, intrigued by the whole: “They are in battle frenzy—again and again they call upon a name I do not know, but each time it is voiced, something trembles in the air. A flavour pungent and bestial.” And then the fact that the tattoos on Gesler’s arms are burning. What is going to come of this?

I appreciate Gesler’s thoughts about Kellanved—that, as Emperor and commander of the T’lan Imass, he kept them away from wars because he knew what they were capable of achieving, and that the bloodshed would have been beyond belief.

Oh, wow! Fener has been tagged back into the battle. But… I wonder what side he is going to be on, since he is a beast of battle.

And oh wait! Has Karsa just killed Fener? On the moment of his reappearance?

Shock after shock after shock! That image as Tool watches a massive Imass sword kill Fener, and the blood rushing down to cover his kin (anyone else think about The Shining at that moment?) And, oh god, the moment that they take in that first breath and I couldn’t help an abrupt laugh at Tool’s: “This… this was ill-timed.”

There is something so dark to Kalyth’s thought as she watches the fighting begin again, even under the rain of blood from a slain god. It must feel right then as though nothing is able to prevent the constant fighting that has identified human progress.

And then, even darker, Tool’s thought about his kin: “Reborn, only to live but moments.” The anguish of that threatens to tear me apart, let alone the First Sword. I can’t express my relief at seeing the undead Jaghut step into their ranks, and there was also a sense of utter wonder—Imass and Jaghut fighting alongside each other. After everything we’ve seen, that was a special moment.

And it seems I’m not the only one to think so, seeing the K’ell Hunters shake off exhaustion on seeing two mortal foes fighting side by side. “Beloved kin, if this day must rain blood, let us add to it. If this day must know death, let us take its throat in our jaws. We are alive, and there is no greater power in all the world!”

So, it comes as quite a shock to see the Kolansii being surrounded and ripped apart and feeling hope that maybe, just maybe our guys might win, and then have that snatched away as another eight thousand Kolansii enter the battle…

Actual fistpump moment as Toc begs Whiskeyjack to do something to stop Tool from dying and then the Bridgeburners advance one last time to do battle. Honestly, that gave me chills, especially when Whiskeyjack said: “Toc Younger. Did you truly imagine that we would say no?” Just brilliant.

What an end to Olar Ethil… I was particularly upset to realise why she has done everything to Tool—so that she could win his love. What happened to just sending a bunch of flowers and seeing where things go? How did she get to killing his wife and stealing his children? This really does represent misguided stalker love—if I just do this, then he will love me. Fantastic to see Torrent—the one she has mocked for so long—be the one to take her down. And I ached as he thought: “Did you see that, Toc? Did you see that shot? Ah, gods. It’s done, brother.” What a hero. Seriously. From the moment he stood up for the children of Tool to this moment where he dies for the sake of getting rid of a tyrant—he is someone to admire.

Oh Stormy. Oh Gesler. Oh my god, how SCARY IS SINN?! The thought of her getting her hands on the power of the Crippled God? Just no. And it’s these two old marines who go, ‘well, looks like it’s up to us’. The scene where they bicker about who killed Fener as they head into the flames was just perfect—bittersweet in the humour, and then Kalyth’s words when the Matron asks her what manner of man they are and she shrugs and says, “I don’t know. Malazans.” I have all the feels.

And then that tiny scene with Bent, the Wickan cattledog trying to make it through the flames. It’s all becoming too much: “He would find his master again. To fight at his side. There was, for Bent, no other reason to exist.”

That moment when Gesler turns to look back at Stormy… I hope y’all are as choked up as I am right now. These two… They’ve been a joy the entire series. One of my favourite duos among many. Their path has been so perfectly written, and, as Stormy gives a mad smile and Gesler shows his a rude gesture, well, I just feel that they’ve remained utterly true to themselves and each other in a world that has turned upside down.

Much amusement at the ‘shrunken, hair-snarled mockery of a dog’ using Hood to get him across the fissure and following in Bent’s footsteps. Even more amusement at the fact that the all-powerful and terrifying Hood—who ate the face of a Forkrul Assail—is now limping his way to the spire. Brilliant.

Oh Stormy. Oh. I can’t… “Ges—take this—all I could—” and then Gesler’s thought: “But he didn’t make it. I feel it—a hole carved out of my soul. Beloved brother, you are gone.” First Torrent, then Stormy, dying so that they can save the world.

How is it that dogs manage to bring out even more emotion? This moment as Gesler dies and Bent gives a howl that would wake the wolf gods is made so much more painful a death. And then his baring of teeth at Hood to show that he has claimed this man. Really strong stuff. I can’t even think about Gesler and Stormy being dead, honestly.

Did this scene at the end with Tool really happen? Did he really find his wife and children? Does Hetan really have her feet back? Is Toc responsible? I am so tempered by grief in this chapter that I cannot believe something so wonderful could happen. What an ending.

 

Bill’s Reaction

Once again, a Forkrul Assail is rudely interrupted within her “certainty” by rude reality. It’s funny how Reverence is so sure of herself—she’s “certain” this is the last Matron, she’s certain why the K’Chain Che’Malle have attacked, she knows her army will hold, she’s already planning to invite the FA on other continents to help her “cleanse” (does she not know they have things to do in Cam’s books?)—all this certainty only seconds after what should have been some severe lessons in not being so sure of oneself—the appearance of the K’Chain Che’Malle, the death of Brother Diligence, etc. And this moment I think is emblematic of what Amanda points out as well—the Forkrul Assail frozen in their way of thinking. All the great overturning we have seen and will—the relationships between/amongst the Jaghut and Imass and K’Chain Che’Malle, the way for instance Gunth Mach (I think it was her) says how the K’Chain Che’Malle have to take their place in this world, even if it means their extinction. And yet the FA just can’t do it—cannot change, cannot “re-see” things, cannot get beyond their tunnel vision of “justice.”

Another great cinematic image—the freezing of Kolanse Bay, the shattering of ships. This is one of those delicious reader moments when we like to revel in our greater knowledge—no Reverence, the Jaghut are not gone or extinct, yes, there is one left “with this kind of power.” And he eats FA faces…

Nice bit of foreshadowing in this scene: Gunth Mach telling Kalyth: that flavor “pungent and bestial” in the air. Followed by Gesler’s tattoos “burning, as if splashed with acid.” The “storm” Gu’Rull says is coming, called by Gesler. Tool warning Gesler this will be “a day of ancient powers.”

I like how even at this late, late stage in the series, we still learn more about characters, they are still made more complex by revelations—in this case, Stormy’s epiphany that the Emperor had assumed command of the T’lan Imass not to use them as an unstoppable weapon, but to keep them off the playing board. Which tells us something about the Emperor.

I so enjoy being in Gesler’s mind in these scenes—so down to earth and also, despite the appalling slaughter, his thoughts add a much-needed bit of relief to the reader—the way for instance he thinks the storm he knows nothing about must be “that red-bearded bastard’s fault”

Well, finally something might have happened to cause some uncertainty in Reverence—the oh-don’t-you-want-to-see-this-on-the-big-screen manifestation of Fener in the sky above her. That’s gotta make ya rethink a few things…

Such a hear-rending POV from Tool after Karsa brings his blade down. The weeping of the T’lan Imass. Tool’s recollection of his childhood, his mortal childhood, a child who looked to the sky, a child who dreamed. And then his thoughts: “Things die. Dreams fall to dust [“Dust of Dreams”]. Innocence bleeds out to soak the ground. Love settles in cold ashes.” That alone is so bleak, but then the killer of “We had so much. But we surrendered it all. It was unforgivable.” The recognition of doing it to oneself. Choosing to do it. Then a few lines later, the horror of “We shall fight here. Because the fighting and the killing goes on forever. And the child will shed his tears until the end of time. I remember so many loves, so many things lost. I remember being broken. Again and Again… there is no law to say that one cannot break one more time.”

There’s a nice parallel there, perhaps, to the setting he and the T’lan Imass arrive in. The village that “had been made mostly of wood and that wood had been taken away to build engines of war. Now only the foundation stones remained.” One can almost see the T’lan Imass in this description as well—once a living village, with people and children in it, made mostly of living material—wood—but all that was taken away to be used to kill and maim—and what was left was cold, unyielding stone. A bleak metaphor if it is one, but maybe that single word, “foundation” is a speck of possibility, maybe something still remains at the core.

Oh man, and then what a scene—the death of Fener, his rain of blood from the heavens (remember Karsa standing in the rain—nice fore-image) remaking the T’lan Imass, a baptism of blood. What a great feeling. And then the reminder via classic understatement of what they still face: “This… this was ill-timed.”

Back to chains. And if we had never met a Forkrul Assail before, Reverence’s line about how she holds “the chains of their fallen comrades, their slain souls—all feeding my power” would tell us all we needed to know how to react to them.

Ruh-roh. Sinn is on the job. No way you’ve read the past hundreds of pages with all the references to her and don’t think—this is gonna be bad…

Then a quick turn to the cruel joke played upon the Imass—to be reborn into flesh and blood only to be cut down immediately.

And then—oh, the great moments are just piling up, aren’t they?—“Imass, we greet you”. Laughing Jaghut! Laughing Jaghut! Oh, please, send me more Jaghut! So bittersweet—laughter and pain, joy and sorrow. Jaghut fighting beside Imass, the two brought back into the world, flesh and blood, side by side. If only they had some Thel Akai, as Gedoran says. Wait, is that a Gillimada I hear? And a K’Chain Che’Malle?

This is a nice pause among the all the huge moments, to stop a moment with Bitterspring (what a great name for this moment by the way) and see that cruel as it is on the surface—this rebirthing of the Imass to only have them die minutes later—is still a gift, “no matter how short-lived.”

The pause before the thrilling storm that is the arrival of the Bridgeburners. But first, of course, we have to spend some time in that pained existence that his Toc—thinking to ourselves, “No way Erikson, No way are you going to kill Tool while Toc waits. You do that and you’re dead to me. Dead!” But man, how Toc’s POV wracks at you, his vision of Tool, his begging of Whiskeyjack. And how comforting a smile is brought forth by Whiskeyjack’s perfect reply,” Did you truly imagine that we would say no?”

From peaks to valleys. By now who has remembered Olar Ethil and Torrent? What a huge scene in terms of events—Olar Ethil dead (is she?), Torrent dead (is he?) all so amazingly fast. The revelation, if correct, that what Olar Ethil does is out of love/desire for Tool. Her rebirth in the god’s blood followed by her death. And I like too the stark contrast of Olar Ethil’s response to the Jaghut, to Hood—her attack on Omtose, her desire to use the Heart , her hatred for him because “He is Jaghut”—all this in comparison to Tool and the Imass fighting side by side with the laughing Jaghut. Hard to feel sorrow at her death, and how appropriate that it comes amidst the barrenness of ice.

From ice to fire, as we shift to the horror that is Sinn (and remember those soldiers she’s killing are held there by the sorcery of Reverence). And the greater horror of Sinn with the power of the Crippled God’s heart.

And so this long journey of Stormy and Gesler—and thank god we get to spend some time with these two amidst all this slaughter and emotional pain and grief—from having passed through the fire of Telann has come to this place—that’s a heck of a set up. And even better, coming full circle—Bent. Goddamn cattledog. Bent!

This is growing ominous with Stormy and Gesler—Stormy talking of holding Sinn back no matter what, Gesler telling Tavore in his head “We’ll do our part.” It all has a sense of fare-thee-well to it. And if you didn’t feel it then, you can’t avoid it in that last moment when “Their gazes locked.” Though of course, with these two, that moment has to end with a “rude gesture.”

Did I mention I love Jaghut? Here is Hood, been around for literally ages, realizing this blood has made him mortal, and thus is “potentially fatal?”, a realization that makes him wonder, “But then, who has a choice in these matters.” And then the answer comes, “Ah yes, I did.” And he laughs. God, I love Jaghut.

And then a moment later, I’m laughing right with him. Well, not actually with him, as Hood has stopped laughing and is now “hissing in pain” as “some shrunken, hair-snarled mockery of a dog” clamps its jaws on his foot.

Then another sharp veer in emotions as we return to Sinn and Stormy. So much of what is happening here is the past rising up. Recall where Sinn’s hurt and fury come from, that assault in her youth. And you want to feel for her, but she’s become so twisted, so “inhuman” as Stormy notes, and she’s about to kill Stormy, and then does. Though it is on his terms, as one might have guessed. But what a blow to Gesler, and to the reader: “a hole carved out of my soul” indeed.

Luckily, we don’t have to wallow too long in grief, as Gesler gives us, well, Gesler, telling the sneering “Do you think you can best me with just your hands?” Forkrul Assail, “I broke a man’s nose once.” Oh Gesler, even in your pain… Stormy would be proud.

And proud as well for his choice to save Bent rather than himself, though of course Stormy would have mocked him for it too. I love this moment swing back to Truth, that “look in his eyes. So hopeful. So young.” This is why Gesler makes the sacrifice he makes. And why it is a good sacrifice.

This bit with the dogs reminds me somewhat of the end of Lord of the Rings. Of Gandalf’s line to Frodo about how it was pity (I’m not actually looking at the book so forgive misquotes) that stayed Bilbo’s hand when he could have killed Gollum, and how he had a feeling that Gollum still had some part to play in all this. And so that moment of pity, of empathy, of compassion is what in the end saves them all—not the force of arms, Aragorn’s sword, Gandalf’s magic, but the compassion that allowed Bilbo to let Gollum live. And way, way back, a Trell used his last two healing elixers on a pair of dogs and one of the most powerful beings in the world said, “they must have been worthy beasts.” And turns out they were. And that act of compassion rippled all the way down to this moment.

I can so hear Hood’s tone as he tells Reverence, “I have had enough of your justice.” I like how his eyes rest on the heart, finally free, and we see him so easily give it up, making clear how fundamentally warped Olar Ethil’s view was. In case anyone had any doubt.

Amidst all this, so nice that Bitterspring has made it. And gets a secondary gift of a cleansing pure rain

And speaking of gifts, what could be greater than this one at the end—Tool, whole, mortal, flesh and blood, reunited not only with his children, but with Hetan. And let’s talk about this in the comments, shall we? Is this a step too far? What does this do to her earlier storyline? I’m curious what people think about this moment beyond the obvious emotion of it.

What a freakin’ chapter…


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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