Welcome back 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 epilogue of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Orb Sceptre Throne.
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.
OK, we had planned on doing the whole book plus the epilogue, but since we’re still waiting to hear from Cam about a Q and A, we’re doing just the epilogue today and the wrap on Friday to give us a bit more time.
Duiker and Antsy have some tea at K’rul’s Bar and discuss how Tayschrenn is probably gone and how Spindle has headed south. Topper appears outside the bar and Kiska joins him, and they both leave.
People are out inspecting the damage to the city, which is less than it might have been thanks to Tiserra’s pots of water and volunteer fire fighters. Topper and Kiska discuss how both their missions are completed, and Topper offers her a job, perhaps teaching at the Claw academy on Unta. Kiska says she’s interested, but has an errand to run before saying yes or no.
Rallick goes to Vorcan’s estate, where Studlock and the three ex-Seguleh are back in place. Vorcan explains she didn’t tell him more because he would only have tried some doomed-to-fail solution. When he asks about Taya, Vorcan says she was sent to her room to “think things over.” She asks him, “How did he escape us? What was his last trick?” When Rallick refuses to answer, she just sighs, saying, “Well, had to try.”
Chaur is delivered to Barathol’s house and after an emotional reunion, the delivery man says an “odd little fella” said he was also to bring Barathol and his family to their new villa in the hills.
Scorch and Leff drop Aman into an open well in the Dwelling Plain in their inimitable fashion.
The Seguleh have set up a camp outside the city waiting for transport home. Sall asks Lo if he would have really done what he’d said—charged the Moranth. Lo says it would have worked; most would have gotten to the coast safely. Sall points out it was the plan Dassem was least desirous off, and realizes his father had been testing Dassem. Lo tells him that what differentiates the Seguleh at the highest levels is no longer speed or technique, but “that unquantifiable ability to read others. To enter into their skin. To be able to understand them so completely that you know what they will do before they do it themselves. A complete empathy.” He adds that Jan had that, and also knew Gall would not have followed him and so “did what he had to do to ensure that the mask would not come to him.” As for Palla, he says she may never recover from Jan’s death. When Sall points out Lo had never challenged Dassem, Lo replies, “his entire life has been his test.” Watching Yusek, Lo tells Sall he made a good choice and then leaves as Sall thinks to himself he’s not sure exactly who made the choice.
Leoman runs down his women exploits to Maker, but is interrupted by Kiska’s arrival. They run in slow-mo toward each other on the beach as music swells.
Kruppe, in one of his “dreams,” meets Tayschrenn at a fire. He asks what has happened to “the other” and Tayschrenn answers, “Still with me. I have much to learn yet. These things can take centuries.” He renames himself T’renn.
So Spindle is heading off after the excitement of his time in Darujhistan. I somehow don’t like to think about him on his own without other Malazans around to guide him and keep him safe. Some of the Malazans you can see will be fine—Antsy did okay, after all—but Spindle feels oddly vulnerable.
Ha, Kiska teaching? The idea of that amuses me—she just doesn’t seem to have the patience for that sort of career, especially based on how frustrated she got with Leoman! I only ever really see her as wandering the world, getting involved in things here and there.
Ah, Studlock, with his suggestions for Rallick concerning body odour and breath, and then Rallick pausing and saying, ‘Is my…’ That is well done. Studlock is one of those characters who just works, possibly because we see him for such brief moments.
What is it with assassins and roofs?
Taya has most definitely been grounded by her mum!
Oh, I love that scene where Barathol and Chaur are reunited. That brought a little lump to the throat.
Oh good, another Scorch and Leff scene to skim as we approach the end of the novel. For me, they just don’t work. I’m sure they will have their fans amongst you readers, but I just can’t count myself a fan.
It’s a good final scene with the Seguleh, especially seeing Lo and Sall talking as father and son. I like the explanation that, as the Seguleh become more advanced in the ranks, what differentiates them is their ability to read others. It makes sense to me, since they have mastered the physical cues at that point, so the only way to win challenges and become better is to master the more intangible aspects of encounters with others.
I like the reflection in the scene where Kruppe is drawn to the fire with the scene in a very early novel (GotM? DG?) when he meets with K’rul.
Wait, what? Tayschrenn has merged with K’rul and become T’renn? Was that the focus of what this novel wanted to achieve? If so, we’ve come a circuitous route to get here, and all of the Legate nonsense wasn’t really important at all! I’m not sure about something so important having been presented all the way along as a very small side quest attached to the main story!
While the last chapter could have in some ways been seen as an epilogue as it wrapped up a few storylines—what happened with Taya, Vorcan, etc., in this chapter we get a mix of closure and folks being moved into place for their next adventures. Fisher getting connected to Assail, which happens to be the title of the book we’ll see him in, Spindle heading south, Tayschrenn becoming perhaps a new god (more on that in a bit). As for closure (if they’re lucky), we get some domestic peace perhaps: Barathol’s family (which includes big and little Chaurs) moving on up in the world, Kiska and Leoman, Sall and Yusek. We also find out what happens to Aman, though his closure is not quite so nice.
It’s a nice little characterization of Kiska at the table in Krul’s as appearing a bit “lost,” which sets us up for her decisions going forward. So, do we think she is not going to become Professor Kiska of Jugularing 101 at the Academy and instead spend time with Leoman elsewhere, or do we think she is going to do both? Personally, as I can’t see Leoman settling down amongst a slew of Malazans, I’m going with the former myself, which I think is perhaps hinted at by her, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves” thought when Topper welcomes her back “to the fold.”
Ah, I do so enjoy Studlock. Would love to see him drop something off at the Azath House to get a scene with him and Raest.
How appropriate is it that this final scene with our two assassins takes place on a rooftop? Here is another bit of what I’d call unnecessary ambiguity with her question at the end about how did “he” escape us at the end, with Rallick refusing to answer. There are a few possibilities for the he I’d say: Kruppe, only because so many people talk of him that way and he’s been slipping in and out of things all novel; Ebbin, who goes into the Azath; and Aman, whom we see tossed into a well (any other possibilities anyone has?). My own view is it’s Ebbin, and Rallick doesn’t answer because he’s the one who did it, but I don’t know why this couldn’t be more clear.
While I’m glad to see Barathol reunite with Chaur and get his villa, I wish we could have seen Scillara here in this scene as well to get a full sense of family.
I’m also still not much of a fan of the Scorch and Leff show in this book, but it is good to get Aman’s storyline wrapped up
As much as I (and we) have talked about how empathy is one of the major themes of this series, I’m not sure we’d expect a lesson in it from the Seguleh of all people. But while I’m not fully sold on empathy as an overriding concern of theirs, this idea that the ability to read people more than swordsmanship separates the higher ranks makes sense to me.
As does his summation of Dassem’s entire life as challenge enough. Hard to argue with that.
I’d love a scene where Kiska stealthily shaves Leoman’s mustache.
So this last scene and Tayschrenn. Again, I’d say it could be a bit more clear. But my own take is Tayschrenn somehow merged with K’rul (after getting an OK maybe from D’rek, and after telling us how weak K’rul was) in order to keep K’rul alive/in the game and thus has become if not a god certainly an Ascendant (though his name is certainly in the godly form). Other theories?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.