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 Chapter Ten (Part One) of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Blood and Bone.
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.
Blood and Bone Chapter Ten (Part One)
Saeng wakes after having had her poisoned arrow wound healed by Pon-lor. Hanu tells her he thinks Pon-lor will try to use her to control him. Pon-lor tells her Hanu is “flawed” and she should help bring him to Aniti Pura for “healing.” Hanu scoffs at the idea, saying they’ll probably try to wipe his mind. Saeng tells Pon-lor not to worry about Hanu, his masters plan to bring down the Jade Visitor and destroy them all, but Pon-lor laughs at the idea. Knowing he needs her though, he suggests that when it’s clear the Visitor is not going to crash on them, she come to the city with him, mentioning that he could probably wound if not kill Hanu if they try anything. Thet-mun enters the cave and when he leaves again, Saeng tells Pon-lor to keep the bandit away from her. He explains that will be easy since Thet-mun is sure she’s a witch of Ardata. He suggests she come to the city for training to learn how to use her power, but she laughs, explaining she’s had more and older teachers than he could imagine, adding that maybe that’s why her power so terrifies her, as he’d noticed. Besides, she says, she has a purpose—to find the Great Temple of Light. He asks what about after, and she says she doesn’t know, maybe leave across the ocean so Hanu won’t be hunted.
The next morning Thet-mun climbs a tree to look for signs of the temple and when none are found Saeng says they’ll just have to keep going. Pon-lor decides enough is enough and takes control of Hanu, threatening to have him kill himself if Saeng doesn’t listen. Hanu grabs Pon-lor by the throat and chokes him until Saeng tells him not to kill the Thaumaturg. She tells Pon-lor he owes her his life and to leave them alone, and she and Hanu leave.
Pon-lor comes to, Thet-mun tells him he’s had enough and leaves. Pon-lor follows Saeng’s aura.
The priest brings Mara and the others through near Murk’s group and they plan to try a snatch and grab of Celeste. They hadn’t expected “damned Malazans though.” Petal tells them “The Enchantress herself works against us” and when Skinner tells him to find the shard he explains it’ll take time: “this one [Sour] is an inspired practitioner—his mind is particularly atypical.” Skinner splits his group—He and Mara and the priest go after the shard and the others (Petal, Black, Shijel) are to hold off the Malazans.
The priest tells them there’s another mage, this one associated with Shadowthrone. They eventually catch up to the litter and one of the Malazans grabs the priest and says he’ll kill him if Skinner’s group doesn’t back off. Skinner, deeply concerned about the priest’s welfare, immediately surrenders and then. OK, OK, Skinner says, “like I care about that meat-sack” and attacks, at which point the litter and two mages disappear and the two Malazan soldiers run away. Mara says it’s shadow, and when Skinner asks the priest if he can follow them, he says yes and pulls them through into the forest of the Azathanai. Skinner tells Murk and Sour not to move, then Murk sends a summoning and Mara hits him with a blast of power. Edgewalker appears, much to Mara’s dismay (“All mages are warned of this one—the most potent haunt of Shadow”) though neither Skinner nor the priest appear impressed, the priest arguing, “I know your strictures. You cannot interfere.” When Edgewalker says, true, but they’re in Emurlahn, Skinner says they’ll just leave then thank you and reaches for the shard. Edgwalker appears to converse with someone/something, saying: “I cannot foresee the outcome” then “Is this your wish?” Skinner grabs the pack with the shard and the priest yanks them out, but they appear with the pack empty and in tatters. Skinner says they can’t stay in Shadow forever and they’ll get them when they come out. The priest says yes, “Our master requires as many disparate part as possible. He is much assailed. All his children he must gather to himself. Greater power is needed… to win free.”
We get the attack on Murk’s group from his and Sour’s point of view, Murk changing up their defense plan when he realizes Mara’s group must be tracking the shard. When the Guard shows up, Murk is sorely dismayed that it’s Skinner. He takes them into Shadow.
In the forest, Murk tells Celeste these people want to take her to her “parent” and she laughs, calling the expression “quaint” and saying “that comes nowhere near our relationship.” He does his summoning and is knocked unconscious by Mara.
He comes to and asks what happened. Sour tells him the scariest guy he’d ever seen showed up to kick out Skinner’s group, and Murk is bummed he missed Edgewalker. Celeste says Edgwalker is not threatening; he only makes her sad. Murk is surprised the trees aren’t opposing them, but Sour says Edgewalker told the trees to leave them alone. Murk is shocked that Edgewalker has that sort of power and thinks of the various rumours about him: he’d killed the first king of Kurald Emurlahn—Elder Shadow—and had been cursed to wander it forevermore. Or he’d been the one to shatter Emurlahn, and he’s been cursed forevermore. Sour points out he’d promised Edgewalker they wouldn’t stay long and Murk agrees they need to leave. He asks if Sour can hide Celeste but Sour says she’s too powerful, but suggests maybe she can herself. Murk kicks himself and asks her about it. She says she’d been thinking of exploring that “entity” (Ardata) she’d noticed before and that would make her hard to locate and he says OK, though he worries he’s possibly just saying that because it aligns with his desires/needs. She thanks him like an excited child and disappears, leaving Murk disappointed. He and Sour head back to Yusen.
This must be quite a sinister awakening for Saeng—someone who hasn’t exactly been given over to trusting other people. In a cave, with a strange person, who touches her bared thigh. I think she shows remarkable restraint here compared to what she could do, especially with the power that she is able to wield.
It feels funny that Hanu would assume that Pon-lor is going to use Saeng to control him, when now Pon-lor has got a good reason to use Hanu to control Saeng—especially now that he realises they are related. Although, having said that, Pon-lor just doesn’t seem the type to control others in this manner. It feels as though that is Saeng and Hanu’s misconception of what all the Thaumaturgs are like. We know that Pon-lor is able to consider another way than the Thaumaturgs usual approach.
And then having said that, we see Pon-lor revert to type and want to ‘heal’ Hanu of his flaws—as in, he wants to turn him back into a complete automaton without any freewill.
Yay! Objectification of men! Pon-lor is an “unfairly handsome bastard”—still no description of his genitalia though… (glad it wasn’t just me who objected in the last chapter to the way that Spite was described).
It is interesting to see their respective positions on power—him thinking that she should want to develop what she knows and extend her abilities, and her letting him know that actually any reasonable person would be deathly scared about the amount of power she has.
I love the idea of Thet-mun not looking at the witch directly, but making these warding gestures that she clearly sees. You can almost hear Saeng’s amusement at his attitude.
This is a scene that feels like two children playing at being adults—both of them trying to convince the other that their path is the better one.
I am with Bill here in that it is difficult to work out whether Pon-lor did actually have control of Hanu here, or whether it was all a ploy. You can absolutely see why Hanu would want to get his hands on one of his former masters in order to get some form of revenge, especially when that former master is trying to control him again.
“Fuckin’ losers” made me giggle. Poor Thet-mun.
“Yes. I do believe I’m getting the hang of it.” Is this the pride that will come before a fall?
I’m curious as to Mara’s thought about the Malazan emperor: “It seemed this new emperor differed from his predecessors regarding the Shattered God.” Is she talking about Mallick Rel?
And, yes, the thought of these Crimson Guard encountering the Malazans far from where they should be, and thinking along the lines of ‘oh shit’ is a classic moment. And this exchange says it all:
“They will attack!” the priest wailed.
“Of course,” Skinner answered, studying the surrounding jungle. “They’re Malazans.”
Yes, we are invited to dislike this priest of the Crippled God, but I found this quite unnecessary a moment: “He brushed past her closely, taking the opportunity to run a hand up her trousers over her buttock.”
Edgewalker! And more than a hint about how terrifying this entity is and how much power he must wield thanks to Mara’s reaction: “Mara started, shocked. Skulker of borders? Edgewalker? She raised her Warren to its greatest intensity. All mages are warned of this one—the most potent haunt of Shadow.” Two things there—why specifically mages who are warned about him? And he is the ‘most potent’ haunt? That implies there are many more haunts of Shadow.
I didn’t like the toilet humour of Murk squatting as the Crimson Guard came upon them.
Haha! “Fucking Crimson Guard renegade.”
I love the mutual respect these guys show each other—Murk and Sour admiring the level of Mara’s power, and knowing the reputation of Skinner, while the Crimson Guard recognise they are facing mages of talent.
Bless. Murk being all starstruck about Edgewalker is comedy gold.
Hmm, why would Edgewalker make Celeste feel sad? That was an intriguing tiny snippet. And some words as to who Edgewalker might be, and why he wanders Emurlahn for what seems like eternity. I love that we have this character that wanders in and out of the story, and clearly has so much back story that his very presence adds resonance to every scene. Even though we have no idea what that back story might comprise.
While I like this back and forth between Saeng and Pon-lor, especially the way she sees right through his carefully constructed pose of reasoned patience while he sees right through her maybe I’m wiser and more dangerously clever than you know, and also how we’re reminded just how young Pon-lor is (I admit I’d forgotten that), I’m a little lost on his offer to go along with her until her foretold disaster involving the Jade Visitor doesn’t happen. Since she never offers up any timetable (in a week, a month, next year), it seems a strange offer.
As much as Pon-lor clearly has an agenda here, and is clearly posing in spots, there are a few nice touches that seem quite sincere and if so, work nicely as some subtle characterization: the way he checks her dressings when she wakes and lays a calming hand on her shoulder when Thet-mun shows up, his laugh when she wants the bandit to keep his distance from her. A lot of back and forth with this character. One does wonder what he’s thinking about as she falls asleep.
So did Pon-lor actually take control of Hanu and his power was broken by Saeng, or was Hanu cleverly pretending to be under his control so as to get close enough to grab him by the throat? I’m not quite sure from this description and can’t recall if it comes up later. Since Pon-lor seems to think he’s still in control even after she lets loose, I’m leaning toward the latter, and if that is in fact the case I love that move by Hanu.
Just as I love Thet-mun’s reaction to finding his second boss in dire straits: I really can pick ‘em, can’t I?,” his immediate reply to the idea of following Saeng and Hanu: “No we fucking won’t,” and his very quick answer to Pon-lor’s threat of compulsion: “And I could feed you something that would eat you from the inside out. I could direct you into poisonous leaves. Lead you over a pit.” Smart lad. Though perhaps he should have taken Pon-lor’s advice about going home, finding a woman, and picking up farming (and that’s another reason to respond well to Pon-lor)
Once again, nice setting details: “Ants swarmed over the disturbed rotting vegetation that littered the floor.”
You have to admire Pon-lor’s determination and can-do optimism, but this line from a character in new dangerous straits rarely ends well: “Yes, I do believe I’m getting the hang of it.”
I love Mara’s surprise and annoyance that their quarry turns out to be Malazans is just so wonderful after having spent so many years and thousands of pages following Malazans. It’s so easy to just imagine her thoughts there: “Malazans. Why did it have to be Malazans? I hate Malazans.” And I love as well Skinner’s matter of fact “Of course [they’ll attack]. They’re Malazans.”
And it’s nice to see the other side giving Sour some props: “This one is an inspired practitioner. His mind is particularly atypical.” (The Force is strong with this one.)
Did anybody seriously think for a moment that Skinner would hesitate at the threat of the priest being killed? In a film, that’s where you’d want the close-up on the reaction face of the priest when Skinner says go ahead.
It’s interesting how Skinner comes off here, the way he clearly respects his enemy, doesn’t chase after the one Malazan soldier to kill him for daring to fight him, and when he meets the mages in Shadow, he simply tells them to stand aside, as if he’s more than willing to let them live. And then his not throwing a fit on returning empty-handed. On the one hand, it’s a bit unlike what one might expect, but on the other hand, it does fit a sense of supreme confidence and calculation.
You can see why Mara would think Edgewalker is an Imass obviously. And you can see just how fearsome a weapon of the Empire they were that she experiences “terror” at the thought. And then that gets ratcheted up even more when she realizes this is Edgewalker, which tells you a bit about his rep.
So guesses on who Edgewalker is talking to? And what he was asked? Shadowthrone? Telling him to fight Skinner? Or since they’re in the Azathanai forest, an Azathanai?
I do like that we get the same scene from Murk’s pov, and while I’m not usually a fan of bathroom humor (literally in this case), I did find this opening funny.
I also enjoyed the way Esslemont shows Murk and Sour as finish-each-other’s-sentences kind of partners, the way they automatically know what to do in such situations for each other: “It would have completely defeated him had not he and Sour worked together so long that they automatically allowed paths for each other through their devices and traps.”
And don’t you want the short story about Mott and when the apes got Murk?
I like the parallel with Mara thinking “damn Malazans” and Murk thinking “fucking Crimson Guard renegade.”
And love the fanboy reaction of Murk to being unconscious when Edgewalker showed up: “And I missed it! I can’t believe it! How could I…” Maybe he could have signed his collection of Great Powers trading cards…
It makes good sense that a fragment of the Crippled God would feel sad with regard to Edgewalker
It is a little weird though that Murk is shocked at Edgewalker being able to tell the trees to leave them alone given the whole reason he called him was because he was so powerful and given his reaction to having missed his appearance. As for the rumors, Edgewalker has always been a bit of a mystery—maybe we’ll get a chance to answer some questions in the prequel reread…
It is funny as well that Murk needs Sour to suggest Celeste hiding herself when he had just made note of how he was the only one who could see her when Skinner’s party showed up because she was, well, hiding herself (even if she didn’t know the idea of “hiding”).
As before when he had this ethical dilemma, you have to like Murk for wondering if he’s giving in the Celeste’s desire to check out Ardata as a means of manipulation (which he would feel bad about). And I like him for missing her.
Love Sweetly’s twig response to Murk’s suggestion that they head deeper into the forest rather than to the coast. Followed by Burastan’s “disbelief” and “disapproving gaze.”
After training and working as an accountant for over a decade, Amanda Rutter became an editor with Angry Robot, helping to sign books and authors for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Since leaving Angry Robot, she has been a freelance editor—through her own company AR Editorial Solutions, BubbleCow and Wise Ink—and a literary agent for Red Sofa Literary Agency. In her free time, she is a yarn fiend, knitting and crocheting a storm.
Bill Capossere writes short stories, essays and plays; does reviews for the LA Review of Books and Fantasy Literature, as well as for Tor.com; and works as an adjunct English instructor. In his non-writing and reading time, he plays ultimate Frisbee (though less often and more slowly than he used to) and disc golf.