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 Thirteen (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.
Right, you lovely lot, you’re stuck with me (Amanda) for commentary today, so you’ll get it as you did the last time—my comments interspersed with my commentary, so that I don’t basically post the same thing twice. Bill is unavoidably absent and will hopefully catch up soon in the comments.
Blood and Bone Chapter Thirteen (Part One)
So this first scene is a long one—most of what we’re covering today—and it’s a bit of a doozy. Mara heaves herself onto the shore from the river, and is immediately confronted by the carcass of one of the half-bird women that have been part of the attack on the Disavowed.
The battle has been continuing for the night and into the day, with various of Ardata’s Children coming into the fray. Mara is practically drained of magic.
Leuthan—a guardsman—comes to find her, and tells her everyone is gathering on a rise just to the southeast. He helps her make her way there. On the way they discover the body of Hesta, one of the Disavowed, whose neck has been broken and crushed as though by a big cat, and Mara realises who has caused that particularly death—Citravaghra (which is, by the way, an incredibly difficult word to spell on the fly—it’s one of my least favourite Malazan names, purely because it’s so very fantasy. In the main, we have wonderfully evocative names in these books that do not require crazy pronunciation skills—from this book alone, we have Murk and Ina and Skinner and Shimmer, and even Ardata. They’re great names and don’t take you out of the reading, whereas Citravaghra does to a great extent).
Suddenly a creature charges towards them and Mara expends the last of her power to push it away, and Leuthan ends up carrying her as she practically blacks out.
As they arrive at the rise, Petal gathers her in and lets her know the rest are gathered. He points at Skinner, who is the only one who is still wearing armour, since the rest of the Guard’s has long since rusted. Okay, so wouldn’t that worry you if you were in his shoes? I mean, I know the armour came from Ardata as a mark of her favour, and it should be immune to the effects of her homeland, but I would feel a little concerned as to why the armour is still effective. I would also be concerned about what might happen to me when the armour’s ‘power’ is removed by Ardata.
Mara follows his gaze out to the jungle, which is swaying with the movement of all the gathered creatures as they become surrounded. Mara reflects on the fact that they had never known the extent to which creatures haunted Himatan, but that there was in fact a race of people here. She wonders if there is any real difference to the Andii, the Children of the Night. Okay, I have no real idea why she makes this particular comparison, but it seems so important that I am filing it. It strikes me (going by comments I’ve read from you guys and Bill) that there is possible relevance with Forge of Darkness and so I am filing it. If there is no need, I’m sure you’ll let me know!
Skinner calls out to the assembled creatures, telling them that the Guard don’t want to spill any more of their blood. I can’t help but laugh here at the breathtaking arrogance of this guy, considering so far we’ve seen a completely spent Mara, a dead Disavowed, and general disarray amongst the gathered Crimson Guard.
He continues by telling them that he was once Ardata’s chosen mate and ruled, when they bowed before him. He gives them the oh-so-generous choice of either bowing down again or fleeing. Again, I just think he has a rather odd perception of exactly what has happened here and which side appears to be doing better! Also, with the bit about Ardata, the part that really jumped out was that he ruled, as in, past tense. I’m not sure he will still have that particular allowance conferred on him by Ardata!
The creatures withdraw and appear to be talking about things, so Mara takes the chance to rest. She manages to spend some of that time taking on a distinctly colonial and conquering attitude: “The land was beautiful after its own fashion; desirable. Were it not for its backward recalcitrant inhabitants. Still, correctly handled campaigns of neglect, discouragement and stifling might get rid of most of them after a generation or two.” Yes, those backward recalcitrant inhabitants—getting all pissy because they are being attacked.
As the afternoon pulls to a close, she senses a tingling and heads in that direction with Petal, who senses something as well. Interestingly, Skinner can also sense it, and Mara wonders about his sudden sensitivity. Is it thanks to the armour? Especially since the power of the portal seems to originate from Ardata, who also gave him the armour?
Citravaghra and Rutana come through the portal. Rutana is apparently an enemy of theirs from way back, and known as being the most powerful of Ardata’s followers.
As Skinner and Rutana exchange the seemingly obligatory casual threats, Mara realises that the woman seems to be giggling to herself about something—and that the emotion might be contagious, being as the cat man (I refuse to write that name anymore) is also showing signs of triumph.
Okay, this bit that follows is a Bill bit. I refer to it as such because he would know what this is leading up to and could provide some little clues and notes about which bits are important. I think they are referring to Ardata having taken K’azz as her partner instead, pushing Skinner aside, but I’m not completely sure about it. So instead of a thoughtful examination of Rutana’s teasing of Skinner, you have a confused diatribe about what it might be. Lucky you.
Skinner is told about Ardata casting him aside and that he can no longer return to his place with her, and Mara wonders if this was his plan all along. I wonder as well, being as I am a first time reader and don’t know what is coming.
Skinner doesn’t exactly react as they expect, roaring with laughter instead of weeping in a little ball of loneliness and desolation, or screaming his rage. He basically tells them he doesn’t want Ardata anyway—it’s all gone a bit high school. “She doesn’t want you anymore!” “Well, I didn’t want her anyway!”
Rutana then tells the clearly heartbroken Skinner (…) that she has chosen another, and that it is his old partner-in-crime and now immortal enemy K’azz. Rutana should have looked to Mara for her big reaction, since she is stunned and shaken. Skinner is more confused about the fact that they should have been able to sense his arrival—but of course they can’t, anymore, because they are Disavowed. That’s quite a large moment in this scene, for me. These people, who they used to sense; their dead, who used to come to their aid; the Vow, that united them all—really, they lost a great deal, didn’t they?
Skinner gives Rutana a very bored dismissal, which makes her so angry she turns into a gigantic worm. At least now we know (or I do) why exactly she was so in control of the worm in the river while travelling with Shimmer and K’azz. Because she is a badass worm as well!
Our intrepid leader of the Disavowed announces that he will deal with her, and borrows a sword. Mara stands witness with Pearl to his battle, while the others flee.
What is interesting is that Mara has to use pretty much all her power to stop just the trees and landscape that are being thrown around by Rutana, while Skinner faces the worm herself—is that a description of their different levels of power and ability?
Skinner seems to start doing really badly, and then gets swallowed by Rutana. Oops. Except it’s not oops! It’s a Men in Black moment! Mara goes off with Petal to light a big fire, because she realises that Skinner is going to be back after destroying the worm from the inside.
Mara sits by the fire warming herself, as Petal protects them both with his Warren raised. Skinner comes out of the night like a dark hero—everyone swoon! Poor Mara. Her unrequited love thing must be quite terrible in moments like this, when she observes that Skinner looks like the Suzerain of Night (with those capital letters, this seems to be a particular character, but not sure who. With reference to Night, might it be Anomander?)
He looks pretty beat up and is carrying mere shards of the sword he borrowed, but I suspect the least of his thoughts are on the fact he is going to have to explain to Black that he broke his sword! Especially since he just got eaten by a giant worm on their behalf and lived to tell the tale.
The next morning Mara wakes up to find that Petal has stood watch all night, and that Skinner is still asleep after his exertions. The priest suddenly appears through the trees and tells them that he has found another shard of the Crippled God and that they need to go and fetch it.
Then there is some obscure chat about how many chains exactly Skinner is now bearing:
“You said King in Chains,” Petal observed from where he sat. “Surely you mean King of Chains?”
“Not at all,” the little man said in his taut, nervous delivery. “Not by any measure.” He gestured to Skinner where he lay insensate with exhaustion. “When he accepted the role he doubled his chains though he knows it not.”
*shrug* You need Bill here for this.
The priest tells them they will need soldiers, and Petal explains they have headed east, so the priest demands they catch them up. He is such a pleasant soul to deal with.
Pon-lor is trying to walk on, through a haze of fever and infection, and he reflects on the fact that Himatan is going to end up claiming him after all. Still, he does continue walking. As he does, he observes some gargantuan stone heads. One of them starts talking, intoning: “He is returned. Praise to his name. The High King returneth.” I doubt everyone will have quite the same perspective on Kallor’s reappearance.
He stands stock still in shock, and then a tree falls on him. I’m not entirely sure if these events are connected.
He wakes up and probes his wounded head, and apparently touches the bone that should be on the inside, but is now on the outside. Despite a cracked skull, he still persists in continuing. That’s a Thaumaturg for you. “The flesh obeys the will.”
Pon-lor realises that Saeng was correct, and that the only thing to stop Kallor now is to call down the green of the Visitor and break the world again. He wants to tell her that she is right, and so shuffles on.
In his fevered and broken-headed haze, he encounters children running by and squealing, and adults offering him fruit in a celebration of Kallor’s return. Then, as night falls, he comes across a village where they have committed mass suicide, also in celebration of Kallor’s return.
I can’t honestly tell if this is all a product of his pain and weakness—but it certainly does say a great deal about Kallor!
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.