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 Two) 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.
As last Friday, you’re stuck with me for the commentary! Same applies—look for my comments within the scene summaries. Bill is unavoidably absent for personal reasons and will hopefully catch up in the comments soon.
Blood and Bone Chapter Thirteen (Part Two)
Two days after falling into the river, Ina is starting to feel feverish effects. She tries to continue, like a good little Seguleh would, without complaint, but T’riss eventually notices that she isn’t right. She asks if Ina is unwell, and, taking everything that she has, Ina is forced to answer that she is feeling a little unwell, yes—which means she is positively at death’s door. This is such a military attitude to have. My dad, who was armed forces, would still rather keel over than admit to being even the slightest bit unable to function.
T’riss confesses that it is difficult for her to remember that others suffer such things as being unwell, which I actually liked as a nod to being immortal and ordinary illnesses having no effect. Then T’riss mutters some annoyingly obscure stuff about ‘who is closest?’ and ‘this is earlier than I had wanted’ etc. Let’s pretend I don’t understand it because we’re seeing it from Ina’s hazed view, rather than because I am a dense reader.
Ina and T’riss suddenly appear in ground dominated by huge trees, and the Enchantress tells her they will wait there.
We find out very quickly that T’riss and Ina are waiting for the arrival of Murk and Sour’s party. I like the fact that Sour can sense them and even refers to them as female before being told that they are. Sad for Murk, though—he is shown here to be dropping in importance, since he can’t sense them ahead and has no idea who ‘Rissan’ really is. In fact, his: “damn these adherents of the Enchantress!” commend, while comical, points to the fact that he is proving to be less than useful right now.
And then we have his moment of self-awareness, where he realises he has been grouchy and has been complaining to the cook (who I take to be Sour, at this point) and knows he has to do the right thing.
As well, in the start of this scene, we see Sour stepping forwards in importance. I thought his attempt to remove the jungle trappings he has acquired was rather sweet, before he faced the Enchantress. And he is fervent in his belief that they should accept the bargain with Rissan—again, showing he knows who they are facing.
I like the glimpse of Seguleh speed and training—even though she is on death’s door, she still manages to bring that sword to bear on Sour when he goes to examine her incredibly swiftly.
Murk sees that Rissan pays special attention to the shard of the Crippled God, and ensures that the guard is increased on it during the night in case she has intentions in that direction.
That evening Murk heads to where Sour is working on Ina. Sour requests a talk and they are joined by Yusen and the new mage, Rissan. Sour bows to her as she approaches and Murk takes note, thinking firstly that she must be ranked higher than Sour and that that isn’t hard, and then immediately reproaching himself for being unkind. I like this self-awareness of Murk, and also the demonstration that you can’t immediately change the way that you think.
Sour says that he has stopped the spread of the infection, but that they might have to amputate the arm at the elbow (which, you have to believe, would be the very worst nightmare for a Seguleh, who is entirely governed by martial actions). Rissan says that that would be problematic—I think this means that Ina would try to fight them and that it would not be a good idea for them to have to restrain a Seguleh. Sour says that Rissan could suppress Ina’s awareness, but she reveals that she is preoccupied with concealing their location from someone hunting them. I love the way this hunter is described: “Hunted by a particularly tenacious and, dare I say, spiteful enemy.” Very subtle, T’riss!
Murk offers to take over, saying it’s his specialty. I must confess that I got a feeling of dread at this point, especially seeing his confidence (bordering on arrogance), thinking that he is going to fail and Sour is going to succeed in what he needs to do, and then Murk will end up feeling even worse.
Murk finds a suitable tree from which to work and is joined by Sour, who asks him if he will manage. More overconfidence from the Shadow mage. It concerns because he hasn’t been told who is trying to find them, and therefore does not know he’s up against a rather nasty Ascendant, who can also become a dragon. (At least, I think Spite is an Ascendant—if she isn’t, forgive my poor memory. She can still turn into a bloody dragon!)
Comical ‘I’m a Celeb’ moment, as Murk gets told what it is he is eating and actually enjoying.
Ah, confirmation of how worried they are about amputating a Seguleh:
“She really one o’ them Seguleh?”
“I think so, yeah.”
He snorted. “Good luck cutting off the arm of a Seguleh.”
Sour almost flinched. “Had to put it that way, didn’t ya?”
Murk gets himself comfortable and raises his Warren. As he sits there, he suddenly realises that Celeste is next to him. She begins a chat with him about death, and where people go when they die, and the fact that everyone is going to die. The tone is done beautifully—as that of a young child, who has the sudden realisation and new anxiety that people can’t continue forever. It feels even stranger when you keep in mind who/what she actually is.
As he contemplates how to reply, he senses a winged presence above them, and tells Celeste he is a little busy at the moment. I love this: “Funnily enough, even as he said it, he heard his own father so long ago.” This is quite a poignant look at the fact that I think everyone determines when they have a child that they will be there for everything they need, that they will never say they’re too busy in the way their parents did, but then it inevitably happens because life just takes over.
Celeste offers casually to destroy the winged presence, and Murk, choking, says perhaps they should avoid destroying anyone. Celeste says that the hunter is powerful, but easy to fool, and says she will hide them while they chat. Murk almost refuses in order to avoid the chat, but determines that he will not be the same as his father. Again, this is lovely self awareness from him and really endears him to this reader.
Murk tells her that she can’t die, and she replies that she is just trying to use terms that he is capable of understanding. Not very childlike, as Murk observes. She rephrases it as translating into another state of being, and says she is frightened of losing her identity; that this one she has is slim but is the only one she possesses, and so she wishes to cling to it. Then they chat about things like self-identity, consciousness, oneness. Celeste makes it clearer to the reader that she had once experienced oneness, but now she and the others who made up that oneness are shattered. What is interesting is that she implies different shards are taking different paths—some being corrupted, some making unwise choices.
Murk realises, as the hairs rise on his neck and arms, that Celeste is not looking for an adviser, she is looking for someone to act as a parent to her. Ye gods, can you imagine? And I almost choked with laughter at Murk’s thoughts about this: “Gods! Why me? I didn’t ask for this. Yet it happens to nearly everyone, doesn’t it? One mistake and there you are.”
He tells her she must just do what she thinks is right, and what is for the best. There is a creeping feeling in me that perhaps that is not the greatest thing to advise a creature who confesses she is one of the shattered shards of a being, and that those other shards have made unwise choices…
And… straight away we have Celeste thinking that she should join with Ardata in union. Murk is troubled. So is this reader. Convergence ahoy, anyhow.
And then Celeste leaves and Murk is left with his troubled thoughts, knowing that he is not ready for the responsibility of children. He watches as Spite circles again, and thinks he would rather have faced her (suddenly he knows who he is facing—or did he always know, and it was my mistake earlier?)
Shimmer wanders Jakal Viharn, trying to make sense of it, and finally thinking that perhaps it is only from above that it would be truly comprehensible.
She meets one of the nuns who live in the grounds, one with long inky hair (compared to the others, who hack their hair short), who is sitting on a log with a young girl at her feet. After some rather obscure chatter, about seeing stuff that isn’t there, Shimmer realises that she addresses Ardata. I love this: “Shimmer bowed—not so much out of respect as out of the knowledge that here was a power that every Ascendant, in every written account she knew, spoke of with great care indeed.” (Although, I confess, what is described seems to be respect).
Shimmer asks if she should fetch K’azz, but Ardata says that they are talking together because she wishes it. They have a bit of a girly chat, about the fact that Ardata originally picked Skinner to stand with her, but that she made a mistake. And then she asks Shimmer what she would do if she made the same offer to K’azz. Ardata knows how Shimmer feels about K’azz without words.
With that questions, Shimmer realises that Ardata has no frame of reference about the human heart, no knowledge of what it means to be human. She thinks that Ardata must be so frustrated by the actions of humans because she just doesn’t understand what drives them. It occurs that perhaps that is part of what happened between her and Skinner—that she didn’t understand what made him leave her.
The girl Lek leads Shimmer back to her companions, and Shimmer feels real compassion for her. As she leaves, Shimmer notices her arm is grey, swollen and pebbled, and thinks: “Damn! Gods, what a fool I am! Oh, Lek. I am so sorry… Gods, I pray I will meet you again. Then I’ll hold you and not let you run away again.” I confess I have no clue what is going on here. Anyone help?
…And, goddamit, I’ve run out of lunchbreak to get this done. So sorry, readers, but this will turn into a three part chapter—will likely do that and part of the next chapter together. Don’t you just hate when real life gets in the way of reading?!
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.