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 Three) 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.
Note from Bill: Thanks for your patience everyone. We had an unexpected death of a family friend and then a bit of a medical emergency in the extended family (nothing life-threatening) to deal with. Since that all set me back a bit at work, and this is finals week for one of my schools, we’ll just wrap up Chapter Thirteen here and then pick up at the start of Fourteen on Friday.
Chapter Thirteen (Part Three)
Hanu carries Saeng as her leg heals, but after days of traveling, she realizes they’ve been doing a lot of circling and are lost. She nearly succumbs to despair thanks to being lost, nearly out of food, hungry, infected, wounded (with maggots in one of those wounds), and then does fall unconscious, even as she thinks she smells food cooking on an open fire.
She wakes in a hut in a real village (as opposed to a ghost from the past) to find an old woman over her offering something to eat. She does so, then sleeps, then wakes again and the local shaman/elder, Chinawa, tells her she had fallen near death with fever and that Hanu had brought her to them. She mentally communicates with her brother and learns the villagers have been leaving him offerings. The shaman tells her he is a “great magus… beloved of Ardata herself” and that he and his wives healed her. The next day she is able to rise and when the old woman helps she realizes it was the wives alone, not the “magus” who healed her. She finds Hanu surrounded by his offerings and he tells her that Chinawa has been saying Hanu would have destroyed the village had it not been for his power, adding all the villagers are terrified of the shaman. Saeng says it isn’t their problem, but later a young woman tells her they’re leaving food out as well for the “wild men” in the jungle to keep them from killing/raping them—a deal brokered by Chinawa. Saeng realizes between the jungle offerings and Hanu’s offerings the villagers are left with nothing. Saeng is upset, but again thinks it’s not her problem, and that it pales next to her worries about the Jade Visitor crashing down. That night though Chinawa visits her in her hut and tells her he will take her as his wife and use her “stone servant” to destroy the wild men and thus rule unchallenged, saying if she doesn’t agree the wild men will kill everyone, including the children. Saeng notes one of the Nak-ta, a weeping young girl, outside, but Chinawa runs off afraid of the “ghost,” revealing himself to Saeng as a fake. The ghost, named Noor, tells Saeng Chinawa killed her and then blamed her death on the allegedly dangerous wild men, whom Noor says were “slipping close to death themselves. Sick, hungry, and weak,” adding they’ve killed no one. Saeng blesses her for the information and tells her to “Rest. Weep no more.” The girl thanks Saeng, the “High Priestess,” for releasing her, and disappears before Saeng can ask why she called her that.
The next morning she prepares to leave with Hanu. Chinawa threatens to bring the wild men and kill everyone, so she announces to the villagers that she has spoken to the dead and told them not to listen to Chinawa anymore or follow his orders. She also tells them the wild men are not a threat but are just “lost and starving refugees, as afraid of the villagers as they are of them. She then notices a stone disc amongst Chinawa’s talismans. He tells her he took it from one of the old ruins and when forced, tells her how to find it by following the lines of power carved into the ground. She kicks herself for never thinking to look down as they searched for the temple. She tells Chinawa she’ll let him live, but if she hears he’s done wrong she’ll cause him eternal pain, suggesting as well that he run away before the villagers kill him themselves. She and Hanu leave.
Osserc’s patience is beginning to wane. As the light and dark come and go through the window, he notices over time that the “wavering jade glow shafting from above was brightening significantly… He could make out he Visitor glowing above and he was shocked by how large it loomed.” He tells Gothos he’s never known one to come so close, and Gothos reminds him of the last time one did. Osserc can’t believe Gothos thinks the Thaumaturgs would do it again—“that would be utter madness. They learned that from the first, surely”—but Gothos scoffs at the idea of “learning” and says he does in fact think they plan to repeat the act. When Osserc says someone should do something, Gothos agrees, but say in any case Osserc is safe where he is “hiding,” a charge that infuriates Osserc. Osserc thinks how he’s figured out that “the Azath were insisting that the answer must come from within. An obvious path. . given that the Azath themselves were notoriously inward.” He knows self-insight is beyond many, including perhaps himself—“Rationalization, denial, self-justification, delusion, all made it nearly impossible for any true insight to penetrate into the depths of one’s being.” He realizes he has a simple choice—“whether to remain or to step out… The choice was entirely Osserc’s. Any choice represented a future action. Therefore the Azath were more concerned with his future than his past. The choice represented an acceptance of that future.” He tells Gothos he is being asked to “face something I find personally distasteful. I never accepted the mythopoeia I see accreting around the Liosan. It all means nothing to me.” Gothos though says that’s irrelevant, as “it is all very much larger than you.” Annoyed, Osserc replies that going outside “would be an endorsement of a future I have no interest in, and do not support.” For the first time though, Gothos seems angry, and he answers that “It is obvious even to me that nothing at all is being asked of you… Think of it more as an opportunity to guide and to shape.” When Osserc responds that Gothos can’t expect him to “relinquish all control,” Gothos smiles and asks, “How can you relinquish that which you never possessed in the first place?”
You know we often have that storyline, which doesn’t hold our interest as well as the others? Saeng’s story is becoming mine, in this book. I’m just not clear what she’s up to or how it relates to everything else that is going on.
I confess, I think that the presence of maggots in an infected sore would always register with me. It’s not the sort of thing you can just get past, is it? Actual maggots, wriggling in an actual wound, on a foot that is still attached to you.
Heh, can never see the word ‘converge’ used in this series without thinking about the big convergences. Mind, a convergence of insects could be a decent description of some of the players here.
I love the idea of the villagers leaving loads of food offerings for Hanu because they are enchanted by the idea of a stone statue coming to life and eating. And also that the mage claimed he was the one who managed to stop Hanu from rampaging and destroying the village.
And, again, we’re given a little glimpse into a whole other story layered into this one—the fact that this little village have to feed the wild men as part of a deal to prevent them from raping and pillaging. It is so real, the idea that there are stories within stories all across the world.
Plus these stories have dark kernels to them—like here, where we learn that Chinawa is a fake and has made up the terrifying wild men, creating their legend by killing his own people. It’s an interesting little aside, this, but doesn’t make up for the fact that more interesting stuff is going on elsewhere. Out of all the stories, I want to return to Murk and Sour, and Shimmer and K’azz.
I believe that, if his role is to be a prick, then Gothos should be getting regular bonuses. He really does seem to manage it admirably.
But, apart from that moment, I am left wondering once again what Gothos and Osserc are achieving here. I don’t understand their conversation, it’s too obscure, and absolutely nothing of action is happening in their scenes—they are just being periodically covered in dust as the world turns—which leaves me bewildered and frustrated, as opposed to being entertained. Not the finest part of this chapter, it has to be said.
I tend to agree with you Amanda that Saeng’s storyline starts to pale. For me, it’s the relatively random encounter feel to it, the way we’re always just popping in for a short while, and a sense that a bit more could be done with the relationship between her and Hanu than we’re getting. I don’t dislike the storyline, but find it not particularly engaging despite the sense of urgency that’s supposed to be hanging over her mission.
I do like the sense of real despair she feels and the litany of ills we get, and kind of wish we had felt some of this weighing her down more prior to this.
The village is one of those random encounters I mentioned. I do like this encounter in general, and the idea of all these stories happening in and around the “real” story, but this did feel a bit too neatly wrapped up too easily and quickly for me—what with Chinawa’s immediate threat, the revealing he’s a fake, the being healed, and finding out how to get to the temple thanks to noting his little disc all in a few quick pages. I would have liked a bit more here—more interaction with the wives, more debate perhaps between her and Hanu over the “it’s not our problem” view Saeng has, more sneakiness from Chinawa, etc.
Love that image of the Nacht whacking Osserc in the back of the head with the broom handle.
The discussion about the Thaumaturgs “never learning” has a very nice resonance when you consider their adversary.
I do know what you mean about these Waiting for Gothos scenes though Amanda. While they do have their moments (nacht—broom—Osserc), they are a bit ponderous and self-important (I suppose one can argue that’s a nice match for Osserc himself and thus form meets function here). And it does get a bit abstract at times, self-helpy-self-evident at times (“personal insight is tough but good”, “you don’t have complete control”, etc.), with cryptic references about Gothos’ motives and the involvement of the Azath. And sometimes I think it all gets twisted too much in itself. As when Osserc thinks “the choice was entirely Osserc’s. Any choice represented a future action… The choice represented an acceptance of that future.” Which just makes me think since not choosing is a choice and not-acting is an action, and simply existing is acceptance of a future because one invariably moves into it, and not-existing would be a choice of a future of no-future, and thus everything equals everything or cancels everything and so nothing is really being said of any meaning here. It reminds me of two stoned guys who think their conversation is really deep while everyone around them is rolling their eyes.
Plus, I’m pretty sure we all know Osserc isn’t going to simply stay here, because well, that wouldn’t make for much of an interesting book.
I think it’s good these scenes come in small doses and relatively few and far apart.
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.