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 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.
We’ll do our whole-book wrap on Wednesday. We will not be doing a Blood and Bone Q & A. Instead we’ll have an interview with Cam about the release of Dancer’s Lament. That said, we’ll be sending along questions to Cam this weekend, so if you have a burning question or two, put it in the comments and I’ll pass one or two along in the interview.
Blood and Bone, Epilogue
After several days, Jatal and Scarza finally catch up to Kallor, who is “horrifying wounded… The flesh beneath [his armor] oozed, blistered and raw. His beard had been half burned away, as had his hair, leaving seared livid skin behind.” Kallor sneers that they can’t kill him, and Jatal replies he sees that, as “the ancient curses heaped upon you still hold.” Kallor says he’ll “break them yet,” and Jatal horrified, guesses that all this had been because Kallor had thought those that cursed him gone. Kallor calls it a “good bet,” saying Draconus’ sword “is broken. Sister of Cold Nights is broken. Those who cursed me are all slipping away.” Jatal asks for a “boon” from Kallor, “What you lack the courage to grant yourself… release [ellipsis not mine].” This infuriates Kallor, who tells Jatal, “You think I have not tried? You think I meekly… They will not be the end of me. I will break them or go of my own choosing.” Jatal agrees, and asks again that Kallor kill him. Scarza tries to interrupt, but Jatal tells him Andanii waits for him; there’s nothing else for him now. Scarza turns away, weeping, as Kallor kills Jatal with a single sword thrust. As Scarza clutches the body, Kallor asks him if he wants to join him as he heads north after Draconus to “squeeze the life from him.” Scarza, agog at the “astounding lack of humanity,” simply walks away, carrying Jatal’s body. Kallor calls him a fool, reminding Scarza that he can’t be defeated. He orders him back, but Scarza ignores him, thinking, “Even after all this—in the sight of such devastation—the man still had not learned a thing. Perhaps that was his true curse. His overriding inner curse. He could never learn.”
L’oric appears in a huge impact crater to find Spite leaning over Osserc. L’oric checks for a pulse, and finds Osserc’s still alive. They both note they’re more surprised by his actions than his survival, by the fact that he “interceded.” She asks L’oric why, but he says he has no idea, nor does he think Osserc will explain once he’s able to. He asks about the chest next to her, and she pours out some black powder, calling it, “A failed errand. Wishful thinking.” He asks her help in bringing Osserc where he belongs and she agrees. He tells her to open a path to the “border regions of Kurald Thyrllan.” She responds that Osserc himself closed the path, but L’oric says they’ll see; just get them close. She opens a portal and they step through.
They enter into a “blasted landscape… shimmering in heat waves,” bands of energy streaming overhead. L’oric points out a tower and she moves them up to the top. They enter a chamber at the top of the tower that has a “single narrow slit window facing the source of the glaring energies.” As a beam of light comes through, L’oric thinks to himself that while “it seemed that this was a world facing a cruel sun that hung at a fraction of the distance of the one most humans knew. But in truth, it was not like that at all. The source of the unleashed brilliance was in fact much smaller, and much closer, than imagined.” He sticks his hand into the searing light for a moment then pulls it back saying all they need do now is wait. Spite asks who built the tower, and he answers Jaghut. When she asks if they did it so as to study Thyrllan, he tells her he thinks it goes back even further. A voice from behind the window as “Who comes?” and L’oric calls out “Liosan.” The voice says, “Entreat us no more. The way is closed.” When L’oric replies that the one who closed is there, the voice answers, “For him we have been waiting all this time.” They say they can’t sense him, and when L’oric says he’s injured, the voice says they’ll determine the truth and a flame-like presence enters via the light beam. When it comes to Osserc’s unconscious body, the voice, in a tone of “disbelief and joy,” says, “It is him!… Returned as he promised us. Open the way!” The slit window appears to widen, and the beam changes to a deep golden color. L’oric tells Spite they need to go now, explaining he thinks the “window” is really a gate directly into Kurald Thyrllan.” She wonders why he’s so worried if he’s “resistant” to its manifestation. But he says that’s no more true than to say Mother Dark could encompass Darkness itself!” They exit and at the bottom L’oric says Osserc’s been taken by Thryllan. When Spite says he won’t be much missed, L’oric calls her harsh but she says it’s merely the truth. He tell her they won’t know “truth of this until sufficient time has passed,” which she translates as “for the lies to take hold.” When he says he’s “holds to much to bitterness,” she warns him not to push her. They prepare to leave.
Saeng and Pon-lor come down from the mountains, Pon-lor alive and animate if still in somewhat bad shape. As she helps him down a rough path, he “offered her a strange one-sided smile that made her blush,” and she keeps his arm as they walk together: “She had a reborn faith to guide and shape anew and he would do all he could to clear its way into the world.”
The remnants of Golan’s army arrive on an eastern beach, and Thorn congratulates Golan that “The Army of Righteous Chastisement has emerged triumphant, m’lord. It has crushed the jungle into abasement.” Thorn reveals he has eaten his records. He asks for Golan’s orders, and after calling over his second, Waris, Golan orders that they camp and forage in preparation for heading north around the coast and back toward home in the morning. As Thorn translates the order into his usual grandiose language, Golan considers tossing his Rod of Execution into the sea, but opts not to.
This scene with Kallor is perhaps summed up best by Scarza’s thought, about his eternal curse being that he is unable to change, that he will always be the one who was cursed and will never learn from it. I forget—is this the first time that the Warleader is outright named Kallor? We’ve been referring to him interchangeably for so long that it makes me wonder if this is the first time that some readers would have realised who the Warleader was.
I can’t decide if Jatal here is actually serving a fitting blow to Kallor, by having him provide the release that he can’t give to himself. Jatal was chasing after Kallor to kill him, right? I guess here he realises that he is unable to do so, and so thinks that his only other option is to leave Kallor in this state and leave his own life.
I sort of feel some sympathy for Kallor here. He’s lived for so many centuries unending, and here he had this thought that he would be able to finally escape his curse because those who cast it are no longer in the same condition, but it gets disabused in the most violent way, and then he has to come to terms with the fact he really can never ascend or die. That must be heartbreaking. And then Kallor ruins my sympathy, by referring to Jatal as carrion, and just being unable to understand human nature on any level.
I’m not clear what has happened with Osserc here, and why Spite and L’oric have been drawn to where he is. Did this happen because of what occurred with Saeng? Did he help her? Or is this crater thing to do with part of the Visitor actually hitting the continent. I’m also incredibly hazy about the tower, and the voices, and the light, and the rapture of whoever this is about Osserc returning to them. What is the impact of him entering Thyrllan? Why will we have to wait to see how this affects things in the future?
I do sort of like the way that L’oric is sort of astonished about Osserc having stepped in and interceded—having seen Osserc’s long, long, long, loooong period of making a decision, you can understand why L’oric would have this view!
Nice to see Saeng and Pon-lor after the healing done by Moon—although, like Bill, I don’t understand why we can’t just have names. Esslemont does like this manner of offering some mystery—he’s used it before—and it isn’t as effective as he thinks it is.
And, finally, a last glimpse of Golan and his magnificent army. Not so magnificent now. Utterly broken, in fact, by their trip across the jungle. Unlike Bill here, I can see why Golan would just want to go home after the horrendous experience they’ve had—home, to where they aren’t destroyed by bugs, infection, disease, awful creatures, the plants themselves; home, to where they don’t have to eat paper to survive. And it does also put forward very firmly the fact that their expedition and attempt to conquer Himatan was nothing but a crazy dream.
After all the epigraphs that show the ugliness of imperialism, it’s nice to see one showing someone finally moving beyond it all.
I thought it might be a good idea to revisit Kallor’s curse here. So here it is:
K’rul blinked, fixed his dark, heavy eyes on the High King. ‘For this crime, Kallor, we deliver appropriate punishment. Know this: you, Kallor Eiderann Tes’thesula, shall know mortal life unending. Mortal, in the ravages of age, in the pain of wounds and the anguish of despair. In dreams brought to ruin. In love withered. In the shadow of Death’s spectre, ever a threat to end what you will not relinquish.’
Draconus spoke, ‘Kallor Eiderann Tes’thesula, you shall never ascend. ‘
Their sister said, ‘Kallor Eiderann Tes’thesula, each time you rise, you shall then fall. All that you achieve shall turn to dust in your hands. As you have willfully done here, so it shall be in turn visited upon all that you do.’
‘Three voices curse you,’ K’rul intoned. ‘It is done.’
The man on the throne trembled. His lips drew back in a rictus snarl. ‘I shall break you. Each of you. I swear this upon the bones of seven million sacrifices. K’rul, you shall fade from the world, you shall be forgotten. Draconus, what you create shall be turned upon you. And as for you, woman, unhuman hands shall tear your body into pieces, upon a field of battle, yet you shall know no respite — thus, my curse upon you, Sister of Cold Nights. Kallor Eiderann Tes’thesula, one voice, has spoken three curses. Thus.’
So here we have the explanation for why Kallor has survived all this, and why he can’t commit suicide apparently. And if I’m reading this right (and I’m not sure I am), why he came here—because he thought maybe the curses had faded because the three who cursed him are “broken.” Though I’m not quite clear on whether he thought that meant he could rise again or could be killed here (and finally ascend). I also confess to some confusion as he also mentions how Draconus is out in the world, so I’m not sure how that meshes. Though I suppose it’s possible he’s thinking not so much that they are “dead” or out of the picture, but that since his curses on them have come true (K’rul did fade, Dragnipur did turn, Nightchill was torn apart) maybe their curses are done as well. Thoughts?
As for Jatal’s suicide, I’m having a hard time deciding if it doesn’t sit well with me because of the natural aversion to someone taking their own life or if I just don’t buy it for this character or for this relationship that hasn’t been going on really all that long. Anyone else?
That said, I love Scarza here, his willingness to allow Jatal his own choice (much as I dislike it), his tenderness in cradling the body and carrying it away, his simple ignoring of Kallor (perhaps the biggest insult to Kallor—not being acknowledged).
Osserc. I’m not sure why this needs to be so vague. So we know he “interceded,” and I’m guess it was with the Visitor, though why I need to guess I’m not sure. Nor do I have any sense of how he meshed or not with Saeng’s efforts in the temple. Obviously we had the Visitor coming, and chunks. Obviously at least one hit because Kallor is wounded in the middle of a crater. Obviously we have another crater where Osserc is (I’m assuming it’s not the same crater). Is this another impact of a chunk of visitor? Is this an impact from Osserc getting knocked out of the sky by a chunk? Or by something else? Did he help push the Visitor away and this was just a force in one direction? This is where I get frustrated. I’ve never been one who needs everything spelled out, but this seems to be withholding information unnecessarily to me (on a minor note, the same is true for the later scene with Saeng and Pon-lor—I just can’t figure out why it’s important that we don’t get their names).
On the other hand, I really like the atmospheric feel of the tower scene, and there I don’t mind the mystery of exactly what that voice is or exactly what’s behind the door, because rather than being presented as the end result of something (as is the case with Osserc’s intercession), it’s presented as more of a beginning of something. That I’m OK with.
Though as noted above I was a little annoyed at the lack of names in the Saeng/Pon-lor scene, I do like this end for them—a sense of a new beginning, the two together, a bit of hope. A nice opposition as well to the Jatal/Andanii storyline.
I love the fact that Thorn has been eating his words (the logs).
Back to fuzziness. I admit to being not quite sure what to make of these closing lines. Is this Golan rejoining the Thaumaturg, not learning anything and being back in the fold? Or is this Golan turning on the Thaumaturg way of doing things, looking at his “exhausted” “bedraggled survivors” and deciding what a waste? This being the end of the book, I would have liked more clarity here, especially given how portentous these words are. Others?
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.