Spoilers for book 1 and Deadhouse Gates to Chapter 2| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Malazan Book of The Fallen, I’m now on book 2, Deadhouse Gates. This post covers chapter 2.
Duiker is wandering around in Hissar, looking at markings on the wall, which are some sort of local pictographic code. He makes his way to a trader camp, mixing with the locals and feeling out the public opinion. He’s good enough that no one recognises that he’s actually Malazan. He also witnesses two seers doing some sort of ritual, foretelling the spirit of Dryjhna and bloody times ahead. Then one of them drops dead, probably to make sure we take it extra seriously. I wonder if Dryjhna is an actual god(dess) like Shadowthrone, or something more abstract.
Once he’s done with his undercover shenanigans, Duiker goes to a meeting with Coltaine. There is some banter about past battles, Dujek’s lost arm is mentioned. Now I feel stupid for expecting some big epic backstory to it, turns out a horse just randomly bit it off. They bring in a warlock to the council as well. Interestingly, all warlocks were killed by Laseen a while ago but fortunately their souls/power were collected by crows and they were reborn.
Um, what? Are these seven cities people for real? I can swallow resurrection, but Magic soul transporting crows?! Maybe Coltaine/Bult are just messing with Duiker. Also, what’s the difference between a warlock and a regular magician? Is it just a local term, or do they do some different sort of warren stuff?
Anyway, the council proceeds. There’s the usual talk of seven cities rising up, which I think has been mentioned at least a couple dozen times so far in the books. Then Mallick Rel gives Coltaine his orders from the High Fist, which are to pack up and go to Aren so Pormqual can check out the Seventh. Coltaine tells him to sod off. It was expected with the way Coltaine’s been acting and talked about, but still fun. But he clearly likes Duiker. Soon after, the meeting is adjourned and Kulp and Duiker go off to chat. Duiker wants Kulp to help rescue Heboric (and presumably Felisin) from the Otataral mines. Kulp seems reluctant, but I think he’ll cave. Good for Heboric and friends, but why does Duiker give a crap about him? Is there a secret Illuminati-esque Historian association? *grabs tinfoil hat*
We are treat to some extensive backstory about the city of Ehrlitan. Spooky stuff. Apparently Seven Cities was founded by seven Ascendants. On a sidenote, the depiction of Seven Cities as this exotic, unwelcoming place steeped in aaaaancient history is starting to feel a bit heavy handed. I mean, every place has its own history, right?
Anyway, Fiddler watches a bunch of Red Swords brutalise some random unarmed citizens. In their wake, two little girls are snatched by a pimp. Fiddler goes after him, and rescues the girl by the brilliant tactic of buying them from the pimp. Rescue of the day right there. Then he escorts them back to their house, and loses most of the respect he gained from me by selling them back to their people. Dude, not cool. It’s one thing to accept some reward, another to demand it. Anyway, the girls’ family is quite pleased, and invites him in.
Their grandfather turns out to be some sort of big shot Tano wizard/priest. They chat a bit, he tells Fiddler about the upcoming convergence in Raraku.
“A gate. The Prophecy of the Path of Hands. Soletaken and D’ivers. A gate promising…something. They are drawn as moths to a flame.”
Well that was certainly illuminating. NOT.
He does elaborate though, saying that this might be a way to Ascendancy. Hmm, that is certainly a prize that would draw all sorts of nutters. Although I’m still not clear exactly what it is. Then the guy offers to sing a magic song that has the potential to make all the Bridgeburners Ascendants (the shapeshifters ought to be chasing this guy), but Fiddler doesn’t have time to tell their story, and so he’s sent off with a conch shell for protection.
Also, we learn this guy, Kimloc Spiritwalker, is so powerful he could’ve decimated the Malazan armies, but didn’t because that would not stop the Empire. They would send the T’lan Imass after. Fiddler returns and reports his findings to Kalam, and the two of them then administer this epic burn to Crokus:
Crokus dragged a chair to the table, dropped into it and reached for the wine. “We’re tired of waiting,” he pronounced. “If we have to cross this damned land, then let’s do it. There’s a steaming pile of rubbish behind the garden wall, clogging up the sewage gutter. Crawling with rats. The air’s hot and so thick with flies you can barely breathe. We’ll catch a plague if we stay here much longer.”
“Let’s hope it’s the bluetongue, then,” Kalam said.
“Your tongue swells up and turns blue,” Fiddler explained.
“What’s so good about that?”
“You can’t talk.
Now it’s Kalam’s turn to have a trip into the city. He goes to meet an old frenemy, and asks him for signs that will keep them safe on their journey. The man tells him that it’s the sign of the Whirlwind. Dude, even I could have guessed that. Kalam also takes a book from the guy. This is a special book, the Book of Dryjhna, to be delivered to Sha’ik in Raraku, at which point she will supposedly unleash the apocalypse. Kalam decides to take it as insurance against betrayal. When Kalam is gone, some other warriors come to talk. They’re Red Blades, and intend to tail Kalam and kill Sha’ik. They’re also curious about what Kalam’s plans are. Hmm, schemes upon schemes within schemes…
Icarium and Mappo meanwhile are still on their desert safari. They’ve run up against other D’ivers, this time a bunch of leopards that they slaughtered down to the last one. Mappo seems apprehensive that this will bring out some sort of madness in Icarium. I would be worried too, but considering the (relative) ease with which the Jaghut tyrant was taken care of in the last book, I’m not.
Anyway, they arrive at an inhabited cliff, and set to looking for a way in. A Soletaken, this time a bear, comes, and transforms back into a man. They recognise him as Messremb. The guy makes an interesting observation, that Icarium’s scent is close to Jaghut, but not quite. Wait, so he’s not actually a Jaghut? What is Icarium then? Ex-Jaghut? Is this related to his amnesia? The bearman soon leaves, and someone else arrives, a guy on a mule. You know, for a desert, this place is feeling pretty packed.
The guy and the mule are a pretty weird pair though. For a start the mule is also a shapeshifter, for another the guy – Iskaral Pust, seems to be batshit crazy. At least partly. The cliff turns out to be an abandoned monastery, now occupied by Shadow people, with Pust as their High Priest. The four make their way into the cliff.
Surprisingly, Icarium doesn’t remember their fight with the leopards. So his memory loss is continuous? Memento: Malazan incoming?
Another very late post. My excuses are the same as before, but I have not, and don’t intend to, give up on the read. It’s just going to be slower than I expected. I hoped this one would come out sooner and be longer, but stuff happened, like me falling and getting a back injury. Oh well, let’s hope I speed up, or we’ll be doing this for like twenty years at this rate. Anyway, the plot.
In the tradition of big fantasy series, the beginning of a book is not generally where the exciting stuff happens. It takes a lot of time and pages to setup the explosive finales, after all. So we’ve got people pretty much just slowly making their way through the plot. Just like chapter one, Fiddler and co. probably had the best scenes. I’m still mad at him for trying to haggle for a reward when he returned those girls though.
I’m warming up to Icarium and Mappo a bit, though their whole plot remains weird and inscrutable as ever, and Iskaral Pust’s craziness won’t help. Maybe they’ll run into Kalam and co. as they pass through the desert. Yeah I know the Raraku and Pat’potsun Odhan are different deserts, but they’re still pretty close together, so it’s not that outlandish.
Also I’m getting the feeling that Kalam’s assassination mission might not be resolved within this book, from the pace they’re moving at, and the number of other side plots. Maybe this upcoming convergence will form the climax of book two. Though I’d hate for climax = convergence to become a pattern.
How Duiker’s and Felisin’s plotlines will figure into this I can’t guess.