Spoilers for Gardens of The Moon to Chapter 7| 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 1, Gardens of The Moon. This post covers chapters 5-7.
907th Year in the Third Millennium
The Season of Fanderay in the year of the Five Tusks
Right off the bat, we’ve switched to a whole new calendar system, so I don’t even know where this all fits in chronologically – which I’d at first assumed was the point of dating the chapters.
We begin with a small round man having a dream. It’s not really a typical dream though, he’s quite aware that it’s a dream and seems pretty lucid too. He’s also some sort of prophet, as revealed by this line:
Within the walls of his skull rang the dirge of prophecy, and it echoed through his bones.
See this is why I don’t like fancy prose. Even when it’s good – as this one is – it sort of trips you up, as you take a break from trying to grasp the plot to marvel at it.
Anyway, the man is a perfect ten as far as being pompous and being full of himself goes, complete with referring to himself in the third person. In time he comes across an inn in his dream, and makes his way there, to find it occupied by half a dozen beggars.
Kruppe and these guys – who are apparently pieces of his subconscious or something like that – proceed to have a thoroughly mystifying conversation. The spinning coin is mentioned yet again. Eventually he returns back to the city, to Darujhistan.
A few paragraphs are spent setting the scene, describing Darujhistan, but I’m still not clear on why this place is all legendary and stuff. Then, a shadowy figure in the night, creeping across rooftops. A somewhat cliched opening to a scene, but at this point I’m just happy to be on relatively familiar terrain. The person arrives at his destination, the D’Arle estate. It seems he’s here to rob a girl who gets a lot of gifts from her suitors. He – Crokus – makes his way to the girl’s room without incident (though I feel that assuming all the precious gems and stuff she’s been given will be in her room is not a dependable plan).
The scene shifts to a nearby roof, to a wounded assassin. He’d been on mission patrolling the city’s roofs. Which, by the way, again seems a rather un-assassinlike mission. Why don’t Malazan people stick to stuff that actually pertains to their professions? In flashback he tells how he was ambushed, and he’s now lying in waiting, hoping to turn the tables on the would be assassin of assassins.
Meanwhile, Crokus has managed to break open the girl’s jewel box and grab some sweet loot. In retrospect his plan was actually pretty decent, a noble girl is pretty likely to keep her jewels nearby. On the way out he stops to admire the sleeping girl. Quite understandable for a seventeen year old when faced with a famous beauty sleeping half naked. In another story he might kiss and wake her up, but this is not that kind of tale.
By the by he also mentions the recent fall of Pale, and how everyone is scared shitless that Darujhistan is next. So, it seems we’re in the right time period after all.
The assassin wakes up from a brief, blood loss induced unconsciousness, wakes up and spots Crokus. Assuming him to be his hunter/prey, he aims and shoots.
And misses, thanks to Crokus bending down to pick up a falling coin. Is this mayhaps the Coin? The one that Kruppe said would soon fall? In that case, let’s hope Crokus becomes involved in some terribly significant events, or I’ll be rather disappointed.
While the assassin is busy being dumbstruck by this, his hunter catches up to him and promptly kill him. Maybe we should give the guy some credit for his wound, but still, he goes down with very little fuss for the amount of confidence he had in his abilities. Seeing all this, Crokus does the smart thing, and nopes the hell out of there. The killer, and his comrades chase after him.
The ensuing chase is fun in a Disney’s Aladdin sort of way. I rather liked the point about generations of thieves hiding sturdy wires among the clotheslines, though it seems a bit farfetched now that I think about it. Also, weirdly enough, Crokus stops on the way to say Hi to his uncle. If only he had a bit more time to chat.
“Oh, nothing, just being chased by these shadowy murderous folk.”
“Oh cool, have fun!”.
And rather abruptly, the chase ends when he reaches a bar.
I’m expecting the chasers to come in and murder everyone, but their leader decides against it, having sensed the meddling of an Ascendant – Oponn, presumably. I wonder if the Oponn twins are twice as strong as regular Ascendants/Gods, there being two of them.
Also, who were this mysterious people? Of course we have no clue, but if I had to guess, I’d say they’re claws, stirring up some sort of trouble on the inside to make Darujhistan easier to take. Although the way their commander says, “we return to the fold”, somehow doesn’t seem fitting with that hypothesis.
Hey, I kinda get what the opening poem is about!
There is a cabal breathing
deeper than the bellows
drawing up the emerald fires
beneath rain-glistened cobbles,
while you may hear the groaning
from the caverns below,
the whisper of sorcery
is less than the dying sigh
of a thief stumbling unwilling
into Darujhistan’s secret web . . .
The cabal I don’t know much about, maybe the hunters were its agents. But the whisper of sorcery is quite definitely that coin, and the stumbling thief is of course Crokus. But I don’t like the bit with the dying sigh though.
Crone, a Great Raven is flying off from Moon’s Spawn on a mission. It’s interesting to note that the Great Ravens sort off feed off magic, which lengthens their lifespan. I wonder if this is why they hang around Moon’s Spawn – a sort of symbiosis. Oh, and now the line back in chapter two makes more sense:
“Imagine a lord who’s kept thirty thousand Great Ravens well fed!”
It’s not a measure of Rake’s granaries or something, but his magical prowess.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to another loving description of Darujhistan’s layout. A guard witnesses a councilman and another meeting secretly in the night, and he’s off to report it to his master, being Circle Breaker, one of the Eel’s agents. (Thanks again, Dramatis Personae).
Said report soon makes its way to the hands of High Alchemist Baruk. Baruk is tempted to discover Circle Breaker’s identity through some arcane shenanigans, but he refrains, mostly because it still won’t get him closer to finding out who the Eel is. This reminds me of a book/story where people are trying to find out some guy’s identity, and in the end he turns out to be the man who was supposed to be the man’s servant. That sentence was a mess, but what I’m trying to say is that maybe there is no Eel, just a persona created by one of the people acting as his agents.
Anyway, Crone breaks into Baruk’s house – literally – and tells him that Rake would like to chat with him. While he arrives, Turban Orr comes to meet with Baruk.
Meanwhile, Rallick, yet another assassin, is preparing to kill. He has some personal vendetta against the woman Simtal. He prepares to take the shot,
And we switch once again back to Baruk. You know, these way too frequent scene transitions are kind of bugging me now. It smells of trying too hard to create tension. Also, why so suddenly in this part, when the previous four chapters had almost none of this crap. Moving on, Turban Orr wants Baruk to support a declaration of neutrality. There’s a lot of spinning of useless sentences, but the tl;dr is that Baruk is not willing to help Orr. I do agree, this whole neutrality business is pointless politics, pretty much no way it will save them from the Empire.
Back to Rallick Nom. Something happens to him, and he realises that after all it will be better to draw out his vengeance, and so instead of killing Simtal, he kills her lover, a councilman, which is sure to cause her a lot of headaches. Ah, I’m guessing this was the one vote that Orr was depending on to swing the majority his way. Is this too Oponn’s work? Or maybe Crone/Rake? Crone did comment that Turban Orr was tempting fate.
And yes, now the whole switching scenes makes a bit more sense, but it’s still annoying.
On his way back, Rallick is met by Ocelot, who tells him about the recent murder of Krafar and a clan leader. Rallick is not really interested, but Ocelot insists that this is serious business, and wants him to be the bait for catching the assassin assassins. Rallick leaves without answering either way.
Anomander Rake arrives at Baruk’s, complete with special effects like dimming lights and groaning walls. Rake says he prefers darkness, so Baruk turns on some sort of night vision. Rake is suitably weird and creepy for a Tiste Andii – I like the colour changing eyes in particular. But for all his imposing stature, it is Rake that has come to Baruk for an alliance, and not the other way around. I wonder why he’s even bothering. Why not just take his big ass floating rock someplace else and come back in a few centuries when the Empire is (probably) dead and gone.
Baruk asks how Tayschrenn and co. were able to defeat him, and Rake says that he’d sent all his forces out fighting and was facing them alone. Pretty poor display of strategy from this supposedly super old dude.
Anyway, Baruk points out that when the shit hit the fan, Rake though first of his Moon, not the city of Pale. Rake says that the wizards of Pale are to blame, who, instead of fighting with him, fled at the first sign of trouble. Rake adds that he wants the ones who’ve made it to Darujhistan dead. Baruk tells him that he’ll talk to the Cabal – (the Cabal from the opening verse!), but methinks the alliance is going to happen. Hopefully Rake will put up a better fight this time.
By the way, I wonder why Rake’s sword scares Baruk shitless. I get that it’s super powerful and stuff, but why would he prefer to give Rake the Pale wizards’ heads rather than have Rake use the sword on them? Maybe we’ll find out.
In the Phoenix Inn, Crokus, Kruppe etc. are playing cards. Kruppe’s turn, but he’s too busy boasting to play, and eventually this strategy leads to him winning, everyone else giving up out of sheer impatience. It seems Kruppe’s pompous exterior hides something wicked sharp. In fact, it was he who trained Crokus in the arts of thievery.
Kruppe’s style sort of annoyed me in the beginning, but I’m sort of warming up to him now. Not as in he’s a good guy sort of way, but in a he makes a scene fun kind of way.
Kruppe is dreaming again. He know about the coin entering someone’s possession (though not that it’s Crokus) so he has at least some skill in the magic department as well. He runs into a guy who turns out to be an out of fashion God, K’rul. Hmm, the guy had a shrine of sorts where that assassin was killed. Indeed, he says that it is this that revived him. He gives Kruppe some a gift and some advice:
“An ancient fire that will give you warmth in times of need,” he said. “But I hold you to nothing. Seek the T’lan Imass who will lead the woman. They are the Awakeners. I must prepare for battle, I think. One I will lose.”
What a bunch of nonsense – for now. To me.
Before leaving, he also tells Kruppe that the immortal gods can only be killed by mortals. Bro K’rul, do you even know the definition of immortality?
Circle Breaker is relieved of duty and goes to a rendezvous with yet another agent of the Eel. He’s afraid of Turban Orr though, and decides to tear up his report and go back to his room. I will admit I totally don’t get why he did that, and any (non-spoilery) pointers are welcome in the comments.
Simtal and Orr are chatting. Again there’s that feeling of listening to a conversation and missing most of it because I lack much of the context. What I do understand is that Orr, in the tradition of politicians everywhere, cares less for the city and more for his own power.
Murillio is sweet talking some chick, and he manages to get a promise from her to hook up later at Lady Simtal’s party.
Crokus is taking a nice little walk, pondering the haunting vision he saw the other night. Nothing unusual with a young guy obsessing over a hot girl, but his obsession has less to do with the usual reason – mostly it’s sort of a shame/regret he’s feeling on violating her privacy like that. Whatever dude, I think you’re falling for her.
Eventually Crokus reaches the Orr estate, and he’s scoping it out – maybe for another burglary – when Rallick tells him to leave the place well enough alone. So he does.
He takes out the mysterious coin to examine it, and sure enough, it’s got the Oponn twins’ faces stamped on it. A coin with heads on both sides. He goes to meet Kruppe, who apparently is also responsible for fencing his loot. He asks Kruppe to return the D’Arle stuff to him. Yep, definitely falling for her. Crokus also shows Kruppe the coin, who seems supremely disinterested. Either he’s forgotten his dream, or (more probably) he’s faking it.
Murillio goes to meet Rallick at a spooky tower. Rallick tells him the spooky story of the spooky tower, then they get down to business. Murillio’s talk with the girl earlier, it seems, was not so much for her booty as for getting an invite to Simtal’s party. They also discuss Crokus and his decision not to sell off the D’Arle loot. Surpsisingly, they seem to be hoping that this might lead to Crokus quitting thievery and becoming respectable and stuff.
Baruk is, of all things, painting a map. A loud crack, and he spills red ink – representing Malazan – all over the map. Not really plot relevant right now, but I like the little omen, so I mention it. Another of his agents comes to meet him, and it’s Kruppe of all people. Thief, fence, spy, prophet – the guy is getting more interesting by the page. Among a lot of his useless blabber, Kruppe tells Baruk of the supposed Assassin war, of Rallick being missing, and of Oponn and the coin. He’s managed to make a wax imprint of the coin, and shows it to Baruk. Oooh, that explains this:
“No,” he mumbled. He glanced again at his hand. “I must’ve picked up some wax somewhere,” he explained.
As Baruk examines the copy, it begins to spin on it’s own, faster and faster, somehow cutting off Baruk from his warren, faster, until the wax pretty much disintegrates and it’s gone. I’m impressed.
Baruk instructs Kruppe to keep an eye on Crokus, and protect him at all costs. Why the part about protection, I wonder? He also talks about the Lord claiming Crokus, and them needing an assassin if that happens. Wait, aren’t the Lord and the Lady supposed by like, a team?
And with that Kruppe departs.
Well, that’s book two of book one down. All things considered, I felt I understood this one a lot better – that or I’m getting used to not understanding. It had no big battles or action, but I like the feeling of intrigue and mystery that it had.
Weirdly enough, having seen both the Empire and now Darujhistan, I’m not at all sure which side I want to win in the upcoming struggle. Partly it’s because I don’t much care for any of the characters so far. Yeah, Tattersail is nice, but then so is Crokus, so those two cancel out.
Unfortunately, while this book made the political situation a bit clearer, we’re still no further along in the stuff that I’m more interested in – the higher level plot, involving gods and hounds and warrens and stuff.
Still, I’m beginning to transition from a wtf-I-understand-nothing-maybe-I-should-quit state to wtf-I-understand-little-but-starting-to-like-it state. Hopefully I’ll be hooked by the end of the book, which I’ve been told is worth the buildup.
For those following along, next week’s post will cover book three, chapter 8-10.
PS: Are the Gardens, as in Gardens of The Moon, actual Gardens on Moon’s Spawn by any chance?