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book notes: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (Malazan)

There are at least 15 books in the Malazan world. From all I have heard, they are quite complex. So that I do not forget plot points or people, these are the reading notes for the Malazan novels by Steve Erikson and Ian Esslemont. I am somewhat following the reading order at this link.

I read the prologue for Gardens of the Moon (Steve Erikson’s first novel in his series) and saw that it had the same timestamp as this novel…so I switched over. The writing style between Erikson and Esslemont is quite a contrast. There are points in this novel by Esslemont that are vague; at first I thought that was because I was new to the series and names/places/plot points were many. But after re-reading some passages, it is actually vague. I’m not certain if this is on purpose, but it is another good reason to take notes.

Timeframe: 1154th year of Burn’s Sleep, 96th year of the Malazan Empire, last year of Emperor Kellanved’s reign

Location: Malaz Isle (at this point I have no clue if this is important or not, but, since it is called the Malazan Empire…CLUE!)

Same timeframe and location as the prologue of GARDENS OF THE MOON.

Prologue

Captain Murl’s ship, Rheni’s Dream, is getting stuck in ice south of Malaz Isle and his men are freezing to death. Ice riders pass them riding the sea and the ice, apparently heading for the Isle.

A Path Within Shadow

A creature named Edgewalker is walking along sand dunes. He comes across a creature he knows as Jhedel and asks him if anyone has passed. Jhedel is being held here against his will, and Edgewalker feels some type of change is coming (a disturbance in the force, Luke?). Apparently Jhedel slew his predecessors to take a throne, and then was bound by some who overthrew him in turn.

Edgewalker continued on. He was late, and time and the celestial dance of realms waited for no one. Not even entities as insane and portent as the one pinned behind him. When they conversed during more lucid moments, it could remember its full name, Jhe’ Delekaaran, and that it had once commanded this entire realm as King. Liege to the Que’tezani, inhabitants of the most distant regions of Shadow. And mad though he may be, Jhedel was right in one thing: it had been long since the Throne last held an occupant. With the coming of each Conjunction, this absence worried Edgewalker. But this time what intrigued him most was something so rare he’d almost failed to recognize it…the coiled potential for change. (pg 11)

Chapter One – Portents and Arrivals

We meet Temper, who from the get-go is obviously more than he seems. He thinks about previous battles and injuries, and the fact that the arrival of an Imperial Official couldn’t have anything to do with him. Temper gets off guard duty around Mock’s Hold, and beats the crap out of some pretender named Larkin. Temper is a bad man, but he holds his temper pretty well…get it?

Kiska is a young lady who knows the town and spies on people, hoping it will get her somewhere, raise her station in life. She’s stalking the Imperial Official’s group that Temper saw when on guard duty. They don’t jive with her either. She gets caught by a “Claw” (“Imperial intelligence officers, mages, enforcers of the Emperor’s will!”), but let go, after she begs for a job. She continues to watch, and just as she’s about to follow the party, a grey-cloaked man she didn’t see comes out of hiding in front of her, following the same quarry.

Temper is heading home, stops to help a known acquaintance named Rengel, who tells him of the Shadow Moon…which is the event that will apparently affect this entire book. And Rengel mentions the “Return.”

“Return stank of the cult that worshipped Kellanved, the man who along with his partner, Dancer, had founded the Imperium. They’d been missing for years. Some thought both dead, others that they’d vanished into some kind of thaumaturgic seclusion.” (pg. 38)

Temper thinks about a house across from the Hanged Man Inn, called the Deadhouse.

“Rumour also held that it was there that Kellanved and Dancer, along with others including Dassem and the current Regent, Surly, had live and plotted everything that followed. ….locals called it the Deadhouse.” (pg 39)

Interesting since book two from Erikson is titled Deadhouse Gates.

There’s a different crowd at Temper’s local bar (called Coop’s Inn, after the bar keep), and Coop warns Temper away from them.

I have no clue if Temper and Kiska come up again anywhere in the Malazan books. After the prologue of Gardens of the Moon the timeline skips forward a few decades, so my assumption is that they are just being used as story telling vehicles. But I’ve been wrong before.

Chapter Two – Assignations

This chapter ends up with more re-read notes that I had intended, but a lot goes on here that I assume is background for the entire series.

A quick para on the “Fisherman” who apparently has to head out in inclement weather. Must be important, or they wouldn’t have mentioned him.

Kiska lost track of the guy she was following (“She smelled the warrens on him”).  She follows on, through to an estate, climbs a wall and see two men on a bench.

The one on her right  was the man she’d followed, hood back, shaved scalp dark as rich loam, a long queue draped forward over one shoulder. The other was an old man, ghostly pale, white haired, thin shoulders hunched like folded wings. (page. 53)

She watches them for a while, one leaves. Kiska is about to leave when she hears something, jumps back up on the wall and see the “intruder from the wharf” (the other gent she did not see) standing over the form of the old man. She thinks him adept (that’s what Warrens are – a type of magic!). After a while, the magic man leaves and Kiska goes to rifle through the dead old man’s clothes to see who he is…only he isn’t dead, grabs her, she stabs him, but he still talks to her.

Temper heads to his room upstairs at Coop’s. Corinn (a lady he was hoping to see) waves Temper to her room, trying apparently to protect him. She reveals to him that she is a Brdgeburner…”once of the Third Army. An army that Daseem, with Temper at his side, had led in Falar and the Seven Cities.” (Pg. 58)

Corinn tells him that she knows who he is.

“I was at Y’Ghatan. I saw the Sword broken. I know.” (Pg. 58)

Soldiers barge in and take Temper back down stairs, seating him with Coop the bar owner, Trenech the bouncer who seems not all there, and an old man named Faro.

Kiska finds herself in an alternate world. A Realm – the Path of Shadow….with the dead guy who just grabbed her. He provides some education in what is going on.

“You’re still on your wretched little isle. And at the same time, you are here. Two realms overlapping. Two places at once. What is called a Convergence.” (pg. 63)

“My name is Oleg. Many years ago a man came to me. He claimed to be interested in the arcanum of my research. We worked together. We shared knowledge. His prowess and grasp of Warren manipulation astounded me. I, who admit no peer in such mastery. He -He betrayed me. He stole my work and left me for dead.

That man was Kellanved, Emperor of Malaz. He returns tonight to this island. The Claws and their mistress no doubt think he returns to reclaim the throne, but all who believe such things are fools. He returns to atempt to re-enter the Deadhouse. They are after another, far greater prize. He and Dancer.” (pg 63-64)

And, just like that, we have the summary of the conflict in this book, and what are in the Prologue of Gardens of the Moon.

Oleg tells Kiska that “transubstatiation must be the time of striking. Entombment is the way”. Then Kiska is back in Malaz, in the garden with the dead man (apparently Oleg). The other man who she had seen with him (the one she originally followed) comes back and tries to kill her (she shoots a crossbow but it goes right through where he was). Oleg rises up and puts some serious hurt on the assassin, freeing Kiska before she is garroted.

Sergeant Ash (the Bridgeburner) and Corinn after some planning, take most of the men away, leaving four to guard the Temper, Coop, Trenech and Faro. Temper feels Warrens (magic?) growing, and Trenech responds to a threat by killing all four guards barehanded. Faro and Trenech are more than what they seem, telling Temper to leave, as Shadow and Others come.

Chapter Three – Hounds of Shadow

The fisherman is in his boat, rowing and chanting. The same riders who froze out the boat in the prologue keep trying to approach, but are unable to because of the chant.

Kiska is walking around Malaz, and then flips into another realm. There she meets Edgewalker, (who she describes as a walking corpse) who tells her that he “…walks the borders of Kurald Emurlahn. What you call Shadow.” So, Edgewalker walks the edges of Shadow, eh? He tells he she was swept there by a shadow storm, and that he will send her back. She asks Edgewalker if he knows Oleg, or if Shadow has a ruler. Edgewalker does not know Oleg, and says that many including he have tried to take the throne of Shadow. Kiska asks him what is entombment, and he tells here “the price of failure. Eternal enslavement to Shadow House.” (pg 81).

Then they hear a Hound. Edgewalker tells Kiska it has caught her scent, and she must seek protection in Obo’s tower. Obo is a myth, but so were the Hounds! She reaches the tower and finds a “doddering oldster” who does indeed turn out to be Obo. He somehow gets her back to her Realm on Malaz, and she bolts for the house of Agayla, her friend and caretaker who apparently is also a powerful mage.

Agayla warms her up, treats her wounds while Kiska tells her about her adventures (leaving out Edgewalker and Obo, for some reason). Apparently Agayla knows Oleg. While they are talking, something (one of the Hounds?) comes sniffing and scratching at their door, scaring them both; Agayla somehow makes it leave.

Agayla repeats the story to Kiska the version of the Emperor’s story that we’ve mostly heard before: the Emperor and Dancer have been seen less and less, and Dassem, the Sword of the Empire and two others of the sword, who survived the battle where the Sword of the Empire was broken, were killed later that night, presumably by the Claw (who are loyal to Surly). Agayla also says that Oleg Vikat was an acolyte of Hood and a theurgical scholar who “claims to have discovered a foundations understanding of the Warrens.” The man in grey (who attacked Oleg and later Kiska) was a “cultist. A worshipper of the Warren of Shadow” and an assassin.

Kiska thinks Agayla is going to lock her in a room, like she did when there was a purge against all who are talented (possess knowledge of the Warrens…apparently Kiska has some talent). Agayla used her talents to disuade the soldiers from taking her on. But this time Agayla gives her a letter to take to the man Oleg wanted her to give a message to, and sends her out into the night.

Temper takes Coop to the house of Seal who is apparently a healer with a bit of an addiction to the poppy plant. Temper gets his old armor and gear (which Seal was apparently storing for him), borrows some really old stuff that Seal kept of his father’s dumps Coop and heads out.

Kiska has also headed out into the night of Shadows, and is at once disoriented. She remembers the last time, when there was a purge against those with talent, which she had dropped down to the street to save an old man, had almost gotten raped but ended up fighting and knocking out two of three men and scaring off the third. Kiska has some skilz as well as talent! She also apparently has a crossbow this evening. She spies some more grey clad “cultist” figures, and follows them. She comes across a dead girl, with the mark of a Talon, and then spies the gent she was following (this is described a bit vaguely, IMHO) with four bodyguards. She sees more than 50 cultists sneaking in with three tall grey-clad cultists (obviously in charge and bad mama-jammas), and a fight ensues, with two of the man’s bodyguards kills. Just as the man she is following and on of the grey-clad cultists are about to have a magic battle royale (Kiska can sense it) she is grabbed from behind, bound, gagged, hooded and taken.

Kiska hood is taken off and she is in a inn she recognizes as the Southern Crescent. Turns out that she has been taken by the group that Corrin, Temper’s lady friend is part of. She is questioned, slapped, and apparently on the list to be killed (leave no witnesses) when scratching is heard at the door. Long story, short – a Hound comes in, Corrin and the leader and some others bail, and the Hound feasts on most everyone else. Kiska slips under a table, uses her one remaining hidden knife to slice her bonds, and, when the lone survivor pulls out some kind of magic grenade, dives down the stairs and out the door before the place explodes in magic and light.

Back to Temper, who is running around the city. He is drawn by a girl’s cries, and when he picks her up she wraps herself around him, and turns into something with more than two legs and starts to attack him. Just when he is down and it looks like she/it is going to bite his neck off, someone grabs the creature by the head and chops its neck off. That someone turns out to be Edgewalker, who departs after introducing himself as quickly as he came.

Temper cleans himself off in a fountain, then gets the Shadow treatment as the city starts to shift. He heads up – and finds one of the guards he met back at Coop’s Inn walking toward him with his entrails in hand, saying the Hound was behind him. Temper takes off running. A Hound eventually catches him, and though he fights back and hurts it, the Hound leaves Temper with a broken arm, mauled.

Kiska is hiding after her own encounter with a Hound but pulls herself together and takes off again to deliver her message. She takes a shortcut she knows up to Rampart Way, by way of climbing. She reaches a hole, a cave she has hidden in before, but is surprised by someone already hiding there, whom she fights and loses. She recognizes her opponent of the bodyguard of the man she is trying to get the message to. She convinces the bodyguard, who is called Hattar, and she speaks with a man who identifies himself as Artan. She gives him the scroll from Agayla, and Artan asks for her real name (“Kiskatia Silamon Tenesh”). Kiska tells Artan what Oleg said (about conjunction and transubstantiation). He thanks her for the information, then leaves her tied up as Artan and Hattar climb out. Kiska frees herself and follows.

Ch5OldEnemiesChapter Four (though it is labeled Five in my book) – Old Enemies, Old Friends

Who’s the editor that let two chapter five’s out the door in a Malazan series? Oy vey!

The fisherman who was rowing gets overrun by the boat from the intro (Rheni’s Dream) which was encased in an iceberg. An unknown woman goes into a hut where Agayla was knitting, but as she “reached out to gather up the knitting the wool shattered into fragments.”(pg 147). Then Agayla is meeting with Obo, who she tells of the fisherman’s fate and of other things.

“And the fisherman?” Obo asked, cocking a brow at her.
“Overcome. He was out there all alone. They knew how naked we are. They could sense it.”
“That fool, Surly, trying to outlaw magery on the island. Why didn’t she stop to consider why this island should be such a hotbed of talent? Wind-whistlers, sea-soothers, wax-witches, warlocks, Dragons deck readers. You name it. The Riders dare not come within hundreds of leagues.”
“She didn’t know because no one knows, Obo, “Agayla observed. (pg. 148)

She tells him she has recruited someone to their side in the upcoming fight, but won’t tell him who.

Temper dreams of the siege of Y’Ghatan, where he is with Dassem. Dassem has faced and beaten all of the champions – except one.

As they advanced, Temper kept a look ahead for Surgen – Surgen Ress, the man who claimed to be the last of the Holy City’s patroned and anointed champions. Never mind there were only seven Holy Cities and that all seven champions had fallen to Dassem’s sword. He gave life to Y’Ghatan’s claim to be the eighth Holy City, hidden, but the eldest. (pg. 153)

With Temper and his other bodyguards, Dassem advances, easily defeating the normal soldiers (I am assuming here that “patroned” means something like blessed or backed by one of the gods in this world?) as they make their way to Surgen. As Dassem is fighting, Temper sees something flash in front of him and hit Dassem (an arrow or something), wounding him. The bodyguards surround him, each in turn standing between Dassem and Surgen. Temper gets his turn and somehow holds the anointed one off until a wave of Malazan soldiers rescues them. We readers already knew Temper was a baaaad man, but this really pushes home that point.

Temper awakens from his nightmare looking at a hooded man, who has apparently used healing magic. The healer says his people saw Temper’s “duel with Rood”, which is apparently the name of the Hound (in the dramatis personae in the front of Gardens of the Moon, it lists seven Hounds of shadow). Temper is not sure who they are, but there are a lot of these hooded men, who say “We control the island two or three nights every century.” They take Temper to the top of the ridge and show him a strange set of lights, what Temper thinks accompanies manipulations of the warrens. The robed man tells him they think it is a door.

“An entrance to the realm of Shadow. And he who passes through commands that Warren as a King. A stunning possibility, yes?” (pg. 161)

They ask Temper to help defend the door, but offer him safe passage if he refuses. He accepts their offer of safe passage and goes to Rampart Way.

Temper has another flash back, wakening in a medical tent after being healed with only one Dassem’s bodyguards  (Ferrule) alive with him. They are being held under guard by members of the Claw, Surly’s troops. They fight and kill them and go to find Dassem. When they do, he is barely alive, and Surly and three more Claw are in the tent. They “negotiate”, though Temper believes neither side will hold up their end of the bargain. Surly leaves with one of the Claw, leaving the others with reinforcements to to take care of Temper, Dassem and Ferrule. While Ferrule guards him, Temper pulls a blade and thrusts it at Dassem – thus awakening him (or his patron awakened him? The text is unclear). They easily beat the remaining guards and flee. Dassem leaves them to go do something “he must do.”

So Dassem, the sword of the empire, is alive somewhere! Surly covered up their escape, saying they died in a raid from the Holy City troops….which is why Temper has been trying to avoid the Claw. I’m pretty quick on the up-take here….except for those whose suspected this several chapters ago.

Back to Kiska, who has finished her climb to the top of Rampart Way. There are signs of fighting, the mercenaries who had captured her are dead here. The gatekeeper Lubben grabs her from a door and pulls her in. He’s hiding, she borrows a weapon and leaves again. She finds more of the mercenaries dead, but one alive, who tells her that Surly’s Claw had lain in wait and attacked them. She sees a man coming wearing lots of armor brandishing two swards (Temper, obviously) who has two Claw stalking him. He kills one and calls the other “Possum” which was the name of one of the Claw’s Temper fought with to free Dassem.

Kiska heads further up, into the rooms that used to be used by Sub-Fist Pell (who was over the fort until all hell broke loose). Of course she finds Artan and Hattar. She tells them of the crazy armored man, and Artan catches a glimpse of him, and acts like he knows him. They watch as Temper (the crazy armored man) begins talking to a cultist who appears, who Temper obviously knows (and Artan seems to as well). They negotiate and a woman appears on the floor, one whom Kiska recognizes as Corinn (though she doesn’t know her name). They seem Temper take Corinn and walk away.

Then we see the same thing from Temper’s perspective. He passes Lubben’s quarters, kills a Claw who tries to raise a Warren, and keeps going. He fights Possum and the other Claw (killing that one), and heads further up. He meets the one Kiska thought was a cultist – it is Dancer, “Kellanved’s co-conspirator, bodyguard and the top assassin in the empire.” Temper asks for Corinn, and Dancer asks for something in return.

“One last first, Temper. One last service from the last shard of the shattered Sword.”
The last? Something stabbed at Temper’s chest. Truly the last? He seemed unable to breathe. Then Ferrule – even Dassem – dead? (pg. 191)

Dancer wants Temper to fight and send him back to Pralt, the cultist he had met before in the lower city. Temper takes Corrin, but asks Dancer a question, which I’m guessing may be want the entire series ends up being about:

“You two mean to retake the throne?”
The hooded head tilted to one side. Temper imagined a teasing smile. “We’re not here for a lark; you know that. But even from the beginning we didn’t want such an unwieldy entity. A kingdom, an Empire. There are just symbols. Kellanved and I see much further. We’ve always been after greater things.” (pg 192)

Temper takes Corinn back to Lubben’s, and heads back out.

Night of Knives Chapter 5Chapter Five (the real Five) – Feints and Fates

See? Two chapter 5s!!

Dancer has seen Artan, Kiska and Hattar and comes to confront them, calling Artan “Tay.” He suggests they stay where they are, as everyone upstairs is a “participant” (i.e., possible dead meat). They do as he suggests…for a while. Kiska asks and has confirmed that Artan is actually Tayschrenn, Imperial High Mage. He in turn asks her about her background and Kiska finds out that Tayschrenn considers Agayla a “colleague.”

After a while, she asks him what he is thinking:

“I am wondering,” he began, his voice low, puzzled, “just who is trapping whom. Surly has set a trap above for Kellanved. But he picked the time and place long ago – who knows how long – and has been preparing all the while. So perhaps this trap is for her. One she likely recognizes but cannot avoid. She had to come. They both had to come.” Then he frowned. The lines bracketing his mouth deepened into furrows. “And what could he and Dancer hope to gain? Their followers have been killed or scattered. No organized support remains but for Dancer’s Shadow cult, and they gone to ground and so few. Their authority would not be accepted by the Claws – or the governing Fists – should they return.”
“And Oleg. What of his message?”
The magus actually grimaced, touched one temple as if to still a throbbing vein. “Yes. Oleg. Our hermit mystic. A self-mortifier and flagellant. Drive insane, perhaps, by his own blind ambition? Or a prophet foolishly ignored?” He sighed. “If I follow the lines of his reasoning accurately, they lead to suicide for Kellanved and Dancer. That I simply cannot accept. I know those two and neither would allow that.” (pg 202)

They hear something on the floor above them – pacing, then a battle and screams. The three go upstairs (reluctantly taking Kiska with them).

Surly is there, with a bandaged hand and many bodes strewn around (including Ash, the Bridgeburner from the inn). Surly’s surviving claw, Possum and Topper are there. The balcony is destroyed, the impression is that Kellanved and Dancer lost the battle and were blasted off the balcony. Tayschrenn says he was there for a different reason but Surly does not believe him. Surly declares herself Imperial Regent, says she and Tay must plan. He sends Hattar and Kiska away, back down the stairs…where Kiska falls asleep.

Two cultists meet Temper after he has dropped off Corinn. One gets mouthy, threatens Temper, Temper hits him, the cultist pulls a knife and ends up with it in his stomach. The remaining cultist escorts him into Shadow, to the Deadhouse, surrounded by cultists. The one called Pralt tells him what he traded for – a “simple assault” on the Deadhouse.  When Temper says “I ain’t no stalking horse,” Pralt replies “That’s all you’ve ever been.” So Temper’s assault is to be a diversion for Dancer?

Faro and Trenech show up, telling Temper and the cultists not to enter the gate to the Deadhouse. “By crossing the barriers, you weaken them. And that is not to our liking.” (pg. 217). Temper goes in with Pralt and one other cultist…who magically vanish behind the gate, leaving Temper alone.

Agayla and Obo are holding back the forces attacking Malazan Island, when Tayschrenn arrives (he was the assistance that Agayla had talked about at the beginning of Chapter 4). Agayla is obviously exhausted. She tells him that before the dawn they will fail without Tayschrenn’s help.

“Yet some force was forestalling this. Where are they?”
“He has been overcome.”
“He? One against all of this? There is no one. Osserc, perhaps -”
Obo snorted again.
Agayla merely massaged her fingers across her brow. “Really, Tay. You, above all, should know there are ancient powers, those that see past your and Kellanved’s empire-building as just another pass of season. The paths of Ascendancy are far more varied that you image.” Sighing, Agayla straightened. “But now is not the time for that. Surly’s campaign against magery had left him sorely diminished. A fraction of talent remained to draw upon and so he was overwhelmed.” (pg. 220)

Paths to Ascendancy? Sounds like a huge motivation for the entire series, don’t it?

Tayschrenn uses his Thyr Warren (which I’m sure we’ll learn about in the series) and probes the power behind the Stormriders, called the Wandweilders. He senses a power similar to his old master, D’rel, the Worm of Autumn. Agayla asks him what if their goal was not just to get past the barrier at Malaz island, but to get to the House. Could the house withstand that force? With this thought, Tayschrenn joins them to contain the Riders.

Kiska awakens, Corinn the mercenary mage above her, and Lubben with her, but Tayschrenn and Hattar gone. She tells them what she thinks has happened. They decide to go to the House (isn’t everybody?), and Kiska convinces them to take her. Corinn uses the Thyr Warren (the Path of Light), and Kiska steps in after her. Kiska sees images, and Corinn comments that she must be a “natural.” Kiska thinks of Agayla, and then sees her, exhausted by the sea, and warning her away. Somehow (the writing is a bit vague) Kiska again ends up in Shadow, and finds Edgewalker. She sees the House in Shadow (which looks alive) but also sees a glacier (which we assume is the shadow parallel of the Stormriders force/attack against the isle). Edgewalker says that is the more deadly threat in this “Conjunction”. Edgewalker sends her back…right near an assassin, who Kiska kills…but also near a Hound, who Kiska charges but trips and is knocked out.

Temper see a giant stepping out of the house, a giant that Faro calls the Jaghut (whom Edgewalker has also referred to). He tries to leave, but Faro, Trenech, Cultists and Claws prevent it. The Jaghut calls forth skeletons from the ground, and marches toward the gate, flinging Temper out of the way. Temper fights to get out, fighting Cultists, his old Claw ‘pal’ Possum, skeletons and a tree that wraps its tendrils around him.

Kiska wakes up yet again, this time in the Deadhouse with Oleg. Oleg asks about Edgewalker, then he spies a place over the wall where the vines move, smoke and die. Kiska watches as Oleg jumps over the wall and finds a man near the vines who he attacks. Kiska spies his face and believe it is Kellanved. A third figure – “in rags, scarecrow thin with elongated, oddly proportioned limbs” – grabs Kellanved, much to Oleg’s delight. Another person, Dancer appears, grabbing Oleg and throwing him onto Kellanved and the creature who he struggled with. The creature grabs Oleg, and Kellanved and Dancer proceed into the house, and in through a door in the back of it.

Kiska then runs into Tayschrenn, supported by Hattar. She tells them what she saw, and Tayschrenn forcefully tells her that she must be mistaken, as he and Surly have agreed that Kellanved and Hattar are dead and gone. Tayschrenn goes to talk to “the Guardian”, and a battle erupts with the Jaghut trying to escape with Faro, Trenech, and Tayschrenn trying to stop it. Hattar runs in and rescues Tayschrenn, who is unconscious and Kiska and Hattar take him to be healed.

Temper survives, and Corinn finds him. Lubben and Corinn want him to leave, but they see that magic battle at the gate. Temper finds Faro, a smoldering ruin, and Faro tells him to “step into the gap, soldier.” Temper realizes that the Jaghut cannot be allowed to get through the gate. He “receives the Guardianship” from Faro as he dies. Temper asks Corinn if she can shield him from the magic energies surrounding the Jaghut. She responds “for a heartbeat.”

Temper and Lubben attack the Jaghut, with Lubben quickly thrown aside. Temper defends, not attacking, with something giving him strength (maybe a patronage? the gods choosing sides?). Soon, the Jaghut stops fighting, and starts talking. It’s name is Jhenna, a name it expects Temper to know. It says it was a teacher of humans long ago, defending them from the K’Chain. Then it asks Temper to name his price to stand aside. He declines. The Jaghut says it has brought Temper to its Warren, where his battle would go on forever. As the Jaghut is taunting Temper, Edgewalker walks up. Edgewalker announces that the Riders have been repulsed, and the Shadow cultists have withdrawn. The Jaghut continues to push Temper to stand aside, and Temper asks Edgewalker to tell him what is truth in what the Jaghut says. The Jaghut finally realizes that Temper is the Temper of the Sword, and tells him that Daseem Ultor is alive. But the Jaghut had been stalling, Temper finds his legs and torso encased in ice. Some energy allows him to explode the ice and fend off the sudden resumption of attacks of the Jaghut. The Jaghut attacks furiously, then is hit by weapons thrown from behind Temper. The House sucks the Jaghut back into the ground, as Corinn and Lubben grab Temper who has passed out. It is dawn. The Conjunction appears to be over.

Chapter Six – Resolutions

Kiska awakens to find herself in Coop’s tavern and healed by Seal. She gets a message that the men who she came in with (Hattar and Tayschrenn) are down at the wharf. She runs down to the wharf, finds them and is taken as an apprentice. She runs and tell Agayla and her mother good bye.

Temper is back at guard duty the next day, acting like nothing happened. The guards and his officer only know that there was an assassination attempt, but nobody saw anything.

Epilogue

Edgewalker comes across two prone figures, encountering an old man he calls “Lord” and Cotillion. Based on how the plot has gone, I assume these are Kellavaned and Dancer, now rulers of Shadow. Edgewalker says to himself that this could “continue the possibility of…progression.”

Some of the folks of the island find a body washed up, that of an injured Rider. The Rider speaks to the old man, asking him “Why are you killing us?” before the old man does just that, slicing the Rider’s throat, surprised by the red blood.

 

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal


I enjoy writing reviews but I admit I am something of a wimp in doing so. Writing a book is a difficult task, despite what the proliferation of self-published tomes indicates. Each of the ones I’ve written is an exercise in perseverance, self-discipline and repetition. I applaud anyone who has successfully gone through that process.

Which is why I really dislike writing negative reviews.

For the most part, if I usually read a book if I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. Most readers are like this, no doubt, as we are all influenced by what we have read before, and our time is precious so we do not want to invest it in reading something that may not bring us satisfaction, wonder and enjoyment (or knowledge, if reading non-fiction).

This brings us to the review just posted on SFSignal of The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, the first in the Vault of Heavens trilogy.

It is probably the most lukewarm, middle-of-the-road review I’ve written…and, in spite of it, I am plowing through and thoroughly enjoying the second book in the series, Trial of Intentions.

The version of the book I reviewed is labeled “Author’s Definitive Edition.” I have no idea what changed, though I have read in other places that the original book was a lot like The Wheel of Time series. Though I admire what Robert Jordan (and after him, Brandon Sanderson) have accomplished with that series, I could not finish it – it just got too boring and convoluted in the middle. I saw some similarities, but they were the same fantasy tropes that you find in all fantasy series.

An excerpt from the review:

It’s a bit of a rocky start, with a lot of jumping around, and references to characteristics of the world that are undefined and confusing (e.g., the creatures that are being held back by the veil (and sometime breaking through) are called “the Quiet”; I may be slow, cause I didn’t get it for a while). And I have the unfortunate vice of being a map hound…and, even with reading glasses, it looked to me like distances were not making any sense in the group’s travels.

At this point I almost gave up on the book. Life’s too short to have to force your way through a book that is meant to entertain.

And yet…there were intriguing characters with interesting problems and a complex world that was developing and deepening. The main character, Tahn, has forgotten a large part of his past, and is limited by the power of the chant he must says before he uses his bow. The Sheason can use “the Will”, the life-energy of this world, as a weapon at the cost of draining his own life energy. And the concept of the Veil, which is failing (as evidenced by the Bar’dyn from the other side that they encounter) and which would launch a third all-out war, sets up much of the impetus of the plot. Political intrigue is added by introducing a faction bent on modernization, believing that old stories of the Veil, the creatures beyond it and the first two wars are mere fairy tales, and that all who believe in them should be subdued to make way for progress.

The story follows some oft-used tropes: a forgotten past; an unlikely hero who is more than he seems; music as power. But, each unwinds in interesting ways:

 If you’ve read it, I’d appreciate your comments.

 

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin

As a child living in Indian Harbor Beach, Florida, I was able to watch many of the Apollo launches from the roof of my parents house. Apollo 11 and the first moon landing, the pinnacle of the space race with the Soviets, is obviously a milestone for mankind. And Buzz Aldrin was there, recording it and his life after in this memoir (which we got signed, at his appearance at the Houston Museum of Natural Science). The book is logically four parts: Apollo 11, Aldrin’s downward spiral afterward, his recovery with his new wife Lois, and what he has been doing since.

The first three chapters record Aldrin’s thoughts and actions through the journey to, walk on, and return from the moon as a part of the historic Apollo 11 mission with Armstrong and Collins. Those first 58 pages are excellent, a terrific description of an event millions watched, but from the perspective of the second (but most visible) man to step on the moon. (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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