Literature / Deadhouse Gates

Coltaine rattles slow
across the burning land.
The wind howls through the bones
of his hate-ridden command.
Coltaine leads a chain of dogs
ever snapping at his hand.

Coltaine's fist bleeds the journey home
along rivers of red-soaked sand.
His train howls through his bones
in spiteful reprimand.
Coltaine leads a chain of dogs
ever snapping at his hand.

A marching song of the Bonehunters

Deadhouse Gates is the second book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the first in the Seven Cities arc. It was released in 2000, and is preceded by Gardens of the Moon.

Following the death of Adjunct Lorn in Darujhistan, the Empress has chosen Tavore Paran, sister of Ganoes Paran, as her replacement. Tavore's first act as Adjunct is as politically logical as it is callous: the noble houses of Unta are purged, and her younger sister Felisin with them. Felisin is shipped to the otataral mines as a slave along with the handless historian Heboric and the silent Baudin.

On the subcontinent of the Seven Cities, Dryjhna the Apocalyptic — the Whirlwind Goddess — has chosen a mortal prophet, Sha'ik. Religious fanatics are stirring up anti-Malazan sentiments, proclaiming that the Whirlwind, a religiously mandated uprising, is at hand. As historian Duiker finds himself on site, he witnesses as Coltaine, the newly-appointed Fist in the region, starts preparing his forces for the protection of the seemingly-inevitable exodus of Malazan civilians across the continent that will take place.

Elsewhere, the wandering duo known as Mappo Runt and Icarium find that a convergence of shapeshifters is going to take place soon. The amnesiac Icarium finds himself drawn as well, and the pair set off.

Oblivious to the troubles of the Seven Cities, Crokus and Apsalar, both free from their respective gods now, attempt to cross the Holy Desert Raraku, the sacred centre of the Whirlwind, on their way to Apsalar's old home. Two Bridgeburners, Fiddler and the assassin Kalam, are escorting them — but Raraku is a special place, and this is not the first time it has seen Bridgeburners.

Followed by Memories of Ice.

Deadhouse Gates provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Animal Theme Naming: The Wickan Clans are named after animals, e.g. Crow Clan, Foolish Dog Clan, Weasel Clan.
  • Anti-Climax: After a bloody journey across the continents and through other dimensions, Kalam finally reaches the Empress to assassinate her. They talk it out. And she wasn't really there anyway.
  • Badass Natives:
    • The Wickans. Though they're from Quon Tali and the book is set on Seven Cities, even the Seven Cities natives are impressed by their battle prowess. Coltaine is the most badass of them all by being more cunning and fiercer than his followers.
    • The Khundryl, who join the final battle just to see who's the boss tribe on Seven Cities and drive away most of the tribes assaulting the Malazan forces. Even Coltaine is impressed, although the Khundryl come to the conclusion that the Wickans are even more badass than them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The conch Kimloc the Tanno Spiritwalker gives to Fiddler. It sits forgotten in a bag for 400 pages, until he remembers it and uses it against the D'ivers within Tremorlor.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Sha'ik's bodyguards are not merely eccentric and deadly; remember Leoman of the Flails and Toblakai for later, because they are Important.
  • Crossing the Desert: All of the plotlines involve a crossing of a desert — either the Holy Desert Raraku or the Otataral Desert — or a very hot and dry region at some point.
  • Dead Guy on Display:
    • This trope is first presented during flashbacks of Duiker, when he remembers how Empress Laseen crucified the defeated Wickan warlocks to the city wall in Unta.
    • Then encountered by Kalam before outside the ruins of a sacked city. Hundreds of children have been crucified and left to die, once again hitting home how deep the hatred of the Malazans runs in the ranks of the Army of the Apocylypse.
    • At the end of the book there is the horrifying crucifixion of Coltaine and the entire Seventh Army all along the Aren road for miles, much to the horror of everyone watching from Aren's city wall.
  • Dracolich: Kulp and the others on the Silanda hitch a ride on the sorcerous trail of an undead dragon. It's Olar Ethil, and it is seen again at the end of the book, watching Iskaral Pust and the aftermath of the Path of Hands.
  • Just Whistle: The conch that Kimloc gives Fiddler in the beginning of the book. He almost forgets about it, but when he finally uses it, the effect is impressive. Not only does it go absolutely apeshit on every living being in the Azath labyrinth, it's also responsible for the ascension of the Bridgeburner battalion in Memories of Ice.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: The whole sub-continent is sinking into bloody rebellion, and the capemoth, a native kind of moth that thrives on rotting flesh, can be seen everywhere. It is also one of the symbols associated with Hood, Lord of Death.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Apsalar's plan for getting into Tremorlor, the Azath House, is to walk up and open the door. Much to her surprise, but not anyone else's, it fails.
  • The Reveal: A major one pertaining to the Myth Arc: Shadowthrone and Cotillion are actually Kellanved and Dancer ascended.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Chain of Dogs storyline ends with Coltaine and his soldiers slain within sight of the walls of Aren, and sees Duiker and ten thousand soldiers crucified, when their superior in Aren panics and tries to placate the Army of the Apocalypse's leaders, which only sees him killed. The only reason the Dog was not Shot as well is because the metaphorical Dog succeeded at its mission.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At the climax of the Chain of Dogs arc, High Fist Pormqual panics when he notices the size of the enemy army besieging the city and attempts to surrender. All his officers agree that the city can hold easily against a siege, but Pormqual overrides them and marches most of the garrison outside to disarm—evidently forgetting that the Chain of Dogs happened because the uprising was conducting a pogrom against the "Mezla" outsiders. He is killed out of hand, and his army is crucified.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 5 has several in a row as pieces fall into place. Apsalar still has the Rope's memories and at least some of his skills. The Emperor and his inner circle were not assassinated when Empress Laseen took over. They Ascended. Emperor Kellanved now rules High House Shadow and Dancer became the patron of assassins. If that led you to look at the appendix in the back of the book, you'll notice another of the inner circle in the high houses.
    • In the scene when Sha'ik fulfills the prophecy by opening the Book of Dryjna, all expectations are thrown aside as she is unexpectedly shot in the head.
    • Felisin, Heboric and Kulp are ambushed by Gryllen inside the Whirlwind. Kulp is murdered, and Baudin suddenly returns to save them in a gruesome Heroic Sacrifice which leaves Felisin broken, providing the set up for the next wham:
    • After several chapters hinting at Apsalar journeying to Sha'ik's corpse to enact her prophecised resurrection, Felisin arrives instead.
    • The slaughter of Coltaine and the entire 7th Army at the novel's climax is remembered as one of the most shocking moments in the series.