Literature / Memories of Ice

"The harder the world, the fiercer the honor."

Memories of Ice is the third book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the second in the Genabackis arc, picking up from Gardens of the Moon. It was released in 2001, and is preceded by Deadhouse Gates, which the story is concurrent with.

Over a hundred thousand years ago, High King Kallor decided on a whim to destroy his empire. Most of an entire continent was wiped out and left completely barren by his magic, and the empire was completely broken. Afterwards, three Elder Gods appeared before him. They cursed him for his crime: he would always see his efforts crumble into nothing. Kallor laughed, and cursed them right back.

In the present time, Toc the Younger suddenly finds himself thrown out of the Warren of Chaos—where he was sent to die by the insane wizard Hairlock—into the land of Morn, a vast wasteland created by an ancient cataclysm. Lady Envy, a sorceress, happens to be nearby and inducts him into her entourage. Along the way the pick up Tool, the lone T'lan Imass last seen with Adjunct Lorn.

One-Arm's Host has defected from the Malazan Empire and has allied itself with the city-states of southern Genabackis following Adjunct Lorn's attack on Darujhistan and the news that a new threat is approaching from the south: the Pannion Domin, a fanatical empire far to the south, has suddenly marched with an immense army against its neighbours. Reports indicate that something is amiss: the army seems to be composed mostly of civilians, including children, and the lands in their wake are completely abandoned and stripped of everything edible. The Domin seems to be heading for Capustan next, and the allied forces scramble to reach the city before it is too late.

In Capustan, the ruling body is desperately preparing to defend their city as the Pannion Domin are mere weeks away. The Grey Swords, a mercenary company dedicated to the war god Fener, have agreed to help defend the city — but time is short, and there seems to be no hope of relief. Outside the city, Gruntle's group of caravan guards, oblivious to the encroaching threat, accept a job to escort the eccentric pair known as Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to Capustan.

Amongst the Rhivi, a sacred Mhybe has appeared. Tattersail's dying spirit entered the foetus in a woman's womb, and nine months later a strange child was born. The child, known as Silverfox, grows unnaturally quickly at the expense of the vitality of the Mhybe, and she seems to have a special connection to the undead people known as the T'lan Imass, who 320,000 years ago forsook their mortality to ensure the extinction of the Jaghut, their mortal enemies.

Followed by House of Chains.

Memories of Ice provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Treach, in his first appearance, gets brutally killed by an undead K'ell hunter; for unclear reasons likely relating to his status as either a "First Hero" or an Ascendant with worshippers, he ascends to godhood immediately afterwards.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Gruntle and his militia fall back to a multi-story apartment building during the siege, fighting backwards room to room. By the end the few survivors are atop the roof of the building, which is crammed so tight with corpses that no one else can enter. By the next morning, blood is gushing out between the bricks and the place is in danger of collapse due to the expanding bodies bulging out against the wall.
  • Badass Army / Redshirt Army: The Malazans (and especially the Bridgeburners) are a match for ten times their numbers, unless The Worf Effect calls for a new enemy to kill a few thousand of them.
  • Distant Prologue: The first part of the prologue takes place 320,000 years before the beginning of the story and shows some of what the Imass were doing at the time; the time jump then moves forward to about 120,000 years before the story, showing what High King Kallor did to his empire.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Near the climax of the story, Hedge drops a cusser at his feet to stop an undead K'ell Hunter, thus saving the rest of the Bridgeburners.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Two thousand people are killed in one sentence, forgotten except for the tactical implications by the end of the paragraph. The death of a named character merits an entire chapter of mourning.
  • Necromancy: Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are both necromancers, although one technically summons demons, which seems to be tied to necromancy in the setting. Mostly they stay to themselves, but they need to get material to work with somewhere, so usually they don't stick around for long when people start catching on to the fact that a lot of people are disappearing.
  • Obviously Evil: Kallor, as the introduction makes clear. Despite being allied with Rake, Brood and the Malazans at the moment, he doesn't get any nicer.
  • One-Man Army: Lady Envy, Tool, Garath, Baljagg, and each of the Seguleh, are all beings who are capable of bringing down armies on their own, be it by magic or by sword, and they are all travelling together.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: After Quick Ben unleashes half of his warrens to blast Korbal Broach through a wall, Bauchelain, partner of the aforementioned Korbal Broach, notes that Quick Ben's power is most impressive, but that, in retrospect, he ought to have saved at least half his warrens.
    'But, Bauchelain,' the wizard replied, 'I did.'
    The divan, and the man on it, fared little better when struck by the power of a half-dozen bound warrens than had the wall and Korbal Broach moments earlier.
  • Rape as Drama: During the siege of Capustan, the mercenary Stonny is raped by one of the Pannion Domin, giving her friend Gruntle the motivation to fight for the defence of the city.
  • Redemption Earns Life: The Seer is given a second chance after the collapse of his empire by being reunited with his sister and being given a job that allows him to recover from the damage that he both suffered and caused.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Stonny is raped in the siege of Capustan, her friend Gruntle goes on a superhuman killing spree that acts in the defense of the city long after it is completely overrun by the enemy. Eventually the building he is fighting in is filled up with corpses to the point that the expanding bodies threaten to burst the walls.
  • Super Empowering: The book features numerous examples of individuals gaining superhuman powers, as the concept of the Mortal Sword-Destriant-Shield Anvil trio is introduced. Numerous gods and powers have a stake in the outcome of the war, and as such not all empowered individuals are necessarily willing:
    • Gruntle, the caravan guard, unwillingly becomes the Mortal Sword of the Tiger of Summer, Treach. This suits him fine at the time, as he's right in the middle of carving up an army.
    • Ganoes Paran is chosen by the Azath houses as the Master of the Deck, gaining him Ascendancy status and powers involving the Deck of Dragons.
  • Title Drop: "Memories of ice" is said by Tool during a discussion of the ancient war between the Jaghut and the T'lan Imass. The text is also peppered with the phrase as a descriptive metaphor, indicating a sort of melancholia.
  • The Undead: Aside from the usual suspects in the series, such as the T'lan Imass, two other variants of undead are used:
    • Bauchelain and Korbal Broach practice necromancy, but are relatively benign, as long as they're left to themselves, and you don't mind the odd person... disappearing. Their work is mostly of the mindless reanimated fair, although during the siege of Capustan they are left largely alone even by the crazed masses when people decide that not even hunger motivates fighting those horrors.
    • The Pannion Domin have access to undead K'ell hunters, reanimated corpses belonging to an extinct lizard-like species called K'Chain Che'Malle. These particular hunters have had long metal blades grafted onto their arms — in essence, undead velociraptors with swords on their arms, which makes them doubly difficult to destroy.
  • Wham Episode: Right at the cusp of the Final Battle, Whiskeyjack is stabbed through the chest by Kallor and dies.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Pannion Seer's genocide is actually an emotional lashing out from the trauma of suffering a Fate Worse Than Death for thousands of years.