"Of all the gifts Father Shadow has given his children, this one talent stands tallest. Look away to see. Trust in it, and you will be led to Shadow. Where all truths hide.Midnight Tides is the fifth book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the first in the Letherii arc. It was released in 2004, and is preceded by House of Chains. This volume is notable for employing a loose version of the Literary Agent Hypothesis — events are ostensibly narrated by Trull Sengar, a character from the last book — and for its use of And Now for Someone Completely Different, as it introduces the last of the three major arcs. Despite this, it does not employ significant use of Lost in Medias Res — one of the hallmarks of the series — as it largely follows a more traditional storytelling structure than usual, and, as such, is a somewhat different read from the rest of the series.Several years prior to Gardens of the Moon, the Tiste Edur have united under Hannan Mosag, their first high king in memory. Tensions are running high in the region, however, as the Letherii Empire to the south is becoming increasingly aggressive with its diplomacy with the approach of a sacred event known as the Seventh Closure. These tensions are only exacerbated when Trull Sengar arrives with the news that Letherii poachers have gone after the seals vital to the Edur populations in the area. Before a major incident can be made of this, though, Hannan Mosag announces he has had a dream of a gift from a god buried in the ice far to the north. In the dream, the Sengar brothers were shown to be part of the group to retrieve it, and so Fear, Trull, Binadas, Rhulad and their allies set out to find it.To the south, in the Letherii capital of Letheras, the impoverished Tehol Beddict — middle brother of the Beddicts — wakes up on his roof for another day of doing nothing, accidentally exposing himself in public and bickering with his manservant, Bugg. Though once the wealthiest man in Letheras, his possessions now number only a blanket, a bed and some cooking pots, and he does not care much about changing this — at least not on the surface. When a trio of businesswomen approach him with an offer, however, he realises that the time might be right to set certain plans into motion.In the imperial palace of Letheras, Brys Beddict — youngest of the Beddict brothers — has proven himself as the foremost swordsman in the Empire, and has thus earned the rank of Royal Champion, the King's closest bodyguard. Brys is an idealistic young man who only wishes to do his duty as a soldier of the Empire, but the court intrigues of Lether leave little room for a neutral party in their midst, and with the Seventh Closure approaching, events rapidly spiral out of control.The undead burglar known as Shurq Elalle finds herself suddenly motivated to live again when Tehol offers her a deal; an undead girl named Kettle tries to warn people that the Azath House of Letheras is dying; and in the Sengar household, Udinaas, a slave of the Tiste Edur and a former Indebted of the capitalistic Letherii Empire, finds himself at the center of attention after a divination by the seer Feather Witch draws unwanted attention.Followed by The Bonehunters.
Look away to see.
Now, look away."
Look away to see.
Now, look away."
Midnight Tides provides examples of the following tropes:
- And I Must Scream: Invoked by Brys Beddict during the climax. Brys realises that the only way to ensure that Rhulad Sengar can be removed as Emperor of the Tiste Edur is if he is incapacitated in such a way that he can't act, but also doesn't die to be resurrected and healed by the sword he carries. To that end, he severs every motive muscle and tendon in Rhulad's body.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: Midnight Tides takes place in a part of the setting that is completely unexplored at this point in the series, with only two characters being immediately recognizable. Even in a books series infamous for constantly changing viewpoint characters, Midnight Tides stands out.
- Anti-Climax: Inside the dying Azath House lie a band of Toblakai gods as well as Silchas Ruin, a Tiste Andii Ascendant, and the entire book builds up to an epic showdown between them upon their escape. What happens instead is that the Toblakai face off against Badass Abnormal Iron Bars in a Last Dance and Silchas Ruin escapes Just in Time to take them down in a brief Curb-Stomp Battle that isn't even described.
- Asshole Victim: The scheming Queen Janall and Prince Quillas are used as conduits for the Crippled God's magic, twisting their bodies into unrecognisable shapes without killing them.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Tusked Milk is a popular alcoholic drink at some of the richer Letheras winehouses that contains orange rinds, honey and Tusked Seal sperm.
- Break the Haughty: Rhulad Sengar is involuntary made The Dragon of The Crippled God and is granted immortality. Quickly realizing he got the short end of the stick in a Deal with the Devil he is slowly driven to madness by repeated incidents of dying and painfully coming Back from the Dead and the knowledge that he no longer has control over his life and fate.
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: The two Kenryll'ah demon princes are quite fond of both announcing they have to pee and talking about it to coordinate the act.
- Chick Magnet: Turudal Brizard is constantly being defined by his good looks, to the point where even Queen Janall takes him as a consort. This unexpectedly grants him a bit of a foothold in the games of deception in the Letherii court.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The entirety of Lether's military is steadily massacred battle after battle by the Tiste Edur's borrowed sorcery.
- Eldritch Abomination: The nameless, forgotten water god bound by Hannan Mosag is implied to be a monstrous entity alien to a normal person's perceptions.
- Et Tu, Brute?:
- Downplayed, as Trull Sengar and Lilac have barely known each other, but seem to be developing an Interspecies Friendship. However, Lilac claims he's going to be killed by the Tiste Edur in order to negotiate with his realm's lords, knowing that Trull would then do anything he could to send Lilac home to safety. It was a lie, Lilac just wanted to return home, and while Trull understands that, he is left with a deep sense of having been betrayed.
- Enforced with Rhulad Sengar who finally snaps for good when Udinaas, who's the closest thing Rhulad has to a friend, leaves him. Everyone thinks Udinaas betrayed Rhulad at a crutial moment, but Udinaas himself is almost killed by the Loqui Wyval leaving his body and has no say in the matter. Although he never considered Rhulad a friend to begin with.
- Eunuchs Are Evil: Averted with First Eunuch Nifadas, who in all things sides with King Ezgara Diskanar against Queen Janall but otherwise is mostly interested in administrative concerns and the welfare of the Letherii Empire.
- Excrement Statement: After Rhulad Sengar's two Kenryll'ah demon bodyguards have thrown the Forkrul Assail named Serenity head first down a deep hole in the ground, they punctuate the occasion by peeing into it as well.
- Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: Wither, though otherwise just a shadowy smear, has a pair of red glowing eyes.
- God Was My Copilot: Bugg is Mael, the Elder God of the Sea, explaining how he's such a capable assistant. Tehol, when he finds out, is not very surprised.
- Guile Hero: Tehol made his first fortune hiring homeless people to fish gems from the sewers of the nobility. He was seven at the time.
- Happiness in Slavery: Udinaas at the beginning, of the fourth kind. It's just that slaves among the Tiste Edur get food, shelter, mostly fair treatment and don't have to miss the company of their own kind thanks to having the other slaves around. Being free meant working on a trader galley to pay off some sliver of his inherited debt.
- High-Altitude Battle: In the prologue, Scabandari Bloodeye and Silchas Ruin, aided by Silchas Ruin's Loqui Wyval and the combined Tiste Andii and Tiste Edur suicide commandos, battle the K'Chain sky keeps manned by the Short-Tails, preventing them from coming to the aid of the K'Chain Che'Malle armies on the plain below.
- Jacob and Esau: The Beddict brothers. Though their parents are long dead by the start of the book, Tehol draws comparisons. Hull and Brys are both a lot like their father, Hull in personality and Brys in physical traits, while Tehol himself is a gender-flipped version of their mother.
- Jerkass: Feather Witch takes every opportunity to be rude and verbally abusive to Udinaas for ambiguous reasons.
- Impoverished Patrician: Tehol Beddict once owned about a quarter of he Letherii economy before an economic crash cost his investors most of their money and left him on the street. Tehol engineered the entire chain of events as proof-of-concept that the economy could be brought down, and actually hid most of the cash safely; technically, he still owns most of the city. He publicly lives in squalor to avoid suspicion and because it amuses him to confuse people.
- Last Stand: It is assumed towards the end that Brys Beddict would play this role. It is instead filled by Kuru Qan.
- Lethal Chef: Inverted with Bugg, who is somehow able to keep himself and Tehol alive on a diet consisting of boiled sandals. As the Elder God of the Sea, this is not actually a problem.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The story is, in theory, told by Trull Sengar to his companions following the epilogue in House of Chains, but there are numerous events recounted that are impossible for him to know.
- Living Shadow: The shadow wraiths enslaved by the Tiste Edur, with two getting special mention:
- Hannan Mosag's shadow wraith bodyguard, who usually just looks like his shadow unless one looks closely.
- The ghost Wither is barely more than a shadowy smear which can change it's shape at will.
- Ominous Owl: Many have tried to make sense of the recurring appearances of owls in Midnight Tides. What is clear is that they are a symbol of death, appear in connection to Trull Sengar and get progressively deader. Owl #1 is seen happily munching on a freshly caught mouse. At this point Trull Sengar's world is still alright. Owl #2 has both a bloodied beak and bloodied claws and is seen in hurried flight, shortly before Trull and his brothers are about to leave on a mission for the Warlock King. Trull then finds owl #3, freshly dead, during the Tiste Edur's march south, while tensions between him and the other warriors grow. Owl #4, long dead and decaying, is found by Seren Pedac in her empty house in Letheras, right when the city is passing into Tiste Edur hands and Trull is about to fall into disgrace for good.
- Planet of Hats: The Letherii Empire's gimmick is ruthless capitalism — everything revolves around wealth, with expansionism being a means to acquiring more of it. Conquered cultures are forcibly assimilated, with no attempts at integration being made. Despite being a mixing pot of ethnicities, Lether is a very culturally homogeneous nation.
- Rape as Drama: Seren Pedac is raped in Trate just before it falls to the Edur, bringing a drastic change to the direction of her character arc.
- The Reveal: Kuru Qan and Bugg aka Elder God Mael have been working together all along in a Batman Gambit to subdue Hannan Mosag's demon.
- Sealed Badass in a Can: Ancient Tiste Andii ascendant Silchas Ruin lies trapped in the grounds of a dying Azath House. His slow escape is one of the many plotlines of the book.
- Sealed Evil in a Can:
- Aside from Silchas Ruin, the grounds of the dying Azath Tower in Letheras hold within them a whole bunch of entities nobody wants to escape, among them Sheltatha Lore, the god of the Soletaken Jheck, the gods of the Toblakai, etc., and although not evil per se, if let loose into te world, they could create a lot of havoc.
- A Forkrul Assail named Serenity is trapped within a barrow somewhere in the countryside of Lether. Rhulad Sengar decides to free it and immediately regrets that.
- Strawman Political: The Letherii Empire takes capitalism to absurd levels, with large swaths of its population Indebted (forced into indentured servitude) as a result.
- Generally, because Gothos, as a favour to Elder God Mael, a long time ago used a magical ice age to lock the region in a metaphysical stasis, the Warren of Death has never developed fully on Lether, causing havoc with the afterlife and making necromancy quite easy as souls have nowhere to go.
- Specifically, Shurq Elalle, once the best burglar in Lether, died during a trial by ordeal called a Drowning and found out that one of her victims had cast a curse on her. After spending a few months stuck in a net on the bottom of the canals, she re-emerged, completely apathetic as her primary pleasure in life, sex, had been taken from her. Although rare, the ritual used here is not unique.
- Walk, Don't Swim:
- Ublala Pung is sentenced to death by the Drownings, and made to swim across the canal burdened with a bag of gold. However, thanks to being a Tarthenal, he's bigger than a human and has four lungs, enabling him to simply walk across the canal's bottom and win his freedom.
- The Guardian, an entity of unspecified origin which is set up by Mael, Elder God of the Sea, to guard the names of long forgotten gods, is basically a suit of armor that walks around on the sea bottom and challenges any intruders.
- Was Too Hard on Him: Trull Sengar, after Rhulad is killed fighting the Jheck, wonders if he might have been too harsh on Rhulad and had distrusted him without reason.
- Wham Episode: Rhulad Sengar makes the sudden transformation from minor side character to Arc Villain as he is brought Back from the Dead by the Crippled God to usurp Hannan Mosag's rule, and begins a full blown conquest of Lether.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The entire book takes place before Gardens of the Moon, and tells, in part, of how Trull Sengar ended up in the Nascent in the prologue of House of Chains.
- Win Your Freedom: The Drownings are a popular public spectacle in Letheras in which condemned criminals who couldn't pay the requiered fine to win their freedom can do so by trying to swim across the canal with a sack full of coins strapped to their back. The amount of coins depends on the crime. Since few ever manage to make it across, wagers are usually made about things like the distance, number of strokes or the manner of drowning. note
- Would Hit a Girl: Trull Sengar, when he asks for a demon to be healed and the healer refuses on the grounds of demons being disposable, slaps her hard enough to draw blood. While he is shocked at this himself, he does not feel remorse as he considers his reasoning justified; anyone who fought should be worthy of healing, demon or not.