Literature: Reaper's Gale

And so, in the clash of these two extreme systems, one is witness to brute stupidity and blood-splashed insensitivity; two belligerent faces glowering at each other across the unfathomed distance, and yet, in deed and in fanatic regard, they are but mirror reflections.
This would be amusing if it weren't so pathetically idiotic...
In Defence of Compassion, Denabaris of Letheras, 4th century

Reaper's Gale is the seventh book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, following The Bonehunters. It concludes the Letherii arc, and dovetails it with the Bonehunters' main storyline.

The newest batch of champions who would challenge Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, have arrived in Letheras. Among the champions are Icarium Lifestealer and the Teblor warrior Karsa Orlong. Urns have been prepared for these champions well in advance, as no one has ever managed to slay the Emperor with finality. But it seems that the land itself remembers Icarium...

Letur Anict, the Factor in the conquered Letherii territory of Drene, is well under way into conquering the area's native Awl people, and acquiring the tribesmen's herds that are highly sought after. The newly assigned Edur overseer does not like this, but he could not find any means of stopping the war. A masked man named Redmask appears, uniting the remaining Awl, in an attempt to fight back. His trump card — his inhuman companions.

Seren Pedac guides a party consisting of the eldest Sengar son, Fear Sengar, brother to Rhulad; the former slave, Udinaas; the former undead child Kettle; and the Tiste Edur's ancient enemy Silchas Ruin. Fear's motives are to find his ancestor Scabandari Bloodeye's soul in the hopes of saving his brother and his people. Silchas Ruin's motives, however, are known to no one but himself.

Meanwhile the Bonehunters, led by Adjunct Tavore Paran, after having travelled across the world allegedly in answer to the Tiste Edur's atrocity in the island kingdom of Sepik, land on Lether's shores.

Followed by Toll The Hounds.

This novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: Implied to be the fate of Sirryn Kanar for knifing Trull Sengar. Quick Ben personally calls in a favour Hood owed him to make it happen.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Bottle, Fiddler's squad mage, employs all kinds of wildlife and critters to help him keep his squad hidden, as it allows him to spread his awareness out over a large area.
  • Back for the Dead: Toc Anaster, aka Toc the Younger, returns for this volume, only to bite the grass again in the finale. This time for good, albeit he becomes Hood's Herald.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Brys Beddict, who is brought back as Saviour of the Empty Hold.
    • Onrack, although since he was undead before, it's a special case. The sight of someone experiencing life for the first time after millennia is something to behold, as everyone agrees In-Universe.
    • Hedge, though — again — a special case. He spends most of the book as a ghost before becoming all alive again.
  • Burning the Ships: Literally. Adjunct Tavore Paran orders the Malazan ships to be burned after unloading her punitive army on the shores of Lether. Under a morally ambiguous commander of uncertain motivations, being stranded on foreign shores with no way back home certainly serves to fuel speculation among the Bonehunters.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Menandore, Sheltatha Lore and Sukul Ankhadu suffer from it due in part to their draconic blood. Since they cannot keep it down, turning at each other in a crucial moment directly leads to their deaths.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Patriotists, especially Tanal Yathvanar, are not above using this for their purposes.
  • Conversational Troping: Udinaas is the master of this trope in Reaper's Gale, deconstructing and lampshading various tropes in an effort to rile up Fear Sengar — with varying subtlety. At one point he launches into a lengthy rant about Dungeon Crawling, deconstructing the whole thing in great detail, while taking stabs at the noble quest as well. Species Loyalty and Thicker Than Water don't get off easily, either:
    Fear Sengar: Your blood is very thin, Udinaas, isn't it?
    Udinaas: Like water.
  • Cool Mask: Redmask's red-scaled mask which is made of the hide of a K'Chain matron's throat.
  • Cosmic Deadline: Reaper's Gale continues the tradition of previous Malazan books. Justified In-Universe, though. In this setting, power draws power, so the more the shit hits the fan, the more others tend to show up to grab a piece of the cake, and events have a tendency to accelerate.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: This is how many of the encounters between Malazan marines and Letherii and Tiste Edur troops play out, thanks to the Malazans being Crazy-Prepared and the Letherii/Tiste Edur never having encountered foes such as the Malazans.
  • Death Wail: A very poignant one is delivered by Hedge while holding Trull Sengar's dead body. Considering Hedge is not particularly known for being emotional, this hits home.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Triban Gnol, who just so happens to be the son of Turudal Brizad, who is also an example, albeit milder — as in, Triban Gnol's thoughts are directly addressed, while those of his father are only implied. Other than sleeping with his own son, but they were both adults, and even the Errant recoils from what Triban Gnol does.
  • Drunken Master: Sergeant Hellian is surprisingly competent both as a sergeant as long as she is able to keep up her alcohol intake, conducting her part of the Malazan invasion of Lether one tavern at a time.
  • Eye Scream: The Errant loses an eye when Feather Witch catches him by surprise. She then swallows it.
  • Evil Chancellor: Triban Gnol, who majorly cares about isolating Rhulad Sengar and furthering his own ambitions.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: The Malazan sappers' crossbow-mounted munitions prove to be more than a match even for Silchas Ruin in his Eleint Soletaken form.
  • Funetik Aksent: Nep Furrow and his nigh unintelligible dialogue.
    Eggit'way fra meen!
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Sergeant Hellian, again. When she is not busy being scarily competent while drunk, she's prone to behaving like she is at a party, barely intelligible singing included.
  • Hello, Nurse!:
    • The Malazans deliberately use Masan Gilani's looks to distract Brullyg and keep him drooling. He's even aware of it, but doesn't care.
    • Played for Laughs with Shurq Elalle, who provokes this reaction in pretty much anyone — until Deadsmell lets slip that she's actually a walking corpse.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Seren Pedac, after the death of Trull Sengar. It shows character development on her part, as instead of just going on as she's always done before, she re-evaluates the situation and decides to settle down.
  • Hero Worship: Bruthen Trana basically worships Brys Beddict after having witnessed the latter's swordsmanship in the finale of Midnight Tides.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Andara. Deconstructed. Being an isolationist Underground City ruled over by ancient wizards who, according to Udinaas, probably can't even agree on the hem length of their robes, the Andara is not a pleasant place to live. There are barely any pure-blooded Andii left, and eventually, it is dealt with swiftly by Orbyn Truthfinder and his mages.
  • Idiot Savant: Beak, who seems a lot like he has autism and serves as a squad mage, and just wants to be friends with everyone. He is, however, able to access all the warrens of magic, using a model where he views the warrens as different-colored candles he can light as needed.
  • In the Back: Sirryn Kanar stabs Trull Sengar in the back while the latter is momentarily distracted, courtesy of the Errant. He seems to be thinking it's a The Dog Bites Back moment against the the latter's whole people, except Trull Sengar is the only one not to be blamed.
  • Killed Off for Real: It's a staple of the series, but for this book: Trull Sengar, Fear Sengar, Tomad & Uruth Sengar, Beak, Redmask, Taralack Veed, Feather Witch, Hannan Mosag, Karos Invictad, Triban Gnol, Rautos Hivanar, and (finally) Rhulad Sengar.
  • Kill the Cutie: Justified. Kettle held the seed to a new Azath House within her, and Silchas Ruin had to kill her in order for the seed to take root.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: An interesting case. Hedge and Emroth, one of the T'lan Imass serving the Crippled God, traverse the icy expanses of the Jaghut realm of Death. Right before they cross into the Refugium, Hedge decides against taking the risk, and chugs a cusser at Emroth. Chunks of her fly over the border and flop down made of flesh and blood instead of skin and bone.
  • Luke Noun Verber: Orbyn Truthfinder, Section Commander of the Patriotists.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: The emlava Onrack, Trull Sengar and Quick Ben stumble upon in the Refugium turns out to be a mommy. They feel obliged to take care of her cubs after Onrack kills her.
  • New Old Flame: Janath Anar for Tehol Beddict. She is introduced in this book for the first time, and it turns out Tehol was pining after her when he was a student.
  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Hedge, who — together with Quick Ben — shows up just in time to help convince Silchas Ruin that attacking Letheras is a bad idea. With the help of Cussers, of course.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Yan Tovis's reaction upon seeing the burning Malazan ships, and realizing their meaning:
    She swung herself onto her horse and tugged it towards the north trail. ‘We left a debt in blood,’ she said, baring her teeth. ‘Malazan blood. And it seems they will not let that stand.’
    They are here. On this shore.
    The Malazans are on our shore.
  • The Power of Friendship: This motivates the squad mage Beak's Heroic Sacrifice, as he finally feels accepted — something he'd been looking for all his life.
  • Precision F-Strike: Udinaas, though wordy, rarely cusses directly, which makes the one he delivers to Clip stand out:
    Udinaas: Go fuck yourself.
  • A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Deconstructed with Redmask. He walks out of the Wastelands claiming he's the Chosen One who once was banished but is now back to unite the tribes of the Awl against the invading and oppressive Letherii. He forcibly takes leadership of the tribes and initially it seems like he was right all along. But, eventually, he badly miscalculates a battle and is slain by his own K'Chain Che'Malle. Left to their own devices, leaderless and defeated, the Awl never recover. In the end it turns out that Redmask himself was not even an Awl, but a Letherii who was kidnapped by the Awl as a boy and then driven out into the Wastelands for some minor transgression.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Badan Gruk, who only has eyes for Sinter, and even followed her when she joined the military.
  • Slain In Their Sleep: Bruthen Trana. Hannan Mosag convinces him to go looking for Brys Beddict via soul travelling, then promptly puts a knife in his heart.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Seren Pedac finds out she is pregnant after Trull Sengar dies.
  • Spirit Advisor: Continues what was begun in Midnight Tides, but now deconstructing it. Wither, who has remained with Udinaas after the events of Midnight Tides, keeps hounding the ex-slave and whispering pseudo-arcane revelations until Udinaas points out how anyone with a working brain should be able to come to the same conclusions. Wither is not happy and tries to kill Udinaas in the finale.
    Udinaas: Your problem, Wither, is your damned expectations. You hounded me for months and months, and now you feel the need to have made it – me – worth all that attention. So here you are, pushing some kind of sage wisdom on this broken slave, but I told you then what I'll tell you now. I'm nothing, no-one. Understand?
  • Take a Third Option: When dueling Rhulad Sengar, who comes back into life stronger than before, the options at first seem to be either a) die, or b) keep killing him until you're too tired / he's too strong and he kills you. Karsa figures out how to get around this by following Rhulad's spirit into the Crippled God's island domain and killing Rhulad there.
  • Trial of the Mystical Jury: When Silchas Ruin and his companions come upon the Tiste Andii of the Andara, the Onyx Wizards insist on detaining them and stage what looks like a trial, where they argue back and forth with Silchas. Udinaas even lampshades this by saying the wizards and Silchas are probably arguing the manner of Fear Sengar's execution. The trope is defied, however, as Silchas Ruin eventually pulls rank, being the younger brother of Anomander Rake, whom the Tiste Andii of the Andara worship.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Karos Invictad, when Tehol Beddict finally proves his intellectual superiority.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Andara for Silchas and the rest of those travelling with him. The only purpose in derailing their journey to the Andara seems to be in picking up Clip.
  • You No Take Candle: Used by the Malazans to make themselves seem like harmless foreigners in front of Brullyg and the other islanders of Second Maiden Fort. Even though they speak Letherii quite well, what Shurq Elalle gets to hear is more along the lines of:
    'Why, Captain, it is simple. We comes to goes all the ice. So Brullyg he rewards us. Guests. Royal guests. Now we keep him company. He is smiles nice all the time. We nice too.'
  • You Shall Not Pass: Trull Sengar stands against both Silchas Ruin and Clip in order to protect Scabandari Bloodeye's Finnest. Neither make it past him.