"[...] None could know the mind of Adjunct Tavore. Not her closest officers, and not the common soldier under her command. But there were distant stirrings, to be sure, more easily noted in retrospect, and it would be presumptuous and indeed dismissive to claim that the Adjunct was ignorant of the growing troubles, not only in her command, but at the very heart of the Malazan Empire. [...]
This, more than at any other time beforehand, gave brutal truth to the conviction that Adjunct Tavore was cold iron, thrust into the soul of a raging forge..."The Bonehunters is the sixth book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, and it is the third and last book in the Seven Cities arc, picking up where House of Chains left off. It was released in 2006, and is preceded by Midnight Tides.Now that Sha'ik's rebellion has been crushed, Adjunct Tavore's Fourteenth Army is in pursuit of the increasingly desperate Leoman of the Flails and the last rebel army under his command. He fortifies himself in Y'Ghatan, a city already infamous for the Malazan blood spilled there, and the Fourteenth prepares itself for a brutal siege. Fiddler, Kalam and Quick Ben, reunited under Tavore's banner, attempt to discover just where the Adjunct's loyalties lie, while Fiddler's squad mage Bottle finds himself the target of an unexpected force reaching forward from the very beginning of history.Meanwhile, an aimless Apsalar is given a list of assassination targets by Cotillion, and picks up a couple of mysterious but obnoxious ghosts along the way.Karsa Orlong continues to wander the wastes of Seven Cities, saving the life of a witch, Samar Dev, in the process. Fascinated by the huge Toblakai, Samar Dev becomes his travelling companion, to Karsa's grudging acceptance.Heboric Ghost Hands, brimming with newfound power as the Destriant of Treach, sets off with his companions to Otataral Island in answer to the cries of the souls trapped in the mysterious jade colossus buried in the sand.And in Malaz City, Banaschar, a drunken former priest of D'rek, desperately attempts to keep his head above water in the mass of conspiracies and ulterior motives that is threatening to boil over and take the very heart of the Malazan Empire with it.Followed by Reaper's Gale.
— None to Witness (The Lost History of the Bonehunters), Duiker of Darujhistan
The Bonehunters provides examples of the following tropes:
- Diabolus ex Machina: Dejim Nebrahl attacking Icarium and Mappo, causing Mappo to almost die and Icarium to lose his memories of Mappo, comes out of nowhere and starts off a new subplot of the Nameless Ones assigning a new guardian to Icarium, even though their story seemed to have been resolved in Deadhouse Gates.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Paran kills Poliel, goddess of disease, by stabbing her with a shard of otataral and letting the Deragoth tear her to pieces.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Captain Kindly has such a strict reputation that soldiers in other armies jump at the mention of his name.
- The Fundamentalist: Corabb Bhilan Thenu'alas is prepared to die for the Whirlwind Goddess — at least until he witnesses Leoman's betrayal of the cause, prompting his...
- Heel–Face Turn: Corabb Bhilan Thenu'alas, after witnessing Leoman's betrayal, is forced to cooperate with the surviving Malazans as they attempt to escape the firestorm engulfing Y'Ghatan. Witnessing how... normal the Malazan soldiers are, his opinion of them undergoes a gradual 180, and by the time they emerge aboveground, Corrab joins the Bonehunters, fully committed.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Truth runs into the burning palace in Y'Ghatan with a bag of explosives to clear a path through the flames for the other Malazans.
- Kill It with Fire: Leoman's plan to defeat the Malazans amounts to trapping as many of them as possible inside Y'Ghatan and burning the entire city to the ground.
- Knife Nut: Smiles will fling her knives at anyone who makes her angry, including her fellow soldiers. She prefers fighting with a pair of long-knives.
- Let No Crisis Go to Waste: When Paran finds that Dujek Onearm and his entire command cadre are dieing of the plague, he seizes the opportunity to pretend to be Captain Kindly, take command of the 2nd Army and dispose of the Mistress of Pestilence.
- Mad Bomber: The Malazan sappers are all very fond of their Moranth munitions, but nobody is as crazy as Crump, whose glued-together pair of cussers nearly gets every sapper killed in the attack on Y'Ghatan as it levels a vast portion of the city wall.
- Mood Whiplash: When incoming jade meteorites threaten the entire Malazan world, various characters who witness the impending doom undergo different emotions... except for Sergeant Hellian, who was too drunk to notice the entire thing (except for a question on why everything looks green now). She even ended up unwittingly trading a bottle of alcohol with Admiral Nok, as everybody stared dumbfoundedly at her oblivious brazenness.[Nok] guided her, with one firm hand on her shoulder, in the right direction. Clutching the beautiful and beautifully swishing flask against her chest, Hellian made her way along, through the green murk, and all the staring faces. She stuck out her tongue.They can get their own.
- No Sell:
- Even a small quantity of otataral is enough to negate any magical energy in the area, up to and including that of a god — which Poliel, goddess of disease, learns too late.
- In the last sequence of the book, During T'avore's race back to the ships, T'amber suffers an ungodly amount of wounds fighting off the Claws that are after them. Kalam at one point remarks that she shouldn't be able to stand at all. She still succumbs, in the end.
- Not So Stoic: In the final chapters of the novel, POV characters are able to briefly read Tavore's facial expression for the first time in the series as the Xanatos Gambit she's been trapped in gradually becomes evident. The effect of her understaded Oh Crap! is subdued yet effective, because readers by this point are aware of the amount of extreme fear it would take to break the Adjunct's poker face.
- Ominous Floating Castle: Quick Ben, Kalam and Stormy find several floating fortresses akin to Moon's Spawn hanging in the sky of the Imperial Warren. They try to investigate but get stuck, and after Cotillion informs them the fortresses are full of K'Chain Nah'ruk, they decide they've got more immediate problems.
- Only Mostly Dead: The assassin Kalam is grievously wounded and fatally poisoned, but inside the stasis of the Deadhouse, making it potentially possible for someone to heal him.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Shadowthrone starts ranting at Paran after he releases the Deragoth.Shadowthrone: Pure genius. Why didn't I think of that? Why? Because I'm not an idiot!
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: Heboric Ghost Hands is killed in a sudden, brutal way by the rogue T'lan Imass, rather abruptly bringing his character arc to an end.
- Title Drop:Fiddler: We went hunting... through the bones of the damned city. And then, with the captain's help, we crawled outa that grave.Tavore: Bonehunters in truth, then. Welcome back, soldiers.
- Those Two Guys: The ghosts Telorast and Curdle constantly bicker with each other about the events of the story near them. Apsalar's patience with them does not last long.
- Wham Episode: Leoman summons a firestorm during the siege of Y'Ghatan, trapping or killing nearly all Malazan forces inside the city, sacrificing his entire army, and razing the city to the ground.
- Midway through the novel, Cutter, Scillara, Felisin, Heboric and Greyfrog are abruptly ambushed and cut to pieces by a group of T'lan Imass.
- Over the course of one chapter, Ganoes Paran singlehandedly murders goddess Poliel (thus bringing the continent-wide plague to an end) and inherits Onearm's Host as new High Fist in the stead of the suddenly deceased Dujek Onearm.
- In the penultimate chapter, a barely described Gambit Pileup has Mallick Rel and Korbolo Dom placed in positions of power at Laseen's court. The Adjunct therefore elects to take her army and leave the Malazan Empire forever.
- Wham Line:Queen of Dreams: Dunsparrow, did you know you were marked? No, I gather you did not - you were but newborn when sanctified, after all. And then stolen away, from the temple, by [Whiskeyjack]. Hood never forgave him for that, and took in the end a most satisfying vengeance, ever turning away a healer's touch when nothing else was needed, when that touch could have changed the world, could have shattered an age old curse.Tavore: We are leaving the Malazan Empire. And in all likelihood, we will never return.