is book six of ten in the Malazan Book of the Fallen
, picking up where House of Chains
left off in the continent of Seven Cities. Now that Sha'ik's rebellion has been crushed, Adjunct Tavore's Fourteenth Army are in pursuit of 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, Dev becomes his traveling 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 ex-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, taking the very heart of the Malazan Empire with it.
This novel provides examples of the following tropes:
- Arc Words: "Don't mess with mortals." Several gods underestimate the protagonists by a long shot.
- Badass: Lots, as usual.
- Badass Normal: Masan Gilani, who survives an encounter with the ancient D'ivers Dejim Nebrahl with nothing more than her dagger and a loincloth.
- Kalam Mekhar, whose bodycount of professional assassins rises ever higher.
- Badass Abnormal: Ganoes Paran and Apsalar.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Paran straight-up kills Poliel, Goddess of disease, by stabbing her with a shard of otataral and letting the Deragoth tear her to pieces.
Paran: Mess with mortals, Poliel, and you pay.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Captain Kindly has such a reputation for this that soldiers in other armies jump at the mention of his name.
- Faradan Sort appears this way at first, but ends up proving everyone wrong by deserting the Fourteenth to save the soldiers trapped under Y'ghatan.
- 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.
- Gut Punch: Heboric's sudden, brutal death at the hands of the rogue T'lan Imass, rather abruptly bringing his character arc to an end.
- 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, which amounts to trapping as many of them as possible inside Y'Ghatan and burning the entire city to the ground.
- Knife Nut: Smiles, who will fling them at anyone who makes her angry, including her fellow soldiers.
- Mad Bomber: The Malazan sappers as usual, but especially Crump, whose homemade wad of explosives nearly gets every sapper killed in the attack on Y'Ghatan as it levels a vast portion of the city wall.
- 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.
- Only Mostly Dead: Kalam's eventual fate, grievously wounded and fatally poisoned, but inside the stasis of the Deadhouse, making it potentially possible for someone to heal him.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Dejim Nebrahl and The Deragoth, the Hounds of Darkness.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Combined with a Villainous Breakdown in the rant Shadowthrone directs at Paran after he releases the Deragoth.
Shadowthrone: Pure genius. Why didn't I think of that? Why? Because I'm not an idiot!!
- Those Two Guys: The relentlessly arguing ghosts Telorast and Curdle. Apsalar's patience with them does not last long.