Only the fallen may rise again.The Crippled God is the tenth and final book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, following Dust of Dreams.Tavore Paran leads her Bonehunters further into the Glass Desert, on their way to reach the Kingdom of Kolanse on the far eastern shore of the continent, where the Forkrul Assail have captured the heart of the Crippled God and are about to conclude their nefarious plans. Yet still the Adjunct seems determined to march her army to certain death without giving them so much as a reason for it. Mutiny seems inevitable as soldiers die by the dozen from thirst and heatstrokes. Rumors of imminent betrayal only serve to worsen the mood, and unrest is stirring among the Perish Grey Helms, the Adjunct's longest standing allies.The Forkrul Assail, meanwhile, find themselves facing another foe — one of whom they can make neither rhyme nor reason. Only able to guess the plans of his sister, but trusting in her nonetheless, Ganoes Paran is tenaciously chipping away at the Forkrul Assail's patience.In far-away Kurald Galain, the Shake have rediscovered the lost city of Kharkanas, the ancient home of the Tiste Andii. They find themselves facing the Tiste Liosan, who have set their eyes on conquering the shore of Lightfall, which divides the realms of Light and Dark, and reinstating themselves into power.Even the Gods must choose sides in the climactic battle to come, though even among allies there is mistrust and hidden agendas. And it seems the dragons are intent on roaming the world once more.
The Crippled God provides examples of the following tropes:
- Back for the Finale:
- Hood arrives at the scene and starts kicking ass and taking names, starting by biting off the face of a Forkrul Assail — and then commenting on the bad taste.
- Kalam Mekhar also returns after disappearing for a while. Quick Ben and Minala break him out of the Deadhouse on Malaz Island.
- Book Ends: Gardens of the Moon started off with a view over Malaz City and a description of the weather vane atop Mock's Hold; The Crippled God ends in exactly the same place and with another description of the vane. Additionally, Fiddler — as an old retired soldier — tells a boy how the world always needs more soldiers, echoing and revising Whiskeyjack's advice to young Ganoes Paran in Gardens of the Moon to only ever become a soldier if he fails at everything else.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the last two books there is this storyline which many first-time readers tend to skip/skim, as it is a meandering, long-winded narration about a group of starving children fleeing through a desert, told by Badalle, a girl obsessed with poetry. However, if one reads closely, one finds Badalle acknowledging the presence of readers and even actively calling them cowards in The Crippled God for wanting to skip her harrowing tale:'Do not flee us. Do not flee this moment, this scene. Do not confuse dislike and abhorrence with angry denial of truths you do not wish to see. I accept your horror and expect no forgiveness. But if you deny, I name you coward.
'And I have had my fill of cowards.'
- Central Theme: Compassion.
- Characters Dropping Like Flies: It is easier to count the characters that make it to the end alive. The Crippled God also gives the explanation on why the series is called Malazan Book of the Fallen.
- Child by Rape: Korlat makes a vague statement about not being a pure-blooded Tiste Andii, and her mother's, Sandalath's, point of view heavily implies that Korlat was conceived by rape. The Kharkanas Trilogy confirms that Korlat is the product of mystical rape resulting in That Thing Is Not My Child! from her mother's point of view. Korlat is influenced by this even millennia later and is not able to face her mother again despite being a respected figure among the Tiste Andii because she was unable to prevent her brother's death, whom Sandalath had charged her to protect no matter what as punishment for being a child by rape.
- Climactic Battle Resurrection: When Karsa kills Fener, the god of war, he inadvertedly drenches the killing field in blood and several undead allies suddenly find themselves alive again. Some of them just in time to be killed for real. The irony is not lost on them.
- Crossing the Desert: After travelling the aptly named Wastelands in Dust of Dreams, the Bonehunters must continue on to a worse place — the Glass Desert. The army mages are cut off from their warrens, and there's no food and no water to be found. Additionally, the maddened remnants of the Forkrul Assail god roam around as a D'ivers of locusts set to consume everything in sight.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Several of the Forkrul Assail elite receive this from different people. For example, Kalam and Quick Ben take on a Forkrul Assail head-on and trap it, mostly because the Forkrul Assail have been ruling Kolanse unopposed for so long they've grown overconfident.
- Death World: We get a glimpse of what the hold of Omtose Phellack, the Jaghut Warren, looks like from the inside. What follows is a hilarious sequence of stuff trying to kill the handmaiden every step of her way through.
- Depopulation Bomb: The opening of Arkhast Korvalain, the Forkrul Assail Hold, is supposed to work like this, ridding the whole planet of humanity.
- Grand Finale: The last two chapters consist mostly of climactic battle sequences, and both chapters are well above 100 pages long each. Then there are not one, but two epilogues detailing the immediate aftermath.
- Green Aesop: Human vs. Nature is one of the big themes of the book.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Warleader Gall of the Khundryl Burned Tears suffers this, as the majority of his cavalry has been killed during the battle with the K'Chain Nah'ruk in the previous book.
- Honor Before Reason: Discussed by Yedan Derryg and Pithy, a Letherii ex-thief-turned-soldier, on why the Letherii would fight on the First Shore. Yedan says that it's to save the world, while Pithy muses that the Letherii refugees would fight better if they were motivated by monetary rewards. Finally, Pithy confesses that neither cause suits her:Pithy: 'I was a thief once. Plenty of hatred then, both ways. But then I walked a step behind your sister and watched her bleed for us all. And then there was you, too, for that matter. That rearguard action that saved all our skins. So now, [...] well, I'll stand here, and I'll fight until the fight's left them or it's left me.'
Yedan: 'And why would you do that, Pithy Islander?'
Pithy: 'Because it's the right thing to do, Yedan Derryg.'
- Horse of a Different Color: The Ve'Gath serve as mounts for Gesler, Stormy and Kalyth, and are even capable of changing their physique to better suit that purpose.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Felash's handmaiden is revealed to be a serious badass when she is sent into the Hold of Omtose Phellack. She has to fight for her life every step of the way, because everything there is trying to kill her. She makes it out alive, though, and brought a ship with her to top it off. It's later revealed that she's a renegade Seguleh.
- Irony: In Dust of Dreams, the dying Destriant of the Perish Grey Helms warns Shield Anvil Tanakalian that a betrayal will occur. Tanakalian is confident that no such betrayal will occur on his watch, but does not tell anybody of it, in case it causes panic among the ranks. He ends up ousting Krughava as leader of the Grey Helms and abandoning Tavore's cause.
- Last Fertile Region: Estobanse province is the last fertile spot in all of Kolanse. The Forkrul Assail specifically spared the province to be able to feed their watered down brethren. The rest of Kolanse fell victim to a decades long draught and is almost completely uninhabitable — not that the Forkrul Assail left enough people alive to populate the region.
- Last Stand: The climactic battle of the First Shore, the Shake against the army of the Tiste Liosan. The Shake know they're unlikely to prevail, but become determined to take as many Tiste Liosan with them as possible.
- Love Confession: After many unsuccessful tries to make her realise his worth and feelings for her in the last couple of books, Urb confesses his love for Hellian right at the climax of the series' final battle. Hellian approves.
- The Magic Goes Away: This is the way Errastas, Kilmandaros and Sechul Lath plan to bring back the time of the Elder Gods. They free Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, and since all life is magic, every place she crosses becomes devoid of both. Errastas reasons that even if Korabas is stopped on time, the world will be too damaged to function as it does.
- Maybe Ever After: One of the Epilogues has Cutter finally tracking down Apsalar, at the ruins of the fishing village she originally came from.
- Meta Guy: Meta girl in this case. Badalle, the child poet of the Snake comments on the attitudes of some readers Erikson has observed.Do not flee us. Do not flee this moment, this scene. Do not confuse dislike and abhorrence with angry denial of truths you do not wish to see. I accept your horror and expect no forgiveness. But if you deny, I name you coward.
- Metronomic Man Mashing: Hood takes out a high ranking Forkrul Assail this way — at least until its arm falls off and he has to beat him to death with said arm while delivering a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- More Dakka: Paran's sappers are crying of joy when they are given munitions, but soon discover that the devastating Cussers are still kept from them. They realise their Fist's plan as ordered, but when they find a loophole to get their hands on said Cussers, the result is a lot more explosive than intended. They practically nuke the enemy into submission.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Onos T'oolan remembers calling Logros out on transferring the title of First Sword from him to Dassem Ultor, effectively causing the clusterfuck that Dassem's quest of revenge against Hood eventually becomes. With the T'lan Imass escaping death through the Ritual of Tellann, Hood wanted to get them for it, and giving Dassem the title of First Sword, intended as an honour, gave Hood a handle on reaching through him and making him pay in their stead, thus making of Dassem the God of Tragedy.
- Restart the World: The ultimate goal of the Forkrul Assail is to rid the world of all humans, to start anew. The Elder Gods Kilmandaros, Knuckles and Errastas have similar plans that might even result in the ruination of the entire planet. They don't really care what exactly happens, as long as they get to rule the ashes.
- Rousing Speech: Tavore Paran, to the Bonehunter regulars, right before one of the climactic battles of the series.
- "Save the World" Climax: The Crippled God is healed and freed and no longer poisons the flesh of the sleeping goddess whose dreams shape reality. The complete extinction of humanity is also averted, because the Forkrul Assail's plan doesn't come to fruition.
- Secondary Character Title: For most of the series it actually looks like it's going to be a case of Antagonist Title as the Crippled God is the instigator and Man Behind the Man of most of the conflicts within the series, but then he turns out to be a little fish in the pond of the Big Bad Ensemble and himself in need of rescue.
- Smug Snake: The Forkrul Assail Pures, the Big Bad of the book. Their overconfidence mostly stemmed from the fact that their own warren gives them voice-initiated Mind Control powers. That, and they haven't come across the Malazans before.
- Son of a Whore: Koryk, who is revealed to having grown up in a whore house. What he took away from it was that innocence is sacred, as the whores used to try to protect the children growing up among them, and a deep dislike for priests and religion, as the local priests used to make a show of stoning any sex worker they came upon on holy days.
- Sour Supporter: Fist Blistig, beginning with the events of The Bonehunters. Initially one of the longest-serving Fists in the Adjunct's army, he begins to lose trust in what she is doing after they leave the Empire, becoming more and more disillusioned and even a liability through his constant negative rhetorics. Until it peaks in contemplating murder in this volume. He is brought back to the fold by Tavore Paran during the crucial events in the Glass Desert.
- Urine Trouble: In a lighthearted moment right after the mourning ceremony for the fallen, Bent sees fit to empty his bladder on Hood's boot. The Jaghut army of fourteen promptly ridicule him for it.Hood: This is why Jaghut choose to live alone.
- Walking Wasteland: Rather, a flying wasteland. Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, is the antidote to magic, and since all life is magic, any area Korabas crosses becomes devoid of it and thus a wasteland. Korabas herself never asked to be what she is.