Literature / Toll the Hounds

'If we are to live, we must take risks. Else our lives become deaths in all but name. There is no struggle too vast, no odds too overwhelming, for even should we fail – should we fall – we will know that we have lived.'
Anomander Rake

Toll the Hounds is the eigth book of ten in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, following Reaper's Gale. It is the last book in the Genabackis arc and revolves around the fates of the characters in Darujhistan and Black Coral, most of which have been last seen in Memories of Ice.

The retired Bridgeburners who now own K'rul's Bar are targeted by the Assassin's Guild and find themselves fighting for their lives once more.Darujhistan's Cabal of Mages, however, prepares for a much more pressing battle: vast powers are bound for the City of Blue Fire and their convergence is threatening to tear everything apart.

After a journey across half the known world, a group of six young Tiste Andii exiles make their way towards the city of Black Coral, where the Son of Darkness now resides. Their path is not an easy one, though, as they come across a desolate village in the grasp of the cult of the Dying God and the addictive substance known as saemankelyk.

In Black Coral a brutal conflict is brewing. Outside the city gates a new cult is worshipping the Redeemer — a very young deity devoted to salvation. But the Redeemer's temple is as yet unbuilt and it's worshippers have no means to defend against the Dying God's rival cult creeping up from the south, whose ambitions are as sinister as they are deadly.

Inside the city itself eternal Night now reigns and the Tiste Andii keep to themselves and still mourn the loss of their home. They seem oblivious to the threat on their doorstep and even the Son of Darkness has seemingly other things on his mind.

To the south a great warrior is swept ashore and he has one goal: to kill Death itself.

Followed by Dust of Dreams.


Toll the Hounds provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adventures in Comaland: Picker's coma-dream. Whether she can get back or not depends on what she does within it.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Kallor, after his defeat of Spinnock Durav. While the funeral bells accompany the procession in honour of Anomander Rake, he is seen sitting in a tavern, drinking cheap ale and mourning.
    'Hear that?' he said to his tankard, 'they're playing our song.'
  • Apathetic Citizens: The Tiste Andii of Black Coral mostly just ingore the humans around them, even if they are planning the murder of their lord.
  • Army of the Dead: Hood marches all the dead he's shown to have been collecting out of his realm for good, in order to have them fight against the legions of Chaos within Dragnipur.
  • Art Initiates Life: Mad Artist Kadaspala has spent the entirety of his time within Dragnipur tattooing an intricate pattern on everyone who is too weak or damaged to haul the wagon and is adding to its weight. He intends to create a god he can use to take revenge on Anomander Rake. He succeeds in bringing the Child God to life, but this crashes headlong into Anomander Rake's own plans and the Child God is absorbed by Rake as he dissipates into oblivion.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Torvald Nom, who only had a minor part during the first fourth of House of Chains, gets his own point of view storyline and more screentime in this book.
    • Challice, who was Cutter's temporary Love Interest way back in Gardens of the Moon, gets her own point of view in Toll the Hounds.
    • Gorlas Vidikas, whose only claim to characterdom had been being name-dropped once in the first book, gets his own point of view as well.
    • Similarly, Apsal'ara — whom Crockus/Cutter named Sorry/Apsalar after in the first book — gets to show up and have her own storyline.
  • Asleep for Days: Picker spends several days in a coma-like state after her attempt to contanct Ganoes Paran via the Finnest House. For added appeal, Blend takes care of her.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Unfortunately for the Assassins Guild, the retired Bridgeburners are still as bad as ever and not at all the harmless, retired victims they expected.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: Once again Darujhistan's Gedderone Fête is the scene and time of the convergence. It harks back to the first book, Gardens of the Moon, which also climaxed during this yearly feast.
  • Backup from Otherworld: Hood's Army of the Dead arrives in the nick of time to guard the wagon within Dragnipur against the Army of Chaos.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • It's not enough for Traveller to be ship-wrecked, the next thing he knows is being attacked by a bear that goes right in for the kill.
    • Averted when Samar Dev notices they are being followed by a giant bear. It turns out to be a forgotten god, lured in because Samar Dev is a witch and capable of preserving it's last shred of existence.
  • Benched Hero: Anomander Rake. While he is present in the background during the majority of the book, he does not really seem a part of it after the prologue's implication that he was one of those responsible for kicking off this installment's plot. He only re-enters the story during the finale, but the impact is huge.
  • Big Brother Bully: Snell is an epic case. He not only bullies his adoptive younger brother Harllo, steals and lies, he also clubs Harllo down — thinking he just killed Harllo — and pretends Harllo ran away, but also tries to sell his two baby sisters into slavery.
  • Bi the Way: Scillara. It's not even hinted at until Toll the Hounds, especially considering her being a former whore and her affair with Cutter, and she gets a designated (male) love interest, namely Barathol Mekhar, soon afterwards, but she seems to have enjoyed her encounter with Blend.
  • Blade Lock: When they're not Speed Blitzing during their duel, Anomander Rake and Traveller do this.
  • But Now I Must Go: Anomander Rake's parting words before leaving Black Coral. Endest Silann is Genre Savvy enough to know what this means.
    'The day has begun. This walk, along this path... I will take pleasure in it, my friend. Knowing that you stand here to see me off.'
  • Dawn of an Era: The end of Toll the Hounds marks the beginning of a time where Mother Dark faces her children again.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Phaed's spirit occasionally delivers The Reason You Suck Speeches to Nimander, then laughs at his attempts to defend himself.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Harllo's storyline, especially when he loses Bainisk, the only friend he'd made at the mines. He tries his best not to cry, but even when he finally meets his mother, his last thought is about Bainisk.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Hood has enough of being Lord of Death, and quits, taking all of the dead with him. And while the Realm of Death is still accessible, things take a while to shake themselves out again.
  • Demonic Possession: Clip has his body taken over by the Dying God, after being turned into a vegetable by trying to confront the godling, and then being kindly delivered to the Dying God's main temple by a well meaning Nimander.
  • The Dividual: Scorch and Leff. While Scorch seems perpetually surprised by everything, Leff is more on the suspicious side, but they always act as one entity, and mostly serve as comic relief. They turn out to be surprisingly competent, however, when the need arises.
  • Divorce Requires Death: Thordy has had enough of Gaz, and serves Hood as the Mason of Death for the duration of the book in order to get rid of her violent husband.
  • Doomed Hometown: Narrowly averted for Darujhistan — for the second time in the series.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Alluded to and subverted. Harllo, while working at the mines, climbs down a seemingly endless chute, at the bottom of which he meets a T'lan Imass and helps him. However, after that, Dev'ad Anan Tol simply walks away, leaving Harllo behind, and the magic of the discovery dissipates. Especially because the T'lan Imass manages to get himself interred within the Azath grounds immediately.
  • Dracolich: While Hood's busy elsewhere, two undead dragons escape his realm. One of them decides to have a chat with High King Kallor, telling him about the Jaghut War on Death, while the other is Kagamandra Tulas Shorn, a Tiste Edur Soletaken Eleint and the original master of the Hounds of Shadow.
  • Draconic Humanoid: In Endest Silann's memories of the fall of Kharkanas, Anomander Rake — after having drunk of T'iam's blood — is shown as a hybrid between a dragon and a his normal Tiste form, unlike his usual either/or appearance. This underlines the mythical nature of Endest Silann's recollections.
  • Drinking Contest: Happens when the retired Bridegurners meet Barathol Mekhar, Chaur and Scillara.
  • Duel to the Death: Several, in fact:
    • Anomander Rake vs. Traveller. Although the whole thing was staged by Rake.
    • Spinnock Durav vs. High King Kallor, to keep Kallor out of Darujhistan.
    • Murillio vs. Gorlas Vidikas. Sadly, Murillio embodies the 'to the death' part.
    • Gorlas Vidikas vs. Cutter, in which Cutter shows what he's capable of. This one also is an echo of the duel between Turban Orr and Rallick Nom in the first book, Gardens of the Moon.
  • Dumb Is Good: Chaur, described in the Dramatis Personae as 'a gentle man', has brain damage.
  • Empty Shell: Aranatha is implied to always have been one, which enables Mother Dark to use her.
  • Endurance Duel: Spinnock Durav's duel against High King Kallor, which lasts all night, to keep the latter out of Darujhistan.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Scillara. The moment she meets the Bridgeburners, everyone comments on how hot she is, even Picker and Blend. Subverted in that Scillara is described as a Big Beautiful Woman, not an aloof athletic girl.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: While the book as a whole is quite heavy on the philosophical side, Kruppe largely narrates the Darujhistan chapters, which ups the ante some more:
    And, in a street unworthy of any particular notice, stands an ox, thinking about breakfast. What else is there, after all, when love and friendship and power, and regret and loss and reunion fierce enough to tear away all that might have been bittersweet, when all — all — is gone and done with, what else is there, but the needs of the stomach?
  • Fingore: Gaz lost all of his fingers other than the thumbs in a fishing net accident. All he's left with are knuckled clubs.
  • Flying Dutchman: High King Kallor, cursed to live forever but never ascend.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The Bell in K'rul's Belfry just before the climax hits.
  • Forgiveness: A major theme in the Redeemer arc. The question posed is whether the Redeemer should accept and forgive all who come to him to redeem their sins, even those who act against him, like Gradithan, or whether a god has the right to choose whom to accept, and if so, who should be the one to choose — the god himself or his priesthood. This stands in stark contrast to the singlemindedness and corruption of the followers of the Dying God, who terrorize the Redeemer's believers.
  • Gambit Pileup: The climax reveals an extraordinary pileup of plans, culminating in one of the biggest convergences of the series:
    • Anomander Rake, Hood, Shadowthrone and Edgewalker hedge an elaborate plan that will not only relieve Hood of his duties as the God of Death, but free the Gate of Darkness from the wagon within Dragnipur and allow Mother Dark to return to her children again, all while making it impossible for her to ignore Anomander Rake's apology. To make this plan work, both Hood and Anomander Rake stage their own plans:
      • Hood enlists Gaz, a Serial Killer, and his wife Thordy to cause enough bloodshed to enable him to physically materialise in Darujhistan. He's also been collecting the dead and rallying them into an army for quite some time.
      • Anomander Rake, meanwhile, has not been killing people for a very long while, thus weakening the souls within Dragnipur. Conveniently, Shadowthrone and Cotillion are able to use Traveller's — aka Dassem Ultor's aka Dessembrae's (the Lord of Tragedy) — own plan to take revenge on Hood to railroad him (with some help from Tulas Shorn) towards Darujhistan just at the right time to trick him into killing Anomander Rake.
    • Shadowthrone's own Magus, Iskaral Pust, also has his own schemes regarding Dragnipur.
    • And so do the newly arrived Hounds of Light, working for an unknown master.
    • High King Kallor, ever on a quest to gain a throne, is also on his way to seize what he thinks should be his.
    • Within Dragnipur itself, a Gambit Pileup of it's own is brewing. Draconus is trying to enlist the strongest captives within the sword in an attempt of a last stand against the Legions of Chaos, while the mad artist Kadaspala is trying to bring a Child God to life via a millennia old, intricate tattoo on all the carriages' inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Goddess of Thieves Apsal'ara is doing her best to find a way out of her captivity.
    • And within the city of Darujhistan, the Cabal of Mages is getting ready for the long-prophesized return of the Tyrant, while the mysterious man named Humble Measure is working towards facilitating said return. And a few noble men are busy trying to get in the way of everyone by taking over the City Council.
    • To the south, in Black Coral, the Dying God wants to assimilate the Redeemer, and Clip, self-proclaimed Herald of Mother Dark, to bring down Anomander Rake. Their plans intercept, only to slam headfirst into those of Anomander Rake himself, as well as Mother Dark's own.
  • Ghost Town: Bastion. Most of it's inhabitants have fallen victim to saemankelyk and the Dying God.
  • Going to See the Elephant: Harllo and the children from the mine.
  • Grass Is Greener: A theme in Harllo's storyline. As he lives in the slums of Darujhistan, he dreams of the world beyond the city walls where there are pastures and endless possibilities. And when he ends up at the mines and befriends Bainisk, they dream together of the city and Harllo's real mother and a better world.
  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: Raest — the retired Jaghut Tyrant living in the Azath House, yes — acquires one with the help of the Bridgeburners. It's a dead cat, and he names it Tufty.
  • The Homeward Journey: In a sense for Nimander and his companions, complete with Random Transportation (via Clip's gates) and Adventure Towns, although reluctantly, as Clip is basically dragging them along and they don't know what to do — it's not like they don't want to go home and meet Anomander Rake, but they are not sure if they'd even be welcome there.
  • How Much More Can He Take: Spinnock Durav, despite being completely outmatched, holds his own against High King Kallor for a whole night.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Downplayed. Nimander is quite capable on his own, but he tends to overthink things, which leads to Skintick, who in turn likes to appear like a fool, to be the one to state things plainly and suggest the best solution.
  • I Let You Win: Anomader Rake lets Traveller win their duel because the convergence requieres it, although he puts up a good fight beforehand.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Justified, as the two duellants are among the best swordfighters the world has ever seen and Ascendants.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: Iskaral Pust and Kruppe, duelling it out in a side street, on the backs of their war mules. At walking pace. With a flock of dung-flinging monkeys and a spider-shapeshifter as backup.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Nimander and his companions. Before their venture into the Dying God's temple, they are made out to be either cowards or unskilled youths. The Lock and Load Montage and the actual fight reveal that they are, in fact, not simply fit for the occasion, but experienced fighters as well.
  • Lock and Load Montage: At Bastion, when Nimander and his Tiste Andii prepare to confront the Dying God, a detailed description of them unpacking and donning their fighting gear is given.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Saemankelyk, the blood of the Dying God, used to keep his followers mindless and... elsewhere.
  • Mad Artist:
    • Invoked with the so called 'Mad Poets' of Kurald Galain, centered around the poet Gallan. They were so obsessed with brevity that they eventually annihilated their own art form.
    • Kadaspala is a more direct example. He used to be a brilliant painter known in all of Kurald Galain. By the time of Toll the Hounds he's switched to tattooing and is busy using those imprisoned within Dragnipur — whether they're willing or not — to create a Child God to take revenge on Anomander Rake.
  • Made a Slave: Young Harllo, after having been clubbed unconscious by Snell, finds himself sold to the mines.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: The Bridgeburners have retired and opened up K'rul's Bar, but have to unretire themselves when the Assassins Guild takes a contract on them. They've not lost any of their edge.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Nimander's conversations with Phaed's spirit. It could be her, or it could be Nimander's own conscience impersonating his dead sister. The conversations themselves allow for being read either way.
  • Mind Rape: Happens to Picker in the Finnest House when she tries to contact Ganoes Paran, but the strain on her mind is too much.
  • Mission from God: A very dark, very literal one. Hood himself makes contact with Gaz — and is in cahoots with Gaz's wife Thordy — to tell him to go on a murder spree. Gaz waves it off as buzzing flies and thinks it was his own idea, but complies.
  • Mood Whiplash: Used to great effect right after the climactic duel. Involves mules.
  • Mushroom Samba: A dark take on this, it's an essential part of the religion of the Dying God.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: A non-villainous, Heroic Sacrifice case that involves two people. As part of a Gambit Roulette, Hood and Anomander Rake set up their own deaths, the first being beheaded by the second and the second staging an I Let You Win Duel to the Death. It allows for Death's face to change, but more importantly to end Dragnipur's existence, free the Gate of Darkness and for Mother Dark to return zu her children.
  • Never Split The Party: Clip learned this the hard way in Morsko when trying to play hero. It ends with him completely outclassed and comatose, while the rest of the group now has to take care of him. Not that the lesson sticks, even after having been rescued, he's still playing the loner.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Gaz's horrifying modus operandi. After having lost all his fingers in a fishing accident, Gaz's hands are little more than clubs, and he uses them to beat people to a pulp every night to appease his frustration.
  • Outside-Context Villain: Fisher kel Tath to the Assassins Guild. When they annoy him enough, he pretty much smears Guild Master Seba Krafar across the wall.
  • People Jars: The pickled Seguleh in the cellar of K'ruls Bar.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: The unnamed, undead dragon Kallor meets tells him of a time the Jaghut rallied their armies and set out to defeat Death itself. It claims they won even when they lost. The implication being that they won because they managed to give Death a face in the guise of Hood.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Army of the Dead manages to hold off the forces of Chaos long enough, but they loose most of their men.
  • Rescue Arc: Murillio and later Bellam Nom's quest to rescue Harllo from the mines outside the city.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Traveller is on a quest to take revenge upon Hood, the Lord of Death himself, at all cost. He is so focused on it he does not notice or care that he is being railroaded and set up as an Unwitting Pawn.
    • Kadaspala is out to take revenge on Anomander Rake for the death of his sister. It clearly hasn't done any good for Kadaspala's sanity, never mind that Anomander Rake had nothing to do with Enesdia's death.
  • Save Your Deity: What Seerdomin ends up doing for the Redeemer. An interesting case, in that the Redeemer is not actually a god Seerdomin prays to.
  • Scary Scarecrows: During the Dying God arc, Nimander and his companions come across a field full of scarecrows. A closer look shows, however, that the scarecrows are, in fact, corpses wrapped in cloth, which in turn soaks up a thick black substance that is called saemankelyk — it's addictive and used by the cultists of the Dying God.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: Mother Dark uses Aranatha, an Empty Shell, to see and occasionally influence the events while she herself in trapped on the other side of the Gate of Darkness. That mostly involves cheering up Nimander and other small things.
  • Serial Killer: Gaz is on a murder spree throughout the book. Turns out he actively contributed to Hood being able to manifest himself in Darujhistan with all the bloodshed.
  • Shirtless Scene: Spinnock gets one after dallying with the High Priestress of the temple in Black Coral. She even comments favourably on his appearance.
  • Speed Blitz: Rake and Traveller are so fast even Karsa can hardly make out their movements.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred: Anomander Rake's words to Traveller after Traveller tells him that they've never been enemies:
    'If you so want Hood, come and get him.'
  • Stubborn Mule: Two in fact — Kruppe, as always, has his trusty war mule and Pust brought his own to town right in time for an epic mule stare-off.
  • Stumbling Upon the Lost Wizard:
    • Harllo stumbles upon a legless T'lan Imass deep down in the mine.
    • Nimander and his companions stumble upon Gothos in his abandoned Azath Tower, although he may be lost by his own will.
  • Suicide by Cop: Anomander Rake purposefully loses the duel against Traveller.
  • Tarot Troubles: Tiserra, Torvald Nom's wife, is an adept at reading the Deck of Dragons. She even has two additional cards not found anywhere else: The City and The Tyrant. Their inclusion alone is enough to set the mood.
  • There's No Place Like Home: Cutter's reason for returning to Darujhistan from continents away. Tragically deconstructed, though, Cutter has to learn that he was mostly blinded by nostalgia and that the changed so much he can hardly call Darujhistan home anymore.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Scorch and Leff. Never seen without each other, they hang around in the background of Torvald Nom's story arc and are his subordinates when he becomes captain of Lady Varada's house guard, but otherwise have little significance beside being comic relief.
    • Lazan Door and Madrun Badrun. The former is tall, almost skeletal, and bald, while the other is broad-shouldered, short-legged and shaggy-haired. One wears a whispy cloak, the other is clothed like a court-jester. They are always together, and appear to be Studious Lock's accomplices. They also serve as a sinister contrast to Scorch and Leff's comic relief.
  • To Hell and Back: Or the Abyss. The remnants of Bellurdan's soul, that part which was not included within Silverfox, ended up in the Abyss, where he met Hairlock, and eventually hitched a ride out of on a K'Chain Che'Malle machine. It crashed in Bastion, and what used to be Bellurdan became the Dying God.
  • Tragic Mistake: It's heavily implied that Rake's decision to turn on Mother Dark was a mistake. Here, he sets out to correct things.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Traveller just wants to exact revenge on Hood, but due to his Revenge Before Reason mentality, he is easily manipulated into serving Hood's plan.
    • Gaz, the Serial Killer, thinks he is just doing what he wants, but is in truth slowly driven mad by Hood, so that he may continue to kill and thus sacrifice people to Hood — again serving Hood's ultimate plan.
    • Subverted with Nimander and his companions. Clip thinks he can use them as unwitting paws to bring down Anomander Rake, but most of them are perfectly aware of that and only play along because they don't know what else to do.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Mappo and the Trygalle Trade Guild shareholders crash in a random coastal village and have to deal with Provost Bedusk and his merital troubles, as well as a curse he's laid on the entire village for being spurned.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: Samar Dev, when she notices that her group is followed by a giant, ancient bear.
  • You Shall Not Pass: A convergence of these, all in the same context:
    • Tulas Shorn confronting Traveller, Karsa and Samar Dev to delay their approach of Darujhistan, to buy time for Rake killing Hood
    • Spinnock intercepts Kallor on his way into the city, to give Rake time to kill Hood and Duel Traveller
    • Rake refusing to get out of the way of Hood's corpse, so Traveller has to duel him.

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