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Literature / Memories of Ice

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"The harder the world, the fiercer the honor."

Memories of Ice is the third book of ten in Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the second in the Genabackis arc, picking up from Gardens of the Moon. It was released in 2001, and is preceded by Deadhouse Gates, which the story is concurrent with.

Over a hundred thousand years ago, High King Kallor decided to destroy his empire out of petulance. Most of an entire continent was wiped out and left completely barren by his magic, and the empire was completely broken. Afterwards, three Elder Gods appeared before him. They healed the land and cursed him for his crime: he would always see his efforts crumble into nothing. Kallor laughed, and cursed them right back.

In the present time, Toc the Younger suddenly finds himself thrown out of the Warren of Chaos—where he was sent to die by the insane wizard Hairlock—into the land of Morn, a vast wasteland created by an ancient cataclysm. Lady Envy, a sorceress, happens to be nearby and inducts him into her entourage. Along the way the pick up Tool, the lone T'lan Imass last seen with Adjunct Lorn.

One-Arm's Host has defected from the Malazan Empire and has allied itself with the city-states of southern Genabackis following Adjunct Lorn's attack on Darujhistan and the news that a new threat is approaching from the south: the Pannion Domin, a fanatical empire far to the south, has suddenly marched with an immense army against its neighbours. Reports indicate that something is amiss: the army seems to be composed mostly of civilians, including children, and the lands in their wake are completely abandoned and stripped of everything edible. The Domin seems to be heading for Capustan next, and the allied forces scramble to reach the city before it is too late.

In Capustan, the ruling body is desperately preparing to defend their city as the Pannion Domin are mere weeks away. The Grey Swords, a mercenary company dedicated to the war god Fener, have agreed to help defend the city — but time is short, and there seems to be no hope of relief. Outside the city, Gruntle's group of caravan guards, oblivious to the encroaching threat, accept a job to escort the eccentric pair known as Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to Capustan.

Amongst the Rhivi, a sacred Mhybe has appeared. Tattersail's dying spirit entered the foetus in a woman's womb, and nine months later a strange child was born. The child, known as Silverfox, grows unnaturally quickly at the expense of the vitality of the Mhybe, and she seems to have a special connection to the undead people known as the T'lan Imass, who 320,000 years ago forsook their mortality to ensure the extinction of the Jaghut, their mortal enemies.

Followed by House of Chains.

Memories of Ice provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And Call Him "George": Toc the Younger is subjected to a horrifying variant of this. After being captured by the enemy, he's given as a plaything to an insane K'Chain Che'Malle Matron. Desperate for a child to cling to, the enormous beast promptly begins hugging him, all the while crushing and distorting his body... but the magic applied to him keeps him alive and healing, leaving his body a twisted, pitiful wreck.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Treach, in his first appearance, gets brutally killed by an undead K'ell hunter; for unclear reasons likely relating to his status as either a "First Hero" or an Ascendant with worshippers, he ascends to godhood immediately afterwards.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Gruntle and his militia fall back to a multi-story apartment building during the siege, fighting backwards room to room. By the end the few survivors are atop the roof of the building, which is crammed so tight with corpses that no one else can enter. By the next morning, blood is gushing out between the bricks and the place is in danger of collapse due to the expanding bodies bulging out against the wall.
  • Badass Army: The Malazans (and especially the Bridgeburners) are a match for ten times their numbers, unless The Worf Effect calls for a new enemy to kill a few thousand of them.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Barghast and the Bridgeburners save Capustan from the army of the Pannion Seer just in time.
  • Black Comedy Rape: There's a Running Gag in Antsy's squad of Detoran having a crush on Hedge, and Detoran in turn being the object of amorous intentions from a bull bhederin (something like a buffalo) who keeps following her around. Detoran shows her affection by pummeling Hedge into her tent or the nearest bushes and the remainder of the squad finds Hedge's frantic attempts to escape surpremely comical. When Blend voices her pity for Hedge, Picker claims he's obviously enjoying it or it wouldn't still be happening night after night, but Blend counters that as soldiers, they all know following orders is the best way to stay alive, what with Detoran having broken Hedge's nose several times over already.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The use of healing magic in great quantities is fatal for Karnadas, the Destriant of the Grey Swords, after he expends the last of his energy on healing Shield-Anvil Itkovian after he's already healed several of the other Grey Swords.
  • Celibate Hero: Shield Anvil Itkovian is celibate and one of the major figures in the resistence of the Grey Swords, owing it to his religious vows. Hetan tries to seduce him several times, but he resists each time. Even after his sworn god, Fener, seems to have disappeared, Itkovian remains an example of this trope.
  • Child by Rape: The so called Children of the Dead Seed are the products of women who have gone mad due to cannibalism taking to the battle field and having their way with the corpses of very recently dead or dying soldiers, based on how the soldiers' bodies would release a last portion of semen upon death. Anaster, in particular, is the product of such a situation and it is heavily implied that he has no soul and becomes a violent cannibal thanks to that.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Picker aquires a set of self-tightening torcs through not-exactly-legal means. They quickly become a nuisance to her, and the only one who can help her with the problem is the one they were originally intended for anyway. She delivers them just in time for them to become important to Gruntle's ascention to Mortal Sword of Treach.
  • Colony Drop: Whenever the Malazans and Caladan Brood interact, the question is always asked- where is Moon's Spawn? You know, the giant floating mountain that doubles as Anomander Rake's fortress? The answer isn't revealed until the final chapters. Under the sea, waiting to be dropped on the Pannion city of Coral so the allies will not have to engage in a lengthy siege.
  • Covers Always Lie: Todd Lockwood's cover for Memories of Ice depicts a man wielding two rapiers who is most likely Gruntle, but that's not Gruntle. That's Sabretooth.
  • Distant Prologue: The first part of the prologue takes place 320,000 years before the beginning of the story and shows some of what the Imass were doing at the time; the time jump then moves forward to about 120,000 years before the story, showing what High King Kallor did to his empire.
  • Dream Land: As the Mhybe goes from a youthful mother to a withered crone over a span of months, she begins to despair for her lost life and resent her daughter Silverfox. Considering her role in freeing the T'lan Imass several gods try to make amends for using her in their schemes. K'rul forges a dream realm for her where she would be young and whole again for eternity, and Hood creates a sarcophagus that would forever preserve her on the brink of death and leave her dreaming for all time.
  • Due to the Dead: The fallen Bridgeburners are entombed in the ruins of Moon's Spawn when it is sent to die over the sea. It goes to show how much Anomander Rake and the other Tiste Andii came to respect them as comrades and friends.
  • Face–Heel Turn: High King Kallor betrays the commander of the allied Genebackan armies, Caladan Brood, to the Crippled God for a chance at killing Silverfox.
    High King Kallor: If you call it a sudden reversal of strategy, the sting fades.
  • Fate Worse than Death: A member of Onearm's host suffers this fate daily. Ormulogun, the great Imperial Artist, earns his living by creating brilliant works of art for posterity to accurately record the conquests of the Malazans. He is cursed to be accompanied by an immortal, unkillable toad demon, Gumble. And Gumble has a very specific curse to visit upon Ormulogun: Gumble is an art critic. The toad long ago drove the artist mad from the unending critiques of his work, but Ormulogun cannot stop making art.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: The only reason Whiskeyjack dies is because he had not had his hurt leg healed after the events of Gardens of the Moon. In Toll the Hounds, book eight, it is revealed that Hood, the God of Death himself, personally manipulated events as revenge for a particular slight.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Near the climax of the story, Hedge drops a cusser at his feet to stop an undead K'ell Hunter, thus saving the rest of the Bridgeburners.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: This book has the Pannion Domin, a ghastly empire of cannibals. Their peasant horde, the Tenescowri, are part of the army and double as a food supply for the officers. In fact, humans are the only source of food the Pannions eat, so the Domin is completely dead in its core lands and only alive on the border, where there are other peoples to conquer and eat.
  • It Has Been an Honor: The defenders of Capustan manage to hold out against the Pannion Domin's elite troops for days without fear of defeat. When the Tenescowri are unleashed, the Grey Swords say their last words and begin killing the unarmed swarm until their weapons break and they suffocate under a mountain of corpses.
  • Last Stand: During the Siege of Capustan, Gruntle and his 'troops' (recruited from pissed off/scared citizens and routed soldiers) hold out on top of a multi-story apartment building until point where the building itself begins breaking apart from all of the bodies and blood bloating inside of it, and the Tenescowri become able to make a ramp of their dead to get to the top.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Pannion Seer is first made out to be the Big Bad, then it turns out he is one of the Jaghut children from the prologue and was compelled to his actions by the Crippled God.
  • A Million is a Statistic: Two thousand people are killed in one sentence, forgotten except for the tactical implications by the end of the paragraph. The death of a named character merits an entire chapter of mourning.
  • Mook Horror Show: The Seguleh send a "punitive army" of three warriors to punish the Pannion Domin for encroaching on their territory. Every fortress, village, and army they encounter is reduced to mince meat. Three Seguleh is probably two more than they needed to send, but never let it be said the Seguleh aren't thorough.
  • Necromancy: Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are both necromancers, although one technically summons demons, which seems to be tied to necromancy in the setting. Mostly they stay to themselves, but they need to get material to work with somewhere, so usually they don't stick around for long when people start catching on to the fact that a lot of people are disappearing.
  • No Macguffin No Winner: Kallor decides to completely 110% destroy his empire and every living being in it rather than lose it. What a dick.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: In the aftermath of the Siege of Capustan, Quick Ben investigates the mansion of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. While he expects to encounter individuals of great power, Bauchelain instead entertains him over drinks and discussion of sorcery as art. The encounter ends with Quick Ben wiping the floor with both of the necromancers and walking out the front door.
  • Obviously Evil: Kallor, as the introduction makes clear. Despite being allied with Rake, Brood and the Malazans at the moment, he doesn't get any nicer.
  • One-Man Army: Lady Envy, Tool, Garath, Baljagg, and each of the Seguleh, are all beings who are capable of bringing down armies on their own, be it by magic or by sword, and they are all travelling together.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: After Quick Ben unleashes half of his Warrens (sources of magical power) to blast Korbal Broach through a wall, Bauchelain, partner of the aforementioned Korbal Broach, notes that Quick Ben's power is most impressive, but that, in retrospect, he ought to have saved at least half his warrens. Quick Ben just replies: "But Bauchelain, I did." He then blows Bauchelain through the wall, too.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: There are two instances of this trope in Memories of Ice:
    • Kallor thwarts the rebellious mages that attempt to unseat him as Emperor and even manages to fatally curse three Elder Gods that come to punish him for his brutality. They find Kallor Atop a Mountain of Corpses sacrificed to fuel his magic, and he's done the same to multiple provinces throughout his Empire. He's then cursed by the three Gods to suffer immortality and to never see his plans succeed. Both Kallor's curses and the Gods' take effect, so it's almost a wash.
    • First the siege of Capustan is lifted when the protagonist army arrives, but the defenders (who are honorable mercenaries) have nearly been killed to the man.
    • This trope is used again in the concluding battle where the allied armies of the Malazans and Caladan Brood capture Coral. But a huge percentage of the named characters are killed during this second battle and the army is a shell of it's former self.
  • Rape as Drama: During the siege of Capustan, the mercenary Stonny is raped by one of the Pannion Domin, giving her friend Gruntle the motivation to fight for the defence of the city.
  • Redemption Earns Life: The Pannion Seer is given a second chance after the collapse of his empire by being reunited with his sister and being given a job that allows him to recover from the damage that he both suffered and caused.
  • Religion of Evil: The faith of the Pannion Seer is a particularly nasty example, most evident in its conversion of the combat capable population into cannibal fanatic shock troops (through implied Mind Control) and the rest into their supplies. There is also a sect of fanatical women who produce children by raping dying soldiers, which is not played for titillation.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Stonny is raped in the siege of Capustan, her friend Gruntle goes on a superhuman killing spree that acts in the defense of the city long after it is completely overrun by the enemy. Eventually the building he is fighting in is filled up with corpses to the point that the expanding bodies threaten to burst the walls.
  • Scaled Up: Anomander Rake — being on the pragmatic side of things — veers into a dragon in order to harry a bunch of enemy troops away rather than having to kill them.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: High King Kallor — an ancient warrior king cursed with immortality, but NOT eternal youth — fires off a Badass Boast to his dismissive allies: "I walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?" Fellow immortal Caladan Brood immediately shoots back with: "Yes. You never learn."
  • Single-Target Sexuality:
  • Slave Mooks: The Tenescowri are a particularly horrifying example. The cannon fodder of the Pannion Domin, they aren't permitted any supplies from their superiors, restricting them solely to what they can loot from the enemy. As such, they're lightly armed but driven to the point of madness by near starvation and will charge headlong at the enemy against all odds in the hope of slaking their hunger by any means necessary. Though not very effective by most standards, they have the weight of numbers on their side and their presence on a battlefield is horrifying enough to do a real number on the enemy's morale (and their own morale is virtually unbreakable on account of how they have to literally engage the enemy constantly or die a slow, horrible death). It's telling about how hellish the Pannion Seer's rule is that people actually volunteer for the Tenescowri to escape what the Domin does to its civilian subjects.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Anaster, the First Child of the Dead Seed, is a crowning example. He's an Empty Shell of a Death Seeker who commits atrocities in the hopes of forcing someone to kill him, and leads an army of cannibals on a rampage accross the continent, butchering everything in his path seemingly for the sake of it.
  • Super Empowering: The book features numerous examples of individuals gaining superhuman powers, as the concept of the Mortal Sword-Destriant-Shield Anvil trio is introduced. Numerous gods and powers have a stake in the outcome of the war, and as such not all empowered individuals are necessarily willing:
    • Gruntle, the caravan guard, unwillingly becomes the Mortal Sword of the Tiger of Summer, Treach. This suits him fine at the time, as he's right in the middle of carving up an army.
    • Ganoes Paran is chosen by the Azath houses as the Master of the Deck, gaining him Ascendancy status and powers involving the Deck of Dragons.
    • Kallor, the High King killed untold thousands of citizens in his Empire to amass enough power to fatally curse three Elder Deities.
  • Title Drop: "Memories of ice" is said by Tool during a discussion of the ancient war between the Jaghut and the T'lan Imass. The text is also peppered with the phrase as a descriptive metaphor, indicating a sort of melancholia.
  • The Undead: Aside from the usual suspects in the series, such as the T'lan Imass, two other variants of undead are used:
    • Bauchelain and Korbal Broach practice necromancy, but are relatively benign, as long as they're left to themselves, and you don't mind the odd person... disappearing. Their work is mostly of the mindless reanimated fair, although during the siege of Capustan they are left largely alone even by the crazed masses when people decide that not even hunger motivates fighting those horrors.
    • The Pannion Domin have access to undead K'ell hunters, reanimated corpses belonging to an extinct lizard-like species called K'Chain Che'Malle. These particular hunters have had long metal blades grafted onto their arms — in essence, undead velociraptors with swords on their arms, which makes them doubly difficult to destroy.
  • Wham Episode: Right at the cusp of the Final Battle, Whiskeyjack is stabbed through the chest by Kallor and dies.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Pannion Seer's genocide is actually an emotional lashing out from the trauma of suffering a Fate Worse than Death for thousands of years.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kallor intends to kill Silverfox while she is still young. He nearly succeeds when he attacks her while everyone else is focused on the battle of Coral.