Review: Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves 1)

Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves 1)

by Andy Peloquin

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Viola, age eight, is sold to the Night Guild by her alcoholic father. In the city of Praamis, the Night Guild controls all the crime. They are brutal and organized. And they need new recruits to keep the coins flowing. Viola is thrust into a training regimen under the command of Master Crimson. She’s abused, deprived of food and sleep, broken down, all to ready her to be an apprentice of the Night Guild.

But before she can even start her apprenticeship, she has to survive her initiation. She’s the smallest child present, the only girl, and she will have to work hard or face the fate of those who fail. Scared and brainwashed, her name taken away and replaced by a number—Seven—she will have to use all her wits and strengths go survive.

Especially when the big, bully One wants to see her fail. Can she survive life in the Night Guild, or will she discover what happens to those that fail? Nothing is given in the Night Guild. Everything has to be earned.

Child of the Night Guild puts the grim in Grimdark. This story rides wild highs and dark lows. As Viola/Seven is broken down and rebuilt into a thief, into an assassin, into a member of the Night Guild. Set in the same fantasy world as Peloquin’s Last of the Bucallarii series, Child of the Night Guild delves into such a personal, intimate story of a vulnerable girl hardened into a weapon.

This story is not for the faint at heart. But if you love great writing, engaging fantasy, compelling characters, and harsh struggle, then you will find yourself rooting for this small girl, celebrating at her successes, grieving at her loses, and fearing at her failures. Does she have what it takes to survive.

And does she even want to? Will the Night Guild destroy her? Will the frail girl who liked to sew with her mother be forever lost?

Peloquin’s writing only gets better. If you haven’t read his works, check them out.

I was given an ARC, but I liked it so much I bought the story.

You can buy Child of the Night Guild form Amazon!

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Reread of The Warrior Prophet: Chapter Eight

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 2: The Warrior Prophet

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The First March
Chapter 8

Welcome to Chapter Eight of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Seven!

 All men are greater than dead men.


Every monumental work of the State is measured by cubits. Every cubit is measured by the length of the Aspect-Emperor’s arm. And the Aspect-Emperor’s arm, they say, stands beyond measure. But I say the Aspect-Emperor’s arm is measured by the length of a cubit, and that all cubits are measured by the works of the State. Not even the All stands beyond measure, for it is more what lies within it, and “more” is a kind of measure. Even the God has His cubits.


My Thoughts

You can’t do anything dead. As we see, even Kellhus knows this principal. It is why he reveals too much in his contest with Sarcellus to stave off dying. Which would ruin his mission. Definitely not the Shortest Way. We also see this principal in action with the Eleäzaras wanting to protect the Scarlet Spire from combat for as long as possible.

So the second is titled the Psûkalogues, and it is clearly a treaties on the metaphysics of Cishuarim sorcery: the Psûkhe. So why is it talking about measurements? The text uses the cubit as an example, showing how it measures everything, from the emperor’s arm to monuments and then says God also has his cubit. In other words, the world is measured by the God’s arm and in turn the God’s arm is measured by the world. I think this is a key insight into why the Psûkhe doesn’t leave a mark. The Cishaurim are so in tune with the relationship between the real world and the Outside, that when they change the world they are able to measure their work perfectly against “the God” and thus their work fits into the world, where other sorcerers work is imperfect. In essence, a shoddy finish. Both build a chair, but the Mandate chair, while strong and sturdy, wasn’t sanded, wasn’t stained with a finish, and has splinters jutting from it. The Cishaurim chair, while perhaps not able to hold as much weight, is a work of beauty, carved with pleasing lines, sanded to a polished finish, stained a deep, rich color. Both are then placed at a table filled with other beautiful chairs. The Cishaurim chair blends in, the Mandate chair stands out. Both work, but one is aesthetically better.

Early Summer 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, near the Plains of Mengedda

Kellhus walks through the Galeoth encampment guided by the young Earl Athjeäri. He asks the Earl questions about his people, knowing that the young man is filled with pride for his people and will remember this walk. Kellhus finds manipulating him “at once so easy and so difficult.” The shortest path to learning more about Saubon. At the central campfire, they find two Galeoth men engaged in a contest of strength. Both men had their wrists bound to opposite ends of two poles, each pulling or pushing on their end to bring their opponent to the ground with the fire between them. They dance around it. Athjeäri comments the pair hate each other, wanting to hurt the other than winning coin.

Kellhus questions the game, which is called gandoki or “shadows.” Athjeäri explains this game proves his people do not lack subtly like Ketyai claim. As he speaks, Sarcellus steps between the pair, bowing to Kellhus. Athjeäri demands to know why Sarcellus is here. He’s here to speak with Kellhus. Athjeäri accuses Sarcellus of following, but the thing pretending to be Sarcellus guessed Kellhus would be with the Battle-Celebrant and his revelry.

Athjeäri glanced at Kellhus, his look, his heart rate, even the draw of his breath striking a note of scarcely concealed aversion. He thought Sarcellus vain and effete, Kellhus realized, a particularly repellent member of a species he’d long ago learned to despise. But then, that was likely what the original Cutias Sarcellus had been: a pompous caste-noble. Sarcellus, the real Sarcellus, was dead. What stood here in his stead was a beast of some kind, an exquisitely trained animal. It had wrenched Sarcellus from his place and had assumed all he once was. It had robbed him even of his death.

No murder could be more total.

Kellhus agrees to speak to Sarcellus alone. Athjeäri, reluctantly, says he’ll wait by his uncle’s tent. He shoves his way through the crowd. Just then, the game of shadows turns deadly. The smaller man has fallen into the fire and is held their by the larger. Friends rush to both men’s aid. Knives flash and a fight breaks out. Kellhus notices Sarcellus growing aroused by the violence, beset by an involuntary response and fighting the urge to masturbate.

The thing called Sarcellus fairly trembled with ardor. These things hungered, Kellhus realized. They ached.

Of all the rude animal impulses that coerced and battered the intellect, none possessed the subtlety or profundity of carnal lust. In some measure, it tinctured nearly every thought, impelled every act. This was what made Serwë so invaluable. Without realize, every man at Xinemus’s fire—with the exception of the Scylvendi—knew they best wooed her by pandering to Kellhus. And they could do naught but woo her.

But Sarcellus, it was clear, ached for a different species of congress. One involving suffering and violence. Like the Sranc, these skin-spies continually yearned to rut with their knives. They shared the same maker, one who harnessed the venal beast within their slaves, sharpened it as one might a spear point.

The Consult.

Sarcellus makes derisive comments about Galeoth harming themselves as they brawl is ended, several bleeding bad. Kellhus responds by quoting scripture. Kellhus feels the tightrope he walks. He knows the Consult is aware of his role in Skeaös’s unmasking. But do they know if it was accidental or intentional. If they suspected he could see his skin-spies, they would need to know how. Kellhus has to make himself “a mystery that they must solve.” So Kellhus says Sarcellus that there is something about his face. Sarcellus asks if that was why he was studying him at the meeting. Kellhus “opened himself to the legion within” to ponder his reaction, realizing that this was a new Sarcellus.

Was I that indiscreet?” Kellhus said. “I apologize… I was thinking of what you said to me that night in the Unaras at the ruined shrine… You made quite an impression.”

And what did I say?”

It acknowledges its ignorance as any man would, any man with nothing to hide… These things are well trained.

Sarcellus makes a joke out of saying many things and can’t remember. Kellhus asks if this is a game and then explains how Sarcellus told him about the “endless hunger” and how he wasn’t what he seemed. Wasn’t even a Shrial Knight. The thing’s face twitches “like a spider answering a shiver through its silk.” Kellhus he realizes he can read their reactions. He presses on, wanting to know why Sarcellus doesn’t remember. The thing grows confused. Kellhus continues, explaining how Sarcellus admitted to spying on Achamian and seducing Esmenet. How he feared his masters believed him responsible in a disaster at the Emperor’s court. Kellhus asks why he’s so coy now.

So much. In the span of moments, Kellhus had confirmed his hypothesis regarding the Consult’s immediate interests, and he’d uncovered the rudiments of what he needed to read these creatures. But most important, he’d sown the threat of betrayal. How could Kellhus possibly know what he knew, they would ask, unless the original Sarcellus had actually told him? Whatever their ends, the Consult depended, through and through, upon total secrecy. One defection could undo everything. If they feared for the reliability of their field agents—these skin-spies—they would be forced to restrict their autonomy and to proceed with more caution.

In other words, they would be forced to yield the one commodity Kellhus required more than any other: time. Time to dominate this Holy War. Time to find Anasûrimbor Moënghus.

He was one of the Conditioned, Dûnyain, and he followed the shortest path. The Logos.

A man holds up the gandoki sticks, calling for new contestants. Sarcellus seizes Kellhus, pulling him forward. Kellhus realizes the thing believed him and wonders if Sarcellus is improvising or panicking. Or was it the things intent to challenge him to gandoki all along. Before the warriors, Kellhus would have no choice but to play. “The resulting loss of face would be crippling.” They are bound to the poles and begin their contest, separated by the fire.

Everything melts away from Kellhus save Sarcellus. He studies the inhuman muscles moving, the creatures growing arousal. It speaks, saying “We are old, Anasûrimbor, very, very old.” Kellhus realizes that Sarcellus is bound to a beast, created by Tekne. “Possibilities bloomed, like branches twining through the open air of the improbable.” It taunts Kellhus, saying others have tried to do this and all failed. Kellhus thinks his strategy. The creature is strong, and if Kellhus beats the thing it might prove him too much a threat. He had to find a balance. But the thing is strong. They dance around the fire as Kellhus asks who Sarcellus is and what he wants.

Kellhus does a surprising move, almost knocking Sarcellus down. His foot hits the fire and he kicks up a cloud of ash and soot, blinding those watching. At that moment, Kellhus realizes the creature means to kill him. They struggled, and Sarcellus pushes Kellhus backward, bowling him through the crowd and into the tent. His goal is to carry Kellhus into the darkness and kill him. Not wanting to die, Kellhus leverages the poles and lifts Sarcellus from the ground, slamming him to the earth hard, winning the contest.

To save his life, Kellhus had demonstrated too much skill. Sarcellus knows it. Kellhus realizes he has made a mistake.

Saubon is drunk in his tent. His nephew, Athjeäri, complains, asking why Saubon now wants Kellhus sent away. Saubon sees his beloved sister in Athjeäri’s face. But in the wake of Kussalt’s death, it has him questioning if his sister ever actually cared for him like he thought Kussalt had. He almost tells Athjeäri about Kussalt, but Athjeäri isn’t his sister, and he would only despise Saubon’s grief. He bellows that he doesn’t want Kellhus to see him like this and to send him away.

Alone, Saubon believes no one ever cared for him.

Eleäzaras cannot sleep despite the hour. He feels like he had slept for weeks while away from the Holy War. “For what was sleep, if not unconsciousness of the greater world?” Already, he had Iyokus, his spymaster, studying the battlefield and interviewing agents on what happened. He needed information, particularly on the faceless spies of the Cishaurim. Iyokus finally returns and they go for a walk.

The talk about the battle, particularly how the Shrial Knights charge saved the day, discussing the tactics the Cishaurim used. Eleäzaras is elated that a dozen Cishaurim are dead. He estimates the Cishaurim can field between 100 and 120 sorcerers of the rank. Near the numbers of the Scarlet Spire.

When one counted in the thousands, the loss of twelve scarcely seemed significant, and Eleäzaras had no doubt that many in the Holy War, among the Shrial Knights in particular, gnashed their teeth at the thought of how many they had lost for the sake of so few. But when one counted, as Schoolmen did, in tens, the loss of twelve was nothing short of catastrophic—or glorious.

Eleäzaras decides their strategy will be to conserve themselves no matter what. Allow the Inrithi to kill as many Cishaurim. He wants the Scarlet Spire saved for Shimeh. He is confident that, though the Psûkhe remained mysterious, the Anagogis will defeat them. He sees only more power for the Scarlet Spire in the wake of their defeat. Iyokus isn’t certain it will work again, that the Cishaurim won’t use the same tactics they did here. They acted arrogantly upon seeing no Scarlet Spire on the field, and relied on no cavalry support like they normally would. They paid for it. They won’t again.

They reach the ruins of Mengedda and Eleäzaras realizes something broke this place. Feeling breathless, he asks about Achamian. Iyokus fears Eleäzaras suspicious are correct but doesn’t know that it’s significant. Eleäzaras says they have to capture Achamian to find out and interrogate him. This is what Iyokus fear, that Achamian will maintain that Skeaös was from the consult even under torture and compulsion. Eleäzaras brings up faceless Geshruuni.

I know these arguments,” Iyokus said. He turned to once again scrutinize the moonlight ruins, his expression translucent and unreadable. “I simply fear there’s more to this…”

There’s always more, Iyokus. Why else would men murder men?”

Esmenet is truly happy for the first time since her daughter’s death. She tried many ways to “attend to the void within her.” Camping for five days with Achamian away from the ruins of Mengedda, in their own little world, has been a dream she doesn’t want to end. While cleaning the tent, she finds his satchel and notice it has mold on it. She decides to clean it and empties it. She finds Achamian’s “map” as he returns from cutting firewood. They joke about curiosity and smells before she asks about the doll. He refuses, saying she doesn’t want to know about that. Then she goes to the map. His good mood vanishes. She asks about the writing and he tells her who they are, getting emotional when he mentions Inrau. Then she points to the name by itself. The Consult.

Chills pimpled her skin. Achamian, she realized, didn’t belong to her—not truly. He never could. What was she compared with these mighty things?

I can’t even read…

She ignores her pain and asks him why he stopped. She comments how he’s not acting like a spy any longer. He says he asked her not to be a prostitute, so he gave up spying. She tells him not to lie. He says it’s not her, but him. She knows it means Kellhus. Silence falls. They hadn’t spoken about Kellhus since fleeing. “Sometimes it seemed an unspoken accord, the kind lovers used to numb shared hurts.”

For a time, Kellhus had been a troubling figure, but he’d soon become intriguing, someone warm, welcoming, and mysterious—a man who promised pleasant surprises. Then at some point he’d become towering, someone who overshadowed all others—like a noble and indulgent father, or a great king breaking bread with his slaves. And now, even more so in his absence, he’d become a shining figure. A beacon of some kind. Something they must follow, if only because all else was so dark…

What is he? she wanted to say, but looked speechlessly to her lover instead.

To her husband.

Abruptly, Achamian tells her to follow and leads her to the edge of a ledge and gaze at the Holy War marching. “Like the shadows of truly mountainous clouds, they darkened the plain, great columns of them, their arms shining like powdered diamond in the sunlight.” She is awed. Achamian numbers them at 250,000 warriors with as many camp followers. Esmenet feels so powerless. She asks if it is something from his dreams.

He paused, and though he neither swayed nor stumbled, Esmenet suddenly feared he was about to fall. She reached out, clutched his elbow.

Like my dreams,” he said.

My Thoughts

Kellhus can never stop manipulating. Even with Athjeäri, a lesser Name, he is planting seeds to awe and impress the young man while getting information out of him about Saubon.

Shadows is an interesting take on tug-of-war. And, of course, the mud pit’s been replaced with a bonfire just to make the game that much more intense.

Killing someone and then hiding their death and taking their place really does erase them from the world. It doesn’t let their loved ones even grieve their passing.

Rude animal impulses. Great way to describe emotions, Kellhus. We get more insight into Kellhus’s use of Serwë, though I think he is lying to himself here about his motivations. He felt that twinge of pity so long ago when he first met her while watching her being raped. He kept her when the Nansur were hunting even when letting her go would be the smarter decision. He has now justified keeping her around. He does get great use out of her, as we’ll see with Achamian. And he has another use for her, one that will break him fully.

I hate Kellhus a lot because of what he does to Serwë.

The legion within Kellhus is a great hint here how Dûnyain truly think, and which Bakker truly shows us in The Great Ordeal. They have a thousand-thousand thoughts all contributing, working together, to provide the most logical solution. Different ideas heading down different branches, working different angles of the problem.

As much as I dislike him, he makes a compelling character to read. His interactions with Sarcellus, peeling back the layers of these creatures, his feints and moves, make for engrossing reading. An important thing for would-be writers. Make your readers love or hate your characters. Doesn’t matter which. Indifference is the worst thing you can do.

Possibilities bloom…” This quote strikes Kellhus when he realizes that the creature was made by Tekne. We aren’t told what those possibilities are. What does Kellhus envision the Tekne can be used for? The Unholy Consult now has a release date. I can’t wait!

So the fight between Kellhus and Sarcellus is fascinating. Again, Kellhus withdraws until he is only a place, no longer a person. He studies, reacts, waits for the moment. But the thing is so strong, it forces Kellhus to make several mistakes. He was not ready for this fight. He let himself get trapped into it. Sarcellus set an ambush for Kellhus that our Dûnyain did not see coming until it was too late to stop it. His improvisation paid off with Saubon weeks earlier, but he has now overplayed his hand to the Consult. He may not have bought himself the time he hoped for.

Poor Saubon. To have the one man you thought cared for you use his dying breath to tell you how much he despites you has messed him up. Now it has him questioning every other person who cared for him. He has lost all trust. Can hardly blame him for drinking?

Iyokus wanting to visit the ruins is a great character moment but it also sets up his later plan to capture Achamian. Iyokus is, as Eleäzaras thinks, much like a Mandate Schoolman in his fascination with antiquities. Iyokus uses that same fascination on Achamian for his trap.

The arrogance of twelve men caused the Fanim defeat. If they just took precautions, the Fanim Calvary could have shielded them and the day would have been lost. It’s always interesting how battles can pivot sometimes on such small things and have such great effects.

We get hints that you cannot torture the Mandate Schoolman for the Gnosis. Eleäzaras fear of Achamian returns, awakened by Mengedda itself and the realization that the No-God really did die here. The fear that he’s led his school into its destruction compels his actions, which his why he’s afraid of Achamian. If the Mandate and the Cishaurim conspire… Acting out of fear rarely ends well.

Esmenet and Achamian camping is their honeymoon. Just five days of enjoying each other’s company, not worrying about anything. It’s a powerful emotion for her. Something that finally drowns out the grief (and guilt) of her daughter’s “death.” Such wonderful, little details are speckled through the text about their domesticity. Bakker does a great job of navigating through all the emotions of this chapter. We start out with Kellhus maneuvering then fighting for his life, transitions to Eleäzaras plotting Achamian’s own kidnapping. And now we’re here with Achamian and Esmenet happy. We don’t want them to leave, because we the reader know what’s lurking when they do. Bakker just showed it to us.

We get our first glimpse of the Wathi Doll as Esmenet cleans Achamian’s leather satchel. Even before it’s properly introduced. A good technique for a Chekhov gun is to introduce something, remind the readers later, then have it being used even later.

I love the domesticity of this scene, and so does Esmenet. The sure joy she gets out of seeing the mighty sorcerer bare-chested from cutting firewood. And Achamian seems well suited to it. Even fashioned a flint ax. Foreshadowing… Maybe.

The little touch of Esmenet grasping his knee when he exposes pain over Inrau. Wonderful characterization.

Esmenet always has great observations about Kellhus and how he changes, molding himself in their eyes, moving step-by-step into something greater and greater. In a few weeks, she went from mistrusting him to almost worshiping him.

And there at the end, we see the Holy War begin it’s Second March. It’s hard to even imagine. Half a million people marching across a plain all for one purpose.

Part 1 has come to an end. Already, this book has thrown a lot at us and now the stakes are even greater. Kellhus and the Consult’s hidden war has escalated while the most powerful school of sorcerers plots Achamian’s capture and torture. The Fanim have been bloodied, but this war if far from over. The Cishaurim won’t be so reckless. The next victory won’t be so “easy.”

Click here to continue on to Chapter Nine!

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Review: The Crown of Stones: Magic-Bourne

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Bourne

by C.L. Schneider

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Ian Troy has is the only one who can stop his father from creating a magical empire. DdD Reth plans on enslaving all to his will. He will free his people, the Shinree, from one set of chains into another while dominating the entire lands of Mirra’kelan

To stop his father, Troy will have to destroy the Crown of Stones. But to do that, he needs to understand its origins and that of his people. Delving into the past of the Shinree, Troy shall uncover truths lost over the centuries of slavery and catastrophe. But will it be enough to let him defeat his father?

Or will Jem Reth dominate all the lands of Mirra’kelan and usher in his grand ambition to be Emperor.

Everything the trilogy has been building for reaches its peak in this book. Schneider reveals all the secrets of the Shinree past, pulling back the mysteries and giving Troy a choice. The book is packed with action, danger, and suspense. The first person narrative once again propels the book with a sense of immediacy, placing you in the action.

With a bittersweet ending, Magic-Bourne is a satisfactory closing to the trilogy, building towards its climax with a breathtaking intensity. The plot twists and turns but Schneider doesn’t lose her way and guides you to its ending.

This is an amazing series. If you’re a fan of Fantasy, then you should read this book. Plenty of action, plot, drama, and more to satisfy your craving. One last time, we plunge into the world of Mirra’kelan!

You can buy Crown of Stone-Magic Bourne from Amazon!

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Reread of The Warrior Prophet: Chapter Seven

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 2: The Warrior Prophet

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The First March
Chapter 7

Welcome to Chapter Seven of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Six!

Sleep, when deep enough, is indistinguishable from vigilance.


My Thoughts

Reading Bakker makes me think more than any other books I’ve read in years. And doing this reread only makes me work harder. Why did Bakker include this quote at the start of this chapter? We see the title is all about curving thoughts. Nothing straightforward, nothing linear. Sleep and vigilance would be two opposite ends of a line, but if everything moved in circles, eventually you would slip from one side to the other. We have Kellhus pondering if cause and effect works like this. That the future could bend and branch and spiral back to the beginning. That though cause and effect should also be on opposite sides of a line, they can instead circle each other if someone bends the line.

Early Summer 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, near the Plains of Mengedda

The Synthese flew over the Battleplain in the wake of the Holy War’s victory over the Fanim. Dawn approaches as it flies across corpse-strewn fields. As the sun rises, it feels a nostalgic pull towards home out across the “black void.” It was hard not feeling nostalgic after being back in “the place where it had almost happened, where Men and Nonmen had almost flickered out forever.” It feels that it will happen soon.

It searches the dead of the battlefield, studying the patterns their corpses left, and sees symbols prized by his species “back when they could actually be called such.” The vermin called them Inchoroi. Finally, it finds the scent it was searching for an “otherworldly fetor” encoded in the skin-spies in case they died.

So Sarcellus was dead. Unfortunate.

At least the Holy War had prevailed—over the Cishaurim, no less!

Golgotterath would approve.

Smiling, or perhaps scowling, with tiny human lips, the Old Name swooped down to join the vultures in their ancient celebration.

Achamian dreams of the No-God’s defeat. He, as Seswatha, stares at the horizon boiling with Sranc. They gouge themselves blind as the whirlwind of the No-God roars through them. Like a tornado, it picks them up as debris. The Great King of Kyraneas clutches Seswatha, but his words are lost as a hundred thousand Sranc all speak, their throats “flaring like bright-burning coals packed into his skull.”


See? What could he…


The great King turned from him [Seswatha], reached for the Heron Spear.


Secrets… Secrets! Not even the No-God could build walls against what was forgotten! Seswatha glimpsed the unholy Carapace shining in the whirlwind’s heart, a nimil sarcophagus sheathed in choric script, hanging…


Achamian woke with a howl, his hands cramped into claws before him, shaking.

Esmenet is beside him, trying to sooth him. She holds him as he shakes, telling him that she’s been thinking of Kellhus. He asks if she dreamed him, trying to tease her. But as he tries, the No-God’s words intrude on his thoughts like “a shrieking chorus, sharp and brief.” He apologizes, asks what she said. She tries to talk about how Kellhus speaks, but the memory of the No-God’s voice intrudes again. He’s distracted as she talks about Kellhus and his words to Saubon and realizes that Kellhus words are either “near or far.” He asks what she meant, his bladder full.

Esmenet laughed. “I’m not sure… Remember how I told you how he asked me what it was like to be a harlot—you know, to lie with strange men? When he talks that way, he seems near, uncomfortably near, until you realize how utterly honest and unassuming he is… At the time, I thought he was just another rutting dog—”


The point, Esmi…”

There was an annoyed pause. “Other times, he seems breathtakingly far when he talks, like he stands on some remote mountain and can see everything, or almost everything…” She paused again, and from the length of it, Achamian knew he had bruised her feelings. He could feel her shrug. “The rest of us just talk in the middle somewhere, while he… And now this, seeing what happened yesterday before it happened. With each day—”


“—he seems to talk a little nearer and a little farther. It makes me—Akka? You’re trembling! Shaking!”

Achamian says he can’t stay here in this place. She hugs and tells him that the army will move away from the dead and the “chance of vapours.” Achamian struggles to hold onto his wits and asks where the army will move. She says something about ruins. He says that’s worse. He has to leave. He’s feeling echoes of the No-God’s death here. The ruins would be the city of Mengedda, where it actually happened. He thinks this place recognizes himself or Seswatha in him. He says they need to leave and wait in the hills for the others.

Five days after the battle, Kellhus muses on a Nilnameshi saying Achamian had told him: “With the accumulation of power comes mystery.” Achamian explained it meant the paradox of power. “The more security one exacted from the world, the more insecure it became.” Kellhus had dismissed it as a “vacant generalization.” Now he was having second thoughts.

The Holy War is whole again. This afternoon, the Nansur and Ainoni host had filed across the plains to join the others camped at the ruins of Mengedda. The first Council of the Great and Lesser Names since Momemn has been called and Kellhus chose to sit with the soldiers watching instead of with the Names.

He studies the soldiers, noticing the startling contrast between their faces. Some are wounded. Others had no injuries. Some are celebratory, and some are suffering from PTSD. “Victory on the Battleplain, it seemed, had carried its own uncanny toll.” People have been having terrible nightmares while camping here, claiming they were fighting in ancient wars and even fighting Sranc and dragons. At the ruins, the nightmares intensified. “It was as though the ground had hoarded the final moments of the doomed, and counted and recounted them each night on the ledger of the living.” Some, like Achamian, fled, others tried to stop sleeping, and one man was found dead. Then relics of past battles appeared “as though slowly vomited from the earth.” People insisted they were fresh, found in spots they had trod over and were no signs of before.

Kellhus had dreamed nothing. But he had seen the relics. Gotian explained to him about how the Battleplain was cursed after imbibing so much death over the millennia. But Gotian believes faith will protect them. Proyas and Gothyelk also suffer no dreams and wanted to stay. Saubon, despite having the nightmares, also wanted to stay for his own motivations.

Somehow, the very ground of battle had become their foe. Such contests, Xinemus had remarked one night about their fire, belonged to philosophers and priests, not warriors and harlots.

Such contest, Kellhus had thought, simply should not be…

Kellhus is beset with “questions, quandaries, and enigmas” once he learned how desperate the battle was and how kind fate had been to Saubon because he had punished the Shrial Knights. That charge saved the Norsirai host from destruction. And it had happened just as Kellhus had predicted. But he hadn’t made a prediction. He had said what was need to “maximize the probability” of Sarcellus dying.

It simply had to be coincidence. At least this was what he’d told himself—at first. Fate was but one more world-born subterfuge, another lie men used to give meaning to their abject helplessness. That was why they thought the future a Whore, something who favored no man over another. Something heartbreakingly indifferent.

What came before determined what came after… This was the basis of the Probability Trance. This was the principle that made mastering circumstance, be it with word or sword, possible. This was what made him Dûnyain.

One of the Conditioned.

But the fact the earth spat out bones makes Kellhus question cause and effect. The ground appeared to answer the “tribulation of men.” And if the earth wasn’t indifferent, what about the future? Kellhus questions if an effect could determine the cause. Could the future violate cause and effect? Could he be the harbinger?

Is this why you’ve summoned me, Father? To save these children?

Kellhus pushes his thoughts on “primary questions” aside. He had more immediate problems to deal with. Such questions will have to wait until he sees his father. He wonders why Moënghus hasn’t contacted him. He concentrates on the council and though he doesn’t sit with them, he knows he has a position among them by the fact they all keep glancing at him. He could read all their faces, giving brief insight into various persons sitting at the council. Of note is General Martemus, Conphas’s confidant and second-in-command, whom has heard of Kellhus but has too many pressing concerns to care about a prophet.

A steady fixed look from among Gotian’s diminished retinue…


One of what seemed a growing number of inscrutable faces. Skin-spies, Achamian had called them.

Why did he stare? Because of the rumors, like the others? Because of the horrific toll his words had exacted on the Shrial Knights? Gotian, Kellhus knew, struggled not to hate him…

Or did he know that Kellhus could see him and tried to kill him?

Kellhus matches Sarcellus’s gaze. Kellhus has grown better at understanding their physiognomy, seeing their faces made of fingers. He had found eleven so far, and expected there to be more. He nods to Sarcellus who keeps watching. Kellhus is certain the Consult suspects him.

Then Earl Athjeari arrives, summoning Kellhus to see Prince Saubon after the meeting. Kellhus knows that Saubon’s growing more anguished and fearful. He had avoided Kellhus for six nights. Something had happened during the fight that disturbed him. Kellhus sees an opportunity.

The council opens with a religious ritual and sermon from Gotian, preaching on the Inrithi’s duty to follow Inri Sejenus to Shimeh. His sermon brings triumphant cheers from the Men of the Tusk. Kellhus is silent, studying Sarcellus, noticing small discrepancies in his features. The Men of the Tusk begin singing a hymn.

Words uttered through a thousand human throats. The air thrummed with an impossible resonance. The ground itself spoke, or so it seemed… But Kellhus saw only Sarcellus—saw only differences. His stance, his height and build, even the lustre of his black hair. All imperceptibly different.

A replacement.

The original copy had been killed, Kellhus realized, just as he’d hoped. The position of Sarcellus, however, had not. His death had gone unwitnessed, and they’d simply replaced him.

Strange that a man could be a position.

After the rite, the Gilgallic Priests appear to declare the Battle-Celebrant, “the man whom dread War had chosen as his vessel.” It is a matter of a great deal of betting to predict who would get it as though “it were a lottery rather than a divine determination.” But before Cumar, High Cultist Priest of Gilgaöl, Prince Skaiyelt demands they must discuss leaving. To flee. An outrage burst out but is quieted with Skaiyelt uncovers an ancient skull. Kellhus wonders how this could be possible. He pushes that aside, he has to stay focused on “practical mysteries.” A debate is held, some look to Kellhus, then Proyas announce the Holy War would leave Mengedda tomorrow morning. The soldiers are relieved.

Then Saubon is declared the Battle-Celebrant, though he protests saying it should go to Gotian for leading the charge. Silence falls as Saubon is crowned with a circlet of thorns and olive sprigs. People cheer and Saubon is stunned, then looks at Kellhus while crying.

Why? his anguished look said. I don’t deserve this…

Kellhus smiled sadly, and bowed to the precise degree jnan demanded from all men in the presence of a Battle-Celebrant. He’d more than mastered their brute customs by now; he’d learned the subtle flourishes that transformed the seemly into the august. He knew their every cue.

The roaring redoubled. They’d all witnessed their exchanged look; they’d all heard the story of Saubon’s pilgrimage to Kellhus at the ruined shrine.

It happens, Father. It happens.

Conphas calls everyone a fool for praising Saubon since his decision to march almost doomed the Holy War. He reminds everyone that those who die here never leave. Saubon is dumbstruck. And then Cnaiür walks out calling Conphas craven for seeing folly everywhere, equating prudence with cowardice. Kellhus is surprised that Cnaiür had seen the danger of Conphas’s words. A discredited Saubon would be useless. Conphas’s laugh~s at being called a coward.

Since defeating the People,” the Scylvendi continued, “much glory has been heaped upon your name. Because of this, you begrudge others that same glory. The valour and wisdom of Coithus Saubon have defeated Skauras—no mean thing, if what you said at your Emperor’s knee was to be believed. But since this glory is not yours, you think it false. You call it foolishness, blind lu—”

It was blind luck!” Conphas cried. “The Gods favour the drunk and the soft-of-head… That’s the only lesson we’ve learned.”

Cnaiür uses his answer to praise the Holy War for learning how to fight the Fanim and the tactics that work well against them, like charges by Inrithi knights, or that their footman can withstand Fanim charges. This brings cheers from the crowds. Conphas stands stunned, realizing he was so easily defeated by the barbarian. Kellhus recounts the problems with dominating Conphas—the man’s pride, his “pathological” disregard of other peoples opinions, and he believed Kellhus connected to the Cishaurim. Kellhus is aware that Conphas plans disaster for the Holy War.

Proyas wants the Holy War to send riders to seize the fields around the city of Hinnereth to keep the Fanim could harvest them and bring them into the field. Conphas argues that the Imperial Fleet can keep the Holy War provisioned. The other Great names decide not to rely on the Empire and agree to seize the grains. Then it turns to the Ainoni and their slow marches. But Proyas supports the Ainoni and says the Holy War needs to travel as separate contingents. But not even Cnaiür’s support stopped the fighting. The arguments go on while the soldiers get more and more drunk on looted wines. Kellhus continues his study of Sarcellus. And Kellhus realizes the Consult know he can see their skin-spies.

I must move more quickly, Father.

The Nilnameshi had it wrong. Mysteries could be killed, if one possessed the power.

Conphas lounges in his pavilion plotting ways to kill Cnaiür with Martemus, how said little. Conphas knows his general secretly admires Cnaiür, but it doesn’t bother Conphas. He knows he has Martemus’s loyalty.

And so, feeling magnanimous, he decided to open a little door and allow Martemus—easily the most competent and trustworthy of his generals—into some rather large halls. In the coming months, he would need confidants. All Emperors needed confidants.

But of course, prudence demanded certain assurances. Though Martemus was loyal by nature, loyalties were, as the Ainoni were fond of saying, like wives. One must always know where they lie—and without absolute certainty.

Conphas asks Martemus if he ever stared at “the Concubine,” the nickname for the Over-Standard. so named because it has to say in the Exalt-General’s quarters. Conphas liked that, and had even ejaculated on it, which he found to be delicious defiling the sacred. Martemus answers yes, he stares at it often. Then Conphas asks if he’s seen the tusk. Another yes, which surprise Conphas. It was back when Martemus was a boy. Conphas asks what he thought. Martemus thinks awe. It was a long time ago. Conphas asks Martemus if had to choose between dying for the Concubine or the Tusk, which would he pick? He doesn’t hesitate: the concubine.

And why’s that?”

Again the General shrugged. “Habit.”

Conphas fairly howled. Now that was funny. Habit. What more assurance could a man desire?

Dear man! Precious man!

Conphas asks Martemus’s opinion of Kellhus. “Intelligent, well spoken, and utterly impoverished.” Conphas hesitates in telling his plans, but remembers that Martemus cares about impressing him. Which made his opinion priceless. He confides that Skeaös was a Cishaurim spy and that he is connected to Kellhus. Martemus is shocked and Conphas further explains about his skin-spy nature, believing it is caused by Cishaurim sorcery. Martemus wants to know what Conphas has learned of Kellhus’s movements, associations, etc. Conphas tells what he knows, which isn’t much, though finds it disturbing that he’s with Achamian, who was also present at Skeaös’s unveiling.

Martemus doesn’t like a man of such growing power with a connection to the Cishaurim in the Holy War. Conphas thinks his purpose is to destroy the Holy War and that Saubon’s march was an attempt that failed. He plays the prophet to lead the holy war to its doom. But Martemus has heard Kellhus denies being a prophet.

Conphas laughed. “Is there any better way to posture as a prophet? People don’t like the smell of presumption, Martemus. Even the pig castes have noses as keen as wolves when it comes to those who claim to be more. Me,on the other hand, I quite like the savoury stink of gall. I find it honest.”

Martemus asks why Conphas is telling him all this. Conphas believes that Prince Kellhus collects followers, like Saubon, and expects Martemus to be a juicy plum. Martemus is to play disciple. The general asks why not just kill him. Conphas is disappointed in Martemus, who while intelligent isn’t cunning. He is reminded of his time as a hostage in Skauras’s court and remarks that he feels so young.

My Thoughts

The Synthese feels nostalgic for its home planet, out there in the void. Achamian talked to Esmenet about this a few chapters ago, explaining space and stars to her, and how the Inchoroi came from space and crashed here. Now the Synthese, one of the last surviving Inchoroi, wishes to go home.

Soon enough.” Here is confirmation that the no-god’s birth must be approaching. That the Synthese believes the Second apocalypse is coming soon (in the scale of a being millennia old, it’s not happening next week). It’s not a coincidence that an Anasûrimbor has returned.

Inchoroi minds also have pareidolia, the phenomenon that allow us humans to see patterns in chaos, like shapes in clouds. This is something the Nonmen appear to lack. They have difficulty with abstract images as we learn in the sequel series when we delve into Nonmen a lot more.

We also get our first confirmation that the Consult wants the Holy War to defeat the Fanim. And not just the Fanim, but the Cishaurim. We had inferred this from the behavior of the skin-spy posing as Skeaös, Emperor Xerius’s court. Now we have confirmation. The Consult wants the Cishaurim destroyed for a very important reason.

The image of the Sranc clawing out their eyes as the No-God asks what they see. This question “What do you see?” is at the heart of the No-God’s purpose. I believe the No-God is asking a woman with the Judging Eye what she sees. He can’t see what she can. We won’t learn anything about the Judging Eye in this series, but it allows certain people to see if a person is damned. I think that’s what is going on. The No-God’s purpose is to end the cycle of souls and shut out the Outside and the Cycle of Damnation. So it has to know what the woman with the Judging Eye sees. Bakker has this series plotted out well. The Unholy Consult cannot come out fast enough.

WHAT AM I? Am I damned?

And this is what the Consult seeks to do. Why the Inchoroi came to his world. To escape damnation. If you knew you were doomed to suffer an eternity of torment and there was nothing you could do to change it save committing genocide, would you have the courage to face that fate instead of making the choice the Consult has?

Achamian wakes up, hands twisted into claws. What was he about to do? Claw out his own eyes?

Esmenet’s insight is on display here as she talks about Kellhus. She recognizes how he use language, though she doesn’t realize how manipulative it is switching from the remote to the intimate.

We see in Achamian how time echoes in the topoi of the Battleplain. It’s like a singularity, warping reality around it, pulling things towards the center. Souls who die here are said not to escape. And even those who leave might never truly get away (anyone who’s read The Great Ordeal will know what I speak of). Past and present are bleeding together for Achamian. Poor guy.

The nightmares are an interesting way for Bakker to both show you the effect of time warping the topoi has on reality here but also to showcase the history of the place. We get a glimpse of the various struggles here. Note the stirrup-less Scylvendi from the past. The stirrup revolutionized cavalry warfare. It allowed for heavy lance charges and better horse archery. Stirrups give you a platform to stand on, allowing you to use your body’s weight better in conjunction with the horse.

Kellhus is once again confronted by violations of causality and other strange phenomenon at the Battleplain. His Dûnyain training has not prepared him for a reality where a place could be a topoi or the chain of cause and effect could be twisted. Now he has to deal with this new reality, understand it, and adapt the Logos to it. If he can.

I believe when Kellhus begins wondering if his father summoned him to save these people is the start of his mental break. He doesn’t seem broken to us, but this is the start of the madness that severs him from being a true Dûnyain as we learn in climax of the third book. It starts this early, before even the Circumfix because he is questioning cause and effect, the very foundation of the Logos and Dûnyain philosophy.

Interesting how Kellhus sees tackling a mystery as interrogating it. Interrogation is the most forceful form of questioning. It implies an antagonistic stance, that the subject is resisting giving answers.

I winced at the slaves burning scrolls to feed the bonfire for the Council of Great and Lesser Names. They were pulled from the ruins, so I wonder what knowledge was just lost?

So a new skin-spy has replaced Sarcellus and Kellhus. The Synthese scoured the Battleplain not only to locate Sarcellus’s corpse and ensure it wasn’t discovered, but this also allowed the position of Sarcellus to remain alive so they could simply replace him with another of their creations. (Also, it is implied the Synthese ate Sarcellus.)

Kellhus sees an opportunity in Saubon’s pain. I love Kellhus’s POV’s. I would be interested in having someone read this series without ever once getting one of Kellhus’s POV’s (or Cnaiür). Just to see how they would react to Khellus. He’s so charismatic and warm from others perspectives. And then you get his and its all cold calculation.

Kellhus is one step closer to his plan to fake being a prophet. His gamble has paid off even better than he expected. So much so it is shaken him, as much as a Dûnyain can be shaken. We see thoughts of the supernatural keep intruding on him when he should be focused on more “practical mysteries.”

Love the play between Cnaiür and Conphas. Even Kellhus can underestimate people. An important thing to remember. Conphas makes a great foil to Kellhus. A man so narcissistic that he is immune to Kellhus’s greatest weapon to chain people—shame, guilt, inadequacies. If Kellhus had only Conphas to deal with, he could find the shortest path, but with all the others, Conphas will remain out of reach. Even mocked by all the Holy War, Conphas felt no shame or embarrassment.

Martemus… Got to like a guy who says he would die for his country over his faith because it would be out of habit. Conphas really likes the guy. He’s as close to a friend as Conphas can have.

Martemus’s first questions to Conphas upon learning of Kellhus supposed connection to the Cishaurim is for more information. Intelligence. Who are his allies? Where can he be found? Etc. Great character writing from Bakker. Martemus doesn’t question the justifications behind the war against Kellhus, he just wants the information he would need to fight it, trusting Conphas to have answered those questions already.

Conphas guesses the heart of Kellhus’s plan, if not the motivations behind it. He’s smart enough to recognize that Kellhus is posing as a prophet for gain, but his ego keeps him from examining his own assumptions—that Skeaös was a Cishaurim spy. After all, Skeaös argued against sabotaging the Holy War and allowing the Fanim to survive. If he truly were a Cishaurim spy, wouldn’t he support the Emperor’s plan to sabotage the Holy War? But Conphas has made his decision, and he won’t even consider if he’s wrong. Arrogance and intelligence are dangerous combinations. They often think they are wise, but mistake certainty for truth.

I had to ponder that last line of this chapter. Why would Conphas, a man who is quite young, say he feels young. Because his plotting against Kellhus, this dangerous life-or-death struggle of politics for the control of the Holy War, reminds him of being in Skauras’s court as a hostage. Hence why he felt so young. He’s excited. He has an opponent that will be a challenge to defeat and a victory that will be so sweet.

Conphas plots and schemes. The Consult plots and schemes. Kellhus’s plots and schemes. All three of these storylines, happening in the background for the other characters, will drive The Warrior Prophet to its climax at the Circumfix.

Click here to continue onto Chapter 8!

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