Malazan Empire: Final thoughts on Stonewielder and reflections on the Riders - Malazan Empire

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Final thoughts on Stonewielder and reflections on the Riders Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   Mob 

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Posted 20 December 2014 - 08:45 PM

Having just finished reading Stonewielder for the second time, I'm pleased to report that I enjoyed it much more than on my first reading, two-and-a-half years ago. A good book. Fist/Korel is a complex, diverse place, and ICE did a good job of bringing it to life. He also did an excellent job of making the Lady into a menacing, constant presence. She was quite disturbing.

Two gripes, and both centre on the Riders.

[1] The Riders are supposed to be such a serious threat that it requires the best individual soldiers in the world, the Stormguard, to hold them back. But not once in the book did we see the Riders kick some ass on the Wall, or resemble anything like the threat that the text made them out to be. The disparity between claim and reality was stark. The book could have done much more to make them a convincing force. It required a real suspension of disbelief to buy them as a serious threat.

[2] ICE was not at all forthcoming about their origins. Even a forensic reading of the text gives few hints. On the one hand, the references to the Riders being pale skinned, and reminding someone of Tiste Andii, imply that they are Liosan. However they clearly aren't part of the Liosan army that appears elsewhere in the book. Their powers bear no relation to what we know of the Liosan. And the idea also makes no sense within the parameters of the story itself.

As I explained in a different thread, I believe that the Liosan hints are misdirection, and the Riders are the original inhabitants of Korel/Fist - the fishermen - inundated by a tidal wave when the Crippled God fell (as seen in the prologue), and thus nursing a strong enmity against the 'invader', the Lady (she being a piece of the CG that became sentient due to its size and power). So I think that they are originally humans that have gained unexplained powers.

In NoK, the dying Rider appears human and bleeds red. There are also hints of them looking almost human in Stonewielder, p. 295 (UK edition), where Bars smashes the helmet of a rider.

The idea of the Riders as being human would explain much about their motivations. It would explain why they bleed red, and sound human ('Why are you killing us'?). And fishermen are sea-beings, if you like, in the same way the Riders are.

It would also fit with the major recurrent textual themes of Stonewielder, the question of who lived in Korel/Fist first, and who the 'invaders' are (it's repeatedly made clear that the Malazans aren't the first 'invaders' - and indeed we see the first batch of invaders in the prologue, the men who meet the Lady and are tasked with building the Wall). The concept of invaders/outlanders is dealt with in every scene in the prologue, even thousands of years after the fall of the Crippled God - which has to be significant. The book is basically about successive generations of invaders contending for control of the continent, but none of them are the original inhabitants. We see those original inhabitants in the first scene (the fall of The Crippled God) and, in the very next scene, the Riders are assaulting the recently-arrived 'invaders' who go on to build the wall. There is no sign of the Riders in the first scene, i.e. before the fall.

We also know from Stonewielder, and Greymane's relation of a conversation with a Rider, that they speak a version of the Koreli language. In NoK, the old man who discovers a dying Rider at Malaz Isle relates that he speaks a 'halting Korelan'. Perhaps a primitive, original form of the dialect? The Rider at the end of NoK is described as having the flesh of a fish and a bad smell. The Lady, introduced at the very beginning of Stonewielder, is described as having a repulsive smell and flesh like 'a pale dead fish'.Too much of a coincidence. There's some physical relationship here between the Riders and the Lady (a piece of the CG). It could be that the CG's power is the explanation for the transformation of the humans into beings like the Riders.

The fact that Greymane sees himself as righting 'an ancient wrong' (Stonewielder, p. 806) in destroying the wall and allowing the Riders to swarm over it onto the land, and when this happens in a huge tidal wave, 'left behind in its passing lay an entirely new coastline, resculpted and washed clean' are perhaps significant statements from ICE; they lead me to believe that the righting the 'wrong' is connected to what happened in the first scene in the book, with the destruction of the original inhabitants with the fall of the CG and then, in the next scene, the Lady later tasking recent arrivals to Fist with building a wall to keep out the Riders. Also, that the Riders attack and destroy two fragments of the Lady at the end of the book, and the revelation that her whole purpose had been keeping the Riders stranded in the Ocean of Storms and unable to get to her fragments to destroy them, could be taken as further evidence of an ancient vendetta resulting from what happened in the very first scene of the book.

This post has been edited by Mob: 20 December 2014 - 08:45 PM


#2 User is offline   heavymetaltroll 

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 12:38 AM

A very good theory and I'm almost sold on it except that the one descendant of the original inhabitants we see makes no mention of it, or did I miss it?

#3 User is offline   Tiam is an Imploding Unit 

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 10:13 AM

Indeed, it is a very good theory and I agree with pretty much all of it.


We also know from Stonewielder, and Greymane's relation of a conversation with a Rider, that they speak a version of the Koreli language.

Aye but they also said to Greymane that they learned Koreli by listening to sailors. However, that doesn't mean much because it wouldn't be definite that the "invader's" would acquire the indigenous people's language. If we are to assume that the originals were wiped out by the pieces of tCG, the invader's language would be their own, and wholly unrelated from the original's. If a small population survived, well, invaders tend not to care about indigenous people's languages or customs.

#4 User is offline   Melnibonean Wanderer 

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 05:12 PM

I just finished this. I took it that the Riders were Tiste used in experiments with the Jaghut's warren

#5 User is offline   Kuru Qan 

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 10:20 PM

Just finished the book and love your theory.

There is this sentence that comes up twice in the book:

"Run, little 'uns, run! The water comes to reclaim the land!" (Uli, p. 19 UK)
"It is the prophesied end of the Stormwall [] the waters come to reclaim the land" (Hiam, p. 829 UK)

This would confirm the cyclical nature of the whole Korelian story and the "righting of an ancient wrong". Now the questions that arises: why does Uli say that the water REclaims the land? Were the Uli's people invaders themselves?

Anyway I like the approach you take because it would answer quite a few questions about the Riders, e.g. the lack of connections between them and, say, the Jaghut (a connection would have been expected because of their shared link with Ice and Ice-related magic).

A final question spontaneously arising: What is the source of the Rider's magic? It could hardly be the Crippled God himself why would his power be ice-related? We don't see the like in any other book (yet).

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