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Cover art for Subterranean Press limited edition by Noah Bradley

The Bonehunters is the sixth novel the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series. It was first published in the UK and Canada on March 1, 2006 and in the US in September 2007.

Publisher's summary[]

The Seven Cities Rebellion has been crushed. Sha'ik is dead. One last rebel force remains, holed up in the city of Y'Ghatan and under the fanatical command of Leoman of the Flails. The prospect of laying siege to this ancient fortress makes the battle-weary Malaz 14th Army uneasy. For it was here that the Empire's greatest champion Dassem Ultor was slain and a tide of Malazan blood spilled. A place of foreboding, its smell is of death.

But elsewhere, agents of a far greater conflict have made their opening moves.

The Crippled God has been granted a place in the pantheon, a schism threatens and sides must be chosen. Whatever each god decides, the ground-rules have changed, irrevocably, terrifyingly and the first blood spilled will be in the mortal world.

A world in which a host of characters, familiar and new, including Heboric Ghost Hands, the possessed Apsalar, Cutter, once a thief now a killer, the warrior Karsa Orlong and the two ancient wanderers Icarium and Mappo--each searching for such a fate as they might fashion with their own hands, guided by their own will. If only the gods would leave them alone. But now that knives have been unsheathed, the gods are disinclined to be kind. There shall be war, war in the heavens. And, the prize? Nothing less than existence itself...

Here is the stunning new chapter in Steven Erikson's magnificent Malazan Book of the Fallen--hailed as an epic of the imagination and acknowledged as a fantasy classic in the making.

Front Matter[]


To Courtney Welch.
Keep the music coming, friend.


Thanks to the usual suspects, including my early-draft readers Chris, Mark, Rick, Courtney, and Bill Hunter who has proved invaluable on the mechanics and full listing of variants of the Deck of Dragons – but listen, Bill, no more walking miles through the rain, right? Cam Esslemont for a most diligent read-through – I’m glad at least one of us has got the timeline right. Clare and Bowen, as always. To the staff at Bar Italia for seeing me through another one – three novellas and four novels and twenty-two thousand lattes, that was quite a run, wasn’t it? Steve, Perry and Ross Donaldson, for the friendship. Simon Taylor, Patrick Walsh and Howard Morhaim, for the good work done each and every time.



Show other languages

Publisher Format/Edition First published Pages ISBN-10 ISBN-13 Notes
UK and Commonwealth — The Bonehunters
Bantam Hard cover 2006 891 0593046293 978-0593046293 First edition
Bantam Trade paperback 2006 891 0593046307 978-0593046307
Bantam Mass market paperback xxx xxx xxx xxx
United States — The Bonehunters
Tor Hard cover Sep 2007 800 0765310066 978-0765310064 Cover by Todd Lockwood
Tor Hard cover Sep 2007 800 0765316528 978-0765316523 Cover by Todd Lockwood
Tor Hard cover, Science Fiction Book Club xxx xxx xxx xxx
Tor Mass market paperback xxx xxx xxx xxx
Subterranean Press Hard cover Aug 2016 968 xxx xxx Limited numbered/lettered editions

Illustrated by Noah Bradley

List of illustrations
  1. Imprisoned Beasts (lettered only)
  2. The Fire Held to No Allegiance
  3. Ganath
  4. The Anibar
  5. Minala

Plot Summary[]

The Bonehunters
Dramatis Personae Prologue
The Thousand-Fingered God
Chapter 1 Chapter 2
Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6
Beneath This Name
Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Shadows of the King
Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15
Chapter 16
The Bonehunters
Chapter 17 Chapter 18
Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22
Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Epilogue Pagination

Spoiler unsafe

The following summaries contain spoilers
Please access individual chapter summaries via the Chapter infobox


The Bonehunters begins in the year 1164, of Burn's Sleep, in Kartool, twenty-four days after the execution of Sha'ik. Banaschar arrives from Malaz Island and sends a note via a messenger to Sergeant Hellian. He instructs her guard contingent to break into the Temple of D'rek, where they find "splashes of blood on the walls, fragments of meat scattered on the tiles, and pools of bile, blood and faeces." Banaschar has disappeared, none of the guards can remember what he looks like, and Hellian predicts that they will be reassigned somewhere else, most likely dangerous.

A group of twelve Nameless Ones surround the barrow of Dejim Nebrahl. Each of the twelve calls a Warren to release Dejim Nebrahl from where the T'lan Imass Bonecasters bound him. Sister Spite calls on Starvald Demelain to release Dejim, and then shifts into a her dragon form and escapes. Dejim eats the other eleven Nameless Ones. Taralack Veed sees Sister Spite escape and prepares to track Dejim Nebrahl.

A group of five T'lan Imass approach a very small, run down community nominally headed by Barathol Meckar, who is nearly blind. He tells two of the villagers to retrieve his armor and weapons, which he puts on, after which the T'lan Imass approach.

Book One: The Thousand-Fingered God[]


I walked the winding path down into the valley,
Where low stone walls divided the farms and holds
And each measured plot had its place in the scheme
That all who lived there well understood,
To guide their travels and hails in the day
And lend a familiar hand in the darkest night
Back to home’s door and the dancing dogs.
I walked until called up short by an old man
Who straightened from work in challenge,
And smiling to fend his calculation and judgement,
I asked him to tell me all he knew
Of the lands to the west, beyond the vale,
And he was relieved to answer that there were cities,
Vast and teeming with all sorts of strangeness,
And a king and feuding priesthoods and once,
He told me, he saw a cloud of dust flung up
By the passing of an army, off to battle
Somewhere, he was certain, in the chilly south,
And so I gleaned all that he knew, and it was not much,
Beyond the vale he had never been, from birth
Until now, he had never known and had,
Truth to tell, never been for thus it is
That the scheme transpires for the low kind
In all places in all times and curiosity lies unhoned
And pitted, although he gave breath enough to ask
Who I was and how had I come here and where
My destination, leaving me to answer with fading smile,
That I was bound for the teeming cities yet must needs
Pass first through here and had he yet noticed
That his dogs were lying still on the ground,
For I had leave to answer, you see, that I am come,
Mistress of Plague and this, alas, was proof
Of a far grander scheme.

Poliel's Leave
Fisher kel Tath

Chapter 1[]

An unnamed woman enters Ehrlitan via the east gate. After entering a tavern, the tavern keeper questions whether she is attached to Dujek's army, to which she answers "I belong to no army." She gets drunk, and goes upstairs to go to sleep.

Leoman of the Flails has been cursing the Holy Book of Dryjhna for hours, muttering to himself, but the wind makes it so only Corabb Bhilan Thenu'alas can hear. Corabb becomes so exhausted by the tirade that he falls back to ride with the rest of Leoman's army, which is fleeing the Malazan army commanded by Tavore. Corabb thinks about the state of Seven Cities (citizens turning each other in as criminals), and eventually realizes that without his commander, he would be lost. Seconds later, Leoman gestures for Corabb, and asks him where they are.

Samar Dev is lying in the shade of her wagon tormenting ants on an unused road through the Ugarat Odhan, thinking she is dying. Karsa Orlong rides up on Havok, dismounts, and converses with her. She admits that she kicked a wheel of the wagon after it broke down, and in doing so, broke her foot. When Karsa helps her stand so she can get on Havok, she glances behind the horse and sees the heads of two of the Deragoth attached to the other end of the rope that leads from Karsa's hand. Karsa tells Samar that he wants to enter Ugarat beneath notice.

The unnamed woman (now known to be Apsalar) in the tavern awakens, and "[weeps] for the man she had abandoned". She tells herself that she is not worth the overwhelming gift of love. She realizes that Cotillion understood that she could not allow Crokus (now Cutter) to love her. Apsalar goes down to the stairs to eat, and is approached by two Pardu women, who tell her that a group of Gral men want her to dance for them. She replies that they really don't because she is a Shadow Dancer. Later, Apsalar leaves the tavern, enters an shadowed alley, which is a small portion of the warren of Shadow, and disappears. She is followed by the two Pardu women, who now cannot see her. One comments that they need to inform their new master that "She truly walks the shadows." Apsalar continues in the Shadow Realm, noticing that Cotillion's memories do not know of this manifestation of the Warren. On her way to the center of Ehrlitan, she encounters two corpses in shackles, and upon stopping to investigate, a pair of shades rise from the bodies and speak to her in Tiste Andii. Apsalar is surprised that she understands them and that she is being warned off from stealing the bodies. The shades are Curdle and Telorast, who admit that they encountered the "new" master of the House of Shadow, as well as the Hounds of Shadow, and Edgewalker, among others. Apsalar tells them that she will escort them to a gate, and walks away.

Leoman of the Flails's command arrives at a well. Corabb Bhilan Thenu'alas thinks to himself that if not for Leoman, he would have long ago deserted the rebels. Corabb pulls out some food, and eats, while Leoman questions the purpose of his own command. Corabb says that Leoman is destined to carry the Holy Book of Dryjhna, and that Dryjhna is more than just the dead Whirlwind Goddess, that she is as much a time as anything else. Corabb believes that Leoman's command is the Apocalypse, and that they are desined to show the world the truth of that. The conversation swiftly becomes nonsense, as the "food" Corabb ate was a dead toad. He walks off thinking that the encampment contains a host of oversized vultures.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev enter Ugarat, but are told that they cannot bring the two heads into the city. Karsa responds by throwing one of the guards into a cart, knocking him unconscious. The other guard runs to get reinforcements. Karsa and Samar start towards a inn, and Samar warns the growing crowd off from following by threatening them with a curse. When the guards and their captain catch up to Karsa and Samar, Samar claims that Karsa is a spirit, and that the heads are trophies. When the captain asks Karsa if Samar is telling the truth, he tells them that he was Sha'ik's bodyguard, that the rebellion has broken, that the Malazans have retaken cities, and in response to the guard captain saying that Leoman still is alive and has vowed to fight on, that Leoman ridees his own path, and not to put faith in him.

Apsalar, Telorast, and Curdle stand in front of a gate, conversing. The shades ask Apsalar her name, but when she tells them, Curdle shrieks "She's dead! I knew you were a ghost!". Telorast corrects Curdle by saying that the real Apsalar was Imass. Apsalar announces over Telorasts and Curdle's conversation (which has gone on a sharp tangent) that the gate leads to Jen'rahb, but Telorast and Curdle could end up in Hood's Realm. Curdle starts proclaiming how powerful they were when alive; Apsalar, being frusterated, walks through the gate, followed closely by Telorast and Curdle. Apsalar ends up having to threaten them with informing Cotillion that they have escaped to make them stay so she can complete what she came to Jen'rahb to do. As she walks, Apsalar considers the shades and her surroundings. All of the permanent features of the Shadow Realm are covered in unbreakable chains, and there were bodies shackled to the chains. Apsalar enters the temple, her destination. She smells blood, and finds a body on the ground: Mebra, her target. She sees a movement, and ducks as a throwing star flashes over her. She stands to see a veiled Semk man, with white tattooes covering the dark skin around his eyes. He attacks, and Apsalar kills the man. She cuts his clothing off, to discover that he is covered in the tattooed script, the language of the First Empire. She rolls him over to find that the Semk's right shoulder, where his name was once been, was covered in a dark rectangle. He was a priest of the Nameless Ones.

Now alone, Curdle asks Telorast if they are going to stay with Apsalar, to which Telorast reponds that Edgewalker will be unhappy with them if they don't. She says, "Until we can find a way to get out of this mess." Curdle asks if she means cheat them all. Telorast says yes, and Curdle says, "Good. Because I want my throne back."

Chapter 2[]

Iskaral Pust stands in front of Cotillion and an immensely irritated Ammanas in Shadowkeep, where Ammanas tells Iskaral that he will have to do, hinting at an unknown task. Iskaral is dismissed. Shadowthrone tells Cotillion he has an idea, and vanishes afterwards, inviting a comment from Cotillion that it was a good idea. Cotillion emerges out of Shadowkeep, musing over the activities of the demons of the realm. As he moves forward, he feels a presence at his side, who turns out to be Edgewalker. Seeing Baran behind stalking him, Edgewalker tells him that while for Cotillion he walks paths unseen, the Hounds can feel his presence. On Cotillion's asking his purpose for seeking him out, Edgewalker tells him he wants to witness his impending conversation, earning a scowl from Cotillion. They approach a ring of standing stones, where Edgewalker comments on their nature. Being half buried, they signify both the overworld and the underworld, this being the underworld manifestation, the overworld being probably eroded by now. At the base of each standing stone, they observe three shackled dragons. Edgewalker reveals them to be pure blooded Eleint - Ampelas, Kalse and Eloth, who were imprisoned here bacause of their ambition. Cotillion tells the dragons about an impending war among the ascendants, and asks them which side would they fight upon if freed. The dragons suggest him to free them before bargaining, upon which Cotillion says that he would probably devour him once free. He further asks them the reason of their imprisonment, suggesting that he may free them if he thinks it unjust. Further discussion reveals that the dragons were imprisoned by Anomander Rake because they sought the Throne of Shadow, which Anomander wanted empty. According to the dragons, Ammanas is sitting on the wrong Shadow Throne, "the true throne is not even in this fragment of Kurald Emurlahn" upon which Cotillion smiles and says, "Is Ammanas (here then)? "This comment throws the dragons into a sudden disquiet. The female dragon, Eloth, then claims that she did what K'rul asked her to do, and her loyalty should not be questioned. Ampelas then claims he shaped the Blood in the path of Emurlahn, inviting a comment from Cotillion that dragons are prone to grandiose claims. He then asks about the Soletaken, Anomandaris and Scabandari Bloodeye and whether the dragons killed Scabandari. The dragons say his spirit still lives, and the one who tormented him had nothing to do with them. Edgewalker tells Cotillion that these dragons possibly sought the throne for healing Emurlahn and is it not what Cotillion seeks as well, whereupon Cotillion replies that he is not concerned with the healing of Emurlahn, only who occupies the Throne after that. The enmity between the Eleint and Soletaken for the Throne of Shadow is understood. Cotillion now seeks to know about the Elder Gods, especially the Crippled God. He leads the dragons into revealing why the Crippled God is after the Shadow Realm, it being sundered and hence, weak. Cotillion then leaves the dragons, with Edgewalker following, who acknowledges that he underestimated him and may be inclined to give support to his(Cotillion's) cause. Upon Cotillion asking what Edgewalker was, he said he could consider him an elemental force. Cotillion tells him about the threat the Crippled God poses on the First Throne of the T'lan Imass and the Throne of Shadow, upon which Edgewalker says that he will give the matter some consideration.

Mappo Runt, sitting at the edge of the Raraku Sea, sorrowfully turns over slabs to find bones of long dead Jaghut children imprisoned by the T'lan Imass, while Icarium revels in the shallows of the Raraku Sea. Refreshed by the water, Icarium remembers the names of long dead cities when Mappo informs him that only one now survives - Mersin. Further, new cities have arisen from the rubble, now known as Seven Cities, the nearest being Lato Revae. Icarium is not interested, and expresses his desire to visit the ruins of Trebur, where he feels like he did something, though he does not remember. Mappo fears that probably this time he will remember and they break camp.

A week out of Pan'potsun, Cutter, Greyfrog, Felisin Younger and a pregnant Scillara wait for Heboric, who has wandered off. They have sold off their horses in the city for food and supplies, and haven't heard from L'oric in a long time. Greyfrog informs Cutter that Heboric has gone off in trail of a spring and Cutter decides to get him. Scillara and Felisin Younger are then attacked by four travellers, who are killed by Greyfrog and their horses are taken by the party as Cutter and Heboric return.

Chapter 3[]

Chapter 4[]

Chapter 5[]

Chapter 6[]

Book Two: Beneath This Name[]


In darkness he came, this brutal stayer of kin,
discharged and unleashed, when all but ghosts
fled the wild dishevelled swagger--oh he knew pain,
twin fires of vast oblivion burning his soul--
and so the ghosts did gather, summoned by
one who would stand, mortal and feckless,
in the terrible slayer's path, would stand,
this precious fool, and gamble all in the clasping
of hand, warm to cold, and be led to the place
long vanished, and beasts long vanquished
would at his word awaken once more.

And who was there to warn him? Why, no-one,
and what found its way free was no friend to
the living. When you play horror against horror,
dear listener, leave all hope behind--
and ride a fast horse.

Master Blind
Saedevar of the Widecut Jhag

Chapter 7[]

Chapter 8[]

Chapter 9[]

Chapter 10[]

Chapter 11[]

Book Three: Shadows of the King[]


Who can say where divides truth and the host of desires that, together, give shape to memories? There are deep folds in every legend, and the visible, outward pattern presents a false unity of form and intention. We distort with deliberate purpose; we confine vast meaning into the strictures of imagined necessity. In this lies both failing and gift, for in the surrender of truth we fashion, rightly or wrongly, universal significance. Specific gives way to general; detail gives way to grandiose form, and in the telling we are exalted beyond our mundane selves. We are, in truth, bound into greater humanity by this skein of words...

Introduction to Among the Consigned

Chapter 12[]

Chapter 13[]

Chapter 14[]

Chapter 15[]

Chapter 16[]

Book Four: The Bonehunters[]


Who will deny that it is our nature to believe the very worst in our fellow kind? Even as cults rose and indeed coalesced into a patronomic worship--not just of Coltaine, the Winged One, the Black Feather, but too of the Chain of Dogs itself--throughout Seven Cities, with shrines seeming to grow from the very wastes along that ill-fated trail, shrines in propitiation to one dead hero after another: Bult, Lull, Mincer, Sormo E'nath, even Baria and Mesker Setral of the Red Blades; and to the Foolish Dog clan, the Weasel clan and of course the Crow and the Seventh Army itself; while at Gelor Ridge, in an ancient monastery overlooking the old battle site, a new cult centred on horses was born--even as this vast fever of veneration gripped Seven Cities, so certain agents in the heart of the Malazan Empire set loose, among the commonry, tales purporting the very opposite: that Coltaine had betrayed the empire; that he had been a renegade, secretly allied with Sha'ik. After all, had the countless refugees simply stayed in their cities, accepting the rebellion's dominion; had they not been dragged out by Coltaine and his bloodthirsty Wickans; and had the Seventh's Mage Cadre leader, Kulp, not so mysteriously disappeared, thus leaving the Malazan Army vulnerable to the sorcerous machinations and indeed manipulations of the Wickan witches and warlocks--had not all this occurred, there would have been no slaughter, no terrible ordeal of crossing half a continent exposed to every predating half-wild tribe in the wastes. And, most heinous of all, Coltaine had then, in league with the traitorous Imperial Historian, Duiker, connived to effect the subsequent betrayal and annihilation of the Aren Army, led by the naïve High Fist Pormqual who was the first victim of that dread betrayal. Why else, after all, would those very rebels of Seven Cities take to the worship of such figures, if notseeing in Coltaine and the rest heroic allies...
...In any case, whether officially approved or otherwise, the persecution of Wickans within the empire flared hot and all-consuming, given such ample fuel...

The Year of Ten Thousand Lies

Chapter 17[]

Chapter 18[]

Chapter 19[]

Chapter 20[]

Chapter 21[]

Chapter 22[]

Chapter 23[]

Chapter 24[]



  • Erikson enjoys working on his novels in public places. The Bonehunters was written at Bar Italia in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He also wrote House of Chains and Midnight Tides, as well as the final portion of Memories of Ice, at the same location.[1]
  • Erikson says Chapter 7 of this book is the longest chapter he has ever written.[2]
  • Erikson found The Bonehunters to be one of the tougher Malazan novels to write, saying it "was a challenge structurally because it's basically two novels."[3]

Cover gallery[]

External links[]

Notes and references[]