Erikson's rather perverse and twisted take on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales differs from the original model in that not everybody is on the tale telling, and rather more is at stake with the tales than just whiling away the hours. In fact as readers we only ever hear two of the tales told in full, for on most occasions the poet who starts doesn't get a chance to finish before one or more critics decides to curtail the performance. The two tales we do hear in full are the ones told by our narrator and he uses both to manipulate events on the journey to keep himself alive, proving that words can be as deadly a weapon as anything. However, as the pillars of virtue who made this competition a necessity are shown to exercise authority not because they hold some sort of moral high ground, but because their might makes them right, we can't help but applaud his efforts to stay alive
As is usual with Erikson there is more going on than meets the eye within Crack'd Pot Trail, as there are some carefully hidden agendas being plied beneath the surface. However what makes Erikson such a skilled storyteller is his ability to gradually reveal what's going on through his characters and the events. He might supply us with a few diversions like an undead corpse joining the pilgrimage, but he doesn't allow them to confuse the issue or steal too much of our focus so we lose track of the real story. The characters in the story, whether old friends from previous stories or brand new, are sketched in rather broad strokes by our narrator, but we don't require more than those few lines to understand their motivations so it is more than enough.
Crack'd Pot Trail is a great piece of social satire which takes no prisoners, from the pompous poets who proclaim their greatness only to be revealed as thieves who've never written an original thought in their lives, to the warriors against evil who don't have a problem with forcing their companions to compete against each other in order to avoid being eaten. By the end of the story the so-called villains of the piece come out looking a lot better than their reputations would have you think when compared with those who hunt them and the reader is left to ponder the exact nature of good and evil.