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Return of the Crimson Guard (Malazan Empire #2)

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  7,173 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
The return of the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard, could not have come at a worse time for a Malazan Empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries. Indeed, there are those who wonder whether the Empress Laseen might not be losing her grip on power as she faces increasing unrest as conquered kingdoms and principalities sense freedom once more.

Paperback, 855 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Tor Fantasy (first published 2008)
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TS Chan
Nov 03, 2016 TS Chan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*3.5 stars* (rounded up because LEGENDARY)

Esslemont definitely writes in a more direct manner than Erikson and that makes his books easier to read, even though the introduction of new characters had my head spinning again for the first one-third of the book. Notwithstanding, I really liked some of these new characters (Kyle, Ereko, Rillish & Rell) after a time.

The timeline of Return of the Crimson Guard seems to run parallel to Reaper's Gale, i.e. post events in The Bonehunters, with focus o
Oct 27, 2011 seak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to warn you that I'm a huge Malazan fan, so take this review as you will. The Malazan world fulfills all of my childhood wishes to become Spider-man mixed with Wolverine's claws, Donatello's brain and ninja skills, and throw in Silver Surfer's surfboard too.

I realize some of those are moot with the inclusion of the others...but I was a kid. :)

This world is filled with the knarliest people doing the craziest things and I love it. Everyone (main characters that is) is either the best at wha
Okay, so this is book #2 in the Malazan Empire series which is written by Esslemont as opposed to Erikson. They created the world of Malazan together and so the books share a timeline and I had been told that it's best to read this book before venturing into Erikson's 8th book (Toll the Hounds) as there are major spoilers in Toll the Hounds for the events of this book. I was fairly hesitant heading into this, I must admit, because honestly the first Esslemont book was pretty poor in comparison t ...more
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”
― Herman Melville

So what happens when you fail in imitation? For me, you get a book like Return of the Crimson Guard. Esslemont tried his best to mimic Erikson's style for his first large Malazan contribution. What Erikson was able to pull off with masterful coherence, Esslemont struggled with for the entire book, making for a story that really stressed my patience.

There were some parts of this book that were really cool and wel
Aug 08, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What will I do if Esslemont and Erikson stop writing in the Malazan world? Throw a tantrum, most definitely. I haven't had an author or series challenge me and excite me this much except Frank Herbert with Dune.

It was great to read about Westeros and learn more of the world Martin created (FINALLY) in A Dance with Dragons, but you just can't top Erikson and Esslemont for sheer epic storytelling scale and character creation. I've never read authors that can make you care about a character in jus
Reggie Kray
I really enjoyed being back in the Malazan world. However this read felt like one of my longest ever. Just didn't seem to end. This 1000+ pager could have been summarized to maybe half that. The story was bland and lacked the epic feeling that I am familiar with in this realm. I will continue with this series after the bad taste leaves my mouth.
May 29, 2011 Terence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Malazan Empire fans; sprawling-epic-SF fans
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Hawks
Apr 01, 2013 Chris Hawks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Gotta say I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would. Another solid entry in the history of the Malazan world, and (in my opinion) loads better than Night of Knives. I didn't have the issues with characterizations that a lot of other people apparently did, and found most of the plot threads quite enjoyable. Still, the book has its issues: Individual plots (or entire prologues) that didn't seem to relate to the rest of the book, and sections (like in NoK) that were far too vague, even i ...more
David Sven
Apr 29, 2012 David Sven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, dark-fantasy
A solid contribution to the "Malazan Universe" created in Steve Erikson's 10 book series. This book borrows heavily on that world and intersects various plot lines from the Malazan books - so you will need to be 5 to 7 books into the Steve Erikson's books to understand or appreciate "Return of the Crimson Guard."

So the old and bitter enemies of the Malazan Empire "The Crimson Guard" are regrouping after many years of absence. Bound and driven by an eternal vow to see the Malazan empire destroyed
Kurt Criscione
Dec 07, 2011 Kurt Criscione rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
I good addition to the Malazan world, surprising events and though i found Ian's use of some of the characters to be too different from the way they were portrayed by Erikson... (Nil and Nether seem far to different from the way they were in Bonehunters and House of Chains, Mallick Rel was still a slimy piece of shit... buta capable piece and he actually got the job done wereas in Erikson he's just a disgusting character you want to hate. I guess its all a matter of interpretation).

A lot of othe
Oct 28, 2015 Nelson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

"Return of the Crimson Guard" is the second Malazan novel by Ian C. Esslemont and it is a far better book than "Night of Knives" but It lacks some things that make the Erikson's novels great.

In this book, there is more action, more characters, the scale is bigger, the stakes are higher and there's more of everything, really. More jumping between storylines way too often, More chapters where nothing happens, and more character I don't know about and I won't be knowing by the end of the book.

Sep 14, 2015 Dalibor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Return of the Crimson Guard is the second "Malazan Empire" novel written by Ian C. Esslemont, and boy does he hit his stride with this contribution to the Malazan world! As some of you may know, Esslemont is the co-creator of the Malazan world with his friend and co-author, Steven Erikson. Esslemont did a great job with his first novel, Night of Knives, but he really pulled out all the stops in this novel. This is a big, meaty 700+ page novel that you just can't put down.

Return of the Crimson Gu
Mar 14, 2014 Nate rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
This is the problem with having two authors both doing their own thing in the same world/series; there's a chance that one of them is just not gonna be as good in that world as the other and it's gonna mess with the quality of the whole series. For me, this is what's going on with the Malazan books. To put it bluntly, Esslemont is just not nearly as good a writer as Erikson. Esslemont falls short for me in every field that Erikson excels--the prose, characterization and invention are all weak. E ...more
Joshua Simon
4.5 stars, rounded up to 5

I have to say that Esslemont's second effort is a huge improvement over Night of Knives. Below are my pros and cons:

- Excellant battle sequences (individually and on a grand scale) that were just as gripping and exciting as the main Malazan books written by Erikson.
- Big improvement in characterization over Night of Knives, especially since Esslemont used characters already introduced by Erikson in this book.
- Good worldbuilding as usual.
- Plot worked well with
Feb 09, 2012 Traci rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Don't even try to read this without having at least started the main Erikson series. Even if you have read the first Empire book Night of Knives.

For those of you who have read those other books but haven't read this one yet I highly recommend it. Although read Night of Knives first. Where I thought NoK felt like an add on or tie in book I could almost believe that this one fit right in with the Fallen books.

There are differences but I don't think I have read another author who comes closer to an
Jan 02, 2013 Lori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
About 1/3 of the way through. ICE has definitely matured in his writing since NoK. This one is dense, and somewhat wandering like Erikson, but not as well written, none of the complexity of characters. While Erikson hints at things and gives us baffling clues that slowly come together, ICE presents them as characters speak. Plus I'm not having all those deep thoughts of philosophy that imbibe the main Malazan series.

But! BUT! I love this world. ICE definitely succeeds in drawing us in to the poi
Jul 14, 2008 Karlo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Story-wise: The plot moves forwards in leaps and bounds regarding the events between the Crimson Guard and the Malazan Empire. Needless to say, the resolution is climactic.

Style-wise: ICE is no SE (sorry to say it). His first book (Night of Knives) kept the POV limited and personal, which was a nice change from Erikson. This book has a much larger scale, in trying to keep all the balls moving, he adopts the Erikson-type transition between plot threads. Unfortunately, his imagery and language are
May 11, 2015 Farès rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nice reading with nice flowing descriptions and action.. no time to breath.
some desapointment as to the Taychrenn and Topper plots.. but It was still a great book that builded on the Malazan world. You need to have read at least 5 of the MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLAN to undersand completely what's going on here.
Sep 19, 2016 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is an improvement over #1, with many positive shifts in his writing style to more closely mimic Erikson. It surely felt a kindred work, and for that I am glad.

The bad:

Well, not too much... honestly. This effort is very broad with many sub-plots going on. Perhaps too many to be honest. Interesting characters appear and then virtually vanish, with barely a mention again. Our favorite supergirl form book #1 Kiska is mentioned as almost an afterthought, with no real sense of how m
Tamer Abdelgawad
Esslemont gets credit for co-creating the Malazan Empire universe with Steven Erikson, but the two novels I've read so far by him, Night of Knives and Return of The Crimson Guard pale somewhat by comparison to Erikson's work. In general, the plots are less intricate and the characterization is much worse. Almost everyone in Esslemont's books is either a great hero/veteran whose main exploits happened off-screen (in the past), or a reluctant military grunt who performs above expectation. Within t ...more
Sep 28, 2013 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For purely story telling purposes, I enjoyed Night of Knives more. As other reviewers have penned I will concur: any additions to the Malazan canon are well received at this point. I will right now almost tolerate substandard conflict and narrative if it fills a void in historically significant events
May 04, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
An excellent addition to the Malazan universe. A good mix of familiar characters as well as plenty of new characters. It seems like Esslemont has caught on to the magic of Erikson's building up to a grand climax.
Carl Black
Tricky one for me to rate. I definitely think ICE has improved as a writer in this one but maybe he bit off more than he could chew with the amount of POVs we have to deal with and merging it all as one story.

The POV problem in the beginning was really hard to deal with. We jumped around so much in the early chapters it was hard to follow the story and keep everything straight in my head. Also in later chapters when story lines finished / characters died I didn't care about some of these charac
Emily (BellaGrace)
I really want to like ICE's Malazan books but he just doesn't compare to Erikson. RotCG was a huge improvement over NoK, and I did like parts of it, but I have some of the same gripes this book as I did last book:

1. ICE can be really vague and it's so annoying. It's hard to tell who is speaking sometimes - even worse, he refuses to name people in the scene in order to be mysterious but it just really irritates me. Nothing is really gained by not saying up front who those people are. If it's Topp
Knižní Bandita
Dobrá knížka, ale dlouho jsem nečetl nic, co by mělo tak ploché postavy.

Kdyby si Esslemont místo pětatřiceti vybral tři čtyři postavy a každou provedl pořádným vývojem, byla by to hodně dobrá knížka. Zkrátka, trochu mi činilo problém se do těch lidí vcítit. Natož je od sebe rozeznat.

Je vidět, že když už si autor uvědomil, že postavy nemají žádný vývoj, postava si položí v hlavě pět otázek a zapochybuje o sobě. V dalším odstavci se už ale zase jede od znova. Dialogy, popis, dialogy (Kdo by řekl,
Duffy Pratt
I would have liked to write a review of this book without comparing Esslemont to Erikson, but I can't. I love the Malazan world, and as a result, I enjoyed large parts of this book. Even so, it feels more like a gap filler than a fully conceived work of its own. This one covers the gap about what happens to Laseen and the Empire after she betrays Adjunct Tavore. And there are parts of it that I really liked - including the growth and development of a fledgling sapper who becomes Sergeant Jumpy. ...more
May 03, 2013 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, z-2013
I was kind of excited to see Esslemont's 2nd take on the Malazan universe. I appreciated that Night of Knives was much shorter than Erikson's novels and was looking forward to a simpler jaunt here. No dice. This book was nearly 1000 pages long, and it felt like it. There were a lot of really good parts, and there were several boring parts. It took nearly a month to read through it, which was unexpected.

Esslemont's writing has improved from his first book, but I felt like he was aping Erikson's s
Oct 07, 2015 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A much more improved work (compared to Night of Knives). Esslemont is coming into his own as an author here (compared to Erikson). This book is much more easy to read. There is a large focus on the Crimson Guard (which are an interesting group). I did not like how my perceived understanding of their vow was changed from MBotF. It was my understanding that their vow was one of loyalty to K'azz D'Avore. However, it turns out that their vow was annihilation of the Malazan empire. We've seen genocid ...more
Tiffany Shaw
Oct 09, 2008 Tiffany Shaw rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Malazan fans
Return of the Crimson Guard is the first full length Malazan novel by Stephen Erikson's partner in crime, Ian Cameron Esslemont.

Though Esslemont is definitely not as good a writer as Erikson, with more of a penchant for the level 1 hero (think Crokus in Gardens of the Moon) and few too many moments of plot convenience, he clearly has just as good a handle on the world and characters as Erikson does. It seems quite likely that the stylistic imperfections that Esslemont demonstrates here will be s
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IAN CAMERON ESSLEMONT was born in 1962 in Winnipeg, Canada. He has a degree in Creative Writing, studied and worked as an archaeologist, travelled extensively in South East Asia, and lived in Thailand and Japan for several years. He now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, with his wife and children and is currently working on his PhD in English Literature.

Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson co-created the
More about Ian C. Esslemont...

Other Books in the Series

Malazan Empire (6 books)
  • Night of Knives (Malazan Empire, #1)
  • Stonewielder (Malazan Empire, #3)
  • Orb Sceptre Throne (Malazan Empire #4)
  • Blood and Bone (Malazan Empire #5)
  • Assail (Malazan Empire, #6)

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“Battle is for an army to win or lose; war is for civilization to win or lose.” 4 likes
“You man that tiller day and night. Won't you rest?'
Ereko lightly laughed the suggestion aside. ‘No, lad. I am so old now that sleeping and waking have melded together into one and I know not which I inhabit.'
Watching the lad struggle through that, Ereko shifted course slightly to avoid a looming ice-spire.
'Truly? So old? As old as the mountains?'
Ereko raised his brows. ‘Goodness, no. Not that old. Only half so old, I should think.”
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