This was an excellent novel, and one that I largely did not put down until I'd finished it. While post-apocalyptic to be sure, there is a theme of HopThis was an excellent novel, and one that I largely did not put down until I'd finished it. While post-apocalyptic to be sure, there is a theme of Hope for Humanity woven through the novel that is entirely unexpected at first, and it is incredibly refreshing and innovative. The use of Shakespeare as a vehicle to bring us all back to our senses in a shell-shocked time and place is simply brilliant. There was just so much that I encountered in the plot and characters of this novel that just felt right to me. Emily St. John Mandel is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her work. This is a keeper, and a book I look forward to rereading....more
I have avidly--and with great passion, joy, sadness, and grief--read every installment in the episodes of 'Oh, dear god, and it all comes to an end...
I have avidly--and with great passion, joy, sadness, and grief--read every installment in the episodes of 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen' and the 'The Malazan Empire' by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont, respectively. This stuff is absolutely 'off-the-hook' good...the very best fantasy fiction that you'll ever encounter. It is a mythology for our time--something akin to what J.R.R. Tolkien intended with his crafting of The Silmarillion. These two Canadian authors have given us a tale of a world and its peoples and alternative belief systems just like the world we live we in today.
Ian C. Esslemont's last installment in his 'Malazan Empire' series, Assail is, without a doubt, his very, very best novel. The convergence of characters and activities on the mysterious island continent of Assail are meant to be, I believe, somewhat contemporaneous in time with Erikson's tale's in Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God, and damned if it all doesn't make sense and shine new light on some unresolved issues in Erikson's novels.
Suffice it to say that if you're a Malazan junkie like me, I am not gonna breathe a word about the plot here; and if you have no knowledge of the world that Messrs. Erikson and Esslemont have created you could care less. If you are a 'newbie', all I can tell you is to start at the beginning and find yourself completely and unalterably ensorcelled by some of the very best fantasy fiction in the last several decades. Esslemont's Assail is a more than worthy exclamation point to this awesome series of novels....more
Blood and Bone is far and away the best episode in Ian C. Esslemont's on-going series of "Malazan Empire" novels. For those who don't know, EsslemontBlood and Bone is far and away the best episode in Ian C. Esslemont's on-going series of "Malazan Empire" novels. For those who don't know, Esslemont and his "Malazan World" co-creater, Steven Erikson, have authored two series of books that are all interconnected and interwoven together to create, in my humble opinion, the finest fantasy series ever written. Erikson's series is ten books and is entitled "The Malazan Book of the Fallen, and with Blood and Bone, Esslemont has now completed five novels in his "Malazan Empire" series.
Blood and Bone is a tour de force on so many levels--the quality of writing, the plotting and complexity, characterization, and then the sheer significance to the entire Malazan canon. This novel grabbed me from the first page and didn't let up until the very last page--it really is that good! Both Erikson and Esslemont are known for Malazan novels that build with tension and a whole host of seemingly incongruous plot-threads, but generally about two-thirds of the way through the book a series of convergences begin to occur. This typically culminates in the 'mother of all convergences' near the end of the book, with everything coming flying together, usually in spectacular--and sometimes bloody--fashion.
Blood and Bone begins its mega-convergence pretty much from the first page and just builds like a series of monstrous waves crashing on a rocky shoreline. As I read Blood and Bone I kept thinking about Joseph Conrad's brilliant little novel Heart of Darkness, and I just have to believe that Esslemont must have also been influenced by it as he wrote this book (as well as his anthropological work in Southeast Asia). Additionally, there is a real cinematic quality to Esslemont's writing in this book that very much reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now (his take on Conrad's Heart of Darkness).
Blood and Bone is set on the island continent of 'Jacaruku' which is bisected by a great range of mountains that run from the northern end to the southern. The western half of the island is home to a group of warring desert tribes people and a brutal society of practitioners of dark and evil magic. The eastern half of Jacaruku is a dense and incredibly dangerous jungle realm known as 'Himatan' that will likely make most readers think of the great jungles in the heart of Africa or the Amazon in South America. And like Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Blood and Bone recounts the stories of the trials and tribulations of several disparate groups of peoples that are all struggling to travel into the interior of this jungle to a fabled lost city--including one group's truly epic journey up a river through the jungle of 'Himatan'. I'm not going to tell you why, except to say that it is all about power--gaining it, or denying it of somebody else.
I think that Blood and Bone is vitally important in helping to answer some questions, or shed significant light on events touched upon in the other novels in Erikson's and Esslemont's Malazan world. If you've been a close reader, you will very much enjoy much of what you discover in this action-packed novel. You're also going to be delighted to encounter some 'old friends' from previous novels, and you're going to love the 'new friends' you're meeting for the first time. While complexly plotted, this a rollicking good read with loads of action, tension, and moments of mind-numbing terror. As I said at the outset, I think this is Esslemont's best novel yet, and I can't wait to see where he takes us in his next installment. While I have a pretty good guess, I'll let you read Blood and Bone and work that out for yourself. I have no qualms awarding this book five of five stars, it is a truly great story!...more
Well, I know that some folks didn't find Orb Sceptre Throne all that satisfying, but I sure as hell did! This book slots right into the Malazan worldWell, I know that some folks didn't find Orb Sceptre Throne all that satisfying, but I sure as hell did! This book slots right into the Malazan world and more than holds its own. Esslemont's writing just continues to improve with each offering, and this one is a dandy. Esslemont returns us to one of my favorite stages in the whole series--Darujhistan. There's just something about this city and its denizens that I love. We get to rub elbows again with Picker, Blend, Duiker, Rallick and Torvald Nom, Antsy, Scorch, Leff, Barathol Mekhar and Scillara, Baruk and his demon Chillbais, and even good old lovable Kruppe. There are some great plot threads in this novel that actually shed a lot of light on events from Steven Erikson's Toll the Hounds, and some events even as far back as Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice; and Esslemont can sure write battle scenes (Oh, and did I mention that you learn a whole lot more about the Seguleh? Yup! Great stuff!). At some point I've simply got to settle back in my easy chair and and spend a few months and just reread the entire series in the order that Erikson and Esslemont intended. I just gotta believe that it'd be a really special experience. Anyway, I enjoyed Orb Sceptre Throne so much that I am now going to reread Toll the Hounds. Like I said, I love Darujhistan! Good work Ian, keep 'em coming!...more
I have just finished reading Ian Esslemont's third book--Stonewielder--in his ongoing "Malazan Empire" series, and it was very, very good. Esslemont'sI have just finished reading Ian Esslemont's third book--Stonewielder--in his ongoing "Malazan Empire" series, and it was very, very good. Esslemont's writing and character development continues to improve with each succeeding book. Stonewielder is good from the get-go, and rewards the serious reader of Steven Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" (MBotF) series with some answers to some unresolved issues from some of Erikson's novels. The reader also encounters some characters from previous novels in the series by both Esslemont and Erikson. If you've read all ten of Erikson's MBotF books, you just have to read this one. A very worthy addition to the Malazan world. I am looking forward to Ian Esslemont's next book in the series, Orb Sceptre Throne (due to be released in May 2012, I believe)....more
This was an awesome little novel, and a very worthy addition to the Malazan series co-created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. This is EsslemonThis was an awesome little novel, and a very worthy addition to the Malazan series co-created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. This is Esslemont's first contribution to the series, and he's done a very respectable and bang-up job with "Night of Knives".
This novel describes the account of one very vicious night of events in Malaz City in the early days of the Malazan Empire. This evening and those events are much alluded to in the first few novels in Erikson's the "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, and particularly in his debut novel, "Gardens of the Moon". Esslemont has done a terrific job of taking us back in time and fleshing out the horror of that night in Malaz City that saw the Napan Claw Master, Surly, persevere and by dawn assume the throne of the Malazan Empire as the Empress Laseen.
Esslemont tells this action-packed tale through the eyes of two main protagonists; the first, a young woman named Kiska that seems aware of everything that occurs in Malaz City and also has her own ambitious personal agenda; and the second is Temper, an older, tired and somewhat jaded veteran of the Empire's early campaigns on Genabackis and Seven Cities. If you've read the first few of Erikson's novels in the series, you will be delighted as other familiar faces make their appearance during the night of horror that is the "Night of Knives".
I am somewhat torn as to whether I should suggest that new readers of the 'Malazan' books should start with "Night of Knives" and then proceed on with Erikson's "Gardens of the Moon", or if it is actually better to read "Night of Knives" after one has read the first three of Erikson's. While "Night of Knives" was a very fast and rollicking good read for me, I can't help but think that that was made so because I am so well-grounded in the Malazan universe through having read all nine of Erikson's novels. Now, having said all of this, I guess I do think it best for the reader to save Esslemont's brilliant little novel until you've read Erikson's "Memories of Ice". By then, everything you encounter in "Night of Knives" will largely make perfect sense.
Finally, I look forward to reading Esslemont's second novel, "Return of the Crimson Guard", and eagerly await the release of his third novel of the Malazan Empire, "Stonewielder"....more
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 toReturn 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 Guard covers events occurring in the Malazan Empire, this time on the subcontinent of Quon Tali. The events and action described in the novel are probably roughly contemporaneous with that occurring in Erikson's Reaper's Gale which follows the exploits of Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters in Letheras. Just as he did with Night of Knives, Esslemont has spun his tale to tell the story of what is occurring in other parts of the empire not covered by Erikson in his "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. Without giving anything away, let me just say that this book tells the story of the rising up and rebellion amongst the city-states and peoples of Quon Tali against the Malazan Empire and its Empress, Laseen. On top of the rebellion, the Crimson Guard, a group of mercenaries that are, shall I say, very long-lived, return to Quon Tali just in time to enter the fray against the Malazan armies. If you recall some of Erikson's early novels in his series, you'll remember references to the Crimson Guard fighting with Caladan Brood and his forces against the Malazan armies on Genabackis. Oh yeah, it just gets crazy!
Esslemont, like Erikson, very effectively uses short vignettes to develop his characters and points-of-view, and then starts bringing everything together with a super convergence beginning in the last third of the novel. Readers of Erikson's books will be delighted to reestablish an acquaintance with several old 'friends' and 'rogues' from earlier books (including Esslemont's own Night of Knives). Also, there are so many moments in this novel where you'll find yourself breathlessly uttering, "Oh My God!" Simply put, there are a number of huge surprises in store for Malazan fans here. The ending of the Return of the Crimson Guard is a stunner and a shocker for many reasons, and will definitely make you stop and re-evaluate your perspective and your previous interpretation of 'facts' gleaned from Erikson's books.
While Esslemont's writing style is clearly distinctive and his own, it is also abundantly clear that he and Erikson have a shared grand vision of this Malazan world, and that both authors are doing a stunningly superb job at making it seamless and ever-so-enjoyable for their readers. Ian C. Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard is really and truly a must-read, and once started you'll not be able to put it down. I, for one, can hardly wait for the release of Esslemont's third volume in the series, Stonewielder, to be released in the U.S. in early May 2011. ...more
If you've read Steven Erikson's third volume in his "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, Memories of Ice, you may remember encountering three very eccIf you've read Steven Erikson's third volume in his "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, Memories of Ice, you may remember encountering three very eccentric characters among the Caravanserai--the two necromancers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, and their manservant, Emancipor Reese. Later in the novel, you might also recall that the Malazan Bridgeburner mage, Quick Ben, has a most interesting (and intense!) meeting with Bauchelain and Korbal Broach at their house in Capustan, and oh what a scene it is! Well, if you were like me you probably wondered who are these guys? What's their story, or back-story? Fortunately, Steven Erikson is starting to answer these questions for all of us who love anything at all connected with the Malazan Empire.
Bauchelain and Korbal Broach is a terrific collection of three novellas that tell the story of these creepy, weird, and kind of scary necromancers. Bauchelain is the more taciturn, and more 'normal' appearing fellow; while his partner-in-crime (horror), Korbal Broach, a large, bald eunuch is nothing short of horrifyingly scary. Their manservant, Emancipor Reese, is one of the funniest Malazan characters that Erikson has come up with yet, rivaled only, in my opinion, by Tehol Beddict and his manservant Bugg (see Erikson's later novels in the MBotF series). The relationship and dialog between Bauchelain and Emancipor Reese will have you laughing out loud, I guarantee it!
This collection of novellas starts off with Blood Follows and tells the story of a serial murderer killing folks, left and right, in the port city of Lamentable Moll (don't you just love the names that Erikson comes up with?). This is where Bauchelain and Korbal Broach hire Emancipor Reese as their new manservant. In the meantime, just who is killing all of these people, and why? Hmmm...
The second tale follows on the heels of the first, and is entitled, The Lees of Laughter's End and takes place at sea on the ship "Suncurl". But it seems that there's more aboard the "Suncurl" than the crew, Bauchelain, Broach, and Emancipor Reese--something that wants to kill them all! This story rapidly shifts the reader from rolling-on-the-floor humor to sheer terror and horror.
The third and final story in the collection is The Healthy Dead (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one! LOL!), and this one is simply so imaginative it almost boggles the mind. One almost gets the feeling that Erikson is gently poking fun at some of us and our lifestyles today in this tale. By now the reader is probably pretty much ready to expect the completely unexpected from these three daft and slightly nefarious characters, and this story certainly doesn't disappoint.
Personally, you could read this collection at any point in the Malazan series following the third book, Memories of Ice. You could even wait until you are completely done with the series. What is important is that you read this collection of novellas. It is just priceless! A wonderful, slightly evil, but very effective blend of terrific humor and some seriously scary moments of sheer horror! It is a very fast read, with each story easily being read in a single sitting. Finally, it is also my understanding that Erikson is working on more stories or novellas dealing with the exploits and adventures of Bauchelain, Korbal Broach, and Emancipor Reese. I, for one, can't wait!...more
Just like life, all good things must come to an end. I finished reading the tenth, and final, volume in Steven Erikson's amazing series, "A Tale of thJust like life, all good things must come to an end. I finished reading the tenth, and final, volume in Steven Erikson's amazing series, "A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen." The tenth book is entitled, The Crippled God and is really the second half of the conclusion of the series that was started in the ninth book, Dust of Dreams. If you're going to read The Crippled God, and if it has been some time since you last read Dust of Dreams, I'd strongly urge you to pick it up and re-read it again.
I realize that many fans of Erikson's Malazan series have not yet read The Crippled God, or are still working their way through the earlier books in the series for the first time, so I am going to be very, very careful not to spoil one iota of the great adventure that awaits you.
It seems pretty obvious to me that only readers of the Malazan series will be reading The Crippled God, and what I can tell you is that you will finish this novel (and the series) and be profoundly satisfied. Let me reiterate--You will be profoundly satisfied!
Now, you may hear some reviewers say, "But what about So-and-So, and what about this or that plot thread?" But just like real life, Steven Erikson has concluded the tale with the characters and plot-lines that were required. Think about it like this, not every character that participated in fighting in World War II can appear in every battle during the six years of war. Erikson's "A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen" is just like that too. It is a continuum, a time-line, along which characters and plot-lines appear and come and go. Having said all of this, let me assure you that most of the characters you've come to love and admire (or fear) are all here in The Crippled God.
This final book is the poster-child for the definition of an 'epic novel'. It is epic in that it is the final episode in a truly epic series. The series finale contains several amazingly epic plot-lines that reach towering heights in a crescendo of drama, suspense and action; ending with the 'mother of all convergences' that takes up the final one-third of the book. This mythology that is the Malazan world is, in my opinion, only rivaled by that of Homer's tales in The Iliad and The Odyssey. All of the pathos, drama, courage, fears, treachery, visceral horror, and even the acts of human kindness that make up Homer's timeless story of the Trojan War and Odysseus' ten-year journey home to Ithaka, are brilliantly recast for a new age by Steven Erikson in his ten books of "A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen." This is seriously some very good stuff!
Maybe it really is best to finish this review by letting Erikson's soldiers of the Malazan Army have the last word--
"And now the page before us blurs. An age is done. The book must close. We are abandoned to history. Raise high one more time the tattered standard of the Fallen. See through the drifting smoke to the dark stains upon the fabric. This is the blood of our lives, this is the payment of our deeds, all soon to be forgotten. We were never what people could be. We were only what we were.
Well, we've officially turned the corner in this series--there is a dim light ahead that is the end of the tunnel. The pieces are all on the chess-boaWell, we've officially turned the corner in this series--there is a dim light ahead that is the end of the tunnel. The pieces are all on the chess-board now, and 'The Game' has begun. The Bonehunters is Steven Erikson's sixth book in his multi-layered epic high fantasy series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen." I've actually moved far beyond just recommending this series for folks who love fantasy fiction. This is a complex tale that breathes life into Erikson's fictional world; a world comprised of a uniquely awesome mythology, philosophical examinations, geo-politics, archaeology, anthropology, military tactics, a truly fascinating magical scheme, and character development and world-building that is beyond amazing.
The first five novels in the series (i.e., Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, and Midnight Tides) carefully, and quite originally, place the reader in the world of the Malazan Empire. It is an ambiguous and grey world, where sometimes right is wrong, or where wrong is actually right. Where what occurs, what you see and what you hear is not always precisely is as it ought to be interpreted. The Bonehunters only reinforces this notion.
A couple of 'rules' to keep in mind as you read these novels--The First Eriksonian Law--Pay very close attention to every word written; and the Second Eriksonian Law--Not everything can be interpreted correctly initially. I also cannot stress enough the reliance the reader must place on the maps, 'Dramatis Personae' and the Glossary included in each novel. I would also encourage the reader to carefully read and think about each of the epigraphs that Eerikson leads each chapter off with. There are always valuable little 'nuggets' that can be gleaned from these bits of prose or poetry. It is my experience that to fully experience all that Erikson offers, the reader must simply and unhesitatingly yield and immerse themselves in the Malazan world. And trust me, it ain't hard to do with this series!
The Bonehunters is largely the story of the Malazan 14th Army, under the command of Adjunct Tavore Paran, and its pursuit of the remnants of 'Sha'ik's' The Whirlwind' rebellion on the continent of 'Seven Cities.' The siege and battle at the city of Y'Ghatan is not only some of the most riveting military fiction you'll ever read, but the reception the Malazan 14th Army receives after the battle from the Malazan Empress Laseen in Malaz City is jaw-droppingly suspenseful. The geo-political events/conundrums and mysteries that Erikson introduces in this novel are really nothing short of amazing and mind-boggling. There are truly mysteries layered upon mysteries nested in this novel, and I can only look forward to the remaining novels to answer the new batch of questions that I now have.
Erikson, it now seems, has now developed and cleverly woven into the story-line all of the major and minor characters into this massive and clever plot. While there are very, very many characters, not only in this novel, but each of the previous books; we are now reaching the stage in the series that we can see that convergences are beginning to form. For this novel, the reader is treated to approximately 700 pages of character and plot development/build-up, and then the novel's pacing kicks into an afterburner and you simply can't put it down (I dare you!). Fortunately, I had a long (very long) day-trip flight from Burbank, California to Denver, Colorado (and return) for a meeting yesterday, and I was able to plow through the remaining 500 pages virtually non-stop! It bears repeating, but this series really is some of the most clever and smartest fiction that I've ever encountered.
All I can say is that if you are with the series this far; well, there is then absolutely nothing that I need tell you. Frankly, for anyone who has read the first five novels in this series, the only question I have is--How could you quit now? Yeah, I know, you can't. And I completely agree. I couldn't stop reading these books even if I wanted to--I must see how it ends, and so should you! The plot of The Bonehunters is an eye-opener, it answers a ton of questions, and it raises a million more. Oh, how Eriksonian is that?
Okay, having read the fifth volume in Steven Erikson's "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, Midnight Tides, I now think Erikson has the set piecesOkay, having read the fifth volume in Steven Erikson's "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, Midnight Tides, I now think Erikson has the set pieces all in place on the board now. In finishing this novel I have to say that it truly feels like we have now been exposed to the landscapes, and most of the characters; and now it seems that the plot lines are all starting to slowly begin spiraling toward some form of a mega-convergence in the remaining four novels. I, for one, can hardly contain myself!
Midnight Tides is set on the continent of Lether and tells the story of a major war that breaks out between the Tiste Edur (The Children of Shadows) and the Letherii peoples. This is the first novel to address these peoples and this continent, and none of the characters from the previous novels, with the exception of just a few of the Elder Gods, are even present. It doesn't matter a bit though. Within 50 pages, the reader is completely enthralled with the new lands and the characters. I would be completely remiss in not mentioning just a few of my new favorite characters; including Seren Pedac, Trull Senger, Brys Beddict, Shurq Elalle, Kettle, Iron Bars, and my absolutely most favorite characters in the series to date, Tehol Beddict and his 'man-servant' Bugg. Oh Lordy, you will just salivate with joy at each and every appearance (and there are plenty, trust me) of Tehol and Bugg. Seriously, some of the funniest stuff written!
The story of the 'world war' between the Tiste Edur peoples and the Letherii Empire is loaded with pathos and drama. Tears will be shed. Also, there are some very powerful explicit and implicit moral messages within this story that have application for all of us in our lives today, regardless of what country we live in. This story does tend make the reader stop and reconsider what patriotism means, and how it should be applied.
While at first blush it might be easy to question Mr. Erikson about the relevancy of this tale within the larger arc of "The Malazan Book of the Fallen", as we are on a completely new landmass with completely new characters--none of which has the slightest thing to do with the Malazan Empire. Having said this though, the careful reader will continually ferret out clues and new information associated with issues and events that have been encountered in previous novels in the series. In other words, I am suggesting that this is not only an incredibly well-written novel and engaging story in its own right, but is a very important portion of the larger 'Malazan' canvas that Erikson is carefully painting.
And did I tell you how much I love the characters of 'Tehol Beddict' and 'Bugg'? Just thinking about these two will bring a smile to my face for the rest of my life!...more
House of Chains is the fourth volume in Steven Erikson's monumental ten-volume series entitled, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen." This book follows thHouse of Chains is the fourth volume in Steven Erikson's monumental ten-volume series entitled, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen." This book follows the first three in continuing to flesh out the world, characters, and mythology that Erikson has so brilliantly created.
The first quarter, or so, of the novel tells the back-story of a character that we briefly met in the second book in the series (Deadhouse Gates)--that of the 'Toblakai' or as we come to find out, the great Teblor warrior, 'Karsa Orlong'. Again, it bears repeating that Erikson's professional training and work experience as an archaeologist and anthropologist has infused his characters and the fictional landscapes with a scent of authenticity that one rarely, if ever, encounters in fiction.
Following the fascinating recounting of Karsa's story in the northern wilds of the continent of Genibackis, Erikson then focuses much of the remaining book on the Malazan 14th Army's efforts to defeat 'Sha'ik's Whirlwind' in the 'Holy Raraku Desert' back on the continent of 'Seven Cities (the scene of much of Deadhouse Gates). And like Deadhouse Gates, this is some epic military fiction, told from the perspectives of the Army Commander herself--the new Adjunct, Tavore Paran--down to the squad-level grunts themselves. For those of you who enjoyed Deadhouse Gates, you'll be delighted with House of Chains as a lot, and I mean 'a lot', of loose ends are made clear and/or are wrapped up in very satisfying fashion.
The last two-hundred pages, as is typical for Erikson, proceed at break-neck speed, the action and pacing just relentless. If you've gotten this far in the series, you know to expect that Erikson sets up the plot for a 'mega-convergence' toward the last 200 hundred, or so, pages of each book. When s**t starts happening, more and bigger s**t starts happening; and the next thing you know there are just major events leaping off of every page. I truly defy any reader to set one these books down with anything under two-hundred pages remaining, it simply ain't possible.
Finally, one must always keep the 'First Eriksonian Law' firmly at the forefront as one reads--"Pay very close attention to every word read and event described." The 'Second Eriksonian Law' is equally applicable--"Every word read and event described typically has meaning that may not be initially understood." Those conversations, or actions of characters, or puzzling events that seem a little odd or inexplicable always seem to reappear as a 'light-bulb' moment later on when all then becomes clear (at least for that moment).
There is a lot of really important history, clues and information associated with the cultures, characters, gods, and plot threads from previous novels in House of Chains, not the least of which is the title. This is now my third reread of House of Chains, and I'm completely stunned at how much new information I've gleaned already that just makes so much sense in the context of the entire series. The bottom-line is that Steven Erikson really is an enormously clever writer, and his authorial use of the craft of foreshadowing is some of the best I've run across. There just ain't anybody writing fiction like this guy!
Finally, the first couple of times I read House of Chains, I don't know that I fully grasped its import to the rest of the series, and it never was one of my favorites. That opinion has shifted upon concluding this reread. It is truly an excellent book and is just loaded with information that is critically important as the series proceeds. House of Chains is a very worthy addition to this magnificent series.
'Yes. I am Karsa Orlong of the Uryd, a Teblor. Witness, my brothers. One day I will be worthy to lead such as you. Witness.'
June 13, 2016--Update--I just finished reading this novel again, and it was even better than I remembered. I think it also helped that I had read theJune 13, 2016--Update--I just finished reading this novel again, and it was even better than I remembered. I think it also helped that I had read the entire series before, as I was able to pick up on many of the subtleties and better recognize and understand the hints and foreshadowing that Erikson sprinkles throughout the plot. MoI is truly one of the most important volumes in the whole 10-book series!
Memories of Ice is the third installment in Steven Erikson's brilliant fantasy series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" (MBotF). And now after completing my third reread of Memories of Ice I'm still convinced that this book may well be my favorite of the entire MBotF series. Memories of Ice is a big, big story, and the cliche 'epic' really doesn't do it, or even the series, justice. I think that it is in reading Memories of Ice that the reader really first begins to start seeing the full breadth and scope of the whole majestic landscape of the Malazan world that Erikson has created.
In Memories of Ice the reader returns to the continent of 'Genabackis' with the Malazan Army, specifically the 'Bridgeburners' and their charismatic commanders, 'Dujek One-Arm' and 'Whiskeyjack'. These great characters were first introduced in the series' first novel, Gardens of the Moon. There are also some great tie-backs and clarifying information for the second book in the series, Deadhouse Gates. On an emotional level, Memories of Ice is at times an incredibly tragic novel and scenes in the tale can be agonizingly painful. At the same time though, it is a novel that emphasizes 'humanity'--a humanity associated with its primary elements of courage, compassion, commitment, honesty, integrity, loyalty, and unconditional friendship and love. Ultimately, Memories of Ice, in my humble opinion, is the story of the triumph of Goodness and Hope over evil and despair. In many respects this is a tale that could have been lifted from any number of periods of our own human history, as there's a palpable and gritty sense of reality associated with the characters and plotting of this novel.
I continue to view Memories of Ice as a 'fulcrum' or 'pivot-point' novel in the series. There is simply so much absolutely vital information in this novel about the incredibly complex mythology and history of the Elder Gods and Goddesses, the Elder races and cultures, and a timeline that covers literally hundreds of thousands of years. Along with some truly epic battle scenes, Memories of Ice also sheds a lot of light on the fiendishly clever system of sorcery and magery associated with the 'warrens' and 'holds'. It really becomes evident in Memories of Ice that Erikson's professional background and his obvious love of anthropology and archaeology contributes quite authentically to the 'world-building' in this series. In fact, sections of this novel reminded me of some of the fascinating accounts of various stages of hominid evolution and the ecological and archaeological evidence of Neandertal and early modern human interactions and life during the ice ages of 50,000 to 30,000 years ago. The bottom line is that this novel is just chock-full of some amazingly cool characters and a pulse-pounding plot; and I defy the reader to put this down with anything under 300 pages left. The conclusion to Memories of Ice rivals a dropped box of Moranth alchemical incendiaries--Explosively!
As I mentioned above, while some things do certainly become more clear in reading Memories of Ice, Erikson has also, in a very workman-like fashion, created a whole host of new plot-threads, raised new questions, created new mysteries, and foreshadowed significant events in such a fashion as to torture and torment the careful reader. Honestly, each of these books just gets better and better; and is more complex and complicated, ultimately leaving the reader gasping and grasping for more and more. This is so uncharacteristic of most fantasy series where the strongest representative in the sequence is usually the first or second books, and the rest decline appreciably both in content and quality. Erikson's "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" series just seems to grow exponentially in quality. A very rare thing indeed!
Finally, if you've read the first two books in the series I probably don't have to tell you this, but read these books carefully. Pay attention to the information that Erikson gives you, think carefully about things said and done by the characters--everything means something, even the littlest most nondescript things! As I said above, Erikson is famous for foreshadowing events and actions to come, but sometimes you have to work a bit to recognize it for what it is. While some things initially may seem completely inexplicable to the reader now, rest easy and try not to panic for all will eventually be made clear with time. To reiterate, in my opinion Mr. Erikson may well be one of the most original and intellectually creative authors that I have ever encountered.
Deadhouse Gates is the second book in Steven Erikson’s brilliant and uber-epic ten-volume fantasy series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" (MBotF). IDeadhouse Gates is the second book in Steven Erikson’s brilliant and uber-epic ten-volume fantasy series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" (MBotF). I think this is now the third time I’ve read this book and it still remains one of my favorites. Deadhouse Gates is nothing short of a ‘nail-biter’ from the get-go and the pacing is utterly relentless. I have to say that Deadhouse Gates is an easier read than Erikson’s first book in the MBotF series, Gardens of the Moon, and much of that is because the reader is slowly, but surely, becoming more familiar with Erikson’s writing style and more comfortable with the unique qualities of the Malazan world that he has crafted.
In my opinion, Deadhouse Gates is a fine example of what I truly love the most about the MBotF series, and that is Erikson’s ability to make his readers empathize with the characters in his books. One thing that really impresses me about Erikson’s characters is that they are all typically people that the reader can relate to, and there are really very few, if any, characters that aren’t flawed in one fashion or another. Also, Erikson’s MBotF characters exhibit a strong dose of egalitarianism, as men and women in the books commonly occupy positions of authority and responsibility across all walks of life in the Malazan world.
Much of Deadhouse Gates occurs on the continent of “Seven Cities” and introduces a whole new cast of characters from those presented in Gardens of the Moon. Never fear though, of the multiple story arcs in Deadhouse Gates, one arc does involve a small group of characters that the reader met in Gardens of the Moon and who become quite important to the storyline in this episode. As is typical of Erikson novels in the MBotF series, there are plots and sub-plots galore swirling around throughout this 600+ page book (trade-paperback edition), and each of them is an attention-grabber, and at times contain a powerful ‘punch to the gut’.
Without giving away anything of significance away, Deadhouse Gates revolves around the rebellion of many of the subjugated peoples of the Seven Cities continent. This rebellion is known as “The Whirlwind” and is intended to rid the continent of all of the Malazan occupiers, both administrative and military. The main plot of the novel is one that just takes your breath away—that of the tactical retreat of the Malazan Seventh Army over several hundred leagues from one city to another. The Malazan Seventh is commanded by Coltaine, a Wickan Crow Clan warchief, and now a Fist (General) in the Malazan Army. Fist Coltaine and many of the other Wickan characters are some of my favorites in the entire MBotF series, and the Wickan Clans themselves—with names like “Foolish Dog Clan”, “Weasel Clan, and “Crow Clan”—reminded me of some of the Native American tribes that so effectively battled the U.S. Army in the latter half of the 19th century.
Honestly, the story of the Seventh Army’s retreat across the landscape of Seven Cities is truly nothing short of epic, as Coltaine must try and not only preserve the fighting capacity of the Seventh Army, but protect more than 50,000 refugees that his forces are endeavoring to shepherd to safety. This plot thread that weaves through much of the novel becomes known as “Coltaine’s Chain of Dogs”, a moniker of significant distinction and pride to the members of the Seventh Army, as well as the rest of the Malazan Empire. As a veteran of the military myself, there was something in this story of the “Chain of Dogs” that truly tugged at the heartstrings of my very soul, and I cannot begin to tell you how many times while reading about the desperate attempts of the Seventh Army to survive its horrifying trek across Seven Cities that I had to set the book aside for a few moments and simply let the tears roll down my cheeks. While at times a terribly tragic story, the tale of Coltaine’s “Chain of Dogs” is also one that exhibits the finest qualities of humanity—courage, compassion, comradeship, and Love.
Erikson's description of this epic journey, and the battles fought along the way, rivals any that have been written about in numerous superb non-fiction military histories. Examples that immediately come to mind include the U.S. Continental Army’s retreat from New York to Valley Forge, or Napoleon’s Grande Armee’s retreat from Russia, or Field Marshal von Manstein's strategic retreat of several German armies across the frozen steppes of southern Russia in early 1942 (after the fall of Stalingrad). Erikson’s tale of the “Chain of Dogs” in Deadhouse Gates is some of the best military fiction I’ve ever read, and should appeal to readers with even a passing interest in military or historical fiction or non-fiction.
But wait, there’s even more—So much more! Deadhouse Gates is also chock full of important plot and story lines that really help to begin to open up the full breadth and scope of the Malazan world to the reader. There are significant tie-backs to important events and happenings in Gardens of the Moon, as well as explanations of the fascinating and complex system of magic and sorcery, and loads of new information about the mythology and significance of the pantheon of gods and goddesses who occupy the Malazan world. Deadhouse Gates can perhaps be best characterized as the ‘tale of multiple journeys’, with Coltaine’s “Chain of the Dogs” being the centerpiece, but there are also the journeys of several other groups of characters that are just as meaningful to the overall plot and are very, very important to future episodes in the MBotF series.
I continue to be completely blown away with the sheer quality of the writing, the plotting, the character development, the pacing, the pathos and drama, and the sheer inventiveness and originality of the world that Erikson has created. Mr. Erikson doesn't pull his punches, this is truly some hard, bleak, and dark fiction; and it is at times viscerally tragic and profoundly sad. At the same time though, Erikson soars to heights almost unknown in fantasy fiction with his moments of triumph, success, and the joy of experiencing those fleeting instants of pure and unbridled goodness and humanity.
In closing, I highly and unhesitatingly recommend this series; and, in my opinion, Deadhouse Gates is much more than a quantum step forward from the first novel in the series, Gardens of the Moon. Deadhouse Gates was the book in the MBotF series that cemented my love affair with all things Malazan. Read Deadhouse Gates--you’ll become a believer too!
For those of you that follow my reviews please bear with me, as I will be re-reviewing a book in this posting that I reviewed here over two years ago.For those of you that follow my reviews please bear with me, as I will be re-reviewing a book in this posting that I reviewed here over two years ago. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is an amazing novel on so many levels, and I guess part of my rationale in providing another look at it is to encourage more readers to discover the incredible world and story that Erikson has created in his ten-volume series known as "The Malazan Book of the Fallen". So, the following review will largely focus on the entire ten-volume series as well as my thoughts on the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon.
Gardens of the Moon, and the entire "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series is generally classified as fantasy fiction, and while that is an appropriate designation, it is also so much more than that. I'd like to use the remainder of this review to briefly describe why I think it is actually kind of hard to simply pigeon-hole this series safely in the fantasy genre.
First of all, let's talk about what this series is not. The "Malazan Book of the Fallen" (or, MBotF) is not a recounting of an epic struggle between Good and Evil. Nor is the MBotF a bildungsroman of some young poor farmer boy or girl who sets out upon a grand and desperate quest to save the world from an evil sorcerer or ruler. Finally, the MBotF series is not the story of one, or even a few, main characters, but contains a cast of hundreds. Frankly, very few of the typical fantasy tropes are in play in this series, the MBotF is some seriously new and cutting-edge stuff, and it probably is not going to appeal to all who pick it up. I'm also convinced that the MBotF is destined to ultimately be viewed as 'classic' and will be read for many, many years to come. It really is that original.
Up front you need to realize that Steven Erikson does not 'hold your hand' while reading this series. By that I mean there are no big 'information dumps' that explain the Malazan world, or detailed character backgrounds, or in-depth descriptions of how the magic systems works, or even what's going on at any precise moment in time. You really gotta work for it in reading this series, and sometimes its bloody hard work and can be quite frustrating. In some respects, reading the MBotF is kinda like assembling a giant 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a Jackson Pollack painting--it takes time, and it can be confusing as hell; but when it 'clicks' it becomes an immensely satisfying reading experience, and one that you'll want to revisit and delve into for the rest of your life.
To me, the MBotF is like reading the history of a whole planet, as you will be learning about new cultures and events that have occurred over the span of several hundred millenia. This characteristic is actually very reflective of Erikson's educational background and years of work experience. 'Steven Erikson' is the pen-name for Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian anthropologist and author. Apparently, a lot of the original concepts associated with elements of the MBotF were 'ginned up' by Erikson and his friend, Ian C. Esslemont (more on Esslemont in a bit) during anthropological/archaeological field trips and sitting around the campfire at night. As you read these books you do recognize similarities between some of the characters and cultures in Erikson's Malazan world and historic and prehistoric human cultures. For example, there are human-like peoples that very much reminded me of early hominid species like Neanderthals and the even earlier hominid, Homo erectus, and there are races of peoples that certainly remind me of various Native American cultures. The Malazans themselves bear some similarity to the peoples and cultures of the ancient Greek or Roman empires.
The mythopoeic quality of the MBotF series is astounding and maybe one of the more important elements that sets this series apart from all other modern fantasy fiction. The only other book, in my humble opinion, that creates such a fantastical and intellectually creative fictional mythology is The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Erikson's mythology, like Tolkien's, is an elegant amalgam of creation and origin myths, religious elements, and cultural and social geography all of which seems to be strongly connected to the environment and geology of the Malazan world. The MBotF contains an enormous and complex pantheon of goddesses and gods that rivals the Greeks, Romans, Norse, Celts and other human cultures. Much of this mythology is presented in the MBotF as epigraphical poetry or fictional bits of history leading off chapters in each of the books, that when initially read can seem quite enigmatic but ultimately help illuminate plot points and/or foreshadow events to come. Interestingly, the Malazan world goddesses and gods, like the Greek gods of Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey delight in meddling in the affairs of the mortals, and are perhaps even somewhat envious of the Human condition, i.e., the capacity to love, to experience pain, sadness, joy, and even to die.
The MBotF, while a series of ten interconnected books, is not an entirely linear plot structure, as each novel hops back and forth within the lengthy Malazan world timeline. Each book in the series could, I suppose, be read on its own with varying degrees of success. The point is that each book is largely a self-contained 'chapter' in this magnificent saga, this 'history', of the Malazan world. Each novel also tends to introduce a whole host of new characters, cultures, a new geographic locale and environmental conditions, and sometimes even new gods and goddesses, but--and its an important "but"--each book and its individual story arc is hugely significant in successfully making the intellectual journey from the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon, to the tenth and final book, The Crippled God. And you just gotta make this journey, as it is some of the most mind-bogglingly awesome fiction you'll likely ever encounter. There is a storyline and cast of characters that you genuinely care about, and enough pathos and drama to carry the reader through the full gamut of emotions--from the heights of great joy and laughter to the depths of profound grief.
Gardens of the Moon is arguably the toughest book to read in the entire series, and much of that is simply related to the new reader having to become accustomed to Erikson's writing and story-telling style. As I said earlier, he makes you work for it. It took me two attempts before I successfully read and completed Gardens of the Moon, and from what I understand I'm not particularly unique in that experience. I think if you can just 'hang tough' and get through the first four chapters, you'll start being able to put some pieces of the puzzle together and I'm betting that your interest will be piqued enough to see you through the end of the novel. This novel, like all in the series, is full of a gritty, but heart-felt realism that I think we can all relate to, i.e., it just feels right some how. And once you've finished Gardens of the Moon and start Deadhouse Gates (one of my personal favorites in the series), I predict that you'll be hooked and then you're in for the long-haul.
Gardens of the Moon opens with a great battle involving a Malazan army and its mages attacking the city of Pale and a bizarre gigantic chuck of basalt that is suspended in the sky over Pale that is known as "Moon's Spawn". While you will likely leave the first couple of chapters somewhat 'dazed-and-confused', you should probably take the time to go back and reread sections of this opening section again and again, and the 'muddy waters' will slowly begin to clear for you. I recommend that new readers get used to the notion that being 'dazed-and-confused' initially is really okay, and that eventually you will come across information later that helps explain things and starts answering your questions. Erikson rewards you as you figure things out, as you get these significant 'aha', or 'lightbulb', moments. For example, the 'Siege of Pale' (Chapter Two) is an important event, and will be referred to time and time again throughout all ten books in the series, but you'll not quite have it all figured out until you're well into the series. Anyway, following the events at Pale, the scene shifts south to the large city of Darujhistan and the Malazan Empire's efforts to covertly infiltrate the city and bring it to heel. To the best of your ability, pay attention to everything, for just about everything that Erikson gives you is important, including events as well as things said. Utilize the "Dramatis Personae" and maps (at the front of the book) and the "Glossary" (at the end of the book) liberally. Slowly, but surely, you'll begin to get your 'sea-legs' in the Malazan world and you'll soon find yourself swept up in the tale.
Finally, I do want to come back to Erikson's friend, Ian C. Esslemont, or as we Malazan fans refer to him, ICE. Esslemont is also an archaeologist and author, and is the co-creator of the Malazan world with Steven Erikson. In fact, ICE has now authored five novels in his "Malazan Empire" series, and the plots of his books are inter-woven and connected with the ten books in Erikson's MBotF. It is my understanding that ICE has a couple more Malazan Empire novels in him and then we'll have "the rest of the story". The cool thing is that ICE uses his novels to tell the stories about events, characters, and happenings or topics about which Erikson has been specifically vague or even silent on. So, by reading the books of both authors a reader really can start figuring it all out.
In conclusion, I highly recommend both the MBotF series by Steven Erikson, and the "Malazan Empire" books by Ian Esslemont. I have read the entire "Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan (and capably finished by Brandon Sanderson), and the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R.R. Martin, and while they are both very, very good, the Malazan world created by Messrs. Erikson and Esslemont kicks their collective asses! Don't take my word for it though, give Gardens of the Moon a try, and see what you think. Try your best not to give up, and just persevere through the first one-hundred pages or so; and if you do give up, just set it up on the shelf and come back a few weeks later. It'll 'click' at some point, and you be so glad that it did. It is one of my favorite series of books, and I now know that the Malazan world is going to be a part of my literary life as long as I live.
At just under two-hundred pages, I read this novella in one sitting, and enjoyed it immensely! Also, having just finished reading Robert Fagles' marveAt just under two-hundred pages, I read this novella in one sitting, and enjoyed it immensely! Also, having just finished reading Robert Fagles' marvelous translation of Homer's The Odyssey, finding and reading The Penelopiad seemed more than serendipitous. This is a retelling of The Odyssey from the perspective of Odysseus's wife, the 'patient' Penelope. Atwood uses humor, pathos, and a significant dose of imagination and creativity to tell the story of Penelope and the twelve maids. With one of the niftiest opening lines I've read in some time, this is an innovative piece of modern writing that finds Atwood cleverly reaching back to the ancient Greek dramatists as she structures the entire book as an ancient classical drama, with the interesting literary device of the 'Twelve Maids' providing the voice of the Chorus. The Chorus of the Maids interjects quite frequently (eleven chapters) in the midst of Penelope's soliloquy (eighteen chapters) to share their perspective of Penelope, Odysseus, and the on-going events in the palace on Ithaka. Some of these choral interludes include bits of funny poetic doggerel, a lyrical and well-written lamentation, a folk song, an idyll, a sea shanty, a ballad, a drama, an anthropology lecture, a court trial, and a love song. I have to say that each of these choral interludes works very well in bringing to life these twelve, largely unknown, maids.
At first blush the reader might be tempted to dismiss this little book as nothing more than a light-hearted bit of fun that Atwood has at the expense of elements of Homer's great epic. In my opinion, that would be a mistake though. There's a lot going on in this book, and much of it doesn't manifest itself immediately. I re-read it this morning on the train to the office, and I'm now even more in awe of Atwood's talent as a writer. While acknowledging the patriarchal and male-centric tone of The Odyssey, Atwood in her The Penelopiad has brilliantly explored the feminine side of the Palace of Ithaka, as well as in Hades (the Underworld) where Penelope; her cousin, Helen-of-Troy; and the maids now all reside. Atwood tastefully, but emphatically, uses her brief little tale to illustrate the double-standard that existed between men and women, not only that contained in the oral tradition of Homer's epics, but that of the ancient classical world. After my recent reading of Homer, I found her use of a completely different voice and gender to tell the story of Odysseus' return to his home after twenty years, and the horrific violence he inflicts on 'the suitors', as well as the Twelve Maids, to be simply fascinating. Also, while Homer goes to great lengths to highlight Odysseus as the "trickster", "dissembler", and "tactician", Atwood is equally successful in causing the reader to continually sift through Penelope's thoughts and statements for the kernels of Truth in her story, and in this task it is sometimes wise to pay attention to the Chorus.
Is The Penelopiad intended to be a feminist interpretation of Penelope, or The Odyssey? No, I really don't think so. This wonderful novella seems to be nothing more than Atwood's contribution to the Canongate Myth Series (a terrific series of books, by the way), and simply addresses the Odyssean mythology from the perspective of one female protagonist and a series of events that have received little scholarly or literary attention prior to this. Having said that though, I found the book to be a very well written and cleverly constructed story by one of Canada's great living authors. In sum, I thoroughly enjoyed The Penelopiad, and I'm quite glad that it has taken up a permanent home on my shelves. For me, this book rates a solid four stars out of five....more