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Return of the Crimson Guard

(Novels of the Malazan Empire #2)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  9,896 ratings  ·  324 reviews
Epic and involving, Return of the Crimson Guard is an enthralling new chapter in the tumultuous history of the Malazan Empire from fantasy author Ian C. Esslemont

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 whe
Kindle Edition, 732 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Tor Books (first published 2008)
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 ·  9,896 ratings  ·  324 reviews

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Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I thought this was a fantastic addition to the Malazan series and proved that Esslemont is a worthy contributor to the series. Return of the Crimson Guard might have had a few flaws but I still felt like it was actually better than a few of the lesser instalments of Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Yeah, I enjoyed it that much!

I do not really think the books in Esslemont's Novels of the Malazan Empire series work all that well as a standalone series. They really are companion novels
Mayim de Vries
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Battle is for an army to win or lose; war is for a civilisation to win or lose.”

As you have probably known, Steven Erikson and Ian Esslemont are co-creators of the Malazan universe. Firstly, Mr Erikson and his Malazan Book of the Fallen took the fantasy readership by storm (remember, go for the throat), and then Mr Esslemont joined him, somewhat benefiting from the success of his friend. Novels of the Malazan Empire complement or elaborate on the events and individuals mentioned and alluded to
TS Chan
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
*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 on th
Stefan Bach
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unlike first novel of The Malazan Empire series, which is Night of Knives, Return of the Crimson Guard unfortunately cannot work as a standalone novel. It is presumed that you have already traveled along and amassed a considerate amount of knowledge, worth of at least six books in Malazan Book of the Fallen series, written by Steven Erikson. Which, again, sadly, cripples the capability and overall reach of this, pretty much, average novel even more.

For almost half of the book yo
Scott  Hitchcock
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: malazan, grimdark

Even more than the first time around the first two parts of this book were informative but a little bit slow and boring. The last part however was perhaps even better on re-read. That last part is the best section of any of the Empire books in my opinion and we see the promise later fulfilled in Path to Ascendancy as ICE grows as a writer.

His brilliant imagery really made a few of the scenes. I found myself comparing him to SE less but I still have to wonder how much better it would ha
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: malazan, fantasy
Ian C. Esslemont's Novels of the Malazan Empire provide excellent little breaks from the events of Steven Erikson's main Malazan series, when one wants a look at what is actually happening in the very heart of the Malazan Empire itself. They are usually more themed around palace intrigue and skirmishes on the central continent of Quon Tali, and as such are quite different from their counterparts on Genabackis, Lether and Seven Cities.

While Night of Knives was not really up to the standards set b
Deborah Obida
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, fantasy
‘Every engagement is a gamble. You make your best choices and hope you made no major mistakes.’

Before anyone reads this book here are some important things to note.
This book isn't a Standalone like NoK, it cannot be read alone like that, you must have extensive knowledge of the world or else you'll be lost. The events in this book happened after the Bh which is the 6th book in MBotF.

Moving on, this book is great, I enjoyed reading this book, It brought back Malazan memories that I thought wa
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: epic-fantasy
Reading this the second time through and not during or immediately reading MbotF has me more appreciative of ICE's writing. In all honestly I hardly remembered any of this book and give the epic battle at the end it makes me wonder just how much i was paying attention.
ICE isn't SE and that needs to be remembered. His delivery is more direct, but still has great chaacrter interaction.

I have enjoyed seeing a different approach to characters (like Tayschrenn) and I know there is more of this in la
Jenna Kathleen
This one was a really hard one to rate for me. The first half was about 2 stars and I really had to force myself to read, but the second half was a solid 4 stars with some 5 star moments.

It's really hard to look at Malazan without comparing ICE and Erikson a little bit. Don't get me wrong, I love ICE, but he just isn't able to twist my emotions so much or create in-depth characters the way Erikson does. I loved Night of Knives and I think ICE is just much better suited to fewer narratives in one
Oct 27, 2011 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
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The eruption had wounded the world… “

The second addition to the Ian C. Esslemont collection of Malazan novels and it’s a massive improvement on Night of Knives. Where as its predecessor was a bit of a nothing book with a limited amount of plot Return of the Crimson Guard is epic, dense and complex; everything i want from a Malazan book.

Taking place after The Bonehunters (book 6 of the Steven Erikson series) the focus is Quon Tali, where a rebellion is slowly taking shape against Empress Las
“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
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
James Tivendale
I haven't even finished this book yet but everyone keeps liking my review.
Catch it here soon when I have completed the story lol
Aug 08, 2011 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
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, buddy-read
This is the second book in the Novels of the Malazan series, a sort of companion series to the main set of books that make up the Malazan Book of the Fallen storyline. While the writing here is not in the same league as the main series, this is a definite improvement over Night of Knives. All in all, it's a very solid story and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of stuff happened, including some really pivotal stuff, and I really can't see how anyone can skip this in the ultimate reading order. ...more
Apr 23, 2008 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.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
RotCG is the second book written by Ian C. Esslemont in the Malazan world. It follows up on the events of The Bonehunters (MBotF 6) and focuses on events in the Malazan Empire after the departure from Adjunct Tavore and The Bonehunters. Events in this book happen at the same time, or a little after events in Reaper's Gale.

I have to say that this book started out a bit messy. It wasn't very clear on me from the start what was actually happening. Initially there was a lot of jumping around b
Nov 12, 2014 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.
Charles Bronson
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.
Neo Marshkga
When i started reading the Malazan Empire books by Ian C. Esslemont, i was not expecting them to be as epic and as mind-blowing as the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga itself.
I started viewing this saga as something different, mostly when i read Night of Knives, which is INCREDIBLE as a book, but it feels different from it's predecessors (from the pace, the way it was written, the fact that only one night passes in the whole book, etc).
But this book, changed my perspective totally. I started rea
Michael Cairns
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-modern
This one took a while, though more through lack of reading time than anything else.
Good points: A nice convoluted set of characters making their way through a deceptively easy plot.
Some nice touches of humour amidst the battles and fights.
Great magic scenes, especially in the climactic battle.

Not so good points: A couple of story loops that didn't really go anywhere, but didn't add much pathos.
Characterisation a little slight in a few places.

I'd recommend this to a fan of fantasy
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Hawks
Nov 29, 2010 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
J.P. Ashman
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm going with 4.5* on this one. It was well written and had fantastic battles and settings and magic etc., but it took me a fair while to get into. Once in, however, I was well and truly in!

Enjoying this series. Not quite as much as I enjoyed Malazan Book of the Fallen, but it's early days and only two books in. Watch this space.

I still recommend it and the narration is good (listening to it on Audible).
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as refined as Erikson, in every way. But that's a hard measuring stick to contend with. Nevertheless, a solid read and a must for any Malazan fan.
David Sven
Apr 29, 2012 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
Sep 19, 2010 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
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
Sep 26, 2015 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.

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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

Other books in the series

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

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