Duffy Pratt's Reviews > House of Chains

House of Chains by Steven Erikson
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's review
Apr 25, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, shared-world
Read from December 04, 2010 to June 05, 2013

2/7/11 - Erikson begins by treating us to a 200 page prelude about a new character named Karsa, who also starts out as one of the most purely despicable characters I've ever read. He starts out on his quest for glory, which basically means slaughter and rape. He gets captured, and grows into one of the best and most interesting characters in the series. Erikson is always audacious, and never more so than with this prelude. It's probably the best writing so far in the series, and the remainder of the book doesn't quite live up to it.

On their own terms, the other parts of the book stand up very well. The gradual building to a showdown between Tavore and Felisin, the two sisters who lead opposing armies, is very good. And because of that sort of thing, this book is easily the most personal, and the least political of the books so far. On top of that, there were times when I had a sense of what was going on, and what the grand scheme of this world. Of course, Erikson is still as capable as ever of leaving me wondering what just happened, or what some new development or revelation might mean or might have to say about everything else.

Not only is this world difficult on its own terms, but the playing field and the alliances keep shifting. it's hard to know which characters are really aligned with each other. Of course, that's one of the main themes of this book. Felisin is holding together a rebel alliance, while it seems every faction leader is conspiring against her and against each other. The web of conspiracies and betrayals is so deep and complex that it becomes very hard to keep it all straight. I sometimes think that a re-reading from the beginning would help me make sense of things, and to an extent it probably would. But I also think that many things in this series are just deliberately opaque. Sometimes that's frustrating, but I think its also one of the things that makes the series so compelling. You never know where you stand, with anyone -- and most of the time, they don't know either.

Reread (with Spoilers ahead)- The Karsa Orlong story was even better the second go round. On the first read, I mostly focused on the personal confrontation between Felesin and Tavore, but that was largely because so many connections in other stories went completely over my head on the first reading. And also, I had little appreciation for the depth of what I was reading, because I didn't know what was coming. I know that seems strange, and I can understand why some people might consider it unsatisfactory writing. But let's face it, really good literature gets better on re-reading mostly because there is true substance to what's going on. And Erikson has things play out, rather than explain every detail.

This time around, I had a much deeper appreciation for several characters that didn't mean much to me the first time around: Trull and Onrack, Pearl and Lostara, the interplay between Gesler and Fiddler. And I was, if anything, even more moved by the tragedy of Felesin, and the parallel tragedy of the Whirlwind goddess (which went completely over my head before).

Also, I absolutely love a passage toward the end of the book, where Quick Ben and Kalam are working out what has happened. Ben comes to the realization that the Bridgeburners have ascended!. Kalam asks: What does that mean? And Ben, one of the smartest characters in all of fantasy fiction, says: I have no diea. It's marvelous stuff. On our reading lest here on Goodreads (called The Malazan Fallen if you are interested), we have been discussing what it means to "ascend." It turns out that its a word that some people use in this world, but even the most knowledgable people don't really understand it.
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Reading Progress

05/11/2013 marked as: currently-reading
06/05/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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The Crimson Fucker how is it going so far? this is one of my favorites!!! Karsa is badass!!!

Duffy Pratt I'm about 400 pages in. Fiddler has just turned the bad bone omen. So far, it's the best written of the books. The Karsa opening is great. It's amazing how Erikson can take someone who is almost entirely repugnant, and turn him into a fascinating character.

The Crimson Fucker yay! the birth of the Bone Hunters! i forgot about that!

and get ready to fall in love with Karsa! he is one my favorite characters from this series!!!

the next one is memories of ice right?? if you continue down this pack you about to meet the coolest character ever!!!!

Duffy Pratt Midnight Tides is next. Memories of Ice was the third.

message 5: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Looking forward to this, but need a couple of books in between. These Malazan books can suour hog our reading time.

Duffy Pratt I'm on a bit of a break after Midnight Tides. The Bonehunters is really huge.

message 7: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Absolutely loved it. My fav of the series so far.

David Sven They need a button for "like again" - great review.

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