Conor's Reviews > Midnight Tides

Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, malazan, awesome-books-are-awesome

4.5 Stars.

New setting. New characters. New conflict. Still awesome.

After spending 4 massive books developing one of the deepest and most immersive settings in fantasy, establishing one of the largest and most diverse casts of characters and setting up machinations of incredible complexity and scope…Erikson starts all over again. For all that I missed the character and settings I’ve come to love in this series their replacements in this book were great and while I found the start to be a bit slow (although not as much as many of my friends seem to have) the story as a whole was really enjoyable, capped with possibly the strongest finale in the series to date.

I really liked the balance of the POV structure of this book, something that’s been hit and miss in this series so far. The chapters alternate in focus between the two major cultures with every other chapter featuring the POV’s of one of the two sets of main characters. I found the Tiste Edur to be a really interesting, well-developed culture with a cool mixture of Native American customs (counting coup), mysterious magic and ancient secrets. However at the start I struggled to care about the two main characters the Edur storyline revolved around, the slave Udinaas and the conscience-burdened warrior Trull. While I cared more about them as the book progressed and their storylines become more interesting they’re still nowhere near my favourites in the series. I was also really frustrated at how the Edur plot developed (view spoiler) However I did really like how Rhulad was written throughout. At the start he was seemingly set up to be a Joffrey-like irredeemable dickhead but through his interactions with Trull and especially Udinaas he is shown in a much more sympathetic light as a tortured young man genuinely trying to do what he feels is right.

The other main storyline examined the Letherii Empire. I found this setting to be incredibly annoying. Throughout the book Erikson litters Letherii culture with constant parallels to modern capitalism. At first I wasn’t a fan of this due to it feeling out of place in a fantasy setting and the missed opportunity of a more traditional civilisation vs. barbarians dynamic such as Karsa’s story in HoC. However these problems soon paled in comparison to my frustration at Erikson’s constant, ham-fisted vilification of capitalism and western/American culture. The Edur characters naturally refer to their enemies with hatred and disgust but even the Letherii characters (at least the good guys) express at best apathy and at worst hatred towards their own culture. This became even more frustrating when Erikson hinted at the cultures surrounding the Letherii: The mournful people of Bluerose, survivors of an ancient war. The Tarthenal, giants descended from a powerful, advanced race now reduced to barbarism as their culture decays around them. The Nerek, whose fervent belief in their goddess, an earth mother avatar, can’t be dimmed even by oppression and servitude. Even by his high standards Erikson created some incredibly fascinating cultures… Before immediately going back to a ‘Capitalism is really bad you guys’ lecture. What was really incredible about this contrast was that Erikson created these intriguing cultures based on a few throwaway lines, leaving the reader to fill in the world-building dots themselves whereas with the Letherii he dedicates several paragraphs of awkwardly tacked-on rambling philosophy about how evil they are. Every. Single. Chapter (punctuation for emphasis well-deserved). Note: I realise this is pretty much a long rant about Erikson’s long rants about politics. Irony can be a bitch.

Setting aside the setting I loved the Letherii sections. Unlike the Edur they had great central characters in the form of the two Beddict brothers. Brys, the master swordsman, is a typical fantasy character written with great deftness and empathy. Tehol, a financial genius, is a much more unorthodox character. While I didn’t understand all of the hype around him at first he quickly grew on me and his hilarious dialogue with his droll manservant Bugg were some of the book’s highlights. They were surrounded by a cast of great supporting characters as well: The aforementioned Bugg, manservant, healer, priest, feared by demons and worshipped by refugees as ‘The Waiting Man’. Shurq, the undead nymphomaniac thief (no, really). The Ceda, an eccentric, hilarious and extremely powerful mage. I thought that both the machinations of the court and Tehol’s financial schemes were really well done.

The last main POV character was Seren Pedac who serves as a conduit between the two warring cultures, both as a narrative device separate from the two pairs of POV’s and in the story. At the beginning I found her to be somewhat dull and uninteresting. However her story took a horrific turn halfway through that made me feel a lot more sympathetic towards her and shortly afterwards her story became much more interesting as she joined up with The Crimson Guard. Erikson again demonstrated his brilliance at writing intriguing cultures and again did so with a minimalist approach. At the end of the book we still don’t know much but what we do know is that 1) The Crimson Guard are badass 2) The Avowed are really badass 3) Skinner (who doesn’t even appear in this one despite being name-dropped a load of times, often in unexpected places leading to him now being probably the fantasy character I most want to know more about) is really, really badass. I especially liked Iron Bars (who's awesomeness has already been suitably covered in many of my friends reviews) and Corlo as characters.

I was somewhat disappointed with how the Edur-Letherii conflict ultimately played out. I’ve mentioned a number of times before how OP magic can be compared to armies in this series but it never played as prominent a role as in this book. The Letherii were established as a massive nation, with a powerful economy and a huge, highly professional army that had a level of sophistication in terms of strategy and doctrine that probably wouldn’t be seen irl until WW1 and yet they were completely helpless against the Edur magic that pretty much came out of nowhere (view spoiler) While this was addressed to some extent it was done only at the very end in a couple of lines and never looked at again. I hope the rest of the series will explore the magic>>>>everything else continuity error more as at the minute it’s probably my biggest (only?) long standing complaint about the series. My disappointment with the conflict left me with a sour taste about this book that was however quickly forgotten due to the awesome ending. Erikson has written some great endings in this series but for me this was the strongest to date.

This was a difficult book to rate. There were a number of annoying features (Rhulad's rise to power, Erikson's constant capitalism is evil schtick) but there were also a number of awesome features (great characters in the Letherii plot, some really cool cultures, the Crimson Guard and an epic ending). Ultimately though the good far outweighed the bad in this one and I’m now really psyched to get back to the main setting and see how the events of this book tie into the rest of the series.
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Reading Progress

July 19, 2014 – Shelved
July 19, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
October 31, 2014 – Started Reading
October 31, 2014 –
page 26
2.71% "Awesome prologue. Probably the most epic opening to a book in this series yet, which is really saying something."
November 2, 2014 –
page 42
4.38% "The new setting in this one is awesome. After reading quite a lot of stuff lately (Dauntless, Riyria) with pretty meh settings this one is really vivid and unique."
November 9, 2014 –
page 56
5.83% "Chapter 2 was pretty much all about the brothers Beddict. I was a bit underwhelmed by Tehol after hearing so much hype about him from the fandom but Brys and Hull were both awesome. 3 distinct POV's that all add something interesting to the story and the now seemingly inevitable conflict to come. Psyched to see what happens from here."
November 11, 2014 –
page 62
6.46% " Five kin creatures, taken and held since the time of the K’Chain Che’Malle, were almost within reach of the surface. \n \n And this was not good, for they were Toblakai. \n \n Hey, I know one of those guys and.... oh shit :D"
November 14, 2014 –
page 66
6.88% "Really liking the culture clash here. The Edur are awesome. They remind me quite a bit of Native American culture while also having some unique stuff (burial rights with coins). I'm not so sure about the Leterii. They're supposed to be a parody of capitalism I guess, but I don't really like having a seemingly modern society in a fantasy world. Although they have some cool stuff tbf (the Canal punishment/betting)."
November 15, 2014 –
page 96
10.0% " ‘Ah! As suspected. The flux in the composite is due to curdled milk Brys Beddict, are you ready?’ \n \n The King’s Champion shrugged. \n \n Kuru Qan nodded. ‘I was going to have you drink this.’ \n \n ‘Curdled milk will not harm me,’ Brys said, taking the goblet from the Ceda. He quickly tossed it down. ‘How long?’ \n \n ‘For what?’ \n \n ‘Until the potion takes effect.’ \n \n ‘What potion?' "
November 16, 2014 –
page 146
November 19, 2014 –
page 187
19.48% " Sisters have mercy on us, in the way we simply go on, and on. Would that we had all died, back there on the ice. Would that we had failed. \n \n Trull isn't exactly a 'glass half full' kind of guy :D"
November 19, 2014 –
page 224
23.33% " 'You have other things to worry about – how’s the foundation work coming along, anyway?’ \n \n ‘It’s piling up.’ \n \n ‘Then sort it out.’ \n \n ‘You misunderstand, master. We’re on schedule.’ \n \n ‘I didn’t misunderstand. I was being obdurate. Now, I’m off to find a more reasonable conversation, somewhere.’ "
November 22, 2014 –
page 325
33.85% "So Rhulad, a deformed, undead lunatic, walks into the Edur's council of nobles, violates all their customs and traditions, declares himself emperor, kidnaps his brothers fiancée and... everyone just goes along with it? What the hell?!! I'm really frustrated by this."
November 23, 2014 –
page 349
36.35% " ‘I am well guarded, brother, whilst you are not.’ \n \n ‘Nonsense! I have Bugg!’ \n \n The manservant looked up at Brys with a bland smile. \n \n ‘Tehol, this is not time for jokes-’ \n \n ‘Bugg resents that!’ \n \n ‘I do?’ \n \n ‘Well, don’t you? I would, if I were you-’ \n \n ‘It seems you just were.’ \n \n ‘My apologies for making you speak out of turn, then.’ \n \n ‘Speaking on your behalf, master, I accept.’ "
November 23, 2014 –
page 379
39.48% " A mystery without an answer. Trull suspected it was never intended as a bridge. Rather, it had been built for some other purpose. It did not make sense to him that it functioned solely as what had immediately occurred to him the first time he had visited. There were, after all, easier ways to measure the passage of time. \n \n Yeah, that would be pretty bonkers… wait has anyone seen Icarium recently?"
November 23, 2014 –
page 382
39.79% "A short time later \n \n ‘The Tusked Man wrote them, they said.’ He shrugged again. ‘It is nothing. A myth.’ \n ‘A man with tusks?’ \n ‘He has been… seen. Over generations, sightings every now and then. Skin of green or grey. Tusks white as whalebone. Always to the north, standing on snow or ice. Leader, this is not the time.’ \n \n The way Erikson ties stuff together is awesome."
November 25, 2014 –
page 425
44.27% " ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many scars on one person,’ Tehol said. ‘What do you do in your spare time, Bugg, wrestle angry cacti?’ \n \n ‘I don’t understand. Why would they have to be angry?’ \n \n ‘Wouldn’t you be if you attacked you for no reason?' "
November 27, 2014 –
page 425
44.27% " ‘Shurq has disappeared – both Harlest and Ublala are distraught-’ \n \n ‘Why Harlest?’ \n \n ‘He had only Ublala to whom he could show off his new fangs and talons, and Ublala was less than impressed, so much so that he pushed Harlest into the sarcophagus and sealed him in.’ \n \n ‘Poor Harlest.’ \n \n ‘He adjusted quickly enough,’ said Bugg, ‘and now contemplates his dramatic resurrection – whenever it occurs.’ "
November 29, 2014 –
page 627
65.31% " ‘I am a caster of nets. Tyrants and emperors rise and fall. Civilizations burgeon then die, but there are always casters of nets. And tillers of the soil, and herders in the pastures. We are where civilization begins, and when it ends, we are there to begin it again.’ \n \n The least funny quote I've posted but I still thought that was really cool."
November 29, 2014 –
page 663
69.06% "The brief insights we've gotten into Bluerose, Nerek and Tarthanal culture have all been awesome but it makes Erikson’s obsession with his straw man evil capitalists the Letherii all the more frustrating."
November 30, 2014 –
page 788
82.08% "Probably doesn't need to be said at this point but Erikson really knows how to set up a big finale."
December 1, 2014 –
page 806
83.96% " “’And what could he have done about some attacker from up there?’ \n \n ‘I imagine he would have flung himself straight down in a flurry of swords, knives and clubs, beating the intruder senseless in an instant.’\n Either that, or he’d shout then run back to the ladder, climb down and exact revenge over our corpses.‘ \n \n ’Your corpse. Not mine.‘\n \n ’You’re right, of course. My mistake.‘” "
December 2, 2014 –
page 936
97.5% " For that is what the Tiste Edur believe, is it not? Until midnight, all is turned away, silent and motionless. Awaiting the last tide. \n \n Possibly the strongest finale from Erikson yet."
December 2, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
December 2, 2014 – Shelved as: malazan
December 2, 2014 – Shelved as: awesome-books-are-awesome
December 2, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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Damian Dubois I was going to ask how far you've gotten in the book but still looks like you are in its infant stages. Trull's a legend in this one :)

Are you planning on reading the Esslemont books as well? I've read all of the Malazan books by Erikson but only the first one by ICE. I really struggled with Return of the Crimson Guard and is the only book in the last five years that I haven't been able to complete. I will go back one day but there are too many other good books out there waiting for me instead.

Twerking To Beethoven Trull Sengar and Tehol Beddict, how I love them.

Anirudh Where did all the characters I knew go? :P

Twerking To Beethoven Anirudh wrote: "Where did all the characters I knew go? :P"

They'll be back on "The Bonehunters", no worries about that.

Duffy Pratt Really, stronger ending than Deadhouse Gates or Memories of Ice? Loved this book, but I still think those endings were better. Endings are one of the things that Erikson does amazingly well.

Conor Duffy wrote: "Really, stronger ending than Deadhouse Gates or Memories of Ice? Loved this book, but I still think those endings were better. Endings are one of the things that Erikson does amazingly well."

It's been a few months since I read them but they both also had great endings. I still back this one though because IIRC DG had separate endings for each plotline and other than the Chain of Dogs none of them were as epic as usual. I was also really frustrated at how the Malazan soldiers from the city surrendered at the end (I wrote a massive rant on the relevant Malazan Fallen thread about it I think). MOI was probably the closest to this one, however it loses awesomeness points for the fact that the Malazan assault on the city was incredibly moronic in how rushed it was, which gave a lot of the scenes an air of pointlessness (which was mostly overwhelmed by all the awesomeness but still...).

This one had no major flaws and lots of awesome stuff: Iron Bars keeping 5 gods at bay, Bugg revealing his secret identity, Brys owning Rhulad, the Ceda's brilliant reversal on the Edur and the horrifying tragedy of his death.

Josh I just finished Reaper's Gale today, which basically continues and concludes this storyline. Looking back and seeing what an epic story this is, how long it was in the making and all the threads woven throughout just blows me away. Absolutely unforgettable. Malazan is in my top three fantasy sagas.

Markus Great review, Conor! I'm definitely excited to keep going with this series.

Conor Damian: I hadn't been meaning to read the ICE books until after the main series but this one has gotten m really psyched to learn more about the Crimson Guard. Iron friggin' Bars!

Twerking (can't believe I just typed that FFS): I don't really get all the Trull love. He was boring in the last book and most of this book and only got slightly better at the end. Also Brys would have beaten the crap out of him for sho'. Tehol is great though.

Anirudh: Yeah, they apparently return in the next one. Admittedly with the benefit of knowing about it going in, I didn't find the new setting too difficult.

Josh: I've heard Reapers Gale (and pretty much all the books after 6) are comparatively weak. Your comment keeps me hopeful, it would really suck if this great series trailed off.

Markus: It's a great series bro, and it really takes off after GoTM. I'll be interested to hear what you think as you go, you guys might even catch up with me as I'm laying off Malazan for a bit due to exams.

Duffy Pratt Toll the Hounds is my favorite in the series.

Damian Dubois Markus, my friend, you shouldn't be reading these fantastic reviews from Conor. Bookmark them and come back to them later (like them of course though!) Even though spoilers are removed you still won't get the surprise of going in cold turkey.

Well said as per usual, Conor. How I love Shurq!

Damian Dubois I love Reaper's Gale as it continues on with the Rhulad saga and I would argue that the books after the Bonehunters aren't weaker at all, just different. Toll the Hounds I found hard due to the Tiste Andii element to it but it finishes in such a roller coaster fashion that all can be forgiven. Dust is dense and one that I need to read again and the Crippled God is just f**king fantastic. Interesting to see what you make of them once you've gone through them.

Conor Duffy: Awesome, I'm now even more psyched for the rest of the series.

Damian/Markus: Yeah Damo is probably right. Since you're reading the series now you might want to stop reading my reviews. I know it's easier said than done but you have to persevere :D

Also the last few books are now starting to sound pretty cool, can't wait to check them out.

message 14: by Josh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh Conor, I wouldn't worry too much about what other people say about the rest of the books. Like me if you've invested this much into the series and enjoyed them, you definitely plan to finish it. I say let's trust that Erikson's not going to let us down. He's definitely not a fluke. I think the more you put into this series the more you definitely get out of it.

Akshay Great review! Now on to the Bonehunters, my favorite book :P

message 16: by Liam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liam Johnstone The first time through the series, I had a really hard time with this book, with the starting over that seemed to almost ignore the first four books. When I read it through again, knowing what was coming, it was amazing. But I'm with Akshay. Bonehunters was my favourite in this series.

Markus Conor wrote: "Damian/Markus: Yeah Damo is probably right. Since you're reading the series now you might want to stop reading my reviews. I know it's easier said than done but you have to persevere :D"

Hmm, you guys have a point. I already spoiled one seemingly very important plot detail for myself after entering a thread in the Malazan Fallen group that was supposed to only contain spoilers for GotM (at least that was what I thought), so I should probably avoid any more of that!

Conor Josh: I have faith bro :D

Akshay: Yeah I've heard really good stuff about it, psyched to check it out.

Liam: I think this book had the potential to be really annoying if you didn't know about the change-up coming in.

Markus: Yeah the spoilers are for the whole series, there are a lot of re-readers posting about foreshadowing and stuff to come. I probably should have given you a heads-up in advance, sorry bro. I try to spoiler tag stuff about a book in my reviews but in a series like this I might wind up spoiling something from a previous book. That being said I think knowing what to expect is a big thing in this series, especially for books 1,2 and 5.

Markus Yeah, it's not like it's your fault, lol. I was the one who didn't bother to check the group rules on spoilers before clicking on the thread. But it was still damn frustrating, seeing as what I spoiled for myself sounds really important. Well, at least it was awesome!

Conor I really want to know what that spoiler is now :D Is it something that pertains to further than I've read so far?

Markus I've absolutely no idea! It can revealed anywhere in books 2-10 for all I know :D

Conor Give me a hint. No wait don't. Do. Don't. I always want to look in the tags when there are big spoiler discussions in the group. So dang frustrating :D

Markus I could ask someone who's read the whole series where it is revealed, but I don't want to know that :P

Damian Dubois Send me your question Markus and I can see if I can recall it. Shouldn't tell you though lol

Markus I've sent it. But only tell Conor. I don't want to know any more xD

Conor I was gonna tell you guys not to bother going to any trouble to tell me the spoiler as I was only joking around but since you already have, thanks for the team effort :D

btw Markus I actually think I tripped that spoiler mine when I was reading the thread as well :D Anyway it isn't a big deal, you'd probably figure it out yourself in the first book anyway and if not it's revealed straight up shortly afterwards.

Markus Ah, great!

Mayim de Vries It's amazing how he can introduce the whole new set that late in the series and still mesmerise the reader.

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