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Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, buddy-read

Hundreds of millenia, crawling to this shore. The passage of ages is measured by chance. The deep roll of tides, the succession of wayward storms. This is how the world moves - .

If someone told me that the fifth book in a series would have an entirely new cast of characters, veering completely away from the ones with whom readers had become accustomed over the previous four books, I’d say that it was an example of some questionable authorial judgment. Maybe that’s why I’d make a terrible author, because Steven Erickson certainly proves that making such a move need not be a hindrance to the overall narrative. And when you really get down to it, how else could this massive tale possibly be told? The history of this world stretches back hundreds of thousands of years but it’s not just some old, dusty information confined to a musty book sitting on some long-forgotten shelf. This history is still very much alive and affecting current events, like ripples in water that have stretched out beyond what the eye can see. So even though this particular installment introduces readers to new characters in new settings, it’s still all very connected to everything that’s come before and so, in that sense, there is still a sense of familiarity for readers, a feeling of "I know this".

And so it must be. One people. One ruler.

Book five in the Malazan series moves the action to yet another continent, one where the human Letherii people have maintained a shaky truce with the Tiste Edur. I won’t say much about the overall plot of the story or the characters introduced along the way. I’ll leave the rush of discovery to readers to enjoy as they move through this exciting tale. I’ll only say that there is one character who will be known to readers and who will be a welcome touchstone anchoring them to the pivotal events as they unfold. And there will be pivotal events because, you see, there’s a prophecy at play and, like most prophecies, what you see isn’t always what you get.

Like hatchlings born on the tide, the peoples of two kingdoms were rushing headlong into deep, deadly waters.

If you’re worried that the battle for supremacy between two far-off kingdoms has little relevance to the fights on Seven Cities and Genebackis, to the sacrifices made by brave heroes in the first four books, don’t be. The malignant forces at work beneath the surface of those events are not confined to any one place...or time. In fact, there are a few instances in this book that sync up with the timeline of events in Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates. So, dear reader, it’s all connected, one thing to the other.

Character-wise, Erickson again delivers a plethora of colorful and memorable men and women, drawn from a wide range of races. The main ones, the ones I call tentpole characters, are complex and layered with fully realized motivations, values, and fears. Some are worthy of our respect and admiration. Others deserve our sympathy or pity. And the rest? Well, they warrant the introduction of a two by four to the back of the head. Suffice it to say that these characters draw you in, one way or another.

"Death cannot be struggled against, brother. It ever arrives, defiant of every hiding place, of every frantic attempt to escape. Death is every mortal’s shadow, his true shadow, and time is its servant, spinning that shadow slowly round, until what stretched behind one now stretches before him."

There is an overall bleak tone to this series thus far and this book is no exception. There is the sense that people, as a whole and regardless of race or culture or time period, all continue making the same mistakes. That they keep falling into the same traps of power - a constant questing for “more”, a never-ending cycle of conquest and destruction. There is so much of this series that is applicable to our real world - the power of greed, the corrupting influence of power itself, the rape of the natural world, the capacity of people to visit pain and misery on others, the tendency of people to stratify themselves (at all levels of society), to just follow along like sheep when they should be screaming objections from the rooftops. It can be disheartening, and yet...and yet...

There is still hope, offered through characters who are noble, who attempt to hold true to their friends, family...to themselves, which is sometimes the hardest thing to do. And maybe, in the bigger scheme of the self-feeding cycle of the loss of innocence to baser motivations, it is this clinging to higher ideals - to simply asking the question “why?” - that can be the most heroic act. It is the sisyphean act of choosing to toil away at a hopeless task in the seemingly futile hope of a better outcome, that is, in itself, meaningful.

Even as he saw the anger grow in the faces of those around him - anger that he dare challenge, that he dare think in ways contrary to theirs, and so threaten their certainty - he was unable to stay silent.

I loved the humor in this too because, yes, despite the darker elements of the story there is still light. Erickson always manages to weave in humor, delivering it just when needed. Midnight Tides witnesses the rising of yet another lovable comic duo, though the use of humor is by no means limited to them. I appreciated every chuckle.

The ending once again spiralled tighter into itself, like water swirling down a drain, picking up speed and momentum until the end result could no longer be forestalled. Those last several chapters, as people and events were converging, were impossible to put down. I ought to know since I was up until 3 in the morning reading. There were bittersweet moments and I’m left with a sense of urgency to see more of this world, to see where these characters go from here. This is only the halfway mark of the series so there’s still a lot of story left to tell. Given how much Erickson manages to pack into each individual book, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around everything that's still to come.

We have come, after all, to the day of the Seventh Closure. An end, and a beginning -
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Reading Progress

August 19, 2018 – Started Reading
August 22, 2018 – Shelved
August 22, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 22, 2018 –
page 512
53.33%
August 24, 2018 –
page 762
79.38%
August 25, 2018 – Finished Reading
October 8, 2018 – Shelved as: buddy-read

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Choko An amazing review, V! This series is just mind-blowing and I am so happy we are reading it together! But you finished this one sooo fast! Wow! 😀


Veronica Choko wrote: "An amazing review, V! This series is just mind-blowing and I am so happy we are reading it together! But you finished this one sooo fast! Wow! 😀"

Thanks, Choko. I didn't really read it that fast. I started it on Sunday but had forgotten to adjust my start date. I went back and fixed it. :-)


Graeme Rodaughan Hi Veronica, a fabulous review, very well thought out and beautifully expressed.


Scott  Hitchcock Great review.....glad you've recovered from the HoC hangover. :)


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

Bea Great review!
MT is an amazing installment in this series!


Veronica Graeme wrote: "Hi Veronica, a fabulous review, very well thought out and beautifully expressed."

Thanks, Graeme!


Veronica Scott wrote: "Great review.....glad you've recovered from the HoC hangover. :)"

Thanks, Scott! Me too. But I'm sure I'll like HoC more on reread.


Veronica Bea wrote: "Great review!
MT is an amazing installment in this series!"


Thanks, Bea! It really is. I was a bit leery going in knowing it was going to be about all-new characters but it was great.


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