Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Dust of Dreams

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
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Jan 07, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010-goal-list, cuy-co-pub-lib, finished, best-i-read-2010-edition

Steven Erikson, Dust of Dreams (Tor, 2009)

If you are prone to forget Steven Erikson's dry humor, just check the foreword to this book, where he begins, “I am not known as a writer of door-stoppers...”. Every main book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen has been a door-stopper, and this one, which clocks in at 816 pages, is no exception. Continue reading the foreword and it seems as if Dust of Dreams, in the original, was a true monster; he ended up dividing the thing into two books. (Whether this means the Malazan Book of the Fallen will now run to eleven volumes or not I do not know. But one can always hope.) Be that as it may, a new book from Steven Erikson is always a treat; he's the only author going right now for whom I will drop everything else I'm reading to concentrate on one of his books.

We are coming to the close of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the myriad storylines that have woven through the series are all starting to come together. The final action, it seems, will take place in Kolanse, a previously-unexplored (by us, anyway) piece of the Letherii continent. The Bonehunters, when we last looked in on them, had just finished overthrowing Lether's government and installing Tehol Beddict as the new king. Tavore Paran, the top dog in the Bonehunters, knows something big is brewing, and calls together her top advisors, as well as ex-Bridgeburner sergeant Fiddler, for a reading of the Deck of Dragons. This turns out to be, shall we say, more eventful than expected, and also draws the attention of the Errant, one of Lether's elder gods who's not happy with the new pantheon (whom, we learn, are the offspring of the elder gods). The Bonehunters, as a result, end up readying themselves to march through the Wastelands to get to Kolanse, on the way meeting up with two old allies, the Perish Grey Helms and the Khundryl Burned Tears, who are on their way to Bolkando, a small, treacherous kingdom between Lether and Kolanse, as the book opens. Most of the action goes back and forth between the Bonehunters and the Perish, as expected, but Erikson is not done with some of those other old storylines, and we get those as well. The events of previous books have got everything in an uproar, after all. So we get Yan Tovis and Yedan Derryg, always at odds, leading the Shake across a Tiste Liosan warren to a long-dead city where they were supposedly born; we get the Snake, the rough equivalent of a Children's Crusade, traversing the wastelands to try and get away from the Forkrul Assail, who have massacred an entire continent's adults; we get the White Face Barghast, who have also found themselves in Bolkando, and who are unhappy with the way the Arkynnai traders have been treating them, leading to a war between the Barghast—now under the command of Onos Toolan—and the Arkynnai, which threatens to spill over into a war between the Barghast and the Bolkando. We follow the Elder Gods, on occasion, and find out what the Errant and his cronies are up to (and that can never be good). We get the final city of the K'Chain Che'Malle, presided over by an insane, dying matron, whose sole purpose in remaining alive is to try and carry on the K'Chain Che'Malle line, and has appointed a human destriant, whose goal is to find a Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil for the K'Chain Che'Malle. (Meanwhile, they're pursued by the K'Chain Nar'ukh, who would rather see the Che'Malle wiped out for good.) And what are those fourteen undead Jaghut up to, anyway?

If any of that didn't make sense to you, then go back and start reading the series with Gardens of the Moon. It starts slow, as do all of the Malazan Book of the Fallen entries, but once Erikson gets going, he really gets going. Some of the books in the series (Memories of Ice, Midnight Tides) are among the best fantasy novels I have ever read. None of the books is less than excellent, and Dust of Dreams is no exception. Erikson's superlative worldbuilding and micromanagement of a true cast of thousands (and I'm not just talking extras here; we're talking at least a thousand speaking parts over the course of the uncounted millions of words making up the series so far) has made this the best martial fantasy series since Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion. And yes, I'm including George R. R. Martin in that survey. The only bad thing about the book is that it marks the beginning of the end of our decade-long relationship with the Malazan Empire, a place that feels as real as the ground outside your front door. **** ½
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