Erikson, Steven

About the Author:

 

Steven Erikson is an archaeologist and anthropologist.  He lived in the UK for several years but eventually moved back to Canada.  He lives in Winnipeg.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4.2 out of 5

(6 books)

Deadhouse Gates

The second book of the Malazan series shifts to the lands of the Seven Cities where a potent rebellion against the Malazan Empire is rising.  There are three major plotlines in this book, as well as numerous minor ones, but they all split and reconverge regularly.  The first of the primary plotlines follows the plans of Fiddler and Kalam (characters introduced in the first book) as they plot to kill the Empress who outlawed them.  Then there is the story of Felisin, Heboric and Baudin, strangers who become slaves and are bound together in countless trials of survival. 

The third major plotline follows the Imperial Historian Duiker as he is forced to observe the Whirlwind rebellion and then march alongside the beleagured forces of the Malaz 7th Army.  It was this latter plotline that held me best, as the ruthless and strange new commander Coltaine undertakes an impossible fighting retreat in order to save the lives of thousands of refugees.  Ultimately, it is the bitter tragedy of this storyline which makes for the book's greatest element. 

That is not to say that the other plot threads aren't hugely enjoyable, which they most assuredly are.  This book far exceeds its predecessor but if I had to point out a downside to it, it would simply be that, once again, Erikson bombards us with a bit too much new information to take in at first.

5 out of 5

 

Gardens Of The Moon

The first volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  The expansionist Malazan Empire has set its ruthless sights on the city of Darujhistan.  However, this is no simple military operation, as immortals, gods and sorcerers all seek to advance their own Machiavellian plans. 

Erikson is a little too ambitious with this first book of the Malazan series, bombarding us with numerous different orders of beings (humans, the immortal Tiste Andii, the undead Tlan Imass, gods, dragons and more), a new take on magic usage and a large cast of characters.  This proves to be a bit overwhelming at first and makes it harder to get into the story than if there had been less characters and less other information to absorb.  It is not until about halfway through the book that the various disparate threads begin to draw together, but if you do stick it out until then, you'll be rewarded. 

Erikson has created some genuinely intriguing characters (even if some do have stupid names like Whiskeyjack and Tattersail) and you'll find yourself drawn into their individual stories as they all turn out to be more than they seem at first.  The story contines apace after the awakening of an ancient evil in the Gadrobi Hills, but does start to unravel slightly towards the end as the author tries to cram in a few more plotlines which are, ultimately, unnecessary. 

So, not a perfect book, but still a good one and one which has encouraged me to continue reading the series.

4 out of 5

 

House Of Chains

The fourth Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  More of a sequel to the brilliant 'Deadhouse Gates' than it is to 'Memories of Ice', this book continues the story of the events and characters in the Seven Cities as the inexperienced Adjunct Tavore leads an untested Malazan army into the Raraku desert to face the assembles armies of the Whirlwind Goddess.  Meanwhile, sorcerers and gods vie for control of a shattered warren as the the newly founded House of Chains rises in power.

Frankly, the synopsis above totally fails to encompass the varied characters and plots that weave through this enormous novel and in many respects the fact that there's so much going on here is this book's biggest negative point.  Don't get me wrong, it's great to have such a densely-woven narrative but it can't be escaped that the chopping and changing between characters and locations is often both jarring and confusing.

There is one plotline which holds consistantly throughout the book and, in fact, the first quarter or so of the entire book focuses entirely on it.  It is the story of a warrior from a savage mountain tribe, Karsa Orlong, whose bloodlust and dreams of conquest take him on a truly epic journey, both physically and as a character.  I enjoyed reading his early adventures, was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is, in fact, a character who has already appeared in the series and I found it satisfying to see him undertake a quest which leads to ascendancy.  Without the strong rooting of Karsa's story flowing through this novel, I think it would've been harder to get through.

The simple truth is that, once again, Erikson bombards us with Houses, gods, demons, warrens, Elder races etcetera, to the point that it's hard to keep everything clear in your mind.  However, he is an incredibly talented writer and the skill and pacing of his writing is more than enough to keep you turning pages.

4 out of 5

 

Memories Of Ice

The third book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  Here Erikson returns us to the continent Genabackis, where the soldiers of the Bridgeburners continue to fight for General Dujek Onearm.

Running parallel to 'Deadhouse Gates', the story here is much more a sequel to 'Gardens of the Moon' than that other book ever proved to be.  Here the characters from that first book are faced with the challenge of an alliance with their former enemies in order to battle the sinister empire of the Pannion Domin.  With this book the author has taken his plot threads from the first book and applied the improved writing ability he showed in the second, making for a brilliant epic and well-written fantasy novel.

The book's downside comes once again from the fact that Erikson can't seem to go a chapter without introducing some new race, god, magical discipline or organisation.  This constant bombardment with new concepts means that none of them gets enough time to sink in before we're supposed to just accept them and move on to the next new element.

4 out of 5

 

Midnight Tides

Malazan Book Five.  The warlike Tiste Edur have been united under the Warlock King, who sends four brothers on a quest that will change the course of Edur destiny forever.  Meanwhile the countless factions within the kingdom of Lether vie for supremacy as its leaders make plans to subjugate the Tiste Edur.

By this point I have gotten used to Erikson studiously failing to continue the narrative of the previous book of the series.  Therefore I wasn't unduly dismayed to discover that this book focuses on a new continent, a new cast of characters and features yet more new gods, ascendants and types of sorcery.  I expect, if you've made it this far through the brick-sized books of the series, then it won't trouble you either.

Furthermore, the new characters introduced here are among Erikson's most complex and compelling.  The author's tremendous talent is evidenced as you find yourself completely enthralled by and sympathetic to characters from all walks of life, on all sides of the conflict and often with diametrically opposed agendas.  You want all of the main characters to win the day and live happily ever after and yet you know at all times that maybe none of them will.  For me, the double-act of benevolent genius Tehol Beddict and his more-than-he-seems manservant Bugg were by the far the best element of the book.  Their schemes, banter and genuine affection for one another lift every chapter that features them.

As well as Machiavellian scheming, we also get some pretty spectacular battle sequences in this book, potent enough in the telling that hundreds of pages just seem to fly by.

I've enjoyed all of the Malazan books so far, but I can honestly say that this is the first one I've loved.

5 out of 5

 

The Bonehunters

Book Six of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  In the Seven Cities, the Malaz 14th Army pursues the remnants of Sha'ik's army towards a fateful confrontation at the walls of the Y'Ghatan.  Meanwhile gods and ascendants move into position for a greater conflict to come; one which will begin with civil war at the very heart of the Malazan Empire.

Whilst primarily a follow up to book four of the series, this book also begins to show the fall out of the events of 'Midnight Tides' and, finally, begins weaving the disparate threads of the series as a whole together.  It is only a beginning, however, so don't get too excited.

For me this is a difficult book to review.  It has to be said that Erikson's talent as a writer is in unabated evidence and that this book contains some of the best set piece events of any in the series.  The siege of Y'Ghatan is so evocatively written that you'll be all but able to feel the heat of the flames battering against your face.  Similarly, the climax in Malaz City is a perfectly conjured mix of chaos, tension and camaraderie.

However, these great moments are weighed down by the anchor stone that is the book's length.  At over 1,200 pages it's a mammoth undertaking and Erikson doesn't manage to maintain consistant pacing in order to draw you onwards.  Part of the problem lies in the vast cast of characters who, even after six books, I still sometimes have trouble differentiating between.  What made books four and five so compelling was the fact that they both focused largely on one character (Karsa Orlong and Trull Sengar, respectively), giving us someone to latch onto as the overall story progresses.  That's not the case here, with too many characters, albeit compelling ones, vying for the reader's attention.

To my mind the battle of Y'Ghatan would've been a natural point at which to divide this into two books but because that doesn't happen, we get a tremendous high point which then dies back to the more mundane goings on for a few hundred more pages.  So; had this been two books, they would've been amazing, but as a single volume 'The Bonehunters' is unfortunately uneven and, at times, exhausting to read.

3 out of 5

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