Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Malazan Book of the Fallen - Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moon
Deadhouse Gates
Memories of Ice
House of Chains
Midnight Tides
The Bonehunters

It's difficult to overstate how good this series is. It's gritty, it's funny, it's dark and it's moving; Erikson has created a huge and complex world with a pantheon, numerous Elder civilisations (extinct, still warring or both) and intricate human politics, all intertwined and supported by a unique concept of magic, the Warrens. There are so many plots on so many levels that it makes the best circus plate-spinner look like a bumbling amateur.

There is a long, cold war between Light, Dark and Shadow (and no, Light are not the good guys). The new god of Shadow is trying to meddle in human politics, but his throne is far from stable - the warren of Shadow has shattered and many factions are fighting over the pieces. Monsters from extinct elder races are reappearing and causing havoc; gods are created and destroyed; an ancient wanderer with terrible powers is roaming the land... and the Malazans are trying to build an empire.

Amid all this inter-species war and celestial power-play, it's hard to pinpoint which plot is central, but throughout the series it always seems to come back to the human involvement. The Malazan Empire is fairly new but rapidly expanding, as Empress Laseen's troops conquer further and further afield, bringing cynical but mostly benevolent civilisation to the unwashed masses. There is a lot of political ambiguity in the conquests - the Malazan invaders may be promoting trade and stamping out the local cruelties, but the morals and motives of their commanders are extremely suspect.

The Malazan storyline mostly follows the Bridgeburners, a small company of soldiers and mages in the Malaz army. The characters are simply but effectively sketched - the sheer number of plots and sub-plots prevents much in-depth character-building, but Erikson still manages to make them believable and likeable. They've all got great names, too - Whiskeyjack, Fiddler, Mallet, Quick Ben - which helps to contrast the no-nonsense world of the front line with the more esoteric and magical events going on elsewhere.

The series isn't finished yet - I think there are 3 or 4 more books to go - and there's been no sign of a drop in quality so far. If you haven't tried Erikson yet, you've got a guarantee of several weeks' good reading right now and the promise of plenty more in the future, and what more could anyone want?

Go on, go out and buy these books now. And read them. It's OK, I'll wait.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

for all you addicts who need your daily dose of fantasy this series is a must---

7:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes, I thought GOTM was terrible. Flat characters galore as they quickly jump from one place to another. It's a very task oriented book with little emotion. I guess I have been spoiled by George R.R. Martin who is a great storyteller and character builder. Erikson appears to be neither.

10:44 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

GOTM is a bit of a mess compared with the later ones, but it's so full of really cool stuff that I was happy to go along with it. The characters are very much better in the second book, and has one of the most powerful storylines (the Chain of Dogs) that I can remember reading. Don't give up after the first book!

1:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is, mildly put, epic scale fantasy. You just cannot dislike it, if you're into epic fantasy that is.
Impressively made, I fins Steven Erikson to be one of the greater minds writing fantasy today.
And you bloke, who find Martin more impressive, well good for you, but it's quite sad I must say. You probably never made it to half the book.

12:35 am  
Anonymous Icarium said...

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is definitely the Best epic fantasy series out there.
I admit that GOTM is not an easy book to get into, but just give it a chance, the second half of the book is were things really heats up. As a gateway into the Malazan world it might take some time to get used to, but the rewards more than made up for it.
I've read George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and even though it's great and I like it, it's the Malazan books I love. If you want grit, complex plot, epic battles, tragedy and comedy all in one book, read it!

2:21 pm  
Anonymous Giest4life said...

Gardens of the Moon seemed pretty unimpressive to me on my first read, it was on my second read that I began to understand the scope of the series. And by the time I finished The Crippled God, I knew that I probably wouldn't find an Epic Fantasy series even half as good. Martin is good, but his world doesn't compare to Erikson's massive universe.

6:54 pm  
Blogger Pugnax said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I really do love all the complex characters in ASoFaI, The Malazan is, and I fell will always be, my absolute favorite saga.
The way Erikson shifts the perspective from grand world wide wars of extinction to the gritty front line's of the Birdgeburners.
The magnificence of these books truly come together at the end of The Crippled God, when you realize that almost every character and detail is vital to the Grande Finale :D
I could praise The Malazan for days. Read it, you won't be dissapointed

10:01 pm  

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