“Extraordinarily enjoyable… Erikson is a master of lost and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics.” —Salon
All is not well in the Letherii Empire. Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, spirals into madness, surrounded by sycophants and agents of his Machiavellian chancellor, while the Letherii secret police conduct a campaign of terror against their own people. The Errant, once a far-seeing god, is suddenly blind to the future. Conspiracies seethe throughout the palace as the empire edges closer to all-out war with the neighboring kingdoms.
The great Edur fleet draws ever closer. Among its warriors are Karsa Orlong and Icarium Lifestealer - each destined to cross blades with the emperor himself. A band of fugitives seeks a way out of the empire. One of them, Fear Sengar, must find the soul of Scabandari Bloodeye. Yet traveling with them is Scabandari’s most ancient foe: Silchas Ruin. His motives are anything but certain, for the wounds he carries on his back, made by the blades of Scabandari, are still fresh.
Fate decrees that there is to be a reckoning - a reckoning on an unimaginable scale. This is a brutal, harrowing novel of war, intrigue, and dark, uncontrollable magic; this is epic fantasy at its most imaginative, storytelling at its most thrilling.
©2007 Steven Erikson (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved
One of my favorites of the series so far. I won't give any spoilers, but many of the disparate and far flung characters are starting to converge. I am so glad I stuck with Gardens of the Moon (book 1) as that book didn't really "grab me" until its second half. Since then it has been an absolute pleasure to take Erikson's tour of Malazan and the rest of this incredible world.
I assume most of those reading this review are already fans (its book 7 for goodness sake). Rest assured that this installment continues at the pace and quality you have come to expect. I am amazed at how long Erickson can sustain his climactic portions of the book. Seems like for the last several (many) hours the pace of the story goes at absolute breakneck speed. I am really looking forward to the rest of the books being released on Audible. I am resisting the urge to go out and buy the already completed books 8, 9 and 10 (the finale) - I've decided to stick with the audio.
For New Readers:
Start with Gardens of the Moon. This series is a very gritty military fantasy with a huge cast of characters. Point of view characters include Gods and mortals and ghosts and shapeshifters and the (seemingly) insane. Less a High Middle-Ages analogue than a mix of Greek/Roman/Eastern cultures (only vaguely reminiscent of even these - but it gives you an idea). It goes to places you will not see coming - at least I didn't. Book 2 introduces a nearly complete new cast of characters. Highly recommended for those looking for challenging fantasy fiction. Erikson does not dumb down his writing - part of the reason the first half of book one was difficult for me was that Erikson writes as if his reader was already familiar with this world, its magic systems, history, politics and religions - trusting that you will learn and self-translate as you go. Erickson is also not afraid of humor - and writes his more witty characters extremely well (Quick Ben, Kruppe, Tehol Beddict - all have made me laugh out loud). He also has a keen sense for tragedy.
Each chapter is separated by a historical snippet and/or poetry - I only mention this as it may be confusing or jarring in an Audio only context. The print books feature large maps and glossary sections. I actually picked up the books at a bookstore for these features - this was probably unnecessary as there are many resources on the internet.
Especially recommended for fans of Martin, Abercrombie or Glen Cook.
Those words, written across the book's back cover, epitomize the events that transpire in this seventh volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Continuing and concluding the storyline begun in Midnight Tides and continued in The Bonehunters, this book brings a climactic conclusion that brings resolution to so many open threads, bringing down justice on so many who deserve it, and generally giving us a satisfying moment of reprieve before the last push to the end.
I always say this, but the sheer scale of the storyline in this book is almost beyond believe. It puts other "epic" fantasies to shame, as there can really be no serious comparison to this series. The storyline in this novel begins over a hundred thousand years in the past, and despite that unimaginable scale Erikson is able to make you feel like it really has been that much time that has transpired. When I look back at the thousands of pages since the story of the Sengars and the Tiste Edur began, and the betraying of Silchas Ruin by Scabandari Bloodeye, and so many other things, it's awe-inspiring. Certainly this is what epic fantasy really should be. Absolutely unforgettable.
And there are many reckonings in this book. This is ultra-violent, no-holds-barred storytelling, chock full of political machinations and bloody war. There are several stand-out fights, especially involving Quick Ben, Fiddler and Hedge. And of course, Karsa Orlong continues to kick more ass in this novel, making me beam with pride at who has become probably my favorite character in the series.
Yet there's a lot of tragedy here, too - which you must surely expect by now. A few key deaths are going to be hard to take; I know they were for me. It's things like that which don't sit very well with me in the end, especially when so many of them could be avoided to the point where you can see the author's hand and it feels a bit contrived. Yet the ending is pure Erikson awesomeness as usual. My only complaint is, as usual, that I didn't get as much "screen time" with the major characters and major players of the book. As typical, Erikson introduces new minor characters and spends a lot of time with them and with the front-line grunts of the army. I don't know if part of this reason is if he didn't feel comfortable or confident enough to write the harder characters, as ancient as many of them are. Certainly we haven't seen Anomander Rake since book 3 and that just baffles me. But at any rate, this book series still deserves to be on any epic fantasy reader's bookshelf.
Michael Page breathes life into all the Malazan characters, nailing many of the great performances he'd established with the Letherii cast in Midnight Tides.He does a fantastic job of following a very complicated, diverse cast and even manages to make as-yet unnamed characters recognizable by voice. I couldn't imagine the story with any other narrator, honestly.
Reaper's Gale follows The Bonehunters, a company of Malazan soldiers poised to invade the established empire of Lether. Within it, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, Rhulad Sengar, rules over a people more intent on subverting than serving him, searching for a champion skilled enough to put him out of his misery, and he might just find one in the mighty Karsa Orlong... or in the Hulk-like unstoppable force that is Icarium unleashed. Meanwhile, Tehol Beddict plots to undermine the Letherii Empire for good, while Trull Sengar, Onrack and Quick Ben embark on one last task for Shadowthrone. They'll need to be timely, for Silchas Ruin has been unleashed upon the world from his long imprisonment, seeking revenge against the ancient foe that betrayed him, Father Shadow.
Hopefully you understood most of that, having read the other 6 Malazan books, but just know that Reaper's Gale is full of actions and unexpected moments.
To name any one scene would spoil it, so I'll just name all the scenes with Tehol and Bugg.
This book is on the darker side of fantasy. Fans of Malazan should know what they are getting into, for everyone else you should go read Gardens of the Moon first.
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