Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 2, Deadhouse Gates

Erikson sets a grueling path for his characters once again in Deadhouse Gates, the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. This story takes us to a new part of the Empire, with some new and some familiar characters. All these characters live through a lot within the span of this story. They struggle endlessly for but a hint of hope, they transform into something new, unknown joys slip through their hands, and when there is release it is infrequently happy.

There is much death in this book, armies, civilians, children, animals, and thus it reflects the violence of the world, no holds barred. However, with death himself one of the players and magic rampant death is not in all cases permanent.

Rebirth is just as strong a theme as death, literally and figuratively. This much suffering will change anyone. Portraying these changes recognizes humanity–and good three dimensional characters. But it is more a question of scale in this epic fantasy story.

There were multiple characters who were literally reborn with the knowledge and wisdom of their past lives. This lends a cheapness to death, and some may say is cheating. Yet it is also one thing that strips away the limits of human capability. We can see what the next steps are, when already powerful people have the knowledge and experience of lives prior lived. This is one reason I am frequently drawn to the epic fantasy genre.

As for the characters who continue to outwit death, I wonder how much longer that will last. Erikson is not as bad as Martin. Erikson tends to draw out the suffering instead of outright killing characters so far as I’ve seen. As long as this book was, we only witnessed the beginning of a rebellion. Some characters we know will be faced with living through the rest of it, and others will be moving on somewhere else. I can only wonder when Erikson will be visiting each again. I also enjoyed the nods to those not in this volume but whom I got to know in the prior one. Their contribution to this story hints more to the scope of their abilities, and I look forward to running across them again. And I am assuming I will, with several volumes of this series to go.

That being said, I’m sure it will run across many of the characters from book two again as well. And I’m hoping that more characters whom have only been hinted at will be introduced in the story. This is another thing I’m particularly enjoying in this series. While there is indeed a large cast of characters, they span the world, the millennia and several of their own lifetimes. They are hinted at, referenced and on occasion walk by in the background. If you are sharp, you will see the stories within the stories. Right now, I only wonder at the significance of their timelines.

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