The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 6, The Bonehunters

Steven Erikson’s sixth installment in the Malazan book of the Fallen, The Bonehunters brings us yet more heart rending, yet addictive suffering and tragedy.

And more new characters, always more characters. I was hoping that, more than halfway through the series he’d be focusing more on established characters, but what was I thinking? With roughly a thousand pages per volume there is plenty of room for new perspectives, new abilities and someone else’s insight.

What is interesting here is that we are in a known location in the world. We are just given new eyes with which to view it. Multiple books have taken place in these settings. The introduction of new characters is the spice of life for readers of the Malazan books.

We see some old friends again too. But they are not the same. No one is the same anymore. While I always like seeing character growth, I know most of theirs is due to trauma and loss from the prior five books.

Having gone through fierce battles, confronted the worst of humanity (and the gods), and all of the trappings that go along with them, the still-surviving characters have aged, changed their opinions and have started slipping, or conversely hardening—they are showing their wear and tear. Despite this, the humor still gleams through the darkness.

These old friends may have gone through a lot, even before we met them. But now we’ve followed them through some adventures and get some of their jokes and references as well. Erikson does not fail to shed light on old stories for the reader with the good memory. Not only does this provide word count for him, but it serves to connect the character arcs across books and time itself.

As the sixth volume of a ten part series, I’m satisfied with where we are. The plot is arcing along strongly, with several sub plots spent and newly started, leaving the characters wounded in all senses of the word, and scrabbling toward the hell that we can see is coming.

Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson

Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 5, Midnight Tides

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these. Yes, I’m still trundling along with this series.

It took me a while to get into this one, okay, I slogged through the first half. Midnight Tides is like starting an entirely new series, and had a lot of background story that did not seem to tie in to that we know of the series so far.

I questioned my taste for epic fantasy. Could it be? Was this too epic for me? Was it, in fact, too broadly reaching to hold my interest in the middle section of a series? I missed the old characters I haven’t seen, heard or even wandered around the same region as for half a book. And then the enemy showed up (to save the day?). A few characters revealed some quirks that, knowing Erikson, promised to be interesting. And I was hooked.

In short, hang in there, it ramps up, a lot. I think I picked away at the first part for 3 months and then finished the rest in about a week, which is fast for me.

Midnight Tides adds yet another facet to the story as a whole. This series is the most epic story I’ve ever read, for sure. This really reminds me how much can be going on in a world at one time. Instead of one character hearing about the occurrences in a distant place, Erikson puts a set of point of view characters in the middle of it. Throwing in but a dash of the familiar to connect the signature dots of this story, and you have to know what to look for, which adds to the fun of it.

Structurally, Erikson is managing the scope of the series by adjusting how he introduces new things this many pages in. In book 4, House of Chains, the first half was all about one character without getting other points of view, as if catching up the character to the time line. It seems as though Erikson did the same here, but with a new corner of the world, not just one person; with a new plot element, not just a new character.

With book 5 still riding the story development arc up, and only five books remaining, I’m hoping the next installment will start to bring everything together for some more of the merry plot mashing goodness that Erikson has shown a unique aptitude for so far. And yes, I read the Dramatis Personae in the front of each book to see who is in it.

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 4, House of Chains

Book 4 complete! I’m almost halfway there.

For me as a reader, House of Chains was not a page-turner. I actually had some trouble getting through it. This was not what I was expecting after the first three books. So I took a step back and looked at where I was from a writerly standpoint.

First off, this series is not a trilogy; it is an epic fantasy series of ten doorstoppers. It is loaded with characters and plot lines. This is a fourth book. We’ve been through several characters worth of agonies of loss and harsh successes. Many of the original subplots have (mostly) wrapped up by now, and the just desserts have been doled out, for better or worse.

For surviving characters to have growth, they need to have some room to recover from their ordeals, which many of them did. This is important to each character’s believablity. These characters are accomplishing astounding feats. They are human, mostly, and many of them died in trying or achieving what they were after. Some stories, such as single volumes or shorter series (trilogy) only cover a few events. However, this is a decidedly epic tale. I can give credit to some character downtime in such a far-reaching, plot-dense story. I know they are not limitless, superhuman heroes.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few intense page-turning moments in this 1000 pager, and a 260 page dedicated section on introducing a point of view character for the series, Karsa Orlong. All this aside, House of Chains felt like it had proportionately fewer new and exciting plot elements begun. What we got instead were a lot of hints.

However, this falls in line with Erikson’s style of sprinkling in important information for later, with no explanation of what it means or indication of how it will impact anyone. I am trusting Erikson to give me the payoff on this later. What I’m thinking is that if this book is technically the wrap up of book 2 in the series, as book 3 was the wrap up of book 1, then book 5 should begin something new in order to keep the next five books chock full of plot.

House of Chains also continued the trend of informing readers, without being heavy handed, of actions taken by characters not in the book, but are significant to one of the main plot lines.

After considering these points, I am much more satisfied with the book, and the series up to this point. I am eager to get into the next one. After re-thinking the series and trends, I am expecting to meet some new characters and be introduced some new long and short term plot lines.

I must admit I am a tad worried because Erikson wasn’t dropping any hints about what the next “big bad threat” would be, as he had in the prior books. So either the Empress doesn’t know yet, which is a bad sign, or we’re going back to check in on the main plot line, or something else that the main characters will have to deal with before they can address the main plot. Or something else entirely. Which will it be? Surprise me Steven Erikson!

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

Three Malazan books down, seven to go. I am trying to read all these books this year, and so far am on course. I am, however, finding it hard to write a separate review for each book because the stories have so many intertwining strings. My journal series may just become a reflection of all the books I’ve read to date.

Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 3, Memories of Ice

Memories of Ice, the third book in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series occurs simultaneously to the second book, Deadhouse Gates. This is a fact that seems trivial at first, but with a moment of thought, I realized that the body count in that timeframe was astronomical. Cities on one continent overrun, and more on another continent devoured. A lot is happening in this world.

But one thing seems a little different in book three than I’ve seen before. In this book we get a lot of history. As an epic fantasy, this story not only spans vast geographic regions, but also vast periods of time. We learn more about the cast of characters and what is bringing them all together, or in fact not. There are characters who are thousands of years old. There are undead characters who are hundreds of thousands of years old. And all their history is rife with war, catastrophe and enough twists to come back to haunt not only themselves but nations. Erikson doesn’t stop there. He goes as far as to bring forth the tribulations of the gods, making them characters as well.

Erikson uses these ancient characters to connect thousands of years of history, interlacing their crises through the lenses of our dear cast of mortal human characters, whose problem it is to survive it all with their meager abilities.

In book three, we are finally introduced to the overarching series antagonist. What he wants will change the world forever, and if he doesn’t get it, what he threatens may destroy the world altogether (still looking at seven books here). Whether distractions from the antagonist or simply coincidences, our characters are occupied fighting intense battles against impossible enemies without sufficient numbers while we are finding out about all of the treachery and deceit of the antagonist.

Now that we know what “the good guys” are up against, Erikson begins the hard blows. The losses are harsh, staggering. Our main characters are left incapable of doing anything but pick up the pieces. And we are left with little hope, but that is better than none.

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.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

I reread Gardens of the Moon. The initial was 4 years ago. I thought I should go back to the beginning if I aim to complete the Malazan series this year, and have a cohesive grasp on it because…all the characters… I recommend reading the dramatis personae section, it helps.

One thing that seems to make epic fantasy EPIC is the large cast of characters. Erikson pushed the envelope on this one, thus achieving an incredibly epic story. (disclaimer, I’ve read the first two books and the intro to the third so I have an inkling of the scope of this ten book tale.) I’ve read other reviews where readers were pulled out of the story because there were too many characters. I have high expectations for all of the characters by the end of the story. More to the point I’m hoping that Erikson won’t kill them all off like George R. R. Martin does in the A Song of Ice and Fire books.

The Malzan story is dense. Erikson crams and wedges endless plot points and connections into each chapter. With all the characters running around, many with their own agendas, it’s easy for him to do this. In one scene, if you read carefully, you watch one character’s disaster play out, and to another character it is an ancient prophecy coming true. I wonder if Erikson wound up telescoping some characters from early drafts…

Dense story aside, it is fast paced and quick reading, with only a few forgivable lulls as he sets up either new characters or new locations.

One aspect Erikson contrasts nicely in this one is characters away from home versus characters who are at home. The motivations that drive these two categories of characters offer wonderful three dimensional tensions. The story has likable point of view characters from both sides, so readers can watch the fallout with carefully crafted suspense.

As far as the locations go, the story I’ve read so far covers multiple continents, and hints at other continents with characters who plan to stir up trouble in future books.

I’m going to keep Garden’s of the Moon handy as I read the rest of the series. It dropped too many names that I know will pop up later, and I’m going to want to remember what happened.

Reading Journal: Books read in 2013

Not the best year for books read. Not the best year for a lot of things. But here is this year’s list.

To Green Angel Tower, Part 2-Tad Williams, 1/24

Wise Man’s Fear-Patrick Rothfus, 2/15

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children-Ransom Riggs, 5/17

The Warded Man-Peter V. Brett, 6/5

The Desert Spear-Peter V. Brett, 6/23

Spellbound-Blake Charlton, 8/23

Do the Work-Steven Pressfield, 11/8

Kushiel’s Chosen-Jacqueline Carey, 12/16

Kushiel’s Avatar-Jacqueline Carey, 12/28

I’m noticing I finished some trilogies here, and parts of others. That gives me some feeling of completion. I’m still waiting on  a few final volumes to come out. Here’s to 2014.

Reading List: Books Read in 2012

Here are all the books I read in 2012 and I don’t regret a single one of them.


Blameless-Gail Carriger

Heartless-Gail Carriger

Before they are Hanged-Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings-Joe Abercrombie

Available Dark-Elizabeth Hand

8/18 The Dragon Bone Chair-Tad Williams

12/2 The Stone of Farewell-Tad WIlliams

12/8 Timeless-Gail Carriger

12/30 To Green Angel Tower Part I-Tad Williams

I keep making resolutions to read more. This didn’t happen in 2012, though I think I am reading faster now. And the Tad Williams books should count for two–800 pages in those. Overall 2012 steamrolled me so I’m not going to hold it against myself. Next year, I’m looking at you 2013, will hopefully be better. For a little insurance on that, I’m going to do this a little different. I’m going to make a list of all the books I want to read and then cross them off as I do so.

This list will include a lot more indie and self published books, which I hopefully will be motivated to leave reviews for. Drop a comment if you have any suggestions on which I should read.

2011 Reading List

Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy – Michael Moorcock
Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
Storm Glass – Maria V. Snyder
Sea Glass – Maria V. Snyder
Spy Glass – Maria V. Snyder

The Hour of the Dragon – Robert E. Howard
The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
*The Iron Dragon’s Daughter – Michael Swanwick
The Brotherhood of the Wolf – David Farland
The Lair of Bones – David Farland
Soulless – Gail Carriger
Changeless – Gail Carriger

*All Time Favorite Authors

Back Again updates and news

Been really busy with a new job lately.

But I’m proud to say I’ve finished the 10th book of the year. That is the number of books I read last year. So, this year will be better!

Also note that I’m starting a couple new hashtag series on twitter. #

In #notmyline I’ll share the worst lines I’ve found in published fiction. Some never consider how their words sound out of context, and I’ll show them!

In #wishIwrotethat I’ll share the best lines from published fiction that I’ve found. It is likely that these will come from authors I worship.

Scribings is now available!