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!