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The Malazan Book of the Fallen Thread

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A little surprised to see no discussion of this series, given its growing popularity and that there are some fans around on the board. A description of the series for those unfamiliar with it:


The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Canadian authors Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, is an epic fantasy saga which, very roughly, tells the story of an important slice in history in the world of the Malazan Empire.


This is an epic saga (emphasis on the 'epic') set on a minutely-detailed world of powerful sorcery, raging gods and blood-soaked ambition. The series currently consists of two series, one by Erikson and one by Esslemont. Erikson's books run to eight volumes:


1. Gardens of the Moon (1999)

2. Deadhouse Gates (2000)

3. Memories of Ice (2001)

4. House of Chains (2002)

5. Midnight Tides (2004)

6. The Bonehunters (2006)

7. Reaper's Gale (2007)

8. Toll the Hounds (2008)


The ninth and penultimate book, Dust of Dreams, is due in July 2009 and will be followed by The Crippled God. Erikson's extreme profligacy compared to other fantasy authors is remarkable, especially given that these are not short books.


Erikson is an ambitious author. The scale of his story is vast, arguably far larger than Jordan's or Martin's. The setting for his story is an entire planet, with the saga spanning four continents to date and a vast legion of characters. The storyline, when broken down to its most basic components, sounds a bit same-old: an evil, long-imprisoned god is about to slip its chains and reinfest the world, but is a lot cleverer than that. In these books the gods play an active role in the story and the Crippled God is no Dark One. It has to play within certain rules if it wants to seize control of the world, and plenty of people, other gods and Ascendants (demigods who lie between the two states) are out to thwart him. Also, the Crippled God actually has a pretty good motivation for his actions (but saying any more would be a spoiler).


Erikson's worldbuilding skills are exemplery. He is also a craftsman at setting up situations of extraordinary emotional impact: the conclusions of both Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice are likely to affect even the most jaded cynic. He is also superb at describing battle sequences. The siege of Capustan in Memories of Ice threatens to topple the impact of Pelennor Fields in Lord of the Rings. His inventiveness is impressive, extending to a entire race which dedicated themselves to the destruction of their foes to the extent of turning themself into undead so they can continue their jihad across aeons (the T'lan Imass), only to conclude that their eventual victory will be an empty one. As an archaeologist and anthropologist, Erikson's ability to make his fictional races and cultures come to life is impeccable.


Erikson's weaknesses mainly lie in his love of super-powered characters. Just as you are getting used to one powerful sorcerer who is more capable than any other character you've encountered, another, even more powerful one shows up. Luckily this problem seems to abate in later volumes. Erikson is also curiously reluctant to kill off major characters. With a couple of exceptions, many major characters either come back from the dead or ascend to a higher plane of reality upon death. Erikson is not as good at crafting characters as George RR Martin and for every genius character he comes up with (Tool, Toc the Younger, Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake, Whiskeyjack, Quick Ben, Trull Sengar, Karsa Orlong etc) there's a half-dozen anonymous soldiers or peasents who seem to be two-dimensional caricatures. However, this is one area in which he again improves as the books continue.


The unique structure of the series allows for some interesting and very clever writing decisions. For example, the second and third volumes occur simultaneously and at one point some characters 'leap' out of the third volume into the second (which as you first encounter them in the second book is somewhat confusing). In the second volume some of the characters find an abandoned ship with its crew killed by an unknown assailant. In the fourth volume the first quarter of the novel follows the back-story of the character who wiped out that crew. The entire fifth novel is actually a flashback being told by one character to another in the fourth. And so on. This sometimes makes the novels feel somewhat obtuse, with characters occasionally making cryptic comments to one another that you only understand on re-reading the series, and this can be off-putting for some. This is particularly true of the first volume, Gardens of the Moon, which can be rather confusing for the first 200 pages or so. But perseverence soon revals an extraordinary and fiendishly original imagination at work.


I urge those out there who haven't tried out this series yet to give it a go. And if you don't believe me, the authors Stephen Donaldson, Paul Kearney, R. Scott Bakker, Michael Stackpole, David Langford and J.V. Jones have recommended this series. It can be hard work at times, but it's worth it.


Erikson's co-creator Ian Cameron Esslemont is writing a six-book series, with two currently available:


1. Night of Knives (2005)

2. Return of the Crimson Guard (2008)


His third book is called Stonewielder and is due in the next year or two. Esslemont's stories weave inbetween Erikson's books. The first one is a prequel expanding on key events referred to in the first book. The second, taking place after Erikson's sixth, focuses on turmoil within the Malazan Empire itself. Esslemont's style is slightly more straightforward and less obtuse than Erikson's.

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I started this series on a whim. Quite funny really. Was forced into going to the bookstore with an Ex, and i just picked up a book so i didnt have to talk much. Happened to be Memories of Ice and i was hooked. (Of course i then realized it was book 3 and went to buy Gardens of the Moon.

This is easily the best series ive read besides LotR and WoT. It seriously ranks up there with them.

His storys are so involved and keep you jumping at every turn of the page. The way he weaves the threads together is nothing short of masterful.

Right now im on House of Chains. The worst of the ones ive read so far, but still extrodinary. I couldnt wait for its release on the 20th or w/e it was so I imported it, as i plan to do with the rest.

Many of his characters are so dynamic and impossible not to love, like the ever mysterious Kruppe. The way he talks is just a blast to read and make sense of.


The major problem i have is that he doesnt have a US publisher yet, so one in the US does have to import if they want them years ahead of time.


Hehe i should take that ex to the bookstore more often wheni need a new good series :D

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He does have a US publisher: Tor Books started publishing his books (in pretty heinous covers) last year. So far the first four are out and the fifth will be out next April.

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Haha the covers are pretty bad. MoI was good though, with Gruntle standing tall over Capustan.


But who can wait till April when you can have it next week lol.

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  • 4 weeks later...

A bit more news from Erikson-land.


He handed in the manuscript for Book 7, Reaper's Gale, to Bantam about 6 weeks ago. The book is confirmed for release on 2 April 2007. This book will follow on from both Midnight Tides and The Bonehunters, returning the action to the continent of Lether. He's already working on Book 8, Toll the Hounds, which will take us back to Genabackis and Darujhistan, where the whole story started back in the first book.


Steven Erikson did not create the Malazan world by himself, he was helped by his friend and fellow writer Ian Cameron Esslemont. Esslemont is writing five additional novels set in the world of the Malazan Empire and these will explore parts of the world not seen in Erikson's novels, including the oft-mentioned but never-seen continents of Korelri and Assail. You can already get the first, Night of Knives (about the assassination of Kellanved and Dancer), but it was put out by a small publisher and is no longer generally available. Bantam are doing a mass-release of the book in May 2007, however. Esselemont's second book, Return of the Crimson Guard, follows a year later.

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Guest Majsju

I've been pondering for some time whether to pick him up now, or wait until all books are published. I'm reading three series atm that are now finished yet, and adding a fourth might add that final drop of annoyance that will cause my head to explode :lol:

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I've got Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates, but never properly managed to get into the first book. I wasn't keen on the characterisation - it's a little hard for another series to live up to A Song of Ice and Fire - and the naming choices put me off as well, eg Tattersail. It's on my list for a second try though. Sometimes you have to come back to something to see how good it is. :)

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The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a pretty huge, complex series. More complex than Wheel of Time, for example, and may very well make your head explode by itself. Nevertheless, after ASoIaF, I think it's the best epic fantasy series out there, all the better for being a bit 'different' to a lot of what else is on offer at the moment. At least SE has a very firm idea of what's going on in the series and it's being published very quickly, with likely only 12-month gaps between each of the remaining books in the series.


The first book can be off-putting to some as Erikson just drops you in the middle of a war and you don't know what the hell is going on. Reading the first book can therefore be difficult for the first 150 pages or so. Once the action moves to Darujhistan the story becomes a lot clearer and more straightforward. It's worth perservering with because the ending of Deadhouse Gates and then the ending of Memories of Ice are two of the most powerful sequences ever published in epic fantasy.


As for the names, the Malazans soliders and mages all have 'proper' names and then nicknames which are given to them by their colleagues (a soldier very good at camouflage is called Blend, for example). It's the nicknames by which the majority of the soldiers and mages are known. Just think of it as Lan calling Rand 'Sheepherder' or Tuon calling Mat 'Toy' the whole time (only less annoying).

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  • 2 months later...

PS Publishing have released two novellas by Steven Erikson set in the Malazan world: Blood Follows and The Healthy Dead. They have just announced that a third novella, The Lees of Laughter's End, will follow in early 2007.

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I just finished reading Gardens of the Moon. I enjoyed it, although I did find it boring for quite awhile. In fact, the main problem I had with it was this:


Beginning: What's going on? Boring...

Middle: I sort of know what's going on... still boring

End: Holy crap! Awesome action! Wait, too much action! What just happened?


It seemed as if he threw too much into the end of the book. It may be that I just need to keep reading and get a better perspective on the series, but so far SE really doesn't seem to like his characters to explain much of anything at all. But, I've been told that gets better, so we'll see.

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I saw Werthead saying in some other topic that this series is the second best he ever read, losing to ASOIAF only. So truthfully believing in his good taste, I just ordered the first three books on amazon today.


With luck, wich I tend not to have, I'll have them in my hands two weeks from now. I hope they're as good as people say, cause after ASOIAF i didn't found any book capable to entertain me much.

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Wow. I'll feel guilty if you hate them now!


The one thing I do tell people is that the first book can be a struggle for some readers. The opening is very confusing and there's some stuff that happens in the opening chapters of Book 1 that isn't fully explained until the end of Book 3. But I think most people do enjoy it if they hang in there. And the third book is just awesome.

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Guest Egwene

If it is any reassurance, Werthead... my husband has been going on about this fantastic book he is reading at the moment... yes, you guessed it 'Gardens of the Moon'... and he, too, is a GRRM fan. I think wtfv won't be dissapointed.

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Guest Winespring Brother

I totally love these books! They were definitely difficult to get into at first, and had me really confused, but when they get going, they really get going. The second read was also so much better than the first in my opinion.

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Yep. In Wheel of Time the second time you read The Eye of the World a few things really stand out, like the fact that Rand and Mat see the Tower of Ghenjei from the river, or that Min has a viewing which is obviously of Rand taking the crown of swords of Illian. These make you go, "Woah, impressive!"


Gardens of the Moon has the same thing multiplied about a hundred times. The first time you read the book you literally haven't a clue what is going on. After reading the first five books then going back and reading it, you understand (more or less) everything. It's very impressive.


Ian Cameron Esslemont's first Malazan novel, Night of Knives (out in May 2007), actually takes place shortly after the prologue of Gardens, telling of Kellanved and Dancer's assassination. Should be interesting stuff.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This series is EPIC.


I ended up picking up the first book in hardcover for about 7$ canadian mint condition too, lucky me. Anyways I started reading it and ended up putting it down for a couple months because i was like ...WTF is going on?


Anyways, picked it back up 2 weeks ago after reading some threads that said it takes about 200 pages to start making sense...they weren't kidding. I cant stop reading this series now :)


As mentioned in other threads, Deadhouse Gates will break your heart. I cant remember the last time i'd felt so many different emotions while reading a piece of fiction. Brought tears to my eyes



I highly recommend giving this series a try

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They have moved around the new Malazan books out this year (and there are now three new titles being released in 2007 and three re-releases). Currently the situation is (in the UK, can't speak for Canada except the 24 April date on Amazon.ca is apparently going to be changed):


The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Book 6 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (paperback)

2 April 2007


Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson

Book 5 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (hardcover, American edition)

17 April 2007


Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson

Book 7 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (hardcover)

7 May 2007


Night of Knives by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Book 1 of The Novels of Malaz (hardcover)

4 June 2007


The Lees of Laughter's End by Steven Erikson

Book 3 of The Bauchelain & Korbal Broach Stories

'Spring 2007'


The Collected Bauchelain & Korbal Broach Stories: Volume One by Steven Erikson

'Spring 2007'

(includes Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead and The Lees of Laughter's End)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think the problem is that there isn't much I can tell you about the 'period of confusion' from the start of the first book that doesn't spoil later books. However, let me know anything that really throws you for a curveball and I'll see what I can explain without wrecking later plot developments.


The most common one:


The opening chapter after the prologue (where Paran and the Adjutant meet on the coast road) takes place on the continent of Quon Tali, which is not part of the maps shown in the novel (this throws a lot of people), which only show the continent of Genabackis. Quon Tali is several thousand miles to the south-west of Genabackis.

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Thanks, Werthead. That explains a lot. :lol:


Besides the little confusion, I'm enjoying reading the book. It has a special aura around it, like you said epic. Very nice.


Just read Tattersail remembering the attack against Moon's Spawn and the fall of Pale. Good stuff.

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That's a very powerful and very notable sequence in the book, and it is revisited from other POVs several times later on. Not everything is at it seems in that conflict.

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