As is so often the case in the Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen this novel is about a convergence. It is a convergence of gods and monsters, of men and demons, of history, malice, hate, tribes, warriors, undead, revenge, deliverance, forgiveness and love.
Erikson has led his readers on a strange and unbelievably complex journey for eight books. In this, the penultimate novel of the series everything gets bigger and more desperate.
Any summary would be inadequate, there is just too much. After the devastating ending and deaths of the previous volume I didn’t think Erikson could make it any worse. Then he did.
Now I understand what it feels like to lose everything you love after fighting for hundreds of thousands of years to gain it. I know the despair of fighting halfway across a world, battling through realms or death and fire to find a friend who flees from you. I know the desperation of a soldier trapped between opposing sides and the deep sadness of a people who have lost their home only to discover it was never theirs to begin with.
Steven Erikson is doing something here that I believe is a fundamental part of fantasy fiction. He’s breaking his world.
Fantasy is a creation of the author and usually the world is as much a character as the characters
are – often more. Because of that many writers (and readers) love their world and are loath to do it any lasting harm.
In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings the destruction of the ring heralds the last departure of the elves from Middle Earth and with them all the magic in the world. The world became fundamentally a different place than it was at the beginning. Daniel Abraham does something similar in his Long Price Quartet. There are others.
It’s not required that a fantasy break the world to be good, but the author shouldn’t be afraid to.
With the last two novels Erikson is breaking his world. The warrens (the alternate realms from which mages draw their power) are collapsing and bleeding. Elder gods connive to overthrow their younger counterparts and men and demons and gods are willing to side with death himself to stay out of the way. And it’s all beenhappening – behind the scenes – since book one.
Ancient races are resurrected to remake the world in their own image and others are preserved for millennia to stop them. Vast armies converge and whole civilizations topple and crumble to dust.
And this is just the beginning of this book. It all gets much worse and so much bigger because, unlike the other books in the series this one is the first part of a longer story and it’s only just begun.