I am in awe of Steven Erikson. Not only has he finished one of the most ambitious projects in fiction but he did it by tying everything together so that the series forms a complete and almost perfect circle.
Tavore Paran is marching her army of Bonehunters – outcast from the Malazan empire – across the wastelands and into the Glass Desert to free the Crippled God. Outcast from his own world, the Crippled God fell to the earth in pieces, broken and chained the body of Burn – the goddess whose flesh is the earth – by the other gods.
Outnumbered and hopelessly underpowered against the immortal Assail that hold the Crippled God’s heart, chained and enslaved, the Bonehunters set out, unwitnessed, to provide a small amount of justice in a world bereft of it.
Death himself takes an active part. Gods and dragons fight over warrens of sorcery and whole worlds are lost and shattered and driven into darkness and into light. Entire races, made undead through sheer force of their vengeance converge with rival gods of war and ancient immortals intent of destruction. War and betrayal and the most tender of personal moments all intermix with violence, death and a little bit of humor.
True to our own world, however, all these things are part of the great and powerful as well as the doings of the soldiers and peasants and even little children. In this book the events of all the previous nine books, the random events and unexplained sorceries and personal stories suddenly coalesce and become one. Forgotten historians, giant barbarians, powerful idiots and eccentric kings all have a place in the ending that serves only as a place to stop. We weren’t just chasing random threads in an overwrought narrative. They were all important, and all of them led here. People on different continents and hundreds of thousands of years in the past had an effect upon this one event.
Erikson has improved by vast degrees since his debut novel more than thirteen years ago. His writing style is smoother for one, but more importantly his characters have grown and changed. Many of the complaints about the characters – even the uneducated soldiers – lapsing into moments of verbose philosophy at an instants notice are valid but I find that as the series has progressed Erikson’s writing has also progressed to the point where it’s no longer boring. He seems to one of those few people who commands words with such skill that he can write just about anything and I will read it.
Erikson has occasionally overused certain phrases and constantly strings together sentences that have no subject but even in the midst of that his prose is beautiful. It never feels awkward or choppy. In fact it seems to flow so smoothly that time and space seem to melt away around you and you fall in and become part of the story.
I guess this is a case of breaking the rules when you understand them well enough to know how.
Perhaps all that is left to say at this point is that this is the ending that this series has been telling us was coming from the first page of the first book and I didn’t see it until I finished the last page of this one. It made me cry – on the bus – or that was allergies.
That said, this is not a good place to start. You really need to go back to book one.