Friday, 21 February 2014

Friday Musings: Malazan Book of the Fallen


I started writing a review of sorts for the first three books from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series written by Steven Erikson. Soon I came upon realisation that it is too great of a challenge to put it in words while still making any sense. It is just too epic. Too much is going on at every turn for me to be able to describe any of it in a cohesive and understandable manner. I could try, but I am afraid that half of it would be lost on anyone who has not read the books, so I would rather not.

Thus I came to conclusion. I should just recommend to you the series. Start with the first book, titled Gardens of the Moon, then move to second called Deadhouse Gates. And when you are done with it, grab the third book and go all the way to the last, tenth. You will be making yourself a favour if you love epic fantasy.

The world is interesting, mature. Life, death, peace, war, destruction, gods and their meddling, what makes a good ruler, faith, loss, defeat, victory. Those are all constant themes through the books, and death is just another event, nothing more and nothing less. Characters will die, some of them gruesomely, rare few in their sleep. There is quite a lot of thinking on life and philosophy, and an abundance of different characters. Intrigue is thick as thieves with the plot, and whenever you think you have it all figured out, the author will just surprise you once again.

It could be summarised as Malazans go to War and do not know how to end it, but this would turn out to be an understatement. What I love the most about this fantasy series, is that no soldier is there just a name to die. You learn soon enough, that all of them were at some point, if not still, a real thorn in the side of whomever crossed their path. Their tenacity, take on life, and short rebuttals are what makes the books as entertaining as they are epic.

One thing that really interested me, was the question of faith. As the world is based in reality where gods are very real, and their influence can be felt on daily basis, there is no such thing as atheists. What there is, is even more interesting. People exist who deny gods. Not because they do not believe in them, but because they are aware of the destructive touch gods can have.

The magic in the world has layers. While most mages draw their powers from the realm of one of the gods, some, at times much older cultures worship different gods, if those forces can even be called so. And soon you come to realisation, that even those spirits are truly powerful, only that their power manifests in a different way. I appreciate that the author does not spend much time on exposition, and lets the readers figure out things on their own, explaining only when it is needed.

I admire Erikson for his ability to widen the scope of the story, and still close the chapter of one segment when it is done, and move on. What I noticed while I read the first three books, is that one book makes introduction for the next in line. What I mean is this, that most of the crew you were with in the first book, is absent through the second, and only appears again in the third. And the crew that you were with in the second is for the time being done, and you might see only a few of them in the fourth book.

This is due to how the author sends his protagonists on a journey. And not every journey will end with the same destination for all of the characters. Some of them will end up astray, some of them dead, and some of them will get to the destination. In any case, it leads to more story. The Deadhouse gates and Memories of Ice actually takes place simultaneously.

In short, it is a good read, and what I managed to write here, only skims the surface of Malazan Book of the Fallen's real depth. More gruesome and focused on epic battles than Lord of the Rings, with less cruelty toward the reader than A Song of Ice and Fire, and more complex system than the Chronicles of Amber.

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