My Rating: 5/5
“First in, Last out” – Motto of the Bridgeburners
With a book this big, where so much happens, yet without revealing spoilers, it is difficult to know where to begin with a review. There are two main things I want to cover – although they are by no means everything that I could talk about – which are: characters and lore/history.
This book leads on from Gardens of the Moon, so despite Deadhouse Gates being an incredible book with its own cast of brilliant characters, it was so good to follow the characters left behind from book one.
Whiskeyjack, Paran, and Quick Ben, I think, are the main ones I was excited to see again. I had heard so much about how Steven Erikson drew on the outlines of the characters from GotM and really fleshed them out in Memories of Ice. I wasn’t disappointed.
Whiskeyjack quickly became one of my favourite characters. He reminds me a lot of Eddard Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire, but for the fact that no character in Malazan is completely good or noble – unlike Ned Stark.
Paran really develops as a character and we finally see what he is really like. He is put in difficult situations and has to navigate less life-threatening but equally difficult issues which arguably have more of an effect on his character development. In GotM he does very little but looking back there are hints to the person we finally get to see in MoI.
Quick Ben has been a mystery from the beginning, and he is still full of secrets, but it is great to finally know a little more of who he is, what his history is, and what he wants. I look forward to seeing more of him as I am sure there are several more surprises in store.
As well as old favourites, we have new characters too. Notably we see more of Caladan Brood, Kallor, and Anomander Rake. I loved that these characters – despite their power – did not command the story. This is a story that belongs to the mortals, and it is much better because of it.
Having said that, however, Erikson characterises these three brilliantly. They all have their own little quirks, their weaknesses, a voice in the back of their head. They all have their own problems and desires.
It would have been so easy for Erikson so ignore that these three characters have any humanity at all, but he makes sure that you know they do.
Some of the other characters we meet include: Silverfox, Gruntle, Stonny, Korlat, and Itkovian. (Yes, there are a lot more, but give me a break! If you want a full list, read the book!)
Each new character brings something new to the story. It’s incredible how Erikson can create this enormous list of characters yet none of them feel the same. He has worked hard to make their voices sound distinctive and to give them all a history and motivations which make them unique in the sea of characters.
Overall, with the characters, Erikson’s character work has improved a huge amount from GotM, yet we did see a little of this in the characters from DG. I love all of these characters.
Not one of them is purely good or bad. They all make mistakes and their reactions to those mistakes make me love their humanity and how they grow from them.
I mostly had a lot to say about characters, and I think that is what makes this series so good. However, there is a lot to be said for the world in which these characters reside.
The prologue introduces us to a small period of ancient history. When I read it I didn’t think much of it. Yes, I was excited to read about the past and see more of Erikson’s world, however I didn’t see how important knowing that information was going to be.
It is rare that a prologue can deliver on the promise of being relevant, but this certainly does it.
I wanted to talk about the prologue because I think it’s a perfect example of how much history there really is in these books. I love every minute where, either through dialogue or thought, the characters mention something that happened in the past. It just adds so much to the story.
It is strange to think – yet Erikson makes sure that you know it is true – that even though these characters are big in these books, and are important to the particular places they are in at that particular moment in time, they are but ants in a world that is far bigger than even we can imagine, and we’re reading the damn books!
It’s a feeling of existentialism that I feel when I read the books, because when that particular thought comes to mind, I realise that my life in this world is just as small in relation to the planet we are on, never mind the universe that Earth is but an ant in itself.
There is so much more I could talk about, but I think certain topics require spoilers. I will come back to these books in the future and make discussion posts about them, but for now this spoiler free review will have to do!