Malazan Book of the Fallen

  - Steven Erikson

My new favourite author. Magnificent stuff - easily the best fantasy since The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps better; I can't make up my mind, since Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is so utterly different from Tolkien. This fantasy cycle comprises ten volumes (one through seven already in print). Each book is brilliant, brutal, magnificent, and unpredictable; each stands alone, though the books are wonderfully interwoven.

Deadhouse Gates cover Erikson's prose hits hard: makes you wince, twists your gut. Makes you laugh, and leaves you silent. Empty.

The writing is stark, driven, uncompromising. Morality is ambiguous, and betrayal the norm. No vicarious pleasure in the savage Seven Cities' uprising, in the Seer's starving legions - forced to devour the enemy, or die - or the slaughter of Coltaine's Chain of Dogs, and no shading of the truth. This world mirrors our own.

Sorry, a fishergirl possessed by a psychopathic would-be god, leaves gory murders in her wake. Ganoes Paran betrays his Empress and his god, and would save the world. Kruppe the Magnificent: magnificent in dreams, in humour, in subterfuge, in irrefutable logic, and in his ability to stuff pastries. Felisin, ruined by durhang and sex and indifference, redeemed, vengeful. Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners, destined for death. Duiker, Imperial Historian, his endurance, courage, and loss without equal. Coltaine, Wickan chieftain, whose dying soul cannot be contained.

Erikson does not spare his characters - they love and hate, triumph gloriously and are ripped apart, sometimes all in the same few breaths. He does not apologize for them, but his sympathy for even the most heinous of them is immense.

Erikson's world is intensely old: hundreds of thousands of years layered down in dirt and blood, bone and ash. Magic abounds, powerful, fickle stuff, none of it cheap. The warrens - currents of lifeblood for an Elder God - are assailed, treacherous. Dreams make for strange, alternate magic, and the magic of the Deck defies and limits the others. And as in our world, chance skews outcomes into unforeseen directions.

Military campaigns are ugly, messy affairs, complex and treacherous and thoroughly believable. Cultures are brilliantly portrayed: through their pottery and art, slums and brothels, oral traditions and mythologies, garb and dialect, animal husbandry and the artistry of insults. Peoples and tribes, cities and villages, sects, religions, cultural and biological evolution are vivid and unique - our 'real' life but a dim reflection of Erikson's, to the last (vicious) lapdog. Not a single trite unmemorable charicature, or a single wasted detail - this world is real, grabs you, drags you along.

Warning to the reader: if you want an easy read, nothing complicated or unpleasant, no moral ambiguities - stay clear. Erikson is not for you.

For all others, Erikson gives us the richest, deepest fantasy world yet, stuffed brimful with flawed and tragic and exquisite characters, a driven plot, visceral prose, loss and redemption, humour, and great beauty. Highly recommended.

Favourite sites for Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen:

  • Malazan Empire

    Rating: 8.7


    Paul's Top Ten

    1. Lord of the Rings
      J.R.R. Tolkien
    2. Name of the Wind
      Patrick Rothfuss
    3. The Deed of Paksenarrion
      Elizabeth Moon
    4. Ysabel
      Guy Gavriel Kay
    5. Malazan Book of the Fallen
      Steven Erikson
    6. Mistborn Trilogy
      Brandon Sanderson
    7. The Magicians
      Lev Grossman
    8. Harry Potter series
      J.K. Rowling
    9. Black Company novels
      Glen Cook
    10. The Magic of Recluce/The Death of Chaos
      L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

    The Full List:
    Fantasy Novels Ranked and Rated


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    My Robert Jordan Compendium:
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    My Tolkien Page



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