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Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson The Malazan Book of the Fallen review fantasy author(1959- )
Steven Erikson is an archaeologist and anthropologist and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His Malazan Book of the Fallen series has met with widespread international acclaim and established him as a major voice in the world of fantasy fiction. He lives in Canada. Maps, chapter summaries, and genealogies can be found at  The Malazan website. Note: Ian Cameron Esslemont is a co-creator of the Malazan Empire and writes novels in that world.

Gardens of the Moon: Erikson displays a prodigious imagination

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

It's always a question for fantasy fans: do I really want to read a first book in yet another long series? Remember when we moaned about when everything was a trilogy — now I'll be happy to take a simple three-book series. Wouldn't it be great if you could tell ahead of time if the trip will be worth it? Well, thanks to the quirks of international publication, you can with the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Gardens of the Moon, the first book, may be the only book out in the States, but there are four others already released in Canada and I'm happy to report that while there are some hit and miss points, and certainly some flaws, overall the series (a projected ten-book one) is well worth jumping into with Gardens of the Moon.

This is gritty world and war fantasy; you won't find ... Read More

Deadhouse Gates: What the heck is going on?

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

The only words that I can think of to sum up Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series are “Wow.” and “What the heck is going on here?!?” (I would have used stronger language, but this is a family website). Erikson appears to be doing something big and shiny, but I have not yet been quite able to grasp what it is. Maybe I am being dense, but this is the second of his books that I have read, and I have the pervasive feeling as I progress through this series that I am missing something important, but I can’t put my finger on what precisely that is.

Deadhouse Gates is the second of the Malazan novels, but it does not pick up where Gardens of the Moon left off. The events in it occur i... Read More

Memories of Ice: This is one of those stories that hooked me

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

I sometimes find myself lost in this story's complexity. I think I'm getting the general idea that the gods of this world have a more direct relationship with the mortals than what we're used to, and that the tale here really started hundreds of thousands of years ago. Also, sometimes when it seems like I've missed something, it eventually comes together, more or less.

I also get very frustrated over the lack of visual descriptions. That may be only my own personal pet-peeve, because I have this complaint for a lot of today's fantasy writers. It's just bothersome to me when I'm trying to enter a fantasy world and the creator doesn't always paint a good picture of its creatures or the characters. I'm infuriated when I surrender to the fact that I'm just going to have to go with my best idea of what something looks like, and then a description comes pages after it has been introduced and I find that... Read More

House of Chains: Good but with some rough edges

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

Being the fourth entry in Steven Erikson’s sprawling series THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN, House of Chains continues with the storyline first started in Deadhouse Gates and somewhat loosely with the repercussions of the explosive climax to Memories of Ice. I won’t bother trying to summarize the setup of the book, and readers are expected to have knowledge of the previous books. So, if you have not yet read them — and I would suggest you give at least Gardens of the Moon a try — then I wouldn’t recommend reading this review.

Breaking from tradition, the first chapters of House of Chains lets go of the juggling back and forth between viewpoint characters ... Read More

The Bonehunters: So complex

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

The Malazan Book of the Fallen has become so complex that it’s very difficult to keep all of the storylines in order. It’s totally worth the effort, but these books are not exactly the sort that you can just pick up and read quickly. The Bonehunters is no exception and I found myself jumping back to the reference of who’s who quite a bit.

I struggle to write this review because so much that I want to say would be spoiler material for people who are beginning the series. But what I can say is that The Bonehunters was awesome! The Bridgeburners and some of their history and what made them who they are has been a theme throughout the series. In The Bonehunters we get to see something similar happen to a new troop of soldiers. It’s painful, it’s... Read More

Reaper’s Gale: Malazan redefines fantasy

Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson

In modern fantasy literature, there are certain select works that define the genre such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire, the Shannara nov... Read More

Dust of Dreams: The best LRMMVSTLB fantasy epic

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson

So, a long-running, massive multi-volume fantasy epic is winding to a close, a close so big that the last book actually has to be split, and it’s still 800 pages long. What’s that? No, this is the other long-running massive multi-volume split-the-last-book fantasy epic. Not The Wheel of Time but Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, whose penultimate book, Dust of Dreams, moves us nearly to the close. And if I had to choose only one LRMMVSTLB fantasy epic for newbies to start? Sorry, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson fans (and I’m mostly both), but Read More

The Crippled God: Ends the preeminent fantasy of the past 20 years

The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

If you want a quick, partial sense of what’s in store in Steven Erikson’s The Crippled God, look no further than this conversation between two characters (to remain nameless so as to avoid spoilers):
“There are too many rogue players in this game. Icarium. Draconus. The First Sword of the T’lan Imass. Olar Ethil. Silchas Ruin, Tulas Shorn, Kilava — even Gruntle, the Mortal Sword of Treach. And now the Elient, and how many dragons have come or are coming through the gate? A hundred? A thousand? Oh, and the Elder Gods: Errastas, the past Master of the Tiles, and Kilmandaros and her son...”

“They — they’re all here?”

“Nobody said it’d be easy... what do you have to offer me?”

“Why, more good news... Let’s just add the K’Chain Che’Malle and the Jaghut, and oh... who knows how ma... Read More

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: A pair of joyfully destructive necromancers…

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach collects three of Steven Erikson’s novellas set in the Malazan Empire series, certainly one of the most ambitious, and I’d say one of the best, epic fantasies going. The collection, which includes Blood Follows, The Lees at Laughter’s End, and The Healthy Dead, follows the exploits of its eponymous main characters, a pair of joyfully destructive necromancers we first met in book three of the larger series, though in truth the side characters often take more center stage.

Totaling about half the length of the monstrous tomes in the series, Erikson has stripped out the complex plotting and subplotting of his novels, dropped the cast of characters by a magnitude or two, and cut down on t... Read More

Crack’d Pot Trail: Delectable

Crack'd Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

Crack’d Pot Trail is the fourth of Steven Erikson’s Malazan novellas following the exploits of Korbal Broach and Bauchelain, a pair of sinister necromancers whose dark side is often thrown into a grayer cast due to their situational context and the characters (often allegedly “purer” or “better”) that surround them. As with the earlier novellas, Erikson lightens up on the dense worldbuilding, labyrinthine layered plots, and casts of thousands of the larger series to focus on, well, mostly I’d say having fun, but on characters and theme as well. And also as in some of the earlier ones, the journey is all — the destination relatively unimportant.

In this case, the journey is a Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from hell, as the characters, on a pilgrima... Read More

The Wurms of Blearmouth: A short comic tale by Erikson

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

The Wurms of Blearmouth is the fifth novella by Steven Erikson centered on his gloriously disruptive pair of "evil sorcerers" Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their by-now-relatively-stoic servant Emancipator Reese. As with the prior four, this is a far lighter tale than his lengthy, dense, and often deeply serious MALAZAN series. The BAUCHELAIN AND BROACH tales are more comic, far shorter, with far fewer moments of Erikson's trademark "philosphophizing" (though fewer does not mean no such moments). I found The Wurms of Blearmouth a mixed success, with some laugh-out-loud moments, lots of chuckles, some welcome sharper bits, and a few less funny/comfortable moments.

At the start, we are introduced to the sorcerer-ruler of a small town on a wrecker's coast — Lord Fangatooth Claw (the first chuckle) atop his tower keep declaiming for the scribe ... Read More

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales: I’d love to see more of Grandma Matchie

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales by Steven Erikson

I'm a huge fan of Steven Erikson's massive MALAZAN EMPIRE series, which I consider one of the outstanding works of fantasy in the past few decades. I'm also a fan of his trilogy (Bauchelain and Korbal Broach) of novellas set in that same universe following the two eponymous characters and employing a healthy dose of black humor and satire. His new collection of novellas, The Devil Delivered and Other Tales, has no connection to the Malazan world at all, but does employ humor, satire, and fantasy. Thus I was quite curious to see if my enjoyment would transfer over. My answer, respective to the three stories included, was kind of, not so much, and absolutely.

The first story, which shares the collection's title, has an eco-apocalyptic setting (the main character wanders the American plains under a deadly hole in... Read More

This River Awakens: Beautifully dark and very challenging

This River Awakens by Steven Erikson

Pretty much all you have to do is say Steven Erikson and I’m there. This River Awakens (2012) is far different from anything most people will think of when they hear the author’s name. It’s not set in a secondary world. It’s not epic fantasy. There isn’t a huge war or expanding empire in the core of the book. From what I understand, This River Awakens was Erikson’s first book and it’s more fiction and urban fantasy than anything else. While it is far different than typical Erikson, it is still glorious.

This River Awakens was re-released in 2012 after initially being published in 1998 under Erikson’s pen name of Steve Lundin. I love reading author’s works that are totally different from what I typically associa... Read More

Forge of Darkness: Absolutely works

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

My personal experience with prequels has been quite mixed. They too often have a rote, going-through-the-motions feel to them. You get the sense the author is simply, mechanically connecting the dots, reverse-engineering the prequel story from characters and events laid out in the original story: “Explained why they call that thingamabob a “graggle”? Check. Explained why everyone wears red now? Check. Why Character A is a jerk? Check.” While this may result in some readerly satisfaction — “Oh, so that’s why it’s a graggle. Cool!”— I’ve found this approach seldom ends up creating an organically compelling storyline or rich characterization. These problems are compounded by the fact that we obviously know where this story and these characters are heading, thus robbing the prequel at the outset from a lot of narrative tension and making it difficult to offer up to the reader those joyful mom... Read More

Fall of Light: Takes a while to get going, but rewards the patient reader

Fall of Light by Steven Erikson

OK, look. I’m just going to put it on the table early on. I had a tough time with the beginning of Steven Erikson’s Fall of Light. And by “beginning,” I mean the first 150-200 of its 800-plus pages. It wasn’t just the pace (though it was admittedly more than a little slow). Or all the new characters (though really, one wonders at some point how many Tiste we haven’t met, not to mention Jaghut, Azathanai, Jhelken, Dragons, etc.). Or that there was a lot of table-setting going on (though given how book one had spent a good chunk of its 600 pages laying out the plates and silverware and glasses, I confess I’d expected the food to come a lot more quickly than it did).

All of those issues... Read More

Willful Child: Erikson’s Star Trek parody

Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Let’s start with what needs to be said when reviewing a book like Steven Erikson’s Willful Child, a full-bore parody/homage to Star Trek: The Original Series. One, humor is wholly subjective. I, for instance, have never understood the allure of Adam Sandler. My wife, meanwhile, has never understood why I find Airplane funny (I could go on and on with that list, but one will suffice). So one person’s rib-splitting, laugh-out-loud bit will be another person’s “meh.”  Second, humor is tough. As the line goes, “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” So, that being said, what about the book?

As mentioned, Willful Child takes on the classic Trek series and makes no, ahem, “Bones” about it. After a quick little prologue, this is the opening of Chapter One:  “Space. It’s fucking big. These are the voyages of th... Read More

Wrath of Betty: Has its issues, but will still make you laugh (and think)

Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson

If you’re going to parody a TV series, as Steven Erikson did with Star Trek in Willful Child, then you can’t stop at just one book, can you? Think of all those other episodes ripe for the plucking! And so we’re back for more interstellar hijinks with the crew of the Starship Willful Child and their erstwhile leader Captain James T--, er, Captain Hadrian Sawbuck as they face hostile aliens, robots run Amok, Time (see what I did there?) travel, hostility from their own Federation, and perhaps most dangerous of all, rampant consumerism. The laughs come at warp speed, making Wrath of Betty a mostly successful mission, though as I noted in my review of the first book, Willful Child Read More

Magazine Monday: Adams Takes Over at Fantasy Magazine

John Joseph Adams, in recent years the editor of a raft of excellent anthologies on different science fiction, fantasy and horror themes, has now become the editor of Fantasy Magazine. The March 2011 issue is the first published under his red pencil, so to speak, and its mix of new and reprint fantasy material is promising. All content is free on the web, though ebook subscriptions and editions are available for sale.

“The Sandal-Bride,” by Genevieve Valentine, is about Sara, a woman who needs to travel from one land to another to join her husband, a shoemaker who has gone before her. ... Read More

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy: Celebrates the rich diversity of the genre

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy by George Mann (ed.)

I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to short fiction. Because of my lack of experience in this area, I hope that you will bear with me as I try to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, even if I don’t always succeed. The plan is to first look at each short story individually providing synopses and commentary, followed by my evaluation of the compilation as a whole. So, let’s look at the stories:

1) “Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast” by Mark Chadbourn. On Christmas Eve in the year 1598 in a world where England is at war against the Faerie, England’s greatest spy Will Swyfte is on a mission of the greatest import — he has until dawn to prevent the Faerie Queen from crossing over to the other side. If he doesn’t, then the Unseelie Court will... Read More

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R. Kiern... Read More