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Ian C. Esslemont

Ian C. Esslemont(1962- )
Ian Cameron Esslemont is a Canadian writer. He was trained and has worked as an archaeologist. He is best known for his Novels of the Malazan Empire, which is set in the same world as the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series popularized by his friend and collaborator, Steven Erikson. Esslemont is the co-creator of the Malazan world.

Night of Knives: Strong characters

Night of Knives by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Any die-hard fan of the Malazan novels by Steven Erikson should know of Ian Cameron Esslemont. For the uninitiated, Mr. Esslemont and Steven Erikson are the co-creators of the Malazan world, which was originally conceived as a role-playing game.

I am a big fan of the Malazan novels. It was in 2004 that I first heard about the series thanks to the Science Fiction Book Club, which was featuring Gardens of the Moon when it was making its U.S. debut. When learning that the first five books were already available in the UK, I purchased them and immediately devoured all five novels, establishing the series as my personal favorite over t... Read More

Return of the Crimson Guard: Better than Night of Knives

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Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont

Return of the Crimson Guard is the second of Ian C. Esslemont’s books set in the world he helped create with Steven Erikson, whose longer-established Malazan Empire series has been going for years (the tenth and final book is due out in January).

Esslemont’s first Malazan book, Night of Knives, took place a bit back in the pre-history of Erikson’s series, set on the night that the old emperor Kallenvad and his companion Dancer ascended into the realm of Shadow and Laseen became empress. It was a much more constrained book... Read More

Stonewielder: Esslemont’s best book so far

Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont

Stonewielder is Ian C. Esslemont’s third book in the Malazan series co-created with Steven Erikson, and which Erikson has been exploring for years with his own series. If you look over my reviews for Esslemont’s first two Malazan books, Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard, you’ll see I’ve given them mixed reviews, though I thought Return of the Crimson Guard was an improvement on Night of Knives and boded well for the next book in the series. That prediction turned out to be mostly accurate, as Stonewielder... Read More

Orb, Sceptre, Throne: Esslemont’s most enjoyable MALAZAN book

Orb, Sceptre, Throne by Ian Cameron Esslemont

It has been a real pleasure to watch the development of Ian Cameron Esslemont as a writer. Both Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard were solid offerings but burdened with problems of pacing and character, though Return of the Crimson Guard showed some improvement. Each seemed pretty clearly the product of a new author. Stonewielder, the third of Esslemont’s MALAZAN novels was a big jump forward in terms of quality and craft; though it shared some of its predecessors’ flaws, they were less frequent and less detrimental to the overall reading experience. I’m happy to say that trend continues with Esslemont’s newest — Orb, Sceptre, Throne — which I found to be his most thoroughly enjoyable book yet, though it had a few... Read More

Blood and Bone: One of the best in this series

Blood and Bone by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Blood and Bone is the penultimate book of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s main MALAZAN EMPIRE series (I say “main” because he has just begun a prequel trilogy) and while it has its issues, it easily ranks in my top three of the main series’ six titles thanks to a few well-drawn characters and, especially, thanks to its relatively unique setting.

That setting is the jungles of Jacuruku, one of the as-yet-unexplored continents of the Malazan universe. The continent is mostly split in half, with one side under the dominion of a group of sorcerers known as Thaumaturgs and the other half, referred to as “Himatan,” is ruled by the powerful and mysterious Ardata, worshipped by some as a goddess and by others as the Queen of Witches. As has periodically hap... Read More

Assail: Ties up some loose plot threads and raises entirely new questions

Assail by Ian C. Esslemont

Once upon a time one could speak of the “upcoming conclusion” to the tales of the Malazan Empire, the multi-volume shared world series by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. But with Erikson currently writing the second book in his prequel trilogy, and both he and Esslemont contracted for more books set in this world, it’s best nowadays to perhaps muse on “resting points” rather than “conclusions.” And so it is with Esslemont’s sixth book, Assail, billed as bringing to “a thrilling close” the “epic story of the Malazan Empire,” but which also, even as it ties up some loose plot threads, raises entirely new questions. And that’s fine; even with my admittedly mixed response to Assail, I’d be ... Read More

Dancer’s Lament: A prequel the way it should be done

Dancer’s Lament by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Prequels can be tricky things for authors. One obvious obstacle is that being a prequel, the story is robbed of at least some of its natural narrative tension, as readers already know that this or that character will not die, that this or that battle will not be won. Authors also run the risk of having painted themselves into narrative corners via the original work — this character has to do A to end up at C, this thingamabob has to appear because it’s the signature thingamabob of Character X and so on. In weaker prequels, it all feels very mechanical, as if the author just traced the lines backward and dutifully filled in the obvious and necessary plot points, character appearances, and portentous arrivals of requisite talismans. Even the author who successfully navigates all the prequel pitfalls can end up losing, à la an army of irate fans complaining, “Hey, that’s not how I imagine... Read More

Deadhouse Landing: Meet the New Guard. Same as the Old Guard.

Deadhouse Landing by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Because it occurs not that far along into Deadhouse Landing (2017), I don’t feel bad about revealing that at one point our erstwhile heroes Wu and Dancer are forced into confronting one of the most dire threats of the Malazan Universe — being taken by an Azath. A revelation that I’m sure will have many of you wondering which of the many great powers of that universe could have driven them onto those perilous grounds: K’rul? T’riss? Kallor, a Matron, Icarium? Worthy candidates all, but none powerful enough. Because it turns out each pales beside the unstoppable, the irresistible puissance of ... the double-dare.
“G’wan,” the lad called, “we double-dare you.”


Wu looked at the overcast sky in exasperation. “Fine.” He stepped out among the dead knee-high grasses and weeds. “There. You happy now?”
... Read More

Kellanved’s Reach: Esslemont hits his peak

Kellanved’s Reach by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Kellanved’s Reach concludes Ian Cameron Esslemont’s PATH TO ASCENDANCY, his prequel series of MALAZAN books (as opposed to Steven Erikson’s prequel series of MALAZAN books) and while three is the classic book number in fantasy series, I personally wouldn’t mind if he snuck in another volume or two between this and Night of Knives, the next book chronologically in the series’ events.

The tale picks up not long after Deadhouse Landing, with Kellan... Read More