Malazan 1 and 2

Nobody normally loves a daylong blackout (yesterday, Tuesday, due to Typhoon Pedring/Nesat), but it has its benefits, like enabling me to finally finish the second volume of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. The Malazan series is COLOSSAL and has several  wikis, which I will be hyperlinking to extensively below. BTW, spoilers here.

Malazan Book of the Fallen 1: Gardens of the Moon

Shadowthrone, Ascendant ruler of the  Warren/Realm/High House of Shadow, and Cotillion, assassin of the said realm, begin their attempt to destroy Empress Laseen by possessing a fisher girl, who would take the name Sorry and eventually join the Bridgeburners, an elite unit of soldiers of the Malazan empire. Leading the Bridgeburners’ highly respected 9th Squad is Whiskeyjack, the former commander of the 2nd Malazan Army, who was demoted to sergeant by Laseen after her assassination of Emperor Kellanved. Other important members of the elite unit are Ben Adaephon Delat (a.k.a. Quick Ben, a powerful mage with access to 12 Warrens), Kalam (an assassin and Claw), Fiddler and Hedge (sappers), Ganoes Paran (a young, noble-born officer whom Laseen appoints captain of the Bridgeburners), and Sorry. Laseen sends the Bridgeburners to Darujhistan (the only remaining city on the continent of Genabackis that needs to fall to the Malazan empire), not only to assist in its conquest but also to be destroyed. Laseen also sends her Imperial Adjunct, Lorn, to free a powerful Jaghut Tyrant, whom she aims to use against the equally powerful Anomander Rake, Knight of High House Dark, and leader of the Tiste Andii, who has offered his alliance to Darujhistan. In the end, the city is saved, Lorn is killed, Sorry is released by Cotillion and takes the name Apsalar (while retaining Cotillion’s skills), Rake moves his floating fortress (Moon’s Spawn) elsewhere, and Whiskeyjack and the High Fist Dujek Onearm lead the 2nd Army into rebellion against Laseen. Kalam and Fiddler agree to take Apsalar and her new friend, the young thief Crokus, to her home, which happens to be near Malaz City and Laseen, whom Kalam and Fiddler now intend to assassinate.

RATING AND COMMENTS: I give this novel 3.5 stars out of 5. Granted, the magical system is not as inventive as Brian Sanderson’s in his Mistborn trilogy, and the characterization is not as deep as that of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, but the world-making is COLOSSAL, probably as innovatively colossal as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was in its day. I was so in awe after reading this first novel (which I bought way back in 2008!) that I was more than willing to pay extra to have the sole copy of Book 2 in the country shipped from the Fully Booked branch in Gen San! Erikson’s world is inhabited by human, pre-human, and non-human races, creatures, and Warrens (sources of power), some of which have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. The interesting system of Ascendancy (transcendence of death) is unpredictable and apparently only occasionally based on virtue. There are elder gods, ascendants, and mortals that might appear mostly evil, but as their stories are told, one understands why. The character I like the most is Whiskeyjack, who tries to see the good in Sorry/Apsalar when everyone, including the sagacious Quick Ben, thinks her evil and wants her taken out.

Malazan Book of the Fallen 2: Deadhouse Gates

On the subcontinent of Seven Cities, a Whirlwind army led by the prophetess Sha’ik begins a massive rebellion against the Malazan empire. A new Fist, Coltaine, leader of the Wickan Crow Clan is sent from the continent of Quon Tali to the city of Hissar in Seven Cities to undertake the impossible task of evacuating the 7th Army and around 50,000 civilians to Aren, the imperial capital on the subcontinent, 500 leagues (or 2,500 kilometers!) away. He eventually succeeds despite fighting against various tribes and an army twice his own, but in the end, so close to Aren that the every soldier in the fortress could view every painful detail, Coltaine is captured, tortured, and killed because the new High Fist, a craven idiot, listens to his confidant, the oily priest Mallick Rel, and refuses to send Coltaine help. Instead, the incompetent High Fist leads his own sortie against the rebels but ends up betrayed by Rel and beheaded by Korbolo Dom, the same renegade Fist who captured and killed Coltaine.

Parallel to all these events, Felisin Paran (youngest sister of Ganoes Paran) and other nobles are sold to slavery. Hating her sister Tavore, whom she felt betrayed her family by becoming the new Imperial Adjunct, but who, unknown to her, sends a powerful assassin to help her, vows to destroy her elder sister. After going through harrowing experiences, including prostituting herself to keep alive, she becomes the Sha’ik Reborn. Again, parallel to all these events, Fiddler, Apsalar, and Crokus meet the legendary,  millennia-old Icarium, amnesiac inventor of time devices, who is at the same time capable of destroying entire Warrens, cities, and by extension, civilizations, and Mappo the Trell, whose role is to accompany Icarium and prevent him from regaining his memories and destroying the world. The two help the three travel through an Azath house in the Raraku desert to the one called Deadhouse in Malaz city. Meanwhile, Kalam is also able to reach Malaz city and nearly kills Laseen; however, after Laseen’s honest answers to his questions, he changes his mind and eventually tells Shadowthrone (who is revealed to be the former Emperor Kellanved ascended) to leave the empire alone.

RATING AND COMMENTS: I give this novel 3.5 stars out of 5. Though I liked the first book a bit better than this one, I enjoyed finding out more about the Malazan world and Warrens and myths disclosed here. I also learned to read the Malazan series more slowly, like a few chapters at night, because, though I can read thicker books than this in one sitting, reading a Malazan book in this way is one sure way to bring on a migraine because of the colossal world that one has to deal with. The character I like the most in this second book is Coltaine’s – laconic, doesn’t smile much, yet even those originally skeptical of him would eventually freely die for him, unable to resist the charm of competence and self-sacrifice, as he evacuates and protects thousands of ungrateful and unruly nobles and their servants thousands of kilometers to safety.

Here are three wikis on Malazan:

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