This is the 8th book in Steven Erikson's 'Malazan Book of the Fallen" series.
Of all the books in the Malazan series, this is, without a doubt, my least favorite...I will explain
First, the pros;
Overall, this series is epic fantasy at its best; in fact 829 pages in this book alone. There is intrigue, magic, unexpected enemies and friends and even some erotic moments; not to mention the usually backstabbing and clandestine plotting. In this book we are reacquainted with some old friends from previous tales, e.g. Cutter, Druiker, Karso Orlong (Toblakai warrior), Anomander Rake and last but not least, the ever loquacious, forever famished, mound of round, Kruppe.
Erikson's strength is his use of prose to describe people and their surrounding, all the while weaving a tale his characters come alive in; this latest installment is no exception. In fact, this may be the first in all the books that may be somewhat overwritten because of some of these perceived strengths. Which leads me into commenting on...
1.)As with previous Erikson works, the book starts off by given brief glimpses of several different developing stories. The problem here, in my opinion, is that unlike previous books, most of these story lines do not really develop into something resembling a plot until well after the first 200+ pages.
2.)In addition to the slow development, the writing seems heavy and difficult to follow; I had to almost 'study' sections to try to figure out what Erikson had his characters doing and saying.
3.)I found I became 'weary' of trying to interpret the vague, unclear conversations and happenings that occurred through out most of the entire novel. Eventually I stopped trying to figure out the difficult passages and just concentrated on sections that I found easy to understand; I don't think I'd have finished the book otherwise.
4.)I never thought I'd ever hear myself saying this about an Erikson book, but I found myself somewhat bored by some of the dragged out, confusing descriptions and tales; almost to the point of skimming them.
5.)And last, I don't think I've ever been so happy to finally finish a book
A Malazan tale that slogs through a slow beginning, middle and end. That is not to say there weren't some great moments in this book, because there were, many in fact; and this is the reason I rated the book as high as I did.
I seems to me that Erikson has 'stumbled' with this book; he knows what he's talking about, but I can't say the same for me. I wonder about other readers; I'm I the only one to notice this tendency towards 'unreadability'?
I hope Erikson gets back on track with his next installment; one more book like this and he may begin to lose some of his loyal followers. Difficult to rate this book, so I settled for a 3.5 and rounded it up to a 4.0 (rather than down to a 3.0 ) because I decided to give Erikson the benefit of the doubt...for this one.
Addendum Nov 15/08
For anyone who wished to continue to satisfy their "Malazan" addiction, or for that matter, want to read a Malazan story that's a little less confusing and has more action than the last book by Erikson, may I humbly suggest the newest novel by Ian C. Esslemont, 'Return of the Crimson Guard'. A book with a riveting story and some fantastic action; and written with a simplicity of language that I've started to miss with some of Erikson's latest books (especially 'Toll the Hounds')
IF your a 'Malazan' fan, you'll not be disappointed.