on December 29, 2005
Okay, in my review of GotM I said you'd keep reading, and if you are reading this it means either you did, or you are thinking about it. Think no longer, do it!
You really can describe this series like a motorcycle, it just keep accelerating to breakneck speeds.
This book takes place on an entirely different continent under Malazan rule, and concerns some new characters (amongst which is Ganoes Paran's youngest sister Felisin), but also has a few Bridgeburners (Kalam & Fiddler), and other known names from the 1st book (Apsalar/Sorry, Crokus, and Moby). While the scope of characters grows ever larger, so does the plot. It is in this book that you can see the slow and gentle weave of the story threads for the whole series. Like I have said in other reviews, Erikson is purposely using each subsequent book to make characters grow personally. Some complaints about GotM were that he doesn't spend the time to make you care about characters, but he TOTALLY is....he just didn't do it in one book. I think he knows he has 10 books to make this series, and to be honest with the complainers.....when you watch a two hour movie, do you fall in love with the personalities (or even KNOW them well) in the first 10 minutes? No sir, you do not. Example of how this works effectively. Fiddler in the first book was a fellow Sapper with Hedge, and they spent their time getting excited about munitions, and grumbling about soldiery ect. Not too much there right? Well that's because Fiddler takes a lead role in DHG and you get to know him down to his core in this book (and get to know Hedge in a similar fashion in the 3rd book Memories of Ice). He's taking his time, and I for one find that REFRESHING!
This book has many great aspects (and I would liken this to "Empire Strikes Back", it is quite dark in overall tone), but the heart and soul of this book is the "Chain of Dogs" storyline. Told mostly from Imperial Historian Duiker's POV, it is the story of an untested Fist of the empire having to move his army across an entire continent (over 200 leagues I believe) while all the while defending 300 thousand Malazan refugees fleeing rebellion in the Seven Cities. Armies of the Apocalypse at his heels continuously, and innner strife amongst those refugees, all the while having to invent and confound to get these people to safety. It is absolutely heart rending, and is one of the most amazing pieces of writing. If GotM was incredible, DHG trumps it. Erikson keeps getting better and better with every book.
Better than Martin and Hobb combined.
on May 27, 2004
Absolutely breathtaking. No lame story plots or ready set characters for Erikson. Totally original, he takes his skill and obvious flare beyond the boundaries in this thrilling new book. The Chain of Dogs was simply wonderful, the brutality of it made it all the more exciting and the characters' point of view was a very nice touch in helping the reader understand the sequence of events.
The story never gets boring; you get to see all the heroes' flaws and villains' good sides. Also Erikson doesn't associate villains with black and darkness and all that other nonesense found in most books.
Well, that's it I guess. I recommend it to all readers up to a challenge. Never slows down but can get a bit complex - NOT FOR AMATEUR READERS!!!
A great fantasy read!
Although Erikson's style and skill as a fantasy writer is evident throughout this entire series (and also in his short stories, "Blood Follows" and "The Healthy Dead"); I feel this is his finest writing achievement to date... let me elaborate a little.
As with his other books in this Malazan series, there are several story lines in this novel as well, but the main tale of Coltaine and his soldiers of the Seventh Malazan Army simply excels; this hopelessly outnumbered group tries to protect thousands of refugees while traveling vast distances across hostile terrain and against countless odds. It was to me, one of the truly stirring, written accounts of any epic journey... anywhere; one of those rare narratives that has the ability to sweep you up and almost make you a part of the story line. I was emotionally involved with the telling of this wonderfully drawn out tale and unashamedly distraught at it's end.
Some "side" stories (for example, Mappo and Icarium and also that of Fiddler and Kalam, to mention a couple) are nearly as good the main plot, with their own interesting twists and turns.
All in all, just great fantasy writing! If you love this genre, you simply must have this book. Highly recommended! 5 Stars (more if I could)
on July 8, 2004
Rarely does an author combine a world so vividly mystical and mythical with characters so deeply complex and action that doesn't relent. Erikson has created a land as rich as Tolkien's, peopled with characters George R R Martin would find fascinating, while written in a way that creates Donaldson-like atmosphere and tension. Erikson has delivered with this series.
Set shortly after the connected events of "Gardens of the Moon", the narrative follows a number of characters (some we have already met) with individual motives, travelling in groups throughout the civil-war-torn continent of the Seven Cities (Genabackis returns in Book 3). This is a land with different dynamics and changing allegiances. There is enough intrigue and incident to keep the reader interested, no, obsessed with each group, especially Coltain's March.
What I truly love about Deadhouse Gates is that not only has Erikson recaptured the spirit of Book 1, but has written Book 2 with a plotline that accelerates and doesn't let go. I felt I read the last 300 pages faster than I had ever read before.
Don't have any doubts about continuing this series, it is masterfully written. Erikson attempts to be huge in scope, and he actually succeeds - moreso than anyone since Tolkien. He is the new 'High Fist' of epic fantasy. Treat yourself.
on April 9, 2002
The sequel to the quite good Gardens Of The Moon, Deadhouse Gates continues Erikson's breathtaking invention.
Firstly, perhaps it is just me, but Deadhouse Gates is less awe inspiring in it's invention. There is no 'gawd, would you look at that' type of thing in DhG, as in GotM with Moon's Spawn and the Azath. Personally, I find this to be a good move by Erikson, as more focus is on the plot and the characters. This is where DhG truly shines. Much like Shakespearean tragedy, the characters drive the plot, not the other way around.
There is no 'most important' plot within DhG, all of them contribute to the book. In fact, what emerges is synergy, where the entirity is greater than the sum of it's parts. Each thread has it's own throbbing emotion which is beautifully lugubrious. I must make special note of the Chain Of Dogs sub-plot. The final episodes are the most amazing I have read in all of fantasy. In my opinion, fantasy has never produced anything so heartbreaking as the final few chapters of DhG.
The characters are worth special note in DhG. They are all solidly constructed, drawing our sympathy, and in some cases - Mappo especially - our empathy. That Erikson achieves this is a true testament to his writing skill. To be able to handle so many characters so deftly and sensitively is a rare feat. Duiker, Felisin, Heboric, Icarium; all are followed with our compassion throughout the novel.
While there are moments where it seems characters are walking mindlessly, with nothing going on, there is an important point to these moments. The Seven Cities is a place where the soul wanders, and returns different to what it was. Ultimately, this is what drives DhG. The development of characters. As for claims that some plots are difficult to understand, this is quite untrue. DhG is driven by emotion, not the military intrigue of GotM, or the ancient mysteries of Memories Of Ice. To understand DhG is to feel.
Last, but definitely not least: the pace of the novel is still excellent. While the journies of characters are sometimes overwhelmingly detailed, they do not move in circles like Jordan's novels. Everything in Erikson is very direct.
In short, better than GotM, and without doubt one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time.
on March 28, 2002
One of the previous reviewers said that this book was different from other fanatasy books he's wrong. The story has been done before, in Deadhouse Gates you read echoes of Glen Cook and David Gemmell, but then there is the scope and depth of Paul Edwin Zimmer. "Deadhouse Gates" features some characters from the previous "Gardens of the Moon". The premis is simple a plot has been hatched to slay the empress against this background you have the sub plot of an entire continent in rebellion, the fulfilmet of an ancient prophecy and the corresponding jihad it set's in motion, the introduction of a pair of immortal wanderers one who is potentially the deadliest threat to mankind and all who live, the machinations of shadowthrone, more on the eternal war between the T'lan mass and the Jaghut and on a more intimate and somewhat mundane level the development of a number characters from the previous book. It is all in all a very good read, with heroism that will sate any fan of Gemmell, unrelenting brutality and humour at it's blackest for any Glen Cook fan and finally depth and scope for those few fans of Paul Edwin Zimmer.
It's nice to really have despicable villians that you can detest with relish.
One character does deserve special mention Coltraine a study of stoic fatalism and master of the wry comment, his campaign of the chain of dogs alone is worth the read.
I've been derisive of some writers who seem to write massive tomes with very little substance but Deadhouse Gates is almost 900 pages long, the pages literally turn themselves it's one of the few times that I curse my ability to read fast.
I hope Robert Jordan reads this he might get a few ideas on how to get the point. Sorry couldn't resist that but I really have come to dislike his Wheel of Time series as some sort of pointless excerise of female emancipation.
Not that there is anything wrong with female emancipation but come on surely I'm not the only one thats finding his series quite the yawn.
on October 17, 2001
Deadhouse Gates and also its prequel, Gardens of the Moon, seem to defy all convention that is known to the genre of fantasy. These books are so different, in fact, that it is hard to compare them to most fantasy. For many readers who are tired of the usual sword and sorcery quest filled with heroes who are overly righteous and villains who cannot be any more villainous, these books will be quite refreshment. Deadhouse Gates shows you the real side of war that is usually untouched in most fantasy. It's a sight that at some times is so depressing that you feel that peace and happiness will never ever reign. The excellence of Erikson's writing ability shines through in this new novel. His characters are wonderfully human and have real human emotions that drive them to do human actions. There are no invincible "good guys" who always 'do the right thing' and win against impossible odds. And although Deadhouse plays out with mostly different characters, a wholly different plot, and on a totally different continent than its predecessor, the book still reads with a believable and connecting storyline. Deadhouse is not without its faults, yet is a distinct improvement from Gardens, which I felt was only adequate and sorely lacking what is necessary for a good fantasy novel.
One of Erikson's greatest achievements here in Deadhouse Gates is his viewpoint characters. While Gardens of the Moon was plagued with over 20 different character viewpoints, Deadhouse is told through the eyes of only seven people; Mappo, Felisin, Duiker, Kalam, Fiddler, Kulp, and to a lesser extent, Lostara. These characters are vivid in their portrayals of simple people trying to survive and keep their sanity while lost within the horrific wars that are unleashed across the Seven Cities. There are no super heroes in Deadhouse Gates, no flame-throwing, Forsaken-killing do-gooders. These wonderfully gray characters do what they do to stay alive and that's it. While this war-torn crowd is usually hard to like, you can't help but to be holding you breath in the hopes that they will win out in the end.
When Steven Erikson writes well, he writes superbly, drawing you into his story just like the mighty Whirlwind itself that encompasses Deadhouse Gates. His battle scenes are written so brilliantly and with such stunning ferocity that you can actually picture them in your mind down to the finest detail. In this sense, Erikson shows you a different side of fantasy that is usually shied away from, military fantasy. A large portion of Deadhouse is spent on the Chain of Dogs, an army that is 'escorting' thousands of refugees to safety. Here, you spend you time in the throes of battle after battle and live though exhaustion, dehydration, and depression. Reading about the Chain of Dogs can be so disheartening that at some times you almost have to put the book down. Deadhouse Gates is for a much more mature audience for it encompasses very bloody battles. Erikson also provides some very interesting, new stories of what actually happened to the Emperor and Dancer and shows a side of the Empress that you might not have thought possible. And at the same time, he keeps you updated on what is happening with some of the characters from Gardens of the Moon on Genabackis.
Yet among the splendors that I have reaped upon Deadhouse Gates, it does have its flaws. Many times the story seems absolutely aimless and redundant on it self. These characters seem to spend so much time wandering and wandering that it can really get tiring and you wonder that Erikson is really leading to. Also, some of the storylines, especially Mappo, are rather confusing. You don't really understand the reason for the characters actions. The storyline between Mappo, Icarium, and Iskaral is rather difficult to understand. Of course, things are resolved and understood in the end, but it would have been more interesting to learn then earlier on. Also, Deadhouse Gates seems so totally depressing and unrelenting in its brutality. Many fantasy readers have commented on how brutal and cold Martin's 'Song of Ice and Fire' series is. Yet, this series makes Martin's look like a Disney movie. I don't even think that the characters in Deadhouse Gates know how to smile.
Despite it disheartening storyline and sometimes slow, aimless plot, Deadhouse Gates is an excellent and very worthy read. It is extremely different from most of what is out in the fantasy market and will draw you in with its realistic writing and engaging characters. Erikson has shown himself to be an important new face in the fantasy field and have surpassed many authors whose books are only read as time-consumers between the next books in "the Song of Ice and Fire" and "Wheel of Time" series. I have heard that Erikson's next book, Memories of Ice, returns Genabackis and continues the Malazan storyline in what hopes to be an excellent new series.
on March 27, 2004
I won't waste time with what others have said. Okay maybe a little: this is dark, epic fantasy at its best, and you better keep track of the plot and characters, because the author is not going to walk you through this one. Erikson is a master of writing an emotionally gut-wrenching scene but then following it up with an uplifting glimpse into the future that will have you smiling in anticipation of what's to come.
Unlike many other series in this genre, you see the world and its characters progressing. Each book pulls the world forward and you can see a grand design taking place. You want to read this series because you *know* all 10 books will be great, and so far, each is greater than the last.
on May 18, 2016
As I've been told and have read many times, the Malazan series only gets better as you delve into the second and third instalments. I'm disappointed to have to report that, so far, that isn't true.
While it still has passages of beauty, Erikson's prose has become a bit more spotty this time around. Perhaps it's because he wrote this sequel quite a while after Gardens of the Moon, and it took him a while to find his narrative groove again (as the last half of the book's narration feels much improved). Whatever the case, it was somewhat disappointing in comparison to the first book.
The biggest disappointment, however, is that nothing has really improved from a storytelling perspective. The characters are, for the most part, wooden and static. Others are just dreadful, and you spend most of your time wishing they'd die. Of course, in Erikson's Universe, there's no telling whether or not they would stay dead even if they were to be killed off. It's awful. Not only that, but each character arc is completely drawn out, to the point where you feel like nothing has really happened until the very end of the novel.
When all was said and done, there were some things that I did end up liking about the last fifth of the book. It isn't quite a one star novel, but I was still tempted to rate it as such due to my level of frustration with it. I can only hope that the third one will live up to what I've been told of it, as I am still not very invested in this world so far.
on January 23, 2004
The Malazan Book of the Fallen is by far the best fantasy series I have read. Why is it different than the rest you may ask? First, the scale is epic in the full sense of the word - a lot of continents, hundreds of tribes, races, states, characters, more than a hundred thousand years history of the world, legends, many gods, factions and intrigues. Secondly, Steven Erikson writes superbly - the sentences flow effortlessly and he can play on the readers emotions like few other authors. He uses words people like Robert Jordan don't know that even exist in the dictionary. His characters are neither "good" or "bad" and his plot is as little cliche-plagued as possible while actually staying in the epic fantasy genre. Plus Erikson is a master of the humorous dialogue and hilarious characters.
About this volume - most of the characters are different from the Gardens of the Moon which may annoy some readers but be assured the cast from GotM returns in Book 3. This book is Dark fantasy in the true meaning of the word dark - bloody (and I mean really bloody) rebellion, gruesome battles, slave labor mines etc but SE doesn't describe the details with the sick passion of G.R.R.Martin he just shows us the real face of war. Erikson's world is not the nicest place to be.:) The Chain of Dogs military campaign is the best in the genre and its ending is one of the most emotionally touching scenes I have ever read in any book from any genre. If you like non-conventional fantasy you just have to give the Malazan Book of the Fallen a chance.