Malazan Book of the Fallen, The by Steven Erikson
Well I've now completed the third book of this series ('Memories of Ice') and while there was obviously enough to keep me reading this far - no mean feat as anyone who has read it will know - I am afraid I still retain a few reservations which I would like to pass on to any prospective readers of the series.
Firstly I'd say to any fan of the genre: give them a try. Here you will certainly find an original and at least to some extent absorbing fantasy series which, if you come to like it, will keep your days and nights full for a long time! But I must warn you that if you believe everything you hear and read in it's favour, you may be disappointed.
Erikson's writing style is more mature than that of, say, Eddings or Feist, but less grandiose and solemnly self-concious than Tolkien or Donaldson. But, that said, the prose itself is still often clumsy, with overused phrases, cliches and - particularly noticeable to me - laughably childish descriptions, particularly of magical phenomena. The author too often resorts to Hollywood style "bursts of light" and "flashes of power" to describe magic, but invariably fails to inject any mystery or awe or even suspense in to such scenes, merely relating them in a matter of fact, detached manner. This gives the impression that he is at times a little over ambitious with his prose, where Feist or Gemmel would have kept it more realistic.
This is, in fact at odds with the way in which Erikson stands out as a writer who departs from the conventions of the genre. What kept me reading, and the main reason I would recommend giving the series a try to anyone, was that the Malazan series takes place in a fascinating, elaborate and unique fantasy universe, which, despite my reservations, I am still glad to have visited. Erikson never shies away from grandiose themes, with most of the plot being derived from the politics of the various supernatural and earthly entities. The problem is that this usually only takes place in the background of the actual story, and we learn about it through the endless dialogue of the main characters.
This is not character story and personally I did not find it particularly moving. Mainly because Erikson obsessively creates new characters to add to the ever expanding cast, but cannot live up to the impossible task of giving them all genuine and plausible motives, emotions and experiences. What, I think, many readers have mistaken for depth of characterisation is Eriksons' habit of continually interjecting substantial passages of psychodrama in to the novels. But I found these shallow and contrived and, most importantly, irrelevant. I never felt that individuals changed or learnt or behaved out of character. In fact there was a sense of inevitability to the whole thing, characters unfailingly doing exactly what was expected of them, as though people were no more than pawns in a great game. Which is, of course, the central premise of the whole series! But to me this does not make for great story telling. I was more interested in the powerful, mysterious characters on the periphery of the plot than the tedious 'down to earth' characters whose endless, 'humorous', discussions I was forced to endure.
Unlike most readers, I actually enjoyed the first novel in the series more than the others, perhaps while the novelty was still there. It did not bother me that all was not revealed in the first few pages, nor did I find it particularly challenging. I suppose I enjoyed that sense of piecing things together and being dropped in to this world with as little clue about what was going on as most of the characters. The problem came as I read on and on and I could not shake the feeling that the author had no more idea where the story was going than I did! Malazan, for me, works a lot on anticipation and elaborate back story. But throughout Erikson fails to deliver, either seeming to forget a certain plot strand all together, or culminating in set piece action sequence which his prose fails to live up to and leaves you with a feeling of anticlimax.
Malazan is written like a television series, with each chapter another episode in which you see how each character is doing, and with big 'series finales' in which he gets out all his special effects. But to me the SFX were unconvincing, and, like certain T.V series, much of the narrative had that feeling of going somewhere but never quite arriving.
Submitted by werewolfv2
Steven Erikson shows with his series The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Gardens of the Moon is the 1st book) that a true master of the Fantasy genre has arrived. Erikson grabs you by your neck and doesn't let go.
Don't bother reading his books if you want simplistic fluff.
Don't bother reading his books if you want your questions answered within a few pages.
Don't bother reading his books if you need a storyline spoon fed to you.
For those of you that like a challenge, like a unique world and a unique system of magic then this is for you.
I've noticed a couple complaints about "lack of humor". I'm not sure what author those people are reading but some characters in The Malazan Book of the Fallen are extremely funny. Of course people have to read more than just half of one book in the series to understand this.
When you first enter his world you're liable to be either slightly/somewhat/completely confused. He throws his reader in, with little or no explanation of what or why or how anything is happening. The discovery of the how and the why makes things more interesting than just having all answers laid out for you in the 1st two chapters. Over the course of the book you learn and as you learn you discover that his 1st book is really just the tip of a massive fantasy epic that ranks in the top 3 of the genre next to Tolkein and G.R.R.Martin.
I have read his entire series so far and without exception Erikson proves he is a Master of Fantasy
Submitted by Edward Graham
The Malazan Book of the Fallen paints a vivid picture in your mind. The characters are intriguing, their personalities so complex that they seem real. They live in your head for weeks after you've finished a novel.
The land, and systems of magic are unique, Steven describes the settings with masterful talent. THe magic is described perfectly, making it seem intensely realistic. This author is not only adding a new masterpiece to the wonderful genre of fantasy, he is creating his own legends, and a series that stands alone in its readability.