Forget the plot summary – there’s a description that captures some of it on the back of the book, but more importantly, even briefly summarizing all of the different arcs of Orb Sceptre Throne
would take a couple thousand words (only a slight exaggeration). And therein lies what is probably the biggest problem with the book – there are too many stories being told at once. This causes a bit of confusion and prevents a focused narrative from ever developing. This is hardly a new criticism for books in the Malazan
world – both Erikson and Esslemont are guilty of this elsewhere. But with Erikson, there are always thematic threads that bind the various arcs together and bring a focus of sorts. Esslemont’s writing largely lacks the thematic depth, leaving things far too unfocused.
Another problem holding back Esslemont’s writing is his caginess. Yes, subtlety plays an important part in writing, information must be withheld to maintain interest and suspense, and not every arc can or should come to a complete resolution. However, Esslemont tends to take things too far, which results in more confusion and frustration and brings us to what is the other biggest problem in the book – the apparent lack of an end game.
Even the most die-hard Malazan
fans (such as myself) are probably asking what is the end game? Where is Esslemont going with these books? Again, this is a common issue in Malazan
, and I believe an intentional one. For example – what Malazan
fan after reading the first 5 books in the series actually had an idea of where Erikson was going with things? My guess – none, and fans were loving the wild ride. But once again, Esslemont takes this important aspect of the overall concept of the Malazan
books too far, reversing its effectiveness.
So far I’ve been all bad and no good – well, there is plenty of good to be had. But make no mistake, this good is for the fans (after all, it is essentially book 14 of a 16 book series). The fans get more Bridgeburner action – those few remaining survivors lie at the heart of this one. The Seguleh come alive and we see what they can do. Dassem and Caladran Brood are around, and some of those key people we first met way back in Gardens of the Moon
are back in action. We get a creation story for the world of Wu and the fallout from the convergence at this end of this book should have some big implications to come. And there is ever-present aspect of Esslemont’s writing that fans either love or hate – the relative lack of philosophical musings that Erikson populates his books with.