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  1. #1
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    Orb Sceptre Throne by Ian Cameron Esslemont

    With the Pannion Seer defeated, the Jaghut Tyrant Raest imprisoned and peace declared with the Malazans, the beleaguered citizens of Darujhistan are finally hoping for a time of peace and prosperity. Of course, this is the perfect time for an ancient force of unspeakable evil to escape from the barrows outside the city and unleash a new age of chaos and war across most of Genabackis. This war will draw in the Moranth and the Seguleh, the Rhivi and the remnants of the Malazan armies still stationed on the continent. Far to the south, treasure hunters are looting the crashed ruins of Moon's Spawn, searching for the storied Throne of Night, whilst in another realm hunters are searching for the missing High Mage Tayschrenn at the very Shores of Creation. But the fate of Darujhistan, Genabackis and maybe the world will rest in the hands of one fat thief and a bunch of Malazan deserters who want nothing more than to run their pub in peace.

    Orb Sceptre Throne is Ian Cameron Esslemont's fourth entry into the Malazan world, expanding on the novels written by his friend and collaborator Steven Erikson. It's an interesting book in that, unlike Esslemont's previous novels which largely focused on new characters, this novel extensively features characters Erikson has used and developed in several previous books, most notably the curiously-dictioned Kruppe. This poses challenges for Esslemont, but thankfully he overcomes them with aplomb. Kruppe occasionally feels a bit off, but most of the other shared characters (Caladan Brood, Duiker, the ex-Bridgeburners, Torvald and Rallick Nom and more) come across very well.

    The narrative is, as is typical with Malazan, somewhat disjointed, with several apparently unconnected storylines unfolding before converging at the end. This disconnect seems more pronounced than is normal for Esslemont and is briefly worrying, since he has far less page-time to play around with than Erikson (despite being almost exactly 600 pages long in hardcover, this is the one of the shortest books in the series). However, as the storylines move together and things start making sense, the book picks up a tremendous momentum. The second half of the novel is stuffed full of battles, plot revelations and character moments that are satisfyingly epic. By using elements familiar to readers from other books, Esslemont is able to imbue events with more meaning than would otherwise be the case. When four hundred Seguleh (the sword-wielding taciturn badasses of the Malazan world) show up, the reader knows that some serious carnage is about to go down, for example.

    For this reason, Orb Sceptre Throne works much better for established Malazan fans than newcomers, particularly those who have already read Gardens of the Moon, Memories of Ice and Toll the Hounds. A number of plot elements stretching all the way back to Gardens of the Moon are expanded upon and backstory is (finally!) given for the Seguleh, the Moranth and indeed Genabackis as a whole. It's also nice to see some established characters given more depth and bigger roles than previously, such as Antsy, who becomes a major player in events at the crashed Moon's Spawn.

    On the negative side, there's a number of story elements that are somewhat obtuse, either referring to storylines still to be detailed or referring very obliquely to events in other novels. Some characters fare better than others, and notably after the initial ferocious power and abilities shown by the antagonists, they seem to be caught a bit flat-footed by the forces arrayed against them at the end of the book. Also, it's confusing why Esslemont alludes to the fact that a fan-favourite character is still in the environs of Darujhistan when that character plays no role in the book (despite events being more than epic enough to attract his attention).

    Despite these minor niggles, Orb Sceptre Throne (****) is a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Malazan canon. It is available now in the UK and on 22 May in the USA.

  2. #2
    Only 100 pages in but loving it. Stonewielder was alright but I couldn't really get that interested in it. Im totally interested to see where this book will go. And ICE is now a legitimately good writer worthy of being published on his own merits.

  3. #3
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    Can't wait to get it, ICE has gotten better and better with each book.

  4. #4
    I like to rock the party Corporal Blues's Avatar
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    Nice reveiw Wert!

    How would you say ICE's writing style compares to Eriksons? It sounds to me from your review that his novels have a bit of the tedious, seemingly unimportant storylines like Erikson. Would you say this is more or less of an issue with ICE?

    Do his books tend to flow better?

    I've only red Night of Knives, and with the events all taking place on a single night in Malaz city, it is hard to use that one as a measuring stick.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    ICE is good, certainly, and his style is a bit of a throwback to Erikson around Books 2-3 of the series (when he was at his best, for me), but he can't match Erikson at the very top of his game. He's certainly comparable - and sometimes better - than the introspective Erikson from the latter part of the series, however, since he drops the philosophical musings that Erikson engages with to get on with the plot.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    ICE is good, certainly, and his style is a bit of a throwback to Erikson around Books 2-3 of the series (when he was at his best, for me), but he can't match Erikson at the very top of his game. He's certainly comparable - and sometimes better - than the introspective Erikson from the latter part of the series, however, since he drops the philosophical musings that Erikson engages with to get on with the plot.
    I agree. ICE is like SE but a bit more "normal." He's not going to blow you away with incredibly powerful scenes like SE sometimes did but he also doesn't have SE's indulgences.

    I don't think I would say ICE's books "flow" better. At least before OST they were kind of choppy. OST seems to be doing fine in that regard so far.

  7. #7
    I like to rock the party Corporal Blues's Avatar
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    Wert and End of Disc One-Thanks for your responses.

    I agree that Erikson seemed to be at his best around books 2 and 3 in the series. I'm also glad to hear there's less philosophical ramblings with ICE! That's something that drove me nuts with Dust of Dreams.

    Do you think there's more editorial leeway given to a guy like Erikson, who is a proven seller? Do you think editors let an established writer have a less focused narrative as the book sales increase? I from experience, this is an issue that occurs often in these long fantasy series.

  8. #8
    Nashville Reader
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    So with the publication of this book, what is the recommended reading order for the ICE/Erikson novels (not counting books coming out later in 2012 and beyond)?

    Edit: nm..found a recent discussion on this here

    Interesting, as I thought Orb Sceptre Throne was a follow up to the Crippled God to wrap some stuff up. Guess ICE's next novel follows tCG?
    Last edited by bossfan2000; January 26th, 2012 at 03:45 PM. Reason: found an answer to my question

  9. #9
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Wert's post HERE suggests an order, Bossfan.

    Mark
    Mark

  10. #10
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    thanks, Mark..I think I found it just as you were typing this reply. I recently finished The Bonehunters and wondered if I should go to RotCG or RG next. Sounds like it doesn't matter. Might try RotCG to break up the Erikson books.

  11. #11
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Dang: happens, sometimes, Bossfan! At least your order is sorted.

    Me: I'm thinking to read the two series as separate, but I am SO far behind with the Malazan series...

    Mark
    Mark

  12. #12
    In terms of the difference between ICE and SE- I'd say that while it's true that ICE can't match Erikson's sheer verve and high drama when he's at his peak, especially in action, what he does add to the mixture is a good hand with the low-level character moments. Without going into spoilers, in his books he has made at least two previously difficult (for different reasons) characters introduced in SE's books a lot more understandable and palatable, one, in Orb Sceptre Throne, in a very limited number of pages. And his own characters are good too.
    He adds a certain texture it didn't have that much of before, basically. While I wouldn't say normality - this is still Malazan - perhaps a bit of normality's perspective. Characters who don't turn out to be in some way remarkable, the way pretty much everyone in SE's books does.

  13. #13
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    I'll stick my hand up and say after NOK I found ICE's books decreasing in quality even if the topics they covered were very interesting within the context of the world. Having just finished OST I think it's one of the best Malazan books, in terms of writing, world building and story. It is a bit slow in the middle and the odd inconsistency/irritation, as Wert mentioned about a certain character, but neither really detract from the book.
    Last edited by kater; February 7th, 2012 at 04:34 PM.

  14. #14
    Nobody in Particular kcf's Avatar
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    Below is an excerpt of my review of OST. Like many here, I had mixed feelings about this one.

    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.

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