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August 23rd, 2012, 11:18 PM #1
Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
I was pretty suprised to see that there isn't yet a thread devoted to Forge of Darkness by Erikson and the new Kharkanas Trilogy. So, I suppose here is one now. The book is out in the UK and coming next month in the US.
Anyway, I'll start things off with this. I finally got my review done for FOD. I thought it was pretty great, though it's obviously only the beginning. I can't wait to see where it goes from here. An excerpt of the review is below (yes, it's long - around 1700 words, and there is much more at the blog).
For fans of Malazan, many of the characters of Forge of Darkness are well known from their roles in the Malazan series. Foremost of course is Anomander and his two brothers, but there are many other of the Tiste that we’ve only seen hints of before, many of the elder gods (though before they are recognized as elder or even gods), a few Jaghut and there is mention of such races/species as the Thel Akai, Forkrulkan, Jheck and Jhelarkan, the Shake, and the dog runners (Imass). I predict that really hardcore fans will be both ecstatic and a bit enraged by Erikson’s handling of characters long known and loved (to varying degrees). The characters that we see here are different – first and foremost, they hundreds of thousands of years younger, and quite often, very literally young. They are in development, they haven’t yet seen the millennia of hardship and pain to come, the power of magic has not yet come into the world, the gods are relatively unknown, and the realities of mortality and immortality are not comprehended. Memories from the original series are likely not as factual as fans would like, perspective is always key and Erikson immediately plays a ‘get out of jail free’ card at the start with a Prelude that explains that this text is a story told by a poet who happily admits to presenting it the way prefers to so that the thematic goals are properly achieved. Oh how this enrages fans and brings me joy (but much more on this here).
But, to bring the circle back around, I believe that this is a must read for fans of the Malazan world. I imagine that most fans are like myself and have forgotten many of the details of the massive, million-work plus series. The generally small supporting roles played by and often vague references to the Tiste we see in Forge of Darkness are equally, forgotten, misremembered and remembered in the fog of the aftermath of the Malazan series. And that’s fine – we get to meet them all again for the first time and in addition, we get to see the shattering of the ancient world and the birth of the one the series takes place in. And it’s all told though Erikson’s brilliant writing.
In Forge of Darkness Erikson shows a deeply moving and tragic beginning of the end of a civilization. In many ways this story belongs in the Dying Earth sub-genre. Not only is the Tiste civilization moving toward a civil war, but the entire world is in the beginning stages of being remade. And the forces behind this inevitable decent equate those of the human condition that Erikson writes to in everything he does. The Tiste civilization is destroying itself through all of the realities of human motivation – power, segregation of society, religious fervor, neglect, ambition, etc. The land has been destroyed, used up. The spoils of a great victory in war prove to be poison. And as always, the best of intentions have tragic consequences.
The most evident of the frameworks that Erikson chooses to explore the death of a people and world is through family. Almost every relationship shown in the book boils down to that of family – parenthood, mothers, fathers, kids, bastards, father and mother figures, absence, brother, sister, grandmother, etc. This exploration of family is powerful and not easily pinned down, but everything comes down to it. From the over-arching rise of the religious figureheads (and gods) of Mother Dark and Father Light, to the evil daughters of Draconus, to the his troubled bastard son, the Purake brothers and their devotion to each other, the unhealthy love of a painter for his sister, and so on. Civilization and indeed the entire world is presented as an extended family, though not necessarily a traditional one. All of the pain, love and dysfunction coalesce into something tragic, though, if I know Erikson as I think I do, ultimately hopeful.
Through this Erikson explores some of the concepts that human nature (and the fantasy genre) tends to hold in high regard – justice, grief, vengeance, right vs. wrong, aristocracy, sexuality, sacrifice and others. These explorations often come from the minds and conversations of people that many would not associate with such deep explorations – the young, the soldiers and even the servants.
But, no worries for those craving action, there is plenty of action, though it flows at metered pace. There are quests across alien, desolate lands. Creatures emerge from the Vitr. Battles are fought, slaughter rendered. Death comes, magic descends and a proud son greets the Lord of Hate, who writes an unending suicide note.
August 24th, 2012, 06:28 PM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2010
I've never decided whether the use of unreliable narrator in the various malazan books is a good thing or a bad thing. It seems like every three or four books the whole direction of the books seems to shift 90 degrees. I'm fairly certain most descriptions of tiste that I've seen describe them as "invader races." Also I though high king kallor was supposed to rule a human empire after the imass ?
August 24th, 2012, 07:18 PM #3
wow. that's an awesome review.
my review went something like this:
followed by me gibbering for a bit like a monkey with its hands on a tourist's camera phone.
September 16th, 2012, 02:20 PM #4
The Kharkanas Trilogy Book 1: Forge of Darkness
It is more than a quarter of a million years before the time of the Malazan Empire. In this ancient age, the Tiste race is divided between noble families and bickering militias, trying to find their place in the world following the devastating wars against the Forulkan and the Jheleck. When the Tiste ruler, Mother Dark, takes the obscure Draconus as lover and consort, the noble houses are incensed and the seeds are sowed for civil war and religious conflict.
Forge of Darkness is the first novel in The Kharkanas Trilogy, a prequel series to Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. This trilogy will chart the splintering of the Tiste race into the three sub-races seen in the main series book (the Andii, the Liosan and the Edur) and explain much of the ancient backstory to the series. Some characters from the main series - such as Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, Hood and Gothos - appear here as much younger, far less experienced figures. However, those hoping for I, Anomander Rake will likely feel disappointed. Rake is a central character in the events unfolding and appears a few times, but much of the action takes place around new, much less important characters. Also, while the story is set more than 300,000 years before Gardens of the Moon, this isn't the alpha-point of the entire Malazan universe. Tiste society is many thousands of years old when the story opens and Rake, Mother Dark, Ruin and Draconus are already important characters with significant histories in place.
Instead, the trilogy is much more concerned with clarification of events in the main series books and explaining why certain things are the way they are. Surprisingly, the series addresses questions that I think most fans thought would simply be left as, "That's how it is," such as the nature of the gods in the Malazan world (and the apparent realisation by Erikson that 'gods' was not the right word to use for them), why the different Tiste races have different appearances and why the Jaghut evolved the way they did. Some long-burning questions are indeed addressed, such as the reasons for and the nature of Hood's war on death, but for the most part Erikson is not really concerned with really addressing obvious mysteries (those left wondering what the hell the Azath Houses are will likely not be satisfied by this book, in which even the race they are named after is baffled by them).
Instead, the narrative unfolds on its own terms. As usual, Erikson has a large cast of POV characters including nobles, soldiers, priests and mages, many of them with slightly cumbersome names. However, Erikson strives to differentiate his characters more from one another then in previous novels. Forge of Darkness enjoys a shorter page-length than most of his prior books (clocking in at a third less the size of most of the Malazan novels) and is far more focused. The plot is a slow-burner, divided into several relatively straightforward narratives. This is Erikson at his most approachable, easing the reader into the situation and story rather than dropping them in the middle of chaos and expecting them to get on with it (such as in the first novel in the main series, Gardens of the Moon).
Of course, Erikson isn't going to give the reader an easy ride. Minor peasants continue to agonisingly philosophise over the nature of existence with surprisingly developed vocabularies at the drop of a hat. There are too many moments when characters look knowingly at one another and speak around subjects so as not to spoil major revelations for the reader, regardless of how plausible this is. There is an awful lot of hand-wringing rather than getting on with business. But there's also a few shocking reversals, some tragic moments of genuine emotional power and some revelations that will have long-standing Malazan fans stroking their chins and going, "Ah-ha!"
Forge of Darkness (****) is Erikson's attempt to channel the in-depth thematic approach of Toll the Hounds but weld it to a more dynamic (by his terms) plot-driven narrative whilst also satisfying the fans' thirst for more information and revelations about his world and characters. It's a juggling act he pulls off with impressive skill, with some polished prose and haunting moments. But those who continue to find his reliance on philosophical asides and long-winded conversations tiresome will likely not be convinced by this book. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
September 17th, 2012, 02:08 AM #5
- Join Date
- Apr 2010
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
Can't wait to read it. Just waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail.
Great review by the way, it makes me want to read it even more. I'm definitely not opposed to the unreliable narrator.
September 17th, 2012, 04:16 PM #6
I would love to read a review of FoD from some one completely Malazan naive. An efffort to put myself in those shoes I think it would have an early Stephen R. Donaldson feel to it. (Cant really explain why) FoD was very focused but still has SE's brilliance. The first book is pretty slow but eventful for fans. His world,writing and character modivations makes characters with little background seem more realistic than some fleshed out characters in other books. He is a master of nuance in his character development and a natural storyteller.