In looking for something to read whilst on holiday I searched for the ’10 best fantasy series’ and came across a list entitled 10 fantasy series to read while waiting for George R. R. Martin. The list gave me confidence because at the very top of the list was the Kingkiller Chronicles; a series which although incomplete has entrenched itself firmly in my heart.
So I read the list and I found five series which appealed to my sense of taste, some of which weren’t yet complete. Others, apparently, were, although there are too many cases of authors going back to series and adding to them for this necessarily to hold true. Coming top of this list, from my perspective, was Steven Erikson’s Malazan book of the fallen series. It was complete, always nice when you’re planning on reading the books back to back, and it was long, something which generally holds appeal for me since it gives me a chance to know the characters. So with no further ado I purchased the entire ten books for my kindle, all the while wondering if this was in actual fact a good investment of my money.
Book one, Gardens of the the Moon, was brilliant. Erikson span several threads which started out wholly unconnected but progressively ran closer together. From that reasoning alone this book could be compared to a work by Martin. Not only that but he has no compunctions about killing off major, even central, characters to the story. More than one character I held great belief, was killed during the course of this book, although with the nature of true fantasy there are illusions that a characters death will necessarily stick.
And that is where the book differs greatly from Martin’s. In ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ the magic is a subtle, almost non-existent, undercurrent to the main story. In Malazan book of the fallen the story would not progress without it. In many ways it is a story of how a game of the gods affects their mortal pawns.
The biggest issue I had with this book was how the first few chapters jumped from time to character and I struggled to find a foothold. Once it had settled down however pure brilliance emerged. It rang true as well to the preface the author had written seven books on, He said something to the effect of either a reader will not like my style and I will lose them in the first third of the first book or they will be fully on board and riding the waves with me seven books later.
I’m glad I persevered, the story is worth it.