Monday, 18 June 2007

'Reaper's Gale' - Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson’s ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ sequence has been a ray of light to fantasy fans the world over who are either tired of waiting for an author to come up with the goods or are dubious about other author’s philosophical excesses (not naming any names but we all know who they are...). Erikson’s series was always going to be ten books long and no one can complain about his publication schedule (a book a year). He cannot be accused of foisting his own personal philosophy on his readers either, not in a world where nothing is black or white and the most relentless evil can sometimes bring forth the greatest good.
If you haven’t read any of the preceding books then you really need to go and pick up a copy of ‘Gardens of the Moon’ and get stuck in. For a start they’re all brilliant books (that I cannot recommend enough) and secondly there is no way that you will be able to make any sense of what is going on in ‘Reaper’s Gale’ without reading the rest of the series first.
‘Reaper’s Gale’ takes a step back from the transitory nature of ‘The Bonehunters’ and starts tying up some of the loose ends left from other books. Events are converging around the beleaguered Letherii Empire. The Tiste Edur thought they had conquered the Letherii people but instead are finding themselves increasingly sidelined by Letherii corruption and greed. The Tiste Edur emperor grows ever more insane under the burden of paranoia and the fact that, no matter how many times he dies, his own sword has cursed him to eternal life. Champions wait to fight the Emperor and amongst their number are two of the most powerful warriors ever to walk the face of the world. In the west, a disparate group of travellers bound together by sheer circumstance travel to find an ancient artefact that may solve all problems but they each have different reasons for finding it. If all this wasn’t enough for one empire to deal with, the outlawed 14th Army of the Malazan Empire has just landed on Letherii shores and they want nothing less than to halt the schemes of the power behind the Tiste Edur…
This may seem like quite a lot to take in but believe me when I say that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what really happens in this book. Suffice it to say that Erikson leaves no stone unturned in delivering a tale filled with heroism, tragedy, heart -stopping action and the high fantasy equivalent of ‘Jeeves and Wooster’. Anyone who has read the series so far will be left in awe of what Erikson has achieved and at the same time cursing the number of questions still to be answered (my question, “Who was Redmask? And what was the point of him…) Erikson delivers some of the best set pieces in fantasy fiction and maintains this high standard with the battles in and around Letheras. Your heart will be in your mouth and you will not believe how things turn out (once again, true heroism comes from the most unlikely place).
My only (slight) concern is a feeling throughout the book that Erikson’s impartial treatment of all his characters results in a work that borders on being too complex and unwieldy. Everyone gets equal page time and the constant chopping backwards and forwards can make for a disjointed read. He just about gets away with it this time and (judging by the number of people who die!) this hopefully shouldn’t be a problem in the future.
Overall, ‘Reaper’s Gale’ is another quality offering from Erikson. I have now started ticking off the days until ‘Toll the Hounds’ hits the shelves…

Nine out of Ten

1 comment:

Paul Doswell said...

Erikson is, in my opinion, the epitome of fantasy writing. I have yet to read this latest offering, but the previous books have left me with a sense of awe and wonder at the sheer craftsmanship and brilliant story-telling applied to a genre that is typically quite formulaic (damn you tolkien and all your kind!!!).

I love the MASSIVE scope of the series, the constant intertwining of the characters and indeed the races from which they come.

Beyond that, the writing has a beautiful grace and fluidity, the characters are well defined, and added to all this you have the gloriously satirical outlook and black humour (just how much did Bug make you laugh...?) churned in for good measure.

Anyway, I really must read this one!!!