I started this one pretty reluctantly. I'd read the reviews, the vast majority of which all seemed to think that Toll the Hounds was a bit of a dud. But I really wanted to finish the series, but couldn't really face the prospect of starting out on a complex, 1,200 page novel which I was pretty sure was going to be bad in any case.
But I needn't have worried. Toll the Hounds is excellent. Yes, it's slower than the other books, and the scope is rather more limited than in, say, Reaper's Gale. But that's not saying much, given that we're talking about Steven Erikson. It's true that most of the action takes place in Darujhistan and Black Coral, but they only really provide the backdrop to a much bigger and richer story which takes us into all the places that you'd expect from Erikson. I'm not going to go into the story, as that has been covered by lots of reviewers already. I just wanted to say that those readers like me, who have plowed through seven books of the Malazan series already and are dismayed at the prospect of starting TTH, don't worry!
Many of these reviews are, I think, a bit unfair. No-one should be reading this novel unless they've read the other seven books in the series. And anyone who HAS read these books will know by now that the Malazan series is by turns awe inspiring, epic, brutal, moving, infuriating, dull, and impenetrable. TTH is no different, and it is all these things. They will already know that Erikson enjoys a bit of moody philosophizing: TTH contains quite a bit of this. There is quite a bit of staring into campfires and pontificating about the nature of things like guilt and honour. Still, again, anyone who has already read seven of these books will surely be okay with that by now. Yes, Kruppe is annoying, and gets a bit too much airtime. And so is Iskaral, and he gets a bit much at times too. But on the whole TTH gives a good pay-off: pretty much every character that you like is in here somewhere, there are the requisite twists, turns, and amazing plot developments, and the end is amazing.
TTH feels like a drawing together of the threads before the final push. The characters have been inching their way towards one another for the past seven books now, and by the end of TTH they are all pretty much in place for what looks sure to be an excellent denouement. We lose some along the way, and there are some really shocking moments which fans will not expect. I thoroughly enjoyed it and encourage anyone following the Malazan series not to be downhearted!