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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Crippled God: The Malazan Book of the Fallen 10
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
The Crippled God is the final novel in The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson's monumental epic fantasy series that began twelve years ago with Gardens of the Moon. In that time Erikson has reached the heights of writing two of the very finest fantasy novels of the last decade (Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice), but there has been some growing scepticism over later novels in the series, which have tended to open up more confusing storylines then closing down or clarifying old ones.

The Crippled God has been billed as the second half of Dust of Dreams, with Dreams described as all set-up and Crippled as all-resolution. That's an exaggeration: Erikson spends the first three hundred pages or so setting things up and clearing his throat rather than cutting to the chase, but at the same time that's less than some of the other books. We still get lengthy philosophical discussions between lowly grunts which are rather unconvincing, but frankly the people for whom that's a major problem will have dropped the series long ago. Fortunately Erikson is somewhat less obtuse in this novel than in any previous ones. On occasion he even resorts to - gasp! - actually telling us what the hell is going on. This new, more reader-friendly Erikson who respects traditional narrative techniques a bit more than previously takes a little getting used to.

The Crippled God is also the book that stands alone the least well out of the series, as it picks up after a huge cliffhanger ending. Erikson seems to enjoy the fact that he doesn't need to do as much set-up as normal and throws in everything including the kitchen sink into the mix. Previews and author interviews suggested that quite a few storylines and character arcs from previous novels would not be addressed here, which is mostly focused on the Crippled God and Bonehunter arcs, so it's a surprise that as many characters and events from previous novels (including some of Esslemont's) show up as they do, and most of the few who don't are at least mentioned.

There's also a growing circularity to events. This appears to be Erikson's way of showing the readers that the Malazan series wasn't as incoherent and chaotic as it has often appeared, but there was a masterplan all along. He mostly pulls this off very well, with some storylines and characters which initially appeared very random now being revealed to be integral to the series.

Erikson's biggest success in The Crippled God is with avoiding the nihilism that has occasionally crept into previous books by emphasising the overriding theme of the Malazan series, which has always been compassion. Heroism and self-sacrifice, amongst common soldiers and gods alike, abounds in this book. Erikson pushes forward the message that true heroism is reached when it is performed unwitnessed with no singers or writers to celebrate it later. There is tragedy here, as each victory only comes at a tremendous cost, but less so than in earlier volumes. With everything on the table - the warrens, the gods, the world, humanity and ever other sentient being on the planet - the Bonehunters and their allies simply cannot afford to fail, even if it means crossing a desert of burning glass, facing down betrayal or forging alliances with old enemies, and Erikson has the reader rooting for them every step of the way.

His prose skills are as strong as ever, and in fact are strengthened by not having as much time to pontificate. There's a clarity to Erikson's writing here which is refreshing. Erikson's battle mojo is also back in full swing, with the engagements described with an appropriate amount of chaos and desperation.

Character-wise, Erikson is back to being a mixed bag. Some of the soldiers are ciphers but others come through very strongly (Silchas Ruin's motives and actions are a lot more comprehensible now). The Shake in particular are much-improved. Ublala Pung serves as great comic relief, and, whilst they don't appear as such, the presence of both Tehol and Kruppe are felt, lending much-needed moments of sunshine amidst the darkness. Erikson's choice of which characters to build up in depth and which to skim over during the preceding nine books makes a lot more sense as well, as it's some of the best-realised and most intriguing that bite the dust here. Characters die, and, mostly, it hurts when they go. If one in particular doesn't trigger at least a lower-lip tremble amongst most readers, I'd be shocked.

There are weaknesses. After all the set-up, the actual grand finale is appropriately epic (eclipsing even the gonzoid-insane conclusion to Dust of Dreams), but at the same time a number of other side-stories are still not fully resolved. Depending on the reader, this will be either okay or infuriating. More problematic is that we go from the grand convergence though multiple epilogues to the final page in a very short space of time: there is little time spent on the aftermath and a few more mundane questions about what happened to certain characters are left unanswered. There is also the problem that, at two key points in the narrative, Erikson reaches outside the scope of The Crippled God to basically tap other characters from several books to do something vitally important to the resolution. It's not deus ex machina - it's all been set up quite well, in one case from nine books back - but it does feel a bit odd that everything comes down to relying on a character who is only in the novel for two pages.

There's also a fair amount of scene-setting for Esslemont's next few books (particularly the next one due later this year, set in Darujhistan) which is a little incongruous, though it does feel good to know that the world and the saga will continue. Erikson resolves enough that a primary fear - that this is merely Book 10 in a 22-book series rather than a grand finale - is averted, but not enough so that there won't be some grumbling.

Particularly well-handled are the final events in the book. Some may accuse Erikson of sentimentality here - though he's never been as dark and nihilistic as say Bakker - as he gives a few characters some happy endings and closes the vast circle that began so long ago, but it is a fitting and affecting ending.

The Crippled God (****½) marks the end of this crazy, awesome, infuriating, awe-inspiring, frustrating series, but fortunately not the end of this crazy, awesome, infuriating, awe-inspiring but frustrating author's career. The Malazan Book of the Fallen bows out in fine style. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
And so, after over a decade of insane brilliance, unforgettable characters, tragedy, comedy and everything in between, the Malazan Book of the Fallen comes to a cataclysmic conclusion.

Just about every major character from the series makes at least a cameo appearance at some point, as Erikson ties strands that have been weaving since the first book into a truly epic and satisfying conclusion.

Be prepared, though, that not every single plotline is wrapped up tidily; several are left unresolved or not touched on at all. At this stage, we don't know whether this is because:

1)They will be finished in cowriter Cam Esslemont's remaining novels.

2)Steve is saving them for future books set in the same universe, or:

3)They are meant to be that way; Erikson is writing in the manner of a history, after all, which means that just as we do not witness the genesis of every plot strand, neither do we witness every end.

That aside, we still see many, many resolutions, including the Icarium thread and that of the Shake... more importantly, we follow Tavore's final, desperate drive to save the world.

Among the godlike warriors and earth-shattering mages, the true heroes of the series have always been the ordinary soldiers of the Malazan Empire. As always, Erikson gives them humanity, warmth and pathos as they give their all one last time.

No matter which characters are your favourites, get ready to sniffle as they die by the score or gain their moment of triumph. You will be left exhausted but exhilarated by the end, I can assure you.

The entire series has been an absolute joy from start to finish, and this final (kinda) installment is no different. Cheers, Steve, I owe you a pint. Now to read the whole thing again...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2014
Well, it’s over. It’s taken me almost two years, on and off, to finish this series, and while it’s been a struggle at times, I’m very glad I persevered.

The series as a whole is work of flawed genius. The scope of the world-building, the convoluted plotting, the massive cast of characters, and the inventiveness of the magic systems and races mean that this isn’t really comparable to any other series. There are scenes from these books that will stay with me for a long time, and a few characters that I really cared about.

On the other hand, there are a lot of characters who are quite two-dimensional, plenty of confusion, a large pinch of filler, and far too much philosophical waffling. Part of me wishes that each book had been ruthlessly edited to make it pacier; another part wishes that each book was split into ten so the sub-plots and characters could really be expanded (note – I haven’t read Ian C Esslemont’s companion books yet, so I hope they shed some light on things!)

The Crippled God concludes the series in suitable form. There was no way that Erikson could tie up every loose end in this book, although he makes a fair go at it, with most of the old characters bought back even if just for a cameo role. The ending is therefore as satisfying as could be expected, while simultaneously defying expectations, particularly with regards to the role of the Crippled God himself.

One gripe is that the “big bad” of this novel, the Forkrul Assail, have barely been introduced before this book, and seem a little more like a stereotypical evil fantasy race then Erikson’s other creations. Another is that, as the characters march ever closer to almost-certain death, the introspective monologues grow even longer.

The battle scenes are some of the best in the whole series, and you really get a sense of the consequences facing the characters, even if sometimes their motivations may seem unlikely. There are also some very touching moments and reunions at the end of the book, which is a nice touch as some of these characters have really been put through hell!

I still have about a thousand unanswered questions, and feel though at some points I’ve endured this series rather than enjoyed it, but at best it really is a masterpiece. I do feel that (when I feel up to it!) I will re-read these and a lot more things will become clearer. And of course, this series is really just the start, there are Esslemont’s books to read as well, not to mention Erikson’s new Kharkanas trilogy. A world as detailed as this certainly deserves more books, however I’m going to have a break before I venture back into the Malazan universe.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2012
I must say at the outset, I do very much admire the lush setting that has been created for the overarching story, even though the reader has had to grope and guess at what is really going on. I've had to learn adapt to his style, working out what plot threads can be safely almost forgotten, and which need to be followed. The largely flat characters aren't impressive, but that's not necessarily a problem. You might say that this is not that kind of story.

It's just that, when the story is finally laid before us, it does not seem quite the amazing, mindblowing, fascinating thing that I was expecting, nor does it fit well into the aforementioned amazing backdrop. It's more the fairly straightforward idea that one would see in an old spy novel. Chopping up this story into bits, mixing it with others, hiding it, hinting at it, does not really make it that much more interesting once it becomes clear. I think this hiding and teasing could have been toned down to make a more intricate and dramatic story, and some of the superfluous elements discarded, but then again perhaps it's not that kind of story either. After plowing through 10 books, including the almost unreadable "Toll the Hounds", it does seem a bit disappointing. I have to admit I considered dropping the series after that, but carried on more or less just to see how it ends. It's not a damp squib, but it's not the expected fireworks either.

I suppose if you the reader have got this far, like me you might as well go one book further and complete the story. Just be warned, it might not be quite what you expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2013
Be honest, if you have got this far you are going to buy this anyway, right?

It is worth your while, as the other reviews will tell you. It is an ending of the most remarkable series in Fantasy. Is it a worthy end? Almost. The problem with the series is that one of its hallmarks has been how maddeningly oblique it all is. When we finally get to look behind the curtain....eh, it's not quite what we expected. Turns out Erikson was a genius to let us imagine motivations etc after all.

It is still worth your while - and better than most books in the genre.
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on 25 April 2011
Having just finished reading the Crippled God I was surprised that there was a ending of sorts. A few loose ends were tied off but there were a lot of earlier characters that were not mentioned at all. As with all of his previous books the grand scope of his work is breathtaking and there was a plot that had been planned from many books ago and culminated nicely in this last book and is not just another 1000 page money spinner like some modern fantasy writers.

Saying that I have only read the previous books once and some a long time ago and have lost some of the momentum of the characters. Some characters only have a small part in each book and leaves the reader at a loss when they pop up and have not been seen for many books.

This book like all his others have one big flaw is that there are to many characters for me that I do not really care about. Mostly soldiers of the bridgeburners etc that are so many that I ended up skimming over when reading about them and could not wait until I got to more important characters of interest.

If you like his previous book you will like this one.
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on 28 March 2015
Fantasy at its best. *no spoilers*

Having grown accustomed to the Erikson's brutal world steeped in magic and betrayal, the violence no longer shocks as much, but when characters you've grown to love are thrown into the fray one final time, its hard to put the book down and not get swept away in sweeping battles, in rivers of blood, in betrayals and lost loves. The essence of fantasy is to immerse the reader in a world greater than their own, to make the mundane fade and dragons and magic and brotherhood take its place; no matter what your age.

Erikson is a master of characterisation, add that to a fleshed out barbaric world of Gods and Warrens and this series is up their with the greats.
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on 16 July 2014
The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a staggering achievement of uncompromising fantasy. A tale so vast in a huge world with history and myth stretching back millennia.

This last book of the series concludes the story - and the ending is as gripping and heart-wrenching as we've come to expect. As usual, some of the images it paints get seared into your brain by their sheer scope and the book finally ties some of the loose ends and answers some of the questions that have been following us through the series.

Overall I found it a fitting end to the series. And let's face it: if you've read so far, you need to know how it all ends!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2012
There are a lot of good things about this book but they are all overwhelmed by the continuous eulogising.
Every time the plot gathers pace we then have to stop and wait for yet another character to say how humbled they are or how they are barely controlling their pride or their grief.
It is the last in the series so I expected a bit of that but not a continuous stream of maudlin nonsense.
This makes for a very stop start book, at certain points I put it down and read a short story before picking it up again, that is not something I would have considered doing with the rest of the series.

There are a lot of threads pulled together and tied off here but because the pace is crippled there is a large dose of anti-climax about it and not all the threads are convincingly finished.

I still think "Toll the Hounds" is the worst of the series but this is a close second.
Both books are far below the quality of the others.
It isn't an awful book but as a conclusion it is hugely disappointing.
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on 12 May 2013
Having read through all ten Malazan book of the Fallen offerings, I now find my self grieving that the epic journey is currently over. Steven Erikson has raised the bar for me in terms on the depth of the storyline and the intricacies of plot, counterplots and a damn good read.
To the uninitiated, don't give up when the plot surpasses your understanding and takes twists you cannot fathom. It's well worth fighting your way through to the end.
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