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War! Magic! Tragedy! And yet.. still not doing it for me :/
on 13 March 2013
I'm struggling with this series. Whilst it seems to polarise opinions for most readers, I can't really find it in me to care enough to either love or hate it. I've made it up to book 4, House of Chains, so far; and it's been a slog. There are moments of brilliance where I think it's all finally falling into place, which is what has kept me reading, but unfortunately these come in between huge sections of prose that I just can't get interested in for the life of me.
House of Chains started promisingly, focusing exclusively on a new (well, new-ish) character, Karsa Orlong, for a couple of hundred pages. While the series may be divisive, Karsa is a proper "Marmite" character. I loved him, and this whole section of the book. I felt I really got to know Karsa more than any character in the series so far, and his journey from arrogant tribal warrior to - well, I won't spoil it, but when you finally find out his place in the story it's a real "Oh - so that's who he is!" moment.
After Karsa's section comes to a close, we get back to the main plot, which follows the uprising in the Seven Cities, leading to the inevitable final showdown between the rebellious followers of Sha'ik's Apocalypse, headed by Felisin; and the forces of the Malazan Empire, led by her sister Tavore. Unfortunately, this section was the part that dragged for me. I just felt it could have been so much more, with the conflict between the sisters, but Felisin and Tavore's characters are just not developed enough for me to feel really involved. Things picked up somewhat towards the end, but the resolution of the conflict was somewhat anti-climactic. There was a nice bitter-sweet touch at the end, but I just didn't feel enough of an emotional connection with any of the characters for this to affect me in the way it should have.
The overriding feeling I seem to have with this series is frustration. Sometimes, I think this is what Erikson has intended - frustration at the mindless loss of life brought about in war, how foolish commanders can doom their men, how a tiny decision or chance encounter can have momentous repercussions. Mainly, though, it's frustration at what could have been - I want to feel part of a battle, to care for the fighters, to hate some characters and love others. I want to cry when some people are killed off, and cheer when others are! For all of the epic scope of this series (and I don't use that word lightly - the world-building, plot strands and backstory are truly impressive) I miss the human, personal touch. Karsa may be a proper nasty bastard, but at least I felt a connection with him.
One thing this book does do is tie up a few loose ends from the previous three, so it does have a conclusive feel rather than suffering "middle-book syndrome". Will I continue with the rest of the series? Well, after each book so far I've told myself "I'll just try one more to see if it improves...", but have yet to be fully convinced. Maybe book 5, Midnight Tides, will be the one that finally does it for me, but I'm going to have a break for a while before I try it!