on 18 June 2006
Steven Erikson is the first fantasy writer that, after six installments, seems to be able to escape the pitfall into which numerous others (i.e. and foremost Robert Jordan) have fallen. This is probably due to the fact that he knows where his story is leading and that he does not write anything that substracts from the plot and from the prose needed to unfurl his so intricately woven world, which by the way is one of the most epic and large-scaled fantasy worlds up-to-date, barring perhaps Tolkien's Middle-Earth.
The Bonehunters, now , is a perfect example of two of the best traits Erikson, as a writer, has in store for us. Namely dialogue and convergence. The dialogue is not only very natural it's also extremely witty and an excellent way to transfer meaning. Sarcasm, irony, wit, indeed every feeling ever conveyed, it's all in the dialogue. As for convergence, Erikson is a master of it; within each novel but what's more important, and what becomes especially clear in The Bonehunters, within the overall arc of the entire series. It's not for nothing that part 10 is called The Crippled God!
So is there nothing to remark upon? Well, yes there is, but that particular complaint might cease to exist when the entire series has come to an end and things that now seem to have the aura of a Deus Ex Machina might then be entirely self-explanatory (although the term 'self-explanatory' does not really befit the Malazan Book of the Fallen).
So from me nothing but praise for The Bonehunters and as we are returning to the continent of Lether in the next installment, I'll say "Roll on Reaper's Gale!"
on 25 April 2006
Of course, as is Erickson's wont, there are new characters (most of them introduced in the prologue, but not all).
This is a very catastrophic book. Just like at the end of Book 3. But this one follows that suit throughout. There are major battles that don't turn out so well, and trustful alliances gone awry. The latter, once you get to Seven Cities. Also, the use of propoganda shows its ugly side near the end.
Just about all the characters from Book 4 are back (Karsa, Kalam and QB, Fiddler, Heboric, Cutter, Pearl, etc...). Also, there are Ganoes Paran, Trull Sengar and his Imass friends, and of course, Icarium and Mappo (not just a two second appearance, like in Book 4). Also, this is the book that Shadowthrone is most active in. Something that you've been waiting for one of these characters to do since the beginning of the series finally happens.
As always, there are insights on human nature, and the tendency for war. But in this one, the bulk of these insights are towards the use of the concepts of gods, and what they drive people to do (with many similar tales to things like the crusades).
And finally, there's the one thing that fantasy novels should never go without. A socially conversable demon that also likes to eat people's brains.
on 10 April 2006
What places Erikson at the forefront of the fantasy genre to date, in my opinion, is not just the sheer scale of what he achieves in the most complex plot and character writing I have ever seen, but in the style with which he does it. I am surprised it has yet to be brought to light, but the poetic and philosphical quality with which Erikson infuses his narrative, is simply astounding. Never before have I seen it done with such skill. Simply, there is nothing more tedious than some obscure narrative voice abstractedly droning on about the state of human nature or moral integrity - but what is beautiful with this entire series is the way Erikson employs each character as an entirely unique voice on many enlightening perspectives - many of which contradict themselves as various characters meet certain revelations. The point being is that in doing so Erikson achieves a profound insight into real thought patterns that are affected by the maelstrom of events taking place in the plot - which, as everyone else has asserted, is verging on the incomprehensible, in its quality of craft and scope.
I am intrigued to read some minor criticisms, which I would flatly refute. Yes, 'The Bonehunters' is a transitionary book - but it is also the most pivotal point in the entire series, and as such, the best written. Why? Without giving any plot away, how Erikson interweaves and conjoins disparate plot lines is indicative of immense skill. The Edur's entrance into the Malazan world is not random as the Midnight Tides ends, hinged onto the expansionist intent of the Emperor of Lether - it is one of the many plot lines that I could see coming a mile off. The book also clearly has a plot of its own which is blatantly pointed out in the title (among further sub-plots added to the foray).
In short, there are few respected fantasy authors that I have not read, and in comparison Erikson has achieved a new standard within the epic genre which I can't see being trumped.
Until, of course, the next one is published...
on 28 October 2015
The first half of the book of the fallen series feels very disjointed to myself, and I guess this feeling is shared by other first time readers. The second and third books take place at the same time, the fourth mostly deals with elements only from the second, and the fifth appears to be set earlier than the others, although I'm not sure on that part myself. In the Bonehunters, the various narrative threads which have been floating around have finally begun to pull together, and the plot begins to make sense.
After the anticlimax for the 14th, now called the Bonehunters in the holy desert of Raraku, the remnants of the rebellion are being hunted down. They flee to Y'ghatan, a city with a ominous history for the besieging Malazans. And taking the city will only be the start of the Bonehunters worries. Meanwhile, The indomitable Karsa Orlong is unchained from his loyalties, and is seeking more people to upset and get in fights with. Apsalar is fulfilling the wishes of Cotillion by murdering everyone in sight, Crokus and Heboric charged by L'oric to escort a important personage to safety, Mappo and Icarium are roaming around, one searching for his lost memories, the other doing everything in his power to prevent him finding those memories. Paran is also headed for seven cities, with yet another dodgy plan to orchestrate before he vanishes until the final book of the series. Meanwhile, something is stirring in the imperial warren, and the Empire is having internal issues of it's own.
So, If you have read the first five books, you will probably be quite excited for this one, and rightly so. All the characters that we love are back and roaming around the desert, and not just the ones you would expect. The Tiste Edur storyline reveals it's connection to the rest of the plot, and even the first of Esslemont's novels ties into this one (I would actually recommend reading that first, as Kiska and Temper make appearances, and it helps to know who they are). The book is the point where, more than anything the story begins to feel like a series. This also comes at a cost however, as the first couple of hundred pages are for the resolution of the Whirlwind storyline, and the last three hundred set up the rest. Between, there is a ungodly amount of various characters rambling and wandering around the desert. Whilst not quite reaching the level of filler, one can wonder if the book could have been published as two short volumes instead of this doorstopper tome without this section, as whilst it is quite philosophically interesting, not much happens (bar Paran being a badass) and readers who are not fans of reading long philosophical discussions may not enjoy it. Regardless of this, it still remains a great read, and reaches the point where the series finally begins to have a somewhat linear narrative.....except toll the hounds... and anything written by esselmont... and now forge of darkness.... oh dear.
In conclusion, the writing is as good as always, and we to see more and more of the characters who we hopefully love by this point. More of the world, and a setup for the rest of this excellent, and unique series
The Malazan Book of the Fallen remains one of the most interesting and large-scale epic fantasies ever written, with multiple storylines and hundreds of characters sprawling across this ten-volume series. Unlike comparative series like The Wheel of Time, the Malazan Book of the Fallen has a series of storylines that link together rather than one continuous linear story.
The Bonehunters is the sixth book in the series and is the first to combine elements from the three major storylines of the series which have hitherto been separated. The Malazan 14th Army, having defeated Sha'ik's Army of the Apocalypse in Raraku, is now chasing the remnants of that army across the subcontinent of Seven Cities. The rebels' commander, Leoman, decides to make a stand at Y'Ghatan, an ill-omened place where the Malazans have faced devastating losses before. Meanwhile, the Malazan 2nd Army has arrived in Seven Cities from Genabackis to retake the last few cities holding out in rebellion, but it is threatened by the unleashing of a virulent plague. Captain Ganoes Paran soon arrives to help solve the problem in his new capacity as Master of the Deck of Dragons. Elsewhere, strange black ships have been sighed around the periphary of the Malazan Empire, unleashing powerful sorcery, and Heboric Ghost-Hands must undertake a journey back to Otataral Island and his destiny...
The Bonehunters is a huge, complex book with a meticulously structured plot. Many of the characters are compelling, with Erikson successfully bringing alive many characters who were just ciphers in the fourth volume, House of Chains (which in the series' convoluted timeline immediately precedes The Bonehunters), but again his habit of making too many characters similar to one another is jarring. The prevalance of characters answering questions 'with a shrug' is particularly annoying. Unlike many of the previous volumes, The Bonehunters is also a transition book. It doesn't have a self-contained plot itself, it merely picks up the pieces from Memories of Ice, House of Chains and Midnight Tides and mixes them together in preperation for the next two volumes, Reaper's Gale and Toll the Hounds. Also, the book is rather oddly divided in half. The unexpected arrival of characters from Midnight Tides in the second half of the novel happens with no set-up or foreshadowing and feels like a very artificial plot maneuvere, as do events later on in Malaz City which require major players to act seriously out-of-character in order to get the plot moving where the author wants it to go.
So this is a set-up book, but a set-up book with enormous (if unsatisfying compared to his previous efforts) battles, breath-taking showdowns and a concluding section in Malaz City which would make a great action movie.
Sadly, Erikson doesn't fulfil his ambition of toppling George R.R. Martin as the best epic fantasy writer around today with this volume, but he does satisfactorily begin tying the threads of this vast story together for the inevitably explosive conclusion.
on 25 October 2014
This series is getting better and better it has so many characters and storylines all heading to a final showdown in which the the final ending has so many different conclusions you don't know which one it will end up being so glad I bought this series of books as they have give me back the love of science fantasy that I'd lost thanks Steven Erikson.
on 6 March 2006
This series is just outstanding - the sheer scope of the narrative and the skill involved in seamlessly co-ordinating so many disparate story lines is breathtaking.
This, to my mind, is the best of all the books in the series to date as we see both closure to some earlier plot lines and the introduction or expansion of many more. Tie this together with some tantalising insights into the deck of dragons and more than a few genuine surprises and this book will keep you up all weekend.
Without going into the plot I'll mention a few characters from previous novels that feature in this one :
Karsa, Icarium, Fiddler, Kalam, QBen, Apsalar, Cutter, Heboric, Leoman, Spite, Gesler, Stormy, Deragoth, Hedge & Tavore.
You really want to treat yourself to this - indeed, the whole series if you haven't started yet.
The best I've ever read (and I've read most all of them).
on 10 August 2011
After the radical departure of the last book, we're on much more familiar territory here, as Erikson takes some of his best characters and puts them through hell.
Readers missing the massacred Bridgeburners will be reassured that their de facto replacements the Bonehunters, introduced in House of Chains, mature here into fascinating protagonists in their own right.
Erikson makes us care for these soldiers, which is unfortunate because what awaits them in the desert is truly horrific. You will be rooting for them to fight through, even as you realise that this is where their legend truly begins.
That would be enough for any normal fantasy book, but not this one. We then head unstoppably for the heart of the empire, and an equally traumatic climactic confrontation.
The book is fabulous in its own right, but for the full effect read Ian Esslemont's Night of Knives first. Certain characters and locations will have a deeper resonance if you do. Even without the companion piece, though, this is fantastic fiction in every sense.
on 7 November 2013
The Bonehunters is the sixth novel in the truly epic Malazan Book of the Fallen series, but is the first one to have fallen foul of "middle-book syndrome".
The first four tomes in the series chronicled the Malazan Empire's struggles in Genabackis and the Seven Cities, which have been more-or-less resolved; and the emergence of the new Empire of the Tiste Edur was introduced in the fifth novel, the virtually self-contained Midnight Tides. The Bonehunters therefore has the task of tying together all the many strands of the plot so far, and setting things up for the following books.
In that, it does work, but it doesn't altogether succeed in being a great read at the same time. Yes, there are some great moments, but they are few and far between, and there is a lot of padding in the meantime.
The Bonehunters starts with the Malazan army in Raraku, tasked with mopping up the last of Sha'ik's Apocalypse rebellion, now led by Leoman of the Flails. This leads to an explosive climax at the siege of Y'Ghatan, which has all of Erikson's hallmark brutality and realism. I may not always like his style of writing, but the man does write a good battle!
My problem with the siege of Y'Ghatan is that it takes place about halfway through the novel. It seems to take an age where nothing much happens to build up to it, and then after it's over, it's suddenly like we're in another book, with the plot meandering all over the place. The Bonehunters feels disjointed and bloated at the same time, with simultaneously lots going on at once, but nothing much actually happening.
Still, apart from Y'Ghatan, there are some other gems. Mappo and Icarium are back, and their friendship is one of the highlights of the series for me. Karsa Orlong is also back - as stubborn, arrogant and violent as ever - and any scene with him in is always going to be good. The final section in Malaz City is also a pretty thrilling climax.
Overall, The Bonehunters is not my favourite in the series (so far) by a long shot. I can see how skilfully Erikson has woven everything together, and I am definitely exited about what's to come in the next couple of books - with the possibility of a showdown between Karsa Orlong, Icarium and Rhulad how could I not be? - It's just that this feels more like a novella (the siege of Y'Ghatan) with a lot of extra padding added just to get all the various characters in the right places for Book Seven.
on 1 November 2006
This is part 6 of a planned ten novel story by Stephen Erikson. I was tempted to wait until the final instalment to read these books again, but could not wait so picked up a copy. The story begins with the obligatory ominous beginning where an evil being is unleashed onto the land to commit evil acts.
Once again there are many stories which interlink with each other and the overall storyline.
After the defeat of Shaik, the remnants of the rebel army are being chased across the seven cities by the imperial army. They are lead by the infamous Leoman of the flails who decides to make a last stand at the city of Y'Ghatan. A city which has ominous history for the pursuing Malazan army.
The Malazan army is led by the ever distant Adjunct Tavore. The army are unsure of her motivations and her abrupt manner and closed emotions do nothing to assist this. She is untested in real battle and the murmurs about her allegiance grow in the lead up to the siege. Tavore is an intriguing character in that she is so guarded with her emotion and motives, any flashes of feeling are extremely interesting.
The siege itself is described in detail as both sides take horrible losses. Savage clashes in the city as the Fourteenth try and take the city. Leoman's fanatical followers refuse to fall. Tavore watches on as Leoman's defence plan unfolds. Erikson description of battles, both with sword and sorcery, is easily as good as any other writer I have read. The siege is another fine example of this.
The army itself contains some old favourite characters such as Fiddler, Quick Ben and Kalam. The banter between some of the soldiers is extremely amusing, though never quite touching the comic heights of Midnight Tides.
Captain Ganoes Paran is feeling his was into the role "master of the deck", he was one of my favourite characters from the first book and it is good to see him take up a leading role here. His extremely human reactions whilst in the thick of supernatural events and facing different gods are superb. "Do not mess with mortals" is the warning.
Another side story follows the brutal Toblokai, Karsa Olong. His unrelenting violence and doubtless confidence are back in effect here. His interaction with the `children' as he terms the humans is almost comedic. There is a great scene where he encounters a lizard creature that is almost twice as big as him, his reaction is to charge in and wrestle with it.
Icarium continues his journey in this book, as more of his past is revealed, will he unleash his hidden rage upon the world? His long time keeper Mappo attempts to keep him under control.
The only down point of the story for me is the journey if Herboric and his band. This slowly draws to its conclusion, and I think that it could have been brought to an end earlier without letting down the storyline.
Another thing that Erikson excels at is building up the stories to huge earth-shattering conclusions in the book. This one is the return to the Malazan Empire for some of the characters. They slowly realise that their return will not be welcome as they once thought. The tension builds as the characters ponder on choices they will face, and they will not be easy. In fact I was outraged at the treatment of some of the characters (fans of Deadhouse gates will understand my point) at the end. After the tense build up Erikson does not disappoint with the finish. Action, twists, turns, betrayals and deaths all around.
As a firm fan of the series, it is hard to be objective, however I would comment on the following:
This is a real fantasy book and I do not think someone new to the genre would have the easiest time following the magic systems, large number of characters and races. Additionally, Erikson is not the easiest to read, though he has improved from his first book.
Overall this is a fantastic book, my only fear is whether he can keep up the standard and tie up all of the many loose ends by the tenth book.