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on 12 December 2006
The good news is that this is definitely a book of the Malaz. Esslemont and Erikson are doing a good job of sharing their world. And we do get new pieces in the puzzle :)

The bad news is that Esslemont, while close to Erikson in style and narrative, does not have the same touch with his characters. Wry humour, witty exchanges or character motivation are lacking. I get the feeling that Esslemont should try and develop a bit of his own style, which does shine through in the passages at sea. Perhaps a collection of Malaz short stories?

It's not bad, trouble is that it is too close to Erikson while not being Erikson.
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on 13 May 2008
I've read all Erikson's Malazans book's so far, and find them to be among the best fantasy books out there at the moment.
The only drawback is keeping up with the complexity and scope of it all. Keeping places,time and people(especially people) apart is a chore if it's a long time between reading the book's, and that's a problem in this book aswell.
Although short in comparison to other Malazan books, and also somewhat confined in terms of places and people, Esslemont's Night of knives does expect you to be familiar with the Malazan universe. I would at least have read the first book of the series to get some understanding of things.

Other than that, this is an interesting sidestory to Eriksons main plot, also including characters we have met before. Fast paced and well written,
it kept me guessing at the outcome,(couldn't remember how things turned out from Erikson's books). An entertaining read, if not epic like the Malazan novels.
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The Malazan Empire is expanding in all directions, consolidating its control of the Seven Cities subcontinent whilst its armies fight a grinding war of attrition on Genabackis against the Crimson Guard and their allies and an ugly stalemate develops on the continent of Korelri. The Empire's expansion has carried the glory and centre of attention away from the place where it was founded, the island of Malaz located off the coast of the Quon Tali continent. The empire was born on Malaz Island, but the empire has grown up and moved out of home. Yet, on the night of a mysterious convergence known as the Shadow Moon, this backwater city once again becomes the centre of attention...

Night of Knives is set in the same world as Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which now encompasses seven novels and three novellas with at least three more novels to come. Ian Cameron Esslemont and Steven Erikson created the world jointly in 1982 and expanded it over many years of gaming and storytelling. Whilst Erikson was published first - his Gardens of the Moon first appeared in 1999 - the plan all along was for Esslemont to expand on the universe with at least five of his own novels. As Erikson himself says, this isn't fan-fiction but a new chapter in the same world created by the person who created such characters as Caladan Brood and Anomander Rake, who have already achieved iconic status in Erikson's hands.

To start with, Night of Knives shows every sign of being a more viable place to start reading the overall Malazan series than Gardens of the Moon. Esslemont's style is more traditional and the plot is much slighter than in any of Erikson's books. However, Esselmont's rawer style (this is his first novel) soon tells, as he fails to set up several key events in the novel ahead of time. Thus some plot elements seem to emerge from nowhere. Whilst the book promises to tell the story of what happened between Surly, Kellenvad and Dancer on the night of Kellenvad's disappearance, this key event takes place off-page. We are also promised a major clash between the Malazan mages and the enigmatic Stormriders, but again this takes place off-page. The Stormriders themselves, a most fascinating race that was intriguingly set up in Erikson's novel The Bonehunters, are also given short shrift, making the ending of the book even more frustrating. In fact, the largest and most important revelation of the book will mean nothing to those who have not already read the main sequence (although it may clarify events in House of Chains). In short, you probably don't want to make Night of Knives your first stop in the Malazan series. If nothing else, the revelations about one character could seriously undermine some cunning plot misdirection tricks Erikson employs in the first and third volumes of the main series.

That said, Esslemont possesses a solid gift for creating interesting new characters. Temper and Kiska are likeable protagonists, and there is nice line in humour in the book, although it falls short of Erikson's much drier and funnier wit.

Night of Knives (***) is a solid first novel which does nicely expand on many plot elements hinted at in Erikson's novels. Esslemont can clearly write and it will be interesting to see what next year's Return of the Crimson Guard brings, which will apparently be both longer and will directly tie in with the main series (being the story of what happened on Quon Tali whilst the Bonehunters were sailing to Lether).
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on 16 August 2015
The first few times I did a Malazan reread, I stuck with Erikson, thinking that the books by Esslemont were unnecessary. Plus, it felt a bit mean to be picking up a book, that someone has worked hard to produce, and being completely certain that it would be an average read, or worse. Though I suppose the fact that I consider me Erikson to be best there is in fantasy writing means everybody comes worse off in comparison.

It's a relatively short book, and easy to read. It only took me half a day. And no, Esslemont isn't Erikson (I'm pretty sure he's sick of people pointing this out). Of course I was aware that there would be differences in style, but the fact that Esslemont explains things was a serious shock to the system. There would be a comment about something mysterious like the Shadow Moon or the Return, and i'd stop reading, tip my head back, close my eyes and try to remember if it had come up before in this book, or in Erikson's. What connections could be made? What could it be? What does it mean? Maybe the TOR reread will pick up something I didn't. Once i'd thought it through, i'd return to the book. paragraph...the answer. WHAT IS THIS SORCERY? Are you telling me what's going on? Now, I realise it is a bizarre situation when a reader is complaining about their questions being answered. But it's precisely what I like about Erikson's work- I use it as a kind of brain training exercise.

Yet for all that, I enjoyed the book. There were some great characters. Temper reads very much like the quintessential Malazan soldier so vital to this world, and he made a welcome break from Kiska's teen angst. The representations of characters already well known from Erikson were handled well, they were part of the action but still retained mystery.

While I didn't love it, it was good enough to make me read the next. Hardly an enthusiastic review, I know, but I see the potential for improvement. And next time, I'll know better what to expect.
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on 10 June 2007
Was this book just a copied idea sanctioned by the originator? Not at all! It turns out that the entire pantheon of the Malaz universe is a joint creation between two writers, Erikson and Esselmont.

So it's a book of which I expected much, but which unfortunately delivers something less. I wonder whether I would feel as disappointed if I have not read Eriksons books first. They are all superb! This inevitably colours any comparison between the two writers. But I agree with the other reviews. The pace is fast and furious and it's a lively read. I enjoyed it enough to know I'll read it again at a later date. But I'll reserve judgement on Esselmont as a writer until after another book in the series.

So why the disappointment? For a start, its far too short. It might only portray the events of a single night, but that is no excuse for lack of depth. Eriksons writing contains lots of interwoven threads; there are only really two in this creation, where there could have been several more. I cannot be more specific because that might spoil the read.

There are plot errors. The best example is in the way a character arrives and departs the novel: by sea, and with some Imperial clout. This is a device to introduce the reader, and some of the books characters, to the fact that something is happening at an Imperial level in the relative backwater of Malaz Island. This then drives the principle players forward. However, some of the other personae clearly arrive by magic, and when the seafarers identity is resolved, it's obvious that this individual has more than sufficient authority to have done the same. Then there is the matter of why Kellanved did not use the T'lan Imass for protection!

Finally. Should either author ever read this review (unlikely as it is!) I have a request. There's a better book waiting to be written to start the world of the Malazans explaining how Kellanved discovered the existence of the empty Throne of Shadow, and the means of possessing it. plus: how Surly took advantage, how the Claw destroyed the (better) Talon, the domination of the T'lan Imass by Kellanved, I could go on and on, and it would be such a fascinating read.....
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on 28 June 2012
Well...I'd claim to be a prolific fantasy book reader...yet I am one who, for some reason, has never read Steven Erikson. In my defence I do have the series on a shelf but just never quite got round to reading them.
So...a reviewer who has not read anything of the Mazalan Empire starting with Canadian author, Ian C Esselemont. Given all the reviews I have read on the web about this series I know, inevitably, my view cannot take in Erikson's literary achievement. Perhaps no bad thing for Mr Esslemont.
OK, I found this single night novel to be somewhat of a rollercoaster. It became evident fairly early on that I was in a world that almost needs a reader to have prior knowledge of Mazalan, giving an unsettling feeling that was allayed as I got to the section flashing back to Temper's previous incarnation in that elite bodyguard, The Sword. I had read several reviews that somewhat accurately point out this is a companion novel to the Mazalan series; that a "fair amount of knowledge of the Mazalan series [is needed] in order to place characters and events in context." (A review on
Yet, I have to say, this stood alone in its own right. I didn't leave the adventure of Kiska, Temper and the assortment of otherworldly, powerful mages, warriors, and kings or read about the Shadow realm with its Warren inhabitants such as Edgewalker, Storm Riders, et al. with anything other than pure satisfaction in fantasy well done. In a curious manner it reminded me - stylistically - of Feist's earliest series, mixed perhaps with macabre of Robert Newcombe. I liked Temper, understood the youthful impetuousness of Kiska, was equally infuriated with the cryptic utterances of her aunt/mentor, was keen to understand more about the Claws, Surly and all the other shadowy figures that silently fought in a town that was the focus for a titanic magical battle on one single night.
By the end, I wish to read more, will move onto books two, three, four swiftly.
And...for now...I'll leave Erikson on my shelves. Perhaps once I have given Esselemont the reading time he deserves I may then turn to Erikson's Mazalan, and read what, for me, may well be just the companion novels to Esslemont.
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on 4 May 2016
I really enjoyed this short Malazan book, I read it when it first came out and now I have the audiobook and have got to enjoy it once more. I look forward to buying the rest of the audiobooks in this series.
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on 11 August 2011
It's been a long time coming, but we finally get a look at the world seen in the Malazan Book of the Fallen from another angle; that of the world's cocreator, Ian Esslemont.

He chooses to begin with a look at what really happened the night the old emperor disappeared, and does a damn fine job of it.

Taking place largely in one place and over one night, this is certainly a more streamlined piece than Erikson's sprawling tomes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The two main characters, Kiska and Temper, are both engaging and well written, and the plot zips along with enough sorcery and skullduggery to satisfy even the most ardent fan of the sister series.

More importantly for them, the book delves in detail into the backstory of Kellanved and also Dassem Ultor, making explicit what has previously only been hinted at.

Esslemont's writing is not quite as polished or multilayered as his colleague's, but based on this first effort, he is sure to become a major writing voie in his own right.
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on 10 December 2014
I really enjoyed the Malazan books, came to them late, with a short wait for the conclusion. So moved on to Esslemonts with a very fresh memory of his "esteemed co-developers" books of the Fallen. I was pretty shocked really, and feedback is a little mixed. i genunily enjoyed this and the next two just as much.

They really flow, with great characterisation in the same Erikson achieved in his books. I didnt always like the way he took the guard..... but was gripped with what would happen next, the greater detail about "The Vow" was also very interesting, adding real depth to the characters. I've moved on to the next books and just a good so far.

If you like the genre, 100% worth a read. You wont be disappointed.
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on 13 July 2005
This is a good and enjoyable story that adds even greater depth to the Malaz world, written by a man who helped Steven Erikson develop said world in the first place. The style is very similar of course, and it's nice to have a novel that's not quite as huge as the Book of the Fallen ones so I don't lose too much of my life to reading it. My only problem is the price, £35 for a book signed by a man I'd never even heard of and a first time author?
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