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on 17 September 2015
In the genre of fantasy, there are a certain number of tropes, which I could write about at great length, but would much prefer not to. Needless to say, Mr Erikson has decided to create a tale in which he makes a gargantuan effort not to fall into using the cliches, and this tale is the monstrous epic, called "the Malazan book of the fallen".
The tale itself has a simple premise, but like everything that Erikson writes, simple is a redundant word. There are at least a dozen plot lines within, and all of them build a complex tapestry of a world that the story is set in. The plot centres around the Malazan empire's efforts to conquer the continent of Genbackis. Their armies ran into difficulty a number of years ago, primarily due to the efforts of the warlord Anomander Rake, (a bizarre character, born in another dimension and who dwells in a giant floating rock), His ally Caladan brood (think Conan crossbred with Thor) and a shadowy mercenary company called the crimson guard. The Malazans ground on regardless, and by the time the book begins the only unoccupied city remaining in the north of the continent is Darujhistan. The jewel of the continent, it has so far managed to keep neutral in the war, but this neutrality will promptly be brought to an end as the Malazans advance south. The Primary malazan force, Dujek's host (let by the legendary general Dujek onearm) is recovering from the disastrous siege of pale, and so dispatches a crack unit known as the Bridgeburners to soften up the city before it's incursion. However, the host is exhausted, and is on the brink of mutiny.
Meanwhile, Rake is gathering support to defend the city, and there are shadowy happenings in the city's underworld. The assassin's guild is under attack, and a young thief called crokus is drawn into the struggle. A naive imperial officer called Ganoes Paran is also drawn towards the city, doggedly investigating an atrocity committed on imperial soil several years earlier, as is his superior. Worse, several ascendants (think Greek Gods) have set their eyes upon the city, and Oponn, the meddling Jesters of chance seem particularly set on causing chaos.
My Summary here is but the tip of the iceberg. Erikson has a massive cast of characters, and most are characterised solely through dialogue and actions, and as result his characterisation can feel shallow at times, but proves to be endearing in the long run, especially as he fleshes the surviving characters out wonderfully. His world is excellent, but the story is told in such as fashion that we understand very little of what is going on as it happens, and more through hindsight than as we read it (The book is one of the most rewarding that I have encountered to give a second reading) The characters usually know far more of what is going on than reader, and there are very few passages where characters will just spout exposition for the reader's benefit. Erikson weaves both his characterisation and world building into the plot quite adeptly, and manages to write each character's section according to the character. The bridge burners' passages are down to earth, embittered and darkly comedic, Paran's are confused and lost, but compassionate and human, Kruppe's are as incomprehensible as the character is. Crokus is a romantic, and through his quest to better himself we learn more of the world. The writing conveys the characters in a brilliant fashion, and this only gets better in subsequent books, as they are fleshed out more and more. He manages write according to each part of the story extremely well, given the difficulty of the shifts of tone and language used by the differing characters and differing situations.
The book does have a slight issue of being somewhat of a prologue to much of the series, as a lot is left unexplained until following books (being only halfway through myself I am still getting a clear picture of the world. The writing style is very hard to get into a first, and in truth for myself the book required a second reading (although I had other things on my mind that weekend), and some people might find it extremely difficult to get into, or become frustrated at the sprawling and somewhat confusing plot. However, it is worth the struggle. I have read other reviews calling him the "high water mark for epic fantasy", and I must be inclined to agree. Although, this is like no fantasy you will ever have read.
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on 2 March 2016
Rich and wonderfully complex, the first installment in the Malazan series was rife with mystery, history, and unanswered questions. There is an amazing amount of depth to this story, and I'm talking hundreds of thousands of years of history. Like in The Lord of the Rings, there is an entire mythology wrapped up in the back story that has radical implications on the plot of this first book. I love that Erikson respects his readers enough to drop them into the middle of the action and expect them to put the pieces together on their own without the notorious infodump.

The characters are likable, the action wildly new, the intrigue subtle. In short, I loved this book. Loved. It.

I'm glad the series is complete so, time permitting, I can read them all straight through to the end.
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on 30 September 2015
I am only about 200 pages in, but so far I am liking it.

A heads up to anyone thinking about reading this book, you are thrust into the world the author has created without any prior explanation of the history / politics / relationships or general lore behind it all. Your hand is most certainly NOT held while the events in the book unfold and you are left to your own devices to pick up information the book gives you and tie it all together. It's almost as if you have just come into a movie halfway through and you are that person asking all those annoying questions like "who is that guy? What is he talking about? Why are those two fighting?"

If you like everything to be described to you in detail, do not buy this book because it will just annoy you. If you are okay with that, then I would recommend it off of what I have read so far.
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on 10 February 2015
A bit frustrating - it's not a bad book at all, and the characters are both believable and nuanced enough to feel human: even the obvious baddies inspire pathos as much as fear. The dialogue is great and most of the characters spend their time trying to make the most of a lousy bunch of choices - think Joe Abercombie. That said, the battle and magic sequences have all the subtlety and discipline of a recent Star Wars film - vast numbers of extras get chewed up for no obvious purpose and it really helps if you like incoherent explosions. Worse than that, every time the author writes himself into a hole, some mysterious and hitherto-unknown agency will appear from nowhere to save the day. You can maybe get away with this Deux Ex Machina approach once in a book, but by the third or fourth time it happens you have to suspect the guy's making it up as he goes along (I appreciate it's a novel but you know what I mean). I might try another one, purely on the strength of the characterisation, but it's not a classic.
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on 20 December 2014
Having finished this book within a fortnight, I found it quickly shifted in my mind, from a task to bother reading (took me 3-4 months to actually start reading it, having bought the first 5 books) through to an absolute pleasure of a read, if not daunting to begin with.

Previously, having read the Forge of Darkness, I had what I deemed sufficient knowledge of the series to start this marathon, and I don't think I'll regret it, so much so that I've got the first 5 from this 10 book series, pre-ordered the new book in the new series, looking to complete the 6-10th books in this series.

At times the book was burgeoning, but Erikson stopped tantalizingly close from progressing the story too far in any single 'strand', and occasionally kept us guessing as to who did what (Who stabbed Paran so early on?).

As incohesive as this review is, the book was an absolute please to read, and would recommend it to just about anyone who's into a good book.
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on 13 April 2018
A very good, if a very complicated read. Unless you are willing to dedicate a great deal of time to a book series, this isn't for you. If, however, you are the sort of person who likes to be emersed in fantasy worlds and have your brain tied in knots, this is just the ticket!

A great, roller-coaster ride of magic, political intrigue, violence, love and betrayal.
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on 21 April 2016
Commenting on the whole series, this is truly Epic Fantasy,
in breadth and depth combined I have yet to find it's equal, at some points I will admit that the story seems slow, I'm on my 4th or 5th rereading now and can assure you that every chapter has more depth than you could imagine compared with any similar series, if at any point you're bored, you're reading too fast and need to take note of the details, which are manifold and weave an outrageously large web.

I will admit that this series isn't a good match for everyone, it's a challenge to truly exact it's best, as I say, the detail is almost overwhelmingly rich, I'm still finding pleasant surprises, with that as a given, and I can't emphasise this enough,
this series reaches the highest heights of any I've read,
and I have read fantasy in excess for far too long, if you finish the first book and aren't a fan, fair enough, that said, I'd be surprised if many who manage to finish the first book aren't already fans.

To summarise,
a feast for a true admirer of the genre,
cleverly constructed magic shown in the context of seemingly bottomless intrigue, fevered emotion and very real humanity, there are many characters I would read the books for if they stood alone with a paper cast, they do not...
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 October 2011
Beginning of a long series of fantasy novels called the Malazan book of the fallen, this runs for approx seven hundred pages.

It is divided into seven parts, plus a prologue and an epilogue.

There's a list of the characters.

A couple of maps.

And a glossary of various words.

All the things you might be looking for if you're a fan of this genre and are looking for a new series to get your teeth into.

There's also a forward from the writer to this latest edition of the book warning how some readers give up on the series early on. And others stay hooked with it all the way.

So if you give it a try, what will you find?

The story of a world at war. Where an empire that once had an emperor and now has an empress is constantly expanding. And after finishing off one city has set it's sights on another.

Some scheme on behalf of the empress.

Some just to stay alive.

And some are caught in the middle.

Because there are gods involved.

The beginning of the prologue does strive hard to be descriptive and the first few pages may be something you will struggle with as a result, but do preserve. Because it becomes quite readable soon enough.

The reader is flung into the middle of this world and it doesn't spoon feed you everything, but keep your wits about you and you will follow it easily enough.

The main characters are all decent enough but don't really stand out too much, but some are quite relatable.

This does feel just like the opening to something much bigger [and with a fair few books in this series since, it clearly is] and whilst it works okay on it's own it will clearly - to go by other reviews - be even better if re-read.

On the basis of the first volume I will be sticking around for more. Not quite five star material yet, but enough to make me try some more.
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on 20 February 2018
I had started the first couple of books a few years ago but for one reason or another didn't continue, its been such a nice change to be able to settle down to a good complex (but not too complex!) storyline, great reading by an author who definitely knows his craft....not going to waffle as I'm getting the next book now!!!! :)
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on 24 April 2015
I have long been searching for an author who leaves something to the imagination, who comes up with a whole new world of ideas. Steven Erikson has done just that. The story and characters unfold gradually and certainly nothing is spoon fed nor explained as if to a child - some of the concepts from book 1 are explained further in books 2 and 3, but only when they occur naturally within the story. This manner of writting is likely frustrating to readers that want everything sewn up neatly at the end, however I find it keeps me interested and is a more natural style. Characters do recur in later books although new story threads and new characters are often presented.
This is certainly not a book to read after a few glasses of wine because I find I have no recollection of who did what, when and where. It requires the proper attention of a dedicated reader and it is certainly worth taking the time to get yourself into the story. I am 4 books in, still completely confused about certain plot elements and very happy to have found this author! I have no doubt I will buying all the books in the series
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