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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 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 31 October 2016
This is a very good book!

Following two main character point of views. One being Temper - an old school elite yet uncredited serviceman for the Malazan empire and Kiska - a youth urchin spy with 'the talent' of magic somewhere within her. Kiska was very mysterious - a bit whiney and kept getting caught by people throughout her sneaking antics - but I think she was an omnipotent device to show the unfolding events. Temper was just a no fu*ks given veteran. The best parts for Temper was his lack of desire for recognition for the extraordinary feats that had been/ are accomplished by him - but also his flash back sections with Dassem Ultor (who people will know from the main series)

Some people do not rate this book compared to the Malazan: Book of the Fallen. I think if you miss this out then you are missing so many crucial layers that make the world the best envisaged in fantasy. I understand how it can knock Malazan die-hards off balance as they are used to going from 900+ page epics following 40+ point of views to a more linear story revolving around one chaotic night.

The mystique created by Dancer and Kellevand frequents throughout this novel and is truly fascinating. It is the story about one night, where magic, worlds, accession and races all discombobulate and at the same time collide. Hounds, warrens, zombies, storm-riders etc... This is a fast paced book. Well written. It might not showcase the linguistic acrobatics that Erikson sometimes presents - but does Erikson really know what all those complex synonyms and semantical equivalent words mean anyway?

I actually think if prior fans hadn't already ascertained the diamond tinted loving of; and egotistical disgust of anything that isn't Erikson Malazon - they may enjoy this story more as a new-comer.

Esslemont has recently released Dancer's Lament which is revelled by all Malazan fans and carries on with the structural devices initiated here. I think this is a great first book from Esslemont and can't wait to read the rest. He works the Malazan world well and creates wonder - lets hope it continues. Peace x [...]
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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 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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on 13 July 2005
the ever increasing world of steven erikson is pushed even further by the bounded mind of his close friend ian cameron esslemont, creating a rich side story that complements the malazan book of the fallen series.
here the story of the last night of the emperor and his close aid are fulfilled with strong elements of supspense and plain good story telling. the introduction of the character temper and his past adds further depth to the entire world, as with the truth behind the death of the first sword and the further exploits of the deadhouse.
esslemonts pace of writting is such that you could be esily confused with erikson's own style, coating everything in a high gloss finish.
the only failure i could find is that there is never enough, wishing that another the next malazan book could come sooner. with the possibility of further novels by esslemont to the series, the malazan empire and its eventful future is in good hands
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on 8 March 2006
So, Esslemont is Steven Erikson's mate and co-creator of the Malazan world; as he insists in the introduction, this isn't fan fiction... but it certainly reads like it. There's a lot of clumsy name-dropping of places, gods and species, almost as if he is trying to show off his extensive knowledge of the world and its geography; the characters are annoying and the dialogue is absolutely appalling (much of it sounds like a bad radio play written by a 15-year-old goth - sample phrase: "Should they succeed, this realm where we stand, Shadow Realm, will be theirs!" Can you really imagine anyone actually saying that?). It may be just the teething problems of a first-time writer, but I suspect there's a good reason why Erikson got the 10-book publishing deal and Esslemont had to go to a teeny independent publisher and charge £35 per book. For completists only.
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on 24 January 2016
This is book one of a fantasy series by Ian C. Esslemont and it reads very easily and very well. Some passages jump out of the book at you, which, incidentally, is an utter delight to read in paperback. The UK edition (published by Bantam in 2008) features lovely thick paper and a nice large-ish font to match. The book itself is relatively short given the universe it is set in, at just 457 pages, but the book is published with lots (and lots...) of white space on every page.

But I digress...

The story is unique, in the sense that it is all set over a single 24 hour period, and something called a ’shadow moon’ is set to occur and it is only with progress made does the reader learn what this means. Of course the story is more complicated than that, but you want more info, you need to read the book yourself!

The book’s standout character from the beginning is a fellow called ’Temple’ who is a veteran of a war come and gone. Another major character (whom I have not met yet) is a thief (joy!) called Kiska. The book simply *reeks* atmosphere, and should come with a paper towel to catch it as it drips from every page. The town of Malaz City is beautifully drawn, and the ’Inn of the Hanged Man’ is also tremendous fun to visit. Mysterious characters abound in this tale (as one would expect...) but some are more compelling than others, and of course the reader wonders what further role they will play as the story unfolds.

Having not read any of the sister works by legendary writer Steven Erikson, I may be doing this book a dis-service by reading it ’blind’ you might say. But i am prone to pick up a book and judge it on it’s own merits, and that is what i am doing with NIGHT OF KNIVES. Consequently, I award this book a very solid three stars. If the climax to the book is outstanding, or merits further comment, I will do so here.

Bye for now.
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