Malazan Book of the Fallen – Series Book Review

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Malazan Book of the Fallen – Series Book Review

-By Caleb Jones

1. Gardens of the Moon The Malazan Empire (vast, Roman-like empire) is set to conquer the fable city of Darujhistan. It’s going to be tough, since the city is vast, wealthy and powerful, filled with assassins, demons, and wizards. A crack team called the Bridgeburners must infiltrate the city and prep it for invasion.

This was one of my favorite books in the series, which is high praise considering I had no idea what the hell was going on during the first 50% of the book. Action packed. The characters from this book are the ones I liked the best and were the most excited about whenever they re-appeared in later books.

2. Deadhouse Gates A continent away, several groups fight to support or prevent The Whirlwind Apocalypse. A renegade army must also travel across the desert while being pursued by a desert army backed by an angry goddess.

I didn’t like this book much, mostly because it doesn’t contain very many of the characters introduced in Gardens of the Moon. However, most people seem to like this book a lot. I have a feeling if I re-read it I would like it more.

The really grim stuff starts in this book. There’s a young woman named Felisin, and man, some seriously horrible things happen to this girl during the entire novel. Some other protagonists die in some seriously horrible ways. Wow.

3. Memories of Ice Back to the characters from Gardens of the Moon, the Malazan Empire’s army, now a renegade army, must team up with its enemies to fight a new power in the south, an army of undead-like cannibals.

This is my favorite book in the entire series and one of my favorite books of all time! The entire thing is start to finish filled with fantastic characters, fantastic enemies, deep and rich cultures, and amazing action. Highly recommend it.
4. House of Chains Yet another army arrives in the desert to take on the Whirlwind. Various heroes, villains, warriors, and factions do battle. I don’t know any other way to summarize this one.

This book is fantastic. The first several chapters are devoted to Karsa Orlong, who as I said, is my favorite. There are many other amazing characters including Onrack the Broken, Trull Sengar, and Leoman of the Flails. One of the best books in the series.

5. Midnight Tides – Amazingly, we now go to a third continent and a nation that is oceans away from all the other events in the prior novels. Backed by a tortured god, the Tiste Edur clans from the north invade the Empire of Lether, a capitalistic nation that thrives on money and sorcery. And for some reason, the dead aren’t staying dead.

This is probably the second best book in the series after Memories of Ice. I couldn’t put this book down; I craved more the more I read it. Fantastic.

6. The Bonehunters Back to the original two continents: A war-weary Malazan army returns home, only to find their empire has turned against them. More chaos in the desert too. This book is a merging of characters from the first two storylines.

This book suffers from choppy writing and the flow is poor. It has so much information jammed into it, Erickson really needed a better editor. However! Despite these problems I still enjoyed the book quite a bit.

7. Reaper’s Gale All (or at least most) of the groups of characters from all the continents and storylines converge at the Empire of Lether, now conquered by the Tiste Edur. Battle Royale.

This book was fair but not great. (This is Erikson’s favorite book of the series.)
8. Toll the Hounds Back with many of the original characters from the first and third books in the series, the gods converge onto the city of Darujhistan, including Death himself.

Loved it. This is probably my third favorite book in the series, perhaps equal to House of Chains. I was sad when it was over.

9. Dust of Dreams The renegade Malazan army, now called the Bonehunters, must cross a fast wasteland to the east of Lether to face off against their final and most lethal enemy, the white skinned, immortal, and multi-jointed race known as the Forkrul Assail, who plan to use the heart of the Crippled God to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth.

This book was okay. The ending battle was fantastic, but there were many boring parts to overcome.

10. The Crippled God All of the forces from all the books converge for the final battle. Lots of people die.

Sadly, this was the worst book in the series, and the first three quarters were very painful to get through. Just boring as hell. The final quarter of the book is very fun; hundreds of pages of nonstop action with characters you’ve grown to love (or hate) over the previous nine books. But damn, those first three quarters…ugh.

In summary, I only recommend this series for those of you who really enjoy huge, complicated, long, sweeping fantastic epics. If that’s not you, you should probably stay away. If that sounds like you, you NEED to read this series. Just remember that it’s going to take a serious commitment of time, and that you need to be patient with Erikson’s lack of exposition. It pays off.

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This article was originally published on May 23, 2016

Comments


  • SM 2016-05-23 06:36:01

    If you could recommend one fantasy-fiction book which also is available on audiobook, to someone new to the genre, what would you recommend?

  • Caleb Jones 2016-05-23 10:06:39

    The Hobbit, quickly followed by Lord of the Rings. That gives you the baseline.

  • Jason 2016-05-23 11:49:35

    I tried to read Gardens of the Moon... I got forty per cent in but I got so annoyed by the constant Americanisms in the dialogue that I had to stop. I found it really jarring. However, I'm tempted to give it another go after reading this. There are not many great epic fantasy series that are written for adults. One series I love is the Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. It tells the story of King Arthur but it's incredibly dark and violent. (Imagine Arthur as told by George RR Martin!) Great post by the way, anything more to do with fantasy and other novels is much appreciated.

  • Caleb Jones 2016-05-23 12:14:23

    I got forty per cent in but I got so annoyed by the constant Americanisms in the dialogue that I had to stop. I found it really jarring.
    They're ostensibly British characters written by a Canadian, so that doesn't surprise me. It was less jarring for me but I'm an American.
    Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell
    That's on my reading list! I'll get around to it someday...

  • Vrana 2016-05-23 12:59:24

    Is the ending satisfying? I started reading the first book and I like it but I dont want to get invested for years only to end up dissapointed. It has happened before.

  • Eoin 2016-05-23 13:03:49

    A great series Malazan is alright! I'm surprised you didnt have Anomander Rake down as one of your favourites. Agreed on Memories of Ice and Midnight Tides a being fantastic. I've read the first 2 in the prequel trilogy based on the Tiste civil war. Just like the last few books its very whiny. (As in far too many internal monologues moping about how terrible the world is). But still better than Erikson's co-writer ICE. His Malaz books are not great. Though they do give more characterisation for Dassem Ulthor which is ok. And while not as "whiny" as Erikson's last few, they do not reach the same heights. I'd also echo the Warlord Chronicles, a very good series. Also, if you wait a bit, R Scott Bakker's series, The Second Apocolypse is due to finish up in about a years time. Its good but heavy going. About half-way between George RR Martin's stuff (very little magic) and Malazan (crazy crazy magic). All the other recommendations I'd give you, I think you have already read Joe Abercombe, etc.

  • Caleb Jones 2016-05-23 13:54:01

    Is the ending satisfying?
    The ending is about 80% satisfying. But like I said, the first three-fourths of the final book is really terrible.
    I started reading the first book and I like it but I dont want to get invested for years only to end up dissapointed. It has happened before.
    It's happened to me too. I would say push through the first and second books so you can at least read the third book (Memories of Ice) which I consider one of the best fantasy books ever written. Then make the decision if you want to keep going.
    I’m surprised you didnt have Anomander Rake down as one of your favourites.
    He was great but too similar to other characters I've read in other novels.
    I’ve read the first 2 in the prequel trilogy based on the Tiste civil war. Just like the last few books its very whiny. (As in far too many internal monologues moping about how terrible the world is).
    Yeah, I will NOT read his Kharkanas Trilogy. I've heard nothing good about it.
    But still better than Erikson’s co-writer ICE. His Malaz books are not great.
    I agree. I have Return of the Crimson Guard sitting on my unread books shelf, and I'll probably never get to it.
    I think you have already read Joe Abercombe
    Hell yes. His first trilogy is utterly amazing. I may re-read it next year.

  • Cyndi 2016-05-23 15:00:54

    Thanks for the recommendation

  • Cyndi 2016-05-23 15:04:08

    I've been looking for a new fantady series. Currently reading Knight of the Seven Kingdoms novellas while waiting for The Winds of Winter to come out (c'mon George..)

  • Caleb Jones 2016-05-24 11:15:59

    I refuse to read any more Game of Thrones books (past the first two.) George can write characters but he can't write a plot to save his life.

  • Cyndi 2016-05-24 14:16:12

    Haha do you watch the show?

  • Caleb Jones 2016-05-24 19:00:03

    I do occasionally, usually when my daughter wants to watch it with me since she likes it. It's one of the rare instances when the show/movie is better than the books. But even the show suffers from plot problems. Great characters, great setting, great dialogue, stupid and utterly disorganized plot.

  • Vrana 2016-05-26 05:33:44

    "I refuse to read any more Game of Thrones books (past the first two.) George can write characters but he can’t write a plot to save his life." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAAp_luluo0 Apparently he can't rap either 🙂

  • David 2017-03-07 17:53:45

    Thanks for the recommendation. I'm on book three right now. You're right about how confusing the books can be, but by the time I got the Kruppe's dialogue on the wax coin, I was in. If you're still adding more books to your list, I really recommend the Emberverse/Changed World series by S. M. Stirling. Spectacular post-apocalyptic story with knights, lords, kings, etc. . Best thing is it has really awesome large-scale battle scenes.