Reflecting on: The Malazan Book of the Fallen

On many lists, this epic high fantasy series ranks among the two or three best ever written. On others, it’s further down. But nobody questions Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen as being one of the most thorough, unique and descriptive worlds ever created.

I have decided (to at least try) to review every book I read, right here for my imaginary audience. I read often and I read quickly, so this could be a big undertaking. Normally, I will be reviewing books as soon as I complete them. But for my first review, I wanted to tackle this huge series that I finished last summer. But because so much time has passed, the individual books tend to blend together. So it’s easier to just tackle it as a whole.

I would recommend this book to you, if you are all of the following:
1. Very patient
2. An absolute die-hard of the high fantasy genre
3. Are skilled at skimming parts in which the author rambles. Because Erikson is very detailed, particularly about his characters (of which he introduces hundreds to us).

The series begins in the middle of a war – an interesting decision in itself. The reader is thrown right into it and is almost expected to play catch up with what is going on, as if you maybe missed a book and started Book 2 by accident. But the picture is painted gradually, with the back story slowly being filled in, interspersed with the current story. It is a tale of war and magic, of gods both old and new. The characters that are introduced are fantastic and you will have more than a handful of “favorites”. By the middle of the 10-book set, you will have a hierarchy in your mind as to which characters are more powerful than others, a firm understanding of feuds and potential battles, and your anticipation of the ensuing climax is very real.

And when Erikson runs out of characters to make you love, he shifts the scene to another continent and brings you an all new cast. The final books combine both tremendous casts as the elite (but banished) forces of the Malazan Empire travel to the other continent to do battle there.

While there are easily a dozen characters in these books I would call ‘favorites’, plus a dozen more whom I love to hate, Erikson introduced to me my favorite character, possibly in any book – Karsa Orlong. The entire 11,000 page story is worth the read just for Karsa’s story. He was first introduced in the second novel Deadhouse Gates, known then only as Toblakai (which is actually his race – a race of savage giants standing about nine feet tall). But his backstory comes two books later – in House of Chains – which may be my favorite book thanks to that back story. I only wish he had a bigger role in later books.


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