In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising known as the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends..... Set in a brilliantly realized world ravaged by dark, uncontrollable magic, this thrilling novel of war, intrigue, and betrayal confirms Steven Erikson as a storyteller of breathtaking skill, imagination, and originality - a new master of epic fantasy.
"Give me the evocation of a rich, complex, and yet ultimately unknowable other world, with a compelling suggestion of intricate history and mythology and lore. Give me mystery amid the grand narrative. Give me a world in which every sea hides a crumbled Atlantis, every ruin has a tale to tell, every mattock blade is a silent legacy of struggles unknown. Give me, in other words, the fantasy work of Steven Erikson." (Andrew Leonard, Salon)
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Deadhouse Gates is the second book in the dark military epic fantasy known as the Malazan Tale of the Fallen.
Finishing this massive tome feels like you have lived through the war along with the characters. You're exhausted... yet filled with a feeling of accomplishment, and no small sense of awe. The sheer scope of the story that Erikson is weaving is simply MASSIVE beyond anything I've ever read.
This book is the story of a rebellion breaking out in a land controlled by the Malazan Empire, and the brewing war that ensues. It takes about 300 pages to set up, so until then you'll feel like you did in Gardens of the Moon - "What the heck is going on, and why is _____ happening?"
I can see where people say that you need to get to this point before the story really grabs you. That's the nature of this tale, I think. The question is whether you're willing to put this much effort into it, and whether you judge the rewards worth the effort. For me, this was leaps and bounds better than "Gardens of the Moon".
The narration was excellent. The voices matched the dark, hard and gritty tone of the novel.
If you're interested in reading this series, you need to get some notions out of your head. This is a broad canvas that Erikson is painting. This is a milieu story. It is not so much a character story. Yes, there are good characters, and they grow on you, but if you let yourself invest too much into them, you may get hurt.
Every major character will suffer in this book, and some will die. Brutality reigns in this medieval world, and last-minute rescues are so rare that you should never expect them. Innocents suffer. There is some redemption, but I found some scenes hard to stomach. Heroic struggles end in horrid death, and at those times it made me want to scream "WHY DID YOU EVEN WRITE THIS?!" yet it is remarkably well-written. This story is an epic tale of empires.
There is a LOT of war in this book, more than any book I've ever read, up there with "A Memory of Light", and that war took 13 books to set up. I can only imagine what's coming in the rest of this series!
The main drawbacks I found were in the nature of the storytelling - the high learning curve, and at times, the seeming randomness in which plot-pivotal events occur. It's hard to believe that characters just happens to be on the right road, in the right place at the right time, for his/her destiny to suddenly be unveiled, or to witness some ancient prophecy come to pass. Nevertheless, when viewed among the vastness of this tome, such events don't cripple the story itself.
I've got Memories of Ice next, and I'm expecting that to be a turning point. They say you get hooked after that one. I guess we will see!
The characters in this book spend a ton of time walking through the the desert without water. Have a glass of your favorite beverage available as you listen.
When I finished Gardens of the Moon, I was at about 50-50 on whether to continue with this series. It was well written, but it didn't pull me in. It was more respect than love. I believed that the world was well drawn, but the scope too sweeping and the characters too numerous to try really get to know any one of them.
It gets better. This book continues with some of the characters, but not others. Thus it is a bit more manageable. As you read the series the sheer volume of words over time allows you to get to know the characters more fully. In other words: while huge in scope, it gets easier to grasp as you go along.
Erikson is very talented in that his landscape is very well painted. The setting for this series is an entire planet and he seems to want to cover everything that is happening on its surface. Moreover, he has no shortage of ideas when coming up with interpersonal, national, magical conflict. There is always some argument, earthquake, war, or magical existential crisis a chapter away. It makes you wonder how he will keep track of all the threads.
One thing I would challenge about the veracity of the characters is their glib misery. Erikson seems to want his characters to suffer most of the time. There are very few iotas of happiness in his books. It's mostly fighting, dying, being raped, descending into madness, suffering, or at least being annoyed. Despite this, his characters really do maintain a fantastically positive attitude. After so much smiling in the face of death, you begin to forget that there is so much of it in sheer volume. It makes me worry for the future of the narrative. If we are simply used to wholesale, abject death, where do you go from there to create tension?
That is but a small thing, however. I think I am in it for the long haul. I am on to the third book now and things keep getting better. I recommend carrying on to book 2 if you even kind of liked book 1. Lister does a really good job of voice characterizations even if they are not all the way I would envision the characters. He is consistent and has great cadence.
So fill your camelback and drop a credit on book 2. Enjoy.