House Of Chains by Steven Erikson
Review by Floresiensis
House of Chains is the fourth book in Steven Erikson’s A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Bantam Press originally published House of Chains in 2002.
In the aftermath of the Chain of Dogs extraordinary destinies are being played out. Karsa Orlong, a tribal warrior from Northern Genabackis descends into the southern lands as part of a raiding party. Adjunct Tavore faces the legions of the seer Sha’ik with an army of raw recruits. Waiting in the heart of the Holy Desert the Sha’ik’s warlords are at each other’s throats and she herself is haunted by the knowledge the her nemesis is her own flesh and blood. So begins the pivotal chapter of Steven Erikson’s spectacular fantasy series.
The first 250+ pages of House of Chains are most un-Erikson like. The story is linear and follows Karsa Orlong on his journey from his tribal homeland in the north to the lands in the south that will be familiar to the reader. This forms Book One of the House of Chains, is called Faces in the Rock and is in itself a story all of its own. However, once Karsa’s story has been told up until a pivotal moment we are once again flung into the richly interwoven storylines for which Erikson is known. Characters, new and old enter and leave at a heady rate and you need to firmly attach your mind to the pages you are reading or face the prospect of becoming utterly and hopelessly lost.
'And what is the name of this House?' the customer asked. 'What throne? Who claims to rule it?'
'The House of Chains, my friend. To your other questions, there is naught but confusion in answer. Ascendants vie. But I will tell you this: the Throne where the king shall sit - the Throne, my friend, is cracked.
The setting for the book is Genabackis, the same as used in Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice and will be familiar to the readers of the series. Once again, questions are raised and answers are found. Points that were left unexplained in the first three books begin to make sense and you feel that you are part of one of the most complex fantasy stories to have arisen in decades. The reading of this book requires effort and concentration, both of which are amply rewarded. The House of Chains is the fulcrum of the entire book, part of Erikson’s complicated schema of gods and demigods. This book also reads like the second book of a trilogy, the part that takes the story, ties up loose ends and then sets the foundations for what will undoubtedly become a scintillating conclusion.
He swung away, made insensate by layer upon layer of blindness. Numbed to the outside world, to whatever Sha’ik was now saying, to the brutal heat of the sun overhead.
He felt no longer able to leave.
This is Steven Erikson’s best work yet; and that is high enough praise itself. The bar is lifted a notch higher and the best fantasy series of recent times gets better and better. So, set aside at least a couple of weeks and let yourself be carried away by an author who can give you everything you are looking for … and more.
Shaky from Uk
Tom from Columbus, Ohio
The beginning of the book actually made sense and I thought the series was actually going to get better. No such luck.
Deggsie from Scotland
Brilliant book, brilliant series. No other fantasy author manages to keep up this level of excellence so far into a series, the events of the earlier book clear and many questions are answered. I think that this is the best book of the four so far and the initial chapters following Karsa Orlong can stand alone as a book in its own right. This is the kind of series that I'd hoped Robert Jordan was going to produce but failed. Fingers crossed, Erikson might see this one all the way through....
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