Assail by Ian C Esslemont

Returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped.
Assail book cover

Book of the Year 2014 (see all)

For years now we have been teased with the prospect of visiting Assail, writing partners Steven Erikson and Ian C Esslemont weaving hints and rumours into their epic series’ so as to leave us completely hooked on the idea of this threatening landmass. Covered in ice, but home to some of Malazan’s most important figures, ‘Assail’ by Ian C Esslemont was everything I could have asked for.

The Malazan Wiki describes the continent of Assail as being “situated between Genabackis and the Letherii continent and was held to be the most dangerous and hostile part of the Malazan world.” The Crimson Guard had history there, as did the imitable T’lan Imass, and its history was such as to defer even the Malazan Empire’s expansionist aims.

So much could trace roots back to Assail – so many stories had to finish on that terrifying continent. Names like Kyle, the Crimson Guard, Silverfox, and more, all had to make their way to Assail for their stories to reach a measure of conclusion. So long in the waiting, ‘Assail’ by Ian C Esslemont had a lot to live up to.

And boy did he pull it off.

Esslemont has been writing in the shadow of the more popular and successful Steven Erikson for some time now, but managing to grow in his skills with each subsequent book. More and more, now, I’m beginning to find Esslemont’s additions to the Malazan universe as enticing and well-written as Erikson’s. Both have their different styles, which in some ways make Esslemont’s more accommodating and accessible – which can be both a good and a bad thing.

As with all Malazan books, new and old characters act as our protagonists. Characters from both Erikson and Esslemont reappear in Assail, as well as some fascinating new characters, which really make the story such a well-rounded reading experience.

The payoff of returning to Assail is well worth the wait, and by the end of the book it was 4:30am and I was actually shocked by the revelations that confronted me. I had caught some of the clues, and missed a hundred more. And with rumours floating around that Ian C Esslemont has signed a new deal to write three more books, I am giddy with the possibility that some of these Assail characters will return.

Assail by Ian C Esslemont probably ranks as one of my favourite books of the year – albeit also one of the most anticipated. With characters we have come to love, and new ones to love, returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped.

This Assail book review was written by

We interviewed Ian C Esslemont on 2017-11-28

All reviews for Ian C Esslemont's A Novel of the Malazan Empire

Have you read Assail?

We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.

Assail reader reviews

from Canada


Assail was suppose to be the toughest continent to get to and off of. Where everybody that came from Assail was almost super human. The people that escaped from Assail could kill gods. Even the gods were respectful of the people that escaped Assail. It was a place where one human killed legions of T'lan imas. The build up was incredible, the book Assail was not. Throughout the whole book the people of Assail were getting killed by every cut-throat pirate, criminal, pick-pocket that came from every continent out there. Instead of the toughest place to leave, was very disappointing. A troll underneath the bridge to scare the children. An entire people almost all wiped out by normal cut-throats. A mother with two over grown kids, that are bullies, sad.

from Canada


Assail was not as good as the anticipation building up to its release. Assail was suppose to be a place where the best of the Crimson Guards barely escaped. A place where even gods were humbled by the people that escaped or came from there. But the book had a bunch of tribes that were getting looted by outsiders. Outsiders were killing these stupid people from Assail, and tricking them for their land and valuables. The skull by the bridge sounded amateurish. Some of his other books were way better.

from England


In Gardens of the Moon when Paran is talking to Whiskeyjack at Mock's Vane he says "the world doesn't need another wine merchant". Whiskeyjack bites back the obvious reply (ie "the world doesn't need another soldier"). The chaos in Mouse quarter is a metaphor for the whole Malazan campaign, the futility, the chaos of battle. Erikson's writing has many levels, it has meaning, some times many meanings, it's more than words on a page. ICE is not like that to me. Assail is just a fairly linear story, ICE doesn't elicit emotions, motivations, innermost thoughts and he doesn't have the skills to build as strong characters, mystery, sense of power. The odd segment in Assail has some of this but it's intermittent and feels like a re-edit. The overall effect is a feeling of disappointment reading Ian's side of the series.

4.8/10 from 4 reviews

Write a reader review

Assail by Ian C Esslemont book cover thumb image

Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for Assail by Ian C Esslemont; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.




Your rating (out of 10)

Your review

* Review will be moderated before appearing on the site.

More recommended reading in this genre

Great books also published in 2014

Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: