Assail by Ian C Esslemont

(9.0/10) Returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped.

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.

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Our interview with Ian C Esslemont

Joshua S. Hill talks to Ian C. Esslemont following the release of Deadhouse Landing, the second book in his Path to Ascendency series which further explores the Malazan universe he co-created with Steven Erikson.JSH: In your [...]

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

Night of Knives

A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 1 written by Ian C Esslemont

The empire is named for the tiny island and city of Malaz, now a sleepy, seedy backwater port. Tonight however, a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon brings demon hounds and d [...]

Published: 2004

Our rating: 7.8 | positive reader reviews


Return of the Crimson Guard

A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 2 written by Ian C Esslemont

The return of the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for an empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries.Into the seething caul [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 8.0 | positive reader reviews



A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 3 written by Ian C Esslemont

Enter the universe of Malazan, where many a story unfolds and strife is easier to find than water in a well. After finishing their business elsewhere, the Malazan Empire fi [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 7.3 | positive reader reviews


Orb Sceptre Throne

A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 4 written by Ian C Esslemont

The tumult of great powers colliding has passed and the city of Darujhistan and its citizens can at last get on with what matters: trading, bickering, politicking and enjoy [...]

Published: 2012

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews


Blood and Bone

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In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted another expe [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 8.8 | positive reader reviews



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Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovere [...]

Published: 2014

Our rating: 9.0 | positive reader reviews


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