Blood and Bone by Ian C Esslemont (A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 5)
I was again mesmerized by the story.
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 expedition in a bid to tame the neighbouring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity who some name the Queen of Witches and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata.
Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs - but it was the voices from that land's forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers launch their invasion of this jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.
To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail men call the Grey Ghost. This warrior leads these tribes on a raid unlike any other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands.
While word comes to K'azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer? Could it be the goddess herself...
For starters, I honestly didn’t think there would be two books in one calendar year from Mr. Esslemont, but I am honestly pleased with the quality and enjoyment I received from them both.
As I (we, I doubt I was alone in this one) so easily predicted, the storylines left dangling from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series are being finished off in these extra books. Or maybe this time extended. This book again is centred on the Crimson Guard and fills in a lot of the questions of the history of K’azz and Skinner and the splitting of the Guard. I was again mesmerized by the story and had fun trying to figure where this story fits into the greater timeline, and guessing who the warleader character really was. But most satisfying to me was the trip to Jacuruku we took. After 15 books, (with a combined reading of about 50x), I was also surprised by the complete lack of knowledge I had of the place. It made me think of my childhood memories of deepest darkest Africa and all the mystery and excitement those words had. And I find myself again waiting for the next book as I am completely on the hook when K’azz was told he would find the answers he was seeking in Assail. Assail! Another mystery name where all I can think of is a lost clan of T’lan Imass; I can hardly wait to see where this goes. And you better write it after dropping an Easter Egg like that Mr. Esslemont.
George Roesch, 8.5/10
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it each time I encounter it: seeing a writer grow in their ability to tell a story is almost as rewarding as the story told itself. When he started out, Ian C Esslemont was a pale imitation of his Malazan universe-companion, Steven Erikson. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really liked ‘Night of Knives’ – I gave it a 7 – but the writing was not its strong point; it made up for it in a cracking fight scene (which made up most of the book).
Four books later and Esslemont is writing passages and entire chapters that rival Erikson at his best.
‘Blood and Bone’ is Esslemont’s fifth Novel of the Malazan Empire and takes us to the oft-rumoured Jacuruku to meet with Ardata. Combining the activities of renegade Malazans, Avowed and Disavowed of the Crimson Guard, gods and ascendants, and a pair of villagers caught out in a universal power play, this book is Esslemont’s best yet.
There was only one storyline that weaved through this book that did not capture my whole attention, but even then it kept me enthralled more than once. I think I simply dislike characters who “are in above their heads” and unaware of the greater conflict.
The Crimson Guard have been central to much of Esslemont’s writing, so far, and that seems as if it will continue. We get to spend a lot of time around K’azz, if not with him, and Skinner returns to wreak his own special brand of mayhem. All in all, the Crimson Guard story lines were my favourites – especially as they crossed over into events taking place in Stonewielder (attentive fans will be able to guess this one).
Chronology has always been a tricky business with the Malazan books, but I’m relatively certain that this book takes place concurrently with Steven Erikson’s ‘The Crippled God’, the final book the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It also takes us a few days past it as well, I believe, which would lead us to believe Esslemont’s next book will be the first to take place completely set after the events of The Crippled God.
There are some great nods to past Malazan events, characters return and unveil hidden plots long in the making. There are some tantalising hints of events untold (or at least hidden) and some fantastic characters to really sink your teeth in to. Add to that a greater time spent understanding the warrens and the ascendants who have stepped in, and this book just keeps getting better the further you read.
I love when an author gets better, and Ian C Esslemont has done himself proud with Blood and Bone. Anyone involved in the Malazan universe will want to get their hands on this, but make sure you read it after you read The Crippled God.
Joshua S Hill, 9/10
Blood and Bone reader reviews
8.8/10 from 1 reviews
8.8/10 from 1 reviews