Even after all of this time I still get frustrated and baffled that people don't seem to realise that an author is not beholden to his readers. What frustrates me even more than that is when a reader feels that they can judge the book on a perceived lack of content; unless the book is the finale in a series and the author has died, you have very little ground to attack the author from, accusing him of leaving story threads undone, for all you know they're coming up in the next book.
The real lesson to be learned here is never go onto forums full of passionate fans of a series.
However there are other lessons, more focused on our task at hand, that can come from reading a book like 'Stonewielder' by Ian C. Esslemont, the third in his 'Malazan Empire' series of books that run in and around the main 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' series by Steven Erikson.
I do want to agree with some aspects of the criticism I have found myself reading; Esslemont is not as accomplished a writer as Steven Erikson is. His storytelling ability and editorial control is simply not as refined as what goes on with his writing partner. The overall handle on the story is there, similar to Erikson, but Esslemont is not able to draw as much out of every sentence as Erikson is.
Having written that leaves me feeling a little frustrated, because I dislike having to compare authors. But in a situation like this – where two authors are both writing in the exact same sandpit – it is both unavoidable and necessary.
A Malazan book, no matter the author, is always going to have a) a huge load of story-threads and b) a handful or more story-threads left hanging at the end of the novel. If you haven't worked this out yet, then you're simply not paying enough attention, and if you are expecting otherwise, then you simply don't learn; don't learn that it isn't up to you to decide what story-threads are resolved when.
Stonewielder picks up the story of Greymane and Kyle and the unfortunate history Malazan has with the Korel subcontinent. There is a lot of unanswered story here, about where the Stormriders come from and why they can't seem to turn left or right (you'll see).
But additionally there is also a lot of new ground covered, opened up and explored. While there are questions surrounding the origin of the Lady, her story is covered rather well, and with a few revelations brought about through the closing chapters of the book really, leave you surprised.
I think that Esslemont has the character driven story down pretty well too. Everyone I was introduced to through this book had the real feel of a Malazan character. From those in command down to the lowly soldier, I felt that Esslemont had the same handle on his characters that people so commend Erikson for. I specifically enjoyed Suth and Devaleth, the way that they were introduced and woven through the story.
In fact, the way that certain characters were left behind on missions, sent on other missions, while others went to the front and they went to the side; it all wove in and out really well, telegraphing the importance of a particular storyline and diminishing the importance of another even while it kept your interest and attention.
Stonewielder is probably not a book to pick up not having read others, like 'Return of the Crimson Guard', 'Dust of Dreams' and 'The Crippled God', but it is a great addition to those books, complementing them as well as being an enjoyable read all on its own.
Joshua S Hill, 8.5/10
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 finally focuses its eye on the Cult of the Lady, a fanatic religious cult that has spread among the lands of Korelri. Their numbers dwindling, the Stormguard keep up their valiant effort to keep Korelri safe from the abyssal Stormriders, as they have for hundreds of years. Yet while all their attention must remain on defending the Stormwall, Malazan forces are moving behind their back, plotting, conquering.
Stonewielder is a stand-alone novel of the Malazan Empire, part of the world created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. In the typical Malazan fashion you're introduced to more than a dozen storylines throughout the book. This, in addition to the elaborate world with all its countries, factions, religions and magics, makes it a very hard read. You follow characters throughout the world that all have something to do with an event, in this case, the eradication of the Cult of the Lady and the nonstop attacks by the demonic Stormriders. Because you get so many viewpoints on these events, you really get to experience war and uprisings like never before. Sadly enough the overdose of storylines makes it very hard to sympathize with the various characters, time doesn't stand still after all and you only get tid-bits of the action and struggles they experience. It's fun how you're looking at major events from all these angles but the lack of depth and compassion means that you don't care for either side. The sporadic moments of humor and philosophical arguing were the only things that kept me interested a little, along with a craving to know what the hell is going on. Like I said earlier, you get only little information, and all the how's and why's are a real mystery. Countless things happen, and you can grasp from the way the people react and how it's told that a major event is taking place, but you just have no clue at all what's going on! I'm sad to admit that without this huge sense of mystery I would've put this book down very early on.
Koen Peters, 6/10
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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