Ian Cameron Esslemont was born in 1962 in Winnipeg, Canada. He is best-known for his contributions to the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series popularised by his friend and collaborator, Steven Erikson (a fellow archaeologist). Esslemont is the co-creator of the Malazan world.
Esslemont and Erikson co-created the Malazan world in 1982 as a backdrop for role-playing games. In 1991 they collaborated on a feature film script set in the same world, entitled Gardens of the Moon. When the script did not sell, Erikson greatly expanded the story and turned it into a novel. The two writers agreed to both write books set in the same world. However, it took a further eight years before Gardens of the Moon was published by Bantam UK and Erikson agreed to write a further nine novels set in the same world. Life and work commitments delayed Esslemont's own entries to the series until 2005, when his first novel, Night of Knives, was published as a limited edition by PS Publishing (a mass-market release by Bantam UK followed in 2007). This book was a prequel to the main Malazan sequence. His second novel, Return of the Crimson Guard, takes place within the main Malazan sequence, shortly after the events of the sixth book, The Bonehunters. It was published by PS Publishing in May 2008 and by Bantam UK later that year. Both Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard have now been bought by Tor for publication in the United States.
"We used a single pad of yellow legal notepaper that we passed back and forth across the table in coffeeshops, taking turns writing dialogue and scenes, etc. It was very rewarding creatively, reacting to what he came up with then passing the pad back for his reaction - like a great game of chess, only we were both winners. We found we could co-write screenplays in that manner but we both knew it wouldn’t work for novel writing so we didn’t even attempt it. Now, we both do have our "own stories to tell" but they are still woven together in that - if the plan can be kept to - they still cross and merge in various ways and at various moments."
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 own words, give us a brief description of yourse [...]
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 darker beings. Also, a prophecy promises the return of long missing Emperor Kellanved to the contended imperial throne. This night will determine the fate of the world.
"Night of Knives whether you have read Erikson's books or not, is a gem of a read. And if you have read the Erikson books, then this is a book you can't afford not to have."
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 cauldron of Quon Tali - the Malazan Empire's heartland - they march, and with their return comes the memory of their vow: undying opposition to the Empire. But elements within the Guard's élite, the Avowed, have set their sights on far greater power, while other, more ancient entities are rising up, intent on furthering their own arcane ends. And what of the swordsman called Traveller who, with his companion Ereko, seeks a confrontation from which none have ever returned?
As the Guard prepare to wage war, the Empress Laseen's generals and mages grow impatient at what they perceive as her mismanagement of the Empire. Is she losing her grip on power or has she outwitted them all? Could she be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate the last irksome survivors from the days of Kellanved, her illustrious predecessor?
"Yes, it took me nearly five hundred pages to understand much of this world; but, having persevered, I broke through into a fantasy world that is a rich tapestry indeed. Two hundred or so pages dedicated not just to a battle but a war has catapulted Esslemont in to the circle of few fantasy authors who are truly capable of generating an epic. Is it better than Erikson? I have absolutely no idea. Nor do I care. Esslemont is a fine fantasy author purely on his own merit and this book is the proof."
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 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."
So here is the Fourth Novel of the Malazan Empire from ICE. It didn’t take me long after I started reading to see that this one was different from the previous ones. Stonewielder made me feel that Ian was Steven Erikson’s adoring little brother doing his best to imitate his hero. This one makes me think it was ghost-written by Erikson because he was only contracted for ten books, but still had so much to say, but not enough time to write 1000+ pages.
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.
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 discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. And all they have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait - hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword - and should you make it, beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings. Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond.
"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."
It was once a land ravaged by war, minor city states, baronies and principates fight for supremacy, and then the rival cities of Tali and Quon formed an alliance and so Quon Tali came into being. However that was generations ago, that dynasty has collapsed and the regional powers are now clawing at each others throats once more. But at the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city state of Li Heng which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the "Protectress". She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men into her domain: one is determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age; the other is his quarry - a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill. The sorceress and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions, so how could two such trouble-makers upset her iron-fisted rule? And now, under a new and ambitious king, the forces of Itko Kan are marching on Li Heng from the south. His own assassins, the Nightblades, have been sent ahead into the city, and rumours abound that he has inhuman, nightmarish forces at his command. So as shadows and mistrust swirl and monstrous beasts that people say appear from nowhere, run rampage through Li Heng's streets, it seems chaos is come - but in chaos, as a certain young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity...
"For fans of the Malazan world, be it Erikson or Esslemont, Dancer’s Lament is a brilliant return to one of the most majestic and mystifying fantasy worlds ever to be created. Filled with rooftop knife fights, devastating magery, and underworld evil, this book hits all the right notes at all the right times."
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled a civil war on their own home island. The plan, however, soon goes awry as Kellanved develops a strange and dangerous fascination for a mysterious ancient structure found on the island.
The chaos in the region extends to the metaphysical planes also as a young priest of D'rek starts to question the rot at the heart of the worship of the god of decay. And back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith - and searching for answers.
During all this, war with the neighbouring island of Nap threatens, recruited allies wonder at Kellanved’s sanity, and powerful entities take more of an interest in the little mage from Dal Hon. Dancer faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when the fellow’s obsession with shadows and ancient artefacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction.
After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter an Elder mystery known to everyone as the 'Deadhouse'?
The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas. But some powers are alarmed. And in the meantime, as Purge and Tali indulge in what seems like a their never-ending game of war, a mercenary caught up in the fight between the two states suddenly refuses to play along and causes all sorts of chaos. Simultaneously, a pair of escapees from Castle Gris make their way across this ravaged landscape of flame and butchery. Their intention to seek out the legendary Crimson Guard. And then there's Kellanved who could not care less about any of this petty politicking or strategy or war. Something other and altogether more mysterious has caught his attention and he - together with a reluctant and decidedly sceptical Dancer - traverse continents and journey through the Realms in pursuit . . . But this ancient mystery that has so captivated Kellanved is neither esoteric nor ephemeral. No, it is of an altogether darker and more dangerous hue. It involves the Elder races themselves, and more specifically - certainly more alarmingly - the semi-mythic, and universally dreaded, Army of Dust and Bone. Surely no one in their right mind would be so foolish as to embark on a journey from which none have returned? Well, no one except Kellanved that is... Returning to the turbulent early history of what would become the Malazan Empire, here is the third awesome chapter in Ian C. Esslemont's new epic fantasy sequence.