Rating a book is inherently dangerous. Well beyond the normal trials of dealing with authors who believe they’re the next Tolkien but are lucky to know how to spell Tolkien, it’s the really good authors that provide the greatest problems. For example, I finished my review for the Bonehunters by Steven Erikson over a week ago. At the time it was a 10 out of 10 book. I still believe it is. However, what happens when the next book is just as good?
This is the problem I’m facing with Reaper’s Gale, the seventh volume in Erikson’s series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Where the Bonehunters was action packed (but not in a Michael Bay mindlessness way, see the rest of the review), Reaper’s Gale follows in the same vein as the fifth book, Midnight Tides. It is emotional, gripping, tense and unbelievably well written (as are all his books).
Erikson once again ties together some plot threads in Reaper’s Gale, joining the Malazan Fourteenth storyline with the Letherii/Tiste Edur Empire storyline. This book is definitely not without its action scenes, and Erikson once again writes battles and fights which are nothing short of terrifying and realistic. There are times when the sounds of magic detonating and the smell of blood and human waste literally escape the page to bring the reader in.
But Erikson’s real skill lies in being able to grip the reader as firmly, if not more so, with scenes that are entirely character driven.
Characters, both human and not, are flawed to the bone. No one is spared, and at any moment the hero could become the betrayer, and the betrayer the hero. The helpless are empowered, and the strong made weak. Characters like Seren and Udinas, Trull and Onrack, Bottle and Fiddler, all shine and tug on the heart strings.
But probably the most sympathetic character and storyline in the entire story – and definitely vying for top place amidst the whole series – is that of Captain Faradan Sort and Beak. There is something utterly visceral about the way that Erikson is able to tear open the heart and speak right to it that makes him one of the best authors around.
It is nothing short of breathtaking to watch Erikson seemingly effortlessly weave a story of such intricate detail as to rival entire mythologies in scope. Storylines and perspectives come from every angle, some of which are the least anticipated and others not so. In all reality, and the more I read this series, I come to find that Middle Earth is quickly losing the top spot.
Erikson takes the emotional gripping character journey that many authors are capable of, and expands it to move you past simply tearing up at the end of a scene. When you are taken from anxious nervousness to vicarious fear for the characters, into ecstatic joy and then into a sorrow that is more than sad, but devastatingly sorrowful, where tears simply do not suffice, there is an author who deserves more kudos than can be put into words.
Review by Joshua S Hill
2 positive reader review(s) for Reaper's Gale
Steven Erikson's ongoing fantasy series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen has brought new life and originality into the fantasy genre. Steven Erikson kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review in September 2009, shortly after the [...]
Niall from UK
Ok, so I will be honest here, the first 300 pages I found to be brutally boring! More new characters to deal with and not much really going on (the story of Redmask in my opinion could have been dropped) with plenty of self indulgent ramblings to fill a normal sized novel. Then the Malazans arrive, and the whole story takes such a turn. Once again, I was completely hooked on every word written and the world before me. Even now, with 7 Malazan books under my belt, II was still completely unprepared for what I read. The brutality and sheer devastation, leaving me now worried to carry on the series, just in case Erikson kills off another character I have grown to love. A brutal and truly touching book. Erikson has once again proved that he is the master of epic fantasy.
Charles from Los Angeles
I just finished this book and I can't agree more with Joshua S. Hill about his review of this book, furthermore, this entire saga is a real adventure in reading. I imagine it all ends somewhere, but right now that's the last page I ever want to see.
9.3/10 from 3 reviews