The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

A most enlightening lesson on the nature of tyranny.
The Wurms of Blearmouth book cover

The Wurms of Blearmouth is a novella, first published in June of 2012, written by Canadian author Steven Erikson and set within the lands of his Malazan Book of Fallen series. It follows on from the tale told in another novella featuring Bauchelain, Broach and Reese, The Lees of Laughter’s End.

I am a self-confessed Steven Erikson junkie. I need a fix on at least a monthly basis and often find myself re-reading one of the ten Malazan books (I must have read Gardens of the Moon at least five times now) or as on this occasion, reading a novella set within the same universe. I have also recently put live reviews on Ian C Esslemont’s Novels of the Malazan Empire that suggest that these six books are where I should be spending some reading time very soon.

But I digress and should return to the work at hand.

When I think about Erikson and his work the first words that come to mind are ‘epic’ and ‘ambitious’ but his work is often also humorous and surreal. And these two words sum up this novella particularly well as it is full to the brim with bizarrely named characters, having surreal conversations and conducting themselves in altogether very peculiar way.

But first, here’s the rather lengthy blurb:

Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants will thrive in palaces and one room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct, and all propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery. But we’ll leave all that behind as we plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind, and in the ragged wake of the tale told in Lees of Laughter’s End, our most civil adventurers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their suitably phlegmatic manservant, Emancipor Reese, make gentle landing upon a peaceful beach, beneath a quaint village above the strand and lying at the foot of a majestic castle, and therein make acquaintance with the soft-hearted and generous folk of Spendrugle, which lies at the mouth of the Blear River and falls under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his lovely keep. Make welcome, then, to Spendrugle’s memorable residents, including the man who should have stayed dead, the woman whose prayers should never have been answered, the tax collector everyone ignores, the ex-husband town militiaman who never married, the beachcomber who lives in his own beard, and the now singular lizard cat who used to be plural, and the girl who likes to pee in your lap. And of course, hovering over all, the denizen of the castle keep, Lord Ah, but there lies this tale, and so endeth this blurb, with one last observation: when tyrants collide, they have dinner. And a good time is had by all.

I think the tone and irreverence of the above blurb should give any prospective reader a pretty good idea of what the book will read like. I found it to be distinctly light-hearted when compared to the Malazan books of which they are companion pieces and which are far darker and brutal in theme. I would guess that most looking at this book, and this review, are already familiar with these Malazan novels and for those I would say that the events and humour within will remind them often of that channelled through Kruppe in Gardens of the Moon and Tehol and Bugg in Midnight Tides – it is funny and farcical but but at the same time hints at hidden power and a long and dark history. Any who have read The Lees at Laughter’s End or the Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach will know exactly what to expect – and will not be disappointed.

The novella is in essence a tale of xenophobia taken to the extreme and I would recommend it mainly to existing fans of the Malazan series. I will close this review with these apt words uttered by Bauchelain shortly before the novella reached its end:

“A most enlightening lesson, wouldn’t you say, on the nature of tyranny”.

Quite, and so it was.

This The Wurms of Blearmouth book review was written by

We interviewed Steven Erikson on 2009-09-03

All reviews for Steven Erikson's A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen

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