The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

18 July, 2011

Ohkay…so I thought the 6th volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Bonehunters, was going to be about the T’lan Imass bonecasters but who am I to secondguess Erikson, huh? It’s bonehunters, not bonecasters, so I naturally got it all wrong.

Everything is slowly starting to come together in this volume. All the characters we have met along the way in vols. 1-5 are in place for the final epic battle that has gods, ascendants and people all vying for power and survival. And it’s very exciting when the pieces start falling into place and you begin to see glimmers of the whole picture. It’s stupendous indeed and I am struck anew at Erikson and Esslemont’s conceit that they can pull this off.

So we come to what is left of the Malazan Imperial Army, the 14th, survivors of the Chain of Dogs and Shaik’s Rebellion in vol.2, Deadhouse Gates, and vol. 4, House of Chains. We are once again reconciled with our favourite Bridgeburners, Fiddler, Kalam and Quick Ben. Ganoes Paran, now Master of the Deck of Dragons, is active once again, as is Apsalar who has renewed her relationship with Cotillion, the God of Assassins. Elsewhere, Icarium and Mappo have reached a crisis, the Tiste Edur are gearing for war under their mad Emperor Rhulad, and the Whirlwind Apocalypse has found a new figurehead in Felisin the Younger. And Karsa Orlong, the Toblakai, is on a hunt to right wrongs. And all through this, the Malazan Empress Laseen’s Adjunct Tavore Paran has to keep her cool and shield her soldiers, who haven’t quite made up their minds whether they can trust her, from betrayal. Because betrayal is inevitable.

What is it about Erikson’s skill as a writer that he makes you care so much about the characters that populate his novel? Because you do care and because you really don’t know what is going to happen. And characters die and you weep and then he twists everything and you are shocked back into the story.

One of the things that really strikes me about Erikson’s books is his treatment of women. I have written before about how difficult it is to find decent, fair and realistic portrayals of women in the sff genre. I’m often disappointed whenever I encounter the perpetually frustrating and boring vision of Woman: virgin, mother, whore. It’s just dispiriting and frankly tedious. And lazy. So one of the reasons why I like Erikson’s books so much is that he treats men and women pretty equally. Soldiers are soldiers. They are strong, feminine yet not girly (I mean, exactly how many girly girls do you know?) And their attitude to sex is frank and healthy and not tainted by all that stereotypical rubbish. And he doesn’t shy away from the shocking stuff either, yet it’s not titillating or voyeuristic. Yeah, others may argue that you can only write what you know or is based on history. Really? But that argument really doesn’t cut it for me. Especially if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy where there should be no limit to your imagination. So yes, I have high standards when it comes to writing about women and yes, I am impressed with Erikson. And I like his female characters A LOT.

I don’t need to tell you this, but really, go and pick up Gardens of the Moon, the first in this epic sequence and start reading. NOW.

I’ve caved and ordered the rest of the Malazan books. Next up is Ian C. Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guards which is chronologically the next in line. Ooh, I can’t wait to meet more of the Crimson Guards.

Malazan books by Steven Erikson:
Gardens of the Moon
Deadhouse Gates
Memories of Ice
House of Chains
Midnight Tides

Malazan books by Ian C. Esslemont:
Night of Knives – this one is set just after the prologue of Gardens of the Moon and before the main events so should be read after the first volume by Erikson.

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