Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson
8 August, 2011
This was a LONG book. Over 1000 pages, it took me took me two whole weeks of reading exclusively. And partway I swore that I was going to take a little break before getting into the next one. But you know what, as soon as I finished the blighted thing, I wanted more. I tell you, once this Steven Erikson has his Malazan hooks into you, it’s really hard to break free.
So we come to Reaper’s Gale, the 7th volume in Erikson’s epic Malazan Book of the Fallen where we are re-united with familiar faces from Midnight Tides. Rhulad Sengar is now Emperor of his Tiste Edur and Letheras Empire. He is still tortured, disfigured and unable to die (yup, that’s him on the cover). His twisted, tragic mind can only spot betrayals and he is unaware that his empire is being manipulated by the very people he has subjugated. His surviving brothers, Fear and Trull, are in exile and shorn from Edur society.
Adjunct Tavore, no longer part of the Imperial Malazan Army, is on her way to Letheras with her Bonehunters. What is she up to and does she even know? There is a mysterious assassin with two terrible allies named Redmask of the Awl who stalks the city. And when he returns to his own lands to seek revenge on the Letherii army, he rescues from his own forsaken people, Toc Anaster or Toc the Younger, survivor of the Pannion Domin (Memories of Ice). Quick Ben finds himself in the company of Trull Sengar, the shorn Tiste Edur, and his unlikely friend Onrack the Broken, a T’lan Imass, moving from one magical warren to another. And Seren Pedac leads a strange company headed by Silchas Ruin, Anomander Rake’s albino brother who has been freed after a millenia, Udinaas, Rhulad’s ex-slave, Kettle, child of the Letherii azath house, and a strange but disdainful Tiste Andii, Clip, across the icy plains of Omtose Phellack (the warren of the Jaghut). All are heading towards a convergence, and as Erikson draws all the main players towards Letheras, will he finally reveal what is really going on? Can Rhulad be killed? And will the Crippled God triumph? We can only read on to find out.
In a 1000 page book, so many things are going on that it’s really tough to summarise the plot. Besides, I don’t really want to give away anything, so I’m keeping it brief. But there is a lot of nostalgia, camaraderie and heartache, let me tell you. We see real evil in the Letherii imperial administration and real courage in the Malazan and Edur forces. Innocence in a Malazan mage called Beak, strength in Karsa Orlong, the Toblakai recruited to kill the insane Emperor Rhulad Sengar, and perhaps madness and a breakthrough in his fellow champion Icarium the Jhag’s realisation of who he is.
Interspersed between the battles and soldierly banter, there are some true comedy in the bits where Tehol Beddict and his manservant Bugg are steadily going about their business orchestrating the collapse of the Letherii economy. And I particularly enjoyed reading the exchange between Karsa Orlong and his travelling companion, the witch Samar Dev. One of the things I did find difficult to read was the sheer malevolence and petty avarices of the bureaucrats that propped up the Letherii civilisation especially the imprisonment and torture of Tehol Beddict’s one-time tutor. It may have been necessary to the story, but maybe not to that extent. In some ways it shows, as in any society, that people are born casualities of their leader’s machinations. Yes, I’m a cynic and this is a cynical book. Still doesn’t make it easy reading though.
And we finally get to see some proper K’Chain K’Malle action. Who are these strange reptilian creatures, creators of alien machinery and extreme savagery? Where are they hiding and what are they planning?
Lots of storylines coming together and being tied up while new questions are once again raised. REALLY GOOD STUFF.
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.
Return of the Crimson Guard – this one is set after The Bonehunters