Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson

22 August, 2011

Ok, we’re at volume 8 of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen with Toll the Hounds. What a great title, and indeed the Hounds of Shadow make a big appearance in this chapter of Erikson’s epic. This one was dark, very dark and to me, very poignant and sad. Erikson certainly knows how to lay the emotions down thick and fast. It keeps on going and going and you don’t know whether you want to keep reading or stop right there. But of course you will continue, because it’s almost the end and you need to know what’s going to happen. I think it’s just that Erikson knows how to draw characters in such a way that you really care what happens to them. And lots of bad things happen. And I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m going to be laughing or crying at the end. Really not sure here although I suspect there will still be lots more tears. Oh dear.

Toll the Hounds
is mainly centred in Darujhistan, the capital of the Seven Cities, the bane of the Malazan Empire, where the Whirlwind Revolution began (Deadhouse Gates), where Crokus Younghand, later Cutter, Quick Ben and Kalam Mekhar come from, where it all began. Cutter has finally returned to his home city with his new companions minus the love of his life, the assassin Apsalar, for whom he still pines. He is re-united with his old crew at the the Phoenix Inn where the surviving Bridgeburners now congregate but they can all see how much he has changed, and why he has chosen to rename himself Cutter.

At the same time, Karsa Orlong, the Theloman Toblakai is also heading towards Darujhistan together with the witch Samar Dev and their mysterious companion Traveller. Who is he? And why are there Hounds trailing them?

From a more magical place, Nimander Golit, grandson of the Son of Darkness, Anomander Rake, is making a difficult and heartbreaking journey together with his remaining Tiste Andii kin to their new homeland, Black Coral, where Rake now resides. Will they be welcomed back? And can they trust Clip, the self-styled Mortal Sword of Darkness, who holds a grudge against the Son of Darkness who abandoned them all?

A conversion is imminent and it is all happening in Darujhistan. Hood, the God of Death, is missing and death is no longer a certainty. What does this signify? And will Chaos win? New gods are emerging, pouring bile and madness amongst the tormented population. It’s not only the Crippled God that they need to worry about. There are far worse things creeping out of the darkness.

Once again, the strands Erikson has woven from his first novel in the sequence, Gardens of the Moon, are slowly coming together. One of the things I enjoy most about Erikson’s novels is the banter between the soldiers, in particular the Bridgeburners. They have a cynical sense of humour, yet their capacity to care really makes me laugh one minute and then gulp down emotion in another. And I like the squabbling and tension between Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev (I know Karsa Orlong is supposed to be a monstrous warrior, but still. Don’t ask.) And there are still secrets that Erikson uncovers that will draw gasps and there is inevitable heartbreak and he once again cuts down much-loved characters. All part of the story. All necessary. But you won’t feel that while you are reading and you will rail against his decisions. It’s hard to see how the tale will pan out. And I’m excited to keep on reading. As I hope you will be too. So have you started the Malazan books yet? Have you? You know I’ll just keep going on about it until you do.

Malazan books by Steven Erikson:
Gardens of the Moon
Deadhouse Gates
Memories of Ice
House of Chains
Midnight Tides
The Bonehunters
Reaper’s Gale

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

One Response to “Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson”

  1. abevanswylie Says:

    Sounds very dark and very Nordic. Intrigued.

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