Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont
23 April, 2012
So you all know I wasn’t too impressed with Ian C. Esslemont’s previous offering and second volume in his series of the Malazan Empire, Return of the Crimson Guard. So I started Stonewielder, his third book, not expecting much but found I couldn’t put it down. Esslemont’s writing is different to that of Steven Erikson, it’s looser and less complex, but I enjoyed the book and look forward to more.
In Stonewielder, we are re-united with Iron Bars, an Avowed who has sworn an oath to fight the Malazan Empire and cannot die until he fulfills his vow, and formerly of the Crimson Guard. We find him in the land of the Korelri, chained to the Stormwall as its Champion, fighting the Stormriders, magical beings that come riding on the waves as they fight their way onto the land. As an Avowed, he cannot die, and he is determined to survive until he has set his fellow Crimson Guard captives free.
In another place, we meet Kiska who has now left the Claw and is looking for her former master, the high mage Tayschrenn. She is guided into one of the warrens together with a mysterious warrior from Darujhistan as they travel towards an unknown destination.
And then there is Greymane, disgraced High Fist of the Malazan Empire and a most wanted man, who has had contact with the mysterious Stormriders and who is in possession of a powerful weapon. He is recalled to service by the new Emperor and is sent towards Korelri to punish a renegade Malazan Fist who has carved out a small kingdom for his own. With him travels his new Adjunct Kyle who carries Osserc’s legendary sword of light. As the Malazan forces converge in Korelri, the powerful Goddess who has dislodged the Elder Gods fights back in anger and will stop at nothing to keep her people in check. Will the Malazans succeed? And will Iron Bars finally escape? And what will Kiska find in the warren of shadow?
As with all the Malazan books, multiple storylines abound. I enjoy this kind of storytelling so have no problems with it. Compared to Erikson’s books, this isn’t as complex and is pretty easy to follow. And although Iron Bars’ characterisation is a little different from what I encountered in Erikson’s Midnight Tides, I’m still a fan. The only thing I thought weakened the story was the character of Greymane. I’m assuming he’s on a par with Whiskeyjack and Dujek Onearm but he just didn’t cut the heroic figure I have come to expect from the Malazan gang. Moan, moan, moan. However, the Goddess manipulating Korelri and Fist and who gave the Stormguards their calling is suitably evil and malicious.
But still, I enjoyed this book much more than I expected and am looking forward to reading the next in the series, Orb, Sceptre, Throne. I may even go back to re-read the others by Esslemont.
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