Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

10 August, 2012

After the conclusion of Steven Erikson’s epic Malazan Book of the Fallen, I was feeling a little bereft. I knew that Erikson was working on a new trilogy set in a much earlier time and in Kharkanus, which meant it was going to be about the Tiste. I was in two minds about this as I really enjoyed delving into the lives of the characters with whom I had become so familiar in his ten volume sequence but a whole trilogy about the sombre and depressed Tiste? I wasn’t so sure. But as soon as I started reading Forge of Darkness, volume 1 of the Kharkanus Trilogy, I knew I was in very experienced hands.

In Forge of Darkness, we will finally learn about what sent the Tiste from their world into the Malazan world. And in delving into their history, we will uncover the terrible events and grief that have so stained the Tiste and moulded an entire race, setting a path of violence and, ultimately, their destruction. This sounds rather grim but Erikson’s prose is light and although tinged with tragedy, it doesn’t wallow in it and makes you want to know more about the characters that we (who have read the Malazan books) have already met.

In the land of Kurald Galain, Anomander Rake and his brothers, Silchas Ruin and Andarist, are young and carefree and about to celebrate Andarist’s marriage to his beloved lady. The three brothers have been adopted by Mother Dark who has slowly enveloped herself in sorcery and darkness through the machinations of her lover and Consort, the mysterious Draconus, who is looked upon suspiciously and with much envy by the nobleborn Tiste. Walking amongst the Tiste are the Azathanai, a different race with special powers. Who are they? And what are their connections with the Tiste?

Draconus leaves Kurald Galain to search for a special present for his lover which will cement their love and complete her transformation. Leaving behind his three strange and creepy daughters, Malice, Spite and Envy, he takes his young bastard son Arathan with him on his journey where they encounter many strange characters. The murder of an innocent Jaghut becomes the catalyst of a new game which will lead to the birth of gods and the beginning of war. This is the seed of what is to come. For there are some amongst the Azathanai who are unhappy with the paltry status their power gives them and who wants more.

And faraway, at the edge of Kurald Galain, an unknown entity has risen out of the highly poisonous and mercurial Sea of Vitr and the River God has awoken sending cataclysmic shudders across the land. What is this catalyst and great change that is sending Kurald Galain into a war that is inevitable and yet morally suspect? And can Mother Dark protect her children who are losing their way? As the Tiste plunge into a vicious and violent blood bath, who will survive unscathed?

As usual, it’s all very complicated and you’ll have to be patient and just read the book. One of the things I really enjoyed was trying to connect the characters from the Malazan books with their younger incarnations. Since this trilogy is set hundreds of thousands of years earlier and before the birth of gods, ascendants and the warrens themselves, I’m not sure how Erikson will tie everything together since the timelines seem rather shaky. I keep trying to remember all the relationships from before and although some of the relationships seem to have changed and is rather confusing, it still casts a tragic pall knowing what will happen in the future. Other points of interest are seeing how the Tiste diverge into the Andii, Liossan and Edur, how the different races coalesce and the emergence of the soletakens.

Needless to say, I LOVED this book and the past histories that are unfolding regardless of the confusion. In fact, trying to tease out all the relastionships is part of the fun. And Erikson’s style seems to have become even more polished since his last book. My new favourite character from this volume is, surprisingly, Silchas Ruin, Anomander Rake’s albino brother, with Draconus following closely behind. But Anomander Rake is already a strong presence and it’s interesting to see his transformation. I CANNOT wait for the second in the series, Fall of Light, and may have to go back and re-read The Crippled God just to get my Malazan fix.

Although the Kharkanus trilogy is a prequel to the Malazan books, in my opinion, you’ll get more out of the reading experience if you tackle the Malazan Book of the Fallen first.

In the meantime, here’s an interview with the great Erikson.

And do also check out the review on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Transworld Publishers for kindly sending me a proof to review.

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