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Title: Deadhouse Gates
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #2
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
I am trying to do this from memory, without looking at all my update posts. Ha.
A rebellion is brewing on a continent and is led by Sha’ik. It is foretold she will be reborn and lead the rebellion against the Malazans and blood will flow like an ocean. She dies.
A bunch of Malazans are running for their lives to make it to the city of Aren, a port city that is still under Malazan control. This group is led by Coltaine, a Fist and former rebel himself. He must lead 40,000 civilians and thousands of soldiers across a continent where everybody wants to kill them all. And the High Fist in Aren? Does nothing. A renegade Fist is chasing them with multiple armies. Coltaine gets the civvies to Aren, then dies with his whole army due to treachery by the High Fist. Who in turn is betrayed and destroyed, along with HIS army of Malazans. Not a good time to be a Malazan soldier.
A noble Malazan girl is imprisoned in a pogrom and sent to the mines along with some others. They escape, make their way through the desert, and the noble, Felisin, becomes Sha’ik Reborn. She also happens to be the sister of the Empresses’ right hand woman, Adjunct Tavore.
A group of characters from the first book come across 2 powerful beings, one of who is almost 100,000 years old but has memory problems. They follow a path to a Gate in an Azath House [hence the name of the book] which promises a path to ascendancy [godhood] for shapechangers. Turns out it is a trap for all the shapechangers to imprison them in the Azath House. The group gets lots of clues about lots of things and then goes their separate ways at the end.
An assassin is out to kill the Empress for outlawing his friends and their army from the first book. His adventures as he travels and then the stunning revelation that it is all a hoax and a plan to unite everybody against an even greater threat. He chooses to not kill her and goes his merry way.
Various characters are introduced and either die, have their storyline cut or just fade away. Or, they might be a major character in future books. You can’t tell.
This was a readalong with Dragons&Zombies. I enjoyed the process and having someone else reading the same stuff helped motivate me to pay attention and ask questions. That being said, I took more notes reading this than I have for any other book in years. Normally, I read a book and then write stuff up after. If I had tried to do that with Deadhouse Gates, I would have missed out on so much that I would have wondered what I had actually read. The problem is, once I started taking notes, it became obvious just how dense this book is. My usual review style can be likened to looking at some architectural plans for a skyscraper. This time, I wandered the building with DeeZee from basement to attic and explored all the nooks and crannies. I came away with 2 thoughts which left me with opposing feelings.
First, this was some spectacular writing. It is a tapestry of such fine story threads that it can be hard to keep them separate. In many cases, they aren’t separate, but interweaving in and out and around and Erikson keeps it all in the air and going well. You can almost feel the care and effort expended in the story.
Second, Erikson is a dickhead. There is no other explanation for it. In Gardens of the Moon we get dropped into a story without a lot of info, but that can be sussed out. Here in Deadhouse Gates, Erikson deliberately writes to confuse. What else can it be when you have anywhere from 2-6 points of view in EACH CHAPTER and almost no clue that you are switching pov’s except for a double paragraph break? It didn’t feel like he was out to tell a story and didn’t care if his readers didn’t quite get it all. It felt like he was gleefully obfuscating and confusing information just because he could. That doesn’t mean it is impossible or that you can’t figure stuff out, but taking a page of notes for each chapter is not what I want when reading Escapist Literature. So that pissed me off.
This book tired me out and took every word I had. In the next book, Memories of Ice, I am going to have to find a way to deal with it differently, as I can’t write this much again for one book.
To end, I recommend this book if you want some complexity beyond imagining and don’t mind heavy doses of Existentialism. But for goodness sake, have some lighter reads lined up either during it or right after, you’re going to need them.
This was my 3rd time reading this and it still felt like my first. I am also adding the “Best Book of the Year” tag. It really is that excellent even with my complaining and bellyaching.