Kellanved’s Reach (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3) ★★★★☆

kellanvedsreach (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kellanved’s Reach
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

Not much of a single plot running through this book. More like the many, diverse threads like you see at the beginning of a very large and complicated weaving process.

Kellanved finds the Throne of Bone and is allowed by the T’lan Imass to “rule” over them. Kellanved and Dancer meet the Crippled God for the first time and it doesn’t go well.

Surly continues to do all the hard work of creating an empire. She also successfully pulls of a coup on her brother, who ousted her in the first place. She is the de facto leader even while making Napan part of the “Malazan Empire”. Her discontent with Kellanved and his methods continue to grow.

The blind girl who can communicate with birds has her journey and she is called to the Northern Wastes to become some people’s shaman (the Jheck perhaps?)

We also follow 2 new characters who long to join the Crimson Guard. One is a mage and the other a battle mage that doesn’t know it. They do a lot of fighting and we get to see how the rift between K’azz and Skinner starts.

Finally, we follow a mercenary general who saves his troops despite their contract holder selling them out. He leads the opposing forces a merry chase and after killing a K’chain Ch’malle (or however it is spelled) is rescued by the Malazans and is introduced as Grey Mane.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats that kept it from being a 4 1/2star read or higher. First, the lack of a plot running through the book was distracting. The previous 2 books had their own little in book plots and this one should have too. Second, Kellanved finding and using the Throne of Bone was very underwhelming. It was rushed through to make room for everything else. Thirdly, too many various things were happening for such a short book. Finally, this felt “simple” in comparison to Esslemont’s Empire of Malaz series and almost childish in comparison to Erikson’s Book of the Fallen. Mind you, I didn’t want reams of empty philosophy but the dexterous storytelling I am used to from both authors just wasn’t there. This was like Glen Cook in one of his better Black Company books.

I realize that sounds like a lot, but while I complain a lot about Erikson and by extension Esslemont, I still expect some seriously well written stuff from them.

What I liked the best was how Esslemont shows just how humorous Kellanved really is, in a young/old way that just made me grin. The insecurity of youth coupled with youth’s propensity for brashness allied with an old man’s crotchedyness. It was perfect. Dancer very much played the Straight Man in this comedy duo and I could totally see them going up on stage during an Improv Night and doing horrible amateur comedy. And then killing the entire audience for not laughing loud enough!

While I felt there were too many threads being started here, I did really appreciate just how even a glimpse or two of a character was enough to fill in a ton of back story for them form the Fallen series. I knew Skinner, from the Crimson Guard was a real bastard but here we see how he got his name and how much he relished violence and why that would lead him into eventual conflict with K’azz.

Technically this is a prequel trilogy but I would not recommend reading this at all before the Book of the Fallen or Empire of Malaz series. Too much of the revelations in those series would be spoiled and half the fun would simply disappear. I do highly recommend this trilogy though if you made it through the entire set of series and came out alive.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Deadhouse Landing (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #2) ★★★★ ½

deadhouse landing (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Deadhouse Landing
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #2
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover edition

 

Synopsis:


This time Wu, who takes on the moniker Kellenved part way through the story, and Dancer, set their sights on the Island of Malaz. Their eventual goal is to take over the island proper, but for now they’re settling for taking over and running the black market. They buy a rundown inn as their headquarters and keep the staff on, a group of Napan renegades headed by one woman named Surly. Kellenved is continually exploring shadow and drags Dancer along with him. They tame the Hounds of Shadow, look for the Throne of Shadow and generally cause trouble and action wherever they go.

In the tradition of previous Malazan books, we also follow quite a few other characters and storylines.

Tayschrenn. He is an outstanding priest of D’rek but when his mentor dies, Tay’s lack of political and human interaction dooms him when a corrupt Invigilator takes over. Ends with him fighting ALL the priests of D’rek and taking refuge in the Deadhouse on Malaz Isle under Kellenved’s protection.

Tattersail is the lover of Mock, self-proclaimed Duke of Malaz. But while Mock is quite content with doing a little raiding here and there, or none at all if he can get away with it, Tattersail wants more. So when an alliance with the new King of Napan, Surly’s brother, is proposed and a joint attack against a mainland town is the clincher, it comes as a surprise to all when Mock is gung-ho and Tattersail has deep reservations. And Tattersail is right, of course. It’s a trap. She also finds out that Mock has been sleeping with the help over the years and so she leaves him to go to a battlemage school somewhere.

Surly and Company. They are tied tightly to Kell and Dancer’s storyline but also have their own, as Surly still isn’t convinced that she can’t take the fight for the Kingdom to her brother and prevail. Mainly about them realizing they need to throw in fully with Kellenved and let their own imperial dreams either die or hybernate.

In a surprise to me, we also get a short little arc dealing with the rise of Kallor. That guy is one evil son of a gun!

 

My Thoughts:

Two or three issues I had with this book.

One, I tried to start this just reading it at my lunchbreaks at work. I was hoping to draw out how long I could read it so as to lengthen my enjoyment of it. That just wasn’t working as winter is here and I’m not always at the van for lunch.

Two, I ended up binging on this yesterday on Thanksgiving, but even then it was interrupted by cooking and eating and walks and whatnot. So my brain felt as full as my stomach, which let me tell you, was VERY full.

Third, I had read some reviews at various places and they were nothing but fanboys squealing like little girls about how wonderful this book was. My instinctive reaction to that is to hate the item in review even while knowing nothing about it. It’s the “It is popular so I hate it” reaction. Said instinct usually serves me well but sometimes it does lead me astray.

Other than that? SQUEEEAAAAAAALLLL!

Yeah, I’m fanboying with those other losers. Well, except for Powder&Page. She’s not a loser 🙂

This was just awesome. Tons of action, lots of characters who we know from later books are introduced. Almost too many for my taste, but since this is just a trilogy and Esslemont had 10+ books worth of characters to shove in, I’m surprised there weren’t more.

Dancer and Kell weren’t nearly so big a part of this story like they were in Dancer’s Lament. But when we did spend time with them, it was almost ALL shadow related or dealing with the hounds. I am not a dog person, at all. But I’ve always liked the Hounds of Shadow and seeing more of them here was great. We’re also introduced to ototoral and moranth munitions.

In some ways I felt like I was drowning in the non-stop action and go,go,go’ness of it all. Which was a good problem to have. I said it in my review of Dancer’s Lament but I feel that Esslemont has really come into his own with this trilogy. These are different even from his Novels of the Malazan Empire in tone and style and it’s for the better. Erikson might excel at writing lush, super-cryptic and despair filled books, but Esslemont is writing some fantastic action here.

I bought this on release day  and have no regrets whatsoever about it. It was that good! Also another contender for Best Book of the Year.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

 

Dancer’s Lament (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1) ★★★★ ½

dancerslament (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dancer’s Lament
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Before there was Cotillion and Kellanved, there was Dorin Rav and Wu. Taking place in the city of Li Heng, this is the story of how they became partners.

The plot of the book, however, is how the city of Li Heng survived a besiegement by a jumped up king who thought he was somebody. The 4 mages of the city, under the direction of the Protectress (a tiste liosan) end up confining Ryllandaras, the man-jackal in a magical prison. The Itko Kan’ians, the besiegers, have the help of a Jaghut and it takes the Protectress unleasing the full might of her Warren of Light to drive back the besiegers.

Wu, and Dorin, have plans to take over the city during the turmoil but they simply aren’t strong enough and end up being exiled from the city. But now they are partners and can begin working together.

 

My Thoughts:

Finally. A Malazan book that I can simply sit down and read straight through and enjoy fully without feeling like I’m juggling 3 different 5000 piece puzzles all mixed together. You have no idea how much that upped my enjoyment of this book.

I think Esslemont showed his true colors with this book. He is a good standard fantasy writing kind of guy. His Malazan Empire novels felt very much like he was trying to copy Steven Erikson’s style and it just didn’t work for me. But this? Besides Gardens of the Moon, this was the most enjoyable Malazan book that I’ve read. Now I am really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

In the Malazan books, Cotillion/Dancer and Kellanved were shadow’y characters doing things behind the scenes and never being fully fleshed out. Even when they were supposed to be main characters, they were actually hiding and felt like side characters. This time, they were simply people. It was refreshing.

There were lots of hints and little asides from other Malazan characters, so if you’re one of the Book of the Fallen fanboys who who loves unlocking a ton of meaning from 2 sentence fragments, you’ll still have something to chew on with this book. The rest of us can simply sit back and enjoy the story.

In Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guard the malazan army unleashed Ryllandaras and in this book we see how, and why, he was confined. It was nice to make a clear cut connection between one book and the other instead of having to guess and speculate and turn my brain into 77 pretzels to make my pet theory fit.

Another aspect of this that I enjoyed was the lack of Existential Despair philosophy. Everybody was NOT whining about how meaningless their lives were. In fact, they acted like real people and didn’t even think about that. Dorin and Wu had to survive, plan how to take over a newly discovered Warren of Shadow and see if they could take over the city. Not much time to sit on their fat asses and complain about how hard they have it (unlike almost every Steven Erikson character. Man, that guy has his characters doing more talking than doing, in the middle of freaking battles for goodness sake!!!).

To end, I really enjoyed this book. A lot. In fact, I plan on buying it in hardcover, I enjoyed it so much. How don’t know how much more of an endorsement I can give a book. * grin *

★★★★ ½

 

bookstooge