Assail (Malazan Empire #6) ★★★★☆

assail (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: Assail
Series: Malazan Empire #6
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 784
Format: Digital Edition



Gold has been found in in the land of Assail. This leads a lot of people, in groups and as individuals, to suddenly have an interest. There are also those who are interested with longer term plans.

The natives, however, aren’t going to just sit down and let their lands be over run by foreigners who don’t care about the land and will destroy it in with their gold fever. These natives, also known as Icebloods for the trace of Jaghut blood they carry, are protecting the land from the Assail who sleep in the mountains. If one greedy miner or soldier awakens the Assail, the Assail will cleanse the continent of all life. The problem is, most of the Icebloods don’t believe the Assail are real.

Remnants of the T’lan Imass make their way to Assail, as it is the last bastion of Jaghut magic and in its heyday denied them entrance. Now that it is weakening, they can continue their purge of any Jaghut blood. Silverfox opposes these renegade Imass who rejected the transformation back to flesh and who do not know that there now exists a pocket world protected by one of their own. Silverfox must stop the massacre and let these Imass know that their vow is completed and they can rest.

Fisher Kal Teth, the bard, and Kyle the ex-Crimson Guardsman, who is now known as Whiteblade, are both Icebloods. Fisher meets up with an amnesiac Tiste Andii who has lost his memory but who Fisher suspects is Anomander Rake. Fisher, Kyle, Jethiss (the name the Tiste Andii takes on) meet up with other Icebloods to prevent the awakening of the Assail. In the end they are part of a new agreement between races to prevent the Assail from destroying them all. Jethiss makes a deal with the Assail for a sword and they cut off his arm and use the bones to make him a new legendary sword.

The Crimson Guard make their way to Assail as that is where the 4th Company is hanging on. Kazz, the leader of the Guard and the Avowed, knows something but won’t reveal it to anyone else. By the end of the book it is revealed that the Vow of the Guard used magic from Tellan and the Vow will not allow the Avowed to truly die. They have, in fact, become a new clan of Imass, but one that has not found their own redeemer who can give them final peace in death. So their search goes on.

Several other storylines wrapped around the above fill out the general picture of what is going on in the land of Assail. But these, the Chronicles of the Crimson Guard, are done.


My Thoughts:

Man, what a difference several years can make. Last time I read this was burnt out on Malaz, disappointed that there was no over-arching storyline and sick to death of existential philosophy. I gave this 2.5stars then. I suspect Life was kicking my butt back in ’14 and when that happens I just can’t handle any kind of sadness or despair things. It gets all blown out of proportion. I think I stated that I was completely done with Erikson and Esslemont?

And look at me now! I enjoyed this quite a bit on this re-read. Whenever a character began waxing philophical (which happened a lot less than I remembered), I just skipped it. Also having realized that these Malazan Empire novels are actually the Chronicles of the Crimson Guard, the ending was much more fitting. I also put Esslemont’s latest books in the running for the coveted Best Book of the Year award last year. And this is why it is good to re-read books.

This book seemed like it went at a slightly slower pace than the previous book, Blood and Bone. Another thing I noticed is that this ebook edition says it is only 542 pages but the paperback edition stands at 782. This felt much more like an almost 800page book rather than a sub600 one. I changed my info to reflect the larger number. Because I can 🙂

This finishes up the Malazan Empire novels and I can see myself reading them again in another 5-10 years. Unlike the Malazan Book of the Fallen, which I suspect my current re-read is my last, these books by Esslemont leave me feeling that I’d like to come back again some day. No rush but I’m definitely considering a third read through in the coming years.

A few things annoyed me and kept this from being a 4.5 or 5 star book. The whole Jethiss/Anomander Rake thing. Fisher suspects but won’t even say his suspicions or say the name Anomander Rake out loud. Also, Fisher is just about the only one who believes that the Assail are real and yet he refuses to name them or tell anyone why awakening them is a bad thing. He just says it is a bad thing and then shuts up and sulks. I just realized, I didn’t like Fisher. He’s an ass actually. Everyone else, I had no problem with but him, he pissed me off. Too bad he didn’t die. Other than that, this was right on par with the other Esslemont books.

I’m still shaking my head at how much of a change I had with this book from the last time. A modern day miracle I guess.





Blood and Bone (Malazan Empire #5) ★★★★½

bloodandbone (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: Blood and Bone
Series: Malazan Empire #5
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 850
Format: Digital Edition




Prince K’azz, leader of the Crimson Guard, takes his remaining forces to Himatan, a jungle ruled by Ardata, Queen of Witches. He makes the journey to prevent Skinner and the Disavowed from recovering a fragment of the Broken God. Skinner has a history with Ardata and ended up using her and leaving her. She is now considering K’azz as his replacement. K’azz must also reassure his remaining Guardsmen that he has a plan and isn’t simply swinging in the wind.

A mixed group of rogue Malazan soldiers and wizards are also seeking the shattered fragment simply to deny it to the Broken God. They end up working with the Crimson Guard just to survive and in the end the fragment becomes its own being and goes off and becomes a new god. The Malazans and the Guard go their separate ways and the Disavowed are returned to the fold while Skinner is consumed by Ardata for spurning her.

A nation state of Thaumaturgs begins the invasion of Himatan as well. They pretty much empty their country of talent in a bid to recover the fragment. They end up losing their army through attrition to the natural forces of Himatan and the leader of the army chooses to go home at the end and rebuild his country.

A loose coalition of tribal forces are gathered together by an enigmatic Warleader and promised riches beyond belief in an invasion of the Thaumaturg capital. The Warleader turns out to be Kellor and his goal is to get more of the magic ingredients that he makes his life extending candles out of. The tribal armies are slaughtered while delivering slaughter and the survivors must make peace with the survivors of the Thaumaturg’s army if they are to have any chance of keeping their conquest. A melding of cultures is about to begin.


My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this quite a bit more this time around than I did back in ’13. I hardly noticed the soapbox philosophizing, but that was more because I simply glossed over it and paid it no attention.

I do have to admit, I wonder why these are called Novels of the Malazan Empire when they seem to be more about the Crimson Guard than anything. The Malazan Empire is touched upon and is kind of the “behind the scenes” force that drives the Guard on, but really, these should be called the The Chronicles of the Crimson Guard or something.

I thought about giving this a 4star rating just like I did in ’13 but decided to up it that valuable half-star because I enjoyed this more than I did last time. Re-reading things can be truly fulfilling sometimes. After I read the next Malazan Empire novel, and if I like it as much as the previous ones, I’ll probably end up buying them in hardcover. While I doubt I’ll re-read the Malazan Book of the Fallen again after my current re-read of the series, I can definitely see reading this series yet again in a few years.






Orb Sceptre Throne (Malazan Empire #4) ★★★★½

orb sceptre throne (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: Orb Sceptre Throne
Series: Malazan Empire #4
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 850
Format: Digital edition



A golden mask is uncovered in the plains outside of Darujhistan. It belongs to the spirit that raises Tyrants up again and again. This time it calls the Segulah into its service. They and the Moranth, ancient enemies, duke it out until the Segulah are freed from the Golden Mask’s domination, then they go back to their little Island Nation.

Kiska and Leoman of the Flails are in limbo, looking for Tayschrenn. They find him, restore his memories to him and they all return to do whatever hidden thingamajig Tayschrenn wants to do.

Also deals with various characters attempting to loot the fallen Moonspawn, all hoping to find the Throne of Night.

Plus about 6 other smaller threads dealing with such characters as Coll, Kalam, Baruk, Kruppe and others that we were introduced to way back in Gardens of the Moon.


My Thoughts:

When I initially read this back in 2012, I was not impressed at all. I still hadn’t gotten that Erikson and Esslemont created bigger than life mythos for their characters, whether individuals or as a people, just so they could tear them down. So my thoughts regarding the Segulah were that they were the Pristine Warrior Culture; those thoughts were not only dashed, they were trampled into the dust on my first read and my rating and review reflected that.

This time around, what a difference. I didn’t have those misconceptions about the Segulah and so their story didn’t bother me. The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that there were just so many story threads going on. Some of those threads had nothing whatsoever to do with this book, ie, Kiska, Leoman and Tayschrenn but simply pushed an overarching story forward. I don’t care for that. Other than that, I was pleased as punch.

It was sad to see characters from Gardens of the Moon becoming old or giving up in spirit. Coll turning into an old, wine addicted, fat counselor was especially sad. Baruk’s subsumption by a demon seemed very cruel, considering how much he’d sacrificed for his city. And yet that is what happens to old heroes. They fail and a new generation must step up.

While I complained about the multiplicity of threads, they were tightly woven together and even the thread about Tayschrenn didn’t detract from overall affect. It really was one story being told even if it took awhile for them all to get tied together.

This book is why I like to re-read things. My mind was completely changed from last time and I went from almost hating this book to really loving it. Most of that change was on my end and my perspective and expectations. 17 years of reviewing and I still marvel at how our expectations can shape how we react to a book. I was semi-dreading this re-read but it turned into a jewel instead.

Pretty satisfied this time around.




Stonewielder (Malazan Empire #3) ★★★☆ ½

stonewielder (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: Stonewielder
Series: Malazan Empire #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 638
Format: Digital Edition




Emperor Mallick sends another army and navy to take over Korel, where all previous attempts have failed. Not only that, but the one time a Malazan army DID make it through, they cut off ties and setup their own little kingdom. Time for the Emperor to remind them that they’re still his subjects. Almost all green troops bolstered by a navy of Blue Moranth. Facing them are veterans and turncoats and a whole contingent of Black Moranth.

Kyle and Greymane, trying to live life as teachers at a dueling school, aren’t doing quite so well. Greymane gets drafted by the Emperor to lead the invasion. I’m still not sure how the Emperor convinced a former Crimson Guardsman to do that! Kyle’s along for the ride as an Adjunct.

Lord Hiam is protecting the Wall that borders the sea and Korel. He and his special guards fight year after year for The Lady, throwing back the annual attacks by the Stormriders, magical sea people. For years they have used unwilling prisoners as well. This year, unbeknownst to them, they have some captive Crimson Guard. Understaffed, the Wall in desperate need of repair and the Lady’s Favor apparently turning against her own Chosen, Hiam has only his faith to sustain him and with the revelations about the Lady at the end, even that will shatter.

The Cult of the Lady is trying to wipe out all other religions in Korel. The Lady thrives on blood sacrifice and it is by that power that she can hold back the power of the Stormriders. She also negates all magic associated with the Warrens, so Malazan magicians are almost useless. In response, all the poor people of the land unite under a mystical prophet who quickly dies and passes on his legacy to some Arena Champion who has vowed to never kill again.

Politics and religion each using the other to further their own agenda.

And some little side thing with Kiska, from Night of Knives, looking for Tayschrenn, who has been sucked into some sort of vortex’y thing’y.


My Thoughts:

I had waited to read the Malazan Empire novels until after I’d finished the Malazan Book of the Fallen. So when I was reading these and their lack of pages of banal philosophizing, which I got in spades in the last 3 Books of the Fallen, I was overjoyed. So much action, so much story actually moving forward.

This time around, I wasn’t quite as enthused. My main complaint is that there are just too many story lines going on. Not storylines that all come together in the end, but that are multibook. My other complaint was HOW the stories were broken up. Sometimes you’d get pages and pages and pages. Then would come a 2 paragraph insert. Then on over to a 3rd storyline, etc, etc. And as far as I could tell, there was no repetitive order to them to help you remember. It felt like a jumble all thrown together.

The action was pretty good. I liked that.

With all of that, I’m definitely going to be reading Esslemon’t latest, Dancer’s Lament, before I read anymore of the Malazan Empire novels. If I don’t like it, then I won’t feel guilty about stopping these as well.

★★★☆ ½


  1. Stonewielder (2011 Review)
  2. Return of the Crimson Guard (Book 2)
  3. Night of Knives (Book 1)

Return of the Crimson Guard (Malazan Empire #2) ★★★★☆

crimson (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: Return of the Crimson Guard
Series: Malazan Empire #2
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 732
Format: Digital Edition




I believe I counted Double Digit story threads going on, so I’m going to simply mention the overall highlights/plots.

The Crimson Guard vowed to fight the Malazan Empire and the Duke K’Azz was their leader. Due to the nature of their vow, the “Avowed” [the Guards who actually took the vow] cannot die of old age and are becoming superhuman. Once they do die, their ghosts stick around and act as messengers. The Guard was scattered after one particular encounter with the Malazans. Now they are beginning to come back together. The Duke is missing, so the next in command, Skinner, has taken command. But he’s apparently in thrall to the Broken God and so has his own agenda that subverts the Guards Vow. The Guard is split between those who follow Skinner and those who remain faithful to the original intent of the Vow.

This is all happening because various commanders and top dogs from the Malazan empire are sick of Laseen’s rule and are pulling away and allying themselves with local nationals. A splintering of the Empire that Kellenved began. Laseen comes to the continent with all the hosts she can muster to oppose the nationals. The Guard uses this to plan an attack on her to wipe her out. A phracking huge battle ensues.

A mad mage ends up opening a gate to Chaos and everybody comes together [sing it with me!] to stop him before the whole world is consumed. Laseen dies and Mallick Rel, introduced in Deadhouse Gates, becomes emperor. Treaties and peace negotians ensue and everyone is properly maudlin.


My Thoughts:

That synopsis was the shortest I could make it, honest.

This takes place several books later, chronologically, in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Erikson. However, characters from it, specifically, Mallick Rel, Korbolo Dom, Nil & Nether and even the reborn Coltaine, were relatively fresh in my mind from my read of Deadhouse Gates. That made connections MUCH easier to remember. Sadly, the reborn Coltaine gets just a couple of paragraphs before being sent back into literary oblivion.

Lets deal with my gripes first.

Once again, the deliberate with-holding of information about who a character is from the reader. It is not as simple as not telling us, but in several cases characters are thinking/talking about Mysterious Character X and it goes something like this:

“No, it couldn’t be. He’s dead!”

A veiled glance from Mystery Character X to the character talking…

“It IS him!”

Mystery Character X nods and walks away into the distance. Talking character is left in jaw dropping awe.

That makes me want to scream. It makes me feel like Esslemont is dancing in front of me going “Nyah, nyah, nyah! I know something you don’t know!” It is frustrating and probably my biggest gripe with both Esslemont and Erikson. They seem to revel in spitting in my face with hidden knowledge. Since this whole series is a re-read, I know this will keep on happening. But I don’t have to like it and I don’t.

On to the good stuff.

If you want complex plots filled with political, personal, religious and psychological threads, this is the schizzle. Like I said in the Synopsis, double digit threads being woven. Pay attention or you’ll get lost. Near the end, I DID get lost. Who was fighting who against who all became tangled up as new threats emerged and groups split and groups came together. Because there were Malazans on almost every side, it wasn’t even a Malazan Against Others story. It was a big messy group dynamics story.

I couldn’t race through this. I am finding that I need to slow down my reading to appreciate what I am reading at the moment instead of thinking about what I’m going to read next. This book was like walking through a mucky swamp; each step was an effort and you had to look right in front of you without looking at those distant mountains or you’d fall into a pit and never get out.

The munitions group, that coalesces around a Sergeant Jumpy is great. It made me laugh. It was a much needed comedic break because almost all the other story lines are of the Grimmest, Darkest Import. Everything else is weighed down by its own Self Importance. Just how they act and think is fun and I wish there had been a touch or two more of them.

Overall, I am satisfied with this re-read.

I had a lot more to say about this book this time around than I did back in ’10. Probably getting a bit garrulous in my declining years.



  1. Return of the Crimson Guard (2010 Review)
  2. Night of Knives (Malazan Empire #1)

Night of Knives (Malazan Empire #1)


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,, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Night of Knives
Series: Malazan Empire #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 308
Format: Digital Edition


Synopsis: Spoilers

On the night of a Shadow Moon, when the division between our world and the world of the Warrens thins, Kriska and Temper have an adventure.

Kriska is a young thief who wants to join the Claws and get off of Malaz Isle. But nobody takes her seriously and even her aunt wants her to stay inside this night. Getting caught up in the battle between Kelenved & Dancer and Surly. Also involved in the mix is Tayschren, master mage, Surly’s cadre of Claws and a group of cultists dedicated to Kelenved as a god. Kriska has to survive the night and all the terrors it holds.

Then we have Temper, a former soldier of the Malazan Army who has deserted. The desertion saved his life, as he was one of the Shields of the Swords, a might warrior protecting Dassem Ultor, the First Sword of the Malazan Empire, the mightiest warrior alive. The problem was, Surly doesn’t want heros in her army and she has begun to purge them. Temper runs to Malaz Isle to become a lowly guardsman to survive. But others know his secret and on this night of Shadow Moon, Temper will be used once again, just as he was before.


My Thoughts:

Man, I had forgotten, or never realized, just how much foundational information Esslemont packs into this book. There is a lot about Dassem that I didn’t realize was important but will definitely impact my read of future Malazan Book of the Fallen books. Chronologically this comes before Gardens of the Moon but I wouldn’t recommend reading it before unless you’re doing a re-read of everything Malaz.

There are some great battles here. Hounds of Shadows everywhere, monsters springing out of various Warrens, magical assassins fighting magical cultists, a hidden group of people trying to protect the whole Isle from some underwater threat, it all weaves together into one night of blood the likes of which the Isle has not seen in ages.

This was a short book, clocking in just over 300 pages. For a Malaz book, that is practically a short story. But as I was reading, it was dense. It had so much packed in that I felt like I had read a 500 page book by the end. I didn’t mind that feeling at all, but others might and it is something to keep in mind if you decide to delve into this universe.

One downside, which is typical of the Malaz books, is that there are no real answers to any of your questions. Inferences, asides, round about explanations of Subject X which reveals bits about Subject Y. Nothing direct, nothing concrete. It is building a bridge in your mind. Esslemont gives us the materials and a rough architectural plan but it is up to us, the readers, to actually build the bridge and succeed or fail on our own. Some will see that as a weakness and others as a strength of the writing. I’m ok with it but have to admit, I’d prefer a bit more concrete facts baldly stated. Oh well, I’m not going to get it and neither will anyone who reads these books.





  1. Previous Review from 2010

Assail (Malazan Empire #6) (Final)

assail (Custom) This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 by express permission of this reviewer.

Title: Assail

Series: Malazan Empire #6

Author: Ian Esslemont

Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 544



Gold! Gold has been found in the northern land of Assail and everyone, from scum to soldier to sorceress is making their way their to make their fortunes.

The remnant of the Crimson Guard, the descendants of the Jaghut, the remaining T’lan Imass and whole masses of various people converge into yet another, albeit hopefully the last, pointless Malazan Story.


My Thoughts:

Erikson lost me with his first Forge of Darkness series book and Esslemont has done the same for me with this book.

At some point, Existential Angst, Hints of Archaic Badness, Weapons and Spells that ALWAYS turn out to be Cursed & General Moping by Everyone, you just have to say no. No one is happy in these books, and I really mean no one.

It wears on you after a bit. Sure, the story can be cool and the action top notch and the epic can be big, but 17 books of between 500-900 pages each should not be ALL Grim Despair.

And for a book named Assail, the Forkrul Assail only appearing for about 3 pages tops in the last 5% of the book, well, that is Epic Fail to me. The Imass/Jaghut feud gets more time for goodness sake, and that was supposed to be OVER way back in Memories of Ice or so [the 3rd book  of 10 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series].

I’ve gotten used to the fact that these books are all only loosely related,not a tight overall story but I don’t like that either.

So what did I like? Well, the fighting and spell’ing were pretty good.

And that is why I’m done with Esslemont as well, He has turned into a clone of Erikson in his writing philosophy and I won’t countenance it any more.


Blood and Bone

Blood and BoneBlood and Bone

Malazan Empire #5

Ian C. Esslemont

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Another continent, another bit of the Crimson Guard, another shard of the Crippled God.

and lots and lots of grossness. From bodily functions to rotting viscera to wholesale gruesomely detailed slaughter.

And the soldier who thinks. Eegads, I am tired of soldiers who think…

Orb Sceptre Throne (Malazan Empire #4)

Orb Sceptre Throne

Malazan Empire #4

Ian Esslemont

3 Stars



I thought they would be the untouchables. The perfect race of peoples untouched by the cloud of despair and shame that Erickson and Esslemont visited upon every other race.

I should have known better.

And yet another Tyrant rises. And we find it out WHY tyrants kept rising in Darujistahn. Which is good, because my first reaction to another tyrant was “great, a copy of the end of Gardens of the Moon”.

And lots of other things going on. I do wish that Esslemont would stick to 2-3 plot threads. I prefer his writing that way. Let me get pissed off at Erikson for the big stuff…

Stonewielder (Malazan Empire #3)


Malazan Empire #3

Ian Esslemont

4 Stars


This book is what I think all of Steven Erickson’s book SHOULD have been like. Lots of action, a smidge of philosophy and just some down right wicked cool characters.


While Esslemont’s Crimson Guard felt like it was just hanging out there all by itself, Stonewielder felt like an integral part of the Malazan Series. Part of it was several characters are from the Crimson Guard, so I wasn’t introduced to a completely new set of characters, there was some continuity from CG. That went a long way towards making me more comfortable.


Man, this was just cool! The storm riders, the koreli, the Lady, Skinner the skumbag [at the end]. AND Leoman of the Flails!!!. I had always wanted to know what happened to him, and now I find out. Wicked!!


So basically, I enjoyed this a lot. and look forward now to more of Esslemont as his own writer instead of just an extension of Erickson. Way to go ICE…