Sunday, June 11, 2006

Book 39: Memories of Ice

Memories of Ice is the third volume in Steven Erikson's epic Malazan Book of the Fallen series. This volume picks up after the events of the first book Gardens of the Moon. Book 2 dealt with mostly a second set of characters in a different part of the world. It all starts to come together, though, as there are brief references made to characters we know.

Dujek Onearm and Whiskeyjack are the leaders of a now renegade outlawed army. They lead Dujek's Host against the invading army of the Pannion Domin. The Pannion Seer is pushing north to the city of Capustan. Dujek's Host is pushing south and has allied itself with the former enemies of Malaz the Tiste Andii, a nearly immortal non-human race of powerful beings.

So, one aspect of this novel is the impending great clash of two armies and how to stop the Pannion Domin. Another aspect is the rapidly aging child Silverfox who has the souls of at least three mages inside her. She is called abomination, but she is clearly an individual of great power and import. Yet another aspect is Ganoes Paran, a captain of the legendary Bridgeburners in Dujek's Host. He was not trusted by the Bridgeburners when first given the command, but they don't trust anyone. By this point he is truly becoming their captain but he is also becoming so much more, a major player in the mystical realm and quite against his wishes.

This is a novel of hard men and women, of magic and common soldiery, of mystical beasts and gods, of leaders and followers. Memories of Ice, like the previous two Malazan novels defies description. This is a great military novel, but it is also a great magical novel, but above all it is a hard, grim novel with flashes of humor. The actual plotline is unclear (in this volume it is the fight against the Pannion Domin) because while an individual novel might be clear it is unclear where the entire series is going.

But the quality of work here by Steven Erikson is staggering. It isn't for everyone and it takes some work trying to figure out what is actually happening, but it is worth the effort. I think that Memories of Ice is better than the first two volumes and characters the irritated me in the past are now favorites. It is an epic of world building even though it is hard to get a sense of the world. This is challenging fantasy and Erikson is an author who has no fear in killing off a popular character. While each volume has been described by the publisher as standalone, I do not think it is. Each volume tells and individual story, but without having read the previous volumes it would be much more difficult to understand.

Bottom line: The Malazan Book of the Fallen is among the top of the fantasy genre. It is quite excellent and quite challenging and it is a major time investment and brings with it an expectation that the reader takes the time to work out the relationships and figure out what is going on...and then Erikson turns our previous notions on their heads by changing how we view characters. Well done.


Grilled Cheese Samurai said...

I'll second all of that plus add a bag of chips!

Wonderful author >> he's from my home town too! :)

Anonymous said...

And remember what I said before about reading book 5 before book 4. Trust me, you'll enjoy four and six more that way. And five (Midnight Tides) is almost as good as Memories of Ice. It has the best (nevermind the funniest) buddy-buddy relationship since Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Joe said...


I probably won't be able to go out of order due to my library...that and I have some deep theoretical inhibition about that sort of thing, but I'm lookin forward to getting into more Malazan stories.

And I was shocked to find out that Kruppe didn't bug the hell out me this time around. I HATED that character in the first book. Kind of liked him this time.

Still not sure what the hell Kruppe is...

Joe said...
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