Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

The Bonehunters is Book 6 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series written by Steven Erikson. WARNING: This is epic fantasy, with a wide scope and a very large cast of characters. Steven Erikson do not explain everything and the series is not told in a linear fashion. It will be a confusing read at times.

To explain; the first book (Gardens of the Moon) takes place on the continent of Genabackis, where armies of the Malazan Empire (Onearm's Host) are battling the native city-states for dominance, especially the city of Darujhistan. The story is then continued in Book 3, Memories of Ice, when the Malazan armies uniting with their former enemies to confront the threat of the Pannion Domin.

Book 2 takes place on the subcontinent of Seven Cities and the major rebellion against Malazan rule. This rebellion is known as 'the Whirlwind'. Book 2, Deadhouse Gates, shows the outbreak of this rebellion and focuses on the rebels' relentless chase of the main Malazan army as it escorts some 40,000 refugees more than 1,500 miles across the continent. The chase itself, is referred to as the Chain of Dogs. The fourth novel, House of Chains, sees the continuation of this storyline with newly-arrived Malazan reinforcements, the 14th Army, taking the war to the rebels.

The fifth book is, Midnight Tides. This novel introduces a new continent where two nations, the tribes of the Tiste Edur and the Empire of Lether, are engaged in open warfare. The novel takes place along with earlier books at the same time and show the effects of what happen when you push people too far.

5 books, 3 storylines. Confused already? Hahaha. This is not a series for novices, as Erikson is from the LOTR schools of fantasy writing. Plots drive the story, not the characters. So you will see heroes and villians fall left, right and centre. And they don't go out in heroic fashion. An arrow on the battlefield, or an old injury can take out heroes. It is dirty, gritty war stories in a fantasy world. The Malazan Empire are also not what you call a 'good' empire. There are both heroes and villians in their armies and both them and their enemies (like the Whirlwind rebels) have no problems killing men, women and children when battling. Hell, Garden of the Moons started off with the Malazan sacking the Mouse Quarter, part of Malaz City. Men, women and children died in the sack. This is not a series where good and evil fight. It is a series where the truly mad fight againest the merely evil.

The sixth book, The Bonehunters, begins 2 months after House of Chains and combined the three storylines. Onearm's Host has arrived from Genaback to the Seven Cities, to aid in the final defeat of the rebellion. At the same time, fleets from the newly-proclaimed Letherii Empire are scouring the globe for worthy champions to face their immortal emperor in battle. The Malazan 14th Army has destroyed the army of the Whirlwind and the commander of the 14th, Adjunct Tavore Paran, has executed Sha'ik, leader of the Whirlwind. The 14th is now pursuing the remnants of the Whirlwind army under Leoman of the Flails. The Whirlwind seek refuge in the fortress of Y'Ghatan, where the Malazan Empire once faced its greatest defeat. Onearm's Host has landed on Seven Cities' north coast to complete the task of subduing the rebellion, but a deadly plague has been unleashed and before it is all over, a great Malazan hero will fall.

As you can guess, this is not a normal fantasy series. The Bonehunters continued this trend. The 14th are the main charactes in the book, but they got their ass handed to them by Leoman of the Flails. The Malazan hero got struck down by the plague, not a heroic end for a great general. That's where this book (and the series) works. You never know who will come out of battle alive and there's no clear line between good and evil. I will say that Bonehunters is one of the best book in the series. Erikson's writing seems to have improved and it was fun watching the plots join together for once. We also see why even brave souls shake before Icarium. He was just a terrible beast when unleashed, even Trull Senger and his spear lost to him. Karsa Orlong also made an appearence and it was fun seeing how unaffected he is by...well, almost everything. He kill demi-gods. What does he care about the feelings of mere mortals.

A fun, thrilling ride. That's The Bonehunters. Take a look if you dare!

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