"Every decision you make can change he world. The best life is the one the gods don't notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly."
Great advice anytime, but even better advice when your world is in a constant state of war. Living large as the younger generation used to say. I'm sure I'm at least a few years out of date with that term. I think someone "living large" is exactly who the universe is most attracted to, not that it is above toying with the occasional poor bastard who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For it does seem as if something bad has to be happening to someone all the time, and it only seems prudent to make small arm motions
. In the Malazan Empire neutrality is nonexistent. You must choose a side, sometimes a different one depending on the prevailing winds, but being in the middle just means the whole bristling array of creative weaponry is pointed at you instead of half. Even if you choose wisely your ability to stay alive long enough to drop the next generation of squalling infants is based more on dumb luck than skill.
If I lived in Genabackis I'd be looking for the most inhospitable chunk of icy sheep shit encrusted land that I could find. I'd be thrilled about the sheep shit because that would mean that there is something shitting; ergo, something that could land in my stew pot. The point being, to be somewhere, that has little or no value...equivalent to say an Indian Reservation.
The emperor is dead and the empress is intent on bringing all the city states under her control. There are The Crimson Guards, The Bridgburners, The Claw, The Tiste Andii, The T'lan Imass, and The Barghast to name a few of the military organizations and different cultures involved in this conflict.
Did I mention this is an epic fantasy series? Is there magic you might ask? The air is absolutely nose twitching foul with the smell of casting spells. There are warrens that zip those of a magical aptitude from one end of the country to the other. There are mages, there are gods (bunch of ninnies), there are evil cast off creatures that are slumbering waiting for a chance to enslave the world, there are hell hounds, there are enchanted sword blades, magical coins, possessed marionettes, and assassins. I know, I know if I were reading this I would be thinking not for me. I'm not a Dungeons and Dragons kind of guy. I don't play video games. I don't as a rule read fantasy books. I absolutely LOVED
this book; in fact, I loved it so much I think I may have been hit with a book love potion spell, so keep that in mind when you think about adding this to your reading list.
I've read the reviews, and one of the main points of concern to those that did not like this book is the massive, record breaking number of characters that are thrown at you. It is true. It is as if you have went over to Steven Erikson's house and there he is with his group of geeky (to not type cast they could be employed people too) buddies and they have been engrossed in this role playing game for the last 10 years with evolving rules and characters and you are dropped right in the middle of their latest epic struggle expected to assimilated ten years of evolution in ten minutes.
For the first few chapters my brain was reeling like a drunken sailor on leave in Shanghai. After I realized that I was drunk, I did what I always do when I find myself in such precarious circumstances. I relaxed and let Erickson's world flow over me, around me, through me, in me until suddenly everything starting clicking into place. For whatever reason Erickson with a few descriptive sentences locked characters into my head, so even when they disappeared for twenty chapters I could still remember who they were when they became crucial to the plot again. This could all be a residual symptom of the book love potion as well.
I think another problem that might occur for readers is to read a bit and leave it for a week. I could see how threads of the plot would become tangled or lost and the frustration for the reader would increase exponentially. It is a book that might be assumed to be a light pleasure read and that would be a big mistake. I read this book every day until I finished it. Family must be attended to. Work was an irritation that had to be endured, but these imposed absences heightened my pleasure once I escaped back to the Book of the Fallen . I had to find out what happened to Tattersail.
Like the Mazalan Empire there is no way to be neutral on this book. You will either love it or absolutely hate adore despise relish it. My fingers... are not... completely... under my control.
I'll leave you with a scene from the book. "Whiskeyjack's gaze strayed to one of the beds, on which lay his armor and longsword. Rust stained the hauberk's tattered chain like old blood. The links were missing in some places, torn in others. In his bones and muscles the memory of that damage remained: every cut, every blow now haunted him with aches, greeting him each morning like old comrades."