posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 08:28 AM
With the rising popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) I thought we should have a thread dedicated to the series that
is generally thought of as its main competitor and my pick for greatest fantasy series of all-time.
The core of Malazan Book of the Fallen are ten books written by Steven Erickson that are each roughly a thousand pages. There is also another
series of five books written by Ian Esslemont that fit in with Erickson's books and help flesh out the universe a bit. Due to how expansive the
universe is it becomes a quite difficult to present an accurate synopsis of the series without revealing too much.
At first glance the Malazan world is your typical High Fantasy. There are wizards, magical swords, dragons, and fantastic races. However, it doesn't
take long before you realize all of these concepts are flipped on their head. For example, instead of your run-of-the-mill orcs and elves, Erickson
presents us with races like the Tiste Andii, a race of extremely long lived (hundreds of thousands of years) people that originally come from a Warren
(think of it as an alternate dimension) that is Darkness incarnate and who are led by the son of the goddess of Darkness; or the T'lan Imass one of
the first races to emerge who, in an effort to defeat their nemeses the Jaghut, gave up their mortality and now walk the world as undead creatures
that have existed for 300,000 years.
As you can see the series deals in time frames much longer than your average fantasy series. However, the primary focus is on the exploits of the
Malazan Empire. The Malazan Empire is a human empire that has only existed for 100 years but has already conquered a fair portion of the world. This
is where the series becomes extremely complex. You have most of your characters as humans that have their own complex backstories but at the same time
they are associating with characters that have existed for thousands of years and whose pasts you can't even begin to comprehend. Then there's the
fact that the pantheon of gods is in no way static. For example, in the first book you are introduced to a pair of gods who have only been around for
a few decades.
As I said it is very hard to explain. You're dealing with over 10,000 pages and thousands of years of history. So I guess all I can do is say what
the series does extremely well. Erickson and Esslemont have created a unique world with a long complex history populated by entertaining personalities
that you can't help but care about. Unlike ASOIAF the emphasis here isn't on subtle games of politics. Instead it focuses on the cause and effect of
warfare (while using this as a backdrop to explore the concepts of life and death) and as a result you can expect to see a number of well written
large scale battles. However, the best writing comes when they look at the aftermath of these battles. As an example all I will say is the Chain of
Dogs from the second book.
I would definitely recommend these books to anyone. For fantasy fans these books take the grittiness of ASOIAF and puts it in a High Fantasy world
then gets rid of many of the standard fantasy tropes. It's also worth mentioning that while Martin's writing has been inconsistent over the past
five books Erickson has produced ten amazing books with no real decrease in quality. As an added bonus since the series is now complete you don't
have to sit around waiting for the next book. For those that aren't generally fantasy fans I'd still suggest checking this series out. While the
setting may involve battle mages and floating cities this in no way takes anything away from Erickson's well written exploration of such high
concepts as life and death and mortality. He also knows how to balance humor with drama and even at the darkest times you can expect some solider to
attempt to rationalize what they're experiencing with a dark joke or quip. While 10,000 pages is a commitment I recommend trying to get through it
all in one go. Due to the complexity of the narrative if you take any significant breaks between books it can be hard to remember what's going on and