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Project Malazan: Blood Follows by Steven Erikson

Title: Blood Follows

Author: Steven Erikson

Series: Bachelain & Korbal Broach #1

Malazan Ultimate Reading Order: #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: All is not well in Lamentable Moll. A sinister, diabolical killer stalks the port city’s narrow, barrow-humped streets, and panic grips the citizens like a fever. Emancipor Reese is no exception, and indeed, with his legendary ill luck, it’s worse for him than for most. Not only was his previous employer the unknown killer’s latest victim, but Emancipor is out of work. And, with his dearest wife terminally comfortable with the manner of life to which she asserts she has become accustomed (or at least to which she aspires) — for her and their two whelps — all other terrors grow limp and pale for poor Emancipor. But perhaps his luck has finally changed, for two strangers have come to Lamentable Moll… and they have nailed to the centre post in Fishmonger’s Round a note requesting the services of a manservant. This is surely a remarkable opportunity for the hapless Emancipor Reese… no matter that the note reeks with death-warded magic; no matter that the barrow ghosts themselves howl with fear every night; and certainly no matter that Lamentable Moll itself is about to erupt in a frenzy of terror-inspired anarchy…. -Goodreads

The Review:

Before beginning my Project Malazan: The Ultimate Reading Order, I’d heard these Bachelain and Korbal Broach novellas weren’t worth the effort. As reading just the main Malazan saga is a colossal commitment within itself, I can see why taking precious time away from that undertaking would put one at risk of losing momentum. Personally, I figured if I was willing to take the time to read the little stuff, then I was definitely more committed to seeing this venture through. Good or not, the completionist in me was going to pick them up regardless.

That said, I believe Blood Follows is a very enriching accompaniment to the main series.

It’s a fantastic short story that introduced these characters brilliantly. I figured I knew about what I was getting into with this novella and made some predictions early on. None of them were correct. Erikson isn’t afraid to take risks and “go there” with his stories – something that makes them both difficult to read and so worth the effort at the same time. This short was just a tiny snipped into the lives of these characters, but I felt a depth and robustness in their presentation that frankly I can’t remember experiencing with any other author. He always offers complete immersion into his tales.

So, one of the main complaints people have about the Malazan series is that it takes a ton of concentration to read. Erikson throws you straight into the fire without offering one iota of context or explanation. A lot of what he writes feels ambiguous, even when read carefully. I’d wondered if it were a deliberate style choice or if his brain was just on a different wavelength. Probably both are true, but after reading this novella, which was so much more accessibly written and easy to follow, I’ve come to the conclusion that at least the former is accurate and what he’s been doing to us in the Malazan series is deliberate and calculated. At this I am both wildly impressed at his skills and sufficiently irritated haha.

Recommendations: if you want to read Malazan, Blood Follows will enhance the main series. The novellas that come after are a little more difficult to endorse, but I’m confident about the appeal of this one.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Title: Gardens of the Moon

Author: Steven Erikson

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze. However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand… Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice. -Goodreads

The Review:

Gardens of the Moon was fantastic… aside from the fact that it took me a whole year to read it.

From countless discussions with book friends, it’s clear to me that Malazan is not just a casual read, it’s a commitment of time, mental energy, and emotion. It stands on a pedestal as one of the most all-encompassing series on the market and I would be doing my passion an injustice not exploring it to the fullest. I genuinely wanted to see what all the hype is about, and GotM book made a strong first impression.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve picked up this book….

Back in 2002 when I first became a bookseller, I was dazzled by the idea that I could check out hardcovers from the store for free. So I snagged a sparkling new copy of Gardens of the Moon off the shelf and started reading. I have to say, I was NOT prepared for this type of unconventional storytelling back then. I expected to meet a handful of characters and stick with them throughout the book. Erikson threw so many characters at me all at once, I quickly lost track of them all and ended up skimming for a while to see if I could find anybody familiar in the text. You know how when you’re disengaged from a book, your eyes can read for days but your mind doesn’t actually absorb anything? That was me. I was in it enough to appreciate the atmosphere of the story, but everything else was a blur.

Oh, how I wish I knew what to expect back then so that I could be standing her today saying “Malazan? I read that years ago.” But alas, I wasn’t ready.

… I still don’t know if I am.

The book requires a ton of concentration if, like me, you want to get as much out of the experience as possible. Perfectionists will have a more difficult time with this series than those who are able to go with the flow. However, the vast majority of people I’ve talked to say it’s well worth the effort (there’s practically an army of Malazan enthusiasts in my Goodreads group, Fantasy Buddy Reads. Even mention Malazan casually there and half a dozen impassioned readers will bombard you with their feels. It’s kind of inspiring). It definitely won’t take most people an entire year to get through it, but it will help considerably if you venture in knowing what you’re signing up for.

In my read, I managed to keep track of all the characters, which in itself is a miracle. The presentation is so unconventional – you’re thrust in the middle of a robust world and meant to navigate it without explanation. You just get a front row seat for all the happenings. This format is partly why I think the book makes you feel like you’re a part of the story, gets you so worked up about the characters, and sticks in your brain long after you put it down. Compound that with world-building that feels almost unrivaled, and you have a guaranteed escape. Everything disappeared around me when I picked it up. GotM is more than just a good read, it’s an EXPERIENCE.

But because of how much of a commitment it required compared to the output of just this first book, I’m saving my 5 stars for upcoming books I’ve been assured are going to rip out my soul. I can’t wait.

Thanks, FBR peeps for encouraging my initial exploration of the series (and for teasing/cheering me on as it took so long to get through… I think Petrik finished the entire series by the time I made it through the first book) and Miche, for the recent conversation that reignited me back into it. Y’all rock. <3

Recommendations: GotM is not for the faint of heart. It’s evoking in every sense of the word and a clear masterpiece of the genre. I’d recommend it highly to hard-core fantasy fans who don’t mind books that require more concentration.

Other books you might like: 

by Niki Hawkes

Notes: comments are welcome, but please be mindful that spoilers can’t be marked in the comment sections and there are still a few of us stragglers who also want the full experience of the series. Thank you!