Well, what else can I say? Another Malazan epic, and another novel standing on a far higher plane than most "good" fantasy books/series out there.
I was a bit taken aback when I discovered that Midnight Tides was not part of the main sequence, at least not in terms of the series' timeline. Steven Erikson goes back a few years into the past -- exactly how many remains uncertain. This story arc recounts the tale of the rise of the Emperor of the Tise Edur, the Deliverer of Midnight Tides, which was alluded to in Memories of Ice. And it's kind of neat to witness how Trull Sengar ended up in dire straits at the beginning of House of Chains.
The flashback scene that marks the start of the novel was great. I love the way Erikson goes back into time like that. Catching a glimpse of the struggle of the Tiste Edur and the Tiste Andii against the K'Chain Che'Malle was a wonderful experience. It goes to prove just how much depth Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont injected in their creation when they devised the Malazan universe.
As has been the case since Gardens of the Moon, the worldbuilding is unrivaled. The author has demonstrated how brilliant he is by successfully dividing the two main storylines on two distinct continents, Genabackis and Seven Cities. Quon Tali will definitely see some action before long, but it's on the distant continent of Lether that the narrative of this book occurs. The kingdom of Lether, where capitalism reigns, takes center stage in this tale. Indeed, at times the characters' viewpoints are more or less an essay on the rise and fall of capitalism. I found Erikson's revelations on the Tiste Edur society and culture to be fascinating.
Although a sweeping drama and a riveting epic, Midnight Tides remains a character-driven novel. I have no idea how Erikson does it, but yet again he introduces us to another lively cast of characters. In addition, he shows that he is not afraid to kill any of them. It's also interesting to see the Crippled God taking a more active role. The unexpected presence of members of the Crimson Guard made for a fun read. Perhaps because this book is more or less self-contained, most characters appear to have an important role to play before the coming of the Seventh Closure. I'm very curious to see how/when Seren Pedac, Shurq, Kettle, Corlo, Iron Bars, Rhulad Sengar and Silchas Ruin will reappear later on in the series.
Once more, the convoluted storylines form an intricate tapestry. And yet, they represent a single thread in the overall scheme that continues to blow my mind. There is more humor in this one, and I often found myself smiling as I turned the pages. Especially as the narrative centers on Tehol Beddict and his manservant Bugg.
Unlike Terry Goodkind, who wrote novels that had very little to do with the main plotlines and were just milking his popularity, Steven Erikson stepped away from his principal story arcs to focus on a distant war whose events will have dramatic repercussions on the rest of the world and beyond. Baffling me, as always, is how easy Erikson somehow makes it all look.
Hard to put down. . .
The final verdict: 9/10
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