The Crippled God


Oh man. . .

The very thought of reaching the end of Steven Erikson's mind-boggling The Malazan Book of the Fallen made me giddy! Vaster in depth, vision, and scope than any other fantasy epic ever written to this day, it was impossible to believe the series was actually ending. Understandably, given the depth of this multilayered saga with its myriad storylines, my biggest fear was that the ending would leave us with so many unanswered questions that it would, no matter how exciting the finale, be somewhat of a disappointment to a certain extent.

This has been my fear since Ian Cameron Esslemont elaborated on one of his future Malazan projects in this interview:

The goal is for that last one to compliment Steve’s tenth. It will mostly be an epilogue. Hopefully, however, we’ll manage it so that there will be opportunity to cast light on some of the theaters of action in the final crux. It would offer a “fuller” understanding of many of the plot lines, etc. Structurally, it might be the most difficult one for me to pull off. I might have to float the possibility of breaking it into two separate projects: one to compliment Steve’s tenth, the second to focus on the epilogue story entirely.

Now, if there is enough material to fill two separate Malazan installments (which are rarely slender volumes, it must be said), I was left wondering just how many plotlines would ultimately be resolved by the end of The Crippled God. I was concerned that we would be witnesses to the mother of all convergences, a mindfuck of an ending, only to be forced to wait to find out what happens when the smoke clears.

And for about the first half of the novel, it felt as though this would be the case. But if there is one thing I should have learned over the years, it's that Steven Erikson has many, many tricks up his sleeve, and he delights in misdirecting his readers and hitting us with the unexpected in the nick of time. Whatever you thought would happen, push that from your mind. Erikson's grand finale will shock and astound you!

Here's the blurb:

Savaged by the K’Chain Nah’Ruk, the Bonehunters march for Kolanse, where waits an unknown fate. Tormented by questions, the army totters on the edge of mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not relent. One final act remains, if it is in her power, if she can hold her army together, if the shaky allegiances she has forged can survive all that is to come. A woman with no gifts of magic, deemed plain, unprepossessing, displaying nothing to instill loyalty or confidence, Tavore Paran of House Paran means to challenge the gods – if her own troops don’t kill her first.

Awaiting Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail, the final arbiters of humanity. Drawing upon an alien power terrible in its magnitude, they seek to cleanse the world, to annihilate every human, every civilization, in order to begin anew. They welcome the coming conflagration of slaughter, for it shall be of their own devising, and it pleases them to know that, in the midst of the enemies gathering against them, there shall be betrayal.

In the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the long lost city of Kharkanas, a mass of refugees stand upon the First Shore. Commanded by Yedan Derryg, the Watch, they await the breaching of Lightfall, and the coming of the Tiste Liosan. This is a war they cannot win, and they will die in the name of an empty city and a queen with no subjects.

Elsewhere, the three Elder Gods, Kilmandaros, Errastas and Sechul Lath, work to shatter the chains binding Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, from her eternal prison. Once freed, she will rise as a force of devastation, and against her no mortal can stand. At the Gates of Starvald Demelain, the Azath House sealing the portal is dying. Soon will come the Eleint, and once more, there will be dragons in the world
.

Hence, though The Crippled God offers resolution of sorts of several storylines, in true Malazan fashion it leaves many questions unanswered. Moreover, it raises a panoply of new questions as well, making you wonder yet again at the length and breadth of Erikson and Esslemont's epic undertaking. Those who are expecting some sort of Perry Mason scene where Shadowthrone, Cotillion, Anomander Rake, and other Ascendants and Elder Gods will all sit down and debrief the readers regarding what took place in the last ten volumes will be disappointed. It has never been the author's style, so it feels a bit ludicrous to expect Erikson to change that for the final installment. While a good number of plotlines reach their culmination and resolution, quite a few details remain up in the air and leave the readers wondering still long after they have reached the last page. The Malazan Book of the Fallen will continue to trouble your mind for months to come, methinks. And the forthcoming Tiste trilogy will only add to everything that boggles the mind. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way. . . So push the notion from your brain that once you turn the last page of The Crippled God you'll know the whole truth about and understand the motivations of mysterious protagonists such as Quick Ben, Tavore, Shadowthrone, Cotillion, Anomander Rake, Hood, K'rul, etc.

However, I must warn you that certain storylines are peculiarly left untouched, or are just mentioned briefly. One of the biggest powerplayers of the series -- and one of my favorite characters to boot -- doesn't show up at all, at least not in "real time." Another major character, one we've been expecting to play an important role for a while now, does show up for a few pages and then is gone again. I guess we'll have to wait for Esslemont's epilogue books to find out more about them. . . Given the size and the scope of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I figure that to do justice to the complicated tapestry of interconnected plotlines he has created over the course of the series, Erikson would have needed something like 2000 pages. And given that the author needed to create and maintain a definite momentum for the readers to feel the full impact of the most important convergence of the saga, Erikson simply couldn't deal with every secondary and extraneous storylines, no matter how much we love or them some of them.

One word of advice: If you do have time to do so, please consider a full reread of the previous nine Malazan installment prior to reading The Crippled God. I wish I'd had the time to do so. Past volumes contain a staggering amount of foreshadowing that we simply didn't get. I'm more than a little awestruck, actually. Like most fans, I've often shaken my head in confusion, perplexed by the fact that Erikson appeared to be focusing on secondary characters and seemingly unimportant storylines. Well, there was a good reason why he did that, and The Crippled God will shine some light on many of the things which at times that left readers lost and confused. The only exception remains his tying up of all the loose ends from Gardens of the Moon in Toll the Hounds. Unless it was to pave the way for Esslemont's Darujhistan novel, Orb, Sceptre, Throne, I still can't puzzle out why Erikson felt the need to do that. . .

The worldbuilding is a world away from even the most amazing epic fantasy series out there. Don't get me wrong. I love George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, R. Scott Bakker's The Prince of Nothing and The Aspect-Emperor, Robin Hobb's novels, and many more. And yet, the depth and vision of the Malazan universe dwarfs them all in comparison. As the culmination of countless threads, each with its own layers of secrets, The Crippled God will leave you dizzy. Even better, there is a lot of foreshadowing concerning the upcoming The Forge of Darkness and the subsequent volumes in the Kharkanas trilogy, which frankly made me eager to sink my teeth into that new Malazan project!

Some readers opine that Steven Erikson's characterization is often the aspect of his craft that leaves a lot to be desired. That may be in certain cases, though his focusing on myriad plotlines spanning continents and universes prevents Erikson from making readers live vicariously through the eyes of a single or few characters the way authors such as George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, or Guy Gavriel Kay can do. Having said that, in The Crippled God Erikson nevertheless managed to write a number of poignant scenes that made my eyes water on more than one occasions. I daresay that even Malazan fans jaded with Erikson's focus on all the various "nameless" soldiers in the last couple of volumes will be moved by the Bonehunters' sacrifice on these foreign shores.

In terms of pace, though The Crippled God is essentially the second part of a single novel that began with Dust of Dreams, it nonetheless follows the blueprint of every other Malazan installment. About half of the novel is devoted to the setup, and the proverbial shit hits the fan in the second half. I'm aware that many fans were expecting this one to be all bang, yet the ending of Dust of Dreams sort of precluded such a thing. And there are so many pieces on the board and marbles into the air, which means that Erikson needs to set everything up for the greatest convergence of them all. Yes, even more impressive than what took place in Dust of Dreams.

I was requested by both Simon Taylor and Steven Erikson to keep this review spoiler-free. And while I never really do spoilers, in past Malazan reviews I did elaborate on the principal story arcs, etc. Which is something I'll refrain from doing in this review, as it does, albeit obliquely, shine some lights on certain events. The cover blurb does give you a good indication as to which main story arcs carry the tale within the pages of The Crippled God.

Be forewarned that very little is as it seems. This isn't a Good vs Evil tale, and as the story progresses it gets more and more difficult to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. As was the case in Dust of Dreams, certain storylines which at face value appeared to be a bit lame and innocuous pay huge dividends in the end game. The Shake story arc is a good example. I never knew what to make of it when it was first introduced, but it remains one of the highlights of The Crippled God. Others, like Nimander's, though they don't pack as powerful a punch, will reach a resolution that might surprise many readers. Some characters will reward you with unanticipated moving scenes. I can't say I thought much of Gesler and Stormy's new roles in this novel, yet they often threatened to steal the show. Silchas Ruin, Onos Toolan, Draconus, Brys Beddict, Hanavat, and many others will surprise you in myriad ways. So much for Erikson's poor characterization. . .

The heart of the tale belongs to Tavore and the Bonehunters' desperate attempt to cross the impassable Glass Desert. Fear not, for the fate of Tavore's army and her allies is not one of those plot threads which is left unanswered. The mother of all convergence will take place in Kolanse, where the heart of the Crippled God has been chained. Unwitnessed, they will attempt the impossible, with armies, Ascendants, and Gods facing them every step of the way. Oh, and Fiddler is awesome in this one. Not because he kicks ass, though he does, but because he's part of a number of touching moments that really makes you feel for the man.

I can't reveal more without breaking the spoiler-free directive. Do we find out about Karsa's appalling fate? Will Mappo and Icarium be reunited, preventing Icarium's rage from destroying everything? Will the Master of Deck get involved? Will the Eleint manage to break free from the Gates of Starvald Demelain and be free to lay waste to the realms? Will Anomander Rake and Mother Dark play a role in the end game as the Tiste Liosan breach the Lightfall to conquer Kurald Galain? Where is Quick Ben? Will we see Kalam again? Will Taychrenn show up in the nick of time as the culmination of the Emperor and Dancer's plans draws near? What about Kruppe? Iskaral Pust? Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners? The Crimson Guard? Laseen? Skinner and the Avowed who betrayed their brethren? Kallor? Traveller? Caladan Brood? The Seguleh? Will K'rul be involved in any shape or form? Will the secret of the Jade Strangers be revealed? Will the three Elder Gods succeed in their attempt to free Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, against which no mortal and most immortals can stand? Can anyone hope to prevail against the Forkrul Assail?

To paraphrase Robert Jordan: Read and find out!

As I said, due to the scope of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, it was impossible for The Crippled God to answer every single questions raised by the saga, nor was it possible to bring every storyline to some sort of resolution. Nevertheless, this final installment will blow your mind on more than one occasion and will satisfy Malazan fanatics everywhere!

Although George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson, and other SFF authors will have something to say on the matter before everything is said and done, as things stand Steven Erikson's magnum opus, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, sits in pole position as the very best and most ambitious epic fantasy saga ever written. And believe you me: It won't be easy to dethrone.

To Steven Erikson: Kudos for a terrific job that never ceased to astonish me as I read along. And please keep them coming! With two more Malazan trilogies and a number of novellas in the works, I can barely contain my anticipation!

Impossible to put down.

The final verdict: 9.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

24 commentaires:

Will said...

The thought of rereading the whole series is frightening.

Brett said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

I live in south africa so i have to
wait longer than most to get the
book, so thanks pat for making me hate you

thatsskarwithak said...

Like you, I've always felt a lot of stuff has passed me by in the earlier books. I've not had a good enough understanding of where things are in the grand scheme, to put it all into context.

What has to be recognised, is that Erikson has created an epic work and done it on time. Other authors whom you mentioned could have learnt a valuable lesson from this.

TheFool said...

Must. Reread. Series. Now.

This book sounds so good. Can't wait to read it.

The fact that your eager to read the coming trilogies can't help make me assume that TCG is god dammed amazing. XD

I do wish that even if Paran doesn't show up much in this book, that he'll have his own trilogy.

Great spoiler free reiview Pat. Any chance of giving a spoilered review in the future?

Anonymous said...

yep. not even harry potter can touch this big motherfucker of epic proportions!!!

and while we do have have the two trilogies coming up, this as a conclusion will do just fine. and erikson, god bless him, he's gonna need all the rest he can get before plunging back into the world of malazan.

fbelic said...

Great review!

Good thing that I started my reread few weeks ago... :-)

Erik Stevenson said...

The very thought of reaching the end of Pat's mind-boggling The Malazan Book of the Fallen review made me giddy! Vaster in depth, vision, and scope than any other fantasy novel online review ever written to this day, it was impossible to believe the review was actually ending. Understandably, given the depth of this multilayered blog post with its myriad sentences, my biggest fear was that the ending would leave us with so many unanswered questions that it would, no matter how exciting the finale, be somewhat of a disappointment to a certain extent.

Although The Wertzone, The Speculative Scotsman, A Dribble of Ink, and other SFF bloggers will have something to say on the matter before everything is said and done, as things stand Pat's magnum opus, the Fantasy Hotlist, sits in pole position as the very best and most ambitious SFF blog ever written. And believe you me: It won't be easy to dethrone.

To Pat: Kudos for a terrific job that never ceased to astonish me as I read along. And please keep them coming! With two more New York Times Bestseller posts and a number of giveaways in the works, I can barely contain my anticipation!

machinery said...

well, since you mentioned him several times i am assuming that anumander rake is back (?).
i know you won't or can't answer this, unless of course he is truly dead, which you can say if so (kind of tricky to unspoiler this, i guess).
still, no paran ?
well, i'll rafo , np, i can wait.

Todd said...

Wow! Thanks for this Pat...what a review!

You can go ahead and close your blog now, we got what we wanted...good riddance, enjoy South America with all them hot women I'm sure you'll "just happen to run into."

Kidding, kidding :) This is why people enjoy your blog though. Great, entertaining reviews, many times the first out the gate to share impressions/thoughts/reviews on some of the most anticipated titles.

Anyways, I have like 8 books to go before reading this, so I'm a little sad right now. But as always, thanks and keep up the great work!

Tiger said...

Can't wait.

Hopefully Can win the competition for the book... As Anonymous says it is a long wait for it to get to South Africa.

Great teasers, again can't wait.

Anonymous said...

It's not a paraphrase of Robert Jordan's, it's a quote!

Anonymous said...

why no audiobooks of this series?

Adam Whitehead said...

Hey Pat, any chance of posting the new map (if there is one) of Kolanse, like you did for STONEWIELDER? :-)

Patrick said...

Adam,

I wasn't granted permission by Transworld prior to my departure, which is why it was ever posted.

And since I fly back home from Chile on February 21st, I'm not sure it would make much of difference for me to post it when I get back.

In any case, I have yet to receive permission to do so...

chasingbawa said...

I've just finished reading Deadhouse Gates and have ordered the next two. Like you said, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is astonishing in its scope and complexity and I don't think I've been so bowled over since reading Janny Wurts and Katherine Kerr all those years ago. I'm just glad I've still got 8 more volumes to read:) Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Great review Pat. You've boosted my spirits!

I love TMBOTF, and I'm desperate that the last book is mind-blowigly incredible. It would be a huge let-down it were any less than that. For some reaon I'd been really anxious about that it wouldn't be.

ito said...

Only 9.5? What does it have to do, for you to give it a 10? Make you a sandwich too?

Although that was an awesome review :) Thanks!

ito said...

Oh, If those two characters that don't show up are QB and Kalam then I'll be pissed :)

Croaker said...

I live in Montreal, Canada. According to Chapters, The Crippled God should be available on 22nd February, which is tomorrow. So tomorrow night I am going to go to Chapters after work and if I don't find MY book, I am gonna unleash all my warrens and burn the whole store down. You mark my word!!

Steven Erikson is a Canadian, isn't he? Why should I, a proud Canadian also, be left out in the cold (the freaking Canadian cold)? Why??!!

And what's with all the teasing? As if I was not dying of anticipation already. You wrote: "The Bonehunters' sacrifice on these foreign shores..." and the word "sacrifice" made me think of them dying. And that made me sad. How am I going to wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and go to work knowing there is a strong possibility that my favorite guys and gals will die? Damn you to Hood!! I hope you will Burn in your Sleep.

Anonymous said...

So, that wasn't really a review, more like an advertisement. Ah, well. No opinion one way or the other?

Anonymous said...

The most fun series that I have read in my lifetime....(32 now)

One of the things that I always liked was not knowing all the lose ends...makes you think !!!

Very excited to read Crippled God....

Thank you Steven Erikson for hours of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

as another South African waiting for this book, I'm salivating!!
Re Read the series?? suppose I could do Deadhouse Gates & Memories of Ice a 3rd time :)
Dang i hope there's more of Icarium, Karsa, Quick & Kalam! Glad Fid gets lotsa time!!
CAN'T WAIT!!!!!

Anonymous said...

HTF can u even compare this series to Harry Potter....u pothead!!!

Erikson & Co.....THANK YOU!
as an avid fantasy reader, yours has truly been the BEST!!