It was exactly what it had to be.
The Complete Malazan Book of the Fallen is over 3.5 million words. It took me 8 months to read these 10 books, and at many times along the way, I cursed them and grew frustrated at the story lines. There was an entire book that I questioned the existence of–why was this necessary, and what did it add to the plot? There were names used that would then disappear for a thousand pages, only to resurface in a single sentence. I happened to remember the name, so the tie-in blew my mind, but I suspect many readers skipped right past it and didn’t catch the significance.
Reading it on Kindle, I gauge a book’s length by hours more so than number of pages. And despite my earlier frustration, the last 18 hours of the book kept me on the edge of my proverbial seat. I was enthralled and excited. And as I finished the last few pages and reflected on the book, I was satisfied. Everything I thought had been needless filler was justified. For each story line or character I had questioned, I was now able to trace them through to at least half a dozen impacts later in the epic.
And this is an epic. It probably deserves that title more than anything else I have ever read. It is beautiful and tragic and filled with wonderful characters and just enough comedy to keep us marching towards the end.
I cannot recommend this book because it is a significant commitment. To whom could I say, “You know what you should spend the next half a year doing? Here, read this.” I can’t ask that of anyone. And while the series is entertaining, it isn’t life-changing. I figure a half a year of time is sufficient to really change someone, and this book doesn’t do that.
What’s more, I think a good memory is requisite for enjoying this series. Other reviewers point out that Erikson doesn’t “highlight” things, or use flashbacks or callbacks to make it easier to remember what came before. Everything in the book is of equal importance to him, and it should all be remembered. This makes Malazan a very challenging series to read.
But if you like fantasy epics and aren’t intimidated by long novels/series, and you’re looking for something to pass the time, and you want to buy something you can be confident is well-written and cohesive and good, then yes, pick up this epic.
I wish I could write more about the book, but I am struggling to do so. It is a piece of art, and you have to experience it. The impact the series will have on you is likely different from the impact it had on me. But like all great fantasy fiction, it will have an impact, and that makes it worthwhile.
I will leave you with some favourite quotes from the series:
Sirs, you speak of compassion. I understand something, now, of compassion. … We humans do not understand compassion. In each moment of our lives, we betray it. Aye, we know of its worth, yet in knowing we then attach to it a value, we guard the giving of it, believing it must be earned. Compassion is priceless in the truest sense of the word. It must be given freely. In abundance.
To know and to understand that we must all die, Trull Sengar, is not to worship death. To know and to understand is itself magic, for it made us stand tall.
There is something profoundly cynical, my friends, in the notion of paradise after death. The lure is evasion. The promise is excusative. One need not accept responsibility for the world as it is, and by extension, one need do nothing about it. To strive for change, for true goodness in this mortal world, one must acknowledge and accept, within one’s own soul, that this mortal reality has purpose in itself, that its greatest value is not for us, but for our children and their children. To view life as but a quick passage along a foul, tortured path – made foul and tortured by our own indifference – is to excuse all manner of misery and depravity, and to exact cruel punishment upon the innocent lives to come. I defy this notion of paradise beyond the gates of bone. If the soul truly survives the passage, then it behooves us – each of us, my friends – to nurture a faith in similitude: what awaits us is a reflection of what we leave behind, and in the squandering of our mortal existence, we surrender the opportunity to learn the ways of goodness, the practice of sympathy, empathy, compassion and healing – all passed by in our rush to arrive at a place of glory and beauty, a place we did not earn, and most certainly do not deserve.
It is an abject truth, but conscience cannot be shoved down the throat.
The flower defies
The soul knows no greater anguish than to take a breath that begins with love and ends with grief.
Absence of doubt? No, nothing so egotistic as that. Nimander has plenty of doubts, so many that he’s lost his fear of them. He accepts them as easily as anything else. Is that the secret? Is that the very definition of greatness?
You can find this book on Amazon. I got it on Kindle so I could read it all together, or you can get individual books. Either way you go, I strongly recommend reading these all at once and straight through; I can’t imagine how much I would have missed if I had taken months or years in-between the novels.