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Deadhouse Gates, book #2 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Review by ArakasiDeadhouse Gates is the second book in Erikson's Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It is definately epic fantasy, on the scale of Jordan, Martin, or Tolkien. Actually those three work good for the comparison. Erikson's world has Tolkien's history, Martin's grittiness, and Jordan's scale and complexity. In this book compared to the first you have much more of an idea of what is going on. Gardens of the Moon threw you into the middle of the plot so it took a while to catch on to things. One thing is that this second book has only a few characters in common with GotM. Memories of Ice - the third book - goes back to the characters from GotM. Actually MoI and this book take place at the same time but on different continents.
Deadhouse Gates focuses on many parts of a rebellion in the Seven Cities, a subcontinent of the main continent of the Malazan Empire. The High Fist Coltaine leads a vast group of refugees as they try to get to a safe haven, besieged on all sides by hordes of natives who are rising in rebellion. Icarium the wanderer searches with his friend Mappo to find the secrets to his past. Fiddler and Kalam, two members of the Bridgeburners are there on missions of their own. Some of the plot lines blend together as well, making it more focused than the first book or the third. There is only about 6 or so POV characters.
However it is a dark story. There is a lot of violence and bloodshed, which might turn some people off of the book. The rebellion that occurs around the characters is terrible in the devastation it inflicts. One of the main characters really annoyed me, but throughout the book the character slowly improved and changed, and by the end I was a grudging fan of this person. You find out more about the Malazan Empire as well as the history behind the characters. I love how Erikson weaves history of the past into his novels. It doesn't overwhelm and its used in a subtle way to reveal past events. There is lots of emotion in the book. Erikson really loves to rip the heart out of his readers. I read in an interview of his that in his writing he deliberately writes books to give his readers emotional reactions to his work. And he succeeds in that quite well, in this book as well as Memories of Ice.
As well his imagination is incredible. How he can think of so many ideas and weave them into his stories just blows them away. Its hard to contrast these novels to where things are constantly happening to Jordan where he can spend 50 pages describing women walking through a gateway. One more thing that Erikson excels at is how he writes shows that this is not all of the story. There are things going on behind the scenes that we only know bits of. Which makes it realistic to me. Many novels have that all the important stuff happens in the characters we follow. But of course that would never happen. Never would 5-10 people in a world solely define the progression of it. But that is how fantasy goes sometimes, with others outside the story remaining rather static until the protaganists expand their roles to take them in. In DG there are two scenes that I can clearly remember that have characters doing their stuff and they catch a glimpse of other beings (powerful ones) as they go on with their lives, but their stories don't interact. In most fantasy those beings would have joined with the main characters or aided or abetted them in some way. Here it is more like they pass, aware of each other but still going on with their own lives. I find that a refreshing change in the fantasy genre, and its one of the things I really enjoy about the series.
I loved this book though. Probably my favorite of the three he has put out so far by a tad, mainly due to the focused nature of it. It's just a tighter story. I'd give it 5 out of 5 amulets and heartily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy on a grand scale.
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