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Midnight Tides, book #5 of Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Review by Mike 2004-04-12
Midnight Tides, the fifth book in Steven Eriksonís series Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, surprised me by chronologically being set before the other four installments in the series. I didnít have any issues with that, since itís impossible to predict the outcome of this book anyway, it was just unexpected when I started finding explanations and background information to things that I had been wondering about when reading the other books.
Despite those explanations Eriksonís world is as chaotic and overwhelming as always. We are introduced to a new continent with a long history of conflict (of course), a fresh set of characters (with only one exception as far as I can tell), and a somewhat different pantheon. The ever expanding kingdom of Lether is approaching the prophesized day when it will become an empire of the same scope as the long-lost First Empire. However, there is one last enemy, the recently united tribes of Tiste Edur, which has to be defeated, and in the background The Crippled God is planning to shape events to fit into his scheme for return to power. It soon becomes evident that the prophesy of future glory isnít as straightforward as the rulers of Lether like to think.
The book took off pretty slowly for me, partly due to the fact that this series requires you to pay attention to details all the time, but also because it started out with yet another battlefield populated by hundreds of thousands of corpses. This series often reminds me of the current Hollywood trend of bigger, more and louder. Erikson has a bigger cast of characters and deities, bigger battle scenes, more plot threads, and more spectacular magic than most other series in the fantasy genre, and from time to time I just get fed up with that. I like my books more low-key and subtle. In his defense I have to admit that he doesnít spend too much time exploring every little detail about every character, the plot always advances at a decent pace, and in the end he manages to pull the different strings together in a satisfactory conclusion.
Another thing that occasionally bothers me is that the story revolves around fighting and battles in such a way that character interaction and development is forced to the background. Even so, the characters generally are very interesting Ė this time I got attached to Trull Sengar of the Edur, the slave Udinaas and the Acquitor Seren Pedac. I was also mostly amused with the absurd, easy-going banter between Tehol and Bugg (and the people around them), though sometimes it felt weird going from a comic plotline to the main, tragic story.
The Malazan world is pretty dark, and Erikson skillfully weaves in themes that feel disturbingly familiar. Lether, one of the contesting kingdoms in Midnight Tides, is run by a ruthless capitalistic system that makes you think about some of the less proud moments in the history of the western world. I enjoyed the way he developed that idea very much.
So, even though Midnight Tides overwhelmed me in the beginning, once I got into it I had a good time following the story and seeing some of the connections to the other books. It keeps up the momentum, and makes me look forward to the second half of this gigantic series.
Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Gardens of the Moon (1999)
Deadhouse Gates (2000)
Memories of Ice (2001)
House of Chains (2002)
Midnight Tides (2004)
The Bonehunters (forthcoming)
Reaper's Gale (forthcoming)
Toll the Hounds (forthcoming)
Dust of Dreams (forthcoming)
The Crippled God (forthcoming)
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