Aug 28, 2010

Malazan: The recent books - Reaper's Gale

The Letherii Empire is on the verge of collapse. Its emperor, Rhulad of the Thousand Deaths, is edging ever closer to true madness while agents of his chancellor make certain that he is isolated from everyone that truly cares about him. Meanwhile, the Letherii secret police terrorizes its own people, and Tehol Beddict's scheme nears completion. Other threats are drawing near - the Letherii's neighbors are preparing for full-scale war, while the Edur fleets are returning, bearing Karsa Orlong and Icarium Lifestealer - both destined to clash with the Emperor. But the fleets are pursued - the Malazan 14th army is come to give reckoning for the damage the Edur have done to the Empire's shores.

Against this backdrop, a group of travelers seeks the spirit of Scabandari Bloodeye - the ancient Tiste Edur Ascendant whom Fear Sengar hopes could rein in his people and thus save his mad brother. But with the hopeful Edur travels another, and his goals are far from clear. Silchas Ruin, younger brother to Anomander Rake, is Scabandari's most hated foe, since the treacherous Edur was the one who betrayed his Andii allies and imprisoned Silchas under the roots of the Letherii Azath.

With such a setting, Reaper's Gale is bound to be epic. And epic it is, but for some reason it is not good. The second of three consecutive disappointments, the seventh tale in the Malazan Book of the Fallen deals with the repercussions of the events from Midnight Tides, as well as tying some loose ends from Memories of Ice. Unfortunately, Erikson does a half-assed job of it, and many resolutions are... less than satisfying. Entire plot-lines are dealt with "off-screen" in an extremely lazy manner (a couple of important support characters actually drown by mistake, if you could believe that!), including the one dedicated to Toc the Younger, whom we saw last in Memories of Ice. It is disappointing to the extreme, not to mention utterly frustrating, as it happens entirely too often, and basically there is no story-line that isn't affected.

Reaper's Gale is just haphazard. Dealing with so many awesome story-lines with such an amazing potential, it should be an easy job for the writer of Deadhouse Gates and Midnight Tides to turn it into a masterpiece, but instead Erikson seems distracted. It is as if he was aware that he should write the book, but somehow couldn't be bothered to actually think of a coherent frame in which to put the events.

There is, of course, the usual amount of Epic Epicness, Amazing Revelations and of course, Tehol and Bugg's dialogues are ever a joy to read. There are some pretty funny moments, despite the general Gloom and Doom feel of all the later books in the series. One story-line in particular - of the most obscurely menacing, brooding and threatening character in the story - ends in such a hilarious anticlimax, that it almost made me wish the entire book was done in this style.

Unfortunately though, Reaper's Gale is not a comedy. It is Dark, Philosophical and Filled With Regret And the Ashes of Hope, as usual, but unfortunately fails to deliver any sort of concentrated punch on any of its many fronts, and so the reader is left (that is, I was left) with the general impression of a big, gray miasmic cloud of blurry epic drama, with main characters having unspecified revelations instead of breakfast and dying for lunch. I mean, at some point it just stops having any sort of impact.

Still, without being sure why, I'd say that the book is slightly better than The Bonehunters. Instead of having big chunks of nothing happening and only two moments of really cool stuff, here the whole book is filled with some vague stuff, but at least the story is constantly moving. Also, a few plot-developments are actually positive and bring hope, instead of pouring buckets of diarrhea on the characters as is their usual lot in the Malazan series, the poor shmucks.

It is, at this point, completely irrelevant whether I will recommend Reaper's Gale or not. Obviously, if you've reached this point, you are going to read it, and if you haven't, you're not likely to jump straight to the seventh book of the series. But it is still a generally unsatisfying read that further disillusioned me from my hopes of Malazan Book of the Fallen being the perfect fantasy.


Next: Malazan: The recent books - Toll the Hounds

No comments:

Post a Comment