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The Bonehunters
Steven Erikson
Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press, 891 pages

The Bonehunters
Steven Erikson
Steven Erikson was born in Toronto, grew up in Winnipeg, and worked in the UK for several years until returning to Winnipeg a few years ago, where he now lives with his wife and son. He is an anthropologist and archaeologist by training, as well as being a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Gardens of the Moon (1999), his first fantasy novel, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Midnight Tides
SF Site Review: The Healthy Dead
SF Site Review: House of Chains
SF Site Review: Blood Follows
SF Site Review: Memories of Ice
SF Site Review: Deadhouse Gates
SF Site Interview: Steven Erikson
SF Site Review: Gardens of the Moon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

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If you haven't been following Steven Erikson's Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you've sadly been missing out on some of the best fantasy fiction being written today. With six out of a projected ten-volume series, each a hefty tome unto itself, I can see why you might consider this to be an imposing reading project. Don't let the sheer page count deter you; Erikson's prose rips along at full gallop -- his characters are delightful, his ideas and story concepts inspired, and his firm control of an unfathomably vast web of plot is nothing short of masterful.

Is it really this good? Actually, it's probably much better than I can make it sound. What I've seen so far gives me every confidence that Erikson will attain his lofty goal of a ten-volume series, without going (too far) beyond and without leaving his story unfinished. Oh, I'm sure there will be plenty of room for more, but I believe this author has a clear plan and means to see it through. What makes me think that more than anything else is the present volume, The Bonehunters.

Initially, the stated goal for the Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen was to be a "sequence" of novels that could be read independent of each other and out of order. I think perhaps that has been largely true for the first five volumes, although in every case so far I've found that having read the previous volume(s) provided valuable insight into the one(s) that followed. The Bonehunters is the first solid exception to the "independent & out of order" theory, for the simple reason that this volume is the fulcrum for the series, bringing together everything that has come before.

The events of the Malazan campaigns on Genabackis and Seven Cities, the Tiste Edur conquest of the Letherii Empire, the machinations of the Malazan Empress, her allies and enemies, assassins and wizards, soldiers and priests, gods and ascendants, foundlings, slaves, refugees -- almost everyone we've met so far and everything that has happened is pulled together in this book. You won't find answers to all your questions, but you will be left with a sense that all these events we've been treated to thus far are not going to pass by without an even more profound impact on the world than we had already anticipated. Given the title of the overarching series, I don't think we should expect things to turn out swimmingly for the Malazans. Many have already fallen, and we lose more key characters in this volume. For the Empire, things are looking if not outright bleak, then at the very least... challenging. Not only are the Malazans at war on every continent they occupy, they are now courting civil war on their very doorstep.

Once again, Erikson treats us to some truly likeable characters (even the despicable ones are fun to read), including some brand new ones and some old favourites such as Iskaral Pust, Karsa Orlong, Icarium & Mappo, Quick Ben & Kalam and the rest of the surviving (former) Bridgeburners. There's plenty of action, intrigue, humour, cool ideas, gritty and unflinching depiction of the horrors of war, and damned good writing.

One thing about Erikson's writing is that he makes it extremely difficult to compose what reads like a balanced review. Without picking nits, I couldn't find much to complain about. Honestly, he isn't paying me to praise his work; it's just that good. If he carries his planned project to completion, I can't imagine being other than delighted to read it. As I mentioned, The Bonehunters is pivotal to the series. He's led us into the heart of the maze; now let's see him lead us out!

Copyright © 2006 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh has several great passions in his life: reading, and...uh, some other things that are, no doubt, equally interesting.


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