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Forge of Darkness: The Kharkanas Trilogy Book One
Steven Erikson
Bantam Press, 663 pages

Forge of Darkness
Steven Erikson
Steven Erikson was born in Toronto, grew up in Winnipeg, and worked in the UK for several years until returning to Canada several years ago. He now lives in Falmouth in Cornwall UK with his family. 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.

Steven Erikson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Malazan Book of the Fallen
SF Site Review: Dust of Dreams
SF Site Review: Reaper's Gale
SF Site Review: The Bonehunters
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 Dominic Cilli

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It is said that brevity is the soul of wit, so I won't ramble on and on and on about Forge of Darkness, even though it's deserved. Therefore, I will be brief in my review. Forge of Darkness is brilliant and far exceeds any and all expectations that readers of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (TMBOTF) could possibly harbor. After reading Forge of Darkness, I stand in awe at the sheer scope of Steven Erikson's imagination and the profundity of the writing contained in this magnificent narrative. For example, passages like the one below are just littered throughout the novel:

  "Written law is in itself pure, at least in so far as language can make it. Ambiguity emerges only in its practical application upon society, and at this point hypocrisy seemed to be the inevitable consequence. The law bends to those in power, like a willow or perhaps a cultured rosebush, or even a fruit bearing tree trained against a wall. Where it grows depends on the whim of those in power, and before too long, why the law becomes a twisted thing indeed"  

Those of us familiar with Erikson's writing are almost spoiled by the constant barrage of philosophical observations he gives us like the one above. But perhaps the most amazing thing about Forge of Darkness, aside from the writing itself, is the sense of historical truth it conveys. By that, I mean there is nothing clumsy or "tacked on" about the story. Forge of Darkness, not only takes place prior to the events in TMBOTF, but actually feels like it was written long before The Malazan Book of the Fallen was published.

I won't give away much about the plot, but with Forge of Darkness, the origins of Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen are fully in play. Readers will journey to Kurald Galain wherein we find the birth of all the events that take place within TMBOTF. One look at the Dramatis Personae should speak volumes to those who are familiar with the Malazan Empire. Welcome back Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, Mother Dark, Spinnock Durav, Sister Spite, Sister Envy, Draconus, Hood, Gothos, Kilmandaros, etc. The list of characters is long and impressive and the story contained within is even more so. Readers will come away with a much clearer understanding of Erikson's big picture and when I say big picture, I don't dissemble. I mean the biggest, most complex, and brilliantly conceived picture in modern fiction. Forge of Darkness will provide the answers to dozens of questions readers didn't even know they had about The Malazan Book of the Fallen. In fact, it's so revelatory; that you may just be tempted to go back and reread TMBOTF to see how the newly gained knowledge has expanded your understanding of the story. The fact that this is only the first book of The Kharkanas Trilogy should be enough to put readers into a tailspin when they think of just what else is going to be revealed.

I spent some time trying to find some fault in Forge of Darkness, but it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even the overwhelming expansiveness which was the only real drawback of TMBOTF, isn't an issue with Forge of Darkness. Don't get me wrong, Erikson still juggles at least a dozen different perspectives, but even that is a relief when compared to seemingly hundreds in TMBOTF.

After finishing TMBOTF, I think we all wondered how Erikson could possibly follow up arguably the best fantasy series of all time. Forge of Darkness will dispel any and all doubters (if any do indeed still exist out there) that Steven Erikson is the best writer on the planet.

Copyright © 2012 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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