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Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire
Ian C. Esslemont
Bantam Transworld / Tor, 284 and 285 pages

Night of Knives
Ian C. Esslemont
Ian C. Esslemont was born in 1962 in Winnipeg, Canada. He has a degree in Creative Writing, studied and worked as an archaeologist, travelled extensively in South East Asia, and lived in Thailand and Japan for several years. He now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, with his family and is currently working on his PhD in English Literature and writing another novel set in the world of the Malaz, a world he co-created with his friend Steven Erikson.

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A review by Dominic Cilli

It is well documented that Ian C. Esslemont and Stephen Erikson co-created the Malazan Empire for a role-playing game they were creating in the early 90s. What has emerged from that effort may be the most complex, detailed, and imaginative world ever set to paper -- The Malazan Empire. Although Esslemont is the co-creator of the world, best friend and advisor to Erikson, Night of Knives is his first attempt at authoring a novel within the empire and it is a resounding success.

Night of Knives recounts a story that any fan of The Malazan Book of the Fallen longs to hear. It describes the events that transpired on the night that Surly became the empress of the Malazan Empire and Kellanved and Dancer ascend to the pantheon of shadow realm. The tale is told through two primary characters, Temper and Kiska. Temper is a grizzled Malazan soldier stationed on Malaz isle and a veteran of the legendary Seven Cities campaign having served directly under Dassem Ultor. Kiska is a cunning young girl who has spent her entire life on Malaz Isle and knows the city inside and out. She dreams of being recruited by the Malazan army so she can see the world and hopes her superior scouting abilities and resourcefulness will be good enough to land her a commission. On a night of the shadow moon in Malaz city, Kiska and Temper become embroiled in the events that will help shape the future of the Malazan Empire.

The action and story in Night of Knives are linear and take place over the span of twenty-four hours. For that fact, the novel maintains a very brisk pace and is rather short by Malazan book standards. This is a welcome change to the epic sprawling stories readers have come to expect when venturing into the world of Malaz. Although this novel may be concise, Esslemont adds much more depth to the series here than one may think. He not only describes the events of that historic evening, he gives us greater insight into some characters that just haven't seen a lot of face time with Erikson. For instance, we learn of the life of Tayschrenn, the most powerful mage in the Malazan Empire as he plays a role in the events of the evening. Personally, I found one of the most compelling portions of this novel to be Temper's remembrance of the events surrounding the original battle of Y'ghatan. Veteran readers will know this to be the culminating moment of the Seven Cities campaign and the battle in which Dassem Ultor was allegedly killed and is an important event in the ultra-compelling history of the Malazan Empire.

If you have made the commitment to undertake The Malazan Book of the Fallen, it will in all likelihood be the most challenging and rewarding reading experiences you will ever undertake. I couldn't imagine, after having tackled that endeavor, you wouldn't want to take some time to read this small, enjoyable, and enriching entry into the Malazan Empire.

Copyright © 2009 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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