Friday, December 4, 2015

Dust of Dreams Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Military Fantasy
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen Book Nine
Pages: 1,276

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(Spoilers for the previous eight Malazan books are below).

Steven Erikson’s writing style is really getting in the way of bringing this series to a satisfying conclusion.  The time spent on additional characters rather than spending time with characters that were previously established is irritating.  These new characters are nowhere near as endearing as characters from the first half of this series.

When Dust of Dreams does focus on previously established characters, the story remains strong – mostly.  Unfortunately this only happens about 60% of the time, leaving the reader with a whole lot of extra pages that aren’t even the least bit interesting.  Book nine in the Malazan series is the weakest installment I’ve read up until this point, and it has me feeling skeptical about how this huge web of stories is going to resolve.  At this point it’s fair to say I’m only reading this book because I’ve invested so much time into this series rather than because I enjoy it.

As the author states at the beginning of his penultimate book in the ten book Malazan Book of the Fallen series – Dust of Dreams is only the first half of a book – meaning the usual convergence that has happened at the end of every Malazan book is largely absent.  The plot in this book takes place on the Letherii continent shortly after the events of Reaper’s Gale.

The major plot arc centers around Tavore Paran leading the Malazan army to Kolanse – the location of the Crippled God.  Side plots focus on a number of hostile tribes outside the Letherii Empire that are at war with one another and aren’t sure what to do about the Malazan’s who will have to march through their territory to reach Kolanse.  Brys Beddict leads a Letherii army that accompanies the Malazans as they cross Letherii territory.

Dust of Dreams is frustrating.  Erikson’s writing style which features a lot of different characters and a broad scope is getting in the way of winding this story down. The tribes on the outskirts of the Letherii Empire get a whole a host of new characters and subplots that slowed my reading pace to crawl.  These scenes had me feeling so apathetic I didn’t care what horrible fates awaited the characters in these plots, or what moments of glory were around the corner.  I was just glad to not be reading these parts when I wasn’t reading them.

Erikson also decides to bring back the White Face Barghast from Memories of Ice along with Tool and Hetan.  Tool was one of my least favorite characters from that book, so seeing him get all this extra page time and a plot that ultimately went nowhere was just enraging.  Additionally, Erikson goes into detail about a Barghast ritual called hobbling.  To avoid spoilers I won’t say what this is, but I will say its inclusion in this book was the single most pointless and distasteful act of violence in a Malazan book up until this point.

The only new additions to this story I liked centered around the K’Chain Che’Malle.  This race of creatures has been around sporadically up until this point, usually featured in an antagonizing role.  In Dust of Dreams the reader gets to learn a lot more about their history, and these portions of the book provided some long awaited information.

The Malazan and Letherii segments of this book continue to provide interesting reading material – albeit it’s material that’s not as strong as it was earlier in the series – it’s is still enjoyable to read. The enigma surround Tavore, Quick Ben, Fiddler, Gesler, Stormy, and Bottle continues to leave me wondering about these characters’ histories and their motivations.  At the same time though, I wonder if Erikson is going to reveal all these characters have hidden?

Dust of Dreams has a mini-convergence at the end, but it’s not enough to redeem this book from hundreds of pages of pointless tribal wars.  If this is the first half of concluding this epic ten book series, then Erikson’s final book will have a lot to make up for after reading this mess. At this point, Dust of Dreams is easily the weakest Malazan book.

Score: 6.0

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