Friday, December 4, 2015

Reaper's Gale Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Military Fantasy
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen Book Seven
Pages: 1,280

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

Reaper’s Gale is set in Letheras and it continues the story lines to both the fifth and sixth books in the series.  A lot of passages in this book struck me as some of the most powerful and memorable prose that Erikson had written up until this point. Additionally there are number of unexpected moments, along with expected moments, that pop up, as Erikson manages to defy reader expectations yet again.

The expected convergence at the end of this book did not have me burning through the story like it had in previous books.  Additionally, the action leading up to the convergence felt long winded and often unnecessary. There are plenty of moments at the end, but the book just was not as exciting as previous installments in the series.

The Letherii Empire has become unstable under the rule of the unkillable Emperor Rhulad.  Heading to Letheras to face him in combat are the great Teblor warrior Karsa Orlong and the Lifestealer Icarium.

Trull Sengar and Onrack are seeking the finnest of Scabandari Bloodeye.  Also searching for the finnest and trying to avoid arrest by the Tiste Edur are Fear Sengar, Seren Pedac, Silchas Ruin, Kettle, and Rhulad’s former slave Udinaas.

On the continent of Lether a subjugated tribe called the Awl find inspiration to rebel under a famous excommunicated warrior named Red Mask.  Amidst the chaos on the continent, Adjunct Tavore and the Malazan 14th arrive and plan on overthrowing the Tiste Edur rule of the continent.

A lot of long awaited events are set to happen in Reaper’s Gale – the collision of the Malazan and Letherii Empires and the potential battle between the three most powerful warriors in the series: Karsa, Rhulad, and Icarium. While the end result of the three great warriors is satisfying, the conclusion of the Malazan and Letherii struggle is not up par with some of the earlier great battles in the series. The way the two empires engage each other is fairly unique for a military engagement is appreciated, but in my opinion Erikson has done better.

Karsa Orlong and Icarium are the two characters that are the least active in this book.  The problems of having too many characters surface again as two of the stronger characters in the series are delegated the task of waiting until the time is right to face the Tiste Edur Emperor.  The showdown between these powerhouse characters was one of my favorite parts, but the build up to it was rather uneventful.

Additional problems can be found in the Awl rebellion subplot.  Although this begins with a lot of promise, the end of it just kind of fizzles. By the end, I’m not sure what the point of Red Mask is either.  Maybe the results of this plot get explained later, but Erikson really leaves a lot of parts from this storyline hanging.

Rhulad Sengar continues on his trek of chaos.  More appalling crimes, more voices in his head, and more sporadic outbursts continue to plague this tragic, but evil character’s existence.  Rhulad is despicable, but as a character he and his relationship to the Crippled God are fascinating.  His own unwitting self imposed exile allows the Letherii to rule the empire in his name, while they bring the empire down around them, so that only a few may become wealthy.

A secret police group called The Patriotists secretly arrest many of the intellectually elite and other people who oppose Letherii rule.  The terror inducing tactics and the use of harsh torture condemns governments who are run by a greedy few, and use fear to subdue their populations.  The ruling body of government in Letheras is an example of capitalism gone wrong – where the government rules in name only, while powerful guilds or companies are really the one’s making the decisions.

The build up to the convergence for the finnest of Scabandari Bloodeye allows a lot of the secondary characters from Midnight Tides to be developed more, especially Seren Pedac and Fear Sengar.  Seren continues to develop into an interesting character, while Fear finally offers some explanations for his actions, or lack of action, in the fifth book.  The opposition between Silchas and Fear also creates a lot of conflict, and the mystery of what Scabandari’s finnest will do makes this one of the most consistent plots of the entire book.

Other plot elements, especially at the end of the book feel like they are rushed into for convenience. This particularly happens in an event with Seren Pedac – who is forced into a situation that defies all the previously established logic in the plot and her character development along with the character development of another major character (that’s vague because I’m trying to avoid spoilers).

There are a lot of moments in Reaper’s Gale, but the action and events surrounding these moments are less lively.  This is a decent book, but with this installment Erikson lets the story get away from him.  Where The Bonehunters is largely able to redeem itself in the end, Reaper’s Gale struggles to make an impact.

Score: 7.5

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