Friday, December 4, 2015

The Bonehunters Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Military Fantasy
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen Book Six
Pages: 1,232

Buy on Amazon!

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

The Bonehunters is a book that is truly all over the place, even by Erikson standards. Continuing a couple of months after the fall of Sha’ik, the Malazan fourteenth takes center stage as it purses the remnants of the Rebellion of the Apocalypse. This time Erikson throws a number of major characters from the Genabackis books into the mix, and although he uses his traditional – building towards a climactic conflict between two opposing forces battling for supremacy – structure, Erikson makes enough changes to make that structure feel very different that in previous Malazan books.

At times this reworking of the structure really serves the story well, but there are moments of down time where the reading pace of the story and the addition of extra characters starts to get in the way, more so in this book, than in any of the previous Malazan books.  Nevertheless the climactic confrontations in this book are brilliant once again, and despite its flaws The Bonehunters still turns out to be an excellent story.

Adjunct Tavore and the Fourteenth army pursue Leoman of the Flails and the remnants of Sha’ik’s Army of the Apocalypse.  Leoman takes refuge in Y’Ghatan, an area that was famous for delivering the Malazans there most devastating military defeat, there he hopes to replicate the same destruction.  A multitude of side stories converge into this plot or away from it, they are bullet pointed below.
  • Dujek One Arm arrives in the northern portion of Seven Cities and prepares to help Tavore defeat the Army of Apocalypse
  • Quick Ben and Kalam reunite with Fiddler and begin serving the Fourteenth
  • Apsalar sets out to assassinate the people Cotillion requested she kill
  • Heboric Ghost Hands sets out to return to the Otataral island with Cutter, Scillara, and Felisin Younger
  • Karsa Orlong meets a new friend and tries to help a group of locals suppress and invasion of their land
  • Ganoes Paran begins to fulfill his duties as Master of the Deck
The Bonehunters has a lot of slow moments, and at times this can make reading the book frustrating.  The addition of new characters during certain points of the story and certain subplots really feel like they are dragging the story out rather than enhancing the story.  During these down times in the story, it became exceedingly hard to pick up the book and continue reading.  What I’m saying is, this book, more so than any of the previous Malazan books was really trying on my patience.

Certain major characters, like in all of the Malazan books, meet their end in this story.  However there are instances in The Bonehunters where instead of providing a moment of great emotional trauma (or relief if you don’t like the character), the book instead makes it feel like the character being killed is being killed simply because there isn’t any place left for that character to go.  Although it’s good to remove those characters from the story, you can’t help but wonder if “said,” characters could have been removed in a way that enhances the story, especially when the character has been apart of the series for a long time.

These flaws and the slow prodding pace of the book take up the majority of the story, but the two climactic moments make the book worth it. The first climactic moment occurs a third of the way through this book while the final climactic moment is at the end.  These moments each spanning a couple of hundred pages are fast paced action oriented sequences with enough blood, guts, shock, and awe that will satisfy just about anyone’s blood lust.  The final 200 pages in particular are probably the strongest single segment of the Malazan series since the climax of Deadhouse Gates.  The convergence of major characters and the situations they are put in creates a myriad of great internal and external conflicts that overwhelm the senses and leaves the reader wondering what’s going to happen next.

Although Tavore doesn’t narrate a lot of sequences in this book, she is featured in a lot of other characters narrations of her, giving the reader an outside look at this stone faced outsider.  Tavore, her lesbian lover T’amber, Quick Ben, Kalam, and Bottle are five of the Malazan series’ greatest enigmas. Having all five of them together creates a lot of tension, and a little bit more is revealed about each character throughout the story.

Ganoes Paran has a had a minimal role in the Malazan story since he was named Master of the Deck, a role that seems to scream – this is a majorly important role in determining the outcome of the Malazan world – finally gets some significant page time in The Bonehunters.  It’s time well spent, as the new position Master of the Deck starts to show the powers that come with the position, and this inevitably makes reading Ganoes’ plot all the more intriguing.  Couple that intrigue with the fact that Ganoes is getting geographically closer to Tavore and the potential number of conflicts that could arise between the two really start to take the readers imagination away.

Erikson has some really well written emotional and visual scenes that take place in this story.  The first climactic section provides a haunting visual spectacle, while the second climax provides a haunting aural spectacle.  Stating the visual spectacle would divulge into too many spoilers, but the aural spectacle that occurs in the second climax takes place when Fiddler picks up a violin for the first time in a long time and plays an extended lament for all his fallen friends.  The music which is heard by nearly all of the major characters, despite not being within listening range, is amongst the most powerful and beautiful scenes ever written by Erikson.

The traditional structure to the Malazan books is still present here, but it feels distinctly warped.  The concluding parts of this book really aren’t a clash between two huge armies, like the previous books all were, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of violence.  Either way this altering of the structure really does a lot to enhance the conclusion of this book, and it ultimately gives the series a fresh newish kind of feeling.  That along with everything else turned reading this book into a rewarding experience.

Score: 8.7

No comments:

Post a Comment