Friday, December 4, 2015

The Crippled God Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Military Fantasy
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen Book Ten
Pages: 1,192

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(Spoilers for the previous Malazan books are below).

The final book in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series is a disappointment.  As an individual book The Crippled God, along with The Bonehunters, is one of the stronger books in the back half of this series.  The Crippled God, though is more than just another book, it represents the culmination of a ten book series.

It has to bring more than just a satisfying ending for itself – and by itself The Crippled God is a fairly strong book. But is The Crippled God satisfying as the ending of a ten book series? No.
The Crippled God along with many of the myriad plots that have been building for over ten books don’t get endings they deserve and while Erikson’s singular structure succeeds in this book, the super structure doesn’t.

As Erikson explained at the beginning of Dust of Dreams, The Crippled God is the second half of that book.  Continuing shortly after most of the Malazan army was decimated by the K’Chain Nah’Ruk, Tavore Paran continues to lead her Malazans to Kolanse where she will challenge the will of the Gods.  As the Malazan army’s situation grows more desperate, it’s up to Tavore to keep the army together and to prevent any mutinies.

In Kurald Galain, The Shake defend the city of Kharkanas from an invasion by the Tiste Liosan.  Additionally the Elder Gods begin to plan releasing the Elient on the world, in the hopes of destroying it and making it anew.

There can be a lot said on the nature of avoid tropes in works of literature, and the fantasy genre has its fair share of these.  Tropes in fantasy are also necessary, otherwise the genre loses its identity and becomes something else.  One of the major fantasy tropes Erikson uses is the gathering of all the forces of good and evil together to do battle with one another at the ending of a book – or what Erikson likes to call his convergences.  Every single Malazan book has one (more or less to a certain extent). In addition to this the Malazan series follows three different primary plot settings, each one getting individual novels to be told in.

With that being the principle method of structure for each of the individual volumes in the series, wouldn’t it make sense to make your super structure a convergence of all three plot settings and all the major characters from those plot settings in one place?  Sure the Crippled God mostly takes place in one spot, but instead of grouping all of these major characters that readers have been waiting to hear from, Erikson instead does what he’s done for the previous nine books: add a bunch of new characters to this book, while ignoring previously developed one’s.

Great characters like Crokus and Apsalar, characters that readers have been following since Gardens of the Moon, are designated half a page – in the second epilogue.  Other longstanding major characters like Kruppe and Karsa appear in The Crippled God, but their contribution to the plot is a single degree above meaningless. To see major characters like these not even involved in the story, while having to read page after page about Yedan Derryg or Queen Abrastal –  characters briefly introduced in or after Reaper’s Gale is upsetting.  I don’t care anywhere near as much about Kharkanas – a location that is established for some back stories –  or the tribes helping the Malazan’s as much the characters I mentioned above.

Not only does the consistent stream of new characters reduce the amount of book time that should belong to other characters, it also reduces the emotional impact of the many long-awaited for events, reunions, etc. that take place in The Crippled God.  In a book that had enough moments to where tears should have been brought to my eyes, I was left dry eyed because of the lack of build up to these long awaited events.

In addition to not including major characters that would have really helped to serve the conclusion of these books. Erikson’s final installment is littered with deus ex machina – true all of the Malazan books have it – but it stands out a lot more when its concluding a series.  If the reader starts asking the question why? – for a lot of the character’s motivations, Erikson’s story would have so many holes, it would embarrass a slice of Swiss cheese.  The lack of explanations for a lot of the characters enigmatic personalities and motivations is unsatisfying, and instead of making the book feel more mysterious, it makes the author look like he didn’t know what he was doing.

Strong elements about this book center around Tavore, who comes out looking the most endearing she’s ever looked in the Malazan series.  While Erikson may not be on point with his structure, The Crippled God, especially the final 600 pages, can be read quickly, and Erikson writes a fairly exciting final battle.  There are some really cliched moments in these battles – something Erikson had rarely done up until this point –  which took me out of them momentarily, but they are sparse and I was eventually able to get past them.

Sadness is the feeling I would use describe how I felt as I finished the final books to the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, and some other lengthy fantasy epics.  To become so involved in those worlds, only to finally leave them knowing nothing new was going to be told in them left me with a sense of emptiness.  Finishing the Malazan series, I found some of those feelings resurfacing, but they were secondary to my primary feeling – and that was relief.

Score: 6.9

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