Monday, 14 April 2008
‘Night of Knives’ – Ian Cameron Esslemont (Bantam Press)
Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong series but, up until a couple of years ago, I’d never really come across a fantasy world where more than one author was telling the tale. And then I discovered the Malazan books, which swiftly became one of my favourite (if not the favourite) series. Even then I thought it was all Steven Erikson’s work so I was surprised to hear that he wasn’t telling the whole tale, there was another guy sharing writing duties and his share of the action was about to kick off with ‘Night of Knives’. To cut a long story short I picked up a PS Publishing edition and very much enjoyed it so I was interested to hear that Bantam were publishing their own edition containing some different material… Bantam were kind enough to send me a copy (and to offer some mass market copies for a give-away, more on that soon) and it went on holiday with me last week. Here’s the thing though, it has been a while (a couple of years) since I last read ‘Night of Knives’ and I have to say that I didn’t really notice any major differences in the text. I didn’t really notice anything different at all in fact (other than the maps, Malaz Isle and Malaz City, and glossary of characters etc) so I would say that if you already have the PS Publishing edition then it may not be worth you picking up this one as well (unless you’re a die hard Malazan fan who will pick up the differences right away). What I will say though is that if you weren’t able to pick up the PS Publishing edition (£15 is pretty steep!) and you haven’t got round to reading ‘Night of Knives’ yet then this is as good a place as any to dive in and get a feel for what Ian Cameron Esslemont brings to the table…
‘Night of Knives’ deals with the events surrounding one of the most tumultuous events in Malazan history, Empress Laseen’s ascension to the throne and the fate of it’s previous occupant. While Erikson’s books hint at answers to this puzzle it’s ‘Night of Knives’ that lays everything on the table for the reader to gasp at, and there is plenty to gasp at. Another question is finally laid to rest (although again, long term fans may have guessed the answer already)… There are also more questions to be answered but if you’re a Malazan fan then it’s this sort of intrigue that you will have come to expect!
The action takes place over a single night in Malaz city. It’s the night of the Shadow Moon and this means that there is a lot more going on than the main plot strand… Credit is due to Esslemont in that he manages to keep several plot elements going all at once, seamlessly switching between them (to keep things fresh) and tying things off in a most satisfactory manner by the end. As with Erikson (not surprisingly), Esslemont will keep you on your toes with revelations that will force you to re-evaluate what you think you just read and view the whole book in a new light. You won’t find the epic battles that Erikson is famous for but the confrontations you will experience are just as intense, the magic is just as visceral and the pathos just as touching. Everyone’s history is relevant in the world of the Malazan series and the characters that you will meet are just as touching as those in ‘Deadhouse Gates’ and ‘Memories of Ice’.
The only criticism that I would level at this stage is that, due to Erikson’s prodigious output in terms of books, it feels like Esslemont is writing in ‘Erikson’s world’ and under a shadow. I fully expect this to change as Esslemont publishes more of his own work and the greater picture that he and Erikson created becomes clear.
Erikson’s Malazan books are amazing in their breadth and depth but you only get just over half of what the Malazan world is all about, pick up ‘Night of Knives’ and begin to get the full story. I’m eagerly waiting to see where Esslemont takes things next with ‘The Return of the Crimson Guard’…
Eight out of Ten