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Malazan Book of the Fallen: A Whirlwind Journey Of Maze-like Plots, Dazzling Magic, and Bloodcurdling Battlestlines

book review

In the vast literary universe, “Malazan Book of the Fallen” audaciously sits somewhere between epic fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. Its cryptic appeal is akin to deciphering an ancient manuscript – at times convoluted, yet profoundly rewarding. The author is no Frodo-carrying-Ring-to-Mordor storyteller; rather, Erikson unfurls a narrative that requires from his readers an inexhaustible reserve of patience and dedication.


Embark on a Herculean task to decipher a realm – spanning continents and epochs – pivoting around a vast ensemble of flawed, multifaceted characters. This ten-volume epic weaves a rich tapestry of war, culture, magic, gods, and complex interpersonal relationships. It thrusts you into the dizzying vortex of arcane alliances, back stabbing politics and battles, where the price of survival is often tipping the scales of morality.

The ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series engulfs you in a colossal universe shaped by intricate politics, epic battles, and divine wheeling and dealing. Over ten volumes, Erikson introduces us to an array of vividly-realized characters navigating the colossally complicated world of Malazan. The undead T’lan Imass wage an eternal war, gods walk among men weaving intricate plots, and an unlikely troupe of soldiers attempts to maintain sanity amidst chaos. This is a labyrinth of a plot unfolding across continents and epochs, forcing the reader to surrender to the vastness of Erikson’s imagination.

Malazan Book of the Fallen Series (titles in order)

  1. Gardens of the Moon (1999): The series begins in the midst of the Siege of Pale, as the Malazan Empire seeks dominion over the last of the Free Cities. Players on various sides of the conflict shape the outcome, laying the groundwork for the sprawling series.
  2. Deadhouse Gates (2000): The focus shifts to another continent where the Malazan Empire faces a formidable rebellion. Thus begins the emotionally stirring Chain of Dogs arc, taking readers on a torturous journey filled with heroism, betrayal, and heartbreak.
  3. Memories of Ice (2001): Erikson turns back to the original continent where an ancient conflict involving shadowy gods and ascendants is brewing while the city of Capustan faces a horrifying siege.
  4. House of Chains (2002): The story continues with a character-driven narrative interspersed with brutal conflicts against a backdrop of impending war, and the intriguing introduction of the enigmatic Karsa Orlong.
  5. Midnight Tides (2004): Set on an entirely new continent, it depicts the clash of two completely different cultures and economics, leading to a devastating war that corrupts the morals of both sides.
  6. The Bonehunters (2006): As the soldiers of the Malazan Empire recover from civil war, they face a threat unlike any other in a world where gods and mortals clash in catastrophic skirmishes.
  7. Reaper’s Gale (2007): The invaded and the invaders become indistinguishable as they become entangled in a thorny knot of manipulation and deceit.
  8. Toll the Hounds (2008): Events circle back to the City of Darujhistan where various factions and key personalities alter its fate in several dramatic ways.
  9. Dust of Dreams (2009): An ancient species seeks out a long-lost homeland, triggering volatile dynamics among races, leading to cataclysmic battles and unexpected revelations.
  10. The Crippled God (2011): Erikson brilliantly pulls together the numerous threads of his narrative, culminating in a grand finale that brings down the curtain on the decade-spanning saga.

Each volumes affirms Erikson’s mastery in crafting epic high fantasy fraught with intricate plotlines, multi-layered characters, and a sense of sheer awe-inspiring scale. The journey from the moon-kissed gardens to the abode of the crippled god challenges and rewards readers in equal measure.

Notable Quotes:

Quotes that bear the weight of Steven Erikson’s profound philosophies and lyrical wordplay in ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’:

  1. “The lesson of history is that no one learns.” – Deadhouse Gates
  2. “When you pity, you bleed.” – House of Chains
  3. “Even in a world that is built on betrayal… there are some lines that should never be crossed.” – The Crippled God
  4. “We humans do not cower down, distracted, bored, all to pointedly ignore the shocking outrage called existence, the fact of atoms and the universe and the astounding suspicion that we are here and thinking about it.” – Toll the Hounds
  5. “The victims of disaster, and the rescuers. Both making up, each time, the solitary, heroic figure. When it is naught but desperation meeting despair.” – Dust of Dreams
  6. “We humans do not understand compassion. In each moment of our lives, we betray it. Aye, we know of its worth, yet in knowing we then attach to it a value, we guard the giving of it, believing it must be earned. Compassion is priceless in the truest sense of the word. It must be given freely. In abundance.”
  7. “Destiny is a lie. Destiny is justification for atrocity. It is the means by which murderers armour themselves against reprimand. It is a word intended to stand in place of ethics, denying all moral context.” – Memories of Ice

My Review

Erikson’s sprawling narrative is no ordinary read. In its worst moments, it might feel like wandering through a labyrinth blindfolded. Yet, it is in the intricate interweaving of epic storylines, the creation of a universe brimming with magic, trepidatious politics, and riveting combat sequences that the Malazan series truly draws in its readers. The spotlight here is enjoyably shared by flawed human soldiers, ancient species, and the meddling gods alike.

The writing style, saturated with implicit philosophy and enigmatic characters, bears an uncanny resemblance to our beloved Bookslut’s sardonic, cerebral prose. The plot, however, merits no hasty comparisons. Erikson does not spoon-feed his readers with neatly-packed details, leaving much room for speculation and debate.

Still, this series isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some pages are teeming with so many characters and plot twists that it almost feels overwhelming. Yet, for those brave enough to jump in, it is an ambitious, cosmic, soul-stirring experience.


The ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series by Steven Erikson is an epic reading journey, tumultuous and riveting, with no stone left unturned in its vast literary landscape. It’s not your typical fairytale fantasy; far from it. It operates on an elevated level, demanding dedication and concentration from its readers. This is one series that will test your grit, and reward you with an unforgettable literary experience.


Author Bio

Canadian author Steven Erikson is an archaeologist and anthropologist – a background that reflect in the sophisticated civilization-building in the Malazan series. He masterfully constructs a whole universe, complete with history, culture, and languages, breathing life into it with the ten volumes of the Malazan series.

FAQ or study/book club questions:

  • How does the vivid imagery shape your reading experience of the Malazan series?
  • How do you interpret the various species and cultures in Malazan in comparison to the real world?
  • Discuss the portrayal of empathy in Malazan Book of the Fallen.
  • Does the intricate narrative structure enhance or detract from the overall reading experience?

Where to buy:

The ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series can be found her on Amazon.

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