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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Steven Erikson: Memories of Ice

The third book of Erikson’s incredible series marks the point where I slipped away from the books about six or so years ago. It’s tricky with such a hefty series to keep momentum, and it coincided with me getting into more classic fantasy authors such as Vance, Zelazney, Moorcock and Anderson. But having completed book three I’m avidly now reading book four, enjoying the ping-ponging between story threads and characters. 

Memories of Ice picks up the story not long after Gardens of the Moon’s epic finale, and follows many of the characters from that book—namely Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners; Kruppe, Colle and Murillio; Toc the Younger, and Tool, the T’lan Imass. The new characters of Gruntle and Stonny, and the Grey Swords, notably Itkovian, are given sufficient page space for us to begin to care about them—always a risk when your dramatis personae runs to five pages! 

The gist of the book is the uneasy alliance between Commander Dujek Onearm, Whiskeyjack and Captain Paran, with the Malazan army, and the forces of Caladan Brood, and Anomander Rake’s Tiste Andii. They unite due to the concern of the Panion Domin, a fledgling coastal empire with cannibalistic troops, and mysterious links with an Elder race, the K’Chain Che’ Malle (bet he got sick of typing that). The tone of the book is similarly brutal to the prior one, with fairly full on violence, slaughter and warfare. The scenes involving the assault on Capustan are remarkable yet disturbing, and would it ever be filmed it would make Game of Thrones seem rather tame (as far as war scenes would go anyway). 

What really made the book for me, however, was the progression of the back story arc of the Chained God, and the marked fleshing out of Erikson’s world. From the origins of the T’lan Imass, to the revelations about Rake and his dreaded Stormbringer-esque sword, to the Deck of Dragons and the creation of houses, this book really aids the understanding of the milieu. The gods feature heavy in this book—Fener, K’rul, Hood, Burn, Trake, Togg and Fanderay. The manipulations of the mortals, their forms and their actions creates a very epic sense to this instalment, yet for me Erikson doesn’t lose track of the personalities and emotions of the characters. The impact of the horrors of war, and the sense of duty against all odds, is explored and although Erikson’s dialogue and humour can feel a bit clunky at times, there are some wonderful sections of fantasy prose. And, as with the prior two books, there is no patronising the reader—the book is unapologetically intricate. 

So onto book four, my first ‘fresh’ one for years, in the hope I can pick up the nuances and backwards-forwards timelines that have knitted the first three together. Totally recommend anyone reading the books, but be aware it’s a fair commitment!

Latter two images by JK Drummond, who you can check at 

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