It’s so much fun to jump straight back into this!
In the Prologue we get to know a new character. One of many. And with many, I mean MANY! Felisin Paran, Ganoes Paran’s younger sister is one of the unlucky nobles in Unta who are sent to work in the Otataral mines. She’s just a young innocent girl and not used to the horrors surrounding her. We get a good portion of blood & gore straight at the start. Felisin makes 2 friends though, a handless priest called Heboric and a brute called Baudin. They might come in handy when she’s in the mines. Haha.
It’s an interesting start to the book as it shows a direct effect of what happened in Gardens of the Moon. The Empire failed and someone is going to be made responsible.
Interesting tidbit: Tavore Paran is now the new Adjunct to Empress Laseen. And she just let her sister be carried off to a life of slavery.. Harsh!
In Chapter 1 we encounter 2 entirely new characters.. Aaaand unfortunately the 2 I liked the least! Mappo Trell and Icarium are wandering around in the desert. They don’t do very much, it’s more of an introduction to Soletaken and D’ivers. They are different kinds of shapeshifters, who will probably play a bigger role in this book very soon. There’s talk about a Sha’ik and an upcoming convergence (e.g. it’s going down). Lots of information thrown our way and in the middle of it, those 2 new characters we still don’t know a lot about.
That’s not all. I did say many new characters, right? Here are a couple more! Enter Duiker, a historian and observer of the scene that follows. We get some more information on Seven Cities and there’s also talk about a prophecy that promises rebellion. We know from Gardens of the Moon, that the Empire conquered Seven Cities, but had suffered great losses. A new Imperial fist and the one who should be responsible for peace there is a Wickan called Coltaine. Interesting choice, because Coltaine himself lead an uprising against the Malazan Empire in Seven Cities in the past. But it makes sense, as no one would know the land better.
And after that.. what’s that! I know those guys! It’s Fiddler, Kalam, Apsalar and Crokus on a boat! Finally some characters we know! I was happy to be back with them, because apart from Crokus, they all belong to my favourites. We get to know that their ultimate goal is to kill Empress Laseen and they are on their way to Seven Cities because of rumors of a rebellion. Crokus is still being Crokus, asking annoying questions and complaining. Apsalar is still freaking everyone out, Fiddler is still blowing up stuff and Kalam is ready to assassinate. That’s how I like it.
In general the chapter’s purpose was to introduce us to some new major players like Coltaine and explain the threat of a coming rebellion that will, in some way affect all different storylines. I like how well it was done. Now that I know where it all leads us I have to admire the way Erikson gave all storylines a common threat. It must be hard with so many different characters and locations and I have to admit that it was too much sometimes – especially in some of the later books. But here it is all nice and neat.
In Chapter 2 there is already so much going on! I especially liked Coltaine’s council meeting that included Duiker, the priest Mallick Rel, Coltaine’s right hand man Bult and Kulp, the mage. You can see the tension rising, as Rel tells Coltaine about his next task, that is to march his army to Aren for inspection. No one sees sense in that, but they have to follow the order anyways.. Mallick Rel is a sleazy, arrogant fella and you can see him making trouble already. No one likes him and so they throw him out of the meeting. Duiker doesn’t really know where to stand. He starts sympathizing with the Wickans and gets suspicious of our sleazy priest.
I like Bult a lot, in comparison to Coltaine who is more of a brooding kind of person, Bult is loud, boisterous and funny.
It’s so easy to lose track at this point. I realize how much information Erikson actually packs into every sub-chapter. There is so much happening already and it’s definitely not a slow start. We already get fights, betrayals, powerful magic, character development.. This book is just so packed!! I won’t even have the time to talk about everything that happens.
While Fiddler helps out a Spiritwalker and comes into the possession of the Song of Power, Kalam receives the Holy Book of Dryjhna (what!) that is directly connected to the coming Apocalypse/rebellion. Kalam thinks that a powerful item like that will give him safe passage but in reality he got swerved and members of the Red Blades are now able to follow him directly to Sha’ik. Oh, snap!
Now, the part concerning Icarium and Mappo gets weird. They meet a weird little man who is like Kruppe, but worse. While I am a fan of the humor in this book, characters like Kruppe or Iskaral Pust in this case are too much and too over the top for me. I don’t like characters who ramble on for too long and especially not those who talk about themselves in the third person. I prefer the humor of the soldiers.