Friday, March 13, 2009

Review: Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Erikson’s first book, Gardens of the Moon, didn’t do it for me. I saw glimpses of something that seemed to have so many people raving about it but that’s about it. There was simply too much going on and not enough of an explanation for things that the characters took for granted, most of those characters felt flat as well. Therefore it will come as no surprise that it took a few hundred pages to feel like I was into the book to any degree.

In that way Deadhouse Gates is similar to its predecessor, it took me two hundred odd pages to get into the book, having said that there were vast improvements. Erikson characterization has improved immensely, I now actually care about what happens to these characters, some of which I was largely indifferent about in the first book.

There is still a lot going on. Kalam and Fiddler are attempting to assassinate the empress of the Malazan empire, under the pretext of taking Apsalar back to her village. There is a massive and bloody rebellion going on in the seven cities. Icariun is wandering around looking for a way to get back his memory. All of that is just a fraction of the different events unfolding. One of Erikson’s strengths is the way he brings these seemingly unrelated events together. The author is like a master weaver sowing together a rich tapestry of a story through all these seemingly divergent threads.

Despite all of these considerable improvements there are still a few problems. There is still a lot about the way this world works that is unexplained, that really annoys me since the characters take it all for granted. Also Erickson seems to write his way out of corners with seemingly miraculous and yes still unexplained mechanisms and events. For an author who some class as “realistic fantasy” this doesn’t fly with me.

Overall though Erickson has made tremendous strides from his first book, the second is well worth a read. Still I can’t see more than glimpses of what some readers are raving on about. Maybe in the next book? 7.25/10.

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