Dust of Dreams, Steven Erikson ninth book of the Malazan book of the Fallen series, is the penultimate novel of this monumental saga. As Erikson himself states at the beginning of the book, this is the first part of a two novels conclusion and doesn't follow a traditional arc. The series will end with The Crippled God which should be released in 2010, but it's not the end of the Malazan world stories. Steven said that he will write at least two more trilogies set in the same world but aside from the book of the Fallen tale. You can also take a peek at the novels of the co-founder of this amazing world, Ian C. Esslemont set in the same time period as the book of the Fallen.
The story... briefly... this is the direct follow-up of Reaper's Gale and set in the same time period as Toll the Hounds. The Bonehunters set out from Letheras to join with their Perish and Khundryl allies to get to Kolanse (also accompanied by the letherii forces). In the wastelands they will eventually go through, K'Chain Che'malle and their human destriant, newcomer Kalyth, are looking for a Shield Anvil and a Mortal Sword. While Draconus gets back from Dragnipur, Icarium is lost in multiple personalities and the Shake are looking for the first shore and Karkhanas. The "Snake" is fleeing and Setoc (wolf gods destriant) meet with mighty travellers while running away. The Elder gods are gathering at the summons of the Errant.
Hopefully, Dust of Dreams feels like well concocted preparation for the grand finale and not a book to fill in or to expand uselessly the series. In the previous Malazan novels, we always see a lot of new characters beside some good old ones, a score of new storylines and a big convergence near the end. In this case, the confluence is not of the usual style, it's almost always on the verge of it but not quite. So the gathering of the numerous arcs that will happen in the next opus is going to be huge.
We return mostly to existing storylines and get a good dose of the protagonists we love (with a touch of new characters too). Even though the author mentions that we don't see many resolutions of story-threads, there's a satisfying advancement in the general plot. When Fiddler cast the tiles, when Bottle speaks with Quick Ben or even more when the Elder Gods are gathering, we received plenty of new information to quench our thirst of knowledge about what's going on. Still, we can keep speculating and that's an aspect of this series that I will miss when we get to the end.
In this novel, the series title takes all the more sense. It's not just the Crippled God that is fallen but a significant portion of the races of the world. Epic's not going to get better served than in this case. There is something else I realised while reading this book. Taking into account that so much happened since the first book, the legends that were created in the story previously now feels like grandiose myths. You don't need to be told by the protagonists that someone achievements were great, you actually know and believe it. Coltaine's one of the best examples.
The writing is in the usual Erikson style, not much to add at this point in the series, it's a "well-versed" narrative, it's still distinctive and serve the story accordingly although Fisher's poem are ever present at the start of almost each chapters... I'm still annoyed by this but I just have to skip them. One of the problems I had with the book aside from this was the whole White-face Barghast storyline. It's arduous to read at times and too long for its interest by my taste. However, the Malazan marines are back in their full glory (or at least getting ready for that glory). I think the best moments of this novel are probably the ones when the squad members of the Bonehunters are tackling each other. There's a good deal of humor as in the previous novels. With Tehol and Bugg, Ublala, the Bonehunters and a score of delightfully imaginative swearing.
About the world, almost all of the book happens between Lether and the wastelands connecting with Kolanse. This is not the greatest addition to the discovery of the world but we get to see the inside of a K'Chain Che'malle rooted skykeep. The magic system was already fully established but Erikson actually added another layer to it, the Icarium way.
Why should you read this book? First, there's the easy answer, because if you have read the first eight books, it's not this book that will make you stop and it should not. Even though there was some problem in the first few books with the timeline and we won't get to see the finality of all the innumerable story arcs, Erikson is actually going to pull it off with a massive scale convergence connecting together a score of plots in the most captivating way I can imagine. Can't wait to read how it's all going to unfold.
Technically, the Bantam Press cover is looking good, portraying the herald of death himself, Toc. The map and appendix (Dramatis personae) are as welcome as in the previous iterations. The book is 889 pages.
Dust of Dreams review score :
Characterization............. 8.5 /10
World building............... 10 / 10
Magic system................. 10 / 10
Story.............................. 8.5 / 10
Writing........................... 8 / 10
Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10
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