Bauchelain and Korbal Broach is the first volume of a collection of novellas by Steven Erikson. The three novellas are Blood Follows (released originally in 2002), The Healthy Dead (2004) and The Lees of Laughter's End (2007). These novellas are set in the same Malazan world as The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Bauchelain and Korbal Broach also appeared in Memories of Ice. The next book following the story of the famous necromancers is titled Crack’d Pot Trail and is available now.
For unknown reasons, the novellas are not in their release order in the omnibus. I was really looking forward to reading these books/novellas and since the individual editions were kind of hard to find at a reasonable price, this book came just at the right time. Funny and impressive would be the words I choose to express my feeling after this wonderful read and here's why.
To sums things up, Blood Follows is the story of how Emancipor Reese came to be the manservant to the two infamous necromancers. The setting is the city of Lamentable Moll and a serial killer is hunting at night. Sergeant Guld is the king's man investigating the murders, poor fellow. The Lees of Laughter's End is set on a ship called Suncurl, in which the necromancers are getting away from Moll. The seas hold dangerous beasts but it's even more deadly inside the hold. As for The Healthy Dead, it's the tale of the degradation of the mighty and imaginary goodness in the city of Quaint, inopportunely visited by the two sorcerers and their butler.
For those of you who read Memories of Ice, a strong connection with Bauchelain, Korbal and Mr. Reese is probably already acquired. Although you don't have to go through the Malazan series to enjoy these stories, it can simply add a nice layer of depth. The references to the gods, the warren-based magic system, the empires and mercenary groups are not legion, but are sort of assumed by the author.
I enjoyed all the novellas, but I have to admit that The Healthy Dead stands out a little. On the other hand, it could not have been what it was without the "real" introduction of the trio (mostly for Emancipor's background) from Blood Follows. The manservant is usually the main PoV and that's a great choice, he's simply baffled by what he goes through and that's something to experience. Bauchelain is much more interesting from this perspective. Aside from those two, most of the protagonists that make the substantial parts are engrossing. I grew easily absorbed even though there's not much time for Erikson to develop them in so short tales.
One of the most defining characteristic about this volume was the humour. Bauchelain is witty, mostly so with Emancipor (poor guy at the wrong place in the wrong moment) and numerous situations are completely absurd. Erikson is known to be able to spice things up with a touch of amusement and kick ass moments, and in this case, he outdone himself. He really used the theme of necromancy in a perversely delicious manner. I believe that the author must have had a lot of fun writing those, you can feel it.
Why should you read this book? If you want a fun ride where you'll grin more often than not, pick it up. This is necromancy at a totally different level, set in unbelievable, well written and vibrating stories. In addition, it's fast read where you'll get pulled in strikingly fast. And lastly, if you're already a Malazan fan, you can't miss this.
Technically, the Tor cover is kind of nice since it's in the style of the other Malazan novels and it depicts pretty well the two necromancers. However, I still would have liked to get my hands on the individual editions. The paperback edition of the omnibus is 316 pages. It's just a bit sad that there's no map included, but it's understandable since were talking novellas.
Bauchelain and Korbal Broach review score :
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. 8.5 / 10
Story.............................. 9 / 10
Writing........................... 9.5 / 10
Overall (not an average) 9 / 10
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