Toll the Hounds review

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Toll the Hounds is Steven Erikson eighth book of the tale of the Malazan book of the fallen, which I read as soon as I received it last year. Since the follow up is coming soon , only 5 or 6 days, I did a little look-up of the last books (even if it's not a direct follow-up of Reaper's Gale story) to refresh my mind. So this is certainly the best time to add a review. Your humble servitor will probably try to add reviews of the whole series eventually. I won't lie to you, this is my favorite fantasy series so far and I think by far... so this is a review from a fan even if I try to stay objective as hard as I can.

The story picks up a couple of years after the events of Memories of Ice in our beloved city of Darujhistan, the city from the first book Garden of the Moon. There's a convergence coming and the city will be its host. At the same time, Cutter reunites with his former companions (Murillio, Kruppe, Coll, Rallick Nom and his old love interest Challice) while Barathol, Chaur and Scillara are meeting with ex-Malazan marines. Karsa, Kallor, Traveller, the hounds, Hood and the army he is gathering are drawn by it. The weight of Dragnipur on Anomander Rake's back is becoming unbearable. Inside the sword, the battle against the coming Chaos is looming close. Rake's son Nimander, Clip and the Drift Avalii escapees are coming home to Rake and encounter a new corrupted "false god". This god treathens to corrupt the newly named Redeemer who will need the help of Spinnock Durav, a Tiste Andii and his game companion, Seerdomin.

It's almost impossible to finish giving the details of the story since there's so much more characters (Mappo, Gruntle, OK I'll stop here) and plots. Although some PoV may seem of less interest, like the boy Harllo, it still has its uses with the advancement of the general narrative. The story is written with the same kind of pace that we saw in previous Malazan novels, meaning that a little more than a hundred pages before the end, the book becomes totally impossible to put down as the pace shift to the fastest gear. So much storylines are coming together or to a close! This is probably Erikson greatest mastery, the way he is able to pull the strings of so many plots and eventually connect them together in a mesmerizing spectacle.

I felt that the book is mostly about what people have to go throught and the price to pay for their redemption. Itkovian and his new cult and all the Tiste Andii subplots are examples of this (even Kallor). This is not the only theme, but it's the major one. We also see that with so many mighty forces, when an opportunity presents itself, the only result can be devastation.

As for the writing, it's Erikson at his best. I have to admit that the prose can get complicated sometimes... and as in the last few novels, I was annoyed to have almost only poems at the start of every chapter. In the first books, the chapters started with Malazan historical facts, famous quotes and from time to time a poem but in this book, it's a Fisher Kel Tath fest! It's not really lowering the quality of the writing but still, that's too much for my taste... I felt the same as when I read Tolkien songs.

I found that Kruppe chapters are slightly more complicated but satisfying in the end (I don't find them annoying). With his take on the story at the end of some chapters (almost in the perspective of Darujhistan), we can feel that the city is alive and get a refreshing insight on its inhabitants.

As always, there's a score of PoV and secondary characters, a proportion of them being highly captivating (mostly those in Black Coral). The Tiste Andii Spinnock Durav, the warrior of Anomander Rake and his new companion Seerdomin are great additions. Their storyline will take them to interact with the Redeemer, Itkovian. The other new Tiste Andii Pov, Endest Silann (Rake's old mage) is of less interest but when his turn come, we get to have great details about the Andii's past in Kharkanas. Anomander Rake is still one of my favorite characters and in this book he gets even more fascinating. Erikson mentioned that he wants to write a trilogy about Rake's past after the ten books of the Malazan book of the fallen!!!

The humor in the book is still present although maybe not as much as usual. The principal source of it is usually the Malazan marines and their lesser presence (don't worry there's still enough of them) in the book make for a slightly more serious book. The Tiste Andii storylines are way too nostalgic and tragic to add humor. At least, we can still follow the Shadowthrone\Cotillion duo and their mad high priest Iskaral Pust, Kruppe's insights and Karsa's comments with Samar Dev. By the way, I don't know if it's just me but sex is way more present than usual in this book (there's not that much sex but the subject is frequently on the table).

We don't learn much more about the already well establish complex magic system in this book but all the Dragnipur scenes and the Kharkanas flashbacks add even more depth to the mythology (which is already a gigantic realisation). We also get to see new parts of the Genabackis continent and the city of Black Coral. The world building is getting even more accomplished!

Why should you read this book? Because that's the best example of epic fantasy. This is an insanely large scale series but so much worth it. The writing is superb, and the world created so rich (this is mostly about the whole series). The multitude of great characters is crazy. For the Malazan fans, you should not even have to ask you whether to pick it up or not, the series is still going strong. The plots that are developed in this book are nicely evolving and it's great to come back to characters we love but that we haven't heard of in a long time. Bring on Dust of Dreams!

There are already two scenes in this book that I added to my "Kick ass moment" list (here and here) and I would have added a third but I don't want to spoil one of the funniest scene of the book, a mighty battle between two unlikely protagonists.

Technically, the Bantam Press cover is very nice (I think it's better than the Tor cover), like almost all the latest Malazan novels from Erikson. As usual, the maps are well drawn (a must for maps and Malazan lovers) and the appendix (Dramatis personae) can be kind of useful. The book is 896 pages... a door stopper as all of Erikson's Malazan books.

Characterization............. 9.5 /10
World building............... 10 / 10
Magic system................. 10 / 10
Story.............................. 9 / 10
Writing........................... 9 / 10

Overall (not an average) 9 / 10


Malazan empire page


a Fantasy Reader All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger