Sunday, April 24, 2011
Review: Toll the Hounds
Anytime I embark on a Malazan Book of the Fallen novel written by Steven Erikson I do so with a fairly large degree of trepidation. I'll come right out and say it: I struggle with these books. For one, I always have the feeling that I'm either missing an important detail, or that I'm forgetting an important detail, (or a minor detail that is now important) from an earlier book. Sometimes I'll be forgetting an entire character. Another thing I struggle with is sheer size of each book. Talk about daunting! Toll the Hounds clocked in at a massive 1269 pages! That is like three normal sized books. Basically, what that boils down to is a month of reading for my slow ass. Another Malazan thorn in my side is the fact that with each book I've read, I've felt like there is at least one story line that is totally pointless. I tend to skim those parts, which might account for that earlier bit about forgetting details...
Anyway, all my trepidation aside, Toll the Hounds was fairly easy to dive into because it marked the return to Darujhistan, the locale of many of my favorite characters from the series. Aside from reuniting with Kruppe, Murillio, Rallick Nom, and all the other denizens of the Phoenix Inn, this book delivers a healthy dose of Anomander Rake, badass supreme. Anytime Anomander Rake is involved you know something awesome is going to happen, and his role in this one is definitely pretty damn epic.
One detail I found interesting about Toll the Hounds is how small of a role the Malazan characters play in the novel. To me it seemed like Erikson had a lot of big pieces to move around on the board, Karsa Orlong, Mappo Runt, Gruntle, to name a few, and this novel was sort of all about getting them into position for the final two novels. Even though parts of the book felt like a set up for the final stages of the series, this still managed to be a solid novel. There is a strong corps of characters present, many of which are some of my favorites in the series, so it was a joy to check back in on them and read about their adventures.
Anytime you get some of the major players from the series in the same Malazan book, you can pretty much rest assured knowing that their paths with converge at some point during the book. So with so many of the "big" names in this novel, I had a good feeling things would be pretty epic. Erikson does not disappoint. The climax of Toll the Hounds is one of the best convergences in the Malazan Book of the Fallen thus far.
I gotta say, Erikson is probably the reigning master of writing incredibly gripping balls-out action scenes. There were many nights when I absolutely could not put this book down because something insane was happening. On the times when Erikson does manage to draw me in, he draws me in completely, and everything else in the world falls away. This is a rare gift for a writer, and a quality the man only seems to improve upon with each book.
Despite it's monumental size, and a couple plot lines that I felt were superfluous, this was a damn good Malazan novel. With only two books to go, I could possibly crank them out in the next year, or I might dawdle and draw this series out for another two years. Hard to say, but if you are plugging your way through this series, and fighting the good fight, I for one think it is worth carrying on. Erikson always manages to deliver a good ending so I have high hopes for the tail end of the series.