Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Toll the Hounds

Normally, I can only handle about one Malazan book per year, but with the end of the series drawing near, I thought I'd get Toll the Hounds under my belt, and give myself the option of reading another Malazan book later on in 2011.

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.

Grade: B


Aubrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seak (Bryce L.) said...

Sorry, that last one was me - posted through my wife's account on accident. Here's what I said:

You just described exactly my reading experience with Toll the Hounds. Insane amounts of trepidation, but then the endings, especially this one, just blow your mind.

I've been meaning to start Dust of Dreams soon, but I keep finding other stuff. Maybe once classes are over I can put in the time. It's always worth it, but at first it's all about putting in the time.

Great review, you seriously said exactly everything I thought about it not to mention feelings toward the whole series...and that's why I come back. :)

Ryan said...

Thanks sir, glad you liked the review. It's good to know that there are other people out there who struggle with the series, but still love it despite some flaws.

I might give Dust of Dreams a read later this year, but like you said, I'll probably have to wait till classes are out of the way so I can give it the time it deserves/requires.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

It is really funny isn't it. I absolutely love this series, one of my all time favorites in fact. But it's so hard to get into and rarely is there a book that lets you just jump right in, that it takes me a while to approach. Hence why I can't read them all in a row I guess.

Ryan said...

Did you hear he's got more Malazan stuff planned now that he's finished Malazan Book of the Fallen? Add in the Ian Esslemont books and that's like 20 Malazan books in all!

After I finish this current series I'll have to decide if I still have a hankering for more Malazan stuff.

I've only read one of the ICE books, but I have Return of the Crimson Guard on my shelf.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

Return of the Crimson Guard is one of my favorites of both series. The convergence in that one is just awesome, plus we learn a bunch about Traveller. Was it revealed who he is in Toll? I forget.

I'll definitely be reading the other Malazan stuff that's comes out. I'm a huge fan and I find myself missing the series after too long.

I just like the fact that he's not afraid to make his characters the best of the best, all-powerful, and just plain awesome. Not many like to do this, but Erikson pulls it off.

Ryan said...

That's good to hear about Return of the Crimson Guard. I'll have to give that a read sometime soon.

Yeah, they very briefly mentioned who Traveller is in Toll the Hounds...I think it came up when he met with Shadowthrone and Cotillion.

I agree, he pulls off the Super-powerful characters quite well. I always find myself wondering: "What would happen if So-and-so fought What's-his-name...?" Lots of people in the series seem insanely powerful, but the hierarchy of who is better than who is a bit muddy.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

Haha, I do that all the time. I want to see Karsa fight Tool. I thought we were a bit cheated with Karsa vs. Icarium, although I had no idea how that was going to work.

Ryan said...

Yeah, Karsa vs. Icarium would have blown up the universe. For what its worth, I started up a "Malazan Power Rankings" post at SFF World.

I thought it would be interesting to see what those folks thought about the subject.