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Memories of Ice, book #3 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Review by ArakasiMemories of Ice is the third book Steven Erikson has written in his A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It returns to the continent of Genabackis and to the characters of Gardens of the Moon. The story takes place simultaneously with that of Deadhouse Gates. In the south of the continent an empire is expanding, destroying all in its path. It is known as the Pannion Domin, composed of both trained armies and of armies of cannibal peasants, driving by starvation to perform unspeakable acts. Former enemies from GotM have to work together to fight this new threat. Next in line to be attacked by the Pannion Domin is the city of Capustan, guarded by 7000 mercenies of the Grey Swords, sworn to the war god Fener. But behind this Pannion Domin lies another greater threat, one much more powerful, an ancient evil.
Okay that was as far as I could say about the plot without introducing spoilers from Gardens of the Moon. That's what I get for trying to make a review that doesn't give spoilers from previous books. Anyways at 900 pages in hardcover this book is massive. Probably the most sprawling of the books so far, it covers a lot of ground and gives a lot of information about the world and characters, both in retelling through characters and in smaller doses too. I'm still amazed by how seamlessly he weaves it all in. He also writes a bit more explanation, which should help the people who have been confused by the series so far. Many characters from Gardens of the Moon have returned, but there are new additions as well, mainly in people from the city of Capustan as well as some members of the Pannion Domin. Lady Envy is a fun character, snippish in ways but quite a hoot as well. In this book there is more of a return of the Ascendants and gods and of the struggles between them, for power and for survival. Godhood in Erikson's world is no shield against death.
Another thing that impresses me is despite the darkness in the series, the characters speak and converse with each other in a way that is full of humour. One thing that I don't love about Martin is that all his humour is black or dark, like Tyrion for example. I know im my review of GotM I said the humour was all dark, but after rereading the series I'd have to change that. It is a heavy series for sure, Erikson himself has referred to his books as tragedies. But there is lots of light-hearted banter to the books, that you see in the way the Bridgeburners deal with each other, or how Envy deals with her friends. It does get mixed in with a heavy plot though. There are plenty of themes that run through the book and many moral questions. Ones of loss and redemption, of sacrifices and of heroism. There are some very heavy emotional scenes at the end when Erikson unloads everything in the novel's climax.
The battles in MoI are as well top notch, with the siege of Capustan a brilliant piece of writing. Erikson's knowledge of battle surfaced in Deadhouse Gates and here he continues with his knowledge of history to supplement his writing talents. The man is an archeologist and anthropologist, so he knows what he is doing when he goes about his stuff. Plus there is some amazing over the top moments, ones that make me think of the end of Lord of Chaos or the battle of the Pelennor Fields. I love big cinematic scenes like that, ones that I can close my eyes to and just imagine the pictures flowing into images. Obviously I loved this book as well. I'd give it a 4.75 or a 5. Only reason the 4.75 is there is because for a little bit early in the book there is a tad too much exposition and the story slows down slightly. If Erikson continues at this pace for his books which I hope he does he is going to have about the most impressive series ever in fantasy, only perhaps matched by Tolkien and Martin if he keeps his pace too.
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