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Orb, Sceptre, Throne (2012): The Saga Continues

Ian C. Esslemont, Orb Sceptre Throne (Tor, 2012)


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The best thing about the covers of the Malazan novels? How bright and happy they all are.

Ian Esslemont, the co-creator of the world where Steven Erikson set his massive, wonderful Malazan Book of the Fallen series, returns with his fourth novel set in that world. It’s a bit of a step back from Stonewielder, but not much of one. (And I will admit: after fifty pages I thought I was going to be getting the book I’ve wanted since day one, the Book of Kruppe, and I was more than a little disappointed this ended up not being it, which probably affected my judgment summat. Your mileage may vary.)

It’s usually a silly undertaking to try and even come up with a main plotline in a Malazan-themed novel, but two plots do eventually win out as “main” plots. One revolves around the city of Darujhistan, where it all began. Darujhistan is (relatively) at peace now, and it’s back to the crazy political scheming and day-to-day nastiness that defines life in a big town, and little bits of it sift down into, and begin to influence, the doings at K’rul’s Bar, the establishment owned by a number of former Bridgeburners and patronized by some of their best friends (Duiker the historian, for one) and most valuable acquaintances, even if no one actually seems to like them all that much (Kruppe! Dear Kruppe!). When an amateur scholar south of the city uncovers a long-sealed tomb, he discovers that some things are meant to remain underground…and the only people who can stop them are the patrons of K’rul’s, ineptly aided by everyone’s favorite drunkards, Scorch and Leff, who had tried to make a quick buck by hiring on as the scholar’s bodyguards. The other involves a certain other former Bridgeburner (whose name is not revealed until much later in the story, though his demeanor gives it away pretty quick) who has decided to join the throngs attempting to make their fortunes by plundering the remains of Moon’s Spawn, which crashed into the sea south of Genabackis. On his way to the jumping-off point, he finds himself making both friends and enemies, and by the time he gets to the wreckage, he’s part of a party of adventurers, and they’ve already got a price on their heads…

The simple fact of the matter is that if you’re a Malazan fan, you’re going to like this book. If you’re not yet, this is not a starting point—go back to Gardens of the Moon, the first book of Erikson’s series, or read Night of Knives, Esslemont’s first, which takes place before the beginning of Erikson’s works, to see how well the structures of the books work for you. If you get on with them, you’ll be burning through the books in record time, and will be begging for more (good news: Erikson has just released the first in a new trilogy, and Esslemont’s fifth novel is slated for release in May 2013). If not… this isn’t going to change your mind. Guess which side I’m on? ****

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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