Steven Erikson has completed his epic fantasy 10-book fantasy series The Malazan Book of the Fallen. The final volume — the 928-page The Crippled God, in hardcover from Tor books — went on sale yesterday.
I remember when my buddy Neil Walsh reviewed the first volume, Gardens of the Moon, for my new website SF Site a dozen years ago. Copies weren’t available in North America yet, but that didn’t stop Neil from remarking on what he told me was the most exciting new author he’d discovered in a long time:
This is an astounding debut fantasy novel. The world is fully realized and the characters are people you want to spend time with. The world history is tremendously complex, spanning hundreds of thousands of years. The character histories and interactions are equally complex and interesting…
Unsurprisingly, it’s only the first of The Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. There are 10 books planned — wait, don’t go yet. Hear me out. There are 10 books planned in the “sequence,” but each is intended to be a stand-alone story, unified by their chronicling of the lives of 3 members of the noble house of Paran, each of whom plays a key role in the history of the Malazan Empire. (In this one, Captain Ganoes Paran plays a key role by being knifed in an alley the same day he is assigned to his new command. Well, there’s actually a lot more to his involvement than that, but… read it and see.)
So, I imagine you’re wondering, “Is it true? Is this a stand-alone novel?”
Well, let’s call a spade a spade. This isn’t the first in a 10-book “sequence;” it’s the first of a lengthy, complex and intriguing series. But a series which — based on this first installment — has the potential to become known as a defining work in a market already overwhelmed with fantasy series.
Some time later The New York Times reported on the unusual internet buzz that had sprung up around the book, and the effect it had on the reported 6-figure sum Erikson negotiated to complete the series. Erikson called Neil in Ottawa shortly afterwards to thank him, and I saw quotes from his review printed in bold at the top of later installments. And just as Neil predicted over a decade ago, The Malazan Book of the Fallen has become one of the defining fantasy works of the early 21st Century.
As for me, I decided to wait until the series was completed before tackling it (a lesson I learned from Game of Thrones). I dutifully bought them as they were released, forming an impressive span on my bookshelf, looking forward to that final volume. A span that, if my math is correct, measures exactly 10,020 pages in paperback. And so now I’ve learned another valuable lesson: waiting until the end isn’t always a brilliant plan, genius. When am I going to find six months to read it?
I may have painted myself into a corner, but hopefully you haven’t. Have a look at The Crippled God, and let us know if you think it makes a fitting conclusion to a famous fantasy series.