Birthday Reviews: Steven Erikson’s “Goats of Glory”

Sunday, October 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Brian Carré

Cover by Brian Carré

Steven Erikson was born on October 7, 1959. Trained as an anthropologist and archeologist, Erikson’s real name is Steve Lundin.

Erikson was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for his novel Gardens of the Moon in 2000 and in 2017, the ten book series begun with that novel, Malazan Book of the Fallen, was nominated for the Aurora Award for Best of the Decade. The Malazan books are set in a world which Erikson and his friend, Ian Cameron Esslemont, created in 1982 for their role-playing games. In addition to the novels Erikson has written, Esslemont has also written books set in the same world.

Originally published in Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders in 2010, Paula Guran selected “Goats of Glory” for inclusion in her 2017 anthology Swords Against Darkness.

“Goats of Glory” tells the story of a band of five warriors who are escaping a huge defeat. Originally known as Rams for the pins they wear, they have re-dubbed themselves goats following the loss and have stumbled across the tiny and remote village of Glory. As soon as their arrival is made known, one of the villagers begins digging graves for them, expecting that they will visit the ancient ruins of the castle on the hill and be killed by the demonic inhabitants.

Erikson splits his narrative between the points of view of Swillsman, Glory’s innkeeper, Graves, the gravedigger, and the five goats. By shifting viewpoints, Erikson successfully manages to build suspense as to which of his characters will succeed and which will die, although once the Goats go up against the demonic hordes, the suspense quickly evaporates. The battle sequences between the five goats and the demons are, perhaps, the weakest part of the story, although Erikson does break them up by revisiting the other characters to show them making plans for the heroes’ eventual defeat and deaths, clearly showing that the heroes aren’t the first to brave the abandoned fortress.

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In 500 Words of Less: Early Review of Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson

Friday, June 15th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Rejoice A Knife to the Heart US-smallRejoice: A Knife to the Heart
By Steven Erikson
Promontory Press (460 pages, $26 hardcover, October 2018)

I’ve been a Steven Erikson fan for a long time, ever since a friend handed me the first Malazan novel, Gardens of the Moon, when I was in university. You might have seen on here a few months ago that I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Steven at Can*Con in Ottawa, where he was Author Guest of Honor. That whole experience was cool all on its own, but following that I got the privilege of reading an ARC of his forthcoming novel Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart, which Bennett R. Coles has already called “a stunning work of literature.”

Honestly, the literature side of Rejoice is what surprised me the most. In our interview, Steven and I talked about how his first publications before Malazan were literary, which struck me since it’s rare for authors in our industry to jump genres like that. But what’s particularly interesting with Rejoice is that he takes the large-scale worldbuilding, extensive cast of characters and air of mystery of his fantasy work and applies is to the present day – or a twist on the present day, involving Earth’s first contact with an alien race. The novel’s already been described as “a first contact story without contact”; since this isn’t Independence Day or Close Encounters, the focus is instead on us, and how we’d react if an alien intelligence showed up and gave us a chance to improve ourselves.

That might sound like this is a novel that preaches or proselytizes, but it really doesn’t. Instead what you see is snapshots of people’s lives around the planet, from politicians to scientists to media tycoons to refugees in developing countries, all facing situations beyond their control (and almost their comprehension) and needing to decide what they should do about it. If you’re hoping for flashy energy weapons or epic journeys like in the Malazan books, you won’t find it here – but the debates and conversations between the characters in Rejoice, and the steps they take in response to this alien influence, are often tense and always intriguing. At the end of the day, a lot of our way of life (regardless of political ideology or religious belief) is about having some measure of control over our lives, and when that’s taken away very interesting things can happen.

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Wordsmiths: Black Gate Interviews Steven Erikson at Can*Con 2017

Friday, November 17th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

As I’ve mentioned periodically here, I’m part of the planning committee for Can*Con, Ottawa’s annual conference on science fiction, fantasy and horror writing, and specifically help to develop each year’s program. This year I had the amazing opportunity to sit down for a live interview with Canadian fantasy writer Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and Willful Child series and one of our 2017 Guests of Honor. And we even recorded it!

Above is the entirety of my interview with Steven, discussing his previous work, his writing process, the fantasy genre in general, and what’s coming next from this prolific author. The chance to chat with him was a huge privilege and an absolute blast, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

You can check out Steven’s work at or his new Facebook author page, and see our previous coverage of his work here at Black Gate.

Also check out Can*Con at (@CanConSF on Twitter) and keep an eye out for dates and guests for 2018!

Many thanks to Silver Stag Studios for filming this interview. Scope them out here (@SilverStagStdio on Twitter).

In 500 words or Less … The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

Friday, October 7th, 2016 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

the-wurms-of-blearmouth-smallWhen someone asks my favorite fantasy series, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is usually one that I mention. It’s one of those sprawling epics with great characters and a complex, vibrant world that sucked me in and inspired me to write fantasy of my own.

After the series ended, I grabbed the next Erikson book I could find — The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach — and was delighted. I read the next in that series, Crack’d Pot Trail … and put it down after a couple chapters.

Erikson’s most recent work is a series of prequels (which I avoid) and his other recent books haven’t interested me, so when I found another Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella, The Wurms of Blearmouth, I almost didn’t pick it up.

Overall, though, this latest tale was satisfying. The theme in the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach stories seems to be that everyone is a terrible person, but the residents of Spendrugle take things to a new level of depravity. I balked a little at first with the female characters specifically, who are stupid or vile or both — but then I realized that you can describe every character from Wurms that way, and so I got over it (mostly). In this case, Erikson is very “equal opportunity” when it comes to negative characteristics, so don’t be turned off by what’s depicted in the opening chapters (you probably will be anyway).

The real point to these stories, after all, is to follow famed necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach and their manservant, Emancipor, from screwed-up situation to screwed-up situation; they’re the real draw for me, and Erikson consistently entertains me with the way that they go about doing evil work without seeming to care about the consequences.

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New Treasures: Fall of Light, Book Two of the Kharkanas Trilogy by Steven Erikson

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Forge of Darkness-small Fall of Light-small

Steven Erikson’s 10-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen is one of the great works of fantasy of the 21st Century. It began with Gardens of the Moon in 1999; by 2012 the series had sold over a million copies worldwide.

In August 2012, Erikson kicked off The Kharkanas Trilogy, a prequel trilogy dealing with the Tiste before their split into darkness, light and shadow, with the opening novel Forge of Shadow. That book delved into events hinted at in the earlier series, and featured important characters from the Malazan Book of the Fallen such as Spinnoch Durav, Anomander Rake, and Andaris.

Erikson picks up the tale with Fall of Light, hot off the Tor presses this week, continuing the tragic story of the downfall of an ancient realm thousand years before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Civil war is ravaging Kurald Galain, as Urusander’s Legion prepares to march on the city of Kharkanas, and Silchas Ruin seeks to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him and resurrect the Hust Legion in the southlands… but he is fast running out of time.

Fall of Light was published today by Tor Books. It is 864 pages, priced at $29.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Future Treasures: Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Willful Child Steven Erikson-smallSince we’ve been talking about Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont’s Malazan books this weekend, I thought I’d slip in a mention of Erikson’s upcoming novel Willful Child — which looks like a pretty significant departure from his epic fantasy roots.

Erikson completed his monumental Malazan Book of the Fallen with the tenth volume, The Crippled God, in March 2011. He didn’t take much of a breather: Forge of Darkness, the first novel in his new Kharkanas Trilogy, appeared a year later; the second, Fall of Light, is scheduled to arrive next February. He’s also been writing short tales featuring the necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach — five so far, including Crack’d Pot Trail.

But now comes word that his latest book is a tongue-in-cheek space opera called Willful Child, which Robert Sawyer calls “A love letter to Star Trek and its fans — a pitch-perfect tour de force.” Given Steven Erikson’s gifts as a storyteller, and my own love of Star Trek, this has immediately become one of the most anticipated novels of the year for me.

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Willful Child will be published by Tor Books on November 4, 2014. It is 352 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version.

New Treasures: Crack’d Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

Monday, April 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Crack'd Pot Trail-smallIt was Jason Waltz, the hard-working mastermind behind Rogue Blades Entertainment, who first introduced me to the twisted and entertaining adventures of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, the famed necromancers from the Malazan Book of the Fallen. With little in the way of redeeming qualities, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach — and their hard-drinking manservant, Emancipor Reese — are the unlikely protagonists in a series of short novels that mix comedy and horror in equal measure. This time they find themselves on the run from a group of skilled hunters determined to bring them to justice for their foul misdeeds.

It is an undeniable truth: give evil a name and everyone’s happy.  Give it two names and… why, they’re even happier.

Intrepid necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent, and modest personifications of evil, have a lot to answer for and answer they will. Known as the Nehemoth, they are pursued by countless self-professed defenders of decency, sanity, and civilization. After all, since when does evil thrive unchallenged? Well, often — but not this time.

Hot on their heels are the Nehemothanai, avowed hunters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. In the company of a gaggle of artists and pilgrims, stalwart Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pious Well Knight Arpo Relent, stern Huntsman Steck Marynd, and three of the redoubtable Chanter brothers (and their lone sister) find themselves faced with the cruelest of choices. The legendary Crack’d Pot Trail, a stretch of harsh wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God, has become a tortured path of deprivation.

Will honor, moral probity, and virtue prove champions in the face of brutal necessity? No, of course not. Don’t be silly.

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach previously appeared in Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, The Lees of Laughter’s End (all previously collected in a single volume, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: Three Short Novels of the Malazan Empire, Volume One), and The Wurms of BlearmouthCrack’d Pot Trail was published September 13, 2011 by Tor Books. It is 204 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. I bought mine remaindered from for just $5.20; a handful of copies are still available at the discounted price.

Tor Releases The Devil Delivered and Other Tales by Steven Erikson

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-devil-delivered-and-other-tales2I know we’ve got a lot of Steven Erikson fans out there. We’ve got your back.

On Tuesday Tor Book released The Devil Delivered and Other Tales, the latest collection of a trio of fantasy novellas from Steven Erikson, following 2009’s Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, which gathered three short novels of the Malazan Empire.

Like Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, The Devil Delivered and Other Tales features work previously printed in expensive limited edition hardcovers from PS Publishing: The Devil Delivered (from March 2005), Fishin’ with Grandma Matchie (November 2005), and Revolvo (December 2008). Most of them are no longer available, or available only at collector’s prices, so if you’re an Erikson fan who hasn’t seen them before this edition is a bargain.

Unlike Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, this volume features standalone tales unrelated to his popular Malazan Empire setting. Here’s the summary for the first story, The Devil Delivered:

Mind the Hole. In a world of ozone depletion, toxic deadzones, internicine brew-ups and lifeless oceans, nothing has changed. Or so it seems, but in the break-away Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, something is happening. Tracked by a growing global audience of online subversives and electronic muckers, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world’s powers to their knees. Past and future; restless ghosts and rogue corporations; rad-shielded cities and unprotected peripheral populations; all now face each other, across a chasm once wide but growing ever narrower. Mother Earth is poisoned beyond any hope of resuscitation. Humanity beyond any hope of redemption — but one last lesson of life awaits. When Nature starts losing the game, Nature changes the rules. We’ve turned paradise into Hell, and in Hell, the Devil Delivers.

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales is $14.99 in trade paperback for 336 pages. It was published by Tor Books on June 19, 2012.

Steven Erikson finally gets a Bestseller with The Crippled God

Monday, March 14th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

the-crippled-godJustin Golenbock, publicist at Tor, tells us that Steven Erikson’s The Crippled God, the last book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, will debut at #12 on the print bestseller list in the March 20 edition of The New York Times. It’s only the second time for Erikson — last year his previous novel barely made the list.

As Justin puts it:

Steven’s first novel, Gardens of the Moon, came out in 1999 to much fanfare…and flopped. We spent the next ten years and eight novels telling everybody and anybody who would listen that this was THE fantasy series to be reading, the best that no one knew about. The depth and breadth of its world, characters and cultures, its heartbreaking yet addictive story, and the level of pathos and philosophy embedded into every narrative layer is staggering. Erikson’s core fans knew; so many of our top-selling authors kept telling us, he’s the guy who deserves it more; yet it was on us to convince everyone else.

Then last fall, Steven’s ninth novel, Dust of Dreams, finally squeaked its way onto the NYT extended bestseller list, claiming the last spot at #35… and it was just this afternoon that we learned that the tenth and final novel in his Magnus opus will get the due he so richly deserves.

During his 2008 book tour Steven confirmed that he had signed to write six more Malazan novels; two trilogies, one of which would be a prequel to the main series, detailing the history of Anomander Rake and Mother Dark. He also plans six additional Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas, set in the same world.

Congratulations to Steven Erikson, Justin Golenboc, and Tor books on a job well done!

Steven Erikson Calls it a Series with The Crippled God

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

gardens_of_the_moonSteven 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 volumeGardens 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.

the-crippled-godSome 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.

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