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Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson
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Book Name: Deadhouse Gates
Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher(s): Tor Books (US) Bantam (UK)
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Epic Fantasy
Release Date: January 27, 2005 (US) October 1, 2001 (UK)

Get ready to enjoy your next bite of Steven Erikson’s bountiful feast, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, when you tuck into book two of the series, Deadhouse Gates.

Deadhouse Gates is a wonderful return on investment for those who pick it up, for while the preceding installment, Gardens of the Moon, is a good book, this one is a terrific one, and if there is no other reason to read Gardens – other than to get to Deadhouse – I would urge you to do it as you will not be disappointed.

I dare say that Deadhouse Gates deserves a place in the epic fantasy genre’s hall of greatness, perhaps even to be one of the foundation pillars of that hall, and that it comes so early in the series bodes exceedingly well for the enjoyment of first-time readers, as well for the ignition of an interest to go further and deeper into Erikson’s world.

Get ready for high tragedy and bitter sweet victory as gods are brought low, and men and women try to become gods. And because in confusion there is always opportunity, a hundred sets of hands are poised to rifle through the pockets of anything that falls in this struggle between the mundane and the agents of prophecy.

The action in this book translocates to the sub-continent of Seven Cities, a place that has been overrun and ruled by empire after empire and, as such, has had potent tragedy ground into the continent’s very strata. Most recently, Seven Cities finds itself under the control of the Malazans, who, about a generation before the events in this book, rolled through these lands, liberating populations from minor despots and religious zealotry. Despite their success as conquerors, the Malazans could do nothing about all those ancient legacies lying just beneath the streets and the desert sands.

We travel to these new lands with two veteran members of the Bridgeburners, the assassin, Kalam, and the sapper, Fiddler, who are here to further the Bridgeburners’ plans for revenge. Their target is none other than the new Empress of the Malazan Empire, as it is likely that she initiated the plans for the squad’s destruction that were supposed to come to fruition, first at Pale and then subsequently at Darujhistan.

Also travelling are Apsalar, formerly the Bridgeburner recruit, Sorry, who now possesses a new understanding of her place in things, as well Crokus, a young thief from Darujhistan who has set his sights on becoming a match for Apsalar in as many ways as she will allow. The four will journey from one end of Seven Cities to the other, to make use of an Azath house, one of the strangely-linked magical dwellings that are spread across this world and allow, not only safe travel between the continents, but can also to take travellers into new realms and dimensions.

For Fiddler and Kalam, coming to Seven Cities has special meaning. Fiddler was a Bridgeburner recruit during the Malazan conquest of the sub-continent and there is much he would wish to forget, including those moments when his own hidden talents refused to stay hidden, scaring the crap out of himself as well as practiced magic users. Kalam, a native of Seven Cities, joined the Malazan forces during those wars of conquest, and it was while in the Seven Cities desert of Raraku that the Bridgeburners, both good and bad, were recast as humans swathed in destiny.

But the arrival of this foursome is anything but timely for they disembark at the beginning of the Whirlwind, a holy uprising which owes its origins to just one of the Seven Cities’ ancient legacies. With the Malazans now in control of the continent’s holy cities, it is against them that the Whirlwind’s fury will be directed.

Kalam does what a Malazan assassin does best; and, as he looks after the once-young Crokus and the never-young Apsalar, we see the signs of Fiddler’s heart, which will create a beat for readers to keep time with for the rest of the series. In making their way to the Azath house, these travellers must contend with another convergence, that property of power within this world that compels ascendant forces to vie with one another. We also learn more about the realm of Shadow. Now rent asunder, competition for control over the splinters of this once-mighty realm is a recurring source of friction throughout the series. This convergence also draws into view Icarium and Mappo Trell, for whom assisting the Malazans to find the Azath house provides an interesting distraction from their own meanderings and questing.

But the real gem of Deadhouse Gates is the story of the Malazan Seventh Army which arrives in Seven Cities in time to face the Whirlwind. Totally loyal to the Malazan Empire, and foreigners to the ways of Seven Cities, as we follow their footsteps we are treated to a march of such obstinate determination that you will find yourself mirroring it with your refusal to quit reading. The story’s chain of dogs sequence is masterful writing in every sense of the word.

In this book, we come to grips with Erikson’s notion of ascendency, a convenience that identifies for us this world’s true hard arses, and in Coltaine we see one of the hardest. Yet it is also in Deadhouse Gates’ chain of dogs that we begin to see the creation of our own heroes. For while the Bridgeburners come to the Malazan Book of the Fallen with plenty of stories behind them, it is in these pages that we will meet some of the characters that will grow with us for the rest of the series and will become our own ascendants.

Also worthy of comment is how this book deepens our connection to the Paran family. In the first book, we followed closely the fortunes of eldest child, Ganoes, as he became the commander of the Bridgeburners. In this instalment, we meet the youngest daughter, Felisin. The youngest Paran sees and experiences the worst that the Whirlwind has to offer and yet graduates from this book in an almost unheralded position. And in Felisin’s story, Erikson sets us up nicely for the next time the action takes place on the sands of Seven Cities.

Deadhouse Gates is a triumph from beginning to end. Suitably gritty, it is nevertheless laced with a tenderness so sweet that it hurts when each body hits the ground. Best of all, despite the inherent qualities and achievements of Deadhouse Gates, this may not even be the best book in this series, which is truly saying something indeed.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (11 votes cast)
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, 9.5 out of 10 based on 11 ratings
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One Comment

  1. Micah says:

    I loved Deadhouse Gates. The Chain of Dogs sequence is one of the best arcs in fantasy. Unfortunately, my love for the bookdid not extend to Memories of Ice, next book, where I felt things took a sharp turn for the convoluted.

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