Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
|Book Name:||Dust of Dreams|
|Publisher(s):||Tor Books (US) Bantam Press (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / eBook|
|Release Date:||January 19, 2010 (US) May 27, 2010 (UK)|
Dust of Dreams, book nine of Steven Erikson’s grand work of epic fantasy, the Malazan Book of the Fallen, is really a torturer’s handbook in disguise. This is true for two reasons. First, we all know how important an ending is: whether that be for a self-contained novel or for a longer series. I don’t know how many times I’ve read a book that is great until the last one hundred pages, and then the author screws the pooch. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised when an ordinary book kicks into overdrive, delivering a memorable ending. So after close to two-and-a-half million words and near to ten thousand pages of cracking story – which direction will Erikson head as the end draws near?
Second, by the penultimate book in any series, as well as in any review of that series, the author realises that if you’re still reading by now, then, by hook or by crook, you’re likely going to read book ten as well. With this in mind, it is not uncommon for an element of sloppiness to creep into the writing; long-forgotten red herrings make a dramatic comeback, well-loved characters are forgotten as the focus shifts to others more necessary characters, and un-looked for plot elements sometimes parachute into clumsily draw together disparate threads.
So how does our author deal with these challenges in Dust of Dreams? With excruciating brilliance, actually! With more words written in this series so far than is contained in Library of Congress, there is so much to be wrapped up it is not funny, so much so in fact that the tome-like book nine and encyclopaedic book ten are considered by the author to be the one conclusion split into two.
So who do we see in Dust of Dreams? Once more we are amongst the Letherii, where the fallout from the events from Reaper’s Gale are still causing smoke to rise from the remains. Tehol and his brother, Brys, both ably supported by that wet fish, Bugg, must figure out what to do about the Malazan army, who have recently been cast into the role of liberators, after freeing the Letherii from the Tiste Edur (although, an equally valid argument could also be made that they saved the Edur from the Letherii). Thankfully, as far as the being-conquered-fatigued Letherii Empire is concerned, Tavore, her Bonehunters, and her motley of allies have no interest in staying in Lether, and instead are focussed on the wastelands on the borders.
Yet reaching Tavore’s destination is by no means certain, as avaricious and opportunistic forces stand in her way. So, what is it out there that Tavore knows that the locals don’t? A chance at restitution is what, but there such is a long way to go before these grapes can be grasped and wine made from them. Tavore is going to need the strength and resolve of every hard-arse in her army to keep her forces together while also negotiating her way through hostile territory. Lostara Yil, Fiddler, Stormy and Gesler: their every footstep echoes with the weights of their ascendency, while new comers Ruthan Gudd, Mortal Sword Krughava and Queen Abrastal play their parts as well. And there are times when you will want to be able to climb into the pages of this book and kill Fist Blisteg yourself!
The Nameless Ones and poor Icarium are set for a conclusion, with a Forkrul Assail also throwing her ladle into the cauldron as well, just to give things a stir. The truth at last comes out about the K’Chain Che’Melle, who are presented in this book in such terms that it is hard not to think the world would have been a lot better had this ancient race been left to their own devices.
Meanwhile a posse of Elder gods, including the much diminished Errant, prepare their final throw of the dice; with a tactic that would have been totally at home during the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) days of the Cold War.
Sandalath Drukorlat and the remnants of the Shake close in on their own date with destiny while Silchas Ruin, Udinaas and Ryadd plan their own demise. Olar Ethill and Draconus stalk the plains of Kolanse: there is all this and so much more!
And here’s where the torture starts. From the first page of this book, as a reader I could sense the conclusion of the series with the force of an approaching train, and I wanted answers to all of my questions and I wanted them now! While this book delivers all of Erikson’s characteristic pace, sense of humour and emotional weight, it still wasn’t enough! I was an addict wanting more, no matter how much of the good stuff Erikson sprinkles through this work, I found myself hopping nervously from foot to foot, scratching at my arm like a bunch of spiders were trying to get out, just so I could get my full hit and see what finally happens at the end.
Like a shadow thrown by a skyscraper, the ultimate end of the series looms large, yet with an alarming lack of definition, over this book, which I found myself reading in record time. How lucky for fresh readers who, having finished book nine, can easily pick up book ten. Just think of the excruciating tenterhooks that I was on, as a first time reader, as I waited for book ten, all those years ago.
Dust of Dreams provides a satisfying half-conclusion, yet who could be satisfied with a half-conclusion alone! The drama ends with the series only major cliff-hanger and ensures the reader is eager as all get out for the start of book ten.