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Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson

Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson
4.5
Book Name: Midnight Tides
Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher(s): Tor Fantasy (US) Bantam (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: August 28, 2007 (US) March 1, 2005 (UK)

This review contains some spoilers. Read with caution if you have yet to finish the book.

Midnight Tides, book five of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, provides robust proof of Steven Erikson’s skills as an author, and kicks the whole series into overdrive. Now at book 5/10, we have made it to the middle of the series and, at a time when so many series begin to falter in intent or execution, Steven Erikson hits his audience with a new beginning; so buckle your seat belts because from here on in the books, including this one, are all brilliant.

In a brave authorial move Erikson takes his reader on the segue to end all segues; moving the action to new lands, selecting characters seemingly from out of nowhere, and dredging the world’s antiquity to give us some of the most significant moments we have yet experienced: and the end result is fantastic. Sick of the Bridgeburners? How ‘bout we forget about ‘em for a while and read about the all-too-deadly Crimson Guard? Not really getting into the Tiste Andii? Well, we gotta whole lotta their shadowy family members who just hate their darkness-loving cousins. And aching to put some lines in and join the dots between some key events in antiquity? Then look no further than the prologue of this book.

Long before the rise of human civilisations, great forces pitted themselves against each other in order to escape chaos. The first children of Mother Dark, as well as those of her coupling with Father Light, and the K’Chain Che’malle, all battled with room for only one survivor. Yet all of this is witnessed; and a decision is made by a coterie of gods and those who are near-to-gods-as-dammit, to preserve the evidence of both the conflict and the betrayal.

Flash forward a few epochs and explorers from the First Empire, which is yet to attract the ire of the T’lan Imass or fall to the vanity of the first heroes, arrive to establish human colonies on this forgotten land. And when calamity does befall the First Empire, these colonists are left to fend for themselves.

Flash forward another few epochs and we’re ready to start this story – but do not underestimate what Erikson has achieved here for it is nothing less than masterful. With few touchstones to the earlier books, with the words he sets out in this work alone, Erikson paints for us an enlarged world that is as rich as the one he took is through in the preceding four instalments of the series. Undoubtedly there are hints for readers; the holds and the houses, the tiles and the deck of dragons, and the influence of the Crippled God, but there is so much more here too.

Erikson quickly establishes memorable characters that burst off the page with powerful emotions: the Sengar brothers, for whom it is difficult not to feel the palpable hatred between Trull and Rhulad, as well as the Beddict brothers, amongst whom exists an enduring, and endearing, familial bond. Trull Sengar and Tehol Beddict are two of the greatest characters in this whole series, perhaps even in the whole genre. Trull’s story is poignant and is delivered with gravitas. And the passages between Tehol and his manservant, Bugg, are some of the best dialogue and moments of dramatic irony you’ll find anywhere in modern fantasy.

When the Crippled God reaches out to the Tiste Edur, fate intervenes and places Rhulad in the god’s grasp, giving the youngest Sengar child the means to order the world as he sees fit. But the price of this is high and Rhulad’s agency is soon at an end when he becomes a tool for the Crippled God as well as a target for the machinations of others.

When Rhulad brings his Tiste Edur to bear against the Letherii Empire, this forgotten remnant of the First Empire finds itself dealing with forces beyond its comprehension. Yet the Beddict brothers are not so easily quailed. I want to say more but don’t want to spoil the gems in this book for anyone.

While Gardens of the Moon is officially book one of this series, it is not the strongest book and if you were wondering whether to give the Malazan Book of the Fallen a go, you could do much worse than to pick up this book and read it as a standalone work of fantasy. If at the end you find yourself thinking, “Go Bugg, go!” then there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself reaching for other installments of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Rating: 7.1/10 (14 votes cast)
Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson, 7.1 out of 10 based on 14 ratings
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3 Comments

  1. Idlewilder says:

    There should be a spoiler warning at the start of this review. Rhulad’s transformation is one of the most incredible sequences in this series. Anyone reading this review before reading Midnight Tides will be robbed of that build up.

  2. Shawn Gillogly says:

    I have to admit, of all the Malazan Series (And I’ve read it through 3 times, which is more than anything not named the Bible, Tolkien, or Winds of War), this was the hardest read. Not because of the shift of focus. But because I didn’t agree with the critique underlying Erikson’s worldbuilding of the Letherii. That the 1st third of Reaper’s Gale virtually retold this story got me to the one point where I almost dropped the series. But the ending or RG is so epic, I forgave him and didn’t look back. 😛

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