Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson
|Book Name:||Reaper’s Gale|
|Publisher(s):||Tor Books (US) Bantam (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook|
|Release Date:||May 7, 2007|
You’ve heard of the super cell? That thankfully rare occasion where a number of storms, each one a threat to life and limb and capable of doing some serious property damage, combines to create one mother of an event, the likes of which has people battening down the hatches or fleeing before the front? Well, with a treatment fit to wring awe from even the most jaded reader, that’s what you’re in for with Reaper’s Gale, book seven of Steven Erikson’s epic Malazan Book Of The Fallen.
In no particular order, cyclone Rhulad must meet with hurricane Karsa; tornado Errant will collide with tidal wave Bugg; and the sleeping Malazan 14th army volcano finally explodes on an unsuspecting Letheras. In addition, the latent becomes potent once more, with the Tiste Andian/Tiste Edur, Barghast, Shake, T’lan Imass, K’Chain Che’Malle and draconian earthquakes adding their own crescendos to the action.
First, a word about the Awl and Red Mask. Even as a first time reader of Reaper’s Gale, I found this an unnecessary sojourn. I mean, I get it; both in the here and now and for its place in the series as a whole, I just don’t think it is necessary and in a book with so much going on, it is, in my opinion, a distraction I could have done without. Having said that, the vignette with the kid on the farm is as poignant as any of the heart-wrenchers Erikson serves up throughout the series.
Yet even with my dissatisfaction with Red Mask’s story, this is a cracking book.
The Malazan 14th Army finally has an enemy to sink its teeth into, and the tactics employed by Tavore Paran are those straight from the old Emperor’s play book. Strings, Stormy and Gesler finally have a cadre of hard-arses to rival the Bridgeburners of old, and the Malazan blitzkrieg is as well-written an exploration of an invasion as you’ll find within a fantasy setting. And the engagement before the walls of the Letherii capital? If that don’t rock your damned socks off, then, I’m afraid, the epic fantasy genre just isn’t for you.
In my review of book five, Midnight Tides, I mentioned that one of the great aspects of that book was that it took us to a new world that was as rich as the one we’d just spent four books getting to know. Now in this book, we see the ultimate fruit of this segue to the other side of the world, yet this splendid showcase isn’t just for the sake of wrapping up the plots that began with the Sengar lads, as this book’s twists and turns also connects us to the larger tapestry of the world as a whole.
One of Erikson’s real skills as a writer is to treat his readers to such a rich panorama; after all you can’t have storms meeting, volcanoes exploding and earthquakes overturning everything without some pretty spectacular special effects taking place, yet he also allows the reader to take serious joy in the characterisation of those he wants us to know. Beak. Strings, Gesler and Stormy. Bugg and Tehol. Udinaas, Fear and Silchas Ruin. Hellian. Trull and Onrack. Clip. Quick Ben and Bottle. Sandalath and Phaed. Nimander. I could go on. You will note that Redmask’s name is not in this my list.
Another note – Toc must be Erikson’s proxy for some deep-seated need to cause pain because the Younger just can’t catch a break!
Despite this book’s occasional off note, book seven as a whole lifts this already lofty series, not merely because of what happens but because of how much we get to learn about our favourite characters, protagonists and antagonists, along the way.