It’s true, I’ve been reading the same book for the past month. Which, wow, this is not traditionally my way. I guess I’ve been actually that busy, on top of, of course, how very long the book is. And make no mistake, The Bonehunters is yet another extremely long book in Steven Erikson’s extremely long fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Despite the apparent lessons of the ’90s, this is not a warning. For one thing, he has consistently released a new book every year, and now has only two left to complete. For another, this is pretty much better than any of the doorstop series you may be thinking of right now. It feels like it might be objectively better than any of them, but I’m not quite prepared to go that far.
The Bonehunters wraps up a lot of the plotlines from the first two books of the series in order to clear the way for the rapidly approaching confrontation between the Crippled God and those who oppose him. Of course, the sides aren’t as clear as that sounds; there are a lot of people whose side is still unclear or undecided, and many more whose side is unclear to them as characters although not to me as a reader. And sure, that’s part of what makes the series continue to be dense at best and actively confusing in its ever rarer worst moments; but at the same time, it’s one of the series’ greatest strengths. There are almost no unlikable characters! Writers talk about the fact that there are no people who consider themselves to be “the bad guy”, but these are among the only books I’ve read that really manage that self-image over such a large cast, and also among the only books that manage to make almost every character compelling, whether noble or base, ascendant or tragic.
I’ve said before that I want to reread the series because it has been so dense and so long, which together conspire to make me think I’m missing things. And I probably am, but not enough to take away from my exceptional regard for each book as I read it. All that said, though, I found a new reason to want to reread the series: it’s pretty much my favorite story-arc being published today, and maybe period. (I have pretty high regard for a couple of episodic series too, but that really is a different genre entirely, in terms of commitment.)
The Gardens of the Moon. Pick it up. Trust me on this one, even if it seems implausible as you read it. You’ll thank me later.