Ian C. Esslemont – Night of Knives

Malaz gave a great empire its name, but now this island and its city amount to little more than a sleepy backwater. Until this night.

For this night there is to be a convergence, the once-in-a-generation appearance of a Shadow moon – an occasion that threatens the good people of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker things.

Also this night, it is prophesied that the Emperor Kellanved will return, and there are those who would prevent that happening at any cost. As factions within the Empire draw up battle lines, an ancient presence begins its all-out assault upon the island. Witnesses to these cataclysmic events include a thief called Kiska, and Temper, a war-weary veteran. Although they do not know it, they each have a part to play in a confrontation that will determine not only the fate of Malaz City but also of the world beyond…

The second book in the Malazan Reread of the Fallen over at Tor.com was Ian C. Esslemont’s Night of Knives. It was my first introduction to Esslemont’s writing and it was very enjoyable. As I’d been told his style was very different from Steven Erikson’s, I didn’t go in expecting it to be another Malazan book with just a different name on the cover. I think that definitely helped stave off any confusion or disappointment. Esslemont’s writing is far more direct than Erikson’s; most of the questions posed in the book are answered and there are far less red herrings.

The writing in Night of Knives is a little uneven, but there were passages that were arresting. Such as the following:

‘Eventually the beast wearied of the game and let him roll away. Crippled, his arm broken and mangled, he was past pain and long past fear. He was in a place he hadn’t know since his last battle nearly a year ago, and it was like a strange reunion. He was floating, euphoric. It was the place he retreated to during the worst of his engagements. Where all his strength and resilience flowed unbound. Where his body moved like some remote automaton of flesh and bone; where no injury could reach. Lying broken and dirt-smeared, he bared his teeth at the hound.’ p. 220

I really, really liked the flow of these lines. And the baring of his teeth reminded me of Paran in Gardens of the Moon, which gave me a nice sense of connection to the other series. Another example is when Esslemont switches locations in a flashback. I liked the juxtaposition of the icy, stormy, freezing beach where some of the characters are in the present to the hot, arid Y’Ghatan plain of Temper’s flashback. Lastly, I really enjoyed  the spookiness of the writing. Some of the scenes, especially those at the Deadhouse were pretty spooky and since we read the book around Halloween, it was perfect for that time of year!

On the reread threads there was a lot of grumbling about Kiska, but I actually liked Kiska’s POV. She was completely exasperating, but this was mostly because she behaved as a typical teen. And teenagers are supposed to be stubborn, pig-headed, self-righteous and convinced of their own immortality. I loved Temper’s far more experienced view too. But funnily enough, Artan was my favourite character in this book. I loved the way he sort of took Kiska under his wing. My favourite scenes in the book were the flashbacks of Dassem and the battle at the Deadhouse. That just had me turning pages till it ended, I just couldn’t stop reading.

The ending was a bit neat for me, everything nicely squared away, with only the Stormriders for a hook for the next book, but other than that I really enjoyed Night of Knives! It was totally different from SE, but that never bothered me as much as it seems to have bothered others. On the whole, this book is a must read for any Malazan fan and recommended for anyone who enjoys an exciting, battle-filled story.


2 thoughts on “Ian C. Esslemont – Night of Knives”

  1. I really enjoyed this book too. I'm currently reading Memories of Ice and am on a Malazan kick. I'm trying not to leave too much time in between books which I did with Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates as there's so much detail which I end up forgetting. Yay for doorstoppers!

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