Steven Erikson – Deadhouse Gates

In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising named the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in its size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends…

Embittered and enslaved, Felisin, the youngest daughter of the disgraced House of Paran, dreams of escape from the horrors of the Otataral mines. However, freedom and revenge have their price: her soul. The outlawed Bridgeburners Fiddler and Kalam had vowed to rid the world of the Empress Laseen but it appears the gods have other plans. And Coltaine, the charismatic but untried commander of the Malaz 7th army, will lead his war-weary troops in a last, valiant running battle to save the lives of thirty thousand refugees and, in so doing, secure an illustrious place in the Empire’s chequered history. Then into this blighted land come two ancient wanderers, Mappo the Trell and his half-Jaghut companion, Icarium, bearers of a devastating secret about to let slip its chains.

Well, another book wrapped up in the Malazan Reread of the Fallen over on Deadhouse Gates is the second book in Erikson’s massive series, which was just completed by the publication of The Crippled God last month. While it takes us back to the sprawling world of the Malazan Empire, it doesn’t take us back to those we left at the end of Gardens of the Moon; or at least not all of them. Instead we are taken on a gruelling, brutal trek across the Seven Cities continent following several parties through war, rebellion, death, deprivation and witness acts of both the vilest human depredation and deepest courage and honour. Erikson’s writing only gets better in this book and he shows his masterful touch with pacing. He manages to take us from the bleak hopelessness of despair and grief in one scene to the relief of laughter in the next, before plunging us back into the ravages of battle. From the first page on Deadhouse Gates is an emotional roller-coaster ride.

But what a ride it is! I’d read the book once before, years ago, and I’d forgotten more than I remembered. What made it extra interesting to me this time around, wasn’t just the superb writing, the story, the hints for the rest of the series or the discussions on the Reread threads, though all of these are true, was the fact that this was the first time that I actually realised, while reading, that my outlook on life has changed irrevocably by becoming a mum. The way Erikson wrote about the children resonated with me so powerfully, that it made several scenes very hard to read. It made the scene where Felisin talks about having a daughter so much more poignant to me, just as the Wickan desire to at least save their children from the Chain of Dogs.

My favourite storyline in this book was the Chain of Dogs, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my favourite characters in this novel were Duiker and Coltaine. I love their bravery, their dignity and their tenacity and they just made me bawl like a baby the last few chapters.

My favourite part was the scene where Apt bullies Shadowthrone into remaking Panek for her and she adopts him. That just made her so relatable (I was going to say human, but not the right word I think). Those two, Apt and Panek, were very high on my list of favourite characters, if only because they occasioned the line ‘I’m … Uncle Cotillion’.

I’m looking forward to see where the next book, Memories of Ice, takes us; I’ve been warned it’s as harrowing and emotional a ride as Deadhouse Gates. I can’t wait, though I’m buying a big box of tissues to be safe! In the meantime, I can’t recommend this series enough and if you’re planning on reading it, why don’t you come catch up to the Malazan Reread? It enriches the reading experience and it is great fun to boot.


2 thoughts on “Steven Erikson – Deadhouse Gates”

  1. What a great write-up! I found it difficult to summarise this book because there was so much in it, but you did an admirable job. I've just finished House of Chains and I have to say the layers get deeper and more intricate. Erikson really is an incredible weaver of tales.

  2. Yeah, nice job. I loved this book and MoI even more. And what you've heard is correct, it has one of the most shocking and emotional endings I've ever read.

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