Steven Erikson: Memories of Ice

Book three of The Malazan Book of the Fallen does at least return to the same general location and cast of characters as the first book, but in a way, doing so makes the giant scope of the project even more clear, by launching off into entirely new plots with those characters instead of continuing the trajectories they seemed to be on, and throwing in scads of new characters and plots as well.

The first time I read Memories of Ice I was a little frustrated by this. After spending a whole book away from the setting of Gardens of the Moon, I thought that returning to it would entitle me to the answers to many of the questions left hanging in that book. Instead I got a dozen new mysteries, and new characters where I wanted to learn more about the old ones. Combine that with a length of 1200 pages (in mass market paperback, at least), and it’s no wonder that I started to get a little fatigued.

But as with all of the books in this series, it improves on rereading, especially after reading later books in the series so that you have a better sense of how the events and themes of this book fit into the greater plot arcs. In fact, what seems to be the main plotline of the entire series doesn’t even start until this book (I say “seems” because, being only up to book 7 as I write this, I’m not actually sure exactly where things are going). You could regard the “really needs multiple reads” as a positive or negative aspect; I think it’s a positive one. I don’t generally reread books much, but a lot of classical music requires (and expects) many listens before the full structure becomes clear, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable for a book to ask for the same.

All of the things I’ve said about earlier book in the series hold true in this one as well: the epic scope, the cast of hundreds featuring gods just as much as mortals, the relentless tragedy (I think this book is even more of a downer than Deadhouse Gates). I liked it a lot more this time through, even though I think the series really gets off the ground in book 4 when we leave this continent behind (apparently we return in book 8, though…). Anyone who gets this far is probably in it for the long haul, and I am no exception.

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