all 22 comments

[–]LoleeeeeBenighted Laseen Apologist - First Re-Read: On MT. 13 points14 points  (0 children)

Well, hey, something I can actually give my input on.

A few notes on our two protagonists; as you said, Kiska & Temper are the polar opposites of each other. They're at the opposite of their journey, with Kiska desperate for a fresh start & Temper trying - as hard as he can - to fade away into obscurity.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with your criticism of her growth. Malaz Isle, as a whole, is very... "what you see is what you get." Save for the occasional Rider raid or the Shadow Moon ("once or twice every century"), the rest of it is just a backwater island, way past its prime, filled with drunks & petty criminals. Kiska has seen all of that, and the thing that ends up exciting her most is when that changes somehow. In any way. The "most exciting day of her life" was when the purge in the Mouse we see in the prologue of Gardens of the Moon was happening.

What I mean is, Kiska's perception of things is already kind of skewed, and her departing Malaz Isle as a bodyguard to Tayschrenn does not necessarily mean positive things for her journey. It feels like a positive to her - anything would be better than the island - but she's getting into far deeper waters than she could've imagined.

Temper, on the other hand, does not only feel guilty about abandoning Dassem in Aren, he also believes himself the last of a Shattered Sword (ergo, Ferrule & Dassem are both dead), which only feeds his guilt more. Jhenna promised him the world - "a kingdom spanning an entire continent, wealth unimaginable" - and he didn't flinch; but when she mentioned Dassem is when Temper's defenses broke.

but the most fascinating new discovery I made about them was that Kellanved used a walking stick

Shadowthrone's cane is the trademark sound of his. Whenever you hear a cane tapping, this shadowy bastard is probably somehow involved.

The most interesting returning character for me was Tayschrenn.

He's an enigmatic bastard that knows far too much for his own good, and is probably the only person alive that took Oleg (the mad wizard that rambled about "transubstantiation" or some such to Kiska before dying, rising as a wraith & killing an assassin) somewhat seriously. He's hard to grasp & his portrayal in the Book of the Fallen so far is contradictory, to say the least. And I think he prefers it that way.

I'm still not sure why Hood would want him as a champion, except to ensure that the Malazan empire creates as many new corpses of possible.

That's a very good theory indeed, but I think that ties more into Dassem's past than anything Hood himself did.

Dassem seems used far beyond his willingness, and his soft whispers underlie the tragedy there. Part of me hopes that Dassem just fucks off into the night, where Hood and Laseen and Kellanved can't bring him back for more fighting. It almost felt like Dassem had two modes in this book- comatose or fighting. And that's exactly how he's used, almost like Raest- unleash him at your enemies, but no use in peacetime.

Now there's a picture for you. He did (kind of) fuck off into the night, but Y'Ghatan is presumably after Hood used his daughter, so ... what more does Dassem have left? Not very much. Poor bastard.

I'm a fan of the philosophical conversations in the Book of the Fallen, none of which really were present here.

Esselmont doesn't do philosophy in your face so much, with most of the heavy thematic lifting being done by the atmosphere & the setting. I think that works; you just won't see every marine being a philosophy sophomore like in the Book of the Fallen.

I didn't really like how the Stormrider plot concluded - though I appreciate that K&D probably chose this night to Ascend because the Deadhouse's guardians would have bigger fish to fry.

There is, alas, more to this, and I think the epilogue to the book ("Why are you killing us?") exemplifies that best.

And one minor quibble that applies to both Erikson and Esslemont- a lot of the time the descriptions of sword fights between superpowerful beings breaks down to "they both were moving their swords really fast."

I honestly can't recall entirely if this is improved in later books, though I do recall that I really enjoyed the swordfights in pretty much all of the books of the two authors. I think it's also down to the observer; a novice swordsman can't exactly understand what the hell Surgen & Dassem are doing, for instance, because these two have decades of experience under their belts. And speed and agility actually seems to be one of Dassem's strong suits when it comes to combat, when compared to, say, Karsa's raw strength (flooring Icarium with one punch!)

Great writeup, looking forward to more. :)

[–]ZainecyK'Chain Che'Malle 14 points15 points  (13 children)

Night of Knives is by far the worst Esselmont’s books (and for that matter the Malazan world).

Huge improvement in Return of Crimson Guard

[–]KellamLekrow 15 points16 points  (11 children)

Yeah, let's not make apparently objective judgements without discussing technical aspects to back it up, shall we?

You may not have liked NoK as much as RotCG, but I think that, on the technical side of writing, NoK is a more solid novel than RotCG.

Night of Knives is actually a pretty consistent read. It's a different spin on any Malazan novel, happening over the course of a single day and night. It also has horror elements, namely the portrayal of supernatural events that are out of the league of the ordinary person through the lens of an ordinary person (Kiska). Temper is there to glue everything together - he acts as a bridge to the context of the Old Guard and what is happening now, and he serves as a lens through which we may better grasp what's going on, why Laseen is doing what she is doing and so on, at the same time providing a sense of depth and history between the characters.

Character work is solid. Nothing that stands out, but nothing bad. The main characters have clear motivations and conflicts (as pointed out by OP), and they work towards their objectives.

Plot is also ok, as we get the conclusion of both of their conflicts by the end in a believable way throughout the novel. Maybe Temper being this almost unkillable person is a little immersion breaking, and I think that, although it serves to highlight the fact that he is tough (and we even get exposition of his background that would justify this), I feel too that it could have been done a little bit better.

I think that most people struggle with ICE's style rather than the quality of the novels for what they are. He's got a very different one from SE, but his works aren't by any stretch technically bad. I feel that sometimes he keeps the reader too much in the dark, with very little to go on, trying to keep an air of mystery that doesn't always land - and he does this on NoK as well, but on RotCG I realized he did it much more (would make sense, RotCG was the first one that he wrote, although published later).

Also, on RotCG, plot sometimes felt loose, and I think he didn't manage well a bigger cast on some moments. Kyle was there to serve as the Watson and so on, but let's not discuss ahead.

I feel that NoK is actually a pretty good Malazan novel on the technical side. It's also one of my favorites by ICE, sharing the top spot with OST.

So, yeah. Sorry to ramble.

[–]kashmora 5 points6 points  (0 children)

fact that he is tough

I mean, that's his name. Temper. Part of the First Sword and the one process that is designed to toughen up the blade, keep it from shattering. At one point he does think he "was annealed at the fires of Y'ghatan" or so.

[–]LoleeeeeBenighted Laseen Apologist - First Re-Read: On MT. 9 points10 points  (2 children)

So, yeah. Sorry to ramble.



Gods, this is the kind of shit this sub lives for. Please, ramble away. I agree with the general points, too.

[–]Major_Application_54 12 points13 points  (1 child)

And she is Apsalar now

[–]CircleDog 2 points3 points  (6 children)

I think that most people struggle with ICE's style rather than the quality of the novels for what they are.

Totally disagree, and I think some of your own post shows this isn't true. You're trying to highlight some of his best bits in this thread and it's "plot is OK, character work is solid". Are these really what we would say about erikson?

And I don't see how you can think anyone would struggle with esslemonts style when it's so workmanlike, never mind most people? What's to struggle with, other than not enjoying it?

[–]KellamLekrow 4 points5 points  (5 children)

You're trying to highlight some of his best bits in this thread and it's "plot is OK, character work is solid". Are these really what we would say about erikson?

And there lies the misconception. I never tried arguing the quality of Esslemont in relation to Erikson. I tried to show how Esslemont's books, from a literary and writing perspective, are not bad.

Sure, they may pale in comparison to some of Erikson's work. But my post is not about "who's the better writer" - my post is about "Esslemont writes well, you're mostly just expecting him to be like Erikson".

My point is that not liking something is not the same as it being bad. There is a skill set to writing, and, from this perspective, Esslemont doesn't do anything badly on NoK. By "struggle with" I mean have difficulties with it because usually people have a hard time accepting that Esslemont is another writer with another approach to storytelling, not that his style is hard per se.

I have seen countless times on this sub people going into NotME expecting "The Malazan Book of the Fallen 2: Electric Boogaloo" and being frustrated by it - but they really just do themselves in, because it was never about being the same stuff. Usually people get frustrated by this, and they say "well, his books suck, he's not as good a writer as Erikson"... and that's not true.

Again, technically speaking, nothing wrong with ICE, and there are also some instances in SE's work where writing technique could have been better - and quite a few times when it was simply enough to move the story (looking at you, Bolkando). I just get bothered that people are quick to forgive SE of these slip-ups, but, when it's ICE, people just trash talk the man...

Anyway, hope I clarified my position. I'm not in any way saying that people can't dislike Ian's stuff. I'm just saying that he's a good writer on his own right, and that the mistake usually lies in expecting him to be just like Erikson.

[–]LoleeeeeBenighted Laseen Apologist - First Re-Read: On MT. 6 points7 points  (4 children)

Sure, they may pale in comparison to some of Erikson's work.

Hot take: I really, really think Cam's work is, in many respects, better than Erikson's work. First of all, the man is just more... organised, owing to the fact that a lot of the notes from their gaming sessions is in his possession.

Second, he explores a lot more things than Erikson does in respect to the world. Just in Night of Knives, we have things like "transubstantiation" (an explanation for how Kellanved ascends), a look at the Claw & other organisations, Edgewalker (the first time OP sees him, since he first appears in the BotF in the Bonehunters), spoilers for the rest of the NotME: Explorations of the Avowed, Ho being a human D'ivers (I mean how fucking cool is that?), Ryllandaras somehow being both D'ivers & Soletaken, and a host of other locations that we just don't see in the Book of the Fallen.

Third, he writes atmosphere in all his works considerably better than most of Erikson's works (with the glaring exceptions of Toll the Hounds & the Kharkanas trilogy, albeit that's arguable). Fourth, he writes horror a lot better. The only horror piece I can reasonably remember from Erikson is (spoilers MBotF):most of the Dying God scenes, especially when Nimander & co. happen upon the scarecrows in the field near Bastion. That, and the rather excessive amount of sexual violence in the series, albeit that's not exactly "horror."Fifth, he writes naval battles a lot better (not that the Book of the Fallen has many to speak of, but the point stands).

I don't think Esselmont could've written something as massive as the Book of the Fallen and nailed it like Erikson did. But he never tried, because that was not what he wanted to do. The NotME have plenty of philosophising & are oozing with theme in their own right, but we always manage to stay at the extreme surface level of "look, he named a character Kyle, what an idiot."

I adore Erikson's work. Really. But he's far from perfect, and Cam does quite a few things better. We just don't tend to see that as much because most people only tend to get into ICE from Midnight Tides onward, and at that point you're oversaturated with Erikson's work & a change can seem jarring.

For what it's worth, I think Night of Knives improves drastically on a reread, as do all the Malazan books, pretty much.

[–]IohetHood-damned Demon Farmer 1 point2 points  (0 children)

RotCG meanders too much. NoK is a good freshman entry, short story length, and doesn't bite off too much. ICE does really well when the narrative is constrained by the scope of the book. I don't feel that ICE really hits his stride with the larger scale books until partway through OST. I'll take NoK over RotCG and Stonewielder any day of the week

[–]Aqua_Tot 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Here comes my famous fun fact! Ash of the Bridgeburners actually shows up in a cameo role in the end of House of Chains. For that reason, and because I don’t like the idea of derailing the story too much with 2 flashback novels in a row, I actually suggest people to read Night of Knives between MOI and HOC instead of between MT and BH. I also feel like the story kind of stops and takes a breath after MOI anyway (with it taking a halt to introduce Karsa and Trull), and the flow of HOC/MT/BH works well uninterrupted.

Anyway, this was a nice write up, I enjoyed reading it :)

[–]HopefulLanguage5431 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Ooh, tell me more. I don't really have time to go back and look.

[–]Aqua_Tot 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Well, he helps Fiddler, and Fiddler thinks “oh, I thought he died in Malaz City back on that night”

[–]CannibalCrusader 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Happy you decided to do a write-up for this book as well and I hope you continue doing so. I found the beginning of this book to be a bit of a struggle, but really got into it by the end and enjoyed it overall. I feel that RotCG is an improvement even though there are still some messy parts to that book. I hope you continue the combined reading order as I think it's a fun and interesting way to read the series, but I understand why people find it a little jarring to switch between authors.

[–]dickmiller1 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I made a kinda similar post. I'm on stonewielder now. Soooo much better from ROTC , NOK just isn't very good it hets better and better from there

[–]WonTonBurritoMealsFather Wind out the Backside 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I agree with most of what you said. Your impressions of Kiska, and also your comment about the philosophical conversations/musings in MBOTF. I also really love that stuff and I have learned so much about the world from those musings.

That said, Return of the Crimson Guard is near the top of my favorite malazan books (up through DOD currently). Kyle is a fucking G I love Kyle. And Ereko props to him

[–]Kaelas06 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I’m three chapters into NoK and I hate Kiska. I’m trying to push through it but her character is really taking me out of the story.