Posted by: markfender | February 24, 2015

The Bonehunters

This book is proclaimed to be many readers’ favorite in the series. Those people are insane.

bonehuntersIt can be hard to read Erickson sometimes. An event with no explanation happens, followed by another event with no explanation. Then, there’s a partial explanation of the first event, another crazy event, and then a partial explanation of the second event. And this trend continues forever. What makes it work when the themes running through events connect together into a tapestry. Not the events themselves (which generally do piece together) but the emotions behind those events. And I don’t think Bonehunters does that effectively.

For one, this is the first book I read in this series as it was published. The previous five books were read in quick succession (after Erickson had demonstrated himself capable of releasing a book a year, unlike some other big name fantasy writers I could name. (I would name them, but then they’d just Google themselves and get distracted from finishing their damned series.)) So, I might have a different relationship with this novel than the previous ones. Can’t really be helped but it is a factor so I thought I’d mention it.

Second, this book doesn’t use the same general structure of novels. You know, Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and all that jazz. Instead, there are several climaxes. This makes it feel like a less cohesive work than previous books. Even when Erickson plants seeds for five books down the line in earlier novels, I knew that the story would eventually turn and begin building towards an epic climax. This one didn’t so that so much.

This is also the transition novel between the first half of the series and the later half. The first books were about the fall of the Bridgeburners and the gradual involvement of the Crippled God in world events. Ignoring Midnight Tides (cuz it sort of throws things off), the latter half is about the rise of the Bonehunters and the final resolution of the Crippled God stuff. It’s also a book about brothers and sisters, with Tavore and Ganoes Paran each getting their own Malazan armies (although I don’t exactly get how Ganoes get his. His troops voted for him to be High Fist? I don’t think that’s how military structures work). But we can also throw in Quick Ben’s sister and Whiskeyjack’s sister…who are introduced in this book and then never seen again. Which made their introduction kind of pointless, really.

Because this novel is transitory, it also fails to resolve some early plots. Felisin the Younger ends up as Sh’aik Reborn (re-reborn?), but that plot line is never explored. The Unchained T’lan Imass from Karsa’s backstory show up, indiscriminately kill some people, and then wander off-stage with no explanation. Heboric Light Hands faces the awesome power of jade statues raining down from heaven, and while the events that allow Heboric to deal with that are explained, the origins of the jade statues still doesn’t make any sense (I mean, I get they’re from the Crippled God’s realm and stuff but what were they doing on the moon? Is that the Crippled God’s world? What is going on?). Leoman of the Flails makes a deal with the Queen of Dreams to escape Y’Ghantan, but I don’t know what that deal is because he seemingly disappears from the series.

There are still some good bits. Erickson actually delves into the personality of Apsalar, which was cool. The siege of Y’Ghatan is some very effective nightmare fuel. The fight at the Throne of the Imass at the end is suitably epic. But, because the typical novel structure was abandoned for this one, it often didn’t seem to hit home as well.

This novel also spends too much time retracing steps. Heboric and Felisin Younger go on a journey across the desert, just like in Deadhouse Gates. An army chases another army across a desert, just like in Deadhouse Gates. Kalam fights an epic battle against assassins in Malaz City, just like in Deadhouse Gates. I’m all for replaying themes and stuff, but I just felt like there were too many repeating themes in this book that I actually found myself kind of bored in places.

I’ve already expressed annoyance at Tavore and her inability to express anything, but that continues into perhaps the most frustrating part of this book – the big political showdown between her and Laseen, Empress of the Malazan Empire and another enigmatic character. Now, keep in mind that I consider the dinner scene in Dune to be the baseline for all well-written political struggles. Words mean things, but they can also mean other things and that’s the fun of a political scene where everyone’s motivations are hidden. Erickson hides motivations too well. I have no idea why Laseen is pulling the political shenanigans that she does. It appears that she’s stuck trying to get rid of Mallick Rel quietly and behind the scenes because of the power he wields, but why is her solution to practically beg two different assassins to take over her assassin organization (riddled with Rel’s spies) to kill him? Isn’t she an assassin? How is it possible for the Empress of a multi-continent-spanning empire to be so politically useless (Inertia can only count for so much)? Why do Laseen and Tavore act like a sitcom couple who never fucking talk to each other? For the big climax of the book, I was extremely disappointed in this section (which is particularly maddening because I know Erickson can write politics – Tehol is awesome).

I’m not impressed with this one. It seemed to be just walking in place, which is ironic considering how much physical ground is covered. I hope the next one’s better.



  1. You guys (Mark, Jim, Shane) are always going on and on about these books and each time I read one of your reviews of them all I can says is “I’m glad I’m not reading these books, they seem like a mess”

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