Oct 13 2010 2:21pm

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Night of Knives, Prologue and Chapter 1

Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont, Malazan seriesWelcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (NoK).

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, so while the summary of events may be free of spoilers, the commentary and reader comments most definitely will not be. To put it another way: Major Spoilers Next Eight Months.

Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!

And now some HOUSE-KEEPING:

1) In case you hadn’t seen, Steven Erikson is answering your questions in the comments of this topic, so head on over and see what he has to say. Thanks Steven!

2) Night of Knives does not have the same handy chapter breaks as Gardens of the Moon, so Bill and I have devised the following reading schedule so that you can prepare your re-read each week:

  • Prologue and Chapter 1 (this very post!)
  • Chapter 2 to “Temper shouldered” (a new section about one-quarter through Chapter 3)
  • From “Temper shouldered” to end of Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6 to end (This will include our whole book wrap-up, as well.)

So, all being well, we intend to whip through NoK over the course of six weeks—do join us!


A raider ship, Rheni’s Dream, is sailing the Sea of Storms south of Malaz Isle, fleeing before the sea-demons known as Stormriders. The ship, buffeted by wind, rain, wave, and hail, is becoming encased in ice, slowing the ship and killing the crew. This even though the captain, Murl, has done all the offerings “save the last,” which involves dropping a crew member overboard, something Murl refuses to do. Just before dying himself, Murl sees a rider:

“a dazzling sapphire figure . . . helmeted, armored, a tall lance of jagged ice at the hip. It’s mount . . . half beast and half roiling wave.”

Murl thinks the Riders are “answering some inhuman summons,” throwing themselves against the island of Malaz—”the one thing that had confined them so long to this narrow passage.”

Edgewalker, “an elder inhabitant of the Shadow Realm,” walks across Shadow to a menhir where Jhedel, former King of Shadow, is imprisoned by having his two hands sunk into the rock behind his back. Through their conversation, we learn Jhedel killed someone to take the Throne but was eventually bound in return. Edgewalker tells Jhedel he is also “bound just as tightly” and that he senses a “new” power, possibly eyeing the Throne. After Jhedel is struck down by power (from his attempt to escape), he curses Edgewalker and demands to be released. When Edgewalker walks on, Jhedel swears to destroy him and everyone else. Edgewalker ignores him, thinking that he has long worried about the absence of an occupant on the Throne and sensing that change is perhaps on the way.

Amanda’s Reaction to the Prologue:
So, as we already know, we’re going back in time to before the events of Gardens of the Moon: our dates at the start of the prologue show the “last year of Emperor Kellanved’s reign.”

The tone is immediately more no-nonsense than that of Erikson, in my opinion. It feels more streamlined and less mysterious. For instance, we see the storm rising—in Gardens of the Moon we would have been left uncertain as to its cause; here we see:

But it was not the storm that worried Captain Murl, no matter how unnatural its rising.

I also feel the same reluctance at having to get to know a new set of characters. (Which I know bodes ill for me during the rest of the re-read. *grin*) I was enjoying the Bridgeburners and the Daru lot, but I don’t see a single one of their names in the Dramatis Personae at the beginning! I’m sure I’ll come to love and hate them as I did people like Paran and Fiddler and Rake.

I see mention of Jakatan pilots—we’ve heard of Jakatans before, but I’m damned if I can remember from where in GotM... This lack of memory concerning the little details is also a tad worrying!

I’m intrigued by Rheni—seems to be some sort of weather manipulator who is struggling against the unnatural storm.

Here again I am a little uncertain about Esslemont: on the one hand I love his descriptions of the Rider, on a mount seeming to be “half beast and half roiling wave.” They are so eerie! And yet then Esslemont says:

Were they men or the ancient Jaghut race, as some claimed?

This is clumsy foreshadowing that I haven’t yet seen in the Malazan world. What do you think? Am I just being picky?

Ack, we also immediately see another of my pet hates: Murl is the captain of his ship; he knows her inside out presumably; and yet he suddenly remembers the sternchaser scorpion—all so that Esslemont can let the reader know. I dislike this, and find it remarkably jarring.

I do like the atmospheric ice bearing down on the ship—it is sinister and foreboding, especially with sentences such as:

He pulled his hand free of the searing iron. Blood froze like tatters of red cloth.

So, the Riders are heading to the Isle of Malaz, answering some inhuman summons—who is pulling them forth?

Hmm, in the next scene my immediate thought is that we’re encountering another of the T’lann Imass:

Its naked arms hung desiccated and cured to little more than leather-clad bones.

What’s a menhir? Oh, and here we have Esslemont joining Erikson in use of words I’ve never even heard of before—this time it’s “nictitated”!

For a time I thought that Jhedel was one of the Jaghut, talking with one of his mortal enemies. But then we hear that Jhedel was actually liege to the Que’tezani, inhabitants of the realm of shadow—I suppose that doesn’t necessarily mean Jhedel isn’t a Jaghut.

Anyway, disregarding that, I am guessing this is the Realm of Shadow, or the Shadow Warren—and the throne is empty. The throne of shadow. Shadowthrone, if you will. From our discussions on Gardens of the Moon, I know that Emperor Kellanved is destined to take this position—I guess I’m about to hear how! Although...the empty throne could be reference to the throne of the Malazan Empire, and we will see Laseen’s rise from Surly? One or the other, or both, I’m sure!

Bill’s Reaction to the Prologue:
Your reaction to the new characters will be very interesting to me, Amanda, as I came to this book with a lot behind me from having read the Malazan books. So for me, along with meeting new characters, I also saw characters again, saw them from a different angle, or saw characters for the first time but that I had already heard about. I’ll be curious as to the different effect of coming to them all as brand new.

I agree with your depiction of the writing as more straightforward; there will certainly be a different feel and pace to this book than GotM. Even something as simple as the lack of a poem to start each chapter quickens the pace quite a bit and also cuts down on the “now what did he mean by that?” moments.

I think too we get an author a bit more willing to provide clear and quick explanations. The example you mentioned, of the storm being unnatural, is one such case. We see it again just after when Lack-eye says of the offerings, “We’ve tried them all . . . All save the last.” As a reader, I’m pretty confident I know what is meant by “the last,” but Esslemont ensures we take his meaning by having Murl “flinch” at the thought, then refuse it because “every soul on the Rheni was blood-kin,” then recall the one time he’d seen it done: “the poor lad’s black-haired head bobbing atop the waves . . .” Personally, he had me at “the last.”

I share with you the sense of clunkiness w/ the jaghut line and the scorpion bit and felt a bit the same about the lines concerning the Riders, that “they were here for another reason . . .” which I thought felt a bit stilted, too heavily ominous, and diluted the impact of the prior line, “The riders cared nothing for them.” It will be interesting to see the differing reactions from readers, especially new readers like yourself, coming from GotM’s near absolute refusal to immediately or bluntly “explain” things to this. I can see some finding this a breath of fresh air and others missing the sense of challenge or disorientation. (I fall into the latter camp personally.)

Those small complaints aside, I think this is a great opening scene. We get immediate action, immediate mystery and magic, immediate violence and desperation and death; what more could you ask for? And that’s a great image at the end:

When the spray cleared, Lack-eye remained alone to pilot the frozen tomb northwards. Sails fell, stiff, and shattered to the decks. Ice layered the masts and decking, binding the ship like a dark heart within a frozen crag that rushed on groaning and swelling.

So much a great image that I wished he had stopped there, as the next two paragraphs, while fine in their own right, didn’t quite have the power of this one for me. But still a great opening.

And I loved the shift from water and ice and desperate action to sand and desert and dessication and slow movement when we shift to Edgewalker. He is one of those characters, by the way, some of us will have met before and one of the more intriguing characters in the series I find. I’m hoping we’ll see more of him in The Crippled God.

I can see why you might first think Jhedel a Jag, as he’s seemingly under a rock—the T’lan Imass method of storing Jaghuts. *smile* But the physical qualities (chitinous scales, horned spurs) and lack of tusks are signs he isn’t. I’m not sure we’re supposed to know exactly what he is. Edgewalker thinks of him as “liege to the Que’tezani, inhabitants of the most distant regions of Shadow,” which make me think of demons (we’ll see some Shadow demons eventually), but whether one need be a Que’tezani to also be their liege is unclear.

Chapter One

Temper, a guard at Mock’s Hold and a former veteran of Seven Cities warfare, muses on the sudden arrival of a female Imperial Fist a few days ago. Rumors abound: the garrison commander Pell would be replaced, Mock’s Hold would be activated as a command base for a new campaign against Korel, the old campaign had failed and the ship held the retreat from Korel, the ship held Emperor Kellanved himself, absent for several years now. Temper had watched as hooded figures, familiar to him as Claws (the Empire’s assassin-mages) disembarked. His memory of the Fist’s arrival is interrupted by his relief, Lieutenant Chase. Temper flashes back to the Seven City campaign, when he and Dassem Ultor (the First Sword) had entered the Palace of the Holy One and found three claws torturing her. Ultor infuriated the Claws by immediately and mercifully killing the Holy One.

Temper returns to the barracks where he’s forced to listen to Larkin, a Genabackan veteran whom Temper has been having issues with, regale the troops yet again with stories of his battles, this one involving the Crimson Guard with Larkin claiming to have fought an Avowed, Lazar. Temper doesn’t buy for a moment that Larkin fought Lazar and remembers how Dassem had slain all the Avowed he’d fought save Skinner. Temper puts Larkin in his place, but in doing so caused blood to drip on the Bones (a tile game), specifically Soldier, Maiden, King, and Obelisk, which he takes as a bad omen.

A young girl, Kiska, watches an Imperial message cutter at the docks which obviously denotes someone high up aboard. She longs to join the Imperial army somehow, but has already been rejected by Pell. As she watches Claws disembark, she is grabbed from behind by one who asks what she’s doing. She tells him she’d like to meet the high up official to be hired. The Claw tells her to ask Pell and disappears.

Temper exits Mock’s Hold, but only after being inspected by a Claw at the gate (the gatekeeper Lubben had tried to warn Temper).

Kiska continues to watch the cutter. She recalls being locked away a year ago by her Aunt Agayla when the Malazan army had arrived to deal with the chaos after the Regent (Surly) had outlawed magic and their was mass rioting and slaughter in the Mouse. She knows her aunt probably saved her life but also saw it as a chance to join the army and leave Malaz Isle. She watches as the official leaves the cutter w/ bodyguards, then waits while a mage appears from nowhere and follows the official. Kiska follows the follower.

Temper runs into Rengel, a retired marine and sail-maker, who warns him to stay inside tonight because it’s the night of the Shadow Moon, when the “souls of the dead come out,” demons roam the streets, “damned souls escape and new ones get caught,” and magic-users get “snatched.” Rengel points to a strange mark on his door, then goes inside. Temper continues on to the tavern whose above-rooms he rents: The Hanged Man Inn. He thinks of how Kellanved and Dancer have been missing for years. As he nears the Inn, he sees the Deadhouse, an abandoned stone house (the oldest building in the city), where Kellanved, Dancer, Dassem, Surly/Laseen, and other had done their planning for the Empire’s beginning. Temper enters the tavern and gets a drink from the innkeep, Coop, then asks him about a woman veteran named Corinn, whom he he’d first met a month ago and hasn’t seen for a while. A stranger is in Temper’s usual seat, and Temper notices he’s a Bridgeburner, someone Temper might have met in “earlier days, a different life.” He thinks of how he left that life a year ago, his place in the ranks “taken away from him,” and how he’d gotten false papers so he could be taken on at the local garrison. Heading up to his room above the common room he realizes some of the crowd below are pirates from Jakata, the island’s other major settlement and he thinks the ex-Bridgeburner has probably joined them.

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter One:
Chapter One is called “Portents and Arrivals,” which is a nice way to start the novel proper, and here we are at Mock’s Hold where we began our Gardens of the Moon journey. I like the symmetry.

There are scant details about Temper’s appearance on our first encounter with him—I guess we’ll eventually see him through other eyes to get an idea about what he looks like. I find it curious how some authors will detail a character’s appearance down to the underwear they have on, whereas others keep it brief. [Bill’s interjection: Pun intended?]

Already in NoK we have seen examples of superstition and more arcane matters—such as the offerings in the Prologue; and here wondering if it is bad luck to think about death when the sun is setting.

...enforcing the Imperial Regent’s new edict against magery. The riots that followed engulfed a quarter of the town in flames.

Are these the events concerning Lorn and Tattersail we’ve had reference to in GotM?

Haha -

“A man-of-war. Front-line vessel. Built for naval engagements, convoy escort, blockades.”

Alright, so Temper is talking to a non-military person but a) this sounds like a dictionary definition and b) I’m sure Anji doesn’t need all those details!

Anji’s honest and bitter response to Temper:

“Why bother? For certain it means more of our blood spilled.” She hefted the buckets. “As if we haven’t paid enough.”

This is the first moment I’ve truly felt the Malazan tone—grim and dark.

One old fisherman voiced the opinion that it might be the Emperor himself, returned.

Right, so Kellanved has already been absent from the Throne? And it is interesting that the reaction of the common people to his possible return is one of fear—what has the Emperor done to deserve this?

I just need a bit of help concerning Korel—is it a part of the ongoing Malazan war we’ve seen in GotM already? Or is it unique to NoK? Interesting to note that the Empire is at war even during this novel (and, indeed, half a decade before)—that is a long time for continuing aggressive operations. No wonder we encounter war-weary veterans in GotM!

I like the description of the Imperial orbs on the ship—and the mage use they are clearly put to. Again we see casual reference to magery—it is an innate part of the Malazan Empire.

Oooh, a nice little hint that Temper is much more than what he seems. And those hooded figures? Claws?

I know that one of the regular commentators has mentioned the weathervane from NoK, and here we have it shaking and humming “as if caught in a heavy gale.” Portents, for sure—that chapter name isn’t just for show. *grin*

I don’t know how many of you U.S. readers will have watched Red Dwarf but Chase reminds me a lot of Arnold Rimmer: working to exact procedure, dressed to the nines in best uniform for a turn at watch. I already dislike him (but also suspect that he will provide inadvertent comic relief).

We also get our first look at Dassem Ultor, who was mentioned oh so briefly in GotM with reference to the Emperor’s assassination—will be interesting to see more of him in NoK.

Just feeling a little impatient with the writing style now: Larkin is telling one of his stories that the others have heard many, many times before, but he just happens to be telling it again because I suspect the reader needs to know some pertinent detail. In this case it can be argued that Esslemont is building the garrulous character of Larkin, but it still doesn’t sit entirely easy as I read it.

It is good to learn something of the Crimson Guard—the fear and awe in which they are held by others; some of the personalities within the regiment; their so-called underhanded tactics. Now that we have the name Skinner mentioned in terms of being the only person of the Avowed who has not been slain by Dassem, I can see them going up against each other in this book!

Hmm, the nit-picking between Larkin and Temper reminds me of children clashing...

Are the Bones anything more than just a game? Is this rather like the Deck as used by Fiddler and the Bridgeburners?

Soldier, Maiden, King, and the rune of the Obelisk. For damn sure that meant a boat full of bad luck about to cross his bow.

There are many more nautical references and scenes, aren’t they? Does Esslemont have a background in naval military?

I’m not sure what to think about Kiska—but isn’t she naive? Much like Paran when we first met him in the Prologue of GotM—and strange how they are both from this backwater Mock’s Hold. They are both desperate to become involved with the Imperial Army. Poor Kiska, being mocked by a dark-skinned Napan Claw. Is this Kalam?

The encounter between Temper and the Claw at the gate shows again that Temper was involved in much more than just military campaigns during his active service—that fact that Claws attempted to assassinate him and he is still alive shows that he has some special skills. I still can’t get over the whole Warren of Darkness not necessarily being evil! Usually Darkness can be equated with Great Evil...

And another nice word I’ve had to look up: thalassocracy. I do enjoy being kept on my toes—as long as the given word fits smoothly into the prose and doesn’t just sound like an author has been through their thesaurus! In this case, the idea of Mock’s Hold being a ruler of the sea fits perfectly.

It’s always dangerous to dismiss someone just because they don’t seem as though they can offer anything (in fiction and TV this is used often), and I suspect we are going to see the same with Kiska. Her naive presumption of usefulness to the Claws is likely to lead to being brushed aside once again (probably when she tries to explain about the odd activities on the message cutter) or she is going to head off on her own rather than tell anyone, in an effort to prove herself—as is exactly what happens here.

Well, for someone who is being shown as intelligent and familiar with the ways of Claws, Temper is proving to be rather stupid! Lubben challenged him, something that has never happened before. There was a Claw on the gate checking who entered. And now the streets are empty—but Temper thinks it is due to the weather.... Although, reading on, it seems as though I have been done by the first Esslemont curveball: apparently the presence of a Shadow Moon is the culprit!

“What d’you know of the Return?”

Says Rengel—what does this mean? The return of the Emperor?

Ho hum—here we have another example of the much more direct prose in Esslemont’s work. I posed my question in the last paragraph, expecting to have to pick through plentiful hints and clues and red herrings. Yet here we have:

He’d reached a few conclusions of his own. Return stank of the cult that worshipped Kellanved, the man who along with his partner Dancer, had founded and built the Imperium. They’d been missing for years.

Of course, these are just Temper’s own conclusions, so it might be deliberate misdirection using the character.

Another thing—I’ve realised that I don’t know whether Dancer is male or female. I’ve always assumed male, for some reason—probably because of Cotillion. The term “partner” could refer to a romantic partnership, which made me assume Dancer was female. And then I checked myself and realised, of course, that Dancer could still be male. Sometimes I wonder if I think too much while reading!

Eek! The Deadhouse! That must, must, must be important! With the title Deadhouse Gates and the references to an Azath called the Deadhouse—well, Mock’s Hold just became much more interesting.

To his mind, the entire Empire was haunted, one way or another.

What a poignant phrase.

This is an interesting start to Night of Knives, and I already feel myself sucked back into the Malazan world. Although I’ve gently chided some of Esslemont’s writing, I am enjoying the generally smooth and direct way of laying out the story. This almost feels like a break from the tough stuff, an opportunity to fill in some back story with a rip-roaring traditional fantasy tale. Temper is an enjoyable protagonist, although Kiska is getting on my nerves somewhat to start with—but then Paran did, so maybe I just dislike cocky precocious kids! Looking forward to seeing what comes of this Shadow Moon.

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter One:
I too liked the symmetry of beginning at Mock’s Hold, and even more precisely, with a character looking down on what’s below.... We even get my favorite weather vane again!

Yes, the riots recalled are what ensued after Surly/Laseen’s banning of magic—the same riots as Lorn and Whiskeyjack and Tattersail were involved in and that Paran viewed. One in a series of bad decisions Lasseen makes as Regent, then Emperor.

I thought the fear of Kellanved was also interesting. He is certainly a bit insane (at least to outward appearances) so that level of unpredictability alone might be enough to instill fear. Take that with his many campaigns, magecraft, willingness to kill large numbers, and use of the T’Lan Imass and Talon/Claws, and one can see how fear would be a reasonable reaction to note of his appearance. (Not that things appear to have been all that peaceful while he’s been gone.)

We’ll see a lot more info about Korel as we keep reading, and it appears that will be the primary setting for Stonewielder.

I have to say that Temper’s oh-so-knowledgeable response to Anji’s question about the ship isn’t exactly the best way to hide that you’re a well-traveled, well-schooled veteran. I do like her embittered response though.

I’m also not a bit fan of the Larkin scene; it seems too artificially staged. And here as well I think we see some of that overwriting Esslemont is a bit prone to in this book.

“They attacked at night like plain thieves,” Larkin spat, disgusted by such underhanded tactics.

Temper stopped himself from laughing out loud—well did he remember similar moonlight engagements, but with the Malazans themselves the attackers!

I think the author can trust us to get Larkin’s disgust from both the content of his dialogue and the “spat,” just as he can trust us to get that Temper is laughing because he knows the Malazans used the same tactics. (Plus, I just hate narrator exclamation points!) And the “fight” scene was a bit too pat as precursor to an upcoming scene; I would have preferred a more slanted reference than such a direct parallel.

Mmmmmm, thalassocracy.... (word-lovers unite!)

Kiska is certainly naive (as Esselemont is again perhaps at too much pains to make clear) and I like the contrast between the two points-of-view: one the naïve youth aching to escape this little island and join the “adventurous” world of the army and “be all she can be” and the other—world and war-weary veteran who has seen too much and knows that war is not so glorious and wants nothing but to be left alone on this little island. I do wish Kiska’s interior monologues were less expositional, but I do like her as a character. (Though Temper for me is the true star of the book, at least on my first read.)

Well, we’ve certainly built up the omens for the night: Shadow Moon, Claws a-plenty, mysterious gray-cloaked mages, Temper’s past staring at him like a death’s head in the form of a Bridgeburner at the tavern, Stormriders-a-comin’, rumors of the Return, and of course, a storm a-brewin’. And then the kicker: “this Shadow Moon nonsense.” Nonsense? Never mock the Old Wives’ tales (not to mention, never get involved in a land war in Asia and don’t put baby in the corner). Now the night is bound to turn bad.

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to, as well as reviews for her own site (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
@Amanda:The throne Edgewalker is talking about is the shadow throne.
By the way, I was on vacation last week so the week's delay worked out just right for me--thanks for waiting on me ;-)
Sydo Zandstra
2. Fiddler

What’s a menhir?

Shame on you. It's a standing stone. ;)

edit: you never read the Asterix and Obelix comics? :D
Todd Tyrna
3. Ezramoon
Good stuff!

I was a tad thrown off by the more direct storytelling. Not quite as much mystery and confusion is leaving me guessing every other line. But then again, if I hadn't read GotM I'm sure I'd still be lost!

The easier tone, lack of poems, less characters, shorter page count, etc. should prove to make this a quicker and fun little read. Bring it on Cam!
Chris Hawks
4. SaltManZ

Birds and reptiles have "nictitating" membranes, basically a third "horizontal" eyelid. This, combined with the scales and spurs (plus the fact that he was imprisoned in Shadow), made me think that Jhedel was a dragon at first. But I'm pretty sure he's just some random species we've never met before.

Edgewalker sure seems like T'lan Imass, but we can rule that out I think. I'm not sure anyone knows exactly what he is just yet (after 11 books.)

"Napans" are blueish-skinned natvies of the Nap Isles south of Quon Tali. Kalam is Seven Cities; so that's not him. By this point he'd be a Bridgeburner anyway.

Korel was actually mentioned once in GotM; in the Prologue: "The island of Malaz remained a vital port of call, especially now that the Korel wars to the south had begun." Nice bit of continuity between authors there.

Don't try to get ahead of yourself trying to guess at plot points later in this book; much of what Esslemont does here merely sets up elements for later Malazan Empire (Cam's series) novels. Also, this book was published just before Erikson's Bonehunters, so many characters and/or plot points touched on here won't be seen again until at least that book.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
I, also, read NoK after reading most of the MBotF, so my general reactions are like Bill's--interest in seeing different aspects of people/things we had seen mentioned elsewhere.
In this first section we see Edgewalker--we'll see more of him (no, he's not a T'lan). We also see the Dead House. I found it really interesting that the Hanged Man tavern was across from the Dead house. For reference, pay attention to the owners (past and future) of the Hanged Man and other bars in Malaz.
Chris Hawks
6. SaltManZ
As for my own thoughts:

I disliked this book the first time. A lot of it had to do with the sentence structure and grammar, which rubbed me wrong. Two years and some hundred-plus new books later, it doesn't bother me much anymore. Looking back, it seems there was a foreign-ness to it that I only recognized when I read Karen Traviss' six-book original sci-fi Wess'har series, which was very British in its language. I know Cam's Canadian and lives in Alaska, so I don't know why I picked up on a similarity there, but there it was.

The more direct style never bothered me any. Moreso the fact that when Esslemont does intentionally go for subtle and indirect, he often reaches the point of obfuscation. Besides, few authors I read can match the subtlety of Erikson anyway, so it's not really a problem. The "Malazan" tone is still there.

Personally, I loved the reveal of the scorpion on Rheni's Dream; the author suddenly shows the reader a ray of hope, only to have hard reality hit seconds later. Like Erikson does so well, the entire sequence on Rheni's Dream shows these to be fully-rounded, real characters that have lives and histories outside the text. We see enough to know this, even though they only survive a handful of pages.

The entire prologue is just a wonderful action sequence.

I love Temper, but I gotta confess I couldn't stand Kiska before, and I'm not warming to her the second around. SE doesn't generally do the young, naive character at all; Paran briefly, maybe, and Crokus, but he quickly imbues them with a real depth. ICE gives us Kiska in this book, and Kyle in the next (though I enjoyed Kyle as the reader-can-relate viewpoint character that he was) but I don't recall either character really undergoing any growth.

Finally, we'll see some minor spelling discrepencies between SE's books and ICE's in a handful of names and terms. Here, ICE uses the word "Jakatan" where SE exclusively uses "Jakatakan".
Tricia Irish
7. Tektonica
You know, I did enjoy this book. It was a much easier, faster, more straightforward read than Erikson. A bit of a break from the "work" that is SE. And I think it is well placed in our some necessary background info.

I enjoyed Temper (throughout the book) but here at the beginning too....again, much more than he seems and we are tipped off to that early. The set up is really pretty fast, meaning I grasped where this was going pretty quickly. Maybe reading SE is making me hyper vigilant in my reading!

I certainly have a few questions.....and my pet theory was that Kiska becomes Lorn. (I know, not likely anything THAT obvious will happen.)

Btw, Amanda....Paran isn't from Malaz city, is he? Isn't he from Unta? The capital? What was he doing in Malaz City at the beginning of GotM? And come on, don't you read ahead? You can't possibly be reading these books at the reread pace! I'd go crazy.

So nice to be back on this reread! Thanks Bill and Amanda.
Robin Lemley
8. Robin55077
@ Amanda
"I see mention of Jakatan pilots—we’ve heard of Jakatans before, but I’m damned if I can remember from where in GotM... This lack of memory concerning the little details is also a tad worrying!"

Good memory! They were the two bodyguards to Lorn when she was first looking for the Jaghut borrow. This was when Tool made his first appearance by rising from the dust. You may recall that they were excellent fighters, however, being outnumbered by the Barghast in that battle, they both fell.
Elena Vaccaro
9. EarthandIce
I really liked the fast pace of the book, and really empathized with Kiska. She is from a place that is far from the center of the Empire but desperately wants to be more than just an island inhabitant.

I guess I did not really mind some of what others thought was overwriting. I expected a different writing style.

The scene between Temper and Larkin to me felt like something that had been brewing since Larkin arrived. To me he sounded too boastful to have accomplished what he claimed.

If Temper had backed down, then the others in the regiment would not have respected him. And if I recall correctly, Temper felt Larkin had picked the time on purpose to try to intimidate him. Just my take.

I guess the difference in the language is not as apparent to me now as it is to others, especially after reading the blog. I have gotten used to the British way of spelling words, and have compensated for it. Colour/Color still throws me, though.
Karen Martin
10. ksh1elds555
I just finished NoK this weekend. Had a long flight between DEN and BOS. I have read up to the prologue of Bonehunters and decided I wanted to participate in the re-read so fairly quickly plowed through NoK. Normally, it takes me 1-2 months of reading to finish an Erikson novel. But they are much longer and I seem to read pretty carefully, savoring each scene and conversation, wondering what the different views, conversations, events that seem unrelated will mean and how they fit into this picture. And also, I only get time to read at night before bed, not 4 hours at a stretch on a plane. So first impressions, this novel was much more of a page turner. My normal fast pace of reading returned and I even found myself reading right through paragraphs to find out what happens at the end. Some elements I really liked- the Seariders seem very interesting and I'd like to read more about them. I really enjoyed the back history of K&D. I just can't seem to get enough of Cotillion- whenever he shows up in a book I get all happy. I hope he is featured more prominently Bonehunters and later books. I love the Malazan world's vision of magic, the warrens. It's so visual and amazing. I love anything whatsoever having to do with the hounds! I think Erikson/Esselmont must like dogs because they write the best canines in the history of fiction(sorry White Fang- the hounds rule) The tone overall is very Malazan, and I liked reading more about Dassem since I've heard of him in other books. He reminds me a bit of Coltaine- who you will meet in Deadhouse Gates. Ah, Coltaine....

The drawbacks, I do miss the mysteriousness and the lyrical, artful language that Erikson uses at times. He has a way with language that amazes me and just hits me right in the gut. I completely lose myself in his world and his voice. In comparison, the writing style in this book seemed a bit cluttered and clumsy. While Erikson's world is very violent and gory at times, I don't normally feel as if it's being overdone. But I felt that way sometimes with this book. It was like, OK, I get it, there's lots of bodies around and pieces of bodies. And they smell bad. I get it.

It was a very good quick read though. I am excited tonight to get back to Bonehunters- I know it only gets better from here.

Amanda Rutter
11. ALRutter
@Tektonica - ha, I'm going to surprise you now! I do read at the re-read pace :-) I have read no further in NoK than the point of the re-read - everything is coming as a complete surprise and I can't see what is foreshadowing etc. I'm not sure whether it works or not to everyone, but that is the way I am enjoying it!

Also, Paran was at Mock's Hold in the Prologue of GotM, I do believe, although my memory might be failing me here... I'm sure he and Whiskeyjack were looking down on the city while they discussed the idea of becoming a soldier.
Dan K
12. kramerdude
Salt-Man Z@4: We know Edgewalker - he's an "elemental force". Now what's an elemental force is the grand question for us up to daters.

A few interesting bits - I agree with most everyone's bits on the Rheni's Dream sequence. Just wait until it reappears...

Jhedel notes in his commentary with EW that he senses "something with a heart of ice" and "something sly, hidden, like a blurry reflection". Something to remember as we progress through the book. Another thing that interested me slightly on the re-read was when EW asked Jhedel whether he wanted to know who had removed him from the throne. He says "They were-" before Jhedel cuts him off. Could this be a reference to some particular beings that we see later in BH? I like others am curious to know Jhedel's nature. The description seems somewhat draconic (chitinous scales and plates) but I don't take that to mean that he is a dragon.

In Chapter 1 note that there are two ships that appear at the docks. In the Temper scene he recalls watching the Claws depart from a first ship. Kiska also watched the hooded Claws depart in her first scene where one stops her. Her 2nd scene is three days later where she watches another mysterious figure depart a ship and chooses to follow.

I also wonder if the fisherman who winks at Temper in his scene is also the fisherman we meet at the beginning of Ch 2. Not a big deal either way, but something that I noticed this time around.

Lots of set-up at the end with the Deadhouse, Shadowmoon, and Bridgeburners (who must have deserted when the Imperial transports were passing through 6 months earlier).

Looking ahead a little (but not spoiling anything) I've realized that reading NoK is going to spoil a surprise for first timers from MoI. Oh well...
Dan K
13. kramerdude
Tektonika@7: Kiska actually makes a brief cameo at one point in a SE book. Keep a look out for it. As for Paran he is indeed from Unta, but I think his dad was a trader so they were probably in Malaz City for something related to his operations.

Separately: Jakata if you've checked you Malaz Island map is a city on the opposite side of the island from Malaz City
14. Abalieno
I'll take the occasion to bring here something I wrote for the Prologue of GotM. We were discussing the very beginning of GotM: Mock's Vane.

This is the paragraph with the description:

The stains of rust seemed to map blood seas on the black, pocked surface of Mock’s Vane. A century old, it squatted on the point of an old pike that had been bolted to the outer top of the Hold’s wall. Monstrous and misshapen, it had been cold-hammered into the form of a winged demon, teeth bared in a leering grin, and was tugged and buffeted in squealing protest with every gust of wind.

And this is Bill interpretation:

Hardly a cheery start, but an appropriate one. I like to think of that vane as synonymous with the Bridgeburners: their armor also rusted and stained (albeit with real blood), balancing atop a sharp point (between loyalty to the Empire and defiance towards the Empress), hammered into its current shape by a cruel forging, and buffeted by the winds of war and politics.

I have a different way to see this and it seems somewhat more plausible because it's confirmed by a number of elements, including how Mock's Vane is described by Esslemont.

It's the fact it's a century old that makes things clearer. What is also a century old? You just have to glance above the first line of prose (in GotM):

96th Year of the Malazan Empire

As to say "a century old". So the Vane is probably representing the Malazan Empire. Someone also pointed out at me that the "demon" is also the symbol used to represent the empire, so everything fits.

Then let's look at NoK:

On its pike at Temper's side, Mock's Vane, the winged demon-shaped weathervane, shook and hummed as if caught in a steady gale. Temper frowned at the old relic; the winds were calm this evening.

I'll spoiler here and quote how it will also be described at the end of the book:

Down the wall, Mock's Vane stood silent on its pike. Temper eyed it - the damn thing appeared frozen athwart the wind.

I'm not a big fan of NoK, to be honest, and here's one of the reasons. Esslemont is like Erikson stripped of all subtlety and we see a good demonstration in those two quotes. The symbol is stripped of ambiguity and reveals its meaning all too plainly: the vane moves, without wind, at the beginning of the book, and is still, even with wind, when the night is over. Why? Because its symbolic meaning is more important than it being a weathervane and so pointing the direction of the wind.

"Night of Knives" is the book with the story of the night that the Prologue of Gardens of the Moon anticipates. Mock's vane is there to represent the old empire under Kellanved. Its description and physical properties are "thematic" and analogous to that sort of empire he built. The vane is restless because a convergence is close (but the reader doesn't know this yet), in Night of Knives it moves before the convergence, then stops when the night is over. Mock's Hold, in Erikson's own words, represents a position of power and control, in this case it "observes" from above.

An old thing stirring. An emperor that comes back. A misshapen, grotesque imitation of life (movement).
15. WJD
Just about Jhedel, because I think the conversation between he and Edgewalker is the most interesting thing in the book so far. I wouldn't spend too much time trying to classify him. There is so much depth and history in these books his entire race could have risen and fallen with him the only remnant.
16. Abalieno
When I read this book I was well aware of the critics and that Esslemont next book was much improved. But then I was surprised because I enjoyed the writing and it didn't feel as "immature" as I expected. The problem I recognized was not much with the writing itself as it was with the ideas. Which was the really surprising part since I expected the opposite: that Esslemont was good with ideas but had to improve as a writer.

There are a number of aspects I criticized in this book. One is the lack of subtlety that is particularly evident coming from Erikson. Esslemont (in this book) lacks ambivalence and variety of tones. When one reads Erikson he's trained to look at every detail and see it from multiple perspectives. With Esslemont everything is exactly as it appears. You keep looking for subtext but there's usually none.

That's why I think the main flaw of this book is that it adds nothing that is valuable to the main series. One expects this book to reveal some mysteries, but the point is that everything went exactly as it seemed (as one imagined by reading the main series). We get lots of marginal details and scenes, but there's nothing that actually appears as meaningful or relevant. Even the flashbacks we'll see from Temper simply "confirm" exactly all we knew. Right in the GotM prologue we know that Dassem was somewhat allied with Hood and that at some point the pact broke and Dassem disappeard. From a number of flashbacks we'll see all of this... and nothing more. After all those scenes we have no more elements than we had before. Only more marginal details.

The same will be for the Claw/Talons ninja wars. Just for show and wasting some time, as the real stuff goes on somewhere else. We'll get lots of these scenes, lots of fights of all kind, but we get not real "conflict". No pivotal turns. No real questions. Things just flow the way they have to. There's nothing controversial or ambigious. There's nothing thematic that would rise a discussion.

And especially I dislike the characterization because where Erikson treads new land with his characters and flees very far away from banality and cliche, Esslemont instead imbues Temper and Kiska in particular with just that: cliche. I read the book constantly expecting that at some point Kiska would face reality, get her naivete crushed, see her at least nudged toward maturity. And instead it's the world that rises to her lofty level of fancyness and dreamland. Which would be WONDERFUL since we have this Shadow Moon that definitely blends reality with dream (have someone read the manga Berserk here?). It's one HUGELY succesful part of the book, that blend, the way reality shapeshifts. Esslemont delivers that aspect to perfection, it's a great idea. But then it all fizzles because all this scary convergence is totally innocuous. It's a Disney movie with some only apparently scary monsters lurking about.

Kiska is completely immune to whatever happens around her. And I don't mean she gets out unhurt, but that even her psychology goes untouched. She starts as a naive girl, and ends as a naive girl who won the day because she's gifted. It's like the whole Malazan world has been transformed into "fairy tale" for one book.

So I repeat again that the problem I had with this book wasn't much about the writing, but the ideas themselves and how they stay all the time naive, simplistic and implausible.

Yet, it's not a disaster of the book. Some descriptions of the Malaz City are awesome, they set the mood perfectly. The idea of that progressive blend between reality and dream is absolutely great and even well executed, if it only was completed and didn't stay in fairy land. What I thought was missing was the sheer realism and brutality typical of the Malazan world that can make even the fanciest magic "real". And I don't mean simply blood and death, we have that in NoK, but it's all surface. It doesn't bite down, it doesn't reach for something true. Way too naive and always on the same tone. It doesn't switch gears when it's time to. It only gets fancier.

About Jakatakan: Jakata is the name of the city at the other side of the island, opposite to Malaz City. Jakatakan was also the old name of the island itself, before the rise of the Empire, and so before the smaller Malaz City rise as a more pivotal place. Malaz is where Kellanved began to gain power and subsequently led to the creation of the empire.

Nice tidbit: we see here The Hanged Man and the barmaid Anji. When I read this book I had all kinds of suspicions ;)

If one rereads GotM prologue there's a rather obvious hint. Who had also been a "serving wench" in that particular place? ...The napan woman we now know as Laseen.
Robin Lemley
18. Robin55077
@ Amanda
"I just need a bit of help concerning Korel—is it a part of the ongoing Malazan war we’ve seen in GotM already? Or is it unique to NoK? Interesting to note that the Empire is at war even during this novel (and, indeed, half a decade before)—that is a long time for continuing aggressive operations. No wonder we encounter war-weary veterans in GotM!"

Basically, the Emprire has been embroiled in war for over 100 years. Korelri (Korel) is a continent south and I think perhaps east of Malaz Island (although not sure why I think east?). The war with Korelri is basically the same war we saw in GotM in Pale and in Darujhistan. The Empire knows it is there but they have not yet assimilated them into the Empire. The goal when Kellanved and his handful of followers created the "Empire" was to make of it an Empire. To do that, they have spent the past 100 years spreading as far as they could, and I suspect that under Kellanved, the wars would not ever be finnished until such time as every city/continent know to them has been defeated and brought into the Empire, or the Empire itself is defeated, until one or the other happens, I think they would always be at war somewhere.
Robin Lemley
19. Robin55077
Now, my thoughts on Night of Knives in general. :-)

As I began my initial read back when the book first came out, I must admit that I too was a bit disappointed with Cam's writing. However, about halfway through the book I realized that I was disappointed, not because of his writing, but because I expected him to write like Erickson. Once I thought about that I realized that Cam hadn't let me down, my own unrealistic expectations had let me down.

I think that for many, the problem may come from thinking Night of Knives is a "prequel" to the main series. In truth, I don't think Night of Knives is meant as a "prequel" to Erickson's series so much as it is simply meant to be Cam's first book written in the Malazan world that just happens to cover events that occurred some 6 years or so years before the beginning of GotM.

Cam's writing in this first book is not nearly as deep as Erickson's; he doesn't have Erickson's skill in subtelty; he is not as good at the character development or planting those clues we are constantly looking for; but then, really, who is as good as Erickson?

Once I restarted the book and read it as Cam's book, without my expectations that it be another Erickson book, I found it very enjoyable. Temper is actually one (of many, I admit) of my favorite characters in the series.

For a "first book" I thought he did a great job. I thought he progressed a long ways with Return of the Crimson Guard and cannot wait for his next installment.

My RANT, read, or ignore as you desire! :-)

I have a huge complaint about RotCG but it has nothing to do with his actual writing. I purchased the Tor - Trade Paperback version of the book when it came out and am extremely disappointed by the "proofreading" (or should I say, lack thereof) that was done on RotCG prior to printing. Easily 50 errors that actually stopped me mid-sentence as I was reading. I certainly hope these were corrected in later printings, or, in the alternative, that no one else is bothered by those types of mistakes nearly as much as I am. I almost put the book down at several points as "unreadable".

Brian O'Reilly
20. idlefun
"I read the book constantly expecting that at some point Kiska would face reality, get her naivete crushed, see her at least nudged toward maturity." That's a lot to expect from a wide-eyed kid over the course of one night.
Steven Halter
21. stevenhalter
Robin55077@19: I had the same reaction/realization in my reading of NoK. I was somewhat uncomfortable at first before I realized my expectations were getting in the the way. Once I got over ICE being different from SE I had a much better experience.
Maggie K
22. SneakyVerin
As another first-time reader, I wasn't disapointed with the writing style at all. Maybe it's because I've only read 2 of Erikson's books so far. In fact, I found it relaxing that I could read faster, although admittedly I did miss some of the subtleties. However, some scenes, like with Edgewalker, still retain a LOT of mystery.

And I did not think the Larkin scene all overdone. LArkin had taken Temper'ss cloak, thus forcing him to come in and listen to the story again, which he normally wouldn't have done. Thus we readers were "forced" to listen to it, just as Temper was. Larkin the character was overdone, but to me it was just showing that Larkin thinks too much of himself, and that Temper's life has devolved into having to put up with the likes of the Larkins of the world, who are seriously underestimating him. In playing the part of the old, drunken, hasbeen soldier, Temper has to put up with the scorn a character like that creates. I also was curious about this Corinn he is looking for...maybe he has tired of playing possum?

I was really interested in trying to figure out who Kiska is trailing...this book hints at appearances by the Emporor's 'old guard', so I am anticipating Surly or Tayscheren or Topper with anticipation. Maybe the Emporor and Dancer themselves.

Shadow Night is also a set up for anticipation. SOMETHING is definitely going to happen here.
There is nothing here not to love! :)
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
@Amanda:Dancer is a male. That's an interesting observation though. At this point in NoK there's not much context to judge Dancer's sex and partner is an ambiguous term.
Thomas Jeffries
24. thomstel
Re: Edgewalker

He's a mystery, to be sure, but it's pretty clear he's not any flavor of Imass...he's far too old for that. Later discussion regarding his nature involves the discussion of gods, Elder Gods, and the beings that preceded them, "elemental forces", of which EW classifies himself.

However, great care in his description does invoke the T'lan Imass imagery. Those who've covered RotCG and mused on the nature of the Crimson Guard's Vow should see enough data points to surmise that dessicated, animate corpse-beings have several ways of keeping active through the years. EW is just a really old instance of it perhaps? More interesting yet, what's keeping him active? A promise to guard Shadow? Something else?

Re: Kiska
While she's written as a very young, inexperienced girl throughout, even in her own thought processes, take note of her adventures in the night to come. She really does take quite a beating, and even though she remains faintly (or irritatingly, dependent on your tolerance) annoying, I think there's a very serious disconnect between how she views herself and her world, and how capable she really is. She will note the hardship, wounds, bruises and such, but from her ability to keep going throughout the night, and the impression she makes on a certain someone later, I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt because she doesn't whine and complain about it. Granted, that's from a view that knows her story arc, so make of it what you will. :)
Sydo Zandstra
25. Fiddler

Nice tidbit: we see here The Hanged Man and the barmaid Anji. When I read this book I had all kinds of suspicions ;)

If one rereads GotM prologue there's a rather obvious hint. Who had also been a "serving wench" in that particular place? ...The napan woman we now know as Laseen.

Given your preference of secondary sources over reading books in this series, I suggest a search on the malazan wiki: the key phrase "Smiley's" + "bar" + "Dassem" should do the trick...

On topic:

I have no problem at all with the differences in writing. And I think Esslemont is capturing the Malazan spirit well enough in his ideas (how could he not, being one of the creators of this world).

The atmosphere in Malaz city resembles the atmosphere of that city in The Bonehunters: lots of intrigues and some scores being settles while the city is in a bit of turmoil while it's the center of a convergence. Except this time it's a Shadow Moon, and the Stormriders are coming.

Re: Kiska. I'm guessing that she's written like a naieve POV, because this is supposedly where you start reading Esslemont's Malazan books. Like Paran and Crokus started out pretty naieve in GotM (although Paran got over that soon enough). Note here that GotM started the Malazan series on SE's side basically in the same way.

I'm looking forward to read some input from ICE on his writing process. :)
Steven Halter
26. stevenhalter

""Were they men or the ancient Jaghut race, as some claimed? ""

This is clumsy foreshadowing that I haven’t yet seen in the Malazan world. What do you think? Am I just being picky?

This isn't foreshadowing in particular--just uncertainty over what the creatures are.
Bill Capossere
27. Billcap
I thought I’d make a bit more clear my complaints re what I termed the “overwriting” in NoK. It isn’t that it’s simply different from Erikson’s writing and I want “more Erikson.” It’s merely a subjective reader response issue; I happen to have a strong preference for more elusive (and allusive) writing: I like the slanted reference rather than the out and out statement, prefer a paragraph that maybe stops a line or two too soon rather than goes a line or two too long, like figuring out a character’s stance or mindset before being told it. From my perspective therefore, there are several places where I find NoK “over”written, but that isn’t meant as some objective observation--as in pointing out a pov is first or third person. I certainly recognize others won’t find it so at all (and heck, as that leads to greater reading enjoyment more power to ‘em). In any case, the term arises out of my personal reading preference, not out of a stylistic comparison with Erikson. I’ll continue to use it and happily watch many of you reject it.

As we watch these characters, I think it’s important to remember the utterly different scale we’re on in NoK. We’re talking a bunch of hours here, basically; we’re not spending weeks and months with characters or jumping years ahead and so we can’t really gauge their movement as characters on the same scale as those in GoTM. That isn’t to say they won’t be changed by events, but that those changes I don’t think can be graven as deeply or be presented as that slow accretion of experiential change we might see over a much longer period of time. I’d argue too that change comes at differing pace to adolescents: sometimes blindingly fast but other times much, much more slowly or less permanently. But we’ll talk more on that as the book goes on.

AB: I think that’s a good reading of the vane’s symbolism; I kinda like looking at it acting as both in GoTM: the abstract and the more personal, and that’s one of the great things of a good symbol—it’s layered (I share your concern about its use here in NoK)

I’d argue w/ your stance the book doesn’t offer anything “valuable,” as the premise appears to distill the books’ value down to plot and I’d say “value” in a book goes far beyond that--though perhaps I’m misreading what you mean
Hugh Arai
28. HArai
Regarding the "lack of subtlety": Consider the chosen major viewpoints: Kiska, who isn't likely to pick up most of the deep currents since she's had no previous exposure to any of the players or their games and Temper who is exactly as subtle as a punch in the face or building a wall across the front gate. I expect a more direct, blunt view on the world looking through those eyes. Wouldn't it feel strange to get the wheels within wheels as if it were Quick Ben and Kalam instead?
Steven Halter
29. stevenhalter
Billcap@27: re the time:
That's a really good point for everyone to keep in mind. This is the night of knives.
Tai Tastigon
30. Taitastigon
Bill @27

Definitely d´accord on your first paragraph. I have the same preferences, but as you said - this is highly subjective.
Robin Lemley
31. Robin55077
@ 26. Shalter - (In response to Amanda):
"Were they men or the ancient Jaghut race, as some claimed? "

"This isn't foreshadowing in particular--just uncertainty over what the creatures are."
Yes. I read this the exact same way: just uncertainty over who/what exactly are the stormriders. I think this line is an example of one of the minor "flaws" if you will of reading this book this early in the re-read. "Flaw" is too strong of a word, but you get my drift. I honestly have no problem with reading the book at this point rather than later.

The first timers like Amanda as of yet have no experience with the Jaghut except Raest and in GotM, he didn't really make much use of the Jaghut's primary magic, that being their warren of Omtose Phellack, the warren of ice. For us "old timers", there are some unwritten see a dust swirl, you look for an Imass...temperature suddenly drops or you see ice, you look for a Jaghut. Upon coming across my first description of the stormriders and the fact that they fought with ice, my immediate thought was "they must somehow be related to the Jaghut?" For those of you reading this series for the first time, who have yet to experience the Jaghut in the later books, I think it would be very hard for you to understand this immediate "leap" to a possible connection between the stormriders and the Jaghut. For me, as a verteran of the series, it made perfect sense....not as a foreshadowing, but simply as a possible connection.

Chris Hawks
32. SaltManZ
The nature of the Stormriders (so far) remains pretty much a mystery, so the line speculating about their nature seemed perfectly natural to me, as well. I like to think of the Riders as the common thread linking Esslemont's books: They're only tangentally touched on in Erikson's series; though not prominent, they feature in RotCG; it's almost impossible for them not to appear in Stonewielder; and they open (and, in a very powerful scene) close NoK. (I swear, since starting this reread, I've flipped to back and reread the last page of NoK about 5 times.)

And I know this isn't NoK-related, but it's probably most visible here: Can we get the GotM Q&A thread added to the main Reread index?
Chris Hawks
33. SaltManZ
And hey, while I'm still typing away here, a request to fellow rereaders: I like to compile pagination lists of the various book editions for the wiki. (Myself, I own the Bantam MMPB, which is a grossly overdone 450 pages; I saw the Tor edition at the store the other day and was amazed to see it was about half the size.) Anyway, if anyone would be willing to hit up my Shoutbox with their edition and the starting page numbers of prologue/chapters/epilogue, I'd be very appreciative.
34. Abalieno
The real problem is not that one expects or pretends Esslemont to write the same of Erikson. I was not.

The point is that Erikson takes cliches only to turn them upside down or do something interesting or defying about them. Kiska is a cliche, and this is ok. I don't criticize the "premise" or starting point of that character. The problem is that Kiska is also HANDLED as cliche and strongly stays rooted in that role. Not ever for a second you can "mistake" her for a real character. She's a shape molded on a cliche and Esslemont does absolutely nothing interesting with her. And all this sets a tone that is dramatically different from Erikson. It's not that two writers have two different styles, it's that the characterization doesn't fit.

Which is my problem with the book isn't about the writing, but the ideas. What was Esslemont thinking when he thought of using Kiska? What's her point? What was he trying to do with her that was interesting and not trite? Where are those ambitious, outrageous ideas and original take on the fantasy genre?

It's way too much "cliche traditional fantasy", which means that it sits at the opposite of what one expect from a Malazan book.

I mean, a new writer should write something that defines him, that treads new land. Erikson in his article on RPG roots said as much:

Layer over that a mindfuck of traditional fantasy tropes (relying on the belief that the readers knew those tropes), and things start getting complicated. Looking back, I think that is why so few fantasy writers really break out from those tropes. Their first engagement on the bargain-table is to offer familiar trappings, only to then slide in original, inventive elements to differentiate their work from all that went before ... when they deem it safe to do so. And if they don't, if it ends up being all old hat, then the novel fails and will likely vanish, or never get published in the first place.

When Erikson talks about Esslemont he says he's one who has "fucking high standards". And while I absolutely that kind of drive and ambition in Erikson's work, I see very little of it in NoK. Where Erikson is ambitious and ruthless, NoK plays safe and quiet. NoK takes no risks and achieves not much.

Where's the "mindfuck" in NoK? Or, when does it slide in the original?

NoK is more "old hat" than Malazan.
35. Abalieno

Tor's Mass Market is exactly 300 pages without glossary & excerpts.

I had to buy it because Bantam edition is unreadable with 3 words every line of text.
Brian Daniels
36. HoosierDaddy
First point of notice for new readers that might help you connect dots along the way:

BMMP 34: "Yes. That is my name. Jhedel."
BMMP 35: "When they conversed during more lucid moments it could remember its full name, Jhe' Delekaaran...."

This is a sneaky move that Erikson likes to play. Gods and Ascendents have different names amongst different races and peoples, that you can sometime puzzle out if you are paying attention. You might get the long name first, only to be confronted by a form of the shortened name later. Pay attention, and you'll get that they are the same thing.

For instance: Erk'd Rekamnia could be D'rek.

As for the book: It's proving as unexciting as it did the first time I read it. It provides great background, but it was always ancillary reading for me. It doesn't challenge the reader, but I suppose that is okay for Esslemont's first novel. He improves in his second in the lack of spoon-feeding.
Robin Lemley
37. Robin55077
@ 34. Abalieno
"The problem is that Kiska is also HANDLED as cliche and strongly stays rooted in that role. Not ever for a second you can "mistake" her for a real character. She's a shape molded on a cliche and Esslemont does absolutely nothing interesting with her."
"Esslemont does absolutely nothing interesting with her." Really?

We are introduced to Kiska, a young, resident of Malaz City, naive in her desire to be a member of the Claw; her only skills all self-taught as she was growing through childhood; and a mere 12 or so hours later we have Kiska, who survived, while walking the streets, I might add and not hiding indoors, (basically on her own for the most part) the night of the Shadow Moon. Kiska survived that night....think about all those who did not survive and then think whether there was anything "interesting" about Kiska.

And now you will state that she didn't "grow" as a character. To that I ask: Exactly when, during that miniscule little 12-hour period...among the non-stop events she was involved in, including, but not limited to fighting for her life most of that time...would it have been realistic for this growth to have been written into the text and shown to us?

Perhaps I am wrong, but I actually took the liberty of assuming that she did grow from the events of that night. I assumed that in the days and weeks following that night, Kiska changed. How could she not? However, since the book basically ended at dawn, we didn't get to see those changes, but for me, that didn't mean they didn't occur. If Cam had continued the book past that point, and she didn't grow, that would be one thing, but he didn't...the book ended there. Personally, if he would have interwoven her "growth" while the events themselves were happening that night, I would have found that far more bothersome and unrealistic than what some see as a lack of character development for Kiska.

We start off with Kiska, the naive young woman of Malaz City, who has a goal, to work for the Empire, and a mere 15 hours or so later, she leaves the island, goal completed.

What more can we expect from a book that covers mere hours....not days, weeks, months, or years!
Gerd K
38. Kah-thurak
I also see it that way. NoK is the account of the events of one night, in which some important events happened. It is therefore much more linear and straight foreward than the other malazan books, espeacially Eriksons works. This makes it very different to read and quality wise it cannot compete with the other books of the series, as it by its nature lacks their complexity, but it is still an interesting book and for me fun to read.
Brian Daniels
39. HoosierDaddy
@37: Don't bother. He doesn't care what you think. He has his agenda locked, set, and ready to annoy.

Kiska is Crokus without depth at this point. Crokus' developed a modicum of depth early, and so will Kiska. They are both "'identify with me" characters, and let's go from there.'"

Temper is quickly given serious depth, on the opposite hand, thus, absolutely no one has a problem with him other than in his actions.
Robin Lemley
40. Robin55077
@ 38. Kah-thurak & @ 39.

Thank you both for your comments.

To be 100% honest, as far as the main series (Erickson's) is considered, NoK didn't not really add much for me or enhance the main series in any significant way. As it pertains to the main series, I don't feel that I would have missed anything had I not read it. All of the "key" points of that night are eventually learned in Erickson's books, just not the specifics. I enjoyed the specifics, but feel that it would have been no big deal if I didn't have them.

However, where Night of Knives became very important to me was as the prelude to Return of the Crimson Guard. I think that is where the importance of NoK really shows itself. I, for one, would not have enjoyed RotCG near as much had I not read NoK first and had that background.

I mentioned earlier that I felt that some might be looking at NoK as a "prequel" to GotM. However, I don't believe Cam meant it to be. The way I look at it (and I'm sure that doesn't mean much to most, but I'm posting it anyway :-)) is that NoK is simply book 1 in Cam's 5-book series. It is simply written in the same world as Erickson's books. Thus, it will have occasional overlapping of events and the occassional overlapping of characters, but, Cam is not trying to write a continuation (or addition) of Erickson's story. In the end, I think both series will definitely compliment each other (I have already seen signs of that with RotCG), but they are two different and distinct series.

Personally, I cannot wait to hear from Cam on this and hopefully he will discuss the difficulty in writing a "parallel" series to Erickson's books.
41. Alt146
Not much to add that hasn't been discussed already.

Esselmont is much more forthcoming with his information, and spends much more time inside his character's thoughts than Erikson does. It makes a bit of a change, especially if you read it immediately after a book of the fallen.

I agree it is unfair to constantly compare Esselmont to Erickson. Very few authors can stand head to head with SE when it comes to the strength of their writing. On its own, NoK is by no means a poor novel, although it would probably have had to have been written very differently if most of the history had not already been set up elsewhere. I think ICE gets knocked a lot more than he actually deserves because people read his work expecting him to equal Erickson's style. I know the same thing happened to me, I was fairly underwhelmed the first time I read NoK, I'm hoping on a reread I will appreciate it a bit more.

As for the content, there are so many cool scenes in the book of the fallen that are only ever hinted at. It's one of Erickson's strengths that we gain such vivid pictures of events that never take place on screen. The formation of the empire and K&D's ascension is one of those things. I think this also explains a bit of the criticism - it's similar to the unavoidable book-to-screen backlash. The chances of this novel playing out exactly the way a reader has already pictured its content is fairly low. So possibly a poor choice of setting, especially for a first book. Luckily the rest ICE's novels seem to be running concurrently with the main series, covering events not as related.
42. Karsa_is_a_bad_ass
Esselmont is much more forthcoming with his information, and spends much more time inside his character's thoughts than Erikson does. It makes a bit of a change, especially if you read it immediately after a book of the fallen.

I finished it for the third time a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of this re-read. I agree with the beginning...but there are a lot of things towards the end where I wish were connected better. it gets downright confusing...

I did find I enjoyed it more after re-reading RotCG. Stonewielder is apparently even better, so I can't wait to read that.

(Greymane is a Bad Ass (tm) too! :))
Dan K
43. kramerdude
Interesting that everyone is talking about NoK as a whole and we haven't even made it to the end yet. In that I wonder if that speaks a bit to the book.

Like others, I was a bit underwhelmed on my initial read of NoK. Not by expecting or comparing to Steven's work, but just in general. Progressing through the reread (I'm through Ch.3 at the moment) I'm finding it better the second time around but still somewhat lacking.

For me at least I feel that the story has too much there there. Way too much happens to some of the characters to occur over the span of one night. And then some parts of the story just seem extraneous, especially in the middle sections - like it was thrown in to flesh out the page count.

That said it is not a bad story. But it probably would have been better off condensed as a true short story, or expanded upon as a novel based work (covering a longer time frame and deepening some of the plots). But it was probably easier to sell Cam's initial work to the publishers as a novella sized work (my assumption).

There are some cool scenes though within. The little details on the Stormriders broaden a bit of Malazan knowledge that has been hinted at but still leaves mysteries to solve. Most of the scenes with Edgewalker are well done and a few others that are still to come and be discussed.

So I'm taking it for what it is - an initial effort by a writer getting his feet wet in what I think is a pretty challenging setting (regardless of how well he knows that setting).
44. Abalieno

AB: I think that’s a good reading of the vane’s symbolism; I kinda like looking at it acting as both in GoTM: the abstract and the more personal, and that’s one of the great things of a good symbol—it’s layered (I share your concern about its use here in NoK)

Yeah, I wrote the same in the longer version of that post. More than one interpretation denying the other, it's one containing the other.

I’d argue w/ your stance the book doesn’t offer anything “valuable,” as the premise appears to distill the books’ value down to plot and I’d say “value” in a book goes far beyond that--though perhaps I’m misreading what you mean

I don't mean that the book is awful. The one at @40 also explained that idea: NoK shows what was already implied, but does not raise the stakes or offers a real insight.

I think there was the potential to deepen the conflict, both from the side of Shadowthrone, and in flashbacks with Temper. We are shown things, but these things go exactly in the same way they were hinted before one started to read this book. They add no more no less what one already knew. We get to be in the scene, but the scene doesn't offer much. Everything we know about Dassem, Shadowthrone, the Deadhouse etc... follows exactly what one would expect.

We have some new elements, but they sit at the margins: the Stormriders, Edgewalker.

It's not a bad book, I've enjoyed it a lot and thought it does a great work setting the atmosphere and describing the city. But I think it suffers from those other perspectives: the characterization and lack of true conflict or mystery. Instead of building on its elements it kind of dismisses them.

About Kiska, the point isn't that one expects maturity from her in the span of one night. The point is that a naive character who tosses herself headlong into a mess is going to be sorry for being so reckless. Sooner or later you will crush into the wall of reality if you base your life on fairy tales and childish expectations. Kiska instead goes headlong into a big convergence and the only thing she understand is that the experience is far more engrossing than she expected. Right at the end she'll look like a schoolgirl on her first date.

It's like if Paran, after all he went through, still thought that being a hero was really cool! Which kind of defies the point.

I would have sympathized with the character if at some point Kiska in the middle of the book cowered in a dark corner and didn't dare move again till midday of the day after, that what would I expect from a similar character in a real situation, "talented" or not. I'd have seen her reorganizing her priorities very quickly.

Instead what we get is Kiska thinking she got herself into a fantastic yourney. Adventure! Pretty and mysterious boys!

The point isn't that Esslemont used a cliche for a character, but that he fulfilled that cliche in all its parts till the end. Which got me quite perplexed about why he made that choice in a series that either stays far away from cliches or does something devious and unexpected with them.

The only motivation I can find is that maybe Esslemont was planning to do that in following books, but I do think NoK could have used some better development on those aspects.
Steven Halter
45. stevenhalter
Abalieno@44:We should probably hold off on discussions as to whether a particular character develops during the course of the book as we have only done Chapter 1 so far. There are lots of first time readers who should be free to develop their opinions.
Also, as to:

Which got me quite perplexed about why he made that choice in a series that either stays far away from cliches or does something devious and unexpected with them.

Note that NoK is not a part of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. It is set in the same world, but it is ICE's work.
Rob Munnelly
46. RobMRobM
Tek and others - I should note for the record that over the weekend I completed my first read of the Erickson books. Enjoyed them and looking forward to the finale.

Steven Halter
47. stevenhalter
RobMRobM@46:Cool! Welcome to the eagerly awaiting club, lol.
Rob Munnelly
48. RobMRobM
shalter - yeah, I have the eagerly awaiting troika in full swing - Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire and now Malazan.
Tricia Irish
49. Tektonica
Geez are one fast reader. Do you have a life? I'm only in House of Chains, as RL gets in the way all the time!
So...time to do a reread.....

I am loving finding all the connections, and reading about events in different books as it relates to different characters. Very interesting.
50. Marc Rikmenspoel
I'm also reading House of Chains. I read Night of Knives last year, and enjoyed it. I found no problem with the different styles of the two authors.

I'm a published author and editor, so perhaps my view on these things differs from that of other readers. But to me, when people on the internet discuss the "flaws" of a book, they are usually referring to an aspect of the author' s personal style that they don't like. Erikson has a very distinct style, as does Esslemont, and aspects of those styles will rub some readers the wrong way. That doesn't mean that the books in question are "good" or "bad."

What I noticed in reading Esslemont is that he loves words. Erickson enjoys building layers of complexity into his writing. Esslemont is more straightforward, but he seems to lovingly craft every sentence. Rather than simply state what he wants to say, he finds an ornate way to express the idea.

Consider, in the prologue, "Lack-eye would never answer again. Standing rigid at the wheel of Rheni's Dream, the helmsman stared straight ahead into the gathering night, his one remaining eye white with frost. His shirt and trousers clattered in the wind, frozen as hard as sheets of wood."

Esslemont coul have simply written, "Lack-eye was dead too, frozen to death with his clothing stiff as boards. He stood unmoving, his one eye useless now..." Instead, the paragraph is almost over-written, but it is Cam's particular talent to "gift wrap" his writing, making it into a more attractive package than it would be otherwise.

Some people, say, on their birthday, could care less whether their gift comes wrapped. It's all about the content for them. I found the content of Night of Knives to be good, in a basic way. It is obviously less ambitious than any of Erickson's Malazan books. However, the craft displayed made the journey worthwhile, for me. As we continue this read/reread, take a moment to consider HOW Esslemont is telling his story. I think you'll find Night of Knives has plenty of virtues, even if complexity isn't one of them.
Rob Munnelly
51. RobMRobM
Tek - yes, I have a life and a pretty full one at the moment (work is busy, wife increasing her work outside the home, daughter starting middle school, special needs son starting new private school) but I have a longish train ride to/from work and spouse goes to sleep early, so I typically have an hour or two of quiet to read before bed. And haven't had much of a life recently beyond the above (except I got to see the Pats-Ravens game live yesterday - beautiful, outstanding close game with our Patriots as the victors). R
Tricia Irish
52. Tektonica

Thank you for that omniscient viewpoint. I love a well turned sentence, and enjoyed NoK. It was a good fast read, not complicated, but nicely written. This was not simplistic wordsmithing.

RobM: Loved the Pats game! Best game of the day...two good teams playing good football. ( I'm a big Pats fan.) WhooHoo. Lucky you for being there on a perfect fall day.
Mieneke van der Salm
53. Mieneke
Okay finally caught up on here. I haven't much to add, since I just checked my notebook (yes I have a notebook now to keep notes, I'm a nerd what can I say ;)) and you guys have hit on everything I wrote down except the following two points:
- Who is Chem? Is he some sort of sea deity?
- Who summoned the Storm Riders north? Do we find this out later in the book?

Also, I was kind of surprised that there was so much discussion of the book as a whole, instead of just the parts read for this week. As a first time reader of this book, I was hoping for the same sort of discussions we had for GotM. Maybe it's because Cam's style is a little more direct than Erikson's but I don't know, it seems everyone is getting a little ahead of the game here!

Can't wait for tomorrow's post though :) Off to read this week's chapters.
Steven Halter
54. stevenhalter
Mieneke@53:In chapter 2, Chem is clarified as the old local sea cult.
The Sea Riders are an interesting detail in Cam's books that we'll keep finding out more about.
Quite a bit more occurs in Chapter 2, so maybe this next week's posts will be more spot on (just guessing).
Tricia Irish
55. Tektonica
OK...we have a problem....Part 2 isn't listed yet under the Malazan reread listings, and nothing is bookmarked, so, how are we supposed to post anything!!!!

You can't get there from here. Help!!! Torie........
Steven Halter
57. stevenhalter
The link is there now. :-)
Antoni Ivanov
59. tonka
Hi! I am reading NoK(for first time) I just read the first chapter.It seems intersting. True Kiska looks a bit like Ganoes Paran.

Btw. both Kiska and Temper are mentioned in Erikson's books, Kiska is mentioned in "Bonehunters" (at the end of Ch 3):

'Spying is stupid. I hate this, and I am rediscovering my hatred for you, too, Claw.''You say the sweetest things. Anyway, the bald one's Tayschrenn, with Hattar and Kiska this time, meaning he's serious about the risks.

She seemed to bodyguard to Tayschrenn himself! Obviously she got her wish.
As for Temper he is mentioned a couple of times in Bonehunters. But most interestingly in conversation Between Shadowthrone and Tayschrenn (in the Epliogue):

'If you would fear,' he said, 'fear for your own child.'
'I fear nothing—''Liar.You heard Temper step out of Coop's – and you fled.'

Sydo Zandstra
60. Fiddler
Hi Tonka. Welcome!

It's been suggested that Temper is ST's child (if that is what you mean here). But they aren't related.

One interpretation is that the 'child' mentioned is ST's schemes, which would have been endangered if Temper (protector of the Deadhouse Azath) would have gotten there in time after ST delivered a certain package there. He was on the Deadhouse grounds, after all.

Another interpretation is that the 'child' is the Malazan Empire itself, since it's been founded by Kellanved.

In both cases, Tayschrenn's 2nd remark is a follow up on ST's reply. Not on Tay's first remark: it's just him saying 'You do fear something, you old Ogre'.

(I am not specifying what ST delivered at the Deadhouse door there, because there are readers here who haven't read this far yet, and it would be a MAJOR spoiler)

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