Tor.com content by

Laura M. Hughes

A Beginner’s Guide to Malazan Characters: Deadhouse Gates

So, you made it through Gardens of the Moon, and now you’re back for more. While you might be a wee bit disappointed to find so few familiar faces in Deadhouse Gates, I can assure you that the likes of Rake, Brood, Tool, Whiskeyjack, and Quick Ben will be back in Book Three, Memories of Ice, where they’ll mix and mingle with some of the epic personalities you’re about to meet.

First off, note that Deadhouse Gates takes place on a different continent than Gardens of the Moon. GotM saw the struggle of Darujhistan (the last remaining free city on the continent of Genabackis) from the sides of both the Daru and the conquering soldiers of the Malazan Empire (which include everyone’s favourite bunch: the Bridgeburners). Deadhouse Gates draws our attention across the sea, to the continent of Seven Cities—which was strongly hinted at, throughout GotM, as being on the cusp of rebellion.

Whether it’s characters old or new, never fear! Your friendly Malazan tour guide is here once again, this time with a handy rundown of the major players in Deadhouse Gates. Be warned, though: here be spoilers for Gardens of the Moon.

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Deadly Peril Done Right: Brian Staveley’s Skullsworn

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been some massive buzz about this bloke called Brian Staveley since the release of his debut, The Emperor’s Blades, in 2014. If you’re already a die-hard fan, it goes without saying that you’ll devour Skullsworn in mere days. If you’re anything like me—i.e. liked but didn’t love Staveley’s debut—then I can wholeheartedly recommend Skullsworn as the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with his work.

Set in the same secondary world as The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne yet featuring an entirely new cast, Skullsworn is a win/win for fans, doubters, holdouts, and newbies alike; as a standalone, it’s an ideal entry point to Staveley’s work. Furthermore, the focused first-person POV makes for a much more intimate and sympathetic reader/protagonist relationship than the multiple characters of the Unhewn Throne allowed. I’d even venture so far as to say that readers who found themselves frustrated with aspects of Staveley’s earlier series will be pleased to learn that Pyrre, the protagonist, is everything that Adare was not.

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New Perspectives and Deadly Nuns: Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister

Mark Lawrence’s latest novel, Red Sister, is a dramatic departure from the “grimdark” trilogies for which he’s most widely known. The first in a brand-new series, Red Sister introduces us to a different world and whole new cast of characters. But before we discuss its merits, let’s get the inevitable comparisons with Lawrence’s existing work out of the way…

Without giving too much away, Red Sister weaves together three distinct timelines. The main part of the story follows protagonist Nona’s time at the Sweet Mercy convent, beginning with her arrival at the convent and focusing on her education, her developing relationships with her peers and mentors, and her martial training. Think Harry Potter meets Blood Song, but with an all-female cast. The second thread gradually reveals Nona’s past—from the unspoken incident in her childhood village, to the months spent in a slaver’s cage—and the third thread takes place a few years further on from the first, framing the rest of the story like a much more exciting version of Kote’s narrative in The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Readers familiar with Lawrence’s previous books (The Broken Empire, The Red Queen’s War) will likely either love or hate his use of alternating timelines; either way, Red Sister is a fine example of the trademark Lawrence non-linear narrative. The author wields flashbacks (and flash-forwards) with wicked skill, and I can say without hesitation that Nona’s tale surpasses even King of Thorns in the seamless inclusion of gasp-out-loud plot twists and edge-of-your-seat perspective shifts.

So: Red Sister shares obvious stylistic similarities with The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War. But that, my friends, is where the similarities end.

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The Faithful and the Fallen: A Truly Epic Fantasy Series of Valour in the Face of Malice, Wrath, and Ruin

Have you ever found yourself ambling around your local bookstore, mumbling as you search the shelves for something – anything – that will fulfill your need for fictional giants mounted on giant bears?

Search no longer, my darlings! I present to you: “The Faithful and the Fallen” fantasy series by British fantasy author John Gwynne.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Malazan Characters: Gardens of the Moon

I’ll be honest: I’m one of the people who initially fell flat on my face the first time I tried to read Gardens of the Moon. The sheer number of new characters leaves many readers thumbing through the earlier chapters again and again, muttering all the while about maybe having missed something. Gods, assassins, soldiers, mages, immortals—Erikson’s debut is rife with all manner of colourful personalities.

But fear not, new readers! Your friendly Malazan holiday rep is here to save you from this fate. Just sit back, relax and enjoy this handy (non-spoiler) beginner’s guide to Erikson’s inimitable characters and the tangled web of factions that connects them…

[Gardens of the who???]