In record fashion I have already finished reading Deadhouse Gates, the second book in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. A long book in itself, even longer than the first one so I am quite proud of myself for achieving such a feat. The book follows on from the events of Gardens of the Moon, the first book, but for the most part it follows an entirely new cast of characters with only a handful of exceptions. The plot mostly takes place in the Seven Cities, a different location entierely to the first book. The key events revolve around a rebellion in the Seven Cities, inspired by the prophetess Sha’ik. The various characters, both familiar and unfamiliar are caught up in the events that follow. Meanwhile Fiddler, Kalam, Crokus, and Apsalar, characters returning from Gardens of the Moon travel with an agenda of their own.
Like before the plot is complex and throws you inside. The new cast and setting initially made it hard to follow what was going on and starting off was a similar experience to Gardens of the Moon. It wasn’t until the group containing Fiddler, Kalam and company came onto the scene that I started to understand things. However the story did add one major connection to the story of the first book through Felisin Paran. She is a new characters introduced in the book but also happens to be the sister of Ganoes Paran. As one of the first point of view characters we are introduced to, she helped ground the story by connecting it to Gardens of the Moon in a subtle way despite having a different plot and setting.
I’ll admit the plot got a bit dull in places, with a lot of travelling which felt a bit filler like. It introduced some good twists here and there. The most notable included Felision taking up the mantle of Sha’ik towards the end and the god Shadowthrone and his assistant the Rope turning out to be the previous emperor whom Empress Laseen overthrew in the backstory, Kellenvad and his subject Dancer. The latter in particular came as a surprise and put a new light on Shadowthrone’s involvement in the previous book, since before I had no clear grasp of motives. I liked the twists and turns in the story very much and like to see where the story will follow on from this.
Character wise the sheer number of characters meant that quite a lot of the characters in the narrative came across since they have not had as much time spent developing their characterisation. This problem occurs mostly with the totally new characters introduced to the narrative. A notable exclusion to this is Felisin who is shown to develop a strong personality to the point where I considered her a strong character overall. Something about her told me she was likely a big player so her becoming Sha’ik at the end was a fitting way to bring her story within the novel to a close and I am interested to hear more from her. Overall though I had a bit of difficulty following the new point of view characters in this novel and I would have vastly preferred it with we spent more time with people from the previous novel so we had more time to get to know them better. The group of characters from the previous novel we do encounter are fairly minor characters in my opinion, with the exception of Crokus so I found myself somewhat disappointed that they were the only ones I met.
The novel was more of the same but I can definitely say that I had more trouble following the shift in cast. Steven Erikson certainly has the talent to make certain characters memorable, as evidenced by Felisin but in this novel I couldn’t find it in me to get behind most of the cast. In terms of plot Deadhouse Gates had a few good moments but as with many long books it struggled with pacing issues and it could easily have been half its length and still be enjoyable. Not a bad book by any means but a little bit of a disappointment. Yet, there is still enough in it to make me a bit more hopeful for then next novel, which I also look forward to reviewing.
IN A WORD: OKAY