Midnight Tides is the fifth book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which I have become fond of reading as of late. When I say fond, I mean to say I have developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the series. In some ways the books are breathtakingly detailed but are often let down in a technical fashion. The plot of Midnight Tides is a bit different to the previous books, since the entire book is technically a prequel revolving around the far distant Kingdom of Lether, ruled by the ruthlessly expansionist Letherii. The only returning character is a Tiste Edur named Trull Sengar, whose background is explored in more detail. The plot deals mostly with the brewing conflict between the Letherii and the Tiste Edur tribes, who have been united by the Warlock King.
The book is once again set in a completely different setting with no connecting elements to the rest of the franchise except for the character Trull Segnar and series villain, the Crippled God. Like previous instances where the series has done this I struggled to get a grip with the plot and the numerous characters introduced. This is a recurring problem with the series and I find that I usually need a book or two with a particular character before I’m able to follow them easier. Despite this there were a few interesting diamonds in the rough amongst the slew of new characters the book expected me to understand and follow, in particular the major players in the plot such as Trull’s brother Rhulad Segnar and his character arc late in the book.
The plot itself took a bit of getting used to, in part because I had difficulty following the politics of both side due to my general lack of familiarity with both of them. Despite this the book still threw in a few interesting twists, particularly regard the Crippled God and his role in manipulating events. Rhulad’s story arc in particular stood out more and more as the story went on and the ultimate pay-off was worth seeing. However like many of the books before it, it took its sweet time getting there.
The book suffers a lot of pacing issues still, like the rest of the series. The combination of this and the unfamiliar setting made it all too tempting to fall asleep in the middle of reading. In terms of pacing it was no worse than the others, but it wasn’t any better either. The prose still drags out and I still think it could have benefited from trimming down the number of different characters in the point of view segments. I have likely mentioned this a number of times during these reviews but I do genuinely think that at times Erikson focuses on way too many characters. In fact at times I think that maybe even the books themselves only need to be a fraction of their actual length.
At times the book felt like a mixed reading experience. One chapter I would follow someone I liked, while another I would be back with another character whom I couldn’t quite get behind. It would alternate between being a clever, detailed book with lots of clever twists and being a boring slog. At times I had difficulty figuring out which side to root for since in my opinion both sides had their shades of grey in terms of morality, especially when compared with conflicts between factions in previous books. Overall I felt like this was a weaker entry and the series and it tried to slam too much into the reader’s throat all in one go, coupled with more than a few weak characters. Even so there are a few elements that caught my interest and I’m interested in where they’ll take some of these story arcs in later novels.
IN A WORD: MIXED