It’s time again to review another instalment in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the seventh book Reaper’s Gale. The book continues on the storyline in Letheras and is a direct sequel in some respects to both Midnight Tides and The Bonehunters, continuing from plotlines introduced in both novels. Rhulad Sengar has evolved into a mad tyrant in the years since taking the throne in Midnight Tides. Champions from various cultures arrive with the Tiste Edur fleet from The Bonehunters to challenge him including recurring characters Icarium, and Karsa Orlong. Meanwhile Fear Sengar, the emperor’s brother, seeks the soul of Scabandari Bloodeye in hopes that with his help they may be able to push back the Edur fleet and save the emperor. However he also travels with Silchas Ruin, brother of Anomander Rake, who travels with his own agenda.
The plot of the novel is a lot stronger, with a lot of recurring characters returning, including Icarium, and Karsa as mentioned above. However we see a number of returning characters from Midnight Tides return such as Trull Sengar and the other members of the Sengar family. Characters such as Toc play a role, as does Quick Ben, the latter of whom as played major roles in the plot of the series since the first book. Like in many of the books in which he has appeared, the standout character is Karsa Orlong. Despite his ruthless nature and being far from a “nice” characters he continues to be a scene stealer in every part of the novel he appears in. Karsa does a lot of badass things throughout the novel and after getting to the end I think I can safely say he is one of the best characters in the series so far. Everyone else seems to pale compared to him.
Like the other books, it suffers a lot from having too many characters. The familiar plotlines make the plot somewhat easier to understand, especially since I’ve had time to process both the plots to Midnight Tides and The Bonehunters. However the plot is still complicated and I had trouble following the plotlines of characters who didn’t get too much attention within the chapters. I’ve said this before but I feel the constant switching between characters in the middle of the chapters does not make the book easy to understand. I would have a much better time with the book if instead it was organised into smaller chapters each following one character. This is in part a bias on my part because I am not a patient reader by any means. Thus I process shorter chapters easier than I do long ones.
There were some very awesome moments in the book. Quite a few dramatic deaths as well. However some of them, particularly the people who I considered to be major characters, seemed a bit pointless and contrived. Almost as if the author just didn’t want to continue writing for them any more. Despite this there was one good death which worked, and that was the inevitable demise of Rhulad Sengar at the hands of Karsa. I knew it was coming, Karsa was too much of a badass for this not to happen. Yet the fact that he somehow managed to bring about a permanent end to someone who has up to this point been unkillable was nothing short of impressive.
The main thing that surprised me was how much I enjoyed it compared to the previous two. The last outing in Letheras, Midnight Tides was a book which I originally found quite boring. However since I was used to the characters and the main plot started to to converge there a little I found the experience a lot more enjoyable. Overall the book was still average fair along with the rest of the series but had a lot more memorable moments than the previous two books. There are bits that will stick in my head, which is more than I can ask for with this complex series. Now that we’re in the latter half of the series I can only hope that the books than keep up the pace, and possibly improve.
IN A WORD: IMPROVED