Toll the Hounds (Steven Erikson 2008)

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It’s time to review the eighth book in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Toll the Hounds is one of them unusual books within the series at least at first glance. The plot takes the reader back to the city of Darujhistan where the first book was set. The plot revolves around the surviving Bridgeburners, who now run a pub within the city, as they contend with assassins who wish to kill them. Meanwhile far in the city of Black Coral the threat of the cult of the Redeemer looms and the Tiste Andii seem oblivious. Meanwhile Anomander Rake, the son of darkness is set to face a challenge of his own.

A lot characters from previous novels make their return, in particular from Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice. Since the book shares the same setting as the first book this was natural. A lot of the characters are people whom I have long since forgotten about, with the retired Bridgeburners being of particular note. The return of Kruppe was also a welcome addition. His eccentric glory was something to be witnessed and the book is a return to form in that regard. It reminded me of how much I wished he had a large role within the series as a whole, which made me a bit sad.

The return of Anomander Rake was also welcome as well as the return to Black Coral, their city. That being said, I didn’t find it as interesting as Darujhistan, in part because I was far more familiar with some of the characters there. Black Coral felt new to me because I hadn’t seen much of it in the previous novels, and the few memories I have are very vague. Like a lot of non human characters from the Tiste species I had trouble following the ones which weren’t Anomander Rake. This is in part because I have trouble relating to non human characters, especially when there are so many different species of non human races as there are in the Malazan world. The fact that the Tiste races are essentially stand ins for elves does not help things, since I have a certain distaste for elves in fantasy novels. Consequently I could not identify with those characters well, especially since the Tiste Andii are the most non-human of the three Tiste races.

The novel for the most part seems cut off from the rest of the series, with a drop down in scale. However a few recurring characters from the main part of the series return. The most notable of these are Mappo Runt, who is trying to find Icarium, and Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev, who are continue to travel together after the events of the previous novel. Karsa Orlong’s story arc, while placing back seat compared to the other arcs, continues to be intriguing as he deals with the aftermath of his victory against Rhulad Sengar. As a whole though not a lot seems to be going on there, which I was a little disappointed by even though this isn’t too important of a novel for Karsa Orlong since he spent a great deal of the previous one in the limelight.

Overall I’m not sure what to think about it. One of the one hand I welcomed the return of certain characters, such as Kruppe and Anomander Rake. Yet I had trouble following the plot since I didn’t know the characters central to the novel as well. The problem stems from the fact that the surviving Bridgeburners whom the novel revolves around were characters whom I didn’t pay too much attention to while they were around and consequently I had to remind myself who they were every time they appeared. Regardless the step down in tone was welcome and I was more than impressed when compared to other books in the series. Now that we have finished this book it is time to move on to the last two books of the series, and consequently the final act of the Malazan series.

SCORE: 3/5

IN A WORD: COMPLEX

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