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Title: Night of Knives
Series: Malazan Empire #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
On the night of a Shadow Moon, when the division between our world and the world of the Warrens thins, Kriska and Temper have an adventure.
Kriska is a young thief who wants to join the Claws and get off of Malaz Isle. But nobody takes her seriously and even her aunt wants her to stay inside this night. Getting caught up in the battle between Kelenved & Dancer and Surly. Also involved in the mix is Tayschren, master mage, Surly's cadre of Claws and a group of cultists dedicated to Kelenved as a god. Kriska has to survive the night and all the terrors it holds.
Then we have Temper, a former soldier of the Malazan Army who has deserted. The desertion saved his life, as he was one of the Shields of the Swords, a might warrior protecting Dassem Ultor, the First Sword of the Malazan Empire, the mightiest warrior alive. The problem was, Surly doesn't want heros in her army and she has begun to purge them. Temper runs to Malaz Isle to become a lowly guardsman to survive. But others know his secret and on this night of Shadow Moon, Temper will be used once again, just as he was before.
Man, I had forgotten, or never realized, just how much foundational information Esslemont packs into this book. There is a lot about Dassem that I didn't realize was important but will definitely impact my read of future Malazan Book of the Fallen books. Chronologically this comes before Gardens of the Moon but I wouldn't recommend reading it before unless you're doing a re-read of everything Malaz.
There are some great battles here. Hounds of Shadows everywhere, monsters springing out of various Warrens, magical assassins fighting magical cultists, a hidden group of people trying to protect the whole Isle from some underwater threat, it all weaves together into one night of blood the likes of which the Isle has not seen in ages.
This was a short book, clocking in just over 300 pages. For a Malaz book, that is practically a short story. But as I was reading, it was dense. It had so much packed in that I felt like I had read a 500 page book by the end. I didn't mind that feeling at all, but others might and it is something to keep in mind if you decide to delve into this universe.
One downside, which is typical of the Malaz books, is that there are no real answers to any of your questions. Inferences, asides, round about explanations of Subject X which reveals bits about Subject Y. Nothing direct, nothing concrete. It is building a bridge in your mind. Esslemont gives us the materials and a rough architectural plan but it is up to us, the readers, to actually build the bridge and succeed or fail on our own. Some will see that as a weakness and others as a strength of the writing. I'm ok with it but have to admit, I'd prefer a bit more concrete facts baldly stated. Oh well, I'm not going to get it and neither will anyone who reads these books.