Deadhouse Gates is the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.
Picking up where Gardens of the Moon left off, Deadhouse Gates reunites a host of old characters and throws some new ones into the fray. This time the action is focused not on Genabackis, but on the continent of seven cities, where a revolt is on the verge of being unleashed against the Malazan Empire. It's name is the Whirlwind and it's leader is a desert prophetess known only as Sha'ik. (Spoiler Warning: Do not read if you haven't finished Gardens of the Moon.)
Of the expansive cast that appeared in Gardens of the Moon, only Kalam, Fiddler, Apsalar and Crokus make a reappearence. (The rest are reunited in Memories of Ice, the third book.) Before I go on any further, I would like to mention that this novel is pure fanatasy. Not something that I read often, but then again I have come across few fantasy novels worth reading. Deadhouse Gates isn't your conventional work of fantasy of course. It has vision and is written on such a grande scale as to rival the Lord of the Rings itself. The characters are so well created and interact with their world so affectively, that at times its hard not to feel you're actually experiencing the often hopeless situations that they're constantly enduring. Erikson has woven a great deal of sympathy into this epic.
Now for the story itself. As a side note, there is a ten year time span between the writing of Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates. And if you read the two one after the other, as i did, you notice a sort of contrast. Nothing has been altered in the story of course. Its just that Deadhouse Gates is that much deeper. Evidently Erikson matured a great deal while he took his hiatus from writing during those ten years. The story: Deadhouse Gates begins with Kalam, Fiddler and Crokus keeping their word on returning Apsalar (Formerly Sorry) to her home of Itko Khan. They have left behind the carnage of Darujhistan and the war between the aforementioned city and the Malazan Empire. As a consequence, Dujek Onearm's host has been outlawed by the Empress Laseen, in effect making the Bridgebunner's a renegade band of troops. Thus Fiddler and Kalam, still loyal to the Commader Whiskeyjack, set out to kill the Empress. (It should be noted that Dujek Onearm had always considered Emperor Kellanved his true Emperor.)
Now to the situation in Seven Cities and the city of Hissar. In what is in my opinion the best storyline of the book, the reader is introduced to the struggle of the High Fist Coltaine, who, burdened by 30,000 refugees aptly named the "Chain of Dogs", is forced to cross half a continent in order to escape the fanatics who are so desperately seeking to kill him. In its final culmination, Coltaine's tragic and often times awe inspring struggle for survival will send shivers down your spine. I'm sure you'll agree once you read it. Take care to pay attention to erikson's excellent use of imagery and symbols during Coltaine's march to Aren.
Of course numerous other stories are interwoven into the overall one as well. These include Felisin's struggle to escape the Ottataral mines (If you remember she was the younger sister of Captain Paran of the Bridgeburners.) Her unusual companions, Heboric, a former priest of Fener, and a mysterious man known only as Baudin, whose true origins are revealed later on, help take the story line into surprising directions. Other characters include the half Jaghut Icarium and his Trell companion Mappo, who wonder aimlessly in search of Icarium's forgotten past. There is also a minor character who's story wasn't really intresting, but nevertheless, I shall mention Lastara. A member of the Red Blades and in search of Kalam for his possesion of a sacred book, she is seldom brought up and her story doesn't really develop into anything concrete. Still I'm sure her mention in Deadhouse Gates will most likely bring her up in a future novel in the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series.
And there you have it. Although at times Deadhouse gates can seem aimless in its plot line, and it barely compares to the behemoth that is the next novel in the series, Memories of Ice, this book is nevertheless quite an achievement in fantasy literature. If you haven't already done so, I suggest that you pick up Gardens of the Moons as soon as possible and begin reading it, and I'm sure after that you won't need any recommendations to continue with the Malazan series. Once again, an outstanding story that few if any will not appreciate.
Written on Sunday 27th February 2005 by TC.
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