The Crippled God
I remember all those years ago, lurking in the wotmania OF Forums looking for something, anything, to read while I waited anxiously for the next Wheel of Time novel. I remember reading glowing posts about this guy named Steven Erikson and his first book Gardens of the Moon. I remember finally giving in and ordering the paperback from amazon.co.uk. The following years were filled with ridiculous battles, philosophic soldiers, and more powerful beings than any world should ever really contain. Along the way I laughed, I cried (maybe a little when a certain someone died), I cringed, and I occasionally struggled my way through the increasingly massive tomes of Erikson’s vibrant Malazan world. Finally here we are. The “final” volume, the confrontation that everything has been leading up to and the characters, so newer some older, now ready to make one final desperate last stand.
The Crippled God opens in the aftermath of the Bonehunters’ encounter with nah’ruk. Gesler and Stormy and their K’Chain Che’Malle army closing in on the Bolkando, Letherii, and Bonehunters who wait at the foot of the glass desert. Elsewhere the Snake (my least favorite part of these final two volumes) depart the refuge of the crystal city. A world away the Shake prepare to once more defend the First Shore from the invading forces of the Tiste Liosan while the new Tiste Andii queen descends into madness. Other forces prepare for an incoming invasion of Eleint and the raising of the Oratoral Dragon. Ganoes Paran, Master of the Deck, opens up the battle with Forkrul Assail keeping them distracted before reinforcements arrive.
There’s more. A lot more, as Erikson does his best wrap up several of the many many plot threads that have been left dangling over the course of nine books. Many of those plot threads are seeded with tragedy. Death, pain, and suffering are the strongest threads throughout The Crippled God as characters, and whole factions, attempt to find meaning in their actions. For the Bonehunters faith, in the Adjunct or her cause, is a cold comfort in the face of thirst and starvation. For the Queen of the Shake that search comes down to finding out what home means and if it is worth fighting, and dying, for. In most cases I found this sort of thing fairly compelling and in some cases (Mappo Trell) both wearing and frustrating, and in one particular case heart-breakingly tragic (a certain Mortal Sword of a war god).
As I mentioned above I am still not a fan of the children of the Snake. While their role in events in finally explained here I still find the entirety of their presence somewhat arbitrary and adding little of value to the tale. Throughout the novel, and this was true for the previous novel as well, I found the rather lengthy epigraphs were somewhat frustrating and, in many cases, an active impediment in getting on with the story. Like in previous volumes some of the soldiers of Erikson’s world are a tad too eloquent and these moments occasionally serve to bring you out of the world Erikson has so carefully woven.
Of course for every bit with the Snake, for every bit of philosophic grandstanding, for every overly long epigraph there is a rather large chunk of downright amazing or moving fiction. The bantering between Silchas Ruin and Tulas Shorn, the agony of Onoss Toolan, Tavore’s speech to the Malazan regulars, just about every moment of bromantic drama between Fiddler and Hedge, and the Shake’s stand at Lightfall easily outweigh my own frustration and occasional confusion during other places in the novel. Of course even now there are elements of the story I sort of want someone to sit down and explain to me.
The conclusion is perhaps Erikson’s most epic featuring not one but several major battles; and there are few battles like an Erikson battle. There was definitely a point in the novel when I started worry that Erikson wouldn’t be able to pull off a solid wrap up in the amount of space left. Thankfully my fears were for naught and Erikson does about as well as you could ask closing up this massive series. A minor spoiler here, but I love the mirror between the Prologue to Gardens of the Moon and the Epilogue to the Crippled God; well done and entirely appropriate. Of course the Malazan world doesn’t really end with The Crippled God, there are still several books by Esslemont left I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the rest of the world reacts to events of The Crippled God.