Sunday, September 06, 2009

Book Review: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont

Following the success of Erikson’s Malazan series, Night of Knives is a prequel that packs a punch. With interesting cast of characters, a lot of action, and some creepy imagery make this a fun read. Night of Knives draws upon events hinted at in the prologue of Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon. It follows Kiska, a young girl who wants to escape the city of Malaz, and Temper, a war veteran trying to escape his past, as they witness the chaotic events of the Shadow Moon, a once-in-a-generation event that threatens to tear down the Malazan Empire. This is the night that Emperor Kellanved is prophesied to return, but there are some who will do anything to prevent that from happening. Kiska and Temper must survive as the various factions within the empire struggle over the imperial throne and forces from beyond the veil spill over into the normal world… I must admit that I have not read any of Erikson’s novels, though I have certainly heard a great deal about them. This poses a challenge for me, because many of the things I felt needed better explanation are probably explained in the numerous novels that take place later in the timeline. Regardless, I did enjoy Night of Knives. It’s rare to see fantasy novels of this nature these days, what with all the vast, epic stories spanning five or more volumes flooding the bookshelves. Night of Knives is more or less an action-packed fantasy monster that happens to fit into a bigger story. But you don’t have to read that story to enjoy this book. That, I think, is Esslemont’s strong point here. Night of Knives chronicles events that take place over one night, meaning that it is not only fairly short, as far as fantasy novels go, but particularly action-filled, with plenty of creepy critters and tense moments to keep things interesting. I only have two complaints: 1. There were certain things that I didn’t quite understand that I suspect are better explained in the Erikson novels, particularly in regards to events that occur at the tail-end of Night of Knives. I don’t think this will be an issue for people who are already fans of the novels, and probably won’t be too big a deal for those that are not. The novel largely stands on its own anyway, with a few minor elements that could have been strengthened by better explanation or foregrounding. 2. I had the lingering sense, while reading Night of Knives, that there was something wrong stylistically with the piece. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. This is likely nothing more than a personal quirk, or perhaps an issue with being unfamiliar with the world or with this style of fantasy novel (i.e. action-y fantasy). Overall, Night of Knives was a lot of fun to read. I enjoyed the action and the imagery was well drawn and sometimes gorgeous and creepy. At some point I will read the Erikson novels; Night of Knives has sparked my curiosity for all things Malazan. If you’d like to learn more about Night of Knives you can check out Tor’s website. The novel can be found at your local bookstore or Amazon, or just about anywhere.


phtreviews said...

Do you have any plans to read Erikson’s novels ?

Kelly said...

Sounds fun. I'm always looking for a new novel to read. Great site!