Steven Erikson is by far my favorite fantasy author. I discovered him probably about six years ago, and in that time I’ve read everything he’s ever written twice. I’m contemplating going through it all again, but I’ll probably wait for him to finish a few more books first. I’m planning on doing a post on each of his books in the future. This post will serve as an introduction to Erikson and his books before I write more in depth on each book.
Steven Erikson is a pretty private person, so I don’t know much about who he is. He’s not active on social media, his website hasn’t been updated since before I knew about him, and he has stated in the past that he likes to keep an air of mystery about himself from his fans. Here’s what I know about him from scattered interviews and articles.
Erikson worked as an archaeologist in the 80’s with Ian C. Esslemont. They bonded over playing D&D and they created a fictional world together. This world and the stories they played out together became the basis for the Malazan series. Erikson and Esslemont adapted specific campaigns from their gaming sessions into fantasy series. Erikson wrote the main Malazan series and and he’s currently working on two trilogies. Esslemont wrote his own series and is currently working on another trilogy. Erikson and Esslemont share the world and some of it’s characters, but they divvied up the campaigns and some of the settings for their individual works.
Erikson is a masterful writer. He’ s created some of the most compelling and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read. His books are filled with diverse characters that play against tropes. His plotting is slow and thoughtful, and he leaves a trail of breadcrumbs through each of the individual plots that ties each plot together into the main story thread. He does this with each of the individual story arcs in every book, and he does it on a much larger scale with the plots of each book tying together at the end. I’ve never encountered a series of books that gave me so much information at the outset while leaving me feeling puzzled and lost throughout. That’s exactly how it starts with the first book. You’re thrown into a story in the middle rather than at the beginning. You don’t start to feel like you understand how all of the stories tie together until about the third book, and your understanding is turned on it’s head time and time again before the end. It’s this plot structure that makes a reread so rewarding.
He’s a much more difficult writer to read than your typical author. The first book is especially difficult to get through the first time. You’re literally thrown into the middle of a story with very little exposition or explanation of what’s going on. You don’t even understand the magic system until many books later. There’s a very slow drip feed of information throughout the whole series. This can turn a lot of people off. It’s incredibly rewarding if you can stick with it, but if you’re an impatient reader who just wants a quick payoff this series is not for you. Erikson is also prone to a lot of philosophizing. I like this sometimes, but especially in his more recent books it seems like every single character, even down to the uneducated plow workers and latrine cleaners, has a PHD in philosophy and he spends pages and pages preaching their specific viewpoint. It gets a little long in the tooth.
If you can get past those minor flaws in the writing, you’re going to love these books. I try and recommend them to everyone I meet that likes fantasy. I see them more as a thinking man’s fantasy series rather than simple escapism. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely view fantasy literature as entertainment and escapism. But Erikson’s philosophy and the structure of his plots definitely forces you to use your brain more than your typical fantasy author.
Malazan Book of the fallen
This is the main series of books, and the first series Erikson wrote in this world. It loosely follows the journies of the Crippled God, two specific Malazan armies, and a slew of characters from different races and factions. It’s hard to sum up in a sentence, there’s a lot going on in these books.
- Gardens of the Moon
- Deadhouse Gates
- Memories of Ice
- House of Chains
- Midnight Tides
- The Bonehunters
- Reapers Gale
- Toll the Hounds
- Dust of Dreams
- The Crippled God
The Kharkanas Trilogy
This is a prequel trilogy that Erikson is currently writing. It takes place 300,000 years before the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Erikson is also planning on writing a trilogy focusing on the years after the Book of the Fallen, but he hasn’t started that yet.
The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach
These books are short stories and novellas following the journey of two necromancers. Erikson definitely lets off some steam in these stories, his other books are very heavy and dark, these stories are filled with satire and dark humor.
- Blood Follows
- The Healthy Dead
- The Lee’s of Laughters End
- Crack’d Pot Trail
- The Wurms of Blearmouth
- The Fiends of Nightmaria
Ian C. Esslemont
I also see myself writing about Esslemont at some point. Esslemont is a decent writer, but he gets a lot of criticism from the community because he’s constantly compared to Erikson. I don’t really think the criticism is all that fair, Esslemont is a decent writer who is trapped in the shadow of a master author. If Esslemont’s books were released separately from Erikson, I think his books would be reviewed more fairly, and much more positively for that matter.
Malazan Empire Series
This series is Esslemont’s analogue to Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. It primarily follows a competing power to the Malazan empire, the Crimson Guard.
Path to Ascendancy
This is a planned trilogy focusing on the early life of the first Malazan emperor and his partner.
I don’t have a plan or a schedule for how often I’ll be writing about these books. Again, this blog is mainly for my own edification. I like writing, and writing about the things I’m into is a big stress reliever. I’m also not sure how I’m going to write about the books, is it going to be a review? A plot discussion? I don’t really know, but I do know that I love these books. I’ll return to Erikson and Esslemont periodically, and when the time is right for me.