I’m not going to structure this review, I have been reading this book along with the Malazan re-read for months and I’m pretty well done with reading or writing about this book.
Assail is a challenge for me. It’s the last book in the Malazan Empire series by Ian C. Esslemont. He writes in the world he created with my favorite author, Steven Erikson. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there is more content set in the Malazan world. But on the other, there are the inevitable comparisons in terms of quality between the two authors.
Assail is a very flawed novel. There are several characters that don’t hit home for me, namely Kyle, Jethiss, and Orman. Shimmer was fun to read about, but everyone else was shades of boring for me. Granted, this was my second time through this book and it was set at a glacial pace due to the re-read, but I dreaded every chapter I read. There is a big reveal at the end regarding the Vow and the Crimson Guard, and upon my first reading I hadn’t figured out the mystery. The last few books have been building to this reveal, so that spurred me on when I read Assail the first time. With the mystery no longer a mystery, I had to drag myself through this time. It’s unfortunate, because I really enjoyed Blood and Bone, the previous novel in the series. I liked it the first time through and again with the tor re-read.
Assail is not the worst novel that Ian Esslemont has written, but upon a re-read (and possibly due to the structure of the tor re-read) I had a really difficult time pushing myself to get through it again. If you’re deep into the Malazan, there are some good reveals toward the end that make this a worthwhile read. Other than that, Ian Esslemont has other books that are much more deserving of your time.