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Erikson's Dust of Dreams (no real spoilers) Legolas Send a noteboard - 01/07/2010 12:21:07 AM
I think I'm not the only Erikson fan who was left somewhat underwhelmed by the later installments in the series. I thought Bonehunters and Reaper's Gale were below average as a whole, despite some excellent passages, and in Toll the Hounds a number of annoying flaws ruined the perhaps most genuinely shocking climax of any Malazan book for me - that is, they didn't ruin the climax, but kept me from thinking very highly of the book as a whole. Several people told me, though, that Dust of Dreams was a good deal better, and in any case I wasn't going to give up on the series two books before the end, particularly since I still enjoyed large parts of the aforementioned weaker books.

As Dust of Dreams finally hit the local store in paperback, I bought it a few weeks ago and read it, and I have to say, I agree with what seems to be the general consensus.

Dust of Dreams is, as Erikson's foreword tells us, merely the first half of the conclusion to the Malazan Book of the Fallen; he warns in that foreword that unlike all the previous books, DoD ends on a cliffhanger and the big climax will have to wait until the final book, The Crippled God (to be released this year or early next year, I'm not sure). As forewords go, it did not install much confidence in a reader like myself who has been disappointed with recent books, that this book would be very good.

And yet, it is. The annoying and frankly bizarre moralizing of Toll the Hounds has vanished, although it must be said the general tone is pessimistic and bleak in the extreme, which isn't all that either. The philosophizing isn't as bad as it has been in other books, though definitely of a gloomier bent. The plot moves clearly towards a conclusion, and leaves one with hope that Erikson may reach a satisfactory ending after all. And by satisfactory, I mean one that makes the reader feel, albeit in hindsight, that all the sideplots, all the mayhem, all the slaughter, were relevant to the overarching plot after all. Erikson has made clear that he doesn't aim to tie up even remotely all loose ends, which makes lots of sense since both he and Esslemont intend to write more novels in the universe (and, one presumes, in about the same time period, at least for some of them). And since it would be completely impossible. But Toll the Hounds left me wondering if the pieces of the puzzle were really going to come together at all. Dust of Dreams does much in taking away that worry.

The book returns to the Lether continent and continues where Reaper's Gale left off. I might perhaps have done better to reread that book first, as I often found myself wondering just what had happened in it again. Dust of Dreams is at the same time clearer and more opaque than most books in the series - clearer in the sense that the final climax is in fact nearing, so we get a good bit of information, and are even shown what most of the key figures on all sides are doing. More opaque because the powers involved in the climax of Dust of Dreams itself (as opposed to the big one in The Crippled God) are kept a careful secret, and it is not always easy to follow the lesser storylines. No doubt, having a better recollection of Reaper's Gale would have helped here. And yes, I did say climax - Dust of Dreams may end on a cliffhanger, but there's a fairly big and well-written climax to end the volume, all the same. It's not as big a convergence as in some other books in terms of characters involved and complexity, but then, that makes it easier to follow.

What Dust of Dreams lacks, perhaps, is characters with a big enough role and enough character development to carry the novel. Every book in the series has that Dramatis Personae list of six pages or more, but the best books in the past have been those that gave a few characters a bigger role - be it Duiker and Felisin in Deadhouse Gates, Paran, Itkovian and Toc in Memories of Ice, or Trull, Udinaas and Tehol in Midnight Tides. The book neither fleshes out new characters to any great extent, nor does it make too much progress with established characters. Some important characters get so few screen time that it really amounts to little more than a cameo, while others get more but don't see much development regardless.

A few characters shine through even with limited screentime, though, most notably Badalle, who stars in a plotline of which I still haven't managed to see the relevance to the rest of the book, but which is among the better ones all the same. Erikson even manages to create for Badalle a genuinely convincing poetic voice, and chapter-opening poems that have relevance and enhance the reading experience, which is more than can be said of most of the other poems in the series.

All in all, Dust of Dreams is a more enjoyable book than its immediate predecessors, at least if one can stand the gloominess and has a strong stomach, as the book has perhaps even more violence and cruelty than the other books in the series (for some reason also more sex, some of it rather disturbing). Considering those things, I considered writing "a better book" rather than "a more enjoyable book", but I'm not entirely sure if that is truly the case. Perhaps the best description, damning with faint praise though it might be, is that it's a less irritating book than its predecessors and does not have as many flaws detracting from the good parts. This book won't convince anyone genuinely disliking the series, but for those like me or of course for the still very enthusiastic fans, it is more than satisfactory and succeeds in raising anticipation for the final book in the series.
This message last edited by Rebekah on 29/07/2010 at 11:01:03 PM
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Erikson's Dust of Dreams (no real spoilers) - 01/07/2010 12:21:07 AM 3865 Views
Excellent review. Strengthens my resolve to reread at least part of TtH before starting. Thanks. *NM* - 01/07/2010 02:08:40 AM 701 Views
You don't need to reread TtH, actually. Reaper's Gale is much more relevant. - 01/07/2010 09:44:43 AM 773 Views
But I didn't like Reaper's Gale. *NM* - 02/07/2010 02:30:01 AM 456 Views
I feel your pain, then. *NM* - 02/07/2010 09:46:24 AM 437 Views
Good review, thanks! *major spoilers* - 01/07/2010 05:34:59 AM 966 Views
What enraged me was the blatantly sexist treatment of... (Spoilers!) - 01/07/2010 06:09:21 AM 1330 Views
Yes, that was the main thing I was getting at with the "strong stomach" comment. - 01/07/2010 09:58:14 AM 1253 Views
The thing is... - 01/07/2010 04:51:22 PM 888 Views
I keep hearing about this 'Hobbling of Hetan'. - 01/07/2010 12:16:39 PM 1359 Views
Okay... (spoilers, obviously, and yes it is gruesome). - 01/07/2010 12:30:28 PM 1064 Views
OK I see. *edited for spelling* - 01/07/2010 12:41:16 PM 821 Views
Re: OK I see. - 01/07/2010 12:52:27 PM 858 Views
Re: OK I see. - 01/07/2010 01:09:30 PM 806 Views
Maybe your thesis is just a little too simple, then. - 01/07/2010 01:20:01 PM 887 Views
It's not really a thesis statement. - 01/07/2010 01:33:03 PM 796 Views
I knew I was forgetting something... - 01/07/2010 04:57:16 PM 878 Views
Yeah, agreed. - 02/07/2010 09:50:57 AM 858 Views
It'll be re-reading that starting in the next couple of days - 01/07/2010 10:11:42 AM 746 Views
Waiting for Part Two - 28/07/2010 02:47:00 AM 813 Views

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