Forge of Darkness


While I was reading Erikson's magnum opus, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, even though there were more than enough incredible storylines, my favorite parts were always the prologues offering flashbacks from the tale's distant past. Hence, when the author revealed that he would write an entire trilogy chronicling the story of Anomander Rake and the Tiste people, I was giddy with excitement.

I was looking forward to reading Forge of Darkness, for I knew that it would be a different reading experience. As was the case when we watched the second Star Wars trilogy, we already know how it's going to end. So in a way, we're along for the ride to finally discover how Anakin will turn to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. And yet, as is Steven Erikson's wont, the novel raises a lot more questions than it answers. . .

The Malazan Book of the Fallen was so vast in depth, scope, and vision, my only true concern was that this new trilogy wouldn't live up to the lofty expectations created by the original book cycle. And although Forge of Darkness may not be as sprawling a novel as the other Malazan installments, it remains an epic and multilayered tale.

Here's the blurb:

Forge of Darkness: Now is the time to tell the story of an ancient realm, a tragic tale that sets the stage for all the tales yet to come and all those already told...

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power… and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Steven Erikson entered the pantheon of great fantasy writers with his debut Gardens of the Moon. Now he returns with the first novel in a trilogy that takes place millennia before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and introduces readers to Kurald Galain, the warren of Darkness. It is the epic story of a realm whose fate plays a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan Empire.

Forge of Darkness takes us back millennia into the past. The earliest flashback from The Malazan Book of the Fallen takes us back nearly 300,000 years and Forge of Darkness occurs centuries or millennia before that. As the tale begins, dragons are just a legend. It is a time before the Elder Gods, before the Holds, before the Warrens. After a bitter and hard-fought war against a previous incarnation of the Forkrul Assail (or so it seems), there is finally peace in Kurald Galain. The cult of Mother Dark cult is growing in Kharkanas and the Tiste people have grown hedonistic and decadent, and now civil war is looming.

As always, Erikson's worldbuilding is top notch. As Warrens don't exist just yet, Kurald Galain is a land situated in a "real" world. It is unclear if this country and the realms beyond it -- the Thel Akai, the Jaghut, the Jheck, and the Dog-Runners' realms to the west beyond the Bareth Solitude, as well as the Forulkan realm to the south -- existed at one point on Wu or if they exist in another dimension or something similar. It is ambiguous, for there are mentions of the High Kingdom and its High King, and Malazan fans are well aware that before he was cursed by three Elder Gods, Kallor ruled over an empire on the continent of Jacuruku. Then again, it might be a different High King, or it might be that he ruled in another dimension. As far as the Malazan canon is concerned, unless Kallor reached Wu first, the Tiste Invasion took place long before the evolution of humans when the Tiste Andii and the Tiste Edur faced the K'Chain Che'Malle on the continent of Lether. Thus, a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Though Forge of Darkness raises a panoply of new questions and provides very few answers, discovering more and more regarding that distant and mysterious past is utterly fascinating. One thing to remember is that as the tale begins, even though there are factions and dissension among them, the Tiste are a united people. At this point, there is no such thing as the Tiste Andii, the Tiste Edur, or the Tiste Liosan. It's interesting to see and learn things about the previous incarnations of races that populate The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Like the Jaghut, who have put an end to their civilization. Or the Azathanai, the people that were never born. Or the Dog-Runners, the Imass' ancestors.

The characterization is probably the aspect that will disappoint some readers. Sadly, the narrative doesn't feature POVs from Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, or Andarist. Forge of Darkness unfolds through the eyes of a great many disparate characters, a lot more than I felt was necessary. But since this is the first volume, only time will tell if such a high number of POV protagonists was required. As was the case with the last few Malazan installments, Erikson's characters go through a lot of introspection. Which at times, it's true, can bog down the narrative.

One would have thought that familiar faces such as the Sons of Darkness, Draconus, and Scara Bandaris would have been the principal POV characters, but the better part of the novel is made up of the POV from new protagonists. Although most of the scenes featuring Draconus are told from his bastard son Arathan's perspective, finding out more about this enigmativ man was great. We are aware that he's at the heart of what's to come, so it's nice to see Draconus feature so prominently in Forge of Darkness. Another factor that readers might find off-putting is that, not only don't we get POVs from Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, and Andarist, but the three brothers don't get much "air time" in this book. Still, it is intriguing to follow younger versions of characters such as Osserc, Spinnock Durav, Sandalath Drukorlat, Orfantal, and others.

Although we were told that Steven Erikson's style would be a bit different in this new series, I haven't perceived any difference in style and tone. But it does feel that Erikson writes with a tighter focus. Though epic in scope, it's not as sprawling as The Malazan Book of the Fallen. More structured, also, which at times feels a bit odd, given the style of the 10-book cycle (where everything could happen at any given moment). Having said that, the plot is as convoluted as that of any other Malazan offering.

The pace of the novel is a bit uneven and much different from what we are used to from Erikson. Habitually, the author starts slow, gradually building up the plotlines, and then going all out for a mind-blowing finale. Virtually all the Malazan installments were like that, so fans have come to expect such structure. With Forge of Darkness, it's the complete opposite. The book features a strong beginning, and then an even stronger middle portion. Yet instead of the exciting ending that we have come to love, Erikson came up with a somewhat weaker and anticlimactic ending for Forge of Darkness. I have a feeling that it has a lot to do with the structure of a trilogy. In and of itself, Forge of Darkness is a set-up book. Steven Erikson is laying A LOT of groundwork for the rest of the series. And though it may be a little lackluster, it looks as though Forge of Darkness ends just the way it should, setting the stage for what should be an amazing sequel. Only time will tell if Fall of Light will live up to that potential. As things stand, it appears that Forge of Darkness is a vast introduction that will serve as the opening chapter for what is to come, and as such I'm wondering how well it will stand on its own.

Even with the absence of the sort of convergence that always allowed Erikson to cap all of his novels off with style, there is more than enough secrets, questions, and revelations to satisfy Malazan fans. Forge of Darkness will have you begging for more, which is all we can ask for!

What would be a new Malazan offering without a timeline issue, right!?! And yes, Forge of Darkness features a couple of glaring timeline errors. The first: Sukul Ankhadu was a soletaken Eleint goddess of the Tiste Edur. She was sister to Menandore, and half-sister to Sheltatha Lore. She was the daughter of Tiam and Osserc. At least, that's what we learned in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Problem is, at the beginning of Forge of Darkness Sukul Ankhadu is already a young woman held as a noble hostage. It is a problem because she appears to be older than Osserc (who could be anywhere between late teenage years and young adulthood). So as things stand, Osserc could not have fathered Sukul Ankhadu. Moreover, at this juncture dragons are just a legend and Tiam remains unknown to the Tiste. The second time issue has to do with Sheltatha Lore. But I can't provide more details without including spoilers, so I'll refrain from doing so.

I brought it up on malazanempire.com and we were told that Steven Erikson is aware of these apparent errors and remains unmoved. Hence, we have to trust the author and see how he will reconcile these errors with the established Malazan canon.

For all of its flaws, Forge of Darkness is a "must read" for all Malazan fans out there!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

27 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Been looking forward to this trilogy since it was first announced, mainly because hopefully Anomander Rake and his brothers would get the spotlight these powerful characters deserve. That this isn’t the case is really disappointing, and that they apparently are hardly inn it is even more surprising. Aren’t they at the center of the action in this time period?

If this is going to be the case of the entire trilogy, then I will be very disappointed. I want to read about the main story and the central characters of this time period dammit, not side stories with average Joes of the time. I really hope Erikson isn’t chickening out just to be unique in his story telling.

Anonymous said...

I feel like these characters will be more prominent in next two books of the trilogy. It is mentioned in prelude, which is from Gallan's perspective, that Rake was very much forced into action by the events that take place in this book. It is also in the Malazan Books of the Fallen that the actions Rake took (becoming soletaken) was in order to unite the division that was forming between the Tiste. So I wouldn't worry too much, I'm sure Rake and his brothers will find their way into a more influential position in the next books of the trilogy.

machinery said...

the CG was a terrible book.
what score did you give it pat ?

Fred said...

Should a non-reader of the Malazan Empire look at this one since it's a prequel or reading the Malazan cycle first is mandatory?

Merci :)

Anonymous said...

I thought TCG was the best book of the series, most epic entry in the most epic series ever written.

Needed to say that.

Arr said...

I had to think long and hard about buying this book, as I felt the original series fell apart somewhere around the Bonehunters. (or rather, it failed to focus on the characters and plots that I found important, which is admittedly not quite the same thing ;))

I'm a little bit annoyed to hear about the multiple view points in this novel; that was one of the worst things about the first series- endless viewpoints from ultimately disposable characters contributing nothing to the plot.

I'll see when the book arrives I guess...!

Anonymous said...

Yea and I would hate to think that an author might write the story they wished to tell...have you read crack'd pot trail?

Anonymous said...

Why are you bothering reading this review then?

Anonymous said...

TCG was the best book in the series IMHO.

Good review BTW:) looking forward to read the book.

Anonymous said...

TCG was the best book of the series.

Great review btw:) looking forward to read this.

mobb said...

i need to read this!

Sheryl said...

I thought that TCG was a great end to the Malazan series too. Don't get the idea that it was bad.

Anyway. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one. I read the first chapter and am glad to say that it just made me eager for more. :D

Paradoxicaldr said...

Is Machinery actually a modern day troll? I have never seen him/her post anything positive about anything. If tCG is a bad book I'd love to know what a good book looks like...

Mike said...

I don't believe the Sukul Ankhadu/Osserc timeline issue was accidental. They are too prominent as characters in MBotF with known genealogies for SE to have messed that up. No way he has a daughter older than her father...unless there's more to it, which we should expect from SE by now.

His interview quote about how this tale is being told through the eyes of a person with a particular agenda might explain it, but guess I'll have to RAFO.

machinery said...

paradoxical - why do you care if i like something or not ?
people who accuse others of being trolls, should stop and put a mirror infront of themselves when they go after others like you do.
why don't you go after "anonymous" who has to put 3 posts of how great the CG was.

qwerty said...

machinery, I don't think it's that people care if you like a book or not so much as it is that rather than disagreeing by stating that you didn't like the book as much as Patrick or someone else in the comments, you instead personally attack the person who like it for having a different opinion than yours. When I read reviews of a book on Amazon I read both the positive and negative reviews to get a good handle on both sides of the opinions to try and determine whether or not I will like a book based on those reviews. But instead of giving a differing opinion about why you liked/didn't like a particular book or author, your comments come off as just accusing people of being stupid because their opinion differs from yours. I'm not saying this to be a troll or to start a fight with you. And you are definitely not the only one guilty of doing this, but to be honest almost everyone of your comments I've ever seen comes off in this way. That's what rubs people the wrong way. Not that you didn't like the book they did, or that you liked a book or author that they did not.

Abalieno said...

It's a different issue:

> the CG was a terrible book.

You surely offer plenty of arguments, why do you care letting us know that?

> what score did you give it pat ?

Go use the search function lazy ass. You care enough to post a comment, but it seems that searching for the past review was a task too complex for you.

Paradoxicaldr said...

Why do I care? Don't know but I am curious to see what it is you actually might like. Or are you afraid that by offering up something we then might shoot it down in flames like you so often do? ;)
Why would I go after Anonymous? I liked the book, remember?

machinery said...

qwerty - who did i attack ?
i made my opinion of the CG and that's it, paradoxical decided that i am a troll.

now adalieno decided like a normal facist that i have no right to an opinion and that i'm lazy because i also asked a question !!

and PARADOXICAL - i come to this site because it's on of the few that gave me good reccomendations on books .

i owe no one an explanation on why i like or dislike.
i could also ask you or that "anonymous" guy like the rude facist adalieno did :
"You surely offer plenty of arguments, why do you care letting us know that?"

but i'm a troll , right ?
for making an opinion, asking a question and not attacking anyone personally.
i'm the troll...
and you guys are ?

qwerty said...

machinery, you are very defensive. Again, I was not trying to start a fight or even to be rude to you. I was simply hoping to point out to you why others might be taking your post the wrong way if you were not intending them to come off that way. For example, this post is not about the Crippled God, but it's about a book by the same author and Patrick reviewed both of them favorably. When I read your comment, to me it reads like you are trying to insult Patrick because you know he gave that book an extremely favorable review and you didn't like it. And therefore he is stupid or whatver for liking a book you did not. Again, you are completely entitled to your opinion of a book. No, you don't "owe" anyone an explanation for why you liked or didn't like a book. But if you aren't interested in discussing such things, I'm not sure I understand why you comment? (But yes, you are free to comment anyway or in the way you choose). What I was trying to say before, when I read reviews here or elsewhere, if you have a dissenting opinion, I would love to hear the reasons for it because it helps me make a more informed decision about which books and authors to try. And it's not just about this post. I noticed a few weeks ago that any time Terry Goodkind was mentioned, you posted something tacky about George R. R. Martin and the people who like his books. Now, I take from this that you like Goodkind, but not Martin. I've never read either author. But you never state why you like one author or why you don't like the other author. Which as you point out you owe no one an explanation for. I apologize if you feel picked on, but I was honestly just trying to point out as non offensively as possible why your comments always seem to rub people the wrong way in case you honestly are not aware of how other people are taking them.

Paradoxicaldr said...

And you are so easy to wind up as well! I still don't understand why your posts are always so negative. Haven't you got anything positive to say at all? Give us an example of a good series of books so you can at least shut me up for the time being ;)

machinery said...

paradoxical - if it will shut you up ...
find the post of pat about connoly's cancellation of his series, i poster that it was the best book recommendation i got from this site.
(and it was before connoly himself posted a comment).
besides, i have searched reviews on the CG for a long time before it came out, and EVERYONE was giving it 10/10 or near that, and i couldn't understand why, the book was so different in style that the previous ones, the story was fragmented like never before, it was just bad.

qwerty, about goodkind and other authors in general.
they are not saints or gods, even they can be criticized.
about goodkind i can say personally that i read his series, and since book 4 it could have been done in 1.5 books at most, but i have seen a trend of hating him that is amazing to me, people hate him personally, because ...
while they can't bear any criticism on others like martin.
i am talking about the hipocritical attitudes here, and for the record martin is tem times the author goodkind is, but 10 times less ethical imo.

people, and i have seen this on some forums , are responding as fans (which is a short for fanatics i sometimes think) and not as people who like to read books.
you want to be a fan in a site dedicated to a certain author, it's ok, but this site is about sci-fi, right ?

in a site about books, people are the most closed minded to opinions, that's amazing to me.

Paradoxicaldr said...

Well I'll be honest and say I haven't heard of Harry Connolly before so can't make any comments about that.

As for the Crippled God I thought structurally it was very similar to the majority of Erikson's other Malazan novels although, as with Dust of Dreams and Toll the Hounds, a lot heavier on the philosophizing side of the coin. Not sure what you mean by fragmented though? It did jump around a bit but that's probably because of all the multiple threads converging.

AS for Martin, well I like his books as well. But I just hope that he finishes them before A) he dies and B) Game of Thrones finishes on the telly. I can just imagine the scenario where the TV shows ends differently to the novels ;)

qwerty said...

Machinery, I know exactly what you mean about the fanatical fans. People get a favorite author or a favorite series of books and they freak out if someone criticizes it. I wasn't aware of this with George Martin, I admit. I thought even his diehard fans were getting tired of the 5-6 year waits between books. His books are supposed to be very good, but I'm waiting to see if he lives long enough to finish it before I bother to start reading. That way when I do I don't have to wait for years and years between installments and forget what happened in the previous books. And if he dies without finishing I'm not sure I'll bother at all.

I have noticed that a lot of people take an issue with Goodkind. It seems to be more about his personal beliefs than his stories. Though I had heard similar things to what you said about his writing before, that his first several books were really good and then the ending seemed to just be getting drug out. But I'd heard the same thing about some of Robert Jordan's mid/later books. And no one seems to personally hate him quite like they do Goodkind.

I used to read Laurell Hamilton's early books, before she abandoned plots in favor of increasingly bizzare sex acts. When that series took an abrupt change in tone, a lot of the older fans were unhappy. And you would get viciously attacked by the newer fans if you dared to suggest the books weren't as good as they used to be. Hamilton herself even has gone off on the fans who don't like her newer books on her blog. They don't seem to defend her as much in the Amazon forums anymore. But I don't think you can even post something unfavorable on her website forums anymore without the moderators deleting it.

Point being, just because you like something doesn't mean you can't admit that it's not perfect. And just because it's your favorite doens't mean it's for everyone. It's like the Glen Cook pointed out in the interview Patrick did with him a couple of years ago, people take this stuff too seriously.

Anonymous said...

I think Erikson's change in style is more the fact that this book moves away from the convergence structure.

Most of his books slowly build up to a huge convergence at the end. Forge of Darkness doesn't, ending on a story/significance high, but without an actual coming together of power resulting in conflict and resolution.

Luke McGuire said...

nice forum. im a huge erikson fan. more to the point i should say im a big honkin giant malazan fan. im a nutter for the stuff. ive read it all, most books at least twice. i also love the esslemont stuff. to me they have created the most imaginative colorful and dense and wonderful world in epic fantasy. i was off fantasy for years, since i read lord of the rings as at age 15 or 16. i just didnt think anything else could do it for me. boy was i wrong. the malazan world did it and lots more. it inspired me to look into more stuff. i think the black company stuff is incredible but it lacks the meticulous beauty of eriksons worlds. ive read the first five game of thrones books. to me its a poor example of fantasy. for the most part, first two books for sure, its more historical fiction, medieval court politics and intrigue (which isnt very intriguing). its quite tedious yet if it is completed i think it could be good (though nowhere near malazan good). its not until the second book that the supernatural is introduced. a dragon is hatched at the tail end of the first book. it does pick up. by the fourth book the dragons arent big enough to ride but can exterminate a chamber of human vermin faster than you can scream raid. it takes patience but there is pay off. the juiciest bits, fantasy-wise take place on the fringe: the wall and the nights watch, the assassins cabal in the strange land were a young girl winds up, etc. i just hope its completed. im slowly getting around to keck. havent read enough to know if ill like it. i liked the first cycle of the chronicles of thomas covenant and sooner or later ill get to scott r bakker. i like going into these things without knowing what to expect. i dont pay attention to reviews i am interested - i try - to see if its well liked by sources i respect. i go by friends recommendations.

Luke McGuire said...

the first law by joe abercrombie was recommended me by the biggest fantasy geek ive had the pleasure of knowing and i loved it. bayaz the wizard in the trilogy was an amazing character and i just know logan isnt dead. i cant believe he didnt know about the book of the fallen and i told him that it was imperative that he read it and now that he lost the election for county court clerk he should have time. 5 first law books i totally dig and four more to come! im interested to know what the controversy involving terry goodkind is about. ive not read him but im inclined to give 'im a go. glad i found this forum and look forward to dishing with people about my old love with which ive been reunited. after ten years of nearly only nonfiction ive not been able to get enough fantasy. it started with the book of the fallen about 2 yrs ago and ive read so much so veraciously i have to remind myself sometimes of plot lines and names. as for the karkhanas trilogy rake silchas and andarist will most definitely be slaying from the front lines. as of the beginning rake is not yet a soletaken? the tiste do not yet know tiam? wow. already more than i expected. the timeline issues? if they were slip ups im not worried the master will smooth things out in a way that one would have no way of knowing they were truly mistakes though im quite sure it was his intent. cant wait to learn of the guy that walked out of the vitr like tayschrenn walking in? ooohh. im like a leetle gell. even after crippled god, and esslemonts three, i have a lot of questions and historical material id like to have books written about. hopefully this series will tell me all ill want to know about draconus and especially his daughters. i suppose my q's about the arrival of the andii and the exodus of the eleint will be answered. i want a book or series about icarium. hes a jaghut/thel akai i believe but just how did he become so powerful? the just wars, the jaghut wars, and a few other topics. aside from the nonpareil world building, which eriksons expertise in anthropology made so magnificent, its the inclusion and presence of actual gods, so many different (not races, not even species) intelligent lifeforms with their own respective rich civilizations and cultures. THE most epic and vast, yet substantial, timeline of which im aware. finally, i think a noninitiate could start with this series but why would anyone do that to them selves. you have a whole completed series to read not one book and then wait what will seem like way to long (even if its only 8 months)for the next installment. read the main body of work and when youre finished maybe all of this trilogy will be available...ok probably not, but maybe the first two. i love it forever and thats all im gonna say for now, save: machinery, theyre right. ive no idea why you insist on spending your time responding to and leaving comments here. stick to the reviews. cg was awesome its actually half of the final volume of the book of the fallen and to wrap up what in my opinion in many ways is the most epic fantasy work is gonna require some concessions on the authors part. like splitting the final volume into two separate volumes. looking forward to further correspondence, luke.