Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson– Book Review

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

With a book this large and this filled with… well stuff… I needed a formal way to organize my thoughts. (For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

This will be a spoiler free review.

Characters

I liked

With over 800 pages, this book delivers a staggering amount of characters. Every time I started to get annoyed with a character, the point of view switched.

The characters themselves were fantastically fleshed out. They always felt like they had complex histories and stories. They also felt like a part of their world and invested.

I also have a soft spot of introspective characters that don’t get all angsty.

The character arcs were both beautifully plotted and unpredictable.

I didn’t like

I was really annoyed that the majority of my favourite characters were not in this book. I was really getting to like some of the mains from the first book.

Some of the characters suffer from what I’m calling fantasy race syndrome, in which they are something because their race is that thing.

There’s a lack of diverse women. The women in this book are either there as sensible love interests, broken women, leaders, or background characters.

I really wanted to fall in love with these characters. I knew some would die and I really wanted that feeling of falling in love with a character and didn’t get it.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author manages to be both poetic and excruciatingly brief. It’s a style that favours character depth and quick pacing. Every once in a while the author would add a great turn of phrase or a flowery description, but it never turns purple.

All epic fantasy authors have an obsession that shows in their work. Erikson loves history and archeology and it shows in his prose and world.

I didn’t like

There were more than a few times that the author’s love of history and archelogy showed me glimpses of other stories and I wished I was reading that instead.

There are long, walking scenes where the history interested me more than what was going on.

This book’s voice is extremely white, western, academic, and male. It shows the author’s culture and thought process in every description of noble savages and crazed wild men.

For writing style, I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I liked the focus on the small punctuated by the grand. The story sticks to characters and not grand concepts. The wars and battles are described in gory detail and not in romantic troop movements.

The world is beautifully crafted and gives a sense of so much history and so many other stories to be told.

I also appreciated that unlike a lot of other epic fantasy, the main stories of this book were wrapped up at the end.

I didn’t like

The gore and horror was a little much for me. I understand that it was needed for the story and for the set up but I’m not a huge fan of babies on pikes and raped bodies. (Aside… why would crazed killers only rape the women?)

If it wasn’t for the author’s wonderful language and compelling style I wouldn’t have read past the 300 page mark.

I give the story 2 out of 5.

Fun

I liked

The magic, history, and engineers were fantastic. The games of gods and ascendants fascinating. Some of the characters were absolutely awesome. The use of language and world building alone are worth the read.

I didn’t like

I’m not a war person. I don’t like the movies, books, or history; it’s not my thing. This book made me uncomfortable at multiple times and not in “out of your comfort zone” way.

I give it 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This book is fantastic when it hits all the right notes but when it’s off, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the history and cultures of that ancient world instead of paying attention to the book.

Like the first in the series it has a huge adaptation period where you’ll WTF all over the place.

Overall I think there’s a lot to love in this book and series but it has some awkward issues and it’s certainly not my style.

If you’d like a shorter and, in my opinion, more balanced writer try S. M. Carrière.

Final score is 60%

 

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Darkness and Angst

Hello Imaginary Friends,

I’m currently reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. This is a huge book but unlike a lot of other huge fantasy books a lot happens. Most of what happens is pretty horrifying.

There have been descriptions of babies on pikes, crucified children, eye balls exploding… Gory and chilling stuff. It’s also extremely well written to only shock and not scar the reader. The emphasis is always on the characters and not on the horrific things that happen.

Arguably the stuff that happens in this book is worse than anything that happened in the Story of Ice and Fire, at least the first 3 books I read, but it’s not done to disturb the reader but instead as part of the world building and realities of the world.

Thankfully, for me, this book doesn’t waste much space on angst. The characters are forced to deal with their scars and horrors as they are shoved from one death defying moment to the other.

Yes the book makes me cringe and some descriptions had my skin crawling but it’s written in such a way that it won’t keep me up at night. (Some of the mythology and story twists might but that’s a good thing.)

So far the book is amazingly written but definitely not my style. I still have a third to finish but military horrors are not my thing. I can see why this would be someone’s favourite series. It takes a lot to keep me reading when it’s so far from my preferred style to read. A lesser story or writing style with the same elements would have me quit two hundred pages in.

Later Days,

Éric

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