Title: House of Chains
A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 4)
Author: Steven Erikson
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 of 5
My feelings about this book (as well as the first three Malazan books) is summed up in this description of a book given by Dorian Gray: “I didn’t say I liked it…I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference.” With the whole series being titled The Book of the Fallen it shouldn’t be surprising that it revels in the slaughter of innocents, rapes, cruel twists of fate, betrayals, and sundry other horrors and shattered dreams at every turn. I don’t mind some dark fantasy, but I probably would have given up on this grim series if it wasn’t for the fascinating, complex world-building and intricate plot.
There is no simple way to describe the plot(s). Each major character (and there are a LOT of them) has not only their own motivation, but also their own goal(s) that may or may not coincide with what any of the other characters are trying to accomplish. It makes for a much more “real world” feel than a more classic fantasy where everything centers on a single objective. That is what draws me to the story, but also what can make it very frustrating to follow. The author is completely unhelpful (seemingly, deliberately so) when it comes to keeping track of how things tie together…it feels like the kind of “art” that the artist makes purely for himself and gives a big “@$%! you if you don’t get it! I’m a genius!” to the public.
I feel like in this book (which focuses mostly on the Sha’ik rebellion), some of the overarching things that were going on on the ascendant/god level starting making a little more sense. I’m not sure if that is because the author subtly plotted it that way or because I consulted the Malazan wiki fairly frequently to keep track of what had happened to a character in previous books when they waltzed “on screen” after a 1,000+ page absence. At the end of the book, several of the big confrontations on the human level that had been building for the entire book were rather anti-climactic, but that’s par for the course in this series. I’ll eventually move on to the next book, but I definitely need a break from it for a while.