House of Chains is book four in Steven Erikson’s utterly epic series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's a departure from previous books in a few different respects. First and foremost, House of Chains zooms in to focus tightly on an individual character for the first section, something that Erikson hadn’t done before. But the most important departure is in the resolution. Previous denouement have featured dozens of characters juggled between several plot lines that somehow masterfully coalesce into a satisfying conclusion that ties them all together. House of Chains failed to deliver. Overall, the book was still enjoyable and I will continue with the series, but the conclusion of this novel felt totally random and lacking any emotional weight.
The third Malazan Book of the Fallen picks up as an uneasy alliance between Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake, and Dujek Onearm sets its sights on invading the Pannion Domin. Books one and two diverge, featuring largely different casts of characters, and it isn’t until we dive into the meat of book three, that the reader can really begin to glimpse what this is all about. In that sense, Memories of Ice is intensely rewarding. Most readers feel a sense of a slog by the time they have reached this point in the epic. We’re thrown into the deep end and left to find our bearings with no training wheels, no mercy. For many, the learning curve is understandably too steep to warrant reading three thousand pages before a story starts to make sense. But there are big rewards for those who persevere.
The world of the Malazan Empire is among the most complex fantasy worlds ever created. Very few would disagree with this, even those in the fantasy community who hold onto a firm dislike for Erikson’s storytelling style. I admire the world and characters; the complexity of both is second to none and I have within my mind’s eye, expanses of scenes as tragic as they are heroic, as cruel as they are hopeful.