With The Crippled God, the Malazan Book of the Fallen series comes to an end in iron and blood, fire and triumph, magic and heartbreak. Steven Erikson manages to not only craft one of the best books I have read this year, but to finish what I believe to be one of the finest fantasy series I have ever read.
The Malazan we love
Here in the heart of Kolanse begins the final gambit as the greatest of all convergences begin. Here gods, men, dragons, Tiste Andii, Elder gods, Elder races, and more all swerve and journey onward to the Heart of the Crippled God. Some hope to free it, others wish to exploit it, while still others seek to destroy the alien thing. But none of that will matter if none survive to tell the tale.
Written twelve years after his first book in the Malazan series, Gardens of the Moon, Erikson’s tenth Book of the Fallen ends the tale of Adjunct Tavore, the Bonehunters, Ganoes Paran, Fiddler, Dead Hedge, Hood, Quick Ben, Kalam, the Bridgeburners, the titular Crippled God, and many more. Erikson brings strong characterization and endless humanity not only to these beloved characters whom we’ve known since the beginning, but also to the faceless, nameless soldiers of the Bonehunters, those whom the series is all about: the fallen. In Erikson’s writing, it is always worth speaking for the fallen, and there is always time to kneel by the soldier next to you, to hear their story.
A breathtaking finale
Having read breathlessly through the previous nine volumes, I can look at The Crippled God and say that Erikson knew what he was doing all along. This book and its culmination have been foreshadowed across the width and breadth of the series, going back even to the beginning. Threads, concepts, characters, and arcs from books ago spring back to life, weaving together and connecting in this final tale; the ending took my breath away with how seamlessly it all played out.
Erikson pulls out all the stops in his finale, bringing to life every aspect of the immense world he and his friend Ian Esslemont have built, showcasing the breathtaking world building that these two have spent decades on. Always an exercise in imagination and pure reasoning, Erikson does not disappoint as he uses the final book to delve even deeper into the wonderful world he has built.
Ultimately, where this book—and series as a whole—succeeds is in its representation of the human condition. Erikson digs down and digs deep into the human mind, heart and soul, mining his characters for their views on love, life, war, retribution, pain, sorrow, fate, life, death, posterity and all the eternal themes that worry the minds of humanity. In his hands, Erikson makes of every character a poet, a historian, a scholar, but always, always keeps them human. In their hearts, the series is elevated beyond the title of epic fantasy: it becomes a treatise on the human condition.
Why should you read this book?
Breathtakingly complex, overwhelmingly heartbreaking, fantastically humorous, and epic on every scale imaginable, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, and particularly The Crippled God, is the work of a true master, not just in writing, but in a study of storytelling and humanity, as well. While it is not without its difficulties and not every question is answered, I can say with full confidence that this series is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and I urge you to read it for yourself.
While the Malazan world still lives and there are still stories to tell, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is officially closed. Thank you, Steven Erikson, for all your worlds, all your passion, and, especially, this wonderful story. Well done.