I can name few books that I found as brutal and heart wrenching as the second Malazan book, Deadhouse Gates. It was because of this that I went into Memories of Ice anticipating a quieter, more introspective volume. A chance for me, the reader, to catch my breath after the emotionally exhausting climax of Deadhouse Gates.
Hahahaha. You can’t tell from where you’re sitting, but that’s hysterical laughter on my part. I thought Deadhouse Gates was bad? Man, I had no idea. Erikson was just getting warmed up, and in Memories of Ice we see exactly how far he is willing to push his poor, poor characters.
It was a real treat to get back to the Gardens of the Moon gang- especially the Bridgeburners. They spend much of the series debut on their own and undergoing sneaky missions, which was fantastic (I’ll never look at roadworks the same way again!), but it was also really cool to see them in a more "traditional" army setting. A good chunk of this book is the Bridgeburners and the rest of Dujek's army marching from point a to point b, which on paper sounds really boring. But it was just so cool to see how the Bridgeburner’s operate, to see why others view them with such awe.
And Anomander Rake and Caladan Brood! I am sure I am not the only reader who was instantly fascinated with Rake in GotM and wanting to see much more of him. I was equally keen to properly meet Caladan Brood, and to see how their relationship operated. Memories of Ice does not disappoint on that front! Rake is such a fantastic character. Through his burgeoning friendship with Whiskyjack we see a more “human” side of him, but at the same time he remains as alien and mysterious as ever. (But clearly the award for coolest bromance has to go to Toc the Younger and Tool. Loved every second of page time those two shared. Did not however love what happened to Toc once he went his own way, in the sense that it was fantastic reading but not fantastic for my heart…)
And this is really only one of many storylines that make up Memories of Ice. The siege of Capustan was just…. Wow. Easily the most graphically violent thing I have ever read (and I’ve read/suffered through American Psycho…) and yet the blood and gore never feels gratuitous. Rather it felt like every other author of a fantasy battle has been suger coating, and here Erikson is revealing the awful bloody truth of it. Which is not to say that I’ve never read a bloody battle scene before, but there’s just something so awful and visceral about the siege of Capustan.
I think if Deadhouse Gates was the book where I started to really care of the Malazan world and it’s characters, then Memories of Ice has to be the book where I actually started to understand what was going on. The warrens started to make sense, and I felt like I was getting a handle on the gods and ascendants and how they operate. I definitely wasn’t leaning as heavily on chapter summaries to make sense of things, and I was able to figure out who characters were and make connections all on my own.
But I really wasn’t kidding about Erikson inflicting awful things upon his characters. Coltraine remained a very aloof and removed character throughout Deadhouse Gates, and his fate nearly broke something inside of me. When equally bad things start to happen to characters a little closer to home, man, it was tough. It was hard to read, but equally hard to stop reading, if that makes sense. This book was brutal and awesome, in the literal sense of the word, and finishing it left me drained. But damn if I didn’t love every second of it.
I bought this book