Malazan Empire: Assail is a good book but a bad ending to a disappointing series. - Malazan Empire

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Assail is a good book but a bad ending to a disappointing series.

#41 User is offline   Nevyn 

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 09:00 PM

View PostAbyss, on 19 January 2015 - 07:34 PM, said:


Nope.

ICE and SE communicate, but SE isn't telling ICE what or how to write.

Dislike if you do, but Salvatore is writing work-for-hire to support licensed properties, and that's miles away from two parallel writers working in the same world.



Quick note on this. While I agree that ICE is not restricted the way Salvatore is, he is still restricted.

If only just because SE went first, they both define the world, and every word they write further constrains the stories that can be told from there, especially since the characters and back stories cross over.

SE has talked about the difficulty he has maintaining his own continuity. Imagine being ICE and trying to write a truly epic tale that in no way contradicts what has gone before. Lets put it this way. ICE and SE are putting together a jigsaw puzzle. SE put together the border and the main subject of the image, and ICE has been filling in all the rest.
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#42 User is offline   Fredwin 

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 02:15 PM

Finally got around to reading this and I have to agree with some of the sentiments here. It's quite a good book but it seems to spread itself a bit too thin, some stories are padded quite a bit while others are left unresolved.

The first half of the book is extremely strong. Enjoyed the prologue and the setup for each group of characters, I also really liked the geography and build of the blood feuds between the Icebloods/lowlanders. With there being kind of a free-for-all between the Jag-hum/Jaghut clans of the mountain valleys themselves and then the lowlanders as well. Pretty cool though, how each holding with the help of their ancestors would defend against each of their neighbors, like super tiny city-states, the only problem being that it seems really similar to the mountain Teblors/lowlanders feud in House of Chains.

Some stories seem extraneous. For instance, can someone tell me what the point of Reuth is? I thought his story would come full circle with us finding out that Storval actually murdered his Uncle during the attack and Reuth eventually getting revenge. That, or he is at least re-united with Kyle at some point, maybe even use his navigational skills to save people. He just doesn't accomplish anything or further anyone else's story. Kyle could have easily arrived through other means rather than Tulan's ship. That was a lot of extra pages right there. Another example, what's the point of Enguf? I totally assumed he would hamper the evacuation or attack the Ragstopper/Resolute/Dawn when left to his own devices out in the sea.

The ending was fairly lacking as already mentioned. I thought a cooler way to show how dire the Crimson Guard's T'lan situation is, would have been for K'azz to basically get really messed up fighting something ridiculous and he's basically torn to the absolute bone yet still on his feet. There's lots of build-up to how Shimmer is going to react to the final news yet she's pretty whatevs' about it. The T'lan mass don't really ever seem a threat to any major characters. They refuse to murder most of the humans, they get cut down pretty regularly throughout, they don't have access to their warren for most of the book, and what's left of them at the end would stand no chance against who they're arrayed against in front of the Forkrul Assail.

A couple of other things... Omtose Phellak is degenerating over the Sea of Dread so navigation becomes possible again, but what happens after it's been renewed at full force? Aren't those ships done for? Lastly, does it make no sense to anyone else that Cal-Brinn would take on a second vow? Not even sure why he was forced to keep the 4th company there for so long, seems kind of renegade.
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#43 User is offline   Nerevar 

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Posted 27 July 2015 - 04:27 PM

I saw Reuth as a sort of counterpoint or compliment to Fisher. Fisher is a character who we've "known" all along and who has shaped the tone and tales of this world, finally appearing and joining in the events (and scoring a lot). If you look at the map at the front of this book, it is drawn by Reuth. So apart from having him as (what I thought was a quite effective) viewpoint on the difficult journey through Assail, perhaps it is a way of bringing an in-world cartographer responsible for those maps into the world alongside the bard.
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#44 User is offline   Fredwin 

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Posted 29 July 2015 - 02:30 AM

View PostNerevar, on 27 July 2015 - 04:27 PM, said:

I saw Reuth as a sort of counterpoint or compliment to Fisher. Fisher is a character who we've "known" all along and who has shaped the tone and tales of this world, finally appearing and joining in the events (and scoring a lot). If you look at the map at the front of this book, it is drawn by Reuth. So apart from having him as (what I thought was a quite effective) viewpoint on the difficult journey through Assail, perhaps it is a way of bringing an in-world cartographer responsible for those maps into the world alongside the bard.


True. I did notice the map was signed by him when I went back to reference it at one point. I actually thought that would be important which is why when I finished the book it all felt kind of superfluous to me. The map could have easily been signed -Charles though, and I doubt it would have made a difference to readers.

The thing is that Fisher is a bit of a badass, he's obviously very close to ascending, himself. Reuth on the other hand, is just coming in to his own after dealing with the awkwardness of youth and the death of his uncle. I think it would have been a strong first showing for him if I didn't already know that the story, both his and overall is effectively over. So it's nice to see Fisher get involved in one of his tales, like you mentioned. That makes a good close to the book. I'm not really sure how Reuth comes as a counter-point though, it just seems unfinished to me.
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#45 User is offline   Nerevar 

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Posted 29 July 2015 - 07:36 AM

I don't think Esslemont intends it to be as complete as all that. I've been thinking about how he is always (rightly) praised to the skies for his world building, and I think leaving a few unfinished stories, a few tales just begun, out there when he reaches the last pages of his finale serves that too. This shared Malazan world lives and breathes because it feels like even when you look in the other direction, it's still there doing its thing, with all its quests and triumphs and tribulations ongoing. So perhaps bringing the cartographer into the story briefly is already enough to make the world a bit more real in ICE's view, and as for putting him in an ideal position to have more adventures in future, that's all part of his "world keeps turning" style of wrapping up his books (though admittedly I would have liked an establishing scene between Reuth and Giana near the end where she tried to instil her love of travel in him).

As for it being a counterpoint... in the novel, Fisher and Reuth have both had an adventure; Fisher is already recognized, Reuth not so much... makes a nice contrast and parallel. Maybe ICE feels like showing different stages in the life of people whose published work makes them extremely famous is enough to make his point. Also, Fisher's having become an interesting and later POV character in itself suggests to the reader how significantly Reuth can one day contribute to the world around him. Influencing the world even as you record it, and what have you.
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#46 User is offline   Fredwin 

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 03:17 PM

View PostNerevar, on 29 July 2015 - 07:36 AM, said:

I don't think Esslemont intends it to be as complete as all that. I've been thinking about how he is always (rightly) praised to the skies for his world building, and I think leaving a few unfinished stories, a few tales just begun, out there when he reaches the last pages of his finale serves that too. This shared Malazan world lives and breathes because it feels like even when you look in the other direction, it's still there doing its thing, with all its quests and triumphs and tribulations ongoing. So perhaps bringing the cartographer into the story briefly is already enough to make the world a bit more real in ICE's view, and as for putting him in an ideal position to have more adventures in future, that's all part of his "world keeps turning" style of wrapping up his books (though admittedly I would have liked an establishing scene between Reuth and Giana near the end where she tried to instil her love of travel in him).

As for it being a counterpoint... in the novel, Fisher and Reuth have both had an adventure; Fisher is already recognized, Reuth not so much... makes a nice contrast and parallel. Maybe ICE feels like showing different stages in the life of people whose published work makes them extremely famous is enough to make his point. Also, Fisher's having become an interesting and later POV character in itself suggests to the reader how significantly Reuth can one day contribute to the world around him. Influencing the world even as you record it, and what have you.


Alright, I still don't think Reuth was intended as a contrast to Fisher but I do agree with everything else you said, thanks for that.

Any thoughts on the other couple things I mentioned as far as the Sea of Dread/Cal-Brinn's vows?

This post has been edited by Fredwin: 01 August 2015 - 03:17 PM

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#47 User is offline   Nerevar 

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 01:38 PM

I've only read it the once myself, I think we are supposed to assume the ships got away in time - though how Ieleen gets back to Mantle with the conditions now even worse is a damn good question. I suppose having a friendly Jaghut sorceress knocking around with you could be a boon to you and yours? But the short answer is I have no idea!

As for Cal-Brinn, my take on the nature of the Crimson Guard is that as a mercenary company means they are free to act as companies, squads and individuals independent of K'azz, provided they are not running totally counter to the Guard's original purpose (like Skinner), provided they are not aware of a central directive (as in 'Diaspora's End'), and in return for reimbursement either financially or otherwise which furthers their survival and cause. The T'lan Imass seem to have similiar flexibility within the confines of the Tellann ritual, and if anything are even less unified than the Guard (though admittedly that can be attributed to their longevity). I would have to have a re-read of the books - especially MoI and RotCG - with Assail's events in mind, but that's how I see it.

So I don't think he was renegade in staying in Assail. He had to make a sacrifice to get Bars free, and I suppose he judged escaping the continent with his own people too much of a risk, especially given the chance K'azz, Bars and Shimmer could have turned up and used their own resources and risked everyone's lives trying to rescue him, only for the 4th to have disappeared (either dying escaping Assail, dying somewhere after, or being otherwise lost or prevented from getting to Stratem or Quon Tali).
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#48 User is offline   Mob 

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Posted 09 January 2016 - 06:05 PM

View PostFredwin, on 07 July 2015 - 02:15 PM, said:

Finally got around to reading this and I have to agree with some of the sentiments here. It's quite a good book but it seems to spread itself a bit too thin, some stories are padded quite a bit while others are left unresolved.

The first half of the book is extremely strong. Enjoyed the prologue and the setup for each group of characters, I also really liked the geography and build of the blood feuds between the Icebloods/lowlanders. With there being kind of a free-for-all between the Jag-hum/Jaghut clans of the mountain valleys themselves and then the lowlanders as well. Pretty cool though, how each holding with the help of their ancestors would defend against each of their neighbors, like super tiny city-states, the only problem being that it seems really similar to the mountain Teblors/lowlanders feud in House of Chains.

Some stories seem extraneous. For instance, can someone tell me what the point of Reuth is? I thought his story would come full circle with us finding out that Storval actually murdered his Uncle during the attack and Reuth eventually getting revenge. That, or he is at least re-united with Kyle at some point, maybe even use his navigational skills to save people. He just doesn't accomplish anything or further anyone else's story. Kyle could have easily arrived through other means rather than Tulan's ship. That was a lot of extra pages right there. Another example, what's the point of Enguf? I totally assumed he would hamper the evacuation or attack the Ragstopper/Resolute/Dawn when left to his own devices out in the sea.

The ending was fairly lacking as already mentioned. I thought a cooler way to show how dire the Crimson Guard's T'lan situation is, would have been for K'azz to basically get really messed up fighting something ridiculous and he's basically torn to the absolute bone yet still on his feet. There's lots of build-up to how Shimmer is going to react to the final news yet she's pretty whatevs' about it. The T'lan mass don't really ever seem a threat to any major characters. They refuse to murder most of the humans, they get cut down pretty regularly throughout, they don't have access to their warren for most of the book, and what's left of them at the end would stand no chance against who they're arrayed against in front of the Forkrul Assail.

A couple of other things... Omtose Phellak is degenerating over the Sea of Dread so navigation becomes possible again, but what happens after it's been renewed at full force? Aren't those ships done for? Lastly, does it make no sense to anyone else that Cal-Brinn would take on a second vow? Not even sure why he was forced to keep the 4th company there for so long, seems kind of renegade.


Interesting post. I myself finally got round to reading Assail last week and came away with many of the old familiar feelings about the ICE books.

I thought that the first 200 pages or so were great, but things then descended into a boring Blood and Bone-esque travelogue that was intermittently spiced up by interesting scenes. In the final 150 pages or so, the book came back to life and delivered a good ending. It wasn't as bad as the atrocious Blood and Bone, but hardly qualifies as a great Malazan novel.

ICE does write good yarns (Night of Knives and OST had elements of that, interspersed with some more negative points), and can occasionally veer towards really something epic (RotCG and STW). He is great at assembling the pieces for a story, and is brilliant on landscapes/settings. But he simply cannot write at the level of literary sophistication that he is aiming for, and which inspired both he and SE. Erikson mentioned Umberto Eco and others as inspirations for ICE and himself, and while SE ascends to the higher literary plane, it would be fanboyish in the extreme, and frankly delusional, to hold that ICE does. He struggles to make characters distinctive or consistently invest them with a 'voice' of their own. In seeking sophistication, his plots end up with too little nuance in some places (characterisation is as subtle as a sledgehammer) and too much ambiguity in others. The mishandling of the Stormriders is the perfect example of that latter point and an enduring black mark on the Malazan series. He also expects a lot of readers - for instance to simply accept that the Crimson Guard are super-interesting, or that the Stormriders are unique bad asses - without ever really earning it. It is this, above all, that I feel holds the books back from reaching their full potential as old-fashioned yarns. Meanwhile in his later books there was a tendency for characters to walk around, doing nothing much except surviving the rigours of a journey that gave ICE the opportunity to write sentence after sentence describing the landscape.

I agree that in many respects comparing ICE to SE is unfair. They are different men who write within a world that is purely fictional. However, let's be clear: the reason why the ICE books are published by Tor is that the publisher knows that anything with 'Malazan' on the front cover will sell a good number of copies to a set of dedicated readers. That appetite derives from the Erikson books.

I tried really hard to develop a better view of ICE's previous books when re-reading them last year. I had a greater appreciation for STW, even though I was disappointed by the Stormriders. But I was struck by how bad the characterisation was in OST (the first time I read it, I was swept along by the yarn). And Blood and Bone is simply atrocious, only getting worse on the second read. The plot is limited in the extreme. I will now definitely view his existing works as purely 'optional' texts and doubt I'll be revisiting them in the future.


Criticising ICE isn't simply an unfair longing for SE to write the stories instead, it's based on an objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the books.


I will read his forthcoming trilogy, but am not optimistic. I just hope that he ditches the travelogue element and concentrates on what he does a decent job of: yarns that move along at a fast pace and which don't give the reader too much time to think about the weaknesses. Overall, he did a good job of this in his first three books, but the following three showed a marked deterioration in terms of story-telling competence. If he butchers Dancer and Kellanved - as I expect him to - I'll be disappointed.
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#49 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 09 January 2016 - 09:50 PM

Love objective assessments of works of art. Truly in awe of anyone who can pull that off.
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#50 User is offline   Mob 

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Posted 10 January 2016 - 05:05 PM

View Postworry, on 09 January 2016 - 09:50 PM, said:

Love objective assessments of works of art. Truly in awe of anyone who can pull that off.


Thanks!
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#51 User is offline   polishgenius 

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 08:49 AM

Something's clearly gone wrong in your objective assessment, because ICE clearly writes characters (particularly the small, personal moments) better or at least more consistently than SE.
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#52 User is offline   Dolmen 2.0 

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 09:16 PM

It was...ok.

-Dolmen

Seriously I had a feeling it could have been a lot worse. Assail had ICE discover his voice in a way.

I would not have changed much in this story. YES, I want a big battle, something like RotCG would have been fantastic here, but that would not have felt "Jaghut" if you get my meaning. How fitting their response. Hundreds people from different nations, countries and clans vying for their annihilation and then "Fuck off. love, this massive Glacier"

I think this book did not need the Crimson Guard but they fit into the story just fine. I would argue there was a whole story to tell regarding the jaghut spirits and with the brethren. I would argue there was a ton of agency Silverfox could have acted on. I would argue "The blade of bone" was a tad bit contrived. still, for what it was it was a nice story, I doubt I'd reread it anytime soon but I am glad I did read it this one time, it was worth it.

This post has been edited by Dolmen 2.0: 27 August 2019 - 09:33 PM

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