Malazan Empire: Abyss'mal Essalieyan read thread - Malazan Empire

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Abyss'mal Essalieyan read thread Now reading THE SHINING COURT... already shinier than Tiste's thre

#41 User is offline   Whisperzzzzzzz 

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Posted 02 June 2023 - 09:45 PM

View PostAbyss, on 02 June 2023 - 06:36 PM, said:

i swear the reading order w this series is it's greatest challenge.


For people starting the series these days, it's not that hard — start with House War. It's only Pat's Sun Sword evangelism that is muddying the water 😉
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#42 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 03 June 2023 - 01:54 AM

View PostAbyss, on 02 June 2023 - 06:36 PM, said:

i swear the reading order w this series is it's greatest challenge.


And doubtless why it didn't do well commercially and what ultimately led to West being dumped by her publisher. :(

By telling people to start with the first House War book, you are asking readers to commit to reading 16 novels (all of them doorstoppers) to understand what's going on. That's more than Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen. More than Jordan's The Wheel of Time. As many as Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings. Moreover, you're asking them to commit to an author that most SFF fans have never heard of. That's way too daunting, both timewise and financially if you want to buy the books.

Imagine telling people something like this: Okay, so you need to read the first 3 House War books. Then, you're going to start an entirely different series with a whole set of new characters spread across two countries, and that one's 6 books long. After that, you go back to the 5 House War books that occur after the events of the Sun Sword. At some point, you also have to read a duology, but don't read it too early because they're not as good as the rest of the books. No matter how you look at it, it's going to be a tough sale. Whether they want to buy the books or get them for free at the library.

The beauty about the Sun Sword series is that it stands perfectly well on its own. Having read the Sacred Hunt duology and the first 3 House War books can enhance your reading experience, but it is by now way necessary to fully enjoy it. And since it's already quite a commitment, what with 6 big fat volumes to go through, for a newbie who want to experience the length and breadth of Michelle West's talent and imagination it remains the "easiest" entry point. As mentioned in my reivew, anyone who gets through the early slof of The Broken Crown is probably in for the long run.

In the blog post announcing that Daw would no longer publish her novels, West mentioned that her sales were dwindling with the release of each new book. Which means that she kept losing readers with each new House War installment and that the long delay (nearly a decade) between the release of The Sun Sword and Skirmish means that many Sun Sword readers lost interest or never came back.

So I'm not sure that encouraging newbies to follow the path that ultimately cost the author her book deal is the way to go. . .

As I mentioned elsewhere, I doubt that there is a perfect answer to the question of where to begin with this saga. No matter what book you read first, your mileage will vary.
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#43 User is offline   QuickTidal 

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Posted 03 June 2023 - 02:47 PM

It’s a marathon Pat, not a sprint. It will be years before I finish this series and I’m fine with that.
"When the last tree has fallen, and the rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money, oh no." ~Aurora

“Someone will always try to sell you despair, just so they don't feel alone.” ~Ursula Vernon
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#44 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 03 June 2023 - 09:44 PM

It is indeed a marathon, and then some! You and I are okay with that.

But attracting newbies with such a screwed-up reading order is difficult and probably the main reason why Michelle West is not better known.

More's the pity, but it is what it is. . .
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#45 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 03:18 AM

Just Finished bk 2.

...

...

...


FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.
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#46 User is offline   QuickTidal 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 12:08 PM

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 03:18 AM, said:

Just Finished bk 2.

...

...

...


FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.


I've known you a long time and I STILL can't tell if that's a good "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK" or not....but I'm going to assume it's a "This book slogged me in the middle, but the ending kicked my ass in a good way."
"When the last tree has fallen, and the rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money, oh no." ~Aurora

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#47 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 01:42 PM

Wait till you read The Shining Court! ;)
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#48 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM

View PostQuickTidal, on 06 June 2023 - 12:08 PM, said:

I've known you a long time and I STILL can't tell if that's a good "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK" or not....but I'm going to assume it's a "This book slogged me in the middle, but the ending kicked my ass in a good way."


You got it. She pulls off the finale beyond any expectation i had going in and a pile of reasons not to expect much despite solid buildup on some points. From the late night assassination attempt, through the swimming competition, the House assassination attempt, the other (other) assassination attempt, to the marathon, and up to the final sword fights, the pace of the story increases admirably (thank gods). This despite a whole lot of navel gazing and reiterations of personal angst we've already experienced (i can't decide whether Kiriel or Val were closer to Sanderson's Kaladin-level of personal whiny but it's close and Jewel is right there just behind them). Interestingly while just as angsty and conflicted, West writes Anton's extended inner waaaah in a way far less repetitious than the others'. Anton's inner conflict builds, it's going somewhere, and the 'twist' follows through. The others were predictable and go exactly where i expected them to - i would have liked to be a little more surprised, but i like what i got.


The actual action beats are great. Truly, Kal and Devon facing the demon and assassins; the swimming w Kal and Val and the excellent twist w Carlo; Jewel, Kiriel, Al and co when the House War takes a shot at the healer - as an aside, Al and Kiriel could carry a book by themselves, great chemistry there; Kal's 'brother' going after the Flight; the marathon and Merle throwing down w the demon; and the final sword matchs. These were great scenes. And West is not a writer who dwells on every sword swing and clever feint, she's very focused on the people not the punches and it works.


The problems... aside from the utterly overkill on various people's inner angst trips, the demons kind of suck as villains. Their entire capacity for diabolical master plans appears to be to hide til the person they want to kill is somewhere in the vicinity, then freak out too soon and fight someone else instead. Also, monologuing. Seriously... the water demon was underwater and he still stopped to have a little chat with Kal and work in an evil laugh or two. The last demon actually had the power to surround the circle in a shield and murder the hell out of Val and instead he wanders over to take out the judges first, for no reason i could draw from the story, THEN start bringing his shield in giving Aidan time to saunter over and stab his ass.

Also, by the second public, painfully obvious, massive bystander casualties demon attack, the fact that the games go ahead is just silly. Yes, yes, 'HONOUR!' whatever magical mass murderizing monsters are randomly popping up, let's put a few thousand victims and a bunch of high profile targets in an enclosed space, what could possibly go wrong? The kings will be over there having drinks if anyone needs them.

In striking (pun intended) contrast, the conflict between the Dominion and the Empire, and specifically Anton and his students with Val, was fascinating, and i'm loath to admit this, but it's engaging BECAUSE of how much time we spent in the Dominion in book 1. Carlo and Urlo's relationship and feelings about Val and the competition and Anton are HUGE because we know where they come from and why they feel that way. When Carlo jumps in the water ( i may have cheered), when Urlo swears to Val (i may have cheered and almost crashed my car), and pretty much EVERYTHING Anton does... these story beats hit, hell, they KICKED.

Val's budding friendship w Aneric was fun too. I was impressed by how well West developed Aneric as a character in such short little scenes and mentions. It's a huge contrast w most of the Ospreys (who are in my head 'redshirt 1 2 and 3 and the angry woman Duarte's involved with) and J's den (who loosely come down to Devon, two guys who can fight, two women and another guy who are just waiting for a good opportunity to die tragically).

Also, Aidan... i usually dislike token kid characters. West made Aidan EVERYTHING.


Also also the revelation Evayne is bopping along her own timeline was very nicely done and well handled in the story.


Also also also despite way (WAY) too much repetition i did enjoy Jewel as a character. In contrast, i don't think the whole 'Kiriel semi-loses her powers' did much for the story or the character. I liked her byplay w Jewel and the Ospreys, even so.

Finally, Anton's entire plotline was just brilliantly done.



View Postpat5150, on 06 June 2023 - 01:42 PM, said:

Wait till you read The Shining Court! ;)


Yah, i'm still in. Going to read something else for a break, then i'll be back.I admit that i did increase the earbook play speed to 1.5, which helped quite a bit. No dis to the narrator, rather the pacing was just losing me and this helped move things along better.

Also stopped listening for short intervals. I found i had to keep repeating 5 or 10min listens, while longer (commute, 'chores', travel, exercise) listens were more enjoyable because i could actually sink in further.
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#49 User is offline   QuickTidal 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 02:48 PM

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also, by the second public, painfully obvious, massive bystander casualties demon attack, the fact that the games go ahead is just silly. Yes, yes, 'HONOUR!' whatever magical mass murderizing monsters are randomly popping up, let's put a few thousand victims and a bunch of high profile targets in an enclosed space, what could possibly go wrong? The kings will be over there having drinks if anyone needs them.


I like this because it really hammers home how little the truly powerful seem to give a shit about the rabble getting offed...like the only one who even cares is a single princess. Everyone else is like "Oh, something's happening? What do you suggest? Okay *waves finger* go for it"....goes back to drinks. Perfect.

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

In striking (pun intended) contrast, the conflict between the Dominion and the Empire, and specifically Anton and his students with Val, was fascinating, and i'm loath to admit this, but it's engaging BECAUSE of how much time we spent in the Dominion in book 1. Carlo and Urlo's relationship and feelings about Val and the competition and Anton are HUGE because we know where they come from and why they feel that way. When Carlo jumps in the water, when Urlo swears to Val, and pretty much EVERYTHING Anton does... these story beats hit, hell, they KICKED.


What this did for the Dominion, the 3 House War books do for Jewel and her Den. EXACTLY this. You go through it, the reward is sweeter.

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also, Aidan... i usually dislike token kid characters. West made Aidan EVERYTHING.


Yup, there's a reason he's a POV prologue character. She knew what she had.

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also also the revelation Evayne is bopping along her own timeline was very niucely done and well handled in the story.


She's River Song. Visiting from her timeline at random points throughout. The first time she shows up as a different age I'm like...wait...WAIT....amazing.



View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Finally, Anton's entire plotline was just brilliantly done.


Yep, he's the MVP storyline in that book. Because you accept his reasons for doing damn near everything he does throughout and so when he changes his tune, you can change with him because you walked that walk with him. Really great. And frankly that's West's strength. Her character work.


View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Yah, i'm stil in. Going to read something else for a break, then i'll be back.


A good plan. Don't rush it. These books need breathing room. I realize that Pat barrelled through the whole series, but you needn't do this. Save the burnout. Give it till you feel the itch to go back. Thats' what I do.

This post has been edited by QuickTidal: 06 June 2023 - 02:57 PM

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#50 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 04:32 PM

I went back and added a few details to that post so some of the below doesn't exactly reflect ... nothing major...

View PostQuickTidal, on 06 June 2023 - 02:48 PM, said:

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also, by the second public, painfully obvious, massive bystander casualties demon attack, the fact that the games go ahead is just silly. Yes, yes, 'HONOUR!' whatever magical mass murderizing monsters are randomly popping up, let's put a few thousand victims and a bunch of high profile targets in an enclosed space, what could possibly go wrong? The kings will be over there having drinks if anyone needs them.


I like this because it really hammers home how little the truly powerful seem to give a shit about the rabble getting offed...like the only one who even cares is a single princess. Everyone else is like "Oh, something's happening? What do you suggest? Okay *waves finger* go for it"....goes back to drinks. Perfect.


That is AN explanation, but to me it reads more like sloppy writing than intent. West goes thru a lot of trouble to make the point that the Empire is better than the Dominion for the little people, who are free even if their lives suck. The nobility angle is there but it's not overplayed to make the usual 'medieval nobles look down on the peasants' point. The way the demon attacks do not disrupt the Games just doesn't quite scan. Mages everywhere, guards and more guards... ok... but they blew it twice and the crowds SEE the sea demon and the flying demon, even if they pass them off as rogue mages. An entire building is gutted during Merle's fight and we get Devon's perspective on all the dead bodies, it's not subtle. My suspension of disbelief is just fine, it's my suspension of common sense that's having trouble w that.

The games are a move against the Dominion - if Val wins the Empire has its figurehead and weakens Dominion resolve, maybe even divides them before the war. If Val dies, hey, martyr, not a complete waste. A single scene making this point... that the Kings WANT Val to triumph or die... would have been useful. Especially since as far as the story tells us, no winner is declared, tho the crowd including Dominion visitors saw Val cut a demon's head off, receive Carlo's oath, defeat Anton and get his oath too, was an effective outcome without Val having to beat Aneric too (tho Aneric swearing to Val would have been a nice touch).


Quote

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

In striking (pun intended) contrast, the conflict between the Dominion and the Empire, and specifically Anton and his students with Val, was fascinating, and i'm loath to admit this, but it's engaging BECAUSE of how much time we spent in the Dominion in book 1. Carlo and Urlo's relationship and feelings about Val and the competition and Anton are HUGE because we know where they come from and why they feel that way. When Carlo jumps in the water, when Urlo swears to Val, and pretty much EVERYTHING Anton does... these story beats hit, hell, they KICKED.


What this did for the Dominion, the 3 House War books do for Jewel and her Den. EXACTLY this. You go through it, the reward is sweeter.


I admit that the more i hear about the events, the more i want to read them. The whole 'group of ragtag street orphans try to survive' angle... meh... but there's the bigger plot about demons trying to eat the city i am curious about.

Quote

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also, Aidan... i usually dislike token kid characters. West made Aidan EVERYTHING.


Yup, there's a reason he's a POV prologue character. She knew what she had.


I loved her bouncing him off Anton and his hero worship of Val. There was an underlying 'chosen one' element i could have lived without - Kal's warning was completely unnecessary to Aidan stabbing Carlo - but it was brief enough.

Quote

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Also also the revelation Evayne is bopping along her own timeline was very niucely done and well handled in the story.


She's River Song. Visiting from her timeline at random points throughout. The first time she shows up as a different age I'm like...wait...WAIT....amazing.


Points for subtlety here to. Kal knows, he just casually slips it into his inner monologue to inform the reader. Then we see Jewel and/or Kiriel has figured it out on their own. It's nicely done.

River Song wasn't the first fictional character to do this, and not nearly as jarring as Evayne. The bit where she just shows up covered in blood is a nice touch.

Quote

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Finally, Anton's entire plotline was just brilliantly done.


Yep, he's the MVP storyline in that book. Because you accept his reasons for doing damn near everything he does throughout and so when he changes his tune, you can change with him because you walked that walk with him. Really great. And frankly that's West's strength. Her character work.


Of any character here it truly shines w him.
Moreso because other characters were more interesting bouncing off of him... Val, Miri, Ramiro and Philipo, they all have significant character development because of their interaction w Anton.

Quote

View PostAbyss, on 06 June 2023 - 02:38 PM, said:

Yah, i'm stil in. Going to read something else for a break, then i'll be back.


A good plan. Don't rush it. These books need breathing room. I realize that Pat barrelled through the whole series, but you needn't do this. Save the burnout. Give it till you feel the itch to go back. Thats' what I do.


Roger that.
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#51 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 04:36 PM

About Ser Anton and Aidan:

Spoiler

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#52 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 04:53 PM

View Postpat5150, on 06 June 2023 - 04:36 PM, said:

About Ser Anton and Aidan:

Spoiler



Yes, and the absolutely brilliant, hands down that took guts to write aspect....

SPOILERS



SPOILERS



HUGE END OF BK 2


GO AWAY TISTE YOU'RE NOT FINISHED YET



SPOILERS


...was Kal NOT raising it before Anton dueled Val.

When Anton made the challenge i was SURE it was coming. Nope.

When the fight began, i was half expecting Kal to use his voice trick. Nope.

Even when Val was about to execute the fuck out of Anton, still nope.
(and that gave us the Aidan survival reveal and no I WAS NOT CRYING DAMMIT)

Kal, with the ring an obvious utter and total gamechanger for Anton, waits all the way through EVERYTHING to give them to him.


It was SO well done.


Also, did you think "the boy" was Aidan or Val?


I was initially sure it was Aidan, but Anton continually refers to Val that way (Aidan is 'the child') and just at the end he thinks that his wife would have liked the boy and it's a ref to Val.


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#53 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 05:04 PM

All that you said! :)
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#54 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 05:13 PM

Also, Val telling Aidan that after the war is over Anton wants to train him...

WHO IS CUTTING ONIONS GODDAMIT?????
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#55 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 06 June 2023 - 05:55 PM

Everything about Ser Anton and Aidan was incredible!
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#56 User is offline   JPK 

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Posted 07 June 2023 - 02:09 AM

You beat me by a day. I'm happy I was by myself on a long work drive because I had a strange leak spring from my eyes.

You've already touched on a lot of my high points but there are a couple more I'd like to highlight:

1- The scene where they bring in Daine to heal Jewel is extremely compelling. I think her take on healers may be one of my favorite parts of the series.

2- Yes, Ser Anton and Aiden chew up every scene they're in (and you're 100% on the nose about that Ser Anton epilogue) but the other pair that just run away with every scene they appear in is Kallandras and Meralonne.

3- Aidan's epilogue was an amazing emotional rollercoaster. After everything he goes through, all he wants is for his dad to get healed and seeing Levec force the healing himself has such a punch after seeing his refusal and/or reluctance to allow his students to heal time and time again throughout the book.

A minor criticism: there's such a wonderful complex naming scheme going on that when she whiffs on a name it's really obvious. Bruce Allen? Really? That's just two first names smashed together! No wonder everyone calls him The Eagle to spare him the embarrassment of that name!
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#57 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 07 June 2023 - 09:11 PM

Excellent!

QT and I are using Michelle West to slowly take control of this online community. . . :kallor:
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#58 User is offline   Tiste Simeon 

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Posted 08 July 2023 - 06:47 PM

I finished now and put some thoughts in my (better) thread but basically I'm in agreement in just about everything Abyss and JPK have said. Aside from one scene, this was a compelling and exciting book. Not entirely sure I want to head back to the Dominion now I really like the Empire!

One quick point that bothered me:
Spoiler

A Haunting Poem
I Scream
You Scream
We all Scream
For I Scream.
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#59 User is offline   Abyss 

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Posted 02 September 2023 - 01:47 PM

Ok.... THE SHINING COURT... let's do this.
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#60 User is offline   pat5150 

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Posted 02 September 2023 - 04:07 PM

Welcome back!
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