Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Review: Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson (The Malazan Book of the Fallen book 8)

The soul knows no greater anguish than to take a breath that begins with love and ends with grief.”
  • Steven Erikson, Toll of Hounds
I turned to the last page in Toll  the Hounds, the 8th book to The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and reality suddenly strikes me, as I realized how much commitment is needed to read this series.

 At 11,000 pages and 3.3+ million words, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is probably the longest epic fantasy series just after The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I really like the Malazan series, but after reading 8 books, the flaws in this series are becoming more evident. Suffice to say, Toll of the Hounds is currently, my least favorite book in this series. Let's take a closer look at it.


The story in Toll of the Hounds returns to the city of Darujhistan. After the Pannion Rebellion was quenched in Memories of Ice, peace and prosperity followed. The surviving Bridgeburners are now retired and settled in the city, operating a bar while enjoying their retirement. However, underneath all these signs of peace, is a hidden current driving the tide of another convergence, where powers will collide.

In the meantime, Anomander Rake, the Son of Darkness, now rules the city of Black Coral. Rake's legendary deeds from the past allows him no rest. Ancient crimes awake to stir the the heavy burden chained to Rake's legendary sword, Dragnipur, demanding a final absolution to questions centuries old...

What I think about this book:

Toll the Hounds is my least favourite book in this series, but it is not a bad book. In fact, this book is extremely well written, and it has more depth than previous books.

However, Toll of the Hounds is also the hardest book in the series to read. The pace of the story is extremely slow, it is the longest book in this series, and the style of writing is very verbose. Overall, this book is just too dense.

Fantasy fictions is the perfect genre for making social commentaries via narratives and storytelling. I am all for introspective, philosophical characters in fantasy books. However, too much of good things are not always good. In Toll of the Hounds, every POV character is a philosopher, and these characters spend 70% of their time brooding, and reflecting over topics such as politics and religion, while only 30% of their time are spent doing things to move the story forward. This severely handicaps the pace of the story, and it is borderline on bad storytelling.

 The flow of this book is congested in a traffic jam of philosophical musings, and an ocean of social commentaries. Granted, while the story in Toll of the Hounds is centred around a very interesting theme about grief and redemption, but for me, Toll of the Hounds is not fun, because it feels convoluted.

Secondly, while the POV characters in Toll the Hounds are mostly, returning characters from previous books. However, Erikson introduced too many characters, and some of them appeared too late in this series, so it is extremely difficult to recapture who or what these characters are about. This is definitely a big problem that began to surface in Toll of the Hounds, when I was reading this book, I didn't really care about some of the characters or their stories.

What saved Toll the Hounds from being a really bad book, is the ending. The last 150 pages of this book is breathtaking, and we finally see the book returned to the standard of previous books in this series; unexpected twists to the story, emotional drama, and thrilling actions.

II am a bit disappointed with Toll the Hounds. I have made a huge commitment to read The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The first five books in this series (and Reaper's Gale) were fantastic.  However, after a somewhat disappointing experience with Toll the Hounds, now I am beginning to wonder where this series is heading. I have two more books to read in this series, Dust of Dreams, and the final book, The Crippled God. I can only hope the next two books will be less convoluted, and somehow the quality of storytelling will return to the standard found in previous books.

With such a hope, I will now endeavor to venture into the second last book in this series, Dust of Dreams.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Daniel,

    Not sure if you still read this, but I couldn't agree more. I'm almost done with the book, but it's taken me forever to read.

    Like you say, it is way too philosophical and verbose (which is something I've become bored with in Erikson's writing). However, what keeps me going is the precedent set in the first few books. I think books 1-3 were some of the best stories I have ever read.

    Anyway. Cheers!