Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Review of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Finally, after waiting a few weeks after I bought it to start reading it, and then a few more weeks to actually read the thing, I've finished the sixth tale of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. And have enjoyed it.

The Bonehunters brings together many of the plot threads and characters from previous books and is structured in a more organic way – whereas previous books had a rigid alternating sequence of sections, chapters and parts dedicated to the various characters, this book allots page time to its protagonists according to the needs of the plot. Another difference between book six and earlier instalments is that the end point of the story is not apparent as you read it (or, at least, it wasn't to me).

The book starts off with the pursuit of Leoman of the Flails and you assume that the climax of the novel will be deal with the siege of his army at Y'Ghatan. In fact, this happens a quarter or so of the way through the book (and the ninety page chapter that tells that story is one of the highlights of the volume – the short point-of-view sections distributed between a slew of characters create a sense of chaos and tension). What happens to the Fourteenth army after that constitutes much of the remainder of the novel.

Lots of other stuff happens, too. Ganoes Paran saves the day and we finally see what Icarium is all about. Karsa's subplot promises much, but the event he's heading towards is evidently reserved for book seven, Reaper's Gale. Of the new characters, Sergeant Hellian is largely comic relief (like many of the soldiers), Barathol Mekhar looks like he might be interesting, and Taralack Veed develops a bit too quickly, but could be a good viewpoint character for future volumes.

The writing is as concise as ever and, like its more recent predecessors, The Bonehunters is a page-turner. There are, though, a few tautologous descriptions and a very annoying apparent misunderstanding of the word 'lowering'. Also, because of the nature of the story Erikson is telling, it can be confusing in places: things you may have learned in earlier books you've now forgotten so, when characters turn up in unexpected places, you just have to accept it.

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a hugely ambitious feat of storytelling, and book six of it hasn't changed my opinion that this is the best fantasy since probably The Lord of the Rings, certainly since the first books of The Wheel of Time.

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