Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson

Review of Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson

Toll the HoundsThis is the penultimate-but-one of the vast Malazan Book of the Fallen and is the best one since at least book five (Midnight Tides). The story here concerns two broad arenas: the city of Darujhistan, setting of the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon; and the city of Black Coral – though, of course, the action isn’t confined to these two locales. As usual, the chapters alternate back and forth between the two places; and, like all the other volumes, Toll the Hounds is composed of four books – although, unlike many of the preceeding novels, there is no change of setting from book to book. And, as is also usual with the Malazan books, there is practically a cast of thousands. There are about two dozen main characters – if not more.

What’s more specific to this eighth Malazan tale, is a) the bodycount and b) the number of characters presumed dead or not part of the story who turn up on the pages. The book also has one of the most dramatic climaxes yet as titanic beings struggle against each other, heroes die and reality is reshaped. At 900+ pages it takes a while to get to this part, though, and some of the sub-plots are a little tedious. In Darujhistan, for instance, there’s a lot of hanging around in bars.

There are a couple of oddities in Toll the Hounds. One is that Karsa Orlong, who, in book seven was on course for a deadly confrontation with Rhulad Sengar, king of the Tiste Edur in Letheras, appears after this confrontation – without the reader having witnessed the fight. Which is to say that book eight, at least in part, takes place after book nine – essentially because of Erikson’s predilection for the back and forth format.

The other thing is that part of the book – the Darujhistan chapters – takes on the narratorial voice of one of its characters, Kruppe. Kruppe has always been a mysterious character; he speaks of himself in the third person – and therefore could be said to narrate his own life. Now he seems to have been upgraded in status.

Despite its length and its occasional leadenness, Toll the Hounds is pretty strong all the way through and packs an emotional punch even (or even especially) outside the grand two-sided climax. One example of this is the boy Harllo, who, through no fault of his own ends up lost and working in a mine. Particularly moving was the despair of his mother who had palmed him off on relatives, and the aging duellist who sets out on an ill-starred mission to rescue him.

Finally (and, once again, as is normal for the Malazan books), volume eight is a huge chunk of hugely satisfying high fantasy.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
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