Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson is one of the best written fantasy books I have ever read and has claimed a spot in my soul.
5/5 22/25 total score
Type of Story: Extremely epic fantasy
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 5(Very Strong)
Writing Style – 5(Very Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 4(Strong)
Erikson continues his Malazan Book of the Fallen series with Deadhouse Gates. In Deadhouse Gates we follow four character paths, the first being the rebellion against the Malazan Empire on the continent of Seven Cities. This follows the path of Malazan refugees and soldiers attempting to cross an arid desert climate while being hunted by the rebellion leaders. The next path is a young girl that is a prisoner and the sister of the new second in charge of the Malazan Empire. She has two unlikely associates that are all looking for a way to gain freedom. The third path is a path of vengeance by characters from Gardens of the Moon against the Malazan Empire, but one that will push them to their limits in the arid desert of Seven Cities. The final path is two ancient friends that travel the world together, but their journey might come to an end as one of them gains a better understanding of himself and the world. As the many paths converge, the story becomes wrought with twists, turns, and reveals of ingenious imagination and despair unlike anything written in fantasy.
Why you should read this book:
Steven Erikson writes Deadhouse Gates mercilessly honest to create a world that only few could survive in, but of those few, heroes are created. This is a brutal book filled with a lot of pain and death. The path that the refugees have to take to flee the rebellion is unspeakably difficult. Erikson writes so that knowing who is in the right and who is in the wrong is a question of perspective. At the beginning we believe that the rebellion against the Malazan Empire is a great thing, but Erikson wants to make the reader understand, that in war, there are no clear cut sides. The thing that is important in war are the individuals that step up and protect those that can’t protect themselves.
Erikson’s writing is spectacular. He has a way of creating a visceral scene unmatched by other fantasy authors. Even though he is not detailing every little thing, he does it enough, and in a way for you to visualize exactly what is going on. There are moments of poignant dialogue between characters that can either touch your heart or you can feel like your heart was ripped out. Erikson’s ability to write eccentric and profound characters is such a treat to read. These characters might seem like they are talking non-sense but after some time and events have passed, that dialogue from that crazy character makes sense. The world that Erikson invites you to learn about is wrapped in such mystery. Erikson doesn’t want to tell you a lot of things about the world up front, he wants to get you wondering, asking questions, and then reveal information to you later, which is so satisfying when revealed.
I loved the characters in Deadhouse Gates. My favorite characters were Icarium and Trell. These are two characters that have lived for centuries together. They travel the world and are good friends. The relationship between these two characters is absolutely fantastic. Without giving away many spoilers, this friendship is extremely important, not only for them, but for the rest of the world. The deep conversations about friendship that these two characters talk about and to others is such an enjoyment to read. Erikson does interpersonal relationships extremely well.
Why you might not like this book:
You might not like this book if you are not into fantasy books that focus on “the journey” that characters make. The vast majority of this book are characters getting to a location. The pacing is purposely slow to create more character interaction and conflicts while the characters are on their journey. Because of this slower pacing and more epic in scope and detail, it might not be for everyone.
Another reason you might not like this book is because this book is emotionally draining. There are a lot of difficult passages of brutality. Erikson does not focus on the violence to bring attention to the violence but so that the reader can have an emotional connection with the plight that the characters are involved in. Erikson wants the reader to know what kind of world this is and he does not hold back. Due to this, some readers might find this book too difficult emotionally to read.
I recommend Deadhouse Gates and the Malazan series to anyone that wants to read epic fantasy on a scale much larger than most fantasy books. There is a lot of mystery and figuring out how the world works and why characters choose certain actions. Erikson tells you things about the story, as the story progresses, not exactly when we want to know them, and I find that a lot of fun. The large cast in these stories is something that I love. Malazan Book of the Fallen really reminds me of the television show LOST, many characters, overall mysteries, incremental story-telling, and a story on a large scale.