Malazan Book of the Fallen is a high fantasy book series by the Canadian author Steven Erikson. The series, published by Bantam Books in the U.K. and Tor Books in the U.S., consists of ten volumes, beginning with Gardens of the Moon (1999) and concluding with The Crippled God (2011). Erikson’s series is extremely complex with a wide scope, and presents the narratives of a large cast of characters spanning thousands of years across multiple continents. His plotting presents a complicated series of events in the world upon which the Malazan Empire is located. Each of the first five novels is relatively self-contained, in that it resolves its respective primary conflict; but many underlying characters and events are interwoven throughout the works of the series, binding it together.
The series is not told in a linear fashion. Instead, several storylines progress simultaneously, with the individual novels moving backwards and forwards between them. As the series progresses, links between these storylines become more readily apparent. During a book signing in November 2005, Steven Erikson confirmed that the Malazan saga consists of three major story arcs, equating them to the points of a triangle.
The first plotline takes place on the continent of Genabackis where armies of the Malazan Empire are battling the native city-states for dominance. An elite Malazan military unit, the Bridgeburners, is the focus for this storyline, although as it proceeds their erstwhile enemies, the Tiste Andii led by Anomander Rake and the mercenaries commanded by Warlord Caladan Brood, also become prominent. The novel Gardens of the Moon depicts an attempt by the Malazans to seize control of the city of Darujhistan. Memories of Ice, the third novel released in the sequence, continues the unresolved plot threads from Gardens of the Moon by having the now-outlawed Malazan armies uniting with their former enemies to confront a new, mutual threat known as the Pannion Domin. Toll the Hounds, the eighth novel in the series, revisits Genabackis some years later as new threats arise to Darujhistan and the Tiste Andii who now control the city of Black Coral.
The second plotline takes place on the subcontinent of Seven Cities and depicts a major native uprising against Malazan rule. This rebellion is known as ‘the Whirlwind’. The second novel released in the sequence, Deadhouse Gates, shows the outbreak of this rebellion and focuses on the rebels’ relentless pursuit of the main Malazan army as it escorts some 40,000 refugees more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) across the continent. The story of the pursuit, and the event itself, is referred to as the Chain of Dogs. The fourth novel, House of Chains, sees the continuation of this storyline with newly arrived Malazan reinforcements – the 14th Army – taking the war to the rebels. The 14th’s exploits earn them the nickname, ‘The Bonehunters’.
The third plotline was introduced with Midnight Tides, the fifth book released in the series. This novel introduces a previously unknown continent where two nations, the united tribes of the Tiste Edur and the Empire of Lether, are engaged in escalating tensions, which culminate in open warfare. The novel takes place contemporaneously with earlier books in the sequence and the events in it are in fact being related in flashback by a character from the fourth volume to one of his comrades (although the novel itself is told in the traditional third-person form).
The sixth book, The Bonehunters, sees all three plot strands combined, with the now-reconciled Malazan army from Genabackis arriving in Seven Cities to aid in the final defeat of the rebellion. At the same time, fleets from the newly proclaimed Letherii Empire are scouring the globe for worthy champions to face their immortal emperor in battle, in the process earning the enmity of elements of the Malazan Empire. The seventh novel, Reaper’s Gale, sees the Malazan 14th Army arriving in Lether to take the battle to the Letherii homeland. The ninth and tenth novels, Dust of Dreamsand The Crippled God, picks up the storyline on the Lether continent and deal with the activities of the 14th Army following their successful ‘liberation’ of the Letherii people and the revelation that the K’Chain Che’Malle species and Forkrul Assail species have returned. The 14th Army is attempting to deal with the peril that the Crippled God has caused with his attempts to poison the warrens and to wake Burn.
Ian Cameron Esslemont’s novels are labeled as Novels of the Malazan Empire, not as parts of the Malazan Book of the Fallen itself, and deal primarily with the Malazan Empire, its internal politics and characters who only play minor roles in Erikson’s novels. His first novel, Night of Knives, details events in Malaz City on the night that the Emperor Kellanved was assassinated. The second, Return of the Crimson Guard, investigates the fall-out in the Malazan Empire from the devastating losses of the Genabackan, Korelri and Seven Cities campaigns following the events of The Bonehunters. Esslemont’s third novel, Stonewielder, explores events on the Korelri continent for the first time in the series and focuses on the often-mentioned, rarely seen character of Greymane. The fourth novel, Orb, Sceptre, Throne, revisits Genebackis once again in the wake of Erikson’s Toll the Hounds, and features several well known characters seen in Erikson’s novels. Further comments by Esslemont and Erikson have hinted that Esslemont’s fifth novel, Blood and Bone visits the continent of Jacuruku and the sixth, Assail, set on the continent of Assail, will serve as a closing chapter and coda for the entire series.
Recommended reading order of books in the series:
1. Gardens of the Moon
2. Deadhouse Gates
3. Memories of Ice
4. House of Chains
5. Midnight Tides
6. Night of Knives
7. The Bonehunters
8. Reaper’s Gale
9. Return of the Crimson Guard
10. Toll the Hounds
11. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Volume 1
12. Dust of Dreams
14. Orb Sceptre Throne
15. The Crippled God
16. Blood and Bone
18. Forge of Darkness
19. Fall of Light
20. Dancer’s Lament
21. Deadhouse Landing