Deadhouse Landing, published by Penguin/Random House, marks Ian C.Esslemont’s return to the world of The Malazan Empire. He and co creator, and fellow chronicler, Steven Erikson, have so far published twenty full length novels and 4 novellas set in this fascinating universe.
However, they have been more than just a recounting of a human empire. The books have explored the history, and stories, of all the beings we are introduced to in their pages. From humans to gods, summoned demons and the non-human races who lived and still live in the world – all of them make appearances and have their stories recounted.
In some ways Esslemont has been responsible for the back story of the Empire and adding detail about characters only mentioned in Erikson’s books. In Deadhouse Landing, the second book in his new “Path To Ascendency” series, he’s taken us back to the days before the rise of the Malazan Empire.
The two young men who will go onto become Emperor Kellanved and his deadly assassin partner Dancer, have yet to rise above the level of street criminals. Street criminals with ambitions, but still making their money through extortion and the like.
After being unceremoniously run off the mainland they have ended up on the island of Malaz. While the island is currently under the control of a pirate/criminal named Mock, Kellanved decides its the ideal place to begin again. He purchases a rundown bar called Smiley’s which comes complete with staff more than willing to help him take over the island.
While Kellanved and Dancer know the staff are exiles from the island of Nap, a nation which has always competed for control of the region’s seas with Malaz, they’re unaware exactly whom they’ve just employed. Those who have read other books set in the Malazan Empire will quickly recognize the names, Surly, Urko, Cartheron Crust, Toc and the others who eventually come to be in their employ at the bar. It turns out they all have connections with the ruling family on Nap, with Surly having been deposed by her brother the current king, and the others her loyal followers.
So while they’re keen to help their bosses take over Malaz, they also have their own agenda, to take back Nap. However, they’re not the only ones working a private plan. Kellanved is still continuing his investigation of Shadow, the mysterious warren, or magical world, that was shattered aeons ago. Although gods and other assorted powerful entities had blocked access to Shadow upon its sundering, somehow he has found a way through their barriers.
His investigations have led him to conclude the mysterious Deadhouse, an old, seemingly abandoned house which scares the wits out of people who live on Malaz, holds the key to gaining safe access to Shadow. Of course these types of actions have begun to attract the attention of some powerful beings, among them individuals who were responsible for sealing the realm off all those years ago.
As is usual for Esslemont, Deadhouse Landing is a wonderfully written book which does a masterful job of developing both its characters and storyline simultaneously. While we’ve met many of the people who appear on the book’s pages before, here we are shown the early stages of their development and what went into to making them who they will eventually become. What makes this a particularly impressive is how readers are left feeling they have never met these characters before, no matter how many times they’ve shown up in other books telling the story of the Malazan Empire.
This is another great instalment in the joint endeavours of Esslemont and Erikson. Their world building, character creation and writing abilities are second to none in the realm of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Enter into the world they’ve created and the only regret you’ll have is having to wait for the next book to be released.