In the novella The Fiends of Nightmaria, published by Macmillan, Steven Erikson brings back two of his favoured villainous characters, necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. First introduced to readers in his ten volume “Malazan Book of the Fallen” Erikson has created a series of stand alone novellas featuring the two everybody loves to hate.
The Fiends of Nightmaria finds our dastardly duo established as the rulers of the small city state Farrog and have set their eyes on war with the neighbouring state of Nightmaria. Well its not really called that, but if you’re going to have a holy war its best to whip up a little fervent hatred for those you wish to conquer and calling them the Fiends of Nightmaria is bound to do the trick.
At least this is how Bauchelain explains things to his man servant Emancipator Reece. In fact one would almost think that his setting himself up as despot of Farrog is some vast social experiment in how to best carry out authoritarian rule. For he has some very fixed ideas on the subject.
First, round up all the artists, poets, playwrights and such for there are no greater spreaders of dissent than those who will whinge on about rights and freedoms. Second, tax the people into submission and then loot the treasury so you have to tax them even more. Tax them until they’re so beaten down they can no longer stand against you.
Then, and this is most important, divert them with a false enemy so they don’t realize who they should be really angry at. That doesn’t sound like it has any basis in reality does it?
Of course there are always those who will strive to overthrow the despot and Farrog is no exception. In the cells beneath the palace those awaiting torture, dismemberment and other assorted fun are continuing their whinging and moaning. Amongst them include names readers of previous Bauchelain and Korbal Broach books will recognize as those who have been fruitlessly seeking vengeance against them for a number of years.
While their numbers have dwindled their determination to win out against all the odds hasn’t diminished. Unfortunately this turns out to be a matter of not knowing when you’ve been roundly defeated and don’t really stand a chance in hell of winning. In fact they are so inept we begin to realize it’s a miracle any of them have survived this long.
The novels of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are always something of a moral dilemma for the reader as we try to figure out with whom are sympathies should lay. While the lead characters are reprehensible, those who oppose them, or caught up in the story, aren’t much better. While some may have what could pass for altruistic motives, they are few and far between and usually end up being as selfish as everyone else.
In other words Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, for all their faults, seem the lesser of all evils, if only for the fact they never shy away from revealing their true natures. Perhaps if anyone deserves our sympathy it’s their man servant Reece who spends the majority of his time inebriated in an attempt to deal with his masters’ less savoury practices.
With The Fiends of Nightmaria Steven Erickson has created both a wonderful piece of satire on contemporary society and one of the funniest horror comedies you’ll ever read. We can only hope he continues to chronicle the adventures of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach.
With ‘The Fiends of Nightmaria’ Steven Erickson has created both a wonderful piece of satire on contemporary society and one of the funniest horror comedies you’ll ever read.