Review: The Crippled God

Posted: February 25, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Steven Erikson, Epic Fantasy

It’s hard to know where to begin with this review. I’ve been reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen for six years. It’s what got me re-interested in fantasy after years toiling under the belief that fantasy was imprisoned in the land of elves and dwarves. Six years.

And suddenly here we are at the end.

THE CRIPPLED GOD (Amazon). The tenth and final novel in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’d be lying if I said I never had a moment of worry going into this novel. Up until this point, Erikson’s series has been one of the standards to which I compare all modern fantasy. Many authors have enough trouble simply writing the ending to one novel, never mind the final book of a ten novel series. The short version is that TCG blew me completely away.

I recently read a review of TCG by Bill Capossere over at It is a fantastic review that you all should read. It also was nearly identical to a review I was excited to post. So yeah, this is attempt number two. Bill totally preempted me (I still think he’s awesome)… but you know the saying about great minds and all that. One thing I haven’t adjusted from the draft of the review is a quote from TCG that essentially diagrams what the book is about. Names of the characters speaking were omitted to prevent insane spoilers:

“There are too many rogue players in this game. Icarium. Draconus. The First Sword of the T’lan Imass. Olar Ethil. Silchas Ruin, Tulas Shorn, Kilava—even Gruntle, the Mortal Sword of Treach. And now the Elient, and how many dragons have come or are coming through the gate? A hundred? A thousand? Oh, and the Elder Gods: Errastas, the past Master of the Tiles, and Kilmandaros and her son…“

“They—they’re all here?”

“Nobody said it’d be easy… what do you have to offer me?”

“Why, more good news… Let’s just add the K’Chain Che’Malle and the Jaghut, and oh… who knows how many slavering fanatics of the Wolves of Winter! And what about the Crippled God himself?”

“All right, it’s rather more complicated than I had imagined.”

Yeah. And that only touches the surface.

This novel is FULL. Essentially every conceivable character is in this novel in one form or another. Everything is coming to one last convergence of powers. Main characters die, though you should have gotten used to that after reading books 2 & 3. I’ll just say that it was… brutal.

TCG picks up immediately after DUST OF DREAMS. This shouldn’t be news since TCG is just the second half of a huge novel. I mention it because every other novel in Erikson’s series has a solid beginning and a solid end. It may seem pointless to bring up, but under no circumstances should you read this book without having read the full series–and even more specific, I recommend you re-read book 9 (or at least have read it recently) before tackling this amazing close to the series.

TCG is not a surprising novel. There won’t be a huge massive twist at the end that makes you say, “Ah ha!” What makes TCG so incredible is how everything is pulled together. Most of those crazy plot threads get pulled together here. The subtlety of it. This includes things you probably forgot about back in books 3, 6 or even from GARDENS OF THE MOON. It was in seeing how much was actually planned and hinted at from the very beginning that had me marveling. Just the effort involved in simply tracking everything must have been a monumental task for Erikson.

You may have noticed a key word back in that last paragraph. “Most” (maybe) of the plot threads were wrapped up. Not everything. Depending on the reader you are, this may bother you. Me? Not at all. Somethings are better left in question, not to mention Erikson has a slew of other novel planned that may touch on these dangling threads. We just felt we should tell you straight up that not everything is resolved.

THE CRIPPLED GOD is an amazing novel. Epic in every possible way. It's hard to imagine a more perfect end to this series.

But what is resolved… good grief. Remember the ending to MEMORIES OF ICE? You know, the one that made you cry? It’s OK, I cried right along with you. It was (and still is) one of the most tear-jerking, awesome endings I have ever read. The ending of THE CRIPPLED GOD trumps that. Twice. I’m not too proud to admit to getting teary-eyed. Not just when characters die (which, unsurprisingly, happens frequently), but more in the simple things. A handshake. Laughter. A speech. A character giving comfort to a stranger. It is incredibly hard not to quote a few of the scenes near the end of the novel, but I’m sticking by my non-spoilerness. No lie, Erikson has written some of the most emotionally powerful scenes I’ve ever read in TCG.

As I read through this novel, a realization came to me. By treating the readers as adults by not beating them over the head with stuff they should already know, Erikson actually allows the reader to feel like a kid and just enjoy TCG for what it is: fantasy at its best. Though I don’t think Robert Jordan’s series is the best thing since sliced bread, I realized that this must be how all those Wheel of Time are hoping to feel when A MEMORY OF LIGHT comes out. Trust me, if AMoL is even a fraction as amazing as TCG was, you will all think you were in heaven.

Before you know it, TCG is winding down, and you flip the page to discover two epilogues. This was when it really was hammered home that The Malazan Book of the Fallen was ending in just a few pages. A very small part of me wanted to leave the last few pages unread so that it didn’t end. It would be so easy for Erikson’s critics to say how depressing and hopeless this whole series has been. They obviously didn’t read it the same way I did. On the contrary, it isn’t often that I read a series that has AS MUCH hope and love in it as The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Though some of my favorite characters met their ends in this concluding novel, it never brought me down. It just blew me away.

As a Malazan fan, there isn’t much else you can ask for here, though there are the usual problems. It could have done with some trimming. After a certain point, all the small pieces in each of the soldier’s heads began to run together. I’ll admit that the Shake story-line hasn’t been our favorite during the series, though it acquits itself nicely in TCG–this is more of a personal thing, no doubt many of you readers LOVE that thread. And I’m still not fond of Erikson’s seeming insistence at not telling who the PoV is at the beginning of new segments–it doesn’t always need to be a mystery. You can find this kinds of issues with every author, but you always overlook them with your favorites.

THE CRIPPLED GOD is an amazing novel. Epic in every possible way. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect end to this series. In an age where it seems like more and more authors leave their work unfinished with broken promises, Erikson has fulfilled his promises to the readers. Thank you, Steven Erikson, for giving readers one of the best fantasy novels in one of the best series out there.

I could go on forever, but I’ll leave you to enjoy the novel yourself. I leave you with a small end-piece that closes THE CRIPPLED GOD:

And now the page before us blurs.
An age is done. The book must close.
We are abandoned to history.
Raise high one more time the tattered standard
of the Fallen. See through the drifting smoke
to the dark stains upon the fabric.
This is the blood of our lives, this is the
payment of our deeds, all soon to be
We were never what people could be.
We were only what we were.
The distance grows vast.

Remember us.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Yep. A tad more than usual.
  • Violence: All sorts, and it is perfect
  • Sex: Talked about, but nothing graphic


  • Anthony says:

    Just reading that end piece brings tears to my eyes

  • Mike says:

    It's done. Wow. I read Gardens of the Moon when it first came out years ago!!! (10+)..

    One question, does everyone remember everything? Everytime I start a novel in his series, I feel lost..

  • marcillac says:

    Being European I have to wait and I'm overexcited and really worried … I'm hoping so much that I'll see much more of Ganoes ! Not just in the beginning and in the end , or not , I hope so much that Ganoes will see little sis Tavore and that he'll learn , and she'll learn about — , I know some things are not talked about , I hope this one is not one of them . I mean , chapter 1 book 1 in Gardens of the Moon , Ganoes speak with Tavore , clearly those two don't get along well with each other . I hope so much they'll see each other and that the subject of their — , in House of Chains like in The Bonehunters there is some hints about it (if Ganoes knows ? If Tavore learns ?) and personally is one of the thing I would like (oh die for) that Erikson talk about … For the first time I ordered a book from American because in France I would have to wait until the beginning of April and I just can't 😉 Even ten days earlier is something ! I started to re-read the saga last summer but I'm sure there is some (a lot) things I've missed .

    Okay here I stop but yes , sometimes for not english-native people the english of Erikson is a little bite hard to comprehend (and face me with my limited vocabulary)

    Oh I beg all the gods in the saga that Ganoes will have a major role in The Crippled God ! Thanks you for the review

  • @Anthony–Yeah, that one plus the one the novel leads with are masterpieces. So freaking good.

    @Mike–You know, I do a lot of re-reads of this series. For example I re-read books 7-9 over the past moth or 2 to get in the right state of mind for THE CRIPPLED GOD. That said, there are still a bunch of things that I don't remember, and a bunch of things that made me say, “Wait a minute…(riffles through book one)…ah ha! I can't believe he pulled that off!” I know Nick used Wikipedia to remind him of stuff–an awesome resource for a series that has this kind of depth (the deepest of all fantasy series in my personal opinion).

    What I am excited to see is how Esslemont's series plays into this whole story–it's going to be unreal!

    @marcillac–I think you'll be VERY happy with the novel. Stop by again and let us know what you thought once you've finished it.

    Just as an FYI to everyone, we'll be posting an interview with Cam Esslemont next Friday (the 11th). You will love it–the guy is a total class-act.

    • marcillac says:

      Okay Steve , I'll let you know what I'll think of the The Crippled God but I warn you , I will have finished it in mid-April perhaps , I want to read it slowly , I know I'll return to the previous book and I want to read it with delight 😉 I'm so happy I'll more than I thought of Ganoes ! My favorite character of the serie , Tavore comes close , she's the character who fascinates me the most , I find her so intriguing !

      I'll read the interview of ICE


  • Mitch says:

    This series is….intimidating. 10 books of build muscle while you read length. Something of this magnitude will take me quite some time to finish putting everything else on hold.

    I am in the market for some new series currently and am considering titles such as Kingkiller Chronicles, Twilight Reign, or Lies of Locke Lamora.

    With a limited amount of time to read i guess my question is, is it worth it? Will this be the epic i will later compare those titles to?

    • J says:

      @Mitch: Just do it. Honestly it'll be the best literary decision you'll ever make, these books will give you YEARS of reading pleasure. Erikson is the best fantasy author and IMO the best all round author of all time. You don't have to start with Gardens, it's probably the weakest, I started with Memories of Ice and it is the best, most compelling novel I've ever read and will hook you to the series.

  • marcillac says:

    Spoilers ahead

    As promised here I am , I've finished the book last week . My thoughts … With my cousin who read the saga we're discussing about it , and we are quite a bite frustrated . Not enough epic battles , a feeling of 'too little' , you know … My , I LOVE Ganoes , and I am very happy that he quite saved the day for Tavore but why just a little passage of those two reunited and then nothing ? I wanted SO MUCH Ganoes and Tavore reunited talking , Tavore discovering that his big bro had faith in her , her allies meeting him … In the end , I hoped but Ganoes did not wanted to be with her allies , bouh . I'm sad because it's been so long since I want them together and got so little .

    On the contrary I loved how Erikson described how Tavore changer , her hair now longer , wearing perfume , worrying about her appearance , more feminine than before . I haven't guessed she was of the Talon , so it was a huge surprise and finally realizing than Ganoes left his family thinking being a wine merchant was boring when dad was probally a Talon , leaving Tavore had to lives in the shadow of his brother , became a Talon herself . Let her hair very short , erasing anything feminine un her . Being cold and hard . That , that was cool .

    She fascinated me and still fascinates me . Not enough of Ganoes , I did not believe a second she was going to kill him , but he was a bad-ass and I loved it . I wonder what he did with Rythe …

  • marcillac says:

    Anyway , I already knew before The Crippled God that it's not the end the better but everything that is before !

    However , I love Ganoes with all my heart and Tavore stays for me such a bad-ass and a fascinating woman . And I'm happy to have read the saga , and lived all those thrilling moments .

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