Review: The Crippled God
It’s hard to know where to begin with this review. I’ve been reading Steven Erikson‘s The 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 Tor.com. 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.
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.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Yep. A tad more than usual.
- Violence: All sorts, and it is perfect
- Sex: Talked about, but nothing graphic