Review: Fall of Light

Posted: May 6, 2016 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Steven Erikson, Epic Fantasy

I’ll be honest, Steven Erikson’s novels have become increasingly difficult to review. Not because they are bad–on the contrary, Erikson’s works are consistently excellent in my opinion–but because I feel like I end up making many of the same comments. Well, here we go again.

Another Erikson novel, another fantastic read.

FALL OF LIGHT (Amazon) is the second novel in the Kharkanas Trilogy, and it picks up right where FORGE OF DARKNESS (EBR Review) left off. The world is in the midst of civil war, and everyone has an angle. This exploration of the civil war–and more importantly, the characters involved in the civil war–make up the majority of the story, while setting us up for the forthcoming conclusion in book 3.

Right out of the gate, I think that Erikson’s fans will really enjoy this novel. There are so many great moments for those fans that have be loyal readers: cameos, references, and easter eggs abound. It’s simply a joy to read a novel set in a continuum that has SO much history, and catch the little things. Personally, I just can’t get enough of the story of Anomander, Draconus, and the like.But what really impressed me was the evolution of the story lines involving Mother Dark and Father Light. The “relationship” here–the desires of both parties, and the desires of those individuals surrounding these two parties–is terrifically explored. The real genesis of the Tiste Andii and Tisti Liosan obviously feeds directly on this relationship.

What FALL OF LIGHT boils down to, for me (and forgive me for being overly simplistic for the sake of no spoilers), are the big Erikson “event” moments paired off and contrasted against very deeply personal moments. Much like in FORGE OF DARKNESS, the focus in FALL OF LIGHT falls more squarely on the personal, and through these individuals, we get the bigger picture of the massive convergences happening. What this amounts to is a far more Shakespearean tone. Comedy, love, and tragedy all get thrown together.

Let me share a very early example of the above change in narrative that you see in FALL OF LIGHT. At the very beginning of the novel, as two armies face off, a girl chases down a a boy and beats him to death. It is shocking, and tone setting. It also serves as foreshadowing and a light summary for how the battle is going to go. On a deeper level, it shows the terror and awfulness of war, and how it can affect every individual, young or old. With that tiny scene, we understand the tragedy the rest of the novel will present. This is one of a few scenes that illustrate and narrate the story, without spending a hundred pages force-feeding us battle scenes. It’s is absolutely brilliant.

Now this doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments of light and humor in the novel. That’s simply not Erikson’s way of writing. Erikson has ALWAYS included light as a counterpoint to darkness in his work (and on so MANY levels), and FALL OF LIGHT is no exception. Because without the contrast, neither dark nor light mean anything. This is especially important in this novel, where we have the literal conflict between Mother Dark and Father Light, as well as their respective followers.

FALL OF LIGHT: Another Erikson novel, another fantastic read. If you're a fan of his, as we are, you're going to love this book, and likely the whole series

I loved FALL OF LIGHT. I loved the characters. I loved the politics. My only criticisms are, first, the over philosophizing by nearly every character. Erikson was already doing this in books 9 and 10 of Malazan Book of the Fallen, and even more so in FORGE OF DARKNESS. It lends a more self-evaluative and introspective tone to the novel, which is totally fine for the most part. But there were definitely moments where I wish it would have pulled back just a smidge. Second is the understanding that FALL OF LIGHT likely won’t sway a ton of readers. If you like Erikson, you’ll like this book. If you don’t (which I’m not sure why you would read this novel) this won’t change your mind.

As for me, as I said above, I feel FALL OF LIGHT is a wonderful novel. I loved it. I utterly adored the progression of the world, characters and storytelling from FORGE OF DARKNESS into FALL OF LIGHT. This series, while a prequel series, no longer truely feels that way. FALL OF LIGHT makes this feel like it’s own beast, which is something 99% of all prequels struggle with.

FALL OF LIGHT was a long time coming, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: It's pretty much in  line with the prior novel, which means there is strong language, and in higher volume that the Malazan Book of the Fallen
  • Violence: Well, yeah. But it didn't feel nearly as brutal as FORGE OF DARKNESS
  • Sex: Less than the prior novel. Nothing super explicit, but there are some moments (hence the age rec)


  • BK says:

    Thanks for the review!

    I have mixed feelings about Fall of Light. Once again Erikson is triumphant in creating a world that is wholly unique and a joy to explore. My problem doesn’t arise from the beautiful setting or the richly padded characters, but rather with Erikson’s evolving style. The climax of the book was frankly underwhelming. There is one more book to go, but with such little pay off at the end of FoL I am not exactly looking forward to the conclusion.

    While it might have been crass to force-feed the reader the battle outside Kharkanas, the alternative left a bitter taste in my mouth. An epic event reduced to Erikson’s heavy handed monologues and abstract narrative techniques that seem to fly in the face of convention for no other reason except to run counter to said conventions. If you want to talk of force-feeding it becomes a real drain when every single character has pages to offer of philosophical exposition on the humanity (Tiste-anity?).

    It felt like he was spoon-feeding us philosophy, whereas in Malazan entire swathes of subtext were left up to the reader to interpret. In trying to create characters rich in tragedy and self-flagellation he’s ended up creating a cast whose thoughts and inner monologues can be almost interchangeable.

    Also Anomander remains a confusingly written character. Having other characters constantly refer to him as tragic and selfless and brave and brooding doesn’t make him so. It has more the feel of high school students speculating on what that handsome quiet kid is like, if only he ever opened up.

    Maybe I’ve just become an impatient reader, perhaps childish in my wants and needs. After all, reviews have been highly favorable – yet I just can’t relate. All in all a highly fascinating read, but ultimately disappointing. Bogged down in it’s own sense of grandiosity and thick ideology. As Gethol said “guard yourself against the impending monologue.”

    • A Small Giant says:

      Maybe it was because I was reading Shakespeare intermittently while I was reading FoL, but I got read each of those things far differently. First and foremost, Kharkanas has moved the world of Malazan from the Homeric mode to the Shakespearean, yet because it’s a book we’re rooted within a single perspective, that of the narrator, Gallan. Shakespearean tragedy is always rooted in the personal, and even the tragedy of a whole city, Kharkanas, would have to follow suit. The reason we don’t see that battle, is because beyond the ideological conflict between the Andii and the Liosan, there is little personal conflict beyond that which has been shown already, and so I view the “battle” scene as an homage to the difficulty Shakespeare had displaying conflict on the stage, as well as an homage to the battle scene’s within Shakespeare’s own plays, laden with “heavy handed monologues and abstract narrative techniques”. It felt right in that context. As for your cast whose thoughts and inner monologues are interchangeable, maybe that holds true for the minor characters, yet the people we spend most of our time with certainly hold to different ideals in the wide examination of infighting that this series is mainly concerned with: Hunn Raal, Prazek, Dathenar, Urusander, Renarr, Syntara, Silchas, Anomander, Andarist, and Endest Silann are certainly all wildly different characters.

      As for the portrayal of Anomander, remember the opening prelude by our narrator in Forge of Darkness,
      “… he is perhaps the least of it. A man pushed from behind my many hands will go in but one direction, no matter what he wills.

      It may be that I do not credit him enough. I have my reasons.”
      We see here that Gallan doesn’t particularly like Anomander, and we see that he at best has a comparatively small role to play. Furthermore, we know the person talking to him, Fisher kel Tath, has written a poem called Anomandaris and we can expect that Gallan would add his counterpoint. The reality of Anomander, in this case, is that he is just another character in this larger human drama, that people are forcing their conceptions onto him despite all the evidence to the contrary, to show that, although he is no great leader, he will be forced to lead his people as the First Son of Darkness, even as Mother Dark turns away. This is not the tragedy of Anomander, but the tragedy of Kharkanas.

  • mmalaeb says:

    I agree completely with the above, although i thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was a let down from forge of darkness or the rest of the Malazan books. Many characters became monotone, they were all philosophers in the reflective sense, including the kids….the theories are amazing, Erikson I think has mastered “advanced hegelianism…” and incorporates Nietzsche in his reflective philosophy, but it is preachy…tiste anity as was said above. The forge of darkness was dark, i felt overwhelmed, it was painful but it moved, this book, was like drawing breath and never releasing it throughout the novel…i guess a fate of a second book in a trilogy. Overall, it was highly enjoyable and i can’t wait for the third book, but Erikson needs to tone down his preachism…

    • James Hill-Harris says:

      I ENJOYED THIS BOOK AS I ENJOY ALL OF THE MALAZAN BOOKS, HOWEVER, I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED. I EXPECTED MORE FROM THE BOOK. ANOMANDER IS ONE OF THE MOST BELOVED CHARACTERS IN THE SERIES. IT DEFINITELY SEEMS LIKE ERICKSSON IS GOING WAY OUT OF HIS WAY TO DIMINISH HIM. YET WE VALUED HIS ROLE IN THE MALAZAN BOOKS. WE VALUED HIS SACRIFICE, ALLOWING HIMSELF TO BE KILLED BY DRAGNIPUR. THIS SEEMED TO BE THE STORY THAT WOULD SHOW HOW HE CAME TO BE. YET HIS INVOLVEMENT IS ALMOST NOTHING. HE IS THE FIRST SON OF DARKNESS AND THAT HAS NO VALUE IN REAL TERMS IN THE BOOK. EVERYONE AND THEIR DOGS SEEMS TO BE BLESSED BY POWERS COMING FROM EITHER Tiste Liosan or Tiste Andii, yet Anomander has no blessing? How so? He is clearly the Knight of high house dark or the mortal sword yet he is completely powerless. Also the Azanthani are all powerful yet powerless. I can’t understand how they can have enough power to bestow magic on an entire world (by creating Warren’s which are worlds themselves) yet can’t shut down a war, can’t stop the lying and manipulatations of the priestesses and can’t predict any betrayals. It doesn’t make sense.

      I literally found myself yelling in frustration at the confusing method he chose to use to narrate the battle. Why do this? That was by far the greatest let down of the novel. I listened to 30hours of narrative to get to that crap? He literally built that battle up for over 70% of the book only to gloss over it and never even explain really what happened. Total crap. All those characters being developed for that conflict and then to not give the reader any closure was just inexcusable imo. The Husk legion, Anomander, Silchas, Draconus, the female who injured Silchas, the dragons. The dragons are another of my serious issues with Ericksson. Why are the dragons considered so powerful? The seem to be about as powerful as a big fluffy pillow. Ericksson has made the Elient into the malazan equivalent of Superman; supposed to be all powerful but gets the shit kicked out of them by every one. I keep waiting for just one dragon to show some might, but everytime they fight they lose… To humans with cussors, to thelomans with an age, to just one sword wielder. Dragons may be the weakest species in the malazan world. I love the malazan books but I wish that Ericksson would not build characters up only to have them beaten with by “the guy with the board and rusty nail”. Ericksson continued addiction to this played out narrative is tiresome, predictable, and threatens to undermine the value of the story. Why should a reader sit through hundreds of pages of character build up when they know the character will eventually be beaten by some no one to in the most anticlimactic way possible?

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