Published April 1st 1999 by Bantam Press
Let’s start with the basic information you need to know about this book (and series): You either love this book (and the series) or you hate it, at least according to Steven Erikson.
I am not sure whether I agree with that statement: My assessment is rather that the book requires some “work” by the reader – or maybe I should talk about faith in the story – and it might scare/annoy/displease readers.
In my opinion, this is just the perfect fantasy book. To be fair my opinion is formed following a re-read. The first time around I really liked it but this time around I loved it (this is why I am convinced that the book requires a bit of faith on behalf of the reader). It might have been my return to the Malazan world, it might have been the possibility to share my love for the book on Goodreads, it might have been that I am older. Whatever the reason, the re-read made me believe this book is perfect.
Why perfect you ask? World building, story and characters are simply stunning; perfect pace and the writing style is just tailored to this world.
I want in particular to highlight the world building in this case. This series is actually born as a board game – now my recollection on this matter is a bit murky but I believe this was supposed to be a competitor to Dungeons and Dragons. The deal for the game did not go through but the development of the world is thorough and extended; most importantly, the world is so clear in Steven Erikson’s mind that every time he adds a detail he knows precisely how this will work and what the effect of said detail on the story. I think Steven Erikson (as a disclaimer, I have not read the Ian C. Esslemont books yet) is the author who best commands an extremely complicated world building and he nails it. I genuinely believe this is the best world building in modern fantasy story telling – it is difficult to compete with Tolkien.
Also, the world was based on a script. I read an intro to the book that refers to the background of the creation of the Malazan world and how Canadian TV show producers asked Erikson and Esslemont to lower their expectations. It is a quite an inspirational introduction as well – a bit too many curses in between but the message conveyed is great: Always shoot for the stars. Do not settle for second best. And I hope I am summarizing it properly.
As for the story, this is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen yet it is a novel that introduces the world, the characters, the complexity and the relationship between humans and gods. The story revolves around the conquest of the Malazan Empire of the Genabackis continent. The Empire is on its way to conquer all the free cities; but it also discusses the change of regime and the methods of carrying it out (Laseen wants to remove all the supporters of the prior emperor), there is assassinations sprees and attempts. There are gods who like to meddle with the humans but there are also gods that want to make a statement and, possibly, have revenge against (certain) humans. Also, there are plenty of assassins, relevant guilds and associations! Did I mention there is plenty of magic and brand new races? Did I mention that magic is so unique and linked to gods – current and abandoned? If you are getting intrigued, then this book is for you!
I am not properly describing the whole plot, I am providing bits and pieces of what you will find.
Let me get into what I really wanted to discuss, which are the characters. But I do not want to get into the description of the characters – they are amazing, the development and depth is just spectacular (especially in a book of “only” about 660 pages). What I would love to see in the next future is a TV series based on the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Erikson and Esslemont already pitched a script and Games of Thorne is a success.
I do not have casting ideas for everyone – and yes, I am inviting you to add your ideas below! – but here is what I thought about and why. The casting I thought about did not consider whether an actor or actress is mostly movie or TV show oriented but lately the distinction has been really murky lately.
Here you might find some spoilers to the book so: BEWARE OF THE SPOILER!
The Adjunct Lorn – Shailene Woodley.
I think Shailene Woodley would be able to convey Lorn’s arrogance, besides being extremely close to Lorn’s looks.
Laseen – Kate Winslet or Taraji P. Henson.
Now, Laseen has dark blue skin so this should be a diverse character but she also seems to be a ruthless ruler. Hence, two great actresses for this particular role. And yes, I thought very much about Lena Headey but she is already a main protagonist (and amazing interpreter) of Games of Thrones so I am trying to avoid borrowing cast from GoT.
Quick Ben – Sterling K. Brown
Sterling K. Brown is an amazing interpreter and Quick Ben has so much to offer. Not only he is the mage for the Brideburners but he has a “dark” past, he is just so much more than what he shows at the beginning.
Kalam – Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman is a great Black Panther, capable of sharing emotions with the audience but he is also extremely good in its fight scenes. Kalam is an extremely interesting character. An assassin, a former (the only alive!) Claw and particularly good at what he does. One of the most defining traits is also the relationship to Quick Ben and I would hope that Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown are so good!
Dujek Onearm – Courtney B. Vance
I first “met” Courtney B. Vance as the director in the NCIS tv series. To some extent, Dujek has a similar vibe. A great grandfatherly figure yet an implacable warrior and unstoppable general. Perfect match!
Kruppe – Zach Galifianakis
If you know Kruppe, do I need to add anything? K
Tattersail – Jaimie Alexander or Bryce Dallas Howard (if she agrees to wear a black wig)
Tattersail is one of the best mages available to the Malazan Empire, with centenary experience and commanding of her powers in a way few mages can. Yet, she has such a human side and it is what defines her the best. Jaimie Alexander is currently doing a great job with Blindspot and her character pretty much encompasses both traits: Though warrior and sweet human being.
Bryce Dallas Howard was amazing in Jurassic World and she might be able to bring those traits back to life with Tattersail – with a lot of hand gestures!
Fiddler – Riz Ahmed
Fiddler is the one with the feeling, the one who has the sixth sense. And he likes to work with explosives and has sense of humor. I loved Riz Ahmed in Rogue One – so he can bring seriousness – but he is also hilarious (I had so much fun watching his interviews) so I believe he could bring that added value to Fiddler!
Hedge – Dwayne Johnson
Do I need to add more?
Ammanas – Keanu Reeves
A great actor for one of the most complicated characters in the whole Malazan Empire. Genius, insane, rancorous, capable. Keanu Reeves can pull this off!
Cotillion – Richard Armitage
Cotillion is one of my personal favorite characters in the whole Malazan world. Patron of assassins, he is just an amazing character, depth and skills are his main traits. Richard Armitage is a great actor and who did not fall in love with Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit? Well, I did!
I know there are so many other characters – and I have been thinking for a long time who could portray Anomander Rake and I still cannot decide! – so please comment below to discuss who should be playing who!