The story, at a fairly simplified level, is the fall of the Letherii Empire. There are a lot of storylines that weave together to create the story including characters in the Letherii army and secret police, characters amongst the Tiste Edur who have recently conquered Letherii, characters among the invading Malazan army and a handful of gods and their offspring.
There are a lot of characters in this book. On the one hand this is good. I like big, sprawling fantasy with a good selection of points of view. Some characters are really interesting and others less so. I did think that there were too many point of view characters and that there was enough time to really get to know the ones I liked best. Which is saying something in a 900 page book. Maybe it’s because this is book 7 and I haven’t read books 1 to 6. This is what happens when you join book clubs to get a million books for no money and then forget to tell them you don’t want the editor’s choice. You end up with loads of books from the middle of a series and never get around to reading the first ones.
One point I did take away from this book is that when you have several point of view characters it is not always necessary to show every step they take on the journey. Showing key scenes builds up the story without any waste. However, I do think you need a large cast to do this.
The writing is amazing. It is all show. There’s very little exposition and loads of dialogue. Reading this really brought home how dialogue can move a story forward, And that’s not all the dialogue does in this story; it does characterization, theme and exposition. It never feels stilted or forced. The description of the various worlds is beautifully done and doesn’t interfere with the action and dialogue. Instead it supports it.
I really enjoyed this, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on – that would be the six books I haven’t read yet. I liked it enough to want to read the rest of the series and then this one again.