Just like the main series, I was determined to finish the Malazan Empire this year but I may have to rethink that decision after my experience of reading this book.
Night of Knives is the first book in the Malazan Empire series, a spin-off to the main series that’s written by the other creator of the Malazan universe, Ian Esslemont. A lot of people mentioned that Esslemont is not Erikson (these four words must’ve haunted Esslemont for years by now) and usually, I’ll say that it’s really not really fair for everyone to endlessly compare these two; it’s obvious that every author has a different style. But in this special situation, I must say that the comparison is really well deserved because both of them write canon stories in the same universe which they created together.
I won’t lie, I didn’t enjoy reading this small book; it left a bad taste in my mouth. I was honestly shocked by how bad the experience of reading this book was. It came down to how Esslemont’s prose absolutely didn’t work for me. No, it’s not because the prose was simplistic; I loved a lot of simplistic prose. It’s just that the prose was incapable of keeping me engaged or invested in the characters. Esslemont focused so much more on the never-ending barrage of action sequences rather than the crucially needed characterizations. Unlike the main series, we don’t have a lot of POV to follow; only two, Temper and Kiska. Erikson is capable of making sure his giant cast of characters to be filled with unique, distinctive voice. In my opinion, Esslemont can’t do that even though there’s only two main POV to follow. The only parts of the book I enjoyed were the event surrounding Dassem Ultor, Dancer, Kellanved, and Sultry, and these were enjoyable to me only because I’ve read five books in the main series which overall has talked a bit about them. Don’t even get me started on Kiska’s POV. It was infuriating as hell to read a POV full of teenage angst in a Malazan universe. “I want to do something amazing, on the most dangerous of nights!” “What have I done I’m so dumb I’m gonna die” “Let me do that again!” “what nooo helpppp!!” Oh C’mon for fuck sake! I understand reading something like this in YA books but not in Malazan!
I’ve seen a lot of people saying something like “Please push through, Esslemont get better with each installment.” Let’s be honest here, we have given up on author just from reading their debut or one of their books and I’m pretty sure the majority of the people who told me to persevere has done the same thing; Esslemont get a pass only because he’s writing in the Malazan world. I’m not even talking about Erikson’s high standard here, but more on my experience with reading epic fantasy in general and I can say that I’ve read literally hundreds of book better than this. The next books in the series aren’t small, they’re significantly larger and I will give up on the series whenever I want to. If Malazan Book of the Fallen absolutely requires Malazan Empire to be fully enjoyed then might as well put Malazan Empire as part of the main series instead of it being a spin-off.
Night of Knives was a huge disappointment, I have no idea how this will benefit the main series and I will find out pretty soon. No matter how much I love the main series, I don’t have enough patience while I’m drowning in a mountain of TBR to give a book I dislike a pass just because it’s written in the same world as one of my favorite series. I will give the next book in the series a go after I’m done with Reaper’s Gale before making my final decision on whether to continue or DNF this spin-off series, let’s just say that right now I’m 90% leaning towards dropping it.
You can find the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions