ARC received from the publisher, Random House UK, in exchange for an honest review.
Kellanved’s Reach was a great continuation to the story behind the rise of Kellanved and Dancer, and the beginnings of the Malazan Empire.
Judging from the direction of the narrative in this book, I strongly doubt that this would be the end of the series (which was marketed initially as a trilogy). Compared to the previous books, the number of character POVs in the third book had more than doubled. There were multiple storylines told from the perspective of all the different warring city-states within the continent of Quon Tali. Arising from these were several new characters being introduced. While most of these individuals will have significant roles in the later Malazan books, their respective subplots at in this book seemed largely detached from the main story. There was one character whose nickname was yet to be known by the end of the book, and it made me want to tear my hair out. I was certain that he’s a prominent person in the later books, but his character development at this stage did not provide sufficient clues.
What I loved most about the two previous books was that it focussed on our two major characters. The development of their partnership and friendship and their interaction with one another were always a great delight to read. In this third book, however, their story probably took up at most a quarter of the book, if not less. The length of the books in this series so far have been relatively short by Malazan standards. Given this, some compromise will be required when it comes to handling a broader range of subplots and a larger cast of characters. The more ambitious scope in Kellanved’s Reach resulted in a narrative which I felt was too rushed in places.
Despite all that, I still enjoyed reading Kellanved’s Reach simply because I loved the worldbuilding in Malazan. And there was also the excitement of discovering what happened before – all the incidences or events, some earthshattering and some seemingly benign, which would cumulatively lead to what we’ve known and seen in the Malazan Book of the Fallen and Malazan Empire. Truth be told, I haven’t finished the Empire books because I was not particularly enthralled by Esslemont’s writing there. However, reading this prequel series had sufficiently rekindled my interest to read the rest of his books.
The ending had the flavour of the usual epic Malazan climax, but it was also where it suffered the most from the shorter length of the novel. I would really, truly loved to have a much longer chapter of the climactic sequence with all the anticipation built up from the deadly assault of the mage cadre and the unleashing of elder powers. The last section of the book then served to wrap up some of the ‘loose ends’ of the various new characters. Without any doubt, it opened up the possibility of more prequel stories coming our way. Not that I have no complaints if there are. If Esslemont keeps up with his current writing style to continue treating Malazan fans with more and more books, I will keep on reading. And I definitely wouldn’t mind if these books are a tad longer.