The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 10 of 10)
Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, fantasy
First published: March 2011 by Bantam (UK) and Tor (US)
The Crippled God is a breathtaking conclusion to an outstanding series; Malazan Book of the Fallen is a masterpiece of its genre and has affirmed its place as my favourite epic grimdark fantasy series.
The Crippled God didn’t leave much room for breathers and I am sure this is the least amount of time I’ve spent finishing a novel in this series – the exception being Gardens of the Moon, which is the shortest book by far. I will also not spend much time relating about this final instalment, save that it was brilliantly handled with an emotionally exhausting, and wholly satisfying denouement. All the major open threads and even some smaller ones came together most compellingly. The very end of this book was of the most sublime symmetry to the beginning in Gardens of the Moon.
The word epic does not even seem to do any justice to this expansive tale and the world in which it takes place. Erikson has skilfully crafted a story with such breadth and depth of worldbuilding and characterisation, and plot complexity, that it seriously challenges the readers. But, in spite of the work and commitment involved in finishing these ten books, it was also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.
Malazan Book of the Fallen is exquisitely soul-crushing and yet it can also make your heart soar – even when you’re crying your eyes out. The narrative is crazily dense, filled with deep melancholic introspection and philosophical discourse, a mind-boggling number of intertwining storylines and a massive cast of characters. A stellar cast of characters for that matter, for whom any attempt to assuage emotional investment is futile. Believe me, Erikson will make you care – even for that minor side character that appeared for mere pages. He is a master at strumming powerful chords of emotion. So much grief, pain, sorrow and regret emanate from within its pages, beautifully tempered with empathy, compassion, kindness, loyalty and honour. These are stories of true friendships and enduring love; stories of the best of humanity in its darkest, and most dire, hours; delivered in a prose that is elegant and profound.
The violence in this series is brutal and visceral, but never gratuitous. The battle and action scenes are in equal measures sweeping and intimate; cinematic scenes of clashing soldiers and sorcerous conflagration seen from a wide-angle, and combat sequences in close confines, moving from one squad, or an individual, to another. Although the level of power or ability commanded by some of the characters can be ridiculously off-the-charts, it is somehow appropriate in the context of this world. To me, that is part of the fun of reading Malazan which alleviated what seemed like hard work a lot of times. Admit it, badass characters are the most memorable and to partake in fantasy is to get swept away by the unreal awesomeness that you don’t encounter in literary fiction.
Having said that, while the story is told in a fantasy world, its allegory to our real world is staggeringly on point. To readers who scoff at the genre merely being escapism which never deals with real-life issues, I invite you to partake in this gritty epoch-spanning tale which echoes our actual bloody history – the horrors and grave errors perpetrated by humanity, repeated time and time again.
I highly recommend anyone who loves fantasy, especially fans of grimdark, to read this series. Be patient, and you shall be rewarded.
With choked emotions barely in check, I bid this world goodbye… for now.
And now the page before us blurs.
An age is done. The book must close.
We are abandoned to history.
Raise high one more time the tattered standard
Of the Fallen. See through the drifting smoke
To the dark stains upon the fabric.
This is the blood of our lives, this is the
Payment of our deeds, all soon to be
We were never what people could be.
We were only what we were.
Gardens of the Moon: 5/5 stars
Deadhouse Gates: 5/5 stars
Memories of Ice: 5/5 stars
House of Chains: 4/5 stars
Midnight Tides: 4.5/5 stars
The Bonehunters: 5/5 stars
Reaper’s Gale: 4.5/5 stars
Toll The Hounds: 5/5 stars
Dust of Dreams: 5/5 stars
The Crippled God: 5/5 stars
Overall: 48/50 star
Review originally written in 2017