Deadhouse Landing was another fantastic novel in this prequel trilogy of two of the most notorious characters from the Malazan series.
This sequel continued to expand on the origins story of Dancer and Kellanved, by bringing us to the infamous Malaz Island – where it all began. For readers of Malazan, some of the names in the Dramatis Personae were enough to make one incredibly excited for what’s in store. It was so hard for me to write this review without giving away even the smallest detail, which might diminish the impact of the “Aha!” or the “OMG, it is HIM/HER!” moments. These names alone aren’t actually spoilers in its truest sense. Nonetheless, my take is that a Malazan fan will derive more delight from reading these prequel books without prior knowledge of whom among the Old Guard might be featured.
The bond between Dancer and Kellanved grew stronger in this instalment; it was heartwarming to see how protective the former can be over the latter, who can be downright infuriating with his obscure, shadowy schemes. Their story was told from only Dancer’s POV so far and it remained so in this book, ever keeping the mage an enigma. As Kellanved pursued his path to power with Dancer in tow and causing disturbances among the Warrens, the assassin’s prowess and growing notoriety attracted the attention of another highly talented and dangerous individual. I literally bolted up when this person’s name was first revealed as it did not appear in the Dramatis Personae. Aside from Dancer, there were also the main POVs of two mages, a naval captain and a swordsman. Take a guess if you will, but I would mention no more.
As with all Malazan novels, intricate politics and war were always brewing somewhere. However, compared to the larger series, the narrative in this trilogy had been far simpler to comprehend. Esslemont’s writing managed to achieve a remarkable balance to the tone of the storytelling. It was grim, epic and, most oddly, fun at the same time. I had bestowed many superlative compliments to the Malazan series, but fun was never one of them, until now. One example was how Kellanved got his name. While Dancer had a touchingly poignant story behind his, the Dal Honese mage’s one was most random and hilarious.
The ending chapters recalled that familiar epic feel of Malazan novels, where powerful coruscating Warren magic and astonishing mastery of martial/fighting skills melded into a rousing and intense climactic sequence. Deadhouse Landing rounded up some of the earlier significant events (and its main characters) in the history of the Malazan Empire, as well as shed a tiny bit of light on the Azath. Just on these points alone, I would probably have awarded this book 5-stars. Coupled with the effortless writing that Esslemont has blessed these books with, it was simply a joy to read. Another favourite Malazan novel, and potentially a favourite trilogy.
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