Review: Orb Sceptre Throne – Novel of the Malazan Empire

  Well I think you can understand now why the gap in blog posts, eh? It was because I was reading through a Malazan book. 

So, fair warning, if you haven’t read any of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series or Ian C. Esslemont’s books which don the subtitle ‘A Novel of the Malazan Empire‘ on each cover then I suspect this is all going to sound like gibberish to you.

This time I’m working my way through the Ian C Esslemont series Novels of the Malazan Empire which is obviously set in the same world and deals with largely new ground. And this review might seem a bit sparse on the details but then again, if I reveal too much I actually have the potential to ruin two whole separate epic fantasy series… so we’ll see how it goes.

And which book, I hear you ask? (that was creepy, how did you do that?) Well, Orb Sceptre Throne, book number four in Esslemont’s series. And if you don’t like Amazon links, well then here’s a link to the publisher’s website.

Some of the characters we know and love appear in this book, set as it is in Darijhustan, so we see Kruppe, Rallick Nom makes an appearance among others. In terms of the timeline for this book it’s sits neatly after Erikson’s Toll the Hounds but also before the finale of his series. 

One of the things I am supremely enjoying about Esslemont’s works of the Malazan world is that he is exploring all the things that Erikson never had the time to (I rather suspect this was divided neatly by the two of them before either started writing). In this book alone we learn more about the Seguleh, the Moranth and the interesting history of Darijhustan. Now if that’s not enough on its own to make you read this then I don’t know what will be! But I’ll keep going nonetheless. 

Of all of Esslemont’s books that I have read so far, this one has felt far and away the best of them. I’m not sure if it was the plot, the pacing, the characters or the writing alone that made it feel like that but I suspect it was rather the collection of all of them. 

Rather than starting the book in the typical Malazan fashion which is to say plopped down and left to figure out who’s who, rather like a party-goer who decided to use the skylight instead of the door, we already know most of the players here. Or at least if not the players then where the players come from which gives us much needed context. 

Granted, a lot of that context comes from Erikson’s books, but it still felt nice to dive straight into this and look at the echoes of events from Toll the Hounds and before. So I think you would definitely need to have read up to there with Erikson’s books before you have a go at this one, some of the characters are the same and you definitely do not want to spoil the events of Toll the Hounds! So I would say, as a standalone work, that is probably this book’s only downfall (if it can be called that!)

Enough time has passed and the scenery has so changed that there is an aura of mystery about the place and we’re not sure why that scholar is digging around in the wells outside the city, or what he found down there, but I know darn well that it’s not going to end well. 

Esslemont weaves together all the strands of the story and pushes all the characters together from far flung islands to the glowing blue city in a wonderful manner.Towards the end of the novel the pacing is swift as all of the storylines begin to come to a head and you will find it hard to put down. When you reach the final 100 pages or so, it just becomes really hard to stop reading, one thing comes after another like an avalanche.

Overall I very much enjoyed this novel. There were times when I did pause to appreciate a well crafted metaphor or simile and other times when I was swearing under my breath purely to get the excitement of the events out of my system somehow (hopefully my commuter companions didn’t mind). There was always something going on, never a dull moment, and Esslemont definitely met the high bar of scale, colour, and soul-shattering twists and revelations that Erikson has set. 

If you weren’t as enamored with any previous Esslemont books and were worried where he would take the series, I say to you; Worry no more! He has created a wonderful epic with this novel and once you have devoured this (disclaimer: please don’t eat your books it will not make you gain the power contained within their yummy pages) you won’t be able to wait for the next volume! And, what luck, you don’t have to! 

But in all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And if you are a Malazan fan who has reached Toll the Hounds, or finished the Book of the Fallen, then I urge you to read up to this volume, it will sate your undying curiosity for the Malazan world, but still leave you wanting more.

I am sorry I couldn’t say any more about the meat and bones of the book, but in defence of my reticence I’ve already been told off by my friends for giving spoilers…

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