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Return of the Crimson Guard: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323705
Date: 13 April 2010 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The legendary Crimson Guard is returning and moving into the heartland of Quon Tali. As they move across the landscape, coming to terms with the changes that have occurred since their departure, they also struggle with internal turmoil, the loss of their leader and a vow which keeps them alive beyond death. As they march, the Malazan Empire is also on the move, Laseen commanding her forces in the field in what some see as either a last attempt to take out her enemies or simple madness.

Meanwhile, in Li Heng, Malazan forces are surrounded and in an act of desperation, prepare to unleash something very old, very powerful, and very hungry. And as all this boils, a group of mages conspires to break free of the Otataral mines while the one called Traveler moves across many landscapes searching for the one he has sworn revenge on.

Esslemont both utilizes characters from Erikson's Malazan series and adds his own. He carries history forward and this book is set a bit after the betrayal by Laseen and the Claw in Malaz and carries forward the natural progression of that betrayal but from the other side. There can be momentary confusion as you come across names and events that you know from the other series but which are lit in very different directions in this one. Like Erikson's books, this one is sweeping and huge and very complicated when it comes to plot. Like the other series Esslemont manages to tie everything up by the end.

This is a big, complicated book that is also very fun to read. Simply put, if you liked Erikson you will like Esslemont. They are playing in a world that they both created when they were doing role playing games so the familiarity is uncanny. If you did not see Esslemont's name on the cover you would be hard pressed to argue that the book was not done by Erikson. I don't know if there are any further volumes that will be coming out by Esslemont but I hope so.

Recommended and a great read.

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