House of Chains: Book Four of The Malazan Book of the Fallen
by Steven Erikson
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0765315742
Date: 22 August, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
House of Chains is book four in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Unlike the first three, which were linear, essentially one huge story told in three parts, this book is set a bit afterwards and a bit to the side of the previous action. The protagonist, Karsa Orlong, is a young warrior, itching to set off and prove himself and to bring glory back to his people. He set off with two companions and the watchful eye of a group of gods. House of Chains is basically his story, although it also picks up the threads of Adjunct Tavore and Sha’ik’s Whirlwind some years after the Chain of Dogs. Karsa, while on his raiding party, finds a changed world, and his companions first lose their respect for him, then their lives. This haunts Karsa in many different ways as he continues out into the world rather than return home in disgrace. Like the books before it, House of Chains is a big book, both in size and scope of story. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what Erikson is about as he seems to wander here and there with new characters and old, but it all comes together, sometimes in very unusual ways, as everything unfolds. Of course, also like the previous books, many new questions are raised.
One of Erikson’s strengths is that he is able to tell a complicated story, wrapping up plot threads while establishing the threads for future tales so you don’t feel like you’ve been lied to about the story being complete in one volume. There is also a wonderful narrative flow to the work and a diversity of character voices involved in the process of getting you from page one to the end. The culture, the world Erikson creates, the histories of that world, all come into play as the characters move from place to place and event to event.
I’ve found all of Erikson’s books worth reading and have suggested they are worthy of being considered for awards. House of Chains is no different; a book to be consumed from beginning to end. There is abundant wry pathos, humor, interesting relationships, betrayal, redemption and enlightenment, all played out on a stage full of conflict and world changing events. Quite simply a must read for anyone who loves epic fantasy or good storytelling.