Monday, June 11, 2012

REVIEW: The Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont

The Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont
Publishing information: Kindle
Publisher: Tor Books; 13 April 2010
ISBN 10: 0765363488
ISBN 13: 978-0765363480
Series: Side story to The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series
Copy: Out of pocket
Reviewer: Tyson

Synopsis: "Casting thrilling new light onto an extraordinary creation, this is the second epic fantasy novel from the co-creator of the Steven Erikson world of Malaz.

The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for the Malazan Empire. Driven by constant warfare, weakened by betrayal and rivalries, many see the grip of Empress Laseen beginning to weaken as conquered kingdoms and principalities test their old independence.

Into this gathering civil war on Quon Tali, the Empire's homeland comes the Guard. And with their return comes the memory of their hundred-year-old vow -- undying opposition to the existence of the Empire. Yet rivalries and betrayals stalk the Guard as well; elements of its elite, the Avowed, scheme to open paths to even greater power, and ancient potent entities, Ascendants, also lend a hand exploiting all sides to further their own arcane ends. Meanwhile, a swordsman, Traveller, and his companion Ereko, move from one strange encounter to another in a mysterious dance meant ultimately to bring the swordsman to a final confrontation from which none has ever returned.

As the Crimson Guard gathers from around the globe, Empress Laseen faces a more immediate threat from the generals and old commanders of her predecessor, Emperor Kellanved, who have lost patience with what they see as Laseen's mismanagement. Yet there are hints that Laseen may be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate these last irksome survivors of her predecessor's rule."

I am a huge fan and slowly working my way through each and every tome that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. While I love Erikson's world and the way in which he writes. Esslemont's first foray into the world left me a little disappointed.

The Return of the Crimson Guard takes place shortly after the events in The Bonehunters. While I wanted to like this novel, I found it hard to read. The characters felt stilted and only half of their personalities seem to shine through. It was easy to get into the novel and keep track of all the coming and goings of characters. But the novel continued, it became harder and harder to pay attention and care for what was happening on the pages.

The events intertwine and fit well within the overall story arc that Erikson created, but I never really found myself invested in the story or the characters. It was hard for me to care.

I know that I should want to read all of the books in the universe created by I.C.E and Erikson, but I have a strong desire to skip Esslemont in order to finally finish the series and to also keep my interest with the story. Malazan continues to be one of my favorite series but this book was not my cup of tea. I know it has its part to play in the overall scheme but it was a hard book to read.

Plot 7/10
Characters 6/10
Style 6/10

Overall 6.5/10