Ian C. Esslemont's Deadhouse Landing will be published by Penguin Random House (Bantam Press) in the UK in November 2017.

Information about Ian C. Esslemont:

Ian C. Esslemont was born in Brandon, Manitoba, but grew up in Winnipeg. He has studied archaeology and creative writing, has traveled extensively in southeast Asia, and lived in Thailand and Japan for several years. He now lives in Alaska with his wife and children and is currently working on another novel set in the world of Malaz, a world he co-created with Steven Erikson.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Deadhouse Landing:

Returning readers to the turbulent early history of what would become the Malazan Empire, the second chapter in Ian C. Esslemont's thrilling new epic fantasy sequence...

After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled a civil war on their own home island. The plan, however, soon goes awry as Kellanved develops a strange and dangerous fascination for a mysterious ancient structure found on the island.

The chaos in the region extends to the metaphysical planes also as a young priest of D'rek starts to question the rot at the heart of the worship of the god of decay. And back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith - and searching for answers.

During all this, war with the neighbouring island of Nap threatens, recruited allies wonder at Kellanved’s sanity, and powerful entities take more of an interest in the little mage from Dal Hon. Dancer faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when the fellow’s obsession with shadows and ancient artefacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction.

After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter an Elder mystery known to everyone as the 'Deadhouse'?

A REVIEW OF IAN C. ESSLEMONT'S DEADHOUSE LANDING

Ian C. Esslemont's Deadhouse Landing is a sequel to Dancer's Lament, which was the first novel of the Path to Ascendancy series. It's an impressive and welcome addition to the Malazan World novels, because it continues to reveal more information about the history of the world of Malaz.

Before I delve into reviewing this novel, I feel obligated to mention this: What Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont have created together is magnificent, because their fantasy world is stunningly complex, detailed and large, and each new novel has brought more depth to it. It's incredible how well they share the world, because their novels compliment each other. I'm fully aware that this is saying a lot, but I personally think that Erikson and Esslemont's creation is perhaps the most complex and most detailed fantasy world since J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, because it's something unique.

Because I've been a fan of the Malazan World novels ever since I read Steven Eriksons' Gardens of the Moon a few years ago, I'm glad I had an opportunity to read Deadhouse Landing. I was very impressed it, because it's an entertaining and well-constructed fantasy novel with style and substance.

I consider Deadhouse Landing to be a prime example of a sophisticatedly complex epic fantasy novel for adult readers. It has all the trademarks of a good fantasy novel and then some, because it offers action, humour, magic, politics and philosophy in a highly enjoyable format.

The events are mostly set on the island of Malaz and take place before Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen and Ian C. Esslemont's The Malazan Empire.

Here's a bit of information about how the story begins:

In the prologue, Cartheron Crust watches as Dariyal, the capital city of the Napan Isles, burns in the night. He tells Princess Sureth that they must withdraw or risk capture... Nedurian, a retired mage, senses something, but decides to wait and see what will happen... Wu and Dancer discuss things at a table in an alehouse in Malaz City. Wu tells Dancer that they need a base for their operations and informs his friend that he has bought the alehouse... Wu feels drawn to the strange structure he has found... The chosen deputies from the lands where a scourge kills people come seeking a boon from Lord Dassem, but he refuses to do anything. He finds himself having to prove that he is the Mortal Sword of Hood... Tayschrenn is a priest who is studying the immanency of D'rek, the Worm of Autumn. He stops by with his fellow priest to watch the executions in the pits. When a Priestess of the Enchantress is about to be executed, she brings a warning to priests and priestesses of D'rek: they have to change their ways or suffer the consequences... Nedurian is asked to take a look at a dagger. When he examines it with his powers, he notices something strange about it. He thinks that somebody on the island may be meddling in Meanas, which is also known as the Warren of Shadow...

As you can see by this short description about the happenings, there is a lot going on in this novel. This is merely the beginning of the story and much more is to follow.

The long chapters used by the author were to my liking, because they allowed him to concentrate on the characterisation and plot development. I found the pacing delightfully fast-paced and was delighted to see that there were no dull moments.

The characterisation is fluent and effortless. The large and versatile cast of characters makes for an exciting and layered story, because the characters have their own stories and many things happen to them. I admire the author's way of making the characters come to life during the story, because each of the point of view characters is fully realised. It was rewarding to read about how some of the characters came together and what their backstories were.

Wu (aka Kellanved) and Dancer and excellent and vivid characters. It was genuinely enjoyable to follow their deeds and predicaments. Some of their dialogues are amusing and entertaining. Wu is a fascinatingly complex character, because he's a mage whose business ideas and plots for world domination are more or less complicated and even a bit insane. Dancer is an assassin who's more level-headed than his friend. He often gets to wonder about his friend is doing, especially when he wanders off and goes missing for a while.

The other characters are also well-created. Reading about Dassem Ultor was interesting, because he is the Mortal Sword of Hood and an accomplished fighter who faces a crisis of fate. I was also intrigued about Tayschrenn, because he is a priest who worships D'rek, the Worm of Autumn, and finds himself in trouble. When he is imprisoned and has to face a trial, he notices alarming things about the cult and its leading figure. Tayschrenn's fate is one of the highlights of this novel. Mock (the self-styled Marquis of Malaz) and his mistress, Tattersail, have their own hopes and schemes, which are quite entertaining.

The worldbuilding is truly impressive as it has always been the Malazan World novels. Ian C. Esslemont effortlessly creates a believable vision of a vast world that has its own magic, laws, rules and cultures. The things related to the Shadow and the Azath Houses are sure to please both newcomers and devoted fans.

The action scenes are well written and won't annoy readers. In my opinion, the author writes vividly about them, because he emphasises all the right things. The fluent prose and masterfully delivered suspense serve as the icing on these scenes.

It's great that the author doesn't shy away from brutality when it serves the story. The scenes in the executions pits are graphic and realistic as the author shows how people are being executed in gruesome ways. The sight of the people-devouring insects will surely cause feelings of unease in those who have weak stomachs.

One of the things that sticks out to me is the author's masterful ability build up tension, because he takes his time to build the story. Although the author concentrates on building his story, he makes sure that readers have a good time while reading it, because he delivers everything that epic fantasy readers expect to see in a fantasy novel and he does it extremely well. It's great that he never loses sight of what is important, but keeps tight reigns on his story and uses what he and Erikson have created to his advantage. He delivers a story that is both engaging and entertaining.

I find Ian C. Esslemont's writing style addictive and engaging. He has developed a lot as an author since Night of Knives and ever since Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder his writing has been more focused and more detailed. It's great that he has become a more confident author, because his contributions to the world of Malaz are intriguing. This novel is clearly one of his best novels.

I have to mention that the culmination of the story is very satisfying and worth waiting for. As the events unfold, the author delivers a finale that will please new readers and fans of the Malazan World novels. I wholly enjoyed the finale and look forward to reading what the author writes next.

If you're new to the Malazan World novels, Deadhouse Landing and its predecessor, Dancer's Lament, offer a good entry point into Erikson and Esslemont's amazing and detailed fantasy world (please note that you should be aware of the fact that you may not understand everything about these novels unless you've read the previous novels, because there are elements that may feel strange or incomprihensible). If you're already familiar with the previous novels, you will be extremely delighted to read about the happenings and the characters, because the author has created quite a masterpiece here as he continues to reveal the world's history. There are certain threads in this novel that devoted fans of the previous novels will be happy to read.

If you're looking for new epic fantasy fiction read, I strongly recommend taking a look at Ian C. Esslemont's Deadhouse Landing, because it's one of the best and most epic fantasy novels of the year. It won't disappoint those who are looking for fantasy fiction that has depth, style and substance. It's highly enjoyable escapism.

Highly recommended!

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