Night of Knives by Ian C Esslemont

I’m fairly easy when it comes to getting books and knowing what I like in the science fiction genre, but when it comes to fantasy I don’t know where to start. I’ve tried some things in the past (the first Wheel of Time springs to mind – my brother lent me his copy as he’s working his way through the series) but I’ve got a chapter or so in to the book and find nothing that I like so I put it down. I decided that I really should try something else, I’ve read so many things on the various forums I visit about such great fantasy series’ that I’ve never bothered with before.
night-of-knivesAfter looking around for something that would open the door to more of the same should I like it I decided upon Night of Knives, a novel set in the ever expanding Malaz setting. Even though it’s set in a well established fantasy world I dived in head first to discover that I’ve been missing some pretty good stuff.

Here’s the blurb:
Malaz gave a great empire its name, but now this island and its city amount to little more than a sleepy backwater. Until this night. Because this night there is to be a convergence, the once-in-a-generation appearance of a Shadow Moon – an occasion that threatens the good people of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker things. Also it is prophesied that the Emperor Kellanved will return this night, and there are those who would prevent that happening at any cost. As factions within the Empire draw up battle lines, an ancient presence begins its all-out assault upon the island. Witnesses to these cataclysmic events include a thief called Kiska, and Temper, a war-weary veteran. Although they do not know it, they each have a part to play in a confrontation that will determine not only the fate of Malaz City but also of the world beyond…

As I said, this is my first venture into Malaz so I won’t try to explain the plot in much more detail. From reading other bits here and there around the web I know that the events covered in Night of Knives offer an explanation of history that is referred to only fleetingly in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. I also know that as an introduction to the Malaz setting it may not be the best starting point, simply because the weight of the events that are dealt with. Regardless of all of this, I enjoy Night of Knives, and here’s why…

Ian C Esslemont paints a very vivid picture of the city of Malaz, the descriptions he uses helps the images stick in my head. This makes the story much more real in my mind, the characters and other creatures that walk the streets of the city under the Shadow Moon come alive while reading them. With all events taking place over one night it puts the events into perspective and just how serious they are, something that Ian C Esslemont brings to the reader with style. Both Temper and Kiska (the two characters we follow through the night) are likable and suit the story and circumstances, although I suspect there is more history to Temper that I’m not fully aware of yet – something I plan to change.

All in all I enjoyed Night of Knives, it has given me a taste of what I could expect in the Malaz novels that will inevitably lead to my reading of the whole series. It may not be science fiction and it may not always be the first thing I pick up, but the world I’ve been introduced to here is one I plan on revisiting as long as they keep on coming.

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