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Stonewielder: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765329851
Date: 10 May 2011 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Series Website / Show Official Info /

The past is being forgotten, or at least forgiven as the new emperor settles in. Korel, unconquered by Malazan, sits like a stone under the emperor's throne and he needs to bring that situation to a resolution. What better way to resolve past problems than by using past problems in the resolution. Thus, Greymane finds himself recruited to lead a second invasion, while Rillish, involved in a past rebellion against Greymane, finds himself appointed fist in Greymane's army.

At the same time there is a religious uprising taking place, led by a pacifist and a young dead girl. And in Korel, the Stormguard are fighting not only the constant assault of the Stormriders but the slow degradation of the great wall which keeps them out. As the pieces move, seemingly in an individual manner, everything slowly starts to come together. And there are wild cards aplenty--the Avowed, the Blessed Lady, and the Malazan infantry.

This is the follow up book to Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard, which, itself, is part of the Malazan Universe established by Steven Erikson. If you are a fan of that series then a lot of this is going to be familiar. Likewise if you read Return of the Crimson Guard. This should not be a problem as the universe created by Erikson and Esslemont is incredibly rich and deep. There is history here, there is conflict, there is a list of characters three pages long, and there is more plot movement than any other four books combined. In a nutshell, there is a heck of lot going on here. It may take 50 to 60 pages for you to get some idea of all of the moving parts but it's worth it.

I really like this world and find that Esslemont and Erikson write in very similar styles, albeit Erikson is a bit more polished. But, both lay out their plots in small chunks, jumping around from setting to setting and character to character. In the end everything all comes together. Sometimes it's not a very satisfying coming together, that is to say that there are few happy endings in this universe. Familiar characters get killed by the literal boatload, and the ending may be just, but rarely part of fairy tale. It's one of the few series where being a main character is no guarantee of survival. I highly recommend this book and I'm highly looking forward to the next offering, no matter who puts it out.

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