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Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian Cameron Esslemont
Review by Steve Sawicki
Bantam Books Ltd Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553818291
Date: 05 May 2008 List Price £7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /

The world in which Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen novels take place was co-created by Ian C. Esslemont. Night of Knives (previously published in the UK as a limited edition by PS Publishing) is Esslemont's first solo novel in this collaborative setting and has been hailed as every bit as exciting as the works of his co-creator Erikson. This is the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Press.
"It gave the Empire its name, but the island and city of Malaz is now a sleepy back-water port. This night its residents are barring doors and shuttering windows: a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon has arrived and threatens to bring among them demon hounds and other, darker, beings.

This is also the night prophecied for the return of Emperor Kellanved, missing these last years. As factions within the Empire battle over the Imperial throne, the Shadow Moon summons a far more ancient and alien presence for an all-out assault upon the island, one that will determine the fate of the Malaz, and the entire world beyond."

The Shadow Moon occurs only once a generation and that once is now. Malaz city is preparing for a convergence, an occasion that threatens everyone in the city, common and noble alike, for this night the Emperor Kellanved will return to seek a throne. There are those ready to assist and those ready to prevent. For the most part citizens will try to avoid what they see as an all out assault on their city and their sanity. But for those few who see opportunity in calamity the night offers a chance to change everything.

This book is set in the universe better known in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series written by Steven Erikson. However, in the forward to this book, Erikson lets on that he and Esslemont are co-creators of the Malazan world and that the world was made up as a gaming universe. Erikson goes on to say that the plan was always for both of them to write books based on the universe and it is only that life prevented Esslemont from starting right off that created the delay in the two authors getting their works out.

This is an interesting book in a number of ways. It's set in a universe that, if you have read Erikson's series, is already very well known and all of the action takes place during a single night. These are two pretty large hurdles to overcome. I have to say that Esslemont does a credible job at both.

The book is set in Malaz city, a place that Erikson only visits in periphery in his own series. This lets Esslemont play in his own arena while staying in the same universe. And he's managed to pick a story that's big enough to take place in a single night. Like Erikson he feeds the reader chunks at a time then jumps to a different story. Everything does converge at some point prior to the end of the book but you are left to try to figure that out along the way. This is a good book, a book I read in almost a single reading. I enjoyed it and plan to look for more of Esslemont's work in the future.

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