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Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323699
Date: 12 May 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

On the small island of Malaz, a special night is coming that happens only once in several decades. It is the convergence which results during the Shadow Moon; a time where people in the real world end up in shadows of other realities and these other realities come to Malaz. It is said that on this particular night the Malazan Emperor Kellanved and his master assassin Dancer will appear on the isle; neither has been seen in ages.

In the Emperor's absence, Surly the Mistress of the Imperial Assassin The Claw has claimed control of the empire as the regent. She does not want the Emperor to appear because she relishes running the country. Thus she travels to the island with her loyal bodyguards to prevent the Emperor and Dancer from returning.

As the moon rises, islanders hide in their houses hoping to remain safe from the evil invaders of the night. Demon-hounds, walking dead take over the streets and mists conceal eerie entities. Two people are involuntarily drawn to the malevolence that is occurring. Kiska is a young girl who wants to leave the island to joins the Imperial Forces; Temper is a battle hardened veteran who is hiding from his past with a new identity on Malaz. Neither believed in the myths, but soon both will become embroiled in legendary evil when a dead man asks Kiska to deliver a message. Shortly afterward, she finds herself in another realm where she receives instructions on what she must achieve when she returns home while Tempe remains on the isle in mortal combat with demon-hounds, but remains ignorant that he and he alone is the hope to save the island and the empire from the ancient power of the Shadow Moon.

Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson worked closely to create the rich multiple cultures of the Malazan World (see Erikson's Book of the Fallen saga). With this tale, Mr. Esslemont expounds and extrapolates on the prologue to the Gardens of the Moon to create what occurred in mythical history of long ago. A skeptic before reading this fantasy and expecting disaster, I found instead that the story line enhances the Malazan tales with a strong look at what happened in the early mists of time that led to the cultures of the Fallen saga.

The book takes place for the most part over one long lethal evening. So much happens on this fright night starting with the first page with a storm at sea confining people to the isle; the thriller never slows down as demon-hounds, living dead, the emperor's enemies, and an assortment of more evil souls abound. The mists are everywhere hiding malevolence within while people hide within their homes that provide little safe shelter.

A willing heroine and an unwilling hero emerge, but neither seems capable of surviving the night let alone saving a world from the assaults of the ancient Shadow Moon. Readers will root for Kiska in spite of her being typical of the dark fantasy genre while Temper is the more interesting character as we will want to know his past that appears to have emotionally crippled him as a soldier. This dark fantasy changes points of view between Kiska and Temper; enabling the reader to understand what is going on in the big picture and in their respective little orbs.

Malazan fans will be pleasantly surprised with this terrific dark fantasy as Esslemont captures the essence of Erikson's saga. Mist Of Knives is also a good place for newcomers to enter the realm. Everyone will look forward to more entries by Esslemont that take place in the early mists of time.

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