What happens when you spend the year devoting all your time amongst rowdy marines and meddlesome gods? Well, it destroys your TBR and you start swearing by Hood’s balls at every opportune chance.
This has been my year of Malazan and I rarely ventured outside of the series to read anything else. So, here is my ranking of the ten book series and if you make it all the way to the end, I’ll reward you with a few honorable mentions that managed to sneak in between this soul-binding obsession of mine.
A small note to keep in mind. I loved every single one of these books. They all blew my mind, so ranking them was not only a challenge but hard on my heart. Just because I ranked one book lower than the other does not mean I didn’t enjoy the entry, I just enjoyed it less than its predecessor.
10. Dust of Dreams
My least favorite of the series is not without reason. I’ve always said that Malazan requires patience and that’s to prepare you for Dust of Dreams. There are a lot of new characters and crossing plotlines. It was difficult to keep track of it all. Keep in mind that Dust of Dreams is part one of The Crippled God. This helped a lot in managing my expectations and provided more enjoyment for my reading experience. There is also a storyline that is particularly brutal in this entry that leaves a bitter taste in a lot of reader’s mouths. However, there are some excellent highs here that kept me engaged and I’d gotten this far into the series. I wasn’t about to quit now!
9. House of Chains
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of millions of Karsa Orlong fans screaming in unison “Witness!” What even was this book?! If you’ve read Erikson then you know that the man likes to squeeze every possible pov into every single chapter he writes, but here? “For why?” he said. House of Chains spends the first part of the book in a single pov which is unheard of and almost sacrilegious when you’ve gotten this deep into the series. And that’s not even the kicker. It follows a character of the most despicable nature. Did this character become one of my favorites in the series? Mind your business… but yes, and considering how he’s introduced, I’d say it’s a true testament to Erikson’s ability to not only create epic worlds, but epic and absolutely insane character arcs. House of Chains has one of the best reveals in the entire series. Get ready Deadhouse Gates readers because you won’t see this one coming.
8. Gardens of the Moon
What’s to say about the book that started it all. He’s a comfort. He’s a warm hug. He’s that memory of better and less complicated times. My first love that I will never forget. Little did I know that Gardens of the Moon was merely a toe dip into what was in store for me. Remember Laseen? Hairlock? Tattersail? ADJUNCT LORN? Yeah… it feels so long ago. Oh, happy times…
7. The Bonehunters
We’re walking again. We’re walking and we’re marching. Oh, and fighting. So much fighting. The Bonehunters contains the longest single battle chapter I’ve ever read in my life. It’s an actual novella long. I wanted to read it in one sitting but Hood’s balls I have a life! It took me almost three days to finish that chapter! If you ask any Malazan fan which battle is their favorite, bets are it’s the Siege of Y’Ghatan. Yes, it’s long. But oh, it’s worth it. I loved my time spent with my 16th Army. Witnessing the birth of the Bonehunters was a heavy burden but so rewarding!
6. Reaper’s Gale
You know that villain that everybody hates and cannot wait to get their just rewards? Me neither. How about a villain who is a victim of circumstances? Wrong place wrong time and too young to understand the consequences of their choices? A villain who draws out pity in the reader until you are literally begging the author to just end their misery? You wish death upon the villain, a kind of mercy death that will finally grant them and you relief? Yes? You’re going to love Reaper’s Gale. It’s so painful. For everyone. Seriously. No one is having a good time in this book.
5. Toll the Hounds
This is where my ranking becomes extremely painful, because honestly, I would consider these next five books my top three and, yes, that math makes sense to me. You know what Malazan needs more of? Brooding, and no book broods harder than Toll the Hounds. With the bright eye of Sauron (Erikson) heavily placed on the Tiste Andii race, happiness does not live here. I love my eternally sad ladies and gents of Mother Dark but wow… I needed all the happy meals after their pov’s. It’s all about the endings here in the Malazan world and wow does this book have an ENDING. Blew my brain right out of my skull and it remains one of my absolute favorites of the entire series.
4. The Crippled God
But Frankie… the final book isn’t #1? What do you mean? It means this is my list and not yours! I imagine your wondering if the payoff is worth it? The simple answer is yes but let me answer in the Bridgeburner way: FIRST IN LAST OUT!!!!! The moto really does encompass what it feels like to survive this series. This will not end in the way you expect it. This is the true convergence and it’ll crush what’s left of your heart into a fleshy pulp. There’s no way I could have predicted what was going to happen or the true motivations of what Erikson was working towards. It’s amazing how dark and bleak Malazan Book of the Fallen is and yet, at the end of it all, it’s about compassion.
3. Midnight Tides
What is grimdark without gallows humor? I couldn’t rate Midnight Tides for days after I read it because I felt like my itty-bitty brain could not function properly. I opened this book frustrated because all the characters I knew were gone. The setting I had become accustomed to was completely different. Places, animals, cities, and people all had different names for the same thing. Midnight Tides is basically a prequel and I had to re-learn everything. Yet this book really threw down hands to break my top two of the series. I. Love. This. Book. So many of my favorite characters originated here and finally, FINALLY, this was the book where everything started to make sense. This is by far the funniest book of the series. It had me bursting in laughter with each page, but it was also so brutal with my emotions because of how attached I became to the characters. Trust me, this is a common favorite among Malazan readers for a reason.
2. Deadhouse Gates
A moment of silence for the heart I lost while reading this book. I still haven’t recovered. I have never, in my life, had my heart ripped out so slowly and methodically as that. We are once again marching. Marching across a desert to deliver thousands of refugees to safety as we die of exhaustion and thirst and attacking enemies that have but one goal: To break the Chain of Dogs. Just as the Bridgeburners were born in the desert, I feel like I did not truly become Malazan Book of the Fallen born until I survived the Chain of Dogs. This is where my love of last stands originated. Deadhouse Gates is just one long, bloody last stand and I cannot even begin to describe the emotional impact this book left on me. I still can’t read the ending to this one and not collapse into sobs. By Duiker’s eyes, this one hurt in the best way possible.
1. Memories of Ice
We’ve come to it at last! Here at the end of all things because, truly, Memories of Ice felt like the end of all things. The level of anxiety I had while consuming this book was UNREAL. Every chapter was a bomb. All things went from bad to worse in an instant and there was this constant feeling of utter dread weaved throughout the book like it was laced in poison. Every chapter flowed into the next with crude precision and granted us readers no relief. Alliances were made and broken, friendships created and torn, lovers discovered and lost. Memories of Ice made me feel, as the reader, like lifting up my sword to run towards a painful death, not because it was my duty, but because it was simply the right thing to do. This is the best fantasy book I’ve ever read. It is everything you could possibly want and the ending… wow. It lives in my mind rent free.
As promised here are my honorable mentions!
The Shadow Casket
Read my Goodreads Review here
Harbinger of Justice
Read my Goodreads review here
The Tyranny of Faith
Read my Goodreads review here
Read my Goodreads review here