Weekend Respite: Good Book Review – Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Welcome back to our Weekend Respite series where we get to review books we ACTUALLY like. I’m still on my Malazan kick, so you guys get book two of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.


Deadhouse Gates starts after the events from Gardens of the MoonWe’re immediately introduced to many new characters and the subcontinent of Seven Cities. As much as I wanted to dislike this book right from the start since I was forced to learn all new characters and setting, this book pretty much immediately punches you in the gut with emotions.

“Why do the survivors remain anonymous—as if cursed—while the dead are revered? Why do we cling to what we lose while we ignore what we still hold?”

The book begins with a culling of the nobility. Malazan Empress Laseen orders a culling of the Malazan nobility in order to prevent any future rivals of power. She orders her new Adjunct, Tavore Paran (yes, sister to Ganoes Paran from GotM), to oversee the culling. This includes Tavore and Ganoes’s youngest sister, Felisin. Instead of kill Felisin outright, Tavore has her sent to work at an otataral mine off the coast of Seven Cities.


Heboric is one of Felisin’s companions in the otataral mines. He’s an ex-High Priest of the god Fener.

To start the book with mass murder of the noble class is just insane. That would be like a new President took power and ordered everyone else in politics to be killed off, including their own family. It’s just an insane power move. And the fact that Tavore has to oversee her own family being killed just adds to it. Sending Felisin instead of killing her outright is seen as an act of mercy.

From there we skip around Seven Cities meeting new characters. We meet Icarium and Mappo Runt, two travelers – one with severe amnesia and one with a secret he must keep from his companion. We meet the Malazan Empire’s 7th Army and its Wickan leader, Coltaine. We meet Imperial Historial Duiker, who accompanies the 7th. We meet many Soultaken and D’ivers – shapeshifters who can shift into either one beast form (soultaken), or many beast forms (D’ivers). We meet the Red Blades, and Lostara Yil and Pearl. We meet Sh’aik and Leoman and the Toblakai. We meet so many amazing new characters and come to love them all so quickly that the characters from GotM seem hardly worth it.


This is pretty similar to how I imagined Icarium to look. 

Except we also get to catch up with Fiddler, Crokus (now called Cutter), Kalam, and Sorry (now called Aspalar) who have traveled to Seven Cities on a mission. This is one of the main reasons I think Fiddler ended up being such a beloved character. Forgetting just how badass and amazing he is, the fact that you get him in back-to-back books helps to strengthen your love for his character.

I must say, though, that for all the love I have of this book, it is definitely one of the darkest in the series. For several main reasons:

  • Felisin Paran’s character arc: her innocence is stripped away during the culling, and she believes to gain protection for her (and Baudin and Heboric), she must, basically, sell her body. This in turn causes her addiction to the narcotic durhang, and also brings about some quite despicable personality traits. She ends up truly being a despised character throughout this series, and I’d say it all stems from having to endure the culling.
  • Icarium and Mappo’s tragic friendship: Icarium is an amnesiac half-Jaghut being who spends eternity searching for clues to his past. All the while, his best friend, his constant companion, Mappo Runt, keeps Icarium’s past hidden from him, knowing that if Icarium were ever to learn what he had caused in the past, the entire world would be in danger.
  •   The Chain of Dogs: the entire arc with Coltaine, Duiker, and the Malazan 7th Army is just… it’s so unsettling and disturbing and emotional and tragic. Coltaine is tasked with the impossible: leading thousands of Malazan civilians across the Seven Cities continent to the imperial capital of Aren. Along the way they’re forced into battles with Sh’aik’s Whirlwind Army, who are hellbent on punishing and destroying the Malazans. I don’t even want to spoil what happens with the Chain of Dogs because it’s best to experience this entire storyline yourself. I’ll just say it left me absolutely gutted.

Coltaine during battle. 

Deadhouse Gates is absolutely one of the best books in this entire series. If not because it introduces so many important, beloved characters, but because of the entire Chain of Dogs sequence. It’s so memorable and intense and emotional that it’s one of those literary works that will stick with you forever.

“Children are dying.”
Lull nodded. “That’s a succinct summary of humankind, I’d say. Who needs tomes and volumes of history? Children are dying. The injustices of the world hide in those three words.”

It wasn’t until the second time I read through this book that I finally understood the title of the entire series, and it’s all because of the Chain of Dogs. There’s other plots throughout this series that match up with it as well, but in my opinion, none fit better than what occurs in DG.

“The lesson of history is that no one learns.”

We return to Seven Cities with book four of the MBotF series, but honestly, as much as I dreaded starting this book, afraid that I’d lose the feeling Gardens of the Moon left me with, I actually dreaded starting book four. I didn’t want to return to Seven Cities. The ending of Deadhouse Gates affected me that much. It still hurt. Hell, it still does today! Deadhouse Gates is just one of those books that stick with you.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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