Weekend Respite – Good Book Review: The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

Happy weekend, friends! Apologies for not posting last weekend. Holidays, am I right? It feels crazier than ever this year, since I’ve, for the first time in my life, moved more than an hour away from my friends and family (big move from Wisconsin to Florida this past summer), and so I feel like I’m scrambling more than usual to get all my Christmas shopping done, wrapped, and packed before my solo drive back this weekend. Well, solo + an 85lb dog. Should be fun!

Anyway, while you’re enjoying this post in my Weekend Respite series, where I actually get to review books I like for a change, I’ll be somewhere between north Florida and Nashville listening to an audiobook I haven’t decided on yet. I think I might give Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series a shot on audiobook. I’ve read every book but the latest and love them, and I’ve heard good things about the audiobook narrator, so maybe that is what I’ll do.

This week’s review is of the sixth book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, The Bonehunters.

After the whirlwind that was all the new characters, continent, and story from Midnight Tides, we return to Seven Cities for The Bonehunters. It takes place pretty much right after the events from House of Chains, after the Malazan defeat of Sha’ik. From the publisher’s summary:

The Seven Cities Rebellion has been crushed. Sha’ik is dead. One last rebel force remains, holed up in the city of Y’Ghatan and under the fanatical command of Leoman of the Flails. The prospect of laying siege to this ancient fortress makes the battle-weary Malaz 14th Army uneasy. For it was here that the Empire’s greatest champion Dassem Ultor was slain and a tide of Malazan blood spilled. A place of foreboding, its smell is of death.

But elsewhere, agents of a far greater conflict have made their opening moves.

The Crippled God has been granted a place in the pantheon, a schism threatens and sides must be chosen. Whatever each god decides, the ground-rules have changed, irrevocably, terrifyingly and the first blood spilled will be in the mortal world.

A world in which a host of characters, familiar and new, including Heboric Ghost Hands, the possessed Apsalar, Cutter, once a thief now a killer, the warrior Karsa Orlong and the two ancient wanderers Icarium and Mappo–each searching for such a fate as they might fashion with their own hands, guided by their own will. If only the gods would leave them alone. But now that knives have been unsheathed, the gods are disinclined to be kind. There shall be war, war in the heavens. And, the prize? Nothing less than existence itself…

Here is the stunning new chapter in Steven Erikson’s magnificent Malazan Book of the Fallen–hailed as an epic of the imagination and acknowledged as a fantasy classic in the making.

This is the first book in the series where I really started to feel the power of the Crippled God. He’s mostly a background player in the first few books, though he does take a much larger role in the fifth book. But it’s this book where his machinations really starts coming through. I’ll be honest, and say I didn’t fully understand his role in everything until the very last book in the series, aptly named The Crippled God.

We get back to the, as the publisher’s summary calls them, battle-weary Malaz 14th. These guys have basically been moving nonstop without any sort of respite, and you can just feel their exhaustion. This is just the beginning.

“If you can only feel safe when everybody else feels, thinks and looks the same as you, then you’re a Hood-damned coward…not to mention a vicious tyrant in the making.”

This book introduces one of my absolute favorite characters from the entire series, Sergeant Hellian. Hellian is absolutely petrified of spiders, so to keep from breaking down in hysterics every time she would see a spider (and she’s from Kartool, where there are tons of chihuahua-sized spiders running around), she is pretty much always inebriated. Girl loves her liquor. Or anything that’ll get and keep her drunk. And somehow, she’s an amazing sergeant. Basically, any scene involving Hellian becomes one of my favorites, and she’s absolutely one of my favorite POV characters.


Hellian’s just so great. 

“Save your explanations, I got some questions for you first and you’d better answer them!’ [slurred Hellian.]
‘With what?’ [Banaschar] sneered. ‘Explanations?’
‘No. Answers. There’s a difference-‘
‘Really? How? What difference?’
‘Explanations are what people use when they need to lie. Y’can always tell those,’cause those don’t explain nothing and then they look at you like they just cleared things up when really they did the opposite and they know it and you know it and they know you know and you know they know that you know and they know you and you know them and maybe you go out for a pitcher later but who picks up the tab? That’s what I want to know.’
‘Right, and answers?’
‘Answers is what I get when I ask questions. Answers is when you got no choice. I ask, you tell. I ask again, you tell some more. Then I break your fingers, ’cause I don’t like what you’re telling me, because those answers don’t explain nothing!” 

It also introduces another favorite character of the series, Samar Dev. Karsa Orlong comes across Samar, who is stranded in the desert with a broken foot. She is an inventor (and witch) who, in a fit of anger, kicked the wheel of her broken down powered carriage and broke her foot. She ends up becoming Karsa’s traveling companion throughout the rest of the series, and I just love all her interactions with Karsa. She is incredibly intelligent and witty and is just a pleasure to read. I actually just love the way Erikson writes women in this series. This is a fairly good article that gives much more detail on the diversity and equality of the characters in Malazan. It’s one of the main reasons I love this story so much. There’s no damsels in distress in need of saving in this series. Every male and female character is able to fully fend for themselves in most given situations. Male characters realize and respect when they’re outclassed by a woman. There’s so little of the stereotypical male/female dynamic in this series, and it makes for such a refreshing read.


Karsa and Samar.

A major part of the plot involves the Malazan 14th army following the remaining force of Sha’ik’s rebellion, who have fled to Y’Ghatan. Y’Ghatan holds a lot of history with the Malazans, especially with Fiddler (who is still going by Strings though everyone knows who he is). The fight inside Y’Ghatan is super violent and terrifying, but it’s where the Malazan 14th army picks up the name The Bonehunters. There is also an especially brutal escape from Y’Ghatan by a small sect of the army.

“Never, dear gods. Never mess with mortals.” 

Aside from all that happens in Y’Ghatan, much of this book is really to push the Crippled God plot forward. The first five books in this series really help to set the stage for the later books, and give you a pretty good understanding of how the world works, but it’s with The Bonehunters that starts shaping the story of the final books. It’s not the best or most entertaining book of the series, but it’s an important story that helps to shape what’s to come.

“He lifted up another card and set it down before him. ‘Priest of Life, hah, now that’s a good one. Game’s done.’
‘Who wins?’ the Adjunct, her face pale as candlewax, asked in a whisper.
‘Nobody,’ Fiddler replied. ‘That’s Life for you.’ He suddenly rose, tottered, then staggered for the door.” 

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