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House of Chains (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 4) Mass Market Paperback – March 6, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 185 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Longtime fans may be surprised by the fourth book in Erikson's masterful fantasy epic that began with Gardens of the Moon (2004), because the long opening section follows a single character, the Teblor warrior Karsa Orlong, and his companions on a gory raid through enemy territory and into the human lowlands of Northern Genabackis. The time-hopping, perspective-shifting, looping story lines typical of this Canadian author return later, as Erikson ties Karsa's actions to the ultimate showdown between the forces of the Malazan Empire and Sha'ik's Army of the Apocalypse. Against a backdrop of brutal power struggles, the stubbornly determined Karsa is able to accomplish more than even he could have imagined. Unusual among fantasy writers, Erikson succeeds in making readers empathize equally with all sides involved in his world's vast, century-spanning conflict. Newcomers will eagerly seek out previous books in the series. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The fourth volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen takes place some years after the death of the famous Seventh Army commander, Coltaine. Now Tavore, adjunct to the empress, is trying to assemble the army's surviving veterans and a ragtag collection of tribes, wanderers, and recruits into a viable fighting force. Not far away, the seer Sha'ik, Tavore's sister, is trying to organize a successful rebellion out of equally disparate elements, including warlords, sorcerers, and renegades. Despite a fairly complex array of subplots that support the rather dark tone of the story, it is the duel between the sisters and the abundantly detailed world Erikson has built that really carry the book. Indeed, with the help of the glossary and cast of characters Erikson provides, this book is enjoyable even without previous acquaintance with the Malazan tales. So it will please the already acquainted, and may inspire the unacquainted to read its predecessors, Gardens of the Moon (1999), Deadhouse Gates (2000), and Memories of Ice [BKL Ap 15 02]. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 4 (Book 4)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 1036 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765348810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765348814
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.6 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TinaW VINE VOICE on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a tale of two armies.
In the aftermath of Coltaine's death, the Adjunct Tavore must lead her rag-tag collection of soldiers into Raraku, the holy desert, in hopes of defeating Sha'ik's dreaded Army of the Apocalypse. Her army is uneasy. They are a patched together group of raw recruits, hoary old veterans and the broken survivors of Coltaine's army and they know nothing of the Adjunct, seeing her as untried and aloof.
In the meantime, Sha'ik is beset within her own army. The wily Korbolo Dom and his triumphant Dogslayers are the backbone of her fighting forces, yet they have their own agenda. The High Mages Bidithal and Febryl can't be trusted but they are necessary for Sha'ik's plans. Betrayal seems imminent from all sides. And Sha'ik herself is in turmoil as the Goddess of the Whirlwind and Felisin battle for the soul of the person they both inhabit.
The two armies meet one fateful night and two sisters will clash. Only one will remain standing.
While the two armies prepare for their monumental clash, we travel the journey of discovery with a remarkable warrior named Karsa Orlong. We watch as Lostara Yil, one of the formidable Red Blades, and a Claw named Pearl set out on a task set for them by Adjunct Tavore only to be horrified and saddened by what they discover.
This is the fourth book of the Tale of the Malazan but it picks up the thread of the story that ends in the second book, The Deadhouse Gates.
I had a hard time getting into this book at first because the first 200 pages details the exploits of a seemingly unknown warrior named Karsa Orlong. The events told actually pre-date the events of the first book of the series. As Karsa's story begins to unfold we start to catch up with the current time in the series.
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Format: Paperback
Steven Erikson is hardly known here in the states, where he's yet to publish, but his four fantasy novels are unequivocal modern classics. "House of Chains," the newest entry in the long-winded "A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen" series, continues the fascinating saga.
Fans of Jordan and Martin will be wowed by Erikson's epic, sweeping narrative and complex plots. Stephen R. Donaldson is quoted on the back of House of Chains, and for good reason. Comparisons could also be made to Glen Cook's "fantasy-noir" style, and other postmodern fantasy/scifi authors who effectively blur the lines between notions of good and evil.
Erikson's world is endlessly complex, replete with thousands of societies, deep history, vast geographies, and unique magic. There is plenty of humor, a fair amount of gore, and constant action. And an important, unavoidable facet of Erikson's writing style is that he challenges the reader. He doesn't deliver stock characters and cliched, predictable plots on a silver platter.
Start with "Gardens of the Moon," and order from amazon.co.uk if you must. Fingers crossed, Erickson will publish domestically, and all of those weak, poorly written, hackneyed derivative juvenile fantasy books currently choking the shelves of your local bookstore will be swept aside.
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Format: Hardcover
For those of you out there that still subscribe to the "Tolkien is God" theory of Fantasy, this book probably would drive you insane. While the sheer mass of the book and the number of characters are reminicent of the Lord of the Rings, that is where the comparison ends. Nowhere in Erikson's work will you find an elf, a dwarf, a dark lord, or a downtrodden youth turned hero. What you will find is a deliciously dark story full of courage and cowardice, complex and extremely flawed characters, and a plot line that moves with the feeling of the Fourteenth Army. There are no "good guys" in shining armor. Even the heroes are twisted, pulled by the forces of the greater struggle facing the Malazan Empire. Even the pantheon of "gods" in the book are strikingly ambiguous in their alignment. There is no good god, but those that we meet and get to know become strikingly human. There is no better example than Cotillion, the patron god of assassins, who becomes almost devestated when he is forced to use children to defend the Shadow Throne and also when he accepts the return of Apsalar.

For those that would say that the first 200 pages that chronicle the exploits of Karsa Orslong are a weakness to the story, I would have to say that I initially felt the same way. After reading the rest of the book, I have since changed my mind. Although he is not my favorite character (that distinction would have to go to Ganoes Paran or Fiddler), he has become an important part of the story.

Although this is not the best book in the Malazan series (that would have to be either Memories of Ice or The Bonehunters), this book gives important background into the mind of the Crippled God, as well as gives the "humanity" of Cotillion and Shadowthrone.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
See my review of Deadhouse Gates for context if you wish.

Erikson's first book was a fun, if confusing fantasy novel. His 2nd book was a gore and rape filled horror slog through hell. I understand some of that was necessary for the point he was trying to make, but I felt it was over the top.

With the third and fourth books of the series he has finally found the balance he needs to bring all his elements together. He is still 1/2 horror novelist, 1/2 fantasy novelist, but the mix of these two elements comes more naturally and there is more humor, and pleasant characterization going on. The plot is intensely complicated, and each book adds even more characters to learn about. Read the other reviews for plot elements and such, but here are the few things you really need to know:
Erikson is a great writer of very complex stories. If you like world building you will be wildly impressed, but often confused!
He likes war, soldiers, strategy, gods and magic and the books are FULL of these elements
He dislikes romantic stuff. People do care for each other and there have been some meaningful story lines that have a relationship bent, but in general he avoids them. Even when it happens it is never "romantic"
He has a sarcastic and cutting sense of humor that I really enjoy

Try the first three books (you'll make it through the 2nd I promise... jsut keep going) and you'll know exactly what you're going to get.
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