26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2008
'The Return of the Crimson Guard' by Ian C Esslemont, is the second book revolving around Steven Erikson's original 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' series.
It is my understanding that both Erikson and Esslemont are good friends and are co-operative co-authors of the Malazan world, and both are agreeable to and welcome each other contributions.
I'd like to comment on two different facets...
First, this book...
I was enthralled with this story right from the very beginning. It was well written, fast moving and exciting. There were the usual assortment of Malazan characters both good and evil who are forever plotting against one another, or someone or something. There was magic, treachery and betrayal, interesting event filled treks and voyages and some incredibly exciting battles. Also present was the witty and bantering camaraderie of the Malazan army regulars; a special group of mercenaries reminiscent of the 'bridgeburners' or the 'bonehunters' of previous novels. This book, simply had it all.
In traditional Erikson fashion, Esslemont starts off with several short glimpses involving many different persons or groups, however these stories progressed quickly, resulting in a tale that grabs you and just doesn't let go. The individuals' tales were told serially, but because each tale was so well written and interesting, you hated to see one segment come to an end, only to begin an account of someone else's adventure.
Also, there was an extensive list of the characters' names with their locations and 'occupations'; this was really helpful as there were a tremendous number of individuals from various geographic locales.
The only minor negative:
While there is an good general-overview map of the entire area where a lot (but not all) of the action takes place, it would have be so helpful to have had a detailed map of the area where a lot of the fighting took place, particularly for the last third of the book. There are so many groups fighting in so many place, and even though these areas are fairly close together, I found it very confusing to try to keep locales and geographic distances in perspective.
Second, Erikson and Esslemont...
This book, 'Return of the Crimson Guard' recaptures the style of writing that made the Malazan series SO great; it's the type of writing that Erikson needs to get back to.
I'm not sure what's going on with Steven Erikson, but, to me, the last book, 'Toll the Hounds' was at times quite confusing; especially some of the dialogue and also certain events and occurrences. I actually found myself skimming areas because it was difficult to follow OR I just got bored with the protracted mundane situations.
A few more novels of this quality and Esslemont may well become the preeminent writer of the future works in the Malazan series.
A true Malazan tale to sink your teeth into; any Malazan fan/addict will be thrilled with this effort. It's got that quality of writing coupled with an intriguing story line what will pull you in from page one. It's a book that will make me read late into the night and have me looking forward to some quiet time to return to the story. (and no fantasy/adventure novel has done that recently since Joe Abercrombie's 'The First Law' trilogy)
Easily 5 Stars...more if I could.
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2010
"We are so close. Queen's Prophecies, the completion of the Vow is within reach! We can break them! Why then these doubts, these worries? None afflicted at the beginning. Everything was so clear then. the sides so cleanly drawn, our cause so pressing. Now, though, I can hardly muster the effort to go through with it. For whom did they fight?"
As I said in my Night of Knives review, the thought of Esslemont sharing Erikson's world has always made me nervous. Night of Knives managed to calm those fears slightly, but it was a different sort of novel, and filled with flaws of its own, so I entered Return of the Crimson Guard - a monolith of Erikson's proportions - with more than a hint of trepidation. I wouldn't say that Esslemont fails at crafting an epic here, but I wouldn't really say that he succeeds, either. Esslemont's writing style is highly developed in some areas, but is sorely lacking in others. As a result, your opinion of the book is likely to go up and down in tandem with Esslemont's competence at writing the current scene.
Beginning a Malazan novel is always an upwards climb. You've got a few dozen plot threads and characters to acquaint yourself with, most of (or, in this case, all of) them new. In general, the beginnings of Erikson's books are a myriad of half scenes, with the reader frantically trying to latch on as things escalate. The main part of this boils down to characterization and prose. Return of the Crimson Guard is the novel about the Malazan Empire, where Esslemont seeks to communicate the answer to all of our questions about it before both he and Erikson move, in large part, to foreign shores. More than being a novel about the high seats of Malazan power, however, it is, like every Malazan novel, first and foremost about the characters - some high ranking, but most low - that we see the events through.
In a novel with a dozen viewpoints, it's absolutely essential for each character to have at least one distinctive trait that we can immediately latch onto, so that we can tell who the hell they are when they pop up again. At this, Esslemont is adept, but, when it comes to later filling in those stark outlines with details, he falls horribly short of Erikson's standard. Almost none of Esslemont's characters have any depth to speak of, ranging from clichés to empty shells that act for reasons that are impossible to decipher. It is telling, I think, that all of the characters that have any depth to speak of in this volume are not viewpoint characters and are, generally, viewed only from the periphery.
Compounding the problem of characterization is Esslemont's prose. Though it's never truly flawed, it lacks the richness and flowing nature of Erikson's. It is, in short, a workman's prose, there to get the ideas across and nothing more. As a result, the times in the text when Esslemont tries to awe the reader, such as another look at the jade statues from House of Chains, fall flat. The combination of the bland prose with the shallow characterization makes the beginning of Return of the Crimson Guard a true barrier. Once you power your way through the opening, however, Esslemont begins to play to his strengths.
Esslemont's prose comes alive when he describes combat. All of a sudden, what was only a paragraph ago so much ho hum description, or what have you, lights up with new fire as soon as someone throws a punch. Esslemont's style, in these scenes, becomes almost staccato, and you understand what his prose was going for the entire book. His grace at battle isn't only on the small scale. Esslemont's grasp of military battles and tactics seems excellent and is a joy to read.
The pacing of the last third of the book is the opposite of the beginning. Where the opening was starting a thousand different threads with no payoff in sight, Return the Crimson Guard ends with literally hundreds of pages of climax. Now, the amount is a bit excessive, and I won't deny that it could've been stronger if some had been cut, but the jaw dropping confrontations, and the political machinations that go along with them, are by far and away the strongest part of the book. Esslemont adds layer after layer of complexity, sub plot after sub plot exploding at once, that it almost beggars belief.
And then he adds one too many layers, and it all sort of falls apart.
Return of the Crimson Guard is, fundamentally, concerned with the question of Laseen. Is she running the empire well, playing a deeper game than anyone realizes, or is she merely a pawn that exceeded her station? For most of the book, Laseen is Esslemont's one unqualified success. The enigma of her character grows in the absence of any close viewpoints, and her plans become more twisted and more daring with each half step they take into the light.
The problem with Laseen's climax isn't the decision that Esslemont took. It's his and Erikson's world, and I can't even begin to guess the causes or ramifications of the conclusion, so I'll wait till I have that information before passing judgment on who did what. What is unforgivable, however, are the implications of what happens to Laseen. By making her oblivious of something that every reader, no matter how unobservant, knew for thousands of pages on end invalidates any intelligence that reader might once have ascribed to her. The remainder of her plan simply does not matter. Whether or not she was ever cunning becomes irrelevant, that act of ignorance leaves the reader forever unable to view her as anything but clueless.
Esslemont answers the question of Laseen's plan, yes, but in a superficial, meaningless way. He checks "yes" and "no" to each aspect of her being, telling us whether she knew this and not that, or whether she was interested in him and not in her, but nowhere do we understand the character herself. The missing piece at the center of the novel turns out not to exist. The enigma is never penetrated; it is destroyed with its secrets intact.
Return of the Crimson Guard is a novel where the number of plot twists is only matched by the endless fluctuations in writing ability. Though he has a rocky beginning, and several very obvious shortcomings, Esslemont eventually overcomes his problems and draws the reader into his story. Night of Knives gave us the surface of Laseen's climb to power, but we saw it from a cinematic perspective only; none of the depths of character or motivations were revealed. Return of the Crimson Guard promises to rectify that, and, for a while, it seems poised to do so. And then, Esslemont reverts to the same superficiality that his debut displayed, solving every question without understanding why we wanted the answers in the first place.
I haven't given up on Esslemont. As long as he's cowriting one of my favorite series, I'm not even sure that I can give up on him. I have, however, lost quite a bit of faith in him. I suppose I can only hope that Stonewielder is as much of an improvement on Return of the Crimson Guard as Return... itself was to Night of Knives. Or, failing that, that his treatment of my beloved Darujhistan isn't as skin deep and superficial as everything that's gone before.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2008
Imagine if JRR Tolkien had a partner that co-created Middle Earth and all its history and characters with him. Now imagine that partner wrote books parallel with Tolkien dealing with other stories in the world they created. Sounds like fun, right? Well, this is Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson with the world of the Malazan Empire. In my opinion, the most comprehensive fantasy world and epic created in recent history.
Return of the Crimson Guard is a vital addition to the overall storyline started by Erikson in his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Where Esslemont's debut, Night of Knives, was good, it was so because of its relation of the Malazan world and my (and other fans') craving for it. Crimson Guard is a very well-written, essential story that must be read by any Malazan fan. I won't try to summarize the plot, except to say that the book chronologically takes place after Erikson's Bonehunters book and that many new and interesting characters are introduced here.
Like Erikson, Esslemont easily works together many sub-plots into one convergence of great importance. Esslemont writes massive battle sequences very well, and the book really becomes a page-turner for the last 1/3. The breadth of this book is a leap beyond the single-locale Knives book, and it rivals any of Erikson's works. I agree with an earlier reviewer that states that this book represents what Erikson needs to get back to in his series.
I am so grateful to have two talented authors to provide these excellent stories. Bring on so more!
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2010
As a fan of the Malazan series, I was excited to get this book about the vaunted Crimson Guard. However...
The best way to express it is to compare it to a movie brought to a TV series. Sometimes it turns out good, but in this case it was atrocious. It felt like some 3rd-rate generic story with the Malazan names filled in. The writing style is shallow and bland. The characters talked more like we do today, instead of the more elegant prose typical of Erikson. Descriptions were hashed out in a few short phrases. There was no build of character or story, no sense of awe or wonder.
I came across this one sentence mid-way through the book:
"The tower shuddered then as if it had taken a terrible blow from a stone as big as a horse thrown by a monstrous trebuchet such as those Hurl had seen rotting and broken after the siege of the island fortress of Nathilog."
What kind of convoluted nonsense is this!
Don't judge a book by its cover. In this case, the cover is beautiful. But the words inside leave much to be desired.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ian C. Esslemont, The Return of the Crimson Guard (Tor, 2008)
I was bowled over by Ian Esslemont's first Malazan novel, Night of Knives, because it was so entirely different from anything that Steven Erikson had written for the series. The Return of the Crimson Guard is impressive for a different reason; Esslemont turns on his chameleon function, releasing a novel that, aside from being slightly shorter than Erikson's recent tomes (it clocks in at a slim, trim 702 pages), could be an Erikson novel.
Where Night of Knives was a piece of Malazan history, The Return of the Crimson Guard is a contemporary piece; just when it takes place is a mystery (Wikipedia notes blandly that "It is difficult to work out a precise timeline for events..." before placing The Return of the Crimson Guard in between The Bonehunters and Reaper's Gale), though events from recent books in the series are talked about as if they're some time in the past. It may well be best to look at it as a standalone novel that incorporates elements from the rest of the series and not worry about the timeline; while knowledge of what's gone on in the other books will flesh out your enjoyment here, it's in no way necessary to enjoy the book on many levels.
The Malazan Empire is fading, and a number of disastrously failed campaigns may be ringing its death knell. Therefore, an old enemy, the Crimson Guard, has decided the time is ripe to strike at the heart of the Empire. A number of Avowed, unaging warriors who swore to not rest until the Malazan Empire was felled, and a much larger number of new recruits, make their way to Quon Tali, where the Seven Cities which founded the Empire lay. This, of course, involves a great deal of adventuring, as well as one of the new recruits getting framed for the murder of one of the Avowed (yes, they can die, they just can't age) and being forced to flee with two of his friends. All this is well and good, and in the tradition of Malazan novels, we also get a bunch of chapters about what's going on in Quon Tali as the Malazan regulars follow the Crimson Guard's progress. But when the two sides finally line up to face one another, both find they have something much scarier than another army to worry about...
If you've read the Malazan books before, you should have a good idea of what to expect from The Return of the Crimson Guard; Esslemont is not quite up to Erikson's level as a writer yet, but he's only a cut below, and you'll find this as enjoyable as one of Erikson's if you're already a fan of the series. The slow patches are never quite slow enough to make you want to abandon the book, and the fast patches are very, very fast (this series may be the most successful, in a literary sense, depiction of the notion of "long stretches of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror" ever, since Erikson and Esslemont game the system so that the boring bits aren't actually boring, but give you a great sense of malaise nonetheless--and I mean that as a compliment). If you haven't, head back to the beginning and start with Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. This is a wonderful series, possibly the best fantasy series currently in the process of being written; if you've never tried them, no better time than the present. ****
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Return of the Crimson Guard is the second of Ian C. Esslemont's books set in the world he helped create with Steven Erikson, whose longer-established Malazan Empire series has been going for years (the tenth and final book is due out in January). Esslemont's first Malaz book, The Night of Knives, took place a bit back in the pre-history of Erikson's series, set on the night that the old emperor Kallenvad and his companion Dancer ascended into the realm of Shadow and Laseen became empress. It was a much more constrained book than Erikson's: much shorter with fewer points of view and focused on a single night and locale as opposed the sweep of time and geography we tend to see in the longer series. In my review of NoK, I said I thought that brevity hurt the book a bit, with some abrupt or rushed sections. Return of the Crimson Guard goes in a completely different direction, one Malaz fans are more used to: it's twice as long (over 700 pages), has multiple narrators, and covers much more space and time than Night of Knives. Did these major narrative changes make for a better book? I'd say "yes, but . . ." as RotCG is I think a much better book, but one with a good number of flaws, some held over from NoK and others new to RotCG.
Return of the Crimson Guard jumps ahead in time (just after Erikson's book six, The Bonehunters) to an empire coming apart at the seams. Its far-flung campaigns have taken their toll, some ending in near-disaster w/ huge loss of life (Seven Cities). Now, weakened, the Empire faces rebellion in its heart as formerly conquered/dead nations rise again on the continent of Quon Tali, some led by Malazan "Old Guard"--those loyal to Kellenvad who now seek to bring down Laseen. As if civil war at its core wasn't enough, the Empire also faces an old, old foe: The Crimson Guard, a mercenary group so dedicated to the Empire's destruction that a century or so ago they swore a vow to never rest (or die) while the Empire existed. Now the Guard, which has fought the Empire across the world, is regrouping and returning at the Empire's weakest moment (though the Guard itself faces inner division).
In general, the far greater length of the book is better suited to the scope of events, allowing Esslemont the time to develop plot and not rush through things as was the case in Night of Knives, making this a more enjoyable read. Esslemont's ambitious undertaking of such a huge book, though, comes with problems in pacing, transitions between scenes, and structure. The book sometimes stuttered in places where either the amount of time spent with a particular storyline didn't seem justified or where entire storylines themselves seemed unnecessary or a bit out of place. It's possible (or probable) that some of these kind of orphaned plotlines will bear fruit for later books, but they needed to be more seamlessly connected here, such as a plot line detailing a young woman, Gehlel, the sole remaining heir to a pre-Empire ruling family.
There was also a bit of a sense of "and then . . . and then . . . " happening in the latter part during the big convergence of events, where perhaps cutting a few events and being more selective would have served him better. The same holds true somewhat for the battles, which take up a large, perhaps too large, part of the book. So I guess after complaining his first book was too short by a 100 or so pages, I'm now complaining his second is too long by 200 or so: there's just no pleasing some people it seems. I do think though some of the issues are a relatively new writer feeling his way toward his craft and I expect his third book will show improvement in all these areas.
The characters, like the plot, are a bit hit and miss. Ereko, Traveler's companion, is a sharply drawn, moving character whom I wish Esslemont had done a bit more with, especially at the end. Kyle, a young recruit in the Crimson Guard, mostly acts as a witness to events (though he has some major moments of his own) and so isn't particularly interesting; he certainly didn't do much for me. A group of mages in the otatoral mines are just not given enough face time for us to care too much, we come and go to them in such scattered fashion, and they're so severed from the rest of the plot that it's hard to care much. When they do play a role in the larger plot, it's a dramatic one but I'm not sure it was a necessary one, save for possibly one result. It felt more of a desire to add one more "topper" to the "and then . . . and then" convergence of events mentioned earlier.
Where Esslemont does shine with characters is two places in particular. One is the city of Li Heng in a plot line involving the characters Hurl, Storo, Rell, and others. The other place is with a group of Malazan sappers/grunts, in particular Sergeant Jumpy. The book truly comes alive with these characters, who speak like real people and whose actions are funny, moving, gripping, tragic, inspiring, and on. Cutting this book of some of the extraneous scenes and characters would have been like cutting a diamond and letting these characters shine all the brighter. As it is, they really carried me through the narrative, acting as bright beacons through those parts where the structure, the characters, the plot lines, the overabundance of alliances and characters and battles or battle plans made me feel I was wading through just too much.
Return of the Crimson Guard doesn't match Erikson's books, but as I said in my review of Night of Knives, that's really an unfair comparison as they are two authors at very different stages. RoTCG is absolutely an improvement on Night of Knives, and where it falls down, which it does perhaps a bit too often, it's more a matter of ambition and reach by a young author still learning his craft. Those are the kinds of flaws I can live with, especially when Esslemont shows with Sergeant Jumpy et. al. the potential for becoming an extremely strong writer. I recommend Return of the Crimson Guard, albeit with the above caveats, and look forward even more to his next novel, based on the improvement he's shown from book one to book two.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I have read and would consider myself a fan of Steven Erikson's Malazan Books of the Fallen, and this book is a worthy addition to that series. In fact, I can only assume the two authors were collaborating given the wide-ranging impact of events in this book. So, from that standpoint, this book is easily worth a rating of 4 stars. However, the Kindle edition, to which this review applies, was rife with typos, mis-spellings and strange word/paragraph breaks. I can only assume that the scanned copy was not given a serious copy editing job before release. The poor job really detracted from the finished product - and this is the first time I've ever had to make that complaint - which resulted in my knocking the review down to 3 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Having never read Erikson, I decided to start with Esslemont. My review of "Night of Knives" acknowledged that a lack of knowledge about the Malazan Empire made the going tough, as though I was watching a film with missing chunks. That said, I got to the end and appreciated the quality of the author's work.
I have to say, that having now read a vastly more expansive tome, the second of Esslemont's forays into the world both he and Erikson have forged prove the man's ability to write epic fantasy. Again I struggled with the opening three hundred pages, but experience taught me to persevere. The main reason was that I was meeting characters from the Erikson novels, trying to figure out politics and alliances that did not make immediate sense, coming to terms with the previous timelines and characterisation that gave insights to the decisions in this book. I found the book never kept track of one thread long enough for me to understand what was going on. Indeed I only figured out the novel occurs about ten or so years after "Night of Knives" when a more vastly experienced Kiska appears as an ex-claw with almost demi-god fighting prowess - and that was nearly half way through this thousand+ page paperback.
But as I skated between the stories of Ereko and Traveller; of the politics in Unta with the Empress Laseen/Surly, Possum and Mallick; followed the growth of Kyle with his powerful sword; wondered if Ghelel would ever realise her true birthright; cantered on horseback with the likes of Toc, Choss, Liss, Rell, and the Seti; found myself in a sodden ditches with the munitions of sapper sergeant Nait and his band of "lost kids"; stalked the warrens of power with the Avowed Shimmer, Skinner, Hurl, Silk, Storo and many others...I came to understand that Esslemont was, in fact, weaving many strands together. That the story was of the struggle of a de facto Talian League coming together to converge on the city of Li Heng to attempt the overthrow of the Malazan Empire that held Quon Tali in thrall after Erikson's invasion by Kellanved. At its heart the novel is concerned with the return of those feared gone...of mythical monsters such as Ryllandaras, of returning Gods like Osserc, of ancient seas like Otataral and, most importantly, of the return of the Avowed and the Crimson Guard.
"The Diaspora ends. The Guard returns. The appointed time has come to us." This intonation by Surat to Ereko is the fundamental core of the book. The rest is a struggle for power fought by mages and by soldiers - both needing the other to succeed. Esslemont displays his command of the epic, his mastery of myth, his understanding of how to weave legends out of historical deeds...his PhD in literature is obvious in his ability to construct narrative, both conversant and descriptive, his grounding in archaeology lends him to provide proof after proof of the story before the reader.
Yes, it took me nearly five hundred pages to understand much of this world; but, having persevered, I broke through into a fantasy world that is a rich tapestry indeed. Two hundred or so pages dedicated not just to a battle but a war has catapulted Esslemont in to the circle of few fantasy authors who are truly capable of generating an epic.
Is it better than Erikson? I have absolutely no idea. Nor do I care. Esslemont is a fine fantasy author purely on his own merit and this book is the proof.
on December 7, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really want to like ICE's Malazan books but he just doesn't compare to Erikson. RotCG was a huge improvement over NoK, and I did like parts of it, but I have some of the same gripes this book as I did last book:
1. ICE can be really vague and it's so annoying. It's hard to tell who is speaking sometimes - even worse, he refuses to name people in the scene in order to be mysterious but it just really irritates me. Nothing is really gained by not saying up front who those people are. If it's Topper say so, if it's one of the Crust brothers SAY SO. The new guy in the pits is named "Grief" and we later find out he's really "XYZ" - Why not just call himself that - no one reading or in the pit would have known who he was regardless of his name. Too many times a character will be asked a question and answer with "someone is interfering that shouldn't be" or "I'm here hunting someone" - what purpose does that serve - just answer the damn question.
2. There are too many POVs and they all seem to run together (also a complaint of mine regarding the last Erikson book I read, Reapers Gale). I found it confusing to keep track of all the different military groups and what their motivations were. I did enjoy some of those story lines, but it was a real effort to remember which side they were on and why they were taking the position they did.
3. This book needed a better map -a world map. I wanted to see where Bael's Lands was and were Jacuruku was etc.
4. I don't understand why everyone seems so surprised that the Guard is back (and the newer generation had forgotten who they were. The Guard was fighting with Brood and Rake against the Empresses in GoTM so surely they were a known entity - regardless of whether any Avowed were in that group or not.
There was stuff I liked about the book
1. I really liked Ereko - although I don't understand his story line - I'm not sure why he did what he did - can't really say more than that without being spoilery.
2. I loved the little monkey-guy in Shadowkeep forcing Ascendants to move for him - although I also don't really see what purpose THAT Ascendant serves in the story line or why he allowed what happened to him to happen.
3. Lasseen - she grew on me in this book - it was nice to see her kicking her as. Although I still don't understand how she would allow herself to be out maneuvered by Mallick Rel the way she was. For almost all of the previous books she's portrayed as a brilliant strategist on top of everything - what happened here just seemed.. lame.. weak.
4. I liked seeing all the old guys come back - Crust, Dassem, Temper, etc.
I'll probably read the rest of ICE's books - but not until I finish out the main Malazan books (3 left). Greymane was one of the most interesting people in this book and the next book is about him so hopefully it will get better...
on December 23, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not going to the make the argument that Esslemont is a better writer than Erikson. That's a ridiculous claim. But I will say that Erikson can be a bit dark and morbid, whereas Esslemont, especially in this book, writes with a sense of narrative freedom that refuses to be bogged down in the same way Erikson's writing can be. The Crimson Guard, one of the coolest groups that we have only seen in flashes in the books, are tracked from their return back to Quon Tali. Esslemont gets to deal with matters right at the heart of the empire, showing us the cities and regions that we have heard so much about. He brings this subcontinent to life, showing the story from the Crimson Guard, Malazan and other perspectives. I liked this book so much I almost immediately re-read it. I guess if I were to compare this to Erikson's work, it would be like watching Rocky vs The Wrestler. I think we can probably agree that the latter is more nuanced, better directed and contains higher themes. But Rocky has a great story that just rolls, that entices its viewer to continue watching. The main reason I loved this book is that it draws you in from the outset and has a real sense of closure and finality; this is something that we rarely glean from an Erikson entry.
The Malazan world is definitely my favorite in all of fantasy and it is so cool to be able to read it from the divergent perspectives of the two creators. Both are excellent writers, although I think Erikson is really in a class all by himself. Additionally, the "twists" in this novel were great, and during a re-read, the subtle reveal is great to enjoy. This is one of my favorite Malazan books, along with Deadhouse Gates and Bonehunters. Great battle scenes, a ripping story, good variety of characters and amazing description of landscape. This installment blows away the mediocrity of Night of Knives. If you read that and didn't like it, give this book a chance. Esslemont is on his way up and we can expect great things.