"Stonewielder" is the latest edition of extra Malazan books from Ian C. Esslemont. This book is 720 pages in length and the Kindle version is a 1264 Kb download.
The book follows several groups of individuals in the telling of two main tales...
1.) A Malazan force returns to the remote island grouping of 'Fist' where a previous attempt of conquest by the Malazan empire many, many years ago resulted in only partial success. However, after being seemingly forgotten, the surviving members of that first Malazan group have gone rogue and have decided to rule the land they occupy, independent of the mother country. This 'attitude' of course cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to go on unchecked.
2.) In addition, the natural inhabitants of this multiple island grouping have some serious problems of their own (apart from the left-over initial Malazan faction). An alien group of sea-creatures have been attempting to invade the land for several millennium. These attempts have been thwarted by the erection of a towering sea wall built along leagues of shoreline on the northern most coast. But problems are occurring with the wall, for it appears to be rapidly deteriorating and this is due to two main reasons; the repeated freezing and thawing of seawater in cracks has become more frequent and more severe every year and also because the large number of personnel required to maintain and repair this long wall, has fallen significantly of recent times.
The tale has some interesting people, great battles on land, sea and even in some subterranean areas. There are magical items and persons in this fantasy adventure. And importantly to me, the story is generally believable within the context of its genre.
I think this tale perfectly demonstrated the difference in writing technique between Esslemont and Erikson. Both writers tend to follow the story of several individuals or groups; stories that frequently come together towards the end. Where they differ is in the way they present their individual characters...Erikson tends to present the reader with a substantial amount of 'musing' and 'philosophical' opinions from a lot of his protagonists. And while I like Erikson's character depth, there were times I tended to get confused by some of his peoples' conversations, thoughts and even sometimes, their actions...requiring me to try to almost study some areas in an to attempt to glean the right interpretation for what he was trying to describe.
Esslemont, on the other hand, I find easier to read and follow, and subsequently tend to enjoy more because I don't get as tired and weary trying to figure out some obscure passages. He tends to stick, by and large, to the telling of an interesting and compelling tale, with not quite so much emphasis on character development. That is not to say there is no character development because there is, it just tends to be maybe, less 'profound', than his fellow author.
In addition, there are two good maps; one, a global view of the entire 'Fist' complex of islands and the second, a more detailed view of the area of shoreline that encompasses the enormously long seawall that borders the northern-most main island.
If I had one gripe, (and this applies to both Esslemont and Erikson) it would be this: I wish they'd reduce the amount of time spent that deals with someone or some group that seems to spend the entire book traveling through (and frequently lost in) a 'warren' (a warren is a type of worm-hole if you will, that permits certain special denizens of the land to travel, although not necessarily very quickly, from one place to another). I find these areas tend to be less focused (at least to me) and they often seem to break up the continuity of the main story(s).
CONCLUSION: Another great Malazan fantasy adventure from Ian C. Esslemont. Easy to read, an intriguing plot filled with some interesting people, some great battles and several unexpected twists and turns. 4 1/2 Stars.
P.S. 1.)Interesting to note that the paperback and hardcover edition of this book will not be available on amazon.com until May 2011, whereas the e-edition through Kindle is available now. In Canada (on amazon.ca) the paper editions are available now but not the e-edition. 2.)Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson are co-creators of the Malazan world. And both welcome each others contributions to the ongoing Malazan saga.