Any SF or fantasy epic that sprawls to a trilogy (or beyond) is bound to leave some questions unanswered. How did the hero's story really begin? What was that ruined city like in its heyday? Steven Erikson's Forge Of Darkness dips into the rich historical soup of the Malazan saga for a prequel story about the Tiste Andii and the fall of Kharkanas.
In The Crippled God , Erikson showed us an abandoned Kharkanas, the home of Mother Dark. Forge Of Darkness takes place several hundred thousand years earlier. The cover blurb promises a story about Anomander Rake and his brothers, Silchas Ruin and Andarist. But base your buying decision on this and you could be disappointed.
Forge Of Darkness has a much wider scope. Thick with detail, it jumps around to introduce a huge cast of characters, some well-known to Malazan veterans. The younger incarnations of Spinnock Durav, T'riss, Caladan Brood and Lord Draconus all take a bow. While there's a story to be told here, it's not Rake's story. At least not yet. Erikson needs to set up his board and show you all the pieces before he starts to move them.
While you don't need to have read the 10-book Malazan series first, you'll miss the references that make reading a prequel interesting in the first place. Erikson doesn't write easy books. Or short books. Know that Forge Of Darkness is like The Times ’ cryptic crossword - big, complex, a slog to complete, but geekily rewarding.
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