Reaper's Gale review

The latest Malazan Empire doorstop

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Author: Steven Erikson

Publisher: Bantam

910 pages • £12.99

ISBN: 978-0-593-04632-6


Astonishing as it may seem, there are certain rules when it comes to writing reviews for SFX. A number of these concern reviewing fantasy novels, including the following stern commandments, sent out with every commission: don’t bother pointing out that they’re very long and feature lots of people with funny names.

Except what do you say when, at least in part, an author’s schtick is tied up with writing such novels? To borrow an idea from industrial design, form follows function – and if the function of a Steven Erikson novel isn’t to be the biggest, baddest fantasy novel imaginable, packed with the curiously named, then what is its function?

As perfected over seven Malazan novels (and counting), Erikson writes fluent epic. You want a mad emperor, court intrigue, difficult deities, brave deeds, battles, blood, wild magic, a rotten society beginning to collapse, dragons, a quest? They’re all here.

Less welcome is that other trademark of epic fantasy, portentous prose. Take this: “Oh, he had known times of violence; he had walked the ashes of dead empires, but his own sense of destiny was, even then, ever untarnished, inviolate and absolute.” Even said of The Errant, a god whose power to foresee the future has dimmed, it’s a hell of a sentence for any character to live with.

Still, having imparted a sense of doom, Erikson certainly follows through with visceral action, while his ability to tie different narratives together is impressive. There’s much to admire here, but maybe that’s ultimately something of a problem. Unless you’re a confirmed fantasy fan, there’s quite literally too much to admire – about 300-400 pages too much.

Jonathan Wright

(opens in new tab)

More info

Available platformsTV

SFX Magazine is the world's number one sci-fi, fantasy, and horror magazine published by Future PLC. Established in 1995, SFX Magazine prides itself on writing for its fans, welcoming geeks, collectors, and aficionados into its readership for over 25 years. Covering films, TV shows, books, comics, games, merch, and more, SFX Magazine is published every month. If you love it, chances are we do too and you'll find it in SFX.