Memories of Ice is the third installment in Steven Erikson’s EPIC (and yes capital letters are required) ten book series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. As I try to process all of the thoughts and emotions that I experienced through this journey, I am somewhat at a loss for where to start—due to the vastness of that journey and the profoundness of it. In short, this is quite possibly the greatest series I have ever embarked upon.
While all of the books in the voluminous series are, well—voluminous, this book was especially so. I have read larger books, but what I found interesting about Memories of Ice in particular is that it really felt like it could have almost been broken into two separate books. I will not spoil anything, but I honestly felt like the book could have ended after the siege of Capustan. It felt as if so many story arcs had reach a concluding point, that it would have been easy to just tie up other loose ends and slap a bow on it and call it a day. Then the second half of the book begins. At that point, I wasn’t sure what to think, I mean there is a reason why J.R.R. Tolkien cut the Lord of the Rings into separate installments. There was such a level of finality after the battle at Helm’s Deep, that taking a moment to stop and reflect on everything that had just happened was not only natural, but it was needed and it was good.
Steven Erikson on the other hand said, “No soldiers, keep on marching.” I’m glad he did. That’s not to say that the conflict or the story is rushed in any way, because it isn’t. He advances the story, while still allowing the reader to really process everything that has occurred. Then you realize there is so much that hasn’t even unfolded yet.
Memories of Ice is a fantastic read in so many ways. In this installment we finally get back to some familiar faces from the first book, Gardens of the Moon, like Whiskeyjack, Ganoes Paren, Quick Ben, and Kruppe, beloved-honorable-trusted-fat-little-Kruppe. For all that lack of character development that most of the characters suffered in Gardens of the Moon, Erikson rights the ship here. You get to know these characters (and many, many more) very intimately. You get to understand their history, their motivations, and the short comings so much better.
This book also continues to pull back the veil, if only slightly, on the masterwork that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen. The readers get to understand so much more about the deep world that they have been thrust into, and the staggering truth that you come to realize, is that despite reading three massive tomes, you are just scratching the surface. There is still so much more to explore, and I eagerly await it.
I do have two gripes with the story at this point, and at this point, I suspect that they will persist through the series. The first is the issue of romantic relationships. For all the wonderful things Erikson develops, romance is not one of them. These romantic relationships still periodically pop up throughout the storyline, yet they just seem far-fetched to me, because they are rarely developed. In some instances, it seemed that Erikson attempted to validate the relationships after the fact, but rarely was it believable to me. The amount of random lusty sex, which thankfully all takes place “off camera”, is also a bit much to believe. There are times when a man and a woman just look at each other, and the next thing you know she is off measuring his sword length. I don’t mind those aspects being present in the world, just make it more believable.
The second gripe that I have is about the dialogue. Now my brother said the dialogue is one of his favorite aspects of the series, but I still haven’t figured out why every soldier feels the need to verbally blast, curse, or damn their companions in almost every conversation. While I don’t particularly enjoy blasphemy, I understand where it fits into Erikson’s world and his narrative, but do all these soldiers literally want to curse their friends to damnation? Because in Erikson’s world, those are very real fates. In any case, those are not deal breakers in any way, and they don’t take away from these ridiculously good stories, but it would be refreshing to see them improve in the future installments.