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Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan…

Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire (original 2004; edition 2009)

by Ian C. Esslemont

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Title:Night of Knives: A Novel of the Malazan Empire
Authors:Ian C. Esslemont
Info:Tor Books (2009), Paperback, 304 pages

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Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (2004)


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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot,, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Night of Knives
Series: Malazan Empire #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 308
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis: Spoilers

On the night of a Shadow Moon, when the division between our world and the world of the Warrens thins, Kriska and Temper have an adventure.

Kriska is a young thief who wants to join the Claws and get off of Malaz Isle. But nobody takes her seriously and even her aunt wants her to stay inside this night. Getting caught up in the battle between Kelenved & Dancer and Surly. Also involved in the mix is Tayschren, master mage, Surly's cadre of Claws and a group of cultists dedicated to Kelenved as a god. Kriska has to survive the night and all the terrors it holds.

Then we have Temper, a former soldier of the Malazan Army who has deserted. The desertion saved his life, as he was one of the Shields of the Swords, a might warrior protecting Dassem Ultor, the First Sword of the Malazan Empire, the mightiest warrior alive. The problem was, Surly doesn't want heros in her army and she has begun to purge them. Temper runs to Malaz Isle to become a lowly guardsman to survive. But others know his secret and on this night of Shadow Moon, Temper will be used once again, just as he was before.

My Thoughts:

Man, I had forgotten, or never realized, just how much foundational information Esslemont packs into this book. There is a lot about Dassem that I didn't realize was important but will definitely impact my read of future Malazan Book of the Fallen books. Chronologically this comes before Gardens of the Moon but I wouldn't recommend reading it before unless you're doing a re-read of everything Malaz.

There are some great battles here. Hounds of Shadows everywhere, monsters springing out of various Warrens, magical assassins fighting magical cultists, a hidden group of people trying to protect the whole Isle from some underwater threat, it all weaves together into one night of blood the likes of which the Isle has not seen in ages.

This was a short book, clocking in just over 300 pages. For a Malaz book, that is practically a short story. But as I was reading, it was dense. It had so much packed in that I felt like I had read a 500 page book by the end. I didn't mind that feeling at all, but others might and it is something to keep in mind if you decide to delve into this universe.

One downside, which is typical of the Malaz books, is that there are no real answers to any of your questions. Inferences, asides, round about explanations of Subject X which reveals bits about Subject Y. Nothing direct, nothing concrete. It is building a bridge in your mind. Esslemont gives us the materials and a rough architectural plan but it is up to us, the readers, to actually build the bridge and succeed or fail on our own. Some will see that as a weakness and others as a strength of the writing. I'm ok with it but have to admit, I'd prefer a bit more concrete facts baldly stated. Oh well, I'm not going to get it and neither will anyone who reads these books. ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Mar 5, 2017 |
An account of the night that Kellenved and Dancer ascended.

I enjoyed this, even as confusing as it was. Esslemont has a slightly 'lighter' hand when it comes to his fight scenes, which was nice. Still plenty of action and detail though. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
A quick and easy read. Action packed but it can be a little confusing to those of us who are new to the Malazan series. ( )
  olstevie | Jan 6, 2015 |
You know the feeling that after a book ends, you feel sad, because you don't want to leave the characters and the world yet? I had that after finishing 'The Crippled God', the last part in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. I had three novella's about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to entertain me a bit longer, but now I have no Steven Erikson works left on my shelves to read. Enter Ian C. Esslemont, Steven Erikson's friend, who, together with him, designed the world of these books. And he has written books too, taking place in that same world. So, I didn't hesitate and picked up the first one of his 'Novels of the Malazan Empire'.
According to LibraryThing this novel takes place chronologically before everything in the Malazan Book of the Fallen (including the Bauchelain novellas). It is one night in Malaz, the city that gave the empire its name. It is the night of a Shadow Moon, when the line between warren and real world is very thin. It is the night of a fight for the throne, but between whom and for what throne? Some known characters are in this novel, such as Kellanved, Dancer and Surly, and some new ones, like Kiska, a young thief who'd do anything to get out of Malaz and Temper, an old soldier who is just trying to keep his head down as guard of the Hold.
Esslemont is no Erikson. Not in plot nor in writing style. But if you keep that in mind, this is a pretty enjoyable Malaz novel, that takes you back to the world of warrens, Jaghut, magic, gods, House's etc. The fact that this is the story of one night is pretty interesting, and keeps the book short (a measly 298 pages in my mass market paperback edition). I was actually craving more, more about the warrens, more about the factions fighting in this one night. However, it was still good to be back in Malaz, and I am glad that more is still being written by both Esslemont and Erikson in this world. Four out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Nov 14, 2013 |
Malaz Island, the island that named a great empire, is little more than a sleepy back-water until this night. This is the night of a Shadow Moon, a once in a generation event that threatens everyone on the island as the borders between realms become thin. Demonic hounds roam the night and it is rumored that the Emperor himself will return this night to the chagrin. As factions gather within to draw battle lines an ancient presence begins its all out assault on the island and its people.

Night of Knives is written in the world of the Malazan Empire drawing on events mentioned in Gardens of the Moon. The story is told from two vantage points: Kiska, a young and naive thief, and Temper, a war weary veteran. The two points of view contrast nicely. I really enjoyed reading Temper's perspective, especially the flash backs to his old army days, though the Kiska sections became annoying quickly, which was probably the point. It is not the most well written novel I've read. Some parts felt like they were padded to add length to the book while others felt rushed.

This book is primarily for people who are already fans of Erikson's series and they should enjoy being filled in on history only lightly touched upon in the books. I'm not sure I would recommend it to someone otherwise. ( )
1 vote Narilka | Nov 12, 2013 |
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If you have made the commitment to undertake The Malazan Book of the Fallen, it will in all likelihood be the most challenging and rewarding reading experiences you will ever undertake. I couldn't imagine, after having tackled that endeavor, you wouldn't want to take some time to read this small, enjoyable, and enriching entry into the Malazan Empire.
added by sdobie | editSF Site, Dominic Cilli (Oct 1, 2009)

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553818295, Mass Market Paperback)

It gave the Empire its name, but the tiny island and city of Malaz is now a sleepy, seedy backwater port. However, this night things are a little different. This night its residents are bustling about, barring doors and shuttering windows. Because this night a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon is due and threatens the good citizens of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker, beings…

And it was also prophesied that on this night the Emperor Kellanved, missing for all these years, would return. As factions within the greater Empire battle over the imperial throne, the Shadow Moon summons a far more alien and ancient presence for an all-out assault upon the island. Indeed, the cataclysmic events that happen this night will determine the fate of the Malaz and of the entire world beyond.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:15 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

It gave the Empire its name, but the island city of Malaz is now a sleepy back-water port. This night its residents are barring doors and shuttering windows - a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon has arrived and threatens to bring among them demon hounds and other, darker beings.… (more)

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