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Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C.…

Return of the Crimson Guard

by Ian C. Esslemont

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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 & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Return of the Crimson Guard
Series: Malazan Empire #2
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 732
Format: Digital Edition


I believe I counted Double Digit story threads going on, so I'm going to simply mention the overall highlights/plots.

The Crimson Guard vowed to fight the Malazan Empire and the Duke K'Azz was their leader. Due to the nature of their vow, the “Avowed” [the Guards who actually took the vow] cannot die of old age and are becoming superhuman. Once they do die, their ghosts stick around and act as messengers. The Guard was scattered after one particular encounter with the Malazans. Now they are beginning to come back together. The Duke is missing, so the next in command, Skinner, has taken command. But he's apparently in thrall to the Broken God and so has his own agenda that subverts the Guards Vow. The Guard is split between those who follow Skinner and those who remain faithful to the original intent of the Vow.

This is all happening because various commanders and top dogs from the Malazan empire are sick of Laseen's rule and are pulling away and allying themselves with local nationals. A splintering of the Empire that Kellenved began. Laseen comes to the continent with all the hosts she can muster to oppose the nationals. The Guard uses this to plan an attack on her to wipe her out. A phracking huge battle ensues.

A mad mage ends up opening a gate to Chaos and everybody comes together [sing it with me!] to stop him before the whole world is consumed. Laseen dies and Mallick Rel, introduced in Deadhouse Gates, becomes emperor. Treaties and peace negotians ensue and everyone is properly maudlin.

My Thoughts:

That synopsis was the shortest I could make it, honest.

This takes place several books later, chronologically, in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Erikson. However, characters from it, specifically, Mallick Rel, Korbolo Dom, Nil & Nether and even the reborn Coltaine, were relatively fresh in my mind from my read of Deadhouse Gates. That made connections MUCH easier to remember. Sadly, the reborn Coltaine gets just a couple of paragraphs before being sent back into literary oblivion.

Lets deal with my gripes first.

Once again, the deliberate with-holding of information about who a character is from the reader. It is not as simple as not telling us, but in several cases characters are thinking/talking about Mysterious Character X and it goes something like this:

“No, it couldn't be. He's dead!”
A veiled glance from Mystery Character X to the character talking...
“It IS him!”
Mystery Character X nods and walks away into the distance. Talking character is left in jaw dropping awe.

That makes me want to scream. It makes me feel like Esslemont is dancing in front of me going “Nyah, nyah, nyah! I know something you don't know!” It is frustrating and probably my biggest gripe with both Esslemont and Erikson. They seem to revel in spitting in my face with hidden knowledge. Since this whole series is a re-read, I know this will keep on happening. But I don't have to like it and I don't.

On to the good stuff.

If you want complex plots filled with political, personal, religious and psychological threads, this is the schizzle. Like I said in the Synopsis, double digit threads being woven. Pay attention or you'll get lost. Near the end, I DID get lost. Who was fighting who against who all became tangled up as new threats emerged and groups split and groups came together. Because there were Malazans on almost every side, it wasn't even a Malazan Against Others story. It was a big messy group dynamics story.

I couldn't race through this. I am finding that I need to slow down my reading to appreciate what I am reading at the moment instead of thinking about what I'm going to read next. This book was like walking through a mucky swamp; each step was an effort and you had to look right in front of you without looking at those distant mountains or you'd fall into a pit and never get out.

The munitions group, that coalesces around a Sergeant Jumpy is great. It made me laugh. It was a much needed comedic break because almost all the other story lines are of the Grimmest, Darkest Import. Everything else is weighed down by its own Self Importance. Just how they act and think is fun and I wish there had been a touch or two more of them.

Overall, I am satisfied with this re-read.

I had a lot more to say about this book this time around than I did back in '10. Probably getting a bit garrulous in my declining years.
★★★★☆ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | May 27, 2017 |
I could have taken or left this story. Better than the last couple of Malazan Book of the Fallen though... ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |

This is a great improvement from Esselmonts first book. The writing is better, the plotting is better and it has captured more of the Malazan feeling that soaks the Erikson books better.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I will freely admit the fourth star is due to some of the pure macho kickassery in some of the scenes. Erikson remains the better writer, but Esselmont has raised his game a lot and delivered a book that is fun to read. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
'Return of the Crimson Guard' is the second book in the second Malazan series, 'Novels of the Malazan Empire' by Ian C. Esslemont. This book takes place between 'Reaper's Gale' (book 7) and 'Toll the Hounds' (book 8) of the original 'Malazan Book of the Fallen' series by Steven Erikson.
The main character-group we follow is (of course) the returned Crimson Guard. These are mainly avowed, nearly immortal warriors who have vowed to take down the Malazan empire. But the Wickans are also present, as are characters like Toc the Elder (indeed, father of). The main story in the book is about the battle between the Malazan army, led by empress Lasseen in person, and the Crimson Guard. There are all kinds of other armies surrounding this battle, fighting against the Malazan army or each other. Of course there are magic and some ancient creatures who are also part of this battle.
Where the earlier Esslemont book was a thin (for the Malazan series) book covering just one night, this book is more in line with Steven Eriksons door-stoppers. The style of the book with a lot of characters, several points of view and an introduction taking place in a different time than the rest of the book make the book feel like a Steven Erikson imitation. It is like Esslemont took all the things Erikson set up in his books, the history, the magic, the characters and the mechanics, and then started to write a story using them. How he used them felt forced ("oh yeah, here's a D'ivers") and unreal. We are spoiled by Steven Erikson's works with all their depth. I think that without that memory, and the joy of being back in the Malazan world, I would not have finished this book. As it is, in combination with all the other Malazan works, it is a three out of five-star book for me. ( )
  divinenanny | Feb 5, 2014 |
If you like the more bad-ass characters that just wade through a crowd in destruction mode then there is plenty of that for you in this book as well. Some of them, such as Ho, are subtly so, but others; such as Rell, Urko, Braven Tooth, Temp, and Traveller are all in your face ass kickers. Sadly, Esslemont doesn't really describe combat in as compelling of a way as Erikson. Most of the one-on-one combat sequences seem to be missing a level of detail and the descriptions, at time, become a little muddled. On the flip side, when the larger engagements happen Esslemont shines in capturing the tension and drama of a battlefield.

Overall this was an enjoyable story but, mainly because I don't feel vested in any of the characters yet, I didn't get into it as much as I have the more recent Erikson novels. Fortunately, Esslemont has set the stage for some far reaching story lines that should prove to be quite interesting. ( )
  finalcut | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Return of the Crimson Guard had the feel of an author that has just leaped headlong into a raging current known as the Malazan Empire. It's a bumpy ride one filled with crests and troughs, but in the end it's well worth it.
added by sdobie | editSF Site, Dominic Cilli (Nov 15, 2009)

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Stone, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This, the first of wars, paroxysmed for time unmeasured. Ever Light thrust yet dissipated, and ever Night retreated yet smothered. Thus the two combatants locked in an ever-widening gyre of eternal creation and destruction. Countless champions of both Houses arose, scoured the face of creation in their potency, only to fall each in turn, their names now lost to memory.

Then, in what some named the ten thousandth turn of the spreading whorl of the two hosts, there came to the shimmering curtain edge of battle one unknown to either House, and he did castigate the combatants.

'Who are you to speak thusly?' demanded he who would come to be known as Draconus.

'One who has moved upon the Void long enough to know this will never end.'

'It is ordained,' answered a champion of Light, Liossercal. 'Ever must one rise, the other fall.'

Disdainful, the newcomer thrust the opponents apart. 'Then agree that this be so and name it done!'

And so both Houses fell upon the stranger tearing him into countless fragments.

Thus was Shadow born and the first great sundering ended.

Myth Fragment
Compendium Primal, Mantle
This novel is dedicated to the first Winnipeg gang of Treherne Room and the second of Rick's Place. For all those afternoons and evenings honing the trade.
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The eruption had wounded the world.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055381852X, Mass Market Paperback)

Casting thrilling new light onto an extraordinary creation, this is the second epic fantasy novel from the co-creator of the Steven Erikson world of Malaz.

The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for the Malazan Empire. Driven by constant warfare, weakened by betrayal and rivalries, many see the grip of Empress Laseen beginning to weaken as conquered kingdoms and principalities test their old independence.

Into this gathering civil war on Quon Tali, the Empire’s homeland comes the Guard. And with their return comes the memory of their hundred-year-old vow — undying opposition to the existence of the Empire. Yet rivalries and betrayals stalk the Guard as well; elements of its elite, the Avowed, scheme to open paths to even greater power, and ancient potent entities, Ascendants, also lend a hand exploiting all sides to further their own arcane ends. Meanwhile, a swordsman, Traveller, and his companion Ereko, move from one strange encounter to another in a mysterious dance meant ultimately to bring the swordsman to a final confrontation from which none has ever returned.

As the Crimson Guard gathers from around the globe, Empress Laseen faces a more immediate threat from the generals and old commanders of her predecessor, Emperor Kellanved, who have lost patience with what they see as Laseen’s mismanagement. Yet there are hints that Laseen may be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate these last irksome survivors of her predecessor’s rule.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for the Malazan Empire. Drained by constant warfare, weakened by betrayal and rivalries, many see the grip of Empress Laseen weakening. Conquered kingdoms and principalities test their old independence. Into this gathering civil war on Quon Tali - the Empire's homeland - comes the Guard. And with their return comes the memory of their hundred year old vow: undying opposition to the existence of the Empire. Yet rivalries and betrayals stalk the Guard as well - elements of its elite, the Avowed, scheme to open paths to even greater power. Ancient potent entities, Ascendants, also lend a hand exploiting all sides to further their own arcane ends.… (more)

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