I can see a pattern developing with Erikson’s books. I get to the last quarter of the book and start desperately wishing it were longer, even if it’s a thousand-page tome. With Memories of Ice, though, I have to say the pacing was damn near perfect — as was everything else.
After a prologue that covers two massive events in the history of the Malazan world, and which had me completely hooked all by itself, we return to Genabackis a couple of months after the events of Gardens of the Moon. Dujek’s outlawed Host, including the beloved Bridgeburners, are determined to forge an alliance with the forces of Caladan Brood and Anomander Rake, and together take on the Pannion Seer and his army of religious zealots and cannibalistic peasants. Their first goal is to ride to the aid of the soon to be besieged city of Capustan, but the alliance between such recent enemies is fraught with problems — like the little girl, Silverfox, who houses the soul that was once Tattersail, and is the centre of a tug-of-war over whether she’s too dangerous to live. I was also pleased to see Toc the Younger make an interesting return to the mortal world and quite literally trip over one of my favourite characters to date, Tool, sparking off an odd fellowship and a journey back to civilisation in the absolute strangest of company.
And as delighted as I was to be back with the characters I loved so much in Gardens, there are yet more new members of the cast and some of my favourite moments in the book actually revolve around them. The Grey Swords, a mercenary company dedicated to Fener and serving in the defence of Capustan, were responsible for a lot of those. Capustan will be seared into my memory as one of the finest and most heartbreaking pieces of fantasy writing I’ve encountered… which is more or less what I said about the Chain of Dogs sequence in the second book! Erikson’s really knocking them out of the park.
This is a very military book and I think most of its finest scenes are related to battle — if not in the midst of it then in the buildup or the aftermath — but there are plenty of breathers and a lot of things to love about those interludes as well. I loved the quiet moments of conversation and drink between Anomander Rake and Whiskeyjack. There are authors out there who are great at writing authentic romance, and in Erikson I’ve found an author who makes the ties between friends and comrades as memorable and realistic. That, to me, is even harder to find and even more worthwhile, especially when you’re dealing with the friendships between us fragile mortals and beings that have lived for tens or hundreds of thousands of years and watched our empires rise and fall. Those years never feel tacked on. You can feel the passage of time that’s twisted and changed these people, whether it be into something alien or someone, like Rake, who has learned the value of what makes us human. Or Tiste Andii, as the case may be.
Everything comes full circle in Memories. Although set hundreds of thousands of years in the past, the events of the prologue are all woven neatly into the modern day by the end of the book. Nothing comes out of the blue, the climax of the story is heart-wrenching and perfect, and there’s even a little time at the end to grieve for what’s been lost. There’s closure for the main events of this book, while more dangling threads have been added to the Malazan tale as a whole. My few (very few) complaints about the pacing of Deadhouse Gates are not echoed here, and it certainly has that fantastic book beaten in terms of scale. There are perhaps fewer moments where the writing itself stood out to me, but most of the time I was too engrossed in what was happening to be objective or pay sufficient attention to style.
This is where I’d close with remarks about the less positive aspects, but there weren’t any, and it isn’t often I can say that. Memories of Ice has scored the Malazan series a place on my favourites shelf, no matter what its sequels bring to bear. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to these books, because you’ll have a hard time finding anything like them. It’s with as much regret to leave this book behind as excitement for what’s to come that I move on to House of Chains.