The story picks up from where Gardens of the Moon left off, but the characters split up too and “Deadhouse Gates” follows one story arc. I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to find out what happened to the others, but reminded myself that the Malazan Book of the Fallen series is different from other fantasy series. I set myself to take what comes without judgement and I’m glad I did.
Quite a few new and interesting characters are introduced and once again, we get the feeling of the enormity of the Malazan universe. One guy who belongs to a species called the Jhag is hundreds of thousands of years old and in one scene, the characters stand on a scaled map of the world – of a sort – which stretches away beyond what the eye can see! For the first time, a fantasy world pays tribute to how old things can get and how vast places can be. In the Vampire Chronicles for example, the action starts not more than 6,000 years ago. In the Wheel of Time series, “old” means a few thousand years. Not hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. And I like that. I like it a lot. It puts things in perspective. Show us how small we are and teaches us some humility. Just like it is in the real world.
For me, the central event in the story by far is the heartbreaking march of an army escorting 50,000 refugees. They give their lives to protect them and then…what finally happens is too tragic for words. They sacrifice themselves in a last ditch effort to save them and end up being slaughtered just outside the gates of where the refugees have finally run to safety. Thanks to the cowardice of the man in charge, no army comes to help them though they could have well done so.
There will be a price to pay for this. I can feel it coming in the later books. No one can get away with something like that.
*End of Spoiler*
There are three or four other storylines, all of which are gripping as well. An assassin goes on his way, an engineer of an army leads an unusual group comprising of a once god possessed girl and a thief right into the heart of the harsh Raraku desert and a curious personage called Icarium is introduced – someone who doesn’t know his own strength and has the power to destroy worlds.
The next book in the series is “Memories of Ice” and it’s going to be great fun reading!