Deadhouse Gates is the second in Erikson’s Malazan series. It is dark, you guys. This might be the wrong time of my life for me to read it.
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Gardens of the Moon. The things I enjoyed in the first book are found here again – incredibly world building, dropping the reader into the midst of a series of rich plots and being expected to just pick it up, and some characters that are not just tropes. Despite this, I struggled a bit with this particular book, although I can’t quite tell if it wasn’t as compelling or if it was just a bit too depressing for me right now.
Once again there are multiple storylines, with event unfolding across continents. Only a few of the characters introduced in Gardens of the Moon are in Deadhouse Gates, but there are some interrelationships there, and some of the peoples mentioned in the first book are included here. I think the best plot line here follows the great and noble commander Coltaine, trying to save tens of thousands or refugees from a enormous rebel army. The characters in this story change as things become more desperate, and Erikson makes the exhaustion and desperation of Coltaine’s Chain of Dogs (an army shackled by a train of refugees) palpable. I think that might be the problem, to a certain extent. Continuing on the theme of people being used, the characters in Deadhouse Gates are often being used – as pawns, sacrifices, cannon fodder, for sex or for scapegoats. Although realistic, this book is much more pointed in how children are innocent victims in wars and campaigns, and it was a bit depressing for me to read right now.
There were fewer female characters in this book, and the most prominent of them is a young teenager who basically sells her body to protect herself and her companions when sold into slavery. The few other female characters, other than the Empress, are basically all presented in conjunction with a romantic partner, which was also a bit depressing after the powerful women I enjoyed in Gardens of the Moon. I will continue with the series, but am going to take a break to read something a little lighter.