Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MBotF reread: "Toll the Hounds" by Steven Erikson

Huh, getting closer to "The Crippled God"... I am now a bit confused about how many times have I read these last few books. I remembered events from "Toll the Hounds" very well, while "Dust of Dreams" (which I am reading currently) is almost like a new book to me, even though I would swear I have read both books only once. Since DoD is a bit shorter, I have hopes of finishing it this week.

(TOR cover)

(some fun-art)

"Toll the Hounds" is a very strange book, compared to the previous ones. Erikson always had a tendency to use his characters as tools for analyzing philosophy, psychology, history, archeology, etc., making sometimes unexpected choices as with simple soldiers uttering deep questions. But in this book this was taken to a whole new level. As before, chapters are divided by different POVs. But now, each POV consist of few pages of internal monolog or reminiscent, after which we have a page of two of actual dialog or action. I don't know how common is this, but I belong to those readers that sometimes got lost on page. Meaning, I sometimes catch myself after "reading" half of page, without knowing what I have read because I was thinking about something prior to this text. Then I have to repeat this skipped text. With TtH, this happened very often. Of course, this is not to say that this not interesting, but it is very inviting for wandering thoughts. Without all this, the book could be compacted in some 300 pages, but then it wouldn't be this book.

Of course, this is true only for first four fifths of the book. Last 150-200 pages are to be read in one breath. Really, treat yourself and somehow make your schedule so that you can read the end in one reading. Because this is one really exceptional ending. Erikson's books and endings are usually unexpected, but if someone would even suggest that he (or she) had a feeling that this was coming, I would call him a liar. Even if you hate most of this book, ending really deserve to be read.

One more difference is that this is the only book to have a narrator, one that actually addresses the readers. Kruppe was never my favorite character (not that I didn't like him, but he just wasn't among the first choices), but this role fits him nicely.

From mentioning Kruppe, you can guess that TtH takes place on Genebackis again. Chapters also follow similar concept as before, alternating between two sets of POVs. One is Darujistan residents: Kruppe, Cutter, retired Bridgeburners, Scillara and Barathol, some nobles and some more shady characters (which doesn't mean that nobles are not shady). These chapters are somewhat easier to read, with more humor and more action. The other set of characters follows Nimander Golit and his Tiste Andii traveling with Clip, Traveler, Karsa and Samar Dev, Kallor and several residents of Black Coral. These POVs are quite melancholic, almost depressing, although not uninteresting. Oh yes, I almost forgot. We are also following Trygalle Guild, accompanied with Gruntle and Mappo.

Few more things I would to emphasize. In some ways this is a Jaghut book, because we have several characters belonging to this race. Although this doesn't mean they are not mysterious any more. Next, Kallor. Most fans would say that they already had set opinion about him, acquired in "Memories of Ice". Well, typical for Erikson, get ready for surprise. Also, several fans, commenting on Malazan Reread of the Fallen on, decreed this book a "Rosetta stone" of MBotF. Although many new facts are presented in TtH, I wouldn't call this book any more explanatory than others.

In conclusion, I admit that some readers could be off-put by this book, but if you are fans of MBotF, bear with it until the ending and rewards it brings.

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