Book Review – Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Deadhouse Gates featured image

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Content Warnings

rape, torture, death of children, graphic violence and gore, dismemberment, cruelty towards animals

2.5 stars tentatively rounded up. I do hate it when books disappoint me, you know. Deadhouse Gates has been sold to me as a game-changer in the Malazan series, “the book that’s going to make you love it”, and the short answer is : nope. The truth is more nuanced, obviously, but we’ll get to it.

Let’s start with the negatives, shall we?

  • Nuances, where are they? In other words : do you mean to tell me that I’m supposed to root for the empire??? The first book was WAY more nuanced in that regard and that was one of my favorite things about it. Meanwhile here the way the rebellious tribes were portrayed didn’t sit well with me. True, characters ramble about how war is bad, etc, but so many of them never question the fact that they’re part of an imperialist entity and that indigenous people have a right to fight back??? I kept waiting for the narrative to shift but it never did. I do hope indigenous people get a pov in the sequels, or I doubt I’ll go on with the series. OF COURSE I felt for the refugees, and the horrors perpetrated by the rebellion forces on civilians made me sick, but that’s actually my point – why is it the only way they were portrayed, as some kind of monsters?? (with one exception, but it was barely there : the general portrayal is still overwhelmingly negative)
  • The ending was a bit anticlimactic for the Bridgeburners in my opinion and this ties in with another issue I have with this series : the deus ex machina everywhere is truly baffling. Like seriously, stuff is getting out of hands. I know it’s probably gonna be explained later (and some explanations are given), to which I say : still a cop-out.
  • There’s a LOT of walking through deserts and I’m sorry but it’s just not my thing 🤷‍♀️ It sometimes felt like a RPG (boring) campaign with chance encounters galore and it’s not my favorite thing in the world, let’s say.

I did enjoy some aspects however — clearly, I wouldn’t have read its whole 868 pages if I didn’t :

  • The characterization was way better than in the first book in my opinion, and as a result I cared for (most of) the characters, who felt well-rounded and complex enough to keep my interest alive. I wasn’t sure where Steven Erikson was going with Felisin, but her arc was amazing and I can’t wait to see where her story goes in the sequels. My favorite characters however were Mappo and Icarium — their friendship was everything and repetitively broke my heart.
  • I know some readers complain about the writing, but I actually like it : I don’t shy away from stopping books when they’re not working, so any author who manages to make me read so many pages is doing something right in my opinion.
  • As for the world, it’s still so imaginative and fascinating, and the most interesting aspect of the series. This book is way darker and violent, though, which is not necessarily a bad thing but definitely check content warnings before starting!

So, will I go on with the series? Probably. I’m not committing to the whole series just yet, though.

PS. I’ve been (repetitively) warned against a very vocal minority of the Malazan fandom who can’t help but act like rabid man-childs whenever someone doesn’t see the brilliance of their favorite series so if that’s your case, please save your breath. I’m not interested.

About Deadhouse Gates
Author : Steven Erikson | Publisher : Bantam | Genre : Fantasy | Pages : 868

In the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising named the Whirlwind. Enslaved in the Otataral mines, Felisin, youngest scion of the disgraced House of Paran, dreams of freedom and vows revenge, while the outlawed Brigdburners Fiddler and Kalam conspire to rid the world of Empress Laseen (although it seems the gods would, as always, have it otherwise). And as two ancient warriors – bearers of a devastating secret – enter this blighted land, so an untried commander of the Malaz 7th Army leads his war-weary troops in a last, valiant running battle to save the lives of thirty thousand refugees.

In this thrilling chapter in the epic story of the Malazan Empire, war and betrayal, intrigue and roiling magic collide, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends…

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