Published: May 31, 2016 (US)
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
For ages warfare has crippled the continent as minor city states, baronies, and principalities fought in an endless round of hostilities. Only the alliance of the rival Tali and Quon cities could field the resources to mount a hegemony from coast to coast — and thus become known as Quon Tali.
It is a generation since the collapse of this dynasty and regional powers are once more rousing themselves. Into this arena of renewed border wars come two youths to the powerful central city state that is Li Heng. One is named Dorin, and he comes determined to prove himself the most skilled assassin of his age; he is chasing the other youth — a Dal Hon mage who has proven himself annoyingly difficult to kill.
Li Heng has been guided and warded for centuries by the powerful sorceress known as the “Protectress”, and she allows no rivals. She and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions — what could two youths hope to accomplish under their stifling rule?
Yet under the new and ambitious King Chulalorn the Third, Itko Kan is on the march from the south. He sends his own assassin servants, the Nightblades, against the city, and there are hints that he also commands inhuman forces out of legend.
While above all, shadows swirl oddly about Li Heng, and monstrous slathering beasts seem to appear from nowhere to run howling through the street. It is a time of chaos and upheaval, and in chaos, as the young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity.
Dancer’s Lament was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and not only was I stunned actually be approved for an advanced copy, I was pleasantly surprised that the book exceeded my expectations. I’ve read most of Esslemont’s other books set in the Malazan empire and thought they were quality stories, but didn’t capture my imagination quite as strongly as the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Erikson. They were an excellent source of enrichment and added depth as well as breadth to the Malazan world as a whole. Dancer’s Lament is by far my favorite book written by Ian Esslemont- I read it in two sittings, which for me at least is unheard of when it comes to these books because they are quite dense in regards to subject matter and require 100% of your attention.
The characters in this story will be most familiar to those who’ve read the main Malazan Book of the Fallen story arc and it’s like finding Easter eggs the whole way through. Dorin, an assassin, is the main protagonist, though other perspectives are shown as the story progresses. I’m sure those familiar to this world can guess who this turns out to be, as with Wu the Dal Honese mage who happens to walk with a cane. It’s a great introduction to these characters and I so look forward to seeing what mischief they get into in the coming books. There were some really excellent ‘side’ character in this book and for the most part, I couldn’t place them in the other series. Silk for instance, seemed incredibly familiar (did he end up in the Crimson Guard, or am I crazy?) and I thought he was an interesting character. Ullara was my favorite secondary character, mostly because she took care of all these really incredibly bird of prey and then she basically adopted Dorin too. The appearances of the Azathanai got me really excited- I was like, “I KNOW WHO THIS IS!! HOW ARE THEY INVOLVED??” Also, Hood is involved and at this point in the narrative that means Dassem is involved too!!! I always wished that we had gotten to see him more in the other books, but here he is!
The actual storyline of this was really just classic and it seems as if it will blend seamlessly with the other story arcs and tie everything up in a nice neat little package. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting out of this, but I loved how the story details not only the meeting of Dancer and Kellanved but the turmoil and politics of the Talian continent prior to the Malazan Empire. It’s like Erikson and Esslemont are putting all their creative talents into making a world that nearly lives and breathes it’s so beautifully rendered.
Dancer’s Lament is a must read for current fans and those just starting their journey into the Malazan empire. I would have to say that this is Esslemont’s best work yet and I look forward to seeing how he’ll tell the rest of this story. For those who want to begin reading these books, I would recommend starting with The Malazan Book of the Fallen series prior to this, but you can start with Dancer’s Lament and it shouldn’t be too confusing. I found it more enjoyable for having read almost all the other books written by both Erikson and Esslemont.
GIVEAWAY (US RESIDENTS ONLY):
Win one (1) copy of Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont, provided & shipped by Tor Books
The Giveaway will run from 5/1/16 – 5/7/16 at 11:59pm EST
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