Genre: Fantasy (novella), dark humour
Steven Erikson is well known for his series of door-stoppers, the Malazan Book of the Fallen (first book reviewed here), which averages at at 1100 pages per book. For those of you who look for books of a more manageable size, there is the Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach of which this book is the 5th. It’s a series of stand-alone novels following three side characters that were taken from the main work and given a life of their own.
Imagine, one’s seemingly loyal manservant attempting to kill his master. This is what the world has come to, Master Reece. Is it any wonder that I envisage a brighter future, one where I sit secure upon a throne, ruling over millions of wretched subjects, and immune to all concerns over my safety? This is the tyrants dream, Mister Reece.
Erikson seems to have taken the switch from complex, densely worded epic fantasy to witty banter and darkest humour in his stride, creating a marvellous story for which my biggest complain is that it is too short, with too sudden a resolution as the book is just above 200 pages long.
The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal, along with their manservant Emancipor Reese find themselves shipwrecked on a beach overlooked by the castle of Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render and the awfully inhospitable town of Spendrugle. Which is unfortunate as our necromancers aren’t good people. In fact another book The Crackedpot Trial focuses on a group of hunters trying to bring them to justice for their crimes against society. Amusingly for us they come across as relatively benign as they tend to meet the sort of people that are even more horrible and who are deserving of their kind and tender ministrations.
It’s a crazy tale, that is sure to induce laughter and cringes, sometimes both during a single sentence. The dialogue and narrative are testaments to Erikson’s talent, with scenes of bewildering cleverness and wit that he seems to pull off with ease. His characters are as memorable as ever, from the vain and pompous lord who commands his scribe document his every word (but revise, reinvent, and rewrite it to make it better) to the lonely militiaman who carries out his solemn duty to arrest all visitors while venting his dissatisfaction of married life while maintaining that he has never been married. As I’ve mentioned before my biggest complaint is that of pacing, with the end approaching just as you are getting used to all the characters.
“Behold!” The lord faced outward again, defiant against the roaring seas, and struck a pose looming ominously over the town. “Behold! Oh, and note my widespread arms as I face this wild, whore-whipped sea. Oh, and that wretched town directly below, and how it kneels quivering like an abject slave. Note, too, the grey skies, and that fierce colour of … grey. What else? Fill the scene, fool!”
Coingood started scratching furiously on the tablet.
Watching him, Fangatooth made circular, tumbling motions with one hand. “More! Details! We are in the throes of creativity here!”
Received before public through NetGalley