Dancer’s Lament (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1) ★★★★ ½

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Title: Dancer’s Lament
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover




Before there was Cotillion and Kellanved, there was Dorin Rav and Wu. Taking place in the city of Li Heng, this is the story of how they became partners.

The plot of the book, however, is how the city of Li Heng survived a besiegement by a jumped up king who thought he was somebody. The 4 mages of the city, under the direction of the Protectress (a tiste liosan) end up confining Ryllandaras, the man-jackal in a magical prison. The Itko Kan’ians, the besiegers, have the help of a Jaghut and it takes the Protectress unleasing the full might of her Warren of Light to drive back the besiegers.

Wu, and Dorin, have plans to take over the city during the turmoil but they simply aren’t strong enough and end up being exiled from the city. But now they are partners and can begin working together.


My Thoughts:

Finally. A Malazan book that I can simply sit down and read straight through and enjoy fully without feeling like I’m juggling 3 different 5000 piece puzzles all mixed together. You have no idea how much that upped my enjoyment of this book.

I think Esslemont showed his true colors with this book. He is a good standard fantasy writing kind of guy. His Malazan Empire novels felt very much like he was trying to copy Steven Erikson’s style and it just didn’t work for me. But this? Besides Gardens of the Moon, this was the most enjoyable Malazan book that I’ve read. Now I am really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

In the Malazan books, Cotillion/Dancer and Kellanved were shadow’y characters doing things behind the scenes and never being fully fleshed out. Even when they were supposed to be main characters, they were actually hiding and felt like side characters. This time, they were simply people. It was refreshing.

There were lots of hints and little asides from other Malazan characters, so if you’re one of the Book of the Fallen fanboys who who loves unlocking a ton of meaning from 2 sentence fragments, you’ll still have something to chew on with this book. The rest of us can simply sit back and enjoy the story.

In Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guard the malazan army unleashed Ryllandaras and in this book we see how, and why, he was confined. It was nice to make a clear cut connection between one book and the other instead of having to guess and speculate and turn my brain into 77 pretzels to make my pet theory fit.

Another aspect of this that I enjoyed was the lack of Existential Despair philosophy. Everybody was NOT whining about how meaningless their lives were. In fact, they acted like real people and didn’t even think about that. Dorin and Wu had to survive, plan how to take over a newly discovered Warren of Shadow and see if they could take over the city. Not much time to sit on their fat asses and complain about how hard they have it (unlike almost every Steven Erikson character. Man, that guy has his characters doing more talking than doing, in the middle of freaking battles for goodness sake!!!).

To end, I really enjoyed this book. A lot. In fact, I plan on buying it in hardcover, I enjoyed it so much. How don’t know how much more of an endorsement I can give a book. * grin *

★★★★ ½



24 thoughts on “Dancer’s Lament (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1) ★★★★ ½

  1. I think you may be the only other person (besides myself) who liked “Gardens of the Moon” best of the Malazan series. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times, whereas most of the rest I’ve read only once.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just thinking to myself the other day that Gardens of the Moon will probably get re-read multiple times over the coming years but that the rest of the series will just sit. I guess out of billions of people, you and I just have exquisitely good taste 😉


  2. Thanks for the review! It’s a very interesting point of view to me, as I had rather different opinion about Esslemont’s corner of Malazan in general and this book in particular. I think that this is ACE’s best book to date, but for me it means that it’s just above average – I gave it 6/10 in my review :). However, I’m decidedly a fan of Steven Eriksson’s version of Malazan, while Esslemont’s not so much, as I really enjoy the puzzles and dark complexity of Eriksson’s novels, even the existential philosophy :). It’s very true though that both Dorin and Wu felt like real boys than the powerful shadowy personas they were meant to become later on. Still, most of the psychological make-up of other characters seemed rather thin to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erikson and his scattered puzzle piece approach has a huge following, that’s for sure. And that is why I wrote what I did. I don’t see a lot of Erikson’s fans really enjoying this but for me, if Esslemont can keep this up for the whole trilogy, this is getting a big place on my shelves 😀


  3. Help me out, did both people write a Malazan series? Is Malazan a thing? I ask this cuase a few years ago I bought Ericsons’ Bone hunters purely cuase i liked the cover and the name, never knowing it was part of a big ass series, the book is massive! Each book is massive! Am i missing things?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, here’s the short answer [you don’t want the long one, trust me 😀 ]

      Steven Erikson wrote a 10 book series called “Malazan Book of the Fallen”. He is also working on a prequel Malazan universe trilogy called the Karkanas trilogy, or something like that.

      Ian Esslemont has written 6 books called “Novels of the Malazan Empire” that weave in, around, before and after the “Book of the Fallen” series. Esslemont is also writing THIS trilogy.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you want/need more detail.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You are welcome. The problem with collecting is when you have to move. All of Erickson’s books are HUGE tomes, every single one. So hardcovers of those will weigh a ton, just them. Double that to add all the other Malazan books, and bam, there goes your back 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I was going to recommend going digital, but wasn’t sure how you felt about that. Some people are DEAD set against it. Me, I’m almost ALL digital now, unless I really like a book, then I’ll buy a hardcover after I’ve read it. Let me know if you ever need to borrow a title and I can probably email it to you.


    1. The reason it is such a big thing to me is that by the end of the Malazan Book of the Fallen books by Erikson, he was using his characters to monologue for pages and pages. It reminded me of the John Gault speech in Atlas Shrugged. But you couldn’t skip these because there might be nuggets of info you needed to make a connection to an earlier or later book. It really wore me down.
      So this was like a refreshing spring shower when expecting a howling, freezing blizzard 🙂


  4. No whining?? I want this!! It’s on my list anyways, but maybe I’ll get to it sooner than planned!
    As it’s a prequel, I won’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

    And I always liked Cotillion and Shadowthrone!

    Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No whining. Now, the writing isn’t as lush as Erikson’s, but that is a trade off I’m more than willing to make.

      And with Deadhouse Landing coming out next month, I’ll be getting to book2 by end of year for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

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