Review: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont


Night of Knives is a novel/novella (I’m not really sure) set in the Malazan world we know and love so well. Esslemont co-created the Malazan world with Steven Erikson and it’s actually the prequel to Gardens of the Moon.


It’s the night long prophesied: the night Emperor Kellanved and his trusted companion and master assassin Dancer return to Malaz City. A night full of terrors and unspeakable acts – committed both by and to their loyalists and their enemies. Surly, the Imperial Regent has had a taste of power and unwilling to give it all up, lays a trap. But who is truly playing who?


I must say, I didn’t really love the book. I kinda liked it. Some characters were very interesting and some were elaborated upon (Dassem! Edgewalker! Tayschrenn!). But the whole convergence, the meeting of the ‘greats’ pretty much happens off-screen. And as a book marketed as showing what happened that particular night, it didn’t quite deliver.

Sure, there were a lot of things shown that happened that night, just not the things most Malazan readers would have cared about. Sure there were riveting fights, but most were done by new characters, whom we had to get to know. And though one of them: Temper, is definitely interesting, to me he felt way too overpowered. He literary keeps on going to a point where I just went like WTH. I’m used to ridiculously powerful characters – after all, this IS the Malazan world – but it felt a bit flat. With all the other characters in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you at least had the sense that those powerful characters weren’t infallible. But I do admit Temper’s flashbacks to Dassem were quite riveting.

Kiska was…ugh. She was the most annoying character in the entire book! I know she’s a headstrong teenager and therefore she is supposed to be annoying but I kept waiting for her to get killed. She got kidnapped so many times during one freaking night! And she went from scared to incredibly bold for no good reason, to scared again. This circle kept on going. There was absolutely no reason for her to be out that night and be involved and she was – in my eyes – very childish for insisting upon being a part of something that wasn’t her business in the first place. But perhaps Esslemont felt that her viewpoint was needed: her nativity in comparison to Temper’s veteran view. Though I must say, I am not of fan of the character. Give me overpowered Temper any time.

Also, perhaps I’m biased (no, I’m sure I’m biased) but Esslemont is no Erikson when it comes to prose. He’s more concise and some people find that nice and refreshing, because Erikson does dive in deep and muses about philosophy, psychology and archaeology and stuff, but I think Esslemont is a bit too concise. I couldn’t follow his writing a some points and I’ve never had that before in the Malazan world. Esslemont’s always going to suffer in comparison to Erikson’s series, mainly because Erikson is just in a completely different league. Esslemont’s not bad, but he’s okay.

You can see it’s his first book because the prose was kind of clunky in certain sections, spelling inconsistencies with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (Bedurian = Bellurdan??) and there were a few typos here and there – though that’s more the editor’s fault. Still, the read wasn’t a waste, because everything Malazan is a-okay to me. It was a quick read, entertaining (except for Kiska) and I hear he gets better with each book he writes. And seeing how I purchased his second book Return of the Crimson Guard at the same time as Night of Knives, it better be better. I don’t like spending on books I’ll only read once.




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