Review: Assail by Ian C. Esslemont


Assail is the sixth – and last – novel in the Malazan Empire novel series by Ian C. Esslemont. I was supposed to finish way earlier, but university stuff kept popping up and I sometimes couldn’t even sit down to read one page.


The northern land, also known as Assail, is suddenly hailed as a land full of gold, right there for the taking. These tales bring adventurers, merchants and soldiers to its cold and unwelcoming shores. But they forget the parts of the tales that they should have remembered: the inhabitants of Assail are fighters and will meet all trespassers with their swords.

The Crimson Guard, once again under K’zazz’ rule, are drawn to Assail for a different reason: for answers. Also travelling to Assail is the bard Fisher kel Tath and with him a Tiste Andii who no longer knows his name or his past.

And far to the south waits Silverfox, the live summoner of the T’lan Imass and she hopes to stop her people from rekindling their old grudge and crusade, even though she knows, deep in her heart, that she’s already too late.


This was actually a nice book to read, I was sort of dreading to start it, mainly because I didn’t want my venture into the Malazan world to end, but it was worth it. Things were finally settled, other things revealed.

I think Assail is a great closing book: it answers many questions that have been raised over time, though not all, and makes you wonder about the state of all the players in that really really big field. The world of Wu is an enormous place and there are so many races, peoples and cultures in it; there’s bound to be some clashes again in the future. (Luckily I have the last two Bauchelain & Korbal novellas waiting for me to plunge into, so I’m not leaving the Malazan world just yet.)

It was also good to see some of the players back after such a long time. Cartheron Crust is one of them, as is Kyle. Yes, I said it: it was great to see Kyle again. I admit it took a long time for him to finally ingratiate himself with me, but he finally did here. (Honestly, I’m just glad Kiska didn’t pop up somewhere.) Fisher was back and the Lost brothers – Stalker, Badlands and Coots -, Silverfox finally showed up again – I was wondering if she’d ever do what she’d been created for, which….well…she didn’t but still…

It was great to explore the depth of the T’lan Imass’ grudge against the Jaghut and how far some factions were willing to go. Pran Cole and Kilava were great to see back as well and the guys and gals of the Crimson Guard, though their answers were quite….heartbreaking. But not unexpected. I think by now most Malazan fans will have guessed what was going on.

The Tiste Andii Jetiss was an enigma, and there are still discussions on who he truly is. There are two contenders and I can see why people would think of either one, so that’s a delicious puzzle. Also, apparently the Grey Helms have a brother (or sister) order called the Blue Shield, who are so much kinder than they were. Less eager to kill. They were sworn to Togg, even though Togg was unavailable at that time. I wanted to learn more about them.

There were also people from Lether, who were mainly the bad guys and that’s kinda hard to swallow after getting to know great Letherii like Tehol and Bryss, but then again, Lether is still busy with reforms and some such. They’re just so greedy, and though we’ve known that ever since we were introduced to the Letherii, it’s still something that shouldn’t be.

The reader spends some time on ships and meets new crews and characters, we get to know about the Icebloods and the lowlanders on Assail and of course, in a novel called Assail, you just can’t not have Forkul Assail, although their part in the book is small. Though it’s good to see them be terrifying again.

All in all, I immensely enjoyed this novel and I think this is Esslemont’s best.




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