Book Review: Deadhouse Landing
Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont, Path to Ascendancy #2
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled a civil war on their own home island. The plan, however, soon goes awry as Kellanved develops a strange and dangerous fascination for a mysterious ancient structure found on the island.
The chaos in the region extends to the metaphysical planes also as a young priest of D'rek starts to question the rot at the heart of the worship of the god of decay. And back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith - and searching for answers.
During all this, war with the neighbouring island of Nap threatens, recruited allies wonder at Kellanved’s sanity, and powerful entities take more of an interest in the little mage from Dal Hon. Dancer faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when the fellow’s obsession with shadows and ancient artefacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction.
After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter an Elder mystery known to everyone as the 'Deadhouse'?
Deadhouse Landing is the second book in the Path to Ascendancy series, the prequel series to The Malazan Empire of the Fallen. A series which does not need introduction. So here goes.
In the last part of Dancer's Lament where our dynamic duo Wu and Dancer were unable to grab power in Li-Heng they eventually washed up on the isle of Malaz. Wu directly knows the direction he wants to follow. Taking over the island. And what better way than to buy a bar, which he calls Smiley's, to use as a base of operations. And this is where they can start to plan the take over of Malaz island. Together with buying the bar comes a complete staff and a mysterious women known as Surly. Now they only need to come up with a plan to topple Mock from his Hold. But Deadhouse Landing would not be a Malaz story if there were not more than just the story line of Wu and Dancer. So prepare. Dassem Ultor, the Mortal Sword of Hood has also landed in Malaz and the same counts for Tayschernn who is currently in allegiance to D'rek, the Worm of Autumn. Last but not least there is Mock that has made a plan with Tattersail for some domination of their own. Believe me if I say that there will be action in this book.
When I you look at Deadhouse Landing on its own, it is a book that will stand on its own. The story can be read and enjoyed even if you have not read Dancer's Lament or any of the other books in the whole Malazan Empire book series. You don't need the stories of the Bridgeburners, Laseen, Tiste and a lot more to enjoy it. Of course if you do you will eventually appreciate the backstory a lot more.
Where Deadhouse Landing stood out for me in was the was that the story is written. It is extremely easy to get into. Some of the original trilogy were pretty though to dig in but somehow this Path to Ascendancy series has a flow. There is good technique in switching the perspectives in between the different storylines and letting some merge and building from that.
The diverse character cast finishes the story. The original series had humor in it but most of the times a certain sense of seriousness. With the focus on Wu and Dancer in the Path to Ascendancy, this is completely turned upside down. Wu is a great character and the part where he had the discussion with Dancer about his new name (which is no surprise) Kellanved is just brilliant. With all the things I have been able to read about him this makes so much sense and just finishes it. Dancer compared to Kellanved partly the same but also a lot different Dancer has second thought about if Kellanved is the best partner for him, he worries about Kellanved when he does not show up for days. But at the end of the day these guys need each other. Their interaction is the best.
The other character, though not that much in focus, are a treat to read about Tattersail and Mock how they make their own plans for domination is just to good to miss. Tayschernn and the trouble he gets in. Surly and how she is navigation this perilous world on her own and trying to get out on top. And lets not forget the Mortal Sword of Hood, Dassem Ultor. All of these names are big in the original series but reading about them in the earlier times is again a treat. If you do not know them yet you will want to find it out after you finish Deadhouse Landing.
And a Malazan book would not be finished without some classic action. Just as with Ian C. Esslemont's earlier books there is action in plenty. From big naval battle with man-o-wars to assassin style knife fights focusing of course Dancer. But the more prestigious and action-packed are those of the mages and their utilization of Warrens. Never have I found somewhere in a different series such a magic system that has impressed me more. Warrens.
Writing a prequel is a tricky bit, the events that feature in the trilogy will have to eventually match those in the original series. Adding bits and creating whole new content in difficult plus it is also a fact that many readers will know how the story ends. But insofar with writing the Path to Ascendancy, Ian C. Esslemont has done a terrific job in keep the reader entertained. Creating both a series that long time fans will appreciate and which makes the Malazan Empire accessible to readers who are just beginning with the series.
The series must have been given the title Path to Ascendancy for a reason and if you have read up on Surly and Kellanved and Dancer you know their relation already, but you do not know the details. This is precisely what makes the series brilliant in my opinion catching up with how it all started and who is better to focus on that Kellanved and Dancer.