House of Chains
by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
So here's a thing; I really like Erikson's convoluted plots, that he refuses to hold your hand explaining. And I really like some of his characters. So I'm down to having two problems with this book:
There are approximately 1 billion characters in it, and Erikson doesn't always do a great job of reminding us who they are. As I say; I _like_ a lot of these characters. But if you're going to cram this many of them into a book, including re-using characters from earlier books and characters using multiple names, you're going to need to help me out a little bit when you swap points of view. If you start a section with something a little contrived like "Leonidas staggered across the dunes, and the squat Dal Honese sapper was not pleased." Then I'll remember the rest. If all I get is Leonidas and dunes... the whole freaking book takes place in a desert, so I have no idea who we're talking about. I ended up having to keep the wiki open on my phone just so I could look people up. It would help if we got a little more physical description: I'm 4 big books into this series, and I still have no idea what a Jhagut looks like, for instance.
My other problem with this book is Karsa. Karsa is the main point-of-view character for the full first quarter of this thousand-page monster, eats up a fair-ish chunk of the middle, and is a large part of the conclusion. And he's an unrepentant, unchanging arsehole the entire time. He murders people who he considers helpless children for no other reason than trying to rack up a high score on the kill list. He's an arrogant jerk to his friends. He rapes an entire village. He pledges to protect someone, goes off and carves statues for awhile, then leaves only to come back and murder all of her generals (they're all traitorous scum, but he doesn't know that.) You want to like him for telling his arsehole gods to go F themselves, but he basically only does it in a temper tantrum, because "no one tells me what to do!" And then he wins and rides off into the sunset. He's a classic macho 2d action hero - orders of magnitude more awesome at beating people up than anyone else in the universe - but also an actual badguy with no character depth or arc. I've read books where I didn't like the protagonist but enjoyed the book (Donaldson's Thomas Covenant, for instance,) and also stopped reading books because the protagonist was such unrelenting scum (King's Gunslinger). This was... midway between those two? It wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't spent so much time focussing on him.
So overall I'd give the book 4 stars, but recommend tearing out the first 250 pages and replacing them with the words "Karsa is a jerk."
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