Orb Sceptre Throne - Ian C. Esslemont I'll have a proper review up later but I just wanted to mention the atrocious editing of this edition. It should be a crime that anything so poorly edited ever saw the light of day. The examples are too numerous to list but here are three:

"Bride" instead of "bridge."

Chapter nineteen's heading was "IXX."

At one point, the character Blend is identified as "Blood."

And then there are dropped words, fragments and sentences that make no sense.

Night of Knives continues to reign, IMO, as Ian Esslemont’s (ICE) best novel to date. It’s a tightly written story that focuses on a small cast of characters and a specific point in time and space. But Orb, Sceptre, Throne is at least as good as Return of the Crimson Guard and much better than the disappointing Stonewielder. It would be pointless to try and distill the plot in a few paragraphs because ICE is constantly shifting among several – Darujhistan's plight under a resurrected tyrant; the Seguleh and the Moranth; Antsy’s adventures in the ruins of Moon’s Spawn; and Kiska, Leoman and Tayschrenn on the Shores of Creation. For me, that’s the chief weakness of the novel – there is no focus. I say this having read and being an ardent fan of Steve Erikson’s (SE) Malazan Book of the Fallen, whose 10, 700+ page books are poster children for Sprawling Epic Syndrome (SES), and many of whose readers despair at the insanely complicated mishmash of stories and cast of thousands. But there is a focus. It’s not terribly clear, particularly in the first half of the series, but it becomes ever more so as time goes on and the myriad plots become ever more directly associated with it – dealing with the Crippled God. I don’t see any focus in ICE’s series so far. Night of Knives takes place at the end of Kellanved’s reign, Return of the Crimson Guard takes place at the end of Laseen’s, Stonewielder drags us off to Korelri, and the present volume jumps to yet another continent – Genebackis. There are few common characters and the various tales are rushed because ICE doesn’t spend enough time developing them. This is evident in the Moon’s Spawn arc, for example. This thread reads most like a role-playing-game session as Antsy, a former sergeant of the Bridgeburners, journeys south to where Moon’s Spawn – former Tiste Andii citadel and present tomb of the Bridgeburners, who have ascended to take Hood’s place as King of High House Death – has settled in the sea. There he falls in with a motley band of treasure hunters – Malakai, a sorcerer and thief; Corien Lim, a scion of a Daru noble family; and Orchid, a young woman who turns out to have a connection with the Tiste Andii. They enter the "dungeon" of Moon’s Spawn, advance through a series of encounters, reach the last room and recover the treasure.

SE has the skill (again, IMO, others may [and do] hold different ones) to weave his threads together and keep the reader interested. ICE’s strengths as a writer, though, shine through when he stays focused on a limited number of characters on a smaller stage. Night of Knives was so good because you spent most of the novel in the company of Kiska or Temper, two interesting characters, and the action centered around Laseen’s accession and Kellanved’s ascension to Shadow. Not so much in the later novels, where too many characters are introduced who don’t stand out. Another strength of SE is that he can create memorable characters in a short space (Tattersail, Whiskeyjack, Sorry, Trull Sengar, Kruppe and Karsa Orlong, among many more). ICE needs more time, which he doesn’t give himself.

I persevere, however. It’s the Malazan Empire and environs, one of my favorite fantasy milieux. Hopefully, ICE will get back to the strengths he exhibited in Night of Knives. In the meantime, I can live with the writing and the books continue to be a reasonably enjoyable tidbit of brain candy.