I stopped reading House of Chains at pag 250 in September when I had the crazy idea of embarking onto Infinite Jest and the book requiring all my attention and then more.
I resume the book now at a fitting point since it wraps up Karsa POV as a kind of self contained story and then opens up from a different perspective that neatly ties threads back with book 2. I just need to get used again to the style after reading Jordan. So I read this three pages POV. On a ship with army recruits approaching a port. Just as I’m nearing the end of this short section I think: this part was surprisingly straightforward in the presentation, it may as well pass as traditional fantasy narrated in a traditional way. Nothing that seems to show Erikson’s fingerprint, which happens rarely. Then I read the very last, short line. And everything changes.
Instead of reading further, I have to go back and reread from the beginning these three pages. Suddenly they appear littered with hints. The lines of dialogue that appeared so straightforward and simple for once, all acquired a second meaning with much subtlety and different taste. Everything meant something else. It was simply awesome. The character introduced as new was revealed as one of the most well known character. Just that. Three pages that seemed so linear, and then the trick at the end that makes you reconsider everything and unveil the hidden layer. And this is simply to reintroduce a character.
House of Chains may not have the huge impact and scale of Memories of Ice, or the intensity of Deadhouse Gates, but it’s no lesser or weaker book. I actually believe it’s a much better distilled version of what the Malazan series is. It is condensed and effective and lean. It plays with tricks with much better execution and in a matter of few pages, using aptly all knowledge that the reader has built through the three previous books. Every page has something cool or a surprising twist. Dense in a very positive way.
After those three pages comes a section that revisits and refreshes plot threads coming from book 2 that were never brought to the foreground. In retrospect everything makes sense and shapes up. There’s a brief flashback that gave me chills and that was a much necessary complement to the part of the story in book 2 that was jumpstarted without enough premises. You read this scene and everything starts moving into place.
Loving the book.