Absolutely mindblowing… Erikson takes world-building to dizzying heights with this one.
House of Chains is as complex in the timeline as the preceding books in the series. Events are set to overlap occurrences as far back as Deadhouse Gates, but most of it happens shortly after Memories of Ice. With the author having killed off many of the major characters, House of Chains follows the adventures of a whole new set of characters, including some of the survivors of the author’s holocaust from preceding books.
The main character Karsa Orlong embarks on a journey from his home, a journey that becomes a full-blown adventure with unimaginable levels of results and consequences. Karsa is a brilliant character whose development is so well done that he’s virtually unforgettable. You don’t come across such excellent character development every day in fantasy. Karsa is probably the single most brutal character I’ve ever come across in fantasy that isn’t a villain. Here’s a couple of one of his more… outstanding deeds, best moments too:
Karsa Orlong set down his stone sword, then reached between Bidithal’s legs. A hand closed indiscriminately around all that it found.
Until, with a ripping of tendons and shreds of muscle, a flood of blood and other fluids, the hand came away with its mangled prize….
Involuntarily, Bidithal drew in an agonizing breath and made to scream—
Something soft and bloody was pushed into his mouth.
‘For you, Bidithal. For every nameless girl-child you destroyed. Here. Choke on your pleasure.’
And choke he did. Until Hood’s Gate yawned
The Toblakai warrior was even less interested in creating a list of names, since names invited vows, and he had had enough of vows. No, he would kill as the mood took him.
He looked forward to his homecoming.
Provided he arrived in time.
I mean, when did killing become homecoming???
‘I never liked you much,’ rumbled a voice above him.
Squealing, Febryl sought to dive forward.
But was effortlessly plucked and lifted high from the ground.
The snap of his spine was like brittle wood in the cold night air.
Karsa Orlong flung Febryl’s corpse away.
I mean, Karsa is the badass-est protagonist in the history of badass protagonists! Expertly done!
The book is littered with so many jokes, most of them dirty.
The world-building is the best part. The author reveals even more backstory about the history of the T’lan Imass, and the Tiste race.
There’s an awful amount of magic, with even gods and goddesses getting in on the act. One major difference between this series and many other similar fantasy series that have pantheons is that the divine beings are much more involved.
Happily, none of my favorite characters died this time. I know it’ll change in subsequent books, though. The conflict levels are just out of this world.