Fiction Reviews

The God is Not Willing

(2021) Steven Erikson, Transworld, £20, hrdbk, xv + 479pp,ISBN 978-1-787-63286-8


Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future as Steve Miller once sang, and it really seems no time at all since Steven Erikson’s first novel of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series appeared, but it was actually back in 1999 when the first actual Malazan novel Gardens of the Moon was published, with nine other novels coming out over the years, and a whole ten years since the last one, The Crippled God, as Erikson seems to have been concentrating on writing science fiction with occasional entries into the Malazan world to write about the two necromancers, Bauchelain & Korbal Broach in a series of novellas. 2021 sees a new Mazalan book, and the eleventh in the series, and as ten years have passed since the publication of the last book, so ten years have passed since the events of The Crippled God.

The God is Not Willing is the start of a new Malazan trilogy, under the collective title of The First Tale of Witness, and given that title, will we see more tales of witness in the future? Who knows, but mention must be made of the brilliant cover art by Steve Stone. There is also more art, of sorts, inside, as there is a map of Northwest Genabackis, during the Late Empire period, followed by three pages of “Dramatis Personae” which is a handy little list to have if you are new to the series, and then we have a prologue, an epilogue at the end, and 24 chapters in between.

As mentioned. ten years have passed since the end of The Crippled God and even more years since three Teblor warriors – Karsa Orlong, Delum Thord, and Bairoth Gild - descended on Silver Lake in Northwest Genebackis to cause mayhem as related in book four of the series, House of Chains. These days Karsa is better known as “The Shattered God” and lives more, or less, in self-imposed exile, although there are plenty of new gods to worship and new religions to follow but things are starting to heat up in the North, with the Teblor Tribes on the move, so a legion of Malazan marines are sent to investigate. Karsa might not appear in this book, but his children do, as well as Delum’s and Bairoth’s widow and daughter. While Erikson introduces many new characters, there are some like Spindle, the Bridgeburner, who has appeared in earlier books and after a spell of wandering has returned to the marine-fold to do what he does best, fight.

The Teblor Tribes are under threat and need the help of Karsa, their God who is unwilling to be worshiped or offer assistance to his followers, but his people are determined to reach him, or rather their new Warleader is, with the intention of usurping Karsa and becoming a God himself, so they are heading South with only some Malazan marines to stop them. The main characters driving the plot are Rant, the bastard son of Karsa Orlong conceived during a rape who is all emotion and struggling to find his way; and the marines themselves such as Stillwater with her very skewed view of the world. Erikson also adds to the cast by having the clever twist of making the marines join forces with a group of mercenaries they have just been fighting to a standstill in order to bolster their numbers, which only adds to the tension and the banter.

Erikson has moulded a novel full of humour and friendship against a backdrop of battles and gathering darkness to provide a more streamlined and enjoyable Malazan novel compared to the last few books in the series. Is he playing it safe? Suffice to say, you can almost read this book without really having read any of its predecessors, even if some old faces make a crowd-pleasing cameo appearance. The old gods and old ways have fallen by the wayside. It’s a fresh beginning and a pleasing edition to the series. Fans of the series will be delighted, and for newcomers, you can actually join in here, at the start of a new trilogy and then go all the way back to the very first Malazan book Gardens of the Moon, think of the fun to be had.


Ian Hunter


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