Well, I’ve promised you Steven Erikson, and I am delivering you Steven Erikson. House of Chains is probably the hardest book in the series to get into. Once you make it past the first three to four hundred pages then the reading gets much easier. However, the first two hundred plus pages of the book are a painful introduction to Karsa Orlong, one of the best characters in the series – and one of the best examples of character growth that I have ever seen. That being said, if you don’t hate Karsa in the beginning of this book, then there is something seriously wrong with you. When you have what amounts to a regular size novel all about a character you hate doing horrible things – well, it makes the book hard to get into. Honestly, I almost gave up on the series while reading House of Chains because I hated Karsa so much. Now, in Reaper’s Gale, Karsa has become one of my favorite characters. Like I said, he is an amazing example of character growth.
House of Chains is very difficult to get into. It is also one of the least memorable books of the series (in my opinion). In fact I think House of Chains is probably my least favorite book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. However, it is a necessary book. House of Chains introduces Karsa Orlong, one of the most important characters in the series, and develops the character of Icarium, another of the most important characters. House of Chains also ties up many of the plot threads opened in Deadhouse Gates and/or opens new ones to replace them. All in all, if you are going to read the Malazan Book of the Fallen you have to read House of Chains, and there is a lot to value in this book. However, it is not the most enjoyable book in the series.
Erikson’s writing is very wordy again. However, while I could tell that it was wordy, it didn’t feel as wordy as it actually was…if that makes any sense. The writing throughout the book is generally strong, and it is difficult to read because of the content, not because of the writing.
Alright, let me warn you now. You will HATE Karsa Orlong in this book. If you don’t hate him, then you are a very twisted person – and it’s me telling you this, so that should add a little emphasis to it, because I’m pretty twisted already. However, by the end of this book if you don’t like Karsa, you will at least respect him. Karsa Orlong is one of the best examples of growth in a character to be found in the fiction market. The changes that his character goes through are not only completely real/believable, but also extreme. Add to this the fact that some of the best characters (i.e. Fiddler, Iskaral Pust, and Heboric among others) return in this novel, and you have a win in the character department. While I love Erikson’s characters in general, this novel definitely stands out.
You will see a little bit of Genabackis in House of Chains, but like Deadhouse Gates this novel takes place primarily in the Seven Cities. Seven Cities is one of my favorite locations in the world of Malaz, but most of House of Chains takes place in the desert, or in Raraku. Because of this, you don’t actually see that much more of the Seven Cities than you do in Deadhouse Gates. However, you will get a much better picture of what it is like to be a part of the Malazan military.
What can I say? House of Chains is pretty much about marching to a war that never happens, and Karsa Orlong turning from an evil S.O.B. badass into an awesome badass. This novel is necessary to understand the rest of the series, but it is generally about wrapping up old plots and opening new ones. House of Chains is a transitional novel that would not stand well on its own.
Like Memories of Ice, House of Chains moves back and forth between intense action, and very little action. When combined with the difficulty of reading Karsa Orlong’ s beginnings, this makes it a novel that is easy to put down. That being said, it’s worth it to keep going.
House of Chains opens a lot of questions, but it doesn’t answer many. Again, this novel is primarily about character development, and moving the overall plot of the series forward. However, there is some commentary in it.
While Memories of Ice was the most difficult book in the series to read, House of Chains is the hardest book in the series to not put down. It probably doesn’t feel like there should be a difference between these two, but there is. Memories of Ice is a challenging book that makes you consider your preconceptions. House of Chains is a painful book, necessarily so, that exposes you to a lot of evil, and then allows you to watch as that evil turns into something good. While it is very easy to put this book down early on, it gets easier to read as you go – and it is worth it in the end.