Dancer’s Lament is the first of Ian C. Esslemont’s Malazan novels that I have read and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It is the first installment of the Path to Ascendancy trilogy. The book is more linear that the previous series entrants that I have read written by Steven Erikson. It is more story driven and less about the world building, however, it still contains a large cast of dramatis personae and the book is complemented by some amazing and very memorable set-pieces.
The action follows the stories and point of views of three characters. Dorin Rav/ Dancer (enough said), Iko (a female sword dancer/guard) and Silk (a vain mage) and how they are affected by a war that takes place at Li Heng and also the inner politics of the city’s underworld.
The point of view I found the most intriguing was, of course, Dancer’s. Mainly to see the foundation of his relationship with a certain shadowy mage (known as Wu in this story but you know who this person is 😉 ) and about Dancer’s past and training. Wu and Dorin’s banter right from the start is great. At some points they seem like a married couple bickering, however, you see the underlining current of respect being built between them throughout the novel. In some books, you can dislike certain POV perspectives and almost speed read those parts – I didn’t have this problem with any of these characters. In fact, knowing that these other characters are involved in later ICE books other readers may find extra layers of awesome in their sections that I couldn’t see.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot. I do not want to reveal anything to my unfortunate American cousins where this hasn’t been released yet. What I will say though is a lot of the characters are very cool and likable. Ullara (a bird loving stable girl), Shalmanat (the protectress of the Li Heng) and even the notorious feared beastly creature that haunts the radius of the city. One point I have to say is awesome is when we realise where the name Dancer originated from.
Some people have posted gripes with the way that Ian writes and his skill not being anywhere near that of Steven Erikson. I had no problem with his pace, descriptive nature, the way he presented the world’s ideology/ history/ magic and it was a story that I devoured. Maybe his writing has improved but I am looking forward to reading other books of his. Return of the Crimson Guard is high on my priorities to read now. I am intrigued also to see how some of the characters introduced to me here who aren’t as frequent in Erikson’s novel’s (such as the Crimson Guard) behave and develop in ICE’s other books.
Would this be a good entry point for the whole Malazan world for a new reader? Perhaps. Due to the limited amount of POV’s and the many stunning events make this a good stand-alone read. Maybe I take it for granted though as I am aware of the history, magical systems etc…. that would be lost/ confusing on a new reader and they may be out of their depth. I’d recommend going the normal route with Erikson first but if you like the sound of this review and you haven’t read Malazan – by all means take a gamble and let me know what you think! 🙂
I can’t wait for the next installment. Thank you, Ian. Peace x