There is a common trait in all of Erikson's books: the multiple local plots, that seem to be drawn by common underlying factor(s) (Crippled God etc.), brilliantly interwoven into an epic story, with an epic breathtaking end that brings tears to my eyes. It is simply impossible to put the book down once you reach the last couple hundred pages. A storytelling that reaches millenia back and creates a wonderful adventure. Both in the book, and in my mind as I try to remember what had happened two or three books back.
In Reaper's Gale, we return to Letheras, which is now under the occupation of Emperor Rhulad Sengar's Tiste Edur. But we soon realise that the Tiste Edur do not hold as much power as they think they do. The emperor being the one who is mostly deceited of them all. So even under a foreign rule, the wealthy Letherii are further empowered by the institutions they created to guard and further their interests: the Liberty Consign and the Patriotists. Wars continue to be waged under false pretences in the East, while everyone who opposes the new setting of power disappears. But uncertainty looms once again. The Empire is on the verge of economic collapse, the one that Tehol Beddict started orchestrating in Midnight Tides. The invasion to the Awl'dan meets failure after failure as a new leader returned from the Wastelands with powerful weapons and powerful allies. From the west, the outlawed Bonehunters seek a way to Letheras. And the Edur fleet returning to the capital carries the new champions that will face the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths. Among those champions, Icarium, the Jhag that his rage has destroyed cities in the past, and Karsa Orlong, the short-tempered barbarian warrior with the souls of those slain by his hands trailing him.
And while forces converge to Letheras, a group of fugitives leave that city behind them. Silchas Ruin, Fear Sengar, the ex-slave Udinaas, the Acquitor Seren Pedac, the child Kettle and a Tiste Andii wraith seek a way to the place where the soul of Scabandari Bloodeye is. But the journey, through warrens and realms is a difficult one, as doubts are born, tensions grow and as in the end of their journey looms betrayal.
Compared to the previous books of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, this one wasn't as satisfying to read. It seemed to me that he was stretched too much in too many sub-stories and that in the end, we don't get a clear conclusion, as he did in all the previous books. For example, the Awl part and their war with the Letherii seemed really important, but once things got hot in Letheras, the things in Awl'dan got in a quick ending that left many questions unanswered. Abandoned. This awkward navigation through the story, in general, really bugged me. Too many deux-ex machinas, too many hasty "answers" from previous books, too many "happy endings" and too many "dramatic endings" that seemed shallow in their description.
Maybe he needed to write too many things, so it resulted in this clumsy handling? If it was just the too many things to read through, I would have been fine. It is Erikson after all, every book has to be some kind of a challenge to read. Possibly.
Despite my bitter review, I'm not giving up on this series - Erikson remains one of my favourite authors. Just that this book now occupies the "Least favourite Malazan" book spot. Given the somewhat abrupt end, I remain positive that Reaper's Gale and my harsh opinion on it will be redeemed in some following book in the series.