Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Lees of Laughter's End

by Steven Erikson

The Lees of Laughter's End is the second book in a series of three standalone novels following the adventures of Korbal Broach and Bauchelain, two peripheral characters from Memories of Ice, an early entry in Erikson's mastodonian Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I hadn't read the previous book in this series (Blood Follows), but I didn't have any trouble keeping up with the story in this one.

Chad Orzel described Erikson's books well while mentioning our two main characters in his booklog entry on Memories of Ice:
“And, to give you an idea of the tone of the book, two other characters are powerful necromancers who murder dozens of people, and raise an undead army to protect themselves from battle-- and their primary purpose in the story is to serve as comic relief.”
No one should be surprised then that this novel turns out to be a fun filled romp about a cast of lost souls aboard a doomed voyage, in which the sorry collection of unfortunates manning the ship Suncurl find themselves trapped far out to sea and at the mercy of at least four or five unholy nightmares hidden onboard and in the nearby ocean (not counting our malevolent protagonists). Erikson's idea for a running gag in this light comedy novel is an inoffensive fellow who loses a different body part every couple of chapters to the various kinds of hell breaking loose.

The Lees of Laughter's End is a quick, easy read but I didn't enjoy it quite so much as I have the Malazan books. While it's nice to read a fantasy novel with a quick pace for a change, I still felt that the plot was rushed, and although Erikson's black humour works very well as an occasional flavouring in the context of his overwrought epic fantasy series, as the focus of the writing it's not strong enough to carry even a short novel like this one. I'm inclined to believe that a little more semi-serious character and setting development before everything went nuts would have both provided a more fertile home for the humour and a little more space for the frantically paced storyline to pan out.

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