Rating: 3 out of 5
While generally a good instalment in the Malazan series, this book was overall a little bit too haphazard: the number of different plot lines that were brought together into one final event was just too large. A few sequential solutions to the ongoing storylines would have been much better than what we actually got.
Looking at it character-by-character, their experiences were not bad. Nevertheless, while some of them were ok, the majority never became as familiar as they could have. Kyle, one of the new guys, was an exception to this and the same could be said of Jumpy. The others, including Mallick Rel, however do not grow (personally). This is linked to the fact that for most of them we have a few chapters per the entire tome while there are so many other events going on that anything achieved or agreed upon the previous time will be hazy and distant the next time around.
What this book did do well was build upon the glimpses of the Crimson Guard from past books, and turn this into something more meaningful. In addition to the extra information that this provides, the story also helped to flesh out the objectives—and the single-mindedness—of the Guard and to establish how much of this was myth. In this way, the antagonists from prior episodes turn into the protagonists of this one. As such, the two impersonal entities: the Guard and the Empire, both exist as concurrent protagonists while the occasional negative aspect, the one that the reader wants to see conquered, is provided by a few individuals.
Overall, the book was better than what I expected—a whitewash of the Guard. Yet, it tried to do too much with too many characters at the expense of the reader.