While fantasy writer Steven Erikson may not be as well known as other famous fantasy writers such as George R.R. Martin or Brandon Sanderson, his Malazan Book of The Fallen has a legion of devoted fans and is a must-read among fantasy novel enthusiasts, often considered a masterpiece.
But with the main series comprising 10 novels, not to mention spin-off novellas, trilogies, and other works set in the Malazan universe that are written by a completely different author, it can be hard to know where to start with this epic tale.
But don’t despair, because in this article I’ll take you through the Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, as well as the books surrounding the main series so you can enjoy the in-depth, captivating world that Erikson and Ian Esslemont have created to the fullest.
But first, let’s take a look at the authors behind the series and its premise.
About Malazan: Book Of The Fallen
While there are two authors behind the Malazan series, Steven Erikson is the writer who started it all. But what is Malazan? Malazan is the world where all the story events take place.
The series started with Gardens of the Moon – written by Erikson – that was published in 1999, and there have been other 30 books published since, that Ian Esslemont has co-written.
The original series consists of 10 books, and if that is all you want to read, that’s alright as it wraps up the story quite nicely.
But if you want more from the world of Malazan, you can explore the Malazan Empire novels by Ian Esslemont, the Kharkanas trilogy, the Path to Ascendancy series by Ian Esslemont, the Bauchelain and Korbal Novellas, and the Witness trilogy.
At its core, Malazan Book of the Fallen series is a battle royale on an epic scale between fantasy races and nations who are all fighting for ultimate power.
The Malazan series also features a range of POVs that initially seem disconnected but eventually converge in the most satisfying way.
Malazan: Book Of The Fallen Reading Order
The Malazan Empire is bubbling with discontent, ravaged by seemingly endless warfare, vicious infighting and violent confrontations with the intimidating Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, unforgiving and ancient sorcerers.
Even the imperial legions – who have experienced the bloodshed for years – are desperate for respite. But Empress Laseen maintains absolute control, enforced by her formidable Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack, his Bridgeburner squad, and Tattersail (the surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion), the aftermath of the siege of Pale should be a time for them to mourn their dead.
But Darujihistan – the last Free City of Genabackis – remains resilient, and Laseen quickly turns her destructive eye to it. Still, the Empire is not the only one playing this epic game. Insidious shadowbound forces are congregating as the gods themselves prepare to get involved.
- A book you can read again and again and pick up new details.
- Non-stop action.
- Amazing character development.
- Rapid changes in POV can be quite confusing.
In the sprawling dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, a seer named Sha’ik and her followers are readying themselves from the uprising referred to as the Whirlwind that has been in the stars for a long time.
The vortex of bloodlust and fanaticism is an unimaginable scale, and will drag the Malazan Empire into its most savage and bloody conflicts ever.
- Immersive writing.
- Has several passages that are very memorable.
- Some twists and turns were quite jarring and not well-handled.
The decimated continent of Genabackis has birthed a frightening new empire called the Pannion Domin that is ravaging all in its path.
But a complex alliance is also on this path, the alliance between Whiskeyjack’s Bridgeburners and Onearm’s army and their old enemies – Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii mages, the Rhivi people of the plains, and Warlord Caladan Brood.
Also, ancient undead clans are also joining forces. Namely, the T’lan Imass. It seems that something even darker and dangerous poses a threat to the world, and rumors are rife that the Crippled God is now unleashed and is seeking revenge.
- Excellent character development.
- Quick Ben and Paran make a great pairing.
- Some readers felt like the book was too long.
In Northern Genabackis, a raiding party of bloodthirsty tribal warriors descend into the southern flatlands from the mountains, seeking to wreak havoc among the detested lowlanders. But for Karsa Orlong, this is the start of their incredible journey.
- Contains some much appreciated humor in between the action.
- Amazing action sequences.
- Some readers found the book to have a slower pace than the others.
After years of mutually damaging warfare, the Tiste Edur have united at last thanks to the Warlock King, Hiroth. While there is peace, it has come at an awful price: a pact made with a secret power that is suspicious at best, and deadly at worst.
- Gripping plot.
- Character development continues to be great.
- Eloquent language and descriptive pose.
- Gets off to a slow start.
The Seven Cities Rebellion has been destroyed, Sha’ik is dead, and only one rebel force remains, sheltering in the city of Y’Ghatan and under the iron-fisted rule of Leoman of the Flails.
The idea of laying siege to this ancient fortress makes the battle-scarred Malaz 14th Army wary, as it was here that the Empire’s biggest supporter – Dassem Ultor – was slaughtered and much Malazan blood has been spilled.
- A great mix of tragedy and comedy.
- Engaging plot.
- Reunites you with excellent characters.
- The story gets off to a slow start.
There is discontent in the Letherii Empire. The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths – Rhulad Sengar – has gone mad, surrounded by agents and sycophants of his scheming chancellor.
Meanwhile, the underground Letherii police are conducting a terror campaign against the people they’re supposed to protect. The Errant used to be an omniscient god but now cannot see into the future.
The palace is rife with conspiracies, while the empire – fuelled by corruption – edges closer to total war with the surrounding kingdoms.
- The prose continues to be excellent.
- Diverse cast of characters.
- Some readers felt there were plot points that were superfluous.
In Darujhistan, it is believed that death and love shall arrive dancing. It is an oppressively hot summer, but for a small man in an old, red waistcoat the heat is the least of his problems.
Morbid premonitions haunt his dreams and the streets are also full of ghosts. Assassins lurk in alleyways, but the quarry has turned, and now the hunters are being hunted.
- A more subtle plot than the previous books.
- Readers really enjoyed the ending.
- Some readers didn’t like who the narrator was in this installment.
There are no real winners in war, and every soldier can see this cruel truth. In Letherii, the banished Malazan army commanded by Adjunct Tavore starts marching into the eastern Wastelands to fight for a mysterious cause against an equally mysterious enemy.
Others are also gathering in these Wastelands to face their destinies. The war-hungry Barghast, defeated in their battle of vengeance against the Tiste Edur, look for new enemies over the border and Onos Toolan and the immortal-turned-mortal T’lan Imass lead the White Face clan.
- A good mix of old and familiar characters, and new, exciting ones.
- Deep, rich plot.
- Some readers found the plot to be too depressing.
Brutalized by the K’Chain Nah’Ruk, the Bonehunters have their sights set on Kolanse, where an unknown fate awaits them. Haunted by question, the army is close to mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not give up.
But if she has the power, if she can keep her army together, and if the fragile alliances she has created can survive all that is facing them, one last act remains.
Tavore Paran of House Paran is a woman with no magic, and has nothing to offer that could instill confidence or loyalty in her but she is determined to challenge the gods – if her own troops don’t kill her first.
- Most readers found the final installment was wrapped up nicely.
- Full of twists and turns.
- Some readers found the book too long.
Malazan Empire Novels By Ian Esslemont
Although a small island, Malaz and its city is what gave the powerful empire its name, but now it’s a quiet, humble port. But tonight, things are different.
Tonight the city is a hive of frantic, occasionally violent activity, its citizens rush about, barricading doors, closing their windows, and avoiding the eyes of strangers.
Although tonight is supposed to be the name of convergence – the appearance of a shadow moon that comes once in a generation – it instead threatens the citizens of Malaz with demon hounds and other dark happenings.
- Less complex than the books in the main series.
- Gives you a deeper insight into Malazan.
- Editing could have been better.
The timing of the Crimson Guard’s return could not be worse. The empire is battered by warfare and weakened by feuds and betrayals.
They march into the bubbling cauldron of Quon Tali – the heartland of the Malazan Empire – and when they return they remember their vow: their faithful opposition to the Empire.
But factions within the Guard’s elite, the Avowed, are focused on a far greater power, while other, older entities are rising up, determined to further their own mysterious ends.
But what about the swordsman known as the Traveller, who desires a dangerous confrontation?
- Gives more insight into some characters who appear in the main series.
- Some readers found it an improvement over the Night of Knives.
- Some readers found the plot too simplistic.
Greymane believes he’s left his past behind, and his Falar school for swordsmanship was his chance to have a quiet life. However, his colleague Kyle isn’t as interested in a life after the Crimson Guard.
Still, it’s hard for an ex-Fist of the Malazan Empire to just disappear, particularly one who was sentenced to death by the Empire. There is also a new emperor in Malaz, and he is dwelling on the shame that is the Empire’s botched invasion of the subcontinent of the Korel.
In the vaults underneath the imperial capital of Unta, the answer to that disaster lies. In this buried history you can find the name Stonewielder.
- Shocking ending.
- Excellent plot.
- Likeable characters.
- Lacking in humor.
The epic new saga in the Malazan history takes place in Darujhistan, a city of blue flames and dreams that is finally at peace. Its citizens are now at liberty to return to arguing, politicking, trading, and to just enjoy their lives.
Still, there are some who do not want to bury the past. A scholar who is excavating in the plain discovers an ancient sealed vault. Humble Measure, a merchant, plots to get rid of the Malazan invaders who are left.
Meanwhile, the remaining agents of a forgotten power are stirring, sensing change and thus, opportunity. At the center of everything, a thief wearing a red waistcoat stalks the streets, juggling custard pastries in one hand, and the city’s fate in the other.
- Fills a lot of gaps left in the main series.
- Filled with twists.
- Some readers found the ending confusing.
In the western sky, the bright green banner of the Visitor descends like an omen of destruction. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have begun another expedition to tame the surrounding wild jungle.
But Himatan is no ordinary wilderness, believed to be half of the spirit realm and half of the earth, as well as ruled by a powerful entity that some call the Queen of Witches, while some believe they are the ancient goddess Ardata.
Saeng was raised with only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs, but it was the echoes of that land’s distant past that she really listened to. When her rules launch an attack on the surrounding jungle, those voices send Saeng and her brother on a daunting mission.
- A compelling story with multiple storylines.
- Full of physical and emotional conflict.
- Intriguing setting.
- Some readers found the structure of the novel confusing.
Ice that has existed for thousands of years is melting, and the land of Assail – long known for its hostility and menace – is at last revealing its secrets.
Stories of gold found in the northern region are spread through every sailor’s tavern and waterfront dive bar, and now hoards of explorers and fortune-seekers have set off in search of riches.
All these adventurers have to help them are legends and confusing tales of the dangers that are waiting there – fields of ice, barren coasts, impossible barriers, and weird, horrifying creatures.
Shedding light on mysteries across the Malazan Empire, and giving us insight into the epic history that shaped it, Assail is the final installment in the Empire of Malaz series.
- Incredible, complex world-building.
- Immensely satisfying conclusion.
- Some readers found the story lagged.
It’s a difficult time in Kurald Galian, i.e., the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark rules all. But many powers once called this land home.
The great hero of the commoners, Vatha Urusander, is being urged by his followers to marry Mother Dark, but her consort, Lord Draconus, is determined to not let this happen.
The clash that’s about to happen sends shockwaves through the realm, and as rumors of civil war spread through the masses, an ancient power from the seas once long dead. Stuck in the middle are the First Sons of Darkness, Andarist, Anomander, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold.
- Introduces us to several POV characters.
- Excellent world-building.
- Some readers found the writing too indulgent.
The story is split into three main plot threads given to major and minor characters. The first POV tells the tale of the Tiste race as they fight to find their place in a society that is split up into three factions – the Andii, Deniers, and Liosan – and which is now on the edge of a civil war.
The second POV follows the story of the Jaghut who have now waged a war against Death itself, and a range of races and groups who have answered the call to arms.
The last POV tells the tale of the Azathanai K’rul who gave the world the gift of sorcery, but now finds himself up against his own family.
- Poetic, rich prose.
- Amazing dialogue.
- Riveting plot.
- Some readers found the writing repetitive at times.
Path To Ascendancy Series By Ian Esselmont
Once a land destroyed by war, baronies, small city states, and principates battle for supremacy, now the rival cities of Quon and Tali formed an alliance to create Quon Tali.
But that was decades ago, that dynasty has fallen, and the regional powers are now fighting once more.
However, at the heart of Quon Tali is the powerful city state of Li Heng, which for centuries has enjoyed relative peace under the guidance of the powerful sorceress referred to as the ‘Protectress.’
She isn’t someone who will tolerate the arrival of two young men into her domain, especially a man that is determined to be the best assassin of his age, and his mark – a Dal Hon mage who is frustratingly challenging to kill.
The sorceress and her five mage servants were enough to deter the Quon Tali Iron legions, so how could these two troublemakers disrupt her iron-fisted rule so much?
- A great prequel to the main series.
- A lighter tone than most of the other Malazan books.
- Some readers found the prose lacking.
After the disappointing turn of events at Li Heng, Kellanved and Dancer find themselves on a small, unimportant island called Malaz. Of course, Kellanved instantly plots to conquer it.
To do this, they join forces with a small gang of Napans who have escaped a civil war in their homeland. But things soon don’t go to plan as Kellanved develops a dangerous and odd fixation on an ancient, mysterious structure on the island.
- Expands on ideas brought up in previous Malazan novels.
- Character-driven and filled with humor.
- Some readers again found the writing to be lacking.
The relentless war between the feuding city states of Quon Tali rages on.
The warring princes and lords are so engrossed in their feuds that few of them notice that an ambitious mage from Dal On has taken control of the southern seas, but some powers are concerned.
Meanwhile, as Tali and Purge indulge in their ceaseless war games, a mercenary caught in the fight suddenly refuses to participate and causes all kinds of problems.
At the same time, a pair of escaped prisoners from Castle Gris journey across their war-weathered landscape of savagery and fire, intending to find the legendary Crimson Guard.
- A very fun read.
- Some readers found that Esselmont was back on form with this book.
- Some readers found the story was too short and wanted more.
The Witness Trilogy
Years have passed since three warriors brought chaos and destruction to Silver Lake. The northern tribes no longer enter the southlands, but while the town has recovered, its legacy lives on.
In response to reports of a rising uneasiness among the tribes over the border, the Malazan army marches on the people of the new god, but they’re not totally sure what they’ll be facing.
Plus, in these distant mountains, a new warlord has risen among the Teblor. Wounded by the deeds of Karsa Orlong, he wants to confront his god even if he has to leave a bloody trail through the Malazan Empire to do it.
- Introduces us to new characters.
- Amazing pacing.
- Some readers were disappointed by Karsa’s lack of presence in the novel.
Bauchelain & Korbal Novellas
The first three stories of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, the famous necromancers from the Malazan Book of the Fallen feature in this volume. The Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, and The Lees of Laughter’s End.
The Blood Follows is set in the port city of Lamentable Moll, where an evil killer terrorizes the streets and has the citizens gripped in fear. But things are about to get worse for Emancipor Reese, as his old employer is the mysterious killer’s latest victim.
But two strangers have come to the town and have posted a note in Fishmonger’s Round requesting a servant. The Healthy Dead is set in the City of Quaint, a city whose desire for goodness can lead to disastrous results.
Bauchelain and Korbal Broach know this better than most, two characters who are dedicated to all things bad. The murderous necromancers – and their servant, Emancipor Reese – find themselves trapped in a scheme to bring goodness to total ruination.
The Lees of Laughter’s End takes place after Bauchelian and Korbal Broach’s blissful trip to Lamentable Moll, and they are now heading for open seas on the trusty ship, the Suncurl.
However, there is more baggage in the hold than the crew previously thought, awakening unimaginable terrors. For Bauchelain, Korbal, and Emancipr Reese, it is just a typical night on the high seas.
- More humorous than the main Malazan series.
- Well-written, compact stories.
- A dark collection of stories which may be off-putting to some.
Fearless necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal have a lot to answer for, and it’s about time they did. Known as the Nehemouth, they are pursued by many so-called defenders of civilization, decency, and sanity.
After all, evil thrives when it’s unchallenged, but this may not be the case now. The Nehemothanai are the dedicated hundred of Bauchelain and Korbal, and are now nipping at their heels.
Surrounded by a group of pilgrims and artists including steadfast Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pompous Well Knight Arpo Relent, solemn Huntsman Steck Marynd, and the three Chanter brothers (and their only sister) find themselves faced with the harshest of choices.
The legendary Crack’d Pot Trail – a hostile wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God – has become a ravaged path of deprivation.
- Gripping and well-written.
- Has a refreshing, playful tone.
- Sometimes the alternating POVs are unclear.
Tyranny takes many forms, and tyrants can thrive in one-room hovels as well as palaces, in playgrounds and back alleys.
On the verges of civilization, where disorder stretches the bounds of civil conduct and propriety gives way to cruel imposition, there are many tyrants. Millions are forced to bend the knee, and even more die horrific deaths.
But in the aftermath of the events of Lees of Laughter’s End, this is a more civil adventure for Bauchelain, Korbal, and their meek manservant, Emancipor Reese. They land on a tranquil beach, home to a quaint village that lies at the feet of an impressive castle.
There, they meet the generous and gentle people of Spendrugle, a village that lies at the mouth of the Blear River and is under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his beautiful keep.
- Features an amazing antagonist.
- Incredible pacing.
- Some readers found it quite confusing at first because so much time has passed since the events of the last novella.
The king is dead, and King Bauchelain the First has been crowned by the Grand Bishop Korbal Broach. Helping them run the Kingdom of Farrog is their servant Emancipor Reese, who is gradually unraveling.
But tensions are growing between Farrog and their neighbors, Nightmaria, home to the mysterious Fiends. Ophal D Neeth Flatroq, their ambassador, requests an audience with King Bauchelain, who has declined so far.
After all, the necromancer turned king has other things to deal with. To prevent rebellion, almost all the artists, bards, and poets in the city have been executed. A few survivors rot in the dungeons, despairing over their fates, and perhaps plotting escape… and revenge.
- The characters have unique personalities and goals.
- Characters from the Crack’d Pot Trail return.
- Some readers were not impressed with the antagonists.
Emanicipr Reese is fairly certain he once had a childhood, a distant memory of growing up in the coastal city of Lamentable Moll. However, his imagination has failed to paint a picture of it, and all of his memories are blurry.
Nowadays, struggling to remember his childhood, he has to imagine himself looking at things from knee-height. While this worked, it left little to be desired, as most of his memories involve being intoxicated or ill.
He’s pretty certain he was not in his position during this childhood, but anything is possible.
- Full of allegories to real-life current events.
- Full of humor.
- Some may not enjoy the allegorical nature.
So there you have it, the Malazan Book Of The Fallen series, as well as the surrounding series, trilogies, and novella, and how to read them!
If you’re a big fan of sprawling fantasy epics, with exceptional wide-reaching world-building, bloody battles in a ruthless world, complex characters, and beautiful prose then you’re sure to love the Malazan Book of The Fallen Series.
The Malazan Empire, the Bauchelain & Korbal novellas, the Witness trilogy, the Path To Ascendancy series, the Kharkansas trilogy, and the Witness trilogy are great companion pieces to the main series, and give you more to sink your teeth into when you’ve finished!
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is Steven Erikson?
Steven Erikson is an author who was born in Toronto but was raised in Winnipeg, and now lives in the UK with his wife and family. Despite finding fame as a writer, he studied archaeology and anthropology, and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Who Is Ian Esslemont?
Born in Winnipeg, Ian Esslemont also studied archaeology and had a career in it, before he found his fame in writing. He lived in Japan and Thailand for a few years, before settling in Fairbanks, Alaska with his family.