Assail by Ian C Esslemont (A Novel of the Malazan Empire: Book 6)

For years now we have been teased with the prospect of visiting Assail, writing partners Steven Erikson and Ian C Esslemont weaving hints and rumours into their epic series’ so as to leave us completely hooked on the idea of this threatening landmass. Covered in ice, but home to some of Malazan’s most important figures, ‘Assail’ by Ian C Esslemont was everything I could have asked for.

The Malazan Wiki describes the continent of Assail as being “situated between Genabackis and the Letherii continent and was held to be the most dangerous and hostile part of the Malazan world.” The Crimson Guard had history there, as did the imitable T’lan Imass, and its history was such as to defer even the Malazan Empire’s expansionist aims.

So much could trace roots back to Assail – so many stories had to finish on that terrifying continent. Names like Kyle, the Crimson Guard, Silverfox, and more, all had to make their way to Assail for their stories to reach a measure of conclusion. So long in the waiting, ‘Assail’ by Ian C Esslemont had a lot to live up to.

And boy did he pull it off.

Esslemont has been writing in the shadow of the more popular and successful Steven Erikson for some time now, but managing to grow in his skills with each subsequent book. More and more, now, I’m beginning to find Esslemont’s additions to the Malazan universe as enticing and well-written as Erikson’s. Both have their different styles, which in some ways make Esslemont’s more accommodating and accessible – which can be both a good and a bad thing.

As with all Malazan books, new and old characters act as our protagonists. Characters from both Erikson and Esslemont reappear in Assail, as well as some fascinating new characters, which really make the story such a well-rounded reading experience.

The payoff of returning to Assail is well worth the wait, and by the end of the book it was 4:30am and I was actually shocked by the revelations that confronted me. I had caught some of the clues, and missed a hundred more. And with rumours floating around that Ian C Esslemont has signed a new deal to write three more books, I am giddy with the possibility that some of these Assail characters will return.

Assail by Ian C Esslemont probably ranks as one of my favourite books of the year – albeit also one of the most anticipated. With characters we have come to love, and new ones to love, returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped.

9/10 Returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped.

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