“He was Dancer now, and Dancer from now on.”
I decided to sleep on this rating and I’m still giving it a 5 Stars out of 5.
First of all, the Dramatis Personae in this book had me confused in so many ways. The only name I even recognized was Dassem and K’rul. As we find out, not everyone’s name that we’ve come to know had that name in the beginning. With that said, let’s get into the review, shall we?
Dancer’s Lament is the first installment of the series that will show how the Malazan Empire came to be. We get to follow Dorin Rav, a young man of Tali who aspires to be an assassin; Silk, a Li Heng city mage; Iko, the newest recruit in the king’s body guard aka Kanese Sword-Dancers; and Sister Night, a powerful ancient sorceress. This story does take place in Quon Tali, but mostly stays in the city-state of Li Heng which, before now, had enjoyed relative stability, for centuries, under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the Protectress. Suffice it to say that she’s not too happy about the arrival of our 2 trouble makers Dorin Rav and Wu. The former is a very skilled assassin eager to join a guild and the latter is a Dal Hon mage who is much harder to kill than they expected. For all the Book of the Fallen veterans, you may recognize these two *wink wink*. We also have a new and ambitious king and his forces from Itko Kan are marching upon Li Heng. He has sent his own assassins, the Nightblades, on ahead of him along with rumors that he has inhuman, nightmarish forces at his command.
If I would’ve read Esslemont’s Malazan Empire series, I’m sure I would’ve recognized so many other characters. But since I haven’t, I missed out on a bit of the story. Reading his Malazan Empire series isn’t necessary to enjoy this book, but it helps to do so so you can get the full scope of this book. I still thoroughly enjoyed this book even without getting those references. We get to see so many characters from the Book of the Fallen here, and it was so cool to be able to see most of the big players as kids here. I would love to mention just how many characters make cameos, but it has a much more jaw-dropping effect when you read it and stumble upon them for yourself. I think that was half of what made me love this book so much. Seeing so many major players before they were….well..major players.
And my goodness this was a great installment in the Malazan world. It was, in my opinion, on par with any of Erikson’s books. It has a completely different feel to it, but in a very good way. It’s a small, quaint story without a broad sweeping universe playing a role and without massive 100k people battles. It’s also very straightforward narratively, without a lot of flowery prose, and without a lot of analogies or metaphors. But it is also very competent, so don’t take simplicity as an indication of poor writing. I think it’s the simplicity that made this so enjoyable. Erikson’s writing can be so complicated, at times, so it was nice to get an “origins”/Malazan story where I’m not constantly wondering what something really means, being able to take everything at face value. Also, none of the 2 page philosophical musings was pretty nice.
Dancer’s Lament makes me so excited for what’s to come in the Path to Ascendancy series! It’s got just about everything I loved from the Book of the Fallen, but in a more compact and easier to read package. Highly recommend to anyone who has finished the main series and is looking for some more of that Malazan fix. I would also recommend thinking about possibly reading Esslemont’s Malazan Empire series first. Just so you can fully enjoy this one. But it’s not necessary if you feel like skipping them for now.