I'm currently reading Steven Eriksons Reaper's Gale
, from the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Not quite sure where to begin to describe these works, as there is so much going on in the damned things it's hard to decide.
I was given the first book, Gardens of the Moon
, by a friend who just said something like "you gotta read this, trust me". I hadn't read any sword & sorcery stuff in years, but was a bit tired of non-fiction, so I said what the hey.
2 plot elements caught my attention, and, among others - and Sweet Holy Jesus On The Hill, there's plenty of other convoluted stuff goin' on - kept me interested in this series.
The first was that the Emperor of the Malazan Empire contrives to have himself and his chief henchman assassinated in order to complete some complex magical ritual which will allow them to ascend to a sort of demi-godhood. The otherworldly realm he presumes to then reign over later proves to have been fragmented in some manner of conflict among ancient dieties, however, and hence his power is not what he presumed it would be.
Second is the existence of a race of ancients who conducted some manner of colossal ritual intended to make their entire race immortal, for the sole purpose of conducting a war of extermination against another ancient race whom they presumed - erroneously as it turns out - intended to enslave them all. Unfortunately for the would be exterminators, their "immortality" does not manifest itself as an eternity of youthful vigor, but rather in the manner that their bodies simply do not cease to exist with the passage of time . Hence, during the epoch the books take place - thousands of years after the ritual and the war occured - the survivors of the conflict now walk the earth in a form resembling mummified corpses, and their chief hope is apparently finding a manner of release from their existence.
Another element I liked was that the author wasn't afraid to kill off major characters - sometimes in the most ignominious manner. There's few things more aggravating to me than knowing some hero type is going to come through hell on earth with nary a scratch on 'im just because he's the hero. Plus, good and evil are seldom as plain as black & white hats in the plot line. Everything is so convoluted, and all these schemes and plots and plans are going on from the level of conniving Gods to grousing grunts in various & sundry armies that it's never entirely evident except in a number of obvious cases exactly who the good & bad guys are.
There are some little things that bug me - such as the way a "modern" expression or three creep into character dialogue that otherwise seems to have been writen to fit in with an era where people wearing swords & armor are walking around... ...still, every time I pick up the next volume & wonder how in hell the author is going to top what he did in the last one, damned if I don't end up thinking he's fucking done it again !