Finally finished Blood and Bone, Ian C. Esslemont's fifth novel of the Malazan Empire, last night. It was a good read, at times great. Certainly Ian's best effort so far, and the book that feels the closest in style, scope and prose to the main sequence, Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
It's a typical Malazan novel in most respects - a veritable host of characters forcing me to flip back to the dramatis personae to be sure I know who I'm returning to, obtuse events and unexplained situations and characters, even a convergence of sorts, and all the trappings of the setting can be found. The big difference is that for the first time in a Malazan book location becomes more important, to the point that the jungle of Himatan becomes a character on its own, and in no other Malazan book does it feel so real and "there". I wish we could get as good a look at some other places in the series which are hardly described, like Quon Tali or Korel. In fact, one could say that the book's title, Blood & Bone, refers directly to the jungle of Himatan where large parts of the story takes place.
As enjoyable as it is, like the other books in the series, I will need to re-read it to truly grasp everything. While I've grown accustomed to the tropes and style of these books there are still things going on that I simply don't catch on the first read and leave me scratching my head (and checking the spoiler threads over at Malazan Empire's forums).
All in all, it was yet another entertaining trip to this amazingly complex secondary world, expanding our knowledge about the Warrens (which are treated almost game-like, mechanically in this book and less vague), the High King, the Crimson Guard etc. There are elements tying the story to both Erikson's prequel, Forge of Darkness, the books of the fallen, and Esslemont's other books. So now I've read sixteen volumes of Malazan lore. For each volume, it becomes more addictive, no matter how hard this series is to get into at first. But before you read Blood and Bone, I suggest you read Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, Midnight Tides, The Bonehunters, Reaper's Gale, Toll the Hounds, Dust of Dreams, The Crippled God, Night of Knives, Return of the Crimson Guard, Stonewielder and Orb, Sceptre, Throne. Just saying.
Now I'm looking forward to the conclusion of Esslemont's Malazan novels, his sixth book, which will be a massive convergence of a number of plot threads from all his books.