Night of Knives (Malazan Empire #1)


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Title: Night of Knives
Series: Malazan Empire #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 308
Format: Digital Edition


Synopsis: Spoilers

On the night of a Shadow Moon, when the division between our world and the world of the Warrens thins, Kriska and Temper have an adventure.

Kriska is a young thief who wants to join the Claws and get off of Malaz Isle. But nobody takes her seriously and even her aunt wants her to stay inside this night. Getting caught up in the battle between Kelenved & Dancer and Surly. Also involved in the mix is Tayschren, master mage, Surly’s cadre of Claws and a group of cultists dedicated to Kelenved as a god. Kriska has to survive the night and all the terrors it holds.

Then we have Temper, a former soldier of the Malazan Army who has deserted. The desertion saved his life, as he was one of the Shields of the Swords, a might warrior protecting Dassem Ultor, the First Sword of the Malazan Empire, the mightiest warrior alive. The problem was, Surly doesn’t want heros in her army and she has begun to purge them. Temper runs to Malaz Isle to become a lowly guardsman to survive. But others know his secret and on this night of Shadow Moon, Temper will be used once again, just as he was before.


My Thoughts:

Man, I had forgotten, or never realized, just how much foundational information Esslemont packs into this book. There is a lot about Dassem that I didn’t realize was important but will definitely impact my read of future Malazan Book of the Fallen books. Chronologically this comes before Gardens of the Moon but I wouldn’t recommend reading it before unless you’re doing a re-read of everything Malaz.

There are some great battles here. Hounds of Shadows everywhere, monsters springing out of various Warrens, magical assassins fighting magical cultists, a hidden group of people trying to protect the whole Isle from some underwater threat, it all weaves together into one night of blood the likes of which the Isle has not seen in ages.

This was a short book, clocking in just over 300 pages. For a Malaz book, that is practically a short story. But as I was reading, it was dense. It had so much packed in that I felt like I had read a 500 page book by the end. I didn’t mind that feeling at all, but others might and it is something to keep in mind if you decide to delve into this universe.

One downside, which is typical of the Malaz books, is that there are no real answers to any of your questions. Inferences, asides, round about explanations of Subject X which reveals bits about Subject Y. Nothing direct, nothing concrete. It is building a bridge in your mind. Esslemont gives us the materials and a rough architectural plan but it is up to us, the readers, to actually build the bridge and succeed or fail on our own. Some will see that as a weakness and others as a strength of the writing. I’m ok with it but have to admit, I’d prefer a bit more concrete facts baldly stated. Oh well, I’m not going to get it and neither will anyone who reads these books.





  1. Previous Review from 2010

20 thoughts on “Night of Knives (Malazan Empire #1)

    1. I have a real love/hate relationship with the whole “spoiler” idea itself.

      On one hand, I don’t like holding my readers hands and treating them like sissy babies. Suck it up and read my review, blast it!

      Of course, then I’ve experienced spoilers so huge that it ruined the whole book. I DO NOT want to be that kind of reviewer. “Character X” DIES! in the eleventh, and final book, of a series. Not cool.

      So I usually err on the side of caution and throw in the word “spoiler” just in case. But I definitely don’t go into “ruin the book” territory…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will be honest I used to think spoilers both me but I don’t think they really do. And studies have shown I am not alone. I try not to drop them, I don’t deliberately seek them out. But even if I see them I just kinda shrug anymore. Of course I also reread alot, and those have been self spoiled.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They don’t bother me very much either, unless it is something like The Sixth Sense, where if you know the ending the whole movie falls a bit flat.

          For me, it is the fact of someone else determining what I “know” or not about a book before I do. It goes right along with that “don’t tell me what to do” attitude about reviewing that I pull out every once in a while and bash indies or publishers with 😀


  1. Oh man, there’s more to the Malazan Empire series than what Erikson wrote?! This seems like an amazing adventure. I also like the whole architectural plan analogy. From what I’ve looked up, it seems like Erikson and Esslemont were both archeologists before writing books. I wonder if that’s how these stories came to life. Somehow.

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the edition of Gardens of the Moon, and in this forward, Erikson writes quite a bit about how the Malaz world came into being. It was really two super geeks creating their very own world. Think Forgotten Realms from professionals 🙂

      Esslemont has written 6 or 7 books and he just put one out this year, Dancer’s Lament. I’m thinking of putting it into my High Priority List instead of letting it go to the end of my Malaz read. but we’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I actually like his earlier works better because he stays away from the existential angst that cocoons Erikson. I noticed Esslemont’s later books were becoming almost carbon copy, in style, of Erikson. But considering all, I’m not surprised they have a very similar writing voice. You can’t co-create a world with someone if you can’t think alike…


  2. Nice review. Dancer’s Lament is written in a similar style to this one. It is quite short and follows the POV’s of three main characters. One of them being Dancer himself. It can also be read at any time. It is written before the actions of this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah yes! I remember reading this as well! It’s a long time ago but I didn’t like it as much as I liked Erikson’s writing. I thought it was cool that it took place in one night but for some reason it just didn’t excite me too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seems like a lot of information and action jammed packed into such a short book, but given your high rating and my desire in the future to read both Erickson and Esslemont it only make me more interested in reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely read it according to publication date, that way nothing would be spoiled for any of Erikson’s books. On any future re-reads of Malaz [if there will be one after this one], I plan on trying chronologically…

      Liked by 1 person

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