Whether you are coming to this book ignorant of the Malazan universe, or are well-versed in the wonderful world created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont, there is plenty here to enjoy.
The book takes place over the course of one night, the titular ‘Night of Knives’ that is referenced throughout the ten-volume Malazan book of the Fallen that preceded it. The night is dark and stormy, and occasionally purple, but still fast paced and action driven.
We experience the night through the eyes of two unlikely heroes, an old soldier with secrets and a local girl with hidden talents. As the two stumble from event to event, ignorant of what is happening around them, we get the bigger picture. Reading the Malazan books before this adds weight to the goings-on, but isn’t necessary to enjoy the characters’ many encounters, or the epic stuff going on in the background.
The characters are relatively simple, but thoroughly likable and endearing. The action is, for the most part, effective and moments like the fight between Temper, (the soldier) and one of the hounds creates real tension and atmosphere.
To be picky, I found some of the prose a little awkward. Occasional overuse of words (opalescent comes to mind) did make the more descriptive passages feel a little over-written, but never to the detriment of the pace.
I wasn’t completely gripped, nor did I lose myself as I have in Erikson’s writing, but it was an easy, fun read, which is no bad thing.