Sunday, 10 October 2010

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Steven Erikson

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: Three Short Novels of the Malazan EmpireThis is a collection of three novellas concerning two supporting characters from Steven Erikson's set of fantasy bricks, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, which I haven't read, though on this evidence I really should. Crack'd Pot Trail, a later book in this series, was so superb that I preordered this collection the moment I saw it was coming out on Kindle. Originally published by PS Publishing, this edition goes so far as to include the introductions to the individual hardbacks.

The first novella, "Blood Follows", is set in Lamentable Moll and introduces our terrible heroes to their faithful manservant, Emancipor Reese, amid a plague of nightly murders. "The Lees of Laughter's End" takes place upon a ship in transit, the Suncurl. A crew made nervous by the presence of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach finds that the two sorcerors are only barely the most unpleasant beings aboard. "The Healthy Dead" travels to the city of Quaint, where the king has forbidden all unhealthy behaviour. The Well Knights enforce his edicts by the sword, and demonic sins in the back alleys await a return to power. Bauchelain is tempted by the challenge – and the opportunity – this presents.

Although for me the third dropped off ever so slightly, straying from the bitterly ironic tone of the first two into outright humour, all three novellas were excellent. All were thoroughly unpleasant, the prose beautifully composed, the characters many-layered and ripe with mystery. As James Barclay notes in his introduction to "The Lees of Laughter's End", these novellas show that fantasy can work in shorter forms – and work brilliantly.

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Steven Erikson, Bantam Press, Kindle, 5193ll.

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