Orb Sceptre Throne – Ian C. Esslemont

About the book

Darujhistan, city of dreams, city of blue flames, is peaceful at last; its citizens free to return to politicking, bickering, trading and, above all, enjoying the good things in life. Yet there are those who will not allow the past to remain buried. A scholar digging in the plains stumbles across an ancient sealed vault. The merchant Humble Measure schemes to drive out the remaining Malazan invaders. And the surviving agents of a long-lost power are stirring, for they sense change and so, opportunity. While, as ever at the centre of everything, a thief in a red waistcoat and of rotund proportions walks the streets, juggling in one hand custard pastries, and in the other the fate of the city itself.

Far to the south, fragments of the titanic Moon’s Spawn have crashed into the Rivan Sea creating a series of isles… and a fortune hunter’s dream. A Malazan veteran calling himself ‘Red’ ventures out to try his luck — and perhaps say goodbye to old friends. But there he finds far more than he’d bargained for as the rush to claim the Spawn’s treasures descends into a mad scramble of chaos and bloodshed. For powers from across the world have gathered here, searching for the legendary Throne of Night. The impact of these events are far reaching, it seems. On an unremarkable island off the coast of Genabackis, a people who had turned their backs upon all such strivings now lift their masked faces towards the mainland and recall the ancient prophesy of a return.

And what about the ex-Claw of the Malazan Empire who now walks the uttermost edge of creation? His mission — the success or failure of which the Queen of Dreams saw long ago — is destined to shape far more than anyone could have ever imagined.

605 pages
Published on: February 20, 2012
Published by: Tor

This book was sent to me by the publisher to review.

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following links:


Here’s the deal. I’m going through Malazan withdrawal. I’m not going to hide it anymore, or pretend that my symptoms don’t exist. They do, and they suck. You see, after slogging through thousands and thousands of pages of Steven Erikson’s books, I’m more than a little invested in the world and characters and saying goodbye to them after The Crippled God was hard. That being said, you can imagine how excited I was when I Orb Sceptre Throne in the mail. Not only does it take place in the Malazan world, and revisits some of the characters I loved from Erikson’s series, but it takes place in Darujhistan, which was one of my favorite cities.

This is the first novel written by Esslemont that I’ve read. Having said that, I’m not sure if his books (though I know they are largely stand-alones) are supposed to be read in a certain order. I do know that when I reread the Malazan series, I’m going to be reading Esslemont’s books along with Erikson’s as I’ve heard that heightens the experience. However, I’m not exactly sure if Orb Sceptre Throne was suppose to be read before or after any other books the author has written. Having read Erikson’s Malazan books, falling right into the plot, world and attaching to the characters really wasn’t an issue for me. However, Malazan books, whether written by Erikson or Esslemont, aren’t incredibly accessible. The world, sprawling cast, and complex plot takes time and effort to understand. Though, that time and effort is richly rewarded with some of the most impressive epic fantasy on the market.

As with Erikson’s books, Esslemont has numerous (six, to be exact) main character perspectives and three main plots and an impressively sprawling cast of secondary characters. This book also takes place along with, or shortly after the events in The Crippled God. In my humble opinion, it is necessary to have some background knowledge on the Malazan world and the events that took place in Erikson’s series to fully appreciate this book. Many of the nuances that Esslemont adds to this book may be lost on readers who have not read previous Malazan works. Perhaps due to the sprawling cast and complex plots, this book may be rather difficult for some readers to get absorbed in, especially considering an incredibly slow first 200 pages.

This slow start might make some readers, even time tested Malazan readers, think about putting the book down. However, once the setting and build up has been established, things really start rolling. During those first 200 pages, readers might wonder if they will ever reach a point where they actually feel any attachment toward the perspective characters. Never fear. Once the book gets going readers will find that the characters have been well developed and are actually quite interesting, they were just waiting for the reader to pay their dues before they got to the good stuff.

This is my greatest complaint about the whole book, though. No matter how lightly I try to pass it off, the beginning nearly did me in. It was agonizingly slow, and that’s coming from a devoted Malazan reader who is used to slow starts. During this slow portion I found that I hardly cared at all about the characters and was just waiting for something important to happen to get everyone, including myself, out of the incredible funk these first 200 pages put me (and the characters) in. Then, when things finally started happening, I was actually enjoying the book, but I couldn’t get the bad taste of the slow start out of my mouth. It was just too long and too slow and yes, it did jade me a bit toward the rest of the book.

However, despite all of that, there is plenty here to give Malazan fans the drug to tide them over before they begin their next epic reread (or something). Esslemont writes a tight story and in proper Malazan fashion there is plenty going on below the surface. There are enough plots and side plots to make your head spin. While I keenly missed the quotable passages with deep meanings that I find liberally drizzled throughout Erikson’s works, and the characters lacked a little something I couldn’t manage to put my finger on, Esslemont is a worthy author who has added shape and depth to the Malazan world with this wonderful, rich installment.


4/5 stars

3 Responses

  • You should read these in order. Start with Night of Knives, then Return of the Crimson Guard and Stoneweilder. Esslemont is no where near as good a writer as Erikson, but it’s still an adventure in the Malazan world, which makes them worth reading for fans. IMHO, Night of Knives is the best of them – though it’s probably his worst writing (if that makes any sense). Stoneweilder is probably his most solid book of the bunch, and in my mind Orb Sceptre Throne was a significant step backward.

    And just wait until you get The Forge of Darkness…it’s good

  • Yes, by and large, ICE’s books are standalone, but there are threads he follows from book to book. Off the top of my head, the only plot in OST that relies heavily on previous books is the Kiska/Leoman one, which can be traced back through all three earlier novels.

    I had the opposite reaction to this book: it engaged me from the beginning, but the closer I got to the end, the more disappointed I became.

    • BookwormBlues

      Ah, that explains a few things. That’s the thread that confused me the most.

      I think I will read ICE’s books in order. It will probably help with most of the issues I talked about in this review.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.