Malazan Book of the Fallen Reading Order: How to read Steven Erikson’s Series?

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Malazan Book of the Fallen is an acclaimed series of epic fantasy novels written by the Canadian author Steven Erikson. Launch in 1999 with Gardens of the Moon, the Malazan universe is composed of multiple series (some written by Ian Cameron Esslemont) that take us to the Malazan world to explore various struggles for power. It is the story of the Malazan empire, its heroes (there are a lot of characters, human, non-human, and immortal), its conflicts (a lot of subplots), and a new god that came with a lot of problems.

How to Read the Malazan Series in Order?

The Malazan Saga is divided into multiple series, more than 20 books–the main series and the spin-offs. The first books though offered mostly self-contained storylines only connected by some characters. But like with most of those world-spanning epic tales, reading the Malazan books in order is no simple task. Well, it can be if you are open to a non-chronological order. As Steven Erikson tells it:

“I would take it in the basic order of publication dates. Why? Well, thematically, the internal timeline is less important than the meta-reality of when we, as writers, wrote the books.” ―Steven Erikson

Of course, there are more than one series in the Malazan universe. What follows doesn’t pretend to be an ultimate reading order as you will quickly notice, but a series of options. The best is to start to read the main series in order of publication.

I. Reading Malazan Book of the Fallen in Published Order:

  1. Gardens of the Moon – Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out – and Empress Lasseen’s ambition knows no bounds.
  2. Deadhouse Gates – In Seven Cities, a seer named Sha’ik gathers an army around her in preparation for a long-prophesied uprising. Unprecedented in its size and savagery, it will prove to be a maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust that will shape destinies and give birth to legends… In the Otataral mines, a young woman dreams of revenge against the sister who sentenced her to a life of slavery. Escape leads her to Raraku, where her soul will be reborn and her future made clear. And the now-outlawed Bridgeburners, Fiddler and the assassin Kalam, had vowed to return the once god-possessed Apsalar to her homeland, and to confront and kill the Empress Laseen, but events will overtake them too.
  3. Memories of Ice – Like a fanatical tide of corrupted blood, it seethes across the land, devouring all who fail to heed the Word of its elusive prophet, the Pannion Seer. In its path stands an uneasy alliance: Dujek Onearm’s Host and the Bridgeburners ­ each now outlawed by the Empress ­ alongside their enemies of old including the grim forces of Warlord Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake, Son of Darkness, and his Tiste Andii, and the Rhivi people of the Plains. But more ancient clans too are gathering. As if in answer to some primal summons, the massed ranks of the undead T’lan Imass have risen.
  1. House of Chains – In Northern Genabackis, a raiding party of savage tribal warriors descends from the mountains into the southern flatlands. Their intention is to wreak havoc amongst the despised lowlanders, but for the one named Karsa Orlong it marks the beginning of what will prove to be an extraordinary destiny. Some years later, it is the aftermath of the Chain of Dogs. Tavore, the Adjunct to the Empress, has arrived in the last remaining Malazan stronghold of Seven Cities. She must hone twelve thousand soldiers into a force capable of challenging the massed hordes of Sha’ik’s Whirlwind who lie in wait in the heart of the Holy Desert.
  2. Midnight Tides – After decades of warfare, the tribes of the Tiste Edur have at last united under the rule of the Warlock King. But peace has been exacted at a terrible price – a pact made with a hidden power whose motives are at best suspect, at worst deadly. To the south, the expansionist kingdom of Lether has devoured all of its less-civilised neighbours with rapacious hunger. All save one – the Tiste Edur. But Lether is approaching a long-prophesied renaissance – from kingdom and lost colony to Empire reborn – and has fixed its gaze on the rich lands of the Tiste Edur. It seems inevitable that the tribes will surrender, either to the suffocating weight of gold, or to slaughter at the edge of a sword. Or so Destiny has decreed.
  3. The Bonehunters – The Seven Cities Rebellion is over, Sha’ik is dead, but a last rebel force remains, holed up in the city of Y’Ghatan under the fanatical command of Leoman of the Flails. The prospect of laying siege to this ancient fortress makes the battle-weary Malaz 14th Army uneasy – for it was here that the Empire’s greatest champion Dassem Ultor was slain and a tide of Malazan blood spilled… But agents of a far greater conflict have made their opening moves.
  1. Reaper’s Gale – The Letherii Empire is in turmoil. Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, spirals into madness, while the Errant, once a farseeing god, appears suddenly blind to the future. Driven by the corruption and self-interest, the empire edges ever-closer to all-out war with its neighbouring kingdoms. And the great Edur fleet draws ominously ever closer. With Karsa Orlong and Icarium Lifestealer among its warriors, that blood will be spilled is certain. But a band of fugitives look to escape from Lether. One of them, Fear Sengar, seeks the soul of Scabandari Bloodeye, for he hopes that with its help, they might halt the Tiste Edur and so save the emperor, his brother.
  2. Toll the Hounds – It is summer and the heat is oppressive, yet the discomfiture of the small rotund man in the faded red waistcoat is not entirely due to the sun. Dire portents plague his nights and haunt the city’s streets like fiends of shadow. Assassins skulk in alleyways but it seems the hunters have become the hunted. Strangers have arrived, and while the bards sing their tragic tales, somewhere in the distance can be heard the baying of hounds. All is palpably not well. And in Black Coral too something is afoot.
  3. Dust of Dreams – On the Letherii continent the exiled Malazan army commanded by Adjunct Tavore begins its march into the eastern Wastelands, to fight for an unknown cause against an enemy it has never seen. The fate awaiting the Bonehunters is one no soldier can prepare for, and one no mortal soul can withstand – the foe is uncertainty and the only weapon worth wielding is stubborn courage. In war, everyone loses, and this brutal truth can be found in the eyes of every soldier in every world.

  1. The Crippled God – The Bonehunters are marching to Kolanse, and to an unknown fate. They are exhausted – an army on the brink of mutiny. But their commander will not relent. If she can hold her forces and their fragile alliances together, Adjunct Tavore Paran means to challenge the gods… Ranged against Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail. Their desire is to cleanse the world – to eradicate every civilization, to annihilate every human – in order to begin anew.

II. Reading the Novels of the Malazan Empire in Order

Series written by Ian C. Esslemont, the novels of the Malazan Empire cover events simultaneous with the Book of the Fallen.

  1. Night of Knives – Malaz gave a great empire its name, but now this island and its city amount to little more than a sleepy backwater. Until this night. Because this night there is to be a convergence, the once-in-a-generation appearance of a Shadow Moon – an occasion that threatens the good people of Malaz with demon hounds and other, darker things. It is also prophesied that the Emperor Kellanved will return this night, and there are many who would prevent that from happening at any cost.
  2. Return of the Crimson Guard – The return of the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for an empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries. Into the seething cauldron of Quon Tali – the Malazan Empire’s heartland – they march, and with their return comes the memory of their vow: undying opposition to the Empire. Yet, elements within the Guard’s élite, the Avowed, have set their sights on far greater power. As the Guard prepares to wage war, the Empress Laseen’s generals and mages grow impatient at what they perceive as her mismanagement of the Empire.
  3. Stonewielder – Greymane believed he’d outrun his past. He was adjusting well to life outside the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. However, it is not so easy for an ex-Fist of the Malazan Empire to disappear, especially one under sentence of death from that same Empire. For there is a new Emperor on the throne of Malaz and he is dwelling on the Empire’s failed invasion of Korel. In the vaults beneath Unta, the Imperial capital, lie the answers to that disaster; out of this buried history surfaces the name Stonewielder.
  1. Orb Sceptre Throne – Now the city of Darujhistan and its citizens can be left to get on with trading, bickering, politicking, and enjoying life. But not all are ready to leave the past behind. Outside the city walls, a treasure hunter is about to uncover a crypt and open a long-forgotten vault, and set free an entity so terrifying that all knowledge of its incarceration had been wiped from history. And far to the south, fortune hunters explore the islands of the Rivan Sea, supposedly created from the shattered remnants of Moon’s Spawn, citadel of Anomander Rake. Rumour has it that hidden here is the seat of Mother Dark herself, the Throne of Night.
  2. Blood and Bone – On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted another expedition into the neighboring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, half of the spirit-realm and half of the physical, ruled by a powerful entity who some name the Queen of Witches and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata. Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs – but it was the voices from that land’s forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers launch their invasion of this jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.
  3. Assail – To the North lies Assail. It is a land that has been impenetrable for centuries. Now, as the ice begins to melt, it starts to yield its long-hidden secrets and the steady march through this hostile environment begins. Awaiting those brave enough to make the journey is the murmured promise of riches and reverence. Some go seeking answers, some wealth, and some simply adventure. In the South waits Silverfox. The newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, she will do anything in her power to halt the renewal of an ages-old crusade – a crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent… and beyond.
The Novels of the Malazan Empire with the Book of the Fallen
  1. Gardens of the Moon
  2. Deadhouse Gates
  3. Memories of Ice
  4. House of Chains
  5. Midnight Tides
  6. Night of Knives
  7. The Bonehunters
  8. Reaper’s Gale
  9. Return of the Crimson Guard
  10. Toll the Hounds
  11. Stonewielder
  12. Dust of Dreams
  13. The Crippled God
  14. Orb Sceptre Throne
  15. Blood and Bone
  16. Assail

III. Reading The Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach

Novellas written by Steven Erikson that are side-stories to the rest of the Malazan narrative.

The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach – scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent and modest personifications of evil – have a lot to answer for and answer they will, but first they must lie, murder and cheat their way through multiples escapades in some of the more deprived fringes and impoverished communities of the Malazan Empire. Much to the shame of their long-suffering general factotum.

  1. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Volume 1
    • Blood Follows – In the port city of Lamentable Moll, a diabolical killer stalks the streets and panic grips the citizens like a fever. As Emancipor Reese’s legendary ill luck would have it, his previous employer is the unknown killer’s latest victim. But two strangers have come to town, and they have posted in Fishmonger’s Round a note, reeking of death-warded magic, requesting the services of a manservant.
    • The Lees of Laughter’s End – After their blissful sojourn in Lamentable Moll, the sorcerers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach – along with their manservant, Emancipor Reese – set out on the open seas aboard the sturdy ship Suncurl. Alas, there’s more baggage in the hold than meets the beady eyes of the crew, and unseemly terrors awaken. For Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, and Emancipor Reese, it is just one more night on the high seas, on a journey without end.
    • The Wurms of Blearmouth – The city of Quaint’s zeal for goodness can be catastrophic, and no one knows this better than Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, two stalwart champions of all things bad. The homicidal necromancers – and their substance-addled manservant, Emancipor Reese – find themselves ensnared in a scheme to bring goodness into utter ruination. Sometimes you must bring down civilization…in the name of civilization.
  2. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Volume 2
    • The Healthy Dead – Things are going all too well in the city of Quaint. So well, in fact, that something has to be done. The zeal for goodness can be catastrophic, and no-one knows this better than Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, driven to neurotic distraction and overwhelmed with good living, desperation breeds nefarious bed-mates, and before long the two homicidal necromancers – and their beleaguered and substance-addled manservant, Emancipor Reese – find themselves ensnared in a scheme to bring goodness into disrepute, if not utter ruination.
    • Crack’d Pot Trail – Known as the Nehemoth, they are pursued by countless self-professed defenders of decency, sanity, and civilization. Hot on their heels are the Nehemothanai, avowed hunters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. In the company of a gaggle of artists and pilgrims, stalwart Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pious Well Knight Arpo Relent, stern Huntsman Steck Marynd, and three of the redoubtable Chanter brothers (and their lone sister) find themselves faced with the cruelest of choices. The legendary Crack’d Pot Trail, a stretch of harsh wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God, has become a tortured path of deprivation.
    • The Fiends of Nightmaria – The king is dead, long live King Bauchelain the First, crowned by the Grand Bishop Korbal Broach. Both are, of course, ably assisted in the running of the Kingdom of Farrog by their slowly unravelling servant, Emancipor Reese. However, tensions are mounting between Farrog and the neighboring country of Nightmaria, the mysterious home of the Fiends. Their ambassador, Ophal D Neeth Flatroq, seeks an audience with King Bauchelain, who has thus far rebuffed his overtures. But the necromancer has some other things on his plate.
  3. Upon a Dark of Evil Overlords – Emancipor Reese was pretty certain he’d been a child once, long ago in the coastal city of Lamentable Moll. But lately, his imagination had been failing in his recreation of it. All of his memories of those years were blurs in his mind. These days, when he struggled to recall his childhood, he had to imagine himself looking at things from knee-height, which more or less worked but still left him unsatisfied, as most of his memories of being on his knees involved being drunk and puking his guts out. He was fairly certain he hadn’t found himself in that position as a child. Then again, anything was possible.

IV. Reading The Prequel Series in Order

Even if they are prequels, it’s better to read them after the main series.

Kharkanas Trilogy

Written by Steven Erikson after the completion of the main series, the Kharkanas Trilogytakes place thousands of years before events in either main series and deals with the Tiste before their split into darkness, light, and shadow.

  1. Forge of Darkness – It’s a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power… and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners’ great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark’s hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold…
  2. Fall of Light – The winter is bitter. Civil war threatens Kurald Galain for the warrior Urusander’s army has begun its march on the city of Kharkanas. Led by the ruthless Hunn Raal, it intends to cast aside Mother Dark’s consort, Draconus, and set Urusander himself on the throne beside the Living Goddess. Those who would stand in the way of the rebels lie scattered and weakened – leaderless since Anomander went in search of an estranged brother. In his stead, Silchas Ruin resolves to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him, and to resurrect the legendary Hust Legion, but time is not on his side.
  3. Walk in Shadow – TBA

Malazan Empire: Path to Ascendancy

Written by Ian Cameron Esslemont, the Path to Ascendancy series deals with the early adventures of Dancer and Kellanved.

  1. Dancer’s Lament – At the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city state of Li Heng which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the “Protectress”. She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men into her domain: one is determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age; the other is his quarry – a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill. The sorceress and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions, so how could two such trouble-makers upset her iron-fisted rule?
  2. Deadhouse Landing – After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled a civil war on their own home island. The plan, however, soon goes awry as Kellanved develops a strange and dangerous fascination for a mysterious ancient structure found on the island.
  3. Kellanved’s Reach – The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas. But some powers are alarmed. And in the meantime, as Purge and Tali indulge in what seems like a their never-ending game of war, a mercenary caught up in the fight between the two states suddenly refuses to play along and causes all sorts of chaos.
  4. Forge of the High Mage – After decades of warfare, Malazan forces are now close to consolidating the Quon Talian mainland. Yet it is at this moment that Emperor Kellanved orders a new campaign far to the north: the invasion of Falar. Since the main Malazan armies are otherwise engaged in Quon Tali, a collection of orphaned units and broken squads has been brought together under Fist Dujek – himself recovering from the loss of an arm – to fight this new campaign. A somewhat rag-tag army, joined by a similarly motley fleet under the command of the Emperor himself.

V. The Witness Trilogy

This planned trilogy is a sequel to the Malazan Book of the Fallen written by Steven Erikson that takes place 10 years after The Crippled God.

  1. The God is Not Willing – Many years have passed since three warriors brought carnage and chaos to Silver Lake. Now the tribes of the north no longer venture into the southlands. The town has recovered and yet the legacy remains. Responding to reports of a growing unease among the tribes beyond the border, the Malazan army marches on the new god’s people. They aren’t quite sure what they’re going to be facing.
  2. No Life Forsaken (soon)
  3. TBA

If our article about the Malazan Book of the Fallen reading order is useful to you, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in The Shadows of the Apt series, Glen Cook’s The Black Company series, Gene Wolfe’s books, John Gwynne’s the Faithful and the Fallen series.

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